Normally, on this first day of Summer, I would be thinking about the days coming up, the precious few days when I finally get to feel the warmth that doesn’t come from being wrapped in a blanket or wearing a coat. Yes, Summer can be sweltering, and I can find myself wishing for a little cooler temperature, but I don’t want it to be much cooler. I am a summer person. I like heat. I like wearing shorts and sandals, rather than sweaters and coats.
This year is a rather odd year…not that we haven’t had years of unusual weather…and no, I don’t buy into the whole global warming, climate change, or whatever they are calling it these days. Weather had natural patterns that have existed since time began, and this is nothing new. Nevertheless, when we have one of those years of an unusually cold Spring, and unusually harsh Winter, and somehow a fairly normal Fall, I find myself waiting for normalcy, impatiently!!
This has been one of those years, and I’m ready for the end of Spring. Our Winter was harsh, with lots of snow and this Spring has been full of thunderstorms and pouring rain…to the point of flash flooding and lots of warnings for lightning, hail, tornadoes, and floods. Those things aren’t all that unusual, with the possible exception of the floods, but the thing I really noticed was the cold temperatures. Normally as we approach the end of June, I am wearing shorts and t-shirts when I go out for my early morning walk. This year, however, I have been wearing pants and a jacket to keep me warm. Of course, by the time I am almost finished, I’m warm enough to go without a jacket…except for the clouds. Clouds just keep things cooler.
As I was walking these past few mornings, I thought about just how much cooler it had been this Spring, and I hoped that as the Summer arrived, it would finally begin to warm up. I also thought about another Summer about 20 years ago or so. The Spring had been cold that year too, and Summer hadn’t improved much. In fact, it was the coldest Summer I had ever remembered. Infact, it was as if Summer never arrived that year. That makes for the feeling of a long cold Winter, even though there were some warm days. The good thing about the colder rainy weather, however, was that the grass, and several other things grew better that they had in years. I guess that’s a plus, but if you don’t mind, I’ll take the warmer weather, with the leaves on the trees and the deer by the trail. Those things make my whole day.
There are a number of traditions surrounding May Dad, and the one I think I most prefer is that it is the albeit “unofficial” beginning of Summer. I’m sure that we all know that Summer really begins on June 21st, but by the first day of May, the weather usually begins to warm up, and therefore it leaves all of us “warmth starved” Summer people feeling just a little bit better. My mom, Collene Spencer loved May Day. I think it was almost her favorite day, and she was definitely one of those “warmth starved” people, as anyone who knew her very well could tell you. Mom was never comfortable in the cold of Winter, and she would finally start to feel warm when the temperature inside and outside reached about 90°. That usually meant that anyone in her house was on the verge of becoming “baked goods.”
Mom always went all out for May Day, and I think the neighbors got to where they expected it. It just wasn’t May Day or May 1st, for that matter, until the Spencer girls made the traditional “May Basket Delivery Run” around the neighborhood. Mom would buy candy, and construction paper, and we would make the baskets ourselves. Then we would full them with candy…just enough for a couple or a small family to have a couple of pieces. Then, we went around the neighborhood, hanging them on the door, then running to hide. The recipient was then supposed try to find us. The goal was not to get caught, and we had a great time trying. In our neighborhood anyway, my mom was always the May Day Queen.
In some parts of the United States, while May baskets are a big part of the May Day tradition, the day can also include activities like a Maypole Dance and crowning a Queen of May. I suppose that in a town where the town government supported the day, such traditions as these would be feasible. It might be fun to have that much participation in the holiday, but sadly, it is quickly becoming a holiday of the past in most places. I suppose it as something that was more from my mother’s era than this one. Those kinds of acts just aren’t common these days…sadly.
My sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely’s partner, Brian Cratty is a mountain man…seriously. He loves being on Casper Mountain, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. In the Summer, Brian hikes and mountain bikes for much of the day. He is totally in his element when he is on the mountain. Brian and Jennifer own a cabin on the mountain, and Brian, who is retired, spends as much time as possible there. I’m sure Jennifer will spend more time there as well, now that she has retired too.
Even in the Winter, Brian spends most days at the cabin. When he gets there, he builds a fire in the cabin and then gets to work keeping it shoveled out. The deep accumulations of snow can do so much damage to a cabin that is not kept dug out. A structure can only hold so much snow before damage becomes inevitable. Normally there is a good amount of snow on the mountain, but this winter has been a real challenge. Nevertheless, Brian as worked hard, persevered, and kept it at bay, protecting the cabin. I think we have all been shocked ah the amount of snow on the mountain, and this last storm dumped an additional 48+ inches on the mountain. It looks to me like we might have as much as 10 feet in some places.
Driving to the cabin in the Winter is not possible, so they ski into the cabin in the Winter. Jennifer tells me that it only takes about 35 minutes from the Nordic lodge to get there. They love cross-country skiing, so for them it’s not a burden, but rather an adventure. The mountain might be teeming with activity in the Summer, but the Winter presents a very different atmosphere. There is a deep quiet a lot of the time, and that is part of its charm. Of course, the cabin is near trails too, and there might be snowmobilers around too, but not all the time, so the quiet is the bulk of the day.
Some days, Brian is just not able to get up to the mountain, so on those dreaded “stuck at home” days, Brian likes to work on puzzles. Not everyone has that patience to put puzzles together, but Brian really enjoys it. He also loves to cook, and that is always an advantage for Jennifer, who reaps the benefits of his skill, and he enjoys watching movies, although he probably finds it hard to sit there when he would rather be on the mountain shoveling snow!! Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Every year, maybe simply because Winter can be so depressing, just a little way into Spring, we have a day for fun. If you didn’t know, the day is called April Fool’s Day. Some like the day, others kind of hate it, and some don’t care one way or the other. Still, I think most people give the day a try, at least. As a kid, we tried to pull off the best prank ever, but depending on our age at the time, we often failed miserably. You can only tell someone there is a spider on their head so many times on April Fool’s Day, before they simply stop believing your story.
My parents, Al and Collene Spencer, were pretty good at April Fool’s Day pranks. I remember putting sugar on chicken and salt on cereal. I suppose some people would get upset about that, but we all had a good sense of humor, and found it to be a good laugh. Of course, there are hundreds of other pranks that can be played on people, and some of them are very elaborate. I guess it just depends on the level of imagination you have, and how far you are willing to play your prank out. For some people, April Fool’s Day just isn’t enough, and they become Bonafide Pranksters, ready to prank their next victim at any given moment. Their pranks might happen at any time on any day, which can also be very funny.
April Fool’s Day has always seemed to me as the real beginning of Spring, even though Spring officially begins on March 20th, the weather then is usually so windy and cold here in Wyoming, that I just don’t really think much about Spring until April Fool’s Day. Then, there is usually more chance of temperatures in at least the 40s, so I can actually envision Spring flowers. Whether I choose to play any pranks or not, doesn’t matter as much to me as the distinct prospect of the coming Spring. I am more of a late Spring or Summer girl, but if it’s a choice of Winter or Spring, I’ll take Spring every time…and I truly love Spring flowers.
If you decide to prank, I hope you are successful in your pranks, without anyone getting mad at you. And if you don’t decide to prank, well sometimes it’s more fun to watch other people get pranked, as long as no one notices that you are sitting quietly by without a prank in sight, because if they notice you, you are very likely is big trouble. Happy April Fool’s Day everyone. Have fun!!
The first official Groundhog Day celebration in the United States took place on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, but it had its roots in Germany and was brought to the United States as a German tradition. It may have had other connotations to some people, but for most of us, it’s just a fun way to break the monotony of Winter, by guessing how much longer it will last. It is my guess that old Punxsutawney Phil is wrong about the prediction as often as he is right about it.
Since, my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s grandma, Vina Hein was born of Groundhog’s Day, the day has always been a little bit of a fun day for her. Of course, I suppose the level of “fun” would depend on the prediction for that year, and whether or not she liked Winter, which I don’t believe she did…as an adult anyway. Montana winters can be harsh, and Grandma even had to have her daughter Esther Hein live with her son, Walt Schulenberg, and his wife Joann during the winter, so she could be able to get to school more regularly. So, I’m sure she…like most of us, preferred an early Spring prediction, not that the prediction mattered much anyway. After all, what could she do if old Punxsutawney Phil guessed wrong? The same thing we can do today…nothing.
Grandma Hein stayed busy all year long. Between canning in the summer, cleaning, cooking and baking, as well as helping out with the garden and the animals on the ranch, life could sometimes be pretty fast paced. She also raised five children, two from her first marriage, Marion and Walt Schulenberg, and three from her second marriage, Esther, Eddie, and Butch Hein. A ranch, a husband, and five kids can keep a person very busy. Nevertheless, even with the hard work and distance from town, Grandma was happy in her life…most of the time. Having an outhouse wasn’t the easiest thing, but they had one the whole time they lived on the ranch. Grandpa did put one in the house later on, but they only used it in the winter. I’ll never forget using that outhouse. It was like living in a backwoods campground. Still, I loved going to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein.
Today marks the 114th anniversary of Grandma Hein’s birth. She has been in Heaven a long time now of course, and I’m sure that the Winter on Earth makes no difference to her. Nevertheless, for any of you that do care, old Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, so there will supposedly be six more weeks of Winter. My guess is that old Phil does better with his predicting when he sees his shadow than when he doesn’t. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.
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!!