Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 29, 2013: Family Best

This was the picture fail before to the final keeper
The best things about family holidays aren't necessarily the turkey or the perfectly set table. And although the planned outings are fun, it's the random moments that we all remember. For us it's the many laughs shared.

Our jokes and bantering may not be funny to those outside our tight circle of family, but to us, they are hilarious. The picture above demonstrates one of the many moments of laughter over our 48 hours together.

Mom wanted a "group shot"; a family photo. The final product was turned into a Christmas card of sorts (below), and posted on FaceBook. For those who wouldn't know better, one would assume with a smile and a click; the family photo of choice was captured. That was not the case.

There were several "fails" before the successful shot was had. With Mom setting the camera timer, she was having trouble making it into the picture prior to the picture being taken. We would roar in laughter, watching her run to get within lens range; only to have a flash go off before her arrival.

When going through the final digital shots, we first laughed at the shot above; poking fun of Ky's hair bulb covering Matt's face and Dad resembling the statue we made fun of at our recent visit to a Mexican restaurant. We then picked the perfect picture, until Mom gave it the final look and noticed something missing. The one we picked didn't have Mom in it. More laughter.

Now you know the story behind our Christmas card and why we are laughing in the failed shot above.

Happy Holidays from all of us. Wishing all of our friends and family many laughs, smiles, and warmth of family this Christmas season!

The Wagner clan
 (clockwise Dad, Garrett W (Mark & Meg's son), Mark, Meg, Matt, me, Garrett B, Mom, Ky (Matt's daughter))

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28, 2013: A Thanksgiving Anniversary

Thanksgiving 2009
My parents were married on Thanksgiving Day 1964. Although their anniversary rarely lands on the Thursday of Thanksgiving, it's an anniversary to remember. It was always odd to me that they chose this busy day to get married. My mom's story is that it was Grandma who thought this would be an ideal day for a wedding. A day that most family and friends would already be home so to save a trip.

Aunt Joan tells a different story. "Having a wedding on Thanksgiving was a bad idea. People wanted to be at home." Regardless, I am sure it was beautiful and those who attended had a great time.

As we talked about more recent Thanksgivings of past, I was reminded of another anniversary. Mom and Dad met Garrett for the first time four years ago on Thanksgiving Day. Although this may sound like a non-eventful anniversary; as do most things in my life, it came with twists.

Similar to this Thanksgiving which has brought me to my family in Dallas, our 2009 Thanksgiving included a trip to Denver that was conspired days before as well. Garrett and I had just started dating the month prior. Freshly divorced, I had not yet told my parents of my suitor.

Nebraska was playing Colorado in Boulder that year. As was tradition, the game was to be held on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I had secured tickets for Garrett and his kids through my contacts in Lincoln. As Garrett and I discussed how best to get the tickets in his hands pre-kick off, Garrett made a recommendation.

"Why don't you bring them to me and spend Thanksgiving in Denver?"

I didn't have my kids and my parents were soon to be in route to drive back to the Midwest. I had decided to fly to Albuquerque and make the drive back with them. Our plan for the holiday was on the road.

Garrett was persistent.

"Denver would be a good stop for you and your parents to spend the night during your road trip. I will make you all Thanksgiving dinner. I'd love to meet them."

I felt like I had my back against the wall. Garrett's invitation was very tempting. I had no good reason to say "no" other than the fact that I was too chicken to ask my parents. But knowing that I needed to be a big girl and tell them about my beau, it was time to buck it up.

So with a rapidly beating heart, I called my dad.

I am unsure of what I exactly said. But in a very round-about way, I asked if I could be in charge of our trip navigation. That I preferred to go through Denver and it had a dual purpose as I had some football tickets to deliver. And, by the way, I was dating the recipient of the tickets; who happened to live in Denver. And then I took a breath. With a slight pause, Dad responded very simply.

"Sandy, we trust you and will support you in what makes you happy. You are in charge of the map. Mom and I are just along for the ride."

With those words I took over the map and navigated us north from Albuquerque. As we walked up to Garrett's door, I felt like a school girl. Here I was in Denver, spending the night at my boyfriend's with my parents. Their first meeting.

Garrett greeted us at the door wearing only a t-shirt and a towel around his waist. He had been making the meal and cleaning the house, and just found time to shower. His Great Dane, Ajax, entertained us as Garrett finished cleaning up. The dog was as big as my parents. We got the giggles as my parents tried to figure out how to interact with the seemingly formidable dog. Welcome to Denver.

The evening was perfect. A wonderful Thanksgiving feast awaited us after the first leg of our journey. And my parents quickly concluded that Ajax was a gentle giant; as kind as his owner.

Now you know the end of the story. Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. Thank-you for letting me be in charge of the map four years ago. I am very happy that we are celebrating together in Dallas and that Garrett flew to us this year.  

November 27, 2013: Road Trip

Sweet Baby Ky taking her turn behind the wheel
I went on a road trip yesterday with my brother and niece. The last time I road tripped with my brother, there were invisible lines drawn in the back of the Sedan. Seat belts were rolled and tucked into the crevices of the back seats and I followed the strict instruction of my brothers not to violate their space.

This trip was different. There was plenty of violating of space. And with no responding knuckle punches. Let me digress.

Last Saturday, I was carefully thinking through the upcoming holiday week. The plan was for me to fly to Denver Wednesday afternoon and leave Saturday night. The days would be filled with skiing, mountains, and planning a house move. A very nice way to spend Thanksgiving. And then I got a message.

My brother, Mark, now lives in Dallas with his family. In the voice message, Mark invited me to join the rest of my family in Texas for Thanksgiving. He knew that I didn't have my kids, but wanted to open the invitation.

It got my attention, but I already had made my plans before they made theirs. Tickets were purchases and Garrett and I were looking forward to spending time together in Colorado. Maybe next year.

And then I got a text from my mom. She and Dad were travelling to Dallas from Arizona.

Mom: "We R on the road!"

Me: "Be safe!! Send lots of pictures :)"

Mom: "R u going too?"


My brother Matt and his daughter were planning on spending Thanksgiving in Dallas as well. My brain started thinking about what I could do rather than what I couldn't do. Unsure on everyone's itineraries, I send a text to my niece asking when they were leaving.

Soon I got a text back.

"You should go. That would be great!!! Everyone would love that! My dad said that you could just ride with us down and then one way back."

Now I was hooked. How could I miss being with my family on Thanksgiving? Thinking back, it seems that only funerals have brought our family together of recent years. That's a bad trend. And a road trip with my brother and niece sounded spectacular.

The next call was to Garrett and another surprise came from the other end. I asked if he minded if I would fly first to Dallas and then make the second leg to Denver to spend with him. Garrett's response was that he would rather fly and be with me and the family. Denver wasn't a necessity of this trip. It was all about the Wagner's. Nice.

So yesterday, Matt, Ky and I were on the road bright and early. It took us a total of thirteen hours. There was stopped traffic in Oklahoma City that diverted us an hour and a half. And even with an iPad, lap top, navigation system, and three iPhones; we got lost leaving Emporia, Kansas. And we were in a rented Ford Fiesta. We were jammed in and cozy.

The delays were priceless. We laughed and laughed, and laughed some more. With our age, more potty breaks were required than years past. And purportedly, I only know every other word to songs and sing off key. But it didn't stop me. We ended the road trip with my blaring out the song "When Dove's Cry". Ky had never heard this rendition (off key).

I never knew that I actually missed road trips with Matt. It is nice that he doesn't punch me anymore. And he is a better driver than me. I will give him that. But I'm happy that my lack of skill on using the brakes gives him ammunition to give me a very hard time. Road trip bliss.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25, 2013: Football 101

Ben and Alex Kramer celebrating their state championship win with the crowd
I am just the mom. Ben shakes his head when I confuse football positions and show weakness on the "X's and O's". He believes I don't know much about the game. In all actuality, I know a lot.

While I continue to broaden my tactical understanding, I am in tune to the truly important aspects of football. Never underestimate the observations of an intuitive mother. What I see are life lessons.

I'm a storyteller by nature. So I am going to tell the story of two young men with two very different football experiences. The stories are deeper than football with valuable lessons that extend beyond the field.

Both players have just finished their high school careers. But their experiences were markedly different. Although their goals to excel seemed aligned, the deeper goals were not.

Boy #1:
This boy chased his dream of being a football star. He was told at a young age that he would be the next John Elway and he believed it. His family wanted this for him and spared no expense or effort in pursuing his dream.

Boy #1 changed schools during his high school years to better his chances to be a star. An apartment was rented and lies were told to follow a coach to whom the boy had gained favoritism. The result was Boy #1 sitting out a full season. Many lessons could have been learned from this wasted year. Instead his reaction was resentment.

Chasing his dreams came at a price. Expensive trainers were hired to boost the boy's individual goals. The high school weight room was beneath him. Boy #1 didn't help pay expenses nor had any desire to be a cohesive member of the team.

His mindset was on what others, family and teammates, could do to support him; instead of how he could contribute to his family and team. Decisions centered on the pursuit of the boy's football dreams and the boy.

Boy #1 ended his career with no championship and a very mediocre high school football career. His family's financial and stressful efforts were a disregarded burden. This young man displayed self-centeredness; both on and off the field. He now blames others for his failures and is bitter.

Boy #2:
This boy loved the game of football. He played for his school and worked his way up the ranks; year by year. He only gained a starting spot his last year of high school. There were entire seasons where he watched most games from the sidelines. But he never missed a practice. He never quit. He didn't complain that he deserved better. Boy #2 earned his spot one practice at a time.

Boy #2 worked hard and adored his teammates. They played with each other and for each other. It wasn't about him. It was about the teammate who lost his mother to cancer last summer. It was about the teammate who suffered a career ending injury at the peak of his high school career. With compassion, they forged forward. A band of brothers.

Game by game, year by year, this boy and his team progressed to greatness. No egos were allowed with humble coaches and Christian values injected into every facet of their play.

Watching these boys run the defense was like watching synchronized swimming. They excelled with no individual standout. And in the end, they were the best. Last night this boy's team won the State Championship. They played with heart and compassion; on and off the field. And they will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and joy they experienced together.

Football 101 (from this mom's perspective):
Although I sympathize with Boy #1's ultimate fate, it wasn't his football losses that make my heart heavy. This boy lost out on things much greater than wins and a chance to be a star.

You can hire the best NFL trainers or seek out teams with the seemingly most talented coaches; but at the end of the day, it comes down to heart. Football is a team sport. Success on the field comes from the passion of a group of selfless warriors.

Playing with heart can't be scripted or learned. It can't be bought and paid for, nor can it be entitled. And it doesn't come easily. A successful team is fought for and protected.

I do have a message to future football star want-a-bees.

Boys, always be grateful to your coaches for their tireless efforts. Expect nothing outside the rewards you reap from hard work and know there are many other hard-working players just as good as you. Your position is one of eleven. No matter how superior your personal abilities, unless you are in harmony with that chorus of players around you; there is no stellar performance.

Thank your family for their continuous support and know that they have lives outside of you. You likely have siblings who are due attention during football season as well. Spread the love and know that others make sacrifices for you every day. Football is demanding past the field.

Savor your wins with your teammates. Know and appreciate your chorus of comrades who block to clear your path and always have your back.

Lastly, have fun. At the end of the day, it's a game and it's high school. Sorry, but you're really not that big of a deal. Creating school history as a team and knowing that collectively you have achieved great things; yes, that is bliss. Enjoy it. Life after high school football will be much different than the glory of today. You will have to grow up. Football will soon be an afterthought.

In the end, this story of a boy #2 really isn't about the boy. It's about any one of the boys who played for this team. And playing for a team has much greater rewards than playing for yourself.

So that's my story. Just some observations from the grandstands. In my opinion, X's and O's are overrated. Life lessons last forever.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24, 2013: Cousin, Niece, Sister, Friend...

Angelina came to visit this weekend. It was a quick weekend. Too quick. My sweet cousin has been part of every phase of my lifetime. Eighteen years my junior, the nature of our relationship has many times been confused.

Born in September of 1985. Angelina adorned the world while I was discovering the wonderful world of college life. Before reaching the age of one, Angelina's family moved to LeMars, my college town. I quickly became the chief babysitter of Angelina and her brothers. She was like a daughter to me. And people thought the same as I totted her around on my hip.

I watched Angelina grow into a beautiful and kind young woman. As I started having children, she became my live-in summer nanny. She tenderly cared for the Lane boys; playing on the floor with them and holding them on her lap. People thought she was my niece. Tiring of explaining that her mom was the youngest and mine the oldest and we, the cousins; I just introduced her as my niece.

Angelina moved to the big city of Chicago for college. We missed her, but she visited often with Omaha as a central family spot. On her trips, we always enjoyed runs together and would stay up late catching up. Just like a sister. The little sister I never had.

Post-graduation, Angelina is now in the business world. She lives in the state of Washington and enjoys her young adult life there. We see her less often and miss her terribly. This weekend's trip was last minute and spontaneous.

Rather than waiting for the next big event or a time adequate for an extended vacation, I talked my sweet cousin into a quick random trip. And it was well worth it. We savored every minute of her company. Family and friends came to her and made their shorter trips from outside of Omaha.

Angelina fits comfortably into my group of friends as well. Drinking wine and enjoying conversation, she is a favorite friend.

As far as introductions, I will stick with cousin. But those within our inner circle know the relationship to be much, much more. Thanks for visiting, Ms. Valentino. I am hopeful you are snuggled comfortably back in your own bed. I look forward to the next random trip!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 22, 2013: Life is an Adventure

My new office
After spending most of my work year as a nomad, we now have some temporary office space that we call home. It's a bit of a war room with white boards galore, but the amenities of constant coffee and a desk with pictures of my kids brings a sense of comfort. A thoughtful spot. An occasional routine.

It's interesting how the mental mindset of a "home", whether personal or work, does calm the spirit. Chaos feels more manageable with a thoughtful spot. But for the most part, everyday is still a new adventure.

I am reminded of this each time I look ahead (or behind) on my Outlook calendar. Today would be an example.

Our early morning began with a workout at Lifetime and a slow drive to midtown in the first snow of the year. Next Garrett and I landed in the comfort of the war room. Lots of planning was had with colored sticky notes and collaborative brain power. I took my boyfriend to the airport to return to Denver at noon. He bought a house (our new house in Denver...I get to decorate :)) when he got off the plane. Cousin Angelina from Washington flew for a weekend visit an hour after Garrett flew out. Ring shopping with Angelina and our favorite jewelry consultant, Aunt Kathy, at Gunderson's. The Hunger Games with two cousins, two kids, a kid's friend and his dad. And then wine at home. Somewhere in between, two animals were fed, business relationships; solified, and two of Grant's friends ended up spending the night.

All in a day's work. I think the office is just a facade for crazy. But it sure makes me feel better.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21, 2013: TBT Mary Style

Today my mom changed her FaceBook profile picture to the picture above. It's me.

I was caught by surprise when I saw it. This picture, from a time that precedes my memory, gave me a big smile in the middle of a crazy day. It really is the small things that fuel our heart.

Below is Mom's description of the picture. It was coincidental that she noted Hubie Nothem; a Remsen local who passed away this weekend at age 100.

"Picture was taken in our house in Remsen before we completely remodeled the house in 1969. The Maytag washer on the left served as extra counter space in a VERY small kitchen...the frig is on the right. Hubie Nothem and Gbp Gib Wagner worked on the house to make it livable before we moved in it in April 1966. (Sandy loved beets...and was always smiling!!!)"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013: Politics Part II

The year I didn't make NHS
Last night Garrett brought up my post on Grant's student council non-election. He thought I sounded bitter. It was as though Grant's predicament struck a nerve with me.

Upon further reflection, I explained what struck that nerve. It was Grant's ultimate fate hinging on one teacher's non-vote. That was the source of my aggravation. My baggage from past experience.

You see, I felt Grant's pain. It happened to me. But mine wasn't a student council election. My source of aggravation was my non-induction into the National Honor Society. With circumstances similar to Grant's, it's clear that I'm still bitter from my pain of 1983.

I explained my story to Garrett. And then he proceeded to inform me that he was elected to National Honor Society. Not me. Salt was now pouring on my open wounds.

My junior year of 1983 was the year of inductions for my class into this exclusive society. Part of my pain was my assumption that I would be in without a problem. The moral of the story is to never assume.

But in my defense, I was second in the class and had stellar grades. I was involved in almost every sport offered, played in the band, participated in speech competitions, had a part in most plays and musicals, and was a cheerleader. I pushed residents in wheel chairs from the nursing home to our school for masses and I had sat on student council. Blah, blah, blah....

I never dreamed that I didn't fulfill the NHS requirements. When the list was posted, less my name, I was in a state of shock. It must have been a mistake, I deduced. The school secretary had to have made a typing error. A simple oversight.

I asked questions and was eventually directed to the program faculty lead, Sr. Margretta. This stern nun had a non-nonsense approach to life. A straight-shooter, I reasoned that I could plead my case to her.

To my dismay, she told me in a very matter-of-fact manner that it was she who kept me off the society. She had final veto power and decided that she didn't like the kids I "ran with". Sister went on to tell me that the choices I made outside of school impacted the "honor" required of an inductee. I was out and it was her call.

And then she walked away. I stood, stunned, trying to make sense of her blanket comments. They made no sense to me. There were twenty girls total in my grade. We all "ran" together. We had no choice. How was I different than the other girls who were given this honor?

No further explanation was given and I lived the rest of my high school years not attending NHS meetings. I went on to be salutatorian to my class of forty-four. There were no National Honor Society tassels around my neck when I gave my short speech on graduation day. And obviously I am still bitter.

So there you have it. For the record, I vowed to myself that someday I would give Sr. Margretta a piece of my mind. That I would become successful and honorable and come back let her know her lapse in judgment.

The opportunity afforded itself on a sunny day in Remsen ten years later. I was pushing Zach in a stroller and randomly ran into Sister on a walk. The elderly nun was moving slowly and seemed to light up when she saw me. Perhaps she forgot about my purported provocative past.

"Hello, Sandy Wagner! How are you?" were her words to me.

After a pause, I answered in a way that any honorable young lady should, "I am doing well Sr. Margretta. I think of you often and am glad that you are still full of good health."

Yes, Mom, I know. Sugar is always better than vinegar.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18, 2013: Ten Things You Didn't Know about Me

In response to the current Facebook folly of listing a number of things people don't know about you, here is mine. This was way too tempting as I have enjoyed reading everyone else's over the last few days. My ten in no particular order... 

1. I made my own clothes in high school. Although I didn't make every piece in my wardrobe, my favorites were those I created myself. I would see something I liked and then would search for a similar pattern through the Vogue and Simplicity books at the corner dime store. I would duplicate copyrighted designer logos like OP (Ocean Pacific) by carefully embroidering on my finished products.

2. I have wicked intuition and a great bullshit meter. I can spot a crook or a lie a mile away. And adversely, I know the good guys within the first two minutes of a conversation. My gut is rarely wrong. It's the best weapon I have in living a life free of trouble and full of good-hearted people.

3. My interest in accounting was sparked by M&M sales when I was sixteen. The cheerleading squad was selling boxes of M&M's to raise money for new uniforms. I volunteered to head up the effort. I quickly pulled together a detailed business plan based on our desired revenue. Counting the money and keeping the girls on quota to our goal was exhilarating. I took accounting and business classes the next year.

4. My favorite time to run is in the middle of the night. Although I haven't enjoyed this guilty indulgence since a teen, my happiest moments in running were in the quiet of a hot summer night with a bright full moon at my back. I used to go for a two mile run on weekends after waitressing until midnight. This was my bliss during those carefree, small-town days of past.

5. I love clothes. My particular weaknesses are unique accessories, boots and dresses. I will always dress up when given the opportunity and can make an awesome outfit with a shoestring budget. As a child I loved Barbies and paper dolls because I loved to dress them. I would be a great designer for the show "What Not to Wear". Helping people dress stylish and affordably while boasting their confidence and helping them feel comfortable in their own skin....sign me up!

6. I would have been one hell of a housewife. I would have rocked the house with this profession. You could have given me nine kids on a farm and I would have run the house like a high-power CEO. From the cooking to the cleaning to organizing the household to perfection; all while creating a warm sense of home for my family...would have loved this challenge. Ma Walton would have nothing on me. 

7. I don't like to talk on the phone. I dread when my phone rings and would much rather meet with people in person. Talking to Garrett is an exception as we have no choice based on distance. If it wasn't for Garrett, you would rarely see me with a phone to my ear. Now using my phone to stay connected on-line...that's a whole other story. That I am good with!

8. I have been consistently told that I have a lot of dominant male traits. I used to hate to hear this. This comment seemingly contradicted my love for dresses. Kind of like I am not pulling off my feminine side. I have learned to embrace this observation as a compliment. My personality is to take charge and always work to fix things. I hate drama and game-playing. I guess these traits are less common in women. I am also quick to tear up and have feelings that can be squashed like grapes. So the mix in my mind is sweet and salty. I guess I'll accept that with no offense taken.

9. I love public speaking and can give speeches off the cuff to large crowds without a hint of nervousness. I have been asked to deliver the prayer at a wedding reception with two minutes notice and five hundred guests and have given the five minute stewardship sermon at church with no notes and no memorization (forgot my pencil scratch at home). There is nothing more intoxicating to me than hitting a speech out of the park. But if I am put in the outfield of a softball game knowing a ball may be hit to me, my stomach is in knots.

10. I'm a published author. I took a class requirement my freshman year of college called "Composition and Critical Thinking". I was an accounting major. I wrote a five paragraph critical essay on the merits of using animal organs in human transplants. It centered around the moral and medical issues of a baboon heart put in a child. After giving me an A+ on the paper, my professor asked if he could submit it for publication to the textbook used for the class. The next published edition included my essay as the example for writing a five paragraph critical composition.

Thanks for letting me write my ten. This was fun :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013: Politics

I have been asked how Grant came out on his student council election. With all the hoopla of football, I have been negligent in this follow up blog. I sadly have to report that Grant did not get elected. But hold your tears, we have all survived quite well. And there were even some life lessons learned along the way.

I knew Grant was to hear about the results on the Thursday post-election. My plan was to call him after school. Instead I learned of the bad news as I read the school newsletter that afternoon. As I perused the school news for the week, I saw a section congratulating the newly elected student council members.

With excitement, I scanned for his anticipated name. No Grant. And then I scanned again. Nope. I initially had a lump in my throat and then I noticed a peculiarity. Of the seven elected officials, six were girls. This struck me as suspect as I knew at least five of Grant's buddies ran. They didn't make the list either.

My bullshit meter was running high. Later I called Grant and let him break the news to me.

"Mom, I didn't get it. All the girls got in!"

He went on to tell me that one of the girls didn't even prepare a speech and that he had thirty student votes compared to the seven votes of one of those elected. Confused, I asked him to explain.

Purportedly, the teacher vote weighs heavily over the student vote. The weighting is so heavy that not having unanimous votes from the teachers makes it impossible to be elected. Grant lacked one teacher vote.

He went on the explain that if one person was kicked out he was next in line. Kind of like the Miss America runner up. Grant complained about it not being fair. I did my mother thing and tried to explain how although he won the popular vote, in some voting systems, like America, the popular vote didn't win elections.

Grant was still confused. I told him he was like the People's Princess. I really dug a hole with this one as he clearly wasn't a Princess Diana fan and the monarchy wasn't a good comparison. I then talked about Hanging Chads and other unfair elections. Still a blank stare. With this election in 2000, the year he was born, it was obviously not covered in his current events in Social Studies.

Finally I told him, "It's politics, Grant. And politics rarely feel fair." You have two choices in politics; accept the current policy or try to have it changed. I suggested that he lobby the principal to change the voting rules for future elections.

By this point, Grant had lost all interest in our conversation. I think his political career is over. Although I do believe he would make a great mayor. And I think Omaha is all about the popular vote. Hmmmm.....don't rule it out, Grant.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 15, 2013: These are the Glory Days

Skutt Seniors <3
This picture makes me smile. The boys took their last stand under the Friday night lights of their home turf. A parent snapped this photo after their winning game. On to the State Championship.

Glory days. This is the phrase that came to mind as I looked at their faces. Glowing smiles. Eighteen year-old joy. A great journey to Memorial Stadium.

This group of boys is nothing short of a band of brothers. They've had each other's back every step of the way. This season has dealt some with adversity; on and off the field. But the boys have reacted by rallying.

They play as a team. They win as a team. And they support each other as a team. Together they are having a ball.

My son is one of many blonde bombs that fill the Skyhawk sidelines. Today I ran into a handful of his counterparts at the Husker game. They run in packs. Rarely do you see one player without two or three by his side.

Still brimming with excitement over last night's win, they continued to be humble; thankful for our support. Good kids. And then the four boys, with their collective self-imposed bad hair colors, laughed like carefree freshmen and went about their day.

Through four years of high school, these boys have together played the game of football. Side by side, they practice their positions with the goal of perfection as they prepare for their next opponent. They are now enjoying the fruits of this long labor. The road to Memorial Stadium was achieved one game at a time.

I will hold these smiles from last night's win in my memory. Seeing their collective faces as they first step under the lights of Memorial Stadium is a moment I am looking forward to. Game on, Skyhawks. Enjoy your glory days. You deserve it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 13, 2013: Jackpot

I spent $70 on a life size poster of my son. This was an "ask" of the football parents for senior night. I didn't even give it a second thought. My son certainly wasn't going to be the only one without a poster. So I proudly purchased it, knowing it would have potential reuses at playoffs, graduation, etc...

Thank-you, Skutt, for the win streak the allows this treasure to keep paying for itself. This life size image of Benny Lane has since shown up at two games post-regular season. Looking at the rolled-up poster in my garage this weekend, I decided to hang it on my front door for good luck (and increase my return on investment).

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. I took my dog for a leisurely walk in the afternoon. Our walk began with my inspection of this front door decoration with a view from the street. I was pleased.

As Cookie and I finished our typical loop around the neighborhood, we came upon two walkers. These two young girls of Asian descent were walking past my house, unaware of the property owner behind them. One of the girls was wearing a Skutt sweatshirt.

The girls stopped in front of my house, looking at my new decor. They didn't speak English, so I hadn't a clue what they were saying. They paused and walked closer to the front door. And then they started taking pictures of Ben's image with their phones. With giggles, they continued their walk.

Taking another look at my door, I was reminded of a similar event that happened many years back with my nephew, Russell. This event included a photo as well and me being giddy about sharing Russell's image.

Russell was playing high school football for Millard West at the time. He was a good player. Being his aunt and having the same last name many times gave me "superstar" status with his peers.

On a Saturday very similar to this last, my doorbell rang. At the door were two teenage girls. After explaining they were having a scavenger hunt with a larger group of Millard West girls, they asked for their desired item; a photograph. I asked if they knew Russell Lane. They enthusiastically told me "Yes!" and immediately lit up when I told them I was his aunt.

I couldn't help myself as a feeling of significance overtook me. I ran into the basement and pulled out an old photo of Baby Russ from a discolored photo album. With pride and ego, I presented this treasure to the high school glee girls.

"OH MY GOD!! We hit the JACKPOT!!!!!!" they squealed as they hugged, jumping up and down.

With continuous thank-you's, the excited girls left my yard. I could still hear them giggling as they crossed the street. Once my superstar status wore off, I had regret on giving away a baby picture of my nephew to complete strangers. I didn't even ask their names. But I just couldn't help myself. Human weakness. Fail.

Sorry that I was so quick to sell you out for my own gratification, Russell. Lesson learned. And, Ben, I promise I won't give your poster away. No matter how much anyone begs.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November 12, 2013: The Good China

Thought for the day: Every day is special, so why wait to eat on the good china? Thank-you, Mom, for teaching me this wise lesson.

My china has been passed down from my grandparents. I fondly remember eating our childhood holiday dinners on these special dishes. I was the lucky recipient of this hand-me-down heirloom.

Mom has used her keen eye and resourcefulness in finding matching pieces for me at garage sales and on-line. My china set is now expansive and spectacular. I am the proud owner of a variety of dishes in the silver etched, blue-flowered pattern. The latest addition of mini butter plates are a perfect complement to the separately served hot rolls.

Tonight we sat down and ate as a family. I deemed it a special day; just because. So I broke out the china and served Gatorade in wine glasses. Then we took the extra-special step of eating in the dining room. With my Halloween village glowing in the background, we enjoyed our last Halloween hurrah as the decorations will be stored away this weekend. A great reason to eat pot roast and mash potatoes in the formal dining room.

The china has since been washed and put away. All wine glasses, less mine, have been returned to their stored positions. Zach went home with a full stomach. The two boys still inhabiting this house are abuzz upstairs. A dog is snoring on my lap and a candle burning with the smell of pumpkin ginger. Yep. Definitely a special night. Thanks for the tip, Mom.

November 11, 2013: A Warm Glove

My Creighton comrades
Last night was my first Creighton game of the season. And it felt just like a warm glove. Maybe this analogy struck me since it was the first cold night of the season. But regardless, that's how it felt; comfortable, warm, inviting.

My day was generally chaotic. With an evening meeting that ran over, I sped to the Century Link. My thoughts weren't on Creighton basketball, but on whether I remembered my ticket and the almost single temp showing on my dash. It wasn't until I walked came up the escalator and saw familiar faces at ticket scanning that I remembered how much I love Creighton game nights.

I breathed an instant sigh of relief and relaxation. Right at home. I completely forgot what this experience felt like. Missing tip off, I proceeded to the wrist band station. I immediately spotted my favorite beer girl, Terri, under the Irish Pub sign by my seats. Last season they moved her to another location. She was now strategically back where she belonged. Score.

My section was filled with friends and fellows fans; the same ticket holders who have occupied my neighboring seats for years. Following hugs, smiles and greetings, our focus went back to the game. I really missed my CU comrades.

Everything Big East is cool. A new logo. A new enormous scoreboard. Picture perfect clarity on the big screen. Lots of new, but with the comforts of old. Tradition. Friends. Blue jay pride.

I found my handsome brother for a hug. And then my beautiful aunt found me. A Jays win followed with a score worthy of a free Godfather's mini-pizza. Definitely a warm glove for a cold night.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10, 2013: Loyalty

Zach working courtesy services
I surprised Zach today. He was working downtown at Prairie Life Fitness. Zach had let me in on a little secret. I could go to any Prairie Life location at no cost. I thought I was just a member of the PLF out west. This benefit of membership had never occurred to me. So with this new found knowledge, I trekked over to 31th and Farnam for a visit.

I had been told this new facility was the cat's meow; state of the art design and equipment. It didn't disappoint. The facility is spacious and full of natural light. The view onto Farnam is nice too.

After walking in the door, I gave the young man at the front desk my member number. His response was that I must be a visiting member. My number lacked the extra digit of his more recent member adds.

Upon reflection, I pointed out to him first that I was the mother of Zach Lane, courtesy services employee. Then I told him that my membership preceded my pregnancy with Zach. That would make me a member for over twenty-one years. The young man seemed genuinely impressed.

PLF on 132nd and Center was my first gym membership. It was called Prairie Life Center at that time. My job was by Oakview Mall before the Mall was actually built. I wore leotards with a big black belt for my favored aerobics classes. My hair was big and my music came from a Walkman. I went through three pregnancies in water aerobics and on a stationary bike. I went through three post-pregnancies working off my baby weight on every machine available at Prairie Life.

I was on an elliptical machine when the story broke on the Oklahoma City bombing and on the treadmill when I learned of JFK Jr's plane went down. There were exciting football game finales watched and countless miles logged in on the indoor track when Nebraska weather did not cooperate with my running schedule.

So when the spectacular Lifetime Fitness was built across the street from my house, people continually asked me why I wasn't a member. I stubbornly gave every reason why Lifetime wasn't for me...too big, too social, too many people. Prairie Life was "more my speed" was my constant answer.

Although this was a true statement, the reality was that I felt a loyalty to my comrades at PLF. From Jason and Hollie at the front desk to the 7:30 a.m. coffee crew, I felt right at home. Gym people have the same routines. Although I don't know everyone's name, I know every familiar face. I like them. They are my peeps.

Following pressure from my kids, we finally joined Lifetime last year. Now Garrett is a member as well. And I like it. We like it.

One would assume that I have moved on from Prairie Life after making the Lifetime commitment. Nope. The loyalty gene runs too deep for me. I instead prepaid for a two year membership at Prairie. I did get a discount, but only after convincing myself that two gym memberships were necessary.

The good news: I did like the downtown facility and it's only nine minutes from my new office (I timed it). I am planning on going there tomorrow for a workout over lunch. I've decided that just like friends, you can't have too many gyms.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9, 2013: Matinee at the Bijou

As I enjoy my Saturday at home; cooking and buzzing about the house, I am reminded of these carefree days as a teenager. With my teenage jobs in the food service and childcare fields, my days were typically open with only Saturday nights dedicated to work.

The sweet memories of these early 80's afternoons off are filled with my working on creative projects and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. My mom was a home economics major and it showed on our daily lives. I got my creative genes from her. As I started a new adventure in the living room or kitchen, Mom could typically be found in either her sewing room or stripping furniture in the garage.

With Mom occupied, Dad at work, and my brothers; anywhere but home, I had the house to myself. There was always the warm buzz of the TV in the background. My Saturday television favorite was Matinee at the Bijou. 80's Matinee at the Bijou YouTube clip. I fondly remember teaching myself how to make cream puffs in the kitchen with Shirley Temple tap-dancing on the tube. I loved this era of black and white filmography.

I would enjoy the Little Rascals during the weekdays and would then move my focus to Charlie Chaplin classics and Fred Astaire dance parties at the Bijou. From the dancing flappers to the elegance of Grace Kelly, I felt right at home with the parade of stars waiting for me on my beloved weekly Matinee.

With Betty Crocker and Joy of Cooking by my side, I would wander back and forth from the kitchen to my lastest art or sewing project. But the Matinee would always be the constant. The silent shows would require more of my attention and the musicals; a touch higher level on the volume.

As a grown-up, I still find myself drawn to this era. When the silent movie, The Artist, came out in 2012, I was in instant love. I have always found Charle Chaplin quite attractive. Based on his biographies, so did most women. He was purportedly quite the ladies-man. But I don't think many women of my age would list him on their celebrity "hottie" list. They are obviously watching the wrong movies.

Another movie that caught my attention was my accidental viewing of Woody Allen's 2011 hit "Midnight in Paris". I am typically not a Woody Allen fan, but chose to watch this movie as a commitment to watch every movie up for Best Movie Oscar that year. I hadn't a clue what it was about, but loved it and found the story line to be my fantasy.

The main actor, Owen Wilson, found himself mysteriously going back to the 20's every night after midnight. He befriended Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and revels in this era that he feels is his own. I so wanted to be Owen Wilson, picked up by that mysterious 1920 Peugeot car every night at midnight and later sharing life with Earnest Hemingway. 

So here I sit living life in 2013, not 1920. But it's all good. That's what movies are for; to pull us into the fanciful eras of the past and the future. Whatever your potion, there is some great flicks out there to fulfill. And there are other eras I love too. Today being the top of the list. Fantasy, past and future, is what you of make it today. Life is is always on the today clock. But with dreaming, everything is fair game.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

November 8, 2013: A Win

Skyhawk win!
Wins are always wonderful. Yet some parts are bittersweet. Tonight we beat Elkhorn South in the playoffs. As a Skutt fan and football mom, I'm thrilled. As a senior mom, I'm sad for the other team. I know some of their senior boys. This was their last time on the field as a high school player. My hope for the night was for my son to avoid that outcome.

We get another week. And then with a win, we are on to State. Next week we get our home field back. Excitement is in the air. Just as we wanted it. Our seniors last night on Skyhawk turf was a result of their resilience and wins. No blown opportunities. A final play under the lights at home. And then with good play and more resilience, we would love a chance to close the season at Memorial Stadium.

I have a blog that sits in my mind on this team and their journey. This journey for many started before high school. And it isn't all about football. But I will save that story. I don't want to jinx it. We have a nice streak going. Pray for a Skyhawk win next week!

November 7, 2013: A Date

Not the best picture, but thank-you to the 22 year-old young man kind enough to snap it
(obviously I was worried about someone taking my drinks!)
Four years. Seriously. Can you believe it? Four years ago today, Garrett and I went on our first date. Sounds like a typical night out. But not really. I flew to Denver. The few who knew I was making the flight were taken aback. With my last date being twenty-three years earlier, I now get their consternation.

As this little story makes me smile, I think it is appropriate for me to share.

So, yes, Garrett and my first date entailed me getting on a plane and flying to Denver that Saturday night, November 7, 2009. We met a few weeks previously at a conference. Garrett was the presenter. I was an attendee. We communicated by phone and e-mail over the course of those weeks. And then he asked me out.

I initially laughed it off with the 550 mile distance between our respective homes. After three days of reflection, I accepted the invitation. And then I stayed silent to my Omaha inner-circle. After the many hours of mentoring from my family and friends on how my future dating life should look, how could I explain this to them? My first post-divorce date required a flight to Denver.

But it felt completely right. I wasn't worried a bit. Other than explaining it. So I kept my mouth shut. My cautious side told me I better tell someone. Just in case my plane went down. So I confided in my friend, Angelique. Her response was positive. She thought it sounded exciting. Perfect. A first good step in my mind.

And then I told my soon-to-be ex-sister and brother in-laws. Their response was very cautious. As they rationalized the sanity of my action out loud, they relied on my typical sound judgement. "Sandy makes good choices" was Russ' final analysis. Robbie lectured me on potential alcohol consumption and the buddy system.

"Only two glasses of wine, not three. Text me when you land and then again when you are safely in bed. I want your flight information. If I don't hear from you, I'm calling the police."

Perfect. A good strategy if Garrett ended up a crazy man. I like a good plan B. The last person I told was my brother, Matt. He worked by my house and had stopped by over his lunch hour. As we watched college football and shared a turkey wrap, I blurted out my plan.

"I have a date tonight. I'm flying to Denver."

As he choked on his wrap, Matt looked me in the eye to reaffirm that I wasn't joking.

"Today? You are seriously getting on a plane to meet a stranger from Denver??"

I went on to explain that Garrett wasn't a stranger. And although our acquaintance was brief, our circle of colleagues had long-time connections. Garrett's references checked out. Matt hesitantly went with it while still wondering if I was in some strange stage of post-divorce delusion.

The flight to Denver was relaxing. I was excited. A out-of-town date; kind of edgy for a conservative accountant and middle-aged mom. Who would have thought? The reality was that my date was also middle-aged and a conservative IT guy. Two peas in a pod.

Garrett picked my up at the airport and we instantly reconnected like a couple of old souls. Dinner was Mexican fare in Downtown Denver. We drank margaritas and ate endless chips. The conversation never lagged. There was no awkwardness, just pleasant enjoyment of each other's company.

What I remember most was asking Garrett early in the night to tell me about his first chapter. He initially looked at me blankly. In our previous phone conversations, we had often referred to our new single lives as a new chapter. I quickly explained that we were both now in our third chapter of life. Our previously married chapter was Chapter 2. I had never heard about his life growing up; the pre-marriage chapter. I wanted to hear all about Chapter 1.

Garrett lit up and told me everything about about his childhood, parents, grandparents, college. He told me about his grandma waking him up to watch the first man walk on the moon as he sat on her lap. He told me about his childhood dog and his first girlfriend.

Everyone has a story and I love hearing them. Garrett's story was exceptional. I really liked this guy with a sparkle in his eyes.

Later Garrett told me how it took him aback that I was so interested in hearing about him. Past dates entailed women who did most of the talking with the conversation was centered around them. I unintentionally scored some points. We both past muster with each other. Our date was comfortable and fun. We were quite the duo.

Now four years later to the day, we sit drinking margaritas and sharing tacos again. And we share life. We talk about our kids and football and all those wonderful, but sometimes crazy things, that have filled up our Chapter 3. I am starting to think that it's time to move on to Chapter 4. A good writer always knows when you have reached a perfect close. Is it time to a break into a new Garrett and Sandy chapter? Hmmmmm........

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 6, 2013: Dinner Time

The boys' idea of games
I love family dinners. Tonight was no exception. The flurry of voices with sharing of our day over warm buns and steak was the perfect cap on a fall day. Too often our sit-down dinners are the first to go as I carefully maneuver through the squeeze play of daily life. Nights like tonight remind me of the importance of this family time.

We went about our day in business-like-usual mode. Grant was dropped off first. With a warm cup of coffee in hand, I went through the family schedule and reminded him of steak night. The thought of this family dinner perked him up. Enthusiastic questions on sides and other participants quickly followed.

Ben was next reminded of the same schedule and meal plan as he skedaddled out the door to start his school day. With Garrett in route from Denver, a family dinner was sealed. No unexpected delays or curve balls late in my day were going to sidetrack the marinating steaks awaiting me in the frig.

With no school tomorrow, we were joined by Brendon for an overnighter. He and Grant plan on shadowing Ben and friend at Skutt High School. This brought on some great conversation over Garrett's perfectly grilled steaks. Ben shared his thoughts with us on his upcoming playoff game.

We ate, we laughed, and we talked. And then the kids cleaned up. More conversation was had between the boys during this exercise. Family time. Priceless.

I was once told by siblings that their mother didn't cook. They rarely sat down for dinner. How sad, was my initial thought. She had no clue what she'd been missing. It really isn't about the cooking or even the dish prepared. It's about the time together around the table. Dinner time together is a family jewel. Savor it like the meal.

Sandy's note to self: Family dinner should always be the last to go in my future squeeze play decision-making.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 5, 2013: I'm Back

Notice my blogging companion to my left
I haven't been very consistent in my writing as of late. Although I had convinced myself that daily writing wasn't necessary and I didn't need the pressure, it has caused me to have a couple of "aha" moments.

My first "aha" thought is that a deadline and an expectation, even if self-set, is a good thing. In order to hold ourselves accountable, we need goals. And doing things we love on a consistent basis is nothing short of free therapy.

When you enjoy something, you find the time. A friend constantly tells me there are only 24 hours in a day. Knowing that sleep is important, that brings available hours to 17 with eyes open.

I don't watch TV. I don't like to chat on the phone. And I don't look down my nose at those who do. How I like to fill my time outside of work and obligations is spending time with family and building relationships. And I like to write. That's what I do in my spare time.

My attempt at slowing down the expectation on myself has actually left me feeling a little lethargic. Kind of like getting out of a good exercise routine. So I am back at it and feeling a bit energized. Stories and feelings that need to turn into words now runneth over. Which story next...the Happy Siesta, life before TSA, or grown-ups giving other grown-ups the silent treatment?? Decisions, decisions.....

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 4, 2013: A Little Family History

Guest blogger and family historian, Mary Wagner, contributed today's blog post...

John & Mary (Smith) Galles Family, Remsen IA in the 1940’s  
The John & Mary (Smith) Galles family members are John, Mary & children Lenora (Mrs. Dan Raher), Hilary, Armella (Mrs. Fred Heidesch),  Julius, Alphonse, Louis, & my mother-in-law Marie  (Mrs. Gilbert Wagner).  The children blessed John & Mary with thirty-three grandchildren.

Married February 4, 1896, St. Mary’s Catholic  Church, Remsen IA, it was a steadfast belief in God & prayer  that guided them  throughout their lives as farmers in Plymouth County/northwest Iowa. 

Proud, hard workers, honest & unassuming describes both Mary & John with John the quiet one and Mary, less quiet.  Pivotal to the Galles Family were family, church & work with a little fun thrown in for good measure.

Courtesy of Mary (Pick) Wagner

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3, 2013: A Blustery Day

On this very windy November Sunday, I remembered this old blog post and thought it worthy of a repeat...

As I walked into work this morning and shared "good morning" pleasantries with a co-worker, the comment came out of my mouth, "What a blustery Pooh Bear day".  Anyone who lives in Omaha can relate to my blustery comment as the wind shook all of our houses in the wee hours as we lay in bed.  And anyone who has raised children can relate to the Pooh Bear comment as most, like me, spent many hours during our kids' toddler years reading Winnie the Pooh books, watching countless videos, and tucking in our babes with the Pooh and Friends variety of stuffed animals.  I hadn't thought about my poor forgotten friend, Pooh, in years.  Yet this blustery Omaha morning, the visions of Pooh holding the hand of his dear friend, Piglet, quickly invaded my memory.

Now the Pooh days are a distant memory with the only memento left in my house; a Pooh picture frame displaying a baby photo of Zach.  This picture frame sits in his now vacant room within a cluster of other childhood photos.  Where did these 16 years go?  I can close my eyes and still feel his soft warm cheek nestled in the crook of my neck as I carried him to bed.  It is amazing how one can forget the detailed lines in a human face as the years pass, but can remember like yesterday the feeling of the human touch.

My consolation in "moving on" from my Pooh days of past is the secret pleasure I take in my grown sons' current obsession with their favorite Disney songs.  Although much of their talk is part of the coolness the 15 to 18 year old crowd has currently placed on their favorite Disney movie/song of their youth, I quietly take in this guilty pleasure.  "Mom, can I download Tarzan on your I-Pad?  Have you heard Phil Collins?  He is amazing in this album!"  I see them post You Tube videos of the Lion King on each other's FaceBook (yes, I do creep...don't tell) and am reminded that all of those toddler years of playing Disney cassette tapes, watching hours and hours of our Disney (and Pooh) VHS collection has stuck with them and given them fond memories as well.  Yep, it is the small things in life that make this mama happy.  Hakuna Matata!

Friday, November 1, 2013

October 31, 2013: Treatin' with Jack

Two nerds
I know I have said this before, but I need to say it again. I love Halloween. I love everything about it; fall, the colors, the Pumpkin Patch, the anticipation of trick-or-treating. I can't wait until Labor Day has passed and I can put up my Halloween decorations.

As the boys have grown older, I've wondered what I would do with myself on this coveted night. Although Grant still goes out on Halloween, his festivities rarely involve me. Well, at least by his invitation. I now invite myself.

I have found out that I am not the only adult who looks for an excuse to trick-or-treat. My friend, Laurie, shares this passion. Don't judge. We will go with the line that we are truly kids at heart.

Last year, Brian joined the fun as we three adults ran with the kids, like the kids. We giggled as we went through the homemade haunted houses and shared the childhood exuberance that is unique to Halloween night.

This year my timeline was a bit tighter which restricted our shenanigans. But all it took was trick-or-treating with Jack to make the night just as special.

Jack is special in many, many ways. Everyone needs a Jack in their life. His life is simple and very literal. No sugar coating or playing games. Just straight talk; both in what he loves and what he doesn't.

He doesn't like scary. At all. And he loves his mama. So when asked to join Laurie and Jack for an early run around the neighborhood before it got dark, I said "Absolutely".

Jack: "Mom, let's be the first ones out."

Read between the lines: Jack hates scary things and wants to be able to see and scope out the scary houses to avoid.

Laurie: "Jack, take a picture with Mrs. Lane/"

Jack: "Fine! <smiles reluctantly>. But hurry."

Read between the lines: Same sentiment as above. Why are we camera-happy moms delaying his plan??

Picture taken and moms happily follow a very cautious and selective house-picker, Jack. That morning he had shared with his mom that he was so happy that tomorrow was November so the scary stuff would be put away.

We went to Jack's selective houses; avoiding skeletons, vampires and loud noises. One calm house surprised us with a bowl of candy left on the steps including a note "Please take one". The honor system. Impressive.

Three house later, a homeowner had the same idea, but without the sign. As Jack stood by the bowl, it seemed to take him more time to gather his candy. Laurie asked the inevitable question.

"Jack, how many pieces of candy did you take?"

"I took two handfuls. There was no sign saying to take one."

Jack's literal interpretation. Laurie quickly explained that he needed put two handfuls back and take one. There needed to be some left for future trick-or-treaters. It then made perfect sense to him now. Bad signage.

Jack Halpenny, you make me smile. I can see us trick-or-treating together for many years to come. I really hate the scary stuff too.