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.

JanetMarian

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.

ForsythiaLogHouse

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.

WriterComputerHealthyFood

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:

poniesjanet


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.

KillarneyHouse2016

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!

TolkienQuote

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.

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All Creatures Great and Small: The Power of Pets

I missed National Pet Day on April 11 by a few weeks. But if you own a dog like Scotty or a kitty cat named Sophie, every day of the year is pet day.

In 4th grade, I drew a cat and colored it charcoal gray. It appears I was as interested in making the wallpaper pretty as I was in drawing a green-eyed cat with its wee kitten.

KittenArtMarian1947?

In first grade, my teacher Miss Longenecker introduced our class to reading via the phonics method with the drawing of a cat illustrating the hard “c” sound. She probably used the Hay & Wingo textbook entitled Reading with Phonics (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1948).

 Hay & Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948
Julie Hay & Charles Wingo, Reading with Phonics, J. B. Lippincott, 1948

We never had a pet cat, probably because my mother was allergic to cat dander, but several memorable dogs cavorted through our childhood. Sporty, an Airedale Terrier mix leaped and frisked around Grandma’s ankles when I was very young.  Boots, a black and white Smooth Fox Terrier, flushed ground hogs from their holes.

My sister Jean remembers other animals too: Our dad raised Angora rabbits housed in wooden crates in the barn attic and another Smooth Fox Terrier named Minnie, as small as she sounds. Sister Jan says we used to dress her up with doll clothes and send her down over the hill to Grandma’s house.

Our brother Mark’s dog, 3-legged Skippy, butterscotch and cream colored, lost one leg when a truck ran over him. Still, he skipped, ran far, and jumped high with just three legs. You’ll see part of his rear end and his tail in the second picture.

MarkDogMailbox

 

Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow 1961
Brother Mark with sled and Skippy in the snow  1961

 

We all remember Ruthie’s little lamb that felt like mine when I wiggled my fingers digging deep into its wooly coat.

My Aunt Ruthie loved animals all her life, especially dogs. Her last four dogs were Schnauzers, known for their fierce loyalty and protective power. The pure-bred Schnauzuers were all named Fritzie – Fritizie I, II, III, and IV.

In this photo she was probably holding Fritzie III in her lap. The devotion you observe in this photo flowed both ways.

RuthieDogPiano

* * *

Like most children, our kids Crista and Joel wanted a dog. We shopped ads in the Dollar Saver for our dog back then and were taken in by the phrase “loves children.” That’s how we found Me-Too, a kid-loving-mailman-hating dog of questionable pedigree. Still, the children doted on her and adopted her into their play. Here the frame of their baby buggy became a carriage with Me-Too as the pony express.

WondaChairCristaJoel

 

Research

Not surprisingly, research shows that pets promote health, both physical and emotional.

Pets in the household can reduce everyday stress – lift one’s mood and provide physical contact. They provide an outlet for nurturing too: Pet owners have a living thing to care for. And finally, pets keep one active: walking the dog, feeding the cat.

Several of my writing friends admit that a pet dog or cat serves as muse: Kathy Pooler, Merril Smith, and Susan Weidener. Other authors have pets that appear on their blog posts from time to time: Laurie Buchanan, Janet Givens, and Elaine Mansfield. Lord David Prosser observes that his alarm cat Oscar wakens him from slumber every morning. And photographer Lady Fiona’s dogs enliven most of her fabulous photographs. Marylin Warner is training a puppy, but I don’t think she would call Scout her muse yet.

* See note below.

 

Books with animal characters

Books of my childhood:

  • Anne of Green Gables – Dog Monday
  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls’ dogs – Jack, the brindle bulldog, and Bandit, the stray, appear in her books
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Literary works:

In The Odyssey, I recall Homer’s beloved Argos, who patiently waited for him at journey’s end. Maybe you remember this faithful dog too.

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, cats romped in the Bennett household, at least according to author Pamela Jane.

Anton Chekhov wrote a short story entitled The Lady with the Dog, preserved here in statuary forever viewing the Black Sea in Yalta. When we visited in 2011, Crimea was still part of Ukraine.

CrimeaMarian2011

 

In the 1970s James Herriot books were all the rage both here in the States and internationally. Herriot, an English veterinarian, immortalized farm animals, pets, and their owners in his popular series set in the Yorkshire dales and moors. I read many of the titles: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and The Lord God Made Them All.

 

What pets populated your home or the pages of books you loved? What items can you add to the list of benefits of owning a pet?

Leave a line or two here. You can also include endearing (or not) pet anecdotes.

Incidentally, if I inadvertently missed listing you as an author with a pet muse, please bark at me, so I can rectify the oversight ~ pronto.

 

Daisy with Jenna in pigtails
Daisy with grand-daughter Jenna in pigtails

 

Coming next: Baby Beads and Wooden Blocks: Happy Mother’s Day!