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(c) 2014. Trina Lambert

(c) 2014. Trina Lambert

Details, people, details. The devil is in the details and sometimes the devil is in me when an organization’s lack of attention to detail causes me trouble. This is when I have to take deep breaths and remind myself that I firmly believe in treating service people with respect, no matter whether or not they deserve it. This is when I am supposed to apply that grace (that they most certainly have not earned) while making certain that details do get resolved as needed. This is also when I need both grace for the uncharitable thoughts I am thinking and prayers to help me get that devil out of my head.

Suppose we are buying a car to replace the one we just sold for cash and want to access investments to cover the difference between the cash just received and the purchase price of the new car. Since we do not know the exact amount we will need to cover costs of the car, licensing fees, and any upgrades we do to the car, such as putting on a hitch or other accessories, we decide to complete the purchase using our Discover Card. We have credit on the card, so not only will we know just how much to take out of our investment when the time comes, but we will also buy time to complete the not-so-quick transaction that allows us to receive that investment money, all while earning a Cashback Bonus for the purchase.

So, you ask, how did that really work for us?

Believe it or not, the charge appeared under the pending charges immediately, but disappeared after a few weeks. I finally called Discover Card to find out what happened to the charge—the truth was nothing had happened to the charge. It was still pending but since it had not been finalized by the dealer, the transaction was moved to some inactive file visible to Discover, but not to me. The representative and I had a good laugh about my “reduced” price car, but I told her we would be contacting the dealer.

The dealership thanked my husband when he called about the problem. And then the charges still didn’t show up. By now I was starting to wonder if this would delay our ability to get the license plates by the time the temporary license expired. I mean, the expiration date is July 7, one week from today, which is also the first Monday after a holiday weekend. I know better than to expect a good time any day at the DMV, but especially now thanks to the short work week falling between today and then.

Guess what? A few hours ago I went to my Discover account and discovered (ha, ha) that the pending charge went through, still dated May 9, as well as a new charge dated June 11—which is crazy since the last time I checked the account about a week ago—long past June 11—no charges showed anywhere. Then my husband and I divided duties—he called the dealership and I called Discover.

The representative at Discover Card told me it can take 15 days for merchant-authorized credits to show up, but not to worry. When I still seemed worried, he asked, “Haven’t you had refunds before?” Yes, but not for such a large amount! Forgive me for not feeling that patient. Plus, this artificially high usage of credit will now show on my credit reports, even if all goes as planned.

When my husband called the dealership again today, he was told a credit had been issued on Friday and should show up any time, plus the title should arrive this week. That’s right—don’t hurry with that paperwork. The post office and title offices aren’t affected by the short work week either—which means that at some point this week I may have to choose to go in to get an extension on that temporary plate. It’s only my time and money—don’t sweat the details, right?

I suppose it’s just the devil in me that wants to shout, “People—just get it right the first time!” I’ll concede that we all make errors from time to time, but I don’t believe it’s too much to ask that businesses correct errors in a timely manner after an error is pointed out—and then work really hard not to add more errors to the initial mistake.

Suppose you see me at the DMV twice in the next two weeks, I would advise you to stay the devil away from me—and that’s a detail to which you will want to attend, make no mistake about that.

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(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

On one hand, I’m still the kid who used to eat one—and only one—Lay’s potato chip every time the Lay’s ads taunted me that I couldn’t do that. Trust me, I liked potato chips but didn’t like being told what I should or should not do. Back to that other hand, I’m the kind of person who likes to get along with people. If it’s in my best interest to say “no” to you, I just want to get it done and move on. Trust me, if I’ve turned you down, I mean it, even if you think I don’t.

Sometimes I think I was given a child like my son Jackson so I would get to practice saying “no” again and again. This kid was good at advanced rhetoric from a young age—I used to say he was born a teenager, but I rather think he was born a lawyer. He instinctively knew to ask a question three different ways or how to try to destroy the opposition’s (in other words, my) logic. However, just because I don’t like conflict, doesn’t mean I was going to change my decision on the fly, especially since my decision-making style is fairly measured and consistent.

Before Jackson had reached 18 months, I realized that I had just signed up for a lifetime of practicing the “no” word. To which I thought, “Well, then so be it. Not as if I don’t need the practice”—especially since it’s so much harder for me to say “no” to real people than it is to some distant corporation on a television screen.

