Friends

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Some people always have a calm look on their face, even if they are not smiling, they somehow manage not to be frowning. Things don’t really work that way for the concentrator…which is what I am. Concentrators tend to have a frown on their face, so people might think they are mad, when in fact, they are not. They might not have even noticed that anyone is looking at them, much less smiling at them. At least not until that person says something to them or writes them a note saying, of all things, “You really should smile!” For the concentrator, there is really no bigger insult. Maybe the person who said it, meant no harm, but if they thought about it, there are much nicer ways to get someone to smile.

In fact, the other day, while I was driving down second street in Casper, Wyoming, I saw a young man walking down the street. It was not a warm day, and the young man was bundled up in a coat and hat, but even with the distinct chill, to put it mildly, the young man has a smile on his face as he walked along. He wasn’t on the phone, or walking with someone else, and he wasn’t talking, so I could see no specific reason for the smile on his face.

I wondered what he was thinking about that would put a smile on his face. It didn’t matter really, because I smiled instinctively, because he was smiling. It didn’t matter what he was smiling about, his smile made me smile. It was sort of like the movie, Pay It Forward, except with smiles. I though about what a nice young man he might be, but whether I was right or not, didn’t make any difference. His smile told a tale all its own. A tale of Smiling it forward. It sounds silly, but that is what that young man did. His smile brought a smile to my face, and perhaps my smile brought a smile to the face of someone else, and so on…smiling it forward.

I think that over the years, we have all become used to men going off to war, and leaving their families safely at home, while they fight for the freedom and safety of people all over the world who are unknown to them. It’s a common part of war, and one that most of the time, the average person doesn’t even think about. It’s war after all, sacrifices have to be made. What we don’t always think about…until someone points out the obvious to us…is the families, and especially the children who are waiting for their parent to come home.

For any of us who have been away from family for an extended period of time, it’s easy to understand just how badly you can miss someone you love, but war is different. When your child moves away, you miss them, but you know you can go see them soon. When you loved one goes off to war in a country where the fighting is heavy, and bombs are dropping everywhere…not only can you not go visit them whenever you want to, but you live with the knowledge that at any moment, they could be killed in action. And they are living with that knowledge too. It makes the time and distance seem much longer and much further than it really is.

While we might be able to fathom the pain of missing a family member, I think we find it even harder to grasp the complete and utter shocked sense of relief that these family members feel when they are reunited with their loved one again. The children are especially heart wrenching…or is it heart warming. It doesn’t really matter which it is, because no one watching it does so without tears. It’s just impossible. When a German World War II prisoner, was released by the Soviet Union, and is reunited with his daughter, she cannot control her emotions. She had not seen her father since she was one year old, and she is about 5 years old. A mom who spent 7 months in Iraq, cannot contain herself when she sees her daughter again. An officer’s son breaks down because he wasn’t sure he would ever see his daddy again. These are the moments most of us never got to see, but now with the internet,we have the chance to look into the lives of those who serve our nation, fight our battles, and protect our world. It is in those moments that we realize what really happens when those who serve are reunited with their loved ones again.

Yesterday, in between bouts of sprinkling rain, my grand-niece, Siara Harman became Siara Olsen, when she said “I do” to the love of her life, Nick Olsen. The wedding was held at City Park in Casper, Wyoming, under mostly cloudy skies, with sprinkling rain before it and heavier rain after. Nevertheless, the actual wedding took place under sunny skies, and the ceremony was the beautiful Cinderella wedding that Siara had always wanted. Siara wore a stunning light pink fitted dress, with a lovely full skirt from the knees down, that swept into a train that glided along behind her. She was given in marriage by her step-dad, Dave Balcerzak, who she considers her dad. It was a precious moment for them. Her bride’s maids wore beautiful gold sequined dresses, and the groomsmen wore white tuxedos with pale gold vest and tie. The effect was classic Cinderella, and Siara was a beautiful princess. The wedding was put together by Siara’s mom, Chantel Balcerzak, who runs a wedding planner business. Chantel did an amazing job with the wedding, and everything went off without a hitch, It couldn’t have been more beautiful.

When Siara met Nick, she knew almost immediately that he was the one. They dated for a while, but they both knew that this was a forever kind of love. They both knew that they would be married…and yesterday was that special day. Yesterday, their friends and family gathered together to witness the beautiful exchange of vows for this beautiful couple. The gathering of their friends and family made this perfect day complete. We are all so happy for Siara and Nick. I know that the future is going to be very bright for them. They have a great relationship, and they are very much in love with each other. I’m sure there will be children in the future, and we will be very excited for that time, but that is another story for another time.

After a beautiful reception, complete with an amazing wedding cake, and a groom’s cake shaped like a taco, in honor of Siara and Nick’s love of Taco Bell, the couple danced the night away with their family friends, and of course with each other. I’m sure that like most couples, they didn’t want the night to end. The festivities continued until about 11:00pm, and them the couple went to their hotel room, where they had the honeymoon suite. So,today marks their first full day of their lives as husband and wife, and we couldn’t possibly be happier. Congratulations on your wedding and on your future together Siara and Nick!! We love you, and pray God’s greatest blessings over you both.

Since I was a caregiver for 13 years before the passing of the last of my parents and in-laws early in January of this year, I can tell you that being a caregiver, or a CNA is a big job that often gets very little recognition. Many people don’t really have any desire to do such a job, but because they remain in caregiving positions, Career Nursing Assistants provide predictability and stability to care, which in turn enhances the feeling of security for our aging, frail, or chronically challenged population. CNAs also bring wisdom, patience, humor, and a general attitude of caring to the daily lives of the residents in their care.

Today is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. It is a day founded by the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants to promote recognition, education, research, advocacy and peer support development for nursing assistants in nursing homes and other long-term care settings. This is especially close to my heart for a number of reasons, such as the care given to my parents and in-law, but most recently because my daughter, Corrie Petersen is now a CNA working toward her degree as a nurse. She currently works at Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital in Casper, Wyoming, and we couldn’t be more proud of her. Having been a caregiver, I can tell you that the work that CNAs do is vital to the well-being of their patients, whether in a nursing home facility, a physical therapy facility (which is where my daughter works), at the patient’s home, or in hospice facilities.

According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, “Nursing Assistants are the best thing about ‘caring.'” Nursing Assistants “Brighten Lives” according to Dawn Silva, CNA, New Hampshire, and member “Safe Patient Handling” committee. As more and more people are living longer, caring for the elderly has become more and more vital. With that care comes an increased focus on the people who care for the elderly…largely nurses and CNAs. It’s a noble occupation. While the work is hard, and what some might consider demeaning, the sense of peace it gives the patients makes being a CNA worth it.

Every CNA is a blessing to those they care for and the nursing staff they work with. They support the facility they work in and the patients they care for. They bring a smile to the faces of their patients, and the patients are grateful for the help they receive. I don’t know of a facility out there that could run effectively without its CNAs, and I know how hard it is when a facility is shorthanded on CNAs. It makes everything harder for everyone working there, and especially harder on the patients who depend on them every day. Today is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. I am very proud of my daughter, Corrie Petersen, and of all the other CNAs I know. Thank you all for the work you do. Have a wonderful day, each and every one of you!! Happy National Career Nursing Assistants Day!!

My son-in-law, Travis Royce is a man of many talents, who never brags on himself. He is really a very humble man. He loves do home improvement projects and make things in general. Last year, while his family was visiting us out in Wyoming, Travis was home building a beautiful patio area for Amy at home. Because Travis and Amy like to make wine, Travis wanted to incorporate wine into the design, so he used wine bottles as the spindles on the rail. It is such a cool, and unique idea, a one that is not surprising when Travis makes something. He has really unique ideas, and with his tendency to try to surprise people with his work, Travis is a man with a flair for the unexpected.

According to my granddaughter, Shai Royce, her dad “loves home improvement projects, reading, especially about history, comedy, Kung Foo, football, playing guitar, and the three of us.” The three of them being his family, my daughter, Amy, and their kids, Shai and Caalab. Most of Travis’ likes were things I knew about, but Kung Foo surprised me. Not sure what to make of that, I asked Shai is he was taking classes in Kung Foo, but she said no, almost laughing I’m sure, it’s Kung Foo movies he likes. In fact, he and Shai used to watch Kung Foo movies together when she was a little girl. Travis loves to barbecue and entertain. He is a great cook, often cooking breakfast for his family, but he is really in his element when he is barbecuing. He loves making wine to share with his family and friends, and what better time to share wine than when you have friends over to barbecue. With Travis sense of humor, it’s always great time.

The past couple of years, Travis has stepped out of his element to a degree, when the whole family decided to bowl on a bowling league. It was a lot of fun for all of them this year, and they were more than a little bit surprised to find that they had taken fist place. They have been invited to bowl in a county wide tournament for the county championship in Bellingham this Saturday and they are looking forward to that. Then, they found out that Travis had taken most improved bowler award…improving his average by 13 pins. I’d say that it has been a pretty good year for Travis, and we wish him many more great years in the future. Today is Travis’ birthday. Happy birthday Travis!! Have a great day! We love you!!

I grew up in Casper, Wyoming in the 70’s. There wasn’t a whole lot for the teen crowd to do, so we all rode “The Strip.” The Strip included all of CY Avenue and part of Center Street and 2nd Street. Most if the kids who had access to a car or knew someone who did, were out on the Strip every Friday and Saturday night. People would show off their “ride,” if they had a cool one, and meet up with their friends. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I had lots of good friends we hooked up with on the Strip. One of our good friends was Lana Alldredge. Lana had one of those “rides” that was one to show off…a 1970 Mustang Mach 1…Canary Yellow with black stripes. She was so proud of that car. Every night before heading out to ride the Strip, Lana took her car to the carwash for a bath, because she couldn’t stand the thought of her car being dirty when people saw it. Now Lana was out of high school, and so rode the Strip every night, while my parents wouldn’t let me go out on school nights. Nevertheless, lots of kids could go out every night, so her car was one that was well known, and had the reputation of always being clean, shiny, and tricked out. If you rode the Strip, you knew Lana’s car.

I read somewhere that in Minnetonka, Minnesota, there is a law, currently on the books that would work well for Lana, but not so much for most people. According to section 845.110 of Minnetonka, Minnesota’s city laws, there are several situations that are deemed a “public nuisance”, including but certainly not limited to ” a truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway“. Now, if you ask me, that is extreme. The only way to never have dirty tires is pretty much to bathe your vehicle constantly. While someone like Lana would be ok with that in her Mach 1 years, most people can’t see the point in a daily car bath, just so they didn’t get dirt on the street…in fact, the law is simply, outrageously insane, if you ask me.

I agree with city beautification, and I can see not wanting the citizens throw shovel loads of dirt or mud onto the city streets, but lets face it…the wind probably deposits more, dirt and litter that the car tires do. Dirty tires, seem more like a relatively unavoidable consequence, rather than considering it a public nuisance, which is defined as something that disturbs peace, safety, and/or general welfare. Dirty tires are a little bit of a stretch here. On the other hand, there really aren’t many things that are less appealing than a dirty truck, especially when it has dirty tires, so maybe this law was founded on some good principles. Still, if this is a law that is still enforced, I don’t think I would want to live in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

My co-worker is a high school student named, Amanda Ingram. Amanda is also taking a college class through the Boces program this summer. She is taking Wyoming History, and she was required to write a paper concerning the boom and bust cycle in Wyoming, using newspapers from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. She was given a public website to use to locate news articles for her paper. That intrigued me, and I decided to check out the site. The site allows you to look by city, county, year, or simply by all newspapers. When I went in to look, I of course, went for the oldest newspaper they had.

What I found was so exciting. That first newspaper in Wyoming was The Chugg Water Journal, out of Fort Laramie, published on October 2, 1949. For those who live in Wyoming, spelling Chugwater…Chugg Water is very strange. That made me think, mostly about what Chugwater meant anyway, and why it might be written Chugg Water for the newspaper. The word “chug” is said to describe the noise that the buffalo or the falling chalk made when it hit the ground or fell into the water under the bluff, depending on which version of the legend you wish to believe. Because of that, the Indians began to call the area “water at the place where the buffalo chug.” The White Man adopted the Indian name and called the area “Chug Springs.” Chugwater Creek was named after Chug Springs, and from that came the name of Chugwater. Still, the reason for the name of the paper is speculation on my part. I am assuming that it was in an effort to remain more or less purist about the name, and since Chug Springs came first, that might be reason the paper was named the Chugg Water Journal.

Aside from the name of the paper, I was very interested in the fact that it was hand written…at least at first. Of course, I knew that many newspapers were hand written at first, because there was no such thing as a printing press, or even typewriters for a long time, but to be able to actually view a handwritten newspaper was very exciting to me. My inquisitive mind embarked on a different thought journey. If the newspaper were hand written, and the town had 50 families in it, all of whom wanted a paper, how long would it take to write all those papers up? And was it the same person doing it? Wow!! After a time, you would know the news by heart, and it would become seriously old news. Then, when you consider the fact that the paper was to “appear occasionally and sometimes oftener, if not sooner”…whatever that actually meant, the news became really old.

Still, the paper and its possible contents intrigued me. I started thinking about different dates and events in Wyoming’s history that might have appeared in that and other Wyoming newspapers. Would a first-hand account be more accurate that the history books? Even if history’s account is accurate, the newspapers would provide the feelings of the writer, and that is pure gold, because that makes it personal. I found myself feeling very excited about my future visits to this and other old and handwritten newspaper sites. I know that I will find many treasures.

When we think of the Old West, cowboys, Indians, and outlaws come to mind…not to mention showdowns, or what might have been known as a duel, in years gone by. In reality, showdowns were not all that common…no matter what Hollywood tries to tell you. The men and women who went west were a tough bunch. In the beginning, it was mostly men who went west, and since there was no law in the West, altercations were bound to happen. Still, altercations that led to a showdown were not all that common. Rather than coolly confronting each other on a dusty street in a deadly game of quick draw, most men began shooting at each other in drunken brawls or spontaneous arguments. Ambushes and cowardly attacks were far more common than noble showdowns, but those who took the noble approach were far more respected.

Southern emigrants brought to the West a crude form of the “code duello,” a highly formalized means of solving disputes between gentlemen with swords or guns that had its origins in European chivalry. Similar to the duels of times past, they thought it would bring some form of civility to the West. The duel influenced the informal western code of what constituted a legitimate and legal gun battle. Duels were not used to for very long. In fact, by the second half of the 19th century, few Americans still fought duels to solve their problems. The western code required that a man resort to his six-gun only in defense of his honor or life, and only if his opponent was also armed. Also, a western jury was unlikely to convict a man in a shooting provided witnesses testified that his opponent had been the aggressor.

In what is thought to be the first western duel, Wild Bill Hickok, killed Davis Tutt on July 21, 1865. Hickok was a skilled gunman with a formidable reputation, who was eking out a living as a professional gambler in Springfield, Missouri. He quarreled with Tutt, a former Union soldier, but it is unclear what caused the dispute. Some people say it was over a card game while others say they fought over a woman. Whatever the cause, the two men agreed to a duel. The showdown took place the following day with crowd of onlookers watching as Hickok and Tutt confronted each other from opposite sides of the town square. When Tutt was about 75 yards away, Hickok shouted, “Don’t come any closer, Dave.” Tutt nervously drew his revolver and fired a shot that went wild. Hickok, by contrast, remained cool. He steadied his own revolver in his left hand and shot Tutt dead with a bullet through the chest. Hickok immediately turn and threatened Tutt’s friends…should they try to avenge his death.

Having adhered to the code of the West, Hickok was acquitted of manslaughter charges. Nevertheless, those were rough times, and just eleven years later, Hickok died in a fashion far more typical of the violence of the day. A young gunslinger shot him in the back of the head while he played cards. Legend says that the hand Hickok was holding at the time of his death was two pair…black aces and black eights. The hand would forever be known as the “dead man’s hand.” Jack McCall shot Hickok from behind as he played poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory on August 2, 1876. In one shooting is honor, and in another is a dishonor. McCall was executed for the murder on March 1, 1877.

For as long as I have known my husband, Bob Schulenberg, he has attracted the little girls. It surprises me every time I see it happen, although it probably shouldn’t by now. Bob got used to little girls when he became a daddy, first to our daughter, Corrie Petersen, and then our daughter, Amy Royce. They thought their daddy hung the moon, and I had to agree with them…he has always been a special kind of guy. Still, I can’t quite understand why it is always the little girls who tend to flock to Bob. It’s not little kids in general…it’s little girls. Of course, the little boys like him too…especially his grandsons, but the little boys are usually not the ones who come running up to Bob, or shyly wave at him, even when they don’t know him…that is the little girls. Of course, Bob would never pickup a little girl who was not the child of a friend, but that does not stop them from saying “Hi” and waving at him. Our own girls loved hanging out with their dad, and if he was working on a vehicle, they might be lifted up to stand on the bumper or they might be riding their bicycle nearby. Our grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, also loved to be picked up by their Papa, and to this day, he is their go-to mechanic when something is wrong with their vehicles, or anything else he can help with.

One little girl in particular, Brooke Cardinal, who passed away at seven and who we miss very much, was very taken with Bob. Her grandpa, our friend Edd Cardinal ran the bowling alley in Casper, and both our family and his spent a lot of time down there. Brooke couldn’t wait for Bob to come in on bowling nights. She was waiting at the door for her hug. I even teased her mom, Dani Cardinal that Bob had a girlfriend. She was ready to kill him for cheating on me, until she found out that his “girlfriend” was her own little Brooke, who was about four years old then. Bob was forgiven for having a girlfriend, but the “girlfriends” didn’t stop there. Whenever we go to a restaurant and there is a little girl around, they always notice and wave to Bob. When we are out walking on the trail, at Sunrise Shopping Center, or the mall, little girls wave. And on New Year’s Eve, the next generation of girlfriends obviously arrived, when my grandniece, Aleesia Spethman took a shine to Bob, and hung around him much of the night.

Bob is a great guy, with a gentle heart, and that is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place, but never in a million years would I have expected that every little girl within a mile radius of him would seek him out for the sole purpose of saying “Hi” and waving at him. It’s almost like he is a little girl magnet. Some day, maybe I’ll figure out just what it is about Bob that catches their eye, but until that day, and even beyond, I’m sure, I will have to share him with every little girl who comes into view, because he sure attracts them.

12742348_10208513107568216_4472158606894877096_nNot every person in a family is related by blood…or even by marriage. Sometimes, a lifelong friend is, in reality, as close as family. Such is the case with Burl Ford. Burl was one of the neighborhood kids that my mother, Collene Byer Spencer and her siblings played with as children. The first time I heard that they had been childhood friends, I was amazed, because by that time, we were living just down the street from Burl and his family, and in fact we were all friends, with them and their kids. Burl’s kids, Lisa, Susie, Burly, and Judy, were all in gymnastics, and his wife, Thea had learned how to coach and spot for the tumbling. So when my younger sisters and I were at their house, the natural next step was to do tumbling in their basement. It was Thea who instilled in me, the love of gymnastics, which I continued doing through high school.

Cheryl remembers playing Jacks on the patio in their back yard with Burl. That is an unusual thought, because Jacks was primarily a girls game…at least in school. Burl didn’t care about that. He loved kids, and playing with his kids and the neighbor kids 16387182_10202403016154753_4437392044467414144_n[1]was totally within his nature…and in fact, growing up was totally not in his nature. Burl was a kid all his life. And…Burl loved his pranks!! I suppose these days he might have found himself in trouble, but those were different times. One prank, in particular, that lots of their family friends remember is the cherry bombs. In those days, kids could safely have sleep overs in someone’s back yard. The Ford’s back yard had a slight slope to it, and made for a perfect sleep over spot…in theory. You did have to take Burl into account. He would wait until we were all settled out there sleeping, and out of the blue, in the middle of the night…a cherry bomb would go off. Burl was careful of course, and never threw it near anyone, but it was something that definitely got your attention.

Today, we said goodbye to Burl…all of his friends and family. It was a beautiful service filled with happy 16299244_10202403012874671_3342523734846440219_nmemories, and yes, the shedding of tears. Thea’s sisters reminded us of his love of sports, including the Broncos and the Colorado Rockies, as well as the Super Bowl games he got to attend, and throwing out the first pitch at a Rockies game. They told of his love of fishing, camping, snowmobiling, golf, travel, and precious time spent at their mountain cabin. And they told us about the many pranks and his bag of tricks. Burl was a member of the Oil City Slickers and Gentleman’s touch, both barber shop musical groups. The group sang at his service, and it occurred to me that, while the songs were beautiful, there was one voice missing. Those were wonderful memories, but it was something the minister said that particularly struck me as amazing. As he told of his last visits with Burl, and many before that, he said that the one thing he noticed was that Burl was always so happy and full of life. Then, he said that he wished that he could take some of Burl’s happy, joyous spirit and zest for life, and throw it out into the world. Instinctively, I thought…just pack it in a cherry bomb.

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