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Dick Lange reading to Scott & Trina Lange, approx. 1966

Dick Lange reading to Scott & Trina Lange, approx. 1966

I’m the kind of reader who often just grabs books from the shelves at the library—mostly based on the covers, of course—instead of reading reviews or searching for books I might like. Maybe it’s actually the English major in me who had to read whatever the professors required, but it’s not the best technique. Do I really want to read another Moby Dick or a Tom Jones for fun?

More often the books that most disappoint have much fewer redeeming qualities than those classics. What I really hate is a book where I can’t bring myself to care about a single character and/or where the ending provides not even the slightest glimmer of hope. Although I’m not looking for unflawed characters or the sappiest of happy endings, I don’t need hopelessness either. If I want to find tales of doom and gloom, I can just look around the larger world or even my own personal realm and not waste my time reading.

The local library here in Englewood has started a program that just might save me from myself—or at least from my random reading habits. Good Books, Your Books provides readers with a personal advisor (from the library staff) who recommends books based upon a reader’s answers to survey questions and personal follow-up questions.

So far my advisor, Children’s Librarian Hillary Cole Davis, has been spot on with her recommendations for me. She’s found the right mix of serious and not-so-serious reads for me. I can handle a little murder, mayhem, abuse, and/or estrangement, as long as growth follows. On the other hand, I also like to intersperse the deeper reads with something a little formulaic and humorous—as long as I still need to bring my intellect along for the reading ride.

Stretching from the modern-day disparate locales of Wyoming and the English countryside to turn-of-the 20th century rural New York State to the divided England of the Wars of the Roses, the settings of my reads have been just as diverse as before but the stories are more suited to my tastes.

Our public libraries are fighting to stay relevant in an age filled with access to overwhelming amounts of information—and they succeed best when they help us to filter out the excess noise and find not only what we were looking for in the first place, but also a few surprising discoveries along the way.

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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Where did this month go? Well, once we heard my brother Scott and his wife Lori were coming to visit with their four grandchildren—all boys, aged six and under!—we had to get in gear to have a house that would be safe enough for the youngest two who were not quite two and half years and 15 months. The first challenge was dealing with our non-stop messes of dog hair, dirt, and mud, especially in this in-between weather season.

But beyond that we had to think more about real hazards. It’s one thing to have to re-develop those eyes in the back of the head for watching a puppy—it’s entirely another thing when the stakes are so high because you are dealing with little people who also put everything in their mouths. At least we already had gates thanks to the dogs and their muddy paws.

Seriously, although we had twins, at least we weren’t outnumbered by our children when we were together. Dealing with four boys is nonstop chaos. We had all these ideas for getting out of the house, but had forgotten how much work it is just to get out of the house! Thank goodness I had saved the blocks and the Brio train set—although it would have been a good idea to have cleaned the pieces before I had all the “free” help beside me launching the pieces into the bathtub and the surrounding areas. And then there was Jackson to help by playing with the older boys with Nerf guns and the game systems and Christiana to do some artwork with them.

Thankfully only the youngest got sick—pink eye and a double ear infection. When the medications kicked in, he forgot his troubles and got happy once more. With vigorous hand washing and sterilizing, we all stayed healthy and thus happier too.

So glad our winter weather stayed away until after they left. Not only did they have safe travels, but we also had the great outdoors, as in visiting Red Rocks Amphitheatre, or the minor outdoors, as in the local playground, for running off a lot of energy. There is no way our modest 1940s house was up to containing five adults, four kids, and two dogs all day and all night.

Furgus loved the kids way more than they loved him—you can only take so many wet willies, you know? However, he didn’t care what they did to him—he just loved the attention. On the other hand, due to Sam’s unknown shady past, he stayed in his crate or played outdoors with Furgus, coming out to socialize freely only after everyone born in this millennium had fallen asleep.

We adults also snuck off—women on one day and men on another—to get incredible Chinese foot and body reflexology massages at Ying’s Hairstyles here in Englewood. Too bad Scott and Lori can’t get those every week for dealing with the challenges of caring for all that energy—the energy the boys require of them and the energy the boys have day in and day out!

Yes, the visit required a lot of energy from those of us who aren’t used to dealing with little ones every day, but the children also brought a lot of joyful, youthful energy into our normally quiet home.

And when the whirlwind of their energy and activity left our home, we took off with our own family on our own high-energy adventure to ski at Copper Mountain for a couple days. Thanks especially to all the gorgeous snow that dumped on the slopes while we were there, skiing required even more of our energy than usual.

Even home again, the activities kept up as Sherman and Christiana had to plow the snow that dumped in Denver and she and her boyfriend finished their spring break here with us. By the time she and her friends left to return to school, we were exhausted.

Between all the young kids and older kids here over the last week or so, I’d lost a lot of my own energy. So yesterday I focused on recharging my batteries with a hot bath, a good book, some yoga and ZUMBA, and a good night’s sleep. Which means I’m ready to run—literally—just as soon I finish writing this and just as the sun has warmed up enough to melt last night’s ice from my paths.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

The computer has not crashed yet, so we didn’t take it down after all. In fact, it took a break from ominous messages. So after I met with the accountant, I was able to prepare the FAFSA forms for this year. Then I continued by finishing my March bill-paying. I know—I have all the fun, right? Well, the ominous messages are back so maybe we’ll take down the system for Unplugged Day or whatever this is supposed to be. I call it a good excuse to go skiing and try to shake off all those unfriendly numbers I’ve spent time with this past week.

Speaking of numbers, though, I have made some peace with my heart rate monitor as far as the running goes. Yes, I let the watch tell me how often and how hard to run over the last four weeks. Though I never quite met its expectations, I did change my approach. Plus, I looked around for other interpretations of what my running heart rate should be that might better suit my own expectations.

The standard that sounds most fun I haven’t had time to do: aiming for the heart rate that allows me to hold a conversation with someone while running for 30 minutes. I might be crazy, but I didn’t really want to be known as that crazy woman who mutters to herself the whole time she is running!

Another option I discovered didn’t hold with using the 220 minus my age and then keeping me at a low percentage of my maximum. Instead the goal is to aim for 180 minus my age—which puts me right where I tend to run—well, after this past month of retraining myself.

Previously I would have considered even that heart rate too low, but now I see the value in not stressing my body too quickly. I’m still hopeful that I will return to my previous pace but while maintaining a more reasonable heart rate. After all, I thought I would just die going as slowly as that watch said I should, but now my own heart rate is what is telling me I can go faster. In other words, I can run faster while achieving the same heart rate that just last month I could only maintain by trudging.

I still don’t know how exercise-induced asthma affects heart rates in general or mine in particular. I have no idea if I will ever be able to run up a hill without breathing heavier (and my heart beating faster) than someone who does not have asthma.

Also, I don’t know if I can get myself to dance in ZUMBA at a rate that would make my monitor happy. All I know is that while I can slow myself down for running, I don’t even want to dance if I have to cut back as much as it recommends.

Which may mean that, though I am working at a higher level than most everyone in the class, I am not likely going to lose much weight in ZUMBA. Now that’s just crazy! I guess I’m going to have to look to running more for burning those calories than to ZUMBA.

Perhaps the running will eventually prepare my heart better for all that jumping and spinning. Or not.

Numbers are not all that life is about—having something you love goes a long way toward reducing the strain your heart experiences when dealing with disk space, taxes, bills, and all the other can’t-avoid-them numbers in your life. Sometimes you know something is good for your heart simply because you love it—now that’s heart-healthy in and of itself.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert