Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013: Full


I sneeze when I'm full. I mean, I really sneeze. Like twelve times. The waitress will ask if I'm okay and many times I have to excuse myself to the restroom. It's embarrassing. But at age forty-five, although I have done this my entire life, I haven't figured it out. I continue to eat too much. And I continue to sneeze.

I thought this was just a rare affliction until it was brought to my attention that my son, Ben, has the same problem. The last time we had a big, BIG, family dinner at the Outback, we both ended up in continual sneezes. He couldn't bear the thought of inheriting this unattractive trait, but he did.

One would think that we would know to stop eating once the hint of a sniffle would come on. I am getting better. I did stop tonight after one sneeze following a fajita and a margarita. But a higher standard should be the expectation.

I picture an assembly line with bells going off when capacity is reached. Shouldn't my sneezes be the same? One would think. Tomorrow is a new day. And maybe I can pick up some new tricks from Ben.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013: Wet Jeans


The first pair...completely wet. The second pair...half wet from a neighboring towel.
Zach had a wardrobe malfunction this morning. He forgot to put his work jeans in the dryer last night. His spare pair were left on the laundry floor next to a wet towel. Ten minutes prior to departure for work, he found himself with wet jeans. As he tried to wear them wet, I knew from experience that this was a bad idea. Wet  pants are miserable.

A life lesson for Zach: Put your clothes in the dryer before bed. My life lesson on this matter was when I was six or seven years old. In my instance, the culprit was a wet pair of corduroys. And I wet them.

I had to go to the bathroom so badly and we were far from home; playing at the Remsen cemetery. I guess I should explain the cemetery issue first. We really did play at the cemetery. It served as an outdoor history lesson of sorts to us.

We would often go to the rectory and Fr. Birdsall would pull out the plot records and tell us names and family lineages to various plots. My friends and I would explore for hours; reading the names on the tombstones that were familiar and then later asking about the ones that weren't.

On the particular day of note, I stayed too long at our graveyard playground. The walk home was long; at least ten city blocks. When I got to the point of not being able to hold my bladder anymore, I wet my pants.

It was instant relief and actually felt warm and a bit comforting. No big deal, my little girl mind thought. I would just change when I got home. That thought lasted about two minutes. Then the warm wet turned cold, very cold. And it itched and my wet corduroy thighs rubbed together. I was miserable. It was a long walk home. I never wet my pants again.

Zach's wet jeans stayed on for less than a minute before he figured out this was a bad choice.The jeans went in the dryer and we went to Plan B. He compromised by temporarily wearing a pair of golf pants. I ran him his appropriate work attire of jeans an hour later. I was glad he waited for them to dry. A worthwhile trip.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013: Wear Sunscreen



Wear Sunscreen

By Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '98: Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013: The Boys are Back


Watching some hockey before the storm
Just to come clean...

With all my talk of enjoying down time and a quiet house, I actually prefer the sound boy chaos echoing through my home. I miss my boys when they are not here. I miss Garrett when he's not here. But such is life. All named have a life outside of me.

So I enjoy my quiet when it comes, looking forward to the days ahead. Tonight the boys came home. And it felt like a stampede of wild horses. Not only did Ben arrive first, but he brought two buddies with him. Zach graced us with his presence as well. I'm not going to get too choked up as his main intent was to shelter his car from the impending hail.

Grant is busy planning out the week. His first week of summer freedom starts tomorrow. And that kid never lacks for ideas on how to fill his time. He made his mother happy by eating a meal I prepared for him and then thanked me <smile>. Normalcy is back. Whatever that means.

Based on the roar in the family room, the Blackhawks must have just scored. The rapid heartbeat has been restored to the home. Three days of fun and then mama is off to Denver. Life is good.

May 26, 2013: A Girl and Her Bike


My bike and my knee handled my fall quite well
This blog is going to read like a school paper. One about "How I spent my Sunday". I kind of felt like a school girl today, so it is fitting. I will preface my school work by disclosing that I did bite it on my ride. Thanks to Dr. Brown for banning me from my clipped biking shoes. My agility with running shoes saved me from further injury no doubt.

My adventure started at noon today. After noting no rain in the forecast until late afternoon, I decided on a long bike ride. Pulling up the metro trail map, I felt adventurous; wanting to try something new. Downtown was luring me. Looking East, I saw what appeared to be a trail running down past the zoo. With lots of downtown riverfront trails, I knew I wouldn't be at a loss for where to ride. Destination Downtown.

With bike packed and gear stowed, I trekked by car across town. Parking at Heartland of America Park, I was immediately reminded of the many Rotary bike rides I put on there so many years ago. Good memories. A stroll through the Con Agra playground and I quickly noted that I was on a trail designated only for walkers. No bicycles. On the wrong trail and unable to find the right trail, I was lost five minutes into my adventure.

Photo 1
I improvised by deciding to venture through the south Omaha neighborhoods. Hugging the east side, I thought I would be bound to find the missing trail. South on 6th, I stumbled into Little Italy of Omaha. As I drove by Caniglia Ave, a man resembling Uncle Junior from the Soprano's drove by me and waved. The smell of garlic bread and spaghetti filled the city block. Either a restaurant was near by or someone was expecting a lot of Sunday lunch guests.

