Family

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Four years ago, my mom, Collene Spencer; my sister, Cheryl Masterson; and I took a trip back to Superior, Wisconsin, which is where Cheryl and I were born. While we were there, we were invited to Julie Carlson Soukup’s home for dinner. My mom knew the parents of these cousins who had welcomed us into their home. Cheryl and I did too, but it had been a number of years since we had seen them, and certainly, most of the cousins themselves were totally new to us. We watched as the Carlson kids brought their mother, Carol Carlson to the dinner. She had been dealing with Lewy Body Dementia, which is much like Alzheimer’s disease, but with the added issue of motor problems. These kids were so careful with her, and so determined that she be able to come for this visit. It brought tears to my eyes to see such love. Having been a caregiver for a long time, I knew how much work caregiving is, but they didn’t care what it took. She was their mom.

I didn’t know Carol well, but over the years, I watched as the Carlson family centered life around her. They took her so many places, and everywhere they went was an event, documented with lots of pictures. They were, of course, building their memories, knowing that the future was uncertain. They didn’t want to think about the day when Carol would no longer be with them. Right before we came for that visit, they had just had to move Carol into an nursing home, because she could no longer live on her own. Once again they showed her the greatest love they could have for her. They told her about her life, the life that had begun to slip away from her memory files. They needed to preserve it for her somehow.

When Carol passed away, on August 2nd, 2018, I began to recall the many beautiful things the Carlson family had done for her, but I realized that I didn’t really know much about her life. I wanted her children to share some of their favorite memories with me, because I knew that I wanted to write a tribute to their beautiful mother. They decided that they would send me a copy of the letter written by her oldest daughter, Laurie Carlson Stepp at the time they moved Carol into the nursing home. The children put together a scrap book filled with letters from her children and grandchildren, poems she had written, stories about her, such as her sayings…things they had heard her say all their lives, and pictures for her to see. It was their gift to their mother…her memories. They were giving them back to her.

I could never begin to write her memories with the beauty that her children and grandchildren did. Their memories of her were their gift of love to her, and that is beyond special. Nevertheless, I want to try to highlight some of the wonderful things Carol Schumacher Carlson did in her lifetime. The reality is that Carol almost didn’t exist. Laurie tells that story in her letter to her mom, “Your parents, Fred and Anna Schumacher already had one lovely daughter, Beatrice. When she was born, there were serious difficulties and the doctor told Fred that he would have to choose between his wife and the baby. He chose his wife……she chose the baby! They were both saved, but the doctor cautioned against having any more children. So that is why you Carol were a miracle baby.” The faith of her parents brought about Carol’s life, as well as nine siblings after her. The letter told of the help Carol gave her mom with her younger siblings, Leslie, Carl, Margaret, Gilbert, Delwin, Noreen, Bernice, Bob, and Dale.

Carol was a hard worker all her life. She worked at Hills Brothers Dairy, then for a lawyer in Billings Park babysitting their children, as a waitress at the Princess Sweet Shop, at Phoenix Hosiery, at Twin Ports Dairy…where she did office work, and at Kempenski Glass Company. All these were jobs, but her real life’s work was to be the mother of her children. Carol married Donald John Carlson on August 21, 1954, and they would be blessed with Donny, Laurie, Steve, Dave, Jim and twins – Julie and Jeanne. Carol also had bonus children, Bonnie and Randy, from Don’s first marriage. Carol was a housewife, and very good at her job. They grew a big garden, canned and froze enough food to keep the family in vegetables most of the year. Their dad would come home and there was always a flurry of activity and fun. Carol cooked, cleaned, sewed, and took care of her family, and still had time to help out others too. The children always came home from school to some kind of homemade snack, but more importantly…they came home to their mom, Carol, who welcomed them with open arms. Carol baked 5 loaves of bread every day and packed countless lunches. She sewed clothes for her family and often surprised them with something new that they needed after staying up all night working with her sewing machine until it was finished. She made clothes, quilts, tents, and just about anything that could be made with cloth for her family and for her grandchildren too. She made Indian costumes with real tepees, which have been used by most of her grandsons. She made a pair of sandals for Jon and Josh when they were starting to walk, Prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, suits, pants, skirts, shirts, blouses…the family was always wearing something Carol had made. They have always felt so blessed to have Carol in their lives.

When I set out to write this tribute to Carol Schumacher Carlson, I wanted it to be about the amazing things she did for those she loved. Little did I know that it would be about the amazing children she raised, but in reality, it had to be about her amazing children, because that was what Carol was all about. Her whole life was spent giving of herself to those she loved and cared about. It was Carol, who along with her husband, Don raised these kids to be the loving, responsible adults that they have become. That, in itself, is a tribute to Carol. Her hard work for her family, was her gift to them, and they were her reward…her legacy.

My grand-niece, Aleesia Spethman is the youngest child of her parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, and the youngest grandchild of my sister, Cheryl Masterson. Aleesia is a bubbly six year old girl who is getting ready to start first grade on September 4th. She is quite excited about the coming school year, but she is ok with it not starting for a couple of weeks. Aleesia has lots left to do with her summer, and then she will get back into the swing of things for school. She is a very active little girl and she loves to spend time with her parents, brothers, and her grandma.

After spending the day at home or doing things with her mom and brothers, Aleesia often spends time with her grandma in the evening. They love to hang out and watch movies or talk. It really isn’t about what they do, but rather that they do it together. They are just very close. On Thursday nights, my sister; her daughter, Liz; Aleesia; and I go out to dinner. It is our chance to do something fun…a girls’ night out sort of thing. Aleesia always feels special that she gets to hang out with the grown-ups. We always have a great time. Aleesia keeps us laughing, and we always have a great time.

As much as Aleesia loves to hang out with her grandma, she loves her family, and before long, she is ready to go home. Aleesia hates it when her grandma goes out of town, and she misses her very much, but she would really miss her family if she went along with grandma, so she doesn’t do that yet. Maybe someday. She is the kind of girl who really wants everyone she loves to be in the same place. In fact, if she had her way, she would probably have her grandma move in with her family, then she would never have to be separated from any of them. Aleesia is a little girl who has a deep love for her family. She might fight with her brothers, but they are her brothers, and she loves them. Of course, they love her too, and they treat her like she is a little princess. She really is, you know. She is the little princess that they had waited for a very long time. Today is Aleesia’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Aleesia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When we think of rain showers, most of us think of a pleasant spring or summer afternoon when the day is hot, and the rain cools things down, and everything smells so good, but on a beautiful April day in 1897 in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, and particularly in the town of Palmyra, the shower they received was not so pleasant. That morning, after a shower overnight, residents woke up expecting to see puddles of rainwater here and there, but instead the sight they saw was appalling. It was like nothing they had ever seen before.

On the ground, the cars, and every other surface in the area were thousands of worms…and they weren’t worms anyone knew about. They were a strange species that was unknown to the area. There was no place that the people could walk without stepping on the disgusting worms. People even had them in barrels that were designed to catch rainwater for drinking, so the drinking water was compromised too. Finally an expert fisherman and gardener, named Captain McDonald, told the people that they were Gilt-Edge Worms. He said that he could tell by their yellow and gold spots and rings. He said that he had used these particular worms for bait while fishing in Ireland.

Well, that was one thing, but Wisconsin is nowhere near Ireland, so how did they get there? Well, the people started to speculate that somehow the worms must have drifted across the ocean in a cloud, but when you think about it, that is an odd thought. Nevertheless, after having watched a story on The Weather Channel about a town that had fish fall out of the sky one time, and that they thought it might have been from a water spout that had scooped them up from a nearby water source, I suspect that something similar might have happened, although I don’t know if the same thing could have happened with a tornado over land, because I doubt if the Gilt-Edge Worm is a water dwelling creature. I don’t suppose they will ever know exactly how the incredible worm shower happened for sure, but while it was a disgusting situation at the time, the townspeople soon decided that they might as well make the best of it, and go fishing!!

The captain told them that Trout found the worms particularly tasty, and hard to resist, especially in the muddy waters after a rainfall, so in very short order, the townspeople decided that it must have been Providence (another word for a gift from God) that brought the worms to their area so miraculously overnight, when trout fishing in the nearby lakes and streams was a universal pastime. So, after finding out about the worms value, I’m sure the people were a little more careful about where they were stepping, so they didn’t kill the worms that might help them catch more trout.

When the automobile first came out, driving them safely wasn’t the only difficulty. The early years of the automobile, found drivers using iron hand cranks to start the internal combustion process that powered the engines on their cars. Getting them started took great hand and arm strength, and the system was not without certain risks. Drivers who forgot to turn the ignition off before turning the crank, could be surprised when the car backfired or rolled forward. You may not know it, but at that time most vehicles had no brakes. Clearly a better system was needed, and in 1911 Cadillac head Henry M Leland gave Charles F Kettering the task of developing one. Kettering was the co-founder of Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO) in Dayton, Ohio.

Before founding DELCO with his partner Edward Deeds in 1909, Kettering worked at the National Cash Register Company. While there, he helped develop the first electric cash register. I’m sure that was what called attention to him when Leland was looking for the right inventor for his project. Kettering drew on his experience with the cash register, when approaching his work with automobiles. The new invention wasn’t that big a leap from the cash register either. Just as the touch of a button had started a motor that opened the drawer of the cash register, Kettering would eventually use a key to turn on his self-starting motor. The self-starter was introduced in the 1912 Cadillac, patented by Kettering in 1915, when he was issued U.S. Patent No. 1,150,523 for his “engine-starting device,” the first electric ignition device for automobiles, on August 17, 1915.

The device worked so well that by the 1920s, it would come standard on nearly every new automobile. The device made cars easier and safer to operate, especially for women. The new self-starting engine was a huge hit, and caused a big jump in sales. The new engine was responsible for the fast-growing automobile culture in America. United Motors Corporation, which would become General Motors, bought DELCO in 1916. Kettering was the vice president and director of research at GM from 1920 to 1947. The self-starting engine wasn’t the only invention Kettering headed-up. Other important auto-related innovations developed during Kettering’s tenure were quick-drying automotive paint, spark plugs, leaded gasoline, shock absorbers, the automatic transmission, four-wheel brakes, the diesel engine and safety glass. He helped develop the refrigerant Freon, used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and the Kettering home in Dayton was the first in the country to be air-conditioned. In the realm of medicine, Kettering created a treatment for venereal disease and an incubator for premature infants, and in 1945 he and longtime General Motors head Alfred P Sloan established the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York City. Charles F Kettering died in 1958, having made great contributions toward the improvement of many lives.

The other day, while reading an article about notable Native Americans, I came across a name that was familiar to me, but really didn’t seem like a Native American name. The name was Renville, the same name as my grand-nephew, James Renville. Immediately, I wondered if there might be a connection between Chief Gabriel Renville and my grand-nephew. The search didn’t take very long, before I had my answer. Gabriel Renville is my grand-nephew, James’ 1st cousin 7 times removed. I find that to be extremely amazing to think that James is related to an Indian chief. With that information, I wanted to fine out more abut this man.

Chief Gabriel Renville was a mixed-blood Santee Sioux—his father was half French and his mother half-Scottish. He was born in April of 1825 at Big Stone Lake, South Dakota. Renville was the treaty chief of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Santee tribes and signed the 1867 treaty, which established the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation. One source called him a Champion of Excellence.

He was careful to protect his people as much as he could, and was also instrumental in saving the lives of many white captives. During the 1862 Uprising, Renville opposed Little Crow and was influential in keeping many of the Santee out of the war. He lost a large amount of property, including horses appropriated by the hostile savages, or destroyed in consequence of his position to their murderous course. Renville served as chief of scouts for General Sibley during the campaign against the Sioux in 1863.

Even though Chief Renville was an ally of the whites, it didn’t help him when he settled on the reservation. The government agent there, Moses N. Adams, considered him hostile. Renville was the leader of the “scout party” which was in conflict with the “good church” Indians. I’m sure that was common in those days. Renville preserved many of the traditional Santee customs of polygamy and dancing, and he ignored Christianity, but he was not opposed to economic progress and he and his followers became successful farmers on the reservation. However, the Sisseton agent favored the “church” Indians.

Renville and other leaders of the traditional Indians accused Adams of discriminating against them in the disposition of supplies and equipment. He said Adams favored the idle church-goers instead of encouraging them to work….a situation not unlike the current welfare system. Agent Adams considered Renville a detriment and removed the chief form the reservation executive board which Adams had organized to carry out his policies. It was a move that was considered extreme. In 1874 Renville was finally successful in securing a government investigation of the Adam’s activities. The outcome of the investigation was an official censure of Adams. Chief Renville continued to practice the old Santee customs, yet he encouraged the Indians to farm. This progressive influence was greatly missed after his death in August 1892.

When a child is born, you have no idea what the future will bring for them. You want the best for them, and you pray that all their dreams will come true, but you always wonder if their dream will be to do something that they are not suited for. As their parent, all you can do is let nature take it’s course. Then suddenly, they are almost all grown up, and there, standing in front of you is everything you ever dreamed they would become and more. That is exactly where my niece, Susan Griffith finds herself today as she looks at where her daughter, Jala Satterwhite is now.

Jala starts 10th grade next week, which is a huge shock to her mom. Jala has been an amazing athlete in school. As a freshman, she was in swimming, indoor track, and outdoor track. She actually lettered in track last year as a Freshman, which is pretty rare…and very impressive!! Her parents are hoping that one of her athletic skills will get her into the college of her dreams. Jala doesn’t know yet what college that will be or what she will study, but she has many skills that she could take and make into a great career. Her future is definitely bright!!

Of course, college is a little way off, but it will be here before she knows it. For now, Jala is looking forward to getting her driver’s license next week, and hopefully a job shortly after that, so she will be able to pay for the fuel. That last part might have been what her parents want, because as you know, gasoline is expensive, and we all know that once they can drive, kids like to be on the go as much as possible. Of course, that’s helpful for their parents too, because the kids can run errands and transport younger siblings too.

Jala is growing up to be such a great person…the pride and joy of her parents. She still enjoys riding her horse, Lilly, of course, and hunting with her step-dad, Josh Griffith. Hanging out with her friends is obviously a big thing for her as well. She is very social, and has great friends. Today is Jala’s birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Most often, when we think of the early Americans, and their settlements, we think about the settlers who came over from Europe, but there were, of course, the many Indian tribes that existed here first. I’m not going to dispute whether the Indians or the White Man have more right to be here, because I truly believe that we should all be able to co-exist here after all these years, and that while treaties were broken many times, we have more than likely paid for this land a number of times, given the money that has been, and continues to be paid to the Native Americans. The oldest known culture in the United States was the Pueblo Indians, who lived in the Southwestern United States. Their name is Spanish for “stone masonry village dweller.” They are believed to be the descendants of three major cultures…the Mogollon, Hohokam, and Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi) Indians. I’m not sure how they would have come to be here, unless their ancestors were here first, but that is how the historians see it.

Over the years, the Ancient Puebloans, who had been a nomadic, hunter-gathering society, evolved into a sedentary culture. They made their homes in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. The Puebloans continued to hunt, but they also expanded to agriculture. They grew maze, corn, squash, and beans. They also raised turkeys and even developed a fairly complex irrigation system. They took up basket weaving and pottery, and became quite skilled in both. About this time, they began building the buildings we think about when we think of the Pueblo Indians…villages, often on top of high mesas or in hollowed-out natural caves at the base of canyons. These multiple-room dwellings and apartment like complexes, designed with stone or adobe masonry, were the forerunner of the later pueblos.

Sadly, even with their successful life changes, the Ancient Puebloans way of life declined in the 1300’s, probably due to drought and inter-tribal warfare. They migrated south, primarily into New Mexico and Arizona, becoming what is today known as the Pueblo people. For hundreds of years, these Pueblo descendants lived a similar lifestyle to their ancestors. They continued to survive by hunting and farming, and also building “new” apartment-like structures, sometimes several stories high. These new structures were made of cut sandstone faced with adobe, which is a combination of earth mixed with straw and water. Sometimes, the adobe was poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks to build walls that are often several feet thick. The buildings had flat roofs, which served as working or resting places, as well as observation points to watch for approaching enemies and view ceremonial occasions. For better defense, the outer walls generally had no doors or windows, but instead, window openings in the roofs, with ladders leading into the interior.

Each family unit consisted of a single room of the building unless the family grew too large. Then side-rooms were sometimes added. The houses of the pueblo were usually built around a central, open space or plaza in the middle of which was a “kiva,” a sunken chamber used for religious purposes. Each pueblo was an independent and separate community. The different pueblos shared similarities in language and customs, but each pueblo had its own chief, and sometimes two chiefs, a summer and winter chief, who alternated. Most important affairs, such was war, hunting, religion, and agriculture, however, were governed by priesthoods or secret societies. Each pueblo was almost a separate country.

My grand-nephew, Matthew Masterson is growing up so fast. According to his mom, Dustie Masterson, Matthew is a real man boy these days. He is very protective of his mom and his sisters. When his dad, my nephew, Rob Masterson had to go to South Carolina for training for work, it ended u being at the same time that Matthew was supposed to be staying in Fort Laramie, Wyoming with a friend of his. As Matthew thought about his mom and sisters at home without a man in the house, he just couldn’t stand it. And his mom secretly felt the same way. Matt called his mom and asked her to drive to Fort Laramie and pick him up. The visit with his friend would have to be another time. So right after she dropped Rob at the airport, she made the drive back up to pick him up. Matt stuck to his mom and sisters like glue, even going outside with his mom when she went out to smoke. When his dad is not home, Matt considers himself the family protector. He is learning to shoot and to be safe with guns, so he can keep his family safe.

Matt is turning 13, and going into 7th grade this year. It’s hard to believe he is getting so grown up. Matt is totally into online gaming with his friends from school. He really likes Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Siege 6 and Fortnight. Now, if only he can remember not to “team kill” and get banned for another week. I guess it’s easy to get carried away sometimes. Nevertheless, I’m sure that it won’t take him too long to become a master at both games. Gaming if great, but Matt likes to cook too, and when given the choice between cooking with his mom and gaming…well cooking is the only thing that Matt will immediately flip off the Xbox for.

Matt’s family recently moved into a new home, and now he has his own room, which he really loves. One surprising thing came about with having his own room. Suddenly Matt is meticulous about keeping his room clean. Now that, for most boys is a amazing thing, of course, it all gets back to normal for boys when you hear that along with having his room clean, he also works very hard to keep it girl free!! I guess it’s one thing to be protective of his sisters, but totally another to share his space with them. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Balcerzak married my niece, Chantel in June of 2002, but they had known each other since childhood. We all loved Dave from the beginning. He is a big teddy bear, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He fit into the family instantly, and we have all been so pleased to have him in the family. Dave is a man of considerable technical talent, and has been there for those of us who have been in need of repairs on computers, but that is the least of the reasons that we love Dave. When he married my niece, Chantel, Dave became Dad to her kids, Jake Harman and Siara Harman Olsen. He was the only dad they really ever had, even though they had a dad. Dave was there for the long haul. He didn’t leave when the going got rough. He was there when there were tears and broken hearts, and through the difficult teenage years, and it was Dave who was their dad at their weddings, who walked Siara down the isle. Dave is the man they call Dad, because he is the man who has been their dad, and dad to his own two kids, Keifer Balcerzak and Katy Balcerzak Collett. Dave is a dad at heart. He was the dad that he should be for his kids, and the dad he didn’t have to be for Chantel’s kids. And now he is grandpa to the four grandchildren they have given them.

A few months ago, Dave had some health problems that put him in the hospital with heart problems. While there, he had a stroke. That was really the beginning of a miracle for Dave. Miraculously, a CNA quickly caught that something wasn’t right. All Dave said was that his big toe hurt, but she saw so much more. Dave was quickly treated for a stroke, and then for an irregular heartbeat, that was the cause of the stroke. They tried shocking his heart, but the rhythm wouldn’t hold. Finally, they did a Catheter Ablation procedure. Basically it is a procedure that destroys the area of the heart muscle that is causing the arrhythmias. It sounds like a drastic measure to fix arrhythmia in the heart, but it worked. Within a couple of weeks, Dave was back to normal, and able to walk Siara down the isle at her wedding. It was a miraculous moment, and one he wasn’t sure was going to happen. He would not have had the stamina to do that had his heart not been repaired. Once again, Dave was able to be the dad, he didn’t have to be, but chose to be. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! We give thanks to God that you are still here with us. Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, JD Parmely is a car fanatic. I have never known anyone who owns more cars than he does, and the number keeps getting bigger. I suppose, that as the saying goes, “to each his own” really applies here. Cars are JD’s thing, and he can often be found out in his garage tinkering on one of them…sometimes until 2:00 in the morning. It is what makes him happy, and it has from the time he was old enough to think about cars. JD knew from a young age that he wanted to be a mechanic, and so he went to college in Arizona for his training, and now, not only does he work on his own cars but he is a mechanic by trade too. They say that when you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. That certainly is true for JD.

It would be my guess that the only job JD loves more than being a mechanic, is being an uncle. Since the first time he became an uncle, he was in love with that whole part of his life. JD’s brother, Eric Parmely and sister-in-law, Ashley now have three children, so JD is uncle to Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen. He takes his role very seriously, spending time with them whenever he can, and I’m sure that he is considered a great blessing to them. JD has a heart of gold, and those kids all know how much their uncle loves them, and like most uncles, they have him wrapped around their little fingers already. JD has a soft heart in that area, and I’m pretty sure that those kids know it too.

JD is the kind of guy you can always count on. He has been a ready help to his brothers and uncles whenever they asked him. He has also been good to his dad, even taking him into his home after he had a stroke, and helping him with the demands of his new health status. Having been a caregiver myself for 13 years, I can say that taking care of someone is no easy job, and those who do it deserve our respect. All in all, JD live a very busy life, sometimes it can wear a person out just thinking about it, but it’s what makes him happy, so that’s all that matters. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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