CaalabIt’s so amazing to me that my little smiley grandson, Caalab Royce is all grown up. It seems like just yesterday that he was a little two year old boy who played with my hair every chance he got. He was full of life and energy. There was never a dull moment when Caalab was around. That is still the way he is today. Whether he is hiking, working out, or goofing off, Caalab is loving life. For some time now, Caalab has loved hiking and going for walks, and with his mostly evening shift at Red Robin, he has lots of time to walk the many trails that wind their way around Bellingham, Washington, where Caalab works. One of these days I will walk them with him, and I’m looking forward to it. We go for a visit in a few months.
Caalab playing his guitar
Caalab loves to joke around…always has. As a little kid, he could tell me jokes so well, that I thought he was reading them to me…until I remembered that he couldn’t read yet. That kid just knew the jokes. I suppose his dad, Travis, who is also a great joker, told him the joke, and little Caalab remembered it word for word. No forgotten punch lines for that kid…he knew those jokes cold. Caalab could easily become a comedian, but his real love is music. He began playing the guitar in middle school, and he has never lost interest. In fact, he wants to build his own guitar. He loves them so much, that his first tattoo was of his first guitar.

Caalab has always been a likeable guy…especially to the girls. Of course, he doesn’t think so. That’s because he Being Watcheddoesn’t always see the girls watching him. Nevertheless, they do. In fact, his sister, Shai Royce, has been told that some girl likes her boyfriend…after which she laughs and says, “She can have him…he’s my brother.” That usually brings a good laugh, because everyone thought that Shai and her brother, Caalab were boyfriend and girlfriend. Wow!! Were they ever off base. And the most amazing thing about the girls that like Caalab is that their are of varying ages. From older to younger. And most of the time, Caalab has no idea, because he’s not conceited. I can’t really blame them though. He is a cutie. I suppose I’m biased, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Today is Caalab’s 19th birthday. I wish I could be there. I miss you bunches. Happy birthday Caalab!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Night CrossingballooninwestgermanyYears ago, I watched a movie called Night Crossing, which came out in 1982. The movie was based on a true story about two families trapped in East Germany in 1979. The only way they could be free was to escape to the west. Over the years during which Germany was divided, and basically locked down. At first the people felt panic. Many of them had family on the other side, and no way to get to them. It was horrible. Escape attempts while not constant, were met with severe repercussions. I’m sure many people thought that they would always be prisoners in East Germany. Since today marks, the 68th anniversary of the ill fated Soviet blockade of their section of Germany following World War II, I was reminded of the movie I had seen.

I was so surprised about the elaborate lengths the family had to go to, in order to buy the materials needed to make a hot air balloon, with out arousing suspicions. To buy enough of the silk for the balloon, they had to go to several different locations, and tell the clerks that they were building tents for a scout group to use to go camping. I couldn’t imagine having to lie to a store clerk in order to purchase material, but then I have never lived anywhere, but in a free society, where the individual person had the right to do pretty much what they pleased. That was something that some of the people of that time, in East Germany, had never known.

While the situation was traumatic, I found myself…somehow fascinated with the process, the planning, the forethought, and the tenacity of these families. I found myself rooting for them every step of the way. Rooting for them wasn’t the thing that surprised me, however. It really was how interested I was in all the strategizing, and yes, the danger of it all. I don’t suppose the event felt anything like that to them, however. For them, this was life and death, because if they were caught, they would be killed. They would have one chance to escape, The Wetzel familyStrelzyk familyand one chance only. And they still had to make the crossing, and the landing, without getting caught up in the barbed wire fencing, or landing on a fence somewhere. The whole event, while an exciting story for me, was probably an event that they could not wait to put behind them…and I don’t blame them there.

Laura_Ingalls_WilderBefore I began writing, I wondered how people…writers, became writers. How did they manage to come up with the material they wrote about? In the years that I have been writing, I have realized that the writers vary as much as the stories they write. Some write from experience, which is partly where I fit in, but I also like to write about events that catch my interest, and about people in my family that I have found something out about. That is very similar to my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren. In her writings, she believed that anyone could become famous, simply by writing about the people and times they lived in. She didn’t specify that they needed any formal training, and I don’t believe she thought they did. She believed that inside every person is a story. She is right, of course.

Laura Ingalls Wilder simply wrote the story of her life, and it became such a popular book that before long it Elizabeth Noyes 2 was a television show…all based on the writings of a little girl, who never knew if anyone would care about her stories, or maybe it didn’t matter, because maybe they were her stories, and it didn’t matter to her if anyone was interested or not. Somehow, I can’t believe that to be true. Maybe that is because I know how a writers mind works. Is a writer really a writer, if there are no readers. Writers thrive on readers who become interested in their writings.

My husband’s cousin, Elizabeth “Betty” Noyes is a wonderful writer, and the author of 3 books…the last of which will be out soon. She writes a series called “Imperfect.” Her stories are romantic suspense stories and they are filled with action. Sometimes I think that fiction is a much harder thing to write about, because you don’t have reality to draw on. Of course, when you think about it, most of us do not live the exciting kinds of lives that fictional characters do. Our lives are usually much more mundane, and that is the very reason that Bertha Schumacher Hallgrenexcellent books like those written by Elizabeth Noyes are so great to read. They have the ability to take us out of the everyday, into a world filled with action and excitement.

That’s really what it’s all about, you know. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, books take us outside ourselves. My Great Aunt Bertha quoted Charles Lamb, from an 1890 comment which stated, “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.” See, that is really what it is all about. We like to read because it takes us into the mind of the writer. Their way of thinking, their imagination, and their viewpoint, are all different from ours, and the really cool thing is that we can go visit anytime we open the pages of a book. Its out ticket into the world inside a writers mind.

Dad's 1936 PlymouthDaddy's Little HelperFor most girls, their car is simply a way to get around, but for guys its very different. They have to fix their car up, soup it up, change things on it so that it looks hot. Of course, a big part of the draw for making their cars look hot was to have a chick magnet. Still that doesn’t explain why grown men…married men…happily married men, work on their cars to make them look hot. It really is simply a guy thing, and it doesn’t matter how old the guy is. Most men just don’t want to be out driving a beater. They have set standards for themselves, and it would be…well, totally humiliating if they were seen out driving a dorky car…for Pete’s sake. It isn’t just the young guys or the current generation that has to have the latest thing in cars either. It seems to be all guys, or at least the majority of them.

My dad had a number of cool cars. I suppose that the cars he had then would not be looked at as cool these days, but in his day they were pretty nice. I think it was harder to fix a car up back then too, because you couldn’t just go out and buy a pinstripe kit to make it look like a fancy, hot car. If they wanted that, they had to save up the money to get someone to paint those stripes on by hand. It doesn’t matter what they did to the cars back then, because if you put that car in todays world, the kids would probably not think it was very cool. Nevertheless, in my dad’s day, they were very sharp looking.
Chris' CamaroKevin 1
My husband, Bob loves some of those old cars. He still loves the hot cars, and the fancy paint job, but those old cars, with a fancy paint job…well those are cool. My son-in-law, Kevin Petersen and his boys, Chris and Josh totally get the whole hot car thing too, and they don’t mind the older cars…especially a Mustang or a Camaro. I don’t know how much they would like the old cars, but they do like their cars hot, They spend hours and hours working on their cars to make them better, hotter, and nicer. It’s just a guy thing.

imageimageAfter breaking my shoulder on October 18, 2015, in a fall on the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain, I think a lot of people wondered if I would ever hike again, and if I did, if the Bridle Trail was going to be on the list of trails I liked best…or was even willing to hike on at all. I always knew that I would go on it again, but I got pretty out of shape in the months following the accident. For one thing, I found out that pain medications, make you gain weight, probably because they make you very hungry and very sleepy. And I’m sure there was a degree of depression about the injury, but I’m not one to let something get me down for very long. By January I was ready to get back into shape for hiking. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have loved hiking since 1995, when we first hiked Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is a love of hiking that continues to grow. I wanted to get back into it, and I wanted to hike the Bridle Trail again.

imageimageYesterday, I returned to the Bridle Trail to pick up where I left off in October. My granddaughter, Shai Royce has been hiking with her grandpa and me this summer, and she loves it. She never considered herself an outdoor girl, but she has since changed her mind. This past weekend, we hiked the Garden Creek Trail, and she loved it so much that she decided that she wanted to hike the Bridle Trail. Sunday was out of the question, so we decided that we would go Monday evening. Anyone who has ever hiked the Bridle Trail knows that the first half hour is the toughest. Nevertheless, while we had to stop to rest and catch our breath, we had a wonderful time. Shai thoroughly enjoyed it, and wants to go again, so we are making plans for several hikes before she moves to Washington in July.

For me, the hike was a victory in several ways. I can’t say that I didn’t get winded, but that is not unusual for me, and I hope to get my lungs in better shape for the hills in the future, but I did well with the hike, and there imageimage
was no fear about the trail. We even went the same way we had gone when I fell, because I guess I felt like I needed to just get back on the horse that bucked me off, so that I could fully conquer the giant that could have formed in my life. The sooner you get back on that horse, the less chance fear has to take hold. I can now honestly say that since my return to the Bridle Trail…any concern that I might be afraid is totally gone, and I very much look forward to our next hike, and each subsequent hike on the Bridle Trail or any other trail. t was a lovely evening, and I still love hiking!!

cheryl280The length of women’s skirts have varied over the years, and I happen to know that when the mini-skirt came out while I was in junior high school, my mom hated it. She never wanted her girls to wear them, nor did the other parents…so, many of the girls wore skirts rather than dresses, because skirts could be rolled up to make them shorter. It was a selling point for the skirt. I’m sure that if our mothers had known, we would have been in trouble, but that didn’t seem to matter. Of course, as style trends changed, my mom got used to the trends, and my younger sisters were allowed to wear mini-dresses too. I had a tendency to think that was really unfair, but I suppose I was the trailblazer that won them the right to wear those shorter dresses. I think my little sisters should thank me for that, don’t you?

Trend SettersThese trends have run their course over many generations, and the other day I was looking at some old pictures from my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer’s album. There was a picture there that I can’t quite figure out, but one thing that jumps out at me is the older woman wearing a long dress, and the younger woman next to her in a dress that is just above her knees. The older woman in the picture doesn’t seem pleased with the younger woman. Of course, that could just be my perception of the situation, and not the reality of the situation. Still, I think that the women who started wearing those short skirts back then, were cheryl278probably looked at as being loose…at least until they got used to the new trend.

I think that while my mom didn’t maybe look at me as being loose for wanting to wear short skirts, she probably thought of me as misguided. Nevertheless, when the trend became the normal, my sisters, and yes, me too, were allowed to wear those shorter skirts. I have to say that I still think that the skirt that hits me above the knees is one of the best looks for me, but maybe that’s just my opinion. Women who are vertically challenged, as I am, can look dumpy in the longer skirts, unless the skirt is cut just right. There again, that could just be my own opinion…or maybe I’m still a trendsetter.

Allen L SpencerDad SchulenbergFather’s Day is a little harder for me these days, because both my dad, Allen Spencer and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg are in Heaven now. I think in many ways, my mind, in an effort to protect me from sad feelings, simply refuses to wrap itself around the coming day, and then suddenly the night before, I realize that there are three other dads in my life. While they are not my dads, they are my children’s dad, and my grandchildren’s dads. And they are good dads…every one of them. When I look at the job they did being dads to those kids, each one staying with the family through the good and the bad times, I realize just how very blessed my children, grandchildren, and I have been. In our families, and in the families that Bob and I grew up in, there were no absentee dads and no deadbeat dads, there was simply Dad…the man who was always there for us…not matter what we needed, no matter what mistakes we made, and no matter how messed up we were at times in our lives. When they signed on as dads, they meant it. They signed on for life, Boband they made our lives wonderful in every way. Sometimes, I wonder just what I did to deserve such a great blessing, and then I remember that blessings are very seldom deserved…they are a gift. Every day, and in every way, these men in my life are such a great blessing to me and to my family.

While my dad and my father-in-law are in Heaven now, I can honestly say that the lessons they both taught each of us…their children, children-in-law, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are lessons that will guide us skillfully through the trying times that every life must go through. Of course, I wish they were still here, because the longer I live on this Earth, the more questions I seem to have. My questions about how to handle things in life have largely been answered now, because they were good dads, but my questions about the past have not. Questions about the war, grandparents, great grandparents, and family history are still out there, many of them completely unanswered, and I have no way to get them answered now. There are so many stories I haven’t heard, and so much information I don’t have…and now I have no way to ever find out. I think about how much I miss them now, and it makes my heart sad.

Kevin PetersenTravisFor the rest of the dads in my life, today is a day to celebrate, and to be thankful that we have them in our lives. I am thankful for each of these men, because they have been wonderful dads. They have passed on to their children, all the wisdom, knowledge, and common sense that they have, along with the humor needed to get through any life. Their laughter has enriched our lives so much. If we can give back even a fraction of the blessing they have given to us, then we have accomplished great things. Happy Father’s Day to the dads in my life. I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Baby CrowA couple of weeks ago, a baby bird fell out of it’s nest into our front yard. Our neighbor Mary Sanchez saw it first, and was careful not to disturb it when she mowed her lawn. The next day, when Bob and I came home and parked out front, we heard a commotion. I walked toward the hedge that separates our yard from Mary’s, and was surprised to see a squawking baby crow standing in the grass. It’s mom was nearby, warning me to stay away from her baby, so we backed away and left the situation alone. We weren’t sure if the mom was taking care of her baby, or what, so we watched closely. Very soon, there was no doubt that she was a good mom, and in fact there was also a good dad in this situation. A few days went by, and while we worried about cats, this little baby bird continued to thrive…miraculously.

The day did come when we were forced to intervene. Our little baby bird decided to go and stand in the middle of the street…and it was a hot day. We debated on what to do about this situation, and determined that if we Bird Rescue Take 2didn’t move it, a car was going to hit it, or the hot asphalt would kill it. So my brave husband donned a pair of gloves, picked the bird up, and moved it back toward our back yard…dodging the dive bomb attempts of the mother. All we could do then was stay away and hope the parents continued their great care of their baby. The baby continued to get bigger, and the parents were always around, so we decided that our bird rescue had been successful.

Of course, like all children, the day came when our little bird again decided to go into the street, and so began bird rescue take 2. Once again dodging the dive bombs of the mom, Bob picked up the bird and put it back near our back fence. That turned out to be to best plan, because the bird decided to check out the back yard, and we began to worry less. The baby has stayed in the back yard, and out of trouble for the most part. We had to chase off a cat twice, and now the parents are a little bit more tolerant of us…at least when the cat Lunchtimeshows up. In fact, I think she likes us then.

I have had the opportunity to get some great close up photos of the baby, and finally today, I was treated to the chance to observe lunchtime. Flying lessons have begun, but this is a big baby, and it’s wings aren’t long enough yet. Nevertheless, it’s parents know that it needs to build up its muscles so that when its wings catch up with its body, it will be able to fly. This has been a wonderful things to watch, and while we know that our little baby is still not out of danger, we have high hopes for it. One thing I can say for sure, this job of raising baby at 60+ years old is a lot to take on. I know now, why we all have kids when we are young.

Grandpa Byer's Military PhotoMy grandpa, George Byer served in the Army as a cook during World War I. He always prided himself on making sure the men had the best meals he was able to make. Wartime doesn’t always mean that the men have the tastiest of meals. In fact, the meals are pretty basic most of the time. Even in this day and age, the men in a war zone often have MREs…which is Meals Ready to Eat. They are basically dried food. They can be eaten as they are, because its not always convenient to heat them. The idea is to create a meal to keep our troops running strong out in the field. They are packed full of calories and nutrients. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are packed full of taste.

Still, when I look back at my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal, when hardtackshe spoke of the food the men had to eat during the Civil War, I have to feel awful for those brave men. She spoke of Hardtack, which was served to both armies. It was basically a thick cracker, that they could carry with them. Because of the lack of preservatives in those days, Hardtack was often wormy. It was so wormy, in fact, that the men called them Worm Castles. Hardtack was so hard that the men joked…if you bite into something soft, you might think it’s a worm, but it’s probably a ten penny nail…now that is a hard cracker. When I think of our brave men having to eat such food, it makes me feel nauseous. These are the people that we sent out to fight our battles, while we are safe at home, and here they are eating such awful things. Still, it mre-entrees_1was what they had, that and dried or salted meats.

I suppose they got used to the food, but I still think that is was sad that we as a people were not able to give them food that was safe to eat. I have to think back on the MREs, and while they might not taste great, at least they don’t have worms. And I have to wonder what Aunt Bertha would have thought of the MRE. She had seen so many awful foods that the men had to eat, but to think of them eating something that was dried…well, that would be just strange. Maybe the MREs weren’t the tastiest meals, but at least they were safe to eat, and many a soldier has survived on them for sure. I guess that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Grandpa & Grandma Byer as a young coupleOne hundred and twenty three years ago yesterday, my grandfather, George Byer was born. His life would take many twists and turns. It would span two world wars, as well as other wars. He would live during two different centuries. He would see the transition from wagons to cars, and also the transition to airplanes. He would marry the love of his life, Hattie Pattan on Christmas Eve, and I think he always felt like she was the best Christmas present he ever received. He loved her so much. She and his family were the top priority to him. Grandpa loved kids, and they wanted a large family. They had nine children.

My best memories of Grandpa are of his gentle ways. He always called us kid. It was Grandpa Byer and 6 of the kidsnever meant in a generalizing way, it was his way of being endearing, and you always knew that. You always knew that Grandpa loved being a grandpa. He loved spending time around his grandkids. I remember him stopping by our house. My sisters and I were so excited to see him. He was fun to play games with, and never made us feel like we were in the way. He just loved kids, especially his grandkids.

As his life was coming to a close, there were times that he didn’t remember who we were. It’s strange when your grandfather recognizes your husband before he does you. Grandparent VisitThat was what happened though, he thought I was the nurse, but he knew my husband’s name. It was because of a trip we took him on. Bob was so good with Grandpa’s worries. He explained the map and showed Grandpa where we were and where we were going, on a trip we took to take them to Cascade, Idaho, where they had family. It was a trip that apparently meant a lot to Grandpa, and he was grateful to Bob for putting his mind at ease, in those later years. Yes, Grandpa’s life took many twists and turns, but I seriously doubt if he would have changed a thing. It was his life, and he loved it. It’s hard to believe that grandpa would have been 123 years old yesterday. I know you had a wonderful day Grandpa. We love you and miss you very much.

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