Bandaids and Broken Hearts

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Back in April, I wrote a blog called "Changing How We See".  The feature photo of that blog was this tree:
In that blog I talked about how everyday I'm drawn to this tree that stands in the 'forever wild' area behind my house.  I'm drawn to its character and its appearance - all gnarled and worn, yet strong and determined to remain standing despite its weathered and tattered condition.   I spoke of how what we see isn't always the reality of "what is".  Recently I noticed that the tree is even more compromised:

Now a large section is missing from the tree (see the arrow I placed pointing to the missing wood).    Yet, the tree still stands - broken and weathered, scarred from conditions beyond its control.

The human spirit is much like this tree.  We live through illness and loss.  We endure hardships and heartaches.  We lose parents, either to death or dementia.  We lose spouses, friends, pets and even children.  We are forced to face the unthinkable.

We endure financial hardships, job loss, break ups.  Sometimes friendships we thought were sacred and lasting become victim to misunderstanding or betrayal.  Life can leave us tattered and gnarled, broken and scarred.   But like this tree, we find a way to stay on our feet and keep moving forward.  Though we are compromised, bewildered, and convinced we cannot go on, somehow the human spirit finds the strength and the determination to get back on our feet.  Eventually when we look into the mirror, we stop seeing ourselves as victims, stop seeing our battle scars, stop feeling hopeless and decide to embrace the remnants of our ravaged self and face life head on.

The human spirit doesn't depend on beauty.  It doesn't depend on acceptance, it doesn't require perfection.  The human spirit knows the value of persistence, and the reward of determination.  The human spirit finds self-worth and pride and is able to let go of pain and loss.  We all experience all sorts of battles in our life, some much more tragic than others.  If we're lucky, we find a way to rise from the ashes and remind ourselves that "Life Goes On" and so must we.

We might be tattered and broken on the inside, and we might even look worn and tired on the outside, but in the end, what matters is not how we look, not how broken our circumstances have left us, but how lucky we are to get a second chance.   The next time life treats you unfairly, the next time you feel sucker punched, misunderstood, mistreated and unloved, remember this tree and remind yourself this:
You may be hollow inside, and you may feel broken, but in the words of Joel Osteen:

"If you can see the invisible, God will do the impossible!"

Please share this blog with someone who might be feeling broken.  If you missed my earlier blog, "Changing How We See", use this link to check it out.  As always, thanks for reading and for giving me the opportunity to share my photos and my thoughts!

Hildene - Home of Robert Todd & Mary Lincoln

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Earlier this week I shared a blog entitled, Gardens in Stained Glass, a piece about the formal gardens at Hildene in Manchester, VT.  If you read that blog, you already know that Hildene was built by Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln to survive to adulthood.  Robert had visited Manchester as a young man in 1864 and loved it so much, he returned 40 years later and purchased 500 acres (at about $30 per acre) and built what he would call his 'family home'.

"Hildene is a Georgian Revival Style home designed by the Boston architectural firm Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge. Construction of this 24-room home began in 1903 and the Lincoln family moved in on June 20, 1905".  According to the Hildene website, the home was built at a cost of $63,000.  That does not include the terrace or carriage barn, or the pipe organ.  The organ alone cost $11,500.   Mary Lincoln Beckwith (Peggy) was the last Lincoln descendant to live at Hildene. She inherited Hildene in 1938 and lived there until her death in 1975. Her brother Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith (Bud) was the last direct Lincoln descendant and he died in 1985.  They were grandchildren of Todd and Mary Lincoln, (children of their daughter, Jessie).  In 1978, the Friends of Hildene raised enough money to purchase Hilene and a long process of restoration began of both the home and the gardens.
"The 1928 Franklin Roadster which once belonged to Robert Todd Lincoln's daughter, Jessie (Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph). She and her then husband, John Randolph, drove the car over 60,000 miles, traveling from their Virginia plantation to their homes in Washington, D.C. and New York and to Vermont to visit her daughter Peggy. In 1948, the Franklin was discovered abandoned in a field at the Randolph's plantation. Several owners and many years of restoration later, Jessie's car found its way back to Hildene." (Taken from website)

In addition to the home, the estate houses an observatory, a carriage barn which has been restored and is used as a museum store and administration office, the formal gardens, a restored Pullman Car (subject of my next blog) and the Rowland Agricultural Center where a herd of goats are raised and cheese is manufactured.  Visitors to Hildene are able to visit the center and watch the goats being milked and watch every step in the process of the making of cheese.

This gal was literally waiting at the door for her turn to be milked.

 The 24-room home on it's 500 acres is a far cry from the humble beginnings in a log cabin that Abraham Lincoln was born into.  This photo (with the box enhanced) pictures a brick outline of the exact size of Lincoln's log cabin - quite a contrast one generation can make!

Hildene is a beautiful estate to visit.  Admission is $18.00 for adults and includes tram rides from the Visitor Center to the main house as well as the farm and the Pullman car.   Stay tuned for my next blog featuring the Sunbeam - the finest example of a wooden Pullman car on public display. We are so lucky that our state and neighboring New England offers so many historical sites where we can get a glimpse of our history and the people who shaped the area we call home. 

Gardens in Stained Glass

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."  Great reminder by Abraham Lincoln.  And speaking of Lincoln, last week I was able to cross off another destination on my summer agenda when we spent a morning at Hildene in Manchester, VT.  

Hildene was the home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln that survived to adulthood.  " Robert first visited Manchester as a young man in the summer of 1864 when he came to the Equinox Hotel with his mother and his brother Tad. He was so taken by the beauty of Vermont that some forty years later he returned to purchase 500 acres of land to build what he would call his ancestral home." (taken from Hildene's website).  I will give you more Hildene later in another in my Hildene series, but today I want to focus on the gardens - which for me, was worth the price of admission.  I think you'll understand why.
The gardens were designed as a birthday gift for her mother by daughter Jesse Lincoln in 1907.  Many of the original plantings still exist and produce thousands of peony blooms each June.  "Her design was influenced by French parterre gardens she had seen while the family lived in Europe and she wanted the garden to resemble a stained-glass Romanesque cathedral window. The panes of colored glass were produced by different colored flowers and privet hedge was planted to represent the leading between the panes."  As gorgeous as this garden looks - both in the photos as as you stroll through it, the best view can be found from Mrs. Lincoln's second floor bedroom which overlooks the gardens.  I would have had a hard time leaving a bedroom that offered such a spectacular view!

 If you're looking at these shrubs and thinking they look particularly neat and symmetrical - they should - they are trimmed DAILY.....yes, daily!

Aside from the spectacular design, the beautiful collection of specimens and absolute awe-inspiring beauty of the gardens, one cannot ignore the magnificent view that awaits you once you reach the end of the garden.  Robert Todd Lincoln certainly chose the most beautiful corner of Manchester for his "summer cottage", didn't he?  I'll tell you more about Hildene in my next blog, but for now I'll leave you to spend a few moments enjoying the Hildene Gardens.

 Don't forget, to view photos in a larger format, click on any photo and view as a slide show.  Hope to see you back soon to enjoy the rest of beautiful Hildene.

All photos, unless otherwise noted, were taken by Gail A. Welter.  All Rights Reserved. Photographs in this blog may not be downloaded, reproduced or manipulated in any form or fashion without my express written consent.

For the Love of Llamas

Sunday, July 27, 2014
It's no secret that I'm an animal lover.  I grew up with a Beagle named Duke who was so docile my best friend and I dressed him in doll clothes and walked him in our doll carriages. We also had cats and when our kids were young and we lived in a complex that didn't allow pets, we still managed to have guinea pigs, a rabbit, a hamster or two, parakeets and a cat ......not all at the same time!  I thought it was important for kids to grow up with pets and yes, maybe I'm a rebel.  These days I limit my "pet" collection to one cat and one parakeet.....but it's nice to be able to love other peoples' pets and that's just what I did yesterday!

A few months ago when discussing my blog and photo ops with our favorite contractor and good friend, he mentioned a llama farm I might want to check out.  We'd recently enjoyed the Washington Country Fiber Tour where we met some great people and several alpaca and llamas, so I promptly did some research and was tickled when Katrina Capasso of Dakota Ridge Farm invited us to visit and tour the farm for my blog.  So yesterday John, my mom and I headed to Ballston Spa to spend some time with Katrina and her husband, Gary, and their menagerie of kids.

Dakota Ridge Farm didn't start out as an intended llama farm.  Katrina thought she might one day have a horse farm, and indeed there are a couple of horses on the farm.  The llama story began 23 1/2 yrs. ago when Gary gave Katrina a llama as a wedding gift.  As Katrina will tell you, "llamas are like potato chips, you can't have just one."   What began as a love story continues as a love story, because as you tour this place, it is impossible not to feel the love that permeates from barn to barn, llama to llama, person to llama, and beyond.  There are about 55 llamas at Dakota Ridge, some owned by the Capasso's, some boarded here.  It's hard to tell which is which, because every llama is kissed and cuddled and most cuddle and 'lean' and kiss back.  One particular llama who is not known for being particularly affectionate towards strangers took a liking to my mom and carried on quite a courtship with her for several minutes.

My Mom and "Silver Ending".....I think it was the hair color that sealed the deal.
Although we were treated like somebody special, our visit was not unique.  Dakota Ridge welcomes visitors and for a very small fee ($10) visitors are given a hands-on tour of the farm and are able to pet, walk and feed the llamas.

John walking "Hope"
 Dakota Ridge is set on a 42 acres of woods, ponds and pastures that looks like a picture post card.  The only thing prettier than the scenery is the face of each and every llama there.  I met llamas on our fiber tour, but they weren't like these llamas.  These llamas think and act more like dogs or cats.  They are calm and friendly and social.  It's easy to see how easy it can be to "collect" them for pets.   But pets aren't the sole purpose for the Capasso's collection.  Katrina shows her llamas and has done extremely well at that..........

They also breed llamas.  One of her males has a 'waitlist' of females waiting for his services.   And of course, their coats are used for fiber for yarn.  Katrina feels that llamas are mystical and magical creatures and after our visit yesterday, I can understand why.  The farm, though a business, is really an extension of the Capasso family.  I don't think you could feel more love if you walked into a houseful of children.  For the Capasso's, these llamas ARE their children and are loved in a way that is palpable when you are in their company.  I know when Katrina 'talks to the animals' they understand what she's saying.

Sadly, Katrina and Gary lost their first love and farm namesake, Dakota, this spring.  At 23 1/2, Dakota outlived the normal life expectancy of a llama, as did Midnight Run who passed away last week at 22 yrs. of age.  Dakota's life, love and legacy lives on at the farm that began with Gary's gift to Katrina.

I hope you will plan a visit to Dakota Ridge soon and that you'll bring your kids or grandkids with you.  I promise you will fall in love - with the llamas and with the Capasso's.  This is a very unique and special experience that you probably won't get at any other farm event.  It is a personal experience that is meant to teach you about llamas, what it's like to raise and care for llamas and get an up close and personal, hands-on visit with these majestic creatures.

Katrina & Sakima

Dakota Ridge Farm is located on East High Street in Ballston Spa.  The link to their website and their Facebook page will be included at the end of this blog.  Photos are a little like potato I had trouble controlling myself among all these beautiful kids.  Consequently I have quite a few more than I can include in this blog.  Please visit my Facebook page, Life As I See It Photography by Gail Welter, ( to view many more photos.  Till then though, enjoy these!

Even "Spice" was on hand to show a little love!

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