My youngest sister, Allyn Hadlock has always been the sweetest one of us all, and I don’t say that to sound like the rest of us are horrible hags, because that isn’t the case at all. It’s just that if you ask any one of my other three sisters or me, what one thing we all agreed on concerning Allyn, it was that “Allyn was always good.” As a little girl, our mom couldn’t spank or even yell at Allyn, because she would become so broken hearted…when Mom simply told her no-no. Allyn just has a very tender heart, to this day. Being tender hearted can have it’s really good side too. Allyn has a kind way about her, and it is not something that goes unnoticed in any setting. Everyone notices her kindness and sweet ways.
Over the years, Allyn has done her very best to always make those around her feel loved and blessed. She had special nicknames for her kids, and songs using their name that she either made up or replaced a name in a song with theirs. One thing her kids could always count on is that their mom was going to put a smile on their face every day. We all felt that way, so I know what I am talking about.
Other than being married to her husband, Chris Hadlock and having her children, Jessi Sawdon, Ryan Hadlock, Lindsay Moore, and Kellie Hadlock, I think that the greatest blessings in recent years have come in the form of her children’s spouses, Jason Sawdon, Chelsea Hadlock, and Shannon Moore, and now the beautiful little grandbabies she has, Ethan Hadlock, Aurora Hadlock, and Adelaide Sawdon. These days the little name songs have the names of those precious babies in them, and Allyn makes sure that each of those babies knows that they are just the sweetest one, and while it might seem odd that each one could be the sweetest one, in the world of a grandma, that is totally possible. Grandmas love each baby the most, no matter how many there are. That’s because we love each one the same…100%. Allyn is as blessed as a woman can be, and she is still thought of as the sweetest one. In fact, that very thing came up last night when I was at our sister Cheryl’s house and we were talking. We all agreed that Allyn was always good. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When my grandson, Caalab Royce was a little boy, he was obsessed with being “older” than me…or anyone else for that matter. He would often come up to me or other people and say, “I’m older than you.” It was always such a funny thing to have this little tiny, under five year old boy telling me that he was older than me…his grandma. It always made me smile, and maybe that was his plan anyway. He is, after all, a comedian…always had been. Not everyone was happy with his little joke, especially his older sister, Shai Royce. She was living behind the age eight ball anyway, because she was a Leap Day Baby. So the reality is that by the time he was one, he technically was older than she was. It was a source of contention, until I finally told her that she might only be two at eight, but she would get to drive when she was four and her brother and cousins would have to wait until they were sixteen, so it all evened out in the end.
Caalab has long since ceased to be that little boy trying so hard to be older, and I haven’t heard that funny little comment in a long time, but the story lives on in my memory files. Now that he is going on twenty years old this summer, I guess being older is not so important anymore. And, at almost twenty one…or 5¼…Shai is no longer bothered by such comments. I think that I just assumed that those days of hearing the comment, “I’m older than you” were over. How wrong I was.
Flash forward now those eighteen plus years, to my niece Kellie Hadlock, who is also a serious comedian…if that is possible, and you have Kelli calling me, my daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, and most of the rest of the girls in the family, Little Baby Caryn…or whatever their name might be. That is because Kellie is 6’0″, compared to my 5’2″. Kellie likes to hugs us and lift us off our feet at the same time, to make a point that we are vertically challenged. Today in church, where Kellie, her mom, my sister, Allyn Hadlock, and I are all backup singers, Kellie greeted me with her usual, “Hi, little baby Caryn.” I called her little baby Kellie, to which she giggled, “I don’t think so.” I told her that since I am older than her, she will always be little baby Kellie to me. Then, straight out of the past, came the sentence I thought I was done hearing, when Kellie said, “I’m older than you!” The shock must have registered on my face, because my sister said, “That would be ok!” I had to agree, because since I’m sixty and Kellie is almost twenty seven. I could handle being twenty six…or, maybe not, but it was a funny blast from the past.
On the last day of the year, many people are busily planning the festivities for the evening. Others are contemplating the coming year and how they might make it better than the last. These are things that I am doing too, but I am also looking back on the year that is quickly coming to a close. Every year has it’s good things and it’s bad things. This year is no different. As the year began, I was recovering from a broken shoulder, while my niece, Chantel Balcerzak was getting used to her new role as grandma to little Izabella Siara Harman. February brought a promotion for my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock to Lieutenant with the Casper Police Department, and then the sad 1st anniversary of our mother’s passing. I couldn’t believe she had been gone a year already. March brought the 41st anniversary of my marriage to Bob Schulenberg, and the love continues to grow. It also brought the purchase of a home in northwestern Washington for our daughter, Amy Royce and her husband, Travis.
April brought my 60th birthday, although I felt no upset by that. I have always felt that the key is to enjoy the age you are at, and I will continue to do so. May 5th brought the sad reminder that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been in Heaven for 3 years now. May also brought the graduation of my grandson, Chris Petersen from the Culinary School at Sheridan College. It’s hard for me to believe that his college years are so quickly over. My daughter, Amy made the trip to Wyoming to attend the graduation, and it was so good to see her again…even if it was for such a short time. June brings the birthdays of my daughters, and these days it’s a little bit bittersweet, because Amy is so far away. My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband, Kevin went camping for her birthday, so we joined them on Casper Mountain for a birthday evening. We all had a lovely time. I just wish Amy’s family could have been there too.
July brought with it one of the biggest changes of my life, when my husband, Bob Schulenberg retired from the City of Casper. It was a day of rejoicing, because he had been ready to retire for some time now. July also brought with it, another loss…of sorts, when my granddaughter, Shai Royce moved to Washington to be near her family. It was hard on me, but I knew it was best for her, because she had been so lonely for her parents and her brother, Caalab. While we continue to miss her and the rest of her family, we are happy, because they are happy. July also brought wedding bells for my nephew, Garrett Stevens as he married his best friend, Kayla Smiley. August brought a beautiful new addition to our family when my niece Jessi Sawdon and her husband, Jason welcomed daughter Adelaide Ione to our family. Addi was named after Jessi’s great grandmother and Jessi’s grandmother, my mom, Collene Ione Spencer. In September, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg, had skin removal surgery after losing 350 pounds. She had a bleeding issue, but she is doing well now, and we are very proud of her. September also brought with it the sadness of loss, as we said goodbye to Bob’s aunt, Linda Cole. Hers was a shock, because her passing was so unexpected.
October found my grandson, Josh Petersen actively pursuing his dream of becoming a firefighter as he took Boces classes to get a head start on the Fire Science degree he needs. It also found us celebrating with my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock, as he became the Peace Officer of the year. November brought an unusual Thanksgiving as Bob and I traveled to Ferndale, Washington to spend the holiday with Amy’s family, in a week that went by way too fast. Then, as we were on our way home, we found out about the passing of my cousin, Shirley Cameron’s husband, Shorty’s passing…another shocking passing that was very unexpected. December brought the sad reminder that my dad, Allen Spencer had been in Heaven now for 9 long years. That seems impossible to me. December also brought college graduation for my niece, Michelle Stevens, who will now start her teaching career. This was most certainly a year of ups and downs, but with the coming new year, comes the hope for a great future.
As I was contemplating the Christmas Day activities to come, my mind wandered back to Christmases of my past. As a child, I remember waking up very early, with struck orders not to go out into the living room until our parents were awake. It seemed like a lifetime before they woke up. It wasn’t, of course, but in my youthful mind, it felt that way nevertheless. Christmas was a day to stay home. After the presents were opened, the cooking began. Of course, the turkey had been cooking for a while by then…another sign that Mom and Dad weren’t really still sleeping when we were trying to wake them up. My sisters and I had the rest of the morning to play with our new toys, and help out in the kitchen. It didn’t matter if it was snowing outside or not, because we had no place to go…the day was ours. I miss those carefree, slowed down, stay-at-home Christmases sometimes.
When I got married, there were suddenly two families to spend Christmas…and every other holiday, with. Things got hectic very fast. We found ourselves running from one house to the other in celebration of the day. Yes, there was plenty of stress, but there really was celebration too, because Christmas is a day of celebration, both in the spiritual and secular versions. Families worked together to make for an easy transition from one house to the other, even though each one wished they could have had a little bit more time with us. Finally, at the end of a very long day, wonderful as it was, we dragged ourselves back home, and figured that there was always tomorrow to stay home and let the kids play with all of their new things.
When our girls got married a whole new facet was added to the Christmas/holiday mix. Not only was there still my family and Bob’s, but now we had Kevin’s and Travis’ families. The holidays became almost chaotic. Still, it was about family, and that was what mattered. Our families, their families, one big happy family. What I learned from this time spent reminiscing is that whatever Christmas or the other holidays are to your family, that is the thing that matters, because after the real reason for the Christmas season…the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ…family is the next thing in the line of the most important things in life. Merry Christmas to all of my dear family, and everyone everywhere.
Last night my sisters and I, along with our families, got together for our 2nd annual Spencer Family Christmas Party. Our family made a commitment long ago, to stay close as a family. Family is so important, and all too often, people lose touch, because they don’t realize the importance of family, or they think there will always be time later. It is never a good idea to put off family until later. I’m thankful that my mom’s parents, George and Hattie Byer asked their kids to stay close, inspiring the annual picnic and Christmas parties to keep us all close, because it was those events, that gave us the inspiration to do the same. Then, our sister, Allyn Hadlock, and her husband Chris decided to host the annual party at their house. What a wonderful blessing that has been for all of us. This year was a smaller crowd, as there were several family members who will be spending Christmas in various locations across the United States, but I know they were there in spirit. Of course we missed each one of them, but we understand. I hope that maybe one day, we will be able to have a party with all of us together again.
The one thing that I have noticed about each of the two parties we have had since our parents left us, is that when we are having the party, it’s like Mom and Dad are there with us. Part of the reason is because of the fact that the conversation always turns to them, and to Christmastimes of the past. The memories of special gifts given and received, moments of surprise, and comical moments too, flood the room…along with the laughter as we reminisce about the Christmases of our lifetimes. Still, it always leaves us with an almost bittersweet feeling. Sweetness, because we have been blessed with such great parents, and that we are making the proud, but bitter, because they aren’t here with us. Nevertheless, we know that we will all be together again.
We really have been blessed with wonderful sisters, and all of the other family members. The family has grown exponentially. Like my mom’s family, we are related to about half of the town. That part in itself is an amazing and wonderful thing. We all feel very blessed by all of the nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the wonderful additions that have joined us by marriage. This time of year, we start to think more and more about family, and while I miss my parents more that I could ever say, I am thankful for my sisters, everyday, because sisters really are forever friends.
With each passing year, I find myself looking forward more and more to the Byer Family Christmas Party. Sadly, I think that part of the reason is that as time passes, we seem to lose more and more of my aunts and uncles. This year found us with only four aunts and only one uncle at the party. There are other uncles who are still alive, but that aren’t really able to come out for these events any more. It makes each time we get together that much more precious. I always feel sorry for those who didn’t make it to the party, because we always have such a nice time, and we are a family of excellent cooks, so the food is fabulous. And it is a way to keep those who have gone to Heaven just a little closer to the family. Nevertheless, the sadness over missing those who have left us persists, and grows with each new passing.
I think one reason that our grandparents wanted their children to continue the annual Christmas party and annual picnic was so that we would all get to know each other better. As the new generations come along. It would be so easy to lose touch with each other. That would be so sad, because little kids are usually instant friends, and that makes it extra special to watch. The kids had a sparkle in their eyes, and smiles on their faces. They were so excited to have new friends to play with and lots of room to run around, with no one to get upset at them. For kids, Christmas is always a special time of year, and it’s really hard to hold back the excitement. I love watching them bounce around the room. I could say that they ran around the room, but that wouldn’t be right exactly, because they really did bounce with excitement, and after all, it’s all about the kids right.
My grandparents were wise people. They had a vision for their kids and grandkids…for all of the generations that would follow them. They knew how easy it is to get busy in life, and to lose touch with family. It happens in so many families, and they didn’t want that for their family. Very wise people indeed. They wanted their kids not only to know their nieces and nephews, but also their grand nieces and nephews, and great grand nieces and nephews, for as long as they lived. What a precious gift that request turned out to be. It was not a burden to be carried or work to be done…it was a gift, and one I am thankful for every single year. It’s a time for family and reconnecting. While we miss all those who are gone now, I know that they would be proud of us for continuing this tradition. We love you all.
My nephew, Barry Schulenberg, and his wife, Kelli have been doing some remodeling on their bathroom and their home outside of Casper, Wyoming. Barry has a knack for carpentry, and that reminds me of the little boy that was Barry, helping his grandpa, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg build the family home north of Casper. It seems like so many years ago, and yet in my memory files, I can see it so clearly. In those days, Barry wanted to do anything his grandpa was doing…so much so, in fact, that Barry had decided that he didn’t need to go to school. He was just going to go to work with his grandpa. I can’t say exactly how much Barry learned about carpentry from his grandpa in those days, but I think he took something away from that experience, even as a little two year old boy. I think he found that he liked to build things, but more than that, it built a bond between grandfather and grandson that would last a lifetime.
Over the years, Barry helped his grandfather do anything he was doing. From splitting wood to working on cars, the two of them were almost inseparable, except for the inevitable job/school times that each had to go to. Barry lived for the time when his grandpa would be home from work and they could go work outside. I’m not sure if my father-in-law felt worn out or not, but if he did, he rarely showed it to Barry. They were best buddies and that was all that mattered. The three granddaughters that my father-in-law had then, were his little princesses, and were treated as such, but Barry was his working buddy, and that was just the way it was. I think the girls were ok with that too, because carpentry and cars really weren’t their idea of fun anyway.
I don’t know if Barry realized how special his relationship with his grandpa was, but I really hope he did or does now, because it was special. Not every little boy gets to spend the time with their grandfather that Barry did. That was a blessing beyond blessings for both of them, and it was special to watch too. My father-in-law has been gone now for over three and a half years now. I have to wonder if Barry misses his grandpa as he is working on the current project he has set himself to now. It’s not that Barry can’t do the work himself and with Kelli’s help, but I have to wonder if he doesn’t hear the echo of his grandpa’s voice guiding him through the steps to remodeling the bathroom. His grandpa really knew what he was doing, and to top it off, Barry looks like his grandpa too. No wonder they got along so well. They were two of a kind. Today is Barry’s birthday. Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Each year, it seems that Thanksgiving brings something new with it…at least in the past few years anyway. The loss of my parents, and my father-in-law, my daughter Amy Royce and her family moving away, my broken shoulder last year…just a month before Thanksgiving, and now, my husband, Bob and me, spending Thanksgiving at Amy’s house and our daughter, Corrie Petersen’s family here in Casper. It’s rather odd, I suppose, but in my lifetime I can only think of one other holiday I didn’t spend at home with all of my family…the year I graduated from high school when I spent New Year’s Eve with my sister, Cheryl Masterson and her family, in Plattsburgh, New York. In the past, the sad things brought with them sorrow, and made it a little more difficult to feel thankful, but then I thought about the things I still had…family members who were still here, friends, jobs, my writing, and photographs of days gone by.
This year also brings some sadness, in that we will really miss Corrie and her family, as well as gathering with Corrie’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who graciously invited us last year, as well as the future years, because, as Becky told us, “That’s the way it should be.” Nevertheless, I am so thankful to be visiting my daughter, Amy and her family, who I have missed very much. It will be a great way to have a reunion with them, and it will something new on my list of memorable events in my life. I am so thankful that my daughter, Amy at least, gets four days off for the Thanksgiving holiday. It will give us some real quality time together, and then when the rest of the family is there, the visit will be even more blessed.
I am also thankful that Corrie and her family will be spending the day with his parents, and that Corrie has the week off. It will make for a cozy time at home with her family too. Of course, I want Corrie, Kevin, Chris, and Josh, and Kevin’s family to know that we are thinking of them and praying that they have a wonderful day, because we miss them very much too, on this Thanksgiving Day, away.
My youngest grandchild, Josh Petersen has a plan for his life. He decided a couple of years ago that he wanted to be a firefighter and EMT, and he began taking college classes through the Boces program, that allows high school students to take college classes while still in high school. Josh had been interested in becoming a fire fighter, but that interest became his dream after his grandpa, Bob Schulenberg arranged a visit to the Casper Fire Station 3. The fire fighters not only showed him around, but explained how things worked. Then they suggested that he take Fire Science at Casper College while he was still in high school. I don’t think he had any idea that he could take that kind of a class while still in high school, but he was excited…and hooked. Now, it’s all he thinks about. He loved the Fire Science class, and has continued to take college classes with his full focus on becoming a firefighter and EMT.
As part of the Fire Science program, Josh was required to volunteer as several events. Josh changed so much when he started these events and the Fire Science program. He was completely in his element. It was like watching him become a fire fighter…right before our very eyes. Josh thrived on the volunteer work too, so much so, in fact that this year, even though in isn’t in the class that requires him to volunteer, Josh went to that instructor, and told him he wanted to volunteer. His instructor was shocked. I guess no one had ever asked to do it again, but you just don’t turn a volunteer away, so Josh is volunteering again this year. He will be helping at three events, a 5K run, the Platte River cleanup, and the Fire Station 3 open house. He is so excited to be back helping the fire fighters do the things they do…even if these things aren’t fire related this time.
Josh loves everything fire fighter related…so much so, that he decided that he wanted some of his senior pictures taken at the fire station. So, his grandpa called to make that arrangement too. Josh had such a good time having those pictures taken. It was like he could see into the future. He saw himself as a fire fighter…like it had already happened. Soon Josh…before you know it. Today is Josh’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As I visited with my Aunt Dixie Richards at the Byer family picnic, last Sunday, she talked about how her grandchildren were getting older now, and they need her less and less. She was sad about that, because this was an era that had defined her life for the past 22 years…and truly even beyond that. She was mom first, and then grandma. It was who she was. Being mom and grandma defined her completely. Aunt Dixie was always about her family, and now she was feeling like they didn’t need her anymore. Of course, she and I both knew that wasn’t technically true. She is very important to all of the members of her family, it’s just that her idea of her usefulness was in question. It wasn’t that she didn’t think she was needed at all, she just wasn’t sure what her new role would be with these less needy grandchildren.
I can understand how she felt, because I have felt that way myself at different times in my life, as has Aunt Dixie. We were both caregivers…until were weren’t. We were hands-on moms…until the kids grew up, and did their own things. And now we are both hands-on grandmothers with grandchildren who no longer need our help. So, who will we be now? Will we someday soon become hands-on great grandmothers? Probably not, because the hands-on grandparents will be our children. Our role will be simply to hold and cuddle the great grandbabies sometimes, when we get the chance. It’s a strange place to be.
Of course, both Aunt Dixie and I will find our way in this new reality we live in. Our lives will be different, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t need us, because they will. Aunt Dixie still has a younger grandchild…her only granddaughter, Mayme, but she is in school too, so she won’t have nearly as much time with her when school starts. It’s kind of a lonely feeling for Aunt Dixie, but like all of us, she will move forward, and figure out how to redefine herself, and before long it will all be ok again. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!