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(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

My husband Sherman will tell you that I, a naturally disorganized person, lust for tools of organization in much of the same way as an alcoholic lusts for a drink. The good news is my addiction isn’t very destructive, even if it sometimes brings me only the buzz from the possibility of organization versus true changes that happen.

Yet, I always believe the next tool is the one that will save me. Although I have made a few breakthrough changes in my life, such as using a tickler file for bill-paying and such and utilizing a seven-basket laundry sorting system Sherman put together for me, many more schemes have fallen by the wayside.

My post-injury energy has been accelerating which allows me to return to the pursuit of organization—or at least the semblance of organization!

January has been a big month for household change, even if some of that change was hindered for a few weeks by the new dryer not working as expected. Still, getting the dryer into our home meant we had to straighten up the utility room somewhat which led to donating and/or throwing out things that had been in the way for a long time. And then, yesterday we finally purchased the matching washer—well, matching as in the same era and level of machine—to finish out our laundry upgrade.

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

In anticipation of the two service visits for the dryer and then today’s delivery (!) of the washer, we have continued the utility room work begun before we (that would be my husband and my son) carried out the old dryer and carried in its replacement.

And we’ve sustained the fervor stirred up by the laundry changes by reevaluating our closet organization. Of course, the substantial coupons, soon-to-expire, from Sears and Lowe’s also added urgency. Although we had knocked out a wall to create a walk-in closet and one larger room for us in the months before our kids were born, we had put up with some free organizers we had never liked since that time. Hey, we gave them a chance for almost twenty years . . .

Frankly, it’s more likely that living with our two new “babies” is the real impetus for the closet project—try fitting two full-sized dog crates in a 1940s bedroom, even one made from two small rooms. At least our real babies slept in their own room!

Anyway, back to my screwdriver and the project at hand. I promised myself I could not read my much anticipated library book until we got everything back in the closet. Since Sherman isn’t home, it’s up to me to earn my time with my words. Besides, I’ve got the fever . . . the organizing fever.

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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

We live in such absurd times that I just may have to write about them in a different format.

Last week a friend—who works for a company that has a reputation for putting its money behind its customer service—suggested I write a short story about my ongoing dryer saga. (No, the replacement parts have not arrived yet so the service tech cannot come out to finish the repairs. Yes, the dryer works, but not as well as a brand new dryer should.)

I joked I would have to write murder mysteries based on true customer service stories where the fed-up customer or a masked consumer advocate began doing in the CEOs of the offending companies. Stay tuned—it could still happen. Sherman, Jackson, and I had a pretty amazing brainstorming session (AKA a car trip during which we all spoke out of turn) that got me to thinking about how I could parody many of the concepts I learned at MBA school.

At least for today, no one is killing anyone, but I have to write down the most recent absurd situation so that I don’t stroke out in my frustration. Really.

Ever notice how medical practices these days have very ironclad and exacting procedures for getting the money upfront for any expected amounts due from the patient after insurance has paid? And, many of them also require you to leave a credit card on-file that you authorize for them to access for any unexpected charges.

But on the flip side, most of those practices have convoluted processes that make it hard for a patient to receive a timely refund, if not almost impossible.

In a logical world, a business would reverse out a charge. However, I’m sure those in charge figure since they had to pay a fee to take my money, then I can just wait. Some businesses, such as colleges, have decided to pass-on any banking fees charged to the institution for credit purchases, but at least the consumers (students and parents) know the terms before they charge.

Let me walk you through our recent exercise in absurdism. Our insurance company told our medical practice that our daughter’s procedure would cost us $873.04 (not that I count the pennies or anything) and that we would be expected to pay the day of the procedure. My financing plan involved putting the amounts on credit card and then getting reimbursed from our flexible spending plan in time to pay the credit card bill.

