Selling the family home…both of them…

I just started a writing class. I am so proud of myself, intimidated and excited. I would never have had the courage to take the class if not for this blog and your wonderful feedback. So thank you, you gave me the guts. 

So here’s the thing…each week I have at least one writing assignment due. Plus a lot of reading. The instructor takes this very seriously, we are going to learn… I wanted the easy version.

Anyway, my solution to not becoming too overwhelmed is to use my assignments as my blog posts. I hope that’s not cheating…I think that it is…but too bad. 

Our first assignment was to make a list, in 3 minutes, of 10 things we recently experienced. On my list # 4 was-went to NJ. There are so many versions of the same story, it is all determined by what we are  focused on. 

So here is another version of my trip to NJ…


I met her at the front door with a hand shake and mutual acknowledgement that after all our phone calls it was good to finally meet. I invited her in to see the house. As we stepped into the eat-in kitchen, familiar with mom’s meager attempt to update in the 70’s by covering the red linoleum floor with red indoor out door carpet, she admired it’s spaciousness. She agreed the plywood cabinets needed attention, but liked the amount of storage they provided. I pointed out the washing machine at the end of the counter, reminiscing my young self standing on top of it belting out Hello Dolly while impersonating Louis Armstrong. I even had a handkerchief I patted my not damp brow with. She thought it was an odd place for a washer.

She liked that there was a bath and a half, three bedrooms-my brothers room, with its telltale dark 1950‘s panelling, was used by the original owners as a den. She said she would have to check that the septic system was up to regulation to list the house as a three bedroom house. She also said, a couple of times, the house was deceivingly big on the inside. It looked smaller to her from the street. The deception that filled this house was not new to me.

I showed one other house to a realtor in 2008. It was the 1939 chestnut log cabin home I raised my children in, that my wasband and I built a1200 square foot addition to…ourselves, and that was the love of my life. I felt safe in that house. I described the IMG_2451feeling as “well held.” Selling it was harder than ending my marriage. At night when I can’t sleep I walk myself through the rooms of the cabin often starting in the kitchen meandering my way through each room. I usually fall asleep somewhere between the den and the master bedroom. I do this to comfort myself as well as to not allow myself to forget even one detail of my home.

Showing the cabin was made easier since a neighbor, who had been in the house plenty of times over the past 24 years, was my realtor. I didn’t need to show her around revisiting the painted over trains Landon and I stenciled on his bedroom wall before his sister was born, or the log in the living room with each of our initials carved into it’s surface or the basement where they learned to roller blade while Jena belted out Everybody…Everybody…Everybody…Wants to be a Cat, from the Disney movie Aristocrats.

I was spared salt in my wounds-then, but not this time. I had to show Debbie the linen closets in the bathroom and hallway. The coat closets by each door. The full size basement now empty but full with memories…particularly the now empty space where my brother built a raised, enclosed platform lined with mattresses we called the “sin bin”. He included colored lights that blinked in time with the music of Bread, Simon and Garfunkle, and Steppenwolf.  My first french kiss and full body contact with a neighborhood boy was in the sin bin. I have often since wondered what my parents were thinking when they allowed Rob to develop his carpentry skills in this way? Maybe they weren’t. They often didn’t. He did go on to make a beautiful maple end table in High School shop class. I guess he had to start somewhere.

I showed her the hardwood floors hidden beneath the matted celery green carpet  remembering that I faked falling asleep the day the carpet was installed so my parents would think I was ‘oh so cute’…desperate for their loving attention. Assuring them, as I often did, that every thing was okay. They didn’t have to fight, they didn’t have to drink, because the carpet was so soft their precious daughter could sleep on it.

I pointed out the built in bookshelves/cabinets in the combined living room dining room  that held the porcelain Irish Setter I bought my parents one Christmas. It cost $25.00 which was my allowance saved for five months. It looked just like our family dog that dad threw down the basement steps one night in a rage.

Debbie liked the house. She said it was perfect for a young family or someone down sizing from a Mc mansion. Apparently quite common these days. She loved the neighborhood, the potential of the house and the floor plan. She was excited to sell it. Seeing it through her new eyes, instead of my duplicitous nostalgia, I saw the house with a new life, new loves, and a new family. I understood, walking through the house that looked like always, yet felt so foreign, was my new normal.

Debbie hugged me as she left. I held on to her for a moment too long, she felt like an old friend at this point. The salt of my tears felt healing. I was let go of her and the house at the same time.

With Love,







You Can Never Go Home

But this weekend I did.


We beat the Pittsburgh heat and headed to Confluence PA to a lovely B&B close to the Yough River.


Many of you know that I spent 24 years living, raising kids, and being married, in the Laurel Mountains. I have visited the area several times since I left in 2008. With each visit my past life has flashed before me leaving me slightly nauseous.  But this time, as we ascended the 1200 ft rise crossing the Summit Mt, my ears popping and the outside temperature dropping, I noticed a subtle shift in myself. I no longer felt the dread of returning to the place I called home and felt so alone.


In dread’s place? I felt at peace with my past. I felt gratitude for the beauty of where I raised my kids-I think they are better off for a rural childhood. I felt grace for the friends I did have that helped me feel normal. Thank you Lee, Kathleen and Anne. And I felt such a sweetness for the home Pete and I created-literally adding a 1200 ft addition to an existing 1939 log cabin by OURSELVES. (Yes, I had my own tool belt, hammer and tape measure. I could woman a power saw, drive a straight nail, be pregnant with Jena and feed 3 year old Landon, all at the same time. I was wonder woman!)  As my past flashed before me I smiled.


Tom asked if I wanted to drive into Deer Lake and see the house. My first response was, “NO,” I didn’t want to push my luck, but as we got closer to the turn into the community I essentially grew up in and grew my kids up in, I nodded yes. (Also, I was, at this point, well aware I wanted to share this with all of you. It felt too big to keep to myself so I thought some photos would help you get the picture.)


This is the gate house into the lake. Deer Lake was originally a gated community. Today the gate house is home for the easter bunnies visit, santa’s early arrival to take orders, random neighbors yard sales and the yearly board meeting where residents complain about other neighbor’s dogs. I remember sitting in some of those meetings thinking about real problems.


Now, before I show you pictures of the house, let me give you a very short history of my love affair with my log cabin home. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. Everyone who came into this home felt it too. It was special. Maybe it was built on land blessed by Native Americans, or maybe on a safe from the world energy vortex, or maybe the chestnut trees that the original cabin was built from carried with them all that is good in the world. Whatever it was this house was my magical place. It held me.


I think it looked much, much better when I lived there. It looks a little soulless to me now. I am sure I am not being biased.

Selling this was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Yet even in the selling of the home, it once again, in it’s final act of love toward me, called to it a buyer paying cash two weeks before the housing market crashed. My lovely home provided me with the retirement I didn’t have.


Here is an inside peek when I ran the kitchen.

I still regret I didn’t take that chandelier with me. It was original to the house.


Being back in the mountains, feeling my past meet my present with a much softer touch, reminded me of how healing this area is for me. Tom has said to me, on occasion, “I need to get you to the mountains.” He will explain later his suggestion has to do with my mood…I guess it like with kids, when they are crabby you put them in water…when I have walked on too much concrete we go to the woods.


Lying on the rocks today at Ohiopyle, temporarily dipping ourselves in and out of the chilly water, I knew I am better for living in this place. I felt myself unwind in a way I only do in the presence of large rocks and moving water. I know these rocks and they know me.


I sat up to see Tom watching me, “These are your rocks sweetheart. They have been waiting for you to come back.”


I know he is right.