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Any illness that takes a life is a tragedy, but sometimes an illness doesn’t take the life, exactly, it just stops everything about that life…in its tracks. In January of 1988 at age 12, Martin Pistorius of South Africa came down with a strange illness. his illness was so unusual, that his doctors weren’t even sure what it was. Nevertheless, they did speculate that it might be Cryptococcal Meningitis. Cryptococcosis is a potentially fatal fungal infection of mainly the lungs, where it presents as a type of pneumonia; and also, the brain, where it appears as a meningitis. The symptoms seem common enough…a cough, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and fever are seen when the lungs are infected. When the brain is infected, symptoms include headache, fever, neck pain, nausea and vomiting, light sensitivity, and confusion or changes in behavior. It can also affect other parts of the body including skin, where it may appear as several fluid-filled nodules with dead tissue.

As the disease progressed, Pistorius got progressively worse. At first, he lost the ability to move by himself, then his ability to make eye contact, and finally his ability to speak. His parents were told their son was essentially in a vegetative state, basically they were told he was almost brain dead, that he wasn’t “really there” and would die soon. It was the most devastating news a parent could hear, but Pistorius didn’t die. He just stayed in a vegetative state for the next 12 years. His parents couldn’t give up on their son, and so, they took care of him…bathing, dressing, and feeding him. They days turned into years…years of grieving, sadness, weariness, and a sense of having made a mistake, for not “letting him go” sooner. The weariness got so bad that one day, not knowing her son could hear her, Joan Pistorius told him, “I hope you die.” It was a harsh thing to say, but she thought he was brain dead, and she was simply exhausted.

As Joan Pistorius would later find out, to her horror I’m sure, her son heard and understood every word. Somewhere between the ages of 14 and 16, Pistorius had begun to wake up…slowly. At first, it may have been barely noticeable, but at some point, it got to where Pistorius later recalled, “I was aware of everything, just like any normal person.” He could hear, and very much understand and process what he heard, but he couldn’t say or do anything about what he heard or let anyone know that he had heard. The condition Pistorius had, is known as “locked-in syndrome” and can be caused by a stroke, traumatic brain injury, infection, or drug overdose. There is no known cure. I’m sure the situation was even more frustrating for Pistorius, than it was for his mom. Although Pistorius could see, hear, and understand everything, he couldn’t move his body. “Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again,” he later recalled. “The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that – totally alone.”

Pistorius made a conscious choice to disengage from his thoughts as his way of coping. Because of his condition, Pistorius spent a lot of time at a care center while his mother worked. He hated the children’s TV show Barney, and that was on constantly there. That show led him to start reengaging with his thoughts in an attempt to take some control of his life. As his thought life improved, so did his body. Then, one glorious day, a relief worker at his daycare center noticed his slight movements and realized Pistorius could communicate. She immediately told his parents, telling them to get another evaluation. Finally, they knew he was conscious. His recovery wasn’t instantaneous, of course, but by age 26, he could use a computer to communicate. Pistorius later enrolled in college, majoring in computer science and started a company online. It was a long road, but he has come full circle, by 2011 when he published his memoir, “Ghost Boy.” Pistorius met his wife Joanna, who is from England in 2008 through his sister Kim, who had moved to there. After meeting Joanna, he moved to England too, and they were married in 2009. By that time, while still using a wheelchair, he was racing in it. Their son, Sebastian Albert Pistorius, was born a few months later.

Somehow, this year, this day sneaked up on me. I knew what day my dad, Allen Spencer passed away, and I knew it was coming up, but then…suddenly, yesterday as I was working on my computer, I realized that it was tomorrow, and it hit me like a kick in the gut. I hate that. I prefer to be prepared for the coming of this day and other days like this, so I can steel my emotions to it. It seems impossible that my dad has been in Heaven for 16 years now. There are great grandchildren and great great grandchildren that he never got to meet. There are so many new additions by marriage that he did get to meet…and more than that, they didn’t get to meet him. That is sad indeed, because my dad loved playing with the little kids…hearing their laughter was his delight. He would have loved all of the new spouses too. We have been very blessed with all of them.

My dad and my mom, Collene Spencer gave us all such a beautiful life. They built in us a deep faith in God and a deep sense of family. They are both in Heaven now, but in our memories live the echos of those beautiful moments. Dad always loved to travel, and that started many family vacations. Sometimes, my parents were happy to plan a long vacation, and sometimes, they would just load up the car and go where the road would take us. I suppose people might think that was a weird way to travel, but those were some of the most amazing trips ever. My sisters and I can say that we have visited almost every state in the nation. We took a trip every summer…even in the lean years. I will never forget the “Wyoming Tour” when we took several legs and traveled to each of the four sections of the state. Sometimes, like that year, a tour of our home state was just what we needed, and it was very relaxing and fun.

My dad was a gentle man, as well as a gentleman. I truly think that it was harder on him to discipline is that it was on us. Dad would do his best to try to work things out without the spanking we most likely deserved. I remember so many times that Dad kept the peace in our family. We were never allowed to “let the sun go down on our wrath.” Dad knew that it was essential to say you’re sorry and make up with your loved ones. He family struggled with that, and it caused splits in the family…with everyone but my dad. He got along with all of his siblings. He refused to let it be otherwise. Dad believed in being the peacemaker. And he always was. That was probably one of the greatest and most important lessons ever. I wish my dad was still with us. I miss his teachings, his personality, his gentleness, and his kindness, not to mention his silliness, and he was able to be quite silly. I really miss that too. Today, marks 16 long years without seeing my dad. It is a kick in the gut, and I can’t wait to see him again when I go to Heaven. We love and miss you every day, Dad. Tell Mom we love and miss her too. Hugs to you both.

My grandson, Josh Petersen and his fiancée, Athena Salazar met in middle school, and at the time, Athena tells me that she didn’t really like Josh much. That’s not such an odd thing. in those early teen years, everybody feels awkward, and doesn’t really know how to show someone that you like them, and especially for girls, the awkward maneuvering of the teenaged boys makes them someone the girls would rather just avoid. I don’t really know if Josh liked Athena back then, but when they met again, both working at Sanford’s, they knew that things had changed for them. Now before them was a person who was suddenly quite loveable, and they knew that they had found their soulmate for life. Josh and Athena had followed the path of his Grandma and Grandpa Schulenberg, who had known each other all their lives, and for those awkward teen years, she didn’t like him, but then it all changed, and they were together for life. It’s really a sweet story, when you think about it. Today, the story of Josh and Athena is going to the next level. Today, they will marry the love of their lives. They have been waiting for so long, and they are so excited.

We are so happy to have Athena join our family. It is wonderful to see Josh so happy. They couldn’t be more perfect for each other if they tried. They find the same things to be funny, and they love the same things, especially their son, Justin, who was born in 2022 and their little baby boy who will be making his entrance at the end of September. Life is good for these sweet kids, and now it is going to be even sweeter as they become husband and wife. They have so many good things ahead of them and this is just the beginning, the point when two lives who have known each other for so long, and now become one.

Josh and Athena have so much in common, from school days to work, to their likes and dislikes, and their temperaments. They are the kind of people who are always willing to help others, and that endears them to many people. They like to travel and see new places, but they enjoy hanging out at home just as much. Their son, Justin and soon his little brother, Axel are their top priorities, and they love them both so much. They are already such great parents, and so great as a couple, and I know they will be equally as great as husband and wife. Today is the day…their Wedding Day!! Congratulations Athena and Josh!! Congratulations on your marriage!! We are so happy for you both!! We love you!!

It isn’t often that a couple is together all their lives, but really, that is the case with my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg. Their parents, or really, their moms were best friends. Walt’s mom, Vina née Leary Schulenberg (later Hein) had two children…Marian in 1927 and Walt in 1929. Joann’s mom, Nettie lost a son, William in 1929, and then went on to have Joann in 1931. I’m not sure exactly when their friendship began, but by the time Joann was born, Vina and Nettie were friends. In fact, that is how Walt and Joann “famously” slept…well napped…together when he was two and she was an infant. I think that story is sweet, but my mother-in-law was always more than a little bit embarrassed, whenever the subject came up.

Of course, they weren’t a “couple” all those years, and in fact, my mother-in law once told me that for a number of years she absolutely did not like my father-in-law in the slightest little bit, but eventually, he grew on her and they started dating. My father-in-law was a very likable guy, so it doesn’t surprise me that she started to like him as time went on. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and while she was a more serious person, his witty personality balanced with her serious one quite nicely.

They went on to have six children and move from Forsyth, Montana to Casper, Wyoming where they raised their family. Like most families, it was a “job market move” that brought them to Casper. My mother-in-law was a stay-at-home mom, and my father-in-law worked at Pathfinder Mines as a mechanic for many years.

Theirs was a long and happy marriage, lasting 64 years before my father-in-law went home to Heaven. I was blessed to marry into this family, and to know these two wonderful people. In fact, anyone who knew them would tell you what a wonderful blessing they were. Dad went home to Heaven in May 5, 2013, and Mom went home on January 4, 2018. We miss them both very much. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad Schulenberg. We love you very much.

My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens has been a part of our family since he married my sister, Alena (Spencer) Stevens on July 21, 1984. Their marriage has been blessed with many years, three children, Michelle (Matt) Miller, Garrett (Kayla) Stevens, and Lacey (Chris Killinger) Stevens. They also have two granddaughters, Elliott and Maya Stevens, and two bonus grandchildren, Brooklyn and Jaxon Killinger. These days, Mike and Alena have a little more time to enjoy their beautiful family, because on July 1, 2022, Mike retired. Alena had retired a couple of years ago, and now they are free to go and do as they please. I know that finally having the freedom to go without thinking about having to work is an awesome feeling. It’s the reward for all those years of hard work.

Mike worked in the Salt Creek Oil Field for 39 years, starting with Amoco in 1983. The company changed hands and names several times, and at the time Mike retired, it was Contango Energy. Mike worked his way up in the oil field business, and by the time he retired, he was the Compression Foreman. As I recall his job as Compression Foreman required that he be available pretty much 24/7. He was a vital part of the project, and they depended on him. He also Mike was well liked and much respected.

That is all behind Mike now. He and Alena have new plans now. They love to go camping and fishing, and Mike also hunts. Mike also has a green thumb, and he loves growing things. Since his last day on the job, Mike has been able to meet that newest little granddaughter, Maya, who was born June 24th, just days before her grandpa retired. Such a blessing…almost like a retirement present. Now that they are both retired, so many fun things are ahead of them. Mostly though, they can relax, and not rush to work all the time. They are free to do the things they want do, when they want to.

Today we are going to celebrate the wonderful man, husband, dad, grandpa, brother, and son that Mike is. He has been a blessing to those around him all his life. He was a hard worker and is a thoughtful man. He has helped with projects for our parents, and that endeared him to them too. I’m so glad that he and my sister got together. Mike is a great addition to our family. Have a wonderful retirement, Mike!! We love you!!

My aunt, Jeanette Byer joined the Byer family when she married my uncle, Larry Byer. Of course, that was before I was born…just a little over two months before I was born, but before, nevertheless. So, I never knew a time when she was not my aunt. When that happens, you don’t think of them as an aunt by marriage, but simply as an aunt, as if by blood…and that is exactly how I think of her.

Aunt Jeanette is very sweet. She is always very pleasant to be around, and never has a harsh word for anyone. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t love Aunt Jeanette. Aunt Jeanette was my grandparents, George and Harriet Byer’s first daughter-in-law. All the other marriages in the family to that point had brought sons-in-law. It was a new experience for everyone, but it was ok, because Aunt Jeanette had long been a family friend, so adding her now as a daughter-in-law, was fairly comfortable.

These days, with my Uncle Larry living in Heaven, Aunt Jeanette lives alone in an apartment. That hasn’t been too difficult, but her eyesight is failing, and that makes me sad. During her life, she has always had a nice yard, a ceramics hobby room, and of course, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren that she loved and wanted to be able to see and enjoy. I’m sure she misses being able to do those things. Her independence has been compromised, and I really hate that. Nevertheless, Aunt Jeanette is keeping a positive outlook, and a smile on her beautiful face. It seems that there is not much that can really get her down, because a positive outlook is a state of mind, and not a place. Aunt Jeanette has embraced that fact, and she is happier for it.

Aunt Jeanette is really a very strong woman, and that is also in her favor. She has worked hard all her life, helping to take care of the land they had before they moved from Casper to Louisiana when the oil business tanked. That is something that has kept her in good shape, and really kept her young at heart. I am happy that she has had so many years of good health and good mobility, because as she ages, she can still get around, except for the eyesight problem. I’m glad she has remained as healthy as she has, because I hope we can keep her around for a while. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The last two weeks of August were spend visiting our daughter, Amy Royce and her family. In my thoughts throughout the visit was the fact that their 26th wedding anniversary was just around the corner. I found myself thinking that it was amazing that they could have been married 26 years already. I also found myself thinking about just how happy and connected they are with each other. They are loving their life and their home, and it was a pleasure to watch them together. Their marriage has been blessed with two beautiful children and now the family is growing to include Caalab’s girlfriend, Chloe Foster…a beautiful girl and a great blessing to us. I love how their family gets together every week to spend quality time together. It makes their marriage and their family more and more rich in love and happiness.

When your kids get married, you hope the marriage will last, and you know that there are never any guarantees, but you want the very best for them, and that means a happy marriage. I am so thankful that these two “kids,” while young at marriage (18 and 19 years) were able to beat the odds and stay married. Not only that, but they were able to build a beautiful life together and raise two beautiful children, Shai and Caalab, together. They are so blessed and they are a blessing to us. We can’t imagine life without the two of them as a couple. Every year, their love grows more and more rich and beautiful.

Whenever we go to visit them, or they come to visit here, we have a wonderful time. They are fun-loving people, and yet they love being at their house, enjoying their beautiful back yard too. They have worked hard on their back yard, and every time I get new pictures, I love it even more. Amy never could get flowers to do much in Wyoming, but in Washington, her garden and flowers are stunning. Travis has always loved yard work, but like most men, prefers mowing the grass to planting flowers. Nevertheless, they have a wonderful vision for their yard, and it is so restful and peaceful. I just love sitting back there, enjoying the day. Travis loves to barbecue and their guests are, of course, the beneficiaries of his grilling abilities. They also love playing games like pool and corn hole, as well as getting the family bank together for a jam session in their recreation room. It is a wonderfully fun time listening to Travis and Caalab play, while Shai and sometimes Amy sing for us. They really make a beautiful band.

Amy and Travis love going to Ilwaco, Washington for little getaways. It is a quaint little town located across the bay from Astoria, Oregon. They go there a lot, much like Bob and I go to Thermopolis, here in Wyoming a lot. It is a place that is close enough for an anniversary getaway, and yet special enough for them always have a great time, and never get tired of it. Ilwaco is a little town, kind of like Thermopolis, but sometimes that is just what you need. A place with the much needed peace and quiet, far away from the stresses of daily life and the busy lifestyle you have at home. A cute little place where you can have romantic dinners and quiet walks along the shore (a river for us and the ocean for them). It’s just perfect for this happily married couple. Today is Amy and Travis’ 26th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to you both!! We love you very much!!

There have been much speculation over the years as to why we marry the person we do. Does our taste in a mate come from…say our parents, friends, or some random part of our own brain. Or, is their simply no rhyme or reason as to how we choose that person we will spend the rest of our life with. When I look at couples, there are some who seem perfectly suited to each other, and then there are those who seem to be total misfits, and yet they are totally happy with each other. Of course, one never knows how long they have been married, whether they will stay married, or if they are on their second or third marriage (indicating a poor choice in the first or second marriage). Oddly, when they do divorce in the first marriage, it amazes me sometimes, just how similar their second choice in mate is to their first…sometimes anyway.

It has been said that a girl chooses a man who is similar to her dad, and I can see that in my own choice. Bob reminds me a lot of my dad, but while they all look different, my brothers-in-law also remind me a lot of my dad. I think that a girl might choose a man who is a lot like her dad, if her dad is a wonderful dad, like my dad was. My sisters would agree. It is further thought that a man chooses a woman who is much like his mom. That makes sense, because he would want someone who can take care of him, his home, and his kids the way his mom took care of the home and family when he was a kid. Of course, there are those who don’t know their parents for one reason or another. They might base their choice on a step-parent or other mentor, I suppose.

Of course, no one really makes that choice consciously. It it always a choice of the heart, but oten the heart knows what it knows from the parental upbringing. I don’t believe that our life partner choice is a random thing, because while I dated a number of nice men, they were all quite different from my dad, and from my husband…and the fact is that I could not imagine myself marrying any of them. They were never going to be the type of man I could spend the rest of my life with. Nice as they were, they would never have been the one for me. I tend to think that somehow God leads the one, the real one into your life, and if you have your eyes open, you will find that perfect one for you.

My grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, was a man who lived a hard life. Early in his first marriage, he and his wife, Edna Stanton Spencer, lost their daughter, Dorothy Spencer, who was my half-great aunt. She was just over 5 months old. It was a devastating loss for them, and the beginning of the end of their marriage. They were either pregnant then or got pregnant shortly after Dorothy’s passing, because my half-uncle, Norman Spencer was born just 9 months after Dorothy’s passing. Unfortunately, that was not enough to hold the marriage together, and the couple divorced a short time later. My grandfather married my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer, and they had four wonderful children together, which is, of course, why I exist. My dad was Allen Lewis Spencer, one of those four children. I have always felt sad at what my grandfather went through in his life.

Grandpa struggled with some things in his life, but his children loved him. He was a stern parent, but that was truly a part of the times. Many stern parents came out of that era, and while some of the children didn’t like it, they turned out to be great adults, and I suppose that they would have to say that in part their dad had something to do with that. Their mom, my grandma, was a much more gentle person, but make no mistake, she could be stern too if the situation warranted it. Grandma was a gentle person, but she was also a very strong person…physically and emotionally. She ran the family farm while grandpa was away working on the Great Northern Railway as a carpenter, and she did an excellent job.

I never really knew either of these grandparents, because my grandfather passed away October 19, 1951, about a year and a half before my parents were married, and 4½ years before I was born. My grandmother passed away 6 months after I was born. I will have to get to know them when I go to Heaven, but when I look at their pictures, I see people who lived during hard years in our nation’s history, and came through it successfully to raise the wonderful children I now call my dad, aunts and uncles. Sadly, they too have all gone to Heaven now. I can imagine the happy times they are all having up there…no more sadness, loss, or tears. They can spend time together, getting to know their half-sister too, and there is no distance to cross. Today is the 142nd anniversary of my grandfather’s birth. How could it possibly be that many. Nevertheless, it is, and I know the party is on up there. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa Spencer. We all love you very much, and can’t wait to meet you in Heaven one day.

Corrie pregnant with ChrisWhen my daughter, Corrie Petersen married the love of her life, Kevin Petersen in 1993, at the young age of 18 years, they had been dating for three years already. Kevin was a part of our family, and he was enough older than Corrie to be able to “take care of” her in the way I expected of him. Corrie and Kevin did some things early in their marriage. The bought their first home within about three months of getting married…no wasting their money on rent. I was very proud of them when the got that house, and it was such a cute little house, just down the street three blocks from my parents. I liked that they were close and drove by my parents house on their way home. If my parents needed help, Corrie and Kevin were close by.

Soon, their lives were changing, as their boys arrived. During her pregnancy with Christopher, Corrie worked as a waitress at the restaurant Kevin’s dad, Dean Petersen and his mom Becky Skelton owned. Kevin worked there too, making it a family business. Corrie’s belly got so big with Christopher that she could actually carry a tray on it. That is not uncommon, as anyone who has had a baby can tell you, but it was rather comical to see Corrie with a tray on her belly, and the customers are all probably hoping the baby doesn’t kick.

Over the years I have watched as they have gone through things as a couple, and how they are always there for each other. Life happens, and a couple who is there for each other can weather the storms of life when they come. They have faced a miscarriage, health issues, disability, and career changes and yet they stand strong together. Now that Corrie is in nursing school, I have been so pleased with how Kevin has taken care of her. He cooks the meals and takes care of the house, and all with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, as well as the complications that go with them. Corrie takes care of him too, in all things medical. They each have talents hey can use to care for the other. It is a very sweet thing to watch.

The old poem by Robert Browning that reads like this “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!” is something that reminds me of Corrie and Kevin. They just keep plugging along, supporting each other through any difficulty, and cheering each other on through every accomplishment. That is what marriage is all about…being there for each other. Today is Corrie and Kevin’s 28th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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