Journey 353: Chase the Chill – Joplin

What a great opportunity today to take part in a first in Joplin. Chase the Chill is an event hosted in many cities throughout the US and Canada in which donated scarves are hung in trees or tied to lampposts in public locations throughout town. Each warm wrap is tagged with a label that lets the recipient know that the scarf is free for the taking. The Joplin scarves had these tags:


My friend Ann Leach created the Joplin event. The idea is to provide warmth for our fellow citizens. There is no income requirement or other criteria to receive a scarf. Anyone who wants a scarf is free to take one. Drop off locations included Spiva Center for the Arts, The Joplin Public Library, Homewood Suites and Unity Church of Joplin. More than 300 warm and colorful scarves were collected. 

Twenty one volunteers met at Homewood Suites on 32nd Street, to distribute scarves. I attended, along with my sister Debbie. We grabbed a bag of 10 scarves and headed to our assigned destination, Rex Street behind Walmart. It was a beautiful afternoon to contribute to the well being of others. 

We found a row of young trees growing along Rex Street. Working together, we moved from tree to tree, tying the long scarves to branches or trunks. 

There was a strong breeze that fluttered the scarves of many colors, creating a festive look. Traffic was heavy along the street, as holiday shoppers drove to their next stops, and we saw curious passers by peering out their car windows. Although the temps were warm today, cold weather is coming. I trust that the scarves will all go to the right recipients and will bring warmth and joy and hope. 


As we tied the last scarf to a branch, we looked back to check out our work. What a cheerful sight, those long scarves decorating  that row of trees. I appreciated my sister Debbie taking the time to accompany me and help out. And I’m grateful to Ann for bringing the Chase the Chill event to Joplin. 


May each person who selects a scarf be blessed, feeling the warmth that it offers, and the loving embrace of the kind souls who purchased it, tagged it, bagged it and lastly, tied it to a tree or post. Our high energies and good wishes go forth in Joplin and will return to us in like kind, blessing us as well. I look forward to Chasing the Chill again next year. 


Day 311: Neighborhood Chalk Hearts

Hearts of love

Today’s first has been on my list since the beginning of the year. Armed with chalk, I wanted to walk through my neighborhood and draw hearts on sidewalks, and add a few encouraging words within the heart. I was inspired by the hearts of hope that appeared after the 2011 tornado. Children and youth from other cities, and unfortunately, I don’t remember where they came from, planted colorful wooden hearts on stakes throughout the tornado zone, with words of hope on them. Every intersection sprouted these reminders that hope was not lost. Three and a half years later, most of those hand printed messages are gone.

hearts of love post tornado

The inspiration for using sidewalk chalk comes from my grandchildren, who love creating works of art on their driveway. The chalk drawings are colorful and creative and wash away with the next rain, leaving, literally, a clean slate for the next masterpiece.

Today was a beautiful fall day, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. I decided to tuck a box of chalk into my pocket and set out to wander my neighborhood. I wanted to look at the newest houses being built and allow myself to be led to the right spots to draw a chalk heart. I was half a block from home when I happened to turn around. Like the Pied Piper, I was leading a small herd of cats. They all stopped when I stopped. This wouldn’t do! I didn’t want to risk any of them crossing the street with me and getting hit by a car.

Back to the house we all went, with me cajoling, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty….”. They didn’t want to go inside….it was too nice out. Plan B. I grabbed car keys and purse and drove four blocks away and parked the car. Free now from concerns about the cats, I roamed the neighborhood, looking at all the new construction still going on. I stood at a high vantage point and studied the massive new high school that is in the final phase of completion. I walked down streets that were once so familiar that I could, and did, walk them in the dark without a stumble. I knew where every cracked sidewalk was, where every gnarly tree root poked through the ground and every house where small children were likely to leave a bicycle sprawled on the sidewalk. That’s all gone now…..the sidewalks, the trees, the houses where children played. It is no longer so bare though, as block by block, the neighborhood is filling in again. It’s the same neighborhood….and yet it’s all new.

Hearts of love new construction

As I walked and looked and remembered, I stopped where I felt drawn to, and drew a simple heart outline with a piece of colored chalk. Inside the heart, I wrote various short sayings, all focusing on the word BE. BE LOVE. BE YOURSELF, ALWAYS. BE STRONG. BE HERE NOW. I drew butterflies and dragonflies too. It was a peaceful, meditative exercise. And it sounds easy enough.

When I visited my grandson, Dayan, later in the afternoon, I told him what my first was for the day. Wise soul that he is, he said quietly, “I know that pushed you out of your comfort zone.” And he is right. The “good girl” in me protested as I drew hearts. She said I shouldn’t write on public property. She said what if someone sees you and asks you to stop? She worried what if the rain doesn’t wash it away? I had to tell that pesky good girl that it was okay, what I was doing….and to beat it! Thankfully, she didn’t linger. She went to pout with her twin, the “perfectionist”. I laughed, and drew another heart.

Hearts of love 2

Day 101: Paint at RSVPaint


I’m loving all the opportunities for creative expression that I’m discovering in Joplin. Tonight, my mom, sister Linda and I painted together at RSVPaint, located at 420 S. Main Street. Linda and I visited this place during Third Thursday last month and signed up for a class. Mom decided to join us and I’m so glad she did.

RSVPaint started in Springfield, MO, and offers a place for budding or experienced artists to relax, sip, visit and paint. In two hours, one can create a work of art to take home. A glass of wine is offered beforehand, to remove all fear and inhibitions! Encouraged by their success in Springfield, RSVPaint branched out to Joplin and has been open here for a month. Classes are offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. A nominal fee covers the class, all supplies and materials, and a glass of wine.

We had such a relaxing and enjoyable evening. Our instructor, Coleman, was fun, engaging and a great teacher. He painted with us, staying a step ahead of us so we could follow along. Tonight’s painting was “Cherry Blossoms”. Six of us sat in front of our easels with blank canvases ready for our artistic touch. I have to admit, the glass of wine did do a great job of relaxing everyone! Conversation flowed easily among us and laughter rang out often. There is something about a fresh, blank canvas that invites creativity and gets ideas flowing. That sense of flow and energy is transmitted to the brush as soon as I pick it up.

Coleman made painting easy. He was patient and offered help when we needed it. I liked that we had a sample painting to look at, and could watch him as he created the painting with us. He also encouraged us to express ourselves and use different colors for the background if we wanted. Half of us did so. Although we all admired each other’s work, no one compared one piece of art to another. This was a very supportive environment to express ourselves in.

At the end of two hours, we all had a completed painting to take home and a great shared experience. We had so much fun chatting and creating and getting to know Coleman and each other. There are upcoming classes that will provide opportunities for more fun and more creative expression. We intend to participate again and allow our inner artists out more often!


Day 100: Circles


I am amazed to be blogging about my 100th new experience since January 1 of this year. I know I’m not quite one third of the way through the year yet, however, doing the 100th first today marks a milestone. It has been an exciting and rewarding 100 days. And it seems very fitting that for my first today, I attended a meeting about an amazing organization that is new to Joplin.

My good friend, Garen, posted an invite on his facebook page this past week about tonight’s informative event. My sister Linda saw it and told me about it and Garen emailed me to invite me as well. It seemed a perfect first for today. I had heard only a little bit about this organization and was eager to learn more.

Circles is a national initiative in which people from different social-economic groups cross barriers in the fight to end poverty in their communities. I loved that poverty was defined as not being about lack of money, but about lack of relationships and education. It’s not about people fixing other people, but rather about walking with another during a particular time in their lives. It’s about the journey and building relationships. Circles is not a hand out, or a hand up, but a hand reaching across to another person.

Ryan Melton, Joplin’s Circles Director, shared with us tonight about the launching of Circles in Joplin. Our community has learned much about coming together and helping each other to rebuild Joplin after the tornado of May 2011. This is a natural continuation of community growth and outreach that will equip families to resolve poverty and thrive. According to their website, Circles has the following objectives:

·   Mobilizing families to achieve economic stability through the long-term and consistent support of peers and volunteers from the community

·   Developing the leadership of people moving out of poverty to inform community-wide solutions to addressing poverty

·   Addressing the community and program barriers faced by families trying to move out of poverty

Local classes meet weekly for 20 weeks. Participants get in touch with their dreams and set goals to reach those dreams. Allies are a crucial part of the program. These volunteers are available to meet weekly with Circles Leaders (those who are participating in the group) to help them meet their goals. They continue as allies after the classes end. There are also Teams that assist with everything from setting up the meeting room and providing meals to discussing ways to work through barriers that keep people stuck where they are. 

I was very moved by the quality of this initiative and thrilled that it is here in Joplin. There was an excellent video with local people sharing how they have been encouraged and helped by Circles.  I signed up to receive information about becoming an Ally. I’m all about journeying alongside others, for a long time, for a short time, and offering our best to each other. On our placemats at dinner tonight was the quote, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” As a community, we will grow and become stronger as we reach out to those in need, and journey with them as allies. We will all be warmed by the light of our efforts.


Learn more about Circles here:



Day 77: Eat Sushi at Han the Sushi Man Restaurant


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!


Day 74: Dinner at Cici’s Pizza


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.