Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28, 2014: Motive

Me and my fur (furry friend, in this case)
I think a lot about motive these days. Both mine and that of others. Assessing life choices, I always challenge myself with understanding the underlying individual motives.

Purity of motive is golden and makes decision-making easy. Working through personal that's a whole different story.

It started at a young age when I had to think through whether my new friend, Mary, really wanted my friendship or if she just wanted to hang with my older brothers. Motive? Likely brothers.

As an adult, the stakes got bigger. Somehow personal agendas expand. Understanding motive has became even more important.

Then there are times when motive is gray. The gray area is the toughest. Do I want to give to that charity because it's the right thing to do or do I want my name displayed prominently in their flyer? If my motive was completely pure, would name recognition be necessary? Hmmmm...that's a tough one. There are good arguments either way.

I learned a lesson in that murky gray area of motive twelve years ago. Our intentions couldn't have felt more pure at the time, but a less-than-stellar result hit me square between the eyes. I will never forget this lesson learned.

I was with my young family in Arizona visiting my parents. Mom and I felt moved by the holiday season and wanted to give to others less fortunate. I wanted to teach my boys to give back to others. Although I thought my motive was to help others, I was more worried about appearances and being the 'good mom'. This is where I hit gray.

We baked and shopped, filling bags with toiletries and small Christmas treasures. We felt like over-achievers as we chose our gift recipients; a former co-worker of mom's who was in need, an Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home, and a homeless shelter.

Zach, Ben and Grant were 9 years, 6, and 2 at the time. I dressed them to the T's in their matching Gap attire. Excited for our Saturday afternoon of playing Santa, Mom and I dressed up as well. As though I was attending a Broadway Christmas show,  I dressed in my favorite Diesel jeans, stretch leather high-heeled boots and topped my outfit with a little black fur stole secured around my neck. We collectively looked great as we took on our community service.

The first stop went well. My mom's friend was completely surprised and grateful for the treasures we delivered. She enjoyed seeing my mom with her cute grand-kids and dolled-up daughter. A win-win visit.

Next stop. Alzheimer's unit. This was less successful. The patients were advanced in their disease state. The wing was full of cries and strange odors with no recognition to a human face, let alone a young one.

The boys were scared and the impaired elderly truly got nothing out of the experience. They needed care, not an unfamiliar family tracking through their familiar hallways. Some research ahead of time would have likely steered us to an assisted living unit instead.

Last Stop. The homeless shelter. Here was my fail and a lesson I will never forget. For reasons I cannot remember, the kids were not allowed in most rooms. Likely a little better research would have helped with this as well.

My mom and I walked around the shelter handing out our gifts and chatting with the residents. As I walked through the kitchen, I noticed a woman sitting at the table smoking a cigarette. Handing her a gift, we locked eyes. Beyond the worn wrinkles and the many scabs on her face, I saw a woman of my same age.

She asked why I was there and I explained that we had gifts we wanted to share. She looked me up and down, taking particular note of my crisp jeans and commenting on my fur stole. The look in her eyes was one I will never forget. It was the look of shame.

"I was a model once", she told me ."Everyone told me I was pretty". She went on to share how she once had nice clothes and a job where she could take care of herself and buy nice things too. And then there were the wrong friends and the wrong choices and finally, a meth addiction.

The addiction was obvious in her frail demeanor and sunken face. I could see the pretty somewhere deep behind it all and tried hard to look at her with the acceptance she deserved. She was reading my eyes as well. My clothing choice was a fail as I gave off an air of superiority, but the authenticity of my eyes in hearing her and believing her could make up for my wrong.

I have never felt so small in my life as I did when I realized how my 'showiness' made her feel. My motive in being super-mom and ultra-chic community servant came at an expense. And that expense sat at the kitchen table of a homeless shelter.

We were no more than two humans, both with our own failings, sharing a bit of life for that ten minutes in time. I could have listened all afternoon to her model days and favorite clothes. And that's what I did. I just listened. The shame in her eyes eventually went away as did the guilt for my motive.

Purity of motive is a powerful thing. It can sure make life easier if we use it as a barometer. Unfortunately, it's typically difficult to unravel. But it can be accomplished, fur stole or no fur stole....

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014: Joy

My kids are so different. By now my oldest son has viewed the above picture and is rolling his eyes. Although Zach is a man of few words, I know what he is thinking.

"Time to close the yearbook."

Ben holds on. Zach moves on. And Grant is now smack dab in the moment.

As I drove home from work yesterday, I watched the sun set on a cool fall night and remembered the same drive a year ago. Instead I was driving to my son's state championship football game in Lincoln.

Fast forward a year, Ben is now graduated and in college. And Skutt is back in Lincoln, playing for a back-to-back state championship.

I teared up as I drove. Great memories poured into my mind and into my heart. No doubt it was a memorable night.

Now that I can reflect on a win and a great night, I can also share a personal confession.

I was not the good mother cheering from the stands. Instead I sat in the bathroom and paced the interior halls by the concession stands during the entire first half of the football game. My son was gracing the field of Memorial Stadium. A high school boy's dream. And his mother couldn't find the nerve to watch.

As I sat in a bathroom stall gripping my scapular (prayer rope), I got a text from Garrett.

"Great interception, Ben!!!!"

I excitedly responded, thanking him for the news. Confused, Garrett inquired why I didn't see it.

"I'm in a bathroom stall" was my response.

"NOOOOO....go watch the game" prodded my soon-to-be husband.

But I couldn't do it. I was too nervous and a believer in karma. Skutt was ahead. Re-entry into the stadium stands could potentially throw the game. So I paced by the concession stands and I watched on the strategically placed television screens. And Skutt continued to dominate.

By half-time, my nerves were calmed. I felt safe to join the Skutt crowd. And then we won. Tears and hugs filled with joy followed and were abound in the stands and on the field. Although I wasn't physically participating in the first half of the game, I felt that the contributed karma from my clinched scapula and pacing the innards of Memorial Stadium had paid off.

Fast forward a year. You now have my first confession from last year. All sugar-coating aside, I spent the first half of my son's state championship game hiding in the bathroom and hanging with the concession stand workers.

Today's confession is that I cried a bit as I remembered the game. And the tears weren't from the small bit of the game that I saw live, it's what I saw after. The joy of the win. Watching my son, his coaches, and teammates sharing this moment was unforgettable.

As drove I home yesterday, cherishing this memory with welled up eyes, I called Ben. As any good mother would, I wanted to share with him my reliving of the moment and to tell him I was tearful.

"Why are you crying, Mom? Are you sad?" asked my college son, now eons away from his high school years.

What I told him was the truth. And it was far from sad. My tears were happy.

As I reflected on that glorious night, I remembered a full heart bursting with happiness. I watched my son and his team feel immense joy. There is no better feeling as a parent than to watch your child experience joy...raw, pure, beautiful joy.

That was it. That was how I felt. My tears stemmed from knowing Ben would have this memory forever. And that made me very happy.

Whether reward for hard work or the joy of unconditional love from a soul mate, a parent's heart fills watching our children experience happiness and joy. When it is earned with their dedication and hard work, it is simply bliss. 

So that's what I told Ben. I was tearful in remembering that happy time, knowing that he would cherish that win and that memory forever.

His answer to me...

"Mom, I think Grant's team is good enough to make it to state his senior year. Just think, you can do it all over again in three years and Grant can win a championship too!"

Close the yearbook or not, I do love this kid's positivity. Yes, Ben, I wish for Grant the same joyful experience. And next time I will try to sit in the stands and stay out of the bathroom for the first half. But the prayer ropes will definitely stay in my pocket.

(And a big congrats to the Skutt Skyhawks for another state championship win this year. I KNOW your parents are sharing in your joy with you :))

Text exchange with Ben the day after state

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18, 2014: Let the Fun Begin...

Who says my house is quiet???
I ran into a friend and fellow Skutt mom at parent-teachers conferences about a month back. Her question to me centered around the perceived quietness in my life.

"You haven't been blogging lately. I bet life is quiet without Ben around."

I went on to answer with positivism on Grant and my new routine. Yes, it was more quiet. And, yes, we did miss Ben a little bit. But quiet was good with blog subjects less abound with my purported favorite subject out of the house.

Life has continued at a hectic, but predictable pace. It actually took some time for Grant and I to get used to two days a week with just the two of us. With a husband in Denver on Mondays and Tuesdays, I hadn't a clue what these days would feel like less Ben.

Three kids to two was a much easier transition than two to one. Our new two-person existence actually felt awkward for a while. Neither Grant nor I knew what it felt like less his older brothers. A feeling neither of us had experienced before. We didn't quite know what to do as a duo act, but we adjusted.

Ben soon became an afterthought, just like his brother before him. Both missed, but only a text or phone call away. Life kept moving at rapid pace.

Tonight was the first real flashback to life with Ben. It is now obvious to me that Grant was paying close attention to his brother's carefree shenanigans.

Ben was the kid at the 8th grade graduation reception who stood on a chair and invited his entire class to our house after the festivities. There were 99 kids in his class. Yes, it was impromptu. And, yes, I agreed on the fly. Note that I am a sucker for spontaneity and would hate to leave anyone out.

Some sympathetic parents agreed to come 'help out'. My only rule was that every kid needed to be gone by 10:00. My front and back yard was infested with 13 year olds. They were in every crevice of fun available on my half acre lot; hoops in the front, hot tub in the back, trampoline, swing set and quiet conversations involving the opposite sex in dark corners of my yard. Chaperoning was pointed and keen.

Fast forward five years later. Tomorrow Skutt has no school. In groves, the freshmen made plans to go to a group movie tonight. I dropped off four boys with another mom coordinating their pick up. Minutes into the movie, I received the first text.

"Can I have some people overnight"

With a little hesitation, I agreed.

"There are like 9. Is that ok?"

"We won't be loud"

"Their parents say ok. They may call you."

"Please mom"

"There may be a couple more"

"Thank you so much. Can you get pizza?"

To sum up my answers and the outcome: 9 grew to 13 boys (14 including Grant). Yes, many parents did call me. Yes, I did pick up pizza which this crew devoured in 5 minutes. They are loud and I am sure the newly stocked Gatorade and bottled water will be gone by morning.

But they were all courteous, with those I didn't know introducing themselves. And they are so young. I can now remember Ben and Zach at this age. They grow big...really big, really fast.

A couple of the boys noticed Ben's football poster from last year, which hangs in his old room.

"What position did your brother play? Was he good?"

I loved hearing Grant talk about his brother with pride. I think he actually misses him.

And I do believe boy #3 was paying close attention to brother #1 and brother #2. Possibly too close of attention. Wish me luck....

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014: Hot Water

So my intent was to post this blog last Tuesday. And then I had second thoughts.

The picture Grant took of me to accompany my story later struck me as provocative. It seemed innocent enough when I ran into the house soaking wet. My request of my 14 year-old was to follow me out into the cold to take the photo of note.

"Grant, I have a blog story on my mind. Come out and take a quick picture for me!"

All this with a towel around me, fleece hat on head, and swimsuit on body. Grant didn't blink an eye. Either a good or bad testament to his mother's parenting prowess.

But the swimsuit was the ultimate problem. Where no straps work best in hot tubs, the lack-thereof give the appearance of swimsuit non-existence.

Fast forward five days and my blog still sat in draft. The picture was on my mind.

So tonight I asked my friend, Robbie, for validation. I pulled up the hot tub picture on my phone and simply asked "what do you think?"

Her instant response..."you're in the hot tub naked with just a hat on."


At this point, I couldn't possibly put my 14 year-old son through the torture of a second picture just to show his mother's swimsuit straps that were missing in the first.

And, frankly, it's much colder tonight than Tuesday night. I don't feel like the hot tub. A hot bath sounds better. People should believe me, shouldn't they? They would know that I would not post anything so scandalous on a blog site centered on ordinary days.

My dad has always told me...don't defend yourself if you've done nothing wrong.

So below is my proof. And then on with the story. I am ready to post...

Note Straps on top. I tie them up across my chest when in hot tub so they are out of the way.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grant noticed the dusting of snow this morning first. His response was one of excitement. Mine was to slowly get out of bed in search of my first cup of hot coffee.

Getting out of bed is much harder for me on cold mornings. With my dog nestled on my side and fat cat at my feet, movement is slow and deliberate. A very comfortable and warm predicament on a cold fall morning.

Knowing my youngest child would be soon knocking on my door in encouragement to grab my car keys and get him to school, I responded with a foot out of bed.

Warm beds and warm tubs have always been a weakness for me. I like to stay in them.

A reprieve from the winter is staying in my warm bed. A little gift before the stark cold floor and reality of the morning.

After pouring on layers for cold morning runs and school drop-offs, I head straight for my hot bath. This is morning bliss with the warm water bringing my blood to proper temperature necessary for me to go about my day.

At night my guilty indulgence turns from the morning snooze to the hot tub. Same guilty pleasure of warm serenity, but a different venue. And its just as difficult to pry me away from the warm retreat of pillowing bed as bubbling hot tub. Just with the added treat of a glass of wine and the view of the stars shining on me from above.

In years past, I would sit in this same hot tub, wishing upon a star like the little girl that I once was. Wishing for happy days and thoughts of gazing at the same stars from a different vantage point in the world. Although my primary home remains in Omaha, I often think of these hot tub thoughts throughout my travels, gazing at the same stars in the sky from different venues; always lovingly thinking of the warmth and comfort of the hot tub in my back yard.

Although I am not sure where my affinity to warm beds and hot tubs comes from, I will blame it on my upbringing. I grew up in a cozy Iowa home where we didn't own a shower. We took baths. Although a handheld attachment was added to our faucet as a mock-shower in high school, baths were the standard protocol. Bubbles, wash cloths, and fighting for the last bit of hot water was a way of life on 119 Harrison Street. And I liked it.

