Monthly Archives: February 2014
My grand nephew Jake has always been a goofy kid. His favorite thing to do is make people laugh, and he will do just about anything he can to make that happen. He has been known to sit on people’s laps just to see if they are surprised, and then turn around and goof off with a cousin or two to see if he can make them laugh…while he is sitting on the lap of the first person. Such was the case at the family Christmas party, when Jake sat on my lap and teased Mindy and Missy Grosvenor. We all had a good laugh with him. They though it was quite funny that he was sitting on my lap, and we all three laughed at the funny things he was saying. This is so typical of Jake, and one of the things that makes people like him.
Jake has really never met anyone he didn’t like. Every time I see him, he puts his arms around me and tells me I am his best friend. I don’t think I am really his best friend, but it’s nice that my grand nephew likes me. When you are the great aunt, you kind of figure that you are just a part of that older generation, and the younger ones really don’t give a lot of thought to the older generation, but Jake has always treated me like he enjoys seeing me, and that makes me feel good…but then that is what Jake was trying to accomplish.
I think Jake is the kind of guy who really likes to have everyone around him be happy. That is probably why he likes to joke around with everyone. Jake figures that if he can bring a smile to someone’s face, then he has accomplished his goal for the day. It’s not a bad way to be…especially when people are feeling down. It takes a special kind of person to work to make people smile, and that is what Jake is like. He doesn’t care if he has to look like a clown to do it either. I think that is what makes Jake special to me. Every time I see him he is upbeat and happy. It’s really cool when people can honestly say that about you. Today is Jake’s birthday. Happy birthday Jake!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
So many times, we are so busy taking a picture of someone or something, that we fail to notice the little things happening just beyond the center of our attention. Most often, they are not really important things, and they will continue to be fairly unnoticed later on too. Things like a bird or dog or even a car on a nearby road, are just coincidences that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We just overlook them as we look at the main subjects of the picture.
Nevertheless, there are things, that when they are placed in a picture, can change the picture in a bigger way, and in reality, add to its depth….give it character and add a touch of humor to it for all to see. It’s not something that usually invades the picture, but rather someone who invades it, and often that someone is a child. Yes, you get the occasional inattentive person who is off in their own little world, and so they walk right into your shot, but that is not what I’m talking about here. Those shots are simply annoying, because they ruined the shot by their careless act of indifference.
No, I’m talking about the watchers. Usually little kids who are so excited about the picture being taken or the people who are in the picture that they stand at the window or in the doorway to watch the proceedings, and since the photographer wasn’t looking at the window, even though it was right behind the subjects they are photographing, they get the little watcher in the picture too. I love those kinds of pictures, because it is just so typical of little kids to want to see what is going on, and they have no idea that they have inadvertently stepped into the shot. It’s just all about the fact that they are curious about what is going on.
I don’t think these watchers ever ruin the shot, like the inattentive passerby does. The watcher is more like the bird or the dog who gets into the shot when it was not in the plan for them to be there. They just like to see what is going on, and so, there they are at the moment you snap the picture. They don’t ruin the picture, but rather add that little bit of humor, character, and even depth to the shot, and speak to the very nature of kids. “If you aren’t a part of it, just be near enough to catch what is going on.” And, “Oops!! I didn’t mean to be in the picture!!”
Little girls usually have such fine hair that it seems to have a mind of its own. Mothers can try just about anything they can think of to keep it down, but it does no good. I think sometimes the only thing that will keep a little girl’s hair under control is Elmer’s Glue, and that would be a little odd!! I suppose the kids might find that fun, but I can only imagine how awful it would be come bath time. Other than that, I seriously doubt if most little girls care about having glue or anything else in their hair, and in fact, will gladly put food, or any other sticky thing in their hair that they can get their hands on, if you let them. In fact, I think my grand niece, Aurora likes looking goofy. She loves to laugh about being a silly girl…especially if she can make other people laugh too.
The way those little girls’ hair looks after they have been sleeping is especially funny. We’ve all had bedhead, but most of us brush our hair before anyone ever gets to see our hair. These poor little girls are forced to sit there for that wonderful bedhead picture, while we laugh at the end result…and yes, I have laughed too. I don’t believe the little girls in our pictures really care about what their hair looks like, at least not until they become teenagers, when they might find the pictures embarrassing, but I highly doubt it. Little kids are too busy having fun, and from what I’ve seen with my own girls and granddaughter, those goofy bad hair day pictures are something they love to laugh about.
Now, take a step backward in time, and you will find that the thing the women had to tie up the unruly hair of their little girls were not as good as they are today. They didn’t have hair clips, ties, and rubber bands, but rather used ribbons, which didn’t really stay in, as most of us know. I’m sure that is partly why my mother-in-law’s hair was such a mess as she played with her dog on that windy day. It didn’t bother her at all, except that she kept having to brush it out of her eyes. That is really the only reason any of us are bothered when our hair is flying around completely out of control…except for the snarls that is. Some things just come with the territory, and I guess, snarls, hair in our faces, and otherwise wind blown hair, are simply a part of life, and what girl among us has never had bedhead, a bad hair day, or wild hair…not one of us, right.
As our children grow into adulthood, it can be difficult to look at them in this new light. Sometimes, it takes much longer to realize that they are grown adults than perhaps it should take. It isn’t that they are immature, its just that we can’t get past the picture of that child that has lived in our minds all these years. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own children either. Nieces and nephews can seem like they just shouldn’t be grown adults…and yet they are. That’s the way I feel about my niece, Jenny. As a girl, Jenny was a teeny little princess type with a cute little smile. She rarely took anything seriously, but rather just liked to have fun. I know, pretty typical of a little girl. Yes, she was typical of little girls, but Jenny was going to become something different…a faith filled woman.
Now, Jenny is grown and has a family of her own. Somehow, it has finally hit me I think, what a very special woman she is. She has been through so many things in her lifetime, and yet the woman I see before me is strong and charming at the same time. She doesn’t let the sadness or problems she faces, define who she is, but rather turns to God to lead her everywhere she goes. As a teenager, like most teenagers, she just didn’t seem like she would have become this strong faith-filled woman, but now, here she is. It is an amazing transformation.
I think that you can tell what a person is really made of as you watch them walk through the trials in this life. Some people are broken by the trials, and some stand firm in their beliefs, and strong in their faith. Nevertheless, you wish there was a way to keep them from going through any trials at all, because you love them. You can’t protect them from everything they will face in this world, but you can equip them with the necessary tools to see them through the trials of life…namely God. Now, as I see Jenny posting on Facebook about how happy she is to be going to church to worship the Lord, it makes me feel very proud of how much she has grown in the Lord.
The person Jenny is today is a direct result of the prayers of her mother. My sister, Cheryl, like the rest of my sisters, my parents, and I, have prayed over our children. I can’t imagine trying to walk through this world without prayers being said over the journey, nor can anyone in the rest of my family. Jenny too, has learned that life must be handled with prayer, and that while sorrows may come, God still has a plan for you, and that miracles still happen today. Those prayers brought Steve into her life, so they could walk the road of faith hand in hand. Jenny knows that God really does still answer prayer today, and when He heals your broken heart, it is in the most wonderful way. And she knows that while sorrows come, God will restore what is missing in their lives, back to them again. Today is Jenny’s birthday. While life has not always been easy for her…Jenny has come through it all, her faith intact and her joy complete, because she has her miracle. I’m very proud of her. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a blessed day!! We love you!!
It’s strange that our minds, even as small children can remember the things that most impressed us. Even as young as 3, or maybe even younger, those memories so clearly imprint themselves on our mind that we can see the event as if we were experiencing it still. Sometimes that memory is scary and we wish we could forget, such as the time I was tripped by a woman trying to get off of the escalator that we were on. I clearly remember falling, my dress being torn, and my chin and elbow being cut. Escalators bother me to this day. Other memories, like the first time we got to stay in a motel bring a smile to my face.
I’m sure that is exactly how my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher felt when she remembered the fall days on the farm, after the wheat had been harvested, and the flocks of ducks and geese would begin their migration south. She remembers that the wheat fields seemed to be covered with a thick cloud, that was in fact the flocks of ducks and geese. Then the fields seemed to be alive as they went about looking for food as the evening neared. She recalls how her older brother, Albert would go out to the wheat fields and return with twenty birds in an hour. While Fred, Bertie, and Elsa watched with their mouths watering, Anna and Mina had to clean the birds, and even though they liked the end result, the cleaning was a lot of work, and they grumbled through every second of it.
Years later the family had a smoke house, and the meat that came from there was heavenly. Great Aunt Bertie said she could still taste that meat, while feeling quite sad that she had gone years without it by then. One of her fondest memories of her mother was one of sneaking out to the smoke house with a sharp knife and cutting off a bit of the meat whenever they needed a snack in the middle of the day. And the best thing is that it was allowed in their home, and not considered an offence in need of punishment.
So much of life is commonplace, and would maybe even be considered boring, but in every life there are moments that stand out…that, are labeled in our memory files as special and very important, even if, to other people, they would not seem so. It is the privilege of each person’s mind to pick the memories that it finds the most special and the most important…the sweetest memories. Then they are locked away, so they can be opened up another day, when something we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch triggers that particular file to reopen and pour out that sweet memory that has been tucked away there, so that we can experience it once again in our mind.
It would be hard for most of us to imagine a world where we got to go to town only once a year, and yet that was the way of things back when my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher was a little girl. The Schumacher family moved from Minnesota to a place 8 miles from Lisbon, North Dakota, and the school house was 3 miles from where they lived. Bob and I, in our many evening walks have walked 8 miles at a time, but not in the winter, and since that walk takes us 2 hours, I can’t say that it would be feasible as a way to go to town for groceries, because then there is that walk back loaded down with groceries. Just the thought of 4 hours of walking in the winter cold is enough to make me cringe.
Nevertheless, the children needed to be in school, so Great Grandpa Carl Schumacher got up early every morning, to get the horses out and break a trail, then hook up to the sleigh for the 3 mile drive in to the school with his older children, Anna (my grandmother), Albert, and Mina. Aunt Bertie remarks in her journal, that she and Elsa were very glad that they could stay home with their mother. The sleigh was nothing like the more romantic New England cutters we all think about, but was rather a grain wagon box placed on two heavy runners pulled by their sturdiest horses because of all the deep snow the area got. Great Grandma Henriette would bring the older 3 children out to the wagon, and place bricks she had heated by their feet. Then she would wrap them in blankets that even covered their faces to protect them from the bitter cold. In all the time the children went to that school, they were there everyday, unless they were sick. It was by far the best attendance record in the school, and the Schumacher family lived the furthest away from the school. When Aunt Bertie went to school, a place she was not very fond of, she had to force herself to do what she needed to. It was at this time that she met the only teacher that would remain in her memory for the rest of her life. She was beautiful, and well dressed, but it was her graciousness and her love for children that made her the best teacher little Bertie would ever have.
Not long after Bertie started school, the family moved closer to Lisbon, and the school was only a mile away, and much to Bertie’s delight, it had an indoor bathroom. No more running outside to the outhouse in the middle of a freezing cold day and then running back inside in the cold again. Bertie felt like she was attending school in a palace, I’m sure. One day, when her mother had to drive the long distance into town on a very cold winter day, she decided to leave little 4 year old Elsa at the school with Bertie and their brother, Fred for the day. Elsa had never been away from her mother before, and they were very close, so she proceeded to cry. The older children could not console her, and finally a teacher came and took Elsa under her wing, calming her and allowing her and her siblings the peace of knowing that everything was going to be alright. Bertie recalls how it is funny that the memories that really stay in your memory are the ones where someone showed such love and kindness that the memory of it lingered on for years to come. What a lovely way to be remembered. That is something I think I should like to be remembered as. Loving and kind enough that the memory of my acts of kindness and love stay in the memories of those whose lives I might have touched.
As a boy, my niece Toni’s husband, Dave and his brother, Dan were a mischievous pair. They liked to build forts with some big…12 x 6 x 6 inch, cardboard bricks they had, and then they would spend hours in there. It was sort of a boys only club, and an irritation to their sister, Jane, I’m sure. Jane tried repeatedly to get in on the fun, but every time she tried, they knocked all the blocks over on her. Poor Jane didn’t have a chance against those two boys. She was clearly out numbered, and would have to learn to get even or at least to laugh at being picked on, because she would be picked on by her brothers all of their childhood. They still speak, so I guess things worked out one way or the other, and my guess is that eventually the boys got over the whole girls have cooties thing, as well as the blocks thing and that settled it.
When Dave was 6, his dad was a soldier serving in Viet Nam. I’m sure it was a hard time on the entire family, and Dave decided to be a bit rebellious. I’m not sure what he said to his mom, but she decided that the best punishment was to wash his mouth out with soap. I have had that done to me, and believe me…it’s icky. Well, little, big boy, Dave at all of 6 years of age decide that he was not going to put up with this horrendous treatment…after all, with his dad gone, he was the man of the house…or at least one of them. His response was to Karate chop his mom!! It didn’t hurt of course, but his mom was too amused to punish him for the offending words or the chop. I’m sure Dave realized later in life, just how lucky he was that she found that funny, because the opposite could also have been the case, and then it might have been a mouth washing and a spanking. I guess he would have found out who was really in charge then!! And that he wasn’t quite the tough guy he thought he was.
Dave was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He came to the University of Wyoming to get his engineering degree, and he continues to be a serious Wyoming Cowboys fan to this day. After college was over, he started working at the Bureau of Land Management, where he has worked for 30 years, and that’s where he met my Aunt Sandy. Now you might think that he then met Toni through Aunt Sandy, but you would be wrong. Dave and Toni were introduced by a mutual friend. They decided to go out, and he mentioned to some of the gals at work that he was going out with a friend’s friend named Toni. Aunt Sandy said my niece is named Toni, and showed Dave a picture of our “huge” family. Dave said, “That’s her!” The rest, as they say was history. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As I was looking through some old pictures, I came across one of a house. It was old, with it’s windows and doors boarded up. At first I thought that it was sad that so many houses around our country are left to fall apart, right in a town where people are using the homes all around it. I couldn’t figure out why this house had some significance, when so many others don’t. Then I looked at the back of the picture and I was surprised at what I found. First of all, so many of the pictures I have looked at, were not written on at all, leaving so much of the family history to the imagination…frustrating to say the least, and I know too that I have been guilty of that myself. We think that we will know the people in the picture, and we will, but what of the people in years to come…our children and grandchildren or even, great grandchildren…what will they know of the people or places in the picture.
So, what of the house in the picture I found…well, it was the house that Bob’s grandmother, Vina Nona Leary Schulenberg Hein was born in, 105 years ago today. It’s strange to think that you are looking at a house that was the specific location of a specific event over a century earlier, but that is exactly the case. Most births took place in the home back then, and this one was no different, in fact, it was probably completely routine…to them. To most of us today, that seems incredible, even though home births are making a comeback.
Grandma Hein’s birthday was always easy for me to remember, because it came on Groundhog’s Day. I’m sure that was always something her whole family thought was a cool thing too. Having a birthday on a special day or holiday can be fun, with the possible exception of Christmas. I have heard that a Christmas birthday, or even close to it, can be a real bummer with the whole gift thing and all, but any other special day is a cool thing. Grandma’s birthday being on Groundhogs Day, marked the day of either the promise of an early spring or 6 more weeks of a dreary winter. I don’t know, that one might depend on the outcome, as to whether it was a cool birthday or not. Nevertheless, being able to look at the very house that was aflutter with activity on this Groundhog’s Day 105 years ago is a cool thing to me. I have to wonder what the walls of this old house could tell us of that day. Quite a bit I expect. It’s a bit sad to think that no little children run and play in it’s rooms, no wonderful smells fill it’s rooms, no family enjoys the warmth of it’s rooms, but rather it has become a sad empty structure left to fall apart. Still, it was an important place in it’s day…Grandma’s day of birth 105 years ago today. Happy birthday Grandma!! We love and miss you very much.
Lately, my cousin, James Jay Spencer has been on my mind quite a bit. He passed away seven years ago today. Jim was a happy, smiley little boy, whose life ended far too soon, after he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. It had been some time since we had seen Jim, and I really do regret that, because my cousin, Jim was a great guy, and I loved him very much.
During the time of Jim’s illness, Uncle Bill naturally focused on the time he had left with Jim. They spent as much time together as they could. In the last few years of his life, Jim went to see his dad every day, something that pleased Uncle Bill very much. They would do lots of things together…or nothing but sit and talk. It didn’t really matter. They shared a number of interests, making them very good friends. Losing a child, no matter how old, is a devastating event in a parent’s life, and one that they never really get past. It is always there, just under the surface…a bittersweet memory that can be hard to talk about, and easy to cry over.
As a little boy, Jimmy loved to play in the vacant lot across the street from their house. The neighborhood kids played there in the summer, but in the winter, it became an ice skating rink. The kids who had skates skated, and the ones who didn’t like my cousin Jim, just took a running slide on the ice. Jim quickly grew to love the ice. One day when he was about 4 years old, he came running into the house, and when his dad asked if he had been skating, he said “No, I’ve been swiding on my boots!” Soon, his love of the ice turned into a love of hockey. At first, his team couldn’t seem to win a game, but Jim always said the same thing, “We’re gonna win this one, Dad.” As time went on, the team did win and Jim got to be a great hockey player, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t real tall. Then, he passed that love of hockey onto his son, Cody who was a great player too.
Uncle Bill and Jim shared more than a love of sports. They understood each other. Jim’s loss was devastating to Uncle Bill. His mind was already slipping, and the memories of the past were quickly becoming all he had left…his children and his family history. And now, his youngest child was gone. He wrote the things he remembered of Jim’s life…the precious memories…the thoughts and feelings…all the accomplishments…all the things they had done. He set Jim’s place in the family history, and at the end of it all, he finished with the words that were the sweetest to his tired memory, “I called him Jimbo. He called me Daddio.”