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icesnow102909cbl

Snowstorm 10/29/09, (c) Christiana Lambert

I think I just got “fired” from my night job.

No, it wasn’t anything exciting, but it brought in a few unexpected dollars from time to time—especially during that winter of 2007 when we had snowstorm after snowstorm. For several years, Sherman and I have been removing snow from the sidewalk and parking lot at the commercial building he owns with his family.

When we get a “real” snowstorm in Colorado, it’s easy to understand just how optimistic we have been to be relying on snow blowers to clear a parking lot. Sherman cried “uncle” last night after the bigger snow blower broke early into the removal process. This particular snow was full of moisture, starting with several hours of rain before it finally turned to snow and several more hours before it began to stick on warm cement. After two feet, the snow still falls. The hired snow plow crew arrives later this afternoon.

icetree102909cbl

Snowstorm 10/29/09 (c) Christiana Lambert

Snow blowers don’t like slush—the machines like the fluffy stuff, the dry kind we often get in December and January. Typically, Colorado snows in months like October and March are not at all dry—it’s the price we pay for having huge fluctuations in our temperatures. Can anyone remember, today, October 29, that it was over 80 degrees on October 18—a little over a week after we’d had first had snow?

Snow blowing has made my shoulders ache and my fingers freeze at the same time my upper body sweated. It’s taken Sherman and me from our warm bed hours before dawn, even calling us out into the snow when we had plans for celebrations. We have spent his birthday, Valentine’s Day, and the days before and after Christmas clearing the lot.

Yet there is a zen to pushing a snow blower through a dark night or morning muffled by softly falling snow, the only sounds coming from our machines and the snowplows rushing down the street. I get into a rhythm. Clear this row, turnaround, adjust the nozzle, clear the next, one row after the next. Sherman and I pass one another with our machines, pause for a kiss, then continue making our own attempts at snow-free paths.

Those times when we don’t encounter slushy, packed snow, we do our work efficiently. All is calm, all is bright. It’s easy to begin humming “Silent Night” no matter the month, no matter that there is nothing quiet about the engines’ twin growls breaking into the still of the night. We are both alone in our heads, yet together on a night/morning few have braved.

snowbackyard102909cbl

Lambert Back Yard, 10/29/09 (c) Christiana Lambert

We get to see the snow before it has turned gray and gritty from traffic. We drive to our task on almost-empty streets, free of threats from other motorists. For just a few minutes, we are in a secret world that cannot be experienced when waking with the rest of the neighborhood to snow.

Ours are the first footprints that sink into the perfectly risen white-cake like snow of the parking lot.

Even though my snow days have gone on too long, leaving my muscles aching with fatigue, deep down I understand why children cry out with shouts of joy, “Snow Day! Snow Day!”

From now on I can snuggle back into my dreams, waking with the rest of my neighbors to greet the snow. However, I won’t forget those not-so-silent nights when, for a brief moment, it seemed the snow fell just for me and I hadn’t come to work, but to play, like the child I used to be.

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for people who take advantage of seniors. Some scams are criminal while others are morally suspect.

I know now that my mom couldn’t understand everything people told her during sales pitches, but sometimes seniors get sucked in just because they have time on their hands and not enough human contact. The funny thing is that I even wrote an article on senior fraud—which I did share with my mother.

My parents were middle class people who were reasonably frugal with their money. They weren’t extremely knowledgeable about money matters, but they paid their bills on time, contributed to their pension funds, and lived within their means. They also grew up in a place at a time when a person could often trust financial advisors to be honest since they spent time with them in their small town communities. They knew their insurance agents, bankers, and other advisors.

When they retired, they moved to another small town, but it was closer to larger towns, so people from outside did try to garner their business. I’m not naïve enough to think fraud is a new thing, but I do think it was easier to be safe doing business with your neighbors and those whose family members your family members might have known for decades.

After Dad died, I think Mom suffered a bit much from the hubris of thinking she knew so much more about finances than he did. Maybe she did, but she wasn’t any more discerning about the character of the salesperson—which is a little surprising given her former profession of unemployment claims deputy (in other words, the person who decided whether it was the employer or the employee who was lying!) I’m guessing she just didn’t know how lonely she would feel living alone, something she hadn’t done for forty-two years.

She showed all the tell-tale signs of being a target for fraud, yet I was too busy—and more than a little worried about overstepping my boundaries—to get more involved with the transactions. She had several magazine subscriptions, often a sign of someone who is trying to get a prize or something. Many organizations sent her donation requests. More than once she changed her bank account (I was a co-signor) because she was a little worried about someone else getting into it. She started to get more concerned about money—and even got herself a job! Whenever I asked her for specifics, the Queen of Obfuscation talked around the topic.

Looking back, I know I was trying hard not to tell her how to run her life. Mom was always a very independent person and took great pride in being able to take care of herself. On the other, I was also pretty busy raising my own family—and a little afraid to investigate that gnawing feeling in my gut. It would’ve been easier if she hadn’t lived in a different town. She also didn’t seem to want to live in the “big city” like I did, so I didn’t press the subject of a move.

We always say she couldn’t admit she didn’t want to live alone in her not-so-close town anymore—and, instead she got hit by a car. OK, there’s a whole long story behind that, but she did have a very minor pedestrian accident (that was not her fault!) while visiting us for Christmas that led to her needing to stay with us while she recovered.

That’s when I had to swoop in to take over the finances—I was granted Power of Attorney almost six years earlier, but I had never used the POA before. We all knew Mom was developing some memory problems, plus she had never been good at things like paying bills and filing papers, but I found her finances to be confusing at best.

The good news was, despite her giving out financial information to all sorts of callers, she’d never really been a victim of identity fraud. What I did discover, however, was a series of charges from random “businesses” for around $395.00—which I later found out is just under the threshold for felony charges. Although the bank was able to get $800.00 back from the most recent transactions, she had still lost about $4,000.00 to these organizations.

She’d also paid for some pretty questionable warranties on her car—more than any repairs she would have needed—especially since she had the money on hand to take care of those repairs.

I knew that her mortgage deal was not good—she had told us after the fact what she had done. She’d been advised that it would be better to have a higher mortgage (real estate values had risen quite a bit since she and Dad had purchased the condo) amount, while investing the difference, as a way to protect her income in case she needed any long term care. She had thought she had gotten a reverse mortgage, but instead she had gotten an ARM (adjustable rate mortgage). At the time I didn’t quite know how to prove that was fraud, so I did nothing.

But when I started looking at her old payment coupons, I discovered that the mortgage was also a classic sub-prime loan—which she would not have needed with her good credit and assets. The coupons highlighted the interest-only payment amount, while hiding the amount necessary to pay principle and interest. After less than three years, she now owed about $10,000 more! Unconscionable the way the company designed those coupons . . . not to mention how they kept sending her offers to give her even more money. With the real estate and financial downturn, the increased mortgage and associated investment strategy really did not work for her. Instead of a monthly fixed payment of $500 or so, she now had to pay $1,000 or more—all while paying to live in a retirement facility—until we could find a buyer.

I’ve swallowed my outrage over these past indiscretions, but today I discovered one more. In order to pay for her higher level of care, she needs to begin drawing down from her investments. A few years ago, a senior financial “advisor” looked at her previous investments (including some from the mortgage/investment plan) and said he was concerned that one particular fund wouldn’t allow her to draw down funds without huge penalties in case she needed long term care. We all agreed that she needed to change funds, even though she did suffer a penalty to do so. Soon after, the original fund’s company went into bankruptcy. Seemed as if she had dodged a bullet.

Now I find out that this advisor sold her a fund that has penalties for withdrawing more than 10% annually—until fourteen years have passed. Typical for this type of fund is seven years, which is still too long, but probably unavoidable. She was seventy-six when she got into the fund—you do the math! Also, the surrender penalty at purchase was 20%—which is also high—but provided the agent with a high commission. Doesn’t seem she got quite the right product if his intent was to make sure she could access funds in the event of long term care needs, does it?

So, should she need her money—which she will—the company will profit, again.

At a time when all the state budgets are in turmoil due to current economic conditions, what we don’t need is more people turning to Medicaid to finance their final days—especially when they had saved for a rainy day. These senior scams hurt the elderly, they hurt their families, and they hurt society as a whole.

