Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 4, 2017: Sandy's Work Life: Chapter 3

Sandy A Lane Consulting
Time flies when you're having fun.
And when you're a little busy.

This morning Garrett asked me when I last wrote a blog.

"It's been a while" was my answer. Upon further review, it's almost been over a month.

I've had no reason for the delay, other than the combination of being busy and knowing the content of which I wanted to write warranted more time and thought than my more typical whimsical stories told. Although I have had an arsenal of stories that I have wanted to write about over the last month, I knew that this one needed to top my list.

A common question asked of me is in regards to my work life is "Sandy, what exactly are you doing these days?"

This is a valid question since I have been very open in sharing my work journey over the years through my blog. And I've had a career that has gone from very conventional to unconventional. It's much easier to say "I work for XYZ Company and my job title is Chief Do-Something-Specific Officer" than to explain my various consulting roles and how much I enjoy my very nonconventional life.

I am a big believer in having self-awareness and gaining clear perspective as we trek through our days. Too often we get comfortable on the hamster wheel without ever knowing we really haven't gone anywhere. And too often this perspective kicks in too late. Stepping off the hamster wheel at end of life or after lost opportunities is a stark reminder that time cannot be reversed.

This why I write. My motive is simple. If sharing stories of my life experiences (blunders, victories, and pain) can create self-reflection for someone else, and positively impact them in their own life choices or opportunities they would not have otherwise seen, I have succeeded.

Humor me in allowing this blog to be a reflection exercise as I explain what I have been up to in my work life.

I often see my life in chapters. My working career to date fits in three main chapters, although years of service do not have a direct correlation to length of pages for each chapter. Not even close. And the book would read something like this....

Sandy's Work Life

Prologue: I have grown up working. Since walking beans from the age of five, I have waitressed, babysat, worked retail, cleaned hotel rooms, wrote for a newspaper, cooked, and about any other job that paid money in a small town. My college degree was in accounting and my first real job was with Peter Kiewit in Omaha as a staff accountant. My beginning salary was $18,200 per year. I was thrilled. Although my early work years covered a lot of different industries and skill sets, the main lessons I learned were with people. How to work with them, for them, and serve them. These lessons have proved invaluable to me over the years.

Chapter 1: Lutz & Company. I worked my way up the corporate ladder in this small-grows-to-large public accounting firm, over the course of 22 years. These years were spent primarily developing my right brain with a focus on finance and the healthcare sector. I grew up in the firm with many people who are still some of my dearest friends. We went through tax season after tax season and had baby after baby. These were my young adult growing-up years. And I loved them. I learned a ton about business and had wonderful clients. But then life threw me some curve balls and my perspective changed. I saw myself on a hampster wheel that I hadn't seen before and had new a view outside the cage that I hadn't noticed before.

Link to my past blog on leaving Lutz

Chapter 2: Think Whole Person Healthcare. Through an engagement I was leading at Lutz, I met an Irishman who asked me to be his business partner. Over a handshake at Jam's restaurant, we solidified our joint endeavor long before legal paperwork. We set off to change the world of healthcare for the better in a big way. For the next three + years, I was a founding member and the CFO of this large healthcare start-up. And it was like taking a ride on the bus in the movie, Speed.

Although the dream did not come to fruition for me, I did gain a mythical MBA in the world of business and a hard-earned pseudo Ph.D. in human behavior. The experiences and knowledge gained over these few years take up four times the number of pages in comparison to Chapter One.

My biggest learning was that my intent to positively change people's lives in a big way could not be achieved by grouping people in masses. Mother Teresa is the one who got it right. She so humbly described how she impacted so many people over her years and advice to others wanting to do the same; help one person at a time and start with the person next to you.

Big systems and big buildings aren't the change agents. People impacting people bring about positive change. Caring doctors, nurses, and staff accomplish this each day as they care for their patients at an individual level.

I left Think abruptly on a sunny winter Monday. And then I took time off. Five months to be exact. Something I have never done before. It was a glorious journey.

