Friday, January 31, 2014

January 31, 2014: 8th Grade, Again?

Grant is the one in the suit...the coach, of course
I played a little hooky this afternoon to watch the St. Wenceslaus 8th Grade vs. Teachers volleyball match. Grant was one of the coaches. My late breaking choice to attend proved to be a good one.

Last night, Grant carefully planned his coaching wardrobe; choosing a suit with a tie in the team color of red. As he carefully laid out his coaching strategy to me on the way to school, I knew I needed to figure out a way to be there. And that I did.

Just four years past, Benny Lane, filled the same coveted role as coach of the 8th graders. Ben had a drawn-on mustache and wore a pair of his older brother's head phones for effect. I missed watching the rivalry play that day. It didn't work into my schedule.

Later, another mom sent me pictures of my coach-son and told me what a riot the match was, as was Ben's performance. Regret. My happenings of the day didn't seem as important anymore as I viewed the text photos of Ben.

And then I blinked and four years passed. It happened quickly and seemingly on the sly. Somehow my 8th grader, Ben, is now a senior and Grant; completing his grade school years. Those pictures of a smiling Ben, eagerly coaching his classmates, remain embedded in my brain.

Today I took the pictures myself.

Grant owned his Greg McDermott look. He encouraged his players on the floor while handling the exuberant crowd on the sidelines. The student body roared with every 8th grade point and returned hit. A band played and the teachers were nothing short of overly-competitive. A good thing. A fun match.

The teachers won handily, although the teens showed a good effort. Competitive Grant was not happy with some of the calls. His mom thought it was all in fun. Grant & Co. just wanted to win. But collectively, the 8th grade crew were jumping and chanting in the end. Picture taking with glowing smiles among the red shirts, red wigs and tutu's were galore.

No doubt, it was an overall win. I'm glad I played hooky.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28, 2014: Daily Musings

There are a lot of difficult topics swirling in my brain today. I will save the heavier thoughts for tomorrow. Today I choose light. And as far as the other topics, I choose right. Battle garb necessary? Absolutely. But for tonight, a Jays win and smiles with my crazy kids lead the Top Ten List.

Sandy's Top Ten List: 1/28/14

10)  As I typed the title to this blog, I noticed that I used a 2013 date. <pause>. Hmmm...I was pretty sure I had done this before. When I went back to blog posts for this new year, eight out of nine 2014 posts had "2013" title dates. Oops. I have now corrected. Pretty typical of my haste in posting and later finding errors in my ways. Seldom are my oblivious oversights in proofreading pointed out to me. Thank-you to those who read for being kind and forgiving. I will try to be more conscientious of writing accuracy in future posts. To err is human and this imperfection; a perfect #10 for the day.

9)  Did I mention my new comfy jammies that I received at my bridal shower? They were the only practical gift from that night of wine and nighties. Although I loved the lacy and impractical numbers, these candy-striped cotton long johns are perfect for a cold Nebraska Tuesday night. I fly solo on Tuesdays (other than the companionship of my pup, Cookie). #9 is definitely for soft, warm jammies.

8) Grant is obsessed with The Great Gatsby. He loved the movie and can hardly contain himself in reading book. I read this book at his same age. I, too, was enamored with Daisy and Jay Gatsby. Robert Redford was the bomb in my day. And the book was even better. #8 is for common childhood interests with my kids.

7)  Ben is getting closer to committing to a college. I have a gut instinct on the best fit for him. Soon we will see if he agrees. In the meantime....I will stay out of it and say a couple of prayers. #7 is for Ben's new chapter.

6)  My Aunt Kathy got a new haircut. The bangs are fabulous and she looks ten years younger. I got my hair cut today and followed her lead. We shall see what the bangs do for me :) #6 is simply for Aunt Kathy. Everyone needs an Aunt Kathy.

5) Did I mention that Ben forgot to turn in his senior picture to the yearbook? I did my part by scheduling his pictures early in the year. Somehow the head shot required by the yearbook staff never made it to Skutt. After a few text interchanges today including a choice between two sent pictures and instructions on how to turn in (and encouragement to ask the girls' opinions on which to choose), obviously a deadline was missed. "Mom, they just took a picture of me at school with their camera." <ugh> I guess Ben's senior yearbook will be a representative keepsake of his personality. # 5 is for the stark reminder that the best parental planning can still lead to the worst results.

4) Cookie really likes me. Our dog loves Garrett, but in him absence; I am becoming a close second. I really get the dog-lover thing. Thank-you, Cookie, for making me feel important and loved while my kids remind me that I'm not that big of a deal. #4 highlight of the day...definitely having a cuddly pup.

3) Hanging with Grant. A thirteen year-old is a strange piece of art. Awkward but cute, self-absorbed but caring, old but young. Tonight Grant and I rode together to the Creighton game; listening to his strange selection of music. Purportedly these artists won awards last weekend. Grant schooled me. I don't completely get it. #3 is for trying to be an open-minded mom.

2) Brotherly love. This week is Catholic Schools Week. I received an e-mail reminder that tomorrow is "Special Friends" mass. When Grant was in his early grade school years, I would have been all over this a week in advance. Tonight I turned to Grant at the game and asked "Do you want your dad or I to go to Special Friends mass with you tomorrow?" Without hesitation, he said "no". Instead he called his oldest brother, Zach, and they organized their meeting in the morning. #2 definitely warmed this mom's heart.

1) A Jays win in the final seconds. Tonight was even more special because I was actually in town for a game and I wasn't rushed. Grant and I arrived over an hour early. We sat and watched to players warm up and then I moved about Century Link at a snail's pace. Grant eventually sought out his friends and I sought out my favorite beer cart girl. Terri inquired where I had been the last few games, as did the guys behind me in line (obviously, regulars as well). And then I took a walk around the perimeter of the auditorium, running into old and new friends. Life really is so much better when you're not rushed. I even bought a Jays sweatshirt with the new Big East logo. #1 is all about life being grand. Even in cold Omaha.

Cheers to all of your Top Ten daily musings...enjoy, my friends!

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24, 2014: Life is Beautiful

This blog has been sitting in my mind for some time. During my most thoughtful times (i.e. walking the dog and long bike rides), I have pondered this specific blog title and its intertwining relationships into my own personal life.

This week I was reminded of this theme once again. Amid some mild oppression from a myriad of outside forces, I did what I typically do in these situations. I thought of the words of a dear friend. Life is beautiful.

No better way to avoid the bad things in life than to focus on all things good. Wallowing in negativity is not my gig. So tonight I will transfer my recurring thoughts from mind to blog.

Preparing for my blog post, I scoured my computer picture files with the goal of finding a recent picture of my boys. In my mind's eye, I pictured them smiling; enjoying life. There were many to choose from; football games, family trips, rough-housing in the backyard. Instead I kept coming back to the picture above. A forgotten picture of me.

I am unsure who took this or the details of the moment. But what caught my eye was my disheveled physical appearance complimented by an apparent look of happiness. My self-hemmed dress was unintentionally hiked. My hair, a mess. And my makeup? Vanished with the close of the day. But the smile is apparent. Happiness.

I tend to see the beauty in life and in people and am told I carry the dominant trait of positivity. Strengthfinder's personality assessment validates this by placing Positivity in my "Top Five".

Sometimes I take a step back, acknowledging my tendency to see the cup as only half full while wondering if this perceived strength is really a weakness. Do I sugar-coat too much? Not seeing things for what they are? My mom has coined me a "Polly Anna". Self-doubt ensues.

Post-divorce, I wondered if my positivity was, in fact, our personal demise. Nonacceptance of the negative spiral taking place was instead sugar-coated from reality. But life was raw and I was lost in the bubble of confusion. I just wanted to fix things and for everyone to be happy. Positivity.

Shortly after our divorce, Grant’s cat went missing. He adored his pet kitten, Rambo. They slept together each night and played together by day. Alarmed by Rambo’s MIA status, Grant and I spent a day hanging up signs throughout the neighborhood with pictures of Rambo and enticements of a reward if found. Neighbors were interviewed and the Humane Society called. No Rambo.

The first night that Grant went to bed alone in Rambo’s absence, he cried his eyes out; worried about his furry companion. The next day, while Grant was at school, I received a call. The caller saw our signs in the neighborhood and also saw the deceased remnants of Rambo sprawled on the neighboring 168th Street.

When Grant arrived home from school, he anxiously asked if I had heard anything on Rambo. I told him “no”.

After Day Three of no Rambo, I convinced Grant that his kitty had wandered into the home of a sweet old lady and was spending his days lying on her lap by the fire. I convinced Grant that in all actuality we were doing a favor to a lonely elderly lady. Rambo was fine.

Proud of my positivity spin, I shared this story with Garrett. But I didn’t get the response I had expected.

“Sandy, you can’t lie to Grant. He needs to know the truth. You shouldn't shield him from adversity. This is life. People and animals will die. Not everything has a happy ending.”

Not the reinforcement I was looking for. I reasoned with Garrett that Grant couldn’t take the truth. With the divorce and loss of his parents as a unit, Grant didn’t need any more sadness in his life. He couldn’t take it. I really thought I was doing the right thing with the old lady story.

Garrett didn’t enable me. I eventually told Grant the truth. It took everything in me, but it was the right thing to do. He cried, but accepted the reality of his pet’s death. I think prior to my words of truth, Grant actually knew in his heart that no old lady really existed. And then we woke up the next morning and we moved on.

In the heat of my divorce, I was given the Godwink of an amazing counselor. One day I was updating him on the status of my boys; emphasizing all things positive and my efforts at keeping their lives normal and happy. This was an ongoing theme in our sessions despite the problems erupting between their dad and me.

After my lively and positive update, my counselor paused and asked a question.

“Have you ever watched the movie, Life is Beautiful?”

I hadn't a clue what he was referring to.

“Watch it this weekend,” he told me. Homework. 

Confused, I did just that. I rented the movie and was surprised to find it an Oscar-winning foreign film. The entire movie was in subtitles.

At the end I cried. I understood why my counselor wanted me to watch it and I understood how it applied to me, but I did know how to interpret whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.

The movie is about a father and son who are imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. The father shielded his son from the horrors of their life by filling their days with positivity and convincing his young son that they are having an adventure. The small boy believed his stories and followed his upbeat lead. The boy survived unscathed. A gift from his father.

When I asked my counselor at my next session why he wanted me to watch the movie, he turned it back to me. The conclusion I made that day and the conclusion I make now, fast-forward five years, is that positivity and creating a happy world albeit dark times is a good thing. But like poor Rambo, we need to accept reality while choosing happiness.

All that being said, I am thankful for a counselor pointing out that life is indeed beautiful. I continue to defer to his great advice in my daily life. And as far as positivity being an overall good or bad trait, I will just keep deferring to the photos showing the faces of those I love. This is my best barometer.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19, 2014: Flying Blind with Benny Lane

I have often said that my favorite blog subject is Ben Lane. For the record, he likes this accolade. And he continues to live up to this expectation. Last Thursday night was no exception with a late call from Ben.

