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.
My husband, Bob Schulenberg is truly the love of my life. God blessed me with my husband while I was still in high school. I know I’m not the only person ever to meet their future spouse in high school, High School Sweethearts can be a common term among married couples, and in fact, I personally know a number of just such couples. Our meeting was that type exactly, however. While I was still in high school, Bob wasn’t, and we attended different high schools anyway, so it wouldn’t have been that type of romance exactly…even though the schools were in the same town of Casper, Wyoming, we might never have met even if he was still in high school. No, it was God’s plan…all the way, and that makes it all the more wonderful.
As each year passes, I am more and more amazed at the number of years we have been married. At 18, you can barely consider age 50, much less fathom 46 years of marriage to this 20 year old man to whom you have just said, “I do.” We knew nothing of the world. We were barely past childhood ourselves. In fact, I can’t believe how young we looked back then…like babies. Nevertheless, God blessed me with the perfect man for me. We are largely opposites, but they say that opposites attract. I think that’s true for the most part. There are interests, beliefs, and traits that we have in common, and they are necessary, because to love someone you must also have things in common with them. I feel very blessed to have things in Common with Bob and things where we are different too. We complete each other, and that really is awesome.
Now that we have started a new chapter in our lives, namely, retirement, we have even more option to spread our wings and enjoy our new lives. Retirement is a very different time in a marriage. Many people wonder if they will be able to stand each other, because suddenly they are spending so much time together. I don’t know about other couples, but Bob and I get along very well, even though we are spending a lot more time together. Of course, the truth is we like each other. I mean, we love each other, but we also like each other. We are best friends. If a couple in a marriage aren’t friends, I think they are already in trouble. A great marriage starts out as a good friendship. I am so privileged to be married to my best friend all these years. Happy 46th anniversary to the best husband in the whole world!! I love you Bob!!
Many people use escalators every day. They have become a part of our everyday life, however, it is said that people used to be really frightened of them. When they were first introduced on the London Underground, the executives for the escalator’s manufacturer, Mowlem and Cochrane asked a one-legged man named William Harris to demonstrate how safe the new-fangled contraptions were. The man rode up and down to show that those who took it were unlikely to lose their balance.
While I can say that it is not likely that a person would lose their balance on an escalator, I can also say, from personal experience that losing your balance is not the only way, or even the most likely way for someone to end up on the steps of the escalator on their knees. I suppose that you could say that I have Escalaphobia…or at least did have. It is something I have been able to work through in the almost 56 years since my escalator experience occurred. I was five years old at the time, and people were invited to come into First Interstate Bank and look around. The big story of the day was the escalator. As my mother was preparing to take her daughters down the escalator, I was placed on first, then Mom had to get my sister on and hold the baby. Someone stepped on between me and my sisters and mom. In front of me, an older woman panicked when it came time to get off. She back-stepped, and I fell. As the escalator tore at my dress, knees, elbows, and chin, somehow missing my long hair, I let out a scream that could have been heard all over town. The bank president came running over, saying, “Please don’t sue!! We will buy her a new dress and pay all the medical bills!!” Of course, my mom had no intention of suing them. That didn’t happen much in those days.
My wounds healed, and I got a new dress, but the scars remain to this day, and the mental scars were even worse. Every time I stepped on an escalator, my heart thumped and my knees shook. I always had to make sure I took a second or two to center my foot on the step. I watched as people tried to keep walking as the escalator moved. That would never be me. I was on the step, and I was watching for the point when I would need to step off of it. After many years, I thought I was feeling pretty secure in getting on and off of an escalator, when my niece, Liz Masterson and I went into the Mall of America a few years ago. As I stepped on the escalator, thinking I had squared my foot, but apparently not quite, I stood there, and as the step behind me moved, it scratched my calf, drawing blood. I couldn’t believe it!! I probably felt at ease for the first time…and look what it had gotten me. Once again, an escalator had cut my skin. I can’t say that I truly have Escalaphobia, but if you don’t mind…I’ll take the stairs.
In the Black Hills of South Dakota, south-west of Rapid City lies a natural depression in the Earth. Apparently, the depression is a sinkhole that has 700 feet deep cliff walls all around, that prevent wind from reaching the bottom. The windless part of the site is what makes it perfect for balloon launches. The site was noticed by the National Geographic Society and the United States Army Air Corps, who set up what they called Stratocamp in 1934-1935. Stratocamp was a joint effort code named Explorer to launch two manned giant helium high-altitude balloons capable of stratospheric flight. The crash of the Soviet Osoaviakhim-1 after setting a world record flight of 72,178 feet (13.71 miles), the Explorer program set a new goal…to beat that record. The first Explorer balloon was launched on July 28, 1934. The balloon made it 11 miles up before it disintegrated. Thankfully the astronauts onboard had parachutes on, so they survived.
The second balloon was launched in November 11, 1935, and ascended 14 miles up, before landing near White Lake, South Dakota. They had done it. That second flight set a world record that would not be broken until astronauts started flying into space. Astronauts, Air Corps Captain Albert William Stevens, Captain Arson Anderson, and Major William E. Kepner became the first men to view the Earth’s curvature. This exploration helped the Air Force build better planes and helped scientists build satellites.
In the 1950s, Project Manhigh and Project Strato-Lab launches were made from a man-made crater of an iron mining pit near Crosby, Minnesota, and if weather allowed, from Fleming Field in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Stratobowl was used as a backup location, if launches could not be made at the Minnesota locations. As it turned out, the Stratobowl was needed for a number of launches. The first such launch was on November 8, 1956, when the Strato-Lab I gondola lifted Malcolm Ross and M L Lewis from the Stratobowl to a world altitude record for manned balloon flight of 76,000 feet. There were also three Stratobowl launches in 1958, and seven in 1959. The most publicized flight was that of Strato-Lab IV, piloted by Malcolm Ross and Charles B Moore, which lifted off from Stratobowl on November 28, 1959. The balloon reached an altitude of 81,000 feet, and landed safely in Kansas after 20 hours in the air. The purpose of the flight was to perform spectrographic analysis of the planet Venus with minimal interference from the Earth’s atmosphere.
These days, the Stratobowl is usually seen from a popular hiking trail that takes you up to the rim…which is how my husband, Bob and I first saw it. You can also drive down to the bottom, and there are festivals during which balloons are launched…to go to normal heights and to take tourists and owners for a normal ride. No records are set to be won, or experiments to be made. Still, looking at the Stratobowl from the top of the trail is very impressive, and while it is not a difficult or a long hike, we enjoyed it very much, and it is a short hike that I very much recommend. It was really interesting, and to think it is a sinkhole.
When we think of eavesdropping, we think of trying to listen in on the conversations of people around us for the purpose of malice. However, not all eavesdropping is like that. I like to sit quietly in a room listening to the conversations going on around me, because you can learn so much about what other people think. My Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, who wrote a wonderful journal about her family’s lives and the world they lived in at that time. Bertha quoted Charles Lamb, who in 1890 said, “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.” I feel that way about eavesdropping.
If we are honest with ourselves, we all listen to the conversations going on around us. I can’t tell you how many times several tables in a restaurant end up in a conversation, because someone at one table said something that struck a chord with someone at another table. It is impossible for a person with good hearing not to hear the conversations going on around you, and I don’t think of it as being snoopy. Our ears were designed to listen to things going on around us. Maybe it was originally so that we could hear impending disaster, such as a growling bear, a tornado, a rushing flash flood, or screeching car tires, still our ears can’t avoid hearing the child saying something hilariously funny to its mother, the couple talking about something they don’t understand, or just the family saying something that you passionately agree with. We hear it, and eventually, our mouth cannot help itself, and we find ourselves engaging in the conversation we were just eavesdropping on.
Yes, sometimes people get annoyed when we try to engage in their conversation, but often, they do not get upset. Today, while my husband, Bob and I were riding the 1880 Train in the Black Hills, a trip we take every year when we go to the Black Hills, overheard the couple behind us talking about the many cars that stop and wave and take pictures of the train at every crossing. As I listened to their incredulity, I could stand it no longer. I turned and told them that people loved the train so much that they followed it from stop to stop to wave and take pictures. I was not being rude, just telling them about the love people have for the 1880 Train. They loved it. They asked if we lived in the area, and when we said that we just came every year, the conversation was on. We talked about the Harney Fire Lookout Tower on what is now Black Elk Peak (Formally Harney Peak), and that Bob and I have hiked it 14 times. Then I showed them a picture of us at the top. After they looked, the people behind them wanted to see too. I think they might have been traveling together, but I’m not sure. They might have been eavesdropping too. It was a great conversation, and no one was upset by the eavesdropping, in fact, they and we enjoyed the resulting conversation very much.
After a number of years of wondering what happened after the writing of my Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journals, or my reading of them…I have wondered about so many things. Bertha’s journal was so detailed and so interesting, but it left me feeling a little bit “at loose ends” about the lives of my aunt, and the Carl and Albertine Schumacher family, of which I am a part. I knew some things of course, like the fact that my Aunt Bertha had breast cancer, and that Aunt Mina had rheumatoid arthritis, as did her mom, my great grandma, Albertine Schumacher, and her siblings, my grandma, Anna Spencer and my Uncle Fred Schumacher. It left me wondering why it is that so often our lives come down to what illness we might have had? And then Aunt Bertha answers the question I had, when she said, “Only deep impressions are held in the conscious mind…ever present, while the sub-conscious may retain all experiences.” I suppose that our lives are marked by events, but surely there must be things that are more important that what disease a person had. Nevertheless, Aunt Bertha was “in my opinion” and that of my family, an excellent writer. She told the human side of history, and not just the historical events. Without the human side, history can be very boring, but you put in the hopes, dreams, feelings, illnesses, and everyday lives of the people involved in the history being discussed. That is when history comes to life.
My Aunt Bertha and her sister, my Aunt Elsa took care of their parents who were ill, and in doing so, they gave up the chance to have a family of their own. They “adopted” their sister, Mina’s children as a replacement for children of their own. They both assumed that marriage was also one of those things they would have to give up, but in their latter years, both were given back that part of their lives, when they met and married their husbands, Arthur (Bertha) Hallgren and Frank (Elsa) Lawrence. Unfortunately, neither marriage lasted long, with Elsa’s ending in Frank’s death after 6 years, and Bertha’s ending in Arthur’s death after 2½ years.
Aunt Bertha fretted some when Elsa got married, not because Elsa was getting married. Bertha was happy for her, but she and Elsa had lived together all their lives to that point…42 years in all. Bertha said that it felt like a divorce…dividing up the household, “you take this and I’ll take that.” Bertha had never lived alone before. I’m sure she felt lonely…even before Elsa left. Then, after Elsa returned home when her husband passed away, when Bertha was ill, she worried about how Elsa would do when she was gone. Bertha was really very protective of her little sister, who had never lived alone. In the end, Elsa would live 17 years beyond Bertha’s life. She was ok, but I know she missed Bertha terribly.
I knew that my great grandparents were Christians, and had raised their children as Christians, and that teaching came down through the generations. Nevertheless, I was very moved by the way my aunt expressed her faith and trust in God. She knew that her life would not have been nearly as blessed as it was, if it had been lived without God in her life. I don’t know why it seems new to me, but I guess it’s because people don’t often talk about their faith, here she was, telling about the deep relationship with God. It was very moving, and sweet. Bertha was a woman who had been single for all but 2½ years of her life. She learned to depend on God…to trust Him. She loved her Lord, and I love that.
My sister, Caryn Schulenberg is a woman of many characteristics, interests, and capabilities. I will tell you a tiny little bit about her.
For one, she is the most determined and self-disciplined woman I know! When she makes her mind up to do something, she does it, and she does it well! She can stay on a diet like a world champion! She never lets her weight get very far out of hand, and when she goes over a ways, she goes on a diet, and there is nothing that will get her off that diet until she has reached her goal! She walks, hikes and stays in shape. She’s such a good example that her husband, Bob, has joined her in this determination and self-discipline over the years just to keep up with her!
She can write, and she is a good writer! She decided to start this blog many years ago, and she never fails to write something every single day of every single year! That’s determination, and self-discipline! She finds something that interests her, and she writes about it! She has many, many followers on her blog! Some of her stories are funny, some are sad, some are just good information to know, but all are interesting and keep her followers entertained and informed. Her writing also satisfies the need in her “to know.” She likes to know about so many things!
Caryn is unendingly compassionate, giving, caring, and very protective of her family, friends and loved ones! She will help anyone with anything they ask her for help with, and I do mean, anything. She will do her best, and give you all she has to give, even if she doesn’t know anything about what you have asked her to do! She will find out how to do it, and then, go do it! If she says she will do it, she will! She is a woman who can be counted on, and she never gripes, moans, or complains about anything that is asked of her, either. She just does it, or gives it. That’s it!
One of the times her compassion and understanding of, and for, her sisters and her Mother, and her protectiveness toward us, strongly came to her aid and helped her to take on a task the rest of us absolutely cringed from taking on because it was so devastating for our entire family. That happened when our Dad, Allen Spencer, was sick and in the hospital for 4 months! So sick they told us he would die! Any of you who know us very well, know about that time in our lives, because Caryn wrote about it quite a bit after it was over. But from my point of view, this is how Caryn handled that situation, and I, for one, will be forever grateful! We each have our strong points, but Caryn took on the most hated, and horrible task I can think of during that time, and she did it for all of us! She dealt with the doctors! My sisters, our Mother and I all had, and have, the same faith in God Caryn has. Meaning we all believe the same way, and we are all strong in that faith. But I know, for myself, the emotional battering and harsh blows dealt to us by those well-meaning physicians as they reported to us several times a day, was far more than I could stand to receive first-hand! Those reports were truly aggressive and like physical blows in the beginning, and for quite a while! When none of us could bear to face their battering and horrifying, day to day reports, Caryn faced them, and most often, alone! And after she listened to them, and discussed their reports with them, she would then come and talk with us, and she always softened each horrifying report she received from them as much as she could, into a report we could better handle, softened with her faith in God, and pulling from us, our faith in God. Her ability to “run interference” between them and us, gave us the time we needed to compose ourselves, and get our minds on the Word of God, which is the most important thing we can do in our family, in a crisis! Her protective nature in the matter of the doctors sheltered us, and helped us all to continue to hope and pray in faith for our Dad and for his recovery! And he did recover! And he lived two more years in relatively good health, for which we are all so grateful to God! And I’ll tell you, Caryn not only listened to those doctors often horrifying reports, she told them she understood what they were saying, BUT . . . and then she would proceed to tell them what we believed, and gradually she turned every single one of those doctors and nurses to our side. Until they started to say the same things she was saying to them, and gradually, things began to change, and Dad recovered. Every one of those doctors and nurses remember her well, respect her, and always speak with her when they see her even yet today, 15 years later!
Caryn is a wonderful sister, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother! She is always in your corner! She attends every event anyone invites her to if it’s at all possible. Birthdays, school performances, graduations, showers, weddings, births, funerals, parties, or whatever else is going on. She is there for her family and for her friends. She hates to disappoint anyone in any way! As I said before, she can be counted on even when no one else can.
These are only a few of the zillion things I can think of to say about my sister, Caryn, but there isn’t enough room to put it all down on paper! This, at the very least, gives you a little insight into the kind of person she is, in case you didn’t already know! She is a blessing in every way to all who know and love her! Today is Caryn’s birthday, and I wish her the most wonderful kind of day, and a coming year that is blessed and happy beyond measure! Happy birthday, Caryn! I love you! We all love you! Have a great day!
Our world has changed so much over the past few weeks that it is almost unrecognizable to us…not the landscape itself, but rather our view of it, and everything in it. Most of us figured it would be an election, or a recession that would change things for us, but we could never have expected the change a global pandemic could produce. We’ve learned new words, like social distancing; and words we knew that didn’t seem so daunting before, like essential worker and mandatory shelter-in-place orders, suddenly bring an unwanted wave of emotions. Businesses are closed, as are schools, and suddenly we find ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time at home. The kids might like their new free time, but most adults just want things to be back to normal…and very soon!!
My husband. Bob and I are both retired, and we are used to spending quite a bit of time together, but lately I have noticed that we might be going a little bit stir crazy. It isn’t that we don’t want to be together, but rather that we are feeling cooped up. As yesterday morning progressed, we seemed to be picking at each other more and more. It was then that it hit me. We had to get out of the house for a while. Still, while Wyoming is not under a mandatory shelter-in-place order, we are supposed to be practicing social distancing. I thought about it, and decided that I had a way to get out and obey the social distancing guidelines, because they slow the spread of the disease.
So we jumped in the pickup, and took a drive to Alcova Lake southwest of Casper. We were still social distancing, because we were in the pickup, but part way to the lake, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly we felt free from all of the stresses of COVID-19 and the locked down feeling it brought with it. The world around us seemed normal. A drive through the countryside showed us that the Earth really took no notice of the “Viral War” raging around it. Earth’s beauty, though currently still mostly hidden under Winter’s brown and white coat, was just beginning to show the green blades of Spring grass peeking out toward the sun. We stopped at a picnic area at Fremont Canyon bridge and got out to have a look. There was no one there, but us. The wind was calm, and the place was so peaceful. We walked to the viewing site, and looked at the rocks below, the white high water lines visible in Winter’s low water season. The sun sparkled on the water of the river. We stood and looked at the peaceful sight, feeling renewed…feeling one with each other again. Then, all too soon, we got back in the pickup for the drive home, and the workout we had delayed, because while exercise is very important, this was important too. We needed this, and we will do it again. We hope that no mandatory shelter-in-place order comes, because a drive would not be possible then, but we are very thankful to have had this drive, and the renewal it brought to us.
With each new anniversary, I find myself feeling more and more blessed. The years have flown by, but that is what they say about time, and having fun. For Bob and me, life has been just that…fun. No, we haven’t lived life without any challenges, but all in all, they were minor, and life really was fun. I don’t know how we managed to always be going in the same direction, with the same goals and ideas about life, but that’s what we did. The word soulmates comes to mind. We are very like-minded people. An idea may not necessarily have appeared to both of us at the same time, but when it did, it was usually something we both agreed upon right away. How does that happen? Soulmates…that’s how it happens.
When Bob and I met, there was instant chemistry. My heart skipped a beat just looking at him. Of course, I can tell you that he would probably say, “What does that mean?” That’s because he is a man. He felt the same things, but describing the feelings that way is totally another story. Still, there were so many ways in which he showed those feelings to me. One of the biggest was the way in which he showed how important our anniversary was to him. Most years, he took the day off work, because it should always be spent together. There were very few exceptions to his self-imposed rule. In 45 years, I can say that he probably took 42 off work…and the ones he couldn’t were a huge disappointment to him.
Bob and I just like to be together. We are best friends and working partners, even though we never worked at a job together. We still work well together. Home projects, caring for parents, and even mechanics, were done together. I knew I could count on him, and he knew he could count on me. There is no one I would rather work next to on any project, loved one, car…or anything else. I have found the best partner and soulmate for me, and I am looking forward to the next…say 54 years, since we plan to live to be 120!! I’d say that 99 years of marriage would be a good goal…whether anyone else believes it or not. We can shoot for what we want to. Happy 45th anniversary to my sweet husband, Bob!! I love you very much Honey!!
For many people, starting the new year off right means making New Year’s resolutions, and planning to make big changes in whatever areas they don’t like about themselves and their lives. That is a noble idea, even though most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by February, but that is not how my family started the new year…nor did we finish the last one like most families either. That was because of my mom, Collene Spencer. It wasn’t that Mom did anything to make the new year extra special…she was a typical mom who loved her family, and worked hard to give us a happy life, but then so did most parents. It was the fact that Mom’s birthday was January 1st, that started the year off special…and ended the prior year in a special way too.
My dad, Al Spencer loved our mom so much. She was his princess, his “Doll,” and he was always happiest when they were together. Dad worked hard to make our lives, and especially the life of his “Doll,” the best life anyone could ever have. And he succeeded very well. We were a very happy family, and New Year’s, both eve and day, were very special. Our year ended with a New Year’s Eve party…one that we kids got to attend too. It was a gathering of friends and family at our house, when we were little. Many parents go out and get a sitter for their kids on New Year’s Eve, but we lived where the party was, and we were welcome, as were our cousins, and later our friends. Dad never wanted his kids to be out in the world on New Year’s Eve, because of the obvious dangers of drinking and driving. We always got to party, and we were always safe at home. The party was about the end of the year and the beginning of the new year, but mostly it was about our mom. This was her celebration, and our dad always made it an awesome one for his “Doll.”
New Year’s Day always included a big birthday dinner for Mom, and of course, birthday cake and her presents. Our year always started of with a big celebration. While many people used the day as a way to get over their hangover, and mostly sleep the day away, our day was filled with joy, laughter, and fun. That was because of the great love our dad had for Mom, for us, and for making our lives fun. The memories my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I, as well as our families, have from all those New Year’s celebrations over the years will always warm our hearts. Mom and Dad are in Heaven now, but we do our best to continue the tradition in their honor. Today would have been Mom’s 84th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Mom. We love and miss you very much. We will see you and Dad again soon.