Link to my past blog on my time off

Chapter 3: Sandy A Lane Consulting. The hardest thing about deciding what to do next was narrowing it down. Having my own consulting company allows me the independence to pick the projects I want to work on and people with whom I want to collaborate. This chapter is all about wanting to positively use my experience, talents, and skill set to help people and organizations reach their ideals and potential.

What I have found is the opportunities in front of me are endless. I have turned down countless offers in comparison to the number I have taken. The continuing challenge for me is leaving enough available time for ventures outside of finance and business. This is my typical struggle; keeping my plate from running over.

This is where people get confused as I explain my work to them. It all sounds great, but what does it all mean? My blanket explanation of my work doesn't answer the specific question of "Sandy, what exactly are you doing these days?"

A lot has happened since my May launch into consulting independence last year. I have turned down many Chief Do-Something-Specific Officer roles in corporate America. The idea of getting into that cage felt suffocating to me. My biggest issue with these types of roles is that the bigger the company, the more difficult it is for me to influence positive change (my ultimate goal). In healthcare, it's like trying to navigate a tanker ship to turn abruptly and without overturning or causing injury. Almost impossible.

While mapping out my work opportunities in the early months and acknowledging the current state of American healthcare, I made the decision to stay away from healthcare endeavors for the short-term. The tanker visual was plaguing me.
A nice surprise from Skutt

My first project was with Skutt Catholic High School. It was to be a six-week project to serve as their interim VP of Finance and help re-engineer areas of the position to create operational efficiencies. Although this six-week project turned into a six-month project, I loved it. I worked side-by-side with some wonderful people whom I will have lifelong relationships. With my youngest son a junior there, I enjoyed the closeness of being a part of his daily life that is typically unexposed to me.

There are memories and moments in time that he and I shared that I will always cherish. And I feel I made a positive impact for the school during my time there. I will continue as a member of Skutt's Finance Committee, helping to keep positive forward movement in an advisory capacity.

Link to my past blog on my work at Skutt

And then completely against my vow to temporarily avoid healthcare, I began working with Kugler Vision. With some overlap with my Skutt work , I have been working with the KV team now for seven months. I went to my initial meeting with Dr. Kugler expecting a casual, professional conversation that would likely lead to my 'No' list. Instead, I found the conservation refreshing and energizing. Something I hadn't felt in the business of healthcare for some time.

Vision is such a wonderful gift. I once heard the quote that 80% of what we experience in our life comes from our eyes. Giving people the gift of perfect or near-perfect sight without restriction is an awesome thing. Working in a business model that goes directly from patient to doctor without the roadblocks and restrictions imposed by big insurance and government made it an opportunity to initiate positive change.

At Kugler Vision, I oversee all of their business operations from marketing and sales to financial reporting. I work with great managers and people who run the day-to-day business with passion, integrity, and a high work ethic. Refractive surgery is constantly evolving with even greater options available to help people gain their best vision. I really love the people and the work we do there.

Link to my past blog on KV

My time commitment to KV takes up about half of my work hours. My goal is to keep on-going projects at about a 50% time commitment. This allows availability in my schedule to take on the smaller one-time projects with other businesses and gives me the opportunity to work on projects and passions outside of business consulting. And this time definitely fills up.

Since May I have been involved in facilitating retreats, speaking engagements, small business consulting, operational re-engineering projects, and am just now kicking off my individual coaching endeavors. I am collaborating with two other coaches in a Design a Life You Love series of workshops which focuses on helping people reach their ideals. One person at a time.

I'm not sure how the next chapter will read or how long this one will last. I just know I very much enjoy my days. I wake up knowing that each day is an opportunity for me to make a difference. I am energized by the work I do and the great people I have met along the way.

Every day is a new canvas full of goals and a fresh perspective. I'm loving my new chapter. Now I just need to carve out more time for writing....

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.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 16, 2016: Joy

I was around 13 years old in this picture. Aunt Kathy was a Creighton
college student, home on a visit. I found great happiness in spending
time with my family. (Special shout out to my mom for her
seamstress skills in making my edgy terry cloth outfit)
Talking with a friend, he lamented to me on his frustrations with his child's lack of showing selflessness in decision-making. The story he told definitely had the tone of a spoiled child thinking only of himself.

As we talked through how to best parent through this situation, I asked the question that instantly came to my mind.

"Does he find joy in bringing happiness to others? Can you think of an example that he can relate to?"

Parenting on selfishness most times comes across as a lecture. Using specific examples of past acts of selflessness can get the point across better. We all have episodes of selfishness, whether we are older or under the age of 13. Being reminded of those moments of finding joy in the happiness of others always brings me back to reality.

A simple story of joy comes to mind to me each time I reminisce on my own youthful days. Although I remember enjoying the happiness in making gifts for my cousins over Christmas and my grandma's smiling face when I hugged her after listening to her stories on the best way to bake a cake, there is a specific story that I always remember as first feeling euphoria in bringing joy to another.

I was around thirteen years old and found a new friend in Susie, whose family had recently moved to my small town of Remsen. Our grade school had begun a program where the kids were matched with residents of the town nursing home. My adopted grandparent was Clementine Delperdang.

After several visits, I was enthralled with stories of Clementine's farm upbringing, raising kids through the Great Depression, and her years of living as a widow in town. Loving my own grandmas, I felt equally blessed to have added a third. I so enjoyed my visits with Clementine at the Happy Siesta and seeing her eyes light up when I would walk in her door.

Clementine was restricted to a wheelchair. Her only outings were back and forth to the outside front patio of the nursing home. There was no doubt that she enjoyed visits from her thirteen-year-old adopted granddaughter.

On this particular Saturday, I had convinced my friend, Susie, that our day would be well spent at the nursing home. As I excitedly explained my past outings, we plotted on how we would make this visit the most special yet.

Together we got into my mom's sewing room. We made little pillows with leftover upholstery material my mom had lying around. Susie and I filled a knapsack full of treasures we found around the house to give to Clementine. And then for good measure, we packed some boiled eggs and snacks for us to eat later. The walk to the nursing home was long and our adventure was bound to be a full.

Clementine did not let us down. She was thrilled. Remarking on every gift and noting the softness of our homemade pillows, Susie and I glowed with happiness. We made someone else very happy and this brought us great joy.

As we walked home, eating our boiled eggs, our long walk turned into a jubilant skipping march. The joy we felt was euphoric. It was intoxicating as we giggled over how our surprises were a huge success.

I will never forget that walk home. It was a state of joyfulness that I had never felt before. A deep happiness from bringing great joy to another.

As I silently relived these feelings from my childhood, my friend asked me a question.

"So how do you teach that to a child? How do you teach them how great it feels to give? How it can feel better than getting?"

The answer is that you can't. They really have to learn it by experiencing it themselves. As a parent, we can provide them the opportunities, but the experiences are for them to find with open hearts.

Ebenezer Scrooge and The Christmas Carol is a great story that exemplifies this. Scrooge needed to see life from eyes outside his norm to open his heart and find joy in making others happy. We all love this heartwarming story. And not because of the happiness given by him, but the wonderful life given to Scrooge. He had no idea what he was missing.

Those selfish, young and old alike, have no clue what they are missing. Once they truly experience the joy in selfless actions, their lives will never be the same. A feeling you won't forget and one you will long to have again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 2015: Not an Ordinary Day

Today was not an ordinary day.

In Dr. Seuss' language, my thoughts on the day would go something like this...

"You have a brain in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. Unless someone truly cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Well, I will just sum it up by saying that today certainly wasn't an ordinary day, but I will accept that. Life is full of changes, good and bad.

Sometimes the toughest part is figuring out if life shake-ups are truly a good or a bad thing. Personally, I have found my biggest life challenges have turned into opportunities. Doors opened to new people and adventures. A new chapter in life.

I am bullish in my view that this will be the case once again.

When the unexpected creeps into the door of normalcy, the best response is not one of self-doubt, anger, or fear. The best response is gaining perspective and self-awareness.

As of late, I had been thinking a lot about my practical upbringing and the worth of this virtue. Somehow extravagance and fanciful thinking have become part of the company I have been keeping.

And now, I reflect.
prac·ti·cal - Concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

fan·ci·ful - (of a person or their thoughts and ideas) overimaginative and unrealistic. Designed to be exotically ornamental rather than practical.

I was raised in a practical family. My family never met pride or ego. They just lived a good life. My parents believed in hard work and a high work ethic. Money didn't grow on trees and you did not buy what you could not afford. They taught with their words and actions. All humans were treated with dignity and respect. And they didn't profess to the world the great things they intended to do. They just quietly did them.

I should have known better.

Life lessons...just like I tell my kids and my mom continues to tell me. And I have gained an arsenal of both wisdom and knowledge in the lesson area during my recent life journey.

A bit painful at the moment, but all will be good in the end. And tomorrow is a gift of a new day.

Postscript: December 7, 2016:
This picture was taken 'the next day', December 8, 2015. My father-in-law, Larry smoothed over the rough edges and brought a smile to my face the day after this blog post. And each day following, all 365 of them, have been a wonderful journey. No doubt, life is very good.

Teaching me to be 'retired', Stella style :)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016: A New View

I took this picture through the lens of my new set of eyes. The hike was this Saturday at Horsetooth Reservoir outside of Fort Collins, Colorado. In the company of my husband, son, step-son, and friend, we were taking in God's beauty through the final walk of the trail. I was purposely poking behind.

"Sandy, why are you so far back?" Garrett called out to me shortly after this picture was taken. My absence from the pack was noticed.

But I was in my own world, taking it all in.

"Coming!" I hollered back, picking it up a bit. Free of contacts and glasses, my vision was sharp and the color of nature seemed full of a clarity that I had not noticed before.

The beauty of Colorado, mountains, and nature are not new to me. My life has been full of many adventures and aesthetic sights. What was different was my new personal view. Wearing some form of glasses or contacts since junior high, I had never experienced this heightened awareness through my own lenses. I had underestimated the perspective a twelve-minute surgery would add to my life.

Last Tuesday I had LASIK surgery. Following a comprehensive exam at Kugler Vision and a thorough consult with Dr. Kugler, we decided that I would have monovision LASIK surgery. I learned a lot about my eyes through the process, including the difference between cornea and lens deterioration and how to achieve my goals through a surgery that is best for me. I had no idea there were so many options available to correct vision. The skilled advice of Dr. Kugler guided me through this critical process.

I did learn that I had healthy young lenses (who knew? A part of my body that precedes my age by 10 years!). Although lens replacement is a great option to get rid of the reader glasses and avoid future cataract surgery for the 50ish crowd, Dr. Kugler talked me through the healthy state of my lenses and why LASIK would be a better option for me.

Mono-LASIK was a win-win. My healthy lenses stayed intact with my corneas corrected to 20/20 vision. One eye was corrected for distance (my dominant left) and the other for near (no more reading glasses). Just to be sure mono was right for me, I 'test drove' mono contacts for a week and found that two different prescriptions in my eyes felt completely natural. Quickly my eyes adapted from looking down on my computer to looking outside my window, clearly see the happenings from a distance. I was ready.

The surprise I had post-surgery was how different the clarity of my sight was from wearing my typical daily contacts. I attribute this mainly to the surgery itself, but also to a newfound perspective in my viewing of life.

Pre-surgery, I was not anxious, but I started thinking about my sight. A true miracle, not to be taken for granted. I thought about this throughout the week leading up to my surgery. Too often I run through my days, not stopping to enjoy the everyday visual blessings.

The night before my LASIK while walking out of my gym, I noticed a mom and her two young sons. One boy opened the door for me with a big smile of pride. I thanked him while exchanging a 'been there' smile with his mom. We traded pleasantries and small talk. As we neared the second set of doors, a woman whom I recognized from a past life came barrelling through the door. With yoga mat under her arm, eyes down and a scowl on her face, she nearly ran us over.

There wasn't a hint of recognition on her face, but there was no time as her eyes only focused on the ground with a mind racing on something other than the people in front of her. A life hurried and rumbling through time.

I continued with the two dimpled boys by my side, still smiling and enjoying every person and sight in front of them. Children, pure from the chaos of day-to-day life that we adults self-impose on ourselves. Their eyes wide open, full of wonderment.

I couldn't help but think, how much do I miss while racing through life? The beauty of life is everywhere, but you can't see it if you don't look.

Tuesday was surgery day and incredibly unmonumental. Exactly the goal. Great care and a seamless procedure that was invisible to me other than my instruction to 'watch the green light' while my skillful doctor perfected my eyes.

I felt no pain and no pressure. When the anesthetic wore off, my eyes felt a slight irritation that lasted a couple of hours as I watched an exciting Creighton basketball game from home with my new eyes. The next morning, I was driving to work seeing perfectly clear. I didn't miss a beat.

I went through the rest of the week in amazement on both my new vision and how great I felt. I continued to question why I had not done this years before. This definitely falls into the category of 'you don't know what you don't know'. My eyes are now wide open.

Greatly looking forward to my vision comparison on our upcoming weekend hike, Garrett began quizzing me on my near and far vision as we drove home from the airport. I was spot on as I read every upcoming billboard off the interstate, while able to quickly convert to my small font phone text. Passing with flying colors.

Then the frosting on the cake was our hike in the Colorado Rockies. My vision was perfect and the sights clearer than I remembered. No contacts floating or itching in my eyes and a new clarity in my view. As I chose my steps carefully, I found myself gazing around in a new wonder.

Life is too short to look down and barrel through. New eyes and a new perspective. Time to slow down as life is not a race to the end, but a daily opportunity to truly enjoy the moments in time given to us.

(Part 2 to my LASIK experience will be my road to Kugler and update on my life journey.)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November 6, 2016: A Change of Seasons

Grant finishes the front yard
Today Grant and I raked leaves. A yard full of nature's colorful palette. And a sign of the change of seasons.

The changing seasons is one of my favorite things about living in the midwest, with summer-to-fall as my all-time favorite. Each year I delight in putting out my Halloween decorations. Football, hoodies, and bonfires fill our nights. Trading in the petunias for the peonies and mums, while preparing the autumn foliage for frost. An annual rite of passage.

With a 70 degree Sunday, today was a perfect day to do yard work. It was also an excellent time to reflect. Sharing sweat labor with my 16-year-old was frosting on the cake. Physical labor in the great outdoors builds character.

I was also reminded of the changes in the seasons of life.

Fast forward two years and all Lane boys will be out of the house. I must now confess that I have never mowed my own lawn. There have always been plenty of able men around to perform this task. I am now finding myself looking ahead at a life completely different than the one I have known.

I have been slowly adapting to these on-going life changes. My seasons have gone from a traditional family unit to a divorced family. From three boys at home to two, to one. The backyard has transformed slowly from the neighborhood hang-out and nightly whiffle ball game field to commercial-grade trampoline arena, to just a yard.

Each change in my life came and went, one at a time. I savored the moments and looked forward to the years to come. But the end of my boys' childhood years has a ring of permanence to it. One that will come with many more life choices. The family home will be empty with my husband and my life looking very different than it looks today.

I am a sentimental gal. There is no doubt. As I put my cherished Halloween decorations out this year, I couldn't help but wonder how many more years I would be going through this same routine.

The house is growing more and more quiet with my husband spending a lot of time in Denver and Grant finding his way to all those things 16 year-olds love to do that don't include their mother. The quiet is evident to me, like a hard tap on my shoulder. I can't ignore it.

It will be sixteen years next month that we moved into this house. Grant was a crawling baby. So many milestones and seasons in my family's life happened here. But it is just a house. Garrett tells me this and I know he is right. It's the moments and happiness that have happened in and outside the walls that give it a heartbeat that comes alive to me.

