Monthly Archives: April 2014

grandpa spencer060_editedMy dad loved camping. For him, camping and spending time with his family was the best thing to do in the world. I think that if he could have spent his entire life camping with the family, he would have totally loved it. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows in the evening, and of course, my personal favorite, having that morning cup of coffee. Coffee made over an open fire, is so good, and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking, mixing with the scent of pine trees and fresh mountain air…well, I can smell it right now. Those mornings were so relaxing, because my parents were never in a hurry to get going in the mornings. We were, after all, on vacation. I suppose most people, and I would have to include me and my family now, want to get going in the mornings, and so sleeping in and relaxing with a cup of coffee by the morning fire, are not common things anymore, but our family sure enjoyed it back then.

Those days spent camping and traveling around the country bring back such sweet memories. In fact, sometimes the memory of camping in the Black Hills is so vivid that I can almost see my dad standing around that campfire. It was a scene I saw so many times. We have always been a family of coffee drinkers, and I think we all agree that coffee around the campfire is some of the best coffee around. I don’t know, maybe the coffee is the same, but the atmosphere is what makes all the difference. I don’t know for sure, but I can say that there isn’t a one of us that didn’t love to sit and relax around that campfire.

Everyone has those old memories of days gone by. They are the ones that can be triggered by grandpa spencer021something simple that we might do every day…such as having our morning cup of coffee, the smell of wood burning in a fireplace, or thinking about going on a trip. Suddenly that memory is there, and you can see it all again, and for me, even taste that great cup of coffee. Life just doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Our lives are so hectic sometimes, and often, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Before we know it, the people most precious to us are either in Heaven, or too busy with their own lives to spend much time with everyone else. All we have left are memories. People need to slow down sometimes, and enjoy life a little, because really, there is nothing’ like a good cup of coffee by the campfire on a cool mountain morning.

Gregory HushmanA few days ago, my sister, Cheryl, my cousin, Greg Hushman, and I were having a little discussion on the necessities of discipline. Basically, we were talking about how kids were disciplined, and who benefitted most from receiving it. I said that Greg knew all about being disciplined, but Cheryl said that Greg was a sweetie and probably didn’t need much discipline. Greg settled the matter by saying that it was because of all the discipline that he turned out to be such a great kid and a great man. I tend to think that Greg is the most correct on that. It is my experience that the children who had rules they had to live by and punishments, whether spankings, groundings, or even time out when done right, are the ones who turned into the nicest adults you would ever want to know. They learned how to act around people, and they were very seldom that kid who terrorized every gathering they were ever invited to.

The children of my mother and her siblings, were of a generation of disciplinarians. That was simply how things were done then. If kids got out of line, they got a spanking…some kids more than others, and some just at different times than others. I can’t say that Greg was any brattier than any of the rest of us, but he was a mischievous kid. I suppose that came from being the youngest of five kids, and being a boy. Boys tend to be a little more mischievous a lot of times…at least in my experience, and I think Greg had a knack for being mischievous. I suppose that is why my sisters and I got along so well with him. He was a good boy, with a mischievous side…the perfect sidekick.
Gregory Hushman_edited
Those little boy, mischievous days are long behind Greg now, although I still think he could be mischievous if he wanted to…and if you ask his wife, Dustine, I’m sure you would find that he wants to be mischievous quite a bit. Greg has a great sense of humor, and while we all don’t get to see him very much, we have reconnected on Facebook and we get to talk to him a lot these days. It’s great to be able to reminisce about the old days. There are so many memories of our childhood that we can all share, and re-enjoy. We had a great childhood, and great memories, and I’m glad we get to relive them now. Today is Gregs birthday. Happy birthday Greg!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Josh track 2014 2As my grandchildren get closer to graduation from high school, I am beginning to realize just how much I am going to miss all their activities. As little ones, there were the school plays, awards ceremonies, and track day, and they might also play basketball or soccer. Then in summer they might play baseball or some other sport. By the time they were in middle school, the plays were gone, but there was still the occasional concert, basketball, track, and summer baseball. I began to realize that we were at the end of that era after Josh graduated to middle school. Things were very different now. By this time, all three of the other grandchildren had decided that they didn’t want to be in sports in school anymore, although, Chris and Caalab like to play softball on their team from work in the summer, and that is fun to watch too. Still, mostly they were busy with their jobs, studies, and plans for their futures.

I realize that if I want to see much of the school activities anymore, I will need to attend as many of Josh’s track meets as I can. I always liked to go to them, but this years has been more difficult. There were more of them that were during the day and during the work week. Nevertheless, I have been able to make a couple of them. I think it is sad that the closer I get to having no more of these activities, the fewer I am able to get to. I know that I will miss these when they are over.

Today was one of the times I was able to get to Josh’s meet. I really love to watch Josh run. He does best at the long races, and I think that those kids who do the 800 meter and 1600 meter races are to be commended. I like the 400 meter too with Josh. He just seems to be Josh track 2014able to bring it on as the race progresses. That is so not like his grandmother. Running is not my thing. I can walk for two hours or more, but running…less that 5 minutes. Josh is my hero in the running arena. This year has been a bit of a transition for Josh, and that has been a little hard. Before, he raced against his own age group, but in high school they all race together. Some of those seniors are quite a bit stronger than Josh. Nevertheless, Josh stood his ground against kids who are bigger, older, and stronger than he is. I know that as he grows, he will be the one who is bigger, older, and stronger, and then he will be in charge. I can’t wait for that day, but in the meantime, I enjoy watching the journey he is on.

Grandpa Byer's Military PhotoDad's military daysEvery soldier who ever signed up had to go through a few moments of fear or worry about where the steps they were taking were going to lead them. Whether they signed up voluntarily, or were drafted, there was always the possibility, or in many cases, the probability that they would soon find themselves fighting and killing men, or boys really, who were the same age or even younger than they were. In early wars, the fighting was hand to hand, and even when guns were invented, they often saw the result of their direct hit on the enemy. They witnessed the fear, so vividly evident on the face of that person who was the enemy, and yet was really no different than they were. Both men were scared. It truly was kill or be killed, because it was war, and the only objective was to win.

Many of my ancestors have been in wars, including most recently, my dad, brothers-in-law, several uncles, nephews, and grandfathers. I have read some of my dad’s letters home from the war, and while he tried to sound positive and unafraid, you could still see, if you read between the lines, that war and a degree of fear simply went together. Still, I can imagine that as each of those men and women are standing in line to get the many vaccinations they had to have, that for a least a moment, they wondered just what they had gotten themselves into. Of course, there was really no way out. It didn’t matter if they enlisted voluntarily or were drafted, they belonged to Uncle Sam either way. They were going into battle, and that’s all there is too it.

Of course, the soldier is trained to be brave and not to show fear, and maybe they truly have to do that. I know that if you show fear to a dog, they pick up on that…so does the enemy too…maybe. All I know is that deep in their hearts, they must feel like they would like to run in the face of enemy fire. Of course, they can’t. They must fight. This is war…this is kill or be killed…this is their duty, and even if it means that they lose their life, they must do their duty. People are depending on them. Not just their platoon members, but their nation, and the people of the nation they are trying to protect from whatever evil people are trying to take them over.

When I think of our soldiers, I have to think of how very brave and courageous they are, Ron - militaryUncle Larry in the militarybecause as the saying goes, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” I feel very proud of all those men and women in our family, as well as our friends, who have answered the call to duty, set aside their fears, and gone out to do their duty in the fight against evil. They are a huge part of what makes this country great.

Chantel todayOur family has several artists in it. Each has a different style. My niece, Chantel Harmon Balcerzak is a wonderful writer, but she is also a very talented artist. Chantel’s art is often done on some of the most unusual canvases. A while back, she painted my mailbox. It now has beautiful vines and flowers on it, and I have received a number of compliments on it. When was the last time someone commented on how pretty your mailbox was? A while, I’ll bet…if ever. The mailbox is not usually something people take note of at all. But, this kind of thing has always been Chantel’s forte. She loves decorating her home, and she has a great talent for it too. And on this  occasion, I got to benefit from her talents, and I truly do have the kind of mailbox that gets noticed.

Chantel has never been much of a computer buff, but recently her family talked her into getting a Facebook, and suddenly she seems to like being on there…even though she said she probably wouldn’t do much on there. We gotcha there, Chantel!! She has recently quit her job in the hospitality industry, and has decided that it is time to work on her writing and on selling some of her art, so having a presence on Facebook and other social media sites has become much more necessary. That said, Chantel did get an online store called Treasure Within, where she can display her beautiful work. I especially like her art on old wood. She has a unique way of giving that old wood a new chance to be beautiful.

Chantel has always been a cute and teeny girl, and as she has grown into womanhood and motherhood, that hasn’t changed. She is still a cute and teeny girl of 4’10” and yet living Find Serenity In Faithinside her is such an incredibly big amount of talent. I am very proud that she is taking on this new journey. I truly believe that she will find success in this venture, just as she has in every other area of her life. It is a big step to quit the job you have held for so long, but sometimes, you have to take that first big, scary step, simply because to do anything else is to turn your back on your dreams. Chantel has always had the dream of being an author, and an artist, and I know she can do it, because she is also a very determined woman, who knows how to make dreams come true. She is a Treasure Within our family. Today is Chantel’s birthday. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Eva Landis Noyes and daughter, Nettie Landis Noyes KnoxFor some time now, I have been quite curious about my husband, Bob’s maternal great grandmother, Eva Landis Noyes. I have been searching for her on Ancestry.com, and have found a little bit of information, but it has been minimal, and there were no pictures out there. That made me sad, because I have wanted to have as many pictures of our family’s ancestors as possible. Those people who have eluded me have been left to have just a picture of their grave, if that is even available, which sometimes isn’t the case either. I have come to learn…throughout my life, really…that perseverance usually brings success at some point…and sometimes when you least expect it.

I have been trying to scan all the pictures from my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg’s childhood scrapbook, and because of it, I have found out a lot of information about my mother-in-law, and her personality when she was a girl. Her scrapbook has been a treasure box of little gems of information both in picture and words. She not only put the pictures in, but she told who and what they were…something so many people don’t do, and when they don’t, their descendants are left to guess about the people and events that are held within the covers of the scrapbook. It is a sad turn of events indeed, because we all want to know who those people are, and what was going on in the picture.

Today, as I was looking at the pictures there, I stumbled on two pictures that I apparently hadn’t really looked at before. I find that to be the case a lot. We look at the pictures, but assume that we won’t know those people, so we don’t necessarily read what is written there very carefully. Today, however, I noticed that was written there, and the light bulb came on. All this time I had been wondering what Eva Landis Noyes looked like, and she has been in Anniversarythat book, which I have had for almost a year now, and I just simply didn’t know it.

Today that all changed. As I read what was written there, the realization came to me that this woman was indeed none other than Eva Landis Noyes. One picture was of Eva, and her daughter, Bob’s grandmother, Nettie Landis Noyes Knox, and is captioned, “Mother and Daughter”. The other one is of Eva and her husband, Grandpa Orin Eugene Noyes, who went by Eugene; and Grandma and Grandpa Knox, Nettie and Bob. That picture is simply captioned “Anniversary”. Yes, they are just pictures, and it isn’t like I have had the chance to meet these great grandparents, but to me, these simple pictures are truly pure gold. Being able to see the faces of the people who, through their lineage brought my husband to me, is amazing. While this find has only served to spark the fire of my curiosity, rather than to put the fire out, I still feel like it is an amazing find, and about that, I am very excited.

Training WheelsEvery child goes through it. That age when they get their first bicycle, and they learn to ride. Most times they get that first bicycle for Christmas, or for their birthday, which can be bad if that birthday happens to be in Winter, because there are few places to ride it in the Winter, unless you live where it is warm year round…not the case for my family. Those birthdays weren’t a problem for my sister-in-law, Marlyce, who was born July 9th, or my daughters, whose birthdays are in June. Their birthdays were the perfect time to give them that long awaited bicycle. When they were little, having a tricycle was the greatest thing, but as they began to notice that there were kids out there who could ride the big kids bicycle with two wheels, that tricycle started to really look like a baby bike to them. When that happens, you know it’s time to get that first bicycle.

By the time they get their first bicycle with training wheels, they pretty much know how to use the peddles, having spent several years on a tricycle already. So there isn’t much work involved in training them to ride this new semi-big kid bicycle. The main things are how to go over the bumps without tipping over, and how to take the downhill runs without having a wreck. Most kids learn that part pretty quickly and for my girls and Marlyce, there weren’t a lot of hills to ride on…up or down, so that was pretty easy. We lived out in the country then, as did my in-laws, when Marlyce and the kids were little, so there wasn’t much traffic to deal with either, but the city kids had to learn about the street and the dangers therein. I think that was a bit of a relief to ma, because I really didn’t want to deal with them being in the street much at that age.

Kids do pretty good on their bicycles with training wheels, but it isn’t too long before they First Bicycledecide that they are big enough to ride without training wheels. For me, that was kind of sad, because it meant they were growing up, and I really didn’t want them to. Little did I know then that the rest of their lives would rush by as fast as those first few years and before I knew it they would be all grown up, and have families of their own. Nevertheless, time waits for no man, and the girls got to that age where they had to have those training wheels off. They learned to ride on two wheels with minimal trouble, and they were soon riding their bicycle to the neighbors house, and the to kids house down the street. It was just the beginning of their being able to get themselves where they wanted to go, and the beginning of my days of wondering exactly where they were at any given moment. Thankfully they were pretty good about checking in and getting home by the times I said, otherwise I might have hated that age more that I did the simply fact that they were growing up.

Grandma Spencer and Shirley bMy cousin Shirley Wolfe Cameron, commented on a story I wrote a couple of days ago, and while this story and that one really have very little to do with each other, her comment sparked a little memory for me. My story was on my great grandmother, Henriette Schumacher’s debilitating arthritis, but it reminded Shirley of our grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer when she was in a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis. Shirley is Grandma’s first granddaughter, and while she is not the oldest grandchild, she was always very close to Grandma. Grandma lived with the Wolfe family for many years, and so the two of them shared many good times, and Shirley has many great memories of those times, and of her grandma. They are memories that most of us younger grandchildren wish we had too. I don’t remember my grandmother at all, because she died when I was just three months old, but in some ways, I really think I must be a bit like her…especially when it comes to my grandchildren.

Shirley told me of the times when she was in trouble with her mother, my aunt, Ruth Spencer Wolfe. She said she would run in to Grandma, yelling, “Grandma, Grandma, Grandma!!” Then she would climb up in Grandma’s lap a wait for her mother to come in after her. Grandma was always a bit of a peacemaker, and like me, she hated to see her grandchildren being disciplined. As grandmothers, we know they have to be disciplined…otherwise, they turn out pretty bratty, but it still breaks our hearts that our precious little babies have to get punished. Unfortunately, their parents don’t always like our soft hearted ways. They think that Grandma is a pushover…and, really we are. So, our pushover Grandma, would lift Shirley up into her lap and make a game of protecting Shirley from her mom’s punishment. Aunt Ruth got frustrated during those little episodes, like most parents would, but most of the time, in the end, she laughed along with her mother and her daughter, because she knew that this battle was lost.

My grandchildren were totally my weakness too. I was a fairly strict disciplinarian with my daughters, Corrie and Amy, but when it came to the grandkids, I was a pushover. Everyone knew it, from the grandkids to their parents, and even my parents and sisters. Even if the kids did something wrong when they stayed with me, their parents never knew it, because I didn’t want them to get into trouble. Thankfully, they are good kids, and they don’t take serious advantage of their grandma…or maybe they do, and I am too much of a pushover to realize it. My status as a pushover became a family joke of sorts too. The kids always knew that if Bob and I went out of town, we were going to bring them something back. They have had a variety of toys, candy, souvenirs, and t-shirts, including one of my favorite t-shirts. It was the one that went something like, “When all else fails…Call 1-800-Grandma.”
My grandkids when they were little
We have laughed at and used that saying many times over the years, and while I can’t say for sure that they ever really told on their parents, they did do their best to spend the night often. Maybe their parents were grouchy, and they wanted to go spend time with the pushover, or maybe they just liked to spend the might with their grandma, I can’t say for sure. One thing I can say for sure, however, is that kids have been calling 1-800-Grandma in one way or another, for as long as grandmothers have existed. There is simply no way for a mother who was a good parent to their own kids, not to relax and realize that you don’t always have to take life so seriously with your grandchildren.

Cornelius George ByerWhen I think about our organized military system, both during the years of the draft and now with our military being voluntary service, it occurs to me just how fortunate we, as a people, are to live where we do. There are so any evil leaders in countries who are not only enemies to the rest of the world, but in reality, enemies to their own people. In those countries, the military forces are not only not voluntary and not draft either, but rather they are forced into service, and often taken forcibly from their homes in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. Those taken are often children…even very young children, who are taken from their families and trained to be soldiers, or rather, trained killers. Their lives are viewed as unimportant. They are simply there to do the bidding of their evil government, and die doing it if necessary. They are expendable, because to replace them, the government simply goes out in the middle of the night and takes another child from another family by force. This was the position my great great grandfather, Stephan Beier found himself, his wife, Anna Maria Meier Beier, and their family in, one night in Russia. It was the reason that his family left Russia, and it was the reason my grandfather, Cornealius Byer was in the United States when he met my great great grandmother, Edna Fishburn in the Dakota Territory in the mid 1880’s.

The family had been asleep and suddenly, they were awakened to the most horrifying event any family could ever imagine. Their son was taken at gun point, by soldiers. It was the Russian draft of the day. They did not care what his age was, nor did they care about any other qualifications, or the lack thereof. They needed more soldiers, and he had been chosen. I’m sure they had watched him for some time, along with watching many other young men his age. I don’t know how old he was at the time, but I do know that he was probably not out of school yet. What I do know is that my great great grandparents never saw their son again. My guess is that he probably lost his life in a battle somewhere within a year. The Russian leaders did not care about the soldiers…they were expendable…a dime a dozen, so their safety was unimportant. They were most likely sent into the worst battle zones, to fight the most likely to be lost battles. In that way, they government could keep their best officers and soldiers, the ones who had chosen to be there…if that was possible, safer from the worst battles. Or maybe, they put all the soldiers in the same harm’s way.

My great great grandparents were very distraught at the events of that night and they knew that they were not going to go through it again. The decision was made to secretly make their way out of Russia and go to the United States where their children could grow up safely, and if they were drafted into military service, they would be treated with dignity, and they would be able to stay in touch with their families. No parent is completely comfortable with their child going into military service, because if there is a war, their child will be in the middle of it. Nevertheless, they are proud of their child’s service…when it is done in the right way. To come into their home in the middle of the night, and forcibly take their child, knowing that they will never hear from that child again, is simply and horribly wrong. My great great grandparents decided that they were never going to go through it again. That is what made their decision to immigrate to the United States a move that was much less scary that the thought of staying in Russia. They never knew what happened to their son, and I’m certain that was something that stayed with them all their lives, but they knew they had done the right thing when they saw the rest of their family grow up and lead good lives in the United States.

Bertha & Elsa School DaysDuring the twenty six long years when my great grandmother, Henriette Albertine Hensel Schumacher was confined to a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis, her husband, my great grandfather took care of her with the help of his children…especially my great aunts, Bertha and Elsa who gave up the hope of marriage and a family in their young years, for the love of their parents and with and understanding of their need. Because my great grandmother was only fifty years old when she was struck with this disease, her youngest daughters, Bertha and Elsa were only 11 and 8 years old. Those girls would barely remember a time when they were not caregivers for their mother, and later for their father too. The time went by so quickly, and suddenly they looked back and the time for having a family was long past for them.

I don’t think that most people, or at least most of those who have never been a caregiver, have any idea what a monumental job it is to care for someone. It takes a willingness to give up your own desires, hobbies, activities…basically your life, to help someone else who is not in a position to help themselves. And, it isn’t always the person who needs the care that is the most helped, but rather their spouse, who has been trying to handle it themselves, and trying to figure out what has happened to their strength, their ability to handle everything in their Spencer Schumacher Family cover photo2life, and how they could have come to a place where their only hope lies in the strength of their children, who still have the advantage of youth’s strength and energy. This was the place my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher found himself in, as the years passed and he came to the understanding that he would have to lean heavily on his two youngest daughters to keep things going.

I have to wonder if great grandpa felt a lot of guilt over what his daughters gave up in life to help him. He was such a loving, caring person, who had always been able to take care of all the needs of his family, and he just could not do this alone. He simply had no choice but to rely on them for help. He was getting older, and he was getting tired. I’m sure Bertha and Elsa would have had it no other way. These were their parents, and they loved them. Still, they never forgot the day that their dad said, “What would I do without you girls?” I know from my own experiences as a caregiver, that while you don’t need to have the patient constantly saying “thank you”, there is something to be said for hearing that your hard work has positively effected their lives. They were both rewarded in later years with wonderful husbands, and even thought it was for a Bertha & Arthur Hallgren and Elsa & Frank Lawrenceshort time they were blessed in that way too in the end.

In my years as a caregiver, I have had the opportunity a number of times to hear or be told that without my help, they couldn’t have stayed in their homes this long, and it does make you feel good about your work. Nevertheless, like my great aunts, I know I would do the work whether the praise came or not, because it truly is about making their lives better, and not about the praise I received. It’s all about the love I have for those I care for. I’m very proud of my great aunts, that they did what they needed to do to help their parents, and someday, I’ll have the chance to tell them that myself.

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