Monthly Archives: March 2013

What’s that smell? It’s superstition and sports

Have you noticed that during March Madness superstition in sports seems to ramp up? People be crazy. Other people, of course, not me :)

Wichita State T-shirt

Sports and superstition: taking a lucky shirt from the dirty clothes

After watching Wichita State beat Gonzaga to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last weekend, Lee mentioned that the WSU T-shirt he was wearing had done its job – he had pulled it from “near” the dirty clothes to wear Saturday night because when he wore it Thursday, the Shockers had also won their game. {Seinfeld fans: I think this is the same as the pastry that George ate after it was “hovering” in the trash}

Lee’s done this before – in fact, a couple of seasons ago he went about two months wearing the same black collared Shocker polo every time WSU played. They kept winning and he kept airing the shirt out. Note: he did wear an undershirt, so this is how he justified wearing a dirty shirt.

I don’t think I’m too superstitious but maybe I am just a lil’ bit.

I’m pretty sure I created some bad karma in 2012 when I purchased tickets from Norfolk State University. See, that was the only way to get tickets at face value for the NCAA regional in Omaha. So even though it was the team Missouri was playing in the first game, I bought tickets in their section. I didn’t think anything about it before the game {except how brilliant I was to think of this plan} but after Norfolk State upset my No. 2-seeded Tigers, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had played a role.

Back in my Hickman High School volleyball and basketball playing days, I do remember having a number of traditions that I liked to happen before a game. I didn’t think of them as superstitions, more like routines :)

For example, I wanted to listen to the same song on the way to the gym (Kool & the Gang’s Victory playing on a cassette). Oh, and a few of us would rub the short buzz-cut hair on the back of this one teammate’s head and say “lucky rub” before taking the court. {OK, I promise that sounds weirder than it actually was.}

How about you – do you have any superstitious behavior now or in the past?

p.s. Game time is just a few hours away and if you’re wondering, Lee accidentally washed the lucky shirt. So you know where to direct your anger if the Shockers lose tonight!

Sports and superstition: Hickman Kewpies

Flashback to 1988-89 — my days at Columbia (Mo.) Hickman High School.



Posted in Lee, Randomness, Sports, Weird shit that happens

Tripping: A safari museum in Kansas? Yep!

I’m starting to add some of my past published travel articles to my writing and photography portfolio. Here’s one that was published in The Wichita Eagle several years ago. I didn’t take photos, we used photographs the museum provided.

Martin & Osa Johnson were unlikely world adventurers from southeast Kansas. The child-free couple explored a world that was inaccessible to so many in the 1920 and 1930s. Their photography, film and writing inspired and educated many who would never experience these places and people first-hand. Today, their material offers a glimpse at culture and wilderness that has since vanished.

It’s very cool to see their influence in modern pop culture, too: a clothing line and a chain of stores (Martin + Osa) from American Eagle Outfitters, a 2011 Kate Spade “I Married Adventure” zebra-striped purse and the design of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s even been pointed out that many story elements in the sweet animated movie “Up” follow the real life story of the Johnsons.

Remember Ellie & Carl, the cute couple from the movie Up? They were dreaming of a home overlooking “Paradise Falls” … which is said to be reminiscent of the home the Johnsons built overlooking “Lake Paradise.” Just one element of the movie that is similar to Osa and Martin’s lives.


Stalking the Wild

Safari museum in Chanute showcases exotic lives of Kansans Martin & Osa Johnson

CHANUTE, Kan. – Martin and Osa Johnson spent more than half of their lives exploring the people and animals of remote regions of Africa, British North Borneo and the South Pacific Islands to capture a vanishing world on film.

Thanks to the community of Chanute, the efforts of this famous Kansas couple to document wilderness, tribal customs and cultures has not vanished.

The thousands of photographs, hundreds of cans of motion picture film footage, 18 books and numerous articles produced by the pioneering adventurers during the first half of the 20th century have been preserved since 1961 at the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum in Osa’s hometown of Chanute in southeast Kansas.

“The Johnsons had this vision of a pristine, wild world out there and believed civilization was making that world disappear,” said Conrad Froehlich, director of the Safari museum since 1989. “They saw themselves as creating a record on photographs and film of this vanishing world.”

The Johnsons’ films and photographs represent some of the earliest and best quality images of our natural world, and they continue to be used in documentaries around the world. More than a half-century after their travels, the Johnsons continue to educate people through those documentaries and through the museum.

Each year 6,000 film makers, photographers, naturalists, historians, collectors and the general public visit the museum, which made the list of top 50 most unique U.S. museums in the 1997 book Offbeat Museums.

An Inspiring Story

“Every year we get zoologists and film makers who make pilgrimages here because their career was inspired by the Johnsons,” Froehlich said. “We also get folks who come in really not knowing anything about the Johnsons and they are not sure what this museum is about. But when they leave, they are really excited about the story of two young Kansans who travel the world and experience adventure and romance.”

Osa Leighty was born in Chanute in 1894 and had not traveled more than 35 miles from home until the age of 16, when she met 26-year-old Martin Johnson. Johnson, who grew up in Lincoln and Independence, Kan., had just returned to southeast Kansas after two years spent roaming the South Pacific on novelist Jack London’s failed quest to sail around the world.

The trip didn’t last seven years as planned, but Johnson brought back thousands of photos, as many stories and a passion for adventure. He opened several Snark Theaters, named after the 45-foot vessel built by London, in Independence to show his photographs and talk about his journey. He met Osa when he took his show to Chanute. A month later, they were married.

There began a life of adventure that made the kids from Kansas famous. They devoted 27 years of their short lives to recording their travels. From 1917 to 1936, they would make five safaris to Africa, two to Borneo, and two to the South Seas. They would produce box-office hits and become stars during Hollywood’s infancy in the 1920s and ’30s.

“They popularized travelogues,” Froehlich said. “They weren’t just showing the scenes, the animals and the people. They were showing themselves on safari: how they lived and how they traveled. It became a story and that’s what people found so fascinating.”

The images opened the eyes of millions of Americans who had never dreamed of seeing such exotic places. Moviegoers flocked to see footage that was photographed at the risk of life: the Kansans living among cannibals and other native tribes, running from angry rhinos and standing among stampeding elephant herds.

The Johnsons also wrote 18 books, including two that are still in print today: Martin’s “Camera Trails in Africa” and Osa’s “I Married Adventure,” which was the No. 1 best-seller in nonfiction in 1940 and stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year.

However, the Johnsons are best known for the dozens of commercial films they produced in order to finance their adventures. “Congorilla” was the first sound movie ever filmed in Africa; “Baboona” followed the Johnsons on their final trip to Africa, when they used two Sikorsky amphibious aircraft to produce the first aerial footage of animals moving across the plains of Africa; and “Borneo,” which included the first photographs of wild blue-faced maroon leaf and proboscis monkeys and is considered their finest technical film.

Martin died in 1937, soon after returning from that trip to Borneo, in a commercial airplane accident on his way to a lecture tour stop in California. Osa wrote many of her books, including her best-selling autobiography, after Martin’s death and continued to work until her death in 1953.

The Museum

The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum opened in 1961 and moved into its current home in the renovated Santa Fe Railway depot in 1993. Osa’s mother, Belle Leighty, donated the Johnsons belongings to start the museum.

Although Johnson archives can be found at a number of institutions, such as the Library of Congress, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art, the Safari Museum is the only museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the life work of the Johnsons while continuing their work of sharing the knowledge of natural history and cultural anthropology.

Visitors start in the replica Snark Theater for a 10-minute orientation before winding their way through the two-story museum that shares the depot with the public library.

The centerpiece of the Johnson Exhibition Hall is a mock campsite with life-size models of Martin and Osa. Visitors can trace the lives of the explorers by following the chronological displays on the walls of the Hall. Photographs allow visitors to see the expeditions through the eyes of the Johnsons, while artifacts such as camera equipment, field journals, clothing and other personal belongings illustrate their way of life.

The highlight of the museum is the collection of photographs taken mostly by Martin Johnson anywhere from 60 to 80 years ago. These are powerful images of people and animals in a world that no longer exists. The images are even more amazing when you consider that they were taken with primitive equipment before zoom lenses, so the Johnsons often stood at dangerously close distances – 8 to 12 feet – to their subjects.

Besides the Johnson archives, the museum houses an art gallery of wildlife paintings, prints and art objects; a research library featuring more than 10,000 volumes of natural history, travel and exploration literature, documentary films, as well as photographs; an interactive area for children; and a gift shop.

One wing of the museum, the Imperato African Gallery, includes objects and masks that represent the traditional way of life in west Africa, an area of the continent not covered in the Johnson’s travels. The tribal cultural material was donated by Dr. Pascal James Imperato, an epidemiologist and admirer of the Johnsons who, along with his wife, wrote the most comprehensive biography of the couple, “They Married Adventure: The Wandering Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson.”

The Johnson Legacy

The Johnsons were pioneers who made a lasting impact on the world with their hundreds of miles of film. But the most enduring legacy left by the couple is their spirit of adventure and exploration, which is kept alive at the museum in Chanute.

“Here were these two Kansans from regular families who had a vision and followed that vision,” Froehlich said. “I hope that when people leave our museum, they are inspired by the story and they think about following their own dreams.”



What: The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum

Where: 111 N. Lincoln Ave. in downtown Chanute, Kan.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-5 pm. Sunday. Closed holidays.

Admission: $6 adults; $4 seniors & students; $3 children ages 6-12; and free for children under 6. Group tours and discounts available. Accessible to people with disabilities.

More info: or (620) 431-2730. Many of the Johnsons’ books and movies are available in the museum store.

Posted in travel Tagged , , , |

Admitting when you’re wrong

So Lee and I have both received some texts in the past 12 hours since Wichita State beat No. 1 Gonzaga to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tourney. They say the same thing: am I going to admit to Lee that I was wrong when I wrote this in a post earlier this year:

I contend that the best Missouri Valley Conference team would not have an easy game against the middle-of-the-pack teams in the big-boy conferences and would certainly lose to the top teams in those conferences. I love going to Wichita State University games but as I said earlier, overall the level of play in the Valley is just weaker.

As a season-ticket holder and a Wichita resident for 18 years now, I am thrilled that the Shockers played so well and took down what some considered to be the best team in the nation. It was a breath-taking game to watch and I couldn’t stay seated for most of the last five minutes of the game.

I’m disappointed that my Missouri Tigers didn’t hold up their end of the deal — a meeting of Missouri and Wichita State in the Final Four could’ve been sweet and settled a lot of debates in the Schnyder household! Now we’ll never know how a game between the black and gold squads would’ve played out this season.

So here it is: I was wrong about this Wichita State basketball team. The Shockers can and did play a top team and come out on top.

Now, keep proving me wrong and make it to Atlanta!

p.s. I’m still standing firm that I will always root for the Tigers in head-to-head competition, even if it happens on Lee’s birthday!!

Posted in Lee, Sports

The influence of an aunt

I realized something recently that I really should have realized years ago – I have always had a role model of a child-free woman right here in my own family!

My Aunt Linda, my mom’s sister and the woman I was named after, was child-free.

I’m not sure how I missed this until now…other than the fact that our situations are quite different.

While I’m child-free by choice, my aunt was child-free by chance. And thanks to my Uncle Skip, she had a six-pack of stepdaughters.

Left to right: my mom, Sandy, and my youngest brother, J.L, with my Aunt Linda in Nashville in the late ’90s.

So any impact on my decision to not have children would have been subconscious. We never discussed it; in fact, I don’t know the exact medical reasons for why she couldn’t have children.

I’m sharing this today on what would have been my aunt’s 71st birthday. She passed away in 2009.

Here’s the real influence my aunt had on me: she was an awesome aunt who I loved spending time with and I wanted to be the same for my nieces and nephews.

My three brothers were a lot older than I was so I became an aunt at the age of 10. My brothers had a free babysitter and I did my best to spoil their kids and be the fun aunt who was pretty much still a kid herself. It was a little harder when I moved to Kansas in 1994 and when I got older and my nieces and nephews got older and more involved with their own activities.

We have a niece and nephew on Lee’s side of the family and have enjoyed having them come stay with us for a week or so each summer the past few years. I know that will soon change as we’re not so young and cool anymore!

I’ll write more about my choice to be child-free but for today’s post, I wanted to honor my Aunt Linda. Thanks for being a role model – for what an aunt could be and for making meaningful contributions to other generations without birthing children.

Aunt Linda with my oldest brother, Roy, and middle brother, Doug, in 1959.

Posted in Family

MeLinda POV: you’re going the wrong way

One of many dirt roads we drove the X3 down within Big Bend National Park.

First of all, thank you to Lee for writing the first guest post here at Next Door To Normal. I didn’t ask him to write it. In fact, we hadn’t talked about this mishap on our road trip until he asked me to read a draft of his post.

I was saving that conversation for the next therapy session :-o

It was interesting to know what was going through his mind and so I decided to share my point of view during this same portion of our 2,500-mile road trip from Kansas to Mexico and back.

Lee is the driver on trips and I am the navigator. We settled into these roles many years ago. It probably happened the first time Lee started driving south from Wichita when we were embarking on a drive to Denver. {get the map out people}

Or for any of you who have driven with me, you likely understand why he’d prefer to be behind the wheel!

I wrote a post not long ago about the No. 1 thing Lee and I argue about (hint: it’s sports-related). A very close second is directions/driving.

There’s really never much of an argument, actually. It’s just me getting pissy because he is relying completely on me and that stresses me out when we are in, say, rush hour traffic in Los Angeles. I’m usually not familiar with these places either and I need him to help US out and think a little!

As he stated in his post, he seems to turn off his brain and aimlessly drive. This is a recurring issue that I’ve mentioned bitched to him repeatedly and he never says anything in response. I think that part frustrates me the most.

And let’s just get everything out on the table, why don’t we. When the tables are turned – when he is tired and wants me to drive – he does not assume the role of navigator. I do my own navigation or if that gets too hectic, I have to ask him to navigate. Last year, friends in the backseat offered to help out when Lee didn’t get my hints that I could use his help.

Now who’s the one who likes to just sit in the Beemer and look pretty!?! {exactly}


This trip involved a lot of driving in a short amount of time. Not only did we have the 14 hours to get there and another 14 hours to get back home, we drove constantly throughout our stay at Big Bend National Park (like everything in Texas, it’s a BIG park). Lee was sick with what started as a cold and moved to a sinus infection (yes, I offered to drive REPEATEDLY). We were pretty tired before we even started to head home.

So there we sat at Guzzi Pizza in Marathon, Texas. We had decided to hike one last trail that morning before starting our two-day trek home. As we waited on the pizza, I pulled up the map on my iPhone and showed Lee where we were and where we were going. Internet access was spotty this far south in Texas so while we had it at the restaurant, I wanted to make sure we both knew how we were going home.

The route: back up to Fort Stockton, then from there back up to I-20. That’s when we’d head east. He nodded.

It was straightforward. So straightforward that when we got back into the X3 I immediately put headphones on to listen to a podcast of a webinar on networking and alternated taking notes with flipping through a magazine.

About 50 miles later, I casually look up from the magazine and see a US-90E sign. EAST? We aren’t supposed to be going east until we get up to I-20. I grab my iPhone hoping there’s a connection and I see the little dot on the map bouncing parallel with the Mexico border.

That part where Lee says we calmly talked? There was no calm. I overreacted.

We had just basically undone the driving out of the park we’d done before lunch!! I showed him the map!! It was clear-cut!! Why would it make any sense for us to go east right away?? He’s such a smart guy, I don’t get why he doesn’t have common sense in driving situations. I may have said all of that out loud. In the vehicle. In my outdoor voice.

“Don’t take that tone with me,” he quipped.

I glared back and said matter-of-factly, “Fine, you figure out how to get us out of here without running out of gas.”

Lee pulled off to the side of the road and got his phone out to see if we needed to backtrack or if we could go another route. I offered up a paper map we had. He picked going forward, which made sense to me too.

We were just about two miles from the junction of 90 & 285, which is the road we would take to head north. As we drove through this area – Sanderson, Texas – I could see a few buildings but it didn’t really look like a place to stop.

“Should we drive in a little further to see if there’s a gas station before heading north for Fort Stockton?” I asked.

“No, we’ll make it.”

“Are you sure?”


That was the last thing either of us said for about 63 miles.

I put headphones on and blasted some music while looking out the passenger side window. I couldn’t think of anything nice to say and I was furious that he was mad that I was mad.

This was one of the most stressful hours ever. I alternated praying with thinking of ways to tell him how pissed I was at the “don’t take that tone with me” comment.

I could see that the fuel light was on for most of those last 64 miles. I scanned the roadside hoping to see a house, a business … a HUMAN BEING. I saw nothing from the road except for a utility station with an unoccupied truck parked near the gate.

I was looking for a place to walk back to that might actually have a human being, just in case we ran out of gas. The other options were walking forward to Fort Stockton or I noticed a few semi-trucks on the road and thought maybe one would pick us up and I’d live to tell about it.

Finally, I could see civilization. I thought to myself, how much would it suck if we ran out of gas inside the city limits before we could get to the gas station? Well, it would suck less than running out where we just came from!

I started scouring the landscape for signs of a gas station. From quite a distance I could see the beautiful yellow with red pinstripe awning of a Shell station. I love branding.

As Lee pumped gas, I went in to use the restroom. I really wanted to know how close we’d been to running out but I wasn’t about to ask him and he didn’t offer the information.

I came out and offered to drive. He said no, and we got back in the X3. He asked which highway he needed to take out of Fort Stockton and I told him, then pointed to the turn.

I didn’t read for the remainder of the trip or work on my laptop during the drive as I’d planned. I just watched the road and listened to music through headphones while Lee listened to sports talk radio.

If you haven’t already, jump over and read this story from Lee’s point of view!

Posted in Lee, travel, Weird shit that happens