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(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

Most of us have things we fear more than others. Sometimes those fears are common occurrences and sometimes they are not. I had one friend who was afraid of finding shards of glass while drinking. As far as I know, he’d never experienced anything like that, but there you have it.

One thing that holds no attraction for me is fire—which isn’t quite the same as a phobia, but maybe only because I try hard not to be around it so I don’t have to think about it. Or maybe I just haven’t admitted it’s a phobia until now . . . when so much of my state is burning.

My brother Scott was just the opposite. He was always fascinated by fire, although I’m sure his opinion changed somewhat in past years after experiencing a raging old-style prairie fire (other than all the modern suburban structures in the way) that ended about 300 yards from his home in Oklahoma.

Still, the 60s were more innocent times—kids weren’t nearly so protected from dangers in their homes, but if my dad, a smoker, left out his lighter or matches, Scott couldn’t stay away from them. I remember countless times his tricycle (that says something about his age) got put up in punishment for his playing with fire. I even remember that once he and my mild-mannered cousin almost started a fire in my parents’ bedroom—otherwise they weren’t rebellious kids at all—does being a fire sign really make that much of a difference?

And legal firework season? That kid was in heaven. When we were really young we lived in a neighborhood surrounded by retired people while most of our school friends lived on farms. Scott really had a hard time amusing himself, except for when he had firecrackers. Yes, in the 60s grade-school-aged kids often used fireworks unsupervised. I remember him running around with a lit punk in his hand, lighting strings of firecrackers in various places in our yard and sidewalk. Nothing bad happened either.

But I could never even get beyond feeling scared of that moment when the tip on the matchstick ignited in flames.

Later we moved to a newer neighborhood, which on the prairie means there wouldn’t be good-sized trees for decades. One time warring pop bottle rockets started a small grass fire—once again, not that unusual for the 70s either.

If I’m really honest, I can tell you that all that fire safety information I learned in 5th grade scared me even more. I kept my door shut and felt to see if it was hot before I left my bedroom. A constant insomniac while I lived in that newer ranch-styled house on the prairie, I used to worry about flames licking through the house, trapping us all in our bedrooms where I would probably be the first to break through the screens because I had been waiting all those years for fire.

My asthma was misdiagnosed for years, so maybe all these weird childhood fears come down to the fact that fire is especially bad for people with underlying breathing problems. But at the end of the day, smoke and pollution (which all housing-related smoke is filled with due to all the chemicals in our building products and our possessions) are my biggest breathing triggers.

All these fires burning in my adopted state are pretty far from me, even if I can see the smoke and our air quality is affected slightly by them, depending on which direction the wind blows. But the pictures of what these people near the fires are experiencing are terrifying. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see my house flame up and disappear while knowing that if I don’t leave, I, too, will disappear. These fires are so intense right now that I doubt anyone has time to worry about how the scenery around them is changing for our lifetimes. Right now what’s happening is like something from a horror movie, only the smoke and flames are real, as are the fears, unlike in my past experiences.

The feeling when we visited Fort Collins earlier this month, with its orange sky and the falling ashes, seemed post-apocalyptic, but these scenes playing out on the west side of Colorado Springs seem apocalyptic with no “post” in sight.

And, then I have to think how my friend in the Woodland Park area asked others not to spread rumors and to stay calm and to work through all this together. My response, “And carry a towel?” (It’s true, though I can’t stay awake through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, my family has taught me enough of the catch phrases to remember the humor.)

Just because I have an irrational phobia and others have very rational phobias developed by what they are experiencing doesn’t mean it does anyone any good to panic.

In times like these, we do need to keep calm—as well as maintain our humor, help one another, and follow fire bans.

While I don’t think it will harm us any to carry a towel, especially a wet one, I think carrying prayers with us is an even better idea. So, don’t panic, carry a towel, and pray—without ceasing.

(Christian Science Monitor June 27, 2012 article link re: Waldo Canyon fire)

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert, Fort Collins, CO 06.17.12

Sitting in my darkened house with the swamp cooler running, I can almost convince myself that today is just another typical hot summer day. In my mind all I have to do is stay inside and avoid the heat—which is true in many ways for me, living in my suburb of metropolitan Denver.

