mother

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Just imagine living in a place where owning or even borrowing a book could get you, and anyone who gave you a book, killed. During the Holocaust, the Jews and other nationalities and religious groups who didn’t fit in with the Aryan race, were considered non-people, and therefore expendable. They were not allowed to live like normal people. They were considered “expendable.” Their lives were not worth the trouble it took to care for them, even their fiends and neighbors were expected to turn them over to be deported to the ghettos and even killed. They were often powerless to help themselves. Still, most of them never lost hope. When the Nazis began to occupy Czechoslovakia in 1939, the persecution of the Jews began almost immediately. Things were hard for everyone, but the children were often in more peril than anyone else. Many were to young to work and that made them even less “important” to the Nazis. To make matters worse, they were often separated from their parents…everything they knew was stripped from them.

In 1942, when a girl named Dita Polachova was 13 years old, she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt life got even worse than it was before. Later they were sent to Auschwitz, where Dita’s father died. She and her mother were sent to forced labor in Germany and finally to a concentration camp called Bergen-Belsen. Dita’s mother died at Bergen-Belsen. Even in the face of so much sadness in her life, Dita never gave up. She risked her own life to protect a selection of eight books smuggled in by prisoners of Auschwitz. She stored the books in hidden pockets in her smock, and circulated them to the hundreds of children imprisoned in Block 31. Books were forbidden for the prisoners in the camps. The Nazis didn’t want them to have any knowledge of the outside world, or access to any kind of education materials or any books. The Nazis believed that none of these people were going to survive their stay in the camps anyway, so they didn’t need to do anything but work and die.

The prisoners had different ideas. Within the walls, there was a family camp known as BIIb. It was a place where the children could play and sing, but school was prohibited. Nevertheless, the Nazis were not able to enforce their will on the people. In spite of the orders of the Nazis, Fredy Hirsch established a small, yet influential school to house the children while their parents slaved in the camp. The materials were the biggest problem. The books, had to be hidden from the Nazi guards at all costs. Hirsch selected Dita, a brave and independent young woman from Prague to take over as the new Librarian of Auschwitz in January of 1944. Dita was a brave girl, who took her responsibility seriously.

While her parents are trying to stay alive in Auschwitz, Dita was fighting her own battle to preserve the books that bring joy to the children in the camp. The books are one of the few things that allow the children to escape from the walls in which they are surrounded, even if just for a moment. As the war progresses, Dita continues to diligently serve the teachers and children of Block 31. Then, Dita’s situation grew much worse. Her father passed away in the camp due to pneumonia. Dita and her mother are left alone to fight the battle on their own. Dita’s mother is grew weaker with age, and Dita knew she had to assume more responsibility. Dita is aware of the fact that the camp is simply a front to produce Nazi propaganda. She began to fight despair, as she struggles to feel the value in her life. By March 1944, the feeling of hopelessness grows. The Nazis announce that the inmates who arrived in September will be transferred to another division, which is really code for murder. The BIIb continued until they heard that the Nazis are going to liquidate the family camp and separate the fit to work from the rest. Dita’s mother Liesl, was grown old and very weak by now. She was able to sneak into the group that is fit to work along with her daughter, narrowly. They were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Just when Dita gets to the point where she feels this might be the end, the Allied forces liberate the camp, but it is too late for Dita’s mother, who died just after the English arrived. Dita is now free, but it has been at great cost…the kind most of us cannot begin to comprehend. Dita later met and married Otto Kraus, an author, and they settled in Israel where they were both teachers.

I was talking with my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg yesterday, and she mentioned that our niece, Machelle Moore had only had 6 times in her life that Thanksgiving had fallen on her birthday. Having a late November birthday, one might expect to have a Thanksgiving birthday more often, but because her birthday was very late in the month, that is just not the case.

Thinking back on Machelle’s life, I recall that she was born three days after Thanksgiving in 1976. Bob and I had taken our girls to visit his aunt and uncle in Kennebec, South Dakota, and the weather had turned bad. I don’t recall if we had to spend an extra day or not, but I do remember that Machelle’s mom, Debbie Cook went into labor and after about 36 hours of labor, had to have a Caesarean Section for Machelle to be delivered. It was a bit scary, but in the end, we went home to meet our new little niece. She was born 6 months after my Amy and 18 months after my Corrie, so the girls were always good friends.

Machelle has changed so much over the years. Not only has she grown tall like her dad, LJ Cook, but she has grown sweeter every year. Machelle has a kind heart. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love her very much. She is a wife to her best friend, Steve Moore. They love each other so much, and are very well suited to each other. They both love to go rock hunting, and often come back with great pieces of obsidian that Steve turns into Native American tools that are beautiful…and the real shock is that Steve isn’t Native American. It’s a cool passion that Machelle and her husband share.

Machelle is also mom to two boys, Weston and Easton, who are almost grown men now. Weston has graduated from high school, and Easton is in high school. As the boys have grown, Machelle feels a little bit sad, because she knows that soon they will be out on their own and she will be an empty nester, like so many others who have gone before her into that new identity. For some it is difficult and for others it is easy…or at least not as hard as for others. I think Machelle will do fine, because she has a wonderful marriage. She and Steve share so many interests, including camping, rock hunting, and the company of good friends and family. Yes, I know that Machelle and Steve will have a long wonderful life together, and before she knows it, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. I’m sure she is not in a huge hurry to get there, but it is a nice dream of the future. Today is Machelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Machelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Until recently, it had never occurred to me just how much my grand-niece, Jala Satterwhite is like her great grandmother, Joann Schulenberg. She doesn’t really resemble her, since Jala takes more after her mother, Susan Griffith, but there is a notable similarity nevertheless. Jala loves horses, and in many ways, would live on a horse if she could. That thought brought me back to a time when my mother-in-law’s own mother, Nettie Knox made that very statement about her own daughter, Joann. Whether we realize it or not, our parents really do know us well.

Jala didn’t have much opportunity to ride horses until her mom married her step-dad, Josh Griffith, whose family had horses. Jala was introduced to the horses, and her love of horses was sealed. Later, her parents moved out into the country, and got horses of their own, giving Jala the ability to ride much more. Because her mom had never really been around horses, and only learned to ride with a great degree of apprehension, this natural riding ability that her daughter had, left Susan somewhat in awe, but also very proud. Of course, Susan’s own abilities have greatly improved, but that does not change how she feels about her older daughter’s riding prowess. Still, I don’t think Susan realized just how much Jala was like her great grandmother. I don’t think any of us did, really. I just looked at a picture of Jala on a horse yesterday, and it was like looking at my mother-in-law on her own horse. It was crystal clear to me then.

I think that for young horse-lovers, the horse provides them with an ability to go and do things without asking a parent to take them…at least within certain limits. When my mother-in-law was a kid, they could ride to school, as well as to other towns and ranches of friends nearby, those aren’t really options for Jala, except for nearby ranches. Still, there are lots of trails available these day, and Jala loves riding on them. I’m sure her great grandmother would love them too, and maybe she is there, watching proudly as her great granddaughter, Jala continues the great tradition of horseback riding just for the love of horses. Today is Jala’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Katie Balcerzak became my grand-niece, when she married my grand-nephew, Keifer Balcerzak. Katie might say of herself that she is a tom-boy type, but I think there is a girlie side to her too…especially since she and Keifer added little Reece, affectionally known as Reece’s Pieces, to their family, on December 14, 2017. Katie loves to dress their daughter in frilly little outfits, which compliment her bubbly personality and delightful smile just perfectly. Katie and Reece have so much fun hanging out together. Katie is always teaching Reece new skills, and loves sharing the great laughs that come with baby antics and learning stumbles.

While Katie might not be a total girlie girl type, there are things whereby she definitely is. Things like having her nails done is a cool way to show off her feminine side, is one that I can relate to, since I love nail polish and nail art very much myself. I’m sure that eventually Reece will want her nails done too, because, well…like mother, like daughter, right!! I think that Reece and her mom are a lot alike. That’s why they have so much fun together. Of course, it would be hard not to smile when Reece smiles, because she is a happy baby who smiled with her whole face.

Katie loves being a mom, and has dreamed of nothing else for years. She is a good mom, who takes good care of her daughter and she’s a good wife to Keifer. They are very happy together, and they work very well together to reach their common goals. For Katie and Keifer, their family is everything. They work hard to give their family a strong bond with each other. Katie love being a mom more that any other job she has ever had, and definitely the most fulfilling career she could ever have. Raising a little life, molding it into a wonderful little person, and watching the smiles and the look of love their daughter wears on her face. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Most plane crashes are caused by pilot error or mechanical failure, but sometimes, someone commits an act of terrorism, or as in the case of United Airlines Flight 629 someone commits an act of hatred aimed at one person. These acts are never rational, and this one certainly wasn’t, because Jack Gilbert Graham was not a rational man. I think many, if not most of us have thought at one point or another that our parents were somehow meaner to us than any other parent in the universe, but Jack Graham took that obsession to the next level. He decided that his mother was responsible for giving him a horrible childhood, and so he decided to take his revenge on her by placing a bomb in the luggage she was checking.

His mother, Daisie Eldora King, who was a 53 year old Denver businesswoman was en route to Alaska to visit her daughter. Her flight United Airlines Flight 629, registration N37559, was a Douglas DC-6B aircraft also known as “Mainliner Denver.” The flight had originated at New York City’s La Guardia Airport and made a scheduled stop in Chicago before continuing to Denver’s Stapleton Airfield and landed at 6:11pm, 11 minutes late. At Denver the aircraft was refueled with 3,400 US gallons of fuel, and had a crew replacement. Captain Lee Hall, who was a World War II veteran, assumed command of the flight for the segments to Portland and Seattle. The flight took off at 6:52pm and at 6:56pm made its last transmission stating it was passing the Denver omni. Seven minutes later, the Stapleton air traffic controllers saw two bright lights suddenly appear in the sky north-northwest of the airport. Both lights were observed for 30 to 45 seconds, and both fell to the ground at roughly the same speed. The controllers then saw a very bright flash originating at or near the ground, intense enough to illuminate the base of the clouds 10,000 feet above the source of the flash. Upon observing the mysterious lights, the controllers quickly determined there were no aircraft in distress and contacted all aircraft flying in the area; all flights were quickly accounted for except for United Flight 629. The date was November 1, 1955.

The plane was blown up over Longmont, Colorado at about 7:03pm local time, while en route from Denver, Colorado, to Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. All 39 passengers and five crew members on board were killed in the explosion and crash. There was early speculation that something other than a mechanical problem or pilot error was responsible, given the magnitude of the in-air explosion. Investigators determined that Jack Gilbert Graham was responsible for bombing the airplane to kill his mother as revenge for his childhood and to obtain a large life insurance payout. Within 15 months of the explosion, Graham, who already had an extensive criminal record, was tried, convicted, and executed for the crime.

It was a horrible thing. One sick man committed murder in the skies, by killing his mother with a bomb, and in the process killed 41 other people too. I don’t know if he though the could really get away with it, but investigations are pretty sophisticated…even back then. It amazes me that they can take all those plane parts and examine them…somehow finding the source of the explosion, and tracing it back to the source. Then, by finding out who the luggage belonged to, they figured the whole thing out. Criminals really aren’t so smart, even though they think they have it all figured out. It is just sad that 42 people lost their lives, because some spoiled brat of a child thought his mom was too harsh when he was a kid…with no evidence to prove his point at all.

When a kid is fresh out of high school or just starting college, you really don’t know what kind of an adult they are going to be…much less what kind of parent. That all comes later, when you start to see how their kids turn out. My niece, Chelsea Hadlock is no different, but she has certainly proven to all who know her, just where her priorities lie. She is a great wife to my nephew, Ryan, and a wonderful mom to their kids, Ethan and Aurora, both of whom are sweet kids, and both of whom are well behaved and smart.

My sister, Allyn Hadlock tells me that Chelsea is their favorite daughter-in-law. Now while Chelsea is their only daughter-in-law, and technically they are joking about it, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the truth. Allyn says that when they say that, they really mean it, because she is a perfect fit for their family, and her love for her husband, Ryan, endears her to the whole family. In reality, she is more like a daughter to them, than a daughter-in-law.

Chelsea is quite talented. She is a great baker, and has sold her baked goods. Since I’ve had her baked goods, I can attest to that. Chelsea started making jewelry a few years ago, and her work is beautiful. For a while she sold her jewelry online, but lately she has been taking it to Comic-Con to sell it. She will be attending Comic-Con in Denver, Colorado this weekend. She has also attended in Cheyenne Wyoming and Portland, Oregon, where she also sold her jewelry. She has been quite successful, and in reality, her jewelry sells itself.

At church, Chelsea sings as a backup singer, and teaches her children to love the Lord, as she does. She is nurturing their relationship with God, and has made all of us so proud of her love of God. She also has a great sense of humor, and loves to tease her family. She is also a good sport when being teased. She and Ryan have been best friends since the day they met, and were instantly inseparable. I think it was love at first sight…or, more likely a match made in Heaven. Ryan has never been more happy than all the years he and Chelsea have been together. She is just a loving girl, and she makes Ryan and all those who know her very happy. Today is Chelsea’s birthday. Happy birthday Chelsea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Topher Spicer is a sweet boy, who is a great surrogate big brother to his mother, Andrea Beach’s friend, Nikki Vigil’s son, Marcus. They are both an only child, so their friendship is very important to them. He also has some best friends, Elias and Ethan, that he really enjoys hanging out with. His mom has taught him to play Uno, and of course he plays video games. Summertime is a great time to go swimming, and Topher goes just about every day.

Since Topher’s uncle, Allen Beach was stationed in Japan for part of his time as a corpsman in the Navy, Topher has become interested in Japanese culture. I don’t know if Topher is considering joining the Navy, or not, but if he did, he would follow in a line of Navy men in his family. Whether or not he is in the navy, Topher like some of the culture, and most likely the buildings and such.

Topher loves animals, and I’m sure that he hopes to have a pet some day. When he was visiting his great grandma, my mom, Collene Spencer, her cat was totally taken with him. That was an amazing thing, because Lewie, the cat, doesn’t like to be around most kids, but was totally content to sit beside Topher, and watch what he was doing…no matter what it was. I can understand that, because Topher is a child who is not overly rambunctious. He is content to sit and play a video game, and Lewie felt comfortable with him.

This past week, while my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, and I were on a trip to Washington, Topher spent quite a bit of time with his grandpa, Mike Reed, while his mom had to work. They were just two men, batching it together, and supposedly waiting for Caryl to get back home again. I’m sure they missed her, but guy time is fun for them too. Sometimes having a guys week can really be a lot of fun, so I know that they had a great time. Whenever two guys get together and do all the things that only guys would appreciate, it’s a good time. I suppose you would have to be a guy to understand the guy things. Today is Topher’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Topher!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As the second anniversary of my mom’s passing drew near, my family and I have been talking more and more about the woman who was our mother. Mom was many things, as most mothers are, but one of the parts of my mom that never ceased to amaze me, was her ability to maintain a certain level of innocence, or at least what we thought was innocence. As I look back now, she was a wise woman, who managed to keep her world…quite pure and innocent. I’m not talking about her personal life, but rather our family life. There were certain lines we all knew not to cross. My sisters and I would never have cussed in front of our parents…if we wanted to live, that is, but somehow we knew that our boyfriends and husbands would be required to live up to that standard too…and they did. It was out of respect for her, my dad, and their home. That was something I always though amazing. I don’t think I even remember having to tell a boyfriend twice, not even the ones who weren’t the keeper I ended up with. It was as if they thought mom might pass out if they were to talk in an inappropriate manner. I don’t know…maybe she would have. I never dared to find out, and I’m not sorry that Mom was that way, because my sisters and I were raised to speak decently, and we have never regretted that.

Another way that my mom always seemed so innocent was in her sense of humor. Mom never cared if she looked silly, if it could make her arguing children laugh. When you have five daughters, complete with all the drama that can be associated with it, you either get silly, or you go crazy. Well, mom was an expert at making her girls either straighten up, or laugh, usually in a very unique way. I remember Mom clearing the living room floor so that two of us could “fight it out” and once we had a good hold of each other’s hair, and were both basically pinned to the floor, the room broke out in laughter, because lets face it, it was pretty hilarious. I remember Mom making some crazy faces that we couldn’t help but laugh at, and even if we knew that Mom was mad, it was sometimes hard not to laugh about her face, but we knew that it was in our best interest not to.

Life with our mom was never dull, but then again, Mom would probably tell you the same thing about life with her girls. If there was some crazy antic that we could come up with…we did. I remember ruining my brand new penny loafers because I felt the need to go trudging through the mud and the construction site at the new Kmart building. The shoes cleaned up ok, but they were now of a size to fit my younger sister, Caryl. My sister, Alena was a whiz at concocting formulas. Of course, using the “shampoo” she created was out of the question, because it would probably burn your hair off. As far as terrorizing my sisters…that would have to be, yours truly. I was born with strong fingernails…well daggers actually, and I did not hesitate to use them. Sometimes I wonder how I survived childhood, because if anyone drove our mom crazy, it was me. I’m sure that my wedding day was cause for celebration on many levels. Just thinking about what I put my mom through…well, I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. I think that is how Mom had to have felt. It really was get silly, or go crazy in our house.

doc-hollidayWhen we think of gunslingers from the old west, a number of names come to mind…among them, Doc Holliday. John Henry “Doc” Holliday was born August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia, to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane (McKey) Holliday. When John was just 15 years old, his mother died of Tuberculosis on September 16, 1866. His adopted brother also died of Tuberculosis. In 1870, at the age of 19, Holliday left home for Philadelphia, and on March 1, 1872, he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. Holliday graduated five months before his 21st birthday, so the school held his degree until he turned 21, which was the minimum age required to practice dentistry.

Many people remember Doc Holliday from the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, but prior to that time, he was in Saint Louis, Missouri and Atlanta, Georgia. He started has practice in Saint Louis, but switched to Atlanta less than four months later ok corralto join a dental practice there. While in Atlanta, Holliday and some friends got into an altercation, and in the end, Holliday went and got a shotgun. He came back and started shooting, either at or over the heads of the other men. Whether or not anyone was killed is up for debate, but Holliday gained a reputation as a gunslinger.

Soon after moving to Atlanta, Holliday developed a bad cough. The doctors told him that he had Tuberculosis. I can’t even begin to imagine how Holliday felt about that diagnosis. He had watched his mother die of that very disease, as well as his adopted brother. Holliday was told he needed to move to a dryer doc-holliday-2climate, if he wanted to extend his life. He moved to Dallas, Texas. His dental practice could have suffered because of his ill health, or it could have been caused by the fact that he would rather play poker than work on teeth. Holliday was a decent poker player, so he found that it was a pretty good way to make a living. In 1875, Holliday was arrested in Dallas for participating in a shootout.

Holliday left Dallas and began drifting between booming Wild West towns like Denver, Cheyenne, Deadwood, and Dodge City. He made his living at card tables, with heavy drinking and late night. All of these things were quite aggravating to his Tuberculosis. By 1887, Holliday’s hard life had caught up with him, forcing him to seek treatment in a sanitarium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Finally, on this day, November 8, 1887, Doc Holliday, gunslinger, gambler, and occasional dentist, lost his battle with Tuberculosis, just like his mother and adoptive brother before him.

Dad in uniformAs a young man of just under 20 years, my dad made his first trip overseas. It was the height of World War II, and Dad was the Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer on a B-17G Bomber in the 8th Air Force 385th Bomber Group. His bomber group had flown to Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England early that April. While they were at war, and that was a scary thing for any sane person, there was also a part on my almost 20 year old future dad that felt a bit of excitement. He was in a new country…an old country by the world’s standards, with things and places we just didn’t have in the relatively young United States. There were castles and old churches to see. In the United State, we had churches built of logs and wood, and modest homes often built the same way, but in England, there were buildings that had an artistic side to them. There were so many sights that he would not be able to see at home, and might never see again. No wonder her was excited.

Anna Spencer and son Allen SpencerDad knew of the dangers he and his fellow crewmen were facing in England and over Europe, but the excitement of being in a completely different country, so far away from home was something that was hard not to like. He found the people interesting, the structures elegant and beautiful, and the climate different from what he was used to. Of course, he missed his family, and wanted to make sure his mother didn’t worry too much, so that might have also been the reason that he always tried keep his letters light. For me, having the advantage of knowing that he made it through the war and came home safely, it is easy to look beyond my dad’s careful words, to the excitement that lies behind them. Dad always loved to travel, and while this was clearly different, it was still travel, and by airplane, no less. What young man of 19 years wouldn’t be excited about all the new things he was able to do and see.

Spencer FamilyMy dad has been in Heaven for almost ten years now, and I miss him terribly. His kindhearted ways endeared him to everyone from family to friends. Dad was always the thoughtful one…always a gentle man…and a gentleman. He wasn’t harsh, and he was always a gentleman when it came to treating women in the way they should be treated. Dad was quite possibly the last of the Southern Gentlemen…even if he wasn’t from the South. Looking back now on the ten years that he has been gone, I know that I miss him just as much today, as the day he left us…and I always will. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad. I know you and Mom are having a fine time. Just know that you are always in our thoughts. We love and miss you so much.

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