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(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

As your kids grow—even when they aren’t away from home—you know less and less about their lives—as is right. You see some of their successes as well as their fumblings, but you often don’t spend a lot of time with them.

When you notice them moving in a good direction, you cheer the possibilities. Like me, my son gets great benefit from physical activities, and I’ve enjoyed watching his growth—both physical and mental—from his participation in martial arts over the last several months. Thanks to this practice, we’ve seen less and less of him around our home lately.

That is, until last month, when his head got injured at work. Since then he’s had to take a hiatus from the physical aspects of his martial arts, as well as from his sometime weekend gig as well as from working full days at his regular job.

The news is full of the long-term effects from head injuries these days with more information available about the difficulties all levels of athletes are experiencing from previous concussions. I was raised by a mother who had a head injury with effects that lingered for her lifetime so I do understand many of the concerns surrounding the distant future.

But what I didn’t understand was just how much a seemingly minor head injury affects someone in the short term.

My son is receiving care under Worker’s Compensation for his injury. At first he was released to full-time work but with physical reductions. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that focusing at work for the normal time period led to excruciating headaches that chased him into a dark room post-work. His maximum allowed work hours were reduced to five a day.

Although he feels much better with more rest, he is not healed and it is not clear how long it will be until he is. He is so frustrated that he can neither perform to his own standards at work nor do the activities he likes, such as the martial arts and snow skiing. Plus, he feels the clock ticking as work and friends wonder why he isn’t better yet. Trust me, so does he.

He is being seen by medical professionals who are searching for that answer. Despite what some have said, I’m not cynical enough to believe they would drag out the process just to make money. That doctor’s office today was plenty busy with people who were there on private insurance. In fact, if I’m cynical at all, it’s because some people I know have received sub-standard care from worker’s comp providers. So far I don’t feel that either case is true for him.

I hate being so aware of the costs for this—I know that workplace injuries like this can drive up premiums for small businesses. If I could I would have suggested he receive care all along on our insurance to avoid all that—but that’s not how the systems function. He didn’t get hurt doing martial arts or putting up Christmas lights at home or walking down the street, for that matter—he got hurt while doing his job, working a position that is physical enough to have some risk of workplace injuries.

All I know is he’d rather be working full-time and continuing his moonlighting position and growing in his martial arts and going skiing with us and just living his everyday life. Instead, he’s had rest imposed on him—which is tough at any age, let alone at 22.

My mother’s heart hurts that he has to put his life on hold and that his body has been damaged. “Stuff” happens in everyone’s lives but that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens to someone you love.

He’s young and time is on his side, but, for now, time is moving way too slowly for him. As my mother-in-law always says during tough times, this too shall pass. Guess we’ll just have to enjoy how his slowed down pace gives us more time to pass with him.

(c) 2013

(c) 2013

Despite all the frustrations over scheduling and advising, our daughter is getting ready to graduate this semester. Yahoo! She is busy making certain all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed so that she can leave with that degree—for which she will have an extra 14 credit hours. No, I told her not to accept the department adviser’s minor error on her graduation contract—it could matter. (My niece is marrying a man whose academic department started quibbling with him regarding his degree completion over two months after they said he had graduated.)

Besides completing her capstone art semester, which will culminate with a solo art show, she is also taking a professional practices course. She’s been working on tasks such as creating business cards and setting up her professional Facebook page. Somehow it’s hard to believe—despite the extra two semesters—that she is finally graduating.

Yes, we are those “crazy” parents who “let” our daughter declare a major in art—with a concentration in drawing in a small and highly competitive program. Will she be able to support herself solely with her art? That remains to be seen, but the desire to support herself is one of the reasons she is getting her art education within a four-year (make that five-year!) university program.

In these times so many people believe studying the humanities at all, let alone art, is a license to starve. And I have to thank everyone (sarcasm intended) who has pointed that out over the years, including some of her professors who think it is some sign of poor artistry to do anything with her art that doesn’t involve selling in a studio. Also, I would like to thank the many lackluster students in more practical majors who are shocked—just shocked—that she not only has a lot of work to do for her classes but also that she gets graded. How many of them could survive having all their highly unique work critiqued not only by the professor but also by their peers, every single time?

I happen to believe that being a passionate student in any subject teaches students more than they will learn if they only do the bare minimum in some subject they take because it is supposed to earn them money. Hey, I have an MBA (to go with that lowly humanities degree) but I’ve met a lot of former and current business majors who cared more about partying than balance sheets or P/E ratios.

When my daughter tells many students what she is studying, they say, “Oh, wow, I can’t draw.” As if somehow this has anything to do with them in the first place but I think they’re trying to point out how irrelevant her knowledge is. I’ll get to what’s relevant about her studies in a moment, but let’s just say that it’s too bad they can’t draw, because she can draw by hand and computer (plus edit by computer) as well as create spreadsheets, perform accounting, write, do research, and excel in math and science classes.

You see, she’s graduating with a bachelor’s degree just like all the other people at her university—they don’t give those degrees away no matter your major. Like everyone else there, she’s taken a variety of other courses besides those in her major and area of concentration.

Plus—and here’s where my liberal arts rant begins again—each discipline teaches valuable skills that apply to many situations.

In order to obtain a degree in art, for each project she does she has to follow a prompt—in other words, she has to design her finished product to some specifications. She must sketch possibilities from her ideas, research artists and works similar to her idea, investigate materials and see how well she can apply those materials to her specific project plan, and change the plan as needed. She has to manage her time in order to finish a long project by the deadline. When she is finished she must go through a group critique where the professor and her peers get to weigh in on how they perceive her finished project achieved its intent. At times she must create art in partnership or as part of a team. Keep in mind that few of her courses involve taking multiple choice tests by Scantron—most of the work she does is distinct and individualized.

So to summarize: For any given project she must work from directions, use creativity, perform research, practice good time management, remain flexible as her project develops, meet established deadlines, communicate ideas in writing and orally to individuals and groups, and receive criticism and feedback from multiple individuals.

Don’t discount her education—it’s been rigorous and has helped her develop the tools she needs to meet the demands of a variety of professions. Hey, I’d be happy if you’d buy her art and she could live as an artist. But just so you know, her discipline has taught her many skills and developed others that are valuable to many kinds of jobs and careers.

Just because she can draw a box doesn’t mean she isn’t able to draw outside the box.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

What a treat today has been—nothing like enjoying 71 degrees at the end of January, especially, if like me, you get to get outside and go to the beloved spot that is Washington Park. We had similar weather yesterday so I knew to bring warm weather clothes for my post-errand run. I also knew to expect pretty much everyone and his/her dog to come play in the park—which they did. My poor dogs, home jumping around in our snow-melt mud puddles, have no idea what else they missed. For one thing, they missed seeing a Bald Eagle sitting majestically at the top of a tree, located just perfectly in front of a view of snow-covered mountaintops.

That’s the beauty of going the pace I go these days—I have a chance to smell the roses or—in today’s case—to look up and see the eagle. Didn’t take me too long to see the people craning their heads toward a tree while holding out their cell phones. I debated stopping, but decided just experiencing my glimpse of the eagle was enough. Of course, that didn’t stop me from ending my run over by that tree and trying for another look. No such luck, but once was enough.

My husband Sherman and I have spent the last few Thursday evenings running in the same location since it’s one place with good lighting and surfaces where most of the snow and ice melt quickly. Those recent nighttime experiences could not be more different from running out there today with all of Denver. Instead, the park is really quiet. The more adventurous souls are running on the dirt path (or more often, it’s a path hard packed in snow) using their headlamps—or nothing—to spot out the more treacherous surfaces. Our ability to run at all—slow as it is—is too hard-fought for us to take further risks with our bodies—which is why we stay on the better lighted roads that wind around the park.

We also do bring our dogs when we run together. For them, it’s no different if the thermometer reads 70 degrees or 10, or if the ground’s icy, dry, muddy, or all of the above—as long as they get to go.

Just looking around the dogs at the park—either ours in the quiet evenings or the ones I see out and about in the daytime—reminds me that it’s really about the “get to” not the “got to”—and, more than that, it’s about being in the moment. Dogs aren’t at the park thinking about taking a nap or hanging out on the couch nor are they worrying about when dinner will be—or even if they’re going to pay for going a little too far. They’re just running or walking. For some it’s all about the “go” and for others there’s the go and the geese and the people and the other dogs and the smells—oh my.

Oh my indeed. Love it in the cold and dark, but there’s no treat like getting out in the warmth and sunshine right smack dab in the middle of the winter. Whenever my steps feel hard-earned, may I remember that if I get to go, I’m doing OK. Just ask any dog—it really is all about the go.

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger

Haven’t a good shipping tale to tell in a few months, but here’s another one. Sometimes I think all this tracking information we receive is just designed to drive us crazy. Ordered an animal anatomy book for Christiana to take back for her final (woo hoo!) semester—she’s into doing animal art but never had a reference from her studies. Classes started today so I was excited to see that the book had arrived in our town.

Except it hadn’t—it arrived in the metro Denver area but not at our post office, according to the tracking records. Thought that was strange but figured it would take another day to get to our house because of that.

But, no, that’s not what the tracking information said. Instead, I noticed that tracking said it was undeliverable and that I should contact the sender. Unless the address label didn’t match the shipping records on file with the sender or had been damaged on its short trip across the Midwest, then the package simply ended up at a post office 10 miles or so away from the intended destination.

Once again, didn’t seem fair that the company sending me the package had to send me a new one because the shipper didn’t get the process right. Yet that’s how things go these days.

I tried to call the post office that had rejected my package—in hopes that my package had yet to leave the building. Was not a good sign when I looked up the location online and instant bad reviews for the office popped up with statements such as “they never answer phones” or “worst customer service ever” and that sort of thing. At my local office, there may be lines at the counter due to not having enough workers but I recognize all the clerks by face—they are pleasant and competent, plus I’ve seen them answer phones and spend time resolving problems.

I spent about 10 minutes on hold as the auto-answering system tried to find me an available clerk or a clerk’s voice mail that wasn’t full. I was just in a loop going from full mail box to full mail box. Kind of ironic, right?

After a brief conversation with my local office where the clerk was flabbergasted but had no answers for me since that office did not have the package—or it would have been delivered to me and none of this would have happened—I called back to Barnes & Noble, whose first customer support person had pretty much told me—between the lines—not to expect any results once my package was marked undeliverable. I know, I know, but I still wanted to think I could just talk to someone who could locate the package that had just received its red letter mark a few hours ago and then I could drive over to pick it up myself since it had come so close to me after leaving Illinois.

What did I expect? Do I think I’m living in TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show” and its town of Mayberry, circa 1965?

Ah no, but I’d like to think what we have lost in personal connection we have gained in efficiency—instead it seems we’re less efficient. My B&N support people were nice enough, even if I don’t know them. And though I never got to talk to anyone at that other post office, I did get to talk with the local clerk whose voice I do recognize.

We’ve got all these fancy computer scanners and distribution systems but we don’t tend to support the clerk who would say, “Well, this here package says 80110. What’s it doing in 80130? Let’s get it on over to the other side of town. Shoot, this doesn’t have to go back to the sender.” I know Barney Fife wasn’t a mail clerk, but those of you who know who Barney Fife was in that fictional Mayberry, can’t you imagine him saying that in his twangy voice? In fact, my own grandfather was a rural mail carrier (no twang) and I can’t imagine him just sending something back. No, these days we want our clerks to follow the system, even when they can see what the problem is and how easy it would be to fix. Just send it back—it keeps general production moving along.

Since the tracking said my package was undeliverable, B&N was sending another copy by express delivery—no charge to me, of course. Only now they are sending it my daughter at school in Fort Collins—let’s hope the package goes straight to the 80521 office because I don’t even want to get started about the six weeks 80525 dithered before sending an 80526 package back as undeliverable. Never mind that an 80525 apartment complex and 80526 condo complex shared the same street address—not good planning, but I’m guessing it leads to common problems—but maybe no common solutions.

But, guess what? Tracking information I received the day after the undeliverable notice arrived said 80130 had sent the package on to 80110 after all—and then our local carrier delivered the book before noon on Saturday. The book turned out to be so fantastic that we’ll pay B&N twice after all and sell the second copy to another animal artist in my daughter’s class.

Tracking and shipping news—it just keeps coming these days—more often than what’s being shipped. With any luck, the (second) book will arrive on my daughter’s doorstep before she graduates in May.

P.S. The second book did arrive as planned and we did pay to keep it. Thanks to shipping snafus, the author (and B&N) made two sales, so I guess some good came out of what seemed like extra costs to B&N.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

That’s right, this year I aspire to live up to the shirt I won on Saturday—well, at least the “been there, done that” part. Since I already own a Polar brand watch that doesn’t have GPS, I’ll just have to stick to using my phone app to know where I’ve been.

Of course, I have higher aspirations than running more this year, but what I know is that when I can run more, I am in better mental condition to meet all my other aspirations. Running is circular for me—and not just when I’m running on a track.

What I don’t know is just how to get my body to heal in the ways I wish or how to keep myself committed enough to keep doing the hard work necessary to achieve the type of healing I want—especially in light of last year’s low results.

At the beginning of last month I was excited to get out on the roads, but instead my body got to fight that weird infection I hosted—and then it was fighting back against the treatments! Add in my son’s concussion and its effects along with waning light and all the tasks surrounding getting ready for Christmas and you can pretty much say I fell off the wagon, both in miles run and in maintenance exercises. Did what I could when I could with attending my regularly scheduled classes, but there was more of fudge than fitness about me in December. Usually I revel in the quiet focus exercise gives me during December’s crazy days, but this year my focus felt fractured.

Now it’s already January as well as time to pack away my excuses and direct my healing toward what I can do. Part of me has wondered if something about my prescribed exercises was keeping me achy during sleeping but simply by virtue of not doing those exercises, I can at least state that the exercises, as a whole, seemed to be helpful after all. I am again out sleeping on the couch with the dogs (where I go for a few hours when my hip thinks the bed is too uncomfortable) more nights than previously.

So while those exercises aren’t as obviously productive as I’d hoped they would be, they seem to help me more than not doing them—which means it’s time to jump back on that wagon—or at least back on the foam roller (and yoga mat) for my daily at-home routine.

And if the weather doesn’t cooperate with good running conditions, I’ll just have to pay to run inside. I don’t mind the cold, but what I really don’t need is a slip on ice to compound troubles for my wish-it-weren’t-so-achy hip.

At last Saturday’s run, I tread carefully on any icy or snowy spots and didn’t worry that I was at the back of the pack. Went there, (very slowly) ran that, and lived to win the T-shirt after standing out in the cold during the drawings for swag.

Then I went home (heated car seat cranked), then sat there in my (hot) bathtub. Been there, done that, and gonna’ keep doing it again and again if necessary—along with my exercises, of course—because I’ve got a shirt to live up to—and so many more places to go and things to do in my life.

Yes, I still have miles to go before I sleep—don’t want to miss them just because the road has been more than a little bumpy. Going to go there, do that, and keep dodging the potholes as best I can.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert