Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014: A Grandma Lost

Grandma Gib is the quilter to the right
Grandma Gib would have been 96 years old yesterday. With our age spread of exactly fifty years, I have always remembered her age with ease.

We lost Grandma three years ago. But her loved ones felt her loss long before her death. The horrible disease of Alzheimer's afflicted our Grandma. We slowly watched her lose her memory. By her death, Grandma had lost recognition of the family she loved so dearly.

From a health standpoint, she was relatively comfortable in her final years. It was Grandma's family who were left to feel the pain.

An strange twist happened as the illness overtook her mind. She became incredibly witty. Although Grandma had a sense of humor pre-Alzheimer's, she had become down right funny. As her mind forgot, her quick tongue picked up the slack. Her comic tone made us laugh out loud while we mourned inside.

Grandma had us crying in laughter on many occasions with her funny comments and comedic timing. I sometimes asked myself if Grandma really had Alzheimer's or if miraculously she was going to tell us that she was playing us all along. From constant comments to my aunt on her seemingly uncontrollable hair; "you really need to find your brush back", to her breaking out in applause in response to a grandson's story about a hard day at work.

At a family wedding, I was one of the readers. As I approached the pulpit with a necklace that clinked with my every step, I got my grandma's attention. Nestled between two of her children among the congregation, she lit up as she recognized me at the front of the church.

"It's Sandy!" she exclaimed in the quiet of the service.

Her recognition of me and joy made my day. I held on to this feeling in the days ahead when she didn't recognize me. There is something surreal about a disease where the afflicted seem of perfect health and sound mind; other than having a five minute memory span. This was the case with Grandma Gib.

The Alzheimer's also gave her a bit of truth serum as we knew she would tell us exactly what she thought. She had an opinion on just about everything relating to our appearances and was quick to share them with a smile and no filter.

On a visit I made to Grandma in her final months, she commented on the many colors in my hair. I had recently had it colored and highlighted. Her comment came out of the blue as she strained herself to look closer.

"Do you like it?"  I asked; wincing as I awaited her answer.

"Yes," she answered.

As I breathed a sigh of relief, I decided to push the envelope with a second question.

"Grandma, I just had my birthday. Do you know how old I am?"

"No, I don't," she answered with a sweet smile.

"I'm forty-three," I revealed. "Fifty years younger than you."

"Yous…43? I can't believe that! You were such a blessing to us when you were born."

To this day, my heart still warms thinking of this moment in time. Grandma was sitting peacefully in her rocking chair with the sun shining on her one-colored hair of gray.

When I was young, a favorite memory was sitting with my grandma while she quilted. We would spend hours at this quiet activity. The sun shining through the screen door would light my grandma's face as she concentrated on her needle work. Most days we would just sit quietly as the warm sun filled the room. There was no discomfort in the silence that surrounded us.

It's funny the things in life that you miss. But I can still feel the warmth of the sun and her smile in my memory. That will never be lost.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014: A Little Job

Grandpa Jim and Zach
My oldest son, Zach, was in need of a side job. With the resourceful assistance of my Aunt Kathy, we quickly filled his plate. Mounds of photo albums and stacked photographs that have been neglected in my basement were in desperate need of scanning and organizing. Kathy and I laid out a plan to conquer the project. And Zach? Definitely at the right place at the right time.

After getting past the mother/son work-together-rub with Kathy's careful intervention, Zach hit the ground running. And although we have barely skimmed the ice berg, the result so far has already brought on many smiles.

I have been the family historian; capturing our collective lives in picture taking, written journals, scrapbooks, saved treasures, and now a blog. My basement is full of these collected memorabilia. Taking a walk down memory lane by viewing these mementos always brings a smile.

On his first attempt at super-scanning, Zach successfully scanned 287 photos spanning the last three months of 1997. Ben was 18 months old and Zach, 4 and a 1/2 at the time. Viewing the finished product brought back thoughts and feelings I had forgotten about from a time so long ago.

I clearly remember how it felt to turn 30 and to be happily surprised by family and friends with a party. I remember the warmth of a chubby toddler cheek on my neck and the constant cleaning of little boy faces and dirty pull-over bibs. Life in late 1997 was full of swings and sand boxes and lots of toy trains.

Lipstick was viewed by me as a necessary makeup accessory since I viewed myself as a mature mom. Babies slept in arms with the background lull of giggling children filling every extended family gathering. The cousins that hugged and danced as toddlers in the 90's are now young adults and lifelong friends.

I enjoyed perusing Zach's descriptive cations to his scanned photos. He really did remember most events and names. As a parent, you often wonder what memories will actually stick with our children.

