My grandniece, Siara Olsen got married this past summer, on June 16, 2018, to the love of her life, Nick Olsen. According to her mom, Chantel Balcerzak, Siara totally enjoys being married to someone who is as “random” as she is. Being spontaneous is a trait that not everyone can master, but if you can, you will find that life is pretty fun filled. Still, I think that there is a bit of a difference between being spontaneous, and being random. When someone is random, they tend to do “off the wall” things that the average person wouldn’t even think of. When my niece, Chantel told me a bit about Siara and Nick…well, random is about all you can call it. The kids like to go camping, but that isn’t always something that you can do all the time, so they like to camp out on their balcony…in a tent. Who would have thought of that, and yet, it sounds like fun.

Siara and Nick are very community oriented, and they like to attend all the Casper events or auctions. Siara works at Platte Valley Bank, and was involved in the booth to welcome the students back to Casper College this year. Because Siara was a cheerleader in high school and college, she is very student oriented, and likes to get the incoming students involved in the college community.

Because Siara was a cheerleader, she completely understands the game of football, making her the perfect wife for a football fan. Her dad, Dave Balcerzak and her husband, Nick both love football, so every Sunday night, Siara and Nick are over at her parents’ house, watching the game. That works out quite well, because Dave and Siara are both Steelers fans. Unfortunately, Nick is a Seahawks fan, so when the two go up against each other, all bets are off. He is supportive of her Steelers, so she is supportive of the Seahawks, sometimes. Siara and Nick are best friends, and he does his very best to spoil her…in a good way, of course. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Susan at 28My niece, Susan Griffith is a sweet, kind of quiet girl, who loves living in the country and being outdoors. She loves doing all the homemaker things, like baking cakes, and this time of year, baking pumpkin seeds, which her whole family absolutely loves. Susan and her husband, Josh live out in the country, near his parents, who have horses. That gives their girls, Jala and Kaytlyn, and them the chance to ride horses sometimes, which is very cool. This summer, Susan was able to work from home, so her girls actually got to sleep in and had more time to enjoy their summer. I think it was really nice for Susan too, because she got to really spend some quality time with her girls. Most of us work, and so having a whole summer with the kids is a real gift.

Susan and her family love to go camping, and in the past, that meant sleeping in a susans-tenttent, but no more. This year they bought a trailer, and camping took on a whole new meaning. If you have ever slept in a tent, you know what I mean. The ground is hard, even if you do have an air mattress. The nighttime coolness doesn’t stay outside of the tent…it’s right in there with you. And if it rains…well, it’s in there too, or at least that’s how it was with any tent I ever slept in. A camper is so much more comfortable…and, cooking is easier too. Susan and her family love camping, and all that goes with it, so hiking, fishing, and kicking back around the campfire are things they love to do. I can relate to that, especially the smell of coffee heating over a campfire. It doesn’t get better than that. Susan and her family often go camping with her sister, Machelle Moore, her family, and their parents, Debbie and Lynn Cook. It’s a huge procession to their favorite camping destination, the Big Horn Mountains, where they all have a really great Susan, Josh, Jala, and Kaytlyntime every time they go.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Susan, or the rest of the kids in the family, are grown up already. I remember them as little kids, giggling, running all over the house, and fighting as much as they played, but now, they have all grown into wonderful adults, who are still friends…and funny thing, they don’t fight anymore. The years just go by too fast. Before long it will be those same kids who are looking back on how quickly the years went by with their own kids. That’s why we all have to treasure the time we’ve been given, and I think Susan definitely does. Today is Susan’s birthday. Happy birthday Susan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Earthquake LakeI read in the paper on Monday about the 57th anniversary of the August 17, 1959 Hebgen Earthquake that created Earthquake Lake in Montana, just west of Yellowstone National Park. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was the second strongest quake in the lower 48 states in the 20th century, according to the United States Forest Service, killing 28 people, including five people in one Idaho Falls family who were entombed in the ensuing landslide, and are still there to this day. I was only three years old when that quake occurred, so I wouldn’t remember it, nor am I aware that it was felt in Casper, Wyoming, where we live, although it might have been felt there too. Still, I doubt I would have remembered it.

What I do remember, is the trip our family took when I was a child, that included Earthquake Lake. I don’t recall whether I was told about the 28 people who died there, or the ones they never found, but I rather doubt Hebgen Earthquakeit, because things like that tend to be something that sticks with me…even really bothering me when I was younger, because I almost felt like I was a trespasser on their graves. These days, I realize that being near someone’s grave, whether in a cemetery or a natural grave such as Earthquake Lake became, is still nothing more than a final resting place. What impresses me more now is the sadness of the loss. That family was on vacation, and suddenly their lives were gone…over in an instant. Along with the loss of life, there was the damage to roads, making it even harder to bring help in to the people who were trapped, although I’m not sure it would have made much difference.

I remember feeling the enormity of the catastrophic event that took place that day a number of years earlier. I was impressed by the ability of an earthquake to change the face of the landscape around it. What had been the Madison River, was blocked by a massive landslide creating Earthquake Lake. The deaths were random. A couple, Edgar and Ethel Stryker were killed by a boulder that crushed them, while their three young sons, Hebgeb Lake Montana Earthquake Aug 1959sleeping in a nearby tent, were unhurt. Irene Bennett and her son Phil were saved, but her husband Purley and their three other children were killed. Myrtle Painter died of her injuries, while her 16 year old daughter Carole survived. That was the story of the event, this one died, and that one lived. I think that while I probably didn’t know about all those deaths, that I still felt the sadness of that place, because it is a place I have never forgotten. An earthquake that happens in a rural area seems to make us think that it was simple a change of the landscape, but that is rarely the case. It seems that there are almost always a few people in the area, and that means a loss of life. A very sad event indeed.

092editedFor a time, my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, worked in the lumber business. It started when he and my grandmother’s brother, Albert Schumacher, decided to go trapping in northern Minnesota. That venture didn’t go very well, and they just about froze to death. It was at that time that they decided to go into the lumber business. Being a lumberjack is no easy job, and was probably much more dangerous in my grandfather’s day, than it is now. Back then, lumberjacks, as they were called did everything from chopping down the trees, to cutting them with a saw, climbing up in the tree to get to the top. You name it, if it pertained to logging, they did it. They called it harvesting, and it begins with the lumberjack. The term lumberjack is not a term that is used much 090these days, because the modern way of harvesting is very different. Lumberjacks were pretty much a pre-1945 term. Hand tools were the harvest tools used, because there were no machines like what we have now.

The actual work of a lumberjack was difficult, dangerous, intermittent, low-paying, and primitive in living conditions, but the men built a traditional culture that celebrated strength, masculinity, confrontation with danger, and resistance to modernization. These days, there are a few people who actually celebrate the lumberjacking trade. Mostly it involves competitions, but just by watching, you can see that being a lumberjack was not a job for a weakling.

Lumberjacks, and their families, usually lived in a lumber camp, moving from site to site and the job moved. I 087aknow that my grandmother and my Aunt Laura spent time in the lumber camps. From what I’ve been told, the houses were little more that a log tent. They didn’t stay very warm, because there were gaps in the walls, and my guess is that they could only use a certain amount of wood a day, so it didn’t eat into the profits. I suppose that the owner of the logging operation made a good profit, but that doesn’t mean that the people who worked for them made a great deal of money, because they really didn’t. Being a lumberjack was really a far from glamorous occupation, and like most really physical jobs, not one that a man can do for too many years. Before long, my grandfather, like most lumberjacks, moved on to other jobs, in grandpa’s case the railroad.

IMG_0873My grand niece, Jala is getting ready to start her second year in middle school. Like most thirteen year old girls, that is beginning to open a wide variety of options to her world. Jala is looking forward to the new things she can do at school, such as sports. She has decided on volleyball, basketball, and track. Volleyball practice starts Monday. Her mom, my niece Susan is hoping that she will find a sport that really suits her. Jala is very athletic, and good at gymnastics, so these sports will be something new for her. Her little sister is trying her best to keep up with her big sister’s abilities…typical of little sisters.

Interestingly, the school that Jala went to last year for her first year of middle school, has been torn down. Her first year of middle school was spent in the same middle school her mom and Aunt Machelle went to. It’s sometimes hard to see your old school torn down, and that is what has happened for both Jala and her mom. I’m sure that the new school building will be an excitement for Jala, and her cousin Easton as well, because it’s always cool to be the first class to be at a new school. Her IMG_0905cousin, Weston will not have that pleasure, since he is headed for high school now.

Jala is very much into technology…sounds like me, except that her favorite thing and apparently the thing that is the rage among the kids of her generation is Instagram. Now personally, I don’t do Instagram…I’m a Facebook person, but each generation has their own thing it seems…and some things cross the generational lines. Either way, we are all moving more and more into the technological future. It’s inevitable. Jala likes her technology, but she also likes her privacy, so, she is very careful with her information. It’s a good way to be in this day and age.

Jala has had the wonderful opportunity to live in the country, and be around not only the normal pets, but horses too. Jala is old enough now to help with things around the house, like washing cars and cleaning house, and taking care of the pets. She and her sister, Kaytlyn have hamsters now, and Jala keeps the cages clean. In IMG_0904all, the family has two dogs, two cats, two hamsters, and one horse. She also loves to ride her horse. Jala seems to have a natural love for animals. And she loves camping with her family.

This year Jals’s birthday falls on Saturday, so she gets to have her party on her actual birthday. The plan is a special one. Her parents are going to set up a big tent. Jala and a few of her friends are going to camp out in the tent. They are all looking forward to it. There are good things about having your birthday in the summer. After all, you can’t camp out in the yard in December. Jala is pretty excited for her special day. Today is Jala’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jacob's tentJacob, the son of my cousin, Denise DeVogel, who I recently met on Facebook, got busy the other day and in his play, he reminded many of the rest of us in the family about the fun things many of us did as kids. Jacob pushed the couch and chair in his mom’s living room together, covered them with a blanket, and…presto, he had a private little tent to camp out in. He has spent the last couple of days having a great time in that little tent. And his mom, Denise has had such a good time watching him have such a good time.

Looking at the picture she posted on Facebook, took me back to my own childhood, and the many tents my sisters and I made. We had such good times playing in the little shelter that the tent provided. Not that we needed shelter, but more a secret little place to hold our meetings, play games, have snacks, and pretend to go to sleep…not that any sleeping happened, unless we planned to camp out for the night like it seems was Jacob’s plan to do. The things that went on in those tents, were such a big deal when we were kids, and I suppose that everyone’s games were a little different, but we all thought that our little club meetings were a total mystery to our parents, not ever realizing that our parents were little kids once too, and they probably played many of the same games you did.

And it wasn’t just me who took a trip down memory lane while looking at the pictures of Jacob Home Sweet Homein his tent, because Denise’s friend, Karen commented, “How fun!! I remember doing that!!” Her words were exactly the ones that would have come out of my mouth, had she not beat me to it. It’s pictures like these that remind you of all the good things that define childhood. It’s the freedom to be creative, inventive, and yet silly, all rolled into one little person, that makes the whole scene so fun to watch. It makes me want to be a kid again…well, maybe not, but I could be a kid again for a day or maybe a week, so I could build a tent in the living room, and hold the little club meetings, or read a book, or camp out, and then I could step back into reality again, and take with me the little vacation memories I had in the tent in the living room. Thanks for the memories Jacob!!

Every kid likes to spend the night with a friend. There is just something about staying at someone else’s house that is…well so different from their own home. We have all been there. I loved spending the night with my friends, and sometimes cousins were just as much my friends. I remember one time I wanted to spend the night with one of my cousins, and I simply did not see anything wrong with the fact that Elmer was a boy and I was a girl. So my mom and her sister worked out a way, so I could stay the night, but I had to sleep in my cousin Darla’s room. It worked out ok, and I got to continue to play that evening with my cousin, Elmer.

My grandchildren have done the same thing. Cousins work out well for those coveted sleep-overs, when friends are either not available or you are too young to have many. Another thing that makes for a different and fun thing to do is camping out on the living room floor…especially if you get to use some blankets and make a tent. I remember as a kid, my sisters and I would sometimes build a big tent out of sheets or blankets, and spend hours in there pretending to be on a camping trip, or maybe using the tent as a secret clubhouse. The imagination can be an amazing thing when a group of kids get together. My grandchildren always loved those slumber party type of sleep-overs…camped out on the living room floor…not that much sleeping got done. I remember having all 4 of them over one time when Bob was out of town. My bedroom floor was wall to wall sleeping bags, and constant giggling. I suppose many people would think I was crazy, but we sure had fun.

But, probably one of the sweetest things I ever heard concerning spending the night, came from a little girl who was a little too young to have many friends yet, but her sister and brother got to spend the night, and she wanted in on the action too. She had watched them get to go and spend the night, and it just never seemed to be her turn. Sometimes we just don’t realize how ready a child can be for this kind of thing. She thought about it long and hard, and finally figured out what she wanted to do. Sometimes, it isn’t about figuring out what friend to stay with, but rather who might work as a friend. That was when Lindsay asked her mom, my sister Allyn, if she could spend the night with her friend, Grandma!!

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