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.


Remembrances of Mother, A Year Later

This week our family remembers the fourth week of July 2014.

Last year Mother observed her 96th birthday on July 23. She died unexpectedly on July 28, five days later. This post will commemorate this milestone in two ways: cards sent to me along with images of Mom’s intimate space upstairs.

Two Cards

A vintage baby card, sent to my parents when I was born

1941_Marian_Baby Card_outside+inside

Card from Dick and Ruth Sauder. Richard was one of the Florida bunch that stayed in close contact even after his bachelor trip with Daddy. They wished me a long and happy life, bless their hearts!



I was born the day after Mother’s birthday. Her last birthday card to me, 2014.


Some Images

At the top of the stairs to the left, there was a little room Mom called the hallway, which seems a misnomer because it was square rather than long and narrow as hallways usually are. It connected the upstairs landing to the family clothes’ closet whose door had a crystal knob. I always thought it was one of the prettiest things about the room because it showered rainbows on the walls when the sun shone in at a perfect slant.

A dressing room of sorts, this small area was a repository for Mother’s own nostalgia: a framed family photograph, old books, the odd china piece on top of the Sheridan chest of drawers.

At right angles to the closet door stood this chest of drawers with a photo of my great-grandmother Sadie Landis’ family before she became a Metzler and a mother. And there’s that ceramic green vase. It’s perfect for displaying iris or gladiolus, but I didn’t grab it when we cleared out Mom’s house. How to take it on the plane? Where would I put it?



And under the chest, Mother’s slippers


Beside the chest, her Compact vintage vacuum cleaner, a blue bullet of an animal easy to pull around the house even at her age. Her old Singer treadle sewing used to sit in the opposite corner under a window.


On the closet door what remained of her shoes


Then below hooks with nightgowns and robes. A girdle with stays used to stand stiffly in the corner below the lingerie to air out. Sometimes a few cleaning products were stored there too. . .


The house has been sold. These images exist only in memory now and in our e-files on my desktop. Powerful images – how they linger . . .


Remembrance also has a side, where other memories sneak in . . . .


Is there a room in your childhood home that holds special memories? A secret niche you called your own?

Coming next: Do you Like to Color?