Written by Lydia Benedict.

If there is such a thing as balance, I find it at the beach.

On July 11, my new ice cream store – HOLY COW! – opened in Buena Vista’s Maury Park. I still wasn’t ready: I hadn’t mastered milkshakes; I needed root beer for floats; and I needed to find a certified kitchen to supply brownies for sundaes. But I was hearing the same message from my husband and my oldest son: just open. So I did. And I’m figuring the rest out as I go.

Customers outside Holy Cow!

Life is like that. We don’t usually know the ending while standing at the beginning. I reminded myself that the store is my own business: I’m the boss. There was nothing holding me back—except my frazzled sense of inadequacy. And the best way to overcome that was to jump in. Whether it’s marriage, parenting, or starting a business—we typically learn as we go.

I’d originally hoped to open on Memorial Day. That quickly changed when my building couldn’t even be delivered until June because the old ice cream stand (which had been closed for years) hadn’t been moved off the land I had leased in the park. There were more delays and I planned to open in time for July 4th. I was naïve to think that I could have the inside of my new building outfitted with plumbing, electricity, freezers and air conditioning within a couple of weeks. July 4th came and went and the store still wasn’t open.

Another week went by while I got the inside of the store set up, received a dairy order with more than 20 three-gallon tubs of ice cream, and moved ice cream cones, cups, spoons, and much more from my farm to the store. I couldn’t delay any longer. Our family vacation to Connecticut was only five days away; plus, I was selling ice cream at a street fair there in our hometown. Ready or not, I opened the store.

Holy Cow! at street fair in Niantic, Connecticut

In between scooping ice cream, I transplanted perennials from my farm around the store (Tennyson loaded beams, bags of garden soil, and mulch into the truck and helped me make a couple small flower beds), gathered miscellaneous items for the store, and made multiple trips to city hall (somehow city employees are always “out to lunch” or otherwise unavailable) to obtain a sign permit. It took lawyers, a sign maker, the city planner, and Jeff helping me push the process along in order to get the sign approved. (Plus a permit fee, of course!)

I had planned on coming home from vacation in Connecticut early to run the store. I just felt like I should be there. At the same time, I REALLY needed a vacation! My average bedtime had become 1:30 a.m. I was tired and wanted to spend some time with my family on the same beach that I’d lived next to in the early years of my marriage.

So the nights got even later between opening the store and vacation. I lined up the schedule for the farm chores, making sure there was enough grain to last the animals two weeks. I hired employees, made a work schedule, and had whirlwind “training” with the new employees. Actually, my 15-year-old son had to help in that department while I dealt with yet another crisis. Our family vehicle (of the last 13 years) was about to die. So I had Clancy train the new help while Jeff and I trekked over the mountains to a dealership in Lynchburg. (I was literally holding my breath that the minivan would make it there.) We purchased a new vehicle just in time to pack it and leave town for Connecticut. While on vacation, I’ve already changed the store hours once and re-worked the employees’ schedules and shifts three times.

But in between emails, texts and phone calls regarding the store, ice cream deliveries, and farm animals—I’m at the beach. There’s something about the lapping of the water along the sand and the warmth of the sun that takes out all the knots and kinks we work into ourselves. Clara Belle gathers stones, shells and sea glass, and catches baby crabs from beneath rocks. Maggie and Clancy swim out to the raft in the ocean. Tennyson finishes his internship and takes the train to join us at the beach. We are all together.

Today , Tennyson celebrates his 19th birthday by going to see U2 with Jeff in New York City. It’s funny that my son is so excited to see the same band that Jeff and I had waited in line to get tickets to back in the 80’s.

Meanwhile, I’m content with a book and a beach chair. Wearing a swimsuit and flip-flops, I hop on a bicycle. With my beach bag over the handle bar and a water thermos in hand, I ride five blocks to the beach. The sun rises over Long Island Sound, sailboats clink at their moorings. I’ve finished reading A Walk in the Woods and have started The Oregon Trail. Both books are about journeys: one on the Appalachian Trail, the other on the Oregon Trail. Each book records the author’s respective experiences—taking the reader on the trail as well. In the first tale, I’m practically walking the Appalachian Trail myself. And there is something romantic about traveling west along the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. It’s an adventure I can escape to every time I open the book.

It’s just what the doctor ordered: lazy days on the beach with a good book and my family.