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Daughter sleeping in 1996--maybe I shouldn't have let her twin brother choose the picture!

Daughter sleeping in 1996–maybe I shouldn’t have let her twin brother choose this picture!

Despite the fact my daughter looks a lot like me, I’ve become convinced she can’t be related to me—or at least not when it comes to sleeping! Her sleep clinic appointment last week left me with my mouth gaping.

When it comes to sleep difficulties, it seems people either sleep too little or too much—and neither group understands one another.

Growing up I was that kid who didn’t nap and who didn’t fall asleep until late at night—wait, so was she.

Things have changed for her, though. Now she’s that person who can sleep for hours at a time and still nap—and then fall asleep again within minutes of hitting the pillow. And all this while a college student.

I was sitting there listening while she described her sleep schedule to the doctor and thinking that in college I slept about ¼ as much as she does. OK, so I exaggerate—I slept about half as much as she does. Of course, I fell asleep in classes—I got about 5 hours of sleep each week night and probably 7 hours on weekends—why would I expect to feel rested?

On the other hand, she has every reason to expect to feel rested yet doesn’t. Despite what people close to her may think, you can’t force yourself to sleep as much as she’s sleeping. For most, that kind of sleeping is impossible. Even when I had mono, if I napped too long during the day, I’d be unable to fall asleep at night or would wake up in the middle of the night. As her doctor said—her sleep schedule is not normal, especially for a 20-year-old. So, lucky her, she gets to sleep overnight at the clinic some time after her semester exams end.

Here’s hoping the sleep test is one exam my daughter passes—or fails in a way so that the doctor can help her figure out how she can feel more rested and still get up and out to live a little more. New knowledge could show her how it’s not too late to wake up to a brand new day—even if she will always be wise enough to sleep more than I did when I was in college.

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My mother's hands, circa 1950s.

My mother’s hands, circa 1950s.

Back to the word choosing the blogger—I really had other plans for “Y” but yesterday another word insisted I change those plans. No, this time my back isn’t out (“B”) and I’m not ill (“I”), thank goodness. While in church enjoying the musical celebration for the retirement of our choir director (18 years at our church and 50 years as a director), I suddenly found myself yearning for the retirement celebration my mother never got.

See that’s the thing when people start falling into dementia—there’s no good way formally to celebrate what people have done and who they have been without pointing out that they are not that anymore.

The choir director and his wife were part of the senior class listed in my deceased father’s college yearbook (from his second degree, post-Korea) so they are not young. But they are still doing very well—no doubt they have decided to enjoy life while they can by giving themselves more freedom and control over their own time.

I remember suggesting to Mom that she give up the organ bench once or twice a month so that she could enjoy her music as well as the other activities she wanted to pursue in her life. However, until forced to do so by getting pretty sick with shingles, she did not do so. Although her downhill slide began around that time, she continued singing in her choir and participating in the musical life of her church for a couple more years until after she had an accident while visiting us which lead to her staying with us to recuperate.

A little later she decided she was done living away from us, which meant the day she had come to visit us turned out to be the day she left behind her own church and her former life.

Oh, the music didn’t quite leave her hands right away—she managed to play organ for her new retirement community weekly until a hospital stay ended her formal participation in service. But within a couple months she was just lost, so much so that she needed to go into secure 24-hour care.

Ever since she turned twelve she’d been playing in church on and off. One day she just disappeared from the bench where she had sat—in one church, school, community group, or another—for 67 years. Her hands silenced, the hymnals closed, and the music set aside, who was she without her music?

I still yearn for her to have lost her abilities gradually—that she could have chosen when to leave and could have been toasted and roasted while she still sat on the bench.

How delighted she would have been to hear music made in her honor. I have to believe that somehow she was able to listen to the musical goodbyes at her memorial service, but yesterday I was reminded again just how much I wish she had heard that joyful noise on this earth.

And, yet, the music she taught me and that she gave me over the years prepared me to be part of yesterday’s musical goodbyes—for someone who is still here to delight in the songs. Thanks to her, how can I keep from singing?

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Earlier this year I started working out with a heart rate monitor and was very frustrated by what it told me. Still, I gritted my teeth and committed to working with it for a few months to see if I would become stronger by first slowing down. All these years I’ve been telling myself to speed up and now I have to tell myself to slow down!

At the same time, I’ve wondered how accurate the traditional heart rate ranges are for a person with exercise-induced asthma who pre-treats with ProAir, a medication known to raise heart rates. I don’t have breathing difficulties in my regular day-to-day activities, just when I’m exerting myself aerobically. In fact, if I pre-treat very long before my activity begins, I get very jumpy.

As for that question, I just found out that National Jewish Health cardiology is doing outreach into the neighborhoods by offering Walk with a Doc monthly events where a specific health topic is discussed and then people go on a walk with the health professionals present and ask more personal questions. When I wrote the program with my question, the doctor in charge suggested I come and talk with them there—which I will do at the June event. However, he did give me hope that I may not have to restrain myself at the level I am currently. You mean I don’t always have to run like an old woman??!!

Typical run exertion rates Jan. 2013

Typical run exertion rates Jan. 2013

Since I’ve been using the watch for around three months, I have finally collected quite a bit of data and there is definitely a positive trend occurring. My watch “knows” what’s happening throughout my run, but the straight data I get is more along the line of mean and mode—it doesn’t really tell me what my median heart rate is. However, I can find a summary of that data through the training load chart. Checking it yesterday, I was surprised and delighted to see that my willingness to “listen” to my watch these past several months has paid off.

According to Polar Fitness, “Training intensity and duration as well as physical parameters (for instance, age, weight) affect training load.” The training load chart is divided into three zones: red indicates “cumulative training load is on a very high level” that is potentially straining your body so much so that taking a break is recommended; yellow indicates “cumulative training load is on a high level” and training level should be reduced in intensity; and, green, which indicates “you are recovered from previous training sessions” and can increase training sessions or their intensity levels.

Typical run exertion rates April 2013

Typical run exertion rates April 2013

I’m very happy to report that I haven’t hit the red zone in over two and a half months and that my workouts in the yellow zone this month have been very close to the green zone. For the most part my highest training loads happen in ZUMBA class where I do not make any effort to slow myself down. But even those sessions have improved greatly since I began changing my running patterns by exerting myself more as the watch suggested I should.

This news makes me ecstatic because it means that very soon I should be able to begin increasing my speed without overexerting my heart. Then I’ll just be running like the middle-aged woman I am! As well as exerting myself in a much safer manner than previously. Yaroo!

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

And not very patiently either!

Tuesday morning, up before 5:00 a.m., I was putting on the ski pants I had washed to hide away because I was done with snow. Well, I was done with snow but Mother Nature wasn’t. So there I was out pushing a snow blower while snow continued to fall on my head, the recently cleared sidewalk, the streets, etc. Of course, with late April snow the stuff closest to the streets was pretty much as heavy as wet cement. Finally gave up and started pushing it aside with a shovel. But not only was it snowing, but was really cold for April—if the pavement hadn’t stayed warm, our work would have been a lot harder.

When it comes to snow blowing, once I’m awake and out there, I usually don’t mind spending time outside in the snow. It’s easy to fall into a peaceful rhythm—until spring arrives. Then I have to spend way too much time unclogging the machine—that’s when I know it’s time to move on to the next season.

Now it appears to be that season—even if the blossoms aren’t on schedule yet. No pink crabapple petals and very few forsythia blooms appear, but the grass is oh so green (and long—speaking of that next season!)
Finally, I can dream of planting. Even in normal years I don’t plant my annuals until after Mother’s Day—not sure but I may need to wait even a little longer this year. Still, instead of looking out my window and thinking about the shovel, I saw spring and thought about my trowel. And colors beyond green—purples, pinks, corals, yellows, reds. What joy will come in selecting this year’s hues and blooms? What to pick? What to pick?

Sitting here I can almost smell the earthy scents of my favorite nurseries, one quiet, calm, and small and the other bustling, large, and almost overwhelming in its choices. Oh, yes, what to pick?

The waiting is the hardest part, especially in years when Spring tarries in her dance with wintery blasts and falling snows. But when she bids the cold goodbye, oh my! Don’t want to wait . . . but guess I will, if only because I know that rushing into planting would only serve to break my heart.

Just as surely as April showers bring May flowers, so, too, does April snow. But April snows are especially good at reminding us to stop trying to hurry the calendar—and just wait. After all, Mother (Nature) knows best.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

One delightful aspect of the Blogging A to Z Challenge is that it challenges me to work within some parameter, even if the parameter is simply that I must write about a certain letter of the alphabet. Not one of those people who plans out a theme or does posts in advance, I want to see what I can come up with in the moment. Deep, silly, whatever. And if I have no ideas of my own, I get to check out my regular or slang dictionary to see if something will grab me—even better when I discover words or phrases that are new to me.

So it is with viridescent—it’s like iridescent—only with just one color of the rainbow and, perhaps, lacking the luster—for now.

Slightly green—who knew?

Well, slightly green describes how the grass and other plants have appeared peeping out from underneath the snow. Usually April is all about emerald green and iridescent raindrops drying on the vine, blade, stem, leaf, etc. This April has been a tease as the green has remained so often hidden. We have been way more than slightly green with envy when hearing about tulips and daffodils that are not only surviving but thriving in other parts of the country.

But if green is all about growth then viridescent or slightly green is the beginning of that growth, those baby shoots that will stretch out for and reach into maturity.

Today I’m thinking about my daughter for whom so much is changing in those areas that are so huge for college students: studies and relationships. As much as she has tried to add Miracle-Gro to that which has been such a big part of her college life so far, the desired blooms have not continued. So easy to feel black and blue, but the truth is also slightly green—those baby shoots are coming up underneath what has ceased to grow.

I have no idea if it hurts the grass to grow or the tree when the buds unfurl, but for humans, the greening process can be more than a little painful, especially if you’re not quite ready to give up on the old growth—even if that growth has become stagnant.

April’s early growth, so recently blanketed by snow, has thrown off its covers. What was viridescent is now verdant and lush. Though delayed and behind schedule, there is still time to blossom.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Disclaimer: this post isn’t about astrology. However, a little knowledge of astrology helps explain what I intend to discuss. In astrology, Uranus is typically associated with surprise and that which breaks away from the status quo. Well, if you understand the expression that says men are from Mars, considered masculine, and women from Venus, considered feminine, then life in all its surprising twists much surely be from Uranus!

Another expression says that bumps in the road don’t get in the way of life, but are life itself.

Whenever you think you have it all figured out, something changes. On some days, news you receive throws all your plans for the day out of whack. Other days, your whole life is changed forever.

The thing that never seems to change is that I’m always so surprised that life is surprise or bumps or change or whatever you want to call it. Though I’d rather believe in constancy, that’s only wishful thinking talking.

The truth is that initially I am not fazed by change. I jump into the fray to do what needs to be done, totally losing track of time. I am often that cool, collected individual who tries to figure out what to do and who doesn’t worry in the moment. I can compartmentalize my emotions and wait to deal with them later.

Later, though, I lose my cool. While good with change in the moment, I’m not so good with the long transitions that follow.

Just goes to show that something has to remain true to the status quo, right? So while life itself is always changing and I can fake a good initial response to change, I myself have not changed that much—so far.

But, under the influence of Uranus, who knows I might one day yet change how I respond to change?

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert These roses, coated with snow, were from the mass wedding/renewal of vows at Loveland Ski Area--talk about mountain-tops and valleys!

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert
These roses, coated with snow, were from the mass wedding/renewal of vows at Loveland Ski Area–talk about mountain-tops and valleys!

Everyone either seems to make marriage about sex (for same sex couples) or about commitment (for opposite sex couples). The truth about marriage is a mix of both for all people, but the important part is believing so strongly in your commitment to one another that you formalize it and ask others to recognize your support—social, financial, emotional, and/or legal—for one another.

When you are early into a relationship, that special spark is an especially big part of the attraction, but it better not be all there is to it if you want your time together to last. True love is about finding a help-mate who makes the journey through this life richer for having been at your side.

And beyond that, a true partner—for the most part—provides you shelter from this life’s detours and unexpected storms. True love is really about remaining committed throughout all the very unsexy details of a life together: the business difficulties, the infertility, the surprise pregnancy, loss of faith, the low bank accounts, the health changes, the crises surrounding children, the aging and loss of parents, and so on. The helping each other through the very hard valleys in your lives together and apart is the “in sickness and health” part and the “richer and poorer” part.

(c) 2013 Loveland Mountaintop Matrimony

(c) 2013 Loveland Mountaintop Matrimony

The mountain-top experiences are the easy ones and most likely the ones that help us fall in love. But it’s the valley experiences that tend to keep us together or break us apart.

Looking back upon almost twenty-five years of marriage, I have had my share of both mountain-top and valley experiences with my husband Sherman. And while I have loved all our goofy, joyful times together, I have no idea how I would have made it through and out of the valleys without him at my side.

