imageimageMy nephew, Josh Griffith has totally embraced the role of fatherhood. Josh and my niece Susan want to make sure that their girls have memorable childhoods. As we all know, kids grow up so fast, and childhood is over before we know it. Josh and Susan try to do something special every few weekends, when the chores around the place can be put on hold. The girls, Jala and Kaytlyn love going to the Park County Fair, and this year Josh volunteered to take them on rides they hadn’t been allowed to go on before. Jala chose the Sky Master and Kaytlyn chose the Zipper. There was a bit of a scare on the Zipper, when Kaytlyn slipped out of the seat the first time it went upside down, but here daddy caught her and held on tight for the rest of the ride. Both girls were kind of scared to go on the rides, but once they realized that they weren’t going to die, they decided that they had a great time. The girls like the scary rides…what is it with scary rides…so Josh took them on some when the family went to Elitch’s, while they were in Denver a couple of years ago. Susan and I tend to feel the same way about rides, because when the family talked her into going on the roller coaster at Elitch’s, it ended the day, because Susan was imagesick. I would have been too, Susan. Thankfully, they had been there all day, so it was time to go anyway, but getting sick on rides is a problem Josh doesn’t have. For the girls, that’s good, because he can take them on the rides Susan can’t stomach.

While Josh was in good shape for the fair, the summer started out with…not a bang, but rather a crash. Josh was riding his dirt bike with friends at the beginning of May, and broke his ankle pretty bad when he took a spill. He didn’t think it was broken at first, but by the time he got home…it was obvious. In the end, he had to have surgery to repair the badly broken ankle. It would take a plate and eleven screws to put it back together. Thankfully he only missed a few days of work. Then his dad let him borrow a wheel chair he had and Josh went back to work. Josh used the wheel chair for a couple of weeks, and then his boss hurt his ankle. He got a wheel chair too, and they were both working in wheel chairs. Personally, I think his boss decided that it looked like fun. And even if that’s not the case, I have to think the whole thing would have been a little bit funny to see. Susan wondered the same thing…what did the customers coming into the shop think, seeing two guys in wheel chairs working on cars? They didn’t get any pictures, and I think that is a real bummer. Nevertheless, I’m glad Josh is doing better now.

Susan told me that Josh is one of those people who is funny, without even trying. I think that is a wonderful imageimagetrait to have. People love to listen to someone who can find the funny in any situation. Life is never boring. For those of us who are a little more shy, that is a trait that we would love to have, but while we know jokes and such, they just don’t come to mind when we need them. Josh doesn’t even have to try to find the funny. It all comes quite naturally to him. Today is Josh’s birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

13532869_10206657885913369_359834100990588437_n[1]13606930_10206678903318791_5303133049315182074_n[1]My grand niece, Aurora Hadlock is turning five today. For her, these are exciting days. Aurora, or Rory, as she was nicknamed, is so excited about going to Kindergarten this year. I remember when she started pre-school. If it was possible, I think Rory was the most excited kid ever to start pre-school. That love of learning has never left her either. Rory looks forward to each day, because to her they are brand new…there are new things to learn…new friends to make…and each new day is a new adventure.

Rory, who’s mom, Chelsea Hadlock is very imaginative, has 10676195_10202953479705529_3463465173877702689_n[1]decided to have an Alice in Wonderland birthday this year. Her mom will make it such a fun day. Chelsea is very creative, and has the ability to make her kids’ dreams come true, so their birthdays are always a wonderful event. Rory is growing up so fast. Her mom says she is growing like a wildflower, and I think that is the truth. Rory is very much a girly girl, and she would wear a dress every day if she could. She loves dressing up, and has a lot of fun wearing dresses that are the same as, or very close to her mom’s dresses. Rory wants to look as beautiful as her mommy, and what a wonderful way to show her love for her mom too. Rory is very proud of her mom, and wants to be just like her. Rory has several favorites things, she loves tomatoes…shocking for a little girl, and sweet tea…again rare for a child, and of course, she loves to ride her bike…but then what kid doesn’t.

One thing that I didn’t know about Rory is that she wants to be a doctor. This has been a dream of hers for 11986937_10207241894556588_5179927847889566122_n[1]12002112_10204879110805103_8206092303737254724_n[1]some time. I find it completely amazing that this little five year old girl wants to be a doctor. Girls her age are thinking about being a princess, a mommy, or a ballerina…but never a doctor. I have to wonder what has made her choose this noble profession…and at this young age. I find that little fact about Rory to be especially awesome, because as a caregiver, I know how important doctors are. And just think, with her love of dresses, Rory can be the Princess Doctor. Today is Rory’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday Rory!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Women VoteAnytime a group wants to change something in their nation, there is controversy. It really doesn’t matter what the change is, or whether it is good or bad for the country, there will always be people who are against it. The Women’s Suffrage movement, was no different. For more that seventy years, women had been fighting for the right to vote. From the founding of the United States they had not been allowed to vote, and I think originally it was simply because women were viewed as fragile and really to be protected. It didn’t really occur to the men that women could understand politics, wars, and government matters. They were to delicate. That opinion was largely accepted by the women too, until about 1849…73 years after our nation gained its independence from Great Britain. Then some of the women started thinking that they were are smart as the men, and should be allowed to vote too. They were right, of course, but their victory would not come without a long, hard battle. For many years the women who were fighting to vote were look at as Women's sufferage 1somehow being bold, and well simply not very refined. Proper women were encouraged to avoid them. The men heckled them. Everyone thought of these women as being somewhat trashy.

I can’t say for sure, just what it was that finally tipped the scales in favor of the women’s right to vote, but quite possibly it had something to do with the “squeaky wheel getting the oil” in the end. Nevertheless, like anything worth fighting for, you continue to fight until you win, or until there is no hope of winning. For the women of the United States, the battle would be won. Changes are sometimes tough to swallow…especially when we think they are Women's sufferage 3morally wrong. It doesn’t matter what day and age we live in, or what the issue is, someone, somewhere is going to be against the new idea. There will be battles that should be won and those that probably shouldn’t. Nevertheless, like it or not, once a new idea is made law, it usually stays law, unless the law is changed later on. Thankfully, for women everywhere, the right to vote was not repealed, and it will always be our right.

On this day August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is adopted into the United States Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. Women could vote now and forever. People born since 1920, which is most of us, have no concept of the enormity of that amendment. It changed the face of politics, government, and campaigning forever. Not only could women vote, but they could run for office too. And that idea has been up for debate ever since.

12391288_10206780890179747_4998965293300153432_n11923207_1034484853252684_2593545910487408495_naAs I visited with my Aunt Dixie Richards at the Byer family picnic, last Sunday, she talked about how her grandchildren were getting older now, and they need her less and less. She was sad about that, because this was an era that had defined her life for the past 22 years…and truly even beyond that. She was mom first, and then grandma. It was who she was. Being mom and grandma defined her completely. Aunt Dixie was always about her family, and now she was feeling like they didn’t need her anymore. Of course, she and I both knew that wasn’t technically true. She is very important to all of the members of her family, it’s just that her idea of her usefulness was in question. It wasn’t that she didn’t think she was needed at all, she just wasn’t sure what her new role would be with these less needy grandchildren.

I can understand how she felt, because I have felt that way myself at different times in my life, as has Aunt Dixie. We were both caregivers…until were weren’t. We were hands-on moms…until the kids grew up, and did their own things. And now we are both hands-on grandmothers with grandchildren who no longer need our help. So, who will we be now? Will we someday soon become hands-on great grandmothers? Probably not, because the hands-on grandparents will be our children. Our role will be simply to hold and cuddle the great grandbabies sometimes, when we get the chance. It’s a strange place to be.

13626508_1226951904005977_8803677508541146878_n11745538_1018708074830362_6157017772407383499_naOf course, both Aunt Dixie and I will find our way in this new reality we live in. Our lives will be different, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t need us, because they will. Aunt Dixie still has a younger grandchild…her only granddaughter, Mayme, but she is in school too, so she won’t have nearly as much time with her when school starts. It’s kind of a lonely feeling for Aunt Dixie, but like all of us, she will move forward, and figure out how to redefine herself, and before long it will all be ok again. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

SteveimageMy nephew, Steve Spethman, who married my niece, Jenny Masterson, is a man who has done many things, and changed in many ways. I have known Steve since he was twelve years old, but not well. At that time he seemed like any other twelve year old boy, a little too careless, and far to sure that they are bulletproof. Some boys go on to become average guys, who are fortunate enough to grow to adulthood, in spite of themselves, but Steve really went on to become exceptional. Steve grew up with the knowledge that his family had served in the military and also with a dad who liked guns. So it was natural to expect that he would also like guns. I suppose that would really be an understatement in Steve’s case, because he loves guns. Steve and Jenny are both very much into guns, and have taught their boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac to use them safely too. I know that their daughter, Aleesia will also learn to shoot when she is old enough. What I find particularly interesting is that Steve is also a gun builder and gun repairman. I would have no idea how to go about building or repairing a gun, but for Steve it comes naturally. And he has several guns that he built himself that are very cool guns.

Steve is a patriot in every aspect of the word. He is very loyal to this country, and the values it was founded on. The natural thing for Steve to do after high school was to join the National Guard. Like most military men, Steve doesn’t talk much about his military service. I know that sometimes, doing what you have to do, isn’t always pretty, and often no something the men and women can’t or don’t want to talk about, or even think about ever again, so they bottle it up inside. I don’t know if Steve saw any combat or not, so if not, maybe he just doesn’t think anyone would be interested, but I think we would. Steve loves war history, of any war, but has a special interest in World War II, as do I. He has countless movies and documentaries on the subject of wars, and especially the great battles of wars. I know the weapons of warfare are of great interest to him too.
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Steve’s number one priority is God, and following that, his family. He is very different from the boy I met when he was twelve. He is very different from the carefree kid who was quite sure he was bulletproof. Steve may not be bulletproof these days, but he is very protective of his family. And that says it all to me. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Keifer steelers12279182_10208291253019798_4627236881389401356_nMy grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak has always been the kind of guy who likes to laugh. He has a great sense of humor, and really can be quite the comedian. He completely embraces the idea that all women are, and always will be a total mystery to men…a fact that I’m sure his wife, Katie enjoys immensely. Seriously, what woman doesn’t want to keep their man on his toes, and off his guard when it comes to them? And let’s be real here, men do not now, nor will they ever understand women. It’s just best to concede that fact, and do whatever she tells you to do. The home will be a much more peaceful place if you do…just saying, Keifer. I have a feeling that “peace” isn’t exactly what their home is like, however, because if I know Keifer, I imagine that a lot of teasing is going on there, because he does love a good joke.

Like most guys, Keifer loves football, and is looking forward to the coming season. Thankfully for him, he likes the same team as his dad does…the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that is one place where I have to say, he missed the mark. The Broncos are the best team, and that is just not up for negotiation. Still, I suppose both of them will argue that point with me. Apparently, they both still think they can win an argument with a woman. How crazy is that? It will never happen.

I can see that Keifer loves kids, and is a great uncle them, so even though he doesn’t pick the right football team, he wins points in my book, just for that part. I think someday, he and Katie will make great parents, because it is obvious that they both love children. And with his goofy ways, kids love him too. There is a lot to be said for a man who will get out there and play with the kids, no matter what their age or gender.

Keifer reminds me so much of his dad, Dave Balcerzak. The older he gets, the more he looks like his dad, and they both have very similar abilities. They are Technology Geeks for sure. Some people have a mind for GoofyUncle Keifertechnology, and others just don’t. While I normally don’t need much help in the technology area, it is always nice to know that there are people I can call, who really know their stuff…and that would definitely be these two. When it comes to computer assistance, all I can say is that he and his dad are great additions to our family. After all, families working together and helping each other out is what it’s all about. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Congress in 1874The Nation of FranklinHave you heard of the nation of Frankland…or maybe the nation of Franklin? I hadn’t either, but it was a real place. Early in the history of the United States, its people operated on somewhat limited trust of the government…probably due to the treatment they received in England. In April of 1784, the state of North Carolina ceded its western land claims between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River to the United States Congress. The settlers who lived in that area, known as the Cumberland River Valley, had already formed their own government from 1772 to 1777, and their distrust of Congress led the to worry that the area might be sold to Spain or France to pay off war debts owed them by the government. Due to their concerns, North Carolina retracted its cession and started to organize an administration for the territory.

At the same time, representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) and Greene ben-franklin-portrait-national-portrait-gallery-smithsonian-museum-washington-dccounties declared their independence from North Carolina. Then, in May, they petitioned the United States Congress for statehood as Frankland. The simple majority favored the petition, but Congress could not get the two thirds majority to pass it…not even when the people decided to change the name to Franklin, in the hope of winning favor with Benjamin Franklin and some of the others.

When the petition failed to pass, the people in the area grew angry, and decided to defy Congress. On this day, August 23, 1784, they ceded from the union and functioned as the Free Republic of Franklin (Frankland) for four years. During that time, they had their own constitution, Indian treaties and legislated system of barter in lieu of currency. Two years into the Free Republic of Franklin’s history, North Carolina set up their own parallel government in the area. The economy was weak, and never really gained ground, so the governor, John Sevier approached the Spanish for aid. That move brought a feeling of terror in the government of North Carolina, and they arrested Sevier. The situation worsened when the Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw began to attack settlements within Franklin’s borders in 1788. Franklin quickly rejoined North Carolina to gain its militia’s protection from attack.

It was a short life for the little nation of Franklin, and eventually they wouldn’t even belong to North Carolina, but rather became a part of the state of Tennessee. It just goes to show that the growing pains of a nation can Tennessee with Franklintake on many forms to reach their destiny as a whole nation. Some changes are good ones, and continue on into the future, and others are not so good, and are sometimes absorbed into the fabric of history and time, and end up looking nothing like the change they started out to be.

imageI think that in many ways, my mom’s family is unique. It all started with Grandma and Grandpa Byer, of course. The family had grown to a size that was far too big to get together at their house, so they came up with the idea of holding a family Christmas party at a central location in town, that would hold all of us. It was truly the only way for all of us to get together at the same time, but I think Grandma and Grandpa had an ulterior motive for doing this. They wanted their growing family to stay close, even though it wasn’t always easy. Most of the family still lives right here in Casper, but we are all very busy people, so getting together on any kind of a consistent basis is really hard, and it gets harder every year as we grow in size. Still, it was Grandma and Grandpa’s dream that we would not stop the get togethers, which has grown to include an annual family picnic in August.image

Every few years, the number of the original siblings seems to dwindle, and of course, each of the original siblings that are left are growing older. For that reason, I feel a strong urging to go to these events, to spend time with them. I’m not saying that everyone can make it, and that’s ok, but I feel the need. My aunts and uncles are getting older, and they have so much information that they can pass on to us…stories of their childhood and stories passed down from their parents. These are stories that will be lost if we don’t hear them now. Since my parents have passed away, I can’t ask them the things I have wondered about since they left. And I won’t say that I would have wondered those things while they were still alive, but I know that I wish that I had asked them many things about their families and their lives while they were still here, because I do wonder now, and now I’m stuck with unanswered questions where my parents are concerned. That is the thing I don’t want to have…those unanswered questions with my aunts and uncles too.
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The Byer family Christmas party and the Byer family picnic are two chances for all of us to spend time with and talk to these precious people before it’s too late. What I have noticed is that the same people come to these events and I suppose that is how it will always be. We always have a wonderful time, and I do look forward to both the picnic and Christmas party. As I said, my mom’s family is unique…especially in that they hold two family reunions a year. We may not get the turnout that reunions that are further apart get, but no one can say that they didn’t have the opportunity…and any unanswered questions are purely the fault of those who would not come and ask.

CCI06282012_00038_editedfWar is never pretty, and yet somehow, I had a picture in my head of the time my grandfather, George Byer spent in World War I that made it seem very benign. I never pictured him being in any danger. You see, my grandfather was a cook in the Army during the war, and somehow I pictured him working in a safe place where the war was a very distant reality, and not something to be faced or dealt with. The cooks in World War I didn’t even get a gun, so they must not be in danger…right? Wrong…very wrong!! The men on the front couldn’t drive home to the safety zone every night after work, like I had pictured in my head. The kitchen was very close to the front. In Grandpa’s case, that kitchen was a commandeered kitchen in the lowest floor of a French castle. As far as anyone knows, the residents of the castle still lived there, although I’m not sure how their meals were handled. Perhaps, their own cooks were allowed a little time in the kitchen, or maybe their meals were served along with the men in the Army. I don’t suppose we will know the full answer to that question in this lifetime.

For a very long time…until just a few months ago, in fact, I carried the impression in my head that Grandpa’s job was really uneventful, other than the pressure of getting the meals to a large group of hungry men on time. Then, I came across a picture that I had seen several times over the past five years, but this time I was also Grandpa Byer's Military Photolooking at the list my aunts had made about what the pictures were about. In that moment, my idea of my grandfather’s service was changed forever. On the list they had written, that the man on the right, or the man in uniform, was Grandpa. The second picture was tagged with, “Castle in France. Owner of castle died in Daddy’s kitchen” and “cooks, who worked under Daddy.” I was instantly intrigued. I spoke to my aunt, Sandy Pattan about it, and found out that indeed, the kitchen was commandeered for the Army’s use, and the owner had been wounded and ran into the kitchen for help. Grandpa tried to save him, but the wounds were too bad, and the owner died right there. The man’s injuries told me that the front was not far from the castle. I suppose you might think I was reaching a little on that thought, but you would be wrong, because as I talked with Aunt Sandy, she told me something else that really clarified the danger my grandfather lived with every day of his time in the service.

It was another day in the castle kitchen, the men were working on the next meal. Suddenly an American soldier ran in and told the cooks to run for the woods. It seemed strange to me that running would be the order they would receive, but remember that Aunt Sandy told me that the cooks had no guns. If they stayed in the castle, they would be sitting ducks, because cooks or not, they were in the American Army, and that made them enemies of the Germans. The reason the men were told to run for the woods…the Germans were coming CCI06282012_00038_editedgand they couldn’t stop them. The soldier didn’t have to tell the cooks twice. They dropped everything and ran. One of the cooks, while running into the woods, stepped on a dead man. The man had been dead a few days, because the cook’s foot went right into the man’s chest. Aunt Sandy told me that the smell was so bad and so permanent that when they couldn’t get the smell out of the man’s clothes, they had to be burned. I had no idea of the things Grandpa saw, nor of the danger he faced. It gave me a whole new picture of Grandpa Byer’s time in World War I. And I came to clearly realize that no job in the service is less dangerous than another…and least not on the front. It’s no wonder that most men don’t want to talk about the war.

imageimageFor most of her life, my granddaughter, Shai Royce made it very clear that she was not into exercise, and most definitely not into outdoor exercise. As she grew up, she would consider going to the gym…but only if there was no other way to stay in shape. Then, she got into Zumba, and going to the gym started to be fun, instead of a lot of work. Still, outdoor sports were just not it for her…even though I tried to get her to join her grandpa and me on the walking path we often walk on.

One day, when the water at Pathfinder Reservoir was so high that it was overflowing the dam, we invited her to go out with us to see it. There was a bit of a walk to get imagethere, but that wasn’t what affected my granddaughter. It was what was at the end of that walk that grabbed her attention. The falls were stunning, no doubt about that. Shai and several friends made repeated trips back out to Pathfinder Reservoir and the falls.

Then, we told her we were going to hike the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain. Shai decided that she wanted to go along, but I was skeptical. I remembered her telling me that she didn’t like this sort of thing. I told her I wasn’t sure she was up for it…even thought she had walked the Platte River Trail with us a week before. I’m not sure if Shai was offended or determined, but she informed me that she could do it. So, we made the hike. Shai did amazing…better than I did actually. She liked it so much that she and I went again, two days later. She wanted to go again, but time didn’t imageimageallow it. Before I knew it, Shai was moving to Washington to join the rest of her family, but she left here a different girl…an outdoorsy girl, in fact.

Shai has been in Washington just a little more than a month now. She and her brother, Caalab met a girl named Heidi, and Heidi likes to hike. She took them on what Shai deemed the hardest hike she had ever been on, last week. The hike took them to Winchester Mountain. She texted me pictures, and I must say that I need to hike it too. What a magnificent place it is. Shai has come a long way over this past year, and finally my girly girl, who hated the outdoors, has become an outdoorsy girl!! Who would have thought that would happen?

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