Day 83: Feed a Newborn Kitten

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My first for today was going to be watching the movie “Nebraska”, one of the nine Best Picture nominated movies. I rented the DVD yesterday, in preparation for watching it this evening.

A series of events began last night that changed my first for today. About midnight, the mama cat who brought her three offspring to me last fall, and who has since refused to come into the house, appeared at the front door. She was scratching and meowing. Surprised, I opened the door and she ran into the house, into the front bedroom and straight into a closet. She’s been chubby lately, when she’s shown up on the porch to eat. I never could catch her to get her to the spay and neuter clinic. I knew she was going to have another litter of kittens.

At 3:00 am I heard the mewling of newborn kittens and sighed. I have come to love the three kittens that charged through the door last fall. I feed mama cat and make sure she has fresh water. I don’t need more kittens. But what to do? Mama cat had seemed desperate and I couldn’t turn her away.

Today it’s been a challenge keeping mama cat contained in the bedroom and the three young cats away from her. Much hissing and snarling from mama cat has her three older babies nervous and confused. I had Continuing Education class all day today and did my best to separate mama from Angel, Rilynn and Shy Boy before I left the house. This evening, though, mama cat has been restless, following me around, attacking my legs if I walked away from her. Greg sat down and she climbed into his lap. This is not what I would consider normal behavior from her, this mostly wild cat that only a few days ago, refused to enter the house and barely tolerated being petted.

I tried to watch my movie, but something wasn’t right. Flashlight in hand, I followed mama cat into the bedroom and peeked into the closet. Mama cat jumped into a box and allowed me to shine the light into her hiding place. One tiny black kitten lay sleeping in the corner. That couldn’t be right! I knew at 3:00 am I had heard the cries of at least two kittens. I watched the baby nuzzle its mother and begin to nurse. Scanning the floor of the closet and around the box, I looked for another kitten. I was sure I was hearing a faint squeak.

Sadly, I found the second kitten on the floor, outside the closet. He was lying on his back, but moving faintly and occasionally cried weakly. To paraphrase Billy Crystal’s character from The Princess Bride, this small creature was mostly dead. Greg picked him up, saying he was cold, and handed him to me. I rubbed him briskly and cupped him in my hands. Incredibly, he moved and cried. He was so weak though. Greg brought a washcloth and a cup of lukewarm water. I feared the kitten was dehydrated. Amazingly, he sucked the water off my finger.

Encouraged, I tried lukewarm almond milk.  I wanted to strengthened him if I could. His little body warmed up and slowly he nursed on my finger, taking in some nourishment. Movie forgotten now, I continued to alternate between rubbing him briskly and wrapping him in the washcloth. When he seemed to grow tired of suckling my finger, I returned him to his mother, still lying in her box with the other kitten. He nuzzled against her, although he still seems too weak to nurse properly. She seemed calmer. I’m not sure why she didn’t pick him up off the floor and take care of him. Perhaps, with her crazy behavior, she was trying to get my attention and in her own way, was asking for help.

I don’t know if this little fighter will survive. It is amazing he was still clinging to life. I’ll check on him periodically overnight and feed him if he will take nourishment. He is at least warm and with his mother and sibling. And he’s with me. I’m watching over you, little baby. My first today was to feed a newborn kitten, with almond milk and the tip of my index finger. Tonight, real life won out over a movie. And the unexpected took precedent. I’m okay with that.

Day 82: Leave Notes to Future Readers in My Favorite Books

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Inspiration for my new experiences comes from many sources. Today’s first, going to a bookstore and leaving notes for future readers in my favorite books, came to me via a post I saw on Facebook. It was titled “20 Great Date Ideas”. I wasn’t looking for ideas for great dates BUT I am always on the lookout for great ideas for something new to do. I pulled up the article and found six or seven suggestions for firsts that I could do! This was one of them.

I spent the afternoon thinking about some of my favorite books and the impact they have had on my life. It was a long list of books that fit that category, as different books have been perfect for me at different stages of my life. I narrowed the list down to six books that have been crucial in my journey. They are:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn

Wishes Fulfilled by Dr. Wayne Dyer

I selected heavy weight parchment-like paper and wrote two or three sentences for each book. So that a customer wouldn’t think she was purchasing a used book, I started each note with the words, From one reader to another…. And ended with Enjoy this book!

It was great for me to spend time considering how each book had helped me in my journey. Doing so allowed me to look back along my life path and see how far I’ve come. The notes were brief and encouraging. I wanted the future reader to know that the book he was holding in his hands had the power to change or enhance his life.

I took six notes with me to a local bookstore, hoping to find at least three of my favorites on the shelves. I was amazed to find all six. It was fun to tuck the notes between the pages of each book. Holding the book for a moment longer, I imagined the person flipping through the pages and hoped they would be encouraged, or at least surprised, to discover a handwritten note in an unexpected place. Perhaps finding a mini review will help them to decide to buy the book and read it too. I trust their lives, like mine, will be enriched because they do.

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Day 81: Paint a Chair

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All these firsts I’m doing have ignited my creative side. I’m thrilled to discover there are many opportunities in Joplin to develop and express my creativity. Today’s first was so much fun! I painted a chair.

A group of us gathered this morning at Local Color Art Gallery & Studio in downtown Joplin. Artist and instructor Tricia Courtney had old school chairs, from the 1930’s or 40’s, primed and ready for us. I haven’t painted anything, other than interior walls in a house, in a long time. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew this looked like a fun project and the sample painted chair that Tricia had created was so appealing.

I paired up with another guest, Nina, pulled on an oversized T-Shirt and faced my selected chair. We started by applying a base coat all over the chair. Nina and I both chose black for the “pop” factor. Then came the fun part. Using bottles of Apple Barrel acrylic paint, Tricia demonstrated how to use the paint straight from the bottle to paint. No brushes needed! And no particular skill. Just the desire to create. The paint was applied thickly, in whatever shape or design the artist chose, and the movement and flow of the paint created the dynamic art. I was drawn to form flowers of yellow, turquoise, pink and purple and stems and leaves of varying shades of green.

I mumbled to myself a couple of times, “There are no mistakes….” and squeezed out a blob of yellow for my first flower. Tricia circled the room, offering encouragement and occasionally grabbing a bottle of paint and assisting with technique. The room filled with happy chatter and admiration for each other’s work as amazing, colorful art appeared on chairs. Our hands and shirts got paint on them and I laughed as a drop of paint splattered onto my face. This was so freeing and relaxing, going with the flow, literally, and getting messy as we worked.

At the end of our session, we all had lovely, personal, works of art. And I had made a new friend! Nina and I will return to complete the backs of our chairs after the seats thoroughly dry. And then I can bring my painted chair home. I’m already eyeing furniture and old doors at home and wondering what I can use this technique on next! For a fun way to let your artistic side shine, check out the many classes offered at Local Color Art Gallery.

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Nina and her lovely chair

Day 80: Millsap Produce

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In my quest for a healthier lifestyle, I’m eating non-starchy vegetables, berries, nuts, limited amounts of other fruits, eggs and lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish. I feel amazing! More energy, sleeping better at night, aches and pains mostly gone, and I’m about 12 pounds lighter. I’ve been excitedly waiting for the Farmer’s Market in Webb City to open again, so I can take advantage of all the fresh produce.

In the meantime, I made a new discovery: Millsap Produce, located at 4902 S Range Line, in Joplin. This retail shop sells a large variety of organic produce and foods. The store is small, but packed with goodness! I saw produce, raw honey, organic meats, gluten free products, dairy free products, nuts, and the list goes on and on.

There is also a greenhouse attached to the store with a huge selection of succulents. I’m sure as the season progresses there will be herbs and many other plants available. I’ll keep this in mind as my garden takes shape in the backyard. They also had a nice selection of Shamrock Plants still available, in case anyone missed getting a plant elsewhere.

I purchased several items and intend to frequent this store, especially during the Farmer’s Market off season. Millsap Produce is open six days a week, making it a convenient stop. And since it’s an actual store, weather won’t affect shopping. Millsap also has a monthly organic order sheet that is emailed out. Organic produce and herbs, grain or grass fed meat and poultry, pizzas and breads from Mohaska, and gluten free groceries can all be ordered and then picked up at the store.

I love the Farmer’s Market and will continue to visit it weekly once it opens. I’m happy to have found an alternative, though, that’s there anytime I need fresh produce or any of the many other items Millsap Produce carries!

Day 79: Visit New Businesses During Third Thursday

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Today’s first took place during the kick off of Downtown Joplin’s wildly popular event, Third Thursday. Held each year, from March until October, on the third Thursday of the month (hence the name), this event is located from 7th Street to A Street on Main Street. Roads are blocked off, stores and restaurants stay open late and vendors, performers, musicians and artists line the streets and inhabit storefronts for the evening. Thousands of people stroll up and down Main and spill over onto neighboring avenues, viewing art, listening to a variety of music and catching up with friends.

The first day of spring was perfect, weather wise, and people turned out in huge numbers for the first Third Thursday of the year. Greg, sister Linda and I were some of those people! I’ve attended many Third Thursdays so that couldn’t be my first today. Therefore, I made a point of visiting a couple of businesses that I’ve not been to before.

Blue Moon Market, located at 613 S Main, features clothing, jewelry, accessories and distinctive home furnishings. My sister and I LOVED this store. I believe they have been open for a little while, but I had not made it by yet. What a lovely and eclectic mix of product. Linda and I just missed the hippie era, but we love the look of smocked oversized tops and loose comfy pants. Perfect yoga clothes are available here! Vintage items and jewelry caught our eyes as did painted signs and banners. There were even old doors for sale at the back of the shop. They truly do have a little bit of everything here. The store was very crowded with ladies ooohing and aaaahing over the merchandise so we intend to visit again very soon and shop.

The second business I visited during Third Thursday was RSVPaint, located at 420 S Main. Tonight was the Open House for this new venture in Joplin. Originating from Springfield, MO, where they have been very successful, RSVPaint offers a place to relax, sip, visit and paint. Classes are offered Thursday – Saturday in the evenings. In two hours, you can create a work of art to take home. It was fun to look at the sample pieces and classes offered. We passed this evening on the wine, that’s the sip part, but we did sign up for a class next week! It will be a great experience that we can share, and of course, a first for me.

What a great evening of strolling, looking, chatting with friends and listening to music. To my surprise and delight, there was even a young man, splendid looking in his kilt, playing the bagpipes. Now that’s not something you hear and see every day in Joplin! I’m glad I caught his performance. I look forward to the next Third Thursday, and the new adventures awaiting me there.

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Day 78: Visit PhotoSpiva 2014 Exhibit

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Today’s first, visiting the PhotoSpiva 2014 Exhibit, was interesting! Located in the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, in downtown Joplin, the competition is an annual event. This was the 38th edition of PhotoSpiva and yet it was the first time I’ve attended! Each year I’ve thought about going. This year, I was intentional, and delighted to experience this well known event as a first.

I was surprised to learn that 176 photographers, nationwide, submitted 1,014 entries in the competition. Photographer and educator Dornith Doherty, from Denton, Texas, selected 82 images to create an exhibition of photographic excellence. The photographers who submitted their work are both amateurs and professionals. Ms. Doherty pored through the submissions online, selecting the ones that would appear in the exhibit. She arrived in Joplin on March 13 to determine which photographs won and shared $2000 in cash prizes.

Like viewing any kind of art, viewing photography is subjective. I moved slowly through the gallery and studied each of the 82 photos. I didn’t attempt to analyze so much as I allowed the pictures to speak to me. Some told stories….sad stories, stories of decay and the inevitability of entropy and death. Some captured joy or humor and made me smile. Several spoke to my mystical side. One such photograph had a title that seems to be a tagline for my life, “Some things just can’t be explained”.

A few of the entries made me tilt my head, much like a dog who is trying to figure something out. All of the photos represented a person behind the camera. Seeing their photos gave me a glimpse into their world, their reality. Looking at their works, I literally saw what they saw.

My favorite photograph was quite popular, apparently. It won the People’s Choice Award. Titled “Floating Girl”, it is the image in the picture above, accompanying this blog. The photographer is Victor Chalfant from Fayetteville, AR. I love the photo! The light is exquisite and the image simple, beautiful and captivating. The first place winner submitted a photo of historic Brooklyn. The image certainly told a story and the longer I looked at the photograph the more I saw.

I enjoyed my time at the exhibit and I have a deep appreciation for the talented photographers. They inspire me to pick up a camera and capture my world. Another great first for this year would be a photography class and perhaps entering a contest myself. Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t let another year pass without making it to this wonderful exhibit.

Day 77: Eat Sushi at Han the Sushi Man Restaurant

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I love sushi! So I was very excited when Han the Sushi Man opened recently. I have heard very good reviews for this restaurant. Today, for my first, I got to experience Han’s sushi for myself. Greg accompanied me and this was a first for him as well, as he’s never eaten sushi before.

The restaurant is located in a storefront in a strip mall at 1901 E 32nd Street. The interior is fresh, colorful and brightly lit. Cozy tables offer seating for 35 or so diners. Carry out is available. Han the Sushi Man offers a large selection of sushi choices plus salad and soup. I had my favorite, the traditional California Roll, and Greg selected one of the restaurant’s recommended favorites, the Crunchy Roll, featuring shrimp. Both were delicious! We sampled each other’s rolls and I thought the Crunchy Roll was wonderful as well. I was so enjoying my sushi that I ate two pieces of my California Roll before I remembered to take a picture! Greg gave a thumbs up for sushi and especially liked the wasabi, although he quickly learned to have a tiny amount with each bite.

Han’s story is the realization of the American Dream. He moved to the US in 2001, from Myanmar, formerly called Burma, seeking political asylum. He ended up in the San Jose, CA area with $38 in his pocket. He eventually found a job rolling sushi. He perfected his skills in California, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Detroit before arriving in Joplin, MO, and taking a job as the sushi preparer at Pricecutters.

Han was wise to include his name in his restaurant name. He developed quite a following during his time at Pricecutters. With such a loyal group of customers, it was time for him to take the next step in achieving his dream. On February 3 of this year, his restaurant opened and from the reports I’ve heard, it has been very successful.

I considered my meal there a success and I know I will return to eat at Han the Sushi Man again! And next time, in the spirit of trying new things, I will NOT have the California Roll, but will get beyond the familiar and experience something more exotic!

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Day 76: Watch Captain Phillips

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Today’s first was to watch Captain Phillips, the second of the nine Best Picture nominated films. Last week, Gravity took me into space. Tonight, the story took place in the open seas off the coast of Somalia. As in space, when disaster strikes, being at sea far from shore and other ships, leaves you vulnerable and then self-reliant as you wait for help.

Captain Phillips was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for first time actor, Barkhad Abdi. It did not win in any categories. The movie stars Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi and is directed by Paul Greengrass. It’s rated  PG-13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Based on an actual event that took place in 2009, Captain Phillips is the story of the hijacking of the unarmed ship, Maersk Alabama. During the incident, merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by Somali pirates, led by Abduwali Muse. The movie is well crafted, superbly acted and very intense. I knew the final outcome of the situation, as far as the captain was concerned, but I didn’t know HOW it was all resolved, nor what happened to the pirates. I was completely caught up in the story until the credits rolled.

Tom Hanks gives a gritty, masterful performance. I’ve been a fan of his since his start on television. He has the kind of soulful eyes that speak far more than his words. I’m surprised he didn’t receive a nomination for Best Actor. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi was amazing as the pirate leader, Muse. He has an intensity and presence that kept my eyes on him in every scene he appeared in. His nomination was well deserved, and I hope to see him in future films.

I was struck by the similarities between the two men, Phillips and Muse, both living lives not entirely within their own control. Both men left their homes to accomplish a routine job and became ensnared in a life changing event. When Muse, explaining to Captain Phillips why he’s a pirate, says, “I have bosses…”, Phillips answers with grim understanding, “We all have bosses.” As the movie progressed, Hanks’ character become more basic and simple, intent on survival, while Abdi’s became more complex, more desperate, as he realized he was in a situation way over his head.

The compassion Phillips had for his captors was touching. He assured the four men that they could take the $30,000 he had given them and go home, without harm, if they would just release him. Even when the US Navy showed up, the Somali men would not back down, could not release their hostage and return home without more money, without leverage. According to Muse, “I came too far, I can’t give up”. Those words sealed their fate.

Throughout the incident, Captain Phillips heard Muse say many times, “Everything’s gonna be alright.” Muse spoke to reassure himself as much as Phillips, perhaps. As the Navy positioned themselves to resolve the situation, their negotiators eerily echoed Muse’s words, “Everything’s gonna be okay.” Like Phillips, until the very end, I wasn’t sure that either side spoke the truth.

This is a powerful movie. I highly recommend it.

Day 75: Celebrate Weston’s First Birthday

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One of the things my family does well, is celebrate! We love a reason to gather and have fun. And, we especially enjoy the opportunity to gather for the birthdays of the children in the family. Today’s first was a double first! Today, Weston Miller, my great nephew, had his first birthday party and I had the privilege of being there to sing and clap and watch him celebrate, for my first.

Weston is my sister Linda’s grandson, and son of my nephew Scott and his lovely wife, Nicole. Weston was hoped for and prayed for and planned for, for a very long time before he made his entrance into the world and into our lives. All children are precious. When you have waited for years to hold the child that you’ve longed for, he is a treasure beyond compare. His mommy and daddy are such great parents. I’ve watched them with their baby boy this past year and I’m so proud of them. Weston will grow up knowing he is cherished. Add to that the adoration of his Gigi and Papa, great grandmothers and an assortment of aunts, uncles and cousins, and this boy is well loved indeed.

That was very evident this weekend as party preparations got underway! Nicole brought together a variety of ideas around a Little Monsters birthday party, carrying forward the theme from Weston’s baby shower. Nicole is one clever young woman! Linda’s living room was transformed into a party room boasting bright colors and fun, playful decorations. Little monsters were strewn about the room. Pictures on the walls were covered with colorful plastic table cloths and large eyes attached. The food was both nutritious and delightful and covered with googly eyes. One of my favorite decorations was the banner of 13 flags stretched across the French doors. The first flag had a picture of the newborn Weston, and each flag after had a pic of him as he aged, month by month. The final flag had today’s 12 month picture attached.

Weston thoroughly enjoyed his day. An adorable boy with curly red hair and big brown eyes, he easily accepted being the center of attention today. And when he grew tired, with two presents still to open, his wise mom and dad called a break to the festivities and let Weston be himself, which is an inquisitive, bright boy intent on exploring his world. Weston studies people and objects with a serious, intelligent gaze, and when he smiles, we all smile with him. It will be a joy to watch him learn and grow and become the person he is meant to be. For this day, he is one, and on the verge of walking and talking and figuring out who we all are! And that’s absolutely perfect. Happy, happy birthday, dear Weston!

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Day 74: Dinner at Cici’s Pizza

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Today’s first was a fun family outing to the newly opened Cici’s Pizza for dinner! Eleven of us took advantage of the Opening Special of $5 for the buffet. We weren’t the only ones excited about welcoming Cici’s back to Joplin….the line was out the door when we arrived.

Cici’s Pizza was always a popular Joplin restaurant. They served up pasta, salad, soup and a variety of pizzas, buffet style, for a very reasonable price. You could find all your favorite pizzas there plus a few specialties like Buffalo Wing Pizza and several dessert pizzas. The cinnamon rolls not only looked and smelled good, they tasted delicious!

Our Cici’s Pizza was one of the restaurants that was destroyed the day of the May 2011 tornado. And with the reopening taking place almost three years later, it has been a very long wait for them to come back! In fact, there was some concern that Cici’s would not return. Rumors alternated between saying the pizza place was not going to be in Joplin again to talk about its impending opening. It was only a couple of months ago, when I spotted the “Now Hiring” signs fluttering in front of its new location that I finally believed Cici’s was on the way back!

We enjoyed our dinner, in spite of the crowd. The line moved quickly and the manager met each group as they paid and found tables to dine at. That was no small task for our large group, but he made it happen. Being on my detox diet, I chose to eat salad and a chicken soup with a clear broth. I didn’t feel deprived at all! I did walk down the buffet though, to see what was being offered. It was a great selection, although with the number of diners present, those pizzas didn’t last long! I saw a pizza I had never seen before….a macaroni & cheese pizza! My niece’s husband, Jon, declared it good. He said it tasted like macaroni & cheese on flatbread!

I’m thrilled Cici’s has returned to Joplin. Each business, or restaurant, that reopens is a testament to the determination that has defined Joplin’s recovery. We can be knocked down, we can lose what is dear to us, but we cannot be kept down. What was lost can be rebuilt, when it is brick and mortar. We forever remember those dear souls who left us too soon. As we rise again, build again, move forward, their Spirit is interwoven with the Spirit of Hope that is Joplin.