Me

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This is a day that I have been particularly dreading since my dad, Allen Spencer passed away on December 12, 2007. The ten year anniversary of his graduation to Heaven. For him, of course, it was a day of great celebration, but for my mom, Collene Spencer…now in Heaven herself, my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me the day was anything but a celebration. And, their were so many others who felt his passing deeply too…grandchildren, great grandchildren, siblings, siblings-in-law, and friends. It was a day that we somehow thought would never come, and when it did, we were really not at all ready for it, but then are you ever ready for a loved one’s passing? Of course not…we can’t possibly prepare.

With each year thereafter, the sting of his passing remained, although we got used to feeling it, but the ten year mark has been one that seemed so incredibly impossible, that I continued to push it to the back of my mind. It ranked right up there with the thought of living even one day on this earth without my parents. It lived in the realm of the impossible, and now it is simply reality. We go through our days in a state of acceptance, because there is nothing else we can do…we have no other choice.

Our dad was a wonderful, sweet, kind, and loving man, who treated our mom like a queen and his daughters like princesses. We never doubted his love for any of us. We may not have had riches or a castle, but there are better ways to be treated like royalty. We just always knew that we were loved. We didn’t need riches or castles, because we had quality time with our parents. We got to travel the United States, and took trips every summer. We learned to read maps, build campfires, see so many wonderful places, and enjoy each others company. It made us a very close family, and that closeness continues to this day. My family was so blessed to have such a man as our dad, and so when he left us…the void was huge!! And now to think that he has been in Heaven for ten long years…well, it makes me feel very sad and lonely. My only consolation is that I know that now my dad…and my mom too…is in my future, not in my past. For me, it just feels like the future is so very far away. I would love to have a hug from my dad right now, not years down the road, and I would love to hear his voice again, and not only in my memory. I just can’t believe that he could have been gone that long. I love and miss you Dad…so very much.

For most people the holidays are all about tradition. Of course, for all Christians, Christmas is about Jesus, but it’s also about family time, family traditions, parties, and gifts…with the greatest gift being Jesus. But, one tradition concerning those parties, for me and my family anyway, is the traditional Byer Family Christmas party. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer’s parents George and Hattie Byer started the tradition years and years ago, when their house really got too small to handle their large and ever growing family. The party was moved to the Mills Fire Hall, and on the day of the party, we literally filled it up!! Grandma and Grandpa Byer were surrounded by their loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and they were so happy. With a family as large as ours, well over 300 now, of course, you might not get to talk with each and every one, but you saw them, and they saw you, and it kept the family close. Grandma and Grandpa wanted that tradition to continue, even after their passing, and so they charged their children with the task of keeping the tradition alive, and the family close. And they did a good job of it.

Now, there are several of those kids who have, themselves, gone on to Heaven, and sadly, our numbers are dwindling, because we…the grandchildren have failed to take the reigns, and keep Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s dream alive. It is so easy to look at the aunts and assume that this is their duty, and not ours, but is it…really? Aren’t we, the grandchildren old enough now to also take up the simple task and honor our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles, in such a way. There are, of course, a number of the grandchildren who still come to the party every year, and we find ourselves very blessed by the evening. It is fun, and if we take a few minutes to walk around the room and visit with our aunts, uncles and cousins, we will find that we have a pretty wonderful family, and that the traditional Byer Family Christmas Party is a blessing that continues to grow…needing really just the watering of more loved ones to join in. It saddens me to think that the day might come, when it no longer makes sense to rent the facilities, because so few have shown up in past years, but it could come to that I suppose. We all think there is a lot of time to visit with our aunts, uncles, and cousins, but every time one of them goes to Heaven, we find out that there was so little time, and we wasted it, by thinking that our presence didn’t really matter. They could do without us. And yes, the party did go on, and we all had a great time, but the family members who were not there…who could have been, because they didn’t have to work, or have anyplace else to be, the ones who simply stayed at home…believe me…yes, you were missed, very much.

Grandma Byer was a great cook, and she taught her children well, and they taught their children well, and I can tell you that we are a family of great cooks. The food last night was delicious, everyone enjoyed it very much. The children were able to run and play without being in the way, and their parents could relax, because no one was going to think they should make their children sit still. The party is one where everyone’s feeling are treated with care, and oh my…did the children have a great time. No one got hurt, and they got to get their wiggles out, and probably eat far too many sweets, but hey, what is a party for anyway? I loved seeing all the precious little ones, whose eyes danced with glee as they got to spend time with other children that they hadn’t seen in quite a while, and as you know, kids don’t need an introduction. The see another kid their size, and it’s an instant friendship. Oh, that we adults could make friends so easily. All too soon, the party was over, and for many of us, it will be the last time we will see each other until the summer picnic…the other family tradition. We all lead busy lives, and daily visits are hard, but Grandma and Grandpa Byer wanted us to continue the tradition. So to all of you who came, thank you. It was great to see you and I really enjoyed our time together. And to all who couldn’t be there, know that you were missed. Merry Christmas to all of you.

All of my life, Thanksgiving was a time to spend the day with family, overeat Thanksgiving dinner, and relish the fact that I had the perfect family life. In my young years, everyone in my family was alive and well. The family was growing in one way or another, but until my grandfather, George Byer passed away in 1980, when I was 24 years old, I had never faced death in any way…never lost a loved one. I think it was then that I realized that things were never going to be the same again. Life would go forward, but there was no guarantee that each new year would find us celebrating with the same loved ones every year. Changes are inevitable, and loved ones going to heaven…it’s all a part of what is known as the circle of life. Still, it leaves me feeling more than a little bit lonely as the holidays, and life in general embark upon irreversible changes time after time.

The first years without your parents are always among the hardest. I never considered the possibility that I could one day be an orphan, and yet, I am. An orphan is, after all, someone whose parents have passed away. We usually think of an orphan as a child, but in reality, most people will become orphaned at some point in their lifetime…unless their parents outlive them. Anyway, I found myself an orphan, and the holidays…every day, in fact…have never been the same. The holiday gatherings are much smaller affairs, as my sisters and I have redefined our holidays around our own families, as opposed to a large gathering of six families. While that is ok, and as it should be, there is still a small feeling of loneliness, because we don’t always see each other on the holidays now. Yes, we try to get together at least once before Christmas and a yearly picnic, just like my mom’s family has done, but the other holidays seem to have drifted into the category of small family gatherings, rather that large family gatherings. And, I have learned that in this life, you have no guarantee that your holidays will be the same from year to year, even if there is no loss in the family, because people also move away, and that changes the face of the holidays.

Still, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on the things we have to be thankful for, and for me there are many. My daughters and their families are happy and well, and like my parents families did in the past, mine is growing, as my grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancé, Karen Cruickshank are starting their own little family. We have wonderful friends, my daughter Corrie Petersen’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who have graciously included Bob and me into their Thanksgiving holiday, and we can go to my daughter, Amy Royce’s house for gatherings too, or they can come here, so the core of my perfect family is still in there, it’s just different now. While the years have changed the face of our family gatherings, I still have a great family life, and while I can’t call it the perfect family life anymore, because my parents are in Heaven, I can still call it a very blessed family life, and for that I am very thankful.

For years we have been told that you can find out a lot about a person by their non-verbal communication…body language. Basically it is their physical behavior in any situation, as opposed to what they say about it. Things like facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch, and the use of space are key ways to tell if someone is lying, angry, or excited. Body language exists in both animals and humans, and anyone who has come up on a mother bear or a moose, can tell you. Believe me, I hope that none of my readers have found themselves in that situation.

I have always been told things like…when you are being interviewed, don’t cross your arms, because it makes you seem closed off, as well as, that it is a nervous habit to play with your hair, but I happen to know that things aren’t always so cut and dried. Anyone who knows me knows that if my arms are crossed over my body…I’m cold. And if I am playing with my hair, it isn’t because I’m nervous, but rather it is just something I like the feel of. Basically, I think that while body language is an effective tool. it isn’t the only way, and sometimes not even the best way to read a person. Body language isn’t a spoken language, and so must be interpreted broadly, instead of having an absolute meaning corresponding with a certain movement, which explains why my movements can be misleading.

Body language is even more difficult, in that, interpretations can vary from country to country, or culture to culture. Some experts aren’t even sure that body language is universal. Body language is a subset of nonverbal communication, and really complements verbal communication in social interaction. Just think of how often you find people who can’t tell a story without using their hands…and their hands aren’t even saying anything specific. They are simply a gesture designed to clarify the story. Some researchers would say that nonverbal communication accounts for the majority of information transmitted during interpersonal interactions. It helps to establish the relationship between two people and regulates interaction, but beware, because it can be ambiguous, as seen in my own crossed arms not indicating being closed off, but rather cold. Facial expression is extremely important when expressing emotions through the body. If the body is saying one thing, and the face is saying another, maybe the person has something to hide, or the story they are telling is a lie. Combinations of eyes, eyebrow, lips, nose, and cheek movements help form different moods of an individual.

Some studies show that to really interpret emotions, both facial expression and bodily language must be taken into account. Behavioral experiments have also shown that “recognition of facial expression is influenced by perceived bodily expression. This means that the brain processes the other’s facial and bodily expressions simultaneously.” Participants in these studies were accurately able to judge emotions based on facial expression. This is because the face and the body are normally seen together in their natural proportions and the emotional signals from the face and body are well integrated. Things like a lack of crinkles around the eyes would suggest a fake smile. At one point, researchers believed that making a genuine smile was nearly impossible to do on command. I hadn’t thought about that, but it makes sense. When you’re smiling joyfully, they crinkle. When you’re faking it, they don’t. If someone’s trying to look happy but isn’t, you won’t see wrinkles.

I find it quite interesting to study the different interpretations that have been place in body language, and I think that many of them are probably pretty close to accurate, but it’s always a good idea to keep an open mind when it comes to body language. When we are too quick to make a judgment, we can find ourselves realizing that we were completely in the wrong in our interpretation of non-verbal communication.

Obscene language has not always been the norm where language is concerned, and in fact I don’t think most people talked that way even in the not so distant past of the Old West…certainly not in the way Hollywood would have us believe. Those were different times, and to hear the actors dropping the “f bomb” or the “s word” would be…almost laughable if it weren’t for the fact that it should be insulting. I’m not prudish, and I know that things have changed over the years, but when I hear someone cussing at their children, or using cuss words as, just another part of the conversation, I am sometimes shocked and offended. I don’t like to be one of those people who are offended by just everything, but perhaps if we were offended by obscene language, some of the much more shocking things that go on in our world wouldn’t be happening at all. When the Dick Van Dyke Show was on television, the couple had twin beds and the word pregnant couldn’t even be said on television. We all knew that most couples don’t have separate beds or separate rooms, but it went to show the more wholesome, clean cut, decent world we lived in then.

By the 1920s, it seemed to begin to be understood that men, anyway, were going to use foul language at times, but they had better watch their mouth in front of the ladies, because it was a law that they not offend those ladylike ears with such harsh words. In fact, on October 8, 1921, a man was charged of speaking offensively in front of a lady and found guilty for using obscene language in front of a woman in Ohio. Now, if you could be fined or sent to spend a few days in jail for using foul language in front of a woman, I think people would be much more likely to watch their tongue. In my parents home, foul language would result in having your mouth washed out with soap. I guess that somehow Mom thought that would clean up the language, and in reality, it did. I don’t say that my sisters and I never used cuss words as teenagers, because everyone goes through rebellious times, but I can tell you that we did not do it in front of our parents, and our boyfriends were told that they had better not talk that way either, if they wanted to continue to date our parents daughter. Cussing was one of the fastest ways for a guy to get on the wrong side of our parents.

These days, it seems that everyone cusses, including children. I hear some of the things coming out of the mouths of little kids, and I almost can’t help having my jaw drop to the floor. Television shows consider some language as being acceptable, and then amazingly they bleep out other words that are not any worse than the ones they have allowed. Obscene gestures are the normal way to tell everyone in sight that you are not happy with what is going on around you, and screaming obscenities is the newest way to express your disgust. Some people have wondered if “swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary” or is it just a way of “obscenitizing” our world. Either way I find that the loss of eloquent speech is very sad indeed.

Last night as my husband, Bob and I were heading out for our evening walk at about 7:15pm, we were met by a concerto of song coming from the pine tree in our next door neighbor’s yard. Of course, it was the birds settling down for the night, since it was heading into the evening hours. I was immediately reminded of the day of the total eclipse that Casper had just been in the center of. As the sky grew darker, the birds began hurrying to and fro in search of their places for the night. They began singing their evening songs, just as they were doing when we stepped out of our front door last night. Birds, of course, are programmed to begin bedtime preparations as the daylight starts to fade, unlike humans who might not go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.

The concerto also reminded me of one of my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s favorite movies…The Sound of Music. Of course, the song they sang on that movie was The Hills Are Alive, and not The Trees Are Alive, but my imagination is allowed to make those little changes…basically taking a little poetic license, and change the wording a little bit to fit the situation. So, while I heard the melody of The Hills Are Alive, the words that sang out were The Trees Are Alive.

Since we began taking evening walks a number of years ago, we have found ourselves rather fascinated with the animal life around us. The birds flying here and there, with what appears to be no specific destination in mind; the rabbit with a broken leg that has managed to survive most of the summer, even though he can’t hop as fast as so many other rabbits; the dogs who are sure that we are their friends, even to the point of vying for our attention with the other dogs in their yard or next door; and even the deer, who stand and watch us, not moving unless we do something to appear to be coming toward them. They are all very interesting in the way they interact with people. The birds don’t seem to want to fly too far from their original spot to get away from us as we approach, almost as if they are saying, “I’m not scared of you.” The rabbits sit bravely still, hoping that we won’t notice them, sometimes allowing us to get only a foot or so away from them, providing we continue to walk along without stopping.

Animals are funny sometimes, doing things that almost seem like human activities, and even the wild animals who seem to want to interact with humans…from a safe distance, anyway. The mourning doves and other birds that like to look at us from their safe perch on the power lines or light poles above us, always strike me as funny. They know we are there, and they seem curious about us, but they don’t want to get too close, after all they aren’t stupid, just curious, as they allow us to share their space. And of course, there is nature’s version of Twitter…when a large group of birds flock to one tree, and everyone is tweeting at once…as was the case when we left for our evening walk last night.

Most of my friends know that I love shoes. In fact, that is truly an understatement. I have shoes for every need and for every outfit. I have hiking shoes, sandals, shoes for jeans, boots…lots of boots, and of course, heels…of every color, height, and style from low heels to platform heels, and even funky heels. Yes, I love shoes. But there is a line that even I won’t cross.

Over the centuries in many areas of the world, shoe style was really a show of status. And in some countries, the size of a woman’s foot was so important that women would stuff their feet into shoes that would fit a young child. Those women were so intent on making their feet small, that they would perform a procedure on them called foot binding. It is a crazy way of tying the toes in such a way, so as to make a point of the front of the foot. The foot was then bent almost in half to fit in a shoe for a young child. I think every woman would like her feet to be smaller, at least every woman who wears size seven or above, but foot binding is extreme.

I love platform heels, but some styles…both old and new, are ridiculous. When the platform is so high, and made of something with no give to it, or has no heel on it, the woman wearing the heel really can’t even walk by themselves. And believe me, I would need help too, and I’m used to platforms. It’s just that these aren’t platforms. No, they are stilts!! Platforms have been a tradition for a very long time in Europe, clear back to the 17th century, and then they were out of fashion until the 20th century. Really, it wasn’t until Ferragamo reintroduced them in the 1930s that platforms came back in style. In 2009, an exhibition was organized, with an accompanying catalog on the topic of these elevating shoes, titled “On A Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels.” Chopines, which were also known as zoccoli or pianelle, are a platform shoe up to 20 inches high. Of course, those who wore them required the help of servants so that they didn’t fall flat on their face…in the name of fashion. The idea of chopines, besides being a fashion statement, was to protect the wearer’s clothes from street mud. Never mind the servant’s clothes, and really, why did they have to go out in the mud anyway? They were aristocrats, couldn’t someone just carry them on a platform chair, or run their errand for them. Whatever the case may be, I will not be buying a pair of these crazy stilt platforms, should they ever come into style again.

I do love my many styles of shoes, and my platforms are among the favorites, but I draw the line at about a 3 inch platform. Much more than that, and I not only have difficulty walking, but I end up taller than everyone around me, and for me that is just too odd. I am used to being one of the “wee ones,” as my niece Kellie Hadlock calls me, and that’s ok with me. I never wanted to be tall anyway. I’ll let my platforms make me look tall. I’m good with that!!

For the past year, I have worked with Amanda Ingram, who is the 15 year old daughter of my co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp. Amanda’s job is to file, make policy changes, take payments, and of course, answer the phone. It is a typical job for a customer service representative. No matter where Amanda is in the office, when the phone rings, she usually says, “I’ve got it.” Of course, that is her way of letting us know that we don’t have to stop what we are doing to answer the phone, but for me, her statement brings back years of teenaged memories…memories that the kids of today will most likely never have.

When I was a kid, we had just one phone in the house. It was the family phone, and my parents had five girls in the house. Over the years, mostly as each of us became teenagers, and had more friends, and especially boyfriends, we wanted to be the first one to the phone. It was especially important to get to the phone before our little sisters embarrassed us by talking to our friend or boyfriend and saying something that we might consider stupid or otherwise embarrassing…or simply embarrass us just by answering.

In our house, as in the homes of most of our friends, the younger kids just wanted to get to answer the phone once in a while too, but we assumed that it couldn’t be for them anyway, so they should just stay away from what we considered our own personal phone. I even recall being annoyed when the caller had the audacity to want to speak to one of my parents. What did they need to be talking about anyway. The older generation couldn’t possibly have anything important to talk about…could they? At least that was what we thought, with our typically self centered teenaged minds. It wasn’t that we were selfish, because I don’t think we were, but all teenagers are self centered to a degree. They think of themselves and their needs, as well as their insecurities, which were the main reasons that we didn’t want our younger siblings, or even our parents to answer the phone. You just never knew what they might say.

These days, with the invention of cell phones, we all have our own phone to answer, and most of the time, we don’t want to answer the phone for someone else, because that is…just annoying. Still, with the dawning of Facebook, and the fact that our friends can also reach us there, has come a new, and sometimes even better way for siblings to embarrass us in front of our friends…hacking our page. So, in that way, the kids of today can say, “I’ve got it.” And I guess they do.

I’m sure that most people have seen the movie, Twister. It is a personal favorite of mine. There is one line in the movie, where Aunt Meg said to Jo, that Bill always went his own way, which was usually the same way Jo was going. Well, I can’t say that Bob was going his own way, or that I was, but I can say that we were usually going in the same direction. Maybe that is the key to it, I don’t know, but I like that Bob and I like to do the same things. I never have to find a hiking partner, because Bob and I both love to hike. I don’t have to worry about a bowling partner, because we do it together. We both tend to like to be at home in the evenings…at least after that evening walk, and of course, we both love our family. I think the thing we most like to do though, is to be together. We are best friends, and I like that very much.

Of course, there are a few things that Bob likes to do that I really don’t, such as mechanics. Bob is an excellent mechanic, and has spent the majority of his life working on cars. They say that if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I think for Bob that is a true statement. He really loves mechanics…from the diagnostics to the dirt…he loves it all. I personally don’t want to be all greasy and dirty, but Bob just doesn’t seem to mind, and you just can’t spend much time under a car without getting grease and road dirt all over yourself. All I ask is that he doesn’t wear something that I care about, because after one car, any great shirt he is wearing is no longer very nice. Nevertheless, he sure does clean up nicely.

These days, Bob is trying to wrap his head around the fact that he has been retired for a full year. Of course, he can’t really say that he is retired, because he is still doing the same work…just in a different location. Now he does all his mechanic work at home. I’m glad that he has that, because I think he would go stir crazy if he was just sitting around. Mechanics is what he loves, and I’m sure it is what he will always be doing. If I want him to myself, I still have to take him out of town, where he doesn’t have cars to work on. The good news is of course, I always know where to find Bob…out in the garage. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday sweetie!! Have a great day!! I love you!!

After a spring filled with pneumonia for my husband, Bob and bronchitis for me, our annual hiking trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota was in question. Not the trip itself really, but the normal amount of hiking that we do, and the trails we normally take. We had determined that our favorite trail, up to Harney Peak was simply out of the question, and our early hikes were the Willow Creek trail, and two days on the Mickelson trail, both considered easy trails. We did exceptionally well, and so we decided that today would be a day for a moderate trail. We used the AllTrails app to make our decision, and settled on the Sunday Gulch trail, which takes off from Sylvan Lake.

When we got to the trailhead, the sign said that it was a strenuous trail that was four miles long and was expected to take two to three hours to complete. The trail’s rating made us hesitate, but we decided that if it got too rough, we would turn around and head back. We began the trail with a down hill hike across the rocks, with handrails to keep you from slipping. Yes…it was that difficult. My instincts said, “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.” But, insanity won out, and we pressed on. The trail was beautiful, and the air was cool down in the gulch, despite the 90° temperatures up above. We had started the hike early enough, and expected to be done by 11:30am. As we continued down, using several handrails to cross the difficult rocks, I just kept hoping that we didn’t have to go back up those rocks.

After what we now know to be the last of the handrails, we came across the first people we would see. The were a young couple who told us the were beginning hikers. We asked if they had hiked this trail before. They had not, but they told us that the trail ahead was a gradual uphill hike…mostly anyway…with no handrails. My mind felt instant relief. It was short lived. Yes, the hike was a gradual uphill…some of the way, and no, there were no handrails. That doesn’t mean that the hike was easy. Granted we were not in the same shape we had been in years past, but I had hoped that we were in better shape than it seemed we were. The 11:30am mark came and went, with us being apparently no closer to the end of the trail. We were close to the road at times, but there was no guarantee that it would be an easier hike. As we climbed I thought about two things. First, I had probably chosen a trail that was too hard for us. Second, that we were actually more that three quarters of the way through that trail, and while we were tired, we were making it. We were making it!! When we finally reached the end of the trail at 12:30pm, we felt a sense of pride in our accomplishment. We had broken through a barrier, and we made it back. It was the most strenuous, moderate trail we have ever hiked, but we did it, it was beautiful…and that’s what it’s all about.

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