Glory be, the insurance company ended up covering the pre-arranged charges after all which meant we could only receive flexible spending reimbursement for the additional costs of $61.40 that we owed the practice. (At the same time, the insurance did not cover the $1,155.00 for the anesthesia which means we still have charges we do need to pay, one way or another.)

I don’t know about you, but even when I don’t have an outstanding obligation for over $1,000.00 elsewhere, I really can’t afford to have over $800.00 of my money sitting in someone else’s bank account.

If a person wants a medical refund in these days, that person has to initiate one. I called the practice to point out the double payment and get the refund process moving. Then I waited. Called again only to discover that the surgical center’s headquarters is out-of-state and somehow the local practice and the headquarters have to move paperwork back and forth one or two times before a check can be cut.

Well, our first refund check has arrived—in our daughter’s name. Despite the fact the insurance subscriber (the parent!) paid the bill, HIPAA rules require that refunds go out in the patient’s name if that patient is over eighteen. Great, but our daughter is away at college.

So I thought I would just deposit the check in her college checking account, of which both of her parents are co-signors. Then I could move it into the account that we use to manage college costs so that I could write ourselves a check to our regular account which would be deposited to cover the amount we had already paid the credit card company. Following me yet?

What a complicated process, but the money would go where it belonged. Except, Wells Fargo says it cannot cash this check written from Vectra Bank—I can’t even begin to understand why one large bank’s check reader cannot read another large bank’s check. Wells said if we wanted the check cashed, we just needed to take it to Vectra and get cash. That process only works if the check is in our name, which it is not.

That means six weeks after the procedure we have had to pay out money but still cannot access the money we did not owe. I’m just glad the anesthesiologist isn’t asking for his money . . . yet.

When did the absurd become so normal? At least I don’t have to worry about running out of customer service story ideas any time soon.

Sunset in North Platte, Nebraska (c) 1982 Trina Lambert

I’ve lived out over half my life here in Colorado since I left my hometown of North Platte, Nebraska more than 27 years ago. True, there are times when I return—to anywhere in my state—that I feel like a stranger to the world that was once all I knew. And, oh, doesn’t it sound a lot more “sophisticated” to be from Colorado than to be from Nebraska?

But I’m not from Colorado, even if it’s been my home since back when Madonna was just beginning her career as the latest shock pop star.

Sherman and my kids, of course, are Colorado natives who could all qualify for the Colorado pioneer license plates. Still, they’ll all tell you there are times when my inner Nebraskan comes out, especially when people who know nothing about Nebraska like to reduce it to a stereotype. Which they—whoever they are—do all the time.

First of all my family settled on the Nebraska prairie long (OK—on the prairie a few decades matter!) before Sherman’s family made it to Colorado—to live in the even more sparsely-populated and more arid prairie lands of Colorado. However, Sherman’s father is no city kid who believes his homelands are superior to mine.

But for all many know who have never left the suburbs of the Colorado Front Range or for those who hail from more sophisticated regions all over the United States of places such as eastern Colorado and the whole of Nebraska, those locales could be stuck in some permanent replay of episodes from the TV show Hee Haw—which, by the way, I only watched when forced.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I was in high school I was yearning to break across the boundary of the Missouri River to see more of our country, but I didn’t really care if where I went was that high on the sophistication meter. It wasn’t so much that I had to leave Nebraska as I had to go somewhere where people didn’t assume they knew who I was—based on my family, my past, or what they thought they knew about me.

So then I discovered that when some people found out where I was raised, then they made new assumptions. Honestly, I was amazed by how ignorant people around this country were of life in Nebraska. Sure, growing up in a town of 24,000 was nothing like living in California or New York City, but it didn’t seem that different from coming of age in so many of the suburbs portrayed in television, movies, or books.

I didn’t think too much of a certain Ivy League-educated New Yorker’s intellectual skills when she seemed genuinely shocked that my father was a professional and not a farmer. “But why would you live in Nebraska if you aren’t a farmer?” she asked. The best I could get her to understand was that my pharmacist father and those in other professions were needed to serve those in agriculture who came to the towns for goods and services.

