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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Remember when we didn’t expect mass killings in public places? Seems so long ago anymore when we thought everyday living was fairly safe from random homicidal rampages. What’s up with our country? Why do so many people these days choose to use their brand of darkness to take the light from others?

I went to bed late last night, after talking too long with my daughter, who had gone away on a trip, but woke up extra early, nonetheless. And to find out what? That with great planning, some thug on the other side of our metropolitan area had chosen to use his theatrics to teach late night movie-goers what a dark night is in real life?

What is the purpose of that?

You know, I watched the TV when the Oklahoma City bombings happened and then a few years later when the Columbine shootings occurred. Somehow I felt I might understand if I watched and listened, but I never did.

Ever since then I have pretty much stuck to reading my news—hardly turned on the TV after 9/11, even though my 4th-grade-aged kids were forced to watch the news at school all that very long day.

Can’t watch anymore—I’m way too visual. The pictures get stuck in my head—I’ll never forget the dream I had a couple months after Columbine. My family and I got trapped together with a large group of other people as the killers meandered around deciding whom to kill and whom to spare. The killer pointed at me, a white heat spreading throughout my body, before walking off. I woke up in a sweat—could have sworn it was me under those tables in the Columbine library. The image still has power over me.

I don’t want to see the smiling photos, read the bios, smell the rotting flowers, etc. again—not because the people killed and wounded don’t matter, but because they matter too much. We all do.

I don’t know how to prevent these things anymore than the next person, but if we were all a little kinder in our dealings with others, might fewer people find it so easy to let their hatred fester into violence?

I like to think about that expression: Be kinder than necessary as everyone you meet is battling something.

Our world is too dark—who knows how to change it, except through one kindness at a time.


(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

In my 20s, I knew this woman who often dreamed about her teeth falling out—she swore that dreams of teeth falling out symbolized death. And, maybe she did have good reason to worry about her mortality since she’d survived a brain tumor while in college. Of course, in typical twenty-something fashion, she didn’t really do that much to take care of her health, so maybe her sleeping brain had to remind her to do so.

I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed my teeth were falling out—both my grandmothers lived over fifty years longer than their teeth did, so maybe losing teeth doesn’t equate with dying in my mind anyway. If I’m going to dream about my mortality, I dream about my mortality. Isn’t that more attention-getting anyway than dreaming about your teeth?

Last week I had one of those dreams where you wake up unsure that what happened was a dream until, thank goodness, you conclude that it was. On the bright side, my dreams don’t seem to be predictive. No, they serve better to give me that proverbial kick in the head and ask me if I’m paying attention.

Long story short, but in my dream I ran into an old friend who is quite intuitive, but in real life she’s a dental hygienist, not a healer, and definitely not a medical professional in a women’s healthcare practice. After hugging me and spending a few minutes with me, she told me I had a growth somewhere in those often fatal regions of the abdomen.

Well, I got mad. I mean, as much as I’d been whining about all the complications in my life, I wasn’t ready to give it up. Despite everything that can and does go wrong, Life is sweet—a gift I don’t want to waste. Then, I clearly decided I was in a dream and I wanted out of it—it was time to open my eyes.

Sure, after I opened my eyes and loved on seeing even the clutter that is mine, I still felt disturbed for awhile. Had to keep reminding myself I’m not at all psychic, despite the fact my husband Sherman always called my dad the Amazing Kreskin, due to Dad’s ability to predict some things that happened. I never thought Dad was psychic, either, just intuitive.

So what did I do about the dream? First of all, I already have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the end of the month, so just in case I’m not crazy, I’m covered, right?

But, otherwise it was just another wake-up call to get back to doing the things I want to do.

That very afternoon I wrote the introduction to a fiction story I’ve been talking about writing since earlier this year. Though I had done some background research and written down some thoughts about the character and the plot, I hadn’t written a single word on the actual story–until last week.

The next day I got an e-mail telling me about a ZUMBA training session I could attend. I mean, I think I’m healed, but why haven’t I gone back to memorizing routines so I can put together a full session so I am ready to substitute teach? Sunday, I went. Now I have several new songs in my repertoire.

And, yesterday, well, I organized spools of thread. (Can’t win them all, right? Although if I start doing more sewing projects, I’ll be glad I did . . .)

Geez, if I’m going to live and live well, maybe I better start flossing my teeth again! Mortality dreams or not, teeth do come in handy—and buying dental floss costs a lot less than buying dentures.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Why did the chicken stop in the middle of the road? Because after analyzing Points A and C, it felt Point B was a more reasonable destination choice, albeit one that involved dodging traffic non-stop.

Although living in the middle of the road is often mocked as “fuzzy-headed thinking” or somehow as not taking a stand, sometimes I believe the real way to rebel is to choose to stand in the middle of the road. It seems that many people with extreme views simply cannot understand that seeing both sides of a topic can also be taking a stand.

I’ve probably been in this part of the road most of my life—lucky I haven’t gotten hit! Of course, I think I haven’t gotten hit because I don’t often make a point of setting myself up to get hit. Well, today’s Friday the 13th—who knows what will happen, right? How about I talk about politics, religion, and family values?

Just yesterday I read an article in the Denver Post about a legislative race for a seat in a “purple” district. The article quoted both the incumbent Republican and the challenger, a Democrat. Read the whole darn article twice because neither candidate said anything that angered me. In fact, the incumbent stated that that district tended to prefer moderate votes and his record shows that he did not always vote along the party line. Shoot, I’d vote for both of them!

