Day 127: 12 Years a Slave

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Another late evening as, for my first today, I watched number 8 of 9 Best Picture nominated movies, 12 Years a Slave. I had hoped to save this movie for last, since it won the Oscar for Best Picture. But the movie Her doesn’t release until next Tuesday. Although the timing is great, last movie out, last movie to watch, the late release date meant that tonight, I watched this winner.

12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt. It was directed by Steve McQueen. This epic tale was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Costuming, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Fassbender, Best Actor for Ejiofor, Best Actress for Nyong’o and Best Picture.  It won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Picture.  The movie is rated R and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutres.

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, played by Ejiofor, the movie follows the life of this American born free black man who is kidnapped in 1841, at the age of 32, and sold into slavery. Torn away from his family, friends and life, Northup, who is given the name Platt, is sold or traded among the plantations of northern Louisiana. Treated cruelly by most of his owners, Solomon nevertheless determines that he will do more than survive, he will live. A very intelligent man, raised by free parents and highly educated, Northup struggles to adopt the “be silent and lay low” attitude held by the other slaves, bringing wrath upon himself and often, severe punishment.

He meets and becomes the protector of a young slave woman named Patsey, played by Nyong’o in her film debut. Patsey has drawn the unwelcomed attention of plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Fassbender. Northup’s care of Patsey enrages Epps and nearly costs him his life. Although he never ceases to think of his wife and family back in New York, and makes several attempts to get a letter back home, asking for help, it isn’t until Northup meets itinerant carpenter Samuel Bass that hope arises. Bass, played by Brad Pitt, is from Canada and is anti-slavery. He listens to and believes Northup’s story and ultimately, is his rescuer.  Sending letters on Northup’s behalf, Bass prompts the legal powers in New York to at last secure Northup’s release, allowing him to return home to his wife and now grown family. In 1853 Solomon Northup wrote his memoirs, 12 Years a Slave. For the rest of his life he spoke against slavery and was active in the abolitionist movement.

That’s the story. The movie was gripping and very well acted, especially by Chiwetel Ojiofor, whose performance was powerful and gut-wrenching, at the same time. And although I haven’t seen the last movie, Her, for comparison, I can see why 12 Years a Slave won for Best Picture. How can anyone watch this film and not be affected? All that being said, this was a very difficult movie for me to watch. I cannot stand injustice. I cannot understand how one human being can treat another human being in such horrific ways. From his kidnapping until he secured his freedom, I watched Solomon’s story with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Northup was a good man, a talented musician, a compassionate friend. Having spoken this week about living as our shimmering self, rather than hiding behind false selves, I noticed how Northup, in spite of his attempts to disappear behind a blank expression and unassuming demeanor, couldn’t help but shine. His magnificent self would rise, a true testament to human dignity, courage and perseverance. He did do more than survive, he lived. He lived to become a free man once more and emptied himself in fighting for the freedom of all people.

I was deeply impacted by this movie. And lest I point a finger at another and cry “injustice” and “prejudice”, I examined my own heart and thoughts. To see anyone else as “other”, whether because of skin color, gender, age, accomplishments, ability or for any reason, is to isolate myself and label someone else. To grow and learn from this film is to glance inward to abolish any critical spirit or thought that I am more deserving than anyone else or that anyone is less than I am. We are One is more than a sentiment to me, it is my belief. To love myself is to love another. We are the same.

Day 126: Farmer’s Market Bok Choy & Chinese Broccoli

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I love our local Farmer’s Market, located under the pavilion at King Jack Park in Webb City. The sights and scents of the market always inspire me to eat healthier. And the general busyness, the vendors showing off their fresh produce and homemade goodies, and the live music near the front of the pavilion creates a fun and lively atmosphere.

The Farmer’s Market is open three days a week: Tuesday 4:00 – 6:00, Friday 11:00 – 2:00 and Saturday 9:00 – noon. This is the third week the market has been in spring/summer operational mode and yet today was the first opportunity I’ve had to make it by. My first for today, since I’ve visited the market many times, was to purchase and prepare something new…something I’d never tried before.

I enjoyed wandering up and down the aisles on either side of the pavilion, looking over the spring produce and searching for a vegetable I’ve not purchased or eaten before. I saw a variety of lettuces, spinach, kale and onions. One vendor was selling strawberries. Another had greenhouse tomatoes. I stopped to admire hanging baskets full of petunias but decided not to purchase any plants today.

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At last I stopped before a table with the usual spring produce. However, a couple of not so usual vegetables had caught my eye. The Chinese broccoli, with its long stalks and yellow flowers, looked more like an herb than a vegetable. Also called Gai Lan or Chinese Kale, this dark green veggie is high in dietary fiber and potassium and a serving contains 41% of our daily recommended vitamin C  and 28% of vitamin A. It also contains iron, magnesium and vitamin B-6. This is one healthy food!

I had heard of bok choy, but I had never bought it, prepared it or eaten it before. Also called Chinese cabbage, a serving of bok choy provides a whopping 62% of the daily suggested amount of vitamin A and 52% of vitamin C. It is also high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin B-6. As I stood there, I was imagining the health benefits of preparing these two powerful vegetables together.

I asked the friendly young woman behind the table how to best cook these vegetables. She suggested several methods but when she said “stir fry”, I said, “I’ll take some of each!” I also purchased a couple of red tomatoes and then headed home to try my new veggies. After washing and chopping the bok choy and Chinese broccoli, I stir fried them together in a little olive oil. Seasoned with salt and pepper, I added them to my dinner plate along with the sliced tomato and cold left over chicken.

I was hoping I liked these healthy veggies. After a careful forkful the verdict is….I do! The bok choy reminded me of brussel sprouts, which I also happen to like, and the Chinese broccoli had a mild broccoli like flavor. The Chinese broccoli was especially fun to cook, flowers, leaves and all and even more fun to eat! And I swear, I felt healthier immediately! I will be a frequent visitor to the Webb City Farmer’s Market. With my new emphasis on eating whole foods, this is the perfect place for me to shop. Here’s to a healthy, bountiful summer!

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Day 125: Lunch with a New Friend

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For today’s first, I had the privilege of having lunch at Club 609, in downtown Joplin, with my new friend Nina Johnston. These delightful firsts of connecting with new friends is such a wonderful and unexpected benefit of doing a year of new experiences. I certainly didn’t have “meet new friends” down on my list of possible firsts for the year. I feel blessed, as I journey, to be encountering fellow travelers walking the same way!

Nina and I first met when we both showed up at Local Color Art Gallery & Studio to paint chairs. Sometimes I am accompanied by friends or family members when I do a first. Often I go alone, out of the desire to step out of my comfort zone and move Beyond. Attending the chair painting class was one of my ‘alone’ firsts. I was immediately drawn to Nina. She had just arrived also and we claimed chairs and a table to work at. Painting by dribbling paint directly from the bottle was a new experience for both of us. We laughed and chatted as we worked.

Last Thursday, Nina and I once again attended a painting class at Local Color. It was so good to see her and share in another new experience. The Art Pieces class was fun and we enjoyed talking and encouraging each other as we created our unique works of art. At the end of the class, we made plans for meeting today for lunch at Club 609.

And what a great lunch it was! After admiring the beautiful interior of the restaurant, I ordered something new, a vegetable flat bread pizza, and then settled in for a visit. With a few people on this earth, I’ve met them, seemingly for the first time, and there is instant recognition and a sense of reunion. It’s like that with Nina. This is only the third time we’ve been around each other yet we fall easily into conversation like we are old friends who have known each other forever. She is funny, creative, talented and cares deeply about her family, the well being of others, and animals.

Nina grew up in a town near Toronto, Canada, in a large family, with a father and mother who originated from Poland and England, respectively. They met in England after WWII and later moved to Canada to raise a family.  I wondered how one moves from Canada to Joplin, MO, leaving behind friends and family and all that is familiar. Nina shared how her husband began working for a company while still in Canada and eventually accepted an offer to move to Joplin to work for the company here. What a brave man and woman to cross borders and move to a town where they knew no one. Nina is someone who understands what I am doing this year, in moving beyond my comfort zone!

That is another area that we have in common. We are women who are growing and becoming all that we are meant to be, leaving behind old beliefs and limitations. Nina shares a passion for life and trying new things and offering out of her generous heart. I love her authenticity and bright, beautiful energy. Ram Dass says, “We are all just walking each other home.” I am so thrilled to add Nina to my little group of travelers who, arms linked and hearts connected, are all in the process of doing just that….walking each other home.

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Club 609

Day 124: Plant in Metal Containers

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Another beautiful day meant another day working in the backyard garden. Record high temps, in the mid 90’s, made me grateful for the wind though. Today, for my first, I enjoyed grouping together metal buckets, a watering can and an old wash tub and filling them with flowers.

I love how the backyard transformation is progressing. This morning a new back gate was installed, offering privacy and security. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours browsing at local lawn and garden centers, searching for the right plants and flowers for the assortment of metal containers that I collected on a recent junkin’ expedition. When I’m in creative mode, I carry a mental plan and as I search for items, I am continually matching what I see with that picture I carry in my head.

Sometimes, though, a new plan develops or the mental image shifts slightly. That was the case today as I looked for flowers in hot colors such as reds, oranges and yellows. As I added selections to my shopping cart, I realized the colors had shifted to pinks, whites and purples. Once I put the yellow flowering plants I had picked out back on the rack, the new color plan rapidly came together.

Back home, I got to visit with my son, Nate, his fiancé, Megan, and my granddaughter, Aubrey. That allowed time for the temps to fall slightly as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. When I carted all my newly purchased plants into the backyard, it was perfect planting weather!

I love getting my hands into the dirt and gardening. I also love creating vignettes and groupings, so what a delightful evening for me! I am so drawn to gardening. I think my Scottish ancestry has something to do with my deep love for the earth and green things. I truly am most at peace, most blissful, when I’m creating in my garden and moving among living, growing trees, plants and flowers.

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I had fun grouping my metal containers on and near one corner of the brick seating area. The wash tub I purchased at a flea market was a little wobbly on its legs so Greg graciously made it secure by attaching copper wiring to each leg and bringing the wires together in the center, beneath the wash tub. It is very secure now. I had searched and searched for a couple of old metal wash tubs. I was thrilled to find one at the Fancy Flamingo Flea Market at a great price. I’d like to have at least one more.

As the sun was setting, I completed the plantings in all the containers. Stepping back for a look, and mentally comparing what was before me with the image I had carried in my head, I was pleased! The plants and flowers are young, however, in a few weeks the containers will look wonderful. In each container there is at least one upright plant and at least two trailing plants. I look forward to seeing the plants grow and fill in. It will be beautiful!

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I enjoyed relaxing on the brick patio as darkness fell. My eyes often glanced over at the new grouping in the corner, and I smiled, feeling content and satisfied. As the wind stirred the plants, a mixture of delicate scents drifted by. That was the other part of the plan that shifted today. I realized as I shopped that I was picking up plants that smelled wonderful. How amazing it will be to sit on the patio in the mornings and evenings and not only delight in how the plants look as they mature, but breathe in deeply and inhale the fragrances of lavender, petunias and sweet William. Bliss indeed!

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Day 123: Leaning into Silence

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This morning, for my first, I met with 4 other lovers of nature and writing at one of my favorite places, the Wildcat Glades Audubon Center, located just south of Joplin right off of 43 Highway. Writer and teacher Susan Nunn led the group through a study of place, and what a wonderful location for the class to meet!

My friend, Cate, invited me to this study and I was so excited to take a writing class that involved time spent in solitude on the trails at Wildcat. Susan shared about the importance of really knowing a place, of moving deeper into what we think we know about the landscape we are in, or that we are creating for a fictional character, and discovering all that is true about a location and the people that might inhabit it. Using the examples of three different authors, she showed how each wrote from different understandings of place, and how that understanding molded their literary work.

We did a fun and eye opening exercise. Partnering up with someone in the class we didn’t know, we each wrote about our hometown on one side of a blank piece of paper. We then traded papers and wrote what we knew about our partner’s town, drawing from facts or our imagination, depending on how much we knew! I wrote about the city of my childhood, Tulsa, OK, while my partner wrote about his hometown of Pittsburg, KS. This was a very interesting exercise, as our perspectives were very different. Those who grew up in a town saw it in much deeper ways than those who wrote from little or no knowledge of the place. I noted also that my perception of Tulsa was from a child’s viewpoint, since I moved from there when I was 12. An adult would perceive that sprawling city much differently.

We then headed out onto the Wildcat Trails for an hour of solitude and three exercises. The first 20 minutes session was spent in observation, mentally noting what our five senses were recording. I found the tree that I first “met” on my winter stroll through the woods. I quieted the chatter in my mind and allowed myself to open to all that was going on around me.  The sun was warm on my upturned face. The breeze caressed my skin, carrying to my nose the scents of earth and flowers, even as it stirred grasses and rustled through the leaves on trees. Birds chirped merrily and squirrels frolicked through the underbrush. I noticed that the area I was standing in, near my oak tree, teemed with life. The oak tree itself had vines growing on it and ants and other insects moving busily across the bark.

During the next 20 minutes we were instructed to focus in on one object and follow that thread of thought to see where it would take us. I settled onto the ground, next to the oak tree, and leaning back against it, allowed my heart and soul to connect to the tree, feeling its energy, feeling the rough bark against my back. Thoughts fluttered into my mind that this was an ancient oak tree, nearing the end of its life. It had weathered many storms, survived pests and drought. The landscape, or place, around it had changed greatly over the years. Where once only woods existed, now people walked or jogged by, some more aware of their surroundings than others. I imagined roots growing from the soles of my feet, burrowing deeply into the earth, and my body lengthening, growing upward, arms outstretched. I could feel myself as a tree, there next to the oak, swaying gently in the breeze, feeling the permanence that being root bound would bring, and yet also feeling the swift passing of time that belied that permanence. What an amazing 20 minutes!

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The last 20 minutes were spent sitting quietly on a sandstone rock, near the river. I listened to what my heart was telling me about myself, in relationship to the time spent in this beautiful place. I thought about how I am like an oak tree, still growing, having not yet reached my full potential. I thought about how important it is for me to be mindful of the moment and not spend time rethinking the past or worrying about a future that hasn’t happened yet. My attention was directed to the river, where in the center, the current ran strong, and the water flowed freely. Near the edge of the river, the water slowed into stagnant pools, bits of debris clogging the surface. I saw, as I observed the river, that as I stay centered, my life flows, and as I move away from center, I get bogged down with junk littering my life, becoming stagnant and stuck.

At the end of our solitary hour, we gathered again at the Audubon Center to unpack for each other what we had observed, focused on and heard our hearts say. Each person had an amazing experience to share! And in the sharing, I learned more about my classmates and their stories and perspectives.

This was a wonderful study! I am grateful to Susan Nunn for leading us. I better understand the importance of knowing the place that I am inhabiting and writing about. I look forward to capturing more of today’s experience in my journal…and to future writing classes!

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Day 122: Create a Fire Pit

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On this bright and glorious spring day, I enjoyed spending the afternoon and early evening outside, working diligently in my backyard. The brick seating area was recently completed, thanks to Greg! Today, for my first, I built the fire pit.

As I’ve drawn up plans and sketches of the backyard transformation, this section was designated as the gathering area. I wanted a patio or courtyard big enough so that friends or family could easily sit together to visit or eat. I can also practice tai chi or yoga here or even hold a small class in this spot. I am very grateful to my friend, Kevin, for donating the brick pavers that he salvaged after his business building was destroyed by the 2011 tornado. These pavers have character, and a history, as Kevin bought them years ago after a building in St. Louis, MO was demolished. Greg has spent many hours in the backyard working on the seating area, with some help from a good friend, Tim. As I stand or sit on these sturdy bricks, I love that they have come through a demolition and a powerful storm, intact, and have now been placed into service again, as a gathering place. I love that Greg, Kevin and Tim all played a role in creating something so beautiful and functional.

I had the fun role of building the fire pit. Greg picked up the blocks, but I asked him to let me assembled the ring by myself. He was okay with that! It wasn’t difficult at all, yet I felt a great sense of satisfaction in laying those blocks. A metal fire pit that got banged up during the tornado found new life inside the circle of stone.

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I can sit quietly and stare into flames for hours. The crackle and warmth of the fire, the woodsy scent, the way the flames move and shift and dance, all captivate me. There is an almost hypnotic quality to flame watching as the mind turns inward, in a reflective state. I could hardly wait for dusk. Later, sitting there on those softly hued bricks, watching the flames leap into the air as darkness fell, I felt blissful. This is the beginning of my backyard Rivendell, which will offer peace and joy to all who enter.

I look forward to the weekend and spending more time in the yard. As Greg builds a gate for the back portion of the fence, I will be laying out pathways and starting to plant around the brick patio. The metal buckets, wash tub and containers I picked up a couple of weeks ago, while out junking, will be arranged around the brick seating area, filled with soil, and then planted with greenery and flowers. In the next week or so I’ll add seating and small tables.

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I’ll also begin detailed plans on the next section of the yard that will be developed, the Japanese/meditation garden. While the gathering area is designed for a few or many, the more intimate meditation garden will be for solitary use, intended for reflecting, reading, meditating or sipping tea. I’m excited about the transformation, and while I look forward to spending time in the finished garden, the joy is in the journey and the fun is in the creating.

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Day 121: Art Pieces Class

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For today’s first, I had the privilege of returning to Local Color Art Gallery & Studio for another creative art class. Taught by Tricia Courtney and Sallie Divine, the class was called Art Pieces. Allowing old kitchen cabinet doors to serve as the “canvases”, we used acrylic paint to splatter and dribble on color and then added mosaic pieces and found objects to create wonderfully unique works of art!

I was excited about this class. The garden chair that I created during another Local Color class was fun and relaxing. I got over my fear of making a mistake and just enjoyed the process. I met Nina during this class and we hit it off well, sharing table space as we worked and laughed and encouraged each other. I looked forward to being in creative mode once more, painting again with Nina and Tricia, and adding dimensional interest to my art with the pieces of ceramic and found objects.

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Tricia Courtney, artist and instructor

 

I selected a small cabinet door and painted it black. Inspired by a Monet painting called Water Lily Pond, I grabbed bottles of acrylic paint and pushed up my sleeves. There is something very freeing about painting without a paintbrush! No worries, no mistakes….all fun. I used blues, greens and browns to suggest the water in the pond and then added lighter greens, golds and yellows for the lily pads. Dots of sienna, coral and deep red suggested flowers.

I painted with confidence, having done this part before with the chair. When it came time to add the pieces to my creation, I was glad for Sallie and Tricia’s help! Using broken bits of blue ceramic tile, I arranged and affixed, creating the look of water at the bottom of my door panel. A few tiny shards of a red ceramic cup were sprinkled among the water lily flowers and I was done!

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My friend Nina created a beautiful panel featuring purple and white irises. She added green pieces of tile for a flower stem and glass pieces to the gorgeous white iris. We once again had fun chatting as we worked and discovered more that we have in common. I look forward to lunch next week with Nina!

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Nina creates her Iris panel

New friend Holly came to her first class at Local Color today. She quickly let loose her creative side and made a lovely panel with flowers and ceramic pieces. I loved how she affixed a long metal rod to the side of her panel, using hinges and brackets.

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Holly with her lovely flower panel

This was a great class and in the midst of a busy week, created an oasis of calm and clarity. I’m no Monet, by any stretch of the imagination. But at Local Color, I don’t have to be! I can just be myself and enjoy the process of creation in a supportive environment. It’s a bonus that I get to take home a reminder of my time there.

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Sallie Divine, artist and instructor

 

Day 120: Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee

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I love the firsts that seek me out, rather than the other way around. These experiences amaze me and also teach me about how life unfolds and about following the path. When cool rainy weather postponed my planned first, I decided, at almost 3:00, to eat a late lunch, and since I was eating anyway, to find a restaurant I hadn’t eaten at yet. Greg was with me and had not eaten lunch yet either. We headed downtown to try out a fairly new pizza place.

Except the pizza establishment was closed, in spite of posted hours saying it should be open. What to do? We were still hungry, even more so! Next door was the corner café, Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee. Thinking it was about to close, we almost walked back to the car. Thankfully, the cook happened to be standing outside and informed us the café was open. In through the door we went. I’m so glad we did!

The owner, Fran, greeted us warmly as we seated ourselves at a high top table near the large front windows. Looking around, I fell in love with Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee before a menu was placed in my hands. With an exposed brick wall and high ceilings capped with tin, the interior was charming, with many interesting items and pieces of art to check out. As Fran handed us menus and took our drink order, she asked if this was our first time in, which allowed me to share about my year of firsts. When I told her I’d be writing a blog about Cooper’s and would share it on her Facebook wall, she graciously told me about her café.

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Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee is located at 122 S. Main Street, Joplin, and is open Mon – Fri 11:00 – 7:00 and Sat 11:30 – 3:00. Named after her maternal grandmother, Cooper’s offers a wonderful assortment of salads, sandwiches, deep pan and personal flat bread pizzas, and homemade pies and cheesecake. Fran grew up in this area, and after being away working for a major retail company for 37 years, has returned home. Cooper’s has been open for almost two years. Fran uses fresh, high quality ingredients and relies on family recipes to create such delights as chicken salad and peanut butter pie.

Greg and I both ordered the 7” personal flat bread pizzas. In the spirit of trying new things, I had a “Bugs on the Windshield” pizza, featuring chunks of all white meat chicken, bacon, cheese and alfredo sauce. Slightly off my diet, but oh so good! The freshly brewed unsweetened tea was delicious as well. Fran kept our glasses full and was delightful to visit with each time she passed by to check on us. We sampled the peanut butter pie and found it wonderful…not too sweet and topped with chopped peanuts.

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One of the things I’ve loved the most about this year of firsts is meeting new people and learning a bit of their stories and hearing about their dreams. I learned that Fran takes part in Downtown Joplin’s Third Thursday each month, exhibiting a different artist’s work on her brick wall, and hosting an evening of live music. She also sponsors concerts for a cause, such as for the arts and autism, grilling burgers in the large parking lot out back while bands perform on an outdoor stage.

We had a very special lunch at Cooper’s 66 Eatery & Coffee. I am extremely grateful that events led me through that door today, as surely as if I’d followed a trail of bread crumbs. Fran was friendly and offered amazing service, the food was delicious and the atmosphere casual and fun. While there, Greg gifted me with one of the beautiful pieces of artwork displayed on the wall.  I’m looking forward to my next visit to Cooper’s, and sampling Fran’s famous chicken salad!

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Day 119: Mind Reader: Eric Dittelman

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My first today marked the end of the wonderful entertainers and performers brought to Joplin by Missouri Southern State University’s Campus Activities Board. At least for this semester. I’ve really enjoyed the quality and variety of the shows and you can’t beat the free admission. These events have been wonderful opportunities for firsts for me, but beyond that, they are fun, entertaining productions. I’m so glad I got to see each one.

Tonight my mom and I enjoyed watching Eric Dittelman, Mind Reader. I attended this program with the same open mind that accompanied me to the hypnotist’s show. I decided to observe carefully, suspend skepticism, and have fun. As with the previous entertainers, Eric possessed a quirky, playful sense of humor that enhanced his mind reader performance. He was very serious, however, about his craft.

Eric Dittelman has been entertaining audiences around the US at colleges, comedy clubs and private events with his unique blend of mind reading, stand-up and improv comedy. In 2012 he was a semi-finalist on Season 7 of “America’s Got Talent”. Last year he appeared as a headline guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, Eric began his entertainment career with stand-up comedy, which he continued to develop during his college years. After graduation Eric became more and more interested in combining his comedic abilities with his lifelong passion for mystery performance. Traveling to Las Vegas, Eric studied with some of the top mind readers in the world and has performed at the Palazzo and the Tropicana there.

I was impressed with this guy. He’s not flashy or over the top with his humor. He begins right away with random audience involvement and proceeds to not only read minds, but blow them! He admitted to being an excellent reader of character, body language and subtle clues given off by the one being read. He told us frankly that he’s influencing the decisions his participants make, but I can’t tell you how he does it. From revealing what costume a young man wore for Halloween when he was in second grade, to writing down the correct name of another guy’s first crush, Eric amazed. He wasn’t vague, nor did he use guesses to narrow down to the correct answer, he was very, very specific, and always correct.

My favorite routine was his version of Pictionary. After picking three members of the audience to draw pictures, Eric had two helpers come up on stage to tape half dollars over his eyes and then wrap his head with duct tape, covering his eyes completely. He then affixed a blindfold over his taped eyes and had the assistants check his ears for any type of hearing device. None were detected. The drawings were collected and one by one, held above Eric’s head. Each impromptu artist stood, saying his or her name, as Eric then began to accurately describe what each one had drawn. He was absolutely correct, down to the smallest details. On the last drawing, which was of a doghouse, the man had even written his dog’s name across the front. While the audience applauded Eric’s description of the doghouse, Eric shushed everyone and said “Wait, he has a name written on the house and he wants me to say the name.” The man laughed and answered that yes, he did. Without any hesitation, Eric called out, “Rover….the dog’s name is Rover.” The applause was wild after that!

I really enjoyed this show. With his rather low key sense of humor and uncanny ability to perceive exactly what people were thinking, he made a believer and a fan out of me. I can’t wait to see what MSSU’s Campus Activities Board has lined up for the fall semester! I’ll be there.

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Day 118: Mizumoto Japanese Strolling Garden

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Today’s first was a “seize the day” type opportunity. It was the only day I had available this week to visit the Japanese Garden in Springfield, MO. With the promise ahead of a beautiful, sunny, breezy day, I did indeed seize the chance. So did Greg, who traveled to Springfield with me.

Last week, the gates were closed and locked, preventing entry into the garden. Today, the gates stood open, inviting visitors to enter and stroll. Well, enter and stroll after paying $3.00 for admission. The leisurely walk through that enchanted place was well worth the nominal fee.

The 7.5 acre Mizumoto Japanese Strolling Garden is the oldest attraction at the Springfield Botanical Gardens, opening in 1985. Enclosed by a fence, the garden offers serenity and beauty and an opportunity to disconnect from busyness. We didn’t get far down the path before we stopped in appreciation to snap pictures. The white and pink Dogwood trees near the front gate were in gorgeous full bloom. We followed the path and explored the meditation garden, which in a few weeks will be hidden behind a curtain of bamboo, and stopped to sit for a while on a stone bench near the first large koi pond.

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A pair of Canadian Geese immediately approached, their two fuzzy goslings gliding along between them. They came right to the edge of the pond, near our feet, looking at us expectantly. When we failed to produce any food for them, they put on a little show for us any way. We laughed at the antics of the goslings. They would dive beneath the water’s surface, disappearing completely, and then pop up in an unexpected place, shake the water out of their downy feathers and then dive again. I’ve never been so close to baby geese before! After entertaining us for several minutes, they glided away.

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The path wound through the traditional Japanese landscaping. I was there to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and there to gather ideas for my own garden, which will feature a small Japanese meditation area. And I found so much to inspire me! We explored bridges and islands, seating areas with stone or wooden benches, bamboo screens and fences and a traditional Japanese tea house. A waterfall sent water cascading into a pond in front of the tea house, which in turn flowed beneath the Moon Bridge and pooled into another body of water before culminating in the pond where the goslings played. Water is an important feature of a Japanese garden, as are stones, trees, and wooden bridges and structures. There were at least a dozen stone Japanese garden lanterns scattered throughout the grounds as well, varying in size from small to very large.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Japanese garden today. I left feeling refreshed and full of peace and joy. I also gathered many great ideas for transforming my own little corner into a space of similar beauty and tranquility. I won’t have the playful goslings or the geese gliding by on still water. But I also won’t have to watch where I step as I roam about my garden with bare feet!

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Greg took this pic, accidently switching to black & white mode. I like it though!