Me

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As I have researched the infantry soldiers of World War II, my thought was that I was really thankful that my dad, Allen Spencer was not one of those men on the ground during the fighting. I felt bad for those men who were on the ground, fighting from the foxholes. I still do, because they were in constant danger. Bombs fall from the sky, and bullets fly from across the battlefield. If those things didn’t kill a soldier, the freezing cold, trench foot, or dysentery from the horribly unsanitary conditions could. It seemed that my dad’s situation was by far safer, but now, I’m not so sure that’s true.

The book I had been listening to, that took in World War II from D-Day to The Battle of the Bulge, talked mostly about the ground war, but then at the end, the reader said something that really struck me. It was about the look that crossed the face of a bomber crew’s faces before certain missions…those that would inevitably find the plane flying through flak. The look was one of fear. I knew flak was dangerous, but somehow I didn’t really connect flak with bringing down a plane, or seriously injuring its occupants. Nevertheless, it is quite dangerous for them.

As I researched the dangers of flak, a shocking revelation made itself known. I had written a story about the life expectancy of the ball turret gunner. My findings were that that life expectancy was about 12 seconds. That may be true when one is talking about the prospect of being shot, but when it comes to flak, that cannot be said. Apparently, where flak is concerned, the best place to be is in the plexiglass structure of the ball turret. Plexiglass holds up better against flak than other areas of the plane, so the ball turret gunner is much more protected…at least from flak. The same cannot be said for the bullets flying through the area. I was thankful that my dad was not a ball turret gunner, and that he only filled in as a waist gunner periodically. The waist gunners were in the open, where protection from bullets, and from flak was minimal…at best, non-existent at worst. I can’t imagine how those memories must have affected my dad, but in the book I listened to, the main reason many of the men didn’t want to talk about their experiences in World War II, or any war, was because talking about it brought those memories flooding in again.

After researching flak, and how it works, I can see why the men would get a look of fear on their faces as they prepared to go through areas anti-aircraft weapons shooting flak into the air. Some men said that they could see the red hot glow in the center of the flak, if it was very close. That tells me that it was like a small explosive devise. No wonder it could bring so much damage to a plane. I had known that flak could put holes in the fuselage, but somehow I hadn’t tied that with bringing down a plane. I surmise that it was the B-17 bomber top turret gunner’s daughter in me that wouldn’t allow me to place that danger around my dad. I didn’t want to think about the dangers of his every mission in World War II. My mind seems to have placed his plane in a bubble or a force field, so that no danger could come near him. I think every veteran wonders why they were spared, when others didn’t make it back home. I don’t think anyone can answer that question. As a Christian, I have to credit God for bringing my future dad home.

I’ve often thought, upon waking from a sleeping position that my body didn’t particularly like, that it would be wonderful to sleep in an anti-gravity machine. Maybe I would sleep better, and maybe I wouldn’t, but the reality is that it’s quite probable that man was not really intended for long periods of anti-gravity. While a few hours of blissful sleep, followed by no aches and pains from pillow or mattress, might be something wonderful to experience, I can fully see, after reading about the astronaut, Scott Kelly, who at least for a time spent the longest number of consecutive days at the International Space Station, in a state of anti-gravity. That number was 340 days.

My first thought was of how gentle that must have been to his body, and maybe I would be right, but at some point, Kelly had to return to Earth. The experiment that he was a part of was over. The idea was to learn what the effects on the human body were in a prolonged state of anti-gravity. It really hadn’t occurred to me that there might be any adverse effects, but apparently I would have been wrong. Among the complaints Kelly spoke of, one of the worst was a burning rash all over his skin. I wondered what might have caused that. The answer amazed me. The rash appeared on his back, legs, arm, and anywhere else where his body has touched the bed he now sleeps in. Not only is there a rash, but it is inflamed, feeling hot to the touch. Okay, my body may not like my mattress and pillow all the time, but it doesn’t give me a burning rash, so maybe it’s not so bad after all, and since I only occasionally wake up achy from my night’s sleep, I’ll deal with it.

Among the other complaints Kelly suffered, were feelings of nausea (possibly a vertigo type of an issue), a stumbling gait from legs that are not used to gravity (Kelly’s vestibular system was trying to readjust to Earth’s gravity…like learning to walk all over again), an altered sense of gravity (waking up feeling like he is upside down), muscle atrophy from muscles that weren’t used, an all-over body ache from the pressures of gravity, and a constant grogginess, just to name a few. Of course, short -term anti-gravity such as I would experience by sleeping in an anti-gravity machine, would be very unlikely to produce any adverse conditions, like prolonged anti-gravity did in Kelly. Nevertheless, because our bodies are designed to work with gravity, I suppose my sleep idea is not such a good idea after all. At least, I don’t think it is one that I am willing to take a chance on.

When you have been given a miracle in the form of a second chance in life, you don’t want to waste it. Just under nine months ago, on October 14, 2018, I received a second chance miracle. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate what I had or anything like that, but rather it was that I could have lost my husband, but by a miracle of God, I didn’t. That second chance miracle makes this particular birthday…my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s 65th, even more special than it would have otherwise been. A landmark birthday, like the 65th is always special, but we almost didn’t see it for Bob, so this birthday is almost like a re-birth. I find myself feeling a little more emotional than I might have otherwise been, because he is still here, and I realize how very blessed I am.

I think a second chance miracle tends to bring with it some added responsibilities, however. When you are given a second chance, you need to spend the time wisely. Things like working out and eating right come to mind. A heart attack can make people quit, but not Bob. I have been very proud of Bob’s determination to stay healthy and to make the most out of his second chance miracle. I have seen many people who didn’t want to do the rehab that was prescribed for them. I’ve heard all the possible excuses. It hurts!! It’s hard work!! I have other things to do!! All of these excuses simply say that the person speaking them doesn’t appreciate the second chance they have been given. Bob has never once said anything like that, but rather went faithfully to his cardiac rehab, and when he had completed the course, he decided to continue in the maintenance program and his own expense. Its not required, but Bob wanted his full life back, not just a much slower version of existence that he would have to settle for.

Bob and I love to hike, and we have plans to continue hiking for years to come…especially now that we are both retired, and we have more time and the freedom to go and hike when and where we want to. That is a very liberating thing for us, and we are very excited about it. Bob and I have decided that we aren’t going to let anything slow us down. The road ahead will not be an easy one, because hiking, being in good shape, and preparing for hikes is not easy. It’s a lot of work, but when you reach the top of that mountain trail, and you look out on the view from the top, you know that you don’t ever want to be stuck at the bottom of that hill. Today is Bob’s 65th birthday. Happy birthday Sweetie!! I love you!!

We have all made plans for the future we wanted to have, and truly, expected to have, only to have something happen that changed everything. Our plans as kids and young people are often the first plans to change, as we grow up and decide our plans were just not for us. Then, we decide that we want a whole new life plan. Still, sometimes, it isn’t something tragic or amazing, but rather just something that changes the way we see things…changes our priorities.

As a girl I wanted to be a school teacher…of high school, no less. These days I can’t imagine teaching high school, but I still have a knack for teaching people things. I think I would prefer adult students, and technology as a subject…if I were going to teach, but then I don’t have all the necessary training for that field either. After having a family and raising our girls to junior high, I went back to work, and a year later became an insurance agent. I had found my niche. I understood insurance, and therefore, I was a good insurance agent. I thought this would be my career for life, and I was correct in that, since I have been an agent for 30 years, and retired from insurance May 1, 2019.

Nevertheless, life took some unexpected turns that made me realize that sometimes, we can possess talents that we didn’t know we had. Talents that come out at a time of extreme urgency. That is what happened with me. When my dad, Allen Spencer got sick with Pancreatitis. That would begin a journey of caregiving that lasted over twelve years, and took place in conjunction with my insurance career, causing me to miss many hours of work. I was one of the caregivers who were blessed with a boss who allowed me to do what I needed to do. Not many jobs give you that kind of freedom. It is something I will be forever grateful for. It was during these years that I discovered that I had a knack for the medical world, and had I considered it, I probably could have been a good nurse. Unfortunately, it was too late in life for that and I was too busy, plus I liked my insurance career.

During the years of caregiving, which I shared with my sisters, in-laws, children and grandchildren, and after my dad passed away, but I was still caring for my mom, Collene Spencer, and my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, I found myself needing a form of creative release. My daughter, Corrie Petersen suggested that I start a blog. She helped my get started and then introduced me to “The Ultimate Blog Challenge,” which inspired me to write every day, something I have been doing for almost ten years now. So began a “career” of writing a blog every day. It was a way to step outside myself and my busy life and to hopefully a chance to write interesting stories for my readers. It’s strange where life takes you. The twists and turns that help you find yourself and your talents in ways you never expected. Twists and turns that change your life into something so different from what you thought it would be.

Today marks a proud day in my life, as my granddaughter, Shai Royce takes the first steps in her journey to follow in my footsteps, by becoming a Commercial Lines Processor for Rice Insurance in Bellingham, Washington. The really cool thing is that to a large degree, she is also following in her mother, Amy’s footsteps too. My daughter, Amy is a Personal Lines Account Manager for Rice Insurance, and they will be working across the street from each other, which is awesome!!

Shai’s insurance career actually started when she was just 14 years old, and living in Casper, Wyoming. Her mom and I were both working for Jim Stengel at The Stengel Agency, and we needed a customer service representative to pick some of the slack in our busy office. Enter Shai, who worked for us off and on for a couple of years, taking only a short break when she needed a job with more hours after school. Shai did a great job for us in our office. She learned quickly and she was very helpful. We were sorry to see her go when she moved to Bellingham, Washington to be near her parents and brother. While in Bellingham, Shai worked at several jobs, with the longest one being Red Robin, and the last one being Mako Fly Reels. Shai liked her jobs, and especially the people she worked with, but the jobs just weren’t fulfilling for a girl with Shai’s abilities, and her prior training, so when an opening came up in her mom’s company, Shai applied for and won the job.

Today is the first day of Shai’s new career. I am very excited for her as she begins this great new journey in her life. Since I have been both a personal lines agent, and a commercial lines agent, I can say while there was much to learn in commercial lines, it feels great to be able to help a business owner with the coverages they need to protect their business, so they can focus on making a success of their business. I know that because Shai is starting this career at a younger age than I did, she will have the years ahead of her to become a great commercial processor, and maybe further than that if she is interested in becoming an agent or an account manager like her mom. I think it’s awesome that Shai is going to be working in the same great company as her mom, and following in her mom’s footsteps and in mine. Have a great first day on the job, Shai!! We are all very proud of you!!

Not everyone can say that they were blessed to have two amazing women be their moms, but I can. My mom and my mother-in-law were both so instrumental in my life, and because of them, I am the woman I am today. My mother, Collene Spencer raised five daughters, Cheryl Masterson, me, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock, in that order. Sometimes I must say, I’m amazed we didn’t driver her crazy. It wasn’t fighting as much as it was the noisy laughter that went along with playing…loudly. And the little girl giggles. Many people have wished and even told their children to quiet down, because the laughter was getting too loud, and our parents did too, but as often as not, the laughter was encouraged…and even instigated by our parents. They loved having a house filled with joy and laughter, and well…ours certainly was. I recall the many forts we built, the messes we made playing house…all over the living room, the tree house in the back yard, that wasn’t as much tree house and it was just tree, but we liked to climb up there anyway. The things five girls can come up with are sometimes wild, but Mom was a patient person.

After I was married, my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg also became Mom. She was a different kind of person than my mom was, but her qualities were no less endearing. Living in the country, and having a garden, made canning a common project, and I had never really done any of that, although my mom knew how. I remember the big canning sessions and the in-laws’ house. We worked and talked and especially, we laughed. Everyone had a great time, and we came home with provisions for the family. My mother-in-law, try as she might, never could quite win me over to the idea of knitting, crocheting, and sewing as an everyday way of life, not to mention the marathon Wednesday grocery shopping event, and maybe that was a disappointment to her, but if it was, she never said so and never made me feel like she was disappointed in me. She always made me feel like I was not just her daughter-in-law, but really her daughter. I was always amazed at the wonderful things she made, and thankful that my family always benefitted from her beautiful crafts.

I have always felt blessed to have the moms I did, and now, with them both in Heaven, I find myself missing them very much. It seems impossible that they could have been gone from us for so long now, Every day I miss them and wish that I could visit Heaven for an afternoon to see them and my two dads, as well as all the other loved ones who have gone on ahead. Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven to my two moms, I love and miss you both very much. And happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there.

Recently, while watching a couple of television shows, I noticed that the latest term for retirement is Second Act, and I found that term to be rather interesting at this particular time in my own life. As my retirement neared, I began to make some mental notes about what I wanted it to look like. Of course, the obvious things came to mind…the trips we want to take, the work around the house that has been put off for far too long, and yes, sleeping in a little bit, but what else did I want this time in my life to be about. Of course, there is also the increased amounts of time to spend with family. Trips to Bellingham, Washington to visit our daughter, Amy Royce and her family, Travis, Shai, and Caalab, and to meet Shai’s guy, Jordan Chapman and Caalab’s girl, Chloe Foster, are definitely on the list. More time to spend with our daughter Corrie’s family, Kevin, Chris and his girl, and Josh, who live right here in Casper, but with all of us being so busy, we don’t see them as often as we would like. And of course to visit with our great granddaughter, is a high priority too. She is growing up so fast, and I don’t want to miss out.

As a blogger, the obvious next step is continued writing, and I will be blogging and advertising for my work alma mater…The Stengel Agency, and I am really happy to be staying close to everyone there, because they have been a huge part of my life for as much as 22 years, depending on the person. My life has been richly blessed by each and every person I worked with at The Stengel Agency, as well as their family members, who have become a part of my family too. My retirement will always include them, because they are of vital importance to me. Insurance has been a vital part of my life for 30 years now, since I first became an agent with the Don Foster Agency, before moving to The Stengel Agency in 1996. I would say that I am dating myself, but I think the word retirement has already done that, so the number of years as an insurance agent makes now really difference in that respect. Insurance has been good to me, even though it was not the career I had expected to have. Insurance made sense to me from the start.

As a writer, I have always been interested in writing a book. I guess we will see where that idea takes me, because I have no idea what I would like to write about…for a book anyway. Nevertheless, I’m sure it will come to me, because I have had no trouble coming up with story ideas in the past, so the future will simply bring with it longer story ideas. I’m sure that our travels will also help with writing ideas. Hiking the many beautiful trails we have in this country cane be very inspiring, whether I’m writing about nature hikes or World War II. And, speaking of hiking, that is going to be a big part of my Second Act. The weekends never seemed long enough to get out and hike the mountain trails on Casper Mountain, but with the whole day, every day off, I think we might be able to squeeze them in once a week, at least. There are so many things that have been going through my mind as the day approached, and now that it’s here, I guess the time has come to begin. I’m still not totally sure what my own Second Act will look like, but I’m excited to begin to find out. I’m ready for anything!! So, let the adventures begin!!

by guest writer – Brenda Schulenberg

Caryn became part of our family on March 1, 1975…over 44 years ago, when she married my brother Bob!!! Little did any of us know at that time that Caryn would become such an important part of the Schulenberg family. Most of us don’t really remember too much of life without Caryn being a part of it. She has been a major part of our family for so many years now…and I would never want to imagine our family without her as a part of it.

In the early years, Caryn spent most of her time raising her two girls, my nieces, Corrie and Amy. Then, before we knew it along came her four grandchildren Chris, Shai, Caalab and Josh. All of Caryn’s Grandchildren have a big place in her heart. She really enjoys being a Mother and Grandma…and on May 30, 2018, Caryn became a Great Grandma to Chris’s daughter who is a sweetie and is very special to all of us, but especially to her Great Grandma Caryn!

On October 14, 2018 Caryn’s faith in God was brought to life. On that day her husband Bob, my brother, suffered a heart attack. We were all very scared and thanks to Caryn’s faith in God, some very fast responders and some miracles too, Bob made a full recovery. Not that they needed it but Bob and Caryn now realize how special they are to each other.

Through the years, and as both sets of parents aged, Caryn was the primary care giver for all four parents…hers and Bob’s. It was tough on all of us to lose them, but they are in a far better place now. Also in October 2013, when I got sick Caryn saved my life by convincing me that I had to go to the hospital.

Caryn has always enjoyed bowling. She and Bob also like to go on walks and hikes when the weather permits. Bob and Caryn enjoy traveling for their annual hiking/anniversary trip to Thermopolis and to the Black Hills. They also travel for bowling tournaments too.

Caryn has spent the last year focusing on her health and my brother Bob’s. Caryn always has been very aware of how important good health is for all of us, but now that she is not having to care for all of our parents she has been focused on herself for once…and she has been very successful in this area!

On May 1, 2019 Caryn is going to start a new journey…it is called semi-retirement! She is still going to help out at The Stengel Agency some from home and when they need her (oh no she may be working more than she did before)!!!! Bob and Caryn have an adventure coming up towards the end of June. They will be flying to Everett, Washington, then driving to Bellingham, where they will visit Amy, Travis, Shai and Caalab. Following that visit, they will board the Amtrak Train in Seattle for a trip to Chicago, and then flying back to Denver before driving home. Caryn and Bob are very excited for this trip and many more to come. I’m sure Caryn like everyone else that is retired will find herself very busy with traveling, hiking, her great grand-daughter and of course blogging!!!! Watch for information on her upcoming Retirement Party which will be held at a later date when the weather is good enough for a fun outdoor party.

Caryn is an amazing woman! She is one of the best sisters-in-law (I consider her my Sister) that I could ever ask for. Today is Caryn’s birthday and I just want to say Happy Birthday Caryn. We all love you and appreciate you very, very much!!!!

Saint Patrick’s Day…a day to celebrate being Irish. For me, Saint Patrick’s Day always felt like a borrowed holiday…probably because I don’t live in Ireland. The reality is that while I don’t live in Ireland, I am part Irish…9% to be exact. With the Irish in my family history, I would have expected my percentage to be for that 9%, but the reality is that most families migrated around the world, and while a family might have been in a country for centuries, they may not have originated there. Nevertheless, I had and still have family who live in Ireland, so I guess that makes me enough Irish to make Saint Patrick’s Day as much my day as it is anyone else’s. In reality, it is a day to remember the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was a missionary who heralded the shift from paganism to Christianity in the fifth century, when he was in his 40s. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on what is believed to be the anniversary of his death…March 17.

It is traditional to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, but why is that? Legend has it that if you’re wearing the color green, the quintessentially Irish, fairy-like creatures called leprechauns won’t be able to see you. And if they can’t see you, they can’t pinch you. Interestingly, before Saint Patrick’s Day got started, leprechauns were known not for wearing green but red. These days, the leprechauns have begun to outsource pinching to the rest of the world, or maybe we just took it over. Even the Irish flag has green in it. It is deeply symbolic. The green represents the Irish Catholics, the orange represents the Protestants and the white represents peace between the two. The green itself is called “shamrock green.” And speaking of shamrocks, shamrocks are one of the national symbols of Ireland, and not without reason. St. Patrick himself used the green, three-leaf clover to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity: one for the father; one for the son; and one for the Holy Spirit. The four-leaf clover is just a symbol of good luck, if you believe in luck. Personally, I prefer blessing over luck.

When a large population of the Irish came to the United States in the mid-1800s, they wore the color green (as well as the Irish flag) as a point of national pride, further solidifying the relationship between the color green and the Irish…in the American imagination anyway. But lets face it, it’s really about the kid in all of us. Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with pinches and shamrock accessories might seem silly, but it can be a great way to spend a day being a little bit on the goofy side. Friendly pinches of those who are forgetful, and show up with no green, is a great way to spend that one day…often still cold and even snowy, having a little bit of silly fun. And then there is the green beer, the green Chicago river, and the green clothing, hair, and beards of our friends.

Naming your baby is a big job, and not one to be taken lightly. The name you bless them with, or sometimes stick them with, is very important. Of course whether the name is a blessing or a curse is a matter of opinion. Some people think you should give your children common names, while others don’t want their child to have the same name a dozens of other kids born that year.

My parents were of the persuasion that their kids were unique, and so their name should be too. If not in pronunciation, then in spelling. Every one of their daughters’ names are spelled in an unusual way…Cheryl, not Sheryl; Caryn, not Karen; Caryl, not Carol; Alena, not Elena; and Allyn, not Lynn. While our names don’t necessarily sound different, very few people spell them correctly.

In my family there are a number of unusual names. Chantel, Corrie (for a girl), Garrett, Lacey, Keifer, Siara, Shai, Caalab, Aurora, Reece (for a girl), and Jaxx. Some are hard to pronounce and some are hard to spell. Either way, they are all unique. We also have some in my husband’s family that are unique…Corrie and Shai (who are in both sides of the family), Machelle, Weston and Easton (who are brothers), Marlyce, Jala, Kaytlyn, Hattie (it’s making a comeback), and Bowen (which I hadn’t heard before). I guess there are a number of us who like the unique names.

Every year lists come out to tell of the most popular baby names. The celebrities are famous for giving their children unique names. Moon, Apple, North are just a few that are easily recalled. Some of them make you wonder just what they are thinking, but apparently they all have their reasons for the unusual names. Names are important as they help to create our identity to the world and to ourselves. Unique Names Day takes a moment in the year to celebrate those who have these interesting names. We are the people who can never find our name on souvenirs, and other personalized items. We have to create our own, have it spelled wrong, or just skip it. We are never on any lists that are produced with all the common names that are out there depicting funny situations applying to names…sometimes that may not be a bad thing.

Someone, at some point realized that unique names was something of some significance, and Unique Names Day came into being in 1997. Since then it has been a yearly occurrence. There are some things that people with unique names go through that those with common names never think about. As children who want keepsakes with their name on it, visiting a tourist attraction or taking a trip there is rarely an item that people with these names will ever be able to have. While that may seem like a small thing, for a child trying to fit it, it’s a big deal. When there is nothing that they can ever find with their name on it, they feel like they don’t really belong.

Unique Name Day is the perfect chance to embrace those with unique names. Having a day just for those who put up with repeating their names, spelling it, teaching people how to say it and rarely having any of the fun trinkets with their name on may not take away any frustration, but it can help make new memories! Find out is their name from their cultural background? If you are the one who walks through life with a unique name, you can take this day to revel in your uniqueness. This day can be used to find out the story of how your parents picked this name for you. My own mom liked the name Karen, but didn’t like the spelling, since they wanted their kids to have names beginning with “C” for my mom and “A” for my dad. So, they came up with ways to make the chosen names fit the categories. As for Caryl, I think they liked the “y” in my name and continued it with her. The funny thing about that is just how easy it is for Caryl and me to type our own name when we mean to type the other name…thereby misspelling our own sister’s name. Do you have a unique name? what is your story? This is your day, and your chance to tell the world.

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