breakfast

imageYou can think you are prepared for life’s changes, but until the exact moment they happen, you don’t really know. When my daughter, Amy Royce, her husband Travis, and son, Caalab moved to Washington state a year ago, I thought I would never get used to it, over it, or on with it, but time marches on, and I had no choice but to march along with it. Amy and Travis’ daughter, Shai stayed here in Casper, and I think it helped that I felt the need to try to lift her spirit and help her make the transition from being a kid living at home to an adult living in her own place. It was such a hard change for both of us. Memories of Amy, Travis, and Caalab were everywhere, but for me, especially Amy, since we worked together. I think that the hardest part with Amy’s move was the empty chairs at the office, church, and Saturday morning breakfast. It will be no different this time, since Shai worked with me too. Now I have that empty chair at the office, church, and Saturday morning breakfast…again.

I have always been close with all my children and grandchildren, so as each one spreads their wings and flies imageaway, I find myself tearing up, as I look at their empty places and think about the length of time before I will see them again. For Shai, I know it is for the best. She has missed her family terribly, and while her grandparents might play a close second, we just aren’t her parents and brother. That isn’t a bad thing, because I know how much she loves us. It’s just impossible to replace your own family. Shai and Caalab have not always been good friends, but as the grew, they became very close, and I think this last year has been extremely hard on both of them. And she is very close to her parents, as well. My logical side is really very happy for her to be rejoining them, it’s just my emotional side that can’t seem to wrap itself around the logic, and every time I see a place where Shai used to be, I feel lonely all over again.

When I came home at lunch I thought about the last few days. Caalab flew in on July 8th, and with both of their things here at my house, we had quite a disaster area going. Now all their things are gone, and the house imageseems very empty and very quiet. Of course, Bob isn’t here either, since he went with the kids to help with the move. Still, I think it will feel a little empty even when he gets home. It’s not because Shai lived with us, because she didn’t, but she moved out of her apartment on June 30th, and so for eleven days, her things were here. Now, after a whirlwind visit for Caalab, and the date of their departure coming up far too fast, I find myself facing that empty chair…again. I know I’ll be ok, because I’ve been through this before, but that empty chair will be a stumbling block for a while yet, no matter how I feel about it, or how much I try to avoid looking at it. Shai…I know that your life will be wonderful, just don’t forget where your grandpa and grandma live, and remember that we love you more than words can ever say.

IMG_0020aOne of the hardest things a parent has to face, is having their child move away. Whether it is to college or a permanent move, it is a tearing time for the parents, who had hoped this day would never come. Parents don’t have children so they can move away, but nevertheless, that is what happens sometimes. Whether it is a job transfer, college, or a move of choice, it is really hard on both parents and children. Since I have never moved away as a child, I can’t speak to the feelings of homesickness that come from living so far from the only home I have ever known. I suppose it could be much the same as the parents are feeling about their child leaving. You want them to be happy, and yet you had always hoped that their happiness would be found in the same city that you live in, and not in a city that is 1200 miles away from you. That is just so far away, that it seems unbearable.

As the parent, in this situation, I think it might be just a bit unique. For the last six and a half years, I have had the great pleasure of working side by side with my daughter, Amy Royce. Friday was her last day, since she is moving to Washington state today. I think the hardest part of her leaving work for good, is seeing her empty chair. Her office is out front, and will continue to be used to do things like make payments and such, until we hire someone to take her place, but it’s really hard for me to go in there, because when I do, I am once again faced with that empty chair…not to mention the task of telling every client that Amy no longer works there. It almost feels like rubbing it in.

It has also been our tradition to go to breakfast with Amy every other week on Saturday, trading off with going to breakfast with our older daughter, Corrie Petersen. As we were having a special breakfast Sunday morning, which included both of them, so that we could all enjoy one more time together, it occurred to me that in the future, we would again be looking at an empty chair…the one Amy used to occupy every other week at breakfast. It is just another reminder of the drastic change that has taken place in our family.

Then, came church. I am used to having Amy sitting on my right and Corrie on my left, but Sunday morning brought yet another empty chair, as Amy and her family spent the morning packing the moving truck they have rented. Amy also sang with me as part of the backup singers for the music ministry, and that felt a little bit lonely too…even though I didn’t stand right next to her. I still knew that she was there, and now I know that she isn’t there anymore.That Empty Chair

I know that I will get used to having my daughter and her family living so far away. It will just take time. I know it will be hard for them too, but I think they will have a bit of an advantage over me, and those of us left behind, including their daughter, Shai, who decided to stay in Casper, because they will not be picturing us in places around their world. It will not be normal to have us there at their work, at the restaurants they go too, or the church they attend. They will have a normal that doesn’t include us. We will have to create a new normal that does not include them. Yes, I will get used to having them gone too. I just think it would be easier for me, were it not for that empty chair.

Little HelperRon (12) and Barry (2)Bob’s nephew, Barry Schulenberg’s dad has never been a part of his life, but that does not mean that Barry lacked the male influence in his life. His earliest and greatest male role model was his grandpa, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. Barry was determined to be just like his grandpa, and in most ways, I think that is exactly what he did. Barry is a hard working man, who can be counted on to be right there when you need him. One of his favorite things to do with his grandpa was to split wood. Grandpa would set him up on a log, and Barry ran the splitter while Grandpa loaded it. Barry was always careful not to get carried away, but rather always waited until his grandpa said to push the hydraulic lever bringing the blade to the wood, splitting it. He would gladly sit there all day helping his grandpa. There was nothing he would rather do. I reality, Barry was more of a son to my father-in-law, than he was a grandson.

Barry’s uncles Bob, Ron, and even Lynn, when he was in town, were another source of male role models for him. They never had a problem taking Barry under their wing and showing him the ropes. Oh, there were the little issues that anyone has with a little kid, but in reality, there were probably fewer of those that most little boys are a part of. For the most part, Barry was like a little grown up man from the very start. He just didn’t care about playing quite a much as other kids did…because he was too busy being the little helper. Barry’s Uncle Ron was probably his first friend. Since they lived in the same house, and Ron was only ten years older than Barry, so while he may not have wanted to always play with his little nephew, he was willing to do so quite a bit, and that has made them very close over the years. They still spend time helping each other with the multiple projects each has…from cutting wood to car care. They even manage to find a little bit of time sometimes to go out and play on their 4 wheelers…and that’s amazing!!

Barry and his Uncle Bob have a slightly different relationship. While they often help each other out with just about any project they are working on, their most common time to see each other is Wednesday morning for breakfast. This has become a tradition for them. It is a time for uncle and nephew to stay connected. It is a special time for both of them, even though they would not probably put such a mushy label on things. The one thing I find most amazing, however, is that as much time as these two spend together, somehow no one has ever taken a picture of the two of them together!! Crazy!! I guess it isn’t about the proof you have of their friendship, but rather about the friendship itself. And, I’m here to tell you that Bob and Barry share a wonderful friendship that will last a lifetime.

Much like his grandpa, Barry is a bit of a workaholic, but he does manage to get out of town for frequent trips Here, let me show you how it is doneBobwith his wife Kelli, and her mom, Mary Wages. The girls have benefitted quite well from having Barry around, because they like to take trips, see lots of places, and attend concerts, and so does Barry. You remember the saying…all work and no play, makes Johnny a very dull boy. Well, Barry is not a dull boy, but he does manage to get a lot of work in there too. Today is Barry’s birthday. Barry, I hope you will take a little bit of time out of your busy life to play some too, after all, if you can’t take some time off on your birthday, when can you? Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageimageThis morning, as my family worked to rake up all the leaves at my mother’s house, I found myself taken back to my childhood years. I remember the many times when my dad would tell all of us girls to get our coats on so we could go out and rake the lawn. I can’t say that it was always the most fun day of our lives, because we really didn’t want to get out there and rake…especially if it was cold outside. Nevertheless, we did as we were told, and like it or not, we raked up all those leaves. These days when we rake Mom’s lawn, we have to tell ourselves that it is time, because Dad isn’t here to get things started. Still, we know that he loved his yard, and he would want it taken care of, so we get out there and take care of it. Today was that day that we told ourselves that the time had come…before the bad weather that is coming on Monday, showed it’s ugly face.

imageimageWe usually send out a text to the people that we know we can count on to be there, and Mom and Cheryl provide the breakfast of donuts and a lunch of sandwiches and chips. When all the workers have assembled, the work begins. We normally have three or four men show up too, but this year just didn’t work out. The men were either out of town or working. Thankfully, we had my niece, Jenny Spethman’s boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac to strong arm the bags full of leaves out to the alley for us. Other than those boys, we girls were the worker bees for the day. We had a great time, laughing and fighting the wind for the leaves. I know that a number of them ended up down the street instead of in the bags, because we had a pretty good wind going.

We had a couple of other helpers that we hadn’t exactly planned on, as well. My niece, Jenny’s daughter, Aleesia, and my niece Jessi Sawdon’s dog, Daisy. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say that the two imageimageof them managed to remove as many leaves from the piles as they stuck into them. While Jenny was trying to bag the leaves, Aleesia wanted to help, but instead of putting leaves in the bag, she pushed them the other way…out of the pile. As to Daisy, she thought the leaves were something to pay with…or at least in, so she would jump around in the leaves and try to play with the workers. It was all pretty cute, and despite the distractions, we did manage to get the leaves raked up before lunchtime. It just goes to show you what a few worker bees can do.

Our FamilyMemories come from many different places. They can be triggered be sights, sounds, taste, touch, and even smells…which is exactly what happened to me this morning. Bob and I were having breakfast at Perkin’s, and when they brought my food and I poured syrup, the view of the food on the plate, and the smell of that syrup, sausage, and eggs, took me back about 45 years or so, to those hurried Sunday mornings when we were all scrambling to get ready for church. Five girls and two parents trying to get ready using one bathroom…well, you can imagine. My dad usually got up early and got out of the way…it was safest that way. Getting in the way of 6 women getting ready to go somewhere can be very hazardous, and since Dad had been around us all our lives, heknew very well when it was time to get out of the way of his girls.

We usually went to church after a quick bowl of cold cereal. It wasn’t much, but we knew that breakfast would be brunch that day, when we came home to have a relaxing and lazy Sunday afternoon. I remember the smells coming from the kitchen after church. bacon or sausage and eggs cooking, usually toast, but sometimes pancakes. I would get so hungry waiting for everything to be ready. The smell in the house was incredible. I remember watching my mom or dad cooking the eggs in the bacon grease, carefully flipping the grease over the yoke, so the yoke stayed runny. It was great for dipping your toast in, after it broke and ran all over your plate. There really was a reason you had toast with eggs and bacon.

Finally everything was ready, and we all sat down at the table. After we said our prayer, we were finally able to take that first bite. It tasted so good. I think sometimes it is a good imagething to delay a full meal, because when you sit down to eat…finally, there is just nothing that tastes better. Then we would sit around the table, and talk about our lives. It was a time to catch up on things. As we all got older, we were so busy, and you can easily lose touch with what is going on with each other, if you do ever take time to catch up. As Bob and I sat there eating, I found myself missing those days very much. Since my Dad is in Heaven, and the rest of us have families, we are as busy as our parents were then. We seldom have time to catch up like we did in those days gone by. I really missed those days today.

Siara & Chantel Christmas 2012As our trip to Washington winds down, we find ourselves in Great Falls, Montana where our newest college girl is attending the University of Great Falls. Siara is a cheerleader for the Argonauts. This is her first year of college, and the first time away from home. When she left Casper, she seemed like such a little girl still, but when she was home at Christmas, I was surprised at how much like an adult she now seemed. I guess that is normal, when kids get out on their own for the first time, but more so I think when they get married or go away to college. They have to rely on themselves for everything for the first time in their lives, and that changes a person.

Like most college kids, whose hours are long during the week, and late on the weekends, CheerleadersSiara’s favorite thing to do is sleep. She is up by 5:30 three mornings a week for cheer practice, and also has several exercise classes she must attend to stay limber, and keep in shape for all the moves that cheerleaders do these days. As most of us know, cheerleading is now half gymnastics and half cheering. After a very early practice, Siara and some of her teammates hit the cafeteria for a good breakfast. Siara tells us that breakfasts at the school are amazing. That’s important after a workout, because I would imagine they are starving.

Siara’s class schedule is, in my opinion, pretty perfect, because while she has a heavy schedule, all the classes are scheduled from Monday through Thursday, so every weekend is a 3 day weekend. I would love that, and so does she…more days to sleep in until noon or 1:00. Now that is typical. So many people…adults, anyway, use those weekends to do work Good friendsaround the home or yard…imagine that, not sleeping through the weekend. But I suppose that if I had a 3 day weekend every week, I might want to take one of the days to sleep until noon, if I could manage it, since sleeping in for me is 8:00.

College changes people to a large degree, but some things never really change. Siara is still that cute little niece I know and love. She is sweet and funny, and loves to laugh. Her smiling face brings sunshine into an otherwise cloudy day. I know she will continue to grow up and change, but it’s nice to know that some things will always stay the same…whether she is a college girl or a wife and mother. She will always be our Siara.

Mom SchulenbergMy mother-in-law is in the hospital tonight. Her age, Pneumonia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Diabetic related Kidney disease are taking a toll on her body. We don’t know how long she will be with us, as she is in and out.  When she is somewhat lucid, this dear sweet lady is asking us things like, “Do you want me to make you some breakfast?” or “Did you feed that brown dog?” Here she is very ill with Pneumonia and very messed up electrolytes, causing her to hallucinate about things like the crocheting she used to do, and the pets she used to have, yet she is thinking about doing for others. She isn’t moaning and complaining about how much she hurts, and demanding that something be done for her. She is thinking of others…or she is resting quietly…asking very little. She just weaves her story as she goes along.

She has always wanted to make sure that guests didn’t go away hungry, and so offering to make breakfast for Kevin, Corrie, Amy, and Josh isn’t so unusual, but she hasn’t cooked in years, so you would think that she wouldn’t bring that up. That is what Alzheimer’s Disease does though…takes away your present and leaves you only the past. She lives in an alternate reality…a review of the life she lived. Much of what she says makes sense only to her, and those who knew her in her young life.

I mentioned the dog question to my father-in-law, telling him that I had assured her that we fed the dog this morning. He said the dog had to be Brownie, a dog they had when Bob was a baby. A picture popped into my head…a picture of my sister-in-law, Marlyce with a brown dog. I had written a story about that dog with Marlyce just 3 days ago. I didn’t really know the whole story, when I wrote the story, I could just see that Marlyce and her dog loved each other. It would take my mother-in-law’s trip down memory lane to bring out the full story of how protective the dog was of Marlyce…often stopping her from going Walter & Joann Schulenberg wedding day 1949_editedwhere she shouldn’t…like too close to the railroad tracks near their home. And yet, it was just what I was thinking when I looked at the picture.

I don’t know how this hospital stay will end. My mother-in-law is a fighter, and I don’t believe that she will leave this world until she is ready to go. We all hope and pray that she will stay with us a little while longer, because we are not ready to have her go. I guess we never will be ready, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because when it comes right down to it, we will have no say in the matter. All we can do, when the time arrives is to remember that she lived a good long life…even if part of it was lived in the past…in an alternate reality.

From almost the day he was born, my nephew, Barry was Grandpa’s boy. He wanted to do everything with his grandpa. Barry was highly motivated for a little kid. Oh, he liked his toys and especially trucks too, but he wanted to do man’s work most of all. He was practically a little grown up from birth. Not very many people are like that. Most little kids want to play all day. They don’t want to be bothered with work. Barry wasn’t sure he wanted to be bothered with play. It was always funny to hear Barry say that he wasn’t going to school, because he had to stay home and work with Grandpa. To Barry, there was nobody better than his grandpa.

Barry is all grown up now, and yes…he did go to school, although I’m not sure he was always happy about it. His love for and connection to his grandpa has never changed. There has and always will be a closeness there. Barry is one of the people that I know I can count on to help out with care for my in-laws, for that very reason. If I ask him to help me with them, he is quick to respond to that need. Help just doesn’t get better than that.

Not a whole lot has changed a far as Barry’s interests are concerned. He still likes trucks, motorcycles, and pretty much any type of mechanical work. He has added hiking with his wife, Kelli to that mix, a pass time I can totally relate to and one I don’t think his grandpa ever did. Of course, there are several of us who have taken up that pass time, and fully enjoy every minute that we are able to get out there and enjoy nature.

Barry has grown from a cute little grandpa’s boy to a man that I respect very much. Many times I don’t know what I would do without him. I know Bob feels the same way, as they have to get together once a week for breakfast and good conversation. They can each be counted on to help the other when needed too. Happy birthday Barry!! Have an awesome day!!

As a young bride, I wanted to be the best wife ever. I suppose that is what all young wives what to do. So they go out of their way to please their new husband. I was no different. Bob went to work at 5:00 am, so I got up at 4:00 am and made him a nice breakfast of all his favorite things. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes, with orange juice and coffee, a breakfast fit for a king, or so I hoped. Going out for breakfast was one of the things we really enjoyed doing when we were dating.

For months Bob faithfully ate his breakfast every morning before he left for work. I then went about my day of cleaning and planning his dinner. I was in Seventh Heaven. Our life together was shaping up to be a “happily ever after” kind of life.

We went on like this for months. I was tired, getting up at 4:00 in the morning, but I was doing it for my man, and I knew that I could always go back to bed when he left for work. The main thing was that I knew that he went to work feeling full, well cared for, and most of all, loved. And he did feel those things, without a doubt, but there was something else he was feeling. Something I didn’t know about. After such a big breakfast, so early in the morning, Bob would go to work feeling so over full that it almost made him feel sick…even though the food was good.

Finally, after months of dealing with this problem, and not wanting to hurt his new wife’s feelings, Bob couldn’t take it any more. I remember him telling me that he needed to talk to me about something. Of course, as a new wife, I didn’t want to hear that, but I agreed. Bob…carefully choosing his words…told me that he simply couldn’t eat breakfast that early in the morning…it made him feel sick. He was so apologetic, and I could tell that he felt horrible telling me that.

What he didn’t know, is that I really hated getting up at 4:00 am to cook breakfast. I felt tired all day. I had never really been a morning person, although I learned to be later, but at that time…no way. I told Bob we really needed to talk more, and we both laughed about a what a funny situation that had been. I guess it was all about learning to communicate.

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