Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
Nebraska City was a frequent destination when our little family needed a brief getaway. Nebraska City is a special place and holds precious memories. Here's a sampling of family, friends and a special place held firmly in my heart...
I go to Facebook every day. One feature that I really like is the “Facebook Memories”. A few weeks ago, a memory popped up of a picture of me with my two dear friends, Jane Polson and Sue Smith. I reposted the memory and said something to the effect that I missed these two women.
Jane Polson had been the President and CEO of Keep Nebraska Beautiful since 1991 and Sue Smith had been the Keep America Beautiful Affiliate Education Director – also since 1991. Actually, they were both hired on the same day in February 1991, and they helped each other find their footing in their respective positions. I met both of them (in person) in March of 1991 and we three became good work partners and over the years, personal friends.
I retired as Executive Director in 2017 and as a Financial Assistant and Trainer for KFB in 2019. Jane retired in 2019 and Sue retired a few times… but it doesn’t seem to work very well for her, and she continues to help out frequently.
It was so fun to see that memory pop up on Facebook. The three of us standing together at a KNB Conference – me in the middle – sandwiched between two of my most favorite human beings. I saw those smiling faces and I was reminded of how much I missed our times together.
Retirement has taken us in different directions and the Pandemic hasn’t made it any easier to travel. Luckily, we kept in touch via social media and Jane saw my post! She thought it was time for an in person visit! I suggested Nebraska City as we had met there many times for the KNB Conferences.
Vanessa (Keep Columbus Beautiful) saw the Facebook post and called Jane to tell her the KNB Conference would be held at the end of September in Nebraska City. Vanessa thought it would be a great idea if we three could arrange our visit to coincide with the conference – she missed us too – that was so sweet.
And just like that, Sue scheduled a flight from Chicago, Jane arranged to pick Sue up in Kansas City and I made plans with my daughter for her to take the night off her job so she could care for her daughter! Wow – we would all meet up at the Lied Conference Center – just like old times. I couldn’t wait.
On the day of the getaway, I had to deliver a painting to my other daughter Sara – she lives down in Ceresco. So, I started out early – well early for me… around nine or so and took off for Sara’s. Stopped for just a few minutes, hung the painting and then took off via county roads to Nebraska City.
It was a beautiful, sunny fall day. Perfect for driving through the Nebraska countryside. I was reminded of all the fall days that Randy and I would drive back and forth to Omaha during Septembers in 2004 and 2005.
In September of 2004 he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He had surgery then chemo and then radiation. The doctors had given him 6 months to a year. We felt gratitude that he was doing so well and keeping the tumor under control.
In September of 2005, the tumor began to grow, and he started experimental chemotherapy and more radiation. Frequent trips to Omaha were a constant for the month of September and October.
Randy would sit quietly in his seat and watch the scenery as I drove. He commented every day, on how lucky we were to travel during such a beautiful season. The colorful fall leaves were putting on a show just for us, to make our drive more pleasant - he marveled at our luck to make these travels at such a wonderful time of year.
The route I traveled cross country from Ceresco to Nebraska City was not familiar but obviously I had a sense of where I was going. I felt more confident as I passed through Ashland and saw the Aero Space Museum, the Wildlife Safari and Mahoney State Park – I was traveling in the right direction.
The two-lane roads were clogged at intervals with semi-trucks exiting the harvested fields - loaded to the brim with corn. Farm machinery slowed the traffic on the rolling hills, but it was a most pleasant drive during a beautiful season here in Nebraska.
I arrived in Nebraska City a little before lunch and met up with Sue and Jane at a marvelous shop and restaurant in the downtown area – The Keeping Room. The business and restaurant are housed in a two-story historic downtown building. It’s a really cool space. The gifts and products offered in the shop are unique and fun. The food is delicious. I had a haddock salad croissant, and it was delicious! The owner of the business had caught the haddock herself – so that was a fun little fact! So glad she would share! Randy would have loved it.
It was so fun to see Jane and Sue – our friendship is one where you pick up right where you left off. We spent time getting caught up on the last few years and talking about all the great times we had together. We talked about what we missed from our jobs.
Sue and I talked about adjusting to widowhood and losing our biggest fans… it had been two years since Jim had died and over 16 years since Randy had passed.
Lunch finished, we headed for the Lied Conference Center. The newly hired Keep America Beautiful President, Jenny Lawson was scheduled to present her vision for KAB and the affiliate organizations. I didn’t really care if I sat in on the presentation or not but, because Jane and Sue were so interested, I decided I should make an effort.
I have to admit, I was a little confused. Since, I’ve been retired, things have happened with the National organization – it took me a while to get caught up. At the end of the presentation, she asked if there were any questions… no one raised their hands… I had a shit ton of questions. I remained quiet and sat on my hands. I kept reminding myself I’m retired.
After Jenny was done with her bit, Sue, Jane and I went to see if we could check in. My room was ready, but Sue and Jane’s room wasn’t. We decided to change in my room and go for a walk on the grounds. The place has amazing walking trails, and we were looking forward to stretching our legs.
We met in the lobby and ended up talking to a few affiliates – eventually we found our way outside… we oooooed and aaaaaed at how the trees had grown and we reminisced about the times we spent on the veranda – sipping adult beverages and meeting with old associates.
Peaking over the high stone edge, I spotted a fire pit that had been placed in what had formerly been a grassy area… Oooo let’s go down there! So, single file, using the hand railing, three little old ladies moved slowly down the massive steps, three abreast we walked the short distance on the wide sidewalk to the firepit. It was about a hundred steps – maybe not that far. Our hike was off to a great start – couldn’t wait to see the total on my Fitbit!
This fire pit area was new. This outside fire feature consisted of a large concrete circle with a stone wall around the edge of the circle. There were openings in the circle where the sidewalks entered from different directions… many paths led to the fire feature.
A single young woman was seated at the far side of the circle – in one of the largest and heaviest Adirondack chairs I had ever seen or tried to scooch over just a bit…uh – not budging. That’s alright I faced the sun.
The firepit wasn’t a firepit after all – it was a massive and might I add, well-constructed raised stone fireplace. We three ignored the young woman and continued our chatting and hysterical laughing. Even chatting about the trials and tribulations of running a national non-profit organization during a pandemic.
We three had been associated with KAB for decades. We had been true devotees to the organization and were dedicated to the success of the national organization and to the affiliates. We talked about what was important in our day and what should be important now. We talked about the challenges, and we talked about what Jenny had said to the affiliates during her presentation. We may have retired but we still very much care about our shared environment and making our communities cleaner, healthier and more beautiful.
Before we knew it, hours had passed, and we needed to get ready for the awards dinner. Our big hike was in the 190-210 step range; however, we did have to walk back up the stairs so that was kind of a big deal… And - yes, we were invited to the dinner, but it felt like we were crashing it.
The awards highlighted some very special projects that had been completed in the last year here in Nebraska. Projects that beautified our communities, increased recycling and helped manage our wastes in best possible practices.
The awards also highlighted how difficult it had been for some affiliates to maintain the Presidential Circle Award Criteria during the Pandemic. I was proud that Keep Fremont Beautiful was one of two Nebraska Affiliates to manage that level of achievement during a trying time.
I had overseen the Keep Fremont Beautiful program for 32 years… it was my baby. I’m glad that my baby is in good hands and is still thriving. Casey and Alicia are doing an amazing job and I felt fortunate to be sitting in the audience as they received the award.
The evening finished off with more talking in the lounge at the lodge. The new CEO of KAB sat down next to me, giving me a ring side seat to a less formal discussion of recent struggles and plans for improving the National Organization and relationships with the affiliates. It’s kind of funny – but over the years I’ve had any number of ring side seats to these types of discussions. One thing is for sure… change.
Shit happens and things change. More change is in the making and all any of us can do is hang on and adapt to the changes that have been thrust upon us. Luckily for Keep America Beautiful, and our shared environment, they have hired a most qualified person to lead the organization. I truly am grateful that I had an opportunity to meet with Jenny and get to know her and learn more about her vision for KAB.
I am grateful that I had such a fulfilling career – I truly enjoyed my job at KFB. I am also grateful that Sue, Jane and I were able to clear our schedules and have some quality time to get caught up at one of our favorite places in the whole world.
After a late breakfast the next morning, I took off for home. I traveled the familiar route and thought of Randy once again. It was another clear day and Nebraska showed off its lovely fall colors. He would have enjoyed the drive… he would have enjoyed visiting with Sue and Jane, but he would have enjoyed spending time with Ramie in Nebraska City the most.
He and Ramie would go to the conferences with me, and they would keep themselves busy while I was in meetings. The memories of them in the swimming pool came to mind. The memories of eating together in the dining room came as well… visiting John Brown’s Cave, going to the movies, visiting Arbor Day Farm and Arbor Lodge all came pouring back – just like that old Facebook memory of Sue, Jane and I… it was comforting to think about those precious moments we shared in Nebraska City.
Thanks to my old friends for our time together… Thanks for the best memories… Thanks for the NEW memories....