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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

When I was a child, I often listened to my father and his parents talking. They spent a lot of time in the past. I used to think how great it would be to be able to say “ten years ago” or “twenty years ago” in my conversations.

Oh, I’m up to “forty years ago” and plus these days, but saying that isn’t as fun as I imagined. Not that a lot of great things haven’t happened in those years, but too much time in yesterday takes away from today and the tomorrows we might possibly have.

Good (bad!) grief, if we’re not careful with how we spend our days, we can end up as jaded and disillusioned as Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Macbeth chose to hasten death for others and, ultimately, for himself. However, we have the power to choose to be life-affirming, both for ourselves and for others.

Yesterday has the power to steal from whatever else remains if we let it do so. Sometimes, how we have let our yesterdays change us is a choice. When we have earned our scars, do we start to assume that’s all the future brings? Do we react toward new challenges as if they are the same as the old ones or as if we learned nothing the first time around?

That’s the tension I feel these days with yesterday. If I’m not careful, I forget the hope I had before 2008 or even that it’s possible to find it again. Not every day do I forget, but enough so that I know that my connection to yesterdays reduces my sense of possibility.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fake living until dusty death overtakes me. Not really.

So I have to keep fighting my perception of yesterday as well as keep reminding myself to remember what I can and cannot control about now. I am not in charge of others’ hope, other than providing them encouragement and help along their way. But ultimately, like Macbeth, we all have to choose for ourselves whether or not to let our yesterdays define the tomorrows of our days.

It’s up to each of us to make sure that our life stories are neither told by an idiot, nor full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This is all we get in this life and I don’t want to waste my choices as Macbeth did. No, for me, I must remember to keep that flame burning and not fret the wax melting down the sides of the candle until someone greater than I says my wick has burned to its end.

Today’s yoga class reminded me again why I really go. The teacher usually starts class by asking what people need to address so she can choose poses and the style best suited to the current day. Today one woman asked for help with stress, which meant many poses we did were designed to help us release our emotions, thoughts, and/or bodies.

Periodically, the teacher explains to us that the purpose of doing yoga is to feel joy. One of the biggest ways to feel joy is to let go of what has hurt us in the past—and sometimes our emotions are so deeply embedded in us that only by releasing our muscles can we begin to let go of our yesterdays. Letting be and letting go frees us to pursue the joy in our remaining todays and tomorrows.

Let it be so with my heart, mind, body, and spirit.


(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

Yes, I may have had a hard time sticking to plan on almost all of the letters in this A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I always knew I would finish by writing about ZUMBA. (I do know that “Y” is missing so, technically, I did not finish with “Z”–oh well!)

Although ZUMBA fitness has been around since 2001, these days ZUMBA is the hot, hot, hot fitness craze—and not just because you get really hot while doing it! For me—being the local gym rat that I am (see my “Re-Creation Center” post)—my knowledge of ZUMBA started when I saw a sign advertising a new class coming to my center in August 2009. I’ve been dancing ever since.

I have always loved dancing, even though my formal dancing days were brief and limited to what was available in my Nebraska town of 600. The only choices we had were whether or not to do whatever activities someone was willing to teach in whatever space . For me, that means I learned tumbling, baton twirling, tap dancing, and Hawaiian dancing in a community center and/or school gym, not in a dance studio.

And as much as I learned to love dance, I still suffered a lot of anxiety about performing. In fact, though I would tell you I “retired” at eight because of the growing pains in my back and because I just wanted to have a chance to watch Saturday morning cartoons, I really, really didn’t want to continue if it meant dancing with the group in a scheduled TV performance in a larger close-by town.

At least I now had time to watch American Bandstand with my newfound free time, which was helpful since my friends and I played “American Bandstand” games more than we ever played “school” together.

I often regretted how my eight-year-old performance anxiety stopped my formal instruction, but I didn’t really stop dancing. Cheerleading, a class in Spain, a class at my own college, Jazzercise, and dancing informally whenever I got the chance followed.

Still, for several years the only dancing I did regularly happened in my mind during savasana in yoga. But what a dancer I became in those last minutes of class, twice a week, over a period of four years.

I think my heart knew what I truly needed to become mindful: dance.

You see, I love what yoga has done for my mind and body, but for the most part, I have to work hard to keep my mind from wandering off in classes. I have to push away those “to-do” list thoughts, the worries about loved ones, the meanderings away from where I am right then.

Not in ZUMBA. In ZUMBA I am just dancing. No matter what is happening in my life, I forget it once the songs begin. Even more than the desire to teach or feel better physically, I know that I want my body to heal so I can self-medicate my mind through ZUMBA.

