smile

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My niece, Toni Chase is such a sweet natured person. She truly cares about the people around her…and especially their feelings. Toni and her husband, Dave Chase love to travel, going to many exotic places, as well as lots of football games. Dave is a football fanatic, so he and Toni have gone to many games, especially in Arizona…which would be a great place to go during the cold winter months in Wyoming. It’s also nice for Dave’s brother when they come to Arizona, because he gets to spend time with them.

Lately, however, they have been sticking a little bit closer to home. Dave’s dad has Alzheimer’s Disease or some type of dementia, and so he and Toni have spent quite a bit of time in Laramie, helping his mom and making sure that his dad knows how much they love him. The sad thing about dementia of any kind is that the recent past is forgotten, so if a patient is going to know you, you must go often. Having dealt with it myself, I know what they are going through, but they are kind-hearted, loving people, and they will get through this, and make a difference in his parents’ lives. Of course, while they are in Laramie, they managed to take in a few football games too.

When they are in town, Toni likes to be a homebody, when she isn’t working. They have two dogs that they absolutely love. Toni spoils the dogs, cooking for them just like they were her kids. When it snowed this last time, she and Dave went into the back yard and shoveled out a maze for the dogs. They just loved it. They ran back and forth excitedly, getting plenty of exercise for the day. My sister, Cheryl said it was really funny to watch. Most of us would get lost in a maze, but dogs can track their way out and back, so they had a blast. And of course, the snow wasn’t so deep that Toni and Dave couldn’t see over it…to rescue their babies, should they get lost.

For some time, Toni has run an eBay story, where she refurbishes items that anyone else would have thought junk. Now, however, she’s been phasing out her eBay store, because she is too busy with the dogs. My sister fared pretty well from that, because she got to go to Toni’s house a few weeks ago to “shop” for anything she might like. Toni is such a giver. Cheryl came home with a purse full of costume jewelry and a dozen purses! She is very kind in sharing all the treasures she has accumulated over the past few years. And speaking of being a giver, her sister Liz Masterson is reminded of the first job Toni got as a teenager, her greatest joy was to take her siblings shopping. How many teenagers would do that? Most of them want the job to buy things for themselves, but not Toni. Oh sure she got things for herself too, but her first thought was of her siblings. She loves to make people smile. What a great way to be. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Imagine, if you can these days, a world without photography. Cameras are almost always at our fingertips now. We don’t need to carry a camera with us, we have our phones, and we are able to take all the pictures we want. We can document everything from the birth of our children, to a pretty sunset in the back yard. We document our smiles, frowns, and totally shocked looks. In so many ways, personal photography has changed our lives, but one way in particular is in documenting history. Most people don’t think our what they are doing as documenting history exactly, but it certainly can be. People have captured plane crashes, rocket launches, car accidents, forest fires, volcano eruptions, and earthquakes…just to name a few. Those things might not be history today, but in a couple of years, they are, and in many cases, one person had the only picture of the historic event.

Would history be documented without photography? Of course, but it would happen by word of mouth, and later the written word…newspapers, books and such. The problem with that is that those accounts can only tell the part of history that someone saw or was a part of. But, what if they missed something? Humans so often miss the small details, but a camera or video camera, doesn’t miss as much. Once a picture is taken, an event is documented…and every small detail can be re-examined at will. Pictures have made the difference between knowing the cause and never knowing the cause. Pictures have proven fault without a doubt. They have been the difference between an innocent person being falsely accused, and getting to the truth.

These days, with a camera built into our phone, we can, and do, document many events of our lives. And we document history…some of it amazing, and some of it devastating. It’s all part of the ability to capture things in real time. You have to take the bad with the good, because unfortunately, not all of history is beautiful. Some of it is completely ugly, but it still needs to be documented. Pictures have become necessary, because without photography, much of the full documentation of history would be lost.

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.

As a little boy, my grandson, Caalab Royce was always smiling, laughing, telling jokes, and of course, teasing his sister, Shai Royce, who didn’t always appreciate her younger brother’s sense of humor. In fact, there was a time when she was very willing to sell him at auction!! Shai was sure that she would never get along with her brother, and she would always want to send him back, sell him, or ship him off somewhere. The teasing never has stopped, but Shai’s dislike of her brother certainly has. These days she thinks of him as her best friend, and she knows that his teasing is just who he is and that he will always love his sister.

Caalab has a smile that lights up his whole face. And whenever I saw it, my heart would just melt. He was one boy who grabbed a hold of your heart and hung on tight. It was hard to be angry at his antics, when he flashed that smile. I think that might have been what Shai finally saw in her brother too, once she got beyond the “annoyance years.” That time came when they were teenagers. I remember stopping by their house one day, and there they were, sitting on the steps, actually talking…not fighting. It was a shocking moment, but also a wonderful moment. It was a moment I knew would come at some point, nevertheless, it was still unexpected.

These days, Caalab is all grown up. He and his sister are still best friends, but much has changed in life again. Caalab, who works full time at Red Robin in Bellingham, Washington is a responsible man who can always be counted on at work and with people. That part really hasn’t changed much, because Caalab could always be counted on. Now what has changed is that he is so busy and lives so far away, that I don’t get to see him nearly as much as when he was a kid. I miss that very much, and sometimes I still tear up over that…but, I get to see him very soon, so that makes me very happy.

Caalab’s family all tell me the same thing about what’s going on in his life. They say, “He works a lot.” I told them that “all work and no play, makes Caalab a dull boy,” but I think there must be more than that. I think it might have something to do with a certain girl named Chloe Foster. Caalab and Chloe have been dating for a while now, and I have a feeling that all of that “lost” free time is being spent with Chloe. I can’t say that I blame him though, because I have heard nothing but good things about Chloe, and I can’t wait to meet her when we visit them. Recently Caalab took a little bit of time off from his busy schedule and dating life to stand as best man for his buddy’s wedding, and he sure looked very handsome. Today is Caalab’s birthday. Happy birthday Caalab!! Have a great day, and we will see you soon!! We love you!!

My uncle, Larry Byer was my mom, Collene Spencer’s older brother, and along with their younger brother, Wayne Byer, her best friends from her early childhood. They were the closest in age to her, and quickly became her usual playmates. Sometimes they got in trouble with their mom together, and other times her brothers were just sweet brothers who wanted to put a smile on their sister’s face. Mom always felt very blessed to be the sister in the middle of the brothers.

Uncle Larry was also a great blessing to his mom, Hattie Byer. When he had to move to Louisiana for work, he and Aunt Jeanette brought his mom down for a visit, and showed her a wonderful time. It’s unlikely that Grandma would have traveled to Louisiana if he had not lived there, so the trip was a bit of a bonus for her. Uncle Larry was not born on Mother’s Day, but his birthday has fallen on Mother’s Day many times since then, and I’m sure that it always felt like a bit of an extra blessing for Grandma on the years that it did.

Uncle Larry always had a great sense of humor, and a sweet nature. I always loved his laugh and he could sure tell a good joke. For as long as I can remember, Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette had a place out in the country. They built houses for their kids out there too, and when they moved to Louisiana, the kids stayed on the land. I always expected that they would move back on the land when he retired, but they didn’t do that. They bought a little house in Glenrock, and it was there they he lived out his days, and there that Aunt Jeanette is still living now. Uncle Larry has been in Heaven now for about seven and a half years now, and we all miss him very much. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. We love you.

Some people always have a calm look on their face, even if they are not smiling, they somehow manage not to be frowning. Things don’t really work that way for the concentrator…which is what I am. Concentrators tend to have a frown on their face, so people might think they are mad, when in fact, they are not. They might not have even noticed that anyone is looking at them, much less smiling at them. At least not until that person says something to them or writes them a note saying, of all things, “You really should smile!” For the concentrator, there is really no bigger insult. Maybe the person who said it, meant no harm, but if they thought about it, there are much nicer ways to get someone to smile.

In fact, the other day, while I was driving down second street in Casper, Wyoming, I saw a young man walking down the street. It was not a warm day, and the young man was bundled up in a coat and hat, but even with the distinct chill, to put it mildly, the young man has a smile on his face as he walked along. He wasn’t on the phone, or walking with someone else, and he wasn’t talking, so I could see no specific reason for the smile on his face.

I wondered what he was thinking about that would put a smile on his face. It didn’t matter really, because I smiled instinctively, because he was smiling. It didn’t matter what he was smiling about, his smile made me smile. It was sort of like the movie, Pay It Forward, except with smiles. I though about what a nice young man he might be, but whether I was right or not, didn’t make any difference. His smile told a tale all its own. A tale of Smiling it forward. It sounds silly, but that is what that young man did. His smile brought a smile to my face, and perhaps my smile brought a smile to the face of someone else, and so on…smiling it forward.

When I married into the Schulenberg family, I had no idea what the future would bring…we really never do. I just knew I was in love with my husband, Bob, and I liked his family very much too. Bob’s dad, Walt Schulenberg was quite a character, with a flair for teasing and joking with those people he liked. I liked him very much. In many ways, he was like my own dad, Al Spencer, and very much like my husband. They all loved to tease the “pretty girls,” as they would say, and it endeared them to every one of those girls too. Early on my father-in-law let me know what life in the Schulenberg family was going to be like. The first time I met him, he started teasing, and I sent much of the time red face, but not upset, because was used to it after all. My father-in-law was a happy man, and he liked to see the positive things in life. He had a great smile, and he wasn’t afraid to use it. Anyone who knew him, would tell you he was truly an amazing man.

My father-in-law, who quickly became Dad, and the second great father figure in my life, was a hard working man…almost a workaholic, except that as important as his family was to him, he made sure to spend good quality time with all of us too. He loved my mother-in-law, Joann with all his heart, and his kids and grandkids a very close second. When his kids were young, he learned the value of spending time with family, when he was working out of town, and his daughter Brenda didn’t know him. That was it. He got a job closer to home. He loved being a grandpa and great grandpa, and I wish he could have been here to be a great great grandpa. He loved to make things for the kids, and they all loved the things he made.

He could make or build just about anything he put his mind to…from wooden toys and spinners, to a garage, and even a house. He was a mechanic by trade (among other things), and he could fix just about anything. It was a trade he would pass to his sons and grandsons, and one that as served them all well. Having a mechanic in the family is always a good thing. I think Dad knew that would be important, and that’s why he taught his boys. There were so many things he taught them and his daughters and granddaughters. We never dreamed that one day he wouldn’t be there to teach us any more, but five years ago today, Dad left us to go to Heaven. We had hoped that day would never come. It was a very sad day for us then, and it still is sad today. I know that one day we will see him again, but it doesn’t make it any easier to face the beginning of another year without him in it. We love and miss you Dad…every day.

My niece, Kellie Hadlock was practically born laughing, or to be more correct, giggling…and she hasn’t stopped since. Kellie was always happy, and simply couldn’t ever imagine going through life any other way. She loves a good joke, and sees humor in just about every situation. She can’t imagine going through her life without daily laughter, and we can’t imagine it either, because Kellie wouldn’t be Kellie without her giggles. They make her who she is.

Kellie became a successful insurance agent a few years ago, and was then given the opportunity to work in the insurance department of a title agency, which she has found to be very much to her liking. She has become a great asset to American Title Agency, where she now works, and her whole family is very happy for her. While insurance at a title agency is Kellie’s career, it is no her life. Her life belongs to God and praising Him in song.

Kellie is one of the lead singers at our church, Word Christian Fellowship. Kellie has a beautiful voice, and when it is paired with her love of the Lord, the songs take on an air of the angelic. That’s Kellie’s voice…just beautiful!! Of course, Kellie’s beautiful voice comes from her beautiful spirit. I have continued to be so proud of how she has grown in her music ministry. She wanted to go into music ministry on a full time basis, but God has not moved her in that direction at this time. I think it is likely because she would probably have to travel to do that full-time, and while that would be fun for a time, Kellie is very much a family person, and I don’t know how she would do with that in the long term.

Kellie loves being an aunt to her nephew, Ethan Hadlock and nieces, Aurora Hadlock, Adelaide Sawdon, and Mackenzie Moore, and it would be very hard to be far away from them all the time. She already has to be far away form Mackenzie, who lives in North Carolina, and that is really hard for the whole family. So it would be really hard to live far away form all of them. Kellie is also very close with her mom and dad, Allyn and Chris Hadlock, and loves spending time with them, especially at their place on Casper Mountain. In fact, I thing that is where she uses up many of her awesome giggles. The family loves to get together and laugh, sing, and just enjoy each others company. It’s a great life. Today is Kellie’s birthday. Happy birthday Kellie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Jenny Spethman is a sweet lady with a heart of gold. She is always kind to others and always wears a smile. This mom of four (plus one baby in Heaven) just never loses her hopeful joyous attitude. She greets each day…very early, often before the sunrise, so she can commune with God before the rush of activity that goes along with four active children and a busy husband. She relishes the beauty that God has created for those whose will rise up early. She looks for the beautiful things in God’s nature, in her family, and in her own heart, and she always finds them.

Jenny has such a flair for style, and she can see an outfit where the rest of us see a dud. She mixes a little of this style with a little of that style, and it comes out stunning…always stunning. Maybe it’s the girl wearing the outfit that makes the outfit, in fact, I believe that is the true fact of the matter. I wish I had her flair for putting things together, because no one ever has the same outfit as Jenny does, and yet she is always in style. Her little girl, Aleesia has also benefitted from her mom’s great style, because she always looks so cute in her outfits, and she is always in style too.

Jenny is a true blue friend. No matter what her friends might need, they can count on Jenny to be there…through the good, bad, and the ugly. And because she is a true friend, Jenny has ben blessed with some really good friends too. Jenny’s personality draws people to her and everyone wants to be Jenny’s friend. That is a gift. I think people can see kindness in a person, and that makes that person someone they want to be around. I think that is really what drew her husband, Steve Spethman to her in the first place. They were friends before anything else, and they remain best friends to this day. Of course, for anyone who has been married a long time, you know that friendship is the cornerstone of a good marriage…and without it, the marriage is already on shaky ground.

Jenny has been so blessed with three wonderful sons, who are growing up to be good young men. She was also blessed with two daughters, one of which is in Heaven waiting for the day she can see her mom and dad again, and the other is a source of laughter and joy to them every day on this Earth. For Jenny, everyday is another day in a wonderful life. Today is Jenny’s birthday. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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.

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