Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013: All Good Things Must Come to an End

My last cup of free Starbucks coffee

The last day of January marked my last day of free coffee from Starbucks. My Aunt Kathy gave me this spectacular gift. For every day in January, I needed to only present the cup at any Starbucks and they filled it for free. The gift that never stops (until today).

And I wasn't going to miss a day of coffee. It traveled with me to Arizona. It traveled with me in my car each day. It became an attachment to my January being. It became a competition for me. I HAD to get my free cup of coffee each day. It felt a bit like playing the monopoly game at McDonald's. Except I was collecting my freebie rather than a token toward a prize. I am guessing my Aunt Joan felt this same urge when scurrying around Omaha to collect every beanie baby from the McDonald's promotion of years past.

I like to say I'm really not that competitive, but am now questioning this assertion. By gosh, I did get my 31 cups of free coffee; even if it meant going through the drive-through with my jammies on at 9:30 at night. The question I need to reconcile in my head... was my excessive coffee consumption of last month a guilty indulgence or a competition on not being denied a freebie from Starbucks?  Hmmmmmm....

January 30, 2013: A Snow Day

Grant enjoying a surprise snow day
Not only was yesterday a snow day, but it was a surprise. Telling the boys that there was no school was similar to them opening an unexpected Christmas gift. They hadn't a clue of a snow day potential when they went to bed the night before. The unexpected nature of this little gift from nature put a whole new spin on the day.

I checked the weather when I awoke. The wind was howling outside, so I knew something was brewing. "Schools Closed" was an headline. I first woke Ben and shared this development. He shot up and asked "really?" and then a jubilant "yes!!" Although he later said he didn't remember me coming in, I awoke Grant and told him the same news. They both nestled back into their comfy slumber. I nestled in front of my computer; jammies and slippers intact.

At 9:15 my phone rang with an incoming call from Grant. As I wondered why he was calling me from down the hall, I heard his panicked voice waking Ben up. Not remembering my early morning no school news, he saw the time and thought he was late for school. After the shock and dismay of my presence and reassurance that it was, in fact, a snow day; Grant started screaming for joy. You would have thought he won the lottery.

The morning progressed with the soundtrack to Rock of Ages blaring on Ben's lap top while the two boys enjoyed their morning of freedom together. There was an unexpected elation in the air; different from the snow days of past. After thinking through the different feel of the day, I realized it was attributed to the element of surprise.

I can't think of another snow day where the kids weren't asking me over and over again the night before, "Mom, do you think they'll cancel school?" They would pray for it and many times count on it. This time, the expectation escaped all of us. The result was the gift of a free day. Not an expectation.

It can all be summed up with Grant's statement to me this morning when talking about the previous day of no school. "It was so random, Mom." Yep...awe and amazement. Sometimes the unexpected isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 29, 2013: Stayin' Alive

Disco dancing with my mom and dad (Aunt Lynne in background)

My theme song is the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive". And I have no idea why. I would like to tell you that there is some great story behind it; like that I played the song over and over while on a sinking ship (and survived, of course). But no such story. I just randomly chose it as my theme song one day. I was reminded of my long forgotten theme song tonight when the Bee Gee hit "Jive Talkin" came on my radio. It caused me to pause and ask the question "why on earth did I choose Stayin' Alive as my theme song???"

I believe the idea of a theme song stemmed back to the "Ally McBeal" television series. I loved watching the Ally shows. This was back in the days when I actually watched TV which was the direct correlation to having babies and small children. The show aired from 1997- 2002; my sweet spot of child bearing and rocking children to sleep. The lull of a TV often accompanied this venture.

Ally was known for her theme song "Searchin' my Soul". This was a perfect song for her quirky character. I wanted a theme song too. What kept surfacing in my mind was "Stayin' Alive" and it stuck. Maybe it was the late night baby feedings and juggling motherhood with career aspirations that resonated with a stayin' alive feel. I really don't know the answer, but it felt right and I always go with my gut. So I secretly declared it my theme song.

The Saturday Night Fever movie and vinyl album were popular in my house as a child. This was evidenced by my dad's silk disco shirt and our love for disco dancing. Those were good memories. I did own the Saturday Night Fever CD as part of my vintage collection of the 90's and played it often on my CD player at work. As evidenced by the lyrics, Stayin' Alive is actually about an angry man from New York who was a women's man and had no time to talk. In my defense, there is reference a mother though.

Now that I am a mature 45 years old and have passed the survival modes from many fronts, I think it's time for a new theme song. Although I am not going to commit yet, I do have some songs that come to mind. This time I actually need to Google the lyrics before committing. I'm seriously considering "Somewhere over the Rainbow" as sung by the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. open for suggestions....

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013: Fun with Fashion

There is a story behind every outfit...
Today's excerpt is going to be a bit of a fashion blog. The motivation behind this theme stems from compliments thrown my way on the outfit I wore this weekend (picture below). After posting on FaceBook, I got several "likes" on the outfit as much as the picture. My knee jerk reaction was to tell the story behind the clothing.

When I dressed up for dinner last night (picture above...thanks to Garrett, my new fashion photographer) and reviewed my wardrobe choice, I was again reminded that most all of my articles of clothing have a story behind them. Weird, but true. Let me explain this phenomenon.

I really don't like to shop. And I really don't like to shop without a reason. For instance, you would never hear me say "let's go to the mall" or "shall we just walk around Village Pointe?". There is no "Born to Shop" bumper sticker on my car. Like my aversion to chocolate, I wasn't born with this female gene.

But as described in a prior blog; although I don't like to shop, I have great inventory. This is where you need to stay with me. I very much love all apparel and great wearable designs. Since I find "blind shopping" an incredible waste of time and mindlessly searching through racks the sensation of finger nails on a chalkboard, I would describe myself as a destination shopper. I buy things that catch my eye (many times at random places). Since shopping is selective and usually at unique places, every piece of my clothing has a bit of history; a story.

When I received the nice compliments yesterday, my first thoughts revolved around the great stories behind this outfit that I threw together. The red boots have been a very popular accessory. I purchased them after winning the 2005 Alamo Bowl. As we stood cheering on the Huskers in the fourth quarter of the game, I turned to my sister-in-law and made the bold statement, "If we win this game, I am buying a pair of red cowboy boots." We beat Michigan 32-28 and I bought the last pair of red cowboy boots in the huge Shepler's boot warehouse in San Antonio, Texas the next day.

What is the story behind the colorful shirt I am wearing, you ask? After sushi and wine happy hour with my sister-in-laws one Friday afternoon, I saw it on a rack (along with the grey dress pictured above) walking to my car. What brilliant marketing to have a clothing boutique adjoining a popular uptown sushi bar! Brilliant. I never would have walked in the door if I hadn't had to walk through the store to my car. Of course the encouragement of my sister-in-laws and nieces on the "smart look" of my choices only fueled my fire.

The jeans were purchased from Nordstrom's in Chicago on my 42nd birthday. I flew in for the weekend to run a half marathon with my cousins. I also convinced an entourage of friends to join us for a girls weekend. My friend, Staci (a self-professed jeans snob), was determined to outfit me in the perfect fitting jean. She literally threw jeans at me for an hour, carefully critiquing each pair I tried on. After sixty minutes of trying on pair after pair and retail onlookers gathering, she choose the perfect pairs for me. They cost me twice as much as I would have ever paid on my own, but three years later they are stilled crowned winners and worn often.

Since I am now on a roll and can't stop...the black boots I am wearing in the top picture...what is the story, you ask? Garrett picked them out. Two years ago we flew to Chicago to travel to a Purdue football game. After lunch in the Sears Tower, we decided to check out the Miracle Mile. Although neither of us are shoppers, we decided that in addition to Garrett's Popcorn (a different Garrett) and Starbucks coffee, we should probably shop for something else. I love boots and he needed a new pair of dress shoes, so we had a little fun in the shoe stores. His winners were found at Cole Haan and mine at Nine West. Come to think of it, I ended up buying a pair at Cole Haan too...

So next time you see me in an outfit that you feel deserves a compliment, ask for the story...there's always a story and I have no problem sharing it :)

The "thrown together" outfit that got some compliments
(oh...and earrings were a gift from Aunt Barbara)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013: Working on the Smile

Bad smile issues started in kindergarten
So smiling for pictures isn't my forte...I get it. I was reminded of this by Garrett and Mom this weekend. As the two of them gave me tips on how to mirror my nature smile (which they say is nice) when posing for a picture (which I know is bad), based on their responding laughs; my attempts were less than stellar. Garrett was a little less specific with his advice of "just smile like you always do" as opposed to mom's "I heard the movie stars put their tongue against the back of their teeth."

When I tried the tongue behind my teeth trick and asked for their thoughts, Mom roared with laughter. And Garrett said, "you look like you're putting your tongue behind your teeth." So much for that strategy.

Sometimes I just plain over think things. Garrett can vouch for this as he has explained to me numerous times the proper squat position in skiing and I still don't have it perfected. My trainer at the gym marvels at my dead lifts, but when he adds in an extra movement to a clean lift, I flounder. "You're over thinking it," he tells me.

That's what I do when I smile for a picture. I over think it. I think about smiling normal and then I think about it some more and then I try really hard to smile normal. But it never looks normal when I look at the picture. Usually if we take about three, one might look half way normal.

My kids give me such a hard time for smiling all the time. You would think I could do it innately; camera or no camera. Their favorite line to friends is "Mom smiles all the her!". Ben swears I smiled all the way through a funeral once. Untrue, but I will let him hold on to that.

Garrett says to just think about something that makes me smile and don't think about the smile itself. Hmmmm...just a happy thought and not really thinking about the exercise of smiling? Sounds logical. I'll give it a shot...has to be easier than pushing my tongue against my teeth.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26, 2013: The Vole Story

Rambo before escaping out the doggy door
Once upon a time....we had a cat named Rambo. This little calico kitty was an adventurer. My dad, a farm boy at heart, always said he admired Rambo for his hunter skills. Although Rambo only lived with us for a short period of time, he was pure entertainment.

Rambo's morning ritual included slipping out the doggy door and hunting mice. My neighbor told me that Rambo greeted her each morning at her deck door with his unfortunate prey. So proud. He once brought a baby bunny into our basement to show my boys. They were playing video games with friends as Rambo dropped the very alive bunny at their feet. As they screamed trying to catch the scared and hopping creature, Rambo sat calmly as if to say "look what I found!" Always a show off.

Rambo's hunting skills did not directly affect me until one fateful summer night several years ago. Mom and Dad were staying with us and sleeping in the basement. On the particular night of this story, we were all in bed. Ben's bedroom sits at one end of the hallway on the top level of my house and mine on the other.

All was quiet on this particular night. I was reading when I heard a high-pitched screeching sound coming from the hallway. "A bat," I thought. So as any good mother would do, I locked my bedroom door and piled pillows next to it. Kids? What kids? Every man for himself.

I soon was reminded that there were, in fact, children in my house. A beep came from my phone as I received a text message from Ben. "What's that noise in hallway?" My response..."a bat. lock your door".

Although I wasn't about to unlock my door, my maternal instinct was (kind of) kicking in. Hmmmm...what to do? I quickly remembered my parents in the basement and a land line phone that spoke the name of the caller. So I called the home phone.

I later found out that as the phone rang and the woman's voice provided the details "call from Sandra Lane", my dad in his sleepy state asked Mom, "Where is Sandy??? Did she go out and needs to be picked up?"

We will rack this inaccurate accusation up to flashbacks to my teenage years. Although it is important to note that I was innocently in my own room, my dad was obviously having a hard time adjusting to my recent revert back to single status. In his defense, I was 19 years old the last time I was a single girl, so this was new territory for him. I later gave him a bye for his forgetfulness that I had since matured past late night curfew-calls.

After my dad got his wits about him, I told him of the apparent bat in the hallway. Ben and I continued to text one another, but neither budging from the safety of our bedrooms. We could soon hear my dad, the hero bat slayer, saving the day.

With broom in hand and following the apparent commotion on the main level of my house, my dad coaxed Ben and I out of our rooms. The other boys and Mom soon followed. His days on the farm proved a valuable asset to the dwellers of my house as he explained that the bat was actually a vole (rodent that looks like a mouse without a tail). Rambo's quest of the night was the vole and he choose to bring his capture into the house.

The screech was the vole's survival cry. Rambo had eventually taken his prey of the night from the hallway to the downstairs bathroom to finish the kill. My dad's remedy to the situation was to simply close the bathroom door and let Rambo "finish off the vole". Lovely. So much for good karma in this house. We now wore the blood of a vole. Rambo finished his business, Dad cleaned up after, and we all went to bed. Rambo was proud.

Unfortunately, Rambo's sense of adventure ultimately resulted in his early demise. He ended up on busy 168th Street during a morning commute and did not win the battle with the car. His hunting days were over. Grant cried many tears not understanding that Rambo, the adventurer, took many risks that unfortunately caused his untimely end. R.I.P. Rambo the Hunter...but have to note that I haven't had a bunny, bat or vole in my house since.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25, 2013: Not Always a Frequent Flyer

Grandpa and I...the year he arranged my first flight on a crop duster
One would probably be surprised with my current frequent flyer status that I didn't step foot on a plane until the age of nineteen. With the exception of earning a "First Time Flyer" certificate in the 70's after a scary ride on a crop duster, this is a true statement.

Our family vacations during my childhood were road trips. We took annual trips to Okoboji and Omaha; sprinkled in with ocassional adventures north to Minnesota and south to Kansas City. There were no flights to the coastal states or worrying about checking bags or catching flights. Our worries were on rolling the seat belts to get them out of our way and setting of the imginary lines in between my brothers and I in the back seat of the car.

This all changed when my young and courageous parents decided to move from their comfortable existence in Remsen, Iowa to the sunny elements of Kingman, Arizona. This big life change (for all of us) occured in 1986.

My parents purchased tickets for my brother, Matt, and I to visit them in the desert state during the holidays the winter of 86. Since Matt and I were attending college in Iowa, our Grandpa Gib, still living in the comfortable confines of Remsen, agreed to drive us to the Sioux City airport for our early morning flight.

As I drove to the airport this morning, I remembered a similiar cold morning twenty-six years prior when I boarded my first Boeing plane. Hundreds of flights later, I now have the pre-flight rountine down with ease. That morning many years ago, included a grandfather who liked to be early and would make sure our pre-board was without a hitch as well. In fact, he was a bit obsessive as he insisted that we arrive two hours prior "just in case".

The pressure was on as I blew dry my hair with the sound of my grandpa's car running in the car port with him sitting in it. I think his plan was to get us there three hours early. He patiently waited and warmed up the car in the dead of winter. The hum of the engine was a constant reminder to hurry up; we needed to go.

Matt was a frequent flyer at this point in our young lives. He had just completed a two year stint in the Army which took him on many assignments, including Germany. Planes were an old hat to him. He had brotherly fun as he sensed my nervousness on my first flight. This started with made up stories on what "could happen" if the de-icing fluid, in fact, didn't work. On every bump of turbulence, he would grab my arm or make comments like "that's never happened on other flights I was on...wonder if there is a problem???" Gotta love the teasing of an older brother.

After a safe landing in Las Vegas that cold morning in 1986 and many, many flights later; I am now a seasoned traveler. I trust in the de-icer and don't give turbulance a second thought. Matt and I haven't flown together since this flight. And Grandpa Gib would not be happy with my habit of cutting it close with typical airport arrival of less than an hour before flight time (with the added element of TSA). As a side note, I am writing this blog on the airplane mid-flight to Las wi-fi is dreamy. Yes indeed, times have certainly changed since that first flight out of the SC airport.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013: It's 60 Degrees Somewhere...

Garrett, Dad and Mom...road trip...fall 2009

And I'm flying there tomorrow.

It's overdue. We will call the 60 degree weather and sunny Arizona skies "frosting on the cake" after enduring the frosty chills of Nebraska. The real reason for the trip is to visit my parents...long overdue, visit Garrett's dad...overdue, and visit Garrett...necessary.

I haven't seen my mom and dad since last May. I think it's now been two years since I've been to Kingman. Yes, this trip is long overdue. I got used to them being around as they have stayed with me a lot over the last few years. Eventually they "weaned" me off relying on them. Probably similar to when I was a child, they pushed me out of the nest again (or left the nest). I miss them and although the time will be short, I very much look forward to it.

Grant and I visited Larry, Garrett's dad, last February in Pheonix. We had a blast with Larry and his girlfriend, Judi. He is an awesome "almost" father-in-law to me. With him splitting his time between Indiana and Arizona and with Garrett in Denver (and obviously me in Nebraska) our paths cross rarely. This visit is overdue. Can't wait.

I get to see Garrett tomorrow. Wow...I had no idea how long two weeks really was until I met Garrett. FYI...It's a LONG time. Seeing your "almost" spouse on an every two week schedule is not for the faint of heart. We call it the marathon. On those occasions when we get to slip in an extra trip between the two weeks of separation, it makes a huge difference.

Early on I used the analogy of our two week separation to running a marathon. Once you run a marathon (two week separation), a half-marathon (one week separation) is run with ease, and a 5K (few days)...a walk in the park. So the latest marathon is almost over. There is never enough time to spend with those you love, so this weekend we will cherish the short time we have together and with our parents.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013: Tales of a Bad Haircut

My handsome son when his hair saw better days
I just got a call from my ex-husband. "Is Ben at your house?"

"No." <pause>. He went on to tell me that Ben had called him this morning, complaining of illness. According to Ben, he was a prisoner to the bathroom and unable to go to school. The phone call to me related to confusion on whose house Ben was at. Certainly not mine, since I had been working from home all day. And not a peep on my cell from my wonder child #2. bullshit meter went off. Something was not right with this story. The story I  heard and the evidence I observed were completely conflicting (for the record, I have a secret desire to be Sandy: C.S.I. Agent and think I would be quite good at it!)

After hearing Ben's tale as told to me by his father and then tracing back my steps and observations of the morning, my bullshit meter was off the chart. Not a word was spoken by Ben complaining of pain or ailments at 7:15 when we were all rolling out of the house. When I asked what he wanted for breakfast and he eagerly asked for a banana, there were no hints of stomach pain that mysteriously showed up less than an hour later. I noted the time 7:35 as Grant and I pulled out of the driveway and made the mental note that Ben was cutting it close. His school start time is 7:45  with a 5 minute drive to school (on a good day).

Grant was safely delivered to school at 7:50 and with a quick trip to Starbucks, I arrived home to the aftermath of Ben, but without his physical presence. Within that mere 35 minutes since I had left my home, every light was left on and I could see the remnants of a Ben Lane fire drill. In the bathroom was a surprise pile of hair and clippers thrown to the side. Hmmmm...

After a call to Ben's girlfriend's mom to verify her whereabouts of the day and a call back from the M.I.A child who had since been located at his dad's house, the story was suddenly falling together and my bullshit meter correct. I called his dad back to share my suspicions only to find that he reached the same answer: Ben tried to throw in a hasty haircut (sense of time is a great weakness for this sweet child) before school with the end result; a bad hair cut. In his brother's words (our best material witness), "it was a butcher job".

Evidently he drove to school, panicked, and then called his dad complaining of stomach pains. He "thought they were temporary" and he could return to school later. After driving to his dad's, he begged his older brother, Zach, to correct his wrong. No such luck for Ben as Zach was running out to door for work as well. So the "stomach ache" got worse and the hair, no better.

According to Zach, Ben complained of a clipper malfunction at my house, thus the butcher job on his lovely head. Mother's literal interpretation: He was in a hurry and pushed down too hard. Overly exerted pressure on clippers results in the blade falling off. This results in going from a  #2 (preferred clipper blade) haircut to a no guard haircut (un-preferred shave to the scalp).

So mystery solved. Both Scott and I got a laugh out of it as we envisioned Ben trying to work his way around this morning debacle. Neither of us could really blame him on the panic attack. Too bad he couldn't wear a hat to school or doo-rag???  Hmmmm....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013: I am a Salt Addict

I wanted to title this blog "I Don't Like Chocolate". But the typical responses of "you can't be female" or "no way!" detracted from the admission of my counter addiction: anything close to a chip or cracker. The Lays catch phrase "you can't eat just one" definitely applies to me.

So, yes it is true. I don't like chocolate. In particular, I hate the aftertaste. Although I ate some chocolate as a kid, I really thought of it more as requirement of childhood rather than a craving. I did have a bad incident with a cheap chocolate Easter bunny. Whether my throwing up was due to the very chocolate bunny (no hollowness in that mound of magic) or my excessive consumption of hard-boiled Easter eggs will remain one of life's great mysteries. I do like to blame my chocolate aversion on that fateful bunny though.

One could assume I would be thin and modelesque with a diet less this food choice , but unfortunately this is not the case. As fate would have it, my lack of desire to consume chocolate has been replaced with the calorie for calorie substitute of anything salty and processed. My guilty pleasures include greasy BBQ potato chips (the cheaper the brand, the better the chip), any cracker ever made, popcorn, and tortilla chips. Throw in a salt-rimmed margarita with chips and salsa and I am one happy girl.

I am going to have to blame my chip fetish on having an uncle who drove the Hiland chip truck as a child. We had free reign to grab those little packages of pleasure whenever visiting his home in LeMars. At my own home growing up, my brothers would hide the Saltine crackers to ensure there would be some left for their bowls of chili. Guilty as charged. So as the Doritos are calling my name from the downstairs pantry, I will sip on my healthy water and convince myself that an apple (green with salt, mind you) is a much better choice.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21, 2013: Nieces are a Blessing

Sweet Ky-Ky lovin' up Grant

I don't have daughters. That is a true statement. But I do have nieces. And lots of them. I love my nieces.

They have filled my world full of tiaras and Magical Mystery Bus Tours. They have loved my children and filled my backyard with laughter. They let me teach them to sew and have humored me in days full of crafts and cooking. They have taught my boys that girls can hold their own. And by bringing their many friends to my home, they've given my boys their first crushes.

So, yes, I am a mother of all boys. But I am very lucky to be called Aunt Sandy by an entourage of beautiful and talented young women. You make me happy and give me many reasons to smile. Peace out and super great :)

Love ~ Aunt Sandy

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013: 2111 S 164th Avenue

Neighbor kids playing with Zach (far right) in our front yard
We played Apples to Apples with friends last night. Lots of fun and laughs. Katie and Jim, old friends who I haven't seen for a while, joined us as well. Katie and I caught up on on all things healthcare and life (Katie's lifelong career has been in healthcare) and then planted ourselves next to each other during our Apples to Apples standoff.

As conversations filled the time between hands, Katie shared with me that her oldest daughter bought her first house. Coincidentally, it was just houses up from my first home. As we went through the specific locale and walked through each house in the neighborhood (some homeowners names still familiar and others, not a clue), my memories of our first home flooded my mind.

We bought our first house in April of 1992 on 2111 S. 164th Avenue. All three boys were born when we lived in that house...many great memories. I often said that we left good karma for future home buyers. It was home to us until 2000 when Grant joined our family. We outgrew our comfortable little house in the cozy Woodhaven neighborhood. I loved talking with Katie about our old neighbors that still lived on our street; now good neighbors to her daughter and son-in-law.

I haven't thought about our old house in a long time. I do get attached to homes. We've lived in our current house for twelve years. Only two houses in my many years in Omaha. And I lived in the same house growing up in Remsen. I definitely don't carry the nomad gene. I just don't like to move. My son Ben is the same way. Although he was four when we moved from 164th Avenue, he still brings up missing our large backyard and the secret cubby in the room he shared with Zach.

I still consider our first neighbors as lifelong friends. The many neighbor kids hung out at our house and were an extension of my own family. They were the older kids to my tots and played for hours in our backyard playground and with our front yard motorized toys. The adults helped each other out and spent much time talking in our front yards while watching our children at play.

There was old Joe who lived two houses up. He drove a baby blue Cadillac and would honk and wave to us each time he drove by. For our next-door-neighbor's high school graduation, Joe's gift to him was a box of wine. Note that the gift recipient was three years short the legal drinking age. This gift reigns as a cult classic. It sure gave us a chuckle and I'm certain the boy's mom later enjoyed the white zin flowing out of the cubed cardboard box. Old Joe died of cancer a few years later.

Yep, I still miss the old neighborhood and the great neighbors. Don't get me wrong, I love my current neighbors just as much. Just a different era and a different time in my life. I spent many hours rocking those baby boys at 2111 S. 164th Avenue. Definitely some good karma.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013: Hamsters and Hot Tubs

Meet Doug Martin
I am going to start this blog story with my ending line. Welcome to my world. Ben, Grant and I appear to have added a hamster to our home (although I am told the residence is temporary). I woke up this morning to chlorine filled towels on the floor, a back light left on by the hot tub, and a hamster in the basement. My apologies to the creators of the movie "The Hangover", as I am mimicking their reverse story line technique in the telling of my tale.

Now that you know the final outcome, let's start at the beginning. I was sitting in a meeting late in the day yesterday with two male colleagues when a text came through from Ben, my 16 year old.

"Can me and Valerie go in the Hottub tonight" (4:49 p.m.)

As I read the text to the guys, conspiracy theories erupted on what Ben and his girlfriend were really up too. According to the grown boys (men) sitting next to me, Ben was up to something. Perhaps trying to time my entrance home? Was no good happening in my house as we spoke? Grant had his buddy, Brendon, overnight so there were plenty of eyes at my house (and believe me, Grant doesn't miss a chaperon I have). As we theorized on the possibilities, a second text came through.

"How bout 6 so we can go buy the hamster" (5:13 p.m.)

Huh??? A hamster? I read the new text aloud and our theories now changed to a cry for attention. Was he really begging me to come home as he launched these torpedoes? Certainly there must be more to the story than the texts read. Some subliminal message that I needed to break. After a text response from me to hold off on both hot tub and hamster conversations until my arrival home, I headed west. My mind was swimming with ideas on what was really going on at the Lane house.

I needed to make a quick stop to see my nieces and friends at Roja. Pre-planned Happy Hour libations were happening and I had belated Christmas Goddaughter gifts to delivery. Minutes from home and with a text letting Ben know the timing of my arrival, I decided maybe a drink was a necessary accommodation for this Mom before dealing with code words "hamsters and hot tubs" the remainder of the night.

As I walked into the busy Mexican restaurant, I eyed Valerie's (Ben's girlfriend) mom sitting at the bar. After a quick greeting and pleasantries, she looked at her phone and said "So what is going on with the kids tonight...they are going in your hot tub and then buying a hamster??" Wow, maybe no code words or conspiracy theories involved. Could this actually be their idea of what to do at 6:00 on a Friday night?

Hmmmm...homeward bound and with a high level of curiosity, I was greeted by an empty house. No kids in the hot tub and no obvious signs of a hamster. I wasn't too worried about the hamster at this point as they didn't have the funds to purchase nor the consent of an adult (knew these rules from past experience).

Well, I was wrong on all counts. In came in four kids...two 16 year-olds and two 12 year-olds...with a hamster in a box. They excitedly told me how they pooled their money (Brendon with the highest ownership stake as he contributed $30 of $40...see the note he left his mother below) and Ben signed as an 18 year old to purchase little Doug Martin, the hamster. I guess they don't check I.D.'s at Pet Smart.

After a promise that Doug would permanently live at their dad's house and only visit mine (famous last words from kids of divorced parents), I resigned myself to my jammies and the welcoming screen of my laptop. Grant and Brendon took Doug into the basement. Ben and Val went in the hot tub. Welcome to my world.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 1013: It's all in the Details

Gotta love accessories with a pop...
I love clothes. There...I said it. It's a self-professed weakness. Although I love great style and apparel that reflects clean lines and a pop of color; my greater weakness lies in a pair of kick-ass boots, colorful stilettos, or unique jewelry. As a child, you may not have picked up on this with my strong Tomboy traits, but in private, I loved paper dolls and the mini-wardrobes of my many Barbies.

By Junior High, I was scavenging the Spiegel catalogs delivered to my house. I would earmark each page that caught my eye. Outfits of memory were tailored blazers in hounds-tooth, riding boots over tight tan pants in a smooth warm color of caramel. I LOVED to go through the Spiegel catalog page by page and envisioned how I would dress as I walked the streets of a busy city; briefcase in hand.

By High School, my mom's passion of sewing and creating wearable creations had rubbed off on me. I found that my seamstress gene could transform the visions in my mind into the the featured outfit of the weekend. Notable was the handmade pink jumper with an embroidered "OP" on the lapel to impersonate Ocean Pacific of the eighties. I pulled off the Madonna off-shoulder look and jumped in early on the popularity of Hawaiian shorts.

In fact I got the attention of others during the Hawaiian shorts phenomenon of 1985. I started my first business with his venture. My fellow high school students (both Remsen St. Mary's and Remsen Union) paid me to sew a pair of these popular drawers for them. They would pick the material and then under my instruction on yardage, would make the purchase along with the needed drawstring. Then they paid me a flat fee to construct their fashionable wears. The demand was so high so that I could barely keep up. I remember exchanging cash for the colorful drawers at my front door at 119 Harrison Street with the look of a drug deal. But all was innocent, my Remsen neighbors...just the reflection of a successful home-based business.

 Those were the days...if only OP and Espirit knew of my blatant trademark infringements. No one else knew the better. Now I am all grown up and bask in the joy of a pair of bright red heels with a skinny red belt (highlighted as wardrobe pick of the day in pix above with black and white polka dot shirt and great accessorizing jewelry :)).

A friend roared and continues to remind me of a comment I made one day as we discussed the female trait of the sport of shopping. "I hate to shop, but I have great inventory" was my comment. I was being completely serious and her laughable response was because this statement is so true...she can validate as she knows both my quirkiness AND my wardrobe.  

I really don't like to shop. When I do, I only buy pieces I love. I hold on to them forever and I have a great eye for accessory pieces (jewelry, great shoes, belts, scarves, little sweaters) that can stretch one dress into 12 outfits.  I love the challenge of mixing things up and nothing gives me greater satisfaction than a compliment on an outfit with a dress that is ten years old, but with a new hemline (courtesy of my seamstress skills) or a skirt from Wal-Mart that gets rave reviews when matched with some killer boots and interesting earrings. It really is the small things that bring the most happiness. My motto in life...if you wake up, DRESS UP!!!  And if you need some help, I can show you how to do it on a nickel budget :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 2013: Quote Collector

I recently read a bio of an individual who described themselves as a collector of quotes. While other people read poetry or collected baseball cards, they liked to collect quotes. I have hung on to that and have since thought of myself as a quote collector as well. There is probably a direct connection here to my love for fortune cookies.

Every time someone shares a great quote or I read a "keeper" from a random place, I add it to my computerized list (never know when I will need to refer back to one). Below are some favorites, but in no particular order and certainly not exclusive (I have a good inventory!)...

"Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you". ~ John DePaola

“Laughter is your heart’s way of telling your face to smile.” ~ D. Green

“It’s not the things you get, but the hearts you touch, that will determine your success in life.” ~ Author Unknown

“Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” ~ Franklin P. Jones

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
~ Mother Teresa

 "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - 
they must be felt with the heart." ~ Helen Keller

"A resourceful person can see opportunity when others only see obstacles."
~ Garrett Gunderson

"Success is getting what you want.
Happiness is wanting what you get." ~ Author Unknown

"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals."
— Zig Ziglar

"To love and to be loved is to feel the sun from both sides." ~ David Viscott

"Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm." ~ Earl Nightingale

Happiness keeps you sweet
Trials keep you strong
Sorrows keep you human
Failures keep you humble
Success keeps you growing
But only God keeps you going
~Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013: A Mid-Day Run

Ah...yes, a run over my lunch hour
I ran over the lunch hour today and it was glorious. It was an hour invested in great thought process and analysis of a complicated story problem. Maybe it's my creative side, but I find that rather than staring at a computer, my best problem solving happens on a run or bike ride. A mix of collaborating with a team and then independent analysis (preferably while enjoying the great outdoors) yields the best solutions when I'm involved. Aren't we humans a funny little species with our individual wiring?

In addition to the business perks and problem solving, I have to say that I enjoyed the treat of a forty-seven degree day. The run around Lake Zorinsky was fitting for shorts and a pull over. The scenery included a brilliant blue sky and a lake mixed with floating ice with the appearance of a cracked canvas. Yes, I think I can get used to these random mid-day runs on exceptional Nebraska days.


January 15, 2013: Busy Days Come and Go...

Greeting me in my mailbox after a busy day

Today would be classified as a busy day. A very busy day. The Irish Invasion continues. This is basically my code phrase for the whirlwind associated with my new business venture. Add to an already busy day...a funeral, out-of-town client visit, Lutz Creighton pre-game party (750+ attendees made up of employees, clients and friends of the firm), and of course, the Creighton game. <sigh>.

My kids stepped up to the plate with limited assistance. They successfully held down the fort until I walked in the welcoming door of my home at 9:30 p.m. <sigh>. After a quick dinner (no time to eat during the evening whirlwind), Grant grabbed the mail for me. In the stack was the beautiful envelope in the picture above.

I had written in a previous blog how my mom sends me a handwritten note each week. Her notes are a welcomed paper gift that always seem to arrive perfectly timed on the busiest of days. Today's card was a special treat. She hand-painted both the envelope and the card (did I mention that my mom is very talented?). You can see the detail of her flower design and the background watercolors used for the addresses. The biggest smile came from her use of my maiden name, "Sandy Wagner". Love it that I haven't gone by that name in 23 years, but mom frequently forgets and refers to me in my childhood name.

Reading her small cursive handwriting with specific details of her quiet day and simple, yet fulfilling, projects at hand was the message I needed to hear. Although not written in words, my mom's great advice to her overly busy daughter came through loud and clear. "Sandy, slow down. You are a human being, not a human doing" is a continuous message given from mother to daughter.

In her very delicate mom-like-way, she was indirectly reminding me to stop and smell the roses. Reading her note on her very ordinary, but glorious day was the message I needed to hear. The ordinary days really are the best, aren't they? Time to slow down. I am probably missing some great stuff. Thanks, Mom.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013: I Love Omaha

I love Omaha. I really do. I never really thought about my adoration for this fair city until three years ago. This was when I started dating my boyfriend from Denver and the never-ending question of "when are you going to move to Denver?" began. Note to clear up that question for any inquiring minds: my kids live in Omaha, thus I will live in Omaha. So basically my adoration for the city is a mute point as it relates to my residence. But I will share anyway.

Don't get me wrong. Denver is great. It's like living in the middle of nature's playground. People have the Midwestern attitude there as well. I love to spend my many weekends with Garrett in Denver as we enjoy skiing, hiking and taking in all the city has to offer. But I sure don't think there is a geographical injustice to my perceived parental obligation in Omaha. I felt this today on my morning drive across town.

With an early morning flight, I was meandering Abbott Drive pre-6:00 a.m. After a hasty drop off (we were running a tad late), Garrett and I began our weekday hustle and our multi-state lives. I had a bit of time on my hands before my first meeting so I chose a scenic route to midtown. In the dark calm of the morning, the city felt like a warm blanket to me. Even with my twenty-four years of residency, every little side road and neighborhood seems to hold a memory.

I was reminded of runs on the cobble stone roads from many years ago. Bike rides, walks and picnics have been enjoyed at the many small city parks and weddings attended at the neighborhood churches. Seeing the dog walkers and early morning runners made me wonder if old friends still occupied their homes from years ago.

The businesses have changed along the way; not all, but many. The feel and uniqueness of the different neighborhoods is still the same. A friend so eloquently said to me after a chance run in with a common friend this summer "you can't throw a cat in Omaha and not hit someone you know". No doubt a description that is fitting of a big city that has a feel of a small community. Yep, I do like it here. My A-List Preferred status can take me to many great places, but home (at least for now) is a comfortable Omaha.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13, 2013: Mac Air Fun

There is a chill in the air in Omaha. With the brisk weather, Garrett and I hibernated and stayed in most of yesterday. We did peel ourselves out of the house for a Pilates Mat class (Garrett humoring me) and then caught the movie, Silver Lining Playbook (highly recommend it). Note that we were the only movie viewers at the 10:30 a.m. show under the age of 60. Makes me wonder how good the discount will be once we hit the golden age of Senior Citizen status.

Post lunchtime, it was all indoors for us with slippers and a warm fireplace. We struggled through a Broncos loss and then enjoyed pizza delivery and beer out of the garage frig with the background noise of playoff football. With this great leisure time on the sofa, I was able to play on my new MacBook Air. And it is sweet.

This lovely piece of technology definitely feeds my right brain. Below is a video I pulled together with relative ease. This little ditty summarizes my travel year in chronological order by my mapped locations (gotta love the location tracking on I-Phone photos that streams into my Mac). For those wanting to humor me by watching this Apple creation, I have attached the link below.

(Narrative summary of my travel year: 54 plane flights, 12 states, 3 road trips, and many trips to the Rocky Mountains not including in this video log. Yes indeed...a good year)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12, 2013: Thank-you, Sr. Margretta

Sister Margretta Trumm
Yesterday a client stopped by my office. I hadn't seen her in a few years. As we met at the front desk, she exclaimed, "Wow, you have long hair. You look ten years younger." I am not too sure exactly how I responded. It was something like, "How long has it been since we've seen each other? Why, your hair is long too." and then a bunch of Sandy Lane "blah, blah, blah". Later I thought about her nice compliment and positive response at our re-acquaintance. I asked myself, why can't I simply say "thank-you"? Sr. Margretta would not be pleased.

Yes, I was schooled by Sister Margretta in the art of taking a compliment. I think of her words to me each time I fail at this task. I can still see the sternness of her face that fall night in 1982. We were standing outside of Mrs. Mooney's house at an after-play celebration. I was cast as the lead character, Miss Barrett, in the fall play, "Up the Down Staircase". We had just finished our opening performance.

Let me give you a little background on the cast of characters in this little blog story. Sister Margretta taught math classes at Remsen St. Mary's high school. She was a very stern woman, to say the least. Few messed with her and those who did, regretted it. Mrs. Mooney taught lit and English. I was in her sophomore lit class. She basically hand-picked me to play the lead. I remember her telling me after class that I was the spitting image of who she visualized as Miss Barrett. She encouraged me to try out. I got the part.

Other than pit band and supporting cast (no speaking parts), I had no previous experience in the world of drama. I believe there was a pretty big learning curve in teaching me how to act. I am also quite certain that after her on-the-job training with me, Mrs. Mooney probably didn't cast again solely on appearance.

Needless to say, we pulled off our opening night. I was relieved to have survived it, but felt my performance was so-so. As we congregated outside Mrs. Mooney's house, Sr. Margretta said to me, "Sandy, you had a good performance tonight." I responded by pointing out when I messed up and then tried to move the compliment to the entire cast.

Sister looked me right in the eye and sternly said, "Sandy Wagner, you need to learn to accept a compliment. Your answer is simply thank-you. You don't need to say anything else."

There was an awkward silence as Mrs. Mooney looked on sympathetically. "Thank-you, Sr. Margretta," was finally my response. "You are welcome," Sister said as she walked off. Mrs. Mooney smiled and added her own compliments in my direction. I kept my response to a simple thank-you.

I really don't know why I have to work at accepting compliments. I'm just plain not good at it. But Sr. Margretta is right. Thank-you is the proper response. Nothing more, nothing less. I'll keep practicing...    

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11, 2013: Rainy Days and Mondays...

Rainy outlook from my office window

Although this song has filled my mind as I drove between morning meetings, technically it's a rainy day and a Friday. A much better prospect given it's the middle of January with rain rather than snow and Friday is always better than Monday. And there is actually a pep in my step; even with the overriding global gloom in the sky. I can't lie that having Sheryl Crow's "Soak up the Sun" in my mind's eye rather than Karen Carpenter belting out her rainy day blueness is my preferred mindset, but I am feeling good about my rainy Friday.

First off, and my reason for my writing so early in the day, tonight is date night. Yep, my man from Denver, who is currently in Dallas, flies into Omaha at 7:10 p.m. (say that in one breath). So I will be enjoying a night out in the Old Market. Date night. Love it and have been looking forward to it all week. In reference to my prior blog on "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder", this is so true. Sure makes me feel like a sixteen-year-old school girl waiting for her big weekend date.

Everyone should have this. You are really missing out if you don't. Too often couple let date nights become a distant memory. Their groove of life is full of many things, but absent nights alone as a couple. Quality time is nonexistent.

Guys...take your woman out. She loves to dress up and will appreciate the attention with a night less distractions and a to-do list. Women...your guy really would love the attention. Although they like to act otherwise, they want to feel desired (everyone loves "the dance"). Our strong, independent men really have a needy side too. It's called being human. And what better way to fill a rainy Friday? Hope to see you all at the Old Market. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013: Unsubscribe

The draft e-mail that sits in my brain
I have a confession to make. When I get nasty e-mails or those with a negative or condescending tone, my knee jerk reaction is to fantasize on replying with the simple subject line "unsubscribe". No body in the e-mail. No words other than the word "unsubscribe" on the subject line. Yep, it crosses my mind and tempts me each time I receive a nastigram or e-annoyance.

An example of a nastigram (based on my own personal rule book) includes passive aggressive cyber behavior. This would include a person who can't communicate their frustrations in person, but instead writes a dissertation on the matter at hand. I learned a lesson early on in the world of e-mail and that is the lesson of permanent record. An e-mail is a permanent record. You can't take it back. Consider it published.

An example of an e-annoyance (based on own my list of personal pet peeves) would be unnecessary "reply to all" e-mails. When a coach sends out a reminder to twenty-five youth football parents, it is unnecessary for three of those parents to reply to the entire list of twenty-five informing them of their other family activities of the night or to affirm their little Johnny's desire to be at practice. Even worse is the ever fateful back to back "reply to all" on a "reply to all". Once Johnny's intentions are made known, four other parents then feel the need to add their obligatory "me, too" and "plan on us". I am now blessed with eight e-mails relating to one friendly coach reminder.

This is where I must confess. I want so badly after e-mail number five to simply send a "reply to all" that says nothing but unsubscribe. I am pretty sure this is how the Grinch felt when he gazed down at tempting to steal Christmas away from the people who mean no harm.

As for as the writers of the nastigrams, they actually do mean harm. That's why they pushed send. Although they deserve my devious unsubscribe response, I am pretty sure they wouldn't honor it anyway. I do believe many people drink when writing angry e-mails and thus the reason for their lack of focus and reflection. The misspelled words and repeated statements give them away too. So I will let it go. Just a little fantasy of mine. Feel free to use it if the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes I crack myself up thinking about it. A real life story would make my day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, 2013: The Network Investment Club

I was recently asked to join a women's investment club. The official name is the "Network Investment Club". Although the name initially makes me think of either a Disney channel show or the African woman detective series,  I have quickly learned that this club comprised of twenty Omaha women is much more than the name reveals. This "by invitation only" group of twenty meets monthly to analyze their combined portfolio. In the over 30+ years in existence, the result has been a sizable pot of change. I was surprisingly impressed with the accomplishments of this group from my first meeting as an invited guest.

Tonight as a member referred to herself as "newer" member (she had been in the club for 16 years), I sat back as the "very new" member of two months trying to comprehend the number of years ahead before I would be christened a seasoned member. I guess low turn over is a good thing, right?

As I took in this very eclectic group, I couldn't help but smile. Life is all about relationships and the joy of the journey. I am by far the youngest of the club (average age...60) with a membership made of of philanthropists, retired judges, business owners, community leaders, and stay-at-home moms. kind of crowd...diversity in human experience. AND they drink wine :)

I was given my first assignment as member of the Network Investment Club. I am to research Apple stock. A good buy or overpriced??  Sounds like a great book report is due. I haven't had an exciting assignment like this in years. I remember hearing Warren Buffet once say that if he could pick his dream job it would be an investigative reporter. In reality, that was what he actually does at Berkshire. Hmmm...I think I would be good at that job! Great advise, Warren...let the investigation begin...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 8, 2013: Star Light, Star Bright...

...first star I see tonight. I wish I may. I wish I might. Have the wish I wish tonight.

hot tub time machine...
I couldn't resist the lure of the hot tub tonight. It was calling my name as the boys and I drove home from the Jays game and my car thermometer read 39 degrees. Perfect hot tub weather. After a so-so day, just what the doctor ordered.

The added surprise was leftover Irish ale from a Christmas party. Finding this treasure in the dark recesses of my garage frig was nothing short of a calling. After a quick chemical shocking of the hot tub (I do have teenage boys), the 103 degrees of aqua therapy was bliss.

Relaxing with beer in hand and gazing up at the bright star-filled night, I was quickly reminded of my nightly ritual four years ago. In those days I was coping with my new life of alone-nights. The hot tub and a glass of wine were my therapy for thinking about life and calming my nerves a bit. It was a chance to reflect on the past and use those lessons for the future. Each night I would look up at the starry sky and recite the childhood verse in my head "star light, star bright, first star I see tonight...". And in a very childish, but hopeful way, I would wish on a star.

My wishes were simple. I wished for love and happiness. I didn't have a clue at the time what the future held for me, but I had hope and faith that God would lead the way. So here I am today. Gazing at the same stars from four years ago and feeling pretty darn good. Cheers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 2013: Happy Birthday, Dad!

I found this old Polaroid of my parents.
It was taken in the late 70's at my grandparents farm house.

My dad turned 69 today. Yep, a good day for all of us. My brothers and I have a great dad and we are grateful for him. It is interesting how one needs to age and reach similar life milestones to fully appreciate their parents. Dad really doesn't like the spotlight nor will he particularly like my blogging about him, so I will keep it brief.

Dad barbered in Iowa and Arizona for 47 years
Being raised in the 70's was a very different time in parenting then the techniques of today. My dad worked. He worked hard; putting in long hours while my mom stayed home with us (note that I do recognize her hard work as well). With his new role as grandparent, my dad has noted differences in the role of a dad of today vs. his parenting heyday in the 70's.

Sometimes I pick up on a hint of regret for his working long hours instead of attending all of our childhood events. Maybe he should have been more engaged in teaching us to tie our shoes or coach our baseball team?. No worries, Dad, you taught us much more than you know.

In these days of credit overload and "we want it all, we want it now" mentality, Dad has taught us the exact opposite. It is called the gift of financial security. If you have this amenity, the world is an open book rather than a burden. And this advantage is available to anyone, not just the wealthy. Save, save, save and then save some more. "Stuff" doesn't make you happy. Dad has taught us this value through hard work and living within your means, while enjoying a very comfortable and happy existence.

He has taught us to love what we do and do what makes us happy. Treat people with honesty and respect...always. That is a non-negotiable. And most importantly, Dad taught us all how to love your family. My dad has always adored and loved my mom. It is a trait I admire most in a man. And he is always there for his kids and grandkids. Always....non-negotiable. Happy Birthday, Dad. I am sure your teaching me to tie my shoes would have been awesome, but I'll take your lessons on life non-negotiables instead.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 6, 2013: I'm Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

Our favorite photographer, Aunt Joan, snapped this leaving the aquarium
How about you, you, can come too, too, too. I'm going to the zoo...

If you didn't sing this song in elementary school, my apologies. It sure has a ring to it. This song fills my mind on each zoo trip. Obviously the trips are less frequent these days given the ages of my children. In fact, this was the first year I didn't buy a zoo membership. Although I typically pass my kids' childhood milestones with ease, this one got to me.

I LOVE the zoo and have never taken this Omaha treasure for granted. In fact, I have been a bit of a snob when visiting other zoos over the year. None compare to our crown jewel. And the great thing about having it at our finger tips with family pass in hand was countless trips with varying adventures. If I felt like hauling the kids just to have a picnic lunch and stay for an hour, that was our adventure.

I even learned a trick back in the day. I would show up with the kids right before 5:00 close. We would come on a week day; an already slow traffic day. They would close the gates at 5:00 for new visitors, but the zoo rule was to allow visitors to venture the grounds until 6:00. It was my best kept secret. We felt like we had the whole zoo to ourselves and enjoyed the tranquility of our animal counterparts.

Yesterday when I asked twelve year old's, Grant and Lucas, if they would go with me to the zoo; the response was an enthusiastic "sure!". I was even more pleased when I posed the question to my very social and grown up sixteen-year-old. "Yeah, I'll go", was his response. The frosting on the cake came with a text response from Aunt Joan that she wanted to go too. We big people were perfectly teed up for an adventure.

Maternal instinct inside the fence
And a wonderful adventure it was. Joanie and I were busy taking pictures (unsure on the need as they will join the myriad of zoo pictures currently in my ownership). The boys were just as enthusiastic to get the perfect shots using their I-stuff. They had no problem wandering off together while Joan and I pulled up the rear not wanting to miss a thing.

I did quickly realize how much nicer it was to stroll through the zoo less a stroller, wagon, diaper bag, or the many other items youngsters get sick of carrying. Short a bottle of water and helping Joan with a camera bag, I was a free woman with a lighter load.

