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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 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

Once upon a time I was a small-town girl living in a lonely world—well, while attempting to get my career started in the metropolitan area where I have since lived for over 31 years. I first came to Denver to study book publishing at the (University of) Denver Publishing Institute, returning a month later for good.

I didn’t find many openings in book publishing so I set out to information-interview the local publishing companies. After one such interview, my car (of the same vintage I was—young for human years, but old in car years) broke down at the side of the road—fortuitously by a gas station that still had working mechanics on site. The young mechanic got me back on the road (for free!) and I returned to the faraway suburb where I was staying with my mother’s friends during my initial job search.

Fast-forward (slow-forward?) almost 30 years and I answered a job post (through the Publishing Institute’s job listing) for the same company I visited right before the car’s roadside drama. Morton Publishing is still in the exact same location, although expanded, yet the people interviewing me were much younger than I was, including one I knew from yoga. I did not get that position but later that year Morton contacted me about doing freelance proofreading for them as they went through the busy preparations for the annual textbook releases. Completed two books for them in 2014 and four in 2015.

This loop in my life looks even more orchestrated when I think about how I met and married a man who owned a house less than a mile from Morton. I have lived and socialized and worked out in the same community as where the company is for almost 28 years. For 11 of those years I have attended the yoga class where I originally met someone who would eventually work at Morton because another student—who later joined our yoga class—worked at the company.

Over the years I’ve deviated from my original dream to work in book publishing. I began in magazine publishing, but fell into (and learned to like) numbers work there. I reasoned that I could do numbers work in a variety of industries, so I moved into a financial reporting business. At one time I was even an accountant—and, yet words kept calling me. I eventually wrote articles and compiled detailed charts for magazine articles. And then—through that yoga class—I connected with an author who needed an editor for two projects over many years.

And, now, I start a job as assistant editor at Morton in just over week. As my daughter pointed out, “It took you 31 years to get that job.” Right—while the company was growing, and while I was adding to my skills as well as raising a family.

Don’t stop believing.

(About the photo.)

(c) 2016 Trina Lambert

(c) 2016 Trina Lambert

If you saw me this past weekend you might wonder just how and why I became coated in the dust of ages. Well, about once every 10 years or so I have to clean out the office—whether or not it needs it. Truth? It needed it.

However, changing around the office is not exactly a new year’s resolution project, despite the timing. I likely would have lived with the hidden dust behind the furniture longer if we hadn’t needed to find more space. I am formally welcoming an officemate—well, a human one beyond the two or three dogs that often hang out in here when I am working at my desk. Welcome, Christiana, to the office down the hall. The dog hair is plentiful (although not as much after the recent cleaning spree) but the commute is short.

My daughter recently finished additional schooling (a certificate in graphic design) to round out her BFA and has begun her job search. But as a fine artist/graphic artist, she’s always going to have work-from-home projects in the pipeline and since this is her home for at least the near future, I’d rather those projects not take over the living room too often. We’ve already tried out working in the same space while she created and completed projects for her courses and, so far, we seem to be able to finish our work without causing each other trouble—but more space would allow that to happen with a whole lot more ease.

And in this 1940s office, more space means moving on up—at least as far as storage goes. (“Moving on up” is also the phrase my husband Sherman and I chose for 2016.) No more (horizontal) credenza that has served me a little too well over the years. Sherman and son Jackson moved it for use in our basement. So grateful for their efforts—and that neither of them died during the process. Yes, moving furniture in this 1940s house is often a life and death pursuit.

Non-hipsters that Sherman and I are, we had never really considered that homes such as ours are exactly what IKEA furniture is designed for rather than for those modern suburban homes with up-to-code doorways and large rooms with few walls. My friends, we are no longer IKEA innocents, but after a two-hour trek checking out everything (I mean everything) the store sells, we decided that for now we’d stick with the cheaper (and much bulkier) close-out vertical wardrobe we found at Lowe’s. Should the both of us (my daughter and I) one day decide to make our fortunes full-time in this space, we will likely put some of those fortunes toward IKEA and its Tinker-Toyification of storage solutions.

But for now we’re settling for sturdy upright storage and a whole lot less dust. I love how the office is shaping up but what the heck am I going to with all those piles I’d rather just forget crowding the dining room table and other furniture? The point of keeping my daughter’s doodads from spilling into the other rooms is moot if I replace them with my own.

Dust in the wind I may be, but without tackling my own copious baggage and putting more than a little of the dust from that baggage into the air by cleaning and moving it out, I’m destined to be held back by the whatchamacallits and thingamajigs I have collected. When my days on this earth are done, I’d rather that stuff and dust are not the only legacies I leave behind.

Pardon the dust—it’s got to get a little dirty in here first in order for me to move on up.

(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) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Keep me as the apple of your eye . . . Psalm 17:5a (NIV)

The minister at our church years ago loved that verse. However, when he would preach on the verse, he talked about how his father was so encouraging that he never made him feel as if he disappointed him. As a parent who did not do such a good job expressing my lack of disappointment toward my own apples of my eye, I felt sad when he said that, even if I knew that maybe his father was the excessively (and over-the-top) good parent on the good cop/bad cop spectrum in his family or that maybe he was a better kid than most of us are. I mean, I disappointed my parents, too. But, still, my kids really are the apples of my eye—even when I disappoint them as a parent and even if they sometimes disappoint me. That people we love disappoint us is normal, but it should be just as normal that we see those whom we love as the apples of our eyes, even if they/we are not engineered to perfection.

This verse takes on more meaning when not taken in the context of these modern times when most of us can get apples during any season, no matter where we live. As a child, I didn’t understand my mother’s obsession with what I considered the sour fruits of her youth: chokecherries, plums, and apricots. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the whys behind stories of how an orange was one of the greatest treats a prairie kid could receive in a Christmas stocking. I thought I knew fruit—until I ate a locally grown apple in Spain. Now that was an apple I will never forget—and most likely the type of apple King David would have referenced in the Bible. A rare, sweet, crunchy treat in a mostly desert region during a time when plants only grew in season—if that year’s conditions supported growth—was a delight.

Every child deserves to have parents who delight in him or her, at least some of the time. And maybe it’s when we are most unlovable and yet our parents keep showing love to us—through their actions—that we most understand just how sweet we are to them. When we wake them in the night with our nightmares or all the messy signs of a sudden illness. When we do not do our chores or homework as asked. When we sass them as only adolescents seeking independence can. When our own adult decisions come to roost.

Parental love is only a shallow emotion if it doesn’t involve the hard work of being there with consistent presence and actions—whether or not we children are bright and shiny apples in the moment or seemingly rotten to the core. This day-in/day-out commitment is what teaches us that we are the apples in our parents’ eyes.

Our minister wasn’t trying to tell me I was a bad parent for seeing the soft spots in the apples—he wanted me to know just how much God loved me, even when I wasn’t being a particularly good apple. God doesn’t walk away from his apples—and neither should we.

But when parents do walk away from their own apples, thank God (yes, really!) that there are others who walk in to tend the orchard—especially when older parents have to remain disappointed in their own apple that has fallen far from their trees, yet still move in to do God’s work to make certain their grandchildren feel like the apples of someone’s eyes.

Bless those little ones who have not always been treated as the apples of their natural parents’ eyes and keep them in the presence of those who know just how precious they are. Every child deserves to be the apple of someone’s eye.

(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

Last night’s nightmare that woke me was about . . . raccoons? I guess Disney didn’t succeed after all in teaching me that those critters were adorable—sorry, Pocahontas, but your little masked sidekick is not welcome in my dreams—or my yard!

Raccoons are definitely roaming our neighborhood at night. Not sure if they’ve made it into our back yard or not, but in my dream they were wandering around just about everywhere back there. Little ones, medium-sized ones, big ones—on the walls of the house, on the picnic table, on the ground—and their beady little eyes gleamed in the dark of night as I tried to keep them from approaching me.

Dreammoods.com says: (t)o see a raccoon in your dream signifies deceit and thievery. You are not being completely honest in some situation. Alternatively, the dream suggests that you are hiding something. You are keeping a secret.

Right—it’s all about me, not the possibility that raccoons could figure out how to access our costly stash of premium dog food, harm our dogs, and/or bite us. I’m being honest when I say I neither want our dogs to be hurt or require expensive surgeries nor do I want to go through that series of rabies shots in my ample mid-section, thank you very much. Plus, we just bought two 26-pound bags of food for our dogs and our daughter got 15 pounds for her pup.

I’m not keeping a secret—I’m just paranoid. However, as my husband likes to say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. They, in this case, relates to those critters I saw slinking away in the neighbors’ bushes or the guy who watched us from the nearby sewer drain as we walked our dogs. None has tried to get me—that I know of—so far.

When I woke in the dark of night, I felt relieved to find myself in bed and not outside my house. Not saying that I was rattled or anything, but after I grabbed a sip of water from the glass I keep for that purpose in the kitchen, I set it down on the edge of the counter and heard it spill over the counter before it fell to the floor. Of course, I poured that water right into my pillbox with the huge (and expensive) supplements I take daily. Despite the hour, I threw on the light in order to save my supplements and clean as best I could, trying not to wake myself up more than I already was, thanks to the pounding of my heart and my overactive imagination.

Were there eyes glowing outside my darkened windows, beckoning me to test out my dream? Don’t know and didn’t look—just got myself back under the covers where I tried really hard not to think of those rabies shots while praying my next dreams would be raccoon-free—which I think they were.

If I keep this kind of thinking up, I’ll be screaming if someone asks me to watch Pocahontas. Sadly, it is no secret that the power of suggestion works a little bit too easily for me. For this reason, I no longer watch the news and horror movies. And now, Disney, it seems.

If you want me, I’ll just be hiding under my blankets.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is not. (Max Lucado)

I believe that babies arrive in this world good. And, yet I also believe in the concept of original sin—as in babies show up self-focused because that’s what’s developmentally appropriate for a new creature who must figure out how to stay alive and well in the outside world. A baby isn’t worried about the self-preservation of anyone else yet—and that makes sense. To them it really is all about them when they first arrive. Babies don’t care if parents want to sleep or eat or whatever. They want what they want (need?) right now—no conflict in their minds.

However, as we grow, we begin to understand that others matter, too. But, boy is it hard sometimes to get ourselves to do for others and/or to be aware enough to realize that sometimes what might be right for us isn’t necessarily right for others or what they want. How we resolve those conflicts between our desires and those of others is really, really tough. Talk about conflicted, right?

I grew up in a home where my father tended to think my mother would want what he wanted, even if she expressed otherwise—which to be fair to him, she did not do often enough. By the time she started stating more of what she thought—after over twenty-five years of marriage—he didn’t really hear her. Sure she said she didn’t want to go to the football game, but who doesn’t want to go to the football game? Of course she would be tired from staying at the cast party but isn’t everyone tired?

I confess I am more like my father than my mother. As much as I try to figure out what others might want, sometimes I’m really into what I want. If there is only one chocolate left in the cabinet, am I going to save it for my husband (who also loves chocolate) or eat it? I’m fairly certain I fall more on the selfish line with that sort of thing, but I try to be a person who hears when someone expresses a direct request. (So, Sherman, if you’re reading, give me some direction on this chocolate thing!)

And sometimes we have to learn the lesson of awareness of others the hard way—by being told when we’ve been steamrolling over someone else. I am still embarrassed that my friend/employee had to tell me that you don’t joke about firing someone. Talk about insensitive—pointing out power differences and making light of someone else’s livelihood. I blush every time I think of that. But I changed. Thank goodness she was willing to say something to me and yet still remain my friend. She likely protected me from alienating others in my life in my days since then.

Then I also remember times I have stated my boundaries and/or my reasoning behind any boundary, but not felt heard. The other person continued to do what I asked him/her not to do or flat-out told me he/she wouldn’t change just because I wanted that change. I don’t want to be like my mother with my father and leave others guessing as to what I really think, but if the response I receive is not sufficient for my self-preservation, I either keep others at a distance or no longer invite them in my circle at all.

Some behaviors are considered universally objectionable and others are personally objectionable. If my request seems unreasonable to you, then maybe we have to agree to disagree.

Truth? I hate conflict—I want to get along with everyone and believe the best of everyone. But that is as unrealistic as thinking that those who don’t agree with me are horrible people from the get-go. We are all individuals who are likely to think differently in many ways from one another. Conflict is inevitable but there is some choice as to how we handle that conflict together and how often we are in conflict.

Back to that chocolate thing—I’m certain my husband probably recognizes that I’m a bigger boundary encroacher than he is. However, he is the epitome of that still waters running deep expression. If a boundary matters to him, it has mattered to him for a long time and when he finally mentions it, he’s going to mean it. Unlike my father, though, I think I realize that maybe that also means I’m going to have to listen harder and consider what I wasn’t hearing before.

But when someone else is bringing that spirit of conflict into our home, we are united in our desire to reduce that conflict’s effect on us. While we believe that living in the midst of constant conflict is a hard way to live, we especially stand firm in the belief that engaging in constant conflict is no way to treat people in your inner circle. Conflict itself is not a sin, but just part of living in this world and in relationship with others. Nonetheless, when it happens too often, it’s time to ask why.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Becoming a mother is so different from the process of un-becoming that full-time, around-the-clock mother you became. One day you’re this individual person just vaguely aware of what it’s going to mean when that purely hypothetical (to your own way of living anyway) child leaves your womb and the next day you are IN CHARGE—of EVERYTHING. This now real world child is depending on you to feed it and keep it safe and for you to figure out what it’s trying to communicate in its nonverbal state. And so you muddle along being in charge, even though this separate being is not you and not even yours in the grand scheme of things.

Oh yes, your children are not your children and they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself (paraphrasing Kahlil Gibran), but at first you’re the one who must try to figure out what it is they might possibly need and want. But after a while you were more than happy to try to hand over some of those decisions—because it’s exhausting enough figuring out what you need and want, let alone what someone else needs and wants—until you tried. When “do you want juice or milk?” became a little game of “I want whatever I did not tell you I wanted”, you realized this task of handing off choices was a lot harder than it sounded. If they said they wanted juice, you found out pretty darn quickly that they were likely going to scream for milk when you handed them that juice.

But still, as a parent you are pretty much required to make a lot decisions for many years for these little people who grow into big people. There’s always a tension between helping them too much and helping them too little, no matter the age.

I find myself in the awkward position of being done with that hands-on mothering phase while still living in the same home as my now-adult children. I want to say “it’s the economy, stupid”—but economy or not, that’s a fairly common experience for many of us right now. The truth is they can choose their own milk or juice now, but sometimes I mistake a statement for a request for help and rush in as if it’s up to me to solve the problem.

But it’s not. I just need to stop. It’s not my job to figure out if a grown person wants a solution and I should remember that I probably have little idea what someone who isn’t me really wants or needs.

Besides, just as I am un-becoming my always-on-the-clock motherhood role, my kids are settling into what it means to be IN CHARGE of themselves—and that means figuring out if they want juice or milk—or bourbon for that matter—and doing whatever it takes to make that happen.

(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) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

All this dog walking we’ve been doing lately is a great way to slow down and really see the neighborhood where we live. When my daughter and I first started walking our little pack of three, her puppy, Patches, garnered much of our attention. Not sure how often I really noticed the surroundings. But now that he’s about to turn five months’ old, we’re all settling into routines. That leaves more time for us to pay attention to more than just the dogs.

We tend to amble around without a pattern, especially to keep the puppy from thinking he knows where we are going. Why should he be any different than we are? Even if we choose to walk the dogs to a specific place in order to complete an errand, we don’t often choose the same path. We set off on an “expotition”—in the words of Winnie the Pooh and friends.

I love living in an older neighborhood laid out in a grid. Every block as well as every house on that block is different. Not only that but properties range from very well kept-up to, well, not kept-up at all. That’s just the potluck of living in a town developed one house or a few at a time, mostly before most people thought about master planning communities. If you know anything about me, you know I think potluck=you take what you get—and that’s most often a good thing.

Each walk we take leads us to discover another house that surprises us in some way—a bold color combination, a unique original style, or a creative response to adding space to a home built before most homeowners expected more than 1,000 square feet to satisfy their needs. People can mock our town as a “hood” all they want, but some real jewels add sparkle to the neighborhoods, either in traditional ways or “would have never thought of that” ways.

Part of why walking around these spaces feels like home to me is because so many of my nearby streets remind me of the small town where I often explored streets on foot and/or wheels or the one where I did so with my cousins when I visited my grandparents. Those were streets where real people lived and where putting on airs and “keeping up with the Joneses” was the stuff of seeing who could get wet laundry out to dry on the line earliest and whose flowers and produce might do best at the county fair. These were not homes where people thought spending money in showy ways was clever, but rather that thrifty living and taking a creative—and wise—approach to making do was how the clever amongst them had survived the Great Depression.

Most people who live in the homes in my town either do not have the means to spend in big ways or still believe in the value of a dollar taught to us by previous generations. We choose to live here in this old school place with its old school values because we want to do so—even if that means putting up with not everything around us being just so.

And during these now-hot days of August, I especially appreciate the opportunity to drink in the kind of growth that comes from my neighbors’ diligent attention to tending their colorful flowers. At the same time, I also notice the kind of growth that comes from ignoring weeds—something that will eventually be handled through encounters with city code enforcement officials.

Potluck—that’s what we get here, without the tightly held parameters of HOA control and without the sameness of master planning. These daily walks of late remind me just how much the ordinary as well as extraordinary that surrounds me and my humble abode satisfies my hunger for beauty. Not every dish is pleasing, but the overwhelming bounty and variety at the table provide just the sustenance I need to fill me up.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert