Friday, July 31, 2009

A Tarantula

Just when I thought I have seen it all.....

I had just passed the three mile mark of my 6.5+ mile run when I pulled over to the side of the road to adjust my inserts in my shoe. I finished up, felt good about the adjustment, and was about to head off again when I noticed something near me crossing the street....

Yup...

a tarantula.

He was just truckin' across the road. I followed him until he entered the grass. I've seen tarantulas before but it's just different when they're not behind glass, in some sort of terrarium, and you're on their turf.

That was my cool experience on my run tonight. That...and it is only in the high 80s with low humidity. Fantabulous!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Norman Trip

Lauren and I had a very successful day in Norman, Oklahoma today at the University of Oklahoma on Tuesday, July 28. We went up in the morning to meet with Dr. Gary Gress and Mr. Euguene Earsom about Chickasaw National Recreation Area partnering with the Oklahoma Alliance for Geography Education (OKAGE). It was a truly exciting meeting as we learned about each other and what each could offer the other. Our meeting ended with another meeting set up for August 11 at the Park to discuss a spring workshop.

That afternoon, we met with Dr. Timothy Laubach to discuss opportunities for Lauren to connect with the pre-service education teachers at the University of Oklahoma. A lot of ideas were thrown out and copious notes taken. We will be in touch about future meetings.

While it was a little bit of a trek up there, we are very grateful for the time everyone extended to us. A special thanks to Mr. Matthew Hamilton at the University of Oklahoma who helped to set our meeting up with Dr. Laubach. You may remember from an earlier posting that Matt and his family were vacationing at the park during the 4th of July weekend. We got to talking and he has been tremendous in helping us make contacts at the University with various departments. Thank you Matt!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Norman, Washita and the Action Figure Museum


I am very lucky. Mark was back out here in Oklahoma this past weekend. He actually had a site visit for work this week and so he just flew out a few days early to spend some time with me. :)

Mark flew in to Dallas and drove up to me in Sulphur. We did dinner at Roma here in Sulphur and then drove off to Norman to stay in our favorite Marriott. Thanks to my brother who is both sneaky and sweet, we had a gift card to use which made the stay that much sweeter. We enjoyed sleeping in and leisurely heading out to Starbucks in the a.m. Lunch was at Which Wich--highly recommended by Lauren. We sure did enjoy that! For our friends out east---it's best described as Potbelly with more options in a cool brown bag. We hung out at Barnes and Noble and read our purchases at Starbucks (we had to use that after 2 pm coupon for a $2.00 grande drink!).


We had miles to do on the treadmill so we hit my favorite gym at the my favorite Norman hotel and got to runnin'. But were well rewarded by a delicious dinner at Bricktown's Chelino's. After dinner, we walked the canal and explored all the Land Run Monument. I was most excited to find this because I read about it on my first visit to the OKC Memorial but just now found it. When finished it will be 46 statues depicting those who ran on to the land in Oklahoma to stake their claim. The statues are larger than life!


We headed back to Norman earlier than we would have liked, but knew we had an early morning on Saturday.

We were headed to Cheyenne, OK, home to NPS site Washita Battlefield for a teacher workshop. It was a phenomenal workshop, sponsored by the National Park Service and the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. We had an excellent talk from the former Chief of Interpretation, Dave Shaefer, heard from the Red Moon Singers, and walked to the site of the battle/massacre.




We returned to the Visitor Center for a delicious traditional lunch of corn soup, fry bread, and raisins and rice.

Our afternoon was phenomenal as we learned about books for teachers using what we've learned, heard from Dr. Henrietta Mann, and were given demonstrations about the Cheyenne by a chief. Thank you Kathryn for letting us attend your awesome workshop!


After our full day we drove back to OKC and checked into our hotel there. The plan was to run the OKC Midnight Streak 5K. The reality ended up being that while waiting to leave we fell asleep on the bed and well...never made it there. Oh well--good intentions.

We had brunch plans on Sunday. Noelle, a friend and NPS ranger at Frederick Douglass' Cedar Hill in DC, was in OK doing research for her dissertation. So, we met up for brunch in a new neighborhood of OKC! We had a great time sharing stories of our experiences here in OK!


After a really nice, leisurely brunch we said bye and Mark and I headed off to our last big stop for the weekend--THE TOY AND ACTION FIGURE MUSEUM! As you may have read earlier, my brother and I stopped there last weekend, but before it was open. I was most surprised and excited to receive a comment from Susen on my blog offering tickets to the museum if I was able to come back. Oh was I ever excited! She set aside two tickets for us and we were headed to the museum to explore! SOOOOOO excited!

The museum was like stepping back in time--my brother's He-Man collection was on display, my My Little Ponies were represented, even a Fisher-Price dollhouse I remember from nursery school.

Oh! And Dad--remember Alf who rode around in the back of your car all through the 90s? He's here too and says hi! He wants to know if you have any cats? :)

Mark and I played and ooooohed and aaaahed.... The most impressive display (in my opinion) is the spirit of a collector's bedroom. Every inch was covered by some sort of action figure. It was like "Where's Waldo?" times 1000. OMG! It was more eye candy than I could handle and yet I couldn't tear myself away. So much shizzle! Wow! :) Very, very impressive!

They also had a dress up section. It may not have been meant for adults---but it didn't stop us...just fantastic! Mark became Spidey and I tried my hand at Pocahontas.


And they had a "bat cave" with Batman and Robin action figures and paraphernalia. Oh and this rockin' Batmobile that I don't fit in, but wanted to have a picture with. :)


Additionally, and NOT surprisingly, Time Magazine just named this museum One of America's 50 Authentic American Experiences of 2009! How cool is that? I am in total agreement with them! If you're ever in Pauls Valley, OK be sure to stop by! Thank you Susen for the tickets!!!


Despite our busy, busy weekend Mark and I came back to Sulphur and decided to go for a run. I showed Mark the Bison Trail---we watched a black rat snake dig in his hole and then slither off and then a deer that was very, very close to the trail.

We topped our night off with our Mazzio's picnic near the Bromide Pavilion, where we dined with two ferrell cats. On our way home through the park we spotted a buck and two turkey vultures....cool, cool, cool!


(PS This is the second time I've written this entry--the first time the internet went out while I was uploading photos and the whole post was messed up---some of the details were lost on the second go around....)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rain, Rain PLEASE STAY!

Something happened today that I didn't think was possible in Oklahoma---IT RAINED---and was cloudy with rain showers on and off ALL DAY!!! Oh, it was glorious!!!! I woke up to rain showers...and it was in the 70s. Delicious! But I maintained realism and assured myself that by noon it would be sunny. Lunch break at noon came and went and it was still cloudy....right after lunch the rain was so loud that you could hear it on the roof in Lauren's office at the Vis. I thought, for sure I won't be so lucky as to experience this rain after work. I had to do laundry after I got home and was so certain that by the time I finished with laundry, went home, and changed for my run that it would be sunny and humid. I was once again wrong. MY RUN WAS OUTSTANDING!

I had the road almost entirely to myself. The sky was gray and the rain was literally pounding. I ran four miles today. At the turn around point at the Nature Center I put my ipod on pause and just stood there in the middle of the road listening. No one was at the Nature Center. Travertine Island was deserted. There were no cars. No people. Only the sound of the rain on the pavement and the leaves...and the locust. I think that was my surprising part of today---locust still sing in the rain. How awesome.


I was absolutely soaked by the time I finished---I was actually soaked before I was a quarter mile into my run---and it was beautiful!!!

A full day of clouds and rain...rain, rain, PLEASE don't go away!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Looks Who's On the NPS Website!

I came into work yesterday to find Eric at his desk VERY excited! On his computer screen was the NPS home page and featured for this week as the first picture on the banner of the webpage is Chickasaw NRA!

You can see it here!

The first picture is of our Junior Ranger Station--that's Eric in the window of the Junior Ranger Station and his son and daughter in the picture too!

If you're reading this entry after one week from its posting, select "view all" in the bottom right hand corner of the banner and you'll see our photo there.

And then he pointed out our park's webpage and upon scrolling down....

what did I see?

ME!

Check it out!

That's me swearing in Junior Rangers on the 4th of July!

Fun publicity day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baby Rattlesnake by Te Ata

Last week I gave my first Read with a Ranger program and this week was our second program. Ron suggested we read Baby Rattlesnake by Te Ata. It was a neat program--incorporating an intro, conclusion, and rattling by Vicki, guitar playing and singing by Ron, and I read the book. The program was already in place, so it was our job to practice as a trio.

The story is about a baby rattlesnake who really wants his rattle before he's old enough to have it. He cries and cries until the council gives him a rattle. He then proceeds to scare everyone with it, until he scares the Chief's daughter and she steps on the rattle, thus leaving him without one again. The moral of the story is that sometimes you shouldn't get what you ask for, especially if you're not ready (mature enough) for it.


It was a very cute reading and the program was a success! We had ten visitors and three of our little girls really enjoyed sitting on the buffalo hide, as did one of the moms who came.

Vicki did a great job of setting up the buffalo skull with the painted animals from this region--which of course, did include a Diamondback Rattlesnake (with a real rattle on its tail!).




(Yeah, I know I could just link to this, but I think it's important to put on this page and I liked this summary.)

TE ATA (1895-1995)
A traditional Native storyteller, Te Ata, also known as Mary Frances Thompson Fisher, was born in Emet, Chickasaw Nation, near Tishomingo, on December 3, 1895. Her parents were members of the Chickasaw Nation. Her father, T. B. Thompson, the last treasurer of the Chickasaw Nation, operated stores in Tishomingo. Te Ata's uncle, Douglas H. Johnston, was the last governor of the old Chickasaw Nation.

Mary Thompson attended Bloomfield Academy in the far southeast corner of Johnston County. Later she attended high school in Tishomingo, encountering "white" children for the first time. In school at Tishomingo Te Ata found a role model
in teacher Muriel Wright. Later attending Oklahoma College for Women (now the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), in Chickasha, she acquired another mentor, Francis Densmore Davis, an active researcher and writer on Indian cultures. Davis recognized the young woman's talent for drama, and soon Mary began to use the name Te Ata, reflecting her Indian heritage.

Te Ata worked on a Chautauqua circuit managed out of St. Louis, and she began to develop her style of storytelling using various American Indian sources. Her readings, storytelling, and dance were often accompanied by classical and other music played on piano. She eventually also used small drums, rattles, and other common, traditional instruments. With Davis's encouragement she attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, for one year. From Pittsburg she moved to New York City where she worked in theater and entertained the city's social elite. There Te Ata met Clyde Fisher, a naturalist and eventual curator of the Haden Planetarium, and they married in 1933.

In 1933 Te Ata performed for the first state dinner given by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt. Many of her performances in the 1930s were at summer camps throughout New England and New York state. In 1939 she performed again for the
Roosevelts at their home in Hyde Park, New York, on the occasion of a state visit by the king and queen of Great Britain. Later, Te Ata toured Europe, giving performances for royal families and heads of state. The Fishers traveled in South America and extensively in the United States, often observing Native ceremonies and learning different traditions. Te Ata incorporated these experiences in performances later in her storytelling.

In 1958 Te Ata was recognized by the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and in 1976 she received the Governor's Award (Oklahoma), and was named Woman of the Year by The Ladies Home Journal. Her performances are preserved in a c. 1971 film, God's
Drum, and on a video recording of a storytelling festival sponsored by the Oklahoma City Arts Council. She died in Oklahoma City on October 26, 1995. Te Ata Fisher's influence on the appreciation of Native traditions and the art of storytelling is an enduring legacy. Her name, Te Ata, means "Bearer of the Morning." She preserved and promoted great affection for old ways, American Indians, and natural beauty.

Possum Sighting!

Just had to share.....more wildlife viewing....


On my run last night, skittering across the road, was a white opossum! And even better than that, it stopped to forage in the pine trees on the side of the road so I had an opportunity to observe it.

I remember one or two on the side of our house growing up and my dad always saying how mean they are and so I kept my distance.

However, in his natural habitat, he was just fascinating.

I was very excited to note the prehensil tail that Lauren and I mentioned in our puppet show on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Brother's Visit

I've been really, really lucky. Not only has Mark come to visit, but my brother came to Oklahoma to visit as well. I really appreciate it since he's at a new job and coming to visit meant taking two vacation days. I was (and am) really touched.

We packed in our weekend, seeing the sites, traveling, and moving from city to city and hotel to hotel. We are both training for events--his closest is the Hyannis Triathlon in September in Boston and mine is the New York City Marathon in November...and we're running the Philadelphia Marathon together just before Thanksgiving. I say all of that to say that we did some running this weekend too--on treadmills, sans heat.

As I was expressing to several people, we did so much that I was just not sure how to go about writing this entry. To my fellow bloggers, maybe you feel this way sometimes? There is just so much to write about that it becomes debilitating...and then no writing happens even though you have this great story to tell! I've found myself in this situation several times this summer. Anyway, in discussing this issue with my brother last night and lamenting that I still hadn't done the blog entry he suggested that I do a photo montage. I love the idea and decided that that's what I'm going with!

Jon arrived on Thursday into Dallas, rented a car, and arrived here in Sulphur around 2:30 pm. I introduced him to everyone here and showed him around the Nature Center a bit. Impressively, he remembered his NPS Passport book and so he stamped his book here at the Nature Center, he stamped his Heartland Flyer Rails and Trails stamp at Lauren's desk (more to come on that) and he stamped his Passport at the Junior Ranger Station---three Passport stamps and one "special" stamp: a buffalo.





We took a quick driving tour around the Platt portion of the park after work. We did get out at Pavilion Sprigs and Jon tried the water there. This photo doesn't document his dismay with the taste of the mineral filled water.




That night we traveled to Ada to spend the night. My little apartment is great, but I didn't have a place for my brother to sleep so we took this opportunity to stay in hotels. There seem to be a lot of new hotels in the area which was fun because the towels were still fluffy, the bed were immaculate, and the pillows and duvets were the type you just melted into....We spent our first time in Ada at a Holiday Inn Express and did a few miles on the treadmill there. Jon had never been on one before so it was a fun, new experience for him! Followed by dinner at Chili's.....we crashed hard that night and woke up ready to go the next morning!

Friday we headed back to Sulphur to do more exploring of the park. We spent some time along Travertine Creek and walked out to Buffalo and Antelope springs.



A few hours and a few hundred pictures later we decided it was lunch time. We headed back to my apartment after our Subway lunch, packed up new stuff for tonight, and then headed out to Norman.

But there was one VERY important stop to make before going.....

We stopped at Sonic! Living in Boston, Jon has seen the commercials for Sonic on almost a daily basis, but there are no Sonics in Boston...or the suburbs of Boston....or for several hundred miles of Boston. When Jon first learned early in the summer that Sulphur has a Sonic he made that his one request for his visit.

It did not disappoint.

After spending an insanely long time deciding what we wanted, we placed our order...Jon: a mango drink; Amy: an orange creme slush.

As we waited Jon took pictures of everything Sonic. He even got out of the car which I'm pretty sure is a Sonic no-no.

He caused such a scene that one of the women came out to see what he was taking pictures of. Jon explained that he is from Boston, the Sonic commercials there and his enthusiasm for just finally BEING at a Sonic. She got a big kick out of this....

And came out a few minutes later with her manager and a gift for Jon---his very own Sonic tshirt and bill holder--just like the ones that the workers there use! This just made Jon's experience!



Before we left, Jon actually ordered another drink (he wasn't so fond of the mango chunks in his mango drink) and drove off with his Java Chiller in hand---loving every second of his Sonic experience....


So, we drove to Norman and checked into my favorite hotel there--the Marriott Courtyard on Copperfield Drive. Yay! Jon agreed that the hotel is much more swanky that he thought it would be. We changed and headed to the workout room to get our run in.

Post run we cleaned up, and drove 20 minutes to Oklahoma City's Bricktown. It was a super night to be out and there were a lot of other people with our same idea. I should mention here that while I have been enduring blistering heat (heat indices over 110 degrees), it was only around 90 degrees each of the days my brother was in town. I'm glad the heat finally broke but I do feel like my brother didn't quiet get the whole Oklahoma experience without the heat.

We ate at Chelino's--a recommendation from Lynn--that was awesome! We had a table that overlooked this little canal and watched the ducks feast on the tortillas the workers there were chucking over the edge. I had a delicious enchilada meal with a sour cream topping---YUMMY! We were both pretty hungry.

From there, we drove over to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. While I had just visited a few weeks before, I was excited to see it at night because I'd heard how spectacular it is all lit up. Jon and I walked around for about a half hour and then we joined Nathan's evening program. We both really enjoyed the program and our time at the Memorial.






We stayed until the evening lights came on and illuminated the field of empty chairs...it was beautiful.

We decided to drive through OU's campus--Jon really wanted to see the football stadium. We found it and we spent almost a half hour there taking photos since the gate to the stadium was open and we could get in.

That capped off our Saturday experience. After a fantastic night of sleep we got up and headed out (early!) to Pauls Valley which is south of OKC but north of Sulphur. It is here that we caught the Amtrak train. But since we got there early we walked down the street to the Action Figure Museum....this has been on my list since I first got here. While it was closed because it was so early, we did have a good time window shopping and of course, posing in front of it.

The National Park Service has a partnership program with Amtrak called Trails and Rails. For sections of the ride, the NPS provides trained guides to speak over the intercom about the landscape we're seeing. It's a nice program and a wonderful way to learn about the geography we were traversing.

Our train was bound for Ft. Worth, Texas. It was a 3.5 hour train ride, crossing the Washita River (see below), climbing the Arbuckle Mountains, and see a lot of terrain in between. Our destination in Ft. Worth were the Stockyards.

While a bit touristy, the Stockyards were pretty cool. To these two tourists, it was a perfect way to spend our four hours in Ft. Worth. The Stockyards tell the story of Ft. Worth's selling and buying of stock. It was even said that during World War I horses were needed by Europeans and buyers were sent to Ft. Worth to choose their stock. Amazing.

We reveled in the cowboy paraphernalia. I love this picture of Jon sporting a cowboy hat.

After walking around a bit, we took the advice of our cab driver and tried Risckey's BBQ. We got a great seat outside, right along the road where we could watch the other tourists. I had a phenomenal baked potato and these Texas Fries---seasoned french fries with grilled jalapenos and onion. YUM! Jon had this great brisket looking sandwich and coleslaw.

After lunch, Jon took a ride on the kiddie pony....

and Amy had a longhorn balloon hat made.

We walked across the street to the Longhorn corral.

And spent a great amount of time here. I was soooooooo excited to see the longhorns. Their horns are well...so long...and just cool! Oh, did we take pictures!


We were walking around a lot, waiting for 4 pm when the cattle drive through the streets would happen. While walking we met a cowboy who I took my picture with---even his horse smiled for the picture!



And then.....4 pm. People started to line up on the streets at 3:45 pm. Jon and I were amazed that the cars remained and that people were only asked to remain on the curb. The liability! Jon documented it on the camera and I video taped it.

video

After watching the video you might be able to tell that the longhorns looked like they were out for their afternoon walk. I don't think the liability was so great after all. It was neat to see though and we were definitely enjoying our tourist experience.


We stopped for ice cream and then had to catch a cab back to the train station to catch our train. We drove from Pauls Valley to Sulphur for dinner (Roma) and then to pick up my uniform at home for the next day.

We were staying in Ardmore so that Jon could be a little closer to Dallas and I would be near work.

We met up with Lauren and Chris that morning for a coffee at Starbucks and a quick recap of our respective weekends.

Then it was time for goodbyes and Jon and I drove our separate ways. :(

It was an awesome weekend. I'm so glad he came to visit! We had excellent adventures...in a new place (OKLAHOMA!) and spent a most terrific brother and sister weekend together. Thanks Jon!

(Yeah, and so after all of that is said, you can see that the weekend in photos alone did not happen! Maybe next time! Just too much good stuff to report on!)