Father’s Day…for me means remembering the two men who were the best dads ever…my dad, Allen Spencer and my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg. I wish every day that Father’s Day wasn’t about their memories, but that it was rather a day to spend with them. In fact, some stories bring tears, and this is going to be one of them, I guess. It doesn’t really matter how many years your dad has been in Heaven, because there will always be those “ton-of-bricks” moments when the tears just come, no matter what you try to do to stop them.
I was just so blessed to have two wonderful dads in my life. My dad made sure that we, his five daughters and our mom, had opportunities to see the country, go camping, read maps and plan trips, and so many other things. He taught us responsibility, love for one another, and most importantly, love for God. My father-in-law was much the same kind of man, even though the family didn’t do a lot of traveling. They were still a very close family and helped each other in any way they needed. It was and still is almost a network of people with unique talents who share the load when it comes to needs. These two men, now in Heaven were key influences in my life, and I will always be grateful for them.
I also have several other men who are some of the dads in my life. While these men are not my dads, they are part of my family. My husband, Bob Schulenberg…the father of my children, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. My sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who have been wonderful husbands and dads to my daughters and grandchildren…who have worked hard to give them happy lives. Then, there are my two grandsons, Chris Petersen who has a daughter and son, and my grandson, Josh Petersen who has a son coming in October…both are actively raising (or soon will be) their children. I am so proud of these men…dads who are with the mothers of their children and are actively raising their families together. They are great role models and loving fathers, and in them we have all been blessed. I also want to recognize all my brothers-in-law and nephews, because they are amazing dads and great blessings too. Today is Father’s Day, and while it must be a memory day for me, it is a special day for all of us. Happy Father’s Day to these and all dads today. Have a great day!!
Very early this morning, a beautiful lady went to Heaven. Aunt Virginia Beadle was first and foremost a mother to her children. She loved each and every one of them so much, and always considered herself to be very blessed by her children and later her children’s spouses. She enjoyed every one of her grandchildren, and her last granddaughter was named after the daughter Aunt Virginia lost in 1967…Christy. Aunt Virginia loved children…of all ages. In her early live, she and her first husband adopted a son, Forrest, and she loved him dearly. He passed away in 2005, and the loss was devastating to her. After the loss of these two children, she focused her life on the rest of her kids, and any others that she could help. She was truly a great woman, often known by those she helped as the “patron saint of lost children.” Over the years, she took in so many kids. It didn’t matter what their need was. They might be troubled, drugged out, or lost…it didn’t matter to her. She was there to help in any way she could. She always looked for the good in people, and I don’t know of anyone in whom she could find no good. Those who knew her, her kids, grandkids, and her nieces and nephews loved her dearly. My cousin Elmer Johnson spent time with her when he could over the years…probably more than most of the nieces and nephews did. When he lost his own parents, Elmer and Delores Johnson, I’m sure she was there to help ease the pain. That was the kind of woman Aunt Virginia always was.
Aunt Virginia’s latter years were spent surrounded by her family, living until recently with her son, Steve and his wife, Wanda. There, her family gathered to spend quality time with their mom, and dad, until Bill’s passing on January 17, 2018. There, her sons Steve and Billy, with their families, and her daughter, Betsy, with her children, and her grandchildren talked, laughed, and even cried with their mom as she went through the last days of her life. Most recently, Aunt Virginia needed full-time care, so it was decided that she would move in with Billy and his wife, Janie, who did not work outside the home. That meant that Janie could care for Aunt Virginia’s more full-time needs. Aunt Virginia said of her children and their spouses, “I have been so lucky.” I don’t think is was luck, however. I think that her children and their spouses are simply amazing people who loved their mom/mother-in-law very much, and who would do anything for her.
As my cousin Elmer pointed out to me today, now Aunt Virginia gets to reunite with Bill; her son, Forrest and daughter, Christy; her sisters, Evelyn, Delores, and Collene; her brother, Larry; and brothers-in-law, George, Elmer, Allen, and Jack; and of course, her parents, George and Hattie. She leaves behind some good kids and so many she helped to turn their lives around, and for that, she will forever be remembered. Aunt Virginia’s life was full and she was and is loved by all those she touched. No matter how tough things were for her, she would give the shirt off her back to anyone who needed it. That was just the kind of woman she was…a tough one, for sure. Rest in peace now Aunt Virginia. We will love and miss you always.
It’s that time of year again, and Thanksgiving Day has arrived. The day will begin with much cooking, table setting, and other preparation. All too often we get so caught up in the preparation for the main meal of the day, and prepare for the gathering together of family and friends, that we forget the real purpose of the day…giving thanks for all we have been given.
Over the past year, some health issues have presented themselves, not only in our family, with my husband, Bob; but with my son-in-law, Kevin’s mother, Becky Skelton too. Both of them had heart issues, and now both of them are well again. You can’t emphasize too much, the importance of good health. Never is that importance made more clear, than when things happen that threaten that good health. The concerns we have all felt, each of us watching as another of our loved ones has worried over their mom or dad, husband or wife, brother or sister, were almost overwhelming. Now, that all the tests, the surgery, the procedure, and the recovery are behind us, we feel only thankfulness.
Our daughter, Corrie has been working hard in nursing school, and doing very well. She has been so blessed with great grades, and a wonderful nursing school experience. I have watched her blossom throughout this process, and it warms my heart to see such an amazing transformation in her. She and Kevin have also been blessed with a granddaughter, who is their son, Chris and fiancée, Karen’s daughter. Their son Josh is very busy with two jobs, while waiting for the next college class that he needs to become an EMT. Eventually he will be going into firefighting.
Bob and I have been thankful to have been able to travel to visit our daughter Amy Royce and her family, and spend two weeks with them, including Independence Day, which was a new thing for us, since we have spent Independence Day in the Black Hills for many years. Spending quality time with Amy; Travis; Shai and her boyfriend, Jordan; and Caalab, and his girlfriend, Chloe, was a special time. Any amount of time spent with family is something to be thankful for. As our children, grandchildren, and now great granddaughter grow and become more busy, time is something that is often in short supply, and definitely a blessing.
Everyone has different reasons to be thankful all year long, but at this time of year, we tend to reflect on the many blessings we have been given all year…some are extra special, and others bring deep emotion, because we know what we might have lost. This Thanksgiving Day, I realize just how much I have to be thankful for, and for all of it, I thank God, the Father of Lights, from whom all good gifts come. I hope everyone has as much to be thankful for as I have this year. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
My nephew, Dave Balcerzak is a gifted computer programmer, and has helped many people with their computer issues, including me. I think the most awesome thing he has done is to rebuild old computers so that he can give them people who have a need for a computer, but cannot afford one. It is a noble thing to do, and very typical of Dave. He is a kind-hearted man, who wants to be able to help people in anyway that he can, and thankfully he has talents that allow him to be able to help a lot of people.
My niece, Chantel Balcerzak first met her now husband, Dave when they were kids in elementary school. She liked him immediately, and really never forgot him completely. Nevertheless, they both went their separate ways, and each married other people. After a number of years, families for both, and failed marriages, they met again, and it was like they were never apart. They were both free to marry now, so they did, and they created a blended family. Dave brought his two children, Keifer and Katy to the marriage, and Chantel brought her two living children, Jake and Siara to the marriage. Chantel also brought the memory of her angel baby, Alyssa, who Dave had never met, but because she belonged to Chantel, he loved her as much as any of the children…because that is the kind of man Dave is. Dave and Chantel have been blessed with three grandchildren, Izabella and Jaxx Harman, and Reece Balcerzak. They also have a bonus granddaughter, Alice Green, with whom Dave shares a birthday. And they have a grandson on the way. When I say that Dave has been blessed, I say that because I believe that Dave’s kindness and loving ways, have given him the reward of so many blessings.
Dave has been given one more blessing, and it is one that is of the type that is near to my heart…his heart. Dave developed so heart issues, that at one point caused him to have a stroke, which was caught by a CNA, while he was in the hospital. Her quick action left Dave with no lasting damage from the stroke. His heart, however, still needed some work. As the wedding of their daughter, Siara was coming and Dave was to walk her down the aisle, he worried that he would not be able to do so, but God had another plan. An interesting procedure fixed his heart, and the man who had been only able to take a few steps without being out of breath, was able to walk Siara down the aisle. He is still healthy and very blessed indeed. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Saint Patrick’s Day…a day to celebrate being Irish. For me, Saint Patrick’s Day always felt like a borrowed holiday…probably because I don’t live in Ireland. The reality is that while I don’t live in Ireland, I am part Irish…9% to be exact. With the Irish in my family history, I would have expected my percentage to be for that 9%, but the reality is that most families migrated around the world, and while a family might have been in a country for centuries, they may not have originated there. Nevertheless, I had and still have family who live in Ireland, so I guess that makes me enough Irish to make Saint Patrick’s Day as much my day as it is anyone else’s. In reality, it is a day to remember the patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was a missionary who heralded the shift from paganism to Christianity in the fifth century, when he was in his 40s. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on what is believed to be the anniversary of his death…March 17.
It is traditional to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, but why is that? Legend has it that if you’re wearing the color green, the quintessentially Irish, fairy-like creatures called leprechauns won’t be able to see you. And if they can’t see you, they can’t pinch you. Interestingly, before Saint Patrick’s Day got started, leprechauns were known not for wearing green but red. These days, the leprechauns have begun to outsource pinching to the rest of the world, or maybe we just took it over. Even the Irish flag has green in it. It is deeply symbolic. The green represents the Irish Catholics, the orange represents the Protestants and the white represents peace between the two. The green itself is called “shamrock green.” And speaking of shamrocks, shamrocks are one of the national symbols of Ireland, and not without reason. St. Patrick himself used the green, three-leaf clover to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity: one for the father; one for the son; and one for the Holy Spirit. The four-leaf clover is just a symbol of good luck, if you believe in luck. Personally, I prefer blessing over luck.
When a large population of the Irish came to the United States in the mid-1800s, they wore the color green (as well as the Irish flag) as a point of national pride, further solidifying the relationship between the color green and the Irish…in the American imagination anyway. But lets face it, it’s really about the kid in all of us. Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with pinches and shamrock accessories might seem silly, but it can be a great way to spend a day being a little bit on the goofy side. Friendly pinches of those who are forgetful, and show up with no green, is a great way to spend that one day…often still cold and even snowy, having a little bit of silly fun. And then there is the green beer, the green Chicago river, and the green clothing, hair, and beards of our friends.
When disaster strikes, and homes are in ruin, people try to come together to help return a sense of normalcy to the people affected by the disaster. Disasters happen quickly, and the devastation is often heavy. It is a difficult thing to help people heal. While one disaster or event is often the same as another in terms of damage, something we somehow don’t connect to that same kind of devastation, is war. I’m not sure why, but when I think of war,I picture a battle held in the middle of a vast desert, with no civilization in sight. of course, when I really think about it, I now that is not reality, but rather my mind trying to fit war into a box of civility. In reality, there is nothing civil about war. Gun shots, bombs, and land mines aren’t picky about who they hit. Soldier or civilian…all are fair game in a war. And towns…well, there is often little to nothing left after a bomb hits.
During World War II, London was often the targets of the German Luftwaffe, and the bombs they dropped, devastated many parts of London. From September 7, 1940, London was systematically bombed by the Luftwaffe for 56 out of the following 57 days and nights, in what was called “The Blitz.” Most notable was a large daylight attack against London on September 15th. Of course, these weren’t the only bombings, and the people of London didn’t know when or if it was safe to be out of the bomb shelters. Life in London had taken on eerie gloom,as people continued to seek refuge in the bomb shelters, because that was the only safe place to be. The biggest problem was that the bomb shelters were also gloomy, boring, and generally depressing. The children probably suffered the most, because kids don’t really understand all this hatred and killing. Their world had been turned upside down…and they didn’t know why.
By the end of 1940, 24,000 civilians had been killed in the Blitz and hundreds of thousands made homeless. In November, German bombers had obliterated Coventry city center and there had been particularly fierce raids on Manchester and Liverpool in the days leading up to Christmas. The public were now mourning the loss of their loved ones on the home front and in combat, as well as praying for the 41,000 British soldiers captured on the continent, but it was the children, in my mind, who suffered the most. Their childlike innocence was completely destroyed, along with their homes. Their parents, and other adults made the decision to change their little world, even if it was only for a short time. They didn’t have much, but they put together whatever they could to lift the spirits of these scared children. Christmas parties were held for the children and the shelter walls were decorated with paper chains and decorations, while amateur singing nights, discussion groups, and sewing circles were held regularly.
In order to avoid the bombs, many families spent some of the holidays in air-raid shelters and other places of refuge. They decked out their temporary homes with makeshift decorations…and very short Christmas trees because of the height of the shelters. Even if gas or electricity was available, Christmas dinner would have still been an amazing feat, because turkey was so expensive. Most people made do with other cuts of meat, which were still expensive. A family of four’s weekly meat ration probably wouldn’t even cover the cost of a small chicken. One alternative was home-raised chickens or rabbits, much to the shock of young children who often regarded them as pets. Home-grown vegetables and chutneys would have also made the table. Rations were scrimped and saved including ham, bacon, butter, suet, and margarine. The tea and sugar rations were increased in the week before Christmas. Very little fruit was imported and nuts were very costly. Consequently, cooks had to improvise Christmas cakes and puddings devoid of dried fruit and marzipan, using instead sponge or other unlikely ingredients. Alcohol was available but, horribly expensive. And there would be no after-dinner French cheeses or brandy due to the German occupation. It was a poor Christmas party in comparison to those in the past, but it served to remind all the people that Christmas is more about the blessings in life, than it is about the things we are given.
My grand-niece, Melanie Harman, who is married to my grand-nephew, Jake Harman have been busy moving into their new house. They are very excited to finally have a house. They really needed a place that was big enough for their family of five. Their kids, Alice, Izabella, and Jaxx get to have their own rooms now, and that makes it even better…and those kids are beyond excited about it. Anyone who comes over to the house gets the grand tour, starting with the kids bedrooms…specially if the kids are giving the tour. Melanie’s husband, Jake did a lot of his growing up years in that house, and he has wanted to raise his family there for a long time. For Jake, moving into this house, is like coming home again.
Melanie has been very busy settling into their new home and taking care of the children. She is a great mom, and the children are well taken care of, well behaved, and totally happy. Melanie has been so blessed with such a sweet family. Their little Alice is growing up so fast, and she is totally loving being her mom’s little helper. Izabella is Jake and Melanie’s sassy girl. She is a bit shy until she gets to know you better, but she is definitely full of spunk. Jaxx, being the youngest and only boy has learned quickly to be very laid back. His sisters were probably rough at first, but they learned to be more gentle. Nevertheless, Jaxx did well, and Melanie can’t imagine her life without her kids, and her husband Jake, who works hard to support his family and loves them completely. They are truly Melanie’s blessings.
Melanie and Jake are good together. They are, in many ways opposites, but then most of us know that opposites attract, and that is likely what brought the two of them together in the first place. They have created a wonderful home, filled with laughter, for their children, and I believe that they were a match made in Heaven, and they will live happily ever after. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As I walked in to my bedroom today, my gaze landed on a bottle of perfume that sits on a shelf there. The bottle then took me back to my childhood years, because it always reminds me of the loving things my dad did for my mom. Evening In Paris Perfume by Bourjois, was a beautiful floral fragrance created by Ernest Beaux in 1928. It was reformulated by perfumers Jaques Polge and Francois Demachier, nearly fifty years later. The top notes are bergamot, apricot and peach, green notes and violet. The floral heart is composed of rose damascena, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, and orris. The base includes amber, musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. I have no idea how they managed to put all those ingredients together to come up with such a beautiful perfume, but they did. My mother, Collene Byer Spencer loved it, and my dad, Allen Spencer loved how it smelled on her. Dad would buy Evening in Paris for her on occasions like birthday, Christmas, and anniversaries. It was considered one of the most precious gifts he could give her.
After Mom’s passing on February 22, 2015, as my sisters and I were going through her things, we came across several bottles of the perfume, some were empty, others has a little bit in them, but we each were able to have one of those bottles. It didn’t matter if we wore that perfume or not, we knew that just having the bottle would remind us of our parents, and of the deep love they had for each other. That perfume had such sentimental value, and in fact, I don’t believe that any of us ever took any without permission. Some things are too precious to touch, and even kids understand that. They create a respect of their own, and are given a place of honor in the home and in your heart. That was the case with Evening in Paris perfume. Little girls love to get into their mother’s makeup and perfume, but I really think we understood that Evening in Paris was off limits…and not because we were afraid of the trouble we would get in. It’s like you are in awe of it or something.
To this day, seeing that bottle of precious Evening in Paris perfume, makes me smile, because of the way my parents looked at each other when the package was opened. Mom always looked at Dad, just a little teary eyed, but with a great big smile on her face, and Dad looked like a little boy who had just brought his girlfriend her first rose. There was such a sense of pride that she loved the gift. He just felt good about it. He knew it was a special thing for her, and he hoped it was a surprise. She always acted like it was, whether she suspected it was coming or not. That was just their way. Theirs was a love without end, and they loved blessing each other with the best things they could give them, with the leader always being their love.
It’s strange to think that your children have been married twenty two years, and together twenty five years, but that is exactly where I find myself today. I can’t believe that so many years have passed since those two kids got married. They were babies really!! How could they possibly know who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with? That seemed to like such a strange thought to me, and yet Bob and I married at about that age too, and we have been married forty years. You can know for yourself, but it just feels different for your kids. And to top it off, they just seem younger than you were…somehow. Much like when I look at kids in high school these days. They just seem so much younger than I was then.
Nevertheless, these two young people made the decision to stay together for life, and they have stuck to it…through thick and thin. There is no marriage on this earth, and I don’t care whose it is, that manages to go along with no storm clouds in it. That is simply not how life in this world works, but troubles or not, it is the fighters…the ones who are determined to make it work, who will endure to the end. I have often said that the main reason Bob and I stayed together all these years, is stubbornness…pure stubbornness. We were just to stubborn to quit. That’s how Corrie and Kevin were too. When tough times came, the tough got going. Their marriage has not been stress free…but it has stayed together through anything, and today, before me I see two wonderful people who have stood the test of time, and have come out victorious!! People talk about stubbornness as if it is a bad thing, and maybe sometimes it is, but from what I have seen, that stubbornness, when used in the right way for the right things…such as a marriage, is one of the best assets a couple can have. And so it has been for Corrie and Kevin all these wonderful years of their marriage.
The wedding day flew by so fast. We remember some things, such as the fact that just as Pastor Dan said, “Dearly beloved…” a clap of thunder was heard, and the rain poured down. The kids, who had thought about an outdoor wedding, looked at each other, and were glad they were inside on their special day. It was rather comical, because when they suggested an outdoor wedding, I told them that you can’t be sure of the weather. They were a little miffed at me…until that moment. Nevertheless, if it had been outside, we would have made it work too. Their ride across town to the reception was quite unique too, in that they were transported in a fire truck. Bob was the mechanic for the fire department, and the firemen did it as a special favor. Very cool, and something we would never forget. Still, even with these special memories of that special day, it is the years since then that have been the most amazing. The births of their sons, Christopher and Joshua, the blessings they have been to me and to our whole family over the years…especially in our parents times of need. I always knew that I could count on them to be there for me, whenever I needed them, and Bob knew it too, as did any of the family who ever needed them. Corrie and Kevin have always been people you could count on. Things like that can never be repaid. Before me today, I see two wonderful people, and I wish them both many more years of wedded bliss and the very best that God can give, for the rest of their lives. Happy anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! We love you!!
As another year comes to a close, my mind drifts back to the events that have taken place over the last twelve months. it seems like every year I’m alive goes by faster than the one before it. Christmas last year was just here, and before my very eyes, it was Christmas again. As a kid, it seemed like each year took ten years to pass, and now it seems like mere days.
Last year ended with my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg beginning a journey toward health, and this year, she has shown us just what determination and consistency can accomplish, by losing over 275 pounds. She looks amazing, and her new active lifestyle is giving her a new found happiness and a definite glow. Her success has motivated several others in the family to get back on the bandwagon toward health, myself included.
The grandkids have grown up before your very eyes, and we now have two high school graduates. Our grandson Christopher Petersen, left us this year to venture off to Sheridan to begin the journey to build his dream of becoming a great chef, and or restaurant or hotel owner. It’s been hard having him be away from home and yet we are thankful that he isn’t so far away as to make trips home impossible. Our granddaughter, Shai Royce has entered the workforce full time, at the Hilton Inn. She is unsure of her future goals, so working is a good option. Our grandson, Caalab Royce is a senior in high school and will graduate in May. He is exploring the options for college to learn to make guitars…a longtime dream of his. And our grandson, Joshua Petersen is a sophomore in high school this year. Josh loves track, but with a knee injury, the season, or at least the indoor season, is up in the air until the doctor gives him the go ahead.
The past year has proven to be a pretty good one for The Moms. My mom, Collene Spencer took a couple of falls, but other than a couple of staples in her head, she is fine, and we are planning on physical therapy to strengthen her legs in the new year. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg continues to thrive at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, where she has lived for almost two years now. Both moms are happy where they are, and their living situations are a perfect fit for them. My mom’s mind is clear, so being at home is a workable situation, and since my sister, Cheryl Masterson lives with Mom, there is someone with her in the evenings anyway. Alzheimer’s Disease has made it impossible for my mother-in-law to live on her own, but since she doesn’t realize that Dad is gone, and that she is in a nursing home, she experiences no sorrow over her situation.
The past year brought our family a new addition, when Hattie Joy Parmely arrived, right on schedule. She joined her parents, Eric and Ashley Parmely, and big sister, Reagan Kaylynn Parmely, to give them a blessed home indeed. There were new additions in our family in other ways too, as I was able to connect us to many previously unknown cousins all over the country. I would love to tell you just how many new cousins there are, but there are too many to count, and more that will continue to join us through the ones we have already found. We said good bye for now to my grandniece, Christina Masterson, who moved to Germany to live with her mom. And we acquired a new driver, when my grandson Josh got his license.
Bob and I took a lovely cruise to Alaska this past summer, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. My dad had always wanted to go, and take his family with them, but while we sent our parents on a cruise for their 50th anniversary in 2003, we couldn’t join them. Well Dad…I’ve been there now, and you’re right…it was amazing. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken, and I would love to go back someday. Mom, Cheryl, and I also went on a trip this year. It was a trek to meet all the new Schumacher cousins that we had met online, and to reconnect with our Spencer cousins, and our precious Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill. The trip was far too short, but it has left us with precious memories, and new relationships that we will always have. We thank God for giving us back such wonderful family members, and adding so many new ones to our lives.
This is a time when so many people are making new years resolutions, but that is something I just don’t do. I prefer to reflect back on the passing year, and rejoice in all the blessings I have been given over the year. This year, has brought blessings in many different forms, from Facebook and Ancestry, to face-to-face blessings. I could not ask for more. Happy New Year to all of you from all of us, and may God’s blessings overflow in your lives. I love you all very much!