A Trip Back To 2020

We had dinner guests last night. It was wonderful—like being in a Time Machine back before the Pandemic did its damndest to take all the fun and joy out of life. But before I tell you about our dinner guests, I need to tell you how we came to be friends. Readers of this blog already know that with me there’s no such thing as a short story—there are only LONG stories.

We own two adjacent properties in Bellevue. We live on one, and our property manager lives on the other. A number of years ago, the property next to our property manager’s changed hands, going to a young couple with small children. Shortly after buying their place, a large tree fell down near their house but thankfully not ON it. They soon showed up on our doorstep asking for help in taking down a number of dangerous trees on our property that were endangering theirs. In the course of that transaction, they became aware of my being J.A.Jance. That was important because the wife was well aware that her mother, living in Fairbanks, Alaska, was a huge fan of mine.

The grandparents, Niesje (pronounced NeeShu as in shush) and Roger visit here often, and the first time I met Niesje in person was when she came to the house with her grandkids on a trick-or-treating expedition.

During the past two years my husband has suffered from a medical mis-diagnosis that made it difficult for him to speak or eat, and we lived in a lonely kind of physically imposed silence. Aware of the dangers of caregiver burnout, I finally began looking for “ladies who lunch”—a way for me to get out of the house once a week or so and actually talk to someone. When Niesje and Roger came to visit, she and I went to lunch several times and have, as a result, become friends.

She and Roger have lived in Fairbanks since they both graduated from law school, and Niesje is a retired judge. When I was writing Nothing to Lose and needed boots-on-the-ground Alaska-centric details, she’s the one I turned to, and if that name seems familiar, it’s because you’ll find it on the dedication page of Nothing to Lose.

When the book was published, the runaway most popular character unexpectedly turned out to be Twinkle Winkleman. When fans begged me to write a book with her as the main character, that didn’t seem possible, because Twink is about as Alaska-centric as they get. But eventually I caved and wrote a novella called Girls’ Night Out. That will be published sometime next year, but I’m not exactly sure when. Stay tuned.

When I was done writing GNO, I sent the manuscript to Niesje for the same reason I sent Nothing to Lose—to make sure I didn’t make some kind of egregious Alaska-based error. Once she finished it, she sent her corrections to me, and I installed them, but that’s when the story takes an unexpected turn.

Niesje and Roger have been husband and wife for going on fifty years, and all that time Roger has NEVER read fiction—not at all. But Girl’s Night Out was right there, so he read it. For years people have told me that reading my books is like eating Fritos because you can’t read just one, and Roger is a prime case in point. As of now, some seven months later, he has read all of the Beaumonts, all of the Alis, and is halfway through the Joannas. Niesje says I caused an “earthquake” in her marriage, and their kids are nothing but astonished.

Then an earthquake happened in our household, too. Bill finally got a correct diagnosis and is now on the proper meds. He can speak again—well enough that we were finally able to have a verbal argument. It was wonderful, and I won, of course.

Now we can finally enjoy have company again, because Bill can actually visit with someone. So Roger and Niesje came to dinner last night. It was terrific. No, I didn’t cook. Well, I did make flan for dessert, but the chefs at John Howie Steak provided the appetizers and main course. And all through dinner we talked and laughed. We’re all of an age. We talked about being the products of Midwest upbringings, and subject matter included everything from pulling calves to S&H Green Stamps. When the evening ended, Niesje walked away with one of Bill’s paintings, one that features several cows standing in a grassy field which was actually the inspiration for one of the scenes in Blessing of the Lost Girls.

Once the evening was over and the dishes were done, I was still on a roll. I went to bed but couldn’t go to sleep because, like Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, “my head’s too light to try to set it down.”

So here’s my thought for the day. Think about any given newscast you’ve seen over the course of the last several years and remember how many times we’ve all been advised to be safe from this or that.

How about reminding us to remember to have fun? Safe may be safe, but fun is incredibly restorative, and laughter really is the best medicine. Art Linkletter is the guy I first remember mentioning that. His Kids Say the Darnedest Things may be long gone, and it seems as though laughter went out of vogue for a while, but it’s high time we brought it back.

And there it is again, my father’s favorite poem: Laugh and the world laughs with you.

Amen, sister. Preach on!

58 thoughts on “A Trip Back To 2020

  1. Thanks so much for this story. I agree, laughter is so important.

    P.S. I liked Twinkle Winkleman too. ?

  2. Oh, Judy, it is wonderful to know you & Bill had such a great time with dinner guests. It had to be both exhilarating and relaxing all at the same time. I love how you give us glimpses into your private life and the little snippets that become part of your books. Yes, remember to laugh! We can never have too much laughter in our lives.

    • No problem. I used the Royal pudding box, but instead of using the sticky caramel in the foil package, I recommend putting a tablespoon of DaVinci sugar free caramel syrup in the bottom of the flan serving dishes.

  3. The Fritos analogy is apropos. After my mother-in-law (96 now) recommended your books ~20 years ago, I read all your books in publication in quick succession too-something like 38 in a row. And I’ve continued reading each one as soon as it’s published.

  4. PS I’ve noticed that the more physicals rely on machines for testing, their diagnostic skills have deteriorated. They seem to guess more often than not. We’ve experienced our share of misdiagnoses as well

  5. This was the best thing to read after the last two weeks of receiving very very bad news about people close to me. I am so happy about Bill’s improvement and the joy you both have back in your lives. My sad time will pass as it always does and I am grateful for my wry sense of humor that often cracks a funny joke or observation in the worst of circumstances. Thanks for the reinforcement about the value of laughter.

  6. Thank you for your words of wisdom! Laughter really is the best medicine. A long time ago I decided to not live my life in fear. My personality is such that I’d rather live with a positive, glass-half-full-outlook, anyway. Besides, Mark Twain once famously said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
    I try to live by that!

  7. Speaking of Alaska, you might be interested in reading a blog posted now and then (no set schedule) from Heather Lende, a resident of Haines, Alaska. She grew up on Long Island, NY. She moved to Alaska with her husband after they graduated from college around 30 years ago. Her husband owns a lumber yard. Heather has raised a family and also writes.

    Her tales of life in Alaska are very interesting. She’d be a good source for Beau if he is ever up that way again. 🙂

  8. So glad to hear that Bill is better ! How long has he been painting ?

    I look forward to Twinkle’s story. I recently re-read Nothing to Lose – just as much fun the second time around.

    I always enjoy an Art Linkletter reference. My father was on his radio show on Feb. 12, 1947. They had some feature for brand new fathers. Dad rushed from the hospital to the studio so he could be on !

  9. Wonderful! We of a certain age sometimes forget to remember. It’s nice to have others to remember with. For those who don’t get out anymore for whatever reason, it’s nice to even get a call from a friend – or a text. Unfortunately we seem to get lost in the everyday shuffle. Probably our own fault but nonetheless disturbing. Just keep busy with whatever makes life more enjoyable and grateful for that blessing no matter how small it may seem to others. Laughter truly IS the best medicine.

  10. Laughter, music, and good reads are all medicine. Healing, each in their own way. Your experience of connecting with friends again, is something I’m guessing many of us truly understand. Perhaps our understanding comes from experiencing what it means to lose our sense of well being, independence, connection during such challenging times. These life-affirming connections that bring laughter, joy, and a sense of freedom back into our lives, are the gifts we all need right now. Thank you so much for this.

  11. Judy, what a wonderful blog! So good to know that Bill is on the mend and that your lives are almost back to normal! Glad you had a great dinner experience and that you were able to relax and have some fun! God bless Niesje and Roger! To paraphrase Dr. Seuss (“And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street”) to think it happened because a tree fell in Bellevue!

  12. Glad to hear Bill is doing better. It seems in recent years that some medical professionals take the “easy way out” diagnosis wise. I’m glad you found a physician that got things straightened out.
    I’m glad you had a wonderful time with your neighbors. You are right, it is always nice to connect (or reconnect) with relatives, friends, and neighbors and have a lovely time while doing it.
    have a great weekend!

  13. You are spot on about laughter and visiting with friends! I also totally agree with reading your books is like eating Fritos because you can’t read just one!
    On another note, I’m so looking forward to your upcoming speaking engagements.
    I’m hopeful I snagged one for Tucson and am waiting to snag one for the Green Valley Library! Hope to see and hear you soon.

  14. Your right. Laughter is so heart lifting. We need to start doing more of it. I find myself not doing enough of it and it will drag you down. I always feel good when I read your blogs. And laugh. Have a blessed day. I’m glad your Bill is doing better.

  15. Covid closed us off from people but it is up to us to reach out to people once again.
    I was picking up tickets to see Warren Easley from an acquaintance and she asked if I had time for a glass of tea. I sat down and had a delightful time chatting about books. Two and a half hours later I thought I’d better text my husband to let him know that I wasn’t lost. We called it a bonus to our day and we need to do it again.
    So make the call and visit friends/acquaintances once again.

  16. So glad that Bill is doing better. I’m re-reading all your books and have finished with the Beaumont, Ali, and Walker ones. Now on #13 of the Brady ones. Can’t wait for the new Brady/Walker one and the Novella. Yes, I also loved Twinkle–had some good laughs reading that book. Can’t wait for the Novella to come out.

  17. My husband and I absolutely love love love both your weekly blogs and every one of your books!! In fact the only ones we haven’t acquired yet are the new or yet to be released!!! We spend half our year in Gold Canyon AZ and half in Edmonds WA so have the benefit of knowing a fair amount about both areas and connecting with them through your books. We also truly enjoyed listening to your talk last season at the Apache Junction Library. Our sincere thanks for your valuable contributions to our world!!!! Take care and please keep writing and speaking!!!! Sincerely Ann and Dwayne Booth

  18. From your lips to all the people! Put the safety warnings away and enjoy our days! These are an all the days we will get and living in fear from a flu instead of having joy in a visit from friends or family makes those days less worth living. I think our bodies build strength from love and laughter and weakness from fear. Let the joyful days begin.

  19. Judy,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog post. Laughter in our lives has been very lacking these past few years. It’s time to restore our sense of mirth. I’ve often said that one of the most beautiful things in the world is a smile.
    You mentioned Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darnedest Things”, and I’m reminded of a Childrens Talk at our church recently. The pastor posed the question “What is something that your Mom or Dad have said to you that was meaningful?” One of the children raised his hand and said “My Mom said David, I brought you into this world, I can take you out!!” Needless to say, the entire congregation roared with laughter. The mother sitting in the audience turned multiple shades of red.
    Keep smiling.
    Kevin Smith
    PS. Great news about Bill.

  20. I always look forward to Fridays because I know your email will be in my inbox. I so enjoy reading your books and the blog. I love the snippets of your life. Seeing Art Linkletter mentioned made my day. When I was around 10-12 I got to meet him and have my picture taken. I wish we had some of those old TV shows on now instead of the ones that are now airing. My family always watched Red Skelton too. Oh for the olden days, they were much simpler.

  21. re: fun. I sent this out to a couple of people last week, and, now, I am sending it to you. 🙂
    Dear Ms. Jance,
    Last week, I was tidying up, half-listening to a podcast, when this sentence leapt out at me: “Someone you know could probably use a good laugh.”
    In case it’s you, I’m sending you this joke, which has been a favorite of mine for a very long time.
    Reunion Dinners
    A group of buddies who are all about 40 years old discuss and discuss where they should meet for dinner. Finally it is agreed upon that they should meet at the Black Forest Restaurant because the waitresses there have low cut blouses and nice breasts.

    10 years later, at 50 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at Black Forest Restaurant because the food there is very good and the wine selection is good also.

    10 years later at 60 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Black Forest Restaurant because they can eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant is smoke free.

    10 years later, at 70 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Black Forest Restaurant because the restaurant is wheel chair accessible and they even have an elevator.

    10 years later, at 80 years of age, the group meets again and once again they discuss and discuss where they should meet. Finally it is agreed that they should meet at the Black Forest Restaurant because they’ve heard it’s a great place and they have never been there before.

  22. Enjoyed this article. My name is also Niesje. I have never met anyone with the same spelling. Amazing how the name can be misspelled and mispronounced. One good thing about my name is when I get annoying phone calls and they can’t pronounce my name, I hang up….no friend of mine.

  23. I am SO glad that you and Bill can really enjoy having visitors again-
    Knowing what you both have been through in the past two years (thanks to modern medicine) this return to Bill’s old, healthier self feels like a miracle-
    As the Beatles put it, “Here Comes the Sun!”
    Speaking of the medical profession, “What is the difference between God and Doctors?” “God doesn’t think he’s a Doctor-”
    Thanks so much for sharing this good news, Judy- You have sent joy to the East Coast-
    P.S. I had completely forgotten about Green Stamps! They were considered a crucial part of life when I was growing up-

    • Robin, when we moved to this house in 1968, a company that sold heating oil gave Green Stamps. I can’t remember how many years they did that, but we b0ought from them to get the stamps.

    • I am still using several items, including my everyday flatware, that I acquired using Green Stamps in the late 1970s. I basically furnished my first kitchen that way. I suspect my kids used thrift stores to furnish their kitchens. Green stamps were fun!

  24. So right we NEED laugher. last night nine of us “old” friends got together for first time in months.
    Not to say we were loud or anything like that but we talked and laughed for several hours at our favorite restaurant. People didn’t shhh us but smiled with us.
    Goes to show ya….. we need more laugher. Thank you

  25. I agree your books are like eating Fritos. My Chiropractor has a basket in her waiting room that have books in it and they are free for you to take. I walked out one day with Desert Heat. I had it for a couple of months before I picked it up and read it. By the time I read it I had book 2 in the Joanna Brady series. Something like 4 or 5 months later I had read all of the books in the Joanna, Ali, Beau and Walker family series and I’m counting the days till Blessing of the Lost Girls comes out. I love your books and reading your blog.

  26. Long story short, used to travel by air at lot for business, found a Beaumont book in the seat pocket, opened it up and there was a note inside cover, ‘you should read this book at revolves around Seattle’ . I started and could not put it down, then I passed it on and noted to the next person that found it ” having lived in Seattle most of my life this writer knows Seattle inside and out, read it!! I am a reader of your books.

    Now I have found a life partner and low and behold she has read every one of your books. We have attended your 3rd place books events and enjoyed your time with us.

    Kathy Peterson is on your blog list and she forwards it to me. We just celebrated our 80’s birthdays the 1st of August. Kathy is very energetic and has a number of ladies friends she keeps in touch with for lunchs and evening events. She lives in Kenmore and I know she would love to lunch or dinner with you as she lives for you next book to hit the stores.



  27. I’m so glad to hear Bill’s misdiagnosis was solved and he has speech again. What an interm of a very difficult time.

  28. That is such a neat story. Glad your husband is getting better. That is a tough thing to go

  29. So thankful Bill is on the mend. Proud of your persistence in finding another doctor.
    How many of your readers know what pulling a calf is? Grew up in Texas.
    Yes, we need more laughter and hopefully it will be clean language. Can’t believe how the modern generation thinks a stream of filthy words is funny.
    Yep, I”m 80+ years old.

    • David, there are several authors I do not read because of the filthy language they use. Mom told me people who use bad language show their ignorance. They don’t know any better. I also skip those who write detailed sex scenes. I like to have my characters heading for the bedroom. The next page is the morning after and a new chapter. 🙂

  30. Yes Art Linkletter was hilarious with precious children saying funny, sweet, surprising comments!! There is a British Comedian n Facebook called Michael Barrymore that has a show doing the same thing. Hilarious and the laughter is so needed now!

  31. Best news I have heard in some time about Bill being on the mend. The other good news about that is the trickle down theory, when Bill goes on the mend so do you! Caregivers seldom get any respite care themselves.

  32. Your blogs are too much fun! Every one stirs memories I’m glad to take out and dust off. Art Linkletter! Visiting California, we showed up too late to get in, but the usher that was saying NO couldn’t take his eye off one ot us. Sally was truly a vision, she worked at it and was used to being in the spotlight. So when he said to go around the side of the building and he would meet us at another door, we youthfully trusting girls did just that. We ended up in the sponsor’s booth and backstage and enjoyed the program immensely! He made several other shows available, too. Thanks, Sally-up-in-Heaven. That was 76 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday!

  33. Good sound advice. And I admit to proudly being in the Frito group! Your stories are always a great escape. Keep them coming.

    • I am so glad Bill is better and you can once again enjoy each other and have company. I know all too much about misdiagnosed. It sounds as though you had lots of fun with your friends from Alaska.
      Laughter is so important in our lives. My father used to keep us rolling in laughter with his quick whit and positive disposition. I really miss that man but my niece inherited that trait of making you laugh so if I need a laugh, I call her.
      Can’t wait for Girls’ Night Out.

  34. This is a wonderful, uplifting column, JA. So glad we can look forward to a Twinkle Winkleman novella.
    And, the memories of going to the gas station to get S&H green stamps for my Mom when gas was only 29 cents a gallon!
    I have always described your captivating books as ‘like eating candy.’
    But I am mostly happy for you and Bill that his misdiagnosis has been straightened out. What a terrible drag that whole episode was for you two and what a major relief now. I wish many healthy and joyous years to come for both of you.

  35. Once again thank you been awhile since I had time to read blog glad I did today .I took have read all of the books I am big fan and I am glad you are real and honest lots of bad stuff in my life sat here on dot number two of level two fire evacuation for two and a half weeks. They are even now getting ready to do another lockdown only this time am not gonna cooperate .I hope your life is full you are very loved.

  36. What an enjoyable read and uplifting post. I’m so very happy to hear Bill is finally getting the proper medical care and doing better. Yes, we all need to respect the safety guidelines, but we also need to try and find some fun and joy amidst the fear and uncertainty. I would love to see some of Bill’s paintings!

  37. What a joyful note about the Right Chair’s Return… answered pray, Miss Judy, so happy for you. One never knows where the new next best friend comes from… what a great human story!!!

  38. This is a completely off-topic comment, but I have been so excited ever since Friday morning, when I was nowhere near a computer, but VERY NEAR an iconic landmark that features in Until Proven Guilty — Snoqualmie Falls! I was visiting my sister, who moved to Woodinville WA last year, and she suggested we go there on Friday while her kids were in school. Of course, I got very excited, and the whole time we were at the overlook I was trying to envision the scenes in the book.

    Then, today, I went to the Seattle Storm game at Climate Pledge Arena, and while driving around in that part of Seattle I encountered Mercer St and Queen Anne and Denny and a building labeled Belltown Center, so J.P. was very much on my mind. I had never been there before, but it felt like a homecoming of sorts! Now I can’t wait for next March, when I plan to visit Bisbee. The places in your books are so vivid!

  39. I am also extremely happy to hear that Bill got a good diagnosis finally and is improving. Hurray!

    Our own family had a close call recently, when one of my brothers-in-law contracted a virus that affected his brain function. Because he is in his mid-seventies, the hospital staff was not taking his sudden-onset mental symptoms seriously, and my sister had a devil of a time convincing them that his confusion/delusion was NOT NORMAL. This was happening to a man who had been learning a foreign language using Duolingo and solving Wordle in 3 tries and reads voraciously. Only because she insisted did they test for a brain infection and treat correctly. Thankfully he is on the mend and will soon be home to meet their latest grandchild, who was born today.

  40. Growing up on the ranch, I remember pulling calves on a cold night. My mom would be in the shed with us when we had a calf to be delivered. She would bring a thermos of hot chocolate. And towels to help clean us up. She had old towels to help dry the calf. I can hear mom talking with the other ranch ladies about ranch life. We were 20 miles to town nearest neighbor 5 miles away. Those ranch ladies would get together about once a month. It was sad when she died young and her stories left with her. We have our memories with her. 32 years ago I was a paramedic and did CPR on her September 15th. She lived 23 more days. May you have more time with your husband. I pray. Larry

  41. I enjoyed the blog and I guess this is where we make comments. Excited to read the new book and also the next JP you are working on.
    Thank you for all the reading you have given me.

  42. So true!
    Talking to my sister, Jo, in good old Bisbee, is so great! I think laughing is like a mini facelift. Keeps facial muscles toned.
    Thank you Judith Jance!

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