Monday, December 24, 2007

Tomorrow, tomorrow

Though I have no construction paper chain, my own barometer is telling me it's Christmas tomorrow!

How do I know (besides the obvious date on the calendar, of course)?

Because it's in the air. Everywhere.

At work today, people seemed more relaxed; they seemed to actually listen to people when they weren't talking about work. I noticed editors lingering to chat longer, even some giving holiday cards, some smiling. People are generally nice at work, but today just felt an extra bit so. Nobody seemed rush.

There was no traffic either, no waiting for a treadmill at the gym. No hassle at all. Everything was easy.

That must mean it's Christmas.

We have our shopping done, too. All we do now is wait. Aside from frosting cookies tonight and putting away clean laundry, we just savor the time.

We wait for Santa to squeeze down the chimney, sleep to sweep us away and morning to wake us with the promise of presents and time together.

I can't wait.

Check out Dane's blog for how he and Rye spent the morning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Under the tree

I found a present for me under our tree tonight.

I know exactly what it is.

And I CAN'T WAIT to open it.

It's strange sort of. I mean, I knew I was getting these totally cool Nike running shoes I designed myself for Christmas. But I wasn't completely sure who I was getting them from. Tonight, while attempting to put the cheap train set around the tree (I quickly discovered Mommy was a bit too ambitious in thinking the little bit of track we have would stretch all the way around the evergreen sprouted in our living room), I noticed the box.

It's wrapped and beautiful.

The tag says to me, from Phidippides.

Very clever.

And now that I know they are RIGHT there, I have this sense of I'm-9-again-tearing-off-the-construction-paper-rings-on-the-countdown-chain-in-my-bedroom-I-can't-wait-to-open-my-presents excitement.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This was in our mailbox tonight.

Dane pulled it out -- two sheets of folded-up white notebook paper. No envelope. On the outside was written: "Yes, this letter is for you."

It's mysterious and odd and troubling. The letter writer left no name or contact information. She asks us to help her by helping others.

OK, sure. But I'd also help her if she wanted. Instead, she's left us with this burden, a secret of hers that I'm not sure what to do with. It's a bit like the Post Secret blog my sister clued me in to. People send their deepest secrets away to a stranger. He posts them online.

It must be cathartic.

I've been wondering -- did she drive by, window rolled down, eyes scanning houses for the perfect mailbox? Did she write other letters? Did she like our Christmas lights? Why us?

If this helped her, if it really truly did, then I'm more than happy to have gotten the letter, read it, thought about it.

But if it didn't, if it's a joke, then I'm not impressed.

It's strange either way. But I think it's real.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Omaha

We're launching a package called "My Omaha" tomorrow in the paper.

It was Dane's idea -- ask regular people what Omaha means to them, how they would define the city. The premise was that while Omaha is now lumped with Columbine, Virginia Tech and other places where random, senseless shooting sprees have claimed lives, the shooting at Westroads a week and a half ago does not define us. So let's see how the people who live here define it.

Great idea. I was interested in helping and so volunteered to either help coordinate the effort or do interviews. I ended up going to an outdoor shopping center to interview strangers. I never really love the cold "Hi, my name is Veronica, I write for the World-Herald, can I ask you a few questions?" approach, but the interviews went OK. We'd been told to make the tales as personal as possible, so I prodded people to dig deeper and offer anecdotes.

I thought I did pretty well.

At least one of my editors thought differently. She wanted an even deeper level of reflection, something even she acknowledged was difficult to get in a man on the street interview. So I ended up calling a few of the folks back.

I wasn't especially happy about this. But the product did end up better as a result.

I read through some of the stories other reporters got on Friday. Many Omahans said they love the city because of how friendly and willing to help people are.

We saw it firsthand tonight.

For my mom's birthday, we ate at Old Chicago. Afterward, as we were leaving, my mom's car got stuck in the snow. Her rear-wheel drive couldn't get her up a small incline in the parking lot. Dane tried to push, then I joined in the effort. We weren't doing much good. But not a minute had passed when three guys got out of their car and came over to help. Five seconds later, another guy came. I gladly got out of their way. Within a minute, my mom and sister were unstuck.

All thanks really to the strangers who stopped what they were doing, interrupted their immediate plans to lend a hand.

It was something to see.

My 2-year-old watched from our car. Dane and I got back in, and I asked Rye if he'd seen what happened. "Yeah," he said. "Grandma and Ashley were stuck. Those guys helped her."

Yes, I said. That was nice.

"Yeah," Rye said. "Daddy and Mommy helped, too. Now, she's not stuck anymore."

It was a small thing those guys did, but it left a big impression.

Our Omaha.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunday afternoon

We threw out even the notion of a nap today in favor of fun.

Childhood fun for sure. Parenthood fun was questionable, but there is always the promise of vicarious enjoyment at least.

Turns out going to the Omaha Children's Museum on a chilly, snowy Sunday is a great idea, mainly because it was nearly empty.

We got there shortly after it opened and I was surprised when not one other coat covered a hook in the hang-up-your-coat area. Usually, I stuff ours into a corner on the floor because it's so packed.

Apparently, cold weather scares folks off.

Fine with us.

We spent three hours at this place filled with life-sized plastic cows, pigs, sheep and stalks of corn.

We ran around stuffing balls into tubes and jumping up and down before they fell on our heads from the giant receptacle in the middle.

We danced in a weird heat-imaging darkroom-type place to strange reggae music.

We spent at least an hour in the toddler-baby room where you have to (read: GET to) take your shoes off, and we threw pillows at each other, stretched out on gymnastics-type mats and then, finally, played with babies. We dressed them, fed them, swaddled them in blankets, and I got to hold them for a really long time. Oh, and Rye also burned one on the stove. He thought this was funny.

Dane and I do not think this is funny.

But I was still happy to play with dolls. Ah, the daughter I always wanted!

Seriously, though, we did our fair share of boy tiger-roaring, fire-truck driving and running frantically around. I'm not worried.

I had dressed Rye in two layers of pants to ward off the chill. But it was warm in the Children's Museum, all the more so because we had three hours straight.

Just the two of us.

Playing dolls and firefighters and farmers.


You can't beat a Sunday afternoon like that.

Friday, December 7, 2007

'It happened here' and all those other euphemisms we've been using

This week's tragedy at Westroads has left us all changed.

Work hasn't been the same, mostly because the entire newsroom is focused on following the story, but also because it happened here.

We all know people who very easily could have been at that mall at 1:45 on Wednesday afternoon. We could have been there. Our children could have been there, our mothers, our friends, our friends' wives. The voices on the chilling 911 tapes we heard today could be people we know. They live here, where we live.

That's not supposed to happen. Aren't we invincible?

It's scary.

My role at work so far has been to play public relations guru (I'm a quick learner, and I suppose my pool experience didn't hurt: "I'm sorry, ma'm, but you just can't smoke while swimming with your toddler."). It was fun and overwhelming and a bit adrenaline-pumping at first. I talked to journalists in Ireland, Wales, London, New Zealand, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Canada. I did many interviews Wednesday night when our crew was too busy figuring out exactly what had happened, who had killed these innocent people and who these innocent people were.

Yesterday and today, I hooked folks like MSNBC up with reporters in our newsroom who still didn't want to but had time to talk.

It's been a lot of work, and I'm more than ready to give the PR job up. I'm realizing tonight, though, as I sit at home, my son sleeping safely upstairs, that the work, the fast-paced pressure of it all, has kept it surreal for me, almost as if it didn't happen. Because of the work I haven't had time to process it at all. Now, I'm finally starting to.

Police released surveillance tapes of the kid walking into the mall and his suicide notes and audio of some of the 911 calls. In one, all you can hear is the 911 operator asking "what's your emergency? Hello? Hello?" and gun shots. Rifle shots piercing dead air.

One can guess the caller had been shot.

I don't know what we take from this. It really could happen anywhere. And all you can do really is hope it doesn't.

My instinct is to stay away from Westroads, though I am curious about what the scene will be like, feel like tomorrow morning when it reopens. More than that, my instinct is to think twice about ever leaving the house.

But you can't do that. I know.

Life goes on, and we should just be thankful we have the chance each day to go out and live it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Perspective where you least expect it

I gave blood at the Red Cross donation center Tuesday, and a nearing 50 man named Kelly conducted the pre-donation run-through.

He pricked my finger to test my iron, took my temperature and my blood pressure and asked some questions.

He made small talk, too, although he seemed uncomfortable doing it. I wanted to tell him he didn't have to talk to me; I wasn't feeling all that social either.

But he saw the Runner's World magazine I'd brought with me and asked if I was a runner.

I was, I said.

So is my son, he said.

I nodded.

Where does he go to school? I asked.

Nebraska Wesleyan.

Does he like it? I said.

Kelly shrugged. "Quiet kid. Doesn't talk much."

Sadness sort of surrounded this man, but I felt like he was genuinely trying. I wondered if he liked his job.

Later, I asked how my iron level was. It was great, he said. I told him that was good because I'm a vegetarian.

"My wife was a vegetarian, too," he said.

I noticed the "was" but didn't say anything. He went on to tell me she worked in trauma at one of the hospitals here and the scenes there were what turned her off to meat.

But, he said, after they married, he convinced her to eat meat again. He smiled.

And then a few minutes later: "She died last year."


"I'm sorry," I said.

What else do you say?

So tonight I went to Wal-Mart, and the kid cashier was chatty.

I was buying Cold Duck, a kind of champagne, for Dane because Cold Duck spritzers were always Christmas tradition at his house. The kid asked me why it was called Cold Duck. I had no idea.

At his house, he said, family tradition to was to sit around and get drunk on rum and vodka.

When he was 4, he said, it was his birthday party and his grandpa was outside on the back porch drinking, though he was already drunk. The kid and his cousin, being kids, ran around and shot Grandpa with squirt guns.

Later, Grandpa got them back. He came INTO THE HOUSE with a garden hose, soaking everything. Even the birthday cake.

"He died last year," the kid told me. He was 70. But that's what you get, he said, for smoking and drinking every day of your life.

I offered something about 70 being a long life, as I plucked plastic bags from that stupid Wal-Mart spinner, wishing I'd remembered my reusable canvas ones from the car.

Then: "My step-dad died just last week."

I busied myself locating the debit card in my purse.

"He was only 35."

Heart attack.

"I'm sorry," I said.

What else do you say?

I'm fairly certain I've never had a stranger tell me about losing a loved one before, unless I was interviewing him or her for a story. Ever.

So if I believed in God, I bet I'd think this was some sort of sign.

Now, I have no idea what it means. Maybe just a strange coincidence.

Either way, I drove home to my husband and my son, healthy and reading Elmo books upstairs. I thought about Thanksgiving last week, the race I ran, the family we ate with and the others I talked to on the phone.

Everyone's healthy, fairly successful, mostly happy. That's a pretty big thing.

And I'm thankful for it, though sometimes I forget.

I'm going to work more on not forgetting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Free to a good home

Warning, dog people: This post is about cats.

The chore I hate most is cleaning the litter box. I don't mean just scooping it out, which I do nightly and isn't really that bad. I mean actually emptying it and washing out the boxes.

I'm fairly certain I'm supposed to do this once a month or so, maybe every couple months. I hadn't done it since we moved here. That was 2 years and 4 months ago.

So I knew it was something I had to do.

I'm also on this let's-go-as-green-as-we-can kick lately, plus I'm sick of little cat litter kernels all over the basement. So I found this all-natural litter called Feline Pine, and it's not litter at all. It's little sticks of pine, apparently from a tree. It was on sale at Target, so last night I bought 20 pounds of it.

And this morning I emptied and washed the boxes and swept up the area. I wore a dust mask, and it was still like inhaling dirty clay.

I really, really hated it.

To top it all off, I had decided for some dumb, dumb reason to wear the very cool race T-shirt I got at the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and I splattered bleach on it. So now little spots of white dance across the front of the deep blue shirt.


And here's the kicker:

When I finished cleaning up the whole dirty area downstairs and filling the boxes with a little of the pine and a little of the old (cats are smarter than you think; they know when you've changed something that matters to them, so I'm attempting to introduce the pine gradually), I at least felt productive.

But 10 minutes later, I found a gift from one of our cats on the floor downstairs, far, far away from the newly cleaned boxes. On the carpet.

So they're all up for adoption.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Night and day

The race I ran Saturday morning was about as different from the art auction I found myself at Saturday night as could be.

Saturday morning was so amazing I'm still thinking about it, two full days later.

After considerable debate (read: self-doubt), I finally decided to run this race billed as the world's largest cross country race. It's called Living History Farms and it's just outside of Des Moines. Nearly 7 miles of trail running.

Cara and I were lucky enough to go with someone who had run the race four times before. Bryan drove us straight there, took us on a warm up, patiently explained the course to us and didn't even seem mad when my wait in the porta-potty line beforehand caused us to be way too far back in the starting area. We also stayed for free at his friend's house the night before.

I had no idea beforehand how 6,800 runners -- some more serious than others - would translate on a hilly, muddy course. Turns out it doesn't work all that well. The race started, and we didn't move for at least five minutes. When we did, we shuffled and then jogged and then came to a halt again. This went on for a while, and finally we got going, only to find we were stopped again while the large crowd of runners narrowed to fit into a tunnel under a bridge.

Cara and I spent much of the race weaving in and out of people, many in costume and others who were just running much slower than we wanted to go.

When we came to the first creek, about two miles in, everyone stopped again, apparently trying to figure out the best strategy. Cara and I forged straight ahead, jumping into the chilly knee-deep water. I slipped trying to climb up the muddy embankment, and someone pushed me up from behind. Someone else was lending a hand from up above.

We ran on, plunging through more creeks, jumping over logs and piles of mulch, climbing hills and flying down them. Cara and I took turns leading until the last mile when she pushed ahead of me, up a long gradual hill. I watched her up ahead and tried to focus on catching her again throughout the last half mile or so. I couldn't quite do it, but I didn't care at all. I felt so much like I belonged at this race. And really I didn't want it to be over.

Afterward, Bryan was there waiting as I came through the finish chute. He'd had time to go to the car to fetch our jackets. We found Cara, I ditched the wet, muddy knit gloves, and we asked a stranger to take our picture. Then we ate glazed donuts without an ounce of guilt and finally decided to head for the car.

I was ready to go but not really. Like with anything I really look forward to, I couldn't believe it was already over. Running this race Saturday, feeling a part of something, was really, really cool.

Saturday night, I went with Dane to a place that I could tell he thought was really, really cool. The Bemis, an art gallery where I'd never even been, was having an auction, and this was obviously quite the social event. Waitresses carried hors deuvres on trays, and just about everyone seemed to know everyone else. Girls were wearing leopard-print dresses with gold shoes and tiny black dresses with dark eyeliner and all sorts of things in between. The men, too, were wearing all sorts of clothes. One, who people call Jesus, had the tightest jeans anybody's ever seen. There was actually a discussion about the missing bulge.

To me, most of these people seemed to be trying a little too hard. But what do I know?

Regardless, Dane was having a great time. He's way more into art than I am - just like I'm way more into running than he is -- and it was cool to see him having fun.

Here's to more days like Saturday, ones that fit like a wet, muddy glove or a pair of tight, bulgeless jeans.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Better than nothing

It's not Colorado -- not even close -- but I got several glimpses of nature Saturday.

Sandwiched in between two busy streets is a lake, likely manmade, that has a cement trail (read: sidewalk) around it. The lake is split in two by one of the busy streets. If you run around both halves, you've gone roughly seven miles.

I needed to run seven this weekend, so I headed to the lake.

I opted for the smaller half first, the three-mile half. I've always liked this side better. It's quieter there, a bit more natural, way fewer people, fewer dogs, more trees.

I noticed this time that there are a few trails that snake off into the woods (I'm stretching the definition of "woods" here, but you can't actually see to the other side, so it works, right?). I followed one almost right away, only to lose the trail 10 seconds later. So I backtracked and hit the pavement again, curving gently clockwise around the trees.

I looked up soon after and saw a small skinny snake slithering across the sidewalk, its tongue out.

A mile or so later, around another bend, I looked up to see a deer nonchalantly crossing my path. It was incredible really. A doe, she seemed to not even know she was hanging out at a manmade lake frequented by runners, bikers, roller bladers, walkers. I stopped to watch her go, into the trees on the other side of the trail.

I thought about telling the people just ahead of me, who were headed the opposite direction. If I would have pointed her out, they probably still could have seen her. But I didn't. In a split second, I decided she was my own personal deer.

My run around the small half concluded with two hawks hovering in the sky. At this point, I could see the mansion that signaled how near I was to the busy street again, how close I was to modernization, civilization.

I saw no acts of nature on the bigger, more populated half of the lake. Mostly rich west Omaha women too dressed up to actually be exercising.

But that was OK. The run was good, if long, and I'd seen the deer. That counted for a lot.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Jammy Day

Tomorrow is pajama day at daycare for Rye, but he does not want to wear them.

He wants to wear clothes, actual jeans and a construction-themed long-sleeve t-shirt, like every other day.

He likes the routine. He thrives on the routine.

But what I wouldn't give to have jammy day at work, to break the awful routine.

Come on, think of the possibilities for an entertaining day! Instead of pants that never seem to fit right, turtlenecks and boring, closed-toe winter-time shoes, we would get flannel pants with pumpkins on them and fleece socks with snowflakes. And we could wear them together, even though they don't match at all. We could wear old track t-shirts from high school and ratty sweatshirts with holes in them if we wanted.

There would potentially be no stress about getting dressed in the morning -- because you wouldn't have to!

Plus, you'd get to see everyone else in jammies. Even the bosses.

Think about that.

That would be great.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

"Trick or Treating"

For weeks, Rye refused to wear the homemade car costume.

So we went to the race and the farm and the Halloween party last week with no costume. We said later that we should have made him a nametag that said "Stubborn 2-year-old."

But last night, the Halloween stars aligned, and Rye put on the costume.

I was so excited as we left the house, a tiny automobile shuffling beside me. I clutched the glow stick we'd just broken open, and Dane and I held Rye's hands.

Two houses from ours, we rang the first doorbell.

Rye was apprehensive. But he went along with it and said, "Trick or treating!" and then "Thank you."

We praised him, of course, as he carefully stuffed the chocolate bar into his neon green, scary witch basket.

And that was all it took. He was hooked on trick or treating.

"Oh, let's go to the next house," he said with enthusiasm.

His haul included a jumbo pixie stick, lots of suckers, plenty of chocolate and a bag of microwave popcorn; I'm fairly sure the popcorn -- for its novelty -- was his favorite.

He's yet to eat any more than one lone mini- Hershey's bar from his basket. But that's fine.

As we walked last night, dodging the middle-school boys dressed only in a mask or a hooded sweatshirt and the girls dressed in too-short shorts and fishnet stockings, Dane and I remembered our own trick or treating nights.

It doesn't seem that long ago.

I remember clearly going to Walgreens with my best friend's mom to buy makeup, which we used in NINTH grade (yes, a little too old, I'm sure) to turn me into a mime and her into a dead cheerleader (there is a story behind that). We stayed out for hours.

I remember staying out for hours with my childhood best friend , too, even though we had elementary school the next day. We'd walk around her neighborhood, and often her mom would drive us around after that. We always ended the night at her grandma's where I'd get my favorite thing -- homemade fudge that she gave out in a baggie filled with popcorn.

Dane said last night how he impulsively started looking down streets for porch lights, calculating how quickly we could cover them all. Old habits die hard.

Rye wasn't worried about getting to everyone, though. He fixated on the "scary house" we visited, to the point that it made me feel bad for taking him up to the door, and after awhile he said he wanted to go home and watch the Barney Halloween movie.

So we did.

Still, for nearly an hour, he got a taste of my favorite holiday, the cap to my birthday month, the best time of year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween

Does anyone know who we are? Come on, someone (not you, Jeff)...

Note the yogurt-lid necklace I'm wearing.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Happy Birthday to me

I turned 28 today.

It was a good day.

My son ran his first race and, despite our apprehensions, actually ran most all of the quarter-mile route. He crossed the finish line in 2:30 and loved the orange mardi-gras beads with a plastic skeleton hanging from them that he got as a reward.

After I ran the 5K (a nice, tough course; I finished in 25:27), Rye said, "Let's go run some more!" So we reran the route through the parking lot he had done before. He did the whole thing by himself the second time.

Later in the day, on more than one occasion, he said, "Hey Mommy, where'd my run go?"

After the race, which included a man dressed as Forest Gump when he's running and a live band, we stopped at Starbucks where I loved every ounce of the white chocolate mocha I ordered.

Then, we stopped home before heading to a very cool actual farm near Fontenelle Forest and Bellevue. It was "Trick or Treat with the Animals" day and every child there had a Halloween costume on except mine. But that was fine. We had a great time at the farm. We all got to pet a sheep (it felt just like wool!), I let a cow lick my hand (it felt like an oversized cat tongue), we saw lots of horses, a pig bit Rye's shirt and we took a hayrack ride. The day was just right, filled with sunshine. Rye also discovered Gummi Lifesavers ("Those ARE fruit snacks," he said).

After a nap in the car that lasted an hour after we got home (yes, we left him in the car, semi-supervised and windows down), my mom and sister came for dinner.

We went to Macaroni Grill, waited only minutes for a table, got our yummy food super fast, and I got serenaded by a waiter named Matt, who sang me something in Italian.

I got just about all the presents I'd asked for, too. But those really were just a bonus.

The real gift was that time was ours today, to do with it what we wanted. I never felt rushed; I always felt loved. Things just fit today. And that was nice.

Maybe, if today was any indication, 28 won't be so bad after all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The corners

My 2-year-old can't fall asleep without clutching corners of his tattered, blue, no-longer-soft blankie.

Tonight, tired and cranky, he rustled around, trying to get comfortable. In the process of getting the blankie just right under his head, he lost a corner.

"I can't find my corner!" he said, alarmed.

I helped him, and once he was confident that I had, in fact, given him a corner and not a mediocre edge, he settled down again, a corner in each hand.

I've watched him do this for months, maybe a year. He pulls along the sides of the knit blankie until he gets to a corner. Now, though, two are frayed so much that he has deemed them unacceptable. If I offer one of those, he'll say, "No, that's a yucky one." And we have to find a still-intact one.

He grips the precious corner in between his thumb and index finger. It's calming. When he gets hurt, he seeks a corner. Same when he's sleepy.

So it makes me wonder: Do we all have corners? Something we need, perhaps intangible even, to get by when we're hurt or tired or sad? I haven't thought enough about it to come up with mine. But I bet we do. Or we should.

I've also wondered what happens when in a month or two, the other corners fray. Will we have a catastrophe? Will he adapt? Will he learn to comfort himself? Will he just find a substitute corner?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall clothes

Is it just me, or does everyone have a hard time finding something to wear when the seasons change?

It's been awful the last week or so. I've even gone shopping a couple times and come home with a new pair of jeans (which I wore Friday and felt HUGE in them all day -- not what you want from a new pair of pants) and a few new shirts (one of which I can't wear because I don't have any pants that go with it. Very frustrating).

I've been trying to remember what I wore last fall and winter. And I'm coming up blank.

Today, I wore an old pair of white denim pants that also made me feel less than thin and that really just aren't very nice. I should have known the clothing day wasn't going to go well when after dropping Rye off at daycare this morning, I looked down at my brand new white sweater to find spots of orange V8 Fusion all over. I stopped home to change -- and was 15 minutes late for the interview I had set up at 9 a.m.

Can't it just be summer still? I think the true problem is that for maybe the first time ever I actually had warm-weather clothes I liked this season. Now, I'm back to clothes I really don't like. Too-big pants I bought after having Rye and one pair of pants I bought well before having Rye (they are too small).

None of this, of course, really matters. I certainly have clothes to choose from.

I just wish more things in life were easy. And getting dressed in the morning seems like something that should be easy.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hannah freaking Montana

So I've been feeling awful for my sister, who's nearly 12, since the upcoming Hannah Montana concert sold out in minutes a few weeks ago.

Last week, I called in to a radio station, on a whim, and amazingly was caller 10. That entered me into a drawing the next morning for tickets. I had a one in three chance. I lost.

Yesterday, I heard they were releasing 1,000 more tickets and 500 people who showed up at 5 p.m. would get a wristband for a chance at tickets this morning.

Because I remember what it's like to really, really like a teen singer, I went to stand in line for a wristband. I arrived at 4:15 p.m. and ran past a line that stretched the entire length of the arena (probably three city blocks). I wasn't sure if 500 people were in line ahead of me already. It was close, I figured. I waited, and at 5:30 p.m., I got a wristband.

The instructions were clear: Do NOT remove it.

I left it on through dinner and then carefully slipped it off and called my mom to ask if she could return this morning to buy the tickets.

She ended up with four tickets to the most have-to-be-there tween concert in a long time. But a lot of people walked away disappointed, again.

As I waited yesterday, I listened to the mothers around me. The one in front of me: "We're going to be 501. I just know it. Don't get too excited, honey." Geez, I thought. How about instilling some hope in your child.

The one behind me had left her daughter at home. She was keeping her last-ditch effort a secret. I couldn't blame her.

I watched as more and more mothers, fathers and grandparents stood in line. People were being dropped off, clutching folding chairs. One man impatiently shouted for his two kids to GET IN LINE! while he parked the car. $6, of course, to park at the Qwest.

I felt sad as the line continued to grow. I knew so many of those people were going to be turned away. And so many more, who got their hopes up with a wristband, weren't going to get tickets today. 500 bands and only 1,000 tickets. Everyone could buy four tickets.

All of this for a teen pop singer?

It's too bad. Even though I was just as willing to spend time trying to get my sister tickets, I realize how silly it all is.

Just think: If as many people got together to fight homelessness or AIDS or poverty or cancer or mental illness or any of the other ills in our world today what change we could make. It would be incredible.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Omaha after all

After two weeks of hopefulness, worry, excitement and too-much logic, we've made a really good decision.

We're going to stay here.

Our friends will still be in Colorado, and I will still miss them every single day. The two jobs we almost took will go to someone else. And I will still wonder, what if?

But Omaha with its commute and lack of scenery has slowly become home (as much as I try to fight it).

I got really mad last night at the Realtor who came in with all his reality and pointed out all the sore spots in our house. Maybe the basement isn't finished properly, but it's still our basement. Maybe the upstairs only has two bedrooms, but they're still two nice bedrooms. I disliked the salesman almost right away. The Hummer he parked in our driveway should have been my first clue. The stink of his breath was the second.

So we won't be inviting him back.

We don't need to anyway. We're staying here. For now? Forever? I don't know. (OK, please don't let it be forever).

But I hope we'll start to actually live here, for now, being OK with keeping only a distant, watchful eye on those mountains to the west.

To my high school cross country coach

Dear Coach Hento,

I ran a race on Saturday, a four-miler in the tiny Nebraska town of Brainard where a college friend of mine grew up.

The field of runners was small. Basically, I was guaranteed a medal (I got fifth). But I wasn't running for the hardware.

I was running for the adrenaline at the starting line, the breath that comes from effort, the ache in my calves as I pushed up the gravel hills. I was running to cross the finish line, to feel good about myself and to have fun with an old friend.

I was running this particular race, the Bohemian Alps Endurance Run, because I knew it would remind me of cross country.

It did.

Within a half mile of the start, we'd already run out of town and turned east to make the gradual climb up the first of many hills. The country roads were just like I remembered. The hills were just as hard. The scenery -- if you could force yourself to look up - was just as beautiful. The effort was just as rewarding.

But something was missing.

At this race, not only were there no aid stations, there was also no Coach Hento in the big steely gray van.

You always made the hills doable and the races and workouts runnable. I'm a writer, but I can't put in words how much of an impact cross country had on my life. It's no secret that I never had a whole lot of raw talent. I got by on my heart and my effort, and cross country seemed to work with that. I took inspiration many times from you. You encouraged us to never give up, you pushed us to be better than we were, you cared about us. And that meant the world to me.

I'm sure you wondered when I was ever going to stop coming to summer morning runs. Did I set some sort of record for being the oldest alumni still showing up at 7 a.m. to stretch on the little block of pavement outside the girls gym? Either way, thank you for welcoming me back then and for teaching me about running -- and life -- before.

Congrats on 25 years!

Veronica Daehn Stickney
Fremont High Cross Country 1996 & 1997

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My current want

... is to move back to Colorado. There, the weather is warm and dry, the mountains stand guard, good friends who are closer than family call and come over. The sense of community is so strong, there are girls I can coach, the living is easy (easier, anyway).

There, I felt more like myself. I was less mature but arguably more fun, though probably more intense (yes, I think that's possible).

I'd love to go back. But I also just want to feel settled somewhere. I want us all to be content enough in a community that we want to stay for a really long time.

I've been reading and talking to people lately who seem to have such a smart philosophy. One's mantra is: Choose happiness. It sounds so simple. But it must work. He and his wife are the happiest people I know.

The author Anne Lamott speaks and writes a lot about faith and grace and overcoming all the awful stuff in life. She says it's only when you're in the abyss that life begins. Do what really matters to you, she says. Because we don't have time for anything else.

That's great advice. But we have a mortgage and daycare and bills just like everyone else.

I've decided to do what I can, though, to simplify. I've been slowly getting rid of stuff we don't need and trying to spend more time doing nothing but watching my son drive a tiny orange pickup truck over the cat's tail. I'm trying to really see him, to just be there for him, a lot more.

Having Rye put some of my ambitions in perspective.

I mean, what better thing is there than lying in the grass with the wind softly blowing and your 2-year-old laying his tummy on yours and laughing?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Thanks to Katie, I am guaranteed a reader. (Thank you!)

Now, I need to start writing.

My first post (admittedly pretty lame) has garnered several reactions. Among them:
-- "You lost me on the New Kids reference." And then he made an L with the thumb and pointer finger of his left hand, calling me a loser. One guess as to who that was.
-- A paraphrase: If I was a bettor, I'd wager 45 days before you move to Colorado.

45 days? I don't know. In some very real ways, I would be sad to leave here. But I think we're meant to be in Colorado. It just feels like home. Still, it's hard to make big decisions like this. I wish there was a class or something I could take called "All the Right Answers." And if I just studied hard enough, I would be guaranteed an A.

In reality, I wonder if anyone ever knows the right answer?

The first entry

Basically, I'm copying Dane. But having a blog is cool, right? I suppose it is as long as somebody reads it.

Well, as Donnie Wahlberg once said (this was apparently imprinted on my brain forever when I was a devoted 11-year-old): As long as there is one fan -- ONE -- we will play.

He didn't keep his word.

But I will.

So here's to one fan.

(And I promise these will get better).