My uncle, Jim Wolfe was a favorite uncle to my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me. Uncle Jim had a great sense of humor, and a deep sense of family. He loved kids and he was good to all kids. In fact, Uncle Jim was good to everyone. He was the best kind of person. Uncle Jim has a soft heart. Whatever we wanted when we were around Uncle Jim…if he had any say in it, we could have it, or do it! I’m not sure how my parents, Al and Collene Spencer, felt about all that “spoiling,” but I’m sure they were ok with it, because after all, it was only temporary. He just liked to make us happy.
My uncle Jim was a storyteller among storytellers. The best of the best. When Uncle Jim started telling his stories, we all sat around him wide-eyed with wonder. We never knew if his stories were going to be from real life and which ones were going to be tall tales…at least not until the end, when he would tell us the punch line. Then we would all laugh and say, “Oh! Uncle Jim!” He loved to get a little rise out of us, and it really tickled his funny bone. And speaking of tickling, Uncle Jim was a tickler from way back. He used to chase us around and tickle us, if we started bugging him…so naturally, we always started bugging him. Then we would try to get away. Hahahaha!! Not that that ever happened. Uncle Jim had the kindest heart and he was always a lot of fun!
Uncle Jim would help anyone who needed help, if it was within his power…neighbors, friends, and even complete strangers. He was generous, and would always lend a helping hand where he could. He loved his family fiercely and loyally. No one better hurt his wife or kids, in any way. He defended them in word and deed. He was faithful to them in every way. When he decided to buy some land out in Washington, where he would build his final home, he bought enough so that each of his kids could have their own place nearby. He never wanted any of them to not have a home, so he made sure of it. The land he purchased was on he top of a mountain with some of the most beautiful views on the way up. He did his very best for all of his family, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t love Uncle Jim. In his later years, when his care for Alzheimer’s Disease required that he be in a nursing home, Uncle Jim still kept his character. He loved putting a smile on the faces of all the nursing staff, and anyone else who might be there visiting. He could often be found getting into “mischief” behind the nurses station desk, not that he ever hurt anything, he was just “visiting,” after all. My sisters and I love him still! Just thinking about him make us smile. Uncle Jim went to Heaven in 2013 to join his wife, my Aunt Ruth, and other family members who have gone before him. I know they are having a great time, and we are so glad to know where he is, and one day we will be together with him, and all our family again. Today would have been Uncle Jim’s 100th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Jim. We love and miss you very much.
Harvey Ball was a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts. You may not know him, but everyone knows what he created…the smiley face. Harvey Ross Ball was born on July 10, 1921 the third of six children to Ernest G Ball and Christine “Kitty” Ross Ball. Ball’s artistic skills presented early. As a student at Worcester South High School, he decided to become an apprentice to a local sign painter. Later he attended the Worcester Art Museum School, where he studied fine arts, however, it was not in the fine arts that Ball’s fame emerged. He is recognized as the designer of a popular smiley graphic picture, which became an enduring and notable international icon.
Ball worked for a local advertising firm after World War II. Then he decided to start his own business, which he called Harvey Ball Advertising, in 1959. He designed the smiley in 1963. The State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, now known Hanover Insurance, had purchased Guarantee Mutual Company of Ohio. After the merger, employee morale was pretty low. The company decided to try to boost morale, so they asked Ball to come up with an image that would help. What he created was a smiley face, with one eye bigger than the other. The creation took Ball ten minutes, and the executives liked it immediately. They paid Ball a mere $45 for his creation.
The smiley face became part of the company’s friendship campaign, and State Mutual handed out 100 smiley pins to employees. The aim was to get employees to smile while using the phone and doing other tasks. The buttons became popular, with orders being taken in lots of 10,000. More than 50 million smiley face buttons had been sold by 1971, and the smiley has been described as an international icon. As for Ball, well…he never applied for a trademark or copyright of the smiley and that $45 was all he ever got for his trouble. I don’t suppose that did much for his morale. Nevertheless, State Mutual didn’t make any money from the design either. According to Ball’s son, Charles, his father never regretted not registering the copyright. Charles Ball said, “he was not a money-driven guy, he used to say, ‘Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time, drive one car at a time.'”
Ball had a heart for children, and founded the World Smile Foundation in 1999, a non-profit charitable trust that supports children’s causes. Then, he came up with World Smile Day. It was a great idea, I think. How nice it is to celebrate a day dedicated to putting a smile on your face and sharing that great smile with others. The first World Smile Day was celebrated in 1999. It’s been held annually on the first Friday of October since then. After Harvey died in 2001, the “Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation” was created to honor his name and memory. The slogan of the Smile Foundation is “improving this world, one smile at a time.” The Foundation continues to be the official sponsor of World Smile Day each year. We should all consider that slogan.
Since I am not a fishing fanatic, and in fact, I find the sport…boring, sorry folks, but I do, I’m sure it seems odd for me to write a fish story. Nevertheless, there was a time when I found a certain fish really fascinating. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were on a Caribbean cruise for our 25th anniversary, and we loved walking the upper deck of the ship. We often stood looking over the edge looking for dolphin, but it was not dolphin that really made an impact on us, although we did see dolphin. The fish that really caught our eye was the Flying Fish.
Flying fish, also known as Exocoetid is a marine fish in the order Beloniformes class Actinopterygii, known in simple terms as flying fish or flying cod. They are “ray-finned fish with highly modified pectoral fins.” While they are called Flying Fish, the name is a bit misleading in that they aren’t capable of powered flight. Their fins can’t act as wings. Instead they propel themselves out of the water at speeds of more than 35 miles an hour. Once in the air, their rigid “wings” allow them to glide for up to 650 feet. The wing-like pectoral fins are primarily for gliding. Then, while swimming, the fish hold the fins flat at their sides. Their streamlined bodies reduce drag when the fish are “flying.” However it works, the Flying Fish is a unique and very interesting thing to see…especially when you had no idea that such a thing existed. Another interesting characteristic of the flying fish is its “unevenly forked tail, which has a top lobe that’s shorter than the bottom lobe.” While the Flying Fish looked small from the deck of the ship, they can actually be up to 18 inches long. Nevertheless, they average Flying Fish is 7 to 12 inches.
Another thing I didn’t know is that there are approximately 40 species of flying fish. They are tropical fish and can be seen off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. They are also found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. most flying fish live in open oceans, but some live on the outskirts of coral reefs.
I don’t claim to know all the fish in the sea, but I had no idea that such a thing existed. At first we thought they were birds. We couldn’t figure out how these “little birds” could be flying around so far out to sea, then we found out that they were actually fish. I’ll never forget how cool it was to watch them. It was a highlight of the cruise…very strange for a non-fisherman, I know.
My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg was a hard working man, who held a number of jobs over the years. He drove truck, worked construction, mechanic at the mines in the area, and maintenance at Casper College. Dad was well liked and respected at every job he held. Of course, his favorite job was being Dad to his kids, and husband to his wife, my mother-in-law, Joann. Dad was a gentle man, and he worked hard to allow Mom the ability to stay home and raise the kids. As we all know daycare is very expensive, and if the mom can stay home with the kids, I’m all for it.
Dad’s work often had him leaving the house quite early, like 3:00am, and he usually stopped at the Ghost Town Truck Stop for a cup of coffee to take on the road with him. One day, he came into the truck stop, and was surprised to see his teenaged son, Bob (my husband) in the truck stop playing pinball. Well, I’m sure that you realize that a young teenaged boy (maybe 13 or 14) had no business being in a truck stop playing pinball at 3:00 in the morning. Bob had snuck out of the house, because he loved to play pinball. I can imagine just what was going through Bob’s mind at the moment his dad came up and put his hand on Bob’s shoulder. Yikes!! I can also imagine what my father-in-law was thinking too…”So, do I yell at my boy, or laugh at the fact that my boy wants to play pinball so bad, that he snuck out to do so?” Bob wasn’t out getting in trouble. He just wanted to play a kids game. I have a feeling my father-in-law had a hard time not laughing when he said o Bob, “You had better get home before your mom catches you!!” Well, Bob knew his dad was right, and probably didn’t notice the slight smile on his face. He just knew that if his dad was up and on his way to work, his mom would be up soon, and he had better get home. So, he told his dad goodbye and headed for home. It was a different time. Kids back then were a little safer walking home, especially since it was only a block or so away, so as his son headed for the house, my father-in-law headed for work, probably laughing the whole way.
My father-in-law, was a man who always saw humor in the situations around him. That is one of the things I liked about him from the moment I met him. I was an 18-year-old girl, meeting the family of the man I loved for the first time, and boy, was I nervous!! My future father-in-law, not only made me feel welcome, but he broke the tension (felt only by me) by making me laugh. After that, I never had an uncomfortable moment in Bob’s parents’ home. I found that my in-laws were such easy people to get along with, and that they would always be a blessing to me, but it would always be my father-in-law, who made me feel comfortable in that first dinner with them. I was a shy girl, but after that, I was no longer shy around my in-laws. Such a blessing to be sure. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 92nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much, and can’t wait to see you again in Heaven.
came from a totally different era and had a totally different meaning. For example, when we talk about sitting down with someone to have a long talk, we might say, we are going to “chew the fat” with them. This was originally a sailor’s term, that refers to the days before refrigeration when ships carried food that wouldn’t spoil. One such food was salted pork skin, which was largely fat. Sailors would only eat it if all other food was gone, and they often complained while they ate it. This idle chatter became known as “chewing the fat.”
The “blue moon” is one of my favorite and often used sayings, and it is a real astronomical phenomenon. The “blue moon” is the second full moon in the same month. It’s a rare occurrence, happening just once every 2.7 years, which is how the phrase came to be. Usually, a blue moon just looks gray or white like any other full moon, but on even rarer occasions, the moon actually does seem to change color. During volcanic eruptions or forest fires, the oils in smoke can make the moon appear blue, according to NASA.
We have all walked by the carnival games and maybe even played them. Carnival games nowadays give out stuffed animals as prizes, but in the late 19th century, the games were targeted to adults, not kids. The winners, instead of getting a giant teddy bear, might get a cigar. If they almost won but didn’t earn that prize, they’d be “close, but no cigar.” The phrase stuck as meaning getting close, but in the end, failing to reach the goal. By the 1930s, the phrase became fairly common…even outside of the fairgrounds.
We have all heard the expression “flying off the handle,” but most of us think it is an expression for getting angry. That is true, but it’s not really where the saying originated. The saying “fly off the handle” originates from the 1800s. It’s a saying that refers to axe-heads flying off their handles when swung backward before a chop. The axe-heads were not as securely fastened in those days, so it was a good idea to give the user some space…much like you do when someone gets very angry, and “flies off the handle” is the sense of how the phrase is used today. And, anyone who was on the receiving end of the anger form of “flying off the handle” knew that they probably needed to duck and cover, because the person who was “flying off the handle” was really mad!! The next time you find yourself saying these, or any number of “old sayings” you might want to think about how that “old saying” really came into being. Some are funny, while others might just make you want to “fly off the handle.”
My great grand-niece, Alice Green is such a sweet girl. I love her personality, because she is so loving and caring. For the early part of her life, Alice was an only child. Then her mom, Melanie Harman met her step-dad, Jake Harman and her life changed forever. Before long Alice had a little sister named Izabella, and soon after, a little brother named Jaxx. Siblings was one thing Alice had wanted for a long time. The good news was she only had to wait until she was a little past three to get her first sibling. The lonely days without a sibling were almost over. As soon as Belle could play, Alice was set. She is such a fun-loving girl, and the giggling in the Harman household runs wild…especially with the added kid stuff from Jake, who is a kid at heart.
These days, Alice is growing up quite quickly. At nine years old, Alice is already acting like a teenager. Some kids mature quickly in that way. She is definitely growing up! Alice has her own views and opinions about things these days. In the past, she cared more about her toys and getting dirty as much as she possibly could. Maybe a little bit of a tomboy in her there. These days, her sister and brother are very much her top priority. She loves them very much and enjoys being with them and entertaining them. I suppose there could come a day when Alice will wish her siblings would leave her alone, but that is pretty normal. I think that as the years go by these three will grow closer and closer. They fight, even now, but that is totally common among siblings too. Nevertheless, Alice feels totally blessed to have her sister and brother in her life.
Alice and her step-dad, Jake also have a special relationship. Jake was never one to exclude Alice in any way. When he married Melanie, he accepted Alice as his own daughter. They love to tease each other, and as is common in the Harman household, “random rudeness” is just part of the daily activities. Alice has embraced “random rudeness” and can dish it out as effectively as the next guy. She also loves to just randomly tackle Jake and this give him hugs. He has proven to be a real dad to her, and she loves him very much, and he considers Alice his own child. You don’t have to be related by blood, to be related by love. Today is Alice’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Alice!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My nephew, Dave Balcerzak absolutely loves his hot rod. It must be a guy thing…well, ok girls like hot cars too. Anyway, Dave loves his hot rod, which is the muscle car he has dreamed of since he got his driver’s license. Personally, I don’t think Dave thought he would ever get such a car. Then to make matters worse, Dave is a trained computer programmer, not a mechanic, so working on such a car…well, it’s not really in his wheelhouse. Nevertheless, this story does have a happy ending, because dreams really do come true.
A few years back, when they were living on Coffman Avenue in Casper, Wyoming, Dave came home and told my niece, Chantel Balcerzak, his wife that he had found the car of his dreams, and begged her to come and see it. They didn’t have the money for a new car, but Chantel went with him. The car wasn’t far away…parked just a block over and down from their house. When Chantel saw the car she thought, “Are you kidding? It’s junk!!” Nevertheless, she kindly did the “Maybe someday, Honey” speech. I have a feeling Dave saw right through that and with a sinking feeling, saw his dream car sinking into the abyss. Dave and Chantel lived on Coffman for 4 years and Dave drove out of his way, at least every other day just to look at that car and mentioned it often. Finally, I asked him if he had ever asked the owner if they were even interested in selling, but he said he would when they had the money.
Five years and two houses later, Chantel decided, to go and ask the man if he wanted to sell. She tells me that she can’t remember the occasion, but remembers thinking it would make the perfect gift. The car was gone, and now it was Chantel who had a sinking feeling. She told Dave and he, rather “dramatically” told her that he was “giving up then!! That was the only one that he wanted!!” Dave didn’t mention the car again, but he did try finding one that might be close…even though he was “giving up” on the whole dream car idea. Unfortunately, every car he looked at was never “right.”
Chantel decided to take a different approach, because she really wanted to make her husband happy. So, she asked the Lord to make it available somehow and then pretty much forgot it. About six months after “giving up,” Chantel was driving to her mom, my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s house. To get there Chantel always take the road past Highland Cemetery, through the light, and up the hill. As she was heading up the hill, there it was!! And incredibly, with a for sale sign!! Chantel pulled over and called the number listed. For an absolute steal, she bought the car for Dave for Christmas. Oh, and it ran!! Chantel was definitely impressed with that part!! The car is a 1967 or 1968 Pontiac Lemans. Funny that she bought it, and still doesn’t know the year!! Hahahaha!! Chantel is not a car girl, that’s for sure!! As I said, Dave never really trained as a mechanic, so apparently he spends more time cussing it than driving it, but he still says it’s “his favorite” next to Chantel, of course. Chantel says that he has to say that to her, but I think it’s the truth, because Dave has loved Chantel since they were kids. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grand-niece, Katie Balcerzak is the mother of a sweet little three year old girl, who keeps her and her husband, Keifer Balcerzak on their toes. This summer has been a busy one, with little Reece playing t-ball for the first time. As most parents of a new athlete, especially a young one, can attest, learning the sport can have its challenges. Reece seems to have no trouble hitting the ball, but doesn’t seem to understand that she is supposed to run to the base after hitting the ball…no matter how much her mommy tries to tell her by yelling from the sidelines. I guess nobody told Reece that she had to run when she signed up. I don’t blame Reece. I don’t want to run either. I know that Katie and Keifer will get Reece lined up on the way the game is played, but in the meantime, they are having a good time watching her.
Katie is a great mom, and along with Keifer, they have raised a very smiley girl. I don’t think Reece’s goofy side just comes naturally. I think there is a lot of giggling, laughing, and goofing off that goes on in that household. That makes sense really. Since Reece’s premature birth and long hospital stay, bringing her home was a time of celebration, and celebrate they have. Everything is a good reason to laugh, and Reece has embraced that part of her parents. I think that if parents can give their children the gift of laughter, they have given them the best gift ever, and she has blessed them because life is great. They have their baby girl making life funny.
Katie and Keifer have been a couple…like forever. They were kids really, when they met. The have been married for just over six years. They are perfect for each other, and their love is strong. While dealing with the premature birth of their daughter, they were both a rock to each other. Any kind of problem with your child’s health is a tough thing to go through. Some end well, and others don’t. The couple needed to stay strong for each other, even when they feel like falling apart. Katie and Keifer did that for each other, and when Reece was able to come home, victory was theirs. I don’t know if that victory is why they named her Reece Victoria or not, and I suspect it was because of her grandma, who is also Victoria. Nevertheless, victory was theirs, and they are very blessed to have their precious, victorious, goofy little girl. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grand-niece, Melanie Harman is married to my grand-nephew, Jake Harman. Jake is quick to say that Melanie is an amazing woman who puts up with him constantly yelling, “Mom help!!” It is only every now and then that she tells him to “shut it!!” You see, Jake is not calling for him mom, but calling Melanie “Mom,” because she is the mother of his children, and she often says she has four children, and not three, because Jake is just “a big kid” at heart.
Melanie is always putting others ahead of her own needs…everyone in fact, and especially her kids. When Jake first met his sweet wife, the first thing he noticed about her was just how sweet and kind she was. She was also quiet, but Jake says that the longer they are together, the more like him she becomes. That is common, as people are married a number of years. Jake says that she can be randomly rude, just like he is. They are joking, of course, and it usually brings a round of laughter for them and those who know them. Melanie is Jake’s best friend, and he says he falls in love with her more and more every day. Jake is a jokester, yet even with all his picking on her, he marvels that Melanie still chooses to wake up to him every morning. Jake attributes their marital success to God, because as Jake says, “Only God could make some one as perfect as her, and only God would bless a sinner like me with her.”
Melanie is a hard working woman. She works 6½ hours a day as a bus aid then 4 hours cleaning buildings for Cleaning Solutions. Then she goes home to take care of her three kids or as she says four, because as Melanie says and we all know, Jake often acts like one!! To demonstrate that fact, the family recently made a trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On their way back to Casper, Wyoming, there were about 100 Wall Drug billboards and at every single one of them Jake would tap her arm over and over and say, “Mom…Mom…Mom!! Look…look!!” Melanie would look at it and then look at Jake and say, “You do that one more time, and I’m going to beat you!!” She never did, of course, because she is full of love…even for people they don’t know.
Sometimes, when Jake is driving his bus for the disabled, the family comes and rides the bus with him when he is on the route busses. Melanie can talk to anyone, and that shows on the bus. No matter who starts talking to her, she never tells them to stop talking to her or leave her alone, no matter how mixed up they might be. Melanie always listens and talks with them. Melanie has a kind heart and that shows in all she does. The developmentally disabled can see that kindness in a person more than other people can. They can tell that it’s okay to talk to some people. They see that kindness in Melanie, and so do I. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grand-niece, Elliott Stevens is quite a girl. She is totally funny, without even trying. Her imagination runs wild, and she doesn’t need anyone else to make her fun. Sure, she loves to play with other kids, especially her cousins, but she is just as happy to play at home, totally entertaining her parents, Kayla and Garrett. Elliott sets the pace for the day with her antics.
Elliott loves to play make-believe and dress-up, a fact her grandmother, Alena Stevens knows well, so she is always looking for outfits for Elliott. On our recent trip to Wisconsin, Alena found the perfect birthday gift for Elliott…a chef’s outfit, complete with a chef’s hat, apron, and hot mit. The apron expressed Elliot’s imagination perfectly. It said, “Miss Bossy Boots.” It’s not that Elliott is any “bossier” than any other child of three years, but she does like playing the mom/boss/teacher kind of parts. Well, the outfit was a huge hit, and Elliott spent much of her birthday party wearing the outfit, and serving her guests a make-believe meal, that she had prepared herself…of course. Now we just need to add her adorable cowboy boots to the mix.
Elliott love to swim, and her parents got her a wading pool, which is great for these hot summer days. Elliott also loves to slide, and her pool has a slide, so she can do both things together. She also loves the big pools and the lake. Recently, the Stevens family got together at the lake, and Elliott got the chance to really swim. She loved it…so much so that she didn’t want to get out…even to warm up. Her little lips were so cold that they were almost blue and she was shivering. Nevertheless, she wanted to stay in the water. She finally had to get out, of course. Maybe they coaxed her with smores or something. I don’t know for sure, but I now she had a wonderful time, as she always does. They even managed to tame her many curls with the cutest little braids.
And speaking of wonderful times, Elliott got to go to the fair this year. I don’t know if it was her first, but I know that she had a blast. She rode every ride that could take her on, as well as the fun house, which her daddy had to go with her on. It was comical to see Garrett running after his little princess while trying not to bump his head, because the fun house is mostly designed for little kids. I laughed and laughed when I saw the video. Garrett is a great dad, and little Elliott keeps him wrapped firmly around her little finger…along with her mommy too. They are both quite taken with their little princess, Miss Bossy Boots, tumbling, swimming, entertaining baby girl…as are we all. Today our little Elliott turns 3 years old. Happy birthday Elliott!! Have a great day!! We love you!!