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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

Could barely watch as our old car crept onto the ramp of the vehicle that would tow it away. No, it wasn’t my father’s Oldsmobile—but it was my father’s Mercury, as well as my mother’s Mercury, before it became ours.

My father planned to go on many adventures when he bought a new Mercury Sable in spring of 2001. But soon after its maiden voyage—a joyful college reunion where he and my mother and their returning classmates of fifty years earlier were honored—he received a diagnosis of cancer’s return. Instead of driving off into sunsets to see his grandchildren, children, and friends, as well as sites previously unknown, he became a passenger in that car, chauffeured often to treatments and procedures back and forth through the canyons forged by the Big Thompson River. Nature’s beauty remained a constant companion on those final journeys he never chose to take.

This would not have been the car my mother chose for herself. But when he died before a year had passed since its purchase, the car was too much depreciated for her to sell it without a loss. So instead she drove off in it on her own solo adventures, as well as those with family members and friends, to locations near and far.

When my mother stopped driving almost six years later, that car came to us for our own adventures, both with and without her. We called the car the Grandma-mobile—which wasn’t really fair since she never would have chosen such a large car with such a long front end. This car most definitely did not fit the picture of what our two 16-year-old drivers preferred, but its ability to seat six worked well when we drove our kids and their friends during the period when their graduated licenses did not yet allow them to drive alone with their age-peers.

You know how the story went. Yes, I ended up with my father’s Mercury, which didn’t fit the picture of what a certain 46-year-old mother wanted to drive either. But we were grateful to receive a good car with low mileage, which was a much-needed answer to our burgeoning transportation needs.

That car played a big role in our own family stories and travels and transitions. It drove off to college loaded down with too much stuff, but returned home with two parents ready for a time of greater rest. The Mercury later transported our family to the sacred grounds where we laid my mother to rest. I picked up my daughter from her first year at college in it so she and I could take a classic western road trip to pick up my new puppy—not that my father would have ever allowed a dog in his car, let alone a puppy leaving his mother for the first time!

When this mom finally got a car more in tune to her dreams (a MINI S), my son Jackson was grateful to inherit the Grandma-mobile. True, he was no fan of parallel parking it but he most definitely appreciated the get-up-and-go as well as the ability to work and play without having to juggle cars with us. Unfortunately, the car (and its driver) got-up-and-went a bit too fast on an icy day last November, leaving the driver unscathed but every panel on the driver’s side damaged—enough so that the insurance company totaled the car due to its age—an age that reminds me just how long my father (and then my mother) have been gone.

Seems fitting that my father’s car left us on the last day of Mercury in retrograde. You may not believe in the power of the stars over our lives but this concept is just the right metaphor for saying goodbye to his Mercury. Astronomically, Mercury in retrograde is the time when the planet Mercury appears to reverse its orbit due to its position in the sky—which looks a whole lot like going backward. According to the StarChild site (linked to NASA), it is not doing so, but “. . . just appears to do so because of the relative positions of the planet and Earth and how they are moving around the Sun.” Astrologers, on the other hand, see Mercury in retrograde not only as a time of complications in areas such as transportation and communication (as Mercury is the god of both areas), but also as a time for returning to past connections.

So, Dad, thanks again for the Mercury—though we never, ever managed to keep up with your standards and plans for its cleanliness, we did our best to live up to your dreams of taking adventures in your chariot of choice.

Farewell, oh fleet-footed one—turns out you were just what we needed after all.

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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

My dogs have watched the old morning glory vine with fascination, ever since they figured out the sounds and smells they detected come from birds—clever birds that hid the nest behind a tangle of old vines. Even I can’t see any birds if I look from the side closest to the door.

Each year, at least one pair of finches graces our lawn with songs from the clothesline or trellis or wires strung above our yard, although some years we never discover where they build their nests. Most of the years they choose well, although there have been a few disasters, such as the time they built a nest on loose wood that moved with the winds or low in a trellis that our former English Springer Spaniel could head butt.

The current two spaniels normally let birds flit and flutter around the yard unimpeded, but the constant sounds coming from that hidden nest seem just too tempting for them to ignore. Sam stands on two paws, sniffing with delight in the general direction, while Furgus settles in the grass watching.

