My grandnephew, Xander Spethman was the boy that made my niece, Jenny a mom, and her husband Steve, a dad. The minute he arrived, he stole their hearts, and their lives will never the same. Xander was the first of five children, and he has two younger brothers, Zack and Isaac, and two younger sisters, Laila (who lives in Heaven) and Aleesia, the baby of the family. Xander has been the leader of the “band of brothers” who watch out for their baby sister, and Aleesia loves having that army of brothers around her. Xander has also been protective of his younger brothers too. It’s what big brothers do.
Xander is a sweet young man, who loves his family and wants to be just like his dad. He has a lot of respect for his parents, and because they have led by example with him, Xander knows just the kind of man he wants to be. He loves his girlfriend, Alli Simpson, and they have great plans for their future. Xander is also a great friend to all his friends. People know that they can count on Xander. He is very hind hearted and tries to help anyone who needs assistance. He has considered becoming an electrician in the future, and that may be where his life takes him, but his mom also thinks he might make a wonderful counselor, because he is really good at talking to people about their problems and not making them feel bad about who they are and where they are in life.
Xander is a fun-loving guy. He loves to ride his longboard and loves to go shooting. He is a good marksman…another skill taught to him by his dad. He is always the life of the party, choosing to bring laughter and fun to every situation. That’s why everyone loves Xander. He just brings a sense of happiness into a room with him. It’s like happiness follows him around, and he gladly embraces the joy.
Xander isn’t entirely sure where life is going to take him, or even where he wants life to take him. He has talked about moving away from Casper, which makes his parents sad, of course. They don’t want him to go, because he is their precious first-born child. I think it is really the first child to move out or move away, that is the hardest on the parents. Of course, they know that no matter where Xander goes, they will always be his parents, and he will always love them and his siblings. Nevertheless, accepting the fact that their son is becoming a man is probably the hardest part about raising children…and the most rewarding too. Today is Xander’s birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Twenty years ago today, two teenaged gunmen walked into Columbine High School and opened fire, killing 13 people. Yesterday, I watched a news broadcast about the aftermath of those killings. One of the parents, commented on the fact that since Columbine, every time a school shooting occurs, it is compared to Columbine…often stated, “It was a Columbine-like shooting.” Those words had become synonymous with Columbine High School. Like a dark cloud, the stigma of that shooting comes back every time there is another shooting. Twenty years later, the parents and families of the 13 victims of Columbine want to change that…to remove the dark cloud, because if we continue to call shootings Columbine-like…it’s like they win. The grief and pain continue. They do not want their loved ones to always be associated with sadness and defeat. I think that is an amazing idea.
One of the victims, Lauren Townsend loved animals. She volunteered at the local animal shelter, so her parents decided to remember her by setting up the Lauren Townsend Memorial Wildlife Fund. Cassie Bernall’s family started the Cassie Bernall Foundation. Their latest project is The Books for Classrooms program. Steven Curnow was a member of the Cornish American Heritage Society from an early age, and in fact he was their youngest member, so his family set up the Steven Curnow Memorial Foundation in support of the Cornish American Heritage Society. Several of the victims had planned to join the military after high school. They were made honorary veterans. Coach William “Dave” Sanders is credited with saving untold numbers of students as he ran into the cafeteria and told them to flee the building. Then he left to warn other students, sacrificing his own life for others. The softball field at Columbine has been named after him, and a scholarship program was set up in his honor. Each of the people who died that day was filled with promise. They were Rachel Scott, Daniel Rohrbough, Coach Dave Sanders, Kyle Velasquez, Steven Curnow, Cassie Bernall, Isaiah Shoels, Matthew Kechter, Lauren Townsend, John Tomlin, Kelly Fleming, Daniel Mauser, and Corey DePooter. Their families would like them to be remembered for their accomplishments and their dreams, rather than as victims. They would like the school to be remembered as a place of renewal, healing, and mostly of peace. They noted that Columbine means little doves… among other things. I rather prefer the Victorian meaning, which is resolved to win. I think that if the names of the killers are forever forgotten and never mentioned again; and if these lost ones are remembered for their winning spirit, their loving ways, and their kindness to others, then the right side wins.
My nephew, Steve Spethman has always been the kind of man who takes the matter of protecting his family very seriously…so seriously, in fact that sometimes he has found himself in some…interesting situations. One time after having a birthday party for one of their children, the family had gone to bed. All was quiet in the house and everyone was sleeping peacefully, when suddenly, Steve felt a presence in their bedroom. Steve bolted out of the bed and came up punching. Now, I know what you are thinking…that he punched one of the children. Well, you couldn’t be further from the reality of what happened. As I said, Steve came up punching, but what he hit was…a helium filled Mylar balloon. That episode has been a laughing matter to Steve’s family since the night it happened. Some good deeds, you just never get to live down.
As I said, Steve’s family is very important to him, and protecting them is his top priority. A few years ago, while the family was sleeping, which is the main time that families need protecting, you know. As the family was sleeping, a very large explosion was heard outside their home. Steve jumped out of bed, and ran to the door. Everything in their neighborhood seemed fine, but there was an eerie glow in the sky. It almost seemed like a doomsday event. In reality, it was a transformer that blew in the middle of a power substation. Of course, the situation was quickly handled by the power company and the fire department, along with the police department to keep people at a safe distance. Nevertheless, had the situation been serious, Steve would have been there to protect his family and his neighbors. It’s simply the way Steve is. Always thinking of others before self.
Steve is an excellent marksman, and takes his family out to practice on a regular basis. He not only wants to be prepared to protect his family, but he is training his family to protect each other and themselves too. Steve is a great protector of his family, but he is also a realist, and he knows that he can’t always be right there beside them to protect them, so he prepares them, which is the next best thing. Steve and his wife, Jenny have three boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac, and all of them can shoot. They are well prepared to handle whatever comes along, as is Jenny, and soon their daughter Aleesia will be too. Steve is a good man with a funny side to him that makes him a great guy. He is always making people laugh. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Unfortunately, these days, school shootings, while shocking every time, are not totally uncommon in this country. The reasons for the shootings vary, but are often blamed on bullying, loneliness, or anger for perceived wrongs. They never solve anything, least of all for the shooter, who is usually dead, or in prison after the heinous deed is done. The rest of the world is left wondering why, and how we can fix this. Of course, there are always the anti-gun advocates who say that the only solution is to take the guns out of the hands of the citizens, but as most sensible people know, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
In 1979, I was a busy, young mother, when the first school shooting took place. The date was January 29, 1979. The place was Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California. The shooter was 16 year old Brenda Spencer. I have to assume that she is some relation to me, as researchers have claimed that all the Spencers in the United States are related. That thought in itself makes me sad. People have the potential to become such great things, and there are so many wonderful things that a person could be the first to accomplish. So, why on that day, did young Brenda Spencer decide to take the lives of to men and wound nine children at the school across the street from her home. Her stated reasons were several…”I like red jackets,” “It livens up the day,” “I had no reason for it, and it was just fun,” “It was like shooting ducks in a pond,” “The children looked like a herd of cows standing around,” “It was really easy pickings,” And the one that stuck with the crime forever, “I just don’t like Mondays.” There is no good reason to decide to go out and kill people, but that last one stuck in my head. She didn’t like Mondays, so she ruined her own life, killed 2 men and wounded 9 children!!
Of course, I doubt if Mondays, red jackets, boredom, or animals had anything to do with it. In my opinion, the cause is mental illness. I’m not excusing her actions, because murder is a heinous crime. Brenda did not just wake up that day and decide to shoot up the school. She was a problem child, who was widely known as a drug abuser with a violent streak, such as repeatedly shooting BBs at the windows of the school. Still, her father gave her a .22 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition as a Christmas gift at the end of 1978. I’m sure he thought that her BB shooting was a harmless prank, but with the drugs and anger simmering inside her, he was wrong. She had started telling her classmates that she was going to do something “to get on TV.”
That January morning, as the children were entering the school, Brenda Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After 20 minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer’s home for six hours before she surrendered. Brenda Spencer had become the first person to commit a school shooting. Asked for some explanation for the attack, she simply said, “I just don’t like Mondays. I did this because it’s a way to cheer up the day. Nobody likes Mondays.” Spencer’s hatred for the first day of the school week was later memorialized by Bob Geldof, the leader of the rock group The Boomtown Rats, in the song, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” Spencer, who pled guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, is currently serving a term of 25 years to life at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California, and she was denied parole four times, most recently in 2005.
My grand nephew, Zackery David Spethman is an eleven year old boy with a lot going for him. This past November, he took and passed the Hunter Safety course, and he can’t even go hunting until he is twelve. Not many kids would take the course a year and a half before they would even benefit from it…and I have my doubts that most kids who are just ten years old, would even be able to pass the test, but Zack did, and we are all very proud of him.
Zack is a very tenderhearted boy. His mom, my niece, Jenny Spethman says that he “loves deeply and feels deeply” about people, He doesn’t like getting his feelings hurt, and so is very careful not to hurt the feelings of others. He doesn’t ever want to be the one to inflict pain on someone. Zack is a huggy boy. He is quick to give a hug to those he loves, and very quick to try to cheer up a person who is sad. And one of his favorite things to do is to make his little sister, Aleesia laugh.
Zack is, nevertheless, all boy. He loves to play football, go bowling, go shooting with his parents, and play cops and robbers with his brothers, Xander and Isaac. For Zack, the season makes no difference. Jumping into a snow drift is just as much fun as jumping into a pile of leaves. He just loves life, and doesn’t want to miss a moment of it. He loves watching movies with his siblings, and his parents, and like most kids, the super hero movies are the best, but he has also watched a lot of war movies. His dad, Steve Spethman, was a marine, and he wants his boys to understand the need to stand up for what you believe, and even to fight for it if necessary. Steve and Jenny have taught all their children good moral values, and not to be afraid of doing what is right. These are values that so many kids are not taught these days.
Zack is not afraid of hard work. He and his brothers have often headed out after a snow storm ready to tackle the neighborhood sidewalks and driveways…for a profit, of course. They understand that if you want to have money, you need to work for it. It’s the only right way. I realize that at eleven years of age, it is a little difficult to have a steady job, but he isn’t too young to be industrious enough to make a few bucks here and there by doing work for the neighbors. Zack is just such a kid. He has lots of great plans for his life, and while he is still a kid, he is loving life on a daily basis, and isn’t that what it’s all about at eleven. Today is Zack’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday Zack!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When a United States president is assassinated, it sends shock waves around the world. When one is shot and lives, it sends waves of shock too…and then relief. I was a little girl when John F Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, and I will never forget where I was when I found out about it. At the tender age of just seven years, I don’t really think that I fully understood the gravity of the situation. When President Ronald Regan was shot in the chest, on March 30, 1981, I was a married twenty five year old mother of two daughters, and I fully understood the gravity of the situation, and how it could have affected our nation and the world. It was however, the reason he was shot that totally baffled me. I mean, I know what John Hinkley Jr’s deranged reasons were, but it still made no sense to me…especially that he would think that somehow he would win Jodie Foster’s love by shooting the president. I suppose that is simply how the deranged mind works.
In the years that the United States has been a nation, sixteen assassination attempts on our presidents. Of those, there have been four successful Presidential assassinations. They were Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy. I really never thought there might have been that many attempts, but I can see that people get distraut with how things are going, and if they are at all unstable, they might attempt to shoot the president.
President Reagan’s shooting was probably one of the most strange, because he appartently didn’t feel the .22 caliber bullet that entered his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and hit his lung. There were three attendants with him, who were also hit. They were White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and DC police officer Thomas Delahaney. Hinkley was then overpowered and pinned against a wall. Reagan was shoved into the car and taken to the hospital for treatment. He made a complete recovery, which was amazing, considering that he was 70 years old at the time. He even insisted on walking into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. He was in good spirits and visiting with his wife, Nancy while waiting for surgery. He laughingly said, ”Honey, I forgot to duck,” and to his surgeons, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.”
The next day, he resumed some of his executive duties and even signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. He returned to work at the White House on April 11, 1981. He returned even more popular that he already was, and received a hero’s welcome by Congress. His highly successful economics plan was passed with several Democrats breaking ranks to back his plan. Nevertheless, President Reagan felt the effects of the shooting for years afterward. The other men eventually recovered, but James Brady suffered permanent brain damage and later became an advocate for the “Brady Bill” requiring a five day waiting period and background checks before the purchase of a gun, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. John Hinkley received a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” bringing with it outrage among the people of this nation. He has been incarcerated at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital since that time, but more recently has been allowed supervised home visits with his parents. I suppose that one day, he could be released, since they have said that his mental illness is in remission.
Watching Matthew grow from a baby, to a toddler, to a little boy of nine years, I have seen so many changes in him. He was his daddy’s boy from the very start…in fact I am amazed at just how much he looks like my nephew, Rob Masterson. They are like twins, except for the difference in their ages. They are a lot alike in their personalities too. Both are tough guys, but when it comes to their sisters, they are as kind as can be. Matthew is so patient with the girls. He likes being big brother to Anna, and doesn’t even mind being little brother to Raelynn, and oldest sister, Christina. In some ways, I think it would be hard to be the only boy in a family of girls, but Matthew doesn’t seem to mind. He is so loving and caring toward his sisters, and he would defend them to the end…even against his parents, if he thinks the situation warrants it. Nevertheless, he is not above torturing them himself…but, understand this…no one else had better try.
Matthew has a caregiver’s heart…a bit like his Great Aunt Caryn and his Grandma, my sister, Cheryl. Recently, when his mom, my niece Dustie, had to have surgery, he stayed by her side for two days, making sure that she had whatever she needed. Matthew may be a little boy, but his heart is great big, and he is a family man to his very core. That makes him a hero is his mother’s eyes, and I think there are a lot of us who would absolutely agree with her on that. It’s funny, that while Matthew is going to be a big third grader this year, not much has changed in his personality, because Matthew is clearly a boy who is completely settled on who he is. His family is important, and he is all about what is important.
Matthew is, nevertheless, a macho man. He loves sports. He plays basketball and soccer, and he is learning to shoot. Like most boys his age, he is excited about all of the opportunities that have come his way in the area of sports. He never was the kind of kid to sit around doing nothing. He is always on the move. That is a good thing when it comes to sports. You have to stay on top of things if you are going to be a good player, and Matthew is a mover. He is able to scoot around quickly to be where he needs to be to do some good in the game. I am quite certain that as he grows up, he will be a great player and team member. Today is Matthew’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Matthew!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
We just got back from taking our grandsons Chris, Caalab, and Josh for ice cream. Our granddaughter, Shai couldn’t come because she had to work unfortunately. That seems like such a little thing, but when I see the faces of the Connecticut school shooting, I realize just how thankful I am that my grandchildren are here with me. So many people are hurting right now. Whether they knew anyone involved or not. Not knowing anyone involved, does nothing to stop the pain a nation feels on this day. You can’t think about it without feeling pain…pain for the parents who lost children…pain for the children and spouses who lost their mom, dad, husband, or wife…pain for friends who have lost friends…pain for a town who has lost so many of its members…pain for a nation who must watch in stunned disbelief as we go through this…again!!
We each have a tendency at a time like this to want to hold our loved ones just a little closer…to try to ease the pain that each of us feels inside. No one is immune. Everyone knows that this has happened, and no one can understand why. Why did this man decide that his life was over, and why did he feel the need to take so many with him? Questions that will never really be answered, and even if they are, the answers won’t make sense…because this act was senseless.
As I sat at Dairy Queen, enjoying the time I feel so very blessed to have, my mind drifted back to the poor families of Newtown, Connecticut, and their empty homes and arms tonight… to their broken hearts, and the nightmare they can’t wake up from, because it is real. A renewed sadness filled my heart, as well as a sense that things are very wrong in our world these days. All we can do now is pray over those with broken hearts and lives, and those who would destroy the lives of others.