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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!!

To hear my grand-nephew, Jake Harman talk, his wife Melanie has become “meaner” since their marriage, but of course, I know what a jokester my nephew is, so I know he’s kidding. Melanie is a very sweet girl, who is very loving and kind to Jake and everyone else around her. In fact, I think it is probably Melanie’s kind and patient ways that have made Jake into the man he is today. You see, if either of them has changed, it is Jake…and it is pretty much all because of Melanie. Jake is so happy these days. He feels so blessed with the life he now has. These days Jake has a daughter, Izabella and a son Jaxx, plus a bonus baby Alice, all of whom he loves very much. And it’s all because of Melanie, and the great love she has for Jake and their three children.

Melanie is all about her family. She is a great mom, who is feeling just a little bit sad, as school approaches. It’s not that she hasn’t been through the child in school stage, but now she will have two in school. Alice is going into 2nd grade, and Izabella is going into pre-school. While she will still have Jaxx at home, it just feels like so much is changing…so very fast. It is somewhere around this point that a mother starts getting a little bit sentimental. She’s missing her babies before they are even grown. In her heart, she knows it’s coming…and coming fast.

Melanie’s heart is with her family, but it is also with the Lord. She sings with the worship team at their church, and also helps with the youth ministry, which Jake heads up. Melanie is in charge of the games for the youth. Much is changing at home, but that isn’t the only pace. While Melanie will be missing her girls during the day, she is going to be busy, because she is also going to school…for worship study. She’s already a part of the worship team, and directs the youth singing, and helps Jake with the youth, but her dream is to be the worship leader for the whole church. It’s a lofty goal, but one I think Melanie can accomplish. The biggest part of reaching that goal is having a love for the Lord and for the work He has for you. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Every child deserves to have two good parents. I know, in a perfect world, every child will get that set of good parents, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. When my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg met his future wife, Rachel Franklin, she had a grown daughter and two sons, the youngest, Tucker was not yet 3 years old. Ron never had any children of his own. Unfortunately, Tucker’s dad was never able to really be a dad to him. He had his own issues and therefore, never really had time for Tucker.

Ron and Rachel were married on June 12, 2010, and while Rachel’s daughter, Cassie was married a week before Ron and Rachel, the two boys, Riley and Tucker would be living with Ron and Rachel. Riley had a relationship, such as it was, with his dad, and that continued to a degree. Still, Tucker did not have that. His dad couldn’t or wouldn’t really be there for him. Enter Tucker’s step-dad, Ron. Tucker and Ron did everything together. Ron was the role model Tucker needed, and the dad he had always wanted. They were inseparable, and before long a realization began to take shape in Tucker’s mind. Ron was his dad!! He didn’t want Ron to be just his step-dad. He wanted him to be his real dad!! So, Tucker asked if that could happen…if Ron would adopt him. Ron was so pleased, because that was what he wanted too.

There were road blocks to overcome, because Tucker’s dad was still around…somewhere. There was also the roadblock of getting him to terminate his rights legally, because he had already terminated his relationship in every way, but legally. We prayed for this to be taken care of, knowing that the only way it would be done was with God’s help. It all came together one day, when Rachel found out that her ex-husband was in Casper, and really needed a way to get back home. She headed down to the mission, but saw him waiting for a bus. She stopped and asked him to sign the papers. She would then buy him a ticket out of town, and he would be free of the child support that he wasn’t paying anyway. He took the deal, and they went straight to the court house. Ron signed paperwork stating that he wanted to adopt Tucker, and Tucker’s dad signed paperwork terminating his rights. Rachel signed paperwork agreeing to the transfer of parental rights from her ex-husband to Ron. Even Tucker got to sign paperwork stating his desire to be Ron’s son. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey. Today, after a court hearing, that journey has come to an end, and a new journey begins. Today, Tucker is Ron’s legal son. Today Tucker is no longer the old Tucker, his legal name is Tucker William Schulenberg!! It’s a dream come true for him and his parents, Ron and Rachel Schulenberg. Tucker is right where he belongs. Tucker is Ron’s first child, and it’s a boy!! Congratulations to all three of you. Tucker, you are now a Schulenberg, and we are all very happy!!

My grand nephew, Weston Moore is graduating from high school today and I find it hard to believe that it has already been that many years since he was born. Weston is the oldest son of my niece Machelle Moore and her husband, Steve. He has a younger brother named Easton. Weston was destined to be tall from the moment he was born. He comes from tall stock…with his grandfather, Lynn Cook, who is 6 foot 6 inches, his dad who is well over six feet and his mom who is close to six feet, he is destined to be tall. Last night when we were visiting, he said that someone had measured him and he was 6 feet 5 inches.

Weston recently got a job at Verizon in Powell, and he plans to work for a year before pursuing his higher education. Sometimes, that is a nice thing for a student. Thirteen years of public school is s long time, and sometimes a break is needed before moving on in life. It’s also nice to have the opportunity to brag to younger siblings and cousins when they head back to school and you don’t have to. Nevertheless, pretty soon you begin to think that maybe it is time to get on with it and go back to school. I’m sure that time will come for Weston before the year is over.

Weston’s is considering his options for college, and is looking at Sheridan College, because they have one of the best culinary arts programs. Being a chef is something he has wanted for some time now. Since my grandson, Chris Petersen went through the program, I can say that it is an excellent program, and Chris learned so much in his time there.

Wherever life takes Weston next and in the future, I know that he will do well. He knows how to work hard and doesn’t mind the hard work. When he puts his mind to it, I know he will excel in any endeavor. Today begins the journey into the rest of your life, Weston. Today you cross the threshold between being a kid and being a man. You are a kind and loving man who will go far in this world. I am so excited to see what the next chapter of your life will bring for you. Congratulations on your graduation from high school!! We are all so proud of you!!

For some time now, my niece, Andrea Spicer has been a chef. She has cooked at several restaurants. These days she is at the Best Western Hotel in Rawlins, and she has been for quite a while. All her hard work is paying off, because she is in line for a promotion to the position of Assistant Kitchen Supervisor. I know she will get the promotion, and I am so happy for her. This is the work she has dreamed of, and the only work she has ever wanted to do.

Of course, for Andrea, there is nothing more important than her son, Topher. They are truly best friends. Since his birth in 2005, Topher has been Andrea’s world. Andrea loves spending time with Topher, and says he couldn’t ask for a better kid. She feels very honored to be his mom. Topher has been her purpose in life for almost 14 years now, and he makes her more proud of him every day.

The biggest news for Andrea is that she has started a quest to a healthier life. She started her journey with the Keto eating plan, and in short order, she has lost over 30 pounds!!!! I think for any Chef, the hardest thing to do is to lose weight, because you are always around food. That makes Andrea’s success even better. Keto is an easy plan to follow though, and you never feel hungry or deprived. It is the plan I have been on for over a year and a half, so I know how Andrea feels about her new lifestyle. There is nothing quite like the rewards that come from perseverance and hard work. I am so proud of Andrea’s hard work, and so happy for her with her success. Keep it up Andrea!! You look great!! Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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