Janet & Marian: A Tale of Two Houses

My writer friend Janet Givens and I have both said Goodbye to houses this summer. She, to a vacation house on a canal in Chincoteague Island, Virginia, and me to our family homestead 12 miles from the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, geographically about 750 miles apart as the crow flies.


Our meeting in 2014 was also geographical – and digital. I responded to Janet’s post about her Peace Corps experience in Kazakhstan, linking her experience to my trip to Ukraine, both countries with a Soviet-era history. From there the connection continued on each other’s blogs. That was until I, along with 5-6 other writers, were invited to her cozy log house on the Island. You can view the view memories of that magical first trip here.


I know many of the nooks and crannies of Janet’s special place and feel I’m such a lucky duck to accept her invitation not once but twice to the spacious log house for a writers’ retreat. I can understand her bittersweet sentiments as she lets go of it now.

On both trips, we spent time writing, eating healthy food, talking and laughing in the sunroom, and gazing at the sparkly bay, which leads out to the Atlantic.


Susan Weidener, Janet, and Merril Smith sharing photos
Susan Weidener, Janet, and Merril Smith sharing photos

Ah, and seeing the ponies, personal and close up:


A Vermonter, Janet is bidding farewell to her second home after 22 years. We’ve lived in our house, our primary residence, for 37 years. Pencil marks on the kitchen door record our kids heights from ages 8 and 9 ½ until they were teens. Photos of our long history there fill family albums.


Of course it’s a cliché, but life really is all about trade-offs and feeling gratitude for what is now. I think Janet would agree with the J. R. R. Tolkien quote below. I know I do!


Maybe you have had attachments to a house in your past, perhaps a childhood home or one you used to own or visit.

Golly, it could be the one you live it right now.  Grab a cup of something cool or warm and let’s have a chat!    🙂

Above all, do check out Janet’s own thoughts about her love affair with the Chincoteague house here on her blog. You can also find a link to her memoir there: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.


43 thoughts on “Janet & Marian: A Tale of Two Houses

  1. This post made me feel nostalgic for that Chincoteague house–is that possible for a place I only spent a few days in? But of course, it was the people there that made it special, and both of you special people, Marian and Janet, will continue to make your new homes (and yurt) come alive with your presence.
    Marian, I wish you and Cliff much happiness in your new home. I know it is already filled with love and laughter, and I’m sure wonderful memories will be made there, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, you have it right: places have a special magnetism when they connect us to people whose friendship we value. There’s something magical about meeting “screen” friends face to face.

      Thanks for starting the conversation here every single Wednesday, Merril, and for your good wishes here in our new space. Still lots to do . . .

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’d fit right in. A romance author would be just the ticket! Thank you for wishing us well, Jill.

      During the Downton Abbey marathon this weekend, I heard Carson tell Mrs. Hughes when she gave him an expensive frame for the photo of a loved one: “The business of life is the acquisition of memories.” He didn’t sound so pompous saying that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good morning again you have brought great memories of past and giving us a challenge to future. Past memories of my grandmother’s home that seemed as a party every weekend. When it was just family getting together up to her last breath in her home. So many family members sending her off to glory. As you. Know we don’t choose how we leave. If I had a choice that would be mine to share with all I love and leave a blessing on all. Just a thought a wish. My other great memory is on Anchor rd. That helped build my Anchor in the Lord. That is most treasured because it helps me pause when making a move as to how will this move help others. I’ve lived in my home for 17 years it’s little yet cozy for us, what amazes me is when people tell me how I love your home it’s always makes me feel good coming and leaving. My friends from Kenya were over on Monday they shared their memories of their time at our home when we were neighbors now they want their children to have the same memory. Life is a blessing, and it’s a blessing to be a part of someone’s life. As your are to so many that read your blog. Have a nice day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every house has a vibe – I sense those who visit yours feel the love.

      You mentioned memories on Anchor Road. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I caught the double meaning of my childhood address. Yes, it provided an anchor for both you and me, Gloria. Actually, I found out the road was named for the large stone farmhouse at the end of the street, which served as an inn over a century ago.


      1. What a hoot that the large stone house was the reason for the name of the road. In Webster one of the definitions is a place or person who gives strength and stability for anchor. That’s what I found on Anchor Road. When I feel overwhelmed Anchor Road comes to mind. God knows that I needed them then and it helps me now.
        We both learned through this. Thanks

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, mom and dad had a second chance to be parents and as you say, “We both learned through this.” I am thrilled that memories of Anchor Road give you strength for your journey. Just now I found a YouTube rendition of a song you may have heard sung at Bossler’s Church:


  3. Ah, it was the pencil marks on the doorway between our living room and kitchen that pulled at me strongly as we prepared to move out of our home of 30 years in 2006. I even went to the effort to transcribe them to a long roll of paper, each special mark and marker of dates and heights and child. It is still rolled up, somewhere, likely to be reviewed or discarded on our next move, whether that to be smaller quarters somewhere or our mansion in the “sky.”

    🙂 Thanks for stirring this particular memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Melodie, you are both whimsical and sensible, like many writer souls. Real life sometimes intrudes on intention, however as you seem to suggest.

      We are still pooped out from the move, so rest in a “mansion in the sky” sounds appealing. At least until we get our groove back. Ha!


  4. When I close my eyes, I still see the home we lived in on the SF Bay for over 17 years. And I still see the glitter sprayed (accidently) on the side kitchen cabinet by my then 7 year old daughter, and the scratch marks on our son’s bottom bedroom trim from all the times his toy truck hit the wall. I still hear the laughter and the tears, and I still feel the house’s hug. As Carson said, the business of our life is acquiring memories. That house held so many of them, but fortunately, all the love and memories came with us to our new space. I’m sure that’s the same in your case. xo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s all in the details, Pamela. I can literally see glitter on kitchen cabinets and red imprints on the bedroom trim.

      I can also see the fog rolling in on the SF bay. It looked like a huge roll of cotton batting unfurling above the bay waters. I don’t even need to close my eyes to see it now. Nothing like that on the east coast that I know of. Wow, oh, wow! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Farewells with dear ones are always painful, but I hope that, despite the distance, you and Janet will keep in touch and manage to meet up every now and then. Best of luck with your new homes to both of you.

    By the way, Marian, I now have a second blog with wordpress under the name of sayselltravells. wordpress.com in case you’re interested. It would be lovely to see you there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just visited your new blog and came away with charming scenes and mention of your husband Adonis and doggie Beano. You have a built-in story line with names like these, Fatima. Never mind the glamorous figure posing in the banner. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Home is where the heart is. We have had a few homes and they all have special memories but we make new memories in the next one. I must say that log cabin would be perfect for a writer´s retreat. I am now following Janet´s blog. What an incredible life she has had!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have cherished memories of almost every house I’ve lived in. An intuitive and quiet person, I find I attach myself to things that anchor me – like tress and houses – that don’t demand my attention, but hold me as I give them mine. It’s an uncanny connection. When I left a childhood home I was particularly sad about leaving, I wrote my initials in pencil, in tiny almost invisible letters, in every corner of my bedroom. It wasn’t for the people I left behind, but more so that my friend the house wouldn’t forget me. Homes hold energy, good and bad and I’m absolutely certain the home you left behind will bring loving energy to the people who live there now — even as you begin to fill your new home with the same, never ending stream of love and goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The woman who helped us stage our home said our house had good “ju-ju.” Now that I’m reading your comment, I think she meant energy.

      Of course your childhood home remembers you, Dorothy. Along with the faint pencil tracings, I imagine those walls hold happy sounds too.

      Love and goodness to you too!


    2. Hi Dorothy. Your story reminded me that I once wrote my name in the soft caulking around the bathtub in an apartment I lived in from age 11 until I went off to college. I remember wanting to leave something lasting there, leave my mark. Funny how we think of things like that. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Son Joel wrote stuff on his bedroom walls he thought artistic. When he went off to college to major in Fine Arts, Cliff painted over it and transformed the room into his studio.

        We still have pictures. Joel didn’t seem to mind. Too much . . .


  8. When we moved from our home in Kitchener, Ontario in 2008, across provinces to Manitoba, it was a bittersweet moment of leaving home/coming home. We lived in Kitchener from 1984 -2008 (24 years). It was our first home in Canada after spending 16 years in Africa. Winnipeg, Manitoba where we moved in our retirement years was where our families lived. However, it was almost more difficult than moving to a completely new place. Everything had changed from the way we remembered the place and the people! Now, after 8 years, we have found our niche, but it has been quite a journey. I wish you well in your new digs, Marian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I read your comment about your moving across continents and then back again “home” again, I felt you understood the sense of dis-equilibrium I am experiencing now.

      Because we stayed in the same city and moved closer to family, I expected to adjust to our new home more easily. Not so. However, I hope it’s not 8 years before we recover a sense of balance. Thanks to your wisdom, I realize I must accept my feeling out of sorts for the time being and not expect to feel “normal” (whatever that is) right away. Thanks for your comforting words, Elfrieda.


  9. Marian — A fan of both Janet and your blogs, I’ve followed the goodbye stories closely.

    Fond of making memories (a minimalist, I enjoy that they don’t take up space and are light as a feather to transport) we have memories that we treasure from the home we sold In Crystal Lake, Illinois before moving to Boise, Idaho.

    Our current home is the 500 square foot carriage house of the Russell Mansion (http://idahoarchitectureproject.org/structuredetail.php?id=1621). Circa 1865, we love the memories we’re making here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm . . . just looked at the Russell Mansion. Good taste all around and with the Greek Revival strong, fine lines.

      As I look back, I think you planted the idea to get smart with my things – and the the urge to purge took over. Then along came Marie Kondo with her drastic measures, and our need to re-assemble what we have into a slightly smaller space. After, it’s memories, not mass, that count!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello Marian, from the other end of the day. It’s been a long one, driving from home in Vermont to Ontario where Woody’s nephew and his growing family will be moving to France in a month, opening a restaurant (he and his wife are both fine chefs), and his niece is in town from Seattle for the occasion. So, it’s family reunion time, something this only child (of an only child) hasn’t gotten to experience many of. Ten adults and four kids under two! Anyway, that was my long-winded way of explaining why I haven’t been here sooner to thank you for so generously linking to my blog and book pages. Nostalgia is such a powerful connector and your post here today shows that leaving, moving on, transitioning, letting go — these are such human conditions and speaking of them, sharing our stories, helps to unite us. And, Lord knows we can use a little uniting, heh?

    I’ve gotten two new subscribers as a result of your post and I see many familiar faces here as well. If I still had my Chincoteague house I’d be well on my way to my 2017 list of invitees.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Woody’s nephew and wife both fine chefs and moving to France: It sounds as though you have culinary royalty in your family. Impressive!

      I love when cross-pollination happens between bloggers and happy you have two new subscribers and possibly more to come.

      Safe travels – and thanks for providing fodder for a soul-nourishing post. 🙂


  11. That’s how I’ve felt about my growing up house, my grandmother’s house, and the little house Jim and I have downsized to for our retirement, Marian: “Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.”
    I love the pictures in this post, and your details about pencil lines marking your children’s growth while you lived in one home. Those are the details that wrap around the smiles and make lasting memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Your comment called to mind Psalm 16:6 “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Many of us, you and I included, are blessed with a delightful inheritance including homes that live in on memory. Thank you, Marylin.


  13. Thank you Marian, I much enjoyed the photos, the memories, and how you and Janet met! And the 8 sec video with the light and birdsong, just too heart-softening for words.

    Many years ago I drove past our old house where I was born in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. I lived there for only 6 years when the family moved north. But somehow that drive by made me want to visit my old house. I wrote to the address and asked if I could come visit when I was next in the area. The reply was positive. And so I did. A few years later … such welcoming people and so good to traipse through the house, the loo where I used to hide; see the garden, the driveway I used to tricycle down, where the bee hives used to be …

    These days I sometimes drive past our old home where we lived for 27 years until 3 years ago when we downsized. I’m glad to see the oak tree is still there – I can’t see anything else behind the walls, but at least the oak tree is there – it was a condition of sale …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for bringing us along on our walk down memory lane. I don’t think we’ll make oak trees a condition of sale for our property. After all, we have 18 of them. But in your case, it makes sense. We said goodbye more than a year ago to the house I was born in and where Mother lived for 71 years. My brother says it looks junky. When I visit in October I’ll have to see for myself. I’m glad you had welcoming visit to your own home.

      Thank you too for the kind words about this post. I felt happy all over reading your words “too heart-softening for words.”

      Liked by 1 person

  14. We’ve been connected through blogs a while, Marian. I remember both of those writer gatherings. I was invited to the second, but it was too close in time to a workshop I was giving so I declined. I missed my chance to be at Janet’s beautiful vacation home.

    Ah, you know about my home where I’ve lived since 1972. A 200 year old dark green with white trim wood frame farmhouse perched on the side of the hill overlooking 71 acres of wildflower fields and woods with astounding sunset views year round. It wasn’t the house that drew Vic and me here, but the land. I’m held in the presence of this land, my belonging and grounding here. There will be a time to move on, surely this decade. There are options available because of my kind sons, but after thinking I’d leave a year after Vic died or then maybe a year or two after and now eight years later, I’m happy to be home and have wonderful helpers who come around to help with repairs, firewood, tractor maintenance, and caring for the land. I’m sorting through the stuff, as you know. I’m not a packrat but a few boxes in the back of an upstairs closet haven’t been opened for 30+ years. I found newspaper articles about our political activism in the 1960s and Vic’s drawings at 6 years old. Hidden treasures, some to be digitalized, some to go to my sons. I still have boxes of my mother’s things and piles of books (I took 4 boxes to the library book sale this week. Yay!) I’m working slowly, but know life moves quickly sometimes and decisions have to be made. This is my way of preparing for what comes next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your descriptions reveal your methodical way of tackling a big job. Admirable, Elaine.

      I think you are in a very good place: Not at a crossroads where immediate action is required – more like at the hub of a wheel with many good options branching out. When it’s the right time, you’ll know, and then you’ll be ready.

      Cliff’s mother threw out most of his art work probably because the family moved so often. He’d be thrilled to have a 6-year-old drawing, like Vic’s. I guess that’s why he’s such a packrat now.

      Fall is coming and the garden work will ease up a bit. Then, you’ll have more moments of discovery. Maybe some will appear on your blog. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  15. How lovely meeting up for a writing retreat and a little sad to give these places up . We just know when it’s time to move on don’t we , it’s written in our subconscious like the pages of a book . Yes , we have memories but it’s now time to make new ones .
    We have been living in our ‘half house ‘ for fourteen months now . We have had a slow year ,with Col working , but we are starting it moving again now . It been challenging and Colin and myself have had our moments when we could jump up and down and scream …belive me we have had a bit of a wobberly only this week but it’s all in a day work .
    Love the quote …kept it for future reference 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how the English (or maybe it’s the Welsh in you) have such vividly descriptive expressions: “believe me we have had a bit of a wobberly . . . ” I sense you have had challenges this year but now things are moving again. Glad to hear it! I think we will feel that wonderful sensation when someone falls in love with our house (pictured above) and wants to buy it.

      Thanks for “keeping it real” – you always do, Cherry. Thank you!


  16. The house I live in now is the house I grew up in. I moved away and lived in other places but, when Mother died, half the house became mine and I bought the other from my sister. It was hard to return in many ways. Memories, both happy and sad, lurked in unexpected places. We have been here for twenty five years now though and made new memories. It will be hard to leave when the time comes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many sons and daughters of the original owners in the neighborhood we have left have taken over residency. It’s nice to see family traditions continue like that. Some have kept up the homestead while others (hmmmm) don’t seem to care.

      Cheers to new memories, Marie, and thanks for checking in here again.


Thank You for Leaving a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s