grandparents

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There are among us sometimes, people who are naturally humble. These aren’t beaten down people of no real worth, but rather people of great worth to those around them, but who somehow do their “good deeds” under the radar, and thereby go almost unnoticed. My Uncle Jim Richards is one of those people. His life in service to those around him really began at the very young age of just eight years. At that time, less than a year after losing his older brother Daile during the D-Day attack at Normandy, France, and with 12 remaining siblings, 4 of whom were younger than he was, Uncle Jim realized that his mother was going to need the help of her children to get through all this. Not many 8 year old boys would be able to grasp all that, but Uncle Jim wasn’t a typical 8 year old boy. He was the kind of boy, who saw a need, and went out of his way to meet that need. I suppose there might have been 8 year old boys who would want everyone to know what they had done for their family, but Uncle Jim wasn’t one of those 8 year old boys. He simply saw a need, and went forward to meet the need. That was his nature.

Uncle Jim was a hard worker, who was good at his job, but his first loyalty was always to his family. From boyhood, when he did what things he could to help the family financially, to the later years when a number of his siblings as well as him mom lived with him and his family when they needed to. He also helped out with my grandparents, who were his wife, my Aunt Dixie’s parents, as they got older and needed assistance. And then he became the chauffer for his grandchildren when his kids had worked and their kids needed a babysitter and a ride home from school. Of course, he couldn’t always do that, but when he retired, he took great pleasure in the time he spent being the “bus driver” for his grandchildren.

Uncle Jim has always had a quiet demeanor. He isn’t a really chatty person, but when he says something, it is always full of love and kindness. People think of him as a teddy bear type, because of his personality. I have to agree with them, because that is always the way I thought of him…not the teddy bear part, exactly, but when I heard that, I had to agree. Today is Uncle Jim’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every kid, at some time in their childhood has dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. For many it has to do with what their mom or dad does for a living…at least at first. Later, it might be their grandparents, a television personality, a favorite teacher, or a hero in town. They may not have any idea of what the job they think they want might entail, but because someone they admire does that job, it must be the best job in the world. As adults, we would probably groan at the idea of the job those little ones look upon as fabulous, but to them it is the greatest thing ever.

I remember my niece, Lindsay Moore, who wanted to be a firefighter, as did my grandson, Josh Petersen (who is still interested in firefighting), The funny thing about Lindsay was that her dad, my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock was a cop at the time. It’s funny, because Lindsay’s niece, Aurora Hadlock wants to be a police officer. It’s still in the family, she just chose the occupations of her grandpa, and uncle Jason Sawdon. Time will tell if Aurora fulfills her dream. After all, she is only 9 years old.

What’s is really interesting is when a child has such high hopes that the idea is way above their heads. Nevertheless, they keep their head up, looking at their goal…keeping it always before their eyes, until one day, they find themselves living that dream. Others never do follow the dream of their childhood, mostly because a new dream comes along that makes the old dream seem dull and boring. Sometimes it is from a life experience, such as my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely, who became a Labor and Delivery Nurse, after her first son was born. Or Lindsay, who tried firefighting, and decided that she wanted to go into Kinesiology, which is the study of the mechanics of body movements.

Some kids, like my husband Bob Schulenberg, his brother, Ron Schulenberg, nephews Barry Schulenberg, JD Parmely, and Eric Parmely, all went on to be mechanics like their dad and grandpa, Walt Schulenberg. Some futures, such as those of these men, seem to be in the blood, and that is ok too.

My aunt, Dixie Richards is the middle sister of the younger three sisters of my mom, Collene Spencer. My grandparents, George and Hattie Byer had nine children. The first three were girls, the second three were two boys with my mom in the middle, and the youngest three were girls. It would have been almost like having three families, except that there wasn’t any significant distance between the sets of three. Even without big distances between the sets of three, there was a number of years between the oldest and the youngest of the kids. That could have made a sibling distance too.

I’m sure that with any big family, the older children are often married before the younger ones are born or at least before they are very old. That can make the memories seem a little distant for the younger children. Fortunately for my mom’s family, they were pretty close, so the sisters and brothers stayed close too. That gave all the cousins the opportunity to be close too. I know of cousins that barely know each other, but my cousins are close. We may not see each other every day or week, but we are all friends. We care about each other. That’s what families should be, I think.

That sort of closeness is how Aunt Dixie’s family is too. They spend lots of time together. When Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim had some health issues, the kids rallied around them to take care of them. When their girls, Jeannie Liegman and Raylynn Williams needed babysitters, Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim watched the grandchildren. Their son Jim lives with them, which makes them feel good and safe. As people get older, it’s nice to have your kids near you, and it’s even nicer to have them want to help you. Of course, Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim are there for their kids too, no matter what the need…physical or emotional. That is what family is all about, and Aunt Dixie has created a close family. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, JD Parmely is a hard working man, who lives a quiet life in the house he purchased from his grandmother, Joann Schulenberg after his grandfather, Walt Schulenberg passed away. She was living in a nursing home by then, and the purchase allowed her to life out her days in peaceful happiness. I can’t imagine a better person to live in the house where we had all spent so many happy times. I think it felt like coming home for JD, because he had never known a time when his grandparents didn’t live there.

Those were happy days for little JD…for the most part. JD really didn’t life food when he was little. I remember that he made a face at almost everything. A pickier eater, there never was. I remember times when his mother, my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely resorted to M and Ms to get some calories into him. Thankfully, those days faded into the days when JD had a hollow leg, and needed a heavy duty platter of food to fill him up…after having seconds, of course.

I remember JD playing “horsey” on his grandpa leg, and loving every minute of it. He also loved being with his grandma, and being rocked to sleep on her lap. The good times JD had at the house that is now his home will always live in his memory. He helped his grandpa with his projects, and his uncles and his grandpa with work they were doing on cars. It was in this garage that JD learned the ropes on mechanics, as well as from his own dad, Keith Parmely in their garage at home. With all these mechanics in his background, I think it was pretty much a given that JD would grow up to become a mechanic, even going to college for mechanics in Arizona, before coming back home, where it wasn’t for “blazing hot.” JD loves his cars, and has about twelve of them at any given time, so having a double garage on his house makes it even more perfect for him. A double garage and the memories from his childhood…it doesn’t get better than that. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! have a great day!! We love you!!

My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen is studying to be a nurse. It was not her life’s dream, but rather a change that came about after spending years as a caregiver for both sets of her grandparents, Allen and Collene Spencer, and Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Corrie was a faithful team member and loving caregiver to them all. She was meticulous, loving, kind, and cheerful. Whether she knew it then or not, Corrie possessed all the traits of a successful CNA or nurse, except for the medical training that is. I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of what the future would bring. She knew she was good at caregiving, but did that doesn’t necessarily transfer to nursing. It doesn’t matter really, because God knew.

From the time Corrie was 15, she worked in one office or another…just 3 really, and she was very good at what she did. She married Kevin Petersen just a month and a half after her high school graduation. At that time, she wasn’t interested in college, but rather was looking forward to starting a family. She was content and her family was her whole world. Life went on and her boys, Chris and Josh grew, but when they were 10 and 8, my her grandpa became ill, and that started 13 years of caregiving, first for one grandparent and then for another. Our family “caregiving team” needed lots of help, because it really does take a village to take care of a person, and the hardest thing is to have a village of one or two. Corrie, her sister, Amy Royce, and their kids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen all became a part of that village, and we couldn’t have done what we did without each and every one of them.

When our village was no longer necessary, an event we wished had never come, Corrie began to feel like she needed a different career. God was leading her to make a career change. The time she had spent caring for her grandparents would change her forever. She prayed about it, and made the decision to follow God’s leading. She would have to trust Him to make a way, which He has in every way, and through every aspect of her training…because God knew it was right for her. Today is Corrie’s birthday!! Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Most national days that are designed to celebrate an activity or group, are just another day to most of us, but for me, and for many other family history buffs, Genealogy Day is different. I’m sure everybody has a day of celebration that hits home to them, but I know of so many people who are dedicated to tracing their family history. I’m sure everyone has different reasons for tracing their history…from adoptees finding their parents, to simply wanting to know which historical figures we are related to, many people are curious. Those of us who have begun this journey, find ourselves losing track of time as were research the proof of relationship between us and our ancestors. We get started, and the addiction sets in. It’s like a good book that we simply can’t put down.

All too often, by the time we think about researching our ancestors, any of our family members who might have any pertinent information are already gone. We find ourselves disgusted that we weren’t interested before that point. Of course, by then it is too late for us, unless someone else took the time to ask the questions, and record the information. That is where the family genealogists come into play. If you are blessed, you have a parent or grandparent that you can ask or who has written it all down for you, so you don’t end up in the sad situation of finding that you are hitting a wall in your research. Those of us who find ourselves in the self-appointed position of being the family historian or family genealogist are not sorry that this is what we do. It is exciting to come across an old picture that we never thought we would find, or a military draft registration card that contains the signature of our ancestor. Those things are like striking it rich in a gold mine.

People are busy, and we just don’t have a lot of time to dig through the past, but every now and then, people who happen to have a bit more time start digging around and sometimes find out the most fascinating facts about where their forefathers came from and what kind of people they were. Most people are a little bit curious, when someone brings the information to their attention, but some simply don’t think they care. I find the latter group to be the most sad. They simply don’t understand that they are missing out…until it’s too late.

Keeping track of one’s family lines has been going on for centuries…hence the wealth of information that is out there, but never has the information been easier to access that it is today. Computers, cell phone apps, digital pictures all make it easier to share what one has with another, without losing the treasure you have. In Western societies, genealogy was especially important to royalty, who used it to decide who was of noble descent and who was not, as well as who had the right to rule which geographical area, but I think everyone wants to kind a link to a royal line. The idea that our grandparents might be royalty is an exciting one…even if our royal family will never know who we are.

Genealogy Day was created in 2013, by Christ Church, United Presbyterian and Methodist in Limerick, Ireland to help celebrate the church’s 200th anniversary. For this day, Christ Church brought together local family history records not only from its own combined churches, but also from the area’s Church of Ireland parishes, including the Religious Society if Friends in Ireland (Quaker) and the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). The people in attendance could then use the amassed marriage and baptism records dating back to the early 1800s, such as Limerick Methodist Registers and Limerick Presbyterian Registers, to find out about their great-great-grandparents. The idea was so popular that it was repeated for the next two consecutive years and has inspired many people to take a look into their family tree to find out a bit more about where they come from. I think that Genealogy Day is a perfect day to dip your toe in the Genealogical waters, and see what you can find out about your own family. You might be surprised.

While most of the economy in Southeast Texas depended on agriculture, cattle ranching, and the lumber business in the 19th century, things were about to change. The presence of oil was known, but untapped until 1901 when the oil industry would change the landscape of the region. Uses for oil date back many years. In the 1500s, the Spanish used oil from seeps near Sabine Pass for caulking their ships, and to the north, settlers near Nacogdoches used seeping oil for lubricants before 1800. There were numerous discoveries in east and central Texas in the later 1800s, especially at Corsicana in 1896. Attempts were made to drill wells at Spindletop 1893 and 1896 and at Sour Lake in 1896, but they had no successful oil production along the Gulf Coast until the Lucas Gusher came in on Spindletop Hill on January 10, 1901.

Spindletop Hill was a salt dome oil field, that was located in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas. People had long suspected that oil might be under the hill as the area had been known for its sulfur springs and bubbling gas seepages that would ignite if lit. Then in August, 1892, several men including George W. O’Brien, George W. Carroll, and Pattillo Higgins formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company to do exploratory drilling on Spindletop Hill.

By September 1901, there were at least six successful wells on Gladys City Company lands. Wild speculation drove land prices around Spindletop to incredible heights. One man who had been trying to sell his tract there for $150 for three years sold his land for $20,000; the buyer promptly sold to another investor within fifteen minutes for $50,000. One well, representing an initial investment of under $10,000, was sold for $1,250,000. Legal entanglements and multimillion-dollar deals became almost commonplace. An estimated $235 million had been invested in oil that year in Texas; while some had made fortunes, others lost everything.

Following the success of the oil industry at Spindletop Hill, many people, including my grandparents, Allen and Anna Spencer would make their way to Texas in search of a better life. They would settle on the oilfields near Ranger, Texas. They didn’t find any oil fields, so their income came from his work for other people in the oilfields. These days people working in the oilfield business make good money, but as near as I can tell oilfield workers averaged about 90 cents an hour in 1919, which would be about $11.74 an hour today. That’s pretty poor wages, especially for the oilfield, but I suppose people didn’t realize how valuable they really were. Needless to say, the oilfield was not the place my grandfather would choose to make his living, and eventually they returned to Wisconsin where he went to work for the railroad.

My aunt, Sandy Pattan is the youngest of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s nine children. Because she is the youngest, she was at home while her older siblings were married. She got to witness the changes that occurred as each of her siblings married and moved into their own homes. Of course, she was very young when some of these changes occurred, and even found herself playing with her nieces and nephews, because they were close to her age. Because of that and the fact that she grew up having brothers and sisters-in-law, so also got to hear all the stories of their lives and their family’s lives.

That has largely made Aunt Sandy my go-to person or the family history stories. When Aunt Sandy was a little girl, Grandma and Grandpa Byer would tell her all the stories about the old days.Most of us don’t really take much of an interest in those stories as young people,mostly because we think there will always be time to hear all about it later. All too often, by the time we are finally interested, the people who now the stories are gone, and we find ourselves filled with regret, and there is nothing we can do about it. For that reason, I feel very blessed to have both opportunity and interest at the same time in my conversations with Aunt Sandy.

Aunt Sandy has such a caring heart. As I have spent time talking to Aunt Sandy we have really become quite close. We don’t have to be talking about anything specifically, we just enjoy talking. I love hearing about her sons, John and Jim; granddaughters, Ashley and Alicia; and her great grandson, Brian. And she loves to hear about my family too. She has been working on some remodeling on her house, and things are going well. She has also been going through boxes of old treasures. I love that. You never know what you will find. Aunt Sandy has come across old family pictures, and other treasures too. It is exciting, and I love hearing all about it. That is one of the many things we have in common. Of course, if you ask me, she is the real treasure. Today is Aunt Sandy’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As American became populated, the immigrants brought with them, so much more than their belongings. I recently received my copy of the “Wisconsin Magazine of History” from the Wisconsin Historical Society, of which I am a member, and one of the cover stories was entitled, “German Brewing in Early Wisconsin.” Because I come from a strong German background, and was born in Wisconsin, this story was of particular interest to me. It seems that, while beer brewing in the United States began with the English, in the mid-1800s, but beer drinking was common in much of Europe, and in all levels of society, which surprised me some. We tend to expect that, higher society people would never drink beer, but the reality is that that is only in more recent years. The reality is that because on the lack of knowledge of sanitation and disease causing pathogens, many of the drinks people could make out of ordinary water really weren’t very safe to drink. Beer, on the other hand because it had to be boiled and fermented, did away with all those organisms, making it safe to drink. That made beer a very common drink by the Middle Ages. It was even given to the children.

Upon reading this, I wondered if my German great grandparents made beer in their home. I thought about the journal my Aunt Bertha Schumacher had written, but she never mentioned beer. I suppose it could have been because it was so common in the home, that it never occurred to her. Or could it have been because they were the exception to the rule, and didn’t really drink beer in their household. It’s hard to say, but when something is as much a cultural and traditional practice, it seems to me unlikely that they would not have done thing in the same way their families did at home. After studying German in high school, I knew that beer was talked about in many of the dialogues we learned. It just seemed to me, like it was a way to learn the words, and now a way of life, but perhaps I had been wrong on that. I suppose it could have been that because family meals in the United States, these days anyway, did not include beer, wine, or any other alcoholic drink of any kind, on a regular basis, was pretty much unheard of. It just didn’t seem like an normal activity, but in the time that my German great grandparents immigrated to the United States, drinking beer was very normal, so I have no reason to believe that they didn’t drink it, just like everyone else.

When the German immigrants arrived in America, they were required to brew their own beer. Since wheat was abundant, barley and hops easy to grow, they had no problem making their beer. I must wonder if they used whet at that time, though, because the German recipe did not include wheat, because it was needed for bread in Germany, and it wasn’t as abundant as it was in the United States. The east coast with its heat and long growing season, didn’t make a good brewing climate. When the people moved to Wisconsin, they found the climate, especially in the Milwaukee area was perfect, and I suppose the rest is history, for German beer and for Milwaukee.

Yesterday, August 3, 2018, at precisely 7:45am, Miss Elliott Michelle Stevens made her grand entrance into the world. Elliott, who will likely be nicknamed El or Elli, is the daughter and first child of my nephew, Garrett Stevens and his lovely wife, Kayla Smiley Stevens. Elliott is the first grandchild on both sides of their families, and so will be “spoiled” by grandmothers, Alena Stevens and Lynnette Smiley, as well as grandfathers, Mike Stevens and Wes Smiley. She also has three aunts, Michelle Stevens, Lacey Stevens, and Lexi Smiley, who all became aunts the moment Elliot arrived. Elliot has changed a lot of lives, and all she did was to be born. It was a big job, but Elliott was up to the task.

Elliott is a pretty little girl, who likes to suck her thumb a little. Time will tell if that becomes a habit. She is a good baby, who doesn’t seem to cry much. She will find her voice, I’m sure, but for now, she is just relaxing and enjoying her new world and all the loving grandparents and great grandmother she has found there. Little does she know that there are many other family members who are waiting excitedly to meet her too. She has been born into a much larger family than she could possibly imagine, but those meetings will come in time. For now, she is just enjoying a few family members, and especially her parents, who are still marveling at the little blessing they have been given. And while Kayla and Garrett have become something their siblings are not…parents, their siblings have also become something they are not…aunts.

Time will tell who little Elliott will look like, and we all see similarities between her and her family members, but she will change quite a lot over the next few months and more similarities will begin to show. We will see an expression here, a facial shape there, and hair color will also begin to tell the tale. As she finds her voice, we might discover that she laughs like one person, or her voice sounds like another…it might even be an aunt or grandmother…or even a great aunt or uncle. Babies are amazing that way. They are created by God from the traits He ordains in their family DNA to be the perfect little person, unique and yet similar. I can’t wait to see who little Elliott Michelle will resemble as she grows. No matter who it is, she will be beautiful, just as she is right now, because she comes from two beautiful parents. Welcome to the world, Elliott Michelle, and to our family. We love you so much already!!

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