My cousin, Darla Stanko passed away on February 26, 2023, at 63 just years old. As I think of Darla, I remember her laugh, which was just like her mother’s. It was sweet and a little shy, but when they laughed…you laughed, because their laugh was contagious. As kids, we would all go down in Grandma Byer’s basement to play, while the grownups visited upstairs. Grandma’s basement was a little creepy and worked well as a “haunted” house…if the kids liked that sort of thing. Some did and some didn’t. I preferred other games. I think Darla did too. She had asthma and scary stuff could trigger things.
As kids do, we all grew up…quicker than we would ever have dreamed possible. Before long, babies were coming along. I remember talking to Darla once. She told me that without a doubt, the best thing she ever did was JeanAnn, and of that I have no doubt. For a mom to look at the beautiful little baby they have just given birth to…there is no greater honor. Kids are a big part of our lives, and games are a part of kids. JeanAnn told me about the times she and her mom played cards. Their favorite game was Speed…which is a high drama card matching game for two players. It was perfect for them.
The other thing that JeanAnn and her mom loved to do was to spend time jumping on the trampoline in their yard. I can just picture it now, a summer evening in the back yard, just the two girls, jumping and giggling the hours away. Of course, there was also their dog, Nelly with them too. Now Nelly was a different sort of dog. She was very gentle with JeanAnn, but then she was JeanAnn’s guard dog. She was also gentle with Darla too…except for that one time. JeanAnn could make Nelly mad and then point at a new person, and Nelly would go get that person. That was all well and good…until JeanAnn did that to her mom. My guess is that JeanAnn had no idea what was about to take place. Darla saw it coming, and she jumped on the furniture to get away from the guard dog that was now hot on her trail. She almost knocked herself out jumping down. JeanAnn says, “It was great” and maybe it was…for her anyway. Darla…maybe not so much, but I’m sure she laughed about it later.
Now, for me, possibly the funniest story about Darla’s life was the “fateful” trip to Denver. Darla decided to take her daughter to Denver, and to take her mom, my Aunt Delores Johnson with them. She needed a “navigator” and while I can’t picture my Aunt Dee in that capacity, maybe Darla thought map reading was like breathing…anyone could do it. My thought is, “Have you met your mother?” Anyway, off they went, and to make a long story short, they ended up on a one street in rush hour traffic, going the wrong way!!” Oh yes, that’s the Aunt Dee I know, and I can totally picture that whole situation…once I can stop laughing!!
My daughter and son-in-law, Amy and Travis Royce, met while he was in high school, and she had just graduated. Nevertheless, once they met, they were inseparable. Looking back now on these 27 years of their marriage, it’s easy to see that they are perfect for each other…they always have been perfect for each other. They have always been headed in the same direction and had the same interests…some of which have been a bit of a surprise to me over the years.
I knew that Amy really loved the beach and really enjoyed the Pacific Northwest, and I knew that Travis had lived in Washington, but somehow it never occurred to me that they would actually move there. Of course, now I can’t imagine them living anywhere else. They love it there, and I love to visit them there, because I have grown to love the beauty of that area too. The rainforest, the beaches, and the islands all hold a great appeal. I don’t say I’d move there, but do I love to visit.
These days, things have changed some for Amy and Travis. They are both working from home now, and they really are enjoying that. Amy’s work as an insurance agent has continued, but since Covid, her company found that they could be just as efficient with agents who worked from home. Travis, on the other hand has decided to open a woodworking business, and I can tell you firsthand that Travis’ work, and that of their son, Caalab is very, very good. Caalab is just learning, but he is his dad’s son, and the talent is definitely in his hands too. The new dynamic of their lives is rather freeing. Their daughter, Shai was also working from home, but her company has asked her to come back to the office in an additional capacity. Shai is an agent too, at the same agency where Amy works, but they want Shai to assist her manager with interviews. So now she is assisting with interviews too, and that job, for now anyway, needs to have her in the office. For Amy and Travis this new lifestyle is very relaxing, but of course it is also a lot of work. While they are at home together, they both work full-time at their jobs. Nevertheless, it is a new dynamic, and it comes at a great point in their lives. Today is their 27th wedding anniversary. I am very proud of the people they have become. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis. Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grandnephew, Keifer Balcerzak is a busy guy these days. Keifer and his wife, Katie now have two kids, with the addition of Aysa on November 8, 2021, making their daughter, Reece a big sister. Keifer and Katie are wonderful parents, who are always encouraging their children to experience life to its fullest. Keifer love most sports, and these days plays softball, in addition to the sports he loves to watch. In fact, the teams he has played on have taken first place a number of times, including this year when the team he was on with his dad, were the All Around Safety USSSA Wyoming State Champions. I can see down the road, that Keifer will have lots of fun watching and participating in sports with his kids and probably even coaching as the years go by…maybe he already has with Reece. Keifer and Katie are definitely “hands-on” when it comes to raising their kids. They love to do things with them, encourage their personal growth, and show them all the possibilities in life. Keifer and Katie really are great parents.
Keifer and Katie are two of the happiest people I know. They are always smiling. They have been together for a long time now, and I can’t imagine it any other way. Some couples are just perfect for each other right from the start, and even though they are young, you can tell that it’s a forever kind of love. Keifer and Katie’s marriage has withstood the test of time, and now they have been married over 7 years. They are still very much in love, and they are still very happy. It’s a wonderful thing to see. Their family is very blessed, and now with their second child, complete. They have their daughter, and they have their son. It’s like what many people would consider the perfect family.
Keifer is his daughter’s superhero, and his son’s best buddy. Keifer loves being a dad. He is also a wonderful uncle to his nieces and nephews. Keifer really just loves kids in general, of all ages…and they love him. He’s so much like his dad, Dave Balcerzak. Both of them are like big teddy bears, and their smiling faces draw the kids to them both. Keifer and his dad love to watch football together, and unless something has changed, they both love the Pittsburgh Steelers. That does make for a more compatible game time. Keifer is just a guy who loves his family and loves life. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
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 niece, Kayla Stevens is a great mom to the daughter that she and my nephew, Garrett Stevens share. Elliott will be 4 years old on August 3rd, and she will become a big sister just a few days from now. The really nice thing for Kayla with this new baby is that she works from home. While Elliott goes to daycare, because Kayla’s job is such that having an older child at home during working hours is not feasible, having the baby at home will be ok, probably for the first year or so anyway. That will be a wonderful bonding time for the two of them too. By then, Elliott will be in school, so Kaya and Garrett will still only have to have one child in daycare, which is nice, considering the cost of daycare. We are all excited for their coming little addition, and they are busily getting ready.
Kayla is social worker with the Veterans Administration in Sheridan. I can’t think of a more caring person for our veterans. She has found that her work with the Veterans Administration has truly been fulfilling. When she first started working as a social worker, she was on the substance abuse team at the Wyoming Mental Health Team, which I think was probably the hardest of her positions. Later she was moved to the child and family team, which I really thought she would stay with. I think the Lord just had better plans for her, and her work with the Veteran’s Administration has shown that to be true. Our veterans deserve caring people, like Kayla, to help with their needs,
Kayla’s may life work, however, will always be her family. She loves spending time with her daughter and husband. They go to the park, and Elliott delights them with her antics. She is a smart little girl and is always showing them what she can do. They have her in swimming and gymnastics, and she is always wowing them with her tricks. Being a mom is probably the greatest blessing Kayla has ever received, and becoming a mom again is just as awesome. I can’t believe how close the date is getting, and I can’t wait to meet baby Stevens number two. I love that Kayla is so good about sending me videos and pictures of Elliott’s life and activities. It is hard when these kids live in a different town, but she makes it easy to be a part of their lives…and I very much appreciate that. Today is Kayla’s birthday. Happy birthday Kayla!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I first met my niece, Amanda Reed in 2002, when she was a 16-year-old girl with “stars in her eyes” as they say. Her dad, Mike Reed married my sister, Caryl that year, and they became a blended family. Life was mostly in her future then, because she was still in high school, but that was 20 years ago, and a lot has changed. Amanda went to work at the Rawlins National Bank at a young age and has worked her way up to the pretty prestigious position of BSA Agent, which is a part of the law enforcement area of the bank. She is involved in deterring fraud, money laundering, and such. I don’t claim to know all she does, but I know that it is an important part of the banking system.
Also, since high school, she and her partner, Sean Mortensen have a little family of their own, with their daughter Jadyn coming on the scene almost 18 years ago. They have done and exceptional job of raising their beautiful girl, who will be going to the University of Wyoming in the fall on a rodeo scholarship.
That said, Amanda and Sean are about to become empty nesters, and I just wonder how they will feel about that, because I have really never seen parents who have included their child in every aspect of their lives like these two have. Jadyn is a very well-adjusted kid, because of how her parents raised her, and she is someone they can both be very proud of. Now, with Jadyn off to college, life is about to take another turn for Amanda and Sean.
They have always been involved in whatever Jadyn is doing, and she was involved in their activities. From Summer sports to Winter sports and everything in between, this active family stayed very busy, and I’m sure that even with Jadyn away at college, that will not change. When they aren’t traveling to some of her rodeo events, I’m sure they will still be hanging out with their large group of friends at the lake or in the mountains, depending on their plans for the day and the season it is. Amanda and Sean have a very active social life, and they are always on the go. The only difference now will be that they will have one less person in their entourage, and while they are happy for their daughter, I’m sure Amanda and Sean are a little bit sad for themselves too. Being an empty nester is an adjustment, no matter how you slice it. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
A year seems like a long time, but in reality, it goes by so fast. One year ago today, my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven. She had a stroke, and recovery was not to be. Rachel left behind a husband, Ron Schulenberg; daughter, Cassie Franklin; sons, Riley Birky and Tucker Schulenberg; her dad, Cliff Franklin; and brother, BJ Franklin, grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey; as well as lots of family and friends. Life wasn’t always easy for Rachel, but she was in a great place. She and my brother-in-law were so in love, and they had been happily married almost 11 years. Ron had adopted her son Tucker, and we are all thankful for that, because no one knew the future, but Tucker needed to be with Ron.
Now, a year after Rachel left us, a number of things have changed. Her daughter, Cassie was in a bad situation, and Rachel was worried about it. Cassie was able to walk away from that situation, and I know that Rachel would be so glad. Rachel’s son Riley struggled through the years, but Rachel always stuck by him. Today he is engaged to a great girl, Sierah Martin, and together they are raising her little boy, and expecting a new baby in August 2022. Rachel would have been glad. Tucker is getting ready to go to high school next year. High school…how could that be!! Tucker should still be that 2-year-old boy who firat came into our lives when Rachel and Ron got married. Ron and Tucker are doing ok. They are working hard to take care of each other, and about that, Rachel would be glad. Tucker went to a grief camp that included horses last summer, and not only did he find a love of horses, but he found out that a school friend also lost his mother about two years ago.
Ron probably hides his feelings more than most and tries to use physical labor to help him through it, but we are having monthly family dinners, and trying to pull him into socializing more. It’s hard, and we don’t pressure him, but rather we let him, as well as the kids, know that we are there for them in whatever way they need…and I think Rachel would be glad. Rachel was a loving caring person, and that is impossible to replace. The hole left in our hearts when she left is impossible to fill, at least without God. Rachel knew Jesus as her personal Savior, and so we know that she is living a wonderful life in Heaven. While that doesn’t make us miss her any less, it does remind us that she is happy, and she is looking forward to the day we all join her there. Happy first year in Heaven, Rachel. We love and miss you very much.
I can’t think of anything that is harder for a mom than watching your child go through some of the worst events of their lives. Many people who go through that kind of thing, would sit down and stew in their depression, but not my niece, Chantel Balcerzak. The past year has been harder on her and her daughter, Siara Olsen than it was for a lot of us. On January 25, 2020, Siara’s three month old son, Alec passed away after a short illness. On top of that her marriage fell apart, and she got divorced. It was the worst time of her life, and she needed the love and support of her family. Chantel stepped in and Siara moved home for a time of comforting and support from her parents. Both of these girls are strong women, and they were not going to sink further into depression. Instead, they supported each other, encouraged each other, and made a plan to have a year of self improvement. Chantel’s husband and Siara’s dad, Dave Balcerzak was right there too. Giving the girls the extra support they all needed. They were all hurting, but they had to move forward.
The girls took a look at themselves, and saw that as many people had done, during the Covid-19 shutdown, they and added a few pounds and lost some muscle, and they decided it was time to get back on the right track. So they began working out over Siara’s lunches, and even set a goal for them selves. They had seen a commercial in which some chipmunks who were out of shape decided to go for “All Buff ~ No Fluff” and they made that their goal. Siara has spent a number of years in high school and college as a cheerleader, and of course, she is 23 years younger than her mom, but she tells me that sometimes Chantel beats her when they are doing pushups, so that is really cool too. Chantel doesn’t do girly pushups anymore either. They do the hard kind where you are on your hands and toes. I believe the girls will reach their final goal of looking amazing. They have already come a long way.
Siara tells me that her mom was always there for here throughout this hard, hard year. She was there to comfort her and take her mind off of her troubles, and give her advise when she needed it. When Siara moved out again and got a place of her own, Chantel was there to help her decorate it and make it her own. Chantel is an artist, so of course, Siara’s place is incredibly beautiful, and that is a gift in itself. When the chips are down, Chantel is really the person you want to have in your corner. I’m very proud of her and Siara too. Today is Chantel’s 50th birthday. It’s a milestone, and she looks incredible for it. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Like she had in the past, my niece, Lindsay Moore is working for South Dakota State University. She if the director of HOP…the Health and Obesity Program. Lindsay’s degree is in Kinesiology, which is the science of the movement of the body, so it is a perfect position for her, and since they are perfectly fine with her working from home, it is a perfect position for Lindsay, who loves being able to stay at home with her daughter Mackenzie.
Mackenzie is now sleeping in her own room, which Lindsay and her husband, Shannon have turned into a sweet little girl room for her…complete with a polka-dot accent wall. Mackenzie loves everything about the room her parents created for her…when the family isn’t camping that is. This year, Covid-19 abruptly ended the school year for many, and the University of Wyoming was no exception. Shannon was suddenly at home with his family, and it was the greatest treasure Lindsay can imagine. It allowed trips to visit her parents, Allyn and Chris Hadlock in Casper, and his parents TJ and Mary Jo Moore. They also enjoyed having family members come to Laramie for visits. Once the campgrounds reopened, they did a lot of camping…mostly because they love it, but also to fend off cabin fever.
As happens with growing families, the Hadlock clan decided to do a group birthday party for Adelaide Sawdon, Aurora Hadlock, Lindsay Moore, and Mackenzie Moore. The party was a big success, culminating in a outdoor movie, utilizing a projector that Jessie Sawdon was able to borrow for the festivities. Everyone had a great time. Outdoor movies always were fun.
Lindsay has especially enjoyed having Shannon home so often, as it truly has been a gift. He got to spoil his girls, and Mackenzie became even more a “daddy’s girl,” than she was before. She and Lindsay always had a great bond, because of the time they spent together, but prior to this period, Shannon didn’t have the same kind of time to spend with their girl. It was a rare blessing, that will likely never happen again, and they made sure they treasured every moment of it. The added time also gave Lindsay and Shannon time to really enjoy being together. They worked on projects on the house, and spent time making plans for whatever future changes they will make.
This year was a unique year, and one that we really can’t expect to happen again. Covid-19 will pass into history, and the Pokes of the University of Wyoming will resume their football seasons again. Shannon will go back to work full time, and Lindsay will continue her work at SDSU. Before long, Mackenzie will be in school too. Time flies so fast. They will most likely never have such a sweet gift of time, in which they can relax and just enjoy being together, but they will always treasure the gift of time they were given. Today is Lindsay’s birthday. Happy birthday Lindsay!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I recently listened to a book entitled, Treasures From The Attic, by Mirjam Pressler (in conjunction with Gerti Elias, wife of Buddy Elias, cousin of Anne Frank). I was not sure upon beginning the book, if it would hold any value concerning my interest in World War II and the Holocaust, but my concerns were quickly laid to rest as I listened to the story unfold. I’m not going to go into the story line really, except to say that the “treasures” that lay in the attic were partly about Anne Frank, but really more about the Frank family, and their torturous journey to learn the truth, and then to recover from it.
The many letters written to the various members of the family to other members of the family, told the tale of not just loss, but the tragic and horrific time of not knowing. It was the “not knowing” that most tore at my heart. First the fact that most of Otto Frank’s extended family had no idea that his little family; comprised of his wife, Edith and daughters Margot and Anne; had fallen into the hands of the evil Nazi Regime. As was the practice during the Holocaust, the family was separated, and Otto did not know of the fate of his wife and daughters at the time of his release from Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of course, we now know that Edith had passed away on January 6, 1945, of starvation. His daughter, Margot died sometime in February or March 1945 of Typhus, and his daughter, Anne also died in February or March 1945 of Typhus. The bodies of the girls were thrown behind a building and later into a mass grave as their burial. The Jews were considered no more important that trash, and so were treated as such. While this is horrific enough, worse was the fact that all too often no record was kept of the dead, or their place of burial.
It was here that I began to feel the horrible longing, dread, and finally grief that the Frank family was going through. As anyone who has lost a loved on and doesn’t know what happened can tell you, the not knowing is almost worse than the reality of what happened. Your mind can conjure up so many things, and for Otto, who had also been in the camp can readily attest, the reality of Auschwitz-Birkenau was beyond all human comprehension, unless you had been there, and then you could not get it out of your head. Still, the months of waiting for news of his family, followed by years of grief and heartache over what they had suffered, was beyond anything that most people can fathom. As I finished the book, I felt a tremendous sense of loss, not only for the Frank family, but for the many Jewish families, who suffered in the camps, and after the Holocaust as they endeavored to locate lost loved ones, or at least to learn their fate. Many searched for years, and some have never found out the fate of their loved ones at all. It was truly heartbreaking, and yet, that search and not knowing, was the reality that was faced by many Holocaust survivors.