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Dad and meAs my father-in-law’s life was winding down, we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t always the perfect moments of his life that we shared, because he was in the hospital off and on during that time. He hated going into the hospital…hated the equipment he had to be hooked up to, food they wanted him to eat, and the constant waiting to get up, because he had to have help, but he liked the nurses and aides, and that made it tolerable, I guess. Nevertheless, he hated to be there, because life just seemed to pass him by when he was in the hospital. Still, since I needed to be there to talk to the doctors, and since I worked nearby, I went up several times a day. I know it meant a lot to him.

When we would first go to the hospital emergency room, my father-in-law would always ask me to take care of his watch and pocket knife. They were so important to him. That almost Dad's Knifeseems strange, because he normally didn’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and he very seldom ever used the pocket knife. Nevertheless, they were very important to him, and I was always entrusted with their care, and because it was so important to him, it became important to me. When he passed away, the watch and pocket knife were not claimed by any of his children, so once again, I have been entrusted with their care. They are a treasure to me, and each time I look at them, I can see his sweet face, a little worried about what this hospital visit was going to bring, and yet still so protective of those two prized possessions.

I don’t know if they were given to him, or if they were just something he liked and bought for himself, but in his last days, and probably even longer than that, I know that they meant a lot to him. The knife is an Old Timer Knife. Old Timer Knives were manufactured by the Imperial Schrade Corporation, who closed their doors July 30, 2004, after 100 years of business. They were something he looked on as being of great value. It Dad's Watchmight have been just a guy thing to have a pocket knife or something, because it does seem that a lot of guys have and keep good track of their pocket knives. I don’t know the story on his watch either, except to say that the only time he was without it was when he was in the hospital, in bed, or the shower. That says that it was something he treasured too. Neither of these were very expensive items. The watch may have come from Walmart, for all I know. It’s monetary value isn’t important to me. It’s real value is in what it meant to my father-in-law. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.

10277556_10201254514040023_7949572301171895470_nMy grand niece, Jala Satterwhite is growing up so fast. I still picture her as a girl who is her sister, Kaytlyn’s age, but that just isn’t so. This past year, when Jala was in 5th grade, she participated in the science fair, and did a great job. She did her project on salt, which is something I personally like a lot of. Jala has always liked grade school and has done very well in it, but the time has come for her to move on. With her twelfth birthday, comes middle school. She will no longer be one of the big kids on campus, but she will be moving into the world of the older group of kids in school.

We will have to see exactly what that will mean for Jala, because at this point, she is quite proud to call herself a tomboy. Her favorite game is football, and I don’t mean to watch. This last year found Jala playing football with…and besting the boys…at every recess. She is one of the fastest of them all. She likes football so much, that she told everyone that she wanted a football for her birthday, and ended up with three at her party. I guess she is set in that department. With the coming of middle school, comes also co-ed flag football…with Jala 10441077_299355706897558_2146958624341205832_n[1]on the team. She is so excited about playing on a real team…and not just recess fun. She starts in a couple of weeks, and she can’t wait. Hey, I say go for whatever your heart desires Jala. Those kids need you on their team! They want to win…right!!

The summer found Jala taking swimming lessons…an excellent idea. I think every child needs to know how to swim. Jala excelled at swimming too, passing the hardest level a week faster than was required. She is a great swimmer, but swimming simply cannot compete with football…at least not right now. You never know what the future might bring. She may end up on the swim team someday. As kids grow up, their focus often changes and new ideas present themselves, and before your very eyes, they are a changed person. It’s hard to say what Jala will want to do in the future, because she has so much changing left to do.

Jala has grown in maturity in so many ways. She wanted an iPhone this past year, and while 10458591_310204579146004_880179121272629238_nher parents wanted her to have it, they also wanted to teach her about things like responsibility, and making your own way in this world. Of course, Jala isn’t old enough to totally make her own way in this world, but she can learn about earning something she wants, so she will be sure to take care of it when she gets it. That said, her parents decided that if she wanted an iPhone, she should save up for it. A very wise idea. Once you know how expensive it is, and how long it took you to save up for it, you tend to have a greater respect for it…and Jala does. She also loves her iPhone, and did from the moment she got it. I can’t blame her there. The iPhone is the best phone there is, if you ask me. It’s also a great phone for taking all the selfies that Jala likes to take, but then why should she be different than anyone else. Today is Jala’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

100_0531I will never forget the first time I saw the ocean. I can’t tell you the exact spot, unfortunately, but it was along the coast of Maine. Our family had taken a trip to visit my sister, Cheryl Masterson whose husband was stationed in Plattsburgh, New York at the time. While we were there, the whole family took a trip down the east coast. It was amazing. That first ocean view was one of the most awe inspiring views I have ever seen, as I’m sure anyone who has seen the ocean would agree. It is difficult to comprehend such a vast expanse of water, with no visible land on the other side. There are the great lakes too, of course, and they do give a feel of an ocean, but you know they are just lakes, and as quickly as it appeared, that feeling of unbelievable vastness passes. But, the ocean…that view is one that will always have a place in my memory files.

I remember too, that it was in Maine that I hade my first taste of lobster. Oh my gosh…it was 0331011550heavenly. Many people say that the experience of eating lobster on the coast probably ruined lobster for me, because it just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else. That may be true, but lobster is still heavenly, and all I can say if that I wish the price for it wasn’t so far out of this world. There are so many experiences that are only enhanced by their natural habitat, and while lobster eating is one of them, I’ll do my best to struggle through it, anytime I get the chance.

While my husband, Bob and I have seen the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and now, the Gulf of Alaska, and each of those experiences have been awesome, they couldn’t compare to the way I felt at my first ocean view. Obviously I was a younger girl then, and while I was pretty well traveled as a child, there are simply some sights that tower over others in your mind. I wasn’t so young at that first ocean view, IMG_2103exactly, at 15 years of age, but somehow the view of the ocean made me feel like I was younger and smaller. Its vastness was so much to take in. I wondered what things were on the other side, and how many desert islands were in between this side and that side. I wondered about the shipwrecks there might be from days of pirates and hurricanes, and about the fish that lived in the ocean. All were things I would probably never know about…or would I? Perhaps with a little research, the events of the ocean’s past could open up and I could be privy to the secrets that lie beneath those vast expanses of beautiful blue water too.

Gladys Pattan Byer CooperAs another year has come and gone since the passing of my great aunt, Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper, I am shocked to realize that it has been 25 years…or at least I was when I was reminded of that fact by a survivor of the crash of United Airlines flight 232, Jerry Schemmel, when he contacted me about a project he was working on. It seemed impossible that so much time had passed. To this day, I can picture that crash, every time the thought of Aunt Gladys comes up, or another plane crash, or most especially that crash comes up. My Aunt Gladys was such a wonderful person, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.

When Jerry Schemmel contacted me about writing a tribute to Aunt Gladys, I was so pleased that he had taken it upon himself to set up a tribute site to the victims of Flight 232, on the 25th anniversary of that horrible day. In reality, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Jerry SchemmelIt seems that Jerry Schemmel was not just one of the survivors of that crash, but a hero too. After surviving the initial crash, he went back into the wreckage and rescued an 11 month old baby. How many people can think that clearly after the plane they were flying in just crashed, or cartwheeled really, on the runway, killing 112 people? Not many I would have to say. Most people would be concerned for themselves and their own, but there are heroes among us, and Jerry Schemmel was one.

I am almost embarrassed to say that until I looked Jerry up on the internet, hoping for a picture for my story, I had no idea who I was in contact with. Maybe some of you know…or maybe, like me you are in the dark. Jerry Schemmel is an American sportscaster, and the current voice of the Colorado Rockies. I wonder just how many times I have heard his voice, since I am a Colorado Rockies fan. Probably a lot. While his education was in law, his biggest claim to fame is as a sportscaster. But to me, his greatest single act was when he saved United Airlines Flight 232 crashthat 11 month old baby.

I wish things could have been different for my Aunt Gladys, but it is comforting to know that after that horrific crash, there were heroes among the passengers who did their very best to save as many people as possible. While Jerry’s site “Welcome To The Tribute To The Victims Of The Crash Of United Airlines Flight 232” is a tribute to the victims of that crash, we should also remember the heroes, like Jerry who survived, went back to help, and never forgot those who lost their lives. I believe that crash changed Jerry forever, and I would strongly recommend the book he wrote about the experience called, “Chosen To Live”. I believe Jerry certainly was.

World Trade CenterWhen something earth shattering happens, people tend to talk about that moment a lot. They seem always to remember where they were, and what they were doing. September 11, 2001 found me at home because my girls would be bringing their children over before school. I was getting ready for work, and I would drop the kids off at school before I went to work. My daughters had to be to work an hour earlier than I did. When my daughter, Corrie Petersen came in, she was on the phone with her husband, Kevin and she said, “The World Trade Center is on fire…and so is the Pentagon!” My mind couldn’t comprehend how that could be. I said, “How can that be…they are nowhere near each other?” It was just like finding out that President Kennedy had been shot on the street outside our home, when a friend told us as we went outside to play. These kinds of events and what we were doing when…are almost seared into our brains.

That was the way it was for my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher and her sister, Elsa. Bertha writes that she and Elsa were ironing clothes when the news came over the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. She writes that they were dumb-founded because the ambassador from Japan had just visited FDR…talking peace! It was a moment that should have taught our nation that it is unwise to trust human beings without reservation…but we are FlakDad's military daysslow to learn that, and so things have happened again and again. For people like my great aunts and me, I think it is disheartening that these things happen within our own borders. For Aunt Bertha, it became a time to be chronicled. She believed that it was important for people to be able to read “simple, unvarnished accounts” of how people felt when these earth shattering events took place.

For my dad, World War II became a life changing event. He went from being a 20 year old young man, to a Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer in a matter of months. He had never kept big secrets from his family, and didn’t later on either, but during the war his letters had to be guarded. He couldn’t say too much because the security of their squadron and many others depended on absolute secrecy. He also had to be guarded because he didn’t want to worry his mother. He felt such a need to protect her from worry, and she, knowing what war really was all about tried to keep him from knowing that she was indeed worrying. No matter how hard we try not to be, we were affected by the events surrounding our lives, whether they are personal or environmental.

I know that for me, that sense of security that existed pre-September 11th, is missing. I know Bertha Schumacher Hallgrenthat an attack is possible, and that there are within our borders, people who want to destroy this nation. The United States of America is too amazing to think that events like these could take it down, but if freedom and security aren’t protected, they could do just that. When I think of Aunt Bertha and Aunt Elsa hearing about the war on television on December 7, 1941, and how frightening that must have seemed…how anguished they must have felt, I find myself thinking how awful that must have been. I have lived through several wars in my lifetime, but not a world war…although I think it is coming. I wish there could be less earth shattering moments, but I don’t think we have seen the last of them.

Lindsay & ShannonMy niece, Lindsay met her husband, Shannon Moore while he was coaching the Wyoming Calvary Indoor Football team. It’s amazing where that one moment has taken their lives. If she had to pick one thing about Shannon that stole her heart, it would have to be that he has the kindest heart of anyone she has ever met. Lindsay is a loving, kindhearted person too, and I think she just couldn’t imagine settling for a husband who wasn’t like that. I’m sure that is exactly why Shannon stood out to her, like her knight in shining armor or her prince charming. I think they both knew a long time ago that they would be together always. Shannon made her feel special, comfortable, and included in everything he was doing.

Shannon is a sports guy. His favorite sport is football, but he loves all sports. He played football at Black Hills State University during his college days, but he really never got football out of his system. After the Cavs, his coaching career moved him to South Dakota State University. It was difficult for Shannon and Lindsay, but after she graduated from the University of Wyoming, Lindsay did her graduate work and subsequently went to work at South Dakota State University. Almost immediately after their engagement, they were planning their wedding to take place in Florida on Deerfield Beach, when Shannon was offered his current position as Special Teams Coordinator at Florida International University. Shannon was living his dream. His life was getting better by the minute. Shannon loves sports, and he is blessed enough to have that be his life’s work too.

For Lindsay, I think possibly his contagious laugh was one of the things that made him a keeper. She calls his laugh big, loud, and from the heart. He is always saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” That is one of the things my parents used to say. Lindsay says that always makes her smile or giggle…even if she doesn’t want to. When I mentioned that it would be a Shannon & Rorygood way to end an argument, she told me they don’t really argue, but that it could make her feel better after a bad day…and isn’t that what it’s all about.

Shannon loves kids and really enjoys playing with them. He’s a great entertainer for them, which is a big pro as far as Lindsay’s niece, Rory is concerned. She loves her uncles, and getting a new one was just another plus in her book. His playfulness is such a big part of who he is. Today is Shannon’s birthday. Happy birthday Shannon!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Aunt Mary-Carolyn Ingalls look-alikeEvery time I look at this picture of my great aunt, Mary Estella Pattan DeWitt, I marvel at just how much she looked like Karen Grassle…better known as Carolyn Ingalls of “The Little House On The Prairie” fame. Oh, I know it isn’t exact or anything, but I have to do a double take every time. I don’t recall an awful lot about my Great Aunt Mary, even though she passed away in 1996, giving me plenty of time to know her. And I did know her, but whenever the great aunts were around, so were a lot of other people. Everyone was talking at once, and there weren’t many times where you could just have a quiet conversation with someone, and I can’t guarantee that I would have had the forethought to ask her the right questions then. I was interested in the family history, but not to the degree that I am now.

Nevertheless, I believe that Aunt Mary was always a gentle spirit. Karen GrassleHer soft face and features tell me that she was. I don’t believe that the word kindness was missing from her thoughts either. She just looks to me to be the type of person who loved everyone around her in a very special way, and I think she might have truly been a lot like Carolyn Ingalls was. I don’t recall if I ever ate any of her cooking, but she was pretty famous for it…especially her pies. Her husband, Clinton Paul DeWitt loved her choke cherry pies so much he would even pit the cherries for her so it was easier to get to have the pie. While Aunt Mary didn’t really live during the same timeframe that the Little House series was about, I have a feeling Aunt Mary & Uncle Paulshe very much could have. She was a gentle soul, but she was not a weakling. She was a strong woman, who built her life into what it was. She didn’t just expect that things would be handed to her, while she did nothing. She worked hard on making her house a wonderful and welcoming home to be in.

It’s funny how there can be people in this world who look enough alike to be sisters…even though they are not related and even years apart in age. That is what happened with my Aunt Mary. While there is no relation that I know of, she and Karen Grassle could easily have been sisters, or some other close relationship. Other people may not see the resemblance that I see, so I’ll leave that confirmation up to each of you. As for me, she will always look like Carolyn Ingalls in these pictures.

Mud TruckI’m not really sure what the draw is, to getting down and dirty, but there are certainly a lot of people who like to take part in the muddy things of life…like mud trucks, mud wrestling, and muddy 4-wheeling. Maybe it is just the uninhibited, totally down and dirty experience they like, and maybe once you try it, it becomes easy to get hooked on, but I simply can’t imagine it. There are, however, several people in my family, and possibly lots more that I don’t know about, who really love to get in the mud and get dirty.

My son-in-law, Kevin Petersen and my grandsons, Chris and Josh Petersen, loved it when he had a mud truck. They would enter it in the local and even some in other areas of the state, mud truck competitions. The idea here, as you probably know, is to try to drive your truck as far through a mucky mud hole as you can. Obviously, the truck that goes the furthest is deemed the winner. Kevin loved doing that. Winning the competition here isn’t the whole idea, although it is a big part. Nevertheless, even if he didn’t win, he had a great muddy time trying. You see…to me that simply meant having to bring your truck home and wash all that mud off again, but that didn’t matter to Kevin. It was all about the mud and getting down and dirty. If your truck wasn’t covered in mud when you were done, you didn’t try hard enough.Muddy Face

For some like my grand nephew, Brian Kountz, it was all about 4-wheeling. If there was a mud puddle in his way, he didn’t go around it, although when 4-wheeling, he could have. No, he had to go through it, and if he got stuck, then it was time to get out and dig through the mud in an effort the free the very stuck truck. Brian never backed down from that battle. It was man against mud, and while the mud often won, it was not for a lack of fighting it on Brian’s part. That is probably why his Bronco didn’t really stand a chance in life. Broncos were made for 4-wheeling and mudding, as far as Brian was concerned, and that was how he intended to use his. My husband, Bob used to say, “That kid is gonna kill that Bronco someday.” And Brian did, in the end, but he had an awesome time doing so.

As for my Uncle Bill Spencer…well, who needed a car or truck to get down and dirty? One time during World War II, he and some friends were taking a break from the shipyard war work they did, to go on a picnic and do a little swimming. Needless to say, that picnic turned into a mud fight…boys and girls too. No one was safe in that battle either. If the girls thought they weren’t going to be pulled into the mud, they were real wrong. Uncle Bill says that by the time they were done, they were covered in black, slimy mud from head to toe. He wanted to get a picture of everyone, but most of them decided that they didn’t really want to save that moment, only to be haunted by their childishness every time those pictures were brought out. Uncle Bill didn’t care. The rest washed off, and got in the picture with a muddy Uncle Bill, so he could at least document the players.Mud Fight

I guess getting down and dirty isn’t such an odd thing to do. In reality, everyone needs a good way to de-stress sometimes, and something as unconventional as a mud fight or even a food fight might just do the trick…provided I don’t have to clean it up. For many people, it is a way of letting off steam, and doing something that is totally hilarious and even a little crazy. To those people, I say “more power to ya.” I’m not sure I would ever like dong that, but then I haven’t done everything in life yet, so…who knows, maybe I’d like it too. Time will tell, I guess.

John Clark SpareMy great aunt, Mina Albertine Schumacher, who went by Minnie as a child, but Min for most of her adult life, married John Clark Spare in Fargo, North Dakota on January 8, 1921. In the years preceding their marriage, John had enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard, Company B, at the age of 17 years. His company was assigned to the Rio Grande River Patrol on the Mexican border at Mercedes, Texas. Company B was patrolling one day, and John had an empty gun, because at that point, there was not enough ammunition to go around. Basically, the men who had loaded guns would have to cover the ones who did not, in the event of anything illegal happening along the border. I suppose that was the only thing that they could do, but I have to tell you that I would not feel very comfortable being one of those guys who did not have any ammunition at the border between Mexico and the United States. I realize that these days that border is probably more dangerous than it was then, but maybe not. Many of the outlaws from both countries ran to the other country to hide out from the law in their own country.

On that day, John was patrolling near the bridge by the encampment, with his empty gun. Suddenly, a herd of horses was seen thundering toward them. Behind the herd was Pancho Villa and his gang of bandits. The gang was in a gun fight with the men from the Third Cavalry, from whom the gang had stolen the horses. The time had come for the border patrol to do their duty. It would be the job of the ones with the ammunition to engage the enemy and assist the Cavalry. The remainder of the men would need to dive under the bridge for cover. The men immediately prepared to take their necessary positions, and with one accord, all of the men of the border patrol dived under the bridge. Unbeknownst to the men, at least until that moment, they all had unloaded guns!! While that might seem like a funny thing to see all those men diving under that bridge because they did not have the ammunition to fight in the battle that was looming down on them, my guess is that it would also be a horrifying situation to the men hiding under the bridge hoping the battle would continue to go on down the road, and not circle back.

Following his time as part of the border patrol, John was called to the Guard full time, and assigned to guard the Fargo Armory, just as bombs were being placed at strategic points around the country to blow them up if it became necessary. I think it is a bit ironic that on his first assignment, John had no ammunition, and at his second assignment, when he was just going on 19 years of age, he was guarding a building that held larges stores of ammunition. I have to think that he must have thought to himself, “Where was all this ammunition when we were at the border?” John’s company would be taken into the Federal Army as the United States entered World War I. John would later re-enlist and fight in both world wars before he finally decided that he had served his time. I’m sure my Great Aunt Min was glad when he came home for good.

Riley - 7th gradeBoys go through stages of being tough and being sentimental. A boy who plays the tough guy one minute, might turn right around and bring his mom flowers. My nephew, Riley us one of those kids who is tough as nails in many areas of his life. He has practiced the martial arts, played football, and broken at least one bone every year from age three to age twelve. Riley has had a fractured elbow, two fractured wrists, broken thumb, a concussion, both knee patellae highly extended, fractured forearm, two sprained ankles and now a broken coracoids. You would think he would almost be afraid to move for fear of another break, but Riley is proud of every injury he has had. I suppose it all goes back to that country song about “chicks digging scars” that makes it so Footballcool, but it sure doesn’t do anything for his mom’s sanity.

Nevertheless, as tough as Riley is, when it comes to his little brother, Tucker, he has a very big, soft heart. Tucker is his little brother after all, and as such Riley has placed upon himself, the responsibility of being Tucker’s protector. It doesn’t matter if a protector is really needed all the time or not, as far as Riley is concerned, Tucker is his little brother and he is going to do whatever is necessary to keep him safe and to let him know that his big brother loves him very much.

Riley is in junior high…or middle school, as it is called these days, Great Big Brotherand as happens with all young boys, he is changing in many ways, with girls being the most noticeable. This year, as a 7th grader, he has now decided that it is very necessary to buy a young lady at school a rose. And with that, the world has changed for him and his parents. In fact, things will never be the same, but then that is pretty much normal for boys his age. Riley will continue to change in the years to come. Driving, dating, and before long marriage will all find their way into his life. This is just the beginning. Today is Riley’s 13th birthday. He’s a teenager now, folks…look out!! Happy birthday Riley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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