Life is Not a Waiting Room for Death. Live Life Fully Alive

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Life is not a waiting room for death.  

Live life fully alive.                 

                                               - James Dobson

Life As I See It Blog

Read that again.....Life is not a waiting room for death.  Live life fully alive.  Simple, yet profound.  And to some, maybe confusing.  Some might say you're either alive or you're not, it's that simple.  But is it?

Let me back up for a minute.  Have you ever noticed, or paid attention to the budding leaves of spring?  I think most people, especially in today's hectic-paced world, notice that throughout winter the trees are barren of vegetation.  They appear like skeletons in the landscape, naked twigs vulnerable to the harsh elements of winter.  Until, all of a sudden, tiny sprouts emerge and before we know it, all the trees are lush with the fullness of mature vegetation where only skeletons once stood.  It seems like this process of new growth happens almost overnight, but to those paying attention, not only does it take a gradual and mystifying progression, it is a wonderous sight for anyone wise enough to observe.

So what does this opening quote have to do with the trees leafing out in the spring, you're wondering?  Almost anyone would tell you that time passes quickly.  Most would say, 'time flies'.  To the casual observer of the stark, colorless landscape in upstate NY, it seems like our world turns from grey to green practically overnight.  The same can be said with life.  Ask any mother who is sending her baby off to college.  To her it seems like just yesterday, that child was in kindergarten, totally dependent on her for almost everything.  Ask that same college student on their college graduation day how quickly they feel their time at college flew by.  Ask a grandparent whose grandchildren are already in middle school how it seems possible so much time has passed so quickly.  All would agree, time flies.  One day we or our loved ones are young with a full life ahead and suddenly, we are facing a much more advanced perspective of that timeline.

It occurred to me recently that as I approach my 69th birthday (that can't be right) that definitively the bulk, the better portion of my life is no longer ahead of me.  It's clearly behind me.  On the timeline of life, I am teetering on the cusp of what some may consider the beginning of the end.  Now don't get me wrong.  I know people live into their nineties and some even to 100, but realistically speaking, 69 is definitely on the far side of the mountain, and heading downward rapidly.  

Like the buds on the trees, I didn't get to this age overnight.  It happened gradually, over time, one year at a time.  Still in retrospect, those years raced by in what sometimes feels like an instant, a mere blink of an eye.  It didn't just happen to me.  My girls are 39 and 43.  That too feels almost impossible to grasp and yet, it's true.  Life happens.  It happens - whether we're paying attention to the fine details along the way or not.  One day we wake up and find ourselves in full bloom, and just like in nature, we know that autumn is on the horizon.  The question becomes, how many autumns do we have left.

So what does all this mean?  It means that life flashes by whether we are fully engaged or relaxing in our recliner.  It does not slow down waiting for us to engage, to get onboard, to savor the journey.  It simply passes from one day to the next, one month to the next, one year to the next until finally we reach our final autumn.  That my friends is why we must life live fully alive.  We must embrace the joy, release the pain and stress, forgive our enemies, and savor the view along the way.  We must learn to ignore what we cannot control, make time to learn new things, savor your children's childhood, prioritize our time and commitments, and do all the things you'll wish you'd taken time to do when you no longer have that time left.  Life is not a waiting room for death.  It is not a dress rehearsal, we don't get any extra innings.  Some are lucky enough to get a free ride past home for a little longer.  They are the lucky ones because they understand that life isn't forever.  All we have for certain is TODAY.  So I hope you choose to spend it living, not just waiting.

For more posts like this one, check out my blog Directory under the category, Food For Thought.

It Doesn't Get Much Sweeter Than The Bittersweet Farm Mercantile

Saturday, April 29, 2023

 Some of the best treasures are the ones that take a little effort to discover and that's true about the one I'm sharing today.  Located in West Burlington, NY, the Bittersweet Farm Mercantile, was definitely worth the extra miles we drove both the first time we visited and the second too!

West Burlington is a hamlet of the town of Burlington, NY which is about 16 miles west of Cooperstown.  One might not expect a rural town that is 45 square miles and a population of only 1,140 people to have such a fine gift shop, but oh, they would be so wrong.  If you're reading this thinking I've lost my marbles to be driving an hour and fifty minutes to visit a gift shop, by the end of this blog you'll understand why I did.   

First of all the ride from the Capital District is so easy and so scenic -  through rural landscapes far and wide.  We took Route 20 from Duanesburg and then a variety of rural back roads that were suggested by the GPS.  I knew after our first visit that we'd be coming back and thanks to the lure of social media posts, it didn't take much to get me back.

Debbie Hamm, the shop owner, began her journey thanks to a love of crafting, an appreciation for pretty things and a knack for design.  A couple small shops preceded the current Bittersweet Farm Mercantile which makes its home in what was previously a roller skating arena.  Now the building houses several businesses including a hair salon, a nail salon, a tanning salon, a chiropractor and even a country deli.  

Debbie's husband, Rod, used his contractor skills to build the shop and her sister Joyce, who we met on our first visit, also helps out when she's able.  Debbie tries to incorporate many of their handmade items as well as unique one-of-a-kind finds to make the shop different from the competition.  They hope to inspire decorating ideas with their displays and inspire creativity with their classes.  The Mercantile offers classes in needle punch and crafting with IOD. Iron Orchid Designs sells a high quality line of transfers, moulds, and stamps that can be used separately or together to make beautiful decorative pieces for your home.   She is a distributor of supplies for both needle punching and IOD.  Check out their Facebook page for examples of all of these products:  

Needle Punch Patterns

IOD Supplies

So, want to see more?  I know you do!  

That covered bridge picture did I resist that???

Wow, right? And if you're wondering, I did not come home empty handed. I may have to reconsider my blog byline, Collecting Moments Not Things. I seem to be on a roll collection things lately! Like other small, family owned shops like Bittersweet that we've featured here on the blog, Debbie and Joyce are so friendly and welcoming. Debbie says they try to be a happy place in the midst of the hard times in the world we are living in. I can vouch that they are definitely a bright spot in the darkness we are often surrounded by today. We were excited to take advantage of the take-out deli next door, Sister Sammy's, on both of our visits and I can tell you - the food is fresh and delicious! Sister Sammy's Facebook Page

If you find yourself near the Cooperstown area, or are looking for a great day trip, I strongly urge you to head to West Burlington and pay a visit to the Bittersweet Farm Mercantile.  I can't wait to go back, but I might be a little grateful that this gem of a shop isn't too close to home, if you know what I mean.  Bittersweet Farm is located at 2353 State Route 80.  They are open Wednesday through Friday, 10:00-5:00 and Saturdays 10:00-4:00.  Tell them I sent you.  

Thanks for visiting Life As I See It.  To read about more great shops like this one, check out my blog Directory under the Category: Let's Shop.

Are You an American Beech Tree or a Willow? Letting Leaves Inspire Compassion

Monday, April 3, 2023

The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.  
-Napolean Hill

This particular quote may refer to an oak tree, but it could also be accurate if it instead referred to an American Beech Tree.  For some time now, I've been intrigued by the leaves pictured above - so intrigued that I've taken a healthy collection of photos, mostly in Grafton State Park.  But it wasn't until this weekend that I did a little research to discover exactly what specific tree they are from and learn a little about their characteristics.  

The American Beech is a slow-growing tree that grows an average height of 50 – 70 feet with a trunk diameter up to three feet across. Taller trees may be found in shady forests, with some reaching heights over 100 feet. It is best recognized by its smooth silver-gray bark, some likening it to elephant skin, that can be observed throughout its lifespan, which can exceed 300 years. More mature trees, having reached a height of about 50 feet, produce fruit - beech nuts which are edible.  One of the reasons these trees are so hardy and long lived is due to the fact that they can tolerate shade, in fact, they can live with almost no sun at all.  Small offspring often grow among large maples or oaks, shorter living specimens.  The American Beech's strong nature allows it to outlive their larger neighbors, taking over where maples and oaks have reached the end of their lives.   Their leaves have serrated edges and grow in an alternating pattern on their branches.  The thing I find most fascinating about the American Beech is that their leaves remain all winter and don't drop until the new leaves emerge.  This interesting quality is what makes them so visible and I think, beautiful, all winter long.  If you find yourself in their presence - take a moment and listen to the gentle rattle they make in the wind.
Now I didn't decide to suddenly become an arborist and share the story of the great American Beech Tree, although it may seem so.  I want to share the analogies about these dainty but mighty leaves of winter.
For a while now whenever I see the lacy, papery remnants of the American Beech leathery green summer presence, I can't help but be a little impressed at their fortitude.  Imagine for a minute these paper-thin, wrinkled leaves clinging onto their branches throughout the harsh New York winter.  Imagine what it must be like surviving the frigid temperatures, the gusty wind, the icy rain, heavy snow - sometimes all at one time challenging the strongest and the weakest inhabitants, month after month.  And yet, this past weekend, the first weekend in April, so many leaves remained on their branches, waiting until they are replaced by the next generation.

  These determined leaves remind me of the strong people I know.  You know the people I mean, you have these people in your life too.  I'm talking about the people I know that face challenges each and everyday, the people with chronic illness, or chronic pain.  I'm talking about the people who have faced unspeakable tragedy or repeated bad luck.  It's the people who seem to brush off whatever hardship life throws at them and continue to just keep on keeping on when others might be inclined to give up.  It's the people who can't seem to catch a break, even when they are trying their hardest. Or the folks that have given nothing but the best of themselves to everyone around them but are still faced with a deadly diagnosis or the loss of a loved one.  It's the women who long for a child but pregnancy never happens, the mom whose child is developmentally challenged, and the many who struggle with mental health.  So many of those people somehow manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other, willing to face another day.  They hang on, just like these mighty leaves through the storms as they await spring.

I think sometimes those of us who are blessed with small life annoyances, minor aches and pains, and petty worries might learn a little from the Beech tree - and from the people around us who aren't so blessed.  We might do well to judge a little less, understand a little more and dole out a little compassion instead of impatience.  It might be humbling if we take a moment to remember the people we know whose life isn't such a walk in the park, the people who probably don't complain or call attention to their hardships but instead hold fast to their faith and their determination.  Those people... they deserve our admiration and our kindness and maybe even a little 'way to go' praise.

Are you an American Beech or do you know one?  This post is for you.  If you are one, know that you are admired, you are loved and you are in someone's prayers.  I hope the next time you happen past an American Beech tree you remember this post and the people you know that embody strength, tenacity and perseverance. 

“We can learn a lot from trees: they’re always grounded but never stop reaching heavenward.” 
- Everett Mamor

For more posts like this one, words of inspiration, thought provoking essays, check out my blog directory under the category, Food for Thought.

The Book Nook - Welcoming Book Lovers To Come and Set a Spell

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks. -Dr. Seuss

There's something magical about books and bookstores. I'm not an avid reader, but I have a thing about books. I remember visiting the library as a child and feeling an enchantment surrounded by shelves of books. I still love bookstores and today I'm excited to be able to share the newest bookstore in the area....the Book Nook.

Sue Hart Rainka remembers her mom taking her to the library and reading to her as a child.  Sue says she always wanted to be a librarian.  Funny how life's ambitions play out, sometimes not exactly in the timing we imagine.  Sue's worked for her family's home security business until January 2023 but after Sue's mom passed away Easter Saturday of 2022, she began to reimagine her dream of owning a bookstore. Together with her husband, Phil Patnode, they made that dream become a reality opening the doors of The Book Nook on March 1st, 2023.  

Located at 146 Raylinsky Road, Suite 4A in Ballston Lake (in the new plaza behind the brand new Stewart's shop), the Book Nook is a small, independent, secondhand book store.  Sue not only loves books, she loves being surrounded by books and loves meeting people.  She says that those who come into the shop, booklovers, tend to be kindred spirits.  The goal at the Book Nook was to create a cozy, welcoming environment where people can come in, browse and relax.  That is exactly the environment they have created!  Several couches provide comfortable seating throughout the store.  Artwork, some handed down from Sue's mom, adorn the walls and a wall fountain (from Sue's parent's home) creates a relaxing water symphony in the shop's kitchenette where patrons can enjoy coffee, tea or hot chocolate.  The store features a children's nook complete with a couch, toys and books of all interests for kids of all ages, arranged by subject and age.  The entire store is impeccably organized and labeled by subject matter and the books are all in pristine condition, some looking more new than used.  In addition to books, the store offers dvd's, puzzles, and even large print books.

Sue's husband, Phil, is retired.  That doesn't mean he's sitting on the leather sofa, nose in a book.  Nope, Phil drives a school bus and between runs he keeps busy arranging books, hanging pictures and being the brawn who helped make Sue's dream a reality.  Aside from his smile and hospitality, Phil moved from one task to another, efficiently completing a number of tasks in the short time we were taking photos.  It was evident what great teamwork was involved in bringing this dream to reality.

Something very magical can happen when you read a good book

- JK Rowling

The Children's Nook.............

The shop accepts book donations and in some cases issues 'trade credit' for folks looking to use the credit for future purchases in the store.  More information about that process can be found on their website:  You can follow the Book Nook on Instagram at: @booknook2023_  To visit the shop, just off Exit 11 of the Northway, the shop is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-6:00pm.  Stay tuned for news and events about possible happenings at the shop - book clubs, children's story times, local author events and more.  Check it out soon and tell all your book-loving friends.  Tell Sue I sent you.  

Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.

-David Quammen

To read more posts like this one:

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