Sunday, October 26, 2008

From Main Street

Friday morning at 9 am sharp, I drove down Hettinger's Main Street, and pulled up to park in front of Dakota Cabin Quilts. I paused to enjoy the beautiful autumn morning and noticed other merchants arriving at their shops, keys in hand, opening up for the day. Across the street, someone swept leaves from the sidewalk in front of the insurance agency. To the north, I heard the wet sound of a window being washed, followed by the squeak of a squeegee. I gazed with pride at our storefront, our pretty window displays (thanks Ellen!), and saw some of my favorite quilts hanging from the ceiling near the front of the shop.

Our small town is blessed with a vital, healthy, busy Main Street. Hettinger has very few vacant buildings compared to communities of a similar size. Our Main Street businesses include: a grocery store, a variety store, a NAPA, a print shop, an antique shop, White Drug (with great gifts too), a KB Jewelers (with gift and books), Prairie Rose Floral, three hair salons, two banks, three insurance/investment agencies, three bars, two restaurants, and a dry cleaner.
Main Street Hettinger has a couple of great non-profits, including the "Clothes Closet", a second-hand shop staffed by volunteers, stocked with clean, inexpensive clothing and housewares. Profits generated by the Clothes Closet are donated back to the community. And, a few years ago, the Hettinger Theatre Board and local tradespeople came together to build a wonderful theatre in an empty building on north main. On the weekends, the smell of popcorn wafts up and down Main, and local teenagers have a tradition of meeting at the Sunday matinee.
I like to think of our end of the street as the "Arts & Crafts" area, as the Music Studio, Fried Photography/Scrapbook Shop, Wild Crocus Embroidery, and the Quilt Store are clustered together on South main.

Just north of us, the largest building on Main is KMM, a manufacturing company, and the second largest employer in town (after the medical center). KMM is a family-owned high tech manufacturer, based in Kildeer, ND, and one of their regional facilities is in Hettinger. At KMM, workers assemble small components that go into military equipment and air craft, and the company has contracts with Boeing and the US Department of Defense.

The phrase "From Wall Street to Main Street" has been ubiquitous this Election cycle, endlessly repeated by politicians, pundits, and news reporters. There is no doubt that the economic downturn is directly affecting Main Street businesses across the nation. As a business owner, I can't help but worry about the economy. But, as a consumer, I know that I can make a difference by carefully choosing where I spend my dollars. From groceries to gasoline, clothing to housewares, and for holiday gifts, I have renewed my commitment to shopping at the small businesses in our region, and plan to do my online shopping at small specialty e-stores rather than large chains.

If we all work together to support "Main Street USA", we will make a difference.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

From Sunrise to Sunset

Good morning.

We've had a pleasant addition to our pet family the last few weekends. Laurie-Ann has been staying with us, and she's been bringing her new puppy along. Hampton is a four month old Yorkie, energetic and inquisitive. He weighs just over three pounds... quite the contrast to our big dog Sox, and our fat house cats Aimee and Abbey (17 pounds and 22 pounds respectively). He really wants to be friends with all of the other animals, but the cats are having none of it. On the other hand, Sox and Hampton play, and Sox's herding instincts come out as he tries to "herd Hampton" around the yard. When we take the dogs out for a walk, Hampton must run 20 steps for every one of Sox's.

Matthew loves the puppy, and for the last two nights he's camped out in his sleeping bag beside the little kennel. The two of them play tag, fetch, and chase each other to the point of exhaustion. Hampton is just the right size for Matthew to easily carry him as he snuggles up inside his coat.
Having the puppy here has also been good for my soul.
Yesterday, I took both dogs for a walk at sunrise and sunset. Watching Sox confidently bound across the familiar ground, as Hampton tagged behind, warmed my heart. I reflected upon the wonderful contrast between day and night, plant and animal, big and small, new and old, dark and light. I appreciated the mysterious beauty of the expansive prairie, yet looked forward to returning to our warm, cozy house perched on the hill... twinkling yard lights welcoming us home. For a precious few moments all of the daily stresses melted away and I lived in the moment, my heart bursting with appreciation for all of these wonderful blessings.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today, We Make the Soup

Good morning.

We woke Friday morning to a light dusting of snow, and we've had a constant drizzle (rain, freezing rain, and an occasional snowflake) ever since. Despite the dreary weather, the moisture is a blessing.

Matthew and I declared yesterday to be "Matthew and Mommy's Pajama Day", and after a quick trip to the grocery store in the morning, we spent the entire day inside. I got some sewing done, we played games, did puzzles, and read story books. As we enjoyed our time together, the smell of homemade chicken rice soup wafted through the house, a delightful reminder of my own childhood.

When I was seven, my mom passed away after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. For years thereafter, her mom, my grandmother Bernice, devoted a month in the spring and a month in the fall to our family. She traveled by train or bus from Manitoba to Alberta to live with us, and "get things in order". When Grandma arrived, everything was better... she did the mending, the laundry, the "deep cleaning", the cooking, and shared lots of hugs, kisses, and snuggles.

Grandma was a Polish immigrant, and struggled to care for her family in the depression years, as a farm wife in rural Manitoba, near Brandon. For the rest of her life, even in times of prosperity, nothing went to waste. She saved everything: paper grocery sacks were neatly folded and stored in a drawer along with twist ties, bits of string, wrapping paper and empty cereal boxes. She'd use these supplies to wrap the "care packages" she frequently sent to her loved ones. And, she'd fill our freezer with home baked cookies, carefully wrapped in wax paper, neatly stacked in empty cereal boxes, fastened with string.

At night, she would sit quietly mending and patching our clothes by hand. She would carefully stretch my dad's thick woolen work socks over a light bulb, and darn them with yarn. I was fascinated by her neat and tidy work, as she carefully wove the yarn over the worn spots in the heels.

Grandma baked and cooked without a recipe or measuring cups, using fresh ingredients from the garden and the butcher shop. Although I fondly remember her homemade Polish dishes (pirogies and cabbage rolls), my favorite days were those when she made soup.

Grandma would rise in the early morning, and declare, "Today, we make the soup!" By the time I was dressed and ready for school, I would find her in my father's kitchen, standing over the beginning of her homemade stock, stirring and skimming the fat from a boiling soup bone, or a whole chicken. I can still see her patiently hovering over the stove, wearing a long apron, holding a wooden spoon, with a large array of fresh vegetables and herbs on the kitchen counter beside her. By the time we arrived home from school for lunch, the kitchen was spotless, warm, and fragrant, and she served us large bowls of soup from her steaming kettle. Beef barley, chicken noodle, ham and bean, turkey vegetable... I loved them all.

Yesterday, I took the time to make soup like my Grandma did. Homemade stock, fresh herbs and vegetables, and lots of TLC. I did break down and use a recipe and measuring cups, though. As Wesley, Matthew and I sat down to eat, I thought about how much I miss my Grandma, and wished she could be with us to enjoy the savory meal. But, I was thankful that I took the time to honor her memory, and thought, "Today, we made the soup."