You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I used to cringe when parents talked about their child as a “good” baby. I still do. As if the baby chose colic or restlessness. Did that make a baby who cried a lot a “bad” baby? What if a formerly “good” baby began to experience challenges—would that child feel judged for no longer going with the flow and making life easier for those around?

A long time ago I had an easy baby and a more difficult baby. When you have twins, everyone wants to make comparisons—something that’s pretty easy to do, even for the parent. I tried to see my kids’ differences for what they were, yet take care with the implications of word choice. A rose is not always a rose and neither is a thorn a thorn.

Still, the dynamics of our family grew around our kids’ perceived differences, for good or for bad. So much so that when we sent our daughter to time-out, our son would attempt to go and she to stay behind. So often they thought they knew what was happening simply based upon the pattern.

Yet our kids thrived together and apart in much of the usual activities in early grade school. They had their own classrooms and their own soccer teams. Our daughter did well in school from the beginning, but our son finally began to excel in 3rd grade under the tutelage of a master teacher, so much so that I had visions of a budding Boettcher Scholar (Colorado’s top student scholarship program.)

But 4th grade was a turning point for him. So much about school set him on edge. Among the school staff he began to develop a reputation for being difficult. By 5th grade no doubt many of the other kids thought he was “bad”—one of those kids who was going to get in trouble often.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

We didn’t give up on him, but it seemed that during those “squeaky wheel” years of his, it was so hard to find the right support. I was jealous of parents whose kids seemed to do as asked, even though I had one of my own, too. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that his intentions were good even if his actions didn’t always demonstrate that—deep down I knew that when it mattered most, he could do the right thing.

Fast forward several years and it became our daughter’s turn to need the oil. He knew that and asked as little of us as he could. I will be forever grateful that he chose to help her and us when he could have acted out more. As I said before, his moral compass has always been pointed toward true north, even when he didn’t always do as we hoped.

Meanwhile I have watched as formerly compliant children (“good” babies grown up?) have lost their way. I know that his sister struggled mightily not to cause trouble for us, yet when her time came to need attention, she ultimately turned to us for support, not away from us as so many others have. I like to think it helped to know we had stood by him in all his difficulties and seemed we would do so for her. Plus, she couldn’t help but notice how he had stepped aside to allow her the focus.

I wish I could have done a better job meeting both kids’ needs at all times, but they have such sensitive natures and are both challenging in their own ways. They are enigmas and the answers to what they need are not always obvious.

There were costs for him for our lack of attention in the past year and for her over many previous years, but lately I think we have done a better job of providing them with what they each need individually.

Although both have worked with the same educational consultant, they have worked on different needs. She, on learning how to reduce her stress while continuing to succeed in class work, and, he, on learning how to reduce stress while learning to excel in class work again. Both achieved the highest honor roll this past semester. This was not her first time, but she did so with reduced levels of anxiety. He had not hit this level but once in middle school—and then only in 3rd grade before that.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

And yet, I still believe he needs a few more tools in order to succeed in a college away from home. Some of those tools his sister had developed earlier and some she gained in her past year of focused emphasis on her needs. So yesterday he visited one more expert—one I truly believe has the knowledge to help where others maybe didn’t.

Not only do I want him to feel capable of achieving to the level of his true abilities, but I also want others to see the flower of who he is. I know he does, too. There is so much more to him, and given the proper nourishment and tools, I know he can finally bloom, as himself but with fewer thorns.


(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

The new—to us anyway—washer and dryer are here!

The old dryer had the temerity to stop working on Friday, just as a load of jeans and towels was ready to go in it. Although we have a clothesline, our neighbor’s house blocks the light much of the winter, which is demonstrated by the snow that’s been under the line since November. January is not a good time of the year for drying lightweight laundry on our line, let alone the heaviest load I do.

Sherman tried to fix the dryer. He cleaned out every stray piece of lint he found. It was great—the lightweight load that was in the dryer when it stopped did get finished. The next load wouldn’t even start. Even after he removed all the heavy items it was still a no go.

The repairman came yesterday and pronounced the motor dead. The proposed repair cost was similar to the price of buying a reconditioned dryer. I’m not usually an impulsive person, but getting behind in laundry makes me nervous. I’d already waited since Friday. Memories of Laundromat visits in college did not make me nostalgic for a return.

As I looked at the papers for our current washer and dryer, I found receipts for the other times Sherman had bought parts to repair them himself. We can’t say we haven’t used them well since we bought one of them in 1990 and the other in 1991. I know those are pretty long life cycles for those appliances. In fact a 2006 study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says the typical life expectancy for a gas dryer is 13 years and 10 years for a washer, which is down from 1998 figures of 14 and 13 years respectively, as listed in a This Old House article by Scott Gibson.

Need I remind you that we are cheap? We don’t replace items until they are truly worn out. Unfortunately that means we have been in the market for a lot of things at the same time lately. Many of the appliances, pieces of furniture, and home improvement projects from our early marriage years are turning belly up.

Oh, I know you’re supposed to budget and plan ahead for these things, but how many of us do? Am I really saving up the money for that hot water heater that is apparently one year beyond its expected demise? Or the dishwasher and refrigerator entering their final years of usefulness?

Come on—we’ve been using the 1950s “Cadillac” oven/stove (2 ovens, a griddle, and built-in deep fat fryer) ever since we bought the house. Yet, Sherman tells me, he thinks replacement is imminent. In fact, he asked me to scout out how much similar items cost at the reconditioned appliance store, although I left overwhelmed just with the urgent needs.

Hm. In the last couple years we’ve put down our microwave, washer, dryer, and matching couch and loveseat. We sold our kitchen and dining room table sets to make way for furniture that better suited our current lifestyle. We’ve even ripped out the carpet that went beyond the usual ten years by about seven years—don’t worry, though, that carpet looked its age!

It’s enough to make a person like me want to go live in a cave.

At least I can feel virtuous about contributing to the economic indicators and tax coffers in these desperate times. Sorry if I try everything to avoid contributing first!

Look at the angst I’ve stirred up over what should be a happy event—finding a solution to my problem regarding the wet clothes in my home. Sheesh. It’s time I just acknowledge my gratefulness for not having to visit a Laundromat in deepest winter. The only solution for all the spin cycle going through my head is just to give in to the Zen of doing laundry, one of the few domestic tasks I can ever approach with anything similar to mindfulness on a regular basis.

The new washer and dryer are here! The new washer and dryer are here! And we didn’t even get soaked.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

People often get along with less-than-optimal habits and processes simply because times are good. There is enough time in the day, so you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about how to do things quicker. Then something changes . . .

In my case, that was giving birth, not only to my first baby, but also to my second baby in a period of four minutes. I was never organized, especially with stuff, but I had a good memory for deadlines and other dates. Well, it turns out that sleep deprivation attacks little things like clear thinking and memory. Heck, that first year, I even knocked over more drinks than I probably had in my whole life. I just couldn’t get that hand to work well with my brain.

For a person who really enjoyed studying operations management, sometimes I have to be almost hit over the head with a personal time crunch or failure before I change how I do things.

When the kids were still toddlers, I finally realized that my Cracker Jack memory had been permanently replaced by Swiss cheese after I missed paying some bills on time. Luckily that was long before $39.00 late payment charges and increased interest rates for such misbehaviors were the norm. I paid my extra $3.00 charges, but, as cheap as I am, and as careful as I am about my credit record, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes again. What had worked when I had more time and was under less pressure no longer worked.

I needed a new plan and didn’t really have much time for thinking up my own system. I worked with my husband’s family at the time. Fortunately, the business sent both me and my mother-in-law to an organizational workshop. We both came home with plans to start old-fashioned tickler files—which we both did, in our homes, anyway.

That tickler file, complete with 31 hanging folders for each day of the month, 12 folders for each month, as well as folders for a few more for things such as checkbooks, stamps, and important references, has changed my life. I have a physical place for things with a deadline. The system has only failed me when I accidentally got something stuck between two folders and didn’t see the paper. My tickler file is an island of competency for me. Now that we’re a decade into the 21st century, I’m slowly moving some tasks to an electronic tickler, but not quickly enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the extra tasks I’ve added ever since my mother fell just over two years ago. I’m so scattered and have so many more papers to handle. I’ve been so distracted by what needs to get done that I haven’t realized that most of my systems haven’t kept up with the current demands in my life. That’s a recipe for stress at a time when I already have enough stress.

So I have developed a plan to help myself—and maybe others. I have a new project underway where I’m going to focus on how to operationalize more parts of my life. As a matter of semantics, the word organized never sounds possible for me. I think that’s because I too often see organizational suggestions designed for the left-brained mind. Many of them make me feel that the only way I can follow them is to nag myself or just try harder.

But I have ADD—sometimes trying harder only works for awhile before the stress gets to me or I just fall back into old patterns.

No, I often have to experience a paradigm shift in order to see improvement. Sometimes I find the solution from an outside source, but other times I finally see a way to do something so it works for me. I’m also lucky enough to have a husband who’s an even more out of the box thinker than I am. I tell him what my basic problem is, what I’ve considered for a solution, and ask him to think about it. He’s not going to come up with the idea right away, but when he does, it’s usually going to be functional beyond my wildest expectations.

Now if you excuse me, I have another possible paradigm shift to investigate.

One day Elizabeth Yarnell’s Glorious One-Pot Meals could be listed right up there with the tickler file in Trina’s Hall of Fame for Effective Living. Well, truth told, I’ve always thought I’d be just as happy to eat like the Jetsons did—Rosie just handed them a pill that contained a full meal. No preparation, no clean-up—no enjoyment, no socialization, no health benefits? OK, I guess it’s back to making something good with minimal trauma. As Elizabeth says, “ . . . [W]ho wouldn’t want a quick, easy, and delicious way to cook that left you only one-pot to clean up?”

Stay tuned for more information on what’s already working for me and how I work beyond what isn’t working. I plan to use more of my operational tools and think of myself as an organization. The organization of Trina can no longer afford ineffective processes that further drain time from my tasks and, more importantly, keep me from joyful activities, both on my own and with others.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

You know how there are some activities that just seem natural? Well, skiing is rarely that for me. Maybe it’s because I was almost fifteen when I learned. Maybe it’s always going to be a challenge for me just because of who I am.

That’s OK. I don’t have to be good at everything I do, right?

Ha, ha. Someday I hope to accept that concept deep in my heart, but I do understand it intellectually. If I enjoy something, it can be enough.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Sherman and the kids both learned to ski when they were in early grade school. Even though Sherman’s first ski trip led to a broken leg, he’s mostly skied with grace for all his years since then. Oh, he can’t feel it so much now that he is older, but I can still see it. He is a pretty skier—and I don’t mean feminine! It’s just that everything flows together, for the most part.

Each year when I take my first run, I feel as if I am starting over again. “They” say you never forget how to ride a bike, but I think I’m proof that skiing is nothing like bike-riding—at least for me it isn’t on the first several runs. Scary since I am in so much better shape than I was when I first skied with Sherman and the kids. I have actually improved in this decade of my 40s. Pilates and yoga have helped me to find my center of gravity—most of the time.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Still, if I ever stop thinking about what I’m doing, that’s when I catch an edge. I’m no risk-taker on skis, so it’s not like I fall much, but it seems my abilities vary from day to day or even run to run. Yesterday, I never quite caught my groove. Maybe those extra 10 pounds matter after all. Grin.

When my kids were younger they would chide me to ski more aggressively. My reply? I’m not there to challenge the mountain. I’m there to enjoy the scenery, the fresh air, the exercise, and my family. I want to keep doing this activity for several years to come.

That may explain why that snowboarder was so frustrated by me yesterday—hey, he should have been behind all those people who skied slower than I did. I think that at my age there are fewer casual skiers left. Most of them either got better or stopped. Me, I just try to have a good time, but on really good days on the slopes, for a few moments I’m sure I know what it feels like to fly.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I still hope to return this season and take more heart-pounding runs, as run by run I start to regain my land legs—,or mountain legs, as it were. My turns will get prettier, although not quite pretty, as the season matures—and as the snow gets better!

This is the last winter to ski with my kids before they leave home. They’ve learned to wait without complaint, taking jumps or runs through the trees, while I casually cruise toward our meeting points. These skiing days in the sun are some of the best days we’ve shared as a family.

Turns out I don’t have to be good, just good enough, to keep flinging myself down a mountain after them.

And when they’ve flown our coop, I still hope to follow Sherman down the slopes—and join him, from time to time, in those flights of fancy when gravity seems to lose its weight and grace takes wing.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

This has been a week of valleys and peaks. I’ve already written about what wasn’t working. I have to admit I felt very weary. Yet, the week ended with a lot of things resolved. Some of them just happened and others happened because I began to do things differently—in other words I carried out the ideas I developed for how to gain a little more control.

When something isn’t working, it’s not enough to be stubborn—which I am. Sometimes you have to grab new tools just so that the camel doesn’t add to the straw on his/her own back. For one, I have to remind myself that just because people/organizations should do certain things, doesn’t mean they will—at least without a little prompting. That’s where I come in.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Some of them may have just dropped the ball once—which unfortunately for me happened when they were dealing with my concerns—but in general do well taking care of the majority of the tasks. They might be really good at their jobs and care about them, but something went wrong in my situation. They are only responsible for their own mistakes, not the ones other organizations made at the same time.

Plus, I have to be aware when I need to change my approach with people. I really try to be logical and factual in my dealings with customer service people, but perhaps some of them, especially after many dealings with me, need to understand the emotions behind my requests. Not so much the anger about the mistake as much as my personal cost from their repeated mistakes.

What is true of this week is that I let down my mask in several situations. After all, I have some hard tasks to do. There’s no shame in admitting how much harder it is when I can’t move forward with them through factors that are no fault of my own.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I think I did a better job of asking for help from people in my personal life. I finally, along with my husband, took the step of going to an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group. Of course I know people in similar situations, but it helped to sit around with a group of strangers who came together just to talk about their common needs. Others had concrete advice for me, too. I even got signed up for a class that should help me better understand all these legal and financial hoops I must jump through.

At the support group, many of us were reminded of the cost to us of helping our loved one with Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, listening to everyone talk about the various hassles in their lives, I realized how much the external factors take away from the energy we need in order to spend time with our loved ones, especially since their conditions often challenge our patience and strength. As much time as I’ve spent this week working on my mom’s concerns, she doesn’t know it because I have been too drained to spend much time with her, too.

We both miss out due to all the tasks that don’t seem to get done right the first time. For her as much as for me and my family, I can’t keep doing things the same way. And I’m not.

I feel calmer now. Google calendar reminders really do get me to follow-up on problems without setting me up to spend all day worrying about when to get around to contacting others—the decision has already been made. Plus, with the focused contact, many of those problems have been resolved—maybe people really don’t want to talk with me every day! The reminders, as well as the information I’ve garnered, help me now and will come in handy as I learn more at the information session I am attending in another couple weeks.

Even snippets of peace of mind bought by having a plan have been priceless. I’ll take all I can—and try to remain open to possibilities that come with new ideas and additional information.

Just because certain things in my life are bad doesn’t mean everything has to be. Part of feeling better is attitude and part is action, but it’s so much easier to maintain a good attitude when you know you have options.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I’m guessing I conveyed a less than perky attitude in my recent Facebook status: I cannot take care of the needs of my mother and other family members, if everyone else keeps dropping the ball and I have to keep contacting people. Once is time-consuming enough. That’s at least one bank, one annuity firm, one doctor, one insurance company, two providers, and one health care facility too many . . .

What’s remarkable is that I got the support I needed from posting that status. A couple people commiserated and told me to hang in there. My brother contacted me to see what the specifics were. And one local Facebook angel, Cynthia, called me. We hadn’t “talked” with voices since the 80s, I think. It was just the personal touch I needed at a low point.

What follows is mostly a gripe list—skip it if you’re looking for something with hearts and flowers and a happy ending. That’s why I separated it from the operations post. This is just an example of why I need to change my reactions if I want to remain sane—and why it really mattered that people noticed I needed a lift.

Just a laundry list of recent examples from my life:

•Bank that can’t seem to decide what is required of me in order to get my father’s stocks (left out of the will eight years ago) into my mother’s name so I can sell them. (Began Thanksgiving week.)

• Bank decided by Christmas Week it needs document from the doctor to proceed.

• Went to doctor with my mother on Christmas Eve but regular doctor was sick. I then had to contact regular doctor and, unfortunately, waited a week to do so. (Still waiting for response twelve days later.)

• Attempted to contact annuity firm on New Year’s Eve—all customer service voice boxes were full and representative was not listed in directory. Sent message to headquarters. (Received paper reply on January 11.)

• Made contacted with annuity firm on January 4 and was told they did not have previously faxed Power of Attorney papers on file, so re-faxed. My printer was jammed so I could not print out the distribution form until after business hours. Faxed form back on January 5, but found out on January 11 that they did not receive a fax although “maybe that was when our fax wasn’t working.” Form is into headquarters now although it may take 20 business days to receive check—electronic transfers not allowed unless redeeming whole annuity!

• Contacted mother’s residence facility to advise that money is still in process and can only pay partial despite having two sources of money in process for distribution.

• Tried to refill a prescription for my mother but insurance said it was too early. Discovered previous prescription by office was written for fewer than the doctor’s intentions. Tried to contact doctor’s office on a Thursday but received “all circuits are busy” message several times. Instead used secure e-mail and received message saying prescription faxed in on Friday.

• Attempted to pick up prescription on Saturday with other prescriptions prior to visit but pharmacy did not have enough in stock and order would not be in until Monday.

• Visited my mother on Saturday and was told she desperately needed foot care and I was surprised to find out she had not had it with the December appointment that had been scheduled. The nurse was on break and I was told I could contact on Monday. Called on Monday and discovered all slots were full for January foot care session, but after staff looked again, was told she would be seen no matter what due to the severity. Reminded about the fee and realized that perhaps she did not get care in December because I did not leave a fee. Remembered the initial call had arrived in the late evening and perhaps I did not write down that information, yet the facility did not provide me with reminder paperwork either, since I could have brought over a check.

• Received a letter stating some claims from my daughter’s care last year might be going to collections. I have talked on the phone as well as met with the financial people at the hospital several times, bringing all my papers and pointing out possible reasons for non-pays. Was assured yesterday that they had found errors on their end and would be teleconferencing this morning to discuss the issue.

• Have contacted the insurance company at least three times, faxed them two spreadsheets with over 100 entries, and been told I would hear back from them. We have paid our maximum out-of-the-pocket amount, yet claims remain unpaid and providers continue to contact us. Am often reminded of a very painful time by the papers I would normally have filed in the 2009 box by now.

Those are a few of the details I’ve dealt with in the last few days. I have more work to do to make things happen, so it’s time for me to stop griping and act. I am definitely less than perky but I finally have a plan. One day at a time . . .

My family is used to my saying “I’m an operations person and . . . .” This is when they immediately roll their eyes and stop listening. They’ve heard that phrase so many times and I haven’t even worked as an operations person. Nonetheless, it’s the operations person in me that I most developed as I worked through my MBA program.

Sometimes that operations person just drives me crazy because she makes me think everything can be changed or improved. Well, in the end, I can only do so much to change organizations from the outside. Organizations, like people, have to want to change—or have to be forced to change.

We live in tough economic times. Many businesses have cut their staff size to a level I believe is below productive. Reduced employee expenses might make Wall Street happy for awhile, but in the end, revenues will suffer when employees can’t get their work done or aren’t able to focus long enough to do things right. That’s what’s wrong with a strict bottom line attitude. Just because a company looks good—for now—on paper doesn’t mean it isn’t suffering from an illness that will affect the bottom line in the long run. It’s kind of like looking at my mom’s blood tests and thinking she is well. As her doctor said, “She looks good on paper, but . . . .”

The irony is that one group of Americans is sitting around, unable to contribute to the economy, due to lack of jobs while many of those who have jobs are so overwhelmed that they aren’t productive either.

At least, I’d like to think some of this is why organizations and their people keep dropping the ball on what I need done. It’s sort of a circular process which keeps us all dropping the ball. We can’t seem to receive it when expected from the person handing off the ball and then we’re not ready to hand off the ball when the next person is expecting it.

Unfortunately, I have so many details to manage between the needs of my family and my mother that I need to know people within corporations are going to do what they say they will do. I barely have time to contact these people once, let alone several times.

What’s a person to do? I can’t change these corporations easily. Frankly, if only one or two of the problems occurred, I could take the time really to explain the problems and try to resolve the difficulties with the organizations. But my attention is so divided between so many of these institutions that I tend to send in only the most basic explanation of my difficulties to the proper authorities and, these days, often one contact or letter doesn’t seem to be enough. I don’t feel it’s fair to publicly “out” a business on a blog without having more discussions with the organization first.

Basically, though, I don’t want to pass more of my day dealing with these frustrations than spending time with my loved ones and dedicating time to my personal and professional pursuits.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I can only control my response and that’s becoming harder and harder to do with all the missteps that keep happening. Last week I finally had that “eureka” moment: I have to operationalize my responses to these tasks. I have to create steps for how I follow-up with firms. The more I let the phone calls and papers sit on my desk, the more I allow them to rob me of even more of my well-being and time.

I have used a paper tickler file with great success for paying bills and returning items and completing other tasks that have a physical presence and a time deadline. Now I will be adding an electronic reminder system to my calendar where I make an arbitrary deadline for responses from others. If I don’t hear from them, I call to check on the status. I do not wait to call them, as I often do now, until I feel a sense of impending doom, or until I receive a piece of mail that reminds me to take immediate action. I regain what little control I have as an outsider by not letting others’ inactions weigh on every minute of my days. I compartmentalize what I do have control over: my actions.

Too bad someone else’s bottom line has to take away from my ability to spend time improving my own bottom line. Making spreadsheets for others and operationalizing my responses to inaction seems, on the surface, to be a poor use of my MBA knowledge.

However, the peace of mind those actions bring to me may be priceless.

It’s not my problem, but I hate that people I know—and don’t know—have to experience less of life as most of us know it—or just have to learn not to put so much focus on what many of us take for granted: the ability to eat whatever’s provided or available.

I grew up with a mother who, for lack of a more precise definition, was sensitive to many things, despite not really getting very clear test results. Was it chemicals or natural substances—or both? Suffice it to say things that were often pleasant to others could make her feel sick. For our wedding, it was kind of a pain to find scent-free candles, even for the church, and provide only grape juice for communion, but I was willing to do it so my mom could enjoy our special day.

Even the extended larger family has various sensitivities, whether it’s to certain sounds, smells, and/or foods. Frankly, it’s a bit of a pain to have to deal with us. But, on the other hand, it’s a pain for regular aspects of life to make us feel bad. We’re the people who run around those perfume-spraying women at the front of the department store, the people who get migraines from certain buildings, the ones who try to be gracious and say “no thanks” to things that are not our friends at all.

The truth is, though, you really have no idea how hard it is for some other people unless you or someone in your family is faced with a life-threatening condition in response to certain everyday stimuli. Yes, it’s a pain not to be able to have a peanut butter sandwich, but imagine having to worry that every peanut butter sandwich can kill your kid.

When I was growing up I had a friend who had diabetes from her preschool days. Now I can truly imagine the courage it took for her mother to let her come to our sleepovers and rely on somebody else to feed her and to wake her up for her shots. Yet she must have wanted her to lead a somewhat normal life, despite the risks. I know I never understood how hard it was for my friend to watch us not worrying about a thing we ate.

