photography

My niece, Ashley Parmely joined our family when she married my nephew, Eric Parmely in 2011. Since that time, much has changed in Eric’s life, as well as the entire family. Eric and Ashley have three daughters, Reagan, Hattie, and Maeve; and a son, Bowen. Ashley is almost half way through her second year of homeschooling her two oldest daughters, Reagan and Hattie. Bowen attends the Montessori School for pre-school, where he will attend for one more year. Maeve will start there next year for two years. After that, Ashley plans to homeschool all four of their children. I think she is doing an amazing job as the teacher, and I think the whole family is very proud of her for sticking to it.

Hard work is not something that is new to Ashley. As a farm girl, she has many jobs. She not only takes care of her home and children and homeschools the children, she also feeds and cares for the farm animals, milks the cow and goats, collects the eggs, helps her husband and dad, Albert Eighmy unload and stack hay for their farm animals. I can’t imagine everything that goes into having farm animals, but I know that you have to clean up after them, and feed them, and those that have to be milked, must be milked twice a day. It means early mornings and sometimes late evenings. When babies arrive, they don’t always come at the perfect time, and sometimes they need help, so sometimes she is up all night with the animals. Don’t get me wrong, Eric helps too, but Ashley works very hard, nevertheless. It is really beyond what I can imagine doing every day, but for Ashley, it’s just another day in paradise.

There are fun times too. Ashley loves to take pictures, and so she plans events so that she can document the events. Her photography is excellent. She really has an eye for just how to set up a shot, and also for seeing the shot in a spontaneous situation. We have all enjoyed watching her family grow up in the pictures she posts on Facebook. We have all enjoyed spending time with them too, at the monthly family dinners that Ashley suggested to bring our family closer together. They have been such a blessing, and we have been able to get to know their kids better. Even little Maeve, who is rather bashful, is growing more comfortable around all of us. She was a baby of the Covid era, so she was not used to being around people. These dinners have been good for her…for all of us.

Ashley has been a wonderful part of our family. She has such a good imagination and we have all enjoyed her great ideas. Ashley’s personality is all about happiness and family. We all knew Ashley was a perfect fit in our family from the moment we met her, and we were not wrong. We look forward to many more years together. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece Cassie Iverson is spending her first birthday without her mom. My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg went to Heaven on January 19, 2021, after suffering a stroke. It’s been a hard year for Cassie so far, as anyone who has lost a parent can attest. Really that first whole year is the hardest. All the firsts without your parent. Cassie and her mom were just the two of them from the time her mom was 16 years old. They were so close. I could say that they were best friends, but they weren’t Rachel was the mom and Cassie was the daughter. They were closer than just friends could be. A person has enough friends, and can always make more, but a mother is a treasure, and you truly only get one.

Life changed, as life does. Rachel got married and had two sons, Cassie’s half-brothers, Riley and Tucker. Then they divorced and Rachel was a single mom again. Just her and her kids. Cassie was older then, and she and her mom grew closer. Rachel watched as her beautiful daughter grew and found new interests. Sure, there were difficult times…teenaged years, sibling fights, and such, but Rachel loved her kids and they all knew that they were going to be ok.

When Cassie got married and had babies of her own, Rachel was so proud. She loved her grandchildren beyond measure. Rachel was also very proud of her only daughter. Cassie is a very talented photographer, and Rachel would often tell me about her photography trips. She was just so proud of Cassie. She was also so proud of the mother Cassie was. She watched as Cassie raised Lucas, who was born with Down Syndrome. Cassie became the best advocate for her son. Cassie is a real fighter when it comes to her children, Lucas and his little sister, Zoey, and that made Rachel so proud. She knew that Cassie would give her children the best life she possible could. Cassie learned about being a mom from the best…her own mom, Rachel.

Life without her mom will never be the same for Cassie…she will always miss her mom. It is impossible not to, but I hope she also knows just how proud her mother was of her. Often when we spoke on the phone, Rachel would tell me, with pride in her voice, about the wonderful accomplishments of her daughter. Photography, kids, camping…another thing they both loved, and so much more. Cassie, your mom is in Heaven, but she is still watching over you, and she is still so proud of everything you have accomplished. I know this year is a tough one, but remember that she lives on in your heart. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! Your mom would want that for you. We love you!!

In a world where we have all become professionals at photography, carrying our cameras with us all the time, because they are built into our phone, the selfie picture has become the norm in society. We use every version of facial expression from a smile, to a pout, to a look of shock, to a look of anger…real or faked. We use no smile, a toothy grin, or a soft closed-mouth smile, or we might even pucker up, or stick out our tongue. The idea of the unusual or even ridiculous smile is as commonplace as is picture taking itself.

It wasn’t always so, however. When we look at pictures from the early days of photography, the people almost always appear straight-faced, and almost angry. Many people theorized that they didn’t smile because they had bad teeth. It was all too common prior to the days of modern dentistry. As it turns that wasn’t the case, since there were plenty of individuals who had fabulous teeth, yet still kept their mouths shut during pictures. Not to mention, humans can smile without showing their teeth. Another theory was that that because the cameras of old took time to set up and had a long exposure period, anywhere from five minutes to more than 30. It was impractical to hold a smile so long. While that idea does make sense, it doesn’t explain why subjects were rarely depicted smiling in old paintings or why people didn’t start showing their pearly whites in the 1840s when exposure times for photos were under a minute. While these issues might have prevented some from smiling, the major reason for the serious looks was because most people thought smiling made them look ridiculous. Ultimately, the real reason folks didn’t smile was because they thought it made them look stupid. Many people don’t think they have a great smile. They think their smile makes them look goofy, and they didn’t want that to be how they were remembered. Mark Twain summed it up best when he said, “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”

These days, that thought is ridiculous. People smiled and laughed in those days, so how could it make them look ridiculous? I find it funny that in different eras, different things are cool or not cool, or even ridiculous. It would seem that each generation has their own uniqueness, and often the prior generation things they are crazy…as do the future generations. According to Nicholas Jeeves, who wrote an extensive article on the topic, by the 17th century “it was a well-established fact that the only people who smiled broadly, in life and in art, were the poor, the lewd, the drunk, the innocent, and the entertainment.” These days, we smile in photos to show happiness or warmth, but back then it was viewed as the equivalent of duckface…a look no self-respecting Victorian would want recorded. As photography advanced and became more common, folks didn’t have to choose a single expression to serve as their memorial for the ages, which opened them up to showing a range of expressions in photos. Still, we can only imagine what the people of the past would think of the hundreds of thousands of pics that are now taken every minute, complete with our foolish smirks, photobombs, and even goofy filtered selfies.

My grand nephew, Topher Spicer is a typical teenager who like to hang out with his friends. They like to go long boarding and walking around. Topher loves long boarding, and he is very good at it. He is always practicing his moves, and that leads to greatly improved skill levels, but that doesn’t mean that the only thing you need is practice, because that isn’t true. Lots of people practice things and some still have no talent. It takes a certain amount of talent. Topher has talent.

Topher’s talent doesn’t stop at the long board though. Topher is an artist. He does his drawing on the computer, but the drawing is all him. I’ve tried to draw on a computer, and believe me that is also not where my talent lies. People who are artists have the pictures in their head, long before they appear on the paper or the screen. Art takes a number of forms too. Photography is an art, but not everyone can take a photo that anyone would call art. Topher has a pretty good eye when it comes to photography, and one of his favorite subjects is his dog, Buttercup. Buttercup is a silky terrier, and like all pet parents, Topher loves his Fur Baby. They hang out together, and Buttercup is totally content doing whatever Topher wants to. It doesn’t get better than that, does it.

Topher is going into high school this year. The thing I notice the most about Topher is that he is getting so tall. His mom tells me that he is polite and smart, and always makes her so proud. He is a good student, and is looking forward to the cool things that high school will bring. High school is a turning point for kids. They get to spread their wings and start to decide where they want their lives to go. It’s going to be an exciting year. Today is Topher’s 14th birthday. Happy birthday Topher!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Liz Masterson is a gifted teacher of high school journalism. She is also a gifted photographer. I suppose the two things go together in many ways, but I don’t know if most journalists are also gifted photographers. This dual career that Liz has keeps her very busy. If she is not grading papers, she is taking pictures of the sporting events at the school for the annual and the Kelly Kall. During the school year, she has very little time to do much else.

Nevertheless, on Thursday nights, Liz; her mom, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; Liz’s niece, Aleesia Spethman; and I go to dinner. We try to go different places, so that we don’t get bored, but the reality is that we just enjoy spending time together. Liz has many interests, and we enjoy hearing about the challenging subjects she addresses with her students. I think they do too, because most of her students become her lifelong friends. I think very few teachers can say that. Most teachers prepare their students for graduation and the next step in their lives, and then they slowly fade into the student’s past. Liz is very different. Her students don’t want her to fade into the past. They want to always be able to share the great things they do in life with their favorite teacher.

In her off-time, Liz is a mommy to her fur babies. Her puppies, Luka, Scout, and Buffy; and her cat, Professor McGonagall…usually known as Kitty. Liz loves her fur babies, and feels bad that she has to leave them during the day to go to work, so if she ends up working at night, as teachers often do, her puppies get to go to the grandma, Cheryl’s house to play with her puppy, Missy. It’s almost comical to me, because I’m not used to seeing puppies need a babysitter for an evening, but these are Liz’s fur babies, and she wants the best for them. And what baby doesn’t want to spend time with their grandma when their mommy can’t be home to play. When Liz is home, she and her fur babies have the best times playing together. Today is Liz’s birthday. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Cassie Iverson is a patient, loving mother of two beautiful children 6 year old Lucas, and 2 year old Zoey. She loves to go camping with the family, and they go as often as they can, because Cassie is a photographer, and is drawn to the beautiful side of life. Much of her photography is of nature, which appeals to me very much, as a nature lover too. Good photography requires an eye for staging. It’s strange to thing of staging the shot for nature, but things like what is centered, how much to zoom, and good lighting are vital to taking a great picture. Cassie has that eye for staging, and so her pictures come of beautiful and they draw you into the scene.

She takes pictures of her children and of other people too, and she has a great eye for staging those photos too, but her real love for photography lies in photographing nature. It makes perfect sense, since she loves to be camping more than living in town. She and her husband, Chris like to fish and camp out with the kids…showing them all the beauty that nature has to offer. While she loves photography, Cassie’s kids really are her whole heart.

Her son, Lucas has had some medical issues over the past few years and so now the family is looking to move to a bigger city where the necessary medical facilities are available. They have looked in Montana, Colorado, and Tennessee. At this point, it looks like Tennessee might be the best place for them, so they are hoping to move sometime this summer. I know that many people in the family would rather have them in Montana or Colorado, but that may not be feasible. Time will tell I guess, and we will have to see where they land. Of course, if they move to Tennessee, we will all miss them, but thankfully Facebook can keep us in the loop with their lives. The most important thing for the family is to be near enough to good medical care for Lucas, so they don’t have to travel every time he needs surgery or other treatments. One thing that is for sure, this move, no matter where it takes them, will open up a whole new world of photography vistas for Cassie. I can’t wait to see the pictures she will take now. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In my niece, Elizabeth “Liz” Masterson’s 14 year teaching career she has molded the minds of about 1680 students. I’m sure that there were some students she couldn’t change much, but many others have been forever changed for the better because of Liz’s teaching abilities. Of course, there are always those special students…who really pull out the best Liz has to give. Those students have stayed friends with Liz since they were students. She has been invited to their weddings, baby showers, and they have remained friends on Facebook, because Liz is the kind of teacher they never want to forget.

Many of her students call Liz, Mast or Miss Mast. It isn’t a derogatory name, but rather a show of respect. It is, of course, the first part of her last name, but the respect is in the way the students say the name. Liz likes the name so much that she even named her photography sideline business, Miss Mast Photography. I think it is a term that shows her how much they like her as a teacher, and that shows in the lifelong friendships she has made with her students.

Liz is an amazing teacher, and she is interested in so many things. Her students see how passionate she is about teaching, an how knowledgeable she is on the subjects she teaches. I have had the opportunity to listen to Liz as she talked about the yearly Holocaust section she does, and as she spoke, I found myself shocked at how much she knew. I always thought of myself as pretty knowledgeable about the Holocaust, but I am finding out that she could easily teach me quite a bit. I think that is what you get when you combine an inquisitive mind with a teacher. Liz is a great teacher, and her students will tell you that she definitely makes learning fun. I wish I could have had Liz be my teacher, but that would have been impossible, unless she decides to leave the high school arena, and teach college, and I took a class.

Liz is also mom to her four little Fur Babies…dogs, Luka, Scout and Buffy, and her cat, Piper…AKA Kitty. Liz is as good a mommy as she is a teacher. If her babies are spoiled, it is with love. They have to be at the house alone during the day, while Liz is working, so at night she really hates to leave them alone. If she has to be at an event, she usually takes the dogs to her mom, my sister Cheryl Masterson’s house, so she can babysit them. And they totally love that she does that. I think it makes them feel very special. Kitty stays home, because she likes the peace and quiet for a while. Yes, I guess they are just a little bit spoiled, but she likes to think she is molding their minds too. Today is Liz’s birthday. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When my daughter, Amy Royce and her family moved out to the Pacific Northwest, it was initially to get away from the cold Wyoming winters, but it has been an amazing adventure for them in many ways. Amy always loved the rainforests and the beaches too, so the Pacific Northwest was the perfect location for her. In the two years since they moved to Washington, they have been hiking the amazing trails in the area, and of course, enjoying the sunsets by the water. Amy also had the opportunity to go to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which is an awesome spring display of tulips…acres and acres of tulips. It is a beautiful sight. I got to see it years ago, when my sister lived in that area, but I look forward to seeing it again with Amy.

In the two years that Amy has lived in Washington, I have seen her creative side simply blossom. She has done a few sessions at one of the places where you paint and have wine, and she liked it so much that her husband, Travis bought her a set of paints and an easel. Amy’s creative side just bubbled out of her. Every new painting is better than the last. I wish I had such talent. She and her sister Corrie Petersen, both seem to have inherited that talent…but they did not get it from me, hahaha!! Amy also loves to take pictures of the area she lives in, and posts them to her Facebook. They are beautiful, and since I love photography, I’ll take a little credit and say that she inherited that ability from me…whether it’s true or not. The pictures she takes while hiking are amazing, and the subject matter doesn’t hurt anything either. Still, the eye of the photographer is the main part of great photography.

While we wish that she lived closer to us, we always look forward to the trips we take out to see her and her family. Since we love to hike too, we went on a few of the trails while we were there the last time, but the next time we go, it will be in the summer, and we are going to have her take us to some of the places she went last month, because those places were stunning. It’s funny, because Amy was never so much the hiker. She usually went to the gym for her exercise, and suddenly she likes to get out in nature too. Something I find totally awesome. Today is Amy’s birthday. Happy birthday Amy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Chris and CassieMy niece, Cassie Iverson has been into taking pictures for a while now, and lately, her husband, Chris has really been getting into photography too. Both of them have always loved nature, camping, fishing, and just enjoying time spent outdoors. I can relate to that, because my husband, Bob and I feel the same way…at least about being outdoors…not so much camping and fishing. Anyone who has spent much time relaxing in nature, will naturally be drawn to the photography of nature, because the beauty of it is something you always want to hang on to. Photography allows us to hang on to those memories. In fact, I saw a saying once that really describes the way a photographer feels, “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” Our memories can be so quickly lost, if we have done nothing to preserve them.
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I think that is something Chris and Cassie both understand. They are both very hands on parents. Having a developmentally disabled child and a child who is not disabled, is quite a handful, but they manage very well. Chris has taken to dancing around the living room with the kids. That is a cool thing, because they develop a love of music and get some exercise. I’m thankful that he is so helpful, because having kids is a lot of work, and if the dad isn’t really involved, it takes a toll on the mom. Kids need both parents to be involved in their lives, because they learn different things from each parent. They also like to have special lunches with the kids. Including the kids in activities is a great way to make the kids a part of everything. It’s all part of living life.

Chris fishingAs to Chris’ own hobbies, he is a sportsman, so fishing gear and guns are simply a part of the plan. Chris likes to make sure his guns are in perfect working condition, so he makes sure they are properly cleaned. Anyone who is a gun enthusiast knows that having a dirty gun, can be bad in so many ways. It may misfire or worse, if it is not properly cleaned. I think that for most people in Wyoming, if you don’t own or appreciate guns, you are very strange. And the people in our family are definitely gun enthusiasts. Chris also likes to work on his Blazer, although it has been giving him so trouble lately. As I told Cassie, mechanics is a never ending story. There is always something that needs to be worked on. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

11049518_10153434865744375_6157679234810072872_n1915199_10153821586879375_5784042149572805962_nResearching one’s family history can be rewarding in that you find out so much about your past, but it can also be rewarding in the present. Of course, I’m talking about connecting with family members that you never knew existed before. I am happy to say that my own family research has connected me with many cousins and other relatives in the years I have be searching. It would be impossible to list them all here, or at one time anyway, so I have to talk about different ones when I find something wonderful about them.

Today, because it’s her birthday, I began thinking about my second cousin once removed, Elizabeth Schumacher Nordquist. A few years ago when I stumbled upon the Schumacher side of my family, and we became friends, I began looking through all the relatives of my Schumacher cousins. It has opened up a whole new world for me. I wish I could spend time with all of them a lot, but distance prevents that, unfortunately. Nevertheless, Elizabeth is much like me in so many ways, and I feel a connection to her because of it. One of the things we are alike in, that has been such a blessing to me is the love of photography. Elizabeth is an excellent photographer, and when I look at her photos, I really feel like I am looking at the scene through her eyes. Not everyone has the ability to capture such amazing moments.

Her favorite subjects are her two beautiful daughters, Addi and Meadow, which is another way that we are alike, because I too have two daughters. She takes such amazing pictures of her girls, and when I look at them, and the fact that she has captured so much of who these girls are, I feel like I have known them all their lives, and yet, I have never met them. That is the mark of a great photographer…to bring out the essence of their subject. Of course, Elizabeth is also a pretty good storyteller. She has shared enough about her girls to where I can see their personalities in their faces when she photographs them. I suppose that is why their very essence comes out in the photographs, but all I can say is that for family who lives far away, she has given the gift of the ability to know her and her family even though we have never met in person.
12376479_10153797368429375_6312439742115764809_nAddi & Meadow
Elizabeth homeschools her girls, and that has been a blessing to the girls and to her sisters, Grace Oltman and Angel Pallas too, because Elizabeth has been able to babysit for them, and through that, I have been able to see pictures of Angel’s daughter, Hazel and Grace’s son, Hosea. Through Elizabeth’s eyes, and her photographic ability I have gained a connection to all of them. What an amazing gift Elizabeth has, and how very blessed I am to know her. Today is Elizabeth’s birthday. Happy birthday Elizabeth!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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