Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 31, 2016: Meet Malcolm Gladwell

In early 2009 my company won the "Young Professionals Choice Award". The timing of this award corresponded with a life-changing time for me. I was just a few raw months into my divorce.

The particular day of receiving word of the award started with an e-mail blast to our office proudly announcing our company's recognition of this honor. It gave me a bit of a smile and some added pep on a bleak Nebraska winter morning. As I went about my day during the busyness of tax season, one of my partners popped his head into my office.

“Hey, do you think you could give our acceptance speech at the award luncheon next week?”

"Hmmm,” I thought. I sure didn’t see this coming.

As he looked at me while asking the question, there was no doubt what I saw in his eyes. It was a look I had become quite accustomed to seeing during that time in my life. It was the look of sympathy.

I have never understood the value of a palm reading when you can see everything in a person’s eyes. And I have seen all kinds of sentiments looking back at me over my years…admiration, fear, dislike, affection, envy, loyalty, distrust. But this time is was definitely sympathy.

Self-consciously, I wondered what he saw in my eyes as I looked back at him. I concluded it was probably vulnerability. A look that my partners weren’t accustomed to seeing from me during our prior twenty years working together. My head felt foggy and I felt a bit lost, so I was sure my eyes reflected this same emotion.

“Sure,” was my answer.

“They will have you sit at the head table,” he went on to explain, “and you'll have two minutes to give our acceptance speech.”

I wondered if there was a plan behind the scenes of using this as an opportunity to encourage me back to my prior pre-divorce self. Engaged. Game on. No fog. But since speculation served no purpose, sympathy or no sympathy, I accepted the honor of serving as firm representative. It was time for me to reacquaint myself with the outside world again anyway.

I saw it as the nudge I needed. With my love of public speaking, the prospect of this acceptance speech was invigorating. I have always seen it as a strange anomaly in life when a person (me) who is petrified of missing a fly ball in little league softball doesn’t have a bit of heart palpitation over giving an impromptu speech to hundreds. Figure that one out.

The day quickly came for my coming-out party. I put on my favorite dress, jacket, and boots in anticipation of stepping out into the world again. With the luncheon downtown and an 11:00 departure time, at about 10:00 I thought I better write my speech. The negative on being a writer is the innate belief that you can get away with waiting until the last minute to write little things like an acceptance speech.

Do know that I had thoughtfully reflected on what I wanted to say for days. But with a two minute window, my biggest challenge was reducing my thoughts to the few words to nail my intended message. And this speech meant something to me. I loved my work family. Not only had I been blessed to work with so many great people, but I felt completely surrounded by great love and support by them during this very rough spot in my life.

With completed speech stuffed into my jacket pocket, my boots hit the ground. I was en route to take the podium. Envisioning a small crowd made up mostly of my 16 attending co-workers, I walked into the convention center to see that my estimations were clearly off. To my shock, I was in the company of over 1,000 award ceremony attendees.

It just so happened that our award was a mere smaller portion of a bigger Chamber event featuring a national keynote speaker. Still a bit shell shocked with the mounds of people filling the room, I was guided to the head table. Having a brief panic attack, I  began second guessing my choice of spending a mere twenty minutes to write the speech. And I certainly knew I didn't rehearse giving it enough.

My seat at the head table was in the company of local news personalities and corporate sponsors. After exchanging pleasantries, I looked around trying to locate the nearest bathroom. I surmised that I had ten minutes to hole up in a bathroom stall to reread and possibly rewrite my speech. I gave this strategy about five seconds of consideration before determining that I was golden as is. No bathroom run for me. If I wasn't picking up the words correctly from my paper in hand, I would just improvise by speaking from the heart. Final answer.

Meet Malcolm Gladwell
Perusing the program placed on my seat, I noticed a strange looking man who just joined our table. Many people were chatting with him as he stood seemingly uncomfortable in an ill-fitting jacket. He was also sporting a shocking dark Afro with fair skin and a receding hairline. His sullen expression with little excitement made his mannerisms appear slow.

I got up to introduce myself to this interesting individual, having no clue who he was or why he was at the head table. Walking toward him, I noticed a small mechanism attached to his jacket with wiring that worked its way up to his ear. I quickly concluded that he was disabled and wore a hearing aid (some form of a cochlear implant device). I also surmised that he must be receiving a Chamber award for people with disabilities in the workforce.

In an effort to make sure he felt comfortable and accepted, and so he could clearly understand me, I stood directly in front of him with my hand extended.

And then I  VERY loudly and VERY slowly said, "HELLO, MY NAME IS SANDY LANE.  WHAT IS YOUR NAME?"

As my brother, Matt, often says...I was in his grill.

Then the peculiar man calmly answered me.

"Nice to meet you. I am Malcolm Gladwell."

Wow, he didn't seem peculiar. He spoke perfectly normal. Not what I expected from a person with a hearing disability. He then just looked at me with a funny, almost annoyed, expression and offered no small talk. So I gave him a smile (he didn't smile back) and went back to my seat.

The ceremony began with my company's award at the top of the list. With a quick introduction of our firm and a write up on why we were chosen as "Young Professionals Choice Award", I was introduced on stage.

I remember loosely following my written speech, but after connecting eyes with some of my co-workers, not wanting to look back down at the paper. It was way too mesmerizing to look at the crowd and share with them the honest sediments that were nestled in my heart.

And the people smiled back at me. Both with their mouths and with their eyes. I saw acceptance. It was exhilarating.  It just felt like all was right in my world again. The response from the crowd and my co-workers filled me with a warm calm. I was suddenly grateful to my partners for their vote of sympathy. It was exactly what I needed.

Sitting down while the applause was still vibrating and filling my spirit, the ceremony emcee moved on to introduce the featured keynote speaker. His introduction included a long list of top-selling books and accolades on his publishing milestones. Obviously Malcolm Gladwell is one accomplished writer. And the keynote speaker.

Now obvious was the wire I had originally observed on Mr. Gladwell. It was his clip-on microphone.

His speech was amazing.

Malcolm finished to resounding applause, waving to the crowd as he walked back to his seat. My dream was for our eyes to lock as we shared a moment. Just a look between the two of us; the beginning of a friendship that could always revert back to chuckling over our awkward initial introduction.

Wanting my speech to have resonated with him with new found commonalities, I did not get my wish. Instead he glared at me on his way back to his seat.

We never spoke again. No laughter was shared nor did we exchange contact information. Although I do believe we would have gotten on smashingly, it was not meant to be.

But what did matter on that day were my colleagues sitting in front of me. If I were to choose a friendship of choice, my fellow accounting warriors trumped the celebrity of Mr Gladwell. With this acknowledgement,  I deemed my coming-out party a success. With an amazing guest list of 16 co-workers, I couldn't have scripted it better.

I did eventually buy Malcolm Gladwell's book, "The Outliers". It was my goodwill gesture and passive apology to the acclaimed author. It was also a fascinating read that I would highly recommend. Just don't ask me to get you a signed copy.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

April 4, 2015: Easter 09...What a Difference Six Years Can Make....


Grant and I...Easter dinner at the Outback
This morning I vividly remembered back to an Easter six years ago. I hadn't thought about this for some time. But somehow this seemingly forgotten memory resurrected itself. 

Easter weekend was tough that year. Thus why I have likely tried to forget. But with each passing year, I see this journey as a lesson and the tough times, ultimately a blessing.

My finding a family video labeled "Christmas 2008" probably stirred this memory. Christmas Day of 2008 was just two weeks after our filing for divorce. The news was an unpleasant surprise to our three boys. Still in shock, this was our first post-divorce holiday with my attempting to create normalcy as a 'new kind of family'. Their dad and I were continuing holiday traditions; trying to keep intact our cherished Christmas morning of opening gifts.

As I viewed the abandoned video footage on my computer, Garrett watched over my shoulder. What I thought was a very typical Christmas morning looked much different from my eyes six years later.

At the time I remember describing our Christmas together as "very nice" and "just like all the others". My PollyAnna attitude would accept nothing less than postivity following my mantra of 'everything was going to be alright'. I convinced myself that this Christmas setting was normal and the boys were just fine.

Viewing it six years later showed a different story. Ben seemed detached. Zach was forcing pleasantries, playing my second in trying to act normal. And Grant was so, so very young; trying to please and for us all to be the happy family he loved.

As the video was concluding and without me saying a word, Garrett's commentary summed it up.

"This is so sad to watch."

Amazing that I thought it was all just fine at the time. You really can't force happy.

The next official holiday for our 'new kind of family' that year was Easter. In these short four months since Christmas, life had changed dramatically. Scott and I were no longer rosy and smiles to each other. There wasn't remotely a consideration that our family of five would celebrate this holiday together with a rolling family video camera in the background.

Every decision in co-parenting stuck to the Parenting Plan, our new family Bible. "Odd numbered years, Easter with Father. Drop off from Mother's house at 6:00 pm the night prior and return 9:00 am the morning after." Our kids were now parented and 'shared' based off of a three page document drawn up by attorneys.

I found myself numb with the reality of my new life. Nothing seemed positive. I was grieving the loss of my little family unit. At the same time it became apparent to me that I lost my extended family as well. Easter was always with my ex-husband's large and loving family. And it had always included me. Not this year. I would be alone.

During these months of divorce and co-parenting turbulence, I had met with a female attorney specializing in family law issues. I thought she could fix the unfixable.

This attorney had been through her own divorce. In retrospect the advice she gave me was good counsel. She knew my pain and tried to reach me, woman to woman. But I was too buried in my own grief of losing my family. Instead of being open to her words, I wallowed in self-pity.

"You need to stop focusing on the Parenting Plan," she told me. "Live your lives and let your kids be kids. The biggest problem my ex and I have to deal with is when our son forgets his soccer shoes at the other house. That should be the extent of what they need to worry about as it relates to how you and your ex co-parent."

Although I was trying to be strong and professional, I broke into tears. I cried as she silently handed me a box of Kleenex. I truly believed this woman didn't have a clue. She had no idea what my life was like or how this wasn't a possibility in my situation. I was fighting for my kids. Why did she think she was my counselor when I needed a good attorney? I left her office and never returned.

I now understand and relate to every word she said. She was wise in advising me that court systems and court-appointed professionals (attorneys...child psychologists...counselors...the list continues...), could not fix my problem. After a six year journey that includes similar painful family issues with those close to me, I completely get it. The legal system, with even the best intentions, cannot fix families.    

As Easter continued to loom as an empty entry in my Outlook calendar, there was a point in time when I consciously chose to stop wallowing in self-pity and start thinking about someone other than myself. With a some prayerful reflection and an open heart, God led me down the right path.

Within twenty-four hours of this revelation, my Outlook calendar was full.

I got Grant to smile
The plans began with many of my close friends meeting the boys and I for an early Easter meal at Outback Steakhouse. Although unconventional, I had reconciled with myself that spending time together was all that mattered, rather than fulfilling my desire to be together on the actual holiday.

We filled two tables for a late afternoon dinner before I dropped the boys off at their dad's per my designated time in the Parenting Plan. Although there was laughter and smiles, the pictures taken show the rawness of the situation. The boys were struggling too, but we all made the best of it.

After dinner, my Aunt Joan and niece, Emma, joined me for the Easter vigil service at Boys Town. We made a Costco run for supplies needed for the planned Sunday festivities. Until dark, the three of us filled fifty tissue gift bags with little toiletries and goodies for the residents of a nearby retirement home. The rest of my night I was alone. I filled my remaining time with a trip to the grocery store for purchases of breakfast items and then sipped a glass of wine while preparing food for the morning.

Our planned Easter Day activities revolved around giving back to others who also were not able to enjoy the holiday with their families. God worked at my heart in making me aware that I was not the only one feeling lonely that Easter.

In twenty-four hours of Easter planning, I had called the Ronald McDonald House and a nearby retirement home to find out that nothing had been planned for their current residents on Easter Sunday. Although there were masses to be given and visitors
Emma and Joanie wrapping
stopping by, the administration of both facilities opened their arms to my offers of treating those unable to leave their residences.

And my friends and family rallied. They took time out of their own family Easter gatherings to help out. On short notice, this troop showed up at the Ronald McDonald House with a buffet line of rolls, juices, fruit, and a variety of breakfast casseroles. Joanie brought beanie babies out of her collection to give to the kids along with Easter baskets. My niece, Ky, played with the kids while Robbie and Leslie talked to the mothers over coffee, sharing some adult friendship.
A group picture in front of the Ronald McDonald House

The next stop was the nursing home. Our troop had thinned down as many went on to join their own family Easter celebrations. Russ, Robbie, Joanie and I took on the nursing home adventure together. Although small in number, we were well equipped to take care of each of the residents.

Joan pulled a wagon full of beanie babies for each to choose from while Russ held the box of tissue-wrapped gifts. Robbie handed out these gifts while I introduced my little Maltese, Harry, who was leashed by my side. Harry was happy to meet the residents as they showed great surprise at the sight of a dog in their room.

Phil loved our company and gifts!
The experience was exceptional. We were overwhelmed with the excitement of the folks we came to greet. They loved the colorful beauty of the tissued gifts and the treasures wrapped in them. Harry was the most popular of the six of us. I quickly surmised that one is never too old to find pure joy in both a tiny stuffed animal and furry little creature of God.

Our night ended with my begging Russ and Robbie to join me for dessert at my next-door-neighbor's, the Shimerda's. What started as acceptance of some leftover Easter cake turned into a night of drinking wine and sharing stories until the wee hours of the night. It got so late that Tom Shimerda fed us a heated-up dinner of their leftover Easter ham and potatoes. The kindness of my neighbors brought a happy closure to an unconventional Easter.

And now we are celebrating Easter 2015. What a difference six years can make.

Just last weekend Scott called and asked what I had planned for Easter this year as the boys were with me this weekend. For the record, neither of us has looked at the Parenting Plan in years.

"Oh, I don't know. Do you have plans with your family? Just take the boys with you. Garrett and I will go to church and we can always just take the boys to dinner the night before." 

Overhearing, Ben commented on how much it meant to him that his dad and I get along so well. He went on to give examples of when he sees others not in a good divorce situation and then said "you and dad aren't like that". Although it was Ben sharing with me this sentiment, I know it to be true for all three boys.

I used to tell myself that the best gift I gave to my kids was to forgive and move on. But in reality, it was the best gift I ever gave to myself. The kids have just been the lucky recipients. And know that this statement is not all about my choices and actions. 

As I have always pointed out, it took two of us to get to the point of divorce. It also took two of us to forgive each other and treat each other with kindness. And it sure makes for a happy life. One that is impossible without both parents getting over themselves for the good of their family.

Tonight will certainly include dinner of some sort. Tomorrow the boys are going to the Lane Easter celebration in Kansas City while Garrett and I celebrate God's blessings together here in Omaha. That's it for my Easter planning this year.

And as for Scott and my biggest problem in co-parenting these days; we really need get Grant to stop forgetting his soccer shoes at the other's house......


Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 17, 2016: Let's Apply a Filter...

The final picture...filter applied
Tonight I am finally getting together with my friend, Angelique. It's been way too long.

With a close friendship and our birthdays just short of a month apart, we find ourselves celebrating many of life's milestones together. Although we have know each other since our youngest children were in kindergarten, the closeness of our friendship began shortly after our 40th celebrations.

Like our birthdays, our divorces coincided in time as well.

Now with 48 years under our belts, about eight of those years as single parents, we have experienced many highs and lows of life together. Our memories are full of our adjusting to single-motherhood. Together.

Stories from our joint family vacations are reminisced by our young adult children with great laughter. Mother's Days have included family golf outings and brunch. Our kids have a close kinship with each other, just like their moms. I have no doubt that collectively we will always have each other's backs.

Our last joint celebration was back on December 23, 2015 (Day 16 of my 90 days off), Angelique and I had an exceptional time toasting the holiday together with friends and family.

It was my intent to post a blog with our pictures (below) and accompanying dialogue. But Day 17 came and went with fury. And it is now months later, with me instead enjoying a new season and celebration, St. Paddy's Day. But I have also decided that it is never too late to share a good story.

The setting of my story is Angelique's home and our company included my partner-in-crime, Larry, (otherwise known as my father-in-law) and Angelique's mom, Janie. Kids were home for the holidays and some friends joined us as well. Sharing life and Moscow mules, Angelique and I asked her daughter to take our picture.

Greta gladly agreed. Taking a good phone photo would not be this sorority girl's first rodeo.

"Smile" the brunette beauty kept telling us as she continued to take pictures, not completely satisfied with the ones previously taken. So we kept smiling (kind of) and she kept trying to get a good picture...

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5
Finally Greta stopped, examining her last 'take' on her phone.

Angelique: "Is that one good?'

Greta (smiling sweetly): "That's cute!"

<pause>

And then under her breath, Greta looked down again and declared, "Let's apply a filter."

<Angelique and Sandy, photo-take flunkies, roar in laughter>

#6
#7


#8
After composing ourselves, we reviewed our 'portfolio' of photos; all bearing wrinkles, face veins, under-eye circles, and awkward smiles. Even the filtered photo couldn't hide our lack of photogenic glam that night.

I personally blamed my issues on slaving in the kitchen with my father-in-law making holiday moonshine all afternoon. Some fresh make-up and hair wash might have helped (maybe, then again, probably not).

Then I composed my own composite photo, declaring the caption of this photo to be 'Friendship...Flaws Included'

We'll keep our wrinkles and messiness. The corresponding smiles and laughs go hand in hand.

'Friendship...Flaws Included'

Saturday, March 12, 2016

March 12, 2016: Just Another Saturday...

The cropped picture
A rainy Saturday in Omaha. I have experienced many of these over my 27 years of calling Omaha home. This March day that had bursts warmth along with the precipitation, held nothing of particular difference over the early spring days of past.

But that's exactly why it was such a great day. The ordinary days full of old friends, new faces, family, and the comforts of home rank high on my list.

With lots of recent travel and fun on the road, the rhythm of normalcy within the heartbeat of our Omaha home has been a welcomed haven. It truly is the little things in life that bring the the greatest pleasures.

Today's blog post is simply going to recap my ordinary day. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am going to use my pictures from the day in telling my story (Instagram meets blog post??)...
__________________________________________________________

The original 'uncropped' picture. We obviously aren't good at photo booths.
The alarm rings at 6:00 a.m. The dog is nestled in the crook of my back and cat on my feet. My husband is in Denver with his kids. I'm in Omaha.

I awake worrying about the solo guinea pig living in a cage downstairs. He lost his companion last weekend and appears to be struggling with the illness of a broken heart.

After the other animals are fed and I am showered, wearing green from head to toe, I am happy to see movement in the guinea pig cage. Randy, the surviving pig, hides when I try to pet him under his ears and give him his food. But he is still moving. A good sign.

I walk out the door with coffee in hand to pick up my friend, Robbie, for our morning event, The Shamrock Run.

Robbie and I are training for a half marathon in May. In preparation, we have signed up for a couple of fun 5k's and are tracking our mileage for the year to reach 2016 combined miles in 2016. As Robbie logs these miles only on a treadmill, she has been worried how a run in the great outdoors would fare for her.

No worries needed. We did just fine. A solid morning run with a forever friend.

I used to introduce Robbie as my sister-in-law, and then she became my ex-sister-in-law. Introductions would then end with my simply saying 'it's complicated'. Now I just call her my friend. Just like she was in the mid-eighties when our friendship began.

We have been thick as thieves since that day we met on Westmar College campus in the fall of 1985. Fast forward 30 years and here we are running together in tutu's and drinking green beer on a Saturday morning. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Once the running part was checked off our morning list, we found a spot at the end of nearby bar to watch the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. For all the years we have lived in Omaha, neither Robbie nor I have ever taken in this annual festivity. This morning we chose to check it out from our indoor post.

And then we met a new friend. The same cute gal who we randomly met before we ran was now standing by us at the bar. Comparing notes on the race, we quickly found commonality with this very energetic young lady, so many years our junior.

We now know to find each other at our next scheduled 5k in a couple of weeks. Robbie and I are also planning on attending the race she will put on this summer, in the little town of Prague.

While talking to Linne, I was having flashbacks to my years as a young director of the Omaha Running Club. So many weekends, pre-kids, were filled at races just like this one and the one she will direct in Prague. She is a girl after my own heart.

Dropping off Robbie back to her home, it was decided that the tutu's would come out again for our next race. For the Fish Fry 5k, we would simply add some pink and they will be an Easter variation.

Motivated by the St. Paddy's Day festivities downtown, I was all about continuing the celebration at home. My grocery store run included flowers to fill three vases, a green balloon, and all the fixings for corn beef and cabbage.

A text from Ben indicated that he would be coming home from Lincoln for the night. Unexpected, but a welcomed surprise.

Note Abby on the stool
My animals welcomed my arrival home by waiting for me by the front door. Randy was still moving, but acting shy. Cookie, the dog, wanted a walk, but the rain dampened her fun. She followed me around the house instead.

A big part of my nestling ways on days like this is a lot of putzing around my kitchen. Today was no exception.

Ball jars of overnight oatmeal, overflowing with fresh blueberries and blackberries, were prepared. Chocolate chip cookies were baked. Three vases of flowers were arranged for display and enjoyment around the house.

And then the corned beef was heaped into my crock pot with a timer set for seven hours. The last add of cabbage would be for the final hour. The smell of this dish filling the house throughout the day is better than the best lit candle.

Grant sent a text around this time letting me know that he was no longer on foreign land, but back in the States. One more layover in Chicago and the world traveler would be back home. The animals and I were ready for his company. No Abby in my bed tonight. Her preference is with Grant. And I will be happy to hear his voice again.

The piano was luring me from the kitchen to the family room. I haven't spent near the time on the ivories as I thought I would over the last few months.
First vase behind kitchen sink

No better time than the present when thinking about such pleasures.

So I lit a candle for Josh Woodruff and played a couple of favorite classics. I need more practice. On the list for this week.

The second vase of flowers was placed on the left side of the piano. A reminder that will draw me to this simple treasure daily. With a warm weather forecast, I will likely be playing with open windows on Monday.

The next necessary part of my day is another favorite. A hot bath. Much needed and one of my favorite guilty pleasures is to fill up my big tub with bubbles or bath salts. I am still enjoying homemade salts that were gifted to me from a friend over the holidays. They are marked as 'stress away bath salts' and they do just that.

Another guilty indulgence is shoes (I need to stop revealing all my weaknesses). I love them in all of their glorious shapes, styles, and colors. I bought three new pairs last week when visiting Zach in Fort Collins.
Cookie in the foreground
Shoes in the background

We walked out his door to go on a hike last Monday, but it was raining. So we went to DSW instead. Of course. He got the 'best son' award as he walked beside me while I perused all the aisles of the store, inspecting their spring inventory.

Scoring on three pairs of different sandals with varying heel heights and design, the boxes are now on my bedroom floor awaiting their perfect spot in my closet. Cookie just wants me to get them out of her way.

Although not a fan of her own bath, Cookie does likes to rub up against the carpeted step next to the tub while I am in it. Usually a static-filled fur ball by the time I get out, but a happy dog.

The sandals and tub view to my toes were reminders that a pedicure was needed. Next stop was to the nail salon across the street from my house. Busy with the rain, I got an appointment for a later time. With toes all cleaned up, I selected a seasonal green for the polish color. Very fitting for the pronounced theme of the day.

I am now officially ready for our upcoming day of celebrating of the Irish.

Ben arrived home while I was pedicuring. Grant sent a text that his plane had taken off from Chicago. Ben and I headed out to pick up the youngest of the brothers from the airport.

Grant was happy to be back on home ground. He was also quick to point out that this was his last night of spring break. And the only one that will include his friends who weren't on the Europe trip.

I still got a hug and smile though. He missed me as much as his friends (or just letting me believe that).

He did come home bearing treasures and gifts. Of note was an antique gladiator helmet. Why, you ask? I haven't a clue. But Ben thought it was pretty cool too; trying it on before we even left the parking garage (pictures below). It did seem like an impressive piece of armor. I am sure it will hold some memories of the Colosseum, Grant's favorite site on his trip.

My gift was a beautiful turquoise rosary from the Vatican. It came in a small box bearing a picture of a waving and smiling Pope Francis. My newest treasure will join a black rosary that was given to me by my Grandma Gib when I was Grant's age.

That rosary was purchased at the Vatican during my grandma's trip to Rome in the early 80's. She told me the rosary was blessed by Pope John Paul II. I have always cherished it and am happy to have another. The beginning of a collection.

Exchanging texts and calls with Garrett throughout the day, his guilty pleasure of March basketball was enjoyed with his son. The game that never stops for a full month. And they can't get enough of it.

My favorite spot
So now I sit eating corn beef and cabbage in my favorite chair by the fire. Ben and Grant have long left, meeting their friends on a cherished Saturday night.

I can hear Randy chewing on his cage in the entryway. A good sign of life. Abby and Cookie have disappeared. Most likely snoozing in my bedroom. And I am blogging away about an ordinary day while thinking about soon joining the animals upstairs.

I will let you in on a little secret (because, really...what secrets do I have??).

Every morning when I wake up, I recite a simple Bible verse. I say it out loud and include it in my prayers.

"This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24

I then thank God for another day and put my day in his hands. As simple as that.

People often ask me how I always seem so positive. My answer is, how can't I? Every day is truly a gift, left to us to live to it's fullest. Even the ordinary ones.

Ben helmet pose #1
Ben helmet pose #2

Sunday, March 6, 2016

March 6, 2016: It's a Wrap. Day 90


Day 90 of my '90 days off' started with a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call from our alarm clock.

Deep in sleep, I was unaware where I was at; Omaha, Denver, Remsen?

My slumber was brought back to pleasant reality with a soft kiss to my forehead followed by Garrett rolling out of bed.

Definitely Denver. And I'm an adult. Childhood years in Remsen are behind me.

Garrett worked on his computer in the next room while I finish a great book. In the dark of early morning, 'When Breath Becomes Air' lit up my iPad and my conscientiousness as I read the final words of the book as told by Paul Kalanithi and his widow, Lucy.

This book was particularly meaningful to me as I had just met Paul's family when visiting my parents in Kingman, Arizona. It covers life and death, so eloquently written by the young neurosurgeon who died just a year ago at age 39.

As a new staple in my 'must read' library, this book follows the great work of Atul Gawande. It reinforced to me how I want to spend my post-90 days; finishing the work I started over three years ago in improving the human experience in healthcare.

An 8:00 a.m. church service followed with a potent sermon centered on the theme of why Jesus wouldn't win an election today. A sentiment of moral superiority is abound in the world, both in politics and religion. Definitely not the direction set by Jesus or the Bible. But humans choose otherwise.

Life continued to happen with a call from our neighbor on one of our pet guinea pigs dying overnight. The cause was likely old age based on an anticipated short life span. Our neighbor went on to tell us how Cookie, our dog, refused to leave our house last night.

Typically Cookie happily goes to our neighbors, anxiously awaiting overnights at her home-away-from-home. Last night she refused. Now we know that she kept guard of her dying house companion. Animals have such a keen sense of all that is going on around them.

During Garrett and my ensuing bike ride through Ken Caryl and the beautiful Deer Creek Canyon, I pondered this obvious difference between animals and humans. Do humans not possess this same sixth sense as our animal friends or are they just too distracted with life to notice? I believe the latter.

With a plan to travel to Fort Collins to spend the day and night with my oldest son, Zach, a text from noted son told me to 'take our time'. I was happy to hear this was because he was cleaning up. A bachelor pad is always a scary prospect for a mom.

Ben, my middle son, and I had a brief conversation as I shared the demise of guinea pig #1 and wanted verification of his identity (George. Randy survives).

Grant, the youngest, is traveling abroad with 30 or so of his Skutt classmates. He is now in Paris. Travels through the week will include other parts of France, Rome, and Monaco.

Each of the three boys made this trip their sophomore year. As I shared some of Grant's pictures with Zach, we both marveled on how times have changed in the seven years since Zach was on his European adventure.

Zach didn't bring a cell phone (had a flip phone which he bought with his own money just the year prior) and we didn't have a single update on his trip until he hit American ground eight days after he took off. With Grant, the updates and pictures are continuous with the school and other parents' social media posts as well as a parent group text.

Even Grant is 'live' with me. I just had a text exchange with him. Mothering from across the ocean included advice on his getting some sleep.

Zach stands by the past method of after-the-fact communication to be superior to the live feeds of today. I am not going to pick a side, other than agreeing that times have definitely changed.

For those who have missed it, Peyton Manning announced his retirement today. I pointed out to Garrett that both Peyton and I will start our new chapters tomorrow simultaneously. A coincidence? I think not.

Currently it is 9:31 Mountain Time. I am watching 'The Iron Giant' in Fort Collins with Zach and his roommate, Nick. Next up on the viewing list is 'Spectre'.

Garrett and I enjoyed a fun day with Zach and Nick, eating in downtown Fort Collins and touring the local New Belgium Brewery (ending with us all going down an indoor tornado slide built for employees. very cool place).

After a full day of togetherness, Garrett has driven back to Denver while I stayed put. Tomorrow for me will be a day with Zach on his day off. Much is planned for Day 91.

My 90 day journey is just a couple of hours from being in the books (technically I have until midnight Central Time).

Many have asked me "What is this 90 day thing?" Others have wondered what big hoopla is going to happen when I wake up to Day 91 with Day 90 officially in the books.

Answer to Question #1:  The 90 day thing was not only my self-proclaimed time off from work, but it was also a sabbatical from making any major decisions. That meant I didn't answer questions on 'what's next'. I didn't know and wasn't expected to answer. This allowed me to be the avid listener while sharing life with others.

What life would look like for me, whether where or what, were questions not on the table. Because that was part of my 90 Day rule. The result was 90 days of pure joy, reflection, and resulting clarity. More blogs to come that are more specific on this subject.

Answer to Question #2: Think of my 90 day landmark as similar to the big 100 day celebration they have in grade school. It's cool when you get there, but just a milestone. Tomorrow the work begins in bringing reality to the clarity gained. A work in progress. There are 'days left in the school year' to get to the end. More to come on that as well :)

For now I will close out my night and bask in my 90 day gift to myself. A call to tell my husband good-night followed by a movie with my oldest (while perusing pictures on FaceBook on my youngest's European adventures).

Life is good indeed. On to Day 91....

Fort Collins sunset