Monthly Archives: May 2015
My niece, Andrea Beach has always looked so much like her mom, my sister, Caryl Reed. It was a definite mini me situation. It always strikes me as odd how a set of parents can manage to so closely reproduce themselves in their children. My own daughter, Amy looks a lot like me, but not to the extent that Andrea looks like Caryl. As she has grown, of course, Andrea has taken on more of her own characteristics, and probably looks the least like Caryl that she has at any time in her life. And I guess that is simply the way it goes. We grow up to become our own person, and that applies to our looks as well. I think that even our life experiences can affect our looks, and I don’t mean with gray hair or wrinkles, although I suppose that is possible too. Nevertheless, things like being outdoors a lot, or hairstyle can make us look different than the parent we once look so much like.
Andrea has always loved to cook, and thought about going to culinary school at one point, but that changed when she became the mom of her son, Topher. Now, that is not a bad thing either, because Topher is a great kid, and truly the most important person in Andrea’s life. As our life changes, our priorities change, and for Andrea, there is no greater priority than Topher. They love to goof off together, and especially like taking selfies of all their antics. Of course, you can’t spend your whole life taking selfies, so they also take the time to do homework and play a good game of Tic-Tac-Toe once in a while.
Having Topher has not decreased Andrea’s love of cooking, however. She may not have gone to culinary school, but her skills have not gone unnoticed at her current job at Diamond Lil’s, which is the restaurant at the Day’s Inn in Rawlins, where Andrea lives and works. She has been there just over a year now, and became the lead cook six months ago. Her cooking is famous in the Rawlins area, and people all over town rave about it. Sometimes, you can’t follow your dream in the way you originally planned to do so, but if you don’t give up, you will find that where there is a will, there is a way. I am often amazed that while our plans didn’t materialize in exactly the same way that we had planned, they can still materialize for us if we keep on keeping on. Today is Andrea’s birthday. I think I need to come to Rawlins to try the food at Diamond Lil’s and Andrea, their fabulous lead cook. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When my Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette Byer moved to New Orleans, Louisiana after taking a job transfer, I have to imagine that it was pretty hard on my grandmother, Hattie Byer, Uncle Larry’s mom. Grandma, like most mothers, liked having her children close, and to have one move almost 1600 miles away, has a bit of a sting to it. I can relate to how Grandma must have felt, since I now have a daughter who lives 1200 miles away. I always knew I wouldn’t love having my kids leave, but you can’t really grasp just how it feels until it happens to you. Nevertheless, people have told me that you get used to it, that you have a new place to vacation, and that you simply make arrangements to see them. I’ve also been told that they try to come home as often as they can, and you hope that is the way it works out, but you
never know, until you see for yourself, if it all really works out that exact way.
This was where Grandma Byer found herself when Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette moved to New Orleans for several years before his eventual retirement from Texaco. Everyone could see that this was the best move to make, but that didn’t make it easier. For Grandma, the move broadened her horizons, as it turned out. Grandma did go to see Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette, just as she had come to see our family when we lived in Superior, Wisconsin. In some ways, I have to wonder if…somewhere in the back of her mind, she liked having someone in her family living in Louisiana…because it would mean that she could go there for visits, and have someone who could really show her the sights, instead of trying to figure out what was good to see, and what wasn’t or what was boring. New Orleans is such a big place, with so much to see, and if you don’t know where all the cool sights are, you will miss something. I think that for Grandma, there would also be the being alone factor, that would not be very appealing, so going to visit her son and his wife, and see the sights must have been a great thrill for her.
Grandma never liked going to bed until all her kids were home, so having one of them so far away had to have been very hard. I’m certain it was hard on Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette too, because they had to leave their children and their family behind as well. Nevertheless, it was just for a short time and then they returned to Casper. We were all glad to have them back here. Sadly, Uncle Larry passed away on December 22, 2011. We will always miss he jokes, his smile, and his wonderful laugh. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.
Being the second child in a family is a special place to be. I know this because that is exactly what I am. The first child in a family comes home as the only one. There are no playmates waiting there. They must make their own way in every step of those early years. But, as the second child in a family, I didn’t have to make my own way, because I found my sister there. My older sister, Cheryl made my homecoming and the years that followed so special. Cheryl, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not found you there.
As little girls, Cheryl and I had great times. She was such a great big sister, and since there were three years in which she and I were the only children, we had lots of time to become close. I love watching the old movies of us playing, because of just how comical two little girls can be. My sisters and I are in the process of transferring the old movies onto DVDs, so we will be able to watch them on our televisions. I know we will all enjoy them immensely.
Over the years, Cheryl continued to show me the way. Her style and abilities were standards I looked up to. During my awkward years, I was able to look to her as role model. I could never quite figure out how she could always manage to be so together, when I was such a mess, but she was always willing to help me to be more comfortable in my own skin. I really can’t tell her just what a blessing it is to have her as my sister and my friend. It is just another reason that I have felt so blessed to have found her there when I came home.
In the past few years, our friendship has grown stronger and stronger. I find myself very much enjoying spending Thursday evenings with Cheryl. It is our traditional evening together, that began as an evening with Cheryl and our mom, Collene Spencer, and now has become just Cheryl and me, and sometimes her daughter Liz Masterson, who has added a wonderful aspect to our evenings. Those Thursday evenings have become such a special time for me.
As I look back on our lives, I find myself more and more thankful that I found Cheryl there when I came home as the second child, as well as being thankful for each of my sisters as they made their grand entrances. Having four sisters is such a blessing, because girls usually think a lot alike on matters, but having such an amazing oldest sister has been a wonderful blessing for us all. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! I’m so glad that when I came home, I found you there. Have a great day!! We love you!!
Sometimes special days like Mother’s Day are harder than others. That is exactly how I feel about this, my first Mother’s Day without my mom, Collene Spencer, who went to Heaven on February 22, 2015. And to top it off, it is the first since my daughter, Amy Royce moved to Washington, on May 5, 2015. I am thankful that we still have my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg with us, as well as my oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen, because they have both been a comfort to me during this difficult past couple of months. Unfortunately, this is the way life is. Nothing stays the same, and we are left with the emotions that never fail to present themselves at the most inopportune moments, and are so hard to keep in check.
Nevertheless, emotions or not, we will rejoice is all that Mother’s Day is. I give thanks for the moms in my life, in Heaven and on Earth, because they gave life to me and to my husband, Bob Schulenberg. I also give thanks to God for the two beautiful blessings He gave me, in my daughters, Corrie and Amy. And of course, I give thanks for the four wonderful grandchildren my daughters have been blessed with. They are the greatest gift a mother of grown children can ever receive.
Life takes our journeys on many different twists and turns, and some of them are less than enjoyable, but the love of our mothers and families will always be with us. I know that my mother is happy in Heaven, and that there are no tears of loneliness there. It is as if she just left us only moments ago…for her anyway. For us, it is quite different. Her presence is missed every day. As for my mother-in-law, we rejoice that she is still here with us and that we can continue to enjoy time with her. She is the last of our living parents now, and we do not look forward to the day when she will also go. While my daughter, Amy is 1200 miles away, the internet, telephone, and texting make that distance seem a little shorter. And I, of course, give thanks for my daughter, Corrie, who while she is missing her sister too, has been a great comfort to me.
But, today is not about focusing on sadness, and I hope you will all forgive my little Pity Party. Today is about celebrating the wonder that is a mother. Without the selfless act of giving birth to us their children, none of us would exist. They cared for us when we were sick and put up with us in our horrible years…and yes, we all had those, whether your mother says you did or not. They cheered us on as we set out to broaden our horizons, and helped us with the difficult learning steps along the way. They are a gift to each of us from God above, who only gives us the very best. Now you know why your mother is such a wonderful person. She was God’s gift sent just for you to love you always. Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers out there, and to my own in Heaven, the one I still have here, and to my daughters too.
Going through our parent’s kitchen was, for me, one of the more interesting parts of going through their house. Mom has had a salt and pepper shaker collection since her childhood, and while we have only scratched the surface of that collection, we have started to draw for them. As we have done so, I have noticed the differences in our personal tastes. We might set out five different sets of salt and pepper shakers, and we would almost always choose a different one for each. For me, a set that Grandma Byer brought back from Ireland for Mom had always caught my eye. They were castles with shamrocks on them, and so typically Ireland. They always seemed so special. Mom’s salt and pepper shakers were a part of who she was.
For some reason, many people are collectors. The collections vary as much as the people who collect them. I know that there are people who don’t collect things, and I suppose their houses are not as cluttered as those of us who do collect things, but somehow I think that maybe they miss out of something that comes with collecting. When you have a collection, you find yourself picking out things of varying styles, as your personal styles change. That is the interesting thing about collecting. Your choices never stay similar. Even with my own collection…spoons, I was able to find interesting styles that were different than any others I had.
And if you think men can’t be collectors, you would be wrong. My dad loved his coffee cups, and Mom even liked the coffee cups, so much so in fact, that before long they had matching sets of cups. There were the Spencer cups, the Al cups, and cups from the many places they had visited over the years. They even had a tiny cup with a mouse and cheese on it. I guess everyone needed a cup…no matter who they were.
I don’t know how Dad came to have his collection, but as I said, Mom’s started as a child and her feelings about salt and pepper shakers never changed after that. They would always hold an interest for Mom. As we have looked through the salt and pepper shakers we have come across, we can all see out mother, and we can understand why she found each one that she chose, and each one that was given to her special in its own way. I suppose Mom was more of a collector than Dad was, but as I said, I don’t think anyone is really immune to collecting.
As a young man growing up in the West, my grandfather, George Byer learned a lot from his father, Cornealius Byer…especially when it came to getting along with the Indians in the area. Cornealius was very respected among the Indians, because he was honest with them, and spoke with integrity. He also taught his children to do the same. Because of that teaching, my grandfather was also much respected among the Indian tribes. This was probably a good thing for my grandmother, who was sixteen years younger than Grandpa, and beautiful too.
Grandma and Grandpa Byer were living on the Rosebud Sicangu Lakota Reservation, after they married. One day probably just a short time after their marriage, Grandma Hattie Byer noticed that a Lakota Sioux Indian chief was watching her…a lot. She mentioned this fact to Grandpa, who told her that Chief Thin Elk thought she was beautiful and had very nice legs. Now, as compliments go, this one was very nice, but I doubt if it did very much in the way of easing Grandma’s jitters about the whole situation. In fact, it most likely increased her anxiety substantially.
Grandma was eighteen years old when she and Grandpa married. Grandpa was thirty four. Having lived around the Indians all his life, he understood their ways, and he knew that there were good Indians and bad Indians, just as there are good and bad men in all walks of life. And Grandpa knew Chief Thin Elk. While Chief Thin Elk did appreciate a beautiful woman…with great legs, he would never have tried anything with Grandpa’s wife, because he respected Grandpa very much. I don’t know how he would have been with the wife of someone he didn’t respect, or any other woman for that matter, but with Grandma, he was respectful, even if he did like to watch her because she was beautiful.
I know that my Grandfather loved my Grandmother very much, and would never have let anyone hurt her, but I still have to wonder…if a small part of him thought the whole think was almost comical, or maybe even thought that it was kind of nice to know that men thought his wife was beautiful. I don’t believe that my grandfather ever needed a trophy wife, but I think is is good for a guys ego to know that he has a beautiful wife, and to know that everyone thinks so.
For Grandma, however…well, she only had eyes for Grandpa, and I’m sure she thought it was a little bit forward of Chief Thin Elk to be saying such things. I have never heard of any trouble that ever came out of this situation, so I’m sure that while Chief Thin Elk thought Grandma was beautiful, and had nice legs, he always acted with the utmost respect around her, because she was the wife of his respected friend, and he would do nothing to jepordize that friendship, or shame his people in such an awful way.
Sometimes, when you look back in the history of a family, you come across a number of events that by themselves are devastating enough, but when they are put in the context of the entire history of that family, they can leave you wondering just how much one family can take. While visiting with my aunt, Sandy Pattan a week ago, she told me about a tragedy that I had heard a little bit about before, but really had no details as to who was involved. Now, with a name to put in the story, I set out to find out the exact details. I did find those details, and much more. Enough, in fact to leave me in complete shock.
It seems that when my great grandmother, Estella Shaw Pattan was a girl, she survived a tornado that took the life of her little sister. The circumstances were horrible to imagine, because Estella, or Stella as she was called, was doing everything she could do to save her little sister. People just didn’t know what they needed to do in a tornado. Stella was tightly holding her little sister, Ella Shaw who was just six weeks old, when the tornado ripped her out of her big sister’s arms. Ella would not survive, nor unfortunately, would her older sister, Bertha Delilah Shaw, who was just nine years old at the time of her death. During that same event, their grandfather, Angeloah Shaw was missing for a time. He was found however, and he would live until 1914. These two deaths were devastating enough, but they were not the only tragedy to visit the family of John B Shaw and his wife Harriet Emma Baker Shaw. In fact, at the time of the June 4, 1890 tornado that ripped through the area, the family was already trying to recover from a prior loss.
In late 1889, Diphtheria struck the Shaw family. While vaccinations used today prevent most cases of Diphtheria, these weren’t available in days gone by, and so contracting Diphtheria could have been a death sentence, and often was. In late 1889, the John B Shaw family faced a nightmare situation, and they tried to take care of it in the best way they knew how. Unfortunately, for Ethel Ada and Myrtle Shaw, as well as many other people who contracted Diphtheria, it was not enough. Myrtle passed away on November 7, 1889 at just one year five months, and Ethel passed away on December 7, 1889 at four years nine months. These deaths would bring to a total of six the loses in the Shaw family, and four in just seven months.
Yes, I did say, six. In 1878, the family faced their first of four tragedies, and the first of a total of seven children who would die at a very young age. The first child to die of Diphtheritic Croup, was little Mabel Mary Shaw, who was nicknamed May. May died on April 15, 1878 at just three years five months. Diphtheritic Croup is a diphtheritic inflammation of the larynx. Also called laryngeal diphtheria. Basically it is a bacterial infection that causes swelling in the throat. If immediate action is not taken, the child will suffocate quickly. For the parents, it would be the most helpless feeling. To add to their devastation, their son John Shaw Jr would succumb to Diphtheritic Croup the very next day, April 16, 1878. John was just four years and 5 days old.
With all the deaths that hit John and Harriet between 1878 and 1890, death was still not quite done with them. While not much is known about the death of Edna Shaw, who passed away at three months eighteen days, on September 29, 1894, my guess is either sudden infant death syndrome, or another case of Diphtheritic Croup. When Aunt Sandy told me of the tragic loss of Great Grandma Stella Shaw Pattan’s little sister in the tornado, I had no idea that my research would uncover such a tragic set of circumstances. All I can say is that this family had to have been very strong, because in addition to the seven children they lost, John and Harriet raised five more, my great grandmother, Stella, as well as, Maggie, Albert, Elsie, and Orvil to adulthood.
Through the years, or at least since the dawning of flight, man has tried to build flying machines that are more and more creative. Some of these have had amazing runs, like the B-17 Bomber, which was a World War II era plane, that still flies today. Others, like the Hindenburg, went down in a ball of flames. I don’t think it’s usually easy to predict which ones will succeed and which ones won’t. I seriously doubt that people would have predicted that the Concord would ever have the problems it had, or that the Goodyear Blimp would prove successful, where the Hindenburg failed. Sometimes, it’s all about finding yourself with just the right set of components, or making just one slight mistake…and sometimes, the mistake is more obvious.
The Hindenburg disaster, which occurred on this day, May 6, 1937, was probably the worst slight mistake in history. The Hindenburg was Germany’s version of the most luxurious way to fly in existence at that time. It was over 800 feet long and with its state of the art Mercedes Benz engine, it flew at 85 miles per hour, and had a range of 8,000 miles. The Hindenburg carried 97 passengers, and made ten successful ocean crossings the year before the disaster. It was Germany’s Nazi government’s symbol of national pride, but it held a secret mistake that, on May 6, 1937, exploded into one of Germany’s biggest failures.
The Hindenburg was filled with seven million cubic feet of Hydrogen. The Germans used Hydrogen because of its maneuverability, even though Helium would have been much safer. The Hindenburg was supposed to arrive in New Jersey at 5:00am on that fateful day, but bad weather delayed its arrival until the later afternoon. Even then, the weather was not ideal. Rain further delayed the docking at Lakehurst. When they were finally cleared to dock, Captain Max Pruss brought the ship in too fast and had to order a reverse engine thrust. At 7:20pm a gas leak was noticed. Within minutes, the tail blew up, sending flames hundreds of feet in the air and as far down as the ground below.
The chain reaction that followed caused the entire vessel to burst into flames. There were nearly 1,000 spectators awaiting the arival, who could feel the heat of the fire from a mile away. Those on the Hindenburg tried to jump. Some tried to jump to the docking cables, and when they fell, they were killed or critically injured. Others tried to jump as they got closer to the ground. Many were critically burned. In all 36 people lost their lives, while 56 managed to survive. Probably the main reason this crash has stayed in the minds of people over the years is that there were so many cameras to document the event. The photographs have become well known. Announcer Herbert Morrison, on WLS radio gave an unforgettably harrowing live account of the disaster, “Oh, oh, oh. It’s burst into flames. Get out of the way, please . . . this is terrible . . . it’s burning, bursting into flames, and is falling . . . Oh! This is one of the worst . . . it’s a terrific sight . . .oh, the humanity.” This truly was a disaster of monumental proportion, and it will never be forgotten.
Late yesterday afternoon, my mom’s eldest sister passed away after a battle with cancer over the past few years. It was a battle she had mostly kept to herself. She had spent much of her last years taking care of her husband, my Uncle George, with the help of family members. Caregivers, like Aunt Evelyn have a tendency to brush aside their own illness while they take care of others. They simply don’t have time to be sick. They are busy making others well.
Being the oldest of Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s nine children, Aunt Evelyn learned at a very young age that she was needed to help with the younger siblings. While Grandma Byer didn’t work or go many places, there were after all eight other children, and the oldest if often the best helper. Aunt Evelyn was also a very social person as a girl though, and really all her life. It was Aunt Evelyn, who would make her parents grandparents for the first time, something that can be a bit of an honor, in itself. It was Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, who would double date with my mom and dad during their courting years. They would all survive being hit by a train during one of those dates because of the quick thinking of both of the men. I’m sure that was something they all talked about for a long time.
Now the memories are flooding my mind. Times we spent at her house as kids, playing hide and seek, and all the other kids games we used to play. I remember the New Years Eve parties they spent at our house, and all the times at Grandma Byer’s house. I remember sitting out on Aunt Evelyn’s lawn on summer afternoons, and her beautiful house, which was her pride and joy. She enjoyed throwing and attending the annual Christmas party, and the summer picnic, until it became too difficult…which made me sad indeed.
It seems that with each passing year, our family patriarches become fewer and fewer. I remember thinking that we would always have the aunts and uncles with us, and now there remain only five of the original siblings and four of their spouses. Somehow, we all believed that they would always be here. I guess our minds play tricks on us when it comes to loved ones…even to the extent of refusing to notice that they are aging, until we look back at pictures after they are gone. Then suddenly we realize just how tired they were, just how weak and weary, and maybe, just how sick and in pain they were. Nevertheless, they kept up a brave face, smiling at each visit, in spite of the pain. They tried so hard to make us feel better, when in reality they were getting ready to say goodbye. That’s how Aunt Evelyn was. Always thinking of those around her before she thought of herself. Always trying to make their day better, a thing she did quite well with that beautiful smile of hers. I will always miss her smile. It is so much of who she was, and who she will always be in my heart. We love you Aunt Evelyn, we will miss you very much, and we will see you again in Heaven very soon.
Time just seems to fly by after you lose someone. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been gone now for two years. Sometimes, I think that our minds blur things, because it’s easier for us to deal with things that way.
My father-in-law was a hard working man, to whom family meant everything. I remember when he found out that he was going to be a grandfather for the first time. It was the next logical step in his life, but to him it almost seemed like he felt like the first person to ever become a grandparent. I can relate to that, because that is almost how I felt when I became a grandmother. I really wish I could take those early days back sometimes, because it is so hard to have people pass away. Time marches on, and the lifetime of one family member begins, while the lifetime of another ends.
My father-in-law was born in Forsyth, Montana, which is a small town between Billings and Miles City. Many of the people who live there come from long standing family lines in the area. Unfortunately for his family, there was not much work there in the 1950s, so the family moved to Wyoming. For me, that was a good thing, because that is the only way I would have met my husband and married into this great family. For my father-in-law, the simple things in life were the best. He didn’t require expensive or fancy things, just the love of his family and the joy of spending time with them.
My father-in-law had one sweetheart…my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg. I truly think he loved her from the time he first met her when he was just four years old and she was two. When they married in June of 1949, he set a goal to take care of her for the rest of her life. Even when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, he patiently cared for her until he could no longer handle it alone. Then, his family stepped in to help him with her care, and to keep them in their home as long as possible. In the end, he would go home before she would, but she continues to believe that she is still taking care of him. Alzheimer’s Disease can be kind in that way. They are gone, but not for the one who has Alzheimer’s Disease. No, for my mother-in-law, he is simply in the garage, or at Walmart, or visiting the neighbors. And maybe it would be nice if we could all think that way. It has been two years since you went home. We love and miss you Dad.