joy

It hardly seems possible that it can be two years ago already, that our family’s little Reece Balcerzak arrived in what was destined to be the beginning of a long time away from home for her parents, while they waited in Denver for their daughter to get strong enough to go home. It was a tough time, with an amazing ending. The little family came home victoriously with their precious girl. I guess that makes her middle name very much appropriate…Victoria, which means “victory” in Latin.

Reece has so much more going for her than just her name, however. The little girl is not only a fighter, but she smiles more than just about anyone else I have ever seen. It is amazing that a little girl who has been through such a tough beginning can be so filled with joy, but then I guess that it was her parents and family who actually went through all that. Reece was just there, smiling at everyone through it all. Even as a tiny…and I really mean tiny…girl, she was filled with joy and always smiling. I find that so awesome!!

Since her very early arrival at 28 weeks into her mother, Katie’s pregnancy, Reece has been going at break-neck speed to make up for the time she spend in the hospital in Denver. She is a very busy little girl. She never ceases to amaze all who know her. Her parents don’t really need much in the way of entertainment, because their daughter is really good at that. She is talking very well now, and chatters about the things that interest her, some of which we probably have no idea, because they are her happy things alone. Ahhh, the life of a child. To have such innocence, and such joy with the things around you. Reece has such a bright future ahead of her…so many things to learn and to explore. It will be exciting for us, her family, to watch this happy, smiley girl as she grows into the wonderful adult she will one day become. Keep smiling smiley girl. We love it. Today is Reece’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Reece. Have a great day!! We love you!!

I have four sisters, and three brothers-in-law. My husband Bob had four sisters and one brother. He still has three sisters, his brother, a sister-in-law, and two brothers-in-law. We are missing his sister, Marlyce, who died of cancer on August 13, 1989 at just 39 years old. Marlyce was the first sibling death any of us had experienced, and it left a large hole in our lives. It just seemed impossible, like a horrible nightmare. How could our sweet Marlyce be gone? I suppose that disbelief at her passing, showed the innocence we all had about life, even though we weren’t seriously young. There are just people you don’t expect to lose…at least not until much later in life, and siblings definitely fall into that category. When Marlyce passed away, she took with her a portion of the joy the family had always had. She was always so sweet, and filled with a desire to help others, and make people happy.

One of the greatest events in Marlyce’s life was the day she became an aunt. She always loved babies, and each new niece or nephew was a treasure. Of all the nieces and nephews, there was only one she did not get to meet, Eric Parmely. And of course, she never got to meet all the grand nieces and grand nephews, or her great grand niece…sadly, because she would have loved every one of them. Marlyce’s developmental disabilities didn’t keep her from being able to hold the babies, and play with the little ones. She loved them as if they were her own babies. I suppose that if her circumstances had been different, maybe she could have been a mom, but that was not to be.

Marlyce went to Wood’s School as a child. Wood’s was a school for the developmentally disabled back then. These days the school district tries to incorporate these students into the public school system. I like that, whenever it is possible, but Marlyce had a great education anyway, and then they helped her to find a job. Marlyce worked several places, and always liked going to work. She never wanted to miss work…not for illness, holidays, or vacations…except maybe Christmas. Marlyce loved being needed. Baking cookies, holding babies, working, and knitting were things that made her feel useful. What she never knew was that she was so much more than those things to us. We would have loved her even if she couldn’t make things, work, or even hold the babies. Marlyce holds a special place in our hearts, and she always will. Today would have been Marlyce’s 69th birthday. I can’t believe that she has been gone almost 30 years now, but I miss her like it was yesterday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you.

During the years of World War II, so much destruction brought with it the loss of jobs and homes. Along with the loss of jobs came poverty for many people. The smallest necessity became a “luxury” to people who had no problem making a living before. Many children were caught in the post-war poverty, because they lost their parents in the war. The orphanages were filled with children who were still in a daze, and trying to learn to be pretty much on their own, while still under the supervision of the state. I can only imagine how these little ones must have felt. Their parents were gone, they were grieving, and they were tossed into a strange building with many other children, all in the same boat. I’m sure the people running the orphanage did their best to comfort the children, but there were just so many of them.

I’m sure that joy was stranger to most of the children. And I’m sure that the people who cared for them were looking for any way to put a smile on the faces of the children. Little did they know, how such a small thing as shoes, could change everything. They found out, when the Junior Red Cross in the United States of America put together boxes of what most of us would consider necessities to give to the children in Europe.

One six year old Austrian boy named Werfel, was photographed when he got a new pair of shoes at the Am Himmel orphanage, donated to him in the Christmastime care box. The picture taken of little Werfel, was enough to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who saw it. They may have been happy tears, but they were highly emotional tears nevertheless. Most kids these days, would be almost disappointed to receive a pair o shoes as a gift…unless they were the latest in cool shoes. Little Werfel was beyond happy. He held the shoes to his chest and looked to the sky, as I he couldn’t possibly contain his happiness. The photographer probably took the picture through tear filled eyes. I know that’s what I would have done as the photographer. It was impossible not to be filled with emotion. “The photograph was first published in LIFE magazine on December 30, 1946 (on page 22) and later, again, on September 24, 1951 (on page 180). The photograph was shot by Gerald Waller, in 1946, and was titled “New Shoes”. The little boy, Werfel, was among the children who were brought to the USA after being deported from Israel / Palestine, where they arrived after liberation from the concentration camps. The image was published with the following caption in the 1946 issue. “EUROPE’S CHILDREN – Christmas brings joy and sadness.”

It was said that, “For many of Europe’s children there was a Santa Claus this Christmas. When a big box from the American Red Cross arrived at Vienna’s Am Himmel orphanage, shoes and coats and dresses tumbled out. Like the youngster (in the picture), the children who had seen no new clothes throughout the war smiled to high heaven. But for thousands of other European children there was no Santa Claus. When a boatload of illegal Jewish immigrants arrived at Haifa, Palestine recently, two Polish children (opposite) got separated from their parents. Tears filled the eyes of the boy, and his wan sister clutched him protectively. They were later reunited with their parents, but the whole family was shipped to Cyprus.”

The picture has stayed in my memory since the first time I saw it. To see that little boy so overjoyed…over shoes, was so beautiful. The photographer caught the picture perfectly. That moment was very likely one of the first truly happy moments that little boy had felt in quite some time. An adult, no matter the need would never have shown such deep joy, probably because they would still be wrapped up in the poverty of the time, while the child was able to look beyond all that,and see the pure joy of the gift. The child could simply enjoy and cherish what has just been given to him, even though he was living in an orphanage…even though historical events had just unfolded,robbing him of his comfortable life…even though these were hand-me-downs. It made no difference to this boy, and it reminds us of how flawed our thinking is. We tend to look at the negatives in life and focus on them. Not this boy. He was happy with the tiniest positive thing that came into his life. It’s a lesson we should all learn. Sometimes we all need to appreciate the little things in life.

If you ask my nephew, Rob Masterson, about his daughter Audrianna, he will tell you that she is a joy to be around, and like his other children, she is the joy of his life. i believe that is true of all his kids. As to Audrianna, casually known as Anna, she is a soft-spoken girl, who makes friends easily. This 4th of July, at the fireworks display in Casper, Wyoming, while viewing them with the daughter of a co-workers of her dad’s, Anna met a girl named Aurora, casually known as Rory. You might think that Aurora is a unusual name, but not in our family, because Anna also has a second cousin named Aurora. Be that as it may, Anna and her new friend, Aurora quickly became good friends. in fact, Aurora spent the night if the 4th with Anna, and the next day, she got to go to Thermopolis with her friend as a part of Anna’s birthday celebration. Most of the swimmers came back sunburned, but not Anna or her brother Matthew, who both tan easily. A great time was had by all, and the summer looks to be going great for the new friends.

Anna is a smart girl, who loves school. She is very inquisitive, and gets almost straight As as a student. This is something I have noticed in Anna as well. She is a concentrator,much like her Great Aunt Caryn, and will think on a problem until she has a solution to it. That makes her a great student. She just doesn’t give up. Anna is also very loving, very protective of her sister, Raelynn and her brother, Matthew. Eve though they are both older than Anna, she can be fierce if anyone is picking on them. People don’t and really, shouldn’t mess with Anna when she has her mother bear instincts working. Nevertheless, most of the time it is Anna’s loving nature you see. She is quick to hug and to let her friends and family know that she loves them.

Anna loves to play Minecraft on the family Xbox. Again, I find myself looking to see what Minecraft is all about, because I get it mixed up with Minesweeper. Minesweeper is about sweeping an area for landmines, while Minecraft is about building things with blocks. Somehow the name doesn’t fit my idea of what it is. What do mines have to do with building blocks, anyway? Nevertheless, the game looks interesting, and it might be something I would like…if I were into games. Anna, however, is into games, and very into Minecraft…as are her siblings and just about every other kid I know. It is just what the kids do these days, I guess. Today is Anna’s birthday.I can’t believe she is already 11 years old. Where has the time gone. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My Aunt Delores Johnson was always a sweet, kind, loving, and sincerely genuine person. She loved her family, and she made sure they knew it. From her young years she was a joy to her parents and to her siblings, always finding ways to make them laugh. This endeared her to them for the rest of her life.

Aunt Dee, as she was always known to most people, liked sweet rolls. When she was sick, and didn’t feel like eating, of course, the sweet rolls were not something she could handle, so when she finally asked for sweet rolls, it was a great relief, because it meant that she was getting better. I’m sure that sweet rolls were offered to her when she was sick, in the hope that she would want them, thus indicating that she was on the mend.

Aunt Dee loved kids and never spoke a harsh word to any of us…at least not to her nieces and nephews. I can’t speak to how she might have been if one of her four children, Ellen, Elmer, Darla, or Delwin were in trouble, but then what parent hasn’t yelled at their child at one point or another. Nevertheless, her children always knew how much she loved them, as did all of her nieces and nephews.

Aunt Dee and my mother, Collene Spencer, who was her younger sister, were good friends, on top of being sisters. They just liked spending time together, and I can’t help but think that they are having a great time in Heaven, along with their husbands, Elmer Johnson, and my dad Allen Spencer; their parents, George and Hattie Byer; siblings, Evelyn Hushman and Larry Byer, as well as brothers-in-law, Jack McDaniels and Bill Beadle. I’m sure there’s a lot of laughter going on, because that’s the kind of thing that always happens when Aunt Dee is around. There is joy in Heaven because they are all together again. Personally, I can’t wait to get there myself, to see them all again.

Aunt Dee always had something nice to say. Like everyone in this life, Aunt Dee had her share of storms, but she weathered them all, and was still always kind to the underdog. She was a very good-hearted woman, and we all loved her very much. In 1996, Aunt Dee was diagnosed with Brain Cancer. This time there would be no request for sweet rolls to set at ease the minds of all who loved her. Aunt Dee passed away on October 6, 1996, and I still can’t believe she is gone. I miss her sweet smile and her joyful ways. Today would have been her 87th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We love and miss you very much.

My niece, Jenny Spethman is a sweet lady with a heart of gold. She is always kind to others and always wears a smile. This mom of four (plus one baby in Heaven) just never loses her hopeful joyous attitude. She greets each day…very early, often before the sunrise, so she can commune with God before the rush of activity that goes along with four active children and a busy husband. She relishes the beauty that God has created for those whose will rise up early. She looks for the beautiful things in God’s nature, in her family, and in her own heart, and she always finds them.

Jenny has such a flair for style, and she can see an outfit where the rest of us see a dud. She mixes a little of this style with a little of that style, and it comes out stunning…always stunning. Maybe it’s the girl wearing the outfit that makes the outfit, in fact, I believe that is the true fact of the matter. I wish I had her flair for putting things together, because no one ever has the same outfit as Jenny does, and yet she is always in style. Her little girl, Aleesia has also benefitted from her mom’s great style, because she always looks so cute in her outfits, and she is always in style too.

Jenny is a true blue friend. No matter what her friends might need, they can count on Jenny to be there…through the good, bad, and the ugly. And because she is a true friend, Jenny has ben blessed with some really good friends too. Jenny’s personality draws people to her and everyone wants to be Jenny’s friend. That is a gift. I think people can see kindness in a person, and that makes that person someone they want to be around. I think that is really what drew her husband, Steve Spethman to her in the first place. They were friends before anything else, and they remain best friends to this day. Of course, for anyone who has been married a long time, you know that friendship is the cornerstone of a good marriage…and without it, the marriage is already on shaky ground.

Jenny has been so blessed with three wonderful sons, who are growing up to be good young men. She was also blessed with two daughters, one of which is in Heaven waiting for the day she can see her mom and dad again, and the other is a source of laughter and joy to them every day on this Earth. For Jenny, everyday is another day in a wonderful life. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageimageWith age comes privilege, and in this case, that means a later bedtime. No, my grand niece, Kaytlyn isn’t becoming an adult, or even a teenager…she is turning eight…and for her that means having the privilege of a later bedtime. I suppose to many people that wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, but to an eight year old, that is very cool. Kaytlyn has been waiting for this day for a while now. Finally she is going to get to start doing some of the things her big sister, Jala has been able to do for years now. As we all know, a child’s bedtime is key to doing well in school, and Kaytlyn loves school. She is very smart, and her teachers tell her parents so every year. Like most kids, Kaytlyn’s future plans have changed several times, but right now, she thinks she might want to be a veterinarian, so she can help animals. Kaytlyn loves animals…especially her hampster.

There are still a few years for Kaytlyn to decide what she wants to do with her life, for sure, and for now she really just enjoys being a kid. Like most kids, she is into video games, and from what I am hearing these days, Minecraft seems to be the game of choice among the kids. Video games are something I have never really been able to get into, but the kids sure love them. Kaytlyn also likes to ride her bike, her four wheeler, and go camping. Her parents, Susan and Josh bought a new to them trailer this year, and the family is looking forward to going camping every couple of weeks this summer. While camping is something Kaytlyn loves, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like winter, because like most kids, she does. Sledding is probably a big part of the fun of winter for her. Maybe I should try that…or not!!imageimage

Kaytlyn is a very social person, and very much enjoys texting her friends from her iPod, when she isn’t hanging out with them that is. She has a great sense of humor, and likes to keep her friends and family entertained with her goofiness. I really can’t think of a trait that is better for a person to have, than a great sense of humor. A person like that is able to bring joy to everyone they know. Today is Kaytlyn’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Kaytlyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Dustine & Greg HushmanToday, I have been thinking about my cousin, Greg Huhsman a lot. This has been a year of much change, and sadness, for Greg, with a little bit of gladness mixed in. Greg lost his beautiful wife, Dustine on February 18, 2015, and if you have ever lost a loved on, you know that it feels like your whole world just came crashing down on you. Before too long, you are expected to pick yourself up, and get back to your job, but your body wants to go back to bed, and hope that when you wake up again, you will find that all this was just a nightmare. Sadly, it wasn’t, so you move forward, probably a little bit mechanically at first, doing the things you need to do each day, and praying that your heart will stop hurting so badly pretty soon.

I don’t say that anything will ever take Dustine’s place in Greg’s heart, because there is nothing that can do that, but sometimes, like in Greg’s life, something else happens that while it doesn’t stop the pain, it adds a little bit of joy to balance it out a bit. Nine months ago, Greg found out that his daughter was going to have a surprise baby. The baby was not planned, nor was she going to be planned for in the future, but arrive she will, and within the next three days. Her mother, Greg’s daughter, Stephanie, found herself pregnant after a seven year time span. I don’t think Greg had expected to have any more grandchildren. He has two, Kathleen and Michael Willard, but what an exciting thing to find that you are going to be blessed with another, and really just when you need some good things in your life. This baby was due a couple of days ago, and I am still holding out hope that she will arrive on her grandpa’s birthday, but even if she doesn’t, she will be a blessing for the entire family.Stephanie Hushman-Willard

Unfortunately, we can’t change the sad moments life hands us, but God is always so good to us. In the midst, of sadness, joy always seems to comes. I know this birthday will be a very different one for Greg…a very lonely one, but I’m just as sure that he knows just how much his entire family loves him. We are all praying for comfort, and the coming reintroduction of joy in his life. Greg has always been such a kind and thoughtful cousin. It breaks my heart to have him go through such loss at such a young age. I know too, though, that his family means the world to him, and this new little granddaughter will bring him great joy. I can’t wait for her arrival, and I know Greg can’t either. Nevertheless, babies come when they are ready, so we will simply have to wait. Today is Greg’s birthday. Happy birthday Greg!! I’m praying that this is your new granddaughter’s birthday too. Have a great day either way!! We love you!!

Unhappy ShaiIt’s funny how the most unrelated remark can take you back in time by years in a matter of seconds. Last night at bowling, we were getting ready to leave, and there was a couple with a little baby, who was very unhappy. Upon hearing the crying, my daughter, Amy said, “That is one unhappy baby!” At that moment, I was transported back 18 years in an instant…back to when my granddaughter, Shai Royce was a little baby. Amy bowled on a league with Bob and me at that time, and our little Miss Shai really didn’t understand why her mom and grandma sometimes had to hand her off to someone else while we bowled.

I will never forget the crying. She acted like it was the worst trauma in the world. While we were only away from her for a couple of minutes, and she could clearly see us while we bowled, it was not enough. Shai, being our only granddaughter and clearly a bit of a drama queen for most of her life, liked things to go her way, and her way only. It’s funny really, because when she was at home or at my house, she did not Shai and Grandmarequire constant holding, just at the bowling alley. I guess we should have played peek-a-boo with her a little bit more often.

There were other times that Shai became clearly unhappy too, but as I think back now, they often occurred in situations where there were a lot of people, and she didn’t know them very well. I guess she was one of those babies who had a real stranger danger instinct going on. Or maybe she just loved her mommy, daddy, and grandparents a lot, so she didn’t want them to be very far away from her. This is not so uncommon in babies to go through times in their first or even their second year, where they only want to be with their parents and grandparents. It’s just a personal preference.

When Shai was sitting on my lap or Amy’s lap at bowling, she was a very happy and content little girl, and she had a smile that could just melt your heart. Her whole face lit up with delight when she smiled. She was just such a joy when she was happy, but when she was unhappy about something, or downright sad, look out, because everyone in the room was going to know about it. Shai was one of those babies who had the ability to screech in anger, and she did not care who heard it…in fact, the more people who knew it, the better she felt. I Always smilingthink she thought that the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the oil, and she decided that she liked that idea.

Our little Miss Shai is not nearly the drama queen she used to be in those days. As she has grown up, and especially in the last few years, she has turned into a strong, capable, responsible young lady, and I am very proud of her. She enjoys a self confidence that many girls her age just don’t have, and she is not afraid of anything. I know that she will do well in whatever she sets her mind to. With her background of making her wants and needs known, she will always come out on top…even if taking her to the bowling alley was a bit of a trial in those days gone by.

Kevin 5Of all the birthdays my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen has had, I have a feeling that this one will be the most bittersweet. This will be the first birthday in eighteen years that has passed without seeing his son, Chris, in person. I’m sure he knew that was going to happen at some point, but when you have children, you don’t think of them moving out until it happens, and then you wish it wouldn’t. Of course Kevin and my daughter, Corrie want their son to succeed in college, but it is on the special days that you find that you feel just a little bit…no, a whole lot lonely. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Kevin and Chris have worked side by side for some time now. That is going to make work very lonely for Kevin. Kevin and Chris also loved to work on their cars together, and on the boat that they bought this summer. Doing all those things together tends to make two people very close, and that is how it was with Kevin and Chris. It is going to take some getting used to for them to feel ok with this new arrangement, and that will take Kevin 2time. I wish there was an easier fix for them, but there is simply no easy solution. You just have to wait it out.

Kevin is such a family man. I have watched him and Corrie raising their boys to be good men, and I am so proud of the training they have given the boys. Part of raising a child is to help them become independent, and that is the point that Chris is at now. Because of his good upbringing, I know that he will do well. Of course, they still have Josh at home, and it seems that there are seasons for all things. I know that during this time, Kevin and Josh will become even closer than they were before, as they all struggle to adjust to the new living arrangements their family has taken on. That’s what life is all about…adjusting to the constant changes that happen. Nothing ever stays the same, and while we don’t like some of them, changes are important too. And in reality, we could not see what great people we have raised if they never grow up and go out in the world to make their own way, Kevin 3and live their own life. Nevertheless, as a mom, I know exactly how Kevin’s heart is feeling…broken and lonely.

Everything will work out for everyone in the Petersen family, and in the days to come, their joy will return…even if they are changed because of the changes in their family’s life. Chris will finish school for the year and come back home and they will have the summer months and he will come home on weekends too, and they will rejoice. For Kevin, I just hope that he will find a little bit of joy today, on his birthday, and that is ends up being a good day. Today is Kevin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kevin!! Have a good day!! We love you!!

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