Try explaining to someone like that that many farmers have agriculture degrees and those who don’t still pass the fallow seasons doing research, managing their businesses, and strategizing for future seasons. Hey, farmers are the original day traders—only they spend most of the year prepping for those few days that will either turn the profit or turn their business itself under the soil.

And, what about the girl from the fancy suburbs of Cleveland who could not believe she had not guessed I was from some place in Nebraska? Why, I dressed and talked no differently from others at college. I gathered she expected me to stand out by wearing overalls, sporting a hayseed from my mouth, and walking bare-footed across campus.

The people I met in Nebraska weren’t so different from people I’ve met everywhere else, except for the most part they don’t seem to be so big on assuming how people are based just on where they come from—although I won’t speak to assumptions some Nebraskans might make based on what football team someone else roots for—guess we better keep sports politics out of this discussion!

Over the years of living here in Colorado I’ve heard a lot of the jokes, you know about the “N” on the Cornhusker helmet standing for knowledge and about the winds being associated with crude terms such as sucking and blowing, especially when the Colorado Buffaloes were competitive with the Cornhuskers. (Whoops, back to that sports politics theme!) For the most part, I just roll my eyes.

But when nationally-based journalists try to paint a picture of my hometown that is just a little too folksy, I think that’s just prejudice combined with lazy journalism even when I believe their prejudice may be unintentional and that they think they are being complimentary versus patronizing.

Someday I’ll get around to reading Bob Greene’s tale about the legendary North Platte Canteen, but I have a hard time with how he paints a picture of the place with his statement that “North Platte, Nebraska is about as isolated as a small town can be.” (See pg. 6, Once Upon a Town, William Morrow Paperbacks, 2003.) Oh, it may be far from Denver and Lincoln and Omaha, but it’s right off I-80—I worked college summers at Fort Cody Trading Post and have met people from all over the country who remember North Platte because of their Fort Cody stop on the way to somewhere else.

Before moving to the boomtown of North Platte when I was ten, I did live in an isolated Nebraska Sandhills small town. North Platte is only isolated to people who come from bigger places—usually further east whether that’s Omaha or the east coast. Ask my father-in-law if he thinks North Platte is more isolated than Cheyenne Wells, Colorado.

And today’s diatribe is brought to you courtesy of my re-reading ESPN’s 2011 tribute to Danny Woodhead’s hometown—which is also my hometown. Full disclosure: I don’t know Danny Woodhead, but I did know his mother when I was in high school.

I’m glad that kids still get to be three-sport athletes there, but I don’t believe it’s because the school can barely fill its teams—these kids have always hungered for competition despite the often harsh weather conditions. Don’t forget that many of the athletes raised in that demanding four-season weather are the descendants of those pioneers who were tough enough to prove out their homestead claims.

The author also writes as if it’s a given that Woodhead would be raised by a Christian dad who works a couple jobs and a Christian mother who bakes cookies. The North Platte I knew had many churches as well as many kids who were not that interested in following those dictates as well as many types of parents—Woodhead is blessed that his mom Annette was one of those who always lived out her beliefs and witnessed to the rest of us.

All I’m saying—at least some of what I’m saying!—is that Nebraskans are not some archaic stereotype. Though they may share some common characteristics, they are not all the same. They can be intelligent—or not, moral—or not, tough—or not—just like people from anywhere else. They are both more and less than the national perception of them.

While you can take the Nebraskan out of Nebraska, you can’t take Nebraska out of the Nebraskan. Watch what you say about us . . .

Elda Mae (Ritter) Lange

Dear Mom,

What a year it has been since I last sat by your bed, listening for the subtle changes as your breath weakened, holding your hand when you struggled and all the while knowing you were on your way back to yourself. In that room where our time together both slowed and sped up, I prayed that your final labors would soon lead you to fall asleep to pain and loss and wake to joy, renewal, and reunion.

