My nephew, Dave Balcerzak has had a busy, but somewhat trying year. It seems like it’s been one project after another and trying to stay ahead of it can be stressful. Last summer his car became the project, and then came his truck, and some more needed repairs. While Dave didn’t do the work alone and didn’t do any of the work on the truck, there is always cost involved, not to mention the stress that vehicle maintenance can bring.
In addition to the vehicle work, Dave and his wife, my niece, Chantel Balcerzak, have been doing some projects around the house. They did some beautiful work in their kitchen and family room, and then did some beautiful work in their back yard, which was finished just in time for their daughter and son-in-law, Siara and Chris Kirk’s wedding on July 23rd. While the whole thing turned out amazing, but they felt rushed to get it done in time for the ceremony. While, these kinds of projects can be stressful, and at times irritating and even a cause for arguments, they are done now and done exactly to their dream specifications. Chantel says they feel very blessed by the finished results and in awe because neither of them seem to know how they actually managed to get it done. I haven’t seen the back yard “in person.” I’ve seen pictures, and I think their “dream specifications” are amazing. Chris and Siara’s wedding was beautiful and an enjoyable occasion for everyone who was there.
Dave is the kind of husband and dad, who loves his blended family deeply, and he has chosen to be a great dad to all of them…Keifer (Katie) Balcerzak, Katy (Dylan) Herr, Jake (Melanie) Harman, and Siara (Chris) Kirk…as well as grandchildren, Alice Green, Izabella Harman, Jaxx Harman, Reece Balcerzak, Aysa Balcerzak, Max Herr, and Alec Olsen (now in Heaven, and greatly missed). Dave is so dedicated to his family, and for Chantel’s kids, he is definitely the dad that “he didn’t have to be” but chose to be. Dave is a cheerful kind of man and loves to laugh. He tends to make everything fun when he is around. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. In fact, he’s a big teddy bear…just ask those grandbabies.
Dave works on computers by trade, and he is my go-to guy whenever my computer is having an issue. It’s nice to have someone in the family that has that skill. It saves us a lot of money, and I’d much rather pay family to work on my stuff than to pay anyone else. Of course, the guy has to be good at what he does, which Dave is. It’s always nice to have a family network of people who can help people. Being a blessing to one another is a great way to be that blessing, and Dave is just that. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
A couple of weeks ago, a baby bird fell out of it’s nest into our front yard. Our neighbor Mary Sanchez saw it first, and was careful not to disturb it when she mowed her lawn. The next day, when Bob and I came home and parked out front, we heard a commotion. I walked toward the hedge that separates our yard from Mary’s, and was surprised to see a squawking baby crow standing in the grass. It’s mom was nearby, warning me to stay away from her baby, so we backed away and left the situation alone. We weren’t sure if the mom was taking care of her baby, or what, so we watched closely. Very soon, there was no doubt that she was a good mom, and in fact there was also a good dad in this situation. A few days went by, and while we worried about cats, this little baby bird continued to thrive…miraculously.
The day did come when we were forced to intervene. Our little baby bird decided to go and stand in the middle of the street…and it was a hot day. We debated on what to do about this situation, and determined that if we didn’t move it, a car was going to hit it, or the hot asphalt would kill it. So my brave husband donned a pair of gloves, picked the bird up, and moved it back toward our back yard…dodging the dive bomb attempts of the mother. All we could do then was stay away and hope the parents continued their great care of their baby. The baby continued to get bigger, and the parents were always around, so we decided that our bird rescue had been successful.
Of course, like all children, the day came when our little bird again decided to go into the street, and so began bird rescue take 2. Once again dodging the dive bombs of the mom, Bob picked up the bird and put it back near our back fence. That turned out to be to best plan, because the bird decided to check out the back yard, and we began to worry less. The baby has stayed in the back yard, and out of trouble for the most part. We had to chase off a cat twice, and now the parents are a little bit more tolerant of us…at least when the cat shows up. In fact, I think she likes us then.
I have had the opportunity to get some great close up photos of the baby, and finally today, I was treated to the chance to observe lunchtime. Flying lessons have begun, but this is a big baby, and it’s wings aren’t long enough yet. Nevertheless, it’s parents know that it needs to build up its muscles so that when its wings catch up with its body, it will be able to fly. This has been a wonderful things to watch, and while we know that our little baby is still not out of danger, we have high hopes for it. One thing I can say for sure, this job of raising baby at 60+ years old is a lot to take on. I know now, why we all have kids when we are young.
