Me

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For many people, starting the new year off right means making New Year’s resolutions, and planning to make big changes in whatever areas they don’t like about themselves and their lives. That is a noble idea, even though most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by February, but that is not how my family started the new year…nor did we finish the last one like most families either. That was because of my mom, Collene Spencer. It wasn’t that Mom did anything to make the new year extra special…she was a typical mom who loved her family, and worked hard to give us a happy life, but then so did most parents. It was the fact that Mom’s birthday was January 1st, that started the year off special…and ended the prior year in a special way too.

My dad, Al Spencer loved our mom so much. She was his princess, his “Doll,” and he was always happiest when they were together. Dad worked hard to make our lives, and especially the life of his “Doll,” the best life anyone could ever have. And he succeeded very well. We were a very happy family, and New Year’s, both eve and day, were very special. Our year ended with a New Year’s Eve party…one that we kids got to attend too. It was a gathering of friends and family at our house, when we were little. Many parents go out and get a sitter for their kids on New Year’s Eve, but we lived where the party was, and we were welcome, as were our cousins, and later our friends. Dad never wanted his kids to be out in the world on New Year’s Eve, because of the obvious dangers of drinking and driving. We always got to party, and we were always safe at home. The party was about the end of the year and the beginning of the new year, but mostly it was about our mom. This was her celebration, and our dad always made it an awesome one for his “Doll.”

New Year’s Day always included a big birthday dinner for Mom, and of course, birthday cake and her presents. Our year always started of with a big celebration. While many people used the day as a way to get over their hangover, and mostly sleep the day away, our day was filled with joy, laughter, and fun. That was because of the great love our dad had for Mom, for us, and for making our lives fun. The memories my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I, as well as our families, have from all those New Year’s celebrations over the years will always warm our hearts. Mom and Dad are in Heaven now, but we do our best to continue the tradition in their honor. Today would have been Mom’s 84th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Mom. We love and miss you very much. We will see you and Dad again soon.

Few days make me dread writing my daily story, but then few days in my life have marked the beginning of such drastic change in my life either. It was December 12, 2007, twelve years ago, and my dad, Allen Spencer had been sick, or recovering for a little over two years, after being hit by Pancreatitis on October 1, 2005. My sisters and I had been caring for Dad, and our mom, Collene Spencer, who was diagnosed with Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma in her brain in July of 2006. Mom’s tumor was gone quickly, and there were no other serious concerns with her, but Dad’s care required much more. Everything seemed to be going well, but Dad’s liver was giving out due to the intravenous feeding, something we couldn’t really see…or at least something we didn’t know to expect as a possibility.

My dad had always been the “rock” of our family. None of us ever considered that he was not as strong as he once had been. We knew that no matter what was going on around us, Dad always knew what to do about any problem. It was a very comforting feeling in a family where he was the only original male. Of course, his daughters were married now, and a few grandsons had also been added to the mix, but for our childhood years, my sisters, Cheryl, Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I were the kids they had, and so Dad was the only male. He was used to being the man with the answers, and we always looked to him when we needed those answers. It was difficult to see him in a state of weakness, but we would fight for his survival with all we had…never expecting to lose the fight.

With Dad’s passing on that awful December day, our world was forever changed. We were now going to need to take care of our mom, who needed us more than ever. While her health was ok, she didn’t drive anymore, and wasn’t as mobile as she had been before. We had promised Dad, we would take care of her, and as with Dad, we wouldn’t have it any other way for Mom. It wasn’t just the change is our care structure that changed either. Everything changed with Dad’s passing.

We had seriously never expected to live on this earth without our parents, and now that entire perspective had changed. We knew that very likely the day would come when both parents and our parents-in-law would be gone. We knew that we were going to be the leaders of our families. It was up to us to keep our families close, as Mom and Dad would have wanted us to do. There would now be great grandchildren who have never met their Great Grandpa Spencer, and later Great Grandma Spencer. It was up to us to tell the kids about their great grandparents, so they wouldn’t be forgotten. t was up to us to tell them that their Great Grandpa Spencer was a World War II Veteran, who fought bravely for his country…to make sure that his legacy lived on. It is a big responsibility, and sometimes seems impossible, but we must, because our Dad showed us the way we should live, and we must now live it. There is no other choice. Twelve years ago today, my dad began his life in Heaven, and we miss him every day. We can’t wait until we will be reunited again. We love you Dad.

Every year…like clockwork, parents dress their children up in costumes, and the annual tradition of children roaming the neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and asking for treats…with the threat of tricks, if the “blackmail” is not paid…begins. It’s Halloween, of course. These days, not as many children really understand how the whole thing is supposed to work. They just see it as a day to gather up as much candy as possible. I read somewhere that children consume, on average, 7,000 calories worth of candy…or the equivalent of almost 11 Burger King Whoppers, without cheese, and not the new meatless version, of course. It’s a good thing that most kids are very active, or that many calories could be bad. And that isn’t even considering the sugar high that the parents will have to deal with. Try putting that child to bed after all that, and you’ll find that it’s going to be a long night. The best you can hope for is that the day falls on a Friday, so they don’t have to get up for school the next day…not the case this year, unfortunately.

So, with all the negative aside, the costumes people come up with are usually very cute. I prefer the costumes that don’t focus on the gruesome and horrific, but there are always a few of those. This year, with all my grandchildren grown up, we will only have our little great granddaughter heading out to see what she can come home with. At just 17 months, she will most likely only be going a few places, and since she is so little, she isn’t as totally addicted to candy as she will most likely become in future years. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen her turn down a treat either.

I remember Halloweens past, when my grandchildren were little. They couldn’t wait to get out there, and they really preferred if their parents didn’t stand around and talk. After all, they had rounds to make, and it wasn’t getting any earlier. My grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, always had the cutest costumes. I suppose I might be a bit biased, but I don’t care. I’m sure every parent and every grandparent feels the same way about their own little ones. It’s our prerogative!! Our little ones never had any tricks up their sleeves, that I knew of, but I do recall the year when I, as a little kid, was handed a little bar of soap, by my mother, Collene Spencer. It was my “trick” and I was only asked by one person, what trick I had up my sleeve. When I showed him the soap, he let out a great big guffaw!! He had no idea that I would even know what he meant. He said that it made his whole day!! Happy Halloween everyone!! Be safe out there!!

One year ago today, my husband, Bob Schulenberg had a heart attack. It was one of the worst days of my life, and one of the best days of my life. I will never forget the scene after a man knocked on my car window in the parking lot at Walmart, asking me if “I know this man?” I immediately jumped out of my car and walked around the back of it, to be greeted with the worst scene of my life. Lying there on the pavement, bleeding from his head, was my precious husband. His eyes were open, but they were blank, and his skin was turning purple. After thinking I was going to lose him right there, I shook my head and said, “No!!” Getting down on the ground, I said, “Come on Bob…come on!!” Willing him to fight.

It was then that a Wyoming Medical Center, Progressive Care Unit, cardiac care nurse showed up. Ginger Sims took charge. She started checking vitals, and immediately saw that he wasn’t breathing. She turned him over and began CPR. It had been maybe a minute since his heart attack. Suddenly, I could see that there was a swarm of people there to help Bob…each one orchestrated by God to be there at that very moment, some of them who never shopped at Walmart. Sean Pesicka-Taggart saw Bob fall, and came to him immediately. It was Sean who first alerted Ginger to the problem, when she saw him trying to help Bob. After beginning CPR, and tiring of doing compressions, Laura Lance, Sean’s girlfriend, and a transport worker at WMC, told Ginger that she knew CPR and could spell her. Ginger wasn’t sure, but she needed a break. Laura took over, and Ginger could see that she did know CPR. Sean had called 911, and got help coming. Then, as she was leaving the Walmart parking lot, another nurse, Valya Boycheva, who was also a friend of Ginger’s saw someone doing CPR, and turned her car around to come back and took turns doing CPR. Ginger heard me talking to Bob, and said if I knew him, I could do rescue breathing for him. I did, with instruction. It’s amazing how quickly your mind checks out when you are in this kind of situation. I had no idea what to do, even though I should have. The next thing I knew, the fire department was there. They hooked Bob up to the Lucas Machine, which does compression automatically. Bob was loaded into the ambulance, and I went along with him. Our fireman friend, Jerod Levin brought our car to the hospital for me.

As people were leaving Walmart, a number of them, saw all this and began praying…Chelsea and Zack Kessler; Chelsea called her parents and my friends, Page and Donna LePage; a member of my church, Lori Desanti; my boss, Jim Stengel; who called Donna LePage to pray, at which point she knew who she had already been praying for. The Cath Lab at WMC was staffed by people who knew Bob…he worked on their cars…Sam Cann and John Cooke, working with Dr Pickrell and Dr Hiser, who put a stent in Bob’s heart. From heart attack, to stent and functioning heart, took just 2 hours. This was a miracle of God, and we were very blessed with more time together.

That was one year ago today. This day, October 14, 2019, Bob’s 1st Heart Re-Birthday, is a very different kind of day. This day we will go to workout at the Nerd Center at WMC, where Bob has been in maintenance since his cardiac rehab was finished. We did a lot of walking before that horrible day last year, and they say that is why Bob’s heart has done so well. I agree, but God healed his heart. There in no other explanation for me.

One might expect it to take a long time for Bob to heal, but it didn’t. He is completely back to normal now, and our lives continue on as usual…except that we truly know what we have. There is nothing that will make you appreciate your spouse more than almost losing them. It makes you realize just how blessed you are. We want to thank each and every one of the people involved in this miracle. With God’s help and your willing hearts, you all beat the Widowmaker, and we are forever grateful. Today is Bob’s 1st Heart Re-Birthday. It is an amazing day…the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice today and be very glad in it. Happy 1st Heart Re-Birthday Bob!! We all love you!!

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.

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