journey

Quietly…behind the scenes, my sister-in-law, Debbie Cook has been on a journey to better health. Like most of us who have lost weight, Debbie didn’t want to say anything at first, because she wasn’t sure how this all would go. Now that she has been on the Keto diet since July, and is seeing success, the time has come to let the “cat out of the bag” as it were. Since July, Debbie has lost 35 pounds, and she is feeling so much better. Her confidence has soared, and she even feels like getting out sometimes. It has been a great help to her to have her daughters, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith go along on this journey with her. She has worked very hard, and her daughters are very proud of her, as is the rest of her family.

Debbie and her husband, Lynn have had a rough year in some ways. Like the rest of us, they have been on lockdown with the Covid-19 virus. That is over now, but unfortunately, they lost their beloved dog, Sparky during this last year. While that was hard, Debbie and Lynn decided to get a new puppy named Daisy. They needed a companion for their other dog, Izzy and so getting Daisy was very important. Daisy is full of spunk and a sweet puppy, but as puppies will do, she is defiantly keeping them busy. Losing Sparky was so sad, her little heart just gave out. Schnauzers are such loving dogs and such a big part of the family. Now, with Daisy in the family, Izzy has a friend, and she will surely enjoy learning about camping!!

Debbie decided that she needed to have some time outside the house, so she joined a club called the Red Hats in Powell. I had heard of the Red Hats before. They get together for fun outings like shopping, lunches, and attending craft fairs. It’s a nice way to do fun things together. They are a great group of ladies, and the club has been really good for Debbie. She is a very giving person, so it’s nice to see that some fun stuff is coming back to her.

To celebrate Debbie’s birthday, and those of two grandchildren who have close birthdays, Easton on February 18th and Kaytlyn on March 3rd, they had a big family birthday party. One family tradition is to sing the birthday song as loud and obnoxious as possible (A tradition started by Debbie’s husband Lynn, hahaha). On a side note, Debbie and her family all think that her 69th birthday being on 2/22/22 is very cool!! Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In any kind of slavery situation, there are always people who are willing to help those who are being held against their will. Just like during the Holocaust, when the slaves were in trouble, people came to their rescue by forming the Underground Railroad. One hero of the Underground Railroad was Levi Coffin. In the winter of 1826-1827, fugitives began to come show up at the Coffin house. It started out as a well-kept secret and just a few slaves came, but the numbers increased as it became more widely known on different routes. These slaves were running away from bondage, beatings, and limitless working hours. Their lives were little better than death, and they knew they had to escape or die.

When they arrived at the Coffin house, they were welcomed in and given shelter, they would usually sleep during the day, and then they were quickly forwarded safely on their journey. Neighbors who had been too fearful of the penalty of the law to help at first, saw how well the Underground Railroad was being run and soon they felt encouraged to help. A big part of the change of attitude came from the fearless manner in which Levi Coffin acted and the success his efforts produced. The neighbors began to contribute clothing the fugitives and aid in forwarding them on their way. They were still too afraid to shelter them under their own roof, so that part of the work fell to the Coffin household. There were the “content to watch” people, who obviously wanted to see the work go on…as long as someone else took the risk. And of course, there were those who told Levin Coffin he was wasting his time. They tried to discourage him and dissuade him from running such risks, telling him that they were greatly concerned for my safety and monetary interests. They tried to convince him that continuing this risky business could damage his business and possibly even ruin him. The told him he could be endangering himself and his family too. I suppose it could have, because there are always those who sympathized with the slave-owners, but Levi Coffin could not stand to see the horrible treatment the slaves endured. He had to do something, no matter what it cost him, just like those who helped the Jews during the Holocaust.

Levi listened to these “counselors” and then told them that he “felt no condemnation for anything that I had ever done for the fugitive slaves. If, by doing my duty and endeavoring to fulfill the injunctions of the Bible, I injured my business, then let my business go. As to my safety, my life was in the hands of my Divine Master, and I felt that I had his approval. I had no fear of the danger that seemed to threaten my life or my business. If I was faithful to duty and honest and industrious, I felt that I would be preserved and that I could make enough to support my family.”

Even some of those people who were opposed to slavery, felt it was very wrong to harbor fugitive slaves. They figured that the slaves must be guilty of some crime, such as possibly killing their masters or committed some other crime in their escape attempts…making those who helped them an accomplice to the “crime” they were supposedly guilt of. Oh, they had every imaginable objection, and figured it was, at the very least, their duty to make their thoughts known. Once they had voiced their objections, their conscience was clear, and if Levi met with a tragic end, they could at least say, “I told him!!” Levi, in return asked one such “neighbor’s keeper” neighbor, if he thought the Good Samaritan stopped to inquire whether the man who fell among thieves was guilty of any crime before he attempted to help him? He said, “I asked him if he were to see a stranger who had fallen into the ditch would he not help him out until satisfied that he had committed no atrocious deed?” I suppose it was a “crime” to escape their masters, but then some laws should not be laws, and slavery certainly falls into that category. Levi Coffin had to follow his spirit and do what he felt God would expect of him, and in the end, he saved many lives.

Many of Levi’s pro-slavery customers left him for a time, and sales were down. For while his business struggled, but Levi knew that he was doing God’s will, and so God would take care of him and his business. Before long, new customers replaced those who had left him. New settlements were rapidly forming to the north and Levi’s own was filling up with emigrants from North Carolina and other States. His trade increased and his business grew. He says of this time in his life, “I was blessed in all my efforts and succeeded beyond my expectations.”

While riding the 1880 Train on the last day of our annual trip to the Black Hills, Bob and I were sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the ride. It is a favorite part of our trip each year. One of the things that I like to do on these train rides, is to listen to what the people around us think of the journey. When you ride the train every year. You know the area, and while it is still very interesting to me, I do know the area. Others don’t, so it’s interesting to see what they think of this area I love so much. I almost feel like a local listening to the tourists who are viewing this place for the first time.

This trip’s most profound conversation was a little different, and it really made me think. The train has a recorded narrative, and a little boy, about 5 or 6 years old was listening to it. So often, children don’t really listen to such things, but this little boy was rather intently listening to the message. So as he listened, the narrator said that the train was in use during World War I and World War II, and the boy said, “What’s a war?” That really made me wonder…how nice it would be, not to know what war is. Yes, there have been wars in his lifetime, and indeed, we are in one even now, but this little boy is too young to really fathom the meaning of the word…war. He still possessed an innocence when it comes to war, killing, and death. That innocence is about to end, I suppose, because once his aunt or mother answered his question, he will forever know what a war is. He cannot go back to that innocence again. It is gone.

I came away from that experience a little sad. Children have such an innocent joy, and for this boy, that is changing. True…he won’t fully lose that innocence in one explanation, and it will depend on how much the adults with him can soften the truth for him, but no matter what we do or say, war and death go together, and death by war is not pretty. This boy has an imagination, and if he continues to question the adults in his life, he will begin to get a clear picture of war, and what it really is. Then, as he grows, that picture will become more and more vivid. He will know what death by war means. War is a part of life, and eventually we all know what war means, but for me, the question felt sad, because I was witnessing the beginning of the end of his innocence. It’s a moment I wont easily forget either.

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.

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