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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Last night my husband, daughter, and I were doing some silly “What Harry Potter character are you?” quiz. One of the questions is about what would you see in the Mirror of Erised—the magical mirror where each person saw his or her own dreams come true. My daughter pointed out what was missing: seeing yourself healthy. No doubt the quiz is aimed at young people, so that’s not such an obvious wish for many who are youthful. And yet it is my daughter’s most fervent wish.

Boy do I understand that wish. Two years ago that really was my own Mirror of Erised—and though I am not completely pain-free, I am back to doing the activities I choose to do, even if I don’t do them at my previous level and even if it seems I will never again wake-up to a physical therapy exercise-free day again—except for when I slack on my daily routines.

My father-in-law must also understand that wish. At eighty-five he’ll never be the picture of health he once was, but no doubt he never again wants to repeat this year of drug-resistant infection travails.

The thing is, my father-in-law and I are old enough to know that health is not a given—and to have some dues to pay for the long lives we’ve lived.

But my daughter is surrounded by peers who seem—and most often are—bullet-proof. They eat poorly, sleep erratically, and often ingest things—legal and otherwise—that are no good for their bodies. For many, they not only don’t get the health they deserve—they get much better than they deserve. They often take good health for granted, as I did except for my bouts of low immunity post-mono and some knee pains that went away with improved running form.

When you’re physically strong and full of energy, sometimes it’s hard to believe the stories of those who lack the vitality to keep up with your lifestyle. Though I never harassed my own “low vitality” friend, I’m pretty sure I never gave her the empathy she needed and deserved.

Now my daughter is that person. It breaks my heart that she has to live with unresolved pain and low energy, plus it breaks my heart that some blame her for her condition, even while living lifestyles that should be more detrimental to their health than how she lives. Sometimes we get way less good health than we deserve.

My daughter has had poor health long enough—you better believe that a big part of my Mirror of Erised now is that she be healthy—or at least healthy enough to enjoy what’s supposed to be the energy of youth. One of my most fervent wishes for the upcoming year of 2014 is that she, along with the help of medical professionals and those who love her, discovers how to regain her health.

When it comes to health, you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone—or at least temporarily compromised.

Here’s wishing you and yours good and/or improved of health in the new year—may you always remember to feel gratitude for the blessing that good health is and compassion for those for whom it yet remains their greatest desire.

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Keep hoping to run out of rants about our medical and/or insurance experiences, but apparently will have to save that goal for 2014—ha, ha. (That’s a gallows laugh for those of you who might have presumed I meant that at all lightheartedly.)

Late Friday night I kept asking myself, “How did this happen?”

One minute we’re having what we hope is a routine appointment for abdominal pain at the doctor’s office on a Friday afternoon at 1:30 and the next we’re on what seems like some sort of an odyssey—that wasn’t supposed to have nearly so many confrontations with all those mythical monsters of old, you know: insurances snafus, appointment scheduling problems, rude ER doctors, and the familiar vague diagnosis.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been thrown into what could be an emergency appendectomy, but just turns out to be a lot of trauma and money for little information and little relief. Lucky for my daughter, this was her second such experience in ten years. We were all sitting there with her going, “Wait. Haven’t we been here before?” The only thing we can say that has improved was that she no longer had to drink some horrible contrast fluid for the non-diagnosis—this time she got it by IV. And for everyone who wants to blame any of this on recent changes in health care, the only major difference from 2004 is that then we had co-pays and now we have (high) deductibles—which we have had since before the outcome of the 2008 presidential election was decided.

Last time, however, the pain really did start on a weekend and require emergency care.

This time—not so much—which is especially infuriating in this era of much, much higher costs.

This time what was supposed to happen was she would get the preliminary bloodwork done (which she did) on her way home to wait for a call from radiology for information on a daytime appointment. What we didn’t expect was a phone call from the doctor’s office saying she didn’t show up covered on our insurance plan so they couldn’t get authorization. Never mind that she’s been on this particular insurance plan since July 2010 when my husband’s employer changed insurers and that she has had claims paid in this current plan year that began in July 2013. Never mind that my access into the subscriber information showed nothing amiss.

Now it became our responsibility to talk with the insurance company. First I had to attempt to bypass the phone tree gatekeeper, though. Seriously, how could I tell the computer what I was calling about in a short statement? Current subscriber denied improperly? Is that really in the artificial intelligence settings?

After my call got through to a representative—who said I was the second caller she’d had that day with a similar complaint but stated my daughter was indeed active in their records—I had to call the doctor’s office with the information from the insurance company on how they should call the insurance company. Got that? But first I had to fight to get through the doctor’s phone gatekeeper to prove that I was indeed returning an urgent call from the medical assistant.

You know what the assistant told me when he called back? Yes, she does have insurance, and, no, she didn’t need authorization in the first place.

At that point the radiology company searched all its locations and found that none would stay open long enough to get the contrast into our daughter in time for a CT scan. They could see her on Monday—except the doctor was afraid our daughter’s appendix might be ready to rupture.

Our daughter begged us not to spend the money and effort on the ER and wait for Monday. She is tired of expensive diagnoses and had little faith that this journey would be worth the urgency.

These are those health care moments where the system lets you take all the risks—your money or your life sort of decisions.

It would have been so much better if anyone had listened to us when we described why we were at the ER. No, she was not self-reporting as the paperwork says. She was there because the clock ran out on Friday afternoon—through no fault of anyone in our family. The doctor said she needed that CT scan because of where she felt the pain and how long it had been there.

The only people who really listened in that place were the nurse who brought us to the room and the admissions/financial representative who knew just how much we were going to pay for the initial snafus, even if our daughter did need an appendectomy. In fact, they were the only people who could read her name correctly.

Four-and-a-half hours later, the ER doctor pronounced her with a temporary medical condition—yes, the one listed on her paperwork from 2004—and then left us with paperwork that diagnosed her only with unspecified abdominal pain, mentioning nothing of the term he must have flung out hoping we would not remember. He wouldn’t address why something that’s supposed to last a week would still be ongoing after at least four weeks. The patient in number 19 was not an emergency appendectomy, but simply chronic, unresolved pain. Take some Tylenol and call your doctor on Monday.

Haven’t we been here before? Only this time, this particular odyssey is going to cost so much more. Let’s start with the fact that an authorization wasn’t even required even though she was insured all along and then continue with the fact that an ER is no place for someone whose condition may indeed be chronic. I don’t blame the doctor for erring on the side of caution, but I do blame the confederacy of dunces that followed—and, yet, is there any recourse for us? We could have gotten the same results at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon without all the drama and extra expense.

Somehow I don’t think we should be the only people this Monday asking, “How did this happen?”

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Today my father-in-law Duane finished the last of his fourth round of infusion therapy. Last night he figured it up and realized that today’s treatment made number 288—to say it’s been a long year is an understatement.

And if his need for a walker didn’t get in the way, I think he might have been dancing around as the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge does in all those movies based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol—OK, maybe that’s not quite his style but he showed obvious relief and gratitude while walking out of that hospital this morning. He was also getting fairly liberal with his “Merry Christmases” to everyone he saw.

Why believe this time he’ll be cured of his major drug-resistant infection? Because not only has a surgery removed a major obstacle for medication access, but a follow-up surgery has reduced pain in the original site as well as provided an opportunity to see in close detail how the infected area has healed. The most recent round of infusion therapy was really prescribed as a deterrent for any new infection that might occur because of the second surgery. Plus, he just looks and acts better all around, so much so that his infectious disease doctor pronounced that she had never seen him looking this good.

With infection no longer raging through his system, Duane does not seem nearly so old. He was sick (or more properly, his body has been under assault) but not necessarily in a state of inevitable decline. With the absence of constant infection and the reduction in pain, his thinking has been clear and focused. For the last few weeks, he’s been talking about trends within the family-run business and trying to figure out how to get a computer at home so he can do some work from his own four walls for now.

This long, long year of treatment after treatment is coming to a close with only a final follow-up with the spinal surgeon remaining, as well as a final follow-up with the infectious disease doctor in the new year—a new year that now promises a return to better health as well as a chance to return to contributing once more to the family business.

There are no guarantees, but my gut feeling is that his body really is healing—he really does get another chance at living well. While it might not yet be Christmas, it sure feels like it.

Forgive me, if I return to the aforementioned Ebenezer Scrooge, not because Duane was a stingy man of business, but because he has been a man of business whose body has played stingy with him and now he, like Scrooge, gets a bit of a do-over.

No, he didn’t say, “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!” (Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1994. p. 106.) However, he didn’t miss a chance to tell people his news or thank those who had helped him.

After a year like this past one, it’s a whole lot easier to understand what makes a Christmas merry and a new year happy. Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Sometimes life is too serious—which calls for one of those rants that reveals all too much of about the ranter. And given that people love to have gatherings around the holidays, this is just the time for talking about one of my not-that-important pet peeves: when people want to organize potlucks.

No—potlucks are not supposed to be organized. And it’s not just me that says so.

potluck or pot luck adv phr: Come on and dine pot luck modifier : pot-luck supper n phr A meal composed of odds and ends of leftovers, or of whatever turns up (1600+)

Kipfer, Barbara Ann., Ph.D., and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D., eds. Dictionary of American Slang. 4th ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Come on, live a little! So what if you get too many desserts or salads or whatever. A potluck isn’t about telling people what to bring or knowing exactly who is bringing what. You know what it is about? Everyone coming together to share whatever they brought.

Believe it or not, it’s not really about the food. That may seem like heresy to people who love to load up their plates, but, in my mind, what really matters is the fellowship with other people. Sure, I am not a “foodie” who really cares about the variety, but I think the culture of a potluck is more about getting together with others while casually sharing food than sharing food while getting together with others.

That may not sound like such a distinction, but it is to me as someone who is not that comfortable in the kitchen. I don’t want to be so stressed about preparing for a potluck that I forget to get excited about the people who will be eating the food with me. And I especially don’t want to be told exactly what I’m supposed to bring—can I tell you how often the Ls are supposed to bring salads—which is about as far from my area of expertise as I can get. Ask me for a salad, and I’ll likely bring you a bagged salad or a relish plate from the grocery store.

What I want to bring is the same thing every time—that way I know what I’m doing and I know what I bring you is going to be good. You see, practice really does make perfect. By now, not only do people expect me to bring my chile relleno casserole, but also, they always make sure that mine is one of the first dishes to run out. You get to eat something I make well and I get to focus more on people than logistics.

Am I in a rut? Oh yes, I am. Do I really care? No. Don’t worry, I still take risks in other areas of my life—you know, like not knowing exactly how many desserts, salads, and main dishes will be at a potluck.

My favorite risky potluck happened when my book club chose red foods as the dinner theme for discussing The Red Tent. Not sure we got to sample all the food groups that night, but that watermelon certainly did go well with the red wine. Don’t even know what all we discussed that night but what I do remember is the high energy and joyful mood surrounding that particular get-together. We were really living right that night, spending time with our good friends while eating whatever turned up.

Coming together to dine really is what a potluck is all about.

P.S. I’ll just ignore that I’ve just admitted that my own potluck contribution is anything but a surprise despite my saying potlucks should be all about surprise. I guess you can know exactly what this particular who is bringing after all.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

You go to the river path to get away from it all—but you never can really get away from it all, can you?

While running today I wrote a different blog post than this one in my head—in fact I had so much to say that I spent my cool-down walk writing notes into my phone. But that post will have to wait.

Last week the snow fell, with the bitter winds and below zero temperatures making sure the running paths remained quite treacherous. Such a contrast, this week’s warm-up has been such a blessing, even if my neighborhood sidewalks still sport more ice than feels safe for pounding the pavement. That’s why I sought out the river path a couple days this week.

