Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26, 2014: A Year

Not quite sure what the sign means. I will sure miss Ben this fall.
A year ago I blew my ACL. On a mountain. In Vail. A year ago I flew home with a brace and crutches and minus the band needed to hold my knee in place.

A year ago I took the boys to Chicago on our annual mom/sons trip. A disbanded ACL wasn't going to stop our fun. So I maneuvered airports and stairs at a slower pace, with a braced knee, but with just as much fun. The surgery came two weeks later. And the recovery; that took a solid six months.

And now a year has passed. What a difference a year can make.

365 days. Sounds like a a lot of time, but it really flew. An anniversary of any type creates a rehash of what transpired within the year post-noted-event.

In my case, a lot has happened. This reflection has also caused me to look into the future. It has created the realization that no matter how well scripted one thinks their life is, there will be surprises. Hopefully pleasant, but unexpected occurrences will occur, nonetheless.

As I was carted off that mountain into the Vail ER late February 2013, I thought about my recovery period. An anniversary date meant nothing. But a lot has happened in that 12 months.

Garrett and I got married. Ben won a state championship. Zach got accepted into gun-smithing school. Grant is 4 inches taller and not a kid anymore. Life includes regular time together with all of us; Garrett, Zach, Ben, Grant. And I didn't touch a tax return.

None of this was scripted. It just happened. Life.

Now I look forward to the next twelve months.

Knowns: Mom/sons trip to Chicago this weekend. Grant graduates from 8th Grade. Ben graduates from high school. Zach moves to Denver. Garrett and I spend every weekend together with our kids. Ben goes to Hastings. Grant goes to Skutt. A trip to Mexico. Maybe a trip to Alaska. A move to a new house in Denver and hopefully an ACL that stays intact.

Now the interesting part will be looking back once we reach February 2015 at what really transpired during these 12 months ahead. I am feeling bullish. It will be a glorious year for all :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 24, 2014: White Hats

My view at departure from my last Jays game of the season
This Sunday we were in Lincoln during a Creighton home game. It felt wrong. Completely wrong. I had convinced myself that missing a occasional game of my beloved Bluejays wasn't a big deal. My head had thoughts of exploring the new Pinnacle arena and yelling a post-football season "Go Big Red". My heart didn't bite.

I tried to be excited, but I only felt like I was missing something.

Do note that the new Husker home court is very nice with an enthusiastic and fun crowd. Also note that no alcohol is served and the crowd was not my blue and white comrades. The familiar faces and surroundings that I have come to love at the Century Link were absent.

The final tally of the day? Two wins. The Husker game was a blow-out and the Bluejays, a nail-biter.

Garrett and I had planned some time back to attend the Lincoln venue this past weekend. His Alma mater of Purdue was taking on their Big Ten rival in Nebraska. We had a plan. The club seats and parking pass given to us were an added plus. But it was still hard to get excited. Knowing I would be in Denver and missing the final Jays home game, I had to bid my Bluejays good-bye a week ago. And parting was such sweet sorrow.

This season has been special. A fun ride. It's been amazing to be a fan and season ticket holder. An exciting entry into the Big East. A great coach with a very talented player, who happens to be his son. Watching and being a part of the fan base that surround and support McDermott's & Co. has been an honor. These guys are a class act.

Characteristics that I admire most in people are embodied on and off the court by the McDermott's. Topping my "honorable characteristics list" are being humble, kind, hard-working, honest, sincere, and gracious. Yep, they have these covered well.

The same Sunday that I snapped the picture above, the boys and I began our day by going to church. A few rows in front of us sat Mrs. McDermott and Doug's little sister. I later reflected on the irony that we broke bread under within the same church community by morning and then later shared a different kind of spirit within the walls of the Century Link.

The entire McDermott family have been characterized by those who surround them as good people. Down-to-earth people.

I once heard a man memorialized as "the man in the white hat". A depiction of the good guy. This phrase has always stuck with me. I see myself as a softy for the guys (and gals) in the white hats. I seek them out among crowds and look for them within my daily alliances. They are the stories of twinkling sunsets glimmering off of shiny hats and white chaps. An honorable cowboy riding joyfully into the sunset. A happy ending.

This memorable season is not done yet. Just for me. I am now merely a smiling fan watching the sun start to set. The men in white hats will finish their ride and I will hope for a happy ending. And I have no doubt that the McDermott's have already reaped this desired happiness within their own definition.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 19, 2014: Persuasion

This week has me feeling like a grade school student again. And I mean this literally. Grant and I have been attached at the hip as it relates to his school work. I am watching his every assignment like a hawk.

The long and short is that I gave Grant too long of a leash in school. The result was a fail in the personal accountability category. So now, to Grant's chagrin, he and I are working to correct this in tandem. And, unfortunately, bad habits are hard to break.

Although mentally drained with my own work by day and grade school work by night, our combined efforts are appearing to pay off. Grant's poor study habits are breaking down under pressure. And believe me, he has resisted.

I told one of Grant's teachers that it feels like I'm breaking a wild horse. One that flails and bucks to it's own exhaustion with nothing gained but the exhaustion. Today the bucking stopped.

After minimal resistance, he finished an essay early. The first win was that the completion time was before 10:00 p.m. The second win was that he asked that I proofread for him. His typical habit would be to hastily handing in; either late or with rushed grammar mistakes.

My initial assessment after reading his work? This weary horse appears to be strong one. The essay was quite good. Although only a first draft, he whipped it up in no time. It appeared to come easily and fluently for him. Other than a couple of punctuation corrections, I felt that Grant nailed his main message. Just what a first draft should do.

At our teachers conference last week, Grant's Lit and Language teacher commented that he was a very good writer. A natural. Although this didn't surprise me, I really didn't know this about Grant. Rarely has he allowed me to read his papers before turning in. Having the opportunity to read his work was a treat.

The homework was a persuasive essay. The assignment read that "a writer of a good persuasive essay clearly takes a position on the topic and states it. All ideas in good persuasive writing appeal to either logic or emotion and work toward convincing readers to share the writer's viewpoint."

Yep, I believe the child nailed it. And the topic warmed my heart. It reminded me that although good-old Grant has not scored Brownie points recently in the homework category, he has one distinct characteristic that is unfaltering. Grant has a big heart. And he has the courage to show it. His art of persuasion extends outside the written word.

The same teachers who tell me of assignments needing to be completed with more effort, also tell me of Grant's inclusiveness in the classroom. Stories are shared on Grant's acts of kindness to each and every student and respect to the teachers. His actions are soft, but calculated. I have often referred to Grant as a "human barometer". He understands people and instantly feels what they feel.

When a teacher told me how Grant would work the classroom; quietly drawing in the perceived unpopular and shy crowd to make them feel included, we both teared up. She then commented that no one knew this was an intentional act, other than Grant and the teacher.

I have observed this same behavior on many occasions. With bullying, popularity and exclusivity of friendships prevalent in these tender, but difficult, years; it takes courage to rise above this pressure.

Some things in life can't be taught. Heart is one of them. Displaying it openly is an act of courage. Especially when you are a teen.

After posting a blog last fall, I received a random message from a friend and reader. "Matthew 5:14-16 is you today. Have a great one." His comment made my day and provided motivation for future blogs on life sharing. God gives us all glorious light. But it must be shined to be shared and for others to see.

Fast forward four month and I am now reflecting on Grant shining his light. In my estimation, this is a much easier task for me as an adult than at his impressionable age of thirteen. My heart warms again.

But being a good kid doesn't give Grant a bye on the homework lapses. I will keep working to tame the bucking bronco. Failings are a part of being human. We are not perfect. On earth, we are simply a work in progress to the everlasting life we wish to attain. After forty-six years, I sure don't have it all figured out. But I keep trying. And I keep learning from others like Grant, just like he learns from me.

As for his essay, I will let you judge for yourself. I am hoping this will be the first of many future guest blogs :)
Grant Lane
Mrs. Klemme
L.A. P.1
Feb 19 2014
            There are many people in this world who have a disability. They are no different than us. Every one with a disability has been doubted or looked down upon at one point in their life. Persons with disabilities are disrespected and undervalued by our culture, but they can teach us to express in action and I can help.
            People with disabilities are often stared at and looked at differently in society. They are no different than us. They can do just as much and know just as much as any of us. They can teach us lessons. Help us love one another. Value human life.
            My friend has a brother who has autism. If you ask him anything about insects, he will give you any answer right away. He is one of the most genius people I know. Bryan from the lunchroom is one of the coolest and nicest people I know. He likes to get high fives fist bumps.  Bryan has Down’s Syndrome. Some of the nicest people I have ever met are disabled.
            I can make a difference to help those with disabilities by standing up and making a change to help them feel connected and loved by society. If my friend’s brother is ever getting picked on, I will help him and stand up for him. I will always do anything to help Bryan fit in and feel loved (Mrs. Hansen does a great job of that).
            All people with disabilities should be treated with respect. They should feel equal in society. Our culture needs to treat them right. We need to make them feel loved. We as a group can help them and make a change in how society looks at the disabled. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18, 2014: Spencer Fair (my mother's musings)

Contributed by Mary (Pick) Wagner

Everyone loved the Clay County Fair and our kids were no exception. This photo helped capture the fond memories of that afternoon. Mark remembers Rich driving and Kathy taking the picture, and the fair being fun and thinking it was huge; Matt recalls Rich really liking the silver White tractors with CAT engines; Kathy bought incense and polished rocks for Sandy who was feeling special to have an aunt and uncle take them to the fair.

But there’s more to this story.  Unknowingly, my mother scared the daylights out of me when she left a message at the Omaha NE motel where Jim & I were staying for the weekend, to call her.  Much to their liking, our kids were staying on the Pick grandparent’s farm on Sunday and in town with the Wagner grandparents on Monday.  Always in good hands with never a worry, I thought to myself “This can’t be good.” Mom, sensing anxiety in my voice, reassured me nothing was wrong; she only wanted our permission for Richard and Kathy (my brother and sister) to take “the children” to the Spencer Fair that afternoon. It was a good day indeed. 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 15, 2014: Mulberry Street

My house at 6 a.m. on a Thursday (note the extra child who is not mine)
And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street. Dr. Suess was a smart man. Entertaining, yes. But smart? Absolutely. He understood life. And not just with the ten-and-under crowd. We adults reading these fanciful literary creations relate as well.

I am often reminded of Mulberry Street during my daily adventures. The theme began on our runs many years ago.

Awaking to run at 5:30 a.m. would elicit visions to an outsider of lonely roads and peaceful surroundings. On most days this is true. On other occasions, this is not the case.

Running our route through the neighborhood of Harvey Oaks has brought on many Mulberry Street stories. On one particular run, we met a man kicking a soccer ball down the street at this peculiar hour. Minutes later, a mad man flew by us on a lighted bike. Although traveling on pavement at record speed, it was as though he hoped to launch into the darkened skies.

We completed our strange run, commenting that many wouldn't believe the validity of our encounters that morning. It could only happen on Mulberry Street, we deadpanned. The phrase stuck for years to come during our many morning runs with interesting events along the way.

My daily life many times mirrors Dr. Suess' character's recant on his Mulberry Street journey. Although the world told him to look to the ground and stop telling tales, young Marco saw life differently. "Keep your eyelids up and see what you can see" was the advice given on his daily walk to school.

Our daily walks in life are often summarized with blanket answers like "yes, the kids are doing great" and "just another busy day". Lifting ones eyelids offers antidotes outside the daily norm. Some are real and some are what we make of them.

A real Mulberry Street occurrence happened this last Thursday. Garrett and I went to the gym for our morning workout at 5:20 a.m. Upon arriving home at 6:10, two of my boys and a friend were feasting on a pancake breakfast from McDonald's while watching US play Slovakia in hockey. Surprised by this site, I had to remind myself that it really wasn't a Thursday night. Confusion. A sight outside the daily norm. And then a smile and a laugh. My kids never cease to amuse me with their outside-the-norm antics.

My new work life is many times a Mulberry Street adventure as well. I left a comfortable 22-year career to start something new. My typical days filled with taxes and pull horses have been replaced with foreign zebras and fleet of elephants. The Irish brogue is real. The zebras, not so much.

I continue to meet interesting people with every day bringing a new adventure. Daily occurrences seem to mirror the parade and chariot-like sightings on Mulberry Street. At least from my eyes.

I will continue to keep my eyelids up and see what I can see. From my vantage point, this daily walk through life is nothing short of fascinating.

February 14, 2014: My Funny Valentine

Gift bag treats from Aunt Kathy (Pick) Valentino
This blog should be entitled "My Fun Valentine's Day", but I thought the title used was more catchy. I went with catchy.

Sometimes it's interesting to tell a story by starting with the end. Since I am feeling quite pleased right now and the day is done, I'll start with my current setting. A glass of wine sits to my left, a computer is situated on my lap, and a purring cat is nestled by a crackling fire. It's almost midnight. Another Valentine's Day in the books.

A stone's throw away in the kitchen are two pairs of newly purchased earrings in a Gunderson's box, homemade cupcakes, a bouquet of flowers, and a stunning picture of my Aunt Kathy. Upstairs, a dog lies content on my bed next to a new outfit, of which I am gloating. Pride and ego. My closet welcomes these new additions.

A good night. And to think that just hours prior, my only concern was my need to run an endless list of errands. There were no thoughts of Valentine's Day or anything special about this night.

School pick-up. Homework assistance. Senior picture pick-up. Dry clean drop off. ATM stop. Walgreen's drive-through. And then there were the returns. <ugh>.

I don't like to shop. Not at all. I only shop with a distinct purpose. Tonight I had a variety of items from Christmas that needed to be returned. Customer service and fights for parking and lines. My worst nightmares. With thoughts of expired return dates plaguing me, I decided tonight was the night to stop the procrastination and take on this feat.

After dropping off Grant at a friend's house, I proceeded to the shopping mall. The mall is not my friend. It is my nightmare. I can never quite remember which side the stores are on and find myself wandering aimlessly around, looking for a directory.

Dillard's was painful. Three deep, I listened to the clerk talk for five minutes with a customer on their employee training program. The rest of us stood in line and patiently listened. She doesn't like their program, in case you're interested.

Next I found out that there was no longer a Gap store at Oakview Mall. Everyone else saw this as old news, but me. After more aimless wandering, I proceeded to Target and with the next planned stop, Village Pointe.

Although Target was less painful than the mall, overall I find the store too big for my simple needs. I philosophically disagree with having to walk a quarter of a mile to pick up a gallon of milk. But since gift returns only result in gift cards, I made the long trek for Target-offered milk tonight.

Driving to Village Pointe, I received a text from Aunt Kathy. She had Valentine's goodies she wanted to drop off at my house. The thought occurred to me that she may be working at Village Pointe as she sent the text. Kathy is a jewelry sales associate at Gunderson's. Poking my head in the store, I happily found this to be the case.

Then the fun began. In sweats and colorful tennis shoes, I perused all their fine jewelry with a glass of white wine in hand and Kathy at my side. For the record, if every store served wine and had Aunt Kathy assisting me, I would love shopping.

The result of this pleasant adventure was the purchase of two beautiful pairs of earrings. As Kathy needed to work until close, I decided to poke around in some of the other stores during my twenty minute wait. Quickly I scored again.

Two nice girls were cleaning up stock, readying for close, at White House Black Market. As we conversed, I told them my husband had pointed out a couple of attractive outfits from a catalog received in the mail. Garrett had never heard of the store. He thought I would look good in the noted selections.

The girls quickly brought out their store catalog. With my guidance on noted outfits, within minutes they had me in a dressing room with a beautiful long, black and white, polka-dotted skirt and matching pearl-buttoned sweater. It was to my chagrin that the matching heals were both in stock and in my size. Within my allotted twenty minutes away from Gunderson's, I was fully outfitted in a new black and white ensemble.

With Kathy's added treats of cupcakes and cards, the night was complete. And now it's just me and Abby by the fire. Do note that Garrett has a complete "bye". He and I celebrated together last night. I did not leave him home alone during my shopping-return turn to shopping-purchase extravaganza. Nor did he make his own plans. Our lives just took us to different cities tonight. The stunning flowers he bought for me earlier in the week still fill the room with happiness.

Moral of the story: Life is what you make of it. Now check out my purchases below. <gloating>. Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014: Life is What Happens...

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." ~ John Lennon

I love this quote. I referred to it often, back in the days of divorce and family life changes for the Lane's. I had plans; one month, one year, five years. And then life happened. My great plans were out the window.

I am a forever planner. Although I can take a mean curve ball here and there, the steady flow of following the Outlook calendar is a necessary balance in my structured mind. Today was no exception.

With a look ahead for the week, food packed to get me through a busy day, and a myriad of to-do's anxiously awaiting a highlighter by the close of the night; I made my way to the office. The schedule was tight, but achievable. Ben and Grant were communicated their supportive roles as well.

And then my phone rang.

"This is St. Wenceslaus. We have Grant in the nurse's office. He is sick with a fever and headache. We need you to come and pick him up."

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

This quote immediately came to mind as I varied my route to turn around and head back west. Life is such a funny little journey. As much as one thinks they control it, they really don't.

The drive to pick up Grant brought to mind my busyness over the last ten days. My days have included a weekend in Colorado with the boys in tow, burning the midnight oil on work deadlines, dinners with friends, a day in court; all along with the other daily happenings that needed to be accomplished.

Of note was hitting an NHL hockey game, NBA basketball game, and Creighton game in less than a week. The court experience was less than desirable. I spent most of the time writing the Serenity Prayer over and over again in a notebook. But all items were on my Outlook calendar, nonetheless. 

Today is the curve ball to conclude my ten-day planned rally. Grant and I are now back home. Dress clothes and uniforms have been replaced with sweatpants and hoodies.

I now realize that I don't feel so great myself. The unplanned pot of chicken noodle soup that I chose to make yesterday is sounding like a brilliant idea. A deviation from the calendar that will be well played.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5, 2014: Raspberry Beret

Freshman year of college with my roommate, Julie
Today I woke up in a foul mood. I hate to admit this, but nonetheless; it's the truth. I was crabby for reasons I will avoid pointing out. Just trust me that if you knew the story, you would give me a bye.

With sleepy boys and a snow day, I decided it was time to conquer the snow-covered streets of Omaha at 8:00 a.m. Still frowning while pulling out of my neighborhood, the best thing to conquer a bad attitude occurred. A favorite song, full of teenage memories, came through my Sirius radio. The "80's on 8" station rarely lets me down.

"I was working part time in a five-and-dime. My boss was Mr. McGee. He told me several times that he didn't like my kind. Cause I was a bit too leisurely. Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing. But different from the day before. That's when I saw her, ooh, I saw her. She walked in through the out door, out door. She wore a raspberry beret. The kind you find in a second hand store...."

After breaking out in an impromptu dance in the driver's seat, my mind filled with visions of a beret I owned at age eighteen. I was a new college student.

The college of note was Westmar and it was not my choice. My dad, in his wisdom, guided my immature secondary education perspectives in that direction. I reluctantly applied and signed up for classes. My biggest reservation was that it was too close to home.

From the moment I stepped unto campus for registration, I quickly learned that the college was its own community; distinct from my little town a short drive away. Being among a sea of eighteen to twenty year-old's was exhilarating. An adult identity separate from anything acquired through my grade school and high school years began.

My wardrobe choice for the big registration day was a Guess faded denim mini-skirt with a collared white shirt. And carefully placed on my french-braided sun-kissed hair was a white beret. With tanned legs showing out the bottom, my tanned face with youthful smooth skin stuck out below my little accent piece. I was pleased.

I made my way in my blue Nova to the Westmar campus and was stopped by a train outside of town. I sat, waiting patiently, as Prince blared from the radio his thoughts of a girl in a raspberry beret. The memory is vivid. My response was to dance in the driver's seat. I couldn't help but admire my own beret in the rear view mirror.

Minutes later I confidently walked up to the college registration desk in the line marked "W - Z"

"Wagner, Sandy Wagner, W-A-G-N-E-R," I told the handsome man who greeted me.

With a smile, he introduced himself as Russ Lane. Most know the rest of this story. As Russ and his wife, Robbie, are still two of my dearest friends.

Another college ambassador working registration that day later told me Russ' comment as I approached the packet pick-up.

"Who is the cute girl in the Jewish hat?"

Thank-you for that, Russ. I have always taken this as a compliment. And second-hand compliments are the best.

"She wore a Raspberry beret....." Today really wasn't so bad after all.