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Humor is reason gone mad. Groucho Marx

"Groucho" in 1992

“Groucho” in 1992

Maybe I need to share the funny side of my recent massage. Yeah, when you are letting someone pull your scalp and poke levels in your ears and such, it helps to keep a sense of humor.

Or maybe humor is just what I used to defuse fear—because trust me, there is fear with letting someone try to fix a body that hasn’t been treating you so well lately. Plus, getting a massage is just pretty awkward in the first place because—make no mistake—you are vulnerable when you are mostly naked and lying on a table in a darkened room.

None of this even addresses the fact I grew up in a very German-American family. We may hug at our reunions now but we definitely weren’t huggers back in the day—and I was probably one of the most hug-averse of the group. I remember going to church conferences away from home and almost breaking out in a cold sweat when I realized that people I hardly knew were going to hug me. Oh no, there was no excessive touch in my early years once I was too old for sitting on laps and such.

Did not have my first massage until I had been a mother of twins for several years—and by then I was a little touched-out, if you know what I mean. So that first massage definitely was not as relaxing as I’d hoped. Seriously, I have pretty much only used massage as pain treatment—my family calls me “Olga” because I only seem to give or want to receive hard massages.

OK, now that we’ve established that I have hang-ups about touch you might really understand why I think funny thoughts sometimes during massage.

No, my current practioner is not some big woman with an accent. She is slender, calm, and gentle (but firm—you probably already knew that!) The walls of her massage space are not just filled with peaceful images of animals and scenery; tangible proof of her knowledge and qualifications also shares those same walls, just as in offices of other educated professionals.

The measuring processes she performed require several tools—some with technical names I didn’t catch. But I did recognize the levels she used for verifying, well, my levelness, as well as the chopsticks (!) she used as visual props. Of course, she required me to stand with correct posture—well, my best version of correct posture for now—and to look her in the eyes all while she measured up and down and across and backward and forwards.

So the first crazy thought I had had to do with seeing her eyes close-up in her glasses, which she does not usually wear. The concentrated focus reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard (with the seemingly all-seeing eyeglasses) in The Great Gatsby. Somehow I worried that under such close scrutiny, I would be found lacking, just as the characters were in that novel.

However, it was hard to feel too serious with a couple levels sticking out of your ears. And then when she used the chopsticks as a visual aid—by my head, of course—all I could think was that I hoped she wasn’t a zombie seeking out brains for an afternoon snack.

What a picture this whole process must have made. The visual would be great for a movie—well, with other people playing the roles. Even some of the massage techniques look funny although there isn’t really anything too funny about getting long-held pain to release—but I’m sure Hollywood could figure out a way to minimize that minor factor.

All I can tell you is that, despite the awkward moments and the discomfort as well as the pain, every time I leave I walk out a slightly newer woman—or at least a woman who is shedding some of the damage added over the years. There is nothing funny about that, except that the better I feel, the more I want to laugh. And while I might let you hug me, don’t even think about pulling my scalp—let’s leave that to the professionals! My madness has its limits.


(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Had a facelift yesterday. OK—not really, but somehow I look younger for having my cranium, of all things, worked on in order to help reduce my hip pain.

I’m at the point in my pursuit of healing where I’m chasing down subtle treatments—well, subtle in that it’s not always obvious how something such as the head’s placement might affect the hip. Not so subtle in the treatment—which was fairly intense and involved working on the connections around bones in my head with names that mostly escape me. But, trust me, the painful work on my mandible (the lower jawbone) had me realizing just how much I had to trust my neuromuscular massage therapist to let her do this.

How did I know that getting my jaw worked on would help my hip? I didn’t—but I had to trust the process based on past experiences with the practioner and the healing she’s brought me so far. I absolutely believe one of the bigger problems with seeing a physical therapist or an orthopedic doctor (which I haven’t done but my daughter has) is that those professionals see the body more in pieces. For those of us who didn’t get injured from an event, perhaps knowing how to fix the ache won’t be enough to prevent it again, if nothing else changes.

Am I a case in point? Possibly. My trigger-point-dry-needling and exercises from the PT—along with time—definitely healed me from my bulging disc. I felt good after I healed, but I didn’t want to do therapy exercises just to feel good—I wanted to do those exercises so I could get back to doing other activities I enjoy. And that isn’t the craziest thought since I do not have any major musculoskeletal damage.

