When Life Feels Like a Dead End, Hang On and Look for the Light

Sunday, March 31, 2019
Sometimes in life it's hard to find the bright side of things.  There are days, weeks and sometimes even months when the drudgeries of everyday life weigh you down and make it difficult to see beyond the to-do list, the job, the kids.  From time-to-time, all of us get sucked into the pit of despair, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It sometimes feels as if we're permanently stuck in a tsunami drowning in the tide of life.  And sometimes we feel like no one is noticing and for sure, no one is throwing us a life jacket.  Ever been there?  We're in our car but going nowhere.  Sometimes the end of winter feels a little like this. We're sick of snow, sick of the cold, the wind.  We get a brief reprieve when we are blessed with a 50 degree day but just as we're feeling we may have actually been rescued from the tundra, we are faced with the depressing reality that is known as mud....brown, dirty, tracking mud.  Of course, even when the snow melt stops being responsible for the mud, the April showers arrive and remind us that glorious green is not an immediate result of turning a page on the calendar.  This in-between season .... the time after the snow and before the green.... can be challenging for camera buffs.  Challenging, but not totally impossible.  We took a few drives this week and I was reminded that even when our mind is convinced there won't be much reason to celebrate (or photograph), if we give it a chance and a little effort....there's always something to love and be thankful for.
If car's were already self-driven, ours would surely only travel a few routes...and one of those routes would be in the direction of Easton, NY.  Modern conveniences are not required as this co-pilot makes sure her driver takes her to those favorite destinations, sometimes more than once in a given week.  This week, after the snow was melted and before the sprout of green, we found plenty of color to capture and plenty of tranquility to savor.  Windows down, cruising along our favorite roads, the sound of red-winged blackbirds filling the fields....our road trips were medicine for the soul and material for the blog.  Come along as I take you through the countryside of Washington County.

 Although we never need an excuse for a road trip, on this particular day we did have a reason for our direction.  As some of you remember, I put together and sold some Easton coffee table books last fall.  I had one left so I donated it to the Easton Library.  Jennifer DeCarlo, Library Director, made me feel like a celebrity instead of the crazy that rides around stalking barns and back roads.  It seems I've become fairly well known for capturing the beauty of Easton.

The first road trip was on a picture perfect, blue-sky kind of day.  The snow-capped Green Mountains provided the perfect backdrop against the clear sky and dormant crop fields.   That was definitely not the case on the second day when we began our travels in Buskirk hoping to rediscover some of the favorite barns we found in fall (unsuccessfully. Note to self: take notes when riding the back roads).  We may have begun in Buskirk but somehow once again landed in Cambridge and Easton.

 So you see....even during this drab, muddy, in-between white and green season, there is plenty of vibrant color to be found....if we just focus our gaze in the right direction.  Life is a little like that.  We may feel overwhelmed, unable to see the light at the end of the long tunnel, but if we keep the faith and the focus....we'll make it.  Famous basketball coach, John Wooden, said, "Each day is a masterpiece".  I believe he's right....even on our darkest days, we need to pause and look around us...at the people who care, the place we feel at home and in the simple blessings that fill our soul.  I encourage you to remember these photos - especially the dark, cloudy ones.  Remember the vibrant colors that stood out against the darkness and let those colors remind you that you too have something bright in your life to be thankful for, something worth hanging on for, something worth working for.  Even if it's just green in your lawn....be patient.  It will come.  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope today's post brought a little spot of light to your life.  Come back soon for more Life As I See It.
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Hiatus Off.....Spring On! Catching Up and Moving Forward!

Sunday, March 24, 2019
Hiatus on?  Hiatus off?  The answer to that is about as definitive as the weather and the arrival of spring.  Seriously though, I'm back from my hiatus and I want to begin by thanking all of you for taking the time to share your support of my time away and your own personal feelings about social media.  As nasty and negative as it sometimes gets, I must say I would be lost without it and the ability to connect with all of you.  So like most everything else in life, we'll take the good with the bad and I hope when you visit the blog or my Facebook page that you'll find what you see to be uplifting and encouraging.  That's always been my goal.

So since my last post I've done a few things I'd like to share.  Most of my time, aside from almost daily time with the grandkids, has been devoted to our new kitty, Simba.  It's been almost ten years since we've had a kitten and I will admit I'd forgotten how much fun (and work) they are.  This ball of fur is as playful as he is cute and when they say Ragamuffins (and Ragdolls) are like puppies, they aren't kidding.  This cat greets us at the door, shadows our every step, sleeps between us, waits for me outside of the shower and is the most attentive and loving cat I've ever met.  He treats visitors with equal love and attention.  There is such a negative stigma about 'buying' pets today, I had a real anxiety about admitting we chose a reputable breeder instead of a shelter, but the fact is.....people everywhere buy purebred dogs from breeders.  No one scrutinizes them.  All of our previous cats - four of them - were rescues.  This time I wanted a proven health background, and a breed of cat that was known to be docile and friendly and I am so happy we found our dream cat.  We're so happy, in fact, that we have decided Simba needs a playmate so we're adding another Muffin to the mix in May.  I know....call me crazy, but two cats hardly qualify me to be considered a crazy cat lady.  Some people consider me crazy even without cats. LOL

During my hiatus we've spent a lot of time 'KonMaring' the house.  If you have Netflix, you're probably familiar with Marie Kondo, the queen of Tidying Up. Marie's new show has been called a cultural phenomenon!  I pride myself on keeping a tidy and clean home, but 40 years of married life has a way of accumulating 'stuff'.  We have some things tucked away in the attic and closets that we haven't seen or used in years, even decades. Marie Kondo teaches her followers to sort through their belongings, keeping only those things that spark JOY.  At first it sounds a bit hokey, but after a few episodes of her show ....and a drawer or closet later....it's pretty easy to pick up an item you haven't seen in decades and figure out that it probably isn't sparking anything but dust and would be better off in someone else's closet.  We've unloaded several carloads of household items and clothing at the local thrift stores and my tidy and sparsely filled closets are definitely sparking joy for me. Ridding ourselves of the clutter (even though it was behind closed doors and drawers) is so cathartic and definitely is a great way to enter a new season.

Just in time for our cleaning, we came across a shop in Schenectady that accepts donations of sewing, art and craft supplies.  The shop is called Her Treasure Box and it was founded in 2015 by Debbie Fowler and Patty Carly.  The proceeds from the store go to support Eyes Wide Open, a mission to assist and empower women and girls victimized by human trafficking.  It's a really wonderful shop filled with all sorts of well organized and very well priced craft and sewing supplies.  It's located at 1775 Van Vranken Avenue, Schenectady NY.  If you, like me, have a bunch of yarn or miscellaneous craft supplies you'll never use, this is the perfect place to donate them.  For more information:
On the way home from there, we stopped by one of our favorite local venues, the Vischer Ferry General Store.  It'd been a while since our last visit so we really had fun browsing all the latest merchandise, including a large variety of Beekman 1802 products.   I snatched up some bar soap, hand wash and cologne of one of their MacKenzie Childs signature fragrances, Morning Glory.  Ohhh it smells so good.  Of course we had to have some lunch too.  I had a tuna melt on onion rye (yummy) and John had the most amazing combination - ham, goat cheese, red onion, arugula and apricot jam on a ciabatta.  O...M...G.  Delish.   We took half of each home for later so we could have dessert - a slice of chocolate pecan pie for me and carrot cake for John.  If you haven't been to the Vischer Ferry General Store yet...what are you waiting for?  I've written about it a few times here on the blog.  What a great community gathering spot for great food, great activities and unique merchandise. Check it out: 

We've also visited a couple other favorite shops.  Bluebird Home Decor moved from Troy, NY to State Street in Schenectady.  Bigger and better than ever, Bluebird is filled with some of the most unique merchandise from rugs to home goods, bath and body products, books and amazing artwork by the talented Shelly Broughton, re-purposed vintage lighting and so much more. I've talked and blogged about Bluebird many times because it's truly wonderful and just keeps getting better and better. It's too amazing to describe, you just have to check it out for yourself.  I never leave empty handed! Bluebird is located on the corner of State and Lafayette, right next door to Slidin' Dirty.  Check out Bluebird's social media:

It wouldn't be the start of a new season if I didn't pay a visit to the Speckled Hen.  Although Marie Kondo has been pushing me to eliminate things that don't spark joy.....visits to the Hen are a guaranteed joy-filled way to spend time - and money.  Always filled with the most beautiful home decor vignettes, the best part of shopping at the Hen is owner, Maureen's ability to help customers curate the most amazing arrangements and vignettes for their home.  How many times have you walked into a store and drooled over merchandise but thought you didn't know how to incorporate a piece or pieces into your decor?   Maureen helps customers fill a vessel, make a vignette, make a statement that will leave you speechless.  She did that for me today.  I handed her a bunch of faux foliage and she arranged it perfectly, ready to pop into my vase when I got home. 

Don't have a vase?  No worries, she has so many beautiful pieces.   Aside from having the coziest, most lust-worthy items, (that definitely spark joy) Maureen is maybe one of the most charitable people you'll ever meet.  Always collecting for a cause, Maureen has rallied behind and collected huge amounts to several causes including Ainsley's Angels, Kathy Hastings (an ovarian cancer patient), and this year's pet drive, just to name a few.  Maureen always looks for ways to help others and her customers never let her down.  Stop by the Speckled Hen on Route 50 (38 Saratoga Road) in Scotia.  Check out Maureen's Speckled Hen at: 

So, that's what I've been up to.  The forecast hints of warmer days and the calendar promises a new and gentler season ahead.  We took a road trip today with my mom and visited our favorite rural parts of Amsterdam and I'm feeling back in the swing of things, anxious to capture the emergence of new life through nature.  I always find spring to be such a reawakening, a reassurance and a reminder that life is full of second chances and new growth.  I hope that's the promise you're holding on to too!  Thanks for your patience and for sticking around for more Life As I See It!   

Re-emerging From My Hiatus.....Where Have I Been and Why?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

It's been so long, I don't even know where to start.  I had no idea when I wrote my last post in mid-January that it would be my last post for a while.  Nor did I make a conscious decision to take a leave of absence from social media....but it happened.  I'm not entirely surprised so much time has passed because I was growing disenchanted by all of it and had developed a distinct love/hate relationship with Facebook.  Back in the beginning, in Facebook's early years, it was such a fun outlet - a place to keep in touch with out of town friends and relatives, a place to reconnect with old friends, a place to share humor and inspiration, family photos, etc.  In the past couple of years, it has become an outlet for freedom of speech.  It has become a place for people to hide behind a screen and make judgments, criticize, ridicule, and make fun of ..... people, politicians, and anyone not like themselves.  I remember a time when people were raised to not discuss religion or politics, when we were cautioned "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything".  Nowadays it seems like unless we have something negative to say, we say nothing at all.  Last month two men got a truck stuck in the ice on Saratoga Lake.  When they went back to retrieve that truck, the truck they were driving broke through the ice.  Now it doesn't take a genius to realize these guys may have lacked good judgment, but instead of people being glad no one was hurt or killed, Facebook feeds were filled with rude, mean, and judgmental comments about these men and their choices.  I'm not here to defend them, but before Facebook, before we all decided we have the right to speak our minds at all times to all people, these men would only have had their immediate circle of family and friends to face.  Instead they had hundreds of strangers posting nasty comments about them..... for days on a variety of posts made by different outlets.  When did we as a nation become so mean and so lacking in concern for our fellow human beings?  And this is just one example.  Browse anything on Facebook and you'll find similar behavior.  Maybe it's not in the things you post, or I post....luckily my immediate circle is kind to people they know.  Maybe it's just how we treat strangers today.  Maybe it started when the president began using Twitter to communicate. Maybe his crude, rude, accusatory and childish tweets have set a bad example for his country.  I'm not sure but I think I prefer the old days when folks could do dumb things and wallow in private and not have to be publicly shamed on social media.  Shouldn't we all be entitled to our beliefs, our opinions, our values without being scorned publicly, on a medium that invites others to join in on the insults and jokes?  How can we teach our youth not to bully when they see us adults bullying and ridiculing others on social media?
The other beef I have with Facebook is their ridiculous methods for distributing posts.   There was a time when you joined Facebook and when a friend posted something, you saw it in your feed.  When you posted something, your friends would see it in their feed.  Nowadays, if you don't routinely click 'like' or comment on things your friends post, Facebook determines you aren't really interested in that friend's posts and stops delivering them to you.  Don't believe me?   Go to your friend list and find a friend who you haven't heard from in a while.  Go to their page.  When was their last post?  Have you seen their recent posts?  If this friend was one who doesn't post much or posts things you don't 'like', you're probably no longer receiving their posts routinely.  I don't have time to like or comment on everyone of my friends photos or posts, and neither do I expect my friends to do so on everything I post.  Who has the time?  But......the same thing goes for business pages.  When I post a photo on my Life As I See It page where I have 1068 followers, I'm lucky if Facebook delivers my post to 300 of them.  Don't believe me?  Here's three of my recent posts:

Maybe it's just me, but when I choose to 'like' a page, a person, a business, I do so knowing I'll be seeing and enjoying their posts. I don't want my followers to feel compelled to 'like' everything I post, but if someone likes my page, I'm assuming they assume they'll be seeing what I post, not what Facebook decides to show them.  So that's been an ongoing frustration, knowing that over 1000 people like my page but the majority of those people aren't getting my posts delivered regularly.  As individuals with personal Facebook accounts, you don't receive these 'insights' so you don't realize all your friends aren't seeing your posts regularly.  You may even wonder why they aren't commenting on them....now you know. The bottom line....Facebook rewards popularity so the more people that like you and express their love, the more of your stuff they'll see.   If you happen to be a lurker, someone who enjoys seeing what's happening in your friends' lives but prefer to remain quiet, on the sidelines without commenting or clicking a reaction.....well, Facebook interprets your behavior and responds by saving you the time and trouble.
And just when I'd lost all faith in Facebook and humanity, Josh Woodward happened.   If you don't recognize the name, Josh is a young, local firefighter who is fighting for his life after sepsis.  Thanks to Facebook, thousands of folks all across the country and beyond got on board to rally, to pray, to support, raise money and come together on Josh and his family's behalf.  How else could that have happened, how else could so many people get on the prayer wagon had it not been for the public forum of social media we call Facebook.   I'm sure that Chelsea Woodward, Josh's wife, is grateful for a platform where she can share her story, Josh's daily updates and inspire us by their love and fight to win the battle over a 5% chance of survival.  All of us who have been following their story are praying, cheering and following along with them on their journey as best we can through a platform that is often laced with anger and negativity.   So while there's a lot I dislike about Facebook, I have been reminded that just as with most everything in life, to all things there is more than one side to the story.  We can choose to walk away or ignore the things that bother us or we can focus on the things that inspire us and bring us joy.  Luckily Facebook has a multitude of controls and settings when it comes to our newsfeed.  We can unfollow friends who only post things we're offended by.  We can check people's feeds if we haven't heard from them for a while and we can limit how much time we spend on social media.  In the end, the control is really in our own hands.  We just have to recognize that and do our best to bring positivity and encouragement to the social media world, use self restraint when we're tempted to jump on the ridicule and shame bandwagon and resist sharing junk that we don't know for sure is true or maybe just fake news.  I'm not sure yet where I'm going in this platform, Facebook or any social media.  I hope those of you who enjoy the blog will stick around while I figure it out.  If you're a subscriber, you don't have to depend on Facebook to deliver the posts.  In the past almost five years, I have written 419 posts....I may well be written out.  Who knows.  I must say I've enjoyed the hiatus.  I've become a fan of Marie Kondo and as a result have spent a lot of time cleaning out, purging, organizing and big game hunting.  It seems that while I've been roaming the countryside on photoshoot, some rather massive dust bunnies have taken residence in the deep dark corners of my otherwise neat and clean home.  I've been going through old (very old) family photos, enjoying time with the grandkids and enjoying our new kitten, Simba.  Some of you may not know our beloved Sophie passed on Christmas Eve.  The house was so lonely without her, while she couldn't be replaced, we needed another fur friend to fill out the family.  He's the cat's meow and adored by all.  Would you believe I've not taken any photos since January except of him?
Anyway, I'm alive and well, in case you wondered.  I hope to be back with more blogs and more photos but in the meantime know that I'm enjoying 'living life as I see it'.  Missed Ya!

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