journey

In 2013, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg’s life turned completely around when she lost over 300 pounds, after a near-death, but in her case reversible set of conditions. It was going to be a long road ad would take almost unheard-of willpower to get Brenda to a place of health. She wasn’t sure she could do it, but she knew she must. So began Brenda’s long journey to health. Brenda had never really exercised, at least not for very long, but she knew that had to change, if she was going to survive for very long.

Most people who find themselves in such a grave position, try for a short time, and then give up, thinking that the process is simply beyond their ability. It is just too hard to do, too much to stick to, and too depressing for many people to stick to it. I have watched so many people over the years, who have given up the fight, and ended up losing the battle with weight, and the ensuing health issues. When Brenda began her journey, there were no guarantees. She was going to have to do this, because no one could make her do it. She was really scared. She told me that she had no idea how she was ever going to get where she needed to be. I told her that she was going to do it one step at a time. I think it was at that point, during that talk, that Brenda saw her life in front of her, and the two directions it could go; and she made a choice.

Unlike many other people, Brenda never looked back. She followed Weight Watchers, and she started walking. Sometimes it was all she could do to walk a short distance…with her walker. Brenda persevered, before long, she was walking further, and dreaming of riding a bicycle again. Before long her dream of riding a bicycle came true and now she rides 20 miles or more a day, sometimes even in rain or snow, if it’s not too icy. These days many people would call Brenda an exercise fanatic, and they would be right, but if you ask her, she will say that she would rather be an exercise fanatic, than some of the other harmful things she used to be. I agree with her there, but the thing that I am most proud of is the fact that Brenda has never gained the weight back. That is an almost unheard of feat. All the weight loss programs tell you they are going to teach you to keep it off, but if you aren’t willing to fight for this new you, by living an active lifestyle, no amount of dieting will keep that weight off. Exercise is a must…no matter what they tell you. Brenda got that part figured out right away, and that made all the difference. She is now 7 years into her healthy life journey, and the trip is far from over. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Gaby Beach spent much of her post high school years in the Navy. She worked very hard to get there, and continues to be an exercise enthusiast, and an inspiration to many people who would love to have such determination to stick to a program. She needed to get in shape to get into the Navy, and she wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way, especially something like a lack of determination. Now, she works out just about every day, because she doesn’t ever want to go back to a time when she was not physically fit.

While in the Navy, Gaby had the opportunity to be involved in a program that brought dogs into hospitals for the purpose of healing through comfort. Gaby loved that program, and since my mother-in-law was in a nursing home the last 5 years of her life, I can attest to the value of these dogs. So many of the residents loved the dogs that belonged to employees of the facility, and who wandered around the facility, “making their rounds” as it were. They were almost like little canine doctors. The experience was precious. The work Gaby did there was a benefit to many people.

Gaby has been a student for much of her life too, because she wants to prepare for her chosen career in nursing. Beginning January 20th, she will begin the journey through nursing school, and we are all very excited for her. During her time in the Navy, Gaby worked as a corpsman, so nursing is right up her alley. She was stationed in Japan, when she met my nephew, Allen Beach, and they have been married for four years now.

While Allen was going to school, Gaby worked, and then once Allen was hired by Wyoming Medical Center, it was Gaby’s turn. They moved to Casper, and she began the pre-requisites for the nursing program. Once those were done, she applied and was accepted into the program, and now she is waiting excitedly for the semester to begin. Gaby knows a lot about the nursing field, having come from a corpsman background, so there should be no surprises for her in the program. It is an exciting journey, and I am excited for her. Nursing school is a lot of hard work, but I know that she will do just fine, and very soon, she will be Nurse Gaby. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

These days, long term marriages are rare, but they can be done. It takes work, an understanding of what your spouse is going through on a daily basis, common goals, and most of all prayer. I know people would dispute that last one, but as I am a Christian, I believe that is what it takes, whether it is the couple praying, or their family praying for them. Some things should be handled with prayer, because getting along with a person day in and day out, is not always easy, as any married couple will tell you.

Nevertheless, my daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband Kevin are one of those couples who have beaten the odds, and today, they celebrate their 25th or Silver Anniversary. I remember their wedding like it was yesterday, because in a mother’s heart, that is exactly how it feels. They were to kids, and that’s a fact. Corrie was just two weeks past her 18th birthday, and Kevin was not quite 22. The first thought that comes to anyone’s mind is that there was no way this marriage had a chance, but these two kids loved each other so much. They had dated since Corrie was just 15 years old, and they had been engaged for a year and two weeks, since they got engaged on her 17th birthday. They were perfect for each other from the start, and never have I seen two people who were closer soulmates at such a young age. You just can’t mess with these matches made in Heaven, and that is what they were…a match made in Heaven.

Now, suddenly, here we are, 25 years later, and these two kids…who will always be kids to me…are still going strong. They are parents, and now have a new granddaughter, and they are as happy as they can be. They are supportive of each other as each one works toward their own goals for their lives. They are supportive of each other as they struggle with things that are difficult, knowing that everyone has struggles. No life is perfect, but when you have a good support system, you can do anything you set your mind to…be it health, career, finances, or any other challenge people can face. You see, it isn’t the marriage that has no challenges that lasts, because in reality, there is no such thing. It is rather the marriage that meets its challenges head on, faces them with courage and compassion, and comes out the other side better for having made the journey that lasts. That is the kind of marriage Corrie and Kevin have, and that is why it has lasted. Today is Corrie and Kevin’s 25th wedding anniversary. Happy Silver Anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! Congratulations to you both…you made it!! Have a great day!! We love you both!!

Sometimes, changes occur when we least expect them. That is was happened with my daughter, Corrie Petersen, who found herself in a job that really held no future for her, even after she gave them almost 24 years of her life. Everyone wants to know that they are going to have a chance be promoted and move up in the company, but that was not to be the case, so after listening to the wisdom of God, Corrie made a bold move and went back to school. Corrie has been a caregiver, along with the rest of our family since 2005 when her grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer got sick. Over the following ten years she was very active in the caregiving process, first with my dad, then my mom, and then her Schulenberg grandparents, and now she cares for her husband, Kevin. I don’t know how we could have managed with out Corrie and others in the family who, just like her, stepped up to pitch in, when we found out that caregiving takes a village.

When it came to Corrie that if she wanted to move up in a job, she needed a change, she naturally chose nursing, and began a journey that would bring about many changes and take her to levels of confidence she didn’t know she possessed. She went back to school, after 23 years, and conquered not only the classes, but her own uneasiness about taking them. I am happy to report that she is having great success in her studies. Corrie also took the CNA class at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, knowing that when she started nursing school, she would no longer be able to keep the job she had, because the nursing program is held during the day. She passed the CNA program with flying colors and applied for a job at Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. She was hired right away, and today begins her new career as a CNA, or according to them, Patient Care Technician…temporarily anyway, because Corrie’s journey doesn’t end there. She has other plans in mind.

She will have other new beginnings as she continues her journey toward her degree as a Registered Nurse, so this is temporary, but it is nevertheless, very exciting. This is what she has dreamed about since this journey started. She knows the work will be hard, but it is also very rewarding as she also knows, since she has basically been doing this work for twelve years already. I am so excited for my daughter, as she starts this new adventure, and so proud of her for taking the necessary steps to achieve her goals. The future is going to be a bright one for her, and I can’t wait to watch the changes as she decides her future plans in her nursing career. Congratulations Corrie. Have a wonderful first night at work. We are so proud of you!!

Chantel and IzabellaAs my niece, Chantel Balcerzak became a grandmother a month ago, when her son Jake Harman and his fiancé, Melanie Price welcomed their daughter, Izabella Siara Harman into the world, I started thinking that like most mothers, the rite of passage to grandmother had suddenly occurred for Chantel, bringing with it a big change. As mothers, we sometimes find it very hard to believe that our child could actually be a parent. They were just babies a few days ago, right? How is it possible that they have babies of their own already? I think that for most parents, the first thought is do these kids really know what they are doing? Of course, in most cases, they do…its just our perception that clouds our thoughts. As with most parents, new or seasoned, the baby is very vocal about whether or not they are happy. If the parents just check the normal things babies are upset about, they can figure it out pretty quickly.

So, the rite of passage is often with the grandparents, and usually the grandmother, who has the misperception Cheryl and Aleesiathat this baby, now parent, can manage to take care of and raise this new little person…grandma’s little sweetheart. That is the problem, of course. This is grandma’s little sweetheart, and Chantel raised Jake…whether her mom, Cheryl Masterson, thought Chantel could do it or not, just like my sister, Cheryl raised Chantel, whether our mom, Collene Spencer thought she could do it or not. The babies are now grown up and they can raise children of their own. They have gone through that rite of passage into parenthood, just like the parents have transitioned into grandparents.

Before long, that period of disbelief in the new parents’ ability to do this fades away, because they are doing it and doing it well. Now the new grandparents have the time and ability to relax and enjoy this new little baby…which is what being a grandparent is all about, right. You get to have the baby at the best of times, and give the baby back to the parents at the worst of times. Of course, like most grandparents, you find yourself wanting to help out to make life a little bit GiGi and Aleesiaeasier for the tired parents. But then what would grandparenting be if not to give the parents a much needed break sometimes.

As Chantel, her husband Dave, Jake and his fiancé, Melanie embark on this new journey, I know that they will have the greatest of times. Little Izabella is a sweet baby, and I know she will grow into a beautiful little girl. She will learn lots of new things from her big sister Alice, and this family will be a great blessing to their grandparents and great grandparents. I only wish my mom, Jake’s great grandma, Collene Spencer, and my dad, Jake’s great grandpa, Allen Spencer, could have been here to meet our little Izabella.

Paul & Betty NoyesButch SchulenbergDuring this journey to find my ancestors and my living family, there have been several times that I have felt that I had made a rare find. Of course, how could it be rare if there were several times, you might be thinking. I thought the same thing, and yet, some of the people I have come across have become so special to me that they could only be classified as a rare find. People like my father-in-law’s half brother, Butch Schulenberg, and our cousins Paul and Betty Noyes, come to mind immediately. But then, I also think of Tracey Inglimo, Denny Fredrick, Tim and Shawn Fredrick, Shirley Cameron, Pam and Mike Wendling, Bill and Maureen Spencer, and the many Schumacher cousins in TraceyJoe WeberWisconsin and Minnesota. I think of Nick and Laura Weber, and Joe Weber. As I think of these people, new rare finds and renewed rare finds, I begin to realize that as I have discovered these special people, some I have never met in person, and some that I have known all my life, but lost track of, I begin to realize that maybe rare finds in the family line aren’t really as rare as I thought they were after all.

I have been thinking about what it is that makes a person a rare find, and the thing that immediately comes to mind is that these people truly care about me…about what I think and who I am. I find that these people are kindred spirits…something I had not really given much thought to until I got into the “Anne of Green Gables” ShirleyDenny Fredrickmovies, but after watching those movies, I realize just how important kindred spirits really are. Kindred spirits share the same values, goals, and desires, even if they are is slightly different ways. I think it is the values though that mean the most. Maybe that is a big part of what makes these people a rare find. So much has changed in our world these days, and while we all have maybe a slightly different view of what things are wrong and how to fix them, I still find that these people are value driven people…patriots, who love this country and what it stands for.

The longer I think about it, the more I realize that while finding people who compliment who I am is not such a rare find, it is still a Tim_editedShawn Fredrickrare find that there are so many people who have become so very special to me. It warms my heart to think of these people, and it warms my heart with every conversation I have with them. It is my hope to someday meet those precious people who I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person. I know we will really hit it off, because we are family and kindred spirits. It’s a great combination. While my “rare finds” have not really been so rare after all, I am so blessed by each and every one of then, and that makes them absolutely priceless. I am very blessed to know them all.

Angie Schumacher-BardenWith every step I take in the family history journey, I find as much mystery as I do revelation. It seems that for every door opened, comes a multitude of questions. Recently my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my mom, Collene Spencer, and took a trip to Wisconsin, during which we met quite a few family members within the Schumacher side of our family. With every new family member I meet, in person or online, comes increased curiosity about our connection, as well as our differences and similarities. After all, while we are related, each family has a slightly different background. Even though we share the same set of grandparents, we also have a set of grandparents and ancestors that is different from our relatives. I love to see the new paths the extended family can take as those new links are connected.

Recently, after our trip to Wisconsin, I was contacted by Angie Schumacher Barden, who is my second cousin once removed, the daughter of Brian Schumacher, and granddaughter of Les and Bev Schumacher. She had seen some information on the Schumacher family indicating an Albert Schumacher who was born in Germany and came to America in 1864. About the same time as his wife…or future wife…who was named Henrietta. The indication was that they were married about the time they came to America in 1864. As I recall, our grandfather, Carl Schumacher who was married to Henrietta Hensel in 1886 in Wisconsin, did have family members that lived in the area. It is entirely possible that one of them was a brother named Albert, since Carl did name a son Albert. And I suppose that Carl’s brother Albert could have married a woman named Henrietta, just as Carl did. Spencer Schumacher Family cover photo2There is a number of years between the two marriages, so it could also be an uncle of Carl’s who came over. All this is hard to prove at this point, and will most lkely be a story down the road, if I can connect all these theories to some kind of reality.

For now, however, this will remain a mystery that was opened up by another curious family member who saw something, and decided to see what she could find out. As for me, Angie, I will be doing whatever I can to find out more about these, for now at least, mysterious Schumachers who may or may not be related to our family. I love a good mystery, and with the possibility of connecting with more and more of our family’s past, I will be searching in earnest for the answers to the questions you have asked. And so…the Family History Journey continues.

Dad and Uncle BillHolyoke ParkOn our trek back into our past, we took a drive to see some of the places my dad’s family had lived, like the town of Holyoke, Minnesota…my dad and his siblings’ old stomping grounds, I felt as if I was walking in my dad’s shoes so to speak…or at the very least traveling along on the same journey he had taken as a young boy. As we drove into the area, I recognized the railroad trestle that my dad and Uncle Bill had played on as kids. We had just talked to Uncle Bill, who told us that when a train came, they would just drop down and hang on, because there wasn’t room enough to stand there while a train went over. They said it shook a lot, and I personally wouldn’t recommend such a thing to anyone.

Our next stop was at the park across the street. This park was a favorite hangout for most of the Holyoke kids, and was located just down the hill from the school, making it convenient for after school ball games or hanging out in the creek that ran through it. The park is in great condition, and looks like it is still used a lot today, but I could picture the little boys, who were my dad and uncle hanging out there with their friends and avoiding the chores that probably awaited them at home.

We drove past the old church that they attended, who’s alter had been built by my Aunt Laura Creek at Holyoke ParkRailroad Trestle in HolyokeFredrick’s ex-husband, Fritz. We were very sorry to see the state it was in. The front of the building looked pretty good, but when viewed from the side, we could see that the roof had caved in, and all that was still standing was three sides. That really made me sad, because it was the church they had attended for so many years of their lives.

Heading out of town, we came to a section of red dirt road that went for about a mile or so before returning to the pavement. Our cousin, Bill Spencer, who was our tour guide for the day, told us that his dad, our Uncle Bill and our dad had ridden their bikes to Superior, Wisconsin on this road. That was astounding, in that it was about thirty miles…one way…and they went to town and home in the same day, on the old clunky bicycles of those days. It was here, as we drove from Holyoke back into Superior, that I felt like I was traveling along the same journey that my dad had taken so many times. It was a lonely feeling, in that I really missed my dad right then, but it was also an interesting, in that they had gone so far in just one day.

I think that sometimes, we don’t realize just how amazing our parents lives were. We forget that technology and transportation have come a long, long way since their day. It seems like Little Church at HolyokeRed Dirt Road to Superiorthe work was harder and yet, the times easier somehow. I thought of my dad and Uncle Bill riding happily into Superior to spend the day, and what their plans might have been. Maybe it was just the idea of being free for the day…with no one to tell you what to do, or maybe they were meeting friends. I’ll probably never know, but I do know that it was strange to be traveling the same road to Superior, that dad had taken so long ago.

BobCaryn and Bob share a laughNot everyone is so blessed, as I am, to be married to the love of their life…and I have been for nearly 40 years now. Bob and I met when I was still in high school, and married in March after I had graduated. He stole my heart the day I met him, and he didn’t even know it for a while. That’s how Bob is though. He really doesn’t know what a great guy he is. There is no conceit in him at all. That’s ok though, I know how great he is, so I’ll take care of that part for both of us. Bob has always been a hard working man, who never was one to act proud or arrogant. I suppose that is a big part of his charm.

As a dad, Bob was so sweet, but he was a little out of his league when it came to discipline with the girls…in reality, it is a well known fact that the girls had him wrapped around their little finger…at least a little bit. No, a lot. A little batting their eyelashes, and a little “I love you Daddy” and he was in a lot of trouble. Thankfully, I was a pretty strict disciplinarian, and I think it might have been easier for me to discipline the girls than for him. Maybe if they had been boys he could have done better. I’m not so sure. He is pretty soft hearted…but really, that is a big part of his charm too. I suppose some people might not think it is charming for him to be a softy, but to me it is.

As our family has grown up and moved into their own homes, Bob and I find ourselves in the couple time of our life again, but that doesn’t mean that we are without responsibilities. We take care of parents, and that is a big job, but it is one I would not want to tackle without the love and support of my man. There are times that I have to go to the hospital in the middle of the evening, and I’m there most of the night. Bob is so understanding about this situation. It frees me up to do the things I need to do to care for our moms.
Bob in the Black HillsBob with Corrie, Caryn with Amy - July 30, 1976
I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful man than Bob. The last 40 years have been amazing. I look forward to each new day with him, because it just gets better and better. Today is Bob’s 60th birthday. Bob it has been such an amazing life. I am so happy that we have taken this journey together. Happy birthday Sweetie!! I hope yours is a wonderful day!! I love you with all my heart!!

BeforeLosing weight is not easy, as anyone who has tried to do so can tell you, but this story isn’t just a weight loss story. It is a story of a journey to good health. On October 17, 2013, I got a call from my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg. She was having some health problems that would result in a hospital stay that began on October 18, 2013, and would last until November 11, 2013. She would go first to Wyoming Medical Center, and then over to Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital for physical therapy. Brenda practically had to learn to walk again. This journey was going to be a long struggle, but she stepped up to the plate, prepared to take back her life, and make it better. Brenda had known that something was wrong, and was concerned that she might have to take early retirement or go part time at work, because at that point just getting into the office was a major undertaking. Her journey started with the hope that she could go to Urgent Care and get a prescription to take care of the problem, but that was not to be. Brenda had Cellulitis, and so began her hospital stay. During that stay, she was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and Sleep Apnea. At this point, so many people would have pretty much given up, taken early retirement, and moved into a wheelchair or Hoveround. That would have led to a slippery slope toward a future on oxygen, other health issues, and eventually total disability.

That is what many people in Brenda’s position would have done…but that was not the choice Brenda made, and that has made all the difference. Brenda decided that she was too young and too interested in living her life to give up and let her future be spent on the sidelines of life sitting in a wheelchair. During her time at Elkhorn, she worked very hard on her physical therapy, and on making changes in her eating habits. That was an amazing feat too, because every step she took required a seriously great amount of effort. The time spent in the hospital had so weakened her that she really had to learn to walk all over again. For many people, this too would have been the point where they gave up…but not Brenda. She joined Weight Watchers Online, and she has faithfully stuck to it, and she faithfully wears her CPAP machine, so that she is getting good oxygen for a better night’s sleep.

It has been a long road, and many people would never have expected Brenda to persevere, but that is because they only think they know Brenda. The real Brenda is very determined to take back her life and her health. She has seen many victories already. For almost all her walking, she does not use the walker now…only using it in bad weather and on her long walks at one of the local shopping centers, where she is now walking five times as long as she could when she first started. She is able to go out and buy her own groceries again, something she really couldn’t do for years. She makes frequent trips to visit friends, including one who was BR on 4-29-2014in the hospital…a place Brenda would only go to if she had help before, and she walks a lot at work too. It has been a very hard road, but the other day she told me that she knew that she did not feel good before, but she had no idea how really bad she felt, until she got to where she felt so much better. At her last appointment with her cardiologist, she was told that if she keeps going the way she is, she will actually be able to reverse the Congestive Heart Failure…such good news. To date, Brenda has lost 180 pounds, and she is still going. Brenda, we are sooooo proud of you!! Today is Brenda’s birthday, and the day that she had set as a goal of being free of the walker. Since she only uses it on snow and the long walk at Sunrise Shopping Center, I’d say she has met that goal. I know the future is going to be amazing for her. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have an awesome day!! We love you and we are so proud of you!!

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