Somehow I thought that because you were ready and we were ready—and because we had lost you so many years before—that our healing afterwards would go smoothly.

Not so true because it has been such a fight to forget those last years. Try as I can to remember you, round-faced and full-bodied with that smile that lit so many days in my life, I see you angular and receding, all but for your brown eyes that continued to speak when you could not.

That we all decline is no secret, but the extreme changes you and so many others—human and canine—experienced in these last few years—Marge, Uncle Carrell, Dick, and our pups Fordham and Abel—make me want to rage against time.

Yet, perhaps it is just that grief/anger that brought about my own physical decline—my body could not escape the pain in my heart that I would have liked to deny. If I would not sit into my grief, then my grief would sit me down.

And, so I sat.

It is only in these last few weeks in the midst of deepest winter that indeed I can stand again easily and begin, step by step, to run and dance once more. Perhaps, the timing is no coincidence.

Yesterday I saw a black hearse leading a long line of cars on an unseasonably balmy day—someone was going home with all the ceremony that helps us to understand our loss. Yet, we did not say “goodbye” to you in that time-honored way.

I insisted we wait—until the weather might allow a more joyful home-going. After all, so much of you had left so long before your final day—those black hearses had been taking parts of you home for too long. The long goodbye of Alzheimer’s meant I needed to remember you more than remember your physical presence. So I’m glad we had all the brightly-colored clothes, the music, and the orange balloons on a windy, prairie day full of the hope of spring.

Because it’s that hope of spring that gets me through missing you and reminds me that my mother will never again have to be less than she was created to be.

Forever loving you, I return to the dance of life.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Two years ago my good, old trusty Kenmore dryer stopped running—right in the middle of winter when my clothesline is none too helpful. I wasn’t quite ready to move up appliance-wise, so I just replaced the washer/dryer set with one from a reliable used appliance store. However, I soon discovered that my replacement set was the budget version of my previous set—it was never designed to be as good as what I had owned.

That mattered most with the dryer and doing loads such as the jeans from our now fully-grown family of four. Doing laundry just took longer. Not exactly what I needed with so much of my focus on my mother. Then again, the kids left for college about seven months later, so we got by most of the time.

The kids’ return last summer reminded me just how slowly the dryer did its job. And because our dryer made doing a dull job even less appealing, the kids didn’t do their laundry much. It made me crazy to have so much dirty clothing in the house. Still, I wasn’t ready to upgrade yet.

That is until we knew that Jackson would not be returning to college after Christmas. It’s hard enough to figure out how to live together after living apart. What we don’t need is any additional burdens from using inefficient equipment that increases the time necessary for doing chores that no one really wants to do anyway.

My solution? Re-organize the laundry room and start the new year/new living arrangement with a spiffy new dryer to encourage regular laundry routines.

Great plan except that new dryer doesn’t seem to dry. Really. We’ve reattached it, cleaned out all the lint connections, tried pushing the buttons in different ways, etc. The sensor drying phase shuts off after two minutes—no matter what. And the timed drying phase just tumbles the clothes as dictated—if there is heat, it only comes after about three hours of constant use.

My daughter worked through a load of laundry with the old dryer, but had to return to school with the rest of her dirty clothing.

And my son’s clothing? Still waiting, other than the few necessary pieces we’ve managed to have the patience to dry.

Today we have a Chinook wind blowing with a sixty-degree forecast—might have to break out that clothesline after all.

In the meanwhile, I’m waiting for the service person’s arrival—impatiently—he said he’ll be here in half an hour. (Thank goodness I got his call telling me he would be here solidly within the scheduled window right before I received the company’s robo-call saying the arrival might be delayed beyond the scheduled time—please tell me he knows more than the computer!) Had to wait almost a week for this appointment after our call—after we had waited a week and a half trying to figure out if we were doing anything wrong and could fix it ourselves.

