Firsts and Lasts

We loaded the old boiler onto the truck Sunday night. It died two weeks ago during the last of summer’s heat. A few mornings of cold showers were tolerable, keeping us grateful that we weren’t enduring the endless cold snap of winter. A chilly house is an entirely different story during the dead season. Truth be told, we’ve been hanging in there with the old girl for at least two years. Replacing worn out  parts here and there and enduring the fickle temperatures of the house’s water was all I could financially and psychologically manage. The day the new one was put in was drenched with unusual humidity. My youngest son was called to a job in the city first (but not before his vehicle was hit in the drive-thru getting his coffee!) to fix the clogged drains of helpless college students, leaving his boss to literally do the heavy lifting.  A day of limbo-too hot to move or get things done in the house, so I watched and waited.

Daily life here has taken on a form of time out of mind. September began as and continues to be a state of fervent motion. My job in education this term has found me in a vortex of all-consuming energy leaving me little time to write. My house is full of people. My sons and their loved ones who are in need of shelter and peace take up space. Finding my groove this last autumn season here has proven to be challenging.

Perhaps this is how it is meant to be. I find myself in an acute state of high alert and awareness, this all-knowing sense of the last go round before the birth of a new life in a new place.  (Truly- nine months from Sunday is the wedding day! ) I hear myself saying “This is the last time…” more often.

With that in mind, I am disconnecting and reconnecting to people and places which I’ve known for more than half my life. The town I live in and raised the boys no longer fees like home. The neighborhood-almost a last holdout for regular working class and middle class folks- is undergoing  the transformation to over-sized and up-scaled  new homes. The prices are ones I would never pay even if I  had that kind of money. I no longer frequent the coffee shop  in the busy center either. The familiar faces are scarce and the chances of running into my ex-husband and/or his current girlfriend keep me on edge. Not worth the trip! The shift is palpable; I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

That said, I am rediscovering the mountains that loom just a mere two hours from my house. My youngest son (and my dear friend Emily as her schedule allows) are hiking some of the 4,000 footers. The experience is always unique (see Trails, Tales and Tails) . Labor Day weekend found us hiking on Mt. Liberty, a rugged and steep climb culminating just above tree-line.



The descent was challenging as well and we were briefly entertained by a hiker holding court on the trail wearing only his tighty-whities! I guess Captain Underpants does exist…

Our most recent hike was an easy one; it’s purpose purely preparatory for the 5,000 footer we hope to ascend in October. The packs were heavier and the climb not as steep but we were moved by the bravery of a ten-year old boy with spina bifida who was climbing his first mountain with his family. Tomorrow is a new mountain, higher in elevation than the last with a day that promises to be brilliant.

These excursions (and others in June and last weekend with my fiance’ to other places that I hold dear to my heart) have helped remind me of the beauty in the surrounding region. It is the place where I grew up and grew older- and hopefully wiser! The time spent with my youngest (my oldest works on Sunday afternoons, unfortunately) takes on a deeper meaning and allows for new memories to be born.

Being wholly present during this shifting paradigm has continuously been a goal for me. Allowing myself to partner with the universe keeps me grounded and prepares me for the harder decisions and changes in plans for the future of my home and loved ones. Mostly it is empowering!  The turn of events to come both sheds more of the past and sows the seeds for the future. One where we can all marry simplicity and strength.


(I’d like to thank all of you who have continued to follow me as well as my new followers during this unplanned break in my writing. Happy to be back with Kellie’s prompt! )

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt

by Kellie Elmorefwf kellie elmore badge

Hope’s Beginnings

This house has a story…what is it?

Image Credit: We Heart It

“Do you ever wonder what really happened in that house?”, Blake asked. They were sitting in the truck just moments after he and Julie had signed the purchase and sale on the former Stanton family property. Julie had grown up in these hills and was once close to Jeannie Stanton,  a childhood friend who disappeared one fall afternoon in their fifteenth year, never to be heard from again. Jeannie was one of seven children from that rag-ma-tag family where chaos and cracking heads ruled through the dirty deeds of their patriarch, Joe.  Jeannie’s mother was far from quiet herself, known to pull heavily on the tap at Smitty’s, the local bar where she worked serving drinks and other ‘amenities’ to the men from the local coal processing plant- long since closed and cleaned up. No one even knew for sure if all seven of the kids actually were Joe’s. The EPA finally did its job and the old brick campus had been successfully retrofitted and resurrected into  a world-class sound studio.  Famous musicians from across all genres recorded some of their best work in this forgotten corner of the state. Julia and Blake had become big hitters in attracting legendary acts to record and even stay in the area.

Blake, of course, had no idea of what to expect when he first entered Julie’s childhood world. They met in London, both working as sound engineers, honing their talent with the best of them. When Julie’s dad- an engineer and business man himself- bought up some of the old factory buildings from the government, he decided that some of them would work perfectly as recording spaces. Others he turned into research and development spaces. Soon he was attracting fervent interest from scientists keen on learning and creating new avenues into the world of sound.

On a return visit home with Blake last year, he and Julie had come across the abandoned property. Knowing its negative history had not stopped them from envisioning a place that would serve as a haven and respite for kid’s who were victims of abuse and neglect. Too many of the Stanton kids had become lost souls. Now that Julie had the means and connections to turn things around, she set her heart and mind on making it happen.

Just then, a rumbling sound came up from behind them. A fleet of contractor trucks loaded down with heavy equipment came roaring up the rough road. Blake planted  a kiss on Julie’s lips.  “Time to get to work,” she said.

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Another great gift from Kellie Elmore this week!

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt

by Kellie Elmore

Hearth, Home & Hope

hearth and home

The colors have been tendered

 Giving birth to emotional well-being

    A sense of balance

    A return to normalcy

The ugliness has been purged

  with the stroke of each brush

  and the spinning of each roller

Tonight her aching muscles

  and paint spotted hands

  will rest well

Awakening at dawn

to a home that she has recreated



White washed walls

Scrubbed so the surface is smooth

Removing the stains of mistakes and neglect

Primed for new colors of warmth and care

Door jams set straight after life went askew

Trimmed in a high gloss white

Shining in pride and joy

Floors buffed to a glowing earthen shade

Ready to grow roots for a new life

A dwelling of devotion

A retreat for rest

A place of peace

Home Renovation Blues

home renovation

Remove the switch plates and doors

Rearrange the furniture, cover the TV

Spackle the holes

Sand the ceiling

Blue Tape the edges

Prime the trim (two coats will do)

Now it is time for the painting to begin:

Three cans for the ceiling

Two for the trim

Two for the hall

Two more for the one we like to live in

Wow what a fortune!

I hope I like the colors…

cuz this project

is killing my almighty dollar!

Where’s My Space?

“Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must  harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

The other night I was listening to one of my favorite Pandora Radio stations when an advertisement broke in for an apartment rental search company. The selling point for the ad was that a couple’s search for an apartment together was successful because it had a “man cave for him and plenty of closet space for her.”  I had to stop what I was doing because of its two implied messages. Women need closet space? Men need a “cave”  in order to retreat from their partners and/or children? The ad reeks of sexism and notions of a privileged class. It assumes that women have an overabundance of clothes and shoes and need substantial storage for them, and only men are entitled to an extra room just for themselves.

I don’t know about you, but I have one closet that houses all of my clothes and shoes for every season. When I was married, I shared that closet only by storing my out- of- season clothes in a makeshift hanging area in the basement.  That very same area also housed the family’s cold/wet weather gear. (My home has no closet space on the first floor so when colder weather does arrive, we hang our coats in the mudroom.)  All of my other clothing items are stored in a dresser or in a plastic container under the bed. I believe that this is quite efficient, practical and frugal considering the fact that I am a runner and yogi in a four season climate. Would closet space be a possible selling point for me if I moved to a new home? Sure!  But not because I am a female in search of wardrobe storage!  Seriously, 3 closets for 3 people ( 2 are male) is quite a tight arrangement.

The need for a man cave is a 21st century idea born of the sexist belief that women control all household matters-cooking, cleaning and decorating- and enjoy those responsibilities. Hence, because men now must also be more “sensitive”, it has resulted in their emasculation. They need a space to freely express themselves. Further, this concept presumes that all men are alike-they yearn for a place to hang their deer heads, NASCAR posters and read pornography. It has become so commonplace globally that Ikea opened a store in Melbourne, Australia with a “manland”.  The space was created so that men who didn’t  want to join their partners in shopping could have a place to relax and enjoy themselves in a “manly way”.  There are now man cave websites dedicated to decorating ideas and contests for the best caves, among other things.

The truth is that they are few of us in this world who have the square footage to enjoy a room of our own. Heck, I write this blog from my kitchen table because my desk shares space with the living area!  If someone is watching TV or the boys have company, the only other choice is my bed. And besides, the kitchen table is less crowded than my desk is! Additionally, my yoga mat is on the rug in front of the desk and my strength training equipment shares space with my washing machine, furnace and other basement storage items. We are squeezed but it seems to work.

For most of us living communally is an economic reality- we need help with the rent or mortgage. For others it is a lifestyle choice: marriage, children or one half of a couple. I think the trick is to find a way to have your creative “space” and share it within this realm. Didn’t we learn this in Kindergarten?

I have no doubt that I aspire to a clean and orderly home that is decorated as an aesthetic expression of my life and identity. However, this is not because I am female!  I am the homeowner; I have pride of place just like everyone else.

Truthfully, I have never given a thought to designing a room of my own. Maybe I need to engage in some fantastical thinking. And so do you! When my dream space is complete, I’ll share it with you and invite you to do the same.

Enjoy the reverie!

What is Your Cultural Groove?

Upon first glance, working class suburbia would seem a place devoid of an authentic culture.  After all, my childhood hometown was, and continues to be, a place that is overwhelming white, filled with small ranch houses, older capes, and a main thoroughfare that is packed with strip malls and small office buildings. However, if I were to define my culture based on this shallow exterior, I would be doing it an injustice.

Both my parents grew up in two different small cities just outside of a larger city in the Northeast. Like all young couples that married in the late 1950’s, they were drawn toward dreams of homeowner-ship. Within seven months of my birth, they left their small apartment behind and moved to the town that my brother and I were to grow up in.

I have come to realize over the years- through stories that my mother told me and through example-the great sacrifices that my folks made in order to offer us a better life. Early on, my father needed to work two full-time jobs so that he  could support his family. Back then, of course, it was nearly unheard of that women worked outside the home once the children were born.  But for many working class households, it was an absolute necessity to have a second income. Frankly, I have always wondered why this past phenomenon isn’t  part of a larger public discussion today. These days we always talk about the need for both parents to work. In my day (gosh don’t I sound old!),  the money was needed for food and the  mortgage for the small ranch house- not for lavish vacations and other material items. Please don’t get me wrong- I know that the need for two incomes just to feed your family still exists today.  But I also see the pursuit of more tangible things in my generation- a great shift in the overall culture to be sure.

But I digress. The better life that  I am speaking of included endless times of running around in the woods with the neighborhood kids, swimming in the pool and long bike rides to lakes and the coast. And along with the traditional culture of 1960’s and 70’s suburban childhood, came a more subtle change-one that broadened my family’s horizons. Since the work my father did was closely associated with a university and since he also was becoming a dedicated runner, our family crossed paths with people from all generations and ethnic backgrounds who enjoyed the sport as well. Our home became a haven for hungry graduate students and other idealistic youth as well as people old enough to be my parents’ parents! Because my brother and I met so many different kinds of people, we learned compassion for, and an understanding of, others who existed beyond the borders of our little town.

These changes set the stage for  a newer definition of culture and its accompanying values for my family as well as myself.

So, as I was growing up, running became our focus for family time as well as our social network.  It was especially  exciting to be a female runner in those days! Women were just beginning to become more visible in the sport and I can say for certain that running gave me strong self-confidence and leadership skills in other areas of my life.  Moreover, I witnessed my father sacrifice his own running career in order to provide increased opportunities for my brother and I. Additionally, both my parents helped to support various youth in the neighborhood and town in their running endeavors.

My parents taught me that culture is not just about your ethnic heritage and where you live but how you live.

Therein lies the “groove”!

Certainly, too much of the 21st century’s “busy and distracted” and selfish culture creeps into our lives today and attempts to throw us off track. But even if it has, it doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our groove! Sometimes it just gets put in a pile of someone else’s agenda for a while.

The trick is that you have to learn to create a way of life that fits you and those you love. It means staying grounded and resolute in that idea. What is it that you value? How do you want to live your life?

When I think of how I grew up, it can be summed up in two words: Building Relationships. Now, I cannot say the my life thus far is an exact replica of my parents’ . That is impossible.  I can only  say for sure that I wanted that life and tried darn hard to bring in some of the same experiences. In truth, it has only been in the last five years that I can say my life fits into this mold. And guess what?  It came from letting go of all that I had known in my adult life.  The life that I once lived was shallow and not what it appeared to be.  I had a hand in making sure that it looked perfect because I was too afraid to face the fact that I thought I had been a failure.

But good gosh! It wasn’t failure; I had lost my groove. I wanted it back- not just for myself but for my kids. They deserved to enjoy a legacy where they had an opportunity to understand that life is about relationships with others. They needed to know that Community-, whether it is a faith-based, family-based ( in any incarnation), school- based, town- based, athletically- based (or all of the above)- was where it’s at.

Sometimes finding your cultural groove means risking the end of relationships that are detrimental to how you want to live. If it is harming you, then it will harm those you love in the long run ( no pun intended). Pick it out of that pile and make it your own again my friend!

I have come to understand that you have to ride the rough waves at times -and for a lot longer than you want to- in order to find that spot on the shore that allows you to live more honestly and freely.

And yes, it is absolutely worth it.  I guess you could say that I’ve reclaimed my spot on the beach. Boy,  it feels good to sink my feet in the sand!