Monday, April 27, 2009

The Beauty of Square Ice Cream Cones

I've been pondering the significance of square ice cream cones. They're not the norm, you know. Most ice cream cones are rounded in shape, even those we dish up for ourselves in the comfort of our homes. Even the swirled variety are rounded. I know this because in days of yore, I used to work at a local drive-in and one of the first skills I had to acquire was the making of scrumptious looking swirled ice cream cones. This took a bit of practice for someone like me who is gifted with natural grace. =D I did eventually get the hang of things and can now swirl ice cream with the best of them, but it took a lot of practice. ;)

When I was in my youth, one of the highlights was a jaunt to my maternal grandparents' abode in Star Valley, Wyoming. To help break up the trip, my parents always stopped in a small town called Swan Valley, Idaho. To the unknowing tourist, this would be questionable. Why stop in this location when you're so close to sight-seeing wonders like Palisades Lake, Alpine, Wyoming, Jackson, Wyoming, etc.? We stopped because of the square ice cream cones. People in the know understood that this was well-worth the time it took to park the car and run inside the store to stand in line.

Not only are these ice cream cones served up with the help of a square ice cream scoop, but this tiny store still uses real ice cream, a rarity in today's world. And not just the run of the mill vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc. Exciting flavors like Moose Tracks, or Pralines and Cream, not to mention the illustrious, Huckleberry Temptation.

By the time it was our turn to order, we were always nicely confused as to what we wanted affixed to our tasty waffle cones. Finally making a decision, knowing that no matter what flavor we picked (aside from that one time when I tried Black Licorice, and we just won't go there) it would be mouth-watering wonderful, we exited the store happy and in good spirits.

I still look forward to stopping for square ice cream cones whenever the opportunity presents itself. My husband and I made the loop from Idaho Falls through Star Valley a couple of months ago and we had to stop for the traditional treat. I suppose that's why I'm commenting on this item today. Last night as I was looking through the pictures I have stashed in a digital file on my trusty laptop computer, I came across the picture I pasted in above. It was a nice reminder of something I think is important.

Too many of us settle for "round ice cream cones" simply because that's what most people order, or make. I think it's a crucial thing to step outside of the box and see what else is out there. How else do we attain inspiration? Life would be extremely boring if we did the same things over and over, without thought or regard to why that is.

True creativity is achieved when we look at life in a different fashion and when we try new things. I suspect that's part of why we're here in mortal mode. We weren't sent here to do the same things everyone else has done. We were meant to be a peculiar people. Seriously. This means we march in time to the beat of our own set of drums, not someone else's.

So my challenge today is this. Look around and see the possibilities. If your neighbors are all planting petunias this spring, plant daisies. If everyone else is wearing green, wear purple or orange or even fluorescent pink. Go forth, enjoy, and create, daring to be different. That's what makes life fun. Look for the "square ice cream cones." Your life will never be the same. And isn't that what really counts? ;)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Countdown Begins =)

Life keeps picking up speed. Maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's the fact that my youngest son, Elder "Wee Tad" Devin J. Crane will be returning home from the mission field (Canada Edmonton Mission) on May 6th. This means I have less than two weeks to get everything ready. YIKES! mixed with YAHOO!!!.

Little things, like washing all of his clothes and re-hanging them inside his closet need to take place now. Not to mention getting his bedroom all spit-shined, and we decided to finally build that downstairs bathroom---the only room in our house that isn't finished. Since we'll have two sons living downstairs this summer, we felt it behooved us to get that 3rd bathroom finished. No more grumbling up the stairs to the main bathroom during the middle of the night for those who dwell down below. =D
And . . . I will now have the great joy of cleaning 3 bathrooms. What were we thinking?!!!

In way of good news, my oldest son has already promised that he and Devin will take full responsibility for keeping the downstairs bathroom in good working order. This is wonderful news, since I have little things like girls' camp, reunions galore, numerous camping adventures with my husband's family, etc. this summer. Whew. I don't think I'm bored right now. Actually, I don't think any of us are.

Anyway, I thought in lieu of a lengthy epistle today, I would simply share a handful of pictures of my soon-to-be-released missionary son. Enjoy and I'll be back again on Monday, providing I survive the adventures in store this weekend. Au Revoir.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stairway to Heaven

A few years ago I was facing an extremely challenging time. I had been diagnosed with a serious health condition (lupus). The same week I received that lovely news, several people from our valley left this mortal realm compliments of a car accident. Among those who died instantly was one of my Mia Maids (I was serving as the 1st counselor in the YW presidency of our ward at that time.) I knew everyone who had lost loved ones in that accident---my heart felt shredded.

