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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My friend shared on Facebook how differently his life has turned out from the plans he had 30 years ago when graduating from college. Instead of becoming Mr. International-Business, he is back living in his childhood home, after choosing to be his parents’ full-time caregiver. His life is full of love and laughter, despite the tears and despite having to do hard tasks for his parents. He understands how to find joy in ordinary moments such as walking along the river, observing the patterns created while pushing a snow blower, or reveling in sharing memories with his mom and dad while their shaky hands slowly help decorate the Christmas tree. And yet, he is happy in the life he has.

That kind of happy is easy to be around because it’s not the kind of happy that comes from having, doing, and/or achieving. Instead, it’s the kind of happy that comes from being—and loving.

Today I sat in a radiology waiting room with a man so like the one my friend thought he would be all those years ago. This man was busy—and, as far as I could tell, happy with all that busyness. He made one call after another. “I’m not sharing this with anyone else yet.” “I won an award.” “Please change the flight for our nanny for the Hawaii trip.” “I’ll be in a conference call from 2:30 to 5:00.” Call after call, the man just kept going.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t trying to listen—I’m just sharing some of the snippets that kept intruding on my plan to read my book in relative silence—while, once again, waiting for someone I love who was at a medical appointment. I was looking for a quiet, peaceful moment when I could relax and try not to worry about the whys for our visit.

Most likely our visit was just a rule-out activity, but it’s not lost on me that for some people this is the place where what they never planned to experience is discovered.

From the cheerful banter and movement from one phone call after another by the other occupant of the waiting room, I got the impression the man was there for something such as a picture of an achy knee or some other sort of a hitch in his get-a-long—some body part that was slowing down his fast-paced life.

That’s why I was surprised when I heard his offhand tone as he said, “Oh, I’m just waiting to get a CT scan. They want to look at those blood clots in my lungs. They’re saying I might not be able to fly.” After a pause and a short laugh, he added, “Well, that won’t work. I have to be there, you know?”

Despite his almost frenetic activity, I really did get the impression it was no cover for fear. He just didn’t have time for that sort of thing (health difficulties) in his life—he had things to do, people to see, and places to go. Something like that just wasn’t going to slow him down.

I wish him well, but I just wanted to shake him and ask him if he’d heard himself. If nothing else, there are the people who rely on him at work or at the companies with which he deals, not to mention his wife and the two boys under his nanny’s care. Might taking a break from all his plans be better than letting everyone else figure out how to do without him permanently?

Nothing against the man—well, except for the fact it never seemed to occur to him that maybe I didn’t want to listen to all his phone calls—but I question his priorities. His body clearly has some problem, but he acted as if he thought he was just spending time waiting to check off another “to do” from his list.

If that’s the kind of person my friend had become, then we probably would have drifted into way different circles.

But long before his parents became ill, he recognized those original goals weren’t really his. He is a healer of a person, not a wheeler and dealer. I am blessed to know him—the him he was and the him he allowed himself to become. And truly the world would be a better place for us if more people such as he is were the wheelers and dealers of this world, but I don’t think that lifestyle would feed the healers of this world in the ways they need to be fed.

Blessed are those who feel blessed, even when they have few of the trappings of the world—for they know how to slow down and see God in the tiniest grain of sand or while experiencing a nano-second of joy.

Well done, oh good and faithful servant—you “get” it.

Happy Nuts R Us

Happy Nuts R Us

We live in times when so much of what happens causes us to think the world has gone nuts—in a bad way. Boy, do we need something that reminds us to forget our troubles and “come on get happy”—something, big or small, that can take away some of the negative nuttiness in our world today.

My friends, I know just the right something to help—unless, of course, you have peanut/tree nut allergies. In that case, please find a different source of bliss that will not harm you!

Just the company name alone makes me smile: Happy Nuts R Us. But I love the job titles chosen by co-creators Tim and Todd even more: Happiness Makers. More happiness—now that’s what I’m talking about when I say we need to forget our troubles. However, great word play is only a small part of this soon-to-be operating enterprise. The brittles—peanut, cashew, and pecan—are all irresistible and packaged to brighten even the gloomiest day.

I sampled the peanut brittle when it was still just something Todd made that reminded him of his grandmother and the treats she made for him. I didn’t know the woman, but she must have been a bit of a happiness maker herself.

This stuff is so good that I almost lost my husband to it—and not due to any nut allergy. He has a habit of putting items on the roof of the car when he’s unlocking it. Well, the night he realized the peanut brittle had just fallen off the car was the night he felt it necessary to throw the car into park and jump into traffic to save his candy from being crushed by wheels. Both he and the peanut brittle survived—whew!

If you’re looking for a little happiness in a box—either for friends or yourself—get in touch with the Happiness Makers. Who knew it could be so easy to forget the bad nuts in this world, one or two (boxes) of nuttiness at a time?

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

You know that expression, “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child”? Well, true as that feeling may be, that’s not the healthiest way to approach parenting. And as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, we can’t make someone else feel exactly what we want him or her to feel, whether such a feeling is happy or anything else.

In the end you can only be in charge of your own happiness—and even that isn’t necessarily easy.

Some days (years?) you have to find your own happiness, one moment at a time. You have to string together the happy moments—small as they may be—to cover up a lot of the bigger holes in your heart, life, etc.

You can provide examples, opportunities, mental health providers, medications, puppies, outings, new things, chocolate, or whatever but you cannot make someone else feel happy or even decide to try to be happy.

If your children are reasonably happy—hey, no one said every minute of life is a riot of joy—then you can feel you’ve done a good job. But if they’re not, is it because you’ve done a bad job? Or is happiness much more complicated than that?

At what point do you realize that you’re going to have to hand over that happiness job to them and let them choose whether to pursue it or not?

And, then, how do you go about the very tough business of grabbing your own happiness when you in fact do have an unhappy child?

It is incredibly heartbreaking to watch your children struggle. Though it’s in our parental DNA to do everything we can to help them move through those struggles, they are in fact their struggles.

As it is, if you aren’t careful, you can let their approaches to life and unhappiness permeate your own approaches.

Earlier, when discussing a problem encountered by one of my children, a professional had asked me if I had read the book Learned Optimism. Yes, while breastfeeding them, in fact! But I couldn’t/can’t make them drink it into their own belief systems.

Meanwhile, the more negativity I encounter, the less capable I find myself of choosing optimism. But it really is a choice, no matter what my circumstances. So for now I will continue to take little sips of my own optimism and happiness, even if I can’t quite gulp them down just yet.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Just over a year ago, I was waiting very impatiently for my new best canine friend to grow big enough to come live with me. Now Furgus, that much bigger puppy, is sleeping on my floor, after a full morning of on-again/off-again activity. He looks grown-up, but he’s still my baby.

The thing is, I think he’s always going to be my baby. This wild, active guy can race around the room, trying to get something started with his canine best friend Sam, then I can pull him onto my lap where he sits as still as if he has no idea he weighs over 50 pounds and is far from being a lapdog. Don’t know if that’s because that’s who he always was going to be or if living with me while I was injured trained him to learn to like slowing down, too.

Nighttime comes and after wrestling with Sam, all of a sudden he’s just done for the night. Well, unless we put him outside—it seems he can never just do his business. No, he has to sound one last alert to all the potential bad guys who might be lurking in the dark. Then he comes in to curl up in the small round bed we got for our dachshund Abel. Every one of our spaniels has been too big for this bed and every one of them has liked going nose to tail in it, even if only for a few minutes, but Furgus most of all.

Back in the beginning of both his time in our house and my injury, he used to wake up when Sherman did and then go into the shower room with him—which was another way to keep him contained for a little while longer. At first he used to come back to whine at the side of the bed, trying to get me—otherwise known as She-Who-Provides-Breakfast—to wake up. Now he doesn’t always even wake up until Sherman is ready to leave for work.

But if he sees me move, he goes into full wiggling spaniel-action. Yes, I do my best to avert my eyes or even keep them under the blanket until I am fully ready to deal with that very excited spaniel. Then it just kills him that I only pet him briefly before waking up slowly in front of the computer screen. He’s learned to back off until I give him the word, but that doesn’t stop him from whining as he lies on the floor, all woebegone. It is so hard to be a Velcro-Spaniel while being ignored!

(c) 2012

Eventually I wake up enough to give him that full attention he craves. If I gave into his puppy dog eyes every time he looked at me, this would really be one spoiled dog. Instead he is just minor-league spoiled, right? I mean this time around we have been training our dogs to wait at doors and stairs and such. That makes living with dogs so much nicer. Even the woman at the dog training center was impressed with how excited he is and yet can calm down—albeit briefly—enough to wait to be allowed to enter the door after me.

However, none of my other dogs ever spent so much lap-time with me. Trade-offs, I guess. Furgus really is a Gumby-Dog—you can just move him wherever you want and he’s absolutely happy to comply. Yet, he’ll get down right away if you say lap-time is over. As much as he seems willful, we don’t have to work too hard to change his behaviors. I think he’s really more enthusiastic about life than thinking he’s in charge—well, with a few reminders anyway.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Furgus and I continue to go to dog dancing classes. Goofy as that may sound, the classes are teaching him to listen to me while he is having fun, using that brain of his, and working off energy. This style of dog-training suits us both well—isn’t it just perfect that someone like me brought home a dog who has wanted to dance with me from his youngest days? His responses to music led me to check out canine freestyle dancing in the first place.

Looking back at my horoscope for the day I picked him up last year made me laugh. I don’t even know what this means but I just want to share that apparently Pluto (you know, the former planet) rules my 5th house of true love and signaled the sun that day. Furgus was my density, I mean, destiny.

Don’t worry, Sherman is my human best friend and true love, but Furgus is this woman’s canine best friend and true love. Let’s face it, true (puppy) love is not as complicated as human love—especially since only one of us can really talk. I’m lucky to be in love with this best friend.

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