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.
I’m not a huge fan of winter, but recently I saw something the mentioned how quiet it seems when it’s snowing, and I started thinking about the fact, that it really does seem quieter when it snows. I thought it must be some sort of illusion, or more likely, the lack of the Wyoming wind blowing, that made my world seem more quiet. Still, my curious mind had to find out exactly what the answer was. I’m not super into scientific experiments, but this seemed like a good one to check into. Maybe it was just me thinking about that, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe other people wondered about it too.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just me…and the world really is quieter when it snows. That isn’t something you really see when watching a blizzard on television, and maybe there are some exceptions to the rule, but the reality is that snow absorbs sound waves. When it’s snowing, there’s plenty of space between snowflakes, meaning that there is also less space for sound waves to bounce around…so I’m not imagining it. The world actually gets more quiet when it snows. Bernadette Woods Placky, a meteorologist and director of Climate Central’s Climate Matters program says, “When snow falls, it does absorb some of the sound waves.”
To further add to the quiet, as snowflakes stack up, there is more space left between them, compared to the surface of liquids like water. “With all that space, sound is unable to bounce off snow as easily as it would off water,” Woods Placky says. As a result, the sound gets absorbed, and somewhat like the way a soundproof room absorbs the sound, so you can’t hear what is going on inside, the snow pulls the sound into itself, and we don’t hear it very well. Of course, things like less people outside and on the road also account for the quiet. Traffic stalls tremendously during and after a snowstorm, due to icy roads and the dangers it presents to drivers. Many animals, especially birds, also aren’t out as much. They have to adapt to snowy weather that makes their environment colder and their food more difficult to find. They hunker down to conserve energy.
Whatever the reason for the quiet we hear during a snowstorm, I have always felt like it was a beautiful thing. I don’t like the cold, and I don’t like the icy roads, but just watching the snow, fall quietly to the ground, and listening to the quiet that it produces makes it would of those wonderful experiences that you have to slow down and take the time to notice, or you will never have the full peace that happens when the world gets quiet.
As we all know, Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks to God for the many blessing we have had throughout the year. Most of the time, we tend to be thankful for the same things…family, friends, jobs, a home…just to name a few. Like most people, I am thankful for those things too, but this year Thanksgiving has taken on a different meaning for me. Along with the normal things to be thankful for, I am so thankful that I am not a widow. That could have easily been the case, but God gave me and my family a miracle just a little over a month ago. That miracle was that while my husband, Bob Schulenberg could have died of a “Widowmaker” heart attack, he did not…nor is he incapacitated in any way.
Bob’s miracle took the form of a number of Heaven sent people, who were in the exactly right place and the exactly right time to see Bob fall, come to his aid, perform CPR, and to add their prayers to mine, in our moment of urgency. Some of these people are really never at Walmart, where Bob fell in the parking lot, and yet God had orchestrated their unusual visit to happen at exactly the time it was need to save a life…my husband’s life. I have always known that God is on my side, but never was that fact made more clear to me than that Sunday afternoon. I had no idea what that shopping trip was going to end like. I had no idea that my faith, and the faith of so many other people was going to be called to action that day. There were no real warning signs…or at least not that we took as warning signs. Bob was a healthy man, with none of the normal risk factors for heart disease. we had just come from a walk at the mall and he had bowled 6 games in a tournament the day before…and took first place in singles. Nevertheless, right after we got our groceries, a clot lodged in his Left Anterior Descending Artery…the Widowmaker kind of incident, and down he went.
While I should have been in a state of panic, oddly I was not. Yes, I felt worry over him, but everything happened so fast that there was no time to panic. There was work to be done,and Ginger Sims, a progressive care nurse at Wyoming Medical Center, stepped in just about a minute after the heart attack started, and took control of the situation. Her “take charge” mannerisms, took the fear out of the situation, and put the action into it. With the help of her friend, WMC surgical nurse, Valya Boycheva, and WMC transport worker, Laura Lance, CPR was administered immediately, and the blood flow in bob’s body was maintained throughout the entire event. Because God spoke to these people and put them at Walmart that day, Bob had an excellent outcome to what could have been a life ending event.
After something like that, how can I possibly ever look at Thanksgiving in the same casual way I had before? The answer is that I can’t. God gave me a gift that is so amazing that I still have trouble wrapping my head around the events of that day, and just how blessed I am to still have my husband. There really is no way to totally make sense of it all, because it is bigger than the human mind can grasp. God is so good, and when he performs a miracle, it’s spectacular!! God doesn’t do things in a small way. He goes all out, and that is what he did for Bob. I can never thank God enough!! It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
For a number of years I have wondered why my sisters all had a sweetheart chin and jawline, while mine was pretty square. It wasn’t something my sisters particularly noticed, and maybe my parents didn’t either, but I did. It just seemed so…square. I always thought it made my face look fat…especially if I was seated in the front in pictures. In reality, I suppose it isn’t so different from my sisters, and most people would never notice it unless I pointed it out, but we are usually our own worst critic, so I definitely notice that jawline.
I was talking to my sister, Cheryl Masterson about it the other day, and we began to wonder just where it came from. I decided to take a look at the pictures I have of ancestors on my Ancestry tree. It took a few minutes, but I came across a grandmother, Mary Ann Jeffries, who married James Fishburn. Grandma Fishburn seems to have the same jaw line that I do. I don’t think I really look like her in most ways, but that jawline is pretty distinct. My sister had to agree too. We know very little about Grandma Fishburn, because she passed away back in 1913, long before I was born.
Mary Ann and her first husband, Andrew Lake were apparently divorced, because he died after her, but she went on to marry my 2nd great grandfather, James Fishburn in 1863. She and her first husband had a son, Christopher Daniel Lake in 1859, and with her second husband, she had Hanna in 1867, Almira in 1869, and Edna in 1871 (my great grandmother). James, my 2nd great grandfather, died in 1897. In about 1900, Mary Ann married John Parker, who died in 1914, about a year after she did. I don’t really know anything more but the woman with whom I share a jawline, but it seems to me that he was not a quitter. She didn’t let life’s disappointments destroy her life, but rather picked herself up by the bootstraps and moved forward. Maybe it was because she had children to care for or live for, or maybe she just understood that life isn’t always a bed of roses, and we must each play the hand we are dealt. With perseverance, and faith in God, we go forward, and live on. As for me, I finally know where that jawline came from.
During our visit to Superior, Wisconsin, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I were treated a couple of wonderful tours of the area. Our cousin, Pam Wendling and her husband Mike took us down to Canal Park, where we watched the Paul R Tragurtha coming into port to pick up a load of coal…that come to Duluth by train from none other than Gillette, Wyoming, by the way. The Paul R Tragurtha is known as the “Queen of the Lakes” and is the longest vessel on the Great Lakes at 1,013 feet 6 inches. Watching that great ship come into port is amazing. It was also great to have Pam and Mike there to give us the lake and ship history. Though we had been to Canal Park before, it just never gets old.
Pam and Mike also took us up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Two Harbors, Minnesota, and showed us all the sights in that area. The lighthouse there is really pretty, and we were able to get lots of pictures. There was a ship in the harbor that was loading Taconite, which is a low-grade iron ore. For a long time, when the high-grade natural iron ore was plentiful, Taconite was considered a waste rock and not used. Then, as the supply of high-grade natural ore decreased, industry began to view Taconite as a resource. Had it not been for Mike’s knowledge of all these mining, railroad, and shipping industries in the area, and in the United States, we would have seen these things, but really wouldn’t have know anything about the rich history that went along with it. It takes someone, like Mike, with a love of history to give us that.
Pam and Mike also do some hiking in the area, and we were shown some of the beautiful hiking trails, and the beautiful wooded areas around the lake. The streams and waterfalls especially appealed to us. That area has so many more trees that we have in Wyoming, and all that greenery made me long to get out and wander down the trail, but we just didn’t have the time, unfortunately. Pam suggested that Bob and I consider a hiking trip to the area, we may have to try to do that. The tours were beautiful, and the time we spent with them was very special to us. I am so glad that we have reconnected with all of our cousins in the Superior/Duluth area, and all over the nation. Amazing family connections.
A few years back, I connected with a member of my Schumacher cousins, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, in what would become a quest to get to know all of my Schumacher cousins, and like my Byer cousins, there were lots of them. The journey has been a wonderful trip, as my sisters and I have cultivated friendships with these precious cousins, some of whom we met on our 2014 trip back to our roots in Superior, Wisconsin. Now, four years later, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I have returned to Superior, Wisconsin for a family reunion. We have been so excited for this reunion to happen, and in fact, have looked forward to reuniting with all of our cousins since we first met or found each other on Ancestry and Facebook.
The reunion took place today at Pattison Park, and it definitely lived up to every hope we had for it. These precious cousins were friendly, hospitable, and informative, while also being curious about us too. We all shared tons of stories about our families, and of course, pictures of our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We hugged on the little ones, most of whom looked at us with a sense of wonder as to who we were, and maybe even wondering if we should be hugging them at all…at least until their parents said it was ok. We moved from group to group, and person to person trying to get to know everyone, all the while knowing that there just wasn’t enough time. We found out who the jokesters were too, because what family would be complete without those wonderful people who keep us laughing. We built bonds that will last a lifetime, and parted ways with expressions of sadness that the time had passed far to quickly. We tried to see how soon we could feasibly do this again, knowing that for most of us Facebook would have to suffice until the next reunion.
The time went by far too quickly indeed, and while we wish we could have had far more time to sit and talk, we all knew in our hearts that we had been given a precious gift…a gift of family, friendship, love, and a sense of belonging, because after all, that is what family reunions are all about. Families grow quickly, and the numbers can quickly grow to a point of losing sight of the ones who started the family in the beginning, but at reunions, those who have left us are remembered and discussed, because everyone is trying to put into context, just exactly where they fit in with all these people. We talked of those who weren’t with us with love and sadness, because they would have really loved that their families have made the effort to keep the closeness going. To all those who made this reunion so very special, we love you and thank you for making our family reunion amazing.
The longer we are married, the more blessed I feel with my soulmate. And…I’m not the only one that is blessed by my husband. Bob is a mechanic…through and through. For years before he had his own garage, we went to his parents house so he could work on cars there. When we bought our current house, it didn’t have a garage either, but it had enough room in back to build one, so we did. It was strange for him to simply have to go out in the back yard to get to the garage where he was working on someone’s car, but it made him very happy. In fact, I can’t think of a “gift” Bob has enjoyed more, or gotten more use out of than his garage. Most people would not even consider the garage to be a gift, but for Bob, it really was. No longer would he have to stand out in the wind and cold to work on a car, or make a trip to his parents’ house to work on a car. He had a place of his own to do that.
Bob has been working on the cars of his friends and family for as ling as I’ve known him. People often ask him, or me, if he ever gets tired of it. The answer is always quick, “No, he likes it. It makes him happy.” Most people want to come home after a long day at work and just relax, but not Bob. There’s lots of time to relax after it get dark. I suppose that Bob is of the “make hay while the sun shines” generation. After a long day at work, Bob would often put in another couple of hours out in the garage. Finally, he found that he had too much to do to waste time going to work anymore. That was a couple of years ago, and he hasn’t changed his mind about that one bit. He likes working for himself much better!!
After his retirement, I think lots of people thought Bob was just going to park in front of the television set and fade away. They were wrong. Bob’s work continued..it just changed locations…and bosses. No he simply walks out the back door to go to “work,” if that’s what you choose to call it. As to his boss, I’ve tried to tell him that I’m his boss now, but he doesn’t believe me. In fact, he seems to think that he is his boss, and I supposed he is right, but I don’t think I’ll ever admit to that. It doesn’t matter anyway, since he is doing what makes him happy…no matter who is bossing him. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday Bob!! Have a great day!! I’ll love you forever and ever.
As our vacation comes the an end, I found myself contemplating a few things about the Black Hills, and why we love them so much. Of course, Harney Peak (now renamed Black Elk Peak, but always Harney Peak in my mind) is our favorite hike, and one we have hiked 16 times now. As we were driving to Keystone to catch the 1880 Train, which is our last day of vacation tour every year, I can get a glimpse of Harney Peak, and it occurred to me that I might be much the same as Doctor Valentine Trant O’Connell McGillycuddy, the white man whose ashes are entombed at the top of the peak at the fire tower there. McGillycuddy was the first white man ever to climb Harney Peak. And when he was an Indian Agent, he was respected and even called “Tasunka Witko Kola” (Crazy Horse’s friend), because he was of course, Crazy Horse’s friend, but was also loved and respected by all of the Lakota Sioux tribe. As a doctor, he treated Crazy Horse’s wife, which brought about their lifelong friendship. He also treated many other Lakota Sioux warriors when they were wounded in a wrongful attack by the army. To the Lakota Sioux, even his old enemy, Red Cloud, McGillycuddy was known as “Wasicu Wakan,” which literally means Holy White Man. It was probably the greatest sign of respect he could have received. Now I’m not saying that I could even begin to compare to McGillycuddy in all the things he did, but in one way, we are the same. We both love the Black Hills, and especially Harney Peak. After McGillycuddy passing, and as a show of respect, and to commemorate his love of the Black Hills and Harney Peak, his ashes were entombed in that amazing place.
Of course, for us there are many special places in the Black Hills. We love the trails. Among our favorites are, of course, Harney Peak, Sunday Gulch, Horsethief Lake, Cathedral Spires, the Flume Trail, the Mickelson, the Centennial, and French Creek trails. These trails take us to beautiful areas of the Hills that you just can’t see from the road. They are inside places like the Black Elk Wilderness areas. These are remote places where you have to sign in, just in cast you don’t come back out. It gives them a place to start looking for you. In reality, it would be hard to get lost, provided you stay on the trail. The trails are well marked and easy to spot. It’s just not easy to get lost. Some of the trails are really hard, however, and sometimes it just depends on the shape you’re in. A trail that was really hard one year can be a lot more tolerable the next year. The Black Hills are a challenge, at least for the tourist who gets away from the touristy things, and looks for the remote beauty of the Black Hills.
Since I was a caregiver for 13 years before the passing of the last of my parents and in-laws early in January of this year, I can tell you that being a caregiver, or a CNA is a big job that often gets very little recognition. Many people don’t really have any desire to do such a job, but because they remain in caregiving positions, Career Nursing Assistants provide predictability and stability to care, which in turn enhances the feeling of security for our aging, frail, or chronically challenged population. CNAs also bring wisdom, patience, humor, and a general attitude of caring to the daily lives of the residents in their care.
Today is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. It is a day founded by the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants to promote recognition, education, research, advocacy and peer support development for nursing assistants in nursing homes and other long-term care settings. This is especially close to my heart for a number of reasons, such as the care given to my parents and in-law, but most recently because my daughter, Corrie Petersen is now a CNA working toward her degree as a nurse. She currently works at Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital in Casper, Wyoming, and we couldn’t be more proud of her. Having been a caregiver, I can tell you that the work that CNAs do is vital to the well-being of their patients, whether in a nursing home facility, a physical therapy facility (which is where my daughter works), at the patient’s home, or in hospice facilities.
According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, “Nursing Assistants are the best thing about ‘caring.'” Nursing Assistants “Brighten Lives” according to Dawn Silva, CNA, New Hampshire, and member “Safe Patient Handling” committee. As more and more people are living longer, caring for the elderly has become more and more vital. With that care comes an increased focus on the people who care for the elderly…largely nurses and CNAs. It’s a noble occupation. While the work is hard, and what some might consider demeaning, the sense of peace it gives the patients makes being a CNA worth it.
Every CNA is a blessing to those they care for and the nursing staff they work with. They support the facility they work in and the patients they care for. They bring a smile to the faces of their patients, and the patients are grateful for the help they receive. I don’t know of a facility out there that could run effectively without its CNAs, and I know how hard it is when a facility is shorthanded on CNAs. It makes everything harder for everyone working there, and especially harder on the patients who depend on them every day. Today is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. I am very proud of my daughter, Corrie Petersen, and of all the other CNAs I know. Thank you all for the work you do. Have a wonderful day, each and every one of you!! Happy National Career Nursing Assistants Day!!