Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dad 1978I was having a conversation with my cousin and his daughter on Facebook yesterday and my cousin told her part of that old story I’m sure everyone has heard, about how tough he had it when he went to school. You know the one about walking barefoot in the snow ten miles to school everyday…uphill both ways. It got me thinking about the funny things my Dad used to say. My Dad was always making us laugh with his goofy little sayings, and I have planned for some time to write them down so we wouldn’t forget.

Dad was always a fan of big cars, and when I chose a much smaller one, he called it a Putt Putt. He would try to convince me that it would never last long because it was small. Every time I was over, he would ask, “Well, is that Putt Putt still running?” And then act shocked when I said it was. And yes Dad, it is still running, even now.

One of Dad’s biggest delights was teasing his kids and grandkids. He used to chase us around and when caught you knew you were going to get his famous “whisker rub” because that was his threat during the chase. Now for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is when he rubs his whiskered face due to the famed 5 o’clock shadow on your face. Now you might think that we would hate that, but once you got a whisker rub, every one of us would say, do it again…do it again!!! Silly I know, but he just made it fun.

Many of the girls (and we were a family of few boys) had long hair. Dad would try to tug on our hair without having us see who did it. Of course, we always knew, and would usually “retaliate” by flicking him with our finger. Then as if in totally innocent shock, he would say, “You struck me!” I wonder why, Dad.

My Dad was not a man to cuss. His main saying for things that many people would cuss about was, “Dad burn it” and was used for many different things. Anything, in fact from something that annoyed him to something he was teasing us about. It was a phrase we grew to know well, mostly because he used it often to embellish funny things. Dad wasn’t a man to be angry often, so “dad burn it” he had to have another way to use a favorite phrase.

My Dad was a very happy person. He couldn’t see the sense in being mad all the time. Grudges simply have no useful purpose in life. I hope I can learn from his examples, to be perpetually happy too. And by the way, Dad also told us the story about walking ten miles in the snow, barefoot and uphill both ways, but he added that they used to hop a train so they didn’t have to walk…but I’m told this part was true.

Just MeWhen you are gone, what will people remember about you? Most people don’t want to think about dying, and I don’t either, but I do think about what memories people might have of me when I am gone. I think about the loved ones and friends who have gone before me, and the memories I have of them, and how I would compare. My Dad was a person who never carried a grudge and taught his children never to “let the sun go down on your wrath” which he got from the Bible, as God was the most important thing in his life, above even family, as I also believe God should be. My grandparents who were always giving to those in need and showing kindness to all, also come to mind. My friend Char, who would defend a friend to the very end, is another. So, what will people think of me?

I want to be a giver to those in need, because I have been blessed in so many ways. I have a good job with a wonderful boss, though he hates that word. I have a wonderful family who I love dearly, and I have the great blessing of knowing that I am loved back. I have a sharp mind, and I know the value of that, because my mother-in-law and my uncle both have Alzheimer’s. I have been richly blessed, and if I can pass that along in charitable acts or other ways of helping people, than I will have maybe shown my gratitude to a small degree.

I have the ability to be sharp tongued sometimes, and that is something I don’t think I want to be remembered for. I think I would rather be remembered for my sharp mind and maybe the ability to use it to benefit others. Maybe to be some kind of advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves on some things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a different job, but if I can help others within my job and my daily life, then maybe I will have a legacy to leave.

I do have the ability to be a caregiver, and I can only hope that in the future I may be able to do it with kindness and patience. Care giving can be very wearing on the caregiver, and there are times we lose our patience. I am very thankful that I have never physically lashed out, but here again, remember that I can be sharp tongued, so I would have to say that there are many ways to lash out, forgive me Lord. I am learning patience, but the lessons can take time to learn. I don’t want to be remembered as an impatient, screaming daughter, who made the remaining years of her parents or in-laws miserable. Please help me to never let that happen Father. Rather I want to be remembered as a daughter who helped her parents and in-laws through their elder years by giving them respect and kindness and dignity.

And most importantly I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren, the Christian values I was taught as a child and continue to learn as an adult. There is nothing greater that I could pass on to them than the knowledge and wisdom that is contained in the Bible, and the importance of daily study and church attendance. I want them to know that the single most important thing they can do and teach their children to do, is to have a personal relationship with God and to personally know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. There is nothing more important.

These are some of the things I hope people will remember about me when I go home to be with the Lord. What do you want to be remembered for?

Yesterday, another mass shooting took place in our country. Six people are dead, including a Federal Judge and a nine year old girl, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head and remains in critical condition. No, this is not a news bulletin, but rather, a question. Why? So many of these shootings take place in this country every day, that it hardly seems like news. My question is why? If you want to protest, must you do it violently and why if you want to kill yourself, must you take others with you. Now I know that in today’s shooting, the gunman was not planning to kill himself, just others, but why? Because he didn’t like how he had been treated or to show that he didn’t like God…why?

I know that there are many things that go on in our country that people don’t like, and we each have our own ideas of what is right and wrong, and what is important and not important, but I would think that we can all agree, that…life, is important. And taking a life, is something you can’t ever take back! Why do people do this!

It doesn’t matter what your political views are, and I’m sure that many of you know that I am not a Democrat, but no one deserves to be shot at, except in war, and this isn’t war. I pray for those injured and the families of all those injured or killed in today’s tragedy.

Stress…a dirty word in every day life, and a very real health concern for many people today. Our lives are so busy, and often we don’t have any real control over our day or what happens in it. So how do we avoid stress?

One way to avoid stress to do work as it comes along as much as possible. Procrastination brings stress, because at some point you run out of time and that usually happens with many projects at the same time. When you have people calling to see if their project is finished, your blood pressure starts to rise. Before you know it you have a headache and a neck ache. Doing the job as soon as it is given whenever possible eliminates this problem, and gives you more time to do it correctly, since most mistakes are made when we rush through things.

Another way to avoid stress is to watch what you volunteer for. All too often we over-extend ourselves because we hate to say, “No.” There is nothing wrong with volunteering, but you can’t be 10 places at once. Pick your volunteer work carefully, whether it is for a charity or family. Having your priorities straight will lower your stress levels.

Exercise is a very important stress reducer. You don’t have to join a gym or do calisthenics either. Go for a walk, especially if you can get outside. Just getting closer to nature has a way of bring peace to your mind, and that is definately a stress reducer. Not everyone likes the same type of exercise, and if you haven’t exercised in a long time, I recommend that you try several different types, start slowly, and of course, check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to exercise. I find that exercise is a great stress reducer and a great way to look better too.

And the final stress reducer I’m going to talk about is getting enough sleep. When you are tired, your mind can’t cope with everyday obligations as well. Adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily to look and feel their best, so make sure you get your daily zzz’s.

And there you have it. My best stress reducers for the person living in today’s busy world. I hope this new year is a great one for all of you.

My Dad passed away 3 years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him terribly. So much so, that many times it is hard to speak or think of him without tears. He was like the main trunk of a tree, and we, his family the branches. While the tree can come back from the roots if the trunk is cut down, it takes a long time to do so. Yes, we have all gone on with life, just as Dad would have wanted us to do, taking care of our Mom, and hoping that we do so in such a way as to make Dad proud, but there is something missing, and a huge gaping hole in the middle of our lives that we can’t seem to fill. My Dad is irreplaceable.

Dad was a World War II veteran, and like many of those men, he rarely talked about those years, choosing instead to move on with life. He was the Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer on a B-17 Bomber. He was credited with shooting down 2 Japanese planes, and he saved the men on his plane when he hung upside down in the open bomb bay to hand crank the landing gear down when it was stuck and they couldn’t land. But, these were things he didn’t tell us about. My Mom would tell us later. It just wasn’t Dad’s way. To him, he just did his duty.

One of my Dad’s greatest loves, other than family, was the great outdoors. Dad wanted us to be able to see as much of our great country as possible. We have camped out in many places, and seen almost every state. There have been funny times, like making my Dad get up to put another log on the fire, because we thought there might be bears in the area, one of the joys of camping with 5 daughters, I guess. My Dad was a brave man. And of course, he had to get every moth away from us, because they might be “deadly” or something. He was so patient. He just took our craziness is stride. When I think back on those years, I can’t help but laugh at how goofy my sisters and I were. Dad just had a way of making things fun, no matter what came up.

One of Dad’s all time favorite travel destinations was the Black Hills. Because it was close to Wyoming, and there was so much to do there, we went often. I’m sure that is where my love of the Black Hills came from. He showed us many fun things to do there, and well, from there my love for it just grew. When I am in the Black Hills, I always feel like I can hear “echos” of my Dad, because there are so many wonderful memories there.

Another thing my Dad was very good at is problem solving. Whenever any of us needed help with something, Dad could always be counted on come up with a solution. He was the strength of our family, no matter what. I can still hear him saying, “This is what we are going to do.” And you just knew everything was going to be alright.

Dad, you taught us many lessons of life through the years, and you made life fun. Your words and laughter will always echo in my memory. I will miss you until the day I see you again in Heaven. Thank you Daddy for being the greatest Dad ever!! I love you so much…and Forever!!

How do you relax? There are as many ways to “get away from it all” as there are people, but for me, the answer is hiking. I love to get out in the forest following a trail, just to see where it will take me. It is so quiet and peaceful. The birds chirping and the occasional butterfly flitting by, just serve to enhance the beauty of the moment. I’m not really a winter person, though I live in a state that sure gets it, but I live for late spring through early fall, when I can get out on the trail with my husband and just enjoy nature at its finest.

We have hiked many trails over the years, but by far our favorite is the trail to Harney Peak in the Black Hills. This is not an easy trail, and definitely not for those who aren’t in good shape, but it is so worth it. On this trail, you will find yourself deep in the forest of the Black Elk Wilderness Area of the Black Hills. It is a well traveled trail, but there are many times that you are by yourselves. And the views along the way are breathtaking. When you get to the top, there is a fire tower that used to be manned, but after it was struck by lightning, resulting in fires, several times, they decided it wasn’t the best place for a fire tower. So it became a favorite destination for hikers and horse back riders. The top of the peak is 7242 feet above sea level, which is the highest point East of the Rocky Mountains until you get to the Swiss Alps. The climb takes you up 1142 feet and is 6.8 miles round trip. It takes us 4 hours to make the whole trip, however we always spend at least an hour on top having lunch. The view from up there is completely amazing. You can see 5 states from the top. It is a trip I can never take too many times. We have taken the hike 6 times, and plan to continue to go once a year. Now that is my idea of relaxation.

Hiking has not only been good for me physically, and I have to stay in shape to be able to continue to hike, so it is a really good motivator, but sometimes I think it has saved my sanity. In such a busy world, it is nice to get back to nature so that you can unwind. I highly recommend it.

Many people are busy making…and breaking New Years Resolutions this time of year, but mostly breaking them. Why is it that people have an obsession with New Years Resolutions? Of course, it is really an obsession to improve ourselves, but unfortunately the resolution is rarely combined with the main ingredient needed to achieve success…will power. If we really think about it waiting for New Years Day to start making our improvements is actually the biggest indicator of it’s future failure. If we really want to improve ourselves, and we are determined to succeed, we wouldn’t want to wait for the new year to get started. That is truly the procrastinator’s dream. The idea is that if we have a deadline, somehow we will miraculously develop the necessary will power to succeed, when in reality we spend the interim making our situation worse, but trying to squeeze as much of the bad behavior into our lives before the deadline. It’s during that time that many people gain 10 pounds, or smoke more cigarettes than they normally would. Just the thought of having to quit always seems to serve only to increase the bad behavior in anticipation of losing it. And then, to top it off, most people give up on the New Years Resolution by February. The main reason for that is a serious lack of real commitment to reaching our goal in the first place. If you are really determined to change your situation for the better, you wouldn’t wait. You would make the decision to do it today…no matter how far that is into the year or how close it is to the end of the year. Waiting one more day is the key to failure. Making or not making a New Years Resolution is entirely a personal choice, but usually the need to change presents itself far before the new year, so if you find yourself needing to make some changes, just do it now. Don’t plan to do it later, because very likely you never will.

Few things impact our lives as much as loss does, especially the loss of a child. I was talking to my nephew, Steve at my mother’s New Years Eve party, and the conversation turned to his little daughter, Laila, who passed away on November 22, 2010 at the age of 18 days of complications from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and as we talked, I could see deep into his heart.

Steve, normally a happy, smiling person is now struggling with feelings so raw that it is exhausting. He feels the need to be strong for his family, and all too often, I think many people take his strength for granted. Sometimes the smallest things in our lives are the things than have the ability to bring us to our knees, and for Steve that is Laila. From the day she arrived she stole his heart. It was so obvious in the way they looked at each other, that she would be “Daddy’s Little Girl” and Steve, well he would have a new home…wrapped around her tiny little finger. Steve and Jenny have 3 sons, but this child was the long awaited daughter, and while they would have felt the same loss over any of their children, this hit very hard. Laila was sweet and beautiful with olive skin and dark hair, just like her mommy, in fact I believe she would have looked just like Jenny as she grew up.

To say the least, Steve was smitten. He is such a good daddy, very involved in the lives of his children, and Laila would have been so blessed to be a part of this family. It just breaks my heart to see the pain of loss that is etched on Steve’s face now, and to know that there are those who simply don’t understand his feelings. This is a deeply loving man, who is such a big blessing to his family. He is also a very strong man, and I think that sometimes people don’t think that he could have the deeply loving emotions that he carries inside toward those of us that are fortunate enough to be a close part of his life.

Steve loves with all he has, and he has a big heart, so there is a lot of love to give. And really he asks for so little back. He works hard to support his family and doesn’t want Jenny to work, but rather wants her to be able to stay at home and raise the children. He is a deeply spiritual man as well, and loves his Lord and Savior. He makes sure his family is in church every week, and while many would not see this as unusual, the truth is that Steve wasn’t raised in church, but committed his life to the Lord after he met Jenny. But truly, the defining aspect of Steve’s life is being a husband and father. He lives for it, and when something like the loss of a child enters his life it just tears him up. My heart just aches for this loving man with a father’s heart and empty arms. I love you Steve, and I wish I could ease your pain somehow, but as with Jenny, I can only pray for peace in your father’s heart and comfort for your empty arms.

Mistakes are a part of every human life, and most of us would agree that we hope that the people around us will overlook our mistakes most of the time. It is our hope that people will show mercy to us, like God shows us mercy, unearned pardon for wrongs we have done. And not just God or our friends, but we hope we can talk our way out of tickets and other errors we make, and if we are kids, detentions, groundings, and other forms of punishments. Most of the time our attempts at talking our way into mercy seem to fail miserably, as many people will tell you after they pay for their traffic tickets. While these are usually punishments we have earned, is there something wrong with showing mercy? There shouldn’t be. When people around us make mistakes, whenever possible we should forgive them. Especially when there was no harm done…really.

For example, I was driving in the parking lot at Albertson’s on New Years Day, when a car coming across several rows of parking area pulled right out in front of me. It all happened so fast. In a flash of white she was right in front of me. Thankfully, there were no cars right in that area, and I wasn’t going very fast, so I was able to slow way down and move to the right to avoid the collision that seemed inevitable. As I looked into her very scared and totally apologetic expression, I thought of how many times I could have been in her shoes. No harm was done, so really what would be accomplished by making her feel stupid. Truly it would have done no good, and having been on the receiving end of a justifiably angry driver who had barely avoided hitting me, and yelled at me when I was then stuck at a red light, I decided I really didn’t want to put someone else through that, so I smiled a relieved smile, as did she, and we both went our way, feeling much better I’m sure.

We need to remember that since everyone makes mistakes, and we are sure to make them mistakes again some time, maybe we should allow some mistakes to slide sometimes, unpunished, offering instead mercy, even if we are right, and the mercy is undeserved, because at some point, we might receive the same kindness we have shown.

Grandma and Grandpa ByerEvery year my mother’s family has a Family Christmas Party. This year was our turn to host the party, and my aunts and uncles asked us to do an update of the Byer Family Phonebook we had given them as a gift 13 years ago when we hosted the party. As I was working on the updates, which included names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays for all the family members, and anniversary dates, I had time to reflect on the legacy that my grandparents left behind. George Byer married Harriet “Hattie” Pattan on December 24, 1927 in Valentine, Nebraska. They had 9 children, 7 daughters and 2 sons. From that beginning to now, there are more than 90 families, and approximately 300 people that have their roots in that marriage, and we are growing every year. That in itself is quite a legacy, and the one my grandparents would have been most proud of. I remember my grandpa saying to my grandma on their 50th wedding anniversary, “Mommy, look what we started, and there’s not a throw away in the bunch.” And that was 33 years ago. I wonder what he would have thought now. My goodness, we have grown. It is amazing what has come of what those two very special people started 83 years ago.

That was just the legacy my grandparents left us in numbers, but their true legacy was in the lessons they taught their children, who then passed them on to their children, and so on. My mother has told me many stories about growing up during the Depression and the years that followed. Times were tough then, but my grandmother always seemed to make enough food for the family and anyone who might come knocking at the door to partake of her well known generosity and down home good cooking. There were almost always extra mouths at the table, and sometimes extra people sleeping on the floor. Times were not only tough then, but very different from our present day. These days, we wouldn’t dare open our home in such a way, as it just isn’t safe, but back then, there was something called honor, and even if a man had to take a handout, most would help out around the place to pay for it, and wouldn’t think of slapping his host in the face by stealing from them or hurting their family. Yes, things were different, very different from the kind of unsafe world of today.

My grandfather was a gentle quiet man, who dearly loved children, and they loved him. He always seemed to have several of his kids climbing all over him (and later grandkids and great grandkids), wanting to brush his hair, and as little girls do, even paint his nails. He took this all in stride and never brushed them off, even though I’m quite certain he took quite a teasing from the guys at work. He would later say when asked that the guys all knew he had kids at home and they just accepted it as “the way it was” and didn’t think anything of it. I always loved to go over to their house, because grandpa always seemed delighted to see us. He would open the door with a hearty, “Come on in kid.” It wasn’t that we got to do anything so special when we were there, it’s just that he and my grandma had a way of making fun out of nothing special at all. They didn’t have amazing toys or video games, they just always had things for us to do. And, you just knew you were loved.

So often in today’s world, people lead such busy lives that they have little time to see their kids, much less spend any quality time with them, and we are all guilty of being too busy for our kids, but the greatest gift my grandparents gave their children and grandchildren was the gift of themselves and quality time as a family. They have both been gone for decades now, but their legacy will live on in their descendants for many years to come.

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