life

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When you have been given a miracle in the form of a second chance in life, you don’t want to waste it. Just under nine months ago, on October 14, 2018, I received a second chance miracle. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate what I had or anything like that, but rather it was that I could have lost my husband, but by a miracle of God, I didn’t. That second chance miracle makes this particular birthday…my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s 65th, even more special than it would have otherwise been. A landmark birthday, like the 65th is always special, but we almost didn’t see it for Bob, so this birthday is almost like a re-birth. I find myself feeling a little more emotional than I might have otherwise been, because he is still here, and I realize how very blessed I am.

I think a second chance miracle tends to bring with it some added responsibilities, however. When you are given a second chance, you need to spend the time wisely. Things like working out and eating right come to mind. A heart attack can make people quit, but not Bob. I have been very proud of Bob’s determination to stay healthy and to make the most out of his second chance miracle. I have seen many people who didn’t want to do the rehab that was prescribed for them. I’ve heard all the possible excuses. It hurts!! It’s hard work!! I have other things to do!! All of these excuses simply say that the person speaking them doesn’t appreciate the second chance they have been given. Bob has never once said anything like that, but rather went faithfully to his cardiac rehab, and when he had completed the course, he decided to continue in the maintenance program and his own expense. Its not required, but Bob wanted his full life back, not just a much slower version of existence that he would have to settle for.

Bob and I love to hike, and we have plans to continue hiking for years to come…especially now that we are both retired, and we have more time and the freedom to go and hike when and where we want to. That is a very liberating thing for us, and we are very excited about it. Bob and I have decided that we aren’t going to let anything slow us down. The road ahead will not be an easy one, because hiking, being in good shape, and preparing for hikes is not easy. It’s a lot of work, but when you reach the top of that mountain trail, and you look out on the view from the top, you know that you don’t ever want to be stuck at the bottom of that hill. Today is Bob’s 65th birthday. Happy birthday Sweetie!! I love you!!

My sister, Cheryl Masterson is the oldest of our parents’ five daughters, and because of that, the one who inherited the most responsibility early on. When I was born, almost two years later, she became a big sister, and from every picture I have seen of us together, she was very pleased to be a big sister. She was very helpful and loving, showing me the things in life that she had discovered. Those were sweet days. She was always the same, as I recall, when a new sister came along. Being the oldest, and often the one most capable of holding babies, she got the first shot at the honor of holding her newest sister…and again the honor of showing each new sister the ropes of life. She was also the mother’s helper and later the first sister to babysit the rest of us.

As the years went by. it was time for Cheryl to start school, and by then, there were two more sisters in the mix. It was going to be difficult for our mom, Collene Spencer to walk Cheryl the five blocks to school, so Chery was going to walk with other kids, and of course, Mom was apprehensive. Nevertheless, those were different times, and kids walked to school. Mom had to figure out a way to let Cheryl go, and the only way that worked for her was to turn her precious daughter over to God. Cheryl left for school that first morning with the words we would all come to know well, “Jesus will take care of you” in her ears. Our dad, Allen Spencer, also adopted those words in full agreement with Mom’s confession over us. Those words have carried all of us through our lives, and they’ve been passed down to our own kids and grandkids. It was another of the many firsts that started with Cheryl, as the oldest sister.

Now that our parents have gone to Heaven, Cheryl has become the family matriarch. We aren’t required to answer to her, of course, but we all feel a sense of family and Cheryl is in a big way, the main part of keeping things that way. We all let each other know of travel plans…departures and arrivals…and of course, tell each other “Jesus will take care of you” just like Mom did on Cheryl’s very first day of school. It keeps our parents in our lives, and Cheryl is a reminder of where it all started. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day, and enjoy the rain that God has provided for you, since you love that kind of weather!! We love you!!

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!!

“Every state has ghost towns. Eastern and Midwestern States are no exception. At one time or another you may have driven your car right by a ghost town, not aware of it. If you are a hiker, backpacker, or a hunter, you may have walked past or through a ghost town not knowing one was there.” I read that statement on a web site I was using to research stories for my blog. I had read many stories about ghost towns, but this one intrigued me. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have hiked many of the trails in the Black Hills, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times we have walked past old abandoned, crumbling, falling down buildings. To us, they seemed like just an abandoned farmhouse and out buildings, but now I am beginning to wonder if we have been one of those hikers who have walked right through a ghost town, and didn’t even know it. In fact, I’ll bet we have walked right through many a ghost town during our many hikes.

I love photographing old buildings, and often find myself wondering how long they had been there, and why they were left to rot. Of course, the Black Hills is rich in gold rush history, so a ghost town or tow makes perfect sense. We have driven through, and by some of them, and even passed through some while riding he 1880 Train, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that some of the old buildings we have hiked by could have been part of a ghost town, but looking back now, it makes perfect sense. I have often found myself wondering who lived there and what their lives might have been like back when the house was newly built. Still, it didn’t occur to me that it might be part of a ghost town. I guess that is because I always thought that all the ghost towns would be well documented with signs alerting the tourists to the site. In reality, those signs would be placed by the town’s owner, who was trying to make a buck by romanticizing the site…and that’s ok too, but that doesn’t mean that every ghost town was so well documented. In reality, it’s the ghost towns that are less documented that hold the most intrigue, because much less is known about them.

I think that the next time we hike and find ourselves passing by an old rotting building, that I will feel much different about the place than I did in the past. I think I will still wonder about who lived there, but also about whether or not it was a ghost town that once sprung up, and prospered, only to be choked out when hard times hit and the people who lived there moved on in search of a better life. That was, after all, the fate of every ghost town. It was a town that sprung up with the promise of becoming a bustling city, but it was in the wrong place, and life could not be sustained there, so eventually it withered and died off, leaving only the buildings to tell of its presence, and then only to those who happened to pass by.

My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were married at a young age. I wasn’t even out of high school a year when we got married. Today is our 43rd Wedding Anniversary. I’ve heard all the different marriage experts, with all their varying ideas about what makes a perfect marriage, but when I look back on how our marriage lasted all these years, I can’t say that we did many of the things the experts suggested…mostly because they were far fetched and not really us, but also because we didn’t have time for that nonsense. We were busy writing our own book. No, we weren’t literally writing a marriage book, but we were living our life, and in doing so, we discovered that time flew by, as it does when you are having fun, and before we knew it, we had been married 10, then 20, then 30, then 40 years, and now we have arrived at 43 years, and yet looking back, that seems an impossible number. It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long. We are among the rare few who have been married once, and have stayed married for more than 40 years. Of course, some people who didn’t make that mark, lost their spouse to death, which doesn’t count really, because they had stayed married until death. Still, we know that divorce is very common in this country, and that somehow we made it. All we knew, 43 years ago, was that we loved each other.

Bob and I have many things in common. After all our years together that isn’t surprising. We have a love for the outdoors and hiking. In fact, while you will find us walking in the mall in the winter, you should know that we find that tedious and not relaxing, at least not nearly as relaxing as a trail on a summer evening. We like the same television shows, and some of the same music. We think alike too. I think we could probably finish most of each others sentences. Many of our mannerisms are similar to, because we you are around a person a lot their mannerisms rub off on you. After all these years, we are comfortable with each other, and when you get were we are, you will see just how amazing that is. Today is or 43rd wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Bob!! I love you with all my heart!!

For the first 51 years of my life, my birthday was always celebrated with my dad. It was our tradition. I was supposed to be born on his birthday anyway, and what difference did two days make…for birthday parties anyway. We always like having our party together. Now that Dad is in Heaven, we can no longer do that, on Earth anyway, and believe me…it has been a long ten years. He is always in my thoughts on my birthday, and every day, as is my mom.

I think that as we get older, our birthday becomes a day to reflect on all the blessings we have been given. In my mind, there is no greater blessing than the parents who have me life in the first place. I just couldn’t have asked for better parents than they were. They taught me all of life’s important lessons…the ones I needed to know to become an independent and responsible woman, and trust me when I say that I was not always the easiest student. I would not be where I am today, were it not for them. I am also thankful for my sweet sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock…and for their families. We always had each other, and we knew that we always would. I knew I could count on them…no matter what.

As I grew up, I met the love of my life, Bob Schulenberg. He is my support system through everything life brings my way. When he took our wedding vows over 42 years ago, he meant every word, and he has kept every vow perfectly. He has been a huge blessing in my life. He is the father of my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. My girls…wow!! Where do I begin? Besides being the wonderful children they were and the beautiful women they have become, they were always there, willing to do whatever was needed, especially in the years while we were taking care of their grandparents. We couldn’t have done it without them. Caregiving is truly a unique situation, and anyone who has done it knows that it definitely takes a village. My girls were an intricate part of that village, as were their husbands, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who both sacrificed so much time with their wives and children so they could be there for their grandparents. My grandchildren…another wow! How many children, ten and under, willing come in and become CNAs in every sense of the word…and do it well. None I can think of. Each of my grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, are more of a blessing to me than they can ever know. I want my family to know that I am so proud of each and every one of you.

And no reflection over one’s life would be complete without considering the blessing of loving in-laws. Bob’s parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg became like a second set of parents to me, and with my marriage I also gained four sweet sisters-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg, Debbie Cook, Jennifer Parmely, and Brenda Schulenberg, as well as a brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg. They, along with their families have made my life complete. As my birthday arrives, it is with sadness, because of those who are in Heaven now, but also with a deep understanding of just how very blessed my life has been. I thank God for each and everyone of my family members, as well as wonderful friends, like Jim and Julie Stengel, Carrie Beauchamp, and Becky Thorne, who have also been a great part of what makes my life blessed. Looking at my past, I know that I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s perfect just the way it is. Life doesn’t get sweeter than this.

img_5129img_5133When you think of a town within a town or city, you often think of New York City, where you might find Queens, Harlem, or Yonkers. Or you might think of New Orleans, where you might find the French Quarter or the 9th Ward, but people really never think of a town within a town, when the town is a small town, like Forsyth, Montana, population of about 1,777. Nevertheless, Forsyth, Montana was a town that had within it a town…so to speak. When my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s grandpa, Andrew Schulenberg was a young married man, he built a couple of houses there. The houses were next door to each other. Andy’s parents lived in one house, and he and his wife, lived in the other. Across the street was another house owned by Schulenberg family relative, Bob’s Great Aunt Hennie. Being such a small town, there were other Schulenberg families very nearby, and since Andy’s parents, Max and Julia Schulenberg had ten children, it made for a lot of Schulenberg relation living in a neighborhood in Forsyth, Montana. Well, before long, the people of the town found themselves calling that neighborhood, Schulenbergville. I’m not sure just exactly when img_5109the neighborhood got its name, but since Andy was the sheriff of Rosebud County from 1955 to 1972, my guess is that it was either during that time, or it was his job as sheriff that solidified the name to that area of town.

I had the chance to see the two houses that Andy Schulenberg built, and to find out that the second one was the house that Bob’s Uncle Butch Schulenberg was born in. I love to see the homes where loved ones were born, partly I suppose, because so few people are born at home these days. In those days, however, being born at home was a very common practice, and it makes me think about the history that the house has witnessed. The house got to see little Butch Schulenberg growing up…or at least starting his life, since I don’t know when the family might have moved out of the house. Nevertheless, the area remained Schulenbergville for a number of years, and I don’t think the locals have forgotten it to this day.

Nor have they forgotten the sheriff who really made the Schulenberg name a household word in the little town of Forsyth. Andy was a different kind of sheriff from those you normally meet, and that is a story I will tell sometime, but it’s too long for this story. Suffice it to say that he was dearly loved, and there is more than one img_5132img_5135adult who owes the fact that they weren’t in prison…or worse as kids, to Sheriff Andy Schulenberg, and they will be happy to tell you so. The two houses Andy built still stand, as do the houses of the neighboring Schulenberg clan members, although some are no longer occupied. I find that a bit sad, but it is a testament to good construction work. Now they stand as a treasured memory for those who knew Schulenbergville well.

biosphere-2-habitat-lungI think a lot of us have thought about just getting away from it all for a while. Life gets too busy, and we just think that if we could have a little time away, with nowhere in particular to be at any given time, we could come out of that stressful sort of funk we find ourselves in. Now I don’t know if that was what medical doctor and researcher, Roy Walford, along with Jane Poynter, Taber MacCallum, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Abigail Alling, Mark Van Thillo, and Linda Leigh had in mind or not when, on September 26, 1991, they entered a facility called Biosphere 2, for a two year stay inside…without leaving, but that is what they did. Granted, they weren’t alone in the facility, but they were there for two full years, finally emerging again on September 26, 1993.

Biosphere 2 is an agricultural system that produced 83% of the total diet, which included crops of bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes, beets, peanuts, lablab and cowpea beans, rice, and wheat. No toxic chemicals could pond-in-bioshpere-2be used, because they would impact health. That first year was tough. The eight inhabitants were continually hungry. Things got better in the second year, when they produced over a ton more food. They were eating more and so regained some of the weight lost during the first year. They took with them, domestic animals for the agricultural area during the first mission, including four pygmy goats and one billy goat from the plateau region of Nigeria, 35 hens and three roosters a mix of Indian jungle fowl (Gallus, Japanese silky bantam, and a hybrid of these), two sows and one boar pig, as well as tilapia fish grown in a rice and azolla pond system originating long ago in China. These were designed to round out the diet. There was public excitement, as well as doubt, especially when an injured member was allowed to leave and return, bringing in plastic bags. The public thought it was food. In the end, I’m not sure if they deemed the project a success or not. I suppose it would depend on who you talked to. The system could not produce enough oxygen so that had to be pumped in. Also, some of the species died, and some of the dead fish clogged the filtration system.

plants-in-biosphere-2The eight members of the team survived, so I suppose that would be considered a success, and they did stay the full two years that had been planned. It was an interesting experiment I’m sure, and it would be a definite getaway from normal, everyday life, but I’m sure it had it’s downside too. Not being able to be with your family, seeing only the facility, and eating the same food, day in and day out, just to name a few. Personally, I think that two years might be a little bit of a long getaway…in fact, I think I would probably go just a little bit stir crazy…or maybe a lot stir crazy. The second experiment didn’t go so well, with a number of problems precipitating the premature exit of the team. Maybe they went stir crazy too.

1977014_785573824840729_4512717937708797914_n13537721_1172142732850501_1713751929367062279_nSeldom does it seem like a person is truly the light of someone else’s life, but that is how my grand niece, Melanie Harman seemed to be for my grand nephew, Jake Harman, the first time I met her. I have to think Jake, while not old by any stretch of the imagination, thought that he would never meet that special someone who would truly complete him. It’s hard to imagine how a person can feel when they honestly think they will be alone in this life. We knew that Jake felt that way…not because he said it, but because it showed in how he was. That always made me sad, because I knew that Jake had something special to give to that person who could see something special in him, and it was hard to see that there didn’t seem to be someone out there who could see that.

Then Melanie came alone, and suddenly, Jake was complete. Melanie is such a sweet, loving girl, and when he is with her, Jake just blossoms. I suppose that sounds odd, in light of the fact that he is a man, but men can blossom too. They suddenly become the person that God had in mind for them to be. Melanie was truly a gift to Jake, from God, to bless his life in every way. Melanie brought with her, a daughter, Alice, who simply adores Jake, and now together, they have another daughter, Izabella, who is Jake’s mini-me. Life is suddenly good for both Jake and Melanie, and it will only get better and better every day, week, month, and year they spend together. 12278715_1030129097051866_7408744507240113633_n13325557_1150755371655904_8772301167133340237_nTheir love for each other is simply beautiful.

Melanie is loved by everyone in the family, and everyone who knows her. It’s easy to see that her special kind of personality has been such a sweet blessing for Jake, and that endears her to all of us. Jake has never been happier, and Melanie is the reason. She is an excellent mom to the girls, and they are so blessed to have her for their mom. Melanie couldn’t fit in this family any better, if she tried. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Anna Louise Spencerimg392Autographing a yearbook, or in the past, an autograph book is a tradition that really never goes away. The school year…or a certain period in a person’s life is coming to an end. Friends want to be remembered and people want to remember their friends, so they write something in their yearbook that they hope will sound profound, sophisticated, grown up, or at the very least, not sound too stupid. It doesn’t matter that you know the annual yearbook signing is coming, when the moment arrives, you find yourself on the spot again. Do you write a poem? Do you say something goofy? Or, do you say something with deep feeling, knowing that you may not see these people much anymore…if at all? Of course, it depends on who you are speaking too. Goofy works for the class clown, and profound might be great for the valedictorian, and if these are your good friends, you might write something with a little more feeling, but if the classmates are little more than acquaintances, what do you want to say to them? I suppose that is more when the poem or saying of the day comes into play. I mean, you are on the spot, and you can’t take all day.

Still, there are times when the poem of the day says exactly what you are feeling, like the friends of my grandmother’s and my dad’s who had hoped that they would not be forgotten as the years passed. In reality, I think most of us remember most of our classmates, whether it’s is just their face, or even their name, but that doesn’t mean that we spend a lot of time with them over the years, unless they were really a good friend. Nevertheless, there were very few classmates who completely faded into obscurity to the point that we don’t even remember that they were classmates at all, and sometimes classmates come back into our lives to a degree, as is the case with people we reconnect with on Facebook or in some other online form of social media. That still doesn’t mean that the friendship has been completely rekindled, but rather that curiosity came into play a little bit, for a little while.

The main reason for autographs, I think, is to make a way to remember a time in our lives that we really can’t visit again. Even with class reunions and such, you really don’t go back to that time exactly. You and your classmates might talk a little bit about what you did in school, and a lot about what everyone is doing now, but Allen Spencer as a boyimg487at some point, there just isn’t that much to talk about anymore. Your lives have taken different directions, and you have very little in common. That’s probably why class reunions last for just a weekend, because if they were longer, no one would go. There just isn’t a weeks worth of conversations, unless you continued on as friends after your school days were over, And then you wouldn’t need a class reunion to get you together so you could catch up at all. I guess that’s why I think class reunions put you on the spot all over again.

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