Day 151: Zumba Demo During National Senior Health & Fitness Day 2014


At age 56, I don’t consider myself a senior. No matter what my future age, I may never consider myself a senior! Age is just a number. Most days I feel much younger and some days, I definitely feel every one of my years, and more.

National Senior Health & Fitness Day is celebrated nationwide, usually on the last Wednesday of May. It is an event in which thousands of older adults can take part in fairs and programs designed to promote the importance of regular physical activity and to showcase what local organizations are doing to improve the health and fitness of seniors in their communities. The Joplin Family Y participated this year, for the first time I believe, and held their Senior Health & Fitness Day today, from noon – 4:00, at the South Y location.

Non members could sign up for a free one month membership. All participants could win prizes playing bingo, receive other give aways, eat snacks, visit the 20 vendor booths set up and watch and participate in exercise classes, including Zumba Gold. I am a member of that class, participating three times a week under the instruction of Zumba master, Dave. My first for today was to take part in a Zumba demonstration during the National Senior Health & Fitness Day at the Y.

This was a great experience. Our first demo took the form of a flash mob. While seniors were milling about and playing bingo, Dave, standing alone among them, started the music for one of our songs. The rest of us came from varying places around the gymnasium, joining him. We did a lively routine and included a hilarious moment where the class, all ladies, shouted out Dave’s name as we shimmied.


Moving to a designated area, we did a portion of our regular class, inviting others to participate. Various people joined us for a song or two, or the entire class. Although the gym was very warm and we missed the fans we normally have blasting away in our upstairs exercise room, we gave it our very best effort and enjoyed the extra day of Zumba. Dave, expressive and fun loving, did a great job leading the dances. He was aware of the warmer temps and shortened the class so we wouldn’t overheat.

Back out among the older adults in the main part of the gym, we did our last routine, a very funny number we recently learned. It was the perfect way to finish up, with laughter and smiles and applause. We were all sweaty but happy to have participated and to show the benefits of Zumba. It is a great form of exercise and a great way to connect with others.

Victoria Moran, author of Younger by the Day: 365 Ways Rejuvenate Your Body & Revitalize Your Spirit says, “Just because you’re grown up and then some doesn’t mean settling into the doldrums of predictability. Surprise people. Surprise yourself.” I love that. I hope today, as we appeared behind Dave, moving to the strong beat of Latin music, that we surprised people and showed them that being healthy can be fun. I know I continue to surprise, and delight, myself during this year of firsts. May I ever continue to do so.


Zumba instructor Dave, and me, after the demos

Day 150: Make Moisturizing Body Wash


I enjoy making my own beauty products. I like the simplicity of the process and I like knowing exactly what’s in each product. If I don’t include it, it’s not in there. Therefore, I can eliminate chemicals and dyes and preservatives. I make a facial serum that I really love and apparently, so does my skin. As one of my previous firsts, I made my own vanilla sugar body scrub which is yummy enough to eat! This evening, for today’s first, I made moisturizing body wash.

I’ve used Bath & Body products for years, favoring the Warm Vanilla Sugar shower soap and lotion. It’s been my signature scent! However, as I used up the last of the shower soap and lotion today, I decided to make my own soap, using a recipe my mom gave me. I’ve had that recipe tucked away, waiting for the perfect time. This was it.

At some future date, I’d like to try making bar soap as a first. But I enjoy using liquid soap in the shower, on my bath pouf. This body wash took only minutes to make, which is much less time than it takes to make bar soap. The simple, pure ingredients make this wash gentle enough to use on my face and also makes a rich lathering soap for using in the shower. I saved the empty container from my Warm Vanilla Sugar soap to reuse with my homemade version.

Here’s the recipe:

2/3 cup liquid castile soap

1/4 cup raw, unfiltered honey

2 teaspoons oil (I used liquid coconut oil, but jojoba, sweet almond, sesame or olive oil could be used as well)

1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil

50 – 60 drops essential oils (I used 45 drops of lavender oil and 15 drops of calendula oil)

Combine all the ingredients in a bottle with a squirt top, shaking to mix. Shake gently before each use. Because the recipe doesn’t contain water, the wash has a shelf life of one year and does not need to be refrigerated.

I had most of the ingredients already and the liquid castile soap and raw honey were easy to pick up at a health food store. The honey is the secret ingredient in this recipe. Honey has amazing benefits for the body, inside and out. It helps the skin to retain moisture and elasticity without drying it out. Instead of making the body wash sticky, honey just makes it nice and smooth. It is important to use raw, unfiltered honey. I bought a large jar of it at Fox Farm Foods for about $12.

The castile soap, which is a vegetable based soap, ensures the body wash has enough suds, without the addition of chemical foaming agents. I bought the unscented Dr. Bonner’s Pure Baby Mild soap, also at Fox Farm Foods. A large bottle was $10. The vitamin E repairs and moisturizes and is an antioxidant. It can also prolong the shelf life of homemade personal care products. Adding additional oil that is easily absorbed, such as liquid coconut, jojoba or grapeseed oil, makes this body wash extra moisturizing. And lastly, the essential oils add fragrance naturally and depending on which oil is used, help soothe, heal or repair the skin. I chose lavender and calendula for their gentleness for all skin types. Calendula is very healing also. There are many essential oils to choose from for a variety of skin types and conditions.

I tried my new body wash by squirting a dab onto my palm and washing my hands. So lovely! The body wash was sudsy, delicately fragrant, rinsed cleanly and left my hands soft and silky smooth. I’m thrilled with the results. In the next few days, I’ll be making a moisturizing body lotion to pair with the wash. Move aside, Bath & Body!


Day 149: S’mores Around the Fire Pit


In spite of the mass of dark clouds looming to the southwest, my sister Linda, Greg and I gathered around a blazing fire in the backyard, to make the first batch of s’mores using the new fire pit. This was Linda’s idea. Recently during a family gathering around the fire, she lamented that I didn’t have the ingredients to make s’mores.

Tonight, she brought the marshmallows, chocolate candy bars and graham crackers. I supplied the fire…and the drinks. She had a peach margarita while Greg and I sipped on cold Angry Orchard Ciders. The clouds lumbered on without shedding a drop of rain. The stars came out overhead. And the crackle of the fire enchanted us. We were ready to make s’mores.

I looked up the origin of this classic campfire treat, popular in the US and Canada. According to Wikipedia, s’mores is a contraction of the phrase “some more”. The first recorded version of the recipe was found in the publication Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, in 1927, and remained in girl scout publications labeled as Some Mores until 1973. Merriam-Webster marks 1974 as the first use of the word s’mores.

We prepared our chocolate pieces and graham crackers and then, using long forks, toasted marshmallows. There is an art to marshmallow toasting. Hold them too close to the fire and they blaze up, charring on the outside but remaining cool inside. Patience is required to slowly brown the outside, allowing the inside to become warm and gooey. Once the marshmallows were evenly browned and starting to sag a bit on the fork, they were ready to slide off onto a square of chocolate, which in turn rested on a larger square of graham cracker. Topped with another piece of chocolate and another square of cracker and they were ready to eat.


The treats tasted great. Except Linda ate her first one and realized she forgot the chocolate! We decided it wasn’t really a s’more, but a marshmallow treat. She, of course, had to make another. Like me, she has been limiting her sugar intake, so while the s’mores were very tasty, they were also very sweet. One was all I wanted.

It was fun to sit around the fire pit, laughing, talking, munching on s’mores and watching the fire. I could sit and stare into those flames for hours, fascinated by the twisting, leaping tongues of fire. I’m glad Linda thought of this first, and the fire pit has now had its s’mores initiation. Coming up in the near future….a hot dog roast! It’s going to be a fun summer.


Day 148: Read and Reflect on Caged Bird Poem


Maya Angelou left her earthly body behind today, at the age of 86. She also left behind a great body of work including seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry and a list of plays, movies and television shows spanning 50 years. Her story, of starting at the bottom of the heap, as she described her early life, and learning to thrive, has inspired so many.

Today, listening to the news of her death, I heard part of her famous poem, “Caged Bird” and was moved to tears. I realized, first of all, that although I’ve heard snippets of the poem, I’ve never read the whole thing. And secondly, I was impacted by the words that I heard because my symbol for this year of moving beyond is the uncaged bird. Not a caged bird. Not just a bird. But a bird that has escaped her cage and taken flight, soaring higher and higher, reveling in her freedom. For my first today, I read Dr. Angelou’s poem and reflected on it.

Here is the complete poem:

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps on the back of the wind

and floats downstream till the current ends

and dips his wings in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage

can seldom see through his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with fearful trill

of the things unknown but longed for still

and his tune is heard on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

of things unknown but longed for still

 and his tune is heard on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

What a beautiful poem. It is hard for me to believe I’ve never read it before now, and yet, this was the perfect time, during my journey, to become aware of it. The uncaged bird has been a significant and powerful symbol for me. I know why the caged bird sings also. She longs for freedom, and yet, limited in her ability to fly, bound by fear, she remains caged. I realized several years ago, as I felt myself caged by limitations and fears, that I was the one who built my own cage, bar by bar. I was the one who placed myself within this small, cramped space and yet longed for something more. Fortunately for me, and for all of us, the door to that cage is unlocked. It only required a desire strong enough to test the door for me to gain my freedom. Finding my own voice, opening my throat to sing, was the beginning of my exhilarating flight.

I love the poem’s imagery of the bird daring to claim the sky and naming the sky as his own. The expansiveness of the sky is unlimited, open, full of the breezes of opportunity and abundance. I, too, love being there, soaring, stretching, becoming all that I am meant to be. It takes courage from within to step out into the unknown and leave a cage that feels safe and familiar, no matter how confining. It’s scary to take that leap of faith that hurls you into the air, where you must fly or plummet. I have not regretted those steps or that leap. Nor would I return to my cage. I have grown too much. I would no longer fit within those constricting bars. For that, I am grateful.


Day 147: Restore Vintage Chairs


Last year, as my sister Debbie and her family prepared to move into a new home, I was gifted with two old wooden chairs that my grandfather owned, and supposedly built. The chairs were wobbly and needed some repairs. Debbie had used them in her pool area, with plants plopped on the seats so no one would risk sitting on them. I was thrilled to receive them and had visions of them in my backyard garden.

Today, my first was to restore these two chairs, in the hopes of making them usable again rather than decorative. What a satisfying project it turned out to be! Greg supervised my work and stepped in a couple of times to show me how to use a tool. But for the most part, he allowed me to do the work. Like many people, I can competently use a hammer and screw driver. But when it comes to using power tools, or a hand saw, I’ve gladly stepped aside to allow someone else, anyone else, to use those more intimidating tools.

I started by assessing the chairs and determining what needed to be done, with Greg’s help. Both chairs had been repaired in the past, and we smiled over some of those repairs. There were many small tacks to remove and on the lighter colored chair, at least 6 layers of fabric on the seat, all rotted. The lighter chair also had missing dowel rods in the back and some cracked and split pieces that needed glued, repaired or replaced. Looking it over,  I didn’t think it could be made usable. That was okay. It could be a decorative chair in the garden and hold a pot of flowers. The red chair was in much better condition although it needed tightening up and minor repair work. I was confident this chair could be usable again.


The chairs had the same frame style, but the seats and backs were very different. Whether they were always that way, or whether multiple repairs had gradually changed their appearances, I didn’t know. My paternal grandfather died when I was 5 years old. I have warm memories of sitting on his lap and tipping my head back to watch him laugh and talk. I’d reach up to touch the stubble that always seemed present on his chin. He loved to make things and tinker with cars and I enjoyed playing in his large workshop, my imagination running wild as I poked through containers of nails, bolts and assorted gadgets. We called him Poopaw. The day he passed away, Poopaw had a premonition of his impending death, and visited all his children and grandchildren, either in person or by phone. Shortly after his round of visits was completed, he had a massive heart attack and died.

My father passed away 4 years ago after fighting valiantly against pancreatic cancer. I can’t ask him questions either about the chairs. I can only preserve them and enjoy them. I think Dad and Poopaw would be surprised and delighted that I did most of the restoration myself. Today I used a hammer and a pry bar, which were no biggies. But I also learned to use a hand saw, bar clamps and wood glue, a compressor and nail gun, and a speed square. The compressor and nail gun, noisy but very efficient, has always scared me! The thought of putting a nail through my own hand has caused me to avoid it. I did great though.


The red chair simply needed reinforcement with wood glue and a few nails. It became very sturdy and usable again quickly. I like the chippy paint and the uneven boards across the back and the seat. The lighter colored chair was more challenging. I put new dowel rods in the back, and glued cracked and broken sections and then reinforced those areas with nails. After removing layer after layer of material from the seat, I had a clean frame but no seat to sit upon. I went looking for inspiration and found it in my own backyard. Lath work that had been removed from the upstairs after the tornado was piled on the picnic table. Greg had saved it for making birdhouses. Looking at it, I knew I’d found the perfect material for the chair seat. It was even faded to a nice gray tone, which matched the chair. I sawed those narrow boards to the correct length and attached them to the framework.  I was thrilled with the results. The chair that I thought was beyond repair became sturdy and ready for use.


Both chairs are now in my meditation area. I don’t want to paint them. I don’t want to make them look like new again. I appreciate the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi…beauty in imperfection.  The chippy paint, the uneven boards, the faded glory, even the repairs present a beauty and grace of their own. My grandfather loved these chairs. My dad loved them as well. My sister loved them and cared for them and passed them on to me.  I love these chairs. They have a new home in my garden and I will enjoy using them. And perhaps, occasionally, I’ll feel the warmth of my grandfather’s or father’s smile, and know they are near and pleased to see that the chairs are still being cherished.



Day 146: Summer Vignette in Vintage Suitcase


It may have been raining outside, but inside, I was creating a bit of summer for my first! I have a lovely, slightly battered vintage suitcase. It most likely was an inexpensive purchase. The exterior has heavy cardboard covered with thick, textured paper and metal edging. That paper covering is scratched and rubbed off in several places. The interior is covered in a thin beige and silvery blue paper that has faded to a delicate hue.

I love this suitcase. I like to imagine the journeys it has taken in its many years. It came to me by way of Greg’s family and someday I’ll pass it on to one of our children or grandchildren. For years it has sat in a closet, a container for old family photographs of the Moore Family. Recently I withdrew the suitcase from its hiding place, sorted through the photos and stored them in a plastic bin. I wanted to display the suitcase.

Today, perched atop my dresser in the bedroom, the open suitcase became the backdrop for a summer vignette. I love creating these little slices of life. A table top, a shelf, and now this suitcase, all become blank canvases that welcome my creativity. I get an image in my mind of what I want the completed vignette to look like and then I search for the right items to create that look.

I had purchased summery looking pitchers and containers recently at Michael’s, all on sale. I gathered those, a pile of vintage linens, and an assortment of greenery, a candle wreath, a candle and speckled eggs and laid them all out on the bed. I also had an adorable paper garland that I had purchased at The Fancy Flamingo Flea Market. It is made of old pages from a hymnal. Already, a theme was growing in my mind.

The vignette came together quickly. I love summer whites, so allowing the black suitcase with its faded interior paper to provide most of the color, I selected mostly white pieces and linens. The speckled eggs in the mesh container added additional color along with the greens and yellows of the candle ring. Stepping back, I liked where I was headed….but I needed something else. Then the perfect piece came to mind. I had the painting Greg had bought me at Cooper’s with the wonderful Rumi quote: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” The muted greens, golds and hint of rust worked well with my other items. And the quote seemed so fitting.

Lastly, I dug through the box of old photos, looking for one that I remembered seeing, of Greg’s parents, Bob and Leta Moore, at the beach. Looking oh so young and happy, frolicking in the surf at the beach, this was such a perfect picture to complete the scene. This suitcase came to me through them. The garland with its folded hymnal banners made me think of Leta, who played the piano beautifully every Sunday at church.

Just as the vignette captures a bit of “summer”, so this snapshot captured a moment in the early summer of their lives.  Their fall and winter years must have seemed so far away at that time. I like looking at that picture and seeing their bright, shining faces. Leta journeyed through her fall years and left us far too soon. Bob, at 93, is very much in the winter of his life. He still has that mischievous smile even though he is so weary.  I look forward to showing him a picture of the decorated suitcase. I can already hear him snort as he laughs and mutters something about those young whippersnappers who didn’t know what they were doing. Ah, but they did so many things right, that young couple, not the least of which was to live and love well, and pass on that legacy to their children and grandchildren.


Day 145: Sketching Outside


Years ago, I sketched often. I mostly drew from photographs or illustrations in books and especially enjoyed drawing animals. All three of my children are artistic, and much better artists than I am. Some of my favorite family memories are of all of us sitting around the table, drawing, and then showing off our work to each other.

I’m not sure when I stopped drawing. As the kids grew up and got busy with other activities, I grabbed my sketch pad and pencils less and less often. Several years ago, I purchased new pencils and a fat sketching notebook and dabbled a little. I was disappointed with the results. I had these images in my head of what I wanted to capture but I seemed to have lost the ability to bring it to paper. I put the materials away in the closet and there they have stayed….until today.

For my first, I uncovered my drawing supplies and sat in my garden, intent on enjoying the scratch of pencil on paper, capturing light and shadow and withholding criticism. Some things have to be relearned, or at least, reawakened. What a perfect time, during this year of moving beyond, to do so with my artistic ability. My recent forays into artistic expression at Local Color Art Gallery and RSVPaint have helped to stir that desire to awaken to my creative side again.

It was beautiful and serene, sitting in the meditation area in the garden, art supplies nearby, cat curled up on my lap, a fresh breeze keeping me cool. I didn’t want to focus on technique or capturing an exact image so much as I wanted to enjoy the process and pay attention to the way the light and shadow created form. Appreciating the riot of colors in the garden, I made a mental note to pick up a good set of colored pencils. For today, I’d be sketching in black and white.

I settled first on one of the large rocks in the Japanese garden. With a variety of colors, angles and planes, it made a perfect study of light and shadow. Although I’m sure I chewed on my lip a couple of times, this was not about the outcome so much as the practice. Drawing for me became a meditation, bringing my focus to one object, sketching slowly, enjoying the moment. The rest of the world slipped away.


Next I drew the Japanese Maple, my hand moving more quickly, capturing the trees slender truck and branches easily. The leaves could have involved a lot of detail work, but I just wanted to get the general shape of the tree and again, pay attention to the contrast between light and dark. As I was completing the maple the rumble of thunder drew my eyes up and to the west. Dark clouds had piled up as I sketched. It was time to leave the peace of the garden and head indoors. The rain began minutes later.

I really enjoyed this experience of sketching outdoors for the first time, capturing what was before me by focusing on contrast. This will be an ongoing practice, a deliberate, intentional habit of sketching. I have images in my head, after all, that I want to draw. I’ll continue to develop my ability until I can transfer them to paper.


Day 144: Girls Outing to Andy’s Custard


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.


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.


Day 143: Godzilla 2014


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.


Godzilla, 1962

Day 142: Butterfly Garden and Overlook Dedication


May 22, 2011. It is a day Joplin, MO residents will not forget. Cannot forget.  Ask anyone who lived in this city on that day what they were doing at 5:30 on that Sunday afternoon, and they can immediately tell you. I was taking shelter in a closet under the stairs, with Greg. As we stepped inside that cramped space, the first 2X4 board came crashing through a window. The next few minutes were surreal. We first stood, then crouched, as the sounds of breaking glass, splintering wood, crashing debris and that unbelievable roar of fury assailed our ears. Briefly, I calmly considered that these were to be my last moments as the house shook and groaned and then began to lift upwards.

When I stepped out of the battered house, all I saw was ruin and rubble and brokenness. It is a sight seared into my brain. Thankfully, we were unhurt. Our family members were unhurt, although my mother’s house was also hit and my daughter and son-in-law lost their house and vehicles, riding out the storm a block from their home in the car. Joplin was changed. We were changed.

Much progress and healing has taken place since that day. We came together as a community, rolled up our sleeves, literally, and began to rebuild with the help of thousands and thousands of volunteers. We moved through our days, experiencing daily reminders of what had happened, and journeyed onward. On this, our third anniversary, we collectively remembered, and grew thoughtful, emotions rising with surprising strength.

For my first today, as I reflected on my journey and the city’s, I attended a very special dedication for a very special place, the Butterfly Garden and Overlook, located in the northeast corner of Cunningham Park. This park, located at 26th and Maiden Lane, took a direct hit May 22. It was completely destroyed. Work began the next day, clearing debris and cleaning it up. Located across the street from what was St. Johns Hospital, many consider this area ground zero. As the park was restored, it became a memorial park with a children’s reflection pool in honor of the lost children who would never play here again. There is a memorial wall with the names of the 161 victims of the tornado, a memorial fountain, a tribute to the volunteers, new playground areas for the kids, including a Boom Town play area built by Extreme Home Makeover while they were in Joplin, and 161 trees, one for each person lost.

It is very fitting that as we heal, a sacred space for doing so has been included in Cunningham Park. This beautiful addition is a collaborative project between the TKF Foundation, who believes in the restorative power of nature, Drury University, Springfield, MO, Joplin Parks & Recreation, Cornell University, US Forest Service, MO Dept of Conservation, Walmart Foundation, Forest ReLeaf of MO, Great River Assoc. and TILL Design. Sitting in front of this amazing space during the dedication, listening to representatives from the different organizations speak, my eyes filled with tears.


According to the program provided during the dedication, the Butterfly Garden and Overlook is an open space, sacred place for individuals to work through their grief over what was lost, whether a person or an object such as a home. The garden is set up to flow through four phases. “Accepting the Reality of the Loss” begins as visitors pass through the front door of the lost home. The path winds through the site, allowing for “Processing the Pain of Grief”. Benches are set up as points of reflection, including a bench with a journal beneath it so that visitors can write about their loss and “Adjust to a World Without What Was Lost”.

The steel outlines of the three homes represent all homes erased during the storm and storyboards placed through the first structure educate on the destruction, acts of heroism, survival and the miracle of the human spirit. “We Move On But Do Not Forget” completes the phases. The butterfly attracting flowers create a unifying circle within the garden. The waterwall has 38 segments that represent the minutes the tornado was on the ground. A void at minute 7 marks the moment the park was struck.

I was very moved as I strolled around the beautiful space, crowded with other visitors and yet still peaceful and serene. This quote by David Willard is on one of the fountains in the garden: “The biggest and most disastrous moments in a person’s life can be the most defining of a person’s character and a person’s heart.” I would say that is true of a city also. It is true of Joplin.  I am grateful for the organizations that have brought this idea into existence and for the promise of restoration that it offers. I will return here often to think, to write, and to allow my own memories to heal.