sister-in-law

My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was a blessing that came as a free gift with my marriage to her brother, Bob. Of course, I consider all of my in-laws to be a blessing, but I think that they will all agree that Marlyce was a special kind of blessing. I don’t mean to say that Marlyce was perfect, or that the whole family always got along with her, although I don’t recall a fight I personally had with Marlyce. Even though the siblings fought with their sister periodically, I can tell you, without doubt that they considered her a sweet blessing too.

Marlyce had a kind heart. In fact,there wasn’t an unkind bone in hr body. She loved doing things for people, in fact, she would do just about anything that was in her power to do. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, but she was an expert at a number of things. She could cook and bake, and was famous for her chocolate chip cookies. She also loved to knit and made great stocking caps for people. She even sold them at craft fairs. Marlyce loved making things and she loved giving things to people.

The one thing Marlyce really loved though…babies. She was the oldest of her siblings, and so, she got to help out with all her siblings, even if she couldn’t do many things well, her parents didn’t refuse to let her help. She liked being the big helper, and when she became an aunt, she was just wonderful with the kids. All of the kids loved Aunt Marlyce. She was very special to them. She didn’t have a chance to become a great aunt, because she passed away far too young…at just 39 years. When I think about that, it makes me sad, because not only did Marlyce miss out on being a great aunt, but her grand nieces and grand nephews missed out on the special aunt she was. And now that she is a great grand aunt to my little great granddaughter. It makes me sad to know that another generation is going to miss out on sweet Aunt Marlyce. Today would have been Marlyce’s 68th birthday, but instead, she is 39 years old again. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

My sister-in-law, Debbie Cook leads a pretty busy life. During the school year, she is the “bus driver” for her two youngest grandchildren, Easton Moore and Kaytlyn Griffith after school. The older kids, Weston Moore and Jala Satterwhite have activities that go on after school, so Debbie has just the little ones. Debbie likes to do special things for the grandkids, such as the brownies she made as a treat for Valentine’s Day. Of course, when its nice outside, there is a lot more that can be done, like going to the park, where they can run and play, which is probably to their parents liking too, because then they are more settled at night…or is does that only work on the little ones?

Winter is a dreaded time for lots of people, an most especially for anyone who like to got camping. Debbie and her husband, Lynn love to go camping, and I think that they would move to the mountains if it weren’t for the fact that the kids and grandkids live in town. So the next best thing is family camping trip to the Big Horn Mountains. Their daughter Machelle, told me that going camping with the family every weekend is so peaceful and quiet and that they al really enjoy it. Machelle says it is like having a sleepover every weekend. Now when you think about it, which of us wouldn’t love to go home sometimes to relive the days of our youth…especially the ones when you and your siblings had a sleepover on the living room floor. That’s kind of how it feels to the family when they are all camping together in the beauty of the mountains.

Her family is the most important thing to Debbie. She loves being around the grandchildren, and especially having them all want to go camping together. It’s like taking weekly vacations together all your life. Most people quit taking together vacations when they get married, so it’s something special. I suppose that with the next generation coming of age, things are likely to change. When the grandkids are driving and working, they can’t always go along on the fun stuff, and they are old enough to stay alone, so things slowly change. Hopefully it doesn’t change too fast. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I first met my sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg when I was 18 years old, and she was 23 years old. She passed away when she was 39 years old. It has been 28 years since Marlyce passed away in 1989, so she has been gone 13 years longer than she was in my life. While that fact feels like a fact in some ways, it doesn’t in others. Marlyce had such a huge impact on my life. It wasn’t anything specific that she did, but rather it was everything about my sweet sister-in-law. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, and in some ways she remained a child all her life, but in other ways, she was an adult. She had a job, and she loved to bake and knit, and really she didn’t play. She understood that kids games were for kids, and she was an adult. She would play games intended for grownups though. One of her favorites was solitaire. She always had a deck of cards handy.