My plate was extremely full. So full, I wondered how in the world I was going to survive. I was overwhelmed by the news that I was dealing with a chronic illness on top of the Type 1 diabetes that I was already enduring. And I was heartbroken over those who had been taken in that accident.

The only One who understood what I was feeling was my Father in heaven. I spent countless hours hitting my knees, begging for guidance. That may be why I was given the following dream:

I was struggling up a steep staircase and every step was painful and slow. I knew I needed to keep going, but it was so difficult, I was tempted to remain where I was. Then my eyes were opened and I could see the battle that was actually taking place around me. A dark force had wrapped itself around my feet and legs, trying to keep me in place, attempting to discourage me from continuing forward. The staircase I was trying to climb was golden and above me hovered an angelic force for good. They couldn't help me climb the staircase---that was up to me, but they could stifle the negative influence at my feet, giving me the freedom to continue forward if I chose to do so.

In the dream, I shrugged off the negative force with the help of heaven, and continued on my way.

Now I know most dreams are silly nonsense, but I also believe once in a while you can receive dreams that contain a message when the need is great. The message of that dream has stayed with me through the years and during challenging moments, I strive hard to live up to what I learned from that experience.

In an interesting "coincidence," the morning after I experienced the dream I just shared, I went into town to pick up a prescription at the local drugstore. As I waited for the pharmacist to fill that prescription, I walked around the store, gazing at the books that were available. I rounded a corner and spotted a picture that was identical to what I had seen in the dream. It showed someone climbing a golden staircase toward heaven and it contained an inspiring quote. I bought that picture, purchased a frame to hold it, and hung it above my computer at home. It still hangs in that place of honor, a reminder of what is possible when we push past the dark thoughts that haunt us all on occasion.

We live in a challenging time. I can't think of anyone who isn't experiencing a difficult trial. And yet, there are good things happening all around us. The world still possesses beauty and wonder, and all things are still possible, if we'll only continue forward, trusting in God's help to see us through.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Cleaning

So after enduring an entire week of snowy storms, today the sun is shining and the snow is finally melting. It's warm enough, I've opened up several of our windows to give our home a good airing out.

It may just be me, but I find days like today exhilarating. I experience a surge of energy and I begin tackling projects that beg attention. Like today. My oldest son pointed out that a favorite plant, one that means a great deal to me---an item has been in our family since I was a tiny tot, is looking a little root bound. So he helped me replant it inside of a bigger pot and we added plant food and new soil to encourage it to continue thriving. It felt so good to play in the dirt, even for just a little while. A part of me felt like I was dancing inside. =D

Next, I took down all of our Easter decor and boxed it up for next year, then dug out my dusting supplies and set to work in the living room. I also straightened up my computer room a bit, and then the kitchen. There's just something about the advent of spring that inspires me to clean like crazy. It might also be due to the fact that my youngest son will be returning home from his mission the first week of May. ;) I want things to look nice for his arrival home.

I did some delving into the fine tradition of spring cleaning. This is what I discovered:

It is believed that spring cleaning began with the Jewish nation, that it became a tradition to thoroughly clean their homes for the annual Passover celebration that took place in the early spring.

I also read that spring cleaning in the United States, sometimes known as the "urge to purge," was a tradition that was started by European settlers. It had been a tradition in their own countries to tidy things up in the spring. This was due in part to the fact that in cold wintry climates, it wasn't until the warmer spring-like weather arrived that homes could be aired out, bedding washed and hung out to dry, and walls washed down to erase the smokey build-up that had taken place during the winter months from old-fashioned fireplaces.

I know that both of my grandmothers loved this time of year. It was a tradition for both women to go on a cleaning spree during the spring. My maternal grandmother especially adhered to this
custom. I remember going up to visit my mother's parents this time of year and loving how my grandmother's house always smelled of Mr. Clean or Pinesol. Carpets were shampooed, bedding was washed and hung out to dry, windows were scrubbed, in short, her house was cleaned from top to bottom. Everything seemed fresh and new and wonderful.

