Wonderful Weekend

Despite being a day off on Friday’s tickets for Ugly Sweater Christmas Soiree, we had such a nice weekend. Everything from a 75th birthday party, to a play written by kids, to a quiet Saturday, to a cookie exchange and a baby shower today, with many, many hugs, good wishes, and memories in between. How blessed we are!

The Baby Shower was for a young lady we watched grow up at our last home. Jen and Tom lived across the street and over a couple houses, so we saw them often and visited as neighbors do. Their little girls (about 3 & 4 at the time), would walk their well-trained labs. There were these little blonde dolls, holding slackened leashes, with giant labs on the ends of them. Their dad (who followed closely behind) trained these dogs so well, you could take them anywhere, and the dogs never ran off, jumped, or were badly behaved. They were fun to watch.

Jayden and Caliegh, are typical sisters. Teasing, fighting, loving, and defending each other while growing up. And now, Caleigh is about to make her older sister an aunt. They are excited, over the moon, and so happy. This will be such a loved baby. I cannot wait to see photos. It was just wonderful to be with those girls and their parents today. I am reminded how exciting it is waiting for a baby. Caleigh and her husband are in the Army, and have until 2024 to serve. They will do just great. It’s nice to know how the girls are doing (and their parents) and keep in touch with them all. We are blessed to have such friends.

The Babe is at a cookie exchange today with other family. It is carrying on in the Riedmann tradition, now taken over by the Lackovic family. The Babe is representing us there this afternoon, as we needed to be in two places at once. It’s nice to keep up that tradition, since Louie passed away this year. There is a new little Lackovic, who is named Louie, after his great grandpa. How very perfect. Little fella has some big shoes to fill. He comes from good stock, he’ll do well.

Life always goes on, doesn’t it? It’s comforting to know that, isn’t it? The best any of us can do is adjust, and continue on. We are blessed.

As we get ready to celebrate the beauty of Christmas and the clean slate of a new year, the Babe and I are reevaluating a lot of things. While the ending of our time at the VFW, we are re-thinking a lot of things. Tomorrow is the first time for the Babe volunteering with Moving Veterans Forward with Ron Hernandez. We will be spending our time differently than before, volunteering directly to benefit veterans.

I will finish those quilts for the grandkids in Colorado. For the rest of the winter, we’ll spruce up parts of the house we’ve neglected for a while. I’ll get back to my kids book editing, and the re-organizing of my office/studio. The list is long, and will be thorough. Dust off the cobwebs and clear the closets. It’s time. And I look forward to all of it. We can only guess at how 2023 will unfold. None of us know. I know it will be filled with love. I know it will have some heartache in it. It always does.

Take care of yourselves; you longtime friends, you McGuigan Arts Academy kids, you folks from the old neighborhood, you folks expecting a new baby and new homes, you folks decorating cookies and raising your babies. You have all made us believe in life again. You all fit in our lives and give it meaning. We can only hope we do the same for you. Let’s travel this highway on the next leg, the next year. See you again tomorrow.

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.

Tuesday’s Trips Around Town

What a beautiful Tuesday morning from the Home Office in Gretna, Nebraska. Wow, it’s not supposed to break 90 degrees today. What a shocker! This is a summer cold front in Nebraska; 88 degrees predicted for a high. Blessings.

I have to say, some days the daily meditations of my book “Days of Healing, Days of Joy, Meditations of Adult Children,” really hits is out of the park. (The NCAA College World Series in is Omaha yet again, as it has been since the 1950s, plus I love baseball!) Today it had a quote by Montaigne. Who is that?

Montaigne was a philosopher of the French Reniassance. He popularized the essay as a literary genre (who knew?) He was admired more as a statesman than an author. His quote was:

“Marriage may be compared to a cage: the birds outside despair to get in and those within despair to get out.

Some people believe, “If only I were married, I would be happy.” This is not true. I can tell you, if you’re married to the wrong person, you will not be happy. Some people believe if only they were married, they would not be lonely. Wrong again. If a relationship isn’t right for you, you will be lonely.

If a marriage is healthy, it can be a mighty hedge against loneliness. If not, it can be the container for many, many problems, issues, and misery. The quest for happiness has not one thing to do with your marital status: it has to do with your own self-esteem. If you are working on your faults and deficiencies, and have learned to think well about yourself, there is no limit to the happiness you can achieve: married or not.

It’s been a hard day. I love visiting with old friends, even those who are quite ill now. I will not abandon them. They mean too much to me. Yes, it’s not fun to see their deterioration, but I will not desert them. Tomorrow will be easier. Lunch with a longtime friend from elementary school and her husband. It’ll be a great day.

Have a beautiful evening, and we’ll visit again tomorrow. Blessings on you and your families. Keep them close. You just never know.

Life Is Hard Sometimes.

And it’s not fair a lot of the time. And it’s hard to not fall into negative thinking. Especially when you see someone fall ill with a horrible disease called ALS. My friends Janet and Don are traveling this road since Janet was diagnosed a few years ago. In the past month and a half, her condition has worsened dramatically, which is hard to see.

She and Don have been married over 50 years, and have three children. I’ve been friends with them since my first marriage, and that was so long ago. We’ve kept in touch and remained friends all these years. It’s so hard to see this horrible thing happen to such good people. They both worked hard, fulfilled their obligations, went to Church, and would give you the shirts off their backs. Good, salt of the earth blue collar people.

Janet still remembers people, and has a winning smile that warms your heart. Her talking is limited, and you can tell she’s thinking. Don still teases the heck out of her, but is serious when it’s warranted. It’s a great example of commitment. He’s pretty modest about it, and brushes it off as what everybody is supposed to do. Lots of people would turn tail and run. Or be angry. No time for that. Don’s goal is to keep Janet comfortable for as long as possible. It’s just what she would do for him if the situation was reversed.

Sobering as this is, it is still hard to see such good people hurt by this. The disease can happen to anyone; it can be genetic or environmental or neither; it can begin early or later; it robs the patient of dignity for sure. How it selects it’s victims I don’t know. How it hurts the family shows in their tired eyes, their slumped shoulders. They carry on, they go throughout the days, one the same of the next. Their exhaustion grows.

All I can do is continue to visit and break up their days; they have so many friends to visit. Janet deserves that. She has always been a good friend to others and it’s beautiful to see the folks coming to visit her today. She deserves this. Don deserves this, too. Visiting will continue, no matter how long she has left. With the decline in the last three weeks, it’s anybody’s guess.

The other thing, I can pray for comfort for Janet, and strength for Don’s soul. And continue to visit. When all else fails, give the gift of your time. It’s the least we can do. Take care of each other. Keep each other safe. We are all on borrowed time. Love one another while we can.

And let’s care about what really matters. It’s not the Kardashians, Depp v Heard, or TikTok. It’s people and love and promises kept. It’s families and grandchildren. Learn what’s important, and hold it near to you. Have a beautiful evening. See you tomorrow.