Day 36: Meet My Neighbor

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

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

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

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

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

Day 35: Homemade Lemon Curd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 33: DIY Warm Vanilla Sugar Scrub

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

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

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

Day 32: Yoga at Treehouse Yoga

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

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

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

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

Day 31: BEST January, Ever

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On this last day of January, 2014, I’m looking back over my first month of “firsts”, and I am so grateful! This has been the BEST January I have ever had, in my 10+ years in real estate. Business has been incredible. December and January are normally the slow months in real estate.  This month behaved more like a May or June, which are peak real estate months.

I believe there is a correlation between who I am being and what I am doing….and my business. At Keller Williams, we have a saying, “Your business grows to the extent that you do.” As I am opening, as my attitude about life is shifting and expanding, as I am in this space of doing new things and moving Beyond where I currently am, my business is tracking along with me. I am all smiles!

January has been an amazing month in all aspects of my life. I am excited each morning to see what the day brings. Doing new things has brought magical and unexpected opportunities and life lessons. I am full of joy. And I am loving how events are arranging themselves to meet me where I am, and then moving me into unknown territory. I feel the Divine calling to me. And I am answering with all of my being.

I’ve always loved anticipation. It is such a sweet state of savoring what is and what is about to be. I am in high anticipation for the remainder of 2014, and my year of firsts!

Day 30: The Mousetrap at Joplin Little Theater

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I love a good whodunit! So what better way to spend the evening and get in a first too, than seeing Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, presented by Joplin Little Theater.

Agatha Christie, considered the queen of the murder mystery, wrote this drama which was originally titled Three Blind Mice. The name was changed to The Mousetrap when it opened in London’s West End in 1952, and it has been playing ever since, making it the longest running play of any type, in modern history. I was excited to learn the play was being performed in Joplin.

The cast gave an outstanding performance. The play is set in Monkswell Manor, near London and I was impressed with the actors’ abilities to pull off authentic sounding accents! During a snowstorm, guests at Monkswell Manor are stranded. There are murders to solve and a murderer to catch. The set was excellent and the characters well developed. I laughed. I clapped. Mostly, though, I sat captivated, watching and listening intently, collecting clues. That’s the real thrill of the whodunit. Is she who she says she is? Is he telling the truth? What fun to keep a mental tally of who was who and figure out, along with the audience, who did the wicked deed.

This play perfected the “plot twist” with its ending, shocking attendees back in its early days of production. Audiences continue to be cautioned against giving away the ending and revealing who the killer is. Did I correctly guess the identity of the murderer? I did, although I was prepared until the very end, to be wrong. Will I reveal who did it?  Never!

Day 29: Lunch at ME’s Place

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One of the fun things about having a year of firsts, is checking out new restaurants in town. Today it was a special treat to have lunch with Greg, Elissa and Adriel at ME’s Place, located at 1201 Broadway in Joplin.

The cafe’s atmosphere was casual, warm and inviting. Interesting art pieces lined the walls. Seating was cozy, inspiring conversation, and friendly staff helped us with our order and checked on us frequently as we ate. And oh my, the food…  ME’s Place serves soulfood, delectable homemade entrees such as chicken and dumplings, meatloaf and fried catfish. Today’s specials included ham and beans and country ribs. There was a large assortment of sides to choose from and fresh cornbread was served up with each meal.

Not only did I eat at a new restaurant for the first time, I also tried a new food. The collard greens were perfect paired with my country ribs. We completed our dining experience with gooey butter cake and fresh from the oven peach cobbler. What a delicious meal!

I highly recommend ME’s Place. Their menu boasts, “Love served on a plate.” I left there full, and feeling very loved!

Day 28: FaceTime Chat

ImageI’m pretty good at keeping up with technology. I can get around on my laptop, as long as it’s operating smoothly! I’ve learned to upload pictures and videos, maintain a website, create Pages on Facebook, and Siri is my friend on my iPhone 5. I communicate well via voice calls, emails and texts. However, one feature I’ve never used before today, is the FaceTime function on my phone.

Who better to experiment on with FaceTime than my sister, Debbie, who lives in Broken Arrow, OK.  She admitted she had not used this function either. Great! A shared first is always fun. She was a good sport. Messing around with my phone, in preparation for using FaceTime this evening, I accidently called Debbie at work. I disconnected quickly but she immediately called me back and we had our first FaceTime chat.

Although it was a little startling at first to see a face on my phone’s screen, talking to me, it was a great experience. We laughed a lot. I got to take a quick peek at her office. And she said “Awww” when I showed her my cat curled up on my lap. My sister and I agreed this will be a form of communication we will use again and again.

If I had thought about it during the call, I’m positive I could have snapped a screen shot of Debbie’s pretty face. Then I could have used that picture with my blog instead of the logo I found online. She would have LOVED that! Next time, sis, next time.

Day 27: Primal Scream

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I admit it. For most of my life, I have not expressed what I consider to be negative emotion. I have not easily cried.  I have not wailed or screamed. I have no problem expressing positive emotions such as joy or laughter. I feel great in those higher energies. I struggle when assailed by grief or anger or fear. I grow silent. And those lower, but just as powerful, energies get stuck in the region of my heart. That accumulated energy, gathered over the years, has created a mighty wall behind which, my heart feels safe.

When the activity I had planned on didn’t work into my schedule today, I felt a nudge toward another first written on my list: primal scream. Just thinking about letting a scream loose made me feel nervous. My mind raced down the list of possibilities, seeking something else. I teetered at the edge of my comfort zone. Move past this, I whispered to myself. Move beyond.

I googled primal scream therapy. Just reading about it was enough to raise my discomfort level even higher. Dr. Arthur Janov discovered, in the mid 1960’s, that repressed emotions could be released by allowing the pain buried inside to find a voice and be expressed, loudly. I had choked back that voice for so long, I didn’t know if it could escape my throat. The last time I tried to allow a cry of deep agony to come forth, I ended up sitting alone in an enclosed stairwell, gasping for air.

It sounds ridiculous, even to me. And yet pacing through my house, determined not to back down from this challenge, the “what ifs” began. “What if the neighbors hear me and think something is wrong? What if my cats freak out? What if I freak out? What if the mailman steps onto my front porch just as I shriek, and calls 9-1-1?”

I put the cats on the porch for a few minutes. And grabbing a pillow to scream into, I took several long, slow deep breaths, allowing my heart to open. Before I could resist, I screamed, for what seemed like a very long time. My body shook with the force of it, my neck throbbed, my arms ached. When the sound died away, though, I noticed a lightness in my chest that I’ve not felt before. A lightness of being. The cats calmly came back inside. No one sent help, thinking I was in distress.  I didn’t freak out. I surprised myself. I did it.

I laughed, amazed, and discovered that my throat was raw and sore. Ah, well. That was a very small price to pay for such a huge leap beyond the boundary that contained me for so long.