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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert Planted by Woman.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert
Planted by Woman.

Where has May gone? Well, I’ll tell you, I have spent much of May outside—it’s so good to be able to get out again, although I’m not that excited about weeding, pruning, and mowing. Thank goodness I can listen to books and music to get me through the less exciting stuff—yeah, I know, not very mindful, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to write “Zen and the Art of Lawn Work” as a follow-up to my “Zen and the Art of Snow Blowing” post.

My new neighbors have rarely seen me outside without headphones or ear buds—sheesh, am I becoming that remote person who disconnects from the world by using technology?

For the most part I’m just trying to con myself into doing what I consider boring work—hard to believe I come from long lines of farmers. I first started listening to books to get myself through organizing papers and doing my physical therapy exercise, so outside work is just one more place to use that tool. Since I spend most of my daytime hours alone, I have lots of time to think deep thoughts to myself anyway—a few hours listening to someone else’s thoughts doesn’t really inhibit my ability to formulate my own. I’ve never been a person who puts on music or the TV just to have background noise.

Our neighborhood can be pretty quiet on week day mornings and early afternoons, so it’s not as if I usually need to block out noise, unless someone’s using equipment my ears can’t stand, such as chainsaws, jackhammers, or leaf blowers. Still, I was really glad I was listening to a book without much outside sound interference when I realized I could still hear someone shouting—turns out some guy was just pontificating at great volume on his patio half a block away! Imagine if I hadn’t already been enjoying my book—planting my annuals would have been a lot less pleasant.

I really can plant annuals without needing to distract myself, but not so sure I would have weeded so thoroughly without a little help. This past weekend, I realized it would be folly to mow the grass before removing the weeds—no need to disburse any more weed seeds by mowing off the tops. By the time my story on the library’s Playaway system had ended, I was only about half done. As tempted as I was to run to the library for another book, I switched to the iPod instead to listen to some of my favorite “chore” tunes.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert Planted by Nature.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert
Planted by Nature.

Maybe I didn’t hear my son calling my name again and again. So what if he gave up, right? The dog and I were having a great time dancing to “Brick House” while pulling weeds. How did he know what song it was, you ask? Apparently, while he couldn’t hear the professional music, he could hear me singing along—really badly, no doubt. Guess I should be glad it wasn’t the new neighbors calling my name, right?

New plants are all planted, seeds are in the ground, perennials and self-seedings are waking up, and fewer weeds sprout in our green-for-now yard—the effects of the drought beat back for a few more weeks by a spring of moisture.

Now I can take my laptop outside to write—in silence. Or walk, run, or hike without any headphones. I may not always be mindful in whatever I do, but for the most part, I do have a mind full of my own words and songs. No, there are many outside activities I do that never require the distraction of someone else’s story or music. That’s just part of the real magic of May and the warmer months to come.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Driving down the road this morning I thought, I’m not ready to return to this road. Oh the specific road and the weather conditions were not the same, but the task was. Sometimes an aged love one just hits a phase in life when it is always something and each time it’s hard to tell whether or not the something is really, really big or just limiting and/or painful.

Either way, it’s hard to watch strong people you love grow weak. And now an even harder part for me is to keep my past experiences with my mother from filling my heart with worry that may or may not be warranted. My job is to provide support and ask questions, not to freeze with fear in light of all sorts of imagined possibilities. Truly I need to remain in the moment—neither in the past nor the future.

I have my own physical limitations these days, which means I’m trying to plan my runs for the perfect time. My PT says not to run until I’ve been awake for two hours and yet I know that waiting for the heat of the day does me no favors. As I reached that two hour point and started to finish getting ready to leave, the phone rang with a change of plans. My chauffeuring skills were needed sooner than previously planned. Hadn’t showered, but at least I hadn’t added the sweat from a work-out yet.

Out of my running clothes and into something more suitable for a hospital, I jumped in the car. But as I drove off, my emotions fluctuated between mourning running in the cool morning breeze and realizing that this wasn’t really about me—someone’s life could hang in the balance and this trip was an opportunity to help him in a difficult time.

Gripping the steering wheel, I remembered just how hard it is to keep living your own life between each phone call and any actions those calls require you to take—and how aware you have to remain of the awesome responsibility of working with medical professionals when answers aren’t clear. You really can’t rely on the outsiders to care as much as you do, but at least this time there are many minds to help remember symptoms, actions, and possible questions to share with those outsiders.

I came home weary from the short trip, not because it took long or required much effort from me, but because of the uncertainty surrounding someone else’s pain. No run for me—I just wasn’t up to hitting the road in the heat of the day. But it’s not good to sit and stew—and so I danced—albeit inside in front of my fan. I got in my “me” time—a few hours to forget the past troubles and the worries of this day—after all.

And thank goodness the next call I received brought better news than expected. Whew, right? So back to the original plan—until the next phone call.

The walls in the hospital room we visited were covered with inspirational expressions which no matter how true, may not always bring comfort in the moment to those seated in that room. Still, I need to take whatever comfort I can from them—this is not about me or even about my mom or what we went through together. As the sign read: Every day is a gift. One phone call at a time. Now to remember that life is best lived in between those phone calls.

Starting to sound like a person who lives in the country—all I talk about is the weather. So what’s on our menu this week? Not snowy or rainy days—although afternoon thunderstorms are possible—but instead temperatures in the 80s. I am so confused by all this weather this month.

But, finally, I can bring home annuals! And I did—the first batch anyway.

As always, I started at the small, quiet nursery where I can look and think—without being run over every other minute. So the delivery truck was late and thus there were holes on the tables—that just helped me to think more creatively, right?

Every year I feel jealous of the woman who works there planting the containers—she gets to try out all sorts of different combinations in a variety of sizes. She doesn’t have to worry about whether or not she can afford the finished product because someone else can. I may only get to “play” with a few containers, but I would never give up the opportunity to paint my own summer dreams with the year’s pots and baskets.

I also have two built-in flagstone planters to fill in. Thanks to the imposing Colorado Blue Spruce and its shade out front, I’ve given up on experimentation with plants there. Impatiens, impatiens, and more impatiens are what work in that protected space. After painting our house bright colors, I felt a little stymied by palette options for the flowers. I’ve played it safe the last two years, but am mixing it up this year—won’t know how that works until the plants bloom into constant color.

Waiting for the rest of the story.

Waiting for the rest of the story.

The next question is: has the puppy/dog grown up enough to leave the back yard’s exposed bed alone? I’m tired of planting marigolds for their odor—I want choices! Think I’m going to risk it, but for that bed I’m going to have to venture out to the crazy, bustling large nursery where plants are tucked in every corner—and every corner might yield something I didn’t know I wanted.

After all, my “hanging” wall is one basket short of being empty. Who knows what colors might yet blaze against that white wall? Not me—yet.

Oh, it’s finally the season to dream again—and then to plunge my hands in the dirt and make those dreams come true.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I am not my mother—in so many ways. One major difference is that I do question all forms of authority—in this aspect I am the classic Baby Boomer. But when you come of age watching all sorts of experts and leaders fall, you know that everyone can’t know everything nor do everything right. Besides, we live in an era with access to so much more information that we can and should take responsibility for verifying that what we are told makes sense.

Mom loved to read and learn, but she had this maddening habit of reading one article, expert, or whatever and quoting that viewpoint for the rest of her days.

I’m no lawyer and didn’t study journalism, so I don’t always ask things three different ways or check out three different sources, but I do know you can’t just trust the first reference you find. Plus, sometimes new information becomes available or other information exists that isn’t widely known. I drive my husband crazy because I have this natural habit of continuing to ask questions—not to be ornery but because to get the true picture of a story, you sometimes have to know the back story and other associated facts.

For example, these days it’s easy to find checklists to try to discover whether or not someone has a certain health condition. But surely a diagnosis isn’t based solely on such general listings—if not we all end up thinking we have most conditions. Often a definitive diagnosis arrives from looking at the subtle information found between the lines of those listings.

And when medical personnel study in school, they must learn a staggering amount of information about a staggering amount of conditions. They can’t be experts in everything.

What we as patients are is experts in our bodies, our family traits, and our experiences. We start to see patterns and often become experts—most likely not in the biology and chemistry of the conditions we experience—but in the subtle indicators that are more personal to us. I am seldom wrong about strep in myself or the people in my home and I’m pretty good with pink eye, too—because this is our experience. And I think families such as ours who are afflicted with celiac disease often tend to know more about the subtleties of the condition than doctors who are not well-acquainted with the condition and whose medical school training happened before current protocol changes.

Medical personnel are frustrated that so many of us think we can know what’s going on based on our layman’s access to a variety of information coming from sources ranging from valid to those so invalid as to be dangerous. But that doesn’t mean our insights and questions aren’t worth considering in combination with the expert’s own knowledge.

I’m not so much of a rebel as to push back hard when I disagree with a practitioner, but I always bring up my questions and concerns in a respectful manner. In retrospect, sometimes I wonder how I could have pushed harder in certain situations. Just last month I received confirmation from a doctor my daughter was seeing for something I couldn’t get my mother’s doctor to recognize four years ago—would have liked to help Mom with that problem but no one would listen.

As patients we have to fill out copious pages listing familial connections—so often it feels as if no one reads them even though I believe most medical people believe they do matter. Maybe they don’t feel they have the time—was so glad when my daughter’s new specialist asked us about every connection listed.

When there don’t seem to be good, easy answers—the kind that would come easily if all our conditions fell into line with those checklists—then that’s when I think the professionals really ought to listen to family stories and the oddball personal information provided to them or even check into the quirky medical possibilities suggested to them.

Mom was the epitome of the hard-to-diagnose patient with her commingled conditions. Since many of my family members seem to specialize in being those people whose conditions fall into the gray areas of those checklists, we need medical authority figures who can tolerate a little questioning. Some of us don’t rebel against authority to cause trouble but to discover truth that may be hidden. Good leaders hear what team members say in order to arrive at the best possible outcome.

After all, I don’t think doctors like uncertainty any more than patients and their families do.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert Forsythia delayed by spring snows and cold.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert
Forsythia delayed by spring snows and cold.

You never know what to expect around here from year to year—especially in the spring. Last year we were about four weeks or more ahead of schedule—this year, we’re behind. I’d like to get excited about the fact the nurseries are holding sales to get rid of some of their inventory, but I’ve nowhere to put the flowers either!

This wet, cool weather does remind me, though, of May two years ago. I had such big plans for getting out and about with my new puppy and new rescue dog. And, got out I did because I didn’t want my house torn apart! But the reality didn’t quite match my dreams.

In my dreams my back didn’t get hurt driving to pick up that puppy and the initial weather back home was actually nice much of the time.

But in my reality, I still had a lot of fun with my two pups, even if it meant taking them out into the cold rain while wearing my mother’s hand-me-down chartreuse slicker and walking much slower and for shorter distances than planned. There would be other sunny days and runs ahead of us, right? And, how much could I plant anyway if a puppy might come around and dig up my handiwork?

At least that’s what I believed before I knew how long I would have to wait for sunshine and growth.

Funny how the cold rains remind me both of what I don’t want to remember and what I most definitely do want to remember. That stormy May stripped away my assumptions about what I could do and not do for my health and forced me to slow down and stay close to home. In the quiet days when I grieved my active lifestyle, I gathered my dogs around me and learned to be still—with them.

My heart, riddled from loss—expected and unexpected, had developed holes, small and large. The only way to begin to patch or fill those holes was to give in to the pet therapy offered to me, even if that also meant walking outside in all kinds of weather when I really just wanted to stay in and wallow in my pain.

All those planned hikes and runs melted into slow walks, even when the rains disappeared, throughout the summer, into the fall, winter, and even into the next spring. Healing had its own timetable, but through it all I had my dogs. When I finally began to run again—almost a year and a half later—in order to re-develop a healthy form, I had to start doing so without the dogs at my side, but still hope to include them one day soon.

This week, our dog Sam’s hiking backpack arrived for all our planned hikes. And I need to buy a new pair of running shoes—because mine are worn out from running, not just from walking the dogs. Plus, when the weather finally settles down enough for me to plant flowers, I’m not so worried about my now-grown dog Furgus eating them.

Right now, as afternoon stretches toward evening and though creeks are overflowing, the sun is out and drying up many paths—at least those away from flood plains. Turns out, there’s still time to run before the next storm. And if the dogs are lucky, the weather will hold long enough for their walk, too! So often, dreams have their own timetables, too.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert Wrong gauge--no hundredths!

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert
Wrong gauge–no hundredths!

Nothing says Nebraskan like a rain gauge and last year I was an ex-pat Nebraskan (in Colorado) without a rain gauge. My old gauge had broken and no store seemed to have any in stock—didn’t matter much because last year the rain hardly fell. Knowing that was pretty much all we needed to know.

Early last month, I found several gauges at the store, but didn’t put out the one I brought home. Rain gauges aren’t usually that fond of April snows (well, neither am I but at least the snows don’t break me!) With the most recent snowfall just a week ago, (yeah, I know—that was a May snow), I’d forgotten that now might really be the time to break out the rain gauge.

Never mind that some people around here have taken to putting out fake flowers—as if they’ve given up hope on spring. The grocery stores, usually loaded with plants, have no more than some bags of soil stacked outside and the occasional hanging pot—which can be whisked back inside. No doubt, there is no point in rushing to plant annual beds yet, but this morning the skies cracked open and the rains dropped hard and furious, along with pea-sized pellets of hail.

I remembered the rain gauge and—sometime after the hail stopped—ran out into the wet where I plunged it in the first open soil I found: in a pot filled with hen & chicks that had safely overwintered outdoors. Bring it, I thought!

You see, I am neither farmer nor a daughter of a farmer, but am the granddaughter of farmers. The towns in Nebraska are populated by many people who like my parents, left the farm, or like me, had parents who had left the farm. In a place where rain falls in “hundredths” of an inch and where dust once covered the lands, rain is most often a blessing. Yes, people stand around and compare how many hundredths of an inch they got, even if all they are doing is cultivating a bluegrass lawn.

I’ve lived in Colorado for over 28 years and not found many people here worried about hundredths of an inch, even though we have way more reasons (or is that fewer?) to count those hundredths since average rainfall here is much less than further east on the prairies. For many city and suburban dwellers without farming in their family backgrounds, they don’t seem to realize water comes not from faucets and spigots but from aquifers and rivers and streams—until drought restrictions are put in place as they are now, despite the seemingly endless but still too-little, too-late moisture we’ve had this spring, or until a developer is denied a permit.

Yes, it’s time Coloradans take a little more interest in knowing how much is falling from the sky, even if doing so doesn’t sound very sophisticated. With watering limited to twice a week, a little data might be helpful for planning. I got my rain gauge at the local Ace Hardware: the venerable A&A Trading Post.

And please, spare me the tales of how the water is all going downstream to Nebraska where they might need it to grow food. All of us from cities, suburbs, and towns—whether in Colorado or Nebraska or wherever—ought to be thinking more about how water affects the food supply and less about maintaining perfect lawns.

I’m not giving up turf, trees, or flowers—what we grow in our communities aids in producing cleaner air, keeping temperatures lower, and providing bees with pollen—but doing so with an eye on the numbers helps us to work with what we do have.

However, what I don’t have after all is the right rain gauge for the region. While checking my gauge’s numbers after this morning’s precipitation, I discovered the numbers do not break down into hundredths! Why bother? Good thing Ace is the place . . . for nerds of all kinds.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

When I was a young 20-something in the 80s, I worked with a couple older women—who were younger than I am now! However, they represented two different generations. One was 44—and graduated in the same year Peggy Sue did (in Peggy Sue Got Married), meaning she was born early during World War II and, thus, a member of the Silent Generation. The other was 36 and very much a post-war Baby Boomer.

Those two women couldn’t have been more different. The older woman was a conservative Christian who would rather have been home than at work, although her kids were mostly grown. The younger woman had come of age in southern California during the late 60s and had lived—and was still living—a chaotic life. Truth is, I enjoyed time with both women but for very different reasons. Even though I was the young one, eventually I found I had more in common with the older woman than the younger woman who I finally realized was never going to grow up. What had first appeared hip and exciting turned out to be out-of-control and totally lacking in grounded values. Yes, partying until 5:00 a.m. every weekend night may lead to a lot a sick days by the time you are 36.

The older woman seemed to feel it was her duty to act and look her age and that the younger woman was fooling herself by trying to pretend she was still young. And while I agree that she needed to act much more like her age responsibility-wise, I don’t think her looks were the problem. It’s not as if she ran around squeezed too tightly into too-short clothes. No, the older woman seriously thought “older” women should not have longer hair. And by longer hair, I mean hair that went a few inches past her shoulders.

Really? For the life of me, I can’t even figure out what the crime is in wearing your hair longer after 35—maybe that was a Silent Generation thought—after all I am, just barely, a (rebellious?) Baby Boomer. Since I’m way past 35 or 42 and still have longer hair, obviously I’m not abiding by those rules. Doesn’t it really matter how my hairstyle looks on me, not how old I am? (Shh—I’ll even wear white after Labor Day if the weather merits it! Rebel against arbitrary rules, I say.)

For awhile, I went to a hairdresser who, I swear, was trying to make me look old and fat. Despite telling her I wanted my hair longer (my round face isn’t flattered by short hair), she kept cutting it short—until I stopped going to see her. I think she must have believed in the “no long hair after 35” rule—for me, anyway.

This winter I achieved a new milestone—not only can I put my hair into a ponytail, but also I can put the ponytail high on my head and really keep the hair off my neck. That works so well for me because I spend a lot of time exercising: doing yoga, running, ZUMBA dancing, skiing, hiking, etc. And when I exercise, I sweat—not because I am an “old” woman but because I work out hard.

Quite frankly, I’m not going to let anyone tell me I’m too old to exercise, wear my hair long, or whatever if I still can. I didn’t need someone else telling me that staying out until 5:00 a.m. was a bad long term plan—I learned that on my own without first having to get fired for absenteeism. Age slows us down more than we’d like it to in the first place—why let someone else decide for us when we should slow down if it really doesn’t harm ourselves or other people, one way or another?

If wearing long hair makes me a rebel who won’t act her age, then so be it. How about I just keep the ponytail but stay away from wearing spandex shorts and cropped tops and singing “I Whip My Hair Back and Forth”? Deal? I thought so . . .

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert