Girls’ Weekend in Joplin: The Great Outdoors

There are times when the planets align and miraculous things happen.

 

For me, that was last weekend.

 

My husband went out of town to visit a college friend, and my girls were spending quality time with their grandparents, so I had the house all to myself.

 

My family sure knows what to get me as an early Mother’s Day gift. I love them so.

 

For weeks prior to the Miraculous Weekend, I thought and thought about how I would spend my time. I knew I wanted to do something with my girlfriends, but what would we do?

 

An idea came to me as I was driving around town doing my routine activities. I noticed that more vibrant green leaves had grown on the trees, confirming the fact that spring had definitely arrived. I rolled down the car window to catch a breeze of the changing air, air which promised warm, carefree days ahead.

 

That’s when I caught spring fever – and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do on my Miraculous Weekend: I wanted to be outside and embrace the season which I’d longed for throughout the cold winter.

 

And I wanted to celebrate it with my friends.

 

waters-edge-girls-float-selfie

 

 

Friday

“Enjoy having the house to yourself,” said my teenager (with more than a bit of jealousy, I might add) as she and her younger siblings marched out the front door and into their grandmother’s car, which looked as magical as Cinderella’s glass carriage to me at that moment.

 

Since my husband had already left on his trip, I was free – yes, free – to kick off my Miraculous Spring Fever Weekend, so as soon as the glass carriage exited the driveway, I hopped in my car and drove to meet my friend Shanon.

 

Shanon and I meet occasionally on Friday afternoons to celebrate the end of the work week with a different kind of Happy Hour. Instead of going to a bar and sipping a cocktail (don’t get me wrong – we sometimes do that, too) we’ll meet in the heart of the city at the Frisco Greenway Trail for a stress-relieving walk through through the woods.

 

girilfriend-trails-canopy

On this spring afternoon, Shanon was waiting for me in the parking lot. “You escaped!” she said, giving me a warm hug.

 

We escaped,” I said, our footsteps falling in sync as our shoes crunched the fine gravel beneath our feet. I felt like a kid at recess, catching up with my friend while enjoying a slice of freedom from our schoolwork.

 

After our walk, we wanted to keep up the health-conscious theme we had going, so we decided to get ourselves some nutritious smoothies at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company, a hip downtown Joplin coffee house that also serves tea, sweet treats, and healthy food options from a delivery service called Fit Foods.

 

coffee-menu

Shanon ordered the Dirty Monkey Smoothie, made with peanut butter, banana, and mocha, as well as a ready-made Turkey Hummus Wrap to take home with her for lunch the next day. I ordered the Berry Vanilla Detox Smoothie; packed with fresh fruit, protein and chia seeds, it felt like a nutrient infusion, and filled me up to the point to where I decided to just count that as my dinner that night. Yay! No cooking for me.

 

I went home afterward and lit some candles, put on soft music, and sank into a cloud of bubbles and warm water in the bathtub – a sublime way to end the first day of my Miraculous Weekend.

 

 

Saturday

Another day, another hug from a friend whom I hadn’t seen in months. Johanna had driven in from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and was now at my front door. “Are you ready?” she asked.

 

“I just need to grab my yoga mat and I will be,” I said. We were headed to a Yoga in Nature class at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center. During this mild time of the year, the yoga class is held just outside the center under a pavilion.

 

We unrolled our mats and faced in the direction of Shoal Creek.

 

wildcat-creek-springtime

The area between us and the creek was the chert glade, a rare, desert-like ecosystem that exists right here in southwest Missouri. As we saluted the sun, colorful butterflies danced around the blooming bushes just outside the pavilion, joyously welcoming in the season of renewal.

 

Instead of hiking the trails at Wildcat that day – which we did the last time Johanna was in town – we decided to walk the trails at George Washington Carver National Monument. But first, we needed to get a bite to eat.

 

On the way from Wildcat to the restaurant, we passed Grand Falls. “Do you mind if we stopped?” Johanna asked. “I haven’t seen the Falls in a while.”

 

falls-mist

As the largest continuously running waterfall in the state of Missouri, Grand Falls is one of the prettiest natural attractions in the area, and visitors stop here throughout the year. As Johanna and I navigated our way among the chert (more chert!) outcroppings to get closer to the falls, we noticed that we weren’t the only ones enjoying the view that morning; there were a few men fishing in the creek, and some kids splashing in the shallow pools.

 

From Grand Falls, we took the scenic roads to Sandstone Gardens, a 50,000-square-foot home interior showroom housed inside a stately French chateau. In addition to offering shoppers a one-of-a-kind experience, it also offered us somewhere to eat.

 

Located in the east side of the building is the Bistro, a warm and welcoming place for lunch. I had the Chicken Salad, made with fresh, crunchy grapes, and Johanna ordered the Reuben, which is one of the restaurant’s specialties.

 

bistro-dessert

Since the desserts at the Bistro are made from scratch on site, I felt it would be disrespectful not to order one, so Johanna and I split a piece of heavenly German Chocolate Cake.

 

Then, we were off to George Washington Carver National Monument, located twenty minutes south of Joplin in Diamond. We arrived there just in time to catch the end of the lab demonstration where participants were invited to make peanut milk, so we got to join along.

 

gwc-mortar

George Washington Carver was an educator and scientist who discovered multiple uses for peanuts and other crops, and he was born in a cabin on the land on which the monument sits. The center houses exhibits which detail Carver’s life, and the trail outside offers a glimpse of the world that Carver saw as a boy meandering through the thick woods and across the blooming prairie.

 

gwc-carver-statue-with-butterfly

After hiking the trail, we started back toward Joplin, my appetite growing bigger with every mile we passed. “How about grabbing dinner at the Eagle?” I asked.

 

“You know it’s one of my favorite restaurants,” Johanna said. “Do they still have the Bison Burger?”

 

“They do. They also have killer Jalapeno Margaritas, if you are up for some spice.”

 

We lingered at the Eagle Drive-In, eating burgers and sipping margaritas until the sun dipped behind the horizon, completing a perfect day.

 

 

Sunday

This was it. This was the day I was going big, putting the final dot on the exclamation point of the Miraculous Spring Fever Weekend! My friend Julie and I were going up a creek – with two paddles, on a Shoal Creek float trip.

 

But first, we needed to fuel up. I picked up Julie and we went to Club 1201 for brunch. I ordered my favorite dish, Eggs Benedict, and Julie tried the Artisan French Toast. We celebrated Float Trip Day by toasting our drink glasses which we customized at the Bloody Mary Bar.

 

club-1201-brunch-bmb1

 

After brunch, we drove just south of Joplin to Water’s Edge, where we got set up with our canoe. For several hours, it was just me, Julie, and the rhythmic sounds of our paddles pushing through the water. Oh, and an occasional turtle.

 

waters-edge-girls-float-creek

With just the two of us – no distractions – we were able to discuss all of the things that we had on our mental checklists to talk to each other about whenever we had the chance. And today, we had that chance.

 

Now we were good for a few more months.

 

I relished my Miraculous Weekend at home – alone, and I cherished the time I spent with my friends as we explored the great outdoors, reveling in the warmth of the spring air. I felt refreshed and alive, and ready to jump back into my responsibilities as a mom.

 

Yet, even though I had a phenomenal time with my friends, nothing from that weekend compared to the unbridled joy I felt when I saw my daughters walk through the door Sunday night.

 

That is, until ten minutes later when they started to bicker…

 

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.

Yoga in Nature

I like nature.

 

And I like yoga.

 

So it made sense for me to try the monthly Yoga in Nature class offered at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center.

 

What doesn’t make sense is that I picked a freezing rainy day in December on which to try it out.

 

But there you go.

 

I was curious to see how connected to nature I would feel on a day when I was tempted to stay curled up in bed inside my electric-heated home, with insulated walls protecting me from the miserable weather outside.

 

Plus, I had signed up for the class weeks ago, and I don’t like breaking my commitments.

 

So I grabbed my yoga mat, bundled up, and went to class.

Because of the inclement weather, the class was being held inside the nature center in one of the classrooms, rather than outside under the pavilion, thus making the class Yoga Next to Nature rather than Yoga in Nature.

 
yoga-pavilion

View from the pavilion (which I took on a previous, sunny visit to Wildcat)

 
Still, the atmosphere was much more tranquil than that of my usual yoga practice in my living room. Here, there were no kids asking me for anything as I attempted to find inner peace while following an instructor on a YouTube video.

 

At Wildcat, I had a clear view of the busy bird feeders just outside the classroom window. One of the windows was cracked open, allowing the cheerful bird songs to drift inside. That, along with the chirping of the crickets housed temporarily (unbeknownst to them…) in the classroom’s turtle habitat, created a peaceful ambient background for the yoga class.

 

yoga-feeder

 

While rolling out my mat on the floor, I started asking the instructor, Donna Bowman, some questions. It turns out that, in addition to teaching yoga, she also teaches special education to young children in Carl Junction. After a few minutes of class, I could see how Donna’s clearly articulated instructions, delivered in a patient and calm tone, would work equally well on her young special education students and with her yoga clients.

 

Her voice was as smooth as melted chocolate.

 

Donna began class with simple directions – simple, that is, if you don’t have a frenzied mind like I do, with thoughts bouncing around like a bored spider monkey inside a zoo exhibit:

 

“Take what you need to do today and clear it off your mat. Focus only on your breath.”

 

My monkey brain needed to hear that. Obediently, I mentally tucked away my list of Saturday morning errands and zeroed in on the sound of fresh, pure air filling up my lungs.

 

The first pose we did was Cat-Cow, which is a gentle warm-up done on the hands and knees, and it prepares the body for the rest of class. Donna said to think of this pose as “dental floss for the spine,” which I thought was brilliant. Every day since taking Donna’s class, I’ve been trying to remember to do Cat-Cow in order to keep my spine limber but, like flossing, I sometimes forget…

 

yoga-warrior

Instructor Donna Bowman

 

The pace of Donna’s class was mindfully slow, but that doesn’t imply that it wasn’t challenging. Moving at a slower pace means having to hold positions – like plank position – longer, and I felt my arm muscles quivering at several points during class.

 

When we resting in Child’s Pose after doing Sun Salutations, Donna came over to adjust me and to ensure that I was executing the pose correctly. As she gently pressed on my back, she said, “The rest is just as important as the work.”

 

I tossed that statement around in my mind for a while. I’m constantly guilty of pressing my nose to the grindstone and forgetting to schedule time for rest and play. I know that I’m a better mother/wife/friend/writer/human when I carve out time to rest, and Donna’s words validated this for me.

 

I had found my new mantra.

 

By the end of class, the ever-present tautness in my upper back had given way to fluidity. I felt refreshed and renewed, like I’d just spent the day at a spa.

 

I plan on making this a regular monthly experience.

 

yoga-triangle

 

Donna’s final words echoed what I was already feeling:

 

“Be grateful. Be grateful for the body that you’ve been given, and for the time that you’ve given yourself.”

 

Going to Yoga in Nature that day was like an early Christmas present – to me, from me. And not only did I benefit from going, but so did my family, because I came home relaxed and happy.

 

Because I took time for myself.

 

Because I took time to rest.

 

yoga-bird-in-bush

This sweet bird surprised me as I was leaving class. I thought it was a decoy at first because it didn’t move, even though I was only about a foot away from it. It must have sensed my zen-like yoga afterglow. Namaste, birdie.

 

Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center is located at 201 W. Riviera Drive. Click here to visit its website.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.