Karen Carlock : Black Earth Children’s Museum – A Personal Interview

Tell us about what you do for work or your business here in the Driftless, and how long have you been doing this?
I founded the non-profit in October of 2016. My husband and I had the idea for the children museum in June of 2016 and our first step was to put a banner on the building announcing that the children museum would open in June of 2017. We were committed and optimistic. With the help of over 100 volunteers, the museum opened on time with much excitement!


Let’s Get To Know Karen

How would you describe yourself?
Honest, hard-working, a humble leader, a person who hopes to build up each person I encounter.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Founding the Black Earth Children’s Museum while serving my township and maintaining a focus on my own 3 children.

Have you read any good books?
I love to read! I am currently trying to read Mark Bittman’s “Animal, Vegetable, Junk:” but am not moving through it very quickly because I am easily distracted by fun cozy mysteries.

Who is your personal hero?
I don’t have a personal hero. I’m amazed by the uniqueness of individuals and their strengths both individually and collectively. Each person has something special about them, and I have found it incredibly inspiring to admire the variety.

Do you have a life philosophy that you live by?
“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

What do you like most about yourself?
I see myself as someone who tries my best to actively listen and humbly learn. I hope I’m continually getting better at it.

If you could change the world, what would you change?
That each of us could see view everyone around us more completely. It’s simply impossible to understand each person in-depth but I would love to somehow make it possible – I think we’d all be capable of a lot more compassion.

What do you think is the meaning of life?
Love God and love others.

Do you prefer working alone, or do you like working with others?
I get a lot of satisfaction from working with others on creative and/or planning tasks. If I need to write something or work on a spreadsheet, I’d prefer to work on it alone.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Costa Rica – I really want to see the cloud forest. Or…maybe on a horse, riding along a beach. I don’t even know how to ride very well but I have a feeling it would be magnificent.

If you could be doing anything, anywhere right now, what and where would it be?
I would be working as a foreign diplomat – anywhere in the world would be just fine with me.

What’s the one thing you wish you could have a do-over for?
I wish that I could have learned Spanish at a younger age. I learned German in high school and college. Since college, I have been working on and off to learn Spanish and it just doesn’t come as easily as it would have if I had learned it at a much younger age.

How do you work on yourself?
I tend to reflect on each interaction I have with someone and think about what I might have done differently to make it go even better. Without shaming myself for mistakes, I have found that I am able to improve my communication skills and problem-solving skills over time.

What’s one thing you’ve had to overcome in your life?
My kids and I were in a tragic accident in 2014. A driver fell asleep at the work and crossed into our lane and hit us head-on. The driver died and we were all ok. I realized then that every headline has real people and real stories behind it. The article about the accident said that “a woman and her children went to the hospital with minor injuries”. That was it. Yet my family’s life was forever changed…in very beautiful ways actually, making us more thankful and appreciating each moment more deeply and making us more willing to change and grow so that we don’t allow moments to pass us by.

How do you handle being in a bad mood?
I’m rarely in a bad mood but when I am, I own it and talk with someone about why I am. Acknowledging it allows me to move past it or at least come up with a way to start to move past it.

Who is the most important person in your life?
My husband and kids.

What is your favorite music, or What is your all-time favorite song, or What ‘one’ song do you think a person should listen to at least once?
I think everyone should at some point listen to any version of Hallelujah originally written by Leonard Cohen. Incredible song…not one I listen to often but every time I do, I love it.

How has this pandemic affected YOU or YOUR BUSINESS here in the Driftless?
The children’s museum has been closed since March 13, 2020. We’re reopening on June 21st – I am very excited to get back to serving our community.

What are some of your favorite places to go for fun here in the Driftless?
We love kayaking Black Earth Creek and hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park. We love the trails in Sauk. Growing up in Rochester, MN, I used to LOVE driving to LaCrosse and seeing the beautiful bluffs and the Mississippi River.

What are some of your favorite (non commercial) places to eat here in the Driftless?
The Shack in Black Earth – absolutely the best burgers.
Sunn Cafe in Mount Horeb – I adore their cilantro-lime quinoa salad.

If you were to tell a friend to come and visit the Driftless Area, and they ask “Why” … What would you tell them?
The variety of outdoor experiences – hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing.  

Are you a Cat or Dog person?

Are you an Early Bird or Late Owl?
Early Bird

If given the opportunity, would you go to outerspace (moon, mars, space stations)?

What color socks are you currently wearing?
No socks…once it’s May, who needs them? ;o)

What 1 message would you put in a bottle?
Kindness Matters

What was your very first job?
Dairy Queen – made a lot of dilly bars

If any, what would be your dream job?
foreign diplomat

What does your dream vacation look like?
Hiking trip with my husband – maybe Costa Rica.

If you could learn another language, what would that be?

I Would Rather …
Live in a tree house