Monthly Archives: September 2012

A number of years ago, the local paper in Casper, Wyoming ran an article about my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. The article was about his hobby turned business, and was entitled, “Another Kind of Chairman”. My father-in-law took old lawn chairs that had damaged seats, and used cord to re-weave them into new chairs. The seats and seat backs of his chairs had designs in them for football team logos to musical notes. He also made tin men that hang from a hook and wind decorations for fences. He was known throughout Casper, and everyone knew his house, because of all the yard decorations he had up. It looked really cool.

Recently, my father-in-law was in the hospital for several days. At 83 years of age, this is a periodic occurrence. After a few days, he was released, and when we got home, he checked the messages at the house, and found that a woman had called about having him make some chairs for her. He told me that he couldn’t do them anymore. He had some to do already that he couldn’t get finished. You see, his vision isn’t so good right now, and he is weaker than he has been in the past. He had known this was coming for a while, but I hadn’t realized it. I take care of my in-laws, but I was too focused on health care issues to notice the unfinished chair in the living room hadn’t really changed over the past few months. And, since I’m not there every minute of the day, I was unaware that he was no longer making tin men, and in fact had given the last one he made to his sister, Esther…something she was very thankful for, because it is a treasure to her.

As I called the woman back to tell her that my father-in-law wouldn’t be able to make the chairs she wanted, I decided that we needed to take down the sign he has on the outside of his house, advertising the chairs. Later, when I mentioned to Bob that we needed to down the sign, it occurred to me that this was the end of an era. He had been making those different things for so long that I couldn’t really recall just when he started. I do remember him making a stick pony for my girls when they were little. That would have to be more than 30 years ago. So many people have been thrilled with their chairs, but sadly, as people age there are things they can’t do anymore, I know that, but this didn’t seem like something that he wouldn’t be able to do, and the fact that it is makes me very sad. Sad for him, and for the people who will not get to enjoy the things he made. Sad that this is the end of an era.

When he first arrived on September 9, 1998, 5 weeks early, Josh had to be flown to Denver because his lungs were under-developed. That was just about the last time Josh would be weak in any way. Josh quickly grew into an eating machine, wanting a treat every time he walked into my house. The first words out of his mouth were, “Treat, Grandma…treat!!” I had to make sure I had granola bars or fruit roll-ups, because that boy was hungry!!! And the really strange thing is that to this day, he can eat and eat, and still be a skinny little kid. Today, Josh is a great big 14 year old boy, but he’s still slim. I don’t know how he does it, but he does!

We went up on the mountain yesterday to celebrate Josh and his dad, my son-in-law, Kevin’s birthday. They wanted to have their party on the mountain. They love to camp, and so Josh couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate his birthday. They have had a great weekend, and in the middle of it, they got to spend time at their favorite pass time…paintball shooting. And to top it off, we brought them another fighter…Caalab!! Kevin, Chris, Caalab, and Josh had a great time hiding and shooting each other. And as for me, I was just glad that I wasn’t involved in the fighting, because I have a feeling I would have not only lost badly, but I’m pretty sure I would have been the prime target, if I know these guys…and I do.

So much has changed since our premature little Josh arrived, but one thing I can tell you without a doubt is that Josh is a fighter. In the beginning he fought for life, in sports he fights to win, as the youngest he fight for equality, and in paintball, he fights to beat his dad, brother, cousin, and anyone else who wants to take a shot at him. True, all his fighting is in the area of sports these days, but as the youngest, I suspect he will be vying for his superiority for a while yet…not that any of the boys or Kevin will mind that so much. They are a competitive bunch, after all. Who will come out the victor over all lies in the future, but that’s ok. The journey will be fun. Happy birthday Josh!! We love you!!

When you look at old pictures of your mom, dad, or your aunts and uncles when they were young, sometimes it is hard to believe how much they changed over the years. It’s harder to see those changes in yourself, because you are unaware of many of those little changes. But, once you are presented with two very different views of the same person, you can see the person they became. I suppose some people would say that the is a story about growing old, but that isn’t what I am talking about at all. It is a story about growing up and becoming the beautiful people that each of them can be.

It is just so amazing to me to see the changes that came about in my mom’s sisters and brothers. It was even more amazing to see what they looked like when they were younger…or should I say who they looked like when they were younger. When I look at my aunts and uncles as teenagers and younger, I can see other children in the family, and not necessarily their own children. Often, kids take after aunts and uncles. There were some amazing resemblances among those faces.

There were also faces that reminded me of movie stars or other celebrities, not that there was any reason that they should, because they aren’t actors or anything, but I think they could have been. My aunts and uncles could have done anything they wanted, but I’m glad they chose to stay here in Wyoming, where we could all know each other well. To me, the most important people in the world are not the celebrities who demand all the attention just because they do crazy things that get shared with the entire world, but the people who quietly make a difference in the lives of the people they touch. That’s what my aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents did and continue to do with their lives.

When I look at the pictures of my mom’s family, and recall a lifetime of blessings that they have all provided for all of us…their family, I feel very rich indeed. People whose families are spread all across the country really have no idea what they are missing out on. Family is more important than just about anything else, except God, and even God points out the importance of family, telling me that He agrees with how I feel about the blessing of a close family. Life just doesn’t get any better than that!

Right after my parents were married, they headed out for their honeymoon, like most couples do. Their honeymoon would also include the move from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin, and would take in many places my mom had never seen before. Mom’s family didn’t do much traveling, and I don’t think they had ever taken the kids very far East. I’m sure the trip brought many feeling out in my mom, from homesickness to excitement. And just as sure as I am that she was homesick, I’m also sure that my dad’s gentleman’s ways, soothed her sadness, and made everything alright again.

The honeymoon part of the trip would take them to the Black Hills of South Dakota…a vacation spot that they loved from that time forward, and one that our whole family loves to this day. Few places aside from Washington D.C. have the kind of Patriotic feel to them that The Black Hills has, not to mention the particular ties to history and the West that The Black Hills has. One of the big gold draws that brought the white man to the West, The Black Hills inspired much unrest and many battles between the Indian nation and the white man. You can still feel some of that history when you are there. It is a very historic place to visit, and one I highly recommend.

The honeymoon trip would take my parents on to Superior, Wisconsin, where my mom got her first glimpse of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. If you have never been there, Lake Superior is another place I highly recommend. The sheer majesty of this lake is amazing. Even in her homesickness, my mom would fall in love with the beauty of Lake Superior and the surrounding area. It would be impossible not to.

Mom and Dad would live in Superior, Wisconsin for almost 6 years before moving back to Casper, Wyoming where they would live for the rest of their lives. Mom’s family would make several trips up to visit, and Mom got a chance to show them all the sights that she had grown to love. Still none of it was as amazing as the first time Mom laid eyes on it. The entire area was so different from Casper, Wyoming, where she grew up. And I’m quite sure that my dad’s love of traveling, and his keen ability to point out the very best sites made their honeymoon and the rest of their time in Superior and the surrounding area, one of the best times in their lives.

My younger sisters, Caryl and  Alena  were in high school, when our church decided to have a church camp. All the cool stuff happened after I went through, of course. I had always thought church camp…or camp in general would be great fun, but there just wasn’t one when I was the right age. Anyway, the girls went to church camp for a week, and everyone had a great time. That was a week that the girls would remember for many years, filled with friendships, both new and continuing, and new boyfriends, but then what was camp for anyway, if not for finding a new boyfriend.

It’s funny how camp always seems to end up with those boyfriend/girlfriend situations. Most of them don’t last very long, because other than camp, what did you really have in common anyway. But sometimes, there were a few that lasted as long as any other boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. The friendships the girls made at camp, whether with boys or girls, did last for years to come, however.

You never know how far reaching those friendships can be until years later. And you also don’t know how strong family resemblances can be either. About 5 or 10 years ago, I was approached by a man at the mall, when Bob and I were in the food court having a lemonade, and he said, did your last name used to be Spencer. Amazed, I said “Yes, how did you know that?” He told me that he had gone to church camp with my sisters when they were all in high school, back in the late 70’s, and he knew that I had to be their sister, because we looked so much alike. Now, I have always known that we looked a lot alike, but seriously, the last time he had seen my sisters was about 25 years earlier. I marveled at how he had picked me out of all the people at the mall, and without my sisters there, and he just knew I was their sister.

We talked for a couple of minutes, with him reminiscing about the fun times they had a church camp, all those years ago. Then he asked me to tell my sisters hello for him and he went his way. I don’t remember his name anymore, but the girls were sure surprised that I had run into him and he knew I was their sister. They were even more surprised that he still thought about church camp after all those years. But then, some experiences just stay with you. Maybe it’s about wishing we could have our youth back, maybe about lost loves, and maybe it’s just about the fact that some experiences are just so much fun that we want to reminisce about them once in a while, just for the fun of it.

Knowing the kind of man my dad was, makes me wonder about the journey that his life took to reach that place of being the most wonderful dad in the world. He was a man who was respected, and who has been remembered by people I would never have expected to remember him, because the amount of time they knew him was so short, and yet, he made a lasting impression on them. How did he become such a charismatic person. Dad was the kind of man who always treated women like ladies. He was a gentleman to the end.

So often, we look at a child, or a picture of a child, and wonder what they might become. Even their teenaged pictures make us wonder about the adult they will become. It’s normal to wonder about the future, but sometimes, I find myself looking at pictures of my ancestors and, especially my dad, and wondering who they were as children.

I know about some of the antics my dad and his brother pulled, as well as some of the good things they did, especially for their mom. I have a feeling that I would have very much liked the boy that he was. Dad might have been a boy who was full of mischief, but he was also a boy who loved his parents and siblings. He loved the Lord, and lived his life for Him. His letters home from World War II proved that to me. He discussed church services and his own Bible study with his mother. His relationship with God was very apparent. The boy was growing into a man, and I think he would have been very much my friend…if he hadn’t been my dad, but I wouldn’t want to trade the dad he became for anything…not even the friend he might have been.

Because Dad and I thought so much alike, I can imagine that we would have had lots to talk about, but because we both also had a teasing, mischievous side, I can imagine that we would have probably gotten in a little trouble now and then, because…well, teasing and mischief are just naturally followed by the opportunity to sit in a corner, or spend time thinking about it in our room. I know that my dad as an adult loved to tease my sisters and me, so I’m sure his sisters were an easy target…not that I expect they minded much. His teasing was always in good fun.

I very much think I would have liked the child and young man my dad was. He was just
mischievous enough to be funny and enough of a gentleman to treat people right. I suppose that is why so many people remember him 5 years after his passing. Even people who treated him for a short time at the hospital, like the respiratory therapist who asked me if he was my dad. That really shocked me, especially when I asked how she remembered my dad after all these years, and she said, “Some patients are just special.” Of course I cried, but she couldn’t have said anything that would have made my day more than knowing the my dad was not forgotten.

I love seeing the funny ways many babies and toddlers fall asleep, because they are so uninhibited. They get tired and they just nod off in whatever place or position they are in at that moment. Sometimes they have been fighting the whole thing for a while, and sometimes you don’t really want them to fall asleep…just yet. You hope they will stay awake long enough to finish dinner, because you know that if they don’t eat enough, they probably won’t sleep long, and a hungry baby wakes up grouchy!

One of the funniest ways kids fall asleep is when they are eating. Sometimes their face is covered with food bits, and they have a complete mess all around them. Sometimes, they are just about to put their face right into that dinner, and it doesn’t matter to them, because they are just too tired to care. And, when you think about it, does food on a baby’s face really bother them anyway.

Babies are so funny. They are out trying new things…keeping themselves running, or crawling, all the time, and before you know it they simply drop from exhaustion. That is not unusual by itself, but it is the way they drop that usually brings a laugh. They might have their little butt in the air, or be lying over a pillow, that is under their back instead of their head. They might snuggle up to the dog or a favorite toy, or they might be face first in their dinner plate.

One of the funniest sleeping moments with most babies is when they have nodded off in their windup swing, with their little head hanging down on their chest, and then you go to wind up the swing again. They jump the minute you start to wind it up, their head flies up, eyes partway open, but the baby is not really awake. You are trying not to laugh, because you really don’t want to wake the baby up, and that was the reason you were winding the swing up anyway, right.

Yes, sleeping babies can be very funny. For most of us a sleeping baby can also be a relief. If they have been crying  for a long time, we are so ready for it to stop, but once they finally crash, all that frustration goes away, and we simply watch them and enjoy the funny way they can look. Either  way, there is nothing quite like a sleeping baby.

When someone has been a part of your family for 22 years, 3 while dating your daughter and 19 while married to your daughter, you get to a place where it’s hard to remember life without that person there. That is the case with Kevin. Kevin has not only been a part of our family for 22 years, but he has endeared himself to my heart. He has been a help in the tough times and brought smiles to our faces in the good times. His sense of humor and teasing fits right in to the kind of family we are.

After all these years, Kevin is really not our son-in-law anymore…he is our son. There are all kinds of sons-in-law. Those who stay in a family are usually loved and respected, but that doesn’t make their in-laws think of them as sons. It takes more than that to become a son. Being a good husband to your daughter, who you have entrusted to his care. Being a good father to your grandchildren. Stepping up when they are needed. Comforting you and your family in sad times. All things that change a son-in-law into a son. That is the man Kevin is and the son he has been to us.

Of course, being a son isn’t just about what Kevin can or has done for us, It’s about who he is. Kevin is a strong family man. His family is the most important thing to him. He is the kind of man his sons can look up to and yet, still a hopeless romantic when it comes to his relationship with my daughter, Corrie. He is very handy when it comes to carpentry, and he is doing some remodeling in their home. And at the same time, he is good at painting cars, and is painting his son, Chris’ car for him. He has a lot of abilities, but the reason he does all these things is…love. Kevin has a great love for his family and friends.

Today is Kevin’s birthday. Kevin, you are an amazing son-in-law, who has become a son to us. I don’t know what our family would be like if you were not in it. I hope your day is absolutely wonderful. Thank you for being a part of our lives, and for taking such good care of my girl and the grandsons you two blessed us with. We love you!!

Large families have, as a matter of course, a wide range of ages in the children. The elder children are often married when the youngest ones are just little or sometimes not even born yet. Then their children come along and they end up playing with their aunts and uncles as often as not. They become almost like sisters and brothers. That was the case for my cousin Susie, who often played with her aunts, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy. She had automatic friends. From having lunch together, to playing house, their time together was filled with fun.

Aunt Sandy, who is the youngest of my mom’s siblings, tells me that she doesn’t remember a time when her brothers-in-law and sister-in-law weren’t in her life. I doubt if she remembers a time without nieces or nephews either. I’m sure she also helped in holding the babies when they were little too. Young aunts can make the best babysitters, when they are old enough to be a help, that is. Girls usually love to sit and hold those babies, but then who doesn’t.

In looking at this picture, I can see a camaraderie between these four girls that is very obvious. When I was a kid, all my aunts and uncles were grown ups, so I never experienced that myself. I’ve often wondered just how it would feel to hang out with my aunts and uncles as kids. I know that my aunts and uncles were quite a crew. It seems from the stories my mom has told me that they were always having some great adventure. I’m sure too, that my grandmother had to stay on her toes, because as with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, quite often, those adventures got the kids in a bit of trouble with their parents, but then, what’s the fun in adventure if it doesn’t result in one fix or another. Of course, I’m sure my grandmother would disagree.

Our family enjoys spending time together, but I think very possibly Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, Aunt Sandy, and Susie have a relationship that is just a little bit closer than most, because it began when they were so very young. It made them almost like sisters, and as most of us know, sisters are forever friends.

My Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George were married 65 years ago today. These days that is an amazing accomplishment. My Uncle George has been a part of our family longer than anyone except the original siblings. My Aunt Sandy, the youngest of Aunt Evelyn’s sisters and brothers was only 2 years old when they got married. As Aunt Sandy has told me before, her brothers-in-law and sister-in-law are more like her own brothers and sister. She can’t remember a time in her life without them.

When my mom and dad were dating, they often went out with Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George. One night after going to a movie, my dad was driving Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George home before taking my mom home, and as they were crossing the railroad tracks in Mills, a track with no lighting and no signal or gate, on a moonless night, a train without his headlight on approached. They would have all been killed if it were not for Uncle George yelling, “Train!!” and my dad quickly turning the car in the direction the train was heading. When I think of what could have been if my uncle hadn’t seen what he saw and reacted, and my dad hadn’t listened and reacted…well, I wouldn’t even be here today. What an amazing man my uncle is.

My Aunt Evelyn is the oldest of my grandparents 9 children. She used to decorate cakes in her younger years. She made my mother’s wedding cake, as well as mine and many more. She did beautiful work, and would inspire her sister, my Aunt Bonnie to follow in her footsteps. Aunt Evelyn also bowled for a number of years, and I had the great pleasure of bowling with her for a good number of those years. But, most importantly, she was Mom to her kids. She was a stay at home mom, as many moms were back then. Together, Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George raised 5 children, and now have many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Their lives have been a great blessing to their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and all who know them. Happy 65th Anniversary Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George!! We all love you very much!!

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