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. 🙂

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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. 🙂

dallas: the sixth floor museum at dealey plaza

Tuesday, March 22:  This morning, Martha and I head to downtown Dallas to visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, housed in the former Texas School Book Depository Building.  Following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963, this building became the primary crime scene for the shooting after evidence of a sniper, later determined to be Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald, was found on the sixth floor (History of the Texas School Book Depository Building).

JFK's assassination route as seen from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
JFK’s assassination route as seen from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

We’re not allowed to take pictures inside the museum except on the 7th floor; from the window directly above where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly fired at the president, we have an excellent view of the assassination route on that tragic day. For some reason, I’m surprised by the route and the lay of the land, which I remember seeing on TV so many times over the years from varying angles.  I never pictured the site looking like it does.

JFK's assassination route - the road on the right is where Kennedy was shot
JFK’s assassination route – the road on the right is where Kennedy was shot

The excellent museum presents the social and political landscape of the early 1960s, chronicles President Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath, offers up numerous conspiracy theories, and reflects the president’s lasting impact on our country and world (Visit Dallas: Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza).  It’s a very moving exhibit and brings back a lot of memories for those of us who were alive at that sad time.

the route heading to the triple underpass
the route heading to the triple underpass

As for me, I was 8 years old and in 2nd grade at Reservoir Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.   I remember getting dismissed from school early and coming home to find my mother sobbing in front of the black & white television, mesmerized by the news coverage.  I was too young to understand the details, but I knew with certainty this was a tragic and sad event in our history.  I even remember crying with my mother.  Much later, when we experienced the September 11, 2001 catastrophe from the relative safety of our living rooms, it was much the same déjà vu experience as on that November day in 1963, except that the events of 2001 were in color rather than black & white.

the route heading to the triple underpass - where the cars raced after Kennedy was shot
the route heading to the triple underpass – where the cars raced after Kennedy was shot
Pool in the Dealey Plaza Historic District
Pool in the Dealey Plaza Historic District
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Looking back over the pool to the Sixth Floor Museum
Looking back over the pool to the Sixth Floor Museum
Peristyle at Dealey Plaza
Peristyle and monument at Dealey Plaza

Across from the park is the Old Dallas County Criminal Courts Building, which in 1963 housed on its upper floors the Dallas County Jail.  Alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was being taken to this jail from the Dallas City Jail, on the 5th floor of the old Municipal Building on Harwood Street, when he was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Sunday, November 24, 1963.  This murder, which occurred in the old Municipal Building’s basement, was captured on live television.

According to Steven R. Butler, a Dallas historian, Jack Ruby was incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail and his trial took place here in 1964.  Found guilty and sentenced to death, Ruby died of natural causes while his verdict was on appeal in 1967.  Ruby died at Parkland Hospital, where both JFK and Oswald died (A Guide to the History of Dallas Texas).

Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Elm Street heading to the triple underpass
Elm Street heading to the triple underpass

From the Historic Park, we can see the famous grassy knoll, a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became well-known following the president’s assassination. The knoll was above Kennedy and to his right (west and north) as his motorcade drove by.  You can see it below, with the bunch of trees to the left and the pergola to the right.

View of the assassination route from Dealey Plaza
View of the assassination route from Dealey Plaza
Memorial at the Grassy Knoll
Memorial at the Grassy Knoll
Grassy Knoll Memorial
Grassy Knoll Memorial

According to Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza: The words “grassy knoll” to describe this area were first used by UPI reporter Albert Merriman Smith, in his second dispatch from the radio-telephone in the press car: “Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the president’s car, probably from a grassy knoll to which police rushed.” These words were then repeated on national television by Walter Cronkite in his second CBS News bulletin.

The Grassy Knoll
The Grassy Knoll

According to Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza, of the 104 Dealey Plaza ear-witness reports published by the Warren Commission and elsewhere:

  • 56 recorded testimony that they remembered hearing at least one shot fired from the direction of the Depository or from near its Houston and Elm Streets intersection that was to the rear of the President
  • 35 witnesses recorded testimony of at least one shot fired from the direction of the grassy knoll or the triple underpass located to the right and front of the President
  • 8 witnesses gave statements of shots fired from elsewhere
  • 5 ear-witnesses  testified that the shots were fired from two different directions.

Conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination suggest that many people or organizations could have been involved in the assassination, with possible players ranging from President Fidel Castro of Cuba to sitting VP Lyndon Johnson to the CIA to the Mafia to the KGB.  There are claims that the U.S. Government covered up vital information in the aftermath.  Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. For more on this, see Wikipedia: John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories.

Because of persistent debate, unanswered questions, and conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination and the possible related role of the grassy knoll, the term “grassy knoll” has come to also be a modern slang expression indicating suspicion, conspiracy, or a cover-up (Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza).

The wooden stockade fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll has been rebuilt several times since 1963 and is a reproduction of the original fence.

Fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll
Fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll

Martha and I walk up to the grassy knoll to see the view.  The “X” on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time.

View from the Grassy Knoll - the "X" on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time
View from the Grassy Knoll – the “X” on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time
View from the Grassy Knoll to Dealey Plaza
View from the Grassy Knoll to Dealey Plaza

We walk behind the wooden fence and check out the view from behind it.  It seems like it would have been an easy enough place to hide and shoot a gun. Not that I’m experienced in that sort of thing, mind you!

Looking through the pickets of the fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll to the assassination route
Looking through the pickets of the fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll to the assassination route

We walk on the bridge crossing the triple underpass and get a view of Elm Street, where Kennedy was shot, on the left and the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building straight ahead.  To the right is the Old Courthouse.

view from atop the triple underpass
view from atop the triple underpass
Old Courthouse
Old Courthouse

During my visit to this part of the country, I end up experiencing several monuments to tragic events in American history, from the 9/11 exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to the exhibit of JFK’s assassination at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which we’ll visit later this week.

Driving through Dallas
Driving through Dallas

After leaving downtown, we head to one of Martha’s favorite lunch spots in the Trinity Design District: The Meddlesome Moth.

The Meddlesome Moth
The Meddlesome Moth
Entrance to The Meddlesome Moth
Entrance to The Meddlesome Moth
Martha at The Meddlesome Moth
Martha at The Meddlesome Moth
Me at The Meddlesome Moth
Me at The Meddlesome Moth

At this classy restaurant, we both enjoy delicious Jumbo Lump Crab salads with celery root, arugula and meyer lemon.

Inside The Meddlesome Moth
Inside The Meddlesome Moth

After lunch, we visit Martha’s mom in her nursing home.  It’s nice to see her as I’ve known her for a long time; she was a part of my childhood since 1967, when Martha and I became friends.

Later in the evening, we relax with some wine in Martha’s backyard spa and then she prepares a delicious chicken and walnut stir-fry for dinner.

Sunset at Martha's house
Sunset at Martha’s house
Martha's pool and spa
Martha’s pool and spa

Tomorrow, we’ll drive about 3 hours to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where we’ll meet up with our other friends and have dinner with our friend Rosie and her husband-to-be, Jim.  Let the wedding festivities begin! 🙂

the dallas arboretum

Monday, March 21:  After our lunch at Cafe 43, Martha and I head to the Dallas Arboretum to see the springtime exhibit Dallas Blooms: The Artistry in Nature, sponsored by Bank of America. It’s a gorgeous day to see the 500,000 spring-blooming bulbs that make Dallas Blooms one of the largest tulip displays outside of Holland.

Entrance to the Dallas Arboretum
Entrance to the Dallas Arboretum

The Arboretum is a fairly recent creation.  In 1982, the City of Dallas and the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society (DABS) signed a contract creating an arboretum and botanical garden on the combined 66 acres of two properties, the DeGolyer Estate, which the city purchased from Southern Methodist University, and the Alex Camp House properties.  Both houses sit on the shores of White Rock Lake. The gardens opened to the public for the first time in 1984.

Entrance to the Dallas Arboretum
Entrance to the Dallas Arboretum

Renowned sculptor Gary Lee Price installed his “Great Contributors” Bronze Statues exhibit this year; they will be on display through October.  They feature eight life-size sculptures of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Claude Monet, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and the Wright Brothers.

I have a brief chat with Abe before moving on through the gardens.

Me having a chat with Abe Lincoln
Me having a chat with Abe Lincoln

Gary Lee Price says he created Abraham Lincoln “in the moments of repose and reflection immediately before delivering the Gettysburg Address … [maybe] the most memorable and powerful 272 words ever uttered”(Dallas Arboretum: Spring & Summer 2016 brochure).

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

Martha has a seat with George Washington, with his famous sword.

Martha & George Washington
Martha & George Washington

The spring colors are amazing in their vibrancy and zest.

Flowers galore
Flowers galore
Tulip mania
Tulip mania
blossoms of white
blossoms of white

The tulips are exuberant in their celebration of spring.

Flowers
Flowers

Claude Monet, the Father of Impressionism, “delighted in painting ‘en plein air’ that is outside, so his presence at the Arboretum is a natural tribute to” him and to others who appreciate the gardens’ artistry.

Monet
Claude Monet

Martha tells me she often goes to the Cool Thursday Concert Series on the Martin Rutchik Concert Stage and Lawn alongside White Rock Lake.  This year’s season will feature 11 new tribute bands as well as the ever popular food trucks.

Music venue along the lake
Martin Rutchik Concert Stage and Lawn

Sculptor Price says he’s always been fascinated by the tightly knit Dayton, Ohio brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright. The “bicycle shop owners, with their practical knowledge of maneuverability and control, changed the course of history.  Their study, engineering and ingenuity freed mankind from an earthbound existence.” He chose to depict them “on the ground, approachable in nature, yet airborne in their thoughts and visions of the future.”

The Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers
Martha has a chat with the Wright Brothers
Martha has a chat with the Wright Brothers

Martha says her husband’s favorite is Albert Einstein. Says Gary Lee Price, “Einstein once said, ‘Imagination is more important that knowledge.'” He invites us “to sit with this man – this genius – and let your imagination roam.”

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

We stop to admire the fluttery dance of koi in the pond.

koi pond
koi pond

I love the waterfalls and the water garden, which remind me so much of Asian gardens.

waterfall
waterfall
me and the waterfall
me and the waterfall
pond
pond
pretty pond
pretty pond
flower wall
flower wall
curtain waterfall
curtain waterfall
pond
pond
flower pot
flower-pot

The gardens adjacent to the concert stage look a lot like Japanese gardens.

Japanese gardens
Japanese gardens
Japanese gardens
Japanese gardens
Japanese gardens
Japanese gardens

We make our way back to the entrance, passing through the McCasland Sunken Garden, A Woman’s Garden Phase I & II, and other beautiful architectural features.

We pass another pond and its pretty bridge.

bridge over the pond
bridge over the pond
field of trees
field of trees
Martha at the Dallas Arboretum
Martha at the Dallas Arboretum
Me at the Arboretum
Me at the Arboretum
pretty scene
pretty scene
flying people
flying people
statue in the garden
statue in the garden
carvings
carvings
more tulips
more tulips
tulip
tulip

Our little trip through the spring tulips of Holland comes to a close and Martha and I make our way back to her house.

In the evening, we go out for a Mexican dinner at Mi Dia from Scratch.  According to the website, “Chef Gabriel DeLeon has integrated flavors that are exciting as well as harmonious, blending traditional Mexico City recipes with modern Santa Fe and Tex Mex flavors.”  I have Baja Shrimp: Negra Modelo beer battered jumbo shrimp, pickled cabbage, avocado, micro cilantro & roasted jalapeño-lime salsa on flour tortilla.  Martha has Relleno al Carbon: Roasted poblano stuffed with pulled pork, topped with queso asadero & crema, served over New Mexico red & tomatillo sauces, Oaxacan black beans & guajillo rice.  Of course, we share a couple of bites.

What a fun first day in Dallas!  Tomorrow, we plan to go to the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, commemorating John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

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. 🙂