Monthly Archives: March 2012

Life in the early 20th century was not always easy. Many people were on the move westward, hoping to find a better life, as things were much more crowded in the east, and land was not readily available. The government was giving away homesteads in Montana, so that is where Bob’s great grandfather decided to move his young family. It took men and women of strong constitution to settle the west, both during the wild west and into the 20th century. Bob’s great grandmother, Julia Doll Schulenberg was one of those strong pioneer women. She was always a hard working woman, and when times got tough, Julia Schulenberg shined. She was a woman capable of doing just about any job required to help her family survive. In addition to running the homestead, farming and caring for livestock and children, she cleaned houses in Forsyth, worked in the cafe, and even served as a midwife to the area women. She did what she had to do to save their homestead during the tough times.

When her oldest child, Andrew…Bob’s future grandfather, accidentally shot himself in the leg at age 15, and subsequently spent 2 years in the hospital, losing his leg about a year into his stay, Julia and her husband Max would pull him through it. They had passed their strength on to their children, showing them how to survive in the rugged west, even during the worst of times. Andrew would be no exception to that rule. With hard work and stubborn determination, Andrew would recover, and while he had a wooden leg, he went on to become the sheriff of Rosebud County, Montana for many years. He would also go on to marry Bob’s grandmother, and later, after their divorce, he would narry again and would be largely out of his son, my father-in-law’s life for all but the last few years before his death in 1986.

While Bob’s dad did not have much association with his dad until much later in life, he has very fond memories of his grandmother…Julia Doll Schulenberg. It would seem that Julia was, in all reality, the backbone of the Schulenberg family. While Max seemed to struggle to get by, and went from job to job, Julia was of very strong stock. She taught her children to work hard, and do what was right, and also passed those good qualities on to her grandchildren. My father-in-law remembers her as a hard working woman, who kept a clean home and always welcomed him in for a visit. He has based much of his view of a good woman on the amazing example his grandmother gave him.

While her husband, Max would die and the young age of 56, Julia Doll Schulenberg lived a long life. She passed away on November 17, 1974, at 89 years of age. Her death came just 4 months before I married Bob, so I never got to meet her. Still, from my father-in-law’s stories of his grandma, I know that she was a woman of strong constitution and a kind, loving spirit, and the fact that I never met her is most definitely my loss.

From the time they were just little kids, my grandchildren have loved to visit me at work. Grandma’s work was a cool place to go, as well as a place they could go when they didn’t feel well, and their mom’s had to be at work. They would bring a blanket and pillow, and camp out under my desk, often sleeping the day away with no one but Jim, my boss, and me knowing that they were there. It was a place of refuge for them, and their mom’s and I knew they were looked after. Not many children got to go stay with their grandma at work, and we all knew what a great blessing it was, and what a great boss Jim is.

As they got older, the kids often came into my office after school, so they didn’t have to be home alone. They sat and read a book or did their homework until the day was over and then went home with their parents. I suppose it was a strange office in the eyes of many people who knew what went on there, but to me and to my grandkids, it was a blessed office…and a blessing to those in it. Yes, it was unconventional, but ours is an unconventional office. We are real people…not a corporation. Jim understands that sometimes life collides with the office…sometimes in bigger ways than others. Sometimes that means being away from the office, other times it means having an extra person in the office. Jim always allowed me to make our office a safe place for my grandchildren, and they in turn think of him as an uncle.

Sometimes, the turn of events can be strange to say the least. When you open the doors in a time of need, even such a small need as a sick child, you also open the door to what the future can bring. As Jim got to know my children and grandchildren, and allowed me to help them with their needs, he has also found several employees among them. Two of them, Amy and Shai work in our office now. Caalab is our part time maintenance man, mowing the grass at the edge of the parking lot and emptying trash, as well as helping with other odd jobs around the office. Corrie designed our website, and her husband Kevin took the pictures of the staff for the site. It’s funny that what began as a one man office, has now become a family affair, and the only non-family member is the boss…but, then again, we consider him family too…maybe by adoption of sorts. Not on paper, but in our hearts.

I have been caregiving for my parents and my in-laws now for almost 7 years. In the last couple of days, I have spoken to clients and business associates who know about my situation, and as we spoke, the conversation turned to the blessing of my girls and my grandchildren. I don’t know how I would have made it through these last 7 years without them. Each and every one of them has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and their husbands have given up time with my girls and their kids to make sure that I had the help I needed. How do you ever re-pay such love, kindness, and compassion? You can’t, of course. You are simply forever in their debt…and forever grateful that they answered the call of duty and took on a responsibility that was bigger than any they had ever known, and one for which none of us had any formal training.

As I told of the help I received, I felt such a sense of pride in my family. I am able to count on my whole family to step up and help me in caring for their grandparents. Right down to my teenaged grandchildren. In fact, my grandchildren have been helping out in the field of caregiving since the youngest was 7 years old. They were not squeamish, or grossed out by blood or any of the other things they saw. These were their grandparents, and they love them. The rest didn’t matter. I was and still am so proud of them. Words cannot say how proud, because there are no words big enough. I am also grateful beyond words to each one of them, because they never let me down…not once in those 7 years, and I know I can always count on them. It was not with a sense of gloating that I told of the help my family stepped up to give me, it was more with a sense of gratitude and pure awe at all that they had done. Talk about heroes!!! Heroes don’t come in a finer form than my kids and grandkids.

No one ever wants to be in a position of having to make life changing decisions for their parents, but the harsh reality is that before this is all over, most of us will have to make those decisions….and I’m not just talking about life support and nursing homes. Many of us have to make the decision as to “do we go to the doctor or the hospital” over and over. Many of us have to help out with daily activities too, such as dressing, bathing, meds, shots, and bedtime. Sure, these are hard things to take on for your parents, in-laws, or grandparents, but for me and my family, the decisions are a no-brainer. Do everything to help them to live, and live life to the fullest extent that they possibly can. And when it comes to doing that, I know that my kids and grandkids are right there with me…on board in every way. I just can’t ever thank them enough for the awesome support they have given me and their grandparents at this difficult stage in the lives of my parents, their grandparents. I love you all…more that I can EVER say!!

As I have looked through some old pictures over the past few months, I came across a picture of my cousin Jimmy as a young boy, with his parents, my Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill. I have been thinking about Jimmy quite a bit lately. He was such a funny guy, making all of us laugh at his antics as a child. Sadly, Jimmy’s life was cut short by Mesothelioma on February 1, 2006.

Jimmy was a boy who was full of life, and his life brought laughter to those around him. When my sister’s and I were young, and visiting my Uncle Bills family in Superior, Wisconsin, Jimmy kept things lively with his jokes and his great smile. If there was going to be trouble…and I mean mischief…you can bet Jimmy and his big brother Billy were going to be at the heart of it, with Jimmy usually leading the way.

My Uncle’s family lived just down the street from the funeral home in Superior, and of course, that meant that the Ghost Stories were sure to be a part of our visits. The boys were always trying to scare us girls with their suggestions that the dead might still walk the street, and maybe we should go check it out…right, like I’m going to go down there and have a look at the dead people who might be walking around just looking for some dumb little girl to grab, who was just stupid enough to decide to go into the funeral home…I mean, isn’t that like saying “Hey, ghost…here I am!! Come and get me!!” Yep, that sounds like a great plan to me, right…NOT!!

I remember one other time when my Uncle Bill, Jimmy’s dad had taken us to get ice cream, and apparently there had been spill problems in the past, because Uncle Bill told us kids that if we spilled in his bus/camper, he was going to make us lick it up. It took all of about 2 seconds for Jimmy to manage to spill his ice cream on the floor. He looked up at his dad, very wide eyed, and I’m sure a little queasy in the stomach, probably hoping for mercy or that maybe…just maybe, his dad had bee kidding. Well, no such luck. His dad…towering over little Jimmy, said, “Ok, lick it up.” So, Jimmy got off of his chair and started to get down on his knees, gulping, I’m quite sure, and got ready to lick it up, when my Uncle Bill boomed out, “Don’t lick it up…I was just kidding!!” Well, I don’t have to tell you how relieved Jimmy was, and before you knew it, that winning little smile was back on his face.

While I had not seen Jimmy for a number of years, I will never forget his great smile and funny ways. He was a wonderful person, and I will always remember the great times we all had as kids. When I look back into my memory files, I can still see his face, just as he was the last time he was here, and That is the way I choose to remember my cousin. Love you Jimmy!!

For as long as I can remember, going to my grandmother’s house brought the smell of potato milk soup or oyster stew. Now, don’t get me wrong, my grandmother made other foods, and was an excellent cook, so maybe that is just the memory that makes me think of her. I was never very fond of oyster stew as a child, although I like it now, but potato milk soup was always a yummy favorite. Grandma always had the oyster crackers too, and I thought those were always fun. Grandma’s kitchen was always full of great smells and plenty of food.

Grandma loved having her family come for visits. The more the merrier. And all of her grandkids would have to agree with that. We always had a great time playing at grandma’s house. She had a huge back bedroom where her kids had slept, and while I always that it was scary at night, it was a great place to play. It had lots of room and plenty of beds when it was time to put the babies down for their naps. Playing house back there was always great fun, and since my grandparents had 9 kids, there were always plenty of cousins to play house with.

I think my grandmother must have been a Popsicle person like me, because her house was warm. I was always cold, so it was nice to go to grandma’s house, because it was always warm and cozy. As a kid, it seemed like I could never get warm enough…except at grandma’s house. I suppose many people wouldn’t think that was much of a memory, but to me, it was a great memory. It never seemed to matter how warm it was in the house, I still wanted to snuggle up in a warm blanket, but at grandma’s house, I never had to get a blanket…Grandma understood.

When my grandparents moved from their old home to the new one on 3rd Street, I remember playing in the basement. It was a great place for a haunted house when we were kids, and the pool table in the rec room was a definite plus…if you could get a chance to play. It was definitely a first come first served basis, and the older the kids were, the quicker they got there, and somehow it always seemed to me that the boys got there quicker than the girls.

I didn’t really matter what we were doing when it came to going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, we always had a good time. Whether we were playing in one of the many rooms in her house, or playing hide-and-seek outside, it was always fun…mostly I suppose because we were at Grandma’s house.

There are few things in the life of a toddler that they enjoy more than a pony ride on a grandparent’s foot. It is the first type of ride most kids get to take…almost like their first carnival ride. It is amazing that such a simple ride can thoroughly delight a child. It is such a simple thing to do and yet it can give the rider hours of fun…if your leg could hold out that long that is. Nevertheless, the child will continue to as you to “do it again” for hours.

We seem to mimic some of the rides we loved as children in the play with our toddlers a lot. The merry-go-round is done by swinging the child around until they are dizzy and delighted. The airplane is done by lying on the floor and holding the child’s hand while lifting them with your feet into the air. They may not know what we are imitating, because they are too young, but this type of play is passed down from generation to generation.

I remember that JD really loved to get these rides when he was little, and he would ask anyone in the room to give him another ride. Sometimes he would have to go from person to person as one leg or another would get tired, or the adult would get bored with the game. It’s funny how some kids like the pony ride more than others. JD loved his pony rides.

Today, JD rides a different kind of pony…or should I say horse power. JD rides and has raced motorcycles, along with his little brother, Eric. And lets not forget the many cars and pickups that have made their way into JD’s life. He will spend hours working on a vehicle…often into the wee hours of the morning, when he doesn’t have to work the next day. Sometimes, I think he is obsessed with engines, but I suppose that is not all that unusual, given that his dad also loves engines, cars, and motorcycles.

Today, JD has taken on the role of the ride giver with the little ones we have in the family. He is always roughhousing with his cousins, be they little or not. My grandkids have all reaped the benefits of JD’s playful nature…although the adults have wished they would all settle down from time to time. I don’t blame those early rides for all the roughhousing though, because sometimes that is just how a person is. JD is a kid at heart, and I think that as long as there are little ones around him, he will jump right in there and play with them, so…move the furniture back…if you want to keep it in one piece that is.

On the occasion of Christopher’s first meeting with his great great grandpa, he didn’t quite know what to make of him. That is something I can certainly understand, as can anyone who knew him. Grandpa was gruff and yet funny. Many people thought he was angry, but I knew better. He was one of those people who…maybe had a little bit of trouble expressing his feelings, but once you found your way into his heart…he was a person who cared deeply about you. What a wonderful trait to have in a grandpa who became your grandpa by marriage, both his to Christopher’s great great grandma…you see he was Christopher’s step-great great grandpa, and mine because he was Bob’s step-grandpa. I know these things about him, because I did find my way into his heart, and we were ruthless card partners…but more importantly, he was every bit a grandpa to me, and I loved him very much.

But, Christopher, being a little guy, had a bit of trouble figuring his great great grandpa out. Nevertheless, he did love him. And in some ways, they were two of a kind. Not in the gruff…hard to get to know…kind of way, but in the joking kind of way. Christopher is famous for making faces that are very expressive, either funny or serious. So when Grandpa started with his gruff voice and funny way of talking, Christopher gave him a look that said, “What are you talking about?” Again, I can understand how Christopher might wonder such a thing. Grandpa was always talking very fast, and when you combined that with his gruff voice…well you had to pay attention or you might miss the point.

So, Christopher did his best to figure out that guy that everyone was telling him was his great great grandpa, and maybe took a little bit of comfort in the fact that his Aunt BR was holding him, because he just wasn’t very sure about that guy that was in front of him. Then, just when he thought this guy called great great grandpa was never going to be somebody he would understand, he said something funny. Or, maybe it was just that everybody else started laughing. I’m not sure Christopher knew which it was, but I’m pretty sure everyone started laughing at Christopher’s funny face. It didn’t really matter, because suddenly Christopher decided that maybe this guy called great great grandpa was funny after all.

When Rachel married my brother-in-law, Ron, it was the beginning of a new life for her…many changes were coming, including some that were impossible to prepare for. As you begin married life, you expect certain changes, such as moving, having children, or as is the case in this marriage, adding a step-dad to a family in which the children are already there, and down the road, becoming grandparents. Still, some changes are very unexpected.

Ron is the youngest of my in-law’s children…in fact, he was born 18 years after their first child, his sister Marlyce. That said, when he married Rachel, she was instantly moved into an ongoing family caregiving situation, due to her new mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s Disease, and her new father-in-laws, COPD and Emphysema. That is a lot to walk into for a 35 year old woman. Of course, she wasn’t the first line caregiver, but as we all know, when it comes to caregiving…it takes a village, and every person is important, right down to the children. The great thing about Rachel is that she can be counted on to come and help out with anything I ask, whenever he job allows. She also has a tendency to stop by, out of the blue, with lunch and just to visit our in-laws. It is a very sweet thing for her to do, and one for which we are all grateful.

Rachel has a daughter, that she had early in her adulthood. Cassie is quite a bit older that her two half-brothers, Riley and Tucker. Cassie actually got married on June 2, 2010, 10 days before Rachel and Ron. Before long Cassie would find out that she was pregnant, and due on August 3, 2011. Early on in the pregnancy, the doctors found out that something was wrong. This is a time when a girl really needs her mom. While Rachel lived in Casper, and Cassie in Powell, Rachel quickly went into action. Prayers were requested from anyone who knew how to pray, and Rachel immediately began to encourage Cassie and her husband, Chris. On July 3, 2011, one month prematurely, little Lucas Rae was born. While he dose have Down’s Syndrome, and had to have heart surgery, he is now a healthy 8 month old baby boy, who is as sweet as he can be, and who definitely loves his grandma.

Rachel’s life has taken many twists and turns, but because of the awesome person she is, it has all turned out to be a wonderful life. Happy birthday Rachel!! I’m so happy to have you for my sister-in-law. Love you!!

Kaytlyn Machelle was born 4 years ago today, and gets her middle name from her Aunt Machelle. I remember that the first time I saw her, I thought she had very big eyes. Big eyes are always so amazing on a girl, if you ask me. I don’t get to see my grand niece very much, because she lives in a different town than we do. Kaytlyn is the younger of two girls…the granddaughters of my sister-in-law, Debbie and her husband, Lynn.

She is a bubbly little girl with a great imagination. She can create her own little world with her toys, and had a way of getting her sister and her cousins to jump right in and visit that little world too. She seems to think that her cousin, Tucker, who was her friend, before he became her cousin, is her boyfriend. She is a definite flirt, and I’m pretty sure she has her daddy wrapped around her little finger with her big eyes and sweet smile. In fact, I think her daddy has probably lived there from the moment he first saw her.

Most of my acquaintance with little miss Kaytlyn has been through the pictures I have received, which makes it a little harder to really know her, but I can tell from the pictures that she is the kind of child who lights up a room when she is in it. She is a princess, and very girly, choosing bright colors to wear when she has her say. I also think that she has been a sweet gift to her older sister, Jala, who had been an only child for 6 years before Kaytlyn’s arrival. It’s hard to be an only child, I think, but having never been one myself, I can’t really say. Still I think Jala thinks her little sister is just about the greatest. Jala shows a great love for Kaytlyn, and plays along with her little games, even though she is a big girl of almost 10 years.

Kaytlyn is curious, like most children, always wondering about the world around her, and perhaps about the face she sees in the mirror. That face in the mirror seems to be a first friend for so many chidren. They look in the mirror and the face that looks back always smiles when they do, and never looks away. The face in the mirror always pays attention to them, and is loyally waiting for them each time they approach. Can there possibly be a better friend than that baby who doesn’t leave them stuck in the house while the bigger kids get to go outside? No, I think that first friend is a cherished memory for most babies…as well as their parents, because really…who can resist the face in the mirror. Today, little Kaytlyn Machelle is 4 and a little princess with great big eyes. Happy birthday little birthday girl…say hello to the face in the mirror for me. We love you very much, sweetie!!

On February 28th, my oldest grandson, Chris turned 16. It was an epic day in his life. He got his driver’s license, and got to start driving his own car to school, as well as picking up his brother, which they both think is cool. With that license will come driving himself to and from work, and other errands for himself and his parents. It is a great time in a kid’s life…usually.

And it was for Chris too…until today. Chris was in his swimming class today. His swimming teacher wants the kids to warm up before getting into the pool, and so they run relay’s on the wrestling mats that are in between the pool and the bleachers. The mats are there to keep the kids from slipping and spraining an ankle. In theory this might work, but Chris caught his toe on the mat, bending it over, under the rest of his foot, and fell.

Chris figured he had broken his toe, and that there wasn’t much to be done with it. So, he went through the rest of the school day, Wendy’s for lunch, picked up his brother, Josh, and then to work to get his check. The he decided to stop and show it to his grandma…me. We talked about it a bit, and in looking at it, I felt like it might be more than a broken toe, and called his mom, my daughter, Corrie.

Chris was very concerned about going to Urgent Care, because if they had to cast his foot, he might not be able to take his driving final for Driver’s Ed. That would mean a completely wasted quarter, because he would fail Driver’s Ed. That would also mean that he would not get the discounts that go with having completed the course. I tried to reassure him that perhaps they could wrap his foot today and cast it after his driving class, but he still left my office a little worried…both about his final, and his job at Johnny J’s Diner.

Corrie and Kevin, left work immediately and took Chris to Urgent Care. They took 3 x-rays and determined that he had broken the bone that connects his toe to the upper part of his foot. He basically tried to rip his toe off and that caused a half circle break. That was the bad news. The good news is that at least for tonight, he was given a boot cast, which can be taken off for his driving final…whew!! The rest of the good news is that he was cleared to work, since his job doesn’t require heavy use of his foot. That was a big relief to both Chris and his manager.

Chris will still have to go see an Orthopedic doctor, but the news looks pretty good. Chris will have to adapt his driving a little, but I’m sure he can manage that. He is pretty good at adapting to the the changes in his life. In fact, his dad, Kevin took him out in his car tonight to see how it would go, and he did very well. He will still take off the boot for the driving final, but he is going to do ok. Chris is very motivated, because he is one of the top two kids in the class and he doesn’t want to lose his standing. I know he will come out on top of this situation, but all I can say is…what a way to start sixteen.

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