Monthly Archives: December 2014
My grand nephew, Isaac Spethman is the youngest son and middle child of my niece Jenny and her husband Steve Spethman. Isaac has always been a very motivated kid. He knew that there were going to be things he wanted and needed, and he was determined to get them for himself. With that in mind, Isaac decided that he needed a job. It was a good decision for a young man to make, as much of their adult life is spent being the bread winner, or at least half of the family bread winning team.
Since Isaac understood that concept, he set out to see what jobs a young man without a vehicle could find to do. The first thing he decided was that he needed to find a job that was nearby, and right across the street was the Grant Street Grocery store. Isaac figured that was a good a place to start as any, so he went over and asked for a job. I think the owner thought he was joking, and so he didn’t really take him seriously, but Isaac kept asking. Finally the owner said, “Well, bring me your résumé.” Being a young man, he had no idea what that was all about, but his aunt, Liz Masterson is a teacher, so he knew exactly who to go to for information on it.
When Isaac approached Liz, he told her that he needed a résumé. Liz was a little confused, because you see Isaac was just a little young for a job…or so Liz thought. She explained that a résumé was a letter telling of your job history and work experience. Isaac insisted that he have one, so Liz wrote it up. On the résumé she listed things like playing well with his brothers, taking out the trash, making his bed and cleaning his room, as well as miscellaneous assistance for his mom and dad, and other chores. It wasn’t much of a work history but it would have to do, because this was going to be his first job.
Isaac was so proud of his résumé. He took it, headed straight over to Grant Street Grocery and handed it to them. I guess they finally understood that he really wanted the job, because they hired him on the spot. He even had to have work boots…a hard thing to find. Isaac did all kinds of work, from sweeping up to taking out the trash, and even learning about the cuts of meat. He made a little bit of money each time he worked, but it wasn’t minimum wage, because you see Isaac was only six years old. It’s never too early to teach your children good work ethics, but in Isaac’s case, other than teaching him to do his chores, his parents didn’t really have to teach him anything, because he sort of taught himself. True, Jenny and Steve are hard working people, and leading by example is always the easiest way to teach people the right way, but who ever thought it would work so well with their young son, but it did, and Isaac now has his first job under his belt, even if it wasn’t for minimum wage, and the next time he needs a résumé, he will have one more job to add to it. Today is Isaac’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you bunches…now get back to work!!
My Uncle George Hushman, who is a very dear part of this family, had one of the more difficult beginnings of any of us. Uncle George was raised in the orphanage in Casper, Wyoming. His mother died when he was just eleven, and his dad, who wasn’t in his life earlier on, died in World War II in 1943, when he was seventeen years old. The children’s home was where his first ties to my family would begin. He befriended one of the sons of my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen’s great grandmother, Hettie Middleton St John, and she took him into her family, in a way. She didn’t adopt him or take him in as a foster child, but because of that friendship, he was a regular fixture at their home, and they always felt like he was an unofficially adopted son. Uncle George’s family also felt that way about Hettie over the years. I remember my cousin, Shannon Limmer going over to her Grandma St John’s house to help her get ready for bed, many times. Little did I know then how this unofficial family relationship would tie into my own family years later, but that is what it did, when my daughter, Corrie married Kevin Petersen. It was quite surprising to find out that my Uncle George had such close ties to Kevin’s mom, Becky Skelton and her family….but it was pretty cool too. The kindness of Kevin’s great grandmother had lived on over the years, never to be forgotten.
Of course, the main way that Uncle George became a part of my family was when he married my Aunt Evelyn Byer Hushman on September 1, 1947. I wonder if he knew that his wedding day was also Hettie’s birthday. Maybe that occurred to him, and maybe not, but World War II was over, and like most men who fought in that war, it was a time to pursue their own happiness. They had lived through the war, and for that they were grateful. Now they could live their lives. It was just a few years after the Uncle George returned from the war, where he served in the United States Navy, and was wounded in action. His injuries could have ended his life, but God had other plans for him….and for that we will always be grateful. Uncle George sustained a head injury, and to this day, has a plate in his head. Thankfully that has been the only long term change in his life. His mind remained intact.
After his marriage to Aunt Evelyn, Uncle George would go on to have five children, and their lives would forever be intertwined with the lives of my sisters and me. Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George often double dated with my parents, and we spent many awesome times at each others’ houses. Uncle George’s soft spoken humor has always endeared him to me. He was always such a gentle man. So often, and maybe it is more these days than his childhood days, children who were raised in an orphanage or in foster care, ended up being somewhat mean…as a self defense mechanism. When there are many kids and little supervision, you have to learn take care of yourself, because no one else will. I suppose that he may have had the advantage of a good friend’s mother to keep him from becoming jaded, or it could have been just something within himself that would not allow him to be poorly affected by the circumstances around him. In many ways I think it was probably a lot him and a little bit of help for those around him, like Kevin’s great grandmother, Hettie St John. Nevertheless, it is the person themselves who ultimately determines the kind of person they will become, and Uncle George became a wonderful man. Today is Uncle George’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Michelle Stevens has, in her mother’s words, always been a character. If she wasn’t up to one thing, she was up to another. Michelle is in college working toward a teaching degree. She plans to be an art teacher. I think that might have been why she dreamed so many things up in her lifetime…even as a small child, she imagined things quite different than a non-artist might.
When Michelle was about 2 1/2, my sister, Alena Stevens, who is Michelle’s mom, put her down for a rare nap. Michelle was one of those kids who didn’t like to sleep at night, if she had a nap during the day. Nevertheless, since Alena was pregnant with Michelle’s brother, Garrett, and pretty close to full term, with an very active 2 1/2 year daughter, she was exhausted and in need of a nap. The plan was to put Michelle down for a nap, and take one herself, and it was working out quite well too. Then, Michelle woke up and came out of her room. As usual, she yelled out, “Mom!” Alena didn’t answer right away, because she just assumed that Michelle would come into the bedroom. But, Michelle didn’t come into the bedroom, and then Alena heard her trying to comfort herself by saying, “She be right back” in a pretty shaky, almost crying voice…”She be right back.” Alena immediately called out, “Michelle, I’m in the bedroom.” Michelle ran into the bedroom and jumped up on the bed. Alena cuddled with her and told her that I would never leave her alone…thinking sadly to herself that this must be how abandoned children feel.
Of course, most Michelle stories aren’t a mix of sad and funny. There was a funny incident in Sunday School, when they made a clock as a project. The clock face said “Jesus has time for…” The child was supposed to write their name in the space. For some strange reason, Michelle wrote her name as EMOP. Alena and her husband, Mike Stevens thought it was so funny that the clock hung on their refrigerator for a year. That name stuck, and they still call her EMOP sometimes, even though she is 27 years old. I have to wonder what she was thinking when she wrote EMOP, because she knew how to write her name by then.
Kids say the funniest things, and they don’t think about what they are saying, they just say what’s on their mind. Alena was video taping Michelle one time as she was singing the alphabet. Michelle was only about 2, and like all little ones, she got stuck on one of the letters. Since she was taping this and she wanted it to be perfect, Alena whispered the letter to Michelle, so as not to ruin the video. Well, Michelle understood about whispering, but not necessarily the whispering was supposed to be speaking really quietly. So she whispered back really loudly, “What Mom? What’d ya say?” Of course, all this was being recorded, and it looked so funny on the video. Needless to say, this…like the other stories here are all time favorites of Alena’s. They are the treasures of a child’s life. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Thanks, Michelle, for giving us something to smile about today. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Israel Putnam Spencer, who is my sixth cousin twice removed, was a writer in his own right. He wrote a journal of sorts that dated back to his earliest recollections, beginning at about four or five years of age. Not everyone can remember very much about themselves at that age, although I think a number of us can. Usually it is some traumatic even, such as illness, a death, or as in my cast, an accident, in which I lost a fight with an escalator. For Israel, it was both illness and death. Israel states that he was just “getting over a spell of sickness” in the town of DeRuyter, Madison County, New York. He talks of moving to Corning, Steuben County, New York where the family lived another four years. This place had no stove, so cooking was done over the fire in the fireplace. It was in Corning that he and his sister got the measles, and his aunt, his mother’s sister died…probably also of measles, as they were very dangerous in those days. His writings tell of hard times…of moving to live with his mother’s brother, Frank Lewis. Hard times in that after finding a dog and being so excited to have a pet, they had to give the dog to a cousin. I’m sure these things all seemed extra hard to a young boy of about nine or ten. Yet, in the midst of those hard times, the family arrived at Israel’s Uncle Frank’s house, to find the dog, that they hadn’t seen in two years…and the dog remembered them, and was so excited to see them. That friendship must have felt like the sun coming out after a long raging storm.
Soon things were looking up for the family, and Israel’s dad bought a farm where the family lived until Israel was fourteen and then he traded that farm for a 100 acre farm just a sort distance away. That farm brought about a big change for the Israel and his brothers because they now have to work the farm, in order to keep up. They went to school in the winter and worked the farm in summer. Then Israel writes of reaching an age where he got a “big head” like most boys did at about 15 to 18 years of age. He said that he got to a point where he was convinced that he knew more than the teachers and his parents combined, and so he quit school at 17 years old. He got odd jobs, and made about $15.00 a month…about average for a 17 year old in those days, I suppose, but maybe less than if he had more schooling…these days anyway.
Then came the biggest change of Israel’s life…the Civil War started in 1861. His oldest brother, Morton Spencer enlisted in Company E, 23rd New York Infantry for two years. Shortly thereafter, Israel’s brother Fred Spencer enlisted, and Israel joined him. It was August 6th of 1862, and Israel was 18 years and 2 months old. Israel tells of his time spent in the war, with an insider’s view that most of us never got to hear about. The northern army, and I suspect the southern army as well, were having trouble keeping their officers. Back then, they didn’t have the came controls over the people in the army. A person could be missing for weeks before anyone really got word of it. Of course, when an officer goes missing, and you are one of his men, you know it, and that is what happened at times…especially when the war put brother against brother, as was the case in the Civil War. He survived the war, as did his brothers, but those were days of hunger and lack. He chose in later years, not to talk about them much, because who would want to remember such a time. He did write about those day, and there are many more tales to tell of the Civil War, but that is a story for another day.
For every girl named Amy, there comes a time when their name is butchered in one of the sweetest ways possible. It happens when a small child tries to say their name. I don’t quite understand why such a simple name is so hard for little ones to learn to say correctly. Nevertheless, the name Amy always seems to change to Mamie when said by a little one who is learning to talk. This has been something that my daughter, Amy Royce has had the pleasure of enjoying all her life. I suppose some people wouldn’t think it cute to have their name messed up in such a way, but we have always thought it to be really cute, and quite precious for our Amy to be called Mamie. It was always said by a child who dearly loved Amy, and that made the name quite endearing. And it was always fun to laugh about it, causing it to be a nickname that even the adults used with her sometimes.
Because of how much we loved the nickname, Mamie for our daughter, I found myself smiling when I heard what my cousin Raylynn Williams had named her daughter. The name was actually handed down from her husband’s grandmother, but nevertheless, there was now a Mayme whose name was not being mispronounced by the little children around her. As names go, it is a bit unusual, but then a lot of people prefer the unusual when it comes to naming their children, myself and my daughter Amy included.
I found myself taken back in time just over four years ago, when I heard what my cousin had named her precious little girl. The name would be one that would take me back every time I heard it…or even saw Mayme. How odd it seems, to have two children with names that, in reality, are not the same, but we can feel a sameness nevertheless. It isn’t always sameness that connects us, you see. Sometimes, it can be our differences that make us the same. While Amy and Mayme are totally different names, to hear a small child say them, would sound exactly the same. Who would expect that a shorter name that is totally different, would be pronounced the same when it comes to little kids. Mayme is a sweet little girl, with a beautiful smile, who is a little bit shy around people she doesn’t know well, But once she knows you are ok, based on being cleared by her parents, of course. Her face will light up with her smile. She is the answer to her parents prayers for a daughter, and the apple of their eyes. Her brothers are very protective of their little sister, as brothers tend to be…especially when the sister is the youngest, like Mayme is.
I can’t say that Amy and Mayme are alike in very many ways, in all reality, because Amy is a grown woman, and Mayme is a little girl. So much can change as each moves on in their life. Amy has always been a little shy, and I think Mayme is too, but that could change as she grows up…or it could stay the same. We will see. They may end up becoming completely different people, but one thing they will always have in common is their name…in a way anyway. Mayme will always be Mayme, even when her name is said by a little child, and Amy will always be Amy. But, Amy will also always be Mamie too, because there will always be little kids who will love Amy and will learn her name early, even if they do mispronounce it.
When a child goes away to college, there are so many emotions that both the parents and the child feel. The child goes through homesickness, and the parents are trying really hard to adjust to this new independence that their child suddenly has. Those things are really hard, but I think that the hardest thing to deal with is that empty room in the house, that empty place at the table, and that missing face and voice that they are so used to. The first month is probably the hardest, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that it gets easier, because it doesn’t, at least not for a long time. Eventually almost all kids grow up get married and move out, so it is something that you have to get used to, because anything else is not normal. But when they are fresh out of high school, and in their first year of college, all you can think about is the next time they will get to come home.
With the Christmas season upon us, having my grandson Chris home from college is very much on our minds. I am reminded of that old song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” which is a kind of sad song, because the person in that song doesn’t really get to come home for Christmas…except in their dreams. I know that lots of families have loved ones who aren’t able to come home for the holidays, and I find that very sad. I know that life takes people in different directions, and sometimes that means holidays away from family, but I like spending the holidays with my family the best. Which brings me to the fact that as of today, Chris is home for Christmas!! We are all very excited to have him home, and very excited about the fact that he will be here for a little over a month. That is one nice thing about college…long Christmas breaks.
Oh, I know that all too soon, January 20th will arrive, and he will be heading back to Sheridan for his next semester. And we will be looking forward to every weekend he can come home, and most especially to summer break. Having a kid away at college is hard, as is having any loved one who lives away from home. Nevertheless, it is a fact of life, and one we will live through. No one knows where the future will take each person, and the main thing is that they remember the way home, because there are those who miss them and love them very much.
For today, and this year at this time of year, I am thankful that Chris is home and we will all be together. I can’t think of anything that is more important to me than my family, and I love spending time with them, so the holidays are extra special. Family is such a blessing. I thank God for each and every one of them, and I am so glad that we have everyone, and especially this year, Chris, home for Christmas.
While I was at our family Christmas party Saturday night, I noticed all the people using electronic devices for entertainment. I know this is a subject that has been beaten to death by a lot of people, but I guess I have a little different view of it. I know that people may not socialize as much with those around them, and I suppose that is a problem, but it is the way things are these days…and in all reality, I am one of those people who gets on their phone a lot. I try not to get on it too much when I’m with my husband or kids, but the reality is that it’s hard not to. I have had to learn to be available…mostly for my kids and the family members that I am caregiver for. There are no other options. You are needed at all hours of the day and night, and so you keep your cell phone close.
With texting, you can send the message and then get back to your conversation, so it leaves you with less time that you are ignoring the person you are with, but not everything involves texting. I have moments when I get an idea for my writing…even in the middle of the night, and if I don’t put it down somewhere, I find myself thinking, “What was that idea again?” And believe me, that is frustrating. I have used my phone to Google something that those I’m with and I are talking about, such as parts some actor played in some show, or what day a battle took place in World War II, which usually is something I am quite interested in. A smart phone is truly an unlimited source of information, and I must say that I seem much smarter when I use it.
Yes, we live in a world of everything at our fingertips, and that is not always a bad thing. I have placed orders from my phone, transferred funds from my phone, emailed from my phone, and I can even get my proof of insurance for license plates from my phone now. The smart phone is simply a time and even sanity saver. How can it save your sanity you ask. Well, tell me, what three year old can’t play a game on a smart phone. When you child is crying, and you are in public, that can be a definite sanity saver. And when you older child is in a situation whereby they need to sit still, and they really don’t want to, a smart phone is a great form of entertainment that will keep them out of trouble and save you from embarrassment. And when you are in a public place and your kid is one of the ones who is sitting quietly and entertaining himself, that is a good thing. You get to look like the awesome mom or dad.
I can think of lots of reasons that we should try to be aware of those around us , and limit our time on the cell phone or other electronics, as a show of respect, and I can think of lots of reasons that the smart phone is not such a bad idea. I guess it is a matter of trying not to abuse it, and trying to be respectful and understanding of those who aren’t using it. Of course one other thing I have noticed, and that I have tried to do myself, is to include others in what you are doing with your smart phone. I usually try to show Bob some of the things I find of Facebook, because he loves a good bit of humor. And it lets him be a part of what I’m doing even if he doesn’t smart phone…because not everybody does, you know. And here I was just thinking, “Everybody does it!!” Ok, almost everybody does it. Admit it…you do it too.
The annual Byer Family Christmas party took place last night, and it was nice to see so many family members, who I normally get to see only on Facebook. The Christmas party is always a joyous time, when we can catch up with other family members to see what they have been up to. The snowbirds like Susie and Clyde Young were back in town for the holidays, and kindly managed to bring the warm Nevada weather with them. Most of our grandparents children were there, like Aunt Virginia Beadle; my mom, Collene Spencer; Aunt Jeanette Byer; Aunt Bonnie McDaniels; Aunt Dixie Richards; and Aunt Sandy Pattan. For their presence, we are always thankful. The younger generations don’t always come to the party. I wish they would, because while this party and the summer picnic are great times to get together with the family, these gatherings are more importantly, the dream of our grandparents. The parties are our grandparents’ way of trying to keep the glue in place, that holds the family together.
The regular groups are there…the ones we can always count on. There were too many to name them all, but there were members of the families of Aunt Evelyn, Aunt Virginia, Aunt Delores, Uncle Larry, my mom, Collene, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt Sandy represented. It was so good to see everyone. We got to meet Aunt Virginia’s newest little great grandson, Kasen. And we got to see and be shocked at how much all the little kids have grown. The food was delicious, as always, because we are a family of really good cooks. We all ate to our heart’s content, and as usual, it was more than we needed to eat. But in realty, it isn’t the food we come for so much, but rather the company. Since connecting with so many family members on Facebook, I really feel comfortable visiting with them in person, because I truly know them now, where I basically knew they were family before.
Of course, we understand that not everyone can make it to the party each year, but for me, the thing that added a little bit of sadness this year is the ones who truly couldn’t come. These are the ones I really felt were missing. People like Grandma and Grandpa Byer, Aunt Delores and Uncle Elmer Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my dad, Allen Spencer, Uncle Jack McDaniels, Forrest Beadle, Alyssa Harman, Jonah Williams, and Laila Spethman…all of whom live in Heaven now. I also really missed Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, because Uncle George has a really hard time getting out. And the one that hit closest to home for me, my grandson, Chris Petersen, who hasn’t missed one of these in years, but he is away at college and won’t be home until Tuesday. That was a really hard thing for my kids, Corrie and Kevin Petersen…and I know it was hard for Chris too.
Every year, we are grateful for the family members who come to the party, because we love to see everyone. The Byer Family Christmas Party is a day to treasure. As more and more of them pass away, I realize that we may not have the chance to see some of these people again. I am reminded of Grandma and Grandpa’s desire for this yearly celebration, and I’m reminded that they are there in spirit. I’m thankful for the people who come to the party, and look forward to the next time I will see them. The Annual Byer Family Christmas Party was a great success, because so many people came…and yet sad, because some were missing.
My husband, Bob Schulenberg, likes to laugh. From the time he was just a little kid, it seems that in a crowd of smiling people, there would always be one, who had to laugh, because somehow, a smile just did really express his true feelings about whatever was said, or what someone did. He really finds it hard not to laugh if something is the least bit funny. This was one of the things that I liked the most about Bob right from the start. He has a great sense of humor, and is a teaser from way back. I can’t say that his sisters always liked that aspect of their oldest brother, but it was a part of their childhood, nevertheless. Like so many boys, Bob’s humor as a young boy was not always shared by his sisters, who thought he really should just leave them alone.
From cartoons, as a little boy and even into the early years of our marriage, to “The Three Stooges” and “Laurel and Hardy”, to comedies of today, television has been a source of entertainment bringing much laughter for Bob. He can be sitting in a room all by himself, and suddenly he just bursts out in loud laughter, because something on the show struck him as very funny. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the rest of us would have thought it funny too, but it is just so funny to hear Bob burst out laughing in the other room, when you have no idea what is so funny. That makes no difference really, because it is what is funny to him that matters, not what is funny to those around him.
Bob has always been the kind of person who finds humor all around him. And looking back at all the pictures of him as a kid, I can see that is true. Not to mention, that I have heard all the stories of Bob’s antics…especially the ones his sisters didn’t find very funny. From chasing his sister, Jennifer Parmely with spiders…which he still tries to do these days too, but then thinks better of the plan…mostly because he wants to live, to goofing of with his sister, Brenda Schulenberg, during family pictures, to the point where his dad just about had to knock them silly, Bob is known for stirring things up a bit…not is a bad way, but as a boy, it was a way that his sisters didn’t always appreciate. Of course, I think they would all agree now, that he has always been a comical guy.
They say, laughter is the best medicine, and for Bob, I think it has always been something that has made his life…and mine…a happy one. Life has it’s ups and downs. No one can get by with no sadness in their life. Those things are what makes the need for laughter such a big need, and Bob has always found humor in the simple things around him. It is probably the one biggest asset that he has. I have been blessed to be married to him all these years, so I can say that in our house, never a day goes by without a bit…or a lot…of laughter. Even if we don’t always know exactly what is so funny.
How can time pass so quickly…in the twinkling of an eye really, and yet in looking back on the years, they seem so many. Seven years seems like such a long time, but not when you are looking back to the moment you lost your dad…or any other loved one for that matter. When I look back now, it feels like just yesterday, and yet each year as the twelfth of December rolls around, I find myself thinking about just how long seven years is…or any number of years since my dad has been gone. Somehow in my head…or maybe my heart…I never thought I would live even one day without my dad in it. I thought he would always be there to offer guidance, to share laughter and even tears with. In his wisdom, he has taught me so much. He could make sense out of a situation where I found only anger and frustration, and he always dealt with these situations with kindness. He was slow to anger…something many people, including me, could learn from. Now, I have lived seven years without my dad…but not completely without him.
In reality, Dad is with me every day, because words are alive. I still hear his voice, carrying words of wisdom to me at just the moment I need them. In my memory, those words and the sound of his voice live on. I can hear his laughter ringing out after he has just managed to pull one over on me. Dad was always one to look for the positive in every situation. He loved to laugh and tease his kids and grandkids, and we loved it too. Life in our house was full of laughter, and often overly excited kids…much to Mom’s dismay at times, because while Mom was trying to get a couple of things done, Dad had situated himself beside the doorway to the living room in the kitchen, and one of the little kids was running back and forth trying to get by Dad before he could get them. The child was delighted and this game and the laughter was loud and constant. Dad was just as delighted as the kids, because he was, after all, a kid at heart…and always would be.
Those last years…when I realized that he wasn’t invincible, were hard ones for me. I wanted things to go back the way they had been, but that was not to be. The time he spent in the hospital in a coma, I could only think, ” I want to hear his voice again!” And I did hear his voice again. He knew he needed to stay then, because we needed him so badly. I spent a lot of time with him when he got home, nursing him back to health. I didn’t know then how much the extra time with him would mean to me later. It would be a time of storing up his words of wisdom, humor, and just everyday life, in my memory files, for recall when I needed them most. It would be a time of storing up pictures of him for later viewing…pictures of the hard work he put in to come back to us…pictures of his face filled with delight as he pulled one over on us…pictures to draw on later, when I needed to see him again. Now, I see him all over Mom’s house, and hear his voice, always at the moment when I need it the most. I think the time spent so closely in those last days was in some ways a time of preparation for after he went home. I am so thankful for those close times, because I miss him terribly, and those close days are the only consolation I have now. I know that Dad felt how much I loved him, and knew how much we would miss him. But his main concern was that we take care of our mom, which we have done to the best of our ability. That was my dad…never thinking of himself, just of those around him. I can’t believe that seven years have passed by so quickly, and I wish we could have him back. I would gladly go back in time, if I could have him back, but that cannot be, so I will look to the future, when I will see him again. Until then, he lives on in my memory. We love and miss you so much, Dad.