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Eclipse. (c) 2017 Trina Lambert

Advent is all about waiting—but this year, despite the arrival of Thanksgiving and the busy shopping season it ushers in, we are still lingering in a form of calendar limbo. Check it out: Calendar A for the previous liturgical year ended on November 26 with Christ the King Sunday, but Calendar B for the coming liturgical year starts with Advent on December 3. So where are we now on November 29? Waiting for the waiting?

And, yet, it is so ironic that while we wait and prepare for the season of giving, our screens are filled with stories of people who go through life taking, in one form or another—just as in the days when the Chosen People were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. They thought they were getting a Messiah to come to fight overarching power with power—but what they got was a baby, which is pretty much the opposite of power. Then after they waited for him to grow to become a man, he spent his time with them telling them to take on power—by loving and giving? Can you imagine?

Sometimes it feels as if we have no idea how to help those who are hurting or how to go about confronting the powerful forces that would keep taking from the world. But we need to remember that we do have an idea—it’s simply to love and give. That’s it—each of us has to figure out for ourselves how we’re going to go about doing that loving and giving—and bringing about light in a world full of darkness. That’s the kind of power we can claim without harming others—and we don’t even have to wait—not for Advent, not for Christmas, not for any day on any calendar.

Imagine the brilliance of our combined light.

Oh, Lord, help us to turn on that light—now.

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

When I was the same age my kids are now, my parents knew so much less about my social connections. For one, in my case, college and young adulthood happened away from my family. They were not part of those worlds for me, partially because of the distance.

But also, that’s just the way things were in those days. Did I feel alone sometimes? You bet I did. Did I wish for my parents’ advice? I can’t even remember but I don’t think that was how my generation operated.

Times change—so now most of us remain so much closer to our growing and grown children, even more so because of this trend for young adults to continue living in our homes.

Because of all this closeness, we experience our kids’ relationships with friends and partners in a much different manner than our parents did. All that drama of sorting out connections in our teens and 20s was somewhat removed from our parents, even though it most certainly happened.

My only children are twins so we in our family are always firmly in one particular developmental phase at a time. And maybe because my kids have no other siblings, they make the mistake of presuming other relationships will mimic the give and take of that twin relationship without having to set up boundaries or without having to articulate what they need from others because so often in their own relationship, they have known how far to push and when to give.

Both of them, though such different people, have very similar problems with others. Time and time again, when someone does not respect their boundaries or when others expect them to be the one whose wishes are subsidiary, they spend more time worrying about the other person’s pain and needs without realizing that their own concerns are not often reciprocated.

That is until they explode in the presence of those of us who are not the primary source of their anger, frustration, and hurt.

Whatever difficulties I may have experienced from my own growing-up years and despite whatever hang-ups I may have retained, I remain a somewhat naively-open and friendly person who presumes the best of people unless they show me otherwise. I expect to like my kids’ friends and partners and I want to believe that who each is is good and decent and worthy of my respect.

For a brief moment in my daughter’s life, when I was still in charge of driving her friends and her around, I forgot how complicated relationships in those years can be and just enjoyed spending time with various young people. But one-by-one, the self-interests rose to the surface. I did not like how my daughter was being treated, nor, how we parents were being treated. Somehow the clear boundaries between anyone’s parents and younger people that were present in my younger days made it easier for us to know that whatever we were experiencing with our friends, we should never, ever bring that into our dealings with their parents.

It’s as if by being friendly instead of formal, that we have invited ourselves into the disagreements of their age. Did one of the kids’ friends just use the passive-aggressive speech pattern he uses on them on me because he did not feel he received the proper attention from me? Did another young person get snippy around me because I did not concede on a casual matter? Perhaps there really was something to the Mr. and Mrs. titles we called our friends’ parents even years after we’d left our parents’ homes.

All I know is I’m tired of reaching out to people who respond to me with behaviors and attitudes we should only feel comfortable showing our own parents—if only because we are their own kids. It’s just good manners to be on better behavior in someone else’s family’s home or table or company.

And if this is how you are treating me or my family members when you presumably are tempering some of your behavior and words, I shudder to think how you are really treating my kids, who seem to continue to have soft hearts for people’s pains, even when said people cause a lot of pain to their hearts. No one said they or we were perfect, but it’s time for everyone—regardless of age—to figure out that none of us is. Barney was right when he sang that each of us is special, but he should have also explained that doesn’t mean some people get to be “more special” than others. Being in relationship means reasonable give and take, as well as forgiveness, comes from both parties.

As for me, just call me Mrs. Lambert and leave me out of your drama.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

While casually flipping through Time, I was drawn to an excerpt from Temple Grandin’s The Autistic Brain. The article discussed approaches of thinking that differed from those of typical people. Wait, those were unusual ways of thinking? Because I was pretty sure the words I’d read had just described how everyone in my family thinks. All of a sudden I was in full-blown Princess Mia phase, as in when Mia of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series started doing a school assignment on Asperger’s Syndrome and was soon convinced she had the condition.

Now I understood my son’s self-knowledge crisis a month or so ago when he watched a video on Asperger’s Syndrome in class. While I don’t think any of us qualifies as autistic or even very far “on the spectrum” (one way of describing people with autistic traits), I could see that we might have much more in common with autistic people than with those so-called neurotypical folks.

And, possessing that obsessive mind condition of having to know right now while living in a world where I could start to know right now—thanks to my library’s participation with the OneClick system—I downloaded the full book on my iPhone and started to listen.

Let’s just say that everyone who has spoken with me in the last week or so is getting really tired of hearing me say, “Temple says . . .” I’m pretty sure I could be earning that same cruel nickname Temple had while in school: Tape Recorder. (Only now I guess younger people might call me Digital Recorded Book or something like that.)

Other than our obsessive tendencies, what my family members and I most share in common with people on the autism spectrum is our sensitivities to a variety of sensory experiences. Grandin does such a good job of describing not only the sensations from these overwhelming stimuli, but also some of the brain science behind overreactions and possible ways for dealing with the difficulties.

When I took psychology classes in the early 1980s, I remember how my eyes used to glaze over every time I read about the brain’s workings. Maybe I didn’t need to know so much about the brain as I do now, but I also think our brain knowledge was too superficial for me to understand. What we have learned about the brain since when I first read about it is much more concrete. And then since Grandin herself is such a concrete thinker, her very specific examples as well as her metaphors really help me to make better sense of the brain.

Of course, she is lucky enough to have all sorts of people wanting to scan her very famous brain—and she is such a scientist that she is willing to undergo scan after scan in the name of scientific self-knowledge for both herself and for others.

There was a time when I didn’t seem very curious at all. I was just taking in all my learning and not questioning it much—this is another obvious difference between Grandin and me because she has always questioned—she could not do otherwise. Somewhere along the way, my brain developed so that I learned to question—and now I can’t seem to stop. I think about how in my finance job, my liberal arts background seemed to compel me to ask important questions that my coworkers with more typical backgrounds missed. The endless What ifs crowd my mind, but more as a journalist or a purveyor of information than as a scientist though when I read about research, I do think about the implications of outliers and factors that get in the way of finding results with higher confidence levels. I drive people crazy with my questions—just last night my husband asked me why I couldn’t just wait to find out the answer.

Well, in a way, by asking questions I am finding out the answer—or at least maybe ruling out what isn’t the answer and honing in on where else to look for that answer—not that there is necessarily one answer—another thing I’ve learned in this life.

We live in such exciting times now that those who do ask questions in a scientific manner are finally able to see into the brain while looking for those answers. For people locked in a variety of atypical neurological conditions, really specific knowledge might bring about targeted treatments, allowing them healing and/or the ability to focus more on the areas where their brains excel and less on their areas of deficit.

As for me, I am well along this path of life and, like so many others, have figured out an assortment of methods for dealing with those parts of my brain that don’t operate in the same way as other people’s brains do. I know that noise-canceling headphones would have helped me function better yesterday when a nearby 12 car/semi-truck accident caused the news helicopter to hover over my neighborhood for several hours—which seemed like days to me. But thanks to whatever quirk that has allowed me to develop my questioning side later in life, I really want to know, just how did my brain look and act when it thought it was being assaulted by those rotating blades?

Now, is that a neurotypical question or did I just once again place myself firmly in the outlier category?

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

I am an orphan these days, or so it seems. The two-year-anniversary of my mother’s passing happened this past Sunday. Two years since I didn’t have to worry about her and almost eleven (!) since I could stop worrying about my father. Sometimes all that hardly seems possible until I realize how long I’ve been missing their whole selves: who they were before their illnesses.

Two years is a significant step in the grieving process—I can feel how meeting that milestone is adding a bit of spring to my own steps. More and more my dreams of my mother show her as she was most of my days, not just in those dark final years. She is round-bodied and intelligently goofy, not shrunken and utterly lost. And, this is the most significant thing: she smiles and laughs with her whole body.

On one hand I feel that freedom that comes with time passing. On the other hand, I know that losing our elders is not over in this house. My husband was with me every step of the way with my parents—he shared my grief for my parents and, yet, still has to walk that walk with his own parents. Not only does he have to experience his own loss but he also knows too much about the path.

Even in days when there are no big losses, the little losses loom large. The constant worry will eat you alive if you let it do so. There is no easy way to watch your parents decline. Oh my gosh—thanks to having watched my parents decline, there is truly no easy way to watch anyone’s parents decline—or any random person you meet on the street, for that matter.

After you have learned that sometimes there are worse things than death, you know that there is a season for fighting every ailment and a season for making sure any battle pursued is in your loved ones’ best interests.

Yet, who can say for someone else when that time is? Who can say when it is time to go “gentle into that good night” but God?

Instead you pray for no protracted suffering and no lose-lose decisions and that, just as in the lyrics to John Ylvisaker’s “Borning Cry”, that “when the evening gently closes in” for them it will be as simple as “shut(ting) (their) weary eyes” and waking to wholeness.

I may be an orphan, but my husband is not. And so we pray . . .

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

Here’s a reason I need a puppy soon—to keep my blood pressure down. Short of getting a puppy in the next few minutes, I guess I’ll just have to write out my anger.

If you think government and the government workers are the enemy, then don’t read this. Why I bothered even to glance at Mike Rosen’s column in the Denver Post (“Should government workers be considered taxpayers?”) I do not know.

Perhaps it’s because I’m tired of hearing from all these people who think public employees are leaches upon society. How can you even begin to reason that because the private sector employees provide the funds for public workers, then any taxes paid by such workers are not taxes? Oh, he goes on to try to explain the logic, but even with my MBA degree, I just don’t get it.

Hey, I get the logic that if there is no money in the coffers, there is no money. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of this column, even though Rosen tries to explain that we need the services of some of these government workers. His word choice is often inflammatory—in his conclusion he says if there were money in the coffers, then the government could spread the wealth with generous rewards for government workers.

Just the use of the word generous implies he thinks the money is a gift. Reward? Reward implies something extra someone gets and negates Rosen’s earlier mention that certain public-sector employees earn their pay.

Of course, I am prejudiced—my family has a long history of being “rewarded” for being foolish enough to think that working for the public is somewhat noble. Sadly, many of the members of the public seem to think a government job is nothing short of a government aid program with the recipient of the program doing little more than draining revenues earned by hard-working private sector employees.

My mother was “rewarded” by helping unemployed people get their due during the extreme layoffs in the 1980s—she was also “rewarded” by working extra hours for no extra pay. That’s what she did because she thought those particular members of the public mattered.

Recently, my brother came to sit with me at our mother’s deathbed and to mourn her passing in the days following. While we watched for her to take her last breath, his Smartphone kept him connected to his all-important government job. The morning following her death, as we attempted to make arrangements, he continued to be asked to handle work matters, never mind that he was on bereavement leave. Did he perhaps earn his pay that day?

Just as people such as Rosen refuse to see that government workers’ pay contributes to the stabilization of the economy, I refuse to see how he can say the taxes contributed by our family are really just a pass-through of taxes contributed by private sector employees such as he.

Can we afford the government employees we have right now? Maybe not, but it’s not because they provide no services or because their compensation is some sort of skim off the top only acceptable during good economic times.

If we must cut many of these employees, be prepared not only to do without the services they provide, but also with the reduction in their tax dollar contributions. As their former employer, the public will also pay the increased unemployment premiums for the lay-offs and deal with the consequences of commercial real estate being left empty.

Go ahead and propose the reduction of government workers as a fiscally responsible suggestion, but explain to me why there is so much hostility in the rhetoric.

Now, if you excuse me, I’m going back to looking at pictures of puppies on the Internet. (I regret to inform you, but a very small portion of my husband’s salary—your tax contributions at work—does go toward supporting my puppy addiction by paying for our home Internet connection—which he uses from time-to-time to do work from home.)

Flyswatter Clock, (c) 2010, Christiana Lambert

Yes, turn up the smarmy soap opera music because this month has flown, maybe even quicker than others. At the beginning of the month I was trying to recover from another chaotic move of my mother the day before and now it’s already the end of the month. I’d like to blame April’s cruel weather swings for my confusion, but it really has been a full month.

Truth be told, in addition to all the changes associated with the move, it’s almost the end of the world as we know it in our household: our only kids graduate in three weeks. Our calendar has been filled with the usual high school activities, along with senior-only activities and preparations for college.

I thought I could write about all these things, but I’ve only written three times this month and once was about our new grand-niece’s upcoming birth.

I haven’t talked about squeezing in a late-night trip to Durango, Colorado following Jackson’s play practice. Sherman sped over a couple mountain passes, but white-knuckled it watching all those deer and elk who watched us as our car passed through their grazing grounds. Or discussed spending a couple days wandering around Ft. Lewis College for preview weekend, attending information sessions, playing silly games to get to know people, and meeting various administrators and professors who will be part of our kids’ new home environment. Or even mentioned how it might feel to leave our kids six and a half hours away, separated by roads that often close due to big snows.

(c) 2009

Nah, we’ve been too busy speeding along with our lives here.

Jackson went through the chaos of designing two (!) posters for Littleton High School’s Senior Theatre Company production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Oh there was plenty of drama in the drama department. But the performance we saw was very well-done and Jackson did a fine job, both with eating his lollipop on stage and with his lines.

Large Group Prom 2010

Prom came together last Saturday, with its usual time-consuming preparations (for girls!), picture-taking with parents, kids getting lost driving downtown, late night at After Prom, etc. However, I decided I should also make Jackson a vest and bow-tie as I used to do when he was little, so I added to the preparations. Once we found time to go to the store together, he chose something very similar to what he had over thirteen years ago. I got everything done about 2:00 in the afternoon of the big event—let’s just say that our remodeling projects had not left my sewing area functional. (Plus, I added straps to Christiana’s Dressed to the Nines dress.) Nonetheless, the kids looked great, got where they needed to go, danced the night away, and returned home safely in one piece—and uploaded the pictures to prove it by the next afternoon.

SWAG 2010, Littleton High School

In between all this, a long-time Littleton High School tradition fell: SWAG (Senior Women Are Great.) Yes, the senior girls kidnap the boys, doing their hair, make-up and nails and dressing them in pretty frocks. Did I mention the girls arrive before 4:00 in the morning? Christiana helped a group of theatre girls steal her brother away so he could become a pretty, pink princess. She noted that the theatre girls were about the only crowd who didn’t make their guys look trashy—still I don’t think I need to see my son’s hairy legs below pink taffeta ever again. Thankfully his kidnappers also made him take his books and PE clothes so he didn’t go to school unprepared—except for knowing how to walk in heels.

Unfortunately, track has not been part of the busy picture for Christiana lately, but we’ve been to physical therapy, X-rays, an MRI, and a couple doctor appointments for her knee that isn’t going to heal in time for her final season—or her required PE classes. Sometimes that’s the way the knee rolls, whether you like it or not.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Ultimate Frisbee and upcoming AP exams for Jackson, school and district art show for Christiana, as well as IB art examination. Add performing arts and academic awards ceremonies, last day breakfast (which our children say we’re welcome to attend without them—yeah, right!), etc. and it will be May 21 before we know it.

Yet the graduation announcements and party invitations aren’t even addressed . . .

Ah well, this is the season of busyness that predates the calm. We’ll get through it like other parents before us. Like all those other parents, one day we’ll have more time to ponder how it all happened so fast.

And we won’t have a clue . . .

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