I am not comfortable with supporting this habit—circle of life or not. My dogs have a healthy diet of quality (read: expensive) prepared food and also con us out of table scraps from time to time. Their health does not depend upon eating little birds. Any time they get too obsessed and I can’t distract them from their subjects of interest, I bring them in.

Today, as I looked out the window (currently screen-less in order to aid in our own bird-watching views) I saw both Mr. and Mrs. Finch hovering, almost hummingbird-like around the nest. Usually they take turns visiting and feeding their squeaky little offspring. One would dance toward the nest and fly back and then the other would swoop in. But today, little flutters of wings answered in response from the nest.

Suddenly I realized those formerly fuzzy-headed and barely covered little birds, now seem feathered-out, so to speak. It’s almost time. Wow, that was quick. Wasn’t it just one of the most recent cold snaps (with snow!) when they broke out of their shells? These little finches seem destined to take the most important steps (flights) of their journeys during Colorado’s flakiest spring weather days.

On this cool and rainy morning, those birds are getting ready to fly away from the nest.

What a metaphor the finch babies give me this day when we will soon attend our daughter’s solo art exhibit opening. Next week she graduates from college, but this week she shares a tangible view into the work from her hands, mind, and heart. Our baby is getting ready to fly and we are so proud of not only how well she has developed and strengthened the talent with which she seems to have been born, but also how she persevered through many dark and stormy days—and yet still is seeking flight—just like the finch babies outside on our porch.

No wonder the songs of Mr. and Mrs. Finch resonate outside my window and fill the yard with such joyful noise.

Though our yard hosts hazards such as spaniels and the occasional visiting cat or hawk, the Finches still sing with the joy of what comes next. The babies in the nest are safer from outside threats, but if they stayed, they would soon wither from lack of movement—and they’d never know what it’s like to soar—a glorious feeling despite all the risks.

Fly, little birdies, fly—the world is waiting for you, too, to fill your surroundings with your own joyful noises.

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Last week my husband and I helped our daughter move most of her possessions into the house where she will be living for this her “super” senior year.

She asked, “How many times have you moved me?”

He said, “Ten.”

Not that he’s counting or anything. Moving our daughter and all the “stuff” she surrounds herself with is not a trivial task. Thank goodness she realizes that—maybe not enough to get rid of some it—but she does know that we have gone the distance for her on this task.

Once we had loaded the vehicles, I felt an instant relief from having more space in our house. Then again, she herself hadn’t really left yet. She had another week of work here before she needed to return to her campus job. So yesterday I took her to lunch since I realized this was it—and so did she.

I understand that many of her peers have graduated already and that it’s only thanks to poor advising and scheduling in the department of her chosen major that she is not already done. (Though she has earned 122 credits, she has three classes and two semesters ahead of her—ugh. But that’s a topic for a whole different post . . .)

Her freshman year was spent so far away from us—we were used to her being gone. But a transfer to a closer campus that does not quite suit her brought us in closer and more frequent contact. To say that she never got her groove going at her current university is an understatement—she was much better suited for the laidback, small college she formerly attended than for a large state university. She had valid reasons to transfer but, still, did not realize just how different the experience would be. Nonetheless, after some point, it just made sense to commit to finish where she is now.

This has been a summer of healing for her and she is returning healthier than she has been for a few years. I want her to know that it is not too late to experience joy in this somewhat forced “super” senior year. There is still time to reclaim much of what is good about being in college, even if she will need to find outside work, too.

I hope I don’t see as much of her this year—I really don’t. Not because I don’t love her, but because it’s long past time for her to come out of the cocoon of the past few years and claim her wings—both for now and for what lies beyond college.

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going, what lies ahead, we have no way of knowing . . .

Still I was a little sad to see her go one more time before she takes flight from us for good. And, just like that she was back in that college time zone where it makes sense to forget to text your parents a reply until they’ve long since gone to bed—and that’s OK. Glad she’s back on her way enough to forget what time it is. Oh no, I haven’t forgotten—it’s time for her to move on.

Freezing Out the Grapevine, @1990

Freezing Out the Grapevine, @1990

My daughter has the misfortune to work alongside a very chatty woman this summer. After hearing some of this woman’s topics, I agree with my daughter that her ability to work with the woman at all indicates just how well she deals with customers, even when the customer at hand is internal. But if that woman suggests one more time that my daughter should get married and/or have a baby, I’m going to go down there and have more than a chat with her!

