Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 27, 2013: Re-post of First Post

I thought it fitting to re-post my first blog entry to this site dated January 31, 2012. This gives a bit of background on the motivation behind my posts. Since I just started logging daily entries this year and only sporadically when I started (and since I am behind in my writing because I have spent half my waking hours in airports the last few days ;)), I am posting again.........

Inspiration comes in many forms.  For this blog it started with a random text from a co-worker, which lead me to a You Tube video, which resulted in a perceived compliment, and then an "aha moment" with this blog idea.

The text came a couple of weeks ago from a co-worker who expressed to me that a video she just watched made her think of me.  This random text peaked my curiosity and led me to Google the noted video, "The Gift of an Ordinary Day".  After a bit of fumbling with my less-than-nimble You-Tube searching skills, I located this video which is associated with author Katrina Kenison and her book of the same name.  The seven minute video is of the author reading excerpts from the book while flashing touching photos of her two sons growing from infants through childhood and into young adulthood.  Her words resonated with me on the quickness of this growing up process and the value of our ordinary days with our children.  And then my "aha moment" was when I heard her words, “It has taken awhile, but I certainly do know it now – the most wonderful gift I had, the gift I finally learned to cherish above all else, was the gift of all those perfectly ordinary days.”

It really is our ordinary days of play dates, parks, meals shared, and quiet time with our kids that fill our souls and make up our dearest memories of their childhood.  I felt so complimented to be compared to this woman whose cup appeared to always be half-full.  I felt connected with her words and feelings of completeness as a mother in experiencing the gifts of the ordinary days.  After spending years journaling my ordinary days with my kids, this blog seemed the natural extension to something I not only like to share, but like to memorialize.  I have reams of journals from years past that typically included a daily page with notes on what we did, how we felt, special moments and quotes, and an accompanying photo snapped my me, the family photographer.

I am a memory collector and that's what memory collectors do...we write down our thoughts and feelings and look forward to reminiscing on these warm moments that are now frozen in time in the years to come.  And a random picture that glorifies the day is nothing short of frosting on the cake.  So this blog is going to be two part...a collection of stories on the ordinary days to come and a documentary of the days of the past.  A picture tells a thousand words and I am blessed with a basement full of snapshots capturing some wonderful moments.  I also have a wicked memory that does store some very irrelevant data, but also has captured some great details on relationships, feelings, interactions, and commentary that accompany these many pictures.  I am very much looking forward to translating this collection of memories in my brain to paper.  Thank-you for reading and allowing me to share.  Enjoy your ordinary days and hopefully the bits and pieces of mine will resonate with the moments in your lives that bring you happiness.  Peace.  ~  Sandy

Family picture we used (BTW...not my dog)

One of five pictures taken before threats resulted in the requested smiles ;)

The "real" family picture :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 26, 2013: New York, New York...

My window view from a pub on 7th Ave
Colorado for the weekend, emergency room, knee brace and then a business trip to NYC. All in a days work. Yep...welcome to my life. Although it may sound like it, I'm really not complaining. I just shake my head at times and think "what world do I live in?"

For the record, my knee still doesn't hurt. I do need to take it easy and the brace needs to be on tight for stability. But I am feeling pretty darn good. As I laid in the Vail ER, I couldn't help but hand-wring on how bad the timing was of my injury.

This week is a busy week for me. A really busy week. I am a bit overbooked from the travel standpoint. Coming into my nine day road trip, I kept reminding myself that my organized self would conquer this travel quest of three states and three major cities in just over a week with a smile on my face. I didn't anticipate a blown ACL though.

So now I am making lemonade. Airports seem much bigger and flights much longer. Hotel beds in foreign cities; harder and alarms; earlier. <sigh>. Recuperating from home would have been much easier and more comfortable, but not meant to be. Not this week at least.

The trip to NYC has been a success. Tomorrow I will board a plane back to Omaha and sleep in my own bed. <sigh>....and then get up at 5:00 a.m. for a 7:10 a.m. flight to Chicago with the boys for a three day weekend of fun. We have had this trip on the calendar for weeks to meet friends for a moms/boys trip to catch both the Blackhawks and Bulls in one weekend. With a knee brace. Not part of the plan, but I will smile and enjoy the ride...

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013: The Girl Who Owned a City

I was in a gang once. Clarification: I was a gang leader once. Technically we had a militia with our own gang names and we marched around Remsen patrolling our turf.

The soundtrack to Les Miserables has been my Pandora favorite as of late. The song "Can you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men....we will not be slaves again?" has been resonating with me. Every time I hear this fight song, I want to join their militia and fight for the common man (would like a better result than my Les Mis comrades though).

But it wasn't this song of the French Revolution that inspired me to start a gang. A fictional fantasy had me mesmerized at age twelve. It was the allure of being carried away by the written word. Although I knew little beyond the corn fields surrounding my small hometown, books took me on many adventures that spurred my young imagination. The library was as common a hangout then as Game Stop is for the child of today. Our adventures came from bound books.

The particular book that inspired me for my girl gang was "The Girl Who Owned a City". The book was published in the mid-seventies. The plot of the story was around a virus that killed off everyone in the world over the age of twelve and left the kids to take over and fend for themselves. The book was basically a girl version of Lord of the Flies. And I loved it. I wanted to be the heroine leader, Lisa.

So I told my friends and they read the book too. As inspired as I, we formed our own militia, made up gang names, and built a fort in the park. We marched around town, role playing the various story lines in our loved book. We couldn't get enough.

I'm not quite sure what ended our brave militia. I suspect it was simply just turning thirteen and worrying more about gangs of boys than our gang of girls. We had moved on to books like "Go Ask Alice" and "Dear God, It's Me Margaret"; the ones we would hide under our desks from Sister Emogene.

I am going to take this little flashback to my gangsta years as a sign to crack open a new book. To be honest, I just don't get the allure of video games or those Angry Birds. Losing yourself in a book is so much more fun than losing yourself in a game. Personal preference I guess...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24, 2013: A Real Snowstorm

My view most of the day

My entire day was spent indoors. With leg up and ice applied intermittently, I watched a snowstorm brew and take over Denver. A real snowstorm. They are up to about 10 inches now. As opposed to Omaha, school has yet to be called and businesses are still open. In fact Garrett went to play in a basketball tournament at his son's school this afternoon. The e-mail he received verifying that the fundraiser was still on commented that "come on...we live in Denver". No panic here.

Regardless, I will still apply caution tomorrow morning to ensure that I get to the airport on time. Although Garrett will take good care of me if the weather and airport don't cooperate, I do need to get home. I was shocked at the reaction of my boys to my injury. They are truly concerned and a bit freaked out.

I have been quizzed up and down on the surgery to come and the pain (or in my case, lack thereof...don't think they believe me). Specific questions relate to hospital stay? wheelchair? no and no and yes...I will be home tomorrow. I have to admit that I am both surprised and flattered with their concern. The caregiver is now being taken care of by all the boys in her life. A good thing and very appreciated.

February 23, 2013: Don't Break a Leg

That is Matt to the left and Kelsey to the right.
My "ride" down the mountain

Well I didn't break a leg (thank goodness), but I did completely tear my ACL. Yes, completely...meaning Level 3. A total detach. I spent some time in the Vail ER and in their attached physical therapy center. And it was quite the journey getting there. But thanks to my new friends, Matt and Kelsey, I made it safely.

Seeing the beautiful Vail Ski Area and the Rockies from my back, head first down the mountain, on a sled, pulled by skiers was quite the experience. I now know what skiing rubber neckers look like from the vantage point of the casualty. Very interesting. I sure wish I had a camera on my helmet for the journey down.

Let's start where it began, in the back bowls of Vail; specifically Blue Sky Basin. Note on the location (per Garrett); we couldn't have been any further out for a ground rescue. We spent the entire morning skiing across Vail to arrive at that destination. Garrett, Mike and I were enjoying a day full of fresh powder and testing my ski skills to new levels. I was actually doing quite well with great tips from my pro-like comrades.

My tragic Heavy Metal run was in the lower middle...only one black diamond.
Per the website, this run is for Intermediates looking for a challenge.
Can't blame the terrain.

On our last run before lunch, Garrett and I looked down on the difficult mogul run full of small obstacles. In Garrett's defense, he pointed me to an easier run one over. "I think I can do it" was my response. "No doubt you can do it. Are you sure?" Of course I was sure, so off I went.

Garrett stayed at the top to make sure he was there if I got into trouble, which I obviously did. I'm not sure what exactly happened,but halfway down the "Heavy Metal" run, I bit it. My left ski got planted and I twisted my leg in the dramatic fall. I felt a snap. Garrett came to my rescue and removed my tangled ski. Relief came and the pain was gone. "I'm okay," was my response to Garrett. I felt fine.

After a little maneuvering, I tried to put my skis back on. "Are you sure you don't want to walk it the rest of the way down?" Garrett questioned. My response was "I'm fine". Unfortunately my knee didn't agree. I had no stability in my left knee. Garrett then grabbed my skis and me, the poles. "Follow in my footsteps," was Garrett's instruction. That I did and after assessment of the situation with Mike at the bottom, we all agreed that I wouldn't be getting back on skis that day.

Now the interesting part. I was expecting a lift back to Vail Village on a snowmobile. Not so lucky. Instead my ride was a pull sled. The picture above gives you a full visual of my ride. So imagine Matt pulling the sled and Kelsey following behind on skiis guiding me like a papoose with two ropes. All I kept thinking was 1) I now know that I never want to be put in a body bag alive and 2) Ben Lane would love this ride.

The most interesting part of the sled ride wasn't the pull, but the lift. Yep, lift. We needed to take a chair lift to get out of the back bowls. They literally lifted the sled (with me in it) onto a table that was attached to the top of the chair. With Matt and Kelsey on either side, I laid on my back watching the chairlift mechanisms do their thing while hearing their radios report of the many other injuries on the mountain.

I took a deep breath and said a prayer as the chairlift stopped mid-trip with me rocking on my back staring at the Heavens. As we sat/laid in the stillness, Matt told me of a man who just broke a leg. It was so bad that people could hear the break when it happened. They had to administer a line for pain meds prior to his chair transport. This stop was for him. My own anxiety quickly went away as I said a prayer for this poor man.

After completing the hour long journey down the mountain, the rescue duo, along with the medical shuttle team, simply lifted the sled and pushed me in the back of a van. Onto a gurney at the next stop and voila, I arrived at the ER. I tried to tell the ER nurse that I felt fine, no ER was necessary. Just a little wobbly. She factually stated what was apparent to everyone else but me. "Ma'am, it is very likely you completely tore your ACL." Obviously an injury not uncommon to this ER.

So 2 hours, 3 nurses, 3 x-rays, 1 doctor and 1 physical therapist later, Garrett and I were on our way home. With a brace in place, some walking practice, and warnings on the days ahead; we drove away from Vail less one ACL. It was history. My body now only has one. What was also obvious to me was that two are necessary.

In light of my mantra of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"; I'll highlight the positives. First off, I have no pain. Really. They say it will come soon from the impact of the injury and then after surgery. Right now I still feel fine. I just need the brace on for stability and some occasional ice.

I also see this as a key opportunity to take in healthcare and the workings of the system from a patient's perspective. This will be very helpful with my new business venture. It's always good to experience life from the eyes of your consumer.

Lastly, Garrett is a really good nurse and healthcare advocate for me. He has scored many brownie points this weekend. This gives me some some relief in knowing what old age will look like when everything in my body goes to heck. I really do think he will feed me oatmeal from a spoon when the time comes. And I do want to take a stab at Heavy Metal again. Next year...

Awaiting my ER results

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22, 2013: Trouble with Fire

Trouble was firmly the pointing toward the brother to the right
With Day Two of house-bound status and memories flooding from yesterday's blizzard blog, I have to share a story about a fire-starter. Sorry for throwing you under the bus, Mark, but you sure didn't have my back on the day of the first incident. The fateful fire later was nothing short of karma (and not the good kind).

We do all know that candles and fires are the ultimate temptation for young boys. My brothers were pretty much fascinated by anything with a fuse. They also liked naughty words, but knew better than to mutter them in front of my parents.

On our big dining room table, black wrought iron, was a thick orange candle. It sat on a plate; displayed proudly by my mom in the middle of the table. She would light it when the mood struck her.

On the day of incident #1, Mom went to light her candle. Her pleasure turned into shock as she was greeted with an act of vandalism. Unmistakably etched onto the top of that large star-shaped candle was the ultimate worst, the "F" word. It was deliberate and it was deep. My mom audibly gasped and called for my dad.

One by one they sat each of us three down. We sat on the heavy wrought iron chairs pleading our individual innocence as we were interrogated like common criminals. I was nothing short of insulted that they even questioned me.

Thoughts that went through my mind, but not out of my mouth included " With MY BROTHERS...come on, Mom & Dad, give me a little credit."

I really didn't know who did it, but suspected Mark as he look the most guilty. Neither brother fessed up and the history books have never clearly reflected the guilty party. But I know it was Mark. In my parents defense, I don't think I was punished, but have memory of a bar of soap in the boys' mouths. This could easily have been a pipe dream rather than reality though.

Fast forward months later. By now Mom had burned the candle down and covered any remaining evidence from her purportedly juvenile delinquent children. Mark and I again sat on the big wrought iron chairs. This time, Mark watched me draw on sheets of white paper. He soon started taking the sheets and put the edges into the burning candle to start a fire. Bad idea.

Although the first few times he quickly extinguished the fire with a quick blow and a big smile, the last attempt did not prove the same success rate. This time Mark got a little cocky and let the fire burn until a fourth of the paper was consumed. I didn't say a word as he tried to blow it out to no avail.

As he blew frantically, the flames took over the entire sheet of paper. At this point I started screaming for Mom while a panic-stricken Mark threw the burning paper onto the floor. Watching my mom go into rescue and recover mode gave me a good picture of her potential as a fire woman. She performs well under fire. No pun intended.

Without a word spoken by any of us and within a matter of seconds, Mom put out the fire with her bare hands. Her bright green carpet was now embellished with a large brown circle. Mark said his was sorry. Mom didn't say a word, but her welled-up eyes told the whole story.

Then in true martyr form (I have this technique nailed as well), she took a small razor and knelt down, cutting the brown off every fiber of carpet. Mark and I sat and watched in silence. We knew that even if she fixed the carpet, the smell wasn't going anywhere. It was a long silent reflection of "just wait until your father gets home". And there was no question on the culprit.

So, Mark, I have to be real with you. It was karma that got you back with the candle. Or as I  like to say; play with fire and you will get burned.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21, 2013: When I was a Kid...

A favorite picture of my mom's taken in 1969.
Mark, Matt and I longingly looking out the window during a blizzard.

When I was a kid...we walked a mile through a foot of snow, in a blizzard, carrying a five gallon bucket. True story. It happened frequently, although typically not with a five gallon bucket.

The snow storm of today was a common winter occurrence during my childhood. Being surrounded by a foot or two of snow for most of the winter months was an expectation, not an exception. The plows were always ready and the snow boots left by the door.

My brothers and I spent hours building forts and snowmen. Our afternoons were full of ice skating and sledding. Our adventures only stopped to thaw out frozen toes and fingers. Parkas were the norm with knitted gloves that were by no means waterproof. And we liked it. If fact, we longed for our days of snow.

I remember one particular snow storm that went on for days. Not only did my brothers and I get stir crazy, but Mom did as well. After staring out the window wishing we were allowed out; my mom made the call that we could in fact go out. But this time there was a twist. She was joining us. We were going on an adventure.

My mom bundled us all up, one by one. The only exposed body parts were the whites of our eyes peering over tightly wrapped scarves. After adding on her own layers of down, Mom grabbed a folded quilt and a five gallon bucket of Lego's.

I wasn't even old enough for school at the time and remember the snow drifts hitting above my waist. Like three little ducks, we followed our resourceful mother. We would step into her snow tracks as she carried her heavy load. Together we mastered the terrain and the four block walk to my dad's barber shop.

Once there, with rosy cheeks and wet pant legs, we sat on the carefully placed quilt. Mom poured the mounds of Lego's around us. As my brothers and I quietly played with the colorful rectangular pieces, Mom enjoyed adult conversation with my dad and his customers. It was a welcomed break for all of us and Dad was happy with our surprise visit.

Once our clothes had sufficiently dried by the heat vents and my mom with her fill of adult company; we went on our journey back home. The hum of the house was a welcome reprieve after our cross country adventure.

As we sat like three little ducks with our backs to the warm oven (our common sitting spot for warmth), the smile on our mom's face as she milled about the kitchen reinforced my suspicions. We really were good adventurers that winter day. My mom was pleased and so were we.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20, 2013: Anticipation and Expectation

The Carly Simon song "Anticipation" keeps floating through my mind as I hear constant, by-the-minute reporting of the encroaching Incredible Blizzard of 2013. The kids have been talking of the expected impending snow days (yes, days...two are expected) since Monday. Classes have been canceled and flights have been changed. Omaha is ready to shut down.

A colleague from Ireland just flew in to our fine city. After spending a half a day hearing storm system updates at every meeting of the day and the presumed timing of it's entrance, he asked a good question. "Do you not typically get snow in Omaha?"

This came after a lengthy discussion at the attorney's office on calendar adjustments with tomorrow being cleared with the delay of the snow delay. When I asked our attorney on their tomorrow schedules, the answer was "I have it blocked for Snow Day."

I next advised my Irish colleague to consider changing his flight out of Omaha on Friday. His response "Do you not have snow plows at the airport?" A good question of which I didn't know a better answer than "yes, but this storm is going to be a BIG one."

My kids are less skeptical than my Irish friend, planning overnighters with buddies and anticipating a four day weekend. My e-mail inbox has been clogged with messages on canceled sporting events and rescheduled presentations.

And now we wait. It feels a bit like Christmas, wondering when Santa will be spotted and we will either see him come down the chimney or instead wait to find the snow-capped presents in the morning. My friend from Ireland will be a believer too after experiencing such a snow marvel.

So soon we will see...a Grinch or Santa? Anticipation,'s making me wait...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013: I ♥ Ben Lane

A favorite picture of Ben as a babe.
He would stand on my back while I read the paper. Such a Bennyism.

I love Ben Lane.

He frustrates me (many times), confuses me (often), but is so lovable (always).

The reality is that I could devote an entire blog series to Mr. Benjamin. No doubt I have enough material. And it is really is entertaining stuff. But since this wouldn't be Ben's preference, it's just not meant to be. (Do note that I am saving some of the good stories for later when he is old enough to share in the humor).

This middle child of mine marches to the beat of different drummer. Always with a smile on his face, although never on time, but having fun every step of the way. Coined "Buddha Baby" as a pudgy tot, he sported a perma-grin and could make the coldest of hearts melt. His charm hasn't worn a bit with age.

I have spent a lot of parenting time just trying to figure Ben out. His internal wiring and thought process are still a mystery to me. He attacks projects and analyzes problems from angles that have never crossed my mind.

He recently (almost) convinced me that waiting for the sun to melt the snow on the drive was the way to go. Everyone else shoveling their walks were thinking about it wrong. I said; he "almost" convinced me.

Right now Ben is grounded. This would fall in the category of stories he would prefer for me not to share. What I will share is that I have enjoyed having him grounded and at home. Who would have thought? I certainly didn't expect this outcome with a grounded teenager.

I do love the spirit of this middle child. Although I'm not thrilled with his new room layout which includes him sleeping on a couch rather than a bed or that he almost got my new credit card eaten by an ATM machine; watching him convince his little brother to take alternate turns scooping mac & cheese like the NFL Draft was a classic.

Ben also served as my chauffeur this weekend. He entertained me with "vintage" rap while simultaneously explaining the Wikipedia-style bios of the artists. This was a close second favorite Ben moment of the weekend. Watching him play attentive Big Brother to his little brother's friends, all while coordinating trampoline activities, simply warmed my heart.

I highly recommend grounding your teenager and spending time with them next weekend. Although they make us crazy most of the time, they really are still fun if given the opportunity.