Still, it was not those things that made Marlyce so special to me. It was her personality. She was such a loving person. I suppose that I had an advantage over her siblings in that I was not her sibling. Coming into the family as an outsider, gave me the ability to be a friend to Marlyce before I became her sister-in-law. There never were the sibling rivalries or the sibling fights, because while Marlyce knew I was her sister-in-law, I don’t think she ever really thought of me that way, exactly. I was maybe more her permanent friend. Permanent in that I was a fixture within the family unit, and friend, in that I was not her blood sister. Of course, all of her siblings loved Marlyce too, but having grown up with her, they did all fight…like all siblings do.

One thing I recall about Marlyce that was kind of funny, is how protective she could be over her siblings. If she was mad at them…well, you knew it. She had no problem telling any one of them just what she thought, but if one of her siblings was getting into trouble…well, that was a different thing. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Marlyce telling her parents that they should be nice to her brother or sister. She was quite vocal about it. And even after the disciplinary action was over, she was still pretty mad at the offending parent. It was pretty comical, but I didn’t dare laugh about it, because Marlyce didn’t like being laughed at…and I would never hurt her feelings that way. Marlyce was so sweet. I couldn’t pick on her. When I think of all the years that Marlyce has been gone, I am saddened, because we are missing out on all the sweetness that was Marlyce. Everything about Marlyce was sweet, and I miss her very much. Today would have been Marlyce’s 67th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love you very much.

For most of her life, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg struggled with her weight. Even as a child, Brenda was heavy. She will tell you that her weight prevented her from doing many of the things that most children took for granted, such as riding a bicycle. She might have been able to do it to a degree, but not for very long or very far. As she grew into adulthood, her weight became such a problem that she couldn’t even think of riding a bicycle. Then one day, her health failed due to her weight. She knew that she had to make a change. That day was October 18, 2013…just 5½ months after her dad, Walt Schulenberg passed away. Brenda became a health nut. She learned to eat right, and she walked…slowly and with a walker at first, and later on her own. She walked further and further…often reaching 10 miles a day. The weight came off, and she felt much better. Still, one thing eluded her…riding a bicycle. Finally, the day arrived when Brenda found out that she could ride a bicycle…as long as the peddles were off, and she could reach the ground. It’s called strider riding. It is a bicycle, but the rider basically runs the bicycle down the trail, instead of riding it…and Brenda could do that.

After riding strider style for a time, Brenda was finally able to ride a bicycle in the normal way. She put the peddles back on her purple bicycle and off she went. Brenda became just like the postal service…”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Ok, Brenda didn’t have appointed rounds…exactly, but she had set herself a goal of riding her bicycle every month of the year. Now, that is not an easy task, especially in the state of Wyoming, where winters can be brutal. Nevertheless, just like the postal worker, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of the very early morning will keep Brenda from riding her bicycle. She is determined to ride it, and make up for all the years that she couldn’t even ride a bicycle in the summertime, much less in the winter.

She’s a brave woman, especially when she goes out in the middle of a snow story, and pretty much turns into a snow woman. She reminds me of the Campbell’s Soup commercial where the little boy is so covered with snow that only a hot bowl of soup will melt away all the snow. Maybe she’s not that bad, but she’s close. Brenda, we are proud of your determination, but I do have to wonder if the people driving by the snow woman on wheels have to rubs their eyes to make sure they are seeing what their eyes are telling them they are seeing. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Sweet MarlyceMarlyce holding BarryAfter 27 years, one might think that I would be used to the fact that my sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg is no longer with us, but somehow, I’m not. Oh, I suppose that most of the time my mind has accepted that fact, but…well, Marlyce was such a unique person. She was special in every way. She had a heart of gold, and she loved everyone. That didn’t mean that she didn’t have a temper at all, but then, I think that when she got mad…at least at her siblings, it was because they teased her…or picked a fight with her. I suppose it was a kid thing or a sibling thing, but whatever it was, it drove Marlyce crazy sometimes. And every time Marlyce got mad at her siblings, they were moved to try it again. I suppose that’s just how kids are.