The tagline for ZUMBA is “Ditch the workout—join the party!” but I think of it more like the words from that song “Get Happy”:

Forget your troubles and just get happy . . .

“Z” really stands for happy in the moment with ZUMBA—for me.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Over twenty years ago, my husband and I knew we were on a journey to leave behind our old selves—I was pregnant with our twins. Thus, we planned one last trip in between my tenuous early pregnancy days and whatever might follow in later months with a likely complicated twin pregnancy. So we hit the road to visit my college roommate and her family in New Orleans, with stops both ways at my brother’s house in Oklahoma.

We had a lot of time to fill on our road trip. Along with reading books out loud and stopping at every rest area for me and my constantly full bladder, we read through baby name books and tried to come up with four names: two for girls and two for boys. In the end, we could only agree on one boy’s name, so it’s a good thing that’s all we had.

A name that didn’t make the cut, Xenos, means stranger or newcomer. Such a Greek name sounded a little too odd with our last name—and, as I always say, any ending “s” in a first name makes our name into Slambert! However, at the time I didn’t think of the meaning as negative—I saw someone named Xenos as the mysterious stranger or traveler, not as the outsider who would never feel welcome.

Back in 1992, I don’t think we realized our nation was so divided, though, until the riots in Los Angeles burst into flames. Right there on our television screens we could see a lot of fear of the other—people acting toward someone just because of how they looked or because they were not part of a neighborhood.

Even so, I still think the rest of us harbored a little hope that somehow we really might all get along and that we could trust our neighbors, even if those people out there in L.A. could not trust their neighbors.

When the towers fell almost a decade later—after our initial few “kumbaya” weeks—whatever illusions we’d held of “United we stand” and all that shattered into divisions that seem to keep widening these ten plus years since.

So into the culture of fear escalated some thirty years ago after child abductions increased, mix this fear of the other and it becomes so much easier to justify staying among those we know.

In a time when our nation has become more diverse, many of our neighborhoods have become less diverse and more homogeneous.

Before the kids started school, I attended a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group where most of the women lived in newer subdivisions. One day our small groups were prompted to express our fears for our children in this world. I seemed to make them all speechless when I said I feared consumerism. Yes, I feared consumerism and conformity more than contact with the other.

We stubbornly stayed in our aging, mostly blue-collar neighborhood, despite the questions from our friends about the quality of our children’s education. Yes, the kids were in a Title I school and met kids who lived in Section 8 housing, but they understood early on that not everyone was the same nor did they all come from the same opportunities. They were never in physical danger and had many excellent educators. Even when we realized our kids did need a better opportunity for high school, we sent them to a non-homogeneous school filled with kids ranging from those same Section 8 kids to those who lived in very wealthy neighborhoods—once again, despite our friends’ concerns.

Truth is I really feel like the other in many of the newer neighborhoods. They are designed with few entry points, with or without gates—those who are supposed to be there know where to go and those who don’t, stand out. In my grid neighborhood there is no entry point. Anyone can drive by or walk by my house, so I don’t get suspicious of them just because I don’t know them. If I’m going to get suspicious, I base it on their actions.

We as a nation are divided by race, political views, religion, socioeconomic level, educational level, sexual preference, sports teams, favorite ice cream flavor, blah, blah, blah—when the marketers started segmenting us out and we fell into those boxes, they helped us to create way more levels of otherness in our society.

I’m not saying I should trust everyone—because I’ve met many who do not deserve my trust. But I do think I should base my decisions more on people’s actions than on whether or not they belong to my group.

And some days, just thinking that way really makes me feel like such a Xenos in this strange land my country has become since that long ago trip when I was a stranger to parenting or worrying about the world in which I’d be raising my children.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

What you ask is that? Well, it’s just one of our corny family expressions. I majored in Spanish and my husband, well his teacher told him if he ever spoke Spanish in Mexico, then the people would shout, “Gringo! Gringo!” Poor guy—you should have heard the hard time the hotel gatekeepers gave him in Cabo San Lucas, but at least they never called him a gringo to his face.

Still, whenever I say “Vámonos!” (“Let’s go!”), he says, “Don’t call me Vomit Nose!”

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

But he doesn’t just garble Spanish. If I tell him he thinks he’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and can click his heels to get home, he says, “Don’t call me dorky!”

Our family is full of traditions like that. Yes, Sherman and I are those awkward parents who are never going to seem cool to anyone, expect maybe to our Springer spaniels who love everyone, no matter what. According to our kids, however, their friends with more serious parents enjoy our witty repartee. OK, that’s not really what their friends say, but they think we are at least entertaining in our own way.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

More family expressions include such gems as “Off like a herd of turtles” and “Hay is for horses” as well as multiple quotes from the Winnie the Pooh stories, The Muppet Movie, The Blues Brothers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Airplane!

And just ask Mr. Vomit Nose about the tales he used to tell the kids about “Falling Rock” and about how the kids used to have a brother named Sam. (Note: we adopted a dog named Sam last year. Coincidence?)

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

But the family traditions just keep building as the effects of rock and roll start to take their toll on Sherman’s ears. One night at dinner somebody told him he needed hearing aids to which he replied, in all seriousness, “I have hairy knees?” Now any time anyone doesn’t hear something right (come on, those front row concert experiences aren’t helping our kids’ ears either and mine never recovered from the combo of Foghat and the front row)—everyone else shouts, “You have hairy knees!”

Oh, we’re high-larious in our family. Wacka, wacka and all that. Come on—you know you want to guffaw or chortle just thinking about our dinner conversations—we’re old school here, you know. Just please, no LOLing allowed—unless you really are laughing out loud.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

I’ve given up on easy sleep tonight, but still hope that a little keyboard time can reduce my impressions of my woes enough to bring about some sweeter dreams. You see, I’ve just had a bit of a revelation about my Wednesdays—something about them turns me into a Wednesday’s child, full of woe—woe and/or worry. Whatever is wrong in my life seems more powerful on Wednesdays lately.

The irony is that I start my Wednesdays in prayer with my fellow prayer partners in Moms in Prayer. The women and their prayers soothe me and yet some time later I become agitated. Perhaps just praying for my kids sets off my own self-reflection. I know my kids feel a little mystified as to why I continue to pray for them and why it would matter to me to join with others in prayer for them—and that alone makes me feel sad.

And maybe such prayers just point out to me how little faith I seem to have in the power of my prayers these days. Same prayers, different weeks—still my heart breaks over what doesn’t seem to change. Intellectually I get that answered prayers don’t often happen when I choose—and that in time all may be well. Such is the human condition, right?

But my heart has frozen and doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for hope these days—especially not on Wednesdays. Oh, I go through the motions, find peace in small moments during Moms in Prayer and yoga class, yet when faced with my afternoon, I do not do a great job of fending off those woeful thoughts. Later, when the clock says it is time to leave for choir practice, I am not sure I can bear to sit so close to other people, nor muster enough focus to leave my thoughts behind so I can sing the words of faith. Yet go I do and, again, I find moments of peace even if they do not last see me through to sleep.

So the question is what can I do to resist becoming a Wednesday’s child? Just one more week and MIP breaks for summer. Will that alone make a difference? If so, does that mean such agitating prayers are really bad for me—or just something I need to experience on the way back to hope? Or should I change-up the rest of my routine so I am not home alone where I am too easily drawn into melancholic thoughts?

All I know is by the time I have “far to go” as Thursday’s child, I seem to have regained enough faith to go and go and go, which means something about Wednesday is driving me to woe. Just understanding that may be enough to help me to figure out how to change the pattern enough so that next time I become Wednesday’s child, instead of full of woe, I may be full of faith.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Yeah, I knew you’d like that one! I just didn’t want to write about a normal word, plus many “U” words start with “un”—which means you are defining a word based upon what it isn’t—which seems negative. So after striking out with the dictionary, I brought out the Dictionary of American Slang, 4thEdition (Collins, 2007, Eds Kipfer and Chapman) which I knew would not fail me, unless it failed because it could not offer an expression I could use in a family-friendly blog!

Ultraswoopy: adj Very fast: a down-sized, hitech, ultraswoopy model next year (1970s+) (See pg. 535 of paperback edition.)

However, I’m not talking about models of anything—I’m talking about people and their walking styles.

Before I got injured last year, I didn’t really amble much. Oh sure, if I walked dogs, I didn’t keep a consistently brisk pace, but when I knew where I wanted to go in my house, outside, or in other places, I was one brisk walker. I walked purposefully—sometimes so much so that I almost walked into automatic doors before they opened.

Guess what? I’ve had to stop myself lately so that I am not that idiot who walks into a closed door. And, it’s more because I am walking faster than the door is programmed to open than because I am not paying attention.

For almost a year now I’ve had to ask people to slow down when we are walking together. In fact, for a couple months, if I strode out more than six inches or so at time, then I would cry out involuntarily as the pain shooting down to my left foot literally stopped me in my tracks. It’s hard to walk in an ultraswoopy manner when your stride is barely longer than one of your feet!

Although I moved past being that hobbled long ago, I was still struck with annoying numbness that moved down to my right foot, even quicker when I did amble than when I walked briskly. Either way, though, eventually my stride got shorter and shorter despite being able to start walking using my regular stride-length.

The numbness is becoming less and less obvious which is why I can pick up the pace. Sometimes I almost forget there is anything hard about walking around while doing my daily business—whether that means running up and down the stairs in my house, shopping for groceries, or walking through that automatic door to get to my exercise classes.

If that’s so, can it be long before these ultraswoopy feet start running again? True, I haven’t been an ultraswoopy runner for years, but if I am just able to jog slowly again, that will mean I am more ultraswoopy than much of the population of my, ahem, age group.

Even then, I don’t think I will be as fast on my feet as one of my clients who is a 70-something, former college baseball player. From my window I see him park across the street from my house and before I can make it to my door—even pre-injury—he is ringing my doorbell. Now there’s an ultraswoopy walker—imagine just how ultraswoopy he was at 2nd base during his glory days.

My glory days have passed, too, but that doesn’t mean I can’t return to challenging automatic doors with my ultraswoopy walking pace.

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

We didn’t ask for them, but we got them. Well, actually, we didn’t ask for the aches and pains that led us to physical therapy which led to the home exercises—which our dogs always “help” us do. Technically they are not official therapy dogs but they think they are.

I’ve been doing extra home exercises off and on since August and Sherman began his exercises earlier this month. Good thing I have an old worn-out yoga mat we can just use at home because the dogs, especially Furgus, think it is really a doggy mat, whether or not we are on it, too.

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

The truth is sometimes I might not finish my exercises if didn’t get a little respite from petting a dog or two. I’m tired of the exercises and they often hurt. Sherman is brand new at doing his so right now he doubts they’ll ever feel better. However, lucky for him, he gets the therapy dogs to help him, too.

Furgus is better than Sam at expecting me to switch sides as I do my work. Yes, I want to be stronger on both sides, but all Sam seems to care about is that I don’t stop petting him. Could he look more resentful when I switch? Some therapy dog . . .

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

Still, when I first got injured Sam at least knew better than to chew my hair. I used to have to get Jackson to come puppy-sit whenever I needed to lie down on the floor. Furgus thought I really just wanted him to cut my hair with those razor-sharp puppy teeth. Thank goodness by the time I really started doing exercises, his hair obsession had disappeared.

No, I think the only thing our dogs are certified to do is pester us while we’re working hard. In its own way, that alone really is therapeutic.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Today we played hooky and took off to ski. We’ve had a hard time scheduling a family skiing day despite the fact we still had four ski tickets to use. However, the snow is rapidly melting, even quicker than most Aprils.

Christiana came home so we could get in one more day on skis together. We knew better than to expect great snow, though, so we just slept in, ate a good breakfast, and took our time getting up and onto the hill.

Sometimes it’s also just nice to soak up the sun on the chairlift and take your time getting down the slope. Oh wait, I’m the one who takes my time because I’m not such a great skier, of which the deep slush reminds me. I’m still trying to live up to the promise of my slightly sarcastic physical therapist who quipped that all my exercises and treatments would make me a stronger mediocre skier! In all fairness to the man, he’s never seen me ski so he’s just basing his prediction on my reports.

My husband, on the other hand, might actually regain some of his skiing prowess with his physical therapy. After all the years and his recent back pain, he’s still an incredibly graceful skier. You can tell that skiing is an activity that makes him feel free, enough so that it’s worth the physical strain, money, and hassle. On the ski slope, I feel a little badly that he is paired up with this mediocre skier, but I remind myself that he only skis four to eight times a year. The rest of the time we’re a pretty good match, right?

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Our kids are Colorado natives like their dad, so they’ve been skiing since before they knew much fear. They wait for me relatively patiently. My son recently marveled at how I ski with the same speed, whether on steep, difficult slopes or on easier slopes—which is really more of a commentary about how I don’t really adapt, I think. Nonetheless, today he informed me that I really do ski much slower in slush after all. Humph.

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

For some reason, despite my relatively poor match with my family’s skills, skiing is one of the activities we share when we get along the best. (OK, let’s not mention how cranky I got today when Sherman took us through some rocks amidst big dirt patches—I am strictly a ski-down-the middle-of-a-slope sort, but in his defense, he swears a couple weeks ago the area was full of snow.)

Today we skied at Loveland, one of the few ski hills still open. The place is notorious for cold and windy weather, but it was in the upper 50s today so mostly we were sweating. That is until 3:00 when, in typical Loveland fashion, snow started falling just as we took the slowest chairlift to the higher slopes. The new snow hitting the slopes was welcome, although for that last run we all wished we had dressed for winter. Then as soon as we made it down to the puddles that used to be snow at the bottom, the sun came out again and it was spring once more.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Loveland, you are such a heartbreaker, but we are glad you gave us one more slushy, spring skiing day together before we put our gear away to wait for next season and another chance for us to fall in love again.

But first, I, at least am soaking in Epsom salts in a hot bathtub—I don’t even care that the thermometer outside here hit the high 70s and that the thermostat remains firmly stuck on that same temperature. Spring slush does not appear to be my friend . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert (Trina: after working out at the Englewood Recreation Center)

You know, the term recreation center doesn’t work that well for me. Maybe that’s because I consider recreation more of an optional thing, but I don’t consider exercise optional at all. I don’t know, when I’m skiing or hiking, that’s recreation, but yoga or Pilates are work—although work I choose to do. Though the term recreation center doesn’t work for me, however, the recreation center itself does work for me.

I remember when my hometown built a recreation center when I was in junior high. Suddenly there was some place to go and do physical things, even if it was too cold and/or icy to run outside—you know like when the temperature dropped below ten degrees and the wind chill below zero—I could at least run around the gym. Oh, the center didn’t have all the bells and whistles today’s centers have, but I could lift weights, play racquetball, or meet friends in the swimming pool (did I mention I’m not enough of a swimmer to swim for fitness?)

Truth is, even in metro Denver, I’ve mostly stuck with recreation centers. I just feel more comfortable there—something about the term “club” just seems a little too high-brow for all the sweating I do when I exercise. These days I think of myself as a gym rat, even though I don’t go to the local recreation center to lift weights or use the equipment. Instead I attend classes there at least four times a week.

Signing up for scheduled classes means I will exercise because I am too cheap to pay for classes and not go. We all have to have our motivators, right? I’m just sure that if paid by the month or year or whatever that I wouldn’t stay as committed as I do by taking specific classes at a specific time. Because, like I said, exercise isn’t always recreation for me.

Still, I don’t want you to think I don’t enjoy exercise—it’s just I don’t always enjoy all of the activities in my classes. I mean, I am never going to be a fan of the Pilates “100s” or that one particular yoga position that resembles being a prisoner chained to the wall in a castle dungeon (sorry, I don’t know the technical term for that one!) or even dancing to any country song routines in ZUMBA.

Yet if you look in my gratitude journal, my trips to the rec center are among my top entries. No, my local recreation center does not have a catchy (or annoying!) song such as the YMCA does, but I still think it’s fun to work out there anyway. After all, once I split the word “recreate” into re-create, I start to understand the term recreation center after all. There’s no denying that all those Downward Dogs and planks have re-created me into a much, much better version of me.

Don Quixote, his lance a little worse for the wear.

The year was 1982, the location: Valencia, Spain. Yes, I fell head over heels with someone who was too old, just a little (or a lot!) crazy, and way short on reality. And I’ve never stopped loving him since.

I was a twenty-year-old English/Spanish major taking classes in the study abroad program at the University of Valencia. All my courses were taught in Spanish—or castellano as the Valencianos called it. Of course, the professors spoke slower for all of us non-native speakers, but everything we read, wrote, and heard for our courses happened in Spanish.

As a literature student, I naturally gravitated toward Spanish literature courses. And, when in Spain? You’ve got to study Cervantes and his Don Quixote (Quijote). Oh, we learned much more about Cervantes than the tales of his man from La Mancha, but it was the Don himself who taught me the meaning of life.

You see, I had been on the archetypal youthful quest to discover the meaning of life for a few years now. I was Christian, but what did that mean about the meaning of life?

One day, right in Profesor Villalba’s class, I just knew. Oh, sure a beam of sunlight didn’t appear from nowhere and shine upon the notes I was taking. In fact, I think the day was one of the few really rainy and cloudy days I experienced during my stay in Valencia. Still, somehow I realized that the real meaning of life was the search. That if you thought you’d found all the answers—or stopped looking for them—then you were as good as dead, just like the Don. No more journey, no more purpose, no more life.

Don Quixote, dust and all.

But beyond that, I love that the Don sees the best in people, believes they are more than they are. Don’t you think that kind of belief is powerful enough to help people become more than they have been? I do—and I like to think that it’s just that kind of quixotic thinking our world needs more of now. By helping others see the possible in themselves, we make the impossible dream possible.

Of course, I get a little sappy when I start talking about this, but, hey, I’m still in love. Even after all these years, even though all my own dreams haven’t come true, I still believe in the search.

P.S. Even three very rough years after this blog post, I still believe . . .

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012