Prepare for the Muse

Poetry is Always a Good Idea*

*Quote from  Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry by Louise Gluck.

 

 Beginning

Once I begin a poem, it absorbs me completely. I stay with it hour after hour; sometimes rewriting it long after I thought it was finished. The poem, it seems to me, sometimes takes some years of growing; I am able to come back to those first attempts and have an understanding of what the poem was to become. The poem ages, evolves, and goes through shifts over a long period of time, just like I do in my everyday life. Understanding our own work takes a very long time.

 

Early Writings

 

I began to write poetry as an undergraduate BFA student at Slippery Rock University of PA in the mid-80s. My first poetry publications appeared in Ginger Hill Literary Journal,   published by the English Department. I was a fine arts major in painting, but English literature was a passion, too. I took so many English courses that it qualified me for entrance into the grad program after I received my BFA.  I was in love with words and images!

In graduate school at West Virginia University, While I worked on my MFA in Painting, I continued writing  poetry and I was reading a lot of poetry and saw that  poetry is an art form. My perspective is quite different because of my Fine Arts background. My poems appeared in The Daily Athenian in Morgantown, WV.  Modern and post-modernist poetry was influencing my life every day. My painting and printmaking was growing from the ideas I was reading in poetry. contemporary poetry was my lighthouse, and the more I was swimming towards it, the more I realized it was moving away as I wrote – I had to work hard to try to get to it, to capture  images and words on the pages and the canvases.  I had begun learning how to capture the senses in my work with words.

I did the unthinkable – I chose to accept BOTH of the offers in English and in Fine Arts programs. I actually did BOTH  Graduate Programs at the same time. My higher education would  be a hybrid of the pursuit of poetry and studio work!

While  pursuing the MFA (the Terminal Degree in Fine Arts studio work) in painting, I started working on a MA in English at Slippery Rock University  of PA – doing graduate work in 2 different disciplines at 2 different universities and in 2 different states –  simultaneously.

The state slogan for WV is “Almost Heaven.”

But I  was actually IN  Heaven.

I am a Ranaissance woman who would continue to embrace the Humanities, follow my passions in Fine Arts and Literature. I knew I would never dig a deep hole down into only one genre, but I would pursue a hybrid path that was my own creation. I was truly a Post -Modern disciple!

Prepare for the Muse

 

As I write this essay,  nearly 3 decades later,  

I am still working to get the words right.

I struggle to evoke the senses that describe

what I portray in the poem.

My Process:  GREAT IDEAS

  1. Make a Writing Space for yourself. Mine is in a room that steps down off of my kitchen. It is a room dedicated to be my Writing Space. I like to work with the radio on most of the time. The radio is in my kitchen so I can have music but not so close as to be a distraction.
  2. Organize your Writing Space. This area is your personal private place to do your work. Make sure it is not an area shared by anyone else. Be firm and declare this room or space to be only for you. Don’t give in to any demands for anyone else to use it in any way.  Organize it to suit your intentions and needs.
  3. No Cluttering Permitted in your Writing Space. You need a peaceful space and any cluttering will be a distraction to you. Clean your space and organize it and make sure it stays this way. I believe a cluttered mind is reflected by aa messy and disorganized Writing Space.
  4. Ask yourself, “How does my life want to be lived?” I like to check with my “inner feelings” to be sure I am doing what my spirit really wants to do. With so many voices in our ears, we need to stop often to have a check on our “inner feeling
  5. I walk my dogs in the woods every day. Often, I hear a flock of crows overhead.  Our thoughts can be like those crow sounds: loud and demanding. If we follow all those thoughts, our day can turn into a hot mess and nothing gets done. So stop and realize we need quietness and a “check in” with those quiet and still leadings that we have – our intuition.

 

“Set your pen to paper and live for poetry!  Dwell in its wondrous city, whole and

full-hearted.”  Sheila Bender

  Assignment

Find 1 or 2  writers you like a lot.

Read their work and write about what you like about that work in  your journal.

Begin to search out their work so you can find common themes and quotes that have influenced you. Your chosen writers will become YOUR MENTORS.

 

A number of years ago, this was my list:

Robert Bly

William Carlos Williams

John Donne

Ranier Maria Rilke

(Today, I’ve added others on my list – b t this post is about our beginnings. We can talk about my literary mentors another day.)

_____________________

Article and Photography by Lynda McKinney Lambert.

Copyright, June10, 2017. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All rights reserved.

Lynda  McKinney Lambert

.Front Cover

Blogger:

Author:

Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage (Kota Press), 2002.

   

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, DLD Books, 2017 

Book is $14.95  and if you want it signed contact the me. Postage is $3.00.

Lynda is a Peer Adviser  and writes articles on sight loss and blindness for  Vision Aware Blog

CONTACT ME: riverwoman@zoominternet.net

 Author – Blogger – Visual Artist

Are YOU at the Beginning of a New Vision for 2016?

The End -or- the Beginning?

SCANdalous-Recollections

 

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Images of Light and Dreams

I’ll sing a farewell song as 2015 comes to a close. My writing has appeared in many publications this year and I am thankful so many publishers, editors and readers found my work worthy of their time, efforts and reading enjoyment. Most of all, I am thankful for the shared time we spent together in 2015. And, I am so proud that I shared the work of 6 writers here on the blog this year!

The symbolic image I envision for the New Year, 2016, just ahead, is the

KALEIDOSCOPE

 

A Kaleidoscope is symbolic of Constant CHANGE.

I’m making an INTENTION to VIEW life filled with BEAUTY, COLOR and extraordinary PATTERNS of light and dreams.  This is my INTENTION for 2016.  I’ll be writing articles throughout the year with the magic of a Kaleidoscope in my mind as I write.

__________

My Literary INTENTIONS for 2016:

Publication of my book of memoir/essays: 

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

 

Publication of my new book of poems:

Eclipse: Hands Folded in Prayer

 

Continued publication of my writing in periodicals, literary journals and inclusion in books by other authors.

 

New articles by me and featured Guest Blogs with special topics in the Humanities, Arts and Faith.

SCANdalous-Recollections Blog just entered the 2nd year.

Walking by Inner Vision Blog entered its 7th year.

 

Before we say “good bye 2015” I want to share where the year ended here at SCANdalous-Recollections Blog:

 

December 29, 2014 was my first POST on SCANdalous-Recollections Blog!

2015_Viewers on the blog: 2,342

2015_My Home Page had 442 visits.

2015_Articles published and written by Lynda McKinney Lambert: 33

2015_My most popular article had 951 views: https://llambert363.wordpress.com/?s=Kaleidoscope

2015_ I featured 6 Guest Bloggers this year. Each of them wrote 1 article.

2015_The most Popular Guest Blog Article is by Beckie Ann Hurter:

https://llambert363.wordpress.com/?s=United+by+Stories

2015_ Search Engine searches that found the blog: 1,051

2015_Face Book Searches:  318

See you in 2016

with

A new VISION for the YEAR!

_____

You can read my 5  previous articles on the Symbols of Advent by clicking on the links below.

*** Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:

Go To Week 1 – the Candle of HOPE

*** Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)

The Candle of Preparation (Bethlehem candle)

*** Lind to Week 3 – The Candle of Joy, or the Shepherd’s CandleWeek 2:
 *** Link to Week 4 – The Angel Candle:
*** Link to Week 5 – The Jesus Candle:
*** Link to my story, “A Western Pennsylvania Christmas”

__________

Lynda’s 2 blogs:

“Walking by Inner Vision” Link:  Walking by Inner Vision Blog
“SCANdalous – Recollections” Link:  SCANdalous – Recollections Blog
Contact Lynda:  riverwoman@zoominternet.net
_____

Lynda’s Bio

Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.

Skip to Walking by Inner Vision Journal:

In 2015,  Lynda wrote  30 Writing Assignments and Lessons to help you begin to write your own life story.

Symbol of Advent – The Angel Candle

Symbols of Advent

Part 4- Week 4

The Angel Candle is purple!

Also known as  the Candle of Love

by Lynda McKinney Lambert

 

GET READY!

LIGHT the 3rd  candle of ADVENT

A miraculous world-changing event will take place.

For a Christmas delight, click on the link:  Angels we have heard on high

 

I Believe in Angels!

 It is nearly Christmas once again.

I am listening to Christmas music as I write. I love to listen to the great songs  that are  a celebration of a miraculous event – the birth of Jesus.

 

Christmas celebrations of past years linger in little snippets, layered  and overlapped  like  Christmas melodies playing one by one.  Each Christmas carol I listen to brings forth more memories and more pictures of a family member, friends, and neighbors.  It also brings forth memories and pictures of our walk with the Lord over the years. The miracle of his coming into our own hearts as we turned around one day, and answered his call to “come.”  I answered that call to come, forty-two years ago.  My life turned around, never to be the same again.  How about you?

Matthew 11:28-29New American Standard Bible (NASB)

28 “Come to Me, all [a]who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Blog_2014_IBelieve_Angel_PHOTO

“I Believe in Angels”

 

Folks often say Christmas is for children,

skating on ice, building  castles of snow.

Oh, I believe Christmas is a holy birthday!

a time to sit by a warm fire, sing holiday songs.

I believe in shepherds!  and angels!

and Three Kings who delivered priceless gifts.

 

It’s a joy to be with friends, to give  gifts.

Adults once again become like children,

who look out  the window to see the first snow.

The Ancients anticipated this birthday

the celebration that  began with heavenly songs

when the birth of Messiah was announced by angels.

 

The holy birth was shared with shepherds and angels,

long before mass marketing, tinsel, and glitzy gifts,

The promised Child would heal earth’s children.

Perhaps the plains were deep with snow

on the night of His miraculous birth.

Yes, I believe in angel songs!

 

In the darkest winter night, listen for the songs

sung by a choir of angels.

The greatest heavenly gift

came  to walk with earth’s children.

As I light the Advent wreath I look out at falling snow-

and remember the reason behind this ancient birthday.

 

On bleak December days, consider His birthday.

Listen in the quiet night for angel songs.

The birth of Messiah, announced by the angels,

is the reason for exchanging gifts.

I believe Christ’s birthday is truly for children

like me and you who walk in a world of wintry snow.

 

Every child knows the delight of playing in snow

the joy of receiving gifts in celebration of a birthday-

I believe in birthday songs!

I’m a  child once again as I listen for angels

songs and remember the wise men who brought gifts.

the Anointed Gift from God – I believe in children!

 

*** by Lynda McKinney Lambert.  Copyright 1991, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

Blog_2014_Ibelieve_AngelStarSkyPHOTO

I wrote the poem, “I Believe in Angels” during a difficult  time in my life.  I wrote it as a Christmas message and sent it out to friends and family. Even in the darkest moments of our life,  when we seem to be alone, lost, or confused, Jesus is with us.  I can tell you that for sure because I made a decision to follow Jesus in October 1973.  I’ve had a lifetime of encounters with the Divine since that day.

 

May you find the truth of the Angels announcement in your own life.

Luke 2:10-11King James Version (KJV)

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

Fear Not!  

 
Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.
_____
You can read my three previous articles on the Symbols of Advent by clicking on the links below;

 

*** Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:

Go To Week 1 – the Candle of HOPE

*** Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)

The Candle of Preparation (Bethlehem candle)

*** Lind to Week 3 – The Candle of Joy, or the Shepherd’s CandleWeek 2:
*** Link to my story, “A Western Pennsylvania Christmas”

____________________

Lynda’s 2 blogs:

“Walking by Inner Vision” Link:  Walking by Inner Vision Blog
“SCANdalous – Recollections” Link:  SCANdalous – Recollections Blog
Contact Lynda:  riverwoman@zoominternet.net
_____

Lynda’s Bio

Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.

Skip to Walking by Inner Vision Journal:

In 2015,  Lynda wrote  30 Writing Assignments and Lessons to help you begin to write your own life sotry.

Little Step #3: Choose Better Words

Part 3 – Little Steps at the Beginning of the Journey

Part 3 of 7-Part Series

CHOOSE BETTER WORDS – Eliminate Feeble Words

Discover the Past

Recover the Present

Revise the Future

Blog15_SCAN_June12_GoldenApplePHOTO

In my previous article, Little Steps #2, I spoke of my personal  challenge to STOP speaking words of  criticism, complaint, and gossip.  It is an ongoing challenge – much more difficult to do this than I could have imagined.

 In today’s article, I introduce you to  Little Steps #3 when I move on to discuss HOW we can develop our words more carefully and change them from negative or weak words, into powerful, life altering words. If you are a writer this Little Step might be what you need to think about in developing your work. This Little Step is a good one for anyone, in any profession.

***

I created  2 lists and tacked them on the wall beside my computer. I need to look at these 2 lists often to remind myself to use more powerful and direct words.  I use my 2 lists to edit my writing. Create your own lists and check them often until you get in the habit of looking for the words that are weak and feeble in your writing.

List #1:  Passive Words – they give a feeling of uncertainty  to your writing.  You want to be direct and certain, not wishy-washy.  Go through your writing draft  and change the passive voice  into strong active voice.

Eliminate:  was; were; are; is; have been

List #2: Feeble phrases and words to eliminate from your writing:

Eliminate: amazing; awesome; actually; really; very; things; it; quite; got;

perhaps; maybe; literally; stuff; in my opinion; incidentally

Review your writing, then get out your blue pencil or hit the delete button on every word from this list. Replace those “busy work” and “filler” words with powerful clear words that make your piece strong.

***

This link will take you to a good page to read on Active and Passive Voice in your writing:

http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-active-and-passive-voice.html

***

When you CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY, a better choice of words  enables  you to speak and write better.  You will feel like a WINNER!

The next time you feel the words, “I can’t because…” coming up in your mouth, switch  it to “I will figure out how to do…!”

When you say “I can’t” you’re  telling yourself, or others,  “I won’t.”  In Little Step #2, we decided “NO MORE EXCUSES for YOU – Change your words – change your mind. Recognize feeble words and self-defeating excuses.  Just don’t say those words anymore! You can do it.  Be a GOLDEN APPLE in a SETTING of SILVER.

I love this verse from Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

***

***

Written and published by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright, 2015. Al Rights Reserved.

~ Our spirit whispers to us – listen for the message!  ~

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

“Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams”

by Lynda McKinney Lambert, 2015

Blog15_April_Violets

Note:  The first version of this essay was first published on “Amy’s Adventures Blog, by Amy Bovaird,

April 24, 2015.  Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to create a guest blog for you.

You can VISIT me at Amy’s Blog by clicking here:

 http://amybovaird.com/friday-friends-spotlight-on-lynda-lambert/

**********

 

“For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ~

**********

Patti and I walked down the old, narrow stone path on an April afternoon in the 1950s. Our pastel plaid dresses fluttered slightly in the soft afternoon breeze.  We removed our cotton sweaters, draped them carelessly over our arm for the journey back home. Like most days in April in western Pennsylvania it had been raining in the morning that day. A few hours later, the day took a turn and now it had warmed up significantly since our early morning walk to school. We felt happy because there was not a rain cloud in sight as we took our time walking along our familiar path. Now we meandered at an easy pace in the opposite direction.  School was over for the day and there was no reason to walk faster.   We walked a short distance and then we were standing beside a large field.  The aroma coming from the thick blanket of woods violets slowed us down even more as we scanned the field. In a moment, without speaking to each other, we stepped lightly between the moistened deep green leaves that flourished in thick patches of weeds and flowers. We were absorbed at the moment, bent over the deep blue-violet blossoms and reached out to gather some dainty flowers.  One by one, we snapped the fragile, slender stems of the violets.  While we picked our violets with our right hand, we placed each one in the grasp of our left hand.  Our bear arms were hot as the late afternoon sunshine turned our pale skin bright pink. When our left had could hold no more violets, we stepped away from the field and continued our walk home where our Mother was waiting for us to return   we came into the 1920s frame house through the back door with our fists full of violets, she was delighted with our small gifts.  She went to her cupboard, got out two small glass jelly jars and put the bouquets in water to keep them fresh. Our floral  gifts remained on the windowsill in our kitchen.

***

This year I set my intentions on observing small details in nature.  The landscape is changing continuously.

I see crystal  drops of dew on tender new leaves in the meadow.  They are sprinkled with transparent silvery diamonds.   Another turn, and I am walking beside a field of dewy dark green leaves with little periwinkle flowers peeking through the moisture.

Blog15_Guest_PeriwinkleRaindrops_Photo

Nature_WoodsViolets_closeView

I felt the velvet softness of Sumac branches. I looked at layers of last autumn’s leaves intermingled with shoots of new grass, and budding Hyacinths   Along the stone walk, I observed the red stalks of Peony bushes forging upwards through the moist earth.   Oh, Yes!  It’s Spring!

 ***

All these thoughts bring me to think about the beauty I have seen in a kaleidoscope. The word “kaleidoscope” has Greek roots.  It means “a form beautiful to see.”  I am compelled to ask you…

“When is the last time you have had a kaleidoscope in your hands with one eye focused through the small round window?”

“Do you recall the vivid colors, ever-changing shapes, as you slightly moved your hand around the barrel of the kaleidoscope?”

You give it a small twist and all the shapes fall into new pictures.  Hidden fragments inside the instrument create  numerous symmetrical, abstract  pictures.   Envision the world such as you have seen in a kaleidoscope!

 

Could you describe what you feel as the colors dance and flow over the mirror images inside? And did you know that inside the kaleidoscope are tiny, ordinary objects such as buttons, stones, chips and fragments – every illusion you enjoyed viewing is merely a collection of ordinary little things someone gathered and put inside with mirrors set at 60 degree angles

***

It has been over six decades since I picked wild violets with my sister in a rural farmer’s field.  I realize my faith in God still works in the same way it did when I was a child gathering God’s little presents.  Just a small twist takes us to a new landscape.

***

Big things make headline news, are celebrated and sought after. There is no mention of the ache we have in our inner being and the feeling that something is just not right.  Oh, I know that yearning that whispers from deep inside my body.  Could it be that once again I have walked on that familiar pathway that led me to places where I was not called by God to be?  There is always a sense of discomfort and painful stumbling blocks to be experienced when we are outside of his will or his calling, for our life. Fortunately, we can turn around, retrace our steps back to where we need to be and get our direction going once again. That is the good news – we can change direction!

***

Sitting in silence, being calm, listening for God’s still, small voice takes us to his glory.   Small treasures surround us   When I sit down and spend time alone with him, in silence, I experience transformation.  I turn another bend, there is a shift in perspective, and those little gifts are reflected by the mirrored light of his countenance. I am transformed yet again, by small gifts.

***

God works just like that!

The longer we look at him, the more our faith grows.  Each turn we take towards him opens up a new landscape that shows us insight into his character. I approach quietly.   Slowly, I realized the rain has stopped. I tilted my head towards the sky, listened for the songs of the circling birds as they hover above the tall trees; it is happening again.  Something new.  My feet are damp from the spring shower. Just another small turn of the kaleidoscope – yes! I can see it now.

Transformation.

***

Copyright, 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. May 9, 2015. All rights reserved.

Written for publication by Amy Bovaird. April 24, 2015. With much gratitude for the kind invitation to write for Amy’s Adventures Blog. Thank you!

 http://amybovaird.com/friday-friends-spotlight-on-lynda-lambert/

Little Steps…Part 1 Begin the Journey to Discover, Recover, Revise

Little Steps, Part 1 – Begin the Journey

Part 1 of 7 Part Series

~When April whispers to us, “Move on!”~

Discover the Past

Recover the Present

Revise the Future

Blog_2014_Dec_PhotoRoseCenterBright spring flowers flourish all around us by mid April.  I bought a little pot of yellow tulips recently when I was shopping.  They brightened up our dining room table and made me feel happy every time I glanced at them. I am not a gardener so I enjoy buying potted plants and floral bouquets throughout the year with the changing seasons.  Each season brings a new array of colors.  April’s flowers sparkle with brilliance in dazzling yellow daffodils, tulips in a range from vivid red and coral, to  soft pink and white. By the end of April, Pennsylvania’s grassy meadows will be covered with blankets of brilliant purple-blue violets.

 ***

Our walk home from grade school took a bit longer when I was a little girl. Our rural home was nearly a mile from the school and unless the snow was too deep, or a storm was brewing, we walked along a meandering path morning and afternoon. By mid-April we found the delightful blooming violets in the fields.  The small, fragrant blooms beckoned my sister and me to come closer!

Blog15_April_Violets

We forgot that we were supposed to walk directly home after school on those long-ago  spring days as we stooped down  low, extended our eager hands, and began picking violets to take back home with us.  The hot afternoon  sun beat down on us as we gathered a fist full of the fragile delights.  Once home with our treasured flowers, we put them in our mother’s little jelly jars.  Our bouquets remained in a special space on  our kitchen windowsill. To this day, many decades later, I still remember the joy of small wildflowers in the house. From now through the fall season, my home will have wildflowers  and weeds from the woods in little vases and jars as the months move towards winter.

***

 April signals that it is now the  beginnings of new life surging in Nature.  On mornings like this one, I take leisurely walks with the dogs. I became conscious of the subtle changes today, wanted to focus on them.  After a long lasting winter this year, each new spring day seems especially precious as it brings  warmth, sunshine, budding bushes and trees, and colorful flowers to my little part of the world.

Blog15_April_Tulips

***

I considered my different senses and how I experienced them as I walked my usual path around the neighborhood  today.

“Sometimes, we get too caught up with the visuals all around us,” I reflected.

We forget we have other important  senses giving us information if we dwell primarily on the visual stimulation and distractions.   I am legally blind and the entire world is a diffusion of shadowy forms and distorted, foggy impressions.  The positive aspect  of sight loss is that I am more aware now about the things I missed out on when I was fully sighted.  I was too focused on looking and learning only through my eyes.  Really, my excellent vision in my earlier, sighted, years, prevented me from discovering many aspects of the world that I appreciate now.

***

I listened carefully, became aware of the low sounds of an owl singing its final notes this  morning as the  sunshine brought  strong light to this new day. I thought about the owl and imagined it must be celebrating the end of a fruitful night of hunting for food to eat, and flights in the comfort of the darkness where it can be free.  For the owl, I thought about how the rising morning sun marked the end of its cycle of hunting and searching for food as it flies over the treetops and settles onto high, dense pine  branches.

While the owl can settle down and relax in the dense tree branches to have a nice sleep for the day, I am just beginning my day.  I breathe deeply and feel the coldness on my face and hands.  My nose is moist and I take out a tissue to wipe the droplets of moisture that come from breathing in the wetness of the early morning atmosphere.  My face tingles with the cold breeze and my hands remind me they are exposed and I have not brought along a pair of gloves to warm them up on this hour-long walk.

But, I am not so concerned with the coolness of the morning today. Instead, my thoughts move on to the meaning of spring and how each day is bringing changes to the world around me.  It feels good, the cold air, and my lighter jacket is just right for this new day.  I reach down occasionally to tell my dog, “Good Girl!  Heel.  Good Heel.  Good Girl!  She glances up at me, and quickly looks back at the path before her and sniffs the air.  When we come to a wooded place, near an abandoned mill, I relax her leash and allow her to enjoy tramping in the winter packed leaves that lay all around the trees.  She digs down into them in places, and pushes the leaves aside, seeking a direct passage to the scent that caught her attention. Eventually, I pull her back to heel position and we continue on for the second half of our morning travels, and we had back towards home together.

 ***

I know that we often think of January as a time of new beginnings. After all, it marks the New Year.  Perhaps we might rethink this idea when we find ourselves walking in the early morning in April, with the warming of spring sunshine on our bodies.  April truly is the time of new beginnings.

While it is true, January urged us to begin anew, set our intentions for the New Year.  Like most of you, I did carefully think about my intentions and weighed them out while considering my own talents, skills, and passions. Now, April urges us to move on.  I recognize I need to look back to DISCOVER anything that will keep me from reaching the heights I’d like to find this year.

*** 

My definition of a successful person is an individual who knows the will of God for her life, recognizes it, and chooses to do God’s will as she walks her unique God-given path in life.~ Lynda McKinney Lambert

***

I don’t want “just enough” or “good enough.” I want a life of personal integrity and excellence.  That does not mean I want perfection – no, just the opposite of that! Perfection is unrealistic; we could chase after perfection forever and we would never reach it for it is an illusion. But, integrity and excellence are  attainable because we have the promise of new life, renewal, and rejuvenation each spring.  Life is bursting out all around us in every direction. We can fully participate in it.  We are creatures who have the gift of choice. We can CHOOSE to have integrity and to be excellent in everything we do.  I have witnessed so many people running after the myth of perfectionism.  I see it in just about every magazine I pick up – perfect homes, perfect neighborhoods, perfect careers, perfect lawns, perfect cars, and perfect lies.

***

April asks this question:

Is there anything that will hold us back and take away our joy of life?

 ***

April affirms life and growth, just like all of nature, we can DISCOVER, RECOVER, and REVISE our life.

***

Here in Pennsylvania, we have “stink bugs” that slip unseen into our homes in the late fall, just before winter sets in.  They are hiding in drawers, closets, attics, and basements where they will sleep, hidden away, through the winter months. When the April sunshine comes into our homes, it wakes up the stink bugs who begin to come alive. We will find them to be annoying as they zip through the house, wake us up in the morning light, or buzz around light sources at night and disturb our sleep.

***

One important FIRST STEP is to DISCOVER hidden, sleeping, secret forces inside of us that may be holding us back. Just sit quietly for awhile and think about your past and the hurts that may still be haunting you. We all have them. We have all experienced  rejection, suffering, failures, disappointments, and personal disasters.

***

 In April, begin to DISCOVER the past hurts that will prevent us from living a life of peace, joy, creativity, excellence and purpose.  We cannot hold on to those feelings for unforgiveness will always hold us back. We will actually find that we are stuck in the past – our minds will go back again and again and relive the hurt. From this day forward, vow to never again speak of this hurt but to give it over to God today. Refuse to relive it or speak of the hurt or demean the person who has hurt you. This will set you free from the hurtful past so you can come alive again and experience the eternal forces of spring inside your own spirit.  Be assured, the words we speak are living forces. If we continually drag up the ugliness of a situation or personal hurt, we are creating our present and our future unhappiness.  Our words are LIFE.  Speak what is good, nourishing, and excellent.

***

 You can move on, and April is the perfect time to do it. Join me on this FIRST LITTLE STEP of our life’s purpose and journey to wholeness.

Yes, forgiveness is a choice, and it has nothing to do with the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is the choice to hand your hurts over to God and let Him make up the difference. When we choose to extend forgiveness, that’s when we choose to receive His forgiveness! ~Joel Osteen

***

I am DISCOVERING the prickly thorns in my own past that have prevented my growth to excellence. One by one, I am giving them up, allowing God to take them away, as I RECOVER from the hurts.  I won’t be talking about them any longer. I won’t be going back to feel the pain again.

***

The good news today, in mid-April, is that after we DISCOVER and RECOVER from past hurts, we can REVISE our own future.  As I take the higher path of forgiveness, I find the days are growing brighter and brighter still, with each new day!

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Listen to Lynda McKinney Lambert, interview on April 17, 2015_ Purpose Talk Radio.

Discover your CALLING in LIFE by examining your own Life’s Timeline.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/purposetalkradio/2015/04/17/7-little-steps-discover-the-landmarks-in-your-life-timeline

One Word – Exuberance

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ONE WORD

Exuberance!

Did you come up with a list of resolutions for this new year? If you did, by now you might be worried  about how you will  stay on target  with your list of resolutions.  Maybe you have even forgotten some of them by now?

I found  a better idea that is more realistic and more personal. I want to share it you today.  Be kind to yourself  and instead of writing out a list that will be forgotten soon, focus on just one word for the year – let’s see where the journey takes us. ONE WORD will be far more personal and much easier to stay focused on than a big list – won’t it!

Think about joining in with people who are turning to God and praying about getting just ONE WORD that will be with you for the 365 days of this year.  I just did!  You can find the link right here, and take a look and see if this would be something you might like to do.

http://oneword365.com/

My word?

Exuberance!   
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Yes! When I thought about this word, I immediately thought of the Matisse dance paintings in the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia. I cannot think of another image that would better represent what it means to be exuberant; one word that would represent  a person  filled with exuberance.  I think of this word as a noun, as well as an adjective.  Matisse understood this word, I am certain.

EXUBERANCE…this is my ONE WORD for 2015.  This word  just came into my mind near  the beginning of the New Year,  settled in, looked around  and decided to stay with me for the entire year. How did this happen?   I have no idea how a single word comes to mind and lingers.  It’s a mystery to me.  What I do know is where it came from, the source of it.  It is gentle and yet, persistent, and it  whispers to me as I sit a while and have some quiet time with God. The time for silence, set aside, and practiced at the beginning of the day, or any other time apart,  is one of my “intentions” for this year. I wrote about my intentions on an earlier blog post.  The daily periods of  quiet time are when I  reflect and  experience God’s  presence in my daily activities.   I speak  of exuberance, as a noun.  This painting by Hanri Matisse expresses what the noun, EXUBERANCE, might look like. It’s JOYFUL, and delightful, and full of life!Blog_Exuberance_Matisse_cutouts

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The word, EXUBERANCE,  dates back to the sixteenth century,  French exubérance  and from  Latin,  “exuberantia.” Both mean,  “superabundance.”

Left: Photo of Matisse drawing on canvas – the beginnings of his paintings of dancers.

When I think of EXUBERANCE, I think of  Matisse! And, then I think about what this word will hold for me during 2015. I will hold it in my mind, envision it in  my spirit, recognize it  in my prayer life, every day of this year.

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I ask myself,  “What will the final painting of my life be like?”

 Today, I am beginning the drawing of it. A year from now we can look back and see what the word we chose has brought to us this year.

Pray about this and see what word God has for you this year. What will your finished work of art look like?  God is the Creator of the entire universe and we can trust him to create in our lives, something exciting, new, and joyful.

Let your light shine everywhere you go this year.

Be a picture of JOY, like a painting by Henri Matisse!

In all circumstances, yes, ALL circumstances, give thanks to God. blog_Exuberance_TheCityViewMatisse

I’m In a January “State of Mind”



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The “January State of Mind”

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I am still thinking about January, and the promises of the New Year.

How about you?

Here’s what I need to ask: Are you feeling like something is wrong?

Do you feel stretched in two different directions this month? I am feeling like I am two different persons. One is the public image, the go-getter,  high achiever, the bold and fearless persona that operates in tandem with my name.  Yet, you seldom see the other “me” and  she is timid, quiet, private, nervous, aloof, fearful at times, and not always much of a group person or high achiever. The deeper question now is,  Am I experiencing duality? January IS on my mind! It’s  something deep and spiritual unfolding in my life, now that I am thinking about it.

Have you peered back into some of your previous  January entries in your  journals?

You know, I mean,  the ones you wrote in past years? Did you look back to some of your earlier notes or reflections and see them fresh today as you take a look from the vantage point of distance?  I am standing here, today in January 2015?

Oh, I have to tell you, I have been looking at mine!  So NOW, I am  wondering if those little writings I jotted down in times of yore  are giving me insight into this present January State of Mind –

I am feeling this  circular dance of duality every day. There’s something hidden deep inside of me that feels restless, uncertain, and hesitant, in spite of all my INTENTIONS. That is because I have looked back, while I was looking forward at 2015.

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Perhaps I can learn some things I need to know, gain wisdom, or reconnect with something spectacular I missed when I was too close to it!

**

Prior to approximately 700 BCE  the ancient Romans named the 10 months in their year after the gods. They had only ten months in their year, and did not have the two months we know as January (Januarius) and February (Februarius).  These two  were added to the Roman year circa  700 BCE.  January was named after the Roman god, Janus. Blog_2015_JanuaryJanusStatue

Unlike our calendar today, January was not the first month of the Roman year until after Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, changed the sequence of the months into the twelve month calendar.  Because and odd number was considered to be “lucky” the king changed the number of days in several months from even numbers, to odd numbers.   Long after this change from a ten month to a twelve month calendar, the Emperor Julius Caesar, would make additional changes. After 46 BCE, February was designaed to be a “Leap Year” and other changes were made. Instead of the “Roman Calendar,” it was now called the “Julian Calendar.

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Maybe the dual feelings I am having on this first month of the year is because it is named in honor of Janus.  This god is the one who guards and controls gates and doorways. To me, that indicates passages. When I sit down to write out my intentions or goals for the new year, I am thinking of January as a doorway or gate into a new beginning with fresh, exciting expectations.  My list of intentions for the new year are indicators that I plan on some type of travel, or passage, from one place to another in the year ahead.  Go ahead, look over your own resolutions for the year, and think about it.  Are you, too, planning a passage this year? When I look back over the years, I see I was always thinking of a passage from one place, left behind, to the new place, just ahead of me.

***

January is the festival month for Janus.  He stands in the doorway.  But, the problem is that Janus has two FACES. While he looks forward through the doorway, to the passage ahead, the other face of Janus looks backwards. Here is the dual message that we encounter!

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While we WANT to go forward, another part of us looks backwards. I seem to step right into Janus’ vision myself. I look forward, make my intentions into a path for the new year. But, what I feel rumbling inside of my being, is the reminders of a backwards step at the same time. Well, this is something we don’t really talk about, do we!  So, I was thinking about this all week. Why don’t we recognize, or put into language, what we really feel and think in January, every year?

Is it because the noisy crowd drowns out our inner life and our inner feelings, our intuition, and our internal voice as they shout out  “Happy New Year?”  We have been told this is the time for our expectations to be declared and realized – yet, there is that other side of Janus, in our mind.  As we ride the CREST of JANUARY,  the crest of the new year, we have expectations for what we believe the new year holds  for us.  Those are the things we talk about with others.

***

The  “inner critic” voice reminds us of past failures, deflated expectations, short-comings, blunders, and more. That is the other side of Janus! Oh, we fail to understand this side, and we sure don’t want to be talking about it to anyone. We have to keep up the smile. We have to keep up the talk and the walk.  We have to…..you fill in the blanks here.

It does not  take much of a leap to see the self-centered, secular expectations of our contemporary culture.  The  “New Year” resolutions madness can literally paralyse any thing creative, inspired, spiritual, artistic, resourceful, inventive, imaginative, intuitive, innovative, and productive on the inside of us.  The Janus mask is carefully in place for so many people who will never experience inner peace and joy because they are running so fast in a direction that will lead them to emptiness, after all.

But here’s the dichotomy of it.  Stop and be quiet for a little while. Maybe get up early tomorrow morning, when the house is still. Spend fifteen minutes in silence. Keep your thoughts focused on getting in touch with your purpose in life. Your Creator will be there and in your time of silence, He will reveal his purposes for you.  During the day, you’ll remember your time with Him today, and you’ll gently feel his presence and guidance. It’s not about what we want to do, it’s about what we want to do with Him!  Our contemporary American culture tells us to be determined to do what we want to do, and to push our way to the top of whatever we decide to do.  The voices, loud and demanding, tell us how strong we are,  how we can do anything we want to do.  We are told to call ourselves powerful and smart. Oh, but wait a minute!  Stop for a moment; listen for the gentle whisper… He speaks in a “still small voice.”  Listen. He whispers to us; he speaks about  who we are, for real.

As individuals with faith in God, we can  look forward with expectations that are grounded in God’s divine purpose for our life.

***

What a difference a year makes in our life!

I recommend a look back because it is wholesome for us to do.  History bears fruit, you know.  We bear fruit as we discipline our mind to study history.  Our life, our personal story, is like a display in a gallery. It’s all put out there to view, and if we are careful and thoughtful when we look it all over, we’ll find some gems as well as some clinkers.  Both are good for us to consider because they all show us the path we have been on, and help us make decisions for the future.  What to embrace? What to avoid?

***

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Copyright, 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Insight:

http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/pagandaymonth/

A History of the Months / Days and the Meanings of their Names

http://www.janus.umd.edu/

Shift…2014 From the Rear View Mirror

 ~Happy New Year  2015 ~

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 Opal, our cat, watched me  from her perch in the book shelf.

Blog_NewYear__OpalinbooksI AM determined to write a Christmas Greeting this year!

It was December 22 and I was racing against a deadline, well aware that last year I did not get this  accomplished.   But I had good reasons, because I encountered some unexpected circumstances that exploded our world just one year ago. No one could have anticipated what would enter  our life as we walked unaware, into 2014. That was one year ago, today!  This article is a look back through 2014, from the rear view mirror.

***

January, was an exciting month for me as an artist.  My mixed media fiber piece, The Dragon’s Healing Breast Plate,  was on display at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, in the New Collective exhibition. Bob and I attended the opening night.   So exciting!

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A couple weeks later,  back at the PCA  I participated on a  four person panel at  a conference on sight loss and the arts. After that  program, I was photographed in the gallery with my art work. This photo appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. I think it is  a great photo because  my mobility cane is clearly visible – my long white cane – my badge of courage – my  guide through life – my visible  life as a blind artist and writer.  This  photo shows what is  “normal” for me these days, yet,  I seldom even think about it. I just keep on going. After all, we are all the person we THINK about being, and I think about being productive and happy as much as possible.  Most of all, I think about sharing the gifts I have with everyone –  gifts of Humanities and Faith.

***

Well, yes, you can already imagine that January was a crazy busy month –  I presented a workshop at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. It would be at a conference on Disabilities and Inclusion, sponsored annually  by the university president.  Bob and I arrived very early in the morning to set up my display of pottery and fiber arts. I addressed the audience about how a blind person functions in everyday life, and how I adapted as a visual artist who had lost most of my sight just 7 years earlier.  It was so nice to be back on campus and see all the fantastic changes that have made the university  I earned  2 of my 3 degrees  at SRU. (Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1998;  MA in English Literature  in 1994.) The audience at SRU was engaging. Bob and I had such a pleasant day meeting people and  looking over the new buildings on  campus.  The official photographer took many photos  and a video was made during my presentation. It was such a good day for Bob and I to be there together. SRU became a central part of my academic life from 1985 through 1994. How great it is to occasionally have a look back.

***

Oh, but amid all that good stuff I just related, something else was going on, too. In January, Bob had symptoms of “something wrong.”  Those fluttering, persistent, and silent  symptoms escalated quickly; Bob collapsed and was unconscious  in a local restaurant. The Bob_Apr19_1rescue squad arrived within two minutes and after a long time of working on him in the back of an ambulance, he was “brought back” by the rescue team, then  taken  by ambulance to the local hospital.  For the next three months, Bob was tested, prodded, stuck with needles, thumped, scoped, observed, catheterized, and mis-diagnosed by numerous local doctors and specialists.

***

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At last, the two-person exhibition, Vision and Revision,  opened. I had conceived, organized, and promoted this show for over a year. Opening night was on March 7th at Merrick Art Gallery, New Brighton, PA.   When I stood in the gallery and surveyed the work of my hands. I was so joyful as I greeted my friends, family, and gallery visitors who  flooded into the show for several hours.  Prior to this night, I had worked in my solitary studio for over a year to make my art  of  Ceramic sculpture and Mixed-Media Fiber for this special show. Bob had worked diligently with me to set up my work so it was cohesive and on opening night some of our family members came early  to greet visitors and handle the many  sales of my work. The night was a  success and  sales exceeded my dreams.  In such moments I can feel the love that peple have for me and my work because they love it and want to live with it in their own homes. That is the highest compliment I can ever have.  I get so excited when I  get  the “red dots” put up on the walls beside my work – the red dot  means the work is sold.  I  posed  for photographs with the visitors and the collectors.   We  artists  gave a special “artist talk”  during an intermission  and the audience kept asking me so many questions about my work and how I do it without sight.  Bob and I had a stunning night  and we felt so happy. It was a “night to remember” for a life-time in the arts for me.  In  2015 I will celebrate 39 years of exhibiting my art work world-wide.

***

As our year progressed, it was finally on April 17th that  Bob  received a correct  diagnoses. We both stood at the phone when Dr. Islam called and said,   “Bob, this is a very aggressive disease. It is blood cancer. It’s called Acute Myeloid Leukemia, AML, and you have to get to the hospital in Pittsburgh immediately. We have to begin treatment…you will be there for a month…it has to begin today!”

Bob and Ilsa, April 19, 2014 West Penn Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA

At that moment, a shift took place in the lives of our entire family. At 9 pm, Bob entered  his new home-away-from-home for this year.  This floor is called, T-7 at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.   Our daughter, Salome’ drove  to our  house, gathered  us up and deliver us to the hospital. We were all in shock, numb. What do you take on a moments  notice when you are told you will be there for a month?  There was no way anyone could prepare for this night in any way. We were drifting along in a dream that had turned into our worst nightmare.  We felt lost at sea.

Spring and summer passed and the warm  weather and pleasant  days are a blur in my mind.  This year is remembered by admission  and discharge dates at the hospital.  We packed bags to leave home;  we unpacked bags when he came back home. Departures  and arrivals are the keys to our  our normal mind-set most of the time  We circled around in  the troubled waters of a disease which  tried  to swallow our entire family.  Bob had more hospitalizations –  more chemo treatments-  more rough seasons – more medications – more – more – and more.

***

I did my best to keep things as normal as I could at home with the four cats and two dogs to care for, interspersed with little periods of creativity and trying to manage our home and our business affairs.   I had water problems that a friend came and fixed. Then, I had electrical issues, and another  friend showed up to fix them.  Lawnwork needed to be done by family and friends who showed up and helped out. I cannot drive, so needed transportation – and sometimes it was hard to find and frustrating.  At those times it was very lonely and unsteady.

 Art making took a shift to the back of my thoughts and somehow I managed to get 2 pieces of fiber art work done for the entire year – and another piece in progress laying on my table at the end of the year. That will turn into my first piece of the New Year, I suspect.  Writing continued to be a passion as it has been my entire life.  Words have always been important for me in dealing with everything from the highest highs, to the lowest depths of my life-journey.

And, so, it was, that I started a Facebook page for Bob’s journey. I called it “Bob Lambert Diary” for I expected it would be a photo diary of his journey from the beginning of his life with AML. This was a way that I could disperse information on the disease to help others, and a way to let the public know what was happening with bo. And, most of all, it was a way to let people know what his prayer needs are because I know for certain that prayers will be what brings us all through this shift in our lives.  This diary would give us wonderful photos to look back over so we could see how far we have traveled as we look back in the rear view mirror of the journey to wholeness for Bob.  Today, on the first day of 2015, I am looking BACK and smiling in the rear view mirror of the last year.

***

I had another exhibition of   “Vision and Revision: Two Artists with Sight Loss, Not Loss of Vision.” It was at Jameson Hospital in New Castle, PA and ran from April  7th  through July 7th.  I was unable to attend the opening but got to enjoy the show later in it’s run with Bob when he returned home from his first stay in the hospital on June 2nd. What a joy to walk through this beautiful show with him and know he could enjoy it with me. Later, I visited the show with our daughters, Ilsa and Heidi. We had fun taking photos of  my work on display in such a lovely gallery setting.

 Two additional juried exhibitions finished  out the year and moved  into the New year.  Somehow, I managed to write, make art,  serve on two panel discussions and conferences, and do my  exhibitions and publications between all the hard times and hospitalizations.  That is how creativity is – nothing can take it away.  When God pours out such gifts to people, the gifts  are forever available in all the challenges of life.  That is why I sing about the glories of the Humanities and Faith in all I do.

***

???????????????????????????????On  September 25th,  Bob  was hospitalized for the fourth time. Now, he would get a fourth round for a week.  The long awaited day came on   October 2,  when he had a stem cell transplant. His donor lives in a different country and the stem cells were flown to Pittsburgh and transplanted into Bob. It is a miraculous process and at age 73 Bob was given the immune system of a 48 year old man. This hospitalization would be a month-long one, too. It was followed up by several weeks in “short stay” and two or three trips to Pittsburgh every week for the remainder of the year and into the New Year! Our daughter Salome’ took off work each week to transport us back and forth – a gift beyond price. It is also a gift of her presence for us, as before this time we were not able to see her so often due to her work schedule. It was also another blessing for us to have another pair of eyes and ears taking in all the complex medical changes and scheduling the many hour-long trips to Pittsburgh.

***

Each day brings new challenges. Thankfully, we are blessed with a wonderful family, good neighbors, and dear friends who have helped us in many ways.  The challenges are beyond anything we could ever imagine in our worst nightmares.  In the middle of it all, our God is with us and we have had miraculous guidance and the best oncology team possible. Keep Bob in your prayers please, for the upcoming year!

???????????????????????????????Photo:  bob with daughter Salome, Christmas Day, 2014

Currently, Bob is working on our income tax materials!  He works during the times when his energy level is up and rests in-between as needed. He does what he can and he is a determined warrior – armed  for the battle against AML.  I stay  busy helping him out and most of all keeping his spirits up. We find many things to enjoy and laugh about every day no matter what is going on. We do our best to keep our speech positive and uplifting and to encourage others.  I think Bob is a great candidate for a POSTER CHILD for AML, if there was such a thing! Bob has more courage than any person I have ever known – he is brave beyond boundaries.

As we walked down the street together last week.  I was laughing. He asked me why. I said, “Look at the two of us. We are still standing. We are together. and we are at the end of a year of more trials than anyone would ever want or choose to go through. Yet, we are here and I am walking beside you. You are a miracle!” He laughed with me in the cold winter sunshine.

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Bob and I saying “good bye” to T-7 at West Penn Hospital last November.

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At  the beginning of 2015 – here is what I know for sure:

God is good. I can say from my heart,  He can bring you through any trials you may encounter at any time in your life. Oh, but wait just  a minute!  This is not the end!

***

 Bob has a Community Page on FaceBook at:  https://www.facebook.com/boblambertdiary

Lynda has a FaceBook Page  at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/River-Road-Studio/175785105811956

SCANdalous,  llambert363.wordpress.com   – My blog features  essays which  focus on Humanities and Faith.

My website and blog (Walking by Inner Vision) :  www.lyndalambert.com too!

***

Thanks for being our FRIEND in real life, or, 

 through your prayers, and on the “net” – Lynda and Bob

Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

The Living Room – I Believe in Christmas Eve!

The Living Room

I Believe in Christmas Eve!

 Christmastreesoutside“A baby on its mother’s back does not know the way is long”. African Proverb.

 Esther looked forward to one special night of the year when she won’t be lonely in her quiet home.  Esther walked slowly through the stillness and then she stopped briefly to look out the large picture window in her spacious living room. She checked once again to see if anyone had arrived yet.  She won’t be alone tonight because it is Christmas Eve.  Every year Esther’s four grown children returned home with their families to celebrate this special evening together. Esther’s face will be radiant with happiness throughout this evening and she’ll be transformed into the queen of the night. Esther is the lone matriarch of the family.

 The elongated living room will quickly fill up with her children, grand children, and even great grandchildren tonight. This room was built with enough space for holding large gatherings for all sorts of family events. Along the one long wall, there is a gray stone fireplace. As she had done for many years previously, it was decorated with her hand painted ceramic angels.

christmasTree1The three elegant angels are glazed all over in pearly white. Each carried a different musical instrument. She had accented those instruments with a glittering gold paint that matched the halo on each angel’s head.  She always placed cranberry red candles among the angels and carefully arranged boughs of pine across the mantle. The graceful holiday decorations created shimmering reflections in the wide mirror that stretched out the entire length of the mantle behind them. The reflections made the room seem joyful and optimistic as the little multi-colored twinkle lights flashed brilliantly around the edges of the mirror. .  When Esther’s husband, Bill, was still alive he always made a crackling fire in that fireplace. Now it is bare and unused.  She did not turn on the stereo tonight because she did not think about it

 

For this special occasion, Esther selected her favorite Christmas sweater. She has had it for years.  The bright holiday sweater makes her feel happy.  It is a warm sweater in bright Christmas red and on the front it has white poinsettias and golden ribbons woven into the fabric.  She did not think about what her two sisters will probably be wearing when they arrive tonight.   The two elderly women, Fanchion and Bettie arrived early in the evening and as usual, each lady wore a noticeably similar Christmas sweater.  The three sisters always shopped together and most of the time, when one sister selected something to buy, the other two bought one just like it. Bettie, the youngest sibling of the trio, complained to someone, later in the evening about it.  She remarked, “I pick out this pretty sweater for myself. I found the sweaters first when we were shopping, and the other two had to copy me and buy one just like mine! They do this all the time. Why can’t they just pick out things for themselves?”

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The three often grumbled about each other, but the siblings went shopping together often. Shopping helped fill the emptiness of their long days.  The sisters each lived separately, in their own hone. They lived about two miles apart.   They came from a family of seven children.   At this time, only four girls survived. They had lost the two brothers and one sister in the last decade.  Esther did not think about them very often any more. Sometime she even forgot they were no longer living and seemed surprised when someone mentioned they passed away.  She became agitated; her eyes widened as she said,

 

“They died? Oh, no! I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you tell me they died? I wanted to see them again! I wanted to go to their funeral. Why didn’t anyone let me know about this?”

 

Each time she learned again that one of her siblings was dead, she wept all over again. It always happened as someone brought up a conversation about their deaths. Each time it was the beginning of grieving for her.

 

When Esther’s children look back through old family photos they laugh when they see the three sisters sitting at a wedding reception. Each sister is dressed in a delicate little flowered dress.  Very often another sister, Jeanne, is there in the photos and sometimes her outfit looks like the other sister’s clothing. Strange, isn’t it? They all have the same taste.

 Esther’s husband, Bill, died eleven years before tonight. It happened suddenly one Saturday morning. It was in July.  While Esther prepared their breakfast in the kitchen at the opposite end of the home, Bill had left this world. He was in their bedroom and had not yet come out to have his breakfast with Esther. His sudden departure was a shock she never really recovered from, I recall several occasions when she grew silent and it was apparent she was overcome with sadness as she spoke. I turned my head away for her words were too hard for me to take in.  I tried to hold back my own tears as I silently inhaled and held my breath.

 

“I never got to even say good bye to Bill. I realize he didn’t come out of our room yet, I am in the kitchen reading my morning devotions. I hear him get up and go to the bathroom. Then, I think he should have come out for breakfast by now. Where is he?  I walk through the living room and into our bedroom   He is just laying there on the bed. All stretched out on his back.  His arms are wide open and his feet hang down almost touching the floor.  He is wearing one sock but the other foot is bare. I see he was putting on his socks. But he’s not moving.  I scream and rush over to him. I shake him, but he never moves. I try to put my mouth over his open mouth, and I try to breathe into him to wake him up. Nothing is working. I leave him and I run as fast as I can run, through the house, out the door, across the lawn to the neighbor’s house. I need help! Bill needs help he isn’t breathing and I cannot wake him up.” Bill left Esther alone at 6:30 am on July 17th, 1988. This is the year they would have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, on Christmas Day!

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Esther was now seventy-nine years old – still a beautiful woman.   Her sharp, deep amber-brown eyes had clouded over.  They looked like a gray film had grown over the rich darkness of her eyes. She was still tall and looked stately. Her dark raven hair had slowly transformed into a soft, short silver color. She patiently watched out the thick glass window at the end of the living room.

 “I am sure someone will be here soon,” she whispered to the empty living room.

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Some people told Esther she should sell her house and move into a smaller one. They said she needed one without such a big yard to take care of since Bill isn’t here anymore.  Her four children spoke about this to each other and once in awhile one of her children told  her she needed to move out of the big house so she would not have so many things to worry about and such a large yard that needed tending. But, Esther’s response to everyone who said something like that was,

  “No, Bill built this house, and I can never leave it. And, if I sold this house we would not have a place for our Christmas Eve party.” 

 

Esther was stoic in her determination to stay in the home she helped build. She managed to hold on to her home because it was built just for her and she loved it. The walls of every room surrounded her with a lifetime of memories. And, it held future possibilities for her Christmas Eve parties for her family.

 Bill and Esther did build the house, just like they had planned.   When they were younger and their four children were all at home, Esther and Bill dreamed about the house they would build some day.  Bill, a good artist and draftsman, entertained the children with his drawings of cartoons and animals. He made sketches of the ideas they formulated and envisioned their new house. Each of the children can recall the many times their parents poured over plans for a new home they wanted to build. . Bill even constructed a meticulous scale model of the house they planned together.  The model he built was large.  It was on a sheet of plywood. Bill spent the long, solitary winter months in the basement working on the model.  One of the features they planned so carefully was the spacious living room.  It was the most important room in their home.

 Now, so many years later, Esther is here all alone inside their dream house. They had worked side by side to build this home.     Esther was 38 years old and Bill was 42 when they moved their young family of four children into this house. It is the house where the children grew up together.

Esther and Bill had dreams of living in a nice neighborhood and in a house that they built. They made their dream come true. It was a little at a time, as they could pay for the things they needed when building it.  Bill was a Pennsylvania steelworker.  I can remember so many times when the men who worked in the steel mill went out on strike or when there would be lay-offs, and those times were difficult for our family.  After they started building the house, there would be several times when things came to a stand-still due to unemployment.  Our whole family actually moved into the basement of the house.  I was fifteen years old that summer. While our family lived in that basement, the upstairs was being built.  In a year or so, we all finally moved upstairs into the newly finished house.

 ***

It was exciting for me, as a fifteen year old girl, to be part of this new adventure in our life.

 ***

“It is a sultry, warm summer day and the men are here to start mixing up the fresh batches of plasterer. They set up all the equipment outside the front room, right there in the mud. They laid down some boards and they are walking back and forth on the boards, pushing the wheelbarrow. Some of the men are carrying the wet plaster on large boards. They hold the boards up with their arm and balance it on a shoulder, and walk as fast as they can towards the house.  They are really strong men and this is hard work carrying all the plaster into the house and to the room where they are putting it on the walls.  With each trip into the house the men start to cover the open studding. They are making wet walls that are getting thick and strong. I like to hang around watching the men and joke with them a lot. When they came today, I told them I wanted them to make the plaster lavender for my room. The man told me they never made lavender plaster before, but they said they would see if they can do it.  I really want lavender plaster in my room! They worked at it for a while, and then, they did start carrying in the lavender plaster for my room. I have to share this new room with my sister, Patti, and I hope she likes lavender because that is just what we are getting! And once we get the room plastered, then Mom said we can go pick our fabric for the new drapes she will order for it. I am going to pick out fabric that has black and white abstract print on it.”

***

 Our long-awaited new house was completed over the next week as the laborers made trip after trip from the mixing place outside, into the rooms inside the new ranch style house…

 “I have always loved real hand crafted plaster. The walls seem so solid and give me a feeling that I am safe inside of them. When I rap on a real plastered wall, I can hear the dull thud that does not make an echo.  The house seems to have a nicer voice once it is dry and has aged.  The older it gets, the clearer it sounds.  Handmade plaster sounds soft, and friendly.  When I lay my ear beside those walls, I can listen to the men talking as they carried it and slathered it onto the walls. I can hear the men bring in the plaster and the sounds of my two brothers and my sister as we danced about inside the bare, unfinished house. Memories whisper to me and I can hear the many voices from the past .The plastered walls have the power to speak and the voices of our family remain inside the plastered walls.”

 ***

One of the loveliest sounds that echoed through the house was Esther’s voice as she sang hymns. She was a strong singer with a ringing alto voice.  The living room was her concert hall as she dusted the table tops or washed the large picture window. 

***

Esther Luella Kirker started singing as a small child with her family.  Almost her entire family sang or played a musical instrument. Everyone who knew the Kirker family always remarked about the music they all made together at the local Wurtemburg Methodist Church. Esther’s father, James, played the coronet in the church orchestra. Her oldest brother, Clair, was there, too, because he played the tenor saxophone.  Sister Jeanne played the Piano.  Esther sang along with the family musicians. Her voice was her instrument. Esther sang at church.  Members of the congregation often asked her to sing their favorite hymns. She continued   singing those old time heavenly songs by memory her entire life. My Mother had forgotten many things these days, but she never forgot how to sing. She never forgot the words or the melodies of the old hymns. “How Great Thou Art” and “In the Garden” are two hymns that still ring in my memories today. I remember my Mother’s voice.

 ***

Around 7 PM everyone began to arrive tonight.  They parked on the blacktop driveway at the Mercer Road residence.  Cars soon lined the driveway and even down the sides onto the frozen lawn. Our entire family members came bursting through the front door. They called out, “Merry Christmas” and laughed as they greeted each other with hugs and smiles.  They carried in holiday foods wrapped up with foil and they juggled boxes and bags of bright wrapped gifts.  Each person wore holiday outfits for this special night.  Christmas Eve at our house was a grand affair and everyone always dressed in their sparkling new outfits; velvet, silk, and taffeta dresses were on all the little curly haired granddaughters.  Their little brothers had slicked down hair and they arrived with small metal model s of cars and soft stuffed toys to keep them busy.

 ***

Once her family members began arriving with their arms stacked with wrapped gifts and foods, we quickly put   out the colorful holiday food on the table Esther had prepared for this feast.  Esther served the very same punch every year. It is a fruity punch and we all expected to enjoy it. If she ever changed and used a different recipe, it would not be the same for us. We loved her frothy pink fruit punch.  When my father was still living, I brought him his favorite pie, an old fashioned Shoo-fly Pie or a mincemeat pie.

 ***

When the new house was nearly finished, Bill brought some spindly trees home from the woods. He planted them around the house and down the driveway.  One neighbor remarked, “Those trees from the woods will never grow.”  Tonight, the bare winter branches of the Maple and Sycamore Trees stand tall and strong in the early darkness of a Pennsylvania winter.  They were just like my Father and Mother might have imagined them forty years ago. Our Father’s hands were hardened by years of labor in the steel mill yet he carefully crafted this house and surrounding beauty of the yard through years of sacrifice and labor.

 ***

Tonight, in the gently beating heart of our family home,  our Mother’s swollen arthritic hands struggle to open the gifts are stacked around her. She looks so fragile and seems almost like she is drifting away to another place while we sit and watch her surrounded by her unopened gifts. These days, she struggles with almost everything. She often forgets ordinary things she had done for many years in earlier times of her life. She does not say very much tonight but she keeps on smiling. It is almost like she is part of a dream. She is like a Christmas angel, surrounded by her many offspring. She is quieter tonight. Sometimes she looks lost in the middle of the family celebration in the living room. At times, I watch her and try to imagine what she might be thinking about in the middle of this noisy laughter.

***

  As I glance over at her, I wonder if she is listening to the walls, hearing the voices from the past years.  Esther looks out over the five generations who have gathered here every Christmas Eve. The annual photos record the changes in the family. Small babies who once crawled on the floor now bring their own little babies to squirm through the ocean of wrapping paper. Bill is no longer in any of the family Christmas photos. Esther looks frail, and smaller than she looks in the old family photos.

 The living room has now become a witness in the house we filled with laughter, tears and secrets. The living room is part of a conspiracy tonight.

 We all know that this Christmas Eve gathering is Esther’s last Christmas Eve party in her home. We will never again be here as a family gathered around together. We are all facing a shift in our life. We will all be going in different directions after this night. While we smile and chat, we are lonely and deeply sad. I wrote a special poem about the house and gave a copy of it to every family member tonight.  There are tears behind our smiles. We all feel the meaning of the word “bittersweet.”

Epilogue:

The day after Christmas, I took my Mom to the local hospital for an evaluation. As we had all suspected, she was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She lived another eight years but we would never again be in the living room of our childhood home for another celebration… This was the end of all our happy holidays together as a family. Our Mother’s life changed and so did we.  Each Christmas Eve, the living room remains the same as we always knew it, in our memories.

 TONIGHT, I miss the Living Room!

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Lynda Lambert.  Copyright 2012 and 2014.  All rights reserved.