The Long Walk

It’s Hard To Let Go

The other day I saw a young mom watching her son head down the street. He was walking to school alone for the very first time. She said he had insisted that he was a big boy, and she didn’t have to walk him to school anymore. She was standing on the sidewalk, keeping a Mama Bear eye on her Cub. Eventually, he got to the end of the block, turned the corner, and passed out of sight. She heaved a huge sigh, and with tears in her eyes, went back into the house.

It took me back to the days when my boys went off to school alone for the first time. My son Jeffrey, who is very independent, went off on his own. Kevin, the life of the party, headed down the street with a couple of buddies, talking excitedly about the latest episode of Batman, the Animated Series. I was able to watch them as they headed down the street to the cut-through, the path that led to the school playground. Even though it was only 10 houses away, I still had that same uneasy feeling that young mom had when my boys passed out of sight.

Nowadays, it’s really hard for helicopter parents to let go. Terrifying security videos of children being snatched in plain sight just makes it worse. But children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent of all missing children. Parents get so used to watching their child’s every waking moment, those first steps of independence can be very hard on them. Don’t worry Mama and Papa Bear, it does get easier. Before you know it, you’ll be an old pro and ready for the next milestone. Watching your son or daughter drive solo for the first time. Take it from me, it will happen before you know it. For now, just take a deep breath, wipe away the tears, and head back into the house.

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Space Invaders!

Don’t Be Afraid to Say Something

I’ll admit it, I’m a talker. Give me the time of day and I’ll talk your ear off about anything under the sun. However, at the same time, I have a hard and fast rule about not invading anyone’s personal audio space, unless invited. Generally, I follow this rule to the letter. However, I have been known to break it from time to time. This rule is in place to keep me from barging in on someone’s thought process. Being a novice blog writer, I would hate to think I interrupted somebody’s inspiration for the “Novel of the Century”, with a comment like, “Hot enough for ya?”

That reminds me of something that happened the other day at the community center where I workout. It has a steam room, jacuzzi, lazy river, and a pool. There’s also a water slide if I ever feel the need to have my bathing suit disappear into my nether regions. After catching a “Casino Cold” from my recent trip to Las Vegas (where the temperature went from 65 in the casinos to a high of 107 outside), all I wanted to do was get into the steam room. Where hopefully, the cold would be broiled out of my system. However, best-laid plans and all that.

People do lots of weird stuff in the steam room. Sometimes they exercise in there, which is really inconsiderate to us folks who just want to relax. Last Friday, a guy was in there and he was stretching out his back, or so I thought. Not wanting to be a “Space Invader”, I didn’t say anything to him. The next guy who came in noticed the hunched over gentleman was shaking a little. He asked if he was okay and got no response. We hauled him out of there, and after he recovered, he said he had completely blacked out. If the other guy hadn’t come in and said something, I might have left that poor man in there after my five minutes were up. What this taught me was something we have heard since 9/11. If you see something, say something! Don’t be afraid to be a “Space Invader”. Somebody’s health might just depend on it,

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The Vacation Mindset

How To Enjoy The Process

I mentioned to somebody the other day that I really enjoy going to the airport nowadays. It has ceased to be a hassle and has become part of the overall vacation experience. It’s all about adjusting your mindset. Being stuck in traffic on the way to the airport is just a reminder that you’re already on vacation. All of your travel companions in the cars around you are just heading to another day at the sweatshop. Not us! Woo Hoo! The same feeling hits me in random parking garages. I get flashes of parking a rental car in a resort garage. That vacation feeling hits me sometimes, even if I’m just paying my taxes at city hall.

It’s all about slipping into The Vacation Mindset. Pulling into the offsite airport parking lot is always followed by the frantic effort to unload the car before the shuttle pulls up. Upon boarding, my wife and I will often ask where everyone is headed. The business travelers look at my cargo shorts with envy as we catch the ride over to the terminal for our flight to Las Vegas, Florida, or Hawaii. Follow that up with our pre-vacation meal at McDonald’s or Starbucks and we’re definitely getting into the groove. As we sit at the gate reading, listening to music, or lightly napping, it’s all part of the experience. Even lining up to board the plane can be enjoyable if you chit-chat with your linemates. “How about those Lions?” The response, “Ugh!” See, we’re making friends already!

When my wife and I arrive at our condo resort destination, there was always one hour of each trip I would dread. Going grocery shopping in the morning. However, now we make it part of our vacation ritual. As soon as we arrive, we drop our bags at the condo and go out for a nice dinner. Either down by the pool bar, or at a local restaurant. Now, instead of hauling our butts out of bed in the morning to an empty kitchen, we force ourselves to take a post-meal walk in the grocery store. An added bonus is less impulse buying on a full stomach! There’s enjoyment in every phase of travel if you recognize it for what it is, VACATION! It’s just all part of the process. Aloha!

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Newspaper Birds

Sharing a Peaceful Morning With My Feathered Friends

One morning around 5:30 a.m., I heard a particularly loud bird singing his brains out. It wouldn’t be notable if all of our windows weren’t closed. However, we were in the middle of an early summer heat wave and our house had been closed up tight for days. I was instantly taken back to my time as a Detroit News paperboy. Even though I was up before dawn on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I always kind of liked it. It was just me and the morning songbirds, while the rest of the neighborhood was still fast asleep. I pictured myself as an early morning Santa Claus, with a bag full of newspapers instead of toys.

