Day 39: Thank a Former Teacher


Teachers are such a vital part of our lives. Good or bad, they have an impact on us in our formative years. The best teachers do more than teach us reading and writing, math and history. They teach us about life. They help us to discover truths about ourselves.

Today’s first was to thank a former teacher. I’ve had a lot of great teachers. The one who came to mind today was Mr. Stiles, from junior high.

I had just moved from the big city of Tulsa, Ok to the small rural town of Noel, MO. It was quite a culture shock. I thought we’d moved to Mayberry to live. Small town life has its advantages, but that summer, with all my friends and many family members back in Tulsa, it was difficult for me to see that. My grandmother walked me over to my new school so I could look around before the fall semester started. In the math and science room, a young teacher perched atop a ladder, hanging inspiring words above the chalkboard. That’s how I met Mr. Stiles. Perhaps because he was new too, perhaps because he seemed to understand the deep angst and playfulness young teens swing between in a single day, he quickly became a favorite of mine. He was fun, engaging and insightful. His math and science lessons were great and often unconventional. His life lessons were powerful. He always had time to chat with and encourage a student. And he got us out of the classroom and involved with community projects such as picking up litter in town.

Thanks to Google, I was able to track down an email address for Mr. Stiles and let him know how grateful I am that he chose daily to face a classroom of rowdy teens and make learning interesting and fun.  More than that, he made an impact on my life, helping me to begin to see who I was and what I was capable of. And that was a precious gift. Thank you, Mr. Stiles.

Day 38: Zumba


Today’s first was Zumba! And I have a confession to make. I did not know if I would enjoy this wildly popular form of exercise. I even thought this might be my first “first” in which I’d say, “Nope, not for me”.

Silly me! I should know better than to have any preconceived notions about the opportunities that are appearing on my journey this year.

My mom invited me to her Zumba class, held at the Joplin Family Y. I should be embarrassed to say that I feared I might not be able to keep up with my mom!  The class is especially designed for people 55 and older. It is a gentler Zumba, but there are no rest breaks in this class and the pace is brisk. I have enjoyed and benefitted from slower paced exercises such as yoga and tai chi so I wondered if my body would protest greatly during this activity. I shouldn’t have been concerned.

I loved everything about the Zumba class. The instructor, Dave Miller, pictured above, was amazing. He was easy to follow, entertaining and made the class so fun. The music inspired me and got my body moving. The hips just start to shake with those Latin beats! I did not have any problems keeping up with the class and yet it was a wonderful workout and I was sweaty and exhilarated at the end of the hour. Which are just the results you hope for in Zumba, I think!

Day 37: Icy Winter Garden Globes


My first for today was pure fun, and perfect for a cold wintery day with a high of 16 degrees. I made icy winter garden globes, based on an idea that my daughter, Elissa, shared from Pinterest.

These were simple to make, filling balloons with water and food coloring, and letting them freeze. Although I discovered right away that it doesn’t work to fill the balloon with water and then try to add drops of food coloring. I laughed as the water shot up like a fountain and the balloon collapsed. I found that dripping the food coloring in first and then filling the balloon with water worked well. By the third balloon, I was an expert at the process, “burping” out the excess air to leave only colored water in the globe and then tying off the end without spraying myself. That only happened once!

I got started late on this project, so only the three smaller globes froze clear through, even with the frigid temps outdoors. I was delighted with the results as I cut away the balloons from the ice within. Laughter bubbled forth with child-like glee. I’ll let the larger globes freeze overnight. I can’t wait to see all six winter garden globes glistening in the morning sun, cradled by this week’s snow. It will be magnificent!

Day 36: Meet My Neighbor


I remember when I was a kid, the neighborhood really was a community. We all knew each other and watched out for each other. Swarms of kids roamed from house to house. Moms chatted over a cup of coffee or borrowed some necessary ingredient for a cake. In the evenings whole families gathered for horseshoes and cook outs and cold drinks.

I’m not sure when that culture changed. I barely know my neighbors. I wave at the family across the street. I know my neighbors to the north. They’ve been here longer than I have. And yet I barely speak to them, as wonderful as they are. The house to the south is empty and has been since May 22, 2011. The tornado that hit Joplin tore through my neighborhood. The houses on my side of the street, though battered and damaged, remained standing. The houses across the street, and beyond, were all destroyed. Many of my neighbors left that day, never to return. There are still empty lots on my street. And there are new houses and new neighbors too, that I have yet to meet.

Today, choosing to stay at home because of icy roads in Joplin, I pondered what my first would be for the day. My planned activity would need to wait because of the weather. As I was looking through my list, and opening myself to possibilities, the first literally came to me.  He knocked on the door. One of my goals for this year is to meet each of my neighbors whom I’ve not met before. I see them outside and I wave and smile. And yet I don’t know their names or what they do or what brings joy or sorrow into their lives. I intend to change that. And to get to know better the neighbors I have met and lived beside for years.

How amazing when a first appears for you, at the perfect time. My neighbor and I chatted. He had observed that a little family of stray cats had been eating on my front porch and he laughed when he saw that they now live in my house! It is very cold, after all, and my soft heart couldn’t bear for them to be outside. He offered cat food, at a greatly reduced price. How thoughtful. He had even written down the kinds of cat food he had available and how much of it.

I am ready to be more a part of my neighborhood. The tornado didn’t take that away from me. I have denied myself the pleasure of being in community. I am thinking of ways to connect with my neighbors. And I look forward to introducing myself to everyone. One neighbor met….six more to go!

Day 35: Homemade Lemon Curd


In January, I made shortbread for the first time. The next day, I tasted lemon curd, tangy and delicious, from the Scottish company MacKays. This month, I made my own batch of lemon curd. When my Scottish friend Dave suggested I try this on my own, and then my mom came across a recipe, it seemed like a nudge to make this today’s first.

I enjoyed expanding my culinary expertise by making this recipe. I “zested” a lemon (is that even a word?) for the first time and squeezed the Meyer lemons for fresh juice. One of the joys of making lemon curd from scratch was the wonderful citrusy scent that filled my kitchen and lingered on my hands. I look forward to the curd setting up and sampling it with the shortbread that I also baked this evening.

Much like creating my own beauty products, chopping and measuring and stirring to create something tasty is meditative for me. I enjoyed the process, and the end result!

Day 34: Disney’s Frozen Sing-A-Long with Aubrey


This wasn’t my first viewing of Disney’s newest animated film, Frozen. It was, however, the first time I have participated in a sing-a-long at the theater. My granddaughter, Aubrey, graciously agreed to go with me, and oh, what fun we had!

In its tenth week in theaters, Disney made an unprecedented decision to release a sing-a-long version of this wildly popular movie. Lyrics appear on the screen during the film’s songs along with a bouncing snowflake. It’s an invitation to join in, and audiences are accepting, with gusto.

I understand the appeal. This movie connects with me, deeply. The song, “Let It Go”, nominated for an Oscar, is my theme song for 2014. Aubrey and I both identify with the character, Elsa, who has a gift that she fears and therefore, hides. Something stirs in our hearts as Elsa embraces who she is and uses her ability to create beauty and bring joy to others. A couple of weeks ago, when my mom, sisters, niece and I slipped away to a late night showing of Frozen, sans kids, we hoped we would be the only patrons in the theater, so we could belt out the songs. Alas, there were a lot of other late night movie goers!

When I found out Disney was releasing the sing-a-long version, I knew I’d be attending. Because of the time of day for the movie, there was only a handful of adults and kids in attendance. As the first song began and the bouncing snowflake appeared, we all tentatively joined in. In a few moments, though, led by the children in the room, we were singing heartily. What an amazing experience. I loved watching Aubrey sing, dance and act out scenes from the movie, as only a five year old can. I loved hearing the man down the row from me singing in his deeper baritone, shyly at first and then with more confidence. After one song ended, we glanced at each other and smiled. And I loved singing each song, from my heart, and seeing this powerful movie for the third time.

Aubrey and I left the theater humming and singing our favorite Frozen songs, delighted by the experience. It was a good warm up for another first that I have on my list….karaoke.

Day 33: DIY Warm Vanilla Sugar Scrub


Today’s first, making my own sugar scrub, wasn’t difficult. This new experience was more about connecting with who I am and what brings me joy, and finding an outward creative expression for that joy.

The warm vanilla sugar scrub was so easy and satisfying to create. It is my signature scent and this scrub smells wonderful. I tried a small scoop on my hands and arms and my skin is soft and delicately scented. The scrub sits now in a small glass jar in the shower, awaiting use.

I loved this do it yourself beauty project. The simplicity of combining basic, natural ingredients to create a pretty, useful product, aligns with my desire for beauty and a simpler life. It is a form of meditation for me. Doing the task at hand, concentrating on mixing ingredients, slows me down and therefore slows down my mind and my world.  My soul expands and the space around me becomes a warm and peaceful atmosphere that I thrive in. I look forward to growing herbs in my backyard garden this year and drying them for use in creating more products. Bliss!

Day 32: Yoga at Treehouse Yoga


I’ve been practicing yoga, inconsistently, for several years on my own, using DVDs. Today I had my first formal yoga class, at the Treehouse Yoga, located at 108 Main, in downtown Joplin. My sister, Linda, braved the cold and freezing drizzle to join me.

It may have been cold and dreary outside but in Sharlotte’s studio, it was warm and welcoming. We kicked off our shoes, grabbed a yoga mat and followed Sharlotte through the various poses. Tight muscles lengthened out, releasing tension, and energy surged into my body through yogic breathing.  The hum of life through my torso and limbs felt wonderful. And when a pose was a challenge for me, Sharlotte was quick to help me out, guiding my foot into the correct position and then encouraging me on. 

I love how centering yoga is. The outside world falls away and there is just my body moving and holding a pose and my breath. The chatter in my head disappears as I focus inward.

It was a very beneficial session. At the end, lying relaxed on the floor with my eyes closed, breathing deeply, I felt such peace, and so in harmony with who I am. I will return to the Treehouse Yoga studio!