dance

I have always loved watching birds in flight, especially when they are playing as they fly. They swoop, dive, and chase each other across the sky. We used to have pigeons downtown that played like that, but now they have moved near, or rather right over the trail I like to walk on. Since I don’t go downtown much, you can imagine how delighted I am that they have moved. Pigeons, while fun to watch truly have nothing on the Common Starling when it comes to play. The first time I saw a group of starlings in flight, I was stunned. They moved as one, swooping and diving. It looked like a cloud in the sky, but the cloud would have to be alive, which of course, it was, but not in the way you might think. The cloud was the birds, and their dance is beautiful. It was almost surreal, but it was very real.

This group “dance” is actually called a murmuration, and it doesn’t happen every day. Starling murmurations only happen when the birds start to roost…as early as September in some places, and as late as the end of November elsewhere, with more birds joining the nightly displays during this time. Starlings usually perform their aerial acrobatics at dusk, just above their communal roosting sites before they bed down for the night. I suppose it is a joyful display, because they are preparing to have their young. That is not the only reason starlings murmurate, however. Murmuration can also be used as a defense mechanism. The idea for defense is that as a closely packed flock, can appear to it’s enemies as being much larger than any single bird could possibility appear. Grouping together in the sky does offer protection from predators like peregrine falcons, but the birds also murmurate to keep warm and exchange information on feeding sites. It’s like a natural version of social networking, I guess…with the exception of no computer.

The Starling prefers to nest in sheltered spots, away from predators, but that is not always possible. Often they nest in “woodlands, but reedbeds, cliffs, buildings and industrial structures are also used. During the day however, they form daytime roosts at exposed places such as treetops, where the birds have good all-round visibility.” They need to be able to keep a watch to protect themselves from prey. The habits of birds has always been interesting, but the Starling is perhaps the most interesting of all the birds I’ve seen.

Dad at the hospital to visit Mom

My dad passed away on December 12, 2007, but since my mom was still alive, we never really went through his things…until after her passing on February 22, 2015. Mom had given out some of Dad’s things to different family members, but the bulk of his things would wait until her passing to be given to those who would receive them.

In his later years, my dad got cold often. That can happen as we age, or with surgeries to the chest or abdomen, which dad had to repair damage from Pancreatitis. More and more often, Dad could be seen wearing a sweater, and it really became a signature item for him. One sweater in particular that he wore almost daily, was a multi-shade blue striped sweater. He wore it so often, that it is one of the ways I picture him in my mind. I had asked Mom for that sweater shortly after Dad passed away, and was told I could have it, but did not receive it until now.

This was the sweater that Dad had on when he and Mom danced their last New Years Eve dance on January 1, 2007, just under a year before his passing. It was also the sweater he wore on his visits to the hospital when Mom was receiving Chemotherapy treatments for the Lymphoma Brain Tumor that she would beat in 2007. The blue sweater became synonymous of Dad…in my mind anyway.

There are many things that remind me of my dad. Anything World War II, of course, because I have written so much about his time in the war, and because we have toured the B-17s several times together, making the B-17 an integral part of my memories of my dad. Then, there are the funny memories of Dad, that always come to my mind…things like the whisker rub, our many debates, pretending to box with him, the Oregon Trail The Final New Years Dance - Jan 1, 2007markers, the many vacations, and of course, the swatting games he played with the grandkids, will always bring back great memories of my dad. All of those things bring images of my dad and what an amazing man he was, but they are not things I can hold in my hands, and picture him if I use them. The blue sweater is.

Memories are the most precious things we have once a parent has passed, and I treasure every memory I have of my dad, as I do my mom, and there are things that will always remind me of them. And one of those things will always be that blue sweater. Today would have been my dad’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad. Have a wonderful celebration. We love and miss you both very much.

Jason and AuroraMy grand niece, Aurora…nicknamed Rory, is the daughter of my nephew, Ryan Hadlock and his wife, Chelsea. Rory is a sweetie pie of a girl, who loves making faces with her aunts, and playing with her older brother, Ethan. But when it comes to Rory’s uncles, she is the princess. Those girls have a way of wrapping their uncles around their baby fingers. Of course, the uncles have a great time with Rory’s brother, Ethan too, but Rory is the princess, and that is all there is to it. In reality, uncles just don’t stand a chance against the charms of their little nieces. Rory just gives them one of her sweet little smiles, and they melt. Then, she gets picked up, swung around, rides of all sorts…like piggy back and airplane. Yep, Rory’s uncles think she’s the cream of the crop. And she thinks the same of them. Of course, it isn’t just her uncles who think Rory is pretty special. Her great aunts and uncles fit in that category too.

Rory is good friends with her cousin, Aleesia too. They love to play together and get along famously. They especially love to dance the night away. And our little Aurora can sing with the best of them. She loves music, and just can’t help but sing along. Rory loves spending girl time with her aunts and her mom. Since she is the only little girl in her family right now, she is the focus of all the girly fun things…nail polish, pony tails, and girly clothes. Rory is her own girl, and I know she will develop her own style, but she will have been well trained in what looks good by her mom and her aunts. Nevertheless, it seems to be her uncles who Rory likes to play with the most.
Shannon & Rory
Rory is a little bit shy with people she doesn’t know very well, but once she knows you, she is more at ease and you never know what she might decide to do. Like most kids, she is pretty inventive with her play. She might be camping out with her brother or doing the baking with her mom. It just depends on her mood at any given time. Rory has a lot of years ahead of her, and I know she will have a lot of changes in her life. I hope she will always keep her sweet sense of humor, because it will take her far. I just think we are all very blessed to have little Rory in our lives. Today is Rory’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Rory!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Grandma's GirlShowing OffOn most Thursday evenings, I go over to have supper with my mom, Collene Spencer and my sister, Cheryl Masterson. This summer, Cheryl has been babysitting her little granddaughter, Aleesia Spethman, while her daughter, Jenny and her family attend some of the Thursday night events in Downtown Casper. Prior to having Aleesia over on Thursday nights, I got to see her once a week at church, so she was a little bit stand offish with me…not terribly unusual in an almost two year old child who doesn’t know you that well. Now that I have spent more time with her, she is warming up to me, and it is so much fun to witness the changes in her first hand. She is and always be her grandma’s girl, unless her parents are around, and her great grandma, my mom, who she calls GG, will always be second, but she does like her Great Aunt Caryn too. She says my name, but I don’t always catch that my name is what she is saying, and she doesn’t say it very often, but she will throw me kisses, and even climb up in my chair once in a while now. At least, she will once she feels sufficiently warmed up to me for the evening. But, my favorite thing she says is when she and her grandma are playing word games. They say pa-lease…which is of course please with sarcasm. It’s really quite funny.

Aleesia is a performer, and she loves to be recognized for the amazing feats of acrobatics, balance, and just plain silliness she performs. Her most favorite thing to do is to climb up on GG’s walker, that has a seat. Once there, she raises her hands above her head and looks around the room to make sure that we have all noticed this amazing act. We are then expected to clap our hands, and anyone who doesn’t receives an Aleesia Stare until they get their act together and start clapping. Seriously, you can watch television anytime, and this is The Aleesia Show, so pay attention!! Her next maneuver is to jump from the walker to the waiting arms of her grandma or GG. Never mind that they might be eating. If they don’t tell her to wait until after supper soon enough, they had better catch her…because this little girl is fearless. That isn’t surprising either, because Aleesia has three brothers, so tough is kind of her middle name.

Even though Aleesia is tough enough, don’t make the mistake of thinking that she isn’t a girly girl, because she likes her cute outfits and even her hair bows…most of the time. She loves the frilly little outfits that her mom dresses her in. Her favorite decorative pillow has Rory and Aleesia DancingBouncy GirlTinkerbelle on it. All these things point to a girly girl. And that is Aleesia too. She loves to dance, and anything else that might get those around her to cheer her on or clap their hands. That’s just part of her charm and part of The Aleesia Show, in which our little girl performs to the delight of those around her. It’s a show I would hate to miss. Today is Aleesia’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday baby girl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Marie BurgessWhen you have a family member in a nursing home, and you visit them often, the other residents of the nursing home soon become…almost like your family members too. You get to a place where you know their names, their personalities, and their funny little quirks. Of course, I’m not going to tell their names, even though I know them, but there are the two old ladies that didn’t know each other until they went to the nursing home and became roommates. Now everyone calls them the twins, because they are inseparable. They may not know where they are going, but they will be going there together…and together, they wander the hallways, always smiling and totally happy.

There is the little old lady who is often the first one to tell you hello when you walk in the door, and she doesn’t mind giving medical advice if you have a cough or some other simple ailment, because “she raised 7 children, so she knows what to do for a cough” and for just about any other ailment. She isn’t pushy though, she just wants to be helpful. There is the little old lady that walks down the halls and out of the blue, she just starts dancing a jig, and can even click her heals. While her mind doesn’t work as good as her body, she is perfectly happy and content in her surroundings. Of course, every nursing home has the sad ones and the grouchy ones, but many of them are happy and cheerful, and they always put a smile on my face.

The one that really surprised me the most though, was my mother-in-law’s roommate. She is a happy little lady and quite talkative when you get to know her. She will tell you that she was “born in Oklahoma 94 years ago, and that is the place where the tornadoes are…you know”. It wasn’t the things she said or the way she acted that surprised me, but rather…the way she looked. I mean, who would have guessed in a million years that my Grandma Hein as we knew hermother-in-law would end up sharing a room in a nursing home with a woman who looks so much like her mother-in-law. Yes, grandma was 10 years older than mom’s roommate, and Grandma never made it to 94, but I can easily imagine that she might have look just like her if Grandma had made it to 94. It makes me feel kind of good about mom’s roommate, because when she talks to her, it seems like she knows her, and maybe she thinks she is her mother-in-law. The other day she told her, “I was wondering if you were coming in.” It was just like something she might have said to her mother-in-law…like she thought her roommate was her mother-in-law, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she did.

Father Daughter SocialMy nephew, Rob has always been what I would consider a tough guy…a macho man. From the time he was little, and the only boy in the family, he always felt like he had to show how tough he was. All that was years ago now, and Rob is a father to four children, three of them girls. Rob has had to find his softer side for his girls, while keeping the tough side for his son. The tough side was pretty easy to picture, but the softer side…not so much.

Last night at the Parkway Plaza there was a Father/Daughter Social to benefit Wyoming Cares. It is a charity event to help Wyoming infants, children, youth, adults and senior citizens for medical and non-medical needs. Rob had never taken any of his daughters to the event, and unfortunately, it was not possible for his oldest daughter, but he did not want to miss out on the opportunity with his middle daughter, Raelynn, who truly is his little princess daughter. There isn’t a tomboy bone in that little girl’s body. So, plans were made and tickets purchased. They bought a dress for Raelynn and Rob bought her a purple rose corsage…because purple is her favorite color.

Finally, the night arrived. Raelynn was so excited that she got ready for her date with her daddy two hours before the social. It was going to be an enchanting evening. Father and daughter, dressed in their very best, headed for the social. The evening promised to be the most amazing one in Raelynn’s young life. She was on a date with her daddy, and he is the most wonderful man in her life. At the social, they made a princess crown for Raelynn and painted matching hearts on their hands. The Parkway Plaza had been turned into a dream land. They tossed bean bags into boots for prizes and went on a cake walk. They participated in the silent auction for special little girl toys, and…they danced!! In fact, they danced every dance, even some, like the Casper Stride Dance that they had to learn on the fly. Raelynn’s mom, my niece, Dustie told Raelynn that her daddy hadn’t taken her to a dance yet, so Raelynn knew that she was very special, and this, her first Father/Daughter Social was too.

The nephew is see before me these days, is still that tough guy when he has to be, but when it comes to his little girls, he turns into their prince charming. A dad is usually his baby girl’s first idea of what a boyfriend should be like…the guy who will always protect them…who will always love them, no matter what they have done wrong…and isn’t that the way it is supposed to be. Today is Rob’s birthday. You are a good man…Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jenny in straddle splitWhen my niece, Jenny was a little girl, she loved to dance and do gymnastics. She was a natural talent. Most people have a hard time with the splits, much less behind able to do the straddle splits, but Jenny took after her grandmother, my mom in that straddle split ability. As much as I loved gymnastics, the straddle splits, and pretty much the splits in general were simply beyond me. I could do the rest, but splits of any kind just hurt. Not Jenny, she was amazing.

Another thing Jenny has always been great at is dancing. She Belly Dancingdanced through her childhood and into her teens. When we had a teen dance club here, she and my daughter, Amy liked to go and dance there. But going out dancing isn’t the only way Jenny likes to dance. She likes to work out, and one of the ways she has done that is Zumba dancing. Zumba dancing is something I want to master, but so far, I think I have two left feet, so that will take a good deal of practice. Again, Jenny is a natural.

Another type of dancing that Jenny has taken up is belly dancing. She creates her own Crista and Jennycostumes, and they are beautiful. She is so graceful and beautiful. Being able to move like that takes a great deal of talent, and hours of practice. And yet, she also finds time to be a great mom to her three boys and now to her little girl. I’m sure that before long, Jenny and her daughter, Aleesia will be taking these classes together and quite likely Aleesia will follow in her mother’s dance steps and become a great dancer too. I’m sure that will be a wonderful thing for the two of them to share for years to come, because, once a dancer…always a dancer. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My Aunt Deloris was always a sweet and gentle spirit. She was one of the few people out there who, to me, seemed truly humble. She never tried to promote herself, and in that act, she stood out as someone very special to me. She didn’t have to show you how amazing she was, because you could see for yourself who she was. Sadly, Aunt Deloris passed away in 1996 of Brain Cancer. It was a sad time for our family. She was such a wonderful person with such a kind heart, and we wanted her to be with us for a much longer time.

I remember so many times when Aunt Dee, as we all called her, would come over to the house for visits. We all loved sitting around talking with her. She was always the kind of person who would help you with anything you ever needed help with. She especially loved buying things for the family, like the piano she bought for the family, that was a blessing to the family for generations, unless you happened to be Greg, who got his fingers slammed in it more than once. She also liked to dance, and taught her sisters and brothers how to do the Mexican Hat Dance when she was in 5th grade. She had an amazing imagination, and created many fun adventures for her sisters and brothers as well.

I will always remember Aunt Dee’s sense of humor, and her wonderful laugh. She had a way of changing a quiet moment into a laughing moment…especially when there was an argument going on. Like the time her sisters and brothers were fighting and Grandma got tired of it and said she didn’t want to hear another peep out of anyone. Of course, Aunt Dee couldn’t resist. She waited a moment or two and said quietly, “Peep!” After a moment of shock, in which her siblings wondered if she was going to live through such a bold move, everyone started laughing, and the fight was over. I’m sure Grandma didn’t really mind that one little case of disobedience.

Seventeen years ago today, we gave our youngest daughter in marriage. I am always amazed at the passage of time. It just doesn’t seem possible that they could be celebrating their 17th anniversary already…at least not in numbers. As a couple, they are a perfect match. Oh, they have their little fights, like any married couple does, but they just compliment each other so well. They both have a great sense of humor, and in their house is much laughter…something that truly is essential in a home if you ask me. I have heard all of the marriage tips there are out there in my own 37 years of marriage, but to me laughter is one of the most important ones. A home without joy is a very gloomy place to be.

Every parent wants the man their daughter marries to take good care of her and above all to love her with all his heart, and Travis has never let us down in that area. When they got married, Travis, who is a year younger than Amy, was just out of high school. Many people would have never expected it to last, but they fooled the naysayers. Sometimes, you know who you want to spend the rest of your life with immediately and that is exactly what happened. Amy and Travis worked together at Target in high school, and Amy had noticed Travis before their actual meeting, and thought he was cute. They actually met in person at a dance club for teenagers in Casper. From that moment on, they were destined to be together.

They dated for about a year, and then decided to get married. I could say that the rest is history, but there is no typical love story, really. Every love story is as unique as the people who are a part of it. Their lives have taken many twists and turns…from babies to career changes. I am very proud of how they have handled each and every turn in the road. Seventeen years is a big achievement these days, and I’m so happy for you both. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a wonderful day!!

There is a country music song by Brad Paisley, called “He Didn’t Have To Be” about a step-dad who was more of a dad than a real dad ever was. After talking with my cousin, JeanAnn, I am convinced that those words describe my cousin Elmer, JeanAnn’s uncle very well too. JeanAnn was a little girl with a need, and Elmer became the dad to JeanAnn, that he didn’t have to be…he chose to be. JeanAnn tells me that Elmer raised her, like she was his own daughter, stepping in to fill a void that desperately needed filling, and not only helped a little girl who needed it, but filled her heart with so much joy and pride, that when she speaks of him, it all comes flowing out like a beautiful waterfall.

When JeanAnn was a very little girl, Elmer bought her a Tweety Bird that said “Hello Buddy!” He and JeanAnn always used to say that to each other, but JeanAnn was to little to say it right, so it came out “Hello Bud!” The name stuck, and Elmer became forever Uncle Bud, and I have a feeling he didn’t mind that, because his very special little niece gave that name to him. Rewards just don’t come sweeter than that!

Some of her fondest memories happened in the month of July. She tells me that she can’t remember one year, except the few that she didn’t live in Casper, that she didn’t spend July 4th with her uncle. Back when you could set off fireworks on your own, they shot off fireworks in Glenrock, along with the occasional hillside fire, of course. Sometimes, they watched the fireworks displays from Elmer’s shop, where she got to play with the various gadgets he had made or bought. Later, when he got a boat, they often spent July 4th at the lake, watching the displays, boating and playing in the water. JeanAnn never had to worry about missing out on the festivities, because she had an uncle who was so good to her, even though he didn’t have to be. When the fair rolled around, JeanAnn always got to go. At the fair, she and her Uncle Bud would ride all the rides. One year he had hurt his back, so JeanAnn was worried that he might not be able to go, but he still took her, and rode the rides with her. She was a teenager by then, and his giving nature meant so much to her. Elmer was always there when she needed him.

Now JeanAnn is grown, with children of her own, who need a man in their lives too. Uncle Bud stepped right in, without ever being asked, and did the same things for Mykenzie and Ethan. He took Kenzie to her first father/daughter dance, and was there for Ethan’s first play. He spent 2 hours last Christmas putting a Lego toy together for Ethan. He has done so many things for JeanAnn, Kenzie, and Ethan, that there simply isn’t enough room here. Just suffice it to say that when other men wouldn’t do for their children, Uncle Bud came to the rescue for at least 3 of them, and became the surrogate dad…he didn’t have to be.

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