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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Because I believe in a loving God, I cannot believe that God punishes those whose mental illnesses lead them to abandon hope in this life. We people attempt to place our own humanness on God by calling such a death unforgivable, yet we are the ones who have the difficulty forgiving for we are the ones left behind. Surely, God, who is much bigger than we are, has a solution that allows a troubled soul to rest in peace.

As much science as we now understand about the brain, still we are only successful in helping some brains to regain hope—and then maybe only for a certain length of time.

If you have loved someone who has fallen into a deep depression, you understand how tenuous our hold is on someone else’s outlook on hope. We cannot make them see the good, either in themselves, the world, or the future. Only that person’s mind can really make the decisions. And even then, sometimes something in that mind has turned traitor to the life force and has become a liar, distorting truth in grotesque ways.

If you haven’t loved such a person, you might be tempted to judge either the person and/or those who would try to change his/her brain chemistry and outlook on life. You might think trying harder, loving better, or doing more would be enough.

Sometimes treatment works, sometimes it doesn’t. There is no true manual because each person is individual in how the darkness descends.

While in a battle for someone’s life, you don’t really know if what you do helps or hurts. You worry about what you do or don’t do and what you say or don’t say. You hold your breath because you know you aren’t in control, and, sadly, neither is the person at that point—except to choose when to exercise one final moment of control.

There but for the grace of God go I . . . . that much I do know. But when somebody else’s loved one chooses to stop the fight, I am brought to my knees with guilt—and fear. Guilt that we have moved on, fear that because some brains just choose to develop a direction of their own from time to time, we can never really relax quite the same way as before we met depression in our own loved one.

That’s where I either have to cling to God and accept that he loves me and my own even knowing there is no promise that all will always be well for us in this life—or turn from him and succumb to hopelessness.

But I cannot choose God if he is an ogre who punishes us for brain chemistry difficulties that for some reason are part of some people’s lives. I have to trust that in the past our human faith institutions and leaders made declarations based upon how little was known about the brain. However, God did not make those declarations.

Some will call me a heretic while others will call me a fool, but what I cling to is that because God is lux aeterna, he can heal what we cannot. I don’t have to understand—I just have to believe.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

These days, our family finds it very hard to come up with a weekend when we can go mobile by dusting-off the 1976 Mobile Traveler and heading toward the hills. We usually have about four weeks’ notice since we have to pick the date before the kids turn in their work schedule requests for the next month. Talk about choosing the right weekend this year—we left town on a day that hit the record books temperature-wise.

Arriving with no campsite reservations on one of the hottest weekends of the summer so far, we didn’t really expect easy pickings. Luckily, we have our own bathroom so our options are fairly open. We drove further up the pass, but still found plenty of competition. Eventually we settled on a relatively flat site with some pre-existing fire-rings and only enough room for our own RV—couldn’t complain about the view either.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

Often we are pretty active when we go camping. Not so this time. We read, we played games, we stared into the beautiful spaces. Maybe it was the general bugginess of the area, maybe we were just tired, but turns out it’s OK to relax without an agenda. (I know, I have to keep repeating this to myself!) This was probably our final camping trip with just the four of us (and the two dogs, of course) before the kids go to college. Christiana still has knee pain, so she’s not up for much hiking, but at least that meant our gimpy old dogs had company while the rest of us were gone.

Those hikes we took were short, as dictated by unpredictable clouds. But the wildflowers were in full bloom and the grasses lush and green (why else do you think there were so many insects around?) We didn’t need to complain about heat much in between the rain showers. We could just hunker down on our 1970s avocado green seats and amuse ourselves inside.


Outside Sherman and Christiana built a campfire under the supervision of Fordham’s Springer Spaniel eyes, while Jackson and I remained behind washing and rinsing dishes under Abel’s supervision. Poor Abel heard many renditions of how the bear went over the mountain to eat a plump black dachshund, but it didn’t deter him from looking for any dropped crumbs that might make him plumper.

Our attempts at camp songs would have scared away other campers—good thing there was no room in the campground and we remained free to abuse our own ears. Round Robin storytelling was full of “look a chicken” moments as marshmallows were roasted and used in s’mores built with regular or gluten-free graham crackers, although no one was so distracted that he or she didn’t notice I just skipped the crackers and marshmallows and went straight to the Hershey bars.

By the time we had the fire out, we were freezing. Freezing! That’s how different our experience was from life in the city in July. I went to bed in long pants and long sleeves and couldn’t get my hands warm for at least a couple hours. A perfect way to celebrate escaping hot times in the lowlands.

After a very lazy morning and late brunch, we backed out and headed home. Apparently I liked doing nothing, because the closer we got toward the city, the more my stomach started to feel as if I’d swallowed and brought back several of the butterflies flitting around the alpine meadows.

You know how it is—you come home to dirty laundry, bills in your mailbox, and grit all over your body. But then you take that nice citified long shower, turn on the swamp cooler, and stretch out on that oh-so-comfortable bed and pretty soon you know it’s good to be sleeping again in your home sweet home.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert
Sherman says I’ve been on a reading binge since the kids graduated—almost two months ago (yikes—I’m afraid I’m going to have to get tough with them so our friends and family will receive notes of gratitude before they go off to college!) He’s probably right about the reading part, but at least I am behaving somewhat and sticking with library books.

I just ventured out in the heat (95 degrees—ugh!) to the library so the weekend wouldn’t find me without anything to read. I’ve been working through the list of books I compiled but later rejected for my book club meeting last December. So far the last two on the list remain check-free since they are still not available. On to Plan B—after all, there are always plenty of books that will capture my interest.

Our local library in Englewood only gets one copy of popular books, but sometimes, it’s easier to find that one copy than any of the twenty or more located in Denver’s various branches.

Yes, I scored Joshilyn Jackson’s Backseat Saints. Jackson has long belonged to Momwriters, a listserv where I count at least ten years of membership, even though most of the activity these days has morphed to Facebook and other venues. She demonstrates the same great use of voice in e-mail messages and blog posts as she does in her novels—although she has to keep explaining to readers that she is not the same person as her characters—just because they might do something such as kill someone, doesn’t mean she would do the same. Anyway, I’m afraid to pick up that book because then my family is going to accuse me of ignoring them and I will be guilty as charged.

But, one book never feels like enough to me. I go to the library for a particular book and pretty soon I’m walking the stacks, judging books by their covers until I feel compelled to grab a book off the shelf. Then after reading the book’s cover copy I decide whether I’ll just have to see if the book is as good to read as the cover makes me think.

So today I picked up a few, based on their titles, but ultimately rejected them. Finally, the cover copy seemed to match well with a title and I settled on a debut novel, Balancing Acts, by Zoe Fishman about yoga and friendship.

Two books should have been enough, but wait, I saw another title I liked.

As soon as I seized When She Flew, I knew I was going to have to take it home with me. You see, the author, Jennie Shortridge used to live in Colorado and still has family here. Once I heard her speak to my writing group, Colorado Authors’ League, and later decided to see if she would be in town any time around when I was hosting book club. She would, so Shortridge brought her sister with her to our meeting and shared our potluck food (including a creation straight out of her book!) a lot of great insights about Eating Heaven, which is still my favorite book of hers—unless the newest book will convince me otherwise.

So, where to begin? I don’t know, but I feel a little like Eleanor, the food writer protagonist in Eating Heaven. She had a bit of an eating addiction and, boy, could I almost taste her anticipation as she gathered the ingredients and then put her ideas into practice. Eleanor savored new food creations just as much as I savor reading a new book—or two or three.

I’m afraid this will not be the weekend my reading binge ends. Bon appétit, no?

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

My writing has slowed to a trickle. So what am I doing instead of writing? All the “crap” necessary to deal with everyone’s medical appointments and payments, as well as other administrative work. Conventional wisdom for getting through tough times is that you have to do things to feed your soul—yet my writing has slowed to almost less than a crawl.

Why? It’s not really because I have all those things to do that I’ve had to do for about two and a half years now. In fact, there have been times when I have written quite a bit during this time. The problem is I have gotten buried under the physical papers associated with the tasks. (Yes, I just had a picture in my mind of my hand reaching out from under all those papers!) Anyone who knows me knows that putting papers away is not what I’m good at—still, the systems I had in place were reasonably sufficient before I inherited all my mom’s papers and acquired those related to some major health care problems—and before our kids’ college paperwork started arriving.

In fact, I have plans to hire an ADD-friendly organizer to help me with knowing what to throw away and how to handle the flow, but there’s not enough money in the world—or at least in our bank accounts—to be able to pay someone to deal with the papers in the current condition!

I can’t stop the volume from coming in, but for over a year now I have realized that part of the problem was that I had outgrown the storage spaces I had created. While I might not know where to file papers that require decisions, I’m usually pretty good at filing when there is a place for something. Long ago I reached the point where I’ve have to cram papers into the existing files to file—so I just don’t do the filing. I also pull out a whole folder and then don’t put it back.

After getting through the kids’ graduation and birthdays, plus a reunion, this is the first time in awhile that I’ve had any open time. While reorganizing after the downstairs remodeling, Sherman realized the three drawer file cabinet there was just in the way—and full of archival things that could easily go in a banker’s box in the garage. And after measuring, he discovered the file could fit right next to my current four drawer cabinet in the narrow 40s closet that is only useful for storing things lengthwise.

The only problem? Said old file cabinet was ugly, utilitarian office green. Those of us who don’t like to file know that aesthetics matter if we’re going to con ourselves into work we’d like to avoid! I’d already spiffed up the other banged-up file cabinet to match my office space with coordinating paints and a faux finish to hide the flaws. While I like such projects, I drag my heels getting started. That’s why I enlisted Sherman to pledge to help me over 4th of July weekend, so I (and we, really) could move on from the paper chase (my moving various papers around to find other papers!)

We did it! Unfortunately, a few of the coordinating paints had dried up, but that made it easy for me to decide how to paint—and at the same time remove a few useless paint cans from our house.

Since we moved the cabinet in last Tuesday, I’ve made great strides. I also decided I would just go with my ADD tendencies and not insist on having a great system for doing the task. Hyperfocus and filing any paper I found at hand got me through a full day and evening on Wednesday. I alternatively shredded, added scrap paper to my printer, and added papers to the recycling bin all day. To the outside eye, my office might not look much neater, but I know that several papers are now in files, right where they belong.

As I explained to my therapist, I really am not stopping doing enjoyable things just to file! (“Do your work or you can’t play!”) In fact, I enjoyed a planned visit with Mary, a longtime friend from my semester in Spain—and it was very relaxing, although I had threatened her that I might be tempted to use her mad librarian organizational skills while we socialized. Yes, I resisted the temptation . . . .and had a terrific time talking with her about those life twists we never imagined when we were twenty and doing things such as sleeping in a hostel for $5 a night (yuck!) and getting cursed at by gypsies for giving kids cookies instead of pesetas.

The other thing I figured out about my filing project is that it is really distracting for anything I want to do on the computer, but (slaps self on the forehead) even if I prefer the larger screen and docking station in my office, I have a laptop! Since I cleaned up the dining room table for Mary’s visit, I can use it for work and play, as long as I put away everything I bring out to go with the computer.

So here I sit, giving myself permission to write after a weekend of more filing and information gathering for the latest bout with the insurance company. Oh, it’s true I have piles and files to go before I sleep, but I also have seen the future and it looks like it just might have more room to breathe (and sit and walk and . . . create!)

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert