Saturday, July 28, 2012


 If you watched the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in London (, you may have noticed the five, brightly-lit Olympic rings appearing to float on the water. 
 I saw a similar  scene, when I attended the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, and took this daytime view photo of the rings, and the barge they were sitting on, whenever I was out exploring the city.  (The first photograph is just a "photoshopped" version of this original photo, since I am only participating in the 2012 London Olympics, as one of the millions watching the events on television, and not attending in person). 
 The Olympic equestrian events have been getting some additional attention, due to the fact the Mrs. Mitt Romney has a horse that is competing in those events.  Hearing all the publicity about "dressage" brought back memories of when my husband and I attended the dressage competition at the Atlanta Olympics.  In the dark, wee hours of the morning of our scheduled equestrian event, we were sleepily making the drive in our truck from our motel an hour outside of Atlanta, to where we were to catch the motor coach to the location of the dressage venue.  Shortly before we got to the motor coach staging area, we turned on the radio, to get the latest weather news.  What we heard shocked us!  It was the authorities urging all listeners to STAY AWAY from downtown Atlanta, due to a bombing that had occurred at an Olympic concert event very late on the previous evening.  Since we were, by that time, already at the staging area, we proceeded to find our designated ride to the rural setting where the dressage was scheduled to be held.  Needless to say, none of the motor coaches were running on time, because INTENSE security measures had been implemented following the bombing.  When we finally got to the actual equestrian park, we arrived about one hour AFTER the scheduled starting time.  However, because the newly-implemented and rigorous security measures had slowed down EVERYTHING that was associated with the Olympics (including the transportation for the athletes and horses), we had not missed anything, because it had not even started yet!  This photo shows one of the official Olympic Equestrian Posters, that we had framed to also include our two tickets to the event.
 Lest you think we were some kind of elitists because we were going to the dressage competition, let me clarify, that we definitely WERE NOT.  I had no idea what it was, or how to pronounce it, whenever we received those tickets.  The official Olympic ticketing office had substituted dressage tickets, because the tickets I actually requested (gymnastics) were all sold out.  You can imagine the red-neck impression I left on a fellow passenger on the motor coach when I asked if there was a problem with getting ticks while attending.  I had seen people standing in weeds, in the woods, watching the steeplechase competitors, and thought there would be a similar setting for viewing the dressage.  Little did I know that we would be watching from bleachers, with nothing louder than a whisper being murmured by the audience, as we watched the athletes---dressed in tuxedos---perform precise movements with their horses.  What an education I received!
 The camaraderie seen in the London Olympic Opening Ceremonies set my mind to thinking about the whole reason for the Olympics.  It is to bring people---the world---together for a common cause.  That reminded me of the title of the Bible study book for this fall's session of First Place 4 Health (  The book is called "Better Together", and one of the weekly memory verses (from I Thessalonians 5:11) sums it up when it says "Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  If you could use a little encouraging and building up, please email me (  for more information, on how you could be a part of the class that will start on Wednesday, August 29, in Mountain Home, Arkansas.  Likewise, you can phone 870-425-6961 to find out more information about the Mountain Home classes. However, no matter what part of the country you live in, there are First Place 4 Health classes throughout the United States. Being a part of a First Place 4 Health class will bring you miles of (healthier!) smiles!  Tricia
Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 27, 2012

Back to School Expedition

 Those businesses that sell school supplies are busy now reminding all of us that "back to school" time is approaching, so it is time to "stock up" on all the supplies needed to resume a life in the classroom.  The advertisements will often portray the idyllic setting of a one-room schoolhouse with it bell tower straddling the roof, calling all students back from their summer vacations.    Such  advertisements also reminded me of a "back to school" experience I had on my last visit to the capitol city of California. 
 Situated on the banks of the Sacramento River, with this bridge as its iconic symbol, is a historic district, known as Old Sacramento.
 One part of this district is the building shown in this photo, known as the "Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum".  This replica of a country schoolhouse was opened in March, 1977, to provide a "hands on" experience for visitors of all ages to take a peek into how students of the past received their education.  With such a scenic location,  it is not surprising that, just as in the 19th century when the schoolhouse was the center of community activities, the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum can host birthday parties, weddings, family reunions, and other events.  For information on reserving the Museum for a special event, log on to   . 
 Since that time almost .5 million boys and girls from all over the world have had a taste of 19th century "book learning" in this little yellow building. 
 There is even a "photo op" cut out, where you can stick your head in the opening of the schoolmarm's silhouette, as she rings the hand bell to gather in her little flock of students.  Volunteers in the community serve as school master and schoolmarms for visiting students.  As with any organization of this type, there is always a need for more volunteers, and anyone interested in assisting can email for more information.
 The classroom is equipped with old-fashioned school desks, that are quite familiar to me.  Although they were not in use at the schools I attended, my parents had a business that sold school supplies, and sometimes one of these old-fashioned desks would appear in their inventory, as either a trade-in, or purchase they made to use as a display rack.  Based on what current students have written about their visits to the schoolhouse museum, this pot-bellied stove seems to capture their attention more than what the teacher is writing on the blackboard!
 There are different activities going on at the schoolhouse museum, based on the time of year.  For example, in the winter, they conduct "It's A Gingerbread Holiday".  For this competition, children, families, youth groups, and those in culinary programs can enter gingerbread-themed creation of any type they desire.  The entries are judged on creativity and imaginative use of candies.  Gingerbread-themed prizes are awarded by a panel of judges.  Then after being on display during most of December, selected entries are donated to local children's homes and hospitals for further enjoyment. 
 The schoolhouse is filled with books and photos from 19th century schools.  There are annual exhibits, such as Black History Month, Sports History, Coming to California, and American Traditions. 
 My mother was an elementary school teacher in the early 1900's, and actually taught from one of the editions of McGuffey's Reader that was in use during her tenure. 
 The school desk staples of the past look quite a bit different from the tools today's students use!  The students wrote on their "slates" (that is the black square with a wooden frame in the photo), using their white chalk.  Paper and pencils were much more scarce back in those days, and of course, computers had not yet been invented!
 Something that captured my eye on the grounds of the Old School House Museum, was this magnificent flower.  I photographed it, not knowing what it was called, because I thought it was the most beautiful flower I had ever seen in all my life.
 After a little research, I found out that it is called "Passion Flower", and there is quite a story that goes with in.  The legend goes back to the 1600's, when a monastic scholar, Jacomo Bosio, first saw drawings of the flower.  The symbols are said to depict the Crucifixion of  Jesus Christ.  The 72 radial filaments represent the Crown of Thorns.  The top 3 stigma represent the 3 Nails.  The leaves are in the shape of the Centurion's Spear.  The red stains represents Christ's Blood Drops.  The round fruit represent the world Christ came to save.  The lower five antlers represent the 5 wounds of Christ.  In fact, in some parts of the world, the flower is still called the "Flower of Five Wounds".  If ever there was an example of the words of Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 6:28) that tells us to "consider the lilies of the field", this is it!   Who knows, maybe someone planted this flower at this location, for the sole purpose of reminding visitors, that the Creator of the Universe has made a beautiful world for us to enjoy!  What makes the passion flower  even more relevant in this particular city, is its implied reference to "The Blessed Sacrament", as remembered in the name of the capitol city of California.   If you would like to learn more about this and other Sacramento attractions in the same area, log on to for dozens of experiences that will bring you miles of golden smiles!  Tricia
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Walmart Visitor Center Expedition

 Taking an expedition to the Walmart Visitor Center, located on the town square in Bentonville, Arkansas, has been on my "to do" list for a long time, but it was not until this past week, that I was able to "check it off".  My new motivation was the announcement at the annual stock holders' meeting last month, that the whole thing had been completely renovated and updated, with the addition of a cafe, to commemorate the fact that 2012 means that Walmart has been in business for fifty years!  When Sam Walton opened his 5 & 10 on the Bentonville town square in 1950, he had no idea he'd planted the seeds for what would become the global leader in retail, "saving people money so they could live better".
 The remodeling project included the addition of a new cafe, adjacent to the original store, and occupies one corner of the Visitor Center complex.  On the day I was there, the outdoor tables were buzzing with activity, as workers took their lunch breaks on the scenic court square.  
 The first section of the Visitor Center contains old time toys for purchase, similar to what would have been in stock in the original Walton 5 & 10.
 Likewise, their stock includes items with a local connection.  For instance, you can buy one of  the famous Daisy BB pump guns, that had a manufacturing plant nearby.
 Likewise, another product available for purchase, with a local connection, are the baking mixes from War Eagle Mill.  You can also buy postcards, greeting cards, and Walmart gift cards that have old-time designs, unlike any you can purchase at the regular Walmart stores.
 The exhibit gallery begins with the Sam Walton Theatre, where you will learn about Mr. Sam's life as an American leader and Walmart's global role in helping people save money, as well as live better.
 One of the exhibits emphasizes the importance of the partnership between Sam Walton, and his wife, Helen.  Her wedding dress is on display in the gallery, as well as a copy of their wedding invitation.
 One of Sam Walton's most prestigious awards was presented to him by President H.W. Bush, in 1992.  Sam Walton called the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award "the highlight of our entire career."  Of course, it is exhibited in a very dignified way in the Visitor Center gallery.
 "Dignified" is not how I would describe the completely authentic re-creation  of Sam Walton's office.  With its stacks of papers on the floor, wood paneling, and numerous photos on the wall of his hobbies and family, it reminded me of what my own father's office looked like back in the 1960's.  Shortly after Sam Walton's death in 1992, his office was carefully dismantled and faithfully reassembled in the Walmart Visitor Center.  Everything you see in this office was how Sam left it in March, 1992.
 The gallery's re-design includes many interactive components, such as audio recordings from  past associates of the early Walmart days.  There are family-friendly Walmart shopping cart "drawers" to pull out that show how items of today's stores, compare with items of fifty years ago. 
 There is also a Google Earth touch screen, that has dots located where there are Walmart stores around the world.  By playing with the screen, you can get down to the actual street view of a Walmart store located in another hemisphere!
 Sam Walton was famous for driving around in his 1979 Ford F150 pickup truck, so naturally it is on display in the gallery.  It still has the cages in the back for his hunting dogs.
 Hurricane Katrina had a profound effect on the thinking of then CEO, Lee Scott.   That was because the national spotlight was put on Walmart because they responded so quickly to offer assistance to hurricane victims in New Orleans, and surrounding Gulf Coast cities.  This made Walmart executives realize they could do more to focus on the second part of the Walmart mission---help people live better.  So, in 2005, he announced the company's sustainability goals:  Create zero waste, use only renewable energy, and sell products that sustain the environment.  I remember being at the 2005 stock holders meeting where he shared those goals with all present.  I was delighted to see the company taking this direction in their corporate strategy!
 Another aspect of the Walmart culture that delights me is their philanthropy.  The Walton Family Foundation has donated BILLIONS to charitable causes around the world, but the ones that I am most familiar with are those in Northwest Arkansas.  Their generosity is mind-boggling!
 I grew up in Harrison, Arkansas, which was the location of the second store ever opened by Walmart.  The gallery had a photo of the opening day of the the Harrison Walmart in 1964, and I was not surprised to see that the photo showed a man I recognized to be my father, right there in the middle of the crowd (he is the man in overalls, with his hand lifted up).  My father was also a retailer and entrepreneur, and was probably there to check out his competition!
 Now, that company that opened its second store in my home town, has grown to be the world's largest retailer, and non-government employer!
 One entire wall of the * Cafe is decorated with the flags of the countries where Walmart is located, as well as trading pins and coffee mugs for those countries.  I have noticed that when associates come from other countries to the annual stock holders' meeting, there is always alot of pin-trading going on.  Now I know where they get those pins!
 The * Cafe has indoor, as well as outdoor seating, and a full line of pastries, candies, and specialty coffee beverages. 
 Likewise, one can purchase many products with the special logo for 2012 that celebrates 50 years of Walmart.
 This is a photograph of a postcard you can purchase at the store, painted by Brendan O'Connell, titled "The Art of Retail".  It depicts the colorful addition that the Walmart Visitor Center brings to the historic Bentonville Town Square.  Sam Walton had a list of ten rules for building a business. At the Visitor Center, you can pick up a brochure with a copy of these rules in FIVE different languages, besides English.  This should give you a clue as to the international draw that WalMart has on the city of Bentonville.  All of Sam's rules for building a business can be found in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, but  Proverbs 11:11 seemed to best illustrate the impression I had after visiting the WalMart Visitor Center in downtown Bentonville.  It says "Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted...."  Oh yeah, and did I mention that there is no fee to while away the time in the air-conditioned comfort of the WalMart Visitor Center???!!!  Plus, they have clean restrooms, and plenty of books to read!  You can log on to to start planning a visit that will bring you miles of smiles!  Tricia
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Be A Kid at Branson's Silver Dollar City!

 Even though I have had a season pass to Silver Dollar City for the last several years, I don't always make it to the park during the National Kid's Fest held every summer.  However, the 2012 line-up of special performances made me put it as a "must do" on my calendar!
 The main reason I wanted to go was that Nik Wallenda was scheduled to be performing.  I happened to be visiting the East Coast during the time last month when he was doing his stunt of walking across Niagara Falls, from the U.S. side, to the Canadian side, on a wire.  While there, I was surprised at the amount of television  coverage   he received for his very daring  accomplishment, from the East Coast broadcasting  networks.  Their coverage of him was phenomenal! (When I googled his name to write this blog post, an overwhelming 3,900,000 results came up!)   All this made me realize that when I returned to the Ozarks, I did not want to miss the show he would be doing at Silver Dollar City, whenever HE returned to the Ozarks!
 A spectacular performance has to have a spectacular "drum roll", and for this purpose, the Wallenda Family Circus, has their very own (and very multi-talented) drummer.  They also had a comedian/magician that entertained the crowd between acts.
 The theater at Silver Dollar City, known as "The Opera House" had been set up as the venue for the Wallendas.  And no, there was NO safety net beneath them!  I was not only praying for their safety, but mine as well!  That is because, if the performers---or their stage apparatus---had a malfunction, us folks sitting on the front rows would have felt the impact!
 This is what I would call,  riding your bicycle on the "highway to the danger zone!", as the old rock song warns.  Being from a circus family, I guess their mother never told them to remember to put on their helmets before they went out biking!
 The Wallendas have a very  long history in the field of circus performers.  They worked for the original Ringling Brothers Circus.  After they leave Silver Dollar City, they will be performing at other locations across the United States.  You can check out their upcoming schedule of performances, see videos, and learn more of their history, at   
. One of the younger Wallendas can be seen in this photo, standing on the platform.  She is still "in training", and did not actually venture out onto the wire.  However, since it was Kid's Fest, it was appropriate that she got to be high in the air, cheering on her parents!
 Most people cannot even do "the splits", not to mention doing them suspended on a bar, that is being held on the shoulders of two men walking a tight wire!!  Did I mention there was no safety net??!!
 No training wheels on this bicycle, and no place for them to roll on, even if it had training wheels!
 Nik Wallenda is known as "The King of the Wire", and he is fairly young---being born in 1979.  He represents the seventh generation of Wallendas in the circus arts field.
 After the show, "The King of the Wire", was graciously signing autographs.  The photo he was signing was the same one that appeared in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.
 There were other famous characters at SDC during Kid's Fest.  On the day I visited, it happened to be The Flintstones, (plus that big purple thing) and kids could get their photo made with the characters. 
 Another show that was new at Kid's Fest was Fan Yang's "Gazillion Bubble Show" (
 Since photography was not allowed during the Gazillion Bubble Show, I dug in my photo files for a bubble photo I took of family members back on Mother's Day.  It is to illustrate the smile and delight on the face of a child, looking at just ONE bubble.  So try to imagine all the smiles in the theater when "us kids" got to witness a GAZILLION bubbles!  It was one of the most incredible sights I have ever witnessed, and gave me a whole new appreciation of the physics laws that explain surface tension!
 Another fun aspect of Kid's Fest involves the open-air pavilions set up with kid-size, colored picnic tables, each one with a big bucket of kid-friendly activity toys. 
 Sometimes, even teenagers could be seen looking away from their electronic devices long enough to make a "FLAG-USA" banner from  the over sized Lego's!
 This young man may have a future in mechanical engineering, once he figures out how to hold those wheels together!
 The Gazebo Stage was the scene for shows throughout the day.  These young performers are champions in their field of clog dancing, and delighted the audience with their high-energy dance routines, and skillful footwork.
 The third new show I saw at Kid's Fest was held in the Red Gold Barn, that had been modified to make it as dark as possible, to accommodate the show called LUMA ( )  It included the use of black lighting, and chemical or battery lights to create a story about the residents who live in the very dark Marvel Cave on SDC premises, as well as the "lightning bugs" that can be seen at night in some parts of the Southern United States.  I learned on their website that one of the originators of the LUMA show received his creative inspiration on a wilderness camping trip with a "city slicker".  The "city slicker" could not get over his amazement at the way the stars  lit up the sky above them.  Being from a large city, he had NEVER seen a night sky that was not washed out in its brilliance, because of  civilization's "light pollution".  It was a similar experience that led the author of Psalm 132 to write "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  Who made the great lights ---the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night.  His love endures forever." 
 Participating in all there is to see and do at Kid's Fest can be exhausting!  Fortunately, however, there are lots of places to sit down, rest, drink a cool beverage, and reflect on the blessings of the day.  So get out your calendar, and start making plans to take advantage of all there is to see and do at Silver Dollar City in Branson ( ).  It will give you a GAZILLION miles of smiles!  Tricia
Posted by Picasa