Part of me wonders, how did we as a culture get here? The salesperson told us if they have to come out more than four times in the year, they will replace the appliance—and that does happen. Does this make any sense when these appliances are so expensive in the first place?

I’m definitely longing for that trusty old Kenmore that lasted around twenty years—and that didn’t have any computer parts, which meant my husband also performed any needed repairs himself.

Am I a Luddite if I say I think we’ve all been hung out to dry? I suppose I am, even if I’m not planning to smash up my new dryer—hey, I paid for it already. But, sorry, folks, this way is not better.

Maybe I’ll change my tune when I have a functioning new dryer and see how much more efficient it is with both energy usage and our time. Still, just in case, I’m glad we at least have a clothesline and no covenants to prevent us from using it.

"Beware of Dog . . . Dancing" (c) 2011 Trina Lambert

We liked it, we really liked it! Yes, Furgus and I went to our initial dog dancing class this past Saturday. To tell you the truth, I arrived questioning the whole idea—after all he hasn’t even reached eleven months on this earth.

You see, when we’d last been to the dog training facility, he had been taking Puppy Kindergarten. No matter what he knew at home, he always acted wilder there because everything was just so exciting—people, puppies, treats, smells—yikes! He never even got to graduate or say goodbye to his furry puppy friends, thanks to the vermin brought by our rescue dog Sam. That makes Furgus a puppy school dropout who has only been homeschooled (streetschooled?) since then.

Our current instructor said he didn’t need to have been through a formal obedience class to participate. Still, I knew he had too much energy and got too excited about school, so before we even arrived for class, I made sure to take him on my post-physical therapy one-mile run and one-mile walk.

Though I brought him in the crate, he still knew where we were when we turned into the parking lot. After several rounds together around the parking lot, I took a deep breath and walked (well, tried to walk) him to the foot/paw sterilizing station outside the door. Just try to spray four moving targets . . . at least I got my two feet done well.

Yes, my dog was that dog—the one who put his paws on the desk, the one who pulled at his leash, the one who whined non-stop, etc. Once again in my life, I felt like the mother of the child everyone considered “bad” for having too much energy. (Sorry to my son Jackson, but it’s true! Parents of low-energy children often consider high-energy children to have been poorly-parented, at best—and the child also to be morally bereft, at worst.)

It seemed as if Furgus were just too young for the class. I kept us separated from all social interactions, human and canine, so I could focus on trying to calm my charge. It didn’t matter—he continued with the monkey sounds even as the instructor brought us together to tell us how things worked. Once again, it felt just like at soccer practices in the early years with my son who couldn’t listen when the coach began practices by talking—just to be clear, though, my son never made monkey noises.

Fortunately, the instructor was wiser than some of our first soccer coaches. When time came to demonstrate the first move, she looked at him and said to me, “Your dog looks ready to go. I’ll start with him.”

Once Furgus got to work learning, he calmed down. It was all about the doing—and the treats!—for him. In fact, he learned quickly and now I felt proud. (Again, another comparison with my son—I swear I don’t think of Jackson as a puppy, but he was puppy-like in enthusiasm many times in his life!)

Really, the only problems we had in class from then on seemed to stem from my inability to slow down and/or get treats moving in the proper direction with the proper timing. Yes, back to that “handler error” pointed out to me when I was training my Chelsea over twenty years ago—I’m still not sure if I am as smart as an English Springer Spaniel when it comes to training moves and consistency!

Oh, he still seemed to think we were working on adding singing to the dancing, but at least he focused on the tasks at hand.

Now we are practicing at home for our next class session. The tricky part is that although I couldn’t convince either Sherman or Jackson to bring Sam to class—they seem to think dancing with dogs is dorky!—Sam is quite interested in dog dancing. Takes a lot of coordination between all of us to work with the dogs separately.

