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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) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

My dad’s parents lived well up until their last few years and they lived long—both until 92. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have grandparents who were active and independent—even into my late 20s—before old age finally caught up with them. Before that they made annual car trips halfway across the country to visit their relatives while also being able to drive themselves to watch our sporting events or to come stay with us. Granddad didn’t retire for the final (his third) time until he was in his mid-80s.

Although their own family was small—just my dad and our family—they had a large circle of extended family members and old friends who they always made sure to see. Their best times in old age were spent visiting with these people—something I thought was B-O-R-I-N-G. What I didn’t see then was how they got together with those in their circle, even during hard times. They loved to see new babies or talk about good times, but where they shone was visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes and attending funerals.

I have never been one of those people who walks into a nursing home at ease—though it breaks my heart that so many people are living in bodies and minds that are failing them, I am also afraid of approaching and interacting with them—as if somehow it’s all about me and my discomfort and not theirs. This despite the fact my grandparents brought me to visit in a nursing home often in my younger years because one of their (our) relatives lived there much of her long life after an early head injury. Thanks to them I at least understood that old age didn’t always look like the independence Granddad and Grandma maintained—and I witnessed what faithful commitment to loved ones through hard times looked like.

When my grandmother finally ended up in such a place in the final two years of her life, it was hard for me to see her that way in that space. I didn’t have to face my discomfort too often because I lived far away busy raising toddler twins, but in those years while my grandma declined, my father kept up the good visiting example set before him by his parents.

Later as my own mom descended deep into Alzheimer’s, I moved her into memory care. I had to learn to override my discomfort in order to visit her most days, but I did. And when you visit someone in memory care, you visit many other people beside your own loved one. I wouldn’t say I grew relaxed, but I could reach out to the other (mostly) women who I met there—people who I could see as individuals hanging onto who they were by a slim thread and people who needed to know they were not alone in whatever scary lack of understanding their own minds exhibited. Like my grandparents and father before me, I held hands and talked.

Now, four years since my mom has been gone, we are back to visiting my husband’s mother. A fracture of the femur and subsequent hip surgery sent her to a physical rehabilitation center, but it is an inability of her mind to absorb all the instructions that has finally sent her into a skilled nursing center—aka nursing home—to see if she can recover enough to walk back into her home. Once again we are confronting the frightening realities of people whose bodies and/or minds do not work as they should—including hers. But, still, we hold hands and talk.

My grandparents taught me how to do this—I don’t know if they were ever afraid or sad or tired of going when they went to see people, but they just went and visited. That’s what they did. I had no idea how brave they were to do so year after year for so many people and to keep visiting until they visited one last time for the final goodbye.

Visiting someone in a care facility is hard for me but I have to remind myself how much harder it has to be to be a person at the mercy of failing bodily systems away from my home and those whom I love. God bless the workers who care for our loved ones in our absence, but may we never forget how much power there is in spending our own time with those loved ones who long for who and how they once were and how we can give them a connection to the lives they have led outside their confinement.

I used to think my grandparents’ use of the word visiting spelled B-O-R-I-N-G, but now I know it spelled L-O-V-E. Now, that was living well.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I never thought about the size of my jaw or my ear before, but let me tell you, when those items are swollen out of proportion you really start to realize just how lovely a fairly symmetrical head is and how often you’ve taken for granted that your head will remain that way. I also discovered that I’m much more vain than I believed: not only did I change my hair’s part in order to cover the most obvious results of my infection, but also I used the word “hideous” almost every time I described the swelling. Thankfully, by now I’m not certain a stranger can see any difference in me and even I can only see the slightest discrepancies.

I don’t read much science fiction and/or fantasy but last Tuesday I suddenly felt I’d been thrust into some plot involving some sort of weird science. The initial medical conjecture is that it was cellulitis attacking me and various parts of my head. My Internet research—through respected websites, mind you—told me way more than I wanted to know. I decided not to ponder the possibilities too much and stick to the doctor’s suggestions for treatment, including going to see a dentist to rule out any underlying dental troubles.

I wasn’t too certain all that was necessary, but scheduled the appointment anyway. My friend validated that decision Friday night when I went to her party—hair parted over the offending side and ear covered by a stocking cap as part of my costume—and she asked how I was. After my giving her a short explanation, she said, “You do know why I had surgery in June, don’t you?”

Not the particulars, but I had known it was something extremely odd as so much of her health difficulties have been.

Then she proceeded to explain about a year of misdiagnoses and the near-miss averted when her dentist discovered evidence of bone-eating (!) bacteria after his looking at her facial X-ray. She had to have diseased portions removed and replaced, as well replacement for areas that had already disappeared—and have four front teeth removed and replaced as well. She could have developed brain damage or even died without proper diagnosis.

Now that story should be science fiction—only it isn’t. While her experience is very, very rare, I agreed with her that maybe my going to the dentist wasn’t so silly after all.

Today my dentist saw nothing out of the ordinary. He described to me various parts of my panoramic X-ray—a procedure scheduled anyway as part of my general dental health and wellness maintenance—and showed where he would expect to see trouble if my infection were related to some dental root. He pointed out signs that my previously overblown lymph node was back to its unremarkable and fully functioning state. Then he used the opportunity to—once again—work on scaring me into being more proactive about protecting my mouth from infection through adding Waterpik treatments and more regular flossing to my routines.

Perhaps I’m scared enough on my own to take better precautions.

Despite my family thinking that I’m some sort of hypochondriac because I always research medical possibilities, I didn’t really expect this sort of thing to happen to me. Now, I admit I first thought about ruling out some weird sort of Hantavirus response—which is an infection for which there is no cure except for the possibility that medical supervision along with hydration can provide the best environment to give you a chance to recover. And, while the few mice we trapped in our home were not deer mice, the CDC does advise people to use the recommended precautions for cleaning since other mice may carry the disease—and we did not always follow those cleaning precautions, plus a local man really did lose his fight to that disease a couple weeks ago.

However, infection is a much broader threat than something specific with specific risks such as Hantavirus—which actually makes it easier not to think about. Even with my father-in-law’s more than yearlong battle with staph as well as the healthy respect I gained from his experience as to the power of infections to run rampant, I really haven’t thought about getting such an infection myself. In my own mind I realize I associate that with people who have been way more antibiotic-happy than I have been—and, yet, who is on a serious antibiotic right now?

Just over a day’s worth of meds to take, plus I plan to follow-up with probiotics, but boy am I counting those not-so-little bright blue pills.

So hard to tell whether it’s the naturally occurring science or the science that we have created that is the bigger danger in many situations. Do you dance with the devil you know or the one you don’t know? Isn’t an out-of-whack balance between the sides of science a requirement for any good science fiction story? All I know is I’m tired of being the protagonist in this science fiction story.

Maybe, with the right balance of science and just a little luck, all this will pass—and then I’ll just be left with a really good “can you believe it?” story to tell.

“You should have seen my ear—it looked as if it were going to give birth to an alien—or maybe to Rosemary’s baby. One night I went to sleep and the next morning it was just there. Whatever it was, it didn’t care if this host survived its birth or not. It was alive, I tell you—alive!”

But, hey—thank goodness for a truly boring and pretty much happy ending.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Just call me Big Head Trina. Yup, I have an ear infection and swollen gland that are distorting half my face, stretching out my jaw-line and my ear. It’s sort of like a boxer’s ear without the bruises. I am not a pretty site.

At least today I can think from time to time. Yesterday all that infection and swelling seemed to have outstretched my brain’s ability to think. I couldn’t even get myself to read at all unless the ibuprofen was kicking in and, even then, I could hardly follow what was on the page or screen.

I barely was capable of getting out in the morning to the doctor’s office and navigating all the busyness around the medical center where that office is located. So what I know is that the nurse practitioner agreed to give me blood tests, but I also believe she told me to leave without waiting for those tests. I checked out at the front desk where I scheduled a follow-up appointment. Not until I was almost back to my car did I realize those tests hadn’t happened. However, in my fever-induced haze I couldn’t get myself to care enough to turn around. I just headed straight home to take some ibuprofen and sleep.

Though the office had ordered an antibiotic for me, I definitely hadn’t felt capable of going to the pharmacy. After my nap, though, I thought I was well enough to handle the light traffic of early afternoon as well as the pharmacy drive-though. Of course, once I got there I had to wait in line for several minutes behind someone whose cigarette smoke was heading my way out his open car window. Then when I reached the window, the pharmacy tech told me it would still be another 10 minutes for my prescription to be ready. That was 10 minutes I couldn’t really give, so I went home.

That’s when it hit me—all these years I have been the one who has been negotiating all the health care snafus for my kids, sometimes for my husband, and even for my mother in her last years. If a prescription wasn’t ready on time, if there was a mix-up at the doctor’s office, if someone had to be on hold—all that involved me working to fix matters.

And here it was me again but I didn’t have the energy and good health in order to push through the ordeal. I was on hold for over nine minutes with my doctor’s office before I could ever begin explaining how the blood tests had not happened. The remaining conversation took about six minutes—the whole 15 minutes exhausted me. I was certain I could not safely drive myself back to the doctor’s office for those blood tests.

I hadn’t felt so alone since I had when I was first working here as a fairly new college graduate and needed to get myself to my first doctor’s appointment out in the real world. I needed to trudge on foot to the doctor on snowy roads while temperatures hovered around ten degrees even though I was dealing with a flu that was skating close to walking pneumonia—which it likely became since I developed spots on my lungs from the illness.

Thinking of that, I finally decided to call my son to come home early to take me back for the blood tests and the medicine.

Here I am a day later, feeling somewhat more functional, thanks to the effects of a whole lot of doing nothing mixed with sleeping while taking my antibiotics and ibuprofen on schedule.

Never mind that I got a call from the doctor’s office saying my dehydrated, feverish body had produced blood too thick to test—I had to go back. Ugh. So before I went I tried to hydrate myself enough so that the next blood tests work. The good news is I didn’t have to trudge out on a frigid day—the sun was shining and these December temperatures have been moderate and I felt capable of driving short distances.

And, maybe soon I’ll no longer have this misshapen, lopsided head. Until then you can find me napping and otherwise conserving energy with my dogs on this comfy couch of mine.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

This I believe: do good business and your business will do well, should the conditions for what you offer be at all favorable.

What is good business? To me it’s about operating in a manner that supports all stakeholders—not just the ones that write you the biggest checks, such as the advertisers, or the shareholders, who so often are focused on the near future’s bottom line, not the long-term sustainability. Employees are more than expense—they create the value of your organization. And in today’s complex world when so often the users of your products are not the customers who write the checks, it’s still good practice to keep the users happy so that they continue to use your services.

I get that these days it’s really common that the real customer (or at least the biggest customer) is often not the user. For example, in health care the insurance companies bring in most of the money. But without patients coming through the doors, insurance won’t be paying out for services. Same with online “free” services, such as social media and news outlets. We have always had to put up with advertising, whether it’s print advertising in our publications, which keeps subscription prices lower, or whether it’s to watch network television. Now, in order to use electronic services—paid and free—we have to consent to let all of our online activities be followed and sometimes, even when we don’t want to watch an ad, those ads keep playing anyway, using up valuable computing and server resources. Maybe we can’t opt out of necessary services, such as certain health care procedures or visits, but we can reduce using them for optional care. And with other more discretionary activities, we can stop using the service at all. With fewer users of services, the real—or the one paying the most—customer makes less money. Chasing away users of your services is bad for the bottom line.

It comes down to respect. Businesses need to respect all sides of the profit-making equation, even if not all equally contribute to the bottom line in an easily quantifiable manner. Reasonable employees and reasonable customers are why a business can provide what it provides in order to make a profit. Treat these stakeholders well, and your business should grow. Really, it’s not trickle-down, it’s trickle-up.

The hubris of scorning the “little people” is just not good business. Betting that the user will put up with almost anything is not a good long-term plan, especially in the face of an improving economy. Odds are most people remember how a business has made them feel—I know I do and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Treat me well and you might have me for life—without paying for any constantly playing videos or pop-up ads or whatever the next intrusive form of advertising is. (Visiting me in my dreams?)

You can say I’m a dreamer, but there are really no good reasons for it to be a dream for people to be treated well by corporations and other organizations.

Humor is reason gone mad. Groucho Marx

"Groucho" in 1992

“Groucho” in 1992


Maybe I need to share the funny side of my recent massage. Yeah, when you are letting someone pull your scalp and poke levels in your ears and such, it helps to keep a sense of humor.

Or maybe humor is just what I used to defuse fear—because trust me, there is fear with letting someone try to fix a body that hasn’t been treating you so well lately. Plus, getting a massage is just pretty awkward in the first place because—make no mistake—you are vulnerable when you are mostly naked and lying on a table in a darkened room.

None of this even addresses the fact I grew up in a very German-American family. We may hug at our reunions now but we definitely weren’t huggers back in the day—and I was probably one of the most hug-averse of the group. I remember going to church conferences away from home and almost breaking out in a cold sweat when I realized that people I hardly knew were going to hug me. Oh no, there was no excessive touch in my early years once I was too old for sitting on laps and such.

Did not have my first massage until I had been a mother of twins for several years—and by then I was a little touched-out, if you know what I mean. So that first massage definitely was not as relaxing as I’d hoped. Seriously, I have pretty much only used massage as pain treatment—my family calls me “Olga” because I only seem to give or want to receive hard massages.

OK, now that we’ve established that I have hang-ups about touch you might really understand why I think funny thoughts sometimes during massage.

No, my current practioner is not some big woman with an accent. She is slender, calm, and gentle (but firm—you probably already knew that!) The walls of her massage space are not just filled with peaceful images of animals and scenery; tangible proof of her knowledge and qualifications also shares those same walls, just as in offices of other educated professionals.

The measuring processes she performed require several tools—some with technical names I didn’t catch. But I did recognize the levels she used for verifying, well, my levelness, as well as the chopsticks (!) she used as visual props. Of course, she required me to stand with correct posture—well, my best version of correct posture for now—and to look her in the eyes all while she measured up and down and across and backward and forwards.

So the first crazy thought I had had to do with seeing her eyes close-up in her glasses, which she does not usually wear. The concentrated focus reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard (with the seemingly all-seeing eyeglasses) in The Great Gatsby. Somehow I worried that under such close scrutiny, I would be found lacking, just as the characters were in that novel.

However, it was hard to feel too serious with a couple levels sticking out of your ears. And then when she used the chopsticks as a visual aid—by my head, of course—all I could think was that I hoped she wasn’t a zombie seeking out brains for an afternoon snack.

What a picture this whole process must have made. The visual would be great for a movie—well, with other people playing the roles. Even some of the massage techniques look funny although there isn’t really anything too funny about getting long-held pain to release—but I’m sure Hollywood could figure out a way to minimize that minor factor.

All I can tell you is that, despite the awkward moments and the discomfort as well as the pain, every time I leave I walk out a slightly newer woman—or at least a woman who is shedding some of the damage added over the years. There is nothing funny about that, except that the better I feel, the more I want to laugh. And while I might let you hug me, don’t even think about pulling my scalp—let’s leave that to the professionals! My madness has its limits.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Had a facelift yesterday. OK—not really, but somehow I look younger for having my cranium, of all things, worked on in order to help reduce my hip pain.

I’m at the point in my pursuit of healing where I’m chasing down subtle treatments—well, subtle in that it’s not always obvious how something such as the head’s placement might affect the hip. Not so subtle in the treatment—which was fairly intense and involved working on the connections around bones in my head with names that mostly escape me. But, trust me, the painful work on my mandible (the lower jawbone) had me realizing just how much I had to trust my neuromuscular massage therapist to let her do this.

How did I know that getting my jaw worked on would help my hip? I didn’t—but I had to trust the process based on past experiences with the practioner and the healing she’s brought me so far. I absolutely believe one of the bigger problems with seeing a physical therapist or an orthopedic doctor (which I haven’t done but my daughter has) is that those professionals see the body more in pieces. For those of us who didn’t get injured from an event, perhaps knowing how to fix the ache won’t be enough to prevent it again, if nothing else changes.

Am I a case in point? Possibly. My trigger-point-dry-needling and exercises from the PT—along with time—definitely healed me from my bulging disc. I felt good after I healed, but I didn’t want to do therapy exercises just to feel good—I wanted to do those exercises so I could get back to doing other activities I enjoy. And that isn’t the craziest thought since I do not have any major musculoskeletal damage.

But what about my biomechanics no longer allows me to do my activities as I’d choose, even with a fairly regular maintenance exercise routine? This, my friends, leads me to an even grayer area than that of how to treat initial lower back/hip pain. If you think all the different types of professional experts have opposing opinions about how to treat such pain in an acute situation, just try to get treatment for that pain in a chronic situation. You can find all sorts of valid scientific research to point you in a treatment direction, but so little is absolute in how such treatments will best bring about healing in your particular lower back/hip.

No, I’ve done yoga long enough to realize that all those pieces of our bodies are connected. My slight understanding of physics tells me that change one part of the body and another part will respond or act in a different way. By now I’m aware that a holistic approach as to why a certain section of my body isn’t working well very likely will include some other section of my body, but I have to admit I never really thought my head might be that section damaging my hip. (And for today, not even going to go into depth on the mind-body connection which adds a whole ‘nuther layer to the holistic approach.)

Just so you know, the practioner didn’t just start yanking around on my head. She measured quite a few sections of my body, looking for quantification of discrepancies. Who knew that a pair of levels could be used to analyze how various bones in my body compared side-by-side? Turns out I’m not as crooked as she expected and the crookedness I demonstrate is focused in a few crucial areas.

Sometime during the post-measurement massage session I realized my hip was not screaming quite as loudly as it had been—and not just because other body parts were receiving more focused attention. When I finally stood from the table, I really did feel the shift.

And last night? I slept better than I had in ages and woke more with the stiffness of a good workout than from the stiffness of chronic pain.

I know enough to understand that my body can shift back again. I still have to train it to learn these new alignments, just as I have done with other changes made over my lifetime from wearing orthotics or doing drills at a track practice or practicing yoga or being treated with dry needling. Muscle memory is both what holds me back and what may save me with intention and practice as I attempt to teach my body new memories.

Once again we’re back to the head—and the mind-body connection. All I know is for today I’ve got a good head (straight) on my shoulders—which may yet bring the crooked (back and hip) in line.

(See Neurosomatic Therapy.)

(Note: These words were written—and then forgotten—in the busyness of March. Almost two months later, much more is different and changing. Healing continues in more ways than what we could even guess back then. Hallelujah!)

(c)  2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Back from my retreat from my life—ha, ha, right? OK, so three nights and three days helping my daughter get around college post-surgery didn’t really constitute a break, but it did limit how much else I had to do since I wasn’t in my own home but in the home of my daughter and her friend.

My main duty was to be the chauffeur to get her to and from her classes. A distance that translates into reasonable commute times and good walking exercise under normal circumstances is pretty challenging post-surgery recovery. Campuses aren’t exactly car-friendly anyway, even when you’re not parking, so I was pretty darn happy to have a small car to drive on our short travels.

Somehow the extra quiet time on my own seemed fitting for starting my Lenten journey. Though I couldn’t sing with the choir at my church, I could take in a midday Ash Wednesday service and receive the cool, gritty ashes on my somewhat furrowed brow. No, I hadn’t planned to spend more time away from home and duties and, no, I didn’t really enjoy watching my daughter’s pain or absorbing some of her stress from trying to work with her professors regarding extensions, but I could relate to being on a journey not of one’s choosing and yet still feeling God’s love.

I am so weary of the health-related challenges and the difficulty of walking alongside someone in need, but I do so because of love. God loved me enough to give me this child when I asked him. I also know he walks with me always in all our challenges together.

In my solitary moments, I read or wrote or escaped outside to run along muddy trails through bits of nature preserved within the developed spaces. I let the girls’ current foster kitten purr on my neck as well as on my laptop in whatever strange position she chose to flop—provided she wasn’t suffocating me or loading up unknown programs on the computer. And I prayed—prayed that healing would come sooner than later and that the school would work with my daughter enough so that she could stay on the planned track—and prayed for happier days for all of us.

Together we ate simple foods, relaxed with TV, laughed at the kitten, and worked through her assignments—not that she is taking a single course with which I could provide any more than moral support. I was the keeper of chronos time, both for staying on task (usually!) and for keeping up with the allowed pain relief in the forms of alternating Tylenol and ibuprofen. I was the photographer’s assistant who pointed out angles and light and shadows and watched in amazement as the artist in her forgot, temporarily, to limit her movements in the quest to get the right shot. I was also—for one of the few times in her life—the better sleeper as she struggled to find any comfortable position.

After a hard week’s work for her, we returned to our home so she could attend her post-op appointment where the doctor pronounced her as healing in the typical manner—which meant she still has some hard days ahead of her and yet she has every reason to believe she will feel better soon.

Though tired of the uncertainty of the hows and whens of healing in one way or another over the past several years, she also had a chance to reconnect with an old ally who is so often able to help her spark her own sense of renewal and hope and help her along the path to recovery in so many ways.

These past several years have been a journey seemingly set forth in so many ways by outside forces and, yet, there is still time to renew a sense of joy and direction. Healing happens so often when we accept that the valleys that got us to where we are now can teach us to see joy in things ranging from a kitten’s purr to a long overdue apology and point us back onto a road that still leads to both ordinary and extraordinary peaks in a life too long subdued.

Sometimes we need to put to ashes our old pains so we can get back to resurrecting our future.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I’ve been here before—well, not here in the literal sense, but here watching someone go through a medical treatment and healing. It’s hard—kudos to everyone who works in the healing business because I find observing someone else’s pain to be really difficult, especially when I can’t take it away from him or her.

Our daughter finally had her gallbladder removed about 10 days ago. All the unexplained pain and tests eventually led to surgery—during the semester, unfortunately. However, her condition was already affecting her ability to do her work and sit through classes in a functional way. Spring Break seemed way too far away.

Thus surgery last month. Routine procedures aren’t so routine to those undergoing them, even when all goes as planned. There are consequences for removing an organ, even if today’s surgeries often involve really teeny, tiny incisions. Plus, turns out she didn’t react well to the prescribed painkiller, meaning she got that help for less than 48 hours. She passed most of a week lounging on the couch with our two dogs, moving between deep sleep, “old lady” movements around the house and the block, watching movies and other shows, and taking naps. And she still wasn’t that well when it was time to return to college.

Nonetheless, she drove off on her own and tried to get back to her regular schedule, even if that meant paying for parking instead of walking and taking the bus. But I don’t think anyone—she or her professors—really thought about how hard it is to sit so much with just barely healing incisions. Turns out art majors use their abs for leaning forward and drawing or for snapping photographs and processing film. Those classes are scheduled long on purpose to promote progress on projects.

Let’s just say the university’s “no excused absences” policy does not make for a relaxed recovery. So here I am, staying with her off campus. Today, I drove her to classes and back to the photo lab after her nap—or at least the nap she tried to have with the foster kitten who is into cuddling on the couch as much as the dogs were back home. (Shh—don’t tell them just how she is cheating on them.)

I understand that the college wants to make sure that completed courses have meaning and I also bet many people have probably tried to take advantage of the system, but, really, who has major surgery during the semester unless it needs to be done sooner than later? That’s why we had the surgeon send a note, even if the “no excused absence” policy includes medical reasons. Yes, it’s inconvenient for the professors, but it’s really inconvenient for the person who had the surgery.

When I was in college, I missed a whole week (during mid-terms and in a 10-week quarter) due to having mono and strep so badly that I stayed in the student health center that whole week. My own home was 1,000 miles away and not even possible to visit. The professors worked with me, plus I had the university’s make-up policy giving structure to when my delayed work was due. Trust me, it’s bad enough to be the student inside watching everyone else have a nice healthy life without having to worry about whether or not the professors really believe you’re physically unable to keep up with all the assignments when it’s all you can do to get through each day. Believe it or not, most students—and especially most seniors—know how important it is to finish each course and its attendant work.

These are high stakes times for those of us “consuming” both health care and higher education and my daughter knows that. She feels guilty about having high medical costs and worried about whether or not her health is going to delay her education while increasing the cost of it. The thing is, she shouldn’t have to feel guilty about wanting to feel reasonably healthy. Sometimes health problems crop up in highly inconvenient times, but let’s face it, when does anyone want to have a health problem at all, whether or not the problem falls at a convenient time?

I’m tired of seeing people whom I love in pain and really wish other people would show a little more empathy for how hard it is to be that person in pain. And, as I said before, it’s not that easy being the person helping people in pain either.

With any luck, my daughter’s on her way to not being that person in pain and I’m on my way to not having to help with her pain. But first, she’s really got to have a chance to focus on healing from the treatment. I’m pretty sure she’d love to get back to doing her work in a more convenient way—both for her sake and for the sake of everyone else.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

Yesterday while running around in circles on the track at my local recreation center (Baby, it’s cold outside!), I finished listening to the audio book mentioned in my most recent post. Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Most From Your People by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, continues to spark my thinking. And, yes, though I still don’t have my “own” people to manage, the truth is we all have our own people. Hallowell had a book to write about motivating people, but when he met the shoe-shiner he calls Dr. Shine, that’s when he figured out how he really wanted to direct the book.

Dr. Shine told Hallowell he worked for him—just as he works for anyone whose shoes he is shining. Here’s a man who believes in trying to find the spark in everyone he serves in that job. Not sure if he knows anything about yoga, but that sounds a whole lot like the phrase that ends most yoga classes: Namaste or I bow to the divine in you. In yoga classes, this is a reciprocal phrase spoken between teachers and students. But do most people whose shoes are being shined think to reach out to the people, such as Dr. Shine, who are serving them? Do they see the spark in him or tell him they do?

Come to think of it, do I do that? No, I don’t get my shoes shined, but there are many people in my world—personal and otherwise—who help me along my way.

Sure, I thank my servers and try to respond to their well wishes with a hearty “you too”, but do I actually express my gratitude to the people who “serve” me more frequently—my exercise instructors, my physical therapist, my minister, my choir director, and other people working with me from a specific role in my life. And beyond that, do I let my loved ones know what I especially appreciate about who they are and what they do for me?

No, I don’t. I am quietly grateful for all these people, but rarely show anything more than polite appreciation, if that.

My mother was a great encourager to those who gave to her. In her last years she kept busy baking dinner rolls for the pharmacy or the doctor’s office staffs to show her gratitude. She really did let people know she appreciated what they did, even if they were just performing their paid jobs. Plus, she would give compliments to the young people she knew at her church, pointing out their strengths and applauding their learning and growth.

Nonetheless, for me she kept her approval more silent. I always knew she appreciated me, but I mostly heard that when she sang out my praises to other people in my hearing. In those last years she would tell people, “She takes care of me.” Of course I did—she was my mother—but it was still really nice to hear that she valued what I did for her.

Thinking about Dr. Shine made me realize just how stingy I am with words of praise for those who are frequently in my life.

I tell my husband I love him, but forget to let him know how much I appreciate the meals he makes for me and the income he earns to provide for our family. I tell others how much he does for me, but remain silent more often than not to him. It would be easy for him to think I don’t notice that his efforts, as well as his belief in me, are a big part of why I have the time and strength to do what I do.

The same is true for my kids. They don’t expect false words of praise from me, but would it be so hard for me to share with them what really impresses me about them?

So yesterday, inspired by Dr. Shine, I told my son, “You know, I think it’s great that you look for what is good in each person and you often keep looking.” He’s no Pollyanna, which is what makes that even more impressive—he has this mission to bring hope into this world even while being pragmatic about the high odds that the world and people will still disappoint.

My daughter has had so many health challenges to face and she gets so weary. However, through all that, she works hard at school and in jobs. So many people in her shoes would not even try, but she is compelled to do her best, even when that comes with a big personal cost. And still, she feels kindness matters, even when she doesn’t experience it in great doses.

My yoga teacher? She changed my life and outlook and helps me through difficulties—physical and otherwise. My physical therapist moves me back to wellness. My minister reaches my soul and strengthens my faith, even when I want to turn away. My choir director challenges me to learn in new ways and in so doing reminds me of what I already know and that I might yet discover more. Those are just some of the people who improve my journey and who I never give more than a quiet “thank you”, if that.

You don’t have to be a manager to make a difference in people’s lives and that’s what Dr. Shine already knows. Treat people as people who were each created with a unique spark and thank them for how that spark helps you. That’s the real meaning of all those Namastes and Peace be with yous and Also with yous that we mouth back and forth to one another.

Namaste—I bow to the divine in you—and may I yet learn to tell all my people that.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert