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My aunt, Dixie Richards has been a caregiver for most of her life. Aunt Dixie was born in 1943 to George and Hattie Byer. She was the eighth of nine children. When she was born, her dad was 50 years old, and her mom was 34 years old. There were 16 years between her parents’ ages…not uncommon in those days. They married December 24, 1927. Her dad would pass away just 37 years later, and during his later years, she would be a big part of his caregiving and also her mom. Aunt Dixie was no stranger to caregiving or to having family living with you. Because her husband, my Uncle Jim Richards’ dad died when he was young, so Uncle Jim helped his family through the years.

Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim have been babysitters for their grandchildren and for a number of other kids too. Many of the children of her nieces and nephews have spent time in the Aunt Dixie Daycare. They all remember it fondly. Aunt Dixie and Uncle Jim have always been there for their kids too, running errands while they were at work and unable to get away. They are the kind of people everyone knew they could count on. They had a heart of gold and would gladly give the shirt off their backs to help those around them in need.

Aunt Dixie always had a soft heart. She really hated to hurt anyone’s feelings. That was never made so clear to me than the time that she “adopted” the rooster that my mom, Collene Spencer had been given as a baby. Mom was sure that it was a hen, and she intended to raise it and have eggs for the family. Never mind the fact that raising chickens in town was illegal back then. I guess my mom was just ahead of her time, because these days it’s egal and lots of people raise their own chickens now. Sadly, for my mom, “Queenie” proved to be a rooster and not a hen, which presented my mom with a dilemma. What to do with “Queenie.” Keeping the “rooster that should have been a hen” was not an option, and she didn’t have the heart to kill and eat it, so she asked her sister, Aunt Dixie to take it and add it to her brood. Well, soft hearted Aunt Dixie did take “Queenie” and while I’m quite certain that the rooster became Queenie Noodle Soup at some point, I seriously doubt if Aunt Dixie ever told my mom that, and while Mom might have known it deep down, she never asked or assumed that her beloved “Queenie” was gone. I guess it was a matter of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Today is my Aunt Dixie’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, LJ Cook is a classic “funny guy.” He has always loved joking around and making people laugh. He has been like that for as long as I’ve known him, which is over fifty years. I first met LJ when I was about 18 years old, and many was the time he left everyone in the room laughing about one funny comment or another. LJ is a tall man, standing 6’6″ tall, and that has good and bad thing for him over the years. I will never forget when my youngest daughter, Amy Royce was just about two years old, she was out in my father-in-law, her grandpa, Walt Schulenberg’s garage, as was LJ. He said something to her. LJ is the tallest one in the family, and because Amy is the shortest person in the family at a whopping 4’10” in adulthood, you can imagine how short she was at two. She was trying to look up at her Uncle LJ, and started backing up to see him, when she fell into a pan of oil that had been drained out of a car. Whether he was trying to be funny or not, that moment was one of the funniest in LJ history. We were all just shocked. Here was Amy in a white dress with little red hearts on it, sitting in a pan filled with black motor oil. Of course, it was totally unintentional, and LJ really felt bad, no one could stop laughing about it. Amy wasn’t hurt. She never had far to fall, so it wasn’t a hard landing. She was just as shocked as we were.

LJ was always pulling so prank. For a number of years, he was a Deputy Sheriff in Casper, Wyoming, and since his future brother-in-law, my husband, Bob Schulenberg was often out “driving the strip” which was the local pastime in those days and could often be seen going “just slightly” over the speed limit, the police in town had a tendency to keep an eye out for him. One deputy sheriff, LJ Cook, had one other reason to keep an eye out, in that he was dating Bob’s sister, who would later become LJ’s wife, Debbie Cook at the time. Debbie was probably what could be considered Bob’s “polar opposite” and really didn’t speed, so LJ couldn’t pick on her as easily…for speeding anyway. So, when he would see Bob out driving the strip, and miraculously not speeding, he would pull him over…full lights and sirens, of course…and always in the most public place possible. The whole thing was designed to bring the most embarrassment possible, and LJ usually hit his mark quite well. While getting pulled over by the police was not an unusual event for many teenagers, Bob included, it was nevertheless embarrassing when all your friends are driving by laughing about the fact that you were about to get a ticket. Little did they know that Deputy LJ simply wanted to tell his future brother-in-law hello. Hahahahaha!!

Those years are behind LJ now, because he is retired, and mostly likes to spend his time at home or camping in the Big Horn Mountains. He is a girl-dad with two daughters, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith, as well as Grandpa to four grandkids, Weston Moore, Jala Satterwhite, Easton Moore, and Kaytlyn Griffith. LJ and Debbie are still going strong, and just celebrated their 49th anniversary. LJ has had w few health issues, and needed back surgery recently, but he is feeling pretty darned good for a man of 74 years. Today is LJ’s birthday. Happy birthday LJ!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In every branch of service, and every war, the US servicemen are given a handbook. The book is filled with useful information, meant to make the transition from civilian to soldier a successful one, even if it is not an easy one. No young civilian preparing to go to war really has a good idea of what they are getting into. I suppose more of them do these days, than their World War and prior wars era counterparts. Nevertheless, each of them is proceeding head on into a massive reality check. The handbook can be a sobering little book, especially when the new soldier reads the chapter that recommends the writing of a will. The need for a Last Will and Testament will become crystal clear when the soldier sees his (or her) first battle. The sight of dead bodies takes away any misconception the soldier might have of their own mortality, and the possibility that they may have been given a one-way ticket to this battle.

While many of the things contained in the handbook are sobering and even quite scary for the soldiers, there are some things contained therein that have a much more practical usage, and a few that looking back, anyway, are just a little bit funny. One such tidbit contained in the US servicemen’s World War II handbook was the simple statement that, “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea—it’s an even swap.” I suppose that statement is true, at least as it pertains to the fact that British “bad coffee” is an even swap with US “bad tea.” I don’t think they US government was trying to “bad-mouth” the Brits, but rather that they were simply stating a fact. If the men were in a British camp, they simply shouldn’t ask for a cup of coffee, because they would be sorely disappointed in what they were served.

Like the warning labels of items these days, like not to shower with a running blow dryer, or to shut off the engine before trying to remove the fan belt on your car, the point was to make the reader aware of the ramifications of making such bad choices. Still, some “warnings” make more sense than others…or do they? While the electricity problem of the wet running blow dryer and the finger removal outcome of putting one’s hand out to touch a fast-moving fan belt, seem like rather stupid wisdom (is there is such a phrase), the idea that a person would automatically make a bad cup of coffee, simply because they are British, seems equally ridiculous. Nevertheless, the US servicemen were warned to expect “bad coffee” from the British, so that they were prepared to either drink tea with the Brits, or swallow down the offending coffee so as not to offend the Brits. I’m sure that much of the rest of the handbook contained valuable information, but it is possible that the most valuable information contained in the World War II US servicemen’s handbook, was intended to avoid the notion that the Brit might have poisoned them with the British coffee.

Every year that my sister-in-law has been in Heaven seems more and more impossible to me. Marlyce Schulenberg left us on August 13, 1989, meaning that she has been in Heaven for 34 years now. Marlyce was 39 years old when she went home. I still miss my sweet sister-in-law every day. She brought so much joy into our lives, because while she was developmentally disabled, she had such a great capacity for giving and for bringing happiness to or lives. Marlyce was fairly high functioning, in that while she was unable to live on her own, due to her mental age, she was well able to do things like knitting and baking, and it gave her such great pleasure to see the faces of those people to whom she bestowed her gifts.

Marlyce, being a part of a large family of six children, was faced with the teasing of her siblings. They weren’t cruel, they just all picked on each other, and some handled it a little better than others. Marlyce kind of liked some of the teasing, especially about supposed boyfriends, which she may or may not have had at the time. She would grin and maybe even blush a little, but other types of teasing just made her mad. And her siblings, Debbie Cook, Bob Schulenberg, Jennifer Parmely, Brenda Schulenberg, and Ron Schulenberg knew just which type of teasing was which…much to the irritation of their parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, who would shut it down when they had had enough. You have to understand too, that Marlyce was the oldest, so all this teasing was going on among children, and if you have had siblings, you probably know all about teasing. Nevertheless, the siblings all loved Marlyce very much. I joined the family when Marlyce was 25 years old, and I really never took part in the teasing, so I got to be the loved sister-in-law. It’s not that I was against teasing, but rather that she was always so sweet to me that I didn’t have the heart to tease her…even in fun.

Mom and Dad always worried about what would happen to Marlyce when they were gone. She couldn’t live alone, and I’m sure they wondered if the siblings would take care of her. Of course, we would have. It was just understood, but it would have been a lifestyle change for the sibling she lived with. In the end, of course, it didn’t matter, because she went home before Mom and Dad did. I don’t think any of us were thinking about that the day she left, we just knew that everything had changed, and we would always miss her very much. Marlyce would have been 73 years old today. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

It isn’t often that a couple is together all their lives, but really, that is the case with my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Their parents, or really, their moms were best friends. Walt’s mom, Vina née Leary Schulenberg (later Hein) had two children…Marian in 1927 and Walt in 1929. Joann’s mom, Nettie lost a son, William in 1929, and then went on to have Joann in 1931. I’m not sure exactly when their friendship began, but by the time Joann was born, Vina and Nettie were friends. In fact, that is how Walt and Joann “famously” slept…well napped…together when he was two and she was an infant. I think that story is sweet, but my mother-in-law was always more than a little bit embarrassed, whenever the subject came up.

Of course, they weren’t a “couple” all those years, and in fact, my mother-in law once told me that for a number of years she absolutely did not like my father-in-law in the slightest little bit, but eventually, he grew on her and they started dating. My father-in-law was a very likable guy, so it doesn’t surprise me that she started to like him as time went on. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and while she was a more serious person, his witty personality balanced with her serious one quite nicely.

They went on to have six children and move from Forsyth, Montana to Casper, Wyoming where they raised their family. Like most families, it was a “job market move” that brought them to Casper. My mother-in-law was a stay-at-home mom, and my father-in-law worked at Pathfinder Mines as a mechanic for many years.

Theirs was a long and happy marriage, lasting 64 years before my father-in-law went home to Heaven. I was blessed to marry into this family, and to know these two wonderful people. In fact, anyone who knew them would tell you what a wonderful blessing they were. Dad went home to Heaven in May 5, 2013, and Mom went home on January 4, 2018. We miss them both very much. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad Schulenberg. We love you very much.

My great grandnephew, Jaxx Harman is such a wonderful young man. He makes it his mission to exhort other people. His mom, Melanie Harman tells me that he is the biggest sweetheart ever. Whenever he talks to his family, he always calls his mom and his sister, Izabella (Belle), beautiful and his daddy, Jake Harman, handsome. Jaxx really comes by this happy trait naturally, because he acts exactly like his daddy does. Jake has made it his mission to make everyone feel loved and appreciated, and now he is teaching this very important habit to his son. Many people don’t really know how to make a woman feel appreciated, because they don’t see that at home. I’m not saying that Jake is the only man who treats people, and especially women, well, but many men, while they appreciate their wife or daughters, don’t exhort them…don’t make them feel beautiful. Jake does, and now he is teaching that to his son. He is very loving, always saying, “I love you and you are my best friend” to his mom and dad, every chance he gets.

Jaxx has a great personality!! He loves to be silly…loves funny jokes!! For Jaxx, it’s really all about making people laugh. He doesn’t care if he has to look silly to do so either. Jaxx does some weird dance moves all the time…just to see who will laugh. Then, he will sing a version of “Broken Heart” by Axel Rudi Pell…with a minor alteration…Jaxx sings, “Don’t leave me alone with my broken hotdog!!” Jaxx also loves to randomly say “I am not a pickle, sir!!” or “Spider man, spider man, hit you in the face with a pickle man!!” Hahahahahaha!! You just can’t help but laugh at the funny things he says. He one time took a bite out of his hotdog and said, “Mom, Mom it looks like a screaming hotdog!”

Like most kids, Jaxx loves to play games. He likes to play games with his pops, but also plays with his grandpa, Dave Balcerzak or Uncle Chris Kirk. His family loves to hike, so Jaxx gets to get his fill of climbing on rocks…like all little boys like to. There really isn’t anything in life that doesn’t excite Jaxx. He is a little boy who is full of life, love, and joy. Is there a better combination? I don’t think so. Today is Jaxx’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Jaxx!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

On July 1, 2022, my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens retired from a 39-year career in the oil field business, but this story is not about his retirement or his career, because those are things from his past. Following that retirement, Mike and my sister, Alena have been focusing on two things…relaxation and grandchildren. My sister tells me that they don’t do much, but I think they probably do. Whenever the grandchildren are over, I know that the house is suddenly filled with giggling energy, because that is what grandchildren bring. Two of their grandchildren, Elliott and Maya, live in Sheridan, so they don’t get to see them as much, but with retirement, they are making more trip to Sheridan, and their son Garrett and his wife, Kayla will also be bringing the girls to Casper more often. In the meantime, their bonus grandchildren, Brooklyn and Jaxxon Killinger love to spend time at their grandparents’ house. They often come over after school, and that is when the fun gets going. Mike is a kid at heart, and he loves joking and playing with the grandchildren.

And speaking of joking, Mike’s son, Garrett tells me that his dad is always joking around. He is a great jokester. He always texts Garrett and his sisters, Michelle Miller and Lacey Stevens (soon to be Killinger) a joke or something like it on April Fools’ Day. For the kids, it isn’t April Fools’ Day until they have received their “Dad’s April Fools’ Day Joke Text” from their dad. Nothing is off limits, and the kids know it. A couple of years ago, Mike group texted Michelle and Lacey, saying that the family dogs, Callie and Ozzy got into some poison, and they woke up to them dead in their kennel. Both Michelle and Lacey were crying at work…when they got the text from their dad saying, “April Fools!!” Well, needless to say, the girls were “so mad!!” Garrett was living in Sheridan This year’s April Fools’ Day text found Mike telling the kids that he had won the lottery!! That one was not as successful, as the kids had learned their lesson, and so caught on pretty quickly. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Mike from sending out those April Fools’ Day Joke Texts or any other day joke texts. Now, with the grandchildren in the picture, Mike has a whole new audience for his jokes.

This year, Mike has had a much more serious role in life. When my sister, Alena Stevens was diagnosed with very early breast cancer and had to undergo a lumpectomy and radiation, her husband, Mike was literally her Rock. No one wants to receive that diagnosis, and not everyone has people standing behind them to support them through the “nightmare.” Alena was very blessed to have Mike and her children behind her when it happened to her. Mike led the way and was a role model for the children on how to “be there” for their mom. That person has to push back their own fears and lift up the person they are supporting. It’s never easy, but it was what Mike did, and what he led his children and grandchildren in doing. He led the way in prayer for her and in his support at home. Now that the cancer is gone, Alena will be forever grateful to Mike and her kids for all they did for her…and to God be all the glory for her healing!! Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I woke up this morning to about three inches of snow, which has now turned into about twelve to fifteen inches. Spring officially started on March 20th, so my question is…WHY are we looking at so much snow!!! Businesses are closed, schools are on a homeschool day for today and tomorrow, and many of the roads are closed or have “No unnecessary travel” restrictions. I know Spring snowstorms are not that unusual, but I don’t have to like them. Ok, that’s my rant. This isn’t the first Spring snowstorm I’ve ever been through, and most likely won’t be the last. In fact, I remember a few from my childhood, that have been doozies!!

We had a storm in 1973, that totally qualifies as “a doozy” and one I’ll never forget. I had to get up on the roof of my parents’ house and shovel the snow off. The news told everyone that too much snow could cause the roof to collapse. That was the first I had ever heard of such a thing. These days, it’s common knowledge. Of course, schools were closed with that storm too, and people were actually getting around on snowmobiles in town. I remember thinking ho strange that was. Still, there were people who needed to get places, and people with snowmobiles were helping them get there. I didn’t hear of any emergency childbirths with that storm, but I suppose it was possible.

My niece, Chantel Balcerzak was just a teeny, little girl of two, and the snow was taller than she was. Of course, Chantel is only 4’10” now, so not much has changed, and she might want to stay indoors, so she doesn’t get lost. My dad, her grandpa, Al Spencer took her outside for a picture to commemorate the occasion. Like most snow days, the fre day presented us with a perfect opportunity for fun in the snow, and we took full advantage with snowball fights and trudging through the depths of the “white stuff” that covered the city. It’s funny how that snowstorm seemed so fun, and these days such a storm is just annoying.

I suppose things could be worse. I could be one of those people who will lose wages due to businesses closing, or who have to figure out daycare for children who are now home from school, or who will have to figure out a way to get to work , because my job doesn’t close for snow. Since I am retired, I will just get cozy with a fire going, and watch some television…oh wait, the internet is down which means that my television, email, and internet aren’t working. Thankfully there is wi-fi, so at least there is my phone. That’s my day, I hope you all have a wonderful doozy of a snow day!!

My cousin, Darla Stanko passed away on February 26, 2023, at 63 just years old. As I think of Darla, I remember her laugh, which was just like her mother’s. It was sweet and a little shy, but when they laughed…you laughed, because their laugh was contagious. As kids, we would all go down in Grandma Byer’s basement to play, while the grownups visited upstairs. Grandma’s basement was a little creepy and worked well as a “haunted” house…if the kids liked that sort of thing. Some did and some didn’t. I preferred other games. I think Darla did too. She had asthma and scary stuff could trigger things.

As kids do, we all grew up…quicker than we would ever have dreamed possible. Before long, babies were coming along. I remember talking to Darla once. She told me that without a doubt, the best thing she ever did was JeanAnn, and of that I have no doubt. For a mom to look at the beautiful little baby they have just given birth to…there is no greater honor. Kids are a big part of our lives, and games are a part of kids. JeanAnn told me about the times she and her mom played cards. Their favorite game was Speed…which is a high drama card matching game for two players. It was perfect for them.

The other thing that JeanAnn and her mom loved to do was to spend time jumping on the trampoline in their yard. I can just picture it now, a summer evening in the back yard, just the two girls, jumping and giggling the hours away. Of course, there was also their dog, Nelly with them too. Now Nelly was a different sort of dog. She was very gentle with JeanAnn, but then she was JeanAnn’s guard dog. She was also gentle with Darla too…except for that one time. JeanAnn could make Nelly mad and then point at a new person, and Nelly would go get that person. That was all well and good…until JeanAnn did that to her mom. My guess is that JeanAnn had no idea what was about to take place. Darla saw it coming, and she jumped on the furniture to get away from the guard dog that was now hot on her trail. She almost knocked herself out jumping down. JeanAnn says, “It was great” and maybe it was…for her anyway. Darla…maybe not so much, but I’m sure she laughed about it later.

Now, for me, possibly the funniest story about Darla’s life was the “fateful” trip to Denver. Darla decided to take her daughter to Denver, and to take her mom, my Aunt Delores Johnson with them. She needed a “navigator” and while I can’t picture my Aunt Dee in that capacity, maybe Darla thought map reading was like breathing…anyone could do it. My thought is, “Have you met your mother?” Anyway, off they went, and to make a long story short, they ended up on a one street in rush hour traffic, going the wrong way!!” Oh yes, that’s the Aunt Dee I know, and I can totally picture that whole situation…once I can stop laughing!!

Yesterday, one of my granddaughter, Shai Royce’s co-workers, mentioned that her birthday was missing this year. I guess you could say that, but I told her that is just another Nano Birthday. Of course, that is when your birthday falls on that nano second between 11:59pm and 12:00am. That can only happen is you are a Leap Day Baby, which is exactly what Shai is. She didn’t know how she felt about that for a long time, mostly because her younger brother, Caalab told her that he was older that she is, which is technically true, because she only gets a “real” birthday every four years. She didn’t want him to be older than she was, because obviously, she was born first. She finally began to feel better about her birthday when I told her that the boys were older that she was, but they had to wait until they were 16 to get their driver’s license, but she could get hers when she was 4, and even then, she got to get it on the 28th rather than waiting until the 1st of March. So, it was earlier all the way around. These days, like many Leap Day Babies, Shai has a two-day birthday, and sometimes she has a birthday week.

Shai is an insurance agent for Rice Insurance in Bellingham, Washington, and she is seriously the youngest insurance agent they have. While she is “technically” 27 years old today, in reality, she is 6¾ years old. I would say that is the youngest agent in Rice Insurance history…unless they have another Leap Day Baby in their midst. Either way, they take pretty good care of Shai, birthday or nano birthday. The have given her candles, which she loves, and one co-worker bought her pizza and a brownie for lunch today. Her parents threw her a party over the weekend, so it looks like she’s been pretty spoiled. I just wish we could have been there for it. Maybe next year.

Shai is a very social person and is well liked by everyone she knows. She makes friends easily, and often keeps them for life. She has followed in the footsteps of her grandma and her mom, who are both insurance agents. In fact, I had the great privilege of training both of them to be insurance agents, and if I do say so myself, they are among the best in the business. I am so very proud of both of them. They even get to work together at Rice Insurance, although they often work from home these days, which is very cool too. Today is Shai’s 6¾s @ 27th birthday. Next year you can have a real birthday, Girlie. Happy birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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