My grandnephew, Zack Spethman is the second child of my niece, Jenny Spethman and her husband, Steve Spethman. Zack is his older brother, Xander’s big little brother…standing several inched taller than Xander. Nevertheless, the height thing has never really been a big deal to them. They are best friends, and Zack hangs out with Xander and all Xander’s friends. Zack is so easy to get along with that for Xander he seems more like a friend, and for Xander’s friends, Zack is one of the guys.

As much as Zack likes to hang out with the guys, Zack really is a homebody. and is very comfortable in his own company. I can totally relate to that, because I am much the same. I think it comes from being a deep thinker. We tend to spend a lot of time in our own head…thinking things over, dreaming our own dreams, and planning the future. A person like that really likes, and needs, quiet time by himself. Many people don’t understand a “homebody/comfortable in his own company” kind of person, especially when, like Zack, they are also very much able to be very social…and I’ll admit that it is an unusual combination. Most people who are homebodies, are also introverts, and they really don’t want to be in social situations, but Zack is totally comfortable in either situation. He is really not an introvert at all, but rather a guy with a lot on his mind.

Zack got into a welding class this year and has really come into his own. His dad told me that it gives him a reason to go to school. He has got into welding and is really loving it. That reminds me of my dad, his great grandpa, Allen Spencer, who was also a welder. It seems to be in their blood. Zack’s cousin, Garrett Stevens also took after his grandpa and is a welder. It’s a good career move, if that’s what Zack chooses to do.

Zack and his friends, like most kids these days, like to play video games, and air soft gun hunting games. Paintball is like hand-to-hand combat, I suppose, but without the death factor. They used to use paintball guns, but I’m told it hurts some, so now they use air soft guns. Zack and his siblings, Xander, Isaac, and Aleesia have all been trained on guns and shooting. They know safety and have a healthy respect for life and the dangers of being careless with a gun. They hunt and the boys have all passed hunter safety courses (Aleesia is too young)., so even though they don’t shoot at people with a gun, the air soft gun is a fun way to do something a little different, and they love it. Today is Zack’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Zack!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Three out of four years, my granddaughter, Shai Royce doesn’t get a real birthday. That’s because her real birthday only happens once every four years. Of course, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t get a birthday celebration, because she does. Shai’s birthday is as special as she is, and that needs to be celebrated. The funny thing about it is that people don’t know exactly when to do that. Because my grandson, Shai’s cousin Chris Petersen was born the day before she was, we have always celebrated her nano-birthday on March 1, even if it is the wedding anniversary of her grandparents, my husband Bob and me. Chris and Shai are part of a cluster of birthdays and one anniversary, because Chris was born on my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s birthday. Not every Leap Day Baby calls the off years a nano-birthday. In reality, I made that up. You see, the birthday has to exist…right? It is the nano-second between 11:59pm on February 28th and 12:00am on March 1st…hence the nano-birthday. Technically, the Leap Day Baby can celebrate their nano-birthday on February 28, March 1st, or both, and when she turned 4 (16) she was able to get her driver’s license a day early, because that is just how the DMV did it. We have a lot of fun with the Leap Day Birthday/Nano-Birthday that we have, as I think most people who have or know someone who has that birthday do.

Shai is a very social person, and is always the life of the party. She gets that from her dad, Travis Royce. They can both walk into a room and instantly have friends to talk to…even if they didn’t know anyone before. They have simply never met a stranger. Her brother, Caalab is that way too. Her mom is more like her grandma…knowing that it can sometimes get too “peopley” out there. I think Caalab’s girlfriend, Chloe Foster is more my Amy and me, but I could be wrong. It takes all kinds to make life happy, and Shai’s family all live in harmony and get along very well.

Shai is a personal lines account manager at Rice Insurance, LLC, where her mom, Amy also works. They are both well respected in the insurance industry, and I guess I can take a little credit for that, since I gave both of them their start in insurance. Nevertheless, you can hire someone to work in insurance, but you cannot make it their niche. That is something they must decide for themselves, or as is the case with my daughter and granddaughter, have insurance in your blood. It is an industry that has served them both well, and that makes me very happy. Today is Shai’s 25th birthday, or in real years, it’s her 6¼ birthday. She could just be the youngest insurance agent in history, unless there is another Leap Day Baby who is an insurance agent. Happy nano-birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

These days there aren’t many people who haven’t heard of the Santa Ana winds, the California wildfires, or this year, the burning of Australia. We hear all about how global warming is the cause of the tragic fires and loss of both vegetation and life, human and animal. I agree with the analogy that the fires in Australia are horrific, but the cause…well, that has been determined to be, not global warming, draught, or lightning, but rather arson…ARSON!! Disgusting just isn’t a big enough word for what that is.

I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to burn something…anything. You can call it a sickness, and maybe it is, but that cannot be an excuse. If we allow such an excuse, more and more people will use it, take out their frustrations on things around them, and then expect to be excused because they are “sick.” At this point, firefighters are battling wildfires across Australia. Meanwhile, the police in New South Wales have arrested dozens of people for offenses related to fires, including 24 for deliberately lighting fires and three for looting fire-ravaged communities. There is also a story saying that 183 to 200 people are suspected of “fire-related offenses since November 8th, including for ‘allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land,’ but no verification as to the exact charges being lodged.

It is sad that the most common motive for wildfire arson is crime concealment. Fires are set for the purpose of covering up a murder or burglary or to eliminate evidence left at a crime scene. Fires have also been known to be set to further social, political, or religious causes. The fire set to cover up a crime, while horrific, is at least explainable, but fires set for political, social, or religious reasons is completely disgusting. There is just no excuse for the loss of homes businesses, and lives, human and animal, that could excuse such destruction. One fire, set to cover up a crime is reasonable, though disgusting, but these are all over Australia. And while one person might be a “sick” arsonist, to find 24 to 200 “sick” arsonists, is not even possible. The other thought that makes me so mad I could scream, is that even if this is socially, politically, or religiously motivated, what is the point? What are they trying to prove? All I can say is, that I hope they find the people who did this and that they give them the maximum sentence possible. I don’t know Australian law, so I don’t know if they have the death penalty or not, but I think these people should get it, if they do. And if not, solitary confinement for the rest of their lives might…just might, be punishment enough, but I really doubt it.

My grand-niece, Adelaide Sawdon is her mother in just about every way. She looks a lot like her mother, my niece, Jessi Sawdon, and she definitely has a lot of Jessi’s personality. She is learning to be a little bit sassy, which is quite cute, since she usually has a very good sense of humor and is a well behaved little girl, who is quite loving. Nevertheless, like her mommy, Adelaide is quick to learn things, and it doesn’t take her very long to learn things like no-no, I’m the mommy and you are the kid, and other such boss phrases. Then she proceeds to use them on her parents. Of course, it doesn’t get her any further that the laughing of her parents, but I guess that is one way not to be in trouble. I think her parents would be hard pressed to be angry at Miss Adelaide very much, because she is just their favorite person on Earth, and I can’t blame them for that, because Adelaide can wrap you around her little finger pretty quickly,and she doesn’t even have to try hard to do it.

Of course, in Adelaide’s world, other than her parents, there is simply nobody that can compare to her Aunty Kellie Hadlock. I can understand that, because Kellie is very sweet, and lots of fun, but it still surprises Kellie to think that this sweet little niece has chosen her to be the favorite, but Adelaide is, nevertheless, a girl after Kellie’s heart. While Kellie is singing at church, Adelaide can hardly wait for her to come off the stage, so she can climb up on her lap and just enjoy her company. They love to send time together…laughing and giggling, and Adelaide would have Kellie live with her and her parents if she could. They are just that close.

Adelaide take her personality traits from both her mom, Jessi Sawdon, and her dad, Jason Sawdon, and that makes her a very special girl. Adelaide’s mommy and daddy are two fun loving people, who are very social, and they are passing that on to Adelaide too, although she isn’t always too quick to warm up to people she doesn’t know well. No matter, that will come in time, as she gets to know our large family better. In the meantime, we just keep talking to her so she will get more familiar with us. we look forward to watching Adelaide grow and become the wonderful little girl that we all know she will be. Today is Adelaide’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Adelaide!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Sometimes, I find myself quite shocked to think that I could have children who have been married more than twenty years. I know that seems odd, and that I should be used to it, but it just doesn’t seem possible…and yet it is. Twenty two years ago today, my youngest daughter, Amy Royce walked down the isle, and into the arms of the love of her life, Travis Royce. So much has changed since that day. Amy and Travis have two beautiful, grown children, Shai and Caalab, and they all live in the Bellingham, Washington area. Living near the water was always a dream of Amy’s, and Travis has always loved Washington state too, so it’s a dream come true.

I asked Amy if she ever dreamed that they would make it this far, and she said that she always knew they would. She kinda likes him, you know. I can see how that could be. They are very good together, and her latest Facebook profile picture says it all…captioned, “I love this maaaaaan!!” Their love for each other is quite obvious. You can see it in every picture they do together. That is something that really warms a mother’s heart. There is just something about knowing that your child is really loved that makes you feel so good about the relationship choice they have made. And I know that Amy and Travis have both made a wonderful choice…the perfect, made in Heaven kind of love.

Amy and Travis are both very social people, although Amy is a little more bashful than Travis is. Nevertheless, once she gets to know people, she really enjoys socializing. They are also very much alike in their sense of humor. I never really thought of Amy as being a funny girl, but she really seems to be these days. Maybe Travis has worn off on her. It had to be that way, because Travis has always been that way. He loves a good joke, and loves to make people laugh. That laughter is one thing that has always impressed me about the home that Travis created for his family. Every time I was there, I saw it…laughter. It was the norm in their home. The kids thrived on it, and they enjoy a good joke now too. I think that laughter makes a home warm and cozy. And with Amy and Travis, you never knew what they were going to come up with next.

Twenty two years is a long time to be together these days, but when the home is filled with love and laughter, the years fly by. Suddenly, before you ever realized where they had gone, 22 years are in the past. The good news is that they know that they have the rest of their lives to enjoy being together. Today is Amy and Travis’ 22nd anniversary. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

BobExperienced hikersHaving been married to my husband, Bob Schulenberg for over 40 years, means that I have lived more of the memories in his life with him, than he has lived without me. The first twenty years of his life is all there is that I didn’t witness, and in reality less than that, because we dated for a little over a year prior our marriage. Of course, I haven’t been with him every minute of the last forty one plus years, but I have been there or heard about most of them. That’s because Bob is my best friend, and I am his. We like to do things together. Of course, with work and other things in life, we can’t be together all the time, but when we are together, we enjoy a friendship that has lasted throughout the years, and will continue for the rest of our lives.

For a number of years now, Bob and I have taken our vacation during the week of his birthday. We love going to the Black Hills and hiking there. I don’t know if everyone would consider hiking to be a great way to relax, but we do. It seems that the tougher the hike, the more worth it the journey is. Our hiking has taken us to many places, in search of the next trail, and we both really think it has enhanced our lives. There is so much beautiful scenery in this country, that cannot be seen from the road. You just have to get out there and walk around on nature to see its true beauty. Our time spent hiking, is I think among the best times of our lives.

While Bob loves his time off, I’m not sure he will take well to retirement when that time comes…at least not in the traditional sense of the word. He will enjoy not having to go to work, but I seriously doubt that he will ever stop working on cars. He loves doing mechanic work, and really it is as much a social time for him as it is a side job. People call him up with questions, or to set up an appointment to have him work on their cars, and in reality, when he is in the garage, he is in his element. I have actually had people apologize to me for taking up his time, but working on cars is what makes him happy, so it’s fine with me…as long as he doesn’t forget to go hiking with me…like that would ever happen.

Bob is such a sweet man, who I have to admit spoils me rotten. In fact, I have to be careful what I ask for, IMG_6158IMG_6371because he will do his best to get it for me. Now, I know that you will think that is not a bad thing, and I suppose you would be right, but then, I try not let him spoil me too bad…right, I am a woman, so let’s just be honest. Spoiling is good. And, Bob is good at spoiling. It makes for a great combination…for me anyway. Nevertheless, the thing I want most from Bob…is Bob, so it’s all good. He is the love of my life!! In that way, he can spoil me all he wants to. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday Sweetie. You are the best husband a girl could ever ask for. Have a wonderful day!! I love you with all my heart!!

Aunt EvelynBeing the oldest child and a girl, often places her in a position of seeming to be very sophisticated. They always get to do the cool things first, and they are the first one to have friends who aren’t related. It can serve to make the younger children a little jealous, even if they do love their sister dearly. And in my mom’s family…with nine children…there were a lot of them to be jealous. The younger ones always think that the oldest gets all the good stuff.

Such was the case with my Aunt Evelyn and her younger siblings. Aunt Evelyn had a circle of friends who always did a lot of fun things together. Their parents took turns hosting parties and the girls got to do a number of cool things. When the time came for Aunt Evelyn’s turn, Grandma and Grandpa Byer rented the North Casper Club House and threw a Taffy Pull Party. Now I can totally understand how the younger kids would feel jealous about that, because they could see and smell the candy cooking and they would get none of it. What kid wouldn’t have a problem with that? All the kids I know sure would. First of all, candy is a little kids world a lot of the time, and then to add insult to injury, Aunt Evelyn's Graduation picture_editedthey weren’t going to be included in the festivities. The party was a big success, and was talked about for a long time, but by the time the other kids got to be that age, the parties were also not the big thing anymore. Or maybe it was just that Aunt Evelyn’s circle of friends, all of whom were quite social, liked doing special things. Whatever it was, the rest of the children were quite jealous…when they were little.

The years have gone by now, and that childish jealousy is a thing of the past. I don’t really think they were ever really jealous of Aunt Evelyn…at least not after a momentary passing thing, because they have always been really close. While childish jealousy fades, sophistication and beauty of spirit continue on forever. Like their sister, the rest of my aunts and uncles became wonderful people, each with their own kind of talent, and special beauty, both in person and spirit. Each wanted the best for their siblings, and loved them dearly. As children, we think that one or the other sibling might be getting something more or better, but later we realize that our parents loved us all the same. I think that had the other children been a part of such a circle of friends, as my Aunt Evelyn was, George & Evelyn Hushman, Collene & Allen SpencerGrandma and Grandpa would have made a way to do the same kind of special party for them too. That was just how they were.

Today is Aunt Evelyn’s 86th birthday. While the years have so quickly passed, I am here to tell you that the sophistication, charm, and beauty has not. Aunt Evelyn is still a very social person, capable of putting together quite a wingding. Her sweet personality and loving kindness are always looking to make sure that others have what they need. She is a loving wife, who takes great care of her husband, my Uncle George, and makes the lives of all those around her beautiful with her ways. Happy birthday Aunt Evelyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

PorcupineWhile on our vacation in Alaska, Bob and I had the opportunity to get fairly close to a porcupine…safely, since he was in a fenced area. Porcupines are not really an animal you get to see very often, so it was quite interesting. I do have to say that while this particular porcupine is really quite famous from being in several movies and such, he does, nevertheless, smell very bad, as I’m sure most of them do. That said, I find it hard to understand why any dog would want to attempt to take on a porcupine, but they do, and with devastating results.

Nevertheless, a dog that my husband, Bob’s family had in 1974 decided to do just that when a porcupine wandered into the yard one day. Dogs are curious and territorial, so anything that dares to wander into their domain is usually treated with much hostility…no matter what the DSmobileSCAN-1personal cost is. I can’t even begin to guess how many dogs have had encounters with porcupines, or skunks…much to their dismay later. Animals just don’t think about the consequences, unlike humans, who will quickly run the other direction when they see a skunk. And. dogs seem to be the world class leader when it comes to sticking their nose someplace where it is bound to get them in trouble.

A dog meeting up with a skunk can be a really bad thing for his social life, but a dog meeting up with a porcupine can be extremely painful, so if it has to be one way or the other, I guess I would prefer skunk, if it were my dog. But, since you can’t really control everything that goes on in the animal world, I’m sure there will be other encounters with both porcupines and skunks. I don’t think there are very many animals that win against a skunk or a porcupine. Unfortunately, they seem to be a fairly formidable opponent.

Porcupine quillsNeedless to say, the family dog in this situation most likely ended up getting a smack on the nose with those razor sharp porcupine quills, and if he was smart, he probably learned a lesson that he didn’t quickly forget. Just because it looks smaller than you are, doesn’t mean that you can take it in a fight. It’s always best to know your opponent before you step into the ring. Porcupines don’t tend to just come up and attack you. They will wait until they feel that the threat is big enough that they have to fight for their survival before they take action. This particular porcupine appears to me to be trying to walk away, but the dog seems to have decided that he can take this opponent. My guess…It was a very bad day for that dog, because it’s never a good thing when dog meets porcupine.

Aunt Evelyn's Graduation picture_editedTo live a long life…it’s something that eludes many people. Even those who live to retirement doesn’t guarantee that a person will with well into their eighties or into their nineties, but for Aunt Evelyn, as with several others in my family on both sides, longevity seems to run in the family. I’m glad for her and for us that it does, because that means we get to have her and some of the other family members around longer.

Aunt Evelyn is the oldest of my mom’s siblings, which would mean that she played the biggest part in helping to raise her younger siblings. I suppose there were times when the others felt like she was pretty bossy, but the reality is that the oldest child usually gets dubbed with that title, whether they truly are or not. It comes with the territory. It seems like girls often get the title more than boys too, because they do have that mother instinct. Nevertheless, a big sister can be a good thing to have, as I can clearly attest.

Aunt Evelyn has always been a social person, and participated in several clubs as a young Aunt Evelynlady. She is also very good at planning the family get togethers, for her family as well as the whole family…such as out family Christmas party, which is coming up quickly. She and her five children’s families work very hard to make the party great when it is their turn to host it, and even when they aren’t hosting, they are among the first to start helping with the cleanup. Good training, I guess.

Today is a milestone day in Aunt Evelyn’s life, as she turns 85 today. Her health is great, and she is still quite active, so I am confident that she will be with us for quite a while. Happy birthday Aunt Evelyn!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

It seems to be a rite of passage…you know, the new social interactions of a kid who is now is school, whether it be pre-school or grade school. Suddenly they have all these new friends. Then the oldest kid in the class has a birthday, and invitations are circulating around the class. It is so exciting for the children who get one, and devastating for the ones who don’t…unless it happens to be an all boy party and you have a girl, or vice versa. As a parent, you almost feel as bad as the child that wasn’t chosen, until you are planning the party for your child, and you realize that there is no way you can invite all those kids…you would go broke…or insane. You invite as many of their friends who are close and that you can afford or stand to have, and sadly, the rest will just have to deal with it. Of course, we all hope that it isn’t the same kid left out time after time, but it can be. Since my girls had their birthdays in the summer, we had an easier time of it, in that the invitations were not handed out at school.

Those first little social interactions can be so cute. You watch as your little one spreads their wings and heads out to meet new people that you have no part in until they become your child’s friend. It can be a strange feeling, when they come home and start talking about little Susie or little Jimmy, and your first thought is, “How do you know this person?” And then you remember that of course, it is school. It is a very different time in the life of both parent and child, but it quickly transitions into an understanding that it is normal not to know every friend your child comes in contact with. Many friends will remain friends only at school, and some will become friends that are more like family, in that they spend a lot of time at your house, or your child spends a lot of time at theirs.

I found that it was always easier to have those early parties at McDonalds or Burger King, because then they could clean up the mess, and they even provided the entertainment. The kids always had a wonderful time, and I was much more at ease, and since I had gotten to know some of the mothers, I wasn’t sitting there all alone. So often, parents take their kid to a party, and think, “Ok, now I have a little free time to do what I want to.” And that is ok for the most part, if their child is well behaved, but it is the pits when they aren’t. I was very lucky in that most of the friends my girls had were very well behaved, and most of their moms stayed for the party. It was kind of nice for me that way too. Not everyone has good experiences with their child’s first social interactions, but good or bad, everyone goes through those little changes in their child’s life. And no matter what, it is something you don’t forget.

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