Launching Arrows of Desire

I’m excited to be exploring my creative side more deeply, as I begin Walking in this World, a 12 week course by Julia Cameron. The Morning Pages flowed. I carried quiet joy with me as my time naturally divided today between real estate work and creative endeavors. And I felt anticipation as I delved into chapter one. 

I know without doubt that I have been invited into this journey, as elements in the first chapter lined up with recent surrenders, thoughts and symbols. Some of my unspoken questions, even, were printed right there in black and white. 

As I was reading, I came to a section that compared launching a creative project to firing arrows of desire. Julia asks the reader to imagine eyeing a target as the arrow of desire, representing the project, is slowly pulled back. Overthinking about letting that arrow fly, by worrying about it, questioning its validity, or wondering if your aim is accurate, corrodes the confidence and ability with which that arrow could have sailed. She says, “We forget that intention is what creates direction. If we aim with the eye of our heart, then we aim truly and well.” 

Julia suggests we ask ourselves, “Do I want to make this?” If the answer is yes, fire that arrow. 

This was significant to me because the arrow is my secondary symbol for 2016. I’ve taken aim with a creative arrow before, and held onto it for so long that I became weary and shaky and lost the ability to let it fly. In fact, I wrote about that very topic in my Morning Pages hours before I read the chapter. My awareness was raised. And my intention. Let fly those arrows of desire. And follow them. 

Julia goes on to promise that when we fire the arrows of desire, when we actually start and work on projects, we trigger support for our dreams. I know that energy attracts like energy. I’ve seen that in my own life. I move toward a dream, and it moves toward me at the same time. Even small steps are rewarded with a response. 

With those thoughts in mind, I took an exercise from chapter one and expanded on it. The task was to write down 20 small creative actions that could be taken…baby steps, forward momentum, to get creativity flowing freely toward me. 

I created 30 actions, one for each day in the month of June. I wrote them out on pretty strips of paper and dropped them into a vintage glass pitcher. Starting tomorrow, I’ll draw out one slip every day, surrendering completely to the creative flow to see what task I select. 

I included creative actions such as Read about Italy, Write a Poem, Play in the Rain, Plant a Flower that I’ve Never Heard Of and Add a New Song to my iPhone Playlist. These are fun and creative actions that I can accomplish in a short amount of time. They are 30 arrows of desire that I will fire joyfully, playfully, taking steps toward the creative life that I wish to live. 

I’m taking aim. I don’t intend to hesitate. 

Walking in this World

I’m very excited today to have started another 12 week course written by Julia Cameron. Titled Walking in this World, this book continues the journey toward unbridled creativity that was begun in her first book, The Artist’s Way

Read my review of The Artist’s Way

Subtitled The Practical Art of Creativity, this sequel presents the next step in discovering and recovering the creative self. The book includes:

* A new tool for creativity – The Weekly Walk

* Strategies and techniques for breaking through difficult creative ground

* Guidance on developing the ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and use this new awareness to fuel the creative process.

The two foundational tools from The Artist’s Way will be continued. 

The Morning Pages are three pages of free flowing writing, first thing every morning. The purpose of the daily Morning Pages is to clear energy from the mind, by transferring thoughts to paper, creating space for new ideas and inspiration to enter. 

The Artist’s Date is a once a week, hour long solo adventure, used to explore something festive or interesting to the creative consciousness, often referred to as the inner artist or the creative child. The Morning Pages are assigned work. The Artist’s Dates are assigned play! 

Although I have taken a break from doing both, I benefitted greatly from these two exercises as I worked through the last 12 week course. I’m ready to embrace and use both of these tools again. 

Picture taken on one of my walks through Wildcat Park near Shoal Creek. 

I am thrilled to add this third tool to my repertoire. The Weekly Walk is a weekly 20 minute walk, anywhere I choose. The purpose is to focus my thoughts, as I walk, and allow creative breakthroughs and inspirations to come. Walking puts my body in motion, while freeing up my mind. I know from experience that a body in motion attracts life, and an abundance of ideas. Some of my greatest “aha” moments have arisen as I walked, deep in thought. 

I have recently felt a tug to return to walking more frequently, especially in nature. In spite of the title of this new Julia Cameron book, I had no idea that a weekly walk was going to be an ongoing assignment. 

I’m not surprised. As I worked through The Artist’s Way, I encounter synchronicities and a Divine leading that was very in tune with each upcoming week of assignments. It would appear that the guidance and synchronicities have already begun. Those are my strong signals that it’s time for this next journey. 

I’m ready. 

Garden Butterfly

On this middle day, of a three day weekend, I enjoyed one of my favorite activities…puttering in my garden. More than a play day, I had several tasks to accomplish today, as I took advantage of an afternoon without rain. And I had one meaningful task awaiting me, as a special butterfly came home. 

Thanks to Greg and his truck, fresh mulch arrived in the garden this morning. I love spreading aromatic cedar chips around the plants. It’s good for the plants, as it helps to hold moisture in and keeps weeds at bay, and it’s good for me. The smell reminds me of fun times with my family at Branson’s Silver Dollar City, where cedar is a signature scent. And I feel very accomplished as I tuck the mulch into place. The garden is looking great! 

Primroses have appeared in the meditation area. I don’t mind sharing the space. 

As I puttered in the garden throughout the day, I savored my time outdoors, and took breaks when I got too warm. I hung the metal letters that spell out my word for 2014, BEYOND. I cleaned up a section on the north side of the yard, in preparation for a new fence going in there. I sorted through and tossed empty plant containers that I won’t resuse. 

And Greg helped me hang a metal butterfly on the side of the workshop. This work of art has been hanging on an outside wall of the Arkansas house for at least 30 years. Greg’s dad had attached it with a nail and I was going to leave it on that house. I am so accustomed to the butterfly being there, that I rarely even notice it any more. 

However, during Joplin’s five year anniversary of the tornado, butterflies appeared all over the city, symbols of hope and transformation. I wanted a butterfly for my garden, to remind me of Joplin’s recovery. And as a reminder that the butterfly was one of my symbols several years ago, representing my own metamorphosis. 

As I mused aloud about my desire to have a butterfly in the garden, Greg recalled the black and yellow one in Arkansas. I realized how perfect it was. The piece is designed for use outdoors, accomplishes the memorial desires that I had, AND reminds me as well of Bob and Leta Moore and my stepdad, Max. 

Because he made that butterfly for my in-laws. My stepfather was a creative man, who found a multitude of outlets for his artistic abilities. He made many of these metal butterflies, painting them different colors, and giving them away. Max passed away almost 11 years. 

I love, absolutely treasure, how momentos from so many family members have found their way into my backyard paradise. Rather than finding that peculiar or morbid, I receive great joy in seeing these keepsakes, and thinking about the people connected to them. 

I’m so glad that this symbol of hope, beauty and change came home to my garden. The Arkansas house is about to close. I became aware of the butterfly’s presence again just in time. That doesn’t surprise me one bit. 

Happy Birthday Jerri

Today is my stepmom’s birthday. Jerri became a part of my life when she said “I do” to my dad. I was eleven years old. 

Dad and Jerri didn’t live far from where my sisters and I lived with our mom. Linda, Debbie and I spent every weekend with my dad and stepmom. That routine became a very normal part of my childhood. 

It was later, when I was a teenager, that I realized that our situation was anything but normal. My friends told horror stories about the animosity between their divorced parents and their intense dislike of their stepparents. I was shocked. And then deeply appreciative. My parents, stepmom, and later my stepdad, never treated each other with disrespect or hostility, which created a secure and loving environment for us. In fact, I have memories of my dad watching us while my mother and stepmother attended jewelry parties together. 

I have not experienced being a stepparent. So I can only imagine what that’s like, to step, literally, into a ready made family. I’m sure there are more challenges and stresses involved, when the person you promise to love and cherish already has children. However, Jerri didn’t create that impression. She rapidly became another family member, a second mom, and later a Mimi to my children. 

Jerri didn’t parent us in the stepmotherly way that fairy tales portray so negatively. She was herself. She modeled strength to me, resilience and confidence. She was and is a hard worker, smart, and deals well with people. When my youngest, Adriel, was tiny, she heard me refer to Jerri as my stepmother during one of our summer visits. Eyes wide, Adriel was quick to protest that I was making that up. It couldn’t be true. My toddler had watched Disney’s Cinderella too many times to believe that the fun Mimi that she adored could be a stepmother. I quickly assured her that I was just teasing. I’m not sure how old Adriel was before she sorted it all out! 

I looked up Jerri’s name. 

“Jerri, you are introspective, prophetic, philosophical, and soul searching. You can also be analytical, critical and opinionated. You think deeply and clearly, have an air of mystery, and can sometimes be solitary and secretive. You live an eventful, exciting life. You are versatile and have the ability to learn easily.

Creative and outgoing, you look for opportunities that showcase your strengths. You are flexible and like to feel appreciated. You look for chances to mix with others socially and to communicate your ideas. You speak well and can easily relate to different cultures and concepts. Your high creativity can lead you to happiness. If you understand your goals, you can make major decisions in life and follow them successfully, without worry and uncertainty. You are able to achieve great things. 

Those words create a portrait of a powerful, secure woman, who communicates well and enjoys successes in life. That’s Jerri. Her strengths and flexibility enabled her to help raise three girls and one boy, the son she and my dad had. That strength also carried her through the difficulties of my dad’s battle with cancer, a battle he ultimately lost. 

My appreciation for my stepmom deepened during those two years that she journeyed so faithfully with my dad. I watched her help my father fulfill his bucket list, care for him, and remain upbeat and positive, no matter what the prognosis, or how heavy her heart felt. She loved him well, and that meant so much to his four children. After my dad’s death, Jerri seized life, as if living now for two. She’s adventurous, running in marathons, riding a motorcycle, skydiving, and zip lining, among other things. I can hear my dad proudly cheering her on, in spirit. 

I’m cheering her on too. Jerri lives her life full on, with passion. She’s an amazing example of carpe diem, seize the day, to the youngest members of the family, to the grandchildren who are all young adults, and to us, the children, who are inhabiting middle age. We can all learn, as we observe her life. 

Happy birthday, Jerri. I love you!

Life is Like a Bowl of Fruit

My body has been craving fruit. I’ve learned to listen to what my body needs, which caused me to stock up on a variety of fresh fruits. This morning, after my celery juice, I enjoyed a bowl of fruit salad, with all the produce that I bought represented. 

Not only was the salad colorful and pretty to look at, it tasted delicious too. Mandarin oranges, bananas, cantaloupe, chopped apple, blueberries and strawberries all contributed their own unique flavors and textures. I savored that bowl of fresh fruit. It nourished my body. Surprisingly, it also gave me food for thought all day. 

I appreciated the interesting mix I created. I normally would have had strawberries and blueberries only. Or perhaps bananas and mandarin oranges. They all ended up in the bowl this morning. The crunchy apple complemented the juicy orange segments. The cantaloupe contrasted well with the blueberries. 

I thought about how life is like a big bowl of fruit. 

Often it is the surprising blend of many components in life that brings the sweetest experience. I chose the fruits that went into my bowl. Similarly, the experiences I have in life are present by way of my thoughts, my beliefs, my attitudes and the choices that I make. My life is what I believe it to be. 

If there is a sour bite of orange or a bad chunk of apple in the mix, I don’t feel my fruit salad is ruined. I examine the rest of the morsels for any other pieces that might need to be removed. Or I eat the less than perfect fruit anyway. I view life the same way. One sour person, one bad experience, doesn’t need to ruin my day either. I can correct it, remove it, deal with it, accept it and continue on…it’s all part of my journey. 

As I moved through my day, creating my own life version of that sweet and colorful bowl of fruit, thoughts continued to rise. I remembered a quote from the movie Forrest Gump, the well known comparison between life and a box of chocolates. It’s true we never know exactly what we are going to get…especially if we are trying to look ahead. 

I also recalled Erma Bombeck’s saying, “If life is a bowl of cherries, then what am I doing in the pits?” A humorous observation from Erma, but I don’t view my life that way any longer. 

Suddenly, driving in the car, thinking about a bowl of fruit, a bowl of cherries and a box of chocolate, I uncovered a deeper realization. I saw where my life has shifted dramatically. 

I used to be so afraid of the seeming randomness of life….the not knowing what I was going to get if I bit into a chocolate part. A girl hops on her bike to ride down the street…and a car swerves to avoid a cat just as she crosses the intersection, striking her. A man boards a plane to begin his dream vacation…and the plane falls from the sky. A tornado hits a restaurant…where a family decided to have dinner on a whim. 

Random occurrences. Randomness…a lack of predictability. That lack of a safe predictable pattern could get me hurt, or worse, hurt those I love. My life was nearly paralyzed not so long ago, by my fear of random events. I couldn’t prepare for those because I couldn’t see them coming. I couldn’t relax and enjoy life, because something bad might happen. 

Other people seem to think the same way. 

It was because I couldn’t see ahead, and because I believed that my future would be determined, at least in part, by past experiences, that randomness scared me so. My perspective was too small. The story I was living in too constrained. I was attempting the impossible…to change the past and control the future.  

As I learned to let go of both, as I learned to bring myself into the present moment, over and over, my fear left. Life can appear so random. I no longer believe that it is. My beliefs have shifted so that I can see a larger story. Everything that shows up in my life is part of an ongoing conversation with the Divine. What once seemed random, and senseless, I now see as intended, as part of my journey. I’m meant to grow and to learn from what comes into my awareness. 

Tragedies happen. Things don’t always go the way that I want them to. But they aren’t random events. They have significance and I can look for the deeper truths, the life lessons, or simply accept that this came across my path for a reason, even if I don’t yet know why. 

These shifts in my beliefs  are what has brought me to this time of surrender in my life. I’m not controlling the future, mine or anyone else’s. I can’t change anything about the past. I can trust in the guidance and the invitations that I receive, without fear or worry. The flow of life, the Divine, will take me exactly where I need to go. 

Such as to creating a beautiful bowl of fruit, and discovering that it was more than breakfast. It was a reminder of how far I’ve traveled on this journey. And a promise that there is always more to learn. 

Red Nose Day

I missed the launch of this special event last year. Sponsored by Walgreens, Red Nose Day is a campaign dedicated to helping children and having fun. Proceeds benefit kids and young people in the US and some of the poorest communities in the world.

Walgreens sells red rubber noses, as symbols of fun. The money is donated to the organization and the bright cherry nose can be worn to both show support and engage the playful side. 

I purchased my nose a month or more ago, and looked forward to wearing it today. I also researched the organization. Donations start at $1. That dollar feeds one child in a homeless shelter. $7 purchases books and supplies to help kids stay up on their reading skills over the summer. $15 will keep a child safe and off the streets for a week. 

Learn more and make a donation HERE

Tonight celebrities have gathered for a live 2 hour special event, providing entertainment and encouraging donations. When I last checked in, more than $3 million dollars had been raised. Imagine what can be accomplished for children around the world with that amount. 

I showed property early this morning, and when I returned home, I saw my nose on the dining room table. I’d forgotten it! As I worked in my home office, I happily wore the red nose. I cracked myself up, every time I caught my image reflected back to me from the computer screen. 

Greg sported his own red nose this afternoon. What fun we had surprising daughter Adriel and her fiancé Nate with our noses in place when we met them late this afternoon. I caught Greg in a pensive pose staring out a window, the bright red nose an interesting counterpoint to his thoughtful expression. 

This was a fun event. Red Nose Day allowed my silly side freedom to play. And as I joined thousands of other red nose wearers across the US and the UK, it thrilled me to know that together, we are making a difference in the lives of many, many children. 

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

I might add, that you can also shake the world in a fun way. 

Happy Birthday William

Today is William’s birthday. The son of my cousin Mindy, I’ve known William since he was born, and went by the name Harry. As he’s matured into a tall and handsome young man, he grew as well into his more formal first name. As I looked up his name today, in honor of his birthday, I agree that the name William suits him perfectly. 

William, to express yourself you must follow the divine law of love. You have great persistence and hate to give up. You are a good mixer, charming, magnetic and intuitive. Spirituality is your key to success. You are intuitive and might be interested in the arts, drama or science.

You are very intuitive. You have a reservoir of inspired wisdom combined with inherited analytical ability, which could reward you through expressions of spiritual leadership, business analysis, marketing, artistic visions, or scientific research. Operating out of the spiritual side of your personality can take you to great heights, or drop you if you neglect your spiritual identity. You are always looking for an opportunity to investigate the unknown, to use your mental abilities, to find the purpose and meaning of life. You want to become wise and to understand people and things. You need privacy to replenish your energy. You have a unique way of thinking, you are reflective and absorbing.

This describes William very well. He is charming and spiritual and very intuitive. The arts are important to him. While in high school he was involved in the drama department, as an actor, as one who helped with props and scenery and as an assistant director. 

I love the sentences above that say, “You are always looking for an opportunity to investigate the unknown, to use your mental abilities, to find the purpose and meaning of life. You want to become wise and to understand people and things.” William is a very intelligent, curious man who enjoys learning about a variety of subjects. I cherish sitting with him over a long lunch, discussing movies and books, culture and life. We share an interest in Tolkien’s works and we’ve sat together in movie theaters watching the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. 

One of the greatest joys we’ve experienced together was a trip to Scotland in 2014. I loved everything about that journey through the land of our ancestors. Mindy made that trip happen, for both of us. And the most difficult challenge we’ve walked through together was the loss of Mindy, just a few months after that memorable trip. No one is ever quite ready to say good bye to his or her mother. To have to do so at the age of 19 is especially wrenching. 

William was suddenly thrust into adulthood, with many responsibilities placed on his broad shoulders. I know how difficult it has been. And I also know how he stepped up into that space of running a household and caring for others. He has had to draw from a deep reservoir of innate wisdom and strength. He has had to learn to trust his instincts and rely on his intuition. 

I know his mother is so very proud of him. She raised a good son. I am so very proud of the man he has become…and the person he is becoming. Happy birthday, William. I love you!

In the Company of Women

My ladies group met tonight. We have been a Book Club, and may be again. Right now we are meeting and enjoying different themes: watching a TED talk and discussing it, reading an article or poetry together, experiencing movement and energy, being blessed with a book that was written for grandchildren. This evening we gathered, and colored, each of us bringing a coloring book and supplies. Kathleen brought a project she’s working on.  

We sat in a circle, heads bent over our creative endeavors. In that quiet and sacred space, conversation flowed freely amongst us. We talked about a broad variety of topics, about life, about our journeys. We laughed, and encouraged each other, and sometimes sat in silence for a few moments, the scratch of colored pencils on paper a soothing, grounding sound. 

I thought of how women have gathered together through the centuries, sitting together companionably as they sewed, or snapped green beans, or read aloud. They shared their stories, about caring for their families, entering the work force, growing older. The activities have changed over the years and the topics discussed have expanded, yet that sense of empowering each other and being present has remained. 

Being part of this circle of women is extraordinary to me. I have always preferred male friendships, while maintaining one or two close female friends. In my teen years I mostly found girls to be competitive and fickle in their relationships. In any group of young women there was always drama, hurt feelings, and accusations. By comparison I found it easier to hang out with my guy friends. I didn’t date my male companions, which eliminated expectations between us and allowed us to simply journey together. 

I’ve held to that model all of my life. I’ve enjoyed some good friendships with some amazing women, yet I’ve rarely joined women’s groups, of any kind. Until recently. 

As I’ve grown, my perspectives have shifted and my life has opened. As I’ve journeyed inward first, and then brought my attention outward, content and happy with myself, my friendships have shifted as well. I have more female friends at this stage in my life, than I have ever had. To be a part of this group of women has enriched my life in many ways and broadened my knowledge and my humanity. 

For the first time in my life, I am at ease and at peace, in the company of woman. I’m sincerely grateful. 

Movie Review: Spotlight

This evening I completed this year’s list of Best Picture nominated movies, with Spotlight. Watching the Academy Awards, I was surprised when this film won the final Oscar. The movie Revenant was favored to win. I knew little about Spotlight, other than the premise. I settled in tonight, curious to discover what made this film stand out. 

Spotlight stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James and Len Cariou. This historical drama was directed by Tom McCarthy and has a run time of 2 hours and 9 minutes. The film is rated R for adult themes and strong language. 

Spotlight was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Ruffalo, Best Supporting Actress for McAdams and Best Editing. It won for Best Original Screenplay and the coveted Best Picture Oscar. 

Based on actual events, Spotlight is the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered a massive scandal and cover-up of child molestation within the Catholic Church. In 2001, editor Marty Baron (Schreiber) assigns Spotlight, a specialized group of journalists within the Globe, the task of investigating allegations against an unfrocked priest accused of abusing more than 80 boys. 

Editor Robby Robinson (Keaton) leads the team, made up of journalists Mike Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) and Matt Carroll (d’Arcy James). Because of the sensitive nature of the investigation and the involvement of the Church, Robby secures the help of fellow editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (Slattery). What at first appears to be an isolated case soon grows in its complexity and breadth. As more and more victims are found, the team discovers that the number of Boston priests involved may number closer to 90. 

From attorneys who refuse to disclose information, to Cardinal Bernard Law (Cariou), the Archdiocese of Boston, the cover-up is more intentional and more wide spread than the Spotlight team could have imagined. One attorney, Mitchell Garabedian (Tucci), who fights tirelessly on behalf of victims, finally agrees to help in the investigation by securing crucial documents. 

The year long investigation threatens to crack open decades of abuse that has been hidden away, while pitting the Church and its supporters against the credibility of the Boston Globe. In breaking the story, they are breaking the silence. 

This was a very well done film. The subject was sensitive, and painful. However, the movie never sensationalized the story nor did it pull back from the gravity of the investigation. This was not an attack against Faith, or even so much an attack against the Church in general. It was an uncovering of a deep flaw in the system that allowed a horrific injustice to continue while leaders looked the other way. 

I very much appreciated the flow of the film and the journalistic feel, which was a credit to the director. Rather than make a strong emotional appeal, which would have been easy to do, given the circumstances, the story was presented in a factual way. It was vital that the investigation build its case piece by piece, and that the scope was broad enough, so that there could be no defense against the story that broke. I felt like I got to watch that happen. 

Marty Baron said, “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around in the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.” 

The impact was huge, and far reaching, and many, many other victims spoke up. 

This was a somber movie with an important message. As Marty said, there is enough blame to go around. It takes all of us being vigilant to protect our children. Spotlight made me think and made me aware and in my opinion, deserved the Best Picture win. I was left wondering what changes have been made by the Catholic Church concerning abusive priests, since this story broke in 2002. I’ll find out.


Day of Remembrance: Joplin Tornado

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Joplin tornado. On this date, and day, in 2011, a massive EF5 tornado devastated the communities of Joplin and Duquesne. Considered one of the biggest and deadliest tornadoes in the past 70 years, this storm destroyed a third of my town, injured more than a thousand people and killed 161. 

This year, being the five year anniversary, there were many activities and times of both remembrance and celebration. I participated in several of those. 

Today I have been in a quiet, reflective mood, somber yet hopeful. I was grateful for the bright sunny day, with no threat of storms. And I was appreciative of the celebrations and memorial service held at Cunningham Park. I attended the wonderful lunch that Operation BBQ Relief provided for hundreds and mingled with others while listening to music provided by Carter Hulsey and Kenny Foster. 

I’ve shared in previous posts about my experiences the day of the tornado and about Joplin’s resilience. Rather than sharing my words in this post today, here are pictures that captured the event at Cunningham Park:

The 161 memorial trees planted in Cunningham Park are big enough now to provide shade. 

It was good to gather with others at the park today. Good to see people I know and exchange greetings and hugs. I am thankful for all that people offered this week, to honor those who died and to celebrate the spirit of this community. 

And, I made the decision not to attend the remembrance service at the park. My own backyard garden was calling to. I sought the peace and sanctuary of that beautiful, peaceful space, to remember on my own. 

Watching the movie A Little Chaos recently inspired me to light candles throughout my garden. Tonight,  I wanted to do that, create pockets of light, and build a small fire in the fire pit, in honor of those lost in the storm. I didn’t have 161 candles to light. But the 25 or so that I lit were for them. 

Here are photos of my quiet time of remembering:

I felt restored after my time in the garden, with its warm candlelight and enchantment, and at peace. Although I feel sorrow around the events of May 22, 2011, the heaviness has gone. 

I’ll never forget what happened or the people lost. Nor do I want to. Their lives are part of the fabric of this community, their stories woven with ours, inseparable. The tornado too, is part of us, part of our story. On one seemingly ordinary day, that storm turned our world upside down and  revealed who we are, at our core. We are compassionate. We are overcomers. We are strong. We are Joplin Strong.