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Archive for May, 2017

Hey - You There - How’d You Get Here?

May 20th, 2017 Sears Homes 10 comments

In the beginning, I joined Facebook under protest and only with the stated purpose of creating a stronger internet presence for me and my books and my career.

Subsequently, I’ve found that if I write a blog and do NOT post a link on Facebook, this site gets significantly fewer hits.

So this is a little Friday night experiment. If you’re coming to this site for some reason OTHER than Facebook, please leave a comment below and tell me when and how you landed here!

Teddy and I thank you.

Before there was Teddy, there was Daisy, a one-in-a-million dog that knew me better than I knew myself. She was one of those animals that seemed more like a human than a canine.

Before there was Teddy, there was "Daisy," a one-in-a-million dog that knew me better than I knew myself. She was one of those animals that seemed more like a human than a canine.

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Daisy got me through the divorce to my first husband Tom, to whom I was married for 24 years. Daisy would never get on the bed but would stay right by my side. Wed take long walks in the countryside sans leash, and she never wandered away.

Daisy got me through the divorce to my first husband "Tom," to whom I was married for 24 years. We'd take long walks in the countryside sans leash, and she never wandered away. She was good company.

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Teddy might be a little jealous.

Teddy might be a little jealous.

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Read about Sears Homes by clicking here.

Surprise.

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The Open Floor Plan and the Downfall of Society

May 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

Last February, as Robert, Pat and I sat together in Robert’s Sears Home, he said, “The open floor plan will probably be considered one of the most heinous atrocities ever committed against American architecture.”

A man after my own heart.

When historians write about the unraveling of society, it will probably all be traced back to The Open Floor Plan.

Who decided it was a good idea to remove every wall and door from a house?

For months, I’ve been looking for a home for me and Teddy and The Horsies™.

We’ve found a few homes that are close, but nothing has been a real match yet.

For a variety of reasons, I’m hoping to find a house that’s not more than 50 years old and well built and in a safe area. And most importantly, I want a house that does NOT have an “Open Floor Plan.”

It’s not bad enough that the big ugly houses with open floor plans are taking over the planet, but even older homes are not safe.

Reading through listings for once-lovely 1950s and 60s brick ranches, I’ve found this awful comment: “Completely renovated with new and inviting open floor plan.”

Though I’m not a woman given to strong language, this phrase hits a nerve and induces me to say things that are quite unladylike.

I don’t want to smell the kitchen or worse, SEE the kitchen. I don’t want to see the dining room. I need lots of doors and walls between me and the world. My secret to good housekeeping is plenty of heavy doors and hiding places. If I wanted to live in an open commune, I’d move to Berkeley. I want private areas and secret rooms. My dream house would have an underground bomb shelter with vintage rations from the Eisenhower era.

How do you paint  your own house when the living room wall is 17-feet tall? How do you change a light fixture on a chain that’s seven feet taller than you on your tallest ladder? How do you kill spiders ensconced in a dark corner at the tippy top of a cathedral ceiling?

The Open Floor Plan: stultissimus notio!

If you enjoyed this, please share the link on your Facebook page!

Need a palate cleanse? Read about Sears Homes here.

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Dumb

This makes no sense to me. In fact, I'd say it's one of the most foolish things a person could do to a house. I looked at this house, hoping it wasn't as bad as it sounded. It was.

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So open that its brains fall out

So open that its brains fall out? This is a lovely log cabin recently listed in a nearby city. This 1,500-square foot space is - for all purposes - one big room.

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Open

Twitch, twitch.

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Open More

Blech. And how do you clean those windows above the door?

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Open and depressing

What a waste of space and energy and materials.

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This one is the very worst. This hosue started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

This one is the very worst. This house started life as a fine home, a 1950s brick ranch.

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But they managed to make it ugly on the exterior, too.

But they managed to make it ugly on the exterior, too.

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I hate open

The Aladdin Villa (a kit home) had lots of doors. I love doors. I hate open.

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Villa

Here's a real life Villa in Augusta, Georgia, and I'm sure it still has a lot of doors and walls.

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And then there were seven...

The Seven Horsies of the Apocalypse detest open floor plans. And yes, there are now SEVEN horsies. Number Seven (center stage) was a gift, so that's good because now I have enablers of my Stuffed Horsie Habit. Yay! :D

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Read more about the Aladdin Villa here.

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Operators are Standing By…

May 15th, 2017 Sears Homes No comments

Okay, there really aren’t any operators standing by, but it’s such a cool expression.

However, the last of the “author’s stock” of Finding The Houses That Sears Built is flying out the door. Teddy shows off the orders from this weekend.

There are a few copies remaining. To place your order, click here.

These are brand new books - right out of the box - and signed by the author.

To learn more about Rose, click here.

Want to identify Sears Homes? This is the place.

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Teddy double-checks the addresses on the book orders from this weekend.

Teddy double-checks the addresses on the book orders from this weekend.

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Finding The Houses That Sears Built

As of last week, "Finding The Houses That Sears Built" had a "low price" (used) of $145.

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After the authors stock is gone, these days will return...

After the author's stock is gone, these days will return...

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To learn more about Rose, click here.

Want to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

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So Damn Tough…

May 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 6 comments

Thanks to the intercession and help of many skin-clad angels, the Penniman book is so close to the finish line. Heretofore, my friend Milton has done most of the proofreading, because reading this manuscript sends me into such a tailspin that I invariably end up sobbing or in a bad state - for hours.

Every page, every jot and every tittle is a painful memory now. Wayne sat right with me - for five years - as I ruminated over every paragraph. He and I talked for hours about the difference between shrapnel shells and high explosive shells. We discussed the minutiae of the layout of the village, the styling of the houses, the logistics of moving those houses, the manufacturing of Amatol (TNT) and every other detail that one can imagine.

We laughed and we talked and we argued and in one memorable moment, he came up with an inspired solution to a very thorny problem and I said, “You must be the most brilliant man walking this earth,” and I (again) told him how much I adored him, and then pulled him out of his chair and into the bedroom and said, “Your intellect is such a turn-on.”

Little did I know that that would be the last time that I was intimate with my husband.

After his death, I found out that my adoration of my spouse was not reciprocal. It has nearly broken me.

Too many people have said, “You need to move on and forget about Wayne.”

That’s not helpful. He was my husband. Our lives were inextricably linked for a decade. He was the man that I promised to love forever. And he left me with one hell of a mess.

This manuscript is also a vociferous memory of that former life and former home and former Rosemary. There are days when that life feels almost like a fuzzy dream, and that’s also unsettling.

It’s taking every single thing I have to get this book completed. I’m not sure that I can proofread it again, but I know that I must. Let’s hope I can plow through it one last time, and emerge from the other side without losing it.

All of which is to say, when this book - in its finalized and published form - sees the light of day, it will be a miracle of grace.

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On April 9, 2016, I wrote this blog expressing great joy that the book was nearly finished.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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The manuscript has been completed and proofed by a dear friend, but in truth, I need to read it myself one more time - cover to cover. And its so damn tough.

The manuscript has been completed and proofed by a dear friend, but in truth, I need to read it myself one more time - cover to cover. And it's so damn tough.

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The research materials are now at my rental home, where they sit in the living room, just in case I need the notes for some reason.

The research materials are now boxed and stored at my rental home, where they sit in the living room, just in case I need the notes for some reason. My faithful companion guards them.

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When Wayne came home, I insisted he pose here too.

This photo was taken on April 9, 2016 and was the last photo I have of Wayne Ringer. He killed himself seven days later. When he came home that day on April 9th, I asked him to "look erudite" and this was the pose he struck. I adored him, and he knew it, but those feelings weren't reciprocal.

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These were the books that I used most often.

The manuscript - and everything associated with it - are a memory of my life pre-April 2016. That's part of what makes this so agonizing. These were the notebooks that I referenced most often, a collection of newspaper articles from the "Virginia Gazette" and the "Daily Press."

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A street scene of the now-lost village of Penniman.

A street scene of the now-lost village of Penniman. The streets are mud and the houses are fresh and new. The village was built in 1918 and abandoned in early 1920. Photos are courtesy of the Whisnant family.

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On April 9, 2016, I did this blog expressing great joy that the book was nearly finished.

To read more about Penniman, click here.

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“Finding The Houses That Sears Built” - Available While Quantities Last!

May 9th, 2017 Sears Homes 1 comment

One of the many casualties of The Very Bad Thing™ were my book sales, but for many months following Wayne’s death, I didn’t care about anything.

Last week, someone pointed out that the price of Finding The Houses That Sears Built - now out of print - had hit crazy new heights. I logged into a popular website for books and was astonished to see that this modest tome - used - was fetching more than $145. The cost of a new copy was $495, for a book with an original cover price of $19.95.

I went out into the garage and dug around in some boxes (of which there are many), and found that I had about 15 copies of this title. (Note: This sounds simple but it was quite complex. I’m currently “camped out” in a rental and surrounded by boxes!)

So for now, while supplies last, this book will be offered for sale for $44.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. All orders are shipped out via priority mail.

To order a copy, click here.

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Finding The Houses That Sears Built

When I logged onto this website, I was shocked to see that "Finding The Houses That Sears Built" had a "low price" of $145. That's pretty incredible. And the cost for a NEW book was $495.

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FINDING

Prices ranged from $145 to more than $300. That's just incredible.

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Teddy

Teddy the Dog wants you to know that there are only a few copies available.

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ffff

On a different note, I may need an intervention. I keep buying stuffed horses.

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Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be one Horsie™

Yes, I now have six little horsies, but there will always only be the original classic "Horsie."™

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Want to learn how to identify Sears Homes? Click here.

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Thanks for reading my blog. And thanks for leaving a comment. Every day, I read and re-read every kind word left at this site, and every kind word helps put another salutary stitch in my shattered and broken heart.

Teddy and I thank you for your kindness and your prayers.

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Here’s Your Chance to Give Rose Some Advice: The City or the Country?

May 8th, 2017 Sears Homes 17 comments

For months, I’ve been looking to buy a house - somewhere. It’s my hope to stay in the area (Hampton Roads) but get far away from Norfolk. I’ve been looking in Zuni, Windsor, Suffolk, Smithfield and areas nearby.

Thus far, I’ve not found anything that sent me.

Ever since Wayne’s suicide, I’ve consoled myself by saying that now - at the age of 57 - I can finally buy the place that I always dreamt of: A 2-3 acre “farmette” with a modest house in a beautiful place. As mentioned in a prior blog, I spent several weeks living on a 100+ acre peanut farm in Zuni, and it was too beautiful for words.

No matter how low I felt, sitting out in that field and watching the magnificent hawks make lazy circles in that sky was THE THING that made me so very happy. It filled my heart with so much joy. Listening to the wind whistling through the trees always made me smile. The sound of the train whistle in the distance took me to another happy place in memory. It was all so lovely.

It is the wide-open spaces and their intrinsic beauty that seems to feed my soul and nourish my spirit.

Beauty is what I crave the most.

So what’s the problem? I wonder how realistic this is. I’m a 57-year-old woman with occasional joint and back pain (minor at this point), and yet I want to live on a couple acres?

And then yesterday, I visited an open house and found this beauty. It’s on a 1/2 acre lot, but in a thoroughly modern subdivision from the early 1930s/40s. The house was custom-built by a doctor in 1948, and has been meticulously maintained by its current owner, who’s now moving out of Portsmouth. He’s as compulsive as me when it comes to house maintenance. That’s important.

And there’s this: I don’t plan to live alone again. If my current roommate goes bye-bye, I’ll rent a room to someone, because of financial considerations and also because I like the companionship. This house lends itself well to that potential. It has four bedrooms and four bathrooms (3.5 bathrooms to be precise.)

The mechanical systems are new, high-quality and well-done. Someone has put a lot of first-class materials into this home, and yet they’ve preserved the quality vintage aspects.

This house sends me. It fills my heart with great joy. And yet, it’s a small suburban lot. And yet, it has a view of the Elizabeth River. And yet, the neighbors are really close at hand. And yet, the back yard is an oasis. And yet the taxes are high. And yet, I spend most of my time inside, and the inside is so beautiful.

The pros and cons are endless.

I’d be grateful for opinions. I’m tired and worn out and frustrated and overwhelmed.

And the sad fact is, I have never bought a house by myself. This would be my first home purchase as a single woman.

Thanks in advance for thoughtful comments.

Rosemary

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To begin with, theres the bathroom. All original. Be still my heart. I love a pretty bathroom.

To begin with, there's the bathroom. All original. Be still my heart. I love a pretty bathroom.

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That

The floor-to-ceiling window in the living room does send me. Wow.

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A den, replete with stone fireplace, is also very 1950s and very beautiful.

A den, replete with stone fireplace, is also vintage and lovely.

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The large sunporch, which looks out toward the Elizabeth River, also took my breath away. Im a sap for a sunporch.

The large sunporch, which looks out toward the Elizabeth River, also took my breath away. I'm a sap for a sunporch.

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The backyard is an oasis as well.

The backyard is an oasis as well.

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Long view of the exterior.

Long view of the exterior.

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Everything about this house is truly beautiful.

Everything about this house is truly beautiful.

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To see the full listing, click here.

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Please leave a comment below! Thanks so much!

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They’re Gone, Chief…

May 6th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Yesterday, I shipped out six copies (autographed) of “The Houses That Sears Built,” leaving one lone soldier in the box. Last night, an order came from Keyport, New Jersey for the last remaining book.

How I wish that I could retrieve those 6+ boxes of books from Harrison Moving Storage in Portsmouth. Unfortunately, their retrieval fees are just too much to justify the expense. As I said yesterday, I never expected to be living in this rental for almost eight months. I thought I’d be gone from  here in weeks.

But here I sit.

For now, I’ve ordered a limited reprint (only 200 copies) from Corley Printing in St. Louis.

If you order a copy of “The Houses That Sears Built,” there will be about a two-week delay. And once those 200 are gone, that might be it for a time.

To pre-order your copy, click here.

To learn more about how my books landed in storage, click here.

Read more about Sears Homes here.

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Horsie I, II, III, IV and V play in the empty box of the last books in my possession.

Horsie I, II, III, IV and V play in the empty box of the last books in my possession.

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Several people are worried that Teddy has been shoved off center stage with the addition of the Horsie Group™ but she's still the Top Dog in more ways than one. When it comes to posing, Teddy just doesn't fit into small boxes as well as the Horsie Group™.

Several people are worried that Teddy has been shoved off center stage with the addition of the Horsie Group™ but she's still the Top Dog. However, when it comes to posing cute animals in a little box, Teddy is more challenging.

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To learn more about how my books landed in storage, click here.

Read more about Sears Homes here.

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The Last Seven Books…

May 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 4 comments

Nothing has been “orderly” about the last 12 months, and as a result, book orders have been delayed and a few orders fell between the cracks. Worst of all, several boxes of books got packed into storage which now (according to Harrison Moving) can’t be retrieved without a minimum $160 fee.

Every single thing in my life took a hit from The Bad Thing™.

However…

I have seven books left. That’s it for now. After these seven are gone, I’ll probably do one more reprinting and then that’s the end of the run.

Horise I, Horsie II and Horsie III are guarding the last seven books.

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Horsie

The last seven copies of "The Houses That Sears Built."

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

Penniman is another fascinating story. More on that here.

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“Happy Widow’s Day”?

May 4th, 2017 Sears Homes 34 comments

This isn’t a post about architecture or Sears Homes or the ghost town of Penniman, Virginia. It’s about surviving to the one-year mark of the worst tragedy I have ever known.

Someone told me that yesterday (May 3rd) was “National Widow’s Day.” I don’t know much about that, but I do know that it’s been a little more than a year since my husband killed himself.

Grief is a messy business and way too much folks seem to think that after the earth has spun around the sun 365 times, a widow should be “over it.”

I understand their position: It’s tough to see someone in pain and it seems that grief - a type of extreme emotional pain - is especially difficult to watch.

My husband was seven years my senior and I’d always assumed that I’d outlive him, but not like this and not so soon. I always assumed that I’d be a “good old widow” and cheerfully reminisce and cherish the memories of our long life together.

The suicide tainted everything. Every single thing.

It’s true that “suicide is a death like no other.”

Obviously, my husband wasn’t happy. Obviously, he didn’t want to grow old with me. Obviously, this wasn’t the love affair I thought it was. Obviously, I was not the wife that he wanted, and obviously, this wasn’t the life that he wanted.

Or maybe it was.

But I’ll never know. There were no clues and no hints and not a whiff of an idea of what he was planning. April 18th, 2016, he dropped me off at the Norfolk International Airport so that I could travel to Boston and see my middle daughter. As soon as I landed in Boston (five hours later), I called him and asked him how he was doing. He was starting a big court case on Tuesday morning and I’d been very worried about his health.

He answered my questions and then started an argument over the phone. His words were so vitriolic that I was stunned.

I asked him why he was doing this.

He simply continued with the angry words. Wayne knew, “he who asks the questions controls the conversation.” He was in control of what was going to be our last conversation. I don’t and won’t remember how that conversation ended and/or who hung up first. One year later, it’s a path in my brain that must remain barricaded and closed and permanently sealed, lest I slip into insanity.

About 10:00 am, he sent me a text claiming that his next action would be my fault. It was a text that was both puzzling and terrifying. Yet not in my worst nightmare could I have imagined what would come next. As soon as that text had been sent, he turned off his phone and left his office at City Hall. Within 90 minutes, he’d be dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

For several weeks, I slept at friends’ homes and lived out of a Harris Teeter shopping bag. I lost more than 30 pounds in two months. Three or four times a week, I returned to my beautiful home in Norfolk long enough to get fresh clothes and then took off again. Sometimes, I traveled to see friends in Illinois. For a couple weeks, I stayed at a religious retreat in northern Virginia. A couple times, I spent the night in the car. So much of that time is lost to memory. I was in deep shock, and didn’t even realize it.

Family and friends feared that I was slipping away. There were days that I thought that insanity might provide some relief to the excruciating emotional pain. For the first time in my long life, I understood - with great clarity - why people become homeless and why they become alcoholics and drug addicts. I wanted to slip under the radar of society and take my Harris Teeter bag and disappear into a crowd somewhere and live out the rest of my days, weeks or years with “my people” - the hopeless homeless.

Lyrics from my favorite song “Don’t Laugh At Me” (Mark Willis) became crystal clear.

I lost my wife and little boy when
Someone crossed that yellow line
The day we laid them in the ground
Is the day I lost my mind
And right now I’m down to holdin’
This little cardboard sign…

Would people say that the day Wayne died was “the day I lost my mind”? People had cracked up under less. Would this be the event that cost me my sanity?

As I slipped further into the deep black well of hopelessness, friends tried desperately to lean over the rock-ribbed walls and throw a rope down to me. The problem was, I was too cold and too weak to grab onto it. The turning point came sometime in Summer 2016 (I don’t remember the date). A friend - someone that had been on the periphery of my life - appeared and said, “You’re going to come stay with me. I have a spare bedroom in my house and I live out in the country. Pack up some things and come out tonight.”

For four months, I lived with my friend on a peanut farm. Each evening, when she returned home from work - too tired to take a deep breath - she’d stand at the foot of my bed and talk with me, and pray with me. Every morning, she’d greet me with a smile and pray for me and help me remember that I was loved.

There was another friend that I’ll talk more about later. These were two of my angels (and there were so many others), who kept me going when I no longer had the will, the strength, the desire or the vision to face one more day.Without them, I would have been another statistic.

Throughout this last year, I have literally craved love. Over on Facebook, at my “Sears Homes” group, I asked the 1,600 members to post a few happy words about how my books had blessed their lives. I read that thread again and again and again.

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About six months after Wayne’s suicide, I moved into a rental home where I’m living now. I remain hopeful that - in time - I’ll find a home to purchase, and can then unpack my things and restore some order and structure to my life.

I know that several readers of this blog are prayer warriors, and believe in the healing power of prayer. If that describes you, I’m so very grateful for your love and your prayers. Please know that at the darkest times of my year, I’ve visualized those many prayers being poured into my soul, and that imagery (and the love behind it) has brought me much comfort.

Because of Wayne’s suicide, I’ll never be the same. This has forever changed me. But because of Wayne’s suicide, I’ll always be part of a “club” that understands the full depths of human suffering, as well as the unbelievable amounts of divine love and genuine kindness that can be found in a stranger’s heart.

Each day is still a mighty struggle, but each day, I strive to find one thing for which to be sincerely grateful. And many days, I find several things.

Perhaps that’s what healing looks like.

Let’s hope.

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Please leave a comment below.

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Horise and Rosemary in Illinois

These days, I have a new travel companion: A cute little stuffed horse that's been named "Horsie." Here's Horsie and Rosemary in a selfie, taken in southwestern, Illinois.

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Horsie gazes longingly out the window in Elsah, Illinois.

Horsie gazes longingly out the window in Elsah, Illinois.

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Horsie has mixed feelings about flying home to the modest rental. More than 50% of my worldly belongings are in storage, while we hope to find a suitable home to buy in a suitable place. Its taking a lot longer than I thought, which is adding to the stress.

Horsie always enjoys flying in an aeroplane. It's all that darn waiting and security and hassles BEFORE that drive Horsie nuts. On a recent security screening, Horsie endured a very personal examination which left him feeling rather humiliated.

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Horsie is glad to be back on solid ground. Flying is nerve-wracking for so many reasons, and ever more so when youre already stressed from other life events.

Horsie is glad to be back on solid ground at RDU (Raleigh/Durham airport). Flying is nerve-wracking for so many reasons, and ever more so when you're already stressed from other life events.

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I prefer to end on a happy note, so theres a picture of another Horsie (tentatively named Horsie II) thats on its way to my house.

Horsie has brought me so much joy that I decided to add another Horise to the fold. Tentatively named "Horsie II," he's now living with Horsie I in my home in Virginia.

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Good

Vincent Van Gogh - The Good Samaritan. Vincent Van Gogh was staying in an institution for the mentally ill (following a psychotic break) when he painted this work, in May 1890. Saving someone who has been given up for dead is incredibly hard work, as this picture so beautifully shows.

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