Thanksgiving

The past almost two years have been tough for everyone. Many of us have had to forgo this holiday or that holiday, because on or more family members have contracted Covid-19, and had to be quarantined. Nevertheless, more and more people are surviving Covid, and that is definitely something to be thankful for. In fact, as I contemplate Thanksgiving I find that I feel the need to look for things to be thankful for, rather than complaining about how hard things have been. That reminds me of the first Thanksgiving.

Most of us picture a big party were the new neighbors, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indian Tribe, came together to celebrate newfound friendships, but that wasn’t it at all. Many in the Wampanoag tribe, as well as the entire Patuxet Tribe, had died of smallpox. To make matters worse, the Pilgrims were in danger of starving to death. They really didn’t know much about farming, and between the smallpox, the winter cold, and lack of food, the Pilgrims were in a lot of trouble. With the help of the Wampanoag Tribe, the things they had to be thankful for, were many and they really were.

This past year reminds me quite a bit of the situation the Pilgrims and the Indians were in when they pulled together, helped each other, and in the end came through with much to celebrate and much to be thankful for. We have a long way to go, because much is broken right now, but the people of this nation are starting to fight for the the freedoms we have always known and loved, and we are thankful for every victory we see, and they are coming each day. Like the Pilgrims and the Indians, we have a long way to go, and many battles along the way, but we are a persevering people, and we will be great again. I am so thankful for all the people who are willing to step in and fight for this country, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With people like this and above all, our awesome God leading the battle, we can’t lose.

We have come through the times of illness, loss, and trial. Now we, as a nation, need to begin to pick ourselves up by our boot straps and prove to ourselves exactly what we are made of. I have no doubt in my mind that we can do this, and by Thanksgiving of 2022, we will be totally amazed at who we are, how far we have come, and we will have so many more things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! Have a great holiday!!

Let’s face it…2020, doesn’t seem to have a lot in it to be thankful for. It has been a tough year in many ways. With Covid-19, quarantines, lock downs, job losses, business losses, election struggles, riots, protests, and homeschooling…by choice or not, things looked pretty grim. Many people have lost loved ones, or friends, or friends and family of friends. Still, we have survived…those of us left, and many of us have contracted Covid-19, and still we have survived. This has been awful, and we will always miss those we have lost, but we Americans are a strong breed. We built this nation on God’s ways, and while some would disagree, that is a fact. Our forefathers came to this country to escape religious persecution, and founded this country on the principle that we should all have freedom to worship as we see fit. They knew that people would disagree on religion, but each person should have the right to choose for themselves.

This year has tested us in so many ways, but we are Americans, and we don’t give up. We are patriots, and we love God and country. As we are faced with new challenges, we have a chance to prove once again that we are fighters. We might be down right now, but we aren’t out, and we don’t quit. America is still the land where dreams come true, and it’s because we never give up. This year has been harder than any in my lifetime…maybe harder than any in the lifetimes of most of us, but we have come through it together. That is something to be thankful for, even with all the worry, loss, and fighting. Thanksgiving is a time to think back on the past year, and on our lives, and to be thankful for all we have been given.

This year may have been a really hard one, but our loved ones who have gone on before us, would never want us to give up…or quit. They would want us to live on and be happy. They would want us to be thankful, and to live our lives in such a way as to make them proud. We could have given up this year, but that was never really an option…now, was it? Thanksgiving is our day to celebrate this land that was founded on our love for God. So whether you are in quarantine, in a city where gathering together is only allowed in small groups, or just far away from your family, remember to take a few minutes to thank God for all we have been given. We are among the most blessed people in the world, and we need to remember that. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! God bless you all and God bless America!!

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking about the Wampanoag Tribe, who helped the Pilgrims survive that first winter in the new world. It was a tough winter, and both the Wampanoag Tribe and the Pilgrims lost a lot of people. Many in the Wampanoag tribe, as well as the entire Patuxet Tribe, had died of smallpox. In fact, the Pilgrims might not have made it in this new country at all if the Wampanoag Tribe hadn’t helped them. The Wampanoag had fed the colonists and saved their lives when their colony was failing in the harsh winter of 1620-1621. The name Wampanoag means People of the First Light…isn’t that beautiful? The two peoples shared their knowledge. The Wampanoag Tribe taught the Pilgrims to hunt and fish, and the Pilgrims taught the Wampanoag Tribe to plant corn and beans.

A man named Squanto, who was born about 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts, also known as Tisquantum, is best remembered for serving as an interpreter and guide for the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth in the 1620s. The details about how Squanto got to Europe and back have been disputed by historians. He was a Patuxet Indian born in present-day Massachusetts, who is believed to have been captured as a young man along the Maine coast in 1605 by Captain George Weymouth, who had been commissioned by Plymouth Company owner Sir Ferdinando Gorges to explore the coast of Maine and Massachusetts, and reportedly captured Squanto, along with four Penobscots, because he thought his financial backers in Britain might want to see some Indians. Weymouth brought Squanto and the other Indians to England, where Squanto lived with Ferdinando Gorges, who taught him English and hired him to be an interpreter and guide. Now fluent in English, Squanto returned to his homeland in 1614 with English explorer John Smith, possibly acting as a guide, but was captured again by another British explorer, Thomas Hunt, and sold into slavery in Spain. Squanto escaped, lived with monks for a few years, and eventually returned to North America in 1619, only to find his entire Patuxet tribe dead from smallpox. He went to live with the nearby Wampanoags. Squanto’s life was truly not easy, but he still wanted to help others. Nevertheless, Squanto was the first person the Pilgrims met. He spoke to them in English and acted as an interpreter and guide to the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth during their first winter in the New World. Squanto was born in about 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Squanto’s assistance in connecting the Pilgrims with the Wampanoag Tribe was vital for the preservation of the Pilgrims. There were many reasons to be Thankful on that first Thanksgiving. They had survived the winter, and smallpox. They weren’t starving or dying of starvation. They had new friends, and they had learned new skills. It is believed that the first Thanksgiving is generally believed to have occurred between September 21 and November 9, 1621.

It’s that time of year again, and Thanksgiving Day has arrived. The day will begin with much cooking, table setting, and other preparation. All too often we get so caught up in the preparation for the main meal of the day, and prepare for the gathering together of family and friends, that we forget the real purpose of the day…giving thanks for all we have been given.

Over the past year, some health issues have presented themselves, not only in our family, with my husband, Bob; but with my son-in-law, Kevin’s mother, Becky Skelton too. Both of them had heart issues, and now both of them are well again. You can’t emphasize too much, the importance of good health. Never is that importance made more clear, than when things happen that threaten that good health. The concerns we have all felt, each of us watching as another of our loved ones has worried over their mom or dad, husband or wife, brother or sister, were almost overwhelming. Now, that all the tests, the surgery, the procedure, and the recovery are behind us, we feel only thankfulness.

Our daughter, Corrie has been working hard in nursing school, and doing very well. She has been so blessed with great grades, and a wonderful nursing school experience. I have watched her blossom throughout this process, and it warms my heart to see such an amazing transformation in her. She and Kevin have also been blessed with a granddaughter, who is their son, Chris and fiancée, Karen’s daughter. Their son Josh is very busy with two jobs, while waiting for the next college class that he needs to become an EMT. Eventually he will be going into firefighting.

Bob and I have been thankful to have been able to travel to visit our daughter Amy Royce and her family, and spend two weeks with them, including Independence Day, which was a new thing for us, since we have spent Independence Day in the Black Hills for many years. Spending quality time with Amy; Travis; Shai and her boyfriend, Jordan; and Caalab, and his girlfriend, Chloe, was a special time. Any amount of time spent with family is something to be thankful for. As our children, grandchildren, and now great granddaughter grow and become more busy, time is something that is often in short supply, and definitely a blessing.

Everyone has different reasons to be thankful all year long, but at this time of year, we tend to reflect on the many blessings we have been given all year…some are extra special, and others bring deep emotion, because we know what we might have lost. This Thanksgiving Day, I realize just how much I have to be thankful for, and for all of it, I thank God, the Father of Lights, from whom all good gifts come. I hope everyone has as much to be thankful for as I have this year. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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

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

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

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

For a number of years, my husband, Bob and I have dragged ourselves out of bed to jump into the Black Friday shopping,to get a head start on our Christmas shopping. Our morning started with a stop for much needed coffee, and a quick look at the ads to see where to start our shopping. While a lot of people have told us that we are crazy to enjoy this tradition, we really enjoyed it…until the stores changed it. Call me a traditionalist, but i don’t like the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving. That is a day to spend with family, and I see no sense in having the stores open at all. The people who are forced to work to keep the stores open, should be spending that time with their families, but instead they are working and I will not go out and shop when it means that those people are not able to spend Thanksgiving with their families, and that isn’t fair to them or their families.

When the stores started their “Black Friday” sales on Thanksgiving Day, it also eliminated the need to get up early on Friday to stand out in the cold and wait for the opening of the store, so you could try to be the first one to get in and get those “must have” gifts, that were on sale, starting at 6:00 in the morning. With the sale starting on Thursday, I would rather use the day to sleep in, and…maybe go shopping later in the day. I guess that we have just become disenchanted by the whole “Black Friday” event, because it starts on Thursday…and even on Wednesday in some stores, so that basically we are seeing the death of Black Friday. These days there are no crowds, even at the “Early Bird Sale.” If no one is rushing into the stores to buy, why should I get up at 4:00 in the morning to get there first?

Strangely, it seems like the sale items aren’t even that spectacular. I suppose there might be a few items that are must haves, but nobody seems to be rushing out to buy those, and the stores seem to have more than enough of them to go around. Suddenly, black Friday shopping is just like any other day, except that I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving, because that is just wrong. I’m sure there are those out there who do shop on Thanksgiving, but I have too many family members who have had to work on thanksgiving because the store they work in is pen that day. They missed out on that time with their families, because the stores thought it would bring in a few dollars more. To those stores I say…no thanks, I’ll wait until Friday, or better yet…shop online!! I won’t be part of the complete disregard, by the stores, of the need for their employees to have family time.

As we all know, Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks to God for the many blessing we have had throughout the year. Most of the time, we tend to be thankful for the same things…family, friends, jobs, a home…just to name a few. Like most people, I am thankful for those things too, but this year Thanksgiving has taken on a different meaning for me. Along with the normal things to be thankful for, I am so thankful that I am not a widow. That could have easily been the case, but God gave me and my family a miracle just a little over a month ago. That miracle was that while my husband, Bob Schulenberg could have died of a “Widowmaker” heart attack, he did not…nor is he incapacitated in any way.

Bob’s miracle took the form of a number of Heaven sent people, who were in the exactly right place and the exactly right time to see Bob fall, come to his aid, perform CPR, and to add their prayers to mine, in our moment of urgency. Some of these people are really never at Walmart, where Bob fell in the parking lot, and yet God had orchestrated their unusual visit to happen at exactly the time it was need to save a life…my husband’s life. I have always known that God is on my side, but never was that fact made more clear to me than that Sunday afternoon. I had no idea what that shopping trip was going to end like. I had no idea that my faith, and the faith of so many other people was going to be called to action that day. There were no real warning signs…or at least not that we took as warning signs. Bob was a healthy man, with none of the normal risk factors for heart disease. we had just come from a walk at the mall and he had bowled 6 games in a tournament the day before…and took first place in singles. Nevertheless, right after we got our groceries, a clot lodged in his Left Anterior Descending Artery…the Widowmaker kind of incident, and down he went.

While I should have been in a state of panic, oddly I was not. Yes, I felt worry over him, but everything happened so fast that there was no time to panic. There was work to be done,and Ginger Sims, a progressive care nurse at Wyoming Medical Center, stepped in just about a minute after the heart attack started, and took control of the situation. Her “take charge” mannerisms, took the fear out of the situation, and put the action into it. With the help of her friend, WMC surgical nurse, Valya Boycheva, and WMC transport worker, Laura Lance, CPR was administered immediately, and the blood flow in bob’s body was maintained throughout the entire event. Because God spoke to these people and put them at Walmart that day, Bob had an excellent outcome to what could have been a life ending event.

After something like that, how can I possibly ever look at Thanksgiving in the same casual way I had before? The answer is that I can’t. God gave me a gift that is so amazing that I still have trouble wrapping my head around the events of that day, and just how blessed I am to still have my husband. There really is no way to totally make sense of it all, because it is bigger than the human mind can grasp. God is so good, and when he performs a miracle, it’s spectacular!! God doesn’t do things in a small way. He goes all out, and that is what he did for Bob. I can never thank God enough!! It’s been a whirlwind of activity, but much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

All of my life, Thanksgiving was a time to spend the day with family, overeat Thanksgiving dinner, and relish the fact that I had the perfect family life. In my young years, everyone in my family was alive and well. The family was growing in one way or another, but until my grandfather, George Byer passed away in 1980, when I was 24 years old, I had never faced death in any way…never lost a loved one. I think it was then that I realized that things were never going to be the same again. Life would go forward, but there was no guarantee that each new year would find us celebrating with the same loved ones every year. Changes are inevitable, and loved ones going to heaven…it’s all a part of what is known as the circle of life. Still, it leaves me feeling more than a little bit lonely as the holidays, and life in general embark upon irreversible changes time after time.

The first years without your parents are always among the hardest. I never considered the possibility that I could one day be an orphan, and yet, I am. An orphan is, after all, someone whose parents have passed away. We usually think of an orphan as a child, but in reality, most people will become orphaned at some point in their lifetime…unless their parents outlive them. Anyway, I found myself an orphan, and the holidays…every day, in fact…have never been the same. The holiday gatherings are much smaller affairs, as my sisters and I have redefined our holidays around our own families, as opposed to a large gathering of six families. While that is ok, and as it should be, there is still a small feeling of loneliness, because we don’t always see each other on the holidays now. Yes, we try to get together at least once before Christmas and a yearly picnic, just like my mom’s family has done, but the other holidays seem to have drifted into the category of small family gatherings, rather that large family gatherings. And, I have learned that in this life, you have no guarantee that your holidays will be the same from year to year, even if there is no loss in the family, because people also move away, and that changes the face of the holidays.

Still, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on the things we have to be thankful for, and for me there are many. My daughters and their families are happy and well, and like my parents families did in the past, mine is growing, as my grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancé, Karen Cruickshank are starting their own little family. We have wonderful friends, my daughter Corrie Petersen’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who have graciously included Bob and me into their Thanksgiving holiday, and we can go to my daughter, Amy Royce’s house for gatherings too, or they can come here, so the core of my perfect family is still in there, it’s just different now. While the years have changed the face of our family gatherings, I still have a great family life, and while I can’t call it the perfect family life anymore, because my parents are in Heaven, I can still call it a very blessed family life, and for that I am very thankful.

img_5765img_5768Each year, it seems that Thanksgiving brings something new with it…at least in the past few years anyway. The loss of my parents, and my father-in-law, my daughter Amy Royce and her family moving away, my broken shoulder last year…just a month before Thanksgiving, and now, my husband, Bob and me, spending Thanksgiving at Amy’s house and our daughter, Corrie Petersen’s family here in Casper. It’s rather odd, I suppose, but in my lifetime I can only think of one other holiday I didn’t spend at home with all of my family…the year I graduated from high school when I spent New Year’s Eve with my sister, Cheryl Masterson and her family, in Plattsburgh, New York. In the past, the sad things brought with them sorrow, and made it a little more difficult to feel thankful, but then I thought about the things I still had…family members who were still here, friends, jobs, my writing, and photographs of days gone by.

This year also brings some sadness, in that we will really miss Corrie and her family, as well as gathering with Corrie’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who graciously invited us last year, as well as the future years, because, as Becky told us, “That’s the way it should be.” Nevertheless, I am so thankful to be visiting my daughter, Amy and her family, who I have missed very much. It will be a great way to have a reunion with them, and it will something new on my list of memorable events in my life. I am so thankful that my daughter, Amy at least, gets four days off for the Thanksgiving holiday. It will give us some real quality time together, and then when the rest of the family is there, the visit will be even more blessed.
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I am also thankful that Corrie and her family will be spending the day with his parents, and that Corrie has the week off. It will make for a cozy time at home with her family too. Of course, I want Corrie, Kevin, Chris, and Josh, and Kevin’s family to know that we are thinking of them and praying that they have a wonderful day, because we miss them very much too, on this Thanksgiving Day, away.

2 Decorating the treeEvery year, after Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to put up the Christmas decorations. And every year, I find myself with fewer and fewer of my little helpers to deck the halls of my home. I suppose that as time goes by, there will be a new group of little helpers to spend that special time with me, but for now, I’m hoping to have at least a couple to help on Saturday with my Christmas decorations. Either way, I will get my decorations up this weekend, because there are only so many days to get it done, and I must make hay while the sun shines…as the old saying goes.

Thinking of the decorating ahead, takes my thoughts back to the times that my family decorated our house when I was a kid. Things were very different then. I don’t recall putting up the Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, but it might have been about that time. What I do remember is my four sisters and me and our parents decorating the tree, while we sang Christmas carols and 3 Decorating the treeate popcorn and other snacks. It was a big deal, and none of us would have missed it.

I remember the fanfare that led up to the decorating. We went to the lots to purchase our tree…because there weren’t any artificial trees then. We brought it home and Dad cut the excess length off so the tree would fit in the house. The fragrance of the pine filled the house, and made everything so festive. Mom and Dad would string the lights and garland. Then it was time for my sisters and me to start putting up the ornaments. Mom and Dad taught us to carefully place the ornaments to create the most beautiful effect on the tree. I’m sure that our training took time. Nevertheless, with patience and practice, we got pretty good at it. One thing that eventually went by the wayside…in most families I think is tinsel. As you can see, we all had a handful and were carefully placing it on the tree, but no matter how careful you were, that stuff always ended up on the floor or tangled in the tree branches, which wasn’t a problem with a real tree, but definitely a problem in an artificial tree.
4 Decorating the tree
It didn’t matter how old we were. From the oldest to the youngest, even if the youngest was only 2 years old, we decorated the tree. It was so much fun. In fact I think we looked forward to it all year. Traditions are that way. Once you start them and find them to be a lot of fun, you wish you could do them every day, but I suppose that would get boring after a while, so it’s a good thing they only come once a year. As I think back of those traditions from my youth, I feel a bit sad, because all too soon, those days are gone, and we can never get them back. We must move forward, start our own traditions, and accept the changes that have come, because that is what life is all about…whether we like it or not.

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