Day 197: The Rail – A Pizza Company Rogers AR

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Cousin Linda is preparing to fly home to Illinois, and that was a good reason to meet up one more time in AR to say “Until next time…”. Greg and I met Pam and Linda at Pam’s pretty home in Bella Vista. Together we traveled to the historic downtown Rogers, AR, for a fun meal at The Rail – A Pizza Company, and a first for me.

The Rail, located at 218 S. First Street, is one of the hot spots in downtown Rogers. Housed in an older building with exposed brick walls inside, this is a cool place to gather for pizza, wings, cold drinks and dinner with friends. Or cousins, in my case. I love these historic buildings with their long narrow interiors. We slid into a booth and perused menus, conveniently located on the table.

Our waiter was friendly and attentive. He kept our drinks filled and answered any questions we had. We ordered a cheeseburger pizza and The Alfred, a pizza featuring chicken, onions, mushroom and Italian sausage with an alfredo sauce. Both choices were excellent. The cheeseburger pizza even had dill pickles and mustard on it. Our barbeque wings were a great start to the meal. The wings were pleasantly crispy with a tangy and sweet mild sauce.

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We arrived early for dinner and we were fortunate to do so. The tables and booths very quickly filled up. There was a festive, chatty atmosphere as people sampled an assortment of cold beer and soda and chowed down on pizza. We had our own little party going on at our booth, as we shared pizza, chatted and laughed.

Pam introduced me to a new use for those left over crusts of pizza. Each table or booth had a bottle of honey present. She instructed us to save our crusts and dribble honey over them for a simple dessert. Another first! I had never seen this done before, at any of the pizza establishments I’ve been in. After letting my dinner settle for a few minutes, I tried a honeyed pizza crust. It was delicious and just the right finishing touch to our meal. This is a suggestion every pizza place could adopt!

We drove around downtown Rogers before heading back to Pam’s house. There were many cute and interesting shops to explore at another time. As the sun set, Pam directed us home via scenic back roads. NW Arkansas really is beautiful, well deserving of the nickname, The Natural State. I didn’t realize, until this evening that Bella Vista has several small but deep lakes in the area. We drove by two and I appreciated their peacefulness and beauty.

It’s been fun to spend time with Greg’s cousins the past few weeks. I enjoyed the holiday at the lake house near Lawrence KS and the excursions in NW Arkansas. And of course, it is the connections with people that makes these times memorable. I hope to see Linda, Tim and Mark, and their spouses and families, again soon. And Pam and her husband Jay, I’ve discovered, are a mere 40 minutes away down I-49. I intend to see them often. So it’s not goodbye. It really is see you later.

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Day 180: Dig New Potatoes at the Farm

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What a fun weekend….big city first yesterday….today, this small city girl headed to the country. My Uncle Rex and Aunt Mary own a beautiful property in Oklahoma. My sisters and I met my cousin, Mike, at his family farm for a visit and to get our hands dirty. For my first today, I dug up new potatoes.

I’ve always been a city girl. I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a child, moved to a small town in Missouri during my teen years and have enjoyed living in Joplin most of my adult life. I like the conveniences of living in town. And yet, I am drawn to the earth. I love gardening and growing plants. While I tend to focus primarily on flowers and herbs now, I also enjoy vegetable gardening. I’ve grown the easy, traditional veggies such as tomatoes and squash and green peppers. I’m not as experienced with such plants as potatoes, peas and berries.

My cousin and uncle have a large kitchen garden on their farm. Mike works long hours at his day job and then spends his evenings and Sunday afternoons tending to the many tasks around the farm and garden. Since Linda and I were in Tulsa this weekend and headed home to Joplin anyway today, we decided that we would stop by the farm on the way home. Debbie joined in the fun by driving out with us from Tulsa and then returning home again later in the day.

Dressed in casual clothes and wearing ball caps to shield our eyes and faces, we gathered in the garden, eager to help out. Mike brought buckets for picking and we spent the early afternoon filling them with ripe, luscious blackberries. I’ve picked berries before. This was fun and we popped quite a few juicy blackberries into our mouths as we worked our way along the heavily laden bushes. We were grateful for cool breezes and an overcast day. It was perfect work-in-the-garden weather.

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Mike showed us all that was growing in the garden and patiently explained the growing cycles and what was finishing up and what he still needed to plant. We moved to the rows of Golden Yukon and Red Potatoes. This was something I had not done before, dig up potatoes. Mike demonstrated how to turn the plant with a garden fork. And then we each had an opportunity to wield the fork. It was very satisfying to sink the tines of the large fork into the rich brown earth and turn the soil, exposing golden or red potatoes. They were easy to pick from the roots of the plant. We carried large 5 gallon buckets along with us and plopped the potatoes into the containers. I loved the feel of the warm moist dirt on my hands and the fragrance of the freshly turned earth.

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Speared one, accidently

We enjoyed our afternoon of picking berries and unearthing potatoes. It was fun to chat with our cousin and catch up on family news as we worked. Mike not only let us take home a generous supply of blackberries and potatoes, but cooked an amazing meal for us all too. He grilled steaks, squash and corn on the cob and had prepared large pots of green beans and new potatoes and purplehull peas before we arrived. What an amazing meal and except for the steaks, it was all from the garden, this year’s and frozen produce from last summer’s bounty. He even surprised us with homemade blueberry and blackberry pies, from berries he had picked the day before.

I’m back in the city tonight, tired from an afternoon of harvesting and still full from that wonderful meal. It was so good to see my cousin and visit with my uncle and aunt, listening to family stories and laughing over my uncle’s escapades. They are kind hearted people full of grace and wisdom. I love and appreciate them and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be back! It’s time to learn to plant corn and drive a tractor.

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Cousin Mike and sisters, Debbie and Linda, on the farm

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A good afternoon of work

Day 179: Front Row Seats at Wicked

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I love musicals. I’ve seen several live performances, in Dallas and Tulsa, including Phantom of the Opera, The Addams Family, Jekyll & Hyde and Wicked. Today, my sisters Linda and Debbie and my niece Ashley and I attended a matinee performance of Wicked at the Tulsa Performing Art Center. This was my fifth time to see this amazing musical, however, it was my first time to see it from a front row seat. Special thanks go to Ashley for securing such spectacular seats.

Wicked is the untold story behind the Wizard of Oz. Long before Dorothy showed up from Kansas, two girls meet in Oz and form an unlikely friendship. One is beautiful, popular, ambitious and blond. The other is intelligent, fiery, misunderstood and green. The story follows the girls through high school and beyond. The relationship that develops between these two girls and how Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch of the West while the other becomes Glinda the Good makes for “the most complete….and completely satisfying musical….in a long time.” (USA Today)

The musical premiered on Broadway in 2003 and has had a continual run since. The original Broadway musical launched the careers of Idina Menzel, who played the green skinned Elphaba and Kristen Chenoweth, who played the perky Glinda. The success of the Broadway production spawned a North American Tour that has played for more than 2 million viewers. I have had the privilege of being one of those viewers.

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The musical is the perfect blend of humor, drama, romance and angst. Cast members in this production include Gina Beck as Galinda/Glinda, Emma Hunton as Elphaba and Nick Adams as Fiyero. All had incredible voices. Gina captured Glinda’s bubbly blond personality while Emma’s powerful voice and expressive face brought depth to her portrayal of Elphaba. Nick was a handsome Fiyero with just the right amount of fun loving swagger and sensuality. Sitting in the front row was absolutely amazing. I could see every expression of the performers, which added considerably to the overall performance. When Elphaba sang, “I’m Not That Girl”, I could see tears glittering in her eyes.

Glinda, with her narcissism and use of made up words, contributes most of the humor to Wicked. She appears shallow and yet she genuinely comes to care for the green girl who has always considered herself an outsider. I love the scene with the song “Popular” in which Glinda endeavors to give Elphaba a makeover, attempting to ease the girl’s awkwardness and give her a measure of popularity. I can’t help but like Glinda. She sees the world simply and at heart, she is truly good.

But it is Elphaba whom I am drawn to. Her outward appearance frightens people and yet, she possesses a keen intelligence and a compassionate heart, and yes, a quick temper. She despises injustice and popularity is not important to her. My heart aches for her as she reaches out, tentatively, to connect with others. When her trust in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is dashed, Elphaba embraces the wicked persona that everyone expects her to have. Her song, “Defying Gravity”, is the most powerful of the musical and the turning point in the story. Tears fill my eyes every time I hear it and see Elphaba’s transformation from misunderstood young woman to Wicked Witch of the West.

What a fun afternoon this was, watching Wicked and sharing time and space with my family. I never tire of doing either! Being so close to the stage allowed me to totally tune out the thousands of people in the audience and be immersed into the magic of the musical. I’m afraid the experience may have set a precedent for future musicals, as I would now like to see all of them from the vantage point of the first few rows. Ashley, work your magic, for Phantom of the Opera will return next April!

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Day 144: Girls Outing to Andy’s Custard

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My planned first for today didn’t involve family or food. However, when the day shifted and an opportunity presented itself for me to get together with my granddaughter, Aubrey, sister Linda, and her granddaughter, London, I seized it. Aubrey, 5 years old, and London, 4 years old, adore each other and treat each other more like sisters than second cousins. Aubrey misses London, and vice versa, when too much times passes without a play date.

We had a fun lunch at Chuck E Cheese. The girls chowed down on pizza, played games and danced with the mouse, Mr. Cheese himself. Since we’ve all eaten at this place many times, I considered dancing with him also, as a first. But that didn’t seem appropriate somehow.

As the girls used up their tokens, we discussed what we could all do, for my first today, that could involve the girls. We decided as we were leaving Chuck E Cheese to go to Andy’s for frozen custard. The little girls weren’t sure if they had eaten there before. Linda and I knew we had been there, and  frozen custard isn’t on my list of acceptable foods, but off we went.

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As we arrived in the parking lot, the girls recognized Andy’s. Everyone was agreeable to trying something new that they had not eaten before. London and Aubrey got children’s sundaes with rainbow sprinkles, Linda tried a new vanilla – chocolate concrete and I had Andy’s special for the month of May, a strawberry shortcake sundae. I did get the smallest size available!

The four of us had fun trying new treats. We chatted as we ate and snapped pictures to post with my blog and to capture a visual reminder of our special outing. The girls got to play at Linda’s house afterwards. These young ladies know how to get all the joy and fun possible out of spending time together. Watching them, listening to their animated conversations, clapping as they danced from their hearts, brought the assurance that all was well in my world. Children are wonderful teachers, showing by example how to live in the moment and find the happiness and perfection there. Thank you, Aubrey and London.

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Day 143: Godzilla 2014

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After an emotional week, with the tornado anniversary, I wanted today’s first to be light and fun. My sister Linda and I originally intended to take a line dancing lesson this evening. We showed up, but no one else did! I took that as a very strong sign to redirect. So we checked movie listings and times and headed to the theater with the intention of seeing the new X-Men movie. When we arrived at the theater, and saw the number of cars in the parking lot, we considered the fact that the X-Men movie just released today and since we only had a few minutes before the movie started, and we agreed we didn’t want to sit on the front row in the theater, we opted instead for Godzilla.

It was a good decision for a light hearted, fun first. The movie had great special effects, and a decent story line. We enjoyed it and had a wonderful time discussing it afterwards. The movie stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen and was directed by Garth Edwards. It is rated PG-13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 3 minutes.

Without giving away too much of the movie, Godzilla is more than a film about a mega monster on a rampage. In fact, Godzilla may not be the “bad guy” in this movie at all! It is a movie with several themes running through it including man’s negative effect on nature, the fragility of family relationships and allowing balance in nature to be maintained in the way it is meant to be. There is nothing very deep or powerful here. It is intended as a fun film and a remake of the original Godzilla movie.

And that is why I wanted to see this new version. I grew up watching the old Godzilla movies, with the Japanese actors and the English voice overs that never quite matched up with the lips moving. As a kid, I didn’t care about that. I just enjoyed seeing this massive, if somewhat clumsy, monster scare people. I was most familiar with the 1962 version, but I watched them all, including Mothra vs Godzilla. I’m pretty sure I owned a Godzilla figurine.

This latest remake was reminiscent of the Mothra vs Godzilla movie as it features Mothra type creatures that Godzilla does battle with. The Japanese element is there, although thankfully, there were no voice overs or lips moving without words. Maybe it was just our audience, but the first few times Ken Watanabe’s character said the name “Godzilla”, there were giggles and outright laughter. I confess Linda and I were among those who chuckled.

I’m glad we ended up here. I needed to smile and laugh and remember a childhood favorite. And hanging out for a couple of hours with the world’s most famous monster was like running into a friend that I hadn’t seen since kindergarten. It was fun to catch up, remember a few stories and be amazed at how much time has passed since last we met.

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Godzilla, 1962

Day 138: Goad’s Antique Mall

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My sister Debbie and her daughter Ashley, both from Broken Arrow, OK, spent the weekend in Joplin. Along with my other sister, Linda, and my mom, we had a great time chatting and laughing, sharing meals, dropping in on my daughter Adriel at work, sitting around my fire pit last night, and today, visiting flea markets. Wanting to check out a new store this afternoon, for my first, the five of us headed to Carthage, MO.

Carthage is a beautiful, historic town, and the ideal place for shopping in vintage shops and flea markets. Except, apparently, on Sundays! After our group enjoyed a fun lunch with my son, Nate, who was on patrol today, we drove around the beautiful town square. I had a destination in mind. But as we pulled up in front of the store, we spotted a large sign in the window stating, “No longer open on Sunday”. Not to be deterred from a first, we flowed, we rolled, literally on around the square. We found Goad’s Antique Mall open on the north side of the square.

Located at 111 E. 3rd Street, Goad’s is packed with antiques, collectibles, primitives, furniture and fun junk. I love browsing through a flea market or antique store. You never know what you will find. And there are so many treasures to sort through, pick over and examine. Each of us had specific items on our wish list: Linda was looking for a dresser or a small table and chairs set, my mom likes unique jewelry and garden finds, my sister Debbie and niece Ashley, who host an incredible Halloween party each year, were searching for items that could be transformed into decorations. And I was looking for metal containers and an old chair to use in the garden.

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Parked right beside the front door was a round metal washtub on a stand. Perfect! I love the first washtub I found and have it in my garden already, filled with plants. I was hoping to find another and here it was. I also found a slightly battered metal bucket and another tall metal container to use as planters. And there hanging on a wall in the marvelously crowded back room was an old wooden chair with a metal panel screwed to the seat. This wonderful find was only $10. I have a couple of enamelware basins that I want to use in the garden. Filling the basins with dirt and flowers, they will then be perched on the seats of old chairs and placed in the backyard. This was my first chair and I had found it at a bargain price. There were actually several $10 chairs. I selected this one because I liked that the woven seat had been replaced with a square of metal.

My niece, Ashley, provided much amusement as she searched for wicked looking objects to use as Halloween props. She began to remind me of the quirky character Wednesday, from the Addams Family movies , as she expressed glee over such finds as hay hooks, saws, tongs, and chains. I look forward to seeing how she uses these items at her party!

We left Carthage very satisfied with our purchases. Once again, I was directed onto a slightly different path and obviously ended up exactly where I was supposed to be. These seemingly insignificant experiences are teaching me so much about how life flows and how I can resist the flow and create discomfort and disappointment for myself, or I can be receptive, accepting the changes, and open myself to delightful surprises. I see how going with the flow brings joy. May I allow these experiences to continue opening me to the larger truths about life and walking the path of non-resistance.

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Day 133: Chemical Peel at Salon 529 and Day Spa

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My sweet sister, Linda, gifted me with today’s first, a facial chemical peel. She had one done recently and decided to help me do something I’d never done before. In fact, I’ve never even considered having a chemical peel. Coupon in hand, I met Justin at Salon 529, located in downtown Joplin at 529 S Main Street. I didn’t know what to expect at all.

Justin was friendly, courteous and fun. I told him about my year of firsts and that the chemical peel was going to be my first for today. He explained what he was doing, as he worked, and we chatted about my year of new experiences. Justin applied a glycolic acid solution to my face and let it work for 90 seconds. There was no pain, just a slight tingling sensation, and no blistering or redness. Justin then carefully rinsed my face with cool water, removing the solution. After applying sunscreen and a moisturizer, I was done!

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Justin recommended a series of five peels over the next five or six weeks, to receive the maximum benefit. A chemical peel works by removing the layer of dead cells that dulls the skin. It minimizes wrinkles, reduces fine lines around the eyes and mouth, reduces age spots and overall, improves the look and feel of the skin. I have made peace with aging, and have decided to do so gracefully, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t take very good care of the skin, hair and body that I have! After one session, the skin on my face feels silky smooth and looks great.

Since this was also my first time to visit Salon 529, Justin gave me a tour. I love the buildings downtown with their exposed brick walls and high ceilings. Salon 529 has a functional yet beautiful space. Downstairs are the stations for washing and styling hair and doing facials. In the spacious upstairs area there are massage rooms, including a couples room for massages times two! Near the large windows there are stations for manicures and pedicures, and applying eyelashes, and in the back, a room for waxing and spray on tans. I was impressed. Salon 529 and Day Spa is truly a full service salon, offering a variety of services and packages.

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Justin set me up for my next appointment and gave me a Welcome goody bag.  It was a pleasure to meet him. I enjoyed talking with him and appreciated getting the tour. I can highly recommend Justin and Salon 529 and Day Spa. Although the words “chemical peel” can sound intimidating, this was a fun and informative adventure! I’m grateful that Linda encouraged me to experience a first that I probably wouldn’t have thought of!

Day 95: Linda’s First 5K Run

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Today’s first was special. I got to be present for my sister Linda’s first ever 5K run. She has been in training with a group called Run for God, that then participated in Joplin’s Amazing Grace event. I passed on running a 5K until my knees are better. But I was glad for the opportunity to cheer Linda on and be there as she crossed the finish line.

This is the first year for the Amazing Grace run, and organizer Tom Rogers hopes to hold the event yearly.  5K and 10K races were offered. Originally the race was intended as a “graduation” for the 120 people who completed the Run for God training. But ultimately 510 participants showed up from the Joplin area, Kansas City, St. Louis and Tulsa.

Awards were given to the top male and female racers in each age group. Every participant received a Finisher’s Medal. Proceeds from the race went to Crossline Churches of the Joplin Area, Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission, the LovinGrace Home and God’s Resort.

I’m really proud of my sister. She decided to do something she’s never done before and once she committed to this race, she never wavered. Linda completed 12 weeks of training with the Run for God group, which met every Monday night. She met new people. And being in training has made her more aware of her health and eating habits, causing her to make changes in her diet.

Energy was high this morning among the group of runners gathered at Forest Park Baptist Church, in spite of the chilly weather. Linda found one of the women from her training group to run with. How wonderful to partner up to encourage each other to keep going. Linda was hoping she wouldn’t finish last. And she certainly didn’t! In an amazingly short time, she was coming down the final stretch toward the finish line. I can’t think of a better first than watching someone I love and care about experience an exciting first of her own. Way to go, Linda!

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Day 71: Create a Welcome Spring Porch for Linda

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I redo the décor on my front porch several times a year, changing it with the seasons and holidays. No firsts possible there. So for today’s first, I created a Welcome Spring front porch for my sister, Linda!

My sister bought a home in Joplin last year, graciously allowing me to act as her realtor. She purchased a cute bungalow style house that is just right for her. Among the favorite features of the house is a cute front porch, the perfect spot to relax, enjoy the outdoors and watch the world amble by.

That front porch was like a blank canvas to me. I love pulling ideas together to create a homey and attractive space. My sister’s birthday was last week, and for her gift, I offered to fix up her porch for spring. Truly, we both benefit! I enjoy the creative process and watching how it all comes together. That is part of the fun, finding a focal piece, in this case a rug, and then finding, in various stores, the rest of the pieces that complement each other. As in other areas of my life, the intention went out and delightful manifestations flowed back.

Creating welcoming spaces, where people can be themselves, is part of who I am, and my purpose in life. I am offering in smaller ways now as I journey toward offering in bigger, more expansive ways. The joy is the same though, whether I am creating a retreat center called Rivendell, or fresh porch décor for my sister. Happy birthday, Linda!

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