Monthly Archives: April 2012

My dad loved pretty much everything that had to do with history. I suppose that is why we stopped at every historical marker or historical site we found. Dad wanted his kids and grandkids to know as much about our nation’s history is he could show us. He wanted us to know where this nation came from, how it progressed, and what it had accomplished…what our ancestors and the ancestors of others had accomplished. From the founding fathers who started this country, formed it ideals and its government, to the days of the horse and buggy when the pioneers began to head west, looking for their fortune and a place to put down roots. He loved the old west.

He showed us so many aspects of history, that we almost felt like we were there. I sometimes wondered how he could have possibly known so much about things from the past. Of course, now I know that some things were taught or passed down, and many things he read about. He simply absorbed the information. And he also had a flair for story telling, so he often made history seem like he had actually lived it. These are stories and places I will never forget, although I’m sure I didn’t completely appreciate all of it like I should have, but I guess most kids wouldn’t have.

My dad was very patriotic and loved his country. I suppose that is one reason he loved the Black Hills so much. There was so much history there, and so much information. Just spending a little time listening to one of the many speakers at Mount Rushmore, can open a bounty of information. To this day, I can’t go to Mount Rushmore without feeling a sense of awe. There is a need to show respect to the memory of those great presidents. Almost a need to be very quiet…or at the very least, whisper. Kind of a show of respect.

I think that must have been how Dad felt whe he visited Mount Rushmore in his younger years, because he took lots of pictures and kept them safe all those years. I think he knew it was a special place full of history, the kind of place he might want to show his family some day. The kind of place he might want to come back to and share with his kids. So we could learn from it the way he did.

Our favorite hiking destination is Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The first time we hiked up to the peak was in 1995, just a week after our youngest daughter, Amy and her husband, Travis got married. We had been planning the trip for a while, and were looking forward to relaxing and hiking in the hills. We really didn’t know much about where we were headed, except that it was a favorite destination of lots of people in the hills, and we knew where to find the trail head. We really thought that was enough. Little did we know!!

We had planned the hike for the third day of our trip, but found ourselves at the trail head the second day of the trip. We read the information on the sign telling about the trail, and as it said that Sylvan Lake was in the shadow of Harney Peak, we figured that it couldn’t be that far. So we decided not to wait until the next day…oh boy, were we wrong!!

Thankfully, it was September, and not the heat of a July day. We had jackets on and I was wearing a sweater. To make matters worse, I had my purse/planner, which was not light, and we didn’t have any water. We really thought we were going on a little walk. The hike actually took about 2 1/2 hours, each way…not bad considering our inexperience and my purse/planner!! That purse ended up weighing…oh, about 2 tons, by the time we got back down to the car. And, of course, you recall that we had no water. Thankfully there was a little snow on the ground!!

Nevertheless, despite the fact that we were not really in the greatest hiking condition, and all the other ways we simply were not prepared for this hike, we ended really loving the trail. We kept hoping that we would live to reach the end of the trail, and we were stunned at the people who had little kids on the hike…and the little kids didn’t seem to be having any trouble!! Of course, they did have water, so I suppose that helped.

When we reached the top…finally, the view was all we needed to get hooked on that trail. It is amazing up there. Still, we did not dare make that hike again for a number of years, even though we go to the Black Hills every year. I guess we were a little bit overwhelmed. When we finally took that hike again, we were much better prepared for the hike. I don’t take my purse anymore, for one thing. Now we take a backpack with lunch and a couple of 20 ounce bottles of water in it, to eat and drink at the top, because we know that it is 2 hours up and 2 hours down, and we like to spend about an hour at the top. We also have a water pack that holds about a 2 liter bottle of water, for the hike up and down, because we really can’t expect to be able to find snow when we go over the 4th of July week. Basically I guess I’m saying that while we will always love that hike, and we have gone up about 7 times now, we are a lot wiser about how to hike these days. I guess you just have to live and learn.

I think all kids love to color Easter eggs. Maybe it is the chance to get creative in a way that most parents won’t normally allow. I mean…how many parents want to turn their kids loose with colored water very often. That could be an accident waiting to happen. Nevertheless, every year, we get everything ready, and set our kids up to potentially make a huge mess, and hope that it doesn’t happen.

I always liked to color Easter eggs as a kid. Back then, of course, they didn’t have all the cool stuff they have now. We had mostly just the colored water and a clear crayon…and later the little stickers or egg tattoos. Then they started coming up with really cool things like speckled eggs, glitter eggs, neon eggs, and tie dyed eggs. There was something new every year, and of course, every parent made sure their kids had all the new stuff.

Since, my girls are grown now, I have been out of the egg coloring era for quite some time, so who knows what they have now. And it doesn’t really matter anyway, because the whole idea is to watch the excited faces as the little ones get to start coloring their eggs, and then sharing in their creations. And when kids are little, they don’t really care whether or not they have all the very latest stuff anyway.

Of course, all this led up to the next morning when they got to find their Easter baskets, put on their new Easter outfits, and go to church to remember the real reason we celebrate Easter, being thankful for the sacrifice made by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because, lets face it, we are lost without him. His death put a sinful world back in right standing with God!! We are so very blessed, and there is reason to celebrate…He is risen!!! Happy Easter to all!!

For every grandparent, there is the first. The child that came along and changed everything. The child who changed them from parenthood to grandparenthood. For my parents, that child was my niece, Chantel. She was…shall we say, a shock to our systems…not just my parents, but to her aunts too. It was not about being, not ready for her to come, it was about the kind of girl she was. Chantel has a type of beauty queen style…or maybe it was actress style. No matter, we couldn’t help but be amused and surprised at the same time whenever she started posing.

It always amazed me that this little teeny girl could have so much style, when I at 15 years of age was still feeling quite awkward. But style was as much a part of who Chantel was as the hair on her head. And she was so quick. She never missed an opportunity to show her style. The camera came up, and Chantel immediately posed. And she was just a little girl, but she was just doing what came naturally to her.

As she grew up, she never lost that sense of style, although the posing did change some. She is so photogenic, and has a beautiful smile. And her sense of style doesn’t stop with photos. It has carried into her home, where she pours out her beautiful style. I think there must be an artist living inside the woman she has become, but that isn’t surprising really.

Yes, that first grandchild can be so surprising, because they are usually so different from your own children, and yet so like them…or at least the child your kids used to be. Chantel is much like her mother, my sister Cheryl. They both had the ability to take the most amazing pictures, and they both have the natural sense of style in decorating. I guess I have to wonder why Chantel seemed so different from the rest of us…at least to me, because she was maybe the kind of little girl like what I always wanted to be…like my sister, Cheryl. They both always had it all together, and I always wished I had been able to be like that.

Today that little girl…that first grandchild, is a wife and mother, and still a very beautiful person, inside and out. She will always hold a special place in our hearts and in our family. Happy birthday, Chantel!! We love you very much!!

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease, and as you know, the cherished memories new, and later on even the old ones, begin to slip. Soon they will be lost forever. One of the best things the family can do for her is to help her to remember things. Old memories, and important data, as well as who these people in her house are. We try to keep her current on those things, in the hope that her quality of life can remain good for just a little bit longer.

Recently, after several bad bouts with pneumonia, several stays in the hospital, and finally a little more than two weeks in a nursing home getting rehab because her muscles were very weak, we have had a little more trouble triggering her memory. Her environment was not her normal, and my father-in-law was not right beside her to help keep that process going, so her cherished memories have slipped more. She was having trouble remembering her dad’s first name…something she normally gets right away. And when asked about her favorite horse, she couldn’t remember Molly’s name.

My daughter, Corrie had taken my father-in-law, her grandpa up to see her grandma, and ended up hearing information she hadn’t heard before. Today at lunch, she mentioned that she didn’t know that her grandmother had owned a horse…much less that she loved to ride, and spent as much time on her horse, Molly as she possibly could. I suppose Corrie wouldn’t have heard much about Molly, because my mother-in-law owned Molly when she was a teenager. Still, I guess we all just thought her grandchildren knew about the years when their grandparents spent much time living and working on ranches in Montana. We were wrong.

When you live on a ranch, it is quite common for the kids to ride horses to visit friends. Who needed a car when you had a horse, and you didn’t have to be 16 years old with a driver’s license to “drive” one either. So, that is what kids who lived on ranches did, and still do today, and my mother-in-law was a very good horse woman. She loved horses, and most especially Molly, her very favorite horse.

Sadly, as her Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, she is losing many of her memories. Mostly the newer ones, it’s true, but we also see that she forgets people she doesn’t see very much, and also forgets about things that she hasn’t seen or done in a long time. We try to remind her about her life by doing regular memory work, and much of the time she remembers Molly’s name at least, although I don’t know if she would know what Molly looked like. It’s that way with people too. She doesn’t remember the new people who come into her life, but figures it out when we remind her who they are, and she remembers the names of people from her past for the most part, but probably wouldn’t recognize them if she saw them. All we can do is keep reminding her on a daily basis, of who she was and hope that it will allow her to have one more day of remembering things like…Molly.

With the upcoming release of the 3D version of the movie Titanic, discussion in our office turned to the passengers on that fateful voyage. My boss, Jim and his wife, Julie found out that there was a couple on board the Titanic named Charles Emil Henry Stengel who was traveling with his wife Annie May. I have been researching both my family tree, and theirs, so I told them I would check into it. Unfortunately, so far, I haven’t found the connection in their family that I am fairly certain exists, but I will keep looking for it. As I was looking for the name of those passengers, however, I found that there was a man named William Augustus Spencer, who was traveling with his wife Marie Eugenie. It has been my experience in my years of research, that most of people with the last name of Spencer are related, so I began researching William Augustus Spencer.

He was pretty simple to find, as he became famous when he died during the Titanic disaster. Of course, finding him doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easy to connect him to me. The good news is that the Spencer family is one of the few who kept extensive records. I followed the line backwards through names I had never heard of before, until I finally came to one I knew quite well…Gerard Spencer who married Alice Whitebread. To get to that connection, I had to go back to the 1500’s. Then moving to my own tree, and starting at Gerard, I followed the correct children to get back to William Augustus Spencer. After that, I requested a relationship connection between William and myself. I found out that William Augustus Spencer is my 7th cousin 3 times removed. I know that relationship seems very distant, and I suppose most would consider it so, but when you consider that Princess Diana was my 18th cousin, I guess 7th isn’t so far after all.

William was married as I said, but they had no children, so sadly his line ended on that tragic day at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean when the RMS Titanic met her fate. He was 57 years old. His wife Marie Eugenie died just 6 months later in Paris. She was only 46 years old. Strangely, I have found several survivors who died a short time after the Titanic sank. The causes of death have varied and really cannot be linked to the sinking of the Titanic, but I still find it strange. I don’t know what Marie’s cause of death was, but at 45 years of age, it seems strange to me…almost like she died of a broken heart.

William Augustus Spencer’s estate was valued at $2,218,650 of which $1,273,071 went to Marie and the remainder to his nephew and his sister, so Marie was not destitute. But money cannot buy happiness, as we all know, and it certainly couldn’t extend her short life. Their story is one that I find interesting, and even strange to think that one of my family members perished on that tragic day…that seemed so far removed from my family a mere 2 days ago. But, I also find it very sad to think that two lives were…ended that day. One just took 6 more months to complete the ending process.

Remember how your kids had a favorite show on TV when they were little. It’s funny how they would watch that show over and over again. After watching, and worse yet listening to the same show for days, and even months on end, you got to a point where you thought you would go insane. Even shows you thought were cute the first…say twenty times you saw them, became completely annoying before very long. And if it happened to be a show you couldn’t stand in the first place…well, it simply grated on your very last nerve every time your precious child sang that song…again!!!

I’m sure my parents felt the same way. As parents, we try not to make our kids so aware of just how much their favorite show makes us crazy, but we can’t help but be grateful when a new show finally takes the place of their old favorite. Thankfully kids outgrow their original favorites fairly quickly, in most cases, but still, sometimes there are shows that seem to really outstay their welcome in your home.

Some shows seem to span the generations, and you find yourself wondering how they could possibly still be on TV. Who are the crazy parents who continue to let their kids watch these ridiculous shows. Remember Sesame Street. Oh my gosh!! I couldn’t even stand to have that show on in my house. I know my girls liked it ok, but they simply had to watch it at someone else’s house. And I know that many of you couldn’t stand to watch the Barney shows. Oddly that one didn’t bother me too much. Maybe it was the fact that I was a grandmother the first time I watched Barney, so some of the things that used to really annoy me didn’t seem so important anymore…except Sesame Street, which I can’t stand to this day.

Thankfully, the years of children’s’ shows only last for a short time, and our lives can get back to watching normal shows…you know that ones that are mostly not animated. I say mostly because there are a few animated shows that are ok to watch as adults…provided they aren’t watched too many times. Nevertheless, for the most part by the time our kids are done with children’s’ shows, we are definitely done with children’s’ shows…at least until our grandchildren come on the scene, at which time we make the sacrifice…again!!

Most kids have things they like to eat…usually sweets, and things they don’t like to eat…like vegetables. It seems to be something they are just born with. And it seems like every family has one child who is an extremely picky eater. My daughter, Amy was one of those. Amy hated breakfast and still for the most part, doesn’t eat breakfast. It was a struggle for a mother of a one year old child to find that it just didn’t matter what I tried to give her for breakfast, nothing would entice Amy to eat breakfast. I tried cereal, eggs, pancakes, even pop tarts, but nothing worked. Finally in desperation, I bought Carnation Instant Breakfast, because she would drink chocolate milk, and at least she was getting some nutrition.

I wasn’t alone in my child feeding dilemma. My sister-in-law, Jennifer had the same problem with her middle son, JD a number of years later. He didn’t seem to like anything. I felt like my struggle had been small, watching her struggle, because at least Amy would eat pasta, so I could get her to eat meals as long as they included pasta. To this day, sweets are not her favorite thing. She would much rather eat vegetables. Jennifer struggled with JD’s picky eating habits, and since he was born prematurely and was small, he couldn’t afford to skip meals.

I remember Jennifer’s struggle and worries very well. She told me that she didn’t know what she was going to do. And of course, since all kids are different, the things I suggested…things that had worked for Amy…were no help with JD. It was a frustrating time for Jennifer, filled with genuine worry. As a nurse, she knew what he needed, and tried her very best to get him to eat. Of course, it was a serious fight, with a very uncooperative one year old boy. He would taste the food she offered, make a horrible face, and act like, “You’ve got to be kidding!!”

The good news is that JD is now a healthy grown man, whose appetite has vastly improved. In reality, he can out eat most people in the family…no, all the people in the family!! None of us worry about his wasting away from lack of food these days. Nevertheless, I will never forget the day when Jennifer told me that she had started feeding him M & M’s…because at least he would get some calories!! I think she decided that the best thing to do was put some weight on him, and she would work on the nutrition later. Probably not a bad plan, but as baby food goes…pretty funny anyway.

Every once in a while, you find a person who seems to be living in the wrong time. My Aunt Ruth always seemed like that to me. Don’t get me wrong, she functioned very well in the time she lived in, but her true calling was always in the wild. She thrived on it. She was at home the most when she was out in the woods and especially with her beloved animals. She loved the land, and everything that went with it. She probably should have lived in the old west, when the pioneers were making their way to the wide open spaces where they could get land.

Sure, she did just fine when she lived in the cities too, but her heart always seemed to yearn for the land. She reminded me of the women of the west, for whom the land seemed to almost run in their veins. It was a part of them and they were a part of it. When her family moved to the mountains of Washington, she finally found the place of her heart.

When my Aunt Ruth was a girl, her family spent a lot of time at the family farm, when her mother taught her to garden and cook and live off the land. And all of her beloved animals where there too, and she loved them all. Animals of all kinds. She had several dogs that always seemed to hang around her, because animals can tell if you have a kind heart. She was a natural on a horse, and was able to ride like a pro, of course, again, the horses knew that she was the kind of person they wanted to be around. They loved her as much as she loved them.

There are people who seem to be living in the wrong time. They love everything about a past era, and they seem to be so suited for a different time. And yet, here they are, in this time and this place, because what era we are born in is simply not our choice. And maybe they don’t even think about the fact that they seem more suited to another era, but it is something that can be obvious to those around them. That is how my Aunt Ruth always appeared to me. I had never known someone who so loved the land…the woods…the animals…gardening, growing things out of her precious earth. But that was my Aunt Ruth…a beautiful face, a loving heart, in an era where she seemed a bit out of place, because she was more of a pioneer spirit. And that is what she will always be to me.

Years ago…September of 1976 to be exact, Bob and I went to Yakima, Washington to visit his great grandmother. While we were there, Great Grandma showed me a copy of a family tree, in the form of a real tree. As we looked it over, I noticed that Bob’s great great great grandmother’s last name was Spencer..the same as my maiden name. Susan Frances Spencer married William Elkins Cheshire on January 31, 1847, and their daughter Sarah Jane Cheshire married Joseph Leonidas Knox on March 4, 1875, and their son Edgar Allen Knox married Nellie Elizabeth DeGood (the grandmother who was showing me the tree) on December 25, 1907, producing Robert Leonidas Knox who married Nettie Landis Noyes, producing Joann Eleanor Knox who married Walter Andrew Schulenberg, producing Robert Walter Schulenberg, who married me on March 1, 1975.

The only clue I have as to what Susan Frances Spencer might have looked like is her daughter Sarah Jane Cheshire Knox, shown here. I know that Susan married William Cheshire, and that her life was rather short. She was born January 30, 1830, in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and died at the age of 46 years, on May 26, 1876 in Caldwell, Missouri…just over 100 years before I would find out about her, and begin a quest to find out more about her, that would span 36 years to date.

The Spencer family, or at least the branch I come from kept extensive, detailed records, so I never dreamed I would have so much trouble locating a Spencer or their ancestors, but with Susan Frances Spencer and her ancestors, that has not been the case. The trail to find out more always seems to turn very cold right at Susan, and I am left with questions. Who was Susan Frances Spencer Cheshire? How did she die? Who were her parents?

Susan married very young. She was only 17 years and 1 day on her wedding day. Hers was a marriage that would only last 29 years, and would produce 10 children between 1847 and 1867. She did not die in child birth, so what happened. Was there some epidemic in Missouri in 1876? It’s possible since there was a Yellow Fever Epidemic in Georgia in 1876, but I can’t find anything saying that it spread to Missouri. Another dead end!!

I have to wonder if I will ever know if she was related to me. I suspect that she was, because most of the Spencer families seem to come from one branch or another of the same set of grandparents back in England. I would also like to know if back in Bob’s family history somewhere, we will find that he too, is related to the current royal family in England.

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