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My grandniece, Siara Olsen, has been through a year of changes, but now she is one year out, from some of the hardest things that have ever happened her…or to anyone, and her incredible strength is very much evident in who she has become. After losing her son, Alec on January 25, 2020, when he was just 3 months. Her marriage fell apart soon after, and life looked very bleak, but Siara is such an amazingly strong woman, and she wouldn’t give up. She knew that her son and all of her family, who love her very much would want her to keep going, so keep going she did.

The year that followed was a year of firsts. She met her boyfriend, Chris Kirk just over a year ago, and he has a birthday bond with her sweet Alec. About a year ago Siara got her own apartment, and she has been making it her own and is loving every minute of it. Siara has been at Platte Valley Bank for a while now, but she was given her own office about a year ago, and she really likes her new job and office. While the year began harsh for her, it ended with healing. Siara is a strong, independent, and faith-filled woman, and she makes her mom and the rest of the family very proud!! No matter what Siara is hit with, she picks herself up and moves forward every time. Her mom, Chantel Balcerzak says, “Well, I can’t even describe how proud that makes me!”

Siara is a strong woman of faith, and right after high school, she got a tattoo of her favorite scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13. That scripture have seen her through any and all bad times she has seen, because she not only believes this…she moves in it! She is truly inspirational!!

Siara and Chantel have been working out together at lunch to get in shape. Siara’s niece, Chantel’s granddaughter, Izabella Siara Harmon (named after her aunt) often joins them, and she loves the girl-time comradery…and the exercise doesn’t hurt anything either. The three of them are growing stronger every day and feeling great. It has been a hard year, but Siara is a strong woman, and I know that she will have victory in the coming year. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Ryan Hadlock is such a good husband, dad, uncle, brother, and son. His wife, Chelsea tells me that he has worked very hard to become an expert at fixing his truck and their camper. They worked a lot on their house getting it fixed up the way they want it too. Ryan has been organizing the garage and shed and really making their house, their home. His sister, Jessi Sawdon tells me that over the past several years, Ryan has really embraced being “the only boy out of the four siblings” and helped each of his sisters to fix things in their homes. He has helped with their kids, and lending an ear whenever they need it. His sister, Kellie Hadlock said, “He is always taking care of me and showing up right when I need his help! Johnny on the spot when I call him!! Never expecting anything in return.” His mom, Allyn Hadlock said, “He’s such a great son to us! Always willing to come out and help with anything we need, whether it’s helping Chris lift stuff or digging a ditch, Ryan always comes when we ask.” Lindsay, Kellie and Jessi are so blessed to have a brother who is also their best friend.

Ryan is the only son of my sister, Allyn and her husband, Chris, so he knows how to tease, help, and be kind to his sisters. Ryan might say he’s “mean” to them, but he’s a teddy bear. He’s fun loving, just like his dad. He is a great uncle to nieces, Adelaide Sawdon and Mackenzie Moore. He is always ready to play with them when they are all together. The girls love to try to get him to catch them. Ryan’s children, Ethan and Aurora Hadlock are getting bigger now, so the things Ryan does with them have changed a bit. Recently, Ryan and Ethan have been working on customizing Ethan’s computer, and Aurora will always be Daddy’s Girl.

The whole Hadlock family loves to go camping, and some years find them camping more than others, Nevertheless, they all managed to get together a couple of times. Ryan and Chelsea probably got more camping in this year than the rest of the family. Jessi’s family was getting ready to move from Casper to Cheyenne, so they were packing and getting their new home ready. Ryan, Chelsea, and their kids have visited Jessi and Jason in Cheyenne, as well as Lindsay and Shannon in Laramie, for some quality time with the family.

Ryan has really been digging into God’s Word too. He’s really been a light to his kids and everyone he comes in contact with the things the Lord has taught him. Each time I see him he is walking the walk of faith and talking the talk of faith. You can’t be more proud of something than that. He has become a wealth of knowledge to his family about Jesus. He and his family take time to study. He had committed himself to the Lord and it is a blessing to get to talk with Him about the Lord! He spends a lot of time listening to Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Joel Osteen, and Joseph Prince, and then he goes out and shares what he learned with the family. He loves and lives what he is learning!

He’s a happy guy with a great attitude and a great love for the Lord. He likes to play guitar with his dad, Chris. When his parents had their new home built, the put in a dedicated music room. Ryan and Chris have been having some good sessions in the music room together. In December, Ryan and his dad have planned a father/son trip…just the two of them for some male bonding time, and of course being guys means it must include sports, so they will be attending a Broncos game. I know they will have a great time. Today is Ryan’s birthday. Happy birthday Ryan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Life isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always go the way we thought it would go. Even spending many good years together, doesn’t guaranty that we will have many more. For Pearl Hein, who loved her husband Eddie Hein so much, the end came far too soon, but in a loving marriage, the end always comes too soon. No matter how many years you have been together. Then, it is up to the one left behind, to go forward, because their spouse would want them to continue living. Such was the case with Eddie. He wanted Pearl to live on.

Since Eddie’s passing, Pearl has done a little traveling. With her daughter, Kim Arani and her husband, Michael living in Texas, Pearl has become a bit of a traveler…maybe not a world traveler, but a traveler nevertheless. I have been very happy that Pearl is spending time with Kim and Michael in Texas and their place in Florida. She really needed the time away from the cold weather in Forsyth, Montana where she lives, and after losing her son, Kim’s brother, Larry Hein too…just three months after his dad, things have been very sad for Pearl over the past

I know she had a lovely time visiting Kim and Michael, and I am so happy for them all. They needed The time together so they could begin to heal. One of the best ways to heal after a loss is to take the time to share the memories of the past. I’m sure Kim and Pearl did a lot of reminiscing during Pearl’s visit, and I’m sure it was a great healing process. I know that Eddie and Larry would both be very glad Pearl went to Texas. I know it was hard for her to move on alone, but it is what they would want her to do.

I remember watching the newer version of “Titanic” and when Rose survives the sinking, she goes on to live a full life, because Jack told her to live on. Life after loss is never easy, but it can be rewarding. People are meant to survive and to thrive. We are wired to grieve and to move forward with our lives. That doesn’t mean that it is an easy thing to do, but it is a necessary thing to do. I’m glad to see that Pearl is making that transition. Today is Aunt Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-nephew, Matt Masterson is the only son of his parents, Rob and Dustie Masterson, and rather sees himself as the second “man of the house” and the protector of all who are in it. Matt especially like to be helpful to his mom, so he’s been going places with her and has been trying to do things to take care of himself so she doesn’t have to worry about him. Most kids of just 16 years don’t think much about putting the minds of their parents at ease, much less doing things to help their parents around the house and on errands, but I suppose Matt isn’t your typical 16-year-old kid. His parents work very hard, and he wants to show them just how much he appreciates all they do for the family.

Matt has decided to go to Roosevelt High School in Casper, along with his sister, Raelynn Masterson, a move that will make things easier on his parents, because they won’t have to take kids to two high schools. Not that they will have to drive for very long, because I think that Matt will decide to get his driver’s license very soon, rather than wait a while like his older sisters, Christina and Raelynn, did. Guys want to get behind the wheel pretty quickly it seems, while girls don’t always see the urgency…at least some of the girls don’t. I couldn’t wait to get my license. That thing means freedom, and that’s important!!

One of the best parts about the summer for Matt is that his best friend is moving back to Casper, after years of living in Laramie, Wyoming. Laramie isn’t so far away, but it is too far to hang out on any kind of a regular basis, so the return to his best friend is something Matt is really excited about. Matt is such a protective brother and his sister, Raelynn tells me that he is really growing into a wonderful person. He might pick on Raelynn and their younger sister, Anna, but nobody else better do so, because he is their protector. Matt doesn’t like when the girls don’t tell him about things that upset them. He will do everything he can to fix whatever is going wrong. Last year when Raelynn went to camp, there were those who were not nice, so Matt tried to convince her not to go this year. In the end, he respected her decision, knowing that she would be ok on her own. It’s hard for him not to be the protector, and he didn’t want Raelynn to deal with stuff when he couldn’t be there to help. He’s got a big heart even if he doesn’t show it. Still, I think I would hate to be the person who picked on Matt Masterson’s sisters. Love is a strong emotion, and he loves his sisters. Today is Matt’s 16th birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I can’t think of anything that is harder for a mom than watching your child go through some of the worst events of their lives. Many people who go through that kind of thing, would sit down and stew in their depression, but not my niece, Chantel Balcerzak. The past year has been harder on her and her daughter, Siara Olsen than it was for a lot of us. On January 25, 2020, Siara’s three month old son, Alec passed away after a short illness. On top of that her marriage fell apart, and she got divorced. It was the worst time of her life, and she needed the love and support of her family. Chantel stepped in and Siara moved home for a time of comforting and support from her parents. Both of these girls are strong women, and they were not going to sink further into depression. Instead, they supported each other, encouraged each other, and made a plan to have a year of self improvement. Chantel’s husband and Siara’s dad, Dave Balcerzak was right there too. Giving the girls the extra support they all needed. They were all hurting, but they had to move forward.

The girls took a look at themselves, and saw that as many people had done, during the Covid-19 shutdown, they and added a few pounds and lost some muscle, and they decided it was time to get back on the right track. So they began working out over Siara’s lunches, and even set a goal for them selves. They had seen a commercial in which some chipmunks who were out of shape decided to go for “All Buff ~ No Fluff” and they made that their goal. Siara has spent a number of years in high school and college as a cheerleader, and of course, she is 23 years younger than her mom, but she tells me that sometimes Chantel beats her when they are doing pushups, so that is really cool too. Chantel doesn’t do girly pushups anymore either. They do the hard kind where you are on your hands and toes. I believe the girls will reach their final goal of looking amazing. They have already come a long way.

Siara tells me that her mom was always there for here throughout this hard, hard year. She was there to comfort her and take her mind off of her troubles, and give her advise when she needed it. When Siara moved out again and got a place of her own, Chantel was there to help her decorate it and make it her own. Chantel is an artist, so of course, Siara’s place is incredibly beautiful, and that is a gift in itself. When the chips are down, Chantel is really the person you want to have in your corner. I’m very proud of her and Siara too. Today is Chantel’s 50th birthday. It’s a milestone, and she looks incredible for it. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

While many people had a terrible 2020, my niece, Toni Chace and her husband, Dave continued to work, and really ended the year in good shape. They didn’t get Covid-19, like so many in the family and hope they don’t. Normally they would do a lot of traveling, but like most people, that was curtailed this year. The only trip they took was to Centennial, Wyoming, to visit Dave’s parents, Jim and Nancy Chase. The trip was a blessing to all, and like most of us, much needed to keep us from getting cabin fever…no pun intended, because they were in Dave’s parents cabin, in Centennial. I’m sure it all felt rather confining for them, but sometimes, a nice quiet vacation can be very nice too.

As I have talked to Toni’s family members, I am told that she loves her dogs. In fact I’m told that in her family, the dogs, Biscuit and Cricket, are her first loves, with Dave, and her son, James coming in second and third. According to Dave he is the third position. I can’t really decide how “true” that statement is, because I know that Toni dearly loves her husband and son, but in the interest of telling the story as it was told to me, I’ll say that Toni really loves her dogs. James says that his mom loves her dogs more than him and Dave combined. As happens in most owner/pet relationship sources, especially when there are multiple people in the family, pets often choose one owner as their “own” human. That is the case with Biscuit and Toni. Biscuit loves his human…Toni. In fact, Biscuit actually gets separation anxiety when Toni is gone for work. Toni’s sister, Liz Masterson figures that Biscuit sits at the window all day, until Toni gets home. Life (for Biscuit) begins again when Toni (his human) gets home. While loving her dogs more than her husband and son, is a funny thought, it does go to show Toni’s heart for her pets and her family. She also love buying them treats and toys. I think maybe her dogs just like being treated like babies.

While her home is filled with mostly men (Cricked is a girl), her son, James brought home a girl who is in the United States on a work visa, named Manuela. She is from Columbia, and Toni likes her very much. The whole family does. She is bubbly and fun, and most of all, she loves Toni’s pride and joy…her son. Time will tell where that is going, but they are enjoying the journey. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens, who has always liked fishing, had the opportunity this past winter to try something new, when he and his son, Garrett went ice fishing for the first time. The trip took them out on the Tongue River Reservoir, just outside Sheridan, where Garrett lives with his wife, Kayla and their daughter, Elliott. The spot they went to is just a couple of miles into Montana, next to the coal mines up there. Kayla’s grandfather has an ice shanty there. The morning was not very productive, other than lots of visiting, but they did see one Northern Pike, which Mike quickly speared. The fish, it turns out weighed 14 pounds…nice!! Since the fish didn’t seem to be hanging around that area, they decided to go down the ice to where Kayla’s uncle had a shanty. After just 10 minutes, they speared two smaller, approximately 9 pound Northern Pike, about 10 minutes apart. Then, 15 minutes later, a big 15 pound Northern Pike came in and swallowed the lure, they had to spear him to get him out of the water. Garrett tells me that Mike was “hooked after that first one and then having the other 3 come in so fast just solidified it.” They are talking about going again next year, and Garrett plans to build his own shanty. It is a wonderful new way for father and son to connect.

While Mike likes to fish, that is not the draw that Sheridan has on him these days. Garrett and Kayla and their daughter are the main reasons Mike and Alena want to go to Sheridan. Elliott is their first grandchild, and they are so in love with her. Having the kids live a couple of hours away has been hard on them, but with FaceTime, they are able to keep in touch, and they go to Sheridan as much as they can, to spend time with them. My sister tells me that whenever they FaceTime with the kids, Elliott asks for her Papa, but Alena is still sure that she loves her Namma the most, hahahaha!! I suppose Mike will argue that one.

Another new thing for Mike and Alena this year, was hiking is the Sheridan area. They hiked along the Tongue River, and Alena said it was an absolutely gorgeous day. I can totally relate, because my husband, Bob and I love to hike too. I haven’t spent much time near the Tongue River, but I suspect that Mike and Alena will find themselves hiking that area a lot more. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Andrea Spicer is a single mom, who is very dedicated to her son Topher. He is her world and she wants the very best for him. During the current, Covid-19 Pandemic, Andrea and Topher have been “sheltering in place” like most of the rest of the United States. Andrea is a chef at The Turnbuckle restaurant at the Best Western Hotel in Rawlins, Wyoming. Because she worked in a restaurant, and they have been closed down in the quarantine, she has been laid off and spending most of her time at home. My first thought about that was the question, “How is Andrea adjusting to being a homeschool teacher?” The answer was that she didn’t have to. Topher is in high school, and so the online classes set up by the schools were handled on his own. He is a good student, so there has been very little help needed by Andrea.

That fact could have left Andrea with nothing to do but sit at home. Nevertheless, she has decided to try her hand at a few new things instead. Andrea is a chef at work, but that is a different thing than being a baker. Now Andrea has discovered that she has a real talent for baking, and from what her mom, my sister, Caryl Reed, tells me, Andrea is a very successful baker too. Caryl sent me a couple of pictures of Andrea’s baked goods, and told me that they were absolutely yummy. I especially like the Apple Crumble Pie. The pictures she sent told me that they were also very pleasing to the eye. Both details important when it comes to food. It looks like her baked goods have passed the test in both of these areas. She might be the new baker at the Turnbuckle.

Andrea has also decided to try her hand at painting. I can tell you this, my own painting is best seen covering a wall, rather than hanging on one. I think my talents are best expressed elsewhere. Andrea likes abstracts, and she has put her interest on the canvas. I think they are great. They are very bright and they draw your imagination into the painting. Abstracts become different paintings to different people. That’s what makes them so special. If a painting can only be one thing, then that’s what it is, but an abstract can be many things. Sheltering in place can be boring and hard, but Andrea has found new ways to stay busy and engaged, and the time with her son has just added to her blessings. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Without a doubt, the greatest thing to happen to a person in life is becoming a parent. That is the life change that happened to my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick on October 28, 2019. Now, Siara is celebrating her first birthday since becoming “Mommy” to little Alec Todd Olsen. It is so hard to believe that Siara could be a mom already, and yet, she has stepped into the role as naturally as if she had been a mom for years. Watching her hold her baby puts a smile on my face, and the faces of all her family too. She just looks so content…and, so does Alec. There is nothing like having a baby to snuggle with, to bring home just how precious life is.

Siara is a bubbly, sweet girl who is very capable in her job at Platte Valley Bank, here is Casper, Wyoming, where she works as a personal banker. I don’t think there is one customer at the bank who doesn’t know Siara by the smile on her face and her sweet personality. Of course, going back to work after giving birth to Alec wasn’t easy, as any mother who worked, knows well. I felt so bad for her, because I know how short maternity leave is, when it comes right down to it. Eight weeks or whatever amount each mother has, seems like a long time…if you are waiting for your baby’s birth!! Once your baby has arrived, eight weeks is nothing. It’s over almost in an instant, and leaving your child in daycare, even if you know the people well, is heart wrenching. Eventually thought, you get used to it, and while you miss your baby terribly, you begin to look forward to the end of your work day, when you will be reunited with that sweet bundle of joy. Then, when you pick him up from daycare, your whole world is smiling again. And then, Siara and Nick have the whole evening to enjoy their precious little son, who keeps them smiling with his sweet little face, filled with smiles. The evenings are just perfect for this young family.

Now that little Alec is here, life for Siara and Nick is always looking up. I think that most parents can relate to the tremendous joy they feel with each new day. With each smile, each landmark, each passing year, and each new sibling that comes along after Alec, life will continue to get better and better for them. I am so happy for Siara, as she celebrates her first birthday as a mommy, and for Nick too, as he celebrates his family. The future is bright for both of them, and I look forward to watching little Alec grow up and be such a great blessing to his parents and his family. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday “Mommy” Siara. Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Ryan Hadlock is very much a family man. He and his wife, Chelsea have a son, Ethan, and a daughter, Aurora. Ethan is in midget football right now, and Ryan never misses a game. Ryan also attends all the kid’s school performances and activities. Recently, he took Aurora on a Daddy/Daughter Date. He has also attended the Donuts with Dad event, and all their other activities too. Ryan is a great husband to his wife, Chelsea, and they are very happy together. They just celebrated their 11th anniversary in April, and they are still going strong.

Ryan is a helpful guy. Not only with his own family, but with his parents, sisters, and other family members as well. As his parents, Allyn and Chris Hadlock have been working on the new home they are building, Ryan has been there to help them whenever he could. Ryan helped his parents insulate the upstairs in the new house, and he helps his dad in the garage a lot. He helps his brother-in-law, Jason Sawdon anytime he needs it. When his youngest sister, Kellie Hadlock bought her first house, Ryan was quick to help her move, paint, and fix things in her house. He winterized the sprinklers at his house, his parents’, and Kellie’s house too.

He loves his nieces. Being an uncle was something he was really looking forward to and he hasn’t disappointed in that department. Nieces, Adelaide Sawdon and Mackenzie Moore love him so much. He is so fun, and dotes on the little girls. He loves to tease and laugh, but he also has a calm demeanor that adds great value to his whole family. My sister, Allyn tells me just how much fun it has been to see him as a dad and an uncle. They are two roles that he has really excelled in.

He has a calm demeanor that adds great value to their family, but never mistake his “calm demeanor” for a lack of a sense of humor, because you will definitely be caught off guard. Ryan is a great son and brother too. He has helped his sister Kellie a lot in her new house. Ryan and brother-in-law, Jason Sawdon helped her move. Ryan loaned Kellie his lawn mower, gave her a weed eater, and made sure her bed was put together. I’d say Kellie has been very blessed in the brother/brother-in-law department. The whole family has been very blessed with Ryan. Today is Ryan’s birthday. Happy birthday Ryan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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