But what about my biomechanics no longer allows me to do my activities as I’d choose, even with a fairly regular maintenance exercise routine? This, my friends, leads me to an even grayer area than that of how to treat initial lower back/hip pain. If you think all the different types of professional experts have opposing opinions about how to treat such pain in an acute situation, just try to get treatment for that pain in a chronic situation. You can find all sorts of valid scientific research to point you in a treatment direction, but so little is absolute in how such treatments will best bring about healing in your particular lower back/hip.

No, I’ve done yoga long enough to realize that all those pieces of our bodies are connected. My slight understanding of physics tells me that change one part of the body and another part will respond or act in a different way. By now I’m aware that a holistic approach as to why a certain section of my body isn’t working well very likely will include some other section of my body, but I have to admit I never really thought my head might be that section damaging my hip. (And for today, not even going to go into depth on the mind-body connection which adds a whole ‘nuther layer to the holistic approach.)

Just so you know, the practioner didn’t just start yanking around on my head. She measured quite a few sections of my body, looking for quantification of discrepancies. Who knew that a pair of levels could be used to analyze how various bones in my body compared side-by-side? Turns out I’m not as crooked as she expected and the crookedness I demonstrate is focused in a few crucial areas.

Sometime during the post-measurement massage session I realized my hip was not screaming quite as loudly as it had been—and not just because other body parts were receiving more focused attention. When I finally stood from the table, I really did feel the shift.

And last night? I slept better than I had in ages and woke more with the stiffness of a good workout than from the stiffness of chronic pain.

I know enough to understand that my body can shift back again. I still have to train it to learn these new alignments, just as I have done with other changes made over my lifetime from wearing orthotics or doing drills at a track practice or practicing yoga or being treated with dry needling. Muscle memory is both what holds me back and what may save me with intention and practice as I attempt to teach my body new memories.

Once again we’re back to the head—and the mind-body connection. All I know is for today I’ve got a good head (straight) on my shoulders—which may yet bring the crooked (back and hip) in line.

(See Neurosomatic Therapy.)

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Before all this current brouhaha in a neighboring school district got national attention, I didn’t like what I’d heard—not from that district and not from another neighboring district.

Schools belong to our communities, but there is nothing to say that everyone in a particular community will get along or will share the same vision. That’s a fact of life we just have to deal with—even when the majority makes choices that go against those we would make.

In fact, when I finally took my kids out of the local district for their high school years, it was because I was tired of teachers and community members resisting change at the high school level because “we know our community’s kids” and “these new ways aren’t right for our kids” and so on. Based on my volunteer accountability experience at the district level, I knew their current ways weren’t right for my kids.

I still believe our family made the right choice for our kids, but I was sorry to have to bow out of supporting the schools in our own neighborhood. I was a visitor in that other community, not a decision-maker from a voting standpoint.

But the thing is, I believe our communities have the right to make educational decisions based on what feels right for the people who live there. And whoever wins the school board elections earns the right to continue making decisions for the community—as long as they understand that they serve the whole community and are held accountable by the statutes, legal framework, and community within which they work.

What I really, really don’t like is this trend of political parties and PACs getting into our local school board elections and of people running for the board as a slate. Sure, there has always been the possibility of graft and bias within many of these organizations, but that graft and bias should at least be reflective of what people in our communities believe matters most. It shouldn’t be influenced by what someone sitting in another state wants us to do. There is a platform for national concerns and it shouldn’t be our local institutions.

Yes, our schools have to work within state and national restrictions—and for good reason in many situations. What we don’t need is more outsiders telling us exactly how to educate our kids.

I want individuals in our school boardrooms making individual decisions for kids within the framework of the board. I want pressure on the school board to come from our own stakeholders: the local parents, teachers, students, business people, and residents. We’re still going to have to struggle to make decisions together that reflect our community’s values and needs and some of us may still decide our kids’ needs might be met better elsewhere, but at least our decisions will be ours.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My years of supporting my kids’ schools and working on academic accountability committees are long gone, but I’ve seen the effects of some of our educational failings for this generation. Too much standardization and test-taking passes for providing a rigorous education. I worry that our current systems reward passive thinking and even lead to disengagement for those who might want to think more deeply.

For years I’ve been saying that in order to create rigorous educational systems that we have to get the students engaged. The factory model of grading students well if they can parrot what teachers say or if they do well on multiple choice tests does not encourage critical thinking. What it does encourage is shallow learning at the best and group think at the worst.

The question students need to ask is what does this information mean? And then to think about how what that information means may vary for many reasons. What does it mean in these times? In previous times? To me? To others who are not like me? Education isn’t really about giving people answers but about giving them the tools to ask the questions and to do something with what they know and understand.

It’s too easy to dismiss today’s students as pawns or lazy thinkers—and if they have bought into learning only what’s going to be on the test and what a specific teacher wants them to think about what they are learning, then, yes, that is true.

But today’s students also have access to an infinite amount of external information. If they do not feel right about something they have been taught, they can do their own research and reach out to others to try to discover what might seem truer to them.

Is that dangerous? Oh yes. But is that any more dangerous than not even questioning what one particular person or group wants them to believe?

We need students who can break through the spins that are coming from media outlets, politicians, researchers, community and world leaders, business people, the so-called man on the streets, educators, and even parents—really, from anyone who is trying to convince them of something because “they” say so. Our students need to be taught to strip away the bias and read and listen and think for themselves. Peer pressure is not just something that happens in high school—and yet the consequences from peer pressure in the real world are even more devastating for the whole of society.

Go ahead and try to teach patriotism by stripping away access to knowledge of the events that made past citizens fight to get this great country back on track. But don’t be surprised if those who choose to think deeply consider themselves just as patriotic as those who would tell them to believe blindly.

This is not a political party thing. This is not a generational thing. When kids have learned to think for themselves, don’t be surprised at what happens when they put those thinking skills into action. I have been worried that we have taught out the thinking skills—so glad to see thoughtful engagement in practice anyway. These kids—and consequently our country’s future—may just be all right after all.

Reference: Jefferson County (Colorado) students protesting curriculum proposal.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

When I gave birth to my twins, the experienced moms from my running club’s board gave me a bath gift set. At first I thought, “I never take baths. And when will I ever have time for one now? Are they crazy?”

But they weren’t experienced moms for nothing. In those days of the too-muchness of early parenting years, there is often too little time or money to do big things for oneself. Sometimes the easiest way to take care of yourself is to create a little retreat time in your own home while the other parent makes certain you won’t be interrupted—even if such times rarely happen.

I think it took me years to use up that gift set. I barely had time to sit down let alone to soak in a warm tub by myself, but the few times a year I did sit in the tub really helped me to keep doing all those things I did when I wasn’t sitting down.

I never really developed a bath habit until much later when aches and pains from skiing or a particularly hard workout would chase me into that tub. Even then I wasn’t very consistent with hot soaks until I encountered the chronic pain of injuries that did not heal nearly as quickly as I hoped.

Oh, thank goodness for the decent size of our 1940s bathtub. Lucky for me most of those aches and pains really do fit into that space of healing.

No, I’m still not a bubble bath, spa kind of a woman in the pampering sense. I’m more of an Epsom salts bath devotee seeking to keep those physical therapists out of my life, or a post-traumatic-massage bather.

By now I’ve learned that time in the tub is not wasted time—it can get me moving after a tough night when my body refuses to allow pain-free sleep or it can get me back out on the track when I’m more than a little stiff. And if I know I overdid it on said track, a quick post-run bath can alleviate the likelihood of another sleepless night.

If there were an Epsom salts bath council and it ever needed a representative, I would be that person. These days I believe in baths, I really do. Health, sanity, whatever—baths keep me on track, one way or the other. After ducking into a bath, I always feel just ducky.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Wondering if I dropped off the face of the Internet? Still here, but was limiting most of my Internet visits to searching for references for my most recent work project. And, boy, did I need references!

I realize that you’ve probably heard me yammering about the value of the liberal arts and how important I think it is to study a variety of subjects. I really do try to live the liberal arts; however, I do have to admit that some subjects are natural fits for me, while others continue to be a bit of a struggle.

But struggle is good for the brain, right? And my brain should be so much fitter than it has been after the last two weeks of proofreading a chemistry textbook.

Yes, chemistry was the course that derailed my quest for becoming valedictorian. You could say that chemistry was the teacher that started me on the road to understanding that education is not about the marks you get, but about what you learn. You can struggle with the concepts of a subject, but still learn quite a lot about what they mean, even if you don’t have the aptitude or desire to learn more.

Despite having a father who was a pharmacist and despite having a high school lab partner who is a big name on the Genome Project, my understanding is not as developed as I’d like. I was really glad my son Jackson was available to help me with some of my questions—even if I was asking more for my own understanding than for what was needed from me in the scope of the assignment. Finally I had to concede that I was letting past emotions get in the way of the work—I acted as if I personally had to know how to solve the equations even though my job was simply to look for discrepancies. People with deeper knowledge than mine had done that work—and I could check their work by using references.

After my asking several questions, Jackson said, “You really don’t get this (chemistry) like you do most things, do you?”

No, but I got it enough not to be bored while working through the textbook—which shows that I am much more interested in learning for learning’s sake than I was when I was chasing grades. It’s safe to say that while I am much better at understanding the theoretical aspects of beginning chemistry now that I am older, I am still not likely to understand the hows as well as I understand the whys.

I’m still not going to grow up to be a chemist—and that’s OK.

“What’s next?” you ask. Astronomy, baby. Seems my (lifetime) liberal arts education is taking a decided trend away from the arts and toward the sciences right now. To infinity and beyond! Yup, the sky’s the limit—or limitless—or something like that—and all sorts of other metaphors I won’t even pretend to understand. If you don’t hear from me for awhile, it will only seem as if I have fallen into a black hole.

Odds of my growing up to be an astronomer? As likely as odds of my becoming a chemist—which is zilch. Odds of stretching my brain? Somewhere further on the spectrum of possible than if I just stick with what I already know.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Once upon a time a decade or two ago, I believed the tales told to me in business school. Perhaps they weren’t tales before some of the financial ravages occurred that changed how we do business. But those were days before right-sizing and outsourcing and all those great buzz words that might help the bottom line—and I’m sticking with “might” because I believe in a bottom line that reflects more than the latest quarter, but one that also looks to future earnings and growing customer goodwill—were quite so prominent.

Basically, I fell for operations management, not because I am some mathematical wizard who can analytically detail the best way to manufacture a product or provide a service, but because I believe the human decisions about the whys behind a process make a difference in how well an entity serves various stakeholders.

And part of the whys should be having a plan for how that entity responds when the goods are not delivered as promised or when promised or whatever. The manner in which a website is designed or a phone tree is built indicates something of the sort of service that is most valued by the organization. Resources, especially when limited, tend to get allocated toward what matters most.

When I access a website or a phone tree and note that my particular concern isn’t prominent, then either my current difficulty is not common or it isn’t considered as important as other problems to the organization.

This is where I find myself this week. Does a company so famous for its delivery systems not often have a problem with delivering packages to the wrong homes or does it focus more on resolving problems for the businesses that procure its services? Even though I pay the shipping fee to the original business, it’s that business that chooses which shipping provider to use—for all its shipping needs. They are the bigger stakeholder.

Of all the FAQs listed on the website, there is not one that says: Tracking says a package was delivered but the package was not received. Not sure if the “How do I determine what address my package was delivered to?” instructions work since it is their records available to me that show it was delivered to my address.

After a couple days of calling back and forth to the local hub for our neighborhood’s deliveries while waiting for the driver to tell the office if she recognized my house, I have found out she did not. Then I was told to call the original shipper to have them file the claim.

In my perfect little fairy tale world, this isn’t my responsibility. The company, recognizing that it has likely made a delivery to the wrong address, then takes charge of the mistake and does the legwork for me. The company facilitates this because it wants the problem corrected for me, the individual stakeholder, as well as for the larger stakeholder that is the business that chooses to send its deliveries to me and all its other customers through this particular shipper.

Beyond that, the company also tries to understand if something in the process led to the mistake in the first place in order to make changes that will reduce future errors. Plus, perhaps said company realizes that making the initial contact more customer-friendly and efficient in the face of delivery difficulties will improve the experience for all stakeholders—including its own employees and the productive and cost-effective use of their time—which in the end improves that ever important bottom line.

And then we would all live happily ever after.

As it stands, I left a phone message with the original business that sent out my package in good faith last week through the shipper. Any sweet dreams I expected from using the ordered little pillow to better position my oh-so-sensitive “princess and the pea” back for restful sleep will have to wait. If I were really living in a fairy tale, then all these challenges would simply be part of my hero’s journey to reach the happy ending.

Since I no longer believe in such tales, I’ll just say that this whole saga is not an example of best practices—for any of the stakeholders.


But there’s more after all! In between writing and editing this piece, the doorbell rang. A man I did not recognize was standing there with my package. When he told me it was mine, I had to ask where he lives—inquiring minds want to know how all this really happened. His house is on the 3500 block while ours is on the 3800 block—no wonder I didn’t know him by sight. (And, yes, the correct address was marked on the box twice.)

So while what I said about businesses still stands, it turns out that sometimes you can depend on the kindness of strangers. In a world of people busy not taking enough responsibility for their actions, there are always those who take on more responsibility than is their due. As so often happens, just when my experiences seem to indicate that believing in others belongs in a mythical tale, then something happens that reminds me that there are plenty of people (and entities) living out the hero’s journey every day—in both big and small ways.

Don’t know if my pillow will be the magical solution for which I sought, but I’ll rest easier having remembered that some tales are true—which makes for a much happier ending for this particular tale.

When I was young, my mom stopped telling me in advance about special plans because I got so upset if they did not happen. When she told me we couldn’t do something because so-and-so was sick, I’d respond with “But you said . . .” Tired of my very vocal expressions of disappointment, she would wait before she let me know about what was supposed to happen.

She just couldn’t convince me that some things were unforeseeable. To me a plan was a plan and a commitment was a commitment.

Sadly, I still feel that way, even though I’ve lived long enough to know that stuff just happens. When a promise doesn’t come through, I just want to say, “But you said . . .” And in that same whiny voice, too. I try not to do so, really I do, because everyone—including moi—makes mistakes.

Plus, I’ve studied operations management. I know how unrealistic it is that nothing will ever go wrong, no matter how airtight the system or the human intent. There are still acts of God (FedEx was monitoring volcanic eruptions in Iceland when I first tracked my recent package delivery) as well as times the system and/or the human fails.

Our dogs in the vehicle while it shows the first temporary license.

Our dogs in the vehicle while it shows the first temporary license.

Nonetheless, yesterday was a frustrating day in our home. In the first case, I don’t think we’re wrong to believe the entity really isn’t doing its job. We still don’t have a license plate for our vehicle that we bought almost four months ago. The first sign of lack of attention was the company not charging our Discover Card (don’t worry about our financial decisions—we were ultimately using investment funds to round out our purchase the vehicle) for the 65% of the purchase price not covered by the cash we paid. And then when the charge appeared (after our notification to them), it appeared twice. Got that fixed only to not receive a title before having to pay for an extension.

With my husband’s constant reminders, the organization continued to search for the title, plus—reluctantly—agreed to provide us with another temporary license to get us through until the arrival. When the title finally came to us, it showed up with a dealer name change form. Instinct told us there still might be trouble, so we did not wait to bring in the title until the temporary’s expiration. Good thing because the name change form is not valid. So we wait again.

But they said they would sell us a vehicle. Why is it nothing has been done correctly and on time—well, except for the fact that the car itself appears to be as good as promised. Surely it is the dealer’s job to know how to do the facets of its own business, such as processing credit cards and meeting government documentation requirements?

And then there was my pillow—out on the FedEx truck at 3:44 a.m. yesterday. I was anticipating a better night’s sleep last night since the special pillow my neuromuscular massage therapist had suggested was finally arriving. I spent much of yesterday in my home office, cleaning off my desk for a project that will be on my desk later this week. Also, I wrote and posted another blog post. From my desk window I can see and hear the delivery trucks that come through my neighborhood. All afternoon I looked for the package, but it had not arrived when I left at 5:30.

Imagine my disappointment when I arrived home at 7:30 and saw that tracking stated my package had been delivered at 3:15. No one else in my house had seen the package either, despite what the records said.

“Describe your house,” the representative said.

"3 Margaritas"

Our PINK house.

“The numbers are clearly legible from the street. There’s a large Colorado Blue Spruce in front of it. It’s stucco—and it’s pink. You can’t miss it.”

Not only did they say they would deliver it, but also they said they did deliver it. So either they did deliver it and someone very quickly stole this odd-shaped pillow or they left the pillow on the porch of some not-pink house (or the driver is stockpiling packages or sleeping on the job—scenarios not very likely with FedEx’s strict operational and employment policies.)

But they said . . . and I remain disappointed.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Been so long since we’ve had a wet summer that it has almost seemed like a new experience. Usually by this time the need for relief from a well-baked summer is palpable, but this year summer has played nice and served up cooler temps and moister air. Nonetheless, I welcome September’s return.

This dawn’s cool breeze woke me with a whisper of September. Ah, September, how I’ve missed you. From snuggling under a blanket thanks to temperatures as low as 44 degrees to basking in afternoon suns some 40 degrees higher, this is how I spend summer’s end.

But this year, the September blooms flourish with a boldness not seen in years—no thanks to my efforts. For once, my hanging plants don’t suffer if I take a day or two off from watering them. Since nearly all of them are mostly covered, it’s not that they’re getting a lot from the unusual rains. Instead—thanks to summer’s lower temperatures and moister air—they aren’t nearly as thirsty. Plus, we’ve also been lucky in that our neighborhood has missed out on the worst of the region’s hail storms.

The ivy geraniums that came home leggy and mostly bloomless from wintering at my husband Sherman’s office have rebounded in a glorious manner. The new growth is drinking in these unusual weather conditions. The already cooler nights feed not just geranium blooms but also zinnias, impatiens, and Gerbera daisies. Our yard is exploding with color.

September—so good to see you dressed up so well and ready to dance. Let the wild rumpus begin . . .

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