Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28, 2015: The Oldest Child

Zach and Nick displaying their citations received on our hike outside Denver
Recently in the middle of some light conversation, my oldest son, Zach, brought up my blog topics. He was quick to point out his perception of my favoritism toward his younger brothers.

Although the banter was all in fun, I had to defend myself.

His interpretation was obviously inaccurate. But my 'fly below radar' eldest doesn't miss a beat. I accepted the fact that if we were to count, he would not win as the featured son in blog posts. A funny correlation since Zach is probably is the son I see the most of these days. This resulted in me pointing out that he has the most picture posts on FaceBook and Instagram with all of our Denver outings of recent months.

"Good Lord, Mother, I really don't care" was his response.

Although in jest, the conversation did get me to think about my oldest and our time together. Over the last nine months, I have been able to spend time with Zach without his brothers in tow. This hasn't happened since Zach celebrated his last day as an only child, two days before his third birthday.

Gunsmithing school has recently brought Zach to Denver. He officially holds down the fort for us here, being a full-time resident in our Denver home. As we make the trek to Denver every other weekend, Zach is somewhere in the equation. And it's very nice.

Life is a funny thing as we are dealt unexpected wrinkles and pleasant surprises. Zach became the man of my house after his dad and I divorced. This was smack in the middle of his high school years. Although always a good big brother and extremely helpful to his busy mom, he ran in a dead sprint to Lincoln when it was time for college. For the first semester, we rarely heard from him.

Very independent as a child, his quest to be his own man multiplied once nineteen and no longer a minor. Even as he made a change in schooling, he lived on his own with friends. Although we enjoyed seeing him as a guest, never to one miss a family gathering, Zach enjoys his personal freedom. In my mind, once I delivered him to UNL the fall of his freshman year, I resigned myself to this new stage in our lives together.

And then I was awarded this little life surprise. An 18 month period where I get to see and spend time with my son. Zach's life revolves around full-time gunsmithing school by week and work at a sporting good store on nights and weekends. He is very busy and enjoys the little downtime he has at home. Which happens to be our home as well. This is most I have seen Zach for large blocks of time since when he was a toddler.

As I look back, life was busy throughout Zach's childhood. In retrospect, probably too busy. He played every sport and I had him signed up for most camps and activities offered. In high school, Zach played year-round sports for his first two years. When he came home after school one day his junior year, I asked "What are you doing home?"

It may sound like a silly question, but it was the first time in his high school years that he didn't have a practice or game after school. Then there was the whirlwind of his final two years of high school. They socially busy for Zach and a bit of a blur for me with the chaos I was dealt during that time period in my life.

Dropping him off at UNL did set me on my heels. Where did the time go? Did I allow too much of a chronically busy state in our lives?

Fast forward four years. Life is much different for both Zach and me. Neither would have predicated that I would marry a man from Denver or that Zach would choose a life path outside of Omaha or a traditional four-year college student. We are both happy with our choices and where our our journeys have taken us, but it isn't always easy.

We are both far away from Omaha and from the many distractions that both Zach and I frankly miss. It is interesting that we are each sharing the same feelings, yet in completely different circumstances. And then we happen to be mother and son in the same house every two weeks.

We miss our big circle of friends and all the on-going activities centered around our Omaha lives. We are missing Husker games, Creighton beers at the Link, College World Series fun, family gatherings, weddings and all those impromptu moments we had grown to love with the people we love in a city we love.

Although our circles of friends are not the same and our missed family gatherings are not even the same anymore, but both Zach and I have an extroverted side. We find happiness in connecting with a people we have spent years building relationships. That's the hard part we miss.

The blessing comes in the times we have shared together over these months. It's really been a gift for me. And Zach has done a great job of humoring his mother. He has had his closest friends come and visit. Those weekends have been golden. Although they do their own thing, taking in all Denver has to offer, they have also included me and the Brucker clan on fun festivities as well.

We have gone to Broncos games, Avalanche shoot-outs and hikes. His brothers spending time over Christmas with Blackhawks jerseys in tow was the best. When Nick visited we got ticketed for hiking violations (who knew?). And Zach and I found a Husker bar in Downtown Denver to watch his much cherished Husker football games. Not as good as our seats at Memorial Stadium, but a great second from 500 miles away.

Since I don't have a car here, Zach has been very gracious to cart me around when Garrett is busy with other activities. We run the kids around together on days of 'divide and conquer' and there are a lot of meals and exploring new things not yet experienced in Denver. Although Zach would be perfectly fine hanging out at the house, he has taken very good care of his mother.

Today Zach has a day off of work today. I am going to see if I can talk him into going downtown with me to meet family and friends in town for a volleyball tournament. Garrett is skiing, so I don't have a car. This adventure will be just like the Magical Mystery Bus Tours I would take he and his brothers on as kids. Zach playing my chauffeur is just frosting on the cake.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 21, 2015: Grandma's Necklace

A couple of days ago we had a team meeting at work. The main topic centered around serving our patients and what good service really meant. My heart tugged at the core theme of our conversation, kindness. Real, authentic, daily acts of kindness.

Stories were told on both the receiving and giving of good service. All included a genuine act of goodwill to serve another. With purity of motive in simply wanting to care for another, an act of kindness cannot be measured in the size of the deed. The smallest actions can produce the largest rewards to the recipient.

I shared a story of kindness given to a client in my prior life that later blossomed into a big business opportunity for me. My original act had no motive, but resulted in an unexpected gift back many years later.

As others shared stories of good service and the importance of authenticity in our actions, my head swirled with my own receipt of small acts of kindness over my lifetime. These acts resonated with me and my own personal journey.

Near and dear on my mind that day was the gift of Grandma's necklace. I felt it around my neck as our team met. A gentle reminder of someone special whom I had never meant. An act of kindness from one human to another. Authentic was the intent of the giver to share a piece of his life with me. It was equally golden to me as the recipient. It touched my heart to know the extra effort and thoughtfulness behind the gift.

The story of Grandma's necklace began with a box I received in the mail last fall. It followed a visit from Garrett's dad, Larry. The box was carefully addressed to me in perfectly handwritten block lettering. I do love surprises and I was thrilled to come home from work to this unexpected package from Larry.

In the box was a leather-scented candle and a necklace. My heart was full of warmth as I pictured my father-in-law, a hunter and maverick to the core of his being, choosing a candle with the scent of leather (who knew?). I pictured him looking through a rack of necklaces to choose this silver, pink and bone-beaded decorative jewel. I loved my surprise gifts and wore the necklace the next day, constantly reminded of Larry's thoughtfulness.

I shared my genuine appreciation of his gift via a phone message and thank-you note. A week later, I received another box in the mail from Larry. This time it was filled with a cameo necklace on a gold chain with a matching bone china jewelry box. Overwhelmed with his generosity and kindness to me, I immediately called him. Larry shared with me a bit of history of these necklaces that I was not aware. The necklaces he gave were those of his mother, Mabel. He saved them after she passed away and wanted me to have them.

Overwhelmed with this act of kindness, the necklace in my hands filled my head with thoughts of a woman I had heard so much about, but had never met. She had placed this same necklace around her own neck. The jewelry box had surely been placed on her own dressing and was now carefully placed on mine. And the pink and silver necklace that was taken out for my own special occasions was likely a favorite for Mabel as well. I gushed at the thought.

When Garrett and I first started dating we would spend hours talking about the first two chapters of our lives. This storytelling in terms of chapters came up on our first date. I asked Garrett to tell me about his 'Chapter 1'. Confused with my question, he asked what this meant. I went on to explain that I thought of my life in chapters.

He and I had spent a lot of our initial conversations discussing Chapter 2, which was the chapter covering our marriages and raising our own families. We were now on to a new chapter, I explained. Chapter 3. This post-marriage chapter now began with he and I in the first pages of each other's new chapter.

But what about Garrett's Chapter 1? I wanted to know about the very beginning. Before wife and kids were in his storybook, who were the characters in his life who shaped him to be the person he was today?

Garrett was a little taken aback by my question. He later told me that few women he dated asked or seemed interested in his background pre-marriage. Many did most of the talking or asked questions on things that would affect them today. Although Garrett found my question curious, he humored me in his Chapter 1. And I intently listened. It was a great chapter and provided me context on Garrett as a person, as well as the impact of his parents and extended family.

Over chips and margaritas, Garrett told me how his parents divorced when he was between the age of a baby and a toddler. His father raised him. Larry moved little Garrett to Indiana where they lived with Garrett's grandparents until Larry remarried years later.

Garrett described in great detail how impactful Grandma Mabel's influence was on him at this early age. Gentle and kind, she was a retired teacher who taught Garrett his ABC's and peaked his interest in being a forever learner with a love for school.

When I asked why he chose aerospace engineering as a college major, Garrett eyes lit up as he told me a story about his Grandma Mabel that shaped his love for space.

Just four years old, Garrett was awoken by his grandma in the middle of the night. As he sat quietly on his grandmother's lap, together they watched Apollo 11 land on the moon via a black and white television set. With teary eyes, Mabel explained to Garrett the importance of what was happening live before their eyes. As Garrett told me this story with the same teary eyes of his grandma, I felt as though I was in the same room as Mabel and little Garrett that magical night forty years ago.

My prized necklaces are worn often and are beside my own Grandma Marvel's gold jewelry box on my bedroom dresser. I wish I would have met Mabel. But I will always be thankful to Larry for his kindness in sharing a piece of her with me. I am honored. And each time I touch the necklace, I am reminded of Mabel and how the little acts we do and words we use can forever impact the lives of others.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February 12, 2015: A Second Time Around

It's hard to believe that just a week ago we were celebrating the marriage of Russell and Megan in the balmy sandy beaches of Mexico. A beautiful love story, but whirlwind vacation; all wrapped up into one.

It began with our late night arrival to the Beach Palace Resort in Cancun. Our flight was late and the rehearsal dinner, well under way, by the time our airport transportation delivered us to our vacation destination.

We caught up with family and friends before locating our room with lagoon view. As Garrett and I unpacked our bags and discussed the Michael Jackson impersonator concert being held at the resort bar, I eyed a bottle of red wine and a really big tub in the middle of our room.

I chose to stay in our room over the Michael Jackson show. Although Garrett is more of an 'early-nighter' than me, he reluctantly agreed.

"You know, they will think I am holding you back when this is your idea" was his final input to me.

I still choose the solitude of our room, along with a nice red wine and bubble bath.

How times have changed. Seven years ago, I never would have missed a good party. Everyone at a bar for a show? I would have been right in the middle.

But contrary to Garrett's belief that he would have been blamed for my decision of couple solitude, I didn't receive a single text message questioning our whereabouts. Time has also trained my closest friends. They know better. I am very content and happy hanging with my husband these days. And the best of friends understand and honor my new introvert-extrovert self.

Sitting peacefully on the balcony of our room, I listened to the ocean with my husband while sharing stories of our young-adult lives. Climbing the corporate ladder. High bars for promotions and holding golden boy/girl status. And then laughing collectively at our youthful ideals with 'what were we thinking' moments.

With another glass of wine poured and lounge chairs adjoining over our ocean view, we laughed like kids. There were no thoughts of how the Michael Jackson impersonator fared or what the fun people were doing. As is typical in our daily lives, Garrett and I were in our own little world with the benefit of the Caribbean on this particular day.

As I laughed at a story of Garrett playing 'cruise director' on an early 90's trip to impress the managers and partners of his firm, I felt like a young adult again. Rehashing our youthful years and mistakes as well-seasoned adults makes for laughable moments and fun stories.

I have been accused in recent days of having the heart and spirit of a young girl rather than the 47 year old woman that I am. I will take that as a compliment. Sometimes the second time around loosens you up a bit. I sure don't take myself as seriously as I did ten years ago. I'm really not that big of a deal. At all.

In my heart of hearts, I'm just a small town girl trying to do good and fulfill the purpose in life I was given. If that purpose is to make my husband happy and those around me valued for their own important purpose, I'm good with that.

Part of me pictured Kevin and Winnie from The Wonder Years as Garrett and I shared our stories of youth on our Mexican balcony. Our whispered little secrets of life were shared as though under the moonlight of an old oak tree in my parents backyard.

Pausing on this thought, I wondered if we needed to grow up a bit. Take ourselves more seriously again.

The thought quickly vanished as I realized the second time around in love and marriage is not such a bad thing. What doesn't kill you, does make you stronger. And if you are really lucky, you will find another who is one in the same.

Stronger and smarter from life lessons in mid-life does result in never taking for granted the small pleasures. Like sharing life on a balcony in Mexico. Even if we laugh like kids.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 7, 2015: Baby Russ Got Married

I'm in Cancun and just experienced the beautiful wedding of Russell Lane III and his lovely bride, Megan.

I had never been to a destination wedding before. A first for me and a first for Garrett. Although a gorgeous setting and reprieve from the Nebraska snow we left behind, not all invited guests could make the trek to the Caribbean. I quickly found that destination weddings may be low in attending guest count, but high in level of enthusiasm. We were in the middle of a tropical playground.

The focal point  of the trip was the marriage of Russell and Megan. There wasn't a dry eye on the rooftop as the adorable couple shared their personally written vows with whimpering voices and loving emotion. I sat back and smiled, reflecting on the day Russell was born into the world and the number of people around me who shared in his boyhood.

Yes, Baby Russ got married.

It feels like yesterday that a very pregnant Robbie called announcing she had lost her 'mucus plug'. I am still unsure what this medical terminology means. If I lost such a thing with my deliveries, I don't remember. But I sure remember thinking it was a big deal as we ran across the college campus in the rain to assist in what I assessed must be an impending delivery.

Russ Jr. was coming home from an away football game. The soon-to-be father was a player on the Westmar team roster. In those days before cell phones, the school bus that carried the weary players was flagged down by humans as it reached our college town. Russ was taken off the bus and escorted by car to his laboring wife at the LeMars Hospital.

Russell William Lane the III entered our world that night. Baby Russ.

All of Westmar campus fell in love with this little baby wonder. From football players to coaches to friends and previous dorm roommates, we all visited and held this new life Russ and Robbie brought into the world.

Fast forward twenty-eight years and here we sit in Cancun, watching Russell's wedding. Many of the same usual suspects from his early years were in attendance. The football coach, Randy Schmailzl and wife, Nancy, sat behind me. Russ and Robbie in front of me. Members of the Lane family and old Westmar friends were seated throughout the picturesque rooftop ceremony.

As my brain reflected on that fall day in 1986 to today, I was reminded of life cycles and how people come in and out of your life through these cycles of change. Someone once told me there are no such things in life as coincidences. People come into your life...stay, leave, reappear...but it is all a purposeful plan. It is up to us on how we embrace these human interactions over the course of our lives.

Enjoying time with the Schmailzl's was a great reminder of this. The same coach that visited the hospital the night Russell was born, now flew 1,500 miles  to be a part of Russell's wedding day. Garrett and I sat at the 'Westmar table' at the reception, sharing stories with the Westmar crew from those many years past.

Nancy and I reminisced about their oldest who danced with me at Russ and Robbie's wedding. Although I don't remember the shyness of this now 6 foot 7 grown man, Nancy reminded me of how at age 19, I got on my knees to dance with the smiling six-year-old following his courageous request. This same son came to Garrett and my wedding reception a year ago to share his well wishes. No dances that day, but a big hug.

We shared updates of other Westmar friends. Many who sat on the same football bus as Russ on the day of Russell's birth. Offering updates and showing FaceBook pictures of former football players and students, our table was aglow with memories. It was a reminder of the good of social media. There is a bit of our college yearbook that remains open through this outlet, allowing us to stay in touch with long lost friends now living on different coasts and different parts of the world.

From questions of "What is Sherwood up to?" to declarations of "You've got to follow Byron. Funniest posts on FaceBook." got us pulling our phones out and sharing stories of past and present. I could feel the warm glow that hung over us as we shared life for a while.

The cycle goes deeper than Westmar and the college years. Many in attendance have watched our Baby Russ grow up and have been a part of his childhood years. We have cycled in and out of each other's lives as we have celebrated in our own happiness of births and marriages, as well as life's disappointments and sorrows that have hit us as well.

Watching resort entertainment, I laughed with a close friend on how it took Cancun for us to spend some quality time together. We raised our kids through the years without thoughts of a family celebration that didn't include the other. Yet now, although both with Omaha residences, we rarely find time for each other. An unintentional, but a factual occurrence. We have now vowed to change this.

Thank-you, Russell and Megan, for inviting us to celebrate this special time with you as you begin your journey of life together. It was truly a gift. We look forward to Megan joining our circle and the many celebrations in your years to come as Mr. and Mrs. Lane. And, no pressure, they don't all need to be in Mexico. But it sure was nice....

Not quite a baby anymore, but Boo-Boo and Little Russ back in the day