Photo 2
Noting some train tracks to cross and what appeared to be a trail in the horizon, I took Hickory to where the numbered streets stopped (photo 1). Crossing the tracks and passing a sign indicating that I was on video, I rode up to the paved road. An older gentleman in jean shorts with no bike helmet was lifting his bike over a metal barrier. He reminded me of Garrett's dad. I immediately liked him.

"Are we not allowed on the trail?" I asked. "Just lift your bike over like me" was his answer. So I did. There were two signs on that stretch of trail that indicated trespassing would be prosecuted. Something about a levee. I was parallel to the river and saw no signs of damage or flooding (photo 2). Besides, the nice man told me it was okay. I did feel a little sinful in my breaking of the rules, but all was forgotten when I eyed the Desert Dome at the zoo. I had never enjoyed the zoo from this vantage point before (photo 3).

Photo 3
After an uneasy feeling about the presence of a desolate parked Cadillac with dark tinted windows, I noticed the "Welcome to Omaha" UP locomotives at Lauritzen Gardens (photo 4). Again, a view that I had never experienced. The Cadillac caused me no harm. Probably fishing. Who was I to judge?
Photo 4

Just before venturing back to Hickory, two young boys crossed the tracks. One, who appeared to be only fourteen, was shirtless with a cursive word tattooed across his chest. The child at his side had a lip malformation that obviously was never fixed. I gave them a cheery "Hey, guys. How's it going?" They responded with equal pleasantries. I wondered if they looked at me and thought "another one from the wrong side of the tracks". The definition of the wrong side really depends on which vantage point you are looking from.
Photo 5

The next cruise was through the Old Market. It was so tempting to grab an outside table at one of the spectacular restaurants and enjoy a cup of coffee or mimosa. I have always wanted to do that with bike in tow. But I resisted the temptation and headed for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge instead. I noted immediately the statue at Lewis and Clark Landing (photo 5). This was completely engulfed in water when the river flooded three years ago. The river is a beast. Those were scary times. But not today. The river was our friend today.

Photo 6
The bridge was full of family and Sunday walkers. I was curious to go over to the Iowa side and check out the new Hanafan Park. It was just opened with much hoopla and a Beach Boys concert. Very nice, CB. The nice man at the gate told me the Symphony would be playing at 8 followed by fireworks. I will definitely be back to this venue. I love the sight of Downtown Omaha in the background (photo 6).

There were many bashes planned on the river this weekend based on the signage and set-ups happening. I followed the river to Abbott Drive, anxious to get some miles in. Boats were out in fierce force as well. I remembered having a boat once. As I sat on the boat, I always envied the people I saw out on their bikes. We all have our "thing", don't we?

Photo 7
As I whipped through Carter Lake, I noted my popular stop of the airport (photo 7). Always seeming to be in a hurry in route, I have never paid much attention to the trail running parallel. Matt did take me on this trail on Memorial Day a few years ago. I haven't been back since. I like this ride. It was a mistake waiting so long.

Now is the part where I bit it. After recognizing familiar territory from running the Omaha Half in years past and then finding myself riding under the Mormon Bridge, I was doing too much sight-seeing without enough attention to the road. After passing Dodge Park, but before the Surfside turn, I clipped the side of the trail and tumbled. On my left side. That would be my bad knee. I cushioned it well and only suffered scrapes and minor bleeding.

After a quick call to my ever-resourceful biker boyfriend, Garrett, I was talked through getting my chain back on track. This was at mile eighteen. Determined to complete my long ride, back on the saddle I went. The trek north was stunning with many hills and beautiful farmland. Grades reached 5% and 9%. Who says we don't have hills in Nebraska?

I chatted a bit with two Washington County deputies. I felt safer after they assured me of no known mountain lions or escaped prisoners. The planted fields, parked tractors, and colorful wildflowers felt like home to me (photo 8). I loved to ride my bike on the country roads as a young girl. Thirty-some years ago, this was probably the same way I spent my Memorial Day weekend, on my bike in the middle of nowhere.

So that's my story. That's what I did this Sunday. I logged in 44 miles and burned 1,689 calories. My Pandora entertained me with everything from Sublime to Johnny Cash and the Eagles. I saw some new sights and also old ones, but from a different perspective. I thought about life, felt like a child again, and survived my first post-new-ACL fall. Lastly I want to thank Dr. Brown for my new ACL. It works perfectly...nice work!

Photo 8







Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 25, 2013: Quiet and Content


Can you hear the quiet of my house?
It's Memorial Day weekend. Typically one full of graduation parties, cookouts, drinks with friends on the patio. Not this year. And I am good with that. Actually, I'm great with that.

Instead of trips to the store, packing cars, and preparing dishes; I'm quietly enjoying the comfort of my home with an empty calendar. The biggest item of concern to me is the weather report and timing of my long bike ride.

My kids have grown self-sufficient to a great extent with driver's licenses and their own social calendars. And I don't feel the need to respond to the question from friends "are you doing anything this weekend?" with an obligation to add something to my currently empty Outlook calendar.

I am content in my quiet house with sound chirping birds through my opened window and the thought of a bike ride. I have some reading and work to catch up on and look forward to uninterrupted time to call my parents. Oh, and I have a steak to grill later with possibly hot tub to follow, pending rain. Boring? Maybe.

Is this what they mean by time passages? I used to look at my parents and wonder how they went from school board meetings, kids activities, and card clubs to a quiet existence. They didn't crave that busy lifestyle anymore. I thought they were missing out. That I wasn't like them; I was wired differently. I was wrong.

Life comes in stages. Have I become my parents? Although happy to claim that attribute, I would say that with age I have learned the meaning of the famous John Lennon quote "life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans." Planning hours in your week for your own happiness is much more fulfilling than filling your days with what others want you to do. Simple is better.


Quiet and content is the caption of this pix...following my cat to the kitchen

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013: A Train Thing

Not my pix...couldn't get me phone out fast enough (and I was riding too fast :))
I really love trains. It's a memory thing. It's an Omaha thing. It's a kid thing. And the trains always notice me too. It's as though we know our own kin.

I hit the trail on my bike today and rode my old standard; the Papio Trail. There is a portion from Pacific Street north to Dodge that runs parallel to the train tracks. Today as I pedaled furiously, a massive UP engine roared up beside me. The engineer immediately gave me a big wave and a long blow of the train whistle. He must have known upon eye contact that I was one of them.

My childhood home rested a block from the tracks. The trains chugged through my town many times throughout the day and night. As kids, we were enamored with these huge locomotives. We chased them. We counted them. We played on the tracks.

The trains were a part of our town. I went to bed each night with the background sound of a moving train. Others would consider this noise. To me, the sound of a train motoring down a track is nothing short of a lullaby.

Today as the engineer greeted me with the shriek of the whistle, I road beside the train trying to keep up as the wind blew through my hair. It was just as I did at age ten, running along side the track in pig tails. The history and importance of Union Pacific in Omaha as well as my own kids' love for trains, makes my fascination even a bit deeper.

And I do know that it is going to be a great weekend. A chance encounter with a friendly train is a tell-tale sign. Only good can come out of that. I know this from experience.

May 23, 2013: Chemotherapy Lounge


“I don't understand this, I only turned my back for a few seconds.
All our money was in there.”
“Up next: Daydreaming about sex and why its good for you.”
The televisions talk for us,
fill the endless spaces.
There is no understanding
only tacit treatment of cancer patients
who are all alike.
Lined up in recliner chairs,
at times almost fifty of us.
“Welcome back. We’re talking about how to have house guests and enjoy them.”
“What makes your adrenaline rush? What makes it pump?”
The faintly metallic odor of noxious drugs,
the sour-sweet overlay of vomit permeates everything,
even the carpet.
Trapped in our seats,
plugged to poles we sit for hours.
Poisoning takes time.
“It was to be a yearly lease but I let him have it month to month.
Then he wanted me to pay for the utilities.
I said, ‘Do you want me to fix your breakfast, too?’”
“Let's get together for dinner and finalize the details about the wedding.”
“Sorry, Roxanne, not tonight.”
“But darling, why?”
The nurse has on a felt pumpkin hat for Halloween.
She sits heavily on a stool by my side,
drops ten or so filled syringes in her lap.
All of this will go into my body.
“So, how've you been?” she asks without looking at me.
I feign sleep, try to shut out noise and small talk.
Neither one of us is really here.
Magenta Adriamycin crawls up the tubing to the port
just above my bra.
“Tanya, welcome to our show. Tell us why things haven't been going so well
between you and Roger.”
“Storms will fire up north, expect some wind damage,
it’ll juice up down south with heavy rain.”
The taste of the drug hits me
as it disappears down the port in my chest.
My tongue itches.
I whisper, “I'm so sick.”
A reflex pat on the arm,
an emesis basin and towel in reply.
“Now your clothes can smell like you just hung them out to dry in the sunshine.”
“When are you going to tell him the baby isn't his?”
What I need is a large breasted woman—
pale, yellow house dress
worn, blue plaid apron.
I catch the scent of Vel soap
as she enfolds me on her old porch glider.
Bridal wreath in full bloom shades us
as we rock back and forth.
She rubs my back with a depth of compassion I can collapse in,
never bottom out
while she softly repeats,
“What a terrible thing to happen to you, honey.
What a terrible thing.”
AmyHaddad

Haddad, A. (2004). Chemotherapy lounge (poem). The Journal of General Internal Medicine, 19 (June), 715-716.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 22, 2013: Loose Gravel

Who was the culprit; the bike or the brother??
I went out for a bike ride today. As I sped under the Center Street viaduct, I cringed while flying over a strip of loose gravel. Why am I so fearful of gravel? was the question I asked myself once my jawbone relaxed from it's previously locked and clinched state.

It didn't take me long to recall my many bad experiences with loose gravel as a child and young adult. Alleys and gravel roads were a way of life in small town Iowa. Fresh gravel was a nightmare for the rider of a bike and in my case; passenger of a dirt bike and a car. The good news is that I actually survived.


There were three bad loose gravel incidences that immediately came to mind. Two included my brother Matt and the other; my friend, Joan Brennan. Sorry, Joan. As for my brother, he is used to my using him as a subject in my blog. Past Ben Lane, our childhood stories provide the most material for my writing. Thanks, Matt. 

The first mishap involved a ride home on a bike. For reasons I can not remember, Matt begrudgingly carted me home from the pool one summer day. He was not pleased about giving his sister a ride on the back of his bike. I was five years old and Matt, seven. He insisted that I didn't touch him. I thought the banana seat would save me. I was wrong.

As Matt turned into the alley behind our house, I felt the unsteadiness of the loose gravel. In retrospect, I should have hopped off and walked that last block home. Instead I held on for dear life while Matt roared down the alley like a possessed child. Although I can't prove it, I am sure he was trying to jostle his sister off his throne. Matt ultimately lost control and we bit it.

The bike flew sideways beside our driveway with the front wheel spinning out of control. My foot was caught in the spokes and my knee rubbed raw from the tire. Matt got up without a scratch. I spent the next week soaking my leg in a five gallon bucket of Epsom salt (my mom's remedy to all open wounds). I have scars to this day as proof.

I won't get into detail on the other two incidents, other than to say that I should have learned my lesson on riding on the back of Matt's bike. As teenagers, we reenacted this story on a dirt bike. This go around I suffered a muffler burn to my calf.

As for Joan, she was the driver of a car that ended up in a ditch. It was a bad combination of too many girls in a car, too dark, and too loose of gravel.  Although the car wasn't as lucky, we all walked away without a scratch. Amen to that. Joan was just the next unfortunate one in line to the Brennan car curse.

I guess the good news is that I didn't fall on the gravel today. But I will continue to be extra careful.   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 21, 2013: A Run!



This picture isn't of me, by the way (weigh? oops...Freudian slip). But it is a picture of the type of anti-gravity treadmill I ran on today. Yes, I ran! And it was delightful.


My last run was on February 21 on the Zorinsky trail following a snow storm. The trail wasn't plowed and I chose to rough it and plow through on my own. It was a beautiful afternoon. The only tracks that laid ahead of me were footprints of brave dogs and a few humans.

I felt like such an adventurer that I took a picture to memorialize the run. Two hours later I boarded a plane to Denver and the day after that I blew my ACL. You know the rest of the story.

I arrived at PT today greeted with the question "Do you want to get on the treadmill?" Sure! It was no ordinary treadmill. This one defied gravity. After putting on the special shorts that felt like a wet suit which zipped on to the large contraption, I was calibrated and ready to go. She set my weight to 75 pounds. So with the assistance of technology, I ran like a 75 pounder.

Now it's been a while, a long while, since I've been at that weight. I quickly realized that being lighter/thinner is much more conducive to running. It was definitely more enjoyable. I really missed the mark all these years running like a Clydesdale when I should have been shooting for the gazelle.

This anti-gravity thing is not a bad gig. Not only did my recuperating ACL agree, but my aging, heavy body liked it too. A concept the health clubs should latch on to! Possibly the barrier is the $35,000 price tag (I couldn't resist asking). Or maybe I should try the cheaper alternative and just lose some weight on my own....hmmm...

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013: Red Carpet Night


Tonight at a plenary meeting, I was reminded of the heartfelt impact of a random act of kindness. The center of our discuss was kindness shared within the service of healthcare; empathy given to those most needy and vulnerable.

This great discussion led me to think of my own life experiences. How acts of kindness were selflessly given to me in the past and the impact left in my own heart. One of particular note came immediately to mind. This act wasn't random. It was intentional. It was a gift of kindness given to me during a difficult time in my life.

On a Friday night in the dead of winter, ten of my sister-in-laws, nieces, and friends (and brother) celebrated a Red Carpet Night with me and for me. Some would say this was just a girls night out, but it was much more than that.

The month prior I had purchased a strapless red gown for my company Christmas party. I was very excited to wear this simple, but classic, red dress with matching shoes. A turn of events occurred just days prior to this party that not only kept me home, but changed my life forever; I filed for divorce.

The unworn dress remained in my closet long after Christmas. It hung as a stark reminder of the loneliness and sadness I felt that holiday season. In an effort to cover up the dull pain, I made light of the situation. A line I used on more than one occasion... "I'm just sad that I wasn't able to wear my red dress". My lame attempt at positivity.

The astute sisterhood comrades who surrounded me saw through my sugar-coating. Over some wine in January 2009, it was decided by the masses that I needed to wear that red dress. Soon an elaborate event was planned around the dress. It was coined Red Carpet Night.

My nieces and their friends were thrilled to revisit their prom days by dressing up in their favorite formals and dolling up each other's hair and makeup. The rest of us like-aged, forty-somethings did the same. And we had a ball. The adults enjoyed drinks and fancy food at Jam's with little Emma tagging along.

There were many pictures and fancy deserts. My brother, Matt, showed up at the end of the night for a surprise visit. We were thrilled. The only thing we were missing were the paparazzi and an actual red carpet. It was a night of no worries; just smiles and laughs on the lighter side of life. The best of nights.

This intentional act of kindness will never be forgotten and has been a lesson to me as well. The only skill necessary as the giver is an open and kind heart. I am grateful for being the recipient. Now it is my turn to continually look for ways to pay it forward.  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 19, 2013: Tornado Evacuation of 2003



In the Midwest, we all know that our ordinary summer days can quickly turn into tornado scares with greenish colored skies, blowing winds, and screaming sirens. When I was growing up, our shelter was a cellar with access only from an outside door. For me, storm sirens bring back flashbacks of my dad carrying me through ripping winds as I held on for dear life.

We were greeted with darkness and the smell of moist dirt. The sounds of whipping branches filled our ears while Mom attempted to mute out the frightening noises by turning up the volume on our small portable radio; our only outlet of communication from the outside world. We sat in the dark, staring at jars of canned vegetables lining the dirt walls until hearing the "all clear" signal.

Although the threat of tornadoes are just as scary in today's times, I believe I minimize it a bit more with the convenient access of my comfy basement and the various real time updates available on our big screens and smart phones. My kids haven't experienced my many stormy nights in the cellar, but they do know that their cushy basement is the place to be when the sirens blare.

