From Drained and Disheartened to Hopeful Renewal

Thursday, October 29, 2020

 I think it's safe to say most of us are spent, tired of 2020, tired of Covid, tired of the fears and challenges that life keeps dealing us.  Many of us are anxious, frustrated, and exhausted with the state of the country.  Whether we're voting for change or voting for the incumbent, we're all looking towards election day with hopes and promise.  The world is beaten and battered, worn out and desperate for renewal, unity and restored morale.  If I had to choose a photo to depict the spirit of the people in this country today, this would be it. 

Whether or not you or someone in your family or circle of friends has been a victim of Covid, there's no question its presence has had a profound impact on nearly everyone you know.  Whether it has shut down your place of employment, your kids' school, or your favorite restaurant - Covid has made an impact.  It may have ended your in-person Sunday church services, kept you from hugging your grandkids, prevented you from visiting your loved ones in nursing homes or changed your annual summer vacation plans.  Whether or not you believe Covid is real, or are one of the many who are still downplaying it and going on with your life without fear or alterations, Covid has still impacted your life in many, many ways.  

I've been around since the 50's but I've never witnessed a presidential election as emotionally charged as the one we're in the middle of.  I've never seen friendships damaged, families divided or social media so filled with anger and dissention as they are right now.  We are a nation divided.  We've lost our sense of security as a country, and as a people.  Yes, there have always been Republicans and Democrats, but I can't remember a time when the people of those two parties thought of each other with such contempt.  Covid has certainly put us all on edge and drained our stamina and maybe our patience, but I don't believe it's all about Covid.  Nonetheless, we can't ignore the enormous toll it has taken on this country and the world.  Everyday I am amazed at the people who still, after more than 226,000 people have died, tell me they don't believe Covid is real or that it's a real threat.  I don't understand why people are so resistant to wearing a mask, not just to protect themselves, but to protect others.  How can anyone question the reality of this pandemic???

Maybe it's because we have a president who, even after having it, downplays it and continues to lie about it going away.  Maybe it's because facing the truth is too scary.  Maybe it's because as a society we are all so spoiled by our creature comforts and luxuries, we can't bear to sacrifice and live without them - even if it will save lives.  I wish I knew the reason, because then maybe I could feel some peace and less stress and anger.

I know I am not the only one who is exhausted and discouraged with the state of things today.  I've talked with many others who feel equally frustrated, sad and desperate.  I believe the outpouring of early voters speaks to the desperation people are feeling - no matter which side of the line they stand on.  I'm not so naïve to believe any politician is perfect, without their flaws or skeletons in their closet.  They all do, I know.  They say "the devil you know is better than the angel you don't" but I'll go out on a limb here (at the risk of losing friends and followers) and say I've had enough of the devil I know.  I want a president who speaks with the voice of God, not the devil - one who doesn't insult or demean anyone who doesn't agree with him, one who doesn't speak of others with open hate and criticism, one who doesn't lie for his own advantage and blame others for his weaknesses.....especially when he claims to be a man of God.  I don't care how much good he may or may not have done for the economy when he's done so much to destroy the patriotism of his country.  I want a president who will make this country better, not someone whose unwillingness to face a pandemic has brought us to our knees.  

Tuesday will not cure all that ails the devastation this nation faces but I hope and pray that no matter who wins, one day we will be able to come together, people of all races and creeds, and raise each other up instead of tearing each other down.  I don't think Trump is capable of that but I pray with all I have that one day we will all be able to look ahead with hope and optimism and faith.  I pray that we will no longer be a nation divided by politics, but instead a nation where we can view the world without being biased by political affiliations.  I hope one day we can be renewed and free - free from Covid and from the fear of terrorism (domestic and biological), and that our faces will shine with love and hope instead of dread and sorrow.   I look towards the week ahead with hope for change.  I know many of you do too.  My wish and prayer is that someday we will be filled with joy and hope again, that when we greet people our faces will reflect light and life, and that others will be encouraged by our faith and gratitude, and that someday life will resume again and we can all hug each other because nothing feels better.  Here's to answered prayers.

Enjoying a Little Halloween Fun at the Pumpkin Glow & Light Show at Ellms Family Farm

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

 Pumpkins and ghouls and ghosts, oh my!  We may be in our seventh month of Covid but not even a pandemic can discourage little goblins from loving everything having to do with Halloween.  With so much of life restricted these days, so many traditions difficult to uphold, the Ellms Family Farm found a way to let kids, big and small, savor a little Halloween delight.

I'll confess right now, I am not a fan of Halloween, at all....never was, never will be.  Call me a party pooper but part of me is just a little happy that there may be fewer little draculas and ninja's ringing my doorbell this year.  That being said, I have three little goblin grandchildren who delight in everything spooky and ghostly.  So, for their sake I put my personal opinion aside and embrace tradition which this year, included the Pumpkin Glow & Light Show at the Ellms Family Farm in Charlton, NY.  

From October 1st through November 1st, families can visit the farm after dark and enjoy a mile and a half drive through a collection of ghoulish scenes, colorful pumpkin displays and surprise non-human creatures hiding in bushes - all arranged to delight even the littlest members of the family.  Just to clarify, the carved pumpkins aren't real pumpkins - they are carved foam pumpkins carved by talented artists in a medium able to withstand a month of display without shriveling into a mushy mess.  Kids will hardly notice the difference.  Note:  Originally the glow was advertised through November 8th but plentiful rainfall combined with heavy traffic might make the roadways too messy.

Tickets for the Pumpkin Glow cost $29.99 for a carload, $39.99 if you add a dozen donuts and $59.99 for a carload, a dozen donuts, a gallon of apple cider and kettle corn. We visited last evening when the weekday price was $24.99 and since we opted for the 6:30 time slot right after dinner, we decided to forego the snacks. The Glow happens rain or shine and although it was sprinkling, it didn't diminish the beauty or fun at all. I was really impressed with the organization of this event. Tickets are purchased online through their Facebook Page and website. The day of the event I got a text with detailed information and instructions about when to arrive, and other helpful information. We were instructed not to arrive more than 10 minutes prior to our assigned time and that was perfect because there was a long line ahead of us which elicited groans from our backseat.  Luckily the line moved very quickly and we were on our way through within a minute or two.  I can see though how not honoring your assigned time could result in traffic backups on Charlton Road. All I had to do was show the scanner symbol on my phone to the ticket gal (who was drenched from the rain but so pleasant) and we were on our way to Halloween Heaven. The 1 1/2 mile ride at about 3 mph took about 30 minutes - a perfect time for kids (and their accompanying adults).  The windy, gravel road was dimly lit by colored lights along the ground and cars were asked to operate with just their running lights.  The line when we were leaving was even longer than when we arrived. It's obvious this entertainment from the safety of your car was just what the doctor ordered after months of Covid restrictions.

I don't want to ruin the fun and surprises, so here's a small peek at some of the characters awaiting you on this colorful, Pumpkin Glow & Light Show.  From dinosaurs to dragons, Big Foot to bees, there's something for everyone along this innocently creepy journey.

This is just a very tiny sampling of the creative Halloween fun waiting for you at the Ellms Family Farm's Pumpkin Glow and Light Show.  To enhance the Halloween spirit, the Ellms has put together a playlist of Halloween-themed music on Spotify that will be sure to fill your car with everything you need to create a spooky mood with songs from Monster Mash to Thriller to the Halloween Theme Song (which my six year old granddaughter said was too creepy) and many more.  If you're looking for some Covid-safe Halloween fun with the family, go online and get your tickets tonight.  Here's the link to Ellms Family Farm which has loads more daytime family fun for the whole family.  
It's always a pleasure to give some unsolicited publicity to local small businesses and this is no exception.  Thank you Ellms Family for what was surely an enormous amount of work to set up and supply with more generators than are probably in stock at Home Depot.  I can tell you it was worth all of it.   

Some Autumn Splendor Among the Grandeur of Saratoga Springs

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

 From the humble farmsteads of the New York Amish to the opulent, expansive mansions of Saratoga Springs....autumn looks just as breathtaking.  Most of you know my heart is in the country where I swoon over worn buildings and barns on gravel and dirt roads, but that doesn't mean I don't have an appreciation for the beautiful architecture found on so many streets in Saratoga Springs.  

I grew up on Saratoga Lake, just a few miles from downtown Saratoga Springs.  My first job was in the Admission Office of Skidmore College so I'm no stranger to the architectural majesty that graces the streets around town.  Normally I don't photograph it because photographer, Gail Stein, captures all the best of every nook and cranny in and around Saratoga and shares it every morning on her Frozen Moments In and Around Saratoga Facebook page.  Her over 4,500 followers look forward to her daily shares where she never fails to capture the essence of everything Saratoga throughout the year.  No one could do it better so typically I leave that up to her, but when we took a drive around town last week I couldn't help but snap some photos of some of the homes in their autumn glory.  Come along as I take you on a mini tour of residential Saratoga Springs.

This next photo is Palozza Riggi .... owned by Michele and Ron Riggi, Saratoga philanthropists.  This is the first year that Palazzo Riggi hasn't been decorated for Halloween, perhaps due to Covid or maybe it's because Michele and Ron have a brand new grandson, Lucien.  Still, the Riggi estate is looking stunning just the same.  
I happen to know the owner of the next stunning home (below): 

Beautiful, right?  If you enjoyed this mini tour, check out Gail's page (link above).  She definitely captures the heart and soul of Saratoga year round.  She also sells a calendar each year featuring her beautiful photography - perfect for anyone who can't get enough of Saratoga's charm.    
As for me, I'll keep on capturing the rural beauty found in old barns and farmhouses because.....well, because that's what speaks to me.  Thanks for stopping by!  Come back soon for more Life As I See It.


A Therapeutic Escape in Any Season - Road Trippin' To New York's Amish Communities

Friday, October 16, 2020

 Even before Covid invited itself into life as we knew it, I had found the local Amish communities a place of peaceful refuge from life's chaos.  I've never had a conversation with a member of the Amish, and all of my experience with them has been from the passenger seat of our moving car as we travel slowly past their farms.  Yet there's something about our road trips through these communities that grounds me and comforts me, sometimes even when I don't feel the chaos erupting in me, I still feel a sense of calm wash over me almost as soon as catch the first glimpse.  You can imagine that these past six months have given me plenty of reason for anxiousness as it probably has you too, so our visits have been fairly regular.  This post will be a photo essay with photos from June to October combined with some interesting Amish tradition.  I hope this road trip by proxy will give you the same peaceful calm it brings me.

It is well known that the Amish lead a simple life, one without modern conveniences like electricity, indoor plumbing, telephones, etc.....  They live their life according to their religious beliefs and therefore many of their customs stem from the Bible and the Commandments.  They believe Sundays are for worship so no work is carried out on Sunday, and their roadside stands are covered with signs that say, "no Sunday sales".  I was thrilled that one of our recent visits was on a Saturday because I found a great new source for pumpkins and root vegetables.  Small butternut and delicata squash were 2 for $1.00 at one stand and 3 for $1.00 at another.  

Vanity is frowned upon by the Amish.  Clothing is simple, often dark colored.  Women have 4 for wear, one for wash, one for dress, one for spare.  Their heads are covered and considered sacred to the Lord. Married women wear black prayer caps (bonnets) symbolizing their marital status, single girls wear white bonnets.  Buttons are not used on clothing as they may be viewed as showy.  Velcro and zippers are also not permitted.   Men's trousers have a button fly and their suit coats have no buttons or collars because those are reminiscent of military uniforms which pacifist Amish reject. Women and children are often barefoot around the farm.
In keeping with the vanity, posed photos are frowned upon (described as graven images).  Dolls don't have faces.  The Amish men shave until they are married at which time they grow a beard but not a moustache because a moustache is also representative of the military.  A man who doesn't marry continues to shave until he turns 40 at which time he begins to grow a beard symbolizing his transition to manhood.  I could make a joke here about men and maturity, but I'll refrain.

Children attend school until they complete the 8th grade.  School is taught by single Amish women.  After the 8th grade, vocational training begins.  Women are never allowed to preach or hold any church positions.  Church is held in homes, not churches.  The above photo is a beautiful example of an Amish schoolhouse.  Amish are baptized when they are 16-25 when young adults can make their own decision about whether or not to be baptized or leave the religion.  During baptism, one hand is often covering the face as a symbol of humility.

Since farm life consumes so much time throughout the season, weddings often take place in November or December.  Amish do not wear wedding rings or any jewelry.  Having a big family is considered a blessing from God.  The larger the family, the more helpers there are to tend the farm and gardens.

Our local Amish communities seem to be growing and expanding.  My favorites are in Amsterdam, Glen, Mohawk, Palatine and Stone Arabia.  A couple of these photos (the more modest farms) are in the community in Whitehall.  I certainly don't aspire to be Amish, nor do I for a minute think I'd ever be able to sacrifice modern conveniences, work as hard, or even live without indoor plumbing, but there is something to be said for their commitment to simplicity and devotion to God.  Witnessing that is definitely an inspiration and a reminder to keep priorities in order and focus on what matters in life.  Living without social media must surely be beneficial in maintaining focus on right and wrong, truth vs  deception.  What I am sure of is being in the car with my spouse, insulated from reality and tv, even for a few hours is more and more what the doctor ordered.  It's also a 'no-mask required' activity and who doesn't love that?  I'd like to say that I won't need the escape as much after Election Day is over, but I'm old enough to know that controversy and chaos comes in many forms and will probably still be present long after #46 has been decided.  In the meantime, if you need an escape from whatever is weighing on your mind, try my brand of therapy and see if you don't feel better lickety split!  
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