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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Still trying to erase some of the pictures I’ve viewed over the past few weeks, but so far to no avail. When I agreed to proofread a biology textbook, I forgot about my aversion to certain kinds of critters—including the kinds I can’t see and especially those that are always looking for a good host or hostess. I should be thankful I only saw a scorpion and a salamander in my dream, right? Yes, in my house I am known as Princess Mia—a reference to Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series and how Mia is always certain she has whatever disease she is studying in her science classes.

Perhaps this ability to think too much about living organisms is the real reason I avoided studying science like the plague. Yes, that statement is not only a cliché but also another reminder that there is yet another reason for me to panic—thanks to wet conditions, the plague is alive and well and thriving in local critters—and has killed two people so far here in Colorado. This year we’ve also got rabies, tularemia, and West Nile disease. Don’t forget Hantavirus either. Not only has our state reported three fatalities but I also saw a mouse in my house this very day. We’re all going to DIE . . . and if not from that mouse, then from some random bear and her very hungry cubs who can’t find enough chokecherries thanks to the bad timing of the most recent fall and spring freezes.

And for certain I’m never going to walk barefoot again in my back yard. I have dogs, for goodness’ sake, and who knows what all might be living inside them. And all the dust bunnies inside the house that I considered annoying but harmless are probably just full of living and breathing and thriving dust mites?

After reading all those chapters filled with pictures of microorganisms, parasites (that can grow how long?), reptiles, and insects, I was almost relieved to see those photos of the fetal pigs. Almost—but I did concede to proofing that chapter after I ate my dinner. Because uncooked pigs can host what? Don’t get me started, right? And the human chapters were the best because these chapters were just overviews of properly functioning systems. After what I’d seen in previous chapters, a little drawing detailing the human reproductive system was almost nothing on my personal gross-out scale.

I need to get back to experiencing the world in my usual more-ethereal way—one where I am in the world but not of the world too much. Or at least when I get to choose to see what I want to see and to ignore what I most certainly do not want to see. Would be so much easier if I hadn’t just spotted that mouse this morning—oh Lord, save me from an active and informed imagination. Eek—it’s time for gloves and masks and disinfectant—just picture that.

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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

My dad’s parents lived well up until their last few years and they lived long—both until 92. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have grandparents who were active and independent—even into my late 20s—before old age finally caught up with them. Before that they made annual car trips halfway across the country to visit their relatives while also being able to drive themselves to watch our sporting events or to come stay with us. Granddad didn’t retire for the final (his third) time until he was in his mid-80s.

Although their own family was small—just my dad and our family—they had a large circle of extended family members and old friends who they always made sure to see. Their best times in old age were spent visiting with these people—something I thought was B-O-R-I-N-G. What I didn’t see then was how they got together with those in their circle, even during hard times. They loved to see new babies or talk about good times, but where they shone was visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes and attending funerals.

I have never been one of those people who walks into a nursing home at ease—though it breaks my heart that so many people are living in bodies and minds that are failing them, I am also afraid of approaching and interacting with them—as if somehow it’s all about me and my discomfort and not theirs. This despite the fact my grandparents brought me to visit in a nursing home often in my younger years because one of their (our) relatives lived there much of her long life after an early head injury. Thanks to them I at least understood that old age didn’t always look like the independence Granddad and Grandma maintained—and I witnessed what faithful commitment to loved ones through hard times looked like.

When my grandmother finally ended up in such a place in the final two years of her life, it was hard for me to see her that way in that space. I didn’t have to face my discomfort too often because I lived far away busy raising toddler twins, but in those years while my grandma declined, my father kept up the good visiting example set before him by his parents.

Later as my own mom descended deep into Alzheimer’s, I moved her into memory care. I had to learn to override my discomfort in order to visit her most days, but I did. And when you visit someone in memory care, you visit many other people beside your own loved one. I wouldn’t say I grew relaxed, but I could reach out to the other (mostly) women who I met there—people who I could see as individuals hanging onto who they were by a slim thread and people who needed to know they were not alone in whatever scary lack of understanding their own minds exhibited. Like my grandparents and father before me, I held hands and talked.

Now, four years since my mom has been gone, we are back to visiting my husband’s mother. A fracture of the femur and subsequent hip surgery sent her to a physical rehabilitation center, but it is an inability of her mind to absorb all the instructions that has finally sent her into a skilled nursing center—aka nursing home—to see if she can recover enough to walk back into her home. Once again we are confronting the frightening realities of people whose bodies and/or minds do not work as they should—including hers. But, still, we hold hands and talk.

My grandparents taught me how to do this—I don’t know if they were ever afraid or sad or tired of going when they went to see people, but they just went and visited. That’s what they did. I had no idea how brave they were to do so year after year for so many people and to keep visiting until they visited one last time for the final goodbye.

Visiting someone in a care facility is hard for me but I have to remind myself how much harder it has to be to be a person at the mercy of failing bodily systems away from my home and those whom I love. God bless the workers who care for our loved ones in our absence, but may we never forget how much power there is in spending our own time with those loved ones who long for who and how they once were and how we can give them a connection to the lives they have led outside their confinement.

I used to think my grandparents’ use of the word visiting spelled B-O-R-I-N-G, but now I know it spelled L-O-V-E. Now, that was living well.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Let’s talk about convictions. Just because someone has a conviction different from yours does not mean that person is devious. And just because someone hears evidence in a different way than you do does not mean there is an agenda—personal or larger.

As citizens we are called to serve on juries as individuals and to follow our individual consciences to work for a group decision. There are reasons juries are composed of six or 12 people—individual consciences must work together to agree or to admit that there will be no agreement. Decisions are not based on the court of only, say Trina, or you on a jury—or of public opinion or of family members of either victims or perpetrators. The collective body of jury members is called to listen to the instructions and to follow those instructions based on the facts presented in a trial—and for no single juror to let personal emotions—or those of anyone else—sway how to apply the facts within the parameters of the instructions. You know that’s a tough job if you’ve ever been called to serve—especially if in your heart you believe the accused deserves to rot in Hell.

But your job as a juror isn’t to give a perpetrator what he or she deserves—your job is to make your decisions based on the evidence and to uphold the laws of the People.

I feel badly that a man I believe was a sexual predator walked because I did not think his actions had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. I felt the man was guilty the first time I set eyes on him, but that’s not how our justice system works—and that’s a good thing because I, myself, don’t want to be convicted of a crime based on others’ gut feelings. In a perfect world the facts would have been available so that man would pay for his deeds, but imperfect justice is often served because we live in an imperfect world.

Just as it’s easy to declare judgment on the actions of an accused criminal, it’s also easy to think you can judge the actions of a juror who made a decision you abhor. You really need to consider that this person applied the instructions to the evidence and still came up with a different response than other jurors did—or than you would have in their shoes.

Isn’t it funny that we use the word conviction to describe both the holding of a firm belief and the court action for declaring an individual guilty of a crime and that somehow one conviction can get in the way of the conviction preferred by the majority? And yet that’s exactly part of the whys behind the checks and balances designed into the judicial system—because some decisions are too big for majority rule.

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

All this dog walking we’ve been doing lately is a great way to slow down and really see the neighborhood where we live. When my daughter and I first started walking our little pack of three, her puppy, Patches, garnered much of our attention. Not sure how often I really noticed the surroundings. But now that he’s about to turn five months’ old, we’re all settling into routines. That leaves more time for us to pay attention to more than just the dogs.

We tend to amble around without a pattern, especially to keep the puppy from thinking he knows where we are going. Why should he be any different than we are? Even if we choose to walk the dogs to a specific place in order to complete an errand, we don’t often choose the same path. We set off on an “expotition”—in the words of Winnie the Pooh and friends.

I love living in an older neighborhood laid out in a grid. Every block as well as every house on that block is different. Not only that but properties range from very well kept-up to, well, not kept-up at all. That’s just the potluck of living in a town developed one house or a few at a time, mostly before most people thought about master planning communities. If you know anything about me, you know I think potluck=you take what you get—and that’s most often a good thing.

Each walk we take leads us to discover another house that surprises us in some way—a bold color combination, a unique original style, or a creative response to adding space to a home built before most homeowners expected more than 1,000 square feet to satisfy their needs. People can mock our town as a “hood” all they want, but some real jewels add sparkle to the neighborhoods, either in traditional ways or “would have never thought of that” ways.

Part of why walking around these spaces feels like home to me is because so many of my nearby streets remind me of the small town where I often explored streets on foot and/or wheels or the one where I did so with my cousins when I visited my grandparents. Those were streets where real people lived and where putting on airs and “keeping up with the Joneses” was the stuff of seeing who could get wet laundry out to dry on the line earliest and whose flowers and produce might do best at the county fair. These were not homes where people thought spending money in showy ways was clever, but rather that thrifty living and taking a creative—and wise—approach to making do was how the clever amongst them had survived the Great Depression.

Most people who live in the homes in my town either do not have the means to spend in big ways or still believe in the value of a dollar taught to us by previous generations. We choose to live here in this old school place with its old school values because we want to do so—even if that means putting up with not everything around us being just so.

And during these now-hot days of August, I especially appreciate the opportunity to drink in the kind of growth that comes from my neighbors’ diligent attention to tending their colorful flowers. At the same time, I also notice the kind of growth that comes from ignoring weeds—something that will eventually be handled through encounters with city code enforcement officials.

Potluck—that’s what we get here, without the tightly held parameters of HOA control and without the sameness of master planning. These daily walks of late remind me just how much the ordinary as well as extraordinary that surrounds me and my humble abode satisfies my hunger for beauty. Not every dish is pleasing, but the overwhelming bounty and variety at the table provide just the sustenance I need to fill me up.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert