Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016: Spotlight is On (Days 83 and 84)

Monday wasn't such a great day for Abby
10:03 p.m. Monday, February 29, 2016 (Leap Day)

I now officially have under a week left of my unofficial 90 days off. Today is Day 84 and I am ending this day sitting in my favorite chair, fur blanket on lap and fuzzy slippers on floor, with the only sounds in the house those of a popping fireplace and a teenage son's heavy footsteps in the room above me.

The animals are all tuckered out and snoozing upstairs. Not a peep from them. They had appointments at the vet's office that wore them out. A day in the life of a house pet. Cookie, the dog, loves car rides and trips outside the house. Abby, the cat, hates them. This is clear by her hissing in picture above. She did not want to visit our kind veterinarian today. Not at all.

Yesterday was a warm, but windy, Sunday. Ben and I went to the last home Creighton game of the year. I have always loved Sunday afternoon basketball games at the Century Link. This afternoon was no exception. The Bluejays won big and the conversations and company at the game were grand.

The evening was all about the Oscar's. I watched the first half at a friend's Oscar-themed party at her home and the second half with Grant at our own home. This year I had seen all the movie's up for Best Picture and many of the others up for awards as well. This inside knowledge created a heightened enthusiasm in my filling out the Oscar ballot that I would equate to a bookie with a March Madness bracket.

And I would have been 'in the money' for the big Oscar categories. I was 8 for 8 on the first ballot entries on my sheet. Some of the more obscure categories were guesses with outcomes at less than a 50% hit for me. But I scored on the ones I actually saw or had some insight into (Best Picture, Actress, Actor, etc...)

Spotlight was my pick for Best Picture. It was a difficult choice as this was a year where I enjoyed all of the movies. Brooklyn was sweet. The Big Short, a wild ride. And Room, a tough but worthy watch. Revenant was more difficult for me to judge as my eyes were closed most of the time (what bear?).

When Garrett and I went to see Spotlight, we hadn't a clue what it was about, just that it was on our 'must see' Oscar list. And then the screen lit up with great acting and a story line we knew too well. Garrett had lived near Boston during the time period of the movie.

As everyone likely knows by now, Spotlight was about the Boston Globe breaking the story on sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Watching the journalists in the film work tirelessly to uncover the cover-up and report on the hidden truths was riveting.

I asked a journalist friend of mine his thoughts on the film. He said it was 'spot on' and exactly why reporters do what they do. Seek the facts behind a story and unearth the hidden truths.

Likely if something is hidden, there is a reason. And that reason is rarely a good one. It's like telling a lie. People don't lie because their motive is pure. They may think they have reasonable excuses for their behavior, but ill intent typically lingers.

The name of the movie struck a chord with me. Spotlight. A bit of a play on words. Often the spotlight is on the wrong person or thing when trying to get the the heart of the truth. The stories the journalists seek are often outside the spotlight. That makes the investigation a much harder task.

I attended a fundraiser a few years back that featured Warren Buffet. In a fireside chat, he was asked what occupation he would have chosen if his career path excluded investments. His answer took little thought as he answered quickly.

"I would have been an investigative reporter. That's actually what I do when I invest. I dig down, look under the sheets, and ask a lot of questions. And then I only invest in businesses I fully understand. Just like a good reporter when writing a good story."

Warren's advice can be well taken by all. We all should dig deeper when making both business decisions and life decisions. Seek to fully understand. Fairly assess situations based on facts and an accurate portrayal of the known history. This will lead to the best answer and right story.

“I consider myself a journalist to some extent,” the 84-year-old billionaire, Warren Buffett, said in a video interview premiering Thursday night as part of the “Iconic Voices” series at Arizona State University. “I say, ‘Is the Washington Post Co. worth $22 a share?’ in 1973. I say, ‘Is the BNSF railroad worth us paying $34 billion?’ I assign myself the story. It’s my working hypothesis that it is. But then I go and look for the facts.”

Great advice.

(90 Days Off realization #18: Deal in fact. And more importantly, don't chase the spotlight. It's often pointing in the wrong direction.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February 27, 2016: Quickly approaching Day 90...

A little Saturday play after a hard day's work
As I have found in life, the days fly by. Regardless of whether I am working or not. Such was the case last week. In the blink of an eye, I went from the mountains of Utah to the Denver Rockies. And then back home to Omaha. Yesterday's 70 degree Nebraska day offset the lure of the mountain views.

A good week.

In recap...

Day 77 (Monday - 2/22/16)
Monday was a day of legal work for us. Never underestimate the worth of a good attorney. This isn't a new realization for me, but an insight that has served me well both personally and in business over my years.

And by 'good attorney', I mean much more than seasoned and smart. It means high integrity and ability to steer clients in the right direction, even if it isn't what the client wants to hear. Barring all attorney jokes, I have had the blessing of working with the best. Monday was no exception.

Logically we went from attorneys to margaritas. Monday was National Margarita Day. After doing our domestic duties in preparing dinner, Garrett and I ran out to buy some much needed groceries. A quick stop at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant for a toast to this national holiday was just what the doctor ordered.

Day 78 (Tuesday - 2/23/16)
We woke up to snow cover in Denver on Tuesday. But the joy of Denver is how quickly the snow melts and becomes a distant memory. By 3:30, I was running outside in a light layer of clothing, sunny skies, and with no snow underfoot. A quiet day with one child home from school battling a bug.

Day 79 (Wednesday - 2/24/16)
After the Denver kids were delivered to their schools and other home, Garrett and I ventured to the airport. Although the airport is a bit farther from our home than our preference, we have this gig down. With a TSA fly-through, train ride to Gate C, A-List boarding by Garrett, an hour flight; we were on Nebraska ground.

We are blessed with great neighbors in Omaha who care for our animals and home like their own. With our absence a bit longer this go-around than the usual, a pile of mail greeted me. But among the mounds of paper and boxes were many pleasant surprises.

Once the recycle bin was filled with discards, there was only one bill. The rest were of a personal nature. My 'booty' included a Broncos sweatshirt I ordered after their great Super Bowl win and a jeweled headband from my beloved Chloe and Isabel (gift to myself),

But the other items were surprises. Two heartfelt and hand-written thank-you cards from friends. One included a coffee gift card. And then there was a small package to me from Garrett's dad. He had just returned home from a Caribbean cruise and bought for me a pearl pendant and sapphire necklace on his trip. Wonderful gifts that warmed my heart.

A closer look
I wore my new blue necklace to the Creighton basketball game that night and enjoyed seeing all my fellow fans and seat mates although we watched a sad loss for our beloved Bluejays. Grant & friends joined me, but other than their company in the car on the way down, I didn't see their pretty faces again that night. Good thing I can hold my own. :)

Day 80 (Thursday - 2/25/16)
Finally back in town to run with my gal pals. We have been running together for around 15 years. Our runs in the past consisted of faster paces and more people in our group, but here we are; still together after all these years. My accountability partners provide early morning therapy while getting me out of bed at 5:15 in the morning, eager to start the day.

Thursday was busy with a breakfast, a coffee, and a lunch with past (and soon to be current) business associates. I continue to enjoy my listening tour, catching up with those I have greatly looked up to over the years and gaining much perspective from their valued insights.

Date night with Garrett was followed by dropping him off at the airport. This weekend will be spent apart as we each have our kids under our own care in two separate cities. This doesn't happen very often anymore, but we always try to make the best of it.

People often ask how we lead this crazy life and how we do it not being together all the time. The key is that it isn't all about us. We try to make the best decisions for the kids and ourselves as a couple based on the circumstances in front of us. Life is all about give and take. A good, but inevitable, lesson learned for families of divorce.

There is no perfect world with multiple homes that now involve step families. But we all need to understand that it isn't 'all about me'. This is a great lesson in compromise and embracing life challenges.

As seasoned 50-ish year old's, we know this lesson all too well in the many facets of our lives. It's good for our kids to embrace this young as they will inevitably deal with it in their adult lives. But as parents we continually remind ourselves how important it is to 'be present' for kids, regardless of their age. The balancing act continues...

Day 81 (Friday - 2/26/16)

Is there any better way to wake up than feeling loved? Sometimes the whimsical, but kind acts are the ones with the most impact. Although 550 miles apart, Garrett and I do try to stay in frequent contact as a couple and make sure the other feels appreciated and loved, despite the miles.

Garrett sent me this song via e-mail (thanks, You Tube) with a simple note and a lot of xoxox's. Needless to say, Friday was an awesome day.

My Friday ended in as awesome a manner as it started. My other running gal pals (those opting out of the 5:30 a.m. start) have formed a team with a goal of running 2016 in 2016. We have also signed up for a couple of 5K's and a half-marathon. For Robbie and I, this is a goal. For Laurie, our running idol, this is a way of life. Her running adventures are a whole blog by itself.

But in commemoration of a running 'first' for her within our trio, Laurie has begrudgingly agreed to wear a tutu for the St. Patrick's day run. She tried one on for a trial run Friday night. This tutu was a pink version that Robbie includes as part of her wardrobe. A green one will soon be part of Laurie's.

I think she will actually like it.

Robbie's husband, Russ, again did a stellar job in entertaining the ladies. As forever friends, we laughed over many past adventures when Russ served as either chaperon or host to us. Thanks to Robbie and Russ for the great hospitality and Jack Halpenny for the endless entertainment.

Day 82 (Saturday - 2/27/16)
A work day. Ben came home from college, specifically to help with chores around the house. With a beautiful spring-like day, we started outside. Plants needed cut down and pots thrown away. A trampoline needed to be fixed and moved. Branches and twigs cleaned up and sporting equipment sorted for trash, keep or Goodwill.

We took a break for a late lunch at Oscar's for pizza and wings (and lots of leftovers for Ben to take back to Lincoln). Inside work included the boys patching holes in walls, moving furniture, and more 'trash, keep or Goodwill' decision-making.

With a purchase of two new basketballs (about 4 old ones hit the trash) combined with ideal weather, there were also many breaks for hoops. Although I love joining them outside, I would rather watch and enjoy the nice weather.

After taking one shot and missing, the allure of the green grass behind the basket caught my eye. I decided to lay
down and look at the sky.

Ben: "Grant, look at Mom. She took one shot and decided it would be more fun to take pictures while laying down on the grass."

Seemed perfectly logical to me.

Teaching our children that life is as much about hard work as fun play is a good thing. Saturday was a day well spent.

And now the big realization is starting to set in for me. Day 90 is seriously next Sunday?? Yikes. I still have people to see and things to do. Good thing I believe in extensions.....

(90 Days Off realization #17: A day spent with our loved ones is a day well spent. Don't put off spending time with these people who rank at the top of your list. There are no guarantees for tomorrow.)

And as a final note, I'll share the video I took while laying on the grass. Just like when they were in grade school, Grant and Ben are always making up new games with balls. And seriously...why are they kicking basketballs??

Friday, February 26, 2016

February 21, 2016: Days 75 and 76

Evidence of Kim and Garrett, on each side of me,
while we enjoy the backyard fire.

"Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it." - William Feather

Last weekend marked days 75 and 76 of my 90 days off. I have quickly become aware that 90 days isn't as much time as one would think. It is going by fast for me. Too fast.

The weekend was spent visiting friends in St. George, Utah. Craig has been a long-time friend of Garrett's, and Craig's girlfriend, Kim, a new friend to both of us. But as always seems the case with happy and fun people who naturally exude this disposition, it now feels like Kim is another 'old friend' as well.

First let me point out that St. George, Utah is beautiful. I had never been there. The February weather was in the upper 60's. Mountains spiked our every view. And sunlight was abound.

We traveled to St. George from Kingman on Saturday morning and spent two days sharing life with Craig and Kim. We enjoyed a patio lunch, touring the city, an outdoor barbecue, and an awesome hike with our tour guide extraordinaire, Kim.

Kim is truly a professional, working with clients daily at a fitness resort. Her main responsibility is leading hiking excursions in the mountains to help her clients in their quest to become fit. These hikes are many times 'off trail'. We got the off trail version as well, enjoying the Navajo sandstone in the Red Mountains, with Kim as our expert and skilled hiking lead.

Both Saturday and Sunday were full of smiles and happiness. I often thought about Garrett and Craig's long-term friendship, beginning 16 years ago in the foothills of Denver. At the time they were both married to women who didn't have names sounding like Sandy or Kim. If told at the time that in 16 years they would be enjoying life by a fire pit in Utah with noted S and K, they would have thought someone was crazy.

But such is life. Over the course of time, we have all had our share of life changes full of trials and tribulations. Some still continue today for Garrett and I. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and actually helps in relishing a life full of peace and joy even more.

Before we left for our hike, we had a great conversation on our happiness factor. A term I had heard before, but never discussed.

The conversation started with Craig asking what I was doing with my time off. I started gushing over how much fun I was having spending time with friends and family; filling my days with things and people who bring me joy. We laughed over how one can be more busy when they take time off than when they are working 50+ hours a week.

And then Craig asked for my happiness factor on a scale from 1 - 10. I gave it a 9. Garrett and Craig gave it the same. Some would say this is because we are 'living the dream' with a stress-free life. The reality is that our lives aren't perfect. But we continue to fight the battles put before us and choose happy.

An insight that has become very apparent to me over these last few months is that unhappy people cause us the most stress in life. Bullies are grown from personal unhappiness in one's self. And bullying unfortunately still happens in adulthood. Bullies need to be dealt with, but we can't allow them to gain their quest of robbing us of our own happiness.

Choosing happy and a joyful existence each day with gratitude for all the great blessings God has given us; that is a life well-lived.

Craig gave the best words of advice in how he applies and challenges himself by gauging his happiness factor...

"Be real in your assessment. Look at your happiness factor daily. And if it's off, make changes, starting by looking in the mirror."

(90 Days Off realization #16: Happiness is a choice. Happiness and joy are right in front of all of us. And the ability to be grateful is the greatest source of happiness.)
My vantage point at the end of a great trip.
Another day well lived :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 19, 2016: Day 74

Mom firing up her vintage Singer for some repair work on Garrett's jeans
Day 74 was full of sunshine in beautiful Arizona. Mom, Dad, Garrett, and I kicked back and enjoyed exercise, activities, and lots of great conversations.

Mom and I started with an early Silver Sneakers class at her gym. Kip led us in a strength-training class with a group of about a dozen. With some hyped-up oldies music, we got our strength on. Dad got in his many walks for the day and Garrett and I both found time to enjoy a run in the Arizona sunshine.

Health is very important to my parents. They have their daily activities that keep their bodies fit and eating habits exemplify clean living. I often remark that my mom has always been ahead of the pack in understanding the good and the bad on the health spectrum. She defined 'clean eating' while we were all consuming mounds of processed, fat-free foods in the 90's.

In the 70's my mom was 'uncool' at the pool, wearing a floppy hat to cover her face while we were all slathering ourselves in baby oil. Her skin thanks her today. Mom always had the newest health trends figured out before they were trendy. She was describing gluten to me in detail years before it became the newest health trend. My parents are poster children for living their lives around a clean diet and active lifestyle.

This provided great health exchanges between the four of us as Garrett and I have been working hard at improving our health. We have gone through a two week body detox and learned much about how our bodies respond, positively and negatively, to different foods. Part of my 90 day journey. Health is best worked on as a couple.

A delicious breakfast of oatmeal with all the healthy fixings
Words like moderation in eating, intensity of work out, quality of sleep, and clean eating are now common in our daily conversations. Like my parents, this is a continued lifestyle choice that can be tweaked and improved upon with time.

Our day in Arizona also included going through my mom's big projects of late; finalizing the Pick family cookbook and compiling family stories and photos for publication. This is a huge task, of which Mom spearheads with a lot of assistance from her siblings.

It was fun and refreshing to hear stories of past and see pictures from my childhood that I had never seen before. My Mom is the master family historian. It is a special gift to us that she share her research and knowledge with the rest of the family for these books.

There is so much to be learned from our past. This has become so apparent to me as I work my way into my next chapter. You have to look back to best move forward. Life lessons and life experiences define us as people. There is no better way to understand what is truly important to us; what we want to hold on to and what we want to let go.

Life lessons are inevitable. The key is what you do with them.

The net of my Day 74 was that it was a great day. Any day spent with my parents is always at the top of the list. There just needs to be more of them in the future.

(90 Days Off realization #15: Reflecting on the past and the people most impactful in our past gives us the best insight into our future)

Picture Mom took right before left to venture to Utah.
Note that the cowboy boots are hand-me-downs from Mom.
They have been 'in the family' for 20ish years.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 18, 2016: Day 73

Windshield view from Vegas to Kingman
"Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated."

A friend shared this quote in mid-December and it has resonated with me ever since.

Just coming off a life change in leaving a job very abruptly, my feelings were many and mixed. The remaining December was a bit of a blur for me. As the CPU in my brain went into overdrive, over-analyzing the details of my departure, this simple quote kept coming back to me.

I lost sight of this quote as my 90 days off became an adventure over the last month or so. But after spending a day observing and listening to my parents and husband, the importance of these words couldn't have come across to me any stronger. So simple, but so true.

Is a relationship ever fulfilling when you feel tolerated and not celebrated? The answer is never. I run into this far too often with people staying in the same organizations or in the same relationships for far too long. And it really is all about relationships in both our work and personal lives.

Even if 90% of the people at your job celebrate your great existence, it only takes the minority of the tolerated crowd to make your life miserable. Personal relationships carry even more weight. I can't imagine going through life without a spouse who celebrates me; celebrates us. I never feel tolerated. And that is a joyful existence.

Garrett and I enjoyed a wonderful Thursday with my parents in Kingman, Arizona. Our Mexican dinner together was full of sharing life, including some great conversations on our past work lives.

My mom described three different bosses with three different experiences. The shortest-termed boss of the three caused her the most heartache. She was barely tolerated. As Mom described the other two longer-termed employers, she shined with a smile. Time well spent.

Dad has always been his own boss. Always. And no negative job evals were received during this tenure. His reminiscing over his work life was one of hard work that paid huge happiness dividends to him. Better than annual bonuses.

And my parents celebrate each other. Every day. There is no 'tolerating' each other as I have seen way too often between long-time married couples. I am blessed with great examples of parents. They live a life well lived and are great mentors to me.

A dear friend shared with me words from her mentor on a work life well spent. She described her friend and mentor as a little Asian woman with a fierce personality and a strong accent. Following a big layoff at my friend's company, she asked for words of advice from the woman, her elder by many years.

The words of wisdom were not what my friend expected.

“Never be afraid of being fired. Have a plan B. Don’t be afraid of risks. If you are afraid to fail, you will never do anything.”

When my friend asked for more clarification, as though developing a master plan was in order, the little lady's next line of advice came quickly...

“What are you waiting for?? You are old enough to do this. If you wait too long, you’ll be old like me and not able to do anything anymore.”

Enough said. I loved these words. The fiery little lady had no clue that she 'paid it forward' with this advice to me as well.

Celebration and appreciation are a great way to exist. And working to not be fired? Nobody positively changes the world or an organization without taking risks. Living afraid is living in fear. And fear paralyzes. Positive change can't occur in an immobile environment. That is an impossible feat.

Everyone wants to make a difference while leading a happy life. But you need to be empowered, brave, and appreciated to fully realize these great feats. You also need to know when to walk away.

And now for my advice...If Plan A's don't work, Plan B's can be glorious. My 90 days off was my Plan B. No magic to the 90 day number. It just felt right the day I had to execute on it.

Life is good. I have no doubt that the next chapter will be full of continued happiness and positive change. The key is not accepting anything less.

(90 Days Off realization #14: Don't make compromises on the big things in life)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February 16, 2016: Day 71 (and 72)

My view as I come down the steps each morning
The bliss of home life and warmer weather has set in for me. A little routine and sunshine goes a long way. We will be on the road again tomorrow, so I have soaked in my short-lived downtime in Omaha.

Meetings on my listening tour continue. Each refreshing with great takeaways. Tuesday consisted of a lunch with a philanthropic leader. I learned about many great initiatives taking place in Omaha. Other meetings over the last two days included many great people I have worked with over the years. From healthcare attorneys to CEO's, I was all ears.

I would be remiss to not talk about my kids. My silence in relation to them as of late isn't because they're not around. In fact, they are very much around and I am very much present. A great gift of my 90 days off. I think Grant has warmed up to having his mom around the house a lot. We have gotten into a very nice rhythm.

George is orange and Randy with black
(pretty cute, aren't they?)
Ben isn't typically physically present, but we have reminders of him every day. With missing clothes out of his brother's closet or dropped off treasures in my garage, we term these little treats, 'Ben Lane Surprises'.

The daily reminder of this is the cage of guinea pigs in our entry way. Yes, you heard it right. We have two small pigs, Randy and George, who live by our front door. That is their winter home. They spend warmer days in the garage.

They arrived at our home last March. Garrett was at a March Madness basketball game downtown. I was out to dinner with friends. And Ben was on his way back to college. But before hitting the road, he first stopped at our house leaving George and Randy as a 'Ben Lane Surprise' to greet us upon our arrival.

Here is the video Ben later sent me of his big reveal to Grant (I apologize for the couple of 'shits' in the beginning)...


Of note is Ben's honesty in owning that neither his dad or mom approved this gift. But then he left. And George and Randy stayed. Also note that Grant's sweet enthusiasm for these creatures quickly waned by the day. With a high probability of euthanasia if given to the Humane Society, the pigs became my pets. They grew on me and I couldn't bear the thought of contributing to their death.

As we approach the year anniversary of Randy and George's arrival, Garrett just shakes his head that they're still here. If any one knows of a good home, they are up for adoption! Having a cat, a dog, and two guinea pigs to care for when we travel is a bit much.

And then there are the little 'Ben Lane Surprises' that suddenly appear. Like this chair that appeared in my garage when I arrived home from Chicago on Monday. The ripped piece of furniture was to have the final destination of Ben's apartment in Lincoln. I noted seeing it loaded in the back of his car the last two times I saw him. When asked, Ben told me he hadn't had time to unload and carry to his room. Okay.

So when he and a friend went on little road trip to visit other friends this weekend, somehow it sounded like the best idea to leave it in my garage. Call me crazy, but maybe unloading it into his intended apartment before he left was the better option? But I'm just the mom with illogical thinking.

Oh, Ben, life is a bit boring without you around, but you are always close to mind.

Grant doesn't provide as many surprises, but is a joy to have around. He helps out with his chores (including cleaning out the guinea pig cage) when he isn't planning out his social life and just enjoying his soon-to-be sixteen-year-old life. Normalcy in our daily lives is a great thing.

I would mention Zach, the oldest, but he is pretty much his own man. His routine calls while driving home from work are always welcome and bring a smile to my face.

With the hubby flying in yesterday and our planned week of travel together, I have to is good.

(90 Days Off realization #13: The small pleasures in life are really the big things)


A little glimpse of the days ahead (we will hit in 5 states within 7 days):

Day 73 (Thursday 2/18): Fly to Vegas with Garrett. Road trip from there to visit my parents

Day 74 (Friday 2/19): Kingman, Arizona with my parents

Day 75 (Saturday 2/20): Drive to St. George, Utah to visit a friend

Day 76 (Sunday 2/21): Day in St. George and then fly to Denver, just in time for night-night

Day 77 (Monday 2/22): Day in Denver

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

February 14, 2016: Day 69 (and 70)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Although Garrett and I spent Sunday apart, I was surprised with this beautiful bouquet of flowers greeting me upon my arrival home on Monday. Two cards were delivered in the mail as well. Both sweet and very thoughtful. But like the flowers, very unexpected.

Thoughtful words and gifts, out of the blue, are always special. Genuine acts of kindness.

A Valentine's Day forgotten became a Valentine's Day remembered.

Sunday, Day 69 of my 90 days off, was the big V-Day. I was in Chicago finishing my Girls' Weekend. Garrett was in Denver preparing for a Monday on the ski slopes with his son. Other than a text back and forth, V-Day was an afterthought for both of us. We both knew this when we made plans for the weekend and didn't think the worse of the other. No expectations.

As I read through FaceBook posts on the holiday of note, they were filled with words of love and pictures similar to the one above. But one particular post on a friend's timeline caught my eye.

"We do not celebrate Valentine's Day for a number of reasons. I have been a longtime believer that if the love is not evident 365 days, why should this one be filled with flowers, chocolate, gifts or cards?"

And then my friend shared the surprise card her husband gave her with a handwritten note that he loved her all 365 days of year. I smiled on the sweetness of this act. The power of the written word and genuine acts of human kindness, regardless of the perceived magnitude, are impactful.

Sometimes when you don't expect, you reap. When assessing my life to date, people I have shared this life with along the way have disappointed me far less than those who have showered me with happiness.

I remind myself of this statistic when lamenting over those who disappoint. My gifts of kindness on Monday, Day 70, were a great reminder.

A quick recap of Days 69 and 70...

Sunday was spent in Chicago. The driving crew left early in the morning for their road trip back to Des Moines while I hung with Laura and her family in their warmth of their home. It snowed throughout the day. We watched it from their large living room window, while our girlfriends battled it on the road. Their typical five hour drive took twice that time due to an accident (not there's) and the falling snow.

Laura and I enjoyed some shopping and great conversation. I kept telling her we were having another of our many sleep-overs of past together. Just 30 years later this time around and not in her family farmhouse. Dinner and Valentine's Day were celebrated with Laura and her beautiful daughter, Caitlin, at an Irish pub and restaurant in the quaint local downtown area of their suburb. We had a great night. Just like the old days.

As Laura took me to the airport Monday morning, we commented on how the best friendships always continue with ease and affection, as though no time had passed between us. Laura and I have one of those friendships.

With a hug and promises on not letting too much time pass until being together again, I went to board a plane to Omaha. I had my day carefully planned with a late lunch and afternoon coffee upon my arrival.

And then life inserted herself with her own plans.

As I was chatting with Garrett on my phone, awaiting my turn through the TSA line, an incoming call with an 800 area code showed up on my phone display. I ignored it, letting it go to voice mail. I soon learned through a voice recording that my flight was cancelled. Not delayed. Cancelled.

I quickly listened to the message twice trying to write down the various numbers provided while maintaining my position in the moving TSA line. After a phone call to American Airlines, I learned that they had no more flights available for me to get back to Omaha on Monday. I was on my own in locating another flight.

This is a perfect example of times when I have to tell myself to stay calm and patient. And most importantly, I need to get resourceful.

I quickly got out of the long TSA line and pulled out my laptop. Southwest is my airline of choice, but unfortunately across the city at the other Chicago airport. I toyed with taking a cab to my beloved Southwest, only to find out that all SW flights were booked as well.

With a stroke of luck, I found a United flight leaving in three hours. It appeared that some seats were available, but I was leery of booking and incurring expense on a second airline that I rarely traveled. Running with rolling bags down two terminals from 1 to 3, I located a United representative.

I calmly explained my situation to the woman in blue. She was puzzled at why American didn't re-book for me, noting that they already had a handful of American travelers on my intended flight switched by the airlines to the desired United flight.

And then she gave me great advice. She wrote down the exact airline jargon I was to tell American representative with the exact flight change they could 'push' from their computer.

"We do this all the time," she explained. "If I were you, I wouldn't accept this answer from them. Likely you will have to work hard to get your refund. It will have restrictions to their airline and this last minute flight you are booking with us is not cheap. American should take care of this."

Never flying American and previously dealing with Southwest, who are light years better in customer service, I found myself on foreign land. I very much appreciated the coaching from the seasoned United rep.

I call American back and immediately went on hold. And than hold again and again. The gentleman was friendly, but kept blaming United for not picking up their phone. After 30 minutes of hold, he came back on, apologizing while explaining that his call finally went through to United and was then dropped. He would need to start the process over. Was I willing to wait?

Patience...kindness...remain calm...

"Yes, thank you for your help. I really would like to get this resolved. I will wait," was my professional and composed answer.

As I was sitting and waiting on the call, the most unexpected thing happened. The United rep was suddenly standing in front of me, far away from her designated post.

"Ma'am, I'm worried that we are going to sell out of seats before you get this resolved. If you give me your driver's license, I will hold a seat for you."

Without hesitation, I gave her my driver's license. I was shocked at her kindness and desire to go out of her way to help me out.

After another 20 minutes on hold, success was finally attained. American re-booked me under United. I was going home at noon. Or so I thought. Next minor inconvenience was boarding my new flight and sitting for an hour and a half waiting for our flight crew. Again...

Patience...kindness...remain calm...

Being flustered or annoyed would have gotten me nowhere. It sure wouldn't have gotten me home earlier. I once worked with a man who insisted that a 'punch to the face' was the only effective strategy in obtaining your desired result. He called our antics 'midwestern nice' and ineffective. I have to disagree. Midwestern nice has paid me many dividends over the years.

Arrival to my front door was 3:45 p.m. Four hours later than the scheduled time.

Greeting me was a beautiful Valentine's bouquet and some special cards snuggled in my mound of accumulated mail. Lots of love and good on a day that should have been a huge downer.

And BTW...I do get 365 days of love from my husband each year, so his many gifts and thoughtful acts are just frosting on the cake.

(90 Days Off realization #12: Best put by my mom in her frequent words of advice to me...

sugar is better than vinegar)

Card from favorite friend and aunt, Kathy
Love this quote

Monday, February 15, 2016

February 13, 2016: Day 68

Saturday, Day 68, I joined some of my high school friends in Chicago. Just coming off of our 30 year class reunion, I was very excited for this hurriedly planned weekend (at least for me). I had meant to blog about our reunion weekend in Remsen last September, but as was common for me those fall months, time slipped by with no posted story.

I will give it a short summary as I believe it's never to late to share.

The reunion was fantastic. A night of sharing friendship and life with the people I grew up. Fast forward thirty years. Before leaving Omaha to make the two hour trek to Remsen for the reunion, I went to a baby shower. An older lady at my table asked what I was doing for the rest of the day. When I told her of my reunion in my hometown, Remsen, I loved her enthusiastic response on my trip.

"The 30 year reunion was the best! You will have a ball. No one cares about so-called success milestones of the past....kid accomplishments, schools, cars, jobs. No bragging because no one is listening. It's all about having fun and sharing life for a while."

She nailed it. For a night, we all took a time machine back in time. With 80's music blaring in the background, we laughed at favorite stories, called each other by nicknames, and passed a bottle of Fireball around the barn where we gathered. Pure bliss.

Our high school priest and principal came to celebrate mass with us. His great sermon was laced with specific stories around our innocent shenanigans during these glory years of past.

Since my parents moved to Arizona the year after I graduated, I many times don't run into classmates without a specific event or reunion. Little last minutes outings like this Chicago trip are a big treat for me.

Fast forward five months and I found myself boarding a plane to Chicago to meet a group of my classmates. I carefully packed my hat, gloves, and scarf in the front of pocket of my luggage for quick retrieval post-landing. I was very aware that my 60 degree days of Denver were not following me to Chicago. It was a frigid 9 degrees when the plane touched down.

And then the fun began.

I'll share our day together by first telling a story that started our day and one that ended it.

The cast of characters for the weekend are listed below. Note that we graduated together in 1985 from Remsen St. Mary's High School. Our class consisted of forty-four students, making our Chicago representation roughly 11% of our class.

Laura - Our hostess for the weekend and Chicago suburb resident. She was a farm girl with many over-nighters at her farm while growing up.

Lora - The other Lora. Another farm girl. We had parties at her house along with over-nighters (sorry, Paul and Marlene). Lora and I are third cousins. Our grandfathers were brothers.

Roxanne - Rocky. We were both town girls. I grew up on the north end of Harrison street and Rocky on the far south. She lived by my grandparents and I often played at her house while growing up. We are technically sixth cousins.

Joan - Farm girl and my relative by marriage (non-technically, but we always liked to think we were related). Joan's oldest sister is married to my uncle.

We all currently live in the Midwest. Lora is in Lincoln. Joan and Rocky are in Des Moines. And I'm in Omaha. A road trip brought Lora/Rocky/Joan to Laura's home outside of Chicago. I flew.

So on a frigid Saturday morning, my gal pals loaded in a silver mini-van, picked me up from O'Hare airport. And nothing happens with our crew without entertainment.

One would think a drive-by pick-up from an airport would be an easy task. Not for us. After many texts and phone calls with both Laura/Lora's, I could not find the said mini-van and they couldn't find their wayward friend in the turquoise scarf.

As they were forced to do a 'drive around', a nice lady who overheard my conversation pointed out the correct level and location for our meeting point.

I finally found them, with their shouting voices calling me name, and climbed into my waiting seat next to Joan. Our greeting to each other was a roar of laughter. I went on to share with them a similar story when my parents picked me up at the Santa Barbara airport. We were kicking off a 5 day road trip starting with driving the beautiful California Highway One.

Although I found my parents and their car without issue at the airport, the issue was with the next step. Getting out of the parking garage. As I took the driver's seat position, my dad told me that I was 'in charge'. The map was mine. They were just along for the ride. And then I proceeded to loop around the same floor of the parking garage three times until my dad pointed out the repetition of the parked cars we were seeing.

Roaring with laughter, we three brave travelers followed the exit signs out of the airport parking garage successfully. Ready to take on the world, but couldn't get out of the airport parking garage. I laugh out loud every time I think of this start of a great adventure.

(90 Days Off realization #10: Laugh often and laugh loud. And never take yourself too seriously. If you think you are 'above that', it is a guarantee you are not.)

Before I tell about the 'in between' of our day, I am going to go first tell a story of the end.

We had just taken the train in from the city and were back at Laura's house, arriving at a late (or early) 1:00 a.m. Lora had just went to bed. The rest of us were enjoying a final nightcap, reflecting on our fun day together and life in general.

Knowing the road trip crew would be taking off in the morning, we were starting to say our 'good byes'. Our train rides, dinner, and drink stops were filled with many of funny stories of the past as well as our reminiscing on the many shared life moments along the way. 

Finishing our final drinks, knowing it was soon time to move back into the normalcy of daily lives, Rocky turned to me and asked a question.

"Sandy, what will you blog about? What did you feel was the most important part of our time together?"

I don't remember my exact words, but without hesitation I shared that my personal reflection was one of life and death. Growing up together in the 70's and 80's in small town Iowa, we learned how to live. But then we learned about dying too.

Although we did live our lives with glorious naivety and uninhibited joy, we were not spared the pain that came with death. It was a raw part of our childhood. After sharing many conversations on Saturday on this subject, it was very apparent to me that these experiences still shape us in our experiences of today.

Joan lost her older brother to leukemia when he was just eleven. Joan was four Although we were all too young to understand the feelings of pain and loss, Joan describes in meticulous detail stories of her grieving mother and words shared between siblings.

The pain that we all felt and remember well was when Rocky's dad died. We were seniors in high school. We vividly remembered Rocky and her younger brother being pulled out of school to be told the news. He was the dad who made us eggs with hot dogs for breakfast and attended his kids many school activities fur interior van. We all loved Glenn. And we all loved Rocky.

With no road map on what to say or do, we learned how to support a grieving friend. Only then did the mortality of ourselves and our family become apparent. Glenn's sudden passing shaped our senior year and our perspective on life.

Within the next few years, Joan's dad died suddenly. With each passing year, there have been weddings and births, but there have also been funerals and tragedies. The Norman Rockwell setting that surrounded us did come with finality of mortality.

The 'in between' of our day in Chicago consisted of eating lots of Garrett's popcorn, enjoying drinks from the 96th floor of the Hancock Center overlooking the great windy city, deep dish Chicago style pizza, and the Harry Caray Bar. The book ends to our day were an hour train ride to and from Laura's home. Those train rides were golden. It was these conversations and sharing memories, all with the great backdrop of a cool and fun city, that made our day special.

A particular conversation that struck me was Rocky talking about her mom, now deceased as well. One of her parents died suddenly and the other suffered a long journey. Both were painful for the surviving children, but the long journey to death was even more difficult for Rocky. She misses her parents every day.

The rest of us have parents with varying degrees of good health and bad. We have also experienced loss in our lives and have personal obstacles to overcome. But we keep smiling, laughing, and sharing the small things that continue to give us joy. And we pull each other up and learn from each others experiences. That's what friends do, regardless of the number of years you've been apart. You just pick up where you left off....

(90 Days Off realization #11: Life is fragile and not a forever thing. Each day is a blessing. Live it to it's fullest.)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 12, 2016: Day 67

(realization from yesterday, Day 66, that was left out of my blog…)

(90 Days Off realization #8: Treating people with dignity weaves its way into every facet of life. Regardless of our impression of someone’s level of neediness or our impression of them being ‘deserving’; all people deserve this level of respect and human right as they carry out their daily lives.)

On to Day 67…

A Friday in Denver. Still warm and we enjoy the day at a relaxed pace.
I do believe this day demonstrated the recurring theme that I continue to feel as I walk through my 90 Day Journey. I am patient. I am relaxed. I am able to enjoy life and take in all the little details that surround me.

Many years ago, as I passed by a church outdoor billboard while stuck in traffic, I read a message that sticks with me to this day. I think of it often while I wait in lines; losing patience or feel my blood pressure rise as I fall behind the timeline dictated by my Outlook Calendar.

“The definition of impatience is waiting in a hurry.”

An impossible feat that ultimately leads to nothing.

I can be in a hurry and I can get stressed, but does it ever help the situation? Almost never. And tension spreads like wildfire. Even a toddler in a car seat can feel the stress of their anxious mother in the driver’s seat. Does my waiting in a hurry in the grocery line make the slow elderly lady carefully counting her change ahead of me feel accepted or does she feel rushed and barely tolerated?

Although I always strive to be kind and this tends to come easy for me, patience does not. And unfortunately when this strength and weakness meet, I have to fight not to allow my weakness win. That’s when I repeat this church quote in my brain. It reminds me of how silly it is for me to be impatient.

Through my 90 days of down time, I am finding myself less and less in situations where I am repeat this quote. My pace has slowed as I realize my daily race in days past has subsided to a leisurely stroll. My mind and eye are catching details previously missed along the way.

Aware. Back to my personal word for the year. My awareness of people, things, and events around me is at an all-time high. And with this awareness, I find myself more present in conversations and actively participating in those events that still fill my calendar.

Today was a great example. Garrett had scheduled two meetings for the morning. One was of a business nature and the second, personal. He invited me to join him for both. Without a hint of worrying about what ‘I should be working on’ or stressing over this use of my valuable time, I tagged along.

I met a new friend, toured a new medical office building, and then sat by Garrett’s side as we worked through details of some life planning. We never looked at our watches or stressed that this last meeting was running over in time. We took notes, stayed present in our conversation, and developed a well-thought-out plan.

And then the fun part, we walked hand-in-hand downtown checking out restaurant and menu options until making our final decision on the Yard House. Our only deadline of the day to was to be home for a 13 year-old who was playing with a group of friends until mid-afternoon.

Lunch was a kale salad with salmon for me and cobb salad with salmon for Garrett. We enjoyed an interesting appetizer of ahi tuna piled on edamame and each of us tried a micro beer sampler. We had a ball. Talking and laughing for an hour and a half, neither of us even considered taking out our phones. What e-mail? Who could possibly be more important for that hour than each other?

On our drive home, we reflected on our fun lunch and the mutual enjoyment of ‘being present’ for each other. I noted the now-obvious elimination our constant looking at cell phones while spending time together.

It’s amazing what one can convince themselves as ‘okay’. Seriously. No one is that busy or that important to not listen to the person sitting across the table from them. If you are, then don’t commit to attend. If you commit, be present and engaged. My new golden rule (can I have more than one golden rule??).

I would be remiss not to share that after our drive home, I walked a half a mile to a neighboring nail salon. My attire was shorts, flip flops, and a light fleece North Face jacket as I took this comfortable stroll crossing Kipling Parkway.

With no imminent deadlines, other than grabbing some Qdoba for the said 13-year-old on my way home, I went for the pedicure deluxe. Hot coals. Hot wax. Cool lotions. And lots of leg and foot massaging. I am pretty sure I was there for a long time. But I honestly couldn’t tell you, since I never looked at my watch.

(90 Days Off realization #9: Life is meant to be lived. Each day. Each hour. Each moment. Flying through life thinking about the next event is not God’s plan. And it’s very difficult to have ‘realizations’ if you never take the time to think.)

Tomorrow is on to 'brrrrr' of Chicago (10 degrees):

Day 68 (Saturday 2/13): Travel to Chicago to meet my high school girlfriends

Day 69 (Sunday 2/14): Remsen St. Mary's Class of 85 invasion of Downtown Chicago

Day 70 (Monday 2/15): Travel back to Omaha

Day 71 (Tuesday 2/16): Omaha and Garrett joins me

Day 72 (Wednesday 2/17): Omaha


Friday, February 12, 2016

February 11, 2016: Day 66

What 65 degrees looks like
(can you see me smiling behind the camera?)

I felt it as I walked off the plane. No chill in the air or need for winter jacket. Not in Denver at least.

Day 66 included a morning in Omaha and then a Southwest flight brought us to Denver in early afternoon to finish our day.

Although our travel schedule seems confusing to most, Garrett and I handle it with ease. Not only are we both organized, but we are both adaptable if plans change at the last minute. And that does happen more often than one would think.

Case in point. The plans for this weekend.

Two weeks ago our calendars showed Garrett and I together in Denver with Garrett's kids. Then I received a message from a childhood classmate, asking me to join my high school gal pals in Chicago. It took about five minutes for Garrett to say 'go for it' and me to answer my friend with a thumbs up. And so we changed our plans to accommodate.

Our ability to relax and make decisions on the fly is a great benefit of my 90 days off. I would highly recommend it.

My morning started with a board committee meeting at Omaha's Goodwill Industries. I have sat on this board for years and love it's mission and good work in our community. They support the dignity of people by providing opportunities through education, training, and work.

Dignity is a word that carries a lot of weight in my vocabulary. Dismissing with dignity. Dying with dignity. Treating people with dignity. Always. The golden rule.

Although I am not making major decisions during my 90 days off, there are things that are clear to me. I want to spend more time, either through community service or work life, making a difference and helping people. Treating people with dignity is a natural by-product of doing the right thing. That will always be the goal in living every day that is gifted to me.

I have learned some great lessons in dignity over the years. Unfortunately some of the best lessons come from watching people demonstrate poor behavior or even worse, being the recipient of the mistreatment. But with misfortune comes fortune. There is no better way to be empathetic to another person's plight than to have walked in their shoes.

As my meetings continue, I am more and more optimistic as I hear stories from healthcare leaders demonstrating great understanding of the patient perspective. I am of the firm belief that human conditions can not change for the better without starting with understanding the person and their innate needs. Far too often systems, government, and corporate America forget this detail.

Anyway. I won't forget this detail as I move on to Day 90 and beyond. Hold me accountable please.

On a lighter note, Garrett and I closed our day in Denver seeing the last of the Oscar Best Picture nominees, Room. We have now viewed all of the movies nominated. Our conclusion is that there are many good ones in the pool. Garrett picks Spotlight as the best picture and I choose Room (Spotlight is my second).

That is all for now. Good Night.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 10, 2016: Day 65

Afternoon neighborhood shooting
Day 65 was one of sharing life with an increasing awareness that there is no such thing as normalcy. That is a facade.

Quote for the day....

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" ~ John Lennon

The morning...

The listening tour continues, but only after fulfilling parenting responsibilities for my youngest son. My day started with a meeting at Skutt Catholic High School before their school day began. I am always greeted with a smiling familiar face when walking the halls on these frequent encounters. A great way to begin my day.

(90 Days Off realization #1 - Being present for young adult children is just as important now as it was they were little. Bigger kids may mean fewer problems, but the problem-solving involved typically carries higher magnitude in long-term impact. (i.e although packing diaper bags, planning naps, and choosing activities are important to the life of a thriving counseling is always an impactful work-in-progress).)

Mid-morning coffee was with a friend who brought me great motivation and vision on life purpose. The intent of this meeting was for me to be there for her, as she had just suffered a tragic personal loss. But as with all great people we encounter in life, those of high integrity and great faith, I left as the one inspired and energized.

(90 Days Off realization #2 - Fulfilling our Godly purpose on earth, to the best of our given talents and ability, is the stepping stone to the gift of eternal life.)

The afternoon...

A session with my trainer at the gym. Garrett and I (and Grant on occasion) use the same trainer at Lifetime Fitness. He is great. This is my guilty indulgence that pays dividends back. I'm challenged. I feel better. And I enjoy the company. The community of people inhabiting the workout level have become another source of friendly familiar faces.

(90 Days Off realization #3 - Work life balance not only involves balancing family with work. It is allowing ourselves time to work on our 'person'; spiritually, physically, and emotionally. And for every individual person, this perfect balance is unique.)

Garrett's session with the trainer followed mine. I sat at home during his hour of intensity, preparing an in-depth Apple report for my upcoming investment club meeting. A perceived sleepy afternoon next to a window flooding my upstairs with winter sunshine. As I basked in the quiet of the day, I glanced at my phone checking the time against Skutt dismissal. And then I received a text...

As I sat in the comfort of my home, blocks away a someone was shooting a gun. I soon found out that blocks the other direction, the same man fled and was now holed up at an apartment complex, shooting at police officers.

Gazing out the same window that brought me comfort minutes before, I now hypothesized the shotgun-toting criminal being one of the vehicles that breezed by my home while I sub-conscientiously watched in ignorant bliss.

The outcome was very good with no injuries or death. But with the chaos that ensued the path of this deranged man came feelings of vulnerability. No one and no place is safe anymore. Exchanging texts with my son in school lock down was a stark reminder that the innocence that I felt in my own childhood continues to slip away from my own children.

I called my mom, my out-of-town kids, and gave everyone an extra hug today.

(90 Days Off realization #4 - We never know what each day will bring or God's ultimate plan for our lives. Never wait for tomorrow what you can say and do today.)

The night...

My investment group meets monthly. This month was my turn to present an in-depth analysis of my assigned stock, Apple. In addition to analyzing stock picks, sharing life with this dozen or so established women is a highlight of my month.

Without giving out ages, I will note that I am the only 'under fifty' member with a majority of the other ladies retired from esteemed careers; physicians, lawyers, journalists, business exec's, judges, and other professionals. This is a class act group who take their investing very seriously, which is evident by the long-term results.

I joined the group with some hesitation a few years ago. I questioned how I would fit in with generational differences and perceived contrasts in life priorities. What a blessing it has been to be part of this group. Every month I learn how to live life from the 'A List' of female mentors.

(90 Days Off realization #5 - Support systems and friendships come in all different forms and in unexpected places. Try new things and always be open to learning from people outside your inner circle of comfort.)

Thinking I was too busy to return a call to a friend, I was going to send a text asking for a delay to another night. And then I came to my senses. It takes the same amount of time to exchange texts as it would to just call. So I did. On my twenty-five minute drive home, we had a great discussion on the need to forgive others, both from a human and Christian standpoint. She helped me grasp my personal journey toward this tough task and I helped her. Our texts later were to thank each other for the mutual support. That's what friends do.

(90 Days Off realization #6- Forgiveness is not easy. It needs to be deliberate and requires careful reflection. Forgiveness is ultimately for 'me', not for 'them'.)

And then the night ended with a quick dinner with my husband. Always a favorite way for us to end a day. We had great conversation, catching up on our respective days, but we also disagreed on a particular matter.

I share this not to air our dirty laundry, but to be clear that life isn't always a fairy tale. Not for me. Not for anyone. Too often in life, we compare ourselves to perceived 'perfect lives' of others. I mess up. My kids mess up. And my husband and I do not always agree on everything.

As humans, we are all messy and imperfect. That is real life. The lesson to share is that each time Garrett and I work through adversity together, whether it be work, kids, or each other; we grow as a couple.

(90 Days Off realization #7 - Never go to bed angry. And just because you feel it, doesn't make it right. But if you feel it, say it. Talking things out is a great thing.) 

That's a lot of realizations for one day. A good thing.

My word for the year is 'aware' (this came from a discussion with my book club my monthly eclectic groups). Being aware and open-hearted and minded to people and circumstances around me provides both clarity in my journey and revelations on the journey to come.

A glimpse into the next few days:

Day 66 (Thursday 2/11): Travel to Denver with my husband.

Day 67 (Friday 2/12): Day in Denver with Colorado family.

Day 68 (Saturday 2/13): Travel to Chicago to meet my high school girlfriends

Day 69 (Sunday 2/14): Remsen St. Mary's Class of 85 invasion of Downtown Chicago

Day 70 (Monday 2/15): Travel back to Omaha


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 9, 2016: Day 64

Catch phrases of the day: Human Identity and Relationship Depth

The night ended with a great win by Creighton with success over 5th ranked Xavier on the basketball court. I have been a Creighton season ticket holder for over thirteen years. Over this time period, I have watched some great ball players from the Kyle Korver era to Doug McDermott days of late.

The years and seasons are identified in my mind by the great coaches and players that represented each year and by the success they brought to the court. Some successes are defined in wins and other times by player accomplishments.

Many of my favorite players, like the big-hearted and wide-grinned Josh Jones, warmed our hearts with their level of effort. Josh, and many others like him, were not the high scorers but were just great athletes of character that helped mold their winning teams.

With each passing year, there is a last home game and senior night with a group of the players graduating and moving on to their post-college years. But their identity to their season and team lives on with the many fans who watched them.

Although not to the extent of a college athlete on center stage to hundreds of thousands of cheering fans, we each gain our identity through our own 'teams' through the years.

My day started with coffee with a long-time professional acquaintance. We originally met as mutual Jays fans. Over the years our paths crossed in our businesses and the high schools our sons attended. Although we weren't part of the same business or school, we identified with each other by the our personal representations.

As my friend asked about my time at Lutz and Think and my kids' years at Skutt, I reflected that this same conversation, or variation of this conversation, has been happening frequently on my listening tour. People clearly identify me with my workplaces, my family, and organizations I have supported. No resume necessary. It's what they've picked up about me on my journey.

Human identity. An interesting study.

The kicker is that each person develops their own safety blanket of human identity with the people and circumstances they surround themselves with over the years. I remember distinctly how comfortable I felt identifying myself as the long-time wife of a police officer, mother of three boys, and 20 year employee of Lutz. I would proudly point out that my husband was a lieutenant, I was a partner in the firm, and would then name my kids' schools. I wore it like a badge. My human identity was a warmth blanket of acceptance.

And then we got divorced. And then I left Lutz. For months and years, I would run into people who didn't know of the life changes on identities they so strongly associated with me. Initially I dreaded these conversations and the change in my elevator speech, but I quickly accepted that it was a just new chapter.

The difficult part for me is in accepting the change in those relationships associated with these pieces of my identity.

This is where I have learned the importance in the depth of our relationships. Life changes bring this front and center. My more recent life changes of a second marriage to a Denver man, my leaving employment at Think, and my kids moving on from their school years have highlighted both the good and bad of these relationships.

With school, each passing era means teams and classes are only left as a footnote in the yearbook. Relationships with the other parents either flourish without the commonalities of our kids or mirror our kids as they move on.

Think has it's own personal identity in a big building. My personal association with it and the size of the project both shocked and intrigued many in my professional circle. They strongly associated me with Lutz. My leaving Lutz was probably as big of a shock as my divorce. Growing up in 'the firm' for twenty-two years built an identity in the community that still remains strong today.

And then I left Think. Personal identity changes that were a strong part of my identity are now on overload. Questions on my choice of a new 'team' is the most frequently question asked of me. I seem to be less worried about that than my kind friends and associates. There are many great options. The key is for me to take the time to make the right choice that's the best fit.

What weighs heavily on my mind are the relationships that are directly associated with each of the organizations and roles that are linked to my identity, past and current. When change happens, relationships change as well. I am a relationship person. People are important to me. Human connection and how I carry myself as a human rank high on my 'must have' list. So when I reflect on my own personally road map, I don't take lightly the people I meet along the way.

The interesting study is resulting relationships once you are no longer actively sharing life day-to-day. My struggle is that I many times put higher expectations on people I have grown to trust than they want or are capable of giving. I think this is a common flaw of most people. When you have life-changing events, you quickly learn the true depth of your relationships.

Now that I have experienced many life changes, I have come to embrace the history and the relationships built on each stepping stone rather than erase it. Each has been just a path in my personal road map. And the many relationships have been the sun, moon, and stars long the way. Almost all are still there as part of my life.

Upon reflecting, very few have disappointed and most continue even stronger as the years go on. I have to remind myself of this as I hand-wring over those relationships that ultimately lacked the depth I perceived. They are the stones on the path that are left behind and a part of life. The focus shouldn't be on the stone taken out of the shoe, but the warmth of the sun and the enjoyment of the many stars in the sky. They never go away.

Life is good. It has been a good run. I am proud of each piece of my identity that has evolved over the years. And variety in experiences and relationships is ultimately a good thing. It brings spice to life and makes the road more interesting as I continue my walk (or run...) of life.

Grant with friends, Nick and Tim.
My last 'hooray' as a Skutt mom

Monday, February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016: Day 63

Even God likes orange and Broncos :)
(Text from Garrett, 7:48 a.m.)
Day 63. A delightful and enlightening day.

I couldn't sum it up any better.

It is now 9:29 p.m. I started the day with Garrett leaving in the wee hours to catch an early flight back to Denver. By the time I was in route to start my day with breakfast with a dear friend, the picture above, with accompanying text, arrived from my husband. He had just completed his flight to Denver and was greeted with this morning glory.

Yes, Garrett Brucker, even God loves orange and the Broncos. And no one can convince me that Peyton Manning doesn't rank high in the Big Man's books. A class act indeed.

Post-Super Bowl, I envy Garrett being in Denver without me. How incredible would it be to be a part of the city's celebrations, greeting the championship team back home to the mile high city?

Omaha did prove to be a worthy second though. My calendar was close to overbooked and it did not disappoint.

Breakfast started at Louie M's on 17th and Vinton. Eggs, sausage, and glorious coffee. I felt like I was back with my father-in-law in Monterey, Indiana. A 'down home' cafe with all of the bells, whistles, and charm of small-town America.

I spent the morning learning about the good works of The Bethlehem House. A home for pregnant women in crisis, this former-convent serves as a home to those most needy in our society. It's a place where each woman is shown how to love herself and develop her own unique talents. The great people who run this center empower the women to be on a path to make a positive contribution to the world for her and her child.

The impact the House makes was powerful to me. I look forward to writing and sharing more on their great mission as my part in serving them unfolds.

With the blink of an eye, I went from touring rooms filled with diapers and hygiene supplies to racing to meet a lunch appointment across town. Time flies when you connect with awesome people.

Lunch was a wonderful tomato and vegetable soup at Charleston's restaurant. Perfect for a blustery, cold Nebraska day. My company was a former business-partner and good-guy extraordinaire. Our almost two hour lunch flew by. I find this to be a common occurrence when sharing life. And as it happens with these 'listening' meetings, a piece of our conversation has stuck with me all day. It was a conversation forgiveness. Spiritual forgiveness is a powerful thing and his words hit open ears.

Following lunch, I made a quick trip to Skutt, my son's high school. This is always a pick-me-up for me as I'm almost always assured to run into a friendly, familiar face. And it did not disappoint today.

On to my gym time. I raced to the Lifetime treadmills in my effort to keep pace with the goal of 2016 miles in 2016. I am working this challenge with friend and former sister-in-law, Robbie Lane (it's complicated, but not...just go with it). Fast forward an hour and 5ish miles and I was back at the house, post-school dismissal, catching up with Grant and two buddies at the kitchen table.

I love being present. One of greatest gifts of my 90 days is being available for my kids. Although their problems grow fewer with age and only one is physically in the house, the gravity of their decision-making is greater at this stage in their lives and their need to have parents who are present, even more important. Grant has the luxury (his personal opinion may differ slightly) of having a mom currently at home and a dad recently retired. From tag-along youngest brother, lost in the shuffle, to the center of his parents combined attention....

The result? Grant keeps asking me to get a dog.

But I keep assuring him that there will come a day that he will appreciate my sudden hands-on parenting. What soon-to-be sixteen year old wouldn't want their mom chatting with their friends at the kitchen table while they consumed large quantities of leftover wings from the Super Bowl?? And I do ask good questions.

Our day progressed to Grant moving from the kitchen table to 'hanging' at a friend's house and then going to LifeTime on his own. I finished my day with two more meetings with former co-workers.

The Listening Tour continued to shine with great takeaways on everything from legal advice to discussions on faith vs. religion. My last meeting was filled with talks on how we can best empower women to succeed (as defined by them). The future of healthcare was a continuing healthy debate as was bucket list goals in life.

And now I sit, closing out my day to the sharp staccato sound of my fingertips pounding on my keyboard. Much learned and much follow up.

I will say it again. Life is good. But for now, time for bed.