gift

11049518_10153434865744375_6157679234810072872_n1915199_10153821586879375_5784042149572805962_nResearching one’s family history can be rewarding in that you find out so much about your past, but it can also be rewarding in the present. Of course, I’m talking about connecting with family members that you never knew existed before. I am happy to say that my own family research has connected me with many cousins and other relatives in the years I have be searching. It would be impossible to list them all here, or at one time anyway, so I have to talk about different ones when I find something wonderful about them.

Today, because it’s her birthday, I began thinking about my second cousin once removed, Elizabeth Schumacher Nordquist. A few years ago when I stumbled upon the Schumacher side of my family, and we became friends, I began looking through all the relatives of my Schumacher cousins. It has opened up a whole new world for me. I wish I could spend time with all of them a lot, but distance prevents that, unfortunately. Nevertheless, Elizabeth is much like me in so many ways, and I feel a connection to her because of it. One of the things we are alike in, that has been such a blessing to me is the love of photography. Elizabeth is an excellent photographer, and when I look at her photos, I really feel like I am looking at the scene through her eyes. Not everyone has the ability to capture such amazing moments.

Her favorite subjects are her two beautiful daughters, Addi and Meadow, which is another way that we are alike, because I too have two daughters. She takes such amazing pictures of her girls, and when I look at them, and the fact that she has captured so much of who these girls are, I feel like I have known them all their lives, and yet, I have never met them. That is the mark of a great photographer…to bring out the essence of their subject. Of course, Elizabeth is also a pretty good storyteller. She has shared enough about her girls to where I can see their personalities in their faces when she photographs them. I suppose that is why their very essence comes out in the photographs, but all I can say is that for family who lives far away, she has given the gift of the ability to know her and her family even though we have never met in person.
12376479_10153797368429375_6312439742115764809_nAddi & Meadow
Elizabeth homeschools her girls, and that has been a blessing to the girls and to her sisters, Grace Oltman and Angel Pallas too, because Elizabeth has been able to babysit for them, and through that, I have been able to see pictures of Angel’s daughter, Hazel and Grace’s son, Hosea. Through Elizabeth’s eyes, and her photographic ability I have gained a connection to all of them. What an amazing gift Elizabeth has, and how very blessed I am to know her. Today is Elizabeth’s birthday. Happy birthday Elizabeth!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Evening in ParisAs I walked in to my bedroom today, my gaze landed on a bottle of perfume that sits on a shelf there. The bottle then took me back to my childhood years, because it always reminds me of the loving things my dad did for my mom. Evening In Paris Perfume by Bourjois, was a beautiful floral fragrance created by Ernest Beaux in 1928. It was reformulated by perfumers Jaques Polge and Francois Demachier, nearly fifty years later. The top notes are bergamot, apricot and peach, green notes and violet. The floral heart is composed of rose damascena, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, and orris. The base includes amber, musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. I have no idea how they managed to put all those ingredients together to come up with such a beautiful perfume, but they did. My mother, Collene Byer Spencer loved it, and my dad, Allen Spencer loved how it smelled on her. Dad would buy Evening in Paris for her on occasions like birthday, Christmas, and anniversaries. It was considered one of the most precious gifts he could give her.

After Mom’s passing on February 22, 2015, as my sisters and I were going through her things, we came across several bottles of the perfume, some were empty, others has a little bit in them, but we each were able to have one of those bottles. It didn’t matter if we wore that perfume or not, we knew that just having the bottle would remind us of our parents, and of the deep love they had for each other. That perfume had such sentimental value, and in fact, I don’t believe that any of us ever took any without permission. Some things are too precious to touch, and even kids understand that. They create a respect of their own, and are given a place of honor in the home and in your heart. That was the case with Evening in Paris perfume. Little girls love to get into their mother’s makeup and perfume, but I really think we understood that Evening in Paris was off limits…and not because we were afraid of the trouble we would get in. It’s like you are in awe of it or something.
Young Love
To this day, seeing that bottle of precious Evening in Paris perfume, makes me smile, because of the way my parents looked at each other when the package was opened. Mom always looked at Dad, just a little teary eyed, but with a great big smile on her face, and Dad looked like a little boy who had just brought his girlfriend her first rose. There was such a sense of pride that she loved the gift. He just felt good about it. He knew it was a special thing for her, and he hoped it was a surprise. She always acted like it was, whether she suspected it was coming or not. That was just their way. Theirs was a love without end, and they loved blessing each other with the best things they could give them, with the leader always being their love.

Grandpa & Grandma Byer as a young coupleEvery year, as Christmas approaches, people head out in search of the perfect gift for those they love. Sometimes the hunt can be brutal. You have asked for a list, but they can’t come up with anything, or you don’t ask for a list, and simply hope you know them well enough to know what they would like. Either way, there are times that you just can’t find something you are satisfied with. Other years you are a shopping guru. You fly through your list with ease, and before you know it you are done.

That is kind of how things were for my grandparents, when they were courting. They seriously found the best Christmas gift for each other…a honeymoon. Now, I don’t know if they got to got on any kind of a trip, but getting married on Christmas Eve meant that they got to start their life together for Christmas. Their first full day as husband and wife was Christmas Day. Not everyone would consider Christmas Eve to be the best day for a wedding, and I can understand that, with everything else that is going on during the Christmas season. My grandparents were of a different mind on that. For them, as for many people in those days, weddings tended to take place when the family was all gathered together. Christmas was a perfect time for that. So, since they wanted to get married anyway, the set it for Christmas Eve. That way, it didn’t interfere with Christmas Day.

It all seemed very practical I’m sure, but for my grandparents, I’m sure it felt quite different. Excitement over starting their new life together must have completely overshadowed the traditional Christmas celebrations. Waking up next to each other on that first Christmas morning, must have been like being a little kid rushing downstairs to see what Santa Clause brought them for Christmas…except you already knew. They gave each other a honeymoon for Christmas, as well as a whole new life. in that way, I can understand their decision to marry on Christmas Eve. And they aren’t alone in that choice either. My cousin Raylynn Richards Williams and Grandpa and Grandma her husband Doug felt the same way about a Christmas Eve wedding as our grandparents did so many years ago.

Maybe Raylynn and Doug chose Christmas Eve because Grandma and Grandpa did, or maybe they chose Christmas Eve because they liked that time of year. I’m not sure, but I’m sure that no matter the reason, if you choose to marry on Christmas Eve, you will have, as part of your honeymoon, the Christmas Day celebration, and that has to be special. I’m so thankful for my grandparents, who found each other, and started this wonderful family, of which I am a part. And for Raylynn and Doug, Happy Anniversary, and Merry Christmas, both Eve and Day.

Amy & Corrie with gifts they made for Jessica Lynn Christmas 1984With Christmas fast approaching, I am reminded of the Christmas of 1984. With their cousin Jessica Hadlock Sawdon, arriving shortly before Christmas, my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce wanted to do something special for her…even though they didn’t know then if the baby was a boy or a girl. We could have gone and purchased a blanket, an outfit, or a toy, but so could anyone else. The girls wanted their gift to be different from what everyone else was going to give. They were learning to crochet, and so it was decided that Corrie would make a blanket and Amy would make a bonnet. They worked very hard on their gifts, and on Christmas morning, they proved to be a stunning success. My girls beamed with pride at how their gifts were received.

Chris and Allyn Hadlock with blanket made for Jessica by CorrieSo often, these days, Christmas has become so commercialized that it often isn’t about the gift given, but rather about just how much was spent on it, that seems to matter. But, on that Christmas, for my girls, it was about their gift being made with love. Every stitch they put in the blanket and bonnet was a learning experience for them, and they couldn’t wait to see what their Aunt Allyn and Uncle Chris Hadlock thought of the gifts they had worked so hard on. Needless to say, the blanket and bonnet were very happily received. Their gift was a huge success, and no one gave a thought to how much money was or was not spent on it.

There were a lot of gifst given that day, and I’m sure that many were wonderful, and very much appreciated, but I also know that my sister, her husband, and now Jessi all remember the gifts that were made and given with love by two little girls who loved their new cousin very Allyn Hadlock with bonnet made for Jessica by Amymuch, even though they did not know her yet and in fact, didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. The things we do for people out of love, while not necessarily expensive, are often the most treasured of the many things we receive over the years. They can’t be measured in a monitary way, because they are indeed priceless.

As Christmas approaches, of course, the most important thing to remember is the reason for the season…Jesus…the Saviour of the world. Jesus was the greatest gift, but in today’s world, I think it is always a good idea to remember more than just the gifts we received, but rather the spirit in which they were given. Whenever we act in love, we give the greatest gift we could have given…ourselves. And that is priceless for sure.

Dad and MomBecause of my broken shoulder, and the fact that I am still taking an average on one pain pill a day, I can’t drive. My boss, Jim Stengel has been picking me up for work every day, and since I am back to work all day, and I can’t drive, I decided to take a walk during lunch. The cemetery is near my office, and so was a logical choice for a destination. As I walked, I took pictures of a large number of graves, because I am a member of the Find A Grave site that sets up memorials for people who have passed away, so their loved ones can add the information to family trees. That part of my walk was something that made me feel like I had accomplished something good, but it was something that happened a little later in the walk that I found to be so sweet that I had to share it.

During my walk, I stopped by my parents’ graves. I took a picture there, just because I often do. Maybe it’s to keep them close in my memory. I can’t really say. Then I straightened some of the flowers we have on their graves, and when I looked down, I noticed a nickel on the base of the headstone. There was no doubt in my mind where that nickel came from, because my niece Jenny Spethman, and her husband Steve often bring their children by to visit the grave of their baby sister, Laila, which is close by my parents’ grave. They never fail to stop at their great grandparents’ grave too. They loved them so much.

1374780_10200970626643807_1769404481_nIn the five years since their sister’s passing, Jenny and Steve’s children have come to the grave often, and since it is so close, they visit my parents’ graves too. During that time, I have seen so many gifts they have left for their great grandparents, whom they loved very much. They have left rocks, toy guns, cars, and now a nickel. There were many others too. They give the best of themselves. The things that mean the most to them, are the things that they want to share with their great grandparents. Our is a close family, and the great grandchildren were very close with their great grandparents. Loss is hard on everyone, but for the little kids, it is so much to accept. They often don’t exactly understand what happened…even when they know what death is, they still wonder when their loved one is coming home. Eventually they learn, especially when death becomes such a glaring reality, like the passing of their baby sister. Still, in their trusting heart, they know that their God has their loved ones, safe in His loving arms. To leave a gift on the headstone is another form of trust. They trust that God will tell their loved on about the gift they left, and about the love they feel for their loved one…forever.

imageSome would call that childlike innocence, believing in fairy tales, or even a child’s imagination, but I say that it is the faith of a child…unmarred by so many years of being told that God doesn’t do much in this day and age, that miracles are a thing of the past, or that we are on our own here. They are so close to God, that the world hasn’t had time to muddy the waters of their faith. They simply believe that their loving God cares about every little thing in their life, including the gift they wanted to give their great grandparents. Their faith is not spoiled by this world. They simply know that their God will tell their loved on that they love them…always and forever. That is the faith of a child, and it was so sweet for me to see. And all it took was a nickel left on a headstone.

Uncle Jim and Aunt DixieBonnie, Dixie, and SandyOver the years, my Aunt Dixie Richards has taken care of her grandchildren while her daughters and their husbands worked. Having done some babysitting for my kids, before and sometimes after school, I can attest to just how rewarding it is to play such an integral part in the upbringing of your grandchildren. It may not be that you are their disciplinarian or anything, but more than likely, their spoiler. Nevertheless, they will always know just how very much you love them. The relationship that develops from that time, that is so fleeting, will last a lifetime. I can’t think of another more amazing thing to do, aside maybe from raising your own children.

Aunt Dixie has the kind of heart that is perfect for caring for children. She has a gentle, loving spirit, and nurturing ways. It is easy to see that her grandchildren love her and their grandpa, my Uncle Jim dearly. They are very close to them, because they have spent time with them. That is a gift that not all grandchildren get to receive, and I find it very sad when they don’t, as do I’m sure, their grandparents, because grandparents know the value of being close to their grandchildren. Aunt Dixie has grandsons named Jacob Liegman, Gabe Williams, Gideon Williams, Noah Williams, and Jonah Williams (who lives in Heaven), but finally she was blessed with a granddaughter named Mayme Williams. Nevertheless, she loves each and every one of them.

Aunt Dixie was the eighth in a family in nine children, and because of the age difference between Aunt Dixie being born in 1943 and my Aunt Evelyn being born in 1928, the younger children were almost like a separate family. Add to that, the fact that the family had three daughters, a son, a daughter, a son, and three 11923207_1034484853252684_2593545910487408495_na11745538_1018708074830362_6157017772407383499_nadaughters, Aunt Dixie got to almost experience the middle child syndrome. I don’t think it was a negative thing back then, however. She was the middle of the younger three daughters. My mom, Collene Spencer was actually the middle child, being that girl between the two boys, but Aunt Dixie got to experience it a little bit too, as did Aunt Virginia, who was the middle of the older three daughters. It is an interesting position to be in, but not as interesting as being a grandmother, I’m sure. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

scan0110New TVsLet’s face it…we all love getting presents. Maybe it’s the excitement of finally seeing what it is, or maybe we kind of knew what we were getting anyway, but now we actually have it. Whatever the excitement is for you, you have to admit that you love getting presents. I think it all starts about the time that you are old enough to realize what those things in that toy box are used for, and then suddenly to connect that with the fact that once you tear off the paper on that box you are given, you will find a toy to add to your collection. For a kid that is among the greatest things that could possibly happen to you. I mean, toys are the best…right?

Then, came the day when you were give the inevitable gift of…clothes, for your birthday or Christmas!!! Your first thought was, “How lame is this!!” You might have even got a little bit annoyed, sad, or just downright mad. Of course, I seriously doubt if your parents were very happy with you…especially if you opened the gift in front a bunch of friends or family members, and then got mad. Parents tend to think your rudeness is not so special. Still, for many kids, getting clothes is the ultimate bummer. They know they need them, and really they like the clothes they get, but clothes just don’t qualify as a present!! It should be the number one rule of gift buying and giving. Don’t parents know this? I mean, they were kids once too…right? And if the kids are little enough, suddenly, the reality completely sinks in…their parents were never kids!!! Otherwise, they would know that you never buy clothes for a gift for a kid…never!!

Now, I know that as adults many of us have even requested clothes as a gift, but even then, you have to admit that the thrill of getting a gift can be lacking…just a little bit, when the gift is clothes. It doesn’t mean that you Wow!! Clothesscan0129don’t like the clothes. And I’m sure my girls and dad really did like them. In fact, I know that they all really liked the clothes they got!! Could it have been just a bad picture that revealed a face that was lacking in joy…you know, that, “wait!! I wasn’t ready” moment. At the very least, in the case of my dad, who would never have made mom think he didn’t like her gift, and as I said, he did. I know he did, because he wore that suit a lot. We all remember him in that one. So at least for him, I suspect it was a poorly timed picture. Nevertheless, the look on his face still strongly resembles that “clothes…really!!” look.

Corrie, Barry, & Amy in new pjsKids at ChristmasAs Christmas arrives, I am reminded of so many Christmases from the past. As a kid, I think the earliest memory I have of Christmas was the big celebration we always had when decorating the tree. The day we decorated the tree became a family party. We made snacks and played Christmas music. We sang Christmas carols, laughed, and munched. We always had a real tree in those days, because artificial trees didn’t exist, as far as I know. That meant that the first part of the evening was spent with my dad cutting the trunk of the tree to remove any unneeded height. The fragrance of the spruce tree filled the air. It was an incredible scent, and one that I still love to this day. The real tree lives in the past for my family now, and I can’t say that I’m totally sorry about that, because they are messy, and a fire hazard. I will take the trade off, and the fragrance of the spruce tree will have to live in my memory files.

Christmas eve was another family night, with singing, and of course, the one gift that we Alaskan ornament 2Alaskan ornament 1got to open that night…our new pajamas. I’m sure that was to add a nice fresh touch to the Christmas morning pictures, but it didn’t matter, because we loved getting those pajamas…and the excitement if opening just one gift on Christmas Eve was what it was all about anyway. These days with my children grown up, I’m not the one to give pajamas, although, we did it when our girls were little. Now they always know that at Grandma’s house, they will receive an ornament, so what is the mystery in that. Well, it is what kind of ornament, of course. I try very hard to be creative with those, and I think I did great this year. We had gone to Alaska on a cruise this past summer, and the kids all received an Alaskan ornament. I was so excited about those, that I had to get one of my own.

Christmas day always brought excitement and awe. It didn’t matter what you got, it was just so exciting to open the long anticipated gifts to see what you got. It always seemed that at this time of year, people were listening carefully so they could hear what you wanted, and then they headed out to get it and surprise you with it. 000_0016000_0031My favorite years were the ones where we got something extra special for my parents. It was amazing to surprise them with something they never expected that we could afford…like the toaster we got them when I was the only one with a job. The rest of the gifts were hand made. They were so shocked. Then there was the year that we were sending them on an Alaskan cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary. We got them a video camera for the trip. They were so excited. Yep, I think the best Christmases are the ones where you give amazing gifts. It is about giving rather than receiving. I guess that was how God felt too. After all, He gave us the greatest gift of all…Jesus. And that is the greatest Throwback Christmas of them all. Merry Christmas everyone and may the greatest blessings God has to offer be yours this Christmas and all year long.

Caryn Sue Spencer abt June 1956 editedCheryl getting ready to kiss CarynToday is my birthday. The last few days, I have been reflecting on my birthday, and my dad’s birthday just two days before mine, and how much I miss him, and what my parents mean to me. Your parents give you so much, as a baby. They supply everything you need, like food clothing, warmth, love…eveything. But before that, there was something more they did. It was something even greater…the greatest gift. They gave you life. How do you thank them for that? Oh, I know, my parents had me and my sisters, because they wanted a family, but it was their desire for a family that gave me life. It was likely something they gave little thought to…that this was a gift to me, but that is exactly what if feels like to me. The greatest gift.
Grandpa, Grandma, Caryn, Allen, and Cheryl_editedCollene, Cheryl, Hattie, Caryn, and George
When I arrived I was nurtured by my mom and dad. When I came home, I met my sister Cheryl, who loved me very much. Like me, she had been given the greatest gift our parents could give us…the gift of life. Because we lived so far away from my mom’s family then, my grandparents made the trip from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin to visit us, and share in the joy of our growing little family. Cheryl and I felt so blessed to have the happiest life there could possibly be. She and I played in our little world, mostly just the two of us, but also with our cousin, Pam, for the next three years in Superior, Wisconsin.

Our family moved back to Casper, where my sister, Caryl was added to our family, 3 years Caryn Schulenberg, Alena Stevens, Caryn Reed, Cheryl Masterson, Collene Spencer, Allyn Hadlock, Allen Spencerafter I was born. Then two years later, Alena, and two years after that, Allyn. Each of us had been given the same greatest gift from our parents. And along with that greatest gift, they had also given us another second greatest gift…the gift of siblings. My parents and my sisters have always been so dear to me. Our family has always been very close, and as it continues to grow, more and more blessings are added. With each new family member, by birth or by marriage, the greatest gift, keeps on giving. So today, on the anniversary of my birth, I want to thank my parents for giving me life. Your gift was so precious and loving…the greatest gift…ever.

 

Dad and LizIf there is one thing I can say about my niece, Liz, it is that she loves sports. In fact, there was a time she considered becoming a sportscaster. And she would have been a great one too, because I don’t know of anyone who knows more about their teams than Liz. And, I’m pretty sure she she keeps up with all the other teams too. Liz was a big sports fan, when everyone thought girls didn’t like sports…or was it just that girls were closet sports fans.

Liz is a fan of the Denver Broncos, which was something she was proud to share with her grandpa, my dad. Of course he wasn’t the only one who shared her love of the Broncos, but he was the one who was the most important to Liz. They shared a love of the Denver Broncos and the New York Yankees. It created a special kind of bond between them that no one else had. When the subject came around to either team and they were both in the room, it was their conversation, and no one else’s. That was never something any of us were jealous about. We all thought it was wonderful that Dad had someone who was so knowledgeable about sports to talk sports with. It was heartwarming to watch that, because as the dad of daughters and only 4 grandsons, there weren’t a lot of sports minded people around him. Liz was one person who understood the games, and could talk intelligently about it with my dad, and that was a greater gift than Liz can possibly know.
Elizabeth
I know that I certainly couldn’t do that, because until the Broncos went to their first Super Bowl, I liked the Broncos, but only in passing. And while I watch the Super Bowl every year, and I’m still a Die Hard Broncos Fan, I don’t watch much football on a weekly basis. Liz on the other hand watches the Denver Broncos, The Denver Nuggets, the New York Yankees, the Wyoming Cowboys, and of course, every game that Kelly Walsh plays…and those were just the ones I know of. There are many ways to describe Liz, but none so well as Grandpa’s Favorite Sports Fan. Today is Liz’s birthday. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!