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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Nope, I don’t want to return to finals week insanity ever again. Got my fill during my secondary school, college, and graduate school years. Lived through my husband’s graduate school and my kids’ high school ends-of-semesters and didn’t really enjoy them that much more even when someone else got to do the work.

Which is why it’s a blessing to have our kids away at college right now during this high-pressure week. Except . . . our daughter had to come home smack dab in the middle of (well, really at the beginning of) finals week to have a medical exam, too. Yes, timing is everything, but nothing we could say could convince the doctors’ practice that their scheduling was about as bad as it could get for a college student.

So instead of waiting another month to get on the road to healing, Christiana agreed to ramp up her stress during finals week. The university worked to coordinate a new exam schedule for her—not like the original plan for finals at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. the first day followed by exams the next day at 7:30 a.m., 9:40 a.m., and 2:00 p.m. made any sense in the first place. Yikes.

On the last day of the semester she put to bed one final and has already received the good news that all went well—no given considering how badly the professor’s teaching and testing styles mismatched with Christiana’s learning and testing styles. This afternoon she takes one test and tomorrow morning she finishes with two others.

But first she had to turn in and be critiqued on her final art project today. Yes, she’s an incredibly talented artist, but not only does she set very high standards for herself, but also she has a teensy bit of a problem with jumping into a project before she’s absorbed all of the instructions.

Combine those approaches with her having a cold while coming home for 42 hours for a very ill-timed trip to do an uncomfortable test and you have a very stressed-out cranky art student—who is likely not going to find my observations very funny right now, but maybe she will change her mind after she recovers from this week. Maybe . . .

To complete studies in any areas of academic concentration often requires most of us to take a few courses that do not reflect our passions. Christiana can draw realistically, but she prefers a freer rein for her imagination. Usually, you can’t ride that particular horse in figure drawing class. She was just excited that this final project, for once, allowed a little fantasy: drawing an animal’s head on top of a human’s body.

The problem? The human body needed to be unclothed, just as in all the other assignments. She had a couple choices: she could either go to an optional class session where a model would be provided or she could find her own model. Snicker, right? But would our artist take the easy out? No, because then her work would be too similar to the other classmates’ work. Yes, sometimes her pursuit for artistic uniqueness puts her in challenging situations.

Let’s just say she got a certain nameless person to pose partially clad—and figured she’d just imagine the rest since she’d been drawing nudes all semester—except a lot depends on the angle you’re observing.

After staring at her reference textbook and only coming up with one realistic-looking side for the animal/woman, she was about to give up. No, she wasn’t ready to allow any more real-life models to help out, especially a certain (cringe-worthy) close relative. So I ran back and forth to the mirror several times, observed what I could, and then came back to describe and/or critique her version. Good thing I am a wordsmith!

Yes, I think she may have pulled it off, or at least as well as she could at that point. Oh, this kind of stress did not add to her pre-procedure mood, but thank goodness the procedure meds improved her attitude considerably, at least for an hour or so post-op.

Several hours after her medical procedure, she finished the other details for the project, applied the fixative, and put away the animal/woman.

That’s all the finals-related stress I needed. Thank goodness the doctors got the medical pictures they needed and she finished her drawing in time to rest overnight—before heading back to the insanity that is finals week.

When it comes down to semester’s end preparations, sometimes you just have to throw out a few educated guesses and hope that the details you fill in yourself are close enough to picture-perfect.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

Right about now nineteen years ago, I was finishing up my first year of coursework toward an MBA—courses I took in the evening after going to my full-time job. December and its celebrations could wait.

That semester I was involved in one of those group projects from Hell where everyone does the work but doesn’t always agree. Early in December our group came together to put some final touches on the project. One member apologized that she was a little slow because she had been sick while another apologized since she was in charge of the company holiday party and had been up all hours celebrating. That’s when I told them I could top their excuses—not only was I pregnant with twins but also since I had just hit my second trimester, I had been pregnant most of the semester and had been happy to stay awake during class, let alone finish the work. Just completing that term was one of the best gifts ever, if only so I could sleep more.

Our Decembers have been crazy busy ever since, despite our best efforts to keep Christmas celebrations themselves in line. It took me three more Decembers (and another half year) to finish that degree while living with young twins. The first post-graduation Christmas, free from the additional stress and work of school deadlines, was a delight!

A few years later Sherman began his Master’s degree studies—by that time all the activities related to having grade-school-aged children made it even harder for him to fit in his schoolwork, especially during December. When he graduated in December of 2002 (yes—we added a graduation into the December mix—but saved the party until January!) we vowed that from then on, only family members born in 1992 could attend college—and now they are—which means they are experiencing their own December madness right now.

But the years in between Sherman’s graduation and now have been full-speed-ahead years also. Middle school and high school added more challenging final projects and tests and, of course, concerts and parties, too.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

When Mom broke her heel three years ago on Christmas Eve, little did we know how much more involved we would become in helping her with her daily life. That Christmas it seems we barely had our tree up two weeks—we needed to take it down to make space for papers and other items we had grabbed to figure out how to transition to having her live in our home, for awhile, and, later, make a permanent move to Denver.

Meanwhile, our kids continued with the fast pace of high school December requirements. Although we finally purchased one of those pre-lighted trees and could set out the tree otherwise unadorned, we were happy to get out the remainder of the decorations by December 21. And what wasn’t necessary didn’t happen.

Which makes yesterday’s activity—a mundane one for many of you—seem all the more miraculous. After replacing our porch six years ago and losing the built-in attachments for Christmas lights, we finally made it possible to hang lights again. Sherman installed new hooks—I held the ladder—while the dogs, Fordham and Abel, surveyed the neighborhood. Then I continued to hold the ladder (or my husband, when necessary, to keep him from falling into the rosebush and its sadistic thorns) while he hung up our brand new chili pepper lights to go along with the 3 Margaritas paint colors. Then he added blue light ropes we already owned that really match our house now.

OK, we still needed new extension cords, but by 9:30, after some additional ladder ballet (and a few inappropriate language choices), our 3 Margaritas home was ready and lighted for Christmas!

Not only that, but there are already presents under the tree—on December 13, no less. Who knows, maybe we’ll write and send out the sequel to our last Christmas letter—the one we sent in January 2006 . . .

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

At the same time, we’ve given the kids the gift of being able to do their own projects and tests! Jackson finishes today and Christiana finishes tomorrow. With good weather and traveling mercies, we expect to see them very soon—tired from their own crazy busy Decembers—and in just a little bit of awe to see what their parents can accomplish with a little bit of time.

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