A friend asked what Dante might devise as the appropriate punishment for those who profited unethically or criminally off the elderly. My reply: that they wear last year’s styles, take their “staycations,” and drink McDonald’s coffee might be sufficient hell for their kind. The horror. The horror.

Meanwhile, the rest of us all pay.

Just one question, how do they sleep at night?

Friday, after I’d written about the final cross country races, I drove off to watch them. Soon I realized my writing had made me cry! After all, this was it.

Soon after I arrived, the boys’ varsity race started, so I went off to watch it with other moms. Then Christiana ran by with her camera, commanding me to do one last sprint with her to the finish line to watch the runners speed toward the chute. Luckily I knew enough about this course that I had worn my running shoes and was prepared, as best I could be.

All seemed well, but by the time my kids’ races began, their moods had shifted. Someone had put her off her game by questioning her dedication. Jackson didn’t seem to think his performance would matter. True, the open race had no scoring and the coach had given non-varsity runners the option not to run, although he expected all to cheer for the varsity kids. Very few chose to run the open race and fewer still remained to cheer on those who went the extra (3.1) mile(s).

It felt all wrong. The boys almost missed their race because the start time had been moved up. She got more upset because the coaches only gave pre-race pep talks to one girl. I couldn’t do anything more than watch the starts and finishes because the races were scheduled just ten minutes apart. But, watch I did, as did Sherman. He had managed to arrive by bike, so he was able to move quicker on the course and see more of both races. In the end, they finished: they went the distance for the season.

After that we were left with two, cranky, hungry, disappointed kids who had wanted more—as we all had.

That’s when I realized just how much of my energy is spent trying to buck up others—and pushing aside my own emotions. Trying to help others to get the most out of a situation because focusing just on what goes wrong—even though they have every right to feel the way they do—means they are missing out on being able to make what they do control better. How I wanted him to run that day’s race without thinking about previous races. How I wanted her to shrug off pre-race anger at teammates and coaches, so that she could do her best despite the slights and keep them from claiming any more from her last opportunity to do this thing she had done for four years.

I had no time for my own tears at the closing of this chapter. The best Sherman and I could do was to steer the family to a place where we could get some food in our bellies and try to recover our cool. Not quite a celebration, but a time when we could calm down and move on. The food helped, even if it couldn’t quite erase that “is that all there is?” feeling.

Then on Saturday, before I had much time to process what went on Friday afternoon, I went to see my mother. Mom launched into her pleas to come home with me, to return to the way things were, to help her figure out how to be a person again. Trust me, if I could do that for her, I would. After our walk together, I tried to get her to do simple art with me, yet she would only watch.

When I announced I was going, she stood up to follow—she so wants to believe I will take her out of there and she and her life will return to normal. As the aid came over to try to distract her so I could leave, my mother began to cry.

“She’s leaving me,” she wailed.

I swear she was putting 79 years of fears of abandonment into those tears. How long had she, this woman I had only seen cry after our neighbor’s daughter was killed in a car crash, held in those tears? Was she crying because I was leaving—or for all those times she didn’t cry when her mother went to work the other farm land or when her mother left to be with her brother in the hospital—or every other time when she did the socially acceptable German-American thing and swallowed her tears?

Yet if I had cried then, I would have made her fears worse. I was all “I’ll be back again” and “You won’t be alone here” and all that sort of thing—and resolved to come back the next day—which I did.

As I left her, I felt my heart would physically burst from my rib cage. So I went for a fast run, hurried along to the high school’s play, as planned, and made the best of what was left of the day for me.

But I wondered, what am I to do with all those emotions I put aside in the moment so that others don’t fall deeper into their own pain? How do I avoid a fate like my mother’s—one when the tears come out as a primal scream, decades too late?

The first step is naming my losses and not denying they exist—even if sometimes I have to wait a bit to cry the tears I have every right to shed. The next is giving in to them—you can’t wash away your tears if you haven’t even let them out. It’s time to come clean . . .

Rain (c) CBL, 2009

Rain (c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

sunset2009takenbychristiana

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

Last cross country meet. Even if Christiana and Jackson are going to run at sunset, I wouldn’t miss it for anything—which is part of why I’m not back at my college for our 25th reunion.

This is where Christiana began her high school involvement, starting in the summer before the beginning of freshman year. It was supposed to be a way to start to meet people, but she wasn’t too fond of reaching out. Still, it gave her a few familiar faces in her new school, including teachers, plus something to do after school. She hung back quite a bit from all the chaotic socialization, but she did the workouts and stuck it out the whole season.

Next year she met up with her future best friend and got pulled into more of the sideline activities. None of us realized how anemic she was, so she didn’t post any fantastic times. Still, she did all the workouts, met up with many new people, including future boyfriends, and really connected with the coach. She began to love the pre-game pasta parties for even more than the endless plates of spaghetti.

Her anemia slowly getting corrected, she arrived at the next cross country season, stronger and weaker at the same time. This year Jackson showed up with her, wanting to protect her as best as possible from any unnecessary contact with a former boyfriend. While that did happen, he found out that not only was he good at the sport, but he could also enjoy the social activities. His sister’s improving health and her strong will led Christiana to incredible time improvements, as she went from last on the team to someone who ran some meets on varsity. Her success was some comfort for having to give up eating at most pasta parties (due to celiac disease) and being in the midst of many tough social situations.

Final season. Christiana had been injured at the beginning of track season, spending most of the season in physical therapy. She wasn’t sure that she wanted to run again—then she found out her favorite coach had accepted another job. She waffled about ever returning. Jackson wasn’t too sure either—the coach had also been a favorite teacher in one of his favorite subjects. At the beginning of the season, she said she wasn’t going. He went, but said he wasn’t going to go back. In the end, they convinced each other to go back and stay. Illness and asthma kept him from the first few meets. Her knee kept her on reduced workouts at first and led to starting competing late in the season, including missing her favorite meet all during the same season her best friend stayed away from most practices and meets due to her own injury.

My kids could have stopped. Both of them almost did—again. Almost everything was different about how the team was coached. Even they were different, maybe a little physically weaker, not quite running as fast as they would have liked.

But, I think living through this past year’s major difficulties has made them much stronger all around and much more capable of dealing with unexpected changes. Together and apart they’ve figured out how to navigate being part of a cross country team that does things differently than in previous seasons. She’s learned to stick up for what she believes in—whether that means talking with authorities or showing it in how she competes. He’s discovered that you can gain a lot of respect from a coach when you don’t shy away from extra competitions or workouts. They’ve grown more open to including different people in their social circles—this year they are often among the last people to leave pasta parties—whether or not there’s any gluten-free pasta available. She’s taken over 1,000 pictures of teammates, many of those kids becoming friends in the process. Both of them traveled with the team to Santa Fe, gaining many more opportunities to figure out how to negotiate team dynamics, while handling their special dietary needs on their own.

Cross country really is about so much more than what the stop watch reflects. Hard work may be its own reward, but when you’re running off into the sunset of your competing days, it would be nice to finish well. I wish them PRs (personal records) for at least this year—if not for previous years, too—but no matter how it turns out, I’m proud of them.

Thanks, guys, for making these (cross country) seasons in the (mostly) sun part of my joy and fun during your high school years. Hope you remember the joy and fun, too, for the rest of your days.

That’s right, today, October 20, is National Day on Writing, a day established by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) “(t)o draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we (Americans) engage in and help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft . . . .”

Perhaps you forgot to wrap up gifts of pens or journals for all your friends? Didn’t get around to buying that new laptop to celebrate National Day on Writing? Don’t worry—as part of the day’s celebrations, today the NCTE unveiled The National Gallery of Writing to the public.

What is The National Gallery of Writing and why should you care? You supply the why, but here’s the what, according to words from the website:

The National Gallery of Writing is a virtual space—a website—where people who perhaps have never thought of themselves as writers—mothers, bus drivers, fathers, veterans, nurses, firefighters, sanitation workers, stockbrokers—select and post writing that is important to them. The Gallery accommodates any composition format—from word processing to photography, audio/video recording to text messages—and all types of writing—from letters to lists, memoirs to memos.

The ways we share our words continue to evolve through time, but the need for effective communication will never go away.

I write for a living, but hardly notice how often I use my writing for daily life. It’s easy to think only my formal writing counts, sort of like the way I count the miles I run but forget all the miles included in warm-ups and cool-downs, walking to and from the car, around the house, etc. All the informal work is part of honing my abilities.

