Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2014: A Day on the Farm

A picture of the setting sun after a day on the farm
Garrett and I have had our calendars marked for months for Weekend on the Farm. Although the picturesque retreat goes on for three days, we were only able to dedicate our Saturday to this Christian gathering. A Day on the Farm for us.

After a short drive to Harlan, Iowa, we found ourselves smack in the middle of nowhere. A perfect setting for a perfect day. The surrounding trees and fields gained for us the solitude we yearned. Our typically overbooked schedules embraced this little sanctuary.

Joining us was our friend, Lori Stohs. Just two days prior, we invited her on our little road trip. Following some confusion on the retreat theme of "Running to God", Lori quickly concluded that some time away to celebrate our faith would be well worth her Saturday. And no running shoes were required.

The day was wonderful. It did not disappoint. We left Harlan with full hearts and with new and renewed friendships. God left each of us with a different imprint on our heart. Lori was reminded of her recently deceased father.

Below are the words that Lori wrote from the heart as we gathered, sharing faith, in the tent on the farm.
My mind is quiet.

My senses are flourishing.

I hear the sound of the birds chirping, the summer locust and the tractor in the field afar.

The gravel crunches as the truck passes quickly by on the country road.

I smell the fresh grass and the scent of the crops. That smell of those summer crops that get harvested and bring nutrition to our bodies.

The smell of money as we used to call it ... the pig manure...lingers in the air.

I see the bean fields and the exactness of the rows of corn fields. The tracks from the irrigation pivot and the glimmer of the sunlight reflecting off the tractor.

The memories of my childhood. The memories of my youth.
The memories of my family.
The memories of my life with my dad...just a day living on the farm 30-47 years ago.
Then it was just an ordinary day.

Today as I am present and reflect, the day on the farm is a memory and a celebration of his life.

Dad passed away 4 months ago and would have been 88 on Monday.

~ Lori Stohs

I am a firm believer there are no such things in life as coincidences. God has a plan. It is up to us to seize the opportunities and blessings put in front of us. Only we can execute on God's plan. And it can only happen with open hearts and open minds.

The large world becomes much smaller with the many connections and chance encounters that we relish each day. Daily reminders of God's infinite love and goodness. We just have to open our eyes to the beauty of the people and moments in time we are given.

A day on the farm. A good day indeed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

I'm back. It's been a busy few weeks, but mission accomplished. I'm now out of the weeds and up for air. I've gotten a couple of notes from friends asking where I've been. Well...after giving it some thought, it's really all been all about reading, writing and arithmetic. With arithmetic being the clear leader.

For weeks I have been doing what financial people do...numbers, numbers, and more numbers. There were days when I was swimming in numbers; diving into worksheet number forty-six of a complex Excel spreadsheet with my first consideration of taking shower at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon. The life of an accountant.

I thought these days were behind me. Racing fast and furious to calculate the bottom line. I was wrong. Less the visor and adding machine, I have filled the bean-counter stereotype as of late. For thirty days and thirty nights, I been churning through numbers. Projections, financial assumptions, income statements, cash flows, and supporting spreadsheets. If it was financial in nature, you name it and I did it.

On Monday night I made my financial deadline. Exhausted and a bit exhilarated, I saved my Excel spreadsheet and went to bed. Tuesday I awoke to a new day and a myriad of e-mails that awaited from my many days of neglect. Still not refreshed by lunch time, it was clear that I am not wired on numbers alone. 

I was tired. I was spent. I needed some down time. Unfortunately I'm not good at downtime. I like to move and multi-task. An afternoon at home typically means catching up on projects on the list; a closet to be cleaned or a stack of papers to be organized. Massages and meditation have yet to hit my downtime schedule. But Tuesday felt different. Alone sounded good.

So I unplugged with a good book. On a hot steamy summer afternoon, I shut the blinds. With  a lazy dog by my side, I laid back and read a good book. Fiction, no less. I unplugged from my phone, computer, and iPad. With not a sound in the house (boys are with their dad) or a reminder of the humid heat from tthe outside (great shades), I relaxed and finished a great book.

Our book club selection for the month was perfect. I laughed out loud while cheering on the strange man who narrated in first person the main character in my beloved book. I spent my Tuesday afternoon in the quiet of my home. No spreadsheets. No e-mails. By the time I arose three hours later, I was completely refreshed. No massage necessary.

Today I am back to writing. Reacquainted with a long lost friend. It has been way too long. I can not run on the fuel of arithmetic alone. Reading, writing and arithmetic. Now that's a beautiful combination. At least for this girl. Now time to re-balance the proportion of each....
(BTW...Book that I read was called "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion. If you have a quirky personality and thought "Silver Lining Playbook" was a great movie, you will enjoy this read.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014: A Biking Rerun (where it all began)

(A rerun post from 7/7/ first try at an organized run)
My biking escapades continue with me feeling like a newly minted cycling enthusiast. I now have the cool spandex bike shorts, zip jersey, and fingerless gloves. My shoes are the specialized ones that clip to my pedals. AND this weekend I participated in my first ever organized biking event; which was a true adventure in many ways.

But before I dive into the details of the Tour de Sandy; let me digress a bit as to how this idea was hatched. As I have indicated in past blogs, Garrett (my man from Denver) is very much a cycling enthusiast. Although I'm a bike novice, Garrett invited me to join him on an organized bike ride called the Mike Horgan Climb.
For those who don’t know me, I will let you in on a little personality flaw; I don’t like to miss out on anything. I tend to say “yes” to every event before completely thinking through the logistics of the commitment.

“Awesome,” was my response. “Just send me an invite with the details.” I was an official rider. Ready to take on the packs of riders like those I saw riding across the Alps on TV. 
My training plan was to just focus on getting in miles on my bike. I was signed up and committed. I convinced myself not to over think it. Logging in decent miles in the weeks prior to the ride, I felt confident. And then I pulled up the Mike Horgan Climb website to research the course.

The ride was only 21 miles and they used the word “beginner” on their website. The colorful elevation map looked steep, but it was Greek to me as we don’t track things like elevation in Omaha. The detailed description indicated 4,100 ft of climbing. Since this stat held no relevance to me, I decided to keep focusing on putting in miles.
Mike Horgan Climb Elevation Map

Garrett and I followed all of the pre-ride preparation rules. We carbed up Friday night, and then up early for breakfast and stretching. Good to go. Garrett's friend, Brit, joined us as well.

Although I was just a third wheel in my hot pink jersey, I was feeling official. Then as we pulled into the ride parking lot, the high caliber of riders participating became apparent to me. Most were warming up on stationary stands. I convinced myself that the stationary bike riders were the serious riders. The beginners like me would show up later.

I soon noticed I was the only cyclist not wearing a jersey endorsing a product or a team. Wearing my hot pink number with no words had me feeling like a fish out of water. As I perused the female competition, I noted that all the women, including the 60 and over crowd, had bodies like Jillian Michaels. By this time I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

Brit and Garrett before their start
With an impending start, I quickly learned that the entire group did not start at the same time. After sending Garrett and Brit off, I scoped out the crowd looking for the friendliest female face who appeared closest to my age. After choosing a random woman, I asked when the “senior” groups were done so they could start releasing our groups. The nice lady explained that I was a senior.

Anyone who was not a junior (18 and under) was a senior, which made me a senior. Since I didn’t sign up to compete, I would be with my age group, but grouped with the Level 4 competing group. Clear as mud? No, but I did understand that I was next in line and stayed by the nice fit lady in a team bike jersey.

Priding my self on adapting on the fly, I developed a strategy. I would follow my designated group closely, but pull up the end. I didn't want to cross the yellow line. The ride organizers repeated a minimum of three times that this would be grounds for disqualification per the Boulder Police Department.

Waiting with my fellow seniors, my fears grew from yellow line violations to knocking over another rider at the packed start. My lack of biking prowess seemed as bright as my hot pink jersey.    
My group did take off without incident. I didn't cross the center line nor did I knock anyone over. It actually went quite smoothly. Not so bad, I thought. And I was keeping up with the pack. About three miles into the race, I was feeling pretty confident; a bit cocky, in fact.

Ahead of me were three women (two with matching team jerseys). I was having no problem staying with them. Out of nowhere the woman in the third position turned to me and spoke.

"If you're going to ride with us, you are going to have to take a turn in our pace line," was her order.

I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. What was obvious was my lack of understanding cycling etiquette. Since I hadn't the faintest idea on their rules, I accepted defeat.

"I have no clue what I am doing. Just tell me what you need from me and I'll do my best," was my response.

"That works for us," the woman yelled back. "I'm Darcy and this is Amy and Linda. Stay on my wheel and follow me while we take the lead". So I followed Darcy's instructions and I took turns leading our foursome in the pace line.

I was a natural at this ("look, hands"). Why was I second guessing myself? Feeling golden again, I roared along Boulder Creek in a pace line; carrying my weight as part of a cycling team. My cockiness overtook as I dreamed of offers of a coveted new team jersey of my own.

Things were going great with my new friends as we began our steady climb up the mountain. Until we hit the mile four marker. Turning the corner, Darcy commented that she was a "slow climber" and not to wait for her. Sounds reasonable, I thought. And then I looked up.

What I saw took my breath away. The winding road that laid ahead of me was at an incline that I had never rode before. The best analogy I can give would be of skiing and being stranded on top of a double black diamond mogul. But instead of looking down this treacherous mountain, I was looking up it. And on a bike.

Determination took over, so I pushed forward behind Darcy. The next two miles were grueling with the incline increasing, sweat pouring off of me, and my legs feeling like rubber. My pace line friends were now a distant memory and my only company; a young German man who explained to me that he signed up for his first "climbing" race. With a thick accent, he let me know that choosing this race was clearly a mistake. So noted, I thought.

I started asking the roadside volunteers if the incline would get better. Yes, I was told. But not until after six more miles of the same steep winding hills. It soon became apparent that other than my German friend, I was the trail-ender in this endeavor.

The Boulder policeman pulled up the back and kept checking on me.

"How are you doing?" he would shout out his window.

"Great," I kept telling him. "A beautiful day in Colorado!"

I was now following an inaccurate belief that a positive attitude would pull me through. The policeman just smiled.

By this point in the ride, I was doing the math on my average miles per hour. With the mileage remaining, and assuming I did survived, it would be mid-afternoon before I would make it back to Garrett's vehicle. I was in agony. I concluded that the girl from the flatlands would need to venture back down this monster of a mountain before making it to the top.

I was good with this decision. The Mike Horgan Climb had now turned into the Sandy Lane Climb (seriously, who is Mike Horgan anyway?). My new goal was to push myself as far as I could before turning around and heading back down. So that is what I did. I pushed myself until near the Mile 8 mark and then I turned around.

With white knuckles gripping my brakes, I held on for dear life while racing down the wicked inclines. Safely making it to the parking lot, I waited for Garrett and Brit. They were actually relieved that I headed down early; worrying about me as they struggled up the grueling course. Giving me a little reinforcement that I wasn't a complete disappointment. 

After giving our legs a day off from biking, Garrett and I took on another climb the morning of the 4th of July.  The benefits of taking on Mike Horgan were apparent on this first post-race ride. A once difficult climb now felt like a cinch.

Maybe there was some psychology to Garrett's signing me up for this race.  The picture at the top of this post was taken at the end of a recent climb. What will the next stage of my biking adventures involve? I really don't know. There is nothing on my Outlook calendar yet, but just give it some time...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014: Counting my Blessings

Garrett completed his 12th Triple Bypass this afternoon. 120 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing. Last year was the first year he missed (due to an unnamed someone in Omaha who had plans that didn't include Colorado).

So today was all about Garrett. His day. A streak to be continued (minus a minor blip in 2013). And my kids were right by my side in this sentiment.

Without hesitation, Zach and Grant bypassed a sleep-in-Saturday. They happily accompanied me to Vail to cheer Garrett on at the ride finish line. There wasn't a single word questioning the need for their attendance or complaints on better use of their time.

In years past, this positive response from my boys wouldn't have given me a second thought. I would have expected nothing less. That's how they were raised and the kind of boys they are; ones open for an adventure and not questioning the keen skills of their parents in navigating the master calendar.

I have since learned that not all kids are wired this way. With many, it's all about what they want and what they feel like doing. I don't buy into this philosophy. Life isn't always about a plan to suit our individual needs. It's about being open-minded to the unknown and thinking outside of ourselves.

Over the last few years I have come to appreciate these traits in my kids that I had previously taken for granted. The boys are typically adaptable and non-argumentative in enjoying our time together. They are often selfless in life choices. All three have an admirable ability to think outside themselves. I hadn't a clue that this wasn't a norm for teenagers.

Garrett was amazed in our early years together as he observed the behavior of the Lane boys. They would enthusiastically join in on the planned or unplanned event of the day. If I said we were going to the grocery store, they would pile in the car without an argument or a question asked. Garrett's jaw would drop in awe.

Once it was pointed out that this wasn't a normal behavior, I began to count my blessings. I couldn't imagine a child not thinking our plans to be fun. As a family, we have always collectively bought into the philosophy that life is an open book; full of opportunities and chance meetings. But you have to leave the house and think outside yourself to find them.

At ride finish, there was a general meeting area. With some shade and some time; Zach, Grant and I decided to sit a bit until Garrett's anticipated finish time. As the three of us were buried in our phones, two elderly gentlemen joined our table. Before I could say a word, Zach greeted them and put his phone aside. I sat back and listened to the exchanging of stories on hometowns and common interests of guns and micro-breweries.

I often remind my kids to be kind. That we never know when a kind word or smile to a stranger will make a difference. It was heart-warming to observe this behavior first hand rather than my lecturing them.

Zach made his mom proud. He was thinking outside of himself. The best selfless acts of kindness are those that look for nothing in return. In this case, two elderly men learned about a young man from Nebraska and a gun school in their hometown that they were not aware. Zach learned about a Denver micro-brewery festival in September and a lake in mid-Nebraska.

So today I am grateful.

I am grateful for a 21 and 14 year old, with far better Saturday options than a two hour drive into the mountains with their mom to cheer on their stepfather at a bike ride finish line. I am grateful for a husband who trained hard and achieved this difficult feat. The Triple is not for the faint of heart.

Garrett later shared with me that this was the first time in his twelve Triple Bypass' he had anyone cheering him at the finish. Having him see me in on the roadside and yell, "Hey, Sandy!" at mile 120 was priceless. I am glad we could accommodate. It was fun.

View on our drive home after a very good day

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 5, 2014: Mountain Living

Zach and me atop Mount Evans
We are closing on Day Two of our three day weekend in Denver. The days have been full of mountains and scenic splendor.

Zach has his first out-of-town visitor this weekend with long-time friend, Nick. As nature's playground surrounds our Denver home, we had to take in some sites that were even new to me (at about 5 years into my Denver co-residency, I no longer consider myself a newbie).

Our weekend in the Rockies has been fun, but I have to admit that I'm getting a little exhausted. Although I have grown used to the drastic elevation changes, 14,000 feet is always a long ways up.

Today we drove to the top of Mount Evans and then hiked up its rocky terrain. We reached the elevation of 14,265. The views were stunning. Yesterday we hiked Evergreen Mountain with the Brucker kids. Zach and Nick joined another friend in Colorado Springs to take on The Incline. This hike was not for the faint of heart; 2,000 vertical feet in a mile span. Basically, straight up.

The best part of driving to new destinations in the Rockies is the sleepy mountain towns that accompany our adventures. I just love these little communities bursting with personality. People live in these places because they want to. Therefore, happiness abounds with a sense of peace resonating in the shops and cafes we visit.

Following our yesterday's hike up Evergreen Mountain, we enjoyed burgers, chicken, and a Bloody Mary on the upstairs deck of Little Bear. It was pure bliss to the eyes and the soul.

Per the historical account in the menu, the quaint bar and grille was once a church and then a drugstore. Now, a very busy eating establishment. Bikes of all sorts, motors and pedals, lined the narrow main street.

Today with Nick and Zach in tow, we enjoyed a great pizza icon in downtown Idaho Springs. Beau Jo's got a raving thumbs up from all of us. Strategically positioned on Miner Street, fourteen miles from the base of Mount Evans, we enjoyed the Colorado-style pizza (who knew Colorado had a style of pizza?) and beer served in mason jars. It was pleasure to our hiker taste buds.

Tomorrow......we are thinking Golden or Fort Collins. The options are endless, given we have enough energy left to do them. Tonight we relax with feet up in our backyard enjoying the view of the foothills. Our morning bike rides are out our front door with various routes throughout the 4,000+ acres of open space resting in the foothill beauty.

Life is good. I'm just seizing the moment and am happy that we are able to take it all in (we did sneak in some fireworks watching last night too...bonus).

My attempted selfie after my morning climb
Lily and Jake enjoying the mountain top

Evergreen Mountain hike

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 3, 2014: Dueling Laptops

A late flight back to Denver has turned into a late night. This is pretty typical with our flights home (the home to the West, that is). The later the flight, the higher likelihood it will be bumped. It's the domino effect to the last man standing.

For the record, the terminal is pretty dead. Most people are enjoying the beautiful pre-holiday night in a lawn chair, not in an airport.

As Garrett and I maneuvered on the busy Interstate, we quickly noted that the high volume of traffic was turning into Ameritrade Ballpark. Eppley Airfield did not appear to be the destination of choice. Our suspicions were correct. Wrestling for an open table at the airport bar was not a requirement for our typical Date Night.

So I now sit beside my honey with dueling laptops among the quiet buzz surrounding us. It's all good though. Sometimes God winks unexpected downtime into our otherwise busy lives. We have enough fireworks going on in day-to-day living. And who would have thought the most peaceful place in Omaha, on this busy Thursday night, would be the airport?

Excitement starts tomorrow with our intermingled crew of kids in Denver. Zach has a friend visiting as well. Our fireworks.....start.....soon.........

For now? A little quiet time with the hubby. (and please note that my e-mail in-box is down to four messages. That NEVER happens :))