Kids

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My Uncle Jack McDaniels was always a great guy…very pleasant and always ready with a joke of some other funny remark. All my life, I enjoyed being around him and my Aunt Bonnie. Uncle Jack went home to Heaven on July 14, 2012, and he has been greatly missed by his family ever since. As I was getting ready to write his birthday story, I wanted to capture his personality in a way that maybe many people did not know him, so I contacted his daughter-in-law, Deena for assistance. I like to think that my inquiry gave Deena and Michael a prime opportunity to remember his dad on his birthday, because what better way to remember a parent than happy memories discussed on their birthday.

If you have ever been a part of a family on the larger side of size, you know that when they all get together, especially when there are little children in the mix, it is not a quiet event. Michael remembered a large family gathering that was quite loud, as you can imagine. Suddenly, everything went still…how that many people would all get quiet at the same time is shocking enough in and of itself. Nevertheless, for a few moments all was quiet before someone finally spoke. Uncle Jack said, in relief, “Thank goodness, I thought I had gone deaf!” I can absolutely see my Uncle Jack saying just that, with a twinkle in his eye, because that is how he was. He always saw the humor in life.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Bonnie’s son, Michael married his wife, Deena in 2006, so Deena got to know Uncle Jack for a little over six years. Deena told me about her first real interaction with Uncle Jack. Michael, having grown up with his dad’s influence, made the joke that he found Deena by the side of the road. So, when Uncle Jack met Deena for the first time, he said “So, you must be the hitchhiker!!!” The nickname stuck, and she is the hitchhiker to this day. It was all part of his teasing nature.

One thing I didn’t know, but wished I did, is that Uncle Jack loved local history. It is something he shared with Michael and Deena. Conversations between the three of them often centered around Casper and Natrona County history. They all collect books on local history too. Uncle Jack would share his collection of books with us, and their love of history grew. Books on local history became popular gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and I’m sure they are extra special treasures, now that Uncle Jack is in Heaven, as are the wonderful conversations they had over the years. Today would have been Uncle Jack’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Jack. We all love and miss you very much.

Turning 15 is a milestone in the life of a kid. My grand nephew, Easton Moore, like most kids at this age, is thinking of learning to drive and in just one more year, getting his driver’s license…that great ticket to freedom, as all kids see it. Studying for that test to get the permit, is not always a priority in a kids mind, however. I can’t say if Easton is studying hard or not, but I can tell you that contrary to popular belief among teenagers, the test is not common sense, and if some of it is, the problem for kids is a lack of common sense where rules of the road are concerned. Those things come with study and experience. Easton’s grandpa, LJ Cook taught him to drive a stick shift on the mountain last summer. Easton was so proud of himself!! His grandpa also taught him to change the oil in his truck.

Easton is a good worker and helper of others. He helps his parents, Machelle and Steve Moore around their house, as well as his grandparents, Debbie and LJ Cook around theirs. This past summer, Easton learned how to use a chain saw. That was scary on his mother’s side…but Easton was good and careful!! So often, the biggest lesson to learn when using such tools is respect for the danger of said tool. Easton learned that very well, and became a big help to his grandpa. Together they got all of the firewood cut up for his garage for this winter. LJ says that he has been nice and toasty warm.

As the son of parents who are gun enthusiasts Easton loves to go shooting when it’s warm. His mother tells me that Easton is a darn good shot!! When they go camping, they have had BB gun shooting contests in camp. They put a string around the whole camp and hung cans off it. Then they shoot the first one and go on down the line. They way it works, you can’t go to the next one till you hit the one your on. It makes the competition a little more stiff. I’m told that Easton has won more times than either his mom or his dad. Yikes!! That has to be an ego downer for them.

Easton got a television for Christmas, and then used money he had saved to buy an Xbox One. Easton loves to relax with a game on the Xbox on the weekends, and since he has his own television and Xbox, there is no fighting over turns with his brother, Weston…which is very nice for their parents. Today is Easton’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Easton!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand nephew, Jake Harman has really come into his own over the past few years. We have watched Jake go from being a footloose kid, who didn’t really have any definite direction in life, to a family man with three kids who absolutely love their Daddy. Jake and his wife, Melanie are perfect for each other. Their personalities are quite opposite of each other, and maybe that is part of why their relationship works. As to the children…Jake loves kids, and they love him. He can get them laughing in an instant. I think that is mainly because Jake is a big kid himself.

Speaking of kids, Jake is now the assisting the youth pastor at Mountain View Baptist church. As I said, Jake is great with kids, but as we all know, teenagers are a different thing. Teenagers take patience, tempered with stubbornness. It isn’t that teenagers are bad people, but just that they are growing up and they want to show that to others. Teenagers love to show their teacher, or in this case, youth leader, that teenagers run the show. I know this, because like Jake, I was a Sunday School teacher for the teenagers. I’ll never forget my first day. The students told me, “We have gone through a lot of teachers!” They were proud of that, but unfortunately for them, they hadn’t met me…yet. My comment was, “Well, you won’t go through me!” And they didn’t. So Jake, if you want to use that one, it’s on the house. Teachers of teenagers need all the help they can get. Just ask your Aunt Liz. That’s why we start with babies.

In Jake’s case, I think the teenagers will find that he is really a lot of fun. He loves being goofy, and laughing, as well as making others laugh. That gives him an edge when it comes to handling kids, and even teenagers. He can make even studying fun, and the fun activities even more fun. When you start the day out with humor, it’s always going to be a sunny day. And Jake has that funny bone trait going on, so I know the kids he works with will be blessed by him. Today is Jake’s birthday. Happy birthday Jake!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Jenny Spethman has such a sweet spirit. She loves the Lord, and loves to study God’s word. Her time spent in the word has given her a wisdom that not many people have. Her favorite time to fellowship with God is early in the morning, before her family is out of bed yet. Because of that, she sees some amazing mornings. Jenny loves the sunrise, and being awake while the moon is still bright in the sky. I think quiet time spent looking at God’s amazing skies, makes Jenny feel closer to God.

Jenny’s life is full and busy. From sports for her three sons, Xander, Zack, and Isaac, to dance classes and shopping with her daughter, Aleesia, Jenny and her husband, Steve are always on the go. I think that the amount of activity this family participates in, would be enough to exhaust most people, but they just keep going. Jenny and Steve want their children to be active, and to be able to enjoy the sports they like. They want them to broaden their horizons and to be able to become the people they want to in the future.

Jenny and Steve love to engage their family in lots of outdoor activities. From motorcycle riding in the summer to snowmobiling in the winter, they have shown their kids that the weather doesn’t have to hamper the fun. They love to go camping and swimming at the lake, and on the mountain too. They often take their kids out to practice shooting, and learning gun safety. The boys love to go hunting with their dad, and once each one has passed the hunter safety course, they are allowed to hunt too. Jenny and Aleesia love to have their girl time outings, and shopping is often the go to plan of the day. With all that activity, you might say that there is never a dull moment. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Chase is a good natured, and often funny guy. He likes a good joke and in general comedic situations. That is not what one would expect from him when you first meet him, however, because he seems a bit reserved…until you get to know him. Dave is the kind of man you like immediately, because he has a pleasing personality. He’s easy to talk to and intelligent, making conversations with him quite interesting. Dave has been a chief reservoir engineer, working for the Bureau of Land Management for a number of years, and in fact, knew my Aunt Sandy Pattan before he knew his future wife, my niece, Toni. Aunt Sandy was a little surprised when Dave told her who he was dating, and Dave was equally surprised when Aunt Sandy told him that Toni was her grandniece. They were both surprised.

Dave is all about family. From the moment he met Toni, he has worked hard at bonding with her son, James Renville, and these days they are good friends. James has a dad, but he also has a great step-dad, and they have a great time. When he married my niece, Dave inherited a large extended family. Toni has 4 siblings, and there are a number of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and a grand nephew. If you ask the kids about their Uncle Dave Chase, they will all tell you the same thing…”He loves his nieces and nephews.” Now to have one child say that is one thing, but when the consensus is in total agreement, you know that it is very true. Dave is generous and kind, and he is a lot of fun to be around. The kids all love him, and Dave feels the same way.

Dave is very athletic. He loves to play basketball, and I’m told that Dave runs circles around the younger crowd. Dave keeps himself in great shape, and you know that the work you are doing is working, when a kid says that you can run circles around the kids. Recently, Dave, like many government workers, spent a month on furlough because of the government shutdown, but Dave didn’t just sit around sulking, he took the opportunity to go skiing in Jackson. Dave loves to ski, and he had a great time. Nevertheless, he was glad to get back to work, because Dave isn’t the kind of guy to just sit around. He likes to stay busy. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I never thought that I would have much interest in how a guitar was made, but my grandson, Caalab Royce is interested in building guitars, so of course, I became interested too. You do that with your children and grandchildren. Caalab showed me pictures of the guitars he wanted to make, and told me that he could buy a kit to build one, that would include all the parts. I truly believe there will come a day that he will build a guitar, and it will be beautiful, and sound beautiful. I might be biased, but if my grandson makes it, I know it will be perfect.

Recently, I stumbled across an article about a musical wood. That caught my attention. I wondered how wood could be musical. Of course, it couldn’t, as I already knew and went on to find out, but the Sitka Spruce tree is, nevertheless, the wood used for the vast majority of acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and other musical-instrument soundboards. That told me that the wood must have some kind of musical importance. I found out that the wood has excellent acoustic properties. The wood is light, soft, and yet, relatively strong and flexible. The Sitka Spruce is also used for general construction, ship building, and plywood.

Found mostly in Southeast Alaskan forests, the Sitka Spruce is being harvested at such a rate that the end of the instrument-quality supply is in sight. That doesn’t mean that the Sitka Spruce was becoming extinct, but it takes time to grow to some size, so the instrument-quality is becoming less available. The population of the Sitka Spruce is stable at this point, and it grows in Alaska, as well as Washington, Oregon, and California, meaning that there is plenty of places to re-seed this important tree. It really is just a matter of waiting for the growth, and when you are talking about a tree, it’s very different than a puppy. You are talking years for a tree. A Sitka Spruce grows to around 88 feet in height after 50 years, to 157 feet after 100 years. That means that by the time the trees grow to usable size, the guitar builders of today will be long gone, so a new generation will be the ones to use the new growth. I hope that Caalab will have a chance to build a guitar out of Sitka Spruce before the wood is no longer available.

Since she was a little girl, my niece Lacey Stevens has loved hair and makeup. After high school, Lacey went to Cosmetology School, and then began working in a couple of the salons in Casper, Wyoming. Then she was hired at Alta Beauty. As it turns out, Alta Beauty would place Lacey on the fast track to a huge success. Lacey was liked and respected immediately upon beginning her job there, and before long she was promoted to assistant manager. Lacey made a lot of friends at Alta Beauty, and her co-workers all looked to her for advise and direction. Her expertise was obvious and had great value, and those who work with her are blessed by her.

Then, the manager of Alta Beauty, Lacey’s boss was promoted to District Manager. That left the manager position at Alta Beauty open…but not for long. Beginning February 1, 2019, my niece, Lacey Stevens, who is all of 26 years old, becomes the new manager of Alta Beauty, and her family couldn’t be more proud of her. That is something that doesn’t happen very often. It takes knowledge and leadership abilities to be considered for such a promotion, and Lacey has exhibited all of those qualities that will make her an excellent manager. Her boss recognized these qualities in Lacey, and promoted her accordingly.

Lacey is an artist in every sense of the word. I suppose many people wouldn’t understand that statement, because art and cosmetology don’t exactly seem to go together, but her canvas is the face and hair of her clients. Everything from an everyday new look, to a Halloween look, to the most important day of their lives. There are a number of women who just won’t trust their looks to anyone else. She is an artist in the world of beauty. Lacey was born for this line of work and she is an expert at it. She did her cousin, Siara Olsen’s makeup for her wedding, as she has done for several others. Her work is amazing. And many people have been grateful for her expertise. Today is Lacey’s birthday. Happy birthday Lacey, and congratulations on your promotion!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband’s aunt, Margee Kountz is the kind of person that you can always count on. When people need help, she will do everything in her power to help them. Margee has always been a hands-on grandma. While her kids worked, she was there to pick up the grandkids from school, and when her daughter-in-law had cancer, and then passed away, she stepped up to help her son Dan raise his two children, Zech and Stasi. I remember those years well. Her sweet little grandchildren were just 4 and 2 years old, and they didn’t know what was going on. Their mommy was gone and their daddy was very sad. Their grandma became their rock. Stability is a time of chaos. Her sacrifice is something none of them will ever forget. They always knew that she would always be there for them. She was also there for her daughter’s children, Brian Kountz, Nathan Avey, and Destreyia Cannon. They spent lots of time at her house, and she picked them up from school and took them to things they needed to go to. They all love her dearly.

When my mother-in-law, Margee’s sister, Joann Schulenberg developed Alzheimer’s Disease, Margee was there to sit with her when we needed to take my father-in-law, Walt to the doctor or other appointment. We always knew that she would be there for us. The=at period of time was so important, because while her memory was failing her, it was so important to have her family around to help her hold on to the memories she could. Margee talked with her about the old days from their childhood, and about their parents and grandparents. Those memories and the talks that kept them going, were a gift that Margee gave to her sister, and they were a treasure to me, because I knew how much they meant to my mother-in-law. Truly the worst thing a family member can do to a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease, is to simply remember them they way they used to be, and never go to see them. It doesn’t matter if they remember that people came to visit, because that person knows, and the patient knew at the time of the visit. Kindness doesn’t get more perfect than that, and Margee visited her sister as often as she possibly could. We knew she was always there for her sister…even when it was difficult for her to get there. We knew.

One of the coolest moments of her life was when she became a great grandmother to Destreyia’s little Brody Thomas Overby on March 8, 2017. Margee loves being a grandma, and now a whole new generation of babies was starting to arrive. The future looks very bright indeed, and Margee will always be there for these new little ones too. Today is Margee’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My uncle, Wayne Byer was for many years the head of the bus garage of the Natrona County School District. It was a job he liked, and he was very well known and liked by everyone within the district. We, his nieces and nephews, were also very proud of the fact that our uncle was in charge of the bus garage…whether we rode a bus or not. I think most of us felt like he ran the school, which of course, he didn’t, but we were kids…what did we know?

While he wasn’t in charge of the school, some of us still found that it pays to know people in high places, or not so high places. As long as they were liked, it paid to know them. Knowing Uncle Wayne was not something that I ever recall bringing me any special treatment, but my sisters, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock had a different take on that story. While attending East Junior High School, the subject of Uncle Wayne, and our relationship to him, somehow came up. That was advantageous for my sisters, in that the ladies who worked in the cafeteria, knew and very much liked Uncle Wayne. That said, they also took a liking to my sisters, and therefore, saved them some of the best food…freshest, best cuts, biggest pieces, best desserts, and such, were among the perks. I’m sure that Uncle Wayne never knew this was happening, not that it would have bothered him. I can see him grinning over such an event right now.

Of course, it was a great compliment to Uncle Wayne, and well earned. He was always an easy going, fun loving, slightly mischievous man, and that endeared him to a lot of people. He didn’t have to do much…just smile at them with that infectious smile of his, and people immediately loved him. And anyone who could honestly say they were related to him should have special treatment too. I guess it was just not something I ever thought of telling everyone, although I can see now that I should have. I can totally see how the ladies in the cafeteria could grow to like Uncle Wayne, because he was a very likeable man, and every one of his nieces and nephews would tell you the same. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne. Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Toni Chase has been going through some big changes this year, and that can be hard on people. These were changes that affected Toni; her husband, Dave; and son, James; but especially Toni. James is grown up now, and really isn’t home much, so for Toni, empty nest syndrome has a very real thing…and not one that she is sure she likes very much. In addition, her dog, Bones, who was pretty old, died and that left Toni feeling even more lonely.

Dave had always had Bichon dogs, and so Toni talked him into getting one. Biscuit soon joined the family, and Toni loves her puppy baby very much, but before long she realized that Biscuit was lonely too, even when she quit her job, and started another one with more flexible hours, so she could be home more. The problem is that James isn’t a little boy anymore, and with her and Dave working, and James busy with his own life, Biscuit was still home alone half of every day.

Toni began to talk to Dave about adopting a dog, which has been something Toni had been thinking about a lot. Dave was not keen on the idea, and in reality, completely unwilling to discuss it. Nevertheless, Dave loves Toni, and wants her to be happy, so when she pursued it, he let her begin the process. And a process it really was. Toni had been looking at rescue dogs for about a month after getting Biscuit, but couldn’t find any in our local area that were young and smaller. To make matters worse, for any surrounding areas, such as Colorado Montana or South Dakota, you had to fill out an application send references and pictures of your house each and every time you saw a dog would become available that you would be interested in. Toni filled out 37 applications and only got two responses back. One response said that her application was in the top two, but they had picked another family based on the location. The same lady that turned them down, suggested that they try the iRescue website, out of Boulder Colorado, so Toni went on their site and picked several different small young dogs that she would be interested in adopting…again filling out an application for each one, sending pictures of her house, and references for each one. She was a bit stunned when she got a call on one of the dogs they had available. However, it wasn’t a dog that she had shown interest in. The dog that she suggested would be a good fit for their family was a Carne Terrier mix female named Flower. It took only one look for Toni to fall in love, but she still had to talk Dave into wanting her too. Just the night before, Dave had told her to quit looking at rescue dogs, because they weren’t getting another dog. Toni couldn’t get Flower off of her mind, so she downloaded the pathetic little pictures of Flower that were taken when she was captured and being held in a high kill shelter in New Mexico.

Toni decided to try a different strategy. She sent Dave an email, including the pictures of this poor little dog. She told Dave that she was the number one pick of 37 applicants to rescue this dog who was due to be put down in 48 hours. She explained that they would have to pick her up in Boulder that Saturday…if Dave was agreeable to adopting her, and that in order to adopt her they had to sign a commitment agreement by 5:00 that evening and send the funds within 24 hours of signing the commitment agreement before they would ship her from New Mexico to Boulder. She also explained to him they were little Flower’s last hope.

Toni had planned to give Dave some time, and talk to him at 4:30 to try to persuade him, but Dave responded back with a phone call in less than 5 minutes, saying, “Do you like her?” Toni said, “Yes, and he said okay call her back and tell her that we will come and get her.” He would wire the funds right away. Flower would become Cricket, and she would become theirs. These puppy babies brought nothing but joy to Toni, Dave, and James. And on a side note, James has been spending a bit more time at home too, easing the empty nest syndrome Toni has had.

Funny thing, Dave didn’t want any more dogs…not Biscuit or Cricket at first, but now he loves them just as much as Toni does, and in fact Cricket has turned out to be his sweet little dog, but Toni gets to share, I guess. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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