My niece, Chantel Balcerzak is a very creative person. I think that much of her ability to be creative comes from the beauty that lives within her spirit. Chantel can look at a room and see something in it that most people can’t see. All she has to do is look for a few minutes, and the room presents itself to her with all of the hidden beauty that only she can see. I have looked at rooms that she has designed, and I am always amazed at how beautiful they are. Recently, Chantel decided to redecorate her mom, Cheryl Masterson’s bathroom, and when she was done, it was beautiful. Chantel simply looked at the walls, and the bouquets of flowers appeared in her head. She in turn freehand painted them onto the walls, and they were perfect. Each bouquet was delicate and elegant. Cheryl was delighted with how the bathroom turned out, and everyone can see why.

These days, Chantel is enjoying her second career…a combination of wedding décor and interior design. She decorates for weddings, but often plans them too. She has a natural ability to make the wedding perfect for each bride and groom. From the bouquets and floral arrangements, to centerpieces, candles, and ribbons to bring the romance to life. When Chantel puts a wedding together, it is a wedding to remember. Not only does Chantel design weddings and rooms, but she refurbishes furniture too. Sometimes I am completely amazed at the many abilities she has. Everyone has gift at which they excel, I’m told, and this is definitely Chantel’s gift, as anyone can see.

Chantel’s personal life has taken a “career change” too, in that she is now a grandmother to four little grandchildren, Alice Price, Izabella Harman, Jaxx Harman, and Reece Balcerzak. These babies are very special to her and she, like every grandparent, doesn’t know what she would do without them. Grandchildren are the blessings we receive for having children bring parents, and they are awesome!! Chantel, who was called Teensy by her grandfather, my dad, Allen Spencer, has carried on the tradition with her granddaughter, Izabelle, who quickly became Tinkerbelle, and finally just Tink…which completely suits her. She is tiny, with great big eyes, and a bouncy, even sassy attitude, just like Tinkerbell…or maybe just like her grandma, who was much the same as a child. Whatever the case may be, Chantel is totally happy with those babies. Today is Chantel’s birthday. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Gabby Beach finished her service in the Navy, and now it is her time to finish her education. Gabby was a corpsman in the Navy, and so have decided to go for a nursing degree. She and her husband, Allen decided to make Casper, Wyoming their home for the college years, because Casper College has a great nursing program, and it places them close to family…something they haven’t had since they joined the Navy. This semester will find Gabby taking the prerequisites, for the nursing program, which is no small class load. In addition, she will be taking a PE class, which, for Gabby, is a walk in the park. She is a fitness fanatic. She looks great, and she could take on any physical challenge issued. In fact, she is also taking the certification to become a personal trainer. I think it would be very easy for Gabby to have three careers. Nursing, Personal Trainer, and Dog Training for service dogs. She is quite good at all three.

Another nice thing about moving to Wyoming for school, is the fact that there are lots of places to go hiking, and that is something that Gabby and Allen like to do. They have traveled the world, and I’m sure they have hiked lots of places too. I’m sure that Wyoming is pretty unique when compared to the places they have lived. While Wyoming has its own kind of beauty, I’m sure it is much more rustic than any other place they have lived. They have settled in an apartment on my sister, Caryl Reed, and her husband Mike’s retirement home outside of Casper, and they are really enjoying the quietness of country living. I don’t think that any of the places Gabby has lived before go much snow, and she was out shoveling and seemingly having a good time doing it. Most of us, who have lived in Wyoming for any length of time, know that shoveling snow is pretty low on the list of things most fun to do. But, once again, Gabby has proven that she is not most people. She tends to embrace to unknown or unusual.If she were like most people, I have a feeling that she would not have loved to exercise either. I have a feeling that it was Gabby’s uniqueness that first attracted Allen to her…other that her beauty. And Gabby is beautiful. Today is Gabby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gabby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Aunt EvelynBeing the oldest child and a girl, often places her in a position of seeming to be very sophisticated. They always get to do the cool things first, and they are the first one to have friends who aren’t related. It can serve to make the younger children a little jealous, even if they do love their sister dearly. And in my mom’s family…with nine children…there were a lot of them to be jealous. The younger ones always think that the oldest gets all the good stuff.

Such was the case with my Aunt Evelyn and her younger siblings. Aunt Evelyn had a circle of friends who always did a lot of fun things together. Their parents took turns hosting parties and the girls got to do a number of cool things. When the time came for Aunt Evelyn’s turn, Grandma and Grandpa Byer rented the North Casper Club House and threw a Taffy Pull Party. Now I can totally understand how the younger kids would feel jealous about that, because they could see and smell the candy cooking and they would get none of it. What kid wouldn’t have a problem with that? All the kids I know sure would. First of all, candy is a little kids world a lot of the time, and then to add insult to injury, Aunt Evelyn's Graduation picture_editedthey weren’t going to be included in the festivities. The party was a big success, and was talked about for a long time, but by the time the other kids got to be that age, the parties were also not the big thing anymore. Or maybe it was just that Aunt Evelyn’s circle of friends, all of whom were quite social, liked doing special things. Whatever it was, the rest of the children were quite jealous…when they were little.

The years have gone by now, and that childish jealousy is a thing of the past. I don’t really think they were ever really jealous of Aunt Evelyn…at least not after a momentary passing thing, because they have always been really close. While childish jealousy fades, sophistication and beauty of spirit continue on forever. Like their sister, the rest of my aunts and uncles became wonderful people, each with their own kind of talent, and special beauty, both in person and spirit. Each wanted the best for their siblings, and loved them dearly. As children, we think that one or the other sibling might be getting something more or better, but later we realize that our parents loved us all the same. I think that had the other children been a part of such a circle of friends, as my Aunt Evelyn was, George & Evelyn Hushman, Collene & Allen SpencerGrandma and Grandpa would have made a way to do the same kind of special party for them too. That was just how they were.

Today is Aunt Evelyn’s 86th birthday. While the years have so quickly passed, I am here to tell you that the sophistication, charm, and beauty has not. Aunt Evelyn is still a very social person, capable of putting together quite a wingding. Her sweet personality and loving kindness are always looking to make sure that others have what they need. She is a loving wife, who takes great care of her husband, my Uncle George, and makes the lives of all those around her beautiful with her ways. Happy birthday Aunt Evelyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Icy WatersWhen I think of glaciers and icebergs, I often think of the Titanic. Sailing into an area that is filled with floating ice has a tendency to take your mind down that road. Of course, the icebergs we saw were not of the size that the Titanic hit, at least not the ones we got very near to. We were also traveling quite slowly, and in daylight, making it easier to see if there is a dangerous piece of ice that we need to maneuver around. Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, lived a little picture of Titanic sinking beneath the water. It wasn’t that I was afraid, because I wasn’t, but rather a matter of being able to relate to the situation the Titanic was in, and knowing that no one was doing anything about it, when it was the Titanic heading into a death trap. I was thankful that so much more is known today about the damage that icebergs can cause, because it makes it possible for us to get close to these amazing natural ice sculptures, to view their amazing beauty, and yet, still remain safe.

As we sailed closer and closer to the Margerie Glacier, in Glacier Bay, I found myself completely in awe of the beauty God had created from ice. No human could have created Whale IcebergMargerie Glaciersomething so grand. As we came closer and closer, I couldn’t stop snapping pictures. I wanted to get every possible angle of the glacier. I wanted to forever fix it in my memory files. I wanted to be able to picture it in my mind…and I can. I think I will always be able to see the stunning blue color and the amazing crevasses. There is never enough time to see it for as long as you would like to, and all too soon, we had to move on. In all, we saw close up views of three glaciers, and distant views of countless others. The ice filled water began to disappear, and we couldn’t see the icebergs anymore. I found that I was feeling a little bit sad that our time at the glaciers was over. It felt like we had only just arrived, and now we were leaving.

Of course, I’ve seen glaciers before, but I simply don’t remember them being as beautiful as the ones we saw in Alaska. The colors were so stunning. It was almost like the blues were Glacier Colorspainted onto the ice. The Margerie Glacier is 21 miles long, beginning on Mount Root, at the Alaska/Canada border, and it is a mile wide. The sheer size of the glacier is amazing to me. And, of course, the other glaciers in Alaska are of similar size. The colors are that amazing blue that you see in the ocean waves. I loved looking at the glaciers and icebergs. It seemed so peaceful there, and yet in reality, they are constantly changing…they are a work in progress. Each day, chunks fall off, and they add snow often, so the beauty changes and changes. But one thing is for sure, no matter how they change, they never lose that beauty. And that is the memory that will live on in my memory files.

Dixie Lynn Byer_editedBy the time my Aunt Dixie joined the family, there were already seven children in it. That meant lots of help to take care of the new baby. If she was anything like she is today, my guess would be that she laughed easily and often. Aunt Dixie has never been a melancholy person, but rather always seems to look for the positive things in life. That is a trait that few people have these days, and one that will make her life always rich.

Aunt Dixie has a creative side to her too. She has a talent for making things that add a touch of beauty to her life and to those around her. I can remember the many family Christmas parties that Aunt Dixie and her family have put on, and her talent is easy to see. We have all been blessed by the things she and her family have made for those parties. They always bring something new to the feel of them.

Aunt Dixie has always loved living in the country, and has had her little farm for many years now. I remember when she came to the rescue of my sisters and me, when she took the chicken/rooster my mother ended up with after one of the kids brought it home from the fair. It was cute at first, of course, and Mom’s plan was to have eggs. Having chickens in town was against city ordinance, of course, but Mom didn’t think anyone would know, since it was just one chicken. Then it started crowing, much to the embarrassment of all the rest of the family. Finally Mom gave up and admitted that it was indeed a rooster. Then she had to figure out what to do with it. Aunt Dixie saved the day by adopting the rooster. IMG_0539Now, I’m sure he became fried chicken or chicken soup, but there are worse things in life…like having to listen to that rooster crowing every morning.

Aunt Dixie loves kids…especially her grandchildren. She has 5 grandsons, and then…finally, three short years ago, she received the granddaughter she had longed for. Now her life is complete…at least until the great grandbabies start coming, but that’s another story. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday!! Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As we head into the Christmas season, my mind wanders back in time, to when I was a child, and Christmas was drawing closer. Mom and Dad loved Christmas, so the tree went up as early as possible. Decorating our Christmas tree was always a big deal. Of course, back then, we had a real tree, in fact I don’t think there were any artificial trees back then. The evening started with Dad cutting the tree to the right height, so it wouldn’t bend at the ceiling, but somehow, with the star on top it would almost touch the ceiling. The house was filled with the wonderful scent of pine, and we were filled with anticipation.

Once the tree was up, Mom and Dad would string the lights and garland, while the room was filled with the voices of all of us as we sang Christmas Carols and ate the wonderful snacks Mom had prepared for the occasion. Finally it was time to start decorating the tree. Each of us girls had our own ideas on true tree beauty, and while we didn’t always agree on what that was, we all managed to work through our differences to create a tree that we were all happy with. And we always thought that the current year’s tree was the best ever…and maybe it was, because as we got older, I’m sure ornaments were more evenly spaced, and our choices of placement put more of the elegant ornaments in front.

Those days of family tradition and all of us being together have changed a lot over the years. As more of us married or had to work, the traditional Christmas decorating event changed until eventually it was completely unlike the ones I remember as a child, but the love and the spirit was always there. While each family has their own traditions now, and it is Jessi and some of the other grandkids who come to decorate the tree for Mom and Cheryl, to me it will always be Mom and Dad who really made Christmas what it was when I was a kid. Their love of the Lord and their love of His birthday surrounded our home at that time of the year. They showed us what the Christmas spirit was all about, at Christmas and all year round.

My parents have always loved the mountains much more than the lakes. Lakes are beautiful too, but in the summertime, they are hot, unless you spend every minute in the water, and the sun beats down on you all day long. On the other hand, the mountains are cooler because of the altitude and the many trees, and there is a feeling of peaceful relaxation that you just can’t get at the lake. The love of the mountains is something I share with my parents. I could hike through the trees for hours and never get tired of it.

Early in their marriage, Mom and Dad went up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and took the opportunity to ride the ski lift to the top of the ski area in the summertime. Bob and I have done that too, so I know how beautiful it is up there. The view of the Tetons, standing majestically in the distance is a view that many people have captured on film, simply because it is so breathtaking. You can see the beauty of the view, even in the black and white photos they had back then. Mom and Dad looked like they were having a wonderful time. If you have never taken a ride on a ski lift in the summertime, it is something I highly recommend, because you get a totally different picture of things without all the snow. And for me, no snow is a good thing.

Mom and Dad shared, with my sisters and me, the beauty that can be found in nature, and in my opinion, the mountains are one of the most beautiful places on earth. So many wonderful family outings have been spent right here on Casper Mountain. My parents felt like the mountains were so magestic, whether it was the towering peaks of the Tetons or the rolling hills of Casper Mountain or The Black Hills. Each one had a beauty all its own…a beauty that was worth seeking out. The mountains have a magesty all their own, and I will always love to go and drink in the peacful beauty that resides there

When my niece, Toni was a little girl, she loved to clown around. She made everyone laugh with her antics. When everyone else was serious, here would come Toni, ready to start the fun rolling…and she had a laugh that was contagious. She might giggle while showing off her favorite boots or some other goofy thing, just to get a laugh out of someone. She was so quick to laugh, and always found a way to pass that along to others around her.

While those days are in the past now, Toni has grown into a beautiful woman. She is sweet and caring. She is one of those people who doesn’t see what a treasure she is. With her kind heart and quick smile, she adds sunshine to a cloudy day.

Toni has a sense of style that brings beauty to he home. I love some of the decorating ideas she has come up with. Some of us have a knack for that kind of thing, and she is definitely one of those people. She creates beauty all around her. I guess that all comes from the beauty that lives inside her.

Life isn’t always easy…for any of us, and Toni has been through some rough times, including when her son James had a serious head injury that could have cost him his life. Toni stood strong in that tough time, and kept James calm…and prayed, because she knew that God would take care of her son…and He did. James is so precious to her. For a long time it has been just the two of them, and James was and still is, her world. Now, she has found love again in a wonderful man…Dave. Life is complete for Toni once again, and I am so happy for her.

Toni has turned into a lovely woman, and one I am proud to call my niece. She is thoughtful and kind. She is a good mom, and good to her mom and grandmother, my sister and my mom. And that smile…well, it is still very much alive and well on Toni’s pretty face. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! We love you very much!!

Today is my niece Michelle’s birthday. She also just graduated from college. She will be continuing to the next level in college, but has not fully decided where that will be yet. Michelle is studying to be an art teacher, and there is much more to that than I ever imagined. She needs so many art classes that 4 years is not enough to finish it all. It takes much dedication, and I am very proud of her. I am also very much in awe of her abilities. Her work is amazing.

Michelle has the kind of mind that is filled with beauty. The kind of mind that creates beauty all around her. She also has that ability to share her talent by teaching it to others. Not everyone can be a teacher…that takes a very special ability, and it is one that Michelle definitely has. The students she had while student teaching were so blessed to have Michelle as a teacher, and I know her future students will also feel the same way.

Michelle, I don’t know where your plans will take you next, but I know that you will be greatly missed around here. And I truly hope that you won’t be gone forever, because I believe that our school system needs good teachers like you will be, and our students need the benefit of a creative mind like you have. I also know that wherever you go, the students who come out of your classes will be thankful to have been in them.

I look forward to seeing more of your work, Michelle, and I still think that you need a website to show it off. Great artists should never hide their work away. I know this is something you have had in mind, and I hope you will not put it off any longer. I am very excited about your future and I look forward to seeing much more of your beautiful work. I’m very proud of you Michelle, and I wish you a very happy birthday, and all the greatest and most wonderful things for your future. I love you very much!! Have a great day!

As my granddaughter gets older, if find myself thinking back on the years since she arrived. As the mother of daughters, my grandsons were a culture shock for me. Boys are very different from girls. They are rough and tumble, and don’t care about the personal things like girls do. Girls worry about how they look and their clothes, and as in the case of my granddaughter, how her nails look. She used to tell me that my nails were a mess if they were chipped at all. Then she informed me that I needed to fix them. Boys just roll their eyes at those things and head outside to get in the mud. When she was young, we shared girl time together, just her and me. It was a special time for us.

Now that little girl is gone, and she has been replaced with a beautiful and capable young lady. Yes, she still cares about how she looks, although she really doesn’t need to worry about that, because she is stunning. She probably wouldn’t agree, and might not like it that I have singled her out today. Like any other teenaged girl she thinks she has had a bad hair day or bad makeup day, and this, that, or something else isn’t exactly right, but she couldn’t look bad if she tried.

And, she has the ability to be such a beautiful spirit. She is kind and loving, especially to children…a trait she gets from her mom, and children love her…something that she gets from her grandpa. She can be funny or serious, happy or sad, quiet or loud, but to me she is always a beautiful person, inside and out. She lives up to her name, Shai…Hebrew for gift…and that she definitely is…a precious gift, that I am so blessed to have…a granddaughter, and the only one I’ll ever have.

Sometimes, as with every teenager, her feelings get hurt, because someone doesn’t see what a wonderful person she is and they step on her feelings, and that makes me sad. I would love to be able to protect her from all the little hurts that life always brings, but I can’t, so all I can do at that point is to let her know that I love her and always will, and anyone who doesn’t see the super special girl that she is, is losing out, because with each passing day, she becomes more and more amazing, and I see more and more how greatly God has blessed me with this precious gift.

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