gentle

imageKids follow a typical pattern in the things they do, but that in no way makes kids the same. Some kids are too busy with their own things to take much notice of the aunts and uncles around them, while others, like my grand niece, Audrianna Masterson, always make an effort to come and say hello, followed by a hug, of course. Anna, as she has been nicknamed, is a very gentle soul, with a loving spirit. Whenever I am around her, usually at least twice a week, she just warms my heart with her gentle, loving ways.

Anna loves to read, and is spending much of this summer in a reading contest to see how many books she can read. So far she has won a t-shirt for her efforts, and she was so proud of it, that she had to make sure I saw it. Anna really loves learning in general. During the school year, when I see her, she like to sit with me and do her homework. Then she has imageme check it for her. I don’t really think it’s the homework help she is after, but rather the time she and I can spend together.

Don’t get me wrong, because Anna love to play too. She doesn’t care if the kids are older, like her cousins, Xander, Zach, and Isaac Spethman, or her brother Matthew Masterson, or her little cousin Aleesia Spethman, who is just three, and even her cousin, Shai Royce, who is twenty. She also likes hanging out with her big sister, Raelynn Masterson, when she has time for her that is. Raelynn is in middle school now, so that is a bit limited, nevertheless, Anna looks up to her big sister.

Anna may not be in the double digit age group yet, but she is coming into her own, nevertheless. I see her personality coming out more and more. Anna is not a drama queen or a princess. That just isn’t her style. She imageis a good girl who loves to help others, especially her parents. Anna is also a lot like her Great Aunt Caryn in that she is a deep thinker. She reasons things out in her own mind. She concentrates on the task at hand, or just on the thoughts running through her own head. Being a thinker and a concentrator can make people wonder about you. Some might think you are mad or that you are stand offish, when what you really are is deep in your own world of thoughts. Some people may not get that, but I get it, Anna, because you remind me of me…and I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. Maybe you will be a writer too, telling others about your own thoughts, memories, and family. Today is Anna’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Dad SchulenbergIt is so hard for me to believe that as of today, it has been three years since Walter Schulenberg, my father-in-law, left us to go to Heaven. For 38 years he had been such an integral part of my life. From the first time I met him, he made me feel welcome. It was as if I had been a part of this family all my life. My father-in-law had such a gentle, kind way about him. I really don’t think that there was a single person that ever considered him anything but a friend. He just wasn’t the kind of man to create enemies…just more and more friends. His laugh alone was a friend making machine.

My father-in-law worked assorted jobs over the years, but his last job before retiring scan0099was with Casper College, where he was officially in maintanence, but in reality he was a jack of all trades. I have to think that one of the jobs he did at the College, if you could call it a job, was to drive the bus for the T-Birds. He went on a number of trips with them, and saw some great places. He got to see the ocean again. It was not the first time by any means, but he did love the ocean, and really enjoyed walking in the sand with his bare feet, something you seldom saw anywhere else. He almost always had shoes on.

He was the kind of man who would go out of his way to help others, and did his best not to ask for anythng in scan0101return. Nevertheless, in his last few years, he and my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg needed help. He had Emphesyma and she had Alzheimer’s disease. The family stepped in to help, and I had the ability to be the main caregiver. I say ability, but in reality, it was a blessing to me. We became so close over those last years, and it is a time that, even though it was the ending days of his life, I still cherish. I wish those hadn’t been the last years of his life, but I am thankful for the close relationship my being over at their house so much created. He said I was a blessing to him, but I think it was the other way around. Dad, I can’t believe you have been gone for three years already. We love and miss you very much.

Reagan and Hattie Parmely among the giantsFor children who are raised around livestock, walking among the giants is not an unusual event…even when they are as young as one year old and just barely walking themselves. For those of us who are not around livestock on a daily basis, the thought of those little tiny children walking among those giant horses is not so common, and therefore a bit of a shock to our system when we see it. It’s not that I think that my niece, Ashley Parmely’s parents’ horses would hurt her girls, Reagan and Hattie, because they are obviously very gentle. No, what I really find amazing about seeing the girls with the horses is an absolute lack of fear. They have been raised around the horses, and the other animals they raise, so they know how to act around them. They know that the horses will be gentle to them, if they are gently toward the horses, and what I find especially sweet, is the instinctive gentleness the girls have around the horses.

So many kids tend to pet an animal roughly, pull on its tail, or even hit the animal, but Reagan and Hattie have a deep love for their horses, and they are so gentle with them. The horses, in kind, return that love back to the girls. Their feelings are just so obvious. You might not think that an animal can have a look of love Reagan and horseyon their face, but I think these horses do. I’m sure my nephew, Eric Parmely, and Ashley, his wife, have taken the necessary time to prepare the horses for these little girls to be around them, and especially on the ground near their feet, and I’m sure they have taught the girls how to act around the horses too. Still, how much teaching can a three year old and a one year old have had to have prepared them to be so gentle around these giants. Yet, they are just that…gentle, sweet, and loving toward the horses.

