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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

What a year or two (or more) we’ve had. Children and moviegoers, as well as public servants such as teachers, first responders, and political representatives, have been made into targets by mentally ill, criminal, and/or just plain evil people.

As a society we want to talk about guns, mental illness, and lack of religion or good family structures. While all those factors are pieces of the puzzle, might we be missing something much simpler?

Are we living in that “kinder, gentler world” that George H. W. Bush wanted to promote? Do we even value the goal of a kinder, gentler world?

Is it very interesting to watch people acting in kind ways on reality shows? Do we want political officials to compromise—or would we rather they win for “our” side? What about how we treat the service people in retail establishments?

What if we, the average citizens, just take a pledge to respond in kindness as much as possible? What if we let others in front of us on the highway, thank the clerk after sales transactions, express our valid complaints with politeness, etc.?

The concepts of random acts of kindness and “paying it forward” help even more, but first we need to return to being kind in situations where kindness should be expected.

Does kindness cure mental illness or criminal intent?

Not likely—and yet, might some people’s homicidal desires be softened by receiving a lifetime of kindness?

And though I still can’t find a definitive source for one of my favorite quotes, I believe the more of us who follow its advice, the fewer random acts of unkindness we’ll experience:

Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

While the public arena struggles with overarching policy changes, realize that being kind does not require us to agree on or rewrite laws nor does it rest upon any funding sources.

From this day forward, simply go forth and be kind.

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(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Ever wonder what happened to my doggie dancing with Furgus? Well, it went from focused to spontaneous when our family had some other obligations. Poor Furgus! He loves dancing so much so that every time I turn on rollicking music he starts leaping at me—which would be really bad form in competitions.

Once you fall off the horse it’s really hard to get back on—OK, I didn’t fall off anything and Furgus isn’t big enough to ride so that expression makes little sense—sorry! What really happened is I stopped cutting up doggie treats and making time to practice.

Now, I, at least, have to relearn some of this stuff—maybe if I treat myself to some chocolate, I’ll be inspired to get us back out more regularly on the dance floor that is our living room rug. Good thing I really did file all the class papers in a notebook—and I even know where it is.

So though I kept saying I was going to start again, I never did—until my neighbor came over to tell me that someone’s fanatical barking at squirrels was waking her toddler. And how do you get an energetic young dog to calm down? You give him something better to do that, with any luck, will also tire him out.

The great thing about doggie dancing is that it is a very efficient way to use up a dog’s energy. The dog has to apply both his body and brain in order to dance. A person can wear out a dog by dancing with him for only ten to fifteen minutes while the dog’s going to need 45 minutes or more of walking to reach a similar level of exhaustion. Given my dog’s still less-than-stellar walking-on-a-leash skills, especially when I am alone and have to walk him and Sam myself, I like the dancing a lot more.

Truth is I enjoy the dancing more anyway. This guy is smooth with his moves. As our teacher said, his tri-colored English springer spaniel coloring—with the white chest and mostly black coat—just makes him look as if he’s formally dressed and ready to glide across some ballroom floor. When Furgus and I practice when Sam is otherwise occupied, he is calm and focused.

I love Sam, but when we’re dancing he reminds me of the George Balanchine quote: I don’t want people who want to dance. I want people who “have” to dance. He wants to dance, but he’d be just as happy doing something else to earn his treats. He is more of an athlete—the kind of guy more attuned to the leaping and maneuvering of agility activities than dancing gracefully.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Don’t worry—I get that my dogs aren’t people. However, Furgus has always been that dog who “has” to dance. Wouldn’t I rather he be the dog dancing than the one barking at squirrels, even if those squirrels are why Furgus developed his ability to stand for so long on his back legs?

At this time I have no idea if we will pursue canine freestyle dancing in a competitive setting—after all I have not been disciplined enough practicing obedience training with him so that he is well-behaved enough to compete. If we’re going to get better at this, we’re going to have to leave Sam out of most of our dance sessions and let someone else in the family give Sam his focused play time.

One way or another Furgus and I must continue our return to dancing together because we both “have” to dance—and dancing allows us to be good to our neighbors at the same time. And that’s a win-win situation even if our dancing never wins us a thing.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Here we are again in the Advent season (the December days leading up to Christmas), waiting for the Light to come into this world. I’m busy trying to take my time about jumping into the Christmas season. If you look around my house, you will know I have succeeded here!

Due to a lifelong focus on celebrating Advent, I rarely decorate for Christmas this early. What a difference there is in a year, though. I would say there is more hope in our home this December, even though it would be hard to see it if you were expecting this home to be decorated for Christmas by now.

The most obvious change in the house since last year is that my parents’ remaining items (the ones about which I have not yet made decisions regarding their fates) are not making a limbo of the living spaces, but are relegated to storage areas. Any disorganization in the living room comes from our everyday present life: laundry to fold or books being read or toys pulled out by dogs. The new window blinds regularly allow the sun to shine in, leading the way to the dawning of a new era here. You see, it’s not so dark in here anymore these days as we wait for the Light.

Sunday in church we once more heard the words about making the crooked straight and I thought, “That’s about me!” I mean, my body is now more straight than crooked. Last year I needed to approach Sunday morning church choir activities as if they were athletic events. I had to do warm-up exercises first thing at home if I wanted to survive all the standing, sitting, and walking required for singing in choir. And no matter what, I came home exhausted and in pain.

No, now I can sit and stand as expected, not needing to fidget in search of a better position or not having to do subtle exercises to make it through services.

I can also see more clearly how the seemingly-crooked paths my children have taken are straighter than they appear on the surface.

Even my mother who comes in my nighttime dreams is more often the mother I knew than the one lost in the darkness of her last years.

Maybe making straight my crooked body has let in enough sunshine to make straight the crooked ways of my heart and mind, too. At the same time, I understand better that sometimes you just have to believe you’ll make it through the darkness—and do what you can to wait patiently for the Light.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I don’t know why, but I am always ready to work out hard in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not even a conscious decision to do so to avoid holiday weight gain, although this year the yoga instructor asked our classes if we wanted to try to lose five pounds during this period and most of us said, “yes”—that is until we encountered her higher energy level classes. Ah well, we’re stuck with them for now, right?

But, actually there’s something peaceful about exercising in December before the new people show up who made some sort of resolution—and who may or may not come back in February. The classes now are full of people who really choose to be there, for whatever reason.

I also like having a really good outlet for any holiday stress or tension. Better to sweat off my frustration than to make other people sweat because I am so cranky!

After one Pilates and one ZUMBA class, two yoga classes, as well as three baby-step runs since Sunday, I’m just a little exhausted. Only halfway through this week, I’m looking forward to getting some good sleep tonight. (Guess who’s getting older??!!)

I’m going to blame some of that fatigue on trying to get my lungs up-to-speed for running. Darn, how their lack of aerobic fitness is holding me back! And all these long months without any hill-running are showing up on my mandatory neighborhood hill climb (yes, I can change my routes, but unless I want to cross busy Broadway, any other way I cut it, I have to run downhill first and finish coming uphill).

Over the years, every time I return to running, I am reminded that running is so much more fun once you are in shape for it! Am I having fun yet? Well, intellectually I’m pretty excited about getting back out there. In fact, with these incredibly-warm-for-the-season days, I practically itch to get outside and use those running shoes. Now for my fitness level to grow to match my enthusiasm . . .

Which, if I keep lacing up those shoes, will happen. I can still report that none of my old, chronic aches and pains has returned with my return to the roads. And, if the weather finally becomes true-to-the-season, my rec card is even loaded up to allow me easy access to the (not-so-great) indoor running track.

This season ‘tis my season to hit exercise hard—and unlike last year at this time—the only protest I’m getting is from my energy level. So I’ll try to increase my energy level with some protein—and, I’m just going to admit—with a little holiday chocolate.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert