winter

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My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Esther Hein and I have a birth story in common…well, a little bit. Hers is quite a bit more extreme than my own. We were both breech babies. A breech birth is really hard on both baby and mommy, and quite often these days, a breech birth would mean a Cesarian delivery. When I was born, they had to dislocate my hips to deliver me, but for Esther, it took 4 days for her delivery. That seems very dangerous to me, because it seems like the stress on mom and baby could be too much. I feel sorry for both moms, Esther’s mom, Vina Hein and my mom, Collene Spencer, because they had to do the work for the babies, Esther and me. I would have to say that they were supermoms, because they made it, and Esther and I got to be here because of them.

Esther is the oldest of Grandma Hein’s second family, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg and his sister, Marion Kanta being in her first family. She has two younger brothers, Eddie Hein and Butch Hein. Esther and Butch are the only ones left here on Earth. When my father-in-law married my mother-in-law, Joann (Knox) Schulenberg, they took Esther in during the winter months, because the Hein family lived outside of Forsyth, Montana on a ranch, and with the winters in Montana being what they often are, getting her to school wasn’t always easy, so living with her brother Walt and his wife Joann was the best solution. Those were special days for Esther, who became very close friends with Walt and Joann, as well as little sister. Esther grew very close to her brother and sister-in-law. She also got close to their first child, Marlyce. Esther was only 10 years old, when Marlyce was born. That said, she had a number of years of school left, meaning that she might have been living with them for as much as 8 more years, during which time they would also have Debbie, and Bob. During her time there, while she might have been a trial at times, I’m quite sure she was also a big help to them as their family grew. I know they were always grateful for the help. Today is Aunt Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Anyone who finds Winter and the shortened nights depressing, can understand how a person can crave the sun. There is even a condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that comes out of the limited or even lack of sunlight. People in Alaska and other areas near the pole regions often suffer from it in the dark winter days. The polar regions aren’t the only ones with the problem, however.

There is a tiny town in Norway, called Rjukan. For hundreds of years, the inhabitants of this tiny Norwegian town went without direct sunlight for almost half the year. It’s not because this town is situated near the North Pole, because it isn’t. Nevertheless, the place Rjukan is situated is the problem. Rjukan is wedged at the bottom of a steep east-west valley in southern Norway’s Telemark region. It’s surrounded by mountains, including the 6,178-foot-high Gaustatoppen.

Rjukan is a company town, founded for the employees of Norsk Hydro, an aluminum powerhouse that is still going strong today. At first the town built an aerial tramway, Krossobanen, to give employees and their families access to the winter sunshine. Sam Eyde, the founder of the town, began to consider building sun mirrors on the mountain as far back as 1913, but the tramway was built first. It was the first such system in northern Europe, and still functions today. The tramway served a purpose, but really didn’t solve the problem.

Still, the desire for the kind of direct sunlight first shared by Eyde never went away. Then, more than 90 years later, a local resident and artist, Martin Andersen took up the idea from the history books. He began to think that maybe the idea was a good one. So, on October 30, 2013, almost 100 years to the day when the idea was first presented, the Rjukan sun mirror officially opened. For the first time in the town’s history, the sun actually shown on the town in the winter months. The people were elated. At first, not everyone was on board with Andersen’s plans. Many locals criticized the $750,000 project, believing the money could be better spent elsewhere, but when they saw how excited everyone was with the day, it was hard to continue to be negative. The people put on sunglasses, and basked in the sun’s light and warmth. It was like a big party. The sun mirrors continue to be a big hit in the town, oddly in the summer, as well as the winter.

Local residents now enjoy an approximately 6,500 square foot ellipse-shaped beam of sunlight into the town square. Between 80% and 100% of the sun’s light is transferred down into the town. The mirror system has helped the tourism industry. It’s said, “This summer there were several tourists who turned their backs on the real sun, and sat instead with their faces to the sun mirror.” Locals and tourists can even hike to the mirrors. As unusual as it may seem, Rjukan’s sun mirror system is not a world first. The small town of Viganella, in Italy’s steep Antrona Valley, celebrated its own day of the light in December 2006, as a sheet of steel was installed to reflect sunlight into the town square from November to February. The system in Rjukan is significantly more advanced, however. Each of the three 182 square foot mirrors are controlled computer-driven motors called heliostats. They track the movement of the sun across the horizon and constantly reposition the mirrors to keep the reflected light as consistent as possible. What a cool idea for a town and its people who can’t get easy access to the sun.

When my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely met her partner, Brian Cratty, I remember thinking about how quiet he was. I suppose it isn’t surprising to have someone be a little quiet when meeting a large family like ours is. It takes a brave person to walk into a big family for the first time. I know, because I’ve been there. So when Jennifer brought Brian to meet the family I felt a little bit sorry for him. It’s sort of like standing before a crowd of hundreds of people to give your first public speech, and you’re 13 years old. Once you get to know Brian, you can see the gentle, kind man that Jennifer fell in love with.

Brian and Jennifer are soulmates. They have the same interests, and are going in the same direction. They love spending time on the mountain, and the time of year doesn’t matter a bit. For them, Summer is no different than Winter, when it comes to how much they like it that is. I personally don’t care for Winter…in any location. I love the mountains, but in the Summer, when I can hike. Brian and Jennifer, and most of their family, love to ski, so the mountain in the Winter is great for them too. Brian likes to ski, and hike, but one of his favorite activities in mountain biking. He gets on his bicycle and hits the trails around their cabin on the mountain. She might not see him for an hour at a time, because he is out there in his own world.

Brian has been such a blessing to Jennifer’s family, and to the rest of our family. The little kids love him, and he is very good to them. He fits in well with all of us, and while he is a quiet man, he can carry on a great conversation with the best of ’em. We all love having him around, and he is a great partner to Jennifer, and grandpa to the babies. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob’s aunt, Esther Hein is the oldest child of her parents, Walt and Vina Hein. She was also the middle child of her mother, who had two children from another marriage. Because of the age difference the children, the older children, Marion and Walt were both married while Esther was just a little girl, so she grew up being the oldest child for the most part. Besides her two half-siblings, Esther had two brothers, Edward and Bernard Hein.

The family lived outside of Forsyth, Montana on a ranch, and with the winters in Montana being what they often are, getting her to school wasn’t always easy, so during the winter months, Esther often lived with her brother Walt and his wife Joann, so she could attend school regularly. Those were special days for Esther, who became very close friends with Walt and Joann, as well as little sister. Of course, as with any child, Esther could be trying, to which Joann would exclaim, “Don’t Esther!” A situation that remained with Joann, even when Alzheimer’s Disease stole many of her memories. The three of them would remain close for the rest of their lives. Though they lived far away from each other for their entire adult lives, they talked on the phone often, and visited as often as they could.

Esther is an artist, and many of her pieces of artwork adorned the homes of her family. She is also a good seamstress, and made curtains for Walt and Joann’s bathroom, which they loved very much. She especially liked to paint on unusual objects, like sawblades. She would create beautiful landscapes on both straight sawblades, as well as round sawblades. The effect was amazing. The way that something so mechanical could also take on a rustic look was amazing. Her artistic ability was something that made her brother, Walt very proud. He spoke of it often, and was always quick to point out her paintings to people who visited the house. He proudly told them that the artist was his little sister. Today is Esther’s birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Kelli Schulenberg has a list of things she likes that might make many people feel very tired, but Kelli is someone who is on the go a lot. In her own words, Kelli likes “Music, traveling, fitness, animals, and the outdoors. Fresh air, trees, blue skies, summer, and hiking.” Anyone who knows her, know that truer words were never spoken. Kelli likes to stay active, and doesn’t like to waste a moment of her free time. If there’s a concert nearby, Kelli and her husband, my nephew, Barry Schulenberg might jump in the pickup and head for wherever it is being held. They both really enjoy going to concerts.

If there isn’t a concert, Kelli and Barry might be found on Casper Mountain, cross country skiing in the winter, or hiking in the summer. Anyone who knows Kelli very well, knows that she prefers Summer over Winter…every time. And there are a lot of us who totally agree with her whole heartedly on that one. For Kelli, as for many of us, Winter brings with it, a little bit of…depression, for lack of a better word. It’s not that she is depressed, but that the weather is depressing. Because Kelli likes to hike, she feels sad when the winter months hit. For a hiker, cross country skiing really can’t compare to hiking. At least, that’s the way I feel about it.

Kelli loves animals, and her dog, Scout is her current “baby.” Scout can be a trial for Kelli, always wanting to be lazy, when she wants to be active. Nevertheless, he makes up for it with his goofy ways. There is a lot to be said for a dog making his masters laugh. Scout refuses to “adult,” as Kelli would say, so his goofiness is always inspiring laughter in his masters. Scout came to live with Kelli and Barry as a puppy, after their long time dog, Dakota passed away. Scout has lots of potential, but lets face it…right now Scout is no Dakota. I know that Kelli and Barry still miss Dakota very much.

Kelli and Barry have a place out east of Casper, Wyoming. It’s home, but Kelli would love to have a couple of donkeys on it. They are one of her favorite animals. Still, she loves most animals. She has a real heart for them. She loves their antics, their cuddles, and yes, even their naughtiness. I hope that someday Kelli gets her donkeys. I think that would be very cool. Today is Kelli’s birthday Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Animal skins were used for clothing and blankets for centuries. People didn’t have other options in ancient times. The fur trade continued into the Old West, and it’s history is filled with stories of adventure, daring, and savage warfare. It is said that being a trapper took a man of strong constitution. It wasn’t a job for sissies. The trappers suffered isolation in the wilderness, and battled constantly against wild beasts and wild men. Many trappers didn’t survive it, and in fact, the majority died in the silence of remote regions.

One of those men was my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer. Grandpa, along with his brother-in-law, my Uncle Albert Schumacher decided to become trappers. Northern Minnesota was filled with animals that were perfect for trapping, and they had decided to make their fortune. It was a noble decision, but they really had no idea just how tough it would be. This was not a job for the casual trapper. Most trappings occurred in the great mountains. Here, the trappers spent the larger part of their lives. I don’t think my grandpa and my uncle really had any intention of living their lives in the isolated wilderness. They just wanted to make a living.

They trapped for a time, and really they didn’t do too bad, when it came to trapping, but I don’t think they were prepared for the cold and isolation. Northern Minnesota is one of the coldest places on earth. That would prove to be their undoing. Camping out in a tent in the winter in northern Minnesota…well, it was kind of crazy. I guess in that way, so were they. After a while, they realized just how crazy it was. While they had modest success at fur trapping, they decided that it wasn’t really worth it in the end. I can understand that. If it were just the cold, it might be one thing, but there were the wild animals too. Bears, mountain lions, wolves, just to name a few, while prime furs, are still a force to be contended with. When you pit man against beast, all too often, the beast comes out on top, Of the many trappers in the old west, many went out to trap, and never returned…not only never returned, but were never heard from again. I’m glad that was not the fate of my grandpa and my uncle.

So, since they were already in the woods in northern Minnesota, and it was an area known for its lumber trade, they decided to abandon the fur trapping business, and go into the lumber business. That turned out to be a far better decision. Not only could they make a decent living, but they were able to sleep in a warm bed at night.

My niece, Amanda Reed is one of the busiest people I know. She never seems to stop, and sometimes I wonder where she gets all the energy to do all the activities she and her family do. Besides working all day at the Rawlins National Bank, her evenings and weekends are spent with a great group of friends. They go every weekend…from skiing in winter, to boating in summer, 4 wheelers, motorcycles, and snowmobiles…they are on the go all the time. Life is definitely not passing them by. They embrace life every day.

Amanda and her partner, Sean Mortensen are the parents of a beautiful daughter, Jaydn Mortensen, who at 14 is a wonderful equestrian, and has won lots of awards for her abilities. Her parents and grandparents encourage her every step of the way, and attend all of her competitions. In addition to that, Jaydn goes on all the family outings. They never exclude her. I suppose that as she gets older and has a job, that may change, but I don’t think it will be much of a change. Amanda and her family are very dedicated to each other, and they enjoy spending time together, so that will always be a part of their lives. For Amanda and Sean, Jaydn is their whole heart. They couldn’t love her more, if they tried.

Amanda and Sean are very happy together, and they are always headed in the same direction. That is one of the keys to a life-long relationship. They enjoy being together, and the like the same things. That brings harmony to a home. Amanda and Sean love to laugh and they do things that make other people laugh too. That makes them fun to be around, and if you ask their friends, you will see that they all agree. Amanda and Sean are very social people and they love to entertain. The spend time at the family cabin in all seasons, because there is lots of room for all their activities. I’ve never met a more active bunch. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Funny thing about Groundhog Day, it has a way of sneaking up on you. It seems like the older I get, the more I feel like winter lasts an awfully long time. So, when Groundhog Day finally rolls around, and spring starts to be on everyone’s mind. Winter is emotionally wearing and leaves us weary…especially as it nears the end. I always greet Groundhog Day with mixed emotions, waiting to see if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. Oh, I know that Punxsutawney Phil is only accurate about 39% of the time, but it gives me hope each year that he predicts an early spring. It’s silly, I know, but it’s fun to anticipate anyway.

My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein always had another reason to look forward to Groundhog Day…her birthday. If you took it seriously, the measure of “happy” could depend on whether or not a rodent in Pennsylvania saw his shadow or not, and of course, how much you liked winter. To be honest, I don’t remember if Grandma liked winter or not, and maybe as a child, she loved it, but I rather doubt that winter’s draw was as strong in her as she grew older. That seems to be the way of it. The older we get, the less we like the bitter cold of winter…at least if we have to be out in it. Nevertheless, I have a pretty good idea that Grandma rather liked spring better, because living on a ranch, spring brought so much new life. From baby calves to new chickens, to baby carrots, life begins anew in the spring.

I suppose that is why I like spring, and the Groundhog Day announcement too. Spring and the summer that follows it, are my favorite times of year. The birds chirping and the flowers blooming, remind me that with every winter there lies beneath the snow, the promise of spring and the renewal of life on Earth. Maybe that is why Grandma liked her birthday too. Today would have been Grandma Hein’s 110th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.

I’m not a huge fan of winter, but recently I saw something the mentioned how quiet it seems when it’s snowing, and I started thinking about the fact, that it really does seem quieter when it snows. I thought it must be some sort of illusion, or more likely, the lack of the Wyoming wind blowing, that made my world seem more quiet. Still, my curious mind had to find out exactly what the answer was. I’m not super into scientific experiments, but this seemed like a good one to check into. Maybe it was just me thinking about that, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe other people wondered about it too.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just me…and the world really is quieter when it snows. That isn’t something you really see when watching a blizzard on television, and maybe there are some exceptions to the rule, but the reality is that snow absorbs sound waves. When it’s snowing, there’s plenty of space between snowflakes, meaning that there is also less space for sound waves to bounce around…so I’m not imagining it. The world actually gets more quiet when it snows. Bernadette Woods Placky, a meteorologist and director of Climate Central’s Climate Matters program says, “When snow falls, it does absorb some of the sound waves.”

To further add to the quiet, as snowflakes stack up, there is more space left between them, compared to the surface of liquids like water. “With all that space, sound is unable to bounce off snow as easily as it would off water,” Woods Placky says. As a result, the sound gets absorbed, and somewhat like the way a soundproof room absorbs the sound, so you can’t hear what is going on inside, the snow pulls the sound into itself, and we don’t hear it very well. Of course, things like less people outside and on the road also account for the quiet. Traffic stalls tremendously during and after a snowstorm, due to icy roads and the dangers it presents to drivers. Many animals, especially birds, also aren’t out as much. They have to adapt to snowy weather that makes their environment colder and their food more difficult to find. They hunker down to conserve energy.

Whatever the reason for the quiet we hear during a snowstorm, I have always felt like it was a beautiful thing. I don’t like the cold, and I don’t like the icy roads, but just watching the snow, fall quietly to the ground, and listening to the quiet that it produces makes it would of those wonderful experiences that you have to slow down and take the time to notice, or you will never have the full peace that happens when the world gets quiet.

My niece, Kelli Schulenberg hates the winter cold, but since she lives in Wyoming, and we get winter here, like it or not, Kelli has been learning to adapt. She has always loved hiking, and spending time in the mountains, but the wintertime was simply not her favorite time of year. Nevertheless, I think that Kelli is coming around to the Wyoming way of thinking. Ok, maybe not, but she is adapting to the winter a little bit anyway. These days Kelli can be found cross country skiing and horseshoeing in the winter on the mountains. Maybe she is adapting more than I have, and I’ve lived here years longer than Kelli has. While I love hiking and being outdoors, especially in the mountains, I have no desire too go skiing or horseshoeing…or anything else that has to do with winter in the outdoors, even though I love Wyoming. Kelli loves to travel, and that’s something we both agree on. She and her husband, Barry have taken many trips to beautiful places around the United States. While many of the trips have been to attend concerts, they have gone through some beautiful country too. I’m sure that Kelli will always prefer summer to winter, and probably Texas to Wyoming, but for now, she is adapting.

She is a purist when it comes to the country, enjoying country life, but very much against the industrialization thereof. When she and Barry bought a piece of land east of Casper, it was quiet and peaceful…until a company put up a wind farm behind their house. I have long been fascinated by the big wind turbines, but I have never lived next to one, so quite possibly I don’t know how loud they are. I suppose they would be an eyesore, when located net to your nice, quiet backyard. I also don’t know if they would be a problem, if one were to think about raising donkeys, which has been a lifelong dream of Kelli’s. Maybe, the animals would be spooked by the wind turbine, for all I know of them. All that doesn’t really matter, because the turbines are there, and they are there to stay.

Kelli is a bubbly person, who loves to laugh. She has a great smile, which is most likely what attracted my nephew to her in the first place. She is fun loving and outgoing. Her love of travel has opened many new vistas to Barry, as they have traveled more together than he ever did before their marriage. Whatever else it was that attracted them to each other, it was definitely true love, because they have been married for almost 15 years now, and they are still going strong. It must be love. Today is Kelli’s birthday. Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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