Monthly Archives: March 2015

Allen L SpencerMom aThere are moments in every human life, when something that they have been trying to push to the back of their mind, comes to the forefront with no warning, and hits them like a ton of bricks…right in the stomach. Most of us have had them. They usually happen when you are having trouble wrapping your mind around a reality…that you wish was a bad dream. The passing of your parents or child, is a good example of such a reality. The loss of aunts, uncles and cousins have this effect too. In your mind, you know they are gone, but your heart refuses to accept the finality of it. Of course, I don’t mean the finality in that you will never see them again, because I know that I will see my parents and loved ones again. No, it is the finality of the fact that I won’t see them again in this earthly life, that really hits home in a painful way.

Those moments never allow you to be prepared for them, but rather they sneak up on you, and hit you at a point when you are totally unprepared. It’s times like new babies arriving, graduations, marriages, and other big moments in life. You think…I can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad…and then you realize you can’t tell them. It’s also the little moments when you drive past their house, or it happens to be a day when you would normally take them to lunch or dinner, or when you reach for the phone to call them, and then realize that they aren’t there. The sadness and loneliness washes over you, and there is nothing you can do about it, but cry.
Dad SchulenbergSweet Marlyce
The really hard thing about it is that you can’t stop those moments from occurring. So many things in life can be avoided by simply not placing yourself in that place or situation, but you can’t do that, because they were involved in every part of your life at one point or another, or as is the case with parents, many, many points. They shared every accomplishment, every failure, every hope, and every dream with you. They were the wind beneath your wings, lifting you up and encouraging you to soar…and now, you must fly on your own, because the days of training are over. Yes, that training goes on into adulthood too, even if you thought it didn’t. They have given you every tool you need for success in this life, and now you have to go out an make use of them on your own. Maybe that is why those “ton of bricks” moments are so hard. You want to share the excitement with them and you can’t.

And then, there are the “ton of bricks” moments, when someone remembers your loved one years after they have passed away, and they tell you what an impact they had on their life, and you can’t hold back the tears or remove the lump from your throat. You had no idea that your loved one would be remembered by people who you would never expect to remember them…but they had such an impact on those people, that they felt compelled to tell you about it so many years later. In all reality, I wouldn’t want to trade those special, but really Alyssa Harman_editedPrincess Lailadifficult moments, because they mean that someone hasn’t forgotten my dad or my mom, or other loved one. Those moments mean that someone else saw what really special people they were. It meant that while they are in Heaven now, and I can’t bring them back, I can be reminded that they will always love me, and they will never be forgotten. The people who’s lives they touched, family, friends, and yes, even strangers, will always carry them in their hearts too. While those “ton of bricks” moments are hard, they are also very sweet, because someone remembered them.

Zina HansenJust seventeen hours after my mother passed away, my son-in-law, Travis Royce lost his grandfather, Zike Hansen.  I knew Zike even before I knew my son-in-law, because I worked for Zike’s sister-in-law, Jimmy Foster and her husband, Don. When I went to work for Don and Jimmie, I had never even touched a computer. I’m sure you are wondering what that has to do with anything, but believe me, it does. At that time Zike and His wife, Virginia, who is Jimmy Foster’s sister, were working in Deadwood, South Dakota on the gambling machines. What struck me the most was that they knew about computers, and when laptops came out, they got one right away. That impressed me, because I knew so little about  computers…unlike the me people know today.

When my daughter married, her husband, Travis, a new connection to the Hansen family. I had known them in a round about way for years, in that I went to school with their son, Randy, but I never knew them personally until I worked for Don and Jimmy. Now, we were family. Most people might think that it wouldn’t have changed too many things, and I suppose it didn’t exactly except that we saw a little more of each other.

Nevertheless, it seems strange to me the number of things I didn’t know about Zike Hansen. I knew that he was a Christian, because the kids got married in their church by our pastor. It was a good way to join the families. What surprised me at the funeral is that the cross that graces the alter at their church was built by, none other than, Zike Hansen. I have always though it was beautiful, but I had no idea that it wasn’t manufactured at some factory. Good job Zike!!

Another thing I had never heard about Zike is that he was struck by lightning…not once, but twice!! The first time he was about fifteen or sixteen years old…that was about 1949 or so. The second time was in the 1950s. Now I can’t imagine being imagestruck by lightning once, but twice…well, all I can say is, “Wow!!”  Zike was never struck by lightning again, so I guess that he must have decided, that given his electric personality, it was best to…run whenever the sky started to grow even the slightest bit cloudy.

Zike Hansen was a one of a kind sort of guy, with a great sense of humor. He was the kind of man you thought of as a friend from the first time you met him. He just made people comfortable that way. I’m thankful that he knew God, because I want to see him again when I get to Heaven. In the meantime, I’m going to miss his electric personality, but I know that he and my parents are having a great time in Heaven.

Going for a swimI See YouSometimes, you have to do something that makes you happy. That is how I feel about photography. Not everyone sees what I see in my pictures…but I see it. They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and I always thought they meant finding love, but it really means any kind of beauty. My photography may not be beautiful or even unique to everyone, but to me each shot is an amazing expression of my own discovery. I say discovery, because most of the time, I don’t do anything, but see something that I think is photo worthy. Sometimes, I see other people who like the same kinds of things that I do, but just as often, other artists have very different styles than I do. And some seem very strange to me, as perhaps my photography does to others.

This past weekend, while Bob and I were in Thermopolis, we took the time to walk along the river, and up by the hot springs pools. The birds, including ducks, geese, and at least one Great Blue Heron, live in the area year round. It seems strange that they don’t migrate south, until you realize that with the hot springs, the river and especially the pools provide a warm climate for them. This makes migration unnecessary, and that is a cool thing for the people who love to visit the area. The birds, while not tame, are very much used to the scores of people who come to the area, and while they will not let you get seriously close to them, they are much more tolerant of people nearby…provided you move slowly. Of course, for the sake of my photography, having a child try to run up to the birds provides a perfect opportunity to try to get a good “flight” photograph.

Flight photographs are much harder to take than one would think. While all birds fly, and fly often, it is not that easy to take their picture doing it. They go very fast, and trying to chase them with your cameral lens and focus in time is not easy. Then, there is the problem of catching them in a position where they actually look like than Double FlightGreat Blue Herona bird and not a ball of feathers. A tripod doesn’t work for this type of picture, obviously, because you have to be able to move. In reality, the best way to take this type of picture is to get your camera ready, and have someone move quickly toward the birds, making them fly away. While that may not be a spontaneous photograph, it is often the best way to get that coveted “in flight” shot. While I didn’t ask them to, there were kids who caused my birds to take flight. To me, it doesn’t really matter what made the birds take flight, but rather the fact that they took flight that makes the scene photo worthy.

Jennifer skiingSnow CoveredAfter a recent storm dumped eight to twelve inches of snow on the Casper area, I noticed just how beautiful the white blanket was, as I looked across the grounds of the nursing home where my mother-in-law lives. Not being much of a winter person, I can’t say that I always appreciate the white stuff, and in all reality, I do hope that storm was Winter’s Last Hoorah for the year, but whether it is or it isn’t, on this particular day, it looked very pretty to me. A thought came to me that maybe I should take a walk through the snow with my camera because there might be some beautiful sights to see, but we were on our way in to visit my mother-in-law, so I did not go for that walk. Nevertheless, the picture of that white blanket of snow has stayed in my mind.

Some people love all the different seasons, and they get out and do different things to enjoy each of them, but I usually prefer to snuggle up wrapped in a warm blanket and watch a good television show or movie on those cold winter nights, and not do as my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely, or her son Barry Schulenberg and his wife, Kelli do, which is to get out and ski or snowshoe through the winter scenes. I do, however, enjoy looking at the pictures they post about those activities. I guess I am more of a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade type of winter person. I’ll take a beautiful snow scene on a card or picture over the real thing any day, because while a card or picture leaves you with a warm, cozy feeling, the real thing is inevitably cold, blustery, and most generally just not fun.

Still, on that day, I felt just a slight tug…almost a desire to walk through the snow, just to see where it took me, and what beautiful scenes it lead me to. I have a feeling now, that if I had gone on that walk, I would have been somewhat disappointed. It’s hard for a summer person to actually experience that cozy feeling when they actually get out in that blustery cold. Somehow, the coziness is lost in winter’s cold, snowy air. It’s funny how something so cold, can look so pretty though. I think that if there is snow in Heaven, I’ll have to ask that it somehow feel warm…at least to me. I suppose that some people, like my sister, Cheryl Masterson will feel just the opposite, but I’m sure God can work it out to suit both of us just fine.

Nevertheless, on that day, and with that particular snow storm, I could picture in my mind’s eye just how Barry snowshoeingKelli snowshoeingbeautiful it would be to take a solitary walk through the cold, snowy park in the moonlight. I could picture the moon’s light creating snow diamonds across the pristine snow. I could imagine that I didn’t feel cold at all, but rather that a cozy feeling prevailed over the evening. I could even picture a deer quietly walking in front of me, seemingly not afraid at all. And maybe I could even picture the two of us walking through the snow in quiet, peaceful harmony. At least, that was what I could picture in my mind’s eye, even if the reality would have been very, very different.

Wedding of the Waters 2There is a unique place near Thermopolis, Wyoming, that some people in Wyoming know about, or maybe they don’t, but people outside of Wyoming most likely don’t know about it. This place is called Wedding of the Waters. The name might seem to imply that two rivers meet and become one, but that is not the case. In this place located four miles south of Thermopolis, Wyoming, something strange happens. It is the only place I know of where one river flows to a certain point, then changes its name and becomes a completely different river. It isn’t that the river was given a nickname, but rather is completely changes it’s name, like a wife does after her marriage.

The way this happened is rather strange. The river begins ninety miles northeast of the actual wedding site. It runs southeast, then winds around to the north and flows through two mountain ranges before joining the Yellowstone River at Bighorn, Montana, 180 miles northeast of the wedding site. From there it eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

When early settlers arrived at the river in what is now the state of Montana, they named it the Bighorn River for the big horn sheep they found near it. Other explorers who found the river south of the wedding site named it the Wind River. Eventually, the people realized that in reality, there was only one river…with two names that had been well established. To avoid confusion, it was decided that a wedding was necessary. That wedding took place, and in fact continues to take place in this quaint little spot known as Wedding of the Waters. The river south of this point is the Wind River, and the river north of this point is the Big Horn River.

The native Indians, mountain men, and early settlers felt like this place was special. I suppose the history of such a compromise made it special. The animals find the place special too, because of the unique vegetation found there. That is mainly due to the warmer water being released from the Boysen Reservoir. Warm thermal spring water adds to the warmth of the water, and it becomes a unique habitat for mule deer, whistling marmots, and mink. The bald eagles are attracted to the rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout, as well as burbot Wedding of the Waters 1and mountain whitefish. That makes it great for fishermen too. The fish in the river grow quickly because of the many aquatic insects found in the bottom vegetation. And this area even sports the nation’s first handicap-accessible riverine boat ramp that provides drift boat access to the Big Horn River.

I think it’s kind of sad that this quaint little spot is so often passed by as if it isn’t even there. I suppose it doesn’t have the advantage of the spectacular canyon scenes just to the south, or the draw of the hot water mineral springs just to the north. Nevertheless, the Wedding of the Waters really is a very special place in its own right, and one that is interesting to go see.

Our Wedding_editedCaryn and Bob share a laughIt’s a yearly tradition for my husband, Bob Schulenberg and me…a time to re-connect. We make this trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming every year on a weekend near our anniversary. Some years have been harder to take this trip than others. When you have a parent that is not feeling very well, and you are a caregiver, you struggle with me time. There is always that feeling that you might be needed here. This year is a little bit hard too, because I suddenly have one less parent to care for, making this anniversary trip a little sad, but much needed after the stresses of planning a funeral and saying our goodbyes. I only wish that my family could all take this weekend to unwind too, because I really think they all need it badly.

In reality though, this trip is about spending time with the love of my life…my dear husband, Bob. When I think about the fact that we have been married for forty years, all I can think is, “Where did the time go?” Forty years seems like such a long time, and yet, it seems like just yesterday that we said, “I do.” I guess that is the way it is when the marriage is right. I feel so blessed to have been in such a marriage all these years. The squabbles and tough times never manage to stay in our lives very long, because the love always shines through. Love just couldn’t get any better than that…now could it?

So, as we head out, with a slightly heavy heart and high hopes for a wonderful weekend, I am reminded of just how beautiful the Thermopolis area is. We love the fact that there is so little to do there. Very few shops are open on the weekend, so we just relax, soak in the hot tubs, and walk the trail along the river and up by the mineral pools. It is kind of a forced way to relax, I guess, but with our busy lives, sometimes that is the only way to make us relax…how sad is that? Nevertheless, through all the caregiving work of the past ten years, I Bob and Caryn - the early years20100623_31_editedmust say that my husband, Bob was my biggest supporter, helper, confidant, and comforter. Could love possibly be more strong and compassionate than that? When he said, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”, he took those words very seriously, and for that I am eternally grateful. So, now…today, and this weekend…is our time to re-connect. It is our time to relax and enjoy being together again, with the love of our lives…each other. I could not be any more blessed if I tried. I love you Bob Schulenberg!! You have filled my life with love and blessings. Happy anniversary weekend!!

IMG_1240IMG_1233aI don’t know for sure how it all started, but over the years, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg collected a number of old license plates that were both unique and average. My guess is that he found one that he really liked, and he saved it, putting it up on the wall of the garage. Before long, the number of plates grew, because there was always another unique license plate to add to the collection. After a while the license plate collection grew to include plates from the different states he had been in, and his son, Ron Schulenberg even brought him some from the countries he was in during Desert Storm…which were quite different from all the others.

These license plates started out gracing the walls of the garage, which is a fitting place for such a collection, but as time went on, there were enough of then to warrant adding the barn shop my father-in-law had, and finally the back fence to his display areas. In reality, while I found these interesting to look at from time to time, my father-in-law’s license plate was not something that occupied any kind of a special place in my mind. I suppose that if I was a guy, I might have felt differently about it. It is a guy type of collection, after all.

After someone passes away, and you find yourself sorting through all their things, you begin to really get a feel for what was important to them. Not just the major things they had placed a high degree of importance on, but the lesser things too. The things they just liked, because they thought those things were cool. That was how it was for me, when we started going through my father-in-law’s things. No, I can’t say that I wanted those old license plates, but they were interesting. They were a reminder of my father-in-law, and the things he liked.

After the funeral, we took some pictures, as often happens after funerals, simply because many people who come, don’t live here and you want their pictures, because you don’t see them often enough. Many of the people in the family wanted their picture taken by the back fence, showing that collection of license plates. The other day, as I was looking through some of the old pictures, I came across those that were taken that day. It IMG_1141aIMG_1257amade me think with interest about the array of license plates my father-in-law had collected, and in reality about the kind of man he was.

The things that were cherished to him were really the life moments. Things like his knife and watch, his tools, his woodworking supplies and chair making supplies, and yes, the license place collection, were things that had a special meaning to him. They were like the stories of his life. They were the accomplishments he had made, the places he had been, and the reminders of just how precious life was. While the license plates were not something I was interested in receiving, I am very glad that I have pictures of them to remember his passion for life.

Rachel and RonAround 6 years ago, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg began making these mysterious bi-weekly or even more often, trips to Powell, Wyoming to spend time with his sister, Debbie Cook and her family. Ron had gone up there before, but never to the constant degree that these trips were quickly becoming. That was what made the trips so mysterious…but not for long. Pretty soon, it became quite obvious to anyone who looked at Ron, that he was quickly falling in love with a girl he met in Powell…with a little help from his nieces, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith. Ron’s new girlfriend, Rachel Franklin had been a friend of the girls from their high school days, so they decided to do a little bit of match making. Little did they know that would lead to a beautiful friendship and later a companionship to last for the rest of Ron and Rachel’s lives. And little did they think that their friend was now going to also be their aunt.

Flash forward now five years, and you will find a couple who are very good together. Where once there had been two people who had been burned by love…two people who were lonely and incomplete…now you find two people who complete each other. Ron had spent a number of years feeling alone and incomplete, and Rachel makes him happy. He has someone to make his house a home…to make it a warm and welcoming place to be. Bachelor pads are ok, when a guy is young, but after a while, they need a woman’s touch. That was really where Ron found himself when he met Rachel. And I believe that Rachel was at the point of needing a man in her life too. There is simply a completeness that comes when you are with the right companion.
Rachel
Since her marriage Rachel has become a grandmother to Lucas Iverson, her daughter Cassie and son-in-law, Chris Iverson’s son. That was a very exciting time in her life. Of course, her two boys, Riley Birky, who isn’t so little anymore, and Tucker Birky, who is growing up fast too, keep her very busy. Riley is into sports, and I’m sure Tucker is not far behind him. Rachel works for a local eye doctor, and really enjoys her job, and the new friends it has brought with it. I’m sure the move from Powell to Casper, Wyoming was a little intimidating, because she really knew very few people, but she has made the transition well, and is quite happy in her new life. Today is Rachel’s birthday…the Big 4-0!! Happy birthday Rachel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

10577090_10201759940595371_7718936407580100831_nWhen I think of my grand niece, Kaytlyn Griffith, I imagine a little girl of about three years of age. Of course, that is ridiculous, because she was born in 2008, not 2012. Kaytlyn has a beautiful smile, and a curious nature. Kaytlyn is the youngest daughter of my niece, Susan and her husband, Josh, and she went behind my back and grew to be a beautiful seven year old first grader. School might be a bit more lonely this year, because her big sister, Jala is in middle school this year, but I think she will adapt just fine. Of course, I don’t get to see her very much, since she lives in Powell, but her Aunt Machelle has kept me updated a little bit.

Kaytlyn is a goofy girl who loves to make funny faces and say goofy things. She is also very interested in they way people laugh. She finds that quite funny. I can agree with that, since I love to listen to the different ways that people laugh. Sometimes…especially for kids, the different ways people laugh can seem especially funny. And they can laugh about it…unlike adults sometimes…who are worried about offending people.

A while back, Kaytlyn was quite sick, and it was a horrible experience. She spent a few days in the hospital, and if she is like me, she doesn’t ever want to go back. This year, as flu season approached, Kaytlyn became somewhat concerned about catching the flu. I told her Aunt Machelle, that I can totally understand that, given what she went through before.

In reality, Kaytlyn is an all around sweetheart and very good girl. She has a seriously funny sense of humor, and will do just about any goofy thing to make people laugh. I recently saw a video of her, and I don’t know if anyone else was watching her at the time, but I know that I 10269652_10201254514080024_7721606138892767489_nlaughed and laughed. I suppose that most seven year olds are pretty silly…most of the time, and I’m here to tell you that Kaytlyn is no exception to that rule. A goofier girl there never was.

As Kaytlyn continues with her academic career, I know that she will be a good student, because she is as smart as a whip. From what I can see, she loves school, and all the activities that go with it. Last year was especially fun for her, when she got to be a tight rope walker in the Kindergarten Circus. I can tell that she really loved that. But then, Kaytlyn loves doing things that make her look pretty too. Today is Kaytlyn’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Kaytlyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

CCI06282012_00084When most people think of the barracks, they think of a military facility, but not so my mother’s family. For all of their childhood, the barracks meant the bedroom. No, it isn’t because that is what they called the bedroom, because, they didn’t call the bedroom that. While visiting with my aunts, Sandy Pattan and Bonnie McDaniels, and cousins Susie Young, Shannon Limmer, and Jamie Patsie, after my mother passed away a week ago, we got on the subject of precious memories…which naturally took us to my grandpa and grandma, George and Hattie Byer’s house in North Casper, where they lived for many years right next door to his mother, my great grandma, Edna Byer. The two houses were very similar, but my grandparents house had an extra, very long bedroom attached to the back of the house. Grandma and Grandpa’s room was in from of that back bedroom, and there was another room where the two boys slept, but the girls all shared that huge back bedroom.

We always loved to go play back there, because it was a long room with lots of beds, and it just seemed very interesting to all the grandkids. I suppose that to the aunts and uncles, it was just normal, be we had really never seen anything like it. We began to talk about what spending the night in that back bedroom was like. There was no heat in that back room, so at night grandpa would heat rocks in the cook stove, and wrap them in a towel. Once the girls were tucked into bed, under a mountain of blankets, grandpa would come in and stick those towel wrapped rocks under the blankets at their feet. What a wonderful thing those rocks were. Aunt Bonnie tells me that they would immediately put their feet on those rocks, and before long, they would be all warm and cozy for the night. In the absence of heat, the blankets and the rocks did the job of keeping them warm quite well.

For us grandkids, the best way to play in that room in the winter cold, was to keep moving. I don’t think my aunts spent much time in there other than sleeping, because it was just too cold in winter. The main living room and kitchen were heated by the cook stove, and I’m here to tell you that those rooms were very warm…a fact that was just fine with me, since I have a tendency to get cold. Nevertheless, after some time in the main part of the house, the cooler bedroom could come as a nice change, until you got cold, then you went back out to the main rooms to warm up.

I had always wondered about the house with the long bedroom, and how it came to be…but no longer. As we were talking about those old days, my Aunt Sandy cleared that question right up. It turns out that both houses, Great Grandma’s and my grandparents, were originally old barracks from the air force base that used to be CCI06282012_00059_editeddlocated in Casper. I don’t know for sure when they became the two houses, but that is what happened. My grandparents’ house had the added barracks to it, making up the big back bedroom where so many childhood memories for my mom, aunts, uncles, and many of the grandchildren, were built. In those days, times were tough, and people had to make do with what they had. In my opinion, the barracks and the houses attached to them, were more than just a way to make do. They are the houses I remember fondly from my own childhood years. We used to love going to visit Grandma and Grandpa. The house was always cozy, and my grandparents always pleased to see us. I get a warm cozy feeling just thinking about those visits.