Love

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Every year since 1907 (or 1914, if you go by the day that Congress designated the day) children have celebrated a day of remembering all the wonderful things their mom has done for them. Being a mom is often a thankless job. It involves long hours, filled with worries, headaches, weariness, and work…and it’s an all volunteer job. Of course, if we had to pay our mother for all the things she did for us, we would all be broke, and the moms would have all the money in the world…or a good chunk of it. The job of Mom, is a highly skilled job, encompassing many different careers. Moms are nurses, teachers, chefs, nannies, coaches, maids, chauffeurs, financial advisors, tutors, counselors, advisor, judge, and jury, just to name a few. Most of her training is on the job training, because motherhood is a career that starts the instant your first child arrives, and lasts for the rest of your life. There are no days off, no passing the torch, and no retirement. And the funny thing is that no mother ever wants to retire, in fact, they wish their babies would stay little forever.

My own mom, Collene Spencer was a most amazing woman. She raised five daughters, teaching us to cook, clean, take care of a home, and how to be moms. She taught us that we could do anything we set our minds to. As our lives progressed and we took on our adulthood, she became our cheerleader…even if what we were doing was a hobby, she always had faith that we could do it. I remember when I started writing, she wanted to have me read the stories to her. She missed so many of them, because I didn’t see her that day, so I finally made sure she got them on her Kindle. She read every single one. She was my biggest fan, and I miss having her tell me how much she loved this story or that one. And I miss calling Mom to ask her about a detail from her childhood. Her information enriched my stories, because she knew all the little details of the events. Many times, while I’m working on a story, I think, “I need to ask Mom about that”…then, I realized once again…that I can’t. It would be nice to have a phone to Heaven, because I have questions for my mom…and my dad too. And I miss them, and just saying hello again would be wonderful.

When I got married, I assumed that I had learned everything I needed to know, but that was not so. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg had been raised on a farm, and had a very different take on life and caring for a family. So, once again, I had things to learn. Having a vegetable garden meant that rather than buying vegetables at the store, you got them out of the cupboard, and that was because you had picked them from the garden, and canned them. It wasn’t that my mom didn’t know how to do that, but we didn’t have a garden, so we didn’t can. My mother-in-law sewed, knitted, and crocheted, and while I knew how to crochet, I hadn’t been exactly willing to learn much about sewing from my mom. I learned how to do these things, but unlike my mother-in-law, they would not become a big part of my life. Some things just simply are, what they are. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the things I learned from my mother-in-law, who also taught me that you never really know it all. My mom is in Heaven now, but we still have my mother-in-law for a while longer. Happy Mother’s Day to my Moms!! I love you both very much.

For the first 51 years of my life, my birthday was always celebrated with my dad. It was our tradition. I was supposed to be born on his birthday anyway, and what difference did two days make…for birthday parties anyway. We always like having our party together. Now that Dad is in Heaven, we can no longer do that, on Earth anyway, and believe me…it has been a long ten years. He is always in my thoughts on my birthday, and every day, as is my mom.

I think that as we get older, our birthday becomes a day to reflect on all the blessings we have been given. In my mind, there is no greater blessing than the parents who have me life in the first place. I just couldn’t have asked for better parents than they were. They taught me all of life’s important lessons…the ones I needed to know to become an independent and responsible woman, and trust me when I say that I was not always the easiest student. I would not be where I am today, were it not for them. I am also thankful for my sweet sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock…and for their families. We always had each other, and we knew that we always would. I knew I could count on them…no matter what.

As I grew up, I met the love of my life, Bob Schulenberg. He is my support system through everything life brings my way. When he took our wedding vows over 42 years ago, he meant every word, and he has kept every vow perfectly. He has been a huge blessing in my life. He is the father of my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. My girls…wow!! Where do I begin? Besides being the wonderful children they were and the beautiful women they have become, they were always there, willing to do whatever was needed, especially in the years while we were taking care of their grandparents. We couldn’t have done it without them. Caregiving is truly a unique situation, and anyone who has done it knows that it definitely takes a village. My girls were an intricate part of that village, as were their husbands, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who both sacrificed so much time with their wives and children so they could be there for their grandparents. My grandchildren…another wow! How many children, ten and under, willing come in and become CNAs in every sense of the word…and do it well. None I can think of. Each of my grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, are more of a blessing to me than they can ever know. I want my family to know that I am so proud of each and every one of you.

And no reflection over one’s life would be complete without considering the blessing of loving in-laws. Bob’s parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg became like a second set of parents to me, and with my marriage I also gained four sweet sisters-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg, Debbie Cook, Jennifer Parmely, and Brenda Schulenberg, as well as a brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg. They, along with their families have made my life complete. As my birthday arrives, it is with sadness, because of those who are in Heaven now, but also with a deep understanding of just how very blessed my life has been. I thank God for each and everyone of my family members, as well as wonderful friends, like Jim and Julie Stengel, Carrie Beauchamp, and Becky Thorne, who have also been a great part of what makes my life blessed. Looking at my past, I know that I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s perfect just the way it is. Life doesn’t get sweeter than this.

These days, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I, and a few other people we know, have become an anomaly. Our marriage has weathered the test of time, and we are well on our way to growing old together. I say that not so much with a sense of pride, although I am proud of my marriage to Bob, and happy that we are still together, but with almost a sense of awe. Many people who everyone just knew would make it didn’t, so why did we make it? I have never been sure, except that we usually didn’t let things bother us very much. The old saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” comes to mind, as does “In a hundred years, who’s gonna care.” Those sayings remind me to focus on what is important…us. Things will come and go, storms will dissipate, seasons will pass, but as long as we are on this journey together, we are going to be blessed.

When I met Bob, I was a senior in high school. I didn’t know what love was. I just thought he was cute. Little did I know that from that day forward, he would always be a wonderful part of my life. Now, I can’t even begin to imagine my life without him. We are so connected…so well suited for each other. My mom, Collene Spencer commented one time that we had even begun to look alike…taking on the same facial expressions and mannerisms. I thought that was a strange comment at the time…at lease twenty years ago, when she said it, but she was right. As I watch us in our daily life, we can finish each other’s sentences, crack the same jokes, and think alike on world issues…all of them!! How amazing is that? Bob knows what to do or say in any situation, to bring me comfort. The Bible says that in marriage, the two become one. That is so evident in our lives, and we couldn’t ask for more. Ours is a beautiful life. We are so very blessed.

It’s not that we are spending lots of money, or traveling to exotic places, but we might someday. It’s just that we like doing the same things. I don’t think it matters where you go, as long as you go together…at least most of the time. More important than money and things though, is loving the person you have chosen to be your life partner, and that is what we have done. We just couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. There is no big secret, or magic formula, we just love and respect each other, and we love just living our life. Happy 42nd anniversary to the most wonderful husband ever!! Forty two years and still going strong. I love you Bob…forever and ever!!

Every year, right before Valentine’s Day, men begin the sometimes stress filled process of making sure that the gift they get for their girl, be it wife or girlfriend, is the right thing. They don’t know if they should get chocolates, flowers, diamonds, stuffed toys, or something else. They just know that they want to make their girl happy. They want her to feel loved. In my almost 42 years of marriage to my husband, Bob Schulenberg, I have received all of the above gifts, and many others, along with a nice dinner out each year to celebrate our love, but I have to say, that while it’s nice to get those things and I love him for doing it, in all reality, it’s not about all those things. It’s about the love we have for each other. In fact, it’s all about the love. Without the love, there is no reason for all the rest of it anyway. Marriages don’t last 42 years just because the husband, wife, or both remembered the special days, although it does help…especially the anniversaries. Nevertheless, it is the love and respect that a couple shows each other in their day to day life that make the marriage great.

I like getting gifts as much as the next girl, but for me, a favorite thing is to go for long walks with Bob. We both enjoy walking and hiking, and just being together. We don’t have to talk a lot on our walks, we are just enjoying the time we spend together. We have always found ourselves going in the same direction, so to speak. Our interests are much the same, and we just enjoy each other’s company. We don’t have to have a crowd of people around us all the time to be happy, because after 42 years, we have found that we “sort of like each other” and that is all that matters.

Every marriage has it own special times. Whether you like camping, movies, dinners out with friends, or just a cozy evening at home, in the end it’s all about what makes you and your spouse happy. The main thing is being together, because lets face it, marriage is about companionship…growing old together. I want to be that little old couple walking hand in hand down the paths of life. Maybe we move a little slower than those people rushing by in a fast paced world, but the main thing is that we are on that road together. Maybe there will be storms along the way, but we can weather those, because we know the secret…it’s all about the love. Happy Valentine’s Day to the love of my life, Bob Schulenberg, and to all our friends and family.

Cullinan Diamond roughStar of Africa IIt is the symbol of love. It’s a big part of the thing every girl wants to receive from the man she loves. Lot’s of people think that the size of the diamond is a show of stature, and I suppose it is, but there can be a point that would qualify as extreme. Such was the case on January 25, 1905, at the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, when a 3,106 caret diamond was discovered during a routine inspection by the mine’s superintendent. Weighing 1.33 pounds, and christened the “Cullinan,” it was the largest diamond ever found. Now, girls…I’m sure that you would love to have a large diamond ring, but carrying around a 1.33 pound ring on your finger would be just a little bit much. Still, I would have thought that the owner might have cut the stone into as large a cut stone as possible to be used for a museum piece, but he had very different plans.

Frederick Wells was 18 feet below the earth’s surface when his light flashed off of something embedded in the wall just above him. I’m sure he had a pretty good idea of what he had. His discovery was immediately presented to Sir Thomas Cullinan, the mine’s owner. Cullinan decided to sell the diamond to the Transvaal provincial government. Transvaal presented the stone to Britain’s King Edward VII as a birthday gift. They were worried that the diamond might be stolen while in transit from Africa to London, so King Edward VII arranged to send a phony diamond aboard a steamer ship guarded by detectives as a diversionary tactic. While the decoy slowly made its way from Africa on the ship, the Cullinan was sent to England in a plain box. It was an amazing plan, and I can certainly understand their concerns. King Edward VII entrusted the cutting of the Cullinan to Joseph Asscher, head of the Asscher Diamond Company of Amsterdam. Asscher had cut the famous Excelsior Diamond, a 971 carat diamond found in 1893. He studied the Cullinan stone for a full six months before even attempting the cut. On his first attempt, the steel blade broke, with no effect on the diamond. That had to be enough to break his confidence. On the second attempt, the diamond shattered exactly as planned, but Asscher fainted from nervous exhaustion immediately after.

The Cullinan was later cut into nine large stones and about 100 smaller ones. In total, the diamonds were Cullinan diamonds nine largestvalued at millions of dollars. The largest stone is called the “Star of Africa I,” or “Cullinan I,” and at 530 carats, it is the largest cut fine quality colorless diamond in the world. The second largest stone, the “Star of Africa II” or “Cullinan II,” is 317 carats. Both of these stones, as well as the “Cullinan III,” are on display in the Tower of London with Britain’s other crown jewels, so I guess that part of the diamond ended up in a museum. The Cullinan I is mounted in the British Sovereign’s Royal Scepter, while the Cullinan II sits in the Imperial State Crown. Both fitting placements for such stones. Of course, the value of the stones would increase with cutting. The original stone was insured for $1,250,000 in 1905, and would be valued at $30,179,000 today.

brian-schumacherlisa-schumacher564143_10151044670379375_412648599_nMy second cousin, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa are two amazing people. Over the years of their marriage, they have been blessed with a beautiful group of children…but not in exactly the way you might expect. Brian’s first marriage, when he was 19 years old, gave him his first child…a daughter named Angie Marie was born January 8th, 1976, but that marriage ended in divorce. Brian married Lisa Basley on August 4, 1979. Their marriage was first blessed with a son, Brian Leslie born on February 8, 1980. Then, on May 20th, 1981 Lisa gave birth to another son, Nicholas Lee, and on June 29th, 1982, a daughter, Elizabeth Ann. Hemorrhaging during baby Elizabeth’s delivery brought with it the need for a hysterectomy for Lisa at age 29. She and Brian thought their days of having babies were over. They were quite sad about that because they had wanted more children, but God had a different plan for them.

Brian got saved in 1981, while working as a track layer on the railroad. A friend started telling him about Jesus and Brian became a “Jesus Freak” according to Lisa. At first Lisa was pretty uncomfortable with all that. She told him that if he didn’t stop telling everyone about Jesus, she was going to leave him. Once again, God had a different plan. One night in their bedroom Lisa awoke to a “bright light and a voice that sounded like Niagara Falls.” Jesus appeared to her and she kept saying take me with you. She knew that she wanted this Jesus in her life. Brian slept through the entire event, but Lisa was changed forever. She was no longer nervous about Brian talking to people about Jesus. She knew it was their calling. Still, in the back of their minds, the desire for more children continued to grow, and they would find out that God had a different plan for them again.

They checked into the possibility of adopting a baby in the 1990s, when their three children were under 10, and Angie was a teenager, but that was not God’s plan either, so they waited. Then, in God’s perfect timing, they got a call. It was 1992, and a friend said that she knew a girl that was pregnant and wanted to know if they were interested in adopting the baby. Brian and Lisa prayed about it and felt like God was telling them to do it. Their daughter, Grace Beverly was born August 11, 1993. Then, two years later, they got a call, saying that the 12309617_10153785635769375_5303031112927148127_o189690_210009665682710_5271671_n581033_10151043358369375_221754455_nsame girl was pregnant again. She offered Brian and Lisa that baby too. Their daughter, Angel Danell was born June 12, 1995. God’s plans never have mistakes in them. He wanted these two girls to have each other…and a great family. In 1996, God changed their lives again when their children’s cousin became pregnant, and couldn’t keep the baby at the time, and since she was enrolled in the tribe, family had the option to adopt first because the Native Americans prefer to keep a child close, but God made a way for Brian and Lisa, and their son Noah Richard was born August 4, 1997. At this point, Brian and Lisa thought their family was probably complete, but as they were learning, God had a different plan. A woman they met at their church had just come back from working in an orphanage in China. While there, she fell in love with a little girl called Precious. Brian and Lisa quickly fell in love too, and they felt that God was calling them to adopt Precious. Again, they would learn that God’s plans are sometimes different than ours. The adoption of Precious did not work out, but there was another child…a baby girl who needed a family. Brian and Lisa raised the $30,000 plus dollars to go to China and pick up that 6 month old baby. Their daughter Hope Elizabeth was born on September 23rd, 2001.

It was at this point that Brian and Lisa knew that their family was complete…at least until the grandchildren began to arrive. They marveled at the blessings God had given them. Their story doesn’t end here though. There were reasons that each of these precious adopted daughters were given their names. Grace received her name because they felt like, in a time just after Lisa’s dad’s passing God gave them Grace. Angel was just so sweet, they all kept calling her a little angel, and the name just stuck. Hope arrived at a time when Lisa felt like she had none and God gave her Hope to fill them all with Joy. As I was visiting with Brian and Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, in preparation for this story, she summed her parents up like this, “Pretty amazing…when I look back at what sacrifices that were made and the money, time, and love they have given all of us…well, God has been faithful to our family. If it weren’t for the color of our skin or eyes no one would know that were weren’t blood 15268016_10154826473154375_4446604849897959803_ngod-had-a-different-planrelatives. It’s like the adoption creed says that my parents have in their house ‘Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow from my heart, but in it.’ I like to brag on my parents because you won’t find a couple that has struggled more, had so many sleepless nights with their children trying to find their own and loving unconditionally and always keeping Jesus in the center.” That is such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful couple, from a loving daughter.

img_6049Last 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 img_6043spirit. 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.img_6026

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.

img_507414523213_10207439348077800_5279092986944906000_nEvery bride-to-be dreams of a perfect wedding day. Yesterday, that dream came true for my grand niece, Katy Balcerzak, when she married her soul mate, Jacob Collett. Their outdoor wedding was given a perfect sunny day, and the fall colors that were the theme of the wedding gave a beautiful brightness to the entire park. The sun shone brightly, and the day was warm…especially for fall, like Indian Summer, perfect. Katy and Jake have been soul mates for some time now, and the next logical step was to unite in marriage. The planning took a number of months, but it was well worth it when the day finally arrived. Katy was the bride with her perfect wedding day. Every aspect of her special day, with her special man, Jake was a perfect as it could be.
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Katy is the youngest child of my niece, Chantel Balcerzak’s husband Dave. She was just a teeny little girl, the first time I met her. I remember just how much she loved her daddy, and just how cute she was. It was a picnic on the mountain, and we all had a wonderful time. Katy, and Chantel’s daughter, Siara Harman were great friends, and in fact, Siara was one of Katy’s bridesmaids on her special day. The position of man of honor, however fell to Katy’s best friend…her brother, Kiefer. Katy, along with her brother, Kiefer were a great addition to Chantel’s blended family with Dave. Chantel’s son Jake Harman, rounded out the four blended siblings. Now Katy, like all the other kids, is all grown up, and ready to start the next 14495382_10207439351717891_2067450362949069240_n14449817_10207439354197953_1569839502020090458_nturn in life’s road…marriage. This is a journey, Katy and Jake have been planning on and looking forward to for a long time.

Her journey through a life of love is just beginning, and oh what a beginning it was. The reception was as beautiful as the wedding. Katy loves pumpkins, and really pretty much everything about the month of October. No wonder she chose that month for her wedding. Of course, Katy and Jake also love outdoor sports, and so the grooms cake had to be a truck…didn’t it? It wouldn’t have been Katy and Jake without it. Jake, welcome to the family. We wish both Katy and Jake a long and happy life. Congratulations to both of you!!

12042965_10206350174732130_43899556622801737_na13690579_10208540203336126_3086425729592877936_nNo wedding brings with it the guarantee of a lifelong marriage. That is up to the couple who are in the marriage, and it takes two people to make a successful marriage. The years fly by, things in the couple’s life change, and sometimes people decide to move to a new place. It may not be the way other people expected their life to go, but as long as the couple agrees on the new journey, it will work out to bring a beautiful life. I have had to be one of those parents who saw the life of her daughter and her family in a very different way than it turned out to be, and sometimes that is hard for me, because I miss them very much, but they are so happy living in northwestern Washington state, that I can’t help but feel happy for them.

My daughter, Amy Royce and her husband, Travis were married almost 20 years when they decided to pack up and move. They had spent the first 20 years of their marriage here in Casper, Wyoming, and I will be forever grateful to them for doing that, because it gave us the chance to really know their children, Shai and Caalab, and to spend time with all of them. I think that, while it is always hard to have your grandchildren living far away, it is easier when they were close while they were growing up, so they know their grandparents and how much we love them.

Amy has always loved the rain and the beach, and since she visited the Pacific Northwest as a Senior Trip, she has been in love with that area. The funny thing is that since she and Travis moved there, we have had more rain than we used to. These days, Amy and I have sort of a standing joke going. When it rains here, I sent her a text telling her it’s an Amy Day, to which she answers…”Send some my way.” Trying to be cooperative, I tell her that I will, but since it will have to get to her by way of Florida and Japan, it could take a while. Funny thing about that…Amy loves rain so much that she didn’t even care how long it took, just that it was on it’s way.
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Amy and Travis are so happy living in their new home and their new state, that I can’t help but be happy for them too. Of course, I wish I had the ability to beam myself over there more often, but I don’t so Facebook, telephone, Snapchat, and texting are the modes of communication for now. I’m just happy that they love living in their beautiful area. Today is Amy and Travis 21st Wedding Anniversary. The years surely do fly by. Happy Anniversary Amy and Travis!! We love you!!

Dad at about 20William Malrose SpencerIn August of 1964, my dad, Allen Spencer bought a Hollywood Reloading Press from his brother, William Spencer. Uncle Bill is two years older than my dad, and he loved his little brother, was always protective of him, and took him under his wing. As a little boy, Dad was really proud of his big brother, and wanted to say “brother” very badly, but he couldn’t quite get the word out correctly. Instead it always came out “Bowa” when Dad said it. After a while “Bowa” stuck, and the brothers both used it often. When Uncle Bill sent Dad the Reloading Press, he sent with it, a letter carefully explaining its safety instructions and its warnings. While going through Dad’s things, we came across that letter. It was such a treasure to find it, because it so perfectly depicted the relationship the brothers had.

Always the big bowa, Uncle Bill was very excited that my dad wanted a reloading press, and since Uncle Bill was a gun dealer, who else would Dad have gone to when he wanted to make such a purchase. For those who don’t know, a Hollywood Reloading Press turns used ammunition into loaded ammunition again. Uncle Bill loved guns and all the accessories, and so it stood to reason that Dad would follow suit. The brothers had always used guns for hunting and safety, and even dynamite for blowing out tree stumps…and the occasional gate post. While boys would be boys, these boys weren’t troublemakers, but were rather careful and respected these items. They knew that improper use could be deadly. While my dad had grown up knowing about guns, Uncle Bill knew that he had not used a reloading press before, and he wanted to make sure nothing went wrong. It wasn’t that Uncle Bill thought my dad was careless, he just wanted him safe, and the reloader could bring danger, if not used correctly.

The letter, in my mind, was more about the love Uncle Bill had for my dad, than it was about the Hollywood imageimageReloading Press. Theirs was a close relationship that each of them treasured. Uncle Bill always loved writing letters. He always felt that the written documentation was forever. It carried with it the history of events that occurred in the life of the writer and the receiver. So few of us understand that, I think…at least not until it’s too late. The letter about the Hollywood Reloading Press will always be a treasure to all of my family. I’m sure that the letter was a treasure to my dad too, since he kept it all those years. And I will always think of “Bowa” when I think of the brothers now.

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