Time to enjoy the ride and see what life brings to us. One day at a time, but I will savor every day. Much friendship and family have been shared here and there is much more to come. We will just keep raking the leaves and change up the house from Halloween to Christmas when the time is right. I have decided to hold off on repacking the orange holiday storage crates until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. What's the hurry....

(video of Halloween decor that I am currently enjoying my living room...)

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016: A Boy and His Dog

Zach driving Jim to Colorado last spring. En route to Jimi's new home. 

A boy and his dog.

I have thought of this phrase often observing Zach and his brothers with their dog, Jimi (the Hedrix version of the name). Although I have always loved this sweet dog, he was not mine. The boys' dad added Jimi to their family shortly after we divorced. But it didn't take long to fall in love with this amiable canine personality.

Introduced in the stands of a grade school baseball game, I instantly knew why my boys were so drawn to this sweet pup. An epitome of the lovable lab from the movie, Marley and Me, Jimi never met a stranger and affectionately welcomed everyone he encountered. Those eyes would look at you for acceptance and affirmation in the form of a quick pet and rub under the ear. That's all it took and you had a friend for life.

Jim was a good dog.

I distinctly remember texting my sister-in-law, Robbie, asking how the boys were doing shortly after beginning our 'every other weekend' divorced parent schedule. I was feeling angst, empty and alone. I missed my young sons and wanted a glimpse into their life without me.

Jim was a puppy. That particular weekend without me consisted of boating and lake time. The text back to me I will never forget.

"Grant has been playing with the dog. Throwing a stick on the beach, over and over. Just a boy and his dog."
I took this picture at a family reunion.
Zach could always be found with the dogs.

Although there was a tinge of pain knowing I wasn't part of the festivities, I felt great relief visualizing my child's happiness with his new puppy.

Zach, in particular, had a close kinship to Jimi. Through Jim's many trials and tribulations from clumsy household breaks to eating things he shouldn't, Zach always had a soft spot for his furry sidekick. The boys fought over whose dog Jim was, but Zach just stopped arguing. Jimi had a lot of love to give, but he ultimately always ended up at Zach's side.

This was no surprise to me. They were a natural match. Zach has loved dogs since a child. Especially big dogs. When he was young, you could always find Zach making friends with the hounds when the others were off causing havoc on the playground. Quick to join in the fun, but the dogs would come first.

Jim in the back of our car on a short drive during a recent visit
When Zach announced that he would be moving Jimi with him to Fort Collins, it was no surprise. I couldn't think of two better souls to be 'bachin' it together.

Jimi quickly became my 'grand-dog'. A lot more planning came into our visits with Zach now that his cherished dog was involved. Trips were planned to Fort Collins instead of meeting halfway. Jim didn't like to travel and preferred to stay at home. I understood. So we accommodated. Many fun trips to northern CO followed with the dog only in tow for short rides and quick hikes. Zach always catered to his sweet dog's needs.

I got used to my phone calls with Zach always ending in asking about Jimi.

"And how is Jim?"

Jimi loved the Colorado mountains and the reservoir where they lived. He and Zach basked in the glory of the Rockies with Zach often commenting on their walks and the freshness of the open door. And Jimi thrived.

A boy and his dog.

Until Jim wasn't feeling well. My phone calls to Zach now ended with my asking "How is Jimi? Is he any better?"

Some days were better than others. Then last Sunday, Jim didn't want to get up. Zach took him to the animal ER. Within 24 short hours, Jimi is gone. And my son is broken without his pal.

My typical call from Zach would be on a walk with Jim, describing their day in the mountains. Today was different. Zach was crying.

"Mom, Jim is full of cancer. I have to put him down."

My son's voice could barely give these words air.

Just like that, his buddy is gone.

As a mom, this was unbearable. His dad and I immediately talked, feeling the pain of loss and the grief of our child.

My sister-in-law, Robbie, has often shared with me some advice that stays front of mind. Although we are the same age, her kids are older. Her advice to me on what's ahead in the parenting road has always rung true.

"The older the kids, the fewer the problems, but the bigger the problems."

She's right (like always).

My youngest child's issues in daily high school life seem minuscule compared to the loss of a faithful companion to my oldest. Hearing my grown son's tearful pain was crushing. Upon reflection, I couldn't remember the last time I heard the kid cry. Three? Toddler years?

Life certainly gives us unexpected turns. Sad. Unfair. But so part of this journey.

Zach got to hold his buddy and say good-bye while Jim slipped away with no pain. The tears continued from all of us as this reality set in. Likely the cancer had been there for some time. Upon reflection, what a gift to both Jimi and Zach that they were able to enjoy the last six months of his life in the tranquil beauty of the mountains of Colorado. Not the ending we wanted, but a life well lived.


Home with his bud, Zach

The life of a gunsmith (or his brother)


A new Colorado friend

Sunday, October 9, 2016

October 8, 2016: Running Through Life

Post-run cheers on a sunny day in July a year ago. The reason for celebration ultimately turned into a bust. But the celebration of a friendship and being at each other's side every step of the way is real.

Garrett refers to my running friends as my gal pals. We wake at the crack of dawn to run, cutting it up through the morning darkness. 5:30 is our meet time. And depending on the meeting point and travel time involved, our average alarm wake-up call is 5:15 a.m.

"So what did you and your gal pals talk about this morning?" is a typical Garrett question.

I then brief my curious husband on our specific subjects over the approximate 55 minutes of run time together. They generally include analysis of our life while rehashing events from our last run and humor in our daily musings.

We certainly don't take ourselves too seriously. But we equally take very seriously our role in being each other's accountability partners; the most influential personal board of directors.

Today we ran both lakes of Zorinsky. Not only had it been a while since we ran this route, it had been a while since we collectively ran this distance of 7.5 miles. Back in the day, not only did we run this route weekly, it was with a crew of runners at a pace that put our today's pace to shame.

But there were no complaints.

In fact, our reaction to this morning's endeavor bordered on jubilant. Not too shabby for three 50 (or almost 50) something women. I always say we are doing better than those laying in bed or sitting on the coach.

Small victories.

Our morning running reflections centered on assessment of relationships in today's society. We later reflected on our earned wrinkles and the span of time since we started running together.

For Kristi and me, our first run together was with a group. I was the newbie. Kristi and I immediately found commonality, striking up a conversation on potty training and bed wetting. Our youngest were toddlers, months apart in age.

These same kiddos are now almost 21 years old. Potty training is a distant memory.

Tam was an add-on a few years later. One day she ran out of her driveway on a solo run and literally ran into our group. We asked her to join and she hasn't stopped running with us since. Everything happens for a reason. No doubt there was a reason we were put into each other's lives.

Morning humor and our quirky comradery are high on the list. This text exchange is a recent example.

Rule #1 for the gal pals: never take yourself too seriously. Really. Only a good friend would offer you their dry, but small, sports bra.

After my ACL surgery a few years back, I really never came back 100%. Without my gal pals, it would be likely that I wouldn't be running today. I would have moved on to biking and the gym. Running definitely becomes more difficult with age. But the draw of our morning runs and my favorite friends gets me out of bed in the morning. No doubt I move slower and run less often, but I can't imagine working through life without them.

There is no better therapy. Talking through daily challenges, joyful milestones, and life purpose can only be fully accomplished with the support and feedback of my gal pals. And purity of mind really does happen before coffee and normal waking hours.

There have been many others whom we have shared life with over runs through the years. From our days of a dozen strong on any given day, we are now down to our little group. The original Early Morning Miler's moved on with pregnancies, back surgery, physical moves, quests for faster times, and illness. We still stay in touch and have occasional guest appearances, but most mornings it's our little group of 2 to 3.

No doubt, I will keep at the morning shuffle while we collectively solve all the world's problems. And if we can't figure it out, it is certain that we will laugh. At ourselves. At each other.

And the wrinkles will keep coming, no doubt. But the joy of 5:30 am runs? Who would ever notice?

Spreading of holiday cheer post a run on ice that wasn't our best day of judgment

Attempted selfie. Fail.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2016: Reputational Value

I needed to choose a picture for this blog and I could think of none better than this one.
My husband is my ultimate accountability partner in character and reputation.
(and holding my hand on a hard hike is just frosting on the cake!)
This blog topic has been on my mind for some time. I have wanted to write about it, but left it 'parked' for later. My thought was that the subject matter revolved only on a recent work experience with a story told of days past.

Instead, I have found this attribute of personal goodwill to come up in daily conversation with my kids and friends as well. Reputational value revolves around the person; regardless of whether it's displayed at work, at home, or at play. It's a value we should hold close to our chest and one we look for in those who surround us.

I tend to struggle with this one as it relates to my first blush impression of others. In my quest to not judge and to give the benefit of the doubt, I lean on the side of looking the other way during the courting period of relationships.

The key is knowing at what time to walk away when reputation is in question.

Reputation is an asset that takes years to built. Typically over a lifetime. And then with the slip of the fingers, it can fall apart in front of us.

I am constantly trying to explain this to my kids during their high school and college years. But while I am lecturing, I quickly find that this never goes away. I am just as susceptible as them.

People who treat other people poorly gain reputations for this trait. As they do for lying, cheating, and not following through on their word. Reputation holds a value. One higher than any title or net worth.

I have a friend who still points out an instance where a mutual friend once got caught cheating in a friendly card game. His advice to me? Never trust him. You can't trust someone who cheats their own friends in cards.

Reputational value.

I once worked closely with someone who had a horrible reputation. I was told over and over of his past indiscretions with money and people. But in typical form, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. My rationale was that people in higher positions have more garbage thrown at them and until I experienced poor behavior firsthand, I should not judge.

Bad choice.

I don't always follow the advice I give my young adult children:

"Be open-minded and kind, but know when to walk away from a bad person and a bad situation. Some people don't want to do the right thing. That is a fact of life that we must all accept. And we can't force people to change if they don't want to."

In the end, my colleague's reputational value became a direct reflection of me. I risked a personal asset that I worked years to build. I have always said that when it comes to the Serenity Prayer, I have the serenity and the courage parts down pat. But boy, the wisdom to know when to walk away can be a personal challenge.

The funny part of my recent story on reputational value was hearing how this person's bad reputation carried across states and among different generations of people. A true testament of a bad reputation that is well earned.

Talking with my twenty-three-year-old son in Colorado, he shared a story of a friend who is a bar waitress as a second job. In Omaha she works many late hours to cover her college expenses.

"Mom, I heard this story about that guy you used to work with. Do you know that he goes into bars and restaurants and stiffs all the waitresses? He seriously does this all the time. They all talk about him. He carries on like he's the king of the hill and then doesn't leave a tip. Not a dime.What an a(xxxxxx)."

As I heard this story that now has a bit of folklore, crossing states in the millennial crowd, I pictured myself in days past sitting next to this same king of the hill. As he signed the tab and left no tip, what did this do to my reputation?

My dad always told me that I am an extension of those I choose to surround myself with. Obviously, I need to start following his advice and the same advice I give my own kids.

So when Grant sent me a text this week, thinking I was being too hard on a new friend, I paused.

Reputational value and being extremely selective in my company and alliances has gone back to the top of my list and top of mind. But in counter, I also don't want to be an elitist who looks down my nose at others.

My answer to Grant?

"I believe you, Grant, that your friend is a good kid. I never go by what others say. But comments on past behavior do cause me to pause and raise my radar. You need to stay clean in your own choices and know when to walk away when you see bad choices. You know the difference. Your reputation is worth a lot and don't take that for granted. Ever. In the end, I trust you on your friend choices until proven otherwise. But I will challenge when things come to my attention."

Reputational value vs. being judgemental? Guard your asset. Use your wisdom to know the difference. When in doubt, default to protecting your reputation. Every time. (I call that my bullshit meter. We all have it. Use it. xoxox)