Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sharing SecretsSisters are a unique beings. They can fight, literally like cats and dogs, and everyone would do well to stay out of the way. Still, your sister is always your sister, and you love her no matter what. During some of those peaceful times, when you are getting along, many sisters find that they are able to have some of the most memorable and wonderful times of their lives. It’s in those times that you find yourself sharing your secrets with your sister, because she will always understand what you are going through. In fact, nobody cares more about what you are going through than your sister.

I have always loved those pictures with two little girls, sitting there with their heads together, whispering their secrets to each other. You know they are talking about some little boy that they really like, or even possibly about how funny someone looked in their ridiculous outfit today…I know, gossip. We can think we don’t like gossip all we want to, but the reality is that most of us like to hear the latest gossip. We want to know if that guy in school is about to break up with his girlfriend and hopefully that he likes us. It’s funny how many grade school romances took three or four people to get them off the ground. A friend knows a boy their friend likes, and the friend asks if he said anything about them. Or a friend has to tell that guy that their friend likes him, because obviously he is not observant enough to see those looks she keeps shooting his way…or at least that is the way it seems.

Our quest for secrets often starts as little kids, but it carries on into adulthood. We all seem to want to be the first and only one to know about something exciting. Secrets make us feel important. To be esteemed important enough to know someone’s secrets, is a place of value indeed, and it’s a place we want to be. Of course, to be in that place, we must be able to keep a secret. In the area of gossip, that is a rather odd thing, because someone had to tell the secret first in order for it to be gossip, so I guess that if we are to be a good secret keeper, we will have to put ourselves in a place of not being a gossip. Of course, in the area of keeping secrets, your sister can be a good one for that, because she must remember those cat and dog fights, and might not want to repeat them for not keeping the secret.

Roadside WreckEveryone has done it…stopped, or at least slowed way down to they can look at the roadside wreck they have just come up on. Of course, we all hope and pray that the people who were involved are ok, and we feel really bad for them that their vehicle is a big mess, if not a complete total. Still, we can’t help but look at the scene with curiosity. We wonder how the accident happened, and who was at fault. And while it may seem strange, we find ourselves in awe at the way metal can twist and go from being a car to something that doesn’t even resemble a car. My dad and his brother, my Uncle Bill came up on this truck at the side of the road. It had rolled, and I guess there wasn’t a tow truck readily available, so it was left on the side of the road for a time. Well, their curiosity got the better of them, and they stopped to have their picture taken by the wreck. Maybe it was the first one they had ever seen…who knows.

Flipped itI suppose that since cars were a little bit less common back then, wrecks were too. So, maybe that was a big part of the draw to look over the wreck…but that doesn’t explain the fascination we still seem to have. People take pictures of the wreck and post it to Facebook, the newspaper sends a reporter out there to get the shots that will go into the paper, and the television station sends reporters out to get shots for the news. Odd as it is, we still seem to want to see these wrecks. I suppose it is an appetite for the sensational. We watch monster truck wrecks, and love to see the rollovers. I suppose we have become somewhat immune to the reality of what these accidents can bring to pass in peoples’ lives.

As an insurance agent, I see the other side of many of these accidents. I am thankful that I very seldom see accidents with fatalities. Maybe that is just that I live in Wyoming, and with less people in our state, there is less likelihood that there will be a fatality in any given Lacey's car accidentaccident. Whatever the case may be, I have been fortunate enough to only have to deal with a small amount of fatalities in the 25 years I have been an agent. Nevertheless, the accidents with injuries, especially when it is a family member, even if the injuries are very minor, can be very traumatic. Probably the worst one for me, was the accident involving my niece, Lacey when a semi-truck ran a red light, and hit her car. Thankfully, she and her cousin had only minor injuries. The truck driver felt so horrible about the accident, that he sold his truck, and quit driving trucks completely. While not all roadside wrecks are this bad looking, sometimes they don’t have to be in order to be really bad.

Dog playingThrowing rocksEvery year in late February or early March, Bob and I take a three day weekend and head to Thermopolis to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It isn’t a long trip, but rather, a peaceful getaway. We have taken longer trips, and enjoyed them immensely, but the nice thing about going to Thermopolis is that there is very little to do in this small town, so you find yourself relaxing and doing the simple things. We like to take long walks along the river, and up by the hot springs. Most of the time I like to be alone…just the two of us, but today was a little different. It’s not that was were with a group of people, but rather the people we interacted with that were so interesting.

First there was the man with his dog. The dog was so happy to be playing in the water again Fishermanafter such a long cold winter. Every time his master threw the toy into the water, the dog could hardly contain himself. He ran splashing into the river, grabbed his prize and brought it back to his master for another go. Then we watched two little boys who were happily throwing rocks into the river. Each one tried to find a bigger rock than their last one had been. They were quite the pair.

There were the fishermen and the strolling walkers, but the one who was the most interesting person who crossed our path was the little girl who was so excited about rushing the ducks, that she didn’t see that I was photographing them until it was too late. She quickly apologized, but I told her that she didn’t ruin my picture, but rather enhanced it. She then decided that the would do the same thing with some geese a little ways away, and I quickly snapped those shots too.

Normally, I enjoy just being in our own little space on the Thermopolis retreats we take, but the people around us this time, who were all excited about the fact that nice weather had finally Girl rushes ducksChasing geesearrived…all expressing their own individual version of their excitement, were just too interesting to ignore, and we were quickly drawn into experiencing it with them. It was their expressions of the joys of being alive that made each of them interesting in their own way. And I found joy in simply watching them. Spring seems to have finally graced us with its presence, and after the long cold winter, that makes me feel amazing.

Making Hay 1These days there are machines that can cut, bail, and stack hay with ease, but in times past, it was not so easy. There were machines that cut the hay, but then it had to be thrown up on a wagon with a pitchfork and hauled to where the haystack was going to be placed, unloaded and thrown up onto the haystack by hand using the pitchfork again. Then someone had to be up on the top leveling it out so that the ha could be stacked higher. It was no easy job, and the more people you had helping the better off you were. It was definitely not a job for one person, and definitely not for wimps. The farmer and his crew had arms of steel, because hay is not light, no matter how it looks. I have helped move hay bails, and found out for myself that it is not a job for lightweights.

My dad’s family spent a lot of time making hay when they owned the farm in Minnesota, and Making Hay 2my Uncle Bill helped his wife’s family too over the years that they owned a farm. Load after load, they worked the weekend away. Moving the hay from the hayfield to the stack behind the old barn, where it would stay stacked until it was needed. It was hard work, but Uncle Bill was on his days off, and so they wanted to get as much done in the time they had before he had to go back to work in the shipyards. I haven’t had the impression that it was a job that any of them enjoyed very much, but rather it was a job that had to be done, so they did it. I think I can agree with Uncle Bill when he said that he was glad when hay making time was finally over. Now that we don’t raise cows, I can honestly say that moving hay around in any form, is something I don’t miss. I think it must have taken a very determined person to work a farm the way it had to be done back in the days when there weren’t all the machines there are  these days. The work is hard enough these days, even with all the machines, so Making Hay 3imagine what it would be like without them. No wonder those people were so strong.

And after the hay was stacked, you had to use a pitch fork again to move it to where you needed it for the animals. So, now the whole process is reversed, as they haul the hay off of the stack, thereby bringing about the need to make more hay the next summer. Of course it is all necessary, and that is why farmers and ranchers do it. The hay is needed for the animals. This whole process causes me to really respect the farmer and rancher…especially the ones from days gone by because theirs was one really hard job.

Tiny Mom 2As kids, most of us have varying degrees of difficulty keeping track of our toys, mittens, coats, shoes, homework, and other such vital items, and when it comes to actually looking for those lost items, we somehow seem to be less than adept. How can so many things simply disappear in our rooms? I used to think that my daughter, Amy had a black hole in her room, because some of that missing stuff was never heard from again…even when we moved!! Nevertheless, Amy was not alone in her mysterious disappearances. It seems to be a common problem among children…and some adults are no better at keeping track of their things…losing cell phones, keys, paperwork, remote controls, and any other item that they were going to put in a safe place, so it would not get lost.

I remember so many times as a kid, when I couldn’t find something, and my mom would tell me to go look for it, because she didn’t have time to hunt for it when we were fully capable. Caryn, Caryl, and CherylThat did not inspire us to go and search our rooms in depth until the much needed item was found, but rather caused us to wander aimlessly around our room…playing with other things that came into our line of sight, because those things seemed much more important than looking for a lost shoe on a school day. Then after playing for a little while, we would wander out to the front room again, whining to Mom that we just couldn’t find it. It was our hope that Mom would finally take pity on us and come to help us hunt for that missing item. Most of the time we were sadly disappointed…except for the possibility of the missing shoe on a school day, which usually found us wearing some other pair of shoes, that probably didn’t really go with the outfit we had on, but would have to do, because like it or not, we were going to school. Mom wasn’t about to let something as minor as wearing a dress with tennis shoes, keep us home on a school day.

So, we usually found ourselves back in the bedroom, hunting for that missing item again, and wishing Mom would just come and find it, because she was so much better at looking for Alena and Allynthings than we were. I suppose that she was right in making us do things for ourselves. I think I do better than the average person at keeping track of my things these days, because of Mom’s teachings. Although I must admit that I still lose things sometimes too. Mom taught us to put things away, although we don’t always do so…even today. But the thing I remember the most about those times when I was in my room hunting for a lost item, and unable to find it, was my mom saying, “You’ll never find it if you keep looking for it on the ceiling”, which meant quit walking around the room hoping it will jump out at you, and start looking under the bed, in the drawers, or in the closet, so you will find it already.

Bertha Schumacher HallgrenI have been reading my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher’s journal for a while now, and every time I pick it up I find something new. She started her journal by talking about how any writer can become famous in time, simply by observing the events around them and writing about those events, how they made people feel, and what happened because of those events. As a writer myself, I began to think about what she said, because there really is a vast difference, I think, between a writer and a reporter. A reporter simply tells the events as they happened, but a writer elaborates on the events, the people involved, and their feelings. There are reporters who are writers, obviously, but I think it would be very hard for a writer not to interject their thoughts and feelings into a report.

Aunt Bertie wanted to tell a little bit about the things that were going on in their time. Still, she could not help but put into words how she felt about the events of the day. She mentioned that the first Kindergarten was formed in 1873. At that time there were only about 200 high schools in the entire country, but by 1900 there were 6000, along with colleges that were heavily endowed by the Rockefeller, Stanford, and Vanderbilt families. Fisk College for “blacks” came into being. Women were coming to the foreground. Football became a part of college life. You could become a doctor in four months…later it took three years, and we all know it takes much longer now. At that time, 98% of children were in the grades. Aunt Bertie mentions that it was thought that education was a cure all. Authors like Emily Dickinson, Bret Hart, and Mark Twain tried to enrich the world. There were streetcar and yacht races, P.T Barnum Circus, Dwight Moody held mass revivals, and McGuffy’s Reader taught moral lessons. And then she tells about the thing that bothers her the most, when she said, “But all this did not abolish CHILD LABOR!” Child Labor in a Cotton MillIt seemed to Aunt Bertie that there were so many changes that the nation was seeing, but the one thing that appalled her the most at the time, was still there, and still endangering the lives of children. It was so hard for her to imagine that with everything else moving with such monumental steps toward a more modern civilization, that was so much more educated, that no one could stop child labor. In fact it seemed to her that no one noticed it, or even cared at all.

Her writings picture disasters, such as the panic in 1873, at the height of the reconstruction of the 1870’s…widespread unemployment, bankruptcy of many people, and failure of businesses, the Great Chicago fire and fires in Wisconsin, Boston, and other places that caused the failure of Insurance Companies who did not have enough Reserves to cover all of these disasters, railroad strikes and violence. Then she mentions what she terms “the sins of society”, one million people living in New York slums…ten to fifteen people in three rooms. The thought of so many people being forced to live in such appalling conditions tore at Aunt Bertie’s heart. Somehow, these things just should not be, and yet this was the world we were living in at that time.

Aunt Bertie wanted to tell about the things that were changing in our world, and how many improvements those changes were making to the world, but her tender heart just couldn’t get past the horrible injustices she could still see. There are lessons to be learned from her writings. Lessons of compassion, kindness, charity, and love for our fellow man. All too often we are so busy working on the improvements we want to make in our lives, society, and our Great Chicago Fire of 1871world in general, that we forget about how those things could affect the lives of others. The greed of the factory owners could not see past the profit to what their child laborers were suffering. Many changes have come from the horrors of the past. Child labor laws now protect our children, and as an insurance agent, I know that companies must hold enough in reserve to cover disastrous losses, and that while no insurance company is completely safe from failure, there is far less chance of it these days because of those reserves. While those days and events tore at Aunt Bertie’s tender heart, maybe society wasn’t totally deaf to the plight of the people after all.

Allyn & MeMy sister, Allyn and I were texting the other day. She used the slang comment…for real. I understood exactly what she was talking about, thereby aging both of us as children of the 70’s. It’s something that happens to everyone no matter how young or how old. Each generation has it’s own slang, and the other generations might, or more like probably, will not understand it. And even if they do, they would probably laugh at you for using such old fashioned slang!!

There is also, another type of slang that can place you in a certain group, and I suppose it can be just as funny. Again, in the 70’s and early 80’s, a lot of people had CB radios. I suppose it was the cell phone of that era, since no one had even heard of cell phones back then. Most CBers had a base unit at home, and smaller units in the cars. It was a great way for family members to keep in touch, let parents know they were running late for curfew, had car trouble, or were on their way home for supper. It left little excuses for kids to say, “I had no way of letting you know!” The kids might not have liked it, but it worked.

Not everyone had a CB radio, of course, but my husband, Bob’s family had several truckers or ex-truckers in it, so it was considered the normal for us. If you have ever had a CB radio, you would know that everyone had a handle…the name they used so people knew who they were talking to. My father-in-law was the Wrenchbender, my mother-in-law was the Lady Wrenchbender. My brother-in-law, Lynn was the Sparrow, my sister-in-law, Debbie was Lady Bird. Bob was the Slingshot, I was the Lady Slingshot. My sister-in-law, Jennifer was the Patchwork Girl, my sister-in-law Brenda was Slipstitch, and my brother-in-law, Ron was Grape Ape, and my sister-in-law, Marlyce was…well, her handle has escaped all of us, and is now driving us crazy, trying to think of it, but she did have one. Even our girls had a handle…although they never used the CB…Corrie was Little Slingshot and Amy was Tiny Slingshot. It was a lot to remember, but just like your friends’ names, you did it.

And then there was the CB jargon. Things like Smokey, Hammer Down, Bubblegum Machine, Go Juice, Choke and Puke, Negatory…Cop, go really fast, patrol car, drink, roadside diner, and no, respectively, and all of which you may have heard, if you have ever watched “Smokey and the Bandit” before. These were common terms…but, only if you used a CB radio…or saw the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmovie. Of course, there were many others too, and I could go on and on, but you would undoubtedly get bored with that.

These are all terms that I haven’t used for a very, very long time. Nevertheless, the other morning when I was on my way to pick up my daughter, Amy for work, since her son, Caalab has her car while his is being repaired. I called her to let her know I was on my way. As I was ending the call, I found myself saying…out of the blue and for no reason I could think of…”I’ll see you in a short“, which is CB slang for a minute or so. I haven’t said that in so long, and Amy obviously missed the comment, because she didn’t say a word, but it sure brought back memories for me.

189364_10150121777537236_628887235_6455460_2649592_nBeing a matchmaker can backfire on a person, when things go wrong, or it can bring great joy…usually to several people when things go right. Most often in these situations, the matchmaker is trying to match two of their friends together, so they don’t want things to go wrong. There are no guarantees that either of their friends will still be their friends if things go bad. Of course, in my niece, Machelle’s situation, she had better than average odds…at least on one side, because one of the friends was her Uncle Ron Schulenberg. If things go bad, your uncle is still your uncle right? Nevertheless, Machelle loved her friend, Rachel Franklin too, and she didn’t want to lose that friendship, so she hoped her matchmaking skills would work.

As it turned out, Machelle is a pretty good matchmaker, because her Uncle Ron, and her best friend, Rachel Franklin not only liked each other enough to continue dating, but they decided to get married. That did create a bit of an odd situation, because now, Machelle’s best friend is her Aunt Rachel. Now, I have never heard Machelle call Rachel…aunt, but the reality is that Rachel is Machelle’s aunt. And like it or not, it’s all Machelle’s fault. It isn’t often that you can take a friend that is pretty close to your own age, and change them into your aunt.

Ron and Rachel hit it off immediately, and Ron began making bi-weekly trips from Casper to Powell to see Rachel. Since it was getting to the point where Ron was spending almost as much of his free time in Powell, as he was in Casper…well, the next logical step was to put a lot less distance between Ron and Rachel, so they got married on June 12, 2010, and Rachel and her boys moved to Casper.
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Suddenly, for the matchmaker, the tables had turned. Yes, her matchmaking skills had proved to be very keen. Nevertheless, in the end, she did lose her friend…so to speak. Not only was her friend, Rachel, now her Aunt Rachel, but she had to move 4 hours away, so getting together became much harder. Sometimes, a person can “good deed” themselves right into a situation they don’t particularly like…at least not totally. Nevertheless, Ron, Rachel, and Machelle really wouldn’t have this situation be any other way, because each one is right where that should be. Today is Rachel’s birthday. Happy birthday Rachel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Very sick little girlFew things can bring a parent to their knees in prayer faster than a sick child…especially when the situation is very serious. This was the position my niece, Susan Griffith and her husband, Josh found themselves in when their younger daughter, Kaytlyn became ill when she was just 18 months old. Kaytlyn was running a fever of 104.5° for most of the morning, nothing Susan did seemed to have much effect on the fever. Susan knew she had to get more help, so she took her to Urgent Care. The physician at Urgent Care, sent them to the Emergency Room at the hospital immediately. The doctors took blood, ran tests, gave her something to bring down the fever, and told Susan to keep a close eye on Kaytlyn, and bring her back if anything got worse. When they left the hospital, Kaytlyn’s fever was at 103°.

Taking Kaytlyn home proved to be a very bad idea. By the time they got home, Kaytlyn’s tongue was swelling, making it difficult to breathe. Susan immediately took her back to the Broke downEmergency Room. The doctors gave her an anti-swelling medication and said more tests were needed to determine the problem. They did a spinal tap, which is among one of the scariest test imaginable for a worried mom. Then they took X-rays and more blood. Still they had no answers. Kaytlyn’s fever was still fluctuating between 103° and 104°. They decided to keep her overnight, and it was going to be a long night for Susan…especially since Josh was working in North Dakota.

Because the hospital in Powell is small, Susan and Josh decided that they wanted to take Kaytlyn to Billings, Montana. The doctors were very much against the idea, but after a while, they consented, provided they went by ambulance. Susan rode with Kaytlyn in the ambulance, and Josh left North Dakota, headed for Billings. Josh’s mother went to their house to get some clothes for Susan and Kaytlyn. Susan’s sister, my niece, Machelle Moore, picked Susan’s other daughter, Getting outJala up from school, and kept her overnight…unheard of for Jala on a school night, probably causing her to worry too.

The ride to Billings seemed to take hours, but finally, Kaytlyn was admitted to the Pediatric Unit at Saint Vincent’s Health Care…it was 11pm…a horribly long day. Josh’s mother made sure Susan and Kaytlyn got to the room, and then had to head back to Powell. Josh was still en route to Billings from North Dakota, but Kaytlyn seemed to be doing better now, and her fever had dropped to 102°. She was finally able to sleep, but for Susan, there was nothing to do but sit and think. It occurred to her how blessed they had been, that they had never had to bring their children to a hospital before. Still, they were there now, and she didn’t know what was wrong yet.

Nothing is worse for a parent than sitting in a hospital, wondering if they are going to lose their child. Susan finally dozed off at some point before Josh arrived…from pure exhaustion. She awoke to the phone ringing. It was Josh. He had made it to Billings, but his truck broke down Kaytlyn at 6on the interstate. Someone helped him get it off the road, and a highway patrolman gave him a ride to the hospital. I can imagine how Susan felt when Josh arrived…like falling to pieces. She needed someone to hold her together, and thankfully, Josh was finally able to be there. Pure relief rained over her. The morning brought more relief, when the doctor said it was Tonsillitis. They recommended that her tonsils be removed in a month or so, and sent them home. They went home with thankful hearts. Their baby girl was still with them, and they knew just how blessed they were. They would never forget their miracle. Today Kaytlyn is 6 years old. Happy birthday Kaytlyn!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

A place of solaceWhenever life gets too hectic, I find myself wanting a place of solace, so I can get out of running mode, and into relaxing mode. Many of us don’t realize that our lives are even hectic. We just think it’s normal, and maybe it is, but normal can be very hectic. My Uncle Bill understood how I feel, because he felt the same way too…and he was a kid!! We mistakenly assume that kids can’t have a hectic life, or that things weren’t hectic in days gone by, when life was supposed to be so much more simple. Maybe things were simple back then, but that did not make things easier back then. What takes us minutes to do these days, probably took them hours, making it necessary to cram more things into a working day than we do today. And yet, with our modern inventions, our lives today are always making us rush from this place to that place…always in a hurry.

It’s no wonder that I, like my Uncle Bill, enjoy getting out into nature to hike the trails. When you are out on the trail, you can only go so fast, and it’s harder to rush yourself. The beauty of nature around you draws your attention away from the pressing things in your life, and you find yourself drinking in the smells of the trees and flowers, the singing of the birds, the sound of the breeze through the trees, the beauty of the scenes around you, and the feel of the air on your face. It is the place I want to be and the things I want to be doing. When Bob and I My place of solaceare out on the trail, being one with nature, it is such a beautiful time. And in our hectic lives, we need those breaks to recharge our systems. The trails are perfect for that.

Uncle Bill loved to be out in the woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, mostly around Holyoke, Minnesota. He talks about going to his private place in the center of a shaded area, to sit on a log, listen to the birds, watch the squirrels, and “even” read a book. I have to wonder if Uncle Bill maybe didn’t like reading very much at that time. It wouldn’t be something so unusual for a boy. Most of them seem to busy with other things to consider reading as an important pass time. Nevertheless, whatever solace we each find in nature is probably unique to each of us. No two people are the same, and no two people have the same stresses, so each finds solace in different things or in different ways, even in the same place.

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