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People who work in close contact with others in jobs that must continue with contact are considered essential workers in these times. They are also exposed more often to COVID-19.

You know what else they are? Essential to people in their lives away from what they do for work. People love them and want them to be around for a full life span.

When I wrote earlier this week* about the loss of 500,000 people, I was sad that those people I didn’t know had lost their lives and that they left huge holes in the lives of those in their circle who remained.

At the time, I was breathing a sigh of relief because my loved one appeared to be getting better. Oh, I was angry that she hadn’t been better protected—both by institutional procedures and mandates and from people who didn’t believe that this disease was a big deal—but I was trying to focus on praying for her recovery.

And then, three days ago, her heart stopped. I don’t even want to hear you all insisting that she didn’t die from COVID. Because she did—the strain this disease puts on other systems can cause them to fail when they wouldn’t otherwise do so. The willful and/or unintended misinterpretation of how causes of death are assigned on death certificates tries to tell us we don’t have the right to be angry at people who refuse to take responsibility for protecting others.

In fact, when we had our last family loss (not from COVID) six months ago, I implored people to follow precautions as no one needs such grief in our lives.

Still, I see some of you complaining about overbearing restrictions and proclaiming that people should go out and live their best lives. What about our loved ones’ best lives? What about our best lives that would have included them still with us?

Every life is essential. How about we act like it?

* Post was written on 2/28/21–but I didn’t have the energy to share it in the midst of my fresh grief. But, somehow, here we are again, as infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing. According to the CDC website today, the death toll in the U.S. has reached over 614,000. That’s over 614,000 people who were essential. Please don’t be the kind of person who doesn’t worry about COVID-19 unless and until it affects you and yours personally.

Kazoo and Furgus, (c) 2021

Furgus—who had surgery on his right knee on January 18—returned for another checkup on Wednesday. Recovery is going as planned, but there’s still another four weeks to go before he’s released from restrictions. And that’s pretty hard news for a guy who loves snowstorms like the one that happened that day. The good news for him is that we live in Colorado and there’s a reasonable chance we’ll still get some snow in late March and April (and—that’s where I’m going to stop—for now).

Furgus is a sweet boy—unless you’re a squirrel or the kind of malefactor who walks your dog on the sidewalk in front of our house. Even the squirrels and said malefactors are catching a break from Furgus this winter. But, don’t worry—he’ll be back, barking at the fence as soon as allowed.

For now, Furgus spends his days snuggled up with Kazoo, who turned one two weeks ago. Lazy days, but filled with much love from his admiring brephew (Furgus is genetically Kazoo’s uncle, but lives as his brother—or Bruncle Furgus, as he’s called here).

Like Furgus and Kazoo, I’m finding it hard to be patient waiting for better days. But, if we can’t get out much, at least we all have each other here, which includes my husband Sherman—as well occasional visits from our kids and their dogs.

These are the dog days here—which is a pretty decent way to wait out a pandemic, if that’s what you have to do.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

My prayer today is that my words will be heard as a message of love, not as an incitement to fight. As of today, our country has lost over half a million souls to a virus. Yes, God is sovereign—and, yes, He also sends help through human means. I am confused that some of most faithful people I know believe that God can’t be behind the science or behind government leaders’ attempts to put protections in place for our society.

What if all these restrictions aren’t part of some evil plot to lessen our faith, but are God-given methods for us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves?

God created the whole world. And that means He created people who are driven to help others through our current challenges, whether that’s through doing research, applying their knowledge to understanding and abating this novel coronavirus, caring for others in medical situations, leading government policies that help reduce the risks, or lifting up others by speaking God’s truths.

God doesn’t want us to live in fear during these times, but to trust in Him. But what if trusting Him means performing simple acts that help mitigate our chances of infecting others with this disease—that while not dangerous to many—is deadly to some? And that it also means trusting Him enough to refrain from declarations—such as “only” a small percentage of people die from this—that minimize the risk of harm to a great number of people.

God is in control here, but we still can choose to control what we can control. When Jesus went out into the wilderness, Satan sought to tempt him. Though Satan suggested he throw himself from up high, Jesus replied that it was not right to test God. Wearing masks over our noses and mouths or following social distancing doesn’t show a lack of faith—instead, we show respect for God by not testing him.

And when those behaviors protect so many other than ourselves, I don’t quite understand the fight. I really don’t.

I pray we are turning the corner on this—and I pray you all stay well. As for me, I will do what I can to protect myself—and anyone who might be around me.

As March 2021 approaches, we’ve been hitting landmarks that continue to remind us of what we didn’t know at this time last year. And how unaware we were that we were living through the end of an era. Oh, we were getting some pretty good hints by Ash Wednesday of 2020, but it seems that most of us just didn’t get what was going on or what was coming.

I’m not even sure how to pray this Ash Wednesday. What is appropriate when over 2.4 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, including over 488,000 of my fellow Americans? As a people, we are diminished by the loss of so many. Grief tears at our hearts. If there were any doubts that from ashes we came and to ashes we will return, 2020 put a whole new emphasis on that statement of mortality.

Yet in this time of great loss and fear surrounding physical health, I am especially reminded of how human I am otherwise. Even as I am so grateful that I live and breathe, I am aware that my heart has hardened so much in this past year. Yes, I am sad at all we have lost—especially those people I’ve lost (not due to COVID). But when I sat down to write tonight, I was confronted with how angry I am. All. The. Time.

And not just angry, but also unforgiving toward those who do not approach the pandemic the way I do. More so lately as one in my own circle has been engaged in battle with this deadly virus.

This Lent I will sit with this anger and my God—and try to hear a way back to loving others.

Fear-shaming seems to be a thing these days. As if showing respect for a novel coronavirus and figuring out how to minimize its risks are somehow the actions of cowards (and/or the faithless) versus a fact-seeking mission to determine what we can and cannot control about this threat that has seemingly thrown our world off its axis.

For years, my family has called me Safety Mom, in part because I had writing jobs about safety and baby products. But I guess you could probably argue that I was able to get hired for those jobs because I’ve always been one to think about safety concerns. Do I live my life in fear? No. Yet I do live my life by researching safety risks and analyzing various protections and preparations. When it comes to safety, there are many factors not under our control—my approach is to put my efforts toward simple ways to reduce risks. In the end, that’s all anyone can do. After all, we’re not in charge!

For background, I admit that I come from a somewhat overprotected childhood.

First of all, my dad was raised an only child, but, really, he was the child who followed the death of his parents’ only other child. My grandparents were so afraid of losing him that he was raised as a fragile piece of china—even though he grew up on a Depression-era farm. His nickname in school became “Mittens”—because he wasn’t allowed to get dirty or roughhouse. He grew up to earn a professional degree and work as a pharmacist, only using his hands to count pills and type labels. My father seemed a stranger to his own body—living in a cerebral world where physical risks were minimized. For him, it was his lifestyle focused on comforts that threatened his physical health more than outside risks or movements.

And, for me—I was the baby who did not die when my body raged with infection at four months of age. But the experience left me underweight and scrambling to catch up. My dad’s mom would grab my hands and say things like, “She has hands like a bird. Do you think she will make it?” And whenever I fell down in her presence, she would gasp in fear for me—a reaction that never went away throughout all the normal bumps and bruises of my childhood. Not until I could get my tonsils out, a procedure delayed by my lack of weight gain, could I finally grow into a sturdy child—one who tried to pump hard enough to wrap the swing around the bar, who rode my bike up gravel country roads, climbed trees, screwed up her courage to plunge off the high board, and who, in my teens, jumped at a chance to learn to ski.

Compared to my husband (he of a very physical childhood with his two brothers and more than a few broken bones between them, and a current serious mountain-biking addiction) and my own kids, who I strove not to inject with the legacy of fear my family had attempted to swaddle me in, I am a delicate little flower.

However, I do not often cower in fear. I prepare myself by reading the latest studies (from a layman’s perspective), while watching for bias or updated information. My educational background is in reading and writing, and my current editing work falls in the area of science education—an area where I was NOT naturally drawn to at a young age. No doubt my growth into Safety Mom drove me toward trying to figure out how different factors affect health. In general, if my research tells me something I don’t want to hear, I have to decide how badly I want to avoid the risks.

Unfortunately, what I read at this point in our early days of understanding the current viral threat is that how I respond to safety precautions matters to the health of many beyond my own circle. I don’t really spend a lot of time worrying about myself—or even about those whom I love. Instead, I spend time making certain that—as much as possible—I follow the current recommended safety precautions.

What looks like fear to many is actually love. I am doing unto others what I want them to do for me (see Matthew 7:12). I do this because of what Jesus said—not because I don’t have faith. What if keeping our lamps trimmed and burning (see Matthew 25:1-13) is actually about being prepared to care for others in this interim of waiting for better solutions to this illness? Could the inconvenience of loving our neighbors by maintaining distances and wearing facial coverings actually demonstrate that we are willing to accept God’s timing and ways—in all things, including how and when the bridegroom will arrive?

Fear not, but prepare wisely. Because we do not know the hour or time, one way to keep watch is by showing your love.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

runningshoemay2017 (2)

Trina Lambert (c) 2017

Wow, 70 degrees forecast for November. I just had to go running over my lunch hour the next day. While packing my backpack that night, I ticked off my list: running shoes, socks, skort, shirt (sleeveless!), jogging bra, visor, running belt, and inhaler. Packed lunch in the fridge that I could take to eat while working at my desk afterwards. Office clothes hanging in the bathroom. To bed too late—as always.

A “woman of a certain age,” I was not surprised when I woke later to go to the bathroom. However, what I didn’t expect was to almost fall when one of my knees didn’t want to bend as I hobbled down the hall. Strange—returned to bed with care, resolving to sleep with my leg lying straight out instead of curled in. That ought to fix that knee trouble, I thought.

Only it didn’t. Dawn arrived along with the tinny tune from my phone alarm, but my leg was decidedly unfixed. As I worked through my daily physical therapy stretching exercises, my right knee continued to resist my attempts to loosen it up.

And it hurt. A lot. Did not help that the shower is in a 1940s bathtub—making its side a little too tall for a knee that won’t bend—but I grimaced and brought it along with me anyway. By the end of the shower I had realized I was going to have to walk at lunch. Maybe I should grab a warmer shirt, but I could still go.

Hmm, bet I could have my husband massage it and check for any swelling or other problems. I stretched out on the bed to receive some help. After he finished his assessment, I bent back my leg and said, “Look it won’t go back any farther.” Then I dropped to the floor and started to walk—until my knee just screamed “no” at me. I joined in the screaming, with my husband staring at me for a few seconds before he ran to get me a chair.

And was it hot in there or what? As a roaring began in my ears, I wondered, “Can heart attacks start in the knee?” Then the heat left as quickly as it began. But I knew I wasn’t running—or walking much that day. In fact, I wasn’t even going to wear the skirt I’d put on—better to wear pants if I might end up on the floor.

My husband packed me into my car for my three-minute commute. When I arrived, my co-workers rolled me, sitting in a wheelie chair, to my office. With my leg propped on a fitness ball, I massaged arnica into the knee and gently stretched the muscles. Wasn’t feeling too bad anymore, so I popped up to go to the bathroom—and almost screamed again. Stuck halfway between the bathroom and my desk—and my pride—I debated what to do. But you can bet I didn’t ask for more help. Finally, I sidestepped, as I do on skis when I am unwilling to commit to the steepness of a slope, back to my desk, leaving a pattern in the carpet that looked as if one truck tire (by itself) had driven from the door to my chair.

I lowered myself and sighed. And then I reached for my cell phone.

Several hours later, carrying a CD with an X-ray of my (thankfully) not-very-arthritic knee, I stepped from the urgent care center into that balmy 70-degree day, skies still blue. It appeared I was going to live to run another day—just not that day or any day soon. A detour, but not the end of the road yet.

And in that moment, it was enough—or close enough to enough for this “woman of a certain age”—for now.

I am heartsick at how the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was rammed through the House of Representatives this past week—on the National Day of Prayer, no less. This cruel piece of legislation was approved without the representatives even taking the time to read what it does, without their listening to professionals in the medical fields AND insurance companies, without their hearing the pleas of people all around this country who are in need—in short, without caring. The word “care” in no way belongs in the term “Trumpcare.” The message of “I don’t care” is being shouted throughout this country I already considered great—and is reverberating around the world.

And to add to my utter despair are the words that were spoken by people who voted for this travesty and by those in other positions of power.

Despite what these people would like you to believe, we do not always get what we deserve—sometimes we get more and sometimes we get much less. There is no perfect formula that says, “if you do this, then that will follow”—especially in our health matters.

I’m here today because when I was four months old, the citizens of our country still believed that when an infant falls ill from a congenital birth defect, it is our duty as a society to provide her with healthcare, and in a manner that does not bankrupt her parents.

As I grew into my teens—with no lingering effects from that early life-saving surgery—unaware that I had exercise-induced asthma, I fell in love with running (once my father stopped smoking). I would run 14 years—including four years of high school track and four years of college track—before being diagnosed with that breathing problem in a routine physical. And, yet, the only cost associated with my condition these days is for the inhaler I use to pre-treat before I do cardiovascular exercise—if I were sedentary, I would never need an inhaler, but I doubt my blood pressure numbers would be nearly so good either.

Another pre-existing condition—one leg shorter than another—something I’d been told didn’t matter when I was a 15-year-old high school athlete—turned out to make a big difference after decades of running. In my late 40s, I was so much healthier than most people my age and have the numbers to prove that from tests that were performed for buying life insurance. Most weeks I ran three times, practiced yoga three times, did Pilates once, and danced at Zumba twice—that was every week. My bulging disc came out of nowhere and was not at all related to being sedentary, as the literature our insurance company sent me seemed to imply.

I was devastated and did what I could to get better: chiropractic, physical therapy, and the exercises I’d been prescribed. At one point I was doing those exercises for an hour a day—in addition to the yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and walking I still did during the week. A good proportion of the costs associated with my healing fell on us—for every $50 copay we paid, our insurance paid the providers an additional $10 to $20.

While it was challenging for us to pay those costs and for me to take the time to work on my healing, it was not impossible. Many people must live with their pain or stop working because they cannot afford the care or to put in the focused effort to heal. These days I still put out additional money to make certain I remain healthy—I pay for neuro-muscular massage and we have purchased a new, fairly expensive (to us) mattress that also makes a difference. Not everyone has these types of resources.

When members of congress state that people earn their pre-existing conditions through bad habits, it is really insulting—both to people like me who most certainly were not poster children for the condition I developed and to people who do not have access to the resources that make it easier to stay healthy. That type of statement ignores the randomness of how disease and injury can enter the lives of anyone at any time—such as when I came into the world with a congenital defect that would try to kill me within months of my birth. It’s hard not to think that what these people are really saying is that people should just go ahead and be “selected out” if they can’t afford to treat their own medical conditions.

And then when a wealthy, older man such as Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, states that older people will need to pay higher premiums because they use insurance more and cost more, my first thought is that with his money, he can afford his health care, and, second, that We the People provide his health care—unless our level of coverage isn’t good enough for someone like him. There’s no denying that people my age and older are more expensive to cover, but do we really want to be a society that cares for only the strong?

That is an immoral position, but that’s the sort of position that creates these types of legislation and the policies behind them. When your main concerns for managing government are about determining who is a winner and who is a loser, and then making certain that you never are required to pay anything for anyone you have deemed to be a loser, then society is the real loser. What’s so great about that?

Let’s not forget that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” thing. Besides, none of us knows the future. Just remember, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I was born in the heat of summer but fall—and especially October—is when I most feel at home. I like to think it’s the annual reminder of the day I married my life partner or the explosion of autumnal colors or the cool nights or the rhythm of routine that returns in the fall, but maybe it’s because October is the month when I didn’t die—the month when I was reborn.

I have no memories of what happened that first October of my life—just the subjective tales my mother told me. For most of my life I’d tell you these things that happened to me didn’t matter. Well, other than that ugly long scar on my belly that might have ruined my bikini days if the coloring hadn’t become my own thanks to being only four months younger than I was.

Road Trip 1962

Road Trip 1962

My mother’s stories took on an almost biblical quality. While we trekked across deserts and mountains for what was supposed to be a relaxing autumnal trip to and from the Promised Land of Oregon, little of what I ate stayed with me. Upon our return, it became obvious that travel alone could not explain why I grew so weak. For three days and nights Mom rocked me in her arms, my pharmacist father keeping me hydrated as best he knew. The myth of my stoicism at the time is large but I have no way of proving this wasn’t some tale my mom told herself so she could will me into becoming someone who would not only grow up but also grow up strong and healthy.

That I did, but my near-resurrection from being an inch close to death could not have happened in an earlier era. I don’t remember being whisked from my mother’s arms to an uncertain outcome. In fact, my distance from this major event in my life kept me from realizing, until a few years ago, that I never told doctors I’m missing my appendix, something surgeons removed while they were inside removing the gangrene. For years I’ve told myself that since all that happened to pre-memory Me, it didn’t really matter except for how it affected my parents and how they treated me.

Me, before surgery

Me, before surgery

Wasn’t really until muscle imbalances brought about painful back and hip difficulties that I started looking for more subtle explanations. The more I worked with my yoga instructor and massage therapist, the more I realized that abdominal pain and surgery as well as being restrained or needing breathing help during recovery would have changed how I moved and developed—whether I experienced delayed development or my development modified in other ways to accommodate my unique situation.

Yet, how could I have believed that only my body suffered from those days? Surely there is something primal to fears of pain and mortality in addition to that of being separated from our first caregivers.

Whatever the little infant I was suffered that first October of my life, she also was born again. I can’t tell you the exact date of that rebirth but somehow I think my body knows that October is when it got to start again—for good.

All I know is that whenever the earth starts readying itself for rest, that’s when I feel most renewed and ready for growth.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Yoga is funny—there you are being all mindful—or at bare minimum focusing on how long you have been in the moment of one particular pose—when something else pops into your mind. Maybe something about moving a certain part of your body brings that thought to surface or maybe it’s just another mystery of how your own mind works.

At the end of Wednesday’s class, I thought I was relaxing into savasana when somehow my mind turned to who I was when I was growing up. Too many heart-chakra opening poses so soon after my recent high school reunion trip must have jogged my brain into thoughts of, well, jogging/running.

And just like that I was mad at running.

Oh, Running, I thought you were The One. My first True Love. I was devoted to you—monogamous. Sure, when I met you, I did so with my teammates at my side. Unlike some of those girls, I never shirked on workouts or pretended I didn’t see the coach’s signal to start. You should have loved them more—with their longer legs and easy breathing—but they would not commit to you as I did.

And when that school year ended, I began taking those baby steps that lead toward what eventually became an obsession. We began to meet almost daily. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night—nor unrelenting winds that ranged from 95-degree furnace blasts to sub-zero chills that froze my eyelashes together—kept me from my appointments with you.

I wanted more from you—I dreamed of glory but what I got was quiet time and peace in the moment and a chance to hear the thoughts in my own head. As the miles passed beneath my feet, I learned to love the process and how not to focus only on results.

But you turned out to be a fickle lover. You broke my heart with a kind of pain I didn’t expect. I knew the pain of working hard and strengthening my body. I knew the pain of keeping moving through all sorts of weather or feeling as if my lungs could not catch air—which was ironically the result of an undetected medical condition that would not be discovered until 13 ½ years after we started together. What I didn’t know was that though my body was designed to keep up with you, it wasn’t necessarily designed well to do so for as many miles as I did without adjustments to how I moved. That pain didn’t exactly make me stop, but it made me understand I couldn’t just all out follow you without possible repercussions. What I did for love was not enough—I had to protect myself by not trusting you with abandon as I first had.

We’ve had that kind of on-again, off-again relationship that friends will warn you about. I don’t expect so much from you anymore. I set boundaries for myself and—mostly—live with them. Though I still have the speed to try to catch you, I’m not ready to push myself just to have another piece of me break again. I see you more as an old friend these days than as the focus of my passion. And that’s mostly OK. That we can still meet is almost good enough—except for during those rare moments when my heart remembers that I thought we could have so much more together.

Maybe if I keep working, one pose at a time, I’ll find the peace that brings me to accept that however many miles you and I get to share, those miles belong to a good-sized portion of the best days of my life—past, present, and future. May all that practice help me to open up to releasing what was in order to make space for whatever is yet to come.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Music is one of my first languages—and I know it had a big role in how my brain first developed. Music is also one of the best ways for all people to keep our brains healthy as we get older. But when I joined the church choir after my kids left home, I didn’t do it for my brain. I did it because I missed practicing music within a group. Yet I am sure my brain appreciated the regular exposure to learning and singing demanding music, just as my heart appreciated the words we sang.

I had only sung in the choir for two years when our long-time and excellent director retired. Everything old seemed new again under the direction of Dr. James Kim—for many reasons, but especially because he is a passionate scholar of J. S. Bach. Thanks to Dr. Kim’s focus on Bach and the messages in his work, all our brains have stepped up the mental workouts while also growing in understanding the whys behind the sacred music Bach left behind.

This second year with Dr. Kim, our brains should be even healthier. He has challenged—and guided—us to sing J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion—and in German, too. Together (and on our own) we have been learning words in a new language and delving into complex musical patterns since late last summer. Oh, sure, some of our members are accomplished singers who have extensive musical training and who have sung in or do sing in performance choirs. But in the end, we are a church choir and as such anyone is welcome to join us. There are no auditions or requirements—except maybe for the desire to sing for the glory of God.

Bach was a church musician—not your average church musician, neither then nor now—who was most concerned with how his works glorified God. No doubt he strove to strengthen the health of souls through his words and notes, but I am also grateful for how they have also benefitted my brain health at the same time the words have been written into my heart.

Tomorrow on Palm Sunday afternoon at 4:00, under the direction of Dr. James Kim and accompanied by guest instrumentalists, the Bethany Lutheran Church Chancel Choir, along with accomplished soloists, will present the St. John Passion as an extended church service.

The complex and beautiful music by Bach that has challenged and developed me simplifies the difficult task of opening hearts. After so many months immersed in such exceptional words and musical notes, the spirit is willing in each of us participating in this offering to the congregation and community—may our flesh (and brains) also be strong enough so that all who listen—young, old, and in-between—hear the glory to God that Bach intended.

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