I’m sure my writing skills improved a lot from doing Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way program and finally being able to stick with a journaling habit. Julia’s admonition to write as a matter of clearing your brain for further creative projects gets you in the habit, whether or not you choose to express your creativity in writing. As much as she said not to worry about what or how I was writing, I have gotten quite a few really good works—some that have been published with minimal edits—from that writing process.

Another benefit of regular journal writing is the ability to have a record of my life in all the ups and downs and in-betweens. Previously I tended to journal only when I was upset. Anyone reviewing those journals would think I led a very unhappy life!

As old school as I am, I am much less revealing in my “public” private writings, such as my blog or the essays I do publish. I don’t use my blog as a way to “out” businesses—I think organizations deserve the respect of a personal complaint before I blab to millions of my “closest” friends. I know, thanks to the digital age, we live in a time of TMI—too much information—but having multiple forums does get people to reach out to others! It’s too soon to tell yet if the lack of concern for personal privacy or treating others with respect will remain at the current level, or if, as we get more used to this type of writing lifestyle, some of the rough edges will smooth out.

If nothing else, all the digital options get people to write who might not have done so otherwise. Christiana’s typing (keyboarding?) skills improved rapidly as she began to do more online social networking. And, as much as people lament the denigration of the written language through chatting and texting, I haven’t seen a lot of that from the young people I know—sure I can’t keep up with the speed of their texts, but I don’t have to know a code to read them. The Word feature for texting actually improves my daughter’s not so natural spelling instincts.

As for myself, I think sometimes it takes me longer to write an objective e-mail than to write a personal essay. Almost always, I write as a professional writer and do not hit “send” until I have proofed the message several times, both for grammatical and/or spelling errors, as well as content errors. I try hard to keep any of my bylines from being besmirched by errors, although sometimes I still miss a few.

However, I’ve learned the hard way that in this age, if you do slip and send out an e-mail in the heat of the moment, it may get passed on before you’ve had time to compose the more measured message you intended to send, kind of like when your note gets intercepted in algebra class. Digital writing can develop a life of its own!

So today, reach out to someone with your writing. Feel free to text or e-mail, but please—talk to me in person if we’re together! Even writers like to talk, something that’s incredibly obvious when you get us out from behind our computer screens and into a room together. On second thought, maybe you will have to text me if you want me to “hear” you at our writing gatherings!

May you write often and prosper!

(c) 2009, CBL

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

Trina at Deer Creek, (c) SALYesterday while I was hiking under blue, blue skies, the blues jumped onto my back. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Sunshine, warm weather, fresh air, fall colors. What was there not to love about the afternoon?

All I can surmise is that since I hadn’t had that much time to think, when I got the time, I thought too much! I turned grumpy when the path we took seemed to be much farther than we had anticipated. That meant we weren’t going to get down to the car until dark. Then I wouldn’t be able to pick up those supplements for my mother that I can only buy outside of our neighborhood. More left to do on my to-do-list. Plus, it might mean we couldn’t visit her—and not only would she miss us, but also I really prefer visiting her with Sherman once in awhile so I’m not alone with her pleas to take her from the memory wing for good.

(c) 2009 SAL

(c) 2009 SAL

That morning we had gone to a session at church on being sandwiched. Oh yes, I could relate. But hearing about the difficulties of my life reminded me all the more about those difficulties. I didn’t leave feeling supported as much as feeling less hopeful. Not the intent at all—because we didn’t have much time to share with one another, those feelings and thoughts had time to grow in my head afterwards.

One of the things we talked about was how much caregivers needed help and how to respond if someone offered to give us some. That led me to thinking about what I need most right now, even though no one was really asking.

What I decided would help me feel better is to have a cleaner as well as less cluttered home environment. I’m the only one who is here all day—I don’t get to go away to a place where the “stuff” is limited by others or where there are janitors and cleaning crews, etc. I’m the one who sees the mess day in and out; however, doing the cleaning is never top on the list of urgent tasks for me. Decluttering and cleaning have always been my weaknesses and when I’m stressed, that’s even more true. What I need now is someone to help me put things away, including finding homes for those items I just can’t seem to figure out where they go. Heck, I need help just dusting and sweeping, so maybe I can clear out the cobwebs on my own aspirations.

The extra time on my hike seemed to bring back those thoughts from the morning—and the realization that I couldn’t even name my aspirations. Then I started thinking about how I had been working on getting out of crisis mode living and becoming better at daily living when the big crises began in our lives. All my life I’ve been good in a crisis, but I haven’t done so well at creating routines that allow me to have time to both do the necessary things and enjoy myself.

Well, this last year has made me even better at living for the moment and for the next crisis. As I struggled with that thought, I wondered if I’d lost all the ground I’d gained in my previous work. Then began the big questions: Who am I without the crisis? What do I do when I don’t have to spend so much time just reacting to the needs of others?

(c) 2009 SAL

(c) 2009 SAL

My hiking was not so different from my life. I could climb like crazy going up. But going down, I was slow and clumsy. I could do what was hard, but not what was supposed to be easy. Story of my life.

I admit that I am most likely depressed over the losses and lifestyle changes I’ve experienced in my life in the last year and a half. I have had to let so many other things drive my schedule, but these days, even when I can control my own schedule, I don’t know where to begin.

I don’t want to be like one woman we met in DBT. She was so depressed because she had some permanent health conditions that limited her lifestyle and would probably shorten her life span. Yet, she could not get out of the chair to enjoy what she was left to her.

So I’ve had losses. But how do I get back to enjoying what I can? Like enjoying a hike as an opportunity to relax and do something for myself? I don’t want to sit in the chair and miss the fact that I do get to control so much more than I could just a few months ago. My time is coming soon: my kids will be in college and, sadly, my mother will be gone, too.

The kids have even been gone a lot the last few weekends. With and without Sherman, I have known how to amuse myself. I’ve had fun with my husband. Seriously, when I’m not packing the blues, I wonder if more time alone really will resolve much of this dilemma for me. Although I have a hard time separating myself from others’ problems when they’re close by, when I have some physical space from the people, I do a much better job with boundaries. It’s not quite out of sight, out of mind, but a more balanced approach nonetheless.

(c) SAL

(c) SAL

The season when I get to be more in charge of my life is not so far away, yet I still have so much work to do on my journey to what’s next. So today after everyone left, right away I returned to the writing that had been interrupted by Christiana’s breathing crisis. Then I started this writing, even though I should have been preparing for a meeting with a financial advisor about my mother’s needs. I’m going to yoga. The sun is shining for another incredibly warm fall day. There is still time to be me, even if I’m a bit stymied by the process of figuring out how I want to be when I get the chance.

Last night, as the dusk deepened, together Sherman and I hurried down the path toward our car, the only lonely vehicle still in the parking lot. We’d hiked over ten miles together, but I’d been alone in my head for almost half of that trip—unless you count the blues I was packing with me. However, once I got into the car, my blues just slipped away—almost as quickly as they’d arrived.

I suppose sometimes I’m going to have to welcome them on my journey to what’s next, but I’m not about to carry them on my back the whole way.

Deer Creek (c) 2009 SAL

Deer Creek (c) 2009 SAL

From time to time I get little reminders about how much better life is in our house. Even though my mother is unhappily fighting her Alzheimer’s, it’s an unfortunate truth that many of my peers have elderly parents experiencing memory declines and/or health problems. But when you’ve spent time in that almost secret society of big time kid problems, you can feel pretty alone.

One minute you’re rolling along with typical teen family problems such as getting homework done, fitting in all the activities in already tight schedules, finding time to eat dinner together, tripping over all the school-related items that more often than not land in the common areas, and trying to get kids to wake up in the mornings. You’re working on trying to let them handle their own problems and working out the tension as boundaries fluctuate between whether something is your responsibility or theirs.

Jackson, Larkspur, 09/12/09, (c) CBL

Jackson, Larkspur, 09/12/09, (c) CBL

It’s difficult territory as they stretch their maturity and you learn to let go. Still, that’s exactly what all the other parents are experiencing and you can all commiserate—you’re definitely not alone.

But there’s a whole other world out there you might not even know about if you haven’t experienced it. Depression leads to different behaviors in different kids, but one way or another, family life is disrupted. Everyone is affected by living with one person’s depression. Yet, it’s difficult to judge who you can trust with what’s really going on in your home. How do you protect everyone’s privacy and still find support?

That’s a journey we walked for a year—a journey filled with fear, confusion, anger—and not many light-hearted moments. Into that journey, when we were feeling most vulnerable, we had to reach out for professional support, even though not all of it lightened the burdens—and some seemed to add to them.

Looking back, I still can’t say what really made the biggest difference, but I can distinguish about when life started to feel like the normal chaos of a household with teens: just after my daughter was really able to open her eyes to her grandmother’s anguish over her life difficulties. Before, she had been too embroiled in her own difficulties to reach out to her grandmother.

That was almost three months ago. I was starting to think I had lost my ability to distinguish between normal teenage difficulties and true crisis—that I would forevermore look for the worst and have to fight to keep myself from being overprotective. Thank goodness my gut seems to know that I can back off.
Believe it or not, after all that therapy, she really has developed a lot better tools for dealing with life’s disappointments. She and her brother get along better than they have in years. We laugh in our household. The fuses are a lot longer.

Ironically, as I was writing this almost five days ago, when the kids came home from cross country practice, she was still breathing rapidly over half an hour after finishing running. She had had a minor sore throat for a day and doesn’t have asthma, but she couldn’t catch her breath. My crisis-honed gut told me to get her to a doctor, even though she was opposed to any more crises.

When we got to urgent care, the power was out. Just when they were about to send us on, the power came on, they could do the nebulizer treatment and take the X-ray, get the breathing normalized and determine she was OK. We were sent out about an hour later with a prescription for an inhaler.

Christiana finishing at League, 10/16/09 (c) SAL

Christiana finishing at League, 10/16/09 (c) SAL

She went home to do homework, while I went to the pharmacy to get the medication—just in case. On my way home, for just a few minutes, I lost all those feelings of gratitude I had been waxing about before she had arrived home from school. Why couldn’t we just have normal experiences?

Then I reminded myself, it had turned out OK. She caught her breath—and so could I.

We really are breathing easier these days—all of us. Thank God!

Trina & Sherman (with Chris Geiss) on 10/8/88

Trina & Sherman (with Chris Geiss) on 10/8/88

When Sherman and I got married twenty-one years ago on October 8, we were blessed with blue-skied clear weather and sixty-something degree temperatures. Pastor John Bengston mused during the ceremony how we knew it would be such a beautiful day when we began planning our wedding. We grinned and both mouthed: The Farmers’ Almanac. Yes, we had consulted that venerable publication before choosing a wedding date in the iffy month of October.

We celebrated our anniversary on Thursday at home with the kids and a home-cooked steak dinner. We were too busy cooking and baking and getting them ready to go away on a cross country trip early Friday morning to do anything else special that evening. At least we knew we would be alone to celebrate the next day.

Now two days later, with the heater humming nonstop, it’s impossible to deny the weather outside. A thin layer of ice coats the pavement and cars, no doubt sealing the fate of any flowers that had survived the deep-dipping temperatures of previous nights. Even professional baseball has had to admit that fighting Mother Nature is futile—the Colorado Rockies/Philadelphia Phillies playoff game has been rescheduled until tomorrow.

The Farmers’ Almanac has predicted a harsh winter for those of us in Colorado—and we’re starting to believe. Many of the leaves haven’t even changed from green, but I know that these kinds of freezes sometimes rob of us the glorious fall colors we’ve come to expect. That’s why yesterday, despite my almost running out of time, I had to get out for a run along the river before the latest cold front blew in.

I was not disappointed. I drank in oranges, reds, yellows, and greens alongside the moving waters where ducks often played. At that moment, the snow remained up on distant mountain peaks. The breeze ruffled through my hair but did not chill my mid-section. October bliss.

Then I thought about how, if The Farmers’ Almanac were right, I just might have to consent to running inside this winter. I don’t know which is worse the running in an enclosed area filled with noise or having to pay to run! We fitness buffs in Colorado are so spoiled—often we can look at the forecast and plan around the various storms and deep freezes. Somehow thinking of the possibility of a real winter made the run seem that much sweeter.

Later as Sherman and I drove off into the foothills for our planned anniversary celebration of dancing, a blanket of fog descended upon the highway. We continued, passing through one of the known danger areas for fog-related multi-car collisions. Weather.com had said snow would begin around midnight, but had not mentioned fog, which seemed more threatening. We, who aren’t prone to fear from weather, decided to turn around. Mother Nature won that round.

