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 sister, Alena Stevens is in the middle of preparing for one of life’s biggest changes…grand-motherhood. The biggest life change is motherhood for sure, but grand-motherhood ranks right up there with motherhood as being one of the most special times of our lives. Alena’s son, Garrett Stevens, and his beautiful wife, Kayla are expecting their first child in August, and Alena is beyond excited…as is her husband, Mike. I know Alena is going to be an amazing grandmother. Alena’s work with children at Verda James Elementary School has kept her on top of the whole kid thing, and up to date on the latest cool stuff kids like. That’s an advantage that many grandmothers don’t have, and so they had to re-acclimate themselves to, but not Alena. The students she works with at the school love her very much and she loves them too. As her little granddaughter grows, Alena will be one of the cool grandmas, which is always a big plus.
Alena also loves to decorate, and sometimes I think she missed her calling, because the decorating she does on her home is lovely. She has a real eye for it. Most of us hang a few pictures up, and hope we made them look a little different than a picture album, but not Alena. Her flair for decorating makes her home a show piece. Maybe I should make her come and decorate mine. Alena like to change her house up periodically, to give it new life, and that could be part of the reason that it is always a showpiece. Whatever the case may be, she has a lovely home that people enjoy coming over to.
Alena is a summer girl, which makes her June birthday the perfect time of year.While no officially born in the summer, it marks the beginning of what most of us deem to be summer. Alena love the heat and being out in it,especially at the lake. She looks forward to her husband’s family’s yearly trip to Boysen Reservoir, where they enjoy the water, the sand and sun, and spending time with the whole family.She especially loves their annual horseshoe tournament…complete with a traveling trophies for the year’s winners to gloat over. While the competition is fierce, the family isn’t they all get along very well, and the only time they are fierce is during the competition. Making it more fun, they choose teams or partners, so no one is always partnered with their spouse. Team work can take on a whole new meaning with this method. When you dont get to pick, but are placed with a team. Their annual trip is coming up soon, so I know she will be preparing for all the fun days to come, especially with the summer culminating with the best part of all…that new little baby girl. Today is Alena’s birthday. Happy birthday Alena!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
With each passing year, we imagine what Laila might have been like. Seven years ago today, my niece, Jenny Spethman and her husband, Steve welcomed their first daughter into the world. The birth was one of happiness and concern. Their daughter was not well. Her heart was not properly formed…a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, had left her left ventricle underdeveloped. Little Laila would go to Heaven just 18 days later, and just like that, her little life on earth would be over…but not her memory. No, her memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of her parents, grandparents, siblings, and the rest of her family. It’s amazing to me that a child I never got to meet could continue to impress my mind, and the minds of the entire family, with pictures of who she might have become.
At 7 years of age, I can picture the little first grader she would be now. In my minds eye, I can picture her little face with the changes that seven years would bring. I can imagine her laughter, very much like her little sister, Aleesia’s, and a personality to match. I think that when a child is lost, the family tends to look at other children who are the same age that lost child would be, and it is so easy to place the lost child in the same activities, looks, and personalities. Of course, it’s not exact, how could it be, but it’s enough to truly imagine what the lost child would be like at each age. That’s how it is with Laila. It’s how we can imagine the little girl she would be.
Laila left us far too soon, but her memory will live in our hearts forever. From her, we learned not to take life for granted. We learned to take the pictures of even the littlest, most insignificant event, because it may end up being very important. We have learned to spend time with those we love, and to tell each other how much we love each other. We will see Laila again in Heaven, but for now, we all miss her very much. Today would have been Laila’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Princess Laila. We love you.
I love looking at the pictures my family posts…especially the kids. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s true, but sometimes it’s the caption that really grabs me. Such was the case the other day when I looked at this picture posted by my cousin, Grace Oltman. The picture shows the smiling faces of her son, Hosea and her sister, Angel Pallas’ daughter, Hazel. These kids never cease to amaze me, because they are just being kids, after all. Grace captioned the picture with, “They will do anything for some candy.” That immediately took me back to the years when my grandchildren were little ones, and we tried so hard, sometimes in vain to get a good picture of the four of them.
As the grandma, it was my idea to do the four of them, and sometimes I think my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, thought I was crazy. In fact, sometimes I thought I was crazy. We tried everything to get them to all four smile at the same time…and I mean we tried everything, including candy, if they cooperated. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Now, looking at the pictures Grace took…which turned out amazing, by the way, I see what my problem was. She gave them the candy while they had the picture taken. What kid wouldn’t smile with a piece of chocolate in their hand? Oh, if I had only known. Of course, these little kids, Hazel, Hosea, Tenley, and Canaan, as well as cousins, Addilayde and Meadow, are definitely not strangers to the camera. Their parents take lots of pictures of them, and these kids know how to smile for the camera. I think that is why I enjoy looking at all their pictures so much. There is just nothing sweeter than looking at a smiling child…even if it is a candy smile, and even if the candy, cake, or whatever else they may enjoy having, is all over their face.
Every once in a while, however, even mom’s who take great pictures because the kids are so cooperative, will hit a bit of a snag. Such was the case when Grace took the picture of little Hosea and his little brother Canaan. Hosea was wearing his usual great smile, but Canaan needed a little help. Uh…Grace, I think you forgot the chocolate on this one, but then I guess Canaan was a teeny bit to small for that. Nevertheless, those sad face pictures can be just as cute as the ones that are all smiles. In the end, I had to promise to let my grandkids, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, do one goofy picture in order to get good smiles out of them. I guess that the moral of the story is…whatever works.
The first time I saw my cousin, Michelle Deraas Carlson, I thought, “What a teeny little girl she is!!” It’s true that Michelle, who is my cousin by her marriage to my cousin, Dave Carlson back in 1981, is a little girl of less that five feet, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that she is a fragile little girl. You would find that you are wrong, because Michelle is one tough lady. No, she’s not a fighter…she’s a personal trainer at Fitness Edge North in Duluth, Minnesota, which is owned by her sister-in-law, Julie Soukup.
If you choose to hire her to get you in shape, you will find that she can get the job done. Now, she will tell you that this won’t be easy…and you might want to quit, but if you don’t give up, you will find yourself looking a great as she does. Of course, she’s not one to brag…that part was all me. I’ve never had the privilege of using Michelle as a personal trainer myself, because I live too far away, but I have done…or at least tried to keep up with…some of her workouts. I had the opportunity to do some of her workouts by going to her Facebook site recently, and I could see that I was going to have to work very hard if I was going to be able to keep up. She is in great shape, and her workouts will wear you out…unless you are in pretty good shape too. At the time I saw her video, I was recovering from a broken shoulder. I was not able to do all of the exercises she did, but I hope to be able to in the future.
Michelle is definitely a short girl, but she embraces it. Like many of us who are short (although maybe not quite as short as she is) being short is not a bad thing. We might have to have someone reach the stuff in the cupboard that is far beyond our grasp, but we don’t have to worry about having someone standing in front of us in pictures, because with our short stature, we always have to be in front, or the camera would miss us altogether. Michelle might be the shortest person in her family, but they all love her just the way she is. She always has a smile on her face, and she is there to help with anything that is needed. It doesn’t get any better than that in a family. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Most cars, these days, have a fairly streamlined design. Much of this is to make them more fuel efficient, and to make the ride less wind resistant, and therefore smoother, I’m sure. It wasn’t always that way, however. For a time, running boards were quite fashionable, and most cars had them. I never could really see the draw to that, because in reality, actually stepping on the running boards, to get into the car, loosens them, and will eventually cause them to need to be reinforced. I suppose my opinion on this comes from my 41 years married to a mechanic, but it is nevertheless, a reality. Many of the cars from my parents’ and in-laws’ era had running boards, especially the pickups, but it is something that is not seen as much these days, and if it is, it is usually something that was added later on, and as I said, not really for use as a way to enter the vehicle, but rather for show.
Be that as it may, running boards were something that used to be important, so they say, because of the fact that vehicles were higher off the ground back in the day, than they are now. The fashionable running boards of this day and age are pretty narrow, and really aren’t very much like the old ones at all. The old running boards were wide, and could easily be used for a seat, or even to give enough room for an adult to lie down on them. I remember my mom telling me about one of her brothers who used to take an afternoon nap out on the running board of my grandfather’s car. I always thought that was rather comical, but she used to say that her dad always had to walk around the car to make sure there wasn’t a kid on the running board on the other side, before he could leave for wherever he was going.
It also seems that the running boards of a car make a great place to gather the family for pictures, because there are pictures of people sitting or standing on the running boards among my family’s pictures, as well as Bob’s family’s pictures. The car seems to have been the backdrop of choice at that time. I suppose it ‘s not so different today. People like their cars, and they are a part of life, with or without running boards, so why not include them in your pictures sometimes…especially if they are a hot car, which I’m sure was the case at the time, even if we wouldn’t think so these days. The look of cars changes from era to era, and while the big clunkers of old, were not the sporty cars of today, they were cool then.
My niece, Elizabeth Masterson is a journalism teacher at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyoming. She also takes all the photos for, and designs the yearbook every year. Her photographs have given her so many opportunities over the years. She now has her own photography buisness and she takes senior pictures, wedding pictures, as well as pregnancy photos and family photos. She catches action photos in sports in such and interesting way. You feel like you are standing right there with her. There is a lot to be said for having a talent that people find out about. Her photography sessions have steadily increased, which is very nice for her.
Liz is a teacher, but she is not your typical teacher. Liz is also a friend to many of her students. She has friends from probably every year she has been a teacher. Her students judt don’t go away after high school. They keep in touch. I have run into a couple of my teachers over the years…even favorite teachers, but they are aquaintances now, not friends that I stay in touch with or do things with. Not so Liz…but then, she is not your typical teacher. Liz participates in things with the students, like swap day, when two of her students decided to come looking like her, and so she came to school dressed like them.
Liz doesn’t mind getting dirty when the situation warrants it either. When the 5K Mud Run event was going on, she got on a team, and got a whole lot dirtier than I ever would have. I suppose it might be fun, but then, I simply can’t imagine being covered with mud, so…maybe not. Nevertheless, Liz had no issue with it, and I think that’s very cool.
Liz is all about family. She is very close to her mom and her siblings. She spends a lot of time with them, and photographs them often. Her pictures have helped me with my stories more than once. As to her own little family, well Liz is mom to four babies…pet babies that is. She has 3 cute little dogs, and a cat who lets everyone else know that she is the boss. The dogs never stood a chance agains the cat…I mean, she has claws, and she will use them. So they have learned to get along and so has she, but she doesn’t put up with any guff from those dogs. Liz is the typical mom to her babies, even to the point of not wanting them to spend too much time alone, so sometimes, they go to the babysitter’s, ie Grandma’s House. My sister, Cheryl has adapted herself to having mulitple pets, or should I say multiple additional pets, at her house from time to time, because Liz is a big softie when it comes to her pets…whether she admits it or not. Today is Liz’s birthday. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
For the first three years of my life, I was my parents’ youngest child, and my sister, Cheryl Spencer Masterson, their oldest, of course. That meant that while our dad, Allen Spencer worked, Cheryl and I got to hang out with Mom. And since we lived just across the yard from my Uncle Bill Spencer and Aunt Doris Spencer, we got to hang out with Aunt Doris and our cousin Pam Spencer Wendling as well. Oh, the times we had!! Of course, our dads were there too, and then we got to go other places and do things that the moms wouldn’t take us to do alone. Those were either too far or too crowded. I think for my dad, taking us out to Lake Superior was the most special thing to do. He loved taking pictures of his girls enjoying the sunshine, the outdoors, and the time spent with mom and dad…even though it looks like it was just the girls hanging out with Mom. In reality, the time girls spend with their moms show them what women should be like…a very good reason for moms to be careful about the way they come across to their girls. Little girls watch their mom clean and cook. They watch the way they dress, and how they act, and how they treat their husband. Boys do the same thing with their dads, but today is about hanging out with my mom.
I can’t say that I always followed Mom’s examples on things, we were two different people, after all, and we led different lives as adult women. Still, my mom’s values, or her teaching thereof, took root, and are still with me to this day. While I didn’t always understand why she liked things the way she did sometimes, I do understand why now. I was a different person then, younger and less aware of how I would feel about things in the future. And now that my mom is in Heaven, I can’t tell you just how often I would love to call her up to get her advise on things. I think that it is so unfortunate that kids don’t realize just how important their parents are to them, until its too late. Of course, I knew that my parents were very important to me, but even though I can say that honestly, I can also honestly say that I still didn’t know just how important they were until that were gone, because once your parents are gone, the missing them is endless. You look back on the times you had with them, now with the full awareness that you can’t have those times again on this Earth, and you find out just how precious those times were. Your mind starts thinking just how much you wish you could go back, while carrying the knowledge you now have, and spend those precious moments focused on your parents more, and not just acknowledging that they are your parents, while thinking that they will always be there. Truly, if we could do that, more of us would probably hang out with them a little more often, and not squander that precious time.
Today, marks 11 months since my mom went to Heaven. I miss her every day, and never a day goes by that I don’t think of her and Dad, now happily together again forever. I know they know how much we all love them, but they are so happy in Heaven, that I truly cannot wish them back to a world filled with the ugliness of today. Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when we will all be together again, so we can hang out for eternity. We love and miss you Mom and Dad. We will see you soon.
Families have long loved to visit places like museums and zoos. It give them a chance to have an outing with the kids whereby they are out of the house, and yet learning something too. My grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer was no exception to that rule. For the first ten years of her eldest child, my Aunt Laura Spencer Fredrick’s life, Grandma didn’t have any other children. I’ve never known just why that was. The family history doesn’t tell of miscarriages or lost babies, but until my Uncle Bill Spencer came along, ten years after his sister, Laura, and then was quickly followed by brother, Allen Spencer (my dad), and then Aunt Ruth Spencer Wolfe, that was simply the case. Grandma and Aunt Laura were very close, and did lots of things together. The pictures of that time frame show visits with family, time spent picking flowers, and a trip to the zoo, which brings me to my story.
As I said, Grandma was very close with her daughter, and took lots of pictures of her and with her. Because of that closeness, she didn’t pay as much attention to the things or animals around Aunt Laura, but rather paid attention to Aunt Laura in the photo. It really was a matter of what subject she felt was the most important in the picture…obviously for Grandma that was Aunt Laura. She wanted to be able to tell of all the events of Aunt Laura’s young life, and Grandma did a great job of that.
As Uncle Bill began going through all the pictures and writing up the family history, he came across many pictures that rather frustrated him. That’s where his opinion on the pictures Grandma had taken came out. It wasn’t that Uncle Bill didn’t like the pictures of his sister, because he did…they were very close as children. The problem for him occurred with the picture of his sister, Laure standing by a cannon. Needless to say, I have to agree with Uncle Bill to a large degree. While the pictures of Aunt Laura with the zoo animals are great, I didn’t know what the cannon was at all, until Uncle Bill clarified that for me. Instead of taking the picture with a side view of the cannon, Grandma has taken it with a back view. It was pretty much impossible to know what it was without being told or maybe having a background that clarified it for you. Uncle Bill was rather annoyed, and commented on the picture with, “Come on Mom!”
That picture wasn’t the only one that Uncle Bill was upset with either. Another picture that was very good, but was not taken by Grandma, irritated him nevertheless. It was a picture marked only as, “Mother’s niece.” I’m sure that, like most people, Grandma figured that she would always know who it was, but what she wasn’t thinking about was that the rest of the people, who would someday look at the picture, would never know who it was. Again, it was a matter of what Grandma saw as important and what Uncle Bill saw as important. Sadly, Grandma is gone now, so we cannot ask who this niece might have been. She didn’t mean to do these things to upset her son, of course, it was just that what she saw and what he saw as important, were two very different things. And in this case, quite upsetting to my uncle.
When I was a little girl, we had a rocking pony. Most families with little ones did. It was a great entertainment item. I don’t know how my sisters felt about that pony, or if they ever had a chance to ride it if I was around, because I loved that pony!! According to my mom, it was the most important toy I had. I rode it everyday…sometimes all day…or at lease until my mom said I had to take a nap, eat dinner, or go somewhere. Otherwise, that pony was my baby. I might have agreed to leave the pony if we could play with kittens or something like that, because I loved kittens too. You see, there were important things in life, but some things are just more important. That pony and kittens…in my life, those things were just more important.
Mom liked to take pictures of her girls, especially when we were all dressed up in the frilly dresses she liked to dress us in. Usually this was not a problem. Like most kids, we liked having our picture taken, but if we were very near my pony…I could be easily distracted. The lure of a ride on my pony was so strong. The pony was so much fun. I rode it hard. I never rocked the horse, I galloped. The pony and I rode so hard that the base came off the floor and eventually put ruts in the wood. How could pictures possibly live up to that? They couldn’t in my book. That pony was the coolest toy ever!!
I don’t recall my thoughts from those rides, but I have a pretty good idea that I was thinking of galloping along the prairie in the wind…or maybe all I thought of was how it felt while I was riding that horse…as fast as I could go. Whenever I was on that pony, speed was all that mattered. It made riding hard to resist. It was also hard to think about silly things like getting a picture taken. I have to wonder if my parents got frustrated with me sometimes, or if they simply understood.
Sometimes, Mom and Dad lost the battle for the photo, where I was concerned, because while my sister, Cheryl Masterson always posed nicely for the pictures they wanted to taken, sometimes, I just couldn’t be bothered, because my pony and I had places to go, people to see, and things to do. As I said, some things are just more important that other things. That was my pony…the most important thing in my little world, so Cheryl was in the picture and I was in the background.