lunch

Time waits for no man, and it doesn’t slow down or stop while we grieve a loss. As a child and on into adulthood, it never occurred to me that I would live one single day without my dad. I can’t say why I thought that, because in retrospect, it was not really a logical way to think, but then are matters of the heart ever logical. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about romantic love or the love you have for parents or siblings. They should just never leave you, whether that is logical or not.

Nevertheless, as illogical as it seemed to me, my dad, Al Spencer went home to be with the Lord eleven years ago today December 12, 2007 at precisely 12:00pm. The world seemed so empty when we left the hospital that day, and I found myself wondering how it could be that the world and time kept moving when everything for my dad stopped at that moment. Again these were not the thoughts of a person in a rational state of mind,but rather a person who had just lost a beloved parent. I knew that my dad was in Heaven,because he had always believed in Jesus as his Saviour, but he was no longer here with us…his wife, Collene Spencer; daughters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryn Schulenberg, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Ally Hadlock; and their families, and that was what made the whole world…just wrong.

As the years go by…faster than any of us ever dreamed they would, we cherish the memories of our dad more and more,because they are all we have…because our dad and our mom are in our future now. My thoughts go back to the many times my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce and I had lunch at their house. It’s odd, I suppose that those lunches are what comes to mind, but they have been coming to my mind a lot these past few days. I remember going over to their house at lunch. Mom would make her specialties, Stuffed Tomatoes or Chicken salad with Shoe String Potatoes. As we gathered at the table to eat, the conversation covered everything from our families to how our jobs were going. Mom and Dad didn’t care what we talked about, they just wanted to be a part of our lives. Mom and Dad were always all about family. They loved their kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids. They felt so blessed by the family they started beginning back in 1954. Family was all they ever wanted. Family was everything. I still can’t believe that my dad has been in Heaven for eleven years today. We love you Dad, and miss you very much. We will see you in Heaven one day.

Birthday GirlBirthday Surprise 6Every four years, our calendar has an extra day…February 29th. Now, to most people, that is a novelty, but to my granddaughter, Shai Royce…that day is very special. If you only got a real birthday every four years, I’m sure you would think that day is quite special too. Shai has not always embraced every aspect of a Leap Day birthday, such as having the three grandsons in the family inform you that they are older than you, even though two of them were born after you. These days, Shai embraces Leap Day, because of it’s pure novelty, and someday she will really love it. Just think, when she’s 64 years old, she will, in reality, be 16. Who can say that? Only a Leap Day Baby, and that’s because…well, Leap Happens, and when it does, people don’t age in quite the same way.

This year looked like it was going to be a bit lonlier for Shai, but her brother, Caalab surprised her with a visit all the way from Seattle, Washington. Shai was completely shocked, and so was I. That sneaky little brother of hers managed to swear everyone who knew to secrecy, so Shai, her grandpa, and I were completely in the dark. When her family moved to the Seattle area, Shai decided to stay in Casper, and now she has taken a page out of her mom’s book. She is in the insurance industry and working with her very blessed grandma…me, at The Stengel Agency. Like her mom, she started out as a CSR, and is learning the insurance ropes. Who knows, she might even become an agent like her mom and grandma someday. I am very proud of all that she has learned here. She handles changes, payments, filing, and phones with ease. I think she comes from good insurance stock. She is doing so well for someone so young…I mean how many 5 year olds do you know who work in insurance?

This is the first year that Shai has lived on her own too, and I am very proud of how she has handled that. She is quite stubborn about accepting help with anything, and insists on paying for herself. Most of the time I let Birthday SurpriseBirthday Surprise 2her too, but sometimes, like her birthday lunch, I have to put my grandma’s foot down. Of course, she is much like all my kids and grandkids. They are just responsible people, and I am proud of each and every one of them. Shai may only be five years old, but Shai the adult, shows me often that she has earned her twenty years, and her adulthood. I can’t believe that now two of my grandchildren are in their twenties. It seems totally impossible!! Where have the years gone? Today is Shai’s 20th birthday. Happy 5th Leap Day birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Chicken Noodle SoupThe other day, I decided to make a crock pot of homemade Chicken Noodle soup. It had been years since I had made it, because life had become so busy and I just didn’t seem to have time…especially when I could easily open a can of soup and it was ready in five minutes. No, it didn’t taste as good as homemade Chicken Noodle soup…not by a long shot, but it sufficed on a cold Monday night when we had to get to the bowling alley for our weekly bowling league.

Nevertheless, it sounded so good that I decided to go for it. When I came home at lunchtime, prepared to add the noodles to the soup, the delicious smell of the chicken and broth hit me as I opened the door. It wasn’t just the smell of the soup that hit me though, but the memories of so many other times I had come home at lunch as a little girl. Mom was always there when we got home from school, back in the days when kids went home for lunch. The smell of soup, always filled the air, and my favorite was Chicken Noodle, so those days were especially great for me.

I know a lot of people have a certain memory when they think of home, and this is mine. Of course, many people live far away from their parents’ home, and maybe that makes memories sweeter, but I don’t think so. It doesn’t matter how close or how far you live from your childhood home, or even if your parents still live there, home is where your heart is.

I added the noodles to my soup, and spent the rest of my lunch hour smelling that Tiny Mom 2savory goodness. When I came home that evening, the delicious soup awaited me and soon we were off to the bowling alley. There would be frozen leftovers for the next week, and while I would not be treated to that amazing smell when I came home for lunch the next week, I would be treated to the soup for supper, and that brought the memories back just the same as it would if it was cooking in the crock pot, because there is nothing like a bowl of soup to give you that warm, cozy, down home feeling at any age…even if it is now in your own home.

011aAnna, Laura, and Allen SpencerI have often wondered what our nation looked like before the Native Americans altered the landscape with the only way they really had of clearing the land…fire. When the summer grasslands would grow so tall that it made travel by horse or on foot troublesome, the Indians just started a fire to clear the area. Since there was nothing standing in the way of the fire, it ran until it came to a river or some other kind of obstacle, such as an area void of vegetation, and then it simply burned itself out. Of course, rain or snow would have the same effect too. I wonder, like many other people do, if prior to that practice, there were forests where we now have plains.

Of course, the White Man, has come a long way in trying to bring trees back into our nation, but there are still many places that are just wide open spaces filled with prairie grass, sagebrush, and cactus. When my grandparents, Anna and Allen Spencer decided to move to Texas to check out the booming oil industry, they found a land that seemed to run for hundreds of miles, with little to see, but wide open spaces. Like many people, they longed for trees, and other vegetation to give a different view to the land they found themselves living on. Having lived on five acres myself for a number of years before moving into town, I can certainly understand wanting trees. That didn’t make it easy to grow any of them up to much size, however. I suppose it tree 2might have been easier in Texas, due to their warmer climate.

I understand the need Native Americans had to clear the land, and the lack of sufficient tools to do so, when it was necessary. Nevertheless, I wish they had not burned down the trees…or the prairies, because that stopped the young trees from growing, and lets face it…we need trees for shade, and the very air we breathe. These days, with all the necessary tools, from lawnmowers to farm equipment, there is no need to burn down the prairie grass to keep it from getting so deep, so clearing the land is a much smoother project. The older I get, the more I find myself wanting trees around me, and while it is still hard to get them up to some size, due mainly to the deer that roam freely inside the city limits of Casper, Wyoming, I do have some volunteer Silver Birch trees that have moved themselves from the neighbors tree into our yard.

We were so excited when the first tree started coming up, but our neighbor, Bill thought we would be upset about the little trespassing trees, and so he cut the down…until we told him that we wanted them. Then he left them alone so we could decide to let them grow or not. That first tree is now taller that our house, and we have several in the back yard too. Before these trees began growing, we had three cedar bushes in our front yard, one that was let grow to the size of a rather ugly tree. Finally, the day came that we got one of those little trespassing trees to come up in the right place. While we liked the bushes, that ugly Cedar tree needed to go. Then that tree got to an area where it could work for what we wanted. This past summer, it had grown to the tree 120100623_4_editedpoint of being about my height. Life was good. We cut down that ugly Cedar bush that had been pretending to be a tree, and watch with excitement as our new little trespassing tree grew and flourished…and then it happened. The deer that I love to have in our yard, because they are so beautiful…decided that our little tree was just the right size for lunch. It’s hard to say if it will come back in the spring, but if not, there will be another little trespasser to grow in its place…life is still good!!!

imageimageThis morning, as my family worked to rake up all the leaves at my mother’s house, I found myself taken back to my childhood years. I remember the many times when my dad would tell all of us girls to get our coats on so we could go out and rake the lawn. I can’t say that it was always the most fun day of our lives, because we really didn’t want to get out there and rake…especially if it was cold outside. Nevertheless, we did as we were told, and like it or not, we raked up all those leaves. These days when we rake Mom’s lawn, we have to tell ourselves that it is time, because Dad isn’t here to get things started. Still, we know that he loved his yard, and he would want it taken care of, so we get out there and take care of it. Today was that day that we told ourselves that the time had come…before the bad weather that is coming on Monday, showed it’s ugly face.

imageimageWe usually send out a text to the people that we know we can count on to be there, and Mom and Cheryl provide the breakfast of donuts and a lunch of sandwiches and chips. When all the workers have assembled, the work begins. We normally have three or four men show up too, but this year just didn’t work out. The men were either out of town or working. Thankfully, we had my niece, Jenny Spethman’s boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac to strong arm the bags full of leaves out to the alley for us. Other than those boys, we girls were the worker bees for the day. We had a great time, laughing and fighting the wind for the leaves. I know that a number of them ended up down the street instead of in the bags, because we had a pretty good wind going.

We had a couple of other helpers that we hadn’t exactly planned on, as well. My niece, Jenny’s daughter, Aleesia, and my niece Jessi Sawdon’s dog, Daisy. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say that the two imageimageof them managed to remove as many leaves from the piles as they stuck into them. While Jenny was trying to bag the leaves, Aleesia wanted to help, but instead of putting leaves in the bag, she pushed them the other way…out of the pile. As to Daisy, she thought the leaves were something to pay with…or at least in, so she would jump around in the leaves and try to play with the workers. It was all pretty cute, and despite the distractions, we did manage to get the leaves raked up before lunchtime. It just goes to show you what a few worker bees can do.

My grandkids when they were littleI’ll admit it, I’ve never liked change. I like being in my comfort zone, where I know the way things are going to play out. Having those I love grow up and live their own lives makes me feel pretty lonely. My grandkids are all grown up now, and busily working and going to school, and I don’t get to see as much of them, because they have things to do…their own lives to live. It’s easy for them to think, “I’ll go see Grandma tomorrow…or the next day.” But then something comes up and they are off in another direction again. It’s not that they never come to see me, it’s just that life has them running here and there, and the time they get to spend with me is far more limited than it used to be. That is change…having your kids and grandkids grow up and start their own lives. I don’t like it much. No, the kids and grandkids aren’t ignoring me, and seeing less of them isn’t something they are doing intentionally. They aren’t mad at me…just busy.

Corrie & Amy SchulenbergI remember when my girls were little. They would come home from school, and we would be together as a family. Oh sure, we didn’t spend every moment that they were home together. They went outside to play, or played in their rooms, or went to a friend’s house, and maybe I took those moments for granted…like we all do, but I cherished those moments, nevertheless. Family has always been important to me, and I don’t like to have those close days end. And yet, it is inevitable…for every family. We go from seeing our parents every day to seeing them once a week, and sometimes longer than that. Kids head off to college and the relationship changes to one of calling, texting, Facebook, and Skype…and we are thankful for those things, because that old long distance calling was expensive and you couldn’t do that several times a day.

Life gets that way for everyone at some point. We all have our own schedules and responsibilities. I remember my dad saying something similar to me. In fact, what he said was, “You need to come over hand have lunch Dad and Momwith us once a week, so we can see you!” Dad never was one to mince words exactly. If you needed to do something, you just needed to do it, and he didn’t mind telling you about it. It wasn’t that he was mad at us, because he wasn’t. He just wanted us to know that he loved his family and wanted to be around them. He knew we were busy, as we all worked, but he decided that we could take one lunch hour to spend with our parents…and he was right. I mean, we had to eat anyway. It has worked well for us, and even though Dad is in Heaven now, we still have lunch with Mom once a week, and I have dinner once a week too. It’s just important to do these things to stay close. And after all, wasn’t that what Dad was after anyway…being able to stay close to his family. We must cherish those moments, because all too soon, they are gone.

Threshing MachineFarm work in years gone by, was a much harder job than it is these days, but with the invention of machinery, things got easier. Still, most people couldn’t afford to own those machines in the early years, so they either did the work by hand, or hired the threshers to come and do it. Soon, most farmers were hiring the threshers to come. It was a lucrative business for someone who had enough money to buy a machine…or better yet, several. I know that those members of my family, who were farmers, did hire the threshers, or else, they had enough money to buy their own machines, but I have to think that most people in those early years did not think the machine was a good value, if a man was going to just use it on their own farm, so the work was mostly hired out.

When the threshers were scheduled to come to your farm, it was a big day. The women would get up early and start cooking for the men, who would be very hungry by lunch time. ThreshersThis was heavy work, even with the help of the machinery. Nevertheless, everyone was excited when the threshers came…from the adults to the little kids. I’m sure that being able to watch the big machines working was a novel thing in those early years, and nobody wanted to miss out. Not only that, but everyone wanted to get their picture taken with the workers too, so that they could say they had been there when they were working. It was almost like having a celebrity visit your house, I suppose. It is a day like no other in the year. Everyone wants to be in on all the excitement, and it’s hard to keep the little kids out of the way. Nevertheless, they had to stay out of the way, because the huge machines  were also dangerous and could easily  kill a small child.

With the excitement, however, comes hard work. When the threshers are done. The grain had to be bagged for storage or sale, and the straw stacked for use in the barns. Nevertheless, it took a lot less workers to harvest the crops, and many farm laborers were not happy about that, because they faced the loss of their jobs. I suppose that with every bit of progress Threshers 2designed to make our lives easier, comes the possibility of job loss. Every time a machine takes over the hard labor, a worker becomes unnecessary. People have to adapt and change, educating themselves to run the equipment so they can move into a job that takes more skill, and thus creates job security. I know that for the farmer, the machines were the best thing to come along. The wages they didn’t have to pay out to the laborers added up to pure profit for them, even with the cost of the threshers. It was a new era, and things would never be the same again.

MomMy mom has always been a homebody type of person. She would rather be at home making it a nice place for her family than pretty much anything else. It did make her seem shy to me, but maybe she wasn’t really so much so, in reality. She held a number of jobs outside the home, and never seemed shy while working, but that doesn’t mean anything either. Many of us are able to do our jobs without our shyness showing.

Since her retirement and Dad’s passing, she has stayed home more and more. She mostly gets out for church and doctor visits…or so I thought. In reality, she has been a secret social butterfly for a while now. I know those two things don’t really go together very well, but there is no other way to describe it. I have always told her sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews to stop by any time, because she was always there. Now I will have to change what I say to people.Jessi

A social butterfly, as you know, flits from this spot to that spot, never staying in one place very long. Granted Mom doesn’t do that exactly, but she has been spending time with her sister, Sandy and granddaughter, Jessi at the Senior Citizens Center. They do lunch and play Dominoes, and who knows what all else. When I first heard about this, I thought, “Mom!!! Is that really you???” I never expected her to be the joiner type. Granted, she goes with family, but it is just not the kind of thing she used to do, so I was…well, pleasantly surprised. I have always thought it would be good for her to go to the Senior Citizens Center, because it would be nice for her to get out and do something with other people, but unfortunately, with most of us working, it really wasn’t that easy to make that happen. Mom’s knee makes it impossible for her to drive now, so we have to take her wherever she goes. That’s fine, except for those little social butterfly events. I suppose she could take the CATC Bus, but then she Aunt Sandywould be going alone, and that doesn’t work for her. I’m thankful that Jessi is working from home now, and Aunt Sandy is retired so they can have a nice girls day out now and then.

Mom is out there doing things I never expected, and I’m glad she is broadening her horizons. It’s good for her to get out and do things with others. I’m so happy that Jessi and Aunt Sandy thought of this. Today is my mom’s birthday. She wasn’t the New Year’s Baby the year she was born, but she has always been our New Year’s Baby!! Happy birthday Mom!! Have a wonderful day!! We all love you very much!!

My niece, Kellie has always had a wonderful sense of humor. She has to be the giggliest person I have ever met. Anyone who is her friend, or who has worked with her can fully attest to that. Kellie likes to do things that make people laugh.

When I call my mother’s on Wednesdays to give her a pill reminder, Kellie usually answers the phone, as she and her mom, my sister Allyn, and Kellie’s sister, Jessi come to my mom’s for lunch on Wednesdays. She is always teasing me that I am interrupting her time, and I should just get off the phone!! She loves to joke around that way.

Kellie has always had a contagious laugh. All she had to do was laugh, and you could not resist joining right in. Even if you didn’t know what was so funny, you had to laugh, because she was laughing, and she made it seem like a laughing moment, so everyone had to laugh.

About a year ago, Kellie followed in the footsteps of her aunt, me and her cousin, my daughter, Amy, and became an insurance agent. The agency she works for dresses up for Halloween, so Kellie has come up with a couple of really good costumes, but this year’s really takes the cake. As an independent agent, Kellie writes for Progressive Insurance, so Kellie decided to go with the popular option, and dress up as Flo.

Of course, as we all know, there can be only one Flo, so I have looked her picture over very well, and I have determined that there must be two Flo-Bots. The first model looked a little too much like a robot, and so couldn’t really pass for the real Flo, but I think this second model has been highly upgraded to look like a pretty good Flo double. Not quite close enough to fool someone who knows Flo well, but as Flo would say, “She’s pretty good…She’s pr-ett-y good.”

Large families have, as a matter of course, a wide range of ages in the children. The elder children are often married when the youngest ones are just little or sometimes not even born yet. Then their children come along and they end up playing with their aunts and uncles as often as not. They become almost like sisters and brothers. That was the case for my cousin Susie, who often played with her aunts, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy. She had automatic friends. From having lunch together, to playing house, their time together was filled with fun.

Aunt Sandy, who is the youngest of my mom’s siblings, tells me that she doesn’t remember a time when her brothers-in-law and sister-in-law weren’t in her life. I doubt if she remembers a time without nieces or nephews either. I’m sure she also helped in holding the babies when they were little too. Young aunts can make the best babysitters, when they are old enough to be a help, that is. Girls usually love to sit and hold those babies, but then who doesn’t.

In looking at this picture, I can see a camaraderie between these four girls that is very obvious. When I was a kid, all my aunts and uncles were grown ups, so I never experienced that myself. I’ve often wondered just how it would feel to hang out with my aunts and uncles as kids. I know that my aunts and uncles were quite a crew. It seems from the stories my mom has told me that they were always having some great adventure. I’m sure too, that my grandmother had to stay on her toes, because as with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, quite often, those adventures got the kids in a bit of trouble with their parents, but then, what’s the fun in adventure if it doesn’t result in one fix or another. Of course, I’m sure my grandmother would disagree.

Our family enjoys spending time together, but I think very possibly Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, Aunt Sandy, and Susie have a relationship that is just a little bit closer than most, because it began when they were so very young. It made them almost like sisters, and as most of us know, sisters are forever friends.

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