Monthly Archives: August 2014
My grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak has been a part of our family since his dad, Dave married my niece, Chantel. Keifer was a young man of fourteen years when he became a part of our family. I have watched him grow from a kid into a man, and I have always felt like he was a very nice fit into our family. He is so much like his Dad that it is amazing. Chantel says that he is Dave’s “mini me” only two inches taller. Keifer and Dave play softball together in the summer, darts in the fall and winter, and watch football together on Sundays. They are and really, always have been pals. Their personalities are a lot alike, so they get along well. Keifer has seen the value in sharing interests with his dad, and just how close it can make them. I know it means a lot to Dave.
Keifer has been dating his high school sweetheart, Katie Davidson for seven years now, and he decided that it was time to take the next step, so he asked her to marry him, and she said yes. The wedding is set for May, and they are making plans for the future. They just bought their first house, and adopted two dogs, so they are set…until they decide to start a family anyway. Keifer is a lot like his dad, and has a great sense of humor, so I know that he and Katie will have a wonderful home…filled with love and laughter. Of course, according to Katie, Keifer puts up with her shenanigans…which amounts to being treated like a three year old…but then, what guy doesn’t need to be treated that way most of the time. Needless to say, I think Katie and Keifer might both have a great sense of humor.
Keifer has worked for Charter Communications as a cable guy…his words, not mine, but I’m sure he likes that because of Larry, the cable guy. Keifer is an all around hard worker and loyal employee, and he likes his job. Now with his life taking that next turn into the future, those are great traits to have. If you are willing to work hard, and be honest, loyal, and truthful, there really is no place you can’t go in your life. I think Keifer is a fine young man, and I know that he and Katie are going to have a wonderful life together. Today is Keifer’s birthday. You have grown into a good man, Keifer. You will go far. Happy birthday Keifer! Have a great day! We love you!
As another summer moves into the past, yet another of my grandchildren has had senior pictures taken. This year, we will have only one graduate, instead of two. Nevertheless, as each one graduates, I feel a little sadness. Before my very eyes, my grandchildren are growing up, and moving on with their lives. I want them to be little again. This year’s graduate is my grandson, Caalab Royce. Caalab’s favorite things are his guitar, his truck, and his dogs. That said, he decided to incorporate his guitar and his truck into his senior pictures, and chose the Washington Park Band Shelter as his backdrop. The pictures turned out great.
Caalab isn’t one to spend a lot of time posing for pictures, and would much rather take those spontaneous selfies with his mom, sister, and me. I think maybe he would rather make funny faces that the nicely posed type of shots that senior pictures are. He just doesn’t have the patience for that sort of thing. Still, I think he had a good time in the end…or at least it looked like he had fun. I think I will have a lot of trouble choosing my favorite among the shots Jessica Coleman at Poetic Images Photography took. The pictures are really good, and I think they capture a lot of who Caalab is. And isn’t that what a good photographer does…capture the essence of the person.
When I think of another of my grandchildren being out of high school, I am beyond surprised. It seems impossible that my grandchildren could be so grown up already. Caalab should still be that little boy who began playing with my hair at six months of age, and has never stopped wanting to do that. He should still be that smiley boy, who is full of mischief…oh wait, he is still that smiley boy, who is full of mischief. Maybe not so much has changed after all, and in reality I do have this school year before he actually graduates. And I hope he will always like to come and hang out with his grandma and papa, because we would miss it if he didn’t. Spending time together is of the utmost importance to me, because my family is of the utmost importance. I suppose that is why the changes of having the grandchildren growing up are so hard. When my girls grew up and got married, I hoped and prayed that they would stay in Casper, because I wanted to be a part of their daily lives. Thankfully, so far that has been the case. Now it is the grandchildren…and I hope they will stay in Casper as well, because I want to be a part of the lives of my great grandchildren too.
Graduations are new beginnings, and the senior picture is the first step toward that new beginning. The end of summer, and the senior pictures always serve as a reminder that life is short, time flies by, and change is inevitable. I just wish I could be the exception to that rule, and that life could always stay the way it is right now…or maybe back just a few years to when I was still the one taking my grandchildren to school each day. It was so nice to see them every day. I felt infinitely blessed…still do, because they are the best.
As a writer, I don’t usually have very much time for reading. Yesterday, however, on a long drive with my mom and sister, Cheryl, heading to Wisconsin to visit our family out there, I found myself with a few minutes to read. Since being in contact with Jerry Schemmel, who is a survivor and hero of the United Flight 232 crash in Sioux City, Iowa, I have been thinking a lot about the plane crash that took my Great Aunt Gladys’ life. Jerry wrote a book about his experience, and I have purchased that, but while waiting for that book, I had started another book about that flight, and the miracle that it really was. There is much that we really had no idea about when that crash took place 25 years ago July 19th. For one thing, the DC-10 should not be able to fly…at all…with the hydraulics gone, and yet that crew managed to keep that plane in the air for an astonishing 45 minutes after losing the number two engine and all of their hydraulics.
That situation…total loss of hydraulics should have immediately thrown the plane into a rollover situation…meaning that it should have rolled onto its back. The events that would have followed should have been a fast spiral downward, causing the wings and tail to break off of the plane. The plane should have then gone barreling into the ground like a rocket, resulting in the instant death of all persons on board. The fact that none of the things that should have happened…did happen, caused all those who were trying to help the plane to assume that the pilots has misdiagnosed the problem that the plane had. Some even assumed that they could land in Chicago, Illinois, instead of Sioux City, Iowa. I’m sure that to the crew, this all seemed incredible. The people helping them should have known that they knew how to read their instruments, and they did, but what they were saying was impossible…totally impossible. Nevertheless, it was happening, and the pilots were flying it…against all odds…against the impossible. They even called the people at United Airlines Systems Aircraft Maintenance, also known as SAM to see if they could help. They thought the pilots had misdiagnosed the problem too, until they confirmed that the hydraulic fluid had all leaked out. The people at SAM said later that they had no idea what to say to the crew, because they felt like they were talking to four dead men. They didn’t believe anyone could survive it.
There was no procedure for a full loss of hydraulics. Flight simulators didn’t teach that scenario, because it was not considered survivable. It had never happened…and if it had, no one survived, because this was not a survivable event…at least it wasn’t until that day. This pilot and co-pilot were flying by the seat of their pants, and the normal fixes wouldn’t work. Captain Al Haynes simply moved on instinct when he used the throttles. He thought he had seen something in the manual about it, but I’m not sure it was there, because it was not supposed work. He was basically using power to control the plane. The plane wanted to turn over, and so, using asymmetric thrust, he was able to keep it making wide loops, and finally ended up at the airport. It would also take the help of a fourth person to make this work. Thankfully they had DC-10 instructor, Dennis Fitch on board to handle the extra need. Each loop caused them to lose altitude, and so at one point they didn’t think they would make the airport. In the end, they had to use a runway that had not been used or maintained in a year. That did not contribute to the crash, however.
I have watched the crash video many times, and you can see that the crew…and I do say the crew, because it took all three of them, and the instructor to run all the controls that it took to maneuver the plane…almost landed the plane safely. They were so close. Then the plane tried one more time to roll over, causing the right wing to tap the ground. That was all it took to cartwheel the plane down the runway. In watching that crash, I have no idea how anyone survived it at all…much less more than half of the occupants, including all of the crew. It was a miracle of God, and an answer to the many prayers that were being prayed on board that day. I wish Aunt Gladys had survived, but that was not to be. Nevertheless, there were many heroes that day, and the crew who flew that plane were definitely the greatest.
A big part of picture taking with children is getting them to smile. Kids can be moody and irritable when you make them sit or stand still while you try repeatedly to get just the right shot. I suppose that is when people started trying to find creative ways to make a child smile. “Say Cheese” seems to be one of the most common ways to get a kid to smile…or at least it used to be. Most kids have heard that so much that it is not quite as funny as it once was. Most parents and photographers have had to get a little bit more creative.
It’s almost like the more embarrassing the situation they can come up with, the more the kids laugh. Like when the photographer asked me if I had any boyfriends, and I made a funny face, as I gave thought to who I liked at that moment. Many kids have to laugh…or more likely crack up at that question, because a lot of the time, they aren’t even sure if they like the opposite sex or not, but…well, maybe they do…just don’t tell anyone that. I think that is when you get some of the funniest faces with kids…when something is a combination of embarrassing and funny, such as that moment when someone thought you said “cut the cheese”, and not “say cheese”. Of course the next thing that happens is that one or the other of the kids breaks out in uncontrollable laughter. It doesn’t do much for the nicely posed picture, but it can be a great picture if you are looking for a real life funny shot.
I think several of us have been caught in that funny moment shot, she someone conveniently snapped a picture when we had the goofiest look on our face. My grandson, Caalab Royce is famous for taking those goofy shots of me…his Gma. Then he threatens to put them on Facebook, or just show it to everyone he can think of, because it is so funny looking. All he has to do is get ready and say “Gma” and it will invariably end up in a funny picture.
I guess it doesn’t matter what you do to get people to smile, sometimes you just have to be very creative. And even then, you may not get exactly the reaction you were hoping for. That’s just the way it goes with pictures. You get what you get.
As each generation in a family looks at the addition of a new generation, I have to wonder what is going through their minds, and if it’s the same as mine…amazement at where the family is now. I remember seeing my daughters and my grandchildren for the first time, and I know that I was thinking just how amazing it was that they were here, and they were mine. You have a tendency to marvel at how beautiful they are and that they descended from you. Every grandparent is excited about those little grandbabies, but you don’t always get a picture of the exact look that expressed just how blessed a grandparent is feeling.
Nevertheless, that rare shot was what we accidently got, when my husband, Bob’s great grandfather first met his great great granddaughters, Corrie and Amy. The loving look on his face as he held Amy simply said it all. He was feeling so blessed to be able to see this next generation of his lineage. Many people never see their great great grandchildren…they don’t always live long enough, so he was very blessed. He was blessed in his life…living to be 93 years old. It was only a couple of months later that a fall would break his hip and the shock would end his life. That made his chance to meet his great great granddaughters that much more special, whether he knew it or not at the time.
I think every grandparent feels that deep sense of great blessing when they see those babies for the first time, but so often it doesn’t show in a picture of such a loving look. This picture has become very precious to me for that very reason. I only had the opportunity to meet Bob’s great grandfather the one time, before his passing. We had planned a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit with them again, in September of that year, but he passed away in August. We made the trip to see Bob’s great grandmother, but I always felt sad that his great grandfather was not there for the visit. Mostly, I was sorry that he was gone so soon after meeting him. The picture of him was one of the few I have now. Having met him, I can say that he was a gentle hearted man who loved his family. I really think that he felt such a deep sense of accomplishment that his family had grown so much, and that he got to see it before he left this world. I was glad that we were able to give him his great great granddaughters before he passed away. I think it meant so much to him.
As my life moves forward into the next phases, I am beginning to look forward to the day when I will have great grandchildren too. It could be down the road a ways, but with two grandchildren out of high school now, it could be right around the corner. I don’t mean to say that I am pushing the grandkids, but I look forward to that special day whenever it happens to arrive. Babies and grandbabies are a great blessing, and I know that whenever my great grandchildren start arriving, I will feel just like Bob’s great grandfather did, so amazed at where the family is now.
On most Thursday evenings, I go over to have supper with my mom, Collene Spencer and my sister, Cheryl Masterson. This summer, Cheryl has been babysitting her little granddaughter, Aleesia Spethman, while her daughter, Jenny and her family attend some of the Thursday night events in Downtown Casper. Prior to having Aleesia over on Thursday nights, I got to see her once a week at church, so she was a little bit stand offish with me…not terribly unusual in an almost two year old child who doesn’t know you that well. Now that I have spent more time with her, she is warming up to me, and it is so much fun to witness the changes in her first hand. She is and always be her grandma’s girl, unless her parents are around, and her great grandma, my mom, who she calls GG, will always be second, but she does like her Great Aunt Caryn too. She says my name, but I don’t always catch that my name is what she is saying, and she doesn’t say it very often, but she will throw me kisses, and even climb up in my chair once in a while now. At least, she will once she feels sufficiently warmed up to me for the evening. But, my favorite thing she says is when she and her grandma are playing word games. They say pa-lease…which is of course please with sarcasm. It’s really quite funny.
Aleesia is a performer, and she loves to be recognized for the amazing feats of acrobatics, balance, and just plain silliness she performs. Her most favorite thing to do is to climb up on GG’s walker, that has a seat. Once there, she raises her hands above her head and looks around the room to make sure that we have all noticed this amazing act. We are then expected to clap our hands, and anyone who doesn’t receives an Aleesia Stare until they get their act together and start clapping. Seriously, you can watch television anytime, and this is The Aleesia Show, so pay attention!! Her next maneuver is to jump from the walker to the waiting arms of her grandma or GG. Never mind that they might be eating. If they don’t tell her to wait until after supper soon enough, they had better catch her…because this little girl is fearless. That isn’t surprising either, because Aleesia has three brothers, so tough is kind of her middle name.
Even though Aleesia is tough enough, don’t make the mistake of thinking that she isn’t a girly girl, because she likes her cute outfits and even her hair bows…most of the time. She loves the frilly little outfits that her mom dresses her in. Her favorite decorative pillow has Tinkerbelle on it. All these things point to a girly girl. And that is Aleesia too. She loves to dance, and anything else that might get those around her to cheer her on or clap their hands. That’s just part of her charm and part of The Aleesia Show, in which our little girl performs to the delight of those around her. It’s a show I would hate to miss. Today is Aleesia’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday baby girl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Through the years, people have taken in boarders to help make ends meet. These days, people might have a roommate to share the financial load when buying a house or renting an apartment, but that didn’t happen often in years gone by. When it became necessary to find a way to make ends meet, people took in boarders…usually people they didn’t know. They might be people who were working in the area, or in college towns, maybe students. For my grandmother, I think it must have been men working in the area. I’m sure she didn’t know the men prior to renting them a room, but they quickly became like family. She wanted to get a picture that included the boarders, and one of the men even held my Uncle Bill on his shoulder. Times were just different then, and most people were decent and trustworthy. There was, for the most part, a moral code that was followed.
I’m sure the men helped out with things around the place while they lived at my grandmother’s home, and I’m also sure they ate some of their meals with the family. I also seriously doubt that the rent charged was very much, because in the 1930’s, times were hard and people couldn’t afford to pay very much. These men were grateful, I’m sure, for the opportunity to have a place to live, and a nice family to live with. Many of those men were far from home, trying to make a living for their families who were waiting for their return. It was quite a lonely way to support your family, but you did what you had to do.
I’m not sure how long or how many times my grandmother had boarders living in her home, but I know she was a kindhearted woman who would have had a hard time thinking about some man sleeping in the freezing cold winter weather when her home had a spare room that he could have. And having a little help around the place wasn’t a bad thing either, because my grandfather worked on the railroad, and my dad and Uncle Bill were just little boys, so they couldn’t help much. The reasons that people take in boarders or roommates vary, but it usually boils down to need, either the need of the family to have an extra income, or the need of the boarder to have a place to live. It’s as simple as that.
When I was a kid in grade school, our class in 3rd or 4th grade decided to have a tasting party. The idea was to bring a home-cooked recipe from the family home to share with the class. When my mom suggested that I bring her cornbread, I knew that was what I wanted to bring. When my teacher found out that I was bringing cornbread, she was a little bit apprehensive. She just didn’t think the other students would like it, and she thought I would be disappointed. Nevertheless, cornbread was what I was bringing, whether she liked it or not.
All the students were excited for the day of the tasting party to arrive. We were all planning what we would bring and trying to figure out what the others were bringing. Some people told, but most of us kept it a secret. Finally the big day arrived and all the food was brought in and placed on a table. At the appointed time, the party began. Our teacher said that we had to try a little bit of everything and then could go back for seconds of the things we liked. I have to wonder if she was worried that no one would try some of the things, if she set no requirement. Kids are picky eaters.
The party went well. She cut my cornbread into small pieces…I’m sure she was thinking it would be rejected if the pieces were bigger. She needn’t have bothered. After their first helping, every student asked for more cornbread until there was none left. She was stunned, and asked me what my mother’s secret was. Well, it was simple. If you have ever eaten cornbread, you know that it is often dry and tasteless. My mom was always one to add a little sweet to things…even before all the manufacturers started doing it to things that normally wouldn’t have sugar in them. So Mom’s secret was a little sugar. Her cornbread wasn’t super sweet, like cake, but it had a hint of sweetness, and that brought out the corn flavor too. Then, when you add butter to it…oh my gosh!! It had a melt in your mouth flavor that was unsurpassed. I think my teacher learned a lesson that day too. Never assume that something won’t taste good, until you have tried it. You may be very surprised.
I have never forgotten that special day, when my food for the tasting party became the hit of the day. Everyone kept telling me how good that cornbread was. I have to agree with them. Nobody makes cornbread like my mom. To this day, when cornbread is served, I always have some, but I am always disappointed at the taste. It never…ever stands up to the standard my mom set for it so many years ago. I suppose that is why I never have seconds either. My teacher knew that cornbread wasn’t her favorite thing…probably for the same reason most people don’t eat a lot of it, but then she had more than one helping of mine too, that day. It’s really hard to resist that melt in your mouth flavor, and it has spoiled me concerning cornbread that doesn’t have it. I’m just not very interested.
Our last day in Alaska, found Bob and me exploring the Anchorage area. None of our family had been there before, so this part was new territory. W had seen the pictures my parents took, but they didn’t get to go to Anchorage. I wanted to be able to give my mom and my sisters an idea of just how beautiful the Anchorage area is. We had planned to rent a car, but they are really expensive in Anchorage, and we love to walk, so we stored our luggage at the airport, and headed back to town. Once our shuttle got us to the downtown area, we started walking…without really knowing where we were going. It was almost like I knew where to go. I wanted to get down to the water, and the first thing we found was the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. I felt like we had found our way. We started down the trail, and were pleased to see that the locals who used the trail were as friendly as the people we see on the trail near our house. We walked a ways, and were rewarded with beautiful views of the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet.
Off in the distance I captured a range of mountains, that I later realized contained a view of Mount McKinley. The native name for Mount McKinley is, of course, Denali, which means High One. I found the native words for things very interesting. For instance, the when we were in Juneau, I found out that auck means lake. That one was funny because of the English speaking people trying to help the natives name things. The natives had called it Auck, the English speakers liked it, so it became Auck Lake…or Lake Lake…which I found quite funny. Sometimes we just need to leave well enough alone.
I was very excited about getting the picture of Denali, because it is so often shrouded in clouds, and is hard to capture without it being too covered. The mud flats on the Knik Arm were very strange. They looked like normal ground with grass, but in reality they were moss covered mud, and quite dangerous. People are warned to stay off of them. They tend to suck things in and refuse to let go…causing the death of humans or animals over the size of a bird.
As we walked along, the views continued to be breath taking. Bob was in hope that we would be able to see the mud flats after the tide came in. We did not, but we could tell that the tide was starting to come in toward the end of our journey. I found myself quite amazed that we walked for about five hours, and the only issue I had, that day or the next was sore feet. I don’t know if we were just enjoying ourselves and not thinking about the time or distance that we had traveled or what made the difference, but I was happy, because I very much enjoyed that walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. I will never forget the amazing views we had in front of us. It was absolutely beautiful.
My grand niece, Jala Satterwhite is growing up so fast. I still picture her as a girl who is her sister, Kaytlyn’s age, but that just isn’t so. This past year, when Jala was in 5th grade, she participated in the science fair, and did a great job. She did her project on salt, which is something I personally like a lot of. Jala has always liked grade school and has done very well in it, but the time has come for her to move on. With her twelfth birthday, comes middle school. She will no longer be one of the big kids on campus, but she will be moving into the world of the older group of kids in school.
We will have to see exactly what that will mean for Jala, because at this point, she is quite proud to call herself a tomboy. Her favorite game is football, and I don’t mean to watch. This last year found Jala playing football with…and besting the boys…at every recess. She is one of the fastest of them all. She likes football so much, that she told everyone that she wanted a football for her birthday, and ended up with three at her party. I guess she is set in that department. With the coming of middle school, comes also co-ed flag football…with Jala on the team. She is so excited about playing on a real team…and not just recess fun. She starts in a couple of weeks, and she can’t wait. Hey, I say go for whatever your heart desires Jala. Those kids need you on their team! They want to win…right!!
The summer found Jala taking swimming lessons…an excellent idea. I think every child needs to know how to swim. Jala excelled at swimming too, passing the hardest level a week faster than was required. She is a great swimmer, but swimming simply cannot compete with football…at least not right now. You never know what the future might bring. She may end up on the swim team someday. As kids grow up, their focus often changes and new ideas present themselves, and before your very eyes, they are a changed person. It’s hard to say what Jala will want to do in the future, because she has so much changing left to do.
Jala has grown in maturity in so many ways. She wanted an iPhone this past year, and while her parents wanted her to have it, they also wanted to teach her about things like responsibility, and making your own way in this world. Of course, Jala isn’t old enough to totally make her own way in this world, but she can learn about earning something she wants, so she will be sure to take care of it when she gets it. That said, her parents decided that if she wanted an iPhone, she should save up for it. A very wise idea. Once you know how expensive it is, and how long it took you to save up for it, you tend to have a greater respect for it…and Jala does. She also loves her iPhone, and did from the moment she got it. I can’t blame her there. The iPhone is the best phone there is, if you ask me. It’s also a great phone for taking all the selfies that Jala likes to take, but then why should she be different than anyone else. Today is Jala’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!