Archives for the month of: April, 2013

This was my second trip to Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. The first was in the fall and I promised myself to come back in the spring. If you are in the area ever, go there for a spectacular collection of American art and for the beautiful 3.5 miles of trails. I don’t need to say much about it…I’ll share some pictures.

First, there’s the art. I fell in love with this glass sculpture as I walked by…


There are so many treasures there. I love this little painting, “Haystacks,” by Martin Johnson Heade…


And this Mary Cassett…


And “Sun at the Wall” by Hans Hoffman…


So much American history through art…

I wanted to be at Crystal Bridges when the dogwoods and redbuds were still blooming. I was afraid I was too late, but it was a perfect day. It was sunny and then cloudy, but a beautiful day.





There were flowers blooming…




My time on the trails was shorter than I wanted, but you can see how refreshing it is to be even a few steps into this calming, ethereal, blessing of nature…





They even let you frame nature for your own work of art…



A beautiful place, a treasure for all America to see. Always free to the public, thanks to Alice Walton and the WalMart Foundation…



Next time, I promise to go back when I have the time to wander through all 3.5 miles of trails. And, visit the art along the way…

Monday, on the drive to Bentonville, Arkansas, my friend and I drove the scenic part of Highway 412 and then veered off onto country roads to take the back way into Bentonville, missing the interstate, traffic, consumer mess of a drive. It was a beautiful spring day to journey through pasturelands and little towns in Delaware County, named after the Delaware Indians who settled there, heading over to Arkansas. There were still some dogwoods and redbuds in bloom in the wooded areas along the way.



I’m fascinated by the rural areas, being a city girl. Every state has them, so don’t go getting snobby on me. It’s just a different lifestyle, some things better than the city, some not so much. I always try to imagine life out here or what the area has been through in its history. You can see the stories in the buildings that are standing in various stages of decay. Sometimes you see a barn falling down right next to a new one. Or a house that has been deserted by its owners. You see them quite a lot, actually.




Traveling with my iPad, I look up the history of towns as we go. You learn a lot reading about why people settled here and what happened to make it rise or fall. Most of the towns aren’t growing. It’s a tough way of life out here in the country. The little community, hard to call it a town, of Colcord, with a population of 819 used to call itself “Little Tulsa.” I’m not sure, even in its thriving days, where they got that unless none of them had ever been to Tulsa. I guess the town leaders hoped…

I think it was in Decatur where we saw the Iva Jane Peek Library. I take photos zipping by areas so pardon the mistakes sometimes. I’m constantly trying to capture something that catches my eye as we whiz by. I love the name of the place and wonder about Iva Jane and her influence. I haven’t found out who she was…yet!


Chickens were and are a big industry in the area on into Arkansas, where we began to see Confederate flags every once in a while. If you look at a google map from above you see rows of thin silver roofs, chicken houses, all along the way. We saw a lot of deserted ones, but lots still active.



Bentonville was known as Osage after the Osage Indians who came from Missouri to hunt the area for months at a time. Eventually, the white settlers took over and named the town after Thomas Hart Benton, a Missouri senator who fought for Arkansas to become a state. At the turn of the century, being the 1900s, apples were the main resource, followed by chickens until WalMart was added to the mix to make that area a pretty bustling area for a town of 35,000. I’ve been to Bentonville from the interstate and from the backroads, which gives you a picture of the growth surrounding it. I like entering the back way best.

There’s something about traveling the backroads, seeing the honesty of it where you live your home is what you make it. You don’t have to worry about what the neighbors think about your well manicured lawn if you don’t want to. You can have it any way you want to. If you want to leave the remnants of the house or barn and build right next to it, you can. I kept thinking that some design person would drive through and make a nice offer for the reclaimed wood that they could sell to an upscale business or homeowner for an authentic look. I’m all for that and there’s a treasure trove out there for the clever and creative.


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The rural roads fuel my imagination, writing stories in my mind of the families who came before, the individuals who lived in tiny houses in the side of a hill. There are so many questions you have driving by.


And then you just enjoy the wide open views of the sky,


the rolling roads,


and watching the variations of spring greens in the hills which will turn darker as the season goes on.


When I see the skyline of the city in front of me, I know I’m heading home to bustling streets and landscaping and order of a sort. I’m comfortable with that life, but I love the spirit of the countryside I’ve traveled. Everyone should get off the main highways now and then. We’re in such a hurry and look at what we miss…

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to lots of magazines, and I read all of them through and through. Many are gone today, but there was Look, Life, Readers Digest, Ladies Home Journal, Newsweek, McCall’s, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, kids’s magazines like Highlights for Children. One of our favorites was the Saturday Evening Post. The Norman Rockwell covers were something to look forward to, knowing they would be something we studied carefully for all the clever details. We were used to his work as an illustrator for ads for Colgate, Kellogg’s, and other companies, instantly recognizable.

In 1999, my son and I took a day trip to Mark Twain’s hometown, Hannibal, Missouri. We were fortunate to arrive during an exhibition of the original paintings for Norman Rockwell’s illustrations for Tom Sawyer. I remember they were large paintings and so much richer than the flat pictures we were so familiar with in our day to day life. They were amazing works and their beauty stayed with me.


Yesterday, I went to see the Norman Rockwell exhibition of over 50 of his paintings and 300+ of his Saturday Evening Post covers at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR. I’ve not a professional art critic, even though I studied art history in college and worked in an art museum for over 7 years, but I do know that Norman Rockwell is a great artist. As is typical for artists in their own era, his work was scoffed at in art circles as too sentimental, too idealistic, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that myself. There are many great artists who included humor and sentiment in their works throughout the ages. An artist in his own time, alas…

The gallery was packed yesterday, mostly with older people (and I have to include myself in that group, shockingly), but it was a Monday. I watched their faces as they listened to the audio guides, studied the paintings. There were tender smiles, chuckles, pensive thinking. The main thing is that everyone was relating to the paintings. What more can art do?

Here are some of my favorites and the reasons why…

This one just made me laugh. It was Rockwell’s take on the recent idea that small towns should use speed traps to raise revenue…


This one also made me laugh and smile and study the details…the grandmother in the back who never changed expressions, the tired parents, the kids in various stages. Who can’t make up a story with these images?


Saying Grace is so sweet that you are silent with them, you want to bow your head. Then you see the details in the curtains, the clothing, the grandmother’s rear sticking through the chair, the grandfather’s cane on the floor. Another story for us to all fill in the extra lines…


My love of Santa is well known and there were some lovely Santa portraits along with all the Christmas covers of the Post. This is still one of my favorites for all of us who keep believing even knowing the evidence…


A Day in the Life of a Girl is so fun, so sweet, with elements that all females will remember. The boy version wasn’t on display, but it’s just as great…


Rosie the Riveter is part of the museum’s collection and a whimsical look at the women who worked at home during World War II. This was a bonus after the travelling exhibition.


Besides the fun, sweet portraits of America as we were at times and would always like to be, there were powerful portraits of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and two of Rockwell’s most important works during the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition had preliminary drawings and different drafts of his painting of 3 Civil Rights workers for a powerful, haunting, not-so-pretty picture of a moment in America’s history…


The iconic The Problem We All Live With was so beautiful in person. It was so familiar, such a powerful statement. But, the thing that struck me so strongly was the beauty of the painting, of the work itself. Norman Rockwell was a fabulous painter. His work is so real, so detailed, so skilled. The concrete wall behind the girl felt like real concrete, making me want to reach out and touch it. I didn’t of course – I know my museum manners. But, I’ve been up close to many of the world’s great paintings and these were as good as any I’ve seen. That’s to my untrained eye, but I do know what I’m looking at and it’s honest, thought-provoking, greatness.


Rockwell’s self portrait is so famous that you almost go by it, having seen it reproduced so many times. Looking at the details, I was taken with not only the cleverness, the originality, the self-deprecating humor, but also the skill. On his easel, he has small paintings, homages to some of the greatest painters, all painted beautifully. That’s not easy to do either.


I recommend that you find the closest place to see this exhibition or go to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts to see more. It’s such a treat for those of us who grew up loving him and for those just discovering his incredible legacy. I think that future critics will be kinder and hopefully, recognize his important place in art, American history, and the American heart. I understand his personal life was not always as rosy as his portraits of life, but that’s what being a human is all about. We thank him for the vision of our country that he shared to make us think, feel, smile and laugh, remember, care. There should be more geniuses with a sense of humor, shouldn’t there?…

Today was sunny, cloudless blue sky, the wind that blew you hair felt good and was cool enough to keep you comfortable, not an Oklahoma gale. I took an afternoon walk by the river along with the human parade of Tulsans. There were walkers, runners, strollers, toddlers, children, bikers, dogs running or walking on leashes, skateboarders, wheelchairs, fishermen/women with poles and even a bowfisher, sunbathers, families, expectant families, grandparents, parents, couples, singles, and friends of every ethnicity, all out on a lovely spring Sunday. The parking lot was crowded and the people came in shifts all day long.


What struck me today was how quiet it was. There were quiet conversations overheard, Canadian geese honking overhead, birds singing loudly, but nothing was really loud. Usually, I hear the thud of runners, the hum of bicycle wheels, more talking, more laughing. Nothing was wrong, but it was noticeably quieter. People smiled or nodded if you looked their way, but everyone seemed a little more inward today.


It’s been a rough week if you stay glued to the television news. And all of us are a little broken just from everyday life. Our bodies and/or our souls have little, or big, nicks taken out of them from personal experiences, illness, grief, heartache, worry, stress. It’s part of being human. Even if you’re happy and content, you might need an extra boost to keep that going.

Today was a healing day. You can’t breathe that clean, fresh after rains air without feeling a little cleaner inside. Even in an urban area, walking by water helps you feel part of a stream of life. I didn’t feel alone walking, I felt part of that lovely parade of people. We were all connected to the beautiful day we were experiencing and we were all soaking up the beauty.

Sunday is a day of rest and regrouping before people start another work or school week. Our lives in the city are all geared that way, even if you’re retired. All these people returned home refreshed, feeling better and stronger, ready for whatever. A beautiful day is always a gift. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

This week, I met a lady from a small town near here. We were in a cheerleading shop (I help out there) and she started talking about her daughters competing in dance and cheer and that they had just come from a national competition. She said they got cheated out of their win, which made me inwardly roll my eyes and think that I had a “cheerleading mom” on my hands. I’ve worked with skating moms, soccer moms, acting moms and all kinds of moms who are living through their children, but that’s another story.

This mom’s daughter was competing in an 11 and under group at a competition in Kansas City. The group that beat them had some girls that she said looked older than 11, but the coach didn’t want to put up the $200 it would cost them to challenge them. Later that evening, the coach was in a restaurant, seated next to some of the girls on the winning team. They started talking and the coach asked one of the girls how old she was. The girl, not realizing she was talking to a coach, said she was 17, but her coach said to say she was 11. There were other 17 years olds on the team, too. Needless to say, the other team has gone back and challenged the win. The winning team is now bragging on their website that they are national champions, which further aggravates the other team, especially the parents who spent a lot of time and money to get the girls to that competition.

I can’t tell you how appalling this is to me as a grandmother, mother, person. What kind of parents let their kids work with a coach who teaches the kids to cheat? What kind of coach wants to win so badly that she teaches kids to lie? What 17 year old would feel comfortable competing against 11 year olds? I know I would have known that was wrong when I was 17. I was in college when I was 17 and 11 year olds were in grade school, for heaven’s sake. The women of my generation fought so hard for girls to be able to compete in sports for this? Not that it doesn’t happen in all kids’ sports, I’m sure.

My family is very competitive, but we try to play fair and teach our children right from wrong. I don’t want to sermonize here because the story speaks for itself, but come on, parents! Teach your children to do the right thing. How else are we going to make this a better world for the next generations?

This photo I found to illustrate this is perfect. Note the name of the team – Madness. My state of mind over this…

Annual Maryland Cheerleading and Dance Championship

At the time of 9-11, I was working for the American Red Cross, trained in more disaster response areas than I could believe. On that day, I was working in a branch office in Owasso, OK and was paged to come back to the main office in Tulsa. My first job was taking calls from people trying to find family in the Twin Towers. I can remember trying to sound calm as I took the information from a man whose brother was on the 105th floor. We were there to calm as much as to help the callers find answers.

In the months following 9-11, the American Red Cross developed a curriculum for students in grades K-12 called Facing Fear. It was designed not only for terrorist attacks, but for natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and fires. As I learned, a fire in a home is as big a disaster to those people as a large scale disaster for many.


I was one of the first to take Facing Fear to the schools, working with sixth graders at first and later with eighth graders. What I learned from that experience was how much our children absorb from us, how great our responsibility is to our young people. There were lessons on understanding that this is not the only tragedy in history. I sent the students home to ask their parents and grandparents about World War II, Viet Nam, Kennedy’s assassination, and other shocking and tragic historical events. It was a good exercise for all the generations to help each other put the latest horror against mankind in perspective. We weren’t the first or the last generation to face terrible things.

With the eighth graders, we had a session where we discussed Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I was impressed with their insights as they interpreted the images of a war they knew nothing about. It was a strong lesson for us all.


In another lesson, we talked about listening to the media and learning how to interpret what you were hearing. Most of the students got their news from very short segments of local news programs. Their parents’ prejudices and political views were very evident in the classroom as I heard statements that were shockingly full of hate and obviously directly from what they heard at home. I encouraged them to get more than one report of the news, to read news magazines (this was 2002, when there were still a lot of them around), to watch other channels, to go online to news sources. I hope they learned to broaden their views, to listen to more than one perspective before forming their own opinion.

The other lesson that stands out in my mind is when we talked about what we could do to make changes. We talked about ways that everyone can get involved in their community to make sure it is safe and secure for everyone, whether you were going to be affected by a terrorist attack or a tornado. It helped the students to know that they could have some power over their environment and could make a difference in the lives of others.

Facing Fear was an excellent curriculum and I learned as much from the lessons as the students did. I realized that facing our fears is about not feeling so helpless, about feeling like there is something we can do, whether it is a contribution of time or dollars. It also helped all of us put it in perspective as an event that was horrible and shocking, but that those events had happened before and would likely happen again. We need to live our lives in the best way possible, treasuring each moment with our family and friends, making a difference whenever we can. If we help one person, we have made a difference for that person.

After watching the reports of the latest event, the Boston Marathon bombing, I can only think of these lessons learned. We keep living and learning…and hoping for a world of peace and love.

A friend asked me to write a blog about Annette Funicello, who died earlier this week. We met her on TV when The Mickey Mouse Club first aired in 1955. It’s hard to describe to generations who always have had TV and have multiple 24/7 channels what this show meant to us back then. It was in black and white, or gray, as my kids used to call it, because we didn’t have color TV yet. Amazing, isn’t it?

The Mickey Mouse Club was on every day after school and we waited eagerly for it every day, like clockwork. If you missed it, you missed it. No videotape or DVR. Probably not even reruns. This was a variety show for kids in the days of Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle and numerous adult or family variety shows. This one was just for us. We also weren’t as sophisticated as 9 & 10 year olds today. Unless you had older brothers or sisters, you weren’t really exposed to the teenage things. By some odd coincidence, almost all of my friends were the oldest in their family, so we were pretty much kids. We didn’t hit puberty as early, we didn’t dress like small adults, and we didn’t talk about adult things very much.

The Mickey Mouse Club was part of the magic that was Walt Disney. It was a world of imagination and fantasy and innocence that we loved. I found this photo online of the Mouseketeers from those days.


It seems so silly today that these kids clowned around with mouse ears, singing and dancing for us. Annette was adorable, a sweetheart both inside and out. You always knew that. She stood out from the rest from the beginning.

One of my favorite things on the show were the serials, continuing “dramas” featuring Annette, Tim Considine, Tommy Kirk. We couldn’t miss an episode of “Spin & Marty,” “The Hardy Boys,” “Corky and White Shadow.” The serials were fun, starring kids our age or a little older. They were the perfect way for us to have star crushes. Who didn’t think Tim Considine was just way too cute and Tommy Kirk was so funny and fun. And then there was Annette. I’m sure there were boys our age who were still watching The Mickey Mouse Club long after they had outgrown it just to see her. This Mousketeer was blossoming and it wasn’t hard to see what the boys were watching. She graduated on to her Beach Party movies, where that fully developed body and her singing were on full display. But, before that, she was the Mouseketeer all the boys loved and all the girls wanted to be. Always sweet.

We all outgrew the show and moved on to the boys and girls in our real lives, but those days with The Mickey Mouse Club are special memories. Who doesn’t hear that music start up and begin to sing…M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E. We really did have sweet childhoods way back then.

Here’s some Spin & Marty for you…

My youngest daughter turns 40 today. I’m looking at pictures from her life and wondering how does time pass so quickly. She was just born, wasn’t she? And then all those years become a reality and you see that little baby transform into a beautiful woman, a wife and mother. That’s fun to see and I’m grateful to have watched it, been a part of it. My son, my youngest, will be forever 35, so I’m well aware of how lucky I am, we all are, to get to watch our children grow up and develop their own personalities and talents and see where life is taking them and I’m grateful for every minute of the time we have together. no matter how long each life will be.

When your children are 40, your role is different – thank goodness! I’m a part of their lives, but they are their lives and I’m privileged to enjoy as much as I can with them. I’ve always tried not to offer unwanted advice or be critical and to give them their space away from me. I hope I’ve succeeded in that most of the time. I’m lucky they all live close by so I don’t have to travel or Skype and I can see my grandchildren. I’m forever grateful for that.

Hopefully, your children become your friends at this stage in all of your lives. It’s different from friends your own age, who share memories of growing up together or being together in a certain time. Your children are always your children and you always worry about them and take pride in their accomplishments and hurt for them and with them. But, now, you can enjoy them as adults. One of my favorite things is to listen to them together or with their friends. I don’t have to talk to enjoy the joy of their lives and see how they interact and what makes them laugh. Those things make me happy. Seeing them happy in their marriages, with their children, with their friends, in their work and play warms a special place in my heart. Hearing them laughing together, remembering funny family memories, is the best. When I get to be a part of that, it’s just all the better.

I’m choosing to ignore the obvious thing about having your children turn 40. What does that make me? Inside, I don’t think I feel 40, but I’m constantly reminded that I’m much more than that. Having children who are 40 is a pretty blatant reminder for all the world to see. The good thing is that there are days I feel 16 and days I feel as old as I am and I try to remember how I felt at each age along the way so I can pull it out and weigh it against how I feel today. I can’t go back because then I wouldn’t have all the memories I’ve had since I was 40, all the people I’ve met, all the fun things I’ve done. Even the heartaches are worth the journey.

Having children who are 40 is a milestone for all of us. We’ve made it this far together, we’re grateful for all we’ve learned and shared together, and our lives go on for as long as we have. 40 is a big birthday for each of us – no denying that you’re all grown up now. When you’re the parent of 40 year olds, it’s not such a bad reminder that life rushes by more quickly than we can imagine. No time for pettiness, selfishness, and all the negatives that waste our time and energies. It’s a time to celebrate all we have, all we’ve been and all that lies ahead. Life is all we’ve got and each year is a treasure to spend wisely, surrounded by those you love.


When you’re watching your grandchildren grow up, you can’t help but compare their lives to yours at the same age. It’s always jarring to look at a picture of yourself and realize you look as old fashioned to them as your grandparents did to you. You only hope that they can look past that and learn from your infinite wisdom, also hoping you have any.

When I was in 7th grade, junior high then, most of us started social dance classes. Other communities had similar places, but, in Tulsa, we had Skilly’s, where we first learned etiquette. They seated the boys on one side and the girls on the other and the boys had to learn how to walk, not run, across the room and politely ask a girl to dance. That was palm-sweating, nerve wracking, embarrassing and, yet, we all learned to be gracious. Not only did we learn to dance – fox trot, waltz, swing, cha cha – in the basic class, but they had dances for us to get real practice. This is me in 7th grade at one of the dances. Since I started junior high at 11, I must have turned 12 by this time, probably wearing my first heels, strapless dress and petticoats.

Karen at Merry Maids Dance 1958

We had lots of dances in junior high and high school. It seems like there was always something going on. We also had social clubs in junior high and high school for both boys and girls. The clubs had dances, the school had dances, there were dances after football games, friends had dances in their homes where we played our stacks of 45s and 33 rpm records. And rock and roll was growing by leaps and bounds, so we had great music, lots of local bands, and plenty of opportunities to practice our skills. We danced fast and furiously and we danced a lot. At least I did back in the 50s and 60s. New dances came out all the time. The Twist was our new favorite my senior year.

As with most things, there was good and bad in the clubs, which excluded some kids and involved voting on members, not all of which was pretty, kind or fair. But, we learned to organize and plan events under the helpful eyes of our mothers, we learned to invite people out, and we started dating. Dating started with dance school, social club and school dances with your parents driving. There was the giggling with your friends at school while you eyed the boy you wanted to ask you out. There was the cringingly painful waiting by the phone, literally waiting by the phone since we didn’t have either portable or cell phones, and there was the horror when someone asked you out that you didn’t want to go with. And, finally, there was the joy of having the right boy call or ask you out, followed by the awkwardness of being together and getting to know each other. No wonder so many couples went steady, which was when you were supposed to be exclusively with that boy or girl. At least you didn’t have to wonder about the dance.

There weren’t just dances. We dated a lot. There were coke dates (casual dates to go get a coke and either get to know the person or just be together), movies, football games, basketball games, picnics, church events, and anything else we could come up with as an excuse to go out. Once you were going with someone, it wasn’t so much a date as deciding where you were going to tell your parents you were going. One time my future husband and I toured the Wonder Bread factory on a Friday night for a cheap date. I didn’t ever lie about where I was going, but I did end up other places, too. There was a lot of time until our Midnight curfew for most girls. I got to stay out until 1:00 when the dances ended at 12.

We hung out with our friends, too. I spent a lot of time cruising with my girlfriends and even groups of guys. Nobody seemed to ask where we were going on those nights, so we just cruised all over town, laughing, listening to the radio, and looking for whatever Friday night would bring. American Graffiti was the story of my high school days, music and all.

Anyway, I digress with lots of memories here. By the time we got to graduation, most of us had been on lots of dates of various kinds. Here I am at what was called the Southern Ball, a high school sponsored dance, my senior year. I had the dress and heels, had been to the beauty shop, because I know I could never have gotten my hair to do this on my own, and we were headed out. Rockin’ and rollin’ in the big heels and big hair. I think I still had my braces on – they came off right before my prom.

Scan 13

By the time we got to college, we were prepared as much as you can be to jump into the craziness of campus life. Here is a picture of my husband and me at a dance at Oklahoma State University a few months before we got married, my senior year. I love his high water pants – he had gotten out of the Navy that summer and grown a few more inches and his old civilian wardrobe needed some updating. But here we were, engaged and out on a date, going dancing as we had since we met.

Karen's engagement picture

My grandkids don’t date as much. They have a few dances, which they hate because there are so many drugs and the dancing isn’t as much fun. At least we knew how to do close dancing as well as do the newest ones and anyone drinking was thrown out. Movies are expensive so that isn’t an every weekend option. There don’t seem to be places for all the kids to hang out and they don’t attend the school sporting events like we did. It’s a new world. I don’t blame their parents for sheltering them more, for keeping them home where there are movies and video games to entertain them. I don’t blame parents for anything. We all do our best to protect and raise our children and who am I to say what I would be doing today. I’m just an observer, looking through the lens of what was and what is.

The word dating has a new generation meaning. Parents go on Date Nights, where we used to just go out with our husbands. The word dating is almost a euphemism these days. I never know for sure what they mean when adults say they are “dating.” It has shaded differences, for sure.

I’m being nostalgic as I remember the fun we had, blocking out the bad dates that also came with the experience. I hope my grandkids date with more than texts and emails, explore meeting different people and falling in love in the best of ways, not matter what they call the process. It’s all about learning to be in relationships where we feel the most comfortable and loved and have the most fun life can offer us. I wish everyone finds that, at least once in their lives.