sister

When my parents moved to Superior, Wisconsin, which is where my older sister, Cheryl Masterson and I were born, my mom was a young bride, who was experiencing the first days of marriage and the first time away from her family. I’m sure that was not really an easy time for her, but when she arrived in Superior, she was greeted by my dad’s family, who were the only people she knew there. If you have to move to a new city and state, it is nice to at least have someone that you know and can call family, as well as friend. My dad had a large family in the area with whom my mother became quite close, one of whom was my Aunt Doris Spencer, her sister-in-law, and my Uncle Bill’s wife. They spent a lot of time together, and really, had a number of “adventures” together.

As young women, they were always weight conscious, and always on the latest diet. I’m sure that they thought it would be easier to diet with a buddy, and many of us have thought the same thing, but as we all know, dieting is never ease, and inevitably, they found themselves starving!! So, as a way of easing the cravings until they could eat something again, my Aunt Doris handed gave each of them one kernel of puffed wheat and said, “Here, this will tide us over until dinnertime!” Now, as we all know that would be like literally eating air, and it would not ease hunger pains in any way, but as every dieter knows, it was worth a try, because they didn’t want to mess up their diet.

When we moved to Wyoming when I was a little over two years old, it was hard on a lot of people, but I think it was especially hard for my mom and Aunt Doris. While their “adventures” were sometimes silly and sometimes almost crazy, they always had a great time together, and they had become almost like sisters, not sisters-in-law. Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill visited us in Wyoming and we visited them in Wisconsin, but it was never quite the same. Then a few years ago, my sister, Cheryl and I took Mom to Wisconsin for a visit. it was so amazing to see the two sisters-in-law/friends together again, and I know they felt like it was an amazing reunion too. It was the last trip my Mom would make, but my Aunt Doris is still alive and going strong. Today is Aunt Doris’ 94th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In about 1985, I began coaching youth bowling at Eagle Bowl, in Casper Wyoming. As I set up the teams for the year, I decided to team my two daughters, Corrie Schulenberg (Petersen) and Amy Schulenberg (Royce) with two little sisters named Jaime Morton (Moler) and Jackie Morton. As it turned out, that team would be more than friends for life…because unbeknownst to me at the time, those little girls were 3rd cousins, a fact I found out by accident, when I mentioned the Morton family to my mom, Collene Spencer, who knew that the Morton girls’ grandmother, Margaret was my mother’s cousin. The knowledge of the family connection made the little girls’ team even more special. The girls would bowl together all through their youth bowling years. Those years went by so fast, and I was terrible at taking pictures of anyone but my own kids, so the memories I have of those precious years live only in my mind’s memory files now. Fast forward to adulthood for the four little girls. Through the years, our families remained close and my husband, Bob and I bowl with the Morton family on a league to this day. Our girls bowled the league too for a time, but the friendship…the cousinship…that was forever, and will be forever.

Yesterday, at 12:30pm, I guess I’ll always remember the time, I received some news that deeply saddened all of us. One of the girls, Jackie Morton, just 37 years old, had passed away. She had knee surgery, and the doctors suspect that a blood clot was the cause of her passing. Everyone who knew Jackie will remember her bubbly personality, and her smiling face. She was always fun to be around, and that is why she had such a great group of friends, all of whom will miss her greatly. She truly cared about her friends and what was going on in their lives. Jackie was also a hard worker, and often worked overtime, missing bowling because she was needed elsewhere. She did what she needed to do, because she was loyal and dedicated to her job.

Jackie and her sister, Jaime have been very close all their lives. They were far closer that just sisters. They loved spending time together, going to concerts, vacations together, and of course, the precious family time that the whole family cherished. One of the defining moments in Jackie’s life was the moment she became an aunt. Jackie loved being an aunt, and her nephew, Kaleb, and nieces, Kielei and Haley brought such joy to her life. She attended their activities, and considered them her treasure. Truly, her whole family was Jackie’s treasure. Not a day went by that she wasn’t talking to them, spending time with them, or thinking of them. She never took them for granted. And they never took her for granted either. The family was very close, including aunts and uncles and grandparents. Bowling nights always included Aunt Renae and Uncle Mitch Berlinger, and various other family members, especially grandparents often came to watch and cheer them on. Those were good times that will always be treasured in the family’s memories.

Sadly, and far too soon Jackie has left us now, and entered into Heaven. Our hearts are broken at her passing. The world lost a little bit of the sunshine it had, with Jackie’s passing. Our minds still can’t wrap themselves around the fact that our beautiful, vibrant, loving, sweet Jackie is gone. Her family and friends will forever feel the empty space she has left behind. Jackie, we love you and we will miss you so very much.

My husband’s aunt, Margee Kountz is his mother Joann Schulenberg’s youngest sister. When Joann developed Alzheimer’s disease, Margee was a vital part of our team of caregivers for her. Whenever I had to take my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg to the doctor, Margee happily gave of her time to come and sit with her sister. People may not realize just how vital their visits can be. When a family of caregivers are working hard to keep their loved one in good health, the caregivers can find themselves feeling exhausted. That visit, while it make seem such a little thing, allows the caregiver time to get necessary things done, and a little bit of time to take a break from the work, and at least a little bit of the stress of caring for their patient. Caregiving is about love. You do it because to love your patient, but it is not without it’s stresses, worry, and exhaustion. The nice thing about the Respite Care worker is that they are a huge part of the team of people who perform two services…companionship for the patient and time off for the caregiver. They are priceless, and Margee always stepped up to help.

My mother-in-law, Joann passed away on January 4, 2018. We are no longer caregivers or respite care workers. She is at peace, but we are left behind to mourn her loss. For Margee, it means that she is the oldest member of the family…something she did not want to be. Not because of the age, but because it has been so hard for her to say goodbye to her older sisters. I think that in many ways she feels like “the last of one standing,” and that’s not what she ever wanted. I know the feeling. It is not so very much different from being orphaned, which happens to all of us when our parents pass away. Still, we hope our siblings will live, at least, close to as long as we do, because when your parents and your siblings are gone, you feel truly alone. Of course, Margee isn’t really alone. She has her children grand children, and a great grandson too, but there is just a strange feeling that goes along with being the last of the original family.

While Margee was a big part of taking care of her sister, and the caregivers who worked during those years, I’m not entirely sure she ever knew just how important she really was. She was, sort of, an unsung hero. I’m sure I could have taken my mother-in-law to my father-in-law’s doctor’s appointments, but it would have been a huge undertaking for one person. Margee took half of that load off of me, and gave my mother-in-law a much needed social session too. She can to visit, and it gave my mother-in-law a new perspective on life. Their conversation stimulated her mind some. They talked about the old days, their kids, all the fun they had. They didn’t share their growing up years, because just six months after Margee was born, my in-laws were married. Nevertheless, there was much to talk about. Each could compare their childhood to the others, maybe. It wouldn’t really matter what they talked about, because after all, the visits were Margee’s gift of love for her sister. And that is what makes respite care priceless. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Ethan Hadlock is a sweet boy. He is always ready to hand out the hugs to all the people he cares about. Ethan is the oldest of my sister, Allyn and her husband, Chris Hadlock’s grandchildren, and the only boy, so he is pretty protective of his little girl cousins, Adelaide Sawdon and McKenzie Moore, and his sister, Aurora Hadlock. It’s what being the boy in the family is all about. Ethan has a soft heart and it shows in everything he does. Ethan turned 9 years old today. I have a really hard time thinking that he could possibly be 9 years old already. He is a good student and works really hard in his classes. He is a really great reader, and he has been known to practice his reading on his little sister, so as he practiced, and she got to hear the story. She is learning to read too now, so I don’t suppose he has to read to her much these days. Ethan is such a kind boy that he won the Kindness Award at his school.

Ethan has lofty goals for a boy in the 3rd grade. He has decided that he wants to be a Marine, so he can kill bad guys. I never would have expected the Marines, but his desire to fight crime and terrorism is not surprising, because Ethan’s grandpa, Chris Hadlock is a retired Casper Police Department Lieutenant, and his uncle, Jason Sawdon is a Wyoming Highway Patrol Officer. Both of them are decorated, and I know that Ethan is very proud of them. After his time in the Marines, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ethan become a cop in some branch of law enforcement. Sometimes this kind of thing runs in families, and it almost like it is in their blood.

Of course, Ethan doesn’t spend all his time working toward becoming a Marine. He does have to spend some time being a kid. Ethan, like many kids, likes video games, and his favorite is Minecraft. For those, like me, who had no idea what the game is all about, it is a game about digging (mine) and building (craft). Basically you build buildings, so similar to construction. Maybe Ethan will become an architect. I think he would be good at that too. Ethan is really a kid with a wide variety of interests. I suppose that comes from being such a good student. He has taken the time to broaden his horizons, so to speak.

Ethan has a great sense of humor, and loves to pick on his Great Aunt Caryn, by flipping my long hair on top of my head from time to time, and then pretending that it wasn’t him. When I can’t catch him at it, he just laughs and laughs. I’m quite sure that he uses his teasing prowess on his aunts, uncles, and grandparents too, if I know him. In all, Ethan is probably a normal 9 year old, but in many ways I think he is pretty exceptional. Today is Ethan’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Ethan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My great grand niece, Izabella Siara Harman is a sassy little two year old…and that information comes straight from her mom. Belle as we all know her is the middle child of my grand nephew, Jake Harman and his wife, Melanie. She is the image of her daddy, and her mommy tells me that she is a sassy girl. At two, kids are learning to talk and repeating everything the adults around them are saying, and Belle is no different. In fact, it is the new words and phrases that she is saying these days that have totally convinced me that this is a sassy girls for sure. Belle’s latest sayings are things like please, thank you, no, sissy, and brother, of course, but then you get to the sassy things, like “are you kidding me,” “shut up,” and my favorite, “don’t freak out.” Yep, she’s a sassy girl!!

This little girl is a girl after my own heart…and the hearts of her grandmother, Chantel Balcerzak, and her aunt, Jenny Spethman, because she loves shoes…all shoes. Now if you ask anyone who knows the three of us, they can tell you that we love shoes too…boots, sandals, tennis shoes, heels…shoes!!! That’s our little Belle to a tee. For anyone who has ever loved shoes, Belle’s love of them seems perfectly normal. Seriously…this little girl could grow up to be a girly girl.

Belle loves being a big sister, and she is very helpful to her mom, with her little brother, Jaxx. She feeds him his bottle, and gets him toys, and doesn’t even mind helping with diaper changing. I guess if you start a kid out early, they don’t get grossed out by stuff like that. Of course, Belle lets her big sister, Alice help too, when she gets home from school. Belle thinks Alice is a great big sister. They play together and they love to laugh, and be entertaining to their parents. There really is nothing like the laughter of children to get the whole house laughing. Belle and her siblings are great friends, and I know she can’t wait until Jaxx can get old enough to really play with her. It’s fun to take care of baby, but in the end, it’s lots more fun to run around the house and play with your little brother. I’m sure Jaxx feels the same way too. It’s hard for a baby to watch his older sisters running and playing, and all he can do is sit there getting excited. My guess is that Belle will be instrumental in getting her brother up and crawling, and then walking…simply so he can keep up with the fun.

Belle is growing up so fast, and I love watching all the changes as she grows. She is a sweet little, feisty girl, who doesn’t give up on what she wants. She is sassy, indeed, but with an engaging twinkle in her large blue eyes. When she looks at you, you instantly love this little sweetie. It’s impossible not to. Today is Belle’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Belle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As the youngest brother, sometimes it seems that my grand nephew, Isaac Spethman feels the need to be the wild, adventurous type. His big brothers always seem, to Isaac, to be ahead of him, which is, of course, normal because they are his older brothers. Nevertheless, to Isaac, saying that flag football isn’t as tough as regular football, feels like being called the baby. Isaac couldn’t wait to play football with the big boys. This was his first year of getting to do that, and he did great. He was so happy to be playing real football…finally!!

Isaac’s wild side goes beyond football, however. Isaac love the feel of riding a motorcycle with his dad, Steve Spethman. As far as Isaac is concerned, faster is better. Riding is something Isaac can share with his daddy…when his mom isn’t riding with his dad anyway. Isaac gets along well with all the guys. His brother, friends, and his dad and other relatives. He loves hanging out with the guys and playing airsoft wars. Of course, Isaac was raised around guns. He knows about guns…how to be safe with one, and how to shoot one…well. I suppose that skill would come in handy when playing a game called airsoft wars. Isaac and his brothers love all games that bring out their tough-guy side.

While Isaac is a tough-guy, all boy kind of kid, he also has a softer side, although I don’t think he would admit that to just everyone. When it comes to helping a little mermaid named Aleesia down the dock, gentleman that he is, Isaac takes his little sister’s hand to make sure that she always gets safely to wherever it is that she is headed. Aleesia is the baby of the family and the only girl, so her brothers take really good care of her, while letting her know that she is a little princess in their minds. Isaac, being the child closest to Aleesia in age, seems to understand what it’s like to be the little one, and he just instinctively takes his sister protectively by the hand. I’m sure it made Aleesia feel very safe. And really, what are big brothers for, after all. Today is Isaac’s eleventh birthday. I can’t believe that he is so grown up. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every November 22nd brings unimaginable sadness to members of the Spethman family, as well as the rest of our family, as we remember the baby most of us never got to meet. Laila Elizabeth Spethman was just 18 days old when she went to Heaven, leaving behind her a family wishing that things could have been different. There are never any easy answers for why a child dies, only questions. The biggest question is, “Why did this happen to us?” Of course, there is no answer. Things like the loss of a child don’t go after certain families. Death is not vindictive…it’s just painful. It just leaves us feeling empty…just horribly, and irreversibly empty.

That’s what Laila left behind, when she went to Heaven…emptiness. There is an empty spot in the family, where she should be…six years between her big brother, Isaac and her little sister, Aleesia. And empty chair at the table that Laila never got to sit in. And empty spot in the first grade, where she should be learning. There is an empty spot for Aleesia, who will never have a sister, and empty spot for Xander, Zack, and Isaac because they knew her for those days, knew that they were supposed to have a little sister named Laila, and then they didn’t. And there is an empty spot for her parents, Jenny and Steve, who have had the feeling of empty arms since that awful day…they have a daughter named Laila, but they can’t hold her, raise her, or know her. But all they have in emptiness where Laila is concerned. It is an emptiness we all feel.

Yes, Jenny and Steve have four beautiful, happy children, but that can never fill the emptiness that the lost one left. That’s because each child is their own person. They are not interchangeable. One cannot replace another. While each of their children is a joy in their own right, they are never going to be able to fill that one empty spot…the one Laila left behind. We will always love and miss you Laila Elizabeth Spethman, and we will see you again someday in Heaven.

My nephew, Tucker Birky is a funny guy. Being funny comes naturally to Tucker, so much so, that often he doesn’t even realize that he’s being funny. Making people laugh is just a skill that Tucker seems to have been born with. He loves his mom, Rachel Schulenberg, and his step-dad, Ron, and considers him to be is dad. Tucker loves to make his mom laugh every day. He always wants to leave her with a smile on her face, and in her heart. Tucker reminds me a little bit of my daughter, Amy, who used to stick a Chiquita banana sticker on her nose to make us laugh. Tucker has taken that one step further, making funny faces, and even putting a chip clip on his eyebrow. Now I don’t know if that hurt or not, but Tucker smiled right through it.

Tucker also has a kind side. Every morning, he tells his mom what a great mom she is. It is such a precious thing to get up in the morning and have your child tell you that they couldn’t ask for a better mom. Tucker knows that his mom misses his older brother, Riley, who is in Guernsey, Wyoming right now, and he misses him too, so it’s important to help lift his mom’s spirit, and Tucker senses that instinctively. Of course, that isn’t the only reason he tells her that she is a great mom. The main reason is simply because she is. Tucker also knows that his mom misses his older sister, Cassie; her husband, Chris; and their children, Lucas and Zoey, who live in Powell, Wyoming. That said, Tucker is the only kid who is with her right now, and his kind heart is just what Rachel needs to make her smile.

Tucker is a busy guy. He is a straight “A” student. He takes piano lessons, and is getting quite good at playing and has recently memorized his next piano piece. Nevertheless, school isn’t all Tucker likes to do. He loves to ride his bicycle and motorcycles on their property in the country. He loves his animals, and snuggling up with his dog to watch television. Tucker misses his brother, and an uncle who doesn’t live here. Tucker also loves to hang out in his dad’s shop, and help him work on things. He and Tucker are very close, and they work well together. Ron is teaching Tucker the ropes of mechanic work, which is an important thing for every young man to know. In the years since Ron and Rachel have been married, I have watched Tucker grow into an amazing young man. Today is Tucker’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Welcome to double digits!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When I asked my niece, Ashley Parmely to give me some insight about her daughter Reagan, her first words were…”Oh Reagan!” She was not meaning that Reagan was frustrating, annoying, or anything like that. The comment was rather like a reflection on the essence of her daughter’s personality. Reagan is a complex little girl. As her mother said of her, “She is so, so smart, smarter than me. She is always pushing me to be better.” Being the oldest, she has a way of being a “little mom” to her younger siblings…sister, Hattie and brother, Bowen. She loves to help her mom with the younger kids, and she is so kind to them. Reagan’s love for her siblings is a beautiful thing to watch. She doesn’t want them to get hurt or be sad, and she does whatever she can to entertain them, which is also helpful to her mom. Her baby brother, Bowen is her new favorite “responsibility.” She loves to pick him up and carry him around, and just love on him in general, but then who can blame her, because he is after all, soooo cute!! Reagan also loves her parents very much. Since her daddy, my nephew, Eric is sometimes out of town for work, she tries to spend as much time with him as possible when he’s home. She loves to snuggle up and hang out with him.

Reagan is becoming quite a farm hand. She loves their animals, and feels a deep sense of responsibility for them. This makes her a very grown up little 5 year old. She helps to clean out the stalls, and carries 3 to 5 pound flakes of hay, that are usually 2 feet by 2 feet and about 6 inches deep, to feed them. Now, if you’re like me, you probably don’t know what a flake of hay is. It is a section of the original hay bale that breaks away and can be taken to the animal for its dinner. Reagan is not afraid of hard work, and often works very hard alongside her parents or grandparents. And Reagan isn’t afraid of anything, but thankfully she is wise enough to make sure a snake is safe before she decides to be friends with it.

With all of her grown up qualities, it can be hard to believe that Reagan is, nevertheless, a little girl of just 5 years today. She loves to ride her bicycle, and drive her little motorized car, which she is very good at steering, by the way. She knows that mermaids, Anna and Elsa are real because, as she says, “I met them!” You see, she recently had her birthday party, and she got to swim with the two mermaids. An awesome time was had by all the children, but especially Reagan and her little sister, Hattie. Reagan has a funny side, and she keeps her family laughing all the time. While she doesn’t really like it when her parents tease her, Reagan is learning to recognize teasing, and not to take her parents too seriously. At least, she doesn’t usually cry anymore when they say things like “no we aren’t taking you in with us to dinner we are meeting our other kids.” She just rolls her eyes and tells them, “I do not like it when you tease me.” Reagan is a tough girl. If she gets hurt, she always does her best not to cry and to be tough, but she does have a girly side too. She got her ears pierced two years ago, and just got to start changing her earrings out. That’s a big event, and she is so excited to finally be wearing rainbow hearts. Today is the amazing Reagan’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday Reagan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

So much has happened this past year for my grandniece, Hattie Parmely. For one thing, she is no longer the baby of the family…now she is a big sister to her little brother, Bowen Parmely. Hattie has really enjoyed her little brother, because he is the baby, and Hattie loves babies…all kinds of babies. I think her love of babies has come from the fact that her family lives on a farm, and they raise chickens, cows, goats, and horses. There are always babies in that mix.

Of course, Hattie loves being the little sister too, because she has learned so many things from her big sister, Reagan. You see, Reagan has a car…it’s a toy of course, but it goes on it’s own power. In reality, I think the car belongs to both girls, but Reagan drives it the most. Reagan takes Hattie for rides around the farm, and helps her get up in the haystacks, shows her how to do the farm work, and how to be careful with the babies. Hattie knows that Reagan has had soooo much more experience with these things, since she is almost five. and Hattie is just turning three today. Soon, it will be both Reagan and Hattie that will be teaching Bowen all of the things he needs to know…whether he wants them to teach him or not, because he is the little brother, and that’s what big sisters do.

Hattie and Reagan are big helpers around the farm, and at their grandparents houses. One set of grandparents lives next door, and owns part of the animals that the girls take care of, and the other set has a cabin on the mountain, and they often need help cutting wood for the fire. These big strong girls get right out there and help get the job done. Hattie and Reagan have great imaginations, and they are always up to something. They might play house in the hay, or practice their milking skills…on each other, pretend, of course. They love life on the farm, and they are tough enough to clean up after the animals, collect eggs, feed the animals, and whatever else their parents might need them to do. It’s all part of farming, and they are really into it. They are always busy doing something, in fact, I’m told that the only time Hattie will sit still is if you put a baby in her arms. I can’t say that I think that is a bad thing. Being active is good and holding babies is great, so…you go Hattie!! Today is Hattie’s 3rd birthday. Happy birthday Hattie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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