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.


February Garden: Forlorn or Fabulous?

Ordinarily, I am proud of my patio garden.


But January 2014 was tough in Florida: two nights in the 20s and several days around the freeze point. And so the plants in my garden took a beating.  The impatiens, in spite of being covered, froze to death. The pentas bushes were reduced to black, ashy stems and had to be trimmed back. Daughter Crista, the green thumb in our family, assures me they will come back strong.

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden. . . . It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.

~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

Welcome to My Garden: dead Impatiens, live asparagus fern
Welcome to My Garden: dead impatiens, live asparagus fern

If you live in Hawaii, my garden may seem forlorn. Alaska your residence? Well, then it may look just fabulous.


Wisteria and passion flower vines are gone, leaving a naked metal fence, still bent where it took a hit from a falling oak tree branch. What remains? Red sister, rose bush in a planter, aloe shoots, asparagus fern, bromeliad with perky red flower.


Soon the passion flower and wisteria vines will intertwine to soften the metal fence. The pentas will flower up, and I’ll buy new impatiens. There’s hope!

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?  

 ― Percy Bysshe ShelleyOde to the West Wind

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.    

                   Genesis 8:22 KJV

Do you like to garden with either indoor and outdoor plants?


I remember Grandma and Aunt Ruthie paging with intent through the Burpee seed catalogs in February or March each year picking out the varieties they like best. What about you?

Tell your gardening story here.