parents

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It’s a strange thing to have something you have expected to last for a certain period of time, come to an abrupt end. You find yourself hanging in limbo, and it can become depressing, or I suppose it could become exhilarating, if it was something you didn’t really like anyway. Such has been the case with the 2020 school year, and the Covid-19 Pandemic that changed everything. Yes, the students are still in class, at least virtual class, but it really isn’t the same. I understand about homeschooling, but for parents who did not expect to make that commitment, it can be a daunting task. There is more to it than just the classwork too. Kids need structure, and having summer begin at Spring Break threw everyone into a tailspin. At first it just seemed like a really long Spring Break, then when the virtual classes started, they really started to miss the time spent with their friends and their teachers…even the tough ones. It seems that being in class with a teacher who makes you work for your grade, is preferable to being at home with your parents acting as your teacher, and you are in detention, even if you did nothing wrong.

At first, when it was just the extended Spring Break, and people were staying at home, no one really noticed that he kids were out of school. Then, as the weather got warmer, people got out on the trails and on the playgrounds, still “social distancing,” but getting a little bit of fresh air and removing themselves from the “cabin fever” that was quickly threatening their sanity. Suddenly, we became very aware that these kids should be in school. While the weather was warmer, it wasn’t summer yet. The school year of 2020 had only officially run for seven of the nine months it was supposed to. In fact, truth be told, school should still be in session…even now. And yet, while summer vacation is not here yet, the schools are closed. The 2020 school year hasn’t officially ended, and it isn’t officially in progress either. Parents are worried about the education their kids got this last quarter. Virtual classes were shorter that normal, and so the kids spent far less time in virtual class too. Nothing about the last quarter of school was normal. The kids didn’t always get to class, but did the homework, thinking it was enough, and for some of them, maybe it was, but what of the rest of them…the ones who needed that class time. Were they left hanging…time will tell, I guess.

The next school year is still up in the air too. There are schools who have said that they will open, and others who will continue the virtual program. That has parents up in arms too, because they are preparing to go back to work, and they will need someone to be home with their children while they work. A virtual teacher doesn’t really replace the safety of being in the classroom with a teacher in charge. All the “experts” have said that life is going to take on a “new normal,” and they may be right, but I think that if school doesn’t start back up next school year, there will be a lot of parents who might need to start taking Prozac or something similar. Most parents find themselves impatiently awaiting the end of summer so the kids can go back to school, but this year was like the summer that never ended. The kids are just as bored, and there was no place to send them. The pools aren’t going to open, the rec centers either, and there is only so much a kid can do at the school playground. The walking paths are frequented by kids on bicycles and longboards, and even kids walking their dogs, but the reality is, these kids need to go back to school. They are designed to be social beings, not socially distanced.

My sister, Cheryl Masterson has always been a part of my life, because she is two years older than I am. She was there when I came home from the hospital, eager to have a little sister, and ready to teach me the things she had learned in her, then short life. I don’t know what I would have done if she had not always been there, and I am forever grateful that I didn’t have to find out. Cheryl and I have always had the bond that can only the two oldest siblings can have, the elder because she was no longer the only child, all alone, and the younger because she never had to be alone. Of course, we both love our younger sisters the same as we do each other, but we have also known each other longer than we have known the younger ones. I think that we have almost felt like a slightly different generation than our younger sisters, probably from the fact than there were just two of us until I was three and Cheryl was five, instead of the two years between Cheryl and me.

Through the years, Cheryl and I remained close even through the tougher teen years, probably more my “bad” than hers. Of the two of us, I have no choice but to admit that I am a “stubborn mule” sometimes…something I believe as both served me well, and made things difficult too. Cheryl, on the other hand is a person who is of a pure heart, who actively strives to do what is good and right in the sight of God. I don’t say she isn’t somewhat stubborn too, but maybe not quite as stubborn as a mule. What I find most endearing though is her heart. She is able to look past the current situation, to the solution. I think she got that from our dad. He was always the kind of person who knew how to take charge of a situation and be the guide to take the rest of us forward. Many is the time that I just wanted to scream at someone, and Cheryl told me that screaming would not produce the best outcome. She was right, of course. Losing our temper is the fastest way to turn people against you. A soft word, and forgiveness reaches many more hearts. Don’t get me wrong, Cheryl is not a pushover, just wiser than many other people in certain matters.

During the years when we were taking of our parents, Cheryl carried such a heavy portion of the load. Being divorced with grown children, Cheryl lived with Mom and Dad, and the rest of us, sisters, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I will be forever grateful to her for that. Cheryl, cooked and cleaned the house, helped them get to bed, gave them their meds, and kept them company…and so much more. She was an integral part of the team of people we had helping with their care. I was a show of the deep family love we had, taught to us by our parents, and carried out through our parents’ care and beyond. We are all very close and always will be. The bonds that are built during such a venture are strong and really unbreakable.

Cheryl loves her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren so much. They are her heart and soul. She is very devoted to them. She prays over them, helps them, babysits for them, hangs out with them. They are her best friends. Her youngest granddaughter, Aleesia especially likes to hang out with her grandma, and in fact, would love it if Cheryl lived with them, so she could see her all the time. Of course that’s not possible, so Aleesia often spends weekends and part of the evenings with Cheryl. They have a very special bond that not many grandchildren are blessed with. Many live too far away, or are not as close as Cheryl’s family, so they don’t have such a tight connection. Not that they are not loved, but just that they aren’t together as often. Cheryl’s connection is a beautiful thing to see, and I’m so happy that she has that connection. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Whether you are a die-hard football fan, or you just like to bet once in a while, many people find themselves in some kind of bet over the Super Bowl. Most bets are innocent enough, with everyone laying their money down to see if they can pick the winner, point spread, or just the right square on a grid. Lots of people even bet on the games leading up to the Super Bowl, to keep the fun going all season long. Normally the whole idea is to see who can come up with the most money won, but every once in a while, a bet takes place that has nothing to do with money, and in this case, that has made all the difference.

Mike and Ashley are two college students who have jumped on the tickle torture bandwagon. They read some of my tickle torture stories and the comments that followed, and Ashley decided that she wanted to “get” Mike when he could not defend himself. She solicited some assistance from her girlfriends, and one day, when Mike was taking a nap on her couch, he awoke to find that he was tied down, and his socks were being removed. He tried to fight the girls off, but they had him tied down tight. Thus began a series of bets to see who had to allow themselves to be tickle tortured. The ultimate winner was to win the torture session of a lifetime when the loser was tied down for the duration of the game.

The bet started out simple enough…between just the two of them, but it seems that Mike has made some “tickle enemies” over the years. That’s what happens when you have been the torturer to beat all torturers. Mike’s friends, cousins, parents, and even aunts and uncles wanted in on the fun. In the end, it was decided that there was to be one loser, and many winners. The tickle ideas began to run wild. Things like using a ball point pen to record the score changes on the bottoms of the loser’s feet, with a mandatory “scrubbing” of the feet to remove the old score changes…feathers between the toes, hair brushes, and a multitude of other tickle tools to round out the fun.

Unfortunately for Mike, he made so real poor team picks when it came to each week’s winning team picks. He lost to everyone, including nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, his parents, and all the girls. His goose was cooked…so to speak. When the Super Bowl rolled around, lots of plans had been made for our loser. Leading up to the torture session were plenty of pictures of stocking feet that would “not” be tickled in the days events. Everyone was in on this…and nobody was missing this Super Bowl Party.

On that fateful day, Mike had to allow himself to be restrained. The group had decided to wrap him up like a burrito so that he couldn’t move. The torture devises were put on display for Mike to get a good look at. He had thought to try keeping his socks on to protect his feet as much as possible, but you can’t keep your socks on when you are tied up like a burrito. You have no say. Of course, Mike was to be allowed breaks, but then his dad came up with the idea of making him win a bet in order to get his break. Things were not looking good for the guy who hadn’t won a week’s bets all season, and to top it off, Mike comes from a fun-loving tickle family. He was doomed. Everyone had their own ideas of the torture they would mete out…and since Mike was in his cocoon in the middle of the room, it was open season. There was even a finale that he had no idea was coming.

If you watched the Super Bowl, you have a good idea just how many score changes there were, and remember that the score changed for the touchdown, and for the conversion point. Mike said there were something like 12 score changes…and he would know. Mike had tortured all these people, and now it was payback time. Mike said that the worst part was the scrubbing off of the old score for the changes. That tickled worse than anything else. Mike told me that his feet were still feeling the tickle days later. He had never laughed so hard in his life. In fact he’s still recovering. He will never live this down. And as to the finale, well…it seems that at one time, Mike decided to prank his cousin by smashing a pie in her face. She has been waiting to just the right time to get even for that one, and so there was a cream pie just for the occasion. I wish I could have seen that one. Unfortunately, everyone was having so much fun, that the pictures were few, and far between. Nevertheless, the Super Bowl Tickle Torture was a grand success.

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!!

I was thinking about Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Jewish children from the brutal activities, and almost certain death that was being dealt out by Hitler during World War II. Of course, Sir Winton wasn’t the only person who stepped up to help wage their own battle against the Third Reich. Many people in Nazi occupied areas took in families in desperate need. When word is the deportations to the ghettos came down, some parents had to make the horrible choice to give their children to friends and neighbors to “hide” them in plain site, raising them as their own, and everyone hoping to be able to return them to their own parents after the war. The problem was that so many of the parents were killed in the camps.

After the war was over, many of these children did not remember their parents. They were too young when they were given to people to care for. That created a new and almost more difficult situation. Some of the foster parents had fallen in love with the children in their care, and the viler knew no other family. Still, they were not their children. It was a heart wrenching situation. The other problem was that due to bombings, many of the homes housing these “hidden” children were gone, and they had no way to let anyone know where they had gone. That made it even more difficult to return the children. And some people couldn’t bear to part with the children anyway. That left parents devastated and without recourse.

Some children were reunited with their parents quickly and some took years…if ever. I wonder about the ones that took years, because of the immense loss they must have felt over so much lost time. You just can’t get that time back, and you can’t change whatever the children endured in their lives. Everyone just had to let go of the past and go forward, as best they could. There was no way to go back to their pre-war lives. Each had changed, some were forever missing, and some were lost to the horrific hatred that was Hitler’s Third Reich.

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!!

It sounds like something straight out of the annals of criminal behavior, but while it is strange, the authorities decided that it wasn’t illegal. Everyone knows that the adoption process, and the cost involved can make it almost impossible for many parents to adopt a child, but in late 1911, Parisians seeking to become parents could do things the regular way. Or they could take a more unusual option offered to them that year: A baby lottery. That’s right a baby lottery.

In January 1912, a foundling hospital, which was actually a children’s home, decided to hold “a raffle of live babies.” The hospital’s management check on the legalities and once they received the go-ahead, the plan went forward. The plan was two-fold. They wanted to find homes for these sweet abandoned babies, and they wanted to raise funds for the children’s home and other charitable institutions.

To protect the innocent babies, “An investigation of the winners was made, of course, to determine their desirability as foster parents.” By modern standards, this sort of thing feels bizarre and crazy, not to mention neglectful. But, as John F Ptak points out in his blog post about the lottery, “in comparison with some bitter early histories of the want of tenderness in the care of children, and keeping in mind the great leap forward in the creation of the foundling hospitals and what they represented in the face of not having anywhere for unwanted and impossible babies to go, the idea of the lottery for cute babies in 1912 doesn’t look so bad when placed in its historical context…With the terrible history of infanticide and exposure not too dimly removed from this time, the lottery seems far less horrible than its antiquarian components.” I would agree. While the idea was odd, it was similar to the Orphan Trains, with the exception of the background checks done on the parents wanting these babies.

It is an amazing thing when we look back on it, and most of us would be somewhat appalled, but for these babies, it was a chance at a loving home, and it would appear that it worked very well…at least in that era. I don’t know how successful such a thing would be in this day and age. The dangers would very likely outweigh the good, and that is sad, because adoption is so expensive that many families remain childless. They just don’t have the money to go through a reputable agency, and anything else is a scary proposition. I would worry about they kinds of people who would try for something like this these days too. Most would be fine I’m sure, but there are a lot of crazy people out there too. I think the 1912 Paris Baby Lottery was an event of another era that will most likely never be seen again.

When I think of my grand niece, Raelynn Masterson, the picture that comes to mind is that of a tiny little girl of maybe 6 or 7, but Raelynn is no longer that little girl, because today is her sweet 16th birthday. I’m sure that the idea of their daughter turning 16 is even harder for her parents, Rob and Dustie Masterson, and yet, like it or not, that iconic day has arrived.

I think we all know what the 16th birthday means…driving. I’m not sure if they will get her license today, but I’m sure that it won’t be very long. Driving is the most important part of turning 16, after all. It’s the day we no longer have to depend on someone else get us where we need to go. Another plus is that once she has her license, Raelynn can help her parents with transporting her younger siblings, Matt and Anna. It will be fun for all of them.

Raelynn is a good student, who likes school, and does well in her studies. She is a quiet girl, who tends to focus on what she is doing. She has a soft heart, especially when it comes to animals, and her grandma’s cat has often been the recipient of her kind caresses. That cat loves Raelynn. She is also much loved by her siblings. Don’t get me wrong. Like all siblings, they have their fights, but when it comes down to need, those kids are there for each other. When Raelynn had to have back surgery to correct Scoliosis, her siblings were very good to her. They wanted to help her to get well quickly and their help did not go unnoticed by their sister. She will always be grateful to them.

It’s so hard to believe that Raelynn is now old enough to drive. Before long, I suppose she will have a job and will be out doing her own things and making her own money. Raelynn is a pretty responsible girl. I think she will be a good driver, and a good employee, but I still can’t resist warning the general public…”Stay off the sidewalks…new driver on the roads!” Today is Raelynn’s sweet 16th birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Thinking of my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer on their 66th wedding anniversary, the first thought that comes to mind is that it has been so very long since I’ve seen them. I wonder how the years could have gone by so fast. My dad has been in Heaven since 2007, and my mom since 2015. It seems like forever…probably because we have missed them every day since they have been gone. That’s how it goes with your parents, I think. While they are gone from this Earth, they are never gone from the hearts of the children who love them. They gave you life, nurtured you through your childhood years, and then let you spread you wings and fly free. They didn’t stifle your dreams, even if it meant that your were far away from them. That is the love of parents.

My own parents were all that and more for my four sisters and me. They were our rock, grounding us with their teachings and their faith in God. We always knew that no matter what happened or what mistakes we might make, they were there for us. They always had the answers we needed to resolve any situation. We would always view our lives as perfect. It didn’t matter what we might face later in their lives, or what they might need from us, we would always be there for them, just as they were for us. In fact, we never expected that they would need help from us. They seemed invincible. I suppose that is what made it so hard to face the day they went to Heaven. The knowledge that the world as we knew it would never be the same for us again, stunned us to our very core. It had not occurred to us that we would live on this Earth without parents, even if it should have. Still, once again, their teachings sustained us and, just as they knew we would, we were able to move forward in our lives. They had raised us to become independent women, after all. They knew that we would step up and become the new matriarchs of the family, bring the next generation forward to their own independence, so they could, in turn, raise their children to that level and so on. That was still part of the love of parents for their children.

Our parents showed us how to work at life. They knew that nothing in life is guaranteed, but with hard work, you can succeed in most areas of your life. Our parents showed us that being married isn’t always roses and candy, but when you had a loving, solid marriage, it was always rewarding. Their years together, though cut short when Dad passed away in 2007, were filled with love and stability. The married years they spent on this Earth were 53 years, but while people are not married in Heaven, they will always love each other. Today would have been my parents 66th wedding anniversary. I know they are enjoying time together in Heaven, and it is a joyous day. Happy 66th anniversary in Heaven, Mom and Dad!! We love and miss you very much, and we will see you in the future.

After his mother, Ramona Hadlock passed away, my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock and my sister, Allyn Hadlock inherited his parents’ place on the North Platte River east of Casper. Chris always loved his childhood home, and he can’t wait to move back there. Chris’ parents bought their place in 1973, put a mobile home on the land, and the rest is history…family history, that is. For the most part, Chris and his younger brother, Doug were the children still at home. They loved country living. In the winter, the river and the creek on their property froze, and while they didn’t ride bicycles on the river, they did on the frozen creek. They also took turns pulling each other behind a bicycle on the frozen creek. Chris often talks about his life there and his thoughts are filled with the Christmas barbecues and summertime picnics in the back yard which sits right on the river. Those were happy days when both his parents were still alive, and the time he spent learning things from them.

Chris and Allyn have been busily tearing out anything useful in the old mobile home that his parents lived in, because they plan to sell their home in Casper to their son, Ryan and daughter-in-law, Chelsea and their family. With the proceeds of the sale, they will build their new home on the river, in the place they love to be. It was in this back yard that their rehearsal dinner was held the night before their wedding…37 years ago. And this is the land where so many other family gatherings have been held. It’s no wonder it holds such a big place in Chris’ heart. I’m sure that when he is there, he can almost visualize his parents all around him. I know that because it is the way I feel when I am in my parents home, which is now where my sister, Cheryl Masterson lives. Being able to go back to your childhood home is such a blessing, and I know that is how Chris feels too. The tearing down of the house was something they could not bear to watch in person, because it was Chris’ childhood home, and it felt so final to tear it down, but now that it is gone, they have been able to move forward with the plans for the new house, the construction of which is scheduled to begin soon.

These days Chris talks about the new memories they will make at his childhood home, because while the house is gone, and a new one will soon take it’s place, and his parents’ echo still remains all over the land. That will always be with him. He plans to continue many of the traditions of his parents, and of course they will start many new traditions with their own family, and with the families of their combined siblings too. The place is beautiful and quite big, so it can accommodate lots of people, and at the back fence, you can sit and view the lazy river going by. There are wild turkeys and lots of other birds, and of course, the fresh air and wide open spaces. I know that as Chris and Allyn live on the land, it will grow into a wonderful place where they will want to spend the rest of their lives…other than their place on the mountain, of course. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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