My grandniece, Manuela Ortiz joined our family on July 18, 2021, when she married my grandnephew, James Renville. Manuela is such a happy person, and she brings so much sunshine into the lives of our family. She is an excellent dancer, and James is learning to dance too. They have even done some videos of them dancing and placed them online. Not everyone has the coordination to do things like Salsa dancing, but Manuela certainly does…and I’ll have to leave that to her. It’s best that way.

Speaking fluent Spanish makes Manuela as asset to Wyoming Housing Network, where she is a housing counselor. When Manuela first came to America from Columbia, it was with the intent to study English, so that when she went back home, she could move up in her company. Things changed as time went by, and before long, she knew that she wanted to immigrate to America permanently. That was in the works, when she met her future husband, my grandnephew, James Renville. They met in 2019 and have been inseparable ever since.

Recently, Manuela decided to write an e-book called The Stages of an Immigrant: Stories of an Immigrant. In her book, she tells about her own experiences as she navigated the immigration system of the United States. We are all very proud of Manuela and her journey to become an American citizen the right way.

This past Christmas, Manuela got to go back to Columbia to visit her family for the holidays. Having been here when Covid hit, she hasn’t been able to go back home, and that has been so hard. Manuela has embraced her Wyoming family, and totally loves her Wyoming Cowboy (her husband, James), but this was a special trip and very fun for her. Aside from the climate difference, there are many different customs that go along with the holidays too. The decorations alone are very different. I’m sure that as the years go by, Manuela will incorporate some of her family’s traditions into Christmases here and maybe some of ours in future Christmases there. Today is Manuela’s birthday. Happy birthday Manuela!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Fourteen years before the Titanic sank, Morgan Robertson wrote the novella Futility. It was about the large unsinkable ship “Titan” hitting an iceberg in the Northern Atlantic. Both the Titanic and the fictional Titan did not have enough lifeboats for the thousands of passengers on board. Both were short by about half. While the story behind the sinking of the Titan is somewhat different than the actual events of Titanic, the two are eerily similar, and with so many similarities, one has to wonder how this could have happened. It was like Robertson knew what was coming.

The story of the Titan puts the “unsinkable” ship sailing through the north Atlantic at breakneck speeds, because as we all know nothing could sink such a ship. Any breech of the holds would immediately close the water-tight doors, stopping the spillover into the other holds. As Titan sailed through the icy waters, they came into an area of fog, and still they did not slow down. Watchmen were posted, one of whom, John Rowland, tended to indulge in drink, since the love of his life left him, and now somehow was on the same ship, and she was married and had a child. While Rowland had been drinking, he was still the one to spot another ship…not that it made a difference. The titan continued full speed ahead, cutting the smaller vessel in half and killing all aboard. The ship still didn’t slow down, and the captain tried to buy the silence of his men, but Rowland would not be bought. As the trip continues, things just get worse. Before long, the ship hits an iceberg, and enough holds are breeched to seal Titan’s doom.

The book, “The Wreck of the Titan,” originally called “Futility,” was so similar to the events of the Titanic, that it was almost eerie, and yet, it was enough different that you knew it was not the same event. It was simply a “fact is stranger than fiction” situation, and no one could possibly have anticipated that a ship with a very similar name, loaded with people and half the necessary lifeboats, would sail at breakneck speeds across the north Atlantic during a time when the icebergs were floating everywhere, just like the ship in the story, and that the ship…Titanic would suffer the same fate as the storybook ship, Titan suffered, fourteen years after the author dreamed up the story in his mind. And yet that is exactly what happened.

My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were married at a young age. I wasn’t even out of high school a year when we got married. Today is our 43rd Wedding Anniversary. I’ve heard all the different marriage experts, with all their varying ideas about what makes a perfect marriage, but when I look back on how our marriage lasted all these years, I can’t say that we did many of the things the experts suggested…mostly because they were far fetched and not really us, but also because we didn’t have time for that nonsense. We were busy writing our own book. No, we weren’t literally writing a marriage book, but we were living our life, and in doing so, we discovered that time flew by, as it does when you are having fun, and before we knew it, we had been married 10, then 20, then 30, then 40 years, and now we have arrived at 43 years, and yet looking back, that seems an impossible number. It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long. We are among the rare few who have been married once, and have stayed married for more than 40 years. Of course, some people who didn’t make that mark, lost their spouse to death, which doesn’t count really, because they had stayed married until death. Still, we know that divorce is very common in this country, and that somehow we made it. All we knew, 43 years ago, was that we loved each other.

Bob and I have many things in common. After all our years together that isn’t surprising. We have a love for the outdoors and hiking. In fact, while you will find us walking in the mall in the winter, you should know that we find that tedious and not relaxing, at least not nearly as relaxing as a trail on a summer evening. We like the same television shows, and some of the same music. We think alike too. I think we could probably finish most of each others sentences. Many of our mannerisms are similar to, because we you are around a person a lot their mannerisms rub off on you. After all these years, we are comfortable with each other, and when you get were we are, you will see just how amazing that is. Today is or 43rd wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Bob!! I love you with all my heart!!

owenchaseessex-hit-e1423695603699I’m sure most of us have read “Moby Dick” at some point in our school years. For those who haven’t, it was the story of a whale, and while I didn’t know this before, the book was actually based on a true story. The book, written by Herman Melville, was first published in 1851. Melville had heard about the incident involving a whaling ship that had been attacked by a sperm whale…a giant 85 foot sperm whale, a few years earlier, and like most writers, there are just some things that you can’t get out of your head. Those are the stories that you know that you must write. Melville’s research gave him the facts of the incident, but it didn’t take him full circle to actually being in the place where that ship had started it fateful journey…Nantucket. Melville knew that someday he would have to make the trip to the Massachusetts island, where Captain George Pollard Jr lived. Pollard was the man Melville had modeled his fictional Captain Ahab after.

On his last day in Nantucket, Melville met George Pollard Jr, who was the captain of the Essex. He was an old man of 60 years, and in reality, probably didn’t resemble the captain of the Essex much at that point. He had been through so much. As they talked, Pollard told Melville’s fictional story from a far too real perspective…being there. Pollard was just 29 years old when he and his crew set out for a voyage that was to have lasted two and a half years. After the sinking of the Essex, Pollard told the full story to fellow captains over a dinner shortly after his rescue from the ordeal, and to a missionary named George Bennet. Bennet thought the tale was almost a confession. He told them of “92 days and sleepless nights at sea in a leaking boat with no food, his surviving crew going mad beneath the unforgiving sun, eventual cannibalism and the harrowing fate of two teenage boys, including Pollard’s first cousin, Owen Coffin.” Then he said, “But I can tell you no more…my head is on fire at the recollection. I hardly know what I say.”

Just two days after leaving Nantucket, Essex’s ordeal began. It was August 14, 1819. They hit a squall that destroyed it’s topgallant sail, almost causing it to sink. Still, Pollard continued on, making it to Cape Horn five weeks later. But the 20-man crew found the waters off South America nearly fished out, so they decided to sail for distant whaling grounds in the South Pacific, far from any shores. By November of 1820, after months of a prosperous voyage and a thousand miles from the nearest land, whaleboats from the Essex had harpooned whales that dragged them out toward the horizon in what the crew called “Nantucket sleigh rides.” Owen Chase, the 23 year old first mate, had stayed aboard the Essex to make repairs while Pollard went whaling. It was Chase who spotted a very big whale…85 feet in length, he estimated…lying quietly in the distance, its head facing the ship. Then, after two or three spouts, the giant whale headed straight for the Essex, “coming down for us at great celerity,” Chase would recall, “at about three knots. The whale smashed head-on into the ship with such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces.”

The whale passed underneath the ship and began thrashing in the water. “I could distinctly see him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury,” Chase recalled. Then the whale disappeared. The crew was addressing the hole in the ship and getting the pumps working when one man cried out, “Here he is…he is making for us again.” Chase spotted the whale, his head half out of water, bearing down at great speed…this time at six knots, Chase thought. This time it hit the bow directly under the cathead and disappeared for good, but the damage was done. The water rushed into the ship so fast, the only thing the crew could do was lower the boats and try to fill them with navigational instruments, bread, water and supplies before the Essex turned over on its side. Pollard saw his ship listing from a distance, tand returned to see the Essex in ruin. In shock, essex_sinkingessex-sinkinghe asked the first mate what had happened. I’m sure the tale seemed incredulous, but the evidence was right there staring them in the face. When the other boats returned, the men sat in silence, their captain still pale and speechless. Some, Chase observed, “had no idea of the extent of their deplorable situation.” Out of the original 20 men and 3 boats that set out, only 5 men would survive the ordeal, and that included a long time floating around the ocean, men dying, and the eventual cannibalism required to survive.

Corrie - nowIMG_2962It’s hard for me to believe that Bob and I became parents for the first time 41 years ago today. At 7:10am, our precious little girl, Corrie Schulenberg Petersen arrived in this world. When they handed her to me I was in awe. Here she was…our perfect little baby, and she was ours…forever. How could that have been have been 41 years ago, when it feels like only yesterday?

Over the course of the last 41 years, much has changed. Corrie is the mother of a college graduate and a high school senior. She has been at her current place of employment for over 20 years, and they would be in quite a pickle without her capable handling of her duties. Corrie also runs a business from home as a virtual assistant and ghost writer. For those of you who have never heard of such things, like I was, a virtual assistant does all of the things that an office assistant does, but from their home. Corrie has had clients all over the United States. A ghost writer, is an author who writes for someone else. The credit goes to the person who hired her to write the book or article. Corrie is a great ghost writer, but I think she should also consider writing her own book…because she could do it.

When I think of Corrie, the mom…the picture that comes to my mind is of Corrie in a cape with a big “S” on her shirt, because Corrie really has always been Super Mom! When her boys, Chris and Josh were little, she was very active in their school. She headed up the parent organization…what used to be the PTA, and now I believe it is POPI, but I could be wrong on that. She also made sure the boys got to play all the sports their little hearts desired. She kept up with their studies, so she could help when needed, or just to make sure they got everything done in time.

The years have changed many things now, and before long, Corrie and her husband, Kevin will be empty nesters. They already do many things without the boys, since they are working a lot of the time. Chris is 217997_1933024280848_2458511_nIMG_8303getting ready to get his own place, but they will have Josh at home a while…when he’s not working, anyway. Josh has decided to live at home while going to college, so that will delay the sting of his leaving. Empty nest or not, the future is looking bright for Corrie and her family, and while she will always be mom, she might have to retire her cape, because they don’t seem to need Super Mom much now, but Mom…well, they will always need her. Today is Corrie’s birthday. Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jacob's tentJacob, the son of my cousin, Denise DeVogel, who I recently met on Facebook, got busy the other day and in his play, he reminded many of the rest of us in the family about the fun things many of us did as kids. Jacob pushed the couch and chair in his mom’s living room together, covered them with a blanket, and…presto, he had a private little tent to camp out in. He has spent the last couple of days having a great time in that little tent. And his mom, Denise has had such a good time watching him have such a good time.

Looking at the picture she posted on Facebook, took me back to my own childhood, and the many tents my sisters and I made. We had such good times playing in the little shelter that the tent provided. Not that we needed shelter, but more a secret little place to hold our meetings, play games, have snacks, and pretend to go to sleep…not that any sleeping happened, unless we planned to camp out for the night like it seems was Jacob’s plan to do. The things that went on in those tents, were such a big deal when we were kids, and I suppose that everyone’s games were a little different, but we all thought that our little club meetings were a total mystery to our parents, not ever realizing that our parents were little kids once too, and they probably played many of the same games you did.

And it wasn’t just me who took a trip down memory lane while looking at the pictures of Jacob Home Sweet Homein his tent, because Denise’s friend, Karen commented, “How fun!! I remember doing that!!” Her words were exactly the ones that would have come out of my mouth, had she not beat me to it. It’s pictures like these that remind you of all the good things that define childhood. It’s the freedom to be creative, inventive, and yet silly, all rolled into one little person, that makes the whole scene so fun to watch. It makes me want to be a kid again…well, maybe not, but I could be a kid again for a day or maybe a week, so I could build a tent in the living room, and hold the little club meetings, or read a book, or camp out, and then I could step back into reality again, and take with me the little vacation memories I had in the tent in the living room. Thanks for the memories Jacob!!

Years ago, my sister, Caryl read a book called “The Middle Sister”. She felt like the book was almost written for her, because she was the middle sister in our family. And the funny thing was that the girl on the book looked a lot like Caryl. They were both blond and wore braids a lot, and the facial features weren’t even too far off. It seemed like Caryl talked about being the middle sister for the rest of her pre-teenaged years.

The book was about a German family with 3 girls, which was it’s only flaw, since we had 5 girls. The middle sister was afraid of lots of things, and thought that if she had the lion’s tooth belonging to her uncle, she could be brave. Her uncle agreed to give her his lion’s tooth when she made him an apple dumpling from the sapling in their yard. That all seemed simple until her parents said they had to move from Ohio to Minnesota. Sarah Samantha, the middle sister was devastated, until her parents told the girls they could each pick one thing to take along. Of course Sarah Samantha picked the apple tree, which was transported and grew well in Minnesota…until Grasshopper Summer threatens the tree, but Sarah Samantha bravely fights off the grasshoppers to save the tree.

When the crop and Uncle Romeo finally come and her family heads to the train station to pick up Uncle Romeo, Sarah Samantha stays behind to make his apple dumpling, but two Indians, a man and a boy come to the house and eat most of the apples. She is too mad to be afraid, and she tells the Indians off, and makes them help with the apple dumpling. There are just enough apples for one small dumpling, which she trades for the lion’s tooth to make her feel brave…not realizing that she already is brave.

I don’t know if the book’s draw was the middle sister or the apple dumpling, but Caryl became obsessed with making them after that. I’m sure she made some, but the funny thing is that I don’t remember eating any of them. Nevertheless, the apple dumpling stayed in the back of my mind from that day forward, as an interesting dessert. Maybe it was because of all Sarah Samantha went through to make it, or maybe because of Caryl’s interest in them. The other day, as I was shopping for groceries at Walmart, I saw, in the frozen dessert section, none other than apple dumplings, and it took me back to the story of the middle sister and Caryl’s love of that book.

It is the culmination of 13 years of schooling…the final rite of passage where school is concerned…graduation. It is a day of joy, tempered with a little sadness. Friends you spent so much time with will now be going their own ways and doing their own things. You won’t see them as much and some you may not ever see again. It is a wonderful time with so many beginnings and opportunities to come. You leave high school filled with hope for your future.

Today, my last niece graduates, and we are so very proud of you, Lacey! Today, you begin a new chapter in your very own book…the book of your life, but I remember the day when you arrived. The teeny little girl who would one day grow up to look so much like her mom, that it’s like looking at a picture of your mom sometimes. You were a shy little girl, but as you have grown, that shyness has given way to the confidence of womanhood, and I know that you are going to have a wonderful future.

I remember watching you grow, and the close friendship that you shared with Siara. At family gatherings you two could always be found tucked into a corner of the couch, sharing little secret dreams, thoughts, and ideas. I’m sure that like most kids, there were a few antics in the making in those secret moments you shared, but you were both good little girls, who have turned out very well.

Today it begins…the rest of your life, and I know that where ever you go and whatever you do, you will be a blessing to those around you and the pride of your parents and grandparents. So, today is the ceremony, and one last blast with friends, and that’s it. Your school days are behind you. I’m very excited for you as you go into the future, but a little bit sad that the little girl you were, is gone. Congratulations Lacey!! We love you!!

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