My sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg is a woman who is determined to accomplish her goals and dreams. She doesn’t let anything get in the way of getting her daily steps in, whether it is bicycling steps or foot steps, she reaches her goal of 25,000 steps a day…every day. If that means she gets up at 4:00 am to get to work at 8:00 am, then she does. Nothing gets in the way of her step count. At night, if she has been traveling during the day, and is a little behind in her steps, she simply doesn’t sit down until she finishes the steps. That means walking around her house for as long as it takes. Any place can be a trail, as long as you have room to walk around. Trails aren’t always outside, and Brenda utilizes any space necessary to complete her daily steps.
Brenda spent much of her life overweight and really unhealthy, and while most people wouldn’t want me to talk about that part of their lives, Brenda uses that part of her life, and the transition she has made to be an inspiration to others. She has set another goal for herself…to reach out to other people who are where she was…to let them know that it is never too late to change your life for the better. Getting healthy and fit is just a step away. Yes, it will take many steps, but the first step is the most important, because without the first step, you remain an overweight, unhealthy, couch potato. Of course, that first step…must be taken every day, if you are going to have to succeed. Most people when they get to that place, where their weight is out of control, and they have become unhealthy, decide that because of this health problem or that health problem, it is simply impossible for them to lose weight and become healthy again. Brenda is proof positive that they can. All it takes is much determination and that first step.
These days, Brenda enjoys things like traveling…by plane, train, or automobile. These are things she really couldn’t do before she lost the weight. She was so limited. Now she travels to different areas around Wyoming and Colorado to speak to others about her story. Sometimes, all it takes to get someone started on the road to better health, is to see that someone else made it. Getting started is so hard, especially when you feel like you will never make it, but when you see someone like Brenda, who has turned her whole life around, you begin to feel like you can do it too. And that is what inspires Brenda…helping other people to succeed. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Inspiration comes from many different places, but most often from an event that so strongly affects our emotions or our lives, that we feel the need to act. That is what happened to a number of students who all had something in common…Christa McAuliffe. On this day, January 28, 1986…30 years ago, after months of training and a huge national following, Christa McAuliffe entered the Space Shuttle Challenger, and went down in history as not only the first teacher chosen to go into space, but the first civilian to die on such a mission. She never made it into space, because just 73 seconds after the launch, the Challenger exploded.
The world looked on in horror, because this launch had been so widely televised and so greatly anticipated. After the explosion, the news was broadcast over and over. We saw the horrified faces of the families of the crew, the tears of family, friends, and students of the first teacher in space, and we saw the explosion…over and over again. The heart of a nation was broken, not just because of Christa McAuliffe, but also for the families of payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist. It had been many years since the NASA space program had lost a crew, and it was the first one in flight.
I’m sure that an accident in space did not inspire people to go into the space program, because the safety of the program immediately came into question. Nevertheless, from this tragedy…from out of the ashes of the Space Shuttle Challenger, inspiration did come. It came in the form of teachers. The students of Christa McAuliffe…not all, but a number of them, were inspired to become teachers themselves. Each of those former students of Christa McAuliffe…kids who maybe didn’t like social studies, but because Christa McAuliffe made it interesting somehow, they did well in her class, and were inspired by her. After her passing, these inspired students decided that they wanted to pick up where she left off. They wanted to carry on with her dream. They follow her motto, “I touch the future. I teach.” One of those teachers commented that she heard people say that and wondered if they had any idea where that motto came from. Her former students knew…it was Christa McAuliffe, and her legacy lives on, 30 years after her death.
Very early on, Elizabeth, Liz as we all call her, displayed a determination that not every child has. She had decided that she was going places, and she set out to go there. Liz studied hard and began weighing her options, deciding what she wanted to do with her life.
She set her sights on teaching English, but her counselor said that she would do better in Journalism, so she got a Journalism degree, but her heart was still in the classroom. So, she continued on another year to get her degree in education, and returned to Casper to begin her career. Her skills would land her the jobs of the school newspaper, the annual, and photographing most events. Her work was flawless.
Her students loved her, and quickly gave her the nickname Mast. The end of their high school days would not mean the end of their friendship with their beloved teacher. They invited her on trips to Vegas and Europe. They wanted to stay connected to the treasured teacher who had become not only an inspiration to them during their high school days, but a lifelong friend. How many of us can say that after high school, we wanted to stay friends with our teachers. Even the teachers we liked faded into the distance as we left the walls of high school behind, but not so with Liz…or Mast. I see the comments her past students make to her on Facebook, and hear the love in their voices when she runs into one of them in town. A student sees her and excitedly yells out, “Mast!!” Then the chatter begins. “Guess what I did!!” “You would be so proud of me…I did this.” “I’m going to this school.” And so on. I have to say that it makes me proud to be her aunt when these young adults, whose lives she has helped to shape, excitedly gather around the teacher whose class they loved, and tell her about their future plans. The want her to be a part of it. After all, she helped start it.
Of course, being a teacher isn’t all Liz is about. She is Aunt Liz to her sisters’ and brother’s children, and they love her dearly…no matter how old they get. They love being around her, as do her cousins, and her aunts, uncles, and grandmother…not to mention her mom and sisters and brother and their families. Liz is a fun person to be around. Not everyone has that ability. She is a very special part of this family.
And last, but certainly not least, is her ability to photograph the moments of life. She captures the essence of the moment better than so many people could ever do. Her pictures are stunning, funny, beautiful, exciting, sad, goofy, or shocked, depending on what is going on at that moment. She has documented some of the most important moments in the lives of family and friends, and given them the memories that they couldn’t have had any other way…because she does it with love. No matter who she is photographing, she thinks about what they will want to remember about the moment, and gives them just that.
There is so much more I could say about Liz, but anyone who knows her, already knows these things. She has made her mark on this place, and it will never be the same again, because she left each moment better than she found it. And because of who she is, she will keep doing that for the next students, and for the family too. I love you Liz, and I’m very proud of all you have accomplished!!