For the first three years of my life, I was my parents’ youngest child, and my sister, Cheryl Spencer Masterson, their oldest, of course. That meant that while our dad, Allen Spencer worked, Cheryl and I got to hang out with Mom. And since we lived just across the yard from my Uncle Bill Spencer and Aunt Doris Spencer, we got to hang out with Aunt Doris and our cousin Pam Spencer Wendling as well. Oh, the times we had!! Of course, our dads were there too, and then we got to go other places and do things that the moms wouldn’t take us to do alone. Those were either too far or too crowded. I think for my dad, taking us out to Lake Superior was the most special thing to do. He loved taking pictures of his girls enjoying the sunshine, the outdoors, and the time spent with mom and dad…even though it looks like it was just the girls hanging out with Mom. In reality, the time girls spend with their moms show them what women should be like…a very good reason for moms to be careful about the way they come across to their girls. Little girls watch their mom clean and cook. They watch the way they dress, and how they act, and how they treat their husband. Boys do the same thing with their dads, but today is about hanging out with my mom.
I can’t say that I always followed Mom’s examples on things, we were two different people, after all, and we led different lives as adult women. Still, my mom’s values, or her teaching thereof, took root, and are still with me to this day. While I didn’t always understand why she liked things the way she did sometimes, I do understand why now. I was a different person then, younger and less aware of how I would feel about things in the future. And now that my mom is in Heaven, I can’t tell you just how often I would love to call her up to get her advise on things. I think that it is so unfortunate that kids don’t realize just how important their parents are to them, until its too late. Of course, I knew that my parents were very important to me, but even though I can say that honestly, I can also honestly say that I still didn’t know just how important they were until that were gone, because once your parents are gone, the missing them is endless. You look back on the times you had with them, now with the full awareness that you can’t have those times again on this Earth, and you find out just how precious those times were. Your mind starts thinking just how much you wish you could go back, while carrying the knowledge you now have, and spend those precious moments focused on your parents more, and not just acknowledging that they are your parents, while thinking that they will always be there. Truly, if we could do that, more of us would probably hang out with them a little more often, and not squander that precious time.
Today, marks 11 months since my mom went to Heaven. I miss her every day, and never a day goes by that I don’t think of her and Dad, now happily together again forever. I know they know how much we all love them, but they are so happy in Heaven, that I truly cannot wish them back to a world filled with the ugliness of today. Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when we will all be together again, so we can hang out for eternity. We love and miss you Mom and Dad. We will see you soon.
The other day, as my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were out for a walk, I noticed that the crickets were chirping all around us. Now, I’m not a cricket fan, because they are, after all…a bug, but hearing them was not an unusual event in the summertime. On that particular evening, I guess I just noticed them more than usual. It was a beautiful summer evening, that was cooler that the really hot days we had been having, and with the crickets, it took me back to the summers of my youth. It didn’t matter if we were in the back yard or on a camping trip, the crickets chirping was just a classic summer sound. Then, when you add the birds and sometimes even frogs…well, it’s like going back in time to my childhood.
Summers in my youth were always carefree days with relatively few chores. We used to lay out in the back yard sunning ourselves, walk to the pool to swim in the afternoon, and then play games with our friends until it got dark, and sometimes even later. The sound of kids yelling, laughing, and talking seemed to be everywhere…like we were trying to live a year’s worth of life in three short months, because then school started again, and there was homework to be done at night. It left a lot less free time. Then, before we knew it, we were grown up, and our lives took on work and family obligations I wouldn’t trade my life now for those days, because lets face it. I love my life, but those memories are sweet, nevertheless.
I lived such a wonderful childhood. My family has always been very close. Our parents gave my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me so many great memories over the years, whether in travel or just at home. I can’t fully explain just how blessed we were. We had all the same obligations as kids, that most kids have. We weren’t spoiled children of privilege, we were just blessed…and I’ll take blessed over privilege any day. We took evening drives sometimes just to look at the lights of the city from lookout point or Event Center Hill…although the Event Center wasn’t there then. My sisters and I called the city lights, spread across the valley where Casper is nestled, the Jewelry Box. I have seen them so many times that I can picture them exactly in my head to this day. Those were such glorious, carefree days, of crickets and evening drives, and sometimes I miss them. We didn’t realize then how blessed we were. We just thought all kids had that kind of life. We later found out just how wrong we were. If I mention some of the things we did as kids, people seem surprised…like it was unheard of. Maybe it was, but my parents just showed us the things they liked to do, like going for evening drives.
Those days are long gone now. They live only in my memory files, to be brought out when something like the chirping of a cricket, the smell of a campfire, or a drive down the mountain cause them to come to the forefront once again. The memories are a little bittersweet these days, because both of my parents are in Heaven, but they still remind me of what a blessed childhood I was given, and they make me thankful for the wonderful parents God gave to me and my sisters.
Born the day after her mom’s birthday, my grand niece, Reagan Parmely looks much like her dad. Nevertheless, I think this little girl might take after her grandma, my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely in some ways. For years now, Jennifer has loved hiking in the mountains, and when you get little Reagan up there, she is the same way. She loves to see what is around the next curve in the trail. Reagan’s family lives out in the country, and she has a big yard, so she is used to being able to run free to a big degree. I think it’s very possible that her love of the mountains and the trails comes from her days of exploring in her own back yard.
Of course, there are a number of family members who love to hike, but it is Reagan’s grandma, Jennifer who had the initial desire to get Reagan out on the trail, and it is obvious to me that Reagan very much enjoys the trails, whether she is with her mom, grandma, or Uncle JD. Like many of us, Reagan loves to see where the trail will take her, and in this case, she was delighted to reach Garden Creek Falls. She had a great time playing in the water, and didn’t care one bit that it was a little cold. She loved the beauty, the noise, and the feel of the cold water on her hands.
Reagan has two great playmates, in her dogs, Ayva and Dixie, and she is not afraid of animals at all, mostly because of the influence of the dogs when she was just a baby. Both of them decided immediately that this was their baby, and it was their job to protect and entertain her. I love to see the way they interact. She is such a natural with animals, letting them know with her gentle touch, just how much she loves them. And they want to be with Reagan as much as possible. In fact, it suspect that her nap time is just a bit long and boring for the dogs. Nevertheless, they wait patiently for her to wake up so the fun can begin again. I’m sure that Reagan’s little sister Hattie will find the dogs to be the very same way with her too.
This past month has brought big changes in Reagan’s life, with the addition of her little sister. She now has a human playmate…well, soon anyway. For now, she busies herself with helping her mom to take care of her little sister, and of course, learning how to say her name, which is really cute, but unable to be reproduced here. Of course, while she is learning all of the things a big sister needs to know, she is also spending quality time with her mom. Reagan love to be with her mom, and wants to do anything Ashley is doing. They do yoga together, and Reagan is learning all the right moves, and does them very well, I might add. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Reagan ends up doing a little dancing as well. She has the grace and the desire for it, so I believe she will be a natural there too.
Only time will tell which things Reagan likes to do the most, but then again, she is only two years old, and so has a lot of time to decide what her interests will be. In the meantime, she is content to spend time with her family, because she loves them the very best, after all. Today is Reagan’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday big girl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My Dad took such pride in his back yard. It was a sanctuary for him and my mom. Peaceful and quite, they could get away from the hectic day there. In the summertime, we would often eat dinner out there, because it was a lovely back yard. Mom and Dad always liked to work in the yard, planting flowers, and creating rock gardens…all the things that give a feeling of peace.
Not being a gardening type myself, I nevertheless always appreciate beautiful gardens and yards, especially if I don’t have to get them looking that way. My parents always took that great pride in their yard and garden, and it showed. Of course, in my younger years, I hated that we had to help with the yard and garden work, and I probably didn’t give it my best efforts. I liked just about anything better than gardening and yet that was what the family was doing, and they required my help. Now it is my sisters and our families who take care of my mom’s yard. Once a year we get together and do a major clean up in preparation for the coming summer, and before the snow falls, my daughter, grandsons, Bob and I rake and dispose of the leaves. Afterwards, we have lunch in the back yard, and think back on all the lovely times we had out there over the years.
Dad and Mom created their back yard as a haven where the family could gather in our own private…almost campground kind of place, and just enjoy being together. The best memories find my dad at the grill, cooking hamburgers or steaks for dinner, the girls in the kitchen preparing the rest of the meal, and when all is ready, we sit around the picnic table and talk and laugh. Then of course, there is sitting around the fire, or back then the grill, and roasting marshmallows until it got so late that we had to go to bed.
Yes, our family always loved camping, and Dad and Mom made the back yard into an extension of that favorite thing to do, in an effort to incorporate that beloved activity into our everyday lives, and thereby bring the family closer together. A pretty wise move, since we are all still very close to this day. I guess you could say that it was a legacy that they could leave for their kids, and a living legacy of my mom, who is still with us. It is with a grateful heart that I look back on the memories created in the back yard.