best friends

My aunt, Doris Spencer has a heart of gold. She is the type of person who always wanted to make sure everyone else had what they needed and that they were comfortable. It never mattered what time our family might pull into town for a visit. Even at midnight, she would get up and make us something to eat. It might just be a little snack, but she just always felt like we needed a little something after our travels. Aunt Doris is a great cook, although she doesn’t do much cooking these days. Nevertheless, I wish I had even a tenth of the amazing recipes that are stored in her head.

Aunt Doris has always been a happy person, and she has shared her sunny attitude with everyone who knew her. She quickly became my mom, Collene Spencer’s best friend, when Mom and my dad, Al Spencer moved from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin following their wedding in 1953. My mom was a young woman, living away from her family for the first time ever, and that can be more than a little scary, but Aunt Doris was there, and lived just across the back yard. Uncle Bill Spencer (my dad’s brother) and Aunt Doris owned both houses, and my parents rented from them. It was truly a blessing for my mom to have Aunt Doris so nearby.

The two girls hung out together. Their daughters, Cheryl Masterson and later me, and our cousin, Pam Wendling (Aunt Doris’ oldest child) played together. Before there was a chance for the rest of our siblings to be on those playdates, my parents, my sister, and I moved back to Casper, Wyoming. That was a sad day all around. Our life was going to be in Wyoming, and I can’t imagine it any other way now, but Aunt Doris and her family’s life was in Superior, Wisconsin. It was the way it would be, and from that day on, we visited as much as we could, as did they. For Aunt Doris and my mom, it was especially sad, because they truly were best friends. They did everything together, and they would miss each other very, very much.

My mom is in Heaven now, but before she went home, my sister, Cheryl and I took her back to Wisconsin to see our precious family. It was such a blessed trip, and it was especially a blessing to see these two wonderful sisters-in-law and friends together again. It had been far too many years by then, so the time was especially precious to all of us, especially my mom. Today is Aunt Doris’ 99th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

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!!

My great grand-niece, Alice Green is the sweet little bonus baby that my grand-nephew Jake Harman got when he married her mother, Melanie. Alice is a wonderful little girl, and I loved her immediately. She is always happy and wants to make sure that those around her are happy too, and all it takes is one smile from her, and you are happy too.

Alice was 2 years old when her mom met her step-dad. She loved having a dad in the house again, and they were best friends, but there was something that was missing…siblings. Alice didn’t have siblings, and she really wanted them. She knew that other kids had them, and it was hard for her to understand why she didn’t, but for Alice, it wasn’t going to be that way for long. By the time Alice was 3 years old, her little sister, Izabella came along, and then when she was 5 years old, her little brother, Jaxx was added to the family. She suddenly felt like she was the most blessed little girl in the world. She loved being the big sister.

Alice is 7 years old now, and growing up fast, but she still loves her siblings very much. She may get tired of their little kid ways when she is a teenager, but for now they are her best friends. More so than ever this year, because school was cut short, and friends were set aside for the Covid-19 Pandemic. She got to spend the whole day with them, like it was summer for 5½ months instead of 3 months. It was the longest summer, and the best summer. I don’t know if all the parents thought it was a great thing, but for the kids it was the best thing to happen since sliced bread. With school starting soon, I’m sure the kids will miss it now that it’s over. Today is Alice’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Alice!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

This year has been a little difficult for my nephew, Barry Schulenberg and his wife, Kelli. Their long-time companion, Dakota, a Black Labrador Retriever dog passed away a few months ago, and they were feeling very sad. Anytime you lose a pet, there is period of time that must pass before you feel ready to have another pet. It’s different for everyone. Dakota went everywhere with Barry and Kelli. He was their hiking and camping companion….always happy to be right there beside them. Dakota was always waiting at the door to greet them when they got home from work. Dakota was like their child, and he had been with them all of their married life. It’s hard to imagine life without your pet, because the reality is that your pet is a part of the family…a big part of your family.

After that kind of loss, there is always a grieving period, before you can possibly move on and find another dog to adopt into the family. Barry and Kelli took their time. healing at their own pace. They did the normal things they like to do…camping, hiking, target practice, and just spending quiet nights at home. Soon though, it became clear to them, that something was missing. It was time to fill the void left behind with Dakota’s passing. That is a big step for any pet owner. It’s hard to open your heart to another pet, after losing one that was such a big part of your life for so many years. So, after some soul searching, Barry and Kelli decided to take to plunge, and adopt again.

They went to see what was available, and came up with a male Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog mix. For a while, their new “baby” didn’t have a name. They wanted to see what name might fit him. Before long, the puppy became a Scout. He always seemed to be at the alert, as if scouting his next move. Barry and Scout became inseparable. Scout loves to hang out with Barry, hoping to receive the scratching and petting that all dogs crave. Scout even loves riding around on the 4-wheeler with Barry. They say that a dog is man’s best friend, and Scout is definitely Barry’s best friend…with the exception of Kelli, of course. I know that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Barry, Kelli, and Scout, and I think Dakota would be happy too. Today is Barry’s birthday. Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Allen & William Spencer in wagonWhen I look at the pictures of my dad and his brother, my Uncle Bill, I can see how much they loved each other. They may have tried to look tough, but there was a lot of brotherly love between them. They were best friends, playmates, but most of all brothers. The way Uncle Bill took care of his little brother, and the way my dad looked up to his big brother…you could see it in their eyes. They were the two middle children with their older sister Laura, being ten years older than Uncle Bill, and their sister, Ruth being 2 years younger than my dad. Because they were together and just the two of them, except for their sister, Laura’s care, and because Ruth was too little to play for a couple of years, the boys were very close….like a lot of brothers are.

Through their young years, the boys worked together on the farm, and in several other work ideas they came up with. They shared a love for guns, dynamite, and cars…you know, the usual guy stuff. I know that when their little sister, Ruth came on the scene they were good Dad & Uncle Bill with fishfriends with her too, and she was most likely a tomboy because of them…a matter of self defense, if you know what I mean. Because Aunt Laura was so much older than the rest of the children, I think they must have looked to her as more of a babysitter than a playmate…although she was great when it came to being pulled around on a sled or in the wagon.

As they grew up, they took several trips together to go work the harvest in North Dakota, among other things. I’m sure they had a great time just hanging out together, and finding work and places to stay was fun and challenging. They had an especially challenging time on one trip, when the only place to stay was at the local jail. I’m sure that was a bit odd for both of them. They had to be treated the same as any other prisoner. They took all their belongings, and searched them, and had to know all about their background, but they let them stay on the bunks covered with strips of steel and cardboard…not particularly comfortable, but the place was warm and dry, so they were grateful.
Uncle Bill's visit
On their last visit together, my dad was not in good health. We weren’t sure the brothers would ever get to be together again, but my cousin Bill Spencer and his family made the trip so that we could make it happen. It was such a sweet reunion for them. They talked a lot, played cards, and in general, just spent time together. We were all so grateful to Bill for bring his dad, my Uncle Bill out so they could have one last visit. My dad passed away in 2007, and thankfully Uncle Bill has dementia, so that is something he doesn’t have to know. The miles between them make it possible to keep him in the dark a bit, because I know it would be very sad for him to know that, and sad for us to tell him.

Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt SandyWhen you see a cute picture like this one of my aunts, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy, you immediately think, “Oh, those girls must be best friends and sisters, not just sisters. Or their parents must have really trained them very well, for them to stand there so obediently.” Well, you would be right most of the time, but as we all know, siblings fight sometimes and kids act out occasionally.

Younger siblings can be a joy and a pain…within minutes of each other. They can make you laugh and then make you mad, usually because they are so needy. Then, when the older siblings become teenagers, every request, every question, and especially the presence of the younger sibling within a mile of the older one, is a huge annoyance, and some things are the worst thing in the world!!

We have all been there…at least any of us with younger siblings, or even cousins, so you can’t exactly fault your own kids when they try to do the same things you did. You can hope they won’t, but you really need to be realistic. It’s just the way things go in families. There will come a day when they will be friends for life…when they will look back at these days and think about how silly they were to worry about having their younger sibling around them. Like it was going to steal all their coolness away. We realize that they just wanted to be like us, because they thought we were so cool. How could they not see the serious lack of confidence we had? How we felt so very not cool, and we were trying to show the world that we really were cool. Thankfully those days are very short in the total of our life. And thankfully during those days, that feel like forever, there are a few golden moments when they forget that they don’t want that younger sibling around.

It is in those precious moments that they find that it’s kind of fun to have someone who looks A little help pleaseup to you. It isn’t something that happens very much, after all. They see that they are someone of value to this, their younger sibling. They find that they like helping out. After all, it’s just a helping hand to get up on the bed of a pickup, because the littlest girl can stand behind her taller sisters and it will make a great picture. And it is kind of funny when you are both a little clumsy at getting her up there, because while she is your little sister, she isn’t so much smaller that you can easily lift her, so you let her push up on you and she slips a little, and the whole thing is so comical that all you can do is giggle. Pretty soon, it isn’t just her who is saying, “A little help, please!!” It’s both of you, because you can’t stop laughing long enough to get her up there.

Amy and Travis, Sept 16, 1995Eighteen years ago today, my youngest daughter, Amy married her best friend, Travis. It’s strange to think that your children have been married for many years now. It forces you to realize that they aren’t kids anymore. Oh, you know it…really, but the very fact that they could have been married for eighteen years or more…well, time just goes by so fast. Still, time has gone by, and they are so suited to each other. They have the same interests, likes, and dislikes. They think a lot alike. And as the years go by, I see that more and more. People do that. They become more and more like the person they love and spend their life with.

Amy and Travis love to ride their motorcycle and take trips to Deadwood with friends. They are also into Blues music, and they like to go to the Wyoming Blues and Jazz Society sessions. They even names their second dog…you guessed it, Blues. Their lives have centered around music and jokes, both of which Travis is very good at. His quick wit brings laughter to most gatherings they are at. They love to get together with family and friends, especially if they can barbeque. They have also started making wine, but unfortunately, they will not be able to have some of their own wine on their anniversary.

With all that they have in common and that they agree on, you would think that all would be bliss, but there is one thing that they simply do not agree on…football. Oh, they both love football, but they each root for arch rival teams. Amy goes for the Packers and Travis goes for the Bears. It is a constant battle in their house during football season…no, not a real battle, but a football battle for sure, with each one cutting down the other’s team. These football battles don’t interfere with their relationship, much like Bob attending Football RivalryNatrona County High School and me going to the rival Kelly Walsh High School. You just have to take the teasing in stride…especially when your team loses.

Their marriage has been blessed with two wonderful children, Shai and Caalab, who are also a great blessing to me and their grandpa. The years have flown by so fast. It seems like only yesterday that they were getting married. I remember the ceremony clearly, even though it was eighteen years ago. Today is Amy and Travis’ eighteenth anniversary…eighteen years and counting. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!

When toddlers are placed in close proximity with a baby, it always seems like the first thing they want to do is touch the baby’s head. I never could figure out what the attraction was. Of course, the last thing the adults want them to touch is the baby’s head. And maybe that is the exact reason why they go for it. Whenever someone hands a baby to someone who is or seems inexperienced, the first thing they say is, “Watch his head!!” It makes the head all important I guess. Or maybe it is because the baby’s head is often pretty bald, so like any other bald head, some people want to rub it…another thing I never could figure out.

When my grandchildren, Christopher and Shai were 16 months old, my third grandchild, Caalab arrived. There were times when Shai, at least, wondered why her parents had to get her a brother. He cried, and she really hated that, but in many ways she loved him too. And to these two best friends and cousins, who spent much of their waking hours together, Christopher and Shai found Caalab to be something of an oddity too. They hadn’t been around babies much, and so they didn’t really know why Caalab did the things he did…like crying, especially when they touched his head or tried to pick him up. They couldn’t figure out what his problem was. And all Caalab could think of was please don’t drop me or poke me in the eye.

For parents keeping the baby safe from the other kids can almost be a full time job, and yet the older children don’t mean any harm. All they want is to be involved with this new little person who takes up so much of the adults’ time, and seems so important to them. I think they are just curious. They want to help out with the baby. They want to play a part in this new life that has come into their world. And they want to see what makes this baby tick, so to speak…probably part of why they have to touch the baby’s head. To a toddler, babies are something very new…and toddlers really just want to understand what all the fuss is about.

We have all had a best friend…someone who is as close to us as a sister or brother, but through the years these close friendships often dwindle and fade into the obscurity of time. Friends go their separate ways as their lives grow and change. Sometimes, those friends go out of our lives never to return…but, sometimes life takes a different direction and the result is quite special.

Machelle and Rachel were best friends in high school and beyond. Their sons were best friends practically from birth. But this friendship will not be one that will dwindle away, because Machelle introduced Rachel to her Uncle Ron. You can introduce someone to a friend, but you can’t make that relationship work. That is up to the new couple. Well, the relationship between Ron and Rachel worked, and in June of 2010, they were married. With this marriage, Rachel went from being Machelle’s friend to being her aunt…but Machelle has informed Rachel that she refuses to call her Aunt Rachel.

And this situation has infiltrated a second generation. Machelle’s son Weston is best friends with Rachel’s son, Riley, and now, because of the marriage of His mom and Ron, Riley and Weston have become so much more that just friends. They are cousins once removed. Of course, most people just call that cousins, because to call it cousins once removed, is just confusing…especially to two boys who don’t really care one way or the other about how they are related to their best friend, they are just excited that their best friend will always be their best friend, because they aren’t just friends, they are family.

It’s always a special thing to know that your best friend will always be close to you, abut it is even more wonderful to know that your best friend will always be in your life, because they have become part of your family. And our whole family has been blessed because of the friendship that began with Machelle and Rachel, and grew into parts of a family.

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