niece

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My grandson, Josh Petersen is such a hard working young man. He has two jobs, totaling up to at least 12 hours a day. I don’t know how he does it, and still maintains his good disposition. He has always been an easy going guy though…not a lot of things get him upset. If you do cross that line, however…look out. Still, even if he yells at you, he never holds a grudge, so you are forgiven almost immediately…and as Grandma, I never get yelled at, haha!! To be honest he doesn’t yell at his parents either.

A couple of years ago, Josh became an uncle to a sweet little girl, and will be uncle to a sweet little boy in November. It was one of the greatest moments in his life. He loves being uncle, even though he doesn’t get to see his niece too often, because he works so many hours. Josh has always loved kids, and animals. He has a number of fur babies, and recently lost his oldest dog, Molly, who was also his constant companion whenever he wasn’t working. Molly was a Dachshund, and Molly was his girl. He loved her very much. She was originally purchased by his parents for the family, but from the beginning, Molly was Josh’s dog. Animals are like that. They pick out the “human” they want to belong to, and there is little you can do to change their mind. Molly picked Josh, and the rest is history.

Josh was one of many essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. He works at Sanford’s Grub and Pub at night, and All Out Fire during the day. Both were considered essential jobs. It helped in the job situation, but while many of us were hanging out at home, watching television, he was still hard at it. Josh is such a trustworthy guy. He originally started working at Sanford’s when he was 15 years old. They didn’t normally hire kids at that age, but they “took a chance” on him, and they have never been sorry. He has worked there longer than anyone else, including the managers, and he is the current kitchen manager. At just 22, that is a pretty good accomplishment.

Josh may not have lots of free time, but he has good friends that he enjoys hanging out with…people he has known for years. Josh is a loyal friend too, and he is the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back, if you needed it. It doesn’t matter what the hour, if he can help, he will help. That’s just the way Josh is. Today is Josh’s 22nd birthday. Happy birthday Josh!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Lacey Stevens has turned into an amazing girl, right before our eyes. For many years, Lacey was kind of a shy girl, and I didn’t really expect her to become the exuberant woman she has become. I guess that was my error, because Lacey is a very capable, and rather outgoing woman. Lots of people outgrow shyness, and I guess she did just that.

After high school, Lacey decided to become a cosmetologist, and after going to school for that, began her career, but our Lacey was destined for greater things. She still in the same field, but she now holds the position of salon manager. The truth is that she is pretty young to be in that position, but as I said, she is an amazing woman. The people who work under her, as well as those who work, over her are very pleased with her abilities, indeed. Part of Lacey’s job is to help draw business into the salon, and she is quite good at doing just that. It’s a win-win situation for everyone when the slots are all full. Better for business all the way around.

Lacey also organized any events that might take place as a part of the salon. Recently, they held the “Cut for a Cause” event, in which all of the specified profits of the day were donated for breast cancer research. It was a great way for Lacey and the staff at Ulta Beauty to give back to the community and make a difference for many people through important research.

Of course, work is not all Lacey is about. She became an aunty on August 3, 2018, when her brother, Garrett and his wife, Kayla had a baby girl named Elliott. Becoming an aunt for the first time is always special, and little Elliott is such a smiley girl, that her family can’t help but smile too. Lacey and Elliott are great friends, and that will only get better. Elliott is a long awaited addition to the Stevens family, and we are all quite happy about her arrival. Today is Lacey’s birthday. Happy birthday Lacey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Throughout their childhood, my nieces, Michelle Stevens and Lindsay Moore were the best of friends. They were always having adventures…usually funny ones. The girls at one time decided that they needed a secret language, so that they could communicate all their little girl secrets privately. Of course, in reality they were talking gibberish, but the language sounded close enough to legitimate, that it might have fooled the untrained ear. The girls loved to talk their secret language…especially in public. They actually got pretty good at it, and might have even understood each other, as can happen in these developed childhood languages.

Michelle’s imagination was quite good. She likes to tease people in pure “Michelle” fashion, by telling people she was on her way to their house, when she was actually at home. She even went so far as to say she was outside their house, and could see them through their window…when in reality, she never really intended to come over at all. She was quite funny, and I think maybe her imagination soon led to her chosen career…art.

After Michelle graduated from Black Hills State University, with a teaching degree and an art degree, she moved back to Casper, Wyoming, hoping to get a job in the local school district. With the country in a downturn, schools were closing, and jobs weren’t available. So, Michelle found another type of dream job. The Nicolaysen Art Museum snatched her right up for a teaching position there. Michelle loves working with the various groups, teaching art projects and classes with people of all ages. Veterans, home schoolers, art club, seniors. This is a different kind of teaching than she thought she would be doing, in that the students are of all ages. That is an unexpected pleasure for Michelle, who didn’t expect to be working with adults, when she went into teaching. She absolutely loves it.

For an artist, the art museum is a favorite place to be, and she love the Nicolaysen, and takes great pride in it, as well as working there. Recently, Michelle was chosen to do an Art Integration Conference for teachers Professional Development. It was a great honor. She was a presenter for one of the sessions, at which time gave a lecture about Art Basics for the Non-Artistic. Hmmm…I should have attended that one, since Michelle has more artistic ability in one strand of hair, that I have in my whole body. Her lecture was a quick breakdown of Introduction to Art, after which she gave the teachers various strategies on ways to integrate art into any class. The people at the museum are super impressed with her and have put their faith in her. Her boss, Zhanna wants her to help her develop a whole Art integration Conference for 2021. We are very proud of her.

Time changes things, and for Michelle, that means that with the improving economy, the Natrona County School District is once again looking at her for teaching positions. She will start substitute teaching in the school district in January, and she is hoping to land one of the three art teacher positions opening in the school in June. Of course, that would mean leaving the Nicolaysen…a move that saddens both Michelle and her work family at the Nicolaysen. She has not finalized her plans in that respect, but it is an opportunity that will be impossible to pass up. We all wish her well, in whatever decision she makes. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I was talking with my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg yesterday, and she mentioned that our niece, Machelle Moore had only had 6 times in her life that Thanksgiving had fallen on her birthday. Having a late November birthday, one might expect to have a Thanksgiving birthday more often, but because her birthday was very late in the month, that is just not the case.

Thinking back on Machelle’s life, I recall that she was born three days after Thanksgiving in 1976. Bob and I had taken our girls to visit his aunt and uncle in Kennebec, South Dakota, and the weather had turned bad. I don’t recall if we had to spend an extra day or not, but I do remember that Machelle’s mom, Debbie Cook went into labor and after about 36 hours of labor, had to have a Caesarean Section for Machelle to be delivered. It was a bit scary, but in the end, we went home to meet our new little niece. She was born 6 months after my Amy and 18 months after my Corrie, so the girls were always good friends.

Machelle has changed so much over the years. Not only has she grown tall like her dad, LJ Cook, but she has grown sweeter every year. Machelle has a kind heart. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love her very much. She is a wife to her best friend, Steve Moore. They love each other so much, and are very well suited to each other. They both love to go rock hunting, and often come back with great pieces of obsidian that Steve turns into Native American tools that are beautiful…and the real shock is that Steve isn’t Native American. It’s a cool passion that Machelle and her husband share.

Machelle is also mom to two boys, Weston and Easton, who are almost grown men now. Weston has graduated from high school, and Easton is in high school. As the boys have grown, Machelle feels a little bit sad, because she knows that soon they will be out on their own and she will be an empty nester, like so many others who have gone before her into that new identity. For some it is difficult and for others it is easy…or at least not as hard as for others. I think Machelle will do fine, because she has a wonderful marriage. She and Steve share so many interests, including camping, rock hunting, and the company of good friends and family. Yes, I know that Machelle and Steve will have a long wonderful life together, and before she knows it, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. I’m sure she is not in a huge hurry to get there, but it is a nice dream of the future. Today is Machelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Machelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Kelli Schulenberg has a list of things she likes that might make many people feel very tired, but Kelli is someone who is on the go a lot. In her own words, Kelli likes “Music, traveling, fitness, animals, and the outdoors. Fresh air, trees, blue skies, summer, and hiking.” Anyone who knows her, know that truer words were never spoken. Kelli likes to stay active, and doesn’t like to waste a moment of her free time. If there’s a concert nearby, Kelli and her husband, my nephew, Barry Schulenberg might jump in the pickup and head for wherever it is being held. They both really enjoy going to concerts.

If there isn’t a concert, Kelli and Barry might be found on Casper Mountain, cross country skiing in the winter, or hiking in the summer. Anyone who knows Kelli very well, knows that she prefers Summer over Winter…every time. And there are a lot of us who totally agree with her whole heartedly on that one. For Kelli, as for many of us, Winter brings with it, a little bit of…depression, for lack of a better word. It’s not that she is depressed, but that the weather is depressing. Because Kelli likes to hike, she feels sad when the winter months hit. For a hiker, cross country skiing really can’t compare to hiking. At least, that’s the way I feel about it.

Kelli loves animals, and her dog, Scout is her current “baby.” Scout can be a trial for Kelli, always wanting to be lazy, when she wants to be active. Nevertheless, he makes up for it with his goofy ways. There is a lot to be said for a dog making his masters laugh. Scout refuses to “adult,” as Kelli would say, so his goofiness is always inspiring laughter in his masters. Scout came to live with Kelli and Barry as a puppy, after their long time dog, Dakota passed away. Scout has lots of potential, but lets face it…right now Scout is no Dakota. I know that Kelli and Barry still miss Dakota very much.

Kelli and Barry have a place out east of Casper, Wyoming. It’s home, but Kelli would love to have a couple of donkeys on it. They are one of her favorite animals. Still, she loves most animals. She has a real heart for them. She loves their antics, their cuddles, and yes, even their naughtiness. I hope that someday Kelli gets her donkeys. I think that would be very cool. Today is Kelli’s birthday Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

There are certain people who fit in your family from the moment they join it. My niece, Dustie Masterson, who married my nephew Rob Masterson on January 18, 2003 is one of those people. Rob and Dustie met when he was in the Army, and was in Louisiana. It didn’t take them very long to realize that they were in love and that they were perfect for each other. When they returned to Casper, Wyoming where Rob’s family all live, the family liked Dustie immediately. She was sweet, helpful, kind, and most of all, she was very much in love with and loyal to Rob. That goes a long way toward endearing a person to their spouse’s family.

Dustie and Rob’s favorite place to be was always together. It didn’t really matter where. That is such an interesting thought now, years later, when the two of them work together in different areas of the local Sam’s Club. Not everyone has the ability or the opportunity to work at the same place as their spouse, but Dustie and Rob even got hired at the same time. Now, they get to work together sometimes, and on opposite shifts at other times, but either way, they work at the same place, and are part of the same team. They are both supervisors in their areas now, and the people they work with count on them to keep things running smoothly.

Dustie and Rob have three children together, Raelynn, Matthew, and Audrianna, as well as Rob’s daughter from his first marriage, Christina. Their lives are so full of joy and happiness. They love their family, and their extended family. They are always willing to help others. Dustie stepped in during the years that we took care of our parents, and even though they were her grandparents by marriage, she loved them like they were her own. She ran errands for us, helped out with meals and care, and visited, which we all know is vital when it comes to helping people feel good about life. Dustie is such a pleasant person too. She is light-hearted and fun, and she doesn’t mind being a little bit silly sometimes. So, seriously, what’s better than that…let’s face it, nothing. That’s what I really like about Dustie. Her little bit sweet, little bit silly personality. Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy birthday Dustie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Michelle Stevens sees things that most of us would miss. Of course, when I say that, I am talking about seeing art in things most of us couldn’t even imagine. Not all of these things were her ideas, but she could make them work, because she is very talented. Her artwork is truly prize winning. Michelle has studied every form of art in her pursuit of her art education degree, and I think she could do any of them and will no doubt create some in the future.

Michelle has taken up crocheting. I did that once, but I don’t think I was nearly as talented as Michelle. She made a beautiful blanket for her little niece, Elliott Michelle Stevens. It is beautiful in gray, pink, and white. Little did Michelle know at the time she was making the blanket, but her sister-in-law, Kayla was decorating Elliott’s room in pink and gray. The blanket fit in perfectly. Of course, becoming an aunt to Elliott has been the biggest change in Michelle’s life for this year. She doesn’t get to see as much of little Elliott as she would like, because she and her parents live in Sheridan, and Michelle lives in Casper, but she is still Aunty Michelle, and that is very cool. Michelle has also taken up sewing with a sewing machine her mom, Alena Stevens gave her. She wants to make quilts and things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few little baby outfits make their way to Elliott for her Aunty Michelle either. Michelle sees many different things as art, and she is very good at all of them. She makes wreaths, pottery, and is planning to take up mosaic glass art. Even Michelle’s fur babies, dogs Obie and Leia got gifts. She made them stockings, because she loves those puppies like babies and I hear they are spoiled rotten. Michelle is an artist in every sense of the word. Oh…to have such talent!! Unfortunately it is not in my sphere.

On top of all her artwork, Michelle is a great cook. When we had our family Christmas party last weekend, Michelle made crab stuffed mushrooms. They were amazing. Michelle loves to cook, and like everything else in her world, she considers it a form of art too. The more creative she can get with it the more she likes it. Oh…to have such talent!! Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece Ashley Parmely is such a busy person and mom. She takes care of the farm and the animals that she and my nephew, Eric Parmely have, as well as being a great mom to their three children, Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen…not to mention teaching them how to be little farmers too. They all love the outdoors, horses, cows, goats, chickens, and every other animal known to farming. I would say that they love every animal known to man, and they might, but some are simply not the kind of animal you would take care of, unless you are specially trained for jungle animals or something. Eric and Ashley plan to their own grow hay, but for now, they buy it and they stacked 8+ tons of it, resulting in two very tired people, who needed a serious nap. I must say that these two wear me out, and I didn’t move any hay or take care of any animals. They are amazing.

Ashley is a hard working woman. She could outwork many men, and she really just never quits. Even having babies didn’t slow her down. She just loaded up the babies and worked on. Every time I saw those pictures, I found myself thinking, “No way!! How does she do that??” Ashley is a farm mom I guess, but I sure don’t think I could hook a baby to me and keep right on working, but Ashley did and she never skipped a beat. From mucking out stalls to feeding the animals. She just keeps right on going. Kind of like the Energizer Bunny!! Ashley has always loved animals, especially horses, so it’s not surprising that she would love to be around horses. She loves riding, caring for, and owning horses. In fact they just got a new horse recently, and that makes her very happy. Ashley has always been a country girl, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ashley has such a great sense of humor. She is always saying or doing something very funny. The looks she gets on her face are just classic funny. Ashley likes making faces, and doing just about anything that will make people smile. Ashley is just such a happy person, that she brings joy to all who know her. We are blessed that she became a part of our family, and continues to be a very special part of it. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For most of this last year, my niece Lindsay Moore’s life has been a whirlwind of excitement and activity. With the birth of her little girl, Mackenzie Rose, Lindsay and her husband, Shannon have been enjoying every new experience that comes with parenthood. Mackenzie is a happy, and sometimes goofy girl, who keeps them on their toes. Mackenzie is starting to walk these days, and getting into anything within reach, so her parents have to keep a close eye on her now. Lindsay has been a work-from-home wife for some time, employed remotely by South Dakota State University, and now she is also a stay-at-home mom to little Mackenzie. For Lindsay, life doesn’t get any better. she is just living the dream that she has had for a long time. Lindsay is a health and exercise advocate and always keeps herself in excellent shape. Of course, these days that exercise is easier, because Mackenzie keeps her mommy running.

Lindsay’s husband is the tight ends coach at Eastern Carolina University, and so during the football season, Lindsay and Mackenzie spend Saturdays at the games cheering on Daddy’s team, and hanging out with friends at the game. Lindsay has always been a football fan, especially if it’s Shannon’s team playing. When Shannon married Lindsay, he married his biggest fan, and now they have added another member to the fan club. If you ask me, Shannon has the cutest cheerleaders ever. Lindsay is a very social person, so they are always joined by friends at the games, while they are cheering the team on. It’s a good thing that she makes friends so easily,since they have moved around every so often. It is a common thing with coaching.

Lindsay and Shannon were in Wyoming visiting family this summer, which is a fairly common occurrence for them. His job and her work-from-home job make it easier for them to come home in the summertime, so the family gets to see them more than the average kids who live far away. They family went to the Black Hills, where we joined them for the 4th of July festivities in Custer, South Dakota. Then they went on to the Big Horns. It’s a blessing for my sister, Allyn Hadlock and her husband, Chris, and the rest of the family. It’s hard to have a grandchild who lives far away, and having them visit often makes it a little bit easier. Today is Lindsay’s birthday. Happy birthday Lindsay!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Chantel Balcerzak is a very talented artist, and wedding planner. In the last three years she has planned the weddings of her two step-children, as well as her two children’s weddings. I don’t know about you, but for weddings in three years wold probably put me in the nut house, but Chantel seems to take most things in stride. Wedding planning really is her passion, and the weddings of her for kids are her greatest wedding accomplishments…and her greatest responsibilities. She has taken them very seriously, wanting every detail to be perfect.

Chantel decided after planning a couple of these weddings, that she had a knack for it and so, she started a business called Next To The Dress. The business is doing well, but planning a wedding for a customer and planning a wedding for your child are two different things. When it is your child’s wedding, you also have all the stressed out emotions of your children, as well as your own emotions too. In addition to that, when it is her child’s wedding, Chantel has parts of the planning that normally aren’t a part of the wedding planner’s duties. Being the wedding planner and the mom is a unique role for any wedding planner, and yet being the mom is often how wedding planners come to be wedding planners. They plan a wedding for their child, and then start a business.

Chantel is such a great artist, and she brings all of her artistic abilities to create the wedding of her client’s dreams. She can create just about any design her client can dream up. That kind of talent isn’t easy to find, and it takes a lot of effort on Chantel’s part. She spend hours searching the internet for design examples to show her clients, so that their wedding will become the dream they have always fantasized about. That is really what makes Chantel such a great wedding planner. It is more than just an attention to detail, it is a dedication to the dreams of her clients, and isn’t that what it is all about?

While Chantel is very busy right now, she is very excited for this wedding. It is the last for her children, and that can be a little emotional. Chantel is a sentimental person,so crying at weddings is simply a given. I don’t think any mom can go to the wedding of her child and not be emotional. After all, that bride or groom is the baby she carried for nine months, and then raised to adulthood. They will always be her babies, and as we all know, most mom’s are weepy people when it comes the sentimental things their kids do, like weddings graduations, and parenthood. And Chantel considers herself to be a queen of emotion, so don’t expect anything else. Today is Chantel’s birthday. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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