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.
This past week, Rai and I joined Sara and her family for a couple days at Mahoney State Park near Ashland. That was a nice little break from normal… Normal this past year has been staying home and not doing anything.
The pandemic curtailed our plans of a family vacation to Disneyland, in the Fall of 2020. That made us all sad because we had never planned anything so ambitious as a group! That trip was going to be monumental – it was going to be something the grandkids would remember all their lives. I was looking forward to the adventure and was extremely disappointed when COVID stomped on our tails.
But now slowly, we are emerging from our housebound state. Rai and I have visited Sara and Colby at their campsites in Fremont and other nearby locations but this was a first! An actual stay at a hotel for Rai and I… a chance to really join in the fun activities offered at this wonderful park… a mini, tiny, little staycation within an hour of home.
Sara and her family stayed in the camper. The boys went fishing and even took Rai along to hone her skills – she caught a couple of somethings… she wasn’t sure what they were. Sara, Gracyn, Rai and I went to the Observation Tower and climbed to the top. Poor Sara had to carry Gracyn – it’s always good to get those extra steps on your fitbit but those were some pretty hard steps for Sara carrying the equivalent of a few extra bags of sugar, flour, potatoes and kitty litter.
It was nice to take a rest at the top and look at the view. I got some good pictures while we caught our breath at the top… The sun setting made an interesting background for the photos - it was weird… I think the fires out west clouded the atmosphere – blocking out the sun.
As I stood looking down at the tree line, I saw a large bird walking ever so slowly toward the trees… followed by a smaller but carbon copy of the first bird – a baby whatever they were. Maybe a turkey – but the neck was so long – the adult looked way to large to be a turkey – but what do I know. I saw a big bird and a smaller bird walking into the forest… cool.
The good news – Gracyn was able to walk down the steps which made it an easier descent for her mom. We all enjoyed the view as we made our way down the observation tower steps. As we drove back to the campsite Sara commented that she should have made a Scavenger Hunt list. I told her that was OK – we could just write down all the interesting things we saw – Rai called it a “Hunt Scavenger List” – we would do it backwards. Just then Sara screamed… look there - a deer and babies. She slowed the car so we all could get a view.
A Mama Deer and two babies raised their heads and looked at us from across the grassy meadow… as if to ask – “what?” (I know, I need to work on what their response may have been) The three deer remained still for a moment and I attempted to get a picture for our Hunt Scavenger List… it was blurry at best and the Mama Deer was getting concerned at our lingering presence. She must have said something to the fawns (again - not sure what) and they hightailed it to the fence line. She waited to make sure no one was following and then joined them further up the hill.
Sara was delighted to spot the deer and more delighted to see the trio hoppity hop off into the distance… She sang something like “and there they go – bouncey bounce bounce, bouncey bounce bounce, bouncing away…” we all laughed and began mocking and repeating her goofy little song – it’s funny how some random saying will tickle all our hearts.
So, for the next couple of days, we kept an eye out for anything we thought warranted a place on the list. We saw lots of Bumblebees and wasps. The mama deer and two babies were a biggie! As was the rollie pollie skunk that scampered across the road on our return to the lodge for the night.
Mac was being a bit sarcastic as he swatted at yet another fly – he added “fly” to the list. Sam, Mac and Rai added a muskrat, a bluegill and two turtles to the list which they spied while on their fishing expedition. I wasn’t sure what that bird was that I saw entering the forest but for the sake of the “list” we called it a mama turkey and baby turkey!
Sara was the first to shout out “A gaggle of geese”. Which sort of frightened all of us in the car. Rai asked “where”. Sara responded “There – right there”… and there they were just bippity bopping along the side of the road…
Gracyn saw lots of Daddy Long Legs – those spiders, in her estimation, are disgusting. We all pretty much agreed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a disgusting category on the Hunt Scavenger List. Maybe next time.
We did see a waterfall – although it was manmade and located in the conservatory… we counted it anyway. And there were beautiful big blue fish swimming around the also manmade pond.
Flags were present in all their glory – waving at various locations within the park and throughout the country side! Mac acted like it was a big deal to note that he saw a pine tree – we humored him and added it to the list. At lunch in the lodge, he also noted that he saw a bird feeder… OK – fine – we put that on the list too.
Footprints. We found some footprints. Humans, raccoons, deer and perhaps that mystery big bird… could it be that mama turkey and baby? We added those to the list.
Not a lot of big butterflies but some small ones were spotted and quite a few different types of dragon flies were noted as we were playing putt putt golf. I’m pretty sure I saw a bald eagle when I was sitting on the little balcony off our room. I could see the eagle gently gliding along the tree tops off into the distance. As the bird drifted closer, I saw that the wingspan was large and growing larger as he flew directly overhead… that had to be a bald eagle… bald eagle is going on the list.
Still sitting on the balcony, a quick movement on the ground caught my attention. It was a rabbit. The first rabbit I had seen in two days. It was a large rabbit – a survivor who only ventured out from cover after the danger from the eagle-eyed hunter had passed.
And finally, the last interesting “thing” to make the list happened when Sara and Gracyn were returning to the camper after having taken showers at the camp facilities. They were using Sara’s phone flashlight to guide the way and happened to catch sight of “Ricki Raccoon” as he was going through the garbage for a late-night snack. It wasn’t a long encounter. Ricki exited the garbage can almost immediately – bippity bop, and ran off into the trees – what a wonderful and yet oh so brief moment. Ricki was the last entry on our list. No frogs... not sure what happened to the frogs but no one reported seeing any frogs...
There is so much to see and do at Mahoney State Park – Rai and I both decided that we need more time at the park to do all the things we want to do. Rai still wants to zip line and ride a horse. I think that would be great – especially if I didn’t have to do it! If Sam and Mac could go with her – then that would be wonderful.
We did make it to the waterpark for one afternoon. Sara is a big kid at heart… she went down the slides and enjoyed the waves with Gracyn. I stood for a time in the waves and parked my butt at the zero-depth entry and enjoyed people watching until the boys returned and helped me up. Each taking an Oma hand and pulling me easily up to my feet – those strong guys are nice to have around.
Rai accidentally found an abandoned tube and convinced Sam to take her out into the waves. When I questioned her about the tube… she said she found it. I firmly told her not to take a tube – someone had rented the tube and she was stealing it. She was offended and held a grudge for a long time… then some people sitting right in front of us left for the day and thus abandoned several tubes – now it was OK to use one… she didn’t quite understand the logic. Next time we will rent our own tube!
After swimming, we were able to fit in a quick game of putt putt. The boys felt like we were taking too long so they played ahead. To be fair… we did take a while with each hole but it was fun to watch Missy G coax her pink golf ball along the course… counting became a thing of the past after the first hole… no one wants to keep count! Except when you almost make a hole in one… which Rai did. It was amazing… her purple golf ball sitting right on the rim of the hole… just that close. A little tap and she had that one done in two… that is an easy one to count and an easy one to remember.
Sara planned on fixing supper for us at the camper each night. The first night was bacon wrapped chicken and the second night was barbequed ribs. Eating with Chef Sara and head grill cook Colby was a delight… and smores around the campfire is always a big hit! We enjoyed playing UNO both nights after supper – at least most of us enjoyed playing UNO. Gracyn had a meltdown or ten and claimed we were being mean to her – following the rules can be hard!
Overall, it was a short but totally sweet little staycation – convenient and close to home – I would recommend the Mahoney State Park to anyone wanting an easy get away! Next time we have to visit the SAC museum and of course the Wildlife Safari… we have to make a list and I have to see a frog!
Three Months Since the Last Entry – Oh My…
For the past few months, I have been involved in organizing an event for John C. Fremont Days. The “busy-ness” of organizing this new event has kept me from writing a blog entry… which is sort of the truth… I should back up a bit and give you the prequel…
I conduct the Nye Avenue Historic Tours each year for the John C. Fremont Days Festival. This is a three or four-hour commitment on the first night of the festival. I’m not sure how I came to do this task… someone must have retired (quit) and they needed a replacement and they asked me to fill in. So, for several years now I have been doing the tours, I haven't quit, and no one has begged to replace me – so it’s my job until I can’t do it anymore!
The tours are fun – at least for me. I have a captive audience and they are forced to listen to my ramblings for a little over an hour… it scratches that itch for this old retired teacher to teach. I get to reminisce about the street that was once known as “Millionaires Row”. I share my memories and the stories I’ve heard about the famous and sometimes infamous people who lived on this historic avenue.
Often times, I will be talking about a specific house and a person on the tour will add their own memory or anecdote concerning a prior owner or their visit to the property. Those little stories add so much to the tour and it is interesting to learn a new aspect of the personalities of the home’s occupants or perhaps an insight into the reasons for the owner's financial downfall. I just love it when I learn something new!
A particular property of interest is the May Museum. The home of Theron Nye and later his son Ray Nye. The house was set for demolition in the late 60’s but as luck would have it… the lawyer representing the Louis E. May Trust lived across the street from the Nye home and he was appalled by plans to build apartment buildings on the historic property. Mr. Sidner was successful in saving the property and the stately old building became the May Museum. It currently houses the Dodge County Historical Society as well, and I for one will be forever grateful for his preservation efforts.
When we first started John C. Fremont Days, the May Museum property served as a hub, a focal point for the entire three days of the festival. In recent years, most of the activities had been moved to other locations. Since many people, on the Nye Avenue Tours, showed so much interest in the May Museum property and the history of the Nye home… it seemed like a good time to reintroduce the Museum to the festival… in a low key – low impact kind of way!
If you have read any of my blog entries, you know I like to tell a story! Wouldn’t it be fun to have people who know “something” about Fremont, share that “something” with others. Luckily there are quite a few people in Fremont who share my love of a good story! Although we did have to tell them that the stories did need to be truthful… so that discouraged a few from participating. But still – we lined up a variety of story tellers!! Hooray.
We call this new event for John C. Fremont Days – “Musings at the Museum”. I’m going to be there to share stories about my family and the life and business they built in the early days of Fremont. I’m also going to share stories of growing up in Fremont and how certain family members influenced my writing efforts. My children’s stories are based on true life events and experiences… I write what I know. Frogs, ditches, floods, birds tangled in bushes, building a raft out of Styrofoam… even the three frog characters share similarities with my grandchildren… I will share those stories.
The development of this new event hasn’t really taken up much time at all… but the rabbit hole of discovery I fell into sure turned out to be a time suck! My cousin Cindy shared some family picture albums – one small section corresponded to a story my Great Aunt Rose had told Orleatha Kellogg - which was included in her book – “Bloom on the Land – a prairie pioneer experience.”
I was pretty much amazed that all these years later (over 100 years) the text and pictures would reunite for a “story”. A story that would be shared in my Aunt Rose’s own words, at the “Musings at the Museum”. Do come see that – it’s fun!
Then my other cousin, J shared a file of photos from the early days of Greens Greenhouse – fascinating! Max Design made up a cool story board utilizing several of those early photos – you won’t want to miss that – a very interesting story!
Then my son came home for a visit… And then a family of owls moved into my yard… totally a time suck… I will have to write a blog about that… And then my brother Stacy came back to the mainland and we started going through old family slides and that was really cool! There are tons of stories in those slides for next year!
Before you know it – three months have passed and I haven’t written a blog… just one rabbit hole after another…
Anyway – just thought I should check in and let you all know that I am still around and I’ve been getting some good material for blog entries. Let me know how you are doing in the comments. And as always check out www.omapublishing.com for the latest book and products… All book sales are donated to the Gracyn Mae Smith Special Needs Trust Fund. The stories are great for telling your grandkids and purchasing the books will help a very special little girl with muscular dystrophy. Books and puzzles will be available on Saturday July 10th for purchase – see you at the museum!
I don't have a lot of pictures of the homes on the Nye Avenue Historic Tour, but I do have a few that I copied from some books in my Grandparents collection. The homes are or were located along Nye Avenue here in Fremont... The Schneider house is located on 10th and H Street... another popular street for our more prominent citizens to build their homes.
I explained before that I write what I know, therefore, the third book in the three-frog series is a continuation of that process. In the first book, the frogs compete to see who can be the first to build a raft out of the trash littered around their pond. I built a similar raft with my grandfather back in the 1950’s. In the second book, the frogs are sleeping on their raft when they are swept away in a flash flood. Floods are a common occurrence along the Platte and memories of floods from my youth played a part in the creation of the second portion of the saga.
In the flooding episode, the trio travels throughout the night – carried along by the wind and water. At daybreak, their raft becomes trapped in a tangle of branches. Lost and far from home, Freddy, Hops and Green meet a cat who needs their help. Those little frogs are caring and compassionate – they do not hesitate to help someone in need!
In the third book, the three frogs want to return home but they aren’t sure where to start. Ms. MeMe Meow, vows to help them find their way. They don’t travel far before they come across another creature in need of assistance. A bird, tethered to a bush and fence post by a bunch of balloons. The bird is lucky to have been found by this problem-solving group of travelers.
The whole bird tied up in string and dangling from a branch is based on a true event. When I was a little girl, (back in the mid 1950’s) my mother was reading a story to my brother and I. We were cuddled up in bed. My brother was snuggled up next to Mom on one side and I on the other. I was totally into the story but Billy noticed something strange out the window. I was having trouble locating what Mom and my brother were seeing but they described a bird entangled in string and hanging upside down from a branch high up in the old Elm tree. Once I spied the bird struggling to free itself, I was immediately heart broken and began to cry.
I insisted, seriously demanded, screaming that we help the bird. There was no calming me. Mom called the Fire Department and they came to the rescue. The men positioned their ladder and one climbed to a dizzying height to save that poor creature. My eyes were sore from the tears, my sinuses were swollen and I could only breathe through my mouth… I’m sure I looked a sight. I think my brother was more composed but I can’t be sure as I was just too busy loosing my shit! The whole thing was traumatic and it stayed with me for years
Back in the 1950’s, the bird my brother spotted, was caught high in a tree, tangled by a string. We assumed she was gathering materials to build her nest. In the third book, the bird was tethered to a bush. A number of strings and balloons held him tightly in place.
Balloon releases were something I never considered when I was a kid. Starting in the 1970’s it became a popular thing to do – celebrate a special event by hosting a balloon release. It was marketed by the balloon manufacturers as a harmless activity. To me it was organized littering.
On the count of three, release your balloon… 1 2 3… the crowd cheers as the balloons float into the sky… each watching their balloon as it melds with the others and disappears into the distance. Harmless? What about that old saying… what goes up must come down! Well - when it does come down, it is litter. The whole balloon release thing just never sat right with me. Organized litter on the count of three! Weird.
Later on, balloon releases became even more popular, College Campuses would compete to see who could release the most balloons. A competition of organized littering – how bizarre. I think I saw somewhere that Disney World holds the record number of balloons in a one-time balloon release. I could be wrong – it might be a University somewhere that holds that distinction.
Eventually, balloon releases became popular for grieving family and friends as a way to send a message to their loved one in heaven. I understand the intent, the significance of the rising balloons but still… a balloon release is nothing more than organized littering and I’m not a fan.
Back in the late 1980’s, I co-spearheaded a Keep Nebraska Beautiful effort to get the University of Nebraska to discontinue the practice of balloon releases at the Cornhusker home football games. It went over about as well as you would expect. It wasn’t pretty – although the death threats in red ink were a festive touch! I was a City employee back then for KFB, and the mayor had been kind enough to write a letter asking for the University to cease and desist. It was unfortunate when the media focused on his letter out of all the letters submitted in the effort to stop the balloon releases. Ya – didn’t see that one coming!
The media focus was intense and I was prepared to answer the criticism of the banning effort, but once the City was involved, I was forced to back off. If the media had focused on Keep Nebraska Beautiful or Keep Fremont Beautiful, I think I could have managed the response. However, once they went after the Mayor, I was not a qualified spokesperson for that purpose… it was hard to remain silent. Doing nothing was and is, the most difficult thing for me to do.
So anyway – flash forward to 2020 and I’m putting the third book together… something has been bugging me… I have to get it off my chest… So ya – I had to throw in a balloon release “horror” scenario in the third book. In hopes, that Oma’s everywhere would encourage their kids and grandkids to celebrate in more environmentally suitable and sustainable ways.
This is me – writing what I know… sharing the 1950’s memory of being snuggled next to my mother, listening to her dramatic interpretation of one pitfall after another for poor little Pinocchio… and then suddenly facing a very real life or death situation. A memory of the struggling bird - just beyond the window pane but completely out of reach. The firemen coming to the rescue and drying my tears!
A second memory in the 1980’s - a memory of being silenced – not allowed to speak of balloon releases… I “knew” it back in the 1980’s that balloon releases were a bad idea… Now some thirty odd years later, environmental awareness has increased. Balloon releases still occur but not as often as in the past. The University still releases balloons after the first touchdown although in lessening numbers. In the recent past, COVID 19 emptied many a stadium and that resulted in less litter across the nation. Laws and public shaming have reduced the number of balloon releases in more enlightened areas… we have come a long way in reducing balloon litter.
I tried to do something about Balloon Releases a long time ago, but the “system” was standing on my tail. Now I’m free of constraints. “I” write the stories and I write what I know. I write from my memories and my life experiences. I also like to finish what I start. I don’t have the platform that I did at one time and that is fine. I am a private citizen, doing my private citizen thing. It’s taken a few decades, but I’m glad to finally get it all out there!
Balloon releases are a bad idea and the practice is harmful to the environment and wildlife. Each of us should think about our actions and how those actions may affect others down the line. We are all in this together and caring for our world environment is the responsibility of each and everyone of us. You have a choice. You do not need to release a balloon into the environment. There are alternative ways to celebrate. Think before you act – think before you litter. If we all work together, we can make our communities cleaner, safer and litter-free.
Shop for the Three Frog Trilogy at www.omapublishing.com All proceeds are deposited in the Special Needs Trust Fund for my granddaughter Gracyn who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy. I appreciate your support of her future needs! I hope you will purchase the trilogy and share the environmental and friendship messages with the youngsters in your life!
A few weeks ago, I was giving myself another haircut. I have been doing these home haircuts for over a year now and I was trying a new technique. I would take a section of hair and cut it off and then take that section of hair and wrap it around one of those sticky rollers. So, by the time I was done, my hair was in rollers and I wasn’t at all sure what my haircut looked like, but with all the excess hair out of the way, I went to work on what was left hanging out around the edges… This is when the doorbell rang.
I figured it had to be the neighbor kid so I wasn’t too concerned how I looked. I was a little surprised to find a nice-looking, fully dressed, hair and makeup done woman, standing in the patio with a newspaper column in her hand. I immediately apologized for the way I looked, covered in a dusting of gray hair with an assortment of yellow, pink and green rollers adorning my head… I explained that I had been cutting my hair. Which she had no reaction to at all. She simply smiled and nicely ignored my strange attire.
She introduced herself and told me that her mother and my mother had been in the same class in high school and were friends. Her mother had recently passed away and she was going through her things. Her mother had saved a variety of items and it was taking a long time to process her mementoes.
This sweet woman standing on my patio proceeded to tell me that her mother had enjoyed the columns that I had written for Keep Fremont Beautiful and that her mother and my mother would discuss the columns from time to time. After my mother died, this lovely woman’s mother continued to read my columns and clipped one particular column and saved it – tucked away for her daughter to discover one day.
Now this daughter, couldn’t bring herself to throw the column away… she wanted me to know that her mother had saved it. She wanted me to know that my mother’s friend continued to read my columns after my mother passed. I’m glad her husband knew where I live and I’m glad that she took the time to come over to my house, ring the doorbell, ignore my appearance and tell me the story of my mother’s friend!
The column she returned to me is “Saying Goodbye to Dad”. Dad died just a few days before RaiLee was born in 2012. It was a bittersweet time. I am reprinting this column in memory of not only Dad, but Mom and Mom’s friend as well… connections in life… connections after life…
FYI - The haircut was crappy – but I keep thinking I will get better at it one day. Had the second shot, so maybe I won't have to get better at cutting my own hair! Here's to getting back in the salon soon!
Saying Goodbye to Dad (Around March 31, 2012) Note: I put some of the parts back in that the editor had taken out!
My Dad passed away this last week. For the past three decades, he faced some pretty serious health conditions. He was like that “battery” bunny – he just kept going.
He suffered his first heart attack, just before Christmas one year, when he was out hunting – alone. He got stuck, up to his thighs in a snow bank, trying to retrieve whatever it was he shot. He used his gun as leverage and was finally able to free himself. I don’t remember if he brought back his bird or rabbit or whatever. He did however, get back in the truck and drove himself home.
Later that Saturday evening, Mom came home from working all day at the greenhouse and found him in bed, no supper on the table and it looked like he hadn’t accomplished anything all day. She was irritated. He simply said he didn’t feel good. The guy had a great deal of tolerance for pain!
She finally convinced him to go to the hospital. Mom drove. Sure enough, he had endured and survived his first heart attack. He was still in the hospital that Christmas Eve. We were grateful that he hadn’t suffered too much damage and no surgery was needed. He had to make some lifestyle changes: no smoking, better diet, daily medication.
That Christmas Eve was different from past family gatherings… it felt “lacking” without Dad – the first that he hadn’t attended in my lifetime.
That heart attack was serious enough that it forced Dad to retire from Hormel Foods Corp. Mom watched his diet and monitored his beer intake. During retirement he gardened, fished, traveled, endured Mom’s constant remodeling projects and kept his yard neat and tidy. He became an avid recycler, which I am pretty sure was due to me and my KFB influence.
Dad’s second heart attack was more serious. He ignored the pain… again. The damage was much more extensive. This time he needed bypass surgery. He pulled through just fine and even began exercising on a more regular basis. He enjoyed walking on the treadmill down the basement, while watching his television shows. Mom monitored their diets even closer!
Years later, Mom began to worry about Dad. He often stumbled or became dizzy. He often slurred his words. Mom accused him of drinking too much beer, which he firmly denied. Mom decided it was time to see a doctor!
This time it was a brain tumor that had started in his ear and had grown into his brain. After a successful surgery, as Dad rested peacefully, the doctor explained to Mom that the tumor was the size of a tennis ball and must have been growing for years. The doctor thought it was amazing that Dad could walk at all without stumbling. The doctor and Mom both thought that Dad was unconscious, but he had heard their exchange and without opening his eyes, offered a little dig “I told you it wasn’t the beer”.
We all thought Dad, with his myriad of health problems, would leave this world before Mom. She passed away in January 2009. He missed her.
When he was diagnosed with skin cancer last August, he underwent surgery and radiation treatment. We thought he had it beat. Then in February, the cancer returned, this time attacking his entire body. He said “no more treatments. I want to go lie by Mom.”
He stayed in A.J. Merrick Manor for a couple of weeks and then we took him home for hospice. My brother Bill and his wife, Eileen, came from Sioux Falls to provide for his primary care. Family and friends gathered at his bedside for the next couple of weeks. I would stop by to feed him lunch and dinner. We got Internet at Dad’s so I could work at the kitchen table. This was a “family” time.
Last Friday, the weather was beautiful. Billy and Eileen moved Dad’s bed so he could look out the back window. He marveled at the change of seasons and how the trees were budding and how green the yard looked. After a few hours, Eileen thought he was asleep and started to remove his glasses. He simply said “No, I’m still looking around.”
Dad was a farm boy at heart, spending as much time outdoors as possible. I don’t think he ever applied sunscreen although in later years he would wear a hat to shield his balding head.
At 83 he had lived a full life, married for nearly 60 years, working long hours at the “plant”, raising three children, staying involved in the lives of his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and lots of nieces and nephews. This spring we will plant a tree or two in his honor, creating shade and protection from the harmful rays of the sun. We may drink a beer or two – and for sure, we will recycle the aluminum! This one’s for you Dad.