Tuesday, I almost had the still snowy path to myself, but today many runners, walkers, and cyclists took to the much drier trail. Though snow still covered much of the open spaces, blue skies, mild temperatures, and a light breeze teased away most thoughts of cold. This is the Colorado we outdoor enthusiasts love: one where extreme winter weather is soon forgotten and replaced by temperatures that even Goldilocks would like. Yes, today was not too cold and not too hot, but just right.

Just right, that is, until another runner’s voice broke through my mellow post-run thoughts. He was shouting into his phone, “What happened? What happened?” The continued urgency in his voice concerned me—I hoped that nothing major had happened in his world. Yet as he talked on, asking about police cars and lockdowns, I got that feeling in my gut—you know that not again feeling?—that was followed by a distant rash of sirens that wailed above the everyday sounds.

The man had walked to his car as he talked, but once he finished the call, he turned back—as if he couldn’t be silent—or alone.

“There’s been a shooting at Arapahoe High School,” he said before telling me what little else he knew.

We both looked to the east. My mind, at least, was following those emergency vehicles to their destination and, to what this time? I just shook my head and said, “Our kids shouldn’t have to live like this.”

Like the strangers we were, we both went back to our own cars, before driving off to our own lives, our own neighborhoods, our own families. I ran through the names and faces in my head of people whose children might be at that school and I prayed. I prayed for the kids and the teachers and those rushing to help.

But don’t kid yourself—we are all Columbine (High School). This isn’t about Colorado or Connecticut or wherever the next school shooting happens. This is about all of us and the society and times in which we live. Pray for us all—how did school shootings get to be so ordinary? Or at least, when did it start to seem less than extraordinary when yet another school shooting shattered what had started out as an ordinary day?

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

We all have our holiday traditions—some we know we’ll never stop and some that just end once our world has shifted in such a way that we know it will never be the same.

Once upon a time I was a young single person, striking out on my own in Colorado, while longing for my old Christmas traditions back with my family in Nebraska. That first year away, I asked to take one unpaid day so I could go home. The boss didn’t think it would look right if someone else had to answer the phones. Instead I came to work on Christmas Eve where—I am not kidding—people drank and we listened to current popular tunes, such as Madonna’s Like a Virgin album. Welcome to the real world.

I regret that Christmas Eve even more because a few days later my phone rang early on Saturday morning.

My dad choked out, “Jenne’s dead. She was killed in a car accident last night.” Jenne? But I had just been dreaming of her.

I didn’t care if the boss thought it wouldn’t “look right”—I wasn’t going to work New Year’s Eve, too, and miss Jenne’s funeral. Jenne, a freshman in college, was our neighbors’ daughter. She was the closest to a sister that I had. Our families spent Christmas Days together, but I had missed her last Christmas . . . because I had to work so people could drink and listen to Madonna?

The next Christmas I did make it home to be with my family. But our celebrations with our neighbors were done. The family Christmas tree was too much of a reminder of the way the house looked the night Jenne didn’t come home—from that time forward, her parents no longer put up a tree and made sure to be away from their own house, surrounded—and eventually learning to celebrate again—within much larger groups of relatives.

A few years later, I married Sherman and we began a new tradition of my parents’ coming to visit us at Christmas most years, especially once our children were born. That way we could celebrate with my parents and then bring them along as Sherman’s family all gathered at his parents’ house. Even after my father died, we managed to continue that tradition, despite missing him very much.

Though it seems like a lifetime ago, it was only three years ago that my mom’s Alzheimer’s had ravaged her so much so that we couldn’t even consider bringing her to our home at Christmas. Still, it was our kids’ first Christmas back from college and we did what we could to continue most of our traditions, even if I don’t think any of us will ever recover from seeing her at that last Christmas celebration at the residence where she lived.

Mom died less than a month after Christmas. I thought I was ready—I mean, how can you watch someone disappear so much and still want her to live?

Well, I didn’t want her to live that way. But when Christmas came, I just couldn’t bring myself to decorate the tree or anything else in the ways we had for years.

When faced with my inertia, my daughter Christiana suggested we just take a page out of the Elf movie and decorate with paper—it would be pet-safe from our puppy and it would bring a lot of color into our darkened room. Thank goodness she’s an artist so we could have detailed paper ornaments in addition to old stand-bys such as paper chains and snowflakes.

I said I didn’t trust the puppy/now dog again last Christmas, so we did it again, only with more forethought this time around.

The thing is I’m not so sure the dog has anything to do with the changes anymore. I think that without my mother I’m just done with celebrating the way we did. Time to keep the old traditions with the good memories and move on to creating a new picture of what Christmas looks like around here.

The more Christmases you celebrate, the more people there are who have moved from sitting at your table to living forever more in your heart. That’s just life, but it doesn’t make it any easier just because it’s something we all experience.

Let’s face it though, if Christmas means anything, thanks to the birth of Christ it means that you can live with the hope that you will see those you love again. What’s not to celebrate about that? Cherish your memories, mourn your losses, and change your traditions as you must, but never forget to celebrate the Light that came to shift this world for once and all.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Last Sunday our son Jackson was struggling with writer’s block for an assignment due the next evening. After spinning with few results all day, he finally came upstairs and announced, “I need a jigsaw puzzle. Do we have one?”

Now I know some people think you just need to plant your butt in the seat (or your laptop on your lap)—but sometimes that just isn’t enough. I’m not just a former student—I’m also a writer. Writer’s block can be real and what you need to do is change your mindset so that whatever’s locking up your mind will let loose.

If all the planting hasn’t produced even a single seed, let alone a single weed, then the best thing you can do is something else. This isn’t about those activities you do just to avoid work—I mean there are only so many toenails you can clip. No, this is about doing some sort of movement or activity with the express idea of fertilizing the mind—and then setting a timer to go back to face the block and the mind.

Jackson had almost waited too long before coming up with this most excellent idea—so much so that when he found out we didn’t have a puzzle at the ready, he really didn’t think it was worth a trip to the store. Sherman and I, however, thought the puzzle was really the best hope he had for success, so off the two of them went for a quick shopping excursion.

While they were gone, I cleared off the table space. As soon as they returned, we broke into the box and started looking for the edge pieces. We were off—and obsessed.

Yet, as obsessed as we were, we knew the real reason we were doing a puzzle was so Jackson could write a paper. After about half an hour, we started asking him questions. He had the basic idea for his paper, but couldn’t move forward. Heads down, hands moving through the pieces, we kept talking. Eventually he had more and more to say. Then it was a matter of setting a timer and his working between his paper and the puzzle. (Yes, of course, we stuck with the puzzle alone!)

He had a good start on the paper before we went to sleep. Just to make sure this puzzle thing continued to be a good idea, we turned off the upstairs lights so he had to go downstairs—and away from the puzzle.

The next morning he did a little more working on both the puzzle and paper before he left for classes—where he had time to finalize his assignment before it was due—which he did do.

In the past, Jackson hasn’t been great at pursuing Plan B (or any options beyond Plan A) when things don’t go as planned, but it seems he’s starting to get there.

Jackson’s Plan B has worked out well for Sherman and me also. What better week for a puzzle obsession than when a sub-zero cold spell arrived? Plus, maybe the puzzle is fertilizing my own soil—I’ve written three blog posts since we started on the puzzle and done quite a bit of work on the soon-to-be yearend books for our commercial property. Not bad for a small investment in money and time. Sometimes goofing around is what you need to do first in order to solve a puzzle.

(c) 1999 Trina Lambert

(c) 1999 Trina Lambert

Some stories you don’t want to tell because you wish they hadn’t happened. But sometimes you must if you want to move on from the memory—especially when the trauma is even harder for those around you.

