Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 31, 2015: Yearbook Chronicles

I picked up Ben's senior yearbook last week. I had forgotten about this treasure until I stumbled on the receipt in my 'personal folder' full of coupons and other reminders of personal to-do's.

One of the receipts was to Josten's from over a year ago, as high school yearbooks are purchased a year before publication.

After a call to the school, I learned that the yearbook of note was secured within a stack of to-be-picked-up books behind the school secretary. With proof of receipt in hand, I finally picked the yearbook chronicling Ben's senior year at Skutt Catholic High School.

I likely would have just placed the book with plastic wrap intact in Ben's room, awaiting his next visit. Until a conversation from a year past dawned on me.

Sometime the fall of his senior year, I received a text from Ben indicating that he needed a senior picture turned in for yearbook. He needed it right then. Due that afternoon.

Although my immediate reaction was to remind him how it was better not to let deadlines creep up resulting in the fire drill we were facing, I instead let my resourcefulness kick in. I started sending Ben the photo studio contact info with photo e-mail link and traded dialogue on his desired picture pick. In my mind, the mission was accomplished. We survived another Ben Lane fire drill.

And then I followed up with him later.

"Ben, which picture did you end up choosing for the yearbook?" I casually asked over dinner.

"Oh, yeah, the yearbook picture. I ended up not needing one."

"Really?" I probed. "All that work and the deadline really wasn't today?"

"No, it was. But we just decided to just take a picture in the hallway instead."

In disbelief I looked at my son, sporting a hoodie and with disheveled bleached hair. Dark roots were a reminder that his football season act of blonde comradery was long over. I then realized in horror that his future high school annual would be published with the mug shot of the son I saw sitting in front of me. I then thought about the beautiful senior pictures I went to great lengths and cost to obtain.

I am quite sure my sigh was audible.

Ben smiled, reassuring me that it was no big deal. I didn't say a word. No big deal to Ben should mean no big deal to mom, right?  After all, it's not my yearbook.

Fast forward to last week and the published treasure. Remembering the mug shot, I tore open the book in pure curiosity before I even left the Skutt parking lot. It was as bad as I envisioned.

Top left is what was published. Bottom left, I placed the picture that should have been submitted.
But it actually made me laugh as I looked at my smiling son with multi-colored hair. His mug pose next to the beautiful girls in their professional shots seemed perfectly normal. At least for Benny Lane. I am just glad he smiled for the picture.

That night, Grant and I went through the whole yearbook and had some fun as we reminisced over Ben's lively senior year and his friends we have grown to love. It was a good year and we missed the smiling faces that had become part of our home and our daily lives.

Using the back page index as a reference, we found all of Ben's photos throughout the yearbook. From being featured on the football state championship page, to having his tongue out in the senior group picture, we smiled. And who knew he was voted best storyteller? Not me.

As Garrett joined Grant and I in the living room while we were yearbook perusing, he asked what we were doing. Sharing our finds with him, Garrett just shook his head.

"I'm siding with Zach. It's time to close the yearbook. That was a year ago."

I defended myself in explaining it was just picked up that day. Technically it was not a re-open from past, but a new open due to delayed pick-up. No helicopter mom here.

Honestly, it was the best read and pictorial entertainment I have had in a long time. I may have to open it again next year when Grant's 2014-2015 addition arrives. Sometimes a good story is even better the second time around.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015: Where to Start...

Saturday's blog??
For the record, it's not because I have nothing to write.

My lack of consistent writing is not because of lack of story content. It's due to lack of time to put pen to paper (good visual, but you know what I mean).

The stories in my head continue to build. The current list is something like this (if I had the time, there would be a real list)...

  • The Sad Tale of Three Sandwiches
  • The Oldest Child
  • Purpose
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • A Second Time Around
  • Yearbook Chronicles
  • Grandma's Necklace
Where to start? I guess I will start by saying I miss writing. It's my flow. When writing backlog occurs, my head feels like it's exploding; full of stories and feelings of everyday when life is too fast-paced for me to release what is on my mind.

Every day the thoughts are there, but the time somehow seems to escape me.

Full disclosure....I just took my Christmas decorations down last night and my car continually reminds me that I am 1,366 miles past a service appointment. 


When push comes to shove, the decorations were down before the calendar turned to Valentine's Day and the car hasn't stalled yet. And the stories? They will come. For my own mental sanity, they need to.

Tonight I talked to a business partner about his stress over not having enough time to exercise and lack of quality time in his personal life. I understand. Flow is all about maintaining our own internal happiness. No one is to judge what fills that personal space...writing, exercising, quiet time, party time. Personal happiness is determined by personal needs. 

A wise person once told me that all work and no play makes Sandy a dull girl. Yep. What is deemed interesting outside of work is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

But a little flow and play do make life more productive. Here's to staying on track....

Date Night <check>. Garrett and I are sticklers on this. No matter what life delivers us, we always carve out time for just the two of us.

Writing <soon>  I think I'll start with Yearbook Chronicles. Top of the list for Saturday. Or Grandma's Necklace? Decisions, decisions.... Sunday flow? Shall I go for two in a row? Let the writing begin.................

Monday, January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015: Streaks

We were able to sneak away for a drink and apps on our anniversary

I love a good picture and a good story. And a good margarita doesn't hurt either.

Today my husband flew back to Denver. By my calculations, we spent close to a month straight by each other's side. That is a first in our history of 63 months of togetherness.

And then there is our other record. Our record of never missing a day of communicating since our first call. This has yet to be broken. By my quick calculation, we are on day number 1925 of that streak.

In my estimation, this daily communication doesn't give us bragging rights. That is pretty easy to accomplish in today's world; even with the 550 mile distance that stood between us most days during years 1 - 4. We like communicating and sharing life. A plus for a couple that I don't take for granted.

But 30 days of togetherness. That was a happy feat.

Planes, work and kids' schedules dominate our lives. Although we are much more frequently together than in years past, a 30 day run is a crowned jewel. And a little scary. What if we really didn't like each other as much as we thought?

Emptying the dishwasher and carpooling to work is not as sexy as weekly date nights and the longing of seeing each other after a one week separation. But we passed the test. Emptying the dishwasher and meal planning is much nicer with a loved significant other who happens to be a wonderful best friend.

True love rarely wears makeup, doesn't always put her shoes away, nor uses his manners in bodily releases. My guy who wants to talk through everything has shown patience while his impatient wife humors him in elongated conversations on subjects like dishwasher management. And always a good move by both, as we can always learn a thing or two from the positive innate wiring of the other.

So what does tonight look like?

Omaha: Sandy rules the roost with the solo child act of Grant Lane. Ben went back to college yesterday. It's quiet, but very satisfying. After a productive day at work and school, Grant and I enjoyed a homemade feast of salmon and broccoli pasta. The College Championship game plays on the TV while Grant goes in and out of sleepiness.

Denver: Although I am unsure of the exact home setting, I am guessing Garrett and son, Jake, are watching the game as well. With kid activities, a drive-through meal is likely. And with Zach joining game-watching after he gets off of work, testosterone will be running on a football high.

It's all good. Grant has only asked twice on the whereabouts of Garrett. Just when he gets used to our new normal, we throw him a curve ball. What? Sandy without Garrett? Who would have thought?

Wednesday will be 'reunited and it feels so good'. But until then, we will fly solo and hold down our respective forts. As we all know, absence really does make the heart grow stronger.....

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 3, 2015: A New Play Group

Yesterday was a day of firsts. The first time I joined an organized 'social' group in Denver.

I went through a similar process many moons ago when I first moved to Omaha. Although the technology has changed for finding these groups, the bliss of sharing time with new people hasn't changed a bit. And spending time doing something we collectively enjoy, even better.

I moved to Omaha in 1989. That was 26 years ago for those doing the math. Fresh out of college, I shared with a college friend my sadness on moving somewhere where I knew no one. Knowing I liked to run, this same friend encouraged me seek out the local running club.

"Every big city has one. Just look it up in the phone book."

For those born post-1990, let me explain. A phone book was a large paperback book which listed every individual and business phone number (land line, not cellular) in alphabetical order and then had yellow page ads just for businesses.

I followed my friend's advice and pulled out the Omaha phone book at my new job. I was one week into my new life in Omaha and although I had met people at work, I longed to find the comradery I was accustomed in my college life. Being a new grown-up and on my own, I also had the discretion to seek out others with similar interests.

Listed in the business section I found "Omaha Running Club Hotline" and promptly called and left a message on an answering machine. Within a day, I received a call back with an explanation of upcoming runs and events.

My first run was with the monthly women's group coined "Ladies of the Evening". A potluck following an after-work run was hosted at different members homes each month. I loved these ladies and ended up hosting and running with them for years.

I soon became very involved in ORC events as both a volunteer and runner. It wasn't long before I was asked to join the Board of Directors. In 1992 I served as Omaha Running Club president. Although the addition of my kids hampered later involvement in this favored social group, many of these early friendships still exist today. For my hard work, I was given a lifetime ORC membership.

Fast forward to 2015. My kids are now grown and I find myself in Denver every other weekend. Although Garrett and I live a wonderful life as a couple and with our Denver kids, I find myself alone at times and longing for social companionship outside our little bubble.

Yesterday this little bit of loneliness became apparent as I found myself home alone for the day. Garrett took a 'guys day' skiing in the mountains. He and I forgot about our anniversary until after his day was planned. I thought a Plan B was in order. One that didn't involve staying home alone. So I started Googling for options in the area.

In the dark of night on my IPad, I discovered "Meetup" groups. I had never heard of such a thing, but my find was a Godwink. Unknown to me was the evolution of organized interest groups since my original telephone book research in 1989. There are thousands of organized groups for about anything imaginable. All found on the Internet. Whether your thing is square dancing, billiards, jazz or hiking; there is a group  for everyone out there. And even better, it's organized by city and desired location.

Wow. I was in Heaven.

After an hour of due diligence, I settled on the "Trails and Ales" group. Their Meetup page gave the following description:

"Our main goal is to explore as many wonderful hikes/trails as well as socializing in a responsible manner, so members can get a greater sense of all that Colorado has to offer and enjoy. Come join us!"

So that I did. I signed up as a member and RSVP'd on-line for the Saturday hike. After a purchase of new snow shoes, I was ready to go. Water proof was a necessary shoe functionality in the snowy Denver terrain. I loved my furry boot purchase along with the fun socks I chose.

With a 10:00 Saturday morning start, I parked the car in the Google Mapped lot to be greeted by head-banded man, a bit of a hippy, handing out cookies. I kindly passed on the suspicious cookies and went on to meet the larger group at the gathering spot.

Twenty-nine strangers dressed in their winter outdoor best. And I didn't know a single one.

I quickly learned two things. First, you never really live among strangers. And second, a lot of people have relocated to Denver to enjoy the quality of life it has to offer.

From Terry whose son just graduated from Creighton to the young couple who recently relocated from Massachusetts, the conversation was great and the exercise, invigorating. I soon met a young man who moved from Minnesota and another from New York, simply to live in Denver. There were dogs joining us on leashes and lifelong Denver residents joining their weekly organized Meetup.

The air was crisp and the panoramic views were stunning. Just as the website described it. And then our group completed the planned outing by going from the trails to the ales. Lunch was at an area Indian restaurant with Indian beer on tap.

Over a beer, Doug and George told me about their favorite mountain hikes and must-see treasures hidden in burrows throughout Colorado. Tracey explained her love for organized runs and her forty+ half marathons under her belt. As various other Meetup groups were explained and recommended, it was apparent that Denver has much to offer and many avenues to experience it all.

A good day and a good Plan B, if I say so myself. The great thing about technology was the ease of accessing comments and pictures later posted on our Meetup site. Everyone has a story tell which was apparent by the group overview. They were as eclectic as I originally inferred. Just like my old ORC group.

I did think a lot about my old days with the Omaha Running Club on my hike yesterday. Sharing of life with those with common interests is fun and fulfilling. Regardless of their age or background, everyone has a lifetime of experiences to share with others.

I look forward to the next adventure. As I like to say, you can't have too many friends.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015: A New Year

Over sushi and wine last night, my husband encouraged me to get back to writing. Acknowledging my drought of recent months, I agreed that my blog absence wasn't from lack of material, but lack of time.

"Start writing everyday again. You have good things to say and share."

A nudge.

Actually, a fair reaction to my pleadings with him on best fulfilling my life's purpose. A conversation that had gone deep, was brought to a more realistic place. Just keep writing and take one day at a time. Just give every day my best.

Good advice.

Writing makes me think. It pushes me to organize my thoughts and take life observations to the next level of clarity. Sharing my perspective and life stories also challenges me to be the best I can each day. Reflection is a good thing.

Today is the first of 2015. And so I will write. I would add that today really was an ordinary day, which was divine.

This last week has been a whirlwind. Although I have been sharing pictures of our recent adventures, I will now add some 'behind the scenes' commentary. Note that even the best of days seem come with some adversity along the way. Life really is beautiful, albeit imperfect.

Garrett and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Phoenix. The story behind the trip was our desire for Garrett to reach the highest status with Southwest Airlines. Three weeks before Christmas, Garrett realized he was four flights short of scoring me a companion pass (I would travel free with Garrett for a full year).

Like a couple of college kids booking Spring Break, Garrett and I scoured the Southwest site looking for warm places to fly before the year came to a close. Four one-way flights later (Omaha to Denver, Denver to Phoenix and reverse), you may now consider me Garrett's Companion for 2015.

Our quick trip to Phoenix included a sunset hot air balloon ride on Christmas Eve and an amazing hike on Christmas Day. We also caught two dine-in movies and enjoyed drinks and appetizers at the Ritz Carlton. And all of this in 70 degree weather.

What didn't show up in the posted photos was the fact that I was battling stomach flu the entire trip. When not in the bathroom or seeking a bathroom, I was wondering where I could find the closest bathroom. But I rallied through, not wanting our trip dampened. And God was looking out for me by giving me a break from the worst of the bug when I was a mile high in the air and on top of the mountain.

We were home in Omaha for a mere twenty-four hours before flying back to Denver with my three boys + girlfriend in tow. Zach showed up in the nick of time for our flight after enjoying a night out with friends the night before. His mother wasn't pleased. But we all made it to Colorado safely.

Our four days in Denver together included a professional sports 'hat trick'. We made it to three professional games during our time together; NHL Avalanche/Blackhawks, NFL Broncos/Raiders, NBA Nuggets/Lakers. They were a ton of fun.

But there is a bit of a story behind the story. Although the seats and the games were spectacular, we got a surprise when we went to find our car after the Nuggets. In ten degree weather, we found our car missing. It was towed. Oops.

What seemed like a disaster ended up fine, at least for everyone but Garrett. Ben and Zach quickly procured a Suburban (Uber guy contracted outside of Uber). The seven of us piled in and made the most of what would have appeared to be a bad situation. Our driver was very nice and safely delivered us home. I kept telling the kids to pretend we rented a limo and to look at the window at Christmas lights.

Poor Garrett had the worst end of the deal as he had to wait in the cold for the tow owner to show up. But with a lightened wallet and cold car, he made the 40 minute trek home to join us.

And now they are all gone. The kids are with their other parents. Zach is busy with friends. Garrett and I enjoyed a movie and dinner last night as a couple. Today was eerily quiet. Although Zach showed up at the house later today and Garrett's kids will be back tomorrow night, the quiet of today has me thinking about the look and feel of 2015.

The picture above was taken Monday night at a Mexican restaurant after we went to a movie. The Lane boys together. I'm not sure when this will happen again. That causes me to pause <sigh>. The older they get, the more difficult it is to get them together. School, work, distance. And they increasingly are forging their own lives, independent of our little family unit.

So today, I will cherish the moments, good and bad. Together is a wonderful thing.