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(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

This week in Denver it seems it’s been the week to talk about suicide—which is not something our society likes to talk about until forced to do so. I’ll consider myself forced to jump on the bandwagon—or at least compelled to do so.

Last Sunday Sherman and I walked with a group from Bethany Lutheran Church in the Second Wind Run. As I mentioned before the event, the Second Wind organization seeks to prevent teenage suicides by providing mental health resources for students who may not have access to the care they need. And as much as it might have seemed that I was just enjoying a warm day exercising and connecting with people I know, trust me, the tears came later.

That the event was followed by the suicide of a young Denver Bronco, Kenny McKinley, kept those tears fresh as the topic continued to be discussed throughout the week.

One of the bravest pieces I read was not informational as much as confessional. Long-time Denver Post columnist Woody Paige shared his brush with the suicide dance—and gave just another example of a person considering taking his life when the world would say that he should have had plenty to live for.

That’s the thing, it’s just not that easy to look around and know who is harboring those feelings. We’ve got to do a better job of really hearing what people are saying—and making it OK for people to express those feelings so we can do our best to help them before it’s too late.

And when it comes to young people, it’s even trickier to figure out who is in trouble and who isn’t—even for the professionals.

First of all, what doesn’t always get presented in informational checklists about depression or suicide risk in youths is that the young don’t always look the same as more mature people do when depressed or suicidal. Life in adolescence is lived in the moment—and the swings from high to low can be immense.

A student can keep up the grades, activities, appearance, and achievement levels, in general believing that life is worth living, but one or two bad events can turn his/her life view upside down. They don’t always have the life experience to know that the good events will come again.

And their peers, who are also still growing, may range from less than helpful to outright harmful. My own kids talked about how during Suicide Prevention Week some people roamed the school halls who felt nothing of making jokes about people who felt suicidal—as if there’s something funny about someone feeling hopeless.

The other thing I truly believe is that we have to be the advocates for our loved ones, even if the professionals think we are somehow too jumpy to see the good changes. But when you live around the depression, you see a whole lot more than a professional can see in one hour once a week. You have to trust your own gut, too. You might agree that 90% of the time your loved one is OK, but you know that for 10% of the time, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen. You see what happens when the mask comes off . . . and often what you see frightens you.

I wish there were more answers for how to help people before it’s too late. The good news is that we are finally talking about this word that used to be whispered and hidden in shame. More of us are paying attention—which is good because we just can’t stand losing them—any of them.

P.S. I should add something more than talking about suicide as something we can do to help those in need. We can also direct them to call the national suicide hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, which is available 24 hours a day.


"3 Margaritas"

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

No, that was not blood spatter on my face last night. It was just one of the trim colors we are painting on our house. Despite my ominous description—so far—of the color, it is a very happy color, one that resembles the juice that goes into making the jelly from our ripened grapes most Octobers.

After over a month’s worth of hot sun and dry air that has turned our state into a tinderbox that erupts into fires with the slightest spark, it is raining. Finally. And throughout many of these past rain-free days we have been painting our house.

That explains why our house seems to glow a bit, despite the current grayness outside. You see, our house is now the not-so-mild combination of Benjamin Moore’s “Farmer’s Market”, “Classic Burgundy,” and “Salzburg Blue.” In reality, it is pretty much salmon-colored, accented by burgundy and teal blue. (Before you ask, we don’t live in a covenant-controlled neighborhood! And, yes, I’ve taken to calling it “3 Margaritas” even though I don’t know how to make margaritas.)

We’re not done yet, but I like the change. The lady at Guiry’s, the local paint store, blames our trip to Taos for the combo, which may be a little bit true, but our “adobe” house is a richer color than you see in Taos, thanks to our desire to match the Colorado flagstones set in our built-in planters. The bland white-washed stucco box Sherman bought so many years ago has finally, with its porch addition and the new colors, come up to the detail level in those planters and the archways inside.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

You may not like the colors, but they make me feel happy. Just the other day, I realized that for years I’ve been adding happy colors to the home.

Early in our marriage when we first started painting, I wanted paints that hinted at color and now I’m not satisfied unless I can debate the exact the color with anyone who asks. No, my office is not pink, it’s coral—with orchid accents. The stairwell and bathroom aren’t yellow, but butter. And the bedroom, well, it’s bubblegum pink, accented with “Starry Night”-type swirls of sky blue, midnight blue, and sea green.

Can you tell that one of my most treasured childhood possessions was the box of 64 Crayolas (complete with crayon sharpener) I received to help me through recovery from my tonsillectomy?

And apparently I’ve passed on my color addiction to the next generation. Once someone asked my daughter Christiana what she would like to give to the world. She answered, “Color.” The woman told her you couldn’t give color. In whose world? She obviously doesn’t live in my neighborhood!

Sometimes when you’re feeling a little blue—all pun intended—it is the little things that get you through the moment. As much as I love cool colors, I always add warm colors to the mix in our home. I guess the yellow—I mean butter—is like sunshine to me, whether or not it’s the month of May.

And the salmon/burgundy/teal?

Last night as we were pushing through painting until the last rays of light disappeared (and before the bold Harvest Moon brightened the skies), I glanced toward the west while checking to see if I had missed any spots on the porch’s ceiling. The sun setting over the mountains stopped my breath, as it so often does. The colors we were painting sure looked close to what I saw—and that made me feel very happy. Who needs margaritas (most days, anyway) when you can drink in colors like that?

Now I’ve got both sunshine and sunsets—even on the cloudiest of days.

Ooh, ooh, ooh.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

When it rains it pours . . . although not literally around here or we wouldn’t be having so many life-changing fires.

No, this weekend I have two causes to support two days in a row. As much as I know these events will bring me too close to emotions I’d rather not disturb, I can’t say “no” to participating in either event. They both raise funds for causes that are essential to those closest to my heart.

Tomorrow I will be participating for the first time in the Memory Walk which supports the Alzheimer’s Association. This is my first time only because I was in denial the last two years, not because the disease hadn’t already begun to wreak havoc on our family. We were already suffering as we watched my mother fight and lose to a disease that has taken away two of the things she prized the most: her intelligence and her independence.

The good news is she has found a caring home where the staff members love the residents and love helping them to feel better in each moment right where they are. Since last year she has lost much of her anxiety, relaxing often into the soothing words spoken by those who help her through her days. I will be participating in the Memory Walk at Denver’s City Park with a team led by Emeritus’ Court at Denver staff. We will walk together with the names of all the residents listed on the back of our T-shirts and do our best to remember who they have been throughout their lives.

And then on Sunday I will be returning to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds as a team member of Bethany Lutheran Church to walk for the Second Wind Fund of Metro Denver. The Second Wind’s mission? “. . . (T)o decrease the incidence of teen suicide by removing financial and social barriers to treatment for at-risk youth.” For whatever reason, Colorado ranks sixth in the nation in suicides. If you have had a student in a Colorado high school during the last few years, you probably know that several schools have experienced losses. At a time when our schools have reduced budgets for counseling staff, many of those counseling departments are encountering more students in crisis. The Second Wind Fund aims to provide outside resources for those without access otherwise.

Pumptitude 2008

I will be forever grateful that our family had coverage in our time of crisis. There is no easy road to healing, but with the right professional guidance, lives can be saved. And since guidance takes money, I will be walking.

Watch me as I lace up my running shoes and pin race bibs on my shirts both Saturday and Sunday and do what’s uncomfortable (emotionally) for me in order to help people who will be in need in the future. Or if you’d like, please help support the causes yourself.

To support my walk for Alzheimer’s, click here.

To support my team’s efforts for the Second Wind Fund, click here.

Now, if you don’t mind, I better rest up! I’ve got miles to go before the sun sets on this coming weekend.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Do you suppose the bean counters at the Census Bureau will be scratching their heads over how it is a woman with a master’s degree counts her only paid income from doing snow removal? It had to be this year they asked me to fill out the form . . .

But there was no “let me explain” section to that long form, the one that made me glad my kids were away at college, if only because we didn’t have to fill out any “Person 3” and “Person 4” sections.

Instead the form shows me as a middle-aged woman of high education and reasonable health (at least I did not admit to any infirmities on the survey) who has no children in the home, yet has worked only removing snow in the past year.

Such is life in the sandwich.

It doesn’t add much to my lifelong social security contributions. And somehow I doubt there’s a grant available in gratitude for doing what I can to keep my mother off the Medicaid rolls or for trying to coordinate the billing and payments between our former insurance company and the provider so that we don’t get dinged for expenses that aren’t ours on what was already a very painful and costly experience helping our daughter back to health.

These activities are real examples of how many of us employed, underemployed, and unemployed spend our time in the middle years of our lives. Taking care of our loved ones and what we do have is how we help society stay strong.

But as a certain president says while discussing this country’s own difficult challenges, “let me perfectly clear” that there are productivity losses, both individual and nationwide, in the realm of paid employment because many of us cannot always direct our attention to holding full-time jobs without neglecting the personal needs of our family members or our jobs. So far I haven’t figured out a way to balance both concerns and do justice to each.

It is my sincere hope that, with my children away at college, I can work back into more suitable (to my skills!) paid productivity, either through writing projects and/or working for an outside company. However, weeks like the last one remind me that my need for flexibility makes me seem like a less than a reliable worker, at least to those who don’t already have a working relationship with me.

When the ambulance took my mother to the hospital, I had to go meet her there, even if I didn’t stay there round-the-clock. Even with my frequent presence, in my absences my mom still ran higher risks of falls, infections, and skin wounds, problems that would only increase her discomfort and lead her closer to needing that government assistance that the taxes on my little snow removal jobs don’t come close to providing.

I take care of my own because it’s the right thing to do—and that’s what so many others are also doing right now. People like me who have chosen to work reduced hours have to remind ourselves of that when faced with surveys or forms that seem to indicate that what we do isn’t part of the economic formula for our nation.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

We are a demographic, too. Know that without our unpaid labor, so much of what needs to get done in our society would either be done less well, need to be paid for by some other funding source, or just wouldn’t get done at all.

I’ll continue to do that unpaid labor because it needs to be done, but know that if the only paid work I do is removing snow, I will work hard to make sure that snow is removed well and in a timely manner so other people can get to their own paying jobs. Whatever I do, I do with the best of my abilities. It’s helped me graduate at the top of my classes, it’s helped me fight for what my loved ones need, and, by gum, it’s helped me get through snow that’s too deep for my equipment because that snow needed to be removed.

I do what needs to be done . . . including filling out *&^%# census forms that appear to diminish what I do.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Because I often live in chaos, I appreciate whatever order I can find—well, if it’s order of my own choosing anyway. If these first few weeks of the empty nest aren’t high in the excitement level, that’s because I need more order to have room for the exciting.

I miss my kids, but I don’t miss their stuff or the chores associated with having more people living in the house. I’m far from a domestic diva, so suffice it to say that instant motherhood that began with not one but two kids pretty much started me out feeling behind—and I’ve been there ever since.

Oh, I know that I didn’t feel like I was ahead before I got pregnant. I’m pretty sure I’m one of those people who will always feel as if I have too many things to do on my checklist, but I feel the possibility that that checklist will be much reduced.

I’m still recovering from the craziness of gathering up the items needed at college, as well as just being away from our home ourselves. But when I haven’t been trying to create order, I have had time to enjoy my husband, read books, and talk on Skype with Christiana (Jackson is not too interested in keeping the home fires burning . . .)

Yet Sherman probably went back to work today happy to do his paid job versus working on at home projects! I know it’s crazy to schedule our painting the house so close to returning home, but I just want to make our home nice right now—and the calendar marches forward, whether or not we’d rather rest. (Turns out much of the year is either too hot or too cold for painting a stucco home . . .)

So indulge me my nesting tendencies, especially since an end-of-pregnancy heavy duty cold sapped what little energy remained in a multiple pregnancy and kept me from any nesting tendencies that might have been mine eighteen years ago. Since I’m the one who spends most of my time in this home, I’d like to feel a little more calmness in my environment.

It’s been a long time coming.

Don’t worry—I haven’t suddenly become enamored of domestic duties. No doubt in another couple weeks I’ll be right back at creating chaos in my home space—but with any luck, I’ll also have enough room to access the kind of enjoyable chaos that is part of living a creative life—and leads to the ideas, possibilities, and artistic products in what comes next for me.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

About a week before taking our kids to college, Christiana and I went to see Eat, Pray, Love at the movie theater. We didn’t have time to go in the midst of preparing for the move, but reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love together had been part of Christiana’s recovery from some very tough times and we knew we wanted to see it side by side before our time living in the same town and home ran out.

The movie cannot convey all the nuances of what the book is about, but those of us who have read the book know more about the depth of the story, as well as many of the inside jokes. For me, Eat, Pray, Love reminds me how my daughter was able to begin to understand that another person’s recovery and journey toward a new way of living meant that she, too, could do the same.

At one point in the book/movie, Gilbert learns an Italian word that expresses where she is on her journey—attraversiamo. “Let’s cross over.” And she does—with enthusiasm.

Well, that’s where our family is right now. Last week around this time we were gathering up and loading Christiana’s and Jackson’s possessions into two cars. The plan was to get up at 4:30 a.m. and be on the road within an hour. Well, let’s just say we made it on the road in less than two hours.

Christiana and her father rode in the Mercury, ironically, with most of Jackson’s “stuff” and our suitcases. I rode with Jackson in the C-RV which was packed with most of Christiana’s items—she’s a girl after all—she took way more than the towels, sheets, and clothes Jackson brought along.

We crossed over a couple mountain passes on the road to college. If it hadn’t been for that darn road construction, we’d have made it there when we planned (which was echoed by pretty much everyone arriving by the route we did.) Thus we were busy playing catch-up the rest of that day.

Yet at the end of the day, our kids were ensconced in their own dorm rooms and we were sawing logs in our motel room—alone.

Orientation, waiting in lines, picking up last minute supplies at Wal-Mart and the grocery store, etc. took a whole lot of energy. So much so we hardly had time to register how different all our lives had just become. We were so overtasked that our goodbyes were basically an understatement as we all needed to get back to our own plans of what came next.

And then the kids drove back up the hill to the Fort (Lewis) and we got on the road to the Land of Enchantment: New Mexico.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

I don’t know about them, but we were so exhausted we could barely register what was happening—and we had a four hour road trip ahead of us. So first we crossed over the New Mexico border in heavy rainfall and then over mountains while the sun was setting in that stereotypically gorgeous New Mexican way. Darkness fell before we reached the valley and soon the headlights on our car were doing a poor job of slicing through heavy fog. Luckily the fog lifted and we didn’t encounter any livestock or jumping deer.

At one point Sherman asked me what bridge we might be crossing over.

I had no idea.

It wasn’t until we had arrived at Taos and started reading literature that we realized we had passed over a profound gorge on a bridge high above the Rio Grande River. Talk about attraversiamo! So we returned the next day—and were truly impressed with how deep the divide was between where we had come from and where we were.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

As we walked across that bridge and looked down, I remembered traveling while pregnant to see another one of nature’s great reminders of crossing over: the Mississippi, that great mother river of the United States. Although at almost four months pregnant, I “got” that my life was changing, it wasn’t until much later in the pregnancy that I dreamed about trying to cross that river in what had become my hugely pregnant body—and woke to realize just how different one shore was from the other. There would be no turning back from where Sherman and I were heading.

Not only that, but that our lives with our soon-to-be-born children would be a series of crossing over, one after another, throughout our lives together.

Now that we’ve made it to another crossing of epic portions, let’s do it with gusto.


(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

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