However, while hot air awaits me outside, for many others there is little refuge from nearby flames. Latest reports show twelve* active fires burning throughout the state. After an incredibly dry winter and spring in Colorado, these first days of summer are showing no mercy either—rain may be our fervent desire, but so far she is playing more than hard to get.

Just as predicted earlier in the year as the snow pack failed to accumulate anything beyond historic low levels and then disappeared in record time, this summer of 2012 has set itself up to compare with the summer of 2002—you know, the summer when then-Governor Bill Owens was skewered for speaking honestly and declaring that “all of Colorado was burning.”

Boards of tourism and PR flacks aside, that’s exactly what the people of Colorado thought. Back then, my asthma was much less under control and I cringed to see the ashes falling. Those of us not affected by losing our homes and/or beautiful views were still pushed inside.

Here we go again—except during the last decade the pine-beetle epidemic has killed and/or sickened many trees in our forests, turning previously healthy trees into additional fuel for fires. And, drought conditions + pine-beetle kill=tinderboxes just waiting for wayward lightning strikes or human carelessness. (Click here to read an explanation on the connection between the pine beetles and the High Park fire in Larimer County.) Supposedly half the nation’s wildfire firefighters are here in Colorado.

I know this isn’t really about me and my asthma. Somewhere outside my cool walls, a lot of people have lost their homes while others’ homes remain in harm’s way. Others are risking their lives to protect homes and lives and livelihoods.

Pray that weather change comes to soak the lands—“monsoon season” can’t arrive soon enough.

* By the time I posted this in the afternoon, the number of active fires reported on 9News.com had been reduced to seven active fires–and that’s good news!

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I’m no scientist—I don’t even play one on TV. But writers and scientists often share in common the traits of constant observation and question-asking. We seek to understand better. And with access to the information on the Internet, I’ve gotten good at finding valid resources and understanding many basic aspects of science from a layman’s view. No, I don’t understand how things work on a cellular basis or get the chemistry behind what happens, but I do understand how to interpret much of what the experts are saying—and to know when the data do not support an airtight conclusion.

So often when bad things happen, people want to pinpoint the exact reason they happened. You know, you smoked cigarettes, thus you got lung cancer. Then if say you don’t smoke cigarettes, then you can smugly, but falsely, assume you will not get lung cancer. You can leave out all the other variables and make that unassailable conclusion—if only in your mind.

If I make my bed every day, my sheets won’t have dust mites. That person who eats junk food will most certainly get some awful disease from doing so. I put my kids in time-out and provide limits so they will always do as I want.

In other words, if I can check off all sorts of protective behaviors or avoid risky behaviors, then I will be safe.

And the people to whom bad things happen? Well, they did something wrong and got what they deserved.

Makes life so much easier if you think that playing by the rules means all goes well for you and that if things don’t work out for you, then it’s your own darn fault.

You know, my husband and kids have called me Safety Mom for years. I do believe in knowing the facts and not taking unnecessary risks, but I also understand about accidents—they do happen. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have responsibility for dealing with the aftermath from them. There are so many court cases that revolve around determining whether or not someone is at fault for an accident (through risky behavior) or if what happened, just happened.

Sometimes what happened did just happen, through nobody’s fault—especially if the prevailing science shows that there is no good way to determine how someone was exposed to something. But when the results are messy and painful, it’s so much easier to blame the victim—especially if his or her bad luck affects us.

However, back to that research thing. If you’re inclined to blame someone, maybe you should verify whether or not your blame has any scientific basis. You can choose to ignore the research that doesn’t suit your conclusion or your desire to keep your beliefs intact but that doesn’t mean someone else deserves what they got, especially if the science suggests other variables are involved.

Playing ostrich doesn’t change what’s happening or what needs to be done to resolve a situation.

Both scientists and journalists need to be careful not to make conclusions that cannot be supported by the data—and so does the general public, especially when doing so further harms people who are already dealing with trauma.

Christiana and Jackson–born on 6 08 1992

“It’s 6:08 and you hear, ‘Knock, knock. Ding, dong.’ The Birthday Monsters are in town!”

(First line from Sandra Boynton’s Birthday Monsters board book, as I remember it from over 19 years ago.)

This is just a quick note before I get back to what I’m really supposed to be doing: my kids turned 20 today! My kids turned 20 today!

I don’t know why but I felt like saying that as if I were Kermit the Frog while running around in crazy circles. Don’t worry, my voice has always been too low to sound like Kermit and my legs have never been that skinny! Still, do you get the picture? Scary, huh?

My son is sleeping still and my daughter hasn’t come back from college yet today, so I haven’t really done anything to celebrate with them—except post birthday pictures of them throughout the ages on Facebook.

Yes, we mothers do embarrassing things like that. It would be so much easier if they had been born during our digital camera days—I can only embarrass them so much when I first have to locate the physical pictures and then scan them. In fact, 1997 is conspicuously absent. You see, their scrapbooks stopped sometime during fall of their kindergarten year. And, although a few great photos made it into their scrapbooks, I can’t find anything else from their 5th birthday celebrations. Despite the fact I have sorted and placed labeled and dated photos into shoeboxes, the box dated from January 1997 until those celebrations is missing.

Oh well, as we learned at their preschool, you get what you get and don’t throw a fit.

This isn’t the deep post where I expound on the meaning of my being a mother for twenty years or even of what it means for my kids to turn twenty.

Nope, this is just my tribute to twenty years of birthdays (well, 19 plus the real “birth” day if you want to get technical.) Dang, they were cute kids, but they have also grown into people with whom I enjoy spending time.

Speaking of time, I’ve got editing work to do, and, as usual, I’m pushing the deadline on making a birthday cake. Thank goodness we’ve figured out how to reinstitute a longstanding tradition: dirt cake. Yes, now that we can make gluten-free dirt cake, I’m back to making a cake that doesn’t require pretty or perfect—and I can separate it into two containers for the twins, I mean for my kids, so, God forbid, they do not have to share a cake!

P.S. They’re not really monsters, but, from time to time, they may have shared certain characteristics with the monsters in Boynton’s book—who cleaned up the mess they made after all.

Ouch! Avoid ramming into this footboard, even if there is a dog sleeping on the floor.

Sometimes a bad thing happens and what’s good about it is that it pushes us in the direction of something even better. Other times a bad thing exposes something good that is already happening.

I’m happy to report that I recently experienced the second situation—and I’m ecstatic about the underlying proof that my back and hips are continuing to heal—just wish I didn’t have to hurt myself to prove that!

I don’t know about you, but if I get up in the night to go to the bathroom or check on a noise, I leave the lights off. Some nights I do have to negotiate around sleeping dogs, but our current dogs, Sam and Furgus, don’t move much. Well, last week, while trying to avoid stepping on Sam, I leapt over him onto the mattress—or so I thought.

What I really did was ram my inner thigh right into the sharp edge of the footboard before rolling onto the mattress. Not sure how Sherman managed to sleep through the cursing and groaning that followed, as well as the rolling around in agony.

Lesson learned—I need to slow down when I’m moving around half asleep in the dark.

But you know what? Before my healing began, I couldn’t walk (or leap) quickly wide awake in the bright sunshine, let alone half asleep in the dark. In fact, half the time I would get out of bed too fast and have to hang onto the wall before my back would let me move forward at all. So that huge multi-colored bruise on my thigh proves that I’m well enough to walk faster than I should, as well as leap—yes, leap! It’s a possibility I couldn’t have even gotten into our new taller bed when my injury was at its worst.

And while I’m kind of proud that I can walk and leap, I haven’t exactly worn this visible badge proudly. The truth is I’ve never seen a bruise this deep that didn’t come from something more traumatic such as a car accident or a fall that led to significant injuries. Wouldn’t you know I did this right before the start of the only exercise class I do where I have to expose the top of my thigh. Yup, deep water class started today.

While putting on my aquatic belt so I could take the first plunge of my summer into the pool, I couldn’t get anyone to focus on anything other than my bruise.

I kept saying, “I’m fine and it’s a good thing, really.”

Not that they believed me, but I do.

At least the fact I can move is a good thing, but I think I’ll save my recently returned superwoman speed for daylight from now on . . .

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert