I took a quick trip out to Lake Wanahoo this past weekend. I wanted to snap a photo to go along with the story on this week’s front page.

Watching a boat drift along near the west tree line of the old Sand Creek bank, I couldn’t help but think about how I once stood more than 30 feet below that boat.

During the construction of the lake, “selective deepening” carved out a huge hole on the bottom of the lake. Fish now call those deep waters their home, but I got to stand there when it was just a hole in the ground.

I thought about what an incredible experience it had been to watch the entire lake and recreation area develop.

Then an engine roared nearby and my mind shifted.

A short distance away, a plane was taking off from the Wahoo Municipal Aiport. There is plenty of activity at the Wahoo Airport these days. But, I drifted back to the day years ago that I climbed into a two-seater Cessna at the Seward airport.

The pilot flew us to the Cattlemen’s Ball site near Valparaiso and I got to hang out the window and take pictures of the activities. Then, the pilot, who was a flight instructor, gave me some directions and let me fly the plane back to Seward. Of course, I gladly handed back the controls so he could land the plane.

In a matter of minutes this past weekend, my memories had flashed from way below the surface to way high above. And, there have been so many more memories made from places in between.

Like this one – it snowed on the April day I came to interview at the Wahoo Newspaper in 1994.

Zean Carney has joked that he thought he was hiring me for a temporary gig, to fill in for people who were planning vacations over the next six months.

But, just like that expert pilot, Zean gave me the necessary instructions and handed me the controls. He let me fly this wonderful craft called a community newspaper. I can’t thank him enough for being a mentor and a friend.

As to other memories, all I can say is wow. I really don’t know where to start. There are so many there is not enough room on this page to share them.

I have met so many great people, attended amazing activities and had the privilege to explore communities that have so much to offer. It’s hard to put into words the impact these experiences have had on my life and, hopefully, the difference I have made in other people’s lives.

In high school writing class, I had told myself that someday I might sit down and write the great American novel. What I didn’t realize back then was that there is no better American novel than a hometown newspaper.

Each and every week in print, and often times daily online, I got to share the everyday life of neighbors and friends.

Sometimes, I did that by sitting through really long meetings and then sharing what happened in my news writing. The payoff for those long hours was knowing that the decisions made in those meetings did impact the people in my community.

Sometimes, I did that by chatting with someone for a bit and then sharing their experiences through my feature writing. The payoff for many of those interviews was meeting up with that person afterwards and hearing a big thank you.

Even more special to me were the times I was told by the person “thank you for making me sound interesting.”

My reply? No, I didn’t make you sound interesting. My job was to report what you told me, just as you told me. You are interesting.

I believe that every person has a story to tell. They just sometimes need someone’s help tell that story.

It has been a great privilege to help share the great American novel of this area for these past 25 years.

But now, it is time to for me to hand over the controls to someone else, get the plane landed and get aboard something new.

Kiwanis is a passion for me. This international service organization with youth at its heart also has the capability to impact daily life and make a difference in our communities. I am excited to take my passion to the next level and embark on a new career as the administrator of the Nebraska-Iowa Kiwanis District. It is something I can again believe in and put my heart into.

But, I know there will be things I will miss about the newspaper. I cannot say enough good about the people I have come in contact with over the years and the activities that go on in our hometowns.

I am happy that I get to remain in Wahoo. I hope to maintain many relationships and continue to attend events throughout the area.

I want to thank everyone who has expressed kind words and congratulations in person, through cards or on Facebook since the announcement that I would be leaving the newspaper. To those of you who have rolled down the window to give a shout out as you drove by me getting out of my car or walking down the sidewalk, you have made me smile too - but please drive safely.

I truly appreciate all of the support and am blessed to call Saunders County home.

The plane has landed, and I am off on a new adventure.

So the next time you see me, ask me about Kiwanis!

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