• Above & Beyond in Northwest Arkansas

The Rockwood Files: Emotional muscle memory

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By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mama of 3

Every year about this time, I wish there was a fast-forward button for life. I wouldn’t skip much – just a few days or so.

Like most families, mine has an anniversary we don’t celebrate – one we dread the approach of because it renews the grief we felt the day we got the news. Even though it has been 16 years since it happened, we remember with painful clarity how devastating it was when my 34-year-old, larger-than-life big brother died suddenly in his sleep on April 20th.

yellow butterfly rose235Loss imprints on people in a way that often includes the season in which it happened. Even though I love Spring’s warmer temperatures and blooms, I doubt there will ever be another April in my life that isn’t tinged with sadness. Because it was an April day when I stood at a graveside ceremony and noticed how blue the sky was and how warm the breeze was and wondered how the weather could be so perfect on the worst day of my life.

I’ve talked to others who have experienced either a loss or a traumatic experience like a diagnosis, and they say that they, too, have felt this “emotional muscle memory.” You can try willing it away, but your body stores up the tension as the anniversary approaches. Things that wouldn’t ordinarily bother you seem bigger. Your heart is dangerously close to your sleeve.

It’s almost as if you’re subconsciously bracing yourself for the impact of the trauma all over again. Even after years have passed and there have been seasons of great joy again, the days leading up to the grief anniversary have a way of taking you back to Day 1 – the sadness compounding with interest over time.

In the past few years, I’ve begun setting a reminder on my phone for six months and then a year past the date of when a friend’s loved one passes away. I do it because I know that when those emotional mile markers come, it will be easier for that friend to face them alongside people who love her – people who know this date will never again be “just another day.”

Muscle memory is defined as a type of learning formed through physical repetition – like typing or riding a bike. You do something so often that you can eventually do it without thinking about it as much. Even though emotional muscle memory can feel like a burden leading up to a grief anniversary, physical muscle memory helps you through every other day of the year.

In the days and weeks following a loss, one of the things you wrestle with is this one big question that feels impossible to answer: “How will I go on?” But then you do things. You put on your socks, you drive your car, you brush your teeth, you go to work. And the muscle memory of daily life carries you through those first few terrible months. It doesn’t happen quickly, but eventually you become a person who, like so many others, makes the most of your life, even as you carry a tremendous hurt in your heart.

For me, April’s apprehension and the familiar knot of grief in my throat eases when the sun sets on April 20th. I’m always grateful to be past it for another year. I say a prayer for the person whose “worst day” is the next day or the day after that.

Then I put on my socks, get back on my bike, type out the words and feel thankful for the memories – not only for the people I miss but also for the muscle memory that carries us forward – into another day full of potential. Into Spring.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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The Friday 5: Things to do this weekend in Northwest Arkansas

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This weekend brings plenty of Earth Day events and movie showings to NWA! We listed the best so that you don’t miss out on the fun. And if the rain keeps you inside this weekend, take a few minutes to check out our 2017 NWA Summer Camps Guide! School will be out before we know it!

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JC Movie Night: Trolls

JC Movie Night returns this month with Trolls, a hilarious and colorful kid favorite about two very different trolls who try to work together to save their village from invaders and rescue their friends. The movie showing is totally FREE, and will be held in the Jones Center Auditorium.

Date: Friday, April 21

Time: 6:30 to 8:15pm

Location: Jones Center, Springdale

More info: Click here

Eureka Springs’ Morels in the Ozarks

Kick off Earth Day with a true Arkansas nature adventure—a Morel mushroom hunt! The Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce is throwing a festival dedicated to the elusive but tasty mushrooms, complete with booths, seminars on Morels and mushroom hunting, live music, and a hunt for Morels! This event is family-friendly and open to the public. Admission to event is free; tickets are required for the Morel hunt.

Time: 9am to 4pm

Location: Pine Mountain Village, Eureka Springs

More info: Click here

Bird Walk with Joe Neal at Botanical Garden of the Ozarksblue jay

Local bird enthusiast Joe Neal will be leading a bird watching group in the vicinity of the Botanical Gardens this Saturday. Enjoy an easy hike along the nature trails on the shoreline of  Lake Fayetteville (total distance: 1.3 miles) to view local nesting birds, spring migrants, and waterfowl. The walk will include a stop at the new Mulhollan Bird Blind, a hut built for observing waterfowl on the lake. Feel free to bring binoculars if you have them (but they won’t be required). All ages, abilities, and levels of knowledge are welcome. This event is free, but registration is required.

Date: Saturday, April 22

Time: 9 to 11am

Location: Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Fayetteville

More info: Click here

Creating a Butterfly Garden at Shiloh Museum

To continue the earth-friendly theme, the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History and members of Springdale for Monarchs are joining up to host an event all about butterflies. Learn how to build a butterfly and pollinator garden at home, focusing especially on how to grow and care for milkweed (an absolute necessity for monarch butterflies to live). Springdale for Monarchs is a community group dedicated to saving the monarch butterfly.

Date: Saturday, April 22

Time: 1 to 3pm

Location: Shiloh Museum of the Ozarks, Springdale

More info: Click here

Free “Greater” Showinggreater-header-image

The Arkansas Alumni Association is hosting a free showing of the movie “Greater,” which features the story of Arkansas Razorback football player Brandon Burlsworth. After the movie, guests will have the opportunity to hear a panel discussion with some of the key figures from the movie (in real life!). Hot dogs, chips, and drinks will be provided. This event is free. Registration is required.

Date: Saturday, April 22

Time: 2pm to 5pm

Location: Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House, Fayetteville

More info: Click here

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Black Apple Crossing events this weekend:

The 5 events above offer some great options for the family, but if you have a sitter this weekend — and you’re in need of a date night or a Girls’ Night Out — our Friday 5 sponsor, Black Apple Crossing, always has a fun line-up of events during the week and on weekends.

This weekend they’ll host Hard Cider Boys (tonight, Friday, April 21), and Stand-Up/Stay-Up Comedy Show with BradChad (Saturday night, April 22). Ciderday Night Live music events happen most Saturday nights. They also have Taco Tuesdays, trivia nights and book club events during the week!

Black Apple Crossing is the state’s first cidery. It’s located in downtown Springdale off Emma Avenue just past mile marker 13. Black Apple Crossing has produced naturally gluten-free hard apple cider with no added sulfites or other preservatives since July 2015.

Click here to visit the Black Apple Crossing website. BAX’s newest cider is Upside Down, a pineapple cider!

Upside Down cider

Sponsor Spotlight: Thaden School

beacon690Hey, mamas! We’re guessing you’ve heard the name Thaden School mentioned lately. Named for a Bentonville native and famous female aviator, Thaden is a new private school being built in Bentonville. A newly released artist rendering of one of the buildings on Thaden’s new campus is pictured above.  This school is shaping up to be a completely new concept for Northwest Arkansas and will open its doors to the first Thaden students this fall. (Applications for admission are being accepted now.)

Thaden Clayton Marsh roundWe recently had the opportunity to interview school officials and find out more about Thaden’s campus, curriculum, class sizes and more. (Founding Head of School Clayton Marsh moved to Arkansas from New Jersey where he served as Deputy Dean of College at Princeton University.) Hope the info below helps you as you’re making plans for your kids’ next school year.

When will Thaden School open and how big will the school be?

We will open in the fall of 2017 with grades 7 and 9 and grow incrementally over the next four years to serve students in grades 6 through 12. We expect that enrollment in each grade will not be greater than 60 students during our first two years. We continue to welcome applications on a rolling basis for fall 2017 so families should definitely contact us if they have a child who may be interested in joining our founding classes.

Thaden is described as an “independent” school. What does that mean?

The independent school concept is fairly new to Bentonville and this region. The key difference is that an independent school, as a private, nonprofit entity, sets its own mission and is governed by its own board of directors. While Thaden will be accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), we are not required to prepare students for state-mandated standardized assessments. We will have considerable freedom to shape our curriculum and learning goals in ways that advance our mission:

To provide a balanced and challenging education that ignites in our students a passion for discovery and learning, prepares them to succeed in college, and inspires them to lead lives of integrity, purpose, and responsible global citizenship.

We will also select our students through an admissions process that is aligned with this mission.

How will Thaden School be different than other schools in the area? What will the class sizes be?

Thaden has been very intentional about creating a sense of openness and connection to Northwest Arkansas. These goals can be seen in our indexed tuition program that makes the education accessible, a campus design that integrates the school into the fabric of its surrounding neighborhood, a curriculum that carries students off campus to examine issues of local relevance, and events and programs that welcome the community into the life of the school.Thaden logo

Small classes averaging 15 students will be a defining feature of a Thaden education. Small classes allow teachers to provide individual instruction and tailor their lessons to their students’ distinct personalities, talents, and interests. When classes are small, students are also more likely to participate actively, and teachers are able to recognize and celebrate their efforts and achievements.

How will the location and construction of the school play a part in the educational process for students attending during the first two years?

Our location in the heart of downtown Bentonville’s Market District allows us to tap into a rich variety of cultural and educational resources such as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its new contemporary art center; Brightwater, the new culinary arts program at Northwest Arkansas Community College; the Scott Family Amazeum; and the Bentonville Public Library. In addition, our signature programs will leverage the nearby regional trail system.

During our first two years, we will run our programs in a combination of temporary and permanent structures (including an athletic field) located on a portion of our 30-acre campus. We will actively look for opportunities to integrate the design and construction of the campus into the curriculum so students can understand and take part in the process of creating their school.

Sustainability will also be a tangible part of a Thaden education: we will weave reclaimed materials and structures into the fabric of the school, and design the campus in ways that will give students hands-on opportunities to minimize their environmental impact. The campus and its instructional spaces, indoors and outdoors, will themselves be teachers that spark curiosity, inspire creativity, and invite reflection.

Thaden_Water Lab 690Do students have to live in Bentonville to attend Thaden?

No, we will assemble a dynamic and diverse community of students from across the entire region. We see great educational value in bringing together students – and faculty – who bring many different perspectives, interests, and talents to the table.

How much will it cost for my child to attend Thaden and what is an “indexed tuition”? Is financial aid available?

Our indexed tuition program makes a Thaden education more affordable to families from a wide variety of economic backgrounds. Rather than charging all families the same tuition, we determine an individualized tuition based on a family’s available resources.

All families, including those that pay the maximum tuition, will pay less than the full cost of a Thaden education because many of our expenses, including those associated with the design and construction of our campus, are heavily subsidized through philanthropic contributions. Tuition payments will be used primarily to recruit and retain our talented faculty and maintain small student-teacher ratios. For the 2017-18 school year, our tuition index ranges from $500 to $23,700 for the middle school (grade 7) and from $500 to $24,800 for the upper school (grade 9).

What is a “trimester” system, and how does a “block” schedule differ from schedules seen at most public schools?

Twelve-week trimesters allow our middle and upper school students to take a greater number of courses in a given year, enabling them to explore more disciplines and subjects. Our trimester calendar also gives teachers more opportunities to diversify their offerings and innovate with new subjects and teaching methods. For one week at the end of the second and third trimesters, during what we are calling an “Intensive,” our students will alter their routine to work with faculty, fellow students, and community members (artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs) to apply what they’ve learned to various projects of local and global significance.

clockClasses will generally meet for 75-minute “blocks” rather than the 50-minute periods that are standard among many high schools. This schedule better supports intensive, problem-based inquiry as well as community-based and experiential work that takes place outside of the classroom or off campus.

Our academic calendar will begin on or near the same date as most public and charter schools in Northwest Arkansas, and will be aligned with sports seasons, national holidays, and traditional breaks.

Will Thaden offer athletic programs or have athletic teams?

We aim in the founding years to field at least two interscholastic teams each season. Fall options may include cross country, mountain biking, and soccer; winter options will likely include wrestling and basketball; and spring options could include track and field, road racing (cycling), and lacrosse. Intramural and club sports will also be available and may include archery, volleyball, rugby, dance, tennis, and orienteering.

Students will also have opportunities to establish and lead a number of clubs and other organizations, such as a school newspaper, yearbook, cooking club, rock ensemble, or robotics team. As Thaden grows, the offerings of our co-curricular programs will also expand.

Louise ThadenWhat is the significance of the school’s name?

We have named our school after Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden (1905-1979). Born and raised in Bentonville, she was a proud Arkansan and one of the greatest aviators of her time. She won the first all-women’s transcontinental race against her friend Amelia Earhart and other star pilots of the era. Her pioneering and innovative spirit – at once regional and global in its orientation – inspire our efforts to create a school that gives students roots and wings, enabling them to build strong foundations and reach new heights as they pursue their dreams and make their futures.

For more info about our newest nwaMotherlode sponsor, Thaden School, click here to visit the website or the Facebook page. You’ll find more in-depth information about Thaden’s faculty by clicking here. You can also reach the school by calling 479-268-5321 or send an email by clicking here.

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Friday 5 Sponsor Spotlight: Meet the owner of Black Apple Crossing + see upcoming events

BAX patioBlack Apple Crossing (BAX) in downtown Springdale is the new sponsor of our super-popular Friday 5 series.

Leo Orpin, black apple crossingEach Friday, we bring you some of the most family-friendly events happening in Northwest Arkansas that upcoming weekend. And we’ve also started adding a few date night options at the bottom of the post from BAX as well!

Now, let’s get to know the owner of Black Apple Crossing, Leo Orpin:

What inspired you to open the state’s first cidery? 

My business partners Trey Holt and John Handley and I home brewed as a hobby. Our favorites to make were English style ales and ciders. We decided to make our hobby a business and by the time we did our friends and family encouraged us to pursue and pioneer cider rather than open another brewery.

What are your most popular cider drinks? 

Currently our balanced Ozark based 1904 is our best seller but our newest hibiscus infused cider the Cardinal Kiss is gaining in popularity.

We just released our newest pineapple cider: Upside Down! This tropical treat will be great for drinking on the patio this summer.

BAX drink

How long has Black Apple Crossing been open?

 We opened in July of 2015 so it will be two years this summer.

Tell us about your weekly events: 

We have trivia night every Monday at 7pm. We have Taco Tuesday featuring dollar tacos from Taqueria Don Guero across the street.

Every Wednesday is Board Game Night.

Then we feature live shows for our Ciderday Night Live series every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm.

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How would you describe the “vibe” at the cidery? 

Words that have been used to describe our atmosphere: very relaxed, chill, nostalgic, warm, welcoming. We are also family friendly and pet friendly.

Tell us about your family:

I’m happy to announce my business partner Trey and his wife Kendall just had another little boy named Hayden last week and I am very happy for them. I have a amazing wife named Misty and the coolest stepson named Crey.

What about you? When you’re not dreaming up new cider drinks, what do you enjoy doing? 

I like spending my precious time away from the business with Misty and Crey. I enjoy kayaking, camping, culinary adventuring, playing board games and video games.

What’s on tap this weekend for entertainment at BAX?

BlackAppleNewLogo♦ Friday night (April 21): Hard Cider Boys music at 8 p.m.

♦ Saturday night (April 22): Stand-up/Stay-Up Comedy Show featuring BradChad Porter (free event):

All the way from Oklahoma City, Comedians NWA is proud to present BradChad Porter. BradChad has lived many lives which inform his comedic sensibilities. He has worked as a teacher, a minister, a salesman and for a brief stint the caretaker of a cemetery. Comprised of rich stories and observations delivered with intense conviction, his comedy speaks to the righteous anger and frustration within us all, a response to a world that just doesn’t work like it should.

BradChad has worked with some of the biggest names in comedy, such as Kyle Kinane, Doug Stanhope, Maria Bamford and Paul F. Thompkins just to name a few. BradChad also has comedy album entitled “Yelling at Giants”.

Joing BradChad will be Ryan Trickey from Kansas City. Regularly witty and often ridiculous, Ryan Trickey performs in bars and clubs all across the Midwest. With his raw and honest take on everything from society to the psyche, this Kansas City native demolishes frowns, annihilates relationships, and slays audiences.

And kicking the show off will be Comedians NWA’s Stetson Banks and Zac “Bone Daddy” Slusher. Seating will be limited, so get there early, grab a good seat and enjoy a cider. As always, the Stand-Up/Stay-Up Comedy show is FREE!!

CLICK HERE to visit the BAX Facebook page to stay informed about new events, shows and ciders to enjoy.

Summer Activities Spotlight: New attractions to see while you #Explore Branson

Editors’ note: Explore Branson is a sponsor in the featured section of our 2017 Northwest Arkansas Summer Camps & Activities Guide. This story offers additional information about summer activities in Branson and where to find more in the summer months.

Branson Summer Activity Spotlight Banner

Branson Summer Events & New Attractions 2017

If you’re looking for a nearby getaway that’s going to make the kids happy this summer, take a trip to Branson. We’re excited to see they have several new attractions to try in 2017:

The Runaway at Branson Mountain Adventure Park puts riders in control as they navigate the area’s hilly terrain, in individual carts, during an exciting downhill voyage. (My family rode the Runaway during our recent trip to Branson and we had a BLAST. Definitely one of the highlights of our weekend.)

Bigfoot on the Strip offers a bird’s-eye view of Branson and the choice between a saddle-swing ride, a more leisurely voyage to the top of the 200-foot tower and one that includes a 200-foot free fall. Bigfoot on the Strip is the fifth attraction investment in Branson for the owners of Branson Zipline Canopy Tours, Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline, Parakeet Pete’s Steampunk Balloon and Fast Shot Shooting Gallery. The centerpiece of this $10 million attraction is a 200-foot free-fall tower. Two of the rides are extreme rides for serious thrill seekers, while the third is a calmer ride offering more of an Ozarks viewing experience

At Fritz’s Adventure, climb, slide, tunnel and explore more than 80,000 square feet of obstacles that bring outdoor adventures, like rock-climbing, indoors.

Branson, Fritz's Adventure

The Promised Land Zoo is expanding in 2017. A new area will offer drive-thru and tram tour areas, a café, a playground and an indoor theater for live-animal shows.

Upcoming events:

In April Silver Dollar City hosts its new Festival of Wonder.” This unique entertainment experience has eye-popping performances, in the form of the Earth Harp (the world’s largest playable stringed instrument), along with singers, dancers, acrobats, musicians and painters. “Festival of Wonder” runs through April 30th.

Live shows to see:

For families that love Branson’s live shows, celebrate 2017 with Presley’s Country Jubilee, which is celebrating 50 years, and see The Haygoods, who are commemorating 25 years of performing in Branson.

Branson, Presley's show

Speaking of great live shows, Showboat Branson Belle is unveiling a new noon show, “Country on the Lake” this year. This concert cruise on the 700-passenger paddle-wheeler features country music and classic rock hits of yesterday and today.

Branson Family Favorites

Of course, we all love those family favorites Silver Dollar City, White Water and the Hollywood Wax Museum! And don’t forget that they added the HUGE Ferris wheel last year with is fun to ride and all beautiful to watch in the evenings when they run the light shows.

Click here to Explore Branson a little further in 2017!

Stay up to date on Branson events and activities on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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