Xander is the son of my niece, Jenny and her husband Steve. He is their oldest child.  As the oldest child, he takes his responsibilities very seriously. He tries very hard to make sure his little brothers stay in line…or is that called wrestling. No matter…whatever it is called, Xander is the big brother in charge, and at least for now he has his little brothers believing that. It doesn’t make them stop trying to take him though, because that is just what boys do. And these three boys are among the toughest guys around. I have watched them wrestling around, and the last words you will hear from them is “I give up” because they just don’t.

Xander also loves to go shooting with his parents and brothers. His parents have taught him and his brothers about gun safety and proper respect for guns. The boys know how to shoot, and they know that a gun is not a toy, but a weapon that can kill if used improperly. They would never use a gun improperly.

Xander reminds me so much of his dad. Steve is a strong man, but inside, he is very different. There is a kindness there, combined with love and loyalty. That is how Xander is. He feels any hurt his parents are going through very deeply. He tries to protect them from hurt or pain. He feels loss deeply as well, and he tries to figure out a way to make things right…or at least better, if there is no solution.

As I said, Xander is very much like his dad…which means that while he is a tough guy on the outside…on the inside he is a big teddy bear. Recently at school, he was named star student. That meant that he got to go to the front of the line…he and any other star student. Of course, there is only room for one person at the head of the line, and Xander was there first. Then a girl said, “I want to be first! I’m a star student too!” Xander quickly responded, “Of course…ladies first!” Not only was the little girl happy, but Xanders teacher was surprised and very pleased. She told Xander’s mom, my niece, Jenny that she was very pleased and proud of him. She said that his good upbringing really showed. It was such a proud moment for Jenny and Steve, and when I heard about it, I felt very proud to be his great aunt too. Today is Xander’s 9th birthday!! Happy birthday Xander!! We love you very much!!

My sister-in-law, Brenda has been a part of my life since she was 10 years old, and my sister-in-law since she was 11 years old. She has always been a sweet girl, who was kind and loving. Her loyalty to those she loves is unsurpassed. During the time that her parents have been ill, she has been someone we can count on to be there to help in any way she can. She is one of our village, and she is invaluable. She has dealt with some pretty tough things, and she knows how hard it is on a person.

Brenda is more than just a sister-in-law to me…she is a friend. She cares about me. Recently, when we had a birthday party for me, my daughter Corrie said that part of my gift was to go to lunch at Mongolian Grill. With the events lately concerning my in-laws, I was not really sure when we might be able to go to lunch. A little more than a week had passed, and I was too busy to think about the planned lunch date with my daughter. Brenda, however, didn’t forget. She was going to take a couple of days vacation, and she planned the daily lunchtime duties into her vacation days, in order to allow me time to go with Corrie. It was such an incredible thing to do…and one I will not forget!! Sometimes my days are very full with caregiver duties, and it makes me feel very loved when someone steps up and does something so nice for me. Brenda is the kind of person who looks for ways to help out and make life easier.

In some families, the longer you are part of the family, the more distant people become. They move away, and come home once every 5 years, or they live in the same town and you hardly see them, but not so with Brenda. She has stuck with the village during some of the toughest times we have gone through. She can always be counted on to do whatever she is able to make our journey a success. We are up against health issues and of course, time. We know that at some point the journey will end. All we can do is try our very hardest to hold that day at bay for as long as possible. Team members like Brenda are extremely important to that goal.

Today is Brenda’s birthday. I want to wish her the very best birthday she has ever had. She has been so good to me, and I can’t tell her how much that means. Happy birthday Brenda!! We love you very much!! Have a wonderful day!!

Remember the spiral perm? Everyone was wearing them just a few years ago. It didn’t matter if you had long hair or relatively short hair, it was the look. The thing is that going to a salon to get those perms was expensive, and we really hated to pay that price, as did many of you, I’m sure. Well, our family found a solution. A friend of ours was a cosmetologist, and at that time, the only people who could purchase things from a beauty supply store had to be licensed. It was much like the newest controls that only allow licensed cosmetologists to purchase perms now.

Since we wanted the perms, and not the expense, we talked to our friend and the rods were ordered. We didn’t totally know what to expect as far as the look of the rods was concerned, so when they arrived, we were a little bit surprised. We had never seen perm rods like that before. We had to read the instructions to make sure we knew what we were doing. Those first few perm roll-ups were laughed about quite a bit, so as you can see, we had to have pictures so we could remember how funny it looked. Don’t even ask who this was a picture of, because I want to live, and any one of my sisters would be willing to make me very sorry for telling…which is also why I will not be posting the other side of this picture…which I do have. Hahaha!!

Every time one of us would get a perm, which we always did at Mom’s house, it was something that got the laughs from any of the men in the family…which could be why we did them at Mom’s. We could make sure husbands and sons weren’t there…usually. Still, it was fun to get the perms and funny to see how we looked in those rods.

These days, not only can we not do these perms at home, but I wouldn’t have one. The styles have changed, and I really don’t like doing the damage to my hair. The memories of those days of getting repeated perms in Mom’s kitchen will be with me for a long time. We had some good times in that kitchen. Everything from perms and hair trims to lunches and long talks, but those perms will stand out in my mind as some of the…funniest looking times…to say the very least.

When you were born Siara, you were such a tiny little girl. You were so much like your mom and grandma…sophisticated from the moment you arrived. Some people are just like that, and you were definitely one of those. You had a smile that made the sun seem to shine a little brighter, and you were and are so stylish. While you never grew to be tall, you had a personality the made you seem larger than life. You always wanted to be tall, but now, I think you have grown quite comfortable in your own skin, and you know that it doesn’t take height to make you a success. It’s all about what is on the inside, and Siara, you have it all, and you will go far.

Now, you are 18 years old and graduating, and I am finding it very hard to believe. Where have the years gone? How can you be graduating already? I am so proud of all you have accomplished in your school career. You are an amazing cheerleader, and a great student. You have proven yourself to be a role model, a true friend, and even a national champion. Your high school years have been filled with many successes, and I know that whatever you choose to do as a career, you will excel in as well, because you know how to succeed.

Now your high school career is over, and your life journey is just beginning. There are so many possibilities for you to choose from, so many roads to take. You may start out on one road, and find that you want to go down another road altogether, or you may find the road you want right away, or you may already know where you are going. It doesn’t matter, because that is what life is all about…growing and changing. No matter how you change or what you choose to be, you will be great, because you are an amazing person…a big success in a little package.

I still can’t believe that today, you are a high school graduate. How can that be? You should still be that little teeny girl running around your grandma’s house, or spending the night at grandma’s with Lacey, giggling the night away, and then not wanting to get up the next morning. Now, those little girl days are over, and you go forth into the world, ready to take it on and win! I am so proud of all you have accomplished and all you will accomplish. I am also very excited for you, because it is the dawn of a new day for you. The world is yours…go out and take it!! Congratulations on your High School Graduation little Si-Si!!

Ours was a family of girls…5 of them to be exact. I have no brothers, just 4 sisters. Our family stayed that way until I was 18 years old, when my sister, Cheryl had her son, Robert Allen…or Robbie as he would be dubbed, since his dad was Rob. Robbie has yet to completely outgrow that name, and he is 38 years old…as of today.

Robbie was…to put it mildly…a shock to our systems. Cheryl’s first 2 children were girls too, and we were just used to how girls did things. Robbie remained the only boy born in our family for the next 12 years, and he was definitely a trial to his Aunt Caryn, who had 2 girls and no boys. In fact, I spent much of the next approximately 18 years thinking he was insane. By that time, we had 3 more boys in the family, and they were old enough to let me know that Robbie was just acting like any other boy.

Boys are quite different from girls as I’m sure many of you know. They enjoy the whole shock factor thing, and love to see if they can get a rise out of those around them, especially the women. The teasing and annoying things boys do to see if it will bug you, were especially annoying to me, as the mother of 2 girly girls.

Robbie remained insane…in at least some capacity until I ended up with 3 grandsons, and only 1 granddaughter. Boy, were those boys a culture shock to me. Up until they came along and grew a little, I secretly thought it was just other peoples’ boys who were insane, but my own grandsons made it really clear that all boys are pretty much the same.

These days, there is little that boys can do that shocks or surprises me. I fully understand that the way they act is just common to the male species. As the years have gone by, I have come to see Robbie, and my other nephews, in a different light…and I really like them, not just love them because they are nephews. Once you have been around boys for a while, you have a different perspective. So, happy birthday Robbie!!I’m sure you will be happy to know that I no longer think you are insane!! We love you very much!!

My sister, Caryl has lived away from Casper for most of her adult life. Her life has taken her to the San Diego, California area, the Seattle, Washington area, Idaho Falls, Idaho, and finally to Rawlins, Wyoming. While that was probably an adventurous life for her and her family, it was also one whereby she had to spend most of her time away from the rest of her family,  and especially Mom and Dad. I know that is not an unusual thing these days, but in a close knit family, it presents some very emotional situations. Every time Caryl’s family came to visit, or stay for a time while her, then husband Warren, was out to sea in the Navy, we were so excited to see them, but when it came time for them go home, our hearts were torn again. It was an emotional roller coaster, for all of us.

This was especially hard on our parents, as you can imagine. Their little girl was always so far away from them, and as parents, your kids are always your babies. It was hard on them, but it also presented the opportunity to travel to see Caryl and her family, which was the one highlight of the situation. Mom and Dad made many trips to see Caryl and her family, and in return, Caryl and her family took them to see many wonderful sights. It was a great time for all of them. Mom and Dad got a view of those areas that can only really be seen by a local resident to the area. Caryl and her family showed Mom and Dad such great times, and took them on trips that they always remembered.

When Caryl and Warren divorced, she came back here for a time and it was a joyous reunion. When she married Mike and moved to his home in Rawlins, it was sad, but they were much closer than Caryl had ever lived before, so we got to see much more of her and her family. I think that was such a blessing to Mom and Dad, especially during Dad’s last years. They were able to see so much more of Caryl and her family than they had since she was first married as a girl in her twenties.

Soon, Caryl’s life will take another turn, one that seemed so unlikely all those years ago. Caryl and her husband, Mike have bought a piece of land on the west side of Casper, and they plan to fix it up, build a house, and when they retire, they will be moving back to Casper. It is a life that will finally come full circle, and Caryl will again be home. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! We are all looking forward to the time when you will be back here with the rest of the family!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Mike is a fraternal twin, something that was new to our family. He is one of six children, 3 boys and 3 girls. Their family was lively, as any family with 6 kids would be. There was always something going on, and I’ll bet that with 3 boys and 3 girls, there was a lot of picking on the sisters going on too. Having not had brothers myself, I wouldn’t know how that is, but I have heard all the typical horror stories told by friends who had brothers, and of course, by my own granddaughter, Shai, who is quite thankful that she only had one brother.

I think that being part of a big family teaches teamwork, and Mike seems to have learned that lesson very well. Whenever there is a big project to do around my mom’s house, we can always count on Mike to pitch in and help out. He is quick to help with painting, yard work, deck building, and any other project. With continued maintenance needed at Mom’s house, these projects are ongoing, and they mean that the guys is the family might have to give up a weekend of fishing or camping to do them. Still they never complain, and for that we are grateful.

Mike is a patient man, which is an important trait, in any area of ones life, but Mike also has a great sense of humor, and an infectious laugh. When something strikes him as funny, it seems like his whole being gets into it.  That kind of  laugh makes everyone want to get in on the joke. I would think that his sense of humor would make their house a great place to live and grow up. And as in most households, sometimes a sense of humor is a matter of survival. With three kids, I’m sure he and my sister, Alena had those moments when the only thing that got you through it was that sense of humor.

Mike is very much a sportsman. He enjoys all of the outdoor sports like hunting, fishing, and camping. He is an avid football, basketball, and baseball fan too. He has played on local baseball teams in the summer. He likes to go to the shooting range for target practice, and at some point this summer, Bob and I plan to go along and give that a try. Now if that is anything like the way I play golf…well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing that people don’t stand beyond a certain line, because I could be dangerous. Maybe Mike can give me some pointers, because I certainly need them. Mike likes bowling too, and has bowled on local leagues. If it has to do with sports, chances are Mike is interested.

Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Our family has been very blessed to have you in it. You are a great brother-in-law. Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Over the last 7 years, my family and Bob’s family have both been taking care our parents in one way or another. Sometimes the need is greater in one family and sometimes it is greater in the other. Taking care of other people is simply not a job that can be done by one person. As my sister, Alena says, “It takes a village.” During this 7 year journey we have taken, we have come to understand that some people are able to give more time, because of bosses that allow much flexibility, or jobs aren’t 9 to 5, or year round. Others cannot give as much time, and some don’t live here. Some can’t handle this type of work emotionally, and some can. Still, all of our adult family members have helped out in some way…as have some of the children.

There are many unsung heroes here, including my boss, Jim who allows me to have the time off to take my in-laws and my mom to the doctors appointments, and to do other important things that their needs require. Without Jim, none of this would have been possible…truly!! Other family members come to mind, when I think of those who have selflessly given of themselves…often setting aside their own interests to help another person who can’t do this alone. My sister, Cheryl, my sister-in-law, Brenda, and my daughters, Corrie and Amy, and my husband, Bob have all been there steadily through these 7 years, and Bob’s Aunt Margee, who comes to sit with her sister, my mother-in-law whenever we need her. I have to wonder how we managed before Margee retired. And of course, Bob’s niece, Machelle, who comes down from Powell to cut my in-laws’ hair, perm my mother-in-laws hair, and do much maintenance work around the house, and Bob’s cousin’s daughter, Stasi, who loves to come to visit and help my in-laws around the house. What a special girl she is. Our other sisters, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and their families have done as much as they were able, and their help has also been invaluable through these past 7 years. Truly, I could go on forever, but there isn’t room, so I hope you all know how much you mean to me and how much your help as meant to all of us.

There are also 4 people who were tremendous help especially during the years we were taking care of my dad, and to this day, as much as they are able. My grandchildren, Chris, Shai, Caalab, and Josh started caregiving at the tender ages of 10, 10, 9, and 8. That kind of help is almost unheard of at that age. Chris and Shai work now, and are not able to help as much as they did, but they still help whenever they can, and enjoy spending time with their grandparents just to visit as well. Caalab and Josh don’t work yet, so they are more able to come along now, and Josh has especially shined in the most recent care of his great grandmother, my mother-in-law, since they seem to have a connection. She responds so well to him, and they love each other very much. He pretty much won’t let his brother, Chris do very much for her, because he really wants to do it.

It really does take a village to care for an aging parent or other loved one who is ill, and until you have been a caregiver, you just can’t understand how much work it is. There is no “unimportant person” and even the smallest contribution is a major help. Yes, it takes a village to care for another person who cannot care for themselves, and when it comes to villages, I have to say that I have been a part of 2 of the best villages ever put together to get 2 families through some of the worst health crisis situations you can imagine. Villages just don’t get better than these. Thank you ALL!!!

A number of years ago, 1979 to be exact, when Bob’s parents were still living out in the country, the guys had a permit to cut down some dead trees in the Shirley Mountains. A bunch of us made several trips up and spent the day cutting and loading those trees onto the flatbed trailer my father-in-law owned. It was always a project that took the whole day, and plenty of help. We came back with several good sized loads of wood. Then came the real work. Cutting all that wood into usable sizes to burn in our wood stoves took many days.

At that time, my father-in-law had a big buzz saw to cut the wood with. It took two people to get the wood on the table that ran the log to the saw. One day, Bob and his dad were working on cutting the wood, and since we lived on the same property at the time, because our land wasn’t ready to move onto yet, our kids were there too. They loved being around all the activity that went on at their grandparent’s house. From raising a couple of cows to cutting wood, there was always something going on.

Corrie had come down to the wood pile to watch the cutting process…or maybe to be the supervisor. It was really the only job a little girl of 4 years could do, so they set her up on one of the bigger logs that had been cut, and she supervised the whole project for quite a while. I’m quite sure that in between all the sawing, Corrie probably talked the guys’ ears off too, if I know my girl. Corrie has always been an organizer…even as a little girl, when she tried to straighten a neighbor’s counter up, because it was a little unorganized. As a supervisor, Corrie was simply in her element.

Of course, at 4 years old, Corrie got bored with the work world, and decided that it was time for a break. That happened about the time that the cat, Dusty showed up and seemed to need a little bit of attention. Corrie decided that she would have to be the one to entertain Dusty and keep her out of trouble, because as we all know, cats tend to get in the way of the work. They always want to rub up against you, and that simply won’t do when the men are trying to cut wood. Dusty could be in real danger of getting stepped on. Eventually, Corrie would go back to her supervisory job, but only when Dusty decided that it was time to go find something to eat, and a nice shady place to nap.

My dad became ill on a trip back to his place of birth and the surrounding area. His plan, after a quick trip around Lake Superior, was to spend some quality time with his older brother, my Uncle Bill. Unfortunately, while Dad, Mom, and my sister, Cheryl were on the road to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, they had stopped at the Terry Fox Monument and Dad was hit with a serious Pancreatitis attack. This illness and other complications would put Dad in the hospital for the next 4 months, and send him home very weak, and needing much care from his loving family before he would recover. Still, he would never be the same again…except mentally, of course. His body was never as strong, and he never drove again, and needed Intravenous Feeding, and oxygen off and on. These things together would make another trip to Wisconsin almost impossible, and he never went back.

Dad’s brother, my Uncle Bill was older than Dad was, and even less able to drive, but otherwise healthy. We knew that the only way they were ever going to see each other again, was for Uncle Bill to come here. Still, that was going to be a huge undertaking, and we didn’t know if it would ever happen. Enter, my cousin Bill. Bill contacted us and said that he planned to bring his family to see Yellowstone National Park, and he thought he would bring his dad, my Uncle Bill out to see his brother, my dad. We were very excited, especially my dad. The plan was for all of them to spend a day or so here, then Uncle Bill would stay with my parents while Bill and his family went on to Yellowstone for a time and then come back for a few days before leaving for home.

This was a blessing beyond measure for my dad and my Uncle Bill, and a wonderful gift for Bill and his family to give them. It was a pure act of love from Bill toward his dad and his uncle, my dad, and one that will never be forgotten. Bill has always been a sweet, thoughtful person, as anyone who knows him can attest to, and the love he has for his dad is very evident. I will never forget that visit, nor will I ever forget the fact the Bill made it possible for his dad and mine to see each other one last time before my dad passed away. Bill you are a great person and I am forever grateful for the wonderful gift you gave our dads.  Happy birthday Bill!! We love you very much!!

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