twenty-sixteen

In twenty-sixteen, I:  Gazed in WONDER at the Renwick.  Traipsed around the City of Brotherly Love, ate Philly cheese steaks, and admired the Mural Arts decorating the city’s walls and parking lots. Inspected the crack in the Liberty Bell and imagined our forefathers in Independence Hall.  Toasted to Mike’s 62nd birthday. Worried about our youngest son’s lack of direction.  Partially de-cluttered our house, using The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (the Kon-Mari method), successfully weeding out clothing, accessories, kitchen appliances and books.

Flew to Dallas, Texas and then drove to Oklahoma City to attend a friend’s second wedding.  Walked on the grassy knoll and along the route where JFK was assassinated.  Stood beside larger-than-life statues of George W. Bush and his dad at the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.  Walked among tulips and sat with Benjamin Franklin at the Dallas Arboretum.  Stood under a rearing horse and saw a fake rodeo at the Cowboy Museum.  Grieved near a field of empty chairs for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Stood by as contractors demolished our deck, laundry room and kitchen and then slowly built them again, in much nicer form.

Attended my first husband’s book talk in April at Politics and Prose in D.C., where he discussed his newly published book, Mathews Men.  Celebrated our daughter Sarah’s graduation, with a B.A. in English, from Virginia Commonwealth University in May.  Enjoyed a spread of bagels at Sarah’s house, and later dinner and dirty martinis at Lucy’s, with both families in attendance. 🙂

Wandered through tulips and sunflowers at Burnside Gardens in Virginia.  Visited four gardens around Philadelphia for my second trip to that city this year.  Imbibed in Cabernets and Pinot Grigios at several Virginia wineries.  Let our son’s lease in Richmond expire and watched with trepidation to see what he’d do next; fretted because we didn’t know where he would go or what he’d do.  Felt relieved when we found he took off for a Tribal Design retreat in Vancouver and finally went Hawaii, where he is now leading tours for a hostel in Maui.

Drove around the Ring Road in Iceland over a breathtaking 11 days (in search of a thousand cafés).  Climbed around, behind, and to the tops of waterfalls. Admired sweeping vistas from our Polo VW rental.  Hiked to the edge of ashy glaciers.  Poked around inside turf-roofed houses. Ate cod, cod and more cod, as well as langoustine, lamb and gas-station hot dogs.  Drove over 2700 km and walked 166,100 steps, or 70.4 miles.  Returned home with walking pneumonia, from which it took three weeks to recover.

Laughed at the “Kurios” of Cirque de Soleil.  Had a family reunion at our renovated house for my dad’s 86th birthday in September, where everyone except Adam attended.  Enjoyed sushi and sake with my sister Stephanie, who came from California.  Drove along the Skyline Drive amidst flame-colored leaves to West Virginia in early November to celebrate my 61st birthday and our 28th anniversary.  Enjoyed delicious pizza and craft beer at Pies & Pints. Strolled through the eerie ghost towns of Thurmond and Nuttallburg.  Hiked along the Endless Wall.

Barely survived our contentious election and felt heartbroken over the results.  Boycotted Facebook for a month and a half.  Realized I have nothing in common with 62 million Americans.

Read/listened to 35 books/audiobooks (meeting my Goodreads goal!), my favorites being All the Light We Cannot See, State of Wonder, Circling the Sun, The Ambassador’s Wife, and The Glass Castle.  Saw 39 movies in the theater, especially loving Joy, Eye in the Sky, A Hologram for the King, The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Music of Strangers, Dheepan, Hell or High Water, The Light Between Oceans, Sully, Girl on the Train, A Man Called Ove, Manchester by the Sea, and Lion.  Dined on Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French, Japanese and Italian food.

Weighed 5 pounds more at year-end than at the end of 2015, despite continual attempts to lose weight.  Took Pilates and dropped out because of utter boredom.  Walked nearly 251 hours during 276 @3-mile workouts, or about 813 miles of dedicated workouts.

Passed the Virginia Real Estate Licensing Exam but never signed with a broker. Sent my novel to 23 agents to no avail.  Applied for 32 jobs, 23 abroad and 9 stateside.  Came up empty-handed on the book publishing and the job front.  Got discouraged.  Completed a Memoir class and wrote seven chapters of a memoir.  Dreamed about how my future might look.

Celebrated Thanksgiving with Alex and Sarah, and Christmas with only Alex (Adam was in Hawaii through the holidays, jumping off waterfalls, body surfing and leading tours). Felt dismayed at our shrinking family gatherings.

Returned to Philadelphia (third time’s a charm!) to see “Paint the Revolution” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Admired the Gates of Hell and Crouching Woman at the Rodin Museum.  Wandered through the Magic Gardens of mirrors and mosaics and found objects.  Walked and walked through the outdoor gallery of Mural Arts to shake 2016 out of our psyches. Drove home through Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, amidst the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies and faded laundry flapping on clotheslines.

Cleared our heads in preparation for 2017, when we are hoping for love, peace, healing, direction, confidence, boldness and endless adventure. 🙂

texas road trips: a family visit in early, last day in plano, and return to virginia

Sunday, March 27:  This morning, we all pack up, straighten up our Airbnb house and leave Oklahoma City, first dropping off Charlene and Louise at the airport.  Martha and I drive three hours back to Plano, where we settle in for the night, enjoying our wine in the spa as we have almost every night while in Plano.

Monday, March 28: Today, I drive 3 hours southwest from Plano to Early, Texas, not far from the bigger town of Brownwood, where I visit my Aunt Judy.  Aunt Judy is my mother’s younger sister. My mom died on April 22, 2002, and would now be approaching 84 if she were still alive.

Since Aunt Judy lives out west, I don’t get to see her often.  The last time I saw her, in fact, was for my mother’s funeral on April 26, 2002. Judy’s husband is Uncle Bill and her daughter, my cousin, is Marlene.  I probably met Marlene when we were young children, but I’m not even sure about that.  We have a great time getting to know each other and sharing stories about our lives.

My other cousin is Bryan, who lives with Aunt Judy and helps her and Uncle Bill around the house.  Bryan lived in Austin for a time, and travels back there quite frequently to see his friends.  Austin is one place I would have loved to visit but I didn’t really have time on this trip.

We enjoy a big family dinner together on Monday night.

Marlene, Uncle Bill and Aunt Judy
Marlene, Uncle Bill and Aunt Judy

 

Marlene, Brian, Uncle Bill and me
Marlene, Bryan, Uncle Bill and me
Marlene and Brian
Marlene and Bryan
Me with Brian
Me with Bryan

Tuesday, March 29:  Marlene and Judy and I sit around talking most of the day.  Marlene takes us to her beautiful house on a lake and I get to meet her husband too.  Aunt Judy takes Marlene and I to lunch at an Italian restaurant and then we have a quiet dinner at home.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll drive back to Plano.

Aunt Judy and Marlene
Aunt Judy and Marlene
Aunt Judy and me
Aunt Judy and me
me with Marlene
me with Marlene

After our nice visit, I drive back to Plano, first stopping to visit one of my old high school teachers, who, after teaching at York High School, became an Episcopal priest. Andy and his wife live in Azle, TX, also outside of Dallas/Fort Worth.

Later, I return to Martha’s house in Plano.  We soak in the spa again and enjoy our last night together sharing wine and great conversation.

Martha and I in her spa with wine
Martha and I in her spa with wine
Martha's spa
Martha’s spa

Martha and her husband Paul have been the perfect hosts.  I’ve known Martha my whole life, but I haven’t had a chance to talk in depth with Paul, so it was a real pleasure conversing with both of them.  Martha and Paul are great conversationalists, and can talk thoughtfully about subjects ranging from politics to terrorism to the situation in the Middle East to science (of course I can’t contribute much on the latter subject).

Martha and Paul
Martha and Paul
Me with Martha
Me with Martha

Martha makes a delicious and healthy meal of lentil burgers with a yogurt sauce.

dinnertime >> lentil burgers
dinnertime >> lentil burgers
lentil burgers
lentil burgers
Martha's family room
Martha’s family room

We enjoy the beautiful sunset after dinner.  Then I have to pack up for my flight back to Virginia tomorrow morning.

sunset in Plano
sunset in Plano
colorful clouds
colorful clouds
sunset in plano
sunset in plano

Wednesday, March 31:  I have to drive to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport and return my rental car; my flight out is slightly after noon.  Luckily, it’s a direct flight.  It has been a fabulous visit to Texas and Oklahoma to share a special event with my high school friends, and to visit my Aunt Judy and her family.  What wonderful memories we created all around. 🙂

a festive wedding day in oklahoma city

Saturday, March 26: We start this beautiful Saturday morning by going back to Rosie’s son and daughter-in-law’s house for a bridal shower/brunch.  Sangria and mimosas are beautifully displayed.