A favorite Ben picture. I love the "unposed" shots. His expression reflects
the excitement of retrieving a bobbing apple with no hands
Buddha Baby with his typical messy face and infectious smile

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013: My Favorite Paul Harvey Story

(Another file I found saved on my computer. Love this one!!!)

Paul Harvey Writes...

We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I'd like better. I'd really like for them to know about hand me down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meat loaf sandwiches. I really would. 

I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated.

I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car.

And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen.

It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your old dog put to sleep.

I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.

I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it's all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he's scared, I hope you let him.

When you want to see a movie and your little sister wants to tag along, I hope you'll let her.

I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely.

On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don't ask your driver to drop you two blocks away so you won't be seen riding with someone as uncool as your Mom.

If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one.

I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books.

When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.

I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap tastes like.

May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole.

I don't care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don't like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend.

I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandma and Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle.

May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays.

I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through your neighbor's window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand.

These things I wish for you - tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness. To me, it's the only way to appreciate life.

Written with a pen. Sealed with a kiss. I'm here for you. And if I die before you do, I'll go to heaven and wait for you.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17, 2013: Grant Thoughts from 2005

More treasures found on my hard drive (File dated 2/24/2005...Grant would have been 4 1/2). I had written down some funny things he had said and memories that I intended to memorialize in a journal later. I don't think my idea of "later" was 8 years hence, but never too late...

Grant and Abby in their much younger years

Funny Grant lines that I need to write down before I forget…
As I am drinking my Diet Coke while driving the Durango one night, Grant screams, “Mom, don’t drink and drive…you will crash and we will die!”

After a crying whining morning (typical, but worse because it was “cleaning lady” morning), Grant explains to me as I buckle him into his car seat “I can’t talk like you in the morning, Mom.  I talk like you in the evening, but not in the morning.”  Grant’s way of telling me he is not a morning person.

Grant is sitting at the kitchen table, when he tells me (out of the blue), “Mom, I have food allergies.”  “You have what?”  I ask.  “Food allergies”, he says.  “The blood goes through my body and goes up through my head, so I think I have food allergies.”

A typical answer to me asking “How do you remember that, Grant?”… “Mom, I told you. I remember everyting!”

Fun memories of the 2004/2005 preschool year for Grant…hash brown/chocolate milk through the McDonald’s drive through on the way to school each morning…bringing donuts for his class each friday…Barrista latte for Mom (why do you like Lattes so much, Mom?)…sweet nothings to each other every morning (Mom-I love you little, I love you big…Grant-I love you like a little pig!)…Ms Fran and Ms Kim are the bombs. School is always fun…Great year!

(2013 Sandy side note: I am so happy I wrote these things down. I had completely forgotten these little moments in time. Also forgot about the days of "Baby Grant" as my little buddy and sidekick. <sigh>) 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16, 2013: Legendary Jazzman meets The Moms

Branford & Friends
Well, Branford Marsalis met the Moms this last fall and I have to say, we put on a pretty good show. I guess it helped that we didn't have a clue on who he was at the time of introduction. The tailgating libations probably played a part too.

Let's start where it ended...Robbie sitting in the back of a big red truck at a Nebraska football tailgate staring at her I-Phone with the master jazzman, Branford Marsalis. As Robbie typed his name into Google, the handsome musician sat next to her, looking over her shoulder and helping with the spelling of his name.

"No. It's B*R*A*N*F*O*R*D"

"Oh," said Robbie after locating him in Wikipedia. "Your wife is Teresa and you have two kids?"

"Divorced, but yes on the kids," responded a smiling Branford, not missing a beat.

"You better contact them and correct that."

"Yeah, I probably should."

So that's how the story ended. With Branford and Robbie looking up Branford's credentials on the web and verifying that he was a big deal. Thank-you, Branford, in helping us get to that point. With a Bloody Mary and two beers, this was a difficult task for us at that moment in time.

I will pause now for all of you to look up Branford on Google. Below is a fraction of his Wikipedia profile...

In summary, he has done some fun things with Sting, served as Jay Leno's sidekick, and is basically the master of the jazz sax. His resume and credentials are too lengthy for me to go into in this blog. Please do your homework on your own time.

So now let's start at the beginning of the story. It was a lovely fall afternoon in Nebraska and as any good Nebraska woman would do, I was tailgating with my sister-in-laws (former, but we won't get into that), Robbie and Kori. We decided to stop over and say hello to friends and brothers, Greg and Jim Boulay.

As we approached their tailgate, we ran into a young African American man who was not dressed in red (first clue) and wearing a fedora. He was young and had kind eyes. So as any good mother would do, the three of us struck up a conversation.

We soon found out that he was a drummer for a band and played the prior night in Omaha. He was a mere 20 years old. Kori, Robbie and I were intrigued by this engaging young musician and had many questions as to how long had he been on the road and whether his mother approved. Justin happily proceeded to tell his story with a smile on his face. He referred to us as "The Moms" and noted that his own mother would be happy that we were looking out for him.

Soon another African American man joined us. Justin introduced him as a fellow band member. He was older and stuck out a bit wearing a New Orleans t-shirt without a hint of red. He joined in our conversation. Our new friend, Justin, introduced us as "The Moms".

Kori had lots of questions starting with where they played the previous night. When the nice older man responded with the Holland Center, Kori immediately informed him that she saw Kenny Rogers there and he was really good. Had they seen Kenny in concert? No.

On a roll, Kori next let Justin, the drummer in the band, know that her very own brother-in-law had been inducted into the Nebraska Marching Band Hall of Fame. He was a drummer. In Kori's defense, Justin did seem impressed.

At this point Greg was giving us "the look" with Jimmy nicely trying to herd us in a different direction. The older musician, who we now knew as the sax player, told him, "No, Jim, I like them. These moms are cool."

Sparing no time, Kori took this as a green light to ask the all important question, "So, do you guys play at weddings?"

At this point Jimmy spit out his beer and Justin and his band mate, who we now knew as Branford, were hugging each other in laughter. "No weddings?" asked Kori, still clueless.

"No weddings," said Branford. "But we'll keep our options open."

At this point Greg was beyond himself at our ignorance. "He is Branford Frickin' Marsalis!!!"

This is when Robbie got resourceful and thought it best to Google our new friend. Branford, being a complete gentleman, sat next to her and carefully spelled out his name.

"Wow!" I exclaimed after Robbie read off her findings. "You are a big deal. Should I follow you on Twitter?"

The generational differences showed with a 50 year-old Branford and I trying to find him on Twitter. With no success, the 20 year-old took our phones, one at a time, and got us all connected.

It was a good connection, no doubt. I have since found Branford and his phenom drummer, Justin, on Pandora. They are really good! I get the mile long Wikipedia career description now. So glad the musicians schooled The Moms on that beautiful fall afternoon in Nebraska. They were great fun. And I don't think they will ever have to worry about doing weddings.

The Moms with new friend, Justin Faulkner

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15, 2013: A Secret Admirer

Yesterday's many social media declarations of love with of pictures of fanciful flowers, cards, and sweet nothings gave me a flash from the past. This long forgotten memory included a gift of a heart-shaped cake and extra-large Valentine card from a secret admirer. And I didn't see it coming.

Funny how we completely forget about life events that are later triggered by a note or picture. Today I was reading a blog entitled "Paper Hearts". For some reason I thought of the sentimental nature of this simple creation and remembered my secret admirer from twenty-six years ago.

We had a large Malaysian population of foreign students at Westmar College. They were a community in themselves; living in the same dorms and sitting at the same tables in the cafeteria. I was fascinated by these friendly fellow students. I grew up with very little diversity in my life. Differences in language and physical features were intriguing.

Many Malaysian students shared common classes with me. I was friendly to all and was drawn to the warm smiles that these students always seemed to wear. In hindsight, I am sure I returned the warm smile back whenever given the opportunity. It must have been my friendliness that caught the attention of a young Malaysian man named Iz.

I don't particularly remember having a class with Iz or sitting by him in the cafeteria, but somehow our paths must have crossed. Enough for him to develop a crush and shower me with Valentine's gifts.

On Valentine's Day my freshman year in 1986, I walked out of the Commons after dinner. I was greeted by the glowing face of Iz holding a heart-shaped cake embellished with a bright red "Happy Valentine's Day" message. I looked behind me; thinking he had approached the wrong person. Iz bowed his head and said "for you, Sandy".

I graciously accepted as he then handed me an envelope. The over-sized card enclosed had a fun Valentine's Day message with nothing too embarrassing and no words of love. It was sweet. I was speechless.

After composing myself after the initial shock, I thanked Iz for his thoughtfulness. He smiled brightly at me. I couldn't help but return the warm smile back. I went on to tell him that although I was seeing someone, he would be quite the catch for a lucky girl. In his broken English, he told me he understood; but if I freed up, he was my guy.

I have to tell you, every girl needs a secret admirer at some point in their life. And even though my dream at the time would have been a surprise serenade from Tom Cruise, the attention felt quite good. Pleasant surprises and unsolicited attention are a good thing. Thanks, Iz! I am sure some lucky girl was very spoiled yesterday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14, 2013: Love Letters

Today I was cleaning out files on my computer hard drive and I ironically stumbled on a Word file dating back to 2001 titled "Happy Valentine". The file was the letter below that I had written to my Pick relatives. My Grandpa and Grandma Doc (Elmer and Marvel Pick) had just passed away and we stumbled on a box full of their love letters. Some of my favorite excerpts are included below... 
Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2001

The enclosed book is a compilation of love letters between Grandma and Grandpa Doc during their courting years.  The letters span from 1941 to the week before their wedding in 1943.  We stumbled across these letters following Grandma’s funeral.  Since it was such emotional time, I decided to place the letters in “safe keeping” and then share these wonderful memoirs after a sufficient time had passed.  And what better time than Valentine’s Day to celebrate the love that Grandma and Grandpa shared!

I can’t begin to describe the emotions I felt while reading these letters.  There is so much I learned about their love for one another and their deep faith in God.  There were even a couple of letters from Great-Grandma Mary Pick and lots of mention of other family members.

I apologize if this reaches any of you after Valentine’s Day.  I really  “burned the midnight oil” to get this booklet completed.  I had great intentions of having it reach all of you on a timely basis.  But…I sure had fun putting it together.

As my mom would say, “This one is from the heart, guys.”  Enjoy!


Sandy J

May 5, 1941

Dearest Marvel,

I am writing this on your porch at 10 a.m. I tried to call you last evening, the line which connects to the campus telephones was always busy. I looked for a night number after eight o'clock but you don't seem to have a night number so I finally had to give up.....I first was going to ring the doorbell but thought that someone who may be sleeping wouldn't approve of answering the doorbell. So I'll try to put this note somewhere where someone may see it so it gets to you.

Forever Yours, 

January 20, 1942

Dear Elmer,

Today, Tuesday, I received your letter. You must have mixed your yesterdays because I really didn't talk to you yesterday.....Sunday night another nurse and myself saw the movie "They Died with their Boots on". Errol Flynn & Olivia DeHavilland.....People around here really are not very patriotic because when the National Anthem was being played and the flag displayed they did not even rise. If it is that way all over this war shall not be won because united we stand ununited we fall.....It is now ten-thirty so I shall go to bed.

With Love,

P.S. I hate this letter writing business. Because I want to see you.

February 20, 1942

Dearest Elmer,

Why couldn't I have started by writing Elmer dear? The other form just seems to be accepted by both of us. You are a dear dear aren't you?.....For Lent I'm also not going to eat candy if I can stick to exercises and not lunch between meals I may lose some weight. I would like to lose at least five pounds...Today I didn't get your letter until one o'clock. The patients mail was out but not the nurses. We might read our letters on hospital time perhaps. The way the nuns snoop!.....I shall be seeing you in the sweet by and by. (Love and Kisses) Sounds like some small kids letter doesn't it? You are my sunshine and "I love you".

Forever Yours,

February 22, 1942

Dearest Elmer,

Really it looks as if I were hard up for writing material.....Well nothing has happened but I love you and love you. If you were here I would kiss you goodnite as it is I shall write "Goodnite darling".

Forever Yours,

P.S. I'm not giving up shows.

June 25, 1942

Dearest Elmer,

when I made the remark that I was tired of trying to express my feelings on paper I meant it. I could write pages and pages to you and not mind but I still cannot or don't write everything that I would like to.....

Forever Yours, 

June 14, 1943

Dearest Marvel,

.....This morning was the first morning that I ever was so sleepy that I couldn't keep awake in lecture. I dozed off about seven times. I suppose I'll get used to it. Greetings to your family.

Forever Yours,

P.S. Please pray for our success in the future. I'm making the sign of the cross in conjunction with my prayers before and after meals regardless who is at the table I'm sitting at.

June 15, 1943

Dearest Marvel,

This afternoon I went to the depot to try to get a refund on the train ticket.....Well you can imagine the lump I had in my throat after I had planned that possibly I would have been able to see you. But Marvel I know I have you coming to me and I can expect a lot more and just made up my mind that I'd take it and what comes in the future as separation.....

Forever Yours,

June 21, 1943

Dearest Elmer,

.....Well I'm just sending this note along for fun. I really don't have much to say right now because I'm scatter brained. It seems eternity since I saw you last. Couldn't you have taken a plane home? Or is it too expensive?....."I Love You".

Forever Yours,

June 21, 1943

Dearest Marvel (also "Dear Diary"),

This morning I awoke at 5:25 and called all the men in the barracks. Then made my bed. I am also the orderly of the second floor dormitory so I checked all the beds to see that they were made properly.....Now with everything seemingly quiet with the exception of some of the men repairing the street, I will try to study, of course thinking of you. Which I cannot do too much of if I want to study.

Forever Yours,

June 23, 1943

Dearest Marvel,

Today I didn't get a letter from you.....This morning Miss Hansen was helping give the shots and she asked while she was injecting the needle if I had heard from you lately. Of course I enthusiastically said "Oh Yes" but I didn't tell her that I heard from you irregularly and of course that cannot be helped. Ha! Ha!.....I am always asking you to pray.....I hope I'm not harping.....for our happy marriage and my not having to go into active duty when I graduate so that we can be happily married and establish a home, how seemingly I forget to thank God for the things he has already given us. Good night dear.

Forever Yours,

July 7, 1943

Dearest Marvel,

I was very worried that something had happened that I didn't get a letter. I shall be able to see you from 2:00 until 5:15 every school day.....If you could be here I have a job for you sewing...Patiently waiting for you to come back, I will have to close for the time being.

Forever Yours,

September 9, 1943

Dearest Marvel,

Words cannot describe how busy I am.....I imagine that this is the last letter that will reach you before you come to northwest Iowa to be married. You lucky kid. Ha ha. As I said before I hope that you shall be made a happy girl and I promise to try my utmost to keep you that way. But as I also said before that scripture reads that God had said, "Without Me, you can do nothing." I must send this off now.

Forever Yours,


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13, 2013: The Silent Treatment

Ben in a silent-ish stance

I called Grant after school yesterday to check in. After establishing my estimated time of arrival, I asked to talk to Ben. "He's not talking" was Grant's response. I then asked Grant to put Ben on the phone. "He just stares at me and won't talk." At that point I was annoyed.

Hanging up with Grant and ready to hand it to Ben, a text came through from son #2. "I don't work today and I'm not talking to Grant." Okay. I got my answer, so I let it be.

I walked in the door to an agitated Grant (anyone who knows Grant knows this isn't pretty). "Ben's giving me the SILENT TREATMENT!!! He hasn't talked to me for two hours!!" Wow, I hadn't heard the term "silent treatment" used in my house before. In fact, I don't think I heard that phrase since my own high school years. I told Grant to work it out with Ben and went about my own busyness.

By bedtime, Grant popped his head in my room. "Mom, he's still giving me the silent treatment!" I told Grant to go to bed; he needed a new day. As I sat in bedtime silence, I thought about how quiet my night was so far. Much quieter than typical. You see, my boys bicker a lot. They fight continually and are loud. Grant being younger and smaller has always used his voice as weapon against Big Brother Ben. And, trust me, it gets tiring. But not so much tonight. Silence.

Today after work, I noticed they were talking again. And no screaming or fighting. Hmmmm. I inquired of Ben on how yesterday's silent treatment came to be.

"Mom, I got sick of Grant, so I told him if he was a douche or disrespected me, he would get the silent treatment." Alrighty then. Ben went on to explain Grant's response of "idiot". Ouch. So Ben delivered on his threat and it was nothing short of torture for Grant. You see, these boys have a love/hate relationship. They fight when they're together, but miss each other when apart.

So after years of my begging, threatening, and punishing them for loudly killing each other; Ben found a resolution to our chronic household issue. Who would have thunk? Are Mom's allowed to give the silent treatment? Hmmmm...Ben's going to need to school me in the art.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013: Confessions of a Juvenile Delinquent (Last Chapter)

Fr. Paul Eisele...a great principal to Remsen St. Mary's High School
Okay, so I have another confession from my teenage years. And this one is a whopper. I actually have a record. In my defense, I haven't committed another crime since this incident in the early 80's. But nonetheless, this is a confession of my indiscretion; a past juvenile delinquent.

It's time to come clean, so I will stick with the facts. My best friend, Bev, and I decided to go nine miles to the neighboring town of LeMars simply because we were bored in Remsen. It was the winter of 1984. Bev and I thought this was a good choice for a cold and uneventful Saturday night. Bev's brother lived in LeMars and had an apartment there, so he gave us a ride.

We quickly got bored in LeMars as well. With our curfew looming, we started scrounging for a ride. This was is in the days before cell phones, so we weren't afforded the convenient technology of texting. Instead we walked toward the busy main loop, thinking we would get lucky with a car going back to Remsen.

Luck appeared to be going our way as we immediately saw a familiar car full of girls from our little home town. We asked for a lift and hopped in the back seat. Our luck ran out when we were pulled over by the LeMars police no more than two minutes and a half a mile from our pick up spot. In the car were open containers of beer. We were taken to the county jail along with the other girls in the car and booked with "Minors in Possession". 

Our parents were called. Bev's mom must have drawn the short straw as she came and took us out of custody. We cried all the way home. When I walked into my house, my mom was waiting and not a bit happy. I cried the tears of Tammy Faye Baker with mascara streaming down my face. My dad was so mad, he didn't get out of bed. My mom simply said, "Go to bed. We'll talk about it in the morning." She had no interest in hearing how this really wasn't my fault; that I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My brother, my biggest advocate, came home next. I cried my Tammy Faye tears to him knowing that he would side with me. Not so much. His answer, like a stab in my heart, was "Well, even if you did nothing wrong tonight, this gets you back for all the times you should have gotten in trouble." <huh?> Alone in the world with no one hearing my side.

The next morning my dad still wouldn't talk to me, but promptly drove my maroon two door Nova to Main Street. In Remsen, we are allowed to park in the middle of the street. So there sat my Nova in the middle of Main Street with For Sale signs noting my dad's barber shop phone number.

At dinner, Dad broke his silence, explaining that he had called the high school principal. Fr. Eisele was expecting me in his office first thing Monday morning to confess my conviction and receive my just punishment. <ugh>. Not another word was spoken over dinner as I pondered the shame of this conversation to come.

As my dad had promised, Fr. Eisele was waiting for me Monday morning. I was active in cheerleading and many other extracurricular activites at the time. I knew the penalties would be harsh. I bit the bullet and factually told Father the events of Saturday evening and my eventual arrest. No contest. And then I cried.

"Sandy," Fr. Eisele told me sternly, "you are a good girl, but you should have known better than to have gotten into that car. No excuses. You knew there was probably alcohol. You didn't ask. You looked the other way and now you're in trouble. But here's what we're going to do...."

Father went on to coach me on what to tell my dad and described our "work around" from punishment. He told me to tell my dad that I cried and cried and begged for forgiveness. That he ordered a strict sentencing of a two week ban from cheerleading and school activities. But after begging for forgiveness and promising not to make the same mistake again, he showed me mercy.

"That's what you tell your dad, Sandy. You won't let me down again, will you?"

"No, Fr. Eisele, thank-you."

So I went home that night and told my dad exactly what Father said to say. My car remained on the open market for another week with no buyer. Then it mysteriously showed up back at home, less the For Sale sign, and with keys left on the table.

My parents were always a bit suspect on my lenient school punishment. But please note, Fr. Eisele, I really have been a good girl ever since.

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 2013: The New Normal??

My kitchen just the way I like it...prepping for dinner
After a whirlwind three weeks with my new venture and Irish friends in town, I drove home last week breathing a sigh of relief. "Back to life as normal...for a while," was the comforting thought on my mind. As I thought through the boys playing on the tramp in the backyard and a dinner of steak and baked potatoes on the grill, I sighed again. Normalcy.

Then as I thought about the days to come into decompression mode, I rethought my idea of normal. Life back to normal? What's that? My normal of today is light years different from my normal of ten years ago. I would never have dreamt ten years prior that my idea of normal life would include every other weekends with my kids, a career change, and a boyfriend in Denver. But it sure feels normal now.

Maybe normal = comfortable in my world. And I would say that my new life routine has become very comfortable to me. The basic "normals" of cooking a dinner to enjoy together at the table, the sound of kids playing in the back yard, and thought of the piano humming tunes later on are the standard secret ingredients that tie it all together. Add in a phone call from my man from Denver to finish my day. Normal. Comfortable. Definitely.

Tomorrow I will add my 5:30 a.m. run with long-time friends. The thought of all this comfortableness is pure bliss. When we run from Harvey Oaks, we see the same elderly lady walking her morning route as well. She always greets us cheerily as we meet on the trail. Our routines collide frequently.

Today I passed her walking her route in the wee hours as I drove home from dropping Garrett off at the airport. I started thinking about her normal routine; which obviously included this morning walk. What did normal mean to her? What else filled her comfortable days? Perhaps a cat to be fed when she got home. Community service and then bridge in the afternoon? Dinner after Jeopardy? Hmmmm...who knows...maybe she has a boyfriend in Denver too.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 2013: A Celebration of Russ & Cook

Russ and Cookie at their 25th milestone

Today I went to the 50th anniversary party of Cookie and Russ Lane; my former in-laws, ex-husband's' grandparents. I really don't know what to call them now. They were my mother and father in-law for so many years. I still call them that out of habit. For twenty plus years, through my young adulthood, they were like parents to me and are wonderful grandparents to my kids. Russ and Cookie are just good people. I think that is the best way to refer to them in the future. No fancy titles necessary.

It gave me a smile to watch the video their kids had prepared; full of family photos through their 50 years together. Lots of memories, some forgotten and others thought of often, raced through my mind. Most of these were just simple moments.

Cookie helped me shop for my wedding dress. After trying on my first dress option, I turned to Cookie and said, "I like it. I'll get this one." She very kindly encouraged me to try another. So I did and responded with "I think I'll still go with the first one." She just smiled and helped me check out. As a twenty year-old without a clue on the requirements of being a bridezilla, Cookie was humored with the ease of this purchase. Since then we have spent many years organizing parties and picnics, holding babies, and celebrating family together.

I was introduced to Big Russ by Scott while we were as dating college students. His kind dad seemed quiet and a bit reserved. I was subsequently shocked by his telling me a graphically dirty joke within ten minutes of meeting me. Once the shock wore off, I realized that Russ was the king of joke-telling. Appropriate or inappropriate didn't matter as long as it was funny.

Russ has humored me over the years too. He knew that I enjoyed clothes and would hum background cat walk music as I would put on my "fashion shows". When I would cook healthy meals for him post-heart attack, Russ would refer to me as "Seattle Sandy". A funny play on words as we had a local health food company in Omaha called Seattle Sutton's. Making light in life is a strength of both Russ and Cookie that resonates through all their family.

It was so awesome to see the many family members and friends who have been a part of Russ and Cookie's life over these fifty years. I have shared many fond memories with these same people. Although I did get a greeting from each of my own kids, the boys were comfortably nestled in with their cousins and Lane friends on the sidelines. They are very comfortable in this circle of family.

My boyfriend, Garrett, joined me today as well. Most would think this would be awkward as Scott is now remarried; enjoying his next chapter of life with Kat. This wasn't the case at all. The party was a celebration of Russ & Cookie's life together. I was a part of these 50 years, as were the many people around us. A blessing.  As I said to Garrett on our ride home, the feelings that went through me weren't regret or those of an outsider. My years as a Lane daughter-in-law were a good run. I was blessed to share life with good people. Yes, Russ and Cook are just good people. It can't be put any better than that.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 9, 2013: Mary L. Wagner

Mary L. Wagner...Mary L. Wagner...Mary L. Wagner...

I have written (and practiced) that signature many times as a teenager. I was reminded of my errant ways when I ran into a friend, and former Remsen neighbor, last night. Back in the day, Jim not only had the distinction of having a dad as mayor, but also had a mom who served as high school secretary. As I asked Jim about his parents, I could picture his mother's look to me as I would hand over my fictitiously signed notes from home.

"Sandy has my permission to leave school at 2:00 today for a orthodontist appointment. Sincerely, Mary L. Wagner" was a common note. Very common. In fact more common than the ortho appointments. Senior skip days, sunny day plans for hanging out at the sand pit...all perfect opportunities for an alleged appointment to escape end-of-the-day study hall and algebra. Sr. Margretta believed in self-study and didn't teach her math class anyway. In my high school mind, I caused no harm.

Audrey Matgen was simply doing her job as secretary as she took my notes from home. But she had my card. No doubt about that. Her look said it all. Audrey knew that Mary L. Wagner had no clue that a note was being submitted to school. She saw through my forgery, but never ratted me out. She just took the note and gave me a stern look in return.

I feel dirty telling my stories of falsification and deceit, but it's time to come clean. The pinnacle of my forgeries is a classic tale for the Class of 85. It involved the St. Mary's cheerleaders and a purported cheerleading camp at Lake Okoboji. In the days pre-computer, I used a typewriter to create parental authorization sheets for this made-up cheerleading camp.

After I painstakingly typed the individual forms for each cheerleader, we each gathered our parental consent. This time the signature was an authentic Mary L. Wagner. It was the form that was the fraud. They must have been well drafted, as we were given no push back from our parents. Instead we received spending money and a signed authorization.

Word got out to both high schools of our shenanigans. Teens came in droves to Okoboji that weekend. Some for the day and others with added manipulation of tales of overnighters at each others homes. It was a huge party at Fillenwarth Beach. Lora was resourceful in securing a cabin with her parents credit card. That feat earned her the only backlash from our juvenile delinquent ways.

Note that we did indeed cheer in our swim suits on the beach many times that weekend; so not to be considered complete frauds. After returning home that Sunday night (extremely exhausted, but nicely tanned), I distinctly remember my mom asking me how cheer camp went. I told her the obligatory "great" and went straight to bed.

About ten years ago I confessed my wayward ways to my mom, including the fictitious cheer camp. Her response? "You don't need to tell me any more stories like these. I'd rather not know." So noted.

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8, 2013: All the Single Ladies (Part II)

Some of our combined crew

As an appendix to my blog from two days ago, I have a couple of additional thoughts to share relative to my marital status. The past blog only gave my personal thoughts. Today's entry will share some insights from our extended crew (kids) and my almost-significant other (Garrett).

Although Garrett has enjoyed all of the great feedback from my Single Ladies blog <wink-wink>, he did feel that a detail was left out; thus making it a less factual portrayal of the situation. Out of fear that he won't let me blog about him again <gasp>, I will share his recollection of a purported marriage proposal. I kind of forgot about this, but will substantiate that it did happen.

Three years ago (and very early in our relationship) over late night margaritas at Roja, I (hypothetically) asked Garrett if he would ever marry me. After the shocked look left his face and he spent about thirty seconds thinking about my bold question, Garrett answered, "Yeah, I think I would."

My answer was something like "cool". We then went on to finish our chips and margs. I heard what I wanted to hear. Garrett will always remember this exchange as my proposal of marriage. So, technically, yes, I did kind of ask the question. BUT there still isn't a ring on my finger, so he isn't completely off the hook.

Our kids have weighed in their feelings on the matter as well. Ben, of course, has provided the best overall assessment of the situation. Grant's response was pretty classic as well.

On a drive home from running errands, the boys and I were engaging in small talk. I had just hung up the phone with Garrett when Ben made a comment that if we lived in the same city, he was sure we would be married. "hmmm", was my response. "Should we get married even though we lived in two different states?" I threw out to them.

Grant's response "Is that even legal?"

Ben's response "Don't do it! You will crash and burn. Guaranteed."

Well then...out of the mouth of babes??

Final insight comes from Ms. Lily Brucker, Garrett's 3rd child and only daughter. Early in our courting and once Lily figured out that we were serious, she confided her own concerns with her dad.

"Dad, if you and Sandy get married, I'll be the only girl. I'll have six brothers. That would be so unfair."

Wow, Lily, another great comment.

Obviously we have some time to survey public opinion.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 7, 2013: B.L.

B.L. and Coach Martin

I think it is such a true statement that the impact of a person is not set by the number of years they have on this earth, but by the number of people they have touched in their lifetime. Bradley Layne Kracl (B.L.) died on July 29, 1989. He was twenty-three. Although his life was too short, he touched as many people as a man living to retirement.  B.L. had incredible presence and wit. His high sense of loyalty still remains with his family and those honored to be called his friend.

My story begins at the beginning of the 1986-87 school year. And it did not begin with B.L. and I as friends.  In fact, it was quite the opposite. B.L. and Scott came to Westmar College as new students that fall. They were high school buddies. I was starting my sophomore year and very familiar with the Schuyler High School crew of friends. Scott had taken a liking to me and began visiting me at my dorm.  But he didn't come alone. He would bring B.L. with him. They came as a team; kind of like group courting.

When B.L. and I met, we immediately didn't like each other.  B.L. was handsome and cocky. He knew he was handsome and didn't care that he was cocky. I thought he was full of himself and I am sure he had the same opinion of me. He liked to party. I liked to study. Needless to say, we did not start off with any mutual affection toward each other.

As Scott continued to visit me in Bonebrake Dorm, B.L. continued to be reluctantly at his side. B.L. never said much to me, but would sure stare me down in an effort to try to make me feel uncomfortable. I would, in turn, put my nose in the air and glare back when given the opportunity. Our relationship slowly moved from dislike to tolerating each other as it became apparent that Scott and I were an item. I wasn't going anywhere and neither was B.L. So by virtue of Scott, we were basically stuck with each other.

College life continued that first semester with B.L. and I at many of the same functions, but with interaction only when necessary. Christmas break came and went. Second semester brought a new work study position for me; Campus Accounting Tutor. Second semester also brought a new class in the fold for B.L.; Accounting 101. B.L. was a business major and found accounting to be very challenging. He told me later that although he was struggling, he couldn't drum up the courage to show up at the Accounting Lab where I tutored.

One day we (yes, the three of us) were hanging at the Student Union. When Scott got up to pick up his food order, B.L. blurted out to me, "Okay, I need help with accounting. Can you help me?"  I was taken aback. Mainly because he spoke to me, but more so because he was asking for help. He seemed incredibly uncomfortable. It was obvious that he didn't want to discuss this in front of Scott. "Sure," I answered. We quickly negotiated the terms and decided against the Accounting Lab office; instead opting to meet at my Aunt Barbara's house.

I was nannying my cousins for a week while my aunt and uncle were out of town. B.L. showed up after I put the kids to bed. We stayed up until two in the morning studying; starting with the basics of accounting to get him up to speed. He came back the next night and then the next. He was an attentive student. In return, I didn't talk down to him. We were a team trying to get him through this class together. He began with a failing grade, but after our initial crash tutoring and intermittent help throughout the semester, he ended with a B.

He was so excited (not a common emotion for B.L.) after he finished his final exam and later gave me the news. That same night when I went back to my room after a night of my own studying, I was greeted with a surprise. Outside my door was a carefully placed white teddy bear and a card. The card had a hand written note from B.L. thanking me for all of my accounting help and for my friendship.

I was shocked, but completely grateful for the sweet gesture. He and I really never talked about the gift. I tried to thank him once and he just gave me a grunt and looked away. I then knew that it wasn't necessary to give a thank-you for a thank-you...just accept it. That I did.

B.L and I were this very unlikely duo who somehow became friends. I quickly learned that I had misjudged him and I believe he felt the same about me. This confident guy with burly good looks was really a teddy bear himself; sensitive, sweet and not wanting anyone to see that he was human with weaknesses like the rest of us. I was now one of B.L.'s friends and part of a large group of people who felt the warmth of his personality and kind spirit.

His death still doesn't feel real to me.  I think a big part of this was B.L.'s larger than life spirit while he was alive. He was a guy who always brought energy with him; where ever he went. Those who knew him know exactly what I am saying. You felt it in his presence.

The teddy bear and card went missing between house moves many years ago. I remember re-reading the card and deciding to put it in a safe place, so not to lose it. After forgetting this act, I later couldn't remember the safe place. I haven't seen it since.

I think about B.L. often and feel his presence in my life still today. I do believe that one day I will receive a Godwink when that card will mysteriously reappear. Someday...but until then, I am just thankful that accounting wasn't B.L.'s thing. I cherish the friendship that didn't seem meant to be.