Orange You Glad

A simple blog post tonight, reflecting a simple pleasure today and a simple kindness that inspired me. My friend Garen took me to lunch to celebrate my birthday, which was Monday. This is a yearly tradition that I enjoy, as Garen and I catch up on each others’ journeys and lives.

Orange You Glad, Simple Kindness of Others

We went to the M&M Bistro, a Mediterranean cafe in downtown Joplin. The bistro is a beautiful little place, with a friendly staff and a great selection on their menu, including vegetarian fare. Garen and I chatted as we dined. I savored the Vegetable Platter, with grilled squash, mushrooms and eggplant, over a bed of greens, tomatoes and olives. Hummus was included, and so was pita bread, which I did not eat. It was a lovely meal and a lovely lunch. I so appreciate my friend. We have known each other for almost a decade, and we have walked together through many joys and life challenges. I always appreciate Garen’s ability to listen well and respond with valuable insights. His kindness, his way of making life more tender for others, inspires me and encourages me.

MandM Bistro Making Life a Little More Tender

As we concluded our meal, Garen mentioned to our waiter, who is also the gracious owner of M&M Bistro, that we were celebrating my birthday. Our host offered a dessert, and made several delicious suggestions. I thanked him, and explained that I don’t eat sweets, just fruits and vegetables. He asked me what fruits I enjoy.

A few minutes later, he placed a small plate before us, containing a perfect blood orange. With delight, I scored it, peeled it, and Garen and I shared it, going halfsies. It was a wonderful finish to a fun meal.

I thought about that kind gesture the rest of the afternoon. The owner, who so attentively waited on us, keeping our water glasses filled, asking often if we needed anything, didn’t need to go beyond the offer of a sweet dessert. When I declined, he could have said, “Very good.” and brought the tab. Instead, he brought an orange, something he knew I would enjoy. Garen and I suspected the orange might have come from his own lunch or dinner, which made the gesture even more beautiful.

I looked up oranges in my Life Changing Foods book, by Anthony William, when I got home this evening. It is full of benefits, healing the body from a host of viruses and alleviating symptoms such as aches and pains, acid reflux, mood swings and allergies. What caught my attention was that oranges are considered a ray of sunshine, helping to chase away sadness and weariness. They shine a light into our lives, warming us and reminding us of what is important in life…things like kindness, tenderness and friendship.

As I was thinking about the day, and oranges, preparing to write my blog post, I remembered a knock knock joke from my childhood. “Knock knock.” ” Who’s there?” “Banana.” “Banana who?” This is repeated several times, until at last… “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Orange.” “Orange who?” “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” It still makes me smile! Orange you glad?

Yes, yes I am glad. I am glad and grateful for a friend who takes the time for a leisurely lunch and fun conversations. I am glad and grateful for the M&M Bistro and a truly kind and gracious host, who embodied making life a little more tender today. I am glad and grateful for the simple and delicious orange, a very satisfying and healthy dessert.

I am glad. Orange you glad?

Orange You Glad, Life a Little More Tender

Saying Goodbye to James

I lost a dear friend this past week, someone I have known for most of my life. If his sudden illness and death saddened me, and it did, deeply so, I know his sweet wife and two sons are experiencing his loss at a heartbreaking level. 

My thoughts have not strayed far from James and his precious family. Memories have surfaced. I met him when I was a young teen in Noel, MO. He was married to Patti, the older sister of Shelley, one of my best friends. James and Greg grew up together. After Greg and I married, we would hang out with James and Patti. These familiar people became more than just Shelley’s relatives…they became my friends too. 


While we lived in Noel, our lives were interconnected, as so often happens in small towns. James captured my family in portraits and he was the photographer at my wedding. He owned and operated the Ozark Theater in Noel, one of my favorite hangouts. I took care of Anthony, James and Patti’s first son, for a short time when he was two, before my own firstborn arrived. 

James and I enjoyed discussing movies and literature and writing. We shared an appreciation for sci-fi and fantasy fiction. “I’ll write a book someday,” James always added. 



Even after Greg and I moved to Joplin, we stayed in touch with the Carrolls. James and Patti’s family grew, with the arrival of their second son, Ryan. They trekked to Joplin or we stopped by to see them in Noel, not as often as we would have liked, but enough to keep the bonds of friendship strong. 

James became a mail carrier and later mayor of Noel. Always one to give of himself to his community, he continually sought ways to improve his town and help people live better lives. 



At his memorial service this morning, I heard words such as “wonderful”, “thoughtful” and “courteous” used to describe James. And those words were certainly true about this kind hearted man. I never saw James without a smile brightening his face. He had a great sense of humor. He was gracious with a gentle soul. And, he had this spark that lit up his eyes. 

I just this week realized what that ever present spark signified. It was the fire of creativity shining out through his eyes. That word was strongly connected to James this morning and I wholeheartedly agree. James lived a wonderfully creative life. 



From his photography days to drawing and painting to performing plays to building forts for his sons, James expressed his artistic side through a variety of mediums. This talented man fearlessly explored his creativity and had fun playing with it. 

And that book he intended to write? He did it. Several years ago I was both honored and excited when he presented me with a copy of SARREN. Full of magic and adventures, love and battles, SARREN is an epic fantasy novel with a strong heroine as the central character. 


I’ve been slowly re-reading James’ book this week and I am enchanted by the story once again. And beyond that, I am connecting with my friend and knowing him at a deeper level as I discover more about James through his beautiful writing. 

I hold in my hands James’ creativity, birthed into reality through his writing. I am inspired by him to make manifest my own creative ideas. I see, too, that the Alan Rickman quote I so love, “If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust” was lived out in James’ life. He cared for people and put actions with his desire to create a better world. And he offered his creative gifts to the world as well. His contributions are timeless, and far reaching. His life will continue to impact and touch others, in ever expanding ripples. 

He has impacted me. His book SARREN will rest on my writing desk, in my studio, a visual reminder of what is possible, of what a creative life can bring forth. As I move into a new year, with a focus on making life a little more tender and art a little more robust, I will draw inspiration from my friend James. 

Saying thank you seems so inadequate. However, I am so very grateful, James, for your life…and your art. 

In the Company of Women

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Surrender 85: Tolkien Reading Day Helps Me to Release a Friend

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, a global celebration of the writings of JRR Tolkien. Begun by The Tolkien Society in 2003, the event is intended to encourage people to read and discuss this amazing author’s work.

I discovered this holiday last year and I’ve looked forward to reading from a selection of my Tolkien books today. There is a different theme every year. Life, Death and Immortality is the theme for 2016.

I enjoyed a quiet time this morning, reading from The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and a beautiful leather Tolkien Dictionary that my grandson Dayan gave me for Christmas. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors and his words have the power to stir me deeply.

The holiday and theme of Life, Death and Immortality carried greater significance for me today. A dear friend of mine died five years ago this month. He possessed a beautiful soul. He was also a beautiful mess. Big-hearted, fun loving, one of the best huggers in the world, he appeared to be a happy, successful man.

However, like so many others, inside he was a broken man, full of angst and deep wounds. To him, there was no healing from his inner pain, which descended upon him at unexpected times, robbing him of joy and hope. During his last bout with despair, he ended the pain by taking his own life.


I have carried that memory for five years. It has been a very solitary journey in which I have worked my way through shock, grief, and anger to acceptance, forgiveness and finally gratitude for the impact he had on my life. My journey now is what it is, because of his life and death.

I have also been the caretaker of my friend’s cremains, his ashes contained in a large brass urn. Many times during the last five years I’ve thought of spreading his ashes in a beautiful place that he loved. There was one problem. I couldn’t get the urn opened.

Recently, it has felt like the right time to release my friend, to symbolically free him and free myself, to let him go. If only I could get the urn to open. A week ago, I asked him for help, from the Spirit realm, if this was indeed the right time to do this. Tuesday, in an unexpected turn of events, the urn was opened. It was time.

This was a gorgeous day to say “I’ll see you again some day.” I walked along the river, which is my symbol for this year. The river also symbolizes Life and Transcendence, Flow and the Passing of Time.

I found the perfect spot to release the ashes. I played his favorite song. His wristbands adorned my wrist. I spoke quietly to him, thanking him for touching my life. I invited his shining spirit to visit me anytime. I wished him peace and joy and love. And scattered his ashes along the river.

The sun was brilliant upon the water. And the air was perfectly still, yet charged with energy. I suddenly noticed yellow wildflowers growing all around me. I felt peace.

I read a quote of Tolkien’s, which was so right for the day. And headed home. As I walked to my car, I sling-shot the wrist bands deep into the woods, where they can rest among the flowers, reminders of his presence in this place that he loved.

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One we all must take. The gray rain curtains of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

 

Surrender 33: Old Chicago Pizza

Today I got to try out, for the first time, a restaurant that opened recently in Joplin. Old Chicago Pizza is located at 3320 S. Range Line Road. I met my good friend Garen there, who is always great to suggest new places to experience. 

 

I arrived a few minutes ahead of Garen and looked up info about this restaurant. Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom started in 1976 in Boulder, Colorado. It is now part of CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, which operates 60 restaurants in 22 states.

Old Chicago features delectable pizzas in deep dish, thin crust or stuffed crust versions. They also serve more traditional dishes, such as pastas, sandwiches, salads, burgers and calzones as well as appetizers. The cheesecake is highly recommended. And each restaurant carries a wide assortment of beer. 
 

The Joplin restaurant is clean and brightly lit, with ample seating space, and a bar at one end. Garen joined me at a booth and the task began of deciding what to order for lunch. Everything in the menu looked appealing. We passed on an appetizer, although they offered great choices. Although we were in a place that specializes in pizza, both of us opted for a sandwich. I’ll try the pizza another time. 

I sampled the California Chicken Sandwich, primarily because it is served with slices of avocado, accompanied by a side of fresh veggies with ranch and bleu cheese dressing for dipping. Garen had a Spicy Thai Chicken Sandwich with the fresh veggies as well.
  
Both sandwiches looked amazing! I can only vouch for mine…it was amazing. I believe Garen enjoyed his also. We quickly gave up trying to pick the sandwiches up to eat them. They were so loaded, it was impossible not to make a mess. A knife and fork worked well. 

What a great meal, at Old Chicago, and a wonderful time of catching up and sharing with my friend. I deeply value Garen’s perspectives on life and his input. We’ve been friends for seven years and it’s been a privilege to journey with him, learning, growing, discussing ahas and oh nos along the way. He’s been present with me through times of great joy and great sorrow. 

Today he told the waitress it was my birthday. It was…last month! She wished me happy birthday several times, and even left a note on the bill, writing “Happy 21st birthday!!” 😃  To celebrate the day, we of course had to try Old Chicago’s famous cheesecake. Covered with strawberries and blueberries, we found it worthy of its reputation! 

Garen’s birthday was last month also, just three days after mine. It’s my turn to treat him to lunch. I’m thinking about what new place to try next!

  

Surrender 18: Adventure and Tea

Today presented an opportunity that was easy to surrender to. I met my friend Cate at Panera to discuss life, writing and surrender! On this bright, chilly day cups of hot tea were perfect accompaniments to our shared time. 

 

I tried the Mango Ceylon, an exotic blend of full leaf black tea, mango and blossoms. It is described as a metabolic frolic tea, which made me smile!  This was my one lovely indulgence today, shared with a friend. Steaming mugs of tea in hand, Cate and I found a booth to slide into and the chatting began. 

  
I so love and appreciate my friend. Cate and I met during my Year of Firsts and she has been a dear friend since, accompanying me on many of my journeys. I thought of the Peter Pan quote, “Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?” That’s us! We can have an adventure or a cup of tea, or both, and it’s all good!

 

We spent a very pleasant couple of hours sipping tea, and discussing writing, life and surrender. It is wonderful to have traveling companions who not only understand my journey but are on similar paths themselves. Cate is one of these. She shared lessons from her own life experiences, as she has learned, she added, to surrender to the inevitable. Cate gave me another quote, from Anthony de Mello, that fits well with her adage: “Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”

Tea consumed and hugs exchanged, we parted company, full of the joys of life, and of friendship. Next time we meet, Cate and I must have an adventure! 

  

Journey 320: An Evening of Friendship, Sushi & Coloring

One of life’s greatest blessings is having traveling companions on the journey. There are those in my life who walk alongside, sharing their own experiences, and offering a helping hand or a timely word of encouragement. I’m so grateful. This evening I had the pleasure of spending time with one of these dear souls. 

I met Cate last year, during my Year of Firsts. We instantly connected and have become great friends. I appreciate her willingness to try new experiences and how brightly she shines as her authentic self. 

 

Cate graciously invited me to her house this evening, for a time of chatting, dining and coloring. I picked up sushi for both of us from Han the Sushi Man in Joplin. Cate enjoyed spicy tuna sushi and I opted to try something new, something I’d never had before. The “To Die For” sushi roll was amazing, with shrimp and avocado.  
 

After dinner, we cleared the table. Cate served cups of hot tea and freshly baked, healthy cookies while I brought out coloring books and colored pencils. One of the things I love about coloring is that two or more people can color together companionably and chat at the same time. Cate selected a page out of the Creative Haven Owls book while I started on my first page from The Time Chamber by Daria Song. 
 

What an enjoyable evening. Cate is one of those amazing people who can converse about a wide range of topics. And she’s so easy to talk to. We caught up on our journeys, discovering that we are on such similar paths, even down to a word that is repetitively popping up for both of us. We discussed books, synchronicities, what we are learning from our experiences and…coloring. I found that I color more slowly as I talk, but since there’s no deadline, that’s not an issue! 
  
I love Cate’s choice of colors and that gorgeous night sky. The heart stands out on the page because she was drawn to color that rune in first. Cate’s heart for others is just as evident. She is one of the most loving people that I know, caring for people at a deep level. I appreciate her listening ear and sage words. And then there’s that joyful, infectious laugh!   

  
We were so engrossed in our coloring and chatting, that it took several rumbles of thunder before I realized storms were approaching and it was late. Time to go home. What a great start to our coloring pages. And what a warm and comforting evening with a treasured friend, a kindred soul. I love the Ram Dass quote that says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Thank you, Cate, for walking with me tonight. 

  

Journey 273: Food, Fun & Friendship

It was a beautiful journey today, through a pleasant day, that culminated at my sister Linda’s house. She invited me and our new friend Paula over for dinner. She provided lasagna, corn and baked potatoes. I brought salad, fruit and a small cheesecake. Paula brought the DVD, Talking to Heaven, a film based on the life of intuitive, James Van Praag. What a great evening we had, eating a meal together, chatting and watching the first half of the DVD, which is a mini series.   

 
And although the movie was good, detailing the life of a man who finds himself, reluctantly, gifted with amazing intuition, the real joy was hanging out with these two beautiful and authentic women. Linda is always great to offer her home as a place to gather. We are both eating with more deliberate attention to consuming healthier foods. Rather than grab fast food, she offered to cook.  It was fun to combine our offerings to make a scrumptious meal. It was a casual help-yourself kind of gathering and we settled into comfy spots in the living room to eat, chat and watch the DVD. Linda is not only my sister, and was my first friend. I appreciate both of my sisters so much, and my brother too. Sibling love is such a special kind of relationship, a cross between best friends and got-your-back family. 
 

And I appreciate Paula as well. The CS Lewis quote applies perfectly to that new friendship. We met by “chance”…which really means, our paths were drawn together, as we walked along, without planning on our part. We recognized kindred spirits in each other and have become friends. She shares a love of animals with Linda and their friendship is growing as well. How fun that we’ve all connected. I look forward to many future lunches and dinners and times of just hanging out. The ability to fully be oneself with another, gifts, quirks and all, is a blessing and I’m grateful for both Linda and Paula. 
 

Paula not only brought the entertainment for the evening, she surprised us with gifts that she made. I love her creativity and her thoughtfulness. The vases she made, with flowers tucked within, are gorgeous and mine is already on display in my house, as Linda’s is in her home. Friendship means so much to me and I am thankful for these two companions who are traveling alongside. What adventures await us?! 

   

Journey 267: New Restaurant, Old Friend

I had a particular journey planned for today. My intention was to pick up my granddaughter Aubrey from school and that the two of us would have afternoon tea while watching the new Cinderella movie on DVD. However, that is not the journey that unfolded  this afternoon. On this gorgeous day, Aubrey and I ended up at a local park, where she was joined by a friend from school. It was a wonderful afternoon spent outdoors. I considered watching Cinderella this evening, anyway. What I love about my journey is living out the statement, “Open to everything, attached to nothing.” Before I left the park, Greg contacted me to say a friend was in town, whom we had not seen for 30 years. Would I want to go to dinner? Yes….yes I would!

After taking Aubrey home, we made arrangements to meet at Joplin’s newest restaurant, Texas Roadhouse. Perfect! A first, combined with the reconnection of a dear friend from my youth. My journey took care of itself. With high anticipation, Greg and I met Jerry at the hotel where he was staying, and walked across the parking lot to the restaurant that features hand-cut steaks, grilled pork chops and chicken and tender ribs, all in a friendly, western themed atmosphere. We had a 20 minute wait, but that was okay. There were ample places to sit while we waited. Snagging a bag of in-the-shell peanuts, we settled on a bench outside, and used the time to catch up.

    Gotta love a place where you can throw peanut shells on the ground!

I met Jerry in the little town of Noel, MO, when Greg and I were dating. I was 16 years old and Jerry about 19 and Greg 22. Jerry’s grandparents and an aunt and uncle lived in Noel. He spent the summer in that sleepy little community and then attended college for the next four years at John Brown University, in Siloam Springs, AR. Greg attended John Brown as well. That summer was a time of hanging out and talking about life and figuring out the next step along our paths. Mine was easy. I was still in high school. But I benefitted from my connections with these older friends and they were all great to include me in their activities. Alas, I was the only one with a curfew!

But what fun we had over the next few years. College and ministry and meeting new people, weddings and graduations, and embarking on new adventures. Jerry met his bride, Susan, while in school. The four of us got together often. Life took us in different directions eventually. Greg and I to Joplin, MO. Jerry and Susan to the Oklahoma City, OK area. Our families grew, as children arrived. And after a couple of impromptu visits, when Jerry and Susan happened to be near Joplin, we fell out of touch.

I’m grateful for Facebook, because recently we all connected there. A couple of weeks ago, Jerry contacted Greg to say he passes through Joplin, on business trips, occasionally. Tonight, he took the time to reach out and say he was here!

We began catching up as we sat outside, and then continued after we were seated at a booth within. We paused in our stories long enough to order dinners, which were delicious. I had a grilled pork chop that was so tender and seasoned perfectly. The staff was friendly and the service great.

texas roadhouse grilled pork chop

As wonderful as the meal experience was, the real journey tonight centered around friendship and bonds that never break. It was amazing to hear where life and the Divine have led Jerry and Susan, who have five grown children and five grandchildren. It’s been an exciting adventure for them, that continues on. I appreciated Jerry’s views on life and his great attitude. From our youth, I remembered his big heart, his charming smile and his beautiful singing voice. He still possesses all three. We finished our meals and walked back to the hotel, where we sat outside, enjoying the mild temps, laughing over stories, old and new, and joyfully picked up the threads of our friendships.

What a fun evening. I am grateful for Jerry and for friendship, for memories and new opportunities for growing those relationships. And I am grateful for the flow of life and Divine direction, which never fails to surprise and delight me. It’s all about trust. And staying open. I am loving this journey.

 

Journey 244: Jimmy’s Egg

I’ve always thought it would be fun to eat at different restaurants and do reviews on the food and service. While the experiences of trying new foods and new eating establishments would be wonderful, I don’t think I am objective enough to be critical. I look for what’s good, what’s unique, what works in each restaurant, rather than any negatives. Yesterday, I got to try an established restaurant in Arkansas that was new to me. Today, thanks to a spontaneous lunch invite from my friend, Garen, I had the opportunity to try a restaurant that is new to Joplin and unfamiliar to me.

jimmys egg

Jimmy’s Egg, located at 1611 S Range Line in Joplin, recently opened. What a fun name! I figured out the chain restaurant offers an assortment of egg dishes, for breakfast and lunch. I knew nothing else about the franchise. Launched from Oklahoma City, OK, in 1980, Jimmy’s Egg, named after the original founder Jim Newman, specializes in cracked-to-order three egg omelets and scrambled skillets, cups of coffee and freshly baked breads and biscuits. Also on the menu are pancakes, French Toast and Belgian waffles. And for lunches, freshly made salads, hamburgers and sandwiches. The restaurant is open daily from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Loc Le, who was a Vietnamese refugee seeking asylum in the US, purchased the single restaurant from Jim. Loc and his wife grew the business to 14 restaurants in the Oklahoma City metro area. In 2008, Loc joined with Garfield’s owner Jim Burke, launching the franchise, which now has 23 locations in Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska and Kansas.

I was expecting more of a fast food type establishment, but Jimmy’s Egg is a sit down restaurant, with friendly staff and a great menu. Garen and I both elected to have breakfast for lunch. I zeroed in on the Farmers Scrambled Skillet, a delicious combination of scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, onions, peppers, cheese and homestyle potatoes, and a side of homemade cinnamon raisin bread. Garen opted for a Mexican omelet. with sides of the cinnamon raisin bread and biscuits and gravy. I might add, that neither of us had eaten anything yet when we had lunch!

It was a great meal, with a very cheerful, attentive server who kept our water and tea glasses filled. We had an assortment of salsas and sauces to try with our eggs. The restaurant was clean, with that still-new look, and busy, with plenty of booths and tables for seating.

I appreciated Garen’s invitation. And as always, I appreciated Garen! We chatted and caught up with each other’s journeys, which is valuable enough. However, Garen offers insights, suggestions and stories out of his heart and his experiences, which I find priceless. He is an amazing companion to journey through life with. And adventurous to look for new restaurants to try, new foods to savor. Great qualities in a fellow traveler, and great choice in a restaurant today!

jimmys egg scrambled skillet