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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.

My Aunt Doris Spencer is a wonderful woman who has always had a great sense of humor and a great imagination. When my mom, Collene Byer Spencer married my dad, Allen Spencer, they moved from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin. Dad’s family was from Superior, and most still lived there, so Dad was quite comfortable going home again. Mom was a young bride, who didn’t know anyone there, but found a new sister-in-law and best friend in Aunt Doris. They quickly became inseparable. They lived across the back yard from each other…there was no ally to separate the homes, but rather, just a fence and a gate. It was a great place to raise cousins, their children, together.

I am reminded sometimes, of my aunt and uncle’s cabin at Lake Superior, and all the fun we had there over the years. Everything from time spent in the Lake, to the drive out too the lake. Wonderful memories all. My sister, Cheryl and I were talking about a particularly funny incident the other day. Our Uncle Bill was already at the cabin, and Aunt Doris and my cousin Pam, their daughter, were coming out later. As she drove, probably is a hurry for the weekend at the cabin to begin, she wasn’t really paying close attention to the speed of the car. Before she became aware that she was speeding, she heard sirens coming up behind her. Like most of us the feeling of immediate dread leapt up, but I don’t think Aunt Doris had ever received a ticket in her life. She was really very shook up about it. I’m not sure she even knew how shook up she was, but I’m sure that her daughter knew how shook up she was, because Aunt Doris mentioned later that Pam had said, “Are you afraid of that man, Mommy?”

The police officer, told her she had been speeding, and that he was going to have to give her a ticket. He went back to his car to write the ticket. For her part, Aunt Doris simply drove away. I can only imagine what went through the police officers mind. I’m sure he knew that Aunt Doris wasn’t any kind of a criminal. No one, whether they knew Aunt Doris or not, could possibly have though she could be a criminal. She simply wasn’t the type…couldn’t possibly be the type. So, he didn’t go after the woman who, being shook up, had driven away instead of waiting for her ticket.

Aunt Doris arrived at the cabin, and told Uncle Bill about the police officer and the speeding ticket. I’m sure that it was very clear to him that she was very shook up about the whole incident. After listening to her account of the traffic stop, Uncle Bill said, “Well ok. Let’s see the ticket.” Aunt Doris asked, a bit shocked, “What ticket?” Uncle Bill said, “The ticket he gave you!!” Then the realization came, probably to both of them, that there was no ticket, because she had simply driven away. Of course, my Uncle Bill, being quite mischievous, began to tell her that the police were going to be after her for leaving, and I can just picture my rather innocent aunt “freaking out” at the thought of the police showing up to “haul her off” in handcuffs. Of course, no such arrest ever took place, because the police officer, simply passed the event off as the actions of a woman who had never received a ticket before, and was terribly shook up about it. Besides, just imagine going back to the station and telling the guys that a woman drove away when he was trying to write her a ticket. Would he become the laughingstock, or maybe he did tell them, and they all laughed at the situation, and agreed that he couldn’t give her a ticket now…he just couldn’t!!

Today is my Aunt Doris’ 96th birthday, and while she like most people in the United States is under lockdown, it isn’t because of any arrest, because that arrest never came. She is living quietly, still in Superior, Wisconsin, and doing very well indeed…clear in mind, and healthy in body, for which we are all thankful, Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!

My nephew, Ryan Hadlock is very much a family man. He and his wife, Chelsea have a son, Ethan, and a daughter, Aurora. Ethan is in midget football right now, and Ryan never misses a game. Ryan also attends all the kid’s school performances and activities. Recently, he took Aurora on a Daddy/Daughter Date. He has also attended the Donuts with Dad event, and all their other activities too. Ryan is a great husband to his wife, Chelsea, and they are very happy together. They just celebrated their 11th anniversary in April, and they are still going strong.

Ryan is a helpful guy. Not only with his own family, but with his parents, sisters, and other family members as well. As his parents, Allyn and Chris Hadlock have been working on the new home they are building, Ryan has been there to help them whenever he could. Ryan helped his parents insulate the upstairs in the new house, and he helps his dad in the garage a lot. He helps his brother-in-law, Jason Sawdon anytime he needs it. When his youngest sister, Kellie Hadlock bought her first house, Ryan was quick to help her move, paint, and fix things in her house. He winterized the sprinklers at his house, his parents’, and Kellie’s house too.

He loves his nieces. Being an uncle was something he was really looking forward to and he hasn’t disappointed in that department. Nieces, Adelaide Sawdon and Mackenzie Moore love him so much. He is so fun, and dotes on the little girls. He loves to tease and laugh, but he also has a calm demeanor that adds great value to his whole family. My sister, Allyn tells me just how much fun it has been to see him as a dad and an uncle. They are two roles that he has really excelled in.

He has a calm demeanor that adds great value to their family, but never mistake his “calm demeanor” for a lack of a sense of humor, because you will definitely be caught off guard. Ryan is a great son and brother too. He has helped his sister Kellie a lot in her new house. Ryan and brother-in-law, Jason Sawdon helped her move. Ryan loaned Kellie his lawn mower, gave her a weed eater, and made sure her bed was put together. I’d say Kellie has been very blessed in the brother/brother-in-law department. The whole family has been very blessed with Ryan. Today is Ryan’s birthday. Happy birthday Ryan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Jason Sawdon, is a decorated patrolman for the Wyoming Highway Patrol. It is a position to be very proud of, and while he would never say that he is proud of himself, because he is not that kind of man, we are all proud of him and his work. Still, it is not his position as a patrolman that has endeared Jason to his family.

Jason is a wonderful husband to my niece, Jessi and an amazing daddy to their daughter, Adelaide. He has such a soft heart when it comes to his girls, and he would gladly give them the moon…if he could reach it. I love seeing him with his girls, because the love he feels for them is evidenced on his face. There is a look that you see on a man’s face when he has found that his life’s dream is sitting right there beside him. It’s as if he almost can’t believe how very blessed his life has become. Of course, his girls feel the same way about Jason. They know that when God gave them Jason, He gave them the best He had. That’s how a match made in Heaven works. God gives each party the person that is the very best for them.

Jason has a great sense of humor and brings much fun and laughter into their home. And of course, his good nature and that of my niece, have made their little Adelaide into a bit of a comic in her own right, With parents like hers, what else would she be. She has learned from two of the best comics I know.

All humor aside though, I can honestly say that Jason and Jessi are two people who I feel very blessed to know. They are hard working, talented people, who live life to the fullest. They are involved with their community, and work to make it a better place to live. They aren’t afraid of hard work, and they have made their home a sweet place to raise their family. They love to go camping and hang out with family and friends…especially at the Hadlock place on Casper Mountain. And they love to head back to Michigan to visit Jason’s family there, because family is what it’s all about. Today is Jason’s birthday. Happy birthday Jason!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When two people get married, everyone wonders how their lives will turn out. More than wondering if they will stay together is the question of will they make a good team? Or will they always seem to be going in the same direction? These are all things that no one knows at the point that a couple gets married. Those question and many others will be answered when the couple has been married a number of years.

Our youngest daughter, Amy Royce and her husband, Tavis have stood the test of time, and after 24 years of marriage, I can say that the do make a good team, and they are usually going in the same direction…except during football season, when he roots for the Chicago Bears, and she for the Green Bay Packers. Still, more important than that is the genuine desire to give each other the best life possible. Their motto is “Live, Laugh, Love,” and they do just that.

They love living in northern Washington state, and spending lots of time outdoors. Sitting around their firepit is a common evening event, as is playing a variety of games with their grown children, Shai and Caalab, and their significant others, Jordan Chapman and Chloe Foster. They like playing Beer Pong, darts, and Corn Hole, but recently they bought a pool table, which will be lots of fun with the onset of cooler weather. Of course, north-west Washington state doesn’t see the same kind of cold weather that we get in Wyoming, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like it’s freezing, even when it’s just rain. That said, those indoor activities will be essential.

It really doesn’t matter what Amy and Travis are doing, as long as they are doing it together, because they love each other very much. I can’t imagine two people more suited to each other than these two. As a parent, it is wonderful to know that the man your daughter shares her life with is so good to her, and makes her life a joyous occasion every day. He makes her laugh at his silly jokes, and always lets her know that she is the love of his life. She, in turn, completes him in every way, and lets him know that he is the love of her life. Does life get better than that? I don’t think so. Today is Amy and Travis’ 24th anniversary. Happy Anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Some would consider the actions of Irena Sendler a crime, while others would consider them heroic. I suppose it was a crime, at the time it happened…a crime of opportunity, because her actions were illegal, but how could she had done anything different? Irena Sendler was born in Otwock, Poland, on February 15, 1910, to Stanislaw Henryk Krzyzanowski, a physician, and his wife, Janina Karolina Grzybowska Krzyzanowski. Irena grew up there in Otwock, a town about 15 miles southeast of Warsaw, where there was a Jewish community. Her father was a kind man who treated the very poor, including Jews, free of charge. Stanislaw died in February 1917 after he contracted typhus from his patients. After his death, the Jewish community offered financial help for the widow and her daughter, though Janina Krzyzanowski declined their assistance. I’m sure she knew they really didn’t have the money to help, but offered because of her husband.

In 1931, Irena married Mieczyslaw Sendler, and the couple moved to Warsaw before the outbreak of World War II. The couple divorced in 1947. Irena then married Stefan Zgrzembski. They had three children, Janina, Andrzej (who died in infancy), and Adam (who died of heart failure in 1999). Then, they divorced in 1957. She remarried Mieczyslaw Sendler in 1961, but they divorced again in 1971. In college, Irena had studied to became a social worker, and she remembered the lessons of her father…to show kindness to others. It was a life lesson that would prove useful in Irena’s future.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Irena had access to the Warsaw Ghetto through her job. The ghetto was where hundreds of thousands of Jews were imprisoned. The situation there appalled her. Irena became a member of the Council to Aid Jews, and worked as a social worker, overseeing the city’s canteens, which provided assistance to people in need. After the Nazi invasion, Irena and her colleagues also used the canteens to provide medicine, clothing and other necessities to the city’s persecuted Jewish population. Her actions enabled her to help rescue 2,500 Jewish children from the ghetto. The group had several ways of smuggling the children out of the ghetto. Some were carried out in caskets or potato sacks, while others left in ambulances or snuck out through underground tunnels. Still others entered the Jewish side of a Catholic church that straddled the ghetto boundary and left on the other side with new identities. Irena then helped place the children at convents or with non-Jewish families. The operation was run with clockwork-like precision. As the situation grew worse for the ghetto’s inhabitants, Irena went beyond rescuing orphans and began asking parents to let her try to get their children to safety. Although she couldn’t guarantee the children’s survival, she could tell parents that their children would at least have a chance. The parents knew that it would be their children’s only chance. Irena kept detailed records and lists of the children she helped buried in a jar. She planned to reunite the rescued children and their parents after the war. Unfortunately, most of the parents did not survive.

On October 20, 1943, the Nazis arrested Irena and sent her to Pawiak Prison. She was tortured in an attempt to get her to reveal the names of her associates. She refused and was sentenced to death. However, Council to Aid Jews members bribed the prison guards, and Irena was released in February 1944. Irena continued her work until the war ended, by which time she and her colleagues had rescued approximately 2,500 children. It has been estimated that Irena personally saved about 400 children. In 1965, Irena was honored for her courageous actions during the Holocaust. She was given Israel’s Yad Vashem to honor her as “Righteous Among the Nations.” Irena died in Warsaw, Poland on May 12, 2008, at the age of 98.

My grand-nephew, Keifer Balcerzak has been in our family since his dad, Dave married my niece, Chantel in 2002. In that time I have watched him grow from young teenaged boy of 14 years, to a great husband and father. In 2015, Keifer married his long-time girlfriend, Katie, and then just before Christmas of 2017, Keifer and Katie welcomed their daughter, Reece, who arrived far earlier than she was supposed to and gave everyone a scare…especially her parents. With Reece’s arrival, everything changed for Keifer and Katie. Yes, babies change things, but having a baby that must also fight for her life is something that most of us don’t go through, and if you weren’t grown up before that time, you definitely grew up then. Watching your child struggle to grow and catch up to where she should have been when she was born is very hard. Keifer and Katie learned to lean on and depend on each other. They showed what they were made of. There strength was amazing to watch. Today, their family is intact. Reece is a growing and soon-to-be two year old girl.

Keifer has always been Dave’s mini-me, although he is no longer shorter than his dad. Nevertheless, in personality, looks, and pretty much every other way, Keifer and his dad are two of a kind. They are both very strong family men. They love their families with their whole being. When these two commit to something, they stay committed. They are very loyal to family and friends, and they have a giving heart. They are also good friends, a perk that comes later in life when the parenting skills were strong and in place. It is the reward for good parenting. I know that Keifer and Katie will have the same reward when their daughter and their future children grow up. Of course, the greatest parenting skill is love, and they have that, for sure.

Keifer inherited his dad’s talent with tech stuff too. They both have the ability to fix and program just about anything technical. Computers are their forte, and they know them inside and out. They can build them or fix them. They both have kind hearts that lead them to help others whenever they are able. The qualities that Keifer and his dad have endear them to those around them. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

With the new school year just beginning, the reality is that the year’s end will arrive in incredibly short order. Football, basketball, and track will be over, and before we know it, the high school students are getting ready for prom again. Everyone wants their prom to be that wonderful dance that is unforgettable…one that they can carry the memories of forever. Proms are usually held in the school gym, or maybe at an events center, and on rare occasions, a hotel, but in 1975, in Washington DC, was held what could only be called the ultimate prom!! And don’t think your school could duplicate this particular prom, because they couldn’t. This particular prom was held at the White House!! It was the only prom ever to be held at the executive mansion, which makes it an odd event in White House social history.

Our president at the time was Gerald Ford, and he had a 17 year old daughter named Susan. Like most daughters, Susan knew that her daddy wanted to make her happy. So, she asked him if her high school could hold their prom at the White House. It was the first and only prom ever to be held there…and not something that is likely to happen again. Susan went to school at the Holton-Arms school. The prom was held on March 31, 1975, and President and Mrs Ford were on their way from Belgium to Spain as part of a diplomatic tour of Europe. In their place was the president’s sister-in-law, Janet Ford, “a small figure in a white lace dress, casting a tolerant but observant eye on the proceedings.”

Over forty years later, the students who attended the regal prom still carry those wonderful memories of a very special prom that could never be equaled. They even got to take a sunset cruise on the presidential yacht. Many parties have been held at the White House, but none quite like this one. The White House was rockin’ that Saturday, with Susan Ford. her classmates and their dates, dancing the bump and the hustle in the East Room until 1:00am. Susan had been a student at the Holton-Arms School, an academy for girls in Bethesda, Maryland, since her freshman year. “The members of the class of 1975 paid the cost of the prom…$1,300, after raising funds at bake sales and school fairs. Tablecloths were made out of floral pink and yellow sheets. The menu included Swedish meatballs and quiche, as well as a nonalcoholic punch made of tea, lemonade, soda, grape juice, and sugar. Susan and her classmates assembled the centerpieces, candles in a setting of daisies, tulips, lilies, sweet peas, and ming fern.”

“The girls wore long dresses, light makeup, casual hairdos, and, in many cases, orchid corsages,” the Associated Press reported. “Many of their escorts, in black or white tuxedos, wore boutonnieres and below-the-collar length hair.” “Susan, at that age, was strikingly beautiful,” says Sally Alexander, a retired English teacher at Holton-Arms, who was one of six chaperones. “And it’s a great deal of fun to watch a bunch of beautiful young girls with handsome young men, all dressed up. They were clearly excited about being where they were, but they were not uncomfortably awed. It was a beautiful affair.” And of course, the media was there to document the entire historic prom. So, if you want your prom to be this cool, you had better start planning now…or maybe several years ago.

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