When we moved to St. Clair Shores, my younger brother got a paper route with the Detroit Free Press. Unlike the News, the Free Press was a morning paper. This would mean that at least twice per winter, I would be rudely awoken from a dream about Charlie’s Angels because my brother was “Too Sick” to do his route. Uh huh. Curiously, this “Illness” always seemed to coincide with a temperature of about 15 degrees, and a stiff breeze blowing in off Lake St. Clair. Trying to decipher his address list, by the light of a cold moon, had me longing for my old paper route in Detroit.

However, the News had its own unique brand of fun. It had monstrously large editions on Wednesdays and Sundays. Trying to get all of those papers precariously balanced on my bike’s bullhorns and saddlebags was a job worthy of a structural engineer. Throw some rain or snow into the mix and things got really interesting. However, after a couple of hours of paper delivery on Sunday morning, I would treat myself to a couple of donuts and a chocolate milk from the local bakery. After a hard morning’s work, biting into a delicious jelly-filled donut would result in a sigh of delight. I had a little money in my pocket and life was good. Sing me home songbirds, maybe I can catch a nap before church.

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Reading Is Fundamental

Curl Up With a Good Book

Watching Saturday morning cartoons as kids, we were always snowed under with commercials for sugary cereals, and the latest “Must Have” toys. However, there was a recurring public service announcement that kept popping up called RIF, or Reading Is Fundamental.  You couldn’t get through an episode of Jonny Quest without seeing it.  RIF tried to inspire us kids to get away from the TV for a while and get lost in a good book. And miss the latest adventures of Jonny and Hadji? Never!

Nowadays, our choices of reading material are vast, as well as the devices to read them on. We’ve got paperbacks, hardcovers, phones, kindles, ipads and computers.  Not to mention audio books. You name it, we’ve got it. However, what happens when you have all these options to read? You may find that you don’t take time to read at all. At least that’s what happened to me. Life is so busy these days and there are just too many choices. It’s like surfing through Cable TV for an hour without really watching anything. Time wasted.

When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader. If I got hold of a good book, I read it from cover to cover as fast as my current reading level would allow. However, I’m a slow reader, and that limits my ability to get through even the best Dean Koontz book quickly. Even my own sister’s book (shameless plug: Power Play by Cynthia Lambert) took me a while. Though I must admit, I savored that one. Now that Fall is approaching, I look forward to one of my favorite activities. Going into our basement with a cup of hot cider, flipping on the fireplace, and reading a good book by the glow of electronic flames. It doesn’t get much better than that. Reading is indeed, fundamental.

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No Time to Kill

Don’t Miss an Opportunity

Putting my phone on The Universal Playlist yesterday, I heard the song No Time To Kill by Clint Black. The following line really struck me.

“The highest cost of livin’s dyin’, that’s one everybody pays
So have it spent before you get the bill, there’s no time to kill”

No truer words were ever spoken. Especially as we remember 9/11.

For Baby Boomers like me, there are certain moments when you remember exactly where you were when a tragic event occurred. Since I was only 4 years old, I vaguely remember the Kennedy Assassination. However, I do remember my mother was so upset by it, she went into labor with my baby brother two days later.

Then came John Lennon’s murder and the Reagan Assassination attempt. This was followed by the Challenger Disaster, then finally, 9/11. I was in a training class in Troy, Michigan. After the second plane hit the World Trade Center, our class was canceled and I returned home to my wife.  She’s a government employee, who happened to have the day off.

Life can be pretty dangerous these days. Knuckleheads texting and driving, street crime, drunk drivers, terrorism, and just random acts of crazy going on in this world. That said, please take some time to hold your loved ones close tomorrow. Give them a hug and tell them you love them. Not just on 9/11, but often. You never know if it will be the last time you’ll see them this side of Heaven.

This article is dedicated to all of the First Responders who lost their lives on 9/11, as well as the family members and friends they left behind.

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Back to School

The Party’s Over Kids!

The time has come. The chorus of morning birdsong has fallen to a whisper. The air is turning cooler (eventually) and there’s morning dew on the grass. It can only mean one thing. Fall is finally here (unofficially). I know the actual date is weeks away and it’s still 90 flipping degrees outside. However, I have always believed that fall begins the day after Labor Day. When the air becomes filled with the sounds of neighborhood rugrats, emerging from their summer cocoons, and getting their little butts back to school.

For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than walking my dog on a crisp autumn morning and listening to the kids laughing and playing on the playground. Actually, a moment like that is what inspired me to write this blog. Hearing those sounds takes me back to when my own sons were running around that same playground. I used to work afternoons, so most of the after-school activities were handled by my wife. I handled the day shift. I got the boys out the door on time (most of the time), and dropped off their lunches and homework when they inevitably forgot them. Thinking of those days brings a tear to my eye, now that my boys are 29 and 25 respectively.

Back in the olden days, before dads got dragged into daily school activities, I was a Trailblazer. From the moment my oldest son Jeffrey started nursery school, the group of parents dropping off their kids were known as, Mr. Lambert and the Rest of the Moms. Eventually, as years passed, more dads got into the mix. However, for a long time, it was just me and the moms. Maybe that’s why I have such a strong reaction to hearing the kids on the playground. It takes me back to my son Kevin, being greeted by his friends like Norm from Cheers! (KEVIN!) Enjoy your playtime kids. Before you know it, you’ll be in your 30s and dropping off your own kids. As I said, enjoy it while you can.

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Going to The Chapel

I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday

This past Wednesday, August 29th, was our Wedding Anniversary. My wife and I were married in 1986, so that means we’ve been together for 32 years. Quite an accomplishment in this day and age. However, it’s more of a testimony to my wife’s patience, and her ability to put up with me for all these years. At the risk of getting misty-eyed, I wanted to relate the story of our Wedding Day.

It was an overcast day, but thankfully, there was no rain in the forecast. Anyone who has planned a wedding will probably tell you the same story. All of a sudden, the preparation and planning is over. Everything is happening at lightspeed and you barely have a chance to take it all in. In spite of all that, I remember the day quite clearly. I mowed the lawn as my bride-to-be made the rounds between hair, makeup, and finally the dress. All I had to do was take a shower, put on my tux, and wait for my brother to pick me up.

While I was cutting the lawn, I heard Chapel Of Love (Going to The Chapel) by The Dixie Cups on our local oldies station KISS-FM. Little did I know that many of the bridal party members had heard the song as well. I think my brother mentioned it when he picked me up. Later that evening, a plot was hatched among the members of the bridal party and the band. Once a sufficient amount of liquid courage had been downed by this impromptu choir, they serenaded us. Chapel Of Love never sounded so good.

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Happy Anniversary, Kathy. I Love You.  

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Living Your Life vs Documenting It

The Title Says It All!

In these days of self-obsession, it’s rare to find anyone who’s actually living life and not just documenting it through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. There’s an interesting TV show I’ve been watching called Reverie. The main character is a college professor who teaches her students how to interact with each other and sharpen their observational skills. She says that most young people won’t take their eyes off their phone for half a second, let alone look each other in the eye. Check out any group of young adults. Are any of them actually talking to each other? If they are, do they look each other in the eye? The art of conversation is becoming a Lost Art indeed.

I like to dictate some of these articles while I’m on my morning walk with my dog. I’m a victim of Phone Tunnelvision myself. I just walked into a tree branch full of wet leaves! Yuck! We’ve all seen the videos of people falling into fountains or stumbling down stairs while looking at their phones. If nothing else, they are providing endless hours of entertainment for viewers of YouTube and America’s Funniest Videos. After my interaction with the tree branch, I did a quick look around to see if anyone was watching, shook the water out of my hair, then quickened my pace towards home.

Even though kids these days don’t talk to each other much, they sure take a boatload of pictures (at arm’s length). My old friends Jim and Joe recently joined me at our local minor league ballpark, Jimmy John’s Field. The place has all the ambiance of a small town ballpark, but it’s just a few minutes north of Detroit (and the abysmal Tigers). Since we hadn’t seen each other in a while, I wanted to take a picture to commemorate the evening. I realized the next morning that I had completely forgotten to take the picture. However, we had a few beers and a lot of laughs, so I don’t really need a photo to remember the night. It was a true nostalgic evening. I think we all need more of those and fewer selfies.

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SuperFish

What Happens When You’re the Last Fish in the Tank?

A few years ago, I cleaned out an acrylic cookie jar and turned it into a fish tank. It has worked out very well. Since it has a watertight lid, it‘s great for traveling. Putting a spear plant in the tank for oxygen has turned out to be a perfect ecosystem for our four guppies and one ghost shrimp. They were all very colorful fish and I loved seeing them chase each other around the tank nonstop. Honestly, they wore me out just watching them play tag.

Then, as will happen, they started to die off. First Ghost and Pumpkin, followed by Sunshine, then Blue. Now only Wolverine remains. Aptly named, he just keeps on keepin’ on. He doesn’t swim around as much as he used to and seems lonely now that he has the tank all to himself.  I was thinking about picking up a few more fish to keep him company. However, my wife and I travel a lot. So I have decided that when Wolverine’s time comes, that will be it for our fish.

Currently, he is watching my dog Skittles as she snoozes in her favorite chair next to the fish tank. They have gotten along well over the years, outside of a one scary moment when Skittles broke into a bag of dog food. She was so parched at the end of her feast that she drank a load of water out of the tank. That must have scared the fish flakes out of Wolverine. He responds to me as well, swimming up to the front of the tank whenever I walk by. This makes me sad. Is this how some of us will eventually end up? Swimming around in a tank, all by ourselves, because everyone else has moved on to that big aquarium in the sky? I resolve to spend more time watching him interact with Skittles and the world at large. However, his name is Wolverine, so he may be around for many years yet to come! Stranger things.

(Author’s Note: Unfortunately we lost Wolverine on Thanksgiving 2018. He was a good fish and will be missed!)

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