Zach, my ever-responsible oldest son, performs brilliantly in evacuation situations such as these. As much as he doesn't like the stereotype of being the "responsible one", he can't run away from his genetic make-up. A favorite story I have of Zach demonstrating his innate ability to "run the show" is his first tornado evacuation.

On this particular night, I was home alone with the boys. It was stormy. But with no immediate threats of severe weather, I tucked the boys in for bed. Now is where I need to confess a bit on a weakness of mine. I like my sleep. Once I go to bed, I like to enjoy a deep sleep until my morning alarm rings when I hit the snooze button at least three times before waking up.

My memory of this particular stormy night was Zach pulling my arm in the middle of the night while begging me to get out of bed. After a fog of following him into the basement, my next recollection was sitting on a bean bag with my dog on my lap. Next to me were Ben and Grant; sleepily removed from their beds by their older brother.

At the TV with his orthodontic head gear in place was Zach, finding the best station for tornado updates. Turning to me as he adjusted the volume, Zach gave me a minor scolding. "Mom, the sirens went off. How did you not hear that? We are in a tornado warning for the next forty-five minutes."

"Oh"  I answered as I looked around the basement. The realization then came that Zach had single handed evacuated the house, including me, to the safety of the basement.  There were no tornadoes that night as we all went back to the comforts of our beds at the end of the tornado warning.

This last Saturday I worried about Zach at my house alone during a tornado warning. I called the neighbors to ask them to check on him. He later called to inform me that he was already in the basement of his dad's house keeping an eye on his brothers. Yes, of course you are, Zach. What was I thinking?



May 18,2013: Saturday Minute Report

Old Market libations
  8:30 a.m.: Slept in (check)

  8:45 a.m.: Cup of coffee from Keurig while checking a kazillion e-mails (check)

  9:45 a.m.: Decision made on workout schedule. Garrett to run and a bike ride for me (check)

10:00 a.m.: Air in bike tires, water bottle prepared, sun screen slathered on face (check)

10:15 a.m.: I begin a glorious 22.29 mile ride. I met two friends riding on the trail. Weather is spectacular and I surpass my average MPH and time from previous ride (check)

11:40 a.m.: Back from the ride. Catch up with Stefano and Garrett. Hot shower (check)

12:10 p.m.: Lunch of cereal with fresh fruit. Make a list for the day. Realize that Ben didn't actually spend the night; just his car. More e-mails and reading (check)

1:00 p.m.: Plant shopping at Lowe's with Garrett. He gets a medal for his valiant participation in my flower choosing. Four pots, thirty-eight plants, one bottle of release fertilizer, one bag of grass seed, and one Mountain Dew later (GB treat for enduring), we fill up my Acura and head for home (check)

2:05 p.m: Planting time. It is a bit hot, more than we anticipated. All beds and pots were filled. Vines and trellises secured with twine roped for guidance. Grass-less spots were racked in the lawn with seed planted. The back shed cleaned out, hoses organized, and everything with a root, watered (check)

3:45 p.m.: The backyard was more work than anticipated. Another shower (check)

4:15 p.m.: Catch up on accumulated phone calls, text messages, and e-mails (check)

4:40 p.m.: Garrett and I head to the Old Market with sun roof wide open (check)

5:10 p.m.: To the Embassy Suites for a law school graduation party. Caught up with old friends and met a few new (check)

6:15 p.m.: A little reminiscing as we leave Embassy Suites. This is where Garrett stayed the night of our first date in Omaha. Our first kiss (awwww....). I get another kiss (check)

6:25 p.m.: A walk down Howard Street and a decision on Stokes for dinner. Garrett orders blue margaritas and we chose a couple of appetizers to share on their outdoor patio. The Market is bustling with people while Garrett and I enjoy the night (check)

8:30 p.m. We arrive home to Stefano finishing up the lawn edging and updating us on his versatile weed eater purchase from Sears. Abby is meowing for her nightly meal and a few more e-mails await. Laundry loads are changed (check)

9:10 p.m. We ended the night as we started; with dueling computers on our laps and in comfy clothes. But instead of sitting at the kitchen table, we sat outside and enjoyed the surrounding fruits of our day's labor. A good Saturday (check)



Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013: My Brother from Another Mother...

Happy Birthday, Matt Wagner (the handsome guy third from right)
Picture was taken 3 years ago on a road trip to our home town, Remsen
Not really another mother, but we like to say this (sorry, Mom). My brother, Matt, and I have a very strange sense of humor. Our inside jokes really make no sense, but they crack the two of us up. We laugh a lot and we tease each other A LOT. From me referring to him as my brother from another mother to our "guy" hug where he pounds my back abruptly, we enjoy our presumed silliness.

Our own kids like to join in our fun. Our time together, including many road trips with our collective crew, are full of laughter and great memories. Matt's quick wit doesn't miss anything. He is ruthless in holding on to my dumb commentary or mispronounced words. My random thoughts that turn into words and my butchering of the English language provide him material for future comic relief. And I don't mind a bit.

It's Matt's birthday today. He is actually a man of few words who desires little attention. So I will keep it very simple. Happy Birthday, Brother. Thanks for making me laugh and being an awesome brother. XOXOX

May 16, 2013: Work Life Balance

Tip toe through the tulips...
I have a very high appreciation for work life balance. It really is important to me. About the highest on my list, actually. I didn't think about it much when I was younger. I am now older, wiser, and more seasoned (nice way of saying I have had hard life lessons??) and relish my time with loved ones. My relationships are my most cherished assets.

This week I didn't do a very good job of managing this balance. And boy did I feel it. It didn't take long for me to pause and stop the insanity (or at least slow it down). A wise man once told me that you need to invest in your relationships every day. You can't grow what you don't nurture. And those not nurtured will likely find it somewhere else. It's being human.

Life will go on with or without us. This is a hard lesson some times. There are no re-dos in life, but new days are available if we're lucky. Today was just that; a new day. With e-mails almost caught up and work done for the week, Garrett and I just enjoyed dinner on the back patio. Ben and buddies are playing basketball on the front driveway. They are next in line for the grill. The weekend is looking good. Balance is restored...

 

May 15, 2013: Training Wheels are Gone!

Freedom after a long wait!
I was released from my training wheels today. It was such a great feeling to advance out of my garage. If my bike had a motor, I am sure the feel would be identical to Peter Fonda in Easy Rider. I was back on the trails with the wind in my face and not a care in the world. At least not for that hour and half on the trail.

After two months and one day post-surgery (eighty-one days post-injury), this was my first "real" work out. Patience is not a strength for me. I was longing for this day to come. But, rest assured, I was a good patient and followed my PT and physician instructions to a tee. Which did not include anything that resulted in breaking a sweat in the last 2+ months. <sigh>.

I like to work out. I like to eat. I like to drink. Taking work outs from this equation is a bad mathematical equation  for me. I was chomping at the bit to see the calorie burn on my wrist monitor to exceed the equivalent of a small meal. This was achieved today. In fact, I wrote the number down along with mileage and average MPH to memorialize. A new work out log. Only one day of a log, but a log, nonetheless.

The freedom gained on my bike was riveting. I took snaps of picturesque scenes that in the past felt routine. Today I savored this views. In retrospect, the picture taking while riding was probably not the best idea. A fall from my sturdy companion would have extended my rehab time and foiled my work out plan for tomorrow.

But all is well. I survived my ride and am still smiling from the enjoyment of it. No motor necessary for this gal. Spandex in place of leather suits me just fine.

The top picture might be how I looked, but this picture is how I felt!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 14, 2013: Coming of Age Story



This is a coming of age story. That time in your life when you are transitioning from the cute kid to the young adult (but really miss being the cute kid). My coming of age hit at about age twelve. This story took place in the middle of the summer at my grandparent’s farm in Iowa. My mom was the oldest of the nine Pick children. As the oldest grandchildren, my brothers and I were dotted on by our many aunts and uncles.

At age twelve, I was spending many summer nights at Grandpa and Grandma’s farm. My brothers and I really had the best of both worlds as kids. We lived in town, but had the farm at our disposal as a limitless playground. On the occasions when the “out of town” aunts and uncles came back to the farm to visit, it was an even more special time.

This particular memory was with my Uncle David on one of his anticipated visits. David was a college professor on the East Coast and between his schedule and the distance; his visits were rare during this period of my life. Since his last visit, I had grown up from the little girl he knew. It was that awkward time of still being seen as the little girl, but wanting to be noticed as a young woman. 

I remember the moment vividly.  It was a beautiful summer night with the sun close to setting. On this particular evening I was sitting on the front steps of the farm house, drinking a sweetened iced tea and reading Good Housekeeping magazine. I was trying to act grown up. I knew the routine of my uncles and knew they would soon be joining me. They liked to relax outside with a smoke and a tea before dark.

I was very intrigued by Uncle David; my perceived hippie uncle. He had long hair, pretty girlfriends, and fast cars. I knew he was very cool. With his home across the country, I didn't grow up in front of him. My adolescent transition was new. I felt like I needed to assert my own new coolness to Uncle David.

The first uncle outside after dinner that night was David. He lit up a cigarette and sat next to me. I kept reading my Good Housekeeping, coolly pretending I didn't notice his presence. After he smoked in silence for a minute or two, he casually asked, “Well, young lady, what are we reading tonight?”

To my horror, the magazine was flipped open to a full page tampon ad. As I quickly turned the page, my mind raced in utter embarrassment searching for something cool to say. My quick wit was to tell Uncle David I was meditating, not actually reading the magazine.

My quick wit wasn't so quick as my words got jumbled. Instead of saying “I'm meditating,” I blurted out “I'm menstruating.”  I believe they call this a Freudian Slip.

David looked at me and I looked back at him. We were speechless. After a very awkward pause, Uncle David did his best to act as though I never made the statement. Eventually he smiled and disappeared back into the house. I was mortified. This was definitely not the way I wanted to be introduced as an adolescent. But I couldn't take it back. This was my coming out statement.  



Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13, 2013: New Dress Code


Open toed shoes allowed?? Of course!!
Life is just full of new revelations. Many times we don't see them because we are too stuck in our routines. Today was one of those days. I do have to say that I love the latest one I stumbled on. So glad it came to me.

I love dresses. And I love shoes (and boots, and jewelry, and great accessories). But I don't like to shop. Never mind on that last point; different blog. I also like to plan. Dresses feel even better to wear if I carefully lay them out the night prior.

On a typical evening before a workday, I lay out my dress of choice and then add the complimenting footwear and accessories. Coming from the corporate world, my heels have always been the standard business attire. Although fun in color and style, they have traditionally been pretty corporate.

Last night as I laid out a wrap-around brown dress with a geometric orange and olive diamonds, I eyed my choices of three different pairs of brownish heels. All looked professional with little variation. Then it dawned on me. I am currently restricted to no corporate dress code other than my own. My only restriction is my own taste (which I believe to be good).

The Nine West leather pumps went back on the shelf and the Nordstrom Boutique open-toed summer wedges replaced them. This corporate decision was made without hesitation. Just another day at the office....

Random thought: I took this picture in my back yard as I wrote this blog.
The sun is setting and I took without a flash. Don't the orange blossoms appear to glow??



Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12, 2013: Anutter Mutter's Day

Grant and teammates surprised the mothers with flowers at halftime of their lacrosse game
The title of my blog actually reminds me of my own mom. Mary would say a quirky little mispronounced saying like this with a smile on her face. And we would all laugh. That's what I love about my family. We share a great sense of humor, even when no one else understands. But we think our humor is funny and in our little world, that's what really matters.

My kids are funny. They make me laugh. Often. In fact, it gets them out of a lot of trouble. When in doubt, make mom laugh. Or make mom smile. Sugar is way better than vinegar at our house.

I could go through the laundry list of fun things we did to celebrate Mother's Day, but I'm not going to. I enjoyed them all, but the events weren't what brought the joy. It was the time together and observing laughter, bonding, and just plain having fun.

I like to watch my boys play. I like to see them interact well with others and show respect with caring attitudes outside our own tight circle. I like their inside jokes and stories that I am not a part of...the language of brothers.

It was a great day. I hope it was for all other mothers too. For me, a funny card and the surprise flower were well received gifts. But a day full of time with busy teenagers and engaging, funny conversation were truly the best gifts.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 2013: Virginia (Part II)

SOOOO excited about our new sweaters!!
My mom is the investigative reporter of the family. She wrote such a great note on Virginia, our sweater maker, that I thought it worthy of it's own post (along with a couple more pix of our treasured sweaters :))...
_______________________________________________________________________
(refer back to yesterday's blog, May 10, 2013 for the full story)

Guest blogger, Mary Wagner: Virginia is now confined to her home due to diabetes and osteoarthritis of the spine. She will celebrate her 95th birthday next week.

A rancher's wife who rode the range on a horse with her trusty gun at her side and thin as a stick her entire life. In her spare time she worked as a model in Phoenix.

Her good relationship with area Indian tribes was invaluable when she opened her shop and offered to sell their Kachina's, handmade turquoise jewelry, blankets, rugs, you name it...the REAL deal.

Word traveled quickly over the years. Customers from far and wide made a stop at Virginia's Trading Post a must. Sandy and I were preferred customers; two of a select group who were allowed in her private quarters. Virginia...a class act.

Grant was 2 weeks old and in my arms

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 10, 2013: Virginia's Trading Post

Trying on our snazzy sweaters at Virginia's
Some people collect stamps or rocks. Others collect pins or even t-shirts. Mom and I have a fuzzy hand-knitted sweater collection. Thanks to Virginia.

It all started in a tiny home front store in Kingman, Arizona. Virginia, the proprietor, sold the normal inventory of purses, scarves, jewelry, and pant suits. But she had something special that people came from all parts of Arizona and Nevada to purchase; her hand-knitted sweaters.

I believe this rave started with my parents in the late nighties. My dad bought one for my mom as a gift. Each sweater was made by the hands of Virginia and each with an eclectic style. She wove in everything from fur-like yarn to string and beads. Her yarn was imported and the quality, superior. My mom best described her creations as "perfect for Vegas". Liberace would have been green with envy.

The first Virginia sweater I laid eyes on was on a visit by my mom. She showed up with the most beautiful green furry sweater with satin accents. It laid on her small frame perfectly. Although I am biased, I will tell you that she radiated in this sweater. Compliments were given from random people wherever we went. She wore it well and didn't care if it wasn't the latest fad. Virginia was our sweater designer and we couldn't get enough.

My first sweater was a gift from my dad after the birth of Grant. It was brown, furry, and cropped with big buttons. In retrospect, I probably looked like a bear, but sure felt chic at the time. Soon my inventory grew too. Collectively we had every different color and design from a dove with sewn-in pearls to bright balloons on a sweater with puffy sleeves.

Virginia's sweaters were even more cool because she was so cool. In her eighties with fierce red hair (natural color back in the day) and a lot of confidence and attitude, she would take us into her house for viewing of her "private collection". As we perused her many shelves stacked with endless colorful inventory, a rifle rested casually in the corner of her closet.

Mom and I would try on the sweaters in her bedroom, full of family pictures in black and white and a photo of Virginia at a very young age. She was a knock-out. I would often wonder what would prompt her to use the gun. No doubt it's presence helped close the sale.

It's been years since I have worn one of my prized sweaters. My days of looking like a molting bird is perhaps behind me. At the time it sure felt like "bring sexy back". I will hold on to them. Fond memories. Surely mom and I can pull off this look again in the years to come. We will use Virginia as our role model.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 9, 2013: Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot tubbin' in Omaha
I was able to end my night with a little hot tub action. It always sounds like a great idea, but I typically either run out of time or steam. The great idea at 8:00 p.m. many times fizzles by 10:00.

Tonight I was glad I hung in there. I was feeling sleepy by 9:30, but pushed myself to do the final items on my mental list for the night. I proceeded to work out and then jumped in the hot tub. Execution on a plan always feels good.

Although my workout hasn't expanded in intensity level, I have embraced power walking even more. I now track it on "Map my Ride" (but, rather, as a walk); my internal code for deeming it a worthy work out. Phase two of my workout was riding my bike. Still not off it's stand, but moving and moving pretty fast. And then the ultimate treat of the hot tub.

I think the best part of the hot tub is that I actually relax. A great way to end the night. I'm not reading anything or typing anything. It's just me and my thoughts and the stars in the sky. I reminded myself tonight that these were the same stars that I gazed at from a hot tub in Texas just days ago. Seems like weeks ago at this point.

Life goes on, but some things never change. Home always feels good. Knowing that my family and loved ones from across the US share the same sky and look at the same stars is comforting. Different lives, same world. See what kind of thoughts cross your mind when you are left alone to think? Not a bad thing.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 8, 2013: When Did This Happen?


Zach snapped this for me in the Chipotle line
Grant is taller than me. When did this happen? I was so worried about my blooming tulips, I missed my youngest blooming two inches himself.

I realized it today when I picked him up from school. As we walk-jogged toward the gym, I noticed that I was looking him in the eye. No looking down.

"Did you grow this last week?" I asked.

"I don't know," he shrugged.

I let it go until we met Zach at Chipotle. Zach had just completed his first day at a new job. In celebration (and because I figured out that he skipped lunch), we splurged with a mid-afternoon feast. As we looked at the food board, I noticed again that Grant was appearing taller to me. I asked him to stand back-to-back for Zach to judge.

"Mom, he's definitely taller."

I looked at the worker behind the counter for verification. She agreed. Zach snapped the picture as final proof. Defeat. I am the oldest and shortest of my brood. No question.

As we sat and enjoyed our overstuffed burritos, Zach made an assertion on my new known fact. "Mom, I know what you're thinking right now." Well? "You're thinking about the blog story you're going to write on this, aren't you?" Yep.

"Does that bother you two?" I hesitantly asked. "Not at all" was Zach's answer. "Mom, I like it that you're a writer. That's cool!" was Grant's response.

All is now forgiven for them growing up when I wasn't looking. Like my mom always says...sugar is better than vinegar. Thanks for the backhanded compliments, guys.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 7, 2013: My New Home Office


Summer office space
My new home office furniture was delivered today. At least for use over the summer months. Some may call it patio furniture. I refer to it as versatile  Just my style. I am anxious for my clematis vines to grow and the addition of summer annuals for added ambiance.

Zach pulled through with the assembly and there was a lot. I was amazed that so many pieces of furniture fit into the small delivered box. "They are really good at packing it in, Ma'am" was the answer the young delivery man gave me. So on this sunny afternoon in Omaha, Zach carefully assembled the many pieces that were crammed in the Sears box.

The final product brought me much happiness and a big smile. Comfort and warm color wrapped into a functional seating arrangement. And it actually looked just like the photo on the Internet. Score.

By nightfall, I couldn't resist trying out my new digs. I sat cozily wrapped up in my fur blanket from the living room while sipping a Summer Shandy and typing on my computer. All was well until drops started falling from the sky. Tomorrow I will have to venture the ten steps to the hot tub if nature doesn't cooperate for computer work. The joy of home living with a great, not-so-secret, space.

View facing east
Note that the bulbs in the background have not yet bloomed

May 6, 2013: A Travel Day

This one was called "Playtime". I can relate.
Sometimes getting home is more of a challenge then getting there. This sure felt like the case yesterday. Starting with a positive reflection, it was a beautiful day in Dallas. And I was in no hurry to leave as my flight was at 1:00 with only a short drive to the airport. Garrett had work meetings, so I was solo for the morning.

Still not cleared to run, I enjoyed an hour of power walking. And I don't say that in jest. I really enjoyed it. Being a long-time runner/jogger/fast-mover, I have to admit that I have a history of looking down my nose at those burning calories the walking way. I was wrong and too quick to judge.

A walk allows more time to enjoy the sights and take in the scenery. I had run this loop before and never paid much attention to the artwork adorning the gardens. After a day of culture and trying to figure out the artistry behind the museum sculptures, the good ones were actually in these hotel gardens.

In retrospect, we could have instead enjoyed margaritas in the hotel garden, celebrating yesterday's Cinco De Mayo, while taking in the free art. The other great thing about walking is that you can easily take pictures of those things that catch your eye. I think even Garrett would have enjoyed these works of art (with some margs).
 
After my nice walk in the park, the rest of the day was more of a challenge. The negative side...I got lost trying to find the rental car drop-off (listening to the Google map lady rather than my inner good judgement was a bad idea). The positive side...a nice cabbie with broken English picked me out as a woman with a problem and waved me to follow him (purportedly I was driving around a cab lot...not Alamo).

The negative side...my plane had mechanical problems. After a wait and a gate move to a functioning plane, we left an hour late and I missed my connecting flight. The positive side...I read a great book in a very quiet part of the St. Louis airport terminal.

The negative side...my kids don't seem to care about my long day or need for a hug and simple conversation. Somehow I ended the night as the worst mom in the world and losing my cool a bit. Not good. The positive side...we ended some good conversation and takeaways. And a new day was right around the corner; one at home...always a welcomed reprieve.