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(c) 2021

This morning I returned to the river—more in need than last Sunday morning. The river, she greeted me with the peace I so crave. The air was crisp, the skies blue, the snow white, and the birds plentiful.

As I got out of my car, I saw heads swivel and look up. I could hear the “oohs” as a bald eagle flew off into the distance.

I started off at a pace I couldn’t maintain, trying to beat back this winter of my loss. But to persevere, I needed to slow down. Soon after I crossed the bridge, I encountered a hawk perched in a tree above me, closer than I have ever been to what I consider my spirit animal—and a sign of continued protections. I stopped for a moment and thanked the hawk for its beauty, presence, and proximity.

Despite the barren season in which I find myself, as my feet again renewed their journey, I sensed the approach of spring.

God’s peace to all trapped within a landscape that appears empty of hope—may renewal arrive when you least expect it.

Looking west from the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver’s City Park. 2021

One way for me to stay centered is to be grateful for the beauty I experience in my life. Today was a bluebird-blue day here in the Denver area—complete with temperatures above 60 degrees. In February. The day before it’s supposed to snow again.

Even though I had to stop working early to go to a dentist appointment, I didn’t want to miss out on a chance to run in a skort and tank top today. Enough so that I sat down at my computer early so I didn’t have to give up a running break before leaving to get clean teeth.

No pictures of this perfectly extraordinary ordinary day—but I do have one from January that came with a view—a particularly Denver kind of view as seen from the Museum of Nature and Science in City Park. We are blessed with memorable views here in our town.

While the view I saw today was of my own neighborhood, what I spied in the west was even better than what I saw in the photo I am sharing—the mountaintops are much whiter than they were a month ago. It’s been snowing in the high country all month—and that’s a thing of beauty, both for our eyes and for reducing drought conditions.

Wherever you are, enjoy your view!

Sunday mornings used to be time to sit in a pew, so I never made it to my running club’s Sunday morning runs at the river. But now I can run and do church—well, by “going” to church at home while sitting in my own chair instead of a pew—and by not needing to change out of my running clothes.

I have to go down to the river as we live on the hill above the South Platte valley. I started attending the now socially-distanced and masked Sunday runs in July when, even early, the river was alive with action—of the human, canine, and avian kinds. Being by the river and the birds was soothing even as the trails were full of activity.

But as the weather turned colder and certain birds flew off to warmer spaces, peace became the river’s language. Fewer humans and dogs ventured out during the chilly morning hours, but more ducks and Canada geese claimed the waters.

In a way, my pre-church runs by the river have become part of the liturgy that is my church worship in these winter days of 2020/2021. With the now later start of the group runs, I have little time once finished before I must jump in my car and drive the ten minutes back to my home up the hill.

I take that peace—like the river—into my corporate worship—or what counts for corporate worshipping these days. Even if we aren’t all together as physical bodies, I feel the pull of the congregation as I see the familiar faces of the pastors and other leaders in our sacred space.

One day I will return to the good old way of in-person worship with my church community, but, for now, I appreciate going down to the river with my (running) sisters and learning new ways to pray.

Last weekend brought about dangerous temperatures for running outside, but skipping my run gave me extra time to get ready to run—especially since members of my running club had additional discounts last week at Runners Roost Lakewood.

Today I stepped out wearing my new purchases: visor, support gear (!), and shoes! Although the afternoon’s weather is already turning as the next storm arrives, on my travels this morning, I felt a balmy breeze caressing my neck. I haven’t seen so many people out in weeks—it’s as if we all know to appreciate the current conditions more after last week’s frigid temperatures (short-lived for us)—as well as the horrid conditions that have lasted longer for others.

As always, I was grateful that I was able to get out. Even if some runs are harder than others, running teaches you is that you can do tough things—and get to a better place. Last year I battled heel pain—in previous years it’s been my back or my hip—it really is always something for me. And as much as it seems these pandemic days will never pass, running tells me otherwise.

