Monthly Archives: August 2011

New Years Eve around our house always meant a party, because my mom’s birthday is January 1st. The party always included a dance in the kitchen, which we empty of all the furniture for the occasion. One of the highlights of the evening was when Mom and Dad would share a dance. It is one of the moments that I will always remember, as will my mom, I’m sure. It wasn’t New Years Eve until they had their dance. Their dance had the same importance on the evening as the bride and groom’s dance at a wedding, and the same feel. It almost brought a tear to your eyes, especially in those last two years, when we weren’t sure Dad and Mom would be able to have their dance.

New Years Eve was not, however, the only time when my mom and dad danced. I remember many times when Dad would come home from work, still in work clothes and the would share a dance in that same kitchen. It was one of their ways of expressing their deep and abiding love for each other, and one of the ways we, their children could enjoy the fact that our parents were and always would be in love.

That is what life can be compared to also…a dance. We don’t know the twists and turns life will take until we live them. We don’t know the hurts and loss we might have to endure. Every life has its sorrows, as well as its joys. In a life where the joy outweighs the sorrow, you find a very blessed person or persons. That is the kind of life my parents lived. Their dance was one of joy and happiness, and very little sorrow or loss was added to it.

When I look back at all the pictures of trips we took, and places we got to go, our family’s dance was a great waltz, if you will, with a lot of country swing and a little bit of rock and roll mixed in. My cousin Bill commented on my dad’s life after his passing. He said, “Wow, he really lived!!” How true that is. My dad always made sure the dance of our life was a wonderful dance set to a beautiful song. Whether we were traveling, or just spending time in the back yard around a picnic table, or working together, he tried to add fun to every part of our lives. And the dancing continued until that last New Years Eve party, when we were blessed one last time with my parents special dance…the last dance.

When a first child is born, and for the years following that birth, until a second child comes along, they are the baby…the one and only…the one who gets all the attention, but the one thing they can’t be is the big brother or big sister. Some kids prefer it that way, and some kids prefer it that way at least some of the time, but when their little brother or sister comes, most of them really like being the big brother or sister.

How my grand nephew, Ethan will feel about his little sister, Aurora Briann, remains to be seen, but one thing I do know is that if Aurora, or Rory as she is to be called, manages to inherit her sense of humor from her brother, Ethan, she will turn out just fine. She might be a tomboy, however. Ethan is famous for the goofy things he does. Of course, I think his family might have had something to do with that. Things like “Go long” after a football, and then he runs off in a goofy way that only Ethan can duplicate again and again!! It is a run that keeps everyone watching in stitches! Yes, Ethan is a character, and if little Aurora turns out the same way, she will be quite a ham.

Aurora might have different plans, however. Sometimes, no matter how much big brothers try to turn little sisters into little brothers, those little girls choose to be a girly girl…Princess Aurora, if you will, and that is final, so don’t try to change her, because her mind is made up!! If this little princess decides that she likes frills and laces and…well bling, no amount of trying will change her mind, but that is ok too. Each child has to have their own personality. The world would be pretty boring if we were all alike.

I think the coolest thing about having babies is the journey from their babyhood to who they will become. It is a journey filled with wonder and joy…and a few boo boo’s, but that is what life is about. Aurora will always be Ethan’s little sister, but she may not settle into some of the other things that make Ethan who he is. Still, no matter who she becomes, she will always be the right personality for her. No matter who she grows up to be, she is a beautiful little baby, and the latest joy of her family.

Today is my father-in-laws birthday, he is 82 years old. He has lived a long life, and has worked hard all of it. He is a man of high values and one who believes in working hard to get where you want to go. His parents would divorce when he was young, and by the time he was 13 years old, he had moved to a neighboring milk farm. It was close enough for his mom to keep tabs on him, nevertheless, he was his own man for the rest of his life. He decided early on what kind of man he would be, and he has remained true to his values all his life.

He has been a wonderful husband to my mother-in-law for the last 62 years, taking care of her largely alone for the past 5 or 6 years since we found that she has Alzheimer’s Disease. His children and grandchildren help as much as they can, but as we all work, he is alone much of the time. His love for her very evident, he continues to patiently create a home where she is kept safe and happy for as long as possible. He ia a man whose life commands respect, simply because if his unending love for those around him. Happy birthday Dad!! We all love you!!

Almost 6 decades later, my niece Lindsay would be born on my father-in-law’s birthday. Lindsay carries many of the same traites my father-in-law does, though they are not related. Lindsay is the daughter of my sister, Allyn and brother-in-law Chris. But, Lindsay possesses the same strong work ethic that my father-in-law does, working hard to become first a fire fighter with a Associates Degree in Fire Science, and then obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion, and now is going on the graduate school to obtain her Masters Degree.

Lindsay is the kind of person who cares about everyone she meets. She has no enemies. She seems to know everyone, and a stranger is just a friend she hasn’t met yet. She loves the Lord and desires to do his will in her life…to be a blessing. She will ultimately succeed in whichever of the several fields that her degrees will prepare her for, and will make a wonderful employee to anyone who hires her, and a great business owner, should she decide to go into business for herself. Lindsay has always had a positive spirit, and a joy about her. I guess that is why people are drawn to her. What else could they do? You are a wonderful woman Lindsay, and I’m proud of you. Happy birthday Lindsay!! We love you!!

There are times when my grandson can be the funniest guy around!! He isn’t always the comedian, but sometimes out of the blue, Josh pulls something like cutting a Jellyfish Ball in half and putting it on his head. Then putting on a goofy grin for the picture that you can’t help but take. And then you feel like you got a pretty good laugh out of it, but Josh got an even bigger kick out of it, because he loves to be funny.

Making funny faces is one of his favorite things to do, in fact, he is so good at it that it is sometimes hard to get a normal smiling picture of him. Most of them are a smirk, or a big toothy grin, or he might make a monster face. You just never know what to expect out of him. I think he has a combination of traites from his dad and his Aunt Amy. His dad in that he can keep a straight face in the middle of a joke, and his Aunt Amy in that you never know exactly what he will pull for a laugh…like the half a Jellyfish Ball on his head.

Being the youngest child and grandchild, Josh was usually the one who had tricks pulled on him, so he had to work his way up the ladder when it came to the practical jokes, but he is pretty observant, and like most kids, picks up on stuff quickly. He loves to tell me that his mom is sleeping, or not home when I call, and he can do it without laughing. After a while, I begin to wonder if he is telling me the truth, and she is asleep. So when I ask, “Why is she sleeping this early?”, then he hands her the phone and walks away satisfied that he won…and he did, because he convinced me that she really was sleeping…the little pest!!

Sometimes, things backfire on him though, and that can be pretty funny too. Friday, he was at his brothers football game. He was playing with a balloon and when it popped, it managed to be the only really quiet moment in the game, so everyone heard it. I thought it was going to snap the man in front of him, but it went right over his head. Josh tried not to show it, but he was very embarrassed. Not that his embarrassment lasted long. He quickly recovered when the people in front of him started laughing and joking about the whole thing too. That helped Josh recover his funnybone!

Today was my grandson’s first football game of the year. Chris is a Offensive Guard and Defensive End. This is the sport Chris lives for. He eats, sleeps, breathes and dreams it. His favorite thing to do in the game is to take out the Quarterback. Chris has an amazing way of knowing exactly where the other teams Quarterback is. I suppose that doesn’t sound so odd to a football player, but to those of us who do not play, it is amazing. He may not always be able to sack the Quarterback, but he will always try.

The football players are looked up to in school, which is another thing I never understood, but I’m sure it all has to do with the warrior syndrome. We always seem to notice the super hero. And that is what these boys are, and deserve to be. They work very hard to get where they are, and even harder at game time. They are the heroes of the school when they win, and they are shredded when they lose. It’s kind of a thankless job, but someone has to do it right.

So why do they do it? I think part of it is the adrenalin rush they get when a play comes together just as you had planned, or when a player makes a save that seemed impossible. It’s the love of the game…the tactical planning, and then the ability to bring the plan together. I’m sure it also has to do with the cheering crowds and knowing that they like what you just accomplished. It would be something that would give you a kind of high that you can’t get anywhere else.

Now, don’t get me wrong when I say that there are things about this game that I don’t get, because I love football…especially when my grandson is playing. I look up to those boys as much as anyone. I feel pride because to me they are the school heroes. They charge out there into battle and give it their all, trying to win. They are the boys who choke back their feelings of disappointment over a blown play, or a lost game, and come back the next game and try again. Boys who go home filled with aches and pains, whether they won or lost. Boys who earned the glory they get from fighting the battle…win or lose, The Boys of Fall. My grandson is one of them…and I am very proud of them and him.

When my daughter Amy was five years old, and in Kindergarten, she met a girl who became a big part of our lives. Carina and Amy quickly became the best of friends, and before we knew it, Carina was more like a third daughter around our house, than a friend. Carina and Amy were so much alike throughout the years, and yet very different. And it didn’t really matter, because the were true forever friends, and that would never change.

Carina’s family would move to Denver for a time when the girls were in about 4th grade, but they would get together as often as possible, and soon Carina’s family came back to Casper…where we all felt they belonged. Carina would also go away to college, New York City, and Pennsylvania, along with several other places, and travel the world as a flight attendent, but 9/11 would change her thoughts on things, and once more bring her home…where we all felt she belonged. Once here, she would meet Andy, her husband, and soon be “Mommy” to Garet.

Through all the location changes, Carina and Amy’s friendship never faltered, because some things are just meant to be. Some friends are such kindred spirits that their lives just stay intertwined, no matter how far they are away from each other physically. And our whole family has always felt like Carina was a part of us…a third daughter and second sister. She belonged in our family…as much as the child of a friend ever could…she fit in so well, and we loved her…and still do!

Sometimes people come into your lives like that. They bless you by their presence, and enrich your life because they are such wonderful people. I could never have asked for a better friend for Amy, or second sister for Corrie and Amy. They all grew to be good little girls, and grew into beautiful women. I am very, very blessed. Today is my third daughter’s birthday…happy birthday Carina!!

When I first met the man who would become my niece, Jenny’s husband, he was 12 years old, and like most 12 year old boys…at that awkward place between a pesty kid and an obnoxious teenager, and through the years I hadn’t heard that he had changed much. Over the years that I had been around him, he was a mouthy teenager, and very much the smart aleck…but then what teenager isn’t…right.  So, when Jenny brought him to church the first time and I found out who she was dating, my first thought was, “Oh Jenny, not Steve!!” All I could think of is that my niece had no idea what he was really like.

What I found out was that Steve was different now. Jenny did marry Steve, and they have been married for almost 9 years, but a successful marriage is not dependent on one or both of its members being nice people. This marriage, however, is not one of those marriages that has lasted in spite of its members, because my sweet niece, Jenny, found herself a gem in Steve. As Steve grew into adulthood, something grew inside him…the capacity to love.

Steve is a giant of a man who could easily hurt anyone he chose to, but Steve is a big teddy bear. I know of very few men with the kind of heart Steve has. He does have such a great capacity to love, and anyone he loves is very blessed. Our family gained a wonderful member when Steve joined it. Rarely do you meet a man who is so able to express how he feels and who is so loving.

Steve and Jenny have been through some things in their marriage. Things no one should have to go through…the loss of a child, followed by the loss of a beloved pet. Yet, with broken hearts, they have held each other close, and loved each other…and survived. They will be ok, because they both have the capacity to love.

Today is Steve’s birthday, and I want to let him know what a blessing he has been to our family. He is a wonderful husband to Jenny, and father to his children, and all the other titles he holds in this family. He has touched all our lives, and we are blessed, because he grew into a different man. Happy birthday Steve!! It’s going to be a great year for you.

When I think back on my childhood days, flying a kite ranked right up there with cool things to do, although I wasn’t much good at it. When my grandchildren were little and our friend, Dani was babysitting for my girls, she used to take the kids, and her kids to all kinds of events. She was amazing with the kids. She would take 5 to 6 kids to these events, and everyone would have a great time and stay together. On this particular day, Dani took the kids to an event that included flying a kite. My grandson, Christopher, had a wonderful time, but I’m not too sure how much kite flying really went on.

Sometimes all a guy really needs is a little bit of help, right. So Dani stepped in to see if she could help him get his kite in the air. I don’t know if that helped or not, but the kids always had so much fun with Dani, that it didn’t matter. He was a kid floating on air, because he was outside, having the time of his life flying a kite. Running as fast as his little legs would carry him. Feeling the wind in his face…the freedom to run…to fly…at least to fly the kite. Christopher was like most boys. A good day was being outside playing and enjoying the sunshine, the warmth, and yes, even the wind, because when you’re a kid a windy day didn’t mean being grouchy because you hate the wind, it meant that today was a good day to go fly a kite.

I suppose that if Chris had been as tall then as he is now, he wouldn’t have had any trouble getting his kite in the air. It seems like the kite is bigger than he is, but he is giving it the old college try. He has always been that way. He hates to give up.  Of course, judging from the pictures, there wasn’t a lot of wind here that day…how did that happen anyway…and that didn’t help to get his kite in the air. The good news is that on a day like this, it doesn’t matter much. For a kid, going anywhere to play is a really good day, because what is flying a kite about anyway…playing, right! It’s about being a kid on a lazy summer day with nothing to do but go fly a kite.

For my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary, my sisters and I decided to send them on an Alaskan cruise. They had always wanted to go to Alaska, and we decided to make that happen for them in 2003, a decision we were glad we made, especially in light of my dad’s passing in 2007. We presented the gift to them at their 50th Anniversary Party, and they were…well stunned doesn’t totally describe it, but it will do. They were not sure they wanted to go on a cruise without at least some of us kids for company, but we convinced them that they would have a wonderful time, and so finally they agreed to go.

They made all their plans for the tours they would take while on the cruise, and we researched all the places they would want to go on their free time. They felt ready and very excited. It was the kind of adventure they had never really considered for themselves, but as the reality of it sank in, I’m sure they wondered why they hadn’t thought of it themselves. Life on a cruise ship, for anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to go, is amazing!! There is so much to do and see, tons of food to eat, and people to meet, and it’s already paid for, so you have very little financial things to think about.

That said, you would also have to know my mother to truly grasp the full meaning of the rest of my story. Mom can’t take a trip without bringing back some gift for her kids, and a trip like this one would mean souveniers for kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. It’s a good thing my dad always just let her have her way about this stuff…or maybe it came from years of fighting a losing battle, and finally giving up. On one of their stops, Ketchikan, I believe, they took the afternoon to go shopping for those souveniers. They had a great time strolling through the town, looking for novel items to bring back to their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.

It was getting late, and they really needed to head back to the boat, because as any experienced cruiser knows, the ship waits for no man…no matter what. The challenge my dad had was making my mom understand that the ship would not wait. She kept saying, “In a minute…just a minute…I’m almost done.” By the time Dad finally got Mom headed back to the ship, they had their hands full of bags, and their ship was the last one at the dock. And the worst part…they only had a few minutes to get there. It looked like it was going to be a lost cause as they walked as fast as they could to get to their ship…but a man operating a bike taxi cab came along and saved the day…bringing them to their ship with mere moments to spare, and avoiding an Alaskan Fiasco.

After his graduation from high school, my brother-in-law, Ron, decided to join the Army. His plan was pretty much to spend just the three years necessary to pay for his college education, but after he was honorably discharged and back home, the Persian Gulf War began in 1990, and he would be recalled into active service to fight over there for a time. It was a hard time for our family. The concern over his safety as a boots on the ground soldier, was very hard to take. You always hope you don’t have to send a loved one into war, but he served with honor and returned to us healthy and in one piece, so we were very thankful.

I remember when Ron was leaving, we had a get together to say good bye, and we took many pictures to keep him close to us in spirit, and tried to keep it light for Ron’s sake. One picture that I especially loved was of Ron with his 4 nieces…Uncle Ron’s Girls. He was not so many years older than my own daughters or nieces and nephew, that he totally felt like an uncle, but rather  like an older brother. We spent a lot of time out at their house when my girls, Corrie and Amy were little, so they were very close to their uncle, as were my nieces Machelle and Susan.

I suppose, that is why the girls all hated to see him leave so badly. They were, maybe, too young to fully grasp what it meant to be at war, but they understood what it meant to have their uncle move away. It was like tearing a part of their heart out. We all felt the same way, but everyone had to put on a brave face and a smile, because he had to go and there was nothing we could do to stop that.

It has been about 21 years since Ron first went away to war, and he is a successful mechanic, happily married to a wonderful girl, who we all love, with 3 children, a son-in-law, and a new grandson. We are very proud of his accomplishments and especially proud of his service to his country. As far as his “girls” are concerned…well, they still think the world of their uncle who still seems more like an older brother than an uncle, and they will always be Uncle Ron’s Girls.