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.
For weeks prior to this 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?
An idea came to me as I was driving around town doing my routine activities. I noticed the leaves on the trees, swaying gently in the wind. Fall would arrive soon, and those leaves would float to the ground, leaving the trees bare until spring. I suddenly felt a strong desire to get outside, to immerse myself in the great outdoors one last time this summer.
And I wanted to do so with my friends.
“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 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.
On this late summer 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.
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.
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, held under a pavilion at Wildcat Park.
We unrolled our mats and faced in the direction of Shoal Creek.
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 flowers just outside the pavilion.
As we rolled up our mats, Johanna turned to me. “I bet with all of the rain you had here recently, Grand Falls is really flowing. Do you mind it we make a quick stop there to check it out?”
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.
The roar of the rushing water was suddenly matched by the sound from my rumbling stomach. “Are you ready for brunch?” I asked Johanna.
“Definitely!” We left the falls and made our way to Finn’s, an elegant oasis located in a strip mall. The dining room is cozy, complete with a fireplace – a nice addition in cold weather, but it there wasn’t a fire going on this nice summer day.
“The Avocado Toast sounds amazing,” said Johanna, looking at the brunch menu.
“The Eggs Benedict is really good here, too,” I said. “That’s what I’m going to order.”
Our beautifully presented – and hearty – entrees tasted delicious, and provided the fuel that we needed for our next stop: 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.
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.
After hiking the trail, we started back toward Joplin, my appetite growing bigger with every mile we passed. “How about grabbing dinner at Turtleheads?” I asked.
“You know it’s one of my favorite restaurants,” Johanna said. “I love their gumbo!”
We enjoyed our favorite seafood dishes and listened to live music on the patio until the sun dipped behind the horizon, completing a perfect day.
This was it. This was the day I was going big, putting the final dot on the exclamation point of the Miraculous 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.
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.
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 late summer 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…
Christine is a Chicago native and has lived in Joplin for almost two decades. Growing up in the Windy City, she loved to explore the wide variety of museums, restaurants, sports venues, theaters and parks. When she moved to Joplin her goal was to learn about the unique culture and attractions in the area. Now Christine discovers new things each week, whether it be a little-known park, a new restaurant or a community event. Joplin can be just as exciting as a major city if you dive in to all the community has to offer.