Monthly Archives: December 2015

Dad and MomThe grandkids and great grandkidsOver the years, the New Years Eve party that we always hold at my parents, Al and Collene Spencer’s house, has changed in many ways. New family members join our clan, and others depart, whether by their passing or moving away. Still, the party goes on. It is tradition, because, you see, my mom was born on New Years Day. That has always made New Years Eve and the party we hold be something that is anticipated with excitement…or at least it always was.

This year will be very different, and all future New Years Eve parties will also be very different, because our guest of honor…our mom will no longer be there. It’s hard to believe that it has been over ten months since her passing, but it has. Still, just knowing that our parents loved the New Years Eve party so much, and having all their children and grandchildren around them at this special time, was their way of celebrating it, makes it special. They never wanted to go out to a bar, because they wanted their kids to be able to 178100960abe involved, so in their early years, the annual New Years Eve party at the Spencer home was born.

As teenagers, they knew we would be safe, because we didn’t have to drive anywhere. The party was at our house. And we never wanted to go anywhere else anyway. Our assorted boyfriends were allowed to come to the party over the years, and later husbands and kids, but the party location never changed. It hasn’t changed now either, but our guest of honor will be celebrating her birthday and the party that goes with it, in Heaven this year, because that is where she lives now.

I think we are all a little apprehensive this year, because we really don’t knew how we feel about this particular party. I know that the echoes of our parents and indeed their very essence will linger over the party, because they will be in our thoughts throughout the night. It is just very strange to think about having this party without them. over the years, it was always them that planned and executed the whole evening. It didn’t The Final New Years Dance - Jan 1, 2007Jason dancing with Mom 1-1-13matter how cold it was outside, because it was always warm and cheery in their house. I’m sure there will be a tear or two that will escape from our eyes, but for the most part, we will try to keep things light. This is a party and not a punishment, after all…and Mom wouldn’t want us to be moping around. So here’s to our parents. Mom and Dad, we love you always and forever, and we miss you very much. As you would have wanted it to be…the party will go on without you…but it will not be nearly as much fun as when you were here.

scan0159Most of the pictures we take and display or share of our kids, show smiling faces and children on their best behavior. It’s not that anyone thinks that there is a perfect child, who never cries or refuses to cooperate, it’s just that the challenging moments we all have with our children, don’t usually find their way into the memories we share or even want to have. As a grandmother, who has graduated from the idea that there is a way to always make sure your child behaves when they are in front of people, I have begun to appreciate the other side of photography…the not so perfect, non-smiley faced picture of a child. I don’t mind the face that screams, “I’m over it!!” It’s something we would all like to do at some point in our lives…or even our day, but as adults, we have to control ourselves a little more. Sometimes we lose control too, but kids are so much more free to just express their disgust over how things are going than adults are.I'm Over It

Many kids these days are used to having their pictures taken. My niece, Aleesia Spethman sees a camera and immediately strikes a pose and puts on a smiling face. She loves having her picture taken, but even Aleesia has her breaking point…that point when she is tired and in truth, over it. Since she is only three, I’m sure some of those grumpy faces were due to needing a nap, because Aleesia is usually a very smiley faced girl. Nevertheless, Aleesia is no pushover, as her brothers can attest. She is quick to let people know if they are getting on her last nerve. Still, for the most part she loves having her picture taken, and she is a very photogenic little girl.

Vying for SuperoritySometimes, two little ones are vying for superiority, or maybe ownership of an item or spot. Personally, I find it pretty funny when little ones try to show each other who is the boss. In the end this little fight between my grandson, Christopher Petersen and my granddaughter, Shai Royce, who are only a day apart in age, and who, at birth weighed exactly the same 7 pounds 3 ounces, was a no win situation, because as I recall, they both had to get out of the car seat. Funny thing that. Most kids hate to sit in a car seat, and yet since this one wasn’t in the car, it somehow became not a car seat, but rather a toy, or maybe just a chair. It made no difference how the moms felt about how the kids were acting. They both felt like they were the one who had been there first, and they were both over the whole situation.

scan0105Over the years of our childhood, my sisters and I were exposed to the history of this great nation. Mom and Dad loved the things that showcased the Old West, including Country Music, old western movies, and western books, but they mostly wanted to show us the places where the Old West really happened. Of course, some of the places were replicas of the real thing, such as Wall Drug. Any time we went through South Dakota and there was enough time, we stopped at Wall Drug. It’s funny to think that a drug store could be called a tourist attraction, but with all the wagons, horse statues, and photo boards, people come just to see the sights in the drug store. Wall Drug is in the town of Wall, South Dakota…a huge town of 906 people…and that is today, so I’m sure it was much smaller when I was a little girl. In fact, I don’t recall anything about the town of Wall…just the drug store. I suppose that sounds funny, but the drug store really was the coolest place in town.

Of course, when Mom and Dad took us to see relics of the old West, they would take us to places like an old scan0079fort, which inevitably included an old cabin with a sod roof. People these day, have no idea how that worked…unless they had parents who made sure that they got to see a real one. Even when you study about it in school, there is nothing quite like being able to see what it was really like inside a house with dirt and grass for a roof. I have read books like, “Young Pioneers” and the “Little House On The Prairie” books, that talk about having a sod roof, or even a Soddy, which is a house built out of sod, often into a hillside. The floors were obviously dirt, and the homemaker would actually sweep those dirt floors. As I read about that, I began to wonder if those women weren’t just a little bit crazy, but then again, I suppose that if you left the crumbs in the house, you would have more bugs than normal, because I personally don’t see any way to have a sod home be completely bug free. And of course, depending on what got spilled, the floor could take on a sticky life of its own. After thinking about that for a little while, I think I might consider sweeping that dirt floor too.

When I think about it though, what would the Old West be, without horses. I can’t say that I ever gave any scan0071thought to having horses of my own, but I think horses are awesome, if someone else has to clean up the stalls. There were people that Mom and Dad knew, who had horses, and they might have been family members for all I know. Having friends or family who had horses made it possible for us to have a little bit of exposure to horses and how they were. I can’t imagine having to travel everywhere by horse, but riding one is a lot of fun. I feel like our parents gave my sisters and me vacations combined with education. Mom and Dad always made it feel like we were really there in the Old West. It was like going back in time. It was an education that you couldn’t get in school, and while I was no fan of history in school, I must say that history as my parents taught it to us, was an amazing journey.

scan0077grandpa spencer044Lots of people do it, but some people don’t. What…you might ask. The answer is to photograph the family whenever they cross the border into a new state, country, or sometimes even county. When my sisters and I were kids, our parents took us on vacation every year. We were quite blessed in that way, and have been to almost all the states, as well as Canada and Mexico, with some of us traveling even further away than that. All through those years, one of the big memories is the Border Crossings. I’m sure many people might think that sounds silly, but it was proof that was had been in that place. Anyone can say they have been to many places around the world, but if you have no pictures to prove it, how do people know that you aren’t just a braggart.

For me it is about owning that place, I suppose. It’s not that I purchased land in every place I’ve been, but rather that each place that have put my feet on the ground in has been permanently fixed in my memory files. I have those pictures and many others in my memory to remind me of the great trip we took to this or that place. I carry those pictures in my memory files, just like my Kindle carries the assorted books I have purchased in its memory files. The items stored there can be accessed at a moment’s notice. I can see the Chantel posing on top of the Texas state line with the familyDad and Michelle at Mt Rushmorearea, remember the sights we saw, remember who we were with, and the wonderful time we had there. Those memories are mine forever.

There are many kinds of border crossings, both good and bad, but the ones I choose to carry with me are the crossings from state to state as we wandered across this great nation. If you haven’t traveled much you just can’t understand how amazing this country is. There is beauty from coast to coast. So many people think that only their dream location has beauty, but that is so untrue. Every place on this Earth has some form of beauty. We must simply look for it. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to see so many places, and discover the beauty in each one. Our parents wanted that for their girls. They were those people who would drive miles out of their way to see this or that historical site, and because of their willingness, and the fact that they considered each place important, my sisters and I can say that we have seen things like the Oregon Trail, old West Jailhouses, wagon ruts in rocks made by years of wheels going across them chipping away grain after grain of the rock, and canyons carved in rocks by rivers that have wandered through there for centuries. We have seen a crater formed by a meteor, a lake formed by an earthquake, and mountains formed by volcanoes. We have seen the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Great Lakes, and the Great grandpa spencer104grandpa spencer107Salt Lake. We have seen the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, and the World Trade Center. We have seen the faces of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, ridden the 1880 Train, and some of us have hiked much of the Black Hills, including Harney Peak. We have seen the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Warf, and Alcatraz, as well as The Space Needle, many lighthouses, and countless beaches. So many places fill my memory files, and they all started with the first border crossing, as we left home on one of our wonderful family vacations.

Esther Hein - 1955When I first met Bob’s Aunt Esther, we had not been married very long, and unfortunately for Bob, he had made the mistake of assuming that I knew how to cut hair. Well, in reality, I did, but there is a vast difference between cutting my sisters’ long, one length hair, and his short and in need of a tapered look hair. Needless to say, I cut his hair at one length most of the way around and a bit shorter above the ears and shorter still on his forehead, but still no tapering. It was kind of a disaster…and it was right before our wedding…Ugh!! Bob was a god sport about it…after the initial shock and argument over what in the world I had been thinking. I told him I didn’t know how, but he thought his mother would cut it too short, so he was left with me. His mistake, not mine…right!!
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That summer, we went up to Forsyth, Montana to visit Bob’s grandparents, Vina and Walt Hein, who are his Aunt Esther’s parents. Bob’s hair, unfortunately for him, is rather slow growing, and the summer still found his hair not looking too great. Since Esther was a cosmetologist, Bob decided to play it safe and have her cut his hair…still rubbing it in a bit that I had butchered it the last time he let me near it. The situation was quickly getting ready to turn into an argument, when Esther offered to teach me how to cut his hair. It was the best thing she could have done, because over the years, it has saved us untold amounts of money on haircuts for Bob…not to mention years of embarrassment about how awful it really looked.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know how bad his hair looked after I cut it, but rather it was the fact that there was 73nothing I could do about it, and every time he looked in the mirror to comb his hair, there it was…a constant reminder. It got easier as it got longer, but he wasn’t going to let me touch it. Esther taking the time to not only cut it well, but to show me how to cut it right, was a definite saving grace for me, because now I can cut it and do it right.

Of course, cutting hair isn’t the only thing Esther is talented at. She is a great seamstress, and makes amazing quilts as well. Her paintings have graced several homes that I know of, including mine. Esther is a woman of many talents, and I’m glad she has shared some of them with me. Today is Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jim StengelNot everyone can say that they truly have the best job on Earth. I know that lots of people think they do, but I can name so many ways that they, if they thought about it from my perspective, would have to admit that they just don’t. For most people, going to work means getting there on time, doing your job, and going home at quitting time. Loving your job sometimes falls into this mix, and sometimes it just doesn’t, for the sad truth is that millions of people really hate their job. They know that they could find a better one, but they just don’t know where to start, or they don’t have the training, or the job market is just so poor that they don’t dare try to look somewhere else right now.

For the last 19 years I can honestly say that I have been extremely blessed to have the job I do, with the boss I have. It’s easy for me to use the term boss, because in reality Jim Stengel is nothing like a boss…in fact, he is the epitome of the un-boss. He doesn’t even like the word boss…choosing rather to call his employees, associates, and glaring at the person who forgets and calls him boss. It’s his way of reminding us that he doesn’t like the “B” word. Jim tells us about his dad’s way of looking at it. Jim Stengel Sr was the owner of Dakota Granite, and it was his belief that if you hire the best people for the job, and let them do their job without micro managing them, they will do their very best for you, and be happy in the process. I think he was on to something there.

One of the best reasons that I have to say that Jim is the greatest person to work for, is that he knows how to keep the priorities straight. Over my ten years as a caregiver, I have had to put that theory to the test. Lots of bosses tell you that family comes first, but if you need time off to go take care of someone in the family, they aren’t so happy to accommodate that time off. Apparently, it’s ok make family your top priority, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your job. Not so with Jim. During the times when my caregiving duties required me to miss quite a bit of work, he didn’t complain, and that made me want to work even harder for him when I was there. Both my family and Bob’s family are fully aware of the huge debt of gratitude we all owe Jim, and for that reason they have virtually adopted him as a son in the family. Not only that, but they keep him in their prayers. We can never repay that debt, and if you ask Jim, he would tell you that we don’t owe him a thing…Jim & Juliebut that’s just him being kind, because we really do. Had he not given me the time off I needed, even at a moments notice, to take care of a parent or sister-in-law who needed my help, I don’t know what we would have done.

Jim will try to blow this off as being what any boss would do, but we all know that isn’t so. Most bosses expect you to put in your full hours, and find someone else to take care of things when you are working. That is no easy task, as any caregiver will tell you. Jim is a one of a kind…the un-boss, and we who have the privilege of working for him understand just how very blessed we are by him. Today is Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you and are proud to call you…friend!!

JesusThe presents are purchased, the packages wrapped, all of the commercialized aspects of the day are over now and there is finally time to take a moment to ponder the real reason for the Christmas season…the birth of our Saviour…Jesus. So often, we spend so much time rushing around trying to get ready for the holiday, that we have little time to think about the wonderful thing our Father, God did for us!! We were a world lost, and destined for Hell!! He had no obligation to help us. We got into this predicament by ourselves…and He could have left us there, but God’s love is not like human love. We hold grudges…even with those we love. God does not hold grudges, but rather, He set out to make a plan to turn it all around. He came up with a plan to send Jesus to Earth…and worked it out so that He lived a sinless life, as a human, and then paid the price… the ultimate price. And Jesus agreed to the plan. He gave his life for us so we could live our lives under grace, and receive Heaven and not Hell in the end.

So often, the birth of our Saviour is all but forgotten in the mix of Santa Clause and a big dinner. I find that really sad, especially in light of the sacrifice He made for us. I can’t imagine being God and deciding to take on a human form, much less a baby who is for much of its young life helpless, and forced to rely on others for all your needs. Then, while you had never sinned in any way, you are taken captive, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Then in the only way it could possibly work, Jesus was separated for God, while he took all the sins of the world on himself. It had to be, because the worst result of sin, is separation for God. That would be far worse than Hell could ever be. God’s love is the most important thing we have. It is what saves us from the pit of Hell.

Nativity sceneThere is nothing wrong with the Christmas traditions we cherish so much, and giving has always been what God is all about. The main thing is that in the midst of all of our traditions, we take time to be thankful for the greatest gift ever given. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16, one of the most important verses in a book that is the greatest book ever written…the Bible. God is love, and when we sinned, He stepped up and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. He sent a Saviour named Jesus. And that is the real reason for the Christmas season. Merry Christmas everyone!! May God bless you all!!

Grandpa & Grandma Byer as a young coupleEvery year, as Christmas approaches, people head out in search of the perfect gift for those they love. Sometimes the hunt can be brutal. You have asked for a list, but they can’t come up with anything, or you don’t ask for a list, and simply hope you know them well enough to know what they would like. Either way, there are times that you just can’t find something you are satisfied with. Other years you are a shopping guru. You fly through your list with ease, and before you know it you are done.

That is kind of how things were for my grandparents, when they were courting. They seriously found the best Christmas gift for each other…a honeymoon. Now, I don’t know if they got to got on any kind of a trip, but getting married on Christmas Eve meant that they got to start their life together for Christmas. Their first full day as husband and wife was Christmas Day. Not everyone would consider Christmas Eve to be the best day for a wedding, and I can understand that, with everything else that is going on during the Christmas season. My grandparents were of a different mind on that. For them, as for many people in those days, weddings tended to take place when the family was all gathered together. Christmas was a perfect time for that. So, since they wanted to get married anyway, they set it for Christmas Eve, so it didn’t interfere with Christmas Day.

It all seemed very practical I’m sure, but for my grandparents, I’m sure it felt quite different. Excitement over starting their new life together must have completely overshadowed the traditional Christmas celebrations. Waking up next to each other on that first Christmas morning, must have been like being a little kid rushing downstairs to see what Santa Clause brought them for Christmas…except you already knew. They gave each other a honeymoon for Christmas, as well as a whole new life. in that way, I can understand their decision to marry on Christmas Eve. And they aren’t alone in that choice either. My cousin Raylynn Richards Williams and Grandpa and Grandma her husband Doug felt the same way about a Christmas Eve wedding as our grandparents did so many years ago.

Maybe Raylynn and Doug chose Christmas Eve because Grandma and Grandpa did, or maybe they chose Christmas Eve because they liked that time of year. I’m not sure, but I’m sure that no matter the reason, if you choose to marry on Christmas Eve, you will have, as part of your honeymoon, the Christmas Day celebration, and that has to be special. I’m so thankful for my grandparents, who found each other, and started this wonderful family, of which I am a part. And for Raylynn and Doug, Happy Anniversary, and Merry Christmas, both Eve and Day.

scan0204Have you ever noticed how completely uninhibited babies and toddlers are? If they like each other, they have no problem giving each other a friendly kiss. It doesn’t matter if they are boys or girls or one of each, but my favorite if when it is a boy and a girl, because they obviously have a little case of puppy love…or maybe it’s because babies tend to love most people. Whatever the reason, there is nothing as cute as two babies giving each other hugs and kisses.

Sometimes, I wonder why we can’t all feel the kind of love for other people that is so natural to babies. It doesn’t take very many years before we suddenly feel suspect of other people, or jealous, or just plain don’t like some people. I think that by the time Cheryl getting ready to kiss Carynwe enter kindergarten, we are already feeling a little less like sharing our friends with others, and so enters jealousy. Of course, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way life is. I suppose it would be strange if we were just able to love everyone, although it would also make for a very peaceful Earth too.

It makes me wish that those baby years could just go on forever. Not for me so much, but for my kids and grandkids. I know that wouldn’t work either, because if my kids were babies, they couldn’t have had my grandkids, but I really do miss those baby years for all of them. It is that age of innocence that makes babies so sweet and loving, and as we all know that age of innocence turns to the terrible teens before our very eyes, and almost over night. Once you have experienced the terrible teens with your own kids, you will truly know Lovin'Sissywhy I prefer the innocence of babies, and baby kisses, over the terrible teens, and all that goes with them.

While I love my children and grandchildren at every age of their lives, there is very little that can compare to the days of innocence and baby kisses. They are not caught up in the day to day stresses and issues of their teenage years, but are rather simply set on bringing happiness and love to all who cross their paths. So the next time you find yourself wishing your babies were grow up so they could do things for themselves, remember that these days are fleeting, and baby kisses quickly disappear…when you are not looking. Focus on those baby days for as long as you possibly can.

Mom's Sweater000_0007A few days ago, our family held the first annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. It was a little bittersweet, and at times very sad, because things were very different from what they had been just 10 months earlier. Our holidays are all in the process of being redefined. With our mother’s passing, on February 22nd, we knew that everything would naturally change, and everything has. Nevertheless, like the Byer family…which is our mother’s family…we knew that our parents would not want their daughters to drift apart after their passing, so our youngest sister, Allyn Hadlock, and her husband Chris decided to host the first annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. This first year was filled with some special gift exchanges which included home made jerky, reproductions of special pictures of Jesus that had been in Mom and Dad’s home, special Bible verse plaques, and flash drives that held old family pictures from our childhood. This was an emotional gift exchange, filled with sisterly love and sharing…and yet lacking in the one thing we wanted there more than ever…our parents. Since that was not to be, we had to settle for a Christmas party they would have absolutely loved…and on that note, we succeeded is a very spectacular way.

Having gone through most of our parents things, we knew which things were precious, and which things brought back sweet memories. One of the things that brought back sweet memories of Christmases past, was 1426135_10153151378577237_3060145788597431175_n6042_10153151378082237_5880498802184847998_nthe Christmas sweater that Mom always wore that day. Your really couldn’t call it Christmas until you saw Mom in that sweater. She also wore a goofy necklace with Christmas lights on it. Our sister, Alena Stevens got that sweater, and decided to wear it to that Christmas party. It was almost like having Mom there, or at least like the echo of Christmas past. It really was a special treat to see that sweater. The necklace went to my niece Jessi Sawdon, and while she didn’t think of wearing it to the party, she wore it to church the next morning, so the echo of Mom at Christmases in our past was complete. I don’t think that we could celebrate this particular Christmas without the Christmas Sweater. That’s what kept Mom close to us.

There were of course, some new faces at this year’s party, but it seems there always are. We had several boyfriends or girlfriends who joined us. The grandchildren are getting so grown up now, that we are almost to the point of another growth spurt in the family. In fact at the time of the party, my grand nephew, Jake Harman and his fiancé, Melanie Price were expecting a baby, but at the time of this writing, she has already arrived. Little Miss Izabella Siara Harman made her grand entrance at 12:55pm on December 21, 2015, weighing in at 5 pounds 11 ounces. This year seems to be a year of firsts…some good some not so good. 12370712_10153151379212237_3161729108663980941_o12391807_1668040590133092_7724041499587443344_nIzabella’s arrival was definitely a good first. She is the first great great granddaughter of my parents, Collene and Al Spencer, the first great granddaughter of my sister Cheryl Masterson, the first grandchild of my niece Chantel Balcerzak, and the first child of my grand nephew Jake Harman…as well as the first sibling of Melanie’s daughter Alice. She has turned some of us into great grand aunts and uncles, and others into aunts and uncles. She joins a huge family, with more to come in the future. We are all so very blessed and I know that our parents would be so proud and happy too.