Sunday, August 17, 2008

Living in the Moment

Good Morning.

Last week, we took a nice vacation, traveling to Rapid City, SD, and Northeastern Wyoming. With a couple of "must do" plans, and the goal to relax and spend some family time together, we excitedly left on Tuesday evening.

As always, it was really hard to remove ourselves from our responsibilities and commitments, even for just a few days. But, our capable staff pulled together to run the store in our absence. And, Laurie-Ann lived at our house while we were gone, so our pets had great care and companionship.

I love to travel, to experience new sights, tastes, sounds, and smells. Traveling makes me feel "centered"... the daily worries & stresses meltaway, as we drive the open road, enjoy beautiful landscapes, and see the world through Matthew's eyes.

Yesterday, on our way home, we took a side trip to Devil's Tower, WY, proclaimed in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt as the first national monument. Today, the beautiful landmark is maintained by the National Park Service,and visitors enjoy learning about it's history, ecology & geology. Families picnic in the shade of the Ponderosa Pines, hikers roam around the base, and adventuresome rock climbers scale the monument.

I learned that over 20 American Indian tribes have a cultural connectionto the Tower, and that at least six nations (Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone) lived at the area at some point in their history. The tower is of profound religious importance to American Indians, and many sacred ceremonies are held there. Colorful prayer cloths and bundles (left behind as prayer offerings) can be seen tied to tree branches around the base of the monument.

We took a lot of pictures yesterday, to remind us of our wonderful afternoon at the site, and capture the beauty of our surroundings. But, as we sat quietly on a bench, eating our lunch and watching the climbers deftly scale the rock columns, I forced myself to stop taking pictures and to live in the moment. Along with the awesome sight before our eyes, we could hear the breeze rustling through the pines, and smell the clean, fresh air. Chipmunks chattered in the distance, and birds soared overhead. A doe and her fawn quietly grazed nearby, and the sound of children laughing brought joy to everyone. Visitors from all cultures enjoyed the site, and we heard families speaking in many different languages.

I thought, "Today, I am blessed. This is exactly where I am meant to be, and I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing."

Those moments of inner peace will serve me well in the busy days ahead. Matthew starts Kindergarten this week, and coming home from vacation is almost as hard as getting ready to leave. But, our little family is refreshed, rejuvenated, and energized... ready to face the busy days ahead.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mmm... Homemade Ice Cream on a Hot July Evening

Good Morning.

It's been hot this week. Temperatures have been in the high nineties, with hot winds stirring up the dust.

Wednesday night, we took a break from the heat, and drove down to the "Lodgepole Ice Cream Social". Rose, Gayla, and Phyllis live in this tight knit little community. Some might refer to the place as a "wide spot in the road", but there is so much more to the story.

Currently, "Lodgepole" consists of a handful of houses, a multi-purpose business called the "Lodgepole Store", and a community building called the "Lodgepole Hall". The "Store" serves as a gathering place for daily coffee, and offers a variety of groceries, and other essentials. Also, they sell Maytag appliances, fireplaces, and tires. They run a propane business, and service the wells and water-tanks on local farms & ranches. A few years ago, the store added an important addition: a special room was built for Mary & Melody's long-arm quilting machine.

Oh, and there is a post office in the store too. If you've received a package lately from us, check the mailing label. We try to keep the Lodgepole post office busy, as we ship the majority of our packages from there. We joke that if our business keeps growing, USPS might build Gary his own building. For now, he gets by in a tiny room within the store.

The "Ice Cream Social" is just one of the events held every year at the "Hall". I visited with Thelma, one of the founders of the event. She told me that the social has been an annual event for 40 years, originally starting out as a birthday club party. Gradually, it evolved into a community wide celebration, carefully planned for the end of July or early August, between "haying" and "harvesting". Thelma plans the evening, puts up posters around town, calls the Hettinger radio station, and arranges for volunteers to bring the meal (sandwiches, salads, and cake). A large crew of help is on hand to set up, serve the meal, do the dishes, and clean up afterwords. It's a free will offering, and the proceeds go to maintaining "the Hall."

The highlight of the evening is the homemade vanilla ice cream prepared earlier in the afternoon. Simple, rich, creamy, and so very good!

Thelma prepares all of the ice cream mix herself. This year, she made four batches, enough for 12 gallons of ice cream. She said she hasn't changed the recipe in 40 years. This year, four of the original birthday club members made it to the social. After dinner, everyone enjoyed the creamy ice cream, returning for seconds and sometimes thirds. Senior members of the crowd happily shared the tradition with their grandchildren, great grandchildren, old friends, and newcomers attending their first social.

Lodgepole, SD. A "wide spot in the road?" I don't think so. A tight knit community filled with life, laughter, and respect for the importance of history, family, and tradition.

Thelma's Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe: Note: this is for a crowd (makes 3 gallons)
15 eggs
9 cups heavy sweet cream
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup imitation vanilla
6 cups white sugar
1 gallon milk