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My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen is studying to be a nurse. It was not her life’s dream, but rather a change that came about after spending years as a caregiver for both sets of her grandparents, Allen and Collene Spencer, and Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Corrie was a faithful team member and loving caregiver to them all. She was meticulous, loving, kind, and cheerful. Whether she knew it then or not, Corrie possessed all the traits of a successful CNA or nurse, except for the medical training that is. I sometimes wonder if she had any inkling of what the future would bring. She knew she was good at caregiving, but did that doesn’t necessarily transfer to nursing. It doesn’t matter really, because God knew.

From the time Corrie was 15, she worked in one office or another…just 3 really, and she was very good at what she did. She married Kevin Petersen just a month and a half after her high school graduation. At that time, she wasn’t interested in college, but rather was looking forward to starting a family. She was content and her family was her whole world. Life went on and her boys, Chris and Josh grew, but when they were 10 and 8, my her grandpa became ill, and that started 13 years of caregiving, first for one grandparent and then for another. Our family “caregiving team” needed lots of help, because it really does take a village to take care of a person, and the hardest thing is to have a village of one or two. Corrie, her sister, Amy Royce, and their kids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen all became a part of that village, and we couldn’t have done what we did without each and every one of them.

When our village was no longer necessary, an event we wished had never come, Corrie began to feel like she needed a different career. God was leading her to make a career change. The time she had spent caring for her grandparents would change her forever. She prayed about it, and made the decision to follow God’s leading. She would have to trust Him to make a way, which He has in every way, and through every aspect of her training…because God knew it was right for her. Today is Corrie’s birthday!! Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When Wyoming Medical Center merged with Mountain View Clinic, the people who worked for the clinic had to re-apply for their jobs. Not all were kept, but my sister, Allyn Hadlock was hired by Wyoming Medical Center. When she started her new job, it was also at a new location, Wyoming Medical Center, but the people she works with have made her new job feel like home. They have welcomed her like she is family, even decorating her office on Friday in honor of her birthday.

Allyn loves being a grandmother, and is very hands on with the kids. She picks the oldest two, Ethan and Aurora Hadlock, Up from school three days a week, because their mom is at work. Their mom, Chelsea’s work is right by Eileen’s cookies, so they usually stop to get a cookie before she drops them off. Some might say the kids are spoiled, but that’s just what grandmas do. Allyn is also very close to her younger granddaughters, Adelaide Sawdon and Mackenzie Moore. Adelaide’s mommy, Jessi thinks her mother should retire and become her nanny, and Allyn would probably like nothing more than to do so. Mackenzie has lived in North Caroline since her birth, but February 1st marched a big change, when the family moved to Laramie, Wyoming so her dad. Shannon Moore could take a job as a football coach at the University of Wyoming. That puts them back n Wyoming for the first time in a long time. Allyn’s daughter, Lindsay and Mackenzie are staying with Allyn and her husband, Chris until March when the final move is made to Laramie. Allyn is ecstatic. Her family is all close again, and all is right in her world.

Allyn’s birthday, because it falls during Valentine’s week, has always been kind of special, but never more so that since her marriage to Chris Hadlock. He always makes sure that she gets two bouquets of flowers, one for her birthday and one for Valentine’s Day. They are always really pretty. Being almost a Valentine’s Day baby, Allyn has always liked hearts. They are her favorite shape. She has always made a special candlelight dinner for her family on her special China. She would set their Valentine’s on their plates and make it a fun evening. Her daughter, Jessi loved it so much that she does the same for my family now! It is really special, and less expensive than going out. Nom reservations needed. It’s a wonderful tradition. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

One of the more primitive forms of communication in modern times, was the telegraph. Most of us think of the wild west, and the lone operator sitting in his little office, tapping away on his little telegraph machine. We are also kind of interested in the whole thing, because he was able to write in a language the rest of us do not know, unless we are trained in Morse Code. And most of us think that with modern forms of communication, the telegraph has long been gone from history, but that isn’t so…at least not until January 27, 2006. That was the day when Western Union sent its final telegram. For many, at least for history lovers, that was a sad day. The end of another era. Gone forever.

While it is a sad day, we must move forward. Technology was rapidly advancing, and we couldn’t drag our feet. In the time it took to prepare a message, go to the telegraph office, take care of the business of payment, have the message sent, and then wait for it to be delivered, we could have made dozens of phone calls of our cell phones. The telegraph was simply a waste of our precious time. So, after 145 years, telegrams were simply gone…no fanfare, no “retirement” party, nothing…just gone. Nothing, but a small announcement on Western Union’s website prior to the ending. It’s like somehow, such a vital form of communication for 145 years…meant nothing at all.

I’m sure that many people really don’t see why the end of the telegraph was so significant, but for me, there is a nostalgic side to it. I love history, and I am amazed at the innovation of mankind. Over the centuries many amazing inventions have come about, and many discoveries too. Humans really do have a rich history, and when apart of it is over, it is somewhat sad to me. When something that was a mainstay of our society, and just like that, it’s gone, It’s as if we have punished the technology that got us to the place we are. The telegram was just that. For many years, messages from far away…of joy and of sorrow, came to us by telegraph. And in small towns, the person delivering the message knew what it said before the receiver, because he had written it up when it came in.

We all know that Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, and then had to sell the idea, before he could get the money to build what was only a dream in his head before that. Nevertheless, after showing what his machine could do, Samuel Morse was given $30,000 to build his line. The dream became a reality that would continue for 145 years. More than a year later, the first message was sent on May 24, 1844 and the country was convinced. In a partnership with several other men, Morse began the building of more and more lines, expanding the availability of the new-fangled invention. Eventually, they even had field telegraph office. I’m sure it all seemed impossible, but once Morse proved his machine, everyone was on board…at least until the next new thing came alone. That’s typical, but for the telegraph, the next big thing was a ways down the road.

imageYou can think you are prepared for life’s changes, but until the exact moment they happen, you don’t really know. When my daughter, Amy Royce, her husband Travis, and son, Caalab moved to Washington state a year ago, I thought I would never get used to it, over it, or on with it, but time marches on, and I had no choice but to march along with it. Amy and Travis’ daughter, Shai stayed here in Casper, and I think it helped that I felt the need to try to lift her spirit and help her make the transition from being a kid living at home to an adult living in her own place. It was such a hard change for both of us. Memories of Amy, Travis, and Caalab were everywhere, but for me, especially Amy, since we worked together. I think that the hardest part with Amy’s move was the empty chairs at the office, church, and Saturday morning breakfast. It will be no different this time, since Shai worked with me too. Now I have that empty chair at the office, church, and Saturday morning breakfast…again.

I have always been close with all my children and grandchildren, so as each one spreads their wings and flies imageaway, I find myself tearing up, as I look at their empty places and think about the length of time before I will see them again. For Shai, I know it is for the best. She has missed her family terribly, and while her grandparents might play a close second, we just aren’t her parents and brother. That isn’t a bad thing, because I know how much she loves us. It’s just impossible to replace your own family. Shai and Caalab have not always been good friends, but as the grew, they became very close, and I think this last year has been extremely hard on both of them. And she is very close to her parents, as well. My logical side is really very happy for her to be rejoining them, it’s just my emotional side that can’t seem to wrap itself around the logic, and every time I see a place where Shai used to be, I feel lonely all over again.

When I came home at lunch I thought about the last few days. Caalab flew in on July 8th, and with both of their things here at my house, we had quite a disaster area going. Now all their things are gone, and the house imageseems very empty and very quiet. Of course, Bob isn’t here either, since he went with the kids to help with the move. Still, I think it will feel a little empty even when he gets home. It’s not because Shai lived with us, because she didn’t, but she moved out of her apartment on June 30th, and so for eleven days, her things were here. Now, after a whirlwind visit for Caalab, and the date of their departure coming up far too fast, I find myself facing that empty chair…again. I know I’ll be ok, because I’ve been through this before, but that empty chair will be a stumbling block for a while yet, no matter how I feel about it, or how much I try to avoid looking at it. Shai…I know that your life will be wonderful, just don’t forget where your grandpa and grandma live, and remember that we love you more than words can ever say.

IMG_0020aOne of the hardest things a parent has to face, is having their child move away. Whether it is to college or a permanent move, it is a tearing time for the parents, who had hoped this day would never come. Parents don’t have children so they can move away, but nevertheless, that is what happens sometimes. Whether it is a job transfer, college, or a move of choice, it is really hard on both parents and children. Since I have never moved away as a child, I can’t speak to the feelings of homesickness that come from living so far from the only home I have ever known. I suppose it could be much the same as the parents are feeling about their child leaving. You want them to be happy, and yet you had always hoped that their happiness would be found in the same city that you live in, and not in a city that is 1200 miles away from you. That is just so far away, that it seems unbearable.

As the parent, in this situation, I think it might be just a bit unique. For the last six and a half years, I have had the great pleasure of working side by side with my daughter, Amy Royce. Friday was her last day, since she is moving to Washington state today. I think the hardest part of her leaving work for good, is seeing her empty chair. Her office is out front, and will continue to be used to do things like make payments and such, until we hire someone to take her place, but it’s really hard for me to go in there, because when I do, I am once again faced with that empty chair…not to mention the task of telling every client that Amy no longer works there. It almost feels like rubbing it in.

It has also been our tradition to go to breakfast with Amy every other week on Saturday, trading off with going to breakfast with our older daughter, Corrie Petersen. As we were having a special breakfast Sunday morning, which included both of them, so that we could all enjoy one more time together, it occurred to me that in the future, we would again be looking at an empty chair…the one Amy used to occupy every other week at breakfast. It is just another reminder of the drastic change that has taken place in our family.

Then, came church. I am used to having Amy sitting on my right and Corrie on my left, but Sunday morning brought yet another empty chair, as Amy and her family spent the morning packing the moving truck they have rented. Amy also sang with me as part of the backup singers for the music ministry, and that felt a little bit lonely too…even though I didn’t stand right next to her. I still knew that she was there, and now I know that she isn’t there anymore.That Empty Chair

I know that I will get used to having my daughter and her family living so far away. It will just take time. I know it will be hard for them too, but I think they will have a bit of an advantage over me, and those of us left behind, including their daughter, Shai, who decided to stay in Casper, because they will not be picturing us in places around their world. It will not be normal to have us there at their work, at the restaurants they go too, or the church they attend. They will have a normal that doesn’t include us. We will have to create a new normal that does not include them. Yes, I will get used to having them gone too. I just think it would be easier for me, were it not for that empty chair.

Chris senior pictureWhen my two oldest grandchildren, Chris and Shai, completed their last day of high school, they both stopped by my office to share their thoughts with me. Chris has his next three years of college all planned out, while Shai isn’t sure of what she wants to do concerning college, but that didn’t matter, because their feelings were essentially the same. Both were a little bit in shock. How could all those school years have somehow flown by so quickly? Suddenly it seemed like just yesterday that they were starting Kindergarten, middle school, and high school…so how could it possibly be over. It felt so final.

Looking back, I remember my own final day of high school, and I still remember exactly how I felt. It was a mixture of shock and sadness. It wasn’t that I wasn’t ready to move on to the new chapters of my life and all the great things my life would hold, but there was just a little sadness that my formal childhood education, and therefore my childhood were now over. Being an adult is such a change from the teenage years. You don’t have to answer to your parents, or even live under their roof, but that means that you are now responsible for your own bills, your own job, your own decisions, and your own mistakes. It is a big step, but that isn’t what is causing the feeling of, something is…not quite right here…when did I suddenly slip through this passage of time, and how could I have not noticed that it was going by.

To a kid, the school years seem like they will go on forever, and by about first grade they figure out that they have a total of thirteen years of school to go through, and that feels like a huge amount of years of school. It seems never ending. Then in the blink of an eye, they find themselves standing on the threshold of graduation, and they look back and wonder where all the years went. There is simply no way to reach this point without suddenly thinking “Whoa…wait!! I’m not sure I’m ready for this!!” Nevertheless, ready or not, here it is. You don’t have the option to go back, slow down, or stop and do things over. You are graduating, and your years of childhood education, and childhood in general are over. It is a sobering discovery, and therefore it takes a bit of getting used to, combined with that hint of sadness. I could totally relate to how Chris and Shai were feeling.Shai's senior picture

Whether a student likes school, or can’t wait until it is over, I think the reaction to that final day is the same…even if they plan to go to college. College is not the same as high school, so the feel of that is very different than anything they are used to. Their education is their own responsibility…they can do what they need to do, or they can bomb out. Of course, bombing out does mean that they have some explaining to do to their parents, but it is still up to them really. They are adults now, and their choices are their own…as are their mistakes. I know that both my grandchildren will be great!!

ShaiToday is one of three un-birthdays that Shai,  my granddaughter will have before she gets to have her next real birthday. Shai is a Leap Day baby, and officially she is 4 1/4 years old today…or actually on that nanosecond between February 28th and March 1st…that is as close as we can get to her birthday, three out of 4 years. Most people, myself included, think the Leap Day is a cool birthday. It makes her 1 in 1500. That is the odds of being born on Leap Day. Not as rare as lots of other things, but rare enough.

Shai was a little grown up well before the years would make her a young woman, so it is fitting that today she is seventeen, but not really. That has always been the case with Shai, older than her actual years. She took care of my parents when they were sick and she was only 10 years old, or 2 1/2. She babysat for my niece Jenny at 12 years old, or 3. And like most kids, she drove at 16, except that she was really 4.

Like her cousin Chris born the day before Shai, I was there for Shai’s birth, and that was only a week ago, so how could she already be seventeen years old, even if seventeen is really 4 1/4, I take no consolation in the fact that we can call her younger than the years that have passed since her birth, because they have simply gone by too fast. My only consolation is the fact that Shai, like her cousin is a good girl who stays away from trouble and loves the Lord.

Shai doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life yet, and that’s ok. The possibilities are endless, and I know that whatever she does will be perfect for her. She could easily go into nursing, because she has had 7 years of experience in that area, but I’m not sure that is the choice she would make. She is a very social person, and it would not surprise me to see her go into a field like public relations. She worked in my office for over a year, at late 14 through 15 years of age, which is very unusual for a kid of that age. She did so many things early, and it made me even more aware of how fast the years were rushing by.

Today, Shai is unofficially seventeen years of age, and while it seems to me like a week ago, I have long been aware that she was growing up very quickly and right before our eyes. Happy birthday Shai!! Have a great day, and maybe slow down a bit, ok. We love you very much!!

My grand nephew Ethan is 4 years old today, and at this age, he is really coming into his own. He has lost the toddler aspect of his personality, and it has been replaced with a little boy with ideas of his own. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. And he doesn’t mind telling you what he thinks about it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Ethan is a very well behaved little boy…he just knows what he wants to do. His mom, Chelsea told me the other day that he wanted to come to my office, which just happens to be just down the street from where he lives. He tried very hard to insist on it, but it wasn’t a good day for Chelsea to bring him. That just melted my heart. Ethan is such a sweet boy, but it never occurred to me that he might enjoy stopping by my office for a visit. It was just such a sweet little moment, and I told Chelsea that she would have to bring him by real soon.

Ethan has a shy side too, though. Sometimes at church, when he feels like maybe there are just too many people around, he will hardly talk to me or anyone else but his parents, grandma or his aunts. Of course, that doesn’t include the other kids, because Ethan is all about playing with the kids…any kids. He loves his little neighborhood friends, his cousins, and his friends at school, and he loves his teacher, who he often calls Mrs DeHaigler, instead of Mrs Haigler…a mistake that I find very cute, as I’m sure his teacher will too.

Ethan loves to laugh, and loves to hang out with the guys. If his dad or grandpa are doing something, it just must be cool, and Ethan wants to be a part of it. He is all boy, and loves doing the guy things that boys love to do. And Ethan loves to make his little sister laugh. He loves being a big brother, and loves having a live in playmate, and of course, Aurora thinks Ethan is the greatest big brother ever. On that one, she could be right…or biased, but you’ll never convince her of that. Happy birthday Ethan!! We love you!! Have a super cool day!!

When our daughter, Amy was a little girl, and really still today, she hated conflict. If Bob and I were having an argument, she would try to think of things to make us laugh, and thus end the argument. One day, as we were going to town, Bob and I were having some argument, and Amy got our attention. There she was, sitting in the back seat, with a Chiquita Banana sticker stuck to the end of her nose. Of course, we laughed, and the argument was over. It’s hard to laugh and fight at the same time. Happy with her success in the matter, this became a standard maneuver for Amy, whenever we were arguing.

After a while, she got to where she just liked the feel of tape and stickers. You could find her playing with tape or stickers just about any time, and every day. The funny thing is that she still does that to this day. She can’t really look at tape, without pulling a piece off, and wrapping it around her fingers so she can feel it pull away from her fingertips. It is definitely a strange habit, but I guess we all have strange habits.

As parents, the habits we have tend to rub off on our children, and this is no exception. No, I didn’t play with tape as a kid or as an adult, but Amy’s habit has rubbed off on her daughter, Shai. Yesterday, when she was at the office where Amy and I both work, she was in my office looking at some pictures from my boss’ recent trip, and the next thing I know, Shai reached over and took a piece of tape from my tape dispenser, wrapped it around her fingers, and started playing with it. It was a deja vu moment.

I looked at Amy, and said, “When did she start doing that?” Shai told us that she likes playing with tape, and in fact she does it so often that her teachers tell her, “Shai, leave the tape alone!!” We had a good laugh about that one, and told the story about how that all got started with Amy. Then Amy said, “Awwwww!! My little girl is just like her mom!!” It was a funny, and yet, cool kind of moment, because as you know, most teenagers don’t want to be at all like their parents.

With the upcoming release of the 3D version of the movie Titanic, discussion in our office turned to the passengers on that fateful voyage. My boss, Jim and his wife, Julie found out that there was a couple on board the Titanic named Charles Emil Henry Stengel who was traveling with his wife Annie May. I have been researching both my family tree, and theirs, so I told them I would check into it. Unfortunately, so far, I haven’t found the connection in their family that I am fairly certain exists, but I will keep looking for it. As I was looking for the name of those passengers, however, I found that there was a man named William Augustus Spencer, who was traveling with his wife Marie Eugenie. It has been my experience in my years of research, that most of people with the last name of Spencer are related, so I began researching William Augustus Spencer.

He was pretty simple to find, as he became famous when he died during the Titanic disaster. Of course, finding him doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easy to connect him to me. The good news is that the Spencer family is one of the few who kept extensive records. I followed the line backwards through names I had never heard of before, until I finally came to one I knew quite well…Gerard Spencer who married Alice Whitebread. To get to that connection, I had to go back to the 1500’s. Then moving to my own tree, and starting at Gerard, I followed the correct children to get back to William Augustus Spencer. After that, I requested a relationship connection between William and myself. I found out that William Augustus Spencer is my 7th cousin 3 times removed. I know that relationship seems very distant, and I suppose most would consider it so, but when you consider that Princess Diana was my 18th cousin, I guess 7th isn’t so far after all.

William was married as I said, but they had no children, so sadly his line ended on that tragic day at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean when the RMS Titanic met her fate. He was 57 years old. His wife Marie Eugenie died just 6 months later in Paris. She was only 46 years old. Strangely, I have found several survivors who died a short time after the Titanic sank. The causes of death have varied and really cannot be linked to the sinking of the Titanic, but I still find it strange. I don’t know what Marie’s cause of death was, but at 45 years of age, it seems strange to me…almost like she died of a broken heart.

William Augustus Spencer’s estate was valued at $2,218,650 of which $1,273,071 went to Marie and the remainder to his nephew and his sister, so Marie was not destitute. But money cannot buy happiness, as we all know, and it certainly couldn’t extend her short life. Their story is one that I find interesting, and even strange to think that one of my family members perished on that tragic day…that seemed so far removed from my family a mere 2 days ago. But, I also find it very sad to think that two lives were…ended that day. One just took 6 more months to complete the ending process.

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