Spring is so filled with rebirth and wonder, it's a great time to start anew, to de-clutter, and organize. As such, I found a really cool website that offers a ton of cleaning hints for this time of year. Even if you don't have a lot of time to spend tidying things up, you'll find great tips for making the most of your time. So when the urge to purge descends, merely click on the link below and roll up your sleeves. I think this is a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Spring Cleaning Checklist

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Planting Seeds

This time of year, when the snow begins to melt (it may take our valley until about June for that to fully take place) and the sun warms things up a bit, I begin thinking about planting a garden. I already ordered this year's seeds and they arrived a couple of weeks ago. They're currently residing on a shelf in my utility room in anticipation of planting season.

Because I've been plotting how this year's garden will look, I've been thinking about the effort that will be required, the tools needed, etc. In short, I've been pondering the importance of securing the right kind of seeds to plant, how best to nurture those seeds, and the harvest that will eventually take place if all goes well.

Since I tend to focus on the positive aspects of most ventures, I refuse to allow future difficulties to discourage me from this gardening quest. I will not dwell on potential frosts, bug damage, or weeds, keeping my sights set on what can take place if the right kind of effort transpires.

I will not dwell on last year's failures, like the frozen zucchini crop, the poisoned horseradish root I had been lavishing attention on for nearly 4 years---until my husband sprayed it with weed repellent, nor even the beets we harvested, only to find that half of those beets had been chewed to pieces by varying bug creatures. (You know who you are, and you will be dealt with severely this year. I'm just sayin' . . .) All of these adventures will be chalked up to vital learning experiences that will help make this year's garden even more successful.

I will try very hard to keep my focus on the possibilities, not the discouragements that take all of the fun out of everything. In short, I love playing in the dirt and I will enjoy myself immensely as we encourage seedlings to grow.

That said, I will now stretch this learning moment to apply to something else. You may have noticed the cute picture of my little granddaughter at the beginning of this post. This is Aari, my first, and at the moment, only grandchild. She is six months old and so much fun, we love it when she comes to visit.

I find myself wondering what I can teach this little one, to ease her way through life. In essence, what kind of seeds will we all plant within her heart and mind, anticipating a rich harvest some day?

While she was here over Easter weekend, we exposed her to several family traditions. She watched, intrigued as we colored Easter eggs:

She enjoyed a baby cracker as the rest of us ate far too much for our Easter feast. Here we're sampling strawberry shortcake after devouring glazed ham, asparagus, & garlic potatoes:

Aari is seated between her uncle Kris and her mommy, Kristen, keeping a sharp eye on the strawberry shortcake. I suspect this little one will love fun foods, holidays, and gathering together as a family. And she will always know that she is a very important member of our family, even if she is young and quite small.

Since music is a big deal in my family, and most of us were blessed with the ability to play multiple musical instruments by ear, we are already exposing Aari to fun musical opportunities. She currently loves classical music. This is very good. ;)

She has already learned that Daddy keeps her safe--

Mommy takes good care of her---

And it's important to spend some time playing every day . . .

Aari knows she is greatly loved, and that is one of the most important things she can ever learn. I'm sure we'll all make our share of mistakes with regard to influencing this newest member of our family, but we'll try very hard to chalk those moments up to learning experiences and strive to do better, knowing what is at stake.

Someday when this little girl is older, she'll be a direct result of the numerous seeds planted within her heart and mind, some of which I suspect took root long before she arrived in this mortal sphere. It will be interesting to see the end result. ;) Perhaps that's how some of my ancestors feel about me. =D Regardless, the harvest yield will always be affected by the types of seeds planted, and the nurturing element. And if the right combination is blended, the rewards will be worth any effort extended.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hoppy Easter =)

Since Easter season is upon us, I thought I would share a little bit today about this favorite holiday. I recently learned that the Easter holiday had its beginnings during the 2nd century as a pagan celebration of spring. The early Saxons celebrated the return of spring time weather by honoring Eastre, the goddess of birth and springtime.

Early Christians, intent on converting the pagans to Christianity, and to preserve their own lives since pagans were somewhat attached to their celebrations, decided it would be a wonderful idea to combine the pagan celebration with the Christian observance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The pagan springtime festival took place at approximately the same time as the Christian celebration, so the two were combined. The name Eastre, was eventually changed to the more modern spelling of Easter.

After 325 A.D. the Council of Nicaea proclaimed that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, after the vernal equinox. According to this dictate, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th.

Now many of you may think that the Easter Bunny was a modern invention. Au contraire. The rabbit was the symbol of the goddess, Eastre, so the bunny was actually part of this celebration all the way along. Easter eggs were part of the original celebration as well. Exchanging eggs in the springtime was yet another way to celebrate new life. The egg was symbolic of rebirth. The rich wrapped their eggs in gold leaf before they were exchanged. The poor boiled their eggs with certain flowers or leaves to enhance their coloring.

It was the German immigrants who brought the tradition of the Easter Bunny with them to the Unites States. Easter wasn't widely celebrated by Americans until after the Civil War.

In our LDS culture, we focus primarily on the reason for the season, commerating the sacred resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We celebrate His victory over death in a variety of ways. Here are some things we do in my family to celebrate this wonderful holiday:

When my boys were younger, we colored a plethora of eggs on the Saturday before Easter. This is a beloved tradition that we still enjoy, even now that they're older. We all love boiled eggs, deviled eggs, etc. so this is a fun tradition in our family.

The "Easter Bunny" always filled our sons' baskets with a variety of treats, and sometimes articles of clothing like new white shirts and ties for church. These baskets were hidden throughout the house, making Easter morning a fun adventure for our boys.

Again, when our sons were younger, we often journeyed to my mother's abode for Easter weekend. The Saturday before Easter, my boys would get a big kick out of finding the candy-filled colorful plastic eggs that my mother would hide all over the place. This is a tradition I plan to copy as my little granddaughter grows older. I'm looking forward to it. ;)

We always eat a huge meal on Easter Sunday, after church. This year we will consume some family favorites: Glazed spiral ham, seasoned new red potatoes sauteed in a buttery garlic sauce, asparagus, and the ever popular strawberry shortcake. My mouth is watering as I envision this culinary delight.

During this weekend, we will also strive to spend time pondering the Atonement. We usually watch videos that depict the final days of our Savior's life as a timely reminder of all He endured on our behalf. We attend sacrament meeting on Sunday, savoring the special program and\or speakers that will touch on sacrifices made by our Elder Brother. So while we observe some of the lighter traditions of this holiday, we always keep foremost in our hearts just why it is that we're celebrating Easter Sunday.

What are some of the ways that your family celebrates this holiday?

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Stormy Weather

Years ago I remember hearing lyrics that went something like this:

Don't know why
There's no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather . . .

Life is bare
Gloom and misery everywhere
Stormy weather . . .

Can't go on
Everything I had is gone
Stormy weather . . .

And so on. It is true that most people associate misery with storms. There are a lot of analogies that stem from this belief. "Storms are dark, scary, and evil." "Only sunlight brings peace and inner joy, etc."

Now as someone who dislikes storms as much as anyone, mostly because of the arthritis I've been blessed with, I've come to realize that we cannot attain the peaceful beauty we often seek without those storms, however they arrive in our lives. Think about it---without spring showers, there wouldn't be lovely May flowers. [Pun unintended, but since I am a descendant of a handful of Mayflower pilgrims, I can probably get away with it . . . at least on this side of the veil. =D ]

I have learned the most from the darkest times in my life. Yes, I'm one of those who has to continually learn things the hard way, but I suspect, most of us are like that. It seems that we require a certain amount of "difficult weather" to learn certain lessons, and to become stronger individuals. What we gain is totally up to us. Two people can withstand an identical storm, and come away with a very different experience. Our attitude determines what that will be.

The other day as my husband and I drove across the valley to Bear Lake, I saw a huge storm coming in. The sky was dark, but it looked beautiful, so I took its picture. =) In fact I snapped several pictures that afternoon and captured an interesting phenomenon: a typical Idaho weather pattern. A popular saying here is: "If you don't like the weather in Idaho, wait a minute!" ;) It's really true. So I will share what I saw move across the lake that day.

You can see the approaching storm and the darkening effect on the lake.

The storm moves closer and in my opinion, it was still a gorgeous view.

The clouds descended and it began to snow . . . a lot.

It snowed so hard, you couldn't even see the lake for a few minutes.

As quickly as it blew in, the storm moved on, leaving a breathtaking photo moment in its wake.

Interesting, eh? ;) That storm provided much-needed moisture, a little break in our routine, and beauty that is often rare. I hope I remember the lessons I learned that day, so when future storms descend, I can cling to the knowledge that these storms are temporary, and that they will eventually move on. I pray I will be wise enough to ponder what I can gain from that experience, using it to grow into a better person.

Today is a beautiful spring day, even though in our realm, we still have about 2 feet of snow on the ground. I'm choosing to focus on the sunlight and bask in the warmth, storing that memory for the storms I know lie ahead. When those storms descend, and I know they will, (it's part of the joy of living in a mountain valley), I can reflect on the sunny warmth, endure the current downpour, realizing there will be better days in store.

We can't control the type or frequency of storm that often appears on the horizon, but we can control how we will respond to it. So on days like today when the sun is shining and all seems right with the world, frolic and enjoy. And on days like I captured above, look for the good that can come from blustery squalls. You might just find that's part of why we're here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Just Kidding

Some holidays arrive and I don't realize the significance until something happens to remind me that it is a special day. April 1st was one such day. I had just returned home from helping my oldest son teach a cooking class for a group of Relief Society sisters and I jaunted out to pick up the mail. Included in that postal treasure pile was the weekly edition of a local newspaper entitled, "The News-Examiner." As I brought it into the house, I was stunned by the following headline: "COUNTY DECLARES BANKRUPTCY!" I was floored. I knew the local economy was struggling, but to read that our county courthouse was going to be sold on an auction block was staggering.

I read the entire article to my son and we gaped at each other, alarmed by what we were learning. Then I read the following paragraph:

"A county employee was in tears as she talked about her $750,000.00 mortgage, child support, car payments, and the Caribbean cruise she had just signed up for."

Wait a minute . . . who in the grand metropolis of Bear Lake lives in a $750,000.00 home?! Unless you count the celebrities who have extremely fancy cabins above Bear Lake---and I don't believe for one second that they work at the county courthouse. I wondered if the reporter had his\her facts straight.

I glanced through the rest of the paper and saw the following article: "Sorry, They Were Hoaxes." It was all a sham . . . our newspaper's way of playing an April Fool's joke on the entire community. And I sponged for it. (This is a secret.) My son enjoyed a good laugh at my expense, since I had been waxing eloquently about how awful it was that this had happened to our county.

As I read through the tongue-in-cheek apology, I learned that there had been two misleading stories, the one about the county's fictional financial woes, and another about a pack of 50 wild wolves that had supposedly devoured an entire herd of sheep on the other side of the valley. I didn't see it until after I read the "hoax" article.

The reporter who obviously enjoyed pulling these two pranks said in his\her defense:

"It was bad judgment to say the least, and great fun at the most . . . For those of you who spotted the hoax right away, we hope you enjoyed the fun. For those who fell for the hoax, we apologize."

Uh, huh. Sigh . . . Actually, it was pretty funny and rather gutsy of this newspaper to run these articles. I can just imagine the letters to the editor that will show up next week. ;)

I like April Fool's Day. I've even been guilty of pulling a few pranks through the years. I'll never top what my father did one year. Long story short: There was a beautiful Gunnie Sax dress in a store that used to exist here in Bear Lake. My dad had been living in the area for a couple of months, waiting for me to graduate from high school . . . and for our house to sell in Ashton. He had secured employment as the hospital pharmacist for Bear Lake Memorial, and our entire family was moving to Montpelier. While looking things over in Bear Lake, my mother and I entered a dress shop and found this gorgeous dress. The top was cream-colored with gauzy lace, and the skirt was a perfect match. I tried it on and fell in love. But it was a little pricey, so we left it there.

When my father found out how much I liked that Gunnie Sax dress, he said he would buy it for me and bring it up so I could wear it for graduation. I remember being so excited, I could hardly wait. Then the big day finally came and my dad arrived in Ashton with a beautifully wrapped box. He handed it to me with a big grin on his face.

"Is this the Gunnie Sax dress?" I asked, excitement filling my bosom.

"Yes, it is," my dad replied, encouraging me to hurry and open the package.

I did, and I know my jaw hit the floor. Inside the fancy box were a couple of gunny sacks (coarse material used to house grain). My entire family erupted with laughter and then the zinger line was shared: "APRIL FOOLS!!!"

Yeah . . . it was a joke. I must have looked so crestfallen, my dad didn't have the heart to prolong my agony. He was still grinning when he handed me the box that contained the dress I had longed for. My family has laughed over that memory for years. It was possibly the best prank ever played in our family.

This leads me to my question of the day: what is the best April Fool's prank you've experienced, or created?

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