Monthly Archives: December 2015

IsaacMy grand nephew, Isaac Spethman is a sweetheart of a boy who is kind to those around him and a good brother to his siblings. His birth was a little bit difficult in that he was twisted sideways and so his mom had to have a C-section to deliver. That never mattered though, because they always considered him to be a wonderful early Christmas present and one of their greatest joys. Isaac takes great pride in being the baby boy. He never wanted a little brother, and told his mom, with both of her subsequent pregnancies, that they better be girls because he wants to be the baby boy. Thankfully they both were, because how do you break that news to a determined little boy. It never mattered that there was a baby girl, he just wanted to be the baby boy.

Isaac loves his mom so much, and still makes the bed on the floor beside her every night to sleep in his parents’ room. He isn’t afraid, he just wants to be near her. His mom, my niece, Jenny Masterson Spethman has always seen a lot of his great grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer in her baby boy, and she told me of a picture of her grandpa holding him in a little Santa suit, which is one of her favorites. Isaac often makes faces just like my dad, and behaves like him in many ways.Saving Isaac

Isaac is a kind, giving boy. He has a heart for the new kids in school, or even new teachers. He does his very best to welcome them, by searching through the house in the hope of finding something that would be the perfect welcome gift for them. He goes out of his way to make kids at church feel welcome too, often inviting them to sit next to him and shares his Bible.

Still, the most important way that he identifies himself is that he is the Big Little Brother. He considers his place in the lineage to be the very best place. When his first baby sister, Laila died he filled the biggest void for his mom, by continuing to be her baby, even if he was a little old for that, in reality. He saw what her heart needed, and he took it upon himself to make sure her need was supplied. I think he will always be that for Jenny, because his heart tells him that she needs him to be her baby boy.

Now don’t get me wrong, because Isaac is all boy, and loves to roughhouse with his brothers, Xander and Zack, and even Isaac Gpa Spencer look alikepick on his little sister, Aleesia once in a while. I’m sure people might think that picking on his sister is a mean thing to do, but you really have to know Aleesia before for assume that Isaac is mean. Aleesia is a sweetheart too, but being the only girl, with three brothers means that she pretty much rules the roost, if you know what I mean. Aleesia can take care of herself…trust me. So when Isaac was being annoying this last time, his teasing met with Aleesia’s attitude, when she told him, “You are getting on my very last nerve!!” I doubt if that stopped Isaac from his teasing ways for very long, but I’m pretty certain he had to stop for a minute and laugh about that one. How could anyone not laugh at it? Today is Isaac’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Uncle George and Aunt EvelynUntil September 1, 1947, my mother’s family consisted of my grandparents and nine children. When a family is young, you rarely think about the future changes…such as the children getting married and having children of their own. Those years seem far off into the future. Nevertheless, the reality is that time flies, and before you know it, all the children are married and have children of their own. While those years seem to fly by, you just never forget the days when another person joined the family, and the reality is that whether you do it consciously or not, you are always a little bit amazed when you think about the first addition to the family that wasn’t your own child.

For my grandparents, that day came on September 1, 1947 and that additional person was my uncle, George CCI06282012_00015_editeddHushman. The years that followed the marriage of my aunt, Evelyn Byer to Uncle George, were a virtual whirlwind of babies and other marriages. A few years back, we proudly counted our extended family at over 200 people, and at this point I would have to guess the number to be closer to 300 people…if not more, and Uncle George started it all when he married Aunt Evelyn.

Following their marriage, their five children followed in rapid succession. Their first child, a daughter named Sheila Ann, or Susie to all who know her, was born just fourteen months later, on November 14, 1948. Their first son, George Wave was born just thirteen months later on December 13, 1949. He was followed by Shelley Kay on November 8, 1950, Shannon Lee on January 27, 1953, and finally Gregory Wane on April 10, 1954. By the time Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George’s family was complete, there were other children in the family who were married, and the family continued to grow quickly.
Uncle George 1
Once a family reaches the point of adding the first spouse to the family, the growth really never stops. There is always another of the couples who is having a child, having a child get married, or having a child have a child. As quickly as one becomes a parent, another becomes a grandparent. It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill…it grows and grows. Our family has never stopped growing since the day Uncle George married into it. And it will continue to grow as long as time endures. While Grandma and Grandpa Byer started it all with their nine children, it was Uncle Georges proposal to Aunt Evelyn, that signaled the next phase of its growth. Today is Uncle George’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

MichelleMy niece, Michelle is probably one of the most different people in our family, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. There is a gentleness about Michelle, and I think that comes from her artistic side. Michelle is in college in South Dakota, and that means we don’t get to see her very much. That makes me sad, because I think that the gentle quality that Michelle gives to our family is something that we need…doesn’t every family? There are many different personalities that make up a family, and each one is important to the family unit.

Through the years, I have watched Michelle grow as a person and as an artist. Her art is beautiful and anyone who has the privilege of seeing it or owning any of it knows Michelle-Stevens-drawingjust how talented she is. One of my favorites is a sketch of a bench. It has a simplicity to it, and yet you feel like you could sit right down on it…and you would like to. The bench is just that realistic. It looks like the perfect place to sit, relax, and read a book.

Michelle isn’t all about art though. She loves to travel, and like many of us, a cruise ship is one of her favorite forms of travel. I suppose those trips inspire her artistic mind to create new things. I personally love photography, and a cruise is a great way to take awesome pictures, which Michelle is very good at too. I’m sure that her photographic ability comes from her artistic eye. She has taken pictures of many places, and she has done some Photoshop enhancements to make them look simply amazing. I have watched her pictures and her art advance over the years, and they are amazing. I think Michelle didn’t choose to be an artist, but was rather born with the natural abilities she Michelle Kristine Stevens 6.5 years oldhas. Many people would love to have her talent.

Little girl Michelle was such a smiley girl. When she smiled, he whole face lit up with a smile. Some people are blessed with smiling eyes, and Michelle is definitely one of those people. It was one of the first things I noticed about her. I have always loved the way smiling eyes look, and they are something that makes people smile too. People are just drawn to people with a great smile, and smiling eyes. Maybe that is part of the reason why Michelle has always been loved by everyone who knows her. Michelle is such a special person, and I am very proud that she is my niece. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

4 TWhen I was a kid, my taste in music was probably a little unconventional compared to my peers. When everyone else was into Creedence Clearwater Revival, I liked the Partridge Family…odd, I know, and I have been told…repeatedly. What can I say? Of course, these musical choices were not considered the most odd, according to my peers, and I suppose they would be right, but the reality is that I simply liked different kinds of music than most.

The most odd musical choice, I suppose, was when I discovered classical music in junior high school. It was in my music class, and our teacher played “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I was hooked!! I began to listen to other classical artists…Gershwin, Mozart, Bach, and any others that I could find. Classical music was so soothing, and yet sometimes…so intense!! While classical music isn’t the kind of music I listen to all the time, it is something I enjoy listening to once in a while. I’m sure that many people would think it’s odd, especially for a junior high school student, but I liked it, and that was all that mattered. My choices were my own to make, and while I wasn’t considered an odd duck, mostly because it wasn’t something I spoke of very often, I suppose I could The Nutcrackerhave seemed odd to anyone who found out about it. It is kind of sad that we are so concerned about what our peers think…especially in junior high, but that is when we are at our most vulnerable, and to be an odd duck would be bad.

Tchaikovsky began piano lessons at age five. Within three years he had become as adept at reading sheet music as his teacher. His parents, initially supportive, hired a tutor, bought an orchestrion, which is a form of barrel organ that could imitate elaborate orchestral effects. They encouraged his piano study for both aesthetic and practical reasons. However, they decided in 1850, to send Tchaikovsky to the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg. They had both graduated from institutes in Saint Petersburg and the School of Jurisprudence, which mainly served the lesser nobility, would prepare Tchaikovsky for a career as a civil servant. This was mostly because there was not many opportunities for a musician in Russia at that time. Nevertheless, when an opportunity arose for him to be educated in music, he seized the opportunity, and entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1865. The Western leaning teaching he received there set him apart from composers trained in the traditional the Russian style. Caryn abt 17Tchaikovsky suffered from depression and personal crisis for much of his life. I have to wonder if his music was a form of release.

The origin of the Nutcracker, a classic Christmas Story, is a fairy tale ballet in two acts centered on a family’s Christmas Eve celebration. The Nutcracker Ballet was Alexandre Dumas Père’s adaptation of the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Tchaikovsky set it to music and Marius Petipa choreographed the ballet. It was commissioned by the director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891, and premiered December 18, 1892. Tchaikovsky composed other music, but for me, The Nutcracker is without any doubt my favorite.

Husband_KimmelIt seems that whenever something goes wrong in our world, someone must be to blame, and I believe that is often the case. The problem with playing The Blame Game, is that all too often, the person where the real blame should go is not the one who ends up taking the fall. Scapegoats have been around since Bible times, when the sins of the people were placed on a goat and it was sent into the windernesss. That isn’t the type of scapegoat that we see today, however.

Don’t get me wrong, we all play The Blame Game, but politicians seem to be particularly adept at it. A good example is the forced retirement of Rear Admiral Husband E Kimmel, who was relieved of his command of the United States Pacific Fleet on December 17, 1941, just ten days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I don’t say that he bore no blame at all, but in reality, he had no more reason to think that an attack on Pearl Harbor was imminent, than anyone else had. And in reality, the blame needed to fall on our President at the time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because he was soft on the Japanese, and basically asked us to trust them, when they were not at all Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_viewtrustworthy. President Roosevelt’s actions…or lack thereof, left us sitting ducks when the Japanese made their move.

Basically, Rear Admiral Kimmel was chosen to take the blame because of his lack of imagination…or so it was said. Kimmel was a creature of habit, and he had expected an attack on Midway Island or Wake Island, and even went so far as to request extra antiaircraft artillery be sent there. None could be spared, and so was not sent. It never occurred to him that the Japanese might attack Pearl Harbor, and therefore he took no special action there. Unfortunately, Kimmel was an easy read by the Japanese, and when he chose not to protect Pearl Harbor, that was where the Japanese made their attack. But, as I said, he had no more reason to expect an attack at Pearl Harbor than anyone else had, and for that reason he should not have born the brunt of the blame.

Kimmel could have faced court martial…a second and even more severe injustice…but in the end, when he requested early retirement, his request was granted. The American people were outraged at this breach in FDR in 1933security, so someone had to take the blame. I really find that to be an unfair way to handle this situation, but it was how it was done anyway. When Admiral Kimmel’s Story, which was an “as told to” autobiography, was published in 1955, the admiral made it clear that he believed President Roosevelt sacrificed him, and his career, to take suspicion off himself. Although there was no evidence to prove it, Kimmel believed Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was going to be bombed. I’m not sure Roosevelt could have known that either, but I think he was just as much or more to blame than Kimmel was. There always seems to be enough blame to go around, but in reality, trusting our enemies will always bring bad results. We need to be watchful and strong in military might to keep this nation safe.

scan0051Lately, I have been watching the remodeling shows on television, such as Flip or Flop, Fixer Upper, and Property Brothers. I find it very interesting that they can take a house that starts out looking so awful, and turn it into something quite beautiful. The reasons people remodel a home are as varied as the people themselves. By watching the shows, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to plan and execute a remodel of your own house. I can’t say, of course, that I am ready to tackle such a thing, but maybe someday I could be, if I watch those shows for a while.

I grew up in a little house, not far from where I live today. Back then, things were tight. Nevertheless, like most families who live in little houses, we were a very close family. Our parents, Allen and Collene Spencer, and their family of five daughters lived in a two bedroom house for much of my young life. Then, in the early 1970’s, my sister, Cheryl got married. Her husband was going to be going into the Air Force, and so they were living with us for a time. Our family was growing in another way too, because Cheryl was going to have her first child…her daughter and my niece, Chantel Masterson Balcerzak.

scan0053It was decided that the garage, which pretty much never held a car, but was rather a storage unit, should become a third bedroom and a utility room. Our house was about to undergo a renovation, and we would be the contractors. It was an exciting time. So much was changing in our family. My younger sisters and I were about to become aunts. Of course, the exciting part of the time would be short lived, because after my sister’s husband was done with basic training, they would be stationed in Plattsburgh, New York, and that would be one of the loneliest times we would face. But, that time was a little way off yet, and remodeling the house was exciting.

At first the work was done in the garage, while it still resembled the garage to a large degree. Cement was poured and we all put our hand prints in it before it dried…along with our names. It became a permanent part of the structure, and one I had forgotten about until I saw the picture that was taken of them. Before long, the garage had a floor that was the same level as the floor in the house, and doors were put in for the utility room and the bedroom that would become our parents room. The sleeping arrangements were a little unorthodox during this time, and my younger sisters and I found ourselves sleeping in the attic of the garage…at place that had been our clubhouse years earlier. It was almost like scan0052camping. The room that had been ours was now occupied by Cheryl and her husband.

Before very long, the renovations were complete, and we were back to sleeping in the bedroom again, except with only four of us now. Just as quickly, it seemed anyway, Cheryl and her husband were living in New York, and there were two sisters to each room. The renovations continued to make our lives more spacious, even if the house now had a bit of an empty feel. Having part of the family living so far away never got easier for any of us…until the time that they moved back to Casper for good. That was a great day. Still, by then, I was married and had a daughter of my own. Our family never lived together in that house again. Like that house, life had changed forever.

cheryl160cheryl158It’s every school aged child’s dream…enough snow to have the school district call a Snow Day. The only bad thing is that they are always few and far between. Nevertheless, I can remember a few of those snow days from my childhood. They made for good rivals for the storm we had overnight, in the amount of snow received. I remember one storm in particular from those days, when we were told that the snow was very heavy, and people needed to shovel it off of their roof to protect the roof from collapse. Well, like most kids on a snow day, we didn’t need a second invitation to go outside and play. It’s funny how that works. The plan was to go out an shovel off the roof, but while that did happen, there was a lot of playing in the snow too. Now mind you that the school district had decided that it was too cold, too snowy, and definitely the snow was too deep to have the kids walk the relatively short distance…five blocks in our case..to school, but we could spend half the day outside playing in the snow. I could see the problem if it had been blizzard conditions, but it wasn’t. Nevertheless, on a snow day,cheryl154 cheryl155playing outside all day was far better than trudging off to school.

Deep snow is always extra fun, because it makes building a fort much easier, and believe me, that snow and this snow today…are deep. the snow is heavy and easily formed into walls or snowballs. Before long the fight was on. I’m sure that our parents loved hearing the screams of laughter as their daughters played happily out in the back yard. You see, sometimes, snow days are for adults too. Today for instance, my car could not begin to drive down the alley from my garage, and we will have to go our and dig snow later to get it out so it can be parked in from of the house…if I am to make it to work tomorrow. When my husband, Bob left for work this morning, his truck was dragging on the deep snow, and my car sits much lower than his truck. The snow day of yesteryear that comes to mind was the one where my dad got to stay home too. In fact, he city was even asking people to offer to transport people on snowmobiles in the event of an emergency.

cheryl162cheryl156That didn’t affect us in any way though, because we didn’t have snowmobiles, nor did we have need of one. We were busy outside trying to move the snow from one spot to another, so that we could move from point “a” to point “b” with a little bit of ease. And the only reason we were doing that was because we wanted to see just how deep the snow really was. We weren’t going anywhere…we had nowhere to go…because it was a snow day, and everyone knows that everything of any importance to a kid is closed on a snow day…especially the school.

My grandkids when they were littleIt has been a year and three months now, since our family had any members who weren’t fully licensed to drive. Nevertheless, it seems like only yesterday that I was taking my young grandchildren to school and then daycare. Those were special days…days of watching with great interest as those four little people grew up and became the people they were destined to be as adults. Of course, these days I almost never take the kids anywhere, unless their vehicle is broke down or we are going somewhere together, and even then, they are experienced drivers now, so I never hear the little kid things where driving is concerned.

When they were little, however, things we very different. Those kids learned very quickly how to get to the places they needed to go. If you took a wrong turn, or went a different route, they were quick to tell you that you were going the wrong way. I always found myself quite amazed that these little kids could know the way to places they went. I just didn’t exoect them to be paying that much attention, I guess. I found out, that kids pay quite a bit of attention to things, if they think it is important to the adults. They like to mimic the adults, so if we think something is important, so do they.

My oldest grandson, Christopher Petersen proved this to be the case, when he gave me driving lessons. Now, I remind you that kids love to listen to their parents and repeat everything they say. And some parents take advantage of that by telling their little ones the goofiest things to say. Well, my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen is no exception to that rule. In trying to teach his son the meaning of the traffic lights, and believe me, I use the term teach loosely, Kevin started telling him what the light colors meant.

Being the good little 3 year old student, Christopher Chriswas explaining to me one day what his dad had taught him. He told me that he knew that the green light meant go. So I asked what the red light meant. He told me that it meant stop. I was impressed at his grasp of the system, so I asked what the yellow light meant, and Christopher promptly told me that it meant to go faster and faster! Of course, that comment brought roaring laughter, which made Christopher feel very proud of himself. That was what brought about all the repeat performances of his driving lessons. Looking back now, I find just how much I miss those days when the grandchildren were little and so innocent and funny. I love who they have become, but the children they were…well, they were very special too. I am very blessed.

IMG_8055IMG_8058Every year, my mom’s family gets together to celebrate Christmas as a family. Of course, it isn’t on Christmas, but rather a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas. They get together to stay close to each other and to honor their parents’ wishes that they not drift apart. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer, like her sisters looked forward to that party every year. She planned the little gift that she would make for each of her sisters. She worked on them with great care, planning every detail, so they were just perfect for each of her siblings. There was always that special moment when the siblings would gather at one of the tables and exchange those precious little gifts that showed how much they loved each other. It was always such a sweet thing to watch. It was never about the gift they received, but about the love they all had for each other. I felt a sting of sadness, because Mom and Aunt Evelyn weren’t there at that precious moment of sisterly love. Nevertheless, I was happy for Aunt Virginia Beadle, IMG_8047IMG_8060Aunt Bonnie McDaniels, Aunt Dixie Richards, and Aunt Sandy Pattan, because they still had that precious time together.

As the years have passed, fewer and fewer of the siblings remain, and this year, we lost two more of the sisters, my mom and my aunt, Evelyn Byer Hushman. Everyone felt the sting of those new absences, and my aunts tried to console us and we them too, but it really didn’t do much good. We simply cried together, because we missed them so much. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our own grief, we can forget that there are others who loved our loved one too. I somehow hadn’t grasped that thought before, but while talking to my aunts, I realized that they are grieving as much as we are. These were their sisters, who they had known all of their lives, and they missed them too…very much.

IMG_8052IMG_8068This Byer Family Christmas Party was different in several ways, but it was also the same in many ways too. The same people that usually come, were mostly there this time too. These are the family members who have embraced Grandma and Grandpa’s dream of a continuing close family. These are the ones who have strived to keep the future generations of the family close too. We have a wonderful heritage in our family. Our grandparents left us a legacy of love. Those connections warm our hearts with every party or picnic. We are all busy, and seeing each other every day…other than on Facebook…is very hard to do, but these precious family gatherings will always keep the legacy of our grandparents alive.

As I walked around the room, talking to the different family members and taking too many pictures to possible show here, I could hear the echoes of those aunts and uncles who are in Heaven this year…Aunt Evelyn IMG_8056IMG_8048Hushman, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my mom and dad, Collene and Allen Spencer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and of course of Grandma and Grandpa Byer. It was as if they were there in spirit, celebrating the family with us. I could hear some of the things each one had said over the years. I was thankful that many of their family members were there at the party, because even though they are in Heaven now, we are all still part of this wonderful family, and we belong together celebrating this family and the legacy our precious grandparents left behind.

Dad and MomMy dad, my sister, and meIt seems impossible that eight years could have passed since my dad left us for Heaven, but that is exactly what today brings to my memory. I can still vividly picture my dad in every area of their home. I can hear his voice…his sense of humor…his teasing….and his words of wisdom over the years of my life. Dad was always the head of our family, and his girls looked to him in so many situations. Dad was very outnumbered, since our family consisted of Dad, Mom, and five daughters, but while he may have had to wait for us to get ready to go somewhere, or to get into the bathroom, or live with our drama, and have to be the rescuer from the millers and other bugs, dad took it all in stride. Looking back now, I realize what a saint my dad was. He took everything in stride, and we always felt like Daddy’s little princesses. He always made his girls feel so special.

In reality, my dad was one of the most patient men I have ever known. When Mom would get frustrated with our bickering, a bad progress report, or some other offence her daughters had managed to frustrate her with, she would finally tell us to “Wait until your dad gets home!!” The funny thing about that threat is that in all the years of my life, I can only recall a few spankings from my dad…in fact I can probably count them on one hand. Dad usually chose to discuss the matter with us and explain the reasons why we did not want to do that again. The spanking was a last resort, and one we didn’t want to repeat. Nevertheless, in frustration, the threat of the “wrath of Dad” was the threat of choice for Mom…and we were always very wary of it too. You didn’t know if this particular infraction of the rules might be the one that got you that spanking, or if you would be met with Dad’s infinite mercy…you alwys prayed for that mercy.

Looking back now, I think what a blessing it would be today to hear those words from Mom…”Wait until your dad gets home!!” I would even be ok with the fact that Mom was furious, and with the possibility of that dreaded spanking from dad…if only I could hear those words and know that Dad would be home that evening. Of course, I would be too old to spank these days…not that he couldn’t do it if necessary, but I might even be Our FamilyOur family by a covered wagonso inclined to irritate my mom, if I could hear her voice again, and if it would bring Dad home again, but that is not to be. They are both in Heaven now, without the naughty things their daughters did as children. Nevertheless, I have to wonder if every once in a while, their memory files bring some of those crazy moments of life that having five daughters brought. I wish they were both here now, but I am thankful to know where they are, and that I will see them again. I suppose now that they say, “Wait until our girls come home!!” And we are waiting too. I love and miss you both, Mom and Dad!!

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