Saturday, February 27, 2016

I was a Paint by Numbers Kid

I can only draw stick figures, but my father wanted me to be an artist.

When I was in grade school, he was willing to pay for art lessons at The Orange Crate in Huron. But Mom said I was busy enough with school, church, and piano lessons. She bought me paint-by-number kits instead.

My art friends are cringing. Sorry.

Dad didn't give up though. He moved on to another medium. Photography.

I was a high school sophomore one Sunday afternoon when we drove to Lewis Drug in Huron, and he bought me a Canon 35-millimeter camera. That spring he insisted I attend a photography class on Monday nights at Huron College. I did. The information was way over my head. 

But that's my dad, Mr. You-Need-To-Get-Educated.

I didn’t understand aperture and f-stops (and I still don’t), so I put the camera on program and away I went snapping shots for the yearbook.

As a college freshman, I enrolled in introduction to photography, again at Dad’s insistence. I didn't understand the book work (again the f-stops and aperture confused me), so I bombed the paper/pencil quizzes.

I could take the pictures and earned good marks for my photos, but I didn't want a C or worse to start out with, so I dropped the class—only it was beyond the two-week grace period to do so. I have big fat W for withdrawal on my transcript.

I continued to play around with taking pictures, especially with black and white film when I was at home in the summers on the farm. Two young nieces who lived nearby served as my models.

I coerced Suzanne and Jessica to display downtrodden faces and pose by old buildings around their home and mine. I dug up an old rusty lantern, some tin cans and books as props. We had fun in the early 90s on our little photo shoots in rural South Dakota. I did the same with my Walter niece and nephews who lived two hours away.

These photos were a big hit with my brother-in-law Glen who lives in Kansas near me. He liked the black and white pictures so much that they displayed them in their home for awhile.

It was during this time that Martha Brohammer, my friend and colleague, re-taught me how to use the dark room to develop the film. I had been taught that in the college course I’d dropped. She was the art and Spanish teacher when I came to Cheney.

I wouldn't know how to function in a dark room today and am glad digital photography came along.

Melodie's KSN Shot of the Day in May 2010
In 2004, I bought my first digital camera, a point and shoot thing. In 2006 for Christmas, my husband Chris bought me a better one since my old camera failed to capture the beautiful fall foliage of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where we were married.

Then in 2009, he bought our first camera with the swing-out viewfinder, so we could have decent videos of his daughter Brittany's singing and acting events. 

Thus began Chris’ photography hobby. He's had many cameras since and continues to dabble and learn. It's been fun watching him develop into an artist and actually sell his work on Fine Art America. He passed me up months ago. His Facebook photography page, Framing Kansas, is three-years-old this month with over 12,000 followers.
It’s still fun to remind him though that I was the first one with a KSN photo of the day. A shot of a bird, of all things, whose mouth was full of worms. Leon Smitherman of Kansas Today, dubbed it "Breakfast of Champions" in May 2010.

Has anyone ever tried to turn you into something you're not? Did you develop any little bit of the desired skill?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Honoring a Friend on Her Birthday

Ever have one of those friends who is the opposite of you? I do.

She's spontaneous. I'm a planner. She's a let's-just-throw-this-together person. And it works. She is the always-have-to-be-doing-something type gal. I'm a wait-a-minute-gotta-do-nothin'-for-awhile woman.

Here's another contrast: I think Dumb and Dumber is the best comedy movie out there. She fell asleep during it.

Would those differences make for a good friendship?

It does for us. For Valerie Shellhammer and me.

We have a lot in common. We're women. So we talk, analyze, and rehash the same old stories. We also cry. In front of each other.

We're golfers. We enjoy exercise. We like to eat. Actually, I love cooking and serving her food when she pops in between jobs. She's self-employed. She's crafty and good with her hands in creating things. I'm not.

I correct her spelling and help her word things the correct way when she writes. She grounds me in reality with children. I ground her in reality with husbands.

I think we're good for each other. She's the closest thing to a sister my age that I've got. My real sisters grew up in a different generation. This Valerie-sister, I'll call her that so as not to confuse, grew up in the same time period as I did, but she's almost two years older.

We understand the 70s, our elementary years. We get the 80s too when girls could be tomboys. When girls had all the rights that the generation before us fought for. And we are thankful for that.

Because of those trailblazers, we could play basketball for our schools. She played half-court though in Oklahoma. I played full-court in South Dakota.

And a couple decades later, God put us in the same town, on the same basketball bus. I was coaching basketball, and she sponsored the cheerleaders. 

We played ladies' golf, walked and talked, and talked some more on the phone.

She housed my husband the first day I met him when he came for a visit, and designed my step-daughter Brittany's room, so it was ready before she even moved in.

Valerie helps me stay grounded in my faith in Christ. She's not a goody-goody, but she's a Biblically-sound person striving to live as our Savior intends.

And tomorrow, I wish her a happy birthday. She's moved out of Cheney now, but not too far, and I appreciate the time she always makes for me. I know she feels the same. We verbalize it. We've always been that way. Talkative.

Thank you, Lord, for my Proverbs 18:24 friend. A friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Is your best friend the opposite of you in any way? What pulls you together more, the similarities or the differences? What do you do together to keep your friendship in tact?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My Own Mr. Fixer Upper

For a couple weeks one February, I lived with a table saw in the living room.

We had no garage at the time, and my husband was remodeling the bathroom. He'd already put in a new kitchen floor, so I was used to a stove and refrigerator setting in there, but that was only for a couple days.

This bathroom thing took awhile. And for a couple days, we took sponge baths. My good dishes set on the dining room table since the china closet had to be moved out of the way—and so did the table.

My husband hadn't even looked for a job yet because he'd moved at the start of December and had a nice sum of money from his house sale. His days were spent as Mr. Fixer Upper.

We hadn't really planned on changing things right away, but when the frig leak ruined the flooring in the kitchen, he went to work on other parts of the house.

All of the supplies and new furnishings were kept inside the house. Yes, inside. Where we were living. Toilet in its box. In the living room. Bath tub. In the living room. Table saw, bead board, caulking supplies. In the living room. And there was still room for us to maneuver onto the couch. I know. Crazy. Crowded.


I stored extra toilet paper on top of the small couch in our bedroom. The bedroom got another closet. One just for him.

I came home from a basketball game to him sanding the top of his dresser closet. The thing was so smooth. But he stunk. I don't think he'd bathed for a few days—even though the bathroom was done at that point.

"What's the use?" he said. "I'm just going to stink more tomorrow."

Those early days of married life taught me what it meant to live with other people, not just a dog. Oh, forgot to mention, we had two of those running around.

Have you gone through a mess in your living space? How did you cope with it?