Toby Dorr
Episode 17

Episode 17

Toby Dorr: Hello, and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we talk about the hard things. I’m Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we will learn how we can be a beacon of hope. My guest today is Lisa Nordike, who was one of the Lisa’s from my book. In fact, she was the one that I called George in the book. Lisa Nordike, my dear, dear friend and former cellmate. I am so delighted to have you here, and it’s such an honor. I’m tickled too. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

Lisa Nordike: Yes, we have. Oh my goodness. Yeah, so. through letters, we battled everything together.

Toby Dorr: We sure did, didn’t we? And through quilting and crafts. Movie night on Fridays. So, I like to ask all my guests a question that gives us a peek into who you are. And that is, what’s your favorite color? And what does that say about you?

Lisa Nordike: Purple. Ha! I don’t know why, I just do. My grandmother’s was red and I just, and I look terrible in it, but I like it.

Toby Dorr: Purple is a pretty powerful color and it goes from all shades clear to really pale lilac up to a bold, dark, almost black. Yeah, there’s a lot of power in purple.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah, I just, I just, that’s my favorite color. I love it. I wear a lot of blue, but purple’s my favorite color.

Toby Dorr:. Yeah, I love that. Can you tell us about a crossroads in your life that pushed you in a different direction?

Lisa Nordike: Prison. I would have never done the things I did when I got home. Never. If it weren’t for what I had learned and the people I met there.

Toby Dorr: Prison is a pretty powerful experience and I know you and I were together for I think maybe about 11 months and we became very, very close. Lisa Montgomery (my other Lisa) was your roommate, but we were in the same pod and we spent so much time together just sharing everything about life. You were arrested along with your husband, who eventually had worked out a deal to get you off.

He was going to take the deal and get you off.

Lisa Nordike  No, it didn’t happen because unfortunately, Bruce passed away, 18 days from the time of diagnosis to death..

Toby Dorr: Is that right? It had been longer than that. That was tough. At the time, both of you had been locked up for almost a year.

Lisa Nordike: Longer than a year. It had been, well, 2006 and he died in 2008.

Toby Dorr: Ah, so yeah, it was a couple years. Okay. And you didn’t really get to spend time with him. You guys were separated while you were in prison. So, that was pretty tough. But at the end, the Marshals did have a bit of empathy and took you to the hospital and removed the handcuffs and let you be with Bruce at the end, which was a beautiful thing.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah. And I got to hold Sam.

Toby Dorr: Sam. Yes. Yes. Your daughter who was six when you went to prison. Yes. Which is really tough. You know, when they incarcerate parents and leave a child behind, that just is such a difficult thing.

Lisa Nordike: She was the youngest. The others were grown. So yes. Yes. It wasn’t as big an impact on them as it was her.

Toby Dorr: It was hard for her. And I, I know Sam. I’ve seen her lately and she’s turned into a beautiful young woman. So I love it. She’s just an awesome person.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah. Going for her radiology technician degree.

Toby Dorr: Oh, that’s excellent.

Lisa Nordike: She’s in nursing. Now she’s a phlebotomist, a traveling phlebotomist because it works, it works with her school, her school time.

And Derek too.

Toby Dorr: Yes. He’s a nurse too.

Lisa Nordike: Derek went for business management though, his degree in that, cause he wants to be on the business side of nursing. He’s tired of wiping booties, he says.

Toby Dorr: Can’t blame him for that. No, you can’t blame him for that. And so, how much time did you end up doing, actually, in prison?

Lisa Nordike: Eight years, ten months, and sixteen days.

Toby Dorr: That’s a long, long, long time. And when you do that time you know it, down to the day. Bruce had worked out a deal to get you off with time served. And then unfortunately he passed away, so he couldn’t complete his end of the deal. And the marshals told you, somebody has to pay the time. Somebody has to pay and it’s going to have to be you.

Lisa Nordike: Conspiracy. Which was what I was charged with, is just knowing. Yes, yes. Anybody could have, they could get anybody for that. Anybody that knows that someone is selling drugs and doesn’t report them.

Toby Dorr: Right. But if your husband killed someone, you couldn’t be compelled to testify against him because of spousal privilege. Right. Which just doesn’t make a bit of sense.

Toby Dorr: You know, you shouldn’t have had to testify against the father of your children when you were trying to get him to quit.

Lisa Nordike: That’s why I always took his money and ran. I figured if it wasn’t in his pocket, maybe he’d stop. But didn’t work out that way.

Toby Dorr: No, it didn’t. Now, after you got out of prison, I think that you did something remarkable that just still blows my mind and it all started it.

Toby Dorr: Yes, Samantha started it. So, tell us about that.

Lisa Nordike: Samantha brought Derrick home and Derrick was in a bad place, I went through my P. O. I did everything step by step, and I started with him and from him. It just grew.

Toby Dorr: You took Derek into your home as a foster child, but you actually ended up adopting him.

Lisa Nordike: Yes, correct. Derek’s my son. Yes. And Derek went on to become a nurse. I mean, he took him from You know, not having a safe place to actually coming into a loving home and going to college and becoming a nurse.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, he’s made such a difference in his life.

Lisa Nordike: I hope so. And I know he still calls me mom.

Toby Dorr: But you didn’t stop with Derek. So tell us about how many others you brought.

Lisa Nordike Oh, my goodness. After Derek, we got LaManya, and Dylan, and Blake, and we got Tiara, and Aaron, and Carly, and Caroline, and Randy, Carly’s twin, and We just, there’s just so many. I had such an open house.

Toby Dorr: So essentially what you did is you took children whose parents were incarcerated.

Lisa Nordike: Yes. Or teenagers. They were not children. They were all were 14 and up..

Toby Dorr: Yes. Which is just the most beautiful thing. And you took them into your home and you gave them a safe place to live and you raised them as if they were your children And I think you told me that you refused to do it through the foster care system. And tell me why that was. I didn’t.

Lisa Nordike: This was my way of paying back.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, and you told me that you didn’t want to do it through the foster care system because they would pay you to be a foster parent.

Lisa Nordike: Right, and I didn’t deserve that.

Toby Dorr: You didn’t want to take money for doing God’s work. That’s right.

Lisa Nordike: I didn’t deserve it. The kids, I gave them, I worked and I gave them everything I could. And if they got, you know, on their own as they got a little older, if they got some help, then I was supportive of that also. I mean, they had to do what they had to do.

Toby Dorr: Yeah. And you worked with your federal judge to officially take those kids into your home, which kept you from having to go through the foster system. In fact, I think the judge would call you and recommend children who were needing homes that he was aware of.

Lisa Nordike: Sometimes, yeah. And some of them, I just, I was already at capacity because it’s, just was like a snowball effect. And every time one would show up and then, you know, everything would be okay and he’d go home with his parents or something. Or he would just grow up and move on. Well then, just, I don’t know. I never ceased to have children.

Lisa Nordike: I have them everywhere here and, and, still do, you know.

Toby Dorr when I was last in Kansas City and came to visit you, you had one or two of them living there. I think I’ve met 4 or 5 of them.

Lisa Nordike: I had Aaron, Sean and Tiara still. Yeah. They were still living there. Right. Aaron got his, uh, apprenticeship for plumbing and he finished that. Now he’s full fledged plumber and, uh, Shawn moved to Colorado. He’s a snowboard instructor. Very athletic, yes, the boys, they, they taught roller skating and they also did community work with other kids. Tiara, she’s a photographer and she’s got her art degree. She does kind of like what you do, but without the PhD, she builds websites.

Toby Dorr: I don’t quite have a PhD, but that sounds kind of fun. I might have to. It’s a goal.

Lisa Nordike: I don’t ever see you giving up.

Toby Dorr: No, I won’t. I’m certainly, that’s not in my blood. So tell me what it’s like, the kind of friendships that you made with women in prison. How did that impact your life?

Lisa Nordike: I never had female friends until I went there.

Toby Dorr: I didn’t either, Lisa.

Lisa Nordike: And now I love all my girls. I mean, I’m closest with you. But Lauren and, and just so many that I still talk to. So many. And we try to hold each other up and give each other comfort. And it’s just, it’s been the best.

Toby Dorr: It has been.

Toby Dorr: And you know, I think, I found that I learned the most and grew the most when I was in the darkest of places. But when I was in the darkest of places, I had other women like you and Lisa and Faith and Regina, who also held me up on the days I was most down. And I could hold them up on the days they were most down. And, I think all of you women, knew my deepest, darkest secrets that I never even knew myself, you know, it was such a bond.

Lisa Nordike: I can say the same thing. Mm-hmm. , because there’s things that when you’re in there that you do that. And I don’t know, I, I just had so much, like all the classes I taught in there, I had the biggest stack of awards when I left,

Toby Dorr:

You, you taught people to drive a forklift, didn’t you?

Lisa Nordike: Yeah, I did. I taught that class in prison and I taught every art and craft class there was.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, I have a whole box full of tatted snowflakes that are beaded that you sent to me and that’s the only decorations I put on my Christmas tree. I just fill my Christmas tree with your snowflakes.

Lisa Nordike: So my grandkids, I’m teaching my granddaughter to knit. She’s nine. Yeah. And she thinks if she puts three rows on there, is this hat almost done? And then I taught her how to make scrunchies. And so she’s made at least two dozen of them.Everybody, all her friends at school have the same one. huh.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, it’s great to pass crafts along to grandkids.

Lisa Nordike: Well, I did it in prison for something to do. It kept my mind occupied. And yes. And I made so many friends and, uh, Miss Sarah and Lisa are the only two that have passed since I’ve come home that, you know, I was really sad to lose Miss Sarah because she, she passed, she did 20 years. And she was in her late eighties and she passed six days after getting home. Oh my gosh. So she got six beautiful days. She had a huge family, a big, beautiful family. So she, you know, she got six beautiful days with them. Yeah, that was great.

Toby Dorr: That was better than not making it out at all.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah. Yeah. And then, um, miss Sarah and Lisa. Oh, yeah. Lisa passed. and you know, she wrote me letters and you and I had talked about it, but I’d let her live in her little bubble. I did. I couldn’t pop it for her.

Toby Dorr: No, no. It was already too late. She needed something. Yeah. Lisa was just a heartbreaking story. And I know you and I cried through that week. Still do. Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa Nordike: I came across an envelope of her letters the other day and where I had sent her a bunch of craft patterns and books and things and I run across her letters and I said, I’ve been looking for these for Toby.

Toby Dorr: Yes, that’s right.

Toby Dorr: That’s right From you.

Lisa Nordike: Well, remind me cuz you know, my memory is terrible, but they’re in there in my craft bag where I keep all my patterns Yeah, and I had run across them and they were letters to Sam and she wrote and she made things for Sam all the time And she wrote Sam letters and I’ll never – unless it’s you – they’ll never be posted. Only Toby would treat them with respect. Yeah, yeah, Lisa truly was a gem. And, and I feel blessed that we got to know her. Um, because I feel like the Lisa that you and I knew was the real Lisa that wasn’t stressed out from things out in the world. And, and she could be herself.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, the horror of her childhood, that’s right, that’s right. It was just terrible. And, and I think prison was a good place for her and she made friends at the time.

Lisa Nordike: Yes, the outcome was wrong and, and, you know, she was in denial there at the end, but I thought, okay, that’s all right. Yeah,

Toby Dorr: That truly was a tough time

Lisa Nordike: I wish we could have been there. But that wasn’t her wish

Toby Dorr: I wish we could have been there too. But she didn’t want us there. And it’s which was truly, one of her last acts of love, I think, to keep her family and friends away. Because she knew how hard it would be for all of us, but you and I would have been there together if we could have.

Lisa Nordike: Oh yeah, in a heartbeat. Yeah, that was tough.

Toby Dorr: So, for those of our listeners who aren’t aware, the Lisa that we’re talking about was one of our best friends, Lisa and I. Lisa, my guest here, which I call George in my book.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah, I’ve been called George my whole life.

Toby Dorr: But our friend Lisa was executed in January of 2021. And that was a tough, tough experience for all of us, her children, her family, her friends. It was really a hard experience.

Lisa Nordike: But like you said, we knew the different Lisa. We didn’t know that…

Toby Dorr: We didn’t know the Lisa who committed the crime. That’s true. Lisa we knew was so loving and so giving and so sweet and so generous. She might only have one bar of soap, but if you needed a bar of soap, she’d give you hers in a heartbeat.

Lisa Nordike: And all day long and she kept people at arm’s length because everyone tried to take advantage of her situation. Yeah. You know what I was talking about?

Toby Dorr: Yeah, it was hard for her.

Lisa Nordike: It was hard for us also. Remember setting in the room where we did our quilting and stuff. And you had watched John on TV and we all three sat and held hands. It got you through.

Toby Dorr: Yes. We were both on the TV all the time, and it was a difficult time for me. It really was.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah. Mm-hmm, but when we were in our room, we didn’t live in that world.

Toby Dorr: No, we didn’t. We were about healing and talking and mending each other and, and that’s just how that went – a lot of healing definitely.

Lisa Nordike: All of us. I mean, I had just lost Bruce and you had lost your father and Lisa just was in constant turmoil. Yeah, I was really happy when she finally got to meet her father.

Toby Dorr: Yes, we enjoyed that. I mean, there were some good things in there. We had a I know we had a million laughs.

Lisa Nordike: Yes, we did. And then we lay out the grass and look at the sky.

Lisa Nordike: Remember

Toby Dorr: Remember the time we walked around the track and it had been raining and I started picking up the worms off the sidewalk so they wouldn’t drown. And, people said, what are you doing? I said, let’s save the worms. And everybody was picking up the worms and the officer in the yard got a call on her walkie talkie from the central control unit, they said, what are they doing? She said, picking up worms. And they were like, okay.

Lisa Nordike: You know, because they could see us all on the camera leaning down and picking stuff up and putting in the grass and, and I remember another time we made crowns out of clover, and we all were wearing clover crowns. Then when we were quilting we took the chalk rock and we drew out our quilt designs..

Toby Dorr: Yes. Underneath the basketball goal on the sidewalk. Yeah, right, right. Yeah, I remember that. Trying to figure out designs on how to quilt this or that. We did have fun. We made the best of the worst we had.

Lisa Nordike: That’s right. Like I said, I’ve never had female friends and I do now.

Toby Dorr: Yes, I do too. And you are one of them for sure.

Lisa Nordike: And you are mine too. I’m very blessed.

Toby Dorr:  I am too. I am too. I love you, Lisa, and I’m so glad you’re in my life. So is there one question you wish I’d asked you that we didn’t talk about? Is there something else you’d like to share? I

Lisa Nordike: I can’t think of anything. I think we covered quite a lot. Giving back to the community and helping kids in need. I don’t donate to anything. I donate to the school for a child that needs lunch that’s behind.

Toby Dorr: Kids need our help so much. There are so many of them that are hurting.

Lisa Nordike: That is true. That is true. I mean, cause they all the time, I just didn’t have the room. I only have five bedroom home and I put two kids in each room and I had. You know, they came and went, you know, like some ‘s parents passed away or their mother was an alcoholic and so they had to wait for their father to show up from another state to get them and stuff like that. But the short time they were with me, they still come and see me. They call me on Mother’s Day.

Toby DorrYes, they consider you a mother. It is so rewarding in ways like that. Yeah, I think I’ve met like four or five of them.

Lisa Nordike:  Yeah, I’m sure you have. Yeah, maybe even more, who knows. Yeah. They come and go here.

Toby Dorr: Yes, yes they do, but they always have a place to call home.

Lisa Nordike: That’s right, as long as I’m breathing. They all came together and took care of me when I was, uh, doing really, really poorly in my health and they still come and check on me. Hey, mom, you need me to do anything?  It’s blessed to be loved like that. Yeah, those kids are my life, right? You know, other than my dog and you, those kids, those kids are third. Yeah, yeah. You know, my little Arlo needs me.

Toby Dorr:  I guess he certainly does. He certainly does. And dogs make the world a better place, don’t they?

Lisa Nordike: That’s my baby. He loves me. He don’t care what I do.

Toby Dorr: That’s right. He was gone for like three weeks. Yes. And I honestly thought we’re never going to see that dog again. But lo and behold, you went out in the woods and he came to you.

Lisa Nordike: I got a call from Kansas City Trappers and Stephanie Rogers. Most beautiful person I’ve ever met. She’s an RN and she works 12 hour shifts and then goes out and finds people’s animals for them. And she does it purely on donations. And when she called and said she had eyes on Arlo, I’m like, Okay, here I come and I crawled in through the woods and I sat on the ground and tried to get him to come to me and he was terrified.

He was so scared. He’d been gone for three weeks, right? Out in the woods and along the highway and yeah, he had lost so much weight. He hardly weighed anything. He was so skinny. He had pulled out of his harness and uh, I got up off the ground because Stephanie said, come on out and we’ll put the cage up and we’ll bait it and let him go to it. So I stood up off the ground and I walked. I said, okay, our little mama’s going home and he followed me and I, you know, I have MS. So I sat down real quick and he came to my arms and I picked him up and away we went.

Toby Dorr: And off you went back home. Yeah. Yeah. That was a beautiful day. I remember that well. Oh yeah.

Lisa Nordike: Yeah. That’s my baby. Dogs. Dogs do make the world a better place.

Toby Dorr: They do. I love my cat.

Lisa Nordike:  I, you know, I put my cat to sleep ’cause he had cancer, so. I loved my fat man too.

Toby Dorr: Yeah, yeah. Pets make the world go around. Thank you, Lisa, so much for sharing with us on the podcast.

Toby Dorr: Remember, none of us is our worst mistake. We all have so much more to offer the world. And those so-called mistakes are blessed opportunities to learn and grow. Next week, we’ll continue to bring you inspiring stories by people who’ve identified a need for change and are working to make a difference in the world.

Toby Dorr: Subscribe to our Patreon channel, Fierce Conversations, for special access and behind the scenes info. Go to patreon. com slash fierce conversations, or click on the link in the show notes. 10% of the Patreon proceeds are used to provide workbooks to women in prison. The show notes also provide a link to purchase my book, Living with Conviction and I’m going to add a link to KC Trapper’s website so that you can make a donation in Lisa’s name. In my memoir, Living with Conviction, I recount a conversation I had in prison where my friend Lisa – the very one we’re talking to in this episode – told me, In here, we can talk about all the hard things. In fact, I think we must, and so we shall. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby. until next time…

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