dinner

Every family struggles to find ways to do things together…not to mention the time to do so. Kids have their own activities, such as sports, dance, and other club and school activities. Parents work, kids have school, and then there are things that need to be done around the house. By the time dinner is cooked and eaten, and the table cleared, who feels like doing more activities. Plus, there is homework to be done. It seems like there isn’t time for anything more than a television show before bed.

Most of us think this is just something that has come with modern day families, where they barely have time to eat dinner together…if that. In reality, it is a problem that has been around for a lot longer. Kids just naturally grow up and become more independent, and parents get busier too. Something had to be done, so in 1939, so Charles Steinlauf stepped up. He didn’t build his bicycle for a record, because there wasn’t such a thing then. The Guinness book of records didn’t begin until the early 1950’s. Nevertheless, he was some “inventor” to use the word lightly. His was an interesting bicycle, and apparently it held something for everyone…I guess. As odd as it was, the bicycle really did work. The top rider, namely Charles steered the bicycle with an automobile steering wheel. His wife sat below operating a sewing machine. Their son was in back and their daughter sat on handle bars in front. When they stopped, the legs of the sewing machine kept the two story Goofybike, as it was called, from falling over. I don’t know any other way to safely stop it.

It might have been one of the strangest inventions in history, but, it did get his family out and about in Chicago, Illinois, and I’m certain it also brought them quite a bit of notoriety. I’m sure that there were lots of people who that of Steinlauf as that “weird inventor,” and to be honest, it looks like he just hooked a bunch of odds and ends together. It was, however, a little more technical than that, after all, just hooking a bunch of things together, does not a bicycle make. It has to be able to be ridden in order to really qualify as a bicycle, weird or not. And the Goofybike could be and was ridden by the whole Steinlauf family.

My grand-niece, Aleesia Spethman is the youngest child of her parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, and the youngest grandchild of my sister, Cheryl Masterson. Aleesia is a bubbly six year old girl who is getting ready to start first grade on September 4th. She is quite excited about the coming school year, but she is ok with it not starting for a couple of weeks. Aleesia has lots left to do with her summer, and then she will get back into the swing of things for school. She is a very active little girl and she loves to spend time with her parents, brothers, and her grandma.

After spending the day at home or doing things with her mom and brothers, Aleesia often spends time with her grandma in the evening. They love to hang out and watch movies or talk. It really isn’t about what they do, but rather that they do it together. They are just very close. On Thursday nights, my sister; her daughter, Liz; Aleesia; and I go out to dinner. It is our chance to do something fun…a girls’ night out sort of thing. Aleesia always feels special that she gets to hang out with the grown-ups. We always have a great time. Aleesia keeps us laughing, and we always have a great time.

As much as Aleesia loves to hang out with her grandma, she loves her family, and before long, she is ready to go home. Aleesia hates it when her grandma goes out of town, and she misses her very much, but she would really miss her family if she went along with grandma, so she doesn’t do that yet. Maybe someday. She is the kind of girl who really wants everyone she loves to be in the same place. In fact, if she had her way, she would probably have her grandma move in with her family, then she would never have to be separated from any of them. Aleesia is a little girl who has a deep love for her family. She might fight with her brothers, but they are her brothers, and she loves them. Of course, they love her too, and they treat her like she is a little princess. She really is, you know. She is the little princess that they had waited for a very long time. Today is Aleesia’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Aleesia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My older sister is without doubt, one of the nicest people I know. She is always careful of peoples feelings, and is generous to a fault. If she can help someone, she will help them. Cheryl is just a very caring person. She gave up much of her time to take care of our parents when they were ill, and often takes her youngest granddaughter, Aleesia for the evening, so that her parents can go to the summertime activities in downtown Casper with their sons. I’m sure that one day Aleesia will choose to go with them, but he loves her grandma very much and loves spending time with her.

Cheryl is a legal secretary for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville legal firm, and works for one of the busiest attorneys there, often working late hours to get everything done that needs to be done that day. She is very good at her job, and the attorney she works for has said that he would be lost without her, and really wishes she could see her way clear to refusing such things as vacation, because it is a real hardship for him when she is gone. Nevertheless, he has to persevere, because everyone needs a vacation.

Cheryl is a big fan of old movies or chic flicks, and so every Thursday night, she and I go to dinner with her daughter, Liz, and then we go back to her house and watch a movie. She and I don’t always agree on what makes a good movie, but usually we do. She has pretty good taste in movies…once you get away from things like “The Sound of Music” anyway. I know she would roll her eyes at me on that one, but there are just some shows that I can’t get into. Nevertheless, she got me going on the “Love Comes Softly” series, and “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” both of which I really enjoy. That sister time is really important to both of us, as we are very close, and we like to keep it that way. We have been good friends (and sisters) all our lives, and we don’t see any reason to change that now. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When I think of Easter, I immediately think of my Christian faith. I think of the miracle of salvation, and the willing sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The human race was in so much trouble. Sin had entered in and we were doomed. There was no way out, because the wages of sin is death and all has sinned. But God has a solution. Innocent blood must be shed to pay the price for all those who had sinned. There was not other way to reverse the curse that sin had brought sin the world.

The death of Jesus, on Good Friday, was a brutal one. As we know, humans have the ability to inflict horrible pain and wounds upon one another. Jesus was a man, but he was also God. He felt every brutal flogging, and endured every humiliation that was thrust upon him, and he did it knowing that it was vital. In fact it was the most important mission in history…past, present, and future. No single act would ever be more important, because the death on the cross was a “once for all” thing. His death reversed history. What the devil stole from the human race, Jesus returned.

When Jesus arose from the dead, three days later, our justification was complete. We could now go to Heaven, just by believing that Jesus had made that sacrifice for us, and accepting him as our Lord and Saviour. Such a simple way to receive eternal life, and yet, so many people refuse to receive, because they think they will have to give up their fun life. Little do they know what they are really giving up. This life is just a moment in time…Heaven is forever. The difference is stark. This life is fleeting and soon will be gone, but the next life will never end, and we can choose where we spend it, so we must choose wisely.

Many people celebrated with a big dinner, and Easter candy, and that is fine but people should never forget the real reason we celebrate Easter…the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Jesus is risen!! He is alive!! Happy Easter everyone!!

Whether you consider Valentine’s Day to be a highly commercialized day, geared toward getting the consumer to spend a bunch of money on silliness, or you see it as a day set aside to celebrate love, everyone who has loved ones in their life, has to deal with it in some way. Perhaps deal with it is a poor choice of words, but there are those who feel like that is exactly what the day is all about…and they have loved ones too. Of course, those same people feel like Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and all the others are the same commercialized money trap. I don’t really get that. Why not have a day here and there to celebrate the people who have blessed your life? After all, where would your life be without those wonderful people in it. Sometimes, I think people take their family so much for granted, that they forget how blessed they truly are.

I get that we are all busy. In fact, that is one reason why we should embrace these days. They remind us to take a moment out of our busy, hectic lives and remember the people who are always there for us…through thick and thin, and I don’t mean just our spouse. Our parents have given up many things to make a better life for their kids; our siblings basically guarantee that we always have friends; our kids, in whose eyes, we can do no wrong…at least when they are little. We have all of these people, who show us so much love, and then we complain about having to buy them a little box of candy or flowers!! What does that say about us?

There are also marriages and families that are a little bit more unconventional, who do things like dinner, or handmade gifts, and in reality it is not the gift that counts, but the thought…the sentiment…the love. And most of all, it’s about showing how much they are loved, because after all, it’s the love that matters. And since it is the love that matters, why not show it.

The Christmas rush is behind us for another year. The gifts are purchased, and wrapped, and for many people, already opened. Christmas dinner is being prepared and families are gathering together. The house is filled with laughter and conversation and stomachs are growling just a bit as the aroma of the turkey fills the air. It’s hard to wait for the meal to be ready. It’s such a wonderful time to be sharing with family. Many people think of these big dinners as a lot of work, and it can be almost a relief to have them over, but really, they are a gift. All to quickly, children grow up and sometimes, move away, and before you can even blink, everything has changed. All the more reason to cherish the times you have, while you have them.

So much has changed since the Christmases of my youth, and while I wouldn’t go back, because then I wouldn’t have my precious daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and now the new little great grandbaby that is on the way in late spring 2018. But, I do wish my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer were still here. Having them in Heaven brings a little bit of a melancholy feeling to an otherwise cheerful season. Nevertheless, knowing that they are spending their days in Heaven with Jesus…the reason for this season, makes me feel very happy for them, even if I’m sad for me. It has been 10 Christmases since I have seen my dad, and 3 Christmases since I’ve seen my mom, as well as, 5 Christmases since I’ve seen my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. It’s odd, I suppose to think of how many Christmases they have been gone, but they were such a big part of what Christmas was for me, as well as every day of my life, that I find it really hard not to contemplate the fact that so much has changed in the years since they left, and just how much we miss them.

While the commercialized part of Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts from loved ones, it is the ultimate gift that really is what Christmas is all about. I don’t know what other people think about gift giving, but for me, it is God’s children imitating the Father. God gave us the ultimate gift, when He sent His son, and Jesus gave us the ultimate gift when He gave His life for us. We can never give a gift that could begin to compare to the precious gift that God gave us, but it is a show of our love for each other, and I know that makes God happy. He wanted His children to love each other, just as He so loved the world. I’m thankful for the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and for the price He later paid, because without Him none of us would receive Heaven when we passed away. That you Father for your precious gift, and thank you Jesus for paying my debt. Happy birthday Jesus. We love you!!

Christmas Eve traditions can vary from family to family. My husband, Bob’s family always got together for a chili dinner on Christmas eve. Then they opened the presents, and the kids spent the rest of the evening playing with their new toys while all the parents sat around visiting. Sometimes Santa Clause would even show up, which was always a big hit among the little ones. Christmas morning was a day to relax and for the kids to play, while their parents prepared the huge Christmas dinner, and after dinner, all you could think of was how badly you wanted to lay down and sleep…especially when you had eaten two such dinners that day. Christmas dinner was just that way. It really should be followed with a nice long nap, stretched out on the couch to give the belly room.

As a little girl, Christmas eve was a time when we got to open one gift…always pajamas…which ensured good pictures on Christmas morning. We spent time singing Christmas carols. Our Christmas gifts were opened on Christmas morning. I think I always liked that way better, because the anticipation continued to build all night, and then we still had to wait for Mom and Dad to wake up and get things going in the morning. Of course, we really had no idea that they were awake before we were. I think they were just as excited as we were. When it came to Christmas, they were big kids too.

For my grandparents, Hattie and George Byer, as well as my niece, Raylynn Williams and her husband, Doug, Christmas Eve meant celebrating their wedding anniversary. For Grandma and Grandpa, a Christmas Eve wedding was probably more a matter of having family already gathered, and a wedding being held so people didn’t have to travel twice. For Raylynn, getting married on Christmas Eve was a way of honoring her grandparents…a way of sharing something special with them, even though they were both in Heaven by the time she married. It was like having them there at the wedding, and I’m sure that was exactly what Raylynn was thinking as she planned her special day.

Our daughter Corrie Petersen, her husband, Kevin, and their kids like the tradition we have of opening one gift, and then the rest on Christmas morning, and they have the added excitement of going to Kevin’s mom’s after our house. It really keeps them hopping. Our daughter, Amy Royce, her husband, Travis, and their kids like to watch a movie while eating cheese and sausage with crackers after the gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. For Bob and me…after the rush of Christmas Eve chili with the Schulenberg family, and of everyone coming for the traditional Christmas Eve gift opening session, it’s time to sit down and relax a while before everything starts in the morning, because Christmas dinner is held at our house now. Since my sisters, our families, and I have a party a week or so early, like the Byer family, we all spend Christmas with our own families now. With my parents in Heaven, the big day shifted to us. We love having everyone share it with us. Traditions change as families change, and it will continue to change in the future. The main thing is to enjoy the tradition, while remembering the reason for the season, the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

My dad’s younger sister, Ruth Spencer married a man named Lester Alonzo Wolfe…who went by Jim, and I truly can’t imagine him as Lester. He was Uncle Jim, and he was truly a kid at heart. He could be serious when he had to be, but that was not his real nature. Uncle Jim and my dad, Allen Spencer were good friends, more than brothers-in-law usually are. They were more like brothers, and what one didn’t think of, the other one did!! When the two of them got together, all bets were off. They came up with the craziest things, from antics to dinners. You never knew what they would do next.

Uncle Jim genuinely loved my sisters and me, and as we grew up and got married and had children, he loved our kids, too. He was so much like our Dad in that way. He always loved having kids around, and in response to all of us kids teasing him and cajoling him, he always obliged us by teasing and cajoling back. I suppose that had to do with the kid he was inside. Laughter was not something you saw in him once in a while, it was the norm with Uncle Jim. It didn’t matter where we were, or what we were doing…in the house, outside, on camping trips, or country drives, which we made often when they were in town…he was just so much fun! He and our Aunt Ruth both were, but he and Dad were such big kids themselves, that when they got together, they could relate to our need to have that fun interaction with our Dad and our uncle. They reveled in it, and it made them both very happy. They played well off of each other. Their fun attitudes and ways were contagious! And we all loved it!

Uncle Jim’s nature was good, clean, and fun-loving, and he had a kind heart. He would give us anything we asked for, if he could. If he bought a treat, it was for everyone. If there was a game to be played, everyone could play, and if there was an underdog, he was their champion! No one ever felt left out because of the inability to keep up with the better players, and none of us felt like we wished he wouldn’t do that. I think it taught us to be understanding of everyone…not just the best players. Uncle Jim thought nice thoughts, and then put them into nice actions. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.

Uncle Jim’s stories were the best and the most interesting. He could sure tell them, whether they were the truth or some of the great whoppers he told, that we, of course believed. Sometimes I think the whoppers were the best…things like walking ten miles in the snow, barefoot, and uphill both ways. Those were the kind of stories they told us, and we were gullible enough to believe. He could tell a story better than anyone we knew. We loved having Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth come to visit, and they loved surprising us. They often just popped in…from several states away, making popping in a planned event. When they came to visit, it was truly the happiest time for my sisters and me! They brought happiness and fun with them. Whatever our family may have been doing, we gladly stopped doing, for the entire time they were here. We just had fun with Uncle Jim, Aunt Ruth, and whichever of their children came with them.

My sister, Cheryl, who helped me with some of these great memories, the rest of my sisters and I, don’t have one bad memory of Uncle Jim. He was simply a good-hearted man who, though he was married to our Dad’s sister, could not have loved us any more if we had been his own blood, and he always let us know that fact. You don’t often find that in an uncle, and we love and treasure him still today, and always will!! Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jim.

George Washingtonmartha-washingtonWhen we think of dinners with the President of the United States, we think of state dinners with tons of security, and massive pre-planning. Presidential dinners have changed distinctly since Washington’s day. The nation was much smaller for sure, and he could easily get together with all of his advisors and Congress in one place, I’m sure. In fact, George Washington was basically in uncharted waters. So, he decided that on Thursday evenings, he would have the brightest minds in the nation over for a casual dinner. At that time the nation’s capitol was still in New York City, so those casual dinners were never held in the White House. George Washington and his family lived in executive mansions in lower Manhattan, which was close to other governmental buildings in that era. While Washington entertained foreign dignitaries and other heads of state at public receptions on Tuesdays and Martha Washington regularly invited guests to their home on Fridays, Thursday evenings were reserved for formal dinners with congressional leaders, their wives and close personal friends of the Washingtons.

In reality, these dinners were elaborate affairs. They started promptly at 4:00pm, because Washington refused to wait for latecomers. I guess every president has his own idiosyncrasies. The parties numbered up to two dozen people, gathered around a table set with the Washington family silver and china. Unlike some state dinners, in which the President and his wife occupy the head of the table, Martha Washington preferred to sit in the middle of one side of the long table and President Washington sat directly across from her. The ends of the table were occupied by a secretary to help with the conversation and roast carving. The roast carving was necessary too, because there were a lot of roasts to be carved. The dinners were comprised of three courses, but that did no limit the selection. There would commonly be upwards of twenty different dishes in each course…all of which were brought to the table at the same time.

The various dishes were the finest that New York had to offer, and the guests were lavished with the exquisite meals. Manhattan was in the middle of New York City, but in 1700, it was still quite wild. The island had an assortment of venison, rabbit, and duck that were hunted for food. Oysters were abundant in the Hudson River. Jellies, dried fruits and nuts were served alongside, although you wouldn’t have seen potato or tomato dishes, because those foods were regarded as unfit for humans to eat in those days. Wine was drunk with dinner, although George Washington was said to prefer a tankard of ale over a glass of claret.
washingtons-thursday-dinners
When dinner was over, Washington would raise a toast to the assembly, and then the ladies would retire to Martha’s drawing room for “coffee and civilized conversation.” The gentlemen would remain in the dining room, lingering over cigars and wine, but not for very long. The president only stayed another thirty minutes before joining the women in the drawing room. One of his personal secretaries would stay on in the dining room with the men to preside over political chats for another hour or so, until the company left and the Washingtons’ Thursday dinner was over…until the next week. George Washington passed away on this day, December 14, 1799.

Walter & Joann Schulenberg wedding day 1949_editedAlzheimer’s Disease is a thief…I’ll give you that, but as I’ve tried to convey to several people, it is not, in my opinion, the worst thing that could happen to a person. I know that sounds so odd, especially to those who feel that Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that steals the mind/memory of their loved ones. It does do that, eventually, but if you take a moment to view it differently, you might be surprised, as I was, to learn that it is not as bad as you thought it was. Most people are stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease later in life…at a time when many of them feel that their life is over. They aren’t as active as they were. They have more aches and pains. They begin to lose loved ones, and eventually that brings grief to most of us. They might even feel depressed. I don’t say that Alzheimer’s Disease alleviates these things in all people, but it did for my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. I know that in her later stages, much of her memory will be gone, but maybe it won’t either, because she has had Alzheimer’s Disease since 2004 that we are sure of. That’s twelve years, and those old memories are still there. It’s just the new memories that she doesn’t keep, and still, I don’t think that is a bad thing.

With all the negative aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease, there are a few aspects that stand out to me, as very scan0145good things. My mother-in-law was always busy doing things. She had a routine. She wasn’t super active, but she knitted, sewed, crocheted, canned, cooked, and baked. These were the things that gave her a feeling of self worth, and oddly they aren’t gone now. If you ask the nurses and aides at the nursing home where she lives, you will find that when it is time for dinner, she tells them that she will be cooking it. She will pick up the blanket on her lap and begin “working” on her crocheting…often using her oxygen tubing as her crochet hook. She tells me about her grocery shopping trips to town, and the things she buys there. She feels no grief for loved ones now in Heaven, because to her they are still right here. She informs me that she will wait to eat dinner until Walt (my father-in-law, who passed away May 5, 2013) gets home. Dinner can’t wait that long obviously, so I just tell her he is at Walmart, in the garage, or at the neighbors, and said for her to eat without him. He might even be at work, although he retired many, many years ago. She talks of her parents, her daughter, Marlyce, and family members who live too far away for visits, as if they are still here, and yet when her daughter, Brenda visits in the morning, she doesn’t remember it later that day. Still, Brenda knows she was there, and that is what is important. She made her mom happy.
Joann and Walt_edited
I know too, that when Bob and I, or my daughter, Corrie Petersen and I leave her side, she doesn’t remember that we were there either, but we know that we were there, and while we are there, she knows that we are there. And that is really what matters anyway. I guess it’s all in how you look at Alzheimer’s Disease. You can grieve the changes, or be thankful for her, that she is missing nothing. All the memories she needs are still in there, and they peek out once in a while…and it’s good enough. Is it really necessary for her to remember all the sad things? I just don’t think so, and I will keep them from her for the rest of her life, by telling her what she really needs to hear that day. It makes her happy, and happiness is all that matters.

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