Not everything that happened on our trip to Oklahoma was joyful. That’s because there’s nothing quite like a now grown-up boy or girl losing the canine companion from the better days of childhood. How many of us did not really understand our childhood was gone forever until that first or second pet we had known from its first years was gone? For me, at least I had the joy of knowing my dog died mid-pant, a big dog grin on his aging face. My kids, however, had to be part of that devastating decision of when to say goodbye. But, turns out, there are even worse ways to lose your old companion.

When we arrived in Oklahoma for my nephew’s wedding to Mona, nothing surprised me more than that Chris’ old dog (who had appeared not long from crossing the Rainbow Bridge when we last saw him in May 2012) was still on this earth. However, Time had not been kind to him lately. But somehow this old guy still wanted to spend time with the family, even putting up graciously with the four young grandchildren who had moved into my brother’s home in the past year. Even on his last night in the house, he took his now crippled body and moved around happily, asking for a pet from each of us. And, when he started barking mid-night, I knew enough to let him out so he could take care of his failing bladder and/or kidney. I can only assume he fell back asleep as I did after I let him in.

Smoky spent his days outside, so he’d already gone out for the day by the time I made it out of bed. The kids went to school and/or their great-grandma’s house so we adults could spend all day working on wedding preparations—without any unsolicited help. This windy, windy Oklahoma day was supposed to be the one that brought in the first hard frost of the season. The soon-to-be bride and groom joined us all for dinner before going back to their own home. Thankfully, the wind had finally died down. The three oldest boys asleep and Sherman doing a great job of having the youngest almost asleep, we relaxed at the end of a long day.

That’s when we realized we had heard nothing from Smoky—a dog who would not be ignored in the evenings. Distracted by our busyness, we hadn’t even thought about the absence of barking. My sister-in-law Lori and I looked at each other, knowing this would not be the best week for the inevitable to happen. My brother Scott and I jumped up to look for him outside, while Sherman and Lori finished getting little David to bed.

Bright moonbeams stretched across the yard, but Scott, ever the gardener, has all sorts of bushes and tall grasses planted in his yard. Plus, that first frost was still a few hours from destroying the annuals, so many shadowy areas remained untouched by light. Scott called, but no answer came. We saw no dog—in fact, nothing moved anywhere as we searched the edges of the vegetation on that still night. And we both agreed that the dog was in no condition to scoot under the fencing or out a gate. On our rounds, Scott pointed out the above ground swimming pool cover—which had been secured for the season just two days earlier—had come undone in the day’s winds.

While Scott ran inside to see if he could find one flashlight that his grandchildren had yet to dismantle, Lori joined me in the deepening cold.

That’s when we saw the gate to the pool steps lying flat. In no time I had climbed those stairs to look beyond where the cover floated. Something else was definitely in the water, but I didn’t want to believe it could be him, even though the shape was the right size and the coloring mottled in a familiar pattern. I cried out but stepped back.

Surely I was wrong. Even with her bad knee, Lori clambered up, too. But it took Sherman’s arrival for someone to act bravely enough to reach in for him.

After that I spent a few hysterical minutes hyperventilating—I think I made the same sounds I remember making when I was blindsided by a car striking my car door 25 years ago. No little/big boy’s dog should end his long life this way, but especially not the dog of someone preparing for the joy of his wedding day.

I don’t remember what else the four of us did or said in the chaos of that shocking moment, but it took us awhile to focus enough to figure out what to do next, but first Lori had to call Chris to break the news—which was not unexpected except for the method or timing. Thank goodness he had Mona at his side.

The guys prepared Smoky for his final ride to the vet and Lori got her son Cody to agree to take him in the next morning, everyone taking great care to shield the little boys from seeing their old pal. The boys awoke to the news of Smoky’s demise but not the how.

And that’s the story I never wanted to tell—yet it was all too improbable and too important not to tell.

