Monthly Archives: December 2011

When our nephew, Barry was a little boy, he decided that he didn’t really like having his birthday on December 11th, because it was so close to Christmas. Many people with December birthdays feel the same way. It always seems like their birthday gets lost in all of the Christmas hustle and bustle, and they end up feeling gypped.

I’m not sure if it was in protest, or what exactly, but at some point, Barry decided to change things up a bit. Obviously your birthday is when it is, and you can’t change that fact, but Barry decided to forgo the gift part of it until his un-birthday came around. The date he chose for his un-birthday, was of course, June 11th, because that put it exactly 6 months later. His mom, my sister-in-law, Jennifer always said that the perfect birthday was June 25th, because it was exactly 6 months from Christmas, giving the person who had that perfect birthday, gifts exactly 6 months apart. Barry thought that was a pretty good idea, but his birthday just didn’t cooperate, so he settled for the un-birthday of Jun 11th.

I always thought that was such a funny idea, but very clever. I don’t think I would like having my birthday that close to Christmas, because I can see where it could be problematic for the birthday person. Still, I don’t know if I would have ever considered that it could be celebrated at a different time. Barry was definitely using his head when he came up with that idea…unless he had a little help from his mom, my sister-in-law, Jennifer, and that is entirely possible.

I don’t know if Barry still celebrates his birthday in June, but since today is his real birthday, I just want to say happy birthday Barry!! You have grown into a very special person, and we are very proud of you. And if you do still celebrate your birthday in June, I’ll try very hard to remember to wish you a happy un-birthday then.

It is a comment most of us have either heard as children or said to our kids or grandkids…or both. “I’m going to throw you in the snowbank!” It was a comment that usually set the child on the receiving end to laughing, and maybe wondering if you would really do it, or if you were just kidding. The funny thing about it is that it was something that seldom really happened, and to be honest, I have often wondered why.

It is such a funny thing to think about…a big guy, usually the dad or grandpa, or uncle as had been the case in this scene, would pick up a kid, carry him out side, and deposit him in the snowbank. The kid comes up sputtering as they wipe the snow off of their face and try to get it out of their clothes, as it melts and runs down their skin causing that shocked feeling that can only happen when cold snow hits warm skin. Their shouts of shock and…well, stunned disbelief at just how cold it was. I think in this case, however Caalab actually liked it, and I know Josh got a big kick out if it.

Most kids love playing in the snow…throwing snowballs and building forts…building snowmen, and yes, being thrown in the snowbank. It is what makes wintertime so much fun for kids, who don’t even seem to notice the cold. They have a built in heating system it seems. I remember those days myself, and I look back now and wonder why the cold didn’t bother me very much. I suppose it all comes down to the amount of fun you are having in the snow, and kids can sure find a lot of ways to do just that.

It is the wonder and pleasure of playing that we seem to lose as adults, that they still have, that makes playing in the snow so fun. My granddaughter, Shai is like that. She loves the snow and wants it to snow every day from October through March. I have started to try to see the snow through her beautiful eyes, and I have learned that whether you are playing in the snow, building a snowman, or just enjoying the peace and quiet of a snowy night, there is a beauty and wonder that is attached to the snow, if you just take a moment to look around and see it. I have often thought about the phrase, “stop and smell the roses”, but maybe we should also stop and look at the snowflakes…at least once in a while.

I am not a Winter person, which is odd since I live in Wyoming, because we definitely get Winter. Still, there are times when I feel differently about it. Normally, the cold and, in Wyoming, the wind annoy me, as does the ice on the roads, but every once in a while, there is a night…or even just a few minutes that I feel…peaceful in the snow.

Life these days is so hectic, and there is seldom a moment to slow down, much less look around for beauty in the night air, so when there is a rare moment of peace and quiet, you want to savor it for as long as you can, before the rest of your hectic life catches up with the present time and you must return to normalcy…or maybe it is chaos.

I’m talking about that moment when you step outside, and it is so very quiet. Even though I live in a city, and quiet moments are rare, it was a moment with no cars going by. It took me by surprise. I just stepped outside, and stopped…because it was so very quiet. Everything was so very still that it felt like…a whisper. It’s hard for me to clearly describe that moment. It was so peaceful…so beautiful. It was the kind of moment when it felt, almost criminal to speak, because that kind of silence should not be broken. It was a gift, a precious moment of quiet, peaceful beauty…and it seemed to be here just for me, because no one else was around to notice or to care.

The sky was white and cold looking and the trees were perfectly still. The air was so still that it almost felt like it was frozen solid, and hanging there…suspended above the Earth. The night was so beautiful that it took my breath away. The moon peeked through the clouds and cast a soft light on the Earth below it. Along the street there were Christmas light twinkling, bringing the reminder of the wonderful season we are in. But, the amazing thing was that no one disturbed the silence, because no one was outside in the area but me.

In my hectic life, this particular moment felt totally foreign to me, and I couldn’t help but smile, because the whole scene was like stepping into a Christmas card. Perfect in every way. All too often we rush here and there trying to get all of our obligations done, and because there are so many other people out there doing the same thing, we all miss God’s beauty, that was given to us. While there is not much that can be done to slow our hectic lives, I feel very blessed to have been given just a moment that made me stop in awe and wonder at the peaceful scene around me.

Today is my niece Jessi’s 27th birthday, and while she is all grown up now, and a pleasure to be around, her birthday brings to mind an incident that happened when she was a very little girl. As you know, when children are little, their world pretty much revolves around the adults around them…especially before siblings begin to come on the scene. Jessi was the oldest of my sister, Allyn and her husband, Chris’ 4 children. The did not live near family at that time, and so she wasn’t even around cousins.

The terrible twos soon arrived, and while she had a brother, Ryan by that time, he was too little to cause much trouble. As you all know the terrible twos is a rough time in any parent’s life. The days are often filled with all the little no nos and hand slaps, as a child is trained on what is and is not allowed. This is not a pleasant time for anyone, and most parents find themselves looking forward to the future, while wondering why no one told them about all this before they had a second child.

Sometimes, after so much negative reinforcement, a little joking around with your child can make those difficult moments a little lighter. Allyn always had a way of joking around with her kids that was different from what most parents would do. She would call them cute little nicknames, like Squirrel, which was the endearing term she would give her daughter, Lindsay later on in life. She would also make up little songs and funny sayings to lighten the mood. One thing she always said to her little Jessi when she would try to usurp her authority is, “I’m the mom!!” To which Jessi would answer, “No, I’n da mom!!” As this little argument proceeded, my sister said, pointing at Jessi, “Don’t you ever say I’m the mom!!” Laughing, of course. At that point, little Jessi came right back…pointing her little finger high above her head at her mom and said, “Don’t you EBBER!!”

Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, the argument was over, as my sister dissolved into giggles and laughter. Jessi has grown into a wonderful young lady, who is always a joy, but still very much a jokester! Happy birthday Jessi!! I love you very much…but don’t you EBBER!!

Siara and Lacey have been friends almost since birth. They always seemed like two of a kind. Where you found one you found the other. It isn’t often that cousins get along as well as these two girls do. Family gatherings would find them tucked in a quiet little corner sharing little secrets that only they were allowed to know. They would chatter on for hours, never running out of things to say.

Lacey is almost a year older than Siara, but that never mattered to them either. So often, when kids are a year or more apart, there is constant vying for superiority…especially between cousins, but not so with Lacey and Siara. That always amazed me. Most of the other cousins fought at least off and on, but not those two little girls. They giggled and talked, played and…well, just about anything but fight.

Every weekend that they could they would spend the night with each other. Taking turns between their own houses, and their grandparents houses. It didn’t really matter, because the only indication that the girls were in the house was the occasional giggling that could be heard from their vicinity. They would talk half the night, and then be next to impossible to wake up. It got to the point where you didn’t expect to see one without the other. I wonder if their mom’s thought they had adopted another daughter, and they might as well have.

As the years went by, nothing changed between the two cousins. They were together at school, and at play. Their interests were largely the same. Probably the only real differences were the fact that Lacey was a little more shy and quiet, and Siara developed a love of cheer leading. And that is a bit of a difference, I guess. From the quiet to the yelling!! Still the differences didn’t matter to them. Lacey graduated from high school last year, and Siara will graduate this year. I think that no matter where life takes them, there will always be a closeness between them…for they are more than cousins, they are friends.

Growing up on ranches and around horses, my mother-in-law felt very at home on the back of a horse. She loved them, and really still does today. Western shows are her favorite shows, other than game shows and of course, the rodeo. In her mind, the drama of a cop show, or the laughs of a comedy, can’t even begin to measure up.

For me, it is very hard to imagine her in that type of life. I have been her daughter-in-law for almost 37 years now. That was all after the years that she had and rode horses. She was a skilled seamstress, could knit and crochet with the skill of a professional.  She supplemented the family income with the clothing she made and the sewing repairs she did. She also grew a garden and canned vegetables. That is the person I knew as my mother-in-law for many years. She was a capable homemaker and mother.

So much has changed since those years. Alzheimer’s Disease has take most of what she once was. These days, the knitting needles lay quietly in a box somewhere, as do the crochet hooks. They have moved to town now, so there is no more garden or canning, and she would not remember how to do those things anyway. She often talks about sewing on a button or making a shirt, but I’m sure she would not remember how to do those things anymore. She doesn’t remember how to drive, and would not know where to go if she did try to drive.

So much confuses her these days. She remembers her family on most days, but thinks that my grown daughters, who have both been married for more than 16 years and have teenaged children, should still be in high school. In fact, all of her grandchildren should be too young to be married, although most of them are married and have been for some time.

Age changes us all, but when Alzheimer’s Disease comes into the picture, the changes are so cruel. The person knows things aren’t right, but they are powerless to change the situation. It scares them sometimes, because they suddenly don’t know where they are…and they are in their own house. They don’t feel safe going places, because they no longer know where they are going, and as time goes on, they aren’t sure who is taking them, and it is their own family. Yes, everyone changes as they age, but for some people, it can be traumatic. Alzheimer’s Disease is an ugly thief…it steals it’s victims mind and eventually every other part of their body. I hope someday they will find a cure.

When Christopher and Shai were born, just one day apart, many people thought they were twins…at least those who didn’t know they were cousins. I suppose part of the problem is that they were together much of the time, and people just see two car seats in the back seat, with two babies about the same age, an immediately assume that they are twins. Amy’s mother-in-law thought they were both so cute together, that she bought them a matching set of boy and girl outfits, and asked that we take some pictures with them in the outfits. We made arrangements to have the pictures taken, and did our best to take the picture she wanted. However…the best laid plans do not always produce the best results.

Christopher was always quick to smile, but Shai was a little more…jumpy in those early years. We tried over and over to get both of the kids to smile at the same time, but as is normal with kids, that just didn’t happen. The kids were about six months old, and as we all know, it can be tough to get two 6 month old babies to be happy at the same time. Still, we persevered and took whatever possible shots we could. I can’t say that the picture taking process was a very successful endeavor, but the end result was better than we thought it would be.

The best picture we could get is the one you see, and while Shai is being fussy, the picture has a charm all its own. We have always wondered what the problem was, and many have speculated about it. But, I think by far the cutest one was the idea that Christopher is smiling in that mischievous way because he just pinched Shai, which would also explain her face. I’m sure that at 6 months of age, any pinching that might have happened would be entirely by accident, but the look on their faces is just so classic, that we couldn’t help but think it could have happened just that way…or maybe Shai was just having a bad day. We will never really know what the problem was, but the picture is so precious, no matter what was going on.

There is just something about your grandpa when you are little. His big strong arms that can easily hold you and your cousin, so nobody is left out. Grandma’s arms are great…a wonderful place to go when you have an owie or just need a hug…you know, that cuddly, comfort place, but Grandpa’s arms are strong and protective. He can pick you up and make you feel big and tall. My grandkids loved it when Papa picked them up together when they were little. They thought it was kind of funny that he could do that.

Papa was real good at teasing, tickling, and chasing. He was also perfect for horsey rides on his foot or his back, and piggy back rides too. An he could lift those kids up on his shoulders so they could see, or lift them up to touch the ceiling. All things that their dads could do too, but somehow it was a little different when it was Papa. It’s funny how everything is different when it’s with your grandparents. Even when the kids are little, they know that grandparents are special.

When the kids started spending the night, Papa was, and still is, the best alarm clock out there. If those kids didn’t want to wake up when it is time to go to breakfast…he would make that happen. He might tickle their feet, threaten to leave them home without breakfast…and that is a threat, because they love going out to breakfast. Usually it only takes a couple of tries and the final…”Ok, we will go without you!!” to get them moving.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and as the boys get older, they are more able to handle their Papa. While they may not be able to completely take him yet, the day is coming. Of course, they love him, so I’m sure they will take it easy on the old man…maybe, but either way, when they can finally take him, I’m quite sure they will rub it in really well. I guess you could say he is blessed to have a granddaughter too, because those girls have a very different way of handling their Papa…she will simply sweet talk him, just like her mom and aunt do. Girls are different in that way. They don’t have to vie for superiority with their dads or grandpas, they just have to smile.

My grandfather used to build dams in his younger days. He worked on Kortez Dam, Alcova Dam, and Pathfinder Dam. On many of these jobs, he was a supervisor, but that did not mean that my grandfather was afraid to get in there and work with the men. He hated to make the men work overtime. He felt like after a long day, his men needed to be home with their families.

Another thing my grandfather felt strongly about was not procratinating. He felt like the work needed to be done at work and on time. Still, he understood that not every job can be finished in one day. One particular day, after sending his men home for the day, grandpa was walking past the area where the men had been working. It was a ditch and there was so little left to do on it. So Grandpa made a split second decision, grabbed a shovel, and went to work to finish the ditch. He was working alone…something you really were not supposed to do, when his supervisor came along. He was checking the site one last time before he left for the day.

My grandfather didn’t know his supervisor was there, but it was a good thing that he was. I’m sure they were both horrified at the thought of what might have happened had the supervisor not been there. As he walked up on the ditch, he noticed that the sides of the ditch were giving way. He immediately yelled, “Jump George!!” My grandfather did as he was told, and the dirt collapsed around him, but his face was not covered, because he had followed orders.

In today’s world, so many people challenge orders. People don’t like being ordered around, especially an order like that, but my grandfather had been in the service…where orders were given and followed, immediately and without question. My grandfather jumped as ordered, and it saved his life. I’m sure the rule against working in a ditch alone took on a whole new meaning for my grandfather, who just wanted to put the men a little ahead of schedule the next day. And I’m sure he never did that again. Just as I am sure he was very grateful to the man who saved his life…as am I.

My dad always liked exploring. I guess I get that trait from him, because I do too. He loved to see what was around the next corner, or over the next mountain. He loved to travel, and wanted to share that love with his family. As a result of his need to wander some, we enjoyed a rich and unique view of the country we live in. Dad’s curiosity and imagination made every vacation an adventure. When we were in grade school, and the teacher said to write a story telling about our summer vacation, we had plenty to say. We had been so many places. It was something we took for granted really. It never occurred to us that our friends didn’t go places too. Looking back now, I can see just how blessed we were.

I have been told that my dad’s family all liked to wander a bit. His dad worked on the railroad. Like many people who work on the railroad, part of the draw is seeing the country. I can understand that, because that is a part of me too. I love to see new places, especially on foot. Hiking in the back country where you can be walking along in the trees one minute and then suddenly there is a river with a beautiful waterfall that most people don’t even know exists…well, the feeling is exhilarating.

Dad loved to follow historical markers and trails. It was something that filled the explorer need in him. I think Dad was a bit of a history buff, as am I. It is very cool to research the past and learn about things that happened so long ago, and yet not so long ago. When you look back in time, is a hundred years really that long? It’s basically one lifetime. To see how people lived just a hundred years ago. So many things change in a hundred years. It makes you realize what you have and how very blessed you are.

This is the kind of legacy my dad passed on to his kids. He had an interest in the outdoors and the history of our great country. These were things we got to learn about. As kids we may not have had a real appreciation of the history, but those lessons he taught us have never gone away, and when we were older, there was an appreciation that grew out of the seeds he planted. The grew into a love of history, at least they did for me, and now when I read about the past, I can picture some of the places the events took place, because I have been there, and almost feel like I’m an explorer too.

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