gift

Becoming parents for the first time is such an amazing thing. You are in awe of the beautiful gift God has given you, and you can’t wait to see them grow and become the person they are destined to be. Today was that special day for my grandson, Chris Petersen, and his beautiful fiance, Karen Cruickshank, when their daughter, Cambree Miranda Petersen made her grand entrance into the world yesterday, May 30, 2018 at 4:35pm. She weighed in at 7 pounds 2 ounces. She was 19¼ inches long. She has soft wisps of brown hair, just like her parents did, and she is absolutely beautiful.

Cambree’s arrival has brought with it many changes in my family. Of course, Chris and Karen became parents, but also, my daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband, Kevin became grandparents. Their other son, Josh became an uncle. My daughter, Amy Royce and her husband, Travis became great aunt and great uncle, and their children, Shai and Caalab now have a 1st cousin once removed. My husband, Bob and I are now great grandparents. And of course, there were the same changes for Karen’s family for her parents Jenn and Jon Andreen, and Chad Cruickshank are now grandparents. And Cambree has multiple great grandparents, and even one great great grandmother. Her siblings, including Khloe Andreen are now aunts and uncles. It’s an exciting day for sure.

Cambree is a sweet little baby girl, who loves to cuddle with those holding her. She was wide awake, even after having a full day of work just being born. Everyone knows labor and delivery is a tough job on the mom, but the baby has a lot of work to do too, and it can be quite exhausting for those little babies. Nevertheless, Cambree was excited to see what was going on around her, so she had her eyes wide open. What I found really special is how she just snuggled up to her daddy. She knew his voice from hearing him talk before she was born, and she cuddled up to him as if to say, “That’s my Daddy!” I find it so amazing that these babies can know their parents voices from inside the womb and so quickly relate to it after their birth. Such a sweet bond to both mommy and daddy. When her mommy had her, Cambree was totally content. She would have snuggled up and stayed right there for the rest of the day. This pretty girl is a sweet combination of both of her parents, and we are just so in love with her. Cambree has a big family who all love her very much and we can’t wait for all the wonderful times to come. Congratulations to Karen and Chris, your beautiful little family is growing, and we are so excited for the future!! We are so happy for you!!

My Uncle Bill Spencer discovered genealogy by chance, when he came across a little black book that his mother, Anna Schumacher Spencer had. When he asked about it, she showed it to him. In the book was all she knew about her family’s history. I don’t know if my grandmother had an interest in the family history, but very little time to pursue it, or if it was passed down to her by someone else. Whatever the case may be, Uncle Bill was hooked on the family history from that time forward…an amazing feat for an 8 year old boy. It was a project he spent serious time on for all of his pre-dementia life. The family history and all the possible information were two things that were never far from his thoughts. His mind was obsessed with it.

The Spencer Family History researched by my Uncle Bill without the benefit of modern computer data assistance, spanned some 80+ years. He worked on it because of his own curiosity, at first. He traveled to spend time in court records rooms, searching for clues. He walked countless cemeteries, looking for the graves of his ancestors. He meticulously documented every picture, every find, and every news article he came across. He talked to aunts, uncles, and family friends, and wrote down their stories. He wanted to know everything…not just names and faces, but who these people were, and what their lives were about.

At some point, Uncle Bill’s obsession became Uncle Bill’s gift. He wanted to preserve the Spencer Family History to be passed down to all of the children of his multi-great grandparents. It was his legacy. He had such great love for the past, and really enjoyed researching history and ancestry. And his plan was to get the family history out to as many family members as he could. I have been amazed at how far it has gone across the United States and probably the world. I have come across a number of people who have all or part of Uncle Bill’s history. He made copies of it for anyone who asked, or showed an interest. These were all done by hand. Although, he did use a copier in the later years. His was a work of love for the future generations, who might find an interest someday, even if they didn’t seem interested now. While Uncle Bill’s mission seemed very much like an obsession, it was really a gift obsession. He was obsessed about giving it away. Few people have ever worked a lifetime on a gift that would be given away to people as yet unborn and unknown. It was a gift than was priceless to the receiver. Uncle Bill had given the very best of himself and poured it into the family history, and I for one feel very blessed to receive Uncle Bill’s gift. Today is my Uncle Bill’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The Christmas rush is behind us for another year. The gifts are purchased, and wrapped, and for many people, already opened. Christmas dinner is being prepared and families are gathering together. The house is filled with laughter and conversation and stomachs are growling just a bit as the aroma of the turkey fills the air. It’s hard to wait for the meal to be ready. It’s such a wonderful time to be sharing with family. Many people think of these big dinners as a lot of work, and it can be almost a relief to have them over, but really, they are a gift. All to quickly, children grow up and sometimes, move away, and before you can even blink, everything has changed. All the more reason to cherish the times you have, while you have them.

So much has changed since the Christmases of my youth, and while I wouldn’t go back, because then I wouldn’t have my precious daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and now the new little great grandbaby that is on the way in late spring 2018. But, I do wish my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer were still here. Having them in Heaven brings a little bit of a melancholy feeling to an otherwise cheerful season. Nevertheless, knowing that they are spending their days in Heaven with Jesus…the reason for this season, makes me feel very happy for them, even if I’m sad for me. It has been 10 Christmases since I have seen my dad, and 3 Christmases since I’ve seen my mom, as well as, 5 Christmases since I’ve seen my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. It’s odd, I suppose to think of how many Christmases they have been gone, but they were such a big part of what Christmas was for me, as well as every day of my life, that I find it really hard not to contemplate the fact that so much has changed in the years since they left, and just how much we miss them.

While the commercialized part of Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts from loved ones, it is the ultimate gift that really is what Christmas is all about. I don’t know what other people think about gift giving, but for me, it is God’s children imitating the Father. God gave us the ultimate gift, when He sent His son, and Jesus gave us the ultimate gift when He gave His life for us. We can never give a gift that could begin to compare to the precious gift that God gave us, but it is a show of our love for each other, and I know that makes God happy. He wanted His children to love each other, just as He so loved the world. I’m thankful for the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and for the price He later paid, because without Him none of us would receive Heaven when we passed away. That you Father for your precious gift, and thank you Jesus for paying my debt. Happy birthday Jesus. We love you!!

1977014_785573824840729_4512717937708797914_n13537721_1172142732850501_1713751929367062279_nSeldom does it seem like a person is truly the light of someone else’s life, but that is how my grand niece, Melanie Harman seemed to be for my grand nephew, Jake Harman, the first time I met her. I have to think Jake, while not old by any stretch of the imagination, thought that he would never meet that special someone who would truly complete him. It’s hard to imagine how a person can feel when they honestly think they will be alone in this life. We knew that Jake felt that way…not because he said it, but because it showed in how he was. That always made me sad, because I knew that Jake had something special to give to that person who could see something special in him, and it was hard to see that there didn’t seem to be someone out there who could see that.

Then Melanie came alone, and suddenly, Jake was complete. Melanie is such a sweet, loving girl, and when he is with her, Jake just blossoms. I suppose that sounds odd, in light of the fact that he is a man, but men can blossom too. They suddenly become the person that God had in mind for them to be. Melanie was truly a gift to Jake, from God, to bless his life in every way. Melanie brought with her, a daughter, Alice, who simply adores Jake, and now together, they have another daughter, Izabella, who is Jake’s mini-me. Life is suddenly good for both Jake and Melanie, and it will only get better and better every day, week, month, and year they spend together. 12278715_1030129097051866_7408744507240113633_n13325557_1150755371655904_8772301167133340237_nTheir love for each other is simply beautiful.

Melanie is loved by everyone in the family, and everyone who knows her. It’s easy to see that her special kind of personality has been such a sweet blessing for Jake, and that endears her to all of us. Jake has never been happier, and Melanie is the reason. She is an excellent mom to the girls, and they are so blessed to have her for their mom. Melanie couldn’t fit in this family any better, if she tried. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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, they set it for Christmas Eve, so 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!!

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