Just kidding, I’m not really going to butt in on this conversation, but what is up with this woman who is also a mother of a young adult? Why is she acting as if all my daughter needs to do in life is get started on a marriage and a family? Why is this her business and what year is it anyway?

Both my mother and my mother-in-law expressed more than a little bitterness about how they were treated when they did not get married right away in the 1940s and 1950s. These women—gasp—finished their educations and worked professionally, not marrying until each was 29. I might have married a few years younger than they did, but I most definitely felt no pressure from them to start my own family right away—which I did not do. However, my daughter is just barely 22 and not yet out of college. So far she has only worked summer jobs, internships, and work study positions–give her a chance to use some of her education in a professional setting, please, before she faces family-related decisions.

While I understand changing life’s plans to care for unexpected births, I do not think people should actively pursue marriage and families without a plan for how to do so without needing help from others. And I am not the kind of person who wants to wedge another growing family into my home.

I’m stating my position here—I am not going to provide child care for a grandchild. I have waited a long time in order to not  be taking care of someone else—my kids, my mother in her final years—and I am not putting my own plans aside now that my time has arrived. Watching my mother’s decline also taught me that health is not a given. I don’t want to wait so long for my own time that that time never comes.

Please, if a person does not have the means to support a family, do not go out of your way to encourage her or him to start one anyway. Meddling of this kind is even crazier in the current times where job growth for young adults has been so tenuous and many, such as my daughter, will have student loans to pay.

Besides, thanks to the scheduling and poor advising in the department of her major at her college, though she has 122 credits, she still has two semesters left, despite needing only 11 credits. Talk about an expensive way to finish a degree. So, no, my daughter does not need to hurry into having a child—she needs to focus on how she will provide for herself come next year.

And, while we’re on the topic, ask me how I feel about people getting married straight out of college. For all those for whom that worked really well, I am very happy for you. But in my family, my brother’s very happy college relationship ended with an early divorce, thanks to the couple’s inability to transition into living on their own together as grown-ups. The real world is very different from college. Better to take some time to see how the relationship weathers the real world; if the relationship remains stable or grows during the transition, then nothing has been lost in waiting a little bit to make the final commitment.

Life transitions are huge and very personal. Questions about babies and marriage—none of your business, OK? These areas should stay private for many reasons. Can’t figure out why some people seem to think idle speculation or gossip about these very big changes is harmless. In past times we had meddlers such as the relative in Sense and Sensibility who could not stay out of Elinor and Edward’s love life—now we have The National Enquirer and reality TV—and, apparently, meddlers such as the woman who works with my daughter.

Talk about the weather, talk about what you did last night, but for God’s sake, stop acting as if topics about getting married and having babies are matters of no consequence. Have your own baby and/or marriage, but leave others to their own timelines.

And, no, I’m not babysitting for you either.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

The night was definitely not sultry—in fact, it felt rather cool for late August. Though we had hoped to travel and arrive in daylight, we had not made it onto the unfamiliar road until much later than planned. Along the way we encountered drenching rains as we snaked up and down mountains though the skies cleared before nightfall. Soon after, we descended into what we assumed was a plain, so obscured by fog that it could have been on the moon for all we could see. Our headlights lost so much of their effectiveness that we turned our attention to watching for wildlife appearing on the road.

In the midst of that eerie solitude, I received a call from the person watching our dogs back home. As I focused on my call, my husband Sherman asked, “Wait—what did that sign say? This is a really long bridge—you don’t suppose it’s over the Rio Grande River, do you?” I turned my gaze, but saw nothing but sheets of mist surrounding our car.

Usually we prepare better for a vacation and know more about the place we are visiting. But we were at an once-in-a-lifetime crossroads and thus had little time to plan for our short weekend stop—which fell in the After category. Before we had packed up our only children—twins—and their associated “stuff” in two cars and left them, all that stuff, and one car at college together. The three hours of sleep prior to the initial more than six-hour road trip (thanks to road construction!) and the following two days packed with orientation sessions as well as obligatory trips to Wal-Mart and such were enough to disorient even forward-thinking people, let alone people such as us.

The most we’d prepared for the After phase was by making a motel reservation in a location not too far off from the return path to our home. Life as we knew it was over and we were clueless to envision how it might look in the days ahead, let alone in the months ahead.

We barely made it to the resort town in time to grab dinner. But after we did and before we fell into near catatonic sleep, we pulled out the local guidebook. Imagine traveling to Taos, New Mexico and not knowing about the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge—so that was what we’d crossed over. We felt as if we were neither here nor there, especially since we had seen little more than the yellow line running through the middle of the highway.

That night when we had returned to our very large motel after eating, cars had spilled from nearly every motel parking space. The next morning, when we awoke a little after 9:00 or so, I looked out and saw that but five or so cars—including ours—remained. I turned to Sherman and announced, “I think the Rapture has happened and we’ve been left behind.” Well, contrary to my view from the motel window, there were still some tourists around town, though many more seemed to have raced back to wherever they came from in order to clock in at work on Monday morning.

We had a little more time before returning to our new reality. Instead we headed out to see that infamous bridge in the sunshine and heat of day. Wow, just wow. The statistics read 1,273’ across and 564’ down to the water flowing below at the bottom of the gorge. I mistakenly thought this view was the true picture of our new future—one where we could see where we had been and where we were going and stay safely on track.

Turns out that was the view/road/bridge not taken. The initial peaceful four or five months of After lulled us into thinking we knew our road map.

But the twelve-month period that followed showed us the real view was more like the one we encountered on that foggy night. The road that appeared so straight was not. It would have been more than enough to have encountered the murky path of losing my mother, uncle, and our two dogs before another year had passed. It would have been more than enough to experience injury and pain so life-altering as to change the patterns of my days and ways. And, it would have been more than enough for one of our children to leave that initial college within that year and the other at the next semester’s end.

By now, we are three years into After. Though our loved ones are still gone, time has mellowed our losses. Treatment and hard work—and that ever-present time—have healed my body. Each of our kids is finding a new path, our daughter studying away in a new closer location and our son living in our home while working and continuing his studies.

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

When we were looking for an affordable and enjoyable location for celebrating twenty-five years of marriage, we were drawn back to Taos. Before I returned, I didn’t really understand that part of the unfinished business I felt had less to do with sights unseen in Taos and more to do with returning to cross that bridge.

As we rushed out to watch the sun set from the bridge, nothing obscured the view. The light was so flat as to be underwhelming. Yet, the sky and land stretched out ahead of us in all directions and darkness had not quite descended to the bottom of that deep gorge. This time I walked with purpose, unlike during my first foot-crossing—I knew that lots of scary things lay below, but I was done with letting them scare me. Though it was long past time for a do-over, I felt compelled to ritualize this crossing.

So I did. I made that walk across and back into a prayer. With the wind whipping through my hair, I said goodbye to the bad and what couldn’t be changed, then stepped off to start again.

Attraversiamo—ancora.

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

(Read 2010 Attraversiamo post.)

Sherman Lambert's feet--(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Sherman Lambert’s feet–(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

It’s late summer (or at least it seems late when people in your family go to school) and suddenly the living feels easy-er: my daughter is feeling better and leaving soon for a temporary campus job that could work into a job while she’s in school too, my son finished the course—and coursework—that’s been in the way of his moving forward in college, the salary freeze has been lifted at my husband’s work, all the work we’ve done to get the commercial property loan we need is leading to a closing date, and with just a small weekly commitment to physical therapy exercises I am remaining relatively pain-free and able to improve again with my activities. I finally feel as if we can all move forward.

As for me, I’m thinking more about the lessons I learned while doing (Julia Cameron’s) Artist’s Way almost 15 years ago. There are obvious steps that move you toward your goals and then there are subtle activities that can open up you—and the Universe—to what comes next. So on one hand, I am evaluating what type of work I want to pursue and working on how to present myself. On the other hand, I’m doing other things that seem to have no professional purpose yet they help me both to remember who I am and create enough space to help me discover how to create a new way of living.

Sometimes you just have to stop thinking and do something—with your hands, with your whole body, or with your possessions—or all of them. Movement inspires more movement.

Part of getting ready to move forward is leaving behind what doesn’t work anymore or what’s been an impediment. That junk that causes me to stub my toes and then say things I wouldn’t think of putting in print is dragging me down. This past weekend my husband started removing items from our detached garage and soon I joined him. Why were we storing the whatchamacallits and thingamabobs of previous decades (and the past century and millennium) when we have current doodads that need a storage home? We kept at the work for a good part of two days and couldn’t believe how much easily-accessible storage we really do have. Just imagine if we keep up the work—and do not fill up every available free space . . .

However, the garage work is just part of the physical movement we’ve done that frees up room for more ideas. I can count three other areas where we’ve made major changes for the first time in years—the house is beginning to feel very different.

Speaking of ideas, I had one a few weeks ago that didn’t involve words. In times of great emotion, sometimes words come too fast and seem to keep me too deeply anchored to the present and past. No, I don’t usually think in pictures but this time a fully-formed picture came to me that expressed where I’d been for far too long. I’m no great artist, as my daughter is, but I just knew that making a small crazy quilt project would be better than writing the same old things . . . blah, blah, blah, blah.

Just so you know, I’ve never made a crazy quilt before but have pieced together quilts. Also, somewhere in the really far past I did embroidery on 4-H projects. So I looked on the Internet and—voila—found a pattern perfect for my project—just as I had envisioned it. Then I scrambled through my scraps looking for just the right pieces—and at the same time got all the remaining scraps organized for future projects.

The top is now pieced together and waiting for me to have time to sit down and practice my embroidery skills a bit more—my first attempts showed me I am not quite ready for prime time, but I am close. Hope to share this completed project with the pattern’s designer and in a future blog post later this month. And, you know what? I do feel more hopeful about both my renewed embroidery efforts as well as most everything else in my life. Really—the picture I saw is starting to become reality.

What is next for me? Don’t know yet, but little by little, day by day, the future looks more like a picture at the end of a gallery than one hidden behind clutter in a garage. And that makes it easier to find a little focus—which is one more reason this summertime feels—if not easy—easier.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Where did this month go? Well, once we heard my brother Scott and his wife Lori were coming to visit with their four grandchildren—all boys, aged six and under!—we had to get in gear to have a house that would be safe enough for the youngest two who were not quite two and half years and 15 months. The first challenge was dealing with our non-stop messes of dog hair, dirt, and mud, especially in this in-between weather season.

But beyond that we had to think more about real hazards. It’s one thing to have to re-develop those eyes in the back of the head for watching a puppy—it’s entirely another thing when the stakes are so high because you are dealing with little people who also put everything in their mouths. At least we already had gates thanks to the dogs and their muddy paws.

Seriously, although we had twins, at least we weren’t outnumbered by our children when we were together. Dealing with four boys is nonstop chaos. We had all these ideas for getting out of the house, but had forgotten how much work it is just to get out of the house! Thank goodness I had saved the blocks and the Brio train set—although it would have been a good idea to have cleaned the pieces before I had all the “free” help beside me launching the pieces into the bathtub and the surrounding areas. And then there was Jackson to help by playing with the older boys with Nerf guns and the game systems and Christiana to do some artwork with them.

Thankfully only the youngest got sick—pink eye and a double ear infection. When the medications kicked in, he forgot his troubles and got happy once more. With vigorous hand washing and sterilizing, we all stayed healthy and thus happier too.

So glad our winter weather stayed away until after they left. Not only did they have safe travels, but we also had the great outdoors, as in visiting Red Rocks Amphitheatre, or the minor outdoors, as in the local playground, for running off a lot of energy. There is no way our modest 1940s house was up to containing five adults, four kids, and two dogs all day and all night.

Furgus loved the kids way more than they loved him—you can only take so many wet willies, you know? However, he didn’t care what they did to him—he just loved the attention. On the other hand, due to Sam’s unknown shady past, he stayed in his crate or played outdoors with Furgus, coming out to socialize freely only after everyone born in this millennium had fallen asleep.

We adults also snuck off—women on one day and men on another—to get incredible Chinese foot and body reflexology massages at Ying’s Hairstyles here in Englewood. Too bad Scott and Lori can’t get those every week for dealing with the challenges of caring for all that energy—the energy the boys require of them and the energy the boys have day in and day out!

Yes, the visit required a lot of energy from those of us who aren’t used to dealing with little ones every day, but the children also brought a lot of joyful, youthful energy into our normally quiet home.

And when the whirlwind of their energy and activity left our home, we took off with our own family on our own high-energy adventure to ski at Copper Mountain for a couple days. Thanks especially to all the gorgeous snow that dumped on the slopes while we were there, skiing required even more of our energy than usual.

Even home again, the activities kept up as Sherman and Christiana had to plow the snow that dumped in Denver and she and her boyfriend finished their spring break here with us. By the time she and her friends left to return to school, we were exhausted.

Between all the young kids and older kids here over the last week or so, I’d lost a lot of my own energy. So yesterday I focused on recharging my batteries with a hot bath, a good book, some yoga and ZUMBA, and a good night’s sleep. Which means I’m ready to run—literally—just as soon I finish writing this and just as the sun has warmed up enough to melt last night’s ice from my paths.

(c) 1992 Sherman Lambert

What woman thinks she’s going to face infertility, at least if she’s relatively young and healthy? I thought you planned for the right timing and then everything else fell in place. And so it seemed at the beginning of our quest to become parents. After the second month we tried, we believed we were on the road to parenthood. However, that pregnancy slipped away from us within a couple weeks of receiving the initial news.

Well, I still thought pursuing the right timing was important for causing the least amount of disruption in my workplace. That’s when I started charting my cycles and noticing that some patterns didn’t seem right. While driving to work, I’d hear Bonnie Raitt singing “Baby Mine” on the radio, but I’d begun to wonder if there would be a baby mine.

Just under a year after the first time—with some additional help from the doctors—we’d merged back onto the road to parenthood. However, I’d stopped worrying about disrupting work—I was starting to understand that babies are disruptive—no matter what! But, we still experienced problems—which led to our discovering early on that I was carrying twins. I prayed at least one baby mine would make it. Through medical interventions, my focused behaviors, and the grace of God, those babies mine did arrive, just a little early but so healthy we only got to stay in the hospital one day.

Turns out that amateur who read my palm before I ever met my kids’ father had been right about a couple things: I did have twins and each was strong-willed, even if they weren’t both boys.

When your only two kids are twins, each developmental phase is new to you no matter what. If you are also blessed with strong-willed kids who also have ADD, you soon learn that helping to guide their individual development can be exhausting even as you love them. Add in advocating to schools and medical professionals and somehow life becomes so much more complicated than you ever expected.

Now those babies mine are legally adults in many ways—I can’t access their educational or medical records on my own—but they are learning about many of the difficulties associated with life after high school. The world doesn’t really care that kids with ADD are supposed to take longer to figure out how to manage many everyday daily tasks. In fact, the world doesn’t really care that science is showing that even the brains of people without ADD don’t really finish developing until they reach their mid-20s.

My son doesn’t know what exactly he wants, but he seems to be floating on, finding happy moments in each day. For him I worry that he doesn’t worry enough about figuring out how to find a place in this world. If college isn’t his thing now, what is?

And, my daughter—well, I mourn the happy-go-lucky child who brought sunshine into my life. I glimpse her and then she slides back into her worries and sadness. I’ve searched for solutions for her, but in the end that quest isn’t mine.

So we’ve reached the point when I can guide them to resources, but can’t make them access them. What a hard place along the parenting journey . . .

(c) 2010 Sherman Lambert

I’ve run my part of the course of both their developments—the steps aren’t mine to take anymore. I just have to trust in the process and know that I can’t really control the timing for when these babies of mine find their own separate ways in this world anymore than I could plan when they arrived in this world.

Though I don’t know the grand plans for them, Someone else does.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

You know my messy table isn’t really the problem—it’s just an obvious sign that deep down all is not well with my soul.

This is one of those years when I can’t talk myself into seeing the happy endings—or at least the unhappy endings that lead to deeper understanding and long-term happier endings. No matter what I said about wanting to be done with talking about unhappy topics, I am not. I can’t will myself to come up with the neat and happy moral of the story that will tie up a less-than-hope-filled post.

Although I’m feeling a bit like George Bailey on the bridge, I’m not looking to jump into the river. No, I just want to take that suitcase I bought with happy travels in mind—and run—anywhere that isn’t where I’ve been.

You see, I know God is hearing my prayers, but I’m having a hard time saying them. The good thing about God is He hears the prayers that have sunk so deep within us that we can’t even use our voices to speak them—they become so much a part of us that they rise from our very pores.

If nothing else, perhaps He’ll send me a bumbling Clarence to show me a better path than the one I am on.

Sometimes no amount of research or any continued pursuit for new solutions can fix a problem. And you especially can’t make someone else choose to see the hope in their situation if they prefer to see only loss.

You’re probably thinking I must be talking about myself, right? See, that’s the irony, isn’t it? So easy to see how to solve someone else’s problem, but then you look in the mirror and realize that maybe you’re so busy trying to solve someone else’s problem because it makes it easy not to be responsible for solving your own problems.

The years of trying to help others with celiac disease, dementia, depression, and ADD have taken their toll on me. I’m fresh out of perky solutions that are always met with a big “but”—because after all I have no idea how bad it is for someone else.

Well, the truth is they don’t know how bad it has been for me to watch them suffer. If I could, I would wave a magic wand and remove the problem. Would be much better than searching for other possible solutions that will never be good enough because the only solution the person really wants is to wake up completely healed.

They also don’t know how much I’ve suffered watching them refuse to consider anything but Plan A when I would fight to find them Plan B through Plan Infinity to aid in their movements forward. This week I realize I’m done being the pep squad. All that energy spent helping those who at this point won’t help themselves is making me feel like a failure. I know I am not—I tried, as God is my witness, I tried. Maybe I tried so hard that they didn’t think they needed to do so. But in the end all any of us really can do is help ourselves.

And during all those times of caregiving, I did not help myself. In some ways it’s just not possible to take care of yourself in the midst of others’ crises, but in other ways you have to be careful not to see any results as the only proof that what you did mattered. Some problems can’t be fixed despite anyone’s best efforts.

And so, I need a Clarence to come show me how I helped even if I could not beat back the demons of the diseases. I need to know that without me this place would have become a Potterville. Maybe I have a bit of a savior complex, but, by God, I’d like to know that sacrificing my potential trips around the world made some difference to others.

But short of that, the only thing I can control is the direction of my own footsteps in the future. A future where I stop trying to find solutions for everyone else and start looking for my own regardless of who is coming along with me on the trip.

Clarence, are you ready to earn your wings? Then help me climb down from this bridge so I can pack my suitcase for the trip of my lifetime.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I’ve been down before, heck I’m most likely down now thanks to assorted losses, but that doesn’t mean I understand what it’s like to have major depression. What I’ve experienced is more that feeling where you hit a bad spot, but you keep problem-solving or trying different things to feel better. You know, you believe that “someday” you will feel better, even if you don’t have a clue when that someday will be.

Major depression, however, seems closer to not believing in that someday.

And as much as I don’t know what that’s like for me, I do know what it sounds like in my daughter. When someone you love has fallen into the abyss of major depression, you just can’t give them platitudes such as “just deal with it” or let them experience every natural consequence of their actions.

To each person who tells me to relax and let her get herself through this blue period, there is this gut response that tells me we can’t afford to see if that will work—the potential cost is just too high—and Sherman agrees.

Until we’d walked with her on this path before, I would have thought they—especially the experts—were right.

This time she didn’t cry for help as early. You see, she’s older and wiser, which may actually mean she is deeper into depression this bout because of the coping skills she has gained over the past few years.

So why, during this period in her life, is this the semester she is studying The Bell Jar? What is purely literary or a treatise on various aspects of society in a time and place long past becomes something more to those who identify too well with the narrator’s thoughts. I’m an English major, for goodness’ sake, but this book has long since moved from the academic to the personal for me—and I still don’t really “get” what Plath is saying in the same way my daughter does.

While I did what I could to get her connected with help within the university, I cannot assume it is enough, even if we’ve been really blessed to encounter caring, knowledgeable professionals—and believe me, after our previous experiences with her depression, we do not trust someone just because of a title or supposed experience. Still, at a time when I do not live where my daughter does, it helps me to have these contacts who can reach out to her if she stops reaching out to them or those closest to her.

Constant vigilance—despite the cost for me. Yes, this is supposed to be my time—to either move on to what’s next or at least to mourn my losses—but I no longer feel this discord with our daughter is something personal or natural to this age in her life.

No, I believe major depression is talking for her, drowning out the sounds of possibility and hope that do exist in the midst of all that seems so hard right now. The good she minimizes while amplifying the bad.

I must fight for the someday of her feeling better while her defenses are down, even as I and others direct her to believe that she can fight for herself. Someday can’t come soon enough—especially for her.

And so, I also pray without ceasing all the day long.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert