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What is home anyway but a place that houses your people and/or the best of your memories?

But even when a home is filled with love and good intentions, sometimes finding peace in the moment remains so elusive.

How strange that we are just placed (born) into these family units with one another and, yet, our differences and our similarities make it so hard for us to get along day in and day out over the years. Familiarity brings challenges, even when we want to maintain that peace.

Our pasts together and personality quirks are so complicated. And then there are the circumstances into which we are born, ranging from simple birth order factors to the family’s mood at the time of our arrival. During hard times, war, illness, or following death, children still arrive. Life in a family is not easy, even in the best of times, but it’s all that any of us knows in our early years. But with any luck, we will continue to know family life throughout all our years, regardless of the challenges it brings us.

Despite my growing up with only my parents and one brother, I come from a large extended family. My past is filled from memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases and summer visits to my grandparents’ home—a home where all my aunts and uncles and cousins would gather in noisy groups—and in my dreams I still return to that mythical home where I gather once more with those people who were so important to who I am and who I became. Those sorts of dreams come also to my relatives in their sleep. This sense of home is definitely with us when we gather in other places, but we have never truly dreamed we could return to the house that cradled us and shaped us so.

That is we thought we could never return . . . until my cousin and her husband realized the dream of buying back the house that had passed from our family over 30 years ago.

After over a year of a whole lot of elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears, and money, the house is again the home of our dreams. When my cousin called us home to our recent Christmas in July reunion, the house—and our ability to gather together in it—was a present like no other.

I would love to tell you that the dream realized was all twinkly lights and laughter and hugs and songs sung in perfect harmony and moments captured in picture perfect clarity. It was all that and more, and, yet, as in any family, sour notes remain: sibling discord, marriages dissolved, children who won’t sleep, favoritism, regrets, and disagreements over shared history. What’s past is not often past.

The truth is I did leave swathed in a feeling not unlike the sunshine that streamed through the large windows or the peacefulness that came to me as I took in the bucolic views from those windows. I chose to feel the love—which is real and huge and something I know not everyone gets to feel in this life—and also chose to push away the cobwebs that lurked in the dark corners because I realize I am lucky enough that those cobwebs are only a small part of this thing called family in my life.

And, yet, my own home is also a microcosm of that larger family home. The love here is real and huge and something not everyone gets to experience. But sometimes the reality of who we are together and alone is simply too hard to bear. We forget that together we are the protection for one another from what happens outside our homes and instead project what others have done to us on those who love us most. And despite our best intentions, so often we cannot figure out how to be ourselves without hurting one another. In those moments our home becomes just another house.

The real dream of my grandparents’ house or my house or of any house will be that the house can be the peaceful space we can call home: that feeling that comes in those moments when family members forget or minimize any differences and just give into the love that binds us together.

Blest be the ties that bind our hearts and bring about fellowship of kindred minds—and remind us just why peace in our families—no matter how imperfect the peace or the family—is what really makes a house a home.

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Freezing Out the Grapevine, @1990

Freezing Out the Grapevine, @1990

My daughter has the misfortune to work alongside a very chatty woman this summer. After hearing some of this woman’s topics, I agree with my daughter that her ability to work with the woman at all indicates just how well she deals with customers, even when the customer at hand is internal. But if that woman suggests one more time that my daughter should get married and/or have a baby, I’m going to go down there and have more than a chat with her!

Just kidding, I’m not really going to butt in on this conversation, but what is up with this woman who is also a mother of a young adult? Why is she acting as if all my daughter needs to do in life is get started on a marriage and a family? Why is this her business and what year is it anyway?

Both my mother and my mother-in-law expressed more than a little bitterness about how they were treated when they did not get married right away in the 1940s and 1950s. These women—gasp—finished their educations and worked professionally, not marrying until each was 29. I might have married a few years younger than they did, but I most definitely felt no pressure from them to start my own family right away—which I did not do. However, my daughter is just barely 22 and not yet out of college. So far she has only worked summer jobs, internships, and work study positions–give her a chance to use some of her education in a professional setting, please, before she faces family-related decisions.

While I understand changing life’s plans to care for unexpected births, I do not think people should actively pursue marriage and families without a plan for how to do so without needing help from others. And I am not the kind of person who wants to wedge another growing family into my home.

I’m stating my position here—I am not going to provide child care for a grandchild. I have waited a long time in order to not  be taking care of someone else—my kids, my mother in her final years—and I am not putting my own plans aside now that my time has arrived. Watching my mother’s decline also taught me that health is not a given. I don’t want to wait so long for my own time that that time never comes.

Please, if a person does not have the means to support a family, do not go out of your way to encourage her or him to start one anyway. Meddling of this kind is even crazier in the current times where job growth for young adults has been so tenuous and many, such as my daughter, will have student loans to pay.

Besides, thanks to the scheduling and poor advising in the department of her major at her college, though she has 122 credits, she still has two semesters left, despite needing only 11 credits. Talk about an expensive way to finish a degree. So, no, my daughter does not need to hurry into having a child—she needs to focus on how she will provide for herself come next year.

And, while we’re on the topic, ask me how I feel about people getting married straight out of college. For all those for whom that worked really well, I am very happy for you. But in my family, my brother’s very happy college relationship ended with an early divorce, thanks to the couple’s inability to transition into living on their own together as grown-ups. The real world is very different from college. Better to take some time to see how the relationship weathers the real world; if the relationship remains stable or grows during the transition, then nothing has been lost in waiting a little bit to make the final commitment.

Life transitions are huge and very personal. Questions about babies and marriage—none of your business, OK? These areas should stay private for many reasons. Can’t figure out why some people seem to think idle speculation or gossip about these very big changes is harmless. In past times we had meddlers such as the relative in Sense and Sensibility who could not stay out of Elinor and Edward’s love life—now we have The National Enquirer and reality TV—and, apparently, meddlers such as the woman who works with my daughter.

Talk about the weather, talk about what you did last night, but for God’s sake, stop acting as if topics about getting married and having babies are matters of no consequence. Have your own baby and/or marriage, but leave others to their own timelines.

And, no, I’m not babysitting for you either.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

My husband Sherman and I have worked to create an authentic life together—one where we don’t put our efforts toward impressing people based on outward appearances. We have chosen to spend our whole marriage in a funky neighborhood that has no covenants; we do not drive fancy vehicles; and, we have not pursued the material path in any way. We yam what we yam.

And for some people of the upwardly mobile educated kind, all that makes us a little suspect. What are two people who hold master’s degrees doing living in that ‘hood (seriously people, check the home values), why don’t we have more money for our kids’ educations, and where are the pictures from our European vacations?

Frankly, it’s a little too exhausting to spend much time with people who are chasing outside proof of their success—and, more than a little boring. I don’t care about the slight jumps in the property values or what so-and-so is doing to what home model in a sub-division. When did obtaining an education become simply a license for consumption? If that’s what education is about, then count me out.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I just want to spend time with real people who do things with their lives that are more than about what the neighbors are doing—and people who not only do not judge us for our 1976 Mobile Traveler RV but who also think it is pretty cool for what it allows us to do. And that’s almost as cool as going for a post-storm group run on a moonlit night followed by a post-run cooldown tailgate party of watermelon and chips and libations in the not-so-dark of one summer’s evening.

Oh, no, I don’t want to be around the cool kids at school—unless cool means cool in a geeky way that accepts what everyone has and does and is as part of living an authentic life, regardless of whether or not the “in” crowd would be impressed.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

She walks in beauty, but not necessarily because of raven tresses or the goodness she has done or traits such as calmness or softness or innocence. She walks in beauty because of the best of dark and bright within her eyes—eyes which shine with her essence, be her essence more of night or of “gaudy” day.

Women and girls get so hung upon the perfectness of features—the lips not too thin but not too full, the flat belly, skin lacking in acne or scars, hair that performs as expected, thighs and calves that fit into skinny jeans—most often whatever they do not personally possess—or what they used to possess. Whole industries are built around telling us we are not enough unless we purchase certain products that hide who we are.

But who we are is where the true beauty resides. A woman who is doing something she loves wears beauty she cannot purchase. Joy radiates, whether at night or day.

Yet joy does not come simply to women who live in innocence or in soft ways. Joy comes in searching or discovery or mastery. Joy also comes from spending time with people who bring out the real persons inside and is reduced by spending time with those who expect us to conform only to their wishes of who we should be.

If nothing else, beauty comes from believing in one’s own beauty. How many women have you known who walk as if they are beautiful and, even if all the little pieces are not beautiful—a nose too prominent, a waist too thick, a smile too crooked—still have you convinced that they indeed walk in beauty?

Show the world who you are and the world will see you walking in beauty.

P.S. For another day to discuss whether or not walking in beauty should even matter . . .

[See “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron (George Gordon)]

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Happy Independence Day! But right away, my mind is wandering from that topic as it relates to the United States of America and thinking more about individual independence. Oh, I’ve read David McCullough’s books, John Adams and 1776, and remain absolutely amazed about how our country came to be—and that it came to be at all. The great experiment of trying to create a new country in a new way had so many reasons to fail—and yet it did not. What I noted about the great minds behind our country’s formation was that they were men both of action and of deep thinking. However, I am convinced that living in a time when people spent so much time alone in their own thoughts made it easier for them to come up with the original ideas they used to found this nation together.

That’s why a story on the front page of my newspaper (yes, I still want to hold that paper) grabbed my attention—and shocked me with its lead-in line: “People, and especially men, hate being alone with their thoughts so much that they’d rather be in pain.” (See Rachel Feltman’s article in the Washington Post referencing results from studies, published this week in the journal Science.) Many people would rather receive an electric shock than be alone with their own minds for a mere six to fifteen minutes? Really?

The results of studies on the ability of people to let their minds “wander”—defined as having time to sit and do nothing but think—make me (and others, no doubt) question just how often we as a society are missing out on being able to produce great ideas simply because we don’t let our minds wander nearly enough. Certainly our founding fathers had fewer outside distractions due to distances or lack of lighting and such, but they were also born not so long after people in their families had made a bold choice to leave what they had known to come to live in a place full of uncertainties and undeveloped spaces that encouraged much time alone with their own thoughts.

Between my husband, my daughter, my son, and me—not a one of us understands being bored with our own thoughts. No wonder we so often do not understand other people—nor they us!

True confession here: I find my mind to be fascinating and always have. I grew up in a small town where most of my classmates were bused in to school, so summers and weekends I had a lot of time to myself and yet rarely felt bored. I also had insomnia growing up, though I kept my eyes closed and stayed in bed, trying to fall asleep. In order to pass time, I made up stories for myself.

Years later I became a runner, for a few years running up to thirty-six miles a week, spending most of those six hours a week alone. I’d be rich if I got paid something for every time a person asked me, “What do you think about while running?” or told me how boring running was.

A few years later, a college professor of mine put into words how I felt about boredom. He used to say, “You’re not bored—you’re boring.” While I understand that the physical movement of something like running might not appeal to everyone, I still think the aspect of being alone inside one’s mind should not seem so boring.

Don’t just wait for someone else to fill your minds or–for goodness’ sake–give you physical shocks just to break the boredom. Slow down enough to learn how to listen to yourselves and the real shock might be in discovering that your own thoughts are way more fascinating than you knew.

Oh, people, people. Time spent thinking alone—even when you let your minds ramble on their own—is a great way to gain control of your own lives—and, maybe, a way to make a big difference in the lives of others. That little thought that asks you to pursue it might just be the next great thought for which we have been waiting. Your independent thoughts combined with mine and your neighbors’ thoughts might just lead to the next creative revolution.

Our founding fathers made order from chaos—perhaps by giving up a little order to pursue the chaos of our own minds, we have our best chance to return to being the sort of free-thinking people who created this country and made it great. To wander with wonder–now that’s independence.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

The south side of our lawn is exploding with color—no thanks to us—well, not directly anyway. Those hollyhocks and sunflowers growing so boldly are volunteers who showed up thanks to what we’ve planted at some point in previous years. Due to efforts from birds, squirrels, and/or wind, they thrive, blooming wherever they find their seeds have taken root, with no particular pattern to where they are growing.

While bees hum and finches burst out in joyful song, I marvel at this harvest of sorts from seeds planted so long ago. These self-seeding plants remind me that even during long fallow periods, new life can spring up from past cultivation. The hollyhocks sunning themselves today are many generations removed from those seeds I put in the soil maybe eight years ago. Yet despite my current neglect of the garden space, they grow thanks to what I began so many seasons before.

When so much about growth seems to be difficult—the constant battles with weeds, bare patches, pests, fluctuating moisture, and challenging weather—unexpected abundance also teaches me that though life is a force only slightly within my control, it is also good. Growth that is meant to happen will do so, even under tough conditions—or maybe even because of those conditions.

Who knows what else will volunteer in my life—no thanks to any efforts of my own or so long after I worked my hands in the dirt that I have forgotten seeds once sown.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert