Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017: Throw Away the List

Buffalo Wild Wings family feast
My mom has taught me many great lessons. One that has come up continuously while going through the motions of the daily hamster wheel is to #1) Throw away the list. And then next in quick order, #2) Completely forget about the list.

A real-life lesson from my mom happened about twelve years ago. It revolved around a trip with me out of town and my mom babysitting the boys. Back when the boys were young, it was common for Mom and Dad to fly to Omaha and tend to the house while we were away.

Homemade jammie pants on 2 boys and genuine smiles on all
Forever tied to a calendar, I would carefully map out the boys' schedules prior to our departure. Although I don't remember the exact calendar listings during that particular trip, likely it involved baseball practice, piano, and art lessons, to name a few. I might even have penciled in play dates to ensure there were no open spaces on the calendar <gasp>.

After mapping out my detailed instructions and leaving the boys in the caring and responsible arms of my mom, I flew the coup. Surely my itemized list of activities with addresses and emergency phone numbers would be cake for an old pro like my mom to handle.

I was correct.

But not in the way as intended.

Arriving home days later to open arms and with needless gifts in hand (Lesson #3 - don't buy useless toys. You will throw them away later!), I was eager to hear how my mom made out with the schedule and the boys. Unfortunately, my brain prioritized them in this order as well.

"Did you find everything okay? Any issues? Were they on time to their activities?" were my top-of-order questions.

Mom didn't flinch in her response.

"I threw the list away."

No words left my mouth as I looked at her, puzzled at what that statement could possibly mean.
Gramma teaching Grant how to sew

"I really threw it away. Sandy, I have never seen so many things planned for kids. Seemed silly to me, so I asked them. They all three agreed that they really didn't want to go to all that stuff anyway. So we threw it away."

With me in shock and the boys in a state of immense enthusiasm, they began to tell me of all the things they did over those few days their parents were gone. No worries on baseball practice, because they played in the backyard. And no worries on art because Grandma got out the paint set.

There was a lot of sleeping and playing in the basement. But there were also jammie pants made after sewing machine lessons were given. The house was not neat, but among the empty paint canisters sprawled across the kitchen table, there were hand-painted glasses with a matching pitcher. Each boy initialed his own design to mark his handiwork.

And then I smiled. Mom just schooled me as well. Who needs a list? A life unscripted is many times the best kind of life.

This last Sunday we followed Mom's advice and it was glorious.

Driving to church, Garrett and I were in the front. Grant was in the back.

Grant: "Mom, I'm really hungry for B-Dubs. We should drive to Lincoln and eat with Ben after church."

(note that a list a mile long of work, home, and personal projects are lingering in every recess of my brain)

<silent pause>

Garrett, who knows me better than anyone on this earth, looked at me and smiled.

Garrett: "You're  going to do it, aren't you?"

Me: "Yeah, I think we will."

So that's what we did. Dropping Garrett off at the airport after mass, Grant and I proceeded straight to Lincoln. Picking up Ben and watching the start of the Green Bay/Atlanta game, we had a great discussion on our varying political views. I learned a few new things about my near-adult sons and their opinions on the world today. A great reminder in these turbulent times that having opposing views is okay. Seek not to convert, but to understand a varying point of view.

Grant and I were on a roll. Next, we booked a last minute trip for Grant to visit his oldest brother in Colorado the following weekend. A visit to his grandparents in Bellevue in their new home followed and then the enjoyment of a Sunday sunset on our way back to West Omaha.

Next when Grant chose to follow his necessary list of homework, I chose to go to a random movie. By myself. I predicted that this off-market movie would gain Oscar nods, which later proved correct. I love a good movie. A great way to cap the day.

By 10:00 p.m., I was cozily tucked into my warm bed, realizing that I hadn't touched my computer all day. I can't remember the last time I went technology-free for almost an entire weekend. No lists. No pressure. And a completely fulfilling day full of life.

Although the boys have long outgrown their jammie pants and only one glass remains unbroken from the original set of four (the pitcher hasn't survived either), memories last a lifetime. As do life lessons.

When stressed over a full calendar or the length of the list, I always remember that 'throwing the damn thing away' is a viable option.

My mom said so.

The last glass 'standing'. Initials as CHL? Bets are on Ben making up an artist name.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1, 2017: Just Another Day...

Bud's the one in Creighton cap
Recently I was enjoying a holiday party with my investment group. I love these ladies and our monthly meetings together. Our December meeting is the only one set aside for conversations not revolving around stock decisions. Some light-hearted company, while catching up on each other's lives.

"Sandy, you have had an interesting year," noted one of my stock-picking comrades.

My knee-jerk answer was a self-reflection that has crossed my mind many times recently.

"I know. I don't get it. I'm actually a very boring person."

There have definitely been Forrest Gump-like encounters in my many ordinary days. As I view nothing in life as a coincidence, the well-planned orchestra of events around me can only be played if I act upon them. Some are good. Some are bad. But all have a purpose. It's up to me to open my mind and heart to both embrace them and then reflect on them.

Over the years this has been obvious when my path crosses with people of perceived high profile. Either a blessing or a curse for me, most times I haven't a clue on the people making up these special statuses. I love to hear people's stories. But the story of Joe-off-the-street carries much more weight in my memory than someone the media or society tells me is important.

Eight years ago there is a story that highlights my ignorance in this area. Invited to a local A-list event, I only knew this to be an A-list event because of the countless times I was reminded by others of the significance of my making this list. Confused but curious, as the event related to a welcoming party for a newly named hockey coach, I gave my RSVP as a Yes.

The same people reminding me of the importance of the event soon shared with me the attendee list, the who's who of the Omaha elite. The venue was a billionaire's 'barn' in the foothills of Ponca, outside of Omaha. I recognized some of the names told to me as we drove to the noted event, but not many. Like Alice entering Wonderland, I just saw this outing as a new adventure.

Arriving at the barn (which was more like an extravagant ballroom), I knew no one. Gathering my pre-printed name tag, I was pleased to discover that my decision to overdress for a barn party was spot on. The attire for this crowd was cocktail party casual. Alone and mingling among the crowd, I noticed an older gentleman who had just walked into the party. Thinking he was a newbie like me, I started a conversation with the kind-faced man. He simply introduced himself as Dean.

I soon found out that he had just moved to Omaha from out of town. Wanting to best acclimate him to the area, we exchanged pleasantries on where he was living and what parts of Omaha he had experienced. After a bit of sharing life, he told me the names and ages of his grandkids and that his first wife had died of cancer.

His new wife was moving things from their Minnesota home and would be joining him shortly. It was a lovely conversation and I found this man to be very friendly and eager to make his new home of Omaha a welcoming spot for his wife. After he noted some of my restaurant recommendations and places of interest to visit, he was pulled into another conversation.

The owner of the barn then took the stage. With everyone's attention, he introduced the honoree of the party to the crowd.

Our new hockey coach in Omaha. My new friend.

Dean grinned at me later as it was apparent I was oblivious to his special status while we conversed. But I think he appreciated the conversation. Authenticity can't be contrived nor can it be made up. And likely it doesn't abound at these A-list parties.

Fast forward to yesterday with a lot of similar stories during these eight years that have passed.

Grant and I went to the much anticipated Creighton-Villanova basketball game, just making it to our seats right before the national anthem. My friends in the seats around me immediately advised that there were special guests in the seat occupants to my right. I glanced over not recognizing the three young men seated there. Not picking up on the subtle comments made referring to the special status of one of the three, I smiled and said Hello to the man sitting next to me.

"Wrong guy, Mom! Terence Crawford is a famous boxer." Grant, to my left, was obviously appalled by my lack of skill in celebrity recognition.

I then gave a Hello to the man in red in the middle of the trio, acting like I was impressed with his celebrity status known to everyone but me.

Robbie, behind me, then nudged me, whispering in my ear.

"Not him. Bud Crawford is the one on the end in the Creighton stocking cap."

Three times is a charm.

Smiling with a wave to the correctly identified boxer of note, Bud smiled back at me.

I sent a text to my brother, Matt, trying to figure out the importance of Mr. Crawford. Matt is always knowledgeable on all things trivia and sports. I knew I could count on him.

Me: "Do you know who Bud Crawford is?"

Matt: "Pound for pound the best boxer on earth right now"

Oh, I thought. That's impressive.
I showed Bud Crawford and his posse my brother's text response, displaying brightly on my Apple Watch.

Bud smiled a sheepish and wide smile.

Throughout the game, media came by to interview my neighboring boxing standout. People asked for pictures with him and I enjoyed some interaction with Bud's friend sitting next to me. I photobombed his Twitter post from which his popularity quickly became apparent to me. I didn't know the picture was being posted on Twitter, but it came to my attention immediately as the 16-year-old crowd apparently follows him and notified my ecstatic son. Mom score.

And then the funniest and most Gumpish part of my story happened. The shirt toss during a time out.

Once or twice during every game, Billy Blue Jay and the Jays Cheer Squad throw Creighton t-shirts into the crowd. Carefully wrapped like bullets of cloth, this is a very popular timeout event. People jump up and down to get Billy's attention and then adults wrestle each other to the ground to gain possession of the coveted launched shirt.

As with every shirt toss, I never participate. My practical side knows that I don't need another t-shirt and it is likely the wrong size. So why would I fight those around me, especially the best boxer on earth, to gain a shirt?

Yesterday I followed my same routine as everyone around me was jumping up and down, elbowing each other to capture the prize. Sitting down, I pulled out my phone with crossed legs, cowering to get out of the way and check world events within the shadows of the humans standing around me. Waiting for Billy to pass my section in the stands, I quietly passed the time away.

And then my Gump moment happened.

With my phone in hand with the roars from the excited men surrounding me, the blue bullet of a shirt landed like slow motion through the flailing hands, gently finding its final resting spot between my wrists and phone. With combined gasps, the jumping humans, including my sixteen-year-old son, couldn't believe the bad luck handed to them and how the shirt ended up in my undeserving hands.

Looking up to the noted boxer and his posse, I asked the question.

"Do you want this shirt?'

The answer was a resounding Yes. They were like three kids in a candy shop.

So we took the picture above and I handed the shirt to the man in the blue, whom they collectively decided should be the lucky recipient. They were happy. I was smiling. You can't make this stuff up.

Ordinary days. Ordinary people. Finding collective joy in the small gifts life brings our way.