Humor

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By the time Spring arrives, people are naturally over the cold and sometimes depressing Winter months. When April 1st arrives, hopefully bringing with it, sunshine and warmer temperatures, pranks seem to just pop into our heads. We need a laugh, and the good-natured pranking of our friends is a great way to get that laugh. People have pranked their friends and family in many ways. The ways are really as diverse as the prankster. My sisters and I, when we were little, did all the kid pranks, like “there’s a spider in your hair” or exchanging the salt for the sugar. Other people go all out, like telling someone their car was stolen or placing a rubber snake in their bed. I suppose some pranks can be a little over the top, and can even backfire on the prankster, but most are done good naturedly, and are taken as such. Of course, the best part for the prankster is yelling, “April Fool” to their victim.

As traditions go, some stand out more than others. In the United Kingdom, it is tradition that all pranks stopped at noon. This continues to be the custom, with the pranking ceasing at noon, after which time it is no longer acceptable to play pranks. So, a person who didn’t watch the time, an playing a prank after midday is considered the “April fool” themselves. In Ireland, it is more of a “fools errand.” The prankster entrusts the victim with an “important letter” to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter, when opened contained the words “send the fool further” and then the victim knew he had been had. I can’t say that would be a traditional joke, because the word would get around pretty quickly, and then it wouldn’t work.

April Fools’ Day isn’t just for individuals either. On April Fools’ Day, elaborate pranks have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, and websites, and have been performed by large corporations. One of the more famous pranks was in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was soon flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day. A good prankster could come up with similar pranks for the media to use, and now with the Internet and readily available global news services, April Fools’ pranks can catch and embarrass more people than ever before. It’s the one day that “fake news” can be fake and it’s ok. Happy April Fools’ Day to all the pranksters out there. Have fun, and watch the time so you don’t wind up being the “fool” indeed.

Most days in our lives are normal…ordinary. We get up, go to work, cook meals, got to sleep. It’s all ordinary, and it could be boring, if we let it. I suppose that might be why we have a few special days that are all about fun. Saint Patrick’s Day is one of those days…at least in the United States. Here it is party day. The day of green beer, and a green Chicago River. It a day of wearing green, and getting pinched if you forget. It’s a day for green fingernails and green hair. It’s really just a day to party and have fun. There has to be a few of those kinds of days in life, or it all gets too dull.

Saint Patrick’s Day always reminds me of Spring, which is just a few days away. I suppose that is the main reason…that and wearing green. The days are getting longer, and normally there is less snow. This year seems a little more like April Fools Day to me, however. With a record snowfall of over 26″ and up to 38″ in Colorado, 2,300 flights were cancelled, and pretty much everything was shut down. People began to dig out of their homes and driveways, but where would they go then? The joke was definitely on all of us, but that is a story for another day, say…April Fools Day.

Of course, Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (especially the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutheran Church. It is the day that commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, dances, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. It is also a time when Christians who belong to liturgical denominations attend church services and historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption. That the day is tied to the church is not surprising, but the fact that the day is far more celebrated in the United States than it is in Ireland, is at the very least, a little bit strange. Nevertheless, for all who celebrate, Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!!

My nephew, Eric Parmely has changed so much over the years. I find myself amazed at the life he lives today. Eric is husband to Ashley, and daddy to Reagan, Hattie, Bowen, and Maeve. That’s his human family anyway. Eric and Ashley own a little ranch west of Casper, where they raise children, dogs, cats, goats, horses, turkeys, cows, ducks, pigs, and maybe others that I have not mentioned. There are always new babies on the ranch, and those animal babies are just as much a part of the family too. I can’t imagine all those babies in the family, but Eric and Ashley love each and every one of them. Of course, they and the children also understand that some animals are for food, and that is just how it has to be. The constants in the family of animal members, of course are the horses, cats, and dogs. They will never be food, as we all know. They are, and always will be pets.

Eric is a hard working man. He has a regular job, and then comes home and works hard on the ranch. He and Ashley bought a tractor that he is been fixing up. Once it is in good shape, it will be a big help to him on the ranch. There is much work to do on a ranch and a rancher needs the right tools. This tractor will put them closer to having all the tools they need. They live on a dirt road, so they need to be able to clear roads and so much more. Tractors and ranches just go together.

Eric has discovered audio books. To me that is vital. With our busy lives, finding time to read a book is almost impossible, but we can listen to our books while we work. Eric likes a variety of books, and just finished Harry Potter. I’m not into the Harry Potter stuff, but I love to listen to World War II books. To each his own, I guess. I find that audiobooks have broadened my horizons, and I have other types of books I have listened to since I started with Audible. Eric will most likely be the same.

