Day 365: My Review of My Year of Firsts

2014 Review

Today was my final day of firsts. What an amazing year. I’ve spent time the past few days looking over blog posts and the past year, remembering and thinking on the valuable lessons I’ve learned. Today, to complete my year of firsts, with a first, I created a year end review with the Magisto app. It proved too cumbersome to do a slideshow with 365 pictures, although that would have been cool! The Magisto movie uses 30 pics from this past year, all firsts, to capture this exceptional year.

And exceptional it was. My year of firsts was undertaken to push me BEYOND….beyond what I was used to doing, beyond my comfort zone, beyond the habits I had settled into. Firsts like delivering roses to strangers on Valentine’s Day, creating a video for the Hobbit Fellowship Contest and screaming as hard as I could in a primal scream did indeed push me. Other firsts required more of me and didn’t allow me to pull back, like watching sad movies and being okay with my tears, contacting a teacher I hadn’t been in touch with for more than 40 years and publically writing about attending a Theresa Caputo event.

The firsts that were more about inward journeys brought growth. Confronting my fear of tornadoes by taking a weather spotting class and watching the movie “Into the Storm” and the documentary “Twisted Believers” helped me to release and move beyond the fear. Having firsts like Yes Day, Leaning into Silence and accepting what is by Making Friends with the Rain, brought reflection and a deeper sense of who I was. I learned to use power tools and repaired chairs, fixed faulty Christmas tree lights, created a fire pit. My creative side was unleashed in designing vignettes and taking art classes. I made new friends. I celebrated many happy occasions with family and friends, ate at new restaurants for the first time, watched movies I’d never seen before. I tried Zumba as a first and continue to dance three times a week.

There were BIG firsts. My backyard was transformed into a sanctuary of peace and beauty and continues to bring me great joy. I grew herbs and dried them and now use them to make my own beauty products, teas and potpourri. And I realized a lifelong dream by traveling to Scotland for the first time, with cousins Mindy and Harry. I learned so many things about myself on that trip. It was an unforgettable and amazing experience.

Those were some of the things I did. The bigger lessons came around the shifts that occurred in me because of my willingness to try something new…every day. That attitude brought a raised awareness about the many opportunities Joplin offers. I discovered MSSU brings in talented performers on the college circuit. The Post Memorial Library has a new art exhibit every month. Spiva is an amazing place to see incredible works of art. The “biggie” for me though was experiencing how life truly works, at least for me. I saw like I’ve never seen before how the Divine communicates with me through everything that is showing up in my life. Synchronicities abounded and helped me know that I was on the right path. And if a planned first failed, another one, the right one, always, ALWAYS showed up. I learned to trust God, life and my own instincts in such a deep way. I have seen the connection of everything and that it is a friendly universe that conspires to help me, guide me and bless me.

I am so grateful to Lu Ann Cahn for inspiring me to travel down this path through her own journey. I am beyond thankful for my family members and my friends who not only encouraged me to keep going, but experienced firsts with me. I am blessed with such faithful traveling companions. I finish 2014 changed from the person who began it with fear and trembling, and a concern that I would be able to do that which I intended to do, to one who is confident I can do all I set out to accomplish. I did it! And I am excited about the New Year, which is beginning even as I complete this blog post. A new adventure begins. I’ll see you on the JOURNEY!

Day 364: 2014 WordPress Review

wordpress logo

Unbelievably, 2014 is almost finished. Soon it will be memory and history. It has been an amazing year for me. I look forward to sharing more tomorrow. Tonight, I am working on creating a pictorial review, as part of today’s first, to share tomorrow. It stretches me, technology wise, to create such a massive project. And, I’m not sure yet it is going to work!

I’m using a program on my computer to create the slideshow, set to music. The part I’m unsure about is whether the program can handle 365 photos….one from each of my firsts. If not, I’ll adapt. Because adaptability has been one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my Year of Firsts, and Going Beyond.

