Heaven

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When Dave Balcerzak married my niece, Chantel, he brought to the marriage two children, Keifer and Katy. Chantel also brought to the marriage two children, Jake and Siara. When they got married in 2002, the children were between the ages of 14 and 7 years. They instantly became a blended family, and they all got along very well. Dave really loves kids, and he was an excellent dad to Chantel’s kids, as well as to his own. It isn’t easy to raise kids, especially during the teenaged years, and it’s even harder to raise someone else’s kids, but Dave took it all in stride, and Chantel’s kids love him very much. They consider him really more their dad, than their own dad is.

One of the blessings of having children, is the entrance of the next generation…grandchildren. In a blended family, the grandchildren are also blended. The first grandchild to come along, was a bonus baby names Alice Green. She joined Chantel’s son Jake Harman’s family when he married Alice’s mom, Melanie. Alice took to Dave almost instantly. She adored him. Alice was soon joined by sister, Izabella Harman and brother, Jaxx Harman. Dave was relishing in grandfatherhood. Then, Dave’s son, Keifer and his wife, Katie welcomed their daughter, Reece Balcerzak. Reece gave the family a bit of a scare, by arriving quite early, but she was a fighter, and all went well. Chantel’s daughter, Siara and her husband, Nick Olsen gave birth to Alec Olsen, who after 3 months, went to live in Heaven, breaking the hearts of all of his family, who miss him very much. Finally, Dave’s daughter, Katy Balcerzak and her fiancé, Dylan Herr, gave birth to their son, Max. Dave and Chantel’s blended family is going through more blending, as the new grandchildren have arrived. Life is so sweet, when grandchildren are involved. I know that the future will bring more grandchildren, and great happiness to this wonderful blended family that Dave and Chantel have so lovingly created.

Dave has been a wonderful addition to our family. He has a heart of gold, and the capacity to love everyone, a trait that has endeared him to all of us. It’s not every parent who has the ability to love their step-children as much as their own children, but for Dave they are all his children, and he will give the best of himself for all of them, and the blessing he has been to them, is now being returned to him, many times over. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Father’s Day is a holiday that is harder for me since my dad and my father-in-law have gone to Heaven. Nevertheless, I feel very honored to have had the dads that I did. Both of my dads, Allen Spencer and Walt Schulenberg, were both men of honor, of whom we were all able to be so proud. They loved their families unconditionally, and we were so blessed to know them. I know they are both in Heaven now, and very happy. While we miss them, they are both doing so well, and are living in their reward. I can just picture them now…smiling, happy, well, and strong. I couldn’t ask for anything more for them.

As to Father’s Day…well, it has taken on a new meaning these days. Now, after thinking about the dad’s who aren’t with us, my thoughts center on the dads that are in my life today…my husband, Bob Schulenberg; sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce; and my grandson, Chris Petersen. All of the dads who are still with us are wonderful men, who love their families deeply. Their children are their greatest blessings. They are all great dads. The one thing I have noticed about these men is the different parenting styles. They are different, but all great dads, and in the end, they all have one thing in common. They love their families. No family could ask for anything more, because they already have the very best.

Life is hectic, whether these guys are retired or working. They are busy and yet they still find time to be there for the people they love. They are always doing things that make the lives of their families better. Each of these men are talented in different ways, and it is those talents that have blessed their families so much. Each was unique, and yet very special in their own ways, but each has endeared himself to me because of their special talents. I love the way they have enriched the lives of me, my kids, grandkids, and great granddaughter. I couldn’t ask for better men for any of us. Happy Father’s Day to the dads in my life, and to all the dads out there.

Just under seven months ago, my Aunt Virginia Beadle left us to go to Heaven. Whenever I think of her, I picture her sweet face, always smiling gently at me. She never said a harsh word to me or anyone else I know of either. Oh I suppose she did get angry or speak harshly at some point in her life, but not in her latter years…not that I know of. Aunt Virginia just always had a sweet disposition.

Aunt Virginia’s heart was with her family. She loved each of them dearly. Aunt Virginia had 5 children, one of whom, Christy passed away shortly after her birth in 1967; and one, Forrest, born in 1956, whom she adopted as a baby. Forrest passed away in 2005. Her other children were Stephen, born in 1962; Betsy, born in 1965; and Billy, born in 1969. She was very proud of all of her children, and loved them very much. Of course, with children, come the blessings of grandchildren and later, great grandchildren, and Aunt Virginia was very blessed in both of those areas too. She was also very blessed with some wonderful children-in-law, who took great care of her in her latter years. I am very proud of all of her family for the care they gave her. As a caregiver in the past, I know that while they never feel like a burden, taking care of a parent can be a very taxing task. You would never change a thing, but you find yourself very tired while you are working to care for a parent. Aunt Virginia was able to live mostly at the homes of her children in her latter years, and with the exception of a few short nursing home stays after an illness, she did not have to move into a nursing home permanently. As most of us know, that is something many people worry might happen to them when they get older.

Aunt Virginia was always a tiny little woman, very petite, and at least in her latter years, rather short. I don’t know what her height was when she was younger, but the last times I saw her, I remember thinking that she was the size of a 10 or 12 year old child. Nevertheless, don’t let her size fool you. She could handle her own, at least before time took away her strength. Still, she was able to walk and take care of her own needs for the most part right up until her passing. I know that I will always have great love and respect for my dear Aunt Virginia. Today is Aunt Virginia’s 90th birthday and her first one in Heaven. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Virginia. We love and miss you very much.

Mother’s Day has changed for me over the years, as it does for everyone as the years of their lives go by. I was very blessed to have two wonderful women on this earth to call “Mom,” one from my birth, and the other from my marriage. They both live in Heaven now, and I miss them both very much. Now, I find Mother’s Day a hard one to sometimes. While I am a mom, and my girls are moms, I don’t have a mom here on Earth to celebrate with. It leaves me feeling a bit empty, I guess. My moms were so special to me, and I loved them so much, and I know they are having a wonderful time in Heaven, but they aren’t here…and that makes all the difference.

My moms were both women of honor. They loved me and the rest of the family unconditionally. They taught us so many things over the years. They made us laugh, and cry a few times too. They were our disciplinarians, our nurses, teachers, chefs, and even our playmates. They were there when our lives seemed to be crashing down around us, and they were there when we were soaring above the clouds. The were our cheerleaders in ever adventure we chose to take…always telling us that we could make it. They picked us up when we fell, and made us realize that we could try again. They expected the best from us and gave us their best in return. They were the best moms ever, and I am better for having been their child. Thankfully they never asked for payment for what they did, because they are worth more than I could ever repay.

My girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce are both amazing moms too, and they have given us four beautiful grandchildren. The family continues to grow as we add fiancées, girlfriends, and boyfriends, as well as great grandchildren. And the blessing of all these new ones are great and wonderful. I love watching as my kids and grandkids go forward into their adult lives, living out their dreams. I realize just how awesome God has been in my life to give me such wonderful blessings. He has given me far more than I could ask or think of, just because He loves me. This Mother’s Day might be a little bit more lonely that others have, but the fact has not gone unnoticed to me that I am one blessed mom, grandma, daughter, and daughter-in-law.

Walt Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven, and sometimes that makes sense in my head, but most times, it just seems impossible. The years march on, and our lives get busy, and before we know it much more time has passed that we ever thought possible.

My father-in-law was a big part of my life…he was my second dad, and I was extremely blessed by both of my dads. They were different men in many ways, but they were also very similar in many ways too. That is probably what endeared my father-in-law to me in the first place. He had such a sweet and kind spirit. How could I have felt anything but welcome. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I found myself laughing at his antics every time. From the first time I met him, I felt like I was one of his kids too. Not everyone has the ability to make people feel that way, but Walt Schulenberg did.

Through the years, Dad could always be counted on to help with the many project a life produces. He never complained. He did it out of love…love for his kids and his grandkids, and later his great grandkids. His children blessed him with many of these, and he, in turn, blessed them with many treasures, material yes, but also the treasures of his heart and the love he had for them. We were all blessed by the love he had for us.

Dad was a hard working man. He was a loyal employee, and well liked by his bosses over the years. I think one of his favorite jobs was the one he had driving T-Birds of Casper College to many of their sporting evens and such. It gave him the opportunity travel around and still get paid for it…plus, he loved the kids. I think he always enjoyed young people, because they were so full of life. I think that is one of the things I loved most about my father-in-law…he was full of life. Life has been very different since he left us, and we miss him very much.

My dad…when I think of him, I always feel such a sense of pride in who he was. He had lived so great a life, seen so many things, gone places, and while many people might not think his life was so grand, I did. My dad, Allen Spencer, was born on April 27, 1924 in Superior, Wisconsin, to Allen and Anna (Schumacher) Spencer. He was the third of their four children, and one of two rather mischievous boys. The family owned a farm, and the children helped with the chores there. His dad worked for the Great Northern Railroad as a carpenter, building and repairing the seats on the train, and any other carpentry work needed. That fact gave the children Laura, William (Bill), Allen (my dad), and Ruth, the unique privilege of having a pass to ride the train for free, as a dependent of their dad, making their trips to school easier, though not without adventure. As I said, the boys were mischievous, and boarding the train in the normal, everyday way was just too boring. They boys hopped on the moving train, every chance they got, always hoping not to be caught and scolded. They were told repeatedly not to hop on the train, because it was unsafe, but they were boys, and they liked the danger.

Growing up, the train adventures weren’t the only ones the boys had, and probably not the most dangerous either. When dad was about 15 and his brother, Uncle Bill about 17, the boys decided to take the summer and go look for work. They didn’t make reservations at hotels, or have previously lined up jobs, but rather hit the road and did odd jobs in the towns they came across. One time there was no room in the local hotel, so the local sheriff allowed them to sleep in the jail…the first and last time either of them was in jail, as far as I know. If I know my dad and my uncle, they thought it was a great adventure…even though their mother would have been appalled. Or maybe she would have been grateful to the sheriff for keeping her boys off the street.

When Dad was 17, he left home to go work at Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California, building airplanes. I often wonder if it was his work there that made him a prime candidate for the position he held in World War II, as a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 based at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. I don’t know his thoughts on being in one of the countries where his ancestors had hailed from, but to my genealogist’s eyes, it would have been the best gift ever given…had it not been for the war, of course. To find himself in the “old stomping grounds” of many of his ancestors…well, it would have been beyond awesome. Dad, decided that he didn’t need much, and so he sent most of his pay home to be put in saving, telling his mom, that if she needed it, she was to use it, because he could always get a job when he got home. In war, times are tough, and Dad wanted to make sure that his family, back home in Superior was well and had enough money to get by. During his R and R time, Dad spent time in Miami, Florida and Galveston, Texas, and of course his training for service had taken place on several air bases across the United States. Dad had always loved to travel, so I’m sure his wanderer’s heart took great pleasure in the many locations he found himself in.

It was, in fact, his wanderer’s heart that brought him across the path of my Aunt Virginia and her husband at the time. She later introduced him to her sister and his future wife, my mom, Collene Byer. Mom was totally smitten by Dad, immediately thinking that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Before long, she loved him immensely, but she was a school girl, and had to wait a while to actually marry him. As was more common in those days, my dad was twelve years older than my mom, but theirs was a love that would last until his passing in 2007. Even after his passing, Mom had no desire to see anyone else. She just couldn’t imagine it. He was the only love of her life.

Dad never lost the love of travel, though his married life settled him first for several years in Superior, Wisconsin, and the for the rest of his life in Casper, Wyoming. He wanted to show his family the places he loved, most importantly the United States. He often told us that this was a beautiful country, and not only should we try to see it, we should drive, because you could see much more from the ground than from a plane. Of course, for most of us time constraints don’t allow for cross country drives, but after the flight to get there, we try to see the area surrounding our destination. Dad, I’m certain, would have viewed that type of travel with a measure of skepticism. Still, he loved to hear about our travels. He always seemed to have a far away look on his face, because he could picture the same place in his mind…you see, he had most likely been there before, and he was so happy that we had followed in his footsteps. Today would have been my dad’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. I know you and Mom are having a wonderful time. We love and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you again.

My aunt, Bonnie McDaniels often reminds me of my mom, Collene Spencer, who is her older sister. I don’t think it was as noticeable when they were younger girls, but later it became very obvious to me, and to many other people in the family. Aunt Bonnie and her siblings have long been close, but these days, their numbers are getting smaller, as more and more of them go home to Heaven. Aunt Bonnie’s husband, Uncle Jack among them. That has been hard on all of us, but especially Aunt Bonnie, who lost the love of her life when he went home. Still, her family is very close, and they are making sure that she has what she needs, and the she is not lonely.

Aunt Bonnie has always been a very hands on mom, grandma, and great grandma, and that has not stopped. Just the other day, my husband, Bob and I ran into Aunt Bonnie with her grandson, Peter, and his daughter at the mall. The smile on Aunt Bonnie’s told me that she was, as always, very excited and happy to be included in her grandchildren’s family. I’m not sure where they were headed in the mall, but due to her great granddaughter’s influence, I’m sure they were planning on some fun activities.

Aunt Bonnie and I have that “hands-on” grandparenting style in common. We wanted nothing more than to spend lots of time with our grandchildren. It is our opinion that kids need their grandparents as much as grandparents need their grandkids, and I know that many grandparents share that view. Aunt Bonnie has the added fun item for kids, of living out in the country. Her place is beautiful, and all of the family members who have been there, would agree. It’s like going out to a park along the river. Summertime at her house is beautiful. I’m so happy that she has such a beautiful sanctuary. I’m sure it is a very relaxing place to be. Today is Aunt Bonnie’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Bonnie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Today would have been my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s 89th birthday, but she went home to Heaven just over two years ago. She was born second of her parents’ 4 children. Her older brother Everett Knox passed away shortly after birth, due to a complicated birth, and the lack of medical assistance. The baby should have been taken by Caesarian section, but he was born at home and the doctor did not think the C-section was necessary…sadly. When grandma, Nettie Knox found out that she was pregnant again, she made up her mind not to take any chances with this Rainbow Baby. Grandma decided that she would go stay in the hospital for the last month of her pregnancy, until her baby arrived. She paid $5.00 a day for the privilege, and she would stay there for 40 days by the time her baby, my future mother-in-law was born.

I’m sure lots of people though her solution was extreme, but she did what she felt was prudent for the times. She never wanted to deliver another baby, so far from emergency medical services. As it turned out, her three daughters were born without incident. Nevertheless, her daughters were all born in a hospital. She wasn’t taking any chances.

My mother-in-law may not have had a rough beginning, but she would, nevertheless, remain an only child almost 15 years, before her sister, Linda joined the family. Margee would follow just over two years later. Many things have changed in the years since my mother-in-law was born. Home births have become less common, but they are making a comeback these days. Babies dying in childbirth are more rare now, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. I think that if all that happened to Grandma Knox today, she would still react to it in the same way as she did then. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 89th birthday. I’m thankful that she lived all those years ago, because if she hadn’t, my life would have been much different. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.

Five years is such a long time, and yet such a short time. I simply can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven that long. The day she left us is still vivid in my memory files. It is a picture I will never get out of my head. There are a few scenes in my head that are that way. I try not to focus on them. They don’t need to be re-run to keep their memory alive. I try to focus on the happier past…the memories of the good times with my mom.

Collene Spencer was a bit of a shy girl, but she knew a good looking man when she saw one. For her, falling in love with my dad was like breathing…and she never looked back. Mom didn’t really like school, so that was not something that had any hold on her. She wanted to be married and have a family. I don’t really know if that had been her dream, before she met my dad, but it certainly was after that meeting. Their honeymoon was a move East to Superior, Wisconsin where Dad’s family was from and still lived. Mom’s family liked the idea too, because it gave them someplace to go visit. It was a beautiful place to visit too, so that was a plus. While mom eventually wanted to and did move back, her family wished she had stayed, so they could justify more visits.

After having their first two daughters, Cheryl Masterson, and me in Superior, Mom and Dad had the rest, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock here in Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family mostly lives. I have always thought we were very blessed to have so much family around us. That has never really been made so clear as when we became orphans. That’s when family really means a lot. My sisters, and our families first and foremost, of course, but aunts, uncles, and especially cousins have stepped in too…making us feel loved and comforted. I will always miss my parents…until the day I join them in Heaven. They taught us so many things, and it is because of their upbringing that we are the women we are today. The best we can do is make them proud of the people their children have become. I can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven for five long years now. It seems an impossible number of years. While it seems just seconds ago to those who are there, mostly because that’s how eternity works, for the rest of us, the days feel much longer. We love and miss you Mom, and we can’t wait to see you again.

My Uncle Jack McDaniels was such a fun man. He was a jokester at heart, and he loved spending time with his family. On of the things he was very interested in was history. He loved to share that with his kids and even had a number of history books that reflected the stories he shared. I wish many of us had known about his knowledge of Casper history.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Bonnie had a beautiful place east of Casper, along the Platte River. There they raised their kids, Cindy and Michael. Uncle Jack loved tp teach Michael about cars and car racing. The two of them spent many hours tinkering on cars in the garage. It’s a great pastime for a father and son.

Uncle Jack loved the outdoors, and all outdoor sports. He loved to go hunting and fishing, as well as taking his family camping. That seemed to be a common thing among the men in our family. I’m sure that is why Uncle Jack fit in so well in our family. All of the aunts and uncles loved Uncle Jack. I can see why, because all of his nieces and nephews loved him too. He was sweet and funny, with a great sense of humor. My husband, Bob and I usually ran into Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack at the normal weekly hangout…Walmart. That seems to be the place we see most of our friends and family. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up and start adulting. A “date” is the weekly trip to the grocery store. I miss those times. I always looked forward to them. Today would have been my Uncle Jack’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jack. We love and miss you very much.

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