Day 95: Linda’s First 5K Run

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Today’s first was special. I got to be present for my sister Linda’s first ever 5K run. She has been in training with a group called Run for God, that then participated in Joplin’s Amazing Grace event. I passed on running a 5K until my knees are better. But I was glad for the opportunity to cheer Linda on and be there as she crossed the finish line.

This is the first year for the Amazing Grace run, and organizer Tom Rogers hopes to hold the event yearly.  5K and 10K races were offered. Originally the race was intended as a “graduation” for the 120 people who completed the Run for God training. But ultimately 510 participants showed up from the Joplin area, Kansas City, St. Louis and Tulsa.

Awards were given to the top male and female racers in each age group. Every participant received a Finisher’s Medal. Proceeds from the race went to Crossline Churches of the Joplin Area, Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission, the LovinGrace Home and God’s Resort.

I’m really proud of my sister. She decided to do something she’s never done before and once she committed to this race, she never wavered. Linda completed 12 weeks of training with the Run for God group, which met every Monday night. She met new people. And being in training has made her more aware of her health and eating habits, causing her to make changes in her diet.

Energy was high this morning among the group of runners gathered at Forest Park Baptist Church, in spite of the chilly weather. Linda found one of the women from her training group to run with. How wonderful to partner up to encourage each other to keep going. Linda was hoping she wouldn’t finish last. And she certainly didn’t! In an amazingly short time, she was coming down the final stretch toward the finish line. I can’t think of a better first than watching someone I love and care about experience an exciting first of her own. Way to go, Linda!

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Day 94: Keller Williams Wellness Day

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One of the things I love about the real estate company that I work for is that from founder Gary Keller to my Team Leader, Vicki, Keller Williams cares about agents as people. They give us tools and training to be great agents, but more than that, they want us to be the best people we can be. Their values are: God, Family, then Business.  Everything they teach is built on that foundation.

Today, Keller Williams had its first Wellness Day, to promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle among its agents. Recognizing that being realtors and caring for clients, families and the community can be the priority, rather than caring for ourselves, Keller Williams set aside this day to focus on our health and wellness. My first today was to participate in this day of awareness about my health and to teach a session this morning as part of the Wellness Day.

Our local office did an awesome job with this event. Sandy Thomas coordinated the classes and activities. The day began with a run to a nearby park and back to the office. Then Shelby Allen from Freeman Hospital taught us about nutrition and clean eating. Listening to her share about the lack of nutrition in most American diets, I was glad I made a decision a month ago to change my eating habits! There are so many chemicals and preservatives in our foods. She warned us especially about products containing High Fructose Corn Syrup and Partially Hydrogenated Oil. She didn’t just share the negatives though, but ended by encouraging us to eat whole foods and gave us resources to prepare those foods in a healthy way.

I had the privilege of teaching a class on meditation next. A great group of people attended the class and after I shared about the health benefits of meditating I led them through a 20 minute relaxation meditation. This practice has been so important in my life and it is a joy to share it with others. After we de-stressed and released tension, Yvonne came in to guide us through stretches that emphasized opening the chest area and easing strain in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. We all felt so good after those two sessions!

Also included on the agenda today was a tour of a fitness facility that shares the building with us, 15 minute chair massages and a wonderfully healthy lunch. Israel did an excellent job grilling chicken, shrimp and veggies. The Wellness Day concluded with Zumba by personal trainer Jennifer Jameson, owner of Temple Fitness, and personal trainer Travis Renfro. That was fun as we learned new moves to upbeat music and got a workout in at the same time.

I love my company. Even more importantly, my company loves me and cares about my well being as a whole person. Thank you to Keller Williams Realty for desiring its agents to have a life worth living, and beyond making that a nice sentiment, for giving us ways to attain such a life.

 

Day 93: Buffalo River National Park

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In spite of rain and the threat of stormy weather, my first for today was to go on a daytrip and visit the Buffalo River National Park. The park is located east of Springdale, AR, in a deep narrow valley. The Buffalo River snakes through this valley, along high sheer bluffs and tree covered hills. I have heard of this beautiful place for years. Today, I finally saw it for myself.

Greg has camped there multiple times and floated the Buffalo River in a canoe. It’s been years since I canoed down any river. During this year of new experiences, it is time for me to float down the Buffalo and enjoy a few days in the campground. Today’s trip, with Greg as my guide, was to check out the area and collect information about the upcoming adventure.

Along the way, we stopped in Rogers, AR to visit the Lewis & Clark store.  Another first! This store is for the outdoor enthusiast, selling bicycles, sports clothing, kayaks and a variety of hiking, backpacking and camping gear. The staff was friendly and helpful and we enjoyed walking around and checking out all the cool gadgets and gear available.

After an early lunch in Springdale, our journey continued east to the Buffalo River area. I love the beauty of Northwest Arkansas. The hills rise higher and higher until they mimic mountains. Forests cover these hills, which drop steeply down into long valleys. There is an abundance of water in NW Arkansas as well. The countryside is dotted with ponds and crisscrossed with creeks and rivers. Beaver Lake sprawls to the north of this region.

Cell phone coverage is spotty here. So I disconnected from my phone for a while and drank in nature. The trees were just beginning to show a hint of green but I could appreciate the browns and grays of tall trees and the pale olive of lichen covered rock. Without the leaves, I could see farther, marveling at how deep those ancient ravines go. The Buffalo River was running swiftly. It appeared the area had received quite a bit of rain last night. Greg showed me where the canoes are launched. Watching the water roil and rush over submerged rock, I hoped I’d not tip the canoe immediately after getting into the river! Apparently, it is a common occurrence.

The campground, located alongside the Buffalo, was abandoned today, except for a lone camper from Tennessee. He was hurrying to set up camp before the storms hit. He shared that he and his friends have been camping at the same site for 35 years, ever since his fraternity days. His friends are arriving tomorrow. Greg and I walked along the river, checking out campsites and discussing when would be a good time to return, camping gear in tow. I’m thinking sometime this month.

We traveled on to Eureka Springs, AR, one of my favorite towns. While eating dinner, we noticed the weather changing. The Joplin area had already experienced a strong thunderstorm. It now looked like NW Arkansas was about to be hit by the trailing end of the same system. Greg has a very cool weather radar app on his phone that tracks storms, showing severity, direction and how fast the storm is moving. He used that app well today. We had just driven away from Eureka Springs when radar indicated a strong storm approaching rapidly. We calculated we did not have enough time to reach the Missouri state line before being hit with a storm that contained high winds, hail and rain. We returned to Eureka Springs to wait out the storm and then proceeded home, safely.

I am looking forward to at least two firsts when I return to the Buffalo River National Park later this month: camping there for the first time, and canoeing down the river. I discovered today that they also have mountain top cabins for rent and a canopy zip line excursion. Looks like I’ll be visiting several times this year!

 

 

 

 

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Day 92: Teavana

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I love tea, especially hot tea. I have English ancestry, which must be why I enjoy it so.  During the past five years, I’ve begun to use loose leaf tea over tea bags. I like blending my own, using a mix of herbs, dried flowers, dried berries and green tea leaves. I use a metal tea ball to contain the mixture while it steeps in my white porcelain teapot. When my friend, and Keller Williams colleague, Janet, told me about Teavana, I looked forward to visiting for a first. This afternoon, I got that chance.

Teavana is an inviting little shop located in the Battlefield Mall in Springfield, MO. The aroma of freshly brewed tea wafted out as Greg and I approached the entrance. We were greeted by a friendly sales associate who offered us several samples of hot and cold tea. All were delicious! The front part of the store was filled with an assortment of teapots, cups, kettles, teamakers and infusers. Someday I’d love to own a Japanese cast iron tea service. But today, my focus was on Teavana’s high quality loose leaf tea.

Behind the back counter were huge tins with a variety of green, white, Oolong, black, maté, and Rooibos teas and herbal infusions. Ahhhh…..the delicate scents filled the air as the associate removed the tin’s lids and stirred the air. I had a difficult time choosing, so I bought several kinds including Blueberry Bliss, a fragrant blend of blueberries, grapes, black currants, hibiscus flowers and green rooibos tea. Perfection. I also purchased a pineapple blend, a raspberry-lemon maté, and high grade black, green and Oolong teas. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

After I arrived back home, I did research on the company. Founded in 1997, Teavana believes in the importance of a life well lived. Centered on the philosophy that balance, meaningful experience and everyday luxuries are essential elements of such a life, Teavana desired to create a place where people could step back from the frantic pace of the world and enjoy fresh, high quality tea. They take tea seriously and they are passionate about the entire sensory experience found in a good cup of tea.

Teavana’s philosophy and mission are so in line with what I desire to offer, through my dream called Rivendell. I understand why I was drawn to this company, and even why I am drawn to tea as well. It goes beyond being a refreshing beverage. Preparing an aromatic cup of tea, sharing that tea with a friend or loved one, involves heart, simplicity and ritual, all of which are important to me. I am looking forward to my backyard garden renovation being completed, which will signal the launch of the Rivendell experience. I am, literally, creating Rivendell in my own backyard, initially. I envision sharing this space in myriad ways with guests. As part of the experience, there will be freshly brewed tea offered. I believe I have found my source for the tea. Teavana and Rivendell….what a beautiful partnership!

 

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Day 91: Comedian Juggler Nick Pike

 

 

 

 

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As one who is always on the lookout for firsts to do, I have really come to appreciate the many opportunities that are available in Joplin. I realize how unaware I have been of the events, performances and exhibits offered in my city, most of them for free. I have discovered that Missouri Southern State University, via their Campus Activities Board, brings in quality entertainers every couple of weeks. These shows are open to the public and admission is free. This is perfect for me! I saw hypnotist Michael C Anthony there in February. For today’s first, I had the pleasure of watching comedian juggler Nick Pike.

When I scanned through the program during Michael’s show in February, I saw a list of upcoming events. I was intrigued. The magician looked good as did the mind reader coming at the end of April. A comedian juggler though? I wasn’t sure if I would catch that act. With 365 firsts to do, however, I decided I would attend and invited my mom and sister to accompany me.

I am so glad I decided to go! Nick Pike was extremely entertaining, combining juggling, humor and danger into an amazing show. Hailing from England, Nick has been juggling since the age of 11. His one man variety show has been performed thousands of times at festivals and events around the globe, from London, England to Sydney, Australia. He has been a headline act on all the major cruise lines of the world. In 2010 Nick was a quarterfinalist on America’s Got Talent, making it into the top 48. In recent years he has appeared on the college scene, touring the country and entertaining at as many colleges and universities as possible. He was just crowned the APCA Juggler of the Year for 2014.

What I know about Nick is he can juggle anything! My son, Nate, can juggle. I’ve tried. It’s not one of my talents. Nick opened tonight’s show juggling oranges and progressed through batons and then meat cleavers! He kept up a running commentary, in a delightful British accent, that was hilarious. He’s quick witted, incorporating remarks and people from the audience into his performance. If he dropped an item, he did a little soft shoe dance routine, which became endearing. As if juggling from the floor wasn’t difficult enough, Nick proceeded to amaze us by juggling atop a 6 foot tall unicycle. His coordination was astounding.

For his final act, Nick spread pieces of broken glass on the floor and removed his socks and shoes. Donning a black hood, he picked up the meat cleavers and pulled the hood down over his eyes. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch either! Nick walked barefoot over the shards of glass, eyes covered, hands tossing sharp objects into the air. His routine was flawless and at the end of his daring walk, his feet uncut. What a relief. We stood to applaud and cheer.

This was a very fun show. I am grateful to MSSU’s Campus Activities Board for bringing such talent to Joplin. I will be back in two weeks, for the magician!

 

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Day 90: Dallas Buyers Club

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This Monday, I’m back to my regularly scheduled watching of the Academy Awards Best Picture nominated movies. My attempt last week was abandoned in favor of saving a kitten’s life. (He is doing great, btw.) I went to the DVD store to rent Nebraska again and discovered it was checked out. I moved on to Dallas Buyers Club for today’s first.

Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It won in three categories: Best Make-up & Hairstyling, Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto and Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey. The movie also stars Jennifer Garner and was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.  It is rated R and has a run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.

I had seen a couple of previews for this movie and clips during the Oscars broadcast. I didn’t fully understand, from those brief viewings, what this movie was about. Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club is the story of electrician and rodeo fan Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, an ordinary, fun loving guy who gets a life changing diagnosis. He is HIV positive. In the mid 1980’s, HIV and AIDS were poorly understood and only one trial drug, AZT, was available as a possible FDA approved treatment.

Woodroof is given a month to live. After the AZT he obtains illegally almost kills him, Woodroof begins a journey of discovery about his illness and alternative treatments that are available. He finds an ally in a doctor in Mexico who teaches Ron that there are non toxic drugs and vitamins that can help fight this killer disease, none FDA approved or available in the US. With the help of Rayon, played by Jared Leto, these two unlikely entrepreneurs establish the Dallas Buyers Club as a way to get drugs and vitamins from around the world to those who desperately need them. The Club charges a monthly fee to its clients in exchange for all the drugs and treatments they need. The FDA looks the other way until the operation and the number of people being helped grows too large. It then becomes a war between Woodroof and his colleagues and the FDA, who refuses to approve the unconventional methods being used to extend the lives of AIDS patients.

Jared Leto’s portrayal of the transvestite Rayon was beautifully tragic and worthy of recognition and the numerous awards he won. A gentle, tortured soul, Rayon was key to building the Club. McConaughey gave an outstanding performance as a man on a mission to save himself and as many others as possible, before time ran out for him also. I believe he deserved the Best Actor award.

This was an amazing movie and a glimpse into a world I’m not familiar with. I felt compassion and deep sadness as I watched Rayon’s life slip away. I understood Woodroof’s anger over the way the FDA regulated and controlled which drugs were available for treatment and their apparent lack of interest in alternative treatments.  

Frustrated by being blocked at every turn by the FDA, Ron Woodroof laments to his doctor friend, Eve, played by Jennifer Garner, “Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting for a life I ain’t got time to live. I want it to mean somethin’.” Laying her head on his shoulder, she assures him, “It does.” I can join her in saying the same thing to the real Ron, who died in 1992, of AIDS…your life mattered. You made a difference. And your life continues to impact others. What a legacy to leave.

Day 89: Murder at the Howard Johnson Play

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As I set off to watch this production at Joplin Little Theater, I mulled over what this play was going to be about. It was too gorgeous a spring day for a murder! I deliberately don’t read up on movies, plays or musicals before I watch so that I can enjoy the story as it unfolds. So I didn’t have any idea what this play was about. As this was the last performance today for this play, in Joplin, there will be spoilers contained in this post! If you don’t want details about Murder at the Howard Johnson, stop here.

Murder at the Howard Johnson is a two act play written by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick. It first appeared on Broadway, for a short run, in 1979. The Joplin production was directed by Jade Nichols. The cast included Marilyn Marshal-Six as Arlene Miller, Richard H. Roberts as Dr. Mitchell Lovell and new comer Roscoe Miller as Paul Miller.

The story takes place in a hotel room at the Howard Johnson Inn, in the mid 1980’s. There are three scenes: Christmas Eve, 1984, 4th of July, 1985 and New Year’s Eve, 1985/86. I was immediately impressed with the way set changes were made. The room essentially stayed the same and between scenes, maids came into the room to add or remove decorations and furniture. The room number on the door was even changed each time. Clever indeed.

In the first act we are introduced to Arlene Miller who is in the room with her dentist lover, Mitchell Lovell. They are plotting the murder of Arlene’s used car salesman husband, Paul. What ensues is a light hearted, fast paced comedy in which the intended victim and the would-be murderers change with each scene. With all thoughts of this being a dark play banished, I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. This was a humorous look at a love triangle that became a snarled knot of intrigue when it came to who was going to kill whom.

Arlene, a woman of the 80’s who is learning to think for herself, finds she has grown apart from her unromantic husband. Paul feels love is best expressed by buying his wife unimaginative gifts while Arlene’s lover, Mitchell, is all about freely expressing his love in very physical ways. None of them quite gets it right and it takes mayhem and multiple attempts at murder to discover the true nature of love and friendship.

Marilyn Marshall-Six was exquisite as Arlene and captured her sexy, air-headed nature well. I’d seen Richard H. Roberts, who portrayed the lover, Mitchell, previously in Mousetrap. He has a rich, distinctive voice and a great sense of comedic timing. This was the first performance for Roscoe Miller, who played the cheated upon husband, Paul. In his bio, Roscoe noted that he auditioned for the part to show support for his daughter who has appeared in several JLT productions. He turned in a great first performance.

This was a very physical play, with sight gags and slapstick type humor and the actors handled it superbly. There was one hilarious “blooper”. When Arlene threw a glassful of water in Paul’s face, he reacted by immediately spitting a stream of water back at her. The actors dissolved into smiles and then laughter and had to turn away for a moment to regain composure. The audience loved this and showed their delight with loud laughter and applause.

The Murder at the Howard Johnson was a fun and relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And best of all, no one died. It wasn’t quite a fairytale ending, but all did live happily ever after.

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Day 88: Hip Handmade Market

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I love the trend right now toward repurposing and making unique handmade products. It feels so natural to find ways to further the life of items by finding another way to use them. And I’ve always been a fan of the handmade gift or decorative piece. When I saw a notice about the first ever Hip Handmade Market coming to the Joplin area, I knew this would be my first for today.

As life would have it, stopping by the Market worked in perfectly with my schedule today, as I was showing property at 2:00 pm, starting with a house in Webb City, MO. And conveniently, the Hip Handmade Market was located in the same town. I was able to visit the market before beginning an afternoon of showing houses to buyers.

This was a cool event. Located in The Clubhouse on N. Madison, vendors had set up booths on both floors of the building. I enjoyed walking around and looking at the wide variety of handmade items for sale. There was everything from jewelry to framed and unframed prints to robot figurines! I saw one vendor that I’ve seen in other shows….the rest were new to me.

One of my favorite booths featured small wooden peg people. She had the coolest company name also, “Wooden Leg Named Smith”. For $8.00 – $10.00 one could purchase figures that looked like the Disney princesses, the Star Trek cast, super heroes, and other well known characters. These were really cute, reminiscent of the old-style Fisher Price people. I confess I could have spent a fortune here.

I also enjoyed browsing at a booth selling framed and unframed prints of the vendor’s creation. I selected one that states, “Remember it’s okay to be happy with a calm life.” I love the sentiment and the simple design. I’ll frame this print and hang it where I can see it daily, and smile in agreement.

I’d love to see this event expand and attract even more vendors offering their wares. However, this was a great start to what I hope will be an annual offering. We can all use more hip, handmade items!

 

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Day 87: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown Musical

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As I drove to Neosho, MO, this evening to watch the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”, I tried to remember when I had last seen a high school play or musical. I finally decided I never have! Even when I was in high school, I apparently didn’t make it to any performances. I’ve been to many college plays and musicals but this was a delightful first, watching a high school musical and especially, this one.

My cousin’s son, William, (known in the family as Harry) has been involved in the Neosho drama department throughout his high school years. He is a fine actor. For the last two productions, he’s stepped into the demanding role of assistant director, something he has enjoyed. I was excited to see this musical since Harry is a senior and his time with this drama department is drawing to a close. It was fun during the second act to have him sitting in the row in front of his proud mama and me, and watch him as he watched the performance.

I have to say, this was an extremely talented group of young adults. These kids can sing! And act and dance. I am very familiar with the Charlie Brown characters, made famous by the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schultz. And I was impressed with the portrayals of Lucy, Sally, Linus, Schroeder, Snoopy and Charlie Brown, the lovable loser who never gives up in spite of the fact that he rarely excels at anything. Senior Matthew Jemes gave a great performance in the title role, getting Charlie Brown’s perpetual downer attitude just right.

Seniors Miranda Johnson and Jaclyn Kidd lit up the stage in their roles as Lucy and Sally respectively. Miranda captured Lucy’s sassy “crabbiness” quite well and Jaclyn gathered lots of laughs as the pragmatic younger sister of Charlie Brown. Senior Joey Heflin drew the chuckles too as Linus, the thumb sucking, blanket carrying younger brother of Lucy. And the Blankie Dance was amazing! Senior Isamo Manuel played Schroeder, the musician, and object of Lucy’s crush. I enjoyed his voice and loved the Beethoven Day number. Junior Elizabeth Armstrong, playing Charlie’s beloved dog Snoopy, completed the ensemble of main cast members. She was witty and I especially enjoyed her and the dance chorus in the fun number, “Suppertime”.

I was tired as I drove to Neosho High School. But I left energized and smiling after an outstanding performance. I hope these talented young men and women continue to take the stage in college and beyond. The musical is being performed at the Neosho High School Auditorium, with a 7:30 show Saturday evening, March 29 and a 2:00 matinee Sunday, March 30. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for students and seniors.

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Photos courtesy of the Neosho Drama Facebook Page

Day 86: Sonic Tea with Pineapple

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For the second time in a week, my planned first had to be scratched at the last minute and another substituted. One of the things I learned early on in doing a first every day is to be flexible. When a family emergency happened 30 minutes before my scheduled art class this evening, I needed to give my full attention to family. And I wanted to do that, completely. Family or friends always take precedent. I also don’t want to not do a first. I’m grateful for small firsts when I need them.

My first for today was to experiment with a new flavor of tea. I’m a huge fan of Sonic’s unsweetened ice tea. I primarily go through the drive through during Happy Hour, 2:00 – 4:00, when I have the craving for an iced tea. I normally get an unsweetened tea but occasionally add real strawberry or lemons. Tonight, as I’m dealing with a situation, I decided to make up a new tea combination to try.

It was a close tie between having an unsweetened tea with watermelon flavoring or an unsweetened tea with pineapple. I chose to go with pineapple because it is real fruit added in rather than flavoring. I think the young lady taking my order thought I was nuts, if her tone of voice was any indication, but I got my requested tea. And you know what? It’s good! Not too sweet, not too plain. And the real fruit means I get pineapple tidbits through my straw as an added treat.

Sometimes life demands our attention. And when it does, I want to be 100% present to those who need me. I also made a commitment to myself at the beginning of the year to experience one new thing each day. Thankfully, I was able to do both this evening.