Even if the slideshow doesn’t work as I hope it will, it has been wonderful to sort through the pictures tonight, and remember. A year is a long time. I’m so glad for this blog and the photos because I’d not be able to hold it all in my memory. As I looked at the pictures, I’d smile, or tear up, or say, “Oh,yeah…I’d forgotten about that!” This has been a rich and precious journey, and I’m so grateful for it and for the incredible people who shared it with me.

WordPress surprised me today with an annual report, which I will share this evening, as the rest of my first. It’s been amazing, this writing experience, and it is paving the way for more opportunities. I know some blogs receive a million or more views a MONTH. My little blog has well over 15,000 views now, for the year, and I’m just thrilled with that. It was totally unexpected, that I would develop a following. Viewers from 70 different countries have visited the blog, and that amazes me too. I have a little following in India, for example, who seem to enjoy the blog post about Maya Angelou’s poem, “Caged Bird”. And it thrills my heart to see viewers checking in from New Zealand, the UK, Russia and Spain….countries all over the world. Each visitor is so welcomed. Each person is an encouragement to me.

A year ago on this date, I was looking ahead, excited and yet nervous, and wondered how I would be able to complete this adventure. Today, knowing it is almost done, I marvel that the year went by so fast. And the nervousness disappeared a long time ago. Thank you for traveling with me!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Day 363: Mousetrap with London


Today was Play Cards Day. I had the intention of participating in this day by playing a couple of card games with my great niece, London Kate. This beautiful 4 year old girl is my sister’s first grandchild. Linda is keeping her granddaughter for a few days so I paid a visit, along with my mom, to see London and play cards.

London greeted me at the door. She and Gigi, London’s name for her grandmother, had been busy playing, as evidenced by the cheerful disarray in Linda’s house! London was happy to have visitors. She would have been ecstatic if my granddaughter Aubrey could have accompanied me. Unfortunately for London, Aubrey is in Texas until Friday. These two little girls treat each other more like sisters than second cousins. They adore each other and are very excited when they get to play together. We hope to make that happen over the weekend.

London agreed to play a game. However, she opted for the board game, Mousetrap. She had received this new version of the game for Christmas. So Play Cards Day immediately transformed into Play Mousetrap Day!

I played the old…old…old version of this game as a child. This brightly colored updated version was much easier to play and very fun. While Gigi ran to pick up dinner, my mom and I joined London in a couple of rounds of Mousetrap. It’s fun to “kick” the plastic bucket and start the silver ball rolling. The ball sets off new segments within the game, making a giraffe fall and a hippo jump, until eventually a cage drops, trapping the unfortunate mouse beneath it. More often than not, it was Grandma or Yaya who ended up under that trap. After a while, we made up our own rules and just took turns setting off the trap!

I had fun with London and appreciated her willingness to create a first with me. I don’t believe that London and I have ever played a board game together before. It won’t be the last time, I’m sure! And this weekend, I look forward to getting several of the grandchildren in the family together. These versatile, adaptable, loving, go with the flow kids know how to have fun and be in the moment. I learn so much just by being in their presence.


Day 362: Soul Care Sunday

soul care quote

It is with wonderment and amazement that I recognized today that my year of firsts ends in three days. On day 365 I’ll recap the year and share more about what this year has opened up for me and what I have learned. Today, I spent time thinking about 2015 and how that year is shaping up. As I was thinking about a new vision board, new word and theme, a symbol and a song, I decided to make a list of the things that I hope to incorporate into my life next year, for my first today, and share it.

Here’s my list:

  1. Engage life at a soul level, discovering and embracing that which deeply stirs my soul and brings soulfulness to me.

That’s it. That one sentence, I realized, includes it all. In my relationships, work, interactions, hobbies, home, family, fun times, meditations, solitude and creativity, I desire soulfulness. If my soul is being stirred, that’s my signal that I’m on the right path.

Thomas Moore defines soul as “not a thing but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance.” My journey these past few years has allowed me to go inward and become acquainted with my soul, chipping away the fears and the limiting beliefs and the false selves that molded themselves around other people’s expectations. Those things that choked my soul loosened and fell away and the real me began to emerge, shining brighter, expanding beyond the confining space of playing small. There is a depth there yet to explore, an expansiveness that I occasionally get glimpses of.

My desire is that next year, as I journey, my soul will be my guide….that spiritual, connected, intuitive self that knows and understands beyond what my mind can comprehend. And so, with a few days left in this year, I am shining the light of soulfulness on all areas of my life. It is time to release some things, give away stuff, rearrange, simplify, and allow. My home office is the first room in my house that will undergo transformation, even as the area of my life that it represents is shifting. I am excited!

I declared today Soul Care Sunday. What a perfect day for reflection, rest, and connecting and for feeding my soul. I had no time schedule, no need to do anything beyond what the moment and my soul offered. I enjoyed awaking slowly, reading, making plans around an event in January, visiting my mom and having a very soulful conversation with Greg. I sun gazed. This is a practice of closing my eyes and lifting my face to the sun as it streams rays of golden light through my window and across my chair. For 10 minutes or so, I relaxed  the muscles in my face and my body and enjoyed the warmth and the light. Red, orange and yellow colors swirled behind my eyelids and for a few moments, I meditated and breathed and was still. And then the sunbeams moved on and so did I. In the past 10 days I have only enjoyed sun gazing twice, due to heavily overcast days. This afternoon, it was a real treat and very soulful.

This evening, as I blog, candles are lit throughout the house, 81 of them in total. This Sunday evening ritual, during the Christmas season, brings peace and quiet joy to me, the light of each flame calling to the light within me. It is such a gentle and beautiful way to close the day and conclude the weekend. I believe I will continue the lighting of the candles, even after the Christmas decorations are packed away, using whatever candles and holders are on display.

Reading today in Thomas Moore’s book, titled The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, my soul responded to the call of creating spaces of enchantment and beauty, sanctuary and peace. These will be vital elements of my journey in 2015 and it was confirmed to me once again that “journey” is, indeed, my word for the new year. Moore says, “The soul has an absolute, unforgiving need for regular excursions into enchantment. It requires them like the body needs food and the mind needs thoughts.” I can so easily substitute the word journeys for excursions. The daily journeys into soulfulness, into enchantment, into curiosity, promise to be so sustaining to my soul. Let the new adventure begin….

Scotland Trip 011e

“The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.”   Thomas Moore

(picture is my own, of the Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland 2014)

Day 361: Brown Sugar Lip Scrub

sugar lip scrub

Cold weather is here. And with those colder temps, and the dry conditions within my house due to the central heat, my skin and lips get drier. I frequently slather on lip balm during the winter months and wanted to come up with a DIY solution to combat the dryness. Tonight, for my first, I made my own brown sugar scrub for my lips.

This recipe was super easy to put together and best of all, I have these ingredients always on hand in my kitchen. I like making my own beauty products. It is a very satisfying form of self care, and I know what’s in the product.

Combine in a small bowl:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

2 drops of vanilla extract

Mix ingredients together, adding more honey if needed so that the brown sugar sticks together. Store in a small container with a lid or cover small bowl used for mixing with plastic wrap.

To use:

Dab small amount of sugar scrub onto lips. Briskly rub on lips, paying attention to any spots with dry skin. Leave mixture on for one minute then rinse off with warm water. Pat lips dry and add lip balm or moisturizer. Sugar scrub may be used once or twice a week.

This was such a simple recipe and I loved the results. My lips felt so smooth and soft after using. And, I couldn’t resist. I had to taste the scrub as it was on my lips. It tastes good too and of course it is non-toxic. My lips felt tingly for several minutes. I finished the process by coating my lips with the skin serum that I also make.

I look forward to using this great smelling scrub all winter to keep my lips exfoliated, smooth and healthy. When I run out, 5 minutes in the kitchen is all the time I’ll need to create another batch. Next, I’ll be creating my own lip balm!

sugar lip scrub ingredients

Day 360: My Own Egg Nog Day

egg nog

Eight days ago, when I enjoyed egg nog ice cream, I made a mental note about the upcoming National Egg Nog Day, with the intention of sampling a “grown up” egg nog drink for the first time. Except my mental note was faulty and the day, which also happened to be Christmas Eve day, came and went and I forgot about it. Actually, I forgot which date it fell on, thinking it was right after Christmas. Oh well. I decided to declare today my own Egg Nog Day, and proceed with my plan to have a cup of the traditional Christmas drink.

While I was out running errands this afternoon, and taking care of both daughters’ pets, I decided to stop and pick up the ingredients for my treat, to be enjoyed later in the day. What I didn’t think about was that on the day after Christmas, I might have a hard time finding egg nog at all. Four stops later, I finally left with a grocery bag containing a carton of non alcoholic egg nog and a very small bottle of Captain Morgan rum. As a child, I enjoyed egg nog during the holidays. The taste is very distinct and has remained lodged in my memory. I have never sampled alcoholic egg nog and although I don’t often drink alcohol, truly preferring my hot tea, I wanted to experience it as a first.

egg nog ingredients

It was the perfect evening for this first. The day has been overcast, windy and rainy. With a couple of books calling my name, it was time to settle in under a warm blanket and read. I poured a cup of egg nog into my favorite mug, and sampled it to get a base line reading! Then I added a heavy splash of rum and sprinkled nutmeg on top. It looked lovely! I failed to stir my pretty drink and so the first taste was almost all rum. Wow. After a good stirring, it tasted smooth, creamy and yummy. Success.

egg nog and books

I enjoyed sipping this Christmas drink while curled up in my chair, a book on my lap and another open in my hands. What a cozy evening and a perfect end to this day. I bought the smallest container of egg nog that I could find and likewise the smallest bottle of rum, so I have maybe one more cup of egg nog to savor on another evening and then I’ll tuck this memory away as well.

I found it amusing that as I was scrolling down through Facebook posts in my newsfeed, I found a post, which I failed to save, that said: “Pirate Egg Nog….RUM”. I have only a tiny amount of rum in my egg nog, making me not much of a pirate. It also dawned on me that Captain Morgan has the initials CM….same as mine. I love how all of life is connected!

egg nog CM

Day 359: Christmas 2014

christmas 2014 logo

I love Christmas time….the magic of the season, the deeply spiritual meanings, the time spent with family…all bring joy and peace to my heart. This year, in keeping with the theme of new experiences, we had a different type of Christmas.

Oh, we gathered together as a family, and as always, we had a wonderful, cheerful time. For the first time ever, one of my children was not present. She had the opportunity to spend Christmas in Georgia, with her dear friend Nate and his family. And I’m so glad Adriel, who loves tradition, stepped out of her comfort zone, and accepted their invitation. We gathered at her house anyway, Nathanael and Megan, Elissa and Josh with sons Dayan and Jonathan, and my sister Linda. I’m pet sitting for my daughter while she is away and she gave us permission to celebrate in her home, as we have the last couple of years. We had a non-traditional Christmas dinner. Greg picked up a variety of smoked meats from Rib Crib and we had appropriate sides such as baked beans, mustard potato salad, rolls, a veggie tray with ranch dressing, deviled eggs (thanks Megan!) and a relish tray. The meal was finished off with Dutch Apple pie and pecan pie.

christmas 2014 adriel and nate

Nate and Adriel in Georgia

Just as I was missing Adriel, Elissa had the brilliant idea to Facetime her and Nate. We spent a hilarious 10 minutes talking to Adriel and Nate as they peered into the phone. We all waved and chattered and the phone got passed around so we could wish our absent family members a Merry Christmas! I love that technology can keep us closer and I’m so grateful for the ability to see people as we talk, who are miles and miles away. We missed Aubrey, Joey and Oliver, who were spending the evening with their other parents. I’m so glad I got to see them last night and spend a few minutes with them.

christmas 2014 elissa talking to adriel

Elissa on Facetime call with Adriel

After opening presents, which I won’t speak of, since Adriel and Nate have not received theirs yet, we chatted for a while, laughing over stories. Dayan’s recent hilarity at his high school musical is probably the family’s top funny story for the year. Nate shared a recent tale about Aubrey, complete with a picture to illustrate it. I love that our family laughs so much together. I love that we can be so easy and relaxed with each other. Love flows as richly as conversation and storytelling and laughter. I am deeply blessed.

christmas 2014 megan and linda christmas 2014 the guys

Megan and Linda                              Josh, Nathanael, and Dayan

Greg surprised me with special gifts that relate to my word for next year. He gave me a box of chocolate covered cherries, which I have always loved, and have nothing to do with next year. And he gave me a hand lettered sign with the word “journee” on it. He was concerned that I would think he didn’t know how to spell “journey”. I knew immediately the significance of the word. Journee is the Old French word from which we derive our word journey. It literally means “a day’s travel”. This word is from the Latin diumum meaning “daily portion”. I love that. More about my word, theme and symbol for next year on January 1, however, I am thrilled with the sign. He also gave me a gift card to Books A Million with the Dr. Seuss quote, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”  Again, an acknowledgement of my path for next year. I am grateful!

christmas 2014 jonathan e


(forgive the poor quality of my iPhone pic!)

When I was a child, the day after Christmas was the saddest day of the year for me. A whole year to wait until Christmas rolled around again. I no longer feel sad after the holidays. I keep the spirit of Christmas alive in my heart all year. Each day brings its own gifts and blessings, mine to receive. I am content with the journey, and Christmas will arrive again, at the perfect time.

christmas 2014 gifts

Oh, the places I will go, indeed!

Day 358: Christmas Eve Tea with Nutella

Christmas tea

What a beautiful Christmas Eve day! I finished my shopping, just in time, and purchased food for tomorrow evening’s Christmas dinner. After working on gifts, which turned out wonderfully I must say, and wrapping presents, it was time for a well deserved break.

I enjoyed the comforting ritual of fixing my afternoon tea. I used Mimi Leta’s Thistle pattern tea cup and saucer. Greg bought me a selection of delectable cookies that are perfect for tea time. And today, for my first, I tried a product that I’ve seen around for a very long time but have never tasted. I almost hate to admit it, because some of my friends are crazy about Nutella, but I’ve never tried it, until today.

Nutella is an Italian hazelnut-chocolate spread, similar to peanut butter, but sweeter. It was first introduced to the market back in 1964, by the Italian company Ferrero. It was an instant success and remains widely popular today. I was a kid back in 1964. I’ve heard of Nutella all my life and I’m not sure why I’m just now getting around to sampling some. It’s never too late, though, is it? I bought the Nutella & Go package, complete with little bread sticks, which made an easy and great addition to my tea time.

Christmas tea nutella

And, I like Nutella. I’m not a big fan of chocolate, so I think I still prefer peanut butter, but for tea time, it was perfect. I know there are all kinds of recipes using this hazelnut-chocolate spread and all kinds of food to spread Nutella on. I’ll have to do my research.

This year, on May 14, the Italian post office issued a 50th anniversary Nutella commemorative stamp. Ferrero celebrated the anniversary on the 17th and 18th of May. There is even a World Nutella Day, which is February 5 each year. Who knew?  I do now, and I’ll enjoy adding Nutella occasionally to afternoon tea.

I enjoyed the new treat today. Most of all, I enjoyed a quiet time of reflecting on the blessings of the day and this time of year, as I sipped my hot tea. There was more gift wrapping after my break and a happy visit to three of my grandchildren, whom I will not get to see tomorrow. Ready for bed in colorful pjs, their bright faces and warm hugs were a wonderful reminder of all that is right with the world. My visit was brief, so they could get tucked into bed. I left with their cheerful Merry Christmases ringing in my ears and their love surrounding my heart. And I returned home under a gorgeous, clear, star filled sky. Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright.

Christmas tea starry night

Day 357: A Series of Fun Firsts

spread the joy

Today was a busy day full of travel and family and fun. Rather than focus on one first, I experienced a series of firsts, and just allowed the day to unfold. This was a “roll with it” kind of day, full of joy.

I got an early start on the day by taking my daughter and her friend to the NW Arkansas Airport this morning to catch a plane…ultimate destination Georgia. After hugs goodbye and wishes for safe journeys, Greg and I used the GPS to locate the nearest Barnes & Noble Bookstore. I wanted to pick up a few gifts and I just plain enjoy browsing among the shelves and shelves of books. Joplin doesn’t have a Barnes & Noble. I have to go to Springfield if I want to shop in this amazing store. This was my first visit to the Rogers, AR, store and Greg and I spent a pleasant hour looking and shopping.

barnes and noble

After lunch with Greg’s dad and an afternoon of chatting, we headed back to Joplin. We picked up grandson Dayan and shopped for essentials at Walmart to make Christmas surprises for the family. Dayan and I used to shop together for store bought gifts, however the last four years we have created gifts together. We have fun and well, now it’s a tradition! With everyone’s busy schedules it was coming down to the wire but this evening, we made it happen. We grabbed Subway sandwiches on the way out of the store and in keeping with new experiences, I had a meatball marinara sub for the first time. Delicious.

Subway meatball sandwich

Dayan and I combined gift making with watching a couple of episodes of Dr. Who, the 9th Doctor. These stories are all new to me, and Dayan is enjoying watching the older seasons again with me. “Empty Child” was, as Dayan promised, one of the creepiest episodes. In 1941 war time London, a four year old child, wearing a gas mask, wanders the streets of the city, crying for his mum. He makes phones ring and toys turn on and radios blare just by his presence. And anyone who touches him, becomes like him, not quite dead and not quite alive. As the episode wound down I was wondering how they were going to conclude the story….and discovered it was a two part episode! Dayan is so good to watch movies or TV with….he never gives anything away! He laughed when I said, “Nooooo….”. We will catch part two very soon. I must know what happens!

dr who empty child

Dayan and I had fun creating the gifts he will give away and what we made was a first also. However, to do as well as Dayan does at not giving away surprises, I will just say, it’s a great gift and he did a fantastic job! Dayan is so thoughtful and I love working with him in creating surprises. With four younger grandchildren, this will be a tradition that I will continue with them.

The day was full of joy. Before I left the house this morning, I was reminded that the more joy I share, the more joy returns to me. Yes, these days can be hectic and stressful and overwhelming, if that’s the way I choose to see them. I don’t. It’s my choice, and since I am 100% responsible for what I am experiencing, I choose to see them as fun, interesting and full of joy. And, that’s exactly the kind of day I had. Joy to the world….and joy to me!

christmas surprise

Day 356: Have a Coke on Me

Have a coke 2

Today, three days before Christmas, Joplin streets were congested with heavy traffic and stores were filled with holiday shoppers and busy clerks. I spent a good part of the day participating in the bustle, almost completing my holiday shopping and enjoying some time with Aubrey at her favorite hang out spot, Chick Fil A on Range Line.

After Aubrey headed home, I finished up my day, making several stops. Along the way I decided today was a good day to do a first I’ve had on my list for a while, a pay it forward that offered an anonymous treat for someone, perhaps a tired shopper or a worker who needed a little break.

I dropped eight quarters into a clear plastic bag and included a note that encouraged the one who found the bag to enjoy a Coke on me. I taped the little package to a coke vending machine at a busy retail center. Because we’ve had drizzly rain all day, I chose a vending machine in a spot that offered protection from the weather and was well lit.

I loved doing this pay it forward this evening. I didn’t stay around to see how quickly the change was discovered and who the recipient was, although that might have been fun. I taped the baggie to the bright red vending machine and left, with a grin on my face. I hope someone who needed a bit of a pick me up found the quarters and used them. And I hope they opened the note card. Inside I simply printed, “Pay it Forward!”

Have a coke e