The good news in our family is that the fatal risks associated with celiac disease can be abated with long term adherence to the gluten-free diet. My husband decided right away that he wanted to live badly enough to do what it took, even though some told him to look around for a second opinion so he might be able to wish away the future eating difficulties he faced. And I’m guessing that my daughter—who is still a very angry celiac—decided that too, since she’s one of the most compliant, from the start, teen celiacs I’ve met.

I thank God my loved ones “get” what their condition requires and do everything they can to stay healthy, despite all the challenges they now face with eating. But it still hurts to see them shut out from so many everyday eating experiences—including the simple ability to assume you can find something you can eat anywhere and don’t have to plan ahead.

So I’m really disappointed that when I did get a response from Girl Scouts, it was to hear that it wasn’t “economically feasible” at this time for the organization to sell what they call specialty cookies. Apparently, they couldn’t even make a go with it by selling cookies for people with diabetes.

Might I mention it’s not economically feasible to be sensitive to many common products, as well as natural and artificial influences in this world, let alone to have a life-threatening response to any of these things?

It’s also not emotionally feasible, but sometimes you have to accept that things are as they are. As the saying goes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

I’d like to tell my friend I’m sorry I wasn’t more sensitive to her food difficulties, but I can’t. Her disease killed her before she reached thirty-five. I don’t know if that could have been avoided, but I do know I could have made her social times with me easier.

Just because I can’t change the fact certain conditions exist doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing what I can to provide awareness. My wish is that one day everyone who comes to the party will be able to grab onto the joy of worry-free eating.

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

My husband used to have an addiction to your Thin Mints. Admit it—you know that type of addiction adds to the funds needed to continue to support your programs. Add the inability to resist the appeal of your young saleswomen and most of us just can’t resist. It’s like cigarettes, only not nearly as bad for us—especially if we control ourselves and freeze those cookies and eat them from time to time—versus just devouring them in February after we’ve bought way too many boxes at the office!

About 4 ½ years ago my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease. That means he can’t eat products made from wheat, rye, barley, and most oats. That leaves out most traditionally made cookies, including yours. In solidarity with my husband, I don’t indulge in buying Thin Mints anymore. Do you know how guilty I feel when those little girls approach me in the grocery store parking lot?

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, 1% or 3 million people in the United States have celiac disease, yet around 97% of those people are not yet diagnosed. However, more doctors are becoming aware of subtle symptoms at the same time the blood tests they use as a part of their diagnostic tools have become more reliable, so it’s only a matter of time before many others are diagnosed.

Food giant General Mills introduced a gluten-free version of Rice Chex in April 2008. How much easier our lives have become because finally we can buy a cereal in a non-specialty store. I’m pretty convinced that General Mills is finding this profitable because in October 2009 they followed with five more gluten-free versions of their cereals. In fact, just last month, General Mills introduced a website dedicated both to providing information on their gluten-free products and the gluten-free lifestyle. And, oh yes, those who must eat gluten-free are happy to see Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes—which can also be found in non-specialty stores. Baked desserts are not so easy to find for those who cannot eat gluten—which, of course, brings me back to your cookies.

People who have celiac disease are always looking for products they can eat, and when they find them, they are often so giddy with joy that they tell all their friends, plus they post the information in their support groups and on the Internet. The grapevine is incredibly well used among celiacs.

No doubt, right now, eating gluten-free is also a trend—or a fad—depending upon who you ask. Many people have decided that gluten isn’t really good for anyone, even if they have no physical damage from eating it. Quite a few kids with conditions such as autism and ADD are being placed on gluten-free diets, whether or not they have diagnostic reasons for giving up gluten. Many parents swear by their positive results, although, so far, publicly released studies aren’t really confirming this.

A February 2009 Jefferson Andrews article at reported on how the market for gluten-free products was growing, even in the midst of the recession. The article stated “Nielsen Co., reports that the gluten-free products sector increased 20% in the 12-month period ending June 14 [2009], to $1.75 billion from $1.46 billion the year before.” Not bad in a time when most business segments were losing ground.

An article posted in September 2009 (Josh Sosland) on BakingNews.Com discusses a Hartman Group study on consumer interests in gluten-free foods. Hartman’s statistic of a current 40 million or 13% interest in gluten-free products supposedly strikes terror in the grain-based food product industry, but Sosland goes on to say, with apparent relief, that Hartman does believe interest will diminish with time for the general population.

But why should the grain-based food product industry panic at all? There are many more grains involved in baking than just the traditional wheat flour. Even if interest in gluten-free foods wanes for the general population, people with celiac disease will always have to eat gluten-free.

That’s still one million people, many of whom are children. It’s hard enough to be a kid forgoing most snacks in group settings, but imagine how it must feel to be a Girl Scout during the cookie drive when she isn’t able to eat any of the cookies herself.

It seems to me that Thin Mints would be the easiest type of Girl Scout cookies to make gluten-free. The abundant chocolate coating should help the cookies remain fresh, which is often a concern with gluten-free products. Plus, freezing is a common way for gluten-free baked goods to remain fresh and many people already have great success freezing Thin Mints.

People who have celiac disease are a captive market and many of them are starved for the foods that are part of the social eating traditions in our country. Girl Scout cookies may be more American than apple pie these days. My husband didn’t eat apple pie in the first place, but Thin Mints were always a weakness for him.

So, dear Girl Scouts, wouldn’t now be a great time for you to develop a gluten-free cookie? The market is ripe—there’s a whole group of people out there hungry to support your organization through its products—if only they can. How sweet it would be to savor the satisfaction of helping a group of people who in turn can help the many girls within your organization.

Now for a message from the Girl Scouts in Nebraska–thanks to my friend Cynthe at Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska for sharing!

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

January 6 is one of my favorite holidays/holy days: Epiphany! While we don’t celebrate in our home with a King Cake, we always leave up our Christmas decorations until at least this date on the calendar. I not only like what this day stands for in the Christian faith, but I also appreciate the general concept of epiphanies even though my family doesn’t really do anything out of the ordinary on this holiday.

Epiphanies are all about unexpected revelations. Does it make sense that the long foretold savior who would deliver his people comes in the form of a baby born to a family of little means? Not really. No more than it makes sense that prominent men from faraway countries would travel long distances just to see the future king of a small nation that lacked the type of power the world—then or now—recognizes.

Surprise! It’s not what was expected—it’s more. The baby was sent for more than just that nation. He came for all of us.

Yesterday I hosted Moms in Touch since our usual leader, Bev, is busy revealing God’s word and work in Africa right now. It only seemed appropriate that the lesson theme be about revelation. The more I read in preparation, the more I realized that Epiphany demonstrates very well the concept that we are not in control. Things aren’t done the way we think they should be done. And that’s OK.

Sometimes epiphanies are huge, just as when the Magi came to visit Jesus.

Other times our insights are much smaller. For example, I wanted to subscribe to an RSS feed on a blog. For a moment I sat there and thought, didn’t I subscribe to this before? The answer turned out to be yes! I discovered I’ve been receiving the RSS notifications for this blog all along, but didn’t see where they were going in my Outlook folders. Whoops.

But we also experience some epiphanies that sound small, yet are really life-changing. Last night Jackson had an assignment to find a couple articles. Nothing seemed quite right and finally he said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. I just have to print out the articles.” Those words are a miracle coming from a kid who has often missed completing assignments because he couldn’t find exactly the right answer. Just another manifestation that the 4.0 grade point he received this past semester, after so many disappointing semesters, is not a fluke, but a change in how he approaches his school work.

In our family, we belong to what we call The Christmas! Every Day Party. What that means is because we believe in Christ, then there are really 365 (or 366) days of Christmas every year. Yesterday, Epiphany, was also the 13th day of Christmas in our home. I’ll take the epiphanies I received, both little and big, as continuing gifts in the celebration.

Not only should we expect the unexpected, but we should expect to be delighted from time to time when things turn out better than planned.

Who knows what will happen this day, the 14th day of Christmas. Maybe something beyond our wildest dreams . . .

P.S. Happy 2010—may your blessings be many, both expected and unexpected!

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