My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg was stay-at-home mom for most of her life. She cooked and baked, as well as sewing, knitting, and crocheting, in addition to the normal stay-at-home mom duties. She was an excellent cook, and the thought of her baking prowess still makes my mouth water. I came across some Cinnabon sticky buns at Walmart the other day, and it reminded me of her Carmel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls. Nobody…and I mean nobody, made Carmel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls like she did. They were amazing!! She also made Murder Cake, which was like a chocolate cake with pudding dumped on it. It was so rich and yummy!! She also canned vegetables and meats for many years. Raising a cow at their property in the country made that feasible.
She spent her life perfecting her knitting, sewing, and crocheting, and she could make just about anything. Many people have been the beneficiaries of her work, and she made money on her things too. Craft fairs were her main selling place, but once her name was known, she got lots of calls for her crafts too. She could knit and crochet in her sleep and never miss a stitch. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and later when she moved into a nursing home, her knitting and crocheting went with her…in her mind anyway. She would see her oxygen tubing or a string on a blanked of piece of clothing and she would pick it up and “pick up” where she left off.
She was always cooking when she was at home, and so when they would tell her it was time for dinner at the nursing home, she would often tell them that she would get the potatoes on. All of the CNAs got a kick out of that, and then, they would tell her that it wasn’t her night to cook. That always put a smile on her face. If someone else did the cooking, that meant she could relax, for once. Never one to complain, she was a favorite out there. She was a people watcher, so being at the nursing home was entertainment for her too. She couldn’t quite figure out the relationships there, and often thought that the CNAs were spouses to the residents. Then, when they would go help a different resident, she would ask me why that “girl” was sitting with that man, when her husband was this other man. It was really quite comical. I never thought of Alzheimer’s Disease as a curse, like many people do. My mother-in-law didn’t grieve, because she didn’t realize they were gone. They would always be back soon. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 92nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.
My husband, Bob’s aunt, Margee Kountz is a strong woman, who has made her own way most of her life. She is a single mom who raised her two kids, Dan and Sandy Kountz almost completely by herself, and then as a hands-on grandmother helped with her grandchildren, Brian Kountz (now in Heaven), Zech Kountz, Nathan Avey, Stasi Smith, and Destreyia Cannon whenever she was needed. She was and remains very close to her grandchildren. With the loss of their mother, Margee’s daughter-in-law, Darlene Kountz, Margee stepped in an helped raise two of her grandchildren, as well as
helping with the other three often. The grandchildren are all very close to her today, and they help her as needed now too.
Hands-on grandparents are really a vital part of the village that it takes to raise kids in a world where both parents often must work to make ends meet. Plus, let’s face it, kids love to go to grandma’s house. Things are always more fun there. Grandmas have the best treats and let the kids get away with more stuff too. The old saying, “What happens at Grandma’s…stays at Grandma’s” has always been my motto. And I think Margee felt the same way. Don’t get me wrong. Most grandmas aren’t afraid of the occasional disciplinary action, but Mommy and Daddy don’t have to hear about every little infraction of the rules committed by their little darlings either. That’s what makes Grandma’s house so great to visit.
Margee is the youngest of her parents, Bob and Nettie Knox’ children, and the only one still with us today. She could always be counted on to help me when Bob’s mom, her sister, Joann Schulenberg had Alzheimer’s Disease, and couldn’t be left alone. I was the main caregiver for Bob’s parents, and when it came time for Dad’s doctor’s appointment, Margee would sit with Mom, so I didn’t have to take them both to the appointment. It was a huge help, and one for which I will always be grateful. Mom loved having Margee come for visits, even though she seldom remembered that she had been there once the visit was over. That fact didn’t matter anyway. Margee knew that she had been there, and Mom enjoyed the visits during the visits. That was the main thing. Margee’s caring nature has endeared her to me forever. Today is Margee’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Not every man can say he shares his birthday with his son-in-law or father-in-law, but my uncle, Jim Wolfe and his son-in-law, Bernard “Shorty” Cameron got to say that. Shorty became Uncle Jim’s son-in-law, on December 28, 1969, when he married my cousin Shirley Cameron. Uncle Jim and Shorty always got along very well…even living next door to each other for most of their lives. When it came to Uncle Jim needing help due to his Alzheimer’s Disease, Shorty was one of the people who helped him. I think Uncle Jim and Shorty always liked that they had the same birthday. They liked doing things together like taking trips, the whole family sometimes came for surprise visits. It was always a great time.
Since Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth moved away from Casper when my sisters and I were just kids, I suppose that they always seemed like world travelers to us. I don’t think they ever really traveled to anyplace exotic, unless maybe Uncle Jim did when he was in the service. Nevertheless, he always seemed to know a lot about a lot of places, and we really loved hearing the stories he had to tell. I always wondered how he could know so much about so many things. I suppose that he might have been pulling our legs with his knowledge, but it always seemed plausible, so we believed him. I will always remember how much we loved to listen to him tell his tales, be they truth or fiction.
Uncle Jim was a gentle man, who loved kids. He treasured each and every one of his children and grandchildren. They were the lights of his life…after his beloved wife, my Aunt Ruth, that is. Uncle Jim loved Aunt Ruth so much. It was always so sweet to see them together. They did everything together, from working around their place to the many miles they traveled. It broke his heart when she left us in 1992, at just 66 years old. While he lived for another twenty-one years before he joined her in Heaven, I don’t really think that he was ever the same. He eventually slipped into his own memory world, where Aunt Ruth was still alive and with him. Today would have been Uncle Jim’s 101st and Shorty’s 81st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jim and Shorty!! Try to stay out of trouble today!! I know the party will be great anyway. We love and miss you very much.
It’s hard to believe that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has been in Heaven for four years now. Her passing took time. Alzheimer’s Disease is a slow killer, in comparison to other diseases. That doesn’t make Alzheimer’s Disease any less devastating, and in fact, it just might be more devastating, because before the end comes, the patient has already lost their memory. Still, if you look for the good in the situation, you might just find that while they may not remember many new things, including who you are, now that you are grown up, they have many old memories that can really enrich your life…if you are willing to listen to their stories.
My mother-in-law often wasn’t sure of our names when we came to visit her, but by the look on her face and the alertness of her posture, you knew that she knew that you belonged to her. Many people place a lot of emphasis on the patient knowing their family’s names, but that is just setting yourself up for sadness. And you miss the recognition that comes without the name. My mother-in-law did so much for so many people…from knitting, to crocheting, to sewing, to cooking, my mother-in-law did a lot for the people around her. She lived a good long life, much of it raising the vegetables and meat for the family. She saw eras of time that people today can’t understand. With depression and recession, boom and bust, mining and agriculture, she had a diverse viewpoint, and that made her, unlike the rest of the people around her knowledgeable in different ways of life.
As her disease progressed, my mother-in-law, lost her recent memories, but she retained the old memories, and she passed them along to her family…often in the funniest ways. One minute you might find yourself telling her what time to get on the school bus, the next you think you have her all figured out when she tells you that they are having dinner at your house…like you aren’t you. When you try to play along, and ask her what the “imaginary you” will be cooking, suddenly she was back and making you feel ridiculous, by saying, “I don’t know, what are you cooking?” I know people consider Alzheimer’s Disease to be a tragic, devastating disease, and I suppose it is, but when people think about how devastating Alzheimer’s is, they are thinking of themselves…what they are missing out on, not thinking about the patient…who won’t remember grief or loss, who gets to become younger in their mind, and who ends up without a care in the world. Attitude is a big part of dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, and I don’t mean the attitude of the patient, I mean the attitude of the family. It makes all the difference in the world. Four years ago, my mother-in-law left us for Heaven, where her mind is clear again. I am truly happy for her, even though we miss her very much.
My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg lived a long life. The last five years were spent in Shepherd of the Valley Care Center with Alzheimer’s Disease. Her time at Shepherd was far from sad and miserable, as many people would have expected. Mom lived in her own little world, as Alzheimer’s patients do toward the end of the disease, and I’m here to tell you that her world was quite interesting. Her stories and her life in the past were very vivid in her mind, and she would happily tell those who would listen, all about it. I was one of the privileged few who got to hear all or most of her stories.
Mom did live an interesting life for sure. From her early childhood living in a sheep wagon in Montana, while her dad, Robert Knox tended the sheep; to her married years in Wyoming, raising her six children, Marlyce Schulenberg (who passed away in 1989), Debbie Cook, Bob Schulenberg, Jennifer Parmely, Brenda Schulenberg, and Ron Schulenberg; there was never a dull moment. She kept busy knitting, crocheting, sewing, canning, or in her later years, thinking she was still doing these things. There were certain things that she always thought were very cool in her life. Birthdays were always an important thing, and she loved the fact that she shared her with her first great grandson, Chris Petersen. Just like her mother before her got to share her birthday with her great granddaughter, Corrie Petersen, who is Chris’ mom. Those things were considered a “big deal” to her.
While she was at the nursing home, my mother-in-law was really quite the comedian. She would tell us things like she made the dinner, and that she did the laundry and the dishes. She was completely convinced that these things were true. Of course, no one argued the point with her either. What good would that have done? Her Alzheimer’s convinced her that she was right, and that was ok. She felt useful, and that was all she ever wanted. My mother-in-law always loved doing things for people. Her sweaters and afghans were stunning and meticulous. She spent so many years knitting and crocheting, that I’m sure she could do both in her sleep. I think if she made a mistake, she would know it for sure. She could probably locate the mistake and fix it without waking up. She just knew every stitch that well. It makes me sad that her hands are stilled now, but I know that she is in a better place, and she has her full memory now too. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.
My husband’s aunt, Esther Hein really likes flowers. She loves gardening and watching her creation bloom. That is a talent that I just don’t have, but Esther does have it…and many others. She is an artist, and has painted great landscapes, which is my favorite, and on a round saw blade, which is very cool. Esther also enjoys making quilts and sewing other things. She made a set of curtains for my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg, and while she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and didn’t remember many things, she always remembered that Esther made those curtains for her. I always loved that my mother-in-law kept Esther in her heart. I even remember the time that I was helping her get ready for bed, and she didn’t want to go. Suddenly, out of the blue, she said to me, “Don’t Esther!!” Of course, it had a funny connotation for me too, because my mother-in-law often tried to get out of going to bed so early, but I had to work the next day, so she had to go to bed before the 10:00pm news. The funny thing was that for once I wasn’t the one getting in trouble for making her go to bed. She blamed Esther that day.
I’m sure that over the years Esther has had to carry some heavy burdens. She raised three children mostly as a single mom, and did a great job of it. They are all responsible members of society and great people. Esther has taught them the way they should go. She has been active in her church and she loves the Lord. She loves the outdoors and camping, but I’m not sure she has been able to do that very much in the last few years. She loves animals and people. She loves helping people, and in fact, lately she has been helping by delivering food boxes to needy people. There are always needy people these days, from job losses, to home losses, to fire losses, people have needs, and Esther is our there helping to fill those needs. Even though her area of the country, Oregon has been inundated with wildfires this year, just like California, and the smoke was heavy at times, but Esther’s daughter Vina Frye assured me that Esther was safe, and so was she. In fact, it was Vina who told me that Esther was delivering the food boxes. Vina is so proud of her mom and her giving heart…and so am I. Today is Esther’s 80th birthday. Imagine that 80 years old, and she is still helping other people. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
It seems impossible to me that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg could be gone now for two years. She was such a fighter, when it came to her health. There were a number of times that we thought we had lost her, but she always bounced back…until she didn’t. The end of her days had come, and with it, there were no parents in our lives again. My parents, Al and Collene Spencer and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg were gone, and now my mother-in-law had joined them in Heaven. It felt empty here on earth. The loss hit hard with each of my four parents, but with my mother-in-law, there was also the finality of it. We had no more parents. We, their children, are the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families now, but it feels like we are orphans. The knowledge that you have no parents, really brings that orphaned feeling home.
My mother-in-law, was a homemaker for most of her life, and very skilled in things like cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and canning. These were things she passed down to her daughters, and to me. Of course, my own mother taught me part of these things too, but we didn’t can often, other than making jelly, and the things my mother-in-law cooked were different from my own mom, so that added variety to my abilities. My mother-in-law, was probably best known for her sewing, knitting, and crocheting. She sold many of her crafts at craft fairs over the years, adding to the family budget and to her craft budget as well. She also loved to bake, and her “Murder Cake” was a family favorite.
My in-laws lived in the country for most of the time I knew them, but they moved to town in the last years of their lives. While she preferred the quiet of the country, my mother-in-law did enjoy watching all the activity that took place near their home at the corner of two busy streets in In her later years, my mother-in-law developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Casper. After she had to be moved to Shepherd of the Valley nursing home, she enjoyed the activity there, especially at the nurses station, because she was a “people watcher” all her life. She liked to see what everyone around her was up to, and figure it all out, even wondering why they spoke to the people they did, or did the things they did. I was glad that her curiosity never left her. It made her time in the nursing home must more interesting. Finally, on January 4, 2018, she lost her health battle. Like most Alzheimer’s patients, it was not the disease that took her, but rather that her kidneys gave out. She passed peacefully that evening, after having her family around her earlier in the day. She simply went to sleep, and went home. While we were so sorry to see her go, we knew she was tired of fighting. We love and miss her very much.
My cousin, Shirley Cameron is what can only be call a Modern Pioneer Woman. Not many people were living off the grid when she and her parents and brother moved to their mountain top in Washington state. They built 3 cabins. Her brother later moved to town, but her parents, Ruth and Jim, lived there for the rest of Ruth’s life and until fire destroyed their cabin, and Jim, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease had to be moved to a nursing home, where he lived out the remainder of his days. That left Shirley and her husband Shorty, and their grandson Tyrel living off the grid on the top of Wolfe Mountain.
After Shorty’s passing, in 2016, Shirley and Tyrel live up there alone. Oh they have neighbors, down the mountain, and Tyrel’s mom lives not too far away, but in town. Shirley and Tyrell just like living in the wilderness far from civilization. I really don’t think Shirley will ever leave her mountain. The views up there are breathtaking, and she gets to see lots of wild animals. Nevertheless, winter can be long and lonely. There are times when getting off the mountain just isn’t going to happen, because the snow is too deep. They have to have enough food to last for a very long time, because running out of food would be bad. There is a well, so water is not a problem, and they use a generator for electricity, so they do have to have enough fuel to run that. Still, summer will come around again, and everything is renewed.
These days, more and more people are living off the grid. It has become almost “fashionable” for people to get away from the city and all of its ties to utilities, phones, and water. With cell phones, people can still be connected to a degree, if they choose to be, but they can also shut it off when they don’t want to be connected. I think Shirley likes to be disconnected sometimes. It gives her time with her own thoughts. Being a modern day pioneer woman is not a way of life for the faint of heart. A person has to be comfortable in their own company. I don’t know if it would be something I could handle, but Shirley has done well with it, and I commend her for it. Today is Shirley’s birthday. Happy birthday Shirley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My husband’s aunt, Margee Kountz is the kind of person that you can always count on. When people need help, she will do everything in her power to help them. Margee has always been a hands-on grandma. While her kids worked, she was there to pick up the grandkids from school, and when her daughter-in-law had cancer, and then passed away, she stepped up to help her son Dan raise his two children, Zech and Stasi. I remember those years well. Her sweet little grandchildren were just 4 and 2 years old, and they didn’t know what was going on. Their mommy was gone and their daddy was very sad. Their grandma became their rock. Stability is a time of chaos. Her sacrifice is something none of them will ever forget. They always knew that she would always be there for them. She was also there for her daughter’s children, Brian Kountz, Nathan Avey, and Destreyia Cannon. They spent lots of time at her house, and she picked them up from school and took them to things they needed to go to. They all love her dearly.
When my mother-in-law, Margee’s sister, Joann Schulenberg developed Alzheimer’s Disease, Margee was there to sit with her when we needed to take my father-in-law, Walt to the doctor or other appointment. We always knew that she would be there for us. The=at period of time was so important, because while her memory was failing her, it was so important to have her family around to help her hold on to the memories she could. Margee talked with her about the old days from their childhood, and about their parents and grandparents. Those memories and the talks that kept them going, were a gift that Margee gave to her sister, and they were a treasure to me, because I knew how much they meant to my mother-in-law. Truly the worst thing a family member can do to a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease, is to simply remember them they way they used to be, and never go to see them. It doesn’t matter if they remember that people came to visit, because that person knows, and the patient knew at the time of the visit. Kindness doesn’t get more perfect than that, and Margee visited her sister as often as she possibly could. We knew she was always there for her sister…even when it was difficult for her to get there. We knew.
One of the coolest moments of her life was when she became a great grandmother to Destreyia’s little Brody Thomas Overby on March 8, 2017. Margee loves being a grandma, and now a whole new generation of babies was starting to arrive. The future looks very bright indeed, and Margee will always be there for these new little ones too. Today is Margee’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
This past summer, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; my cousin, Pam Wendling; and I went to visit Pam’s dad, our Uncle Bill Spencer at the nursing home where he lives. Uncle Bill has dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease, and so how the visits go, depends on the kind of day he is having. The day of our visit was a really good day. Uncle Bill may not have known who we all were, and even some details about our lives, but he had some funny stories to tell us…one of which was how his brother, our dad, Allen Spencer had never gotten married!! That one was new to my sister and me, who are the eldest of Dad’s five daughters with his wife, our mom, Collene Byer Spencer. I guess Uncle Bill’s mind went back to the pre-Collene era of Dad’s life.
Uncle Bill also told us about the days on the family farm. I think my sister and I always thought of it as a small little patch of land…maybe 5 acres or so, but Uncle Bill told us that the farm was actually 80 acres. The farm was big enough to grow enough vegetables to sell them exclusively to Stokely Foods Inc. Stokely foods is a large company and it was founded on August 18, 1943, later merged with Van Camp’s, and then sold the Stokely brand to Seneca Foods in 1985, and the Van Camp’s brand to ConAgra in 1995. I guess you could say that the Spencer farm got in on the ground floor of Stokely Foods, Inc. This was really interesting to us, because it was confirmed by Uncle Bill’s cousin, Les Schumacher. I suppose Cheryl and I should have assumed that the farm was bigger than we thought, because they grew hay, and it took days to get it all stacked, but when you didn’t grow up on a farm, I guess you don’t really have a good way to gauge such things. I think we should have had some inkling, however, because the pictures we have seen should have told the tale…to some degree at least.
As our visit with Uncle Bill came to a close, we found ourselves very sad about the speed with which the time had passed. We don’t get to see him very much, and he is such a precious person in our lives. He was really in rare form, laughing and smiling a lot. There were no awkward moments when no one knew what to say, and Uncle Bill carried much of the conversation, which was absolutely wonderful. Our only regret is that we can’t get up there to see him more often. Today is Uncle Bill’s 97th birthday. That’s amazing…97 and going strong. Happy 97th birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!