Friday, March 27, 2015

March 26, 2015: Ben and Sandy's Excellent Adventure (Day 1)

From Ben's phone
The adventure has begun. Ben and Mom. Mom and Ben. A quick trip planned in a short timeline. But life is short and time, a treasure. So we are off on our adventure.

The idea of a getaway began 19 days ago when Ben sent me a text at 2:51 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

I quickly surmised that my middle child, who doesn't like to miss a party, was creating his own party. Coincidentally my blog post the day prior was on his brothers spending a week together in Denver without him on Grant's spring break.

It was tempting. Very tempting. We hadn't seen my parents since last May at Ben's graduation. Although time is a scarcity these days, I bit. My counteroffer was that the trip would have to fall over a long weekend.

An excited Ben called his grandpa the same day to seal the deal. I was just as excited. I missed my parents. Spontaneous quick trips many times hold pleasant surprises and the best memories.

With a 19 day window to take off, I secured plane tickets, rental car, hotel, Cubs tickets and an itinerary that would start in Phoenix and end in Vegas. All in a convertible with my middle child in the middle of the Southwestern blooming deserts.

With great anticipation we hit the Omaha airport yesterday afternoon. I was able to carve an extra half day out of my schedule to give us a full day to play in Phoenix on Friday.

Ben wanted to know the agenda. We rehearsed the game times and cast of characters we would be meeting and when. A plan was executed. 90 degree weather greeted us in Phoenix as we were receiving texts on snow flakes back home. The convertible waiting our arrival was divine with Ben a very reliable navigator with iPhone in hand in the passenger seat.

Our adventure has begun. Last night was a nice family dinner with the Wells' clan, our loved cousins and aunt whom we don't see enough. Our gathering with a few new faces was wonderful. Laughter and great conversation filled our table.

Ben continued to expand his typical culinary restrictions beyond chicken strips, burgers and steak. His 'firsts' last night included truffle fries (not much of a stretch here), calamari and lobster. The truffle flavored spuds were well received and calamari rated 'good'. Lobster will probably not be a future order for him.

Day 2 of our excellent adventure begins with sunny warmth shining through our hotel window. We did buy tickets to the Suns game tonight, so a fun-filled sports day awaits. Happy Friday!!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21, 2015: Perspective

View on my drive to our morning run
Today was an ordinary day in Omaha. Amen to that. I have missed my sleepy, but satisfying days aglow with Midwestern pleasantries.

I now sit in my art room sipping on a Leinenkugel's Grapefruit Shandy as Nat King Cole croons to me from the spinning vinyl. Windows are cracked with the sound of boys playing basketball as background noise coming from the front drive. Basketball also plays on the big screen in the living room with a big and a not-so-big boy tracking their brackets.

With bellies full of a take out meal of wings and chicken baskets, my two oldest have set off with friends to enjoy a Saturday spring night. Life continues to hum for us in Omaha. Home.

I began my day with a run through Boy's Town with my running gal pals. Our routine of coffee complimented with shared bananas and peanut butter followed. This same routine with a varying cast of characters has gone on at the same spot for over ten years. Some years it has been a weekly occurrence. This year, we catch these times when we can. Needless to say, my slow pace mirrors my lack of consistent running.

This weekend I have had the added blessings of Ben home from college, Zach home from Denver, and my step-son visiting us for the weekend. The house is bustling with energy, happiness, and activity. The animals aren't quite sure what to think. They had accepted a retired existence with Grant as an only.

It is now 9:29 p.m. and we have successfully accomplished a day filled with a run, a bike ride (with wipe out), a first high school soccer game, fishing with friends, countless errands, many pick-up basketball games, and a sunny drive from Downtown Omaha after enjoying the best burger in Omaha.

Yes, after a 25 year tenure as an Omaha resident, I have finally eaten the burger proclaimed as 'the best' per the signage facing the busy Interstate. I have heard about Dinker's and driven by it hundreds of times, but have never taste-tested their prize menu item.

Today I took my Colorado husband and Colorado step-son to give it a try. We all agreed. It was very good. I would also agree that it's the best I've had in Omaha. And the atmosphere of the dive bar was divine. A nice little adventure to our laid-back day.

Life has been hectic as of late. Very busy as we work to a 7/6/15 open date for Think Whole Person Healthcare. Although sleep is lacking and spare time, virtually non-existent, work is fulfilling. Our team works with passion and diligence in our shared quest to bring to patients and healthcare the experience they deserve when we open our doors.

Perspective is what keeps us sane and on track.

The end goal is always at the forefront of our thought process. And our personal lives need to avoid neglect. A balance difficult to achieve, but attainable if we continuously work to keep our perspective.

It is perfectly normal for me to go from corporate board meetings and large financial decision-making to worrying about feeding my pets at home and time management for a grocery stop. With many deep breaths, I try to enjoy every minute of being a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Although lacking in time, I don't lack in desire to fill each role simultaneously. Far from perfect, I do my best. This perspective keeps me both happy and sane.

I will end my blog today with a short story. If you were to ask me to name the best thing that happened to me this week, it would be this little encounter. A Godwink. After a busy day, it provided me with clarity on life and the definition of importance.

My story begins with my mind drowning in pending deadlines and high stakes decisions. 125 e-mails grew in my in-box throughout the day and were awaiting my reply. Voice mails accumulated during meetings and a hungry 14 year-old sat at home waiting for my arrival.

Life was not only humming in my conscience, it was screaming in my ear.

Determined to prepare a much needed home-cooked meal, I hustled into Baker's grocery store for a quick purchase of grilling essentials. Successfully filling a small cart with my mental grocery list, I made it to check-out in record time.

For those who haven't shopped at Baker's, let me share that this grocery chain has a long history of employing special-needs employees for bagging and carting duties. As I frequent this grocery store, I recognize the mainstay of employees who have served these roles for years. Then there is a flow of employees who I only see for short periods of time.

A friend of mine with a Down's Syndrome son once shared with me the specifics on Baker's special work force. The grocery chain works with the school systems in training high school special-needs graduates through short work internships. Some are short-lived stints to give a work experience and others turn into full-time employment.

My friend's son spent a few weeks working at the grocery chain. Although a scary experience at times to the young man who rarely was outside his comfort zone of home or school, it was ultimately very fulfilling for him to learn to work independently.

On this particular Monday night, a familiar face bagged my groceries. He made small talk like a pro while I buried my head in my iPhone, multi-tasking in an effort to knock out some e-mails. And then an unfamiliar face joined in the bagging duties.

"I hurt my ankle," was the statement from this Down's young man. His statement came out as a sad whine. The regular special-needs worker was a bit dismissive to his co-worker. Although nice in his tone, he was firm in telling boy #2 that bagging groceries was real business, trying to convince him to get back to work.

Still buried in my phone, I smiled to myself as I listened to their cute exchange. The dialogue continued until boy #2 gave up on garnering sympathy from his co-worker and turned his efforts to me.

"I hurt my ankle."

This time I knew his eyes were firmly focused on me alone. I put my phone away and listened. He went on to answer my inquiries on the events that led up to the injury, explaining that he twisted it and that it hurt bad.

At that moment in time, I looked into his sweet eyes and knew this young man, with the innocence of a child, needed a mother. And I gave him just that. I listened and offered motherly advice of not putting too much weight on the noted ankle. I further offered to take my own groceries out while he rested.

He listened and nodded his head while continually reminding me that his ankle hurt. I gave him a little sympathetic pat, telling him that it was okay to tell the manager if it kept hurting. With this final statement, he seemed eased. So I smiled and pushed my cart to the door.

Behind me I heard a final plea, but it was not what I expected.

"Will you pray for me?"

An innocent request from a child of God. My heart melted.

"Yes, of course I'll pray for you."

My injured grocery-bagger grinned from ear to ear. His hurt ankle seemed to be a distant memory.

Unknowingly, this fine young man just gave me the most subtle, yet important, reminder of what really matters in how we carry ourselves in life. The time I needed to give to him was just as important as the deadlines looming on my calendar.

God always sends us reminders of our life mission, both long-term and during the rhythm of our ordinary days. But we can only hear them if we keep our hearts and minds open for the moments.

I'm glad I chose to look away from the chaos on my phone last Monday night. The lesson learned was a Godwink. Amen to that.

Friday, March 6, 2015

March 6, 2015: Sibs

Next week is Spring Break for Grant. And he's spending the week in Denver with his brother, Zach. Although going to Denver wasn't a surprise, spending the whole week was a late-breaking development.

Months ago we planned a weekend in Denver that including friends from Omaha. Recently as I was mapping out details of the trip, Grant looked at me confused.

"I'm only going for the weekend?"

With my confirmation of this being fact, Grant said nothing with a hint of disappointment in the air.

Last weekend, I was going through the same detail mapping with Zach. Completely independent of Grant, his response was near the same.

"Why can't he come for longer? Isn't he off all week? He can play my X-Box and hang out while I'm at school. And then he can hang out with me at night."

Feeling tag teamed, I paused a bit over an idea that escaped my planning brain. Yet it didn't escape the thoughts of my bookend sons. After some circling between the boys and their dad, we were able make it happen. Grant will be in Denver from Monday morning until Sunday with Zach.

My heart warmed. Although seven years apart, the brothers are still close. And, no doubt, Ben will feel left out once he hears the news. The Lane brothers prefer to run as a trio. For the record, Grant is still bent over being left out of an adult-only trip Mexico that didn't include him.

Now taking a step back from my sentimental ways, I have to point out that my boys have not always upheld a peaceful and loving co-existence. In fact, they fought a lot. There have been many occasions of fights breaking out in my back yard. The trampoline was a favored fight zone. I was sure the neighbors suspected serious violence based on the constant eruption of boys noise.

For the Lane boys, I have found that absence does make the heart grow fonder. My mom watched this same phenomenon when my brothers and I were teenagers-going-on-young-adults.

I distinctly remember Mom bursting into tears as my brothers and I argued to exhaustion. A year between each of us in age and school grade, we were in high school at the time. We fought a lot and that day was no different.

"When you three graduate and are out of this house, you will never talk to each other again!" was mom's explanation for her tears over our kitchen sink that day.

Although the three of us wanted to defend ourselves, we answered with silence and without dispute. And then we shocked her by becoming friends as young adults. We have maintained our close relationships to this day, despite time and geographical restrictions.

I can now relate to my mother. Although our means of communication were sparse in the 80's, my brothers and I figured out how to stay in touch. In today's world, social media and group texts keep my boys in touch despite the miles between them. They seem to cherish these interactions. My heart smiles when they leap at the opportunity to grab my phone hearing me on my phone with a brother.

Absence really does warm the heart. I completely understand. And, Mom, I'm glad we three Wagner kids ultimately didn't let you down. But I do need to apologize for all of the bickering along the way.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5, 2015: A Piano Story

Mom, Aunt Joan, Ben, and Zach enjoy a quiet moment after the winning bid
Our piano has a long and loving history with my family. It began at the Elmer Pick home in the early 1950's. This piano was handpicked by my Grandpa Elmer's sister, Sister Aiden. And, yes, she really was a 'sister' under both meanings. Four of Grandpa's sisters chose a life of service as a nun as their vocation.

The story, as I have been told, is that the musically gifted Sister Aiden went with Grandpa to the piano store and carefully played each piano until she choose the perfect one for her brother's home.

                The Pick "Sisters"

This same piano now sits in my living room. My mom and her eight siblings were taught on this piano at their childhood home in Remsen, Iowa. It then traveled to the farm as my grandpa retired from his life as a vet to begin his life as a farmer. The piano ultimately followed my grandparents back to town when they retired.

I remember the piano well on the farm as a little girl. It had its place in the center of the family room. And although at times it collected stacks of paper and boxes; on holidays and special occasions, it was played with vigor.

Aunt Joan and Mom perfected their duets together in front of an engaged audience. The grandchildren played their songs of choice, sometimes just pounding on the keys with a quick reprimand from Grandpa. The piano was a focal point at our grandparents' farmhouse. Many family photos, including the one of my family below, were taken on the piano bench.

Mom & Dad with me and my brothers              
After Grandma and Grandpa passed away in 2000, an estate auction followed. The nine Pick children were allowed to go through the household items "pre-auction" and choose special items they wanted to keep in the family.  Somehow in all the planning chaos, the piano was forgotten. This oversight was not caught until the day of the auction as the piano took display for potential buyers.

It was a beautiful fall day in Iowa. I had made the trip from Omaha with my three boys; Zach, Ben and Grant (then 7, 4 and 6 months). The day was full of the busyness that a public auction entailed. The many collectible and household items that had accumulated over my grandparent's lifetime were presented for purchase for the onlookers.

A crowd had gathered; scoping out items of interest and collecting their bid numbers.The Pick siblings quickly realized that our prized piano was on the auction list. How did this happen? Although the clear sentiment was to keep it in the family, auction rules did not allow us to reclaim our treasure.

Young Zach sensed the panic among us and jumped in. With sad seven year-old eyes, he pleaded with me.

“Please, Mom, can we buy the piano? I want to learn to play SO bad! Please, can we buy it? You NEVER need to buy me a birthday present ever, ever again. PLEASE!!!”

That was it. I was determined. That piano was going to our house in Omaha. It belonged in the Pick family and it was going to stay in the Pick family. Determined, Zach and I gathered our bid card and planted ourselves in position for piano bidding.

A twist in our plan quickly developed. It came to our attention that piano re-sellers were also at the auction. To our horror, these curious out-of-town buyers were eyeballing our piano.

Word spread fast among the locals who were present. Elmer's family wanted their piano back. The townspeople were rallying; anticipating a bidding war as the piano got closer to the auction block. The out-of-town re-sellers quietly at bay.

Then the piano was announced and the bidding began.

You could have cut the tension lingering in the air, as bids went higher. With each bid by the strangers across my grandparent's living room, I would counter by raising my bid number in opposition.

Zach was right by my side, wanting me to 'win' so badly. As we went back and forth raising our cards, the auctioneer barked out the higher bids. Family began looking at me with eyes asking if it was time to stop. One pleading look from Zach and I raised the final bid, without hesitation.

The auctioneer asked for a counter bid. Silence.

He asked again. Silence.

“Going, going, GONE…Sold to Sandy Lane!!”

The crowd roared. My mom and aunts cried as Zach jumped in the air. The home of my deceased grandparents was filled with pure joy. It was although our 'win' was all for Grandma and Grandpa.

After the spectators and auctioneer moved on to the next auction item, the Pick sisters lingered by the piano in silence. My Aunt Joan quietly sat down on the piano bench. Without a word spoken, Mom sat down next to her and together they began playing a song. A duet they knew by heart as it was played countless times over years and years of practice on their piano.

Without a word or a dry eye, the rest of us listened.

The piano is now in the happy residence of my home. A focal point in our living room, I have listen to the sweet sounds of the piano fill our house while all three boys spent years in piano lessons. I joined them for a couple of years as well. And with every playing note, I am forever reminded of the loving fingers of my aunts that have danced on these same ivory keys in the years past.