Monthly Archives: May 2014

1012520_10200670730066580_678793453_nWe don’t often think of little boys as being responsible, caring people, but when I look back on the life of my grand nephew, Xander, I see a very different boy than what most people see in boys. Xander is the oldest of the five children of my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve. Being the oldest has it’s responsibilities, and lots of olders don’t really like that, but lately, I have noticed that Xander is taking on the responsibilities without being told to do so. He is a little more watchful over his younger siblings, especially his little sister. He is a little more into being the teacher of the younger ones, showing them how to do things…being the leader that I think he was meant to be. Xander has that big brother kind of personality that is a combination of helper, teacher, and playmate. I love the young man that he is so quickly becoming.

Xander has a sensitive side too, and a heart that has had to endure a some sad things. When his sister Laila passed away, it was Xander who felt that loss so deeply. His younger brothers felt the loss too, but Xander understood it so much more than they did, and it hit him very hard. Then when his younger sister, Aleesia came along, he developed a bond with her that helped to fill the hole that was left when Laila passed. Aleesia has really stolen her biggest brother’s heart. She moved in there, and he has found himself so content with the big brother relationship they have. When it comes to Aleesia, Xander is a big teddy bear for sure.

Xander is so grown up now in so many ways, but inside there is still a lot of little boy in him. He is so much like his dad…more so than any of the other kids. Xander probably looks more like his dad than any of the other kids, and while they all have great personalities, Xander is definitely his daddy’s boy. I see so much of Steve in Xander, and they have such a great 536840_10151550233137237_854328503_nrelationship. Steve is very hands on with his kids, and they thrive on that. Of course, they also get the nurturing balance of Jenny’s mothering, but these boys are all boy, and very much into all of the manly, sporty, muscle man things that their dad likes. Still, having a little sister has inspired their sensitive side, and no one more than Xander who enjoys being the oldest brother of this group. Xander has lived through so many changes in his family in he first eleven years, and as the family grows up, he will live through so many more, but he isone of those great kids who will be able to take it all in stride. Today is Xander’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

BeforeLosing weight is not easy, as anyone who has tried to do so can tell you, but this story isn’t just a weight loss story. It is a story of a journey to good health. On October 17, 2013, I got a call from my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg. She was having some health problems that would result in a hospital stay that began on October 18, 2013, and would last until November 11, 2013. She would go first to Wyoming Medical Center, and then over to Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital for physical therapy. Brenda practically had to learn to walk again. This journey was going to be a long struggle, but she stepped up to the plate, prepared to take back her life, and make it better. Brenda had known that something was wrong, and was concerned that she might have to take early retirement or go part time at work, because at that point just getting into the office was a major undertaking. Her journey started with the hope that she could go to Urgent Care and get a prescription to take care of the problem, but that was not to be. Brenda had Cellulitis, and so began her hospital stay. During that stay, she was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea. At this point, so many people would have pretty much given up, taken early retirement, and moved into a wheelchair or Hoveround. That would have led to a slippery slope toward a future on oxygen, other health issues, and eventually total disability.

That is what many people in Brenda’s position would have done…but that was not the choice Brenda made, and that has made all the difference. Brenda decided that she was too young and too interested in living her life to give up and let her future be spent on the sidelines of life sitting in a wheelchair. During her time at Elkhorn, she worked very hard on her physical therapy, and on making changes in her eating habits. That was an amazing feat too, because every step she took required a seriously great amount of effort. The time spent in the hospital had so weakened her that she really had to learn to walk all over again. For many people, this too would have been the point where they gave up…but not Brenda. She joined Weight Watchers Online, and she has faithfully stuck to it, and she faithfully wears her CPAP machine, so that she is getting good oxygen for a better night’s sleep.

It has been a long road, and many people would never have expected Brenda to persevere, but that is because they only think they know Brenda. The real Brenda is very determined to take back her life and her health. She has seen many victories already. For almost all her walking, she does not use the walker now…only using it in bad weather and on her long walks at one of the local shopping centers, where she is now walking five times as long as she could when she first started. She is able to go out and buy her own groceries again, something she really couldn’t do for years. She makes frequent trips to visit friends, including one who was BR on 4-29-2014in the hospital…a place Brenda would only go to if she had help before, and she walks a lot at work too. It has been a very hard road, but the other day she told me that she knew that she did not feel good before, but she had no idea how really bad she felt, until she got to where she felt so much better. At her last appointment with her cardiologist, she was told that if she keeps going the way she is, she will actually be able to reverse the Congestive Heart Failure…such good news. To date, Brenda has lost 180 pounds, and she is still going. Brenda, we are sooooo proud of you!! Today is Brenda’s birthday, and the day that she had set as a goal of being free of the walker. Since she only uses it on snow and the long walk at Sunrise Shopping Center, I’d say she has met that goal. I know the future is going to be amazing for her. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have an awesome day!! We love you and we are so proud of you!!

Chris senior pictureWhen my two oldest grandchildren, Chris and Shai, completed their last day of high school, they both stopped by my office to share their thoughts with me. Chris has his next three years of college all planned out, while Shai isn’t sure of what she wants to do concerning college, but that didn’t matter, because their feelings were essentially the same. Both were a little bit in shock. How could all those school years have somehow flown by so quickly? Suddenly it seemed like just yesterday that they were starting Kindergarten, middle school, and high school…so how could it possibly be over. It felt so final.

Looking back, I remember my own final day of high school, and I still remember exactly how I felt. It was a mixture of shock and sadness. It wasn’t that I wasn’t ready to move on to the new chapters of my life and all the great things my life would hold, but there was just a little sadness that my formal childhood education, and therefore my childhood were now over. Being an adult is such a change from the teenage years. You don’t have to answer to your parents, or even live under their roof, but that means that you are now responsible for your own bills, your own job, your own decisions, and your own mistakes. It is a big step, but that isn’t what is causing the feeling of, something is…not quite right here…when did I suddenly slip through this passage of time, and how could I have not noticed that it was going by.

To a kid, the school years seem like they will go on forever, and by about first grade they figure out that they have a total of thirteen years of school to go through, and that feels like a huge amount of years of school. It seems never ending. Then in the blink of an eye, they find themselves standing on the threshold of graduation, and they look back and wonder where all the years went. There is simply no way to reach this point without suddenly thinking “Whoa…wait!! I’m not sure I’m ready for this!!” Nevertheless, ready or not, here it is. You don’t have the option to go back, slow down, or stop and do things over. You are graduating, and your years of childhood education, and childhood in general are over. It is a sobering discovery, and therefore it takes a bit of getting used to, combined with that hint of sadness. I could totally relate to how Chris and Shai were feeling.Shai's senior picture

Whether a student likes school, or can’t wait until it is over, I think the reaction to that final day is the same…even if they plan to go to college. College is not the same as high school, so the feel of that is very different than anything they are used to. Their education is their own responsibility…they can do what they need to do, or they can bomb out. Of course, bombing out does mean that they have some explaining to do to their parents, but it is still up to them really. They are adults now, and their choices are their own…as are their mistakes. I know that both my grandchildren will be great!!

Role ModelMy nephew, Rob is a multi-faceted person. As a little boy, he had either a keen sense of direction or he was very observant. Whenever he went somewhere with someone, if they went a direction that was other than the normally taken route, little Robbie would quickly explain to the driver, that this was not the right way to go. The offending driver then had to try to explain to Robbie that they were taking an alternate route. I’m not completely certain that Robbie was ever really convinced that they knew what they were talking about. I think he probably thought they just wandered around until they found their way, and while they always seemed to manage to find their way, they nevertheless, had done it wrong. I think it was mostly because Robbie was a very observant child.

He has always looked up to his grandpa, my dad, Allen Lewis Spencer. If his grandpa did something, he wanted to do that thing too, and he wanted to do it just like his grandpa. I suppose that was the reason he was able to walk into a campground spot the family Campinghad rented for the night and take care of a little problem that the family was having. His brothers-in-law were trying to get the campfire started, and no matter what they did, the fire fizzled. Robbie, however, had been watching his grandpa build a campfire for years, and now, he knew exactly what needed to be done. Robbie didn’t say a word, but just walked up to the campfire ring, moved the kindling around a little and lit the fire, then he used a hat, just like his grandpa had always done, to fan the kindling until it grew into a nice little fire. Then, without bragging or even saying anything at all, he simply went on about his own activities. I’m sure his brothers-in-law were both amazed that he got it going so easily and thankful that he didn’t rub it in. Like his grandpa, he just did what needed to be done and didn’t make the other guys feel like they didn’t know anything about it.

As a dad, himself now, a grown up Rob knows what it means to be kind and patient with his kids, and it has created a great bond between him and them. They think the world of their daddy. He reminds me of my dad in that way too. If he continues to follow the teachings of his grandpa, he will become the problem solver his grandpa always was. He could become the go to person his Dad and Robbie and the old wagon agrandpa always was, and that would be a great goal for anyone to aspire to accomplish. I can’t think that Rob would like anything more than to become more and more like his grandpa. Since my dad’s passing, Rob has taken over many of the chores that had belonged to Dad. Everything from taking out the trash, to shoveling the walk, mowing the lawn, ad even checking in on Mom to make sure she is doing well, and has all that she wants or needs. He loves his mom and grandma, and considers it a privilege more than a duty to take care of them.Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! You get better and better with each passing year. Have a great day!! We love you!!

grandpa spencer102My mom and dad never wanted their kids and grandkids to move far away, but sometimes, that can’t be helped. While Alena and I have always lived here, Cheryl, Caryl, and Allyn have lived away for at least a time. One nice thing about that for Mom and Dad…if there could be a nice thing, is that they made sure that they took trips to see their daughters and their families in the states they were living in. It was a great way for them to see new areas of the country too.

Caryl and her family lived away the longest, and so there were several trips made out to see her. Caryl and her family lived in a number of places too, so the trips weren’t always the same…a definite plus…at least for Mom and Dad. The rest of us didn’t get to see each other as much as we would have liked when we weren’t all in the same town. I am a lot like my parents in that I like that closeness with my kids, as well as my sisters. It’s funny how the parents always make a way to go and see their children, and the children come home to see the parents, but the siblings just don’t seem to work that out quite as often.

For Mom and Dad, their travels to visit the kids would take them, and us kids too, since we were still at home, to upstate New York, and along the eastern coast; Colorado, in the Fort Morgan and Pueblo areas; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; and Twin Falls, Idaho. They always turned those visits into vacations, taking the family they were visiting along. Since Caryl, was away the longest, they went to see her the most. They have many great memories of those visits. I think they especially loved the Seattle area, because of it’s beauty. Caryl showed them all the sights in the area, including Mt Saint Helens, after it blew…interesting, but sobering too, I’m sure. And there was, of course, the beautiful Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, and the rainforest, all of which would and do, draw the attention of people all over the country. It is a beautiful area.
Visiting Caryl
Although Mom and Dad really enjoyed the trips to visit their children who lived far away, it was always their preference to have them living close to home. When Caryl married Mike Reed, and moved to Rawlins, where Mike lived, it was a move away from Casper once more, but this time, it wasn’t so far away. Now, when they retire, they plan to move back to Casper for good, and that is going to finally bring full circle the saga. At that point all of my parents’ kids will be living in Casper again…unless someone else moves away. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! We look forward to the day when you like in Casper again. Have a great day!! We love you!!

Mike StevensI’m sure many people can recall a friend or two who had those silver teeth in grade school. Of course, they were really a spacer to keep the teeth from getting crooked when they were knocked out long before they should have been, and the permanent teeth were still years away. They were also used when the permanent teeth were somehow knocked out, and rather than have a big gap, the dentist replaced the missing tooth with the silver version. This was before they came up with implants for teeth, and of course, these days no one has silver teeth any more. Dentists have learned so much now, and they can even put the original teeth back in and they do just fine. Nevertheless, when my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens was a young boy, he was riding his bicycle, when the front wheel of his bike came off. Losing the front wheel of your bicycle does make it impossible to do much except have a wreck. When he fell, he knocked out his two front teeth. The dentist replaced them with those old silver teeth, and he was called “Chipper” for years. In the nearly thirty years since my sister, Alena and Mike have been married, I never knew that he ever had silver teeth. At some point, the dentist must have fixed them for him, so I never knew he was called “Chipper”…until a little birdie told me about it.

Mike has had a couple of little…situations where he ended up on the ground in an unexpected way. As a teenager, he was in his room sleeping, when the house next door to them was blown sky high in a gas explosion. A sleeping Mike found himself thrown literally against the wall. Now, if that isn’t a rude awakening, I don’t know what is. I mean, with the bicycle, at least he knew he was about to take a face plant into the pavement, but when you are sound asleep, and suddenly you are flying across the room…well, all you could possibly think is…”What in the world is going on??” I don’t believe Mike was hurt badly in that explosion, but I would have to imagine that he ached for a few days…along with that very thankful feeling you would have that you are still alive. I remember that explosion. It was only a few blocks from my parents house. There was literally nothing left of that house, but I’m very thankful Michael Stevensthat my brother-in-law, Mike and his family were not hurt.

When you think about all the times a person that you love could have been seriously hurt, or even killed, you find yourself very thankful that God’s angels were standing guard over their lives…whether they knew it or not. Mike has been a wonderful asset to our family, and I simply can’t imagine our family without him. He is always willing to help when he is needed, and he has some very innovative ideas. His sense of humor is one that has made all of us smile or better yet, have a great chuckle over for years. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Our family is very blessed to have you in it. Have a great day!! We love you!!

Independence Rock 1You don’t grow up in central Wyoming without making at least one and more likely several trips to Independence Rock. It is a favorite for school field trips, and family outings as well…or at least it was when I was growing up. My family has climbed all over that rock looking at the names of the immigrants who passed by their on their way west. They would carve their name in the rock, as a way of saying, “I was here, in this place, on this date in history.” They had no way of knowing if anyone would ever see their name or care to wonder about who they were, but they wanted to mark their presence in time anyway. Lots of people have done that over the years, although these days people often use spray paint on the rocks or walls of a place, or even a sharp object on the stalls of a bathroom, which I have never been able to figure out. I mean, who cares about that. It’s just weird. Of course the difference is that the people who do that now are looked on with disdain, for defacing public property, but the immigrants heading to the old west were viewed as pioneers making their mark in history. I have to agree with that analogy, because graffiti is not like a historical record carved into a rock after all.

Independence Rock is located in southwestern Natrona County along Highway 220, a little Independence Rock 3over 55 miles from Casper, which is why many Casperites have been there so many times. It is a huge granite rock approximately 130 feet high, 1,900 feet long and 850 feet wide. It basically sticks up in the middle of an otherwise quite flat area on the prairie, with the mountains in the distance. I suppose that was why the pioneers decided to carve their names there. After a long day of travel, it was a good place to camp, with one side well protected and a great place to keep a watchful eye out for Indians or outlaws. The children could play on the rock, and that would put them out of their mothers’ hair while dinner was prepared. Some people say that it looks like a huge whale in the middle of the prairie, and I can say I must agree. Because of all the names carved in the rock, it was dubbed “Register of the Desert” by Peter DeSmet in 1840.

Independence Rock was a favorite place to go rock hunting as far as my Grandpa George Byer was concerned, and the family went there quite a bit. It wasn’t a historical site then. Now, it is illegal to take rocks from that area, of course Grandpa would have never taken anything that had a name carved in it anyway.
I’m sure that many of his kids have passed that tradition on to their kids, although, I don’t think many of the grandchildren take their kids there much anymore. It’s not that we wouldn’t think Independence Rock is interesting, Independence Rock 2because I think many of us would, except that for a time you weren’t allowed to climb the rock to see the names recorded there. It was a little glitch in people’s thinking I think, and it made Independence Rock a lot less interesting to this generation. The time when climbing on the rock was prohibited came about because they didn’t want footsteps to kill the lichen, but I think they have changed that now, because the lichen was obscuring the names, and defacing the rock in it’s own way. I don’t go there much these days, but it will always hold a place in my memory files, because of all the fun we had there when Dad would take us to learn about history.Independance Rock 2.jpg

Max SchulenbergRecently, my interest turned to the ancestry of the Schulenberg side of my family, when I was contacted by a more famous member of the family, who I will not name at this point, as I have not asked his permission to do so, and so I will respect his privacy. He wondered if we might be related, and I told him that I expected that we probably are. Since that time, I have been looking back on that side of the family. I knew that our side of the Schulenberg family came to America aboard the SS Moltke in 1895, when Max Heinrich Johann Carl Schulenberg arrived on that ship at the tender age of 17 years, without an adult to accompany him…a bold move for a young man. He arrived in New York City, like so many other immigrants. Before too long he had made his way to Blair,Nebraska, where he met and married Julia Doll on December 16, 1902. The couple would have ten children, the oldest of which was Andrew, my husband, Bob’s grandfather. The family would eventually settle in Forsyth, Montana, where there are still family members living to this day.

But what of the German half of the Schulenberg family. They had a longstanding heritage in Oldenburg, Germany, where the family owned a farm since 1705, when the first known Schulenberg owner,SS Moltke Johann Schulenberg shows up in records as the owner. The farm was rather large and still stands to this day. It has been well maintained, and is in fact, more beautiful today than it was when Johann owned it. I’m sure that has to do with all the modern equipment and products we have today to enhance the natural beauty of a home and its grounds. Nevertheless, the farm was a productive place in 1705 too.

The furthest record of the family line that I have found to date is Vitter Schulenberg, who actually hailed from Schulenberg, Germany, where I expect the family originated, because as most of us know, before last names existed, people were known by the town they came from, such as Jesus of Nazareth. The Schulenberg family had been known in prior years as von der Schulenberg, which translates from Schulenberg, meaning the town of Schulenberg, Germany which is located in the district of Goslar in Lower Saxony, Germany, I don’t know if those people whose last name is spelled Schulenburg came from the same family or not, but I would expect that it is quite likely, because when people came to America, they were told to Old Schulenberg, GermanyAmericanize their name, and there was no regulation as to how to do that, so some went one way and others went another way.

I also found out that there was an older village of Schulenberg, which only appears in the fall, when the lake is at its lowest point. The lake (der Okertalsperre) or reservoir which was constructed in 1953, resulting in the flooding of the old village. That fascinated me. I found this picture of the ruins on Google Earth (taken by Harz Geist), and either there is not much left of the old village, or it was very small, which almost makes me wonder if it was originally a farm named Schulenberg, that grew into a village…but that is the subject of another story, for another day.  

25th Anniversary Margee Knox Kountz, Nettie Noyes Knox & Robert KnoxEveryone thinks that the latest craze…photo bombing, was started in recent years by some especially innovative photographer who had a great idea of a way to grab the attention of the people looking at the picture. That may have been when photo bombing was named, but not invented. I think that since cameras came into being, people were jumping into the picture at the last minute to see if they could add a little bit of humor to the shot. Sometimes, the photo bomb was simply an accident…a child who wanted to see what was going on. It’s a common thing for kids to do, and if it puts them in the middle of a picture they might not have been in otherwise, so much the better. Photo BombYou can hardly blame them. Like all kids, they simply wanted to be in on things.

When you think about it, they are not alone in that desire. Everyone likes to be involved in things…especially if it means they get to play the part of the comedian sometimes. My Uncle Bill was one of those people. He did one of the early photo bomb pictures, but he also decided to do the sticking the tongue out picture too…although he said he wished he hadn’t done that one. He wanted to see how the picture would look if he stuck out his tongue, and in the end, he said he didn’t like the look. These days, sticking the tongue out is all the rage in pictures, but I have to agree with my Uncle Bill. I don’t think having your tongue hanging out is the most flattering look there is. Still, I suppose it is the thing everyone does. I doubt it will go away soon.
My future father-in-law and me, and Lynn's goofy face
I think the smiling face or the goofy look that pops up behind the subjects of a photograph at exactly the right time are great. Most pictures are too posed most of the time, and that little moment in time, when some goofy person decided to photo bomb the picture, always serves to make everyone smile a little bigger and even laugh out loud, because the whole mood just changed. These days, the photo bomb is something that happens often. And with the other latest thing in pictures…the selfie, it’s easy to find just the right opportunity to do a photo bomb. The person doing the selfie is already busy trying to make sure they are posed just right, and when the photo bomber jumps in, it is a total surprise. The picture might take on a look of shock, surprise, or they might just be someone who takes it all in stride, and then the photo bomb almost looks planned. Maybe it was, and they just didn’t tell you that part.

imageWith kids, you never really know what is going to happen. One minute they’re happily playing and the next, one or more are taking sides against another. The funny thing is that often the fighting is so noisy that the adults aren’t sure what happened or who is to blame. Other times the fight is a little bit more of the silent treatment, so often no one really realizes that there was a problem, until it shows up in a picture. That is obviously what was going on that day between my nieces, Jessi and Michelle, while Lindsay wasn’t sure what to make of the whole situation, and the adults didn’t know anything was wrong. Jessi was trying very hard to get the message across to Michelle that she should get out of here!! The funny thing is that Jessi and Michelle get along very well, and are in fact friends, but that day, they were definitely on the outs!! I would love to know what that fight was all about, and maybe one of them will remember it, and tell us…if they aren’t too embarrassed about it. The funny thing to me is the fact that I have looked at this picture dozens of times, but this was the first time that I noticed that anything was amiss. I have to wonder how many others missed it too.

Most kids have times when they wish the younger kids would just get out of here…it just goes with the territory of being older. Unfortunately, there are very few times when they really have control over it. All the younger ones had to do was tattle to a parent, and they got to stay…with the possible exception of the older child’s room. This usually caused total irritation by the older child, who vowed to get even at the soonest possibly opportunity. I have been both the older and the younger child in that scenario and I think that in reality, neither is fun, but if I had to choose, I’d rather be the older child. At least with the older child, they get the a few of the privileges of age.

I think it is so funny to see the candid expressions on children’s faces, because they don’t hold anything back. If they are happy, they look delighted, and when they are mad…well, you know it!! Jessi is normally such a smiley girl, so to see her glaring at Michelle was so shocking. Not to say that she can’t get mad, but those girls get along so well, and really always have, so this look of total disdain was very much unlike them. It looked to me like Michelle, was definitely intimidated by Jessi, and didn’t feel real interested in crossing the imaginary line Jessi had drawn. All I can say is that whatever the problem was, it was probably short lived, and they both lived through the ordeal. I’m sure that later…after they saw the picture, they probably laughed about it for some time.

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