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Bertha Schumacher HallgrenBertha & Arthur Hallgren and Elsa & Frank LawrenceWhen you read through the personal journal of another person’s life, you must be prepared for the many emotions that life can produce in people. My great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren was an amazing woman, as was her younger sister, Elsa Schumacher Lawrence. They spent years working in a man’s world, and being successful at it…in fact out working them and being capable of using machinery the men couldn’t. They were considered so invaluable that the companies they worked for tried really hard not to give them any time off, as the place didn’t do so well when they were gone. The work was so emotionally draining, that the only release for them sometimes came in the form of bitter tears. Nevertheless, times were tough during the depression years, and you didn’t just walk away from a job, because the going got tough.

It wasn’t the years of hard work that seemed to be the most severe blow to Bertha, but rather the life changing moment when her sister, Elsa decided after all the years of caregiving for their parents, now both gone home to Heaven, to marry a man who was a widower ready to retire. Bertha and Elsa had made the decision, probably subconsciously, to set aside their hopes for a family and a home of their own at a very young age. They were the youngest of their parents seven children, and while the other children had married and left home, comfortable in the knowledge that the two youngest sisters were still there taking care of their aging parents, the girls knew that no one would be left if they married too. After their parents passing, the girls lived together for a number of years, before Elsa met Frank Lawrence and became engaged.

Bertha likens the situation to divorce. She had lived with her sister for 40 years, and the separation was torturous. To make matters worse, their older sister, Mina, who had always lived close, made the decision to move to Colorado to be near her daughter, Paula, while her husband, John Spare went into the CBees during World War II. Bertha talked about dividing the things she and Elsa had in the home, and looking for a smaller apartment that she could afford on her own…and she talked about the tears. For the first time in her life, Bertha was going to be alone, and she didn’t like or want this, at all.

I know how she feels to a degree. I am not alone, because I have much family, and of course, my husband, Bob Schulenberg in my life. Nevertheless, after a parent, or other patient you have cared for goes to Heaven, or even gets better, and goes about their own lives, the caregiver can find themselves at loose ends. They wonder who they are if they are not a caregiver. Then, as in Bertha’s case, the only companionship she had every really known is gone too. She felt like she had just been placed on top of a cliff, and the only way out was to fall, and the consequences of that were just as bad as staying put.

Great Aunt Elsa by her flower gardenBertha & Elsa School DaysIn the end, Bertha would move to Colorado with Mina and Paula, and she would meet the man she would marry. The marriages of Bertha and Elsa would not last long, because their husbands both died after a short marriage and much happiness. The girls regrouped, and once again became companions for each other. It was as if it was meant to be…as if they had never been apart. Their lives had always been intertwined, and their golden years would be spent together in their new home in Boulder, Colorado…until Bertha passed away in 1984, leaving Elsa alone until her passing in 1992.

Walt & Joann weddingWhen Bob’s aunt, Margee Kountz was born, her oldest sister, my mother-in-law, Joann was dating and planning her wedding to my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg. He was working in another town, and so they wrote letters back and forth, because they didn’t get to see each other as often as they would like. Of course, they talked about the normal things, like missing each other, and such, but they also talked about the future, and what they wanted it to be.

One thing that has stuck in my mind about those letters, is how my father-in-law felt about his soon to be sister-in-law, Margee. She would only be 4½ months old when they married, and he just thought she was the cutest little baby he had ever seen. He mentioned several times in the letters they wrote back and forth, that when they had a little girl, he wanted his Margeedaughter to be just like Margee. He simply loved his little future sister-in-law so much, that he would have loved to have a dozen or so of them. In the end, he didn’t have a dozen daughters, but he did get four of them, as well as two sons, so I guess his dream of lots of kids, and especially daughters, came true.

Through the years, Margee remained a big part of their lives. She has pretty much always lived near them, and has shared a good portion of their lives. Holidays, birthdays, and barbeques were among the things the families shared, and of course, these always included Grandma and Grandpa Knox, the sister’s parents too. It was the way they kept the families close, and it was a good thing for all of us.

As the years flew by and everyone got busy with their own lives, it might have seemed that we didn’t spend as much time with Margee as we used to, but when we needed her, she was there. She worked for most of her Mom and Margeeadult life, but when her sister, Joann, my mother-in-law, having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, began to need someone to stay with her when my father-in-law had appointments, we might have had a big problem, but Margee, by that time retired, agreed to come and sit with her sister. I truly don’t know what we would have done had she not been able to do that. There were times when my father-in-law was in the hospital, and we all worked. There was no way to just find someone to take a week off to go and stay with her, but once again, Margee stepped in and bailed us out. She spent the days, and we took care of the nights. I hope she knows just what a relief that was to us. It was a debt we can never repay. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Br on Christmas2014 family pictureAs another year comes to a close, my mind drifts back to the events that have taken place over the last twelve months. it seems like every year I’m alive goes by faster than the one before it. Christmas last year was just here, and before my very eyes, it was Christmas again. As a kid, it seemed like each year took ten years to pass, and now it seems like mere days.

Last year ended with my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg beginning a journey toward health, and this year, she has shown us just what determination and consistency can accomplish, by losing over 275 pounds. She looks amazing, and her new active lifestyle is giving her a new found happiness and a definite glow. Her success has motivated several others in the family to get back on the bandwagon toward health, myself included.

The grandkids have grown up before your very eyes, and we now have two high school graduates. Our grandson Christopher Petersen, left us this year to venture off to Sheridan to begin the journey to build his dream of becoming a great chef, and or restaurant or hotel owner. It’s been hard having him be away from home and yet we are thankful that he isn’t so far away as to make trips home impossible. Our granddaughter, 10428069_10204235756953007_5941351706439712699_n - Copy1426540_10204235756432994_5781173328603841326_n - CopyShai Royce has entered the workforce full time, at the Hilton Inn. She is unsure of her future goals, so working is a good option. Our grandson, Caalab Royce is a senior in high school and will graduate in May. He is exploring the options for college to learn to make guitars…a longtime dream of his. And our grandson, Joshua Petersen is a sophomore in high school this year. Josh loves track, but with a knee injury, the season, or at least the indoor season, is up in the air until the doctor gives him the go ahead.

The past year has proven to be a pretty good one for The Moms. My mom, Collene Spencer took a couple of falls, but other than a couple of staples in her head, she is fine, and we are planning on physical therapy to strengthen her legs in the new year. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg continues to thrive at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, where she has lived for almost two years now. Both moms are happy where they are, and their living situations are a perfect fit for them. My mom’s mind is clear, so being at home is a workable situation, and since my sister, Cheryl Masterson lives with Mom, there is someone with her in the evenings anyway. Alzheimer’s Disease has made it impossible for my mother-in-law to live on her own, but since she doesn’t realize that Dad is gone, and that she is in a nursing home, she experiences no sorrow over her situation.

The past year brought our family a new addition, when Hattie Joy Parmely arrived, right on schedule. She joined her parents, Eric and Ashley Parmely, and big sister, Reagan Kaylynn Parmely, to give them a blessed Aunt Doris & MomCheryl, Tracey, Caryn, and Collenehome indeed. There were new additions in our family in other ways too, as I was able to connect us to many previously unknown cousins all over the country. I would love to tell you just how many new cousins there are, but there are too many to count, and more that will continue to join us through the ones we have already found. We said good bye for now to my grandniece, Christina Masterson, who moved to Germany to live with her mom. And we acquired a new driver, when my grandson Josh got his license.

Bob and I took a lovely cruise to Alaska this past summer, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. My dad had always wanted to go, and take his family with them, but while we sent our parents on a cruise for their 50th anniversary in 2003, we couldn’t join them. Well Dad…I’ve been there now, and you’re right…it was amazing. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken, and I would love to go back someday. Mom, Cheryl, and I also went on a trip this year. It was a trek to meet all the new Schumacher cousins that we had met online, and to reconnect with our Spencer cousins, and our precious Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill. The trip was far too short, but it has left us with precious memories, and new relationships that we will always have. We thank God for giving us back such wonderful family members, and adding so many new IMG_205883rd birthday 1ones to our lives.

This is a time when so many people are making new years resolutions, but that is something I just don’t do. I prefer to reflect back on the passing year, and rejoice in all the blessings I have been given over the year. This year, has brought blessings in many different forms, from Facebook and Ancestry, to face-to-face blessings. I could not ask for more. Happy New Year to all of you from all of us, and may God’s blessings overflow in your lives. I love you all very much!

Break TimeOpinions vary on the matter of child labor, and who can legally have their child work and at what kind of job. Some people take it to the point of saying that children shouldn’t even do chores around the home, which is, in my opinion, silly. It is my thought that children need to be helping out around the house, but beyond that I suppose the water gets a little bit murky. In the distant past, children were farmed out to spend their days working at a job that should have been done by an adult, and the kids really had no childhood to speak of. That is cruel treatment, and the current child labor laws prevent that from happening…unless people are so illegal that they do it without the knowledge of the government.

That said, there is a group of kids…even today that do work every day, and it is not illegal at all. These are the children of farmers and ranchers. I don’t know of any of those kids who don’t help out around the farm or ranch. There are stables to be cleaned, and cows to be milked, and animals to feed. There are also crops to be cared for and planted. These kids work and there is nothing illegal about it. Of course, their parents do have to Young Workersbe careful on a few matters. The children must get their schooling, and they have to be working on the parents farm or ranch.

Such was the case for my husband’s great uncles and his grandfather. Many people owned farms when those boys were young, and the kids helped out with just about everything. Most families back then really couldn’t afford to hire the amount of workers that it would take to run the place, so they hired what they had to, and the kids learned to work. I really can’t say that I think this is a bad thing. The kids often like the work…especially taking care of horses…since they often get to ride them too.

If you look back on the lives of our parents and grandparents, you will find that many of them grew up on a farm or ranch, and most of them were working to help out on the place at a very young age. Really, what a wonderful way to bond with the parents. Running a ranch or farm is a big job, and most kids like to do the things their parents are doing, because they want to be just like their parents. If a child is interested in doing the same kind of work their parents do, or take over the family farm, they need to know how to do this from the bottom up. What better way could there be, than to help out as a child.
A True Helper
Of course, not every family owns a farm or ranch, and while they may live in the country, they don’t have that kind of work to do. Still, the kids can and should help out with things. My nephew, Barry Schulenberg, loved helping his grandpa split firewood. He ran the splitter while his grandpa loaded the wood into it. Barry was about 4 years old, but you couldn’t have pulled him away from that job for anything. He was the one who did that, and that was all there was to it. Maybe some people would think he was a bit young, but there was never a single accident when he worked the splitter. I think sometimes we don’t give these kids enough credt. They can often do more than we think they can. They just need to be given a chance.

10404099_10203050974091193_5853198210690934122_na10653815_10203120678073749_584939759546150558_naAs our kids have grown, my sisters and I find ourselves along for the ride when it comes to Halloween. My grandchildren always seem to be working, so there are no little kids coming by my place…at least not that I know. For me, it could easily become just another boring evening, were it not for my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve Spethman. Every Halloween, they have a party at their house. We all go over and they make green chili, and all the fixings. The meal alone would make the evening for sure, but it gives us a chance to see all the cute little costumes the kids wear. They have an abundance of trick or treaters at their house…every year. At our house, we usually get just a few kids, and then Bob eats the rest of the candy…and if I don’t watch myself, I do too!!

HotRisqueIt isn’t just the kids that dress up for the party either. We have had pirates, gangsters, and Indians..to name a few. My daughter, Amy and her husband, Travis always dress up. They have come up with some amazing costumes…such as a stewardess and a rather large woman…which Travis pulled off quite well. It’s a time when the adults can cut loose a little bit too, even if it is a little bit risqué. Still, it’s kids costumes that I like the most. They kids always look so cute, and have so much fun getting a sugar high. This is a night when everyone can get a little bit crazy, because we all know it’s all in fun.

My daughter, Corrie Petersen and my niece, Kellie Hadlock have dressed up for work, and I know some bowling leagues dressed up for league nights that fell near Halloween, but I have never done either. I guess I have Corrie at workKellie going to workalways thought of this as a kids day, but maybe I was wrong on that one. In fact, maybe I should dress up this year. I have been thinking of the perfect costume, and I think I might have it. I think I’ll go as a grandma. It suits me perfectly, and I should have everything I need. I’ve been told I don’t really look ;like a grandma, but I am, so that should work. I suppose there will be those at tonight’s party who will not think mine is a great costume, but I do. Being a mom and grandma are the things I do the very best, and the things I love to be the very most. Happy Halloween!!

Kevin 5Of all the birthdays my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen has had, I have a feeling that this one will be the most bittersweet. This will be the first birthday in eighteen years that has passed without seeing his son, Chris, in person. I’m sure he knew that was going to happen at some point, but when you have children, you don’t think of them moving out until it happens, and then you wish it wouldn’t. Of course Kevin and my daughter, Corrie want their son to succeed in college, but it is on the special days that you find that you feel just a little bit…no, a whole lot lonely. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Kevin and Chris have worked side by side for some time now. That is going to make work very lonely for Kevin. Kevin and Chris also loved to work on their cars together, and on the boat that they bought this summer. Doing all those things together tends to make two people very close, and that is how it was with Kevin and Chris. It is going to take some getting used to for them to feel ok with this new arrangement, and that will take Kevin 2time. I wish there was an easier fix for them, but there is simply no easy solution. You just have to wait it out.

Kevin is such a family man. I have watched him and Corrie raising their boys to be good men, and I am so proud of the training they have given the boys. Part of raising a child is to help them become independent, and that is the point that Chris is at now. Because of his good upbringing, I know that he will do well. Of course, they still have Josh at home, and it seems that there are seasons for all things. I know that during this time, Kevin and Josh will become even closer than they were before, as they all struggle to adjust to the new living arrangements their family has taken on. That’s what life is all about…adjusting to the constant changes that happen. Nothing ever stays the same, and while we don’t like some of them, changes are important too. And in reality, we could not see what great people we have raised if they never grow up and go out in the world to make their own way, Kevin 3and live their own life. Nevertheless, as a mom, I know exactly how Kevin’s heart is feeling…broken and lonely.

Everything will work out for everyone in the Petersen family, and in the days to come, their joy will return…even if they are changed because of the changes in their family’s life. Chris will finish school for the year and come back home and they will have the summer months and he will come home on weekends too, and they will rejoice. For Kevin, I just hope that he will find a little bit of joy today, on his birthday, and that is ends up being a good day. Today is Kevin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kevin!! Have a good day!! We love you!!

FireworksWhen we think of Independence Day, most of us think of fireworks, picnics, and a day off from work. What I wonder about though, is if most of us know why we shoot off fireworks on this day. The answer may surprise you, because many people did not know this. Even before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams had a vision of a huge celebration taking place in the city square. He wrote a letter to Abigail Adams on July3, 1776. It said that our Declaration of Independence should be commemorated with “Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” The first Independence Day holiday was celebrated on July 4, 1777. On that day, at that time in history, the city was beautifully illuminated. That day felt to him like a day that should be filled with patriotism from a grateful nation to its freedom fighters. And, I believe that is what many people think today, but I also think many people forget about the sacrifice that was made so long ago.

According to some historians, the first fireworks were invented in India, but the first fireworks came to the West by way of China. Most if the early fireworks were simply repurposed military munitions, used to entertain rather than to frighten or kill the enemy, which is fitting in a way, because it was those same military munitions that brought about our freedom from England. From those ancient beginnings, came rockets, by stuffing a container with gunpowder and leaving a hole in one end for propulsion. These were called “ground-rats” or “fire rats” and they were highly unpredictable. That made them somewhat less effective, but as anyone who has ever watch a modern day display go a little haywire, they were also pretty entertaining.

So, why do most people love the fireworks today? Is it because of the great technology that American Flagsallows it to be synchronized with the music, thereby adding to the festive feel? Is it the continuing patriotism in this country? Or is it simply the splendor of the display…the bright colors and the flashing light show? Well, I suppose it is really a combination if all three of those things. We are a people who love our traditions, and I believe that we are still a very patriotic nation. And, I think we love the tradition that was started by John Adams in 1777. It make us feel patriotic and allows us to honor all our military men and women who have fought through the years to keep our nation free. And really, being a free nation is still what it’s all about. That is the thing we must not forget. Happy Independence Day America!!!

Allen & William Spencer in wagonWhen I look at the pictures of my dad and his brother, my Uncle Bill, I can see how much they loved each other. They may have tried to look tough, but there was a lot of brotherly love between them. They were best friends, playmates, but most of all brothers. The way Uncle Bill took care of his little brother, and the way my dad looked up to his big brother…you could see it in their eyes. They were the two middle children with their older sister Laura, being ten years older than Uncle Bill, and their sister, Ruth being 2 years younger than my dad. Because they were together and just the two of them, except for their sister, Laura’s care, and because Ruth was too little to play for a couple of years, the boys were very close….like a lot of brothers are.

Through their young years, the boys worked together on the farm, and in several other work ideas they came up with. They shared a love for guns, dynamite, and cars…you know, the usual guy stuff. I know that when their little sister, Ruth came on the scene they were good Dad & Uncle Bill with fishfriends with her too, and she was most likely a tomboy because of them…a matter of self defense, if you know what I mean. Because Aunt Laura was so much older than the rest of the children, I think they must have looked to her as more of a babysitter than a playmate…although she was great when it came to being pulled around on a sled or in the wagon.

As they grew up, they took several trips together to go work the harvest in North Dakota, among other things. I’m sure they had a great time just hanging out together, and finding work and places to stay was fun and challenging. They had an especially challenging time on one trip, when the only place to stay was at the local jail. I’m sure that was a bit odd for both of them. They had to be treated the same as any other prisoner. They took all their belongings, and searched them, and had to know all about their background, but they let them stay on the bunks covered with strips of steel and cardboard…not particularly comfortable, but the place was warm and dry, so they were grateful.
Uncle Bill's visit
On their last visit together, my dad was not in good health. We weren’t sure the brothers would ever get to be together again, but my cousin Bill Spencer and his family made the trip so that we could make it happen. It was such a sweet reunion for them. They talked a lot, played cards, and in general, just spent time together. We were all so grateful to Bill for bring his dad, my Uncle Bill out so they could have one last visit. My dad passed away in 2007, and thankfully Uncle Bill has dementia, so that is something he doesn’t have to know. The miles between them make it possible to keep him in the dark a bit, because I know it would be very sad for him to know that, and sad for us to tell him.

James- Tall, Dark, and HandsomeMy grand nephew, James Renville is the typical tall, dark, and handsome type of guy, who makes the girls absolutely swoon and wish he would take notice of them. I’m told that somehow, James doesn’t know that he is cute, and since he is a little bit shy, he basically leaves all those girls sadly wishing that he would just ask them out. I’m sure he does notice them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he does anything about it.

It’s funny, in my memory files, I can still see James as a little Elvis look alike who was always very much into swords and ninja stuff. It James and friends in Virginia Beachis so hard to believe that he is almost grown up. Next year he will be graduating from high school and his kid years will be behind him forever. I don’t know what he plans to do after high school, but he has another year to figure that out, so I’m sure he will get all of that together by the time he graduates.

James has always been a quiet kid, which tells me that he has a lot of thoughts in his head that he is concentrating on. That reminds me a bit of myself. Your mind is always running. It’s almost entertaining all by itself. It’s like it sits there and explores all the possibilities there might be in life. Who knows maybe James will Toni and Jamestake after his Great Aunt Caryn and start writing. Time will tell. For now, James is spending his summer working at The Gap and hanging out with friends and family.

My mom had always wanted to have a grandchild who was born on her dad’s birthday, but none of her kids managed to accomplish that. Alena came the closest with her son, Garrett, but still missed it by one day. My niece, Toni finally got the job done when she gave Mom a great grandson, who was born on Grandpa Byer’s birthday. That was quite exciting for Mom. Today is James’ 17th birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have an awesome day!! We love you!!

Virginia ByerMy aunt, Virginia Byer Beadle was always a beautiful girl, with lovely hair…and this was according to anyone who knew her. From the time she was a young girl and on into her golden years, that fact has not changed. It was quite likely the first thing people noticed about her. Her hair, at least until it turned gray, was a jet black color, and always in curls. I don’t know if her curls are natural or not, but I don’t remember ever seeing her without them.

One time, her sister, my Aunt Evelyn, and Aunt Virginia were supposed to clean up the house, but Aunt Evelyn had been babysitting the night before…all night, and the baby was fussy. As is typical with siblings when they are young, Aunt Virginia wanted to know why her sister was sleeping rather than helping. When she was told that Aunt Evelyn had babysat all night, Aunt Virginia said, “So then if I have a job, you are saying that I won’t have to do housework either?” Now I have to assume that it was Grandma that she was talking to, but the answer was, “No, you wouldn’t.” I don’t know what they expected to happen, but needless to say, Aunt Virginia went out and got herself a job, and she had one from that day on.

When the time came for Aunt Virginia to learn to drive…well, the family got a real education on just how you didn’t want to drive. It seems that every time Aunt Virginia backed out of a parking spot, she would neglect to look behind her and in the end hit probably half a dozen Virginia Muriel Byercars. My mom didn’t say how much damage or how the cars got fixed, or even if the police were called, but she did say that every time Aunt Virginia got behind the wheel the rest of the block cringed. Personally, I wouldn’t park behind her, but that’s just me. Eventually she figured it out, and I haven’t heard that she is such a bad driver now.

After Aunt Virginia got married and moved to her apartment, my mom took to going over and spending the night of and on. In fact, she stayed there quite a lot. It would be those nights spent at her sister’s apartment that would precipitate the marriage of my parents, because my dad was a friend of Aunt Virginia and Uncle Jim’s. For her part in our parents meeting, my sisters and I will always be grateful. Today is Aunt Virginia’s 84th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Virginia!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!