Monthly Archives: December 2020
As the final day of 2020 arrives, I find myself…relieved. This has been a hard year in so many ways…so many losses. Setting aside the loss of friends and loved ones, because that is almost too much to go into, I will turn my attention instead to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the source of much of the loss we all felt this year. Countless numbers of people lost their jobs this year, or at least temporarily lost their source of income. We became isolated, even if we weren’t sick, we were told to wear masks, and even when things opened up partially, the churches were told to stay closed, while the abortion clinics were considered essential businesses. We were told to shelter in place, making us feel isolated and alone. We couldn’t visit loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals, making them feel alone and forgotten. We were told to skip the holidays and stay at home, further isolating all of us. Urgently needed surgeries and cancer treatments were postponed, because of the virus, but people could still kill the unborn babies. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the seriousness of the virus, I lost loved ones and friends too, but the way things were handled, especially in Democratically run cities and states, did nothing to protect the people of this country. We tried to listen to the scientists, but they kept contradicting themselves and each other. One minute masks saved lives, the next they didn’t. I hate to be a person who only rants, but like most of us, I’m over it…and I’m over 2020.
With all that has gone on in 2020, I am still able to say that I have high hopes for 2021. The craziness and sadness of 2020 will not last forever, because people have a strong tendency to have hope for the future. Pandemics have come and gone, and this one will too. As a nation, we will fight for our freedoms. We have done it before, and we are not scared to do it again. I believe we have God on our side, and in Him, we have the victory in every battle…especially this one. Whether people want the vaccine or not, it gives many people hope that there is an end to this Pandemic. I think that is the main thing that people are looking for these days…hope!!
As we close out 2020, we can consider it hindsight as we look forward to 202Won!! I really like that, because this nation, as well as many others, need a win right now, and I’m all for putting 2020 in the rearview mirror, and turning the mirror toward the ceiling so we don’t have to look at it ever again. We will persevere, and we will come back stronger, if we don’t lose hope and our strong faith in God!! I am a positive person, but I think 2020 was enough to try anyone’s patience and even faith, but we must never lose faith. Never doubt in the dark, what God told you in the light. And don’t ley what you see make you doubt what God has spoken. So, here’s to the end of 2020. Bring on 202Won!!! Happy New Year everyone.
The Battle of the Bulge has been a brutal, hard-fought battle. The soldiers were tired, cold, and hungry; and all they wanted was a night off to recharge. That was not to be. They had more pressing matters to attend to, and the fate of the free world might just depend on their success. The Germans had achieved a total surprise attack on the Belgian town of Bastogne, on the morning of December 16, 1944, due to a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance because to bad weather. The American forces, specifically the US 101st Airborne Division bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The town was vital to the Germans, because it would open up a valuable pathway further north for German expansion. The siege had to be stopped, and the 101st Airborne Division needed help to do it.
The capture of Bastogne was the ultimate goal of the Battle of the Bulge…the German offensive through the Ardennes forest. Bastogne provided a road junction in rough terrain where few roads existed. The Belgian town was defended by the US 101st Airborne Division, which had to be reinforced by troops who straggled in from other battlefields. Food, medical supplies, and other resources eroded as bad weather and relentless German assaults threatened the Americans’ ability to hold out. Nevertheless, Brigadier General Anthony C MacAuliffe met a German surrender demand with a typewritten response of a single word, “Nuts.”
This was as bad as it gets, and they needed a hero. Enter “Old Blood and Guts” Patton. General George S Patton Jr was a “street fighter” of a general. He knew what it took to win, and he refused to lose. He was the kind of leader any army, and indeed any government needed. Patton made the decision, the only possible decision he could make. The plan was a “complex and quick-witted strategy wherein he literally wheeled his 3rd Army a sharp 90° turn in a counterthrust movement.” It sounds like a simple plan, but there is no more risk-laden battlefield maneuver than a 90° turn and then a move across and perpendicular to their own lines of communication. The possibilities of mistakes being make were endless. Still, Patton told his men that lives depended on them, and they needed to be in Bastogne…100 miles away, in five days. Not only that, but the march would be over a mountain pass in frigid temperatures. It seemed an impossible task, but two days later, Patton broke through the German lines and entered Bastogne, relieving the valiant defenders and ultimately pushing the Germans east across the Rhine. I think that if this mission had been asked of any other general, the results might not have been so great. There are generals in war who may annoy everyone around them, but when it comes to doing what is best for the people in trouble, you don’t want anyone else to do the job.
Humans think, for some reason, that we are the only ones who find ways to “charm” a perspective mate into going out with us. Well, we need to get a grip on ourselves, because capturing the attention of the opposite sex is kind of universal. In the animal kingdom, it is the male who works to entice the female, and not the opposite, as it is in the human world. In the human world the woman wears the makeup and fancy clothes.
I have never really been a scholar of the animal kingdom, but the other day, something caught my eye. Imagine trying to win your mate by enticing her with the prettiest picture you can make…and you only have a week to make it. This is a very big project, and you will need to work 24 hours a day, taking only a few moments break periodically. That part sounds crazy, but you see, if he doesn’t keep working 24/7, the current will destroy his masterpiece. Yes I said current. And after he is finished with his masterpiece, he has earned the right in my opinion to get all puffed up about his work of art.
In case you think I’m crazy, I am talking about the Japanese Puffer Fish. Oddly, this mathematically-minded fish has the ability to make amazing and very artistic circles…for lack of a better name for his version of art. This amazing little fish makes it’s masterpieces using only it’s fins as tools for his art. The fish uses the decorative items, like seashells and stones, he finds on the sea floor to decorate the edges of his masterpiece. The Japanese Puffer Fish is the only instance of a fish or an animal making something so intricate to attract a mate, but then maybe that is out of necessity too. The Japanese Puffer Fish is really rather plane looking, and in fact might be able to look invisible on the sea floor. Of course, when it puffs up, it’s color comes out. Many fish in the sea are beautiful colors, but not this little guy. So, he has to find a different way to attract his girl. Well, lets just say, that looks aren’t everything. The Japanese Puffer Fish works very hard to make something absolutely beautiful for his mate, and that is much more important than being the most beautiful fish in the sea. Maybe when they said, “There are other fish in the sea,” they were thinking about the Japanese Puffer Fish. I think this little guy might just be the best choice in the long run…for a female Japanese Puffer Fish anyway.
I finally finished my Christmas shopping!! I’m very excited about it. I suppose that would sound funny to most people, especially when you consider that today is December 28th. In case you are wondering, no I’m not finished with next year’s Christmas shopping. That would be a miracle, indeed. Actually, I was doing ok with my shopping, I had everything purchased and shipped to my daughter, Amy’s family in Washington state, with the exception of stocking stuffers. Then, it happened. Covid had made its way through our family, my sisters (except Alena Stevens and her family), brothers-in-law, and a number of cousins. Bob and I had it over Thanksgiving, which was also cancelled this year…at least for us. I thought maybe we would make it through Christmas Covid-free, but then my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin caught it, and their quarantine would take us through Christmas. This just wasn’t our year for holidays.
That said, the urgency to finish my Christmas shopping left me, because we decided to postpone our celebration until we could all be together for it. Celebrating, when part of us we’re stuck at home or in the hospital was just not the same, and it would be especially sad for Corrie and Kevin. It doesn’t feel like a celebration when part of the family is not there. When the day comes, it will be worth the wait. It will be a real celebration, because we will all be well. So we wait, because Corrie and Kevin being with us is more important than what day we celebrate this year.
I suppose that means I could still have plenty of time for shopping, but who knows. The thing about Covid is that some people take a while to get over it and others are over it in two weeks. The day when we could finally have Christmas could creep up on me and then my shopping wouldn’t be done. Not good!! So, I decided to get it finished. And another good thing is that I actually have all the gifts wrapped Wow!! Now, whenever Christmas comes this year, I’ll be ready.
My husband’s aunt, Esther Hein really likes flowers. She loves gardening and watching her creation bloom. That is a talent that I just don’t have, but Esther does have it…and many others. She is an artist, and has painted great landscapes, which is my favorite, and on a round saw blade, which is very cool. Esther also enjoys making quilts and sewing other things. She made a set of curtains for my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg, and while she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and didn’t remember many things, she always remembered that Esther made those curtains for her. I always loved that my mother-in-law kept Esther in her heart. I even remember the time that I was helping her get ready for bed, and she didn’t want to go. Suddenly, out of the blue, she said to me, “Don’t Esther!!” Of course, it had a funny connotation for me too, because my mother-in-law often tried to get out of going to bed so early, but I had to work the next day, so she had to go to bed before the 10:00pm news. The funny thing was that for once I wasn’t the one getting in trouble for making her go to bed. She blamed Esther that day.
I’m sure that over the years Esther has had to carry some heavy burdens. She raised three children mostly as a single mom, and did a great job of it. They are all responsible members of society and great people. Esther has taught them the way they should go. She has been active in her church and she loves the Lord. She loves the outdoors and camping, but I’m not sure she has been able to do that very much in the last few years. She loves animals and people. She loves helping people, and in fact, lately she has been helping by delivering food boxes to needy people. There are always needy people these days, from job losses, to home losses, to fire losses, people have needs, and Esther is our there helping to fill those needs. Even though her area of the country, Oregon has been inundated with wildfires this year, just like California, and the smoke was heavy at times, but Esther’s daughter Vina Frye assured me that Esther was safe, and so was she. In fact, it was Vina who told me that Esther was delivering the food boxes. Vina is so proud of her mom and her giving heart…and so am I. Today is Esther’s 80th birthday. Imagine that 80 years old, and she is still helping other people. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Yesterday, we received the news that our sweet Uncle Bill Spencer had passed away from Covid at the Middle River Health and Rehabilitation Center in South Range, Wisconsin. He was a little under one month from his 99th birthday. Uncle Bill had lived at the Middle River Center for about ten years now, and we have had the opportunity to visit him there twice. I wish it had been more, but we live a long way away from them, so it wasn’t to be. The center was a nice place, and the people there loved Uncle Bill. We could see that the people there had a heart for their residents, and that gave us peace of mind. Uncle Bill tested positive for Covid on December 14th, and was doing ok until the morning of December 25th. By that afternoon, he had gone home to Heaven.
Uncle Bill was the last of my dad’s generation in their parents’ line, and lived the longest of them all. He was the second child of my grandparents, Allen and Anna (Schumacher) Spencer, born in Tomahawk, Wisconsin on January 21, 1922, when his older sister, Laura (Spencer) Fredrick was 10 years old, born August 3, 1912. We don’t know why there was such a distance between the two older children, because the younger three were pretty close together. My dad, Allen Spencer followed on April 27, 1924, and Aunt Ruth (Spencer) Wolfe on November 9, 1925. As they grew, the brothers, William and Allen were good friends as well as siblings. The fact that both were boys gave them many interests in common.
I recall some of their stories told when Uncle Bill came out for a visit in 2006. One of my favorites was about Independence Day celebrations. Growing up on a farm in the Holyoke area of Minnesota, they boys worked to plow, and remove rocks and tree stumps from the fields. This made them experts with dynamite, a fact that we hadn’t heard before. That in itself is very interesting, but they were also kids, and…well mischievous to say the least. Their July 4th tradition was to set off a dynamite blast…at daybreak. When I asked if people got mad at them, they said that they were out in the country, so who cared. Indeed!! One time though, they decided to try something new. Their mom had gone into town, leaving the boys at home. Their curious minds kicked in. They decided to find out what would happen if they set off a stick of dynamite on the top of the gate post. Yikes!! Well, they found out what would happen. When the dynamite exploded, the gate post sunk several inches into the dirt. The gate would no longer close, of course, and he boys immediately set about fixing it before their mom came back from town. They had no desire to find out what she thought of their prank.
While it makes me so sad that my uncle is gone now, I can feel his excitement as he entered Heaven to find his parents and siblings waiting for him. And what a wonderful thought…he was home for Christmas this year. I would imagine the celebration was wonderful. The boys were back together after so many years. I can picture them…just like kids again, filled with excitement, but I can also imagine one other thing. I can hear God saying, “The boys are back together…hide the dynamite!!” God knows his children well, and it simply wouldn’t do for those mischievous Spencer brothers to set off a stick of dynamite, right there on the gate post of the Pearly Gates, and sink one side several inches into the ground!! Nevertheless, I can see their minds clicking, sharp as ever now, thinking…”Hey, lets give that a try!!” Dynamite or not, there is a party going on in Heaven today. Grandma and Grandpa Spencer, and their kids are all together in Heaven again, and that’s worth celebrating. Uncle Bill we all love you very much and we will miss you always. You are in our future now, and we can’t wait to see you again.
Most of the time, Christmas is a time filled with tradition. Many families celebrate it in exactly the same way every year. Of course, the most important thing about Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. When I think of where this world would be if Jesus had never come down from Heaven to save us from our own sins, I feel such thankfulness. We needed Him, and He came. No one really knows what day Jesus was born, but in reality, that part doesn’t really matter, but rather the fact that he was born.
This Christmas, for many people has been different than any other Christmas we have had before. Most us us weren’t alive in 1918 when the Spanish Flu Pandemic brought quarantine to many places in the world. I don’t know if things were as locked down as they are this year, but those who were ill, could not be with other people, and so their families were separated, as many are now. It makes for a Christmas that doesn’t feel like Christmas. Still, we have to remember the reason for the season, and not the things we have lost. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Without Jesus, we were doomed. With Him we have victory and everlasting life. What a wonderful reason to celebrate His birthday. He is the Savior of the World, and His way is so easy for us to follow.
Like it or not, this Christmas brings us to the beginning of the last week of a horrible year, and one the likes of which many of us hope never to go through again. January of 2020 found us facing the beginning of the pandemic, and by March we were in quarantine, and the economy was shut down. The year got steadily worse until many of us found ourselves weary, and ready to start a new year. For my family, that has not changed. We are really ready for 2021. Even today was a sad day, but I will tell of that story tomorrow. I believe the new year will be much better, and as bad as 2020 has been, I am very optimistic for the new year, not for any political or human reason, but because I believe that God is good to us and because he sent His son to die for us, He will not leave us without hope. Therefore I will have hope for 2021. Merry Christmas to all!!
Many people know about the Christmas truce of 1914, when in World War I, thousands of British, French, and German troops, exhausted from fighting took the night of Christmas Eve to stop fighting, leave their trenches, and meet the enemy forces in what was known as “No Man’s Land” to exchange gifts, food, and stories. For the soldiers, it was a moral boost, but the Generals disagreed, and determined to prevent further fraternization in the future, saw to it that such activities would be severely punished, thereby ending future Christmas truces for the rest of that war, or the following war. I suppose the Christmas “truce” would have been better called a “cease fire” since they weren’t supposed to fraternize.
In World War II, of course, there was no such truce called, and the fighting continued without taking notice of the holiday. Nevertheless, in 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, the generals lost just a little bit of their control over the people, when in defiance of the orders, a small group of unlikely guests made their way to a little cabin in the Hurtgen Forest, for a little Christmas Truce of their own. They could have been in so much trouble had they been found out by superior officers, but at the time it just didn’t seem to matter, or maybe it was their host, one Elisabeth Vincken, who along with her 12 year old son stood up to the soldiers, and held off the battle for a few hours. After their home in Aachen was completely destroyed, Elisabeth and her son, Fritz were sent to their cabin, about four miles from Monschau in the Hurtgen Forest near the Belgian border. Her husband visited them as often as he could, but he needed to work. On that Christmas, Elisabeth and Fritz, had been hoping her husband would arrive to spend Christmas with them, but now they knew it was too late. Their Christmas meal would now have to wait for his arrival. Elisabeth and Fritz were alone in the cabin.
Then, the miracle began. Lost in the snow-covered Ardennes Forest, three American soldiers…one badly wounded, wandered around, trying to find the American lines. These poor men had been walking for three days while the sounds of battle echoed in the hills and valleys all around them. They had now idea who was shooting, so they dared not enter the area. Then, on Christmas Eve, they came upon a small cabin in the woods. They cautiously knocked at the door, hoping that they didn’t get shot. Elisabeth blew out the candles and opened the door to find two enemy American soldiers standing at the door and a third lying in the snow behind them. These men might have been soldiers, but were hardly older than boys. The men were armed and could have simply pushed their way in, but they hadn’t, so she invited them inside and they carried their wounded comrade into the warm cabin. Elisabeth didn’t speak English and they didn’t speak German, but they managed to communicate in broken French. After she heard their story and saw the wounded soldier, Elisabeth gave up the idea of saving the Christmas meal for when her husband could get there. She started preparing a meal for the men. She sent Fritz to get six potatoes and Hermann the rooster…his stay of execution while they waited for her husband was now rescinded. Hermann had been named after Hermann Goering, the Nazi leader, who Elisabeth didn’t care much for. Maybe killing the rooster would make her feel better.
While Hermann roasted and dinner was being prepared, there was another knock on the door. Fritz went to open it, thinking there might be more lost Americans, but instead there were four armed German soldiers. Seeing the German soldiers, and realizing that she could be killed for harboring the enemy, Elisabeth turned white as a ghost. She quickly pushed past Fritz and stepped outside. There was a corporal and three very young soldiers, who wished her a Merry Christmas, but they were lost and hungry. Knowing she had no choice, Elisabeth told them they were welcome to come into the warmth and eat until the food was all gone, but that there were others inside who they would not consider friends. The reaction she expected came when the corporal asked sharply if there were Americans inside and she said there were three who were lost and cold like they were and one was wounded. The corporal stared hard at her. She had to do something, so she said, “Es ist Heiligabend und hier wird nicht geschossen.” In German, that means, “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.” She insisted they leave their weapons outside. The men couldn’t believe that this woman was standing up to them in such a way. Nevertheless, the men decided to comply and Elisabeth went inside, demanding the same of the Americans. She took their weapons and put them outside next to the Germans’.
Understandably, the fear and tension in the cabin was high as the Germans and Americans eyed each other warily. Nevertheless, the warmth and smell of roast Hermann and potatoes soon eased the tension, and while the men were still wary, the meal was somewhat cordial. The Germans produced a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread. While Elisabeth tended to the cooking, one of the German soldiers, an ex-medical student, examined the wounded American. In English, he explained that the cold had prevented infection, but the man had lost a lot of blood. He needed food and rest. By the time the meal was ready, the atmosphere in the cabin was more relaxed. Two of the Germans were only sixteen, and the corporal was only 23. As Elisabeth said grace, Fritz noticed tears in the exhausted soldiers’ eyes…both German and American. The moment had somehow touched them all. The unauthorized and very much unplanned “truce” lasted through the rest of that night, and into the morning. The German corporal looked at the map the Americans had, and pointed out the best way for the men to get back to their lines. He also gave them a compass. The Americans asked if they should instead go to Monschau, but the corporal shook his head and said that the Germans had taken Monschau. Elisabeth returned all their weapons and the enemies shook hands and left the cabin, in opposite directions. Soon they were all out of sight, and the truce was over.
Most people have heard the song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” which was written by lyricist, Kim Gannon and composer, Walter Kent. Most of us also know that the song was recorded by Bing Crosby, putting it in the older, classic category. We also knew that if was probably written, and in reality was written to honor soldiers overseas, who really wished they could be home for Christmas. I wasn’t sure what year it was written, but have since looked it up to find, exactly as I expected, that it was in 1943 during World War II. Our boys were off fighting, and Christmas was going to be very different that year, for the families, but mostly for the soldiers, many of whom would be away for the first time in their life.
These days are really no different, except that quite possibly the old song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has taken on additional meanings. For those who have soldiers serving all around the world, the old classic meaning brings a renewed feeling of the old meaning of wishing their soldiers were home. For many others of us, who have loved ones who live far away, it brings memories of Christmas’ past, when our children were little and everyone was with us, gathered around the tree and dinner table. Others are fighting off the Covid-19 virus, and are quarantined this Christmas. And still others are facing a very different kind of sadness and loneliness this Christmas. Some have lost loved ones to the Covid-19 virus. For others there are other causes for their loved one’s passing, but it doesn’t matter what the cause…the passing of a loved one is the worst loss that can ever be felt…any time of year.
The song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is the epitome of of our longing spirit. Sometimes we feel like we need a good cry, and yes, we probably do, but that will never really ease the pain…especially the pain of loss. Time and prayer are the only was to move forward. We will never forget our loved ones, but we know that they are safe in Heaven, and we will see them again soon. Our soldiers will come home, our children living far away are only a plane ride away, our loved ones who are ill will recover, and there will be other Christmases. Can we ever get this Christmas back…no, but most of us can celebrate when loved ones get home or well, and still others can talk on the phone, Facetime, or Skype, so the miles seem to melt away. Whatever the reason for our fractured Christmas, this year and years in the past, we can all relate to the meaning behind the song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and when we all get to Heaven, we will truly see that dream come true.
With the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Lothair II in 1137, Henry the Proud was the Welf heir of the patrimony of his deceased father-in-law, and possessor of the crown jewels. I always find that strange. Because Henry the Proud had married the Emperor’s daughter, Gertrude, it was he and not the Emperor’s daughter who became the heir and who possessed the crown jewels. Her name is often not mentioned at all. Still, as most of us know, the wife should never be discounted as being insignificant. She will prove you wrong every time.
The Siege of Weinsberg took place in Weinsberg, which is in the modern state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. At that time, Weinsberg was part of the Holy Roman Empire. As often happens, nations and kingdoms often disagree on matters, and wars ensue. The Siege of Weinsberg was a decisive battle between two dynasties…the Welfs and the Hohenstaufen. For the first time, the Welfs changed their war cry from “Kyrie Eleison” to their party cries. The Hohenstaufen used the ‘Strike for Gibbelins’ war cry. Unlike wars these day, apparently, the war cry was very important. I suppose that it was similar to “Charge!!” It was a necessary command to let everyone know that the moment of truth had arrived. Part of the problem might have been the same one that I found odd…Henry the Proud was the son-in-law, and not the son…meaning that had the daughter not married, someone else would have been made the heir.
Henry was a loyal supporter in the warfare between his father-in-law King Lothair and the Hohenstaufen brothers, Duke Frederick II (who was Henry’s brother-in-law, having been married with his sister Judith) and Conrad, then duke of Franconia and anti-king of Germany. While engaged in this struggle, Henry was also occupied in suppressing an uprising in Bavaria, led by Count Frederick of Bogen, during which both duke and count sought to establish their own candidates as bishop of Regensburg. After a war of devastation, Count Frederick submitted in 1133, and two years later the Hohenstaufen brothers made their peace with Emperor Lothair. Because of his loyalty, Henry stood as a candidate for emperor when his father-in-law passed. However, the local princes were very much against him, so they elected Conrad III, a Hohenstaufen, in Frankfurt on February 2, 1138.
Conrad III immediately began the process of governing, no matter how improper or illegal his reign was. When Conrad III gave the Duchy of Saxony to Count Albert the Bear, the Saxons rose in defense of their young prince, and Count Welf of Altorf, the brother of Henry the Proud, began the war. The reign of Conrad was illegal. He was not the emperor Lothair II had planned to pass his mantle to. The crowning of this illegal emperor outraged the Welfs, and the immediately retaliated. Conrad III had planned to destroy Weinsberg and imprison its soldiers. Still, he was not completely heartless, and in a kind hearted moment, he suspended the final assault after a surrender was negotiated. Conrad III could not kill the women and children. He told the women of the city that they were to be granted the right to leave with whatever they could carry on their shoulders. He though he was going to let them have enough to set themselves up elsewhere, but he underestimated the women.
I don’t know if the women planned what happened next…they must have, because with one accord, they left their possessions, lifting their husbands and children on their backs, they headed out of town. Of course, it was within the power of the emperor to then kill the women too, but he was honorable. When the emperor, saw what was happening, he actually laughed and accepted the women’s clever trick. He decreed that a king should always stand by his word…and he let them go with their families intact. This story became known as the “Loyal Wives of Weinsberg” (Treue Weiber von Weinsberg). The castle ruins are today known as Weibertreu (“wifely loyalty”) in commemoration of the event. I cant say if the story is true, or a fable, but either way, it speaks to the true love a wife has for her husband.