The World Has Lost, Again.

Yesterday, another call came we were expecting, but of course, hoped would never come.

Our friend passed away yesterday from ALS. Janet Lorentzen Nichols, friend to everyone, and my strong supporter when I was divorced (and before) succumbed to this horrible disease. Her husband, Don, was with her constantly the last months, as she slipped from walking to bedridden, talking to silence, and into a semi coma. By luck, I stopped and saw her Friday, telling her goodbye with a kiss on her forehead. Don is a rock, but a realist. Being a retired Firefighter, a Battalion Chief for the OFD, he knew the steps a body makes toward death. He called me Saturday afternoon. I didn’t expect it that quickly, but I was glad for all of them, her pain and fight was over. And now, ours begins.

Who is included in the group ours?

Don, her husband of over 50 years; her sisters (she was the baby in the family), numerous family members, nieces, nephews, in-laws, her two sons and their families, her daughter and her family; and lastly, but in abundance, all the friends she had. It would not surprise me if she, as an individual, touched thousands of lives during her lifetime.

I met her in 1980, as we had kids the same ages. Frankie and Janice (different grades in school), Nick and Donnie, Becky and David. We became fast friends. Back then, there were not many stay-at-home Moms in our aging neighborhood. The houses and long-time residents were all younger than we are now, so it was great to add a young woman as a friend, for both of us.

We added sidekick Kathy Snell along the way. Kathy babysat a bunch of children, and was mine when I got divorced and starting working. She and Janet were besties as I lost touch, moving into a different neighborhood and world. In those couple of years, between 1980 and 1982, we walked our babies hundreds of miles in their strollers as the older ones walked; spent time at the then-new Lynch Park at 23 & Martha Streets in South Omaha, made countless Zoo visits with picnics, made hundreds of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches together for the kids as we visited, talked, and solved the world’s problems. It was good to have a friend my age. It was a blessing to have Janet as a your friend.

We reconnected in about 1995, after a motorcycle accident took their son-in-law Dan and critically injured Janice. It was the day of Donnie’s high school graduation. It was also my birthday. I saw it in the newspaper, a little blurb on an obscure page, and my heart went to the family. They have endured so much as a couple, a family, and grandparents.

Two things stand out in my memories of Janet. First, she could talk faster than any other human being on earth. And never take a breath. I was still horribly shy then, so if and when she did take a breath, I’d add my two cents, then she’d continue, talking and setting the Guinness World’s Record for human speech. I believe she could out talk an auctioneer at a livestock show.

Second, Janet loved to cook. As the kids grew up, she worked as a lunch lady for the school systems. She would get to know the kids in line, many having her love and concern because she was that way. She loved you and was concerned. I’m sure some may have never had someone love them just for existing. She loved making food, sharing it, and showing her love with it. Those lucky kids. Hot lunch every day made by someone who put love in as the main ingredient. We were all lucky.

Later, she worked in Douglas County Child Support Enforcement. She learned Spanish so she could help people who did not speak English as their primary language. That is love and dedication, at work. That was how Janet lived her life; serving others. What a good friend, woman, and citizen.

As my the Babe and I sat on the deck this morning, the clouds came, a brief shower, clouds parted and eventually, it became sunny. Now it’s extremely hot. I thought about Janet and her first morning in heaven. I wonder what that was like. She’s probably not finished yet with all the reunions, and I’m sure she’s asking God all of her questions. All of them.

When we heard the cardinals singing, the Babe and I looked at each other. She was telling us to be sad, but don’t stay that way. Grieve, but keep living. As all of us left here without her, let’s tell all our Janet stories to each other. There are some great ones, I know. As long as we keep her spirit alive, she’s still with us. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. We don’t tell stories or blog to get attention for ourselves, but to honor the lucky one in this situation – Janet Nichols. RIP. Thank you for being our friend.

Thursday Things

When my first husband left in 1982 (at my invitation), my kids and I adopted a dog. The neighborhood dog had pups. She was a Spaniel of some kind. All her pups were black or yellow lab mixes. Ours was smaller than the rest and looked more like a black golden retriever. She had a sad look in her brown eyes. The kids named her “Shadow.” We had her for 16 1/2 years. The Babe and I took her for her final vet visit a couple months after we got married. He cried just as hard as I did. The kids, all adults, opted out.

After that, the Babe decided daughter Becky and I needed a puppy; We got a brownish black mutt and named her “Mocho.” She looked mocha colored, but the Babe called her mocho instead. The name stuck. She was a good girl. Becky took her out of her kennel and let her sleep in her bed to keep her from whining.

When I went on LTD, the Babe knew I suffered from depression and felt worthless because I was only 48. He told me to go look at the Humane Society to see if they had any puppies. I found a lab/shepherd mix, tricolor coloring, and the sweetest disposition. She was the runt of that litter. We went back and adopted her the next day. Mocho acted as her Mama and Mollie was such a sweet girl. Mocho became the alpha dog and Mollie the quiet one.

We got to have them in our lives for 12 1/2 (Mollie) and 14 1/2 (Mocho) years. We let them cross the Rainbow Bridge together. Hardest thing we’ve ever done. Mollie was lost without Mocho. They were ready. We thought we were. People never are. Even when you know you’re doing the right things for your loved fur babies.

We went nearly two years with no dogs. The Babe retired, we traveled some. When we returned from Puerto Rico in June, 2014, we visited a vet who had some pups only 4 weeks old. Their mom was sick; weaned the day before. They had a bug of some type. The vet compounded a concoction that killed the bug. Good companions. Cannot recommend adopting sisters. Two females, even spayed, were never friends. They battled each other. Yet, when Roxie died (by car) two years ago, Lexie mourned so hard. She exhibited signs of depression, slept a lot, and never left our sides. She wailed at the door to the garage. Broke my heart.

In October that year, the Babe had a heart cath and the wound didn’t heal. The skin was paper thin, and he had a wound vac for a month to get the incision to heal. What a mess for him. Amid this challenge, we adopted Goldie. The Babe needed her and her sweet way with him. Best buds. After two years, Lexie is no longer jealous of her. They have accepted each other now and peacefully coexist. Time heals a lot.

These stories bring me to this morning. We didn’t get smacked with the snow predicted. It’s overcast, cold, and bleak looking outside. The Babe left early for the Post and funeral detail. The dogs were antsy. I played with Goldie, and we had a great time. Then she laid down, happy. What does this have to do with life today?

Maybe we need to take a lesson from our fur babies. It takes very little to thrill a dog. Everything makes them happy. Play is everything to them. They adore you and let you know it. They waggle their butts and squeal with delight. Yes, squeal sometimes. It’s hilarious. Live with the joy a dog shows. Every day is the best day ever. Let’s all mimic that! Have a beautiful evening. We’ll see each other tomorrow.

December 26. Is It Over?

If you view it as only pertaining to gifts, what you got, and what you didn’t get, it’s over. And that’s sad. If you view it as the joy of sharing meals and time with your people, be it bio family, friend family, or a mix of both, it is just beginning. And that’s wonderful.

Why? Because you get it. You understand the importance of building bonds, friendships, and what it takes to maintain them. You get a bigger kick out of giving rather than receiving. You understand sometimes the gift of time is the most important and appreciated in the life of many. You stay later than you plan because you know telling stories is important to some folks who have had drastic changes in life and health in the past year. Ah, the stories. Great from an expert storyteller. I love to listen, because some of them, no matter how many times you hear them, a new twist or turn can be added and there you go; it’s even funnier than before.

The Babe and I, along with our daughter Tracy, TJ, Addison, Gavin, and cousin Beth, spent another beautiful Christmas afternoon at the lake home of Tracy’s Uncle Lou. Lou is the person who brought the Babe to Omaha to work at his company. He’s known him for over 40 years. Through good times and bad. Through their mutual sicknesses and health. And now, as they’re both retired guys who manufactured a *(^$-load of block, brick during those years, and had tons of adventures together. There are stories to be told and lies to be made up. A bromance before anyone was concerned about such things. Two good men who are best of friends and brothers. It’s a joy to share. One time, I talked to Lou regarding a hospitalization and procedure the Babe was having. He said, “I’ll just stay home and pray. Remember, I’ve loved him longer than you have.” Truer words were never spoken.

My header photo today is of our friend, our Christmas Day host with the most, if you leave his home hungry or thirsty it’s your own doggoned fault, Louie! We love you and are grateful to share another Christmas together. Thank you, Lou, for your generosity, your stories, and most of all, your friendship. Let’s have a great 2022, with more visits and more stories. Let’s enjoy! And I believe we probably all need a power nap before the KC Chiefs play football today.

Folks, if you have a Louie in your life, make sure you make time for them soon and often. We all need to make priorities for what is important, and what is more a priority than lifelong friendship? Be safe out there today if you’re traveling or out exchanging gifts. This is a look at mine, I opened those Amazon boxes on Christmas Day and gosh, I’m glad I bought them. More reading and learning for 2022! But I won the book in the middle, “Venus the Monk,” by Cory Swanson. Thanks, Cory! I appreciate winning!

I appreciate you reading today, we are pre-planning our projects for next year, and it’s going to be awesome. Thank you for sticking with me. We’re so close to having some finished books to read. See you tomorrow!

House of Gucci

There is nothing like taking the afternoon off to spend at the movies with a girlfriend, a bit tub of popcorn, and Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, and Jared Leto. Wow. Great acting, great story, great everything. If Gaga isn’t best actress, and Leto isn’t best actor for the upcoming academy awards, I’ll be greatly surprised.

Acting is something not everyone is cut out for. Seriously. Especially for a movie, there needs to be a great story first. Those based on real life are favorites of mine. You can’t make that stuff up. But relatives of people told about could sue you. “Based on real events” gets you off the hook, I think.

But having people who can act the parts is important. Adam Driver, IMHO, was a milquetoast kind of character. I didn’t see him as a powerful force at all. Maybe he’s that good an actor, you know? I can’t say because I’ve not seen him in anything else. His wife pushed him to get involved, advised him on business decisions, and insisted on running the show. The driving force behind her ambition was greed. It’s the oldest story in the book, right?

You just can’t beat Al Pacino as family patriarch. He was in his element, as the aging, Italian businessman. He’s had a storied career as a method actor and is always good. His performance is great, as always, and I just wasn’t surprised by anything. He was typical Al Pacino. Always awesome.

Jared Leto? You just won’t believe him. He’s so unrecognizable. And the acting. Go enjoy the movie in a theater while you can. The pandemic may change the availability of theater viewing in the near future, so go while you can. It was perfectly safe. Go. You’ll come back refreshed for the experience. It’s great story telling.

The best part of the whole day? Spending time with my longtime friend Kris. She has been in my life since our junior year in high school. We have been friends for over 50 years, and kept in touch over the years. She and her husband Lenny invited us to the VFW in the first place, and the rest is history.

She lost Lenny in August. She is doing well, and I want to spend time with her much more than we have been. She doesn’t drive anymore, but that doesn’t matter since I do. I’m very aware we need to spend all the time in the world with each other because some day, we won’t be able to.

I’ve been so focused on writing I haven’t spent time with friends as I should. A NYT best seller wouldn’t be worth losing precious time with them while we still can. Sometimes we don’t get a choice in when those friendships end. A stroke or serious illness can happen at any age. We’re boomers, and you never know if you may have cognitive issues with age. This is not a doom and gloom attitude; it’s the reality of life in our late 60s and early 70s.

Think about who you can spend more time with during this season. It doesn’t have to be a family member. Friends need our presence this time of year, too. Don’t overlook people right in front of you! It will do you a lot of good, too. You can never regret presence instead of presents. It’s what the season of love is all about. It helps our worlds all become a better place.

Yes, some people with greed in their hearts and hate in their souls behave like the real-life characters in the House of Gucci. Some people live to bulldoze people out of their way, on the way to power and wealth. You can have it. Not my style at all. Remember who is with you during the tough times, the hard times, the times you want to give up. Those are your real friends.

This Christmas season, be a good friend. Start now. By 12/31/2021, it will be a habit, a big part of your life and character. See you tomorrow!

Dogs Don’t Care!

If you have a four legged best friend, you most likely have a lot of dog stories. They can be happy, sad, uplifting, and bring back great memories. Losing this friend who loves unconditionally can be devastating. We’ve had a series of best friends, each different from one another, yet still, they have some similar habits and personality traits.

The Babe left early this morning to take Addison to school. Our son in law returns home today from working out of town. It’s been such a blessing to be around our smart, beautiful granddaughter on her way to or from school. She’s quite talkative, and we get the low down on all things important in an eighth grade girls life. The kids are getting a dog over the weekend. Puppy love will be all over their Instagram accounts, their every waking moment will be spent in adoration of a mixed lab/shepherd female pup they have already named Josie.

Pets are important to the lives of people, and I think especially for kids. When my children’s father left, three months later we adopted from neighbor’s litter of pups. She was a black lab/mix too. (Aren’t they all?) Shadow was with us for 16 1/2 years. One time, she broke her collar connector and ran away. We hadn’t installed our fence yet. We all sat on the patio after combing the neighborhood looking for her. My son Nick said, “Shadow has been with us longer than Dad was!” It was indeed a sad day.

Shadow was found and held at the Nebraska Humane Society. My son Frankie called me at work, and told me he had $28 to bail her out of jail. He was taking his brother and sister to get their pet and bring her home. I hesitated, if she was hurt or anything, it might be too hard for them. “Nope,” Frankie said, “you won’t get home until after they close, we should have her home with us” You can’t argue with an 18 year old with a good heart and a mission. He loaded his brother and sister into his 1975 Olds Cutlass and they rescued Shadow.

I loved that the kids learned to care for another living being. I love that grandson Gavin has such a love of dogs. He tells me, “Grandma, all dogs deserve love.” He is right. Dogs don’t care if you’ve had a shower, got a promotion, aced a test, had a date to homecoming, got your driver’s license, your makeup is perfect, they just love YOU. They just want to be with you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, they just want to be with you. It’s good for them, and probably better for you.

Dogs love unconditionally. After playing catch a little earlier, Lexie wanted in the house. She went directly back to bed. Goldie just followed me into my studio/office, and laid on the chair mat, right next to my foot. She just wants to be with her people. Lexie comes in to check on the risk of burglars, random kids walking to school, or the Amazon prime guy delivering things. She looks at me, then goes back to her place on our bed, and resumes her nap. The Silent Sentinel. Until she barks at perceived danger. And barks. And barks. And barks.

Sometimes I wonder if people could be more like dogs, would the world be a better place? I think so. Unconditional love is the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s even greater than a mother’s love for her children. And dogs love unconditionally. All the time. When they’re tired. When they’re hungry. When they’re out of sorts. That door opens, and the run to greet you. Happy. Always happy.

Let’s take a page from the dog book of unconditional love today. Let’s overlook each other’s shortcomings. Let’s stop judging. Let’s stop arguing about masks and candidates and who killed Jimmy Hoffa. Let’s learn to be more accepting. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let’s give ourselves and each other a chance. A chance to show we can get along. We’re happy to see each other. We put aside pettiness and just show appreciation. We can change our little part of this big world. We can make a difference. And we will. One friend, one dog, one soul at a time. Be safe out there today. Make it a great day. Thank you, we’ll see you again tomorrow. Be someone’s unconditional bestie. It’ll change the world.

My Lexie at 4 weeks. 4 pounds, and big blue eyes. She was beautiful.