In our modern world, it’s so easy to think the right technology can take care of any threats. But in the end, we can only control so much. So we returned to a local bar, spent a short amount of time there, before leaving to find traces of snow on our car.

Back home, thankful for the technology of our furnace, we hunkered down.

No doubt we should listen to The Farmers’ Almanac and stay in, for now. Weather fluctuates year to year and throughout the seasons—as long as we turn to one another, we’ve got all the control we really need.

Trina & Sherman, 10/8/88

Trina & Sherman, 10/8/88

OK, I admit it—I still have a long way to go on my path to enlightenment. But being in a yoga class like today’s class shows me just how far I have to go. Let’s just say that when a person has ADD, it’s especially challenging to be focused during yoga class, but with practice you begin to learn to use the breathing, rituals, and poses to calm down your inattentive mind.

Yoga class is my sanctuary from the natural wildness of my own thoughts and the craziness of the challenges in my life. It’s one of the few places where I’ve had any success at taming the wild horses of my thoughts—where I can not only stop them from galloping, but also can even get them to rest completely.

Our class group at the Englewood Recreation Center, taught by Dr. Dennie Dorall, is a mixture of long time attendees, people who’ve done yoga elsewhere, those in the early stages of learning to practice yoga, and people who have never done yoga before—including many who come thinking of it as just another exercise class.

When I signed up for my first sessions, I expected that yoga would help me become more flexible and gain some balance—which I especially needed since inflexibility and shaky balance were my greatest fitness weaknesses. Still, deep down I think I knew practicing yoga was really more of a lifestyle change.

I don’t remember much about how I acted when I entered the class, but I just tried to keep up and keep my mouth shut. Although I wasn’t new to exercise, I was new to yoga. I certainly didn’t have time to look around and see how everyone else looked doing their poses—it was hard enough that it took all my concentration! One thing I could tell right away was that practicing yoga was approached with a discipline and respectfulness similar to that practiced in my kids’ tae kwon do classes.

Not everyone sees that—or else cares—at his or her first yoga session. I try to be tolerant of how much there is to learning how to practice yoga—it’s really so counter to how we operate in this 24/7, wired world in which we live. However, it’s one thing to be ignorant of expectations and another thing all together to be rude in your behavior.

Those of us who’ve practiced yoga for awhile with Dr. Dennie know that sometimes she’s going to start our sessions with discussions on various aspects of life and different ways our bodies can physically manifest reactions to whatever is occurring in our lives. I’ve noticed that new people often get very physically restless during these times, as if to say, “I came here to move my body; why am I still waiting?”

Today, however, three twenty-somethings began to whisper this very thing back and forth. One said to her friend, “This isn’t a life coaching class.” Oh really—what then is yoga? To me, that 21st century terminology is a very good way to define yoga to the modern mind.

As these young women fidgeted, rolled their eyes, giggled, and mocked various statements, I felt like I was back in junior high. Where was the respect for the teacher? Where was the respect for the other students? The mean girls had arrived and they didn’t seem to realize that while they didn’t ever have to return, the time to discuss their problems with the class was after they had left.

I began breathing deeply and doing stretches, eyes closed, while I listened to Dennie, but I just couldn’t shut them out. That’s when I made a little wish that Dennie was going to give us a real hard class and really give them that body workout they so thought she should have begun already.

Of course, she did—and I, also, got to pay for my uncharitable thoughts. At least I knew to trust the process. One of the reasons Dennie had talked so long before we began the poses was because several people had shared they had a hard time getting extra thoughts out of their heads. As we regulars know, one of the best ways to do that is to work your body so hard that your mind has to concentrate on doing the pose.

Luckily she gave us a mantra for savasana so I had something to grab onto to help me not feel quite so distracted as I tried to rest. Still, I had a hard time applying a true Namaste wish for these ladies as class ended.

We live in discourteous times and that’s one of the reasons I revel in the calm I usually encounter in the yoga classes. It’s days like today when I realize just how much the world—and I—need more yoga.

Practice, practice, practice.

Trina, Aug. 2009, Ketring Park, (c) CBL

Trina, Aug. 2009, Ketring Park, (c) Christiana Lambert

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert