Paying Our Christmas Respects at the Gerald B.H. Solomon National Cemetery

Sunday, December 27, 2020

 When everything in life seems to have become most of life in 2020, there remains one thing that seems perfectly normal.  That thing was the view at the Gerald B.H. Solomon National Cemetery.  That view today, during our annual Christmas visit, was just as familiar and unchanged as it's always been.  Neither Covid nor political unrest could ruin the tranquility that is always present in this military resting place.

Covid has stolen so much from us this year, not the least of which was our traditions, our hugs with friends and family, our joy and in some cases, our loved ones.  It's easy to get caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves and get distracted by our grief and frustration and by the absences of loved ones during the holidays.  Let's face it, 2020 has been a long and challenging road and no matter how much we force ourselves to focus on the positives, we sometimes drift off our path right into the ditch of despair.  Self pity is never useful and I find it important when I veer in that direction to focus on something beyond my own emotions when I can.  I always find solace and gratitude when I visit the National Cemetery.  It brings me back to reality and grounds me again, and gets me out of my self pity mood.  This visit was no exception.

Every year Wreaths Across America remembers and honors veterans by laying wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and 2,100 other locations in the U.S., at sea and abroad.  This year the organization raised funds ($15.00 per wreath) in order to provide 13,100 wreaths in the Saratoga National Cemetery alone!  Even in these difficult and dire times, they reached their goal!  As if that weren't impressive enough, volunteers showed up to lay a wreath on every grave - despite 30" of fresh fallen snow.  Covid-19 complicated the process requiring the volunteers to work in shifts over an 8 hour day.  If that isn't impressive enough, the sight of so many wreaths on the graves of so many men and women who served our country is as humbling a sight as you can get.    Thanks to the miraculous work of Mother Nature, all 30" of snow has already melted since the wreaths were laid on December 19th leaving each wreath laying neatly against each stone.

That last one, George Durocher, is my great uncle along with the love of his life, my great aunt Harriet, 64 years of marriage and together for all eternity.  
I'm not typically a big cemetery person, but there's something humbling and centering that happens when I visit Saratoga National and see the rows of granite lined up, like soldiers tall and proud.  It reminds me that no matter the sacrifices I've had to make this past year, those sacrifices are nothing compared to the sacrifices all of these brave men and women made for our country - for you and for me.   We have given up some family gatherings and have missed our loved ones at our dining table, but my uncle left his new bride for three years to fight in WWII.  That's much more than I've ever given up for anything or anyone.  Sometimes life feels unfair and sometimes it legitimately is unfair, but sometimes we all need a reality check.   If you've never visited the Gerald B. Solomon National Cemetery, now would be a good time to do so.  Chances are, you know somebody here.  It's a sight you'll never forget and a feeling you'll want to experience again and again.  

Wishing You A Merry Christmas From Our Holiday Home to Yours

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


December is quickly approaching it's end, as is 2020, and some would say, not a moment too soon.  It's been a quiet month, here on the blog, as I've not penned one single post the entire month.  I have no explanation for my absence except that I've had nothing to share.....and yet we all have so much on our minds and hearts as we approach what is normally the most joyous time of year.

Who knew when Covid changed the world back in March that life would still be turned upside down in December?  I surely didn't suspect that 9 months after its unwelcome arrival we'd still be living life in such an unusual and solitary fashion.   And now, as we prepare for the Christmas holiday, a season of togetherness and sharing, everything feels a little less festive and a lot more lonely.  When Thanksgiving approached, I found myself in a bit of a slump, unsure if I could muster up the spirit to decorate this year.  Luckily for me, Laura (my youngest daughter) showed up ready to work, and she and the granddaughters began the annual process of lugging down the decorations from the attic and putting them in their places.  Before I knew it, with all of us working together, the house began to look cheerful and 'Christmas normal', and my dreary slump slowly began fading away.  Each year the anticipation of decorating seems a little more daunting but with my helpers it's always a little easier and their reaction to Grandma's treasures makes it all worthwhile.  

As always Christmas is present in every nook and cranny, although I admit that some things are on a hiatus this season....not that the average visitor would be able to tell. I'm more of an inside decorator - decorating for my own enjoyment, more than the neighbors.  And that is especially true this year since we won't get to host our normal holiday visitors.  If you've seen my previous holiday home tour blogs, you know that I'm big on tradition and have a 42 yr collection of sentimental ornaments and tchotchkes.  The collection continues to grow because each season I can't resist adding a few items to the mix.  I hope this virtual visit helps brighten your holiday mood, if even for a few minutes, like it's brightened mine.  Let's begin in the living room.......where the live accessories are ever changing.   See if you can spot them....

And a peek into the dining room...........

And the family room............

And some details ...........

This year I decided to pass some new crafting skills down to my granddaughters and taught them both how to embroider.  Here is the result of their one lesson, I'm pretty impressed and can't wait to see what they'll do next!  Braelyn (6) stitched the one on the left and Elena (10) stitched the one on the right.

Teaching them, I was reminded of the calming effects of stitching and decided to do a few myself.....

John and I don't exchange gifts after 42 years because we have everything we need already, but this year he surprised me with a new Shelly Broughton piece of art and I couldn't be more thrilled to add this one to my collection.  Shelly is the artist who painted my mantle gnomes, my fox and a few others.  Isn't this a beauty?

So as Christmas Day fast approaches, despite the challenges 2020 has presented, I'm reminded daily of the many blessings in my life, large and small.  While the day won't look like Christmases past and will not be spent as one family group, I am thankful to have all of my family close by and be able to spend a part of the day with each small family unit separately.  I realize many of you may not be that lucky.  I will miss being at Christmas Eve service to hear the music and raise a candle during Silent Night, but am thankful to be able to be able to watch safely online.  I'm grateful for good health, a family who is supportive and caring, a community that works hard to keep it's residents safe and a husband who stands beside me in all of my adventures and dreams, no matter how big or small.  And at the end of the day, it's not about the decorations or the presents, it's about a little child born in a manger under a starlit sky.  There was no room at the inn that night and conditions may not have been as he deserved but that didn't lessen the importance of His birth.  Covid has stolen so much from so many this members, businesses, jobs, finances and more.  On this Christmas Day, I hope you are able to take a moment to set aside the heartaches and hardships and remember the blessings of this season and why we celebrate.  I hope that you will feel the love of your family, whether they are in person or on a computer screen in a zoom gathering and that you have the most joyous Christmas.  I know that although mine will feel different, these three elves will fill my holiday with more joy than my heart can hold!  Wishing each and everyone of you a Merry Christmas!

What To Do When The Road Ahead Is Filled With Uncertainty

Friday, November 20, 2020

  The road of uncertainty....have you ever been on it?  Are you on it now?  John and I recently found ourselves on a fabulous little dirt road recently in Schoharie County, one of those roads that beckons you to make a quick turn off the main highway.  I could see by looking at the GPS on my phone that it was quite long, but did indeed come out eventually onto a main road.  This was a typical detour for our road trips, foregoing the main road for the adventure and slower pace of its dirt and gravel counterpart.  We're used to potholes and road dust and the extra time it takes us to navigate obstacles so we can enjoy the journey in a less rushed pace.  It's always worth the gamble........and the sacrificial dirty vehicle.

At the beginning of the road we passed a farm, a few old forsaken barns and homes, a few still inhabited but eventually we were surrounded by nothing but vegetation.  The road often narrowed, many times causing us to wonder what we'd do if we were met by an oncoming car since there was no place to pull off to make way for them.  We'd traveled up hills and down, negotiated curves and bends and after a long while we were faced with the scene pictured in the photograph above.  Without realizing it, we were suddenly enveloped in shadows.  The road ahead looked as if it might actually end at the edge of a cliff.  What we could see ahead, beyond our shadows looked as if it were miles away - the road and our connection to anything just disappearing somewhere between us and the world beyond.  For a moment or two, we were suspended in the unknown of what was ahead and if it was safe to proceed.

Life in 2020 is not much unlike the situation we were in on that dirt road.  Navigating life in 2020 has been a series of potholes and dangerous curves, our view ahead often obstructed by conditions that were unfamiliar and unsafe.  We've been called upon to change our direction and detour down a road that wasn't on our GPS.  Some have lost jobs and income, kids had to leave the company of their friends in school and navigate the ups and downs of virtual learning, people used to being surrounded by friends and co-workers had to learn to function in a quiet, contained, solo bubble.  What used to be the norm, even if that norm was filled with chronic illness, life without a spouse, limited funds, normal life struggles, now was a new, even more challenging norm.  We all deal with daily challenges, but now, on top of those, are new challenges, new detours, new fears...all a little more difficult to navigate because we have no GPS, no book of directions, no help on Google, no Siri or Alexa to guide us through the problem.  We are stranded on a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, without a compass or GPS with no cell service.  All we have left to guide us is our faith.

Sitting in the car, shadowed by the surrounding, decades-old trees offering just a tiny view of the light and hope ahead, we knew our only option was to trust our faith and proceed ahead with caution.  We couldn't stay still, idling in the shadows, we couldn't turn back, there was no room for that, all we could do was go forward.  2020 is just like that.  We can't turn back, we can't forget or pretend we're in a dream, though we wish we were, we can't rely on magic wands to wave us out of the nightmare....all we can do is trust our gut and take a leap of faith forward.

I have done pretty well tolerating the limitations Covid has caused.  Being a homebody and somewhat of an introvert, I wasn't feeling cooped up or lonely.  My immediate family is close by and I see them often.  I'm pretty efficient at online shopping and can always be amused taking photos of birds out my window or writing when the inspiration strikes, so I felt life wasn't all that compromised, for me at least.  The political insanity which we assumed would end on Election Day continues.  Tensions and dissentions rage on as even a tradition as old and democratic as an election has gone haywire and is in dispute.  Numbers of Covid cases are on the rise at a stunningly alarming rate and here we are with Thanksgiving next week,  Christmas not far behind, and we find ourselves once again standing on the edge of a cliff, unable to see where the road leads.  

People often tell me my blog posts or Facebook posts bring a positive message and light.  I've noticed lately when I schedule my daily posts, it's hard to find an uplifting thought to add.  I've felt discouraged and tired of the rut we're still in, since March, tired of sacrificing family gatherings even though I know we must in order to keep my 88 yr old mom safe.  Normally Christmas is a two month event for our household but this year I can't even find the spirit to decorate.  I just want it to be New Year's Eve and hope and pray that 2021 brings us a paved road that's free of potholes and detours.  I find that I've let myself slip into the vacuum of the darkness of despair where I know so many have been these past several months even though I was convinced it wouldn't happen to me.  Yet here I am. 

 2020 isn't over and there's no guarantee that 2021 will be different.  We have no way of knowing what tomorrow has in store, or if our GPS will be able to guide us through.  We can be sure there will still be people who disbelieve that Covid is real and those people will balk at the restrictions and their rights being infringed upon by wearing a mask or not being able to sit at a bar.  We can be sure our political future will continue to be riddled by doubt and defiance, even if it's from the sidelines once the new administration is in place.  Too much damage has been done for it to be totally restored.  Despair and disappointment in life is guaranteed, God never promised otherwise.  But He did say this, "Do Not Be Afraid".  He said it 365 times in the bible.  That means that everyday, all year, we can remind ourselves that no matter how scary the situation we find ourselves in, no matter how uncertain the road ahead, no matter how desperate we feel, God says, do not be afraid.  We may not have thought of this reassurance that day on the dirt road, but our faith told us to move forward.  The light was in front of us, not behind us.  The unknown is scary, but idling in place is pointless.  We could all give up and hope what we see is a giant cliff ahead where we can leap out of the nightmare we're in, but then how would we know how the story ends?  The only way to know is to keep driving, slow and steady, out of the darkness and into the light, with faith and hope and trust that this is not how the story ends.  Life ahead may not be a fairytale, but I want to believe there's something better in store......if we just keep moving.

Thank you for hanging in there and for being the light that keeps me moving along!

Savoring the Changing Season in Picturesque Vermont

Sunday, November 15, 2020

 I have resolved to live, not just endure, each season of my life.


I don't know about you, but that philosophy is becoming harder and harder to live by lately.  This year, 2020, has given us so much to endure, it's a wonder we keep getting out of bed willing to face another day.  I feel a little guilty complaining.  So far my family has managed to keep Covid-free, the kids have been happily back in school for two months, my son-in-law is back to work from a several month furlough and although our daughter, Laura's, place of employment closed, she found a wonderful new job that she loves with many advantages over her last job.  My mom is healthy, albeit missing her social life, John and I haven't had many sacrifices overall and yet.....some days life feels unreal and heavy.  The bright spot in navigating this year of challenges is that our family is all within a 5 mile radius and the things we love to do are pretty much unhindered by pandemics or politics.  We took advantage of that and enjoyed a number of road trips this fall and today I'm sharing one of my favorites to the ever picturesque, Vermont.

We began our trip driving through Bennington with a quick drive past the Bennington Monument.  One of these days, I'll share our visit there (up the monument) last fall, but for today we continued up Rt 7A to visit some of our favorite stops.  

In February 2014, we accidently happened upon what has always remained one of my favorite barns, and photos.  We've tried, unsuccessfully, to locate it many times but on this day in early October, several dirt roads later, we finally hit the jackpot and I knew it as soon as I saw this:

It looks a little different now than it did in 2014 with a fresh coat of paint and in a different season, but it was a thrill to finally rediscover it and make a note of it's location so it won't take another 6 years to find it again.   Just before that discovery, we visited our favorite white farm in Vermont, looking as pristine as always.

From here we traveled up the road to Manchester.  Since we are trying to avoid Covid germs, we only got out of the car once for a quick pit stop at Stewart's, but that didn't stop us from a brief drive through Hildene and Equinox Valley Nursery.   We eventually parked in the Orvis parking lot to enjoy our packed lunch.  

After lunch we headed to Dorset and then traveled east a little before heading to Danby and Pawlet, Rupert and Salem, past several of our repeat photo ops. The foliage wasn't peak yet but it didn't matter because Vermont is gorgeous in any season and the time away from reality did wonders for restoring our wellbeing.

I'm grateful that all it takes is a few hours and some dirt roads to lift my spirits and remind me that life isn't just about what's on the evening news.  We did a few more autumn road trips like this one....keep an eye out for upcoming blog posts.  Thanks for allowing me to share our adventures.  I hope it inspires you to do your own exploring.  Hang in there and stay well and come back soon for more Life As I See It.  If you're on Facebook, don't forget to check out my daily photos on my Life As I See It Facebook page:  
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