Thursday, May 3, 2018

I’ve always loved a good birthday party. One of my favorite parties when I was a kid was my eighth birthday at Skate Land. I think it was the first boy/girl party I had, and I remember feeling like a princess as all my friends came to celebrate me that day. We likely had a Barbie cake, I’m sure there were balloons and confetti, and I have no doubt I wore something befitting an eight-year-old starlet.

The Grandview Community has celebrated the birthday of Harry S Truman annually for as long as I’ve been around. Truman’s birthday is May 8. This year, he would be turning 134. For decades, Grandview has thrown the biggest birthday party for Truman.

The party has changed some over the years, but the reason remains the same. Truman’s legacy in Grandview lives on, and that’s enough of a reason to celebrate. His childhood home, the Truman Farm Home, will be open for tours on Saturday, May 5, following the parade that will take place at 10 a.m. in our historic downtown.

Harry’s Hay Days will begin on Friday night, May 4, though, with a free concert at the Grandview Amphitheater. The Stolen Winnebagos will take the stage at 7 p.m.

Like a lot of folks in Grandview who have been around a few years, I was disheartened to see the annual festival move to the east side of town. This year, it’s back on Main Street, though, right outside the front door of my office.

Along Main Street on Saturday, you’ll find vendors, entertainers, arts and crafts, food trucks, and I even heard there will be margaritas (it is Cinco de Mayo, after all).

This year, Harry’s Hay Days is a community event, with several different organizations helping with the planning and day-of work that goes into an event to honor and celebrate our former President.

If you’re able to make it down to Main Street on Saturday, stop by and say hi, I’ll be around, likely with a camera around my neck. Michael will be here, too. We’re excited to celebrate Truman’s birthday with all of our closest Grandview friends. I’m just curious if there will be a cake with 134 candles on it.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Several years ago, I remember sitting down with Mayor Jones and talking about our mutual desire for a locally-owned microbrewery (or something like that) in our city. Like any leader, the Mayor had dreams and vision for this community, and finally, that wishful thinking will be turned into reality.

The Chive, Simply Good and Transparent Brewing Company will soon begin to take shape along Grandview’s 150 Highway corridor, just north of Gail’s Harley Davidson. With hopes to open in the spring of 2019, restaurant owners Michelle and Mark Brown and their son, brewery owner Nolan Brown, have recently submitted building plans to the City of Grandview and Jackson County.

The Chive, Simply Good Cafe and Market will be a true farm-to-table concept, with 100% of their rustic-American dishes made from scratch using local ingredients. From soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza and homemade breads and desserts, the menu will offer a full-range of fresh, in-season elements made with love.

Much of the fresh ingredients will come from Michelle’s own garden, while she will make every effort to source as many ingredients as possible from local natural farmers and producers. She refers to her menu as “inconspicuously healthy.”

“We will be focused on sustainability in all aspects of The Chive, from our choice of building materials to hand dryers in the bathrooms, to native plants in our landscaping, to using reusable plastic tubs for supplier deliveries to an electronic menu board to returnable market containers and to-go containers,” she said.

The restaurant will be counter-serve, but with a nicer feel. Guests can expect to eat using real silverware and stoneware.

In the same building, right next door, son Nolan will lead Transparent Brewing Company. With several years of home-brewing and working in breweries large and small, Nolan will focus on sessionable, balanced beers. Knowing of the popularity of brewing at home, Nolan will take an educational approach to serving guests in his brewery.

“We believe in being completely open with our patrons and would love to sit down and chat about our processes and techniques,” he said. “We hope that every customer will leave our establishment having learned something new and gaining a deeper passion for beer.”

My son and I recently attended a tasting at the Browns’ home in Oak Grove. We tried an item from the under 18 menu, had incredible French onion soup, homemade soda and a broccoli chicken panini. I even tried a few of Nolan’s brews. Everything we had was fresh and delicious, and made us both eager for the side-by-side establishments to open next year.

Hours for the cafe will likely be daily until around 7 p.m., with the brewery to remain open later (except on Sundays). To follow their building and opening plans, both companies can be found on Facebook.


Thursday, March 8, 2018


I have always loved old family photographs. My parents have a collection of my ancestors lining their staircase walls, and over the years, I have asked Mom to tell me the stories of the people in the pictures. Some she knows, others she doesn’t, but it’s always fascinated me to see myself or my son in those great-great-great relatives.

Even other people’s distant memories through photos pique my interest. When I visit friends’ houses, I love to see frames with grandparents long passed, or black and white images showing lineage from generations ago.

Recently, a friend who works for the Grandview Police Department sent me an email. Three years ago or so, she came across a photo in the parking lot at City Hall. Knowing it must belong to someone who might miss it, she picked it up. Asking around the police station, other city departments, and the Grandview Historical Society, she came up short.

Bob’s photo belongs to someone. The inscription, May the best of luck always come your way, indicates that whomever was in possession of this portrait from 1932 might be missing this charm. Bob is handsome, dressed and styled in a dapper way, and appears to have his whole life ahead of him.

Whatever happened to Bob? Did he join the military? Did he fight in any wars? Did he end up getting married, and having a family? Bob has likely passed away by now, but I’m certain someone out there misses him and his kind eyes and slight smirk of a smile.

Bob has a home somewhere, and I’m not convinced it’s on the desk of my friend who works at the police station. This is what I love about my job: telling the stories of our community, even the stories that I may know nothing about other than a short inscription in the bottom corner of a photograph from 1932. I do hope that Bob received some of that luck that he wished upon whomever he gave this photo to. And I hope we can find who he belongs to.

If you know anything about Bob, please email me at mwilson@jcadvocate.com, or call 816-761-6200. I’d love to be able to tell his story of luck, life and love.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

A few weeks ago, my son Michael and I talked about what he would do if an active shooter entered his school. He’s practiced this, they’ve had drills and he seems to know what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to react.

I pray to God that he never has to experience that, but I’m also not naive enough to believe it could never happen here. Tragedy can strike anywhere, at anytime, and as parents, we can only hope that our children will know how to best respond when faced with danger. Where will he go, will he try and fight, what happens if his teacher is injured?

These are the conversations that I, as a parent of an incredibly smart, handsome, compassionate kid, must have with my 12-year-old. Every day, he gets on the bus, and I almost have to hold my breath until he steps off of it at the end of the day. Every day, I have to worry whether or not he finished his homework, or if someone says something mean to him that sets him over the edge, or, God forbid, a gunman enters his school.

We don’t want to think about these awful tragedies happening in our own communities; yet time and again, we are forced to. I am forced to talk to my pre-teen son about things that I’m not even sure I fully comprehend.

I’m hopeful that something like what happened in Florida won’t happen in our community. When I watched the news coverage on television directly following the events on Valentine’s Day, I pictured my son, I pictured his friends, and I pictured his school.

My son is my whole world. Every day that he has been in it has been an indescribable blessing. I can’t imagine a world where he does not grow up, where he does not become someone who truly makes a difference in the lives of everyone around him. He used to always say he wanted to be a police officer who fights bad guys, but now he’s not so sure that’s what he wants to do. I can’t say I blame him.

The news stories haunt me as a parent. How easily that could have been here is in the back of my mind each and every day. Parkland may be in Florida, and I may be in Missouri, but that is our community, that’s our school, those are our kids. And I’m not okay with it.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

January has been a rough one for me. Each week, I read police reports and officer accounts of some horrifying things that have happened in our community. The latest, last week, was about a little boy who was riding in the car with his dad and was shot and killed by a stray bullet. That little boy was 9-year-old Dominic Young, Jr., a third grader at Ingels Elementary School in the Hickman Mills School District.

At nine, Dominic would have still been playing with his new Christmas toys; he would have been picking out Valentines to give to his classmates in a few weeks. He would have been concerned about which kickball team he’d be on during recess or whether or not he got the answers right on the multiplication quiz the other day. At nine, we think our parents are superheroes, but we also become a little suspicious that maybe they’re just people, too.

Nine-year-olds should be able to ride in the car with their dads without getting killed. No third-grade kid should have to go to school on a Monday to find out the news that a friend has died due to an act of violence.

It’s stories like Dominic’s that keep me awake at night. They’re worse than nightmares, because they’re true. Every horrid detail, every bone-chilling testimony, every innocent face crosses my mind, and I can’t help but wish I could do more.

I love my job. I’m passionate about writing the stories of this community, and it is a job that I don’t take lightly. I thoroughly enjoy writing about the good news, and the amazing people I come across; but I wouldn’t be doing my job well if I didn’t talk about the things our community struggles with.

I believe there is a greater good to what I do each week. I believe that community journalism is a powerful tool that keeps our elected officials in check, puts our neighbors in a positive light, focuses on the things and people that truly matter. If I didn’t believe those things, then I’d be in the wrong field.

As I lay my head down each night, I remain hopeful that things will be better, that the next paper I put out will be full of uplifting stories. I have faith in our community, I have faith in our leaders, and I have faith in the press. As a journalist, it is my job to become somewhat of an expert on the topics I write about, and as a reader, you become one, too. A bit of a know it all, if you will.

Whether the news is good or bad, whether it makes me angry or glad, I will keep on writing it as long as you keep on reading it. Become an expert with me on our community. Make a change, starting at home. Know it. All. Read the newspaper.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

There are many talents I wish I had. I would love to be artistic, to be able to paint or draw what I see and have it actually turn out like what I’m envisioning in my mind. I have always wanted to be a little more athletic, showing up others on the basketball court or running past all my peers. Most of all, I have always wanted to sing, and sing well. I can’t really do any of those things, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

On any given day, I can be caught singing along to the radio in my car, or humming a tune that got stuck in my head. But, I admit, I’m just not very good. Some people have the singing talent, others don’t. And I’m definitely part of the club that doesn’t.

However, just because I don’t possess it, doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate real talent when I hear it. On Monday night, I had the opportunity to hear some gorgeous singing talent at Quality Hill Playhouse in Kansas City. If you’ve never been to the Playhouse, their performances are musical reviews, typically focusing on a genre or era of music. Producing Artistic Director J. Kent Barnhart sits at the piano and introduces each set with background on the composers, writers and performers of the original scores. It is always both informative and entertaining.

This season, Quality Hill Playhouse’s theme has been Singing the American Songbook, and on Monday, I saw their performance entitled “That Old Black Magic,” which focused on American composer Harold Arlen’s impact on music from the late 1920s on. The Playhouse’s intimate setting provides for a show that puts you right back in time to when Judy Garland sang Arlen’s Over the Rainbow.

One set even included a series of songs that Arlen collaborated on with Truman Capote, who happens to be my favorite author of all time. Arlen was known for a bluesy inspiration in his composing, and a lot of the songs in the show were about love, or, more so, love lost.


The performance features, along with Barnhart, the Kansas City voices of Lauren Braton, LeShea Wright, and Grandview High School alum Christina Burton, along with Ken Remmert on drums, Kevin Payton on bass and Matt Baldwin on clarinet/saxophone. That Old Black Magic runs through February 18. Visit qualityhillplayhouse.com for ticket information. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

For some, the new year signifies a new beginning. With the page turned on 2017, the new chapter of 2018 begins. A new year means resolutions, usually to make our lives a little better in one way or another. Of course, there are those resolutions that don’t stick, like the same diet and exercise one so many of us commit to at the beginning of the year, and then forget about by the end of January.

I came across this quote from Judy Garland over the holiday weekend that made me think. In it, she suggests that with a new year ahead of us, we could all stand to be a little gentler with one another, a little more loving, and have a little more empathy. The goal is, by the end of the year, maybe we’d like each other a little more.

I’m not the type of person to make resolutions. If I have in the past, I’ve never talked about them out loud, because then, of course, I’d have to be held accountable to stop drinking soda, or starting a workout routine, or finally finishing that novel I’ve been working on for years.

But, after reading Judy’s quote, I’m convinced that this is the type of resolution I can commit to. I can focus on being a kinder human. Sometimes, I get so caught up in the busy day-to-day of my life, that I forget to pause and appreciate the people around me. I know I can fail to say thank you, or offer help when I know it’s needed, or even just offer a compliment when it is deserved.

So, this year, I resolve to take the time to be nicer. To empathize and to be gentle, even when my world seems quite like the opposite of that. I commit to offering help when I can, and to making the time for what is really important in this life: the relationships I have with those I care about most.

Happy New Year to each of you. Whatever it is you have resolved to do, or be, or complete this year, know that you have my support and encouragement. And, if I can offer you a caring word or a gentle hug to help with your motivation, know that my door is always open. 2018 will be a chapter of kindness in my book, and I hope it is in yours, too.