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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

One year later, our kids’ leaving home is entirely different from the first exit. The house is quiet once again, but how we got here is a whole new story.

This is the very first year Christiana and Jackson are not in school together. Unlike many twins, they did not separate for their freshmen year in college. That made our lives easier—one location, one calendar, one move-in day, one school to get to know.

1995 First Day of Preschool

The kids’ initial separation occurred earlier this year when Christiana accepted a job working as a conference assistant for Fort Lewis College. When I picked her up for a short stay between the end of the semester and the start of her job, she was pretty angry with him. We took her back before he arrived home. While talking with Jackson, we discovered he was frustrated with her.

Although they had moved into different dorm buildings, she had moved into his building within a couple months. Easier to spend time to together that way, but also easier to fall into old patterns. We didn’t used to call them “The Bickersons” for nothing—and, yet, they are very close.

Within a couple weeks of being apart this spring, they were already missing each other and trying to figure out how to visit one another despite the 13-hour round trip drive.

All along we’ve worried about whether Jackson could stay at Fort Lewis, but Christiana is the one who started to question whether the college was right for her, ultimately giving notice from her work there after two months and coming home to her old job.

Meanwhile she waited to see if she could get accepted into Colorado State University and get everything in order to transfer for the fall—if she decided to make the change. Jackson was happy to have her back home, but not so excited about the possible longer separation.

The funny thing was that our relationship with him became less strong once she came home. Reminded me of how often those two were a force against us when they were children. Twins can be a powerful team and woe to those who would try to get in between them, even unintentionally.

1997 First Day of School

Here it is the second week of school already for her and the first for him.

She and we jumped through a lot of hoops to get her set up for fall semester. We moved her possessions into an apartment a couple weekends ago and then she and I returned a few days later for transfer orientation—she to stay and I to return home. During orientation, the facilitators’ words allowed me to see I was in mourning for the change myself even though I feel it is the right move for her and am glad to have her closer to us. It’s just I thought I knew what to expect for this their sophomore year.

Very few parents of multiples get to have their kids at the same college—we’re just going through the more typical transition in our family a year later than most do. In the end what matters is that each kid follows the path that is right for him or her.

Jackson had time off work before needing to leave for school, so he insisted on going to visit Christiana to “help” her with her first few days of school. I know he slept in late while she started the next step in her education, but I also think he provided a steadying presence as she starts to adjust to the paradigm shift of moving her studies from a small liberal arts college to a large university.

He came home saying he’d like to live with her again in the few years after they get out on their own. I have no idea if that’s a good plan or not, but I think they’ll have a better idea after they have lived separately for the next few years.


Sherman and I helped him move into his college apartment last Saturday. How strange to be at that school again without her.

The transition back to school lasted a couple weeks for our family this time around—which is exhausting no doubt for all of us.

The road to independence has additional twists for twins and their parents—as well as a possible fork or two. We parents will just try to enjoy the drive, even while traveling without a map.


(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Lately I’ve been seeing stickers on cars that read “Who rescued who?” Of course, first I have to correct the grammar—“whom” I shout—but I still know what the sticker means, thanks to every dog I’ve ever had in my adult years besides Furgus, the puppy.

Just Monday our foster dachshund crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. We don’t know how old he was, but when the rescue group found him emaciated and wandering the streets three years ago, they thought he was twelve. Despite his sketchy background and his pronounced health problems, he lived a full lifespan.

We weren’t being totally altruistic when we let him come to our house—in fact, Christiana was convinced having a small dog, specifically a dachshund, was an anecdote to the sadness she felt late at night when Fordham, our love sponge of an English Springer Spaniel, had retired to his cushion for a long night’s sleep. And though Sherman and I weren’t looking for another dog—especially a small dog—we were in favor of anything positive that would help her through the night.

Besides, he wasn’t supposed to be our forever dog. According to the rescue group, we were just supposed to have him for a week or two. But the economy hit dogs and rescue groups hard—our contacts with the group became fewer and fewer, until we knew we must be his forever family—how could we break a heart again that had already been so broken?.

(c) 2010

Although he never won over the jealous Fordham, he did worm his way into the rest of our hearts, even if he could only give so much love before he seemed to need to retreat. Christiana was disappointed in that, but she understood brokenness enough to love him still.

I would not have chosen to bring home a dog with a small dog bladder or an enlarged heart. I had dealt with hypothyroidism in dogs before, but not in this era of constant expensive blood tests and not with a dog with such a resistant thyroid function—he ended up taking almost as much thyroid medication as I do even though his weight was about 90% lower than mine. And, I had never even heard of the dog lice that apparently arrived with him and required expensive treatments for both him and Fordham.

And, yet, there was something about how jaunty his short-legged run was every time we returned home. He liked us; he really did, just in a very different manner than a spaniel does.

(c) 2010

When Christiana left for college, he became our responsibility—a responsibility we had never pursued. But both dogs—not just “our” dog—were our comfort in those days when we learned to live and thrive in our empty nest.

Though Fordham’s possessive behavior and big dog klutzy ways made Abel nervous, he never stopped wanting to share his company. When Fordham’s final illness became evident, even Abel seemed stressed.

For about six weeks after Fordham was gone, when Abel’s thyroid level was ideal, he seemed just a little younger and a little more relaxed. If Christiana had not brought him into our home a couple years earlier, we would have really felt the emptiness of our arms after losing my mother and Fordham one after the other. Abel settled into the stillness that was that time and took care of us.

We are essentially people who crave the chaos and over-the-top love that comes from English Springer Spaniels, but we will always be grateful to Abel for helping us through our dark spring.

When I returned from my puppy fever road trip, I saw how much Abel had aged and just how late it was for him. I prayed he would not be too stressed by the newest family members and that we still had a few more months with him.

(c) 2011

In the end, Abel was a guy who rolled with life, accepting Furgus and Sam into what was now his home—and even acting a little envious of their young limbs and ability to play together. I’m so glad that Furgus calmed down enough in Abel’s last few weeks to begin napping and sleeping with Abel, giving him a closeness he had craved with Fordham but never experienced.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Abel required a lot of care in these past four months or so, but what I want to remember is his joy on car rides as he got to sit on my lap while the big dogs were confined, the excitement he showed on our mountain camping trip, or how happy he looked when he accompanied the boys on their walks—from the seat of a converted baby umbrella stroller. He longed to be part of a pack and to the end, he was.

Crossing over was hard work for him, but he did it here—in his forever home—with us all under the same roof.

In a year of so much loss, I know who rescued whom, even though loving him also added to my losses.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Ever wonder how that puppy thing is working out for me? Did getting a puppy allow me to feel confident to solve not only my problems, but also those of the world outside my home? Maybe not, but the puppy solution has had a lot of benefits for me.

I realize that you have not heard me at my happiest lately. It’s true. And maybe that’s almost totally tied to the fact that a Trina restricted in her movements is one cranky Trina. All problems appear bigger from the lens I can reach just sitting on my butt!

As Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure told Pee Wee, “Everyone I know has a big but.”

So instead of those buts, I want to talk about what’s really working. And that’s adopting our puppy Furgus and rescue dog Sam in the same week.

As much as I understand that my road trip to get Furgus likely is what stopped me in my literal tracks with the hip/back injury, I am pretty sure that I was heading toward that injury sooner or later. On good days I’ve realized that it’s positive that I became aware of the imbalances before I permanently damaged my hips or lumbar. I still have time to realign as well as adjust my gait—I have been able to do consistent short runs/jogs that always make my injury site feel better, whether right afterwards or later in the day. And that helps me to have more energy to share with my dogs.

Yes, dogs—puppies, especially—are a lot of work. We’ve had too many vet visits already. And the group and individual training sessions, as well as our own training, take a lot of time and effort.

Then there are the rugs and floors . . . the dogs don’t need to be brushed much because they roll off their extra hair as they wrestle. The daily puppy smack-downs between Furgus and Sam leave an incredible amount of hair, especially on the rugs.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

After that relatively brief eight week period this spring when I appreciated how little hair and dirt follow a 15-pound old dachshund—even a long-haired one—I still would tell you the mess and chaos of adding our English Springer Spaniels is worth it just to live in the presence of their happy natures.

Furgus, especially, is an optimist. He is the only dog we’ve ever had who has no trauma in his/her background. Duncan had open-heart surgery and lived in the hospital until he came home with Sherman. Chelsea was chained in her back yard and quite likely beaten. Fordham had been through three other homes before he made us his forever family. And, Sam? We don’t know. He left his previous family after six months and who knows what happened before then.

Furgus acts with the certainty that he is loved and that life will be good. As frustrating as that can be when I am struggling to instill who the real boss is, it is refreshing. He can’t imagine why a person or dog wouldn’t want to be around him. When he got his first ear infection, his howls at the vet’s seemed to be saying he didn’t think this sort of thing could happen to him.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

And Sam. Sam is cautious until we open our arms and then he runs full force into our love. We have encountered a couple surprising frustrations with Sam, but his essentially gentle spirit is well worth nurturing into trust. His joyful willingness to go along with all of Furgus’ puppy-like actions—and that’s saying a lot—demonstrates a pure acceptance of others’ foibles that he also shares towards us.

No, getting these puppies has been the exact right salve we need for healing from our previous losses, even though they add to our workloads.

I am happier for having them as part of our family. They’ve been here with me during some pretty dark storms and they love me anyway. How much more will we enjoy our time together when they discover the runs and long hikes in our shared future.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Oh no, in a year that so far has provided more loss than gain, my biggest gains have come from Furgus and Sam. While it’s true that puppies can’t end the effects of the U.S. budget crisis or even heal my hip faster, what they can do is allow me to grab my happiness minute to minute throughout each day, one or two close encounters of the canine kind at a time.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Patience may be a virtue, but not a natural one for me. But, hey, Life often just gives you opportunities to learn about the virtues you lack, right?

Although I am approaching three months since my injury, there are those in my family who might suggest I haven’t quite earned high marks in my patience tests. Still, I don’t think any of them would wish that I need to take more lessons in the subject—for their sakes as well as for mine.

Yet, I have been somewhat patient. After all, I didn’t stop moving. For every day I felt like giving up and becoming someone different, there were several more where I kept working through my exercise routines.

In the past week I have gotten a lot closer to forgetting the injury while in both ZUMBA and yoga classes. In fact, I left the trochanter belt behind for those activities. I surprised myself when I realized I wasn’t modifying my workouts any more than I ever did. In other words, I got sore from working out, not from being injured!

Who knows? Maybe it was the infrared treatment the chiropractor tried this week—if so, too bad we didn’t try that earlier! (Please forgive the multiple exclamation points. Trite though they may be, they are sincere reflections of my excitement.)

Now, I’m not exactly up to running a 5K, but I have added a few more minutes to my jog/run. I suspect my running will be the last activity to recover to former levels, but on the other hand, I do harbor hope that some of this rebalancing will eventually allow me to surpass my most recent running form, if not the running level.

At the same time, I have made it through sorting enough of my mother’s music that our household has been able to reclaim the family room floor space. Which means that, in addition to my feeling better, I also have the space again for practicing ZUMBA routines.

Perhaps this feeling of optimism led to my purchasing a docking/speaker system for my iPod yesterday. You see, I’m starting to dream again, both of maintaining my regular fitness schedule, as well as of becoming a ZUMBA instructor.

Actually, I’m really dreaming of not having to think so much about my body when I contemplate any of my dreams—whether or not they involve fitness.

And that, my friends, is that real fruit of working through the injury—that I didn’t give up on my life vision just because I ran into a very unexpected roadblock. I am wiser about what I can and cannot control and just a wee bit more patient than when I set out to get my puppy and returned with him—and the sore hips/back that gave me a chance to learn just a little bit more from Life’s lesson books.

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