Family

Thanksgiving is a time to remember all your blessings, and where they came from. As I looked at this picture of our family at Thanksgiving, so long ago, is occurs to me just how blessed we are. This picture shows a pretty small group, but the reality is that our family has exploded with growth since that time. Most families do grow and change over the years. Children grow up, get married and have children…the blessings continue to grow. We have so much to be thankful for. Most of us live in the area, and have had the chance to stay very close. Our children know each other, and their children do too. We go to church as a family…taking up 3 rows of chairs these days.

Yes, there are some who have gone home to be with the Lord…Dad, Alyssa, Laila, Nancy, Marlyce, as well as grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins, and we miss them very much, but we are thankful that we will see them again, and that the Lord comforts us concerning those have gone home, and gives us the strength to move forward, in spite of the pain. And, I am thankful that my mom and my in-laws are all doing well, and I pray that continues for a long, long time. And I’m thankful that the rest of the family is also in good health. We are so blessed in that way, and I thank God for that.

So often, we dwell on our problems or disappointments, and forget to notice our blessings. Today, I want to focus on all the positive things in my life, and all the loved ones I have been blessed with. I want to focus on the freedoms we have, simply because we live in a country that values those freedoms. I am thankful for the men who have fought and died to win those freedoms. And mostly, I am thankful for my savior, Jesus, who came and died for me so I could have eternal life.

We all have so much to be thankful for. It is my hope today, that all is well with you and yours, and that you never take your blessings for granted. I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

Have you ever noticed that in really old photographs, the people never smiled? I have often wondered why that is. I mean, I know that there were certain remote tribes of people who were deathly afraid of having their picture taken, because they thought that it stole your spirit. I really don’t think anyone thought that in the 1800’s when these old pictures were taken, so why is it that no one smiles…and some people actually look mad. Even the kids didn’t smile…not one! How do you get that many people to scowl all at the same time?

I know that life was hard in the old west, but it couldn’t have been that hard, or everyone would have packed it in and moved back to the east. The work was harder, so maybe everyone was just tired, still if you make yourself, just about anyone can paste on a smile for a few minutes, especially when you did know in advance that you were going to have your picture taken. I don’t know, it has just always amazed me that people would pay good money to have their picture taken, and then scowl in it, so it looks more like it was a photo for a wanted poster.

But, after giving this question a lot of thought, I think I have finally come up with the answer. I believe that these families like most families these days spent several hours arguing with their darling little ones, and by the time it was their turn, everyone was in such a fowl mood that no one felt like smiling. Wow!! Now if that is the reason, then it sounds just like group pictures of today. I can’t tell you how many times we have tried to get all the kids or grandkids to smile at the same time, much less to stop fighting long enough to avoid putting everybody in a terrible mood. So, who’s to say that those families didn’t have the same problem. Ok, maybe not.

We may never know exactly why all the pictures taken of families in the 1800’s were taken with a straight face or even a scowl, but what we do know is that by the early 1900’s, people realized that the best pictures are taken when the subjects smile, and look like they enjoy life and want to remember this great day. When history looks back on your pictures, what will it see? Why not a smile?

My dad always loved teaching his family about the history of this great country. He and my mom decided early on that they wanted to show us the country we lived in, and they most certainly did. We traveled from one coast to the other, from the north to the south. Dad would stop at every historical marker he could find along the way. We would get tired of stopping at all the markers, but from that we learned about things like the Oregon Trail…a trail that I’m pretty sure I have seen every marker for…but one that I know all about too.

He took us to Gettysburg, and we walked through the battlefield in hushed silence, because you can almost physically feel that this is hallowed ground…that the men who died there…who shed their blood to purchase freedom for all men…changed that place. Once you have been there and walked that place, you can never feel the same about a war that threatened to rip our country apart. And yet we remained, strong and determined.

Dad told us about the old west, and the cost of settling this country. Families that traveled by covered wagon, westward to find a better life for their families, because there was room to grow out in the west. Room to farm and ranch and carve out a living that was unavailable in the east, which was much too crowded. The settlers were people who longed to find out what was over the next mountain top. Adventurers who wanted freedom to make their own rules.

He taught us about the gold rush in the Black Hills, and then showed us how so much history still remains in the Black Hills. It became a place our family loved to go, and to this day Bob and I go over every year. It just has a hold on me…a draw that I can’t totally explain. I am always in awe there. The beauty of the hills, memorials, the 1880 train, and the old west shows in Keystone. I never get tired of being there.

Dad and Mom took us and later our kids to so many places and showed us so many things. It is something we will always be grateful for, and that we can never thank them enough for. They gave us something no teacher or classroom could have taught us…they gave us a little piece of history.

I was looking through some of my mom’s old grade school pictures, and the names on the back. I find myself amazed at the number of names that are familiar to me for one reason or another. I have lived most of my life right here in Casper, having moved here when I was 3. My mom has also lived here most of her life, with the exception of the first 6 years of her marriage, so I guess it stands to reason that there might be a name or two from her classmates that might have stayed on in Casper.

It was just somewhat unexpected I guess, although I don’t know why. Some names, of course, were common enough so that I wasn’t absolutely sure, but many were names I had heard…from my friends. One is the mother of a girl who was my best friend in junior high. Another was the mother of someone who was a client of mine a few years ago. Another was the same last name as a mortal enemy, later turned friend from junior high. And there was one who was related to someone I bowled with.

A name that really amazed me, although it probably shouldn’t have is most likely the daughter of a man who developed part of this town, because there is a street named after her, and again the name is not a common name and the street carries both her first and last name, so what are the odds that she isn’t the same girl? Pretty slim I’d say.

As I looked at the faces…kind of searching for a face that looked like one I use to know…it occurred to me that I was really looking at something very special. I was looking at the past, and the past had met my past, and who knows, maybe that past might just meet the future, because who knows how many of the children of those kids have stayed on here in Casper. It is totally possible that while the names might change due to marriage, many of the families remain the same, and my children’s children might go to school with the great grandchildren of classmates of my mom’s…as the past meets the future.

In mid 1951, my father-in-law was hired to work on the railroad in Dalin, Montana. It was a necessary job change for him, since the prior job he had been working couldn’t seem to pay it’s employees, and you just can’t raise a family with no money, nor can you continue to work for someone on the hope that they will finally pay you. I’m quite certain that this job felt like they were rich, after the struggles of the previous situation.

At the time of the move to Dalin, they had only their daughter, Marlyce. During their 5 years in Dalin, the family would grow by two more children. Debbie was born in 1953, and my future husband, Bob was born in 1954. Both Debbie and Bob were born in Miles City, Montana, although Bob was almost born on the road between Billings, where the family had gone to spend the day, and Miles City. Thankfully they made it in time, and Bob was born in the hospital in Miles City.

During the years they lived there, the family lived in a house that was owned by the railroad. There were actually two houses on the property. A big house where the boss lived, and a smaller house where my future in-laws lived. But the interesting thing about the property was that there were also two railroad cabooses that had been turned into homes for some of the other railroad employees.

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, that would be an interesting idea. I’m sure someone decided that it would be an inexpensive way to house the employees who didn’t have big families, and it did serve it purpose, as you can see in the picture. The kids must have thought it was interesting, because they liked to play around there, although maybe they never gave it much thought. When I look at it from the future, it seems like a very different kind of life than any I would have imagined, but I suppose that many things we take for granted today would seem quite strange to the people of the past.

Trains have always held an interest for me, and I especially liked the caboose, so I’m quite sure I would have wanted to see what they were like inside, and maybe the kids did get a chance to see for themselves, I don’t know for sure. I also think I might have found it somewhat interesting to live in a caboose, at least in the short term. It would undoubtedly get to be pretty cramped after a while, but for the single person workin’ on the railroad, it might have been just the ticket.

As the time for the school dances arrives again, I am reminded of my oldest daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin, and the dances they went to. They fell in love when Corrie was just 15 years old, and one of their favorite things to do was to go to the Co-Ed Ball and Prom. They went to both of them each year from the time the began dating until Corrie graduated. They were like Cinderella and Prince Charming. Theirs was a fairytale romance…love at first site. My beautiful little girl was becoming a beautiful young lady. She looked so pretty.

The pictures done, they headed out to their romantic evening, with eyes only for each other. Love blossomed at those dances, as well as their other dates, but it is always those special evenings that stand out in your memory. The dance committees had created an evening of moments with balloons, crepe paper, cardboard, and spray paint. An evening to remember.

With each new year and each new dance, they grew and changed…blossomed really. I remember that I was always so proud of the handsome couple they made. But, along with that thought was the little feeling of sadness that my little girl was growing up so fast. You know the one. That feeling that you suddenly want to put on the brakes and slow down time, but you know that you can’t. So you smile and wipe away a tear or two, and send them on their way to their evening to remember.

Every year these dances come around, and a new set of students head out, all dolled up. A new group of parents think back to the day their child was born and wonder how it could be possible that they are already heading out for their high school prom, or other such dance, and wish they could turn back the clock, so that their little one could still be their little one.

When we are young, we think that life is a long time. We wonder when we will get to be the grown up one, heading out on that special date, and before we know it..we are already sending our own children out on an evening to remember.

Every kid likes to spend the night with a friend. There is just something about staying at someone else’s house that is…well so different from their own home. We have all been there. I loved spending the night with my friends, and sometimes cousins were just as much my friends. I remember one time I wanted to spend the night with one of my cousins, and I simply did not see anything wrong with the fact that Elmer was a boy and I was a girl. So my mom and her sister worked out a way, so I could stay the night, but I had to sleep in my cousin Darla’s room. It worked out ok, and I got to continue to play that evening with my cousin, Elmer.

My grandchildren have done the same thing. Cousins work out well for those coveted sleep-overs, when friends are either not available or you are too young to have many. Another thing that makes for a different and fun thing to do is camping out on the living room floor…especially if you get to use some blankets and make a tent. I remember as a kid, my sisters and I would sometimes build a big tent out of sheets or blankets, and spend hours in there pretending to be on a camping trip, or maybe using the tent as a secret clubhouse. The imagination can be an amazing thing when a group of kids get together. My grandchildren always loved those slumber party type of sleep-overs…camped out on the living room floor…not that much sleeping got done. I remember having all 4 of them over one time when Bob was out of town. My bedroom floor was wall to wall sleeping bags, and constant giggling. I suppose many people would think I was crazy, but we sure had fun.

But, probably one of the sweetest things I ever heard concerning spending the night, came from a little girl who was a little too young to have many friends yet, but her sister and brother got to spend the night, and she wanted in on the action too. She had watched them get to go and spend the night, and it just never seemed to be her turn. Sometimes we just don’t realize how ready a child can be for this kind of thing. She thought about it long and hard, and finally figured out what she wanted to do. Sometimes, it isn’t about figuring out what friend to stay with, but rather who might work as a friend. That was when Lindsay asked her mom, my sister Allyn, if she could spend the night with her friend, Grandma!!

Kids just naturally have a love of musical instruments. Almost from the time they are born, they play with rattle and other noise makers for entertainment…sometimes to the point of headaches for their parents. It is a love of beautiful music…and believe me, we all have very different ideas of exactly what beautiful music is…that leads us to try to create the music we love on our own.

At Christopher’s age, it’s all about the noise level, the louder it pops, clangs, rings, or squeaks, the better they like it. Wait…I think that part of a kids love for music last at least until their 30’s and sometimes even longer, so really Christopher is just doing what every teenager does, only with different instruments. And he was having the time of his life doing it. You can’t help but smile, even though you know that after a few minutes of cuteness, the noise probably drove his parents nuts.

As kids get bigger, their choices of instruments change, and the opportunities they have in school help with those changes. I’m sure you all remember the recorder that kids learned to play on about 4th grade. Most kids sound pretty much like I do when I play the recorder…a sick duck, but my daughter Amy had a way with the recorder. She could make it really sing. That’s why we chose the Clarinet for her when she got to fifth grade, even though her sister, Corrie had chosen the Violin. Both girls played very well all the years they played in school, and I thoroughly enjoyed going to their performances.

Christopher played the Trumpet in 5th and 6th grade, and his brother, Josh played the Clarinet in 5th grade, following in his Aunt Amy’s footsteps. My granddaughter, Shai chose not to play an instrument, but go into choir for a time. Caalab would be the one to continue in the musical world, when he decided to take up the Guitar and follow in his dad’s footsteps. He now owns several Guitars, and continues to get better and better. He takes Guitar in school, and nobody has to tell him to practice. He loves to play. Where once he had rocks in his pockets, he now has multiple picks. He may not always have his Guitar, but those picks seem to always be with him. Typical, I guess for the boys in the band.

As we go through this journey we call life, this world we live in will go through many changes. As I was looking at old family pictures, and it got me thinking about what a change it must have been to go from the horse and buggy days to the automobile. My grandfather and my Uncle Ted (back seat right two people) I’m quite sure grew up with the idea that cars were going to be around, but my great grandfather (back left) must have been quite in awe over the changes going on in his life. I remember the first time I drove a car, but I had ridden in a car many times by that time, and they were commonplace items. I just can’t imagine seeing a car for the first time as an adult, but that is what so many of our ancestors did. Bob’s grandmother talked often of the changes from a horse and buggy to the car.

When I was a kid, a computer took up an entire room, and nobody had one in their home. Then came the PC, and people started buying them. Pretty soon everyone had one in their house. Now there are laptops, netbooks, tablets, and even smart phones. I remember too, when the only phones that existed where in a building or the occasional telephone booth…remember those. Telephone booths almost don’t exist anymore, because we all have a phone in our purse or pocket, and most of them are smart phones now, so we can even access the internet with them.

So many changes have taken place in in the past 200 years alone, that our ancestors would not even know this place if they could see it. I have to wonder how much of it would absolutely terrify them, if they could step into our time. And what would our thoughts be if we could step back into the old West? Back to the days when the harvesting was done with a horse and wagon, and it took a large group of people to get the job done. Hay was cut down using scythes and loaded in the wagon using rakes and a pitchfork. That was a much harder time in our history, and the harvest wasn’t taken so much for granted. School was planned around it, because the kids were needed to help with the harvest too.

Sometimes, I think we all need to look back in time once in a while, and really see how very blessed we are to be living in a time where much of our work is easy, food is abundant, travel is quick, and staying in touch with people all over the world is a normal, everyday event.

My grandson, Caalab loves dogs..all dogs. His goal is to have one of every kind. A lofty goal, considering the sheer number of breeds out there, but he also plans to own a place big enough to handle it, at least he is planning ahead. So far he has two dogs. Rhythm is a Beegle, and Blues is a Husky/Shepherd mix. Yes, they really are Rhythm and Blues. Caalab’s dad, Travis works for the radio station, and does a blues show, so it stands to reason.

Rhythm is an older dog, And he doesn’t like to do much…in fact never has…except when Travis decides that Rhythm needs to do some dancing. Then he holds his hand above Rhythm’s head and sings “Rhythm is a dancer!!” Rhythm dances around and around. Other than his dancing, he has always been pretty lazy…probably the main reason he is much heavier than Blues. Rhythm would eat constantly if you would let him, but he will do it is a way that takes the least amount of work. That became very obvious the other day when my daughter, Amy fed Rhythm and he started eating and after a few minutes, he got tired. So he laid down on the floor in front of his bowl and proceeded to continue eating while laying down. Never had my daughter seen such a lazy dog.

Blues is the younger of the two dogs, and he is interesting in that he has one blue eye and one brown eye. He is rambunctious like most puppies and younger dogs are, and he keeps things hopping around their house. Blue thinks water is a toy. Watering the lawn or any other use of water is open season for Blues to chase the water and try to eat it. One time when Amy had the hose and was playing with Blues, she was dancing the water around, and Blues was jumping up and down trying to catch the drops as they came down. At one point, he slipped on the wet ground and landed on his side. He let out one little yelp and that was it. He was back on his feet and back at it…chasing the drops. With two silly dogs, there is never a dull moment. It’s free entertainment.

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