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(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2014 Sherman Lambert

When I moved to Colorado, many cars sported bumper stickers containing words such as “Native” and “Transplant” within mountains that mimicked those on the Colorado license plates. Often it was easier to encounter people, such as me, who had moved to Colorado than those who were born here. However, I ended up marrying a true Colorado native—how much truer can you get than someone with two grandparents whose families homesteaded around Arapahoe, Colorado? If you know anything about southeastern Colorado, you’ll know that anyone who proved up on a claim in that harsh, arid land was committed to staying, plus you realize there are no mountains anywhere near there—mountains on the license plate or not.

Despite my father-in-law’s early upbringing near Cheyenne Wells and later Yuma, Colorado, he chose to raise his own family in the metro Denver area where the mountains are closer. My husband Sherman and his brothers were taught to ski at a young age. Although Sherman broke his leg on his first outing, he kept going back for more—skiing that is, not broken legs. He skis with that confidence that comes from learning to ski at the same age he was learning to read, just as our kids do.

I, the transplant, do not. I’m not much of a risk-taker so I’m guessing I’m especially the kind of person who would have benefitted from learning to ski when I was much closer to the ground. Instead I waited until I’d reached my full-grown height, even if I wasn’t quite old enough for my driver’s permit when I began to ski.

I remember that first ski trip to the mountains of Colorado. My days were spent learning how to move slowly down a snowy mountain on two boards without hitting the ground too often, but at night when I tried to close my eyes to sleep, I could see myself flying down those same slopes, as well as bigger ones. My heart rate would soar as if I really were skiing instead of lying in my bunk bed until the utter physical exhaustion of the day’s work would shut down my visions—until the next day. I was still a little afraid, but was hooked anyway.

I learned to ski right before my first track season, the year when I discovered running and realized there really was an athlete within me. During high school, each year that I returned to the slopes, I returned a stronger and more confident athlete, willing to learn a little more.

Still, I remained a skiing immigrant. I didn’t ski to challenge the mountain, but to be on the mountain. To look out and down upon a world far below me, to smell the evergreen-scented air, to discover what my body could do—in my own non-risk-taking way. To feel as if I were flying, if only for a few moments here and there.

Almost three years have passed since I last skied with the innocence that I could rely enough on my body while skiing to relax into that flying sensation. I had worked hard to lose weight and regain strength and endurance and was in the process of recovering from years spent helping my mother to her final rest. That mid-April ski trip on a day that rivaled the best snow of any season reminded me just how good it felt to fly.

Then a couple weeks later my body crashed. Oh, my wings were clipped all right by that bulging disk. Thank goodness I had been through a lot of focused exercise and treatment before we skied again the next season, but fear of losing what abilities I’d regained kept me from soaring.

Last year at this time my pain was gone, but my endurance was still quite reduced. My running was just in its infancy days, as was the strength that running always gives my lungs and legs on the ski slopes. Fear was still my companion on many runs although I didn’t experience any major problems that suggested my body wasn’t up to skiing.

Fear definitely was behind why I went back to the physical therapist for a tune-up last spring after only one day of pain—I might have been willing to go back to therapy but I definitely wasn’t willing to go back to reducing my activity level. My PT set me up with some “lifetime” therapy exercises which have now been tweaked again due to some ongoing sleep difficulties. Pretty much every day I do the exercises because I fear not being able to do what I want more than I fear doing the exercises.

Monday, when the chairlift dropped me at the top of the slope, I stopped only to get my bearings and then took off. Never mind that the short slope we’d planned to visit for the first run of the season got closed off before we could get there. I skied on by and never looked back. My work over the last year seems to have chased away my most recent reasons for fear. Not until I got tired much later in the day did I feel any level of fear—at that point I just chose to slow down and rest more often and the fear went away.

I’d been climbing up this mountain for so long that I’d almost forgotten how good it felt to soar—but when the fear flies away, that’s when this transplant feels as if I am flying down the slopes, just as I first did almost forty years ago when I closed my eyes at night. Once you know that feeling, you never forget it even during all those years when the only wings spread are those spread in your heart. When you think about it, skiing really is the epitome of “falling with style” while believing you are flying.

I believe, once again.

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

No, late is not my word choice for “L”, even if this post is a day behind schedule and late at that. Yesterday I was busy—skiing for one last time this season. As such, I’ll just leave you with photos of my family—the Lamberts—spending a day doing one of the things we like to do best as a family.

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert The End!

(c) 2013 Sherman Lambert
The End!

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Today we played hooky and took off to ski. We’ve had a hard time scheduling a family skiing day despite the fact we still had four ski tickets to use. However, the snow is rapidly melting, even quicker than most Aprils.

Christiana came home so we could get in one more day on skis together. We knew better than to expect great snow, though, so we just slept in, ate a good breakfast, and took our time getting up and onto the hill.

Sometimes it’s also just nice to soak up the sun on the chairlift and take your time getting down the slope. Oh wait, I’m the one who takes my time because I’m not such a great skier, of which the deep slush reminds me. I’m still trying to live up to the promise of my slightly sarcastic physical therapist who quipped that all my exercises and treatments would make me a stronger mediocre skier! In all fairness to the man, he’s never seen me ski so he’s just basing his prediction on my reports.

My husband, on the other hand, might actually regain some of his skiing prowess with his physical therapy. After all the years and his recent back pain, he’s still an incredibly graceful skier. You can tell that skiing is an activity that makes him feel free, enough so that it’s worth the physical strain, money, and hassle. On the ski slope, I feel a little badly that he is paired up with this mediocre skier, but I remind myself that he only skis four to eight times a year. The rest of the time we’re a pretty good match, right?

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert

Our kids are Colorado natives like their dad, so they’ve been skiing since before they knew much fear. They wait for me relatively patiently. My son recently marveled at how I ski with the same speed, whether on steep, difficult slopes or on easier slopes—which is really more of a commentary about how I don’t really adapt, I think. Nonetheless, today he informed me that I really do ski much slower in slush after all. Humph.

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

For some reason, despite my relatively poor match with my family’s skills, skiing is one of the activities we share when we get along the best. (OK, let’s not mention how cranky I got today when Sherman took us through some rocks amidst big dirt patches—I am strictly a ski-down-the middle-of-a-slope sort, but in his defense, he swears a couple weeks ago the area was full of snow.)

Today we skied at Loveland, one of the few ski hills still open. The place is notorious for cold and windy weather, but it was in the upper 50s today so mostly we were sweating. That is until 3:00 when, in typical Loveland fashion, snow started falling just as we took the slowest chairlift to the higher slopes. The new snow hitting the slopes was welcome, although for that last run we all wished we had dressed for winter. Then as soon as we made it down to the puddles that used to be snow at the bottom, the sun came out again and it was spring once more.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Loveland, you are such a heartbreaker, but we are glad you gave us one more slushy, spring skiing day together before we put our gear away to wait for next season and another chance for us to fall in love again.

But first, I, at least am soaking in Epsom salts in a hot bathtub—I don’t even care that the thermometer outside here hit the high 70s and that the thermostat remains firmly stuck on that same temperature. Spring slush does not appear to be my friend . . .

(c) 2012 Christiana Lambert, Copper Mountain, CO

Nothing like leaving the Mile High City for a day trip into higher elevations. Sherman and I are lucky because we got to go skiing today at Copper Mountain. However, today means more to me than a get-away into the elevated parts of the state.

This day, the Thursday of Holy Week, is Maundy Thursday. So despite my post-skiing fatigue, I went to church tonight—and managed to keep open my eyes.

What a sight each year to watch our church’s third-graders walk barefoot up the aisle. Although the little boys wear suit jackets and ties while the girls wear dresses to commemorate the first communion meals they will receive, first they come to get their feet washed. The ministers wash the children’s feet, just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. It’s another one of those “first shall be last and last shall be first” teaching moments. The ceremony never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Jesus, as God’s son, had every right to be elevated, yet he stooped to wash the very dusty feet of those whom he loved. By performing a job normally reserved for servants and slaves, he chose to be lowly or undignified—the opposite of elevated.

Jesus knows that his time on this earth has come to an end, yet what does he do? He serves those who ought to be serving him as he nears his hour of need.

When he washed my feet, he elevated me forevermore, even in those times when my feet are firmly planted in the valleys, with those mountaintop experiences nothing but distant memories.

(c) 2012 "Peep-i Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock's Peeps"

Spring Break for Christiana has come and gone—she’s already had to take a test. Nothing like jumping right back into school, right? Glad I never experienced that in undergraduate school—breaks were breaks because we were on the quarter system and had finished our classes.

So she spent some time away with friends and her brother Jackson before we picked them up at a Starbucks in the mountains—late, but can’t say they didn’t have that one coming over the years—to go skiing for a couple days. Skiing’s a lot of fun, but it’s also exhausting, especially if you’re trying to ski around injuries in the first place, which three out of four Lamberts (Sherman, Christiana, and I) were doing.

That’s why Christiana’s last ditch effort at home-based family relaxation on Saturday night was a good idea. Of course, it would have been a better idea if we hadn’t waited to do it until last minute on the same night Jackson really wanted us to watch a movie, but, hey, don’t expect us to change too much, right?

(c) 2012 Peep Harmony (Trina)

What did we do? We had our own Peeps diorama contest with the Peeps we had bought for the Denver Post’s Peeps contest. Sherman only, with Christiana’s help, had managed to meet that deadline on Friday night, but what were we going to do with the leftovers? Eat them? Right . . .

Now me, I was casual. I figured just go with a simple idea that could be done quickly. I got this idea of Peeps bunnies holding hands (well, if they had hands!) like paper doll chains. Then all I had to do was trace blue paper and draw some really rough versions of a couple continents and choose which obnoxious song I wanted to use to promote unity and world peace. (Yes, I’m just that way!) Although I tormented my family, both by singing and pulling up “It’s a Small World” on YouTube, I just didn’t want to deal with making all those hats and costumes! But hey, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” was also stuck in my brain. That song could also qualify for a family torture exercise. (You’re probably thinking, “You torture and torment your family for a bonding exercise?” So it seems . . .)

(c) 2012 Last Peep Standing (Jackson)

Jackson has the most elaborate ideas ever and he hates to settle for anything less than epic—which means he often does nothing. Sherman refused to allow that—yeah, nothing like a little dictatorship to help with a family bonding exercise to go along with that tormenting thing, right? Jackson got out the aluminum foil and red decorative sugar and toothpicks and soon there were knights lying in vivid pools of red with a lone Peep standing over them.

(c) 2012 We're the Lumber-Peeps and We're Okay (Christiana)

OK, so Jackson doesn’t have the lock on elaborate ideas. Christiana, his twin—the art major in case you have forgotten—has been imagining and completing elaborate dioramas since second grade (don’t think anyone assigned her one before that, but you have to know she had elaborate play scenes set up all over the house beginning in her preschool years!) Her finished lumberjack scene included a log cabin, twigs for a fire, real branches from the Blue Spruce, plaid-wearing Peeps wielding axes, mountains for a backdrop, and a powder sugar dusting of snow. Presentation, presentation, presentation has always been her mantra. And, yes, she continues to exceed the assigned required details for all her college projects. No, she doesn’t sleep much when finishing her assignments.

(c) 2012 Iditarod Peep Race (Sherman)

And, Sherman? Well, if he had Christiana’s youthful endurance, he would have gone as elaborately as she did. Instead he decided he didn’t really need to have to sew any more harnesses for the Peep-dogs (birds) pulling his Peep-bunnies’ sleds. I mean, how much can a marshmallow bunny weigh anyway?

By the time everyone finished, we really needed to relax with a movie. However, some might debate whether or not starting a movie at 11:30 at night is relaxing, especially for Jackson who had to be at work at 6:30 the next morning, but also for me, who had to sing in church choir, even if I didn’t have to be there for another three hours!

Like I said, Christiana is back in school where her projects need to be a little more elaborate than those made from Peeps. But I hope her work driving our little Peep Show was just the kind of Artist’s Date an artist needs to help her remember why art is fun—especially if that artist has to be tested on art first thing Monday morning after break.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

This season La Niña has given the Colorado Rockies both snow and wind—and the gifts just keep going, even though we are more than halfway through April. After reading predicted wind chill values below zero, Sherman and I hesitated about going skiing—but it was April 15 and the snow was still so good!

At the last minute we bypassed Loveland Ski area, as we saw how the wind was whipping the snow around—there are few trees for wind protection on the slopes we ski and the chairlifts are slow—and continued on toward Copper Mountain.

The wind still blew at Copper and the snow was probably not as deep, but the trees and swift chairlifts provided protection from the surprisingly bitter cold. But the snow was still so good—and, in time, the winds began to feel more spring-like.

What I noticed most, though, had little to do with the snow or weather conditions. No, for the first time this ski season, on this last ski day for me, I finally felt free. The backpack of obligations I’ve worn all season has slipped off.

True, I only skied once before Mom died, but by the time I returned to the slopes in February, our dog Fordham was in deep decline. And, as much as our family enjoyed our March ski trip, we had just lost him, too, and later that week would be saying our formal goodbyes to Uncle Carrell and Mom at their services.

I am no longer responsible for trying to help anyone be comfortable in the ravages of some horrible disease process. Life and death decisions are not part of daily concerns.

After you’ve watched someone suffer long enough, you know you have to let them go. In your heart you begin to wish for them to be free even though there’s not a thing that’s going to free them other than death and its separation from you.

Now that my grief is not quite so fresh and does not weigh heavily on every minute of my day, sometimes I can begin to remember them healthy and whole again.

Frankly, it is only in the last two weeks that I have started to feel some relief from whatever has been bogging me down physically during exercise since around the time my mom had to go into memory care.

You see, I seem to have two ways of responding to stress, depending on whether the stress is immediate or ongoing. When Christiana was in crisis, my appetite for food reduced, but my capacity for pushing my body physically increased. With Mom’s protracted decline, I did more stress-eating and felt drained more often than strong while exercising.

Yesterday, despite all the hard—at least in my mind and muscles—workouts I had this past week, my legs and lungs felt strong. I could forget about trying to stay up and keep going, and just turn more attention into form. Form and joy. I felt as if I were flying, something I haven’t felt at all this year on the slopes.

The snow was so good. And as it turns out, there wasn’t an ill wind, just one that added a lot of color to my cheeks and nose—and encouraged my return to flight.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

You know how there are some activities that just seem natural? Well, skiing is rarely that for me. Maybe it’s because I was almost fifteen when I learned. Maybe it’s always going to be a challenge for me just because of who I am.

That’s OK. I don’t have to be good at everything I do, right?

Ha, ha. Someday I hope to accept that concept deep in my heart, but I do understand it intellectually. If I enjoy something, it can be enough.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Sherman and the kids both learned to ski when they were in early grade school. Even though Sherman’s first ski trip led to a broken leg, he’s mostly skied with grace for all his years since then. Oh, he can’t feel it so much now that he is older, but I can still see it. He is a pretty skier—and I don’t mean feminine! It’s just that everything flows together, for the most part.

Each year when I take my first run, I feel as if I am starting over again. “They” say you never forget how to ride a bike, but I think I’m proof that skiing is nothing like bike-riding—at least for me it isn’t on the first several runs. Scary since I am in so much better shape than I was when I first skied with Sherman and the kids. I have actually improved in this decade of my 40s. Pilates and yoga have helped me to find my center of gravity—most of the time.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Still, if I ever stop thinking about what I’m doing, that’s when I catch an edge. I’m no risk-taker on skis, so it’s not like I fall much, but it seems my abilities vary from day to day or even run to run. Yesterday, I never quite caught my groove. Maybe those extra 10 pounds matter after all. Grin.

When my kids were younger they would chide me to ski more aggressively. My reply? I’m not there to challenge the mountain. I’m there to enjoy the scenery, the fresh air, the exercise, and my family. I want to keep doing this activity for several years to come.

That may explain why that snowboarder was so frustrated by me yesterday—hey, he should have been behind all those people who skied slower than I did. I think that at my age there are fewer casual skiers left. Most of them either got better or stopped. Me, I just try to have a good time, but on really good days on the slopes, for a few moments I’m sure I know what it feels like to fly.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I still hope to return this season and take more heart-pounding runs, as run by run I start to regain my land legs—,or mountain legs, as it were. My turns will get prettier, although not quite pretty, as the season matures—and as the snow gets better!

This is the last winter to ski with my kids before they leave home. They’ve learned to wait without complaint, taking jumps or runs through the trees, while I casually cruise toward our meeting points. These skiing days in the sun are some of the best days we’ve shared as a family.

Turns out I don’t have to be good, just good enough, to keep flinging myself down a mountain after them.

And when they’ve flown our coop, I still hope to follow Sherman down the slopes—and join him, from time to time, in those flights of fancy when gravity seems to lose its weight and grace takes wing.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

Sherman and I didn’t fire ourselves from the snow removal business after all. Turns out, everyone else is much more expensive than we were. Instead, the business bought a new snow blower and Sherman is fixing the other snow blowers—plus we got a raise. OK, just a few dollars more, but we hadn’t realized how much the market had changed since we last paid someone else.

Unfortunately, the snow that’s fallen lately is still wet and heavy. Great for making snowmen, not so great for removal with snow blowers. I hate to say it, but it’s time to wish for colder weather and the drier snow that comes with it.

The new snow blower is bigger—and green. Yes, it’s a John Deere. Jackson thinks we need to get a John Deere hat to go along with it—I think that’s a better idea when you buy a tractor! In winter, I’m sticking to my Polartec or wool head gear. Still, this machine’s not fond of heavy snow either. Today, Sherman’s back is paying the price for pushing slushy snow with a heavier machine. My neck isn’t too happy either.

Oh, well, that’s why we get paid the big bucks, right?

The better way to look at it is we’re just getting used to being out in the snow and cold, so we’ll be ready to break out the skis and really have fun in the white stuff. And with the quantities of snow that have fallen so far in the mountains, this should be a really good year for skiing.

I’m not afraid of a little snow—just large quantities of slush!

Copper Mountain, (c) 2009, SAL

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