Monday, December 21, 2015

December 20, 2015: On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

The Christmas hand-off (in a bowling alley parking lot)
On the twelfth Day of Christmas....

We took a road trip to surprise my oldest son.

85.7 miles from our home in Denver to Zach's home of Fort Collins, Colorado.

My Partner in crime, Larry (a.k.a. father-in-law) accompanied me. I drove the first leg northward and he drove the last leg southbound. We have definitely become accustomed to our road trips together.

Until about noon on Sunday, this trip was unplanned. But as I have often found in life, it's the spontaneous, random acts that ultimately carry the most meaning.

Feelings from the heart are many times unplanned. Spurred by a word, memory, or observation while going through the daily motions of life, the gut and the heart are rarely wrong. It's just the practicality of the head that sometimes gets in the way.

As part of our Christmas weekend with the Denver kids, we enjoyed a Broadway show, along with dinner celebrations and gift openings. And although Zach, my now grown son, lives nearby in Fort Collins; he was too busy with his new job to join us.

Our Sunday plans included joining the other 25 million or so Star Wars fans this weekend in seeing the well anticipated movie opening. In preparation, Garrett bought the original six movies on-line. The Star Wars movie marathon began on Friday night and continued through Sunday afternoon.

I was flooded with memories of Zach and his brothers while watching these movies. Although all three boys loved everything Star Wars, with Zach it was a childhood obsession. Every character and battleship was an owned toy, book or guy that littered the floor of our toy room. Little Zach would beg to watch the Star Wars movies over and over on our VCR/TV combo that played continuously to its audience of tots.

This weekend I found myself sitting in Denver, enjoying Zach's favorite without him while staring at his unopened gifts under the Christmas tree. He and I exchanged a couple of texts on the 'good old days' with memories of favorite pod-racer and light-saber toys. But then I suddenly felt empty. The realization sunk in that Zach would be spending his first Christmas alone.

Zach's 2nd Christmas
This Friday will be Zach's 23rd Christmas. Being the first born, he enjoyed his first three Christmases as an only child and the rest, he was surrounded by his brothers and expansive family. Zach has always been with family on this favorite holiday.

With nine kids and 30 or so grand kids, my kids couldn't wait to spend Christmas with their Lane cousins and relatives. The floor would be filled with gifts for every grandchild and without an inch of counter space to spare for more food as the Lane's celebrated together.

My family was always near as well. There were trips to Iowa or Vegas and many holiday meals at our Omaha home with Aunt Joan playing Christmas carols on the piano, while dishes were washed and presents unwrapped.

But this year would be different for Zach. Year 23 brings his first year out of school and with the real job. And his job in the gun industry is very busy at Christmas (don't shoot your eye out?). He will work Christmas Eve and the Saturday after Christmas. Nestled in between is Christmas Day. With no time to spare, Zach will stay put in Fort Collins. And his family will be everywhere but there.

My heart sank at the thought.

A new first.

Although his gifts will be opened when his brothers joined us post-Christmas, I kept picturing him home alone on the day itself. No gifts to open. No Lane white elephant exchange. No Christmas stocking. No big Christmas feast with family.

So I made up my mind. I was going to make the drive and get him his gifts and some food for his own feast on Christmas Day. Not the same, but something to provide some extra cheer.

With Larry in tow, we set off to make the drive north. I decided to surprise Zach so he couldn't talk me out of it. And I knew he was in town as he was enjoying his company Christmas party. Another first.

A trip to a Fort Collins SuperTarget scored a mini Christmas tree, burgers, steak, mac n cheese,
mashed potatoes, bread, bacon wrapped peppers, and some Gatorade. One more stop at the liquor store resulted in Guiness and Breckenridge Ale. Desert.

And then the phone call to Zach.

Me: "Zach, where are you at?"

Zach: "My company Christmas party. Remember?"

Me: "Okay. Can you tell me where exactly? I have your presents here for you."

Zach: "Like in Fort Collins?"

And then he proceeded to give me directions. Another phone call later, he came out to the parking lot to meet us, asking why we were in Fort Collins. Explaining it was a 'destination Zach' trip, he was still a bit confused, but happy with his goodies to take home.

The smile on his face and the thank-you call later was all I needed as reinforcement on the decision. The spontaneous trip and time on the road was a night well spent.

Merry Christmas, Zach Lane!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17, 2015: Enjoying Friendships and the New Norm....

Lunch with my dear friend, Patty Johnson
I now have time on my hands.

That is new for me. And I like it.

Driving Grant to school yesterday, he and I were discussing logistics on getting him to bowling practice.

Grant: "Mom, do you have time to take me?"

Me: "Grant, I have all the time in the world."

Grant: "Oh yeah. I forgot."

And then I went on to tell him that I could now fill the role of stay-at-home mom. His response was an expression that appeared close to shock. But being the good boy that he is, he just smiled and ended the conversation. My conclusion was that most 15 year old's don't think a more 'hands on' mom is a good idea. But he'll warm up to it, I'm sure.

With Grant's semi-dissing, I moved on to Larry, my father-in-law and partner in crime. Garrett often comments that he feels like the third leg when the three of us are together. I remind him that Larry is just showing me the ropes on being retired. At least for the short term.

Larry and I are a good team. We fill our days with planning our meals and other daily routines. An occasional 4:00 beer at the local pub is welcome as well. The young bartender asked yesterday how my retirement was going. Larry then told me we were one step away from being regulars. Okay. I will follow the lead of my mentor.

The other plus on an open calendar....lots of openings for spending time with dear friends. Although I want to call it the 'listening tour', I do plenty of talking as well.

Today was lunch with Patty. We shared life for two hours and it was divine. Other than interruptions from my kids, it was a quiet solace with a dear friend. It was a great reminder to me on the importance of getting off the crazy train. Learning from the journeys of others carries a much higher weight. That takes time. And it takes being present.

After an afternoon of used book shopping with Larry and other miscellaneous errands, we had dinner with Russ and Robbie. I have known this favorite couple since I was 17 years old. I attended their wedding 29 1/2 years ago. With starry eyes I learned about young love from a college couple with a baby. Sweet Baby Russ. 1986 seems like yesterday. It all felt so magical way back when. Now the kids are grown and Russ and Robbie are planning their 30 year wedding anniversary. Who ever would have projected forward to our life tonight at Roja, 30 years later?

There are happy endings. There is no doubt. Enjoying the ride while appreciating the company and advice of our friends is just frosting on the cake.


Finishing the night with dinner with forever friends, Robbie and Russ

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16, 2015: And the Stockings Were Hung...

Rakha, Benny, Grant, Cookie and Larry

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love sent to me...

A peaceful existence. A blessing better than the most expensive gift.

And the stockings were hung at the chimney with care...

We are hanging in the living room. Garrett had a meeting tonight, so a late dinner was planned. A bacon wrapped pork loin is in the oven. Steamed fresh vegetables will be prepared shortly. Larry and I are sipping on wine with some basketball on the TV. He did flip to Barbara Walters interviewing Donald Trump. Interesting.

The socked foot below is that of my father-in-law, Larry. Grant has been meandering around the house, waiting for big brother, Ben, to arrive home from Lincoln. Both anxious to begin their Christmas breaks from school. They are also anxious to spend time together and with their family.

In true Ben form, his arrival day had mysteriously moved from Monday night to Wednesday night. When asked by my husband on the reason for the move, I didn't know, but assumed a changed day for his final exam.

Never assume with Ben.

This afternoon he explained. Ben was waiting for a roommate who needed a ride to Omaha and to the airport. So Ben stayed back for him.

There were also a couple of small details that he hadn't shared with me. First, the roommate was coming to our house for dinner and second, the outbound flight isn't until 3:00 a.m. All good to know at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Welcome home, Benny Lane. Life has been quiet without you.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

December 13, 2015: Homeward Bound

I'm on a jet plane flying home. Denver first to reach Garrett's destination. And then I will board another plane to my final destination of Omaha. My arrival time to home will likely be midnight.

All good. A great weekend was had in the city that never sleeps. And although I enjoyed the round-the-clock entertainment, I am hopeful Omaha proves to be more peaceful.

I did fail to mention in my last blog the street party outside our hotel that awoke us at 4:30 a.m. With loud voices muffled by blaring music, Garrett got up observe our unplanned wake-up call.

His report back to me was descriptive. There were three cars parked in the street outside our hotel window. With opened doors, music channeled out of the cars with the apparent dozen or so occupants dancing in the streets. A party. We still haven't a clue what they were celebrating, but the noise eventually dissipated shortly after Garrett's observation.

Yesterday's NYC activities for us included visiting the 9/11 Memorial, walking Battery Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, and taking in a Broadway Show. The bookends of our day were coffee at Joe's in the morning with our final hurrah a birthday dinner at the Chef's Club.

Following a timeline that is typical of NYC and that of our enthusiastic friends, coffee was at 11:00 a.m. and dinner at 11:00 p.m. My final logged steps of the day were recorded as the firsts of Sunday.

We had spectacular weather for this holiday get-a-way. Light jackets felt too much at times. Food, entertainment and company were equally fabulous. Although we missed the much anticipated coconut filled doughnut (only baked on weekdays. who knew?), lunch was an Italian venue in the Seaport District. I chose the chef's special of daily prepared mushroom-filled ravioli. An outstanding choice. Our late-night dinner was even more impressive with spare-ribs for two. Another chef's special coupled with a nice Bordeaux wine.

Al in character as Mickey Ross
The Broadway show featured Al Pacino. China Doll. Our front row seats offered us a birds eye view of this aging, but ultra-talented actor. There were only two actors in the entire show centering around a wealthy man, his young fiancee, and an airplane. The show didn't get great reviews, but seeing the legend perform within arms reach was fascinating. Thoughts of Michael from the Godfather, all grown up, were front and center of my mind.

Today included a wonderful lunch in Chinatown. We enjoyed dim sum. A cuisine new to me. Very good! I only wish I had a road map of the ingredients in the many dumplings I enjoyed.

I would be amiss not to note that Garrett and I did take a wrong turn off of the subway. By the time we made it to our dim sum, my Microsoft Band alerted me that I had met my step goal for the day. Garrett, the guilty one in charge of the map, quickly reminded me of my previously logged steps after our late night/early morning dinner.

The weather couldn't have been more cooperative for our missteps. So I forgave him. And whether a 1:00 a.m. walk back to our hotel or a brisk morning walk through Chinatown, people were swarming the sidewalks and streets.

New York City. The city that really never sleeps.

Now Garrett is snoozing next to me, hoping to change up the karma of his losing Broncos. The Southwest Flight Tracker says we are 2 hours and 14 minutes until landing. Tomorrow we will back to normal. Well, at least the new normal.

Tomorrow will also signify Day 6 of my self-proclaimed 24 Days of Christmas. Day 24 will land on New Year's Day. Seems appropriate. Then a new chapter officially begins.

Until then, it's a full-fledged celebration of life with those who matter most. NYC was a perfect kick off...

Picture taken from the Brooklyn Bridge

Saturday, December 12, 2015

December 11, 2015: On the Third Day of Christmas...

Christmas in New York
On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me...

A fabulous weekend in New York City with friends who are best of the best. The Snide's. Goodness and fun oozes from this couple.

As we boarded our flights from our respective home bases of Columbus and Omaha, texts were flying back and forth on plans for our first day in NYC. Like kids readying for a visit to Santa, excitement was abound.

Cindy and Rick, of the Snide duo, have been long-time friends. Garrett knew them first through a business peer group and later introduced me. Our couples journey started as we sat by each other at a group business dinner in Toronto, Canada. It has since been five years of laughs, traveling, and general 'over-40' amusement.

Although the base of our commonalities start with an authenticity in friendship, we share similar life stories. Second marriages, lots of combined kids, and the resulting blending of families. Our love for life and for our life partners is aligned. And our life challenges along the way that come with our life stories, very similar as well.

We have shared many joint travels together. Although some have included our combined kids, most others have not. Our destinations have included Dallas, Orlando, Toronto, San Antonio, Chicago, Annapolis, Pismo Beach, and Yosemite Park. Not to mention various ski trips to the Rockies and visits to Columbus and Omaha. Now we can add NYC to the list. Our latest adventure.

Our main attractions yesterday were a Rockettes show and a visit to Rockefeller Plaza. The 'in between' was filled with some great food and conversation. But our night of fun continued with each couple taking different paths. Although not the planned route, sometimes life puts a fork in the road.

Rick and Cindy had a full night with a Comedy Cellar show and late dinner at Minetta Tavern. Garrett and I, on the other hand, ended up in an urgent care and later at a Walgreen's near Washington Park. In a nutshell, the sinus infection I have been battling, coupled with lack of sleep as of late, had finally caught up to me.

I ended up with an antibiotic and over nine hours of sleep, after dining on Whole Food take-out in our hotel room. Glorious. I'm a new woman ready for a fun-filled Saturday.

And my healthcare experience in New York City, you ask?

It was actually quite good.

The urgent care is part of a chain called CityMD. We walked about ten city blocks to find our destination. It was clean and well run. Our full experience, from walking in the door to leaving with prescriptions in hand, was less than an hour. The Walgreen's was a mega store, selling sushi and made-to-order smoothies.

Nothing happens in life without a story or a laugh. At least not for me. Here are two quick ones before a close my little synapses of our day.

As Garrett and I sat in the urgent care room, the sweet young nurse asked me the variety of questions needed to update my demographics files. She was foreign, but spoke good English. When she reached the question, 'What is the reason for your visit', I gave her my answer.

"We are visiting and touring. Seeing the sites."

Silence filled the room as she seemed confused. I wondered if her English wasn't as good as I thought and she didn't understand. But then I looked at Garrett and he appeared puzzled too.

"Sandy, she wants to know why you are visiting the clinic, not New York City."

We all laughed at my very blond moment. And although she was happy to hear we had fun plans for our weekend, she ultimately typed into the computer 'sinus infection'.

Our Walgreen's wait sets the stage for my second story. This time, I didn't say a word, but was an observer of the humans of New York. As we were waiting for our prescription to be filled in the pharmacy area, an older gentleman joined us. He shuffled with a cane and struggled to find his seat in the 'waiting section'.

With a sigh of relief when he finally got situated in his chair, he pulled out a paper bag covering a large can. In an explosive moment, he opened the can with an eruption of beer suds shooting all over him.

"God damn it anyway! That was a good beer."

Without another word spoken, he threw a newspaper over the mess on the floor after he casually shook off his arms. Later he drank from the now-half-filled covered can after the suds had settled. And then he picked up his completed prescription in line before me with can in hand.

Only in New York.

Today is purportedly SantaCon. It is a mass gathering and pub crawl where thousands of people dressed as Santa pour into the city. Rick and Cindy witnessed this last year. Based on their visual description of the event and the 65 degree forecast, today is bound to be an interesting day.

AND most importantly, today is Cindy's birthday! Let's do this....

Garrett and Sandy's dinner for two last night
(prescription sprawled to the left, Garrett's foot to the right and edge of my hotel robe at the bottom)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 10, 2015: On the Second Day of Christmas...

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me....

No turtle doves. But I have gotten some clarity. And clarity is a good thing.

My aha moment came as I laid in bed last night. I thought about the many people I encountered throughout my day and felt reinforcement that there really was still good in the world. Good people. Genuine people living their lives with purity of motive. Although I was beginning to doubt, kind souls keep crossing my path when I least expect it.

My new found clarity is in regards to my approach on life and people in general.

As Garrett and I were starting our morning, I explained to him my thought process.

"Garrett, I think I had it all wrong. I spent too much time trying to find the good in people rather than finding the good people."

He paused, reflecting on my comment.

"I never thought about it that way, but that makes a ton of sense."

My mom taught me that not all people are good. Point taken. I now understand. But there is also a middle ground where I have spent way too much time focusing my efforts. Searching for the good in people rather than just aligning with the good ones.

Although it is always admirable to try to find good in everyone and everything, that should be an unnecessary step for those aligned closest to you. My inner circle should only be the good people, not those whom I make excuses for bad conduct. My pointing out their 'good traits' not does not override the bad.

I think most can relate to this. A friend, a boss, a boyfriend who continually make bad choices or display poor behavior. Although they have admirable traits, does the good really wipe out the bad? And do our defensive tactics ever prove to be worth 'the fight' for these people? Typically not.

As I explained my 'aha moment' to my father-in-law later, he completely agreed.

"Sandy, I always told Garrett when he was growing up that he was an extension of the people he surrounded himself with."

Although finding good in people is very honorable, it shouldn't automatically give them stake to your own personal reputation. People without purity in motive tend to ride the coattails of the good guys. An unfortunate fact of life. Who wouldn't want a kind friend who made excuses for them and defends them?

My new mission is to not only look for the good people in my future journey, but to reconnect with all of the good people I have met along the way. And the list is long.

I have entitled a page in my notebook "List of People to Meet". Yesterday I added four names to the list. Today I added two more. Great recommendations from the good guys I have known for years. The ones in the white hats.

Names have varied from business leaders to advocates of great charitable causes to past patients I have dealt with in healthcare. I look forward to both a growing list and a full calendar of meetings.

I would love to know the people who rank on your list. Those who have impacted you with wise words and who carry out their lives in an honorable way. Those who make a big contribution to a better world.

And as Mother Teresa so eloquently pointed out "Never worry about the numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you." A big contribution is as much one person as a thousand.

I will take any and all recommendations. No one is insignificant and no one unattainable. I have always followed the motto, you can never get a yes if you don't ask.

Let the listening tour begin...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 9, 2015: On the First Day of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me....

Not a partridge. But a great day. Lemonade came in many forms.

Here's a quick synopsis:

5:30 a.m. - Ran with my gal pals. Bearing my soul to my best confidants under the light of the pre-sunrise moon: Priceless.

7:00 a.m. - Climbed back into my warm bed with sleeping hubby. Thoughts of catching another hour of shut eye were diffused by a tempting hot bath. With a cup of morning coffee prepared by my thoughtful husband, I wallowed in hot water and bubble bath glory.

9:00 a.m. - Haircut and color by my long-time hairdresser. My every six week appointments are as much sanity as vanity as she and I take turns playing mentor and counselor to each other. Hair is still brown. Hints of gray have now disappeared. Curls are added.

11:30 a.m. - Robbie stops by to pick up Creighton tickets. Lots of laughs over the newly 'retired' couple making lunch and planning their days. Always love our Robbie. Lots of lemonade to go around.

12:30 p.m. - Picked up my favorite father-in-law from the airport and delivered him to our home in West O. Shared life in the best way...I was a good listener.

2:30 p.m. - Took noted father-in-law to a doctor appointment. Although I let him go in solo, I saw many familiar faces during pick up. Lots of hugs and joy. Reassurance that good people not only exist, but are abound.

4:30 p.m. - Dropped prescriptions off at Walgreen's. With a promised 20 minute wait, made a joint executive decision. Larry and I passed the wait time with Stella Artois at Oscar's. More listening. Lots of sharing and reinforcement of all that is right in the world.

5:30 p.m.- Wings and pizza ready for home crew. Grant home from bowling practice. From football to bowling. Grateful for a busy 15 year-old.

6:30 p.m. - Investment Club Holiday Party. Perfect way to end the day. Just like the start, with a class act of women. The Yanney's were wonderful hosts. And the view from the 28th floor of the Woodmen Tower, spectacular.

Listening came in handy once again with these well-respected professional women. There were stories of meager beginnings as well as those with joyful endings. With many suggestions, my list grows of people to meet with over the next months. So much to take in and such little time.

And now?  It's about 9:30 and I am watching Elf with Grant and Larry. That movie never gets old. Especially on the First Day of Christmas. And the company? Extraordinaire.

The hubby will be home soon. The rest of us are making our plans for tomorrow. I think I can get used to this....