Winter can be a long, dreary time…especially for a young boy. And winter around the Great Lakes Region has a tendency to last longer than some other areas. That is the region that my dad and his brother and sisters grew up in. Now, while winter is an ok time of year for a kid, it can limit some of the activities that young boys are most interested in.

When a boy is three or so, and they have a tricycle, their whole world is about being mobile, and the deep snow that you get in the area of the Great Lakes…well, lets just say that a tricycle doesn’t go too well. My Uncle Bill was always an adventurous boy. I remember him and my dad talking about their antics, from the time they were little until they left home. Let’s just say that sitting still was not a phrase that spent much time in their vocabulary, and since Uncle Bill was two years older than my dad, my guess is that at least in the early days, he took the lead on what the day would hold for them.

When he was three, however, Uncle Bill was pretty much on his own for fun, and the winter time put him stuck with nothing to do, and anyone who has had a child stuck at the house, with nothing to do, knows how bored they can get. So, after fussing repeatedly at his mom, begging to go outside, I can imagine that she finally gave in and he hauled his tricycle outside hoping to be able to ride, only to find that sitting on it was going to be as far as he would go. Knowing my Uncle Bill, I’m sure, and if you look at the picture, you can see that this was depressing to him. What comes to my mind is that he is thinking…”when will Spring get here.”

Sometimes, you don’t really know the story behind a picture, but if you look closely you can picture the scene in your head, or see something in their eyes that tells the story. And while I don’t remember my grandmother, who died when I was two, I can imagine that she must have seen something in this scene that prompted her to take this picture. My guess is that she saw just about the same thing I did…a boy viewing the snow is disgust, because he knew that there was no way his little tricycle could move through it, so he sat there, thinking of the coming spring, and wishing it would hurry up.

At the time my brother-in-law, Ron was dating his wife Rachel, we were in the midst of taking care of my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. We needed every person in the family to help, and I was worried that we would lose Ron’s help if he was dating. I was wrong. Not only does Ron still come, but Rachel comes too, and along with the deal, if that an appropriate thing to call a marriage, we got Rachel’s daughter, Cassie and her husband Chris, and their new baby, Lucas, as well as Rachel’s two sweet little boys, Riley and Tucker. Looking back now, I wonder what I was worried about. In the last year, their first as a married couple, Rachel and her children have endeared themselves to every one of us. They belong to us now. They are family.

And to top it off, now that I have gotten to know Rachel better, I can see how sweet she really is. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister-in-law, if I special ordered her. She has a kind loving heart, and a very sweet spirit. I was so caught up in my own feelings about the caregiving situation, that I didn’t have time to get to know a wonderful girl. I am so glad that I changed that now, because I have been very blessed by Rachel. I didn’t realize how special she was and is, but Rachel has a way of getting into your heart. She is just very likeable. I suppose that is why my brother-in-law and my niece, Machelle, who introduced Ron to her best friend Rachel, love her so much.

Her daughter Cassie and son-in-law, Chris, just gave birth to a premature and very tiny, 2.7 pound, son, Lucas, who I have yet to meet, but already know so much about. He is a sweet little baby, who is a fighter. He is recovering from stomach surgery, and doing very well. And I know that he really doesn’t like to have his left foot in his blanket. Not sure about the right one yet…we will see. But what I do know is that he is deeply loved, by all of us, and we can’t wait to get him home.

And then there are the boys, Riley and Tucker. Riley is a little bit older, and tries to be somewhat more dignified, or maybe he just acts like the big brother he is. Tucker on the other hand, is a goofy little boy, who loves to laugh and has a cute little way of making everyone else laugh too. They are the perfect finishing touch on the wonderful addition that we got when Ron married Rachel. I love you all. I’m very glad you joined our family.

Everyone needs time to relax sometimes. Many times, the company picnic is not exactly the place for that relaxation, however, our company picnic today was an amazing way to relax. We are a small company, and the majority of the people who work there are my family members. That in itself is unusual, when you don’t own the business, but that is how it is at our office.

Jim owns the company, and I started working with him in 1996. Through the early years of our time together, it was just him and me. Through the years we added different people, who came and went. Then, my daughter, Amy would come to work with us in 2009, and Amy’s daughter, my granddaughter Shai in 2010. Her son, my grandson Caalab does maintenance around the building and helps Jim with odd jobs. When we decided to get a website, it would be my daughter, Corrie who build that site for us. So you can see that now, even though Jim owns the business, he is surrounded by family…mine, and since we are such good friends, we have informally adopted Jim and Julie, so I guess it is all family. The other people at our picnic, were my husband, Bob, my sons-in-law, Kevin and Travis, my other two grandsons Chris and Josh, Kenny, the person who had done all the construction on our building who is also a friend of Jim and Julie’s, and and another friend of theirs, Sondra.

As I said, ours is a small company, and that was the extent of our company picnic. Now, add to that the fact that it was held at Jim and Julie’s cabin, with the hummingbirds also in attendance, and you have the recipe for a lovely, relaxing time. The hummingbirds entertained us, and we all just sat around and relaxed. It was a day spent in the company of good friends, and it was very enjoyable. Jim took the kids for rides on his 4-wheeler, and they each had a wonderful ride. the rest of the adults sat and visited. After dinner, he finished the rides, and then sat down to visit with the rest of us. We would sit and enjoy the citronella lanterns well into the evening, finally saying good night at about 9:15pm. It was a lovely day. Thanks Jim and Julie.

My dad was always quite the kidder. He loved to joke around with his girls. He was also a bit of a history buff. He loved to travel, and in our many travels, his favorite thing was to stop at historical markers…especially the Oregon Trail. I’m pretty sure I have seen every marker for that one there is. Obviously, we didn’t have a good appreciation for some of his history information, like we should have, and might have today, but one historical fact that was of interest to all of my dad’s daughters was, Christopher Columbus. I’m pretty sure Christopher Columbus was my dad’s favorite historical character.

I can’t say for sure when this story got started, but I can tell you that I was pretty young. The way the story went is this. Dad would begin by telling us that according to historical records, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492…and you all know the rest of the story, right? Well, not exactly. You see, the story continues like this. Dad would tell us, “In reality, Chris didn’t discover America.” We would say, “He didn’t?” Dad would answer, “Nope, I did, but I was a nice guy, so I let Chris take the credit for it.”

We probably believed this tall tale early on, but after a while, we just went along with the joke because Dad liked it…and so did we. I think he always thought the idea of sailing across the ocean back in those days, in search of a new route or a new world, would be an exciting venture. He always had the heart of an adventurer, a fact that blessed his whole family with the ability to see many places. Dad loved to take us there…wherever there might be this time. And I think he always loved the idea of seeing beyond the normal range of vision…like a sailor looking out over the bow, or a mountain climber looking off across the mountain range from the top. It was a vision that would bless his whole family.

I think my dad might have been a lot like Christoper Columbus. I think they both had a way of looking at things that goes deeper than average. A way of being able to pull the extraordinary from the ordinary. Maybe it was fantasy, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little bit of that in life.

I had to take my father-in-law to the doctor today for a followup visit after a hand injury. With Alzheimer’s Disease, we cannot leave my mother-in-law home alone, so when we have an appointment where I can’t easily take both of them in, we have someone come in to stay with her. Since her sister, Margee retired, she has been able to come over and sit with her, and often she brings he granddaughter, Stasi along. Stasi enjoys coming for a visit, which is such a blessing.

Teenagers don’t often want to go visit the elderly, much less help out, but Stasi loves coming over to visit my in-laws, and even when I get back with my father-in-law, she is often not really ready to leave. She is always willing to help my father-in-law out, by doing whatever is needed. She has pulled weeds for him, a well as many odd jobs around their house. And this last week, when my niece Machelle was painting window frames, Stasi was right there to help her. Stasi is very simply a very sweet girl, and one who likes to be a blessing.

Stasi, her brother, and her Dad live with her grandmother, Margee, my mother-in-law’s sister. Stasi’s mom passed away in 1998. Stasi helps her grandmother, just like she does my in-laws. She shows a kindness toward others that would make her mother very proud of her. It is hard to lose a parent at any age, but when it is at such a young age, very often life goes on without really missing that parent, but Stasi has never forgotten. Perhaps it is because of grandparents and her dad to keep her in remembrance of what a special woman her mother was. Whatever it is, Stasi has never forgotten and strives to live a life that would make her mom proud of her.

As I said, Stasi often helps out her grandmother, who is on oxygen and has a hard time getting around. It is a monumental task for a young girl to take on, but as I am finding with Stasi, it is one that she does well with. And yet, she still takes pleasure is coming over to my in-law’s house, her great aunt and uncle, and help out with whatever they need. She is a wonderful young lady, as anyone who knows her will attest.

It takes a village to take care of the elderly at home, and the longer I am in this situation, the more I have learned to notice and appreciate those who happily and willingly give of their time, resources, and mostly themselves to make the later part of someone’s life be a little bit better. It is a gift that can never be repaid. How do you thank someone for their kindness and sacrifice in the service of others? You can’t. It is impossible. All you can do is hope that in some small way you have made them aware that you see their kindness and sacrifice…that it has not gone unnoticed…that while you can never repay, you most certainly do appreciate all they do.

Our family has been taking care of my mother-in-law for several years now, and caregiving, as anyone who has done it can attest, is a team effort. Many families have very small teams, due to few children in the family, or the inability of the family members to help for whatever reason. Sometimes family members are physically or emotionally unable to help, and sometimes they live too far away. I think every family has those who live too far away to help, and our family is no different.

Every family also has a variety of skills in it that can be put to use is the care of a patient. Sometimes, like in our family, you are blessed with a nurse, and other times, also like ours, you have people who have done this before and have acquired the necessary skills to be of assistance. That said, this story isn’t about those people. This is a skill of a different kind and a caregiver who has been a blessing in her own way, whether she knows it or not.

Machelle is a part of the family that lives in a different town than the rest of us. She lives in Powell, which is about 4 hours away from Casper. While Machelle isn’t able to be here to help on a daily basis, when she is here, she is so willing to help, that it really warms my heart. She is a licensed Cosmetologist, and when she comes down, all I have to do is ask, and she cuts and perms my mother-in-law’s hair, and cuts my father-in-law’s hair. She is willing to clip their nails if I haven’t already done that, and any other grooming thing we need.

And if that isn’t enough, when she was here last weekend for a wedding in the family, she took the time to paint the frames on several windows for my father-in-law. She has done yard work too. She is just a very sweet and very helpful person. Machelle gives of herself without asking for any kind of special recognition, but those who know me and have read my blogs know that I like to give credit where credit is due. Machelle deserves a lot of credit for all she has done to help. We really appreciate it Machelle. You are a great blessing and I love you very much.

We are a little bit past the middle of summer, and it is a time when it usually starts to get pretty dry in Wyoming, but this is not a normal year…in many places. We have had a wet year so far, but nevertheless, in the last few weeks, I have noticed more brown in our lawn than before. One would think that with all the snow we got this year, and the overflowing rivers, that the lawns would be lush and green, but that is not the case. It doesn’t take many days at almost 100 degrees to scorch the grass…not to mention the people.

My daughter, Amy loves the rain. When the clouds start moving in, she stars cheering. Most people hate to have it rain at the end of a work day in the summer, because it ruins their plans for the evening, but rain makes Amy come alive. When it starts to rain, it is all Amy can do not to run out the door to go drive in the rain. She says there is nothing quite like driving in the rain. Each of us has something that makes us feel alive. Of all the different things it could be, rain is probably one of the nicest.

I particularly like thunder storms, provided I am not out in them. Lightning and the ensuing thunder are God’s fireworks, if you ask me, and I think it is beautiful. I guess that is why I would rather see those clouds move in a little later in the day. Lightning is at its best after dark. I love how it lights up the whole sky, and when the thunder rolls, especially if the strike was close, the whole house shakes. It’s very cool and it always makes a cozy night at home that much more cozy.

There just really isn’t a negative side to a rain storm, including afterward. The lightning flashes, the thunder rolls, the rain pours down, the air smells fresh and clean, and then, after it’s all over, comes the promise…the rainbow…the last beauty of the storm. There is just something about a rainbow. It’s beauty and mystery are beyond compare. Though many have tried to explain how it might come to be, but it just doesn’t add up. It’s God’s masterpiece. His gift to us. His promise. And it is awesome. All of it, together making up the beauty of the mid-summer rain.

Being the baby of the family is a position that is is very unique. The baby of the family is often treated differently. Maybe it’s because parents don’t like to think of their last child growing up. We talk baby talk longer, help them more with things, make their siblings help with more things, and in general baby them more. Maybe it’s isn’t always a good thing, but it is the way it goes most of the time.

And when you are also the youngest grandchild, maybe you get the baby of the family treatment even more. Josh was both of these things, and to top it off, he had a rough start too, which I will tell about on his birthday in September. Josh has had a love/hate relationship with baby of the family syndrome for a long time. Sometimes, like when he didn’t have to do the hard chores, because he was too little, he liked it, but when his older brother was babysitting…well it wasn’t so much fun. No kid likes to be bossed around.

But, Josh isn’t a baby anymore. He has grown tall and is very capable of regular chores, which he probably doesn’t like too much,  and taking care of himself, which I’m sure he does like. He has a mind of his own about sports too. While his brother loves football, Josh would rather play basketball and be in track, both of which his tall, slender stature are better suited for anyway, so it’s all good.

And as usual, things come to the baby of the family after everyone else gets to do them. That would also lead to a few less stories about that youngest child, simply because they haven’t lived as long and the others, and therefore haven’t had as many experiences. Not an easy thing to swallow for a kid.

That said, however, there is something that Josh has a heart to help others. Whenever he can, he tries to assist my mom, his great grandmother in getting to her car after church. No one asks him to do it, he just does it. He has a kind heart. He also has a good sense of humor. He likes to joke around and especially to pick on me, his shorter than him grandma…because he can!!

Five years ago, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My dad had become very ill a few months earlier, and we needed my mom on the caregiving team we had going with him, so when we knew something was wrong with her, we were overwhelmed at the thought of coping with two seriously ill parents, and having one less person on the care team to do it with. Mom’s brain tumor had affected her ability to stay awake. She slept all the time. We thought she was depressed, and that surprised us because my dad was getting so much better. It also affected her ability to speak the correct words. She could speak, but it didn’t always make sense. That was when we knew she was not depressed.

We needed a new plan. My granddaughter Shai, who was a very mature 10 years old at the time was called into service, and she stepped up and took over the daytime care of my parents, her great grandparents. By this time, my dad was awake most of the day, but movement was still difficult and he didn’t know what pills he needed or what other care was needed, so Shai did it all. I worked just 4 blocks away, and my boss was willing to let me do what I needed to do…a great blessing to me and my family. I came over at lunch and helped out, and right after work too. My older sister lived with them, and so was home in the evenings. My other sisters helped out several times a week, as did several of the grandchildren and great grandchildren. We had home health care that came in to help too, but a lot of it was on Shai. Our family will always be grateful to her for all she did that summer.

Mom’s tumor was a Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. The Oncologist we were blessed with, told us that this was the best case scenario. He said that if it was a Lymphoma, while still cancer, they often said that it was “only” a Lymphoma. It was reason for him and us to praise God, which we both did, since he was a believer too. We felt very blessed that he was the doctor we got, because, he never lost hope, and neither did we.

Mom began her treatments in July of 2006, and by January of 2007, the tumor was completely gone. Her speech returned to normal and she was able to function again. He continued treatment for a time just to be sure, and then came the many followup visits, all of which showed no regrowth of the Lymphoma. My mom was a survivor. She has been cancer free now for 4 1/2 years, and we thank God daily for that blessing. While my dad has gone home to be with the Lord, and she misses him terribly, she knows that she has been given a great gift…life.

At the time Bob was a teenager, before his little brother, Ron came into the picture, Bob was the only boy in his family, and with 4 sisters, there were plenty of potential victims for his many pranks. Ron would not be born until Bob was 14, so until Bob was 16 to 18, Ron was too little to get himself into too much trouble, or get very involved in the pranks his older brother was pulling. That would come later on. Bob got into plenty of trouble with his older sisters, but this story is about him and his younger sisters. You see Bob was the third child, with 2 sisters older, and 2 sisters younger and finally his little brother joined them later.

Bob, like most boys loved to tease his younger sisters. His sister, Brenda told me that he would chase his sister, Jennifer, with spiders…something I can very much envision, since he has teased me and my girls in the same way. Mind you, it wasn’t with a live spider, but more of a…”Here, don’t you want to see it” kind of thing, which still makes me and probably most other women cringe to say the least. Spider guts are only slightly less disgusting than a spider is scary. I hate spiders…just in case you couldn’t tell. Now, I don’t know what Jennifer did to be the one who was threatened with spiders or spider guts, but one thought would be that she was the best screamer over it. That, to a boy is a really good motivator to continue the torment that I am quite certain continued for quite some time.

Now, his sister, Brenda, got a little bit different treatment. I don’t know if it was because she was younger, or more cooperative when he asked her to call some girl he liked, but was too shy to call, maybe she wasn’t as scared of spiders. Brenda tells me of the times she called girls for him, so I suspect he had to be a little nicer to her. Brenda got candy and chocolate bars, so she would stay motivated to help him out. I guess you would have to say Bob was thinking ahead anyway. And so was Brenda…she had seen the torment Jennifer went through. I suppose you have to compromise sometimes. I know for a fact it’s what I would do, if it meant the difference between spiders and chocolate bars.

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