Now, I’ve always thought the way to anger just about everyone along the religious spectrum would be to have both a Christian fish and a Darwin symbol on my car—not that I’ve done that, of course. I like to keep all my tires slash-free. I love Jesus, but I really, really don’t like all the hatred done in his name. If we’re honest, almost all faithful Christians focus on certain verses in the Bible more than others but we don’t all agree on where to put the focus. I prefer to stick with the “love your neighbor as yourself” and the Golden Rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) angles for my focus, but boy is that hard in practice.

On another divisive topic, today my exclusively-breastfed baby (exclusively until she began eating solids) will be facing a nurse-in protest at her workplace. All I can say is I nursed twins—at parks, restaurants, parties, malls, swim beaches, rest areas, etc. when necessary—day-in and day-out. Thankfully no one ever asked me to stop nursing just because I was nursing. But on the other hand, I did feel I had some responsibility to keep some level of privacy to this very natural event. Of course, I had a right to feed my family as they needed to be fed without being relegated to a dingy bathroom or being hidden away from those who think breastfeeding is unnatural. However, that’s not the same thing as feeding my child in a kiddy pool and assuming that other people’s family members and children just need to get over their own unnatural response to seeing a woman’s breasts being used for what they are designed. See, I believe public breastfeeding should be about finding a middle ground, not one group’s rights trumping another group’s rights.

The chicken that doesn’t cross the road but stops in the middle of the road is liable to be a target for everyone else who crossed to either side. Nonetheless, every day citizens of democratic societies must dance with compromise— I still think it’s a dance worth joining even if most think compromise=weakness. Call it a “Stupid Chicken Dance” if you want, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that choosing to stand in the middle is chickening out of conflict.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

About a decade ago my local library sponsored a different kind of a book club: one where people talked about the different books they had read recently. After one woman described how much and why she hated one particular book, I knew I had to read it! (Yes, I was that kid who would get up to eat just one Lay’s Potato Chip just to prove that somebody could eat just one Lay’s Potato Chip. And, by the way, I really loved Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, just as expected.)

My husband Sherman and I read books aloud to each other at night—it’s a great way to spend time together—and have someone else keep you from staying up reading all night. Usually we take turns being the Sensible One in the matter. Thanks to reading together this way, we really do have our own little book club, although quite frankly, with the craziness of our own lives, we have been more attracted to formulaic mystery book series than ever before. These days we often don’t want to care about the person who is the Body in those stories that much, if you know what I mean.

You’re probably asking why I’m writing certain phrases in caps. I’m going to blame the most recent book we read—the one we just can’t stop discussing: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Turns out there are a lot of people out there on the Internet who can’t wait to tell you why they hate this book, which probably explains just why we couldn’t put it down, even now that we’ve finished it.

Now, maybe one of the things we like about the book is that the narrator seems to think in that oh-so-very-wordy way people who have ADD do. Let’s just say maybe we speak that language, if you know what I mean. Or, maybe, as Sherman suggested, it’s a lot easier to read that kind of language out loud versus silently. True, Sherman has a lot more trouble reading the long sentences than I do. I may be not only experienced but also gifted in Speaking ADD. That’s not bragging, is it? (I think I just admitted that the only reason I can follow this language pattern is because it is so familiar to me.)

The book runs over 500 pages so you know we didn’t get through it quickly, even if we were a wee bit obsessed with reading it. Lucky for us, after we’d been reading it for a couple weeks, we went on a close to 950 mile-round-trip road trip by ourselves. But reading it took longer than planned because we kept stopping and discussing the “what ifs” of the plot. We did not finish the story by the time we arrived home, but, since Sherman had taken off the day after we returned, we finished the book the next morning.

Now, of course, we both want to reread various sections and keep discussing possibilities.

Apparently the possibilities are one of the reasons many people hate this book—which is funny since at one point in the book one of the characters talks about how Americans despise ambiguity in their literature, preferring instead to tie up stories into neat little endings. Maybe it’s the English major in me and the computer science major who studied a lot of Philosophy in Sherman, but we don’t expect to know all the answers at the end of a story. In fact, maybe we like the chance to dig into the possibilities—trust me, I always preferred essay tests over multiple choice and/or True/False tests.

The final chapter really is a Final Exam, tying up the theme that began in the form of a syllabus with required reading. Some readers suggest the author is pretentious for sliding in erudite references throughout the story. They expected something different from a story with a narrator who is a gifted student attending Harvard and who was raised a little too closely by her professor father?

Hey, I enjoy many stories written for the masses, but when someone can throw literary references into tales with compelling plots, I am especially hooked. Believe it or not, but many of us continue to apply the lessons from college days to our everyday lives—heresy in these times when so many are suggesting students should only study practical degree programs such as engineering, science, and business—as if the liberal arts do not apply in any way to lifelong learning, especially in the work place.

And, if those critics read closely, they’ll see that though the narrator read constantly, her canon ranged from high brow tomes to books with numbers on them that she could find in any grocery store.

What she learned was that in so many ways Life is literature and vice versa.

Anyway, I remain intrigued by the book and am not quite ready to stop thinking about the imaginary people and happenings created within it—and the clues as to Who Really Done It and why.

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