smile

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My grandniece, Melanie Harman is a sweet girl, who has been so good for my grandnephew, Jake Harman. I would be very hard-pressed to come up with the wonderful things that Jake has to say about his wife. Kake says, “Mel is the most beautiful woman alive, and I mean that physically, mentally, and spiritually. She loves God and whenever anything is wrong her first reaction is pray about it. She wants to give it to God, knowing He is the only one who can fix it.”

Melanie is a hard worker. Currently, she is working for Door Dash, and she has become one of the best loved dashers. When she walks into a place to pick up an order, she will sometimes be on the phone with Jake, and he hears the conversation. He says that everyone yells, “Hi Mel!!” Then, Jake can hear them fighting over who’s best friend she is!! That’s definitely Melanie, and it makes Jake so proud that his wife is so loved. She is always so happy and kind, that people can’t help but love her and want to be her friend. When Melanie isn’t door dashing, she works with her mom to clean their church Mondays and Thursdays. After cleaning, she will go door dash. It makes for a long day, but even after that long day she comes home to her 4 babies…counting Jake, that is, who are all demanding her time. Still, she keeps that beautiful smile on her face and gives each of them the time they need to feel loved.

Jake tells me that he just has no clue how she does it, but she somehow seems to give all of them all of her time. He said that he goes to sleep every night, thanking God for such a beautiful woman and sometimes, he wakes up in a bit of a panic, thinking Melanie was just a dream. Then, Jake says, “I roll over to see her peacefully sleeping and the beauty of my life starts all over because her smile lights up a room and her voice is the closest to what I picture an angel would sound like. She always knows how to handle us whether it is tough mom, fun mom, rude mom, or whatever we need, that’s what she is. She is the best part of each of our lives and definitely proof that God is real. I know He is because without Him she would not be possible.” How can I possibly say it better? Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Bowen Parmely is the only boy among the four children of his parents, Ashley and Eric Parmely. Bowen was the third child, and when he was born, Ashley and Eric found out, in no uncertain terms, just how different little boys are from little girls. Bowen is full of energy and, well…zing!! He lights up a room with his smile and laughter, and he is a delight to his parents, but he isn’t above picking on his sisters, Reagan, Hattie, and little Maeve. Just give him a reason…or don’t!! He really doesn’t need a reason, he is a boy, after all.

Bowen likes everything his daddy and his grandpa like. Working on tractors, however, that is top notch for Bowen. Eric has a big tractor, and Bowen would like nothing more than to be on that tractor all day long. His Aunt Brenda Schulenberg even found him a quilt that has tractors all over it last year. Talk about a happy boy. He loved it. Bowen is a farm boy, with all the trimmings. His family raises horses, cows, goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs, cats, and dogs… and speaking of dogs, Bowen’s parents have let each of the kids get their own dog…when they turn 7 years old. That means that Bowen’s older sisters, Reagan and Hattie each have their own dog, that is also their responsibility, and Bowen can’t wait until he is old enough to have his own dog too. Unfortunately for Bowen, that day won’t come for two more years. Until then, he will have to settle for the family dogs.

Bowen really loves all the animals, but he loves the babies the best. On a farm, with a lot of animals, there are always babies coming, and that is ok with Bowen. It is something he shares with his mom. Ashley would have tons of babies too…human and animal. The mothering instinct is very strong in Ashley, and she loves to teach their kids about the animals, life, and how to grow both. The Parmely house is always filled with love, laughter, kids, and animals. When we go out there for family dinners, once a month, it is sure to be fun filled. The kids have a playroom/classroom off of the kitchen (Ashley homeschools the kids, but they did preschool in town which is where Bowen currently goes), so we can observe all the fun, as well as the occasional “turkey at the window” visits. All the kids are very entertaining, but watching Bowen, so full of energy, bouncing around the room on his bouncy horse is always super fun. Today is Bowen’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday Bowen!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand niece Hattie Parmely is a sweet little princess of a girl, who always wears a smile first. No matter what else she is wearing that day, her smile is her best feature and for a girl who loves her “bling,” it is the best thing she wears…ever. These days Hattie sweet smile is missing a few teeth, but that just makes it all that much cuter. Hattie is very much a girly girl, and she loves her bling. Even wearing blue jeans, Hattie chooses to wear sandals covered with rhinestones, so that her blingy side is displayed too. That was the outfit she had on yesterday at a family dinner. Her outfit was topped off with a pink t-shirt, and she looked very cute.

Hattie and her siblings, Reagan, Bowen, and Maeve, are home schooled, and doing very well in school. I asked Hattie and her older sister, Reagan how they liked their teacher. They didn’t quite get it at first, because I was, of course, asking them how they liked their mom, Ashley Parmely. It was funny, when they caught on. They both looked over at their mom and grinned. Hattie also loves to play the piano…something I have always thought I would love to learn, but have never gotten around to doing so. I’m happy that Hattie is going to be able to play the piano, because I think that the ability to play the piano is something that is so fulfilling and so soothing. I think the piano compliments Hattie’s personality perfectly. I love how Hattie has her own sweet personality. Most kids do, but Hattie’s personality is one that strikes me as being a very gentle and loving girl. She chooses to be the blingy girl she is. I am always amazed at how different some of the personalities are in children, even siblings. Of course, with brothers and sisters, that is to be expected, but even with sisters, each one has their own way, and that is what makes us all unique.

Living on a farm, Hattie loves to ride horses, and can often be found doing just that. She and her siblings have been raised on the back of a horse, so they are very comfortable there. They have also been raised on a bicycle, so they love to go riding too. The trails on Casper Mountain are favorites among the Parmely and Eighmy families. The fact that Hattie is a girly girl, doesn’t in any way mean that she doesn’t know how or want to take care for all the animals on the family farm, because she loves them all, especially the babies, of which there always seems to be a few. Hattie loves the homeschooled-farm-girl life very much, and if you have ever been out to their farm, you can see why. It is such a relaxed place to be, with no rushing out the door to catch the school bus, or rushing out the door to drive in their parents vehicle to the school…school is just steps away from their bedroom, and that is very nice, indeed. Today is Hattie’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Hattie!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!

My little great grand-nephew, Max Herr is turning one year old today, and he has has a very busy year. Of course, he has done many of the normal baby things like rolling over, sitting up, and clapping his hands. He also says DaDa, has teeth, loves his bath, snuggling with his mommy, Katy Balcerzak, and hanging with his daddy, Dylan Herr. Max has a great smile that lights up his whole face, and his laugh is infectious. He delights in everything new to him…which is everything, so he is always very excited about things he sees and does.

Max has had a number of wonderful adventures in his first year of life. His family took a trip to Red Wing, Minnesota; Casper, Wyoming; sunny Florida; the Ice Castles in Dillon, Colorado; the Botanic Gardens in Denver; and they they moved from Brighton, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming. Max had a great time celebrating all the holidays for the very first time. All in all, Max is finding out just how great this celebration called life is.

For Katy and Dylan, things have changed dramatically. They now have a new boss, because when it comes to Max…well, he is the boss, and he is getting very vocal about letting them know that fact. That’s what happened when Max found his words. Dada and Mama brought his parents running, even if it was just to see what he was saying now, or what he would say next. Then as Max found out that just saying those words brought the chosen parent to him, he started saying it more and more. Of course, sometimes, the parent he wanted wasn’t in close proximity, or as in his daddy’s case, was at work, so the parent didn’t show up immediately, so Max has to say it over and over. Sadly, even the boss doesn’t get everything he wants, all the time. The good thing is that for the most part, Max is a pleasant “boss” to work for. Every time his parents respond to his calls, he presents them not with a grouchy face “barking” orders, but a smiley face, that melts their hearts. No wonder he gets to be the boss. I think that if your boss has a face like this little guy, you would be putty in his hands too. Today is Max’s 1st birthday. Happy birthday Max!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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.

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