Being 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, they 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, Grandma 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!!
My niece, Toni has always been a woman of quiet grace. I don’t know any other way to express that really. She is beautiful and yet, she doesn’t think so. Her beautiful face almost always wears a soft smile. She never pushes herself on people, but her sweet spirit seems to draw them to her anyway. I never think of Toni that I don’t think of her looking just like this picture of her, because that is so often exactly how she looks. Sweet and content with life.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, Toni has a funny side too. She can goof of with the best of them, and when she does, she is very funny. Through the years I can remember so many funny times with her. Of course, some of them she might not consider very funny, but then that is normal for any of us. I remember a time when she was about two years old, and I had gone up to visit her family in upstate New York. Her mom, my sister, Cheryl had made milk shakes for dinner, and as they sat on the table between drinks, the top froze a little bit. We didn’t have straws, and poor little two year old Toni was about to find out just how big a problem that can be. She lifted her glass to take a drink, and when the shake didn’t move down the glass to her lips, she lifted it straight upside down…well, you get the picture. Miss Toni Had a face full of chocolate shake, and it was cold!! She took it like a little trooper, but I will never forget the shock it produced in the rest of us. I felt so bad for her. We all have our moments, for sure, and all you can do is shrug it off and move forward…which is what Toni did. Before you knew it, she was laughing and playing again, like nothing ever happened. Toni has always liked being a bit on the goofy side, and most of her antics bring a big laugh, and she is such a good sport about it. You just never know what she might do next.
All kidding aside though, Toni is never happier than when she is with the two men in her life. They are the most important…always. When she is with Dave and James, her face shows the way her spirit feels…peace. Life is good and all is well. Toni recently married Dave, who is the love of her life, and I felt so much joy and happiness for her…for them. They are so good together, and I love how blessed she is. God has been so good to her. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! We love you very much!!
As much as I dislike snow, and the inevitable wind that always seems to come with it, there are times when, if I have just a moment of free time, and if I stop long enough, I can look at the snow and possibly see something beautiful. It’s hard to do that though…slow down…look around…stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Everything in life these days demands a hectic schedule. Every day I try to cram everything I need to do into a day that doesn’t have enough moments in it, let alone hours.
I had just such a moment on New Years Eve. I had the day off, and Bob had to work. I still had my caregiving duties, but I had a little bit of quiet time late in the morning. I took a look outside, and there it was. The wind had quit. The snow was a little bit windblown, but smooth in many ways. The sun had come out and was shining brightly on the snow. The air was cold…frigid really, but it didn’t matter. I stepped outside, and looked at the snow. The sun was so bright, it made my eyes water, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off of it.
The snow was beautiful, but looking deeper I saw what the snow tries to hide from those who just casually glance at it. So often we miss the deep inner beauty of the snow. There in front of my eyes I saw the riches of the snow…the gems that it had been hiding…snow diamonds. “What”, you might ask, “are snow diamonds?” Well, they are not just ice crystals sparkling in the sunshine. They are much more than that. They are the little glimmer of hope that no matter how heavy our burdens are…no matter how tough our job or our life is…there are still beautiful things around us that can lift our spirits, brighten our days, soothe our souls, and mend the brokenness that comes from a life that is lived far too often in a hurry.
As I stood there in the crisp cold air, looking once more at the beauty that had been pointed out to me by my Lord, in an effort to show me the things He has made that I might have missed, I felt a warmth inside me…a smile that started in my heart and after making a brief stop in my consciousness, it came to rest on my face. I closed my eyes so I could fix the image in my memory. With their beauty, the snow diamonds had completed their appointed work. They had lifted this caregiver’s spirit…brightened my day…and made me feel like I could breathe again.
This time of year seems to be filled with family traditions. Family dinners, shopping, and decorating all play a part. For our family, the day after Thanksgiving, being Black Friday is shopping day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is decorate the Christmas tree day. Since my girls are grown and married, it is the grandkids and me doing the decorating each year. We always have such a good time. The kids are getting older now, all teenagers, so there is a fair bit of goofing off and yet, they are much more help now too. The boys can handle the lights and garland, where before they always had to wait until I got the lights and garland on before they helped with just the ornaments.
This is a tradition I really enjoy, because it gives me time to be with my grandchildren doing something that is lots of fun and that we all enjoy. I think the kids look forward to it too. If one of them has to work, they are really disappointed, so we try to make sure that doesn’t happen. That can mean doing the decorating at different times each year, but that is ok, as long as there is a way to do it together.
We usually try to add Christmas carols to the mix, to put everyuone into the Christmas spirit. I don’t so much like it when the stores start playing Christmas music before Halloween, but once Thanksgiving is over, it’s just the right time. By then I’m ready…or as much as I ever will be…to start thinking about all that shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, and…fun!!! Here comes Christmas everyone!! Are you ready!!
Back in the late 1800’s, life in the United States was rugged, especially if you didn’t live in the East. The people who lived here had a pioneer spirit, and they were used to making their own way. That didn’t necessarily mean that they were poor, although some lost everything they had. The amazing thing about that is that even if they did lose everything, many of them found a way to start over, and didn’t move back to the East.
It was that pioneer spirit in those early settlers of this nation. They proved they had what it took to make a life in a rugged and sometimes brutal land, that they had the guts to turn this land into the great nation it is today. There are still people out there like that today. People like my cousin, Shirley and her family who live in the mountains of Washington state, and when I say they live there, I mean they live mostly off the land. They hunt and fish, and they grow a garden. That pioneer spirit still lives strong in them.
Our Great Grandpa And Grandma Spencer raised their 6 children in various places, but at this point in their lives, they were living near Rock Falls, Wisconsin, the old O’Dell place, which is another thing I find funny. It seems like once a family lives on a place, it always belongs to them, or at least their name always belongs to the place. So, no matter how many families followed the O’Dell’s, the house would always carry their name. That was a tradition I never could figure out, but it still seems to be the case.
Our great grandparents and great great grandparents built this country with their blood, sweat and tears, and most importantly with pure gut! They had what it takes to make it in a land that could be brutal enough to kill a man, much less a woman, if they weren’t strong enough.
My niece, Susan was the last of the nieces on Bob’s side of the family, and in fact there would not be another girl born in the family for 15 years. That, in itself, was surprising, because up until that time, the family had been mostly girls. You could say that we were very used to little girls and their ways. Susan was unique in some things, such as her imaginary friends. Yes, many people have imaginary friends as children, but she was the first, and I believe the only one in our family to have them, and we all thoroughly enjoyed their antics.
Through the years, I have watched Susan go from being a cute litle girl, who always made us laugh, to a beautiful woman, wife, and mother to her 2 daughters. Susan has a sweet spirit, and a bit of a shy smile, but inside her lives a heart of gold. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like, since she lives in Powell, and in many ways I feel like those of us who live here have missed out on all the good things Susan is.
One thing I didn’t know about Susan is the outdoorsy girls she is. When I look through her pictures, I see her camping with her family and fishing with her little Kaytlyn, which is quite funny, since Kaytlyn was not impressed with the fish they caught. And I can’t blame you Kaytlyn. I like to eat fish, and I don’t mind fishing, but someone else needs to put the worm on and take the fish off…that is just a rule!! But Susan took it all in stride, and Kaytlyn made it through that horrible ordeal with that monster from the water. Whew!!
The years have flown by so fast Susan!! I remember when you were just a newborn, and now you have children who aren’t even babies anymore. It just doesn’t seem possible. Today is Susan’s birthday, and we want to wish her the very best of birthdays. Have a great day, Susan!! We love you!!
My Aunt Deloris was always a sweet and gentle spirit. She was one of the few people out there who, to me, seemed truly humble. She never tried to promote herself, and in that act, she stood out as someone very special to me. She didn’t have to show you how amazing she was, because you could see for yourself who she was. Sadly, Aunt Deloris passed away in 1996 of Brain Cancer. It was a sad time for our family. She was such a wonderful person with such a kind heart, and we wanted her to be with us for a much longer time.
I remember so many times when Aunt Dee, as we all called her, would come over to the house for visits. We all loved sitting around talking with her. She was always the kind of person who would help you with anything you ever needed help with. She especially loved buying things for the family, like the piano she bought for the family, that was a blessing to the family for generations, unless you happened to be Greg, who got his fingers slammed in it more than once. She also liked to dance, and taught her sisters and brothers how to do the Mexican Hat Dance when she was in 5th grade. She had an amazing imagination, and created many fun adventures for her sisters and brothers as well.
I will always remember Aunt Dee’s sense of humor, and her wonderful laugh. She had a way of changing a quiet moment into a laughing moment…especially when there was an argument going on. Like the time her sisters and brothers were fighting and Grandma got tired of it and said she didn’t want to hear another peep out of anyone. Of course, Aunt Dee couldn’t resist. She waited a moment or two and said quietly, “Peep!” After a moment of shock, in which her siblings wondered if she was going to live through such a bold move, everyone started laughing, and the fight was over. I’m sure Grandma didn’t really mind that one little case of disobedience.