"Mom, I have an official football visit at Hastings College this weekend. Can you take me?"


"Sure. What are the details?"

Within minutes I learned it was an all-day Saturday visit with an overnight and Sunday closing meeting. Of which, I had no e-mail or itinerary. Just Ben's verbal instruction.

<pause. breathe. recite the Serenity Prayer>

Saturday morning. Still no e-mail or official agenda for this overnight road trip. Ben assured me that he had been corresponding with the coach via meetings at school and texts. On a whim and a prayer, I decided to fly blind and follow Benny's instruction. A two hour and fifteen minute drive. A 1:30 check-in on just Ben's word. I breathe again.

We began our venture to Hastings College. Our drive entailed 60 mile-an-hour winds and my listening to Casey Kasem's Top Forty Countdown from 1/14/1978. I enjoyed the BeeGee's while battling corn-shucks nailing my windshield. It was as though we were in the middle of the Kansas tornado that led to Oz. Ben slept through it all.

Ben finally did receive the schedule and the parent hotel info via text from friend and fellow Skutt football player, Matt. He and his parents were weathering the high winds on I-70 as we were.

Finally arriving in the quaint city of Hastings (population 25,000), we were greeted by a troupe of coaches, joining 23 other football recruits and their families. Wikipedia educated me in advance of the 1,200 student population, immense endowment, and 120 acre campus.

I recognized faces, notably a young man from Omaha. Another Matt. I knew his parents and have followed his success on the field from afar. Seeing the friendly faces of parents I knew was reassuring. Ben was excited to be there, as were the other recruits. I sat back and took it all in, reminding myself that this was Ben's gig. I was just along for the ride.

Divided into small groups, we were given student-led tours of the sports facilities and campus. Impressive. And it's a liberal arts college. I was in Heaven. There were copper statues throughout the grounds and buildings with both history and personality. A glass-blowing shop and a comfy coffee gathering spot sang a song in my heart.

As I basked in the allure of the campus, I had visions of being on a reality show similar to Tommy Lee Goes to College. But there would be no parties or hot tutors. Instead, it would center around a middle-aged mom settling her nerdy self into the comforts of an arts based college. Bliss.

And then reality set in as I reminded myself that I had already been to college once. And once is enough. Now it's Ben's turn. Focus was back to the men's basketball game in the field house and the parent/coaches dinner. Ben was matched with a football player who played his host. They were off among a pack of football players, college and high school combined, to enjoy a night on campus.

By the close of the night, I concluded that I was the parent least up-to-speed on my son's college football aspirations. The couple from Lee's Summit had been spending every weekend for most of the fall visiting football programs spanning Illinois to Minnesota to Kansas. For a brief moment I felt regret. But then I came to my senses.

This was Ben's gig. His dad and I were here to support him, but not do it for him. What I do regret is doing too much for my kids when they were young. I figured this out too late. Having resourcefulness as a dominant skill is good for me, but it sure doesn't teach them how to thrive on their own. I slowly figured out that my constant problem-solving actually wasn't good for them. Lesson learned. A new day.

So Ben planned this trip himself, as he did every other college visit. He connected with the coaches and schools. He applied at the schools on-line. And then he set up the visits. Albeit blind at times, we have just flown by his side when parental input was necessary and by his direction.

After an exhausting day on campus, I did enjoy good conversation over margaritas with the dad and parents of the combined Matt's. Having these great parents to share the day was a pleasant surprise. Their guidance and observations on college football and recruiting helped me wrap my mind around the process. It also reinforced that Ben was following the right path.

This morning Ben and I had our closing meeting with the coach. He gave Ben an official offer letter. And then he emphasized that the offer was 100% based on Ben's efforts in football and academics. The rest of the college package, relating to grants and financial aid, were all me. But mine were the easy parts. Simple paperwork. I tip my hat to Ben on the others.

The drive home was much better than the ride there. I was safely able to occupy one hand with cup of coffee while securing my other hand on the wheel. The skies were sunny and the wind, nonexistent. Ben napping in the passenger seat was a clear indication there wasn't much sleep at the dorms the night prior.

Ben awoke to a text.

"Mom, I have a college visit at Doane this Wednesday at 11:00. The coach just text me."

Me: "Wednesday I work and you have school. And why 11:00??"

"But, Mom, I thought that way we wouldn't have to spend the night."


<pause. breathe. recite the Serenity Prayer>

Friday, January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014: Sports Mom

The following is a guest post from my dear friend and fellow mom-of-three-boys, Patty Johnson...
Go JAYS! Go BRONCOS (Manning)!
It was a great Sports DAY!!!  Blue Jays, 49ers and BRONCOS all won. I’m a happy person.  God gave us “Sports events” so we can release that emotion and passion within ourselves and experience FUN!  (For a few hours we “play”!)
I always think I’m rooting for the “Good guy”, when I root for MY teams.  My sons would say that I’m not a good sports fan because I’ve rooted for many teams.  I am a Chiefs fan (logistically makes sense since it is the closest NFL team to Nebraska- but mostly because of my husband and family loving them); I’m a Broncos fan (mainly because I am a Manning fan, which includes not only Peyton, but Eli) and Creighton fan (I know, not a football team, but worth mentioning since they played today) and have been for a long time since they are in Omaha and many family members attended and this is an especially good yea. And of course, I am Husker fan. That is where I went to school and I live here (and have attended many bowl games). I am a Duke fan, because Josh and Jaime love that program so much over the years.  While on most given Sundays, I might have 4 or 5 favorite (NFL) teams (therefore, I can watch every game and yell at the TV non-s top!)—it is all in great fun.  I’ve also done very well in fantasy football, giving me even more reason to jump, scream and cheer.     My heart races and I get emotionally involved with my sons as they exhibit passion for their teams.  I guess I don’t follow the rules of being a sports fan, but I figure since it is MY enjoyment, it’s MY rules, right?
I believe God gave me sons who played so many sports over so many years, so I would become immersed with their activities, thereby gain an appreciation for how much work and time is involved. And we lived for the “special moments” and small successes they each had.    We learned a lot about “sportsmanship” and disappointment and how to rebound.  There were many injuries and heartaches, as well as jubilation and most importantly relationships formed from being involved. I appreciate the athleticism and talent involved at all levels. As a sports fan, I enjoy the success and how athletes work strive for perfectionism as the games are played and that there are so many fans. My friends tell me that I know more about baseball, basketball and football than any other female and more than likely, a lot of the men too!
I love this year’s NFL “Final four”—- I don’t think of it as 49ers v. Seahawks but Kaepernick v. Wilson.  And it’s not Patriots v. Broncos, but Brady v. Manning.  In actuality, all of these QB’s are amazing and defense may dictate. 
I am very happy and excited to watch the last two weekends; however, IT BETTER BE “MANNING” IN THE SUPERBOWL!  (Please God?)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 15, 2014: Club Seats Score

A Broncos playoff win. A day of football. A sweet surprise.

Sunday was intended to be a day full of errands and crossing things off Garrett's and my collective lists. A quick weekend in Denver was to entail some skiing and playing catch-up post-nuptials.

As we sat drinking our beers at the airport on Friday night, Garrett received a random e-mail. Were we interested in Broncos tickets for the Sunday playoff game. YES!! Oh, and there was a parking pass too.

Saturday we bagged skiing and instead opted for the list elimination route including the pick up of our coveted tickets. After a drive to Sports Authority Field, Garrett gathered the designated envelope from the will call window. We quickly read our seat assignments. Champion Club. The parking pass read VIP. Wow. They sure sounded important.

Giddy with our discover, Garrett and I responded as any excited fans would. We bought Broncos stuff at the stadium gift shop. A stocking cap and zip sweatshirt for me. A bright orange pullover for him.

We then decided that game day should start early. We deduced that the best place to watch the earlier televised Panthers/49er's game was at the stadium. So with NFL-approved Ziploc in hand and stocking cap in place, we easily secured our VIP spot in the parking lot.

Upon entry, we found that our seat locations were a mystery. The handy attendants at the entrance hadn't heard of the Champion Club section. It took us three asks until we found a resourceful young lady at the Information Services counter. We were guided to an inconspicuous elevator to the left of Gate 23. Obviously everyone else in the Champion Club seats knew where they were going as we were the only ones asking.

We followed countless turns and passed private rooms bearing corporate names. During our journey, Garrett pointed out a general eating and drinking area with big screen TV's. Instead of stopping we pushed forward, continuing the trek to our seats. We could always go back, I surmised.

Soon we reached a big sign emblazoned with "Champion Club". I swore I heard a harp playing as a kind gentlemen in suit and tie asked, "Is this your first time in the Champion's Club?"

As Garrett and I affirmed the obvious, he smiled and nodded his head. "Let me show you around."

We walked in the glass door and were directed to an endless food buffet to our left. A server was carving prime rib while a waitress filled an entire table with iced jumbo shrimp. There was every variety of protein with an accompanying fancy name. The desert bar left out no sweet.

Next our attention was brought to the full serve bar to our right. Lighter munchies of homemade barbecue potato chips and fresh fruit garnered either side. As Garrett and I eyeballed the selection of beers on tap, our host shared the clincher.

"All food and drink is complimentary to our Champion guests."

Welcome to Fantasy Island. I was convinced Tattoo would soon come out and escort us to our reserved seats.

With plates heaping of moist prime rib and Monterrey avocado chicken, Garrett and I watched the end of the 49er's game from the big screen adorning our table.

Broncos cheerleaders sat behind us and practice squad players dressed in sweats were to our left. And then there were a whole bunch of people who looked very important, but I hadn't a clue on their identities. We later realized that the pretty girl at the table to our right was the National Anthem singer.

Our seats were awesome with a bathroom around the corner and the free Shock-Top's within a ten foot walk. If it got chilly, we would watch from the high-tops inside. Outside we were still a part of the roar of the collective crowd. Football bliss.

Halftime brought us back inside. The Champion Clubbers were gathering and forming a semi-circle. This wasn't their first rodeo. Garrett and I picked a spot that we thought was out the the way. In reality, we were in the thick of the announcements by local celebrities. Chairs were pulled up and people, whom I had never heard of, were introduced.

Garrett and I were unknowingly on center stage, as seemingly notable people came forward upon their introduction. Most appeared to be former football players. I just kept smiling and clapping.

As we continued our polite applause, a towering man walked up to the microphone. As he and I connected eyes, he proceeded to give me a big hug and asked, "How are you doing?" He then shook Garrett's hand with a "Good to see you, Man."

The irony was that he thought we were someone of note, which of course, we were not. So he erred on the side of pretending he knew us. I did Google him later. He was a previous Broncos player turned motivational speaker. Nice guy.

As I continued to watch the parade of people march around the Champion Club, I was reminded of a song from a play from years back. The Unsinkable Molly Brown. We put on this musical in high school. I was in the chorus.

The song of note that I remembered so well was "The Beautiful People of Denver". It did continual loops through my head. These were the beautiful people of Denver. And I hadn't a clue who any of them were. Except for the cute National Anthem singer and the nice guy who hugged me. Thank-you, Google.

The club seats were a score. My last beer was regrettable later given my three hour airplane delay into Omaha. But it was all worth it in the end. A Broncos win. And best of all, my favorite athlete, Peyton Manning, continues to impress. Omaha, Omaha, Omaha....

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January 11, 2014: A New Travel Schedule

My new view that goes along with my new travel routine
People have been asking about our honeymoon. Where? When? My response has been that Garrett and I travel and adventure frequently, regardless of vows, so life is always a honeymoon for us.

Behind closed doors I have been giving Garrett a hard time about this same subject. Ironically, the first two trips he has booked for this year don't include his new bride. Hmmmm....

I do enjoy some playful banter with my husband, and this subject matter ammunition is perfect fodder. Every time Garrett brings up his upcoming guys ski trip to Telluride, I follow up with "you mean your honeymoon with Mike?" He does laugh and shake his head. Since Garrett has been lacking an adequate response, I feel that I am winning this banter.

At date night last Thursday, Garrett probed if I was just giving him a hard time or if this really bothered me. Although I hate to give up my ploy, I had to admit that I was having fun at his expense on the honeymoon comments. The fact that I am going on a girlfriends/sons trip to Chicago the week following Garrett's trip had escaped his memory.

What was bringing me down was the reality of the upcoming change in our weekend schedule. Post marital bliss, Garrett and I have decided to change our "off" weekends with kids. With the new schedule, he and I are always together, but always with kids. It seemed like the perfect solution to spending more time together and allowing family time together.

Then selfishly I started to mourn the loss of our every-other weekends alone. For over four years, Garrett and I have enjoyed time alone and the company of each other for a full weekend, twice a month. We would call these weekends our honeymoons. Like groundhog day, we would enjoy them over and over. We traveled across the country and made plans at a moments notice. Just the two of us.

Over a margarita, I moped that not only were we giving up our weekends, but we were planning vacations with people other than each other. Garrett assured me that all would be fine. That we just needed to keep our focus on each other and everything would fall into place with our new normal. I hesitantly agreed.

Last night was our first trip of the year back to Denver. Together. Our old norm was each of us flying solo from our home cities to desired joint destinations. It was rare that we traveled together. Lots of planes, trains and automobiles for the pot at the end of the rainbow. And lots of drop offs and pick ups at airports and then going home alone.

My first inclination of changing times was yesterday mid-afternoon when Garrett brought up grabbing a beer and pizza at the airport. Together. That was a novel thought. So with dueling computers, we raised our beers for a cheer at the Omaha Eppley Airport. Garrett, the new A-lister, saved me a comfy spot next to him on the plane.

I have come to the conclusion that an adventure is what you make of it and carving time out for each other doesn't require a weekend retreat atmosphere. Does an angel need to play a harp in order for one to pray?

I'm going to compile a list of fun things to do in Denver that I have never experienced. Brucker family fun on our weekends in Denver. New adventures. As for Omaha weekends, my social kids are pretty sparse. I don't think Garrett and I will lack for alone time. And there are many fun things to do in Omaha as well.

I am feeling better now. In all actuality, I've gained a travel buddy and great family time in diverse cities. I think I can get used to this...


Friday, January 10, 2014

January 9, 2014: A Year of Lasts

Morning drive for school drop-off
I love dropping Grant off for school each morning. There were days in years past when we were always rushed on this morning drive. I considered this activity a "check the box" of starting our morning. Finding Grant a ride was merely a necessary accommodation. But not this year. I clear my calendar and enjoy the ride.

Grant is an eighth grader. The big Kahuna. The last year for the legacy of Lane boys. We started at St. Wenceslaus the fall of 1998. This puts us into our 15th consecutive year at our grade school. That's a lot of years.

Most parents in my position are burnt out by now. I have seen it many times over the years. As the parent of a young Zachary, I never understood the mothers of 8th grade trail-enders; praying for the day of 8th grade graduation to arrive. Coincidentally, the mothers of the boys were even more enthusiastic.

I would observe from afar, wondering if this day of wanting grade school to be over would come to me too. I have typically enjoyed the grade school years, so never quite understood why someone would wish this time away. I had resigned myself that this change of heart and sentiment would hit me like a brick in the years ahead.

Well, the year has arrived. We are a mere months away from leaving grade school forever. Grant is ready. High school is an arm reach away. Me? I would describe my feeling as melancholy. I'm ready to move on, but am enjoying every last minute of having a grade school child.

Ironically, I experienced the same feeling fourteen years ago. Pregnant with Grant, I knew the pregnancy to be my last. I savored every moment. From the first feeling of flutter movement in my belly to late no-sleep nights with pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel, I would remind myself that this was it. The last time I would experience this stage in my life. So I smiled and enjoyed the moments that made up those nine months.

Fast forward to eighth grade. The daily ride is to school. It is quiet. Relaxed. Just me and my 13 year old. With coffee in hand and Grant in the passenger seat, we discuss the lunch menu for the day and our plans for the night.

Instead of worrying about making it to work early or checking "getting Grant to school" off the list, I enjoy the ride. Few words are spoken , but it's our time. Lull before the high school storm. No wishing time away.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 7, 2014: New Year Normalcy

Although I write about ordinary days, I am beginning to think there is no such thing. And I mean that in a good way. The way it should be; a life full of the extraordinary. Since it really is what you make of it, the definition of extraordinary lies with each individual.

Today was busy. The kids, finally back to school. A trip to Mexico, booked. A connection with an old friend, refreshed. And two work meetings were cancelled, leaving a day open for new opportunities. Tomorrow my husband flies back into town. Strange to refer to Garrett as my husband, but at the same time, those words feel very comfortable.

Tonight has been full of simple pleasures. After catching up with old work friends, I reflected on the conversations of the day with new work friends. Relationships built and relationships maintained. Steady and true.

Grant took it upon himself to run (literally) over to Lifetime to meet buddies. Knowing that my kids stay active and can entertain themselves, outside of electronics, is always a bonus. Grant's frozen hair and rosy cheeks were proof of his journey. It reminded me of my own life as a kid. Unfortunately using one's own legs for transportation is becoming a dying practice.

Double digit temperatures were a special treat. The hot bath upon arrival home was not a thawing out, but relaxation. New Christmas slippers adorn my feet. A gift of comfy jammies from my bridal shower were broken out. Among the silken beauties, I was gifted one pair of practicality. Perfect for my Tuesday nights of flying solo.

And now I am snuggled in, computer on lap, and thinking about setting my alarm clock for the morning. All in a day's work. Enjoy the day. Embrace the ordinary moments. And then repeat again.....

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 4, 2014: How to Plan a Wedding in Fifteen Days

Garrett thinks it's funny that I close my eyes when I kiss him. I never thought this was odd. But then again, with eyes closed, how would one know the normal technique? Now that we're married, I will try it his way. Eyes wide opened in married life.

Yep, we are married. Tied the knot. Husband and wife. The ceremony has been performed and the cake eaten. Guests were warmly welcomed and the reception hall filled with wedding cheer until close. Garrett and I found ourselves home at the end of the night, reflecting as a married couple.

Our marriage ceremony and celebration really were heartfelt and beautiful. We couldn't have asked for more. That being said, it really has been a whirlwind the last fifteen days as I quickly planned a wedding. The goal was family, friends, and simplicity. Mission accomplished.

It all started with a surprise engagement ring from Garrett in early December. We discussed getting married in a quiet ceremony on the Vail mountains sometime after the first of the year. Just the two of us. But then my boys put in their two cents. They wanted to be there. Our Colorado mountain idea was shut down.

Plan B: A wedding in Omaha. With Garrett's kids in town over the holidays, our timeline was now narrowed to the first week in January. Knowing no wedding can occur without a judge, that was the next call.

It was important to us that we know the judge presiding over the ceremony. Judge Pat Lamberty is a friend of mine whom I wanted at our wedding. Ironically, she was the judge who presided over my divorce. I call this karma. For the record, our friendship came later.

Pat is now retired with a busy travel schedule. Friday night, January 3rd, was our only window in the near future that would both have Garrett's kids and Pat in Omaha. With that, the date was set.

The next challenge was where to have the ceremony. Pat wouldn't be in town until after 6:00 p.m. Public places best suited for weddings were closed by five. That left outdoor or restaurant-type settings. I couldn't come up with any option that felt right. So I did nothing for a week. I just kept reminding myself that I was resourceful and a great idea would come to me. Procrastination is typically not very timely.

Two weeks before our nuptials, the only known details were that Garrett and I were getting married, our kids would be there, and that Pat would preside. The clock was ticking and I knew it was decision time. My belief was that the right idea would come from nowhere. And that is exactly what happened.

It happened on a run with my girlfriends, Tam and Kristi.The eureka moment. In hindsight, this is no surprise. The best ideas come on runs. And from my running friends.

Kristi: "Have you decided where you're getting married?"

Me: "No. I wish I knew someone who lives in the Old Market. All we need is a fireplace and five minutes."

Tam: "Why don't you get married at my house?"

And there you have it. A gracious friend and a plan was hatched.

Shortly thereafter, the reception hall came as an aha moment. After attending a Bar Mitzvah, the perfect venue came into my mind. The Regency Lake and Tennis Club was just down the street from Tam's. A phone call from the Temple Israel parking lot secured the club for the 3rd. I was on a roll.

Guest invites went out sporadically via social media, e-mails, and texts during these last two weeks. The caterer thought I was crazy when I told him I didn't have colors or any idea on the number of people attending. The alcohol order was kept easy with the only requirement that we wouldn't run out.

A shower was organized with a week's notice and it was glorious! Roxanne and Patty know how to put on a party and sure make a future bride feel special. I quickly learned within these fifteen days that being the bride is still fun at age forty-six.

The dress? No problem. We took the kids shopping to the outlet stores on the Monday before the wedding. If I didn't find anything that jumped out at me, I surmised, I would dig something out of my vast inventory at home. I was fine going with a previously purchased dress, so no pressure.

I did buy three dresses on Monday and ultimately wore the $24 number I found off the Dress Barn sale rack. The classic and expensive Michael Kors leopard dress was pretty as well, but I decided to save it for Garrett and my next date night.

"Say Yes to the Dress" would not deem me a good candidate. I am not much of a bride-zilla. Whether this is a blessing or a curse is up for debate. I would gather that the caterer would have an opinion different from the sales associate at Dress Barn.

A quick text got me in to my hairdresser and friend, Amy, just hours before the wedding. She gave me a piece of mind in her words to keep the focus on Garrett, our faith, and our love. Her reassurances helped me stay calm for the storm, but excited for our vows.

My friend, Orna, and her tribe of organized helpers kept me out of the final reception details. This resulted in a gorgeously decorated reception hall and a happy caterer. This also afforded me my hairdressing down time as well as some needed shopping time with Garrett's daughter, Lily.

Lily was worried that the clothes she packed for the occasion weren't dressy enough. Listening to my boys weigh the worth of buying last-minute colorful bow ties probably pushed her to this conclusion.

With two hours to spare prior to the 6:30 nuptials, Lily and I made a run for Von Maur. Neither of us really like shopping, but we do know what we want and don't want. After surveying the Juniors section, Lily found the perfect skirt. The shoe sale room at Von Maur was suffocating and chaotic. Forever 21 was equally as scary, but with diligence, we scored a cute pair of ankle boots and a black flowing sweater.

In retrospect, spending this time with Lily was a great choice and will be a fun memory. The random moments are always the best. And the two of us shop well under pressure. Garrett took care of the boys; taking them to eat at Arby's and buying ties at Gordman's. We all ended up back at the house with fifteen minutes to spare as we threw on our dress clothes and made last minute adjustments.

Then the seven of us packed in my car. The drive to the ceremony entailed lively discussions on music choices with jokes abound between the kids. Perfect. No stress. All smiles.

The ceremony was peaceful and wonderful. We were surrounded by our close family and friends at Tam & Phil's beautifulyl decorated home. Champagne was on ice with music filling the air. But most importantly, my Prince Charming held my hand while reciting vows that ensured we were bound together forever. All while our kids looked on with a flurry of snapping pictures on their many iPhones. I believe Garrett and I were likely "trending" in the under-21 world during this fifteen minute ceremony.

Our friends, Rich and Brian, sang a touching rendition of Iz's "Somewhere over the Rainbow". I recruited our new friends to sing just over a week before the ceremony via a text request. Rich replied by asking if I wanted to hear them first. Nope. I knew they would be perfect. And they were.

Garrett and I were overwhelmed with the support of our friends and family on our special day. Notes and messages of good wishes poured in and continued through the weekend. Friends came in mass to the reception hall. And we welcomed them with open arms. We were showered with hugs and kind words from so many people who have played a part in our lives.

I have always seen a person's life as an individual story book. Having a wonderful life event like this is a great reminder of the number of people who fill our story in so many different ways. Hearing from and seeing these people, each who have each touched our hearts, was humbling.

The first lesson learned was that a wedding can be planned in fifteen days and come off without a hitch. We had all the the happiness and intimacy of a wedding that was planned diligently for months in advance. But the bigger lesson was that it takes the love and support of friends and family to make this happen.

The marriage is between Garrett and I, but the people who surround us are our supporting cast. Prayers and encouragement propel us into our next chapter. Thanks to all who shared with us your support and love.

Happily ever after begins today. With open-eyed kisses and reminders that there are no such things as coincidences, Garrett and I will continue to savor and nurture the blessings we have been given. Together.

The day after...warm reminder of the wedding day before

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January 2, 2014: What I Did on my Christmas Vacation

The Twelfth Day of Christmas 
Today I was thinking about the common grade school homework assignment; writing a story on what you did over Christmas break. Since it's been ages since anyone asked me this question and it sounded intriguing, here goes...

My Twelve Days of Christmas
by Sandy Lane

1st Day of Christmas - Celebrated an early Christmas with the boys. No wrapped gifts, just a shopping mall and Barnes and Noble with money in hand. We ended the night at Outback for dinner and then caught the movie, The Hobbit. Note for next year: avoid shopping malls the weekend before Christmas. Second note: my kids are fun, no matter what we do.

2nd Day of Christmas - Creighton vs. California for a Sunday afternoon game at the Century Link. Kori joins us as we celebrate Robbie's birthday. The night didn't end after the Creighton win. Happy Birthday, Robbie!

3rd Day of Christmas - Last day of work in Omaha before the holiday, ending with Christmas cheer. I met my running girlfriends later at Roja to celebrate my upcoming nuptials.

4th Day of Christmas - A Christmas Eve flight to Denver and an afternoon church service to start our celebration. Garrett and I enjoyed the Walter Mitty movie and then a delicious Italian dinner. I  hadn't a clue that so many people went out to eat on Christmas Eve. We were not alone. A fun night.

5th Day of Christmas - Christmas Day was an anticipated movie marathon for Garrett and I. We made it through two...Wolf of Wall Street and Saving Mr. Banks. The Wolf was shocking and Mr. Banks made me smile. Note that 9:00 a.m. on Christmas is a good time to go to a movie. We didn't have much company in the theater. Our Christmas was completed with homemade chili and our watching the first half of Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation (couldn't stay awake any longer).

6th Day of Christmas - Ski day. My first attempt to ski post-ACL injury. I will label the day "combating fears", but I did it. I am going a bit too slow and hesitant. Next go around, I am going to take a half day ski lesson. But a step forward and a beautiful day in the mountains! And we caught a movie before we went home. "The Dallas Buyer's Club" with Matthew McConaughey is a must see.

7th Day of Christmas - Work day and work on the Denver house day. Our house in Denver is coming along nicely. We picked tile and paint color, met a carpet guy and put final plans together with the basement contractor. Lots to do as we want to move in with all of our upgrades and new work complete. Garrett and I make a great team on house renovations. I have the design eye and he works the details. We are both quick to make decisions and are almost always on the same page (if he's not...I sway him to the right way of thinking :))

8th Day of Christmas - With Lily and Jake in tow, we drive back to Omaha. Although the temp on the rear mirror reminded us of the frigid air, it was a nice drive. With one stop for breakfast at Village Inn and a later stop for gas and relief, we made it in Omaha in time to watch the Broncos game at Buffalo Wild Wings with my boys.

9th Day of Christmas - An Afternoon of the Nebraska Crossing Outlet Mall with the kids and then my bridal shower/party. Bags of goodies were had all the way around!

10th Day of Christmas - New Year's Eve was filled with some football and some wedding planning with an evening split off between kids and adults. Kids ate out and went to a movie. Garrett and I enjoyed the Creighton Big East kick-off game. A win. A new year. And one sweet rendition of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" with 17,560 of our closest friends.

11th Day of Christmas - New Year's Day. Two pots of homemade soup with fresh bread. Football, football and more football. The night cap was a trip to Lifetime to work out.

12th Day of Christmas - Back to work for Garrett and I. Zach took the crew of kids out to bowl, eat and play games. Obviously, they can entertain themselves in our absence. The feedback was that is was "a lot of fun". We finished the night with dinner at Kobe Steakhouse. Everyone caught a shrimp, except Ben. He told the chef he was allergic. Probably for the better.

Well that's it. A fun Christmas vacation. And now for the big day tomorrow.

Happy New Year!! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December 31, 2013: Bad Parenting Story #2

The boys after surviving our Christmas Eve road trip
This story serves as a follow-up "bad parenting story" from my last blog post. Since the kids in my previous story were not my own, I thought I better come clean on my own parenting prowess.

When the boys were young, we would spend time over our Christmas breaks skiing in Colorado. The days of our stay would vary, dependent on family schedules. On this particular year, we chose to ski the week before Christmas. The plan was to drive home on Christmas Eve. This would get us home for the Lane extended family gathering on Christmas Day.

Our ski trips would many times involve other families. Russ and Robbie were with us on this trip. Following a great week of skiing, we packed up Christmas Eve morning. We set off on our road trip with happy thoughts of landing in the warmth of our homes by late afternoon. Plenty of time to enjoy this special night and prepare for our Nebraska Christmas.

As is typical with the mountainous climates, the weather did not cooperate with our wishes. It was a snowy, slow ride down the mountain with delays at the tunnels. Outside of Denver proved as equal of a challenge with both snow and holiday traffic. We found ourselves in darkness by the time we hit the lonely Interstate byway through Nebraska.

Doing a time check, we knew it was going to be a late arrival home. Robbie and I assured each other that a cozy restaurant off the Interstate would be found and open. Although it was Christmas Eve, our rationale was that surely the truckers would need to be accommodated. We were certain we would find a midway food stop that would have charm and be part of a memorable family Christmas Eve meal together.

Rolling done the Interstate, we quickly surmised that most everything was closed, including many gas stations. As Robbie and I concerned ourselves with feeding the children, the men were more worried about the availability of gas stops.

Soon we came to the conclusion that our special dinner would need to come from the options offered at a gas station. The boys were beyond hungry and we just wanted to get home.

We pulled into a Sinclair in the middle of nowhere. As the kids rifled through microwavable options in the Chuck Wagon freezer, I watched in disbelief. It was Christmas Eve. As other parents snuggled in with their children in front of their fireplace after a warm meal, mine were choosing between all-day slow cooked hot dogs and a Hot Pocket.

Ben has always had a little problem with food aversions. He still has them at age seventeen. But at age eight, he would barely eat a thing. Any food with a less-than-desirable texture, smell, or look would make Ben's stomach turn. His response of throwing up was a common occurrence.

Evidently, if a Hot Pocket is not heated up completely, the orange cheese does not melt. It stays in semi-hard, cold lumpy state. Biting into this under-cooked dinner caused an immediate reaction of Ben throwing up into the nearest trash can. The one set next to the gas station microwave. Ben opted to try his Pocket right away rather than wait for the car ride. A blessing in hindsight.

I discovered this food malfunction by Zach screaming from the Gardetto aisle. "MOM, Ben's barfing in the back of the gas station!!"

So I did what any good mom would do. I took the empty Hot Pocket sleeve to the cashier and paid for the item that never made it out of the store. I quickly explained to the confused lady what all the ruckus was about in the back. She smiled in understanding. Obviously my story was nothing new. We wished each other a Merry Christmas and then Robbie and I just roared in laughter. You can't make this stuff up.

Ben chose a bottled water to complete his meal. No more Chuck Wagons or Hot Pockets for Benny Lane. A four hour wait for food was worth his comfort in the frozen chicken strips at home. 

Once again, as is typical in our life, Ben put his fingerprint on this moment in time. What would have been a laughable story for the next couple of years turned into a story told each Christmas, year after year.

"Remember the year Mom made us eat Hot Pockets from a gas station on Christmas Eve and Ben barfed?"

Yep, that's me. As other mothers are complimented for their prime rib and mashed potato traditions, my kids tell their friends about their Christmas Eve microwaved adventure. Uncle. I have now surrendered my Christmas Eve's to the Lane's.

This year the boys and I celebrated Christmas early. We went to the Outback. Ben had a burger and we had no food malfunctions.