Yes, Sam apparently has begun dog dancing homeschooling lessons because he’s not at all interested in remaining a spectator to our sport—unless I can convince one of the guys to join the class for his sake.

This morning I got the dogs to turn in tandem using commands only and no treats on the very first try. We did it several more times—they really do know what to do.

Out of our way, folks. We’re working on getting to appear on Letterman for a “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment. Guess I’ll just send the guys a postcard from New York City when we arrive . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Anyone else a runner during the running boom of the late 70s? Do you remember that some time later some studies came out that said running was actually harmful? What about the stir raised when running guru James Fixx died from running? I didn’t pay much attention to the hype, but it seemed the media often chose to pick up on the “running is bad” concept without analyzing studies or considering other factors.

I just thought a lot of people were looking for a reason not to do an activity they didn’t like in the first place. You know, the kind of people who are always doing the latest thing whether or not they enjoy it and whether or not it’s good for their bodies. I think the media buzz is happening again with yoga (and like it did with aerobics and Pilates and . . .)

Yes, I learned the truth—at seventeen—that running could hurt me. I ended up getting fitted for orthotics which helped me recover my health long term. The podiatrist said that running didn’t cause my imbalance problems—it just accelerated how soon they showed up and began affecting my life. Never again did I have the same obsession with running nor was I as naïve about the helpfulness of running, but I didn’t stop for good—I liked running.

You see, I didn’t run because it was “in” or the cool thing to do. For the most part it was a lonely experience, except for when I could meet up with my friends to do it or be part of a track or cross country team. Yet running often soothed my soul. I truly believe this was how I managed my undiagnosed ADD for so many years.

Enter real life obligations, children, and another undiagnosed condition that worsened—asthma—and running became less frequent in my life. It got to the point where I knew my weight gain was a risk factor for running, yet I didn’t know how to keep down my weight without running. This time I ended up with an injury common to inflexible, heavier, long term runners of a certain age: plantar fasciitis.

After that injury healed enough that I could use my feet, I switched to walking. Didn’t “everyone” say that was healthier anyway? I walked and walked—and continued to gain weight. With my feet problems, I couldn’t do any hard core land-based aerobic activities. So . . . I signed up for my first yoga classes.

By that point my lower back was hurting so much that I couldn’t get out of my chair easily. While I did find that yoga was helping in so many ways, maybe it wasn’t enough or maybe it just wasn’t fast enough. When I told my doctor, she thought I ought to add Pilates classes first to see if I could avoid physical therapy.

Here’s the deal: with yoga, Pilates, and walking, I did start to feel better—everywhere, but especially with my back and feet—and that ADD mind. And then I started to lose weight which meant I could move more vigorously, enough so that I could return to running and begin doing ZUMBA dancing.

So are all those things to blame for my recent back injury? Well, maybe. However, I will point out that my injury surfaced after I took off a week from exercise while spending most of that time sitting in a car.

Now that yoga is the new evil activity, it must have been the real cause behind my injury, right?

Really, I think that living and aging are behind my recent physical woes. As far as I can tell, people can get injured by moving—or not moving—or both as they age. When my father needed back surgery, it was because he carried excess weight and did not move unless necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather earn my badges of aging from activity versus inactivity.

So I’m not going to stop practicing yoga even if I am more likely to modify my poses now. I have always gone to restorative yoga classes led by mature instructors who aren’t fostering a competitive environment. And I will argue with a teacher if I think a pose goes against the advice I am receiving from the medical practitioners treating my condition—if I’m not going to believe them and follow their advice, then I need to stop seeing them.

I guess I have to say that if people don’t like to do yoga, then they should not be doing yoga to please others. They can take their chances lifting weights, swimming laps, or sitting in their Easy Chairs while I’m holding a Downward Dog—or attempting to get back to running again.

