Some birthdays come and go without a lot of fanfare, but others come with a reminder of the blessings we have, and the things we could have lost. This year, for my niece, Kelli Schulenberg, hers is a birthday filled with reasons to be thankful. The recent fire that could have destroyed her home, also could have taken the life of her beloved dog, Dakota. While she was waiting to hear of the fate of her house, and the wellbeing of her dog, I had a chance to talk with, encourage, and pray with Kelli about the whole situation. Of course, her mind was filled with worry, but she showed a strength that told me that no matter what the outcome, she and my nephew Barry would pull through.
With Kelli’s birthday coming so close to Thanksgiving, I’m sure that there have been a number of years where her reasons for being thankful have mingled with her birthday wishes, but I doubt if any other year has brought that more into perspective than this year. When you come close to losing your home, your pet, and all of your cherished memories, it really serves as a reminder to be thankful for all God has given you, and all that He protected for you. Kelli and Barry’s home and their dog were spared, and they both know the feeling of thankfulness for that precious gift. The did lose some wood and trees, a trailer and a shed, but these were things that, while still a loss, can be replaced with much more ease than a home and less pain than a pet. Nevertheless, they were a loss.
But, as with most things we are thankful for, the best are the gifts given in our time of need. That certainly was the case for Kelli and Barry, when their family and friends came together to cut up more wood than they originally had. With the winter months set now with enough wood to keep their home warm and cozy, Kelli finds herself with yet another reason to be thankful the year, both on her birthday and Thanksgiving.
Some birthdays are a little bit sad, because we feel older now, or a loved one isn’t with us, but I think that on this birthday, Kelli will not be thinking about the passing years, but rather about the blessings she has been given, especially in this past year. So much of her life could have been very different, had it not been for the prayers of friends and family, the hard work she and Barry had done to make sure their home had a good fire break around it, and the help of family and friends to give back the things lost. And of course, she is thankful to still have her dog, Dakota, thanks to the kindness of friends who made sure he was ok. Today is Kelli’s birthday. Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When I arrived…the second child in our family, I came home to not only my parents, but to my first friend…my sister, Cheryl Masterson. I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t been there. I know that sound silly, but when you are the younger sister, that older sister is pretty special. For a little kid, just starting out, it’s great to have an older sister and friend there to show you the ropes. She had hard job of navigating the rules of the household, and now she could tell me how things are supposed to go, and what you really don’t want to try, because it will get you in trouble. Of course, as a baby and even into my first year, I didn’t get into much trouble, but I’m pretty sure I made up for it later on.
Of course, it wasn’t just having Cheryl show me how things were in our house that made that homecoming, and the subsequent years so special, but rather, the wonderful friendship we had as kids, and still have to this day. I know that my sister would give her right arm for me, because she is such a loving and giving person. I can always count on her to be there for me, and help me with anything she can, and I’m sure she knows that I feel the same way about her too. I have been blessed with four wonderful sisters, all of whom I love dearly, but Cheryl was the first one, and the leader of our little group of sisters. She as also the cool one, in my opinion. She always seemed to have it all together, and somehow I just didn’t. Maybe it was just the teenaged awkwardness, but my sister never seemed to go through it, so I looked up to her in her coolness.
I love that she and I shared those early childhood years. We were able to explore the wonder of the world around us together, and see all the sights our backyard had to offer. And then, because our parents liked to go sight seeing, we got to explore the sights of our home in Superior, Wisconsin. That was something our younger sisters never really got to do in the same way, because all were born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Cheryl and I got to see a little bit of how our lives might have been different had we stayed in Wisconsin, when we visited our family there in August of 2014, and while our lives are here in Casper now, we both loved the area around Lake Superior. I guess it still felt like home to us, because it was where our roots are.
I think I am a very blessed sister to have the sisters I have, and that I was very blessed indeed, to have my sister Cheryl to come home to when I was born. You can’t pick your family…it’s true, but I know that if I could have, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing, because mine is the greatest family in the world. I know that may not be what other people think, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
On October 11, 2015, a wildfire devastated a large area north of Casper, including the area where my nephew, Barry Schulenberg and his wife, Kelli live. While their house was not one that was damaged, they did not escape unscathed. They lost a shed with some lawn equipment in it, fifteen or more trees, a flatbed trailer, and about eight cords of wood, which was enough to heat their home for the coming winter, just to name a few of the things. While insurance will reimburse them for some of the loss, it will not cover all of it, nor will it even begin to reimburse them for the many hours spent cutting all that wood the first time. And the hardest thing to get back…peace of mind.
People would call them lucky, that so much of their property was spared, but I don’t really think anyone who lost anything in that fire, that took 10,000 acres, 12 homes, a number of animals, and several other structures, considers themselves lucky…except that they made it out alive. I still don’t consider that luck. I believe it was the prayers of the people of Casper and others around the nation that kept the loss to the relative minimum that it ended up being, compared to other large fires.
In the aftermath, many people have donated money and other needed items to those who suffered loss that dreadful day, and many will continue to do so. There is no way for me to talk about them all, but they know how much the people who they have helped appreciated it. Help after a loss never goes unnoticed. It is a show of love, kindness, and compassion that can never be repaid. People helping people…the giving spirit. It is what people do for those in need.
As for Barry and Kelli Schulenberg, a special family and friends benefit took place yesterday, when a dozen people converged on my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Ron and Rachel Schulenberg’s place, where thankfully, Barry and Kelli still had some wood, waiting to be cut. Those dozen people spent most of the day cutting, loading, and unloading the ten cords of wood, that now sits where the first eight cords had been at Barry and Kelli’s place. I know that they already feel much better about the coming winter, because without all that wood, it would have been a much more expensive winter in the heating department.
The things that Barry, Kelli, and the other fire victims lost in the fire will at least partially be replaced, but the thing you can’t put a value on is the helping hands of the people who stepped up to help you rebuild your life. The fire victims lost a lot of things, but things can be replaced. Nevertheless, cleanup, replanting, re-cutting of wood, and so many other things that had to be done after a fire, take time and effort. I have to give a lot of credit to anyone who helped to put the lives of the fire victims back together. The kindness of those helping hands was a blessing that will never be forgotten.
Many times I have written about my Dad’s time in the war, and what he went through, but I’m not sure I truly understood what he went through. Dad never talked about the war much, and maybe that led us to believe that what he went through wasn’t so bad for him. In reality, I don’t think I knew much about Dad’s service time at all. My nephew loaned me a movie called Fortress, and I was very interested in watching it. I don’t know what I expected it to be, but it was not. Everything on the B-17 happened so very fast.
While the movie was quite graphic, and not one that some people would like to watch, it was based on a true story and it gave me a very different perspective about what it was like to fly in a B-17 Bomber. I knew that the life of a ball turret gunner in combat was a mere twenty minutes, and I knew that during the time Dad was on the B-17, there was at least one ball turret gunner who was killed. They tried to save him, but it was not to be. In an instant it was over.
The Flying Fortress, as the B-17 Bomber was called, was one of the safer parts of the war, but that meant nothing when you are flying to a bomb drop and the enemy doesn’t want you to make it. The movie brought home just how hard it was to really spot the enemy planes. They would say that the enemy was right there, and I found myself thinking, “Where?” Then suddenly there they were, and the men on the plane had been firing for several seconds already. It felt like trying to explain how to spot the enemy, and by the time you get the word “well” out, you have already been hit.
While any gunner position was dangerous, I was struck by how exposed the waist gunners were. In case you don’t know, the waist gunners are the guys that shoot out the side doors of the plane. The doors are open, leaving them with very little protection. They had to be on their toes, because the enemy was shooting for their gun, and if they weren’t paying attention, they were shot before they got a second chance to pay attention. That made things really hard, because they also felt a close commraderie with their partner, the other waist gunner, and if their partner got shot, it was hard to stay on task…but that was hard for any one of the men on the plane.
Watching the men they worked with every day, get shot and killed became a normal thing. Being normal and being able to cope, are two very different things. These men had to hold it together, while quietly falling apart inside. They knew their friend was dead, and yet they had to do their job. They couldn’t grieve. They couldn’t stop. They had to push that picture of their dead friend way back inside themselves, and do their job. Lives depended on it…including their own. I knew that my dad was on a B-17, but until I watched that movie, I really didn’t understand all of what that meant.
In the United States, you don’t often expect to become friends with a Russian man, but that is exactly what happened with my dad, Allen Spencer. Dad was working at WOTCO in Casper at the time, and his friend, Vladimir worked there as well. For Vladimir, the United States was the epitome of the word freedom. He loved the United States, and as an immigrant, who loved the United States, he wanted to learn the language. He was working very hard on it when he and my dad met. Dad was excited about Vladimir too. He had never known anyone from Russia, and really, never expected to. He told Mom and my younger sister, Allyn Hadlock that there was a Russian man working with him and he wanted to learn Russian so he could talk to him.
Dad bought a Russian/English dictionary, and began to study it. He had some specific phrases he wanted to learn, such as, Hello, How are you, Do you like America, and Do you have a family. Every night they sat down at the table to work through the dictionary, figuring out what he would say next. They also learned that certain symbols, some that we use today, could mean something very different in Russian. The American symbol for “ok” is a good example. In Russian that symbol, with the circle of the thumb and forefinger, is a cuss word. It is very similar to flipping someone the bird. They laughed about that one. Then, when Dad wanted to say Dirty Rat, Allyn told him to use that American symbol for ok, because that should do it. That really got them laughing, and it still makes Allyn laugh to this day when she thinks about it.
I think the thing that Vladimir liked so much about my dad was the fact that he tried to learn Russian, and that he reached out to a foreigner too. Vladimir and his wife didn’t have very many people that he could visit with…at least not in Russian. He was just so pleased that Dad was actually learning Russian. I’m not saying that Dad was fluent at Russian. In fact, his Russian could be considered comical at times, but the main thing was that he tried. Dad and Vladimir became the best of friends, and mom and Vladimir’s wife were friends too. They were invited to dinner at Vladimir’s house, and his wife made Borscht. Borscht is a beet soup. Now, I have to tell you that Dad must have really felt a friendship with Vladimir, because Dad hated beets, but he ate that soup. They told Mom and Dad that in Russia the people didn’t have very much meat, so their meals consisted of potatoes and vegetables. They were able to buy more meat now though, since coming to America, so when they had their American friends over for dinner, they bought meat for the Borscht…mostly because Americans are used to eating meat.
Vladimir and his wife wanted to be like the American people, because they loved this country. The did their very best to Americanize everything they did, because they wanted to be true Americans. This was the true melting pot…every foreigners dream, and they wanted to be a part of it. Dad and his Russian co-worker became good friends, and Vladimir always appreciated Dad’s efforts to make him feel at home in a new land.
When my mom, Collene Byer Spencer was married and moved to Superior, Wisconsin to live, she was a young woman, who for the first time in her life lived far away from her large family. I think that must have been so hard for her. She was used to living in a house with her parents, sisters, and brothers, and now it was just her and my dad, Allen Spencer. Of course, that was all she needed in most ways, but a girl needs friends too. For Mom, finding Aunt Doris Spencer there, meant a friendship, as well as a sister-in-law. The two liked each other immediately, and became instant friends. They did everything they could together.
While both of them were slender women, they always felt the need to diet. If they gained a pound, it was a big problem…I guess some things never change. Like all dieters, hunger pangs are always the worst part of dieting, so to aid in the dieting, Aunt Doris decided that each of them could have a single Puffed Wheat cereal piece to hold them over on one occasion. I’m sure this sounds crazy, but it does fit into the mentality of a dieter…and all of you who have ever dieted would be dishonest if you didn’t agree. When we look at things now, we know that like all dieters, this idea would pass as an impossible way to diet, but they tried it anyway. Whenever I hear the story of their diet antics, I have to giggle, because I can picture either one of them doing the funny things they did. They almost seemed like girlhood friends from junior high school, except they didn’t know each other then. They were just a lot alike.
They shared so much in those years, motherhood, sisterhood, and friendship. For my mom, it was like going to a scary new place and finding a bit of sunshine in the middle of the clouds of loneliness. It wasn’t like Mom was drowning in loneliness, but she really needed someone to share all of her girl talk with…someone to spend some of her spare time with, and since they lived just across the backyard fence from each other, someone to talk to while the children played or napped. Aunt Doris was a friend sent by God to help my mom through the transition, and to be there for her through the years.
After we moved to Casper, Wyoming, the two kept in touch. Even after Aunt Doris, and her husband, my Uncle Bill divorced, Mom and Aunt Doris remained friends. They wrote letters and called each other sometimes, but didn’t get to see each other for years. Then last year, my sister, Cheryl and I took Mom for a visit. It was a wonderful reunion for both of them, and we were so glad we took Mom, since it was the last time before she passed. She got to see her forever friend one more time. Today is Aunt Doris’ 91st birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Kellie Hadlock is well known for several things…inspirational sayings, her singing, and her laughter. Anyone who knows Kellie has experienced all three of those things where Kellie is concerned. On Facebook, you can plan on experiencing her brand of inspiration…which all has to do with God. Kellie feels God’s love and guidance so deeply, and she wants everyone to know what a great God He is. Kellie loves being a part of music ministry, and sharing the love of God with so many friends. Kellie doesn’t just post inspiring Christian posts though…she lives every one of them. They are all a part of walking in love and that is what Kellie is all about.
Kellie’s training in music started very young. In fact, I don’t know of any time when she didn’t sing. Kellie’s mom, my sister, Allyn Hadlock is reminded of the first time they took a bicycle ride together as a family. Little Kellie was on the smallest bicycle, and it required that she pedal the entire way. Normally a small child would complain the entire time, but that was not the case with Kellie. Kellie’s bicycle was much smaller than all the others, so as she rode her bicycle, she had to pedal the entire time in order to keep up with the rest of her family. Nevertheless, Kellie didn’t cry or complain, but rather, she sang the entire bike ride. This is just the way Kellie was, and still is to this day. Music is so important to her, and she fills her life, and the lives of all around her with song, and lighthearted joy.
Kellie has been a giggle box from practically the day she was born. When she isn’t singing, she is most likely laughing. Now, her laughter has been known to get her in trouble sometimes. In school, Kellie’s giggling had a tendency to be considered disruptive by the teachers. Whenever she would start giggling and the other kids would follow suit, the teacher would say, “Kellie!! Stop laughing!!” One day when the inevitable giggling started, her teacher followed it with the usual, “Kellie!! Stop laughing!!” The room immediately got quiet, and then someone spoke up and said, “Kellie isn’t here today!!” Well, you can imaging the shocked look on the teacher’s face. And the laughter that followed. Truly, Kellie was never a troublemaker. She was simply such a happy person that she couldn’t help herself.
Kellie has always had such s sweet disposition, and that is what makes everyone like her. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t laugh when Kellie laughs. Who doesn’t feel like singing, when Kellie sings, or feel inspired by the wonderful things she posts on Facebook. Kellie truly is a one of a kind type of person, and one I’m proud to call my niece. Today is Kellie’s 25th birthday. Remember to always keep singing and laughing…we all love it when you do. Happy birthday Kellie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Christina Masterson recently moved to Germany to live with her mother for a while. It is a wonderful opportunity for her to see the world, and still spend time with family. During the time she has been living in Germany, her family has traveled to France, as well as visiting many of the castles in Germany. I would love to have the opportunity to visit some of the places she is visiting, so I hope she knows what a blessing this is for her.
Christina is just four days older than my grandson, Christopher Petersen, and five days older than my granddaughter, Shai Royce. The three mothers shared their entire pregnancies…first for all three. It was a wild time. In fact, Christina’s mom, Angie almost had to leave her baby shower early to go have a baby. The funny thing was that the baby who was born last, my granddaughter, Shai was due first, and the baby that was born first, Christina was due last. Nevertheless, babies have their own timetables, and they are born when their time is right.
The three kids shared so much, but it was Christina and Shai who would become close friends. I’m sure it was because they were both girls and so they shared similar interests. For years, they were inseparable. I suppose that is what makes Christina’s move to Germany seem so strange. It’s not strange in that Christina moved, but rather that the girls wouldn’t be together anywhere near as much. That is odd, but you just don’t know what turns life will take you on. Not everyone knows what their life’s work will be, and so trying out new things is important. I’m think that time will return Christina to the United States to stay, but you simply never know.
It is so hard for me to believe that Christina is nineteen years old today. I remember so vividly the days that her mom was pregnant with her, and her arrival. I remember so well her childhood, and all the time she and my granddaughter, Shai spent together, being crazy kids, and sometimes even driving all of us crazy with their antics. Now…suddenly, those days are over and before us stands a beautiful young lady. She is making new friends, and she has become a world traveler. I can’t believe how much has changed. She has so much potential and so much life ahead of her, and it will be exciting to see what her future brings. I know that is will be wonderful in every way. Today is Christina’s 19th birthday. Happy birthday Christina!! We miss you, because you are so far away. Have a great day!! We love you!!
Over the years, my sister-in-law, Debbie Cook has tried her hand at a variety of different crafts. Debbie had always done a lot of sewing, and had made her daughters clothing. Sewing was never really my thing, although I could sew if I wanted to. I just never really wanted to. Debbie enjoyed it though, and the clothes she made were very nice. It was something she shared with her mother…that ability to sew and to enjoy doing it.
Debbie also took up cross stitch and for years made pictures that she sold at the many craft fairs that she and several other family members had booths at over the years. For the most part, the cross stitch projects were done by Debbie and Brenda, but there were a few others in the family, myself included. Nevertheless, Debbie made a number of sweet pictures to give as gifts to many people in the family, and we who have received them, have cherished them ever since we got them.
More recently, Debbie got into quilting, and like most people who find that they like quilting, she found that it was maybe her calling. I’m not sure when she got started exactly, but I remember that while her dad, Walter Schulenberg was alive, she made a quilt for him. I don’t recall exactly if she made the original one for him, but I think she did, and then, because of how cold he always got, she actually took it apart and turned it into two lap quilts. Now that ability really impressed me. It is one thing to make a quilt, but then to alter the quilt in such a way…well, that takes a degree of talent, especially when the quilt had the frayed edges that are so popular these days.
After Dad’s passing, we, the kids and children-in-law, decided that since Mom was in a nursing home now, we wanted to turn their old clothes into quilts to be cherished memories for all of us. We weren’t sure how big they would be able to be, and we had asked a family friend, Linda Hall to make the ones for the five living children. Then Debbie approached me and said that she had really wanted to help with those, so it was decided that she would use part of the material to make memory quilts for the grandchildren. Those were exciting days of anticipation for the children and the grandchildren. It was such a great idea that my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg had come up with.
All of the quilts were finished between Thanksgiving and mid-January. They were such a blessing to receive. Both of the girls did a wonderful job on them. Debbie has now decided that she wants to make a set for the great grandchildren, and we are all looking forward to seeing those too. What a blessing that will be for the great grandchildren, some of whom have never even met their great grandfather, or their great great grandparents, whose clothes will also be used in these, but will now have a memory of them anyway. We can’t wait. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As another year comes to a close, my mind drifts back to the events that have taken place over the last twelve months. it seems like every year I’m alive goes by faster than the one before it. Christmas last year was just here, and before my very eyes, it was Christmas again. As a kid, it seemed like each year took ten years to pass, and now it seems like mere days.
Last year ended with my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg beginning a journey toward health, and this year, she has shown us just what determination and consistency can accomplish, by losing over 275 pounds. She looks amazing, and her new active lifestyle is giving her a new found happiness and a definite glow. Her success has motivated several others in the family to get back on the bandwagon toward health, myself included.
The grandkids have grown up before your very eyes, and we now have two high school graduates. Our grandson Christopher Petersen, left us this year to venture off to Sheridan to begin the journey to build his dream of becoming a great chef, and or restaurant or hotel owner. It’s been hard having him be away from home and yet we are thankful that he isn’t so far away as to make trips home impossible. Our granddaughter, Shai Royce has entered the workforce full time, at the Hilton Inn. She is unsure of her future goals, so working is a good option. Our grandson, Caalab Royce is a senior in high school and will graduate in May. He is exploring the options for college to learn to make guitars…a longtime dream of his. And our grandson, Joshua Petersen is a sophomore in high school this year. Josh loves track, but with a knee injury, the season, or at least the indoor season, is up in the air until the doctor gives him the go ahead.
The past year has proven to be a pretty good one for The Moms. My mom, Collene Spencer took a couple of falls, but other than a couple of staples in her head, she is fine, and we are planning on physical therapy to strengthen her legs in the new year. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg continues to thrive at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, where she has lived for almost two years now. Both moms are happy where they are, and their living situations are a perfect fit for them. My mom’s mind is clear, so being at home is a workable situation, and since my sister, Cheryl Masterson lives with Mom, there is someone with her in the evenings anyway. Alzheimer’s Disease has made it impossible for my mother-in-law to live on her own, but since she doesn’t realize that Dad is gone, and that she is in a nursing home, she experiences no sorrow over her situation.
The past year brought our family a new addition, when Hattie Joy Parmely arrived, right on schedule. She joined her parents, Eric and Ashley Parmely, and big sister, Reagan Kaylynn Parmely, to give them a blessed home indeed. There were new additions in our family in other ways too, as I was able to connect us to many previously unknown cousins all over the country. I would love to tell you just how many new cousins there are, but there are too many to count, and more that will continue to join us through the ones we have already found. We said good bye for now to my grandniece, Christina Masterson, who moved to Germany to live with her mom. And we acquired a new driver, when my grandson Josh got his license.
Bob and I took a lovely cruise to Alaska this past summer, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. My dad had always wanted to go, and take his family with them, but while we sent our parents on a cruise for their 50th anniversary in 2003, we couldn’t join them. Well Dad…I’ve been there now, and you’re right…it was amazing. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken, and I would love to go back someday. Mom, Cheryl, and I also went on a trip this year. It was a trek to meet all the new Schumacher cousins that we had met online, and to reconnect with our Spencer cousins, and our precious Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill. The trip was far too short, but it has left us with precious memories, and new relationships that we will always have. We thank God for giving us back such wonderful family members, and adding so many new ones to our lives.
This is a time when so many people are making new years resolutions, but that is something I just don’t do. I prefer to reflect back on the passing year, and rejoice in all the blessings I have been given over the year. This year, has brought blessings in many different forms, from Facebook and Ancestry, to face-to-face blessings. I could not ask for more. Happy New Year to all of you from all of us, and may God’s blessings overflow in your lives. I love you all very much!