When Ann Bradstreet said (in “To My Dear and Loving Husband”) “if ever two were one, then surely we” she speaks for what it means to be committed—both emotionally and physically—to one another. You don’t have to get married to be committed, but marriage is a very public and hopeful way of declaring your belief that your commitment will continue—until death do you part.

This fall, a quarter of a century after Sherman and I promised—in front of God, family members, and friends—our true love to one another, we will be watching and listening as our nephew and his true love publicly declare their commitment to each other. They’ve already walked through some valleys together, but I certainly wish them a lifetime of mountain-top moments as well as they formalize the dedication that began when first they held hands and took those baby steps, side-by-side, into the unknown that became their mutual journey.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

There are no guarantees when raising children, no matter how hard you try to do the “right” things for them—for some families, getting those children to adulthood leaves behind plenty of scar tissue for all involved. For the most part you try to move forward despite the scars. Then something is said or happens that is like a spark to the tinder that is your buried emotions—anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and whatever else connects you to the pain.

From personal experience, I understand my children are not easy to help, so I do have some empathy for those educators and mental health professionals who worked with them. However, I’d have appreciated receiving empathy back from more of them. It’s hard enough to deal with challenging situations with your kids without encountering people whose presumptions get in the way of resolution—when the people in the helping professions turn the problems back at parents based on what they assume is true, we parents feel very alone and begin to lose trust in finding answers from professionals.

For example, just because one of the big problems facing educators today is uninvolved families or families who do not support those in authority does not mean that every student having difficulty fitting into a school system has that problem.

Two of the closest friends I met through PTA and school accountability committees also raised boys every bit as beat up by their school days as my boy is. Again those families had two parents in the home, regular family dinner times, attendance at church, expectations that they would respect authority, and parents who volunteered with the schools and participated in the community activities. In our own ways, we were the Ward and June Cleavers of our generation. We were the families whose kids should have fit like gloves into the schools, but did not. And when our families turned to the schools for help, we were rebuffed. Of course, we also looked to outside help—paying for counselors and tutors—but first received few answers from the schools and little empathy. Each (now) young man and his family continue their educational struggles to this day.

Our son’s troubles began in grade school while our family was dealing with his grandfather’s terminal cancer. Those troubles never went away, but we did keep searching for solutions. High school found him older, but us not much wiser about dealing with his difficulties or how to work in partnership with the school.

Despite having read the 27-page educational analysis report our son had received after costly consultation with a trusted local university, the special education director at our son’s high school asked him questions such as, “Do you want to be here? Don’t you think you should do your work?” Nothing the report said or that his experienced tutors said in 504 accommodation meetings ever changed the school’s willingness to follow the university’s suggestions.

And for us, “Do you check the school’s online system often to see if he’s turned in his work?” Of course, she knew the answer—the system recorded logins. We had stopped checking frequently because the data was updated too infrequently for us to base consequence decisions on what we saw. Besides, why did she think we spent money out of our pocket to have his abilities/difficulties assessed? Partly because we wanted to see if some knowledge could help him to keep up with his work better.

Meanwhile, while our family life had become more and more disruptive due to the homework battles waged with our son as we tried to be responsible parents who supported the school, our daughter was falling apart. She did her work—and worried about her twin brother. She tried just as hard not to cause any more trouble in our family. Add in one grandmother on her way to becoming lost to Alzheimer’s and our girl became one sad kid. Did the family conflict and her grandmother’s illness cause her depression or did her biology exacerbate the problems?

What I do know is that when she was finally hospitalized for those problems it was hard to find mental health professionals who really attempted to recognize the role of biology within her difficulties. So much focus from them fell on the family. My kid didn’t do chemicals or sneak out of the house, but was treated as if her depression were a form of rebellion and we were treated as if we were just too stupid to see that she was lying to us—just as all the other kids did. We tried so hard to complete the prescribed family counseling (20 weeks or so) but finally stopped when we realized it was making things worse for everyone. I could have understood if they taught us and her to work with her biology but the program acted as if biology had little to do with her problems.

What did I learn from these experiences with schools and mental health treatment? First of all, that too many professionals believe that a one-size-fits-all approach works for all. And, secondly, that if it doesn’t then the problems stem from the family.

So, we muddle on on our own. Thankfully, we have met helpful educators, disability coordinators, tutors, student services advisors, and counselors along the way—I thank them with all my heart.

But to those who questioned our devotion, just know that if we could have made our kids fit better into the world just by trying, it would have happened. Please stop blaming the families who seem to have been dealt more challenging cards than others—so many of us are trying so much harder than you’ll ever know. Somehow the systems also need to try harder to figure out how to help those who don’t fit the molds.

Colorado, Spring 2013

Colorado, Spring 2013

The forecast for tomorrow here in sunny Colorado? Snow—again! This will be the seventh storm since March 1. Back then we kept hearing how bad our drought was and the voices of doom and gloom repeated often that whatever snow we would get, it couldn’t possibly be enough. As of today, statewide snowpack has reached 88% of average with some areas already above 100% and predictions of other mountain basins going above with this newest snowstorm.

No doubt the ski resort operators are wondering why so late? Several resorts closed a week ago, yet decided to reopen for this past weekend. Will they do it again next weekend, too?

And, closer to home, will I have to run a snow blower again? Last week’s snow didn’t stick too badly, but what did was so wet it clogged the blower with slush every few minutes. I finally gave up and started pushing the snow with a shovel.

Today’s soft breezes teased of spring. And, yet, our forsythia may never bloom this season.

Had to laugh—saw annual bedding plants for sale today. You better not buy those here unless you put them in pots you can bring inside at the drop of a snowflake.

Oh yeah, it’s like the Groundhog Day movie. I think that groundhog meant to say not that we’d get six weeks less of winter but that we’d get six weeks more of winter—which means by next weekend we should be able to call this snow thing quits, right?

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Oh, I so wanted to talk about the world premiere of Sense & Sensibility The Musical that I saw this week at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. And, I felt certain that the dance, the quadrille, would be just the entrée for talking about the tale of the Dashwood sisters.

But, drat, I, like Elinor, am possessed of sense. As such I just had to do research—which revealed that the quadrille likely was not introduced to England until after Jane Austen had published her novel. Oh sure, the quadrille is very representative of the Regency Era, but Austen shouldn’t have been writing about it yet in her novel.

However, allow me some of Marianne’s sensibility and let me dance around the truth so that I may gush about the performance anyway—under the guise of the letter “Q”, as in quadrille.

I may not be a Janeite, but the English major nerd in me loves literary works done well in theatre and film. Wasn’t too sure if the Dashwoods ought to sing their thoughts, but I had to find out for myself. Have to say that it worked for me.

Was supposed to be a mother/daughter outing, but my daughter came down with the same stomach bug I had. Luckily, it’s just as good as a friends’ outing—and I could find a friend who was flexible enough to go with me on short notice. Lucky us—we were seated in the second row in the middle. We could watch the conductor direct in his period costume (nice ruffles at the cuffs!) or peer into the pit or hear the excellent singing happening not so many feet away from us.

Of course, much of the story is about the serious consequences that often resulted from the pettiness common to so much of society at the time. In truth, the social dancing scenes, with the characters’ noses held so high and much of the chatter limited to vicious gossip, so perfectly demonstrated the lows of high society in the Regency era—and yet also indicated how little people have changed even though music, dances, clothing, and social customs are so different today. Can’t speak to whether or not the quadrille was performed, but who could blame the director/choreographer if she slipped it in?

My friend didn’t know the story, so at least she wasn’t thinking ahead as I was. Sometimes the cast members would be singing away happily, and I’d be thinking, “Poor Marianne. Poor Elinor. Come on, Edward, man up.” Wouldn’t be surprised if much of the audience was thinking that along with me—although at least we also knew that all would work out in the end.

Sometimes I think I cry watching Sense and Sensibility because I would so be Elinor. She’s got that stiff upper lip under control—something we German-Americans also know a bit about. How easily it would have been for her to let life slip by in the name of sense. Though the dances of her times, both the physical dances and the dances of society, definitely required focus and control, she took the custom of staying in control too seriously.

But lest you think the musical is all about serious relationship stuff, you need to know there really is quite a bit of comic relief, too. I think even the guys in my house would have gotten into the show.

In fact, audience members didn’t need to know anything about the story in order to enjoy it. However, for those of us literary nerds who always want to know more than what’s produced on stage or written within the pages of a book, there’s a study guide. And guess what? The word quadrille does show up there, so I guess I’m not really cheating after all.

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert