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(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

It’s official—Sherman and I have given up on sleeping on a waterbed. Yes, welcome to the 1990s, right?

Can you believe I bought that bed on layaway back in 1986 when I was single? Sherman bought an upgraded mattress a year or so later which we then switched into my frame when we combined households. Since then we’ve replaced the mattress and the heater once each—which has become a progressively harder task. And when we discovered last year’s leak, we also discovered our patch kit had dried up. Before we could start the repair process, first we had to rummage around town until we found a store that looked as if it were still stuck in the late 70s.

Still, we weren’t ready to give up on our way of sleeping—yet. In almost all my travels, most beds have either kept me up or made me wake up—I was such a princess who could find any pea. After awhile, I just wanted to get back home to my own bed.

That doesn’t prove the bed was good for me, though. In fact, before I knew I was injured I was waking up each morning with aching hips. After I’d start moving the aches would recede. In my defense for sticking with the bed, once I started healing, I didn’t wake up any worse than when I went to sleep.

Do you know that in all my treatments for my back no one asked about my bed? And, I didn’t really want them to either. Even though I had taken the chiropractor’s early advice on changing pillows and that had made a huge difference for my neck, I wasn’t ready for anyone to tell me to give up my bed!

Yet a few weeks ago when Sherman suggested that maybe his back problems—as well as some of mine—were related to our bed, I didn’t deny the possibility. How many people have we known who gave up their waterbeds under doctor’s advice? Many, that’s for sure.

But will it help? And how do you know what bed will help? All we know is what doesn’t help—rock hard beds such as our parents preferred—and that we weren’t ready to spend a huge amount of money on the different specialty systems out there.

Sleeping in a regular bed is really like moving into a whole new lifestyle. Will we get colder? Do we need to buy fitted sheets ASAP or can we handle the inconvenience? Will our 1940s room be better or worse without under-bed dresser storage? Still, what a concept that we can actually move the bed.

So Saturday afternoon I brought my special pillow to the mattress store, slipped off my shoes, and lounged around trying to be all “princess and the pea” in my pickiness since I think I know what causes my back to ache in many motel beds. Yes, it’s a leap in faith, but we think we found the mattress.

The good news is we can ease into our new set-up since the bed frame we want is out-of-stock. No, I don’t want any of those headboards that look as if Henry the VIII would sleep there—I repeat, this is a 1940s house and as such, opulence just looks silly here. For goodness’ sake, all we’re going to use a headboard for is to keep our pillows on the bed and to lean against when we read books. Not only do we not have breakfast delivered to us in bed, we also do not watch TV in our bedroom.

For now the box springs wait (inconveniently, may I add, in this 1940s house) while the mattress is set in the waterbed frame.

Not speaking for the prince—even though we are often those proverbial two peas in a pod—but this princess didn’t feel a single pea while sleeping last night. I only woke early thanks to the dogs’ sounding a “squirrel on the roof” alert. Even a good mattress can’t make me sleep through that . . .

However, for a person who has slept on a waterbed over half her life, I personally slept as snug as a pea in a pod—because, seriously, who really wants to be as snug as a bug in a rug anyway?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I don’t write fiction—yet. OK, since I helped my coaching client write some fictional scenes, I guess I do write fiction—un peu, seulement. That’s about all the French I remember, and for over 30 years I’ve believed it stands for “only a little” or something like that.

Hey, how hard could it be? I can just do as many other newbie fiction writers do and compose a story based around a thinly-veiled version of me and my life. What, you’re not into “little domestic” tales? No drug addictions, no affairs, no edgy lifestyle? Well, I do want my stories to stand out, you know.

Don’t laugh, but Everywoman is mad as hell about companies that don’t think about the customer and she has lots of company. Don’t believe me? Just monitor what some of your Facebook friends are saying.

However, I’ll admit that my conversations with the front line people at these companies are not that exciting. But they could be . . .

Over a month ago I was just trying to have a new dryer that worked. It’s good to have goals, even if they’re only little domestic goals. (Sorry, just gotta’ keep throwing in the snide words from a comment I received from a judge about my “nice little domestic” poem—as if there is no angst in the domestic life.) Only I felt the company didn’t have the same commitment to that goal as I did. First of all, why would a brand new dryer not work? Yes, I bought it at the outlet store, but I presumed it was there because of the scratches and dents and how long it had been on the floor, not because it DID NOT WORK. You see, spending several hundred dollars for a hunk of metal is only valuable if said hunk of metal improves my life in some way.

Anyway, not only did I have to wait for repairs, but also for any parts that the tech discovered needed to be replaced upon completion of the first visit. I’m sorry, but the business concept of Just in Time (only keeping the bare minimum of inventory and ordering in the rest) only works if you can get the necessary merchandise quickly. So then I got to wait longer since their Just in Their Time system seemed more like Just Waste My Time to me. See how much angst a person can feel over having spent money for a product that only complicates domestic life until the customer has spent time sitting around at home waiting, not once, but twice, to get resolution.

So is it wrong that my nice little domestic problem led me to harbor thoughts of creating a character who went straight to the top of those corporations that dismissed the importance of the customer’s time and money—and maybe taught a few CEOs a lesson or two? I’m backing off from the word “murder” for now, but would it be OK if she made the CEO take my, I mean, her laundry to a Laundromat while she waited for her dryer to be repaired?

Just like any other newbie fiction writer, I might include the teensiest bits of my own stories in these tales, but seriously, if a certain company’s CEO turns up missing, it wasn’t me! Really—but check the Laundromat, just in case.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I have this friend who lost her mom to Alzheimer’s just after Thanksgiving. Because she feels emotionally fragile these days, she doesn’t talk about her loss with many people. She chooses those with whom she shares her loss very carefully.

Since she watched me walk through my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she let me in on her news right away. I hope she sees me as a safe person who understands something of what she is going through. I don’t question her when I see tears in her eyes but let her decide if she wants to explain them.

Last night at church I ran into a woman I met in a grief support group last May. We know each other only because of our losses. She asked me if I had reached my mother’s anniversary date and then I asked about her anniversary, which is coming soon. The truth is I can only understand but a portion of her loss because she did not lose an elderly parent, but a son close in age to me.

Still, there is something about having walked through grief that opens our eyes to others’ pain—sometimes giving us insight into how others’ pain can be even greater than ours—which is something we so often doubt in the early hours of our own dark nights.

These days my bible study group is reading and thinking about the Beatitudes, through James C. Howell’s study, The Beatitudes For Today. This week we are studying “Blessed are those who mourn.” We wrestle with whether or not those words are about mourning deaths in our personal circles or if the mourning Jesus mentions is about grieving our sins or the harshness we see in this world or, who knows what else?

But the part of this lesson that speaks to me at this point in my life is that because I have suffered losses that I still mourn, I am able to see others’ losses. Might I be just another person my friend avoids in her time of loss if I hadn’t already taken the walk to the tomb?

It’s tough to feel blessed when in mourning, but then I look around at all the support I have received on this earth from other people and I know God has not forgotten me. Perhaps it is in my brokenness that I am learning to listen to other people’s stories instead of just telling my own.

I’m not so saintly that I’ll say I’m glad for my losses. However, I am grateful that at least they have grown me into a person who watches out for those who are also blessed in this way they never sought. I was blind, but now I see.

And that is a blessing in itself.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Yes, it’s that time of the year that so few of us enjoy: tax time! Tax time is hard, even when a person is organized—or so I presume since I have never been organized, yet I know many organized people who also complain about doing taxes. Anyway, the first step to doing taxes is collecting all the pertinent documents—which would be so much easier if it only meant collecting the little papers we receive each January. I have done that, but I still have to gather so many more of the documents I’ve received throughout the year.

For many of us with what I call the disorganization gene, getting organized—whether for tax time or any other situation—often means making a mess first. I get the impression this makes little sense to those with the organization gene, but that’s because we, the “Ds”, have to first find what we need, decide what to do with it, and then actually put it somewhere. The process can get hung up anywhere for a multitude of reasons: either because we don’t know what to do or because something seemingly more important comes up or because we get tired or because we didn’t allow enough time or because we decided to do something much more exciting. See how tiring it is not getting things done??!!

So after working on tax paperwork at the end of last week, maybe it makes sense that I felt exhausted last night and went to bed early. I am crossing my fingers that those extra hours of sleep will lead to the willpower—and the ability—to carry on and finish.

Last year I started with the best of intentions and some good actions, too. I was keeping up with our medical expense spreadsheets as well as with our non-W2 income. However, my computer started acting up at the same time it refused to allow me to do easy back-ups. Yes, I lost the work I had done, even if it really was a minor portion. You see, this past year with my injury and all the extra stuff in my house that belonged to my parents, I have had an even harder time dealing with all the papers of our modern life, so it was especially nice to have some of the work “put away” electronically.

Ah well, that only works if you have a good data storage plan—which seemed like one detail too many until it became obvious it really should be and should have been one of the most important details in my life.

So as I push through all these papers and experience firsthand the frustrations of being such a Luddite, I do dream of buying a scanner for my receipts and signing up for electronic storage. And then that same Luddite who worries about others having access to my most private data argues against such a plan—except that every company that already has access to my most private data already presents a security risk I cannot control from companies that dump data improperly to those that experience security breeches into their own electronic storage.

The truth is none of that matters right now as I really have to make enough order out of this mess so that I can estimate my taxes enough to fill out the FAFSA and get the real work into the hands of our CPA.

But there is a secondary reason behind getting the folders back into their places—all this focus on numbers and papers is killing my creativity and silencing the often-racing thoughts in my head. Last month I wrote and posted eleven blog posts while this is only my third post for February and the month is almost half over.

So back to my stacks and spreadsheets—it’s in my own self-interest. Really. Here’s to acting grown-up enough to put the tax work to bed so I can earn some real playtime . . .

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert (sketch journal)

There’s a thin line between observing someone’s behaviors and/or statements and making assumptions about the motivations behind those behaviors, especially if “we” decide that all people who do “x” are like “y” and, thus, we know all about them.

That’s why the practices discussed in a recent New York Times opinion column (“Facebook is Using You,” Lori Andrews, 5 February 2012) are frightening.

I think most of us who use Facebook already know the company is using us. That knowledge should be guiding what we say there. I understand that my listed interests will bring out targeted ads for those interests. However, I find it creepier when ads appear instantly that relate to what I have just posted. Talk about a new yoga mat? An ad for local yoga classes appears. Or what about when FB makes a “diagnosis” from my comments? I’ve never had gout, but I don’t think the gout study ads are going to stop anytime soon.

A recent incident showed me just how closely my Internet activities were being followed. My real-world writing friend, Doug Hawk, has a blog titled “It’s the End of the World . . . Or Not!” that takes a tongue-in-cheek view toward the hoopla surrounding doomsday culture, especially in light of the supposed ending of the world later this year. After I read several posts at Doug’s blog, FB kept showing me the new Chevrolet ads that say “Mayan 2012 Apocalypse” within them. Yikes.

What is more frightening than Andrew’s headline topic, however, is her discussion on the use of aggregated data—by companies and the government—to follow you and me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like others to make an assumption about me based solely about what people who are similar to me might like. And I’m even more appalled that such people might assume I have a certain need based upon my searches on the web.

First of all, I’m a writer and have had to do research about many things that have nothing to do with me, personally. But second of all, if the research did have something to do with me, what business is it of someone else’s? I finally checked out what gout is to see just why FB thinks I should have it—I still don’t think I have it, but do more entities now believe I have gout? Did this potential gout keep the life insurance company from offering me anything but standard rates, despite my incredible age-related blood test results?

Beware, also, the dangers of lumping people into a group based on one factor. Despite having very good credit scores, Sherman and I had to explain to Wells Fargo’s mortgage division why we had the temerity to apply for a Kohl’s credit card. Because we buy a lot of our clothes there and Kohl’s offers good discounts to cardholders? Since the credit limits on these cards are relatively low compared to any other credit we have, I can only guess that some people are prone to default on those Kohl’s accounts. If that is so, it might explain why I’m usually the person buying the fewest items at Kohl’s, but it doesn’t make me personally likely to default.

Reminds me of when I applied for and got a position within corporate America. Later I discovered that the boss liked to watch applicants come in from the parking lot so he could see what they drove and use that information to help him decide if they would be good fits for the organization. When he explained that to me, I got pretty wound-up. It didn’t matter to him that my car had been totaled, through no fault of my own, and I had to borrow a car just to get there! He didn’t really care when I told him his assumptions of me were based on false premises.

See, assumptions can provide insights, but I don’t want someone making decisions about me based upon one or two details.

Take an assessment such as the Strong Interest Inventory® that “measures career and leisure interests.” Many colleges offer this tool as one of many to help students with their vocational pursuits. I used this tool over 15 years ago and thought it was one of the more useful assessments. I liked how my answers were compared with those of people across professions and within genders. The two professions that stood out as not mine? Chef and nurse! I agreed that I didn’t think a lot like people who were chefs or nurses. And you might be able to figure that out just talking to me.

But what about the areas where I was off the grid—might you assume I thought just like the people on the grid do? For the most part, my thinking was more in line with the guys. And I flat out thought some questions still showed a little bias. Do you like singing hymns? Then you must want to work in a church versus just being a Christian who likes to sing.

Still, those answers were for my eyes, not for a prospective employer’s viewing. I could take from the assessment what helped me and leave the rest.

Not so true with the wholesale aggregation of web habits—for sale to anyone who will pay? Yes, what we announce on Facebook is information we shared freely, but what I do in my own home on my own computer should not be available to the highest bidder absent of a compelling reason to be following me nor should I be compared to a large group of people who may or may not share anything in common with me other than having done a similar web search.

Sorry, but you can put me in the demographic box of people who do not pose a risk to animals, other humans, or national security—unless my desire for a little privacy gets in the way of how you want to operate your business. Just because you grant yourself access in your Privacy Statement doesn’t make it ethical—or necessary.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert, view of the main Denver Public Library building

This week would have been so much harder for me if it weren’t for libraries.

Such a quiet week here in the Lambert household, mostly because I’m the big talker around here and I’ve been down with a cold. Whine, whine, whine, right?

Guess I put so much energy into getting my spaces organized that my body—shocked—decided it had had enough.

And so, after a busy day on Tuesday when I had helped a new friend (insert sad face) with some of her own organizing, i.e. packing, in addition to doing my usual Tuesday activities, I went to bed knowing that I needed to take Wednesday easy—or else.

Which I did. Good thing I had behaved myself over the weekend and waited for my down-time. You see, when we ran into the library to read Consumer Reports prior to buying a washer, I found the fresh-off-the-presses book I had been waiting to read. But, this time, I made myself finish my organizing projects before I allowed myself to read more than a chapter or two. You see I am just that addicted to reading that I have to give my reading good solid boundaries, especially if the book itself is the kind most people—even non-addicts—can’t put down.

Wednesday morning, after I had slept longer than usual, my Kleenex box and I retreated to the big chair (along with my dogs, from time to time) to read Joshilyn Jackson’s a grown-up kind of pretty. For once, it really made sense that I keep reading throughout the day. I needed to slow down.

Which I don’t really do when I read. I Just. Have. To. Know. At least this is not a physically taxing obsession—unless I lose sleep reading. Still, I felt really disappointed when I had turned the last page of the book. Not only had I satisfied the curiosity over how the story might end, but also I still felt sick—except I no longer had something to distract me from my discomfort.

I am glad I am feeling better today, but now we’re having a huge snowstorm. Wouldn’t this be another great day to snuggle into my chair with a book? There is always an excuse to read, isn’t there?

This time I don’t have any unread fiction books at my ready, so it’s back to the salt mines for me—at least until tonight because we will be amusing ourselves with movies brought home from the library. Although my husband kept looking at websites this morning to see if his work was cancelled, he forgot to check his email. So even though he had to slog his vehicle back and forth through the blowing snows, he did get to run into the (still open) library while he was out.

Thank goodness public institutions still exist that can provide me with access to research—or allow me to take off on flights of fancy to get me through sickness, snows, and even gloom of night. Hooray for libraries!

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert