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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

There’s a rose blooming in our trellis, with another one set to open up any day. It’s an unusual summer when our early June-blooming roses make an encore appearance, but I guess this summer qualifies as pretty rare around here.

I like to think it’s a sign from the roses that always explode right around the time of our kids’ birthday(s)—they know the kids have got some more blooming to do—and it’s a whole new season for them. These are not the last roses of summer, with all the melancholy of the Thomas Moore poem, but bonus roses, full of promise.

I’ll admit I’m plenty wound-up in these final days before our big change. So much to do: medical appointments, paperwork, buying supplies, decisions, worry about the already dwindling bank account. Yet so little time just to enjoy being together.

It would be easy to miss the roses, let alone find time to smell them. I’m lucky I stood still long enough to notice the unexpected pink peeking through green.

So I continue to sneak peeks at them when I can, even if I don’t often stop moving long enough to inhale deep appreciation of their beauty and scent.

We take the moments when they happen. Spending time badly hitting colored golf balls on a late summer night with Jackson. A dinner alone with Christiana where she admits she’ll miss us just a bit and we agree—but don’t deny we still plan to enjoy sleeping more.

This is the first week I haven’t taken first day of school pictures and then scrubbed the floor not long after morning classes began, a tradition I started when they went to kindergarten in 1997. An introvert, I ignored the PTO’s invitation to spend that first awkward morning with others.

Instead, I washed the grime of summer from my kitchen floor and then went downstairs to write my feelings out. That first school goodbye I didn’t really regret they had taken the next big step to independence as much as I knew a small part of me had to acknowledge the nevermore of their preschool days in order to let them move on.

So I listened to the blues—kids’ blues that is on the Big Blues CD by Music for Little People.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I still love Michelle Shocked’s “Flying Lesson” from that collection. At one point I put together my own collection of writings written around how my kids’ flying lessons and increased independence also gave me room to soar through my own flying lessons—a collection I will probably keep writing throughout the rest of my days.

So we’ve made it through a whole series of flying lessons, yet the kids are about to experience many more in the next few weeks, only this time they won’t be returning to our nest after each lesson. In the end, it’s we parents’ job to prepare our kids for flight, not to clip their wings.

Same as it’s also our job not to let them clip our wings—perhaps there’s even room for a couple more rose blooms in our trellis this season.

As we prepare to say goodbye to our best beloveds, as Shocked sings, we also say hello to being able to fly a little more ourselves.

Blooming, flying—they’re both great metaphors for where we are now—just as long as we all remember to fly home from time to time—and smell the roses together!

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert


Class of 1980, North Platte Senior High (2010)

Support groups come in many formats, some formal, some casual, and some entirely accidental.

Last night Sherman and I met with our formal Alzheimer’s support group. One member, even as she was grieving her mother’s death, talked about the joy she felt knowing that her mother was free from some of the tougher aspects of this life. Afterwards others in the group shared what was going on as they cared for (and about) their loved ones who were still living.

Finally, someone mentioned how different the mood of our circle was from the general feeling today that there’s not much right in this world. People in our group care—sometimes too much. Someone else suggested that the idea that these were uncaring times was an untruth stirred up by a media hungry for a good story.

That’s when I thought, well, I’m part of the media, too. No one will confuse me with a big media source, but the words I write can show a few people somewhere that good stories still exist about positive things. Or maybe that some of us think positive things are good stories, even when they aren’t exciting.

And the positive good story I want to share is about my 30th high school reunion this past weekend. One statement classmates have been posting again and again is amazement at how much of the weekend everyone spent smiling. It’s true—look at the pictures (well the few Sherman took—I was too busy talking!) Of course, we came to have a good time and relax with the people who knew us so well (or not!) long ago, but that didn’t mean it was going to happen.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

What’s really amazing to me is how much those smiles contrast with the really tough life events many people have encountered, starting with the losing some of our classmates long ago. We could have grown cynical enough and angry enough at life to believe there wasn’t much to smile about. On the other hand, we could have decided life is short and we might as well just take care of ourselves and our own enjoyment.

Thank goodness, I didn’t see much of either side last weekend.

I saw people who did a pretty good job of walking the line between caring for others and enjoying themselves. In other words, these people were working to balance the good and bad in this life and still believe that on more days than not, it was all worth it.

Some family commitments kept them from one of the events or work obligations such as traveling or training meant they couldn’t make it to all the events—or the pivot broke, right, Sherry? Yet still they came when they could.

When people talked about their lives, so much was said about their connections and doing what was right by those they love: moving home to care for their parents or just being with them through their illnesses, helping their parents with household chores when visiting, spending time with them in care facilities and taking over their responsibilities when needed, sitting by the bed of an injured child, figuring out how much to do for their kids and how much to let them do, moving somewhere for a spouse, etc.

We had our serious conversations, when we were the parents or the adult children of parents or even the person with the difficulty—or all of the above. And someone always understood what we had gone through or were experiencing because he or she stood in similar shoes. We were that accidental support group.

Then we jumped back to forgotten memories, debated memories, and those we were busy creating. We spent a lot of time repeating ourselves—why don’t those other people speak up??!! (Turns out the rock music is getting the last laugh—well, the rock music and our future audiologists who will be laughing all the way to the bank.)

Reminds me of our class song, after all: “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas. Those of us who still get to celebrate this life are doing what it takes to keep working through our burdens and trying to keep the faith that, like the mother of the woman last night, one by one we’ll reach that peace when we set those burdens down for good.

Queen for a Minute, 2010

However, “carry on” has another meaning that means more than enduring. One possible definition, according to, is: to behave in an excited, improper, or silly manner. I’m OK with the excited and silly part—and maybe even the improper part if it’s based on some rigid view of what it means to be an adult.

I’m willing to grow up enough to meet my obligations, but not so much that I can’t act silly from time to time. Acting silly with others provides me with another kind of accidental support group—and gets me through much of what is hard.

Thanks NPHS Class of 1980—carry on with me, (some of) the best is yet to be.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

August already and the days continue to slip away until we reach our new normal.

As I prepare to go to my 30th reunion, I am easily reminded of that last summer before I left home for the first time: working, going on dates, hanging out with friends, rarely being home with my family, and getting very little sleep. There was a frantic feeling of “now or never” with my current friends and an underlying concern that maybe I’d made the wrong decision about my future, especially as friends left for closer colleges, classes began for my friends still in high school, and I languished in limbo.

Why had I chosen to go so far away? To be alone where I knew no one? How would it be having to stay away from my family home for two and a half months, no matter whether or not things were going well?

In a lot of ways, I didn’t consider failure as an option. My choice just had to work. I didn’t have a fallback plan.

It helps that I chose to attend a small school where almost everyone had to make new friends. Even if some of them could go home or might know one or two other kids from high school, most people stayed on campus on the weekends.

But the truth is, there wasn’t a lot of time to be alone—there was too much happening. I remember it as one of the most natural and rewarding transitions of my life.

I don’t know how I figured out when to do my laundry or how much studying to do or how to balance social life with academic life or how to notice when maybe I’d burned the candle at both ends too often. I know I panicked at times, but then I dug in and did what needed to be done. Mostly it worked out and I had a great time. My parents were too far away to rescue me very much. We kids at college helped each other through our crises, although I’m sure I don’t know all the stories of those who somehow didn’t make the transition well.

Christiana and I went shopping on Sunday for things such as sheets, towels, and laundry supplies. We had to laugh because we saw a lot of moms and daughters out shopping, but no sons with their moms. I figure most of the guys are happy to have their moms pick up a couple towels and sheets—dark, of course—and they really don’t care about the rest. Yes, Jackson and I had picked out towels earlier, but softness was the major factor for him—he was perfectly happy with the colors I pointed out that would make his laundry life easier.

So my kids are where I was thirty years ago—and, just like then, sometimes things get a little tense at home. Our family and their friendships are changing, yet the kids have no idea what will happen in their futures. None of us does, really.

It seems to me more people worry these days about college not going well for their kids. Maybe it’s the money, but maybe it’s also the current climate around this transition. The word on the streets is this generation of parents doesn’t know how to let go. Gone are the days when long distance phone calls cost so much that families only talked once a week or less. Heck, I went to Spain for three months and only talked to my parents once for less than five minutes.

Today’s Denver Post has an article on college readiness for students, along with an article on readiness for parents. Apparently, one of the reasons colleges host orientation for parents (made our reservations yesterday) these days is to teach us how to parent from a distance without hindering them from growing by allowing our kids to learn some of those outside classroom lessons on their own. We’re not supposed to burn up the wires (do you think kids today know what that term means?) with multiple text messages, online communications, and phone calls trying to solve their problems. We’re to practice saying something like, “What do you think you will do about that?”

Someone suggested to Christiana that she was being unfair to her parents by going so far away to school. Heck, it’s in the same state—I went 1,000 miles away and could not return until the end of each quarter. Honestly, it’s a whole lot easier to take ownership for your problems and enjoy the social aspects of college when you can’t come home easily.

I’m going to miss my kids like crazy but I know it will be easier for all of us to adjust to our new roles by having some space to force us into the next steps. I think they’re going to have a great time—and so are we, even if it will be a little uncomfortable getting to that point.

Just as when I was pregnant, everyone wants to remind us our lives are going to change. Well, duh! And, as much as I get that, I remember that you can’t really “get” such a big change until you’re living it. But enough with the negative warnings to us: “Your house is going to be so quiet.” What do you want us to do? Put on mourning clothes and say our lives are over?

And stop telling the kids they won’t be able to handle it or pointing out all the areas where they might fail. If the initial experience doesn’t work out well enough, they’ll work through it. In this life there are do-overs and new beginnings—that’s part of learning, too.

Despite the bumps, the kids will be alright and so will we.

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