Marlyce’s life was cut short at the tender age of just 39 years, when cancer took her life away from her. Gone were that precious moments we all had with my sweet sister-in-law. It was so hard to believe. She was only 39 years old, younger than my own children are now, and yet she was gone. No more of her smiling face telling me that she had made my favorite chocolate chip cookies, or showing me the latest things she had knitted. Her giggle was now silent. That was 27 years ago, and yet, I can still hear her voice…filled with excitement about those cookies, and I can still hear her annoyed voice telling her littlest brother, Ron to stop picking on her.

It’s strange that the voices of the past still exist in our minds to the degree that it almost seems like we are still Beautiful MarlyceAmy with Marlycehearing them out loud. Harder for me to believe than the fact that Marlyce has been gone for 27 years, is the fact that she would have been 66 years old today. She was the oldest child, and with her passing there was a hole left in our lives. Because Marlyce was a special needs child, my in-laws were always concerned about what would happen to her if they passed away. Of course, we would have take care of her, but they needn’t have worried, because she preceded both of them. Today would have been Marlyce’s 66th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

On the SlideSince losing over 330 pounds, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg has basically entered her second childhood. It all started when she decided that she needed to go and play on the playground…or at least slide on the slide. Now, she has set herself a goal of visiting every park in Casper at some point this year…including walking around the parks. She found an outdoor exercise bike, and after many attempts over the course of the last two years, finally was able to make it work. When her niece posted pictures of her children sledding, Brenda told them that they should come to Casper next winter so she could go sledding with them. These things are not the activities of most life-long sedentary and overweight people, but then that isn’t who Brenda is…anymore. She is a vibrant, active 50+ year old, who got a second chance, and she has no intention of wasting it. Brenda soon became a woman on a mission…a get healthy mission.

Checking it outIt has been a long journey for Brenda, but not nearly as long as it would have been for most people in her shoes. Most people who find out that they have several health issues, all caused by obesity and all reversible, would have said that the challenge was more than they could face. The mere though of healthy eating and an active lifestyle makes most people in that situation feel tired and hungry. And most of those people give up before they ever get started…but not Brenda. In all reality, Brenda was no exception to that general rule, but she dug down deep within herself, and decided once and for all, that she was not going to let this beat her, and she was not going to die at 50 years old. In many ways, that was about the last time Brenda acted like someone with all the health concerns she had. and now she simply doesn’t act her age at all. It’s like she has age regressed…and that’s ok. If you missed out on an active childhood, and you had the chance to go back in time and change that…wouldn’t you do it too. Brenda simply had to do it.
New Bike
In recent months, Brenda has been obsessed with the idea of riding a bicycle again. She wasn’t sure that would be a possibility given the condition of her knees right now. Nevertheless, she has high hopes, and so she decided to find a way to ride a bike in the meantime. She bought a bicycle…purple, of course. She took the pedals off of it, and for now, she sits on the seat and walks the bike along the trails. She calls it a strider, and I don’t know for sure if that is the name of the bike, or what you call one that has no pedals, but either way, she can now ride a bike…another thing she didn’t really do much as a kid. And another step back into her second childhood. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

DebbieMy sister-in-law, Debbie Schulenberg Cook, is a woman of many talents. Over the years she has made clothing for her girls, Machelle Cook Moore and Susan Cook Griffith, including Machelle’s wedding dress. She made lots of other clothes for them through the years too. One thing that I never really had the patience for, was sewing, but Debbie was quite good at it. She sewed most of her own clothes too. I always thought it would be nice to be able to do that, but it just wasn’t going to be something I would master, and my shoulders just couldn’t stand the aching I got when I sewed, so it was what it was.
scan0035
Debbie took up cross stitch, and made many pretty things to give away and sell at the craft fairs that she, my sister-in-law, Brenda, and my parents-in-law used to participate in. Now cross stitch was something I could sink my teeth into, but I didn’t ever get involved in the craft fairs, because by then, Bob and I were bowling seven days a week…fanatical, absolutely. Nevertheless, they all did pretty well with the craft fairs, and very much anticipated each one with joy. I know that the people who bought the items they sold were very pleased with them, but I think the gifts she made especially for one family member or another were the very best, because of all the love that went into them. Something that is made with love is always a keepsake.

scan0078 (4) After her dad’s passing, almost three years ago, and after we had to place her mother in a nursing home due to Alzheimer’s Disease, we decided to take the clothes that didn’t go to the nursing home, and any material he mom had left, and make quilts for everyone. Debbie single handedly took on the task of making quilts for the grandchildren. It was a huge undertaking, because there are eight grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren. Debbie did a wonderful job on those quilts, and they are something the grandchildren and great grandchildren will treasure forever, because the are from their grandparents clothing, and made with love for them by Debbie. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jim StengelNot everyone can say that they truly have the best job on Earth. I know that lots of people think they do, but I can name so many ways that they, if they thought about it from my perspective, would have to admit that they just don’t. For most people, going to work means getting there on time, doing your job, and going home at quitting time. Loving your job sometimes falls into this mix, and sometimes it just doesn’t, for the sad truth is that millions of people really hate their job. They know that they could find a better one, but they just don’t know where to start, or they don’t have the training, or the job market is just so poor that they don’t dare try to look somewhere else right now.

For the last 19 years I can honestly say that I have been extremely blessed to have the job I do, with the boss I have. It’s easy for me to use the term boss, because in reality Jim Stengel is nothing like a boss…in fact, he is the epitome of the un-boss. He doesn’t even like the word boss…choosing rather to call his employees, associates, and glaring at the person who forgets and calls him boss. It’s his way of reminding us that he doesn’t like the “B” word. Jim tells us about his dad’s way of looking at it. Jim Stengel Sr was the owner of Dakota Granite, and it was his belief that if you hire the best people for the job, and let them do their job without micro managing them, they will do their very best for you, and be happy in the process. I think he was on to something there.

One of the best reasons that I have to say that Jim is the greatest person to work for, is that he knows how to keep the priorities straight. Over my ten years as a caregiver, I have had to put that theory to the test. Lots of bosses tell you that family comes first, but if you need time off to go take care of someone in the family, they aren’t so happy to accommodate that time off. Apparently, it’s ok make family your top priority, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your job. Not so with Jim. During the times when my caregiving duties required me to miss quite a bit of work, he didn’t complain, and that made me want to work even harder for him when I was there. Both my family and Bob’s family are fully aware of the huge debt of gratitude we all owe Jim, and for that reason they have virtually adopted him as a son in the family. Not only that, but they keep him in their prayers. We can never repay that debt, and if you ask Jim, he would tell you that we don’t owe him a thing…Jim & Juliebut that’s just him being kind, because we really do. Had he not given me the time off I needed, even at a moments notice, to take care of a parent or sister-in-law who needed my help, I don’t know what we would have done.

Jim will try to blow this off as being what any boss would do, but we all know that isn’t so. Most bosses expect you to put in your full hours, and find someone else to take care of things when you are working. That is no easy task, as any caregiver will tell you. Jim is a one of a kind…the un-boss, and we who have the privilege of working for him understand just how very blessed we are by him. Today is Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you and are proud to call you…friend!!

BR two years agoTwo years seems like such a long time in many ways, but in others, it is no time at all. Two years ago today, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg was in the midst of a medical crisis. She went into the hospital with Congestive Heart Failure, Cellulitis, and Severe Sleep Apnea. She was in a lot of trouble. Her future looked very grim. Brenda had a big decision to make, and she had to make that decision for herself, because no one could do it for her. Brenda either had to lose weight…a lot of weight, or she was not going to live much longer.

Believe it or not, most people would have given up at that point, but Brenda isn’t most people. She decided that 50 years was not enough to call a full life. She wanted more. Nevertheless, the task of losing the weight and actually getting in shape seemed daunting. To really get into the kind of shape she needed to, Brenda would need to lose about 340+ pounds. Of course, part of that was going to be skin in the end, but it would take at least 340 pounds to get to a good weight for her 5’3″ frame. Nevertheless, losing the weight was only going to be part of the transition for Brenda.

In order to be healthy and keep the weight off, Brenda was going to have to get some activity into her life. The logical activity was one that a number of her family members love to do…hiking. For Brenda, the hike began indoors at Sunrise Shopping Center. That first hike was a short one, because it took everything she had in her to do it. Using a walker, and stopping frequently, she made that first hike. The short indoor hike using a walker is far in Brenda’s past now. These days, Brenda loves to hike Casper Mountain, with the Bridle Trail at the top of the list. Two years ago, the Bridle Trail seemed an impossible dream, but no more. The Bridle Trail is one that Brenda now hikes often.

One of the things that Brenda was told is that at some point, she will not look at activity as exercise, but as fun activity. I know that she never thought that day would come either, but these days, exercise is a thought that is far in Brenda’s past, and activity is what she does now. Brenda has become an inspiration to many people, BR after two yearswho have begun to follow in her footsteps now. She has decided to try to become a mentor to others who are in the position she was in. She wants to let people know that they can change their life, and all it really takes in the first step.

Today, as Brenda celebrates two years of really living, she will celebrate with a hike…of course. A group of her friends and family will hike the Bridle Trail. I have to wonder what Brenda is thinking about this years hike. What had seemed like an impossible dream is now a possible reality. Looking back and reflecting on all she has done, and just how far she has come, one realizes just what an amazing accomplishment this has been. For anyone who thinks they can’t do this, I recommend that you ask my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg what she thinks about that. I can tell you, without a doubt that she would tell you to focus on the finish line, and never give up. The impossible is possible, but only if you don’t quit. The only way to fail to reach your goal is to quit. Congratulations Brenda!! You have come a long way, and the future is bright now. Never quit, and you will always be strong and healthy. We love you!!

Sweet MarlyceMy sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled. In many ways that made her always seem younger than her years. In reality, she probably never aged past her teen years, mentally. Still, Marlyce could do some things that adults do, such as cooking and working. In those ways she was much like any grown up person her age.

Marlyce lived with her parents, my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg, all her life, but she was a part of a school in Casper at that time, that trained developmentally disabled people to be productive members of society, and then worked to place them in jobs. Marlyce loved her job, and enjoyed going to work every day. It made her feel good about herself, and it made her feel like she was a grownup, like everyone else around her. Marlyce just wanted to belong in the adult world. Something most of us can understand.Beautiful Marlyce

Before Marlyce was forty, she contracted Cancer, and at the young age of just thirty nine years, she lost her life in that battle. It was a devastating loss to all of us, her family, and to all who knew her. Nevertheless, time marches on, and while we will always miss her sweet smiling face, the hats she knitted, and the wonderful chocolate chip cookies she made, we will miss her more than any of those things. Marlyce was the sweetest sister-in-law in the world. She was kind and caring. She loved being an aunt when all the nieces and nephews started coming along.

Her life was sadly, very short in the grand scheme of time, but in that timeframe, Marlyce lived a full life. She was not held back by the limitations that most of us do not consider limitations, like husband and children, but in reality, they are things that must be taken into consideration when deciding whether to read a book, take a trip with parents, or even take a nap. She could, for the most part anyway Amy with Marlycemake her own choices. And that was what allowed her to live a full life in just a few short years. Nevertheless, we all wish she was still here.

Today, Marlyce would have turned sixty five. I wonder what she would have been like now. Things would have been a bit more difficult in that her dad is in Heaven, and her mom in a nursing home. I’m not sure where she would have been living. Perhaps with one of her siblings or maybe in a group home. She would be ready to retire, but I’m not sure she would have wanted to do so. It’s all speculation, of course, because we will never know. Today Marlyce would have been sixty five, but in reality, she is forever thirty nine. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.

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