Maybe we’re all just running against the wind trying to maintain our bodies in the face of time, but I’d rather move than sit down to wait for the Grim Reaper to find me.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Might an empathetic bedside manner trump news delivered, softening blows because the patient feels heard?

Visit one, not requested by us but strongly suggested by the medical staff, started off in what is a typical way in our family: they got my daughter’s name wrong. Hey, I realize I named her a unique name, but after sixteen years at a practice, why is it so few of the staff get her name right? Is it possible they have a habit of not reading with attention?

Then the staff member proceeded to ask us why we were there—and then argue with us about our answers. We did not ask to come back so soon, but were told it was necessary for a specific reason—which had not been recorded the same way in the visit notes. Before we left without doing anything medically, three staff members were in the exam area, none willing to agree with the reason we said we were there while turning the conversation to what my daughter was not doing right—through information that had never been discussed at the previous appointment.

First of all they discounted what they had done and then turned the finger of blame on us. We were supposed to feel appeased with platitudes that it wasn’t a waste of time because they got to check out something else. Believe me, it isn’t whether they think something is a waste of time that matters—it’s what we, the patients—customers, if you will—think.

And maybe we would have felt the visit had not wasted our time if they had even offered one sincere apology for the miscommunication. Perhaps they really do think we got it all wrong, but this is not the first time we have encountered such confusion at this practice after we had the apparent misfortune to see two different providers at two visits—either office politics or medical philosophy discrepancies are involved or the staff does not write good notes in the charts—or all of the above.

In fact, with all my years of watching over my mother’s and my kids’ care, I can tell you that this is not an area I get wrong often, if at all. I know when the appointments are and I know why they say we are supposed to be there. The more I deal with medical appointments and procedures, the more I realize that good patient care is about more than the medical aspect—it’s also about good listening and record-keeping.

So I can tell you that my daughter was very unhappy to go to an appointment elsewhere an hour later. Since we haven’t figured out who should be her primary care doctor now that she is nineteen, when she has an urgent general concern when she is at home, she still has to go the pediatric practice where she’s been seen her entire life.

First of all, they called her by her given name. Then the PA asked questions that showed she had read the most recent sections of her medical chart. And, get this, she didn’t question how she said she felt, but discussed it with an empathetic tone. Of course, then she sent me out after a few questions so she could treat my daughter like the adult she is. By the time the appointment had ended, this PA had suggested something that could explain so much about all these constant physical problems that have been so hard on my daughter’s emotional well-being. Not a one of the specialists had ever mentioned such a possibility but so often they didn’t appear to have read her medical history and/or did not listen enough to our explanations to ask such thorough questions.

The daughter who entered that practice ready to shutdown on the next medical person who discounted her experiences left peaceful, despite hearing that there might be an explanation for her health problems that would mean even more medical treatment.

I am convinced she calmed down all because she felt she had encountered a provider who tried to understand all she had experienced, by simply reading good notes and asking related questions to draw out more possible information as well as by listening to the answers.

In other words, she felt heard. And that may make all the difference in getting a good enough diagnosis so that true healing may begin.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Do you want proof I’m certifiably nuts? I just signed up Furgus (and me!) for a dog dancing class. Hey, we do this around the house anyway. Plus he’s one smart fellow—and it’s probably a good way to burn off some of his extra energy and reduce a few of his home-based hijinks.

I received one of those Internet forwards that showed me trained dogs doing a bunch of twirling and leaping on command. While I watched that, I thought, “My dogs could do that.” So I brought out the treats and started working them on an upright twirl—after all, frequent Puppy Smackdowns build a pretty strong core section. Furgus got the concept within a few minutes. Sam is still a little confused about the whole thing, but he can get it from time to time.

I can’t really train two dogs to dance at the same time, yet I’m not sure I’m going to get either of the guys in my family to step up to teach Sam to two-step or anything else like that. More’s the pity because these are the most graceful English Springer Spaniels we’ve ever had. However, Sherman is looking into doing a more traditional training class for Sam, which could lead to them training together for agility, something Sam should be really good at doing.

Of course, Furgus could stand to be in an environment where he gets some focused training on following me—which is why I was in the process of signing him up for training. But then I discovered he would be able to take dance class first and be learning to follow me better there—after all Sherman can tell you I always want to lead in dancing!

Besides, Furgus loves attention, both from people and other dogs. My previous “wild child” dog, Chelsea, really liked the applause in training, becoming a much better-behaved dog when it was “show time” than any of us expected.

With Furgus’ handsome good looks and apparent expectations that life will be both exciting and go well for him, why wouldn’t he be the guy who likes to celebrate on the dance floor? Especially if there are treats involved . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I bet most of us have a workout spot in our fitness classes. Where’s yours? Front, middle, or back?

If I can I always end up on the left side of the room—I think that’s because I am “left-legged” for whatever that’s worth. My yoga teacher thinks I should switch it up—after all, haven’t I been in physical therapy for one-sideness? Maybe, but I’m not changing that up so far in this new year.

However, for most classes I do prefer to be toward the front. After all, I like to see. Once I feel confident about what I’m doing, I don’t mind if other people can see me better—I just want to see the instructor. I’m both a kinesthetic learner and a visual learner. (And, perhaps my already weak auditory skills are getting weaker with my hearing diminishing a bit—got to be close to hear the instructor!)

Just about seven years ago I began taking yoga for both my body and my mind. I was recovering from a hysterectomy as well as having trouble getting out of my chair easily due to back problems. At the same time I struggled with both my son’s AD/HD and my own ADD.

A totally inflexible and distractible person, yoga did not come easily to me. At first I was happy to be in the middle or even the back, as long as I had good access to vision through the mirrors.

However, at some point I moved to the front row. I was losing weight, gaining flexibility, and working on becoming more mindful. First of all, being in the front row helped a lot with that mindfulness thing. Not only could I see the teacher well, but also I wasn’t so tempted to lose concentration because she could see me way too well also!

Yoga made me feel like a whole new person—rather like my old formerly fit self yet so much better, even as I was aging.

Back to that exercise position in class. There really are no assigned spots in these classes and sometimes people start to fight for position. It’s rather unyoga-like, but if you’ve been in a class, you know many of us do it. Well, as I began to need yoga desperately to deal with my mother’s Alzheimer’s and my daughter’s depression, I had to miss some classes for their appointments. You guessed it . . . people started claiming my spot.

I remember having a stress dream about a woman being really nasty about “my” spot—and in my dream this woman was one of the nicest people in my class! I laughed with her about that, but found that I was too emotionally fragile to deal with the additional stress in my life of jockeying for position. After all the struggles in life, I just wanted to walk into a class, drop my mat, and get down to being in the moment of yoga.

So I moved to the back row with my gentle friend. I don’t even like the back row—after all, I don’t worry if the instructor or other students can see me—I just worry if I can see them.

After three years in this spot, for the most part I still don’t feel ready to return to being a front row person in yoga, even though my old spot is strangely vacant. Truth is I just want to be left alone—I don’t want to be that person who has to answer the instructor’s questions constantly or who gets adjusted more than others. It’s not really about yoga—it’s about me.

I am not a front row person these days. Yet, I’m not going to be a back row person forever. During yesterday’s class I realized how frustrated I was because I could not see the instructor at all—not even in the mirrors. The more men we have in class, the more taller people there are in my sight line. In the end I had to choose which front row student to watch for direction.

Still, I don’t want to leave my friend’s company yet. We share tight hips, locked down shoulders, and the overwhelming sadness of losing our mothers to Alzheimer’s. But . . . she never wanted to be anywhere but in the back and I did.

For right now I’m just moving one pose at a time in my Bob-Uecker-style front row, but one day I’ll be back behind home plate again. Well, assuming someone else doesn’t want that spot . . .

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert