CampingCassie and the kidsThere are all kinds of people in this world. There are the high stress movers and shakers, and then there are those people, like my niece, Cassie Iverson, who like living life at a slower pace. For many of those who love the simple life, like Cassie, that means loving all things nature. Living in northern Wyoming, with Powell’s wide open spaces, and yet the Big Horn Mountains not too far away, nature is simply all around Cassie. She loves taking photographs of flowers and wildlife, so the mix of nature around her is perfect for her hobby. Cassie has also branched out, and has taken a few family photos for friends, and of course, her family. Her work is very creative and amazing.

Being a nature girl, means that Cassie loves things like camping with her family, fishing, and horses. Cassie and her husband, Chris take their kids, Lucas and Zoey out to the river to go fishing often. Not only is fishing a great pastime, for those who like the chance to slow life down a little bit, but it is also a healthy way to feed your family without spending a lot of money. Cassie’s top priority is her family. She is a great mom and her children, while very different in their abilities, have flourished under her loving care.

As I look through Cassie’s pictures of horses, her love for them is very evident. I would not be surprised if, at some time in the future, Cassie and Chris buy a piece of land somewhere to raise their own horses. It isn’t an inexpensive venture, but I think that most people who raise horses…or even one horse, find it to be very rewarding. It is also a great hobby for the children when they are a little older, and a great way for the family Cassie's wildflowerHorseto spend time together. I can see them taking the kids on a camping trip using horses as the way to get there.

I think that many of us allow our lives to get so caught up in activities, running here and there, and worrying about what everyone else thinks, that we forget to simply live…or maybe to live simply. Maybe we don’t understand just how freeing the simple life can be…but Cassie knows, because she is living that dream. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Shai & CarrieThis morning, at my office, my granddaughter, Shai Royce was telling our co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp and me about a friend of hers who made her dinner last night, and just how good it was. They had baked chicken, and apparently it was amazing. Then, she said that the same friend was going to make her homemade Macaroni and Cheese. Well, that got the conversation on food going. I mentioned just how good, homemade Macaroni and Cheese was because it used real cheese, and not the powder or fake cheese. From there, it was a free for all. We talked about our favorite foods….like Lobster Mac and Cheese from Outback Steakhouse or Kentucky Fried Chicken, but for me, none could compare to my Mom’s cooking.

My very favorite food was my mom’s fried chicken. Oh my gosh…Mom made the best fried chicken on this planet. It was so good, that you couldn’t help but overeat. I Thanksgiving Dinnersuppose that in the arena of dieting that is the reality for most of us these days, this wasn’t such a great subject to get on, but it sure brought back the memories of meals at home, when I was a kid…filled with energy, and no need to watch what I ate. I remember so many of the meals at home. Tuna Casserole, made as only my mom could, was always a big hit. I could eat the whole pan of it, if my sisters hadn’t felt the need to eat too. Of course, Mom’s fried chicken could not be topped…not even by Colonel Sanders at KFC, and I do like KFC. Holiday dinners were so good, and we ate so much that all we could do afterward was to lay on the couch to let it settle. Sunday breakfasts were always a special treat. The whole house smelled of bacon and eggs, and our stomachs growled waiting for that moment when we could all Tiny Momsit down to eat. I miss those times. Those were the days when all was well with our world, and we, as kids, still innocently thought it always would be.

Those were the true days of Comfort Food. Days when we could eat anything we wanted, and Mom’s cooking was by far the best. In fact, nobody else’s cooking could compare. Whenever we hear of the word, Comfort Food these days, we immediately think of some frozen dinner that is being advertised, but real Comfort Food…well, that came from our mothers’ kitchens, because there is more to Comfort Food than just the food. There is great comfort in knowing that our parents love us and want to provide for us in the best possible way. The meals they provide are their way of showing just how big their love for us is. Without the love that our mothers, or anyone else who loved us that much, put into each and every meal, there would be no comfort to it. It would just be food.

Mom aAs I was watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” on television the other day, Marie, Ray’s mom planted a kiss on each of her sons’ foreheads…in bright red lipstick. That took me back to the many times my sisters and I got a kiss from our mom in bright red lipstick, and walked away trying to get the lipstick off of our face. We would immediately go to one of our family members and ask if we had removed all the lipstick. Of course, Mom, who always knew that we would have her lipstick on our face, simply grinned about it, as we tried to wipe away the cherry red lipstick. Still, how could you really get angry at her for it. It was a show of her love for us.

Mom always did wear cherry red lipstick, even when the style was light pinks, and of course, her girls wouldn’t be caught dead in that color…even if it was in style. Nevertheless, the color did suit Young LoveMom’s face and her coloring, so I suppose for her it was the right color. We did try several times to talk her into a lighter color, but even if we gave it to her, she went back to her signature cherry red before very long. I don’t think it was because she wanted to kiss it onto our cheeks, but rather that Dad liked that color, or maybe she just thought Dad liked it. They did come from a different era than we did, and I happen to know that my husband would rather I didn’t wear any lipstick at all. He’s not real fond of Chapstick either. I guess women wear lipstick for their own feeling toward their looks…as with any makeup really. Still, I can’t speak for Dad. Maybe he did like it.

As I looked at the bright red lipstick mark on both Raymond and Robert’s faces, I just had to laugh, because I could must see all the little boys in our family making faces and wiping of the offending lipstick, before anyone could see it, and since many of her kisses to then were planted in church or at some family gathering, the chance of anyone seeing such a humiliating kiss on the Our Familycheek, were very high. Most boys go through those stages anyway, where a kiss from their mom, aunt, or grandma is just a horrifying experience, so to have it happen in front of people…oh my gosh…it’s just horrible!!! Still, even my husband and brothers-in-law, were not immune…Mom was an equal opportunity kisser. Looking back on those events now that Mom is in Heaven, however…well, it has a tendency to make me just miss her all that much more. What I wouldn’t give for just one more kiss from my mom, and I know that everyone in my family feels exactly the same way. I have to think that I would leave that cherry red lipstick right there on my cheek…or at the very least, take a picture of it, so I could look back on it once in a while, and remember what a loving mom I was blessed with.

On the SlideSince losing over 330 pounds, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg has basically entered her second childhood. It all started when she decided that she needed to go and play on the playground…or at least slide on the slide. Now, she has set herself a goal of visiting every park in Casper at some point this year…including walking around the parks. She found an outdoor exercise bike, and after many attempts over the course of the last two years, finally was able to make it work. When her niece posted pictures of her children sledding, Brenda told them that they should come to Casper next winter so she could go sledding with them. These things are not the activities of most life-long sedentary and overweight people, but then that isn’t who Brenda is…anymore. She is a vibrant, active 50+ year old, who got a second chance, and she has no intention of wasting it. Brenda soon became a woman on a mission…a get healthy mission.

Checking it outIt has been a long journey for Brenda, but not nearly as long as it would have been for most people in her shoes. Most people who find out that they have several health issues, all caused by obesity and all reversible, would have said that the challenge was more than they could face. The mere though of healthy eating and an active lifestyle makes most people in that situation feel tired and hungry. And most of those people give up before they ever get started…but not Brenda. In all reality, Brenda was no exception to that general rule, but she dug down deep within herself, and decided once and for all, that she was not going to let this beat her, and she was not going to die at 50 years old. In many ways, that was about the last time Brenda acted like someone with all the health concerns she had. and now she simply doesn’t act her age at all. It’s like she has age regressed…and that’s ok. If you missed out on an active childhood, and you had the chance to go back in time and change that…wouldn’t you do it too. Brenda simply had to do it.
New Bike
In recent months, Brenda has been obsessed with the idea of riding a bicycle again. She wasn’t sure that would be a possibility given the condition of her knees right now. Nevertheless, she has high hopes, and so she decided to find a way to ride a bike in the meantime. She bought a bicycle…purple, of course. She took the pedals off of it, and for now, she sits on the seat and walks the bike along the trails. She calls it a strider, and I don’t know for sure if that is the name of the bike, or what you call one that has no pedals, but either way, she can now ride a bike…another thing she didn’t really do much as a kid. And another step back into her second childhood. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

9913_10200970590682908_964160129_nBeing a big, muscular kid can have its advantages. You can be pretty sure no one is going to pick on you. That is the case with my grand nephew, Xander Spethman. Xander takes after his dad, Steve Spethman in many ways. He is very much built like his dad, and in so many ways, he has the same values, personality, and strong sense of right and wrong that his dad has…of course, he also gets that from his mom, my niece, Jenny Spethman. While they were the ones that trained Xander up in the way he should go, in reality, Xander already had within himself that protective instinct.

Xander is particularly protective of his little sister, Aleesia, as are her other brothers, Xander blocks for AleesiaZack and Isaac. They know about loss, having lost their other sister, Laila, and Xander, being the oldest, felt the sting of that loss deeply. Then God blessed this family with a second daughter, Aleesia, and the brothers have basically made her the princess. She rules the roost, and the brothers are just fine with that. One day a short time ago, they all decided to play football in the yard. Aleesia wanted to play too, so it was Xander and Aleesia against Zack and Isaac. Aleesia was basically made the quarterback, and Xander blocked his brothers so they couldn’t get to her. I’m sure you all know that Zack and Isaac were fully aware of the plan too, because they could have tackled Aleesia a couple of times. They just wouldn’t, because she is the princess, and that just isn’t done. Nevertheless, even in play, Xander is the protector of his little sister, and I’m sure that you all know that if anyone really tried to pick on his little sister, Xander would turn into a roaring lion, and they would wish they had never dared to bother Aleesia.
Xander is a champion of protection for those around him who do not have his strength and size. He doesn’t like to see anyone picked on, and he has stood up for someone being bullied more than once. Often, it is the bigger kids who tend to be the bullies, but not in Xander’s case. He is the protector of those who need protection. He would never have it in his heart to bully anyone, because inside that big kid lives a tender, loving, and very kind heart. It really is such a blessing to see how Xander has matured as the years have passed. He never was a bully, but he has become more and more the guy that everyone knows they can count on for anything. Today is Xander’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The Heid FamilyI went to a funeral a couple of days ago, and as I took my seat, a woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me, “Are you Collene?” I was taken totally by surprise…for two reasons really. The first was that if this woman knew my mom, Collene Byer Spencer, wouldn’t she know that I was not old enough to be her, and secondly, I was surprised because I have never thought that I looked like my mom, but rather my dad, or more exactly, my dad’s sister, Ruth Spencer Wolfe. My first reaction was to get clarification. I turned to her in surprise and said, “Excuse me?” Again, she asked me if I was Collene. I said, “No, I am her daughter.” I was still trying to clarify, and so I asked if she meant Collene Spencer. She said yes, that was indeed who she meant. It was one of those “ton of bricks” moments, and I certainly felt like I had been hit with each brick in that ton. I did not recognize the woman, and since Mom has been in Heaven for over a year now, I knew that this woman couldn’t have seen Mom in a very long time either…and yet Mom was not forgotten.

We spoke for a few minutes, during which time she told me that she was Joyce Heid, the daughter of a long Serious Collenetime friend of the family. We talked about our parents…all of them in Heaven now. She knew that my dad had passed away, but not about my mom’s passing, which she was surprised to hear about. We talked about how the families were doing, and about the closeness of our parents, and then the funeral was about to start so we couldn’t visit any longer. My mind kept drifting back to our conversation, and wondering what she saw in my face that reminded her of my mom. It isn’t the first time that someone has connected me to my family due to the strong family resemblance, but apparently it is something that I will never get used to. It’s just so strange to me, because what they see in me is not something I can see. I have been told that I look like my aunt, my dad, my daughter, my granddaughter, my sister, just recently another sister…and now, my mom. Looking like my daughter, Amy Royce and my granddaughter, Shai Royce weren’t as surprising as some of the others, but I think my mom was the most surprising. I simply don’t see it.

The incident has been on my mind since it first happened…as has my mom. I keep looking back in my memory Caryn abt 17files to pull up pictures and moments in life when I might have looked my mom, but try as I might, I just don’t see it. Life takes many twists and turns, and yet somehow it seems that it always tends to come back to where it began. Our parents may be in Heaven now, but their echo still remains in the hearts of their loved ones, in pictures, in their house, in moments and holidays, and even in the memories of their friends. While every “ton of bricks” moment is hard at the time, it leaves behind a sweet memory of the loved one that our hears miss so much. Mom, whether I look like you are not, and I must in some way, it was such a sweet moment to have someone from your past keeping you in their memory files too. You are always remembered. I love you and miss you more than words can ever say.

312859_10150266534667237_4531289_nThe high school years are hard on everyone, but sometimes I think that the girls have the rougher time. With girls, every break-up…every friendship ended…every sad moment, feels like the end of the world. As girls get older, they try not to go to their parents with every little thing, but somehow it seems like the things they should go to their parents about, are the things they don’t. Such was the case with my grand niece, Christina Masterson. One day, after school…with the break-up with the first real boyfriend she had, fresh on her mind, Christina came in and sat down on the couch. Her dad, my nephew, Rob Masterson took one look at his oldest daughter, and asked, “What’s 67978_10151728614077237_1768628102_nwrong?” Christina tried not to go into detail, but told her dad that she and her boyfriend had broken up. Rob sat down beside her and said, “You will always deserve better, no matter who you are with.” Basically, he told Christina two things that day. The first, that in his eyes, no man would ever be good enough for her, which Christina has always felt she needed to hear at that moment. The second, that he would always be there for her.

I think that is Rob’s motto in many ways and with all of the people he loves. I’ll always be there for you. It is a motto that he has applied to a number of people in Rob’s life. His younger three children are not at the “high school break-up stage” yet, but with the little issues they have dealt with so far, that is the same message Rob has conveyed to them. “You can always come to me…with anything. I’ll always be there for you.”

Cheryl and familyMy sister, Cheryl Masterson, and Rob’s sisters, Chantel, Toni, Elizabeth, and Jenny, as well as their grown children, all know that if they need Rob’s help with something, he will do his best to help in any way he can. He has been the one to mow Cheryl’s lawn for a number of years now, and his siblings look to him when they are going to buy a car, or need something done on a car, because often he can help them out with it. I think that since my sister has been divorced for many years, Rob has stepped up to be the man of the family. He may not be able to do everything they need done, in every situation, but they know that he will always be there for them. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Caryl abt 4th gradeI wrote a story back in May of 2011, about my sister Caryl Spencer Reed, who is so ticklish that we used to torture her unmercifully over the years of her young life. That story has by far received the most comments of any story I have written. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you are the one tickling, the one being tickled, or the one wishing you could be the one tickling, everyone has an opinion on tickling. Of course, my sisters and I didn’t really have to think about that, because we had the perfect victim right there in our house, and she had nowhere to go. She was trapped.

The years have flown by now, and my sisters and I have matured to the point where we don’t torture her anymore, although, we might…if the opportunity presented itself. Caryl's great smileNevertheless, it hasn’t in many years. Caryl went on to become a respiratory therapist, and it really never occurred to me before, but I wonder if the reason is that during those torture sessions, she felt like she needed oxygen. I guess knowing that you are being tickled to the point that you can’t breathe, might make you consider oxygen…the very moment that you are finally released…if you live long enough to be released, that is. After all, we did call it the Tickle Trture, and we meant that torture part, for sure.

SistersMany people have been helped by the skills Caryl has, and I know that the hospital she works at in Rawlins, Wyoming is grateful that they have her. In fact, in the last few months, she has been their only respiratory therapist, and that is bad, because she can’t work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but she is on call…all the time. That has been a struggle, because Caryl and her husband, Mike have been working on a ranch they bought here in Casper to retire on and raise horses. She has had to be available by phone to walk people through proceedures that she has trained them on, but that are not a part of their formal training. Nevertheless, it is working…for now, and I know they are working to replace some of the other respiratory therapists, so in the future, things will get easier. For now, Caryl is their Go To Girl, and they are well aware of what a perfect gem they have been blessed with. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

11052499_10205901003542891_3385690118780094748_nBeing one of a set of twins, my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens always had a little bit of help in the trouble department. Now, I don’t say that Mike or his twin brother, Pat were delinquents or anything, but they were pretty good at pulling pranks…especially as teenagers. I’m told there was a time when they decided to take a fire extinguisher from the hosital. I’m not sure how they managed to get out of the hospital with a fire extinguisher, but somehow they did…I mean who just lets a couple of teenaged boys walk out of the hospital with a fire extinguisher? Seriously!! You know they are up to no good, and…they were planning nothing but trouble for sure. So, after sneaking out of the hospital with the fire extinguisher, the two boys jumped in their car, and drove around town, squirting people with the fire extinguisher!! I don’t know about you, but I can say that it would be quite a shock to be walking down the street, minding my own business, and suddenly out of nowhere, I am hit with the spray of a fire extinguisher. It’s like having a pie thrown in your face. Total 10999978_10205901001742846_7702417278737030242_nshock!! And then to have two teenaged boys drive off laughing…well I’m sure the police were running all over town trying to find them…to no avail.

Mike, and his brother, Pat, for that matter, are a couple of characters, and I’m quite sure that their mother had her hands full trying to keep them in line. Mike is the kind of guy who likes to have fun and he loves to play jokes on people. Nevertheless, I suppose there is always the possibility of having a joke backfire. One day, he came into the house with a nail in his foot, and it was gushing blood. He told my sister, Alena that she had to pull it out. She was totally freaking out about this whole thing, but she did pull it out. Then, she decided that this whole thing wasn’t funny at all. You see, it was April Fools Day, and the “nail” was only attached to his sock. The sock was full of Ketchup, and that was the crowning touch on this great prank. Now, I can’t say if Mike Alena & Mikewalked away with a black eye on that one, but I’m sure that she told him how she felt about the whole thing…in the midst of her laughter, that is. Yes, Alena thought it was not a nice prank to pull on her, but it was, nevertheless…a really good prank.

I think life in the Stevens household is probably a bit unpredictible, because in addition to Mike and Alena, there were three children, Michelle, Garrett, and Lacey, who were all groomed by their dad to be pretty good in the trouble department too, thanks to their dad…not that Alena didn’t help with that too. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Katy_edited1When I first met Katy Balcerzak, my niece, Chantel’s step daughter, she was just a little girl. I remember thinking what a great dad her dad, Dave is. Katy and her older brother Kiefer were such good little kids. When a blended family first meets the rest of the family, sometimes things don’t go as well and everyone had hoped, but that was not the case with Dave and his kids. They were very sweet and we loved them immediately. That has been a number of years, of course, and the kids are grown up now. Keifer is married, and Katy is engaged. I have a really hard time believing that they are so grown up. As with all kids, the years have flown by so quickly.

These days, Katy is a nanny, but that is only temporary, because Katy has been accepted into the two year nursing program at Casper College. Things are changing quite rapidly for Katy now. With her wedding coming up this summer, and her studies lined out, everything is looking toward a great future. I think Katy will make an awesome nurse. She has a winning smile, and the ability to add a positive note to any situation…and isn’t that exactly what is needed when you are in a doctor’s office, or a hospital. Whenever you go to see a doctor, you are worried that they are going to tell you something is really wrong. A nurse with a positive attitude and a comforting way about her, can go a long ways toward making you feel at ease. Of course, not all the news is good news, and when a nurse is needed to give care in the hospital, everyone wants one whose smile can make you feel better. I don’t know what type of nursing Katy plans to go 12247959_801102820012326_2711983612513020629_ointo, and maybe she doesn’t either, yet. I have found that many nurses start out in one area of nursing, but later change to another. Time will tell what area of nursing will become Katy’s chosen field, but I’m sure that she will be great at any area of nursing she chooses.

It’s just so strange to think Dave’s little girl is all grown up, and is going to be a nurse. The years have changed her in so many ways, and yet, in other ways, she is still her daddy’s little girl. Before we all know it, she and her future husband, Jake Collett will be starting a family of their own, but…that’s another story. Today is Katy’s birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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