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.
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!