Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30, 2015: The Odd Couple

Oscar to the left and Felix to the right
Stealing a phrase from a friend of mine; 'we have a situation' at my house. I live with Felix and Oscar. The Odd Couple. For those of my age and older, you completely understand of whom I am referring. For those younger and confused, check with your friend, Wikipedia.

This relationship has existed for some time, but has escalated over the last year. Post-marriage, Garrett and I have began spending our weekends with each other's kids and with more overall time in Omaha. Although the result has been a culture shock to both Ben and Garrett, it has been no surprise to me. Most say merging families in re-marriage is hard on the kids. The truth is that it is harder on the step-parents.

Let me just throw out the core of the issue. Ben is a train wreck. This assertion is not a surprise to those who have known him his whole life. As a forever-smiling toddler, when asked his name, he would say "I'm Benny and I'm a train wreck!"

Out of the mouths of babes. Obviously he overheard a comment or two from his parents.

Fast forward 15 or so years and not much has changed. Ben understands his organizational style. I do not. I see piles of clothes on the floor, uncertain of the clean from dirty, and hear frequent and frantic shuffling from searching for lost keys. Ben's typical answer is "It's all good, Mom. I know where my stuff's at and I like it that way."

Over the years I have set the 'Benny bar' for home tidiness lower than my own. In the long run, it has been a concession well worth it; at least in my estimation.

And then Garrett entered the picture. In his defense, Garrett saw the obvious. Things I often ignored. Shoes left in the middle of the floor. Dishes from days prior suddenly appearing in mounds in the sink. And the boys' bathroom...oh my.

I quickly realized that I had a Felix and Oscar situation on my hands. I am sure my tidy and military-like husband was feeling his world turned upside down as well.

Garrett's world is full of routine and careful planning. Every pair of shoes has it's place and a missing shirt in his closet would be noticed by his watchful eye on the same day of disappearance. I appreciate his tidy ways as I gravitate to these same habits. Together we are quite the team with an organized garage and carefully engineered dishwasher loading skills.

In defense of both my messy son and organized husband, they typically co-exist very well, like any good roommates should. It is only extreme 'Ben-isms' that push Garrett over the edge. An example would be Ben adopting two guinea pigs last March on a Sunday and then leaving them at our house and returning to college that same night. George and Randy continue to live in a cage in our garage to Garrett's complete chagrin.

But the best story of late is the story of a pair jeans. My apologies to both of my housemates as this story still makes me laugh and I can't resist sharing.

Let me provide some background so you can better understand my humor.

Garrett typically wears jeans by day. He keeps about four pairs at our Omaha home and cycles them through the week. When he does laundry, without exception, he pulls his jeans out of the washer and carefully drapes them on the banister outside the laundry room. For about twenty-four hours, the jeans air-dry with a perfect crease placed down the jean front. When the drying cycle is complete, Garrett folds them and puts them away. This is his jeans routine.

Also note that Garrett takes very good care of his belongings in general. Maintenance logs are kept on larger purchases and items like clothes and shoes are bought with care and well maintained.

And then there is my Benny. He believe in quantity over quality. A huge fan of Goodwill and on-line shopping for used jerseys, his daily attire has great variation. His clothing choice is most dependent on what is lying on the floor closest to him when he awakes. This routine has often failed Ben when daily clothing choices are limited by school (uniforms) or work (dress code). Disaster ensues when he can't locate his required wear in the sparing minutes his has in the morning.

This was the case a few weeks ago.

After hearing Ben's alarm and no movement, I sent a text to my middle child who was obviously not up. Within minutes, I could hear Ben scrambling down the hall. The sound of running footsteps with background shuffling was the first indicator that something had gone missing in Ben's life. I wrongfully assumed it was his keys.

Ben's summer job of working for the county maintenance crew gets him out of bed early. He works full-time mowing grass at parks and ditches, filling potholes with asphalt, trimming trees, etc... You get the picture.

Now back to Garrett's jeans. Post-Ben departure, Garrett asked the obvious...

"Where did my jeans go?"

Every morning Garrett prepares for me a cup of coffee to start my day. My sweet husband accepts my desire to push the snooze button. His gift of caffeine lures me off of my comfortable mattress. In his route up the stairs with coffee mug in hand, Garrett noticed that the two pairs of jeans he put out to dry the night before were now down to one.

Garrett's words, not the coffee, brought me out of my dead sleep. I immediately remembered Ben running the hallway earlier and his requirement of wearing jeans to work each day. As Garrett turned on the shower. I sent Ben a text.

His response came when I was out of the room and was seen first by Garrett. In shock, Garrett read Ben's answer back to me.

"I may have put them on??? DID HE SERIOUSLY WEAR MY JEANS TO WORK?" was Garrett's exasperated response. And then I did the unthinkable in a very stressful Garrett moment.

Like Chuckles the Clown at a funeral, I got the giggles. The situation and the wording of Ben's text came across to me as funny and I couldn't restrain my reaction.

Garrett wasn't a bit pleased. Both at Ben for taking his jeans and at me for my response. But in the end, Garrett gets the 'stepfather of the year' award for ultimately keeping his cool. We all survived, including the jeans. And Ben apologized to Garrett later. Kumbaya by dinner time.

I have noticed, as of late, that his jeans haven't been left to dry on the outside banister. It appears that Garrett has moved his preferred drying spot to our bedroom closet. And Ben is still having problems finding his jeans in the morning. Yesterday I noticed him wearing a 'fancy' pair with a tapered ankle style as he ran to his car to leave for work. Finding the selection odd, I questioned him on where they came from.

"Oh....I couldn't find my work jeans. I found these in Grant's closet. I think they are from 8th grade"

Noticing the two inch gap between ankle and foot, his story made perfect sense to me. My worry then moved to his socked feet with hopes that he had boots piled within the mounds appearing in the back seat of his car.

I do love my Felix and Oscar. They bring spice to our lives and make me smile every day. As I often remind myself, life would be boring if we were all the same.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 24, 2015: Bloom Where You are Planted

The phrase 'bloom where you are planted' keeps resonating with me. I'm not completely sure where the embedding began, but as of late, this catch phrase continually hits replay in my brain. I do feel like I am planted in a lot of different places these days.

Tonight I am in Omaha. And I'm at home. Just home (9:06 p.m.). But home nonetheless. Home means many different things to me. I confuse people with pictures of Denver on my blog and social media. I also confuse people with my spotty appearances and 'going quiet' for periods of time. The new norm.

"Did you move to Denver?" is a frequent question.

or "I haven't seen you in ages. Why have you dropped off the face of the earth?" is another.

Albeit the understandable confusion (apologies for past miscommunication and the inevitability of those in the future), I'm kind of everywhere these days. But the real answer is that most time is spent at 72nd and Center in Omaha, less time at my garden sanctuary in West Omaha, and even less time in my home-away-from-home in Denver.

The technical answer is that Garrett and I spend our weekends alternating time our respective children. What this logistically means is that every other weekend is with the Denver kids. All of my remaining days are in Omaha. The math on this, you ask? 6 days out of my monthly 30, including travel, are outside of Omaha.

Working the numbers back another layer (other than sleep and shuttling Omaha kid(s) in the rare occasions the youngest is home), most hours are spent at work. Central Omaha. Quite a change from 10 years-or-so-ago; pre-second marriage and pre-Think Whole Person Healthcare.

Understandably with social media and my favorite past time of blogging, people get confused on what I'm up to and where I reside. Quite frankly, I confuse myself sometimes. Thus my mantra of bloom where I am planted. I go where I need to be and then I just take it in stride and enjoy my surroundings.

Tonight as I enjoy a nightly rarity of sitting in my back yard while taking in the beauty of the blossoming vines crawling up trellises and blooming day lilies, I feel comfort. The memories of a stable home and a joy-filled existence give me comfort. I have always bloomed in my happy spot.

This backyard still fills with life even with the absence of little boy voices. Sounds abound in the form of wind blown branches, birds overhead, and buzzing insects. Home life is now more quiet than chaotic. The new chaos filling our days does not include summer play dates and backyard baseball.

Garrett and I are creatures of habit, prey to routine. Our collective routines have been turned upside down in the last two years due to many factors; work, kids, aging, marriage. Lots of change. Routines turned upside down. New surroundings bring new relationships and new opportunities.

We could resist. We could cave to follow what is perceived to bring happiness. But I am a believer that happiness is a choice. The where's and the what's in life aren't as important as the who's and the how's. Everyone needs to pave their own path and find their own bit of happy.

Omaha...Denver...long work days...coveted date nights...old friends...new people in our lives. And then those rare, but chance nights with our grown kids. Wonderful people and places exist around us when we choose to seek them out. Bloom where you are planted.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015: CWS Bliss

2001 College World Series photo with Kevin Costner ~ kids are thrilled ;)

The College World Series is back and Omahan's are loving life. Anyone who lives here or travels to enjoy the games knows what I'm talking about. There is a feeling of excitement as we wait for the eight teams to win their way to the final playing field of CWS Omaha. Watching these young men play from their heart, for their team, and for the love of the game is pure bliss. Definitely a favorite time of the year as we soak up the spirit of this annual Omaha summer tradition.

Like us Omahans, others from outside the confines of our Midwestern world are also enamored with the games.  They pour into our airport and flock our city by car to support their favorite team and watch the "best show on dirt".  Among these masses, we are also blessed each year with those of celebrity status.  Everyone from US Presidents to dignitaries, professional athletes, and actors come to our city to either throw the first pitch or quietly slip in to catch a game or two.  A common celebrity visitor of years past was Kevin Costner.  Scott was his assigned bodyguard for a couple of these years and through this constant interaction with Kevin and his then girlfriend (now wife), Christine, to golf outings, dinners and drives to and from the game; Scott was able to get an introduction and picture snapped with his family.  The noted picture is above.

As you take a close look at the picture, the keen eye can see that my boys aren't too interested in Kevin Costner.  We had come from the zoo prior to this picture and little Benny is holding a plastic penguin we had just purchased from there.  He had no idea that 1) a picture is being taken or 2) that someone else, and a celebrity no less, was even in the picture.  And although Zach is smiling (as he had been so well trained by his mother...sight of any lens in his face meant SMILE or suffer the consequences), the first question he asked when we walked away from this picture-taking excursion was "Who is Kevin Costner?"  Baby Grant is just waiting to get into the stadium for some cotton candy.  You get the picture.  So although Zach does truly appreciate the Rawlings wood baseball bat inscribed "Enjoy your own field of dreams, Zach" by Kevin, these aren't the CWS memories that my boys cherish.  Signed bats, caught foul balls, celebrity encounters...all great, but not what brings them back each year.  What brings them back are the great memories; those same stories they will be sharing with their kids when they take them to the CWS in years to come.

My boys could share with you their favorite plays over the years, favorite college players that went on to do great things in the majors, and the nail biter games that they enjoyed with their buddies in General Admission (best seats in the house according to them).  But the story that I will share is one that warmed this mom's heart as it encompassed the feeling of all that CWS is all about; love of the game, a win of a lifetime, and the experience of the fans being a part of this moment.

The year of my story was 2002, which was the summer following the Kevin Costner picture above.  Zach was nine and Ben was six.  Texas played South Carolina in the championship that year in the historic Rosenblatt Stadium.  For those familiar with the series, this was the last year of a single game championship, as the next year went to a best of three series.  Scott took our two oldest boys to the game with ball caps on and gloves in tow.  Both Texas fans, they were excited to say the least.  Grant and I watched via ESPN at home that day.  Following an exciting ending to a game that led to a championship win by Texas, I was anxious to hear from the boys their seeing and experiencing all the glory of this great CWS moment from the stands.  Little did I know of the unexpected, but incredible experience that they were a part of that afternoon.

Scott had the benefit of knowing the wife of the Texas coach.  Augie Garrido had coached Kevin Costner back in Kevin's Cal State Fullerton days and they were friends.  When Scott escorted Kevin and clan, Augie and Jeannie Garrido were always a part of the entourage.  Scott had gotten to know Jeannie over the years and would many times help her out as he was a staple within the CWS security staff.  On that championship day, Jeannie had run into Scott and the boys prior to the game as they exchanged small talk and pleasantries.  Later as Scott and boys watched the last out and joined in the cheers of the crowd in a great Texas win, Scott saw an incoming call on his phone.  It was Jeannie Garrido.  She told Scott to hurry down and bring the boys unto the field to celebrate with the team.  So with smiles from ear to ear and burnt orange "hook em horns" attire displayed proudly, they were swept through security to meet Jeannie and the team.  The boys were on the field as the team dog-piled in mass celebration.  The hugs, yells, cameras, and euphoria of the win swirled around their little tow heads.  They were smack dab in the middle of the media and team celebration frenzy and were loving every second of feeling a part of the winning team.

As the mayhem died down, the players signed baseballs for the boys with many pats to their heads and high fives on a hard fought win (as a point of reference...the bracket was 64 teams deep when Texas started their road to the championship).  While the team posed for media pictures, Zach quietly went out to home plate and filled his pocket with brown dirt from the now empty field.  Ben immediately saw what his brother was doing and did the same.  As they later told me their wide-eyed tale of the CWS win and celebration from the field, Zach showed me his signed ball and pulled out the treasure of field dirt from his pocket.  With the smile of a father who just shared a moment in time with his sons, Scott dug out some square plastic baseball covers and helped the boys display their signed balls with the saved dirt poured out of their pockets to cover the bottom of the encased displays.

It is now thirteen years later and although I had to dig in the basement for the picture of Kevin Costner, the ball and dirt are still displayed on a shelf in Zach's old room. There is no doubt that CWS is where many great memories are made.  And yes, that is what we call bliss.