Monthly Archives: May 2016

People stand atop houses among ruins after flooding in Johnstown, Pa., May 30, 1889. (AP Photo)Over the years, man has tried many ways to harness water. Water is a necessity to life, and without it, all things would die off. Some projects worked out better than others, and some simply needed to be replaced sooner than they were in order to prevent disaster. A good example of that is the earthen dam. An earthen dam is a dam that is built out of rocks and dirt, instead of steel and concrete. Of course, when dams were first built, earthen dams were the only way to go, but after so many failed, a new type of dam had to be designed, in order to save lives. One such failure was the earthen dam built in 1840 on the Little Conemaugh River, fourteen miles upstream from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Johnstown is sixty miles east of Pittsburgh, in a valley near the Allegheny, Little Conemaugh, and Stony Creek Rivers. The area lies in a floodplain that has had frequent disasters. This time would prove to be one of them. At nine hundred by seventy two feet, this dam was the largest earthen dam in the United States, creating the largest man-made lake at that time…Lake Conemaugh. At a time when here were no railroads in the area for transporting goods, the dam and its extensive canal system was the only way to transport goods to the people, but it became obsolete as the railroads replaced the canal as a means of transporting goods. The canal system was left to become a victim of the elements, and with its neglect, also came the neglect of the dam. In reality, people just didn’t really think anything would happen, and they most likely looked at the dam as just a part of the landscape.
Johnstown Flood 3a
By 1889, Johnstown had grown to a population of 30,000 people, many of whom worked in the steel industry…ironically. On May 30, 1889, it began to rain, and continued steadily all day. No one really gave any thought the potential harm so much rain could bring to the nearly sixty year old earthen dam. The dam had a spillway, and so everything seemed safe, but the spillway became clogged with debris, that could not be dislodged. On May 31, 1889, an engineer at the dam saw the warning signs, but the only way to notify anyone was to ride his horse into the village of South Fork to warn the people…a ride that took an eternity in the face of the impending disaster. Nevertheless, it should have been enough time, but the telegraph lines were down, and no warning ever reached Johnstown. At 3:10pm, the dam collapsed with a roar that could be heard for miles. The water, moving at 40 miles per hour barreled down on the towns in it’s path, wiping out everything that got in its way. At Johnstown, 2,200 people lost their lives that day, including one Thomas Knox and his wife. Thomas, like a large number of the flood victims was never found. While I’m not sure that Thomas Knox is related to my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s family, it is quite likely that he is, as there are a number of Thomas Knox’s in the family…though none that I have found so far that died in the Johnstown Flood.

The people in the path of the raging flood waters, were tossed around, along with all that debris, including thirty three train engines that were pulled into the flood waters. I’m sure that for many, death did not come Johnstown Flood 2afrom drowning, but rather from blunt force trauma. Nevertheless, some people did manage to climb atop the debris, only to be burned alive when much of the debris caught fire, when it was caught in a bridge downstreem and burst into flames. There was a report of a baby that survived on the floor of a house that floated 75 miles downstream, but that was something that was not confirmed. It was during the Johnstown flood, that the American Red Cross handled its first major relief effort. Clara Barton arrived five days after the flood to lead the relief. In the end, it took five years to rebuild Johnstown, which went through disastrous floods in 1936 and 1977. I have to wonder if they should just move the town, but with no major floods since 1977, it’s hard to say.

Dad in uniformFor those who have lost a veteran, in war or in peace, every day is a day to remember them. We loved them and now they are gone. We will forever miss them. Brave soldiers all, went out to right a wrong…to make the sacrifice necessary to make our nation free, and to fight oppression in our world. Some came home after serving their country and somehow managing to stay alive…against all odds, but some did not, and instead paid the ultimate price…their lives. All were brave soldiers, who knew what was being asked of them, knew the possibilities, and yet they went anyway, knowing that when they left home to serve, they might not be returning. They felt a calling to serve, and they bravely answered the call. Without the brave soldiers who have answered that call over Veterans1the years, evil would have completely overtaken our world. There is still much evil out there, but it is our prayers and our soldiers that help to keep it at bay.

I am one of the fortunate ones. My dad and other loved ones came home from their wars. I have never felt the sting of losing a soldier in battle, but I have known those who have, and it breaks my heart for them. Each of them bravely moves forward with their lives, carrying with them the memories of their loved one, lost in battle. Little routines like jewelry with their loved one’s name on it, a decal on their car, or a flag in their yard, remind them of their loved one…somehow keeping them close, even though they are gone. They visit the grave, some to talk to their loved one, others to simply sit and reminisce about the past, but all do the things they do for the same reason…to remember their brave soldier, so tragically lost to the ravages of war.

Whether we have lost someone in battle, or our soldier died after leading a long life, each day that is set aside to remember their service is a special day to us. Our RivetersIt doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy the day off or have a barbeque…it just means that we really think about the reasons that we are free to do these things. My own dad loved barbeques, drives to the lake or the mountains, and camping on the long weekends, so why would we not do those things now that he is living in Heaven. Nevertheless, we also take flowers, spinners, wind chimes, and of course, a flag to place on my parents grave, as well as the graves of all our other loved ones. It is a tradition that keeps them in our remembrance, and after all, the most important part of Memorial Day is to remember those we have lost, especially our brave soldiers. So today, we salute all of our soldiers, living and dead. We thank you for your brave service. We will never forget. Happy Memorial Day to all.

Crush GirlsIt all started in the late 1990s, in church. That was when two girls, my cousin, Julie Carlson Soukup and her friend, Melody Cox sang together, and found out that they had a God given musical bond. They found that Julie’s words combined with and complimented Melody’s music. Before long they had put together enough songs to record an album. In 1999, Crush Girls was born when the girls recorded their first album, Broken Dove, at Inland Sea Studios in nearby Superior, Wisconsin.

Julie and Melody knew that they had something special, but that’s not enough to grab the attention of the masses. For that you have to be extraordinary. That’s what Julie and Melody were…extraordinary. Before long Crush Girls had built a level of notoriety that allowed them to perform “some very cool gigs” as Melody would say. They played for the Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura and his staff in a formal setting, and then the staff stayed to continue to enjoy the music around a campfire after the governor and his wife went to bed. They played during Crushthe Blue Angels Show in Duluth, Minnesota, the Harley Davidson Multiple Sclerosis Charity, and the Great American Heartwalk. They had a standing engagement as the house concert group for several months at Giant’s Ridge Golf and Ski Resort, as well as well as regular engagements around the Duluth area, including the Homegrown Festival. Their music continued to grow, and the girls recorded a couple of demos back at the Inland Sea Studios, including headlining song Candy Kisses, which became a crowd favorite.

As with most things, time stepped in and the girls’ took different paths for a time…a time which Melody called “Crush, the Dark Years.” Nevertheless, she says that Julie and their music were certainly never far from her mind. Melody missed Julie and their musical “children.” She continued to play gigs and always included songs from Crush Girls in the set list. Then, time stepped in again and the music resonated in Julie again. The girls reconnected and have been writing again, but on a deeper and more sincere level. The girls still live a few hundred miles apart…Julie in Duluth, Minnesota and Melody in Asheville, North Carolina, but Melody says that Julie will always be her heart’s twin, with the first cut of their Broken Dove album, I Begin In You as their core. She truly believes that their music will continue and will find a way, and I think determination will bring it to pass.
Crush Girls 2
I tend to agree with Melody, because I don’t think Crush Girls are over. Their latest song, Shores Evermore is the expression of the music finding a way. They are making plans to take some time to step back into the studio. As Melody says, “Much more is stirring in the Crush breeze! So stay tuned ~ more Crush songs are coming!” Having taken the time to listen to some of their songs, I can tell you that each and every one is worth waiting for. I think God certainly knew what He was doing when He joined these two musical hearts together. I hope they will indeed find a way to make more of their music, because I think a lot of people would really enjoy it if they did.

Kevin, Josh, and Chris paintball fightingKevin 3For some time now, my daughter Corrie Petersen, her husband, Kevin and their boys, Chris and Josh have loved camping. They camped on Casper Mountain, where the boys used to play paintball, and at Alcova Lake, where they liked to fish. The boys all love fishing, and while Corrie would rather take pictures, they find the lake to be a very relaxing place. This year, however, has been a little bit different for them. While they are still camping at the lake, fishing, taking pictures, and just enjoying the three day Memorial Day weekend, they are one short, because Chris moved to Sheridan, and couldn’t get off work to go along. That is what happens when kids graduate from college, and start their adult life and their career. Their priorities are different now. They have their own plans and dreams. imageWhile they truly miss going camping with the family, that simply isn’t to be right now.

Corrie and Kevin are very proud of the accomplishments Chris has made, and of his job. Chris is a chef at the Open Range restaurant in the historic Sheridan Inn, in Sheridan, Wyoming. Chris loves his job, and he has made lots of friends in Sheridan. As graduation neared, he decided that for now at least, he wanted to stay in Sheridan, so the family is trying to reinvent their camping trips around the reality of being one short. They understand that Chris is not that far away really, because Sheridan is only about two hours from Casper, but when they are camping and he isn’t there, it might as well be a thousand miles away. Being one short is still being one short.

For Corrie and Kevin, this is the beginning of change. Before long, Josh will be through with college and on to his career too. The boys will marry and have families of their own, and the camping trips will again be reinvented to being two short. I hope they will still go out and do the things they love to do, and that on occasion one or both of the boys will join them and later, bring their families too, because the memories they will have of the whole family camping and fishing IMG_8300Jumping Joshtogether will be priceless later on in their lives. I know, because I remember them from my childhood. For me the chances to go camping…or anywhere else with my parents are in the past. I would love to be able to go back in time for a little bit, to roast marshmallows over the campfire and sing campfire songs with the whole family. The memories are sweet, but they make me lonely for my parents too. I hope Chris and Josh will try to get together with their parents once in a while at the campground. They will never be sorry they did, because the memories will be with them forever.

Amy the BabysitterAs kids get older, they start wanting their own money…and I’m talking about more that what an allowance gets them. It seems like the job opportunities follow along certain lines. Boys tend to get jobs mowing laws, or other handyman jobs, but girls tend to get jobs babysitting. I know that this is not always the case…that sometimes girls mow lawns and boys babysit, but the common first jobs are just the opposite of that. For my girls, babysitting was almost expected. I came from a family of sisters with lots of kids in the mix later on, and Bob did too. There always seemed to be aunts or uncles who needed Babysitter Corriesomeone to watch their kids while they worked or went out for the evening for a date night.

I think that babysitting trains a girl to be a mom. I can’t say that lawn mowing trains a boy to be a dad, but it is a job that boys seem to be expected to do. No matter what job a kid did, it was a way of learning responsibility. It taught them about how to manage and save their money…how to set a goal to save up for things they wanted. It showed them that things aren’t always handed to you for free…some things must be earned. Kids who work at a younger age understand this fact early on.

Some kids aren’t taught that lesson, and I think that’s sad. Sooner or later, we all have to earn our own way, Shai and Isaacand what better time to start than when they are young. Kids are so easily swayed one way or another when they are young, and if you ask me, it is far better to sway them on the side of being responsible members of society. As for my babysitters, I am so proud of how responsible each of them have grown up to be. My girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce are great moms, and my granddaughter, Shai Royce will be someday. My grandsons have all grown up to be hard working responsible young men too. I simply couldn’t be more proud of any of them if I tried. I can’t say that the people they turned out to be is a direct result of their first jobs, but that certainly didn’t hurt, because they knew that work has value.

Operation Dynamo 1Not many disastrous wartime defeats could be declared a miraculous success, but in May of 1940, with the Germans advancing quickly toward Dunkirk the French, British, and Canadian troops were trapped between the German forces, and the English Channel. This situation was far more that a disastrous defeat, it was about to get catastrophic, because there appeared to be no way to get the Allied troops out of the way of the German forces, and the Allies were looking at the loss of thousands of soldiers, if something wasn’t done…and done quickly!!

It was at this point that my 15th cousin 0nce removed, Winston Spencer-Churchill showed the world what a great master strategist he really was. He had warned the Allies that “the whole root, the core, and brain of the British Army” was stranded and likely to die in Dunkirk, if they didn’t come up with a way to evacuate them. A plan was devised, and given the code name, Operation Dynamo. This plan was really a God-given way of escape, where their seemed to be no way. In fact, Churchill Operation Dynamo 3called it “a miracle of deliverance.” And so it was.

The plan used every available “ship”…right down to the smallest lifeboat. These vessels…thousands of them, many of which were manned by civilian volunteers, and each of them knew the danger they were putting themselves and their vessels in, but they bravely made the decision to participate anyway. On this day, May 26, 1940, at 19:00 hours, Vice Admiral Ramsey was given the orders and Operation Dynamo commenced. The order was given to proceed, amid information that Boulogne and Calais had been captured. This meant that the only port available was Dunkirk. Ramsey estimated that only 45,000 troops could be rescued. Lord John Galt had ordered the troops to retreat to the sea. As the Belgian army was defeated, King Leopold asked the Germans for an armistice. This dragged out the negotiations, and bought the Allies 24 hours to get their troops out.

The rescue was slow and, in fact took days. The weather prevented the Luftwaffe from attacking for a time, but that didn’t last long. Within a matter of days the weather cleatred and the Germans set out to try to stop the Operation Dynamo 2rescue that they had not realized was of the magnitude it was. From their attack, several ships wer sunk, but that still didn’t stop the seccess of the operation. By the time the last boat left Dunkirk harbor, about 338,226 soldiers (198,229 British and 139,997 French) were evacuated by a fleet of 860 boats.

The evacuation was dubbed Operation Dynamo, because during World War One, Dover Castle was powered with electricity by a dynamo located beneath the castle. The castle was used as naval headquarters during World War Two, and the dynamo room is where British Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay planned the Dunkirk rescue mission. It is also the place where Ramsay briefed Churchill while rescue efforts were underway.

CampingCassie and the kidsThere are all kinds of people in this world. There are the high stress movers and shakers, and then there are those people, like my niece, Cassie Iverson, who like living life at a slower pace. For many of those who love the simple life, like Cassie, that means loving all things nature. Living in northern Wyoming, with Powell’s wide open spaces, and yet the Big Horn Mountains not too far away, nature is simply all around Cassie. She loves taking photographs of flowers and wildlife, so the mix of nature around her is perfect for her hobby. Cassie has also branched out, and has taken a few family photos for friends, and of course, her family. Her work is very creative and amazing.

Being a nature girl, means that Cassie loves things like camping with her family, fishing, and horses. Cassie and her husband, Chris take their kids, Lucas and Zoey out to the river to go fishing often. Not only is fishing a great pastime, for those who like the chance to slow life down a little bit, but it is also a healthy way to feed your family without spending a lot of money. Cassie’s top priority is her family. She is a great mom and her children, while very different in their abilities, have flourished under her loving care.

As I look through Cassie’s pictures of horses, her love for them is very evident. I would not be surprised if, at some time in the future, Cassie and Chris buy a piece of land somewhere to raise their own horses. It isn’t an inexpensive venture, but I think that most people who raise horses…or even one horse, find it to be very rewarding. It is also a great hobby for the children when they are a little older, and a great way for the family Cassie's wildflowerHorseto spend time together. I can see them taking the kids on a camping trip using horses as the way to get there.

I think that many of us allow our lives to get so caught up in activities, running here and there, and worrying about what everyone else thinks, that we forget to simply live…or maybe to live simply. Maybe we don’t understand just how freeing the simple life can be…but Cassie knows, because she is living that dream. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Shai & CarrieThis morning, at my office, my granddaughter, Shai Royce was telling our co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp and me about a friend of hers who made her dinner last night, and just how good it was. They had baked chicken, and apparently it was amazing. Then, she said that the same friend was going to make her homemade Macaroni and Cheese. Well, that got the conversation on food going. I mentioned just how good, homemade Macaroni and Cheese was because it used real cheese, and not the powder or fake cheese. From there, it was a free for all. We talked about our favorite foods….like Lobster Mac and Cheese from Outback Steakhouse or Kentucky Fried Chicken, but for me, none could compare to my Mom’s cooking.

My very favorite food was my mom’s fried chicken. Oh my gosh…Mom made the best fried chicken on this planet. It was so good, that you couldn’t help but overeat. I Thanksgiving Dinnersuppose that in the arena of dieting that is the reality for most of us these days, this wasn’t such a great subject to get on, but it sure brought back the memories of meals at home, when I was a kid…filled with energy, and no need to watch what I ate. I remember so many of the meals at home. Tuna Casserole, made as only my mom could, was always a big hit. I could eat the whole pan of it, if my sisters hadn’t felt the need to eat too. Of course, Mom’s fried chicken could not be topped…not even by Colonel Sanders at KFC, and I do like KFC. Holiday dinners were so good, and we ate so much that all we could do afterward was to lay on the couch to let it settle. Sunday breakfasts were always a special treat. The whole house smelled of bacon and eggs, and our stomachs growled waiting for that moment when we could all Tiny Momsit down to eat. I miss those times. Those were the days when all was well with our world, and we, as kids, still innocently thought it always would be.

Those were the true days of Comfort Food. Days when we could eat anything we wanted, and Mom’s cooking was by far the best. In fact, nobody else’s cooking could compare. Whenever we hear of the word, Comfort Food these days, we immediately think of some frozen dinner that is being advertised, but real Comfort Food…well, that came from our mothers’ kitchens, because there is more to Comfort Food than just the food. There is great comfort in knowing that our parents love us and want to provide for us in the best possible way. The meals they provide are their way of showing just how big their love for us is. Without the love that our mothers, or anyone else who loved us that much, put into each and every meal, there would be no comfort to it. It would just be food.

Mom aAs I was watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” on television the other day, Marie, Ray’s mom planted a kiss on each of her sons’ foreheads…in bright red lipstick. That took me back to the many times my sisters and I got a kiss from our mom in bright red lipstick, and walked away trying to get the lipstick off of our face. We would immediately go to one of our family members and ask if we had removed all the lipstick. Of course, Mom, who always knew that we would have her lipstick on our face, simply grinned about it, as we tried to wipe away the cherry red lipstick. Still, how could you really get angry at her for it. It was a show of her love for us.

Mom always did wear cherry red lipstick, even when the style was light pinks, and of course, her girls wouldn’t be caught dead in that color…even if it was in style. Nevertheless, the color did suit Young LoveMom’s face and her coloring, so I suppose for her it was the right color. We did try several times to talk her into a lighter color, but even if we gave it to her, she went back to her signature cherry red before very long. I don’t think it was because she wanted to kiss it onto our cheeks, but rather that Dad liked that color, or maybe she just thought Dad liked it. They did come from a different era than we did, and I happen to know that my husband would rather I didn’t wear any lipstick at all. He’s not real fond of Chapstick either. I guess women wear lipstick for their own feeling toward their looks…as with any makeup really. Still, I can’t speak for Dad. Maybe he did like it.

As I looked at the bright red lipstick mark on both Raymond and Robert’s faces, I just had to laugh, because I could must see all the little boys in our family making faces and wiping of the offending lipstick, before anyone could see it, and since many of her kisses to then were planted in church or at some family gathering, the chance of anyone seeing such a humiliating kiss on the Our Familycheek, were very high. Most boys go through those stages anyway, where a kiss from their mom, aunt, or grandma is just a horrifying experience, so to have it happen in front of people…oh my gosh…it’s just horrible!!! Still, even my husband and brothers-in-law, were not immune…Mom was an equal opportunity kisser. Looking back on those events now that Mom is in Heaven, however…well, it has a tendency to make me just miss her all that much more. What I wouldn’t give for just one more kiss from my mom, and I know that everyone in my family feels exactly the same way. I have to think that I would leave that cherry red lipstick right there on my cheek…or at the very least, take a picture of it, so I could look back on it once in a while, and remember what a loving mom I was blessed with.

On the SlideSince losing over 330 pounds, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg has basically entered her second childhood. It all started when she decided that she needed to go and play on the playground…or at least slide on the slide. Now, she has set herself a goal of visiting every park in Casper at some point this year…including walking around the parks. She found an outdoor exercise bike, and after many attempts over the course of the last two years, finally was able to make it work. When her niece posted pictures of her children sledding, Brenda told them that they should come to Casper next winter so she could go sledding with them. These things are not the activities of most life-long sedentary and overweight people, but then that isn’t who Brenda is…anymore. She is a vibrant, active 50+ year old, who got a second chance, and she has no intention of wasting it. Brenda soon became a woman on a mission…a get healthy mission.

Checking it outIt has been a long journey for Brenda, but not nearly as long as it would have been for most people in her shoes. Most people who find out that they have several health issues, all caused by obesity and all reversible, would have said that the challenge was more than they could face. The mere though of healthy eating and an active lifestyle makes most people in that situation feel tired and hungry. And most of those people give up before they ever get started…but not Brenda. In all reality, Brenda was no exception to that general rule, but she dug down deep within herself, and decided once and for all, that she was not going to let this beat her, and she was not going to die at 50 years old. In many ways, that was about the last time Brenda acted like someone with all the health concerns she had. and now she simply doesn’t act her age at all. It’s like she has age regressed…and that’s ok. If you missed out on an active childhood, and you had the chance to go back in time and change that…wouldn’t you do it too. Brenda simply had to do it.
New Bike
In recent months, Brenda has been obsessed with the idea of riding a bicycle again. She wasn’t sure that would be a possibility given the condition of her knees right now. Nevertheless, she has high hopes, and so she decided to find a way to ride a bike in the meantime. She bought a bicycle…purple, of course. She took the pedals off of it, and for now, she sits on the seat and walks the bike along the trails. She calls it a strider, and I don’t know for sure if that is the name of the bike, or what you call one that has no pedals, but either way, she can now ride a bike…another thing she didn’t really do much as a kid. And another step back into her second childhood. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!