Monthly Archives: August 2015
My grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak joined our family on June 22, 2002, when his dad, Dave Balcerzak married my niece Chantel. Kiefer was fourteen at the time, and while he was close to being grown, I had the chance to get to know him during the time that Dave and Chantel were dating. He was a great kid then, and is a great young man now. Keifer’s personality is a lot like his dad. He is outgoing and a fun person to be around. It’s strange to think of all the grand nieces and nephews being grown up now, and starting lives of their own, but that is what is happening.
Keifer has always been a worker. He worked for Charter Communications for some time, but recently left there to take his dad’s old position at the State of Wyoming, which Dave vacated when he was promoted. So now Keifer is on the IT Help Desk. I always though his technical capabilities were far above the level it takes to install and repair cable lines. I think Keifer probably got his technical capabilities from his dad, but he has studied and earned his place in IT by his own hard work. Fixing technical issues on computers is no small job. There are enough hackers out there to put any business at risk. The big corporations have to have their own dedicated personnel to keep their computers running with a minimum of downtime. They can’t wait for someone from a tech company to show up to help. Too many people and programs depend on computers that run and run properly.
On May 9, 2015, Keifer married his longtime girlfriend, Katie Davidson. They have been dating for seven years, and so they almost seemed married already. They are a great couple, and I know that their marriage will be very blessed. Even though they have been together a long time, marriage is still a wonderful new adventure, and I know they are having a great time. I don’t know Katie very well, but from what I do know, I like her very much. The main thing is that she makes Keifer happy. That goes a long way in our family.
Keifer is a lot like his dad in computer capabilities, but I’m sure he also got his looks from his dad too. The older he gets, the more he looks like Dave. In fact, there are pictures of him that I have almost mistaked for Dave. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The terrorist attacks that took place at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 brought about changes in our country that we never thought we would see. For the first time in modern aviation history, all air traffic, except for military security planes were grounded. The skies were eerily void of contrails from planes, and the air lacked the sounds from them that we had become so used to that we almost didn’t notice the sounds anymore…unless, like me, you just like planes, and like to watch them.
Of course, eventually we would begin to see planes again, because we are a nation on the move and planes are essential. The planes began flying again, but with them came a lot more military planes. In most ways that was good, but with that came something else that I never expected to see…mid-air refueling. I have only seen this in action one time. I was on my way into my sister’s house and I looked up because I heard a plane. It was actually two planes…very close together. With 9-11 so fresh in my mind, my first thought was that I might be witnessing an attack above my head. I stood there and watched closely. The planes weren’t so high that you couldn’t see the refueling line as it connected one plane to the other. I was fascinated…and relieved…to witness that. I don’t know how many people have seen it, but my guess is that it isn’t many…at least outside of the aviation industry or the military. Of course, the planes were moving and I didn’t see the line being retracted, but I still felt rather privileged to see that technology in action.
Mid-air refueling is not something that is so new, in fact the first time a plane was refueled in mid-air was on this day, August 23,1923. The Airco DH.4 was a British two-seat biplane day bomber of World War I. It was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland for Airco, and was the first British two-seat light day-bomber to have an effective defensive armament. It first flew in August 1916 and entered service with the Royal Flying Corps in March 1917. The majority of DH.4s were actually built as general purpose two-seaters in the United States, for service with the American forces in France. The plane could do just about anything needed…except fly for an extended time period. Hence the name day-bomber. Then, all that changed when Captain Lowell Smith and Lieutenant John Richter received the first mid-air refueling on June 27, 1923, from a plane flown by 1st Lieutenant Virgil Hine and 1st Lieutenant Frank Seifert.
When we think of mid-air refueling, we picture something high tech, like what I saw, but the technology for it began in the 1920s. To me that seems incredible, but I guess that most inventions take time to develop. Time and hard work, but once they are developed, they can change the course of history. These days, planes are refueled like the two planes I saw and even a plane that refuels a helicopter, which I find completely amazing. The human mind has come up with so many inventions, and I think this one is among the greatest.
Life in the home of my youth had many facets, as I’m sure most homes do. There was work to be done, and rules to be followed, but there was also lots of joy and goofiness. My mother, Collene Byer Spencer, was the type of person who might do just about anything. We sometimes simply didn’t know what to expect. I’m sure part of it was from her own upbringing, because she would try to get us to sing songs with her, such as “Keep on the Sunny Side” which was designed to start our day in a happy way, or to ease the tension in a stressful one. If we just couldn’t be made to laugh, “Keep on the Sunny Side” was her first line of defense, usually followed by something goofy she said or did that would make us laugh in spite of ourselves and our sour mood. I suppose she had to come up with something, because life with five teenaged girls and the drama that went with it could be a challenge. Mom just wanted her girls to be happy and to know the joy that simply being alive brings. I can’t say that her plans always worked, because some of us could be a stubborn lot…ok, mostly me, but my sisters too. Still, I think of the five of us, I was probably the most bull headed. You can ask my sisters, and I think they will agree with me…possibly to remove any stigma of stubbornness from themselves, but in realty, I do think I was probably the most stubborn of us all.
I remember Mom sometimes making goofy faces, or acting in some outlandish way just to make the moment less stressful. Sometimes I think I should have taken note of that plan more in my life. I find that I have a tendency to be rather serious…possibly because I am a thinker, and usually deep in thought about one thing or another. Maybe cutting loose and doing something outlandishly funny would be good for me. It always seemed to make Mom a happy person. It’s not that I’m not happy either, just that I don’t usually show it in a big way…and sometimes I wish I could cut loose that way. Sometimes, I think my life is too serious in nature, too often.
I think my parents tried to do things that would make us laugh. Things like a bottoms up picture on a bridge to get a giggle out of everyone. Yes, that’s how they labeled it. Often times it worked, and continues to work now, whenever we look at the picture. It’s like a way of continuing their goofing off into the time of our lives when they are no longer with us. Who knew that those funny memories would serve to bring so much joy and happiness in our later years. I think we sometimes let our lives get far to serious. We all need to take a page out of my parents book, and cut loose sometimes. The longer my parents are gone, the more I truly understand just how very wise they were. It is my hope that I can grow to be as wise as they were. I love you Mom and Dad.
There is a time each year, when the kids are getting ready to head back to school. It is a different date for different places, and in most cases, the parents are pretty happy to have their kids back in the school routine. Some of the kids are happy about it too. I suppose it feels different when the kids are going to school in the town where they live, because they aren’t headed so far away that you won’t see them in the evening.
However, when they are off to college in another town, even if it is in the same state, there is a sense of lonliness that comes over parents, and grandparents who are used to seeing them often. That is how I am feeling today, because tomorrow, my oldest grandchild, Chris Petersen heads back to Sheridan to go to college for his second and final year. Yes, Sheridan isn’t that far from Casper, but this year, because he has a job and a Friday night class, he will only be home a few times, whereas last year, he came home most weekends, because he had a job here.
Just knowing that he will be staying in Sheridan most of the school year feels like he has moved as far away as my daughter Amy Royce, her husband Travis, and son, Caalab, who live in the Seattle area now. I have never been one to like change, and while I know that it is a part of life, I still find myself wishing that things would just stay the way they were. I know that for Chris’ parents, my daughter, Corrie Petersen, her husband, Kevin, and son Josh, tomorrow will be a very lonely day, as they drop Chris off at his dorm room, and head back home without him. They are such a close family, and this is just hard.
Nevertheless, as the new school year begins, they will have to face the facts that Chris is away again. It would be lovely we could all just teleport around the country. That way it wouldn’t matter where anyone lived, because we could see each other as often as we wanted. Since that is not to be, I guess we will all have to get used to the idea that for another school year, at least, Chris will be living in Sheridan and we will be here. I know that for his family…and for him it is going to feel like a long year.
Chris, I know this year will be a great one for you. It will be hard, but it is the culmination of all your hopes and dreams. You make us all so proud as you persue your dream of being the owner of a restaurant of your own someday. You are an amazing chef, and I know that you will be very successful in your future endeavours. So Chris, while we will miss you very much, I know that it is time for you to get back to work now. I know it will be an amazing year for you. Enjoy all of it, because before you know it, your college days will be over, and you will be in the working world like the rest of us. We love you very much.
Over the thousands of years since man has been on the Earth, amazing people, as well as evil people, have made memorable speeches. Some speeches were never expected to be memorable or historic, and others were expected to be so, because they were designed to be uplifting, inspirational, morale building, or a tribute filled with gratitude. It was the latter that inspired Sir Winston Spencer Churchill to make his speech on August 20, 1940. Europe was entrenched in World War II and things weren’t going as well as they had hoped. They had taken a few rather large beatings from the Germans, and morale was not as high as they had hoped. The speech was given as the United Kingdom prepared for the expected German invasion. After a series of defeats for the Allies over the prior months, Churchill was trying to tell the people that they were in a much better position now. He was correct, of course. Shortly after the speech, the British won the battle, the first significant defeat for the previously unstoppable Wehrmacht.
Times of war are often when great men make speeches to inspire the military troops to persevere. They can be a battle cry of sorts. Or they can be a reflection of such deep gratitude that it leaves us awestruck. Churchill was first moved to utter those famous words upon his exit from the Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge on August 16, 1940. He had been the Number 11 Group RAF Operations Room during a day of battle. Afterwards, Churchill told Major General Hastings Ismay, “Don’t speak to me, I have never been so moved.” His emotions were so deep, that he had to think about this for a time. The two were silent for a few moments, and then Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” That declaration became the basis of his speech to the House of Commons on August 20, 1940.
In his speech, Winston Churchill said, “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power. On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers who will play an invaluable part in the case of invasion and whose unflinching zeal it has been necessary in the meanwhile on numerous occasions to restrain…”
Words can be so powerful. They have the power to change the course of history when they are used to inspire soldiers in battle to a victory that seemed impossible just moments before the words were spoken. Sometimes, all it takes to bring about a victory is to listen to the one person who sees that victory, no matter how many defeats have preceded it, is still possible. Great men…men who have inspired victory…have been around a long time. These men, and women too, refuse to accept defeat. And they have the ability to speak powerfully to convince others that victory can follow defeat.
My grand niece, Aleesia Spethman is a child who can steal your heart. She has a smile that can light up your whole day. Aleesia has spent a lot of her life posing for pictures for her parents, so now, when someone pulls out a camera, she automatically goes into pose mode. Aleesia is such a girlie girl, and when I think of her, the word princess comes to mind. She loves to dance around the room. She loves all things bling…from nail polish to back packs that light up. She likes things that catch the eye. At three years of age, she already knows so much about who she is and who she wants to be. No, I’m not saying that she already knows what career she will choose, but she knows what kind of girl she is, and that it’s ok to blend girly with tomboy.
Now, just because Aleesia is a girly girl, does not mean that she can’t keep up with the boys. You can’t be born the baby girl in a family with three boys, and not figure out how to handle yourself around those boys. Aleesia can easily rough house with her brothers, Xander, Zack, and Isaac at one moment, and then totally turn around and run things like a queen. Even though her brothers are older than her, Aleesia is definitely the boss when it comes right down to it. Quite possibly that is because Xander, Zack, and Isaac love their sister so much, and they are so protective of her. I suppose that they let her run the show to some degree, but it’s only because they love her so much.
If there is an area where Aleesia is just like any other three year old child, it is in the area of her cartoon choices. Aleesia loves Despicable Me. Minions are her favorite people. I had never really had a chance to watch Despicable Me, until Aleesia started spending Thursday evenings at my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s house. Cheryl is Aleesia’s grandma, so it stands to reason that she would be there at times. The rest of her family goes to an event in downtown Casper on Thursday nights, and it’s a lot of walking, which is not so easy for Aleesia, so she spends the evening with my sister and me, and sometimes, Cheryl’s daughters, Chantel Balcerzak and Liz Masterson, and granddaughter, Siara Harman. We have a really great girls night. We watch movies, and we have been scanning pictures…as well as just enjoying each others company. If Aleesia had her way, we would watch Despicable Me every night, and for the whole evening, but she is good about letting us have a say in the movie we watch, as long as Despicable Me is on sometimes. She just can’t get enough of that show.
Aleesia is the kind of girl who draws you into her world. She giggles, smiles, and laughs her way into your heart. She likes to pose, because she knows how cute she is…and yet she isn’t prissy. She is almost an actress, because she really knows how to play a part, and she knows how to capture an audience. She’s cute, and she knows it. Today is Aleesia’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Aleesia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
In 1990, when the remake of the movie, Memphis Belle came out, I watched it with intrigue, knowing that my Dad, Allen Spencer had been a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17G Bomber in the 8th Air Force stationed in Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. The Memphis Belle, a Boeing-built B-17F-10-BO, USAAC Serial No. 41-24485, was added to the USAAF inventory on July 15, 1942, and delivered in September 1942 to the 91st Bombardment Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine. She deployed to Prestwick, Scotland, on September 30, 1942, moving to a temporary base at RAF Kimbolton on October 1, 1942, and then finally to her permanent base at Bassingbourn, England, on October 14, 1942. Each side of the fuselage bore the unit identification markings of the 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy). My dad was a part of the 385th Bomb Squadron (Heavy). Dad didn’t arrive in England until early April of 1944. His letter from April 14, 1944 tells his family that he had arrived and couldn’t tell them where he was for security reasons, except to say that he was somewhere in England.
At the time I watched the remake of the original 1943 documentary film put out by the War Department, I assumed that while the movie said it was based on a true story, there was probably a lot of Hollywood hype to the movie. So, when I read my dad’s letter to his mother, my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer, I was surprised that my dad mentioned it and said she should go see it. From my experience with the movie, I don’t think it would be a film I’d want to watch while my child was still on active duty and fighting from one of those planes. Both the original version and the remake were real enough to either show or tell of events involving the B-17 Bombers in combat situations, and the inevitable shooting down of the planes by the enemy.
Of course, the point was to let people know that The Memphis Belle, a B-17 Bomber had become the first plane to accomplish 25 missions without being shot down. It was designed to be a celebration of that accomplishment. And so it was, but it also proved the stark reality that many other B-17 Bombers had been shot down, and in all reality would continue to be shot down. While the accomplishment of The Memphis Belle is nothing to take lightly, I think it would still be hard to think about all those men lost or imprisoned during that war…especially if I was the mother of an airman. In some ways, it surprised me that my dad would even ask his mom to so see the movie. He was always so protective of her. I suppose that in time, you get used to the events of war, especially when you are in the thick of it day after day, and maybe he thought it would give her hope too.
Nevertheless, it seemed rather strange to me that Dad had talked of this movie with his mother. I know that the Memphis Belle was a star, just because they had made it through without being shot down. They were the first, and to those at home trying to support the war effort, that was a moral booster. That made it important to do the movie and to have the Memphis Belle and her crew do tours back in the states. People needed to see the success of the air war. They needed hope that their loved ones would return. I suppose that was what my dad was thinking when he told his mother that she should go see the movie. I don’t know for sure if she did or didn’t, but in the end my dad came home, and that is all that mattered to my grandmother and to me.
The other day, as my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were out for a walk, I noticed that the crickets were chirping all around us. Now, I’m not a cricket fan, because they are, after all…a bug, but hearing them was not an unusual event in the summertime. On that particular evening, I guess I just noticed them more than usual. It was a beautiful summer evening, that was cooler that the really hot days we had been having, and with the crickets, it took me back to the summers of my youth. It didn’t matter if we were in the back yard or on a camping trip, the crickets chirping was just a classic summer sound. Then, when you add the birds and sometimes even frogs…well, it’s like going back in time to my childhood.
Summers in my youth were always carefree days with relatively few chores. We used to lay out in the back yard sunning ourselves, walk to the pool to swim in the afternoon, and then play games with our friends until it got dark, and sometimes even later. The sound of kids yelling, laughing, and talking seemed to be everywhere…like we were trying to live a year’s worth of life in three short months, because then school started again, and there was homework to be done at night. It left a lot less free time. Then, before we knew it, we were grown up, and our lives took on work and family obligations I wouldn’t trade my life now for those days, because lets face it. I love my life, but those memories are sweet, nevertheless.
I lived such a wonderful childhood. My family has always been very close. Our parents gave my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me so many great memories over the years, whether in travel or just at home. I can’t fully explain just how blessed we were. We had all the same obligations as kids, that most kids have. We weren’t spoiled children of privilege, we were just blessed…and I’ll take blessed over privilege any day. We took evening drives sometimes just to look at the lights of the city from lookout point or Event Center Hill…although the Event Center wasn’t there then. My sisters and I called the city lights, spread across the valley where Casper is nestled, the Jewelry Box. I have seen them so many times that I can picture them exactly in my head to this day. Those were such glorious, carefree days, of crickets and evening drives, and sometimes I miss them. We didn’t realize then how blessed we were. We just thought all kids had that kind of life. We later found out just how wrong we were. If I mention some of the things we did as kids, people seem surprised…like it was unheard of. Maybe it was, but my parents just showed us the things they liked to do, like going for evening drives.
Those days are long gone now. They live only in my memory files, to be brought out when something like the chirping of a cricket, the smell of a campfire, or a drive down the mountain cause them to come to the forefront once again. The memories are a little bittersweet these days, because both of my parents are in Heaven, but they still remind me of what a blessed childhood I was given, and they make me thankful for the wonderful parents God gave to me and my sisters.
On August 13, 1961, in the hours just after midnight, the East German soldiers began laying down barbed wire and bricks as a barrier between Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the democratic western section of the city. It was a day that would change life in Berlin for the next twenty eight years. In the days that followed, a wall was built to permanently close off access to the west. The citizens of East Berlin became prisoners in their own homes and city, in a prison that was built around them. The road between East and West Berlin had become a one way street. If you wanted in, you couldn’t come back out. Families were separated from each other, and those in the West had to make the choice to go be with family in East Berlin…and captivity, or not. The wall became the symbol of the Cold War. It was a literal Iron Curtain, dividing Europe.
When World War II ended in 1945, Germany was divided into four Allied occupation zones. Berlin, the German capital, was likewise divided into occupation sectors, even though it was located deep within the Soviet occupation zone. The future of Germany was a source of contention. Disagreements brought tensions which grew when the United States, Britain, and France moved in 1948 to unite their occupation zones into a single autonomous entity known as the Federal Republic of Germany or West Germany. In response, the Soviet Union launched a land blockage of West Berlin in an effort to force the West to abandon the city. The United States and Britain responded with a massive airlift of food and supplies to West Berlin, and in May of 1949, the Soviet Union ended the blockade in defeat.
That didn’t remove the tensions that plagued the area, however. By 1961 the Cold War tensions were running high again. The East German people became very dissatisfied with life under the communist system. West Berlin was a gateway to the West and Democracy. Between 1949 and 1961, about 2.5 million East Germans fled East Berlin to West Germany. By August of 1961, East Germans were crossing into West Germany at a rate of 2,000 people per day. Many of the refugees were skilled laborers, professionals, and intellectuals, and their loss was having a devastating effect on the East German economy. The Soviets had to figure out a way to stop the exodus, and its devastating effect on the economy. Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev made the decision to close off access from East Berlin to West Berlin.
Then came the night of August 13, 1961. The citizens of East Berlin could no longer freely pass into West Berlin. The West was taken by surprise, and threatened a trade embargo against East Germany as a retaliatory measure. The Soviets responded that such a measure would bring new blockades. The West did nothing, and the East German authorities grew more and more bold. They began closing of more and more checkpoints between East and West Berlin. On August 15, they began replacing barbed wire with concrete. The wall was supposedly designed protect their citizens from the influence of decadent capitalist culture. In realty, it protected the East German authorities from scrutiny as they did what they wanted with out retaliation.
Once it was up, the only way for East Berliners to escape the oppression of their government was to take their chances to get across in whatever way they could dream up. People attempted escape by train, tight rope, zip lines, hot air balloons, through old tunnels, impersonating soldiers, a stolen tank, and swimming. Many of these attempts ended in death for the person attempting escape. It didn’t stop them. They were so determined to live freely. About 5,000 East Germans managed to escape across the Berlin Wall to the West, but the frequency of successful escapes dwindled as the wall was increasingly fortified. Thousands of East Germans were captured during attempted crossings and 191 were killed.
On June 12, 1987 President Reagan made his great “tear down this wall” speech, but the wall remained until 1989, when the democratization movement began sweeping across Eastern Europe. On November 9, 1989 travel restrictions were eased. Jubilant Berliners climbed on top of the Berlin Wall, painted graffiti on it, and removed fragments as souvenirs. The next day, East German troops began dismantling the wall. In 1990, East and West Germany were formally reunited. For those in the free world, it would be almost impossible to completely understand just what Communism was like, but those who lived it, would never forget it, if they even lived through it, which many didn’t.
My grand niece, Jala is getting ready to start her second year in middle school. Like most thirteen year old girls, that is beginning to open a wide variety of options to her world. Jala is looking forward to the new things she can do at school, such as sports. She has decided on volleyball, basketball, and track. Volleyball practice starts Monday. Her mom, my niece Susan is hoping that she will find a sport that really suits her. Jala is very athletic, and good at gymnastics, so these sports will be something new for her. Her little sister is trying her best to keep up with her big sister’s abilities…typical of little sisters.
Interestingly, the school that Jala went to last year for her first year of middle school, has been torn down. Her first year of middle school was spent in the same middle school her mom and Aunt Machelle went to. It’s sometimes hard to see your old school torn down, and that is what has happened for both Jala and her mom. I’m sure that the new school building will be an excitement for Jala, and her cousin Easton as well, because it’s always cool to be the first class to be at a new school. Her cousin, Weston will not have that pleasure, since he is headed for high school now.
Jala is very much into technology…sounds like me, except that her favorite thing and apparently the thing that is the rage among the kids of her generation is Instagram. Now personally, I don’t do Instagram…I’m a Facebook person, but each generation has their own thing it seems…and some things cross the generational lines. Either way, we are all moving more and more into the technological future. It’s inevitable. Jala likes her technology, but she also likes her privacy, so, she is very careful with her information. It’s a good way to be in this day and age.
Jala has had the wonderful opportunity to live in the country, and be around not only the normal pets, but horses too. Jala is old enough now to help with things around the house, like washing cars and cleaning house, and taking care of the pets. She and her sister, Kaytlyn have hamsters now, and Jala keeps the cages clean. In all, the family has two dogs, two cats, two hamsters, and one horse. She also loves to ride her horse. Jala seems to have a natural love for animals. And she loves camping with her family.
This year Jals’s birthday falls on Saturday, so she gets to have her party on her actual birthday. The plan is a special one. Her parents are going to set up a big tent. Jala and a few of her friends are going to camp out in the tent. They are all looking forward to it. There are good things about having your birthday in the summer. After all, you can’t camp out in the yard in December. Jala is pretty excited for her special day. Today is Jala’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!