My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Pearl Hein has always felt like a kindred spirit to me. Our lives have taken some of the same turns and in many ways that makes us feel connected. Pearl spend a number of years taking care of her aging parents, and when her husband, Bob’s Uncle Ed had a stroke, Pearl stepped in again to nurse him back to health. As we both know, you can only prolong life for your loved one. Everyone dies at some point, and no matter how young or how old they are, we just aren’t ready for them to go when they do. Each of us knows that we would have continued to fight for their lives with all we had. We weren’t ready to let them go. We couldn’t understand why. Did we do something wrong? Did we miss something? We will never know, of course, but we will always have regrets…mainly the regret that they aren’t here with us anymore. Of course, we know that Heaven is far greater for all of them, but we miss them terribly, and it is so hard to move forward in our daily lives.
Pearl’s dad, Merle Krueger passed away in 2002 at 97; her mom, Minnie (McCain) Krueger passed away in 2004 at 89; Uncle Ed passed way on October 16, 2019 at 76; and sadly Pearl’s son Larry passed away passed away just 3 months after his dad on January 30, 2020. It has been a really hard year for Pearl, and moving forward is not easy, but it is my hope that today, her birthday can become a new start…or at least a new normal. Pearl has always been such a loving and giving person, and she deserves to be happy too. There are so many people who love her, and I pray she will find joy in her friendships. Pearl and I have another thing in common…we are both Christians. We both believe that there is life after death, and that our loved ones are waiting for us to join them in Heaven someday.
Pearl has spent much of her life in service to others, and I know that many people are thankful to have known her. Pearl met many of her friends in the years she spent working at the IGA grocery store in Forsyth, Montana. She was an indispensable employee, and when she retired to take care of Ed, they weren’t sure how they were going to function without her. I remember that whenever we would come into town, we always knew where to find Pearl, and when we went into the store, they only had to hear that we were looking for Pearl, and they were certain of who we meant. Everyone knows, and loves Pearl. She is just the kind of person you are drawn to. Today is Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Few days make me dread writing my daily story, but then few days in my life have marked the beginning of such drastic change in my life either. It was December 12, 2007, twelve years ago, and my dad, Allen Spencer had been sick, or recovering for a little over two years, after being hit by Pancreatitis on October 1, 2005. My sisters and I had been caring for Dad, and our mom, Collene Spencer, who was diagnosed with Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma in her brain in July of 2006. Mom’s tumor was gone quickly, and there were no other serious concerns with her, but Dad’s care required much more. Everything seemed to be going well, but Dad’s liver was giving out due to the intravenous feeding, something we couldn’t really see…or at least something we didn’t know to expect as a possibility.
My dad had always been the “rock” of our family. None of us ever considered that he was not as strong as he once had been. We knew that no matter what was going on around us, Dad always knew what to do about any problem. It was a very comforting feeling in a family where he was the only original male. Of course, his daughters were married now, and a few grandsons had also been added to the mix, but for our childhood years, my sisters, Cheryl, Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I were the kids they had, and so Dad was the only male. He was used to being the man with the answers, and we always looked to him when we needed those answers. It was difficult to see him in a state of weakness, but we would fight for his survival with all we had…never expecting to lose the fight.
With Dad’s passing on that awful December day, our world was forever changed. We were now going to need to take care of our mom, who needed us more than ever. While her health was ok, she didn’t drive anymore, and wasn’t as mobile as she had been before. We had promised Dad, we would take care of her, and as with Dad, we wouldn’t have it any other way for Mom. It wasn’t just the change is our care structure that changed either. Everything changed with Dad’s passing.
We had seriously never expected to live on this earth without our parents, and now that entire perspective had changed. We knew that very likely the day would come when both parents and our parents-in-law would be gone. We knew that we were going to be the leaders of our families. It was up to us to keep our families close, as Mom and Dad would have wanted us to do. There would now be great grandchildren who have never met their Great Grandpa Spencer, and later Great Grandma Spencer. It was up to us to tell the kids about their great grandparents, so they wouldn’t be forgotten. t was up to us to tell them that their Great Grandpa Spencer was a World War II Veteran, who fought bravely for his country…to make sure that his legacy lived on. It is a big responsibility, and sometimes seems impossible, but we must, because our Dad showed us the way we should live, and we must now live it. There is no other choice. Twelve years ago today, my dad began his life in Heaven, and we miss him every day. We can’t wait until we will be reunited again. We love you Dad.
We have all made plans for the future we wanted to have, and truly, expected to have, only to have something happen that changed everything. Our plans as kids and young people are often the first plans to change, as we grow up and decide our plans were just not for us. Then, we decide that we want a whole new life plan. Still, sometimes, it isn’t something tragic or amazing, but rather just something that changes the way we see things…changes our priorities.
As a girl I wanted to be a school teacher…of high school, no less. These days I can’t imagine teaching high school, but I still have a knack for teaching people things. I think I would prefer adult students, and technology as a subject…if I were going to teach, but then I don’t have all the necessary training for that field either. After having a family and raising our girls to junior high, I went back to work, and a year later became an insurance agent. I had found my niche. I understood insurance, and therefore, I was a good insurance agent. I thought this would be my career for life, and I was correct in that, since I have been an agent for 30 years, and retired from insurance May 1, 2019.
Nevertheless, life took some unexpected turns that made me realize that sometimes, we can possess talents that we didn’t know we had. Talents that come out at a time of extreme urgency. That is what happened with me. When my dad, Allen Spencer got sick with Pancreatitis. That would begin a journey of caregiving that lasted over twelve years, and took place in conjunction with my insurance career, causing me to miss many hours of work. I was one of the caregivers who were blessed with a boss who allowed me to do what I needed to do. Not many jobs give you that kind of freedom. It is something I will be forever grateful for. It was during these years that I discovered that I had a knack for the medical world, and had I considered it, I probably could have been a good nurse. Unfortunately, it was too late in life for that and I was too busy, plus I liked my insurance career.
During the years of caregiving, which I shared with my sisters, in-laws, children and grandchildren, and after my dad passed away, but I was still caring for my mom, Collene Spencer, and my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, I found myself needing a form of creative release. My daughter, Corrie Petersen suggested that I start a blog. She helped my get started and then introduced me to “The Ultimate Blog Challenge,” which inspired me to write every day, something I have been doing for almost ten years now. So began a “career” of writing a blog every day. It was a way to step outside myself and my busy life and to hopefully a chance to write interesting stories for my readers. It’s strange where life takes you. The twists and turns that help you find yourself and your talents in ways you never expected. Twists and turns that change your life into something so different from what you thought it would be.
My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen is studying to be a nurse. It was not her life’s dream, but rather a change that came about after spending years as a caregiver for both sets of her grandparents, Allen and Collene Spencer, and Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Corrie was a faithful team member and loving caregiver to them all. She was meticulous, loving, kind, and cheerful. Whether she knew it then or not, Corrie possessed all the traits of a successful CNA or nurse, except for the medical training that is. I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of what the future would bring. She knew she was good at caregiving, but did that doesn’t necessarily transfer to nursing. It doesn’t matter really, because God knew.
From the time Corrie was 15, she worked in one office or another…just 3 really, and she was very good at what she did. She married Kevin Petersen just a month and a half after her high school graduation. At that time, she wasn’t interested in college, but rather was looking forward to starting a family. She was content and her family was her whole world. Life went on and her boys, Chris and Josh grew, but when they were 10 and 8, my her grandpa became ill, and that started 13 years of caregiving, first for one grandparent and then for another. Our family “caregiving team” needed lots of help, because it really does take a village to take care of a person, and the hardest thing is to have a village of one or two. Corrie, her sister, Amy Royce, and their kids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen all became a part of that village, and we couldn’t have done what we did without each and every one of them.
When our village was no longer necessary, an event we wished had never come, Corrie began to feel like she needed a different career. God was leading her to make a career change. The time she had spent caring for her grandparents would change her forever. She prayed about it, and made the decision to follow God’s leading. She would have to trust Him to make a way, which He has in every way, and through every aspect of her training…because God knew it was right for her. Today is Corrie’s birthday!! Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
This is a guest blog, written by my daughter, Amy Royce, for my birthday. Thank you Amy. I love you.
She has shown that in so many ways throughout my life and the lives of those around her. She was at every single game, play, concert or awards assembly when my sister and I were growing up. This continued on when my kids and nephews were in school and I have no doubt that she will also be in attendance for all of those things for her great grandchildren as well. She is very excited about the arrival of her first great granddaughter in June. More recently, she had taken on the task of caregiver for family several members. She was always willing to put her needs aside to help them. I know that if someone asks, she will do it again and again.
My nephews, Chris and Josh, remember when she would take them to school everyday. She always made sure that they were on time….even if she was having a bad day because she broke her heel or because of a train going back and forth and she was running late for work. (They love bringing this up every now and then! Haha) Not only that, she would pick them up from school and take them to the Boys and Girls Club after school. I remember multiple times when she would take my kids or nephews to work with her when they were sick, just so that my sister and I didn’t have to take time off of our jobs.
Chris also told me that now that they are older, if they ever need someone to talk to or guidance through life, she’s always there. This statement is so true! She has been there with words of encouragement for my sister as she is going through nursing school. She is always there, with a willing ear, for me when I have problems in my job.
Jenny, my mom’s niece, told me that my mom bought her wedding dress for her. She came to the hospital to see all of her kids when they were born. She even let her move into their house for a couple months when she was a teenager. She loves it that my mom goes over and spends one night a week with her mom, Cheryl.
Carrie, our friend and her co-worker, says that my mom always has Godly advice and takes the time to listen. She is always ready to help explain things at work and she takes the time to explain them until Carrie gets it. She takes care of anything going at work when Carrie is not there. She has ALWAYS been there to help her through struggles; big or small. Carrie loves that she knows the Word and can always let her know “what point of view or perspective will better serve her.”
Quite honestly, I could go on for days about how selfless she is, but in addition to all these wonderful things I have told you about my mom, she has found yet another way to make others feel special! On someone’s birthday, when we normally send a quick Facebook or text message, my mom takes the time to write up a complete story. She doesn’t have to….she wants to. Today is my mom’s birthday and this is my story for her. We love you mom. Thank you for all you do…for all of us. Have a great day!
When a child is born, you think about what they will become. Your thoughts drift to the future…that seems so distant, and you think to yourself, “The future is still so far away.” Then, much sooner than you ever thought possible, the future arrives, and your little baby is suddenly 18 years old, and graduating from high school. Then you think, “Where have the years gone?” It doesn’t matter if that child is your child or your grandchild either. The future arrives so fast. I’ve said it many times before. When you look at that precious baby, you must be aware that next week, they will be graduating from high school, and going off to make their own way in the world. In time and space, it may not be a week, but it will most certainly feel like it was.
That is where my daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband, Kevin find themselves today as their son, Joshua
Petersen graduates from Kelly Walsh High School. Josh has changed so much over the years. His beginning was a little rocky, as he jumped the gun and arrived five weeks early. After spending two weeks in Denver, at Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital, Josh was finally ready to come home and join the rest of his family. His rocky start over now, Josh quickly ate everything is sight, trying to make up for lost time, I think. Yes, Josh has changed in many ways, but in many other ways, he has not changed at all. He has always been a wonderful young man with a caring heart, and in that way, he will never change. He is so considerate of the feelings of others.
As the years have passed, we saw in Josh a gentleness and sincere caring for those in need of health care. When he was just six years old, he started helping take care of his grandparents, and he continued doing that until three had passed away, and the last one was in a nursing home. Josh was meticulous with their care. If you showed him how to do something, he did it exactly that way. For that reason, I was not surprised when Josh announced, “I want to be a firefighter.” I don’t think there was a shocked face in the place. Now, I know that a lot of kids say they want to be a firefighter, but Josh meant it. He even began taking Boces classes toward his degree in high school. Josh is so driven, so goal oriented, and that makes me so proud of him. I have no doubt that he will be arriving at his life’s destination very quickly. The years have flown by far too fast. It seems like Josh should still be little boy, and yet here he is at the threshold of adulthood. Josh, we are so proud of your hard work and perseverance. I know that you will go far in life and in your chosen field. We are so very proud of your abilities, drive, and mostly your kind heart. Congratulations on your graduation!!
Recently, I heard a saying that has really made me think. “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” The thing about that thought that struck me the most, was when I considered moments otherwise gone…forever. I have always loved photography. From the time I was a little girl and received my first camera, I was hooked. There were years I wasn’t so good about taking pictures, and mistakes I made, such as not including people in my photos enough, not writing down the names of people and the locations, and the biggest one in my mind, not being in the pictures enough. So many people these day take selfies, and then there are the selfies that are ridiculed because “the person takes too many selfies.” I suppose that can be an issue, but when you think about it, they will always have that moment, and if that selfie made them look and feel especially pretty or handsome, so much the better. It is a moment, frozen in time…a memory that will always be with them.
When I look back at the funerals of my parents and my father-in-law, and the slide shows we did for them, I found myself amazed that I was having trouble locating pictures of me with them…particularly with my dad. It was a strange thing for me to realize that, until I thought about how much time I spent behind the camera and not in front of it. Since that time, I have made sure to take those pictures of my mom and me, my father-in-law, and me, and my mother-in-law and me, because I want to have those return tickets to those precious moments of the past. It’s not just about the slide show either, although that is a permanent memory of their lives, but it’s about the time spent with them. In his last two years, my dad and I spent many hours together, while I was one of his caregivers. I got to enjoy his wonderful sense of humor, as we teased each other every day. In my memory files, I can see him pretending to be asleep when I came in. Then, I would softly flick his hand, and he would accuse me of hitting him, saying, “Oh!! You struck me!” Then we would both laugh about it, because we knew that in a million years, that would never have happened. We pretended to argue, as I dressed his wounds, and helped him get dressed. Then I would step out while he finished the process, and he would come out into the living room. Whenever I am in their house, I can see those moments as vividly as if they were still there. Still, there are many moments that aren’t quite as clear, and a picture would tell the story so well. And now that it is too late to take them, I really wish I had some of those moments in pictures.
There are countless people who tell me how much they hate having their picture taken. I find that really sad, because it isn’t about them. They are denying others the right to have a return ticket to those precious moments. So few people think about it that way…until the day when they really wish they had a picture of them with someone special. That’s when it finally hits them. Pictures aren’t just something silly to post of Facebook. They are memories. They are return tickets to a moment otherwise gone. I think I’ve improved on those return tickets quite a bit, and for that, I am happy.
by guest writer – Brenda Schulenberg
Caryn became part of our family on March 1, 1975…over 41 years ago, when she married my brother Bob!!! Little did I know at that time that Caryn would become such an important part of the Schulenberg family. I don’t really remember too much of my life without Caryn being a part of it. She has been a major part of our family for so many years now…and I would never want to imagine our family without her as a part of it.
In the early years, Caryn spent most of her time raising her two girls, my nieces, Corrie and Amy. Then, before we knew it along came her four grandchildren my great nieces and nephews, Chris, Shai, Caalab and Josh. All of them are true gifts to Caryn. She really enjoys being a Mother and Grandma…and maybe someday soon (I hope not too soon) a Great Grandma! In August 2014, Caryn’s oldest grandson Chris moved to Sheridan to go to Culinary School. Now, next month Chris will graduate and then continue to live and work in Sheridan. Luckily, Sheridan is not too far away but it is still hard because we all miss him very much. Caryn’s youngest daughter Amy, husband Travis and son Caalab moved to Washington State in June of 2015. This too was very hard for Caryn and the rest of us, but we have made the best of it and enjoy hearing about their fun adventures on Facebook. Bob, Caryn and their daughter, Shai have gone to visit and I’m sure Bob and Caryn will visit again soon. Rumor has it that Shai will be joining her family in Washington in July. Although we are all very sad to see Shai leave Casper, we do know how much she misses her family and how much they miss her.
Caryn has always enjoyed bowling. She and Bob also like to go on walks and hikes when the weather permits. Bob and Caryn enjoy traveling for their annual hiking/anniversary trip to Thermopolis and to the Black Hills. They also travel for bowling tournaments too.
Through the years, and as both sets of parents aged, Caryn was the primary care giver for all four parents…hers and ours. It was tough on all of us to lose them, but they are in a far better place now. My mom, Joann is still with us and living out at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center. Caryn is still very active in my mom’s care and we do appreciate everything she has and still does for her by going to all of her doctor appointments with her and keeping all of us up to date as to how she is doing.
In October 2013 when I, myself, got sick. Caryn saved my life by convincing me that I had to go to the hospital. Had I not gone I think I would have died very soon after. She (along with all of my other family, friends and co-workers) have been with me all the way in my long journey to a healthier life style…from going to the hospital, rehab at Elkhorn, and then once I went home she did whatever I needed help with. I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Caryn and my sister Jennifer will be traveling with me to Fort Collins, Colorado later this summer for my skin removal surgery…and I already know that Caryn and the rest of the gang will help me through the surgery and recovery too…because that is just how she is.
On, October 18, 2015 my two year anniversary of going to the hospital seven of us hiked the Bridle Trail up on Casper Mountain. We all had a great time until Caryn fell and broke her shoulder. It was just one of those things. It was terrible as Caryn had to have surgery on it and months of physical therapy. This was hard for Caryn because she is so used to being the caregiver not the one needing care. Caryn was a trooper throughout it all, and she knew what she needed to do to recover and she did it. She recovered very well and very quickly. She was a star patient.
Caryn is an amazing woman! She is one of the best sisters-in-law (I consider her my Sister) that I could ever ask for. Today is Caryn’s 60th birthday (I know she still looks so young) and I just want to say Happy Birthday Caryn. We all love you and appreciate you very, very much!!!!
Not everyone can say that they truly have the best job on Earth. I know that lots of people think they do, but I can name so many ways that they, if they thought about it from my perspective, would have to admit that they just don’t. For most people, going to work means getting there on time, doing your job, and going home at quitting time. Loving your job sometimes falls into this mix, and sometimes it just doesn’t, for the sad truth is that millions of people really hate their job. They know that they could find a better one, but they just don’t know where to start, or they don’t have the training, or the job market is just so poor that they don’t dare try to look somewhere else right now.
For the last 19 years I can honestly say that I have been extremely blessed to have the job I do, with the boss I have. It’s easy for me to use the term boss, because in reality Jim Stengel is nothing like a boss…in fact, he is the epitome of the un-boss. He doesn’t even like the word boss…choosing rather to call his employees, associates, and glaring at the person who forgets and calls him boss. It’s his way of reminding us that he doesn’t like the “B” word. Jim tells us about his dad’s way of looking at it. Jim Stengel Sr was the owner of Dakota Granite, and it was his belief that if you hire the best people for the job, and let them do their job without micro managing them, they will do their very best for you, and be happy in the process. I think he was on to something there.
One of the best reasons that I have to say that Jim is the greatest person to work for, is that he knows how to keep the priorities straight. Over my ten years as a caregiver, I have had to put that theory to the test. Lots of bosses tell you that family comes first, but if you need time off to go take care of someone in the family, they aren’t so happy to accommodate that time off. Apparently, it’s ok make family your top priority, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your job. Not so with Jim. During the times when my caregiving duties required me to miss quite a bit of work, he didn’t complain, and that made me want to work even harder for him when I was there. Both my family and Bob’s family are fully aware of the huge debt of gratitude we all owe Jim, and for that reason they have virtually adopted him as a son in the family. Not only that, but they keep him in their prayers. We can never repay that debt, and if you ask Jim, he would tell you that we don’t owe him a thing…but that’s just him being kind, because we really do. Had he not given me the time off I needed, even at a moments notice, to take care of a parent or sister-in-law who needed my help, I don’t know what we would have done.
Jim will try to blow this off as being what any boss would do, but we all know that isn’t so. Most bosses expect you to put in your full hours, and find someone else to take care of things when you are working. That is no easy task, as any caregiver will tell you. Jim is a one of a kind…the un-boss, and we who have the privilege of working for him understand just how very blessed we are by him. Today is Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you and are proud to call you…friend!!
I think most people have heard the Bible verse, John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” People may not realize that this is a Bible verse, but they know what they thought was an old saying. Either way, the verse was talking about Jesus dying on the cross to save the world from it’s sin, but I don’t think that was all it was about. It hadn’t really occurred to me before, but when my pastor was preaching a couple of weeks ago, this verse was part of his sermon. Of course, he talked about Jesus sacrifice, but suddenly something jumped out in my mind. This verse was about far more than Jesus sacrifice, or it wouldn’t have talked about the greater love a person can have if they choose to lay down their life for their friend. It was about how we are all supposed to be.
It was at that moment that a thought came to me. There is more than one way to “lay down your life.” Of course, the verse meant to die for your friend, and many is the hero who has done that, but it occurred to me that dying is not the only way to lay down your life for someone. In fact, caregivers lay down their life all the time. They set aside their normal life activities, and take the time to take care of another person. I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but rather I want to talk about all of the many caregivers I know of and those I don’t, because their sacrifice is amazing. The patient they care for, would be in a nursing home, were it not for the loving kindness shown to them by a friend or family member who laid down their own life to give that time to another. It is one of the greatest showings of love there is, and it is also very rewarding for the caregiver, although sometimes it is sad too. For just a little bit of time, almost always a relatively short lived little bit of time, at least in the grand scheme of time, you have the chance to be the wind beneath their wings…the one who holds them up and cares for their needs…the one who had the privilege to lay down their own life to care for a loved one.
Yes, greater love hath no man, than that a man lay down his life for his friend…to actually die for his friend, but there is another way that is just as wonderful, and just as loving…to lay down your own needs, desires, activities, time…to care for another human being who desperately needs your help. So here’s to all the Caregivers I know, and to all those that I don’t know. You truly are among the greatest of people on Earth, because you have make a sacrifice that shows the ultimate amount of love you had for your loved one. It makes me proud to be a part of such an elite, amazing group of people. Today is National Family Caregiver Day, and I hope it is an amazing day for all of you.