My Aunt Virginia is the oldest living child of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer. She spent time working for the telephone company, and also for the State of Wyoming. I remember seeing her sometimes all dressed up for work, and thinking that she looked so sophisticated and beautiful. I wanted to dress up like her so I could like a real lady too. I have spent many years in the working world too, where I have always remembered just how nice my Aunt Virginia looked. I have tried to keep that picture of the sophisticated lady that she always was in my mind in my own career. I have felt that a successful working woman was always stylish, whether wearing a dress or pants. For some reason that stuck out more to me than the actual work the woman did. I suppose that was the little girl in me remembering how stylish Aunt Virginia was.
Aunt Virginia has always been a tiny little lady. I don’t recall her ever gaining any weight. I don’t know is she ever worked out, or if being tiny just came naturally. As she grew older, I was often amazed at how tiny she was. As kids grow, they are often amazed at the fact that the adults they thought were so big, really aren’t that big at all. and suddenly, before we know it, the kids are taller than the adults. That is exactly what happened with Aunt Virginia and every kid in the family.
These days, I find myself feeling surprised at the fact that my Aunt Virginia is 88 years old, but that is exactly where she is in life. Nevertheless, she is still the sweet and loving, beautiful lady I have always known and loved very much. She may not get around as easily as she used to, but she is still enjoying life, and still her slim self. Today id Aunt Virginia’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Virginia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
For most of her life, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg struggled with her weight. Even as a child, Brenda was heavy. She will tell you that her weight prevented her from doing many of the things that most children took for granted, such as riding a bicycle. She might have been able to do it to a degree, but not for very long or very far. As she grew into adulthood, her weight became such a problem that she couldn’t even think of riding a bicycle. Then one day, her health failed due to her weight. She knew that she had to make a change. That day was October 18, 2013…just 5½ months after her dad, Walt Schulenberg passed away. Brenda became a health nut. She learned to eat right, and she walked…slowly and with a walker at first, and later on her own. She walked further and further…often reaching 10 miles a day. The weight came off, and she felt much better. Still, one thing eluded her…riding a bicycle. Finally, the day arrived when Brenda found out that she could ride a bicycle…as long as the peddles were off, and she could reach the ground. It’s called strider riding. It is a bicycle, but the rider basically runs the bicycle down the trail, instead of riding it…and Brenda could do that.
After riding strider style for a time, Brenda was finally able to ride a bicycle in the normal way. She put the peddles back on her purple bicycle and off she went. Brenda became just like the postal service…”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Ok, Brenda didn’t have appointed rounds…exactly, but she had set herself a goal of riding her bicycle every month of the year. Now, that is not an easy task, especially in the state of Wyoming, where winters can be brutal. Nevertheless, just like the postal worker, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of the very early morning will keep Brenda from riding her bicycle. She is determined to ride it, and make up for all the years that she couldn’t even ride a bicycle in the summertime, much less in the winter.
She’s a brave woman, especially when she goes out in the middle of a snow story, and pretty much turns into a snow woman. She reminds me of the Campbell’s Soup commercial where the little boy is so covered with snow that only a hot bowl of soup will melt away all the snow. Maybe she’s not that bad, but she’s close. Brenda, we are proud of your determination, but I do have to wonder if the people driving by the snow woman on wheels have to rubs their eyes to make sure they are seeing what their eyes are telling them they are seeing. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When I first met my future sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely, at the young age of 13 years, she was a vibrant girl, full of life, and she was what I thought of as a picky eater. Now, this didn’t upset me, but I just noticed that she would rather eat…well, what we would all today know is healthy, but still it seemed odd. What kid would rather eat chicken and salad than a cheeseburger? Actually, I can name a couple, because Jennifer wore off on my daughter, Amy Royce…so much so that I have wondered if she should have been Jennifer’s daughter, and not mine. Nevertheless, kids get traits from their aunts and uncles too, and that was the one Jennifer passed down to Amy. To my daughter Corrie Petersen, Jennifer passed down her laugh, and believe me when I say that they are identical!! I often wonder when Jennifer got there, when in fact it is Corrie.
Whether she knew it or not, Jennifer was well on her way to a life of health care, as well as a life of healthy living. She was a teeny little girl with a teeny little waist…that she still has, by the way, and yes she was a picky eater, but not is a bad way, as it turns out. It isn’t often that a young teenager has a pretty good grasp of ways to stay healthy, and I can’t say for sure that Jennifer had it all together, but at least in the diet arena, she did. As the years went on and Jennifer grew up, she had her babies, and like most women, gained a little bit of weight, but once she decided that it was time to get her life back together, she never looked back. Jennifer skies…both cross country and down hill. She snow shoes, hikes, and jogs. Her life is a flurry of activity, and it is what has kept her slender over the years.
Jennifer is also a full time nurse, in the Obstetrics department at Wyoming Medical Center, where she has worked since she was a candy striper beginning at 17 years old. So, in reality, she has been in the health care industry almost as long as I have known her, and most of our family has been blessed to have her in attendance at the births of the children and grandchildren. I would hate to have had my grandchildren come into this world with any other nurse, because we were so spoiled by the great care and advise we got from Jennifer. Nurses just don’t get better than she is. I’m sure her daughter-in-law, Ashley Parmely would agree too, since Jennifer has been there with her for the births of her daughters, and will be for the upcoming birth of her son, who will be Jennifer’s first grandson, too. Today is Jennifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Jennifer!! What a blessing you are. Have a great day!! We love you!!
Two years seems like such a long time in many ways, but in others, it is no time at all. Two years ago today, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg was in the midst of a medical crisis. She went into the hospital with Congestive Heart Failure, Cellulitis, and Severe Sleep Apnea. She was in a lot of trouble. Her future looked very grim. Brenda had a big decision to make, and she had to make that decision for herself, because no one could do it for her. Brenda either had to lose weight…a lot of weight, or she was not going to live much longer.
Believe it or not, most people would have given up at that point, but Brenda isn’t most people. She decided that 50 years was not enough to call a full life. She wanted more. Nevertheless, the task of losing the weight and actually getting in shape seemed daunting. To really get into the kind of shape she needed to, Brenda would need to lose about 340+ pounds. Of course, part of that was going to be skin in the end, but it would take at least 340 pounds to get to a good weight for her 5’3″ frame. Nevertheless, losing the weight was only going to be part of the transition for Brenda.
In order to be healthy and keep the weight off, Brenda was going to have to get some activity into her life. The logical activity was one that a number of her family members love to do…hiking. For Brenda, the hike began indoors at Sunrise Shopping Center. That first hike was a short one, because it took everything she had in her to do it. Using a walker, and stopping frequently, she made that first hike. The short indoor hike using a walker is far in Brenda’s past now. These days, Brenda loves to hike Casper Mountain, with the Bridle Trail at the top of the list. Two years ago, the Bridle Trail seemed an impossible dream, but no more. The Bridle Trail is one that Brenda now hikes often.
One of the things that Brenda was told is that at some point, she will not look at activity as exercise, but as fun activity. I know that she never thought that day would come either, but these days, exercise is a thought that is far in Brenda’s past, and activity is what she does now. Brenda has become an inspiration to many people, who have begun to follow in her footsteps now. She has decided to try to become a mentor to others who are in the position she was in. She wants to let people know that they can change their life, and all it really takes in the first step.
Today, as Brenda celebrates two years of really living, she will celebrate with a hike…of course. A group of her friends and family will hike the Bridle Trail. I have to wonder what Brenda is thinking about this years hike. What had seemed like an impossible dream is now a possible reality. Looking back and reflecting on all she has done, and just how far she has come, one realizes just what an amazing accomplishment this has been. For anyone who thinks they can’t do this, I recommend that you ask my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg what she thinks about that. I can tell you, without a doubt that she would tell you to focus on the finish line, and never give up. The impossible is possible, but only if you don’t quit. The only way to fail to reach your goal is to quit. Congratulations Brenda!! You have come a long way, and the future is bright now. Never quit, and you will always be strong and healthy. We love you!!
When illness strikes, and overcoming it seems impossible, many people just give up and give in. Their lives go from being mostly self sufficient, to disabled. They look at the problem, and see it as being far too big to conquer…so why even bother. Eventually they are on oxygen and in a wheelchair. It is a bleak future, and one no one really wants to live. Nevertheless, it is how most people handle a situation where their daily habits have lead them down a path of self destruction. I know that the situation I have described sounds like I am speaking ill of someone who is disabled, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
That is the situation my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg found herself in one year ago today. Years of stress, too many working hours, helping in the care of her aging parents, and finally the passing of her dad, my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg, had lead to unhealthy eating and weight gain, complicated by depression, sleep apnea, congestive heart failure and cellulitis. It was a recipe for a downward depression spiral, but for my sister-in-law it was the beginning of a journey that would find her one half of herself just one short year later.
When this journey began, Brenda was worried that she would never make it. Her goals felt like the impossible dream. She felt like she had so far to go, and she knew that she was exhausted before she even took that first step. But somewhere…deep inside, she discovered a strength she never knew that she had. A determination to beat this thing against all the odds. Brenda didn’t know how she was going to get this done, or how long it would take, but she knew that she did not want to spend the rest of her life on the sidelines.
Brenda’s journey began with a hospital stay at Wyoming Medical Center, and was followed by a stay at Elkhorn Rehab Hospital. She checked into the hospital on October 18, 2013, and checked out of Elkhorn Rehab Hospital on November 11, 2013. The girl who went into the hospital seemed defeated and scared, but the girl who came out of the hospital was determined and excited about the future. There were still things to worry about, because lets face it, Congestive Heart Failure sounds scary, but throughout this last year, she has had so much good news. She has found that her condition is completely reversible, if she loses weight and exercises. For her, the good news is that she was already planning to do just that, and she is very determined. She watches shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Weight Loss” and listened to “Half Size Me” to keep herself inspired, and she has had steady success. She still feels like she has a long way to go, but she knows that she will make it…because she has decided that failure is not an option. She is taking her life back, not giving up or giving in.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of Brenda’s journey, and what a year it has been! Brenda has seen her heath improve by leaps and bounds, and she has been told that her health issues can be completely reversed. She has stuck with her diet and exercise programs, adding classes and hiking to her list of likes, and now she is feeling so much better, that she is doing things with friends, like a painting class, the movies, and dinner out. I have never seen her so happy. And as to her goal for this first year. Yes, she has achieved that too. Brenda is truly half the girl she used to be…she weighs half of what she did when this journey started. I am so proud of her. Today we will take a Victory Hike on the Garden Creek Trail, to celebrate a year of multiple successes. It isn’t the end of a journey, but rather the start of the next leg of that journey. I firmly believe that Brenda’s life can take her wherever she wants to go. Your future is yours to decide. You can do whatever you want to do. Here’s to the future, Brenda, and here’s to you!!
These days, many young women graduate from high school and then go on the college or just out into the work world, but years ago, women who weren’t married by the time they were 20 years old were considered old maids. Some of the women were married as young as 13 years old. These days people would look at that in a very different way…especially since the husbands were often older, often in their mid-twenties or older. Strange as it seems to us today, back then most of these marriages turned into life long loves and lots of children. Of course, as far back as I have looked into, 13 wasn’t a common age for a woman to marry, but the mid to late teens certainly was.
Many of the women in my family were among those who were married at 16 or 17 years of age, and according to my Aunt Sandy, one of our grandmothers was married at 13, but I haven’t been able to find out which one, so I guess I’ll have to ask her. It could be that I’m just not going back far enough. The girls back in the early days of our nation were raised to be homemakers. The were taught how to run a home and take care of a family. Many is the south were taught to oversee a house full of servants. I can’t imagine running a home, children or a house full of servants at the tender age of 13. I don’t know about you, but at 13, I was definitely not interested in being a wife, mother, and boss. I was too busy doing gymnastics on the front lawn, or hanging out with my friends.
Why were these women to be so different? I mean, they weren’t forced into marriage, they chose it. Yes, they were trained to cook and clean, but so was I. Their parents didn’t push marriage on them, nor did they expect it to happen that young…I don’t believe anyway. I guess that some girls grow up faster than others, or maybe the expectations of the parents carries more weight than we know. I wonder if we will ever really understand the reasons behind those early marriages.
Bob and I went on the first hike we have taken in a very long time today. We used to hike 8 miles a day at least 5 days a week. Now our days are filled with something different…caring for Bob’s parents. His dad has Emphysema and his mom has Alzheimer’s Disease. It takes time to care for another individual…much less 2 of them. Something has got to give when you are caregiving. There is no way to spend the amount of time necessary to keep a person healthy and still spend all the time you normally did on yourself.
When I was able to walk 8 miles a day, I was not only in great shape, but I was at my ideal weight. Now, I have learned to forgive myself, and to know that I cannot “do it all” and still take care of my aging mom and in-laws. I may not be in the best shape ever, but I could not look myself in the mirror if I did not take care of them. Besides, I love them, so I’ll set my needs aside for a while and care for theirs.
Our hike today was harder than I am used to, but it felt so good, and I want to be able to do more of it. I know that the road I have chosen to take will limit the hiking or even the after dinner walking I will be able to do, but…well, life happens, and we have to follow where the road takes us. Many times it is more important to set aside our needs for a time to do something that is more important for someone else. People do it all the time. Raising children is a prime example of it.
I will get back to having time for me again. I’m not worried about that. It is the way that I will get time for me back that I am trying to avoid. They will need help for the rest of their lives, so as long as they live my time will be less mine…and that is ok. I’d much rather have the parents I have left be here a while longer, than have the time for me.
Yes, our hike today was lovely, and it took the work of 5 other people to make it happen. Corrie, Amy, Josh, Brenda, and Jennifer gave of themselves to give Bob and me a vacation, and it is a gift I will never forget. I know it was extra for each of them and their families sacrificed too. I want them each to know that I love them and I appreciate the time I have been given to rest and get my strength back. I will be forever grateful.