Monthly Archives: March 2015

ElizabethLiz and SiaraOver the years, my niece, Liz Masterson has been our go to person for many different types of things, but probably none of them bigger than for photography and videos. Liz is a Journalism and English teacher at Kelly Walsh High School, which is her alma mater, by the way, and that is just the beginning of her many talents. Liz heads up the Kelly Kall and the annual yearbook too. She and her yearbook staff members have put together some of the most amazing yearbooks ever seen. Every year, our whole family looks forward to taking a look at them…even if we don’t know anyone who is going to Kelly Walsh that year. They are just too good not to have a look at.

Liz is definitely multitalented. She has loved sports since she was old enough to speak, and she can sit and discuss just about any sport with anyone. The truth be told, she could have easily been a sports writer or an announcer, but she had a calling to teach, and her students will tell you that they are all very glad she chose to teach, because she is a phenomenal teacher, and one they are friends with for life.

But, one of the best talents Liz has is for public speaking. It’s not that she should be a public speaker, but she has the definite ability to write her own speeches and execute them with grace and purpose. Liz gave the eulogies for both of her grandparents funeral service, and while a tear might have choked her voice a time or two, she was able to stay on task nevertheless, and both were just beautiful, with the perfect mix of humor and love. I know that I could not have done them, and I was very moved by her ability. Not only did Liz take the time out to write out the eulogies, but she set herself to the task of scanning all the necessary pictures, downloading the music, and putting together the slide shows for both funerals. And those are not the only slide shows she has done either. She also did my father-in-law’s and Bob’s cousin’s. She is very talented at all things that have to do with photography.

Teacher LizLiz and LaceyWhich brings me to another of Liz’s many talents. In recent years, Liz has been the school photographer for Kelly Walsh High School, photographing all the sporting events, social events, and anything else school related. This has blossomed into her own photography business, in which she photographs weddings, baptisms, senior pictures, and family photographs. With everything she can do, she is definitely our Multitalented Liz. Today is Liz’s birthday. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

reaganWhen a United States president is assassinated, it sends shock waves around the world. When one is shot and lives, it sends waves of shock too…and then relief. I was a little girl when John F Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, and I will never forget where I was when I found out about it. At the tender age of just seven years, I don’t really think that I fully understood the gravity of the situation. When President Ronald Regan was shot in the chest, on March 30, 1981, I was a married twenty five year old mother of two daughters, and I fully understood the gravity of the situation, and how it could have affected our nation and the world. It was however, the reason he was shot that totally baffled me. I mean, I know what John Hinkley Jr’s deranged reasons were, but it still made no sense to me…especially that he would think that somehow he would win Jodie Foster’s love by shooting the president. I suppose that is simply how the deranged mind works.

In the years that the United States has been a nation, sixteen assassination attempts on our presidents. Of those, there have been four successful Presidential assassinations. They were Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy. I really never thought there might have been that many attempts, but I can see that people get distraut with how things are going, and if they are at all unstable, they might attempt to shoot the president.

President Reagan’s shooting was probably one of the most strange, because he appartently didn’t feel the .22 caliber bullet that entered his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and hit his lung. There were three attendants with him, who were also hit. They were White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and DC police officer Thomas Delahaney. Hinkley was then overpowered and pinned against a wall. Reagan was shoved into the car and taken to the hospital for treatment. He made a complete recovery, which was amazing, considering that he was 70 years old at the time. He even insisted on walking into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. He was in good spirits and visiting with his wife, Nancy while waiting for surgery. He laughingly said, ”Honey, I forgot to duck,” and to his surgeons, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.”

The next day, he resumed some of his executive duties and even signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. He returned to work at the White House on April 11, 1981. He returned even more popular that he already was, and received a hero’s welcome by Congress. His highly successful economics plan was passed with several Democrats breaking ranks to back his plan. Nevertheless, President Reagan felt the effects of the shooting for years afterward. The other men eventually recovered, but James Brady suffered permanent brain damage and later became an advocate for the “Brady Bill” requiring a five day waiting period and background checks before the purchase of a gun, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. John Hinkley received a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” bringing with it outrage among the people of this nation. He has been incarcerated at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital since that time, but more recently has been allowed supervised home visits with his parents. I suppose that one day, he could be released, since they have said that his mental illness is in remission.

Caryn abt 3rd gradeWhen most people think of Gumbo, they think of soup, and I do too, but there is another form of Gumbo, that isn’t quite as nice. In fact, this Gumbo is pretty awful. The Gumbo I’m talking about is the black, sticky, clay kind of mud found in many areas around the nation. Getting crossways with this kind of Gumbo can be a real mess, and in some places, very dangerous. Casper, Wyoming is known to have this kind of Gumbo, and any of us who have come across it can tell you just how bad it is.

My own experience with it was at the Kmart construction site when I was just a kid. My sisters and I were all curious about the new Kmart store going in, and since we lived just a block away, we liked to go over there and check it out sometimes. On this particular day, it had rained, and the dirt hill we had to climb over to get to the site was pretty soggy. I was not put off by that one bit, but perhaps I should have been. I proceeded to climb up the hill of mud, and sunk quickly to my ankles. Thankfully that finally deterred me from trying to go further, and changed my plan instead to trying to get out of there with my shoes…brand new penny loafers, which I had been wanting forever, by the way. In the end, I managed to get out and rescue my amazing shoes, but the shoes didn’t fare as well as I did. They shrunk by about a size, and I could no longer wear them. Man…was I in trouble. I don’t recall if I ever got another pair of penny loafers, or if they went out of style shortly thereafter, but I do remember that mud, and how awful it was. Ugh!! It was not a good day…especially when you add to it the fact that my mother was furious.

My cousin, Tim Fredrick and I share this type of experience. Once when Tim was in Kindergarten at Pineview School, in Casper, Wyoming, which we both attended, by the way, he recalls learning about the stuff of legends…in the form of the mud in the area. For any of you who don’t know it, the mud in Casper, Wyoming is pretty much all Gumbo. Gumbo is so sticky, that believe me when I say, “It will eat your shoes, if you get in there, and you will feel lucky to get out of it with your feet!!” This was the predicament Tim found himself in, Young Timwhen the playground had finally begun to dry after the rain, and because it had developed a thin crust of dry dirt, Tim mistakenly thought it was safe to walk across. Well, as you might have guessed, the crust broke, and that Gumbo mud ate Tim’s shoes. Tim couldn’t move, and if his friends hadn’t been there…some of them larger than he was, thankfully, that Gumbo might have got his feet too, but they pulled him out, just in the nick of time. Ok, I’m exaggerating just a bit, but that mud will get a grip on you and you can’t get out without help. I don’t know how Tim’s mom felt about all that, but my guess is that it was a feeling similar to my mom’s on that day long ago when I was a little kid. When it comes to Gumbo, I think Tim and I will agree…stay away, but it will always win. As Tim said, Gumbo is truly the stuff of legends!!

Cheryl and CarynWhile going through our parents things the other day, we came across a note that I had written to my parents. The note, I don’t recall writing, but the event surrounding the need for the note, will be forever, vividly burned into my memory files. In fact, every time I think about it, and the possible outcome of that event, I cringe. It was no one’s fault really, it was just two intertwined moments that collided in a terrifying way. And I know that my parents reacted, as every parent would have to a potentially deadly situation. They yelled, and I was the target of their yelling. Looking back now, I totally understand why they yelled at me. It was because the whole thing scared them really badly, but had they known the facts that they couldn’t have known at that time, they might have reacted differently. I suppose that was why I wrote the letter. It just seemed very important to me to explain the full details, which they had missed. I felt like they needed to know that I wasn’t such a horribly mean person, who would do such a horrific thing.

I suppose I am getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll fill in the blanks for you. It was Christmas time, and around our family, that was one of the most special times of the year. We all loved Christmas. We loved everything from the shopping to the decorations. Which brings me to the whole problem. We not only loved the decorations, but we all felt like the Christmas lights needed to be turned on as much as possible. On this Out treeparticular day, it was me who decided to turn on the Christmas lights, although it could have been anyone who found themselves in this unfortunate position. Our lights were plugged into an outlet that allowed us to simply flip a switch by the front door to turn on the Christmas lights on both tree and window. It required no crawling under the tree or behind the furniture to get to the outlet. Just flip the switch by the door. So that was what I did.

It was a totally normal thing to do, but the seconds that followed were anything but normal. Suddenly there was a flash, a sizzling sound, screaming, and a rush of activity. The lights were switched off, but the screaming continued. Unbeknownst to me, my older sister, Cheryl had decided at that very moment to stick her finger into one of the colored light bulbs that had somehow been broken, and as I flipped the switch, her finger proceeded to get a significant zap. I had no way of knowing she was sitting there behind the curtains, in front of the window, touching that light, and she had no way of knowing that I would pick that exact moment to turn on the lights. Nevertheless, that was exactly what happened.

I suppose that if it hadn’t been such a serious situation, my parents would have realized that I would never I'm Sorryhave purposely tried to electrocute my sister, whom I loved dearly, but in that moment who could think clearly. It happened, I flipped the switch, therefore, I got yelled at. As a parent, I know they were more scared than anything, but as a kid, I felt unjustifiably blamed. I guess I didn’t want to risk getting yelled at again, so I wrote the note to tell them that I really hadn’t done it on purpose. As I said, I don’t remember writing the note, and in looking at the spelling, I can tell you can tell I was pretty young, but I will never forget the moment when I almost electrocuted my sister, and I thank God that she was alright.

Amanda Kay ReedMy niece, Amanda Reed and her family love to spend time at the lake, where they keep a mobile home so they can have a place to stay when they are there. They love the summer, the lake, and all the activities they do there. Of course, that means weekends at the lake and weekdays on the job, which for Amanda means a local bank. It is a job she has had for some time, and that she enjoys. Nevertheless, like everyone else, the days off are what we all work for. A job is great, but your life happens during the time you have with your family, and for Amanda that is Sean Mortensen, and their daughter, Jaydn.

A short time back, Amanda had a bit of a scare concerning Jaydn, when she was Sean, Jayden, & Amandabucked off of her horse. It isn’t the first time Jaydn has been bucked off, but during this particular incident, the horse stepped back and onto Jaydn’s elbow. It was not broken, and she was fine except for a few bumps and bruises, but for any mother, an incident like that is heart wrenching. Your mind has such a hard time not dwelling on that picture of what could have happened. Kids, of course, think they are invincible, so Jaydn was good with getting back in the saddle pretty quickly.

In November, Amanda and Sean decided to buy a house on a really nice corner lot in Rawlins. Since then, they have been working to settle in and make this house their own. There is just something special about buying a New Housenew house that changes everything…especially your perspective. This house is very nice and big too, which is always a plus. I’m sure Amanda has everything in ship shape already, and the family is ready for the summer to come. There is a big garage in back for Sean too, so I expect that he will be out there tinkering around a lot. All in all life is good for Amanda and her little family. She is doing what she loves, has the family she wants, and a beautiful home. So, you ask, what more could she want? Well, like me, she could as for summer and it’s nice weather to hurry up and get here, because like me, Amanda is a summer girl, and would like it just fine if it was summer all year long. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Bertha Schumacher HallgrenBertha & Arthur Hallgren and Elsa & Frank LawrenceWhen you read through the personal journal of another person’s life, you must be prepared for the many emotions that life can produce in people. My great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren was an amazing woman, as was her younger sister, Elsa Schumacher Lawrence. They spent years working in a man’s world, and being successful at it…in fact out working them and being capable of using machinery the men couldn’t. They were considered so invaluable that the companies they worked for tried really hard not to give them any time off, as the place didn’t do so well when they were gone. The work was so emotionally draining, that the only release for them sometimes came in the form of bitter tears. Nevertheless, times were tough during the depression years, and you didn’t just walk away from a job, because the going got tough.

It wasn’t the years of hard work that seemed to be the most severe blow to Bertha, but rather the life changing moment when her sister, Elsa decided after all the years of caregiving for their parents, now both gone home to Heaven, to marry a man who was a widower ready to retire. Bertha and Elsa had made the decision, probably subconsciously, to set aside their hopes for a family and a home of their own at a very young age. They were the youngest of their parents seven children, and while the other children had married and left home, comfortable in the knowledge that the two youngest sisters were still there taking care of their aging parents, the girls knew that no one would be left if they married too. After their parents passing, the girls lived together for a number of years, before Elsa met Frank Lawrence and became engaged.

Bertha likens the situation to divorce. She had lived with her sister for 40 years, and the separation was torturous. To make matters worse, their older sister, Mina, who had always lived close, made the decision to move to Colorado to be near her daughter, Paula, while her husband, John Spare went into the CBees during World War II. Bertha talked about dividing the things she and Elsa had in the home, and looking for a smaller apartment that she could afford on her own…and she talked about the tears. For the first time in her life, Bertha was going to be alone, and she didn’t like or want this, at all.

I know how she feels to a degree. I am not alone, because I have much family, and of course, my husband, Bob Schulenberg in my life. Nevertheless, after a parent, or other patient you have cared for goes to Heaven, or even gets better, and goes about their own lives, the caregiver can find themselves at loose ends. They wonder who they are if they are not a caregiver. Then, as in Bertha’s case, the only companionship she had every really known is gone too. She felt like she had just been placed on top of a cliff, and the only way out was to fall, and the consequences of that were just as bad as staying put.

Great Aunt Elsa by her flower gardenBertha & Elsa School DaysIn the end, Bertha would move to Colorado with Mina and Paula, and she would meet the man she would marry. The marriages of Bertha and Elsa would not last long, because their husbands both died after a short marriage and much happiness. The girls regrouped, and once again became companions for each other. It was as if it was meant to be…as if they had never been apart. Their lives had always been intertwined, and their golden years would be spent together in their new home in Boulder, Colorado…until Bertha passed away in 1984, leaving Elsa alone until her passing in 1992.

Dr Nicholas C KnoxWhen I first read about the six Knox brothers who were able to place themselves into a family history where they belonged, but in which no one had been able to connect them to before, I was intrigued, for sure. They seemed so resourceful, but I had a feeling that there was a lot more to them than just finding their place in the family history. I’m sure I will come back to these brothers over and over in the future, but when I read about Dr Nicholas C Knox, I was…well, amazed really. This man had the character and fortitude to overcome adversity, and move forward with his life, and in the end, make it better.

The fourth son of Absalom Knox MD, Nicholas married Henrietta Craigan. After their marriage, the civil war slammed its way into the midst of their lives. Nicholas enlisted in the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment, which was commanded by Colonel WS Featherstone, and was a part of McLaw’s Division. Nicholas took part in all the great battles in the Army of Virginia in which his command was engaged, but it was the Battle of Gettysburg that would change his life forever. On the second day of the battle, Nicholas lost his right arm. To make matter worse, he was captured and confined as a prisoner on Hart Island, off the city of New York, for several months before being parolled and sent into the Confederate lines again…without his right arm, and he managed to stay alive during the remainder of the battles he fought in.

During his entire enlistment time in the Civil War, Nicholas was never home…until the day he was discharged. I don’t know if he had been able to tell his wife about his arm, but even if he did, there is nothing like actually seeing it for the first time. It had to be hard for her…and for him. Many soldiers coming home from wars with life changing injuries feel very concerned about just how their spouse will look at them now. They feel like they are a lesser person than they were when they left, and that is just the physical challenges. I’m sure that an injury that cost you your arm, would be a moment that would live in your memory files for the rest of your life.

Nevertheless, Nicholas was not a man to let adversity take his life or his future from him. He returned to Mississippi, and he started the task of rebuilding his life, and getting reacquainted with his family. He started out by teaching school. Now most people would think that was a noble profession, and they would be right, but The Battle of Gettysburgit was not enough for Nicholas. While teaching school, he began to study medicine, and received a diploma from a medical college at Nashville, Tennessee. When I think about the challenges of being a doctor in post Civil War America, with only one arm, and during a time when prosthetics were primitive at best, I am amazed. Still, Nicholas was not satisfied. He entered politics, and represented his county in the Legislature, and afterward was a practitioner of medicine in Reynolds, Mississippi, and he was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. No matter what challenges hit Nicholas, he met them head on, and succeeded in every endeavor he took on. He was not a man content to settle on the ordinary. He was truly an amazing man.

WestonMy grand nephew, Weston Moore is a typical kid now turning 15 years old. Of course, we all know what reaching that milestone does to a kid. They get their learners permit, and within one short year, they are out there driving themselves to the places they need to go. It is a time of discovery for them, and maybe a little bit of sadness for their parents. There is something just a little bit disconcerting about the first time your child starts to drive the car…even if you are with them…or maybe because you are with them. That first time your child gets behind the wheel, and he has no idea what he is doing, can be…well, scary!! Nevertheless, eventually they all learn, and you get to relax again.

Weston working the concession standWeston is very active in the Boy Scouts, and is currently selling Restaurant Boy Scout Cards to earn his way to Boy Scout Camp in Minnesota. Boy Scout camp is like a rite of passage in scouting and a brand new adventure for Weston. It gives them a chance to go somewhere without their parents, and really learn to fend for themselves. Weston has gone camping quite a bit, so I know that he will do really well in that area. Of course, camping is only part of the experience. The boys will learn lots of new skills and get to spend time together enjoying the campfire. All in all, just being with the guys, having a great time. I think Weston will have an amazing time at camp.

I have always thought that Weston was a lot like his grandfather, my brother-in-law, Lynn Cook, and the older he gets, the more he reminds me of Lynn. They are two of  kind in so many ways. Their sense of humor for one. When I look at Weston’s Facebook page, I see things posted that Lynn would get a kick out of too. They are also good friends, doing things together and just spending time together.

Weston and his friendsLike most teenagers, Weston likes hanging out with his friends. He likes going to sporting events, and for one semester he worked the consession stand at the games. He had a great time doing that, and my guess is that he will do it again at some point down the road.  With the beginning of track, Weston will be really busy with practice and meets. According to his friends, the first practice went very well, and you could tell that everyone is excited to get this track season on the road. Of course, traveling to the meets is always a big thing for the kids on the team, as well as the thrill of victory. I hope this season is the best ever for them. Today is Weston’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Weston!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Dad and MomAs we were going through our parents things after the passing of our mother, we came across several very old maps of different states, and also one that I received of London during World War II. It occurred to me that my sisters and I are a real novelty these days, in that we know how to read a map, and plan out a route to travel to anywhere we would like to go. I’m sure there are other people out there who can read maps too, but in this day and age of the GPS, many people can’t either. I’m all for technology, and I have a GPS myself, but I can also read a map, and that is because of my dad, and his determination to teach us that art.

Every year our family would take a vacation. Sometimes we didn’t travel very far, like the year we took a Wyoming tour, in several separate legs over the course of two weeks. Other times, we traveled quite a ways, like the years we went to visit our sister, Cheryl Masterson, while she was living in upstate New York. As students go, we were a novelty too, because every year when the teacher asked the inevitable question about what we did over the summer, we always had a story to tell. At the time, we didn’t imagerealize just how blessed…and how traveled we were, compared to other students in class. I always thought that everyone took a vacation, but that isn’t so. Many kids got to go visit a grandparent or some other relative, but going to the same place every summer isn’t really a vacation.

Our parents were so excited about our vacations every year, and we would often sit down and Dad would show us the route we were going to take on our trip. It was during these vacation planning sessions, that we learned to read a map, and that we learned to enjoy reading a map. The map was never confusing or complicated to us, because Dad showed us how to read it. We knew the difference between an interstate and a state highway. We knew how to pick out the larger cities, as opposed to the small towns. We knew what states and what towns we would be traveling through, and we knew how to find the sights that were located in the area that might be of interest. We knew how to find campgrounds in the area, and how to figure out how far we could easily travel in a days time. All these things are on a map, if you know where to look for them, and thanks to our dad, we did.
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I suppose that many people wouldn’t think of a map as a treasure, but for my sisters and me, they really were. We all had to have some of them, and every time we look at them, they will serve as a reminder of those planning sessions, and of all those amazing vacations we took as kids, with our parents. I have no problem with the convenience of a GPS, and in the big cities my husband Bob and I travel to, they are a great help, but if my GPS ever failed, I could still get us there with a map. It is a legacy that our dad left for his daughters. It does make us a novelty, but it is something we are all proud to be able to do, and thankful that we had the parents we had. Their interest in travel, and Dad’s teachings on maps clearly enriched our lives.

Mom aToday, it has been one month since my mother, Collene Spencer went to Heaven. After someone goes home to Heaven, it always seems odd to me that the time goes by so quickly. I can vividly remember that night just one month ago, when she left, and it doesn’t seem possible that it is a month already. While we are doing ok, we are finding ourselves feeling some caregiver’s remorse. It isn’t that we feel like we didn’t take care of Mom the way we should have, because we poured our hearts and souls into taking care of her in the way that Dad would have wanted, and in the way that she deserved.

Instead the caregiver’s remorse is that we didn’t realize just how little time we had left with her. She was so well, so we were fooled into thinking that she would not be leaving us anytime soon. That left us…well, taken completely by surprise. It really was the little things like not going into the bedroom with her right away to help her get to bed, the missed hug after church, because someone was talking to her at that moment, missing church that morning, and the distance lived from her home. They were little things, but in the end, they were the most important things, because they were the last moments we had with her…or rather the missed last moments we would have had with her.

We have found ourselves struggling with that final night. We simply don’t know what happened. Mom had a great last day, and in fact, really a great last week. She had part of her family over for lunch during the week, and then my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I took her to dinner on Thursday at one of her favorite places…Red Lobster. But it was her last day that was especially great. She went to church that morning, which was the most important thing in her life. Then, because her sister, Evelyn Hushman was in the hospital, Mom had orchestrated a luncheon at the hospital with her brother and sisters. The afternoon went amazingly well. Most of her siblings and several other family members were there, and they spent about three hours visiting, laughing, and just being together. It was a beautiful afternoon, and one that would be cherished by all who were there that day. Then, Mom and Cheryl went home for a quiet evening, dinner, and a movie.
Spencer Family
Then, while Cheryl did the dishes, Mom decided to go to bed, but once in the bedroom, she went to Heaven instead. They couldn’t tell us exactly what had happened, and so we are left wondering about it…and wishing we had her back. That is the real caregiver’s remorse…wishing you could go back and change things somehow, so the outcome could be different. The point when all you know to do is not enough, makes you feel almost like a failure, even though you know that you have done your very best. I know that Mom is happy with Dad in Heaven, but we really miss her here. Our caregiver’s hearts have become lonely hearts. We love you Mom, and we’ll see you and Dad real soon.