Grant noticed the time of 4:50 as we walked into the Kingdoms of the Night and panicked as Grant does; worrying about our breaking a rule. I quickly let him know that we weren't breaking a rule, but were in fact being strategic zoo visitors. My premonition rang true as we strolled through the dark dungeonish exhibit alone and later entered the parking lot as almost the last to leave. Word to the children...always trust a resourceful mother :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 5, 2013: Memories and Hope

I love fortune cookies and the fortunes that come with them. The one above I received before Christmas was a fitting for a season filled with memories, spending time with loved ones, and ringing in a new year. I savor the memories and hold on tightly to hope. Even at 45, I can still enjoy young hopes too, right?

My vinyl picks of the day
I did get a taste of both prongs of this fortune today as we made a pit stop at my favorite candy store, Hollywood Candy, in the Old Market. It's a flea market and candy store combined; full to the brim of vintage treasures. My twelve-year-old partners-in-crime were as equally enthralled as me. I never tire of looking through the boxes full of vinyls or walls full of collectible Pez containers. And the boys were right by my side, checking out the inventory every step of the way.

As we ate our candy of choice on the car ride back to West Omaha, we discussed our plans for the night and adventure for tomorrow (zoo!). Old and new filled the car as we (me) went from belting out a Paul Simon tune to the three of us singing a little Nelly..."Ride wit me". Yes, the candy store will never get old and the pink sunset shining down on Omaha; always brings a flicker of young hope.

Lucas and Grant enjoying candy store treasures

January 4, 2013: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

This cup was a gift from a the words and message
As my days of quiet bliss continue, I remember the words of my brother, Mark. Shortly after my divorce and facing the reality of only having my kids every other weekend, I was crying on his shoulder. His words to me still feel fresh..."Spending time away from the boys will make you appreciate them more and them appreciate you more". Although this didn't seem very comforting at the time, the statement has held true in my new world.

The advise had a secondary impact when the unexpected happened; I started a long-distance relationship. Garrett lives in Denver. I live in Omaha. The difference house to house...552 miles. So my calendar is now comprised of kids every other weekend and boyfriend on the opposite weekends. Yes, Mark, through the last three years I have certainly learned to appreciate all four of these men in my life much more than if we were together each day.

Absence (although incredibly difficult at times) does make the heart grow stronger. I don't take for granted the time I do have with those I love and find joy in the simple things. I think it is very fair to say that my lens on life has changed tremendously over the last few years. Time together with the ones you love is a gift. I savor the time and enjoy the anticipation of honeymoon weekends with my man from Denver and Magical Mystery Bus Tours with my boys from Omaha.

I have learned a lesson in life that strongly fills my heart. The greatest assets in life aren't bank accounts, business holdings or personal belongings. The true treasures on earth are relationships. Some are physically near and others far away. All are always on my mind and in my heart as I do grow fonder each day...

January 3, 2013: Quiet Bliss

If you read my blog on Paper, you will recognize Abby's companion in the picture above. After a week of planes, autos, snowy drives in the mountains, lots of kid time and Christmas adventures; the solitude of my cozy home was a much needed reprieve. My boys are with their dad this week and the Colorado crew in Colorado. So Abby and I are the only inhabitants of my quiet home. And I'm good with this temporary quiet bliss.

My days have been filled with working, reading, cooking (for one), and my ever favorite...poking around the house. I have cleaned out drawers, organized shelves, and read through cards written years ago. A favorite spot of mine to catch up on the goings on in the cyber world are on my chocolate colored leather couch in the family room. As my fur blanket lays on my lap, providing padding for my lap top while the fireplace provides the only sound in the house; Abby has been sitting perched next to her new best friend.

After writing my blog on Paper, I decided to let her join the ranks of the upper floors in my house. Yet to be brought up to my upstairs closet, she has been sitting on an ottoman in the family room. The space to her right has become Abby's new favorite spot. It's as though Abby thinks she is protecting this cloth doll. She often glances up as though waiting for movement or a spoken word. I keep thinking Abby will tire of the doll who doesn't respond, but instead the affection seems to grow. So Paper will stay in the family room for now. I don't have the heart to move her and she sure has been good company for both Abby and I. We'll see what the boys think when they return....hmmmmm....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013: New Year, New Career...

My daily office view 
Time to come out of the closet and confirm that the rumor is true...I am leaving Lutz for a new venture (or better said, adventure?). I decided to make this big move last year after being approached to be part of a healthcare start-up business. More to come on my new endeavor, but I will summarize the business model by saying it is a perfect match of my skill set and my core values. I am excited to play a part in changing healthcare for the better and in turn, help people have better lives. That simple.

Although my title for this new entity is CFO, I have been wearing many hats during the start-up journey. Even with my twenty-two years of consulting in healthcare, there is still much to learn about the intricacies of a very complicated industry. The entrepreneurial spirit of this venture and the people I have met along the way have more than exceeded expectations (each a bloggable story by itself). I can honestly say that I am LOVING every minute without a hint of regret.

Let me regress just a bit on my mid-life crisis mindset and my courage (less liquid) to make the big jump from  a firm I love and a very comfortable career. I would also add that I am within the minority of people who actually enjoy going to work every day. And I've done this for the last twenty-two years. So why the change, you ask?

Well it really goes back to the Hobby House. Yep, you heard me right; the Hobby House. That was the mom-and-pop business where I worked my college internship. My job was to set up the manual accounting system for this small business situated on main street LeMars, Iowa. Although I loved the accounting challenge, I was equally intrigued by the crafts and bins full of treasures that filled the store front. I would listen to the hum of people filling the store and the flow of creativity while doing the books quietly in the back room.

The owner of the business needed to step out one afternoon and asked me to help with the retail side in her absence. Her daughters worked at the store and were busy figuring out how to design the front window displays. As I contributed my thoughts and sketched up some drawings on displays I visualized in my mind, they quickly deferred to my creativity. The energy was high as I twisted paper raffia into dolls and formed patterned bows from ribbons. I drew colorful posters to draw customers in while displaying our new products for sale with class schedules on the latest hobbies. Euphoria was high as the three of us stared at my finished window creation. It was good. Really good. And I knew it.

When the owner returned, I was expecting surprise and appreciation on my work. Instead I was deflated with her reminding me that I was the accountant and my hourly rate was too high for me to be working on the windows. Although she was kind, she was correct that my job description was to do the books. I am quite sure her daughters were as deflated as me as we had envisioned a newly formed collaboration on future Hobby House products and presentations. But it wasn't meant to be.

I completely forgot about the Hobby House until late this summer. I randomly took a left brain/right brain test with the same result that I always get...I am a perfect split between the two. I can very effectively run off of either; thus the resulting mix of debits and credits with innovation topped off with a high desire to interact with people. So as I stared at my brain results and reflected on my halfway birthday of forty-five (halfway through my lifetime and halfway through my work life), I remembered the words of my prior boss and decided it was time to design windows. Yep...halftime adjustment of using my right brain predominantly down the final stretch.

Some think I'm crazy and that this is a shiny nickel. All I can say is that I am forever grateful for the friends and great relationships I have gained at Lutz, but am only excited for my second half of life. This opportunity was nothing short of a Godwink. Anyone who knows me understands that I don't pass up Godwinks. And if my new venture doesn't work out (and we all know that there are no guarantees in life), no worries...I have a VERY long list of right brain skills that look great on a resume :) But let's stick with optimism and the project at hand. I look forward to tackling the healthcare debacle and being a part of positive change. Let the new journey begin!