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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.

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!!

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