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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I feel as if I’ve been on a Lenten journey for a couple years, but I’m so scattered I haven’t been following many Lenten practices.

Last week was Ash Wednesday—hard to believe a year has passed since the last one. Attending Ash Wednesday service is one of the best ways to get myself to return to a more contemplative life.

Only so far that experience hasn’t really reined me in—no doubt my attitude that night did not help. I arrived at the service angry and beyond frustrated with some of the bureaucracies in my life. I felt like a worm, but just didn’t want to turn to God for help. In fact, during Pastor Ron’s sermon, I pulled out my notebook and paper and started writing about feeling like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Can you say dark mood?

Kafka’s hopelessness is nothing to pack for the Lenten journey.

What I need to do is follow the instructions from the wise women in my spirituality group at church. Other than one woman whose only child will be graduating when mine do this spring, the rest are grandmothers. They are in a phase of life when they can focus more on themselves—but they choose to focus on God first.

These women, as a group, have developed various centering practices to get themselves to slow down long enough to hear God. Their Lenten discipline includes using Lenten prayer beads, along with prayer and contemplation of psalms, for getting into a daily Lenten walk with God.

So far I have only made it through one day of the beads, but I resolve to pull myself back onto the path—to not wallow in Samsa’s type of paralysis. It is good to have something tactile to guide me into a renewing slowdown. I so need this. It is time for me to be still and remember that I know God.

He hasn’t forgotten me and neither should I forget to turn to him and take that walk—the one that leads to Golgotha—and then beyond.

When I take quiet time with God, it is so much easier to remember that the Christian promise of metamorphosis makes us much more, not much less.

Practice, practice, practice.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Isn’t it true our strengths can also be our weaknesses?

Each week we discussed a different book in my American novel class. Sometimes I think I took to heart too much from Ernest Hemingway’s outlook on life and living. Not the bullfights and the carousing, just the overly macho way of appearing strong in the face of adversity. That didn’t work out too well for him in the end, did it?

Still, I admire “grace under pressure” and approaching life from the cerebral side. Hemingway’s characters’ emotions remain below the surface of his sparse text, yet we readers can glimpse those emotions through a shortened sentence or the description of the slightest movement.

I like to think that I, unlike Hemingway, do not deny hidden emotions. I don’t want to end up as he did. Of course, mental illness seems to have run in his family, but part of the problem also may have been how he chose to live his life. He didn’t want to appear weak and most likely couldn’t even do so in private.

I can do so in private. I do access my emotions—at least from time to time. It’s just I prefer to work from my head in my dealings with institutions. I approach problems with logic and try to leave out my emotions, even if my reactions to the problems have been deeply emotional. I want others to correct the situation because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not just about me or mine, but about how they do business with customers/clients/patients in general.

See, there’s that Thinker (Myers-Briggs terminology) showing in me again.

But I wonder if I’d get farther if sometimes I let my guard down. I try to explain my emotions, but maybe I appear too calm. What if I let others really see how certain actions have affected me?

I’ve certainly thought that about dealing with the schools. If those in charge could have understood the anguish caused to our son and family, would they have realized how serious the problems were? Would they have believed us when we said he really couldn’t do as much work as they expected him to do? Would they have understood why I could not access the assignment and grading database portal? Did they know how the information there sent me into an emotional tailspin—whether or not the teacher had kept up with inputting the data.

Lately I have begun explaining to the insurance company and the provider how dealing with their billing mistakes is especially hard because each piece of paper reminds me of how difficult our life was in 2009 and gets in the way of moving forward with 2010. The provider passed on my first heartfelt letter to the billing department. I also received and accepted an apology.

Yet, the mistakes—or delays continue—they almost seem to be worse since I explained to the provider what the insurance company told me was causing problems. No good deed goes unpunished? No, I’ve been told the provider followed the insurance company’s instructions. Huh? I don’t know who to believe. All I know is I’m told to be patient with the process.

Of course, I have already been patient with the process—with little success so far. Perhaps new information will make the difference, yet at this point I feel as if nothing I do is going to correct this. In my lowest moments I am afraid I will always be drawn back to the worst period in my life. I may have survived the illness and the treatment but may not survive the paperwork—unless of course I just pack away the papers in between each communication and resolve not to care so much.

Maybe I have demonstrated too much grace under pressure. These papers have taken my time and sense of wellbeing again and again. Yes, I let them, but the humans sending them don’t seem to do what needs to be done.

I am mad. I am sad. And I think that despite how well I dealt with my daughter’s depression, these feelings of not being heard or not being able to effect change could lead me down the road to my own depression if I let them. I feel as if I am screaming into a void—and sometimes I think if those in charge only knew I was screaming, it might make a difference. If I showed my weakness, might it compel them to work harder to resolve the problems?

My therapist thinks it will make no difference—she has been battling her own insurance nightmare and has come to believe that the systems today aren’t set up to work well—and our emotions will get us nowhere with organizations.

She’s probably right, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to swallow my anger and say what’s happening is OK. I don’t want to end up like Papa, whose internal pressure ate up his grace. No, my version of grace under pressure must at least include admitting what’s bothering me.

That said, I have filed the papers again. They no longer dominate my desk. They are not quite out of sight/out of mind, but if the only control I have is to put them away, then I have taken a big step.

Yesterday while I was driving, Green Day’s “21 Guns” began to play. Just because something’s worth fighting for doesn’t mean it’s worth the cost. I’m the one paying for trying to resolve what is beyond my control. Although it feels like surrender, my version of grace under pressure—for now—needs to be a farewell to arms.

Aging is a funny thing. I think we all have our own definition of what makes someone seem old. Mostly it’s how other people look or how they act!

My uncle, Carrell Ritter, (c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Sometimes our bodies make us stop doing activities and, no matter how much we want to do them, we just can’t anymore. Some of us go through physical therapy and/or try a lot of other remedies before we concede to the passage of time. Doesn’t it seem almost un-American in these times of youth worship not to rage against the night?

Other times the decision to stop doing something is ours. I’ve heard people say they don’t want to do something because they were so good at it when they were young. I’m not one of those people—so far. It’s logical that we’re not going to stay at our peak forever, but as long as we still enjoy doing something, I think we should.

Age didn’t stop the remaining members of the Who from singing at the Super Bowl. Roger Daltrey didn’t prance about in the same old way and Pete Townsend didn’t twirl his arm as much, but the sound was pretty good. Every time they and other older rockers get on stage, the jokes start flying about letting them out of the nursing homes. We expend a lot of hot air comparing them with themselves in their heydays. Are they still better than many people putting it out there, even if they don’t look and sound twenty anymore? I think so. And, I hope they enjoy it, too. I say more power to people who don’t stop, just to please the critics sitting at home in their recliners. I hope Roger and Pete at least keep singing in the shower, even when they are in the nursing home, just because music is such a big part of who they are.

On the other hand, sometimes aging gives us the wisdom to realize when we didn’t like something that much and it’s just not worth continuing to do. You start to understand yourself well enough to know when you were only doing something because it was supposed to be fun or because people said you needed to try it. I’d have to say that’s one of the reasons I’ve sent Jackson with Sherman when Sherman’s parents have given him Denver Broncos tickets in the past couple years. I know it’s a great privilege to get to go to a NFL game, but I just don’t enjoy it enough to spend my time doing it.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s about realizing how precious time is and that life shouldn’t be lived just the way others want to live it.

Still, it’s been a long time since I felt so alone on the dance floor. It’s good to have room to dance, but I don’t really want to feel as if Sherman and I are performing on Dancing with the Stars or something—we’re not there to make a show, but it seems that’s what we’re doing these days.

Makes me wonder when everyone got so old. Then I remember, some of those people sitting at the tables probably think I’m an old crank for not appreciating going to a Broncos game.

Grow old along with me—just don’t expect everyone else to want to do it the same way.

Especially as time and energy grow more precious, it’s up to us to decide who we are and what we want—and not pressure our peers—or let them pressure us—into living someone else’s life.

Just do not go gently into that night if you’d really rather be strutting on the dance floor of life.

One man’s “simple” is another man’s “huh?”
David Stone

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My policy: no attacking businesses by name in the blogosphere. Still, I want the business to understand my frustrations. To that order, I’ve voiced my opinions with four representatives so far. I’ve filled out the survey sent to me. I responded to the e-mail asking for contact information and a time so they could contact me—although they didn’t. But, as we all have to remember, e-mail messages don’t always go through, so maybe they thought I didn’t respond.

We promised our daughter she could get certain software as a Christmas gift, once the holidays had passed. Her brother also contributed to the gift. All we needed was for her to figure out the student discount and if she had to order online.

