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Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV, Part II

July 22nd, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

In my prior blog, I mentioned that HGTV’s House Hunters featured a “kit house” that was in Nashville. A Facebook friend and fellow Sears House lover shared some additional information on the program, enabling me to figure out what exactly HGVT was talking about.

Let me start off with this:  It was not a kit house. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, the motto of too many of these remodeling shows is, “Why let details get in the way of a good story?”

In fact, the house shown on House Hunters is located in Old Hickory, near Nashville, TN, which happens to be the site of a World War One munitions plant built by DuPont. You can learn more about Old Hickory here.

When America became involved in The Great War in April 1917, there was an urgent need for more munitions for the “boys overseas.” DuPont responded to this by building or modifying several plants around the country to make munitions. Old Hickory was built from scratch and was a phenomenal logistical effort, in every way imaginable. To learn more about this, you can read my book, which has much informtion on the build-up at Old Hickory.

Penniman, Virginia was also the site of a DuPont-built World War One munitions plant, and the houses at Penniman were the same models as the houses built within the Old Hickory community. These houses were the work product of DuPont. The lumber came from a variety of sources, but the designs were created by DuPont Engineering, and these models can now be found in many World War One company towns, such as DuPont, Washington; Ramsey, Montana; Hopewell, Virginia; Carney’s Point, New Jersey; Old Hickory, Tennessee; Sandston, Virginia; and Penniman.

Penniman was a city of 15,000 people that was born in 1916 and was gone by 1921, and the 200+ houses within Penniman were moved to other sites, including Norfolk and Williamsburg. In fact, I’ve written a book about this amazing place, located less than seven miles from Colonial Williamsburg.

The city that DuPont built at Old Hickory fared better. It still exists, and many of the 600+ houses that were built by DuPont are still in their same spot. These houses from DuPont were not kits, but they were based on plans that DuPont used at several other World War One munition plants around the country.

The house featured on House Hunters was known as The Florence, and was a darling cottage with many windows and something few of these plant houses had: A real masonry fireplace (see pictures below).

To summarize, the house featured on HGTV as “a kit house” was not a kit house. It was one of many houses designed by DuPont Engineering and built at several munition plants around the country.

If HGTV wants to be considered a credible source of information, they need to spend five or six minutes on Google chasing down some of these stories.

If not, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read the prior blog about this program, click here.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey, Robin Hurowitz, and Rachel Shoemaker for contributing to this blog!

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Old Nashville

Thanks to Robin Hurowitz for supplying a few screen shots of the show on HGTV. I'm not going to show the other shots from this episode because it's too depressing for words.

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House

My #1 partner in crime, Rachel Shoemaker, found the original listing of this house on Zillow, which provides some wonderful details not otherwise available. The name of this model was The Florence.

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There are several "Florences" within Old Hickory. Prior to the convergence of the construction crew, the house was in delightfully original condition. I'm not sure what all happened inside the house. Don't want to know.

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The colors, the many tall windows, the size (just under 800 square feet) all make this the perfect house for a young couple. When built, there was a small transom spanning that front door, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Florence.

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Cute front

And there's that masonry fireplace, sitting at an angle in the living room.

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HOUSE

These framing and flooring of these homes is probably Southern Yellow Pine, probably harvested from Mississippi (but that's a guess, based on what I know about the houses in