Stepping out is one activity that helps me on my Lenten journey—or through any time in my life that feels like it might as well be Lent. Thank God for running—especially now.

How do I calm my raging heart—on any given day, but especially in times such as these when my activities and comings and goings have been pared down in this time period when we await abatement from the virus’ relentless effect on daily life?

Since March 16, 2020—when I came home to work—and the week when everything on my normally busy calendar was erased, my main solace has been time spent in exercise. First, solitary running, and then, bit by bit, electronic classes—both with my regular local fitness teacher and classmates and with sources beyond my neighborhood. And, from time to time, I have ventured out to run close—but not too close—with others.

Still, what was immediately stripped from my life last March was singing in community in my choir and church. The night of March 11, I was engaged in the risky business of going to a Lenten church service (complete with communion!) and singing in choir practice. By the Sunday that followed, church had been reduced to my laptop screen. While my spiritual needs are often met by connecting to the messages from the ministers and other leaders, it’s not quite the same singing harmony by myself along with the sounds projected from the few people allowed in the sanctuary.

My voice has become husky with disuse. Of course, I can sing by myself at home, but with my naturally limited range, I don’t have much of a voice for singing melody. My strength lies in singing harmony. I can—and occasionally do—sing harmony along with music I play for myself. But I miss singing in church—with other people. Almost every Sunday since I was 10 (give or take several during college and in my early 20s) until March 15 of 2020, I have been singing harmony from the hymn book—with others.

So, I asked myself, what can I do to sing, even if I can’t sing in the way I want to sing? Well, for Lent, I’ve broken out my copy of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, and I plan to sing along with Cyber Bass or YouTube. Tonight, I gave that scratchy old voice of mine permission to sing out—badly or not. To tell the truth, I had an easier time singing the notes than I did singing the German words. Sure, I might have scared the puppy a little bit (in all fairness—he’s scared of most everything the first time he experiences it!), but not the older dog, who heard me practice those songs often throughout Lent 2015.

And, you know what? My darkened heart—along with my lowered voice—felt a little bit lighter for singing harmony—even with the tinny background sounds coming from my laptop.

Isn’t it time I stopped keeping myself from singing?

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(C) 2018 Trina Lambert

I like my job—and I miss having time to ponder. Don’t get me wrong—I do take time to stop and ponder for a few moments at work, and then I get back to what I’m supposed to do. So far, though, I haven’t figured out how to prioritize writing down those thoughts once I make it home. The few thoughts that have made it onto my blog these past two years remind me that I am approaching blogging just as I approached journaling when I was growing up. If you could read those old journal entries, you’d think I was always upset and angry—and that nothing good ever happened.

That’s because the only time I took to write was times when I was upset. Writing, after all, is a great way to process wild emotions and figure out what to do about what isn’t working. But it’s the little occasions, the boring ones, the ecstatic happenings, and the random thoughts that round out a life well lived.

And those never made it into writing.

When I took up a journaling habit about 20 years ago, I thought I’d learned my lesson. I had missed out on the breadth of my life by only recording my worst moments. I mean, who wants only their worst thoughts to be their legacy?

Not me! Yet here I am, doing it again.

This, despite the fact June has arrived, and with her all the roses that bloomed over a few short nights. Our rose seasons for the last several years have been severely shortened by voracious Japanese Beetles, so much so that these pre-Beetle days of roses and sunshine smell especially sweet to me.

Saturday dawned with blue skies, light breezes, and cool temperatures that would eventually rise to no more than 80. While running with my dog through the much fancier neighborhood next door to mine, I drank in the many hues of late spring flowers, the green-green grass of the golf course, the yellow-green reeds waving along the path, the fluorescent shades worn by the passing cyclists, even the yellow stripe in the center of the road. Colors were exploding on an extraordinary ordinary day.

The day stretched with activities such as taking dogs to vets, watching a team of 6th grade baseballers (and their little sisters) wash my car, and puttering around with my plants, before I finished it up by sharing tasty breakfast tacos and icy margaritas with my husband at a favorite local spot.

