Monthly Archives: February 2012

Every 4 years, my granddaughter, Shai gets a real birthday. For most of us that fact seems rather odd to think about, but for Shai, it is simply the way it is.  Shai is a Leap Day Baby, and she is 4 years old today.  Most four year olds are thinking about things like getting to start Kindergarten next year, and getting to spend the night with grandma because they are getting to be big, but that isn’t Shai either. Shai is thinking about getting her driver’s license. You see, Shai is 4 @ 16. It is a phenomena that goes along with being a Leap Day Baby, and is as much a part of who Shai is as her own name. She has not always liked that birthday, because being the only girl among my 4 grandchildren, the boys…especially the younger ones liked to remind her that they are older than she is. It was a losing battle for her, because on Josh’s 1st birthday…3 1/2 years after Shai was born, he became the last of the boys to be able to say that they were older than Shai, putting her as the youngest and the second born of my 4 grandchildren.

I always thought Leap Day would be an awesome birthday to have, and so, I was thrilled when my only granddaughter arrived on that very cool day!! We have had a great time coming up with interesting things to say about her birthday. I really like Leap Happens, which is one I put on the shirt I have made for her birthday a couple of times. The @ symbol has been a fun one too. I’m sure the sayings are as varied as the people who come up with them. It is just another fun way to celebrate a birthday that only really comes once every 4 years. I find it very hard to believe that Shai is so grown up. I look at some of the pictures of her through the years and realize what a beautiful girl she is.

In addition to her unusual birthday, Shai has an unusual name. But like the day of her birth, her name fits her so very well. I know many people would think that I mean that she is shy…which is the pronunciation of her name, but I am talking about the Hebrew meaning of her name. Shai in Hebrew means Gift, and that is exactly what Shai is…a gift, to her family, as well as all who know her. She is bubbly, with a touch of humor. She is very capable of doing any job she sets her mind to, from being a caregiver at the ripe old age of 2 1/2 (10) years old, when she took care of her ill great grandparents by herself during the day for the entire month of August when she was the only one we had that could help, to being a capable part time CSR at our office, The Stengel Agency, to having a second job at On The Border Mexican Grill and Cantina. She is an asset anywhere she works, and she will be a success at whatever she chooses to do with her life.

Three out of four years, Shai shares her birthday with her Grandparents’ anniversary, but every 4 years, she gets her own day…a real birthday!! This year is her year to have a real birthday. Happy 4th @ 16th birthday my precious granddaughter!! We love you very much!!

Becoming a grandmother was such a thrill for me. I had wanted to be a grandmother by the time I was 40 years old, and my oldest daughter, Corrie gave me the gift of a grandchild just 2 months before my 40th birthday, but Christopher was an even bigger gift to my mother-in-law. Christopher was her first great grandchild, but more than that…he was born on her birthday, just as his mother, my daughter, Corrie was born on my mother-in-law’s mother’s birthday and was her first great grandchild. My only regret is that Corrie’s great grandma didn’t live to see that day. She would have been delighted!! She always felt very special to have her first great grandchild be born on her birthday. In fact, it was the first remark she made to me when she walked into my room, and I knew that I had somehow…without even knowing it and never having planned it, given her a gift that would enrich her life as long as she lived. Now Corrie and given that same gift to her grandmother.

When Corrie managed to have her first child on my mother-in-law’s birthday, we were…shocked to say the very least. By that time we had gotten used to Corrie’s birthday being on her great grandmother’s birthday, and the fact that our niece, Machelle was born on her great grandfather’s birthday…same couple by the way, but when Christopher arrived on his great grandmother’s birthday, and it was the daughter of the great grandmother whose birthday Corrie was born on…well, I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure it’s pretty rare.

The years have flown by since Christopher’s arrival, and I find myself looking up at a sixteen year old young man today, who will get his driver’s license this afternoon. Sometimes it is hard to wrap my mind around that fact. Chris, as he is now called, should still be that teeny little boy who was and still is famous for making the cutest faces. He could always make me laugh. Christopher always had a flair for the comical as a little boy. I can’t believe that he is so grown up…so close to being a grown man. Where did the years go? They went by so quickly.

I am so proud of Chris. He is a hard working young man, who holds down a job, bought his own car, plays football, and studies hard in school. He also helps out in the care of his great grandma, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I know that is a little sad for him, because his great grandma doesn’t understand the significance of their relationship anymore. Nevertheless, they love each other, and when she is told about their birthdays…she says she remembers. And, I think she does then. She remembers that she has a great grandson who came on her birthday, and she remembers just how special that is. She remembers how exciting that was. They both know that they are blessed.

Today my grandson, Chris turns 16…that most exciting year of all. He has his car ready to go…a Camaro, of course. He has been working on it for some time with his dad, and now it is all fixed up and sporty…just the kind of car a young man wants to own. The chick magnet that every guy wants to be driving. He is a good driver, and I think he will do wonderfully well on the road. I think his great great grandmother would have loved to have seen this day. Happy birthday Chris, and happy birthday Mom!! I hope you both have a wonderful day!! I love you both!!

There are events in your life that you can look back on and know that they changed your life forever. Things like marriage, motherhood, grandmotherhood, as well as the sad moments like death, come upon you and the world is suddenly just…different…forever. Few things are more exciting in the life of a mom than the day her children have children. I have been blessed to have 4 grandchildren…3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. They are all the most wonderful gifts my girls and their husbands have ever given me. Each grandchild is special in their own way. Each one is unique, with their own personalities, skills, and ideas. The day each of them arrived changed my life forever, and for the better.

When my first two grandchildren, Christopher, my older daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin’s son, and Shai, my younger daughter Amy, and her husband Travis’ daughter, arrived a day apart, my status changed forever in a matter of two days. It was a whirlwind. I literally spent the better part of those two days at the hospital, witnessing my first and second births ever. I have been going through old pictures and I came across the pictures of my daughters right after giving birth to their first child. Their beautiful, glowing faces filled with awe and wonder as they held the most wonderful gift of God sleeping peacefully in their arms, is priceless. They both tell me that they looked awful, but that is not what I see. I see two beautiful girls who, I am happy to say, God blessed me with.

My younger two grandsons came in fairly quick succession, with Caalab, Amy and Travis’ son, born 17 months after his older sister, and Josh, Corrie and Kevin’s son, born 2 1/2 years after his older brother. So, within 2 1/2 years all my grandchildren would have arrived. It was a whirlwind…and a bit of a culture shock for their grandma, who having had 2 daughters and no sons, was…shall we say, somewhat unprepared for the difference in how girls act and how boys do. Nevertheless, those boys got me broken in pretty quickly, and now I am an old hand at boys as well as girls.

As the 16th anniversary of the day I became a grandmother arrives, I find myself still in awe of the blessings that God has given me. It seems like only yesterday that we were anxiously awaiting their arrival. How could that have been 16 years ago? Where has the time gone? Before I know it, and I know that my girls probably don’t want to hear this, my girls will become grandmothers and I a great grandmother. And just “days” after that, a great great grandmother, because time goes by so very fast that the years seem like days. If was after all, only yesterday the Bob and I were welcoming our beautiful daughters into this world, and also just yesterday that we welcomed each of our grandchildren, so it stands to reason that the next generation, and the next will feel exactly the same way. Yes, time goes by so quickly, but I wouldn’t change one second of it where my kids and grandkids are concerned. I am so very blessed, and I thank God for such wonderful gifts.

As Spring approaches, the minds of many men turn to…well, fishing. And it isn’t just the men either. My daughter, Corrie has already mentioned that she is getting camping fever. I suppose that really is normal for this time of year. Winter has dragged on long enough, and everyone is really over it, and ready for warmer weather. Bob and I don’t do much camping, but we love to hike, and lets face it…walking the mall just isn’t the same thing. So, as we get to this time of year, we can feel spring fever coming on too.

For avid fishermen, spring brings on a pretty big yearning for the open air, the water, and the fishing pole. I have never been one for fishing much, but then again, maybe it would be kind of nice sometimes. I lead a pretty hectic life, and the thought of sitting in a chair with nothing to do but wait for the fish to bite could be just what I need. I know my kids and grandkids seem to really enjoy it.

There are a lot of the other members in my family who love to head out to Pathfinder Lake to see what they can catch. And since I have fished in the past, I can relate to the challenge. There is really something about feeling that fish on the end of the line, and the ensuing fight to bring him in. The minute you feel that first tug, you wonder who will win…you or the fish.

And you don’t even have to enjoy eating the fish to enjoy the sport, because while Corrie’s family doesn’t like fish, they simply supply other family members with a couple of meals that are well received and very much enjoyed. My mom and sister, Cheryl have been the grateful recipients of a weekend’s catch, as have Kevin’s mom and Bob and me. So I guess we can’t say that we mind the fact that they don’t like fish.

As February comes to a close, and March marks the move toward Spring, the minds of sportsmen of all ages begin to think about fishing and other water or warm weather sports. I think that if it is possible, the adults are more excited that their little fishing buddies, for the season to begin. It’s like a breath of fresh air…or the light at the end of the tunnel. Winter is losing it’s punch and with it’s death comes the promise of the coming Spring and Summer…the lazy days of Summer and fishing, camping, hiking, and…warmth…beautiful warmth.

Lots of people follow the crowd…go along with their peers. If all their friends are being negative, rude, or disrespectful, then so do they. Everyone, it seems, is out for themselves. Doing things only if they will bring benefit to self. It seems like it is an “I, Me” world.

Still, there are people out there who specifically set out to be different than the rest. People who set aside their own needs and desires in order to do something nice or helpful for others. They are all around you, whether you know it or not. The man who stops to help someone change a flat tire, the the person who assists an elderly person with mobility problem to get up from a chair that is low, or helps a caregiver to transfer a loved one into the car from a wheelchair when they are not feeling well, and obviously to weak to stand easily.

These people usually remain nameless, because we either don’t know them, or we don’t see them do the nice things they do. Or maybe it is because they don’t do it for recognition, but rather because it is the right thing to do. They don’t do it for pay or for fame, but because they care about people. And they don’t even consider themselves to be heroes…but they are.

The funny thing is that each of us has the potential to be that person…to be different. It is a choice each of us can and must make when the opportunity presents itself. When we don’t look the other way when someone needs help, or when we can simply go out of our way to do something nice. And when we get the chance to step outside ourselves, to put others first, to ease someone’s pain, to give help where it is needed…when we get that chance and we take it…we learn what it is to be different.

A few days before my first two grandchildren were born, my nephew and his wife at the time, had their daughter, Christina. Maybe because of having their birthdays close together, and maybe not just because of that, Christina and my granddaughter, Shai have always been good friends. For a long time, Christina lived in Texas, and Shai was not able to see much of her, but when she moved back to Casper, it was as if they had never been apart. Cousins aren’t always good friends, but it is a little more common in our family, and since Christina and Shai are the only girls near their age, it made sense that they should be friends.

Christina has always been a bit flashy…not unlike most kids her age. Her favorite thing was to dye her hair is wild ways. Her aunt, my niece, Toni was that way. She dyed her hair just about every color in the book. It is Christina’s goal to dye her hair as many colors as her Aunt Toni. While I don’t dye my own hair, and have always liked my natural color, I know a lot of people like to spice it up a bit, and that is their right. Some of her colors have been wild and crazy, while others are fairly standard colors. Either way, you never know exactly what to expect with Christina.

Still, as spicy as she can be, Christina is a very sweet girl, and I love her very much. She lived in Texas for a number of years, and so we didn’t have as much chance to get to know her as she was growing up. When she came home for visits, she often told me that she missed the closeness to the rest of the family. It is something that goes along with living away from the rest of a close family, unfortunately, and it can be very hard on the kids. It’s no one’s fault…it just is. Now, while Christina misses her mom and little brothers, she is living in Casper again with her dad, step-mom, and little sisters and brother on her dad’s side. I know that there are times that she is torn because of missing the other half of her family, but we are very happy to have her here with us.

Today is Christina’s Sweet Sixteenth Birthday…that very special birthday in the life of a kid. Soon she will be driving and the next thing we know she will be graduating. Time goes by so fast. I remember well the day she was born…and it seems like only yesterday. Happy birthday Christina!! We love you!!

When my brother-in-law, Ron was little, it seemed like he would always be too little to help out much with things in the garage, and other mechanical areas of the place they lived. It was a frustrating thing to him to always be told, to go in the house, or go play, or stay out of the way. He wanted to be a mechanic…just like the big guys were.  He was sure he knew how to do stuff, but he just never seemed to get the chance. He did his best to be grown up…even trying to get to be as tall as me…which wasn’t saying much, but somehow struck him as being big at the time. Ron was younger than Bob by 14 years, and the rest of the kids were girls…who as we all know, do nothing that is interesting to a little boy.

As Ron grew up, of course, there began to be more jobs for him to do than he probably wanted to have. That happens with most kids. What seemed like the coolest thing to do in our early lives, is in reality, work, and not fun at all. Still, there were jobs that Ron really liked to do. One of them was moving snow around the place with the tractor. Having driven a tractor quite a bit, I can relate to the fact that it is a fun thing to do. Of course, it can have it’s down side too, as Ron can tell you. One time on Thanksgiving Day, Ron was moving the snow off the driveway, and the tractor got stuck in the snow. Ron stepped up on the tire to try to get it moving, and…well, it moved alright…right over his leg!!

Bob was working that Thanksgiving Day, and my girls and I were running late getting to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. When we pulled up, I saw my father-in-law carrying ny nephew Barry, into the house, and several other people were with him. What struck me as odd…the fact that no one said one word to me. I thought, “Wow!! I’m not that late, am I?” The truth was, it was not my 2 year old nephew, Barry that my father-in-law was carrying into the house…it was my 12 year old brother-in-law, Ron, who had broken his leg. How Ron could have looked like Barry to me is still a mystery to me. I suppose it was because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of my father-in-law carrying my 12 year old brother-in-law.

Needless to say, it was a rather strange Thanksgiving dinner. My in-laws took Ron to the hospital, and the rest of the family ate a rather subdued Thanksgiving dinner without them. When we next saw Ron, his entire leg was in a cast and he was in a hospital room. It was a difficult 6 week for him,because that cast made it next to impossible to walk, but he was soon well again, and has had no ill effects from that terrifying experience…when the tractor went berserk. Happy birthday Ron!! Glad you’re ok!!

My sister-in-law, Debbie was born 3 months prematurely. She was so little that she could fit in a shoe box, and she was immediately dubbed, Little Dab O’ Debbie. While very small, Debbie was healthy and grew strong. Before very long, she was a healthy full sized baby and the initial concerns for her life were behind the family. Debbie remained small all of her life, growing up to be only 5′ 2″ tall. While that isn’t terribly short…maybe that is my opinion, in that I am the same height…it did put her the second shortest of her sisters and brothers.

On June 8, 1974, Debbie would marry the love of her life, Lynn Cook. It was at this point that her height…or the lack thereof…became really noticeable. Lynn is 6′ 6″ tall. It really became the tall and the short of it. Even when their daughters were born we knew that it was unlikely that Debbie would be taller than her girls for very long. And sure enough, Machelle and Susan are close to 6′ tall. Her oldest grandson, Weston is already taller than she is, and I’m sure Easton won’t be shorter for long. I suppose it is possible that her granddaughters, Jala and Kaytlyn could be her height or shorter, it is very unlikely. No, I think Debbie will find that before long, she will be Little Dab O’ Grandma…just like she could have been Little Dab O’ Mom, had her girls thought to call her that.

While Debbie is short, she has been a big help to her parents whenever she is down to visit them. They have had health problems over the last few years, and while she is unable to do very much heavy work, since injuring her back a number of years back, she cooks many meals and freezes them for her parents, so that all they have to do is thaw them and heat them up. That is a huge help for her dad who has been the main caregiver for her mom since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a number of years ago. It is an exhausting job for him, and those meals make his life a little easier after a hard day. I am so thankful that we have our Little Dab O’ Debbie, she is a blessing in so many ways. Happy Birthday Debbie!! We love you!!

We knew almost from the very start that our little Shai was a Fashionista. She wanted her nails painted almost from the moment she was born…ok, ok her grandma helped that part out a little, much to her daddy’s chagrin. I don’t think it was really going to matter if her grandma painted her nails or not…this little girl was all girl, and very much a Fashionista. And that is a fact that has not changed to this day.

The other thing that fully describes Shai is born to shop. She likes nothing better than to check out the latest styles, the coolest frills, and of course, the most stylish shoes. Jewelry is a must too, of course, because a girl can never have enough bling. She also likes the hustle and bustle of the mall. It’s not just about shopping, but socializing.

Still, as a little girl…it was a different scenario. Shai had a one track mind. It didn’t matter so much what she was shopping for. The reality was that she was doing what she was born to do. Shop first, fashion second, and third and maybe the most important of all…never use your own money. Probably Shai’s favorite place to shop when she was a little girl was J C Penney’s. One day she was trying to get her mom to take her shopping at J C Penney’s, and Amy said, “No, we don’t have enough money right now.” Well Shai saw that as a non-problem. She wanted to go shopping and she was willing to find a way to make that happen. And, she was sure she had found the answer when she said, “Well…just charge it!!”

Shai has grown up some since those days of simplicity, but she still loves to shop. And she is still very much a Fashionista. In fact, I often find myself looking to her for confirmation on my own outfits. She has a great eye for fashion. If she says I look good, then I know that I do. She would never steer me in the wrong direction. She can always see a fashion mistake. It’s nice to have such a stylish granddaughter. Much has changed with Shai through the years, but she will probably always be a Fashionista who was born to shop.

My sister, Cheryl was divorced from her husband Rob before their youngest daughter Jenny was born. While divorce is a tragedy, there was a great degree of good that came to Cheryl’s children afterward. They were very young when the divorce took place, and their dad was not a big part of their life after that time. They did have a father figure, however…their grandpa, our dad. Dad was a mentor to them. His continued loving guidance was a major source of stability in their lives.

Dad always saw to it that they got to go on some vacations, and outings to the mountains, as well as drives…a type of outing we all enjoyed. Dad also provided a moral compass as well as help with educational things. Don’t misunderstand me, because they did have their mom, and Cheryl was and is a good mom, but they needed that father figure…someone who could do all the things a dad does with them.

Every one of Cheryl’s kids has told me that their grandpa was the only dad they ever had. Thinking about that I realize how blessed I was to have my dad, because not everyone has that. It’s hard to understand how they felt, because I was never in that position. For my sister’s kids, they had to look to my dad to show them all the things a dad usually shows you. That was not a bad thing for them either. Each one of them has told me about how their grandpa enriched their lives.

It really wasn’t anything so specific that my dad did for them, but rather it was just the love he showed to them…and it was the same love he showed to all his grandchildren, but maybe it was felt a little bit more deeply to them, because they wanted the love of a dad…and they wanted to belong. That is what my dad gave them. A sense of normalcy in their life.

When my dad passed away, each one of my sister’s kids told me that he was the only dad they ever knew. While I can’t pretend to know every detail of what he meant to them. I do know that somehow he impacted their lives is a way that made them feel a connection to their grandpa that was unlike the other grandchildren, even though my dad was very much loved by grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. I believe it was the way he became their mentor, showing them how to live, but living the best life he could as a model for them…as well as for the rest of us. That was the kind of man my dad was.