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(c) 2012 (Pizza and Photo) Sherman Lambert. Yum–normal enough for you?

Just a note before Celiac Awareness Month officially ends today—although if you have celiac disease or live with someone who does, every month is about celiac awareness, right? What is celiac disease? Whenever someone with the condition—diagnosed or not—eats wheat, rye, barley, and some types of oats, the lining of the intestine can be damaged, leading to many other often serious conditions. Once a person develops this particular autoimmune disease, he or she has it for his or her remaining days.

Lucky for me, I don’t have celiac disease—and, yes, I have been tested.

However, two of the three people I love most in this world do have it. Gluten-free food is not a trend in our family—the need for eating gluten-free will never go away here because my husband and daughter want to live well and live well as long as they are able. They don’t willingly “cheat” on the diet and, not just because they don’t want any temporary symptoms. No, they already have one more autoimmune disease than they’d like to have and they don’t want to attract any more autoimmune diseases nor any horrid cancers such as colon cancer or lymphoma.

You see, that’s how it really is for people who are celiac and who must eat gluten-free. My daughter is young and she meets many people who think she should just cheat on her diet. So she finally decided to answer their “what happens if you eat gluten” questions a little more strongly. Her reply is, “I get cancer.” Seems a little harsh until you repeatedly run up against how little regard many people have for the fact a person with celiac disease needs to follow the gluten-free diet forever—or at least until someone comes up with a miracle medicine.

While young people are more likely to disregard the importance of the diet, they don’t have a corner on not taking the diagnosis seriously. My husband’s co-worker has rheumatoid arthritis—an autoimmune disease that often shows up with celiac disease. Nonetheless, when he watches Sherman work so hard to follow the diet, he says, “I’d find a different doctor.” What, a stupider one? Just because some doctors miss the diagnosis, doesn’t make the condition go away.

I’d like to tell you that it’s not that hard to follow the diet—but it is. I am so glad my loved ones care enough to protect themselves and I’m especially proud about how strong they are in the face of constant temptations and/or exclusions. They used to think I was rather strident about informing people about what celiac disease was, but they are starting to see that too many people just don’t “get” their difficulties nor worry about accommodating them.

Sherman gave up one of the great loves of his life—brewing beer and sampling as many different brews as he could—without a fight. He goes to birthday get-togethers at work and potlucks where he can eat nothing or only a limited selection. But I knew he’d really had it with the cluelessness of certain people when the caterer at his office building’s big holiday party told him he could not have extra vegetables/fruits even though he could eat no other items out of the sizable spread provided.

While living in the dorms, Christiana has had to put up with barley in chocolate milk, promised gluten-free options not being available, and food service workers who treat her as a spoiled brat versus a person with a disability, albeit one who is not getting what she/we paid for. That doesn’t even count the social culture in college built around beer and pizza and not planning ahead . . .

So around here, we are all gluten-aware—whether it’s about food or additives or attitudes or language. Next time you think it’s a hassle to work around someone’s gluten sensitivities, be glad you aren’t the one with the sensitivities—I know I am!

Please, please, please stop asking if we—or anyone else you know with celiac disease—have any “normal” food. And don’t try to pass off “this tastes normal” as a compliment. Do you really think anyone wants to be reminded of how hard it is to live a normal life when an everyday activity such as eating is so difficult? It’s just semantics, but using the word “typical” might save your relationships with your celiac friends and relatives.

Living in a celiac aware world—now that should be the new normal.

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about celiac disease, visit the website for the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

She’s going on a journey, but she’s not coming back—not home to her closest loved ones nor to any of us who have known her along the longer journey of her life. We can only thank her for the gifts she gave to us, wave goodbye, and wish her peace.

She told me she had planned to cruise the Danube with her husband, but instead she gets to go home for good.

She’s in her last days, asking for her coat and bags so she can move on. I’m just praying she’ll understand that for once she can stop worrying about what to take with her—she can leave her baggage behind—finally.

She was our critique group friend—she told us her stories and we told her ours. When writing is mostly personal, it’s hard not to get to know well the people who gather to help you string together your words more effectively. She had the gift of encouragement, both as a teacher of children and as a critiquer of our words.

Once she and I both moved into electronic writing, she gave more kudos and comments to my postings than I ever passed back—and now I must remember to pay them forward to others as she always did for me.

She met me at her door last week, her skin and eyes a shocking shade of yellow. I swallowed my fears and went to greet her. The point of our visit was not my discomfort—instead it was one last chance to encourage her.

And so we sat on her patio—freshly cleared of Cottonwood cotton by her husband Dave, yet the cotton continued to drift onto us, snow-like in its abundance. She joked that she would turn white from all that cotton—and then she noticed her skin.

“Oh dear, I am yellow. Dave is going to be so upset,” she stated.

No doubt she knew what turning so yellow meant, but her first thought was to worry for those who would see her skin and know how soon her final journey would end.

She’s going on this journey too soon—yet we must let her go.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

I’m late . . . but not too late. Thankfully, unlike last year, my body’s not the problem. It’s just that we’ve had some pressing business to handle (back to that “other people’s stuff” on our back porch—stuff which gets in the way of good watering habits) before spring planting could happen. On the other hand, this Memorial Weekend is the first one in at least six years when we have not had any graduation parties to attend. Zero, zilch, nada. For once, we get to stay home and get ready for summer.

Oh, I’ve been so good—didn’t even go near a garden center earlier this month since I needed to focus on other priorities. Just been pruning my existing plants and weeding—OK maybe not even as much as I should have, but I did do that before I “let” myself go to the garden centers.

But let myself go I did this week. My flower fast has ended! Not only that, but I’ve planted all my containers already. And I’ll plant our built-in planters once my Mr. Wonderful turns the beds and improves the soil as he always does for me. (Thanks in advance, Sherman!)

I have a little routine I follow. First I go to Bonsai, my favorite small nursery (the one that tended my orange rosebush) in the middle of the week in the late morning or early afternoon and experience the opposite of the plant-buying rush. I pick up plants, change my mind, put them down, and then grab others. I love this calm space which gives me the room to visualize what could be—maybe—in own yard. Luckily, one of the owners is usually in the greenhouse to provide me with advice and/or bad jokes. I spend a lot of time there thinking and not too much time buying—which is a good thing given how much I could spend if I followed my impulses.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Well, maybe I should say I had a little routine, which has now been altered. My next step for over a decade has been to check out the local Sato’s outlet set-up in temporary tents—but all I found this year was a For Lease sign. So I went home to strategize just the right time to take the final stop on my spring planting tour.

Take the word “final” with a grain of salt—I know I will! Anyway, O’Toole’s is a large local nursery and choosing when to visit is a crucial decision. Chaos reigns there due to the sheer quantity of plants available as well as due to the large carts pushed by many people who must have flower budgets hundreds of dollars over mine. Timing really only determines whether a visitor experiences minor chaos or major chaos. But the selection . . . leads me into the far corners looking to see if the newest shipments have delivered even better options than I’ve spied so far. The thrill of discovery takes this claustrophobe in between tight racks stacked high with multiple colors. This shopping experience is so much the opposite of my Bonsai visit that I start discussing out loud—with myself—about which plants to choose—and I’m far from the only one.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Choices, choices—everything seems possible until I realize I’m never even going plant anything if I spend all my time dreaming in the garden center. Why, I think I managed to get out of there today in around two hours.

Some years I leave so exhausted by the process that I have to wait a couple days to regain enough energy to plant my final choices.

Not this year, though. It may be late, but I’m going back to the garden. Not only is my back “up to” playing in the dirt, but also it’s up to shopping for something to put in that dirt. Yes, after long months when just stepping into a store caused my right side to go numb, on my recent oh-so-long garden shopping trips, I didn’t even have to think about any other pain than the pain in my wallet or the pain of not getting to take home a certain plant.

And that, my friends, is like coming home to my own little paradise.

Rosebush delivered on porch, 06/28/11

Last May my back was hurting so much I wasn’t even tempted to buy too many flowers as I usually am. Heck, I could hardly plant any flowers. Luckily, the weather was so cold and unreliable that planting late seemed like a genius idea, even if it was only an accidental result of my injury. In fact, throughout the whole growing season I wasn’t really that attentive to watering, fertilizing, and deadheading so my flowers just weren’t that vibrant. Oh, and there was that “everything had to be kept up so the puppy wouldn’t eat it” thing, too.

So when I came home one day to find an orange rosebush on my front porch, I was a little stunned as to what to do with it. “Happy birthday! Love, Chris” read the card. Into the end of June came a lot of glorious color, but what was the story?

Well, the real story is just the sort of thing I would have expected from my college roommate Chris—if I had been expecting anything! Which I wasn’t . . .

The flowers didn’t really arrive on my birthday, but right in between my mother’s birthday and mine. You see, this was the first year I had to celebrate my own birthday without first having celebrated hers.

Turns out Chris had sent the rosebush in honor of my mother—and that’s why the flowers were Mom’s favorite color of orange. She had searched long and hard on the Internet to find rosebushes that came with orange blooms—as well as thrived in Colorado. An Ohio native, she first fell for information that made it sound as if poor, arid Colorado could not support any roses, but then she persevered until she found the right roses at a nursery the Internet told her was located close to my home.

Chris is the kind of person who would write an eight-page letter but never send it because she didn’t have any stamps. Or the person who would research, write, and type her term papers all in one day—and get an A+ on them. She can over-think things at times. Can you say hyper-focus?

Anyway, her original plan was to order the bush as a surprise for delivery to me on my first Mother’s Day without my mom.

Well, the truth is, she did order the bush in May, but turns out getting a nursery to deliver anything like that around Mother’s Day and during prime planting season isn’t very easy. She refused to inconvenience me by having me pick up the bush myself, so she told them to wait to deliver it until my birthday at the end of June instead.

Unbeknownst to her, she had picked my absolute favorite nursery—where I had gone two or three times in May! Little did I know that I had a rosebush being lovingly tended there at the same time I was choosing which annuals to bring home to plant.

While my rosebush grew and matured under the care of professional green thumbs, the Colorado temperatures stayed really cold and rainy (didn’t it snow after Mother’s Day?) until all of a sudden the weather turned hot—and fast. Quite frankly, with my less-than-green-thumb, I might have killed the bush under those conditions. When it finally arrived at our house, it was no longer quite so tender and ready to withstand the heat—and the sort of abuse I might accidentally dish out.

Still, it was tender enough that I knew not to plant it in the backyard where the puppy roamed!

Rose, October 2011

During the heat of summer, every day roses bloomed—and then the petals fell away overnight. But when fall arrived, the blooms grew even larger and stayed open for days and nights at a time.

These roses for my mama didn’t arrive quite on her birthday, but close enough that I can’t stop hearing C.W. McCall singing that song (“Roses for Mama”) inside my head. And I smile—both about my friend’s gift and about my mama.

Yesterday, the first buds of this season opened. More roses for this mama—and I don’t even care if it’s not my birthday.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Spent yesterday mostly away from the computer—does yard work count as an Artist’s Date a la Julia Cameron? Well, I suppose for some it counts as a joyful activity, too, but for me, the benefit in turning to a physical and/or “domestic” task is that non-mental activities often help me jumpstart my creative thinking again, plus the task accomplished often removes a mental obstacle. As for yard work, I like choosing my flowers and arranging them a whole lot more than I like working in the dirt.

However, I can’t really enjoy the more creative aspects of planting if all I see is chaos in the rest of our not-so-great outdoors. So first I was just going to mow the lawn, right? Well, as with many ADDers, momentum is my great friend. Mowing led me to see certain weeds in the grass that just had to go. And, then I needed to mow over by our trellis of “killer” climbing roses. Seriously, when the roses have not been pruned, walking in that area of the lawn reminds me of poor Snow White’s run through the forest. Just ask my husband—we both know what it’s like to have branches grabbing at us!

Can you say obsessed? First it seemed silly to work in the yard and then shower for Pilates—I was going to sweat there, too. Already dirty and sweaty, why not do more once I returned home? When you’re like me, if you’ve got a bee in your bonnet, you better just keep wearing that bonnet and let the bee sting you again! Sting while the stinging’s good. (Thank goodness my young neighbor has informed me that not all bees die after one sting—that makes this metaphor corny but possible.)

Weeding and pruning. Don’t know about you, but I am long overdue for those activities, especially since last year kept me from most yard work—and from moving forward in my own life.

Yesterday in Pilates, my instructor wanted us to do an activity—for the third week in a row because it’s her new personal favorite—that I don’t think is good for me or any of us with lower back problems—which is most of the class.

Well, I modified my form so much that the activity really didn’t seem that worthwhile—and others did the same. I don’t know about them, but I spent a couple thousand dollars (yeah, read that and weep), put in a lot of extra exercise, had to stop moving way too much, and had to prune too many activities out of my life to have anyone else’s personal favorite activity prune any more from me.

Still, with the energy I didn’t use for that particular move, I came home and attacked weeds and any dead branches. Last year’s forced inertia left the lawn overrun by the detritus of nature and the house with other people’s possessions, so unless I throw myself into pruning and weeding, I will continue to be stuck where I am.

Some things will never again grow in my garden and must be cut away—without mercy—to make space for new growth. And, whatever else is toxic cannot remain to choke out that growth.

My body aches today while scratches criss-cross my body from those thorns reaching to hold me back, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wasn’t going to leave any more dead wood on my trellis even as I recognized the utter hubris of plunging into the thorns time after time. Truth is, I don’t mind a little pain if it moves me forward instead of backwards.

To everything there is a season . . . and this is a whole new season for me, baby.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Some impressions burn into our memories and never leave. Let me try to describe one of my newest. No doubt words will not be enough to convey what I hold inside, but that’s all I have since none of us in our group had a camera.

But first, let’s start at the beginning: April 19, 1995. For those of us not in Oklahoma City, our initial images came from our TV screens and newspaper pages. Pictures of chaos, rubble, flames, a small body cradled too late. I think our national innocence began to crumble on that day. We finally started to understand terrorism could happen here—and later realized that it could be homegrown by our own, not just by some mysterious “other” who hated us from afar.

Since this event occurred in my brother’s adopted hometown—where he has lived and worked for over 25 years—our family has had the chance to visit the site a few times over the years. My parents arrived for a planned visit during the days following the event when smoke and stunned grief obscured the blue skies of otherwise picture-perfect spring days. Our own family visited while the ground was still just a hole, surrounded by chain-link fences covered with teddy bears, flowers, notes, and the mourning of stunned nation. The finished memorial we observed years later barely covered that hole in the ground—if only in our minds.

There is something about spaces from where so many souls have departed at once or soon after. The ground becomes sacred. As author Madeleine L’Engle stated, “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” This space was not a memorial to evil intentions and actions, but to those who were lost or injured and those who banded together to make good out of what was intended to bring them to their knees. Though they fell to their knees, they also continued to look upward and to one another.

Even though the blood sacrifice alone of those who died consecrated the ground, the Memorial erected on that soil helps to retain a collective sense of hope.

While the Memorial moved me when I visited in the daylight, all I can say is you have to see it on a moonlit spring night, such as the night we visited. For a place built upon such darkness, the space glows with light.

Our group stood on the terrace in front of the Survivor Tree, looking down upon those lighted empty chairs and the reflecting pool which stretched from one end of time—before at 9:01—until another—after, 9:03. What lay in between we’d prefer not to remember.

However, on such a clear night, I easily heard the hooves of horse-drawn carriages rhythmically approaching the street beside the site. If memories have a soundtrack, mine that night was hearing a song from the Bradley Ellingboe “Requiem” my church choir sang at the Good Friday evening service last month. (The song is arranged from a George Herbert poem titled “Evensong” and can be heard in the church archival recording from April 6, 2012 7:00 p.m., starting around the listed times of 77:53 to 83:00.)

The musical arrangement begins with only rhythm—a rhythm that sounds to me like the relentless march of time and/or of death. The hooves that May night in Oklahoma City beat in a similar way and then the sounds stopped.

That’s how Time must have stopped for too many at 9:02 that bright morning—except they heard no warning march of hoofbeats.

None of us knows when those hooves march toward us. The best we can do is look to shine light on our own darkness and live well for those gone before us before our own days are spent.

The moon on a clear night and the sounds of hoofbeats only added to the power of a memorial that expresses so well both the loss of particular people on a particular day as well as the loss of our nation’s belief that ordinary people doing ordinary things could not be targets for some twisted agenda. Yet the site is also a powerful tribute to the resilience of a people who banded together to help one another and believe they could still find beauty in their collective tomorrows. Oh for me, that night’s beauty also shone light on what followed after darkness.

[To read the George Herbert poem, go to The English works of George Herbert: newly arranged and annotated and considered in relation to his life, Volume 3 (Google eBook), p. 391]

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Wondering where I went? Yes, I really did go away. Sometimes you just have to get out of Dodge, even if you’re just going on a classic road trip across the wide open spaces of the Midwest prairie.

Sherman, Jackson, and I left Thursday night for Oklahoma to see my brother Scott and his family. After so many years of having to come to Colorado because Mom was here, they thought we ought to go there. True enough. Although Scott hosted a family reunion in a state park in Oklahoma a few years ago, I hadn’t been to their home since Mom and I came to nephew Chris’ high school graduation in 2007. The others hadn’t visited since 2002. Yikes.

As Scott and his wife Lori will tell you, Oklahoma City is way too far from Denver—approximately 11 to 12 hours by car. That’s just inconvenient, even it if it’s doable.

Although Sherman and I had made it to meet with everyone at Chris’ college in McPherson, Kansas twice in the last year and half, both for one of his football games and for his graduation, they still wanted us to visit them in their home, meet their new grandkids, see their remodeling, and partake of their hospitality.

Check, check, check, and check.

After my road-trip-related injury last year, I have become quite afraid about hitting the road, let alone about pushing through the drive in one day. That’s why we planned to spend the first night along the way since we weren’t leaving until a couple hours after Sherman got out of work. Still, we hadn’t planned to sit on the Interstate for an hour. We weren’t even stuck in the city, but we got to turn off the engine and wait anyway until a semi had been moved off the road. So we got in an impromptu picnic and got to read together while watching the almost full moon rise on a clear night made for driving.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

When we pulled into our motel at 2:30 a.m. (lost an hour to a time zone change too), we just crept in quietly and fell asleep. Too bad our neighbor didn’t worry about creeping out, huh? Wouldn’t be a road trip if you couldn’t listen to the alarm in the next room beeping—ignored for at least 20 minutes or so which meant we got to get on the road sooner than planned. Yes, when Mr. Snooze-through-the-alarm did get up, then he took his motorcycle (Muffler? What muffler?) for a spin around the parking lot before parking it again and cranking a classic rock station. I like Z Z Top, really, but not as my wake-up call!

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert. This, however, is not normal!

Rise and shine, right? So we did, hitting city limits before afternoon rush hour, but, maybe taking the wrong turn and getting to experience rush hour anyway—another classic road trip experience—from my past anyway.

This was the first time in a long time we got together for no particular reason without extra tasks beyond shopping, visiting landmarks, eating out, going to church, hanging out at the house and backyard with their extended family, and watching movies. No agenda really. Had time to sit around and watch everyday living—even got to see both the dogs and the grandkids on a mission to do in tufts of decorative grass planted by my brother—the obsessive gardener/lawn guy—in apparent denial of the lifestyle he really lives. Anyone taking bets on how long they last?

Was good to leave town and do nothing out of the ordinary—well, other than practice patience while sitting on the highway and with our aforementioned motel neighbor.

I think I remember normal. Turns out, normal is good.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert