As I was thinking about today, I found that today is actually a special day…Look at the Leaves Day. Now, if you are like me, you have likely never heard of Look at the Leaves Day, or if you have, you might have wondered if it was a day that was inspired by a science teacher, or something. And, maybe it was in the beginning, but this time of year, the leaves truly are something interesting, especially if you live in an area where there is a variety of fall colors in the leaves. I live in an area where the leaves mostly have two colors…green and yellow, unless you count brown as a pretty fall color…which I don’t.
Nevertheless, looking at the leaves always has a mesmerizing effect on us. I love watching the leaves as they flutter to the ground. The color doesn’t matter at that point. They just look so peaceful on their journey. It is a part of their life cycle. It’s what they do. Grow and flourish, and then in Autumn, they fade and and fall to the ground. They’re all gone by winter, and the trees spend the rest of the Winter looking like skeletons, while they wait for spring when they get their new leaves.
As my husband and I went for a walk tonight, I found myself taking that extra moment to actually look at the leaves. It’s not that I never looked at them before, but today felt…different somehow. I noticed how one tree could be green, and the one next to it yellow. Some trees were half green and half yellow. The few trees and bushes we have in this area that turn red, added a flame-like flair to the look. When I took the time to really look at them, I began to notice how very beautiful they were. I thought about other walks we had taken in the fall. Some of my favorites are on some of the trails in the Black Hills. When you are walking through the trees on a dirt trail, with the leaves dropping all around you, you really feel like you can embrace the season.
Today was Look at the Leaves Day. It is a day for us to stop rushing around, busy with our hurried lives, and maybe take a few minutes to see the splendor of Autumn for a change. I’m seriously not a winter person, but Autumn is definitely a season that I enjoy. It’s sheer beauty captivates me…for a while, until Autumn gives way, and its ugly sister season…Winter enters in…and I want to be the one to hibernate.
My little grand niece, Zoey Iverson is quite a character. Always on the go, she makes sure that there is never a dull moment in her family’s home. You see, Zoey is turning two today, and she is into exploring…everywhere!! As any parent of a two year old…past or present…can tell you, a two year old exploring means that nothing is safe, and the parents must always be on guard duty. Zoey’s mom, Cassie tells me that Zoey has made the whole house into a jungle gym. Now that reminds me of my own daughter, Amy who somersaulted down the hallway, and swung from the table. I never knew what she would do next, and that meant I had to make sure everything was pretty well anchored to the floor…or at least not top heavy, because it might become a swing for a little girl. All I can say is…I’ll be praying over your sanity, Chris and Cassie.
Miss Zoey is not just a two year old gymnast, she is also a princess…complete with her princess dresses. She loves to play dress up, and get her bling on, and who can blame her. I think most girls love to get their bling on. Zoey is quite sure that she is the queen of her castle. She is currently working on teaching herself to play the piano. When asked how that is going, her mom tells me that she is “banging on the piano,” so it looks like she might need just a little bit more practice…or perhaps lessons someday. If she likes the piano, she might have a long standing career or at least a hobby for the rest of her life. Kids often develop their likes and dislikes early in life.
Zoey is learning to put her own shoes on too. She loves to get them on the right feet the first time. I’m sure it makes her feel like a grown up. Chris and Cassie love to take their kids out for walks, and Zoey is not into sitting in a stroller. She wants to walk!! Of course, sitting in a wagon with her brother Lucas is ok sometimes too, because Zoey loves her big brother. Today is Zoey’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Zoey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Most people know that at 10:56pm EDT, on July 20, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. The moment was historic, in more ways than one. Yes, the United States was the first nation to put a man on the moon. John F Kennedy’s dream had become a reality. On May 25, 1961, Kennedy made his famous appeal to a special joint session of Congress: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
Most people know the rest of the story, or do they. At that moment, and for the next few moments, Neil Armstrong was the only human to step foot on the moon. He would always be the first human to step foot on the moon, but for a few minutes, he was the only human to do so. “Buzz” Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11pm, so now there were two humans who had walked on the moon, and while that was quite different from Armstrong’s feeling of being the only human to walk on the moon, it was still something so unique that I’m sure it had to be almost mind-boggling. Lots of us have done something that no one else in our family or social circle has done, and the feeling of accomplishment is almost like a high, but this was something that no other human had ever done. Now that’s a high!! Of course, Armstrong wasn’t the only human to ever experience something like that. Many pioneers in different areas of history did the same thing. The first flight, the first car, the first heart transplant…the list goes on, but all of those had one thing in common. They were done on Earth. Armstrong was the first person to walk on a planet that was not the Earth. No matter how you look at it, this was unique, and Armstrong stood alone among human beings…not only for his accomplishment, but more for where it took place.
After “Buzz” Aldrin joined Neil Armstrong on the moon’s surface, they took photographs of the terrain, planted a United States flag on its surface. Then they ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M Nixon via Houston. By 1:11am on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon. Then, at 1:54pm the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind.” There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, when Apollo 13 experienced a malfunction that nearly made it impossible to return to Earth. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. In all, 12 men walked on the moon. All Americans, they were, on Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong (NASA Civilian) and Buzz Aldrin (USAF), on Apollo 12: Pete Conrad (US Navy) and Alan Bean (US Navy), on Apollo 14: Alan Shepard (US Navy) and Edgar Mitchell (US Navy), on Apollo 15: David Scott (USAF) and James Irwin (USAF), on Apollo 16: John Young (US Navy) and Charles Duke (USAF), and on Apollo 17: Gene Cernan (US Navy) and Harrison Schmitt (NASA Civilian). While Neil Armstrong was the only human to walk on the moon’s surface for 15 minutes in time, there were 11 others who had the distinct honor of walking on the moon, and while they weren’t the only humans, they were the only 12 humans to do so, and that had to feel really strange to them for the rest of their lives.
An only child, or a child who doesn’t have a sibling yet, simply cannot understand just how much fun a sibling can be. It isn’t their fault, and it isn’t that they don’t want to play with other kids, it’s just that they don’t have a lot of other kids around on a regular basis. Those kids simply learn to be around adults, or they learn to entertain themselves. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this in any way, just that when there is a sibling in the family, things change.
For two years, my sister, Cheryl Masterson was an only child, but then I came along, and those days were over. I know that she was very excited about having a little sister, even though she did have a cousin, Pam Wendling, who lived just on the other side of the back fence, but I was her first sibling. We used to have lots of fun together, like most siblings do. It’s just something new, and even later on, you always have a friend. Sisters as you know are forever friends.
Once, Cheryl had a little sister, life as she knew it changed. As kids, we did a lot of things together. I recall movies, in which Cheryl tried to keep up with me in a crawling race, and apparently, I was too fast for her, because she ended up standing up to try to beat me across the room. That isn’t so odd, when you consider that most of us quit crawling when we learn to walk. That would tend to make us a little bit slower when it came to crawling in a race. Anyway, in crawling races, I won and she lost. I’m sure that when it came to walking races, she had it over me, because after all, I had to crawl, since I hadn’t learned to walk yet.
The biggest problem that Cheryl had, as far as our time together was concerned, was when I was napping and she was awake. Once a child has a sibling, they don’t like waiting for their sibling to wake up when they want to play. That naptime thing can seem endless. They begin to wonder if that kid is ever going to wake up. There is fun to be had, games to play, and well, just stuff to do, and all that kid wants to do is sleep.
That was where Cheryl found herself on one particular occassion. I was sleeping and apparently she had taken her nap and was now waiting for me to wake up. I guess I was taking too long, because, she started to ask Mom why they couldn’t just wake me up. Well, I don’t know if I was grouchy if they woke me up early, or what, but I guess Mom wasn’t too keen on the idea. Cheryl, on the other hand looks very annoyed that I was sleeping, and Mom would do nothing about it. Sorry Cheryl, if I had only known, I would have woke up just for you, but I simply had no idea, because, I was asleep.
The other day, as my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were out for a walk, I noticed that the crickets were chirping all around us. Now, I’m not a cricket fan, because they are, after all…a bug, but hearing them was not an unusual event in the summertime. On that particular evening, I guess I just noticed them more than usual. It was a beautiful summer evening, that was cooler that the really hot days we had been having, and with the crickets, it took me back to the summers of my youth. It didn’t matter if we were in the back yard or on a camping trip, the crickets chirping was just a classic summer sound. Then, when you add the birds and sometimes even frogs…well, it’s like going back in time to my childhood.
Summers in my youth were always carefree days with relatively few chores. We used to lay out in the back yard sunning ourselves, walk to the pool to swim in the afternoon, and then play games with our friends until it got dark, and sometimes even later. The sound of kids yelling, laughing, and talking seemed to be everywhere…like we were trying to live a year’s worth of life in three short months, because then school started again, and there was homework to be done at night. It left a lot less free time. Then, before we knew it, we were grown up, and our lives took on work and family obligations I wouldn’t trade my life now for those days, because lets face it. I love my life, but those memories are sweet, nevertheless.
I lived such a wonderful childhood. My family has always been very close. Our parents gave my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me so many great memories over the years, whether in travel or just at home. I can’t fully explain just how blessed we were. We had all the same obligations as kids, that most kids have. We weren’t spoiled children of privilege, we were just blessed…and I’ll take blessed over privilege any day. We took evening drives sometimes just to look at the lights of the city from lookout point or Event Center Hill…although the Event Center wasn’t there then. My sisters and I called the city lights, spread across the valley where Casper is nestled, the Jewelry Box. I have seen them so many times that I can picture them exactly in my head to this day. Those were such glorious, carefree days, of crickets and evening drives, and sometimes I miss them. We didn’t realize then how blessed we were. We just thought all kids had that kind of life. We later found out just how wrong we were. If I mention some of the things we did as kids, people seem surprised…like it was unheard of. Maybe it was, but my parents just showed us the things they liked to do, like going for evening drives.
Those days are long gone now. They live only in my memory files, to be brought out when something like the chirping of a cricket, the smell of a campfire, or a drive down the mountain cause them to come to the forefront once again. The memories are a little bittersweet these days, because both of my parents are in Heaven, but they still remind me of what a blessed childhood I was given, and they make me thankful for the wonderful parents God gave to me and my sisters.
As little girls, my sisters and I would get very excited when our different grown cousins, aunts, or uncles would come over. Like all little kids, we would want to hang out with the adults, and tell them about everything we knew…or could dream up. I think this is as common among kids, as breathing is. Maybe it is about someone new to listen to your stories or maybe it’s that everyone in the household has already heard them, so they don’t want to listen again…or maybe it’s just that you like the person who has showed up. Whatever the reason, you just can’t seem to hold yourself back…or at least that was how it was when I was a kid.
Now, fast forward about 50 years. A couple of days ago, I had to take some groceries to my nieces house for my grandson’s graduation party, which she is graciously holding at her home for my daughter. I had called to let them know I was coming, and they were on a walk, so when I got there, I just waited in my car. Pretty quickly, two of my grand nephews, Xander and Isaac came running up to my car. They had run ahead, obviously excited that I was there. Xander is twelve now, and so was a little better able to contain his excitement, but Isaac being only eight, was not able to do so as easily. While Xander ran back to let his parents know I was there, Isaac decided that he could bring everything up to the porch. He proudly carried five bags at once, and the bags were up on the porch in no time.
After his parents got back to the house, we were inside talking, and the kids, including Zack and Aleesia, all wanted to tell me or show me things. They were so excited to have me there. I was suddenly taken back those 50 plus years, to my own childhood, and I could so completely relate to how they were feeling. I could tell that their parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, were thinking that they should stop the kids from chattering, but for me, it was really cute. I guess that it gave me a picture of what my sisters and I had looked like to our family members all those years ago. I don’t think they were ever irritated with us. They just knew that we loved them very much. As I recall, they always listened to our stories and made us feel like we belonged…never acting like we should just go play. I thought that now, I was that aunt that all the little ones were so excited to see and talk to. It made me smile, because it was such a special place to be.
It’s a yearly tradition for my husband, Bob Schulenberg and me…a time to re-connect. We make this trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming every year on a weekend near our anniversary. Some years have been harder to take this trip than others. When you have a parent that is not feeling very well, and you are a caregiver, you struggle with me time. There is always that feeling that you might be needed here. This year is a little bit hard too, because I suddenly have one less parent to care for, making this anniversary trip a little sad, but much needed after the stresses of planning a funeral and saying our goodbyes. I only wish that my family could all take this weekend to unwind too, because I really think they all need it badly.
In reality though, this trip is about spending time with the love of my life…my dear husband, Bob. When I think about the fact that we have been married for forty years, all I can think is, “Where did the time go?” Forty years seems like such a long time, and yet, it seems like just yesterday that we said, “I do.” I guess that is the way it is when the marriage is right. I feel so blessed to have been in such a marriage all these years. The squabbles and tough times never manage to stay in our lives very long, because the love always shines through. Love just couldn’t get any better than that…now could it?
So, as we head out, with a slightly heavy heart and high hopes for a wonderful weekend, I am reminded of just how beautiful the Thermopolis area is. We love the fact that there is so little to do there. Very few shops are open on the weekend, so we just relax, soak in the hot tubs, and walk the trail along the river and up by the mineral pools. It is kind of a forced way to relax, I guess, but with our busy lives, sometimes that is the only way to make us relax…how sad is that? Nevertheless, through all the caregiving work of the past ten years, I must say that my husband, Bob was my biggest supporter, helper, confidant, and comforter. Could love possibly be more strong and compassionate than that? When he said, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”, he took those words very seriously, and for that I am eternally grateful. So, now…today, and this weekend…is our time to re-connect. It is our time to relax and enjoy being together again, with the love of our lives…each other. I could not be any more blessed if I tried. I love you Bob Schulenberg!! You have filled my life with love and blessings. Happy anniversary weekend!!
Yesterday, while Bob and I were on a walk, I heard a small plane overhead. Both Bob and I looked up and searched the sky until we found it. It occurred to me that it doesn’t matter if it is a bird, a small plane, a jet, or especially a hot air balloon, we always look up. It’s funny, because we hear cars, kids, dogs, trains, and even music around us all the time, but we don’t always look. We might look if the car or motorcycle is really loud, but just as often, it makes no difference to us. We aren’t really very interested.
I don’t think that it is because the things we see and hear on the ground are any more common than the things we see and hear in the sky are. Maybe we just feel the freedom of the air, when we watch something soaring across the sky. I personally love to fly, and I would love to ride in a hot air balloon too. Birds fascinate me …especially the pigeons that circle the downtown Casper area. When I feel like I am tied down with responsibility, all it takes it to sit and watch the birds awhile, and I feel better. The birds lift some of the weight of responsibility and I feel lighter. Now I can’t say for sure that feeling free is the reason that we look up when we hear a noise in the sky, but it could be one reason.
I suppose that if we lived in a big city, I would not think so much about planes in the air, since there are probably far more of them than we get in Casper, Wyoming. Still, I have to wonder if they would get excited about seeing a bunch of hot air balloons over their city, the way we do here. Or maybe it’s just me. I suppose that it is entirely possible that other people don’t look up when a plane, balloon, or bird fly over. I have been known to think a little bit differently about things, so maybe other people don’t give it a second thought. Nevertheless, I love to watch the planes fly overhead, look with wonder when a hot air balloon goes over, and even wonder where the birds are headed when I see them flying above me.
And just in case I didn’t look enough like I live in a dream world, I will tell you that I also look at the clouds. I love to see what pictures God might have painted in the sky with them. The moon and stars are also attention grabbers, because of the beauty they have been given. I like to look for satellites at night, or shooting stars, when the sky isn’t to light. The blood moon that is coming in a couple of days will be the second one this year and I am making plans to be up and watching the sky. Maybe it is just me, but I have a tendency to think that it’s not. I think a lot of people are curious about the things that happen in the sky and in space. I have a feeling that we are a bit like little kids in that way. When we hear a sound in the sky, we always look up.
My husband, Bob doesn’t often give the past a lot of thought. He is one of those here and now types of people. It isn’t that he doesn’t remember the past, or even that he doesn’t think about it once in a while, but if he does, he doesn’t mention too many things that he is thinking about. Nevertheless, he made an exception while we were on our cruise.
As is the case with most cruises, you see a variety of people…many of them children. And, you get a variety of behaviors from these children. Obviously, you will see the well behaved children, and the misbehaving children…and everything in between. But, it was neither of these types of children that caught Bob’s eye, but rather a little blonde girl skipping along with her family on their way to breakfast.
After they passed us, Bob turned to me and said, “Did you see that little girl?” When I said that I didn’t, he told me that she reminded him of our Amy when she was little. Amy never walked anywhere. She either skipped, ran, or at home, it was far more often somersaulting down the hallway. I mean, why walk when you can somersault…right? Amy just couldn’t stand to waste a perfectly good hallway, or any other carpeted area, on simple walking. Carpets were much like a tumbling map, and that was all it took to get Amy tumbling merrily on her way from room to room. We always laughed about that, because it was so cute to see her rolling down the hallway and then getting up to go into her room and play.
As we thought about the little girl he had just seen, it was easy to imagine that she was a girl who was excited about life, and just couldn’t stand to simply walk. That was exactly what Amy was like as a little girl. If she wasn’t swinging on the table like only a tiny girl could, then she was somersaulting down the hall, or swinging from the bars on the swing set. She could easily have been Tarzan’s baby…swinging from the trees. Or you might just as likely find her up on the bumper of Bob’s truck, helping her daddy. Amy was always excited about the next thing coming her way.
Amy and her family recently took a cruise too, and she was so excited about going. I know she is a grown woman now, but I have a feeling that it was all she could do not to go skipping along on the deck of the ship heading to breakfast with her family, or anywhere else that she went for that matter. Those old habits die hard, and when you are a skipper, you find that it’s really hard to contain all that excitement…just like that little girl Bob had seen.
Every year in late February or early March, Bob and I take a three day weekend and head to Thermopolis to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It isn’t a long trip, but rather, a peaceful getaway. We have taken longer trips, and enjoyed them immensely, but the nice thing about going to Thermopolis is that there is very little to do in this small town, so you find yourself relaxing and doing the simple things. We like to take long walks along the river, and up by the hot springs. Most of the time I like to be alone…just the two of us, but today was a little different. It’s not that was were with a group of people, but rather the people we interacted with that were so interesting.
First there was the man with his dog. The dog was so happy to be playing in the water again after such a long cold winter. Every time his master threw the toy into the water, the dog could hardly contain himself. He ran splashing into the river, grabbed his prize and brought it back to his master for another go. Then we watched two little boys who were happily throwing rocks into the river. Each one tried to find a bigger rock than their last one had been. They were quite the pair.
There were the fishermen and the strolling walkers, but the one who was the most interesting person who crossed our path was the little girl who was so excited about rushing the ducks, that she didn’t see that I was photographing them until it was too late. She quickly apologized, but I told her that she didn’t ruin my picture, but rather enhanced it. She then decided that the would do the same thing with some geese a little ways away, and I quickly snapped those shots too.
Normally, I enjoy just being in our own little space on the Thermopolis retreats we take, but the people around us this time, who were all excited about the fact that nice weather had finally arrived…all expressing their own individual version of their excitement, were just too interesting to ignore, and we were quickly drawn into experiencing it with them. It was their expressions of the joys of being alive that made each of them interesting in their own way. And I found joy in simply watching them. Spring seems to have finally graced us with its presence, and after the long cold winter, that makes me feel amazing.