Thursday, October 16, 2014

October 16, 2014: Honeymoon Serenity

Serenity on Inspirational Point hike

Honeymoons are fun. No matter how many times you go on them.

I have been questioned, rightfully so, on whether this was really our first honeymoon. Technically it is the first honeymoon, but for the second marriage.

Do note that I understand the confusion on multiple fronts.

Referring back to a prior blog on how we planned a wedding in fifteen days, the honeymoon planning didn't get any more attention. We got married in January. And then Garrett went on a guys ski trip to Telluride in February. True to my nature, I haven't let this one pass without spousal scrutiny.

I deemed the trip, Garrett's honeymoon with Mike (ski friend). Since I have not let opportune moments pass without reminding him (continuously) that he took our honeymoon without me.

Noteworthy was that I had my own trip to Mexico planned with my adult children (no Garrett) at the time of the Telluride trip (did I mention that I wasn't invited to Telluride?). In my favor was the timing of this May excursion being far beyond our nuptials. I call this good planning on my part.

By summer there was still no honeymoon, but a lot of playful banter on this subject between me and my new husband. All fun aside, Garrett and I both have a practicality to us where frivolities like honeymoons appear unnecessary accommodations. We would be just fine.

And then came an unexpected trip to Del Coronado California to disburse Garrett's mother's ashes in the ocean. It was a beautiful, but quick trip. We deemed it our honeymoon together and called a truce on our bantering on prior solo excursions. A gorgeous weekend get-away was in the books. All seemed good in our worlds.

We continued our newlywed lives with the routine of work, fly to Colorado, fly to Omaha, take care of busy kids....and then do the same things all over again. Enjoying each day together and the challenges in front of us, we found ourselves in daily routines. No complaints, mind you, as we looked forward to weekly date nights and changes of scenery as we be-bop between our Colorado and Nebraska homes.

But then one night in Colorado, many months post wedding day, Garrett and I took a breath and began reminiscing on our days pre-marriage. These were the days when we didn't spend every weekend together. When together, we didn't have our kids. Instead we traveled. We relaxed. And we were typically commitment-free. Marriage brought with it a re-arranged schedule of togetherness and more family time. But it also took away our pre-marriage honeymoon weekends.

As we relived these four years of dating and traveling, we committed to a trip with just the two of us; a real honeymoon. Although we love our new routine and time together, there was a longing to be away. Chaos free.

It was a great decision.

We chose a destination yet to be shared together. On that Saturday night by our fire pit in Colorado, Garrett carefully planned out a fall honeymoon to Jackson, the Tetons and Yellowstone Park. A brilliant plan was made over the warmth of the fire.

This scheduled trip later snuck up on us with little warning.

A week out, we looked at our calendars with the joint reaction of "how are we going to pull off a week away?" But a plan is a plan, and a honeymoon....our commitment to spend time together. Just the two of us for seven days.

So here I am blogging in the middle of nature's canvas of Yellowstone Park with the billowing Old Faithful out our window. We have stayed fairly caught up with the outside world. But our days have been filled with hikes, sight-seeing, and couple conversations. The beauty around us is stunning and nature never ceases to amaze.

Although the serenity of our days here started out eerie to our comparatively busy lives, it took little time for it to sink in as our week-long reality. At our inner core, Garrett and I are really all about quiet living. There is no doubt that when the dust settles in the years ahead, a fast-paced city will not be a part of our typical days. Mountain living, hikes, and the outdoors flow in our blood.

Tonight we finished the second leg of our three-legged journey. Tomorrow we will circle back to Jackson for our final stay until we reenter the hustle and bustle of Monday morning reality.

No doubt in my mind that honeymoons are a good thing. We should definitely do them more often.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 11, 2014: Gramma Lou

Gram with her dog, Max
This blog on Gramma Lou has sat in my "draft" folder for close to a year. My delay in posting had no ulterior motive other than my fear of not doing it justice.

My apparent passive aggressiveness stemmed from 1) not wanting to project having a superior relationship simply by being the one to pen the story and 2) making sure this little story adequately reflected the spirit of woman who lived life large and with meaning.

Today my heart told me it was time to pull out this draft. Messages come in various forms. For me, it was through a brewery tour.

I thought about Gramma Lou as I listened to a cute young beer guide talk about prohibition. I couldn't stop from smiling.

One of my favorite stories to tell relates to my former grandma-by-marriage. Although she has since passed away, I was still married at the time of her death. I guess I can technically still refer to her as Grandma. Thank goodness. Because any other reference would just make me sad. Gramma Lou was one heck of a lady in addition to a renowned bar-owner emeritus from South Omaha .

Prohibition. That was a product of the 18th amendment. Gramma Lou thought this particular amendment was to repeal prohibition (which was actually the 21st). So that's what she named her bar. The 18th Amendment. And people loved it. It was the most popular bar in south central Omaha in the late 80's and early 90's. With affection, every 40-something in Omaha has a fond memory of the 18th Amendment establishment. The misnaming made it even more enduring.

Today as I walked through the brewery with Zach and his friend, Nick; the tour guide talked about prohibition and its effect on the start of their Colorado beer producing.

Reference to these amendments made me fondly smile over the gregarious Lucille Coschka. Bar-owner extraordinaire, Mom, Grandma, loving dog-owner, traveling Mrs. Claus, and friend to anyone needing a friend.

Reverting back to my fear of inappropriately projecting my relationship with Lou in an elevated light, I need to make a personal disclaimer. It's not true. I am just the ghost writer. That's it. I write what I feel and what I have experienced, but that doesn't make my experiences any better than the many others who have been a part of Lou's world. I am just here to tell my story.

And my story brings me a smile. Although a blip in the screen of Lou's big life, she had a huge impact on me at an early age. During a transitional time in my life, I spent a summer living with Gramma Lou. I was 20 years old. Although I lived with her for only 3 short months, I learned many life lessons that summer of 1989. I was Lou's quiet sidekick. With 50 years between us, I found it hard to keep up with this energetic woman with so much to teach and give.

Scott and I graduated from college in May of 1989. In the final weeks before graduation, I was offered a job in Omaha. Scott was going through the steps of being hired in law enforcement. Due to the restrictions placed within governmental hiring, the soonest he would start would be fall of the same year. With one job secured and no apartment, Gramma Lou and her husband, Gene, opened their home to us for the summer.

With a car heaped of clothes and belongings moved straight from our dorm rooms, we traveled to Omaha and unpacked in Lou and Gene's apartment. They had recently downsized to be close to Gene's sons' nearby bar. I started my job at Peter Kiewit as a staff accountant and Scott started working part-time at the 18th Amendment as he continued through the hiring process for his future job.

Grateful for this kind act by a grandma who wasn't actually mine, I was shown to my room which included a trundle bed draped in a billowing flowery comforter with matching curtains. The room's side use was a sewing room.

I thanked Lou profusely for this kindness, but she only waved her hand and asked me to stop. With no reservation, she opened her home to me, expecting nothing in return. I soon learned that I was one of many on a long list of recipients of Gramma Lou's hospitality.

As I worked by day, Scott worked by night. I found myself in the middle of Lou and Gene's evening routine of dinner, crossword puzzles, and neighborhood walks. I soon found myself helping Gramma Lou preparing for weekly garage sales out of their rented apartment garage and assisting her in preparing crock pots of free food for the bar's happy hour.

Lou continued her daily routine of making rounds to the bar, visiting home bound friends, and making neighborhood stops. But now she had me at her side. My 20 year-old self was too young for the bar, but of the perfect age to be mentored by one sharp and kind-hearted grandma.  

Our nightly stops included visiting patients at Bergan Mercy Hospital as Gramma had a list of those who needed a nightly visitor. We dropped off left-overs from our nightly meals to the home bound friends. A constant trip was to a local department store where we would rummage through racks for the latest fashionable suits, with steep discounts courtesy of Lou's close friend, Charlotte.

Who knew that spending Friday nights in dressing rooms two 70 year-old women would be more fun than the bar scene? I quickly found myself mesmerized in their conversations of years past and laughs on days present.

The summer passed quickly with my 21st birthday in September and a secured apartment of our own. Gram helped decorate our first apartment with flashy hummingbird curtains from Goodwill and a vintage Singer sewing machine she found at a garage sale. A touch of Gram's flair appropriately carried with her into this first apartment.

The golden summer came to a close and real life began. It has taken me many years to realize the significance of that summer.

Gramma Lou taught me how to act with heart at a very young and pivotal age. While others were enjoying the 18th Amendment, my prohibition due to age allowed me to watch the bar lady display her heart and soul in all she did. I was merely her young apprentice.

Life was large that summer of 1989. Lou showed me how to care without making people feel needy and how to give without asking for anything in return. I thought I understood at the time, but it really took years and age to fully appreciate Gramma's art of giving. She was the master. And even better, she did it with purity of motive.

So that's my story. My story of Gramma Lou. There were many more memories post-summer of 1989 to the year Gramma died in the fall of 2007. But the stories and lessons from the this summer resonate the most in my memory.

When Gramma Lou died, I was asked to give her friend, Charlotte, a ride to the cemetery. Charlotte and Lou had been lifelong friends since their early years of working at Western Union together.

Two working women in days when women were a minority with men abound in the workplace. I admired them both for this as I listened to their stories while trying on our suits in the dressing rooms of Younkers.

When we buried Lou, I watched Charlotte mourn the loss of her dear friend, so many years after they first met. It was apparent that my summer with Lou was small in comparison to her lifetime of memories with Charlotte. Laughs, smiles, hard work to help others, and pure enjoyment of living life in friendship and love.

Charlotte gave me a pink ribbon pin that day. When it doesn't sit in my jewelry cabinet, it is pinned on the lapel of my coat. I smile each time I see it, remembering the lessons learned from our mutual friend, the woman of prohibition. A trend-setter. An influencer. Again I am always reminded, the best life lessons live forever.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October 7, 2014: Happiness

Sunrise picture I took on my way to Skutt with Grant this morning

I toyed around with calling this blog Positivity and then went with my gut and called it Happiness.

No one can take that away from me. I own that feeling.

Today I read a post from a perceptive young man on FaceBook. He asked the question "What does it take for someone to be happy?" I loved it. Perfect timing.

I spent the day battling the devil. In small ways and in big ways. The deadly sins of greed, envy, pride, and manipulation with selfish motive (my self-proclaimed 8th) are abound.

Such is life. I have choices to make. Dance with the devil and get pulled into the crap. Or rise above it?

I chose #2.

On the drive to drop Grant off at school this morning, I was enthralled with God's beauty in the rising sun. Grant rolled his eyes as I snapped pictures at the stoplight next to school.

"Mom!! Stop" was his pleading. But then he smiled.

Just two nights prior, he pointed out the beauty of a sunset on our drive home from Village Point. It warmed my heart that he knew to find joy in the sky. God's canvas.

Life is so much bigger than ourselves. My hope is to instill this in my own children. On more days that most, I smile reflecting on their ability to see life beyond their own needs and wants.

So tonight I relish in the small things that bring happiness. Positivity pulls me along. That half-full glass is much more alluring than the alternative.

As I type on my keyboard and enjoy expressing my feelings in the written word, I dance to the background Pandora selection of "Play that Funky Music". Happiness.

A text comes in from my college boy, Ben. Top of the order are his 18 year-old goals and a shoe purchase. <smile>

Zach changed a profile picture to a favorite photo I snapped. Photo memories bring me happiness.

A sleeping and appreciative 14 year-old in the basement warms my heart.

And reading a "bitchy" blog post from a talented and big-hearted friend reminds me of the importance of not taking myself too seriously.

No one said this journey of life was going to be easy. It is the inevitable consequence of being human (can we blame Eve?).

I will now take on the question of my wise young friend.

"What does it take for someone to be happy?"

My answer:

Perspective. Forgiveness (including of yourself). And the ability to embrace joy.

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Oh....and positivity. I will throw that in for good measure. Embracing the little pieces of joy that surround you will help win in the daily life battles. A great place to land your heart and keep our journey in perspective. Just my humble opinion.

Photo Caption - Joy and Love

Photo Caption - Love and Support