Animals can sense things about people. They know when people are afraid. They can tell when people will be mean. And they can tell when a person is kind and gentle. And I think that with Eric and Ashley’s little girls, Reagan and Hattie, the horses sense a loving kindness and a desire to care for the horses that many children just don’t possess. I don’t know if Ashley was always raised around horses or not, but for as long as this family has known her, she has been around her parents horses. To her they are a part of the family, and that is how she is raising her little girls too. It’s really no wonder that the girls are at ease around the horses, and the Hattie and horseyhorses around them. The girls probably seem like little sisters to them.

Nevertheless, I am still amazed that these two little girls are comfortable walking around with these giants. To me, the mere size of these horses would seem daunting if I were a girl as little as these girls. I love looking at these pictures though, because they portray a companionship that is very rare in the world I live in. I suppose that if I was raised on a ranch, maybe they would not seem so astonishing. And since, Reagan and Hattie will be raised in that environment, I suppose these are scenes that will not be so unusual. I think that these little girls will be very blessed to be comfortable, and yes, to just be allowed to walk among these giants.

Butch SchulenbergSometimes in life, we are handed a blessing that takes us by surprise. Such was the case with Uncle Butch Schulenberg. Butch is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half brother, and since my father-in-law’s passing, I have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know Butch, if only through Facebook. This is a fact that I’m sure my father-in-law would be quite pleased about. When my father-in-law passed away, we needed to let his family in Forsyth, Montana know. It was a hard time for all of us. Then, something very nice began to happen. I had connected via Facebook with Butch Schulenberg’s daughter, Andi Kay, and that has led to blessed connections with her brothers Todd and Heath, and her sister-in-law, Jennifer, as well as Butch’s wife, Charlys and their granddaughter Savannah. Each of those connections is a sweet blessing in it’s own way, and I am so thankful for each, but the connection to Butch as been especially wonderful, because of the kind of man he is.

Butch reminds me a lot of my grandfather, George Byer. He is an encouraging sort of man who always makes you feel important. I’m sure his kids and grandkids can attest to that, because I’m sure that over the years he has encouraged them in whatever they chose to do. Of course, being encourage is not the only reason I feel a closeness to Uncle Butch. It’s because he has just welcomed me into his family. Unfortunately, for many years, there was not a closeness between my husband’s grandfather, Andrew Schulenberg, and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, but when they decided to set aside those feelings and reconnect, that was for them the end of a long era of being distant from each other.

It is strange, however, that somehow, I was unaware of the relationship the half brothers had developed. It wasn’t until I was involved in taking care of my father-in-law, that I even knew that they were in touch with each other at all. Of course, it is no surprise that these two men would get along so well, because I believe they are two of a kind. It is a hard thing to fully express the personalities of these men, but gentleness, kindness, encouraging, and accepting are words that all come to my mind. These are attributes that really leave a person no choice but to like the person who has them…and these men have, or in my father-in-law’s case, had these attributes. They leave a person room to be their own person, knowing that the people they respect, also respect them enough to trust their judgment, and celebrate their successes. Even if the accomplishment isn’t anything major, these men could make it feel like it was. Can it get any better than that? I don’t think so.

I’m not saying that I crave praise, or that it is the praise that makes Butch special, because that would be inaccurate. It is just the person Butch is that makes his very dear to me. Every interaction I have with him Butch and Heath Schulenbergreiterates just how much I like the person he is. At some point, we are hoping to meet up and have an actual face to face conversation, with several of us in attendance, an idea that I am very much looking forward to. Still, for now, I am glad to have connected with him on Facebook, because it has given us the chance to get to know each other. This isn’t Butch’s birthday or any other special day that I know of, but rather just a chance for me to tell this sweet uncle just how glad I am that our families have connected…because he has been such a surprise blessing, and one I feel very thankful to have received. Of course, that blessing is nothing new to those who have known Butch all their lives. Thank you Butch for being an important part of my life, and the lives of all the people you touch with your gentle kindness. We love you!!

Aunt Mary-Carolyn Ingalls look-alikeEvery time I look at this picture of my great aunt, Mary Estella Pattan DeWitt, I marvel at just how much she looked like Karen Grassle…better known as Carolyn Ingalls of “The Little House On The Prairie” fame. Oh, I know it isn’t exact or anything, but I have to do a double take every time. I don’t recall an awful lot about my Great Aunt Mary, even though she passed away in 1996, giving me plenty of time to know her. And I did know her, but whenever the great aunts were around, so were a lot of other people. Everyone was talking at once, and there weren’t many times where you could just have a quiet conversation with someone, and I can’t guarantee that I would have had the forethought to ask her the right questions then. I was interested in the family history, but not to the degree that I am now.

Nevertheless, I believe that Aunt Mary was always a gentle spirit. Karen GrassleHer soft face and features tell me that she was. I don’t believe that the word kindness was missing from her thoughts either. She just looks to me to be the type of person who loved everyone around her in a very special way, and I think she might have truly been a lot like Carolyn Ingalls was. I don’t recall if I ever ate any of her cooking, but she was pretty famous for it…especially her pies. Her husband, Clinton Paul DeWitt loved her choke cherry pies so much he would even pit the cherries for her so it was easier to get to have the pie. While Aunt Mary didn’t really live during the same timeframe that the Little House series was about, I have a feeling Aunt Mary & Uncle Paulshe very much could have. She was a gentle soul, but she was not a weakling. She was a strong woman, who built her life into what it was. She didn’t just expect that things would be handed to her, while she did nothing. She worked hard on making her house a wonderful and welcoming home to be in.

It’s funny how there can be people in this world who look enough alike to be sisters…even though they are not related and even years apart in age. That is what happened with my Aunt Mary. While there is no relation that I know of, she and Karen Grassle could easily have been sisters, or some other close relationship. Other people may not see the resemblance that I see, so I’ll leave that confirmation up to each of you. As for me, she will always look like Carolyn Ingalls in these pictures.

Dad SchulenbergTime flies by so fast sometimes, and suddenly we find ourselves a year out from an event that shook our world…the death of a loved one. It was one year ago today that my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg passed away. He was a quiet, gentle man who loved his family more than anything else in the world. He hated the years when his job took him away from the family, because watching his children grow up was so important to him. From the time they were dating, he talked about when they would start having children. He knew that he wanted a little girl, just like his soon to be sister-in-law, Margee, who was just six months old when they got married. Of course, he wanted sons too, but he was smitten with those girls, and while his boys were his helpers, and he was very proud of both of them; his little girls were always his little princesses. That seems to be the way life is for daddies of daughters, and he was no exception to that rule.

I never met someone who was more excited to be a grandfather. When I was pregnant with Corrie, his first grandchild, he seemed to have been transferred back all those years to when his children were little. He often asked me how I was doing. He wanted to be sure I was comfortable…because I was carrying his first little grandbaby. He made it such an honor, both times I was pregnant. His children and grandchildren were so important in his life. In fact they Mom & Dad Schulenberg_editedwere the most important things in his life…with one exception…the love of his life, my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg.

From the time they started dating, he knew that there was no other girl for him. I have had the opportunity to read some of the letters they wrote back and forth while they were dating, and he was working in another town. He wanted nothing more than to marry her and take care of her for the rest of his life…and that was exactly what he did. All those years that they were together, he made sure she had what she needed. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, he gave up much of what he would like to have done, so he could take care of her. She was his world, and to him, giving up a few little things to make sure she was going to be alright, was only natural. As the years flew by, he devoted more and more time to taking care of her, and did more than he should have in those later years…I couldn’t get him to stop overdoing it. To him, it was so important that she was always going to be ok.

The hardest thing I think he ever had to do was when we had to put her in the nursing home. It had become obvious that we couldn’t keep her safe at home, and there was no other option. He really took that hard. He was so lonely. We did our best to take him to see her, but that was hard on him too. Then he went through a series of hospital stays in a short period of time, and they left him very weak. The hospital suggested that he go into a nursing home, and he was very much against it…at first. Then I talked to the nursing home my mother-in-law was in, and they said they could take him too and they could share a room. It was a perfect plan. He could see her, stay with her, and make sure she was alright, all while he was taken care of too. It seemed the perfect plan, and in a way, I guess it was…except for the fact that he just 84couldn’t bounce back from those bouts in the hospital, and would return 3 more times before it was over. The thing that was good for him was the fact that, not only could he be near the love of his life, but before he left us, he was able to see that she would be alright. He could see that the staff took good care of her. That last year was a really hard one for my father-in-law. He was getting tired of fighting COPD. It was a fight for every breath, and he knew he was losing that fight. Still, he could not go, without knowing that those he loved…especially the love of his life, were going to be ok. Dad left us a year ago today, and while we know that he isn’t suffering anymore, we still miss him very much. We love you Dad.

 

Isaac, who is the youngest son of my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve, has always seemed like the quiet one. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that Isaac isn’t all boy. He and his brothers are very rough and tumble. They are always wrestling around, and playing all the tough boy games that boys love. Issac may be the youngest of the 3 boys, but he is no quitter. He will take on his big brothers in any game.

There is one area of Isaac’s life that requires a little bit of a softer touch, however. That is in the area of his little baby sister, Aleesia. You can’t play rough with babies, and Isaac is definitely up for that challenge. Isaac has been the baby of the family for a long time, and he wanted to be the big brother for quite a while now. His big brothers got to be big brothers and now…finally it was his turn. And, think Isaac is doing a wonderful job as big brother.

For now Isaac and his big brothers will have to be gentle with Aleesia, because she is just a little girl, but I think she might want to get busy and grown up tough, because I think the day will come when they will decide that she can handle their type of play. Girls with brothers do tend to be tomboys sometimes…at least until their teens. Then I think Isaac will find himself in charge of making sure nobody picks on her…self appointed in charge.

Isaac is an all around good brother and tough guy, because being the youngest of 3 boys demands that you be able to handle yourself. I remember when he was pretty little, and the older boys still wrestled around with him. I guess with brothers, it’s get tough or cry. Now, mind you, they weren’t mean. It’s just that boys will be boys, and Isaac needed to figure that out right away. And it worked out really well, because all the boys are good friends, and on one thing they all agree…their sister, Aleesia is the best sister a guy could ever ask for. And I think Isaac is the best big brother a girl could ever ask for too.

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