My room was chilly on the top floor. No go-green and extra-efficient furnaces in our old house. Remodeling brought modern amenities like central air and more roomy closets, but I relied on a built in space heater and electric blanket for heat. I cranked them so high you could cook an egg in my room. And I like it. A lot.

So now it has turned cold. Slippers and fleece jammies have been resurrected. The fireplace is a plus, but the comfort of warm water on a cold day and a warm bed on a chilly morning....the best. Bar none.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014: Just Another Ordinary Day

Just another ordinary day in Omaha.

Many have been asking what I'm up to; why this blogger has gone suddenly quiet. Illness? Sadness? Or joyful bliss in my new chapter?

So here I sit. 9:57 p..m. on a Tuesday night, answering this very question. I am feeling like I'm 'back home', pounding on my keyboard, but without the background noise of work e-mail, spreadsheets or checking on-line grades for kids.

My ordinary day of today is much different than it was two, three...five years ago. We are all older with pressures of everyday life, much different.

I guess the best way to start is not with a catch-up of the many days that have passed since my last blog, but instead on the day now ending. Pretty representative, if I say so myself....

Today started with a 5:30 a.m. run. I have run with this same group of ladies since we were potty-training our now 18 year-old's. Same route. Same friends. Same kids. Just different challenges and life goals. Our perspectives have changed from choice of daycare provider and paint color of the toy room, to the college years and where we are planning the next get-away with the hubby.

Next on the agenda was consumption of my cherished first cup of morning coffee. Pumpkin spice creamer was the chosen flavor. Divine. With hot cup of coffee in hand, I dropped off my trail-ender to high school. Note that sweaty clothes, stocking cap, and pigtails were still in place. The 14 year old quickly bailed before his fellow high-schoolers could connect the dots between him and his less-then-presentable mother.

Did I mention how much I enjoy my first mug of coffee in the morning?

Did I also mention how a bit of quiet routine heightens my spirits and brings me energy?

Fed the dog and cat. Another cup of coffee. Breakfast. Anything with an egg makes me happy. Hot bath. Laundry going. Morning motivational e-mails read. Dress picked. Red stiletto shoe day. Matching belt a plus. Feeling tall. Feeling good. With curls in hair and computer bag packed, I was out the door.

Today we went live on a electronic health record for one of our clinician groups. Excitement. Group effort and positive feedback. Feeling grateful for my professional partners. Negativity drains me. Positivity fills my bucket. Very full today.

Our building grows. The glass is stunning. A reminder that we are 8 months away from a move. Lots to do. Patients to care for, listen to, guide. Physicians and business professionals to collaborate. Shared mission and values. Patients. Care.

105 returned e-mails. 24 returned phone calls. People. Lots of people. Patients confused on benefits. Insurance companies confused on benefits. Our advocates looking to understand and help make the complicated, less so. More people. Employees needing guidance. Problems at home. Direction for work. New standards. Old problems. Consensus and collaboration. Always.

9 texts from my middle son. Miss him. But few days go by without communication. Ben is just fine. And very happy.

Youngest son and I are making our way in a much quieter world. Didn't have a clue how quiet our home life would be less Zach and then Ben. VERY quiet. But we have adapted. Grant is loving his new high school journey. The responsibilities that come with these years are time consuming. But we are finding our way.

No word today from Zach, but that is just fine. I will see him in Denver this weekend and will likely hear from him by Thursday. "What's the plan this weekend, Mom?" Having him at school in Denver has been nothing short of a Godwink. The months remaining are dwindling, but I'm enjoying my Colorado time with my adult son. Likely after this will be our last run.

Trainer and gym at 4:00. He continually kicks my butt. I am grateful. My butt needs kicking. He is kind. Reminds me of one of my own sons. I am sure his mother pleased.

A smoothie from Lifetime and then catch-up on another 26 work e-mail that accumulated while at the gym. My 14 year old attends a Skutt volleyball game. Garbage out. Mail checked. Bills paid. Inspection of fall clean up by my landscaper. Very nice. Snow will be here soon as evidenced by snow blower now setting in the garage.

Husband is working on a community service project in Denver. We exchange a few texts and messages. Busy day, but happy that we will be back together tomorrow.

Belated birthday celebration at the Wine Dive with friends. Laughter. Stories. Sharing of life. Time check of 9:00 and we all roll our eyes in surprise that we're still up. More voice mails, e-mails and texts that await me. Mental notes are made on my way home on trips to be planned and work priorities.

Most pressing is my commitment to another 5:30 a.m. run in the morning and my need for sleep. A son that needs some attention at home and a husband that needs attention from afar. And then the long-lost blog that needs written. Now that does fill me.

It's now 10:37 p.m. With alarms set, dog at my side, and my inner circle taken care of; I can now go to bed. Although ordinary in today's standard, I deem it a very good day. Nite....