Saturday brunch mimosas
Saturday brunch mimosas & sangria

The food spread is marvelous too.

the Sunday brunch layout
the Sunday brunch layout

Here are four of us with our mimosas.  The bride is ready for her big night tonight.

Martha, Rosie, Louise and me at the brunch
Martha, Rosie, Louise and me at the brunch

After we eat, the bride opens her multitudes of wedding gifts.

It’s a beautiful spring day out and we pose outside before heading out.

We have several hours to wander around before the 6:00 wedding.  We go to eat lunch and then go on a shopping spree!

me, Martha, Rosie, Charlene, and Louise
me, Martha, Rosie, Charlene, and Louise

Before 6:00, we arrive at the Clauren Ridge Vineyard & Winery to have some appetizers and drinks, then we go outside to wait for the wedding.  We’re lucky that it’s a gorgeous day.

the pergola at the winery
the pergola at the winery
the guests
the guests

The procession begins with the ring-bearer.

the ring bearer
the ring bearer

And then the bridesmaids: Rosie’s daughter-in-law, her two daughters and Jim’s daughter.

maid of honor
maid of honor – Rosie’s daughter-in-law
maid of honor
maid of honor – Rosie’s daughter Blair
Here comes the bride
Here comes the bride
Rosie's sisters waiting
Rosie’s sisters waiting

The bride is gorgeous as she always is. 🙂

here comes the bride
here comes the bride
the wedding begins
the wedding begins
Bride and groom
Bride and groom
wife and husband
wife and husband

After the wedding, of course photographs are taken with the wedding party while the rest of us go into the winery for drinks and appetizers.  Then we have a sit-down dinner.  Afterward, some of the guests dance, but I mostly enjoy watching Rosie dance with her multitudes of grandchildren.

At the end of the night, after many of the guests have left, we finally get a moment to take a picture with the bride.  She’s stunning, isn’t she?

Martha, Charlene, Rosie, me and Louise
Martha, Charlene, Rosie, me and Louise

What an exciting day for Rosie and her family.  I wish her infinite happiness. 🙂

oklahoma city national memorial & museum {…followed by a mexican feista}

Friday, March 25:  After our lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen, and after walking quite a distance, we finally arrive at our destination, The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  The memorial and museum commemorate the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing destroyed one-third of the building, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 others.  The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage (Wikipedia: Oklahoma City bombing).

We first walk through Murrah Plaza, also known as the Memorial Overlook.

The park surrounding the imprint of the Alfred Murrah Building
Murrah Plaza – Memorial Overlook
The park surrounding the imprint of the Alfred Murrah Building
Murrah Plaza – Memorial Overlook

The grass lawn below was the playground for the children’s day care center.  Nineteen children were killed altogether; 15 were in the America’s Kids Day Care Center.

The children's playground
The children’s playground

From the Memorial Overlook, we can see the Field of Empty Chairs. The 168 chairs represent the lives taken on April 19, 1995. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. The field is located on the footprint of the Murrah Building, according to the Oklahoma City National Memorial: Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial – The Field of Empty Chairs

The first Fence was installed to protect the site of the bombing. Almost immediately, people began to leave tokens of love and hope on the Fence. Those items now total more than 60,000 and are collected and preserved in the museum’s archives. Today, more than 200 feet of the original Fence offers the opportunity for people to leave tokens of remembrance and hope (Oklahoma City National Memorial: Outdoor Symbolic Memorial).

the chain link fence that was the site's first memorial
the chain link fence that was the site’s first memorial

Saint Joseph Old Cathedral, the oldest parish in Oklahoma City, was significantly damaged during the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. The Church has erected a memorial on this site titled “Jesus wept.”

Jesus wept.
Jesus wept.
Jesus wept outside the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial
Jesus wept outside the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial

Two monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial.

The West Gate, below, represents 9:03 a.m, the moment lives were changed forever.

The 9:03 Gate
The 9:03 Gate

The East Gate, shown below, represents 9:01 a.m., and symbolizes the city’s innocence before the attack.  Behind it is the Survivor Wall, the only remaining walls from the Murrah Building.

The reflecting pool occupies what was once N.W. Fifth Street. Its shallow and placid surface offers a place of quiet reflection.

The Reflecting Pool
The Reflecting Pool
The Reflecting Pool and the Memorial Museum
The Reflecting Pool and the Memorial Museum
Field of Empty Chairs
Field of Empty Chairs
Field of Empty Chairs
Field of Empty Chairs
The 9:01 Gate
The 9:01, or the East, Gate

In front of the Memorial Museum and the Journal Record Building is the Survivor Tree, an American Elm, which withstood the full force of the attack. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience. The circular promontory surrounding the tree offers a place for gathering and viewing the Memorial.

The Memorial Museum & the Journal Record Building with the Survivor Tree
The Memorial Museum & the Journal Record Building with the Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree
Outdoor Symbolic Memorial
Outdoor Symbolic Memorial

After visiting the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, we go inside the Museum.  As time is running out, Louise volunteers to walk back to pick up the car, so only Martha, Charlene and I see the amazing museum.

The Memorial Museum
The Memorial Museum

The Memorial Museum offers a chronological self-guided tour through the April 19, 1995 bombing, and the days, weeks and years that followed.

It’s interesting to read about our world in 1995. International headlines that year include the end of Bosnia’s civil war, a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in central Africa and the Sarin nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway.  In national headlines, prosecutors were making their opening statements in the O.J. Simpson murder trial and Major League Baseball players ended their 232-day strike on April 2.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed on April 18 at 4179.13.

"the start of a day like any other day"
“the start of a day like any other day”

At that time, interest rates hovered around 8.5%, a gallon of gasoline was $1.09, a U.S. postage stamp was 32 cents, and a new car cost an average of $15,500.  The median household income was $34,076.

In popular culture, Forrest Gump won Best Picture at the Academy Awards Ceremony in March.  On television, Americans were watching Seinfeld and ER and reading legal thrillers written by John Grisham.  Personal hand-held video games, CDs, audio books and video store rental stores provided entertainment.

In 1995, coin-operated pay phones in public places were used more than cell phones.  Electric typewriters and pagers were still in use, although desktop computers are becoming increasingly common.  Microsoft introduced its first version of Internet Explorer.  Amazon.com sold its first book.  Internet usage among American adults was only 14%.

The bombers, McVeigh and Nichols, had expressed anger at the federal government’s handling of the 1992 FBI standoff with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge as well as the 1993 Waco Siege, which began on February 28, 1993 when agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) traveled to Mount Carmel, near Waco.  Cult members known as Branch Davidians lived within the heavily armed compound with leader David Koresh, who the Feds intended to arrest for firearms violations.  Instead, a bloody gun battle began where four agents and six cult members were killed.  After a 51-day standoff between federal agents and cult members, the compound burned on April 19, 1993.  More than 75 people inside died, including children.  Some blamed cult members and others blamed federal agents.

At the museum today, we go into a bland government board room.  We sit and listen to the rather mundane proceedings — the official recording of an Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting from April 19, 1995. The meeting, just across the street from the Murrah Building, starts at 9:00 a.m. A mere two minutes in to the recording, we are jolted by the explosion.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting
Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting
the victims
the victims
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

A clock is forever frozen in time at 9:02, the time of the explosion.

The explosion
The explosion

We leave the confusion inside the Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting to experience the chaos outside. Here, we hear loud noises, people yelling, utter panic and confusion, and ambulances.  We see helicopter news footage of the ravaged building taken at 9:13 a.m. – the first images broadcast.  We’re able to experience those first frantic moments after the bombing through detailed artifact cases, murals and computer kiosks.

The whole experience is immensely disturbing and almost feels as if we were there.

Click on any picture below for a full-sized slide show.

Below is a photo of the building after the explosion.

photo of the devastation
photo of the devastation

Firefighters from only five blocks away were on the scene within moments.  Other units were called in.  Exposed power lines, leaking fuel, broken glass and debris littered many blocks and added to the danger.

Oklahoma City Fire Department
Oklahoma City Fire Department

After leaving this powerfully moving museum, we go outside to meet Louise with the car.

The Memorial Museum - parting shot
The Memorial Museum – parting shot

We return to our Airbnb house and get dressed to go to a Mexican fiesta put on by Rosie’s son and his wife.  Here are the four of us in front of the fireplace.

me, Martha, Louise and Charlene at our Airbnb house
me, Martha, Louise and Charlene at our Airbnb house
Martha, me and Charlene at our house
Martha, me and Charlene at our house

We arrive at the Mexican fiesta, enticingly laid out on the table.

The Mexican Fiesta
The Mexican Fiesta
Martha, Louise and Charlene at the Mexican fiesta
Martha, Louise and Charlene at the Mexican fiesta

The bride-to-be and her fiance, Rosie and Jim, look very happy.  Their wedding will be tomorrow evening.

Linda, Rosie and Jim at the Mexican Fiesta
Linda, Rosie and Jim at the Mexican Fiesta

Rosie poses with one of her beautiful daughters, Haley, and Rosie’s older sister, Janet.  They are a family of beauties. 🙂

Rosie, her daughter Haley and her sister Janet
Rosie, her daughter Haley and her sister Janet

And finally, Rosie poses with her sisters, Ann and Janet.

Rosie and her sisters: Ann and Janet
Rosie and her sisters: Ann and Janet

It’s a fun gathering, with Rosie’s large family, Jim’s family and even the family of Rosie’s husband who died three years ago.  Everyone loves Rosie, and I know she’s happy to have found someone as crazy about her as Jim obviously is. 🙂

 

 

oklahoma city: bricktown & an urban hike

Friday, March 25:  After picking up Louise at the zoo, we drive to Bricktown, an area east of the downtown business district of Oklahoma City that served as the city’s first warehouse and distribution district.  It was founded on the heels of the Land Run of 1889 and it served as the central hub of the state and the country.

Bricktown, Oklahoma City
Bricktown, Oklahoma City

Up until the 1950s, it housed furniture and hardware stores, a biscuit company, cotton producers, wholesale grocers, a dairy, and even a school.  After the area declined in the 1960s and 70s, residents began to move out of the city and buildings were torn down until the area was almost vacant.

After decades of decline, investors and other forward-thinkers started to buy and renovate buildings and recruited retail, restaurants, and attractions.

Bricktown
Bricktown

Beginning in 1993, Bricktown added a baseball stadium, a water canal with water taxis, river improvements, and a nearby sports and concert arena.

Now a thriving urban entertainment district, Bricktown is home to more than 45 restaurants, many bars, clubs, and retail shops, as well as family friendly attractions, museums and galleries (Welcome to Bricktown: History).

bridge over canal in Bricktown
bridge over canal in Bricktown
Urban art in Bricktown
Urban art in Bricktown
Bricktown canal
Bricktown canal

We’re famished after our morning at the Cowboy Museum, so we stop for a late lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen.  By now it’s nearly 2:00, and we realize we’re running out of time to do all the things we hoped to do today.

I order a plate of Veggie Primavera. 🙂

Lunch at Zio's: Louise, Martha, Charlene and me
Lunch at Zio’s: Louise, Martha, Charlene and me

At lunch, we debate about what to do next.  We’ve barely explored Bricktown, but first and foremost, we want to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. As it’s about 2:40 by the time we finish lunch, and we have a Mexican dinner at Rosie’s son’s house tonight at 6:30, our time is limited.  We decide we have to forego further exploration of Bricktown so we can see the museum.

Somehow the GPS on our phones shows us the museum is right around the corner from Bricktown, but when we arrive at what is shown to be the destination, it’s not there.  We ask a passerby and find it’s still a number of blocks away.  We begin our urban hike, finding some interesting sights along the way.

urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
urban hiking in Oklahoma City
tall people in the square
tall people in the square
urban sculptures
urban sculptures
tall folks
tall folks
reflections in the city
reflections in the city
urban sculptures on an urban hike
urban sculptures on an urban hike
oklahoma city
oklahoma city
cityscape
cityscape
First Church
First Church

Finally, we arrive at the museum.  Stay tuned for an emotional experience at this museum, marking the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building by Timothy McVeigh.

oklahoma city: the national cowboy & western heritage museum

Friday, March 25:  This morning, we drive into Oklahoma City to see the sights, namely the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Bricktown, and The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  Louise, who retired from her career at the Virginia Zoo, wants to visit some people she knows at the Oklahoma City Zoo, so we drop her off there, while Martha, Charlene and I go to the National Cowboy Museum.

Entrance to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Entrance to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

We first encounter a sad and defeated statue of a Native American slumped on a horse in an atrium-like room.  In 1894, when James Earle Fraser completed his model of The End of the Trail, America stretched from shore to shore and most Euramericans believed the frontier expansion period was over.  Many viewed Native Americans as a vanishing race with no place in the 20th century.  Popular literature portrayed Indian people as “savages,” noble or otherwise.  Fraser’s End of the Trail reflects this legacy: a nineteenth century Indian warrior defeated and bound for oblivion — frozen in time.

The End of the Trail
The End of the Trail

By the 1890s, Native Americans were confined largely to reservations ravaged by disease and starvation, and the Indian population declined dramatically.  Indian children were forced to attend federally supported boarding schools that attempted to replace traditional tribal values with American culture.  WWII brought changes to most Native American communities as many of them enlisted with the armed forces and others moved to urban areas for employment.  From a low of about 250,000 in 1890, the Native American population in the U.S. now numbers slightly over two million.  Modern Indian people combine the best of traditional tribal values with the opportunities afforded by contemporary American society.  Unlike Fraser’s sculpture, “being Indian” has never been cast in stone  (R. David Edmonds, Ph.D. – Cherokee: from a plaque at the museum).

First we walk through a fascinating photo gallery where we’re not allowed to take pictures.  No photos are allowed in several other galleries, but we’re finally able to take pictures without flash in the Native American Gallery, where we find native clothing, headdresses, and teepees, as well as a weaving in memory of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Next is the fascinating Western Performers Gallery, which explores the ways the west has been interpreted in literature and film. Honoring western performers who have contributed to the making and preservation of western legends, the gallery displays, among others, the John Wayne collection of personal firearms, artwork, and memorabilia. It’s fun to wander through the extensive collection of movie posters and portraits.

We first encounter Robert Redford’s costume from the 1979 film, The Electric Horseman, in which he played a retired rodeo king who sells his soul to the devil to be a spokesman for a breakfast cereal.

Robert Redford's costume from The Electric Horseman
Robert Redford’s costume from The Electric Horseman

Here’s a link where you can see Robert Redford in this get-up: Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman.

The American Cowboy Gallery interprets the cowboy’s history and culture from Spanish colonial times to the 20th century, especially his clothing and equipment.

The American Rodeo Gallery celebrates the history, people and events of the West’s truly indigenous sport.

The American Rodeo Gallery
The American Rodeo Gallery
The Red River Rodeo
The Red River Rodeo
bucking bronco
bucking bronco
American Rodeo Gallery
American Rodeo Gallery
Martha goes to the rodeo
Martha goes to the rodeo
required attire
required attire

The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West presents the legacies of diverse peoples and historical currents in the 19th-century American West. The exhibit reflects Native American, early frontier, military and hunting activity.

Frontier scene
Frontier scene
the view of the plains
the view of the plains
Cavalry
Cavalry

Prosperity Junction is a replica of a turn-of-the-century cattle town with its own history and its own location ~ somewhere in the West. With the railroad’s arrival, the days of the raw frontier are fading as goods and services from the East transform it into a settled community. At its northern edge lies the town’s industrial section, including a railroad depot, blacksmith shop, and livery stable. At the south end are the social elements ~ the school, the church, and residences. Between those two extremes lay the bulk of the town’s business structures (National Cowboy Museum: Prosperity Junction).

The Norma Sutherland Garden, flanking the museum and the children’s interactive center, is a quiet oasis where one can sit and contemplate our western heritage.

The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden
The Norma Sutherland Garden

The Western States Plaza

The Western States Plaza
The Western States Plaza
Looking at "The End of the Trail" statue from the Western States Plaza
Looking at “The End of the Trail” statue from the Western States Plaza

The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens are a wonderful place for a stroll, especially on such a pretty day.

The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens

We find Buffalo Bill perched high atop Persimmon Hill.

The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens
The Jack and Phoebe Cooke Gardens

The statue below is adjacent to the parking lot: Code of the West.  Says a plaque: “The horse age lingers, and the ranchers still hold with the idea that a man works for what he gets, helps his neighbors and takes care of his own, and that a handshake and a man’s word are as good as his bond.  Maybe even better.” — Spike Van Cleve.

Code of the West
Code of the West
Code of the West
Code of the West

We love this museum and wish we could linger longer.  There is another whole wing we don’t even have time to visit, but Louise is finished at the zoo and we have several other places we want to visit today.  Plus, we’re hungry for lunch.  After picking up Louise, we head to Bricktown to eat some Italian food. 🙂

dallas, texas: arrival in plano & a visit to the george w. bush presidential library and museum

Sunday, March 20:  Today, I fly from Washington to Dallas, Texas, arriving around 2:30 in the afternoon.  My friend Martha picks me up from the airport. We’ve been friends since 6th grade, when we used to ride pretend horses in her backyard, trotting, making clucking sounds and jumping obstacles that we erected.  We also held competitive Virginia Derbies on a marble racetrack with our extensive marble collections, all named after horses.  We fancied ourselves equestrians, riding a neighborhood pony named Maybe (maybe he’d buck us, maybe he wouldn’t…). We dreamed constantly of horses; I even wrote horse stories.  I guess it’s appropriate that, during my 11-day visit, we’ll find ourselves at The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

I have a lot of activities planned for my time out west, including a 2+day visit with Martha, who lives in Plano just outside of Dallas; a half-day driving to Oklahoma City where we have 4 days of pre-wedding activities and the wedding of our mutual friend Rosie (our friends Charlene and Louise join us here); a day driving back to Dallas; a 3-day visit to Early, TX to see my mom’s sister, Aunt Judy; and finally, my return to Dallas.  From there, I return home on March 31.

When I arrive in Dallas, Martha and I take a leisurely walk around her beautiful neighborhood in Plano.  She has a fabulous house with a special guest room and bathroom set off the center of the house.  Best of all she has a pool and spa in her backyard; we enjoy the spa this evening, accompanied by wine, before a delicious chicken salad for dinner.  It’s a wonderful treat. 🙂

Monday, March 21:  We have multiple choices of things we can do while in Dallas, but with only two full days to explore, we narrow our choices down to three.  Tomorrow, we want to visit Martha’s mom in a nursing home.  I haven’t seen her in years, so I look forward to the visit.

The first place we visit is the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Entrance to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Entrance to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

In Freedom Hall, we watch a 20-foot-tall, 360-degree, high-definition video wall that orients visitors and depicts a montage of the 44 U.S. Presidents.  It’s dizzying and neck-craning, but very well done.

video montage in Freedom Hall
video montage in Freedom Hall
Video montage in Freedom Hall
Video montage in Freedom Hall

A special exhibit at the museum, “Path to the Presidency,” is a fun, interactive exhibit that brings historic campaigns to life with artifacts, documents, photos, videos, and many other interesting components.  We make campaign posters.  Martha chooses the slogan: “An American Dreamer.”

Martha: An American Dreamer
Martha: An American Dreamer

On my campaign poster is the slogan “The Leader America Needs.”

Me: the Leader America Needs
Me: the Leader America Needs
Past U.S. Presidents
Past U.S. President campaign posters
Presidents through the years
Presidents through the years

Another thing I do is deliver an acceptance speech, using John F. Kennedy’s words from a teleprompter.  I always enjoy the chance to be on stage! 🙂

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

In one especially interesting interactive exhibit, we get to weigh in on key issues from past campaigns and then build a platform in which we discover which parties have most closely aligned with our views in the past.  We discover we are both mostly in the middle between the Republican and Democrat platforms.  We’re also able to sit in a living room from the 1960s and watch some iconic campaign TV ads and historic debate moments, mostly with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Out in the courtyard, I stand with the giant statues of the two Bush presidents.

Me in the courtyard with the two Bush presidents
Me in the courtyard with the two Bush presidents

We then head into the regular exhibit about George W. Bush’s presidency.  In creating the museum, President Bush emphasized guiding principles that were important to him and that formed the basis for major decisions during his years in the White House (from the Gallery Map):

OpportunityEvery child can learn.  Free enterprise is the engine of prosperity.  You can spend your money better than the government can. 

Freedom: Freedom is universal.  Free people will set the course of history.  The best hope for peace is the expansion of freedom.

Responsibility: To whom much is given, much is required.  Results matter.  Serve a purpose larger than yourself.

Compassion: We have a moral obligation to relieve suffering.  Fighting disease abroad makes us safer at home.  Every life is precious.

Words from Bush's Inaugural address on January 20, 2001.
Words from Bush’s Inaugural address on January 20, 2001.
No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind
Strengthening America's Economy
Strengthening America’s Economy
the museum
the museum
National Book Festival
National Book Festival

The most moving display in the museum is the September 11 Remembrance Display. It’s quite powerful, with the 22-foot pulverized steel beam from the World Trade Center surrounded by multiple TV screens showing replays of each event that took place on that fateful day in 2001.  One screen shows the first plane hitting the first tower, the next one shows the second plane hitting, another shows the towers falling.  Still another shows the Pentagon after it was hit and the Pennsylvania plane debris.  You can walk around the perimeter and watch the events unfold just as they did on that horrible day in our history.

Of course most of us can remember vividly where we were on September 11, 2001.  I was in my car on my way to a book group at my church, Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church in Reston.  On the way there, driving down Reston Parkway, I heard the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  The newscaster seemed baffled and believed it had been a small plane.  As I continued driving, a second plane hit the second tower.  I suddenly felt panicked and sick; I knew something horrible was happening.  I had some time to spare before my book group, so I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee.  I looked around at the people around me and everyone seemed subdued and shocked; the atmosphere was surreal.  Dazed, I wandered absently into the adjoining Barnes and Noble.  While there, I called my Dad to see if he’d heard from my brother who lived in New York at that time.  I then called my brother.  Luckily he was nowhere near the tragedy.

Horribly shaken by that time, but still not sure what was going on, I went ahead to the church.  Our female priest told us of the plane hitting the Pentagon.  She was beyond distraught as her husband worked at the Pentagon and she was unable to reach him.  She decided she couldn’t lead the book group in the state she was in.  While I was there, both of the towers collapsed.  I drove back home and sat in front of the television the rest of the day, in tears.  When my sons, 10 and 8, came home from school, I told them what had happened and we sat in front of the TV, holding each other.  I reassured them everything would be all right when I wasn’t at all certain that was the case.

Building a Hopeful World
Building a Hopeful World

George W. Bush is much maligned for how he handled the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the following Global War on Terror, but I daresay that any president faced with consoling and uniting our nation and taking action against an unseen enemy would have met with criticism no matter what he did.  As Billy Wilder said, “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.”  Maybe people could have predicted that ISIS would rise up as a result of our failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it seemed hopeful at the time to try to get rid of failed regimes and install democracy in the Middle East (Granted, we supported these failed regimes in the earlier Cold War, from which we’ve experienced a huge amount of blowback).  Most people have come to realize that democracy cannot be imposed and must come from within.  In hindsight, our goals were too hopeful and unrealistic.  Mixed with the desire of big corporations to control oil in a limited resource world, the repercussions have been devastating.  It’s a complicated world, and actions often have complex and contradictory results.

News pundits latched on to our shared story of terrorism and, as Americans, we sat glued to our televisions, trying to make sense of it all.  As for me, I read every news article I could get my hands on.  I was so impacted by the events that I wrote a novel about fictional characters surviving in the aftermath a year later, when snipers were randomly shooting people in the Washington metro area and we were gearing up to go to war with Iraq.  Later, still impacted immeasurably by what had happened, I took course in international relations at Northern Virginia Community College. Eventually, I got my Master’s in International Commerce & Policy; I was idealistic in my hopes to do democracy-building in the Middle East.  That career path was not to be for me, but I still wanted it and still hope for it. Maybe it will happen after my lifetime.

The rest of the museum focuses on building a hopeful world, the search for liberty for all humanity, Hurricane Katrina, the Bush ranch and family life, Laura Bush’s initiatives.

Liberty is the Right and Hope of all Humanity
Liberty is the Right and Hope of all Humanity

The Oval Office at the museum is set up just as it was during the Bush presidency.

The Oval Office
The Oval Office
Still life
Still life
Laura Bush
Laura Bush
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Immigration, Social Security and Medicare
Immigration, Social Security and Medicare
Immigration in the US
Immigration in the US
Father and son in the courtyard
Father and son in the courtyard

I enjoy the visit to the museum more than I thought I would, and actually I’m quite moved by it.  After our visit, Martha and I have a nice lunch in Cafe 43, attached to the museum.  I enjoy a delicious meal of chicken and ricotta dumplings with carrots, parsnip and parmesan.

After lunch, we head to the Dallas Arboretum.  It’s a beautiful day for a visit. 🙂