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Ron nowRonI never had a little brother…or any brother for that matter, until I married Bob. I had a brother-in-law then, but no brothers. If I could have picked a little brother, I think he would have been just like Bob’s brother, Ron Schulenberg, so I guess it’s perfect that he was the one I got. Yes, he was my brother-in-law too, but he was so young when I married Bob, just six years old, so he just didn’t seem like a brother-in-law to me. I remember taking him with us on dates sometimes. He got to go to Dairy Queen more than any six year old there ever was, I’m sure, because how many little kids got to go on dates with their older brother. Most older brothers didn’t want their kid brother hanging around them at all, much less on dates, but Bob and Ron always got along well. They still do to this day too. Whenever one of them has a project going, and they need help, they know that they only have to call, and the other one will be there to assist. It is a blessed kind of relationship that the two of them have always had. Oh there were the ups and downs too, I’m sure, but the bad times never lasted very long.

Ron was an uncle pretty early on too, since my daughter, Corrie Petersen was born when he was just seven years old. Growing up, my girls must have almost felt like he was their older brother too, because they saw a lot of him. I don’t recall them ever fighting too much like siblings do, so I guess he took his uncle duties very seriously, and acted very mature. Of course, by the time my girls were old enough to fight with him, he was closer to being a teenager, so maybe he didn’t feel the need to fight with them. I remember one time when we were out cutting down trees for firewood, Ron found a deformed tree, and since the girls had come along that time, he took them out to that tree, and set them up in it. It looked like a chair. They thought it was the coolest thing, so we got a picture of them in that tree, and their Uncle Ron standing proudly beside them.
Bob, Ron & 67 MustangTree Chair
Ron is grown and married now. His wife, Rachel had a daughter, Cassie, who is married, and two little boys, Riley and Tucker, so he gets to spend lots of time with little kids again. I think he is so good with little kids, because he has had so much practice…practically all his life. He went from being a good uncle to being a good dad. Nevertheless, while he is over six feet tall now, he will always be my little brother, so he might as well get used to that. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday Ron!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Baby GirlThis time of year, everything is so exciting for the little ones in our lives…and even for the not so little ones. The littlest ones especially find the lights, gifts, candy, and the excitement of it all to be almost more than they can believe. Their eyes light up as brightly as the Christmas tree, and keeping their little hands away from the tree and gifts can prove to be really difficult. On Thursday nights, I spend the evening with my mom, Collene Spencer and my sister, Cheryl Masterson. With school activities and Christmas shopping to do, my niece Jenny Spethman often drops her daughter, Aleesia off at my mom’s so she can spend a little time with her grandma and great grandma. That means I get to see quite a bit of her too, and she is so much fun to be around at this age. She is such a goofy little girl anyway, and I don’t know if it’s the candy or the season, but she becomes even more goofy.

I have had a chance to hear Aleesia say a lot of things, and believe me they are all just as cute as they can be. She always calls the movie Despicable Me, Spicable Me and the Minis. She calls my mom, her great grandma, GeeGee. She loves to say Paaaaleese with her grandma. These are common mispronunciations among little kids to be sure, but such fun to hear the kids say. And as we all know, kids grow up so fast that before you know it they can say all their words without mispronunciation, and those cute little sayings days are gone.

This last week, while my niece, Jenny was shopping, Aleesia and her brother Zack were at Mom’s house and we were watching kid movies. It’s funny how easily you can get used to those kid shows, when there is a little one around trying to say all the words they aren’t sure how to pronounce. That night though, Aleesia was having a lot of trouble concentrating on the movie. She kept touching the tree and pointing to the tree. Then she got up on the couch and looked out the window and saw the lights on the other houses and said, “Moo Lights!!” I laughed in spite of myself. I knew that she was trying to say “more lights”, but in my head I pictured cow-shaped lights. It was such a funny thought, that I could not keep a straight face.

Of course, what would Christmas be without candy. Christmas especially seems to be filled with baking of cakes, pies, cookies, and candy. By the time the holiday is over, the kids have had so much candy that is takes a couple of weeks to bring them back to earth. My sister, Cheryl had a really difficult time limiting the amount Decorating the treeof candy Aleesia had. Aleesia kept coming back for more, saying, “Chocoleet!” She placed a strong emphasis on the “leet” part, and her high little voice just made it sound so cute. Of course, it was chocolate, but any candy would have been just fine.

I know that these days are very short, at least for Aleesia mispronouncing word, so I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to be around to hear her funny little sayings. They will most likely be said only this year, and then next year, she will either not mispronounce words, or the mispronunciations will be entirely different words. Either way, I think I will always smile when I look at Christmas lights, because the thought of cow-shaped lights called Moo Lights will always be in my memory files.

As we head into the Christmas season, my mind wanders back in time, to when I was a child, and Christmas was drawing closer. Mom and Dad loved Christmas, so the tree went up as early as possible. Decorating our Christmas tree was always a big deal. Of course, back then, we had a real tree, in fact I don’t think there were any artificial trees back then. The evening started with Dad cutting the tree to the right height, so it wouldn’t bend at the ceiling, but somehow, with the star on top it would almost touch the ceiling. The house was filled with the wonderful scent of pine, and we were filled with anticipation.

Once the tree was up, Mom and Dad would string the lights and garland, while the room was filled with the voices of all of us as we sang Christmas Carols and ate the wonderful snacks Mom had prepared for the occasion. Finally it was time to start decorating the tree. Each of us girls had our own ideas on true tree beauty, and while we didn’t always agree on what that was, we all managed to work through our differences to create a tree that we were all happy with. And we always thought that the current year’s tree was the best ever…and maybe it was, because as we got older, I’m sure ornaments were more evenly spaced, and our choices of placement put more of the elegant ornaments in front.

Those days of family tradition and all of us being together have changed a lot over the years. As more of us married or had to work, the traditional Christmas decorating event changed until eventually it was completely unlike the ones I remember as a child, but the love and the spirit was always there. While each family has their own traditions now, and it is Jessi and some of the other grandkids who come to decorate the tree for Mom and Cheryl, to me it will always be Mom and Dad who really made Christmas what it was when I was a kid. Their love of the Lord and their love of His birthday surrounded our home at that time of the year. They showed us what the Christmas spirit was all about, at Christmas and all year round.

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!!

When kids go outside to play a lot, you will find them climbing the trees eventually. This might be more common with boys than girls, but I don’t really think so. Every kid I have ever come across loved climbing  the trees. Whether it is in a tree house, or just pretending to be a bird, it just gives a sense of freedom that can’t be found anywhere else.

Bob was one of those kids that loved climbing the trees. With 4 sisters, and no brother until he was 14 years old, I have to wonder if he climbed trees to be alone, of course, if you look at this picture closely, you will see that one of his sisters was in the tree too…in a dress!! Still, Bob was higher up, so that would make him the better climber…right. I’m sure that is what he thought anyway. As I said, Bob always loved to climb trees, but I can’t say that it was always the best idea. There was the time that he fell out of the tree, and tried to break his fall by landing on his arm. Needless to say the arm was broken. I don’t know if he ever fell out of a tree again, but he never landed on his arm again…too painful I guess.

I never fell out of a tree, although I did climb them as a kid. I don’t think I was very adventurous when it came to heights, so even though I climbed, it wasn’t that high and I stayed pretty close to the trunk. I did have a cousin that I was climbing a tree with the fell out when we were climbing. Terry was just below me and when he stepped on a dead branch, it broke and down he went. That made me nervous about climbing after that. I don’t know how he felt about it.

Nevertheless, most kids have a great time in a tree. Their imaginations can run wild, as the breeze blows through their hair. No wonder kids love tree houses. It is like a place of their own, away from the rules of parents, teachers, and such…at least for a little while. If you ask me, there is no better place for a kid to be than up a tree.

For a number of years, we went with my father-in-law and the guys in the family, to the Shirley Mountains to cut up downed wood to bring home for firewood. Sometimes the girls got to come with us. When they came, we tried to turn things into an adventure. If you wander around the woods long enough, you are bound to find something that is unusual. Sometimes trees and other plants can take on unusual forms. While exploring the area around where we were working, the kids found a tree that was so totally deformed that it went up a ways and bent straight over and then curved back up again. I suspect that it may have been struck by lightning or maybe the wind partially broke it,  and then persevered to continue growing. It was, to say the least, a very strange sight…and one tough tree.

What happened to it didn’t really matter to my daughters. Corrie and Amy were completely thrilled with this tree. When it swung down to the ground, it came down quite low, and it made the perfect, goofy tree chair. They spend the rest of the day playing around it and having a great time. They liked the tree so much that they wished they could take it home. Of course, we all know that was impossible, so we took a picture of it so they could always remember it. They talked about that tree for quite some time, and have looked in other places we have camped to see if they can find more of them.

Kids can make an imaginary world using lots of things. My girls loved to play house and clubhouse, so having a chair appear out of the middle of a forest, made out of a tree, was very cool to them. It was a like a whole new way to play. They imagined living in the forest, the mountains in the old west, or maybe a tree house. I can’t say as I blamed them for coming up with so many ways to imagine their lives to be. We have all have wanted to live an adventure, and maybe…just for a minute, my girls got to do just that.

Today, Bob and I hiked the next section of the Mickelson Trail. It was a 3 mile stretch one way, so going out and back put us hiking 6 miles. While this hike was half a mile shorter than yesterday’s and on the Mickelson Trail, which is much more level, the hard thing about this hike is that out of the 6 miles, approximately 5.5 of it was in the bright sunlight, with no shade to be found. We knew up front that it was going to be a tough hike.

We started our hike at the White Elephant Trailhead, so named because of a Feldspar mine across the highway that was named the White Elephant Mine. From there our hike took us on the uphill side of this portion of the trail. Our walk back would be mostly on the down slope…a good thing when you think of being more tired and hot.

When we came to the first real area of shade, which was a place where the builders of the railroad that used to occupy this trail, had found it necessary to cut through the rock for the tracks to go straight through it. Bob noticed a tree that had persevered in its fight for life by reaching through the cracks in the rocks to find the soil it needed. He found it interesting, and asked me to take a picture of it, but I saw something different…perseverance. That tree pushed itself through the little cracks in the rocks in order to live. It was fighting for its life.

As we walked along, I kept thinking about that little tree, and several others as we had seen along the way. Against all odds, they lived, because they never gave up…they persevered. As we sweltered in the heat of the late morning, going from shade source to shade source, we were thankful once again that we were experienced enough to have plenty of water…even if it was warm by this late point in the hike. The little tree stayed on my mind, and I began to see what perseverance is all about. Yes, the tree was fighting for its life, and I was just working toward the end of the trail. They weren’t even the same thing…or were they. In reality, we were both after the prize…the end of the race…the victory. Yes, that was it! We were alike, and like that little tree, I had the victory. The tree had life, and I persevered and made it to the end of another trail. With the completion of today’s hike, we have walked 48.3 miles of the 108.8 mile Mickelson…twice, since we walk out a ways and then back. That is a victory…that is perseverance.

 

The closer we get to Christmas, the more my mind begins to reflect on the Christmases of my childhood…My Christmas Past. In those early years, an artificial tree was unheard of. We would go to the tree lots and get a tree, usually shortly after Thanksgiving. Dad would bring the tree in and decide how much would need to be trimmed off. Then he would begin to cut on the trunk of the tree. The smell of pine was everywhere.

Once the tree was set, the decorating would begin. We would sing Christmas carols as we decorated the tree, and we would have candy and hot chocolate or some other treats to munch on while we worked. Soon the tree was finished and the house was filled with festive, twinkling lights. I couldn’t wait for evening to come each day, so the tree lights could be turned on again. It was my favorite time of year.

It was the time of year for buying gifts for my sisters and my parents, hopefully without disclosing what I bought. A time to try our best to keep the secrets for the days and weeks until Christmas finally arrived. Gifts were hidden around the house or better yet wrapped right away so they could not be found, but that brought it’s own set of problems. As kids, it is so hard not to peek. We would shake and squeeze our packages hoping to be able to figure out what we were getting, and stopping short of opening the packages and re-wrapping them…mostly because I would be sure to be caught.

Probably the most fun we had, however, was the shopping for our parents. As kids, we didn’t really have a lot of money, so the gifts we could get for our parents were usually small or even homemade, but as we got older, we schemed, scrimped, and saved so that we could buy them the kind of gift that would really knock their socks off. Those gifts brought the best memories. And there were a few times that our gifts were so surprising to them that it almost brought tears to their eyes…and usually did with my mom.

My Dad has been in Heaven now for the last 4 Christmases…this will be the 5th, and at times, I find myself…less than enthusiastic about the coming holiday. I miss him so much, but I know that he would want me to be excited about the holiday that he loved so much. So I’ll soon be ready, and the day will be great, but I think I’ll always wish we could, maybe just for a little while, relive…My Christmas Past.

When your brother-in-law is a cop, and 6’4″ to top it off, you might as well know that you are going to be picked on…a lot! The year was 1993, and the event was my daughter Corrie’s graduation party. The party had progressed to the point of cutting the cake, when Chris decided that this was the perfect moment to pick on me. He grabbed my hands and hand cuffed them behind my back and promptly walked away. Of course, I started trying to convince him to unlock the cuffs, but he told me that he didn’t have the key. The party was put on hold for a few minutes while my sister and I tried to get him to unlock the cuffs. For a while there, I really thought I might have to try to cit the cake with my hands behind my back. Finally, Chris unlocked the cuffs, laughing the whole time at how easily he could overpower me.

Since I am only 5’2″, overpowering me was not too difficult for my brother-in-law whose more that a foot advantage over me in height gave him the clear advantage. This was proven quite effectively when Chris decided to help me out with my height problem…by picking me up and depositing me into a tree in my parents front yard. I’m sure he was trying to be helpful…don’t you think? You don’t? Well, you are probably right.

Through the years Chris has picked me up by my feet and held me upside down, held me in different sorts of police holds for subduing criminals, and put me upside down in a chair, just to name a few different torture methods, all in good clean fun, of course. He would never hurt me or anyone else who happened to be his next victim, but he could definitely show you who was boss. And this was proven quite effectively whenever he decided to pick on me or my sisters. All I can say is, I’m sure glad he was never arresting me for real, because I don’t think I would want to go up against him if he weren’t just teasing.

While traveling in California, I noticed one particular tree. Now, I know that is odd considering the vast number and distinct types of trees in California. We were on our way to the Redwoods, but this was a little fir tree of some type. I’m sure many people would have considered it insignificant, and even weird, but it got me thinking. The tree was full and well shaped, but sticking out all over it were dead branches, from some event that happened to it. But this little tree had persevered and was coming back. The dead branches were simply battle scars from its fight for survival.

The reason this particular tree got me thinking is that it reminded me of many people around us. People who have been down a tough road, and with the scars to prove it, but through hard work and perseverance, they are still alive…still moving on…still living life. They are coming back from their battle, and working on being, at least to a degree, the person they were before.

So often we look at people who have bee through it, and decide that they have let themselves go, when in reality, maybe they have been through it, but they haven’t let themselves go, rather they are fighting their way back. Every person is beautiful in their own way, just like that little tree. Sure, there are some rough edges, and a few battle scars, but the tree was lush and green around all those dead branches, quite unique. I didn’t take a picture of that tree, and have regretted that, because I looked and looked for another, and found none. It was unique, and it was alone in its look, and that was why it was so special.