birthday

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My grandniece, Katie Balcerzak has been a part of our family, since she married my grandnephew, Keifer Balcerzak in 2015. Together they have two beautiful children, Reece and Aysa Balcerzak. They have been so blessed with two happy, smiling children, who bring more joy to their lives than they could ever have imagined. Reece was born in 2017 and Asa was born in 2021. Now their family is complete. They love doing all the fun activities, like sports and such. Reece is trying different things like t-ball, and while that may not be the sort for her, Katie and Keifer encourage her to give it a shot. They are good parents…always encouraging their kids and each other.

I liked Katie from the first time I met her. We have a few things in common, mostly that we both have sisters, and no brothers. It can make us feel unsure about having boys. While I didn’t have boys, I had three grandsons and only one granddaughter. Katie had a daughter first, and then her son. Either way, for a girl with all sisters, even if she had nephews, having those boys is a bit of a culture shock. Nevertheless, you adapt, and Katie has adapted beautifully. In fact, the love she has for both of her children shows all over her face. It’s just beautiful.

Katie has always been very close to her sisters. The bond they have reminds me of my bond with my sisters. There is something about a family of sisters. Girls think alike. They like the same things, and they like to share their hopes and dreams. The bond between sisters is like a best friend, but much closer. That is the bond Katie has with her sisters, Kellee Schuerman, Martha Simkin, and Bernnie Steadham, have had since they were little girls. Whenever they are together, you can see their love for each other by the smiles on their faces. There is a closeness, comradery, and sisterhood, that is forever. Katie has had the privilege of being a part of a wonderful family, and parents, Vicki Jammerman and Thad Davidson, who taught her and her sisters to be loving, nurturing, and kind people. Their parents taught them good values and it shows in their lives.

When Katie met Keifer, it was love almost immediately. They were young, but they knew that they would become a couple, and grow a family…and that is exactly what they did. They two sweet people were meant to be together. Theirs is a match made in Heaven, and it grows more and more beautiful with each passing day. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Melanie Harman is a sweet girl, who has been so good for my grandnephew, Jake Harman. I would be very hard-pressed to come up with the wonderful things that Jake has to say about his wife. Kake says, “Mel is the most beautiful woman alive, and I mean that physically, mentally, and spiritually. She loves God and whenever anything is wrong her first reaction is pray about it. She wants to give it to God, knowing He is the only one who can fix it.”

Melanie is a hard worker. Currently, she is working for Door Dash, and she has become one of the best loved dashers. When she walks into a place to pick up an order, she will sometimes be on the phone with Jake, and he hears the conversation. He says that everyone yells, “Hi Mel!!” Then, Jake can hear them fighting over who’s best friend she is!! That’s definitely Melanie, and it makes Jake so proud that his wife is so loved. She is always so happy and kind, that people can’t help but love her and want to be her friend. When Melanie isn’t door dashing, she works with her mom to clean their church Mondays and Thursdays. After cleaning, she will go door dash. It makes for a long day, but even after that long day she comes home to her 4 babies…counting Jake, that is, who are all demanding her time. Still, she keeps that beautiful smile on her face and gives each of them the time they need to feel loved.

Jake tells me that he just has no clue how she does it, but she somehow seems to give all of them all of her time. He said that he goes to sleep every night, thanking God for such a beautiful woman and sometimes, he wakes up in a bit of a panic, thinking Melanie was just a dream. Then, Jake says, “I roll over to see her peacefully sleeping and the beauty of my life starts all over because her smile lights up a room and her voice is the closest to what I picture an angel would sound like. She always knows how to handle us whether it is tough mom, fun mom, rude mom, or whatever we need, that’s what she is. She is the best part of each of our lives and definitely proof that God is real. I know He is because without Him she would not be possible.” How can I possibly say it better? Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Mike Reed is starting out on a new life adventure and a new phase in his life. On July 12, 2022, after 39 years, almost to the day, with Sinclair Oil Company, Mike began his retirement. Sinclair had been purchased by a company called Holly, and it seemed like a good time for Mike to take his next life steps. Mike, and my sister, Caryl have been working toward and looking forward to this day for about five years now. They bought some land outside Casper, where Caryl was born, and we, all of her sisters still live. They built a house and barn on the property and have been raising crops for a couple of years now…long distance. The first year they raised oats, and this year it’s a mixture of alfalfa, oats, and grass. I never knew this, but that is how you get to where you can raise hay. Since they lived too far to handle the day-to-day care, they have worked a deal with a neighbor to help with the watering so far, but they really want to be able to handle that job themselves instead to relying on the neighbor. While that has worked ok, their hearts desire is to be in Casper, even though, they will be leaving their two daughters and two grandchildren in Rawlins. Thankfully, Rawlins isn’t too far away, and they can make the trip back and forth periodically to visit.

Retirement might be a bit of adjustment for Mike, who is used to being in charge of quite a few men and women…for about five minutes, I would guess. For most people, retirement doesn’t take very long to “get used to” and find that you really love. Mike will have lots to do anyway. He is an avid hunter and fisher, and now he can head out to the lake and fish to his heart’s content. He can also get hunting licenses here and be able to go on day hunts, if he wants to. There is always work to be done on their little ranch. They have been beautifying their yard, and they had renters in the other house on the property who had horses, but they don’t anymore. They’ll take down the corral, because they aren’t going to raise horses.

Mike loves classic cars. And he owns several. He has also fixed up and sold some cars that needed love and refurbishing. Some of the cars they’ve had are really nice. He also loves their trike and traveling around on them with the wind in their faces. They are slowly phasing out their lives in Rawlins and transferring their lives to Casper. We are all so excited about having them move to Casper. We are all looking forward to spending time together. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My little grandniece, Elliott Stevens has been very busy lately. On June 24, 2022, Elliott had a life-changing event occur in her life, when she became big sister to Maya Stevens. Elliott was always a happy girl, and really, very comfortable in her life. I don’t think she even minded being an only child, but then she really didn’t know anything else, so I suppose it doesn’t really count. Now, however, Elliott has a little sister, and that have made her life even better than before. Elliott loves helping her parents, Kayla and Garrett Stevens with Maya, and she and Maya are fast becoming best friends, as well as sisters. You can see the love that shows on their faces every time they are together. Elliott has other activities too, so holding her baby sister isn’t something she can do all the time, although she would if she could. Elliott is getting to be very capable at holding her sister, and loves to make her smile, and help with her care in any way she can. Maya, looking lovingly at
her big sister and knows that before long she will get to play with her too. It’s baby sister love for big sister.

Elliott can’t take care of her sister all the time, because she has a number of fun activities, she is involved in. She takes swimming lessons, as well as, gymnastics, and she goes to daycare, where she has lots of friends that she enjoys spending time with. Elliott is also her daddy’s best little helper. Maya will become a good helper too, but she too little right now. Elliott and her daddy build things together and paint things too, like the playhouse her and her daddy built for her. Elliott works very hard, and I know her daddy appreciates all her help. She also loves going to the park with her parents, and now her baby sister too. She loves the swings and slides the best, I think. Now that her grandpa, Mike Stevens is retired, he and Elliott’s grandma, Alena Stevens can go to Sheridan for visits more often. Elliott’s other grandparents, Lynette and Wes Smiley live in Sheridan, so she gets to see them lots too.

Elliott is a girly girl. She loves makeup, princess clothes, and of course…heels. She even has her own play makeup, and she loves putting it on, even if she isn’t perfect at it just yet…but then what girl starts out putting on her makeup perfectly. We all have to experiment until we find our perfect look. Elliot also loves to spend time with her cousins, Brooklyn and Jaxxon Killinger. They like to go swimming, to the park…or just hang out. It’s a good life, and Elliott is enjoying every minute of it. Today is Eliott’s 4th birthday. Happy birthday Elliott!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, LJ Cook was an MP in the Army from 1968 to 1971, which was the Vietnam Era. For a long time, that was all I knew about his time of service. Today, that has all changed. I think I thought of MPs as maybe handling the disobedient military personnel, maybe like the movie, “Stripes” or the show, “MASH,” but movies rarely tell the whole story on these things. LJ went through basic training in Fort Ord, located in the Monterey Bay area of California. Following his basic training, LJ was sent to MP school at Fort Gordon located southwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Following his MP training, LJ flew into Frankfort, Germany, and then on to Mannheim, Germany, where he would spend the remainder of his military service as an MP at the Mannheim Prison.

Construction on Mannheim Prison was started in 1905 and it first opened for use in 1909. It was a Third Reich prison until after World War II. Then it was used for United States military purposes during the Vietnam War. The prison included a separate hospital building, which until 1945 was used to treat ill prisoners throughout the region. The prison was considered modern for the time, with each cell having running water with a toilet and a washbasin, central heating and electric light. As with all prisons in Third Reich Germany, Mannheim Prison was used to incarcerate standard criminal convicts as well as political prisoners.

LJ was a Maximum Confinement Section Chief during his time at Mannheim Prison. The correctional officers lived in the barracks on site during their off time. LJ was part of the 77th MP Company, which at that time was the biggest company in army. The prison also had two chapels, two mess halls, and it was a large enough place that LJ didn’t know everyone stationed there…even after three years. When an MP first arrives at Mannheim Prison, they are settled into the squad bay in the attic of the barracks. This is really temporary housing until they can be officially assigned. Most of the rooms in the main barracks (specifically for the Non-NCO personnel) have four men to a barracks. The NCOs had two men to a room. And the higher-ranking officers had a private room. Lynn’s highest rank was that of Acting E7, but his permanent rank was Seargent. He could have been given the permanent rank of E7, if he had wanted to re-enlist for six more years. He did not. He would have also been sent to Vietnam had he re-enlisted.

During his time at Mannheim Prison, LJ saw three or four prison riots, all of which the MPs squashed. The prisoners at Mannheim Prison were American GIs in prison for everything from being AWOL to murder. Of course, riots happened when the prisoners overpowered a guard. That seems like an unlikely possibility, but the prison, with four blocks, A, B, C, and D, with each block having 8 cells, each holding 30 to 40 prisoners. Cells were made of steel bars so, no privacy. A guard was sometimes in the cell with the men, and you just didn’t take a gun in there, on the off chance that a prisoner could take it from you. The guards were armed with night sticks, as their only weapon. During the riots, while LJ was there, no guards were killed, but there were a number of incidences in which guards were beaten. LJ was once hit in the head by a boot thrown at him by a prisoner. LJ had to hit the man with his night stick. In defending himself, LJ dislocated the man’s shoulder and broke his collar bone. Needless to say, the man never threw a boot at LJ again.

Another part of LJ’s job was to make arrangements for shipments of prisoners from Mannheim Prison to Leavenworth Prison, in northeastern Kansas. Leavenworth is now a medium security US penitentiary. LJ made eight trips across the Atlantic with shipments of prisoners. One onboard, LJ was in charge of everything on the plane. The prisoners were not handcuffed or otherwise restrained, and there were no bars or cages between prisoners and guards. Sometimes the whole plane was full of guards and prisoners. When the made fueling stops, the prisoners had to get off. The airports had to be notified upon landing so they could bring out extra security to prevent escape. The prisoners thought LJ was crazy. He told them that he would take action is they tried to escape, and that he was a bad shot. He said that while trying to “wound” escaping prisoners, but that he almost aways missed and hit the prisoner in the back of the head. Needless to say, LJ never lost a prisoner. After the guards transported prisoners, they got two weeks leave, so he would usually head home to Lovell, Wyoming for a home visit. The military license said that he had said “no time or mileage limitation.” That meant that he could go wherever he wanted, so if he was not going home, he might get a taxi to a train station, and then head out to wherever he wanted to see at the time. He also had a friend who was a warrant officer, who piloted a Huey Helicopter. On days off, they would jump in the Huey and go all over Europe and even northern Africa. The “normal work week” in the Army was a “twelve day” week. The men had three days on day shift followed by 24 hours off. Then they had three days on swing shift followed by 24 hours off, and finally three days on night shift followed by 24 hours off. It gave them time to have some R and R every few days. The two weeks for leave were the normal 14 days. LJ was honorably discharged from the Army in 1971. His training would help him in his career as a Deputy Sheriff in Casper, Wyoming. I would like to thank my brother-in-law, LJ Cook for his service to his country. Today is LJ’s birthday. Happy birthday LJ!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For the first ten years of her life, my Aunt Laura Fredrick, was an only child. I have never been able to find out why that was exactly. There is no indication of a miscarriage or anything, but when she was ten years old, she received a brother…my Uncle Bill Spencer. Then, two years later, she received another brother…my dad, Allen Spencer. Then, a year and a half later, she received a sister…my Aunt Ruth Wolfe. All the siblings have the same parents. Things happen that way sometimes, I guess. Aunt Laura had the distinct honor of sharing her birthday with her mother, Anna Schumacher Spencer, and they were very close companions. They did everything together.

When Aunt Laura was born in International Falls, Minnesota in 1912, her parents Allen and Anna Spencer, were living in a lumber camp, way back in the woods. During the day, it was Grandma and Aunt Laura. They were all the company they had. There might have been some other wives and families, but from what I’ve seen in pictures, they weren’t very close by. So, Aunt Laura spent most of her time with her parents. Her dad played the violin, and he wanted her to learn to play too. She did, of course, but she never really shared his love for the instrument. Her younger siblings would later be the ones to love playing an instrument, including the guitar and the violin.

Aunt Laura loved pretty things. Her home was absolutely beautiful. I remember going over there as a child and thinking that she must be the richest woman ever. Her house was filled with pretty and shiny things. I don’t recall, how big her house was, but it felt like a mansion to me…or maybe it was just because it seemed so elegant to me. My sisters and I didn’t really know Ant Laura all that well when we were children, but I got to know her a little better when my girls were just little. By then, Aunt Laura had moved away and was moving back to Casper. Her heat was not going to be turned on for two days, and it was bitterly cold outside. I don’t recall the reason we were all at some kind of dinner together, but Aunt Laura was planning to stay in her house all weekend in the cold. I told her that she certainly was not. I had a hide-a-bed, and my husband was working nights, so she stayed with the girls and me. Truly, we had a wonderful two days, and my girls had a blast. They loved company, and Aunt Laura, who had only boys in her family, seemed to really enjoy the antics of girls. Today is the 110th anniversary of my Aunt Laura’s birth. She lived to be 90 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Laura. We love and miss you very much.

My dad’s mom, Anna Spencer was such a strong woman. My grandfather, Allen Spencer worked on the Great Northern Railway, and so Grandma was in charge of the kids, including her two rambunctious boys, my Uncle Bill and my dad, Allen. Now that doesn’t say that her two girls weren’t a handful too, but my Aunt Laura and my Aunt Ruth, likely caused her a little bit less trouble than her mischievous boys…especially when it came to their use of dynamite. Being farm boys, they used dynamite to remove tree stumps, for their wake-up call on Independence Day, as well as the occasional gatepost (which then had to be raised two inches before their mom came home from town). Nevertheless, Grandma was loved and respected by her children.

Grandma and the kids ran the farm, and that meant putting the hay up into stacks by hand, taking care of the animals and the garden. When they were working, Grandma was all business, but that didn’t mean the kids followed suit. My Aunt Ruth loved horses and dogs too, and goofing off for my Uncle Bill, so he could take a picture of her. Somehow, it once caught my grandma in the picture looking at her mischievous children, goofing off instead of working. Somehow, she was not very amused, but while Grandma didn’t think it was funny, the picture is one that always makes me laugh. I don’t know if my Aunt Ruth got in trouble for “shirking” her responsibilities or not, but I’ll bet she at least heard about it. Grandma was not really a pushover, after all. In those days, when it was time to work, the kids had better toe the line.

During the time when my grandma was raising kids, the country was going through the Great Depression years, and time were tough anyway, so the people also had to be tough. The men were often working somewhere also, and the women had to take on the role of both parents, and even businesswomen. My grandmother ran a hotel for a time, and my Aunt Laura, who was just ten years old when my Uncle Bill was born, was responsible for his day-to-day care. My Uncle Bill actually remembered that time fondly. He and his big sister were very close at that time. I’m sure it was not the ideal situation for my grandmother, who must have felt like she was missing out on the baby years, but she persevered, and the family did well. Grandma was a tough lady, because she had to be, and the family needed her to be. I’m very proud of the strong woman she was. Today, Grandma is in Heaven, but this is the 135th anniversary of that great lady’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma. We love and miss you very much.

My nephew, Sean Mortenson is what you would most likely call an extreme sports fanatic. Sean loves pretty much any kind of sports, but he really shines when it comes to the extreme snow sports. Sean has absolutely no fear, and he will plunge his snow machine into the snow and come out with a smile on his face…almost a gleeful smile, for lack of a better word. Don’t get me wrong when I mention extreme sports, because Sean isn’t stupid about his stunts, just good!! Nevertheless, the things he does are extreme, and he has the videos to prove it.

About a year ago, Sean opened his own business called Triangle Heating and Air LLC. Of course, it is an HVAC company, and it is doing quite well. In fact, they have been so busy that Sean had to hire help. He asked his father-in-law, Mike Reed, who had just retired. I’m sure you can imagine how that went. Hahaha!! Nevertheless, the business is thriving, and that is always a good thing, especially in these times, and especially when the business is just getting started. We are very happy for him in this new venture.

Sean is about to embark on another new venture…or maybe experience. He and my niece, Amanda Reed are about to become empty nesters, as their daughter, Jadyn Mortensen heads off to college in the fall. She won’t be so very far away, since she is going to the University of Wyoming, but for this close family, it is a bittersweet time. They are happy for their daughter and excited for her future schooling, but it will most likely mean that things in their home will never be that same again, and that is the bitter part. Sean and Amanda have spent the last 19 years building a beautiful life for them and their daughter, and they are very happy as a couple and as parents, so this change in their lives is a bit of a painful transition. Of course, it won’t be forever, but after several years of college, Jadyn will likely be ready to go out and start her own life, so in that way, it will likely never be the same. Still, it is time now for Sean and Amanda to begin a new chapter in their lives, and I know that this new chapter will be an exciting time, and it will be a rewarding time too. Today is Sean’s birthday. Happy birthday Sean!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I have watched my grandniece, Jadyn Mortensen, grow up since the day she was born. She has surprised me over the years…not because she couldn’t do anything she wanted to, but because she almost instantly became interested in horses. Maybe that wasn’t a surprise to her parents and grandparents, but since she lives in Rawlins, Wyoming and I live in Casper, Wyoming, I didn’t see her growing interest in her day-to-day life. I realized she loved horses when she was in town and out at her grandparents’ ranch. Seeing her with the horses there was a beautiful thing. She was just a girl of nine or ten years, but she was like a horse whisper…even then.

Jadyn is talented in many ways. Besides horses, she loves snowmobiles, motorcycles, 4 wheelers, boats, and I’m sure, a number of other sports. Still, for most of her high school career, Jadyn loved barrel racing. She was amazing. She won many awards, and her riding was so exciting to watch. Jadyn is fearless on a horse, and her horse is fearless when she is riding. They work and move as one unit. Not only is she an amazing barrel racer, but she is also very talented at trick riding…I guess that’s what you would call it. Standing on the back of her horse doesn’t scare her one bit, and that is amazing.

I suppose I could be biased when it comes to the riding ability of my grandniece, but that I’m not the only one who is impressed with her, so I guess that the corroboration makes all the difference. As she was preparing to graduate from high school, Jadyn received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wyoming to be a part of their barrel racing team. They saw how amazing she is too. I know that Jadyn’s college career is going to be a wonderful experience for her, but I think her parents, Amanda Reed and Sean Mortensen are going to find this coming year to be bittersweet. While they are excited for their girl to spread her wings and fly, they hate the fact that she is flying away from home. It’s not too far away, but too far to see her every day, like they are used to doing. Nevertheless, she is going to have a great year. Jadyn is planning to study mechanical engineering, so she will have lots of studying to do, on top of her rodeo events…and of course, hopefully a few fun events too. Jadyn is a level-headed girl, so I know that her studies will be her top priority. Today is Jadyn’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday Jadyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Zoey Iverson is a mature seven-year-old girl. It’s not a matter of seven going on thirty or anything, but rather a girl who has known all her life that those people she loves need her help, and she is ready, willing, and able to give that needed help. Zoey is one of the best “mommy’s helpers” around. When Zoey came into her mommy, Cassie Franklin’s life, Cassie was mommy to Lucas, a Down Syndrome baby, and while Lucas was doing well, he had so many things to learn, and that can be exhausting for a parent. Zoey instinctively saw that her mommy and brother needed a helper, and she knew that she was just the girl for the job. So, Zoey became her mommy’s assistant teacher and helper, and it is a role she continues to this day. To Lucas, she is assistant physical therapist, teacher, playmate, best friend, and the best form of encouragement. And with that Lucas thrived. Where he couldn’t walk before, he does now, and so many other skills have improved as well. Where some little girls are instinctively the “little mommy,” Zoey is so much more. It’s just a big part of her personality.

While Zoey is a great help to her mommy, she has other interests too. These days she is into tap dancing and had a performance recently at the fair in Powell. She and her classmates did awesome. I wasn’t able to be there, but thankfully her mommy is a photographer, and she takes great videos, so I got to watch. Zoey is a petite little girl, and so dance suits her perfectly. She is a natural dancer. Zoey always loved dancing around the house, and it makes her brother smile.

Zoey has been the little sister all her life, but the big news is that pretty soon she will also be the big sister. Zoey’s mommy, Cassie and her partner, Wesley Burr are having a baby soon, and in fact, they get to find out what they are having in about six weeks. I’m sure Zoey and Lucas are very excited to find out if they are getting a brother or a sister…as are the rest of us. I know that while her life is already busy these days, Zoey will be a great help with her newest sibling. She has aways had that natural instinct, and to have a new baby to hold and help care for will be just awesome. I am so excited for the whole family, and this new precious little life that is on the way. Things are sure getting exciting for Miss Zoey. Today is Zoey’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Zoey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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