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.
As a girl, I like many other girls became a Girl Scout. It was a group of girls having fun, while learning things and earning badges. The group was founded on March 12, 1912, and turns 105 years old today. The organization, called Girl Scouts, was founded in Savannah, Georgia by a woman named Juliette Gordon Low. She was born in 1860, and became a widow in 1905. She needed something…a cause. She had suffered through a bad marriage to a man who cheated on her and left most of his estate to his mistress. She wanted to help young women become self-sufficient…a cause borne out of her own experiences of feeling defined by the era’s roles for women, so she came up with the idea of a group that would teach young women about their worth and abilities. She first worked with a Scottish organization called Girl Guides and then founded the first American branch of the group in 1912, but she decided to break away and further develop her young women’s scouting association on her own. She soon changed the organization’s name to the Girl Scouts, and became the organization’s first president.
Low hoped to give her girls the opportunity to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, Low started the organization with just 18 girls in attendance at that first meeting. Low was an athlete, as well as an art lover. Her dream was to teach the girls that they could do anything. She wanted her girls to find out that they could help out in so many ways, and she definitely proved that. The Girl Scouts of America were very involved with the war effort back home during both World War I and World War II. They sold war bonds, collected peach pits for gas masks…peach pits were used as filters, worked in hospitals, and provided hands-on support to the country and the troops. Then, during the 1930s, when the Great Depression hit, the Girl Scouts again stepped up to the plate, collecting clothing and canned goods for the poor, making them quilts, providing meals for impoverished children, and helping out at hospitals.
During my time in the Girl Scouts, I can’t say that I did anything that was as life changing as the Girl Scouts of days gone by, but I did enjoy my time as a scout. We learned many skills that earned us badges to wear on our sash, and some of those skills are still things I use today. The camaraderie that I felt as a Girl Scout was amazing. Some of the best friendships of my childhood were formed in those meetings. Those are years I will never forget, and I owe it all to Juliette Gordon Low, and her inspired ideas about what girls could be. Juliette Gordon Low died of breast cancer in 1927, in her Savannah, Georgia home. She was 66 years old. It was her request that she be buried in her Girl Scout uniform, because her years with the Girl Scouts were truly the happiest hears of her life. She also requested that a telegram from the National Board of Girl Scouts of the USA be placed in her pocket. It read, “You are not only the first Girl Scout, you are the best Girl Scout of them all.”
I was a little girl of three in 1959, when the Barbie doll came out. Every little girl old enough to understand what these dolls were, wanted one…me included. There was one little problem. I just couldn’t seem to get the name right. I told my parents that I wanted a Bride doll. In fact I think I told them that every day for the three months before the arrival of Christmas. Advertisements for the Barbie doll did nothing to deter my quest for a Bride doll. I just didn’t understand that there was going to be a problem.
The Barbie doll made its first appearance on this day, March 9, 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City…just like any other supermodel, I suppose. The doll was just stunning, and over the years has been at the center of the self esteem controversy, because some people felt like she gave girls a misguided view of what their bodies should look like. I suppose the doll could have done that, but it certainly did not affect her popularity. In retrospect, I don’t recall that I ever once looked at the doll and decided that I was fat. It was a doll after all, but somewhere along the way, someone must have, so the controversy continues to this day.
At eleven inches tall, Barbie had beautiful blond hair. Barbie was the first mass-produced toy doll in the United States with adult features. It makes sense. A baby doll can’t play the part of the mom, so if girls were to continue to play with dolls, they had to have a mom…reasoned Ruth Handler, who came up with the idea. Ruth co-founded Mattel, Inc with her husband in 1945. She saw that her young daughter, Barbara ignore her baby dolls to play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women, and realized there was a niche in the market for a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future. The line has grown to include Ken, Midge, and Skipper.
Over the years, Barbie generated huge sales. On the positive side, many women saw Barbie as providing an alternative to traditional 1950s gender roles. She has had a series of different jobs, from airline stewardess, doctor, pilot and astronaut to Olympic athlete and even United States presidential candidate. Despite the criticism, sales of Barbie-related merchandise continued to soar. The line topped 1 billion dollars annually by 1993. Since 1959, more than 800 million dolls in the Barbie family have been sold around the world and Barbie is now a bona fide global icon. Eventually, I did get my Barbie doll, and for some reason, I never told my parents about the mix-up. I guess I couldn’t let them think that my Christmas gift had not been what I wanted. Besides that, the Bride doll was very beautiful, although I never played with it as much as I would have played with the Barbie doll.
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.
Over the years, many people have done all they could to create a world of peace, but is that really possible? I don’t believe it is. There is always a nation or group of people who have something they don’t like…whether it is politics, religion, boarders, or any number of other reasons. Periodically there are groups that try to find a way to promote peace. Some try to do so through protests against war, which is not very effective, because the protests are seldom peaceful themselves, but they do get publicity. Others try to appease the enemy, which also doesn’t work, because it is viewed as a show of weakness and compliance, causing the enemy to feel empowered.
When I was in high school, a singing group came to the school to perform for us. The group was called, “Up With People.” Their purpose was to unite the world through charity and song. It’s a noble effort, and in the Hippie Generation, of which I was a part, it all seemed possible. Of course, it wasn’t…not really. That effort ended, and another cause began, and failed as well. Oh, don’t get me wrong, people were helped, lives were changed, and everyone felt like they had made a difference. I suppose they did, but not in the area of world peace…which is, I believe, a myth. I think we as people traveling through life on earth, can help each other, donate funds, be kind, and reach out, but to make a world where there is no war…a world of peace on earth…no, I don’t think it is possible in this age…or any other.
I’m not against humanitarian groups that try to help those in need. I believe that we as humans should be compassionate and willing to help as needed, but the reality is that we must also understand that while we can help a current need, or even some in the future, we cannot stop the evil and hatred that exists in this world. There will not be peace on earth in the way that people think it can happen, because there are too many differences…differences of opinion, beliefs, rights, wrongs, and desire, not to mention agendas. No singing group, protest, or humanitarian effort will ever make it so. I guess that in the end, all we can do is try to create peace in our own little corner of the world and pray that it multiplies so that it affects those around us, and not get so upset when we can’t find a way to create world peace, because that is an impossible feat for the human race.
Yesterday, I heard the news that one of the iconic giant sequoia trees, located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is gone. The tree had been hollowed out to allow cars to drive through it. The Pioneer Cabin Tree, usually referred to as simply the “tunnel tree,” is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. It was knocked over by a powerful winter storm that slammed into California on Sunday. While the tunnel had been carved out of the tree, it was still very much a living tree.
I immediately though back to a vacation my husband, Bob and I took a few years back, that took us through the scenic Redwood National Park in northern California. While the tree that we were able to drive through was not the one that was toppled in this storm, I still felt the loss of that amazing tree. The giant sequoia is the world’s largest tree, after all, and it is only found in the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It can reach a height of 325 feet. This particular tree, called the Pioneer Cabin Tree was actually hollowed out in about 1880. For a long time, cars drove through the iconic tree, but in recent years, it was only accessible by hiking trail. I thought about the tree we drove through, and how much fun it was to see such a huge tree. I was quite saddened by the loss of this beautiful tree.
Apparently, a volunteer, Jim Allday was in the park on Sunday when the tree came crashing down. It was about 2 pm, and the tree splintered on impact. The thing that he found most concerning was that visitors had been walking through the tree just hours earlier. He went out to the site to find the tree on the ground, and what looked like a pond or river running through it. The river was most likely the cause of the tree’s demise. The powerful winter storm brought heavy rain and snow to the area. It was the worst flooding in over a decade. The storm forced the closing of Yosemite National Park. It brought with it, hurricane-force winds of over 100 miles per hour. The wind and soggy ground were just too much for the giant tree. For people in the area, and anyone who has ever had the opportunity to see the tree and the park, it feels like losing a famous historical figure, and at 1,000, it was a great historical figure indeed.
My husband, Bob and I love to go to Denver, Colorado periodically. We usually try to go to a Rockies game, shop some, and walk a lot. I think that most people who live in Wyoming, and elsewhere across the nation, have made the trip to Denver periodically. It is a shopping hub for this area, and on top of that, it is a huge cultural hub too. Denver is not a city I would want to live in, because I really don’t care to live in such a big city, but I do enjoy going there occasionally.
I do wonder how I would have felt about Denver in it’s early days. Back in 1858, Denver was just a small frontier town in the Colorado Territory. In those days, the town was not called Denver, in fact, I don’t know if it even had an official name. In a city where shopping brings in a huge amount of revenue, Denver, on this day October 29, 1858, saw its first store open. One month later, the town would take on the name Denver in a ploy to gain favor from Kansas Territorial Governor James W Denver. The town was promoted by a real estate salesman from Kansas named William H Larimer Jr. The store was created to serve miners, who were working the placer gold deposits that had been discovered a year before at the confluence of Cheery Creek and the South Platte River. By 1859, tens of thousands of gold seekers had flooded into the area, but by then the placer deposits were already playing out and most miners quickly departed for home or headed west into the mountains in search of richer deposits.
The area where the gold had been found is called Confluence Park, and it is one of our favorite places in Denver, because of the beautiful trail that leads to it. Strangely, in all the years that Bob and I have been going to Denver, and all the years that we have been walking that trail, and enjoying that park, we never knew of the history that happened there. I suppose we might have if we lived in Denver, or even in Colorado, but since we don’t, it was simply a nice walking trail with a nice park, in a city we enjoy going for a visit, and it always will be that, but it is also a piece of history, and now I know that.
In 1860, the frontier town of Denver almost failed before it got started, because even though it was centrally located for servicing the mining camps, it didn’t have rail or water transportation to make bringing in the needed goods to the store easier, or even feasible. Even when the transcontinental Union Pacific Railroad was built, it didn’t initially stop at Denver, so the little town struggled, but by 1870, Denver finally began to overcome it’s geographical isolation, when the Kansas Pacific Railroad arrived from the east, and the 105 mile Denver Pacific Railway that joined Denver to the Union Pacific line at Cheyenne. More connections would come later on, making Denver the city it is today.
I read in the paper on Monday about the 57th anniversary of the August 17, 1959 Hebgen Earthquake that created Earthquake Lake in Montana, just west of Yellowstone National Park. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was the second strongest quake in the lower 48 states in the 20th century, according to the United States Forest Service, killing 28 people, including five people in one Idaho Falls family who were entombed in the ensuing landslide, and are still there to this day. I was only three years old when that quake occurred, so I wouldn’t remember it, nor am I aware that it was felt in Casper, Wyoming, where we live, although it might have been felt there too. Still, I doubt I would have remembered it.
What I do remember, is the trip our family took when I was a child, that included Earthquake Lake. I don’t recall whether I was told about the 28 people who died there, or the ones they never found, but I rather doubt it, because things like that tend to be something that sticks with me…even really bothering me when I was younger, because I almost felt like I was a trespasser on their graves. These days, I realize that being near someone’s grave, whether in a cemetery or a natural grave such as Earthquake Lake became, is still nothing more than a final resting place. What impresses me more now is the sadness of the loss. That family was on vacation, and suddenly their lives were gone…over in an instant. Along with the loss of life, there was the damage to roads, making it even harder to bring help in to the people who were trapped, although I’m not sure it would have made much difference.
I remember feeling the enormity of the catastrophic event that took place that day a number of years earlier. I was impressed by the ability of an earthquake to change the face of the landscape around it. What had been the Madison River, was blocked by a massive landslide creating Earthquake Lake. The deaths were random. A couple, Edgar and Ethel Stryker were killed by a boulder that crushed them, while their three young sons, sleeping in a nearby tent, were unhurt. Irene Bennett and her son Phil were saved, but her husband Purley and their three other children were killed. Myrtle Painter died of her injuries, while her 16 year old daughter Carole survived. That was the story of the event, this one died, and that one lived. I think that while I probably didn’t know about all those deaths, that I still felt the sadness of that place, because it is a place I have never forgotten. An earthquake that happens in a rural area seems to make us think that it was simple a change of the landscape, but that is rarely the case. It seems that there are almost always a few people in the area, and that means a loss of life. A very sad event indeed.
Saturday afternoon, after hiking the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain, Bob and I went up to hike the Braille Trail with our daughter, Corrie Petersen, her husband Kevin and her son, Josh. Black out glasses were provided to give a sighted person an idea of what it is like to travel through life blind. Josh and I decided to hike that way, and what an experience that was. I must say that Blind Man’s Bluff will not prepare you for the reality of going through life blind. I have a lot of respect for any blind person who gets out and lives their life on their own terms. It would take a lot of courage. Of course, since I cannot read Braille, we took off the glasses at each sign that told about the area. It was very interesting to hear about the rocks, trees, the creek, and plant life we were seeing around us.
Then, we read the sign about the tornado that had torn through the Braille Trail in 1978. My memory files immediately took me back to July 20, 1978 at 6:40pm. No, I didn’t know that July 20th was the exact date or that 6:40pm was the exact time, but I’m quite sure it was. My Aunt Ruth Wolfe and her family had come to town to celebrate my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary, which was July 18, 1978. The memory was so vivid in my memory files that I can clearly see my Aunt Ruth standing in my parents’ kitchen. Suddenly, she stopped talking and almost ran to the back door. She said, “There’s a tornado somewhere!” She was so serious, but I was still skeptical…until we heard that there had indeed been a tornado on Casper Mountain at that exact time. I was stunned. How could she have known that? I was a young mother of two girls then, and had never been around a tornado. Casper doesn’t get a lot of them, even though we have had warnings, and even tornadoes in the area. Casper Mountain gets even fewer tornadoes than the main Casper area. Still, my aunt, who had been around a few of them, knew the atmospheric changes that precede a tornado, and she was certain that one had struck somewhere in our immediate area.
Now, over 38 years later, while walking a trail on the mountain, that whole scene replayed in my mind. Life is strange that way. Sometimes, memories come in and out of your life like you are watching a movie. It seemed so real that I felt like I could have walked across the room and touched my aunt. I remembered always being amazed at the wisdom she had concerning tornadoes. In reality, all of my parents siblings were that way. They had the wisdom that comes with their years on the earth. That was how Aunt Ruth got her wisdom too…living life. It was a great memory of her. As to the Braille Trail, since it had the dedication of the Lions Club and the community, the people came together, cleaned it up, and repaired the damage. The Braille Trail has been damaged a total of three times over the years of its existence…the 1978 tornado, the 1985 flood, and the 1995 winter storms, each time the damaged trees were removed, and the trail areas rebuilt, so that the trail could continue to serve the visually impaired and the community at large. I know I will definitely go back again.