Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cowboy James

Here's a picture of James at our second round of horsemanship. Baby Watson and I sat this one out, but James sure does make quite the cowboy! We're very fortunate that our aunt and uncle are so knowledgeable about horses as Biscuit (the horse James is on) is very well trained and was good to James. It's always fun to watch our family work with horses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grandma Elsie

This is Grandma Elsie at our wedding in 2006.

So, we moved out here to help care for Grandma Jennie, but are also very fortunate to now live much closer to my Grandma Elsie. She's quite the woman who has lived an amazing life. I had the pleasure of helping her put together and publish her memoirs last year. Here's the first paragraph from it:

It was rather hard times in 1928 near the end of the Depression and the starting of all the turmoil that was going on in Europe with the start of World War II. That’s the year I was born, May 3, 1928 in Scotsbluff, Nebraska. My dad told me it was a very rainy day and there was a couple bridges washed out, so he had to go the long way around to get mother to the hospital where I was born. I was the third child, having two older brothers, Bob or Robert Verner was 5 and Ray Edgar 3 ½. The story goes, when the boys were taken in to see the new baby, Bobby said, “If she bes a Mexican we can just throw her on top of the house”. Guess he thought I might possibly turn into one.

Anyway, here's a great picture of her and her girls (my mom is the little one in the center):
And here is when she married Pink.
I hope I pass along these genes to our baby. My mom and both my grandmothers were/are gorgeous and then there somehow was me. Go figure.

Goodbye first home!

So, our house in Reston is officially under contract and we close completely (fingers crossed) May 8th. Woohoo! Well, maybe only a woo since we had to drop the price quite a bit but I'll write my last full mortgage check next week! Here it was in spring of 2006 after we first bought it. We pretty much didn't do anything to it until we were ready to sell. Sad. I lived with wallpaper and basement carpet I hated for quite some time, but now the new owners will enjoy a wallpaper-free, nicely carpeted home.
Here's some good pics from before our wedding hanging out in the backyard on the deck. Here are the lovely Griffin ladies:

And the handsome Pozun men:Here's our "new" house in Wyoming where we have been, uhhhh . . . . squatting for 2 years.

And here are the primary builders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and handymen extraordinaires who have helped maintain the house over time. Inside their brains is also the knowledge to where every tool on the property is :)

Monday, April 13, 2009


So, a very interesting article was published in our local paper which lead me to this: which is very, very interesting. (I also love the background and may try and find a way to steal it for my blog!) Anyway, it includes my letter to the editor shared below, as well as a new article on the chaos for those of you who love small town drama from afar. I appreciated the call with my Aunt today... "Aren't you glad you don't work for those crazy sons of bitches over at the museum anymore." Sometimes crassness isn't appropriate, but sometimes it's at least greatly appreciated ; )

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My new projects

Today Grandma helped me with some sewing projects. We made two sheets for the bassinet and started a set of valances. The fabric is a little more tan than it looks in the pics below and was inspired by a vintage crewel work panel and a circa 1850 quilt. Here's an upclose pic from a fabric website, then the finished products:

Monday, April 6, 2009

How the dogs play

So, since Sky is known as not being a "dog friendly" dog, it's pretty amazing how he and June play. Here's a grainy video of a wild spasm of playing:

Here they are curled up in Sky's bed:

The great TV project!

So, it's a bad picture taken in bad light, but there is our TV mounted securely to the wall. It's been there about an hour without falling down! The piano is also neatly tucked out of the walkway and about 100 old Avon bottles are neatly packed away, waiting for their day to be famous.

So it's probably time to come clean

So, I've kept my leaving my position at the history museum in a cloud of half-answers like, "History is not my passion" or "I was tired of the politics" or "work-life balance" all the while trying to keep at least a half-smile and convince others if not myself that I had made the right decision. So, below is a stab at what happened. I'm much happier now that I'm out, but disappointed about what is going on . . . and Lander's just not big enough to avoid the sad news.

Many things have come up in the past few weeks that have solidified not only that I made the right decision, but that I was stuck in a self-imposed abusive system of hoping things would get better and constantly being disappointed ... as well as the sad reality that if nothing drastic is done, the situation at the Lander museum may never change.

When I left I couldn't help but be enamored by Mayor Fenty's position on Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the DC schools. Though I may not agree with all of her decisions, Mayor Fenty realized that doing it the same old way with the same old people would not change a notoriously bad school system and gave Rhee the latitude to shake up the good ol' boys system. Though Michelle has already made many great changes, if she leaves (which few would fault her for doing) before the system is fixed, will she also feel guilty?

When does the guilt stop? This is the problem that has plagued me for the past 7 months. Even though every response I received to leaving was full of support and lacking in surprise, but I still feel guilty. Moreover, I naively believed that the museum board may have learned something and things would change for the better after I left. HA! However, I still care enough to be upset that things have only gotten worse. It's only gratifying that a place falls apart when you leave if you never cared in the first place, which was not the case here.

The museum made news last week in a flurry of poor management decisions that are still going on. When a former board member was cited as calling the board "thicker than thieves" I couldn't help but chuckle and agree fully. I submitted this letter last week which summarizes most of my thoughts. I had kept quiet when I left believing the museum "deserved" the chance to get through it without stirring up more controversy, but know now that it did not:
I just wanted to clarify a point in your article “Museum Personnel…” in the 3/22 paper. I was not “let go” from the county, but resigned due to professional and ethical conflicts with how I was being asked to run the museum and the under-the-table, backstabbing politics taking place. It is my understanding that Elyssa Dillon left not due to my departure but due to curatorial concerns regarding the new interim director.

Leaving the museum was incredibly hard, but going into a workplace where it was a constant battle to do things according to basic museum standards and the definition of working in public trust was harder. This county and its future generations deserve better from its leaders and staff than what is currently being offered. A county should question why there are 5+ museum professionals and numerous non-profit directors in town that won’t have anything to do with our only museum as it’s currently is run.
Tom Bell, one of my favorite "old-timers" submitted this letter to the paper a week later. The letter was printed in full and gets to the down and dirty parts of what is happening at the museum. Some editing for clarification was done from this copy to the actual printed copy, but for the most part this is what was printed:

Letter to editor,

There is something terribly wrong at the Lander Pioneer Museum. I am greatly concerned and deeply troubled by what is going on. I am now retired and away from the Museum following 20 years of close involvement but I cannot sever the attachment I still have. Besides, my great-grandparents were some of the earliest pioneers in the Lander Valley and two of the original members in forming the Pioneer Association (PA).
I no longer serve on any of the boards involved in the controversy and so I am speaking as a private citizen.
After all the volunteers’ and donors’ work, sweat and money put into securing the land and property, of which three acres of the land was donated free and clear to the County, and after the County spent several million dollars to build a beautiful, modern, new building, the people now in charge can’t make it function. There is a terrible lack of communication and cooperation between the parties involved. County hostility, especially by some of the present Museums Board members, toward the volunteers of the Museum of the American West (MAW) and the Pioneer Association (PA), which should have been resolved years ago, is growing again. It is an unacceptable situation and must be resolved or the Lander community and Lander businesses will suffer.
The problem is so bad because the leadership of the Fremont County Museums Board did not follow their own Fremont County Museums Handbook and did not assume a leadership role in trying to cooperate with the Museums of the American West (MAW) in forming a compatible partnership to benefit the community. It can be noted that the leadership of MAW and PA was not always helpful in trying to promote that leadership either.
The Museums Handbook was completely revised and up-dated by the Museums Board in September, 2005. The members of the Board at that time were Butch Tonkin, Carol Thiesse, Tom Duncan, Eileen Urbigkeit, and Ben Weeks. Three members of that Board still serve (Tonkin, Duncan, and Urbigkeit) and Carol Thiesse is now Museum Director. It has become a rather incestuous relationship. Ben Weeks, bumped from the Board, has commented that ‘they are thicker than thieves.’ The handbook is a very good one with some needed and critical guidelines. The problem is that the Museums Board and the Director have been ignoring and corrupting the guidelines.
For instance, Butch Tonkin has literally taken over the Board and uses it as his own fiefdom. Handbook, page 13, V General Policies; 5. Museum Personnel shall be expected to have knowledge of the history, goals, and functions of museums, (and) a commitment to the American Association of Museums statement on ethics. . .
American Assoc. of Museums on ethics: Museum governance in its various forms is a public trust responsible for the institution’s service to society. . .Thus, the governing authority ensures that: (there follows several bullet points) No. 2, its members understand and fulfill their trusteeship and act corporately (as a board) and not as individuals (re Tonkin). What that means is that the Board sets policy, hires the Director, and then steps back. Bullet point No. 8 says: policies are articulated and prudent oversight is practiced. That means Board oversight and not meddling and micromanaging by any one Board member – again Mr. Tonkin. Bullet point N. 5 says: it (the Board) maintains a relationship with staff in which shared roles are recognized and separate responsibilities respected. Bullet point No. 7 says: professional standards and practices inform and guide museum operations. Mr. Tonkin in an e-mail to Tom Duncan, 3/14/09, re: Moving artifacts, “Large artifacts need to be photographed on each side. I have been watching the museum staff doing this for months.” Why is it I, Tonkin, and not we, as a Board, if he is supposed to be following museum ethics? And does he really need to stand there, looking over the shoulders of the director and staff? Is that oversight, or meddling and micromanaging?
Go back and read former Director Heather Watson’s letter to the editor (Journal, 3/24/09). She wrote, I resigned “due to professional and ethical conflicts with how I was being asked to run the museum, and the under-the-table, backstabbing politics taking place.” Who was doing the asking (or telling), Butch Tonkin? It was certainly not the full board nor a majority of members. Watson went on to say, “Leaving the museum was incredibly hard, but going into a workplace where it was a constant battle to do things according to basic museum standards and the definition of working in public trust was harder. This county and its future generations deserve better from its leaders and staff than what is currently being offered.” I could not agree more.
Carol Thiesse began her association with the Lander Museum when she went to work as an archivist under Todd Guenther at the old museum. When it was condemned, staff was reduced to the Director and the Board Clerk. Thiesse next applied for and got a seat on the Museums Board. It was while she was on the Board that the County approved the new building and construction began. She resigned from the Board before her term was up. When Heather Watson became Director and was looking for staff, Thiesse applied for and was named archivist. The archivist is third in line of authority behind director and curator. When Heather resigned, Thiesse was named as Interim Director and then as Director. Since then she has been anything but competent as director of a quality museum. As earlier noted, she served on the Museums Board when the Museums Handbook was revised and updated.
The update included Wyoming Statutes governing museums. Under Title 34, Chapter 23, Article 1 (page 21, Handbook), there are definitions. Part (a), (iv) “Museum” means an institution located in Wyoming and operated by a non-profit corporation or a public agency primarily for educational, scientific or aesthetic purposes and which owns, borrows, cares for, exhibits, studies or archives property;
Part (a), (v) “Property” means all tangible objects, organic and inorganic, under a museum’s care which have intrinsic scientific, historic, artistic or cultural value.
Museums Handbook, page 28, Collections Management Policy, Scope of Collection: The Pioneer Museum collects, preserves and exhibits local material and cultural artifacts. . . for the public benefit. . .Deaccessioning (page 29): Removal of artifacts from collections is accomplished when an artifact does not meet the criteria of the Collections Management Policy. The items may not be sold, discarded or otherwise disposed of without specific authorization from the Fremont County Museums Board. (This says Board and not any one individual.)
I cite this because I have only recently learned, in the last few days, that I may be personally involved. I served in the 15th Air Force in Eastern Europe in World War II. During the time I was in the service, my parents had a subscription to LIFE Magazine and they kept those for me. They gave them to me and I in turn gave them to Pioneer Museum. Now I learn that Mrs. Thiesse threw the LIFE magazines I donated into the trash even though some of them had accession numbers in them. I think those magazines have great historic significance in so far as they would be valuable resources for scholastic research. I am calling for Mrs. Thiesse to produce those magazines for me and then for a complete investigation of what else has been discarded indiscriminately by Mrs. Thiesse.
I was shown several articles thrown away by Mrs. Thiesse and now being held at the office of the Museum of the American West. Among the articles is what appears to be a term paper entitled, Wool. It was handwritten by Lulu Sherlock and should have been placed in the Sherlock file for family members to see and enjoy. I am dismayed to hear from former staff members and others of many more items and materials of our community’s heritage just callously discarded by the Director.
Elyssa Dillon was Curator at the Pioneer Museum when Carol Thiesse was chosen as Director. She was passed over even though she had more educational and professional credentials in the museums field. She wrote a letter to the Museums Board (August 22, 2008) in which she said, in part, “While at this time I feel I cannot support the Board’s decision to install Carol as the interim director, I hope that someday I can be involved with the museum again. I feel that as a curator and museum professional I cannot support having a director that would make the kinds of curatorial decisions she has been making.” Although, she does not make the specific statement here that she condemns Thiesse’s actions of discarding items, that is what she is alluding to when she says curatorial decisions. In addition, before she resigned, she was told by the Director that she was not to have anything to do with an accessions committee made up of local volunteers. Such a committee would normally be under the supervision of the curator.
Did the Board pick up on what Dillon said, and if not, why not? Museums Handbook (page 11), Statement of Policy, 3. The Board establishes policy and is responsible for: ii. Insuring directors are in full compliance with policy. The investigation I call for must include staff members, former staff, and members of the public.
Museums Handbook (page 11), Position Descriptions, 3. Director Qualifications: A demonstrated ability to adapt to a variety of leadership circumstances, (including) public relations and personnel management. Museums Handbook (page 13), General Policies, 6. Shared responsibilities: Good museum practices involve public relations.
Last fall, several local young women decided to get photographs for a calendar they proposed to make for sale. They saw the old machinery sitting in the County Museum’s outside displays and thought they would make good backdrop. After getting permission from some of the staff, they proceeded to set up for photos. Mrs. Thiesse saw them and came storming out of the museum and told them they were not supposed to be there and to leave even though the museum is public property. One of the young ladies with whom I spoke said she was rude, unpleasant, and downright unfriendly.
Early in February, Mary McAleenan and Margaret Appleby, two members of the MAW Board of Directors, decided to take a vacation. Because Mary lives at Diversion Dam to be near her aging parents, she wanted a place to leave her vehicle. After some discussion, it was decided that she could park in a space just off the entry road but on land donated by MAW to the county. She didn’t ask Mrs. Thiesse because of the poisonous atmosphere pervading between MAW and the County Museum brought on by Mrs. Thiesse’s words and actions in forbidding any of the MAW Board to visit County property. There were no other vehicles parked in the area and no activities planned at either museum at which parking would be needed.
The vehicle was parked on a Friday afternoon and when Mrs. Thiesse came in Monday at 7:30 a.m. she called a towing company to have the vehicle moved. When the tow truck came at about 8:30, she and some of the staff were watching from the upstairs window. She was laughing and was heard to say, “If they (meaning MAW) want a fight, I’ll give them one.” Fortunately, John Boulette saw the vehicle was missing, located it, and had it towed and stored at his place on Tweed Lane. The County regarded the action as wrong and sent John a check for $100.
Staff who had worked with her noted how friendly Mrs. Thiesse had always been. That changed almost immediately after she became Director. Her idea of personnel management became one of yelling every time she was displeased. She was heard to say on more than one occasion that, “This is my G__ d_____ museum and I’ll run it the way I want.” Former staff consider her very vindictive and power hungry.
So much for the friendly atmosphere at the local, family-oriented museum.
The rift between the parties involved in the museum controversy broke into the open on March 16 following a flurry of e-mails in the preceding few days. Mrs. Thiesse learned that the MAW was going to open their buildings to the public on the same day she had planned to open the county museum. She let her envy and spite get the better of her good sense and decided to take all of the loaned county artifacts from the MAW buildings so that there would be nothing for a viewing public to see. She and Butch Tonkin decided to do just that in spite of a last minute e-mail from County Commissioner Doug Thompson saying he thought their action was vindictive rather than productive. What they did was perfectly legal and within her right to do so. But was it ethical?
MAW Executive Director Jim Corbett sent an e-mil to Museums Board Chairman Tom Duncan (March 13) saying “moving artifacts at this time seems to be at odds with your key objective of opening the museum. . . This is really at odds with being a good neighbor and working together. This is a very poor relationship that has developed with the hiring of the current director and must be fixed. . .Why move items to storage when these may remain on display in our buildings? Is there something I am missing?”
Considerable items were moved, some into the big building, some into storage. There they remain with no definite date for their return.
I find that State Statutes and the Fremont County Museums Handbook provide all the tools and means for two museums, across the street from each other, to work together amicably and beneficially for the benefit of the Lander Community. That, after all, was the vision of the people who put MAW together. It was never our idea to have two museums working at cross purposes with each other. The divisive situation that now exists can be laid mainly at the feet of Mrs. Thiesse and Mr. Tonkin and their antagonistic and envious approach to MAW. It is intolerable and unacceptable.
I am calling for the immediate resignation of Mrs. Thiesse, or Board dismissal. From what I have found – and there should be a complete investigation, Mrs. Thiesse has caused unknown damage to the Pioneer Museum which should be brought to light. I don’t want her to do any more damage. In addition, I am calling for the removal of Mr. Tonkin, Mr. Duncan, and Mrs. Urbigkeit for their dereliction of duties and for their exercising a majority which has worked to disadvantage the Lander Museum.
State Statutes (18-10-104, a (iv) says, Each board of trustees of a county museum or collection of exhibits shall: Consult with the department of state parks and cultural resources on matters relating to the management and operation of the county museum and enter into agreements with the department. . .for the purpose of. . . improving the management and operation of the county museum.
The management and operation of the Lander Pioneer Museum has become so dysfunctional that we need immediate help. If the County Museums Board does not contact the State Department immediately, I am going to send a copy of this letter to Milward Simpson and personally ask for his help. From there it will go to the Governor. I want confirmation that the contact has been made. You have six weeks until the grand opening is to be observed. There is plenty of time to get something constructive done.
It must be understood that all parties involved in this controversy must be willing to come together, follow the law and the museum guidelines, respect all others, and come to agreements that will bring the community a fine, fully functioning, and highly admired museum. We and the whole county have much riding on it. We have been working for years to resurrect the Pioneer Museum. Continued bad politics and bad feelings are not acceptable. We want our museum.

Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung! These boys went from winter di...