Knowing my children too well, I asked Zach which photos he took pictures of on his own phone. It is typical for the boys to snap a favorite childhood shot for their own social media outlets. I was curious as to which pictures brought meaning to him.

Zach held up his phone and showed me the picture of him and his Grandpa Jim by a real train.

"I totally forgot about this picture, Mom."

It was the first time our little Thomas the Tank Engine fan got to go on a real train. At age 4 1/2, he was thrilled. And by the looks of the picture, his grandpa was having fun too. Sixteen years later, the picture still holds meaning to him.

Zach is coming back for a day of scanning on Thursday. I can't wait to see what he turns up on the next round :)

This is my favorite memory photo of the 287.
We spent countless days in our gigantic sand box and playground. I would sit in the sand for hours while the boys would play. I can remember like yesterday the peace and joy of these moments. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23, 2014: Everyone Needs a Ben Lane

"sick bro" (Ben's caption)
"wisdom teeth debacles" (My caption)
Last week I ran into Skutt High School in answer to a desperate plea from Ben. The nice ladies at the front desk know me well. Too well. This is my second son to go through Skutt and this last minute run into school was not my first rodeo.

In running tights and a stocking cap at 8:00 a.m., I presented myself and the goods requested by Ben to these fine ladies of Skutt.

"Well, hello, Mrs. Lane. What brings you in this morning?" was their greeting to me.

Obvious in their tone was that my parental presence was not a surprise. I handed over a signed permission slip for a Senior Studies jail visit that day. I went on to explain how Ben asked me at 7:30 a.m. to write on the back of an old envelope that he had my permission to go to the jail. I suspected this wouldn't cut it. It didn't.

The second part of the request was cash required for lunch on the field trip and a granola bar for him as he decided to give blood that morning. As I attempted to explain the items being handed off, the front desk gals just smiled.

"Everyone needs a Ben Lane, right?" I asked as I smiled back. We shared a laugh knowing that we would surely meet again soon. With less than two months left in Ben's high school career, no good byes were necessary between us yet. Never a dull moment with Ben.

When he got home that night, he was very thankful for my morning fly-by to Skutt. The jail visit was a success and he shared in detail his experience. The blood donation was a different story. Purportedly, one should not explain a failed attempt to self-pierce an ear as this limits blood donating for a period of time. Although there is no piercing visible in Ben's ear, obviously this was part of his medical history of which I was not aware.

The picture taken above was of Ben shortly after he had his wisdom teeth pulled, the day after the jail experience. I mistakenly thought that since the dentist was removing the teeth rather than an oral surgeon, it wasn't a big deal. After I casually picked up Ben from the dentist with a swollen mouth full of bloody gauze, I had to run a quick errand. Definitely a parental err in judgement, as I found him waiting in the car with blood dripping down his chin like a vampire.

"Sorry, Ben," I told him after accepting the faultiness in my decision-making. "Please don't write a book about me being a bad mom."

"700 page!" was all I could make out as Ben painfully mumbled while trying the contain the blood. After a trip to Walgreen's for fresh gauze, Gatorade, and a comfortable chair; all was forgotten and forgiven. The likelihood of a book on my past parental flaws is still a possibility though. The list is long.

The Lane Boys' Show was enjoyed first hand by Garrett this weekend. With over four years of hearing of the kid weekends that I ran solo, Garrett now knows my stories to be true. Never a dull moment. Garrett and I will now share all of our kid weekends together, both in Denver and in Omaha, as we have moved to our married schedule mode.

Garrett now understands my morning weekend routine. Upon awaking, I first look at my phone for missed calls and texts and then check out my window for Ben's parked car or extra cars. Relief ensues when I conclude my senior son arrived home safely. No need to gaze at his sleeping body through his bedroom door.

An added part to my routine is texting my oldest, Zach. A response to a morning text means my son, who is no longer under my watch, is safe as well. I don't always check in on Zach, but on occasion I need the reassurance. Does a parent ever stop worrying? I think probably not.

This morning Garrett got up early to work. Understanding my "counting heads routine" by day two, Garrett looked out the window and assured me that Ben was safely home. I later learned that Ben was able to personally verbalize this as he greeted Garrett's descent downstairs with a "good morning". Ben was finishing up Saturday night video gaming just as Garrett was beginning his day. Grant and three buddies were hibernating in another room.

In the quiet of sleeping teenagers, I have spent this morning typing in end of year calendars for my senior and 8th grader. The next two months will be packed with prom, track, lacrosse, confirmation, graduation, year-end socials and parties. Welcome to our world, Garrett Brucker. The Lane Boys' Show continues. I suspect next fall will feel quite a bit different. So for now, we will just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16, 2014: A Thoughtful Spot

My thoughtful spot
Packing for Denver this weekend took on a whole new dimension. There was a different kind of excitement then our usual get-away weekends. This weekend we moved into a new house. A second home. The Omaha home stays, but a Denver home has been added. Our new chapter into married life.

Moving is not something I have done often in my forty-six years. In fact, I can count on my hand the number of homes I have had in my lifetime. No nomad existence for me. So having another house with my name on the title is a big deal and not one I take lightly.

Friday, I rushed home mid-morning to pack a bag in a way I had never packed before. What to take to fill my thoughtful spot? What clothes and jewelry to import to a new home in Denver? With an empty carry-on bag staring at me from my bed top, I pondered these important questions.

It didn't take me long to run through the house and grab those items that tugged at my heartstrings as "must haves" in a place that will be called my home.

The lingering thought over the last month was how to separate my wardrobe. I found that the first steps to this lofty goal were actually fun. New alternatives to freshen up a now vast wardrobe. Separation wasn't so bad.

I chose one pair of cowboy boots out of four to make the transfer. The short tasseled brown pair gifted from my mom and previously worn by my mom made the cut. These well-worn numbers will have covered three home states of Arizona, Nebraska and now, Colorado.

Pondering my greatly anticipated thoughtful spot, I had bigger decisions to make. I went with my gut for this treasure selection. A plate with a favorite saying "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain" and a cross made by my Grandma Gib in her final years at her nursing home were carefully packed into my bag. This same cross was the one placed on the hearth behind Garrett and I as we exchanged our wedding vows. Much sentimental value.

A few words on my thoughtful spot. Garrett and I spent months waiting for the perfect home to come up for sale in our desired neighborhood next to the foothills on the outskirts of Denver. After visiting one particular home, we fell in love. By the time we went to put in an offer an hour later, the home was sold to another buyer.

We were bummed. The vision that I couldn't forget was the little nook in the kitchen next to a sun-filled window. I pictured myself sitting in this spot with an opened window and humming computer. I could smell the banana bread baking in the oven and the sound of birds in the outside trees. This little spot had my name written all over it.

Recently I had a friend who was house hunting as well. He would look for his own quiet spot in each house. The spot was chosen based on where he could see himself reading a book and relaxing. He would sit for long periods of time in that spot, envisioning how he would feel living there. Others thought he was crazy. I completely understood.

In our case, God winked on us. The house we fell in love with came back on the market in the final hours before we bought a less desirable home. I got my thoughtful spot back. Destiny.

After a complete remodel with all the special touches to make it our own; warm paint colors, granite, cherry wood floors, finished basement...we moved in this weekend. With my bag filled with relocated wardrobe components and my sentimental knick-knacks, we boarded a plane on Friday. I felt like I did on my way to move into the college dorms many moons ago.

I packed no make-up or typical travel items. My goal is to make these trips to Denver no longer as a one-way traveler, but as a flight home.

Once in Denver, Garrett's thirteen year-old daughter, Lily, and I scoured Supertarget to stock a home for the necessities of two females. For my little desk were purchases of colored Sharpies, sticky notes, and wired organizers. Two hours later with a full cart and a Kuerig coffee machine, it was back to the bliss of those dorm living feelings of old.

As I carefully hung my clothes onto my new fancy "huggable" Target hangers, I was reminded of how most of my clothing carries some sentimental value to me. The benefit of my aversion to shopping is that when I do shop, it's typically on vacation or doing something fun at a far-away place. I positioned my dresses and sweatshirts by category and color sorting and smiled at the memories of NYC street vendors and shopping in Vail village after a hike with friends. Each piece has a story.

So that's my weekend. Hangers, a closet, a cross, and a little space to call my own.

Most people vie for the entertainment centers with 72 inch TV's, fancy offices or exquisite wine bars. I'm just fine with a closet to fill full of my colorful clothes and jewelry, and a little thoughtful spot by a window.

My carry-on bag came home empty tonight. I am now thinking about how I will fill it for my next trip. My mind is swirling with colorful visions of stationary, favorite photos, art projects and cookbooks. Oh, and did I mention we are on a golf course? Time to break out the golf clothes again.....

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014: Friendship

Sam ~ far left, Ben ~ far right
I saw on FaceBook that a friend's elderly father had passed away. Although I hadn't seen her dad in years, the posted pictures and obituary brought back fond memories. The Ferrara's have been very good to me over the course of the last twenty-five years.

Although I would consider myself a casual friend of this big brood, some friendships have run deeper; dependent on the time placement within our life cycles. The posted reflections gave me a life look-back on my own interactions with the family.

I moved to Omaha in May of 1989. Other than a handful of Scott's family, I knew no one. We lived with his grandparents that first summer and I worked downtown at Kiewit. Since Scott had attended college for two years at UNO, he had some friends that we soon made arrangements to meet.

We moved to Omaha on a Sunday. I started work on a Monday and by Tuesday night, we went to a slow-pitch softball game to meet up with some of Scott's buddies. As I joined a bleacher full of strangers, a soft-spoken girl sat next to me and introduced herself as Debbie. She was pretty with big blond permed hair.

I soon learned that Debbie was engaged to John Ferrara, the firstborn son of the South Omaha Ferrara clan. He had nine sisters born before him and a baby brother after him.

Debbie and I found commonality. We began meeting for lunches during workdays as we both worked downtown. Scott and I were included in weekend couple get-togethers. Debbie invited me to join her sand volleyball team and I was added to her short-list of girlfriends who went out regularly.

Debbie was my first friend in Omaha. I will always be grateful to her for that. She and John were very kind to me.

Through their friendship, I met the rest of the expansive Ferrara family. Tony was the patriarch, content in living in the family home in South Omaha while tending to his expansive garden.

Scott and I would see Tony each year at the College World Series. He would sell spots in his yard for parking. We would always look to park there as it was an excuse to stop in. Without fail, Tony would walk us through his garden and ask if we wanted to sit down for a bit. No World Series was complete without rocking in a lawn chair with a beer in hand while Tony roasted his prized peppers on the grill.

Our life cycles continued over the years with divorces and a College World Series that moved from South Omaha. I haven't seen much of either Debbie or John since our now seniors graduated from 8th grade.

The years of late have been filled with a Tony's handsome grandson, Sammy Ferrara Elliott, a current regular in my home. Sam was one of the blond bombs who won the Skutt State Football Championship this year with Ben. He and Ben's close friendship began their freshman year and continues today. I greatly look forward to seeing how the friendships between the next generations of Lane's and Ferrara's will flourish.

Life has gone full circle these many years with growing children and changing lives. But one thing remains constant and that is the impact of our daily relationships. Although Debbie probably doesn't remember the kindness she showed me that first summer in Omaha as being anything extraordinary, I'll never forget it.

I will also never be able to think of the College World Series without picturing Tony Ferrara in his garden. There have been other interactions between John and I, and his family, that have been Godwinks to me over the years. To them, these events were likely just an ordinary daily event. To me, they were welcomed acts of kindness. The lesson learned is to never underestimate the impact of our daily interactions with the people of whom we share them.


Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7, 2014: Day Five

A little sunshine to add to a down day
Day Five. I am on Day Five of being down with the flu. That's a long time. A least, for me.

When I woke up feeling ill Monday morning, I convinced myself it was just a cold setting in. I would work from home in the morning, nurse the cold, and be back to normal by lunch. Not so much.

It soon became apparent that I was fighting a bug and likely the flu. By bedtime, I was miserable. My favorite physician's assistant advised on liquids and sleep. Not much more you can do with the flu, she told me. So I have been drinking lots of water and laying low. Being a rule-follower, I am following her advice.

My favorite physician's assistant also told me that it would take me a week to get better. I didn't believe her.

I always get better sooner than most. My ACL doctor told me I was his favorite kind of patient. My recuperation period was dreamy. This made me glow with pride. Exactly what I wanted to be; the patient given the big bright star. Rule follower.

So why won't the flu give me some breaks? Is this seriously going to take a week?

Perhaps I did bend the rules a bit by thinking I was recovered yesterday and making some quick appointments. I am paying today. No more breaking the rules.

As Garrett and I tried to enjoy a dinner together last night, he thoughtfully asked if we should reconsider our planned weekend in Denver. This was after giving me yellow tulips to brighten my day. Note that this will be Garrett and my last "no-kid" weekend before beginning our new married schedule of having one of our sets of kids each weekend. We deemed this as our honeymoon.

Our honeymoon weekend will now be spent in Omaha. With me coughing and lethargic on the couch. No Downtown Denver. No skiing. And no Jays game live. We will watch it on TV.

But my husband is here. No doubt he will take great care of me. My flowers will continue to blossom all weekend. And Monday? That is the start of a whole a new week. What more could I want?

Yep...I think I'll be just fine.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014: Restroom Monologues

The Three Musketeers...Cindy, Sandy, Kathy
I just got back from a glorious, whirlwind weekend to Chicago. It was a boys and moms (and aunt) trip. The crowning event of this now-annual excursion is enjoying a Blackhawks game.

As we planned this trip back in February, the boys pushed for the March 1st game. I paid little attention as they grew excited talking about the NHL Stadium Series. The hockey game against the Penguins was to be played at Soldier Field. And, yes, that is an outside venue.

Their enthusiasm was contagious as I jumped on the Lane boys' bandwagon of wanting to score these coveted tickets. I reasoned that the weather should be fine. It was March, so what were the chances of bad weather? I assumed low. I was gravely wrong.

It was cold. Bone-chilling cold. We sat front and center in the middle of a Midwestern snow storm. Without movement on our ice-cold seats, we slowly froze. The Zamboni couldn't keep up with the accumulation. The man next to me couldn't drink his beer fast enough before frost set in.

Adding to Kathy's misery was the fact that I failed to prepare her for an outside game. This somehow slipped my mind during our planning discussions.

As Ben, Kathy and I sat in our hotel room hours before opening face off, Kathy expressed to us that she would wear a sweater to the game that night. After a pause and a glance between Ben and me, I probed further. As suspected, I hadn't shared with my fair-weathered aunt our plight against the elements. Fortunately she had packed more than the sweater.

The game was even colder than expected with wind chills dipping down to -8. The NHL considered postponing the game altogether. They didn't and neither did we. The boys wouldn't hear of any other option. They stuck to their contention that we were lucky ticket-holders with an exciting game in our horizon.

The start was twenty minutes late. By the time the national anthem was sung, I could feel the frostbite setting in. At least that was my diagnosis. With no warming stations or enclosures spotted, I made the hard call. I exited for the warmth of a nearby restroom. My two partners in crime soon followed.

Although disappointed by the absence of warm hand blowers, the heat was welcomed in this sheltered reprieve. My cold, wet body soon became less frigid. There wasn't a chance I was leaving the heated restroom until the final period. I could hear the game blare through the inside speakers as I recovered feeling in my fingers.

With a text to check on the boys, they answered that they "were fine". Cindy, Kathy and I; not so much. We stuck together.

Soon we found ourselves following the game with our restroom contingent. While Cindy and Kathy purchased refreshments for our escape, I listened to a young girl call a friend to retrieve the drunken girl from the stall they were occupying together. Someone didn't make good choices.

With beers in hand and shared lukewarm fries to boot, the restroom monologues began. Starting with the sober friend's pleadings, the next in line was an abandoned cell phone in a neighboring stall.

"I'm not going anywhere," I communicated to the finder of the phone. I thought the owner would eventually retrace her tracks and end up back at her lonely stall of texting. The pup on her cover photo was cute. I felt compelled to reunite technology with owner.

The next monologue came from Jessica. The 22 year-old looked like a starlet; a cross between Julia Roberts and Geena Davis. Kathy eyeballed the statuesque frame of a girl shivering under the pull down diaper changing station. She was there the whole time we were. Kathy asked her name.

Soon we found out that tearful Jessica was newly engaged the previous weekend. The afternoon of the hockey game, she lost her beautiful ring while pulling off a glove during a port-o-potty visit. Jessica was devastated. She shared pictures on her phone of the lost ring while Kathy and Cindy comforted her like their own daughter.

After taking a chug from a small bottle in her bag, Jessica finally left our shelter to join her fiance in the cold stands. Our restroom therapy was just the trick for her to put one foot back in front of the other.

Within minutes more ladies were joining our tight circle...Paige, Emily, Erin, Aubrie, Gina. Each with a different story. Monologue of sorts. Paige was from Chicago, but wore Penguin gear for her boyfriend. She had helped us in comforting Jessica.

The owner of the phone soon arrived. She was in tears at discovery of what she thought was a miraculous recovery. Ten minutes later she came back; bringing her sister to the restroom with her to meet us. The sisters thanked us profusely while talking about their dogs and sharing pictures from their iPhones.

Stories were told of previous coldest days experienced. We noodled over better vendor sales to include fleece blankets, handwarmers, and hot alcoholic drinks. Emily told us at length how she wished she was watching the game at her home with no pants on. We didn't ask her to expand on her comment, but instead took it as a given that she merely wanted to wear shorts by a warm fire.

As the Blackhawks scored their third goal over the blare of the restroom speaker system, I received a text from the under-dressed boys' spokesman, Zach.

"We're in the bathroom warming up. Ready to go when you are."

Music to our ears. After bidding ado to our remaining new friends, we took one more peak at the snowy view onto the field and went home. A warm bed never felt so good.

And the beer tasted just the same in the restroom. It's all about the company.