As a people-pleaser, despite the practice, I can still get pretty anxious about having to state my opinions, though it’s so much easier with unknown strangers who call me or arrive at my door unannounced. I’ve learned that it does me no good to argue with telemarketers. I now say, “Thank you, but I’m not interested” and hang up the phone without listening further. And when people come to my door, it is my policy to reject them as politely as possible before quickly shutting the door. I’m not going to use a rude tone, but I do not buy from cold calls. If I want something, I do research and seek out the companies with which I want to interact.

All this saying “no” business is one of the reasons traveling to Mexico can raise my frustration level. Upon arriving at a Mexican airport, visitors must first run the gauntlet of helpful people offering to show them presentations. And then there’s the upselling at the car rental counters and in lobbies of hotels, as well as the offers of not-so-free help in grocery markets, on beaches, and in restaurants—offers of free jet-skiing, car rental, or whatever else abound in exchange for “just” hearing a time-share presentation. If those promised prizes seem worthy enough to spend several hours practicing those “noes” again, hapless tourists better be really good at that nay-saying, especially since sometimes the salesperson even accuses them of taking advantage of the system.

The use of guilt techniques at the presentation is just the final technique in the arsenal for trying to convince naysayers that they really meant to say “yes” to the very expensive proposal. As if sending out all those low level people who promise something in exchange for just listening isn’t the business model they have adopted. No, people you work very hard to receive the “free” gifts at those presentations.

That being said, if an encounter with a business or even with a friend or an acquaintance in my neighborhood starts to feel like a time-share presentation or a multi-level marketing promotion where my “yes” is more important than whether or not what is offered is what I need and/or want, then that encounter has already lost me. What right do you have to try to make me feel guilty for knowing my own mind? The fact you keep pushing for a different answer than I’ve given means you are not respecting my boundaries.

While I may have said “no” to extra potato chips because I was stubborn, over the years—especially thanks to my once toddler and now grown son—I have had many more opportunities to practice saying “no” for the right reasons. When I have made it clear that “no” is still my final answer, if you keep pushing me, I will likely go all Lay’s potato chips on you—and you’ll be lucky to get me to say “yes” to even one chip, no matter which hand you want to put it in.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Do you ever think that if you could just sit down to create and put together a really detailed spreadsheet, then life would be OK? I mean when worries wash over you, do you ever start heading for Excel? All will have to be OK with the world if you can just plug some information and formulas into some slots, hit return, and, voilà, the facts and answers will appear and all will be well? Or maybe this is just me?

Sometimes I like to work with numbers that just are, numbers that are black and unchanging, and, seemingly, nothing more. Find the number, drop it into the cell, and move on. The repetition calms me, lulling me into believing that those boxes can control and keep the data—as well as contain any possible associated messy meanings. A simple click on AutoFit column width and nothing can spill out or hide.

This, my friends, is why I am more than a creative. Somewhere deep inside in me I find comfort in putting things into boxes—except that with my ability to see shades of gray, things often escape from those boxes, despite my best efforts.

Though I am not enough of a nerd to assign emotions to particular numbers (trust me—my son can personify numbers in a manner far beyond my comprehension), deep down I realize that numbers can bring out emotions. If those supposedly black numbers take a turn into the red, my rational mind can become quite overwhelmed, especially when those numbers are personal to me. And sometimes, I know or discover that those numbers are not even as certain as I might like to believe.

Still, on a good day, I can give into the Zen of the spreadsheet and forget what significance lies in the big picture of totals, projections, associations, or anything beyond the next cell. In those times I am simply creating order out of chaos, recording history, and sticking with just the facts, ma’am.

so much depends
upon

black roman
numerals

inserted with taps and
clicks

inside white columns and
rows.

(With apologies to William Carlos Williams and his “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem.)

The bud that opened after the storm.

The bud that opened after the storm.

The roofing representative shouted down from our roof, “I can’t believe it. Your roof is the only roof I’ve been up on in this town that has no damage anywhere.”

These wild, wet weeks have brought many storms into our region with some areas getting pummeled frequently with high winds and damaging hail. The capricious nature of these clouds reminds me that sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time and sometimes you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh, you or I or anyone else can do whatever we can to prepare for the storms—such as buying the 50-year shingles that the insurance company liked—but if the clouds had burst directly over my home, even those shingles would have taken a hit—or several. Just a matter of luck that the center of the storm hit a couple miles south.

Though hail piled up in corners of our yard, our only losses came in three large rose blooms. Mother Nature had strewn rose-petaled confetti across the wet blades of grass, but the rosebush itself, as well as the unopened buds—nearly two dozen—escaped disaster. Earlier in the spring, only dead canes remained after a winter and spring that were both colder than we had seen around here in years. Imagine my joy when new growth surprised me out of grieving for this bush I had received just three years earlier to honor my mother’s memory. Imagine my relief a few weeks later when I saw the storm’s fury had spared the long-term growth.

As the sky starts to change and darken again, I know that what will happen is mostly out of my hands. Very little I do or do not do will make me more or less deserving of what could happen. It’s all a matter of barometric pressure changes, moisture indices, geography, timing, and other factors—there is nothing personal in those clouds. (At least I prefer to believe that the Big Guy isn’t personally lobbing lightning bolts at any of us.)

Disaster-preparedness makes sense but can’t always keep the storms away. Life is lived more in figuring out how to weather the storms that do come rather than in assuming that they can all be avoided. Great shingles or not, it’s what you do after the storm that matters.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Sometimes it seems that everyone (else) is just looking out for himself or herself. I believe in the essential goodness of people—or at least their neutrality—but so often what I notice these days is the behaviors of those who are doing what they think is right for numero uno—and all the other numbers be danged. Maybe it’s the times, maybe it’s just part of living in a metropolitan area, but many times I feel lonely out in the great, big world in a way I didn’t when I was a kid.

When my brother—not yet five—ran away from home, my mom was waiting for him outside my father’s drugstore before he ever reached the door. Sure, she was “smarter than the av-er-age boy” as she told my brother, but she also had neighbors who called her when he walked off on his own. Though it could feel stifling at times, someone was always watching out for us in that small town back in the 1960s.

Yes, as a society we’ve gained our independence from “nosy” neighbors, but we’ve also lost a lot of that general feeling that those in our village were looking out for us. I’d still know how to contact my closest neighbors if they needed to know something about their kids or someone messing with their property, but I don’t even know everyone else who lives on my own block.

Last night I met up with members of my running club at a store. The plan included an in-store foam roller demonstration and discounted shopping for gear, running in the local nature area, and dinner at a restaurant for those who chose. Before we managed to finish the inside workout, rain began to fall. Some elected to stay indoors while others took off outside in the increasingly stormy weather.

Well, I don’t expect to melt with a little bit—or even a lot more than a little bit—of moisture. However, I’m no fan of lightning. I took off with a watchful eye on a big, scary cloud I saw off to the southeast. You see, most storms in Colorado move from the west to the east, so often the worst part of the storm is over once the clouds have headed east. I was still evaluating the bigger picture of the sky when a bolt of lightning split the gray from bottom to top. That was it for me—I was heading back in. I about-faced it as quickly as I could, cringing each time I saw a flash.

As I ran back the way I came, choosing to avoid areas with bigger trees, I headed toward a traffic-crossing where the pedestrians—including myself and a young man walking—did not have the right of way.

A larger, late model car stopped and blocked the road. All of a sudden, the window was rolled down and an older woman leaned toward me and pointed. “You—you no run. It’s bad night for running.”

“I know,” I shouted. “I’m running back as fast as I can.”

Satisfied, she drove off.

As the young man and I crossed the intersection, I told him, “Even when your own mom is gone, there’s always someone else to ‘mom’ you.”

He laughed and I sprinted off, continuing to jump a little each time a bright light flashed and the rumbles sounded way too close.

But, it really isn’t always true as I stated—so often there isn’t anyone looking out for you—as a mom, neighbor, friend, or just as a kind stranger.

To that woman—whether she was an angel or somebody else’s mother or just someone who cares for others—I say “thank you” from the depths of my formerly wet running shoes. I pray she also made it home safely in those crazy conditions.

Sometimes all it takes is one person to ground you—once more—into believing that most of humanity is more good than bad. And some of them are extremely good.

Sherman playing Davey Jones in Cabo 05/09 (c) Christiana Lambert

Sherman playing Davey Jones in Cabo 05/09 (c) Christiana Lambert

Summer starts with a splash—or at least has for me for several summers now. Outdoor deep water exercise almost seems like cheating. I mean, when else do you get to spend so much time in the deep end of the pool without the lifeguards blowing their whistles at you? And to do all that hanging out before it turns hot and the sun’s rays more dangerous—while getting a nice tan but not a burn—is a pretty good deal. Somehow it doesn’t even feel grown-up to be driving home in my swimsuit with my towel wrapped around me.

Never let it be said that you have lost the sense of invincible summer, no matter how deep your winters. If you’re lucky as I am, your childhood memories include some carefree days at some pool.

For me, there was only one golden summer when it seemed my brother and I got to live at the pool, but that summer is the summer that represents just what it meant to be a kid to me. Negotiating tandem bike rides, diving for swim basket keys, crying “Marco Polo,” daring each other up the high board, shivering beneath a blanket after hours in the sun, waking to do it all again. Before the summer our town built a swimming pool, our pool time came during vacations or visits to other towns—except for all those days spent in the blow-up pool in our backyard. The next summer, we were new kids in a new town, far from the municipal pool yet much closer to growing up, fighting like mad to hold onto that sense of invincible summer as we learned to swim in what seemed to be a much bigger pond.

But pool waters always take me back to the me I was when summer still seemed easy. Even though I go to the pool to exercise these days, getting to work out under the blue sky makes the class seem more like the play I knew. Plus, there’s something about being in the water that brings out the talkative kid in most everyone else in class, too. No wonder half the time we’re asking each other, “What did Julie (the instructor) just tell us to do?” So often we only meet each other during summers when we’re wet and in our swimsuits—no wonder we almost don’t recognize one another when we’re dressed in street clothes during the winter. Each June we have so much catching up to do—with each other and with the kids we used to be.

From the shallow end come the sounds of children grouped in lessons. Splashing, learning, feeling afraid, growing brave and strong, playing games—they are us, our children, and all children who have ever sought to drink in summer and keep its eternal sunshine deep within their cells.

In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Boy, have I been blocked this month. I’ve started a few posts I have yet to finish and tried other times without getting any words down. My main technique for getting unblocked—getting moving by doing something purely physical such as exercising or performing chores—has not worked. Maybe it’s time to look for a writing prompt.

But today I finally have something to say—and I wonder if the loosening of the block is related to what is happening to my longtime physical block. After the last really tough physical therapy treatment didn’t yield nearly enough relief as I had hoped, I thought I ought to try something else before the next PT appointment.

At my age it’s pretty easy for me to know other people who have been dealing with injuries and/or pain—and some of them have even found relief. Those are the people whose advice I seek out for better possibilities. Thanks to a referral, on Saturday I got the hardest (deepest?) deep tissue massage I have ever had—which was just as planned. I went in seeking short-term pain that might be able to relieve the less intense but long-term pain I have been experiencing.

A big part of me is into traditional western medicine but another part of me acknowledges that sometimes the difficulties can lie more in the realm of the unexplained. That’s when seeking a whole body approach to why something hurts in a specific location might work better. Just what about those old emotions and/or experiences might be keeping logical solutions from working?

Though my lower back and hips have been crying out for attention, I was not unaware of the possibility that maybe something on the front side might be torquing that back side into those painful knots. Suffice it to say, I believe now. After the massage therapist reviewed my surgeries and accidents, she chose to focus on areas in my abdomen and groin rather than where the most recent pains have occurred. I don’t think I cried during the session, but to get through the worst moments, I definitely used that yogic breathing I’ve been practicing for years. The crazy thing is that when I stood up from the session, I knew I was better. My shoulders were more relaxed and I didn’t favor the achy side anymore.

Yes, those relaxed feelings were just the calm before the storm of aches I knew I faced. You don’t work tissue that deeply without moving toxins throughout your body. I went home to a hot Epsom salts bath, then drank and drank as much water as I could as well as rubbed (lightly!) Arnica on the most abused areas. Sunday was incredibly painful—more water and Arnica followed.

But today? Today I woke up feeling much less one-sided than I have felt in almost a year. Plus, I didn’t need to wait a few hours for my body to loosen this morning. And in yoga? So much of the resistance was gone. I could work hard and not really feel so obsessed with the areas that have been so prominent for so long. The cries for attention were almost inaudible to me—and that’s even though I am still very sore from the massage.

I’m sure it’s too soon to know if my massage has really chipped away as much of this block as I think it has, but I know something in me has shifted. Stop the world—I want to get back on again.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

The rains have returned. Yes, this is the kind of June I remember here in Colorado. Junes when I would race out to the company parking lot, barefooted and running in my skirt, shoes in hand. Or Junes when I would never dream of holding my kids’ birthday party in the afternoon due to the likelihood of rains pushing all the children inside the home. Or when leaving my window rolled down a little too low was something I only did once.

The rivers and streams are flowing high—too high in many locations. The reservoirs are filling once more. All this moisture seems a bit like a return to innocence, before those hard years when those of us who missed earlier droughts really learned that the Great American Desert was more than some term applied by easterners of greener climes. This semi-arid place really does get only 8 to 15 inches of precipitation in most years.

Despite the admonishment of Wallace Stegner to get over the color green, I have yet to do so but know now to appreciate greenness when it comes naturally. While I love the prairie in all its shades of tan and gold, my heart sings when those grasses wave green. Not the deep green of Kentucky bluegrass, but the more muted greens within the Crayola box.

Sadly, in my lawn, green is more likely to reflect the native weeds than native grasses. They are the only things that continue to do well in a drought, but they explode in periods of high moisture. The good news about that is that these recent rains have made the soil moist and pliable, so removing weeds isn’t quite the back-breaking work it is in dry periods.

I know enough now to appreciate the blessings that come with wetter days and years, understanding that they aren’t a promise or a given in these parts. For now it’s easy being green—and I drink in the feel of as well as the sights, sounds, and smells that come with that water falling regularly from the sky.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Though I’ve been quiet for awhile now about running difficulties and physical therapy—because those topics are so darn frustrating and BORING—I am still busy running (short distances), doing my (mostly) daily exercises, and getting physical therapy. By now I have two physical therapists, plus one who is on medical leave but advising my current PTs—as you can see I am a real trouble-maker.

I can walk, run, dance, and do most activities in my life with ease—what I still can’t do is sleep well. Unfortunately, what I’ve noticed is that when I’ve taken breaks from running, my sleeping pains have diminished. That insight does not please me and so I haven’t considered stopping again after I’ve worked so hard to get to run once more.

Both my active PTs have stated to me how I’m a really committed runner so I started arguing about how that couldn’t be true. I don’t run far or often—partially because I’m getting messages from my body not to do so—but maybe because I wouldn’t anyway. But the thought of giving it up? That—I’m too stubborn to do. So I realized, maybe I am strongly committed in my own casual way?

When our kids were infants, Sherman’s parents invited our family, his brothers and family, and my parents to spend Christmas in the mountains with them. As such we went to Christmas Eve mass with his family—even if we didn’t quite make it out as late as to attend Midnight Mass. Christmas brings a variety of semi-straying sheep back to the fold, including those still in their ski pants in ski resort areas. What the priest said that night has stuck with both Sherman and me. The priest said, “To the world—even if you only go to church at Christmas and Easter—you are the Christians.”

If you think about it, that same logic can be applied to anything we do—religiously, so to speak—even if we don’t do it enough to be considered committed in the same manner as people who dedicate their daily lives to a practice. Compared to those fast women in my running club who put in miles and miles on the roads, trails, and/or treadmills all year, every season, in all sorts of weather and lighting conditions, I am only dabbling at this activity.

And yet to many of the people who drive by me on the road, I am out there doing this activity that they don’t ever do—and often don’t even understand why I do it—or why I would even want to do it, much less work so hard to be able to keep doing it.

This afternoon I’ll be going to the club track practice where almost all the women there run more than I do. I know that most of them are way more committed than I am, but I’m starting to understand that doesn’t mean I am not committed. These evenings at practice are sacred time to me and that track is holy ground under my feet.

In the end, it’s about me and my practice and what it means to me. I still have faith in this thing that is bigger than me, though my body—and I—have often strayed. All I know is I am not ready to commit myself to my couch—or just to giving up this particular pursuit—any time soon.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert