Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31, 2014: Mexico Day 1

Well, so good. The boys are still standing and their mom is still smiling.

Our day started with a late breakfast and then a lot of resort playing and relaxing. Rain came and went intermittently throughout the day. The boys spent most of their time competing in sand volleyball; regardless of the rain.

They have met many others through their 24 hour sand volleyball adventures. Coined "The Graduates", they have taken on "The Texans" on more than one occasion for scheduled matches on the ocean-side court. Dads and other bystanders comfortably jump in on a game that seems continuous from daybreak to sunset.

Personally, I have just been taking it all in. Spending my early afternoon perusing the resort grounds solo and then listening to an 80's band with the full Omaha Skutt troop during a mid-day rain shower. Later we enjoyed a joint cocktail party and gathered for group pictures.

And now I sit quietly in my room, clicking away at my computer.

A friend termed an individual descriptor that I had never thought of; an extrovert/introvert. Basically it's an extrovert who needs some alone time on occasion. The older I get, the more I find myself falling into this category.

The big boys just left the room as I entered. They had changed into their swim suits for a night swim. By the time they come back revert to the dry clothes, I will likely be ready to be my more typical extroverted self.

Until then, I will listen to the quiet hum of the ocean waves in the background. As the resort never seems to sleep, I am sure the break will be worthwhile as more fun awaits.....

My view from the table after dinner (boys and friends ditched me minutes before)

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30, 2014: A Magical Mystery Bus Tour

I'm in Mexico.

And to be honest, I'm not quite sure how I got here.

April and May have been a whirlwind. Birthday milestones, work, graduations, honeymoon to San Diego....and now, Mexico.

Yesterday at lunch with colleagues, I was asked the question on where we were to stay on this trip. I wasn't sure. Garrett then asked about the airline and time of flight. Ummmmm...I wasn't sure. But I knew I had the paperwork handy, so could quickly check prior to our departure the next morning.

"Sandy, this is so not like you," was Garrett's comment to me.

I am the forever planner. I am always looking ahead and have my Outlook calendar implanted in my brain. But for this trip, I had completed lapsed. I really hadn't a clue on the details. Just that days were blocked off on my calendar. For Mexico. Somewhere in Mexico.

What I did know was that Zach, Ben and I had up-to-date passports and that a travel agent said we were good to go. No worries. But I have to agree with Garrett on this one. Not like me. At all. Flying blind is not a typical part of my mantra.

At 10:00 p.m. last night I told Garrett, our driver, that we had to be at the airport by 6:20 for a 7:22 flight. Minutes later Zach came into our room, disputing my takeoff claim. Following a detailed review of the itinerary, it was verified that we were indeed flying out at 5:45. Oops....

Garrett just shook his head in disbelief. It was obvious that my chaotic life had overtaken my organizational edge.

Traveling to the airport at 4:15 a.m., Garrett inquired on the other families who would be joining us. Ummmm....I could name a few. I came up with 5 families. Ben let us know there were 10 in total.

Although this all led us to a successful landing in Mexico, I do need to redeem myself before what feels like my jumping in front of the bus.

Last fall, in the heat of football season, Ben was hell bent that we "needed to get invited to Mexico with the football families". Like a child pleading for unattainable candy, I discounted his requests. Ben would explain to me how "the Koley's and the Weis' were going". He couldn't wrap his brain around why we were not yet invited to the destination vacation he so desired.

Ben would plead with me to ask for an invitation from the families organizing this trip. Per Ben, the list included a growing number of his friends and fellow football players.

"Mom, can you just ask Mrs. Koley if we can go too?" was a typical plea to me from my middle child.

As I explained to him, with the patience of parenting a toddler, that we were not going to invite ourselves to other's planned vacations, Ben couldn't understand why I just wouldn't ask. The reality was that I knew little about all my fellow football parents at the beginning of the season.

But by the end, we were one big family. At Senior night, the golden ticket arrived. We were asked to join the Mexico fun.

Ben's happiness on Senior Night last fall.
While we smiled by the field, the naked eye would think this was a basking of football night glory. The reality was that I had whispered in Ben's ear that we had received an official invite to the group trip. I said "yes". He was thrilled.

The Mexico trip was then planned by a travel agent and put on our collective calendars. Past my verification of passport expiration dates, Ben's forever planner of a mom did nothing else. Until last night.

We did make it to the airport on time. Thank-you, Garrett.

We have since arrived in Cancun. Thank-you, travel agent.

And then we were on a bus to our destination resort; that I had yet to research or even know the name.

As I sat at the back of the bus, counting heads of those in our party, a thought occurred to me. I was now getting my very own magical mystery bus tour. Just like I used to do for my kids.

When my kids were young I would take them on surprise trips. They hadn't a clue where we were going. Flying blind. I would call these little excursions, magical mystery bus tours. The kids would excitedly guess on our secret destination.

Now I was in their shoes. Not a clue where we were going. A magical mystery. As we sat on the bus to arrive at our resort destination, I counted a total of 39 heads. Quite the crew. 10 Skutt graduates and their families. A great touring group and a nice surprise. And as we all know; sometimes the unexpected adventures are the best......

Monday, May 26, 2014

May 25, 2014: Janie

Janie purportedly "misordered" when she received this whooper!
We celebrated Janie's 80th birthday a few weeks back. My friend Angelique's mom was in town on a visit. We gathered at Roja to raise our glasses for her glorious eightieth milestone. The waitress guessed her age to be 63. A common mistake.

This story has been in sitting on my mind since our little birthday celebration. Although my time at the celebration was short, the conversation with Janie stuck. And the ironic part was that she hadn't a clue that the words she had spoken were impactful to me.

I met Angelique when our boys were in basketball together in 2nd grade. Although many within my circle of friends via Grant's friendships came much earlier, not Angelique. But she was worth the wait. And with her friendship came her mom, Janie.

Angelique had always described her exceptional mom as the original desperate housewife. Every trip to Omaha included the appropriate nightly moisturizer combo with make up in tow to match her perfect clothing. Obviously her hard work toward personal maintenance has paid off. She looks great.

In the black and white family photos I have viewed, Janie was stunning. Dressed to the hilt whether she was serving the Thanksgiving turkey or washing the car. Other than photo colorization and entry into the digital world, little has changed in the photographs adorning this beautiful lady.

Although casual friends in the beginning, a girls trip to Kansas City brought the vibrant and fun Angelique fully into my life. As we shared stories on our trip home, I wondered how I missed this outgoing beauty all those years in the crowded halls of St.Wenceslaus grade school.

Like girls at a slumber party, our road trip was full of stories about first kisses and skipping school. Angelique told her stories like none other, with arms flying with the intensity expected from the youngest child of an Italian dad and Irish mom. This mix was nothing short of a perfect harmony.

Our storytelling shenanigans became a truth or dare contest of sorts with each middle-aged mom blurting out a story topic to be answered by the others. Questions were asked like “what was the worst thing you've ever done and not been caught?” With the answers came first-revealed confessions that led to roaring laughter.

And then a question was asked on a more serious note.

“What was the most impactful event that has shaped you into the person you are today?”

After a litany of stories from birthing a child to meeting a future husband, I prodded the uncharacteristically quiet Angelique for her response.

Without the flailing of hands and absent a smile, Angelique shared the story describing the night her brother was killed in a car accident. When she finished, there wasn't a dry eye in the car. We were speechless. With detail on every moment of that night, as though sketched in memory from days before, Angelique told us of wearing her nine year-old night gown and being awoken by a phone ringing in the middle of the night.

Watching from the shadows of the hallway, she saw her mother drop the phone with in a cry that depicted death. A father lost in pain scurried to retrieve the phone, requesting details on her brother's condition. Little Angelique was scooped up, still in her nightgown, as they drove to the hospital. No one spoke. Just cries.

Her story did not have a happy ending. Her older brother, Tom, died at the age of eighteen. The pain in her storytelling was raw. Like yesterday.

Angelique’s son, Thomas, is her brother’s namesake. Janie lit up when she talked of what a fine young man Thomas has become; now fourteen and off to high school. Janie leaned in to me after I spoke of my affinity toward Thomas and how I enjoyed having him as a favorite friend to my son.

“Do you know what Thomas did for me after my husband died?”

After giving my negative response, Janie proceeded to tell me how on the morning of her husband's funeral, Thomas made her a cup of coffee. He had it ready for her when she awoke for the difficult day ahead. He wanted to comfort her. Take care of Grandma.

“Sandy, he wasn't even eight years old. And there he was with eyes as big as saucers asking me if he could pour me a cup of coffee. And then he asked if I wanted cream or sugar and had my name written on a note next to them! Can you believe it? Such a sweet boy. Just like my Tom.”

We went on to talk about her deceased son. In detail and without a hint of hesitation, Janie described to me the night her son died. I immediately flashed back to the memory of Angelique telling us her story so many years ago on that car drive from Kansas City.

The details that Janie carried in her memory were slightly different from Angelique's; sitting a chair at the hospital with a friend and the exact words spoken on the initial phone call bearing the awful news. But the feeling was just as raw as the words shared by her daughter. Like yesterday.

I listened and thanked Janie for sharing. I really wish I could have met Tom, but knew for that moment in time, l would be happy with listening. I think Janie appreciated that. The need to talk about her son and keep his story alive was strong. The comparison to young Thomas gave us both a smile as she sipped on her over-sized margarita.

In the short hour I sat next to the Janie, I gained some life lessons. The first was reinforcement that raising kind children is a blessing shared with many and in ways that we will never likely know. The authenticity in little Thomas' action of preparing a simple cup of coffee was a kind gesture that Janie will always hold dear to her heart.

The second was that losing a child is sewn into the heart of a mother forever. Time may heal wounds, but the heart never fully recovers. Sometimes just providing a listening ear is the kindness that a broken soul needs. We all have a story to tell. Some stories and feelings don't fade with the years; no matter how often they are told.

Our group toast to Janie was a perfect way to celebrate her fierce entry into her eighties. I look forward to many more celebrations and sharing of life. And next year, I will stay and help with the jumbo margarita. Promise.

(Story wouldn't be complete without a little photo gallery.....)

The original desperate housewife :)
Janie with grand kids (little Thomas in middle)

Angelique and Janie, two beautiful women!

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23, 2014: A Farewell and a Honeymoon

Garrett's mom passed away in February. It was expected, as she had been sick for some time. But it was unexpected, as she had a slight rally with some hopefulness before her passing.

Wendy's wish was for her ashes to be disbursed in the Pacific Ocean. Her husband, Bob, planned a nice service on the ocean as a final celebration of her life. His well designed plan initially threw Garrett and I a bit of a curve ball.

The planned event was for midday on a Wednesday; sandwiched in between my son's high school graduation and Garrett's daughter's 8th grade graduation. And it landed smack dab on my youngest son's 8th grade graduation day.

The timing couldn't have been worse. Garrett and my work and travel lives are hectic, even without these end-of-year school festivities. My parents were in town visiting for the first time in two years. Instead of entertaining them, I was flying across the country. Anxiety ensued as we booked our flights. But Garrett and I knew that we needed to the right thing.

The first important declaration was for us to acknowledge this trip wasn't about us. Once committed, there would be no hand-wringing over timing not fitting into our busy schedules.

As I dealt with a broken air conditioner the night before my early flight out of Omaha, I whined to Garrett.

"How are we going to pull this off?" was my plea to my husband, who was dealing with different stresses in Denver.

Garrett paused and then pointed out something I hadn't thought of before.

"I think my mom gave us our honeymoon with this trip."

We had yet to take any time for ourselves since our January 3rd nuptials. It has been a time of chaos with expert calendar management. The number of balls juggled simultaneously in the last few months have been a record for Garrett and me. Although we have had light conversation on a late summer trip for just the two of us, we hadn't taken the time to plan a honeymoon.

Hearing Garrett's words, I had no doubt that Wendy was looking out for us. Time to honor his mother's life while spending needed time together.

Garrett and I joined up at my connecting flight in Denver. After our quick flight to San Diego and a rental car pick-up, we met Garrett's step dad. He had driven the day before from Tucson and spent some alone time by the ocean.

Wednesday our focus was all about celebrating Wendy and supporting Bob. It was a wonderful day.

After a lovely lunch ocean-side, we met our captain and boat director for a chartered trip into the Pacific. Wendy loved the Hotel Del Coronado.Our two hour excursion took us to the coast outside the Dell; Wendy's final resting spot.

Bob wrote a wonderful eulogy to his wife of over forty years. Together he and Garrett disbursed her ashes into the glistening blue water. Wendy made her rest with blue skies and sun shining on the clear ocean and we said our good-byes.

On recommendation of the Captain, we proceeded to dinner at Peohe's, a Charter House restaurant, on Coronado Island. Upon arrival, I discovered that I had forgotten my phone at the hotel. Bob's phone was almost dead. We all commented that this was the work of Wendy. She was not a fan of our love of cell phones and wasn't afraid to tell us. Her final word and a well received message.

Seated seaside, we reflected on the day and looked at old photos Bob brought with him. With no interruptions of cell phones or outside distractions, we enjoyed our time together. With his dog awaiting him back home, Bob chose to make the drive back to Tucson the next morning. He accomplished want he set out to do, providing a very nice celebration of Wendy's life with her son. I was just along for the ride, but enjoyed every moment and the memories shared.

Garrett and I started our unofficial honeymoon on Thursday. Just like we knew Wendy had wanted. With one day left in San Diego, we spent the day touring the Navy aircraft carrier, the Midway. Garrett was in heaven. Like a kid in a candy shop, he lit up as he told me his childhood dream to attend the Naval Academy. The dream wasn't meant to be as his eyesight didn't pass muster. I enjoyed our day, but most enjoyed watching Garrett with the enthusiasm he surely held as a child.

Starbucks and strolling downtown Coronado filled the rest of our afternoon. I did buy a pair of Toms in a wedged heel style. I am sure Garrett saw in my face a childlike enthusiasm for this guilty pleasure. A new pair of shoes always brings delight to my day.

With an hour before dinner, we sat at the Dell bar and enjoyed Bloody Mary's, another recommendation from the Captain, and local beer. Hockey playoffs were in the background with a glorious view of the ocean in front of us. Picture perfect. Garrett shared his stories of childhood on this same beach and later taking his own children during visits to his mother and grandparents. The Dell held special meaning to both Garrett and his mom.

Dinner was at the Dell's 1500 Ocean. Garrett booked the Dell and dinner at their exclusive restaurant once we committed to the trip. Our waiter, Marc, took great care of us; describing eloquently our four course meal options for the evening. Our seats were outside, overlooking the ocean, with a view and food that proved equally outstanding.

We meandered to the outside deck filled with heaters and with coffee and Bailey's in hand. To our delight, the Navy Seals spent most of the night performing helicopter exercises over the ocean. Later another group performed night drills on our beach with shining blue lights. It was a very entertaining way to end our night before our short walk to our room. The sound of the mighty ocean waves with military chants in the background was our lullaby.

Friday has quickly arrived and we now sit on a WiFi equipped Southwest airplane. After a run on the beach and a purchase of Del Coronado shirts, our honeymoon is over. Short, but sweet. Thank-you, Wendy. We enjoyed Bob and the quality time you brought to our overbooked lives. No doubt you will always be looking out for us.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

May 15, 2014: Lost Myself....Again...

Here I am again. A million stories in my mind. But no pen to paper. Too busy. <sigh>.

But regardless of the chaos of April and May, today was a good day. My mom and dad are back in town. They rolled in this afternoon. And we are all happy;. Zach, Ben, Grant, Sandy, Garrett. Life is good.

We will be celebrating a graduation with Ben this weekend with family and friends. Seeing the loving faces of my parents is Step One. Tomorrow will be a final planning day before the gala on Saturday.

It's been two years since my parents have been with us in Omaha. We missed them. Tonight we met friends for dinner in the Old Market. We laughed and shared life. As a newly minted adult, Zach was able to join us as well. A good night.

And now I take a breath and long for a bit of time to write. A bit of time to catch up with my family. A bit of time to relax and enjoy the moment.

As a wise friend once told me..."breathe". Just breathe and enjoy the ride. Milestones are abound for the Lane crew. Time to just smell the roses and enjoy my parents and the accomplishments of my soon-to-grown-up children. One day at a time... :)....

Monday, May 5, 2014

May 5, 2014: 333

Tonight I sit in my backyard; enjoying the sound of rough-housing young adult boys. Note that although Ben is not in the picture above, he was among the frenzy earlier. He exited play prematurely due to a ball taken in the face. I guess my new soccer ball purchase still poses a danger, even post-adolescence.

Three boys. With three birthdays now past. 21, 18, 14. All golden years. Tonight I am enjoying some golden times that will soon be a memory. I have about three weeks left, to be exact.

Ben is in his final stretch of high school. Grant has less than two weeks left of grade school. For Zach, it's all about planning his move to Denver. So tonight there is loud laughter from the combined trio. But by fall, my backyard will be silent.

Last Wednesday on Zach's 21st birthday, I played a little hooky to have a small celebration with my eldest. I felt pressure from all ends of my professional life. Frankly, I had no time for a mid-afternoon escapade. But my heart told me otherwise.

After years of little boy birthday parties and childish celebrations, I couldn't look past the opportunity of an adult son carving out an hour for his mom. An opportunity to be embraced, not disregarded. I can truly say I have few regrets in balancing work time with my kids over the years. With heightened life responsibilities, I had to revert to what I have always done best. I chose Zach.

With a call to Ben to help me with car pool in order to open my calendar, I drove across town to pick up my newly minted adult son. My mind was racing with a mental to-do list that included problems to be resolved and phone calls to be returned. With a hint of regret in my decision-making, I continued to go with my gut and proceeded to my son's rented house near Downtown.

With radio silent and mind blaring, I reflected on his 21 years past and the fact that life has never slowed down for me over those 21 years. Yet we always pulled off great birthdays full of joy and family happiness. Even among the chaos that went hand in hand with that period in life.

As I approached Zach's home, I noted the coincidental time on the clock of 3:33. Immediately looking up, the street number struck me. 33rd Street. My mind was instantly wiped clean of cluttering thoughts. A sign? Three boys, three birthdays...was the thought that crossed my mind.

I later did an Internet search that revealed 333 as a sign of the equilateral triangle; mind, body, spirit. Balance. A reminder that my perfect balance of three was out of whack. If any one of the triangle is lopsided, you will not reach your full potential as a human was the explanation on the Internet site. The sign of three.

I have now had some time to re-balance the triangle. Order has been restored again. And I can happily say that going with my gut has really never done me wrong. Sometimes I just need little reminders....