Sunday I let her handle the details of the ordering, using our saved account while I answered any questions she had in the process. She recognized we needed to update our credit card information, but didn’t realize our saved shipping address was for her dad’s old office address—I think they moved almost three years ago.

For legal purposes, I should have placed the order myself because it was with my credit card. Bare minimum, I needed to verify everything with my own eyes first before she pressed the “send” button. Years of working with both circulation and financial data have honed my eyes for errors.

So, when I received the order confirmation e-mail, I instantly noted the incorrect shipping address. Attempts to make the correction through the website, even with online chat feature, showed shipping corrections can only be made with phone representatives. I waited another half an hour to call since lunch would have gone cold otherwise.

I talked with a representative within two hours of the order’s placement. Too late—the order label had already printed. She would try to make corrections through the shipper.

The shipping confirmation I received the next day also showed the incorrect address. Within minutes of receiving the message, I called the retailer again. After fifteen minutes with another representative, I found out the exact time the previous day’s representative had sent new address information to the shipper.

When I talked to the shipping company’s representative, she said they had no record of any other address, plus she told me that, by contract, they were not authorized to accept address changes from anyone but the online retailer.

Back to the online retailer for a twenty minute conversation with a representative who told me the company’s goal is to expedite an order as soon as possible—which is why most packages are ready within three hours of receiving the order. I explained I had contacted them right away and had tried to correct our mistake upfront. He spoke with his supervisor and assured me the new address would most likely get scanned in next time the shipping company processed the package, but he would send another request just to reassure me. Then he mentioned the worst case scenario was that the shipper would attempt to deliver the package three times before it would be returned to the company. The retailer would remove the charge from my credit card and then start over to ship it to the correct address.

Huh?

I explained that their goal of expediting the order was great but they didn’t seem to have a good way to handle any changes in the process, even at the beginning. This customer might not receive the order for an extra two weeks. He was very polite, but hamstrung by the company’s process.

Today I discovered the package is on the truck—for delivery at the incorrect address. The shipper shows no other address. The shipping company tells me it is unlikely they would deliver three times first since the office is not located in the building at all.

Back to the retailer. A very polite representative promises the shipper should have the corrected information, which their system will note once the original address is rejected. If there were a problem I should have received an e-mail. (Not that e-mail message delivery is foolproof.) What should happen is the package will come back today, Friday, to the shipper. The shipper will reprocess based on the updated information, although there will likely be a day hold. Then it can go out on the truck, maybe on Tuesday.

Alrighty then.

I think I know how it works, just not why.

Just in Time is a great idea when a company has designed into the process how to deal with any complications. Designing efficient processes without thinking about exceptions can lead to other inefficiencies.

The retailer could have delayed this process in the beginning, by reprinting the label—and gotten the product to us sooner. They could even have a policy to charge us for doing so since it was our mistake. Instead, now another company has to go through the motions in order to find out there is mistake—despite being told of the mistake twice by the person receiving the package—before any corrections can be made.

Just in time—unless things don’t go as planned.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I continue to have this problem—I expect things to make sense! Yes, as I keep mentioning in this blog, that appears to be the wrong attitude to have in many situations—at least if I want to experience any peace of mind.

Recently Sherman and I attended a legal/financial seminar presented by a lawyer at the local office of the Alzheimer’s Association. He shared that he used to ask clients, “Does that make sense?” Since his business often involves dealing with various government rules and regulations that have come into place for political or other non-logical reasons, he soon realized the real question needed to be, “Do you understand this?”

Often it’s not about using your logic, but simply about figuring out how things work or get done. I’m still trying to tease out the differences between being proactive versus being reactive in those times when you’re not in control of many of the pieces of the equation. Sometimes you just have to understand the predetermined steps and do your best to meet your end of the bargain. It seems that the way to be proactive in those situations is to be more responsive than reactive.

Does that make sense? I had to throw that statement in because if it really made sense to me I wouldn’t keep writing about it!

When my family calls me the Operations Person from Hell, it’s not because I’m rude to service people, but because I’m always trying to figure out how the customer could be served better with different processes. If I am responsive in those situations, I take opportunities to communicate with the company regarding my frustrations, through phone conversations, written messages, and survey answers. Reactive would be spreading my vitriol regarding the company first and foremost throughout the blogosphere or letting what happens ruin the rest of my day.

That’s why I have to figure out when to walk away once I’ve shared my opinions. I can’t beat sense into everything. If I want to feel more relaxed, I’m going to have to stop trying to make everything make sense.

Or else just go ahead and make it my career to help the world to make more sense, one process at a time. Will work for . . . sensible solutions. You never know, a little more peace in our lives could go a long way toward achieving world peace.

You might think that statement proves I’ve stopped making sense, but can you understand it anyway?

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert


I knew this day would come, but I didn’t know how soon. Our remaining guinea pig Jade died this afternoon. Although she had already reached the just barely elderly five year old milestone when Zippy, her mate and sparring partner, died in August at six and a half, at the time, Jade was perfectly healthy.

It’s just she’d never been alone. And as much as we had tried, she had never really warmed up to people. Without Zippy, she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t even make any noise—Zippy had done all the loud begging for food. Oh, she’d run out to make sure we thought about feeding her, but as soon as we opened the cage, she’d run inside her igloo. When she wanted more water, she just rattled the bottle against the cage..

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

As lonely as she was, she wasn’t about to change her ways so late in her life. Jade was just Jade. Always independent, not willing to be submissive to anyone, even if she had to wait for Zippy to age in order to gain more status in their two guinea pig pecking order.

Christiana’s first guinea pig, Chocolate, was incredibly cuddly and so easy to love. At the time, I thought everyone ought to have a guinea pig—even lonely old people. When Zippy joined up with Chocolate we all realized that not every guinea pig was as affectionate as Chocolate was. Still, when Chocolate died much too young, we all missed her.

Christiana was so sad. I knew it was a little too early to get her another guinea pig, but just a few weeks after she lost Chocolate, she really wanted to bring home another one. Unlike when we looked to find Chocolate and Zippy, we really had several choices of female guinea pigs. We both know now that we picked Jade because she was the softest guinea pig in the store.

Jade was beautiful, but so ornery. She never really could settle into being held much. I know that Christiana’s feelings were hurt and she soon realized she had chosen another guinea pig too soon in the mourning process.

But little Jade loved challenging Zippy. She didn’t intimidate easily, even when Zippy would stalk around in that stiff-legged way guinea pig sows do to show who is boss. Zippy and Jade became a team, even if they weren’t particularly connected with us.

And so the years passed. As Zippy neared the end, she even began to snuggle into Jade—and Jade let her. These were the girls who fought for the igloo and for every bite of food. But in the end, they belonged to one another.

Just not to us.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

No wonder Jade seemed so bewildered after Zippy passed on. We moved her into a smaller cage, but still she spent most of her time in her igloo, mostly only coming out to rattle the bottle or to snatch an item of food.

It’s been six months without Zippy. I guess that was six months too long for Jade.

Although I knew Jade was fading, I was surprised when I found her so still this afternoon. I hadn’t known she was getting ready to leave. Yet, she hardly responded when I stroked her and talked to her. The offered spinach got no reaction. In fact, I could tell she had very little time left. I just didn’t expect her to be gone within half an hour or so.

Yet once I saw her looking so miserable I had told her she could go. Unlike Zippy, she didn’t seem to need to be told twice. It was too late by the time Christiana got home.

I’d like to think Jade’s already chasing Zippy around. They’re young, shiny, beautiful—, and full of P&V.

Here’s hoping the cold earth is ready to receive our last little piggy girl. When the roses bloom in June, we always think of Chocolate—it’s fitting that Zippy and Jade will see their first spring under the rose bush, together.

Rest in peace, Jade, aka “Smarty Jones”—the one who did it her way.

Jade, 2004

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

What does it say about those of us who are the kind of procrastinators who choose to put off doing challenging and/or yucky tasks—by instead doing other tasks previously procrastinated? Oh I’ve heard plenty of confessions about deep cleaning and such on writing lists. “I’d rather clean the toilets than . . . write an article?”

Clean toilets? Seriously? Why not do something enjoyable if you’re going to avoid a challenge? If you really want to do something such as writing, it’s especially crazy to procrastinate with work. But I’m even worse about turning to other work when I’m supposed to do things that are never going to be fun.

I don’t know about you, but I just want the results. Most times I act as if all I have to do is click my heels. Poof—the hard tasks will be done. Turns out, real life is more like Kansas than Oz. If I went to see the wizard, I’d need to ask him both for the ability to prioritize my “to do” list and for the follow-through after I’d figured out the priorities.

Sherman and I were very diligent about finishing painting walls and installing flooring in the family room. It looked so much better! Then we went straight to painting Christiana’s room and installing the flooring in both kids’ rooms, one after another—which meant we had to move many of their items into the family room—where they still sit. All our great work immediately got hidden behind random stuff.

In our household we’re not so good at figuring out when to toss or donate things, let alone where to put the things we do want to keep. Suffice it to say we never took the time to regain order—which is really necessary in order to enjoy the true fruits of our labors.

This weekend Jackson wanted to have friends over, so he and a friend moved things around in the family room, just enough so the guys had some space. That initial work led me to decide this was the weekend to tackle the easiest of the two kids’ rooms. Of course, I was supposed to be working on preparing tax information so I could tackle our very first FAFSA application.

You wouldn’t believe how a FAFSA deadline inspired me to . . . create order with something else that had already been waiting for two months. How very virtuous I was—I was working, even if I didn’t get around to doing the FAFSA.

Oh, and I took time to finish some filing and organizing projects in my office, too. I mean, there could’ve been some lost papers that were truly important for tax information. Never mind that in general I file all the tax-related papers properly. Only one paper was really missing and the information on it could be estimated pretty easily.

It’s not like these are the real tax documents. It’s not as if you can’t correct the FAFSA, even after submitted. In fact, we’ll have to update once we really do get our 2009 taxes filed.

You get the point. The process was painful so I did my best to avoid it—even if that meant doing something else I considered so painful I couldn’t get around to doing it for a couple months.

The good news is Jackson’s room is set up properly and the family room is a lot closer to where we want it to be. The FAFSA is filed and, other than the business K-1, we’re pretty much ready to give the accountant our tax information.

Now to recover from the lack of sleep and anxious feelings caused by mixing up my priorities. And to resolve, once again, to do whatever it takes to make things easier in the future.

Hope springs eternal. I don’t want to live this way anymore. That’s why I’m putting it out here that I’m not going to wait another two months to finish what needs to get done to enjoy the family room.

But first, why don’t I work on taming my procrastination urges by starting smaller? Wouldn’t today be a great day to start cleaning the house for Saturday’s family dinner? What if I didn’t have to spend Saturday working so hard that I was exhausted by the time everyone arrives?

Hmm, I’ll think about it. Then again, isn’t there some urgent laundry to do?

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert


Dear Administrators and Sponsors,

It’s OK to say “no” sometimes. In fact, you’re usually quite good at the task. Look at the codes of conduct you’ve developed for the school. You have standards and the students know that—whether or not they appreciate those standards, most of their parents do.

That’s why I was surprised when I first heard what turned out to be a rumor regarding the chosen song for the class of 2010. At the time, all the kids I heard discussing the matter really thought the song had been approved without a true vote from the class. I’m glad there will be a vote tomorrow, but apparently the song has a lot of supporters.

I’d like to think that while you value the democratic process, you know when it makes sense to play your veto card. If “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie wins, will you really let this be the official class song?

First of all, these lyrics don’t really have anything to do with setting off on the journey of life. Secondly, they’re about one particular relationship painted in fairly crude terms. If nothing else, do we want to imply that’s all our kids can expect from relationships, in particular, let alone from life, in general?

My class song—Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son”—does meet the criteria for a class song’s purpose. It speaks to the life journey and doesn’t contain anything considered inappropriate by most, even if we admitted to being wayward.

My cousins’ class song, Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” with its colloquial grammar phrase “Time Keeps on Slippin,’” drove my mother crazy, but it was appropriate for graduation. It’s not like the kids chose Steve Miller’s “The Joker”—“I really love your peaches want to shake your tree . . .” Who knows? Maybe they did want to choose that song, but some sponsor vetoed the choice.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert


Paul Simon’s song “The Boy in the Bubble” states “every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” Or an anti-hero. Be that as it may, just because something is popular in a generation doesn’t make it suitable for every situation.

In other words, the adults in charge might grudgingly allow certain songs at school dances, but they don’t have to let them into the graduation ceremony. Although many of my classmates seemed to favor Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” at prom (it was played three times to great fanfare!), I feel pretty strongly that is didn’t qualify as a good choice for a class song.

If the winning song from the class vote isn’t appropriate, then stick your necks out and just say “no.”

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert