It has been a very long time since my sisters and I took a trip together…just the girls, and I wish it could be all of my sisters on this trip, but sometimes that is not meant to be. Nevertheless, my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, and I are heading out today to visit our cousin Shirley Cameron in Newport, Washington, with a stop in Coeur d’Alene to visit our cousins George and Greg Hushman too. Unfortunately, we are going for a sad reason…the memorial service for Shirley’s husband Shorty, but it will be blessed family time for sure. How often do sisters get to take a trip, during which they can see and do the things they want to…things that the husbands might roll their eyes at, like shopping, girl talk, and even chick flicks. Of course, I’m not saying we will do all those thing, or even any of those things, but most likely we will do some of those things, as well as girl talk…lots of girl talk, and sister time…lots of catching up on sister time. That is something we have really been missing. As you grow up and have families and jobs, it’s easy not to spend sister time together, and I want to keep that relationship with my sisters forever.
We will be stopping for an unfortunately short visit with our cousins George and Greg Hushman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We don’t get to see them very much, so even a few hours is very special to us. In our childhood years, our families spent lots of time together. Those were great years, and they went by way to fast. Looking back now, I don’t think we really appreciated the amazing opportunity that we had to see our cousins so often. Those years go by so fast, and when they are gone, they are just gone. I don’t want to miss the opportunities we are given to see these precious cousins. We are all looking forward to this wonderful visit, even if it is short.
On top of the sister time, will be cousin time. It has been four years since Cheryl and I have seen our Cousin Shirley, and even longer since Caryl has seen her. After a good number of years not seeing our cousin Shirley, my mom, Collene Spencer, Cheryl, and I made the trip to Washington in 2013…again under sad circumstances…the passing of Shirley’s dad, Jim Wolfe. While that trip was for a sad reason, it became one of the greatest blessings for all of us. Out of that trip, and events that preceded it, came a beautiful relationship with our dear cousin Shirley and I think it has been as much a blessing to her as it has to us. Families can drift apart, but I can tell you that it is always best if they don’t. Still, if they do, the reunion can be amazing. Such was the case with the reunion between our cousin Shirley, my sisters, and me. Since that reunion, we have all felt a more-than-just-cousins type of relationship…almost like having another sister in the bunch.
Life has changed drastically for Shirley over this past year, and in so many ways, it has been very hard for her. With our families living so far away from each other, the only support we can give her is over Facebook, which we have done, but that will never measure up to the support that a visit can give. We are all looking forward to this trip, and I know that it will be so very blessed. Like most trips, it will be over far too soon, but the blessings we will receive from this visit will be with us for the rest of our lives. I know that for Shirley, and for my sisters and me, this will be much like the first reunion, one of blessed connections that will stay with us until the next time we see each other, which we all hope won’t be too many years.
My grandnephew, James Renville is a quiet sort of guy, but let him decide that he needs to tease his dad or his step-dad, and he’s anything but quiet. He not only loves to tease them, but he loves to video the whole process. I’m sure he has two reasons for the video…re-living the moment, and re-torturing the victims. James isn’t being mean, he is just enjoying the moment…and you have to admit that once you have teased someone you love, you have to laugh about the moment for the rest of the day. James is also a great friend to his cousins, many of whom are much younger. He plays with them and teases them as well, and they all love it, and have a great time. That’s the funny thing about little kids…they love to be teased by their older cousins and such, because they know that it’s all in good fun, and they always love the attention.
James enjoys lots of fun activities with his parents. He loves to travel and they have gone to many awesome places. It has been educational, enlightening, and very fun for James. I’m sure that is why he loves to travel…especially in Europe. James as taken a couple of European trips already, and had a great time on both trips. James reminds me quite a bit of my dad, his great grandpa, Allen Spencer, in that way. My dad loved to travel and loved showing his family this great country. My dad, like James also did some travel abroad, but his travel was during World War II, so I’m sure that many things were different then.
James is in college now, attending Casper College here in Casper. He isn’t sure what field he wants to go into yet, and that’s ok. He is going to get all of the required subjects out of the way, and then he can fully focus on the career of his choosing. James is also a huge fan of and awesome participant in the sport of inline rollerblading. When he puts on his rollerblades, he is in his element. He loves all things rollerblades. James spends quite a bit of time watching YouTube videos of rollerblade tricks and crashes to learn new tricks…and maybe to avoid crashes. He enjoys perfecting his moves, and learning new ones from the videos he watches. His mom, Toni Chase, says he is amazing at rollerblading. Some day I will have to see him for myself. Today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My second cousin twice removed, Hazel Grace Pallas, daughter of Angel and Brian Pallas, is quite a character. I have only met Hazel and her family via Facebook, but her mom and her aunt, Elizabeth Nordquist, have posted a lot of pictures of the kids, and along with the stories they provide, I feel like I’ve known their kids forever. As I said, Hazel is a character, but she is also a Girly Girl, and could even be classed as a Diva, but that isn’t surprising, because she spends a lot of time with her cousins, Addilayde and Meadow Nordquist, daughters of Elizabeth and Aron Nordquist, and they can definitely be Divas.
While these girls can be girly and artsy, they also love to play, and they have a great time together; as well as with Hazel’s little sister, Tenley; and their cousins, Hosea and Canaan Oltman, sons of Grace and Tzaddik Oltman. It’s so much fun to look at the great pictures of these close families of cousins. The moms take pictures often, especially Elizabeth, who is a photographer in her own right, so I have watched these kids grow up almost all of their lives.
Addi and Meadow, being the oldest ones, inspire all the fun around there. They play with all the kids, and really enjoy having their cousins come over. The other day, the three older girls, Addi, Meadow, and little Hazel were out in the back yard, playing in the snow. For Hazel, who is 2½ years old, I think this is still a very new experience. Nevertheless, it is one she very much enjoyed. The girls got out anything the could slide on, and they had a wonderful time slipping and sliding on the snow. When Hazel told her mom about all she did that afternoon, she simple summed it up as, “Swimming in the snow, Mom!” When I read that comment, I just laughed and laughed. It was perfect. To have that childhood enjoyment of the snow…untainted by the experiences of driving in the snow, and all the stress that comes with it…seemed like a dream world to me. As I was driving to work this morning, with little Hazel on my mind, I noticed that as I drove down the alley from my backyard garage, over the freshly fallen snow, it felt like I was almost floating along. Hazel’s words came to my mind. “Swimming in the snow, Mom!” I think I know how Hazel felt.
With the recent passing of my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s great aunt, Helen Knox, came a reconnection between our side of the Knox family, and Helen and her husband Frank Knox’s side. We immediately sent condolences out to Helen’s family when we heard of her passing, and just like that, we are reconnected. Through an email with Frank and Helen’s son, Greg Knox, I have connected with his daughter, Katherine “Kate” Knox West, who is their family historian. We are both anxious to explore our connections. But the big story for me was Greg’s recollection of a summer vacation from his youth. When talking about the memories of the person who has passes, you seldom expect a memory from a childhood, involving a cousin to be one that is remembered…after all those years, but that is a favorite memory for Greg.
Greg, who is the middle of five sons of Frank and Helen Knox, was telling me about his childhood in the mid-1960s. One of his fondest memories was of the that of my husband, Bob’s Aunt Margee Kountz and his Aunt Linda Cole taking turns going out to Pullman, Washington to “supervise” Greg and his four brothers, Robert, David, Wesley, and Richard. Now, I’m not sure exactly what that meant to them, or how many fights ensued over the summer, but it must have been lots of fun, because it is something Greg remembers. And he remembers his cousins, Linda and Margee dearly. I think I can understand that, because both of them have always been very sweet. It was interesting to me to think about those two girls going to stay with their aunt and uncle for the summer months. It would have been like a great adventure…spending the summer far from home, but still safe with your aunt and uncle. Getting to know your cousins better as they grew up. And getting to visit a pretty area of the country. Things were different then. People didn’t just hire babysitters. They usually had family take care of the children during the summer months. So, that’s what they did then. And it was a sweet blessing for the boys, and for Linda and Margee. And a sweet memory for me to be able to share on Margee’s birthday.
Margee is and always has been a wonderful person, eager to help out whenever she can. I don’t know what I would have done without her when I had to take my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg to the doctor. We couldn’t leave my mother-in-law home alone, due to her Alzheimer’s Disease, and Margee came to stay with her. It was such a help to me and to my father-in-law. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When we think of Blended Families, we think of two people who have both been divorced, who have children, that marry each other, and become a blended family. That is one type of blended family for sure, just like the old movie, “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” But in reality, every family is a blended family. I suppose people, who have never been divorced, would argue that point with me, but it is true nevertheless. If you think about it there is no other way to have families, except blending.
In my family, starting with my four sisters and me, we all started out as Spencer girls, but we did not carry that name into adulthood. We now have the names Masterson, Schulenberg, Reed, Stevens, and Hadlock. We also have Beach, Harman, Balcerzak, Davidson, Cossabone, Chase, Renville, Reynolds, Thompson, Spethman, Petersen, Royce, Spicer, Franco-Arizola, Smiley, Sawdon, Carroll, and Moore, and that is just on my side of my family, and just so far. On Bob’s side, the Schulenberg kids have added, Cook, Spencer, Parmely, Franklin, Petersen, Royce, Moore, Griffith, Wages, Eighmy, Birky, and Iverson. If that isn’t family blending…well, I don’t know what is. I just don’t think that type of blending is what people had in mind when they talk about blended families, but this type of family blending takes place far more often that the other type. It happens with every marriage.
Bob and I have laughed about the fact that after years of being married, we now find out that we are distant cousins, but when you think about it, with all of the blending going on in this world, what is the likelihood that we would never marry a distant cousin. Pretty slim I’d say. In fact, I think that if I looked back in the ancestry of any random couple, I would find a cousinship somewhere back there. Of course, I wouldn’t even have to look very far, because the whole thing started with Adam and Eve, so since we are all related back there, is just stands to reason that the connections on the way back to Adam and Eve would also have connections. So, the next time you think about a blended family, you might think of your own family blending.
I remember my niece, Andrea Beach as a little girl, trying so hard to be the good big sister to her little brother, Allen. She always had a way of being motherly to Allen. Sometimes, the oldest child has a tendency to feel like they need to be the protector of the younger children. That seems to be the case in situations where both parents work, I think. It’s like having the older child babysit. It puts them in charge, and so whenever their parents are gone, they feel like they have to be in charge of the younger children. When I think about it, maybe that is just instinctual, because Andrea was protective of her brother before she was ever old enough to babysit him.
Now, Allen might have a little bit different story to tell, and we can see what he has to say about it, because I think it’s entirely possible that he viewed her protectiveness as bossiness, and he wouldn’t be the first little brother to do so either. Most of the younger siblings have a tendency to say something like, “You’re not the boss of me!!” In that matter, Allen was no different than any of those other younger child. Like most kids, he didn’t like to have anyone bossing him around, least of all, his big sister. Nevertheless, most of the time, the two of them got along pretty well. That could have been due to the fact that they lived far away from the rest of the family, so for some time, their main friend was their sibling…unlike the family that all lived here and ws raised around cousins. Of course, these days, Andrea is the boss…to her son Topher anyway. But then again, they are really best friends too.
Living so far away was really a sourse of sadness for Andrea, who often wished that she lived closer so that she could have known the cousins better, but since her dad, Warren Beach was in the Navy, that was not to be. They did come to have extended visits with us here, when Warren was out to sea, and then Andrea delighted in getting to know everyone, and spending time with her grandparents. She especially loved pretending to be her grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer. He had a hard hat that he wore to work, and she decided that if Grandpa wore it…well, it must be cool, so she wore it too. I think it was her way of feeling closer to her grandpa. She sometimes had to improvize to make her own memories for later. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When I think of my grandmother, Harriet “Hattie” Byer, the person that comes to mind is Grandma as she was in my adult years. f course, by that time, she was a great grandmother many times over, and so had aged into the kind of grandma you always see on television…gray hair and somewhat wrinkled. In reality, it is television’s view of what a grandmother should look like that is warped in many cases…odd since they try very hard to make everyone else forever ageless. It’s not that I don’t remember the Grandma of my youth, it’s just that I really don’t think of her that way. That wasn’t what she was like as she aged, and I was at an age to place a specific memory of her in my memory files. Nevertheless, when it came to being the boss, the kidder, or the disciplinarian, all I can say is, don’t let her looks or her small stature fool you, because Grandma was in charge, and that’s all there is to it. Just ask anyone of her kids, grandkids, or great grandkids, who might have had the misfortune of cross her. Most of us were done crossing Grandma, but there were some who were brave enough to try again…if you call that bravery. There might be a different word for it, in reality.
When I was little, my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin. That made it hard for her to see my sister, Cheryl Masterson and me when we were little. Grandma and Grandpa did make trips up to see us, and really loved it. Mom and Dad showed them around the area, and they spent time with us too. I don’t remember those visits, but my guess is that my sister, Cheryl does, because she was a couple of years older than I was. I love looking at the pictures of those visits with my grandparents. They are precious to me now, because of course, my parents, Grandpa, and Grandma are in Heaven now. Looking back at those moments by the lake, at the house, and on trips we took, are such wonderful memories.
We moved back to Casper before I turned three, and then we had chances to see them more often. I remember those many visits to their house so well. I can’t say I was one of those kids who learned from her mistakes, but I don’t remember very many times that I was on the wrong side of Grandma. You might call me chicken…and you would be right…either that, or smart. When Grandma spanked, it hurt. Thankfully I outgrew those days, and in the end, I remember my sweet grandma as a little old lady with gray hair. Nevertheless, she was mine, and my sisters and cousins…and we loved her. Today would have been Grandma Byer’s 107th birthday, if she were still with us. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma. We love and miss you very much.
During this journey to find my ancestors and my living family, there have been several times that I have felt that I had made a rare find. Of course, how could it be rare if there were several times, you might be thinking. I thought the same thing, and yet, some of the people I have come across have become so special to me that they could only be classified as a rare find. People like my father-in-law’s half brother, Butch Schulenberg, and our cousins Paul and Betty Noyes, come to mind immediately. But then, I also think of Tracey Inglimo, Denny Fredrick, Tim and Shawn Fredrick, Shirley Cameron, Pam and Mike Wendling, Bill and Maureen Spencer, and the many Schumacher cousins in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I think of Nick and Laura Weber, and Joe Weber. As I think of these people, new rare finds and renewed rare finds, I begin to realize that as I have discovered these special people, some I have never met in person, and some that I have known all my life, but lost track of, I begin to realize that maybe rare finds in the family line aren’t really as rare as I thought they were after all.
I have been thinking about what it is that makes a person a rare find, and the thing that immediately comes to mind is that these people truly care about me…about what I think and who I am. I find that these people are kindred spirits…something I had not really given much thought to until I got into the “Anne of Green Gables” movies, but after watching those movies, I realize just how important kindred spirits really are. Kindred spirits share the same values, goals, and desires, even if they are is slightly different ways. I think it is the values though that mean the most. Maybe that is a big part of what makes these people a rare find. So much has changed in our world these days, and while we all have maybe a slightly different view of what things are wrong and how to fix them, I still find that these people are value driven people…patriots, who love this country and what it stands for.
The longer I think about it, the more I realize that while finding people who compliment who I am is not such a rare find, it is still a rare find that there are so many people who have become so very special to me. It warms my heart to think of these people, and it warms my heart with every conversation I have with them. It is my hope to someday meet those precious people who I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person. I know we will really hit it off, because we are family and kindred spirits. It’s a great combination. While my “rare finds” have not really been so rare after all, I am so blessed by each and every one of then, and that makes them absolutely priceless. I am very blessed to know them all.
As Thanksgiving approached this year, I found myself thinking of the things I’m thankful for. Of course, I’m thankful first and foremost for my loving Heavenly Father. He is always there for me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. How could I possibly ask for more than to have a God who cares deeply about every little tiny part of my life. No human cares that much, not even those who love me with all their hearts, because…well humans just don’t have a love so deep and unconditional.
While this year will find half of my family here and half in Washington, it will feel very lonely, but what I really care about is that my family is all happy, healthy, safe, and sound. And I hope they have a wonderful Thanksgiving too, even though we will miss them very much. I think the holidays are the hardest time to be apart, because the rest of the time work and activities keep you busy and you can forget that they are so far away, but the holidays…well, they are just different. The holidays are all about family. Maybe next year we can be together for one of the holidays. That would be really nice. For now, I am thankful that all of Amy’s family is together for this Thanksgiving holiday. And I’m lonely and sad because of the empty chairs we will have at our table this year.
And this will be the first Thanksgiving with both of my parents in Heaven, and that is very hard for my sisters, and our families. Yet, we are still thankful that our parents are together with other loved ones who have gone to Heaven too. I am so thankful that our parents brought is up to know the Lord, and to know the comfort of knowing where they are now and that they are safe in the loving arms of our Heavenly father. While we will miss them terribly today, as we do every day, and the empty chairs that they would have occupied will make us lonely, we know that they are celebrating with us, because they celebrate God’s love with thanksgiving every day, as do we. We will also be missing my father-in-law, and in reality my mother-in-law, who is in a nursing home. For Bob’s siblings, the loneliness is the same as my sisters and me, the empty chairs speak volumes, if we will listen.
Still, not all things about this day will be sad and lonely, because last month, right after I broke my shoulder, I was so blessed when Bob and I were “adopted” into my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen’s family. His parents, Becky and Duane Skelton invited us to spend Thanksgiving as part of their family. Kevin’s parents have been friends of ours for a long time, and it was just such a wonderful thing to do. I don’t think I was ready to try to put on a Thanksgiving dinner. By Christmas, I expect that I will be much more ready, when I host Bob’s family, but for now, I am very thankful for the kindness of such amazing friends. I love both of them very much, and I look forward to the memories we will have of this day.
Lastly, but in no way the least, I am thankful for new and renewed family connections. Over the past couple of years, we have reconnected with cousins that we haven’t seen in quite some time and some we had never met, which has expanded our family in areas that were lacking before. It is so wonderful to have such a large family, and to have the opportunity to get to know these cousins that we never knew. They are all such wonderful people with so many different interests and life stories, and yet, we are all connected in the deepest of ways…we are family. And that is definitely something to be thankful for.
While this Thanksgiving is filled with mixed emotions for me and my family, I am truly thankful for every day of life, for every member of my family, for each friend, for job, home, and the beauty of God’s creation here one Earth. And I am thankful that when this life is over, I too will live forever in the loving arms of my Father in Heaven. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!! Have a blessed day!!
My mother’s is a large family. There were nine children, and with each new marriage and birth, it grows larger still. At this point, I’m sure the family is well over 300, and all from my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, but with them, it all started with my Aunt Evelyn. She was their first baby. She was the one who informed my grandmother, when she was asked to go get her daddy, that “You must say Uncle Daddy!” She was the first of the social butterflies in their family, having a circle of friends who did lots of activities, and I’m sure that the younger kids wished they could do that too, but by the time they were of age, things like that weren’t done so much anymore. Fads like that come and go, and unfortunately for the little ones who would have loved to be a part of it, but they just don’t get to. Yes, Aunt Evelyn was the first of her siblings, and that gave her some seniority in the whole getting things by ages thing, but to me, she was just my aunt.
Because of the fact that my mom and Aunt Evelyn had children about the same age, they got together quite a bit. Aunt Evelyn, her husband, my Uncle George Hushman, and my parents went to the military ball together, the fireman’s ball together, and they bowled together. They double dated when my mom and dad were dating, and they spent time at each other’s houses. Because they did, my Aunt Evelyn’s kids, my cousins Susie, George, Shelley, Shannon, and Greg, were some of the best friends my sisters and I had as little kids, and we remain friends to this day, even if we don’t get to see each other as much as we used to.
As kids, we loved going to Aunt Evelyn’s house. She lived right next to the Mills Volunteer Fire Department, and I can’t count the number of times that we were there when the fire alarm went off. I will never forget how loud it was, nor how loud the fire trucks were when they went screaming out those big doors. Not every kid had the opportunity to live right next to that, or even to visit someone who does. It was quite interesting.
Many was the time when we went to Aunt Evelyn’s house and played hide and seek, or went down to the school to play on all the playground equipment there. There was never a dull moment when we went to Aunt Evelyn’s house. Of course, I’m sure that her kids always thought it more fun to come to our house, but that would just have to be their memory.
We lost Aunt Evelyn on May 4, 2015, and I still find it hard to believe that she is gone. Today, she would have been 87 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much, and can’t wait to see you again.