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I have to admit my dog is a puppy school dropout. Though not through any fault of his own, Furgus didn’t get to finish with his class due to minor health issues. I was about to sign him up for obedience classes in January when I discovered he could take dance classes without them—let’s see, which sounds more enjoyable?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

As for his obedience education, I’ve been learning both informally in his dance classes and formally as part of Team Keva. Keva is my mother-in-law’s six-month-old Irish Water Spaniel who has a whole entourage working with her.

When my brother-in-law, Michael, was planning to get a puppy for himself last year, my mother-in-law, Pat, decided to get one also. No doubt she’d forgotten how challenging puppies can be, especially now that she is well into her eighth decade. (Let’s just say that I have had a hard time keeping up with my pup in this the tail-end of my fourth decade—just yesterday I discovered our recycling all over the yard after Furgus had been sampling the various papers and plastic containers. What? You think he still might need obedience class?) Nonetheless, Keva and her brother Norbert arrived around Thanksgiving and they’ve spent much of their days together while sleeping nights in their respective homes.

Sometimes it takes a village to train a puppy—or at least several relatives and friends. From the beginning of Keva’s days in Colorado, she has gone into the family business offices of Allwell Rents to play with Norbert. Bringing the puppies into work really is kind of like bringing them into a china shop since the Allwell showroom boasts tables set with tablecloths, dishes, and glassware.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert, Norbert & Keva

Because of that, Anne and Beth at Allwell have been training the puppies all along on indoor behavior—sort of a white gloves and party manners for dogs, right? Still, Anne and Beth really are supposed to be managing a business, not just training puppies. So Michael signed up Norbert for one obedience class session and Keva for another. (Trust me, I have twins and I know why teachers didn’t want them in the same classroom for years either!)

However, since early training classes these days are rather physical, as I remember from our puppy school days last year, someone else needed to take Keva to class. That’s when my son Jackson got added to Team Keva as the main handler and I got added as the note-taker/chauffeur.

Every Tuesday, for eight weeks, Jackson and I drove Pat and Keva to school. We had hoped that though Jackson officially took Keva through the moves, that once Jackson and Keva were done sitting on the floor, Pat would also be able to go out to work with them. That did not happen after the first session! With fourteen dogs, around twenty handlers, and three trainers, chaos ruled, even as the dogs were learning how to behave in a more disciplined fashion. The classroom noise was deafening—even I could barely hear well enough to take notes.

So Pat and I sat on the bench. Often Michael also arrived to watch since his dog’s trainer taught using different exercises. Then I’d type-up notes, sending over a copy for the people at work as well as a larger one for Pat. Jackson would work with his grandmother to work with the dog and Michael, Anne, and Beth would reinforce the training methods.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

But it wasn’t. Keva is an incredibly bright puppy who isn’t overly willful.

Last night the dogs and their handlers completed the course by competing in the final exercises. For the obedience portion, all of the participants circled up and walked around to the sound of music. Whenever the music stopped, the trainers barked a command. All participants who completed the move properly remained and began walking again as soon as the music returned. Miss Smarty-Pants Keva and Jackson lasted until the end, finishing second only because Keva completed the final command slower than the other dog did. She did everything as asked.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Now, I’m sure everyone else on Team Keva is glad that Jackson got to be the handler. Not only did Keva get to rollover, but also Jackson had to rollover (on the floor) while keeping Keva in a sitting position. His rollover was nearly as quick as the one Keva had done earlier!

Pat’s refrigerator now sports Keva’s red ribbon as testament to how well the puppy learned, even with a whole village training her. Good girl, Keva! Good job, Team Keva!

Now, back to working with my own puppy school dropout . . .

Trina, 1964 or 1965

I was that girl who hid behind my mother when people tried to talk with me. Yet, I wasn’t a quiet kid—just very selective about sharing my words. I only let those in my inner circle know the real me.

Little girls with ADD can be chatterboxes or eerily silent—or both, as I was and am. What doesn’t come naturally to many of us is the give and take of conversation—which alternately leaves us staying away from social interactions or taking over the interactions. And, what we learn from an early age is that since we can’t quite trust ourselves to chime in at the right time, then we need to choose our social situations very carefully.

In school I felt very frightened about standing up in front of my classmates, even though I was at the top of my class. Just because I knew something didn’t mean it was going to come of my head in the way I knew it.

However, I had so many thoughts exploding in that head that I had a hard time keeping them in while in the classroom. I wanted to share them—not take over the conversation—but I didn’t always wait. If the teacher talked about something, I wanted to be discussing it. Those side comments I made weren’t to distract from the teacher but because what she said reminded me of something else.

But, I do know that I was distracting other people by keeping them from hearing the teacher. That shame was a constant companion throughout my school years. Sometimes it led to my silence, but other times it wasn’t enough to help me keep my thoughts in. Lucky me—I either got in trouble for not saying enough or for saying too much.

I didn’t know I had ADD back then. All I knew was that as one of the best students I was expected to know when to speak and when to keep silent—and I didn’t.

A lot of people with ADD just choose to live lives that allow them to avoid their areas of weakness. They don’t sit in church on Sunday where they’re expected to sit still and keep quiet—they do things, such as go hiking, where their movements and noise are expected and accepted. They especially don’t join group activities where they have a hard time listening and not talking—many will call such events too boring, but I bet some, like me, just don’t want to repeat their childhood shame.

Me, I just try to find places and groups where I can control my ADD enough not to get in trouble. See how juvenile that sounds? But we with ADD know that our weaknesses are often considered immature and inconsiderate—things we should have outgrown.

These times in which we live are full of constant noise, which makes everyone seem to have ADD. I find that more and more of the groups I’m in sound like Babel—we’re all talking at once. Half the time I can’t get a word in and the other half of the time I don’t let someone else get in that word. It’s not just me who doesn’t know how to interact anymore.

In each situation I keep trying to find that balance, but if I don’t, I can’t stay there—some situations just intensify my lifelong feelings of shame. Because I have to work so hard on knowing when to speak, I need to spend time with people who will allow me to be myself even if they have to remind me gently that I still have to let others speak. However, if I am considered disruptive for being myself, then I’m in the wrong place—I can’t afford feeling like that bad child again.

There’s a reason I like my keyboard so much—my internal editor knows not to speak impulsively through my fingers. I don’t send every message I’ve written nor publish everything else I’ve written. If I’m enthusiastic about what someone else is saying, I can share my thoughts without shutting out someone else’s thoughts.

Look, I’m all grown up, but I don’t think I’m ever going to be completely free from socially-awkward moments. Although I want to hear what others have to say, I’m pretty sure I’m still going talk when I’m not supposed to do so. The best I can do is to spend my time with those who will forgive me for the occasional gaffe just as I will forgive them. Otherwise, my retreat into silence will be no different than when that little girl hid behind her mother.

What I know now, though, is that I don’t really deserve to feel that small, no matter if I do make occasional mistakes.

(c) 2012 "Peep-i Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock's Peeps"

Spring Break for Christiana has come and gone—she’s already had to take a test. Nothing like jumping right back into school, right? Glad I never experienced that in undergraduate school—breaks were breaks because we were on the quarter system and had finished our classes.

So she spent some time away with friends and her brother Jackson before we picked them up at a Starbucks in the mountains—late, but can’t say they didn’t have that one coming over the years—to go skiing for a couple days. Skiing’s a lot of fun, but it’s also exhausting, especially if you’re trying to ski around injuries in the first place, which three out of four Lamberts (Sherman, Christiana, and I) were doing.

That’s why Christiana’s last ditch effort at home-based family relaxation on Saturday night was a good idea. Of course, it would have been a better idea if we hadn’t waited to do it until last minute on the same night Jackson really wanted us to watch a movie, but, hey, don’t expect us to change too much, right?

(c) 2012 Peep Harmony (Trina)

What did we do? We had our own Peeps diorama contest with the Peeps we had bought for the Denver Post’s Peeps contest. Sherman only, with Christiana’s help, had managed to meet that deadline on Friday night, but what were we going to do with the leftovers? Eat them? Right . . .

Now me, I was casual. I figured just go with a simple idea that could be done quickly. I got this idea of Peeps bunnies holding hands (well, if they had hands!) like paper doll chains. Then all I had to do was trace blue paper and draw some really rough versions of a couple continents and choose which obnoxious song I wanted to use to promote unity and world peace. (Yes, I’m just that way!) Although I tormented my family, both by singing and pulling up “It’s a Small World” on YouTube, I just didn’t want to deal with making all those hats and costumes! But hey, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” was also stuck in my brain. That song could also qualify for a family torture exercise. (You’re probably thinking, “You torture and torment your family for a bonding exercise?” So it seems . . .)

(c) 2012 Last Peep Standing (Jackson)

Jackson has the most elaborate ideas ever and he hates to settle for anything less than epic—which means he often does nothing. Sherman refused to allow that—yeah, nothing like a little dictatorship to help with a family bonding exercise to go along with that tormenting thing, right? Jackson got out the aluminum foil and red decorative sugar and toothpicks and soon there were knights lying in vivid pools of red with a lone Peep standing over them.

(c) 2012 We're the Lumber-Peeps and We're Okay (Christiana)

OK, so Jackson doesn’t have the lock on elaborate ideas. Christiana, his twin—the art major in case you have forgotten—has been imagining and completing elaborate dioramas since second grade (don’t think anyone assigned her one before that, but you have to know she had elaborate play scenes set up all over the house beginning in her preschool years!) Her finished lumberjack scene included a log cabin, twigs for a fire, real branches from the Blue Spruce, plaid-wearing Peeps wielding axes, mountains for a backdrop, and a powder sugar dusting of snow. Presentation, presentation, presentation has always been her mantra. And, yes, she continues to exceed the assigned required details for all her college projects. No, she doesn’t sleep much when finishing her assignments.

(c) 2012 Iditarod Peep Race (Sherman)

And, Sherman? Well, if he had Christiana’s youthful endurance, he would have gone as elaborately as she did. Instead he decided he didn’t really need to have to sew any more harnesses for the Peep-dogs (birds) pulling his Peep-bunnies’ sleds. I mean, how much can a marshmallow bunny weigh anyway?

By the time everyone finished, we really needed to relax with a movie. However, some might debate whether or not starting a movie at 11:30 at night is relaxing, especially for Jackson who had to be at work at 6:30 the next morning, but also for me, who had to sing in church choir, even if I didn’t have to be there for another three hours!

Like I said, Christiana is back in school where her projects need to be a little more elaborate than those made from Peeps. But I hope her work driving our little Peep Show was just the kind of Artist’s Date an artist needs to help her remember why art is fun—especially if that artist has to be tested on art first thing Monday morning after break.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

So I’ve just finished up another week where my lack of organization made my life so much harder—and got in the way of how well I could do activities I do enjoy. Old story, different day, right? Yet here’s the thing about me, I’m always searching for that Holy Grail of organization that will CHANGE MY LIFE. Another old story because it’s part of the story of who I have been from my beginnings: a naturally disorganized person (seriously, you should have seen my bedroom from my youngest years!) who keeps believing that all I have to do is find the tools/systems that will redeem me.

On the other hand that type of thirst could also condemn me except that it would also be pretty darn lame if I struck some Faustian deal just to get organized. Please tell to stop lusting after this seemingly elusive goal that isn’t even fun!

What I really want is to have more fun and reduce my stress levels by being more organized. That means all I care about—deep down anyway—is being organized enough to live better.

Back to this week. Despite posting my intentions on February 13 regarding getting our tax paperwork ready, especially in time to estimate our information for filing the preliminary FAFSA (filling out this college-related financial aid document is so not fun!) by school deadlines, I did not finish until February 28. I have been turning down invitations and putting off creative projects ever since then but could never quite finish until I got my husband to sit by me as the impending deadline arrived. (OK—on the positive side, the deadline was really March 1 so I beat it by two days!)

What seems to be true about me is that when I do not rely on a system or plan, then I work in a circular manner. Now, this is not a bad way to get going when I am trying to access my creative side—in fact, I like to use mind-mapping or clustering techniques to get all the thoughts out of my head and then focus on prioritizing order once I see all the pieces. However, I think we can all agree that creative approaches to tax work are at the bare minimum ineffective, but more likely criminal!

Still, yesterday, when my daughter asked me to help her with an outline for an essay she was writing, I kind of flipped out. Outlines are so linear and fixed—they’re lists!

The good news is that this week I am also reading Atul Awande’s The Checklist Manifesto and remembering the power of lists in many situations. Awande demonstrates how in a complex world, sometimes a simple checklist can bring focus to what needs to be done, even in complicated situations.

Such a checklist might have simplified my tax task so that I really could have finished it two weeks earlier. Even though I gathered all the official documents as they arrived in January and had most of the other papers necessary to help me fill out my accountant’s tax planner form, whenever I was missing something, I went off on a tangent. I’d work on one spreadsheet but not complete it because I was missing data. Instead of looking for the missing papers, then I would start with another spreadsheet. Before I finished, piles of papers—that had mostly been clipped and separated neatly—mixed together and covered my table. Yes, the tax planner was essentially a checklist, but a long, detailed checklist designed for multiple tax situations, not just my own. My own checklist could have been a handwritten slip for checking off all the papers I needed to gather as well as for checking off that I had filled in the corresponding slots on his form.

Funny how I forgot that checklists used to serve me well in another long ago complex time in my life. Once upon a time we had twin infants whom we brought with us to work. Caring for two infants is one long operations project at a time when you are not getting enough sleep to think clearly so it’s good to have plans and systems. It was hard enough to get out of the house just with the babies, let alone with all their equipment, supplies, and food. So finally we created a daily checklist that helped us get out the door with what we needed in a minimal amount of time.

It’s so simple, it’s scary. Holy Grail material or not, I’m giving it another chance.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert