My grandnephew, James Renville and his wife, Manuela have been having a very good year. Last year, just shortly after James’ birthday, they traveled to Colombia so that James could meet his new extended family for the first time. When he and Manuela were married on July 21, 2021, her family could not travel to attend, because of Covid restrictions. They were sad that they couldn’t come, but they loved James, whom they had spoked to over Skype a number of times, so they were happy they were getting married. James was very excited to meet them, and he loved them instantly. As it turns out, James and his mother-in-law, Consuelo share the same birthday, and Manuela’s sister, Sarah is the day before. (Happy birthday to Consuelo and Sarah too) They were excited that James and Manuela were coming and had made plans to have a big birthday bash for the two of them.

James loved spending time with his in-laws, and he said that Consuelo and Manuela’s dad, Edwin took such good care of them. They were so pleased with James, and the showed him such amazing hospitality. Consuelo is an excellent cook, and she spoiled both them with delicious meals. Cooking is her way of showing great love for her family, so James and Manuela really felt the love.

Manuela loved showing James where she grew up along with other special places in her beautiful home country. They had such a marvelous time, and they are already making plans to go again, as soon as they can get it worked out. James loves to travel, so having extended family in Colombia is very special to him. I’m sure there will be many trips there in the future. Consuelo took a real liking to James, and I know they will be lifelong friends too. James has kind and loving heart, so I am not surprised that she loves him already. James and Manuela took a trip to Marco Island Florida in May and had a great time there too. Taking a break from everyday life to enjoy some fun in the sun together.

James has been moving into a new phase in his life. He and Manuela are buying their first home, and it is very special to James, because it is the home he grew up in. After she remarried, James’ mom, Toni Chase kept the old place and rented it to her sister, Elizabeth Masterson. Now, Elizabeth wants to buy a place of her own, so James jumped at the chance of owning his childhood home. He is excited about renovating it with Manuela, and making it their own, with their own tastes and touches. James has told his mom several times this year, that he is incredibly blessed!! He has a great job!! A great wife!! A great family!! And a great life!! Today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Amanda Reed and her long-time partner, Sean Mortensen love the outdoors and love to travel. Recently, they took a Winter getaway to south Florida to escape the cold of Wyoming and to visit Sean’s parents in Fort Meyers. They had an incredible time. and I’m sure they hated to come back to the cold, even though we have had a pretty easy Winter here in Wyoming. Nevertheless, Amanda and Sean have really enjoyed their early Spring getaway. They have been touring and even took a 98-mile boat ride. Now that’s a tour!! They saw dolphins, turtle, eagles, bar fish, and snails…just to name a few. Of course, they also got to hang out with family and friends, eat lots of great food, and then, come home with a tan that made everyone else jealous.

Amanda and Sean love everything “outdoors” and spend as much time as they can outside. They are not Summer people or Winter people…they are outdoor people. Right now, they are in the process of closing up their cabin in the mountains, and preparing to head to Seminole Reservoir, to start their summertime fun. They really do love the lake, and they will be out boating as soon as it’s warm enough. They love boating, jet skis, swimming, fishing, and of course, soaking up the sun. I hope they will have an amazing Summer. And the best news is that their daughter, Jayden Mortensen will be home from Laramie, where she goes to school. Amanda and Sean are great parents, and they raised a beautiful girl.

Amanda and Sean love to go to Las Vegas too. They really enjoy the night life and they love being with friends. Amanda and Sean are very social people. Oh, that I could be such, but I definitely am not. I’m rather introverted…a word that doesn’t at all describe Amanda and Sean. They have a great group of friends, and they love to get together to go to the lake or to the mountains. Amanda and Sean love hosting weekends at their cabin or the lake. The more people the merrier. They are true socialites. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The Space Shuttle Challenger mission, named STS-51-L, was the twenty-fifth Space Shuttle flight and the tenth flight of Challenger. The crew was announced on January 27, 1985, and was commanded by Dick Scobee. Michael Smith was assigned as the pilot, and the mission specialists were Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Ronald McNair. The two payload specialists were Gregory Jarvis, who was assigned to conduct research for the Hughes Aircraft Company, and Christa McAuliffe, who flew as part of the Teacher in Space Project. The mission was originally scheduled for July 1985, but was delayed to November and then to January 1986. The mission was scheduled to launch on January 22, but was delayed until January 28, 1986. This was definitely a “less than ideal” situation. Delay after delay, maybe should have raised a serious red flag, but somehow, it did not. At least not to the people who could have changed the outcome.

One man…Roger Boisjoly knew that the Challenger space shuttle might fail catastrophically at any time. There may have been others I suppose, but none that chose to try to take action. Boisjoly knew that every mission was an accident waiting to happen. Knowing that, he tried to stop the launch on January 28, 1986. He had a definite sick feeling about this mission, but NASA refused to acknowledge his objections. That fact amazes me!! Boisjoly was a rocket engineer who worked for a company that NASA contracted with. He had noticed that the Challenger’s booster rockets had a major design flaw. Their elastic seals had a tendency to stiffen and unseal in cold weather. I’m sure that most of NASA simply took for granted that there would not be much cold weather in Florida. Nevertheless, on this occasion, the Challenger was scheduled for a winter launch. The time had come, and Boisjoly knew that the temperatures would be too low for the booster rocket seals to handle, even in Florida. He convinced colleagues at his engineering company to formally recommend NASA delay the launch. They did, but NASA ignored that recommendation. It was a life altering, or life ending decision on NASA’s part. Most of us know that the rest is history. The launch took place, the seals failed, and the Challenger exploded less than two minutes after it launched. That day, because of the foolish stubbornness and arrogance of NASA, seven people lost their lives. The air temperature on that January 28 was predicted to be a record-low for a Space Shuttle launch. The air temperature was forecast to drop to 18° F overnight before rising to 22° F at 6:00am and 26° F at the scheduled launch time of 9:38am. For most of us, those temperatures wouldn’t seem to be so severe, but for that little seal, it was very severe. Why couldn’t they have swallowed their pride, and postponed a little longer until the temperature warmed a bit. Were we really in that big a rush to start that mission, that we were willing risk the lives of seven people in the attempt. I love the space program and all that it has accomplished, but the people who made that choice that day were foolish and selfish.

My niece, Toni Chase feels like this has been a rather uneventful year for her and her family. She and her husband, Dave Chase, but her sister, Chantel has a very different take on Toni and Dave have been up to this year. Chantel says, “Toni has begun a great renovation adventure. They have a regular contractor who has says he’s willing to train her on her days off. She has been learning, to texturize walls? and I believe she has already learned how frustrating and expensive renovation can be! Everyone already knows this stuff to some extent, but she has such a can do spirit that she just researches more and tries again! She’s always been a hard worker, so I know she’ll work hard until she gets it right!” The renovation Chantel is referring to is a rental house that Toni and Dave own, that will now be sold to her son, James and his wife, Manuela. The house was already very nice, but like all house built in the 1950s, and any year really, there are always repairs and other updates that needed to be done for the sale. These days, pretty much everyone likes the “open concept” style of home, and while I’m not sure I am totally onboard with that, I can see the value. Chantel is right about Toni’s “can-do” spirit. She looks at challenges as a new skill to be conquered and mastered. She takes the necessary steps to become an expert in the field, and boom…she has mastered it. Toni didn’t even consider the renovation as noteworthy, but she was very pleased that her big sister did.

Toni’s husband, Dave has a laid-back attitude that Chantel says, “is perfect for Toni.” My sister, Cheryl, Toni’s mom, says “Dave is perfect for Toni, but I think practical, sensible, funny and tolerant describes him way better! He’s a busy man, and I’m not sure “laid back” fits him!” Of course, the opinion on what is “laid-back” could be different. Dave is motivated and hardworking, but he is also easy to get along with and accepting of others, and I think maybe that is what Chantel meant. In a marriage, the two partners have to be accepting of the quirks of their partner, or they will always be a little bit at odds with one another. Toni is a sweet girl, and she has her own style and ideas. Dave wouldn’t want it any other way. Dave and Toni like to let each be their own person, and it works out quite well for them. They love each other for keeps, and that’s why they make a beautiful couple.

Toni and Dave often take trips to Centennial, Wyoming, where they get together with Dave’s mom, brother, and sister. They took a couple of trips there this year. Centennial is a beautiful area, and they love each visit with family. Toni and Dave really love to travel, and they take several trips each year. In May, they took a trip to Marco Island in Florida. They plan was just to relax by the seashore and see some of the sites down there. Toni says that their lives are “happy, but boring.” I always find that amazing, because what people think is boring and everyday stuff, often appeals to other people. If you consider the “Little House on the Prairie” books or “Anne of Green Gables” you would find that these were simply books about life, and as my Aunt Bertha Hallgren quoted in her writings, “I love losing myself in other men’s minds.”. Sometimes, the most interesting things happen in the seemingly “mundane” lives of other people. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Thankfully, the NASA space program hasn’t had a great number of losses, but that doesn’t make any loss less devastating that any of the others. On February 1, 2003, just a little over 17 years after the Challenger disaster, the country was once again feeling like the Space Shuttle program was so safe that it was even mundane. Many people had no idea when the shuttle flights went up or came down. It wasn’t the nation’s fault, it’s just that like air travel, the Shuttle program was relatively save, but when disaster strikes, we are once again reminded…horrifically, that relatively save does not mean completely safe from an accident. People are prone to get comfortable when things are going well. We forget the bad times. Nevertheless, space travel is not accident proof, even if it has become relatively safe.

On that awful February 1st morning in 2003, we were once again jolted out of our comfort zones and thrust back into the reality that the Shuttle program might have some serious flaws. Still, the Space Shuttle program was a long running and highly successful program, running from 1981 to 2011. During the course of the program, a total of 135 missions were flown, all launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. During that period of time, the fleet logged 1,322 days, 19 hours, 21 minutes and 23 seconds of flight time. The first orbiter built, Enterprise, was used for atmospheric flight tests (ALT) but future plans to upgrade it to orbital capability were ultimately canceled. Originally, NASA built four fully operational orbiters…Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. Of course, we know that Challenger and Columbia were destroyed in mission accidents in 1986 and 2003 respectively, killing a total of fourteen astronauts. A fifth operational orbiter, Endeavour, was built in 1991 to replace Challenger. In the end, it was decided that the shuttles were getting old and had too many flaws, so the Space Shuttle was retired from service upon the conclusion of STS-135 by Atlantis on July 21, 2011.

It was a piece of foam insulation that would bring down the Columbia shuttle. It broke off and hit the leading edge of the wing. That small little bit of damage to the wing allowed hot gases to enter the wing causing it to break up as the craft entered Earth’s atmosphere. During the breakup, debris and the bodies of the astronauts were strewn across the state of Texas. The breakup began over California at 8:53am, and by 8:59am, communication was lost. Mission Control began its disaster procedures at 9:12am. Lost in the disaster were Rick D Husband (Commander), William C McCool (Pilot), Michael P Anderson (Payload Commander), Ilan Ramon (Payload Specialist), Kalpana Chawla (an Indian-born aerospace engineer and a Mission Specialist), David M Brown (Mission Specialist), and Laurel Blair Salton Clark (Mission Specialist). Today, marks the 20th anniversary of that fateful day. Today, we honor those we lost.

James Kent “Jimmy” Leeward was an American air racer and owner of the Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, Florida. He was also the owner and pilot of the heavily modified North American P-51 Mustang racing aircraft known as The Galloping Ghost. Leeward loved his plane, loved flying, and especially loved air racing. He loved the thrill of the air shows and putting his plane through its paces. The Galloping Ghost was an amazing aircraft that held various airspeed records. It was also the plane whose fatal crash in 2011 led to several changes to make air shows safer.

The Galloping Ghost was built in 1944 by North American Aviation for the Army Air Force. Following its successful service during World War II, the plane was sold as postwar surplus. It was modified and raced by a series of owner over the next half-century, including finally, Aero Trans Corporation in Ocala, Florida. Jimmy Leeward was born on October 21, 1936, in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania to parents Albert and Mary Leeward. He grew up around airplanes, sitting first in the cockpit with his dad as just a toddler. The age of 11 or 12 found him often flying a Piper Cub with his father. At age 14, his father allowed him to fly solo in a North American T-6 Texan trainer aircraft. By age 18, he was flying charters in a Beechcraft Model 18. While still in college, he flew a Formula One racer in the Fort Wayne air races. He was hooked on air racing from that moment on. In 1964, he was part of the crew on an airplane at the very first Reno Air Races. By 1976, being part of the crew would no longer do, and he first flew his P-51D Mustang “Cloud Dancer” in the Unlimited Class at Reno. In 1983, he purchased the P-51D racer “Jeannie” from Wiley Sanders. He never looked back, later becoming a movie stunt pilot. He was featured in such movies as Cloud Dancer, Smokey and the Bandit 3, Tuskegee Airmen, Thirteen Days, Dragonfly, Thunder Over Reno, Lonely Hearts, and Amelia.

I suppose that with any type of stunt performance, the very real possibility of an accident exists. Many people might assume that it is just a matter of time, but there is no real proof to that statement, just speculation. Nevertheless, on September 16, 2011, Leeward’s “luck” ran out. While he was in the middle of a race over Reno, Nevada, where it all started, Leeward’s racing days came to a tragic end. In the middle of the race, The Galloping Ghost suddenly veered off course. Leeward tried to regain control, but in the end, it was determined that the cause of the crash was “flutter.” Flutter is when the plane is flown faster than it is designed to go. Leeward exceeded by nearly 40 miles per hour, the aircraft’s previous top speed without any previous testing to determine if the aircraft would be able to resist flutter at the new speeds. It couldn’t. When Leeward was unable to regain control, The Galloping Ghost crashed into the crowd at the National Championship Air Races at Reno Stead Airport, in a crash that killed him and 10 others. Additionally, 75 people were injured. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board blamed Leeward for “‘operating at the edge of the envelope’ without fully reporting and testing modifications to his plane.” Safety standards for air shows were significantly changed because of this crash. When he died, Jimmy Leeward was 74 years old.

After losing both her husband, our Uncle Eddie Hein and her son, our cousin Larry Hein, within three months of each other, Aunt Pearl Hein went through some very sad and difficult times. That much loss can be devastating to a person. It was very hard on Pearl, but she is starting to live life again. I know that Eddie and Larry would be glad that she is. Pearl was very much loved by both of her men, as was her daughter Kim Arani. While it’s been hard to go forward, Pearl has been making great strides with the help of her daughter and son-in-law, Michael Arani. She has made a couple of trips to Texas, to visit them, and the warm climate, as well as the beautiful scenery have soothed her soul. Of course, it doesn’t really lessen the pain of the loss, but it is a matter of learning to live again.

Sometimes, the heart needs a change of scenery to help with healing, and when Pearl was in Texas visiting Kim and Michael, they took a trip down to Rosemary Beach, Florida, where they stayed at a hotel called “The Pearl,” otherwise known as their happy place. How perfect to find such a hotel with Pearl’s name. That and the peaceful time spent on the beach was sure to warm her heart and was a welcome change from the end of October cold weather that is Forsyth, Montana, where Pearl lives.

Pearl has always been a hard-working woman. She took care of her parents, and later her husband, Eddie when they really needed her help. Caregiving is a big job, and having done it myself, I totally commend anyone who willingly steps into that role. It is truly a life changing undertaking. You sacrifice most of your life on a daily basis, and while many would think that it is a thankless job, it most definitely is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs you will ever undertake. Whether the words “thank you” are ever said or not, and believe me they always are, you feel the “thank you” that comes from their hearts every time you are with them. No words can ever really express their gratitude. All they can do is hope you can see the appreciation in their eyes and know that it comes from their hearts…and believe me, you can. Today is Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Adelaide Sawdon has had a very busy summer. Since her family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, putting them about an hour away from her cousin, Mackenzie Moore in Laramie, Wyoming, Adelaide has had the opportunity to have many play dates with her cousin often. That has been really fun for both of them. Makenzie has always lived far away from the rest of the family, so this is a first for both of them. They are almost like sisters. Adelaide also got to spend time with her Casper cousins, and her Michigan cousins this summer. Her Casper, Wyoming family all spent a vacation in Florida, and her Michigan cousins met up in Custer, South Dakota, so Adelaide had some really great quality time with her cousins this year. Adelaide is so smart. She loves school and all things learning. She’s been learning to read and is reading all the books and things she can get her hands on, and she loves her cousins and grandparents so much.

Adelaide’s Daisy dog, who had been a part of the Sawdon family since before she was born, went home to Heaven unexpectedly in February, and that was a really sad time for her and her family. They miss her very much, and it has been very hard. Now, they decided it was time to let a new puppy into their hearts, and Riley arrived. Riley is a Boxer, like Daisy was. Boxers are so sweet, and Riley has been a lot of fun. She has helped their hearts heal. Riley is already growing like a weed. Adelaide just loves her. They were instant pals, and it is the beginning of a great new relationship. Adelaide has had a dog all her life, so when Daisy went home, it left a void. It took time to be ready for a new puppy, but when the time finally came, Riley came in and stole their hearts…and she continues to wiggle her way deeper into their hearts every day.

It’s been a big summer for Adelaide in another way. She lost her first tooth. Losing that first tooth is a big step toward becoming one of the big kids, and Adelaide was so excited. She started 1st grade yesterday, and she’s a grown up six years old today…two exciting days in a row!! Her mom, Jessi Sawdon tells me that it’s such a fun time to be the little Adelady…a nickname from her mom and her dad, Jason Sawdon. Adelaide is really her mom’s mini-me, but there are definitely “Sawdon” things about her too…and anyone who knows her can see that’s true. Today is Adelaide’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Adelaide!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Each year, approximately 40 million lightning strikes hit the ground in the United States, with Tampa, Florida having the most, and Florida being listed as the Lightning Capital of the United States. While Florida is known as the Sunshine State, it is notorious for thunderstorms, lightning strikes and fatalities. On average, Florida has 3,500 cloud to ground lightning flashes per day and 1.2 million flashes per year. Nevertheless, the odds of a human being struck by lightning in a given year are less than one in a million, and strangely, almost 90% of all lightning strike victims survive. The odds of being struck multiple times is even less, with the record being seven times in one lifetime. According to the National Weather Service, lightning causes an average of 62 deaths and 300 injuries in the United States each year. People can be at greater risk for being struck if they participate in outdoor recreational activities or working outside. Regional and seasonal differences can also increase the risk of being struck by lightning. Being outdoors in a lightning storm is certainly not a good idea.

Lightning strikes to humans have been going on as long as times and lightning strikes have been going on. We just hear about them more today than in the distant past. Rarely, humans are struck by lightning, and even with the record of known strikes to humans in one lifetime being seven, it is still a very rare phenomenon. The first time Major Walter Summerford, an Englishman, was said to have been struck by lightning was in 1918 on a World War I battlefield. He was reportedly riding a horse at the time and, while the animal died, Summerford was only temporarily incapacitated by the strike. It’s possible the horse took the bulk of the hit, because Summerford’s feet were not on the ground, meaning that it traveled through Summerford, through the horse, and then on into the ground. That is the nature of lightning. It travels through something with electricity (which humans have, by the way) and then into the ground. So unfortunately, the horse became a part of the connection and actually finished the connection…costing the horse its life. Sad, for sure, but the horse saved the life of its rider.

Summerford’s documented additional strikes included two more times…in 1924 and 1930. Then to make him even more unique, Summerford was technically struck after he had died. It happened that two years after he was buried in Vancouver, Canada, a lightning storm went through the area, and lightning actually struck his gravestone in 1936. The bolt was packed with so much power, that Summerford’s gravestone was completely destroyed by that fourth lightning strike. Now that’s got to be the most unique human/lightning encounter story in history.

My niece, Lindsay Moore can’t say enough nice things about her husband, Shannon Moore. Shannon is a Girl Dad, and best friend to his little daughter, Mackenzie. Shannon is very much a hands-on dad. He doesn’t come home from work and plop down in front of the television set, while telling Mackenzie to go play. Shannon loves to play with Mackenzie. They are two peas in a pod. He takes her to the park, pool, everywhere! In fact, they have been to the pool about a dozen times in the past few weeks. Shannon is a coach, the assistant coach for the Wyoming Cowboys football team. He is also their tight ends coach and helps with special teams too, and Mackenzie reaps the benefit of that. Shannon loves to teach her new things…in true coaching style…swimming, throwing, swinging, climbing…all the things! Mackenzie also gets to go with Daddy to work sometimes, where she is the “darling” of the football team. It pays to be the coach’s daughter. Shannon has been busy being girl dad of the year.

Shannon and his girls, Lindsay and Mackenzie, just got back from a trip to Florida with Lindsay’s whole family, to celebrate her parents 40th wedding anniversary. That trip gave Shannon another opportunity to teach Mackenzie about new things, like the beach and the ocean. Of course, while the adults got to get in the water deeper than the kids, it was still fun for all. Lindsay tells me that “Shannon just shines as a dad, and that he’s always been a wonderful husband and dad but truly, he gets better every day! He has such a genuinely good heart, a kind disposition, and a loving spirit. Praise the Lord for putting us together…because I hit the jackpot!” That’s quite a tribute from a loving wife.

In addition to being a great Girl Dad, Shannon is a wonderful Doggy Dad. He is very devoted and makes sure that their puppy, Brinkley gets lots of attention. Puppies need someone to play with them and get then some much needed exercise, and Shannon is often outside playing with Brinkley. Shannon and Lindsay work very well together, and they share the “duties” of family life together. For them, the “duties” hardly seem like duties at all, because they make things so much fun. Even Brinkley feels the fun vibes in their house. I guess that’s what being a good Doggy Dad is all about. Pets need as much love as any other family member, and just as much training too. Shannon is such a great coach, so Brinkley will learn lots of new things too. Today is Shannon’s birthday. Happy birthday Shannon!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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