Monthly Archives: December 2011

When I first went back to work after taking 13 years off to raise my girls up to the junior high level, I found that there were not many places who were willing to take a chance on me and my abilities. That said, I found myself working at a Burger King as the main day girl, mostly working the drive thru window from August, 1988 to April, 1989, when I was hired by our insurance agent and began my career in insurance. The time I spent working at Burger King, while less than fulfilling, because I was capable of so much more, was interesting and I very much enjoyed working with most of the people I worked with. I spent many hours saying, “Thanks for choosing Burger King. May I take your order, please?” It got to be a habit, and I have never forgotten that greeting, normal I’m sure, when you say the same things for so long.

My girls were in junior high when I worked at Burger King, and as we all know, junior high school girls attract junior high school boys. So began the years of phone calls from those boys to my girls. All that seems pretty normal, and it was, but after a long day at work, answering the phone was the last thing I wanted to do. Nevertheless, on this particular night, I answered the phone when it rang, and immediately fell into my normal routine…”Thanks for choosing Burger King…” At that point my mind completely blanked blanked on what should be said. I stumbled along with, “No…that’s not right…not Burger King…” Finally, I pulled out, “Hello.” After a moment of silence on the other end, a boy said, “…is Corrie there???” Yes, without a doubt, he thought I was crazy…and for a moment, maybe he was right.

That has happened to me several times, I’m sorry to say. I have answered my home phone as, “Farmer’s Insurance” or “The Stengel Agency” and I have even made calls to doctors for my parents, and told them I was “Caryn, with The Stengel Agency.” I guess, we get into a habit, at work of saying certain things when we answer the phone, and and after a while, our mind forgets that we aren’t at work. Whatever the reason, telephone faux pas can be pretty embarrassing for the person who momentarily forgets where they are, and pretty funny to the person on the other end of the line.

Being born 1 day apart and spending much of there early lives together, my grandson, Christopher and my granddaughter, Shai have always been close. I don’t say that they have never have those boy/girl germs type of days, but for the most part they were always good friends, as well as cousins. They were so much alike they were like peas in a pod.

Since my daughter, Amy took care of both her daughter, Shai and her nephew, Christopher, they were almost like twins. They played together daily, and even though they were boy and girl, they were close. They had a way of being a laugh a minute with all their antics. Of course, they could also get into their share of mischief too. And they kept Amy quite busy with all the little stunts they pulled. Everything from making a mess of the house, to picking on Shai’s little brother, Caalab. By the end of the day, Amy was the one who needed a nap.

It was always interesting when these two kids got together. They lways had some secret little plan to torment the younger boys, or sometimes the boys decided to torment Shai, so I guess the younger boys have exacted some revenge. But, whether it was playing clubhouse at grandma’s, or tattling on each other, there was never a dull moment.

Recently during our annual photo session for Christmas pictures, we allowed the kids some time to do the goofy picture things they had always wanted to do, Christopher and Shai decided to take a few moments to re-live some of those silly times and capture it all in pictures. The results were really quite good, I’m sure you will agree. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, I would have to agree. These pictures are funnier than words can say, but with this bunch you never know what to expect…except that it will be quite funny.

I have been reading some of my dad’s letters that were written to his family while he was in the Army Air Force during World War II. They were written from places as familiar to me as Salt Lake City and as unfamiliar as Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. He told of all the new experiences he was having, such as flying in the B-17 Bomber, and just checking out the area where he was stationed. And he told of attending church services quite often…something that didn’t change throughout his entire life, and for that I’m thankful. That one thing brings me so much peace of mind…knowing that I will see my dad again.

But, as I read his letters, there was some sadness in his tone. The life he knew was changing every day, and he was too far away, and powerless to stop it. He was always concerned about his mother and sister living so far out of town on the farm, and even asked his brother to rent them a house in town so life would be easier on them, but then when it seemed that they would not be going back to the farm, it was hard to think of coming home to an unfamiliar house. Then, his brother was thinking about getting married (which he didn’t do at that time or to that girl), and moving to Mexico to work for a time, and it looks like he would not be there for his only brother’s wedding. Suddenly it occurs to my dad that so often, life changes when you least expect it, and you find yourself not ready for those changes. I suppose this is a common feeling with military personnel, in that they have little say about where they are stationed, how long they are there, and when they might get leave.

Life changes are hard anyway, and I suppose that being thousands of miles from home would make them seem so much more unbelievable and unsettling. For me, knowing that my mom still lives in the home I grew up in gives a strong sense of stability, but knowing that my dad is no longer here, is very unsettling. In his letters, dad wondered about men he knew from back home, and asked about their whereabouts often. He was praying for their safety, as I am sure they were for his. I have wondered about those men too. So far, in my reading, he has received no answers about those men, so I wonder if he ever heard news of them. I may never find out.

I don’t like change much myself…at least not the kind that brings with it the sadness of loss. Whether it is loss of childhood days, or loss of life, all loss is painful. I know that the service our military men do for their country and its citizens is necessary, and those who serve are honorable men who deserve our deepest thanks, but I have to mourn with them the loss of parts of their lives that must be sacrificed so others can have the freedoms we so enjoy.

As for my dad, I know that the life he returned to after the war was vastly different than the one he left behind, and I feel a deep sorrow for him in that he must have felt that loss deeply. Dad never talked much about the war, and in fact any information we got had to be pried out of him. Maybe some memories are too painful to relive, and are best left alone. Still, Dad’s letters have shown me a side of my dad that I didn’t exactly know existed…or maybe I did. Dad was always a very caring man, who was extremely loyal to his family…be it his mother, dad, sisters and brother, or my mom, my sisters and me. I suppose that all of life’s changes mold us into the people we are, and so they must be.

When Amy was a little girl, she had a unique way of talking. Her pediatrician said she breathed her words. Basically that meant that drink of water became ink of ata. Most of us would just call it baby talk, and so it was. She has completely grown out of those cute little baby days, but I will never forget all the cute little things she used to say.

There was her Texan days. Instead of saying good night, Amy would say goo naaat. We used to get such a kick out of her funny little way of saying things. We called her our little Texan, which was funny in that she had never been to Texas, much less been there long enough to pick up any accent. And no one we knew had a Southern accent either. Just our Little Texan. There were quite a few of her words that came out with a Texas accent, in fact. In fact, just about any word that had an i turned into an a with Amy.

Her little accent carried over into other phrases too, like the time she told my sister, Alena that she had dot in her eye. Alena said, “You have a dot in your eye?” Amy said, “No!!! Dot!!!” Alena said, “Dot!!” And Amy said, “No!! Dot!!” Well they went on at an impasse for a while, as Alena tried desperately to figure out what Amy’s problem was. Finally in one of those forehead slapping moments, Alena said, “Ohhhhhh!! Dirt!! You have dirt in your eye!!” To which and exasperated Amy said, “Yeah, dot!!!” We have laughed and laughed about that one for years.

Lots of kids have funny little ways of talking baby talk, and in my opinion, they grow out of it all too soon. So many people try to move their kids out of those years into adult speech, because they are worried about the funny little way of talking being permanent. Those years just fly by, and once they are gone, you wish you had recorded the way they spoke, or at least, written down some of it, so you could remember it. Whether your little one breathed her words, or couldn’t quite get the r’s or s’s or maybe t’s, or maybe you were like us…you had a little Texan on your hands. It doesn’t matter, it’s just sooooo cute!

There are few things that touch your heart more than a person who is so selfless that they would give away a car to someone who needs it. Most of our family was in on what would have to be the best kept secret of the decade. Elizabeth had it on her heart to give her car to her mother, my sister Cheryl, as soon as she bought herself another car to replace the Grand Am she would be giving to Cheryl on Christmas morning.

About 2 weeks before Christmas, she found the Jeep she was looking for. Now the biggest problem was making sure no one spilled the beans, and that Cheryl didn’t know about Liz’s new Jeep. Everyone who was in on the secret did their part, and while it was hard, it went off without a hitch. Liz simply drove the Grand Am whenever she was to be around Cheryl, and we did our very best not to look like grinning idiots.

It was very hard. We were all so excited about this particular secret. I can’t think of a Christmas secret that could get us excited like this had managed to. I found myself walking around smiling every time I thought about the look that would be on my sister’s face this special Christmas morning. I think I was more excited for my sister than for any other part of Christmas.

Cheryl raised her kids as a single mom for most of their lives, and there were some tough times in those years. She did her very best, and a lot of times that meant giving up things you might need for yourself s the kids had what they needed. That fact never escaped Liz’s notice, and she wanted to do something as special for her mom. And Liz, I can say, without doubt…you succeeded.

Bob and I got the privilege of arriving at my mom’s house at the same time as Cheryl did…driving her new car. She was still in a state of stunned disbelief…like living in a dream. Her face was radiant…a reflection of the beautiful outpouring of love that Liz had bestowed on her that morning.

There is no way to thank someone enough for such a selfless gift, but Liz knows that she will be as blessed as Cheryl was because of this beautiful gift. Liz, you are a wonderful person. Your loving kindness brings a tear to many eyes today. Tears of joy at the blessing you have given your mom. It will never be forgotten.

Some people have the rare gift for always being uplifting to others. They are people who don’t see the greatness in themselves, because they are always looking for ways to help other people shine. They are kind of the wind beneath my wings kind of people. That describes my good friend Jim perfectly. He is the kind of person who empowers you to excel. You want to do the very best job you can when you work for Jim. He is always uplifting everyone else, while almost understating himself. Not that he fools anyone who really knows him, because all of his friends know what a great guy he is.

Jim is a loving man. He cares so deeply for his friends and family…especially his wife, Julie. His friends and family know without a doubt how much he cares about them. If you are blessed enough to be his friend, you will be treated like royalty every time you are around him. Jim’s biggest weakness is probably kids. He loves babies, especially his little grandson. In fact, babies can wrap him right around their little fingers. He is very soft hearted toward babies. When it comes to kids, Jim has a heart as big as all outdoors.

Jim is also probably one of the smartest men I know, and one I know I can go to for advise. He is thorough, always researching a matter before making a decision or giving advise…which is why you can always trust the advise he gives, even if you chose not to follow his advise. I especially like to talk politics with Jim. Not only do we agree on our political views, but he is an encyclopedia when it comes to politics…a fact that amazes me. Jim has information about candidates, and those already in office from not only Wyoming, but lots of other states too. I don’t know how he keeps all that information straight, but I guess it’s all in the way he is wired.

So why am I telling you all this about my boss and my friend? Well it is because today is his birthday. I know that not many people would write a blog about their boss, but then, not many people have such an amazing boss as I have. I just wanted all of my readers to know how blessed my daughter, granddaughter and I are to have a wonderful boss…like Jim!! He really is the wind beneath the wings of all his friends and family. Happy birthday Jim!! We love you!!

Most of our family lives here in Casper, so traveling over the holidays was never something we did very much. Living near family is something I have always loved and not having to travel over the holidays is something I will never regret. There was one certain Christmas that was…unusual, however. That Christmas week began with a storm and some very cold weather.

Our Christmas traditions meant going to my in-laws house on Christmas eve, since they opened presents on Christmas eve, and my family opened presents on Christmas day. That, along with our house first thing in the morning, made for a busy day with lots of stops…and it looked like the weather might be planning to severely hamper that. My in-laws lived out in the country on a dirt road that tended to become a lake after a rain storm, and get drifted if the snow was deep enough, or the wind blew much.

Such was that Christmas in the early 1980’s and we were going to have to figure out what to do about it, because our car was not going to make it down that dirt road that was drifted in. So, that Christmas was going to be one for breaking with some of our traditions. We packed up the girls, their gifts from under our tree, and the food we would bring to my in-laws house, along with our pajamas, because we would be spending the night at their house.

We went as far as we could, which was where the blacktop ended, and they met us with their 4 wheel drive Bronco. We couldn’t make it in on the road, so we would be going cross country. We got in with no problems, and for once we opened all of our Christmas gifts on Christmas eve, like my in-laws do. We had a wonderful and cozy evening at their house, and then the next morning my father-in-law took us back to our car so we could get back to town for Christmas morning at my parents house.

The roads into town were not the best, in fact, we thought for a while that we might be snowed in at my in-laws house, but the snow had let up over night, and we made it in. It was an unusual Christmas for us, but it turned out well. I guess that when you persevere, you can make a great Christmas, even if it means a break from tradition, and even if a Christmas storm threatens to ruin all your plans.

In our family, as in lots of others I’m sure, when Christmas rolls around and the kids are all excited about presents, the chance to open a present early is a big deal. My sisters and I were no different. We wanted to open a present on Christmas Eve every year, and since my parents were just about as excited as we were, we always go to. There was, however, an ulterior motive for opening one gift early. You see there would be pictures taken on Christmas morning…and it was going to happen before anyone got dressed for the day, so the logical Christmas Eve gift was, of course…pajamas.

Every year we knew what was in the package before we opened it, but we were excited nevertheless. It was always so great getting new pajamas…that soft, new feeling. And even though we knew what the gift was, we didn’t know what they would look like. They might have been a night gown, or a top and pants, Baby-doll pajamas, or T-Shirt pajamas, it didn’t really matter. They were new and we always loved them.

When my girls came along, Bob and I continued the tradition. They always loved their new pajamas, and sometimes they were really special, because their grandma made them for the girls and their cousins. Really, what could be more cozy than being all snuggley and warm in a pair of flannel pajamas in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter night. Those were special days. The presents were all wrapped and the kids waited…impatiently for morning to arrive. The very air was filled with electricity.

It was always so hard to wait for Christmas morning to arrive, and even today I find it difficult. Watching my kids, and now my grandkids opening the gifts that I have searched high and low for, is so gratifying. And when you have found the totally awesome gift the anticipation makes it even harder to wait. So here we are…Christmas eve has arrived, and while I don’t give pajamas anymore, there will be a gift opened tonight, because it is tradition, and with each tradition comes the memories it creates, past, present, and future. Who knew way back then what those Christmas pajamas would start.

My Uncle Larry went home to be with the Lord yesterday. His passing was quick and unexpected and we are very saddened by it. We will all miss him greatly. Uncle Larry was my mom’s older brother and someone she looked up to as a child. They, along with mom’s younger brother, my Uncle Wayne, were…shall we say, partners in crime…or at least the mischief that the three of them could manage to get into together. Mom tells me of the time that Uncle Larry was in big trouble with my grandma, and she was giving him a good spanking for his wrong doing. My mom decided to step up and defend the brother she thought could do no wrong. So she began chewing her mom out for the horrible injustice that Grandma was inflicting on her brother, Larry. It was a decision that would get my mom a spanking too, and one she would not repeat. I’m quite certain that Grandma and Uncle Larry are laughing about that in Heaven, right now.

Uncle Larry loved a good joke and told a great many. He also liked to tease people and make them laugh. His had an infectious laugh, and he used it to bring joy and laughter to many people.  But he also had a soft side to him. Once when my Aunt Delores said that she liked a set of dishes, he made a promise to her that when he could get the money together, he was going to buy her those dishes. I don’t know if he ever bought her those dishes, but he sure wanted to. It was just the way he was. Loving and giving.

Another time, Uncle Larry, Uncle Wayne and my mom were at the store, when my mom saw a set of salt and pepper shakers she liked. She has always liked salt and pepper shakers, and in fact, has a collection of them. At that time, she was a young girl, and she didn’t have the money for the salt and pepper shakers, so when she wasn’t looking, her brothers put their money together and bought that set for my mom. It was such a sweet thing for them to have done, and it touched my mom deeply.

Uncle Larry always tried to help people, but even he had to draw the line somewhere. When my mom was learning to drive, she had gone through several people as teachers. No one wanted to teach her after a time, because she just couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around how the gears worked…something many people have trouble with. So her brother Larry decided to give it a shot. They ended up in the middle of the street with the car jerking along, and the cars around them honking their horns and trying to get around them. I’m sure it was a comical site to those around it, but it made Uncle Larry very nervous. He kept trying to get her to do the proper procedure. Finally in desperation, he couldn’t take any more. He told my mom to switch places with him…he would drive. I don’t think he ever gave her another lesson.

Uncle Larry was a son, brother, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, and great grandfather. He meant so much to so many people, and I can’t help but feel that a good many people are going to miss him very much. We will see you again someday. We love you very much. You were a blessing to all who knew you. We love you Uncle Larry.

The closer we get to Christmas, the more my mind begins to reflect on the Christmases of my childhood…My Christmas Past. In those early years, an artificial tree was unheard of. We would go to the tree lots and get a tree, usually shortly after Thanksgiving. Dad would bring the tree in and decide how much would need to be trimmed off. Then he would begin to cut on the trunk of the tree. The smell of pine was everywhere.

Once the tree was set, the decorating would begin. We would sing Christmas carols as we decorated the tree, and we would have candy and hot chocolate or some other treats to munch on while we worked. Soon the tree was finished and the house was filled with festive, twinkling lights. I couldn’t wait for evening to come each day, so the tree lights could be turned on again. It was my favorite time of year.

It was the time of year for buying gifts for my sisters and my parents, hopefully without disclosing what I bought. A time to try our best to keep the secrets for the days and weeks until Christmas finally arrived. Gifts were hidden around the house or better yet wrapped right away so they could not be found, but that brought it’s own set of problems. As kids, it is so hard not to peek. We would shake and squeeze our packages hoping to be able to figure out what we were getting, and stopping short of opening the packages and re-wrapping them…mostly because I would be sure to be caught.

Probably the most fun we had, however, was the shopping for our parents. As kids, we didn’t really have a lot of money, so the gifts we could get for our parents were usually small or even homemade, but as we got older, we schemed, scrimped, and saved so that we could buy them the kind of gift that would really knock their socks off. Those gifts brought the best memories. And there were a few times that our gifts were so surprising to them that it almost brought tears to their eyes…and usually did with my mom.

My Dad has been in Heaven now for the last 4 Christmases…this will be the 5th, and at times, I find myself…less than enthusiastic about the coming holiday. I miss him so much, but I know that he would want me to be excited about the holiday that he loved so much. So I’ll soon be ready, and the day will be great, but I think I’ll always wish we could, maybe just for a little while, relive…My Christmas Past.