Even now the how makes no sense. He hardly had the strength to climb a step let alone to knock down a strongly secured barrier in order to take his stairway to heaven. He was done, just done with it all, and ready—apparently—to leap onto that Rainbow Bridge and grow young again. Smoky—you were a good and faithful companion to Chris and the rest of the family—long may you run.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert What the intruder left behind . . .

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert
What Intruder A left behind in the front yard . . .

Good fences make . . . people break them to get onto your property? On this frigid morning, I’ve been out playing CSI. No, there isn’t a body, but a couple someones worked pretty hard to get onto our property last night.

We have a mish-mash of fencing on our property, which means the easy way to access our space is by entering through the chain link gate at the front. Otherwise people have to go over the ancient pre-chain link metal fencing on the north side, the taller privacy wood fencing our neighbors erected on the south, or the fencing that Sherman created that faces the east from our back yard toward our outdoor parking and the alley beyond. Of course, the alley side is likely more intruder-friendly, even with the sensor lights that both we and our next-door neighbors keep on our alley-side detached garages.

However, for the most part, people who do not live in this house do not know how to open our back gate—which Sherman designed to outsmart our former dog who could open gates with a strong head butt. Which I guess is why when people really want to come in, they break the gate or the fence. Several years ago someone broke the gate to hop in and steal—of all things—hanging baskets filled with my freshly planted Gerbera daisies. Well, this time they took out the fencing and walked in.

Who breaks into property on the coldest night of the year, with fresh snow on the ground? Apparently, one person wearing skater shoes and another wearing hiking/running shoes.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert Intruder's Escape Down the Alley

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert
Intruder B’s escape down the alley

With this morning’s discoveries, last night’s experiences make more sense.

I shut the dogs in their crates with their dinners around 5:30, then left to meet Sherman so we could see Jackson’s one-act play performance. By the time we stopped to grab dinner at Chipotle and fill up the car at Loaf & Jug, we didn’t make it home until sometime after 10:00.

We let the dogs outside. At some point they barked. Sherman also heard a loud noise, like a door or gate slamming. Soon after he saw someone emerge from behind our neighbors’ taller privacy fence and head down the alley, dressed only in a white T-shirt and dark pants—definitely not normal attire for sub-zero temps. At the time he thought maybe one of our neighbors stepped out briefly to talk on the phone that lighted up in the person’s hand.

The two of us dropped into bed soon after, although I planned to read for a few minutes before turning off the light. Both dogs and I heard crunching of snow outside our bedroom window—I assumed our son had arrived home and decided to walk around to the back door—which I told those sage listeners that my dogs are. When nothing happened, they kept looking at me (they really are smart enough to get excited when Jackson’s name has been mentioned!) so I went with them to the back door and opened it. Saw nothing, locked up, and went back to text my son. He replied that he wasn’t anywhere near home, though. That made no sense—maybe the neighbor to the north was walking in his yard? (Right, the neighbor whose house is dark by 9:00 p.m. and who leaves for work before 7:00 a.m.)

But fall asleep I did, only slightly noting when my son did return home.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert The fence not respected--by humans, anyway.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert
The fence not respected–by humans, anyway.

In the morning, Sherman discovered not only was the entry door to the garage open, but also the fence beside that dastardly gate had been removed from its attachments. I went out to discover one pair of footprints leading out from our side yard (beside the bedroom wall) through the opened front gate.

So far, thankfully nothing seems to be missing. We’ve filed a police report and the police plan to step up patrols in our neighborhood and alley for the next few days.

As for me, I’ve got pictures of the treads from our intruders’ shoes—for what that’s worth. From the prints I have a pretty good idea of which shoe-wearer went where on our property, but not why. Somehow I figure it’s much more satisfying to investigate a crime scene and discover what really happened—as well as catch the perpetrators. Other than that the only satisfaction I have is that the police officer said these types of intruders don’t tend to return to the same homes. Guess we’re just lucky we came home in time to stop whatever they had planned, but not so early that we got to meet them face-to-face.

Reminded again that a fence is only a barrier to those who respect boundaries.

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