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My sister, Allyn Hadlock, better known as Grammy. That name probably started out as just the grandkids, but as any grandparent knows, sooner or later, your kids call you that too, so their kids know who they are talking about. So, now, that is probably what more of them call her that. Her grandkids LOVE her. For Allyn, being “Grammy” is one of the most important aspects of her life. She loves to spend time with her grandkids, and if they live too far away, she visits or calls them. She is a hands-on Grammy, even if she is far away. Every morning before she gets ready for her day, she makes time to talk to granddaughter, Mackenzie Moore on video. Mackenzie looks forward to their call each day.

Ally’s top priority in life is and always will be God. She is a spiritual leader in her family…always leading through actions, words, and lots of love!! Allyn is very pure of heart. She has always served the Lord and works very hard to grow closer to Him every day. She devotes time to Bible study and worship every day. As her daughter, Lindsay says, “She is someone you can go to for prayer, advice, wisdom, questions, and know that she will help you find the answer or lead you towards Jesus. She’s such a GREAT and wonderful mom, uniquely equipped to mother and grandmother, called by God for something special!!” And in Lindsay style, “I’m obviously her favorite child.” Hahahahaha!! Ok, Lindsay, we will take your word for it.

Allyn works from home now, and really loves it. Allyn and her husband, Chris had their house built on his parents land east of town but the Platte River. They love it there. They feel totally at peace, and they love having gatherings and parties there too. So, it totally stands to reason that Allyn would be so happy to work from home now. It is her happy place. She is at peace there, and it puts a song in her heart. I can’t imagine a place that better suits my little sister. I’m sure that when she takes a break from work, and goes downstairs for a cup of coffee, her eyes are drawn to the river slowly going by out back…unless it’s frozen over, of course. There are turkeys that hang out back there, and a number of other critters. Everything from deer, to foxes, to all kinds of rodents scurry around her place. I suppose they are preparing for winter, or maybe just hanging out, but they obviously love her place just as much as she does. That is so cool. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

While I love the beautiful snow globe scenes that bombard the internet every Winter, I also see in them, the freezing cold temperatures that must always accompany the real-life version. Some people like my sister, Cheryl Masterson and my granddaughter, Shai Royce love most of what Winter brings, snow and cold, but even they don’t like the pounding wind and sun-zero temperatures…or the terrible driving conditions that come along with them. I honestly don’t think any sane person would say they “like” the wind and sub-zero temperatures.

To say that I don’t love a good snowy scene, would be a lie, so I won’t say that. I love looking at winter scenes of all kinds. From the pictures people take and post, to the snow scene “gifs” that are most prevalent at Christmas, I love them all. Nevertheless, from my point of view, my placement in those pictures, is inside the house that is often shown, with a nice cup of hot chocolate and a warm cozy fire in the fireplace. Looking from the inside out on a Winter scene is the best place to be.

I keep asking myself this year, just what it is that places me in the category of the Winter Weary, because we really have had a mild Winter. Still, that week of sub-zero temperatures, and the day of that cold wind, are enough to make me weary from day one. Then, we get our “Annual January Thaw” that comes right before that slap of Winter saying, “And….we’re back!!” that gets me every time!! These past few days of highs in the low 50° temperatures have been absolutely lovely. They would be even better, if they didn’t have to be accompanied by 30 mile per hour winds. Then, just in time for Groundhog Day, the temperatures are going to begin the decent into the 30° range again. Just Yucky!

I admit it, I am a Summer person!! That is my happy place, with Spring and Fall as close seconds, provided they don’t decide to be a snowy Spring or Fall, and that isn’t exactly the case most of the time. The way I see it, Winter around here lasts about nine months, and the rest of the seasons get to split the rest of the year. I think it is just very rude to let us have that “Annual January Thaw” each year, knowing that after that week, reality will be right back, and the Winter winds, and sub-zero temperatures with look us in the face an just roar with laughter again. Nevertheless, fellow “Winter Weary” people, Spring is just 49 days away. Woo Hoo!!!

My great grandnephew, Aysa Balcerzak is such a happy little boy. As with all two-year-old boys, he is curious, fearless, and wants to do anything his big sister, Reece is doing. Aysa is so energetic…bouncing all over the place. He and his sister love to dance around the house, and Aysa does his best to dance just like his big sis, but he isn’t really very successful at that…yet anyway. Reece, being the oldest, has had some dance lessons, and Aysa probably won’t, because while he likes doing what his sister does, dancing is not likely to be his career of choice. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely, because Aysa is all boy. Still, the music “moves him” so he will most likely do some dancing in his lifetime. And he knows how to ham it up.

Aysa’s parents try to give their children a variety of activities to try out, and I personally think that little Aysa rather likes the horse he got to try. What kid wouldn’t, after all? He didn’t seem to be afraid, but then his daddy, Keifer Balcerzak was right there holding him, so the ground didn’t seem so far down, and the horse didn’t seem quite so big, and if Daddy thought it was ok, it must be. I’m sure there will be many new experiences in the future. Keifer plays baseball, and I’m sure that he is looking forward to the day when he can get his son started in T-Ball and beyond. Someday I’m sure they will be on a father/son team, just like Keifer has been with his dad, Aysa’s grandpa, Dave Balcerzak. With the love of sports that runs in the Balcerzak clan, I’m sure there will be other enjoyable events in Aysa’s life too…like football games to watch and maybe play. Of course, those things are down the road a little be, because Aysa is only two years old, after all.

While Daddy may be Aysa’s best buddy, his mommy, Katie Balcerzak is definitely his cuddle of choice. As we all know, things like scraped knees, bumped heads, and fights with big sister require a little hug from the one person who can always make it all better…Mommy. She has been the person who nurtured him, and yet, allowed him to be all boy. She was the person who made sure that when he had to go do girl’s stuff with his big sis, he had snacks to make it all worthwhile. Mommies really are the best…at least until the teenage years. Then, all bets are off!! Still, Aysa’s parents are pretty cool, so I’m sure it will be fine. Today is Aysa’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Aysa!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Lucas Iverson has had to fight for every success in his life, because he is a child with Down’s Syndrome. Nevertheless, Lucas is a fighter, and he looks at each new obstacle as a challenge to be met and conquered. Lucas is an adventurer. He can find adventure anywhere. He is always on an adventure doing something in the house or outside. From Dino toys, to snakes, or to his favorite thing lately, which is playing with plastic hangers, Lucas is a busy boy.

Lucas has struggled with a number of health issues, and it hasn’t always been easy to manage then and keep his allergies and sensitivities under control. The family is on a dairy free diet now for his ears, because dairy causes inflammation. He has had some issues with digestion, and for a time, he had a Gastrostomy Tube (G Tube), but with diet changes and the help of a number of specialists, Lucas in finally free of the G Tube. He is also getting taller and bigger, looking like a little man. These are all signs of a healthy turnaround, and for that we are eternally grateful to God. Much prayer has been sent up, and now comes answered prayer.

Lucas is doing well in school in his new town. Moving from one town to another isn’t easy, especially for kids in school. For Lucas, it could be harder still, but this change seems to have been a good one. He is learning about reading and much more. Lucas seems to be thriving in his new home, and he is always learning. It’s in his nature.

This year has certainly been a year of change for Lucas, and for his family too. Six months ago, Lucas became a big brother again, and his sister, Zoey became a big sister for the first time. Their sister Alicen has been a wonderful blessing to the whole family, but Lucas is especially proud to be her big brother. When his sister, Zoey was born, Lucas was in no position to perform any big brother duties, and in fact, Zoey taught him many things. It was the lessons of his little sister, Zoey that will now allow Lucas to be a great big brother to his new little sister, Alicen, and he is very excited to get started. Today is Lucas’ 12th birthday. Happy birthday Lucas!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandniece, Maya Stevens is such a happy baby girl. She loves playing with her big sister, Elliott Stevens, who very much loves to entertain her little sister. Maya love learning new things. She was just playing with a walker toy and didn’t even realize that she really was walking and walking well. She also stands alone for 10 to 20 seconds before she realizes what she is doing. That’s how it goes with children. If the learning is made to be like play, they learn quickly. It’s the nature of babies and children. Maya loves her parents, Kayla and Garrett Stevens, so much. They are her favorite people. She also loves her grandparents, Alena and Mike Stevens and Lynette and Wes Smiley, very much. She also loves her cousins, especially Brooklyn Killinger, whom she will totally hang out with for hours. Of course, she loves Brooklyn’s brother, Jaxxon Killinger too. He makes her laugh.

Maya is learning so many new things. She loves kids, but Brooklyn and Elliott are her favorites. She is in that “I don’t like strange adults” stage right now…especially men, and she is very aware of where her mom and Dad are at all times. If they leave the room, Maya knows it. That is rather a common thing among one-year-old children. They just don’t feel comfortable with people they don’t know well. I think its a good thing actually. Maya is crawling around all over the place and getting into stuff. That could be bad, but the house is already kid-proof, so it’s ok. When Maya gets into the pans, it’s time for the “one girl band” to play. She bangs the pans and makes as much noise as she can. She likes banging on pans or anything that makes a loud noise…to the delight of her parents…I’m sure. She loves to play in the water, especially when her daddy makes sure she gets wet.

Maya doesn’t have any teeth yet, but her mom is sure they will be popping through any day now. Kayla often sends out videos to friends and family so we can see the antics of Elliott and Maya!! We all love to see them very much. The girls are just precious, and they bring joy to anyone who knows them…especially their parents. Maya goes to daycare these days, and the daycare ladies absolutely love her. They are always telling her parents just how sweet she is. Today is Maya’s first birthday. Happy birthday Sweet Maya!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

They say that everyone remembers that moment when they are told that they have Cancer, and I’m sure that is true. For my sister, Alena Stevens, it all started in November of 2022. She had gone in for her annual screening and pap smear. Normally, the Gynecologist gave her the paperwork to go and set up her mammogram, which she had always filed in file 13. She hadn’t gone in for years, but by Divine Intervention, the doctor took it out of her hands and had Casper Imaging call her to get an appointment. So, reluctantly, she went in and had a mammogram. She was texted about two weeks later and told that she needed to come in for more images. Her first thought was, “Ok, no big deal.” She went in for the pictures, and they did several of them. They also wanted ultrasound pictures for a better look at four areas. Finally, they narrowed it down to one area in one breast and sent it to Dr Smothers, a surgeon.

The doctor was very upbeat and said it was no big deal because it was super small. He put Alena at ease immediately. He sent her back to Casper Medical Imaging for a biopsy. The initial determination was that the lump was not cancerous, but they had also sent it to Utah for a second opinion. It was determined to be cancer, but a very non-aggressive type. Again, Dr Smothers was very upbeat. He went in on January 23, 2023, and took it out. At that time, he did find a very small mass in one lymph node. That mass was the size of a grain of sugar, and he took it out too. The original lump in Alena’s breast was the size of a pepper corn or smaller. Alena was given 33 radiation treatments, done every day, five days a week for six weeks. The treatments were very successful, and Alena is now cancer free.

While Alena’s discovery and treatment story is amazing, it must be said that her support group was phenomenal. Her husband, Mike and kids, Michelle (Matt) Miller, Garrett (Kayla) Stevens, and Lacey Stevens (Chris Killinger) were all amazing!! Alena says, “Mike was a rock, as were the kids. I am so thankful for the support of my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryn (Bob) Schulenberg, Caryl (Mike) Reed, and Allyn (Chris) Hadlock and their families; as well as Mike’s family, Scott (Barb) Stevens, Pat (Susie) Stevens, Annette (Hermis) Decoteau, Carrie (Mike) VonSenden, and Kathy (Mike) Huval and their families. Everyone was so great and checked with me often. But, above all, I give God the glory. We took communion every day and stood on the Word!”

Alena’s daughter, Michelle says, “Mom was a perfect example of faith, grace, and strength throughout this whole process. Obviously, we were very upset to hear about her diagnosis, but from the start she was positive and very strong about all of it. She led the way in moving through this process and she was a warrior. It was so touching to see how much it effected my dad, who is usually very stoic, as well. He was by her side and very supportive. And once she finished treatment, seeing how happy and proud of her, he was absolutely amazing. God is so good and the older we get, it’s amazing to see how much of an example our parents can still be to us. Also, the older we get the more thankful we are for our parents, so this process just made me even more thankful to have her. She is amazing and I feel like she is living her best life these days.”

Alena’s son Garrett says, “The only thing I have to add is that she wanted absolutely zero negativity from the beginning. She told everyone that this was already taken care of on the cross and that she didn’t want any negative thoughts about it. It was positive thoughts and planning only. I think she went through it all without any real fear and full of faith!!”

Lacey told me just how proud she was of her dad, who was so supportive. She was proud to watch how positive her parents were. Their positive attitudes allowed their kids to stay positive about everything, and free from fear!! They just knew she would be ok, and they never worried about that. They all stood strong in faith, because of the leading of their parents.

Alena’s family all saw the same thing in her…a strong faith in God for her complete healing. And now, we are all rejoicing in her great victory. Above all else…to God be the glory!!

On July 1, 2022, my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens retired from a 39-year career in the oil field business, but this story is not about his retirement or his career, because those are things from his past. Following that retirement, Mike and my sister, Alena have been focusing on two things…relaxation and grandchildren. My sister tells me that they don’t do much, but I think they probably do. Whenever the grandchildren are over, I know that the house is suddenly filled with giggling energy, because that is what grandchildren bring. Two of their grandchildren, Elliott and Maya, live in Sheridan, so they don’t get to see them as much, but with retirement, they are making more trip to Sheridan, and their son Garrett and his wife, Kayla will also be bringing the girls to Casper more often. In the meantime, their bonus grandchildren, Brooklyn and Jaxxon Killinger love to spend time at their grandparents’ house. They often come over after school, and that is when the fun gets going. Mike is a kid at heart, and he loves joking and playing with the grandchildren.

And speaking of joking, Mike’s son, Garrett tells me that his dad is always joking around. He is a great jokester. He always texts Garrett and his sisters, Michelle Miller and Lacey Stevens (soon to be Killinger) a joke or something like it on April Fools’ Day. For the kids, it isn’t April Fools’ Day until they have received their “Dad’s April Fools’ Day Joke Text” from their dad. Nothing is off limits, and the kids know it. A couple of years ago, Mike group texted Michelle and Lacey, saying that the family dogs, Callie and Ozzy got into some poison, and they woke up to them dead in their kennel. Both Michelle and Lacey were crying at work…when they got the text from their dad saying, “April Fools!!” Well, needless to say, the girls were “so mad!!” Garrett was living in Sheridan This year’s April Fools’ Day text found Mike telling the kids that he had won the lottery!! That one was not as successful, as the kids had learned their lesson, and so caught on pretty quickly. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Mike from sending out those April Fools’ Day Joke Texts or any other day joke texts. Now, with the grandchildren in the picture, Mike has a whole new audience for his jokes.

This year, Mike has had a much more serious role in life. When my sister, Alena Stevens was diagnosed with very early breast cancer and had to undergo a lumpectomy and radiation, her husband, Mike was literally her Rock. No one wants to receive that diagnosis, and not everyone has people standing behind them to support them through the “nightmare.” Alena was very blessed to have Mike and her children behind her when it happened to her. Mike led the way and was a role model for the children on how to “be there” for their mom. That person has to push back their own fears and lift up the person they are supporting. It’s never easy, but it was what Mike did, and what he led his children and grandchildren in doing. He led the way in prayer for her and in his support at home. Now that the cancer is gone, Alena will be forever grateful to Mike and her kids for all they did for her…and to God be all the glory for her healing!! Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Our aunt, Charlys Schulenberg is all about family. She and Uncle Butch have three grown children, Tadd, Andi Kay, and Heath; as well as spouses and seven grandchildren. Their marriage has been very blessed, and Charlys is always happy when she gets to see her kids and grandkids. Unfortunately, their children don’t live in Forsyth, Montana where Aunt Charlys and Uncle Butch live, but thankfully they don’t live too far away…one in Helena, Montana and two in Sheridan, Wyoming. That kind of closeness means that they and easily plan for family gatherings, and I’m sure that makes everyone very happy.

Aunt Charlys is such a sweet person, and a great blessing to be around…if you like being spoiled, and let’s be real, who doesn’t like being spoiled. The times Bob and I went to visit, I found out just what a great cook Aunt Charlys is. She and Uncle Butch have a lovely home in a senior community, that overlooks the Yellowstone River. That view is spectacular, and it inspires lots of pictures of stunning sunsets over the river. Not to mention many evenings sitting in the back yard watching the river go by as the sun sets. There is nothing more peaceful than that. They also have beautiful flower gardens, and a nice lawn that they really don’t have to mow, although I think Butch might mow sometimes. Their place is just such a lovely setting, and they feel so at peace there. Of course, they also have their vegetable garden, and from what I’ve seen, it looks pretty good…at least the past ones did. Each year is new and different, and I pray that they have a great crop this year.

While I have never met Aunt Charlys’ sister, Carol Hansell, who lives in Mississippi, but I love the relationship they have. Charlys, Butch, and Carol are always teasing each other, which reminds me of my own sisters and me. I love when siblings can joke around and make each other laugh, because let’s face it, you can never laugh too much. And siblings…well, they are priceless. It used to be that if you and your siblings were going to be very close, you needed to live near each other, but now with so many options on the internet, like Facebook, you can stay close, even over the miles. It makes me happy for Aunt Charlyn and her sister.

Even though we don’t get to see Aunt Charlys and Uncle Butch as much as we would like to, because we too live a way away from them. I always feel a closeness to them when we are there, or even when we are just having a Facebook conversation. They are both such friendly and welcoming people, and they make everyone feel really happy. Today is Aunt Charlys’ birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Charlys!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

With each passing year, I find myself feeling more and more blessed with this husband of mine. Bob and I met while I was working at Kmart, where his sister, Debbie Cook also worked, 49 years and 4 months ago. We have been married for 48 years as of today. There were people who didn’t think we has a chance for a lifelong marriage, but they were all wrong. I guess you could say that we are both stubborn…in a good way. We made a commitment, and we were determined to stay committed. The rest, as they say, is history. We have been blessed with two daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce; two sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce; four grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen; a granddaughter-in-law, Karen Petersen and soon to be granddaughter-in-law, Athena Salazar; and three great grandchildren, Cambree, Caysen, and Justin Petersen. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Through the years, our lives have taken a number of turns. Things we expected and things we didn’t. We have made major job changes, to jobs we didn’t expect, Bob working for the City of Casper and me at The Stengel Agency, from which we would both retire. Of course, our family has grown and continues to grow. We began our married life living in a mobile home, which we moved several times, and finally in 1995, we moved into town…the best move we ever made. I guess it took us that long to realize that we really didn’t like country life. We became caregivers in 2005, an eventually would take care of all four parents until each one passed away, the final one in 2018. That was probably the biggest, unexpected thing of all. When you are young, you naturally think your parents will live forever. We miss them very much and consider ourselves blessed to have had them with us for so long.

The future is bright, and with retirement, we have more time to be together. I suppose some people think that all that time together would get…complicated, but for us it has not. We have always enjoyed our time together and have found that working different shifts at times was one of the hardest things we endured. I’ve heard people say that we should have fought less in those years, but we actually fought more, so there is another myth shot down. These days we like to travel, hike, spend time with our family. Of course, Bob still keeps busy working on cars in our garage, and I have my writing. We find too, that we are homebodies to a degree, with Bob needing to be out and about more than I do. So, he runs to the parts house several times a day, hahahaha!! It’s his social life. I like to walk on the trail near our home, and the Carpet Trail (inside our house) in the winter. I always look forward to the warmer weather, because the Carpet Trail can get boring after a while. I would say that we have led a very blessed life!! Happy 48th anniversary, Bob!! I love you more each and every day!! Here’s to many more years of wedded bliss!!

Arizona…home of the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, is famous for its red dirt and colorful formations, but these places aren’t the only famous places in the area. In fact, the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, which is located in Apache County, Arizona, and is in the current day Navajo Nation, is one of the most visited national monuments in the United States. The strange thing is that there are many people who have never heard of it…me included, and I have been to the Four Corners region. I guess that at the time my family went there, the Four Corners (the spot where four states meet) was more interesting to us. Or maybe it was that we were headed to the Grand Canyon. Anyway, I had not heard of the Canyon de Chelly. My older sister, Cheryl Masterson might find that amusing, and might even tell me that we have been there, but for some reason, if we have been there, I don’t recall.

The name, Canyon de Chelly is an unusual name for the United States, even in the Southwest. It sounds a bit French, but in reality, it is universal Spanish. “Chelly” is actually derived from the Navajo word tseg, which means “rock canyon” or “in a canyon.” Spanish explorers and government officials began to utilize a “Chelly,” “Chegui,” and even “Chelle” in order to try to replicate the Navajo word in the early 1800s. Eventually, the name was standardized to “de Chelly” by the middle of the 19th century. It is thought that the canyons of de Chelly contain the artifacts and homes of Native Americans as far back as 5,000 years. At first, they lived in caves and the only real evidence of their existence is the hieroglyphics etched into the red rock walls. These people were more nomadic, and so only visited the canyons while on hunting expeditions.

Later the people who lived there were more established, and so began the period of time when the adobe structures were formed. I think that anyone who has seen adobe home, in pictures or in person would have to admit that they are very interesting. It seems so amazing to me that these people could not only make a structure that could withstand the elements as well as these structures have, but to build them on the face of the cliffs is even more amazing. Adobe, of course, is a type of construction material made from a mixture of mud, straw, and water. It is commonly used in hot, dry climates, such as in the southwestern United States. Like any home, renovation took place over the years, strengthening and changing the structures. The structures have names such as Standing Cow (named for the hieroglyphic white bull on the wall above the home), white house (so named because of a white wall in the back of the structure), Mummy Cave (I don’t believe any mummies were found there, so I’m not sure how it got its name), and Antelope House (named for the hieroglyphic carvings of antelope above it). The homes in Canyon de Chelly were abandoned around 1300, although no one really knows why. Over the past century, archaeologists, historians, and scientists have tried to pinpoint the root causes of the massive abandonment of settlements like Hovenweep, Chaco Canyon, and Mesa Verde, but there is no single consensus among experts. It might have been due to warfare, severe drought, food shortages, infectious diseases, or the emergence of new religious and cultural centers. Whatever the reasons, Canyon de Chelly’s people left the area and migrated south toward the more fertile Rio Grande Valley in present-day New Mexico or toward the Little Colorado River Basin in what is present-day Arizona. That is known because of the homes built in the same fashion in the Pueblos of New Mexico, the Zuni, and the Hopi Indian areas, where the structures still have the rich traditions in artistic and architectural design.

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