teddy bear

My nephew, Steve Spethman is one of those “all around good guys,” although he would try his best to deny it. Steve is the neighborhood “helper,” and the neighbors depend on him for many things. Steve and my niece, Jenny Spethman have lived on their street since before they were married. Jenny rented the house before she and Steve got together, and they have been married almost 21 years. The neighbors know Steve and Jenny well. They love and trust them. Steve takes “good neighbor” very seriously, and since many of the neighbors in that area are older, he is always the guy out snow blowing their walks and mowing their lawns. Steve just figures he can do this for them, when it is difficult, or even impossible for them to do it. He also does any other “odds and ends” type jobs that need done. Steve has become so indispensable that two of the elderly neighbors have listed Steve as their emergency contact!! Now that’s trust!!

Steve is always doing things around the house. This year, he built Jenny a “Great Garden” so that she could do all of her gardening with ease. And they will have vegetables to eat too. Steve loves making things…from garden ornaments, to knives in his forge, to anything that Jenny might come up with, or anything he comes across online. Steve doesn’t need to buy it. He can build it. He is very innovative. He uses anything, from old silverware, to large nuts and bolts, to PVC pipe. He puts things that many consider junk, together and makes something cool out of it.

Steve is an amazing husband and dad. He is always there for his family. They all know that if they need a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to listen to their problems, Steve will be right there. Nothing is more important than his family. He is husband and dad, but he is also their best friend, confidant, and advisor. Steve loves to cook and makes many of the family meals. I have had his food, and I can tell you that he is definitely an amazing cook. He and Jenny love to entertain, so many of their friends have had his cooking too. Jenny tells me that Steve is a “big softy around cats,” and I know he is, but then Steve is a “big softy” with people too. He may be a big, muscled guy, but deep down he is just a big teddy bear. Today is Steve’s 50th birthday. He may be turning 50 years old today, but he’s 20 at heart. Happy 50th birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I suppose I could be wrong, but I don’t recall ever seeing my uncle, Jim Richards get mad at anyone. He had always been a man with a gentle spirit, and one who is patient and kind to all the kids. I suppose his family might be able to sight a few times when I could be proven wrong, but I certainly don’t know of any. Uncle Jim is a quiet man, who could be just a little bit on the shy side, but when you talk to him, you can see the gentleness that lives inside him. He is soft-spoken and always there to help anyone who has a need. Many people would equate him to a big teddy bear, and I would have to agree with them. Uncle Jim has just that kind of personality.

Uncle Jim is a very caring man. He is always willing to help anyone who needs his help. He has taken care of various family members over the years, especially his mom. Uncle Jim’s dad passed away when he was young, and only a year after one of his brothers was killed during the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France. Uncle Jim’s caring spirit took over then, and he did whatever he could to help his mom and the rest of his siblings. He was just a young boy at the time. From that day forward, Uncle Jim worked very hard to do things in his life that he knew would make is dad proud of the man he was to become. he could have decided that since his dad was gone, he could act out, but he didn’t. He showed respect for his dad, by taking care of his mom, working hard, and taking care of others too. I can almost picture his dad looking down from Heaven on his son and smiling with pride at just how great he turned out. It’s definitely something to be proud of.

When Uncle Jim married my Aunt Dixie, he became my uncle, and a beloved member to our family. He has taken great care of his family, being there to help with transport of the grandchildren, and paying bill when his kids were at work and couldn’t get there to pay them. He helped out when Aunt Dixie ran a daycare and helped with the animals they had on their little place in the country. Uncle Jim was always someone that the family could count on, and we are all glad he is a part of our family. Today is Uncle Jim’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Whether we like it or not, all little boys, and girls too, grow up way too fast. My nephew, Riley Birky is no exception. As a little boy, Riley loved to give hugs…especially to his mama. My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg tells me that he is still the best hugger she knows. You know the kind…they squeeze you tightly and their love for you just flows out of them and into your heart. Funny thing about those good huggers is that they never seem to get tired of hugging those they love…not even during the awkward teenaged years, when many kids are embarrassed by their parents, because they just aren’t cool. It isn’t that their parents aren’t cool…at home. It’s just that when they are with their friends…well, parents can say stuff that is just not cool…like I love you, or something. Of course, you want them to love you, just please don’t say it in front of the guys. Nevertheless, Riley was a boy who loved his mama, and he didn’t mind letting her know it.

Younger siblings can be a different kind of problem They always want to hang around, and they can be so nerdy. A cool guy can’t have his kid brother hanging around…or can he. Riley loves playing with his little brother, Tucker. He doesn’t seem to mind if Tucker is acting goofy, because…well, that’s just Tucker, and that’s ok. Riley feels very blessed to have a little brother, and they spend time together as much as possible. As a little boy, there were four things Riley loved, his mama, his little brother, his big sister, Cassie, and his bear, Fluffy. Family, you never outgrow, but toys are a different thing. Still, some toys are extra special, and you tend to keep them for life. Fluffy was just such a toy. He was like a best friend, who never left your side. While Riley doesn’t still play with Fluffy, he does still have Fluffy and probably always will. Who knows, maybe someday Fluffy can be handed down to Riley’s own child.

Riley loves playing football, and really everything about football, which is very common for boys. Sports becomes their way of life pretty early on in life. With the schools offering the opportunity and all their friends playing, it is just the natural thing for kids to do. Riley doesn’t really care about the other sports much, and other than football, would rather ride his bicycle. Like most boys, I’m sure he can do a number of tricks on his bicycle…and if not, I’ll bet that at the very least, he can pop wheelies, because I think every boy tries that one. And last, but certainly not least…there is Lilly. Lilly is the family dog, and she absolutely loves Riley, and he absolutely loves her too. Whenever Riley is at home, Lilly is by his side. Riley has such a loving, gentle way with Lilly. Dogs can just tell when they are loved, and when they are loved, they love back, with their whole being. Lilly would do anything to protect Riley, and Riley would do the same. This dog truly is this man’s best friend. Today is Riley’s 17th birthday. The little boy is gone, and in his place stands a young man with a very bright future ahead of him. Happy birthday Riley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Grandma and Grandpa ByerMy grandfather, George Byer was a very gentle, soft hearted man. He could not bear to hurt anyone, nor could he stand to see anyone go without. Grandpa would give a man the shirt off of his back if they needed it. And while I don’t recall that he ever had to actually give the shirt off his back, he gave many people a good meal at his table. My grandmother, Hattie Byer was a great cook, and she always found a way to stretch the meal a little further, so they could feed the many less fortunate people who found their way to the Byer table from time to time.

Grandpa was such a family man. He could allow his daughters to play beauty shop, Allyn, Grandpa Byer, and unknowncomplete with nail polish on his nails, and yet no man would think him a wimp. They just knew that he loved his family. As to his hair though, I have a feeling that those of us in the family who love having their hair played with or brushed, and you know who you are, probably got that from grandpa, because he could sit there for hours and let the girls brush his hair. I know exactly how he felt, because for me, there is nothing more relaxing…especially after a hard day at work. Funny thing about people who enjoy having their hair brushed…they don’t enjoy brushing someone else’s hair so much. And believe me, if you like having your hair brushed, it’s really hard to find someone to brush it for you, a fact that is really sad.

Grandpa was always such a sweet man, as I said, and for his grandchildren, it was so Grandma and Grandpa Byermuch fun to go over to their house. I don’t remember ever having Grandpa say a harsh word to me. I think he was just too soft hearted. I suppose that is why Grandma always had to do any discipline that was needed concerning the grandchildren. Nevertheless, I don’t think Grandpa could stomach it. I have to wonder if he ever spanked his own kids. I know my grandmother did, and I think that like my husband, Bob, Grandpa just couldn’t bring himself to spank a child much. That is just the way my grandfather was…just like a big teddy bear. Today would have been Grandpa Byer’s 122st birthday. Of course, he has been gone for some time now, but I can still here his voice saying, “Come on in, Kid!” Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa. We love you, and miss you very much.

Dad SchulenbergYesterday, my dear father-in-law passed away. It was a hard day for all of us. I have been thinking back over the years that I have been a part of this family. There were so many good memories. I will never forget the first time I met my future in-laws. There is no easy way to meet your boyfriend’s parents. You are simply a nervous wreck. We were going out to their house for dinner, and once I arrived, my father-in-law, broke the ice with his teasing ways. As so many girls who have known him can tell you, his first words were about what a “pretty girl” I was. When I blushed, he knew that I would be a good one to tease. My mother-in-law chewed him out for picking on me, but to that, my father-in-law simply grinned, and I knew I had made a new friend. By the end of the evening, I felt totally at home with my future in-laws.

This hard working man began working when he was just 13 years old. He worked at a ranch, milking cows before and after school. So began his working life, and he would be a hard working man for many years to come. While he was tough in many ways, when it came to his kids, he was a big teddy bear. His family was his life, and he had a soft heart when it came to them. All of his kids knew that they could call him whenever they needed wisdom concerning any situation. He always seemed to have an answer or at least an idea as to how to solve the problem. He had so much experience in so many areas, that often there was no need to call someone else to help. Even when they did need to call someone else, he probably knew someone who could do the job well and for less.

As for me…well, Dad always made me feel special. From that first meeting, until our last visit on Saturday night, his love for me was such a blessing. I felt so honored on the day he said, “You are no longer my daughter-in-law, you are my daughter.” I had the great privilege of taking care of this wonderful man since 2007. During that time I watched his brave struggle against the disease that would eventually take his life. He was not a man to complain, and he always hated to be a bother. Since we spent much time together these last few years, we became very close. His smile will always be in my memory. He was a man who returned the love he was given…in triplicate.

He had a team of caregivers, including his sons, Bob and Ron; his daughters Brenda, Jennifer, and Debbie, when she was in town; daughters-in-law, Rachel and me; his grandchildren, Corrie, Amy, and Barry, and Machelle, when she was in town; and great grandchildren, Chris, Shai, Caalab, and his special caregiver, Josh, who took extra special care of his great grandpa; his sister-in-law, Margee, and her granddaughter, Stasi, who did whatever we asked of them; and of course, his Joann and Waltwife, Joann, who watched over him carefully, even though she had Alzheimer’s Disease, and was unable to fully understand what was wrong. There were so many others who showed him kindness and love in these last days, and their love and kindness was not lost to him…the doctors, nurses, and aides at Wyoming Medical Center; Dr Schoeber, Dr Novick, Dr Dowell, Dr Hussieno, Dr Wilkinson, and their kind staff members; the staff at Sharon’s Home Health Care, especially Deb and Sherry; Angie, his respite caregiver; and the nurses and aides and Shepherd of the Valley nursing home, which he loving called the Sheep Herders Place…he had some good times there. I want to thank each and every one of you. Your kindness to him will never be forgotten. We love you Dad, and we’ll always miss you. 

Xander is the son of my niece, Jenny and her husband Steve. He is their oldest child.  As the oldest child, he takes his responsibilities very seriously. He tries very hard to make sure his little brothers stay in line…or is that called wrestling. No matter…whatever it is called, Xander is the big brother in charge, and at least for now he has his little brothers believing that. It doesn’t make them stop trying to take him though, because that is just what boys do. And these three boys are among the toughest guys around. I have watched them wrestling around, and the last words you will hear from them is “I give up” because they just don’t.

Xander also loves to go shooting with his parents and brothers. His parents have taught him and his brothers about gun safety and proper respect for guns. The boys know how to shoot, and they know that a gun is not a toy, but a weapon that can kill if used improperly. They would never use a gun improperly.

Xander reminds me so much of his dad. Steve is a strong man, but inside, he is very different. There is a kindness there, combined with love and loyalty. That is how Xander is. He feels any hurt his parents are going through very deeply. He tries to protect them from hurt or pain. He feels loss deeply as well, and he tries to figure out a way to make things right…or at least better, if there is no solution.

As I said, Xander is very much like his dad…which means that while he is a tough guy on the outside…on the inside he is a big teddy bear. Recently at school, he was named star student. That meant that he got to go to the front of the line…he and any other star student. Of course, there is only room for one person at the head of the line, and Xander was there first. Then a girl said, “I want to be first! I’m a star student too!” Xander quickly responded, “Of course…ladies first!” Not only was the little girl happy, but Xanders teacher was surprised and very pleased. She told Xander’s mom, my niece, Jenny that she was very pleased and proud of him. She said that his good upbringing really showed. It was such a proud moment for Jenny and Steve, and when I heard about it, I felt very proud to be his great aunt too. Today is Xander’s 9th birthday!! Happy birthday Xander!! We love you very much!!

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