developmentally disabled

My grand-niece, Melanie Harman is married to my grand-nephew, Jake Harman. Jake is quick to say that Melanie is an amazing woman who puts up with him constantly yelling, “Mom help!!” It is only every now and then that she tells him to “shut it!!” You see, Jake is not calling for him mom, but calling Melanie “Mom,” because she is the mother of his children, and she often says she has four children, and not three, because Jake is just “a big kid” at heart.

Melanie is always putting others ahead of her own needs…everyone in fact, and especially her kids. When Jake first met his sweet wife, the first thing he noticed about her was just how sweet and kind she was. She was also quiet, but Jake says that the longer they are together, the more like him she becomes. That is common, as people are married a number of years. Jake says that she can be randomly rude, just like he is. They are joking, of course, and it usually brings a round of laughter for them and those who know them. Melanie is Jake’s best friend, and he says he falls in love with her more and more every day. Jake is a jokester, yet even with all his picking on her, he marvels that Melanie still chooses to wake up to him every morning. Jake attributes their marital success to God, because as Jake says, “Only God could make some one as perfect as her, and only God would bless a sinner like me with her.”

Melanie is a hard working woman. She works 6½ hours a day as a bus aid then 4 hours cleaning buildings for Cleaning Solutions. Then she goes home to take care of her three kids or as she says four, because as Melanie says and we all know, Jake often acts like one!! To demonstrate that fact, the family recently made a trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On their way back to Casper, Wyoming, there were about 100 Wall Drug billboards and at every single one of them Jake would tap her arm over and over and say, “Mom…Mom…Mom!! Look…look!!” Melanie would look at it and then look at Jake and say, “You do that one more time, and I’m going to beat you!!” She never did, of course, because she is full of love…even for people they don’t know.

Sometimes, when Jake is driving his bus for the disabled, the family comes and rides the bus with him when he is on the route busses. Melanie can talk to anyone, and that shows on the bus. No matter who starts talking to her, she never tells them to stop talking to her or leave her alone, no matter how mixed up they might be. Melanie always listens and talks with them. Melanie has a kind heart and that shows in all she does. The developmentally disabled can see that kindness in a person more than other people can. They can tell that it’s okay to talk to some people. They see that kindness in Melanie, and so do I. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister-in-law, Debbie Cook is my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s older sister. She was born just 16 months before my husband. Debbie’s birth followed a developmentally disabled older sister, and a miscarriage. Debbie’s own birth was not an easy situation either. She was born very, very premature, and only weighed a little over 2 pounds. When she finally came home from the hospital, she could have used a shoe box for a crib. Still, her life from that point forward, has been picture perfect.

With so much going wrong before and during her life’s beginning, one would expect that her whole life would have been much more tragic, and I suppose it could have been. These days great strides have been made in the area of preemie care. Often these babies started out behind, and stayed behind their whole lives. Now, the medical professionals understand that preemies have some special needs, care can be given to make preemie’s early days more productive. The thing about Debbie’s start is that she wasn’t born “these days.” Debbie was born back in the day when little was known of the needs of a preemie. That makes her prognosis more grave, and her outcome more miraculous. Debbie came out of her humble beginnings, without a “scratch” of a learning disability. I would have to call this one a miracle…plain and simple.

Debbie’s life has been one with relatively few health problems in it, and without learning disabilities, so considering the year of her beginning, things could have been much worse. Many babies born so prematurely don’t survive…even these days. The outcome could have been very different…tragically different. Debbie’s life turned out good. It was not perfect. She lost a daughter of her own, but she had two healthy daughters, and 4 grandchildren. She and her husband, LJ are retired now, and love to go camping in the Big Horn Mountains as often as they can. I’m glad things in her life went the way they did, for the most part. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was a blessing that came as a free gift with my marriage to her brother, Bob. Of course, I consider all of my in-laws to be a blessing, but I think that they will all agree that Marlyce was a special kind of blessing. I don’t mean to say that Marlyce was perfect, or that the whole family always got along with her, although I don’t recall a fight I personally had with Marlyce. Even though the siblings fought with their sister periodically, I can tell you, without doubt that they considered her a sweet blessing too.

Marlyce had a kind heart. In fact,there wasn’t an unkind bone in hr body. She loved doing things for people, in fact, she would do just about anything that was in her power to do. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, but she was an expert at a number of things. She could cook and bake, and was famous for her chocolate chip cookies. She also loved to knit and made great stocking caps for people. She even sold them at craft fairs. Marlyce loved making things and she loved giving things to people.

The one thing Marlyce really loved though…babies. She was the oldest of her siblings, and so, she got to help out with all her siblings, even if she couldn’t do many things well, her parents didn’t refuse to let her help. She liked being the big helper, and when she became an aunt, she was just wonderful with the kids. All of the kids loved Aunt Marlyce. She was very special to them. She didn’t have a chance to become a great aunt, because she passed away far too young…at just 39 years. When I think about that, it makes me sad, because not only did Marlyce miss out on being a great aunt, but her grand nieces and grand nephews missed out on the special aunt she was. And now that she is a great grand aunt to my little great granddaughter. It makes me sad to know that another generation is going to miss out on sweet Aunt Marlyce. Today would have been Marlyce’s 68th birthday, but instead, she is 39 years old again. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

I first met my sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg when I was 18 years old, and she was 23 years old. She passed away when she was 39 years old. It has been 28 years since Marlyce passed away in 1989, so she has been gone 13 years longer than she was in my life. While that fact feels like a fact in some ways, it doesn’t in others. Marlyce had such a huge impact on my life. It wasn’t anything specific that she did, but rather it was everything about my sweet sister-in-law. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, and in some ways she remained a child all her life, but in other ways, she was an adult. She had a job, and she loved to bake and knit, and really she didn’t play. She understood that kids games were for kids, and she was an adult. She would play games intended for grownups though. One of her favorites was solitaire. She always had a deck of cards handy.

Still, it was not those things that made Marlyce so special to me. It was her personality. She was such a loving person. I suppose that I had an advantage over her siblings in that I was not her sibling. Coming into the family as an outsider, gave me the ability to be a friend to Marlyce before I became her sister-in-law. There never were the sibling rivalries or the sibling fights, because while Marlyce knew I was her sister-in-law, I don’t think she ever really thought of me that way, exactly. I was maybe more her permanent friend. Permanent in that I was a fixture within the family unit, and friend, in that I was not her blood sister. Of course, all of her siblings loved Marlyce too, but having grown up with her, they did all fight…like all siblings do.

One thing I recall about Marlyce that was kind of funny, is how protective she could be over her siblings. If she was mad at them…well, you knew it. She had no problem telling any one of them just what she thought, but if one of her siblings was getting into trouble…well, that was a different thing. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Marlyce telling her parents that they should be nice to her brother or sister. She was quite vocal about it. And even after the disciplinary action was over, she was still pretty mad at the offending parent. It was pretty comical, but I didn’t dare laugh about it, because Marlyce didn’t like being laughed at…and I would never hurt her feelings that way. Marlyce was so sweet. I couldn’t pick on her. When I think of all the years that Marlyce has been gone, I am saddened, because we are missing out on all the sweetness that was Marlyce. Everything about Marlyce was sweet, and I miss her very much. Today would have been Marlyce’s 67th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love you very much.

scan0044When we think of standing guard over someone or something, we think of a security guard, police officer, or even a guard dog, but seldom do we think about a family pet, such as a dog or even a cat, but that doesn’t mean that pets can’t stand guard, because many do, and in ways beyond being a watch dog at the house. When I was little, and truly, all my life, I loved cats. Now I know that a cat would have a hard time doing anything to protect or help it’s owner, or as I have always thought…it’s pet, it still stands guard. It’s not about it’s ability to do anything, but rather, it’s loyalty. That’s how it was with my cats. And how it was with my mom’s cats too. I suppose mostly it was because they liked being near us, but when my mom fell at home, her cat Quincy was right there standing guard over her. He refused to leave her side until someone got there to get her up and safely in her chair. I don’t know what my cats did to protect me exactly, but they liked to sleep scan0031in my crib, and watch over me while I slept too. They liked being with me, and I loved being with them too. I guess we were like best friends, and while they couldn’t do anything to protect me, maybe they kept me out of mischief, because as every cat lover knows, they demand lots of attention.

I know that lots of dogs are trained to be guard dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and police dogs, and I know that they are very loyal to their owners, even to the point of killing for their owner. It could be their training, but I think it’s also their love for their master. Pets are that way. They get very attached to their owners, and they will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Their training helps them protect their master, of course, and they are very good at what they do. When they are on duty, they are working…no messing around, but when they are home with their master, they are as loving as they can be, because that person is family to them. That is when the love of their master kicks in…that and anytime that their master is in trouble on the job. In reality, they are Marlyce & friendalways standing guard.

Sometimes the guard dog is on duty for a different reason. Such was the case with my in-laws dog, Brownie. My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled, and sometimes it was hard for my mother-in-law to watch her all the time. In the house, she was relatively safe, but outside there were more perils to consider. Still, they never worried really, because when Marlyce went outside, Brownie went with her. Brownie made it his job to stand guard over Marlyce to keep her safe. No one had to tell him, he just understood that Marlyce needed special care. When Brownie was on duty…standing guard…the family knew she was safe. Aren’t pets amazing?

Sweet MarlyceMy sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled. In many ways that made her always seem younger than her years. In reality, she probably never aged past her teen years, mentally. Still, Marlyce could do some things that adults do, such as cooking and working. In those ways she was much like any grown up person her age.

Marlyce lived with her parents, my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, all her life, but she was a part of a school in Casper at that time, that trained developmentally disabled people to be productive members of society, and then worked to place them in jobs. Marlyce loved her job, and enjoyed going to work every day. It made her feel good about herself, and it made her feel like she was a grownup, like everyone else around her. Marlyce just wanted to belong in the adult world. Something most of us can understand.Beautiful Marlyce

Before Marlyce was forty, she contracted Cancer, and at the young age of just thirty nine years, she lost her life in that battle. It was a devastating loss to all of us, her family, and to all who knew her. Nevertheless, time marches on, and while we will always miss her sweet smiling face, the hats she knitted, and the wonderful chocolate chip cookies she made, we will miss her more than any of those things. Marlyce was the sweetest sister-in-law in the world. She was kind and caring. She loved being an aunt when all the nieces and nephews started coming along.

Her life was sadly, very short in the grand scheme of time, but in that timeframe, Marlyce lived a full life. She was not held back by the limitations that most of us do not consider limitations, like husband and children, but in reality, they are things that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether to read a book, take a trip with parents, or even take a nap. She could, for the most part anyway Amy with Marlycemake her own choices. And that was what allowed her to live a full life in just a few short years. Nevertheless, we all wish she was still here.

Today, Marlyce would have turned sixty five. I wonder what she would have been like now. Things would have been a bit more difficult in that her dad is in Heaven, and her mom in a nursing home. I’m not sure where she would have been living. Perhaps with one of her siblings or maybe in a group home. She would be ready to retire, but I’m not sure she would have wanted to do so. It’s all speculation, of course, because we will never know. Today Marlyce would have been sixty five, but in reality, she is forever thirty nine. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

imageTurning 21 is a big day in the life of a kid. I use the word kid lightly, because they really haven’t been kids for quite some time. Nevertheless, to me they are still kids, except that they can now legally drink, and their parents truly hope that they will be careful and have a designated driver or take a cab home. Well, today is that special day for my cousin, Cody, but that isn’t what Cody is really all about.

I first met Cody when his Uncle Bill and Aunt Maureen brought him along on their family vacation in 2007 to visit our family, and leave my Uncle Bill, Cody’s grandpa with us for a week while they went to Yellowstone National Park to show their daughter Kristin and Cody all the sights there. Cody was a bit shy at first, but that really isn’t his true nature, and by the end of our time with them, we were enjoying good conversations with imagehim. Since that time, I have watched Cody grow up on Facebook, and I’m very proud of the wonderful young man he has become.

It’s not easy for a young man to grow up without his dad, and since my cousin Jimmy died of Mesothelioma on February 1, 2006, that is what Cody has had to do. His mom, Tami has been a wonderful influence on him and did an amazing job of raising him, but a boy still misses his dad, when he doesn’t have him in his life…and Cody and his dad were very close.

Since finishing school, Cody has embarked on a new career with the developmentally disabled. It takes a very special person to work with the developmentally disabled, but the rewards are so amazingly great that every moment is priceless. I know this because of my imageown developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Marlyce, who passed away far too soon in 1989. The developmentally disabled, love those people who love them, and they love them dearly. Nevertheless, they do have special needs and need special handling, and being the sister-in-law to Marlyce, was very different that working in a group home with a group of developmentally disabled people. That is a big job and one that makes me very proud of Cody for his undertaking of it. More importantly Cody, I know that your dad would be very proud of the man you have become. Today is Cody’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Cody!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

 

Bronzed Baby ShoesThe bronzed baby shoes had been on the shelf in my in-laws’ home for many years. They had grown dusty sitting there for so long on the back of the shelf…neglected, as most such trinkets become over the years. Now as we cleared out the contents of the home in preparation for sale after the passing of my father-in-law and my mother-in-law’s move to a nursing home, the shoes came to my attention again. I had always loved the idea of bronzing baby shoes, but never managed to get it done for my own babies…just too busy living life, I guess. Baby shoe bronzing had been a fad at the time when my sisters and I were little, but not much is said about it these days, although you can still get it done.

To my surprise, the shoes had not been chosen as a treasure by anyone else in the family, so they found their way into my home for safe keeping. I’m a bit of a nostalgic, you see…or maybe, more than just a little bit. The things I find to be of value in an estate, are the momentos and photographs…the reminders of the past, and therefore, our connection to it. The bronzed shoes belonged to my late sister-in-law, Marlyce, who passed away in 1989 at the far to young age of 39 years, 1 month, and 5 days.

Marlyce was developmentally disabled, but that was something those of us who knew her seldom noticed. She was a sweet, loving person, who smiled her way into my heart the first time I met her, and never has left in all the 39 years that I have known this family. Her Amy with Marlycepassing was a sad time in all our lives. Gone, were her delicious chocolate chip cookies, which no one could really match. Gone, were the stocking caps she used to knit. Gone, was her smiling face, her love of babies, and her pride at being an aunt.

All that was left of those 39 years was a little pair of bronzed baby shoes. They seemed such a little thing, and yet the steps they represented far overflowed their tiny size. I could see her first little baby steps…her school days…her work…her hobbies…her love of family, especially babies. So many accomplishments. The accomplishments of a lifetime…short as it may have been.

Marlyce Schulenberg & Debbie Schulenberg - 1953My sister-in-law, Debbie is the second of my in-law’s six children, but in many ways she is the oldest. Her older sister, Marlyce was born developmentally disabled. Even though Debbie was three years younger, she quickly became the oldest child. Marlyce would always be a child, in an adult body, and that would leave Debbie to be the second child, but really the oldest child. I would imagine that while she didn’t feel like the oldest in some ways, she was strangely the oldest in others. Marlyce would never be able to babysit their siblings, because she was not mature enough, so the babysitting would have to be Debbie. Any other responsible duties would also have to go to Debbie, because Marlyce could Debbie keeping Bob in linenot do those things. Marlyce did learn to make amazing cookies, but this, too was done under supervision.

Through the years, that had to have been a strange thing for Debbie…knowing that her sister was older, but she didn’t really seem older. I would think that it might have even been confusing for a child, but Marlyce was her big sister, and by the time Debbie was 17 months old, she also had a little brother, my husband, Bob. That brought even bigger responsibilities for the middle sister, of the older three children of her parents. And, the middle sister she would remain for 7 years after the birth of her brother. Then she would become the second child, but again the oldest child, when her 3 youngest siblings were born, and her mom and dad needed her Marlyce, Debbie, & Bob  - 1957help even more. The older children have always helped with the younger children, and while Marlyce always loved babies, she could not fully take care of them, like her little sister, Debbie could.

Nevertheless, as much as Debbie was the older child when it came to most things, she was not the oldest child, and for her, probably never considered herself to be the older child. The things Marlyce couldn’t do were really of no consequence, because Marlyce was very much loved, and she was simply the oldest child. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob and his sister, Marlyce were born 4 years and 1 day apart, on July 9, 1950 and July 10, 1954. Birthdays were always a shared event, and they both seemed to like that. Marlyce always thought a lot of her little brother, a fact that could have come from those shared birthdays, or the fact that Bob is a funny guy much of the time. He was the first boy born in the family, and took it upon himself to regularly tease his older sisters…and later on, his younger sisters and brother too. That is pretty much the kind of guy he is. He loves to laugh, and joke around with people. I suppose that was a lot of his charm when I first started dating him, and what has kept our marriage going strong after 37 years. The ability to laugh when so much in life is tough all around you is a great asset.

Bob and Marlyce usually thought many of the same things were quite funny, so the little antics they used to pull usually involved both of them. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, so I have a feeling that Bob played the lead in a lot of the fun, but Marlyce could probably come in a close second. And what one thought was funny, the other would very likely agree with, so they were always laughing. I have noticed that in pictures, these two are often doing the same or very similar things, like wearing their dad’s shoes, or pretending to smoke a pipe. Everyone else in the picture might look perfectly normal, and then you notice the goofy kids doing something totally odd.

I have always thought it was a special thing that their birthdays were so close together. They had such great fun at those celebrations. Of course, Bob has a way of making a girl feel special…even when he is picking on them, so sharing the spotlight with him is usually a very good thing. Marlyce loved her brother very much, and especially loved his teasing, and I suppose that is also why she liked to do so many of the same things he did, or maybe he just did cool stuff. They were just a goofy pair.

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