Time goes by so quickly, especially concerning the passing of a loved one. My mind just doesn’t want to wrap itself around the fact that it has been four years since my mom went to Heaven. I know that there are many people who have been without their parents much longer than I have, and they know exactly how I feel on this 4th anniversary of my mother’s graduation to Heaven.
As I write this, I can think of so many things I would have loved to tell my mom, who was one of my biggest fans when it came to my writing. She loved the history stories, especially when it pertained to the family history. This year has been such a wonderful year for new and interesting finds, and it seems like I want to call her almost every day to tell her something new. And there are so many days I want to ask her about something I’ve discovered. Sadly, when we are young, we don’t realize just how important those family stories will become when we are older.
Mom, was always the bringer of the sunshine to our house, singing to us when we woke up, when we were sad, or when we were happy. They were usually little one or two line songs, but they said it all. She told us little bits and pieces of life with her siblings, and all the singing they did, giving us a glimpse of all the laughter and fun that was our grandparents house when all the kids were there. Mom was the middle child in a family of nine children, and that probably gave her a unique view of things. She got to participate in the fun things the older siblings are doing, and she was still young enough to enjoy the things the younger siblings were doing. Being the middle child, born between the only two boys, put her in a unique position too. She got in on some of the antics the boys got into…much like the three musketeers. Mom always had a fun-loving attitude, and that made life with Mom lots of fun. Today marks my mom’s 4th anniversary in Heaven. While we know that she is having the time of her life, we miss her very much. We love you Mom.
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.
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.
Not every great grandmother is so blessed to have a really close relationship with their great grandchildren, and it is even more rare with the youngest of twenty great grandchildren, in which the oldest one is twenty four. My mother, Collene Spencer was a very blessed woman. Her relationship with her youngest great grandchild, Aleesia Spethman, who is my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s granddaughter, was one that was the rarest of the rare, and just as blessed for both of them. Aleesia has three older brothers, and at two years of age, taking her to all the activities the boys are into is difficult. That works our really well for my sister and it also worked quite well for our mom, because they got to see the baby often.
For Aleesia, the two relationships were different, even though they lived in the same house, and spent the time together. She loved both her grandma and her great grandmother, but the relationships were very unique. Aleesia decided that Mom would be called GiGi. Aleesia is too young to know that our mom was her great grandmother. The name GiGi seemed very fitting to my sister, because Mom was, after all Aleesia’s great grandmother, or GG. Aleesia loved coming over to GiGi’s house. Every time she came over, she would run in calling for GiGi. Then she would run over to see her. Aleesia trusted GiGi implicitly. Every time she was there, she would pull Mom’s walker over to Mom’s chair and climb up on it. Then she would jump from it into Mom’s arms. It never occurred to Aleesia that Mom wouldn’t catch her…she knew her GiGi would always catch her. It was a relationship that was so sweet to watch.
When Mom went to Heaven, the family and especially Aleesia’s parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, and my sister, Cheryl, were worried about how Aleesia would deal with that, especially since Cheryl would continue to live in Mom’s house. She has done pretty well. She asked about Mom often at first, then she seemed to understand that GiGi wasn’t there, but even a two year old Aleesia is not immune to those ton of bricks moments. The other day, as Aleesia and my sister, her grandma, Cheryl were coming to the house to spend the evening at Mom’s house, Aleesia ran up to the door excitedly like she used to before, and knocking on it she said “We see GiGi?” Then she stopped and looked down, like she realized something. She turned and saw Mom’s car parked on the street, and with a really sad face, she said, “She’s not home.” Such a sad thing for a little two year old to have to try and understand, because her GiGi has always meant so much to her.
The annual Byer Family Christmas party took place last night, and it was nice to see so many family members, who I normally get to see only on Facebook. The Christmas party is always a joyous time, when we can catch up with other family members to see what they have been up to. The snowbirds like Susie and Clyde Young were back in town for the holidays, and kindly managed to bring the warm Nevada weather with them. Most of our grandparents children were there, like Aunt Virginia Beadle; my mom, Collene Spencer; Aunt Jeanette Byer; Aunt Bonnie McDaniels; Aunt Dixie Richards; and Aunt Sandy Pattan. For their presence, we are always thankful. The younger generations don’t always come to the party. I wish they would, because while this party and the summer picnic are great times to get together with the family, these gatherings are more importantly, the dream of our grandparents. The parties are our grandparents’ way of trying to keep the glue in place, that holds the family together.
The regular groups are there…the ones we can always count on. There were too many to name them all, but there were members of the families of Aunt Evelyn, Aunt Virginia, Aunt Delores, Uncle Larry, my mom, Collene, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt Sandy represented. It was so good to see everyone. We got to meet Aunt Virginia’s newest little great grandson, Kasen. And we got to see and be shocked at how much all the little kids have grown. The food was delicious, as always, because we are a family of really good cooks. We all ate to our heart’s content, and as usual, it was more than we needed to eat. But in realty, it isn’t the food we come for so much, but rather the company. Since connecting with so many family members on Facebook, I really feel comfortable visiting with them in person, because I truly know them now, where I basically knew they were family before.
Of course, we understand that not everyone can make it to the party each year, but for me, the thing that added a little bit of sadness this year is the ones who truly couldn’t come. These are the ones I really felt were missing. People like Grandma and Grandpa Byer, Aunt Delores and Uncle Elmer Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my dad, Allen Spencer, Uncle Jack McDaniels, Forrest Beadle, Alyssa Harman, Jonah Williams, and Laila Spethman…all of whom live in Heaven now. I also really missed Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, because Uncle George has a really hard time getting out. And the one that hit closest to home for me, my grandson, Chris Petersen, who hasn’t missed one of these in years, but he is away at college and won’t be home until Tuesday. That was a really hard thing for my kids, Corrie and Kevin Petersen…and I know it was hard for Chris too.
Every year, we are grateful for the family members who come to the party, because we love to see everyone. The Byer Family Christmas Party is a day to treasure. As more and more of them pass away, I realize that we may not have the chance to see some of these people again. I am reminded of Grandma and Grandpa’s desire for this yearly celebration, and I’m reminded that they are there in spirit. I’m thankful for the people who come to the party, and look forward to the next time I will see them. The Annual Byer Family Christmas Party was a great success, because so many people came…and yet sad, because some were missing.
After last year’s unusually hard Winter, with weather patterns that were dubbed Polar Vortex, I was not too keen on the idea of a repeat performance this year. Thankfully, I have been treated to the Indian Summer that I remember from my youth. Of course, we didn’t get an Indian Summer every year, but when we did, the neighborhood kids all celebrated. September always brought with it cooler weather, school, and the dreaded homework that came with it. It always seemed like having that hit all at the same time was really a very cruel joke on the kids. But occasionally, we got a year that made a lot of us feel a lot better about the coming Winter.
This has been such a year. With temperatures in the high 60s and into the 70s, more people have been spending evenings and weekends outdoors, enjoying the unusual warmth. Oh, I don’t say that jackets are unnecessary, but you wear them mostly in the morning and you find yourself taking them off a lot too. Kids are out on their skateboards, scooters, and bicycles enjoying the last few evenings during which they can play outdoors for a good part of the evening…at least until they have to go get their homework done.
For me, Indian Summer means a reprieve…if only for a short time…for the drudgery of Winter, while also giving a break from the worst of the Summer heat. I used to be a serious Summer person, but these days, I like the temperatures to be in the 70s and 80s, not the 90s and 100s. I know that my sister, Cheryl Masterson will still call 70s and 80s serious Summer heat, but I can’t agree with her there. Early Fall and late Spring are my ideal times of the year…provided that the fall is not too cool and the spring is not too rainy.
Indian Summer is said to be a time of unseasonably warm weather and little wind…but I doubt if they had seen Indian Summer in Casper, Wyoming, because we definitely have wind. I can deal with that too, as long as it’s not too cold. With this years lovely Indian Summer weather, and the opportunities to get out and hike some, I am feeling a lot less of the affects Winter brings on me, but then we are still on Daylight Savings Time until the end of this week. I’m sure that after that the normal affects of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) will begin to rear their ugly heads. For that, I simply have to spend as much time as I can in the sun, and keep telling myself that December 22 is coming, and with it, comes the beginning of the move toward the longest day of the year…one of my favorite days. I know that like every season, Indian Summer will pass, and Winter will pounce on us, as it always does, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy every moment and every bit of warmth of the Indian Summer that we have been treated to.
Yesterday, after going out to dinner with my mom and my sister, Cheryl, we all decided to go for a drive. My mom has always loved going for drives, whether it is around town or in the country. As we drove, the conversation turned to the little house we lived in when we first moved back to Casper, Wyoming from Superior, Wisconsin, when I was almost three years old. I don’t recall having seen the house since the time we lived there, and of course, I don’t recall very much of our time there, and most of that is probably from home movies I have seen.
Since we were in the area, we decided to drive by. I must say that I was a bit surprised at how small the house was. I suppose it was the size of a small two bedroom apartment, or maybe even a one bedroom apartment. The house is located in the back yard of a larger house, and may have been, at one time, a guest house for the much larger home next door. Right now, it looks like it is being used as a storage shed, which makes me a bit sad, because when I think of all the memories of our little family that those walls have seen, it seems a sad end to a happy home. The white picket fence that made for a nice backdrop for pictures is gone now, the sidewalk and steps are crumbling, and the house is in serious need of a coat of paint…but then it is a shed now, so paint is unlikely.
As we drove away, I couldn’t get the little house out of my mind. It seemed such a sad, lonely little place. There were no children’s toys, or laughing voices. In fact, there was no signs of life at all. It is included in the yard of the larger house, which is very well taken care of, but it sits like a forgotten ghost, desolate and forlorn. I wished for a moment that I could go in and look around the little house, but I’m sure it would have been more disappointment, and less memories these days. It wouldn’t surprise me to drive by there and see it torn down someday, because it really is in sad shape and probably a hazard, were it not fenced off from the outside world, and certainly not a place of interest to anyone, except the three women who were taking a drive down memory lane.
As I was helping my sister-in-law, Brenda and my daughter, Corrie with some projects around Brenda’s house today, we started talking about Christmas Eve, which is always held at Brenda’s house. The talk was really about planning for the upcoming holiday, but my thoughts drifted back to Christmas Eve celebrations, as well as other holiday celebrations, of years gone by. This is a year of firsts for our family. Since my father-in-law’s passing on May 5th, we are facing the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and every other holiday without his presence. My mother-in-law is still with us, but with Alzheimer’s Disease, she cannot live alone, so she is in a nursing home. She is quite happy there, but since she hasn’t walked since March, bringing her over to celebrate with us is just not feasible. She doesn’t know what day it is anyway, so she doesn’t miss the holidays. The sad thing about our situation is that with her in the nursing home, and my father-in-law in Heaven, we are almost going through that year of firsts with both of them at the same time.
As I took the trash out when we were finished with our project, I looked at Brenda’s patio, which had often been the place for family barbeques in the summertime, the sad and lonely feeling that had been there throughout our conversation, persisted. Anyone who has lost a parent understands quite well just how hard that year of firsts is. The traditions that had been a part of life for so long that they were taken for granted, must now be completely re-worked to reflect the changed family unit, and no matter what you do, there is always and will always be a hole in them…that empty place that belongs to that loved one who is now gone. Yes, you move on and make new traditions, be they never really feel quite right, somehow. You keep thinking that maybe next year it will feel normal, or at least not feel like something is missing, but it just doesn’t. The subsequent years of holidays are joyous, just like before, but with a little hint of loneliness, that never goes away.
As a look at the old pictures of holidays from years gone by, I can’t help but shed a tear, because those days are gone forever. I think one of the hardest things about the circle of life is the changing face of tradition. I love tradition…families gathering to celebrate holidays in the way that their families did, and the way their children’s families probably will. Unfortunately, change is inevitable, and traditions will change…as loved ones pass, children marry, and babies arrive, but some changes feel good, while others feel forced…and laden with a hint of loneliness.
Twenty years ago today, my family grew by one, when my daughter, Corrie married the love of her life, my son-in-law, Kevin. They seemed so young. While Kevin was 21 years old, Corrie was just 17 days past her 18th birthday. They were so young. Bob and I had married young as well, but it just seemed like a different thing when it came to my baby girl…but it wasn’t, of course. Sometimes people are grown up at a seemingly young age. That was another thing that was a little hard to accept…that these kids were grown up. They had been dating each other for 3 years by the time they were married. I had never believed in love at first sight, but there is no other explanation. Those two kids saw each other, and they were in love.
The years would bring many things…some happy and some sad, but they have weathered all the things that life threw at them and have come out on top. They have only grown stronger and more in love along the way. They have raised two wonderful sons, who are very good boys, and who continue to make them and us very proud. The years have definitely brought far more happy times than sad ones, and for that I am grateful. I could never have dreamed of a better life for my daughter.
Today, as I look back on their lives, it’s amazing to think that it has been twenty years of marriage for them. How can they possibly have been married for twenty years? They should still be kids themselves, and yet they are the parents of teenagers…Chris is 17 and Josh is 14. These kids of mine will soon be moving into the next phase of their lives…married kids and grandparenthood…not just yet, of course, but it’s just around the corner for them. Life moves so quickly that we hardly have time to notice the changes, until they are right there in front of us. Corrie and Kevin are facing Chris’ graduation and Josh’s driving days both within the next year. Their lives are going to change in the same ways ours did. While their boys will seem like little kids to them, they will soon find out that maybe the best is yet to be. The future holds many wonderful things for Corrie and Kevin, and I am so happy that they will share in those wonderful days. Happy 20th Anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! We love you both very much!! Have a wonderful day!!
As the holidays arrive, my thoughts turn to my dad. It is so hard to celebrate the holidays without him, because he enjoyed them so much. Having all, or at least most, of his family together was one of the highlights of his life. Dad was all about family. If we didn’t come over for a week or so, and we were in town, he would tell us that we needed to come for lunch. He didn’t want to let time go by without sharing those moments, lunches, talks…time with his kids. The years go by so fast, and Dad understood that. He knew that the older we got, the busier we would be, and the harder it would be to get together. Whenever I think that I am too tired or busy to go and spend time with my mom and my sister, or my in-laws, I remind myself that time flies and regret lasts for the rest of your life.
Sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that there is plenty of time to go see those important people in our lives, and then before we know it, they are gone and we wish we had gone to see them more. I am so thankful that I spent so much of my dad’s last 2 years taking care of him, because, while nothing makes his home going easy, it did make it less filled with regret. For any of you who have lost loved ones, especially during the holidays, such as my niece and nephew, Jenny and Steve whose daughter Laila passed away 2 years ago tomorrow, you know that you always wish something could have been done differently to change the outcome, but what is done is done, and it cannot be undone. And for those like my niece Chantel and her family, and my sister-in-law, Debbie and my brother-in-law, Lynn and their family, whose loss was not near the holidays, but devastating nevertheless, you know that, though the years have passed, the sadness still returns from time to time. You cannot dwell too long on the past, because now it is your difficult task to go on…because you must, for the rest of your family.
Today I am sad because of the losses we have endured, and tomorrow we will be thankful that we had those loved ones in our lives…even if it was for too short a time. We will be thankful for who they were, and what their life meant to us, and for the joy they brought into our lives. And we will be thankful that we will see them again soon…and for all eternity.