Living an Intentional Life

Lanie Dixon, the Performance Excellence and Patient Experience at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland at Trinity Health, talks living intentionally.

Dixon’s the decidedly middle child of five who wanted nothing whatsoever to do with marriage and babies — “I was NOT that girl, ‘oh when will I find my Romeo?'” Until, that is, she fell hard for Michael Dixon and suddenly wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mom. First came Micah, then sadly a miscarriage, and then Ella.

Intentional. When Micah was 6 months old, Dixon cut off all her long, relaxed hair to let it grow back naturally. She believes it’s her role to help shape how her daughters, as Black girls, see themselves in this world. She knew, she says, they would get their first ideas about beauty from her and she wanted her girls to know that the way the hair grows out of their head is fine. At the same time, she worked hard to show them images of Black girls and women beyond the diet that society wanted to feed them.

“I think it worked up until the time when it doesn’t work for a young girl, and a young girl does what she does and gets her idea of beauty and sense of self from everything but her mother,” Dixon says with a laugh. “Although they both are not necessarily natural hair enthusiasts, I do think that underpinning is still there. The girls are comfortable with their natural selves.”

Intentional. Dixon, who grew up in a small suburb of Detroit and now lives in Lathrup Village, remembers feeling like she was thrown into the deep end of the pool when she landed at the University of Michigan; unprepared emotionally, socially and academically. She was that girl crying over a bad grade that no one noticed. So, for her girls, she did something many moms can’t imagine doing: She sent them to boarding school for high school.

Micah, now an 18-year-old freshman at Howard University majoring in chemistry, attended a boarding school in Massachusetts while Ella, now 16, attends one in Colorado.

“My thought for my girls was kick them in the pool early so they can learn how this world works, where they have the total support.”

In theory, it’s a cool idea, she says with another laugh. Until the day came. It felt more like a gut punch, she says, as she sobbed in the rental car in the parking lot of Micah’s boarding school.

Intentional. She and her girls have talked about having a Vice President in Kamala Harris that looks more like them.

“She represents just what I say I want for them, I want for them to know that there’s not anything they can’t do.” Just as the vice president didn’t know she would one day find herself in this huge role, Dixon has told her girls, “you don’t have to have all the answers, you do have to build the characteristics that will succeed at any space.”

“I have taught them as best as I can to be fearless.”

Q&A with Lanie Dixon

Dixon is director of The Performance Excellence and Patient Experience at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland at Trinity Health. She says being an engineer in a health care setting fits, allowing her to use her “nerd girl powers” for real results. “What adds additional excitement, I can spend time behind my laptop doing analysis helping a mom not have to wait four hours in an ER for care. To see my geeky stuff help a mom and a child, that’s the bee’s knees for me.”

Advice for moms following in your footsteps:

“Trust that whatever choices you are making for your career and your life and your family and your children, is the best choice. Never question your choice. Show yourself grace and mercy – the house is not always going to be perfect, dinner is not going to taste good – or be healthy, for that matter. My kids ate Hot-N-Ready from Little Caesars from time to time and guess what, they survived. Know that you are not alone in all of this. Trust that what you are doing is the best and that’s OK.”

What about raising children of color?

“That’s a toughie. My advice to young mothers raising children of color is to go the extra mile to fortify and edify your children. There’s so much that tells them they are less than and they don’t belong. It’s not blatant; it is you go to the store and in this section that’s supposed to be for girls, you see nothing that looks like you. Nobody has to say a word. Be intentional about building them up and making sure you expose them to spaces where they can see themselves.”

What is your secret weapon for doing it all:

Google calendar

What is your most hated household chore:


What is one thing you do for just you:

Meditate, 10 minutes a day. I used to think people who meditated were weird. … I have found a total benefit.

What is your guilty pleasure:

There’s so many. …. Red wine.

What is your specialty dish:

I cook, that’s one thing I do very well. I have a new one and they love it – lemon garlic chicken (Chicken thighs in a crock pot, lemon zest, lemon juice, chicken broth, butter, garlic. Serve with white rice.) “They think I am Chef Boyardee.”


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