Monthly Archives: January 2012

When two brothers and their sister live way out in the country with their mom, and their dad is away on the railroad a lot, they have to find things to do to entertain themselves. I have talked to to my dad and my Uncle Bill about their antics with dynamite on the 4th of July and riding trains to school, and fixing the gatepost before their mom got home…another result of dynamite mixing with boys. And I know that my Aunt Ruth loved all animals…especially horses. But how did they feel about each other, and their older sister. I’ve often wondered that, since we didn’t get to see my aunts and uncle very often.

I think there was a very close bond between those three younger children of my grandparents. Their older sister, my Aunt Laura was 10 years older than her little brother, Bill, 12 years older than my dad, and 13 1/2 years older than my Aunt Ruth. Aunt Laura was in many ways a second mother to the younger three children. She was old enough to help with them when they were babies, and babysit them when they were older…not that she was totally able to keep them out of trouble. And by the time they were grown up, my Aunt Laura was married and raising her own family.

Still, I think that the Spencer children were very close. And I think the younger three, at least, shared a love of animals. My dad always loved dogs, and of course, dogs and farms just seem to go together as do dogs and kids, but I think few people loved dogs as much as my Aunt Ruth, unless it is my grandson, Caalab, who seems to have a lot of likes in common with my Aunt Ruth…not so unusual in that I am also a lot like my Aunt Ruth. Horses and farm kids also go together. They are transportation, before they are old enough to drive, and a lot cheaper than a car to run. Plus, there are things you just can’t do very easily with a car, like standing up on it’s hind legs. Yes, I think they had some great times back then.

Those days are long gone now, and my Uncle Bill is the only one left. The years took each of the Spencer kids in different directions, and different places around the country. My Uncle, who was the first real adventurer in the family, ended up back in Superior, Wisconsin, where they all grew up. My Aunt Laura would live several places, but finally settled in Portland, Oregon. Like her older sister, my Aunt Ruth also lived several places, but finally ended up in Newport, Washington. My dad moved around some, until he met my mom and then it was 5 years in Superior, and the rest of his life in Casper, Wyoming. I think that like most siblings, there were times they disagreed, but I do not believe there was ever a time when they didn’t love each other. And, while the years and the miles separated the Spencer kids, they still loved each other very much and spoke through the years, even if they didn’t get to see each other much.

Years ago, most people sewed their own clothes, if they knew how. Store bought clothes were not a common item. Times were just different then. My mother-in-law grew up in those days. Most women didn’t have a job outside the home either. They took care of the home and children. Still, there were ways that the women could help with finances through the generations.

Back in the old west many women raised chickens, and gathered and sold the eggs. Often this was to pay for things that were needed at the store. Of course, my mother-in-law didn’t live in the old west. She was raised on a sheep ranch, and having married my father-in-law, who worked on a cattle ranch, there wasn’t much chance of being able to raise chickens or gather eggs, but my mother-in-law wanted to help out, and one thing she could do was sew.

She had known the Cross family, which is the ranch my father-in-law was working on, for some time. They hired her to make ten matching western shirts for the men in the family. The shirts were to be for the dad and nine sons. As you can see, the shirts turned out quite nicely, and that was the beginning of a long career of sewing shirts and other items of clothing, as well as knitting and crocheting items for many families in both Montana and Wyoming. During those early years, she would make over 100 shirts for her many clients.

The items of clothing my mother-in-law sewed were of a quality that could easily rival anything you could buy in a store. She even sewed clothes for my Aunt Bonnie’s future husband’s mom…before they ever met, and of course, many years before I met Bob. Many people reaped the benefits of my mother-in-law’s capabilities over the years. She made her daughter, Debbie’s wedding dress, as well as the Maid of Honor dress that I wore in the wedding. She crocheted dishcloths and afghans. She made afghans for each of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She knitted sweaters, hats, and sweater jackets that could keep out the cold better than many coats.

Those days are long gone now, as Alzheimer’s Disease has taken away the ability to do those things. She still talks of doing those things now and then, mostly because she thinks she still does them, but that is just the thoughts of a mind that doesn’t realize that it no longer remembers how to sew, knit, or crochet anymore. Still, many people remember those days when she was truly a great seamstress.

I have known my brother-in-law since he was six years old. He was such a cute little boy, and he absolutely adored his big brother. Bob and Ron were the only boys in the family, and I guess to a degree that meant sticking together…especially with 4 sisters in the family. Ron is 14 years younger than Bob, so anything that Bob did was cool as far as Ron was concerned, right from the very start. Maybe that is why Ron thought I was ok too, when I came along. Of course, I don’t suppose it hurt anything that he got to go along on dates…or at least the ice cream ones.

When Bob and I got married, Ron was seven. He was excited about it, because by then, he and I had become good friends. In fact, I became a goal of sorts to Ron. Now, I know that sounds odd, but the goal was to get as tall as I was. For those of you who know me…well, you know that tall is not a word that could be used to describe me. At 5’2″ tall, it doesn’t take long for a boy to pass me in height. Nevertheless, that was Ron’s big goal.

Every time we went out to my in-law’s house, Ron wanted to measure to see if he was as tall as I was yet. I can’t tell you how many times we measured over the years, but I can tell you that it was a lot. I always humored him, telling him that he was getting up there. And he always loved it when the measurement showed that he had gained some height. He just knew that he would get there the next time.

As the years went by, Ron began to realize that this goal of his was going to take some time. It was at that time that he began to measure less, but still he didn’t quit. The measurements were more like every month or so. And as the months went by, I could see the writing on the wall. Very soon Ron’s goal would be met, and he would find out very quickly that 5’2″ wasn’t something to write home about.

Finally, that big day arrived. Ron measured, and found out that he was indeed as tall as me. I will never forget the look on his face. When he measured that day, and Ron finally discovered that he was as tall as I was, his face lit up with excitement. He had achieved a new level of manhood. Then, he looked at the rest of the adults in the room…most of whom were still taller than he was, and his expression changed. His face took on a look of disappointed surprise…it finally hit him. After all those long years of waiting and working to be as tall as I was really meant nothing at all, because it finally became very clear to Ron that 5’2″ is…well, short!!

Once in a while, you find yourself in a situation that requires you to be someone’s hero. That is the situation my son-in-law, Kevin and my daughter, Corrie found themselves in yesterday evening. Coming home from work, at about 5:15 pm, Kevin saw a little girl walking up and down their street, crying and obviously freezing. The temperature was about was about 20 degrees at that time. As Kevin got out of his pickup, the little girl let out a scream of frustration, fear, and cold. Kevin turned around to see what was going on, but was concerned that the little girl would not come to him. He went in the house and got Corrie, telling her that he thought the little girl might be lost or hurt.

When Corrie stepped outside, the little girl turned and started to walk away…obviously afraid. Then, after taking about 4 steps, and knowing that she was in a lot of trouble, and could die without help, she turned back around and started toward Corrie. Corrie asked her if she was lost, and she said that she was. Then, she hugged Corrie with such deep gratitude that it almost brought tears to Corrie’s eyes. Corrie said, “Oh my gosh, you are so cold!!” She shivered and said, “C-c-c-cold!” Corrie asked her if she knew her address or phone number. The answers were no to both questions. She is in Kindergarten.

Corrie asked to look in her backpack to see if there might be any information in it. She found a hat, mittens, a small notebook, and a juice box. The little girl’s coat was on but unzipped. She told her to come into her house so she could get warm and they would find her parents. She asked her how she got to where they found her. She said she rode a bus and some kids usually walked her home, but they weren’t on the bus yesterday. She thought she could make it home alone, but got lost. She had walked about 4 blocks from the bus stop, but who knew how long she had wandered around during the hour and fifteen minutes before they found her.

The little girl knew the bus number, so Corrie called the bus garage, and said, “I don’t know if you can help me or not, but I have a little girl at my house who got lost walking home from the bus stop.” The person answering the phone immediately said, “Is her name…?” Corrie asked the little girl and confirmed that she indeed had the right little girl. They told Corrie that her parents don’t speak English, and they had been calling the bus garage, frantically trying to find their little girl…their only child. They were certain their worst nightmare had happened to their little girl. The bus garage dispatched a bus to pick up the little girl, now warm from being in Corrie and Kevin’s house, wrapped in a blanket, and snuggled up with the family cat.

What do you do after an evening like that. Your adrenaline has been pumping like crazy. You have found yourself on the helping end of a parent’s worst nightmare. You were the hero. You saved the day, and more importantly the little girl. You got her safely back home to her terrified parents. What does a hero do after something like that…well, if you are Corrie and Kevin, you don’t shout it from the rooftops. You wouldn’t have even told your mom if she hadn’t called at the moment you were on the phone to the bus garage. No, if you are Corrie and Kevin…you simply go to Walmart to buy groceries.

My husband, Bob has a habit of sweeping the snow into a pile in the street in front of where we park our cars. It is a really nice thing to do, because it means I don’t have to wade through the snow to get into the house. It also creates a large pile of snow beside the curb in front of our cars…especially when it snows a lot.

My grandkids have been known to get silly around snow drifts…natural or man made. Throwing each other in the snow, or throwing themselves in, are common occurrences. But then these things are not unusual for kids and snow. And of course, the kids aren’t the only ones involved in the snow day fun. Their dads love to be the ones to throw those kids in the snow…and the funny thing is that the kids are begging their dads to throw them in the snow drift.

The other day as Bob and I were going out to our car, he pointed to the pile of snow and said that some kids had walked right through the middle of it. He seemed irritated about it, but it struck me as something totally different. Why is it that kids will leave a completely clear sidewalk to go traipsing through the snow? It doesn’t matter that they don’t have snow boots on, they do it anyway. There is just something about that pile of snow sitting there that calls out to them, just like rain water running down the gutter…they can’t resist.

As we got in our car, and started to drive away, I could picture several little kids walking along, and then they see the pile of snow. With one accord, the kids head for the pile of snow. Maybe they just want to be king of the hill. Or maybe they wanted to see if they would sink. I could see me as a little kid doing the exact same thing. I didn’t care, back then, if my clothes were soaked from playing in the snow. Clothes will dry, after all, and what kid worries about catching a cold, or dripping on their mother’s carpet. Those are matters to be worried about after they happen. Mom loves you anyway, and she will only be mad for a while, and catching a cold meant that you got to stay home from school…a prospect that almost made being sick worth it…provided you didn’t feel too ill to enjoy the stolen day off, and that it didn’t drag into the weekend.

Yep, there is just something about a pile of snow, natural or man made that calls out to you. “Come and play. That’s why I’m here, you know.” What kid can resist?

When you are caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you need all the help you can get. Because of the necessity for extreme hands on care, one person simply cannot do it alone. Our family understands that all too well. It takes a village as my sister, Alena would say to take care of any ill family member, but all too often it is hard to put that village together. This last year, the village involved in caring for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, grew by one very important member. My mother-in-law’s sister, Margee retired from her job and offered to help when we needed to leave my mother-in-law home for any reason. Margee sits with my mother-in-law when I need to take my father-in-law to the doctor or if he needs time to get away for a little bit. And when he was in the hospital for a few days recently, Margee played a major role in her sister’s care. We would have been in a very serious situation without her help.

Margee is no stranger to stepping up when she is needed. Her own daughter-in-law died a little over 13 years ago, leaving behind a grieving husband, Margee’s son Dan and two small children, Zech and Stasi, who needed care. Margee stepped up and cared for them all. It was a terribly sad time in their lives. Margee was virtually alone for parts of it, while Dan worked in another state. The kids are almost grown up now, and Dan is working back here in Casper, but they still need each other very much.

Caregiving or helping to raise one’s grandchildren, can be very challenging, and it takes a special kind of person to do it. Margee has been such a blessing to us. As my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, I don’t know how we could manage the needs of both her and my father-in-law, who has Emphysema, if we didn’t have Margee’s help. She is free during the day, when the doctors appointments are, and she doesn’t mind helping out. I know my mother-in-law enjoys the time with her sister too, though she doesn’t remember the visits once they are over. Still, we know, and we remind my mother-in-law…and we appreciate it very much.

Today is Margee’s birthday. I want to thank her for her dedicated service to her sister and brother-in-law at a time in their lives when they truly needed her help. That is love. I don’t know what we would have done without Margee…and I can’t say enough about how wonderful she has been. Thank you Margee for all you do and who you are. You mean so much to all of us. Happy birthday!! We love you!!

When Corrie was just a little over a year old, and Amy was just 3 months old, we took a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit Bob’s great grandmother. His great grandparents had come to Casper for a visit just 3 months earlier, and shortly after returning home, Great Grandpa passed away. He was 93 years old, and fell off a ladder while doing some repairs to the home they lived in and broke his hip. He lived an amazing life, as you can see.

When we went to visit Great Grandma, Corrie was just learning to walk. Grandma had a little chair with short legs, just the right size for a little girl. Corrie loved that chair so much. She sat on it a lot during the time that we were there. So much so, in fact, that Great Grandma decided to give the chair to Corrie, after telling us about it’s history. The chair had belonged to her sister, and she had given it to Grandma. At the time that she gave the chair to Corrie, it was over 100 years old. That was in 1976. So that chair today is over 135 years old.

Throughout the years that chair has been a part of our lives, and has been used by many a small child. I’m sure that many of those kids would have loved to take that chair home, but I knew that it was a special gift given to Corrie, by a great great grandmother, now long since gone. Grandma passed away in early 1984 at the ripe old age of 96 years. She had continued to live alone in her own home all those years. Another amazing feat, but then she was an amazing woman.

When Corrie got married in 1993, that little chair went to a new home after all…Corrie’s. It was a piece of furniture that Corrie has cherished through the years. It has had to have several paint jobs during all those years, and is in the midst of one as I write this story, but the memories that have been built around that little chair…well, if it could only talk. It has seen many a little girl, and doll sit on it for tea parties, and other little gatherings. It has been used as a little table of sorts at times, and when Corrie and Kevin had children, the little chair saw a new generation of children, this time boys get to enjoy its perfect size, as they found out that they could get up on it easily, and without any help, which was the same thing that had so attracted Corrie to it all those years ago. Not a bad life…for a little chair.

Sometimes in life, we get the opportunity to interact with nature is ways that are unexpected. Most of the time wild animals, want nothing to do with humans. We are the enemy, and they know it, but once in while, you find a situation where the animals have learned to trust humans. Such was the case when my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin took their son, Christopher to Denver with Kevin’s parents. Christopher’s other grandma helped Christopher to feed the geese some bread, and the geese loved it. Now, knowing my grandson like I do, I know that he was laughing with pure delight as the geese come up to him and took their dinner from him. Christopher has always loved animals. And when something got him excited, his laugh was amazing. I can just imagine the excitement he must have felt.

Some people have more chances to get to know nature up close and personal, like my good friend Becky, who lives on the mountain with her husband, dog, a number of deer and wild turkeys. The turkeys don’t allow her to get too close, but the deer are very brave. They will come right up to the camera…just to see what it is, even sticking their nose right up to it sometimes. Becky is treated to a side of nature that most of us never get to see. And, as she continues to live on the mountain, the deer will get to know her better. This picture of one of Becky’s favorites, Buddy, has him eating out of one hand while she took the picture with the other hand. She was nervous, but Buddy was a gentleman, so all went well.

Even in town, we have been treated to situations where nature and humans can interact. I know, because I have deer that come into my back yard often throughout the year. They are relatively unafraid. We can walk around the yard while they are there, and unless we get too close, they just watch us with curious interest. Maybe they, like we, each wonder what the other is all about. We aren’t too sure how close we can go, but we would love to be able to get really close…we just don’t know if we dare. Should we take a chance on a wild animal trusting us enough to allow us to get close? Most of us will take that chance. That’s why we feed the geese, deer and turkeys, and even the squirrels, like the one who bravely climbed up my grandson’s pant leg, until he realized he was very close…and then he ran. Those moments are special, and maybe even a little unnerving, but that’s what getting close to nature is all about.

My second grandson, Caalab is good at sports. He plays basketball and football, but they really aren’t his first love, though he is a good player in both sports. Caalab has several artistic qualities, as well as being a great comedian. Caalab has been taking guitar lessons at school for several years, and is quite good at playing the guitar. He loves it when he and his dad can jam together.

Recently, Caalab has discovered that he is quite good at drawing. He was goofing around one day and decided to try to draw his favorite Disney character…Pluto. So he started drawing, and it came out perfectly, as you can see from the picture here. Now I don’t know about you, but I have tried to draw, and it was a disaster. You know, those “Can you draw this” contests…well, the answer for me is “No, I can’t.” One thing I’m definitely not…is an artist.

Caalab has some real talent…in several areas. He can do anything he chooses to do. Of course, like most kids his age, he is keeping his options open. Meaning that he doesn’t really know what he wants to do for life yet. His dad works in radio, and Caalab could easily go into radio too if he wanted, and with his quick wit, he would be good at it. He could go into music or art or be a comedian. Very few people can come up with the funny stuff that Caalab can. He can always make me laugh. And he never forgets a punch line. Most of us have forgotten the punch line and and stumbled around with several “um, um’s” before finally given up on telling the joke. But not Caalab. He has been telling jokes since he was 4 or 5 years old. He’s really good at it, as he is at several other things.

Caalab’s choices are many, and time is on his side. I know he will be good at whatever he chooses to do, but for right now, I think I’m glad he isn’t ready to go out into the world just yet. Like my other grandchildren, Caalab is growing up so fast, and I am not ready for him to be all grown up. When you first have grandchildren, you just don’t think ahead to when they will be grown, but that time comes all to fast, and I would like to slow it down some.

While his older brother loves football, Josh’s game is basketball. Chris was good at basketball too, but it wasn’t really important to him. Josh loves the game. And Josh is suited to the game too. He is tall and slender, and very quick on his feet. He has learned so much, this season especially. Maybe it is partly because he has a really good coach, but I think that he is coming into his own this year. He isn’t afraid to shoot the basket, like he sometimes was in the past. He knows he can do it now. Also, he is tall enough to rebound well, and steal the ball easily.

His team is undefeated so far this year. They are a formidable opponent for any team. Their coach has taught them well, and they operate as a team. They don’t care who shoots the baskets, only that each player has done his best and given it his all. That is was teamwork is all about. Each of the boys supporting the others…watching their backs. That is what I see in Josh and his team.

Josh is one of the taller boys on his team, so it makes him one of the better guards. It is very hard to shoot over him, and very easy for him to block the shots. I am amazed at how quickly he moves and how immovable he is when he is guarding. The more he plays the better he will get. Of course, that is the same for most sports. If you are dedicated and you practice, you can get better at the sports you love.

I have seen such growth in Josh this year…in more ways than just sports. Oh sure, he is still a bit of a jokester, and he loves to pick on me…and other people, including his mom, but he just seems more grown up now. Maybe I notice it more with him because he is the youngest of my grandchildren. It’s easy to always look at the youngest child or grandchild, and think they will always be the little one. Then one day you look at them and you suddenly see them for the young adult they are. It can be quite a shock. When my grandchildren started arriving, I thought they would be little for a long time, but now suddenly they are all teenagers, even this youngest one that I have most recently discovered in no longer little, but a formidable opponent.