Shantel’s First Winter Gala 2019

It’s been a while since I shared my last post. That’s because when we are in Arizona, we don’t really go anywhere that I haven’t already shared on my blog. But last week, our beautiful, grown, baby girl, Shantel, attended her very first formal company Winter Gala.

Shantel started a new job a few months ago. She’s working for a wonderful company that helps people who are in financial distress due to high credit card debt. This company was started by two young men in a garage and has now grown to a company employing over 2,000 employees. When Shantel interviewed for this company, I had my doubts that it would work out, because she has been hired at so many other companies who thought they could get the JAWS screen-reader program to work with their company system. So many times we’ve had our hopes up waiting for Shantel to land a job that would be willing to try to find a way for JAWS to work their system, only to have those hopes dashed over and over again.

This company hired Shantel with the promise that they would do everything possible to make JAWS work with their system, and they stayed true to their word. On the first day of work, Shantel was welcomed in the lobby by the Co-Founder of the company, the Vice President, the head of H.R., the head of Training, and the head of the IT department. They all shook Shantel’s hand and thanked her for “allowing them to work with her to get JAWS working with their system, not only so she can work independently at their company, but for all those who are visually impaired that will come after her”. Within a couple of weeks, working together with Shantel, and listening to what she needed to work independently with JAWS, Shantel was able to work on her own in the welcoming department, taking incoming calls bringing on new clients, and working with the clients to ensure all their account numbers were correct etc. We were thrilled for Shantel to get that position because not only is this job full-time (her last job was just 32 hours a week), this job is only 15 minutes from her home as opposed to her last job that was an hour away. We just couldn’t be happier for Shantel and didn’t think anything could be any better than that. But things did just get better. Shantel did such a good job with the welcome calls, she has now been promoted to Client Services and will now earn a dollar more per hour. She is in training for the next two weeks and is loving every minute of it. Then another surprise! The company also has a Winter Gala every year. This year the Gala was held at the Civic Center. It was a very formal event and Shantel was so excited that she could attend, and could have one guest attend with her. Of course she invited her best friend, Jaz, who was equally excited to be able to attend the Gala with Shantel. Jaz arrived at Shantel’s home around 3:00 p.m. and helped Shantel with her hair and make-up before getting ready herself.

I was filled with pride, and cried tears of joy when Jaz sent me pictures throughout the evening.

This is the first picture I received of Shantel standing in the kitchen of her apartment in her beautiful dress.


This is Jaz and Shantel together beside the Christmas Tree at the Gala. I knew Shantel met Jaz in college, but I asked her the other day how they actually met. Shantel told me she was just sitting outside one of her classes waiting to go in and Jaz just came over and sat down and started talking to her. Turned out they both were taking that same class together. Jaz is such a blessing in our lives and we love her as part of our family.

The day after the Gala, I called Shantel to see what she thought of the event. She said “it was really nice and we had a great time, but mom, I never felt so out of place in my whole life”. I asked her why she felt out of place and she said “well, it was just so formal. Like when we sat down to be served dinner, there were forks everywhere and I didn’t know which fork I was supposed to use”. I said, your supposed to start with the one farthest away from your plate and work your way in. She said “mom, there were forks on the side of the plate, forks at the top of the plate and just forks everywhere, so I just grabbed the first fork I found and started eating.” That’s our girl!

Then Shantel told me the Gala had different things going on in different areas. She said they walked outside on the patio and at first all they heard was someone screaming at the top of their voice. She said they didn’t know what was going on at first, then they found out it was Karaoke and someone was performing hard rock music. She said “I didn’t know Karaoke could be so entertaining”.

When I sent Jaz a thank-you note for sharing the pictures of the eventing, I asked her if she had a good time too. She said she had a great time and even managed to get Shantel out on the dance floor to dance. Apparently gift cards were being randomly given to folks that were dancing. And speaking of gifts, the company had really nice door prizes they were giving away as well. Unfortunately, one of the employees had her purse stolen when she got up to dance. The President of the company got up and addressed all the employees saying their company is based on honesty and integrity, and that someone in that room was not being honest by stealing. He then presented the lady that had her purse stolen, and her guest, with one of the door prizes which was two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the United States, and he apologized for what happened to her. What a great company to work for. Shantel also told me the President sends out a company wide email every Monday welcoming the employees back from the weekend and wishing them a great work week. Who could ask for anything better than that?

This week when we visited Shantel, she asked me if I would take this picture of her, Jaz, and Danny. Danny is a girl that trained Shantel in the Welcome Calls Department. Apparently a photo booth was also part of the Gala event, so the three girls had their picture taken together. Shantel asked me if I would put it it a frame, so I put it in this adorable frame Shantel made for me when she was in grade school. Every time I would leave the house to go to work, or anywhere, Shantel would hug me and say “don’t forget me” like I could ever forget my precious baby girl…

Stay Tuned

Center Lake

Bill and I are winding down our time here in beautiful Custer State Park, South Dakota. We have only two more three day work shifts, then we will be leaving here on 9/24/19 to make our four day trip back to Arizona. We’ve spent the past five months here, and are thankful we had this opportunity to visit this magical place. While we really enjoyed all the things we saw and did on our days off, there were an equal amount of things we didn’t like about our stay. Like our ever changing work schedules. We worked at four different Visitor Centers, but not together. One day we would open a Visitor Center, and the next day we would be closing a Visitor Center. When we had to close, we had to work until 8:00 p.m. which did not suit us at all. Both Bill and I are very much early morning people and don’t like sitting around half the day waiting to go to work. And the campground we live in is a complete disaster. We changed campsites three times since we’ve been here, and still never got our coach level. The problem is most of the sites in this campground are on a slant. Somehow these things were not mentioned to us when we had our telephone interview and accepted the positions… We are so ready to get back to our level site at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, and work the Visitor Center schedules we have enjoyed for the past four years there. We already talked to our new Supervisor, and she said she would love for us to keep the same schedules we had for the past four years.

One good thing that did happen as the result of our ever changing work schedules, was that we were assigned to work “special project” last Friday with the maintenance lead, Darin. Darin is a really great guy, and he needed help loading up canoe’s that were used over the summer by the Naturalist’s to teach free canoeing basics. Darin told us to meet him at Center Lake ,and Bill could help him load the canoe’s onto his truck so he could deliver them to the storage garage where they will stay until they are needed again next summer.

While we were waiting for Darin to arrive at our meeting place at Center Lake, we had the opportunity to walk around, and take in how beautiful Center Lake is.

When Darin arrived, he told us that Center Lake is the lake that is also used for the “Hook em and Cook em” program the Naturalists teach over the summer. Hook em and Cook em is a free fishing program, where families can go fishing, without a fishing license, and the park supplies the fishing poles, bait, and the Naturalists will even clean, and cook the fish the families catch. What a deal!

Darin also told us that because Center Lake is stocked with three kinds of trout for the Hook em and Cook em program, it’s also the lake all the local folks come to fish. Yes, sign us up!

Center Lake also has a beautiful campground surrounding the lake. It is the only campground, in Custer State Park, that makes same day camping reservations. All other campgrounds must be booked in advance. Bill and I really enjoyed visiting Center Lake. It is so, so, peaceful and beautiful.

While loading up the canoe’s, Darin found this pretty little baby doll under one of the canoe’s. He sat it on the lock box that is used to store the life vests and canoe paddles. When we got ready to leave, I asked Darin if he was just going to leave, and abandon, this pretty little doll baby with her cute pink, teddy bear outfit on, and cute pink hat…? He smiled and said “put her in my truck and I’ll find a way to play a trick on the Park Manager, Lydia”. Lydia, I had nothing to do with whatever “trick” Darin is planning to do…

We were scheduled to work the full day with Darin, and we were ready to do just that. But that morning, when we met up with him, I mentioned that that day was our anniversary. And guess what? After we got the canoe’s unloaded back at the storage garage, which only took three hours, Darin said “I think I’m just going to cut you folks loose now ,so go and enjoy the rest of your day… “Thanks Darin!

Looking back over the past five months, we would not take anything for the experience we’ve had here in South Dakota. But, after five months of buffalo’s coming and going at will in and around our campsite, knocking over our outside ovens, scratching our motorhome, grunting, sniffing females to see if they are ready to mate, and fighting for the right to mate with her right outside our motorhome, keeping us trapped inside..,

after five months of all that… , we no longer say with excitement “oh look, the buffalo are coming.” NO!! Now we say “OH S##T, the buffalo are coming!! But oh, what stories we have to tell…  🙂 🙂

Stay Tuned!

Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota

Today Bill and I took a beautiful back-road drive through the black hills of South Dakota, on our way

to the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota. This is yet another free admission perk we get with our VIP card we received for our volunteer service here at Custer State Park.

“The discovery of this active dig came about in June 1974, when heavy equipment operator George Hanson was leveling ground for a Hot Springs housing development planned by land owner Phil Anderson. Hanson was grading a small hill when his blade struck something that shone white in the sunlight. Hanson got out for a closer look. What he saw was a tusk, about seven feet long, sliced in half length wise, along with other bones. Mr Hanson contacted the land owner, Mr. Anderson, who contacted three universities and colleges in South Dakota, and one university in Nebraska. None of the 4 colleges were interested in the project nor did they have any desire to come and see what was discovered in Hot Springs”. Eventually, they did get the attention of the right people who came and saw the discovery, and took the right actions to save this site, which is an active dig site to this day. All to the credit of Mr. Hanson who discovered the bones, and land owner, Mr. Anderson, who sold the land at cost. He did not make a profit off the land at all…

The information sheet we received when we arrived at the Mammoth Site say’s “Travel back in time to the late Ice Age by taking a 30 minute guided tour indoors”. What a great learning experience this tour was. We learned that there was a very large sinkhole in the area, and the edges of a sinkhole was very slippery. This is “where Columbian and wooly mammoths, camels, wolves, and giant short-faced bears became trapped leaving an ancient treasure trove of fossil remains”.

How did they become trapped, you might ask…? Well the edges of the sinkhole was spearfish shale, which is very slippery when wet. So when the animals would go to the edge of the sinkhole, where they were enticed by the tender grasses, and the warm waters that surrounded the sinkhole, many of them, like the mammoths, that carried massive weight, and didn’t have claws to help them dig their way out,  would slip in and die of exhaustion from trying to get out, or they would drown. The picture below is an example of spearfish shale.

We found it interesting that this is an active working excavation site featuring the fossils of over 60 mammoths,

and of those 60 mammoth remains, most of them are male. Our guide told us that they believe that is because the mammoths had a female matriarch that would teach the majority of the herd to stay away from the sinkhole. However. boys will be boys… and the young male mammoths that didn’t want to behave, would be kicked of the herd, and without the female matriarch to guide them away from the sinkhole… they fell in and died… Pay attention boys!! The next three pictures are of male remains found in the sinkhole.

The next picture is an example of a full-size mammoth.

This mammoth exhibit hall also features replicas of Lyuba,

and Dima; baby mammoth mummies discovered in Siberia.

For budding scientists, there is a hands-on learning activity for children. Downstairs, the laboratory windows provide a behind- the-scenes glimpse of the scientific work being conducted on site.

Bill and I ended our outing with lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge, here in Custer State Park,

where we enjoyed a delicious lunch of buffalo stew, served in a cast iron skillet, with mashed potatoes on top,

and delicious cornbread with honey butter…OMG!!!

Just another fun-filled day here in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Stay Tuned!

South Dakota Air and Space Museum

Last week Bill and I toured the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, part of the museum system of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. “The South Dakota Air and Space Museum serves to educate and entertain the public. Not only does it give information  about the history of U.S. Air Force aviation, it promotes South Dakota aviation history.

Aircraft that have been flown throughout the eras are on display at South Dakota’s premiere free aviation museum!”

When we first arrived at the museum, Bill said “Im going to nerd out here and read everything.”  The plane he is standing in front of, the F-100, is an example of one of many that his late brother, Rick, flew during his 20 plus years in the Air Force.

“The outdoor air park is filled with WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, and present day aircraft.” You are free to roam around taking pictures and touch history.

Inside the museum are all sorts of displays that allow you to get up close and see inside the cockpit of various planes.

I loved this display of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Table. The sign next to the table explains that:

“The small table is set for one symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner.

The table is round showing our everlasting concern for our missing service members.

The tablecloth is white symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to arms.

A single red rose reminding us of the life of each of the missing, and the loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers.

A red ribbon symbolizing our continued determination to account for our missing.

A slice of lemon reminding us of the bitter fate of those missing, captured and held as prisoners in a foreign land.

A pinch of salt symbolizing the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.

A candle representing the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home.

The glass is inverted symbolizing their inability to share the evening’s toast.

“Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices. May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.”

After we finished touring the Air and Space museum, we took a guided tour through the Missile Training Launch Facility on the Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Bill is standing in front of a training missile silo that we actually got to go down inside of and see all the internal workings.

A very COOL way to end our visit to South Dakota’s Air and Space Museum!

Stay Tuned!

Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower

Yesterday Bill and I went to Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower. This tower serves as the Park’s fire lookout and information center.

Visitors to Custer State Park are always welcome to go as far as the outside observation deck on the second floor level.

However, if you are staff, or a volunteer at Custer State Park, you are allowed to go all the way to the top of the tower, and visit the third floor working interior quarters of the tower. What a treat that is!

The third floor observation room is the highest point in central Custer State Park (6,023 ft), and offers breathtaking 360-degree views.

It’s amazing to see up close all the tools it takes to not only spot fires from miles away, but also the maps and tools needed to pinpoint the exact location of the fire so you can communicate that information to firefighters on the ground and in the air.

The telescopes in the tower are so powerful, they make Crazy Horse,

and Mount Rushmore, look like they are just a stone throw away… We learned that on a clear day, you can see the Badlands nearly 60 miles away in the east.

It may look like a bit of a mess in the lookout tower, but I can say that the people that operate the fire tower know where everything is, and they are on top of everything all the time.

Mount Coolidge serves as the park’s dispatch center and fields a large volume of radio traffic and phone calls. Before contacting them, we are asked to make sure you have a legitimate question or concern. For example, we would call Mount Coolidge if we were notified of a lost person within the park, or if we were made aware of any dangerous situation. However, if it were a medical emergency, we would call 911 first, then call Mount Coolidge.

The first lookout tower was built on what was then known as Sheep Mountain in 1923. This tower was a log tower and the staff quarters were built at the base. In 1923 the mountain was renamed Lookout Mountain. On June 28, 1927, in a special proclamation President Calvin Coolidge changed the name yet again and called it Mount Coolidge. In 1940, the CCC built a stone tower with caretaker’s quarters to replace the log structure. The fire lookout consists of three stories. The actual fire tower is on the third floor of the stone building. The side walls consist of twelve very heavy windows. The second floor has one bedroom. Outside the second floor is an observation deck with an outside stone stairway for visitors. The first floor has a main room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The person on duty works three 12 hour shifts, and more often than not, they stay in the tower for the three days they are working.

Bill and I were very happy we took the tour of the tower. The views from the top of the tower are truly breathtaking.

Just another fun-filled day in Custer State Park.

Tomorrow we are going to take advantage of yet another free adventure when we use the VIP card we were given as volunteers of Custer State Park to go visit and tour South Dakota Air & Space Museum. Not only will we get to visit the museum, but we also get a free bus tour of Ellsworth Air Force Base & Missile Silo. Now how cool is that!!?

Stay Tuned!

Devils Tower

Yesterday Bill and I traveled to Wyoming to visit Devils Tower, America’s first National Monument! What an amazing place. We learned so much, and came away with a powerful respect for the area, the Native American people, their culture, and their history connected to the Tower.

 

We learned that “Native Americans are active stakeholders in the use and management of Devils Tower National Monument. Over two dozen federally recognized tribes are associated with the Tower. Much focus has been given to the oral histories these tribes have about their connections to the Tower. Words such and “myth” and “legend” are frequently used to describe these stories, but the appropriate term is sacred narrative-stories which explain how the world and people came to be.

American Indian oral histories are only a part of tribal connections to the Tower site. In the simplest terms, this is viewed as a place where the physical and spiritual worlds connect. Native people visit this place not only to connect with their past, but to perpetuate their culture today and into the future. The summer solstice in mid-June is a common time for indigenous groups to practice their cultural traditions. Prayer and purification ceremonies, as well as other rites of passage, frequently occurs here.” For that reason, a voluntary closure to the area inside the Tower Trail occurs every June out of respect to American Indian cultural practices.

The most visible element of native connections to the Tower are prayer bundles.

“As you walk the trails of the park, you may notice colorful cloths attached to the trees. These are offerings left by native people which represent prayers. The colors, placement, and contents have significance for the person who made them.”. You are asked to be respectful of the artifacts and to not disturb them in any way, and do not leave other items behind, as prayer bundles are a part of the cultural landscape of this site.

I loved learning what N. Scott Momaday wrote. “at the top of the ridge I caught sight of Devil’s Tower upthrust against the gray sky as if in the birth of time the core of the earth had broken through its crust and the motion of the world was begun. There are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man; Devil’s Tower is one of them.”

 

As Bill and I hiked the base of the Tower, we were amazed at how the colors changed depending on how the light and shadows fell upon it. On the backside of the Tower are rocks at the base of the Tower that are not visible from the front side of the Tower.

We learned that several Indian nations share similar legends on the origin of this prominent butte. The Kiowa people say: “Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it , and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Pleiades.”

As we continued our hike around the Tower, we had ample opportunities to take in all the beautiful views.

Every curve in the trail exposed something new and exciting to explore.

I couldn’t help but feel the presence of the spirits of the people that lived and died here.

And I admire the people who come to pay their respect to their loved ones, and leave their prayer offerings for them.

I’m so glad we made the trip to Wyoming to visit this sacred place. So much history, culture, and beauty to learn about.

Bill and I both agreed we could spend hours in this peaceful place, and just gaze upon the mighty Devils Tower.

Stay Tuned!

Supper Show And Lighting Ceremony

Last night Bill and I went to the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper & Music Variety Show, then we attended the Evening Lighting Ceremony of Mount Rushmore.

The Chuckwagon Supper & Music Variety Show is advertised as “Family-friendly attractions with history! Step back in time at the Fort Hays Old West Town Square. Stroll along the boardwalk and take a free, self-guided tour of the Dances With Wolves film set, and the South Dakota movie museum. Then enjoy a hearty chuckwagon menu, and the most entertaining show in the Black Hills!”

 

Dances With Wolves is one of both mine, and Bill’s, favorite movies, so we really enjoyed walking all through the set of the Dances With Wolves film set. We saw everything from the Saw Mill,

and the “Enging that was used in the filming of the sawmill scene”,

 

to the Blacksmith Shop,

and of course, there has to be a Livery. Can’t just let all those horses roam around freely! It was fun getting an up-close look at all the different sets used in the filming of Dances With Wolves.

At 7:00 the dinner bell rang, and we were all ushered into the dining room for a chuckwagon style dinner.  Directly after dinner, we were treated to a real Hee Haw, boot stomping, western show! The young cowgirl in the next picture really set that fiddle on fire!

The cowboy in this picture is a preacher by trade, and does the dinner shows in the evenings. He came out with his stick horse, and “10 gallon hat”, singing I’m a Long Tall Texan… Too funny!

After dinner, we made our way to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony. The Ranger was asking for five Vets to volunteer for a flag ceremony just before the lighting of the Mountain. Bill volunteered along with four other vets, and Bill was selected to be the group leader of the flag ceremony. Bill was to hold the flag until the appropriate time, then he was to unfold the flag with the assistance of the other four vets.

Once the flag was unfolded, Bill was to step back while the other four vets held the flag open in front of the walkway to the viewing platform of Mount Rushmore.

While the four vets held the flag open, Mount Rushmore was lit up, as the National Anthem played, and we all sang along. BEAUTIFUL ceremony.

At the conclusion of the National Anthem, four vets held the flag while Bill folded it back up and presented it to the Ranger. When the Ranger had the flag in his possession, he saluted Bill, and said he wanted to publicly thank any vets that never received a “welcome home”.  Then he asked for a round of applause for all five of the vets that participated in the flag ceremony at Mount Rushmore that evening.

The crowd erupted in applause, and everyone started snapping pictures of the Ranger and his five volunteer vets…  Great Job guys!

Another fabulous evening here in South Dakota!

Stay Tuned!

 

Previous Older Entries

Wheeling It

On the Road Since 2010, Traveling Across USA & Europe With 12 Paws

The Brantley Blog

In the eyes of the law, we reach adulthood the day we turn 18 years old. God help anyone who actually believes that.

the next few years

family life..with a unique perspective of motherhood

Gotham Girl Chronicles

a mixture of random musings...life in NYC...travel...photography...cycling

Blooming Burgh Boomer

Living An Active Full Life

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