Eric, being the dad of young kids, has had to keep up with all their activities. I saw a video recently of Eric trying to skateboard. He did pretty good, but I’m sure that the kids, especially Reagan can out-do him. It’s simply an age thing, so it would make sense for her to be better at it than her dad, but I could be wrong. I have been known to be wrong about such things, after all. Eric has recently discovered iced vanilla lattes and has switched to decaf coffee. Now, that part is odd to me, because he probably need more caffeine kick, not less to keep up with his busy lifestyle. More power to him if he can do it caffeine-free. Today is Eric’s birthday. Happy birthday Eric!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The other day, I was sitting in my living room, working of a story, when it suddenly dawned on me that it was very quiet in my house. Silence, while not exact, is nice sometimes. It isn’t exact, because the clock was ticking, the birds chirping, an occasional car drove by, or a plane went overhead, and even a gust of wind could be heard; but for the most part, it was truly very quiet. I’m not one of those people who has to have noise around me. In fact, I would rather not have too much noise, most of the time. They quiet can be very reflective and peaceful, but we seldom get it. It seems like there is always some noise going on in the world, demanding our attention. Even the little kids have moments when the noise level is just too much. Even a sibling crying can feel like a lot. I have always been one to like the quiet, so I can think my own thoughts and analyze the things going on around me. I like quiet reflection.

The world’s noise is very demanding. Sometimes it almost screams at us. In stark contrast, the silence is relaxing. It doesn’t force itself on us. It simply lingers patiently in the atmosphere. Maybe that is why the song, “Silence is Golden,” was penned. It is a fleeting moment, like a sunset, and then it is gone, and the family has come home, the television is turned on, the chatter begins, and the silence is shattered. We must enjoy those moments when they show up, because we really never know how long they will last, or when the next one might occur. Silent moments are really a gift of God for those of us who don’t relish the chaotic noise of a normal day, but even we don’t always “notice” them.

Sometimes we are too caught up in our own thoughts to realize that the silence has descended upon us. I wonder how that is possible, but I guess that sometimes our own thoughts can be very noisy. Consider the last time you had trouble falling asleep. What was going on? Well, if you’re like me, your head was filled with thoughts…the cares of the day, that you just couldn’t seem to shut off. What we wouldn’t give to be able to shut off the noise of our thoughts. We can go to an empty place, away from the outside noises, away from family, and turn off the television and radio; but those pesky thoughts in our head are very hard to turn off. Oh…that we could only have a switch for that. Then maybe we could finally get to sleep.

Three out of four years, my granddaughter, Shai Royce doesn’t get a real birthday. That’s because her real birthday only happens once every four years. Of course, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t get a birthday celebration, because she does. Shai’s birthday is as special as she is, and that needs to be celebrated. The funny thing about it is that people don’t know exactly when to do that. Because my grandson, Shai’s cousin Chris Petersen was born the day before she was, we have always celebrated her nano-birthday on March 1, even if it is the wedding anniversary of her grandparents, my husband Bob and me. Chris and Shai are part of a cluster of birthdays and one anniversary, because Chris was born on my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s birthday. Not every Leap Day Baby calls the off years a nano-birthday. In reality, I made that up. You see, the birthday has to exist…right? It is the nano-second between 11:59pm on February 28th and 12:00am on March 1st…hence the nano-birthday. Technically, the Leap Day Baby can celebrate their nano-birthday on February 28, March 1st, or both, and when she turned 4 (16) she was able to get her driver’s license a day early, because that is just how the DMV did it. We have a lot of fun with the Leap Day Birthday/Nano-Birthday that we have, as I think most people who have or know someone who has that birthday do.

Shai is a very social person, and is always the life of the party. She gets that from her dad, Travis Royce. They can both walk into a room and instantly have friends to talk to…even if they didn’t know anyone before. They have simply never met a stranger. Her brother, Caalab is that way too. Her mom is more like her grandma…knowing that it can sometimes get too “peopley” out there. I think Caalab’s girlfriend, Chloe Foster is more my Amy and me, but I could be wrong. It takes all kinds to make life happy, and Shai’s family all live in harmony and get along very well.

Shai is a personal lines account manager at Rice Insurance, LLC, where her mom, Amy also works. They are both well respected in the insurance industry, and I guess I can take a little credit for that, since I gave both of them their start in insurance. Nevertheless, you can hire someone to work in insurance, but you cannot make it their niche. That is something they must decide for themselves, or as is the case with my daughter and granddaughter, have insurance in your blood. It is an industry that has served them both well, and that makes me very happy. Today is Shai’s 25th birthday, or in real years, it’s her 6¼ birthday. She could just be the youngest insurance agent in history, unless there is another Leap Day Baby who is an insurance agent. Happy nano-birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Chase has been such a blessing to our family since he married my niece, Toni. Dave always goes above and beyond just being Toni’s husband. Dave treats Toni like a queen. She feels his love in everything he said says, and that is a beautiful kind of love to have. Dave is devoted to his family. He and Toni’s son, James are good friends, and Dave never tries to take the place of James’ dad, but he is always there for him too. As a family, they have taken many trips, and seen many places. Dave likes to travel, and so do Toni and James, so it works out well for all. Of course, 2020 was…very different, for all of us.

With Covid-19, everyone spent most of the year doing a new activity…social distancing. It is a phrase we have all learned to hate. We were stuck at home, not travel, no restaurants, no movies, even no camping…in the woods, away from people, for Pete’s sake. Some of that is behinds us now, or at least for now, but during the year, it was pretty awful. For the average person the problems were truly annoying, but for lots of people the problems were much worse. One of the biggest problems was depression. But other serious problems include loneliness, fear, and helplessness.

All that is the norm for the Covid-19 Lockdowns, but not if you’re Dave Chase. I would have expected Dave to be going stir-crazy…especially since Dave, Toni, and James did not catch Covid-19. Dave is very sports oriented. He always has been, but he did not let the lack of sports, gyms, and any other form of activities get him down. Dave just shifted gears and embraced the lockdowns by learning how to do indoor golf, online fantasy football, baseball, golf, and college basketball. Lots of guys go in for that, but I don’t think it would be for me. Once people could go outside much, Dave was out there fishing, and having good success at it too. As things finally started opening up, at least in Wyoming, Dave has been able to go back to playing live basketball, recently. You might think that after not playing for a long time, Dave might be a bit rusty, but not so. He is still the champ, even among his 30-year younger teammates. Dave has also enjoyed being able to have friends come over, like his buddy, Ron Birks. So, even with the Covid-19 Lockdown, Dave has stayed pretty sane. Not bad!! Not bad at all!! Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My uncle, Wayne Byer is the younger of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s two sons. He always had a great sense of humor, which is very likely why my mom, Collene (Byer) Spencer and their older brother, Larry Byer all got along so well. They were pretty much three-of-a-kind. They all thought the same things funny, and they didn’t care if they looked silly…it was all part of the humor. In fact, I think the silliness is what really makes humor. People who can’t ne silly, really aren’t funny either.

My mom loved being the middle sister, in the middle of the two brothers, mostly because the boys made it fun. Of course, they were all kids, so sometimes that meant they got into mischief. The three of them…well, I can imagine they drove Grandma crazy sometimes. I never really thought of my mom as a tomboy, but I think she might have been. I’ll bet she did everything she could to keep up with her brothers. I think they were probably protective of her too. Still, like most siblings, who are close…I’m sure they picked on Mom a lot. It was just past of being the three-of-a-kind.

Uncle Wayne’s sense of humor, and his friendly ways, endeared him to so many people. My sisters remember that Uncle Wayne was well known and liked by the ladies who worked in the cafeteria at East Junior High School. That information and the fact that we were related gave my sisters a few good lunchtime perks, like the best desserts and dishes. Uncle Wayne was very well liked by everyone, and I’m sure there were other nieces and nephews, as well as his three sons, Tim, Keith, and Cliff. Anyone with a true tie to him was looked at as privileged. I never had to ride the bus to school, but I can just imagine what the drive was like. There are bus drivers who are crabby, and then there are bus drivers who are fun. I can totally imagine how much fun it was to be on Uncle Wayne’s bus. I would imagine that as long as you stayed seated and didn’t cause trouble, the ride could be filled with a lot of laughs. A bus driver like that makes me wish I did have to ride a bus…well, sometimes. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The new year is always a little bittersweet for my family…at least since my mother, Collene Spencer passed away on February 22, 2015. Mom’s birthday was the party event of the year, because her birthday was on January 1st. That’s the party event of the year for most people, but even more so for us. We celebrated the end of the old year, Mom’s birthday always made our New Year’s Eve party the best of all of them. You couldn’t have paid us to go to some other party. Even the ball dropping at Times Square, couldn’t compare for us. We were already at the best party event. I miss those parties. Oh, we still celebrate, but one guest is missing…Mom. The parties just aren’t the same without the part about welcoming the new year and then telling Mom happy birthday. Now, we can only give her our birthday wishes from Earth to Heaven.

Mom was a special kind of person. She was a child of God, who wanted everyone to know her Savior, Jesus Christ. She told people about the Lord, even when my sisters and I thought she should give up on the person. Mom couldn’t stand the idea of anyone going to Hell. She had such a pure heart that way. When I think about all the people she talked to over the years, and the fact that if even half of them got saved…well, Mom helped bring a whole lot of people to the Lord. Looking back on all the times I was embarrassed by her “mission” work, it makes me feel ashamed. She was doing what she knew to be right, and I was a kid who knew nothing. She took the high road in it. I wish I had.

Mom was a character to say the least. She would do the funniest things and make the funniest faces, just to make us laugh. Especially if we, her five daughters, Cheryl Masterson, me (Caryn Schulenberg), Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock, were fighting. Of course, we didn’t all fight at the same time, but rather two or three at a time. Just imagine having five daughters who were either fighting or playing loudly. We must have driven Mom crazy at times. Still, she loved being a Mom, and had visions of the perfect children, like all moms do…until they have kids anyway. Then the reality hits. Kids are kids, and they make noise and they fight. Mom loved to creatively stop the noise…even if that meant making funny faces. She also loved to sing us a song. Her favorite, “You Are My Sunshine” was a staple in our house. She was the sunshine in our house, and we always knew that we were her sunshine. Today would have been my mom’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.

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.

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.

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