Not much of note happened. Perfect, right? Nothing like taking a day off from outrage to appreciate just what you’re fighting for—for you and for all the other ordinary people just wanting to live ordinary lives.

Taking time to smell the roses isn’t trivial—it’s essential.

And for me, maybe it’s just as important that I finally got around to recording some of the little moments that make up my life—and make it worth living.

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Trina Lambert (c) 2017

Wow, 70 degrees forecast for November. I just had to go running over my lunch hour the next day. While packing my backpack that night, I ticked off my list: running shoes, socks, skort, shirt (sleeveless!), jogging bra, visor, running belt, and inhaler. Packed lunch in the fridge that I could take to eat while working at my desk afterwards. Office clothes hanging in the bathroom. To bed too late—as always.

A “woman of a certain age,” I was not surprised when I woke later to go to the bathroom. However, what I didn’t expect was to almost fall when one of my knees didn’t want to bend as I hobbled down the hall. Strange—returned to bed with care, resolving to sleep with my leg lying straight out instead of curled in. That ought to fix that knee trouble, I thought.

Only it didn’t. Dawn arrived along with the tinny tune from my phone alarm, but my leg was decidedly unfixed. As I worked through my daily physical therapy stretching exercises, my right knee continued to resist my attempts to loosen it up.

And it hurt. A lot. Did not help that the shower is in a 1940s bathtub—making its side a little too tall for a knee that won’t bend—but I grimaced and brought it along with me anyway. By the end of the shower I had realized I was going to have to walk at lunch. Maybe I should grab a warmer shirt, but I could still go.

Hmm, bet I could have my husband massage it and check for any swelling or other problems. I stretched out on the bed to receive some help. After he finished his assessment, I bent back my leg and said, “Look it won’t go back any farther.” Then I dropped to the floor and started to walk—until my knee just screamed “no” at me. I joined in the screaming, with my husband staring at me for a few seconds before he ran to get me a chair.

And was it hot in there or what? As a roaring began in my ears, I wondered, “Can heart attacks start in the knee?” Then the heat left as quickly as it began. But I knew I wasn’t running—or walking much that day. In fact, I wasn’t even going to wear the skirt I’d put on—better to wear pants if I might end up on the floor.

My husband packed me into my car for my three-minute commute. When I arrived, my co-workers rolled me, sitting in a wheelie chair, to my office. With my leg propped on a fitness ball, I massaged arnica into the knee and gently stretched the muscles. Wasn’t feeling too bad anymore, so I popped up to go to the bathroom—and almost screamed again. Stuck halfway between the bathroom and my desk—and my pride—I debated what to do. But you can bet I didn’t ask for more help. Finally, I sidestepped, as I do on skis when I am unwilling to commit to the steepness of a slope, back to my desk, leaving a pattern in the carpet that looked as if one truck tire (by itself) had driven from the door to my chair.

I lowered myself and sighed. And then I reached for my cell phone.

Several hours later, carrying a CD with an X-ray of my (thankfully) not-very-arthritic knee, I stepped from the urgent care center into that balmy 70-degree day, skies still blue. It appeared I was going to live to run another day—just not that day or any day soon. A detour, but not the end of the road yet.

And in that moment, it was enough—or close enough to enough for this “woman of a certain age”—for now.

I am heartsick at how the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was rammed through the House of Representatives this past week—on the National Day of Prayer, no less. This cruel piece of legislation was approved without the representatives even taking the time to read what it does, without their listening to professionals in the medical fields AND insurance companies, without their hearing the pleas of people all around this country who are in need—in short, without caring. The word “care” in no way belongs in the term “Trumpcare.” The message of “I don’t care” is being shouted throughout this country I already considered great—and is reverberating around the world.

And to add to my utter despair are the words that were spoken by people who voted for this travesty and by those in other positions of power.

Despite what these people would like you to believe, we do not always get what we deserve—sometimes we get more and sometimes we get much less. There is no perfect formula that says, “if you do this, then that will follow”—especially in our health matters.

I’m here today because when I was four months old, the citizens of our country still believed that when an infant falls ill from a congenital birth defect, it is our duty as a society to provide her with healthcare, and in a manner that does not bankrupt her parents.

As I grew into my teens—with no lingering effects from that early life-saving surgery—unaware that I had exercise-induced asthma, I fell in love with running (once my father stopped smoking). I would run 14 years—including four years of high school track and four years of college track—before being diagnosed with that breathing problem in a routine physical. And, yet, the only cost associated with my condition these days is for the inhaler I use to pre-treat before I do cardiovascular exercise—if I were sedentary, I would never need an inhaler, but I doubt my blood pressure numbers would be nearly so good either.

Another pre-existing condition—one leg shorter than another—something I’d been told didn’t matter when I was a 15-year-old high school athlete—turned out to make a big difference after decades of running. In my late 40s, I was so much healthier than most people my age and have the numbers to prove that from tests that were performed for buying life insurance. Most weeks I ran three times, practiced yoga three times, did Pilates once, and danced at Zumba twice—that was every week. My bulging disc came out of nowhere and was not at all related to being sedentary, as the literature our insurance company sent me seemed to imply.

I was devastated and did what I could to get better: chiropractic, physical therapy, and the exercises I’d been prescribed. At one point I was doing those exercises for an hour a day—in addition to the yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and walking I still did during the week. A good proportion of the costs associated with my healing fell on us—for every $50 copay we paid, our insurance paid the providers an additional $10 to $20.

While it was challenging for us to pay those costs and for me to take the time to work on my healing, it was not impossible. Many people must live with their pain or stop working because they cannot afford the care or to put in the focused effort to heal. These days I still put out additional money to make certain I remain healthy—I pay for neuro-muscular massage and we have purchased a new, fairly expensive (to us) mattress that also makes a difference. Not everyone has these types of resources.

When members of congress state that people earn their pre-existing conditions through bad habits, it is really insulting—both to people like me who most certainly were not poster children for the condition I developed and to people who do not have access to the resources that make it easier to stay healthy. That type of statement ignores the randomness of how disease and injury can enter the lives of anyone at any time—such as when I came into the world with a congenital defect that would try to kill me within months of my birth. It’s hard not to think that what these people are really saying is that people should just go ahead and be “selected out” if they can’t afford to treat their own medical conditions.

And then when a wealthy, older man such as Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, states that older people will need to pay higher premiums because they use insurance more and cost more, my first thought is that with his money, he can afford his health care, and, second, that We the People provide his health care—unless our level of coverage isn’t good enough for someone like him. There’s no denying that people my age and older are more expensive to cover, but do we really want to be a society that cares for only the strong?

That is an immoral position, but that’s the sort of position that creates these types of legislation and the policies behind them. When your main concerns for managing government are about determining who is a winner and who is a loser, and then making certain that you never are required to pay anything for anyone you have deemed to be a loser, then society is the real loser. What’s so great about that?

Let’s not forget that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” thing. Besides, none of us knows the future. Just remember, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

Once upon a time I was a small-town girl living in a lonely world—well, while attempting to get my career started in the metropolitan area where I have since lived for over 31 years. I first came to Denver to study book publishing at the (University of) Denver Publishing Institute, returning a month later for good.

I didn’t find many openings in book publishing so I set out to information-interview the local publishing companies. After one such interview, my car (of the same vintage I was—young for human years, but old in car years) broke down at the side of the road—fortuitously by a gas station that still had working mechanics on site. The young mechanic got me back on the road (for free!) and I returned to the faraway suburb where I was staying with my mother’s friends during my initial job search.

Fast-forward (slow-forward?) almost 30 years and I answered a job post (through the Publishing Institute’s job listing) for the same company I visited right before the car’s roadside drama. Morton Publishing is still in the exact same location, although expanded, yet the people interviewing me were much younger than I was, including one I knew from yoga. I did not get that position but later that year Morton contacted me about doing freelance proofreading for them as they went through the busy preparations for the annual textbook releases. Completed two books for them in 2014 and four in 2015.

This loop in my life looks even more orchestrated when I think about how I met and married a man who owned a house less than a mile from Morton. I have lived and socialized and worked out in the same community as where the company is for almost 28 years. For 11 of those years I have attended the yoga class where I originally met someone who would eventually work at Morton because another student—who later joined our yoga class—worked at the company.

Over the years I’ve deviated from my original dream to work in book publishing. I began in magazine publishing, but fell into (and learned to like) numbers work there. I reasoned that I could do numbers work in a variety of industries, so I moved into a financial reporting business. At one time I was even an accountant—and, yet words kept calling me. I eventually wrote articles and compiled detailed charts for magazine articles. And then—through that yoga class—I connected with an author who needed an editor for two projects over many years.

And, now, I start a job as assistant editor at Morton in just over week. As my daughter pointed out, “It took you 31 years to get that job.” Right—while the company was growing, and while I was adding to my skills as well as raising a family.

Don’t stop believing.

(About the photo.)

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Yoga is funny—there you are being all mindful—or at bare minimum focusing on how long you have been in the moment of one particular pose—when something else pops into your mind. Maybe something about moving a certain part of your body brings that thought to surface or maybe it’s just another mystery of how your own mind works.

At the end of Wednesday’s class, I thought I was relaxing into savasana when somehow my mind turned to who I was when I was growing up. Too many heart-chakra opening poses so soon after my recent high school reunion trip must have jogged my brain into thoughts of, well, jogging/running.

And just like that I was mad at running.

Oh, Running, I thought you were The One. My first True Love. I was devoted to you—monogamous. Sure, when I met you, I did so with my teammates at my side. Unlike some of those girls, I never shirked on workouts or pretended I didn’t see the coach’s signal to start. You should have loved them more—with their longer legs and easy breathing—but they would not commit to you as I did.

And when that school year ended, I began taking those baby steps that lead toward what eventually became an obsession. We began to meet almost daily. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night—nor unrelenting winds that ranged from 95-degree furnace blasts to sub-zero chills that froze my eyelashes together—kept me from my appointments with you.

I wanted more from you—I dreamed of glory but what I got was quiet time and peace in the moment and a chance to hear the thoughts in my own head. As the miles passed beneath my feet, I learned to love the process and how not to focus only on results.

But you turned out to be a fickle lover. You broke my heart with a kind of pain I didn’t expect. I knew the pain of working hard and strengthening my body. I knew the pain of keeping moving through all sorts of weather or feeling as if my lungs could not catch air—which was ironically the result of an undetected medical condition that would not be discovered until 13 ½ years after we started together. What I didn’t know was that though my body was designed to keep up with you, it wasn’t necessarily designed well to do so for as many miles as I did without adjustments to how I moved. That pain didn’t exactly make me stop, but it made me understand I couldn’t just all out follow you without possible repercussions. What I did for love was not enough—I had to protect myself by not trusting you with abandon as I first had.

We’ve had that kind of on-again, off-again relationship that friends will warn you about. I don’t expect so much from you anymore. I set boundaries for myself and—mostly—live with them. Though I still have the speed to try to catch you, I’m not ready to push myself just to have another piece of me break again. I see you more as an old friend these days than as the focus of my passion. And that’s mostly OK. That we can still meet is almost good enough—except for during those rare moments when my heart remembers that I thought we could have so much more together.

Maybe if I keep working, one pose at a time, I’ll find the peace that brings me to accept that however many miles you and I get to share, those miles belong to a good-sized portion of the best days of my life—past, present, and future. May all that practice help me to open up to releasing what was in order to make space for whatever is yet to come.

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