in-laws

My sister, Allyn Hadlock and her husband, Chris recently inherited the land his parents had owned, and the home where Chris grew up. The house was old, and had to be torn down, but they built a beautiful new home in its place. The move was a dream come true for Chris, to live in his childhood home again after his parents passed, but while my sister loved her in-laws very much, I was still surprised to see the joyous transformation that occurred in her when they began the work. Allyn has always been all about family, and she loved her in-laws very much, but this was different. It was like she became a kid again, just like Chris had done at the prospect of living in his childhood home again. They really love it out there in the country, by the river. It’s peaceful and they have plenty of space for the kids to run around and have fun.

The home is done now, and they are living there. The child-like elation has very much continued. At Christmas, they hosted the family Christmas party, and we all had a great time, but it was more than that. Recently, they had a gathering of their family at the house, and the reality hit me. They had started their second childhood. With the recent snows, and the perfect sledding hill right in their back yard. Having the kids out to go sledding is a pretty normal activity, but the grandparents don’t always get out there to go sledding with the kids. Still, its not like my sister and her husband are…old. She is seven years younger than I am, and my husband, Bob and I love to hike…some pretty difficult trails. That said, while physically, I could go sledding, I’ve never particularly been a snow and cold kind of person, so sledding is not an activity that is on my radar, but it apparently is something that is on their radar, and they truly love doing it. That’s obvious.

Nevertheless, for my sister and her husband, who have a number of smaller grandchildren, it was the perfect kind of day. Looking at all the pictures my nieces, Jessi Sawdon and Kellie Hadlock took, and the stories they told, I could clearly see that the day was very special to all of them. My sister is all about her family. She is a wonderful mom and grandma, as well as a wonderful wife to Chris. They have a great place now, out in the country with a great hill to sled on and the river nearby for summer fun. It is a dream come true for both of them, and I am very happy they have this place, I also know that Chris’ parents would be thrilled to see their home continue to be home to their family. They would love that the children are back running around the place having the time of their lives. And I think they would be smiling. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Jim and Aunt Dixie have had a place on Squaw Creek Road on the western edge of Casper, Wyoming. Here they raised their kids, and had some chickens and such. Over the years they also ran a daycare, which took in mostly family members’ kids, giving the young parents in the family peace of mind. Of course, Uncle Jim worked outside of the daycare, but he made enough of an appearance, that the kids all knew and loved him. I can see that, because Uncle Jim is like a big teddy bear. I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t like my gentle uncle. He is a very loveable guy.

I think the greatest lesson Uncle Jim ever taught his kids, and any other kids around him is to have values and to live up to those values. Always do the right thing, and you will never have to live with regret. I think one of the greatest testaments to the nature of a man is the amount of respect given to them by those around them. Uncle Jim is a man of deep core values, and that is very likely why everyone has such great respect for him. He always makes sure that he does the right things. His core beliefs wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

Among those values, and probably at the top of the list…family comes first. Whether it was his family, his parents and siblings families, or his in-laws families, family is everything. If your family has a need, you do your best to help fill it…no matter what it is, from a place to live, to fixing something that is broken. Sometimes the greatest need someone has is simply a need for words of wisdom or kindness. Uncle Jim has always been quick to offer those words too…not in a pushy way, but rather just helpful words, when asked. Uncle Jim was and is a man people can count on, and that says a lot about a man. Today is Uncle Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

We have all made plans for the future we wanted to have, and truly, expected to have, only to have something happen that changed everything. Our plans as kids and young people are often the first plans to change, as we grow up and decide our plans were just not for us. Then, we decide that we want a whole new life plan. Still, sometimes, it isn’t something tragic or amazing, but rather just something that changes the way we see things…changes our priorities.

As a girl I wanted to be a school teacher…of high school, no less. These days I can’t imagine teaching high school, but I still have a knack for teaching people things. I think I would prefer adult students, and technology as a subject…if I were going to teach, but then I don’t have all the necessary training for that field either. After having a family and raising our girls to junior high, I went back to work, and a year later became an insurance agent. I had found my niche. I understood insurance, and therefore, I was a good insurance agent. I thought this would be my career for life, and I was correct in that, since I have been an agent for 30 years, and retired from insurance May 1, 2019.

Nevertheless, life took some unexpected turns that made me realize that sometimes, we can possess talents that we didn’t know we had. Talents that come out at a time of extreme urgency. That is what happened with me. When my dad, Allen Spencer got sick with Pancreatitis. That would begin a journey of caregiving that lasted over twelve years, and took place in conjunction with my insurance career, causing me to miss many hours of work. I was one of the caregivers who were blessed with a boss who allowed me to do what I needed to do. Not many jobs give you that kind of freedom. It is something I will be forever grateful for. It was during these years that I discovered that I had a knack for the medical world, and had I considered it, I probably could have been a good nurse. Unfortunately, it was too late in life for that and I was too busy, plus I liked my insurance career.

During the years of caregiving, which I shared with my sisters, in-laws, children and grandchildren, and after my dad passed away, but I was still caring for my mom, Collene Spencer, and my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, I found myself needing a form of creative release. My daughter, Corrie Petersen suggested that I start a blog. She helped my get started and then introduced me to “The Ultimate Blog Challenge,” which inspired me to write every day, something I have been doing for almost ten years now. So began a “career” of writing a blog every day. It was a way to step outside myself and my busy life and to hopefully a chance to write interesting stories for my readers. It’s strange where life takes you. The twists and turns that help you find yourself and your talents in ways you never expected. Twists and turns that change your life into something so different from what you thought it would be.

World War II had been ended four years earlier, and people were getting back to their lives. The year was 1949, and the date was June 6th. My future in-laws had other things on their minds. Today, June 6, 1949 was the day they would be married. I wonder if they were even aware of the significance of the day, but if they were, I’m sure they paused for a few moments to remember the men who that very day, just five years earlier, when one of the biggest operations in World War II was carried out. The war was over, but the aftermath was still very fresh on everyone’s minds. Still, life goes on, and while we commemorate the important days in history, we can’t usually avoid of all of them when it comes to life events that come after.

Weddings in those days were not the elaborate affairs they often are today, but rather were set to times when people might already be planning to be in town. My mother-in-law, Joanne (Knox) Schulenberg wore a simple light peach colored dress and flat shoes. For those who don’t know my mother-in-law, seeing her in a dress of any style was amazing, because she practically lived on a horse, and dresses simply weren’t done. I never saw her in high heels, or any kind of a heel at all, so the flat white Mary Jane type of shoe was as dressy as it gets. My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, was equally out of character for his wardrobe style. He didn’t usually wear a suit unless he was going to a funeral. For that reason, seeing them dressed up shows just how special this day was to them. Of course, people in those days didn’t get married in some of the outlandishly casual outfits that we sometime see these days.

The day turned out beautifully, and while I’m not sure if theirs was an outdoor wedding or not, I rather doubt it, because in those days, you didn’t see very many of those, but I could be wrong too. Nevertheless, the day was sunny and without rain, and the wedding went off without a hitch, and their married life began. They would go on to have six children, four girls and two boys. Life would take the family from Forsyth, Montana to Casper, Wyoming in the end. While Dad left us in May of 2013, Mom was with us until January of 2018. Their love was never ending. Today would have been their 70th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary in Heaven, Mom and Dad. We love and miss you very much.

For the first 51 years of my life, my birthday was always celebrated with my dad. It was our tradition. I was supposed to be born on his birthday anyway, and what difference did two days make…for birthday parties anyway. We always like having our party together. Now that Dad is in Heaven, we can no longer do that, on Earth anyway, and believe me…it has been a long ten years. He is always in my thoughts on my birthday, and every day, as is my mom.

I think that as we get older, our birthday becomes a day to reflect on all the blessings we have been given. In my mind, there is no greater blessing than the parents who have me life in the first place. I just couldn’t have asked for better parents than they were. They taught me all of life’s important lessons…the ones I needed to know to become an independent and responsible woman, and trust me when I say that I was not always the easiest student. I would not be where I am today, were it not for them. I am also thankful for my sweet sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock…and for their families. We always had each other, and we knew that we always would. I knew I could count on them…no matter what.

As I grew up, I met the love of my life, Bob Schulenberg. He is my support system through everything life brings my way. When he took our wedding vows over 42 years ago, he meant every word, and he has kept every vow perfectly. He has been a huge blessing in my life. He is the father of my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. My girls…wow!! Where do I begin? Besides being the wonderful children they were and the beautiful women they have become, they were always there, willing to do whatever was needed, especially in the years while we were taking care of their grandparents. We couldn’t have done it without them. Caregiving is truly a unique situation, and anyone who has done it knows that it definitely takes a village. My girls were an intricate part of that village, as were their husbands, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who both sacrificed so much time with their wives and children so they could be there for their grandparents. My grandchildren…another wow! How many children, ten and under, willing come in and become CNAs in every sense of the word…and do it well. None I can think of. Each of my grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, are more of a blessing to me than they can ever know. I want my family to know that I am so proud of each and every one of you.

And no reflection over one’s life would be complete without considering the blessing of loving in-laws. Bob’s parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg became like a second set of parents to me, and with my marriage I also gained four sweet sisters-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg, Debbie Cook, Jennifer Parmely, and Brenda Schulenberg, as well as a brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg. They, along with their families have made my life complete. As my birthday arrives, it is with sadness, because of those who are in Heaven now, but also with a deep understanding of just how very blessed my life has been. I thank God for each and everyone of my family members, as well as wonderful friends, like Jim and Julie Stengel, Carrie Beauchamp, and Becky Thorne, who have also been a great part of what makes my life blessed. Looking at my past, I know that I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s perfect just the way it is. Life doesn’t get sweeter than this.

Uncle George 1George & Evelyn Hushman, Collene & Allen SpencerMy uncle, George Hushman, became the first in-law in my mom’s family, when he married her sister, Evelyn Byer. He was a novelty, I suppose. I know that is how the younger siblings always feel when it comes to brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law. It all new and fun, and the younger siblings are always made to feel special. Funny thing about little kids, each new family member is as awesome as the last, but somehow that first one always holds a special place in their hearts. It’s like suddenly their horizons are broader. They learn about the fact that there are people outside their little world, who somehow fit into their little world. Then too, as the new children come along and subsequent in-laws are added, the love in the family just seems to grow everyday.

That is how my sisters and I have always felt about Uncle George. I guess it was because we were close in age to their kids, and Mom and Dad were friends with Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, as well as siblings. Our families did things together, and the two couples did things together, such as bowling. It was their weekly outing, and they always had such a good time. I suppose that is how bowing became a family tradition. It seems that if you enjoy a sport, you pass it down to your kids. Many of both families have bowled at one time or another, and some continue to do so, such as my husband, Bob Schulenberg and me.

Many a New Year’s Eve party included Aunt Evelyn, Uncle George, and their kids, and we always had a great time. My parents liked having a party, because the 1st of January is my mother’s birthday. It seemed a perfect 11659345_855308061171967_8774953698497382717_n11202968_10204229033315109_1124465696470701278_nreason to have a big bash. And my sisters and I always felt like it was a better party when the families got together for it…especially if they brought the kids. I’m not sure how some people might have felt about that part, but Mom and Dad always wanted to include the kids, and I think their families appreciated that. I mean, how many New Year’s Eve parties include the kids? Very few. I know that as kids, whenever Aunt Evelyn, Uncle George and their kids were over…it was a good time. Today is Uncle George’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Anna and AllenAllen, Laura, & Bill SpencerMost cars, these days, have a fairly streamlined design. Much of this is to make them more fuel efficient, and to make the ride less wind resistant, and therefore smoother, I’m sure. It wasn’t always that way, however. For a time, running boards were quite fashionable, and most cars had them. I never could really see the draw to that, because in reality, actually stepping on the running boards, to get into the car, loosens them, and will eventually cause them to need to be reinforced. I suppose my opinion on this comes from my 41 years married to a mechanic, but it is nevertheless, a reality. Many of the cars from my parents’ and in-laws’ era had running boards, especially the pickups, but it is something that is not seen as much these days, and if it is, it is usually something that was added later on, and as I said, not really for use as a way to enter the vehicle, but rather for show.

Be that as it may, running boards were something that used to be important, so they say, because of the fact that vehicles were higher off the ground back in the day, than they are now. The fashionable running boards of this day and age are pretty narrow, and really aren’t very much like the old ones at all. The old running boards were wide, and could easily be used for a seat, or even to give enough room for an adult to lie down on them. I remember my mom telling me about one of her brothers who used to take an afternoon nap out on the running board of my grandfather’s car. I always thought that was rather comical, but she used to say that her dad always had to walk around the car to make sure there wasn’t a kid on the running board on the other side, before he could leave for wherever he was going.

It also seems that the running boards of a car make a great place to gather the family for pictures, because scan0031 (2)CCI06282012_00002_editedthere are pictures of people sitting or standing on the running boards among my family’s pictures, as well as Bob’s family’s pictures. The car seems to have been the backdrop of choice at that time. I suppose it ‘s not so different today. People like their cars, and they are a part of life, with or without running boards, so why not include them in your pictures sometimes…especially if they are a hot car, which I’m sure was the case at the time, even if we wouldn’t think so these days. The look of cars changes from era to era, and while the big clunkers of old, were not the sporty cars of today, they were cool then.

Esther Hein - 1946My husband, Bob’s Aunt Esther is the half sister of his dad, Walt Schulenberg. Times were different when Esther was a little girl, and children who lived in the country in northern states often stayed with families that lived in town during the winter because getting to school from the farm wasn’t always easy. Such was the case with Esther, and the family she stayed with was her older brother’s family, my future in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Walt and Joann hadn’t been married very long, but they took on the challenge of a school aged child to help out the family.

I’m sure that as with any child, my mother-in-law found the challenge of a school aged sister-in-law a little problematic at times. She once said to me, “Don’t Esther!!”, when she was frustrated that I was making her go to bed, after Alzheimer’s Disease had made it necessary to help her with these daily tasks. She doesn’t very often mistake me for someone else, but I must say that on that occasion, it was pretty funny to be mistaken for Esther, and from way back when she was getting in trouble for horsing around or some other such mischief. I told Esther, that it was nice to have someone else get the blame for once.

Esther told me once that she had always considered my father-in-law, Walt to be a second dad to her. I suppose that would be true considering that she lived with them. Esther looked up to both her brother and her sister-in-law, and often called them to visit or ask for advise. It was quite hard on her when my father-in-law was very ill, and my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m sure it felt like she was losing her parents all over again. I can relate to that, since they have been my second parents for the past 39 years. You grow close, and you don’t think that you will ever lose them…until you do. With her older brother gone now, Esther has felt a loneliness that probably will never go away…and I hate that, because she always had such a sweet smile and delightful laugh, and it hurts to know that she is sad.
Esther Hein - 1955
My first encounter with Esther was shortly after Bob and I were married. Bob had asked me to cut his hair, and I had never cut a man’s hair before. Needless to say, it was horrible, and our wedding was just a couple of days away. When I met Esther, the haircut was still fresh on our minds, and after telling the story, she laughed about the whole thing and offered to teach me how to cut it correctly. What a lifesaver that was. I have been cutting Bob’s hair ever since, and every time I do, I think of Esther, and how she taught me to cut it. I think I do a pretty good job these days, and Bob must too, because he continues to let me get near him with the hair trimming scissors. Today is Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Military 20131Many men and women have served in the military over the centuries, since the United States became a nation, and in the years that we fought for our independence. The weapons they used are as varied as they are, but no less deadly to the enemy. Their uniforms are different, and some may seem very strange to us, but each is easily recognizable as a military uniform, and you knew that they had served their country. Each has made the sacrifice…leaving loved ones behind at home, to go off and fight in a battle that in many cases didn’t seem like it was their own, yet they had to go, because they couldn’t leave those oppressed people to battle on their own, because they knew it was a battle they could not win alone. They went, because it was a matter of duty. It was a duty they could not ignore…their hearts would not let them ignore.

Today’s military is not a required job, there is no draft, although there could be if it became necessary, and our young men are required to register for the draft when they turn eighteen, just in case a draft became necessary. Nevertheless, today’s military men and women choose to take on the causes of a war ridden world, because they can’t bear to leave a people or nations unprotected. That takes a special kind of person…that one who puts themselves in harm’s way…by choice. They are a person to be admired and respected. I don’t say that those who do not join have done anything wrong, because they have not, but like the police officer, EMT, and fire fighter, this unique group of men and women have taken up a cause, and made it their own.

My dad, and many of my aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and cousins fall into that category of military personnel, and I am proud of each and every one of them for all they have done to make this world a little bit safer place. Their sacrifice has not gone unnoticed, nor will it ever be forgotten. Today, I want to thank all veterans everywhere, living and dead, for the sacrifice you have made to give me and all other Americans the freedoms that we enjoy, and to make this world a little bit safer for all the people who live in it. I know I can’t picture all of you, as you so richly deserve, but know that you are remembered, whether you are pictured here or not. Thank you all for your service!!  God bless each and every one of you!!

Smile for the CameraFive GenerationsThroughout all the years that I knew Bob’s grandpa on his mother’s side, we all knew with certainty that he hated having his picture taken. So much so, that he would look away, or glare at the camera. We all just knew that any picture he was in would have him looking angerly away, and that made us sad sometimes, but there was nothing we could do to change things. I often wondered why he wouldn’t just cooperate, but we all assumed that he simply hated having his picture taken…badly enough to practically throw a fit about it. It got to the point where it was easier to leave him out or to let him be grouchy about it.

As I was going through some of the old pictures from my in-laws’ house, I came across a few pictures here and there, that were a little different. The grouchy look was gone, and he was looking at the camera. I began to wonder about something else…like what could have happened to make him hate having his picture taken. He wasn’t always that way. The pictures proved that. Life can change people sometimes. Sadness can take away their smiles, and every life has some sadness in it, but I couldn’t think of a deep sadness that had happened to him since these pictures were taken. So what could it be? What could have stolen his smiles, and turned him into someone who didn’t want his picture taken?

Since Grandpa died in 1985, I suppose that we will never know. It saddens me that he died with some deep dark sadness still living inside him. It saddens me that we never got to see the other side of him…the side of him that had smiles and laughter in it, because I She's my MomGrandpa's baby boythink that side would have been very nice to know. I wonder why he locked that part of himself away? No, I guess we will never know what happened to Grandpa to make him that way. But, after looking at the pictures of his smiling face, looking directly at the camera, holding my brother-in-law, Ron when he was a baby and his smiling face  looking lovingly at his mother, I will always know that there was a time when things were very different.

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