Reminiscing

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My grand niece, Aleesia Spethman has had a very busy summer. She is part of an active family, which includes her three older brothers, who keep Aleesia very busy when she is at home. Of course, being the only girl in a house with three brothers, can have its up side, and its down side. It’s pretty hard to get brothers to play girly games, so sometimes, Aleesia has to be a bit of a tom boy, a role she has taken seriously…or maybe it just comes naturally because of her brothers. She can keep up with the boys on many of the things they do, but they still treat her like a princess sometimes too.

Aleesia is the girl her parents always wanted…not that they didn’t want those boys too. Jenny, Aleesia’s mom is very much a girly girl, and she wanted her own mini me to share her fashion sense, and all the other girly girl things with. They have a great time being girly together, shopping together, and playing the girly games that Aleesia wants to play, and her brothers are much too macho for. The boys are very considerate of their sister, but you simply have to draw the line somewhere. They do take her along on their adventures too, so what more can a baby sister ask for?

Aleesia loves her grandma. Every evening, after a hard day of playing with her friends and brothers, Aleesia is picked up by her grandma, my sister, Cheryl Masterson. She goes to her grandma’s house for a few hours. They love to spend time together, because Aleesia is seriously Grandma’s Girl. Don’t get me wrong, because she very much loves her parents and brothers, but she also loves her grandma very much. In fact, if Aleesia had her way, her grandma would just move in with her family, because then everything would be absolutely perfect in her world. My sister and her youngest grandchild have a somewhat unique relationship. Of course, Cheryl loves all her grandchildren, but some grandchildren are the type who just wiggle their way into your heart and take up a residency there. Some grandchildren are after your heart, and they make a sincere effort to be with you. It isn’t that the two of you do anything that is so out of the ordinary, but rather that you have opened your heart to their efforts to come in. I don’t know if that exactly explains how that is, but any grandparent who has been blessed with such a grandchild, knows exactly what I mean. And truly, anyone who has been blessed to have Aleesia love them a lot, is blessed indeed. I know, because I have been blessed to be one of those, and I love it. Today is Aleesia’s 5th birthday. For Aleesia, the next big adventure in her world will be Kindergarten…super fun!! Happy 5th birthday Aleesia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

After the Revolutionary War, and the United States independence that followed, the relationship between the two nations was quite strained. The United States did not like having British military posts on our northern and western borders, and Britain’s violation of American neutrality in 1794 when the Royal Navy seized American ships in the West Indies during England’s war with France. Finally, in an attempt to smooth things over, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, who was appointed by President Washington, came up with a treaty. The treaty officially known as the “Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; and The United States of America” was signed by Britain’s King George III on November 19, 1794 in London. However, after Jay returned home with news of the treaty’s signing, President Washington, who was now in his second term, had encountered fierce Congressional opposition to the treaty. By 1795, its ratification was still uncertain, and there was work to be done to change things.

The two biggest opponents to the treaty were two future presidents…Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Jefferson was, at the time, in between political positions. He had just completed a term as Washington’s secretary of state from 1789 to 1793 and had not yet become John Adams’ vice president. Fellow Virginian, James Madison was a member of the House of Representatives. Jefferson, Madison and other opponents feared the treaty gave too many concessions to the British. They argued that Jay’s negotiations actually weakened American trade rights and complained that it committed the United States to paying pre-revolutionary debts to English merchants. Washington himself was not completely satisfied with the treaty, but considered preventing another war with America’s former colonial master a priority.

The treaty was finally approved by Congress on August 14, 1795, with exactly the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. President Washington signed the treaty just four days later, on August 18, 1795. Washington and Jay may have won the legislative battle and averted war temporarily, but it created a conflict at home that highlighted a deepening division between those of different political ideologies in Washington DC, much like what we see these days. Jefferson and Madison mistrusted Washington’s attachment to maintaining friendly relations with England over revolutionary France, who would have welcomed the United States as a partner in an expanded war against England.

As the pioneers headed west, there were various disputes over ownership of the lands they were settling into. The Native American people did not think that they should have to surrender their lands to the White Man, but it seemed that they had no choice. Still, there were some Native Americans who refused to be pushed around by the government. On August 17, 1862, violence erupted in Minnesota as desperate Dakota Indians attacked white settlements along the Minnesota River. This was a fight that the Dakota Indians would eventually lose. They were no match for the US military, and six weeks later, it was over.

The Dakota Indians were often referred to as the Sioux, which I did not know was a derogatory name derived from part of a French word meaning “little snake.” It almost makes it seem like they were talking badly about them to their face, but so they couldn’t understand it. The government treated the Dakota poorly, and the Dakota saw their hunting lands dwindling down, and apparently the provisions that the government promised to supply, rarely arrived. And now, to top it off, a wave of white settlers surrounded them too. To make matters worse, the summer of 1862 had been a harsh one, and cutworms had destroyed much of the crops. The Dakota were starving.

On August 17, the situation exploded when four young Dakota warriors returning from an unsuccessful hunt, stopped to steal some eggs from a white settlement. The were caught and they picked a fight with the hen’s owner. The encounter turned tragic when the Dakotas killed five members of the family. Now, the Dakota knew that they would be attacked. Dakota leaders, knew that war was at hand, so they seized the initiative. Led by Taoyateduta, also known as Little Crow, the Dakota attacked local agencies and the settlement of New Ulm. Over 500 white settlers lost their lives along with about 150 Dakota warriors.

President Abraham Lincoln dispatched General John Pope, fresh from his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia. Pope was to organize the Military Department of the Northwest. Some of the Dakota immediately fled Minnesota for North Dakota, but more than 2,000 were rounded up and over 300 warriors were sentenced to death. President Lincoln commuted most of their sentences, but on December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were executed at Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass execution in American history, and it was all because they were starving, and had no hope of living through that year.

Most of my friends know that I love shoes. In fact, that is truly an understatement. I have shoes for every need and for every outfit. I have hiking shoes, sandals, shoes for jeans, boots…lots of boots, and of course, heels…of every color, height, and style from low heels to platform heels, and even funky heels. Yes, I love shoes. But there is a line that even I won’t cross.

Over the centuries in many areas of the world, shoe style was really a show of status. And in some countries, the size of a woman’s foot was so important that women would stuff their feet into shoes that would fit a young child. Those women were so intent on making their feet small, that they would perform a procedure on them called foot binding. It is a crazy way of tying the toes in such a way, so as to make a point of the front of the foot. The foot was then bent almost in half to fit in a shoe for a young child. I think every woman would like her feet to be smaller, at least every woman who wears size seven or above, but foot binding is extreme.

I love platform heels, but some styles…both old and new, are ridiculous. When the platform is so high, and made of something with no give to it, or has no heel on it, the woman wearing the heel really can’t even walk by themselves. And believe me, I would need help too, and I’m used to platforms. It’s just that these aren’t platforms. No, they are stilts!! Platforms have been a tradition for a very long time in Europe, clear back to the 17th century, and then they were out of fashion until the 20th century. Really, it wasn’t until Ferragamo reintroduced them in the 1930s that platforms came back in style. In 2009, an exhibition was organized, with an accompanying catalog on the topic of these elevating shoes, titled “On A Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels.” Chopines, which were also known as zoccoli or pianelle, are a platform shoe up to 20 inches high. Of course, those who wore them required the help of servants so that they didn’t fall flat on their face…in the name of fashion. The idea of chopines, besides being a fashion statement, was to protect the wearer’s clothes from street mud. Never mind the servant’s clothes, and really, why did they have to go out in the mud anyway? They were aristocrats, couldn’t someone just carry them on a platform chair, or run their errand for them. Whatever the case may be, I will not be buying a pair of these crazy stilt platforms, should they ever come into style again.

I do love my many styles of shoes, and my platforms are among the favorites, but I draw the line at about a 3 inch platform. Much more than that, and I not only have difficulty walking, but I end up taller than everyone around me, and for me that is just too odd. I am used to being one of the “wee ones,” as my niece Kellie Hadlock calls me, and that’s ok with me. I never wanted to be tall anyway. I’ll let my platforms make me look tall. I’m good with that!!

My grand niece, Jala Satterwhite is really into horses, and she is blessed enough to live on a small ranch seven miles outside of Powell, Wyoming, where she has access to them every day. Jala loves all kinds of sports, and she is in great shape, but horses are her true love. They have five horses on the property. Two belong to Jala and her family, and the other three belong to her step-dad’s parents, but Jala and her little sister, Kaytlyn get to have access to them all. Of course, horses aren’t the only animals they have. There are also four cats and three dogs to play with and take care of. My niece, Susan Griffith, Jala’s mom tells me that they are slowly buying more things for the horses, and she comments that what used to be an economical mode of travel, sure is expensive these days. They would love to be able to go riding more often and for longer distances.

This summer, Jala did get to go on a week long back pack trip with a group of young ladies. It was called Dano Camp. It was a completely amazing experience. I had no idea what that was, so I looked into it. Per their website, “Dano Youth Camp was established in memory of the life and character of Danny “Dano” Ostrom. The camps are unique in that they provide the equipment…tents, backpacks, camping gear, food, etc…and the basic gear needed for the trip. The only requirement of the campers is to fill out the appropriate paperwork, make a commitment to the time frame, bring along a few personal items, and be prepared for summer fun!” It sounds like an amazing experience for the kids, and it sure was for Jala.

This seems to be the summer of camps for Jala. She also attended the Youth Life Camp in Oregon, and just got back last Friday. Jala describes it as the best week of her life. The camp is a Christian camp, and Jala is growing closer to God everyday. That makes her parents, and me, very happy. I’m sure the camp in Oregon, where she was surrounded by other young people who are believers too, was an amazing experience. It’s wonderful to be able to share your faith with others. For Jala, it has also been a camping summer, because the day she got back from Oregon, the family loaded up and headed for the Big Horn Mountains to go camping for the weekend. It’s a good thing that Jala is an outdoor sort of girl, because she sure didn’t spend much time indoors this summer.

Jala is going to be a Freshman in high school this year, and will be participating in swimming competitions. Jala did some diving competitions last year too. Practice for that started yesterday, even though school has not started yet. As most people know, gearing up for the school year is almost as busy as the first day. Nevertheless, it’s going to be a great and exciting year for Jala…especially since she is now old enough to get her learner’s permit and start learning to drive. Today is Jala’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Everyone knows that President Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, but what you may not know is that this was not the first attempt on Abraham Lincoln’s life. The first attempt came one August night in 1864, just under a year before the successful attempt by John Wilkes Booth. It is unknown who the would-be assassin was in that earlier attempt, just that they very nearly succeeded.

President Lincoln and his family often stayed at the Soldiers’ Home during the summer months due to the unbearable heat at the White House. President Lincoln often made the 4 mile trip from the White House to the Soldiers’ Home alone, and often late at night, an unheard of situation these days, with the secret service officers always shadowing the presidents, vice-presidents, and their families. As Lincoln was riding along that night, a shot rang out. Private John W Nichols, who was stationed at the Soldiers’ Home, rushed to the aid of the president, whom he found well, but missing his hat. President Lincoln told the private that the horse jerked upon hearing the gunshot, and his hat went flying. The private went to retrieve the hat for the president, and went he examined it, he found that it now had a bullet hole in it. It was an extremely close call, but President Lincoln requested that the matter be kept quiet, and Private Nichols didn’t tell the story until 1867. His tall hat had saved his life by causing the would be assassin to aim too high to hit his head.

For America, this missed shot changed history. Had Lincoln been killed on that August night…even just that much earlier would have had devastating consequences for America. Hannibal Hamlin would have become a lame duck president. Hamlin was already off the Union ticket for vice president, having been replaced by Andrew Johnson. Hamlin would have faced strong opposition, because at the time, the Radical Democracy Party…an offshoot of the Republicans…and their nominee, John Fremont, had not yet dropped from the race. The Radical Democracy Party were even more strongly opposed to slavery than Lincoln, which is what led to their formation. Had the assassin aimed a bit lower in 1864, the election in November would likely have pitted Hamlin against Fremont and McClellan, the Democratic nominee, with Johnson perhaps running on the Union ticket.

Presidential elections always rest on who can win in an election, and in this case the winner would have turned 1864 America into a mess. Had the earlier would-be assassin’s shot been just a little lower, Lincoln, would have been succeeded by Hannibal Hamlin which may have given the upcoming election to Lincoln’s overly cautious former commander, General George McClellan. How either Hamlin, had he actually won re-election, or McClellan would have carried on the last year of the war, much less dealt with southern reconstruction, is a source for debate. Lincoln’s death, if combined with a lame-duck Hamlin and a conciliatory McClellan, might have encouraged the South to hold on just a while longer and resulted in an armistice rather than a victory, dramatically changing the history of America. I don’t think that anyone but Lincoln could have freed the slaves at that time.

My grand nephew, Matthew Masterson is the only boy in a family of 4 children. I suppose that could make Matthew a terror…teasing his sisters, tormenting them with his antics, or just being in the room when the girls don’t want him there. Sometimes, those descriptions are actually true, but not for the most part. That’s because Matthew has more protective instincts that he does torment instincts. I think that a boy, who is the only boy in a family is often very protective of his sister or sisters. Most boys realize at an early age, that their job is to protect the women in their lives. That instinct is preparing them for their future roll as a husband and father. While Matthew is still a number of years away from being a family man, he is quite protective of his sisters, and that makes me very proud of him.

Now that Matthew is growing up, he has been allowed to have a Facebook page, because lets face it, social media is a way of life now. Each age group has different reasons for using Facebook, but the main reason for everyone, is to connect with friends and family. Of course, with kids, it has to be monitored by their parents, to prevent exploitation, and Matthew’s parents are very careful to do that. Matthew is learning the Facebook ropes…finding things that inspire him. His mom, Dustie Masterson has also posted things that she hopes will help her son to grow into the kind of man she wants him to be some day. Dustie and my nephew, Rob Masterson, love encouraging their kids to be the best they can be, and to know that if they put their mind to it, they can do anything they dream of doing. I like the inspiring things they share with their kids on Facebook, as well as in their daily home lives. Matthew is growing into a kind, loving young man, who thinks of others before himself.

Matthew loves hanging out with friends, his cousins, Zack, and Isaac Spethman, and sometimes their older brother, Xander Spethman, or their little sister, Aleesia Spethman. He also loves hanging out with his sisters, Raelynn and Anna Masterson, although his favorite people to hang out with are the Spethman boys, because their interests are much the same. Matthew is a curious boy, and he also loves to talk to the adults in the family. He wants to know about things that are going on in the world, and he has an opinion about things too. He has listened to the news, to his parents talk about things, and to his teachers too. By listening, he has an idea about how he thinks things should be. And he also has questions about those same current events. I think that as he listens and asks questions, he will grow into a wise young man. Today is Matthew’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand niece, Alice Green has had an exciting couple of years. She finished her last year of pre-school, and now its on to Kindergarten. She has grown so much in the past few years…from the toddler that she was when I first met her young girl ready to get started on the next step in her education. Alice is a little shy, but once she gets to know people, she has a personality that bubbles with excitement. Alice really likes people, and of course, mostly kids. For three of her five years, she was an only child, and that meant that friends were a little bit more scarce, but all that has changed.

On December 21, 2015, Alice got an early Christmas present…a little sister of her very own named Izabella Harman. Alice was so excited. She had a sister, and before long, she would have a friend to play with who was always there in the same house with her. Alice was a good helper to her mom, my niece, Melanie Harman and my nephew, Jake Harman. She wanted to help with the baby, and make her laugh, and just be with her, in general, because that’s what big sisters do, and Alice planned to be the best big sister ever…a goal that I think she has definitely accomplished. But Alice’s excitement wasn’t over yet. On May 30, 2017, Alice got a little brother named Jaxx Harman. Jaxx would have not just one big sister, but two. I’m not sure how much he will like that when he is older, but while they are all little, this is going to be the best experience ever.

Alice is still the greatest big sister ever, because she loves her little sister and brother, and she loves to make them laugh. She and Belle play and giggle for hours, and very soon, Jaxx will join in the fun, because he won’t be a baby forever. Pretty soon, the Harman house will be filled with the laughter of three children in boisterous play. There is nothing greater than a house filled with the laughter of joyful children. For Alice, life is good. She is growing up, and she has Kindergarten to look forward to soon, and each day when she comes home, she will be greeted by her sister and brother, ready to play with the greatest big sister ever. Today is Alice’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday Alice!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Balcerzak is a likeable guy, who is highly skilled in computer technology, but never acts like a know it all. Dave just isn’t wired that way. He isn’t the snobby type, who like to tell everyone how great they are…whether they can back it up or not. The way he sees it, and I would agree, is that if you know your job, you don’t have to tell everyone how well you know your job, because people will be able to see that for themselves. Arrogance never was a skill…it was rather an insecurity. Dave is a IT technician for the State of Wyoming, and they know how blessed they are to have him, because…Dave is great at what he does. He won’t blow his own horn, so I’ll do it for him!!

Dave has been a part of our family since he married my niece, Chantel on June 22, 2002. They had known each other since they were both kids, but both went their separate ways as adults…until God brought them back together, and they have been happily married for 15 years. Dave has been a wonderful dad to his kids, Keifer and Katy, as well as to Chantel’s kids, Jake and Siara. And he has become a wonderful grandpa to Jake’s children, Alice, Izabella, and Jaxx. Now, in February of 2018, Dave will become a grandpa again, as his son Keifer, and Keifer’s wife, Katie have their first child. It is an exciting time for Dave, who loves little kids, and is just basking in the role of grandpa. Dave’s personality is such that the kids love to be around him, and that makes life even better, because he loves being around those grandbabies too.

Dave is a sports guy. He likes all kinds of sports, and loves to hang with his kids and watch sports. Dave plays darts, and while I have never watched him play, I hear that he is very good, and very competitive. That’s ok, because the only way to get good at a sport is to be competitive, either with others, or against yourself. Dave has his own “man cave” and Chantel is ok with letting his have his sport sessions down there, and she might even join in…once in a while. Watching sports with the kids has been a way to keep them close, and for Dave, who is a family guy, that is very important.

Today, Dave joins the ranks of the 50+ club, as he turns 50. It is hard for me to believe that Dave could be 50. He doesn’t act like it, and in reality, it just doesn’t seem possible that I could have nephews in their 50s…even though it should, because Dave isn’t the first one. Still, I don’t know where the time has gone. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As a little boy, my nephew, JD Parmely could usually be found hanging out with the men in the family, looking for ways to help with whatever they happened to be working on at the time. He was a busy little boy, and he wanted to be a part of the guys group. I guess he knew, even at such a young age, that he wanted to be a mechanic too. JD came from a long line of mechanics, so it was in his blood, it would seem…and that suited JD just fine. When he grew up, JD decided that he would go to tech school to learn everything he needed to know to be a professional mechanic, and so he spent time in Arizona at school…before returning to Casper, Wyoming as quickly as possible, to get out of what he considered to be the horrible Arizona heat.

While the majority of JD’s assistance as a child, was handing the men a tool…if he could figure out which one they needed, he has long outgrown the days when he doesn’t know about tools. Now that he is educated in the field of mechanics, he works mostly on his own projects…of which there are many, since JD is an avid car owner, who owns more cars at one time than most of us do in a lifetime…and drives them all!! JD is of the belief that one can never have too many vehicles. His “Day Job” is in the same field…mechanics. JD loves his work so much that he just brings it home with him…or, in reality, just changes locations, and works on his own vehicles in the evenings. He can’t think of a better way to relax, than to work on a car, and I think the rest of the men in the family are exactly the same way.

For many years, JD was the student, gleaning knowledge about mechanics from his dad, grandpa, older brother, and uncles, but at some point, the student became the teacher. In this family, we have mechanics who specialize in various pars of mechanics, as well as the same types as the others. What that does, is to provide a sounding board for the others, when they have an issue with something they are working on. It also provides for assistance when a job requires more than one mechanic. For me…lately anyway, it has seemed kind of odd, or maybe different, but not unexpected, that my husband, Bob, would be calling on his nephew, JD for information on a problem. I know it was bound to happen at some point, and has probably been going on for quite a while, but when I think about Bob asking JD for his help and ideas, I just have to smile, because the student has become the teacher. JD has come a long way, and yes he is another in a long line of mechanics, but somehow it just didn’t occur to me that he would be the go to guy for the other mechanics sometimes. Nevertheless, that’s what he is, and that’s what they are to him too. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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