Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Little Popsicles on the Prairie

Sabbath afternoon, Tiggy and I piled the two dogs in the car and went forth to explore. The wind was biting and cold, even though the temperature itself was a nice, mild mid-30's. It has been weeks since I've taken the dogs for their weekly jaunt and I was determined to go, even though it wasn't exactly---comfortable---outside.

But even I couldn't make myself walk around in the cold to see the same old places for the thousandth time. All the interesting stuff was too far away as cold as it was, so we decided to drive to a little prairie cabin we'd never explored, but that wasn't too far from the road.

Or so we thought.

We dressed warmly---almost too warmly.

Or so we thought.

Ten feet from the car, we'd already discovered that there was no such thing as "too" warm. But we pressed on, while the dogs cavorted obliviously across the field. Stupid dogs, don't have enough sense to freeze when it's freezing.

And the house, which had seemed so close from the warmth and security of the car, began to recede ever further under our shivering gaze.

We were sure we'd never make and they'd find our frozen bodies in the spring (oh, wait, it IS spring). But at last, we reached the house, though we walked sideways part of the way in order to keep our backs to the wind.

I'm sure we would have looked strange to passerbys had there been any. Thankfully, the house is on a pretty low-traffic road (as in, in the hour and a half that we were on the road, I saw one car go by).

And there the house sat, wide open to the insistent prairie wind. Once it had been a shelter to some hardy pioneer---perhaps a family had huddled together for warmth in its one little room. Now only weathered boards are left precariously standing as a testament to their struggles


The house was swaying back and forth in a fascinating---yet somehow alarming---way. Every gust would move the house visibly to the side. I took my life in my hands and got close enough for an indoor shot.

Then looked in the camera and saw that my lonely farmhouse had been photobombed.

Thanks, Tiggy. If the house had fallen on me, at least it would have been worth it to get this picture!

Best friend selfies to remember the day we froze to death---together!

Maybe the wind died down. Maybe we were just going numb, but it didn't feel as cold after a while. We took a few minutes to explore the relics around the house. Out here, people didn't much haul their garbage away. Instead, it was laid out in state in neat, orderly rows behind their houses. There's always some fascinating bits of rusty history to find.

Then we had to walk back to the car. No problem. It wasn't that far.

Or so we thought.

So sad, and at such a young age, too....

(That tiny blue dot at the top of the page is the car. Nope, not far at all.)

I made one more stop before we headed home. I wanted to photograph the icy lake across the road. The patterns and textures of the ice were quite interesting and demanded a closer look.

Or so I thought.

I took one quick picture so I'd have something to show for my foolish detour from warmth and comfort, but then I strolled back to the car. In the same way that the Olympic 100-meter dash is a stroll.

This was the sight that greeted me upon my return.

I think I'll need to wash my windows soon!

It was nice to step back in time for a few minutes, to listen to whispers of the past. A reminder that everything passes away---nothing lasts forever

Except for Jesus and His love for us. That will never change, never rust, never fade.


I spent the weekend in Billings last week. It was a nice change to get away for a while, and definitely a blessing be able to see Caleb for the first time since February. See, he decided to learn some of life's lessons the hard way and has become a guest of the state of Montana as a result. And just like that, the last my three littles was gone.

It's been hard, jumping into the empty nest years so suddenly. I was expecting another year together before I had to worry about working through any of that. I mean, I've spent the last 18 years taking care of kids. It's kind of hard to break the habit cold turkey!

But I'm grateful for all the time we got to spend together in the last year----my intention was for it to be the lead-up for our great final year before Caleb turned 18, but that didn't exactly turn out the way I planned, now did it....

I didn't know that what I thought was the lead-up to the main event would turn out to BE the main event, because in all likelihood Caleb will already be 18 before he's an independent agent again. But God knew all about it, and He is good. He put it in my heart to make the most of our time together and we did. So I'm sorry for what we'll miss, but ever so thankful for all that we didn't.

And last week was the first time since he left that I've been able to make the seven-hour drive down to see him.

I drove down Friday and spent Friday and Saturday nights sleeping at the Adventist church there. They've recently built a new fellowship hall and did something I think is just the coolest thing with the old one.

The church built two bedrooms and a bathroom out into the room and made an apartment out of it. They call it a prophet's room, after the Old Testament story of the couple that built a special room onto their home so that any of God's people that passed by would have a place to stay.

Now this "prophet's room" is available to those who have need of it, free of charge.

It was such a welcoming space, and it was quite cool to be kicking back inside a church.

There was a door leading directly from the apartment into the hallway of the church. Friday evening all was still and quiet, but it was pretty trippy to step through the door right into an active church on Sabbath morning! Felt very rabbit hole-ish.

I sat with a great family at potluck---they were so warm and friendly. They even invited me to the college choir concert their kids were in that evening. I had nothing planned because my visit with Caleb was already going to be over by then, so I braved the one-way streets of the downtown area and attended.

The sun was just setting as I arrived and casting a beautiful glow on the brick buildings. I love architecture, and always get excited to have the chance to take some "city" pictures for a change.

Not that I'd give up my wide-open, empty prairie for the confines of a city, but it's nice to visit.

The concert took place in the St. Patrick's Catholic church and I do have to say, the acoustics were absolutely beautiful inside.  I can't wait to hear what the heavenly choir sounds like if our earthly choirs can make such wonderful music.

It was a lovely, restful weekend, with one more fun treat in store on the way home. I took the ol' car for the first car wash of spring. By that, I mean water has not touched its virginal state since last fall.

I was pretty embarrassed to be driving it---city folk just don't understand how it is when you live on a gravel road.

I came back with a very grateful heart.

Grateful for God's blessings.

Grateful for His mercy.

Grateful for the time we've all been given to love each other.

And praying that I will never take that time for granted because, even on the best of days with no tragedies or unforeseen events, it goes by faster than we ever dream possible.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A New Creature

Meet Wally.

He is a beautiful studmuffin with one little secret.

He's balding.

As in a lot....

See, Wally ALWAYS sports a magnificent coat, but this winter's was particularly spectacular. Maybe it was the extreme cold, but Wally was a mini-wooly mammoth. The downside to all that cozy warmth was that he developed some pretty matted fur.

Oh, everything seemed fine from the outside, but if you looked deeply enough, Wally was an itchy, uncomfortable mess.

There was no nice, comfortable, easy way to fix it. The hair was felted much too thickly to comb through. The only way to make Wally beautiful was to take all the old messed-up, worn-out parts away and let him start over.

It's not the prettiest process (in fact, it is downright unattractive!), but in the end, Wally will be like new again.

*   *   *   *   *

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Corinthians 5:17

Friday, March 21, 2014

When Good Editing Goes Bad

Just for fun, I thought I'd give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the wonders of photo editing. I was inspired by the recent blog post of one of my favorite photographers who had the confidence to post one of her pictures "in the nude" so to speak.

Don't worry, she's fully clothed. Just the image is nude.

As a photographer, I find it very encouraging when I see other people's work in its natural state. For the longest time, I wondered why I could never get the results I wanted---then I started to realize how much magic happens post-production. So I love it when I get the chance to see a good "before" and "after" shot. You can see the blog here.

I've decided to do my own version, a sort of illustration of the power of editing used wisely---and not so wisely.

This is my original, untouched shot.

As you can see, it is not very flattering. Renaissance dresses as a whole were a terribly unflattering business. They seemed to have been designed solely to be a fancy, frilly frame for the bosoms.  I guess that was all that mattered back in those days.

Here I have brightened and warmed up the original.

But I still look like I'm wearing a brocade nightgown. Time to do a little weight-loss surgery!

Ok, so I look a little distorted. And yes, my head and hands look unnaturally big. But the rest of me is so skinny!

While I'm at it, why not add Rapunzel hair down to the ground?

It's been a long winter. Better try on some spray tan.

Yes, photo editing can be lots of fun. But use extreme caution. One minute you're making simple color adjustments and talking about maintaining photographic integrity and the next....

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Fever

We've been freezing all winter here by the Canadian border (Canada: where winter goes to spend the summer). And I'm sure that's no surprise to the rest of you, judging by all the news reports about freakishly low temperatures across the lower United States.

But we've finally had a reprieve. And what a reprieve!

It's been in the 40's and 50's for days and days of deliciousness now. To some of you that may seem like a cold snap, but if you've been living in the minuses, 40 feels glorious. We're talking shorts weather, Baby! (Not quite, but almost.)

It's also the perfect time for a little photography outbreak. It's so much easier to get the best performance out of your models when they're not in danger of freezing to death. Divas! However, since I was planning to be one of the models this time, I have to say that in this instance warmth was a good idea.

I've had a really cool place I wanted to shoot at for a while now. I first saw it this winter while I was driving home during a baby blizzard. An abandoned old farmstead, it was hidden and softened by the falling snowflakes, but I saw enough to know it was pretty amazing. Unlike most wooden structures up here, the owners had built their farm out of stone work. There was a house, a stable, the foundation of a large barn and what looked like a chicken coop. I made a mental note to come back some day in better weather and check it out.

Well, the site more than lived up to my expectations and Tiggy and I began making plans to meet after school for some beauty shots of both of us. Pretty ambitious plan, to try to be both the photographer and the model in the same afternoon. Usually I spend a good portion of any given photo shoot on the ground searching for the best angles---not something I was eager to do in a fancy dress! Not to mention the constraints of a dress that was NOT made for vigorous activity.

Still, I hoped with a little planning I could make it work. I brought along a quilt to lie on in case that became necessary.

And I wore puddle stomper boots on my feet. Not very delicate, but a good call....

 Especially when I looked down at one point and found myself ankle deep in an ancient, yet somehow fresh and juicy, cow pie.

Someone else I know wore only slipper boots. Someone else was sorry. Very sorry.

Yes, I had it all covered. Except for the part about full-charged batteries. THAT part I left out! And so it was that after only a few pictures of Tiggy, my first battery died.

So. Not. Fair.

I changed batteries, but I knew the second one never lasted long and I only had a few minutes before it went dead, too.

Naturally, those few minutes were spent taking pictures of me. Hey, I only get fixed up every couple of years----this was an event!

Tiggy was playing mood music on her Iphone so we could be "just like real models", but once she started holding the camera, she had nowhere to put her phone. The ground was the consistency of thick soup, so we didn't dare set it down anywhere. I ended up with it stuck inside my sleeve. Interesting trying to be a romantic renaissance maiden while your arm plays Taylor Swift....

And then---the last battery died. After the heart-rending cries of dismay were over, I decided to make the best of it and use Tiggy's Iphone to take some more pictures----might as well as long as we were there. I'd never done much with smart phone photography before, but it was kind of fun and the picture quality was decent.

Until the Iphone battery died.

After that we went back to the house and charged up her phone for a few minutes so we could take some more pictures out in the yard. Not the most romantic place in the world, but better than nothing.

All the rest of these were taken with the Iphone. But don't feel bad if you've never gotten results like this---they were all edited to death on my computer in post-production.

This gentle "stream" is actually a mud puddle in my front yard. It's amazing what a little creative cropping will do! And it came with a bonus drowned rodent floating in it. Yech!

The flowing "stream" in real life...

And with a  little photo-shop magic...

Yes, digital editing is a wonderful thing. At last, we can always look skinny, never have flaws, and remain radiant and long as we never actually leave the house so people see us in person!

Friday, February 21, 2014


I used to have one.

A life, that is.

But that was then, this is now.

I started my new job at the end of December. I began my two college classes, Introduction to Computers and Incomprehensible Algebra in mid-January. Neither life-change by itself would be that challenging, but the two of them together have managed to suck up whatever spare time I used to have.

So I get up in the morning, head off to work, come home to let the dogs out, then drive back into town to wrestle with algebra for an hour or so. Once in a while, I am so excited to have an evening to myself-----and get to indulge in activities like washing dishes, putting away laundry, or clearing away clutter. Last night I even mopped my floor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And on a very good day, I even snatch a few minutes to run outside with a camera. It's helped with the motivation that the weather has been a wee bit warmer this past week. Stuff has to be pretty doggone beautiful to tempt me out when the temperatures are below zero.

We even got a 4-inch snowfall one of the days. It was beautiful, fluffy snow, the kind we don't get very often. The typical prairie snow is more like grit out of a sandblaster, but this stuff settled like a delicate cloak over everything, beautifying and freshening our winter-worn landscape.

Then one of the mornings we even had a little bit of fog. Back in California, you don't get excited about fog. January and February are National Fog Months there, and you don't see the sun unless you head up a mountain and get above the clouds. But here fog is a little more rare and can certainly add to the beauty of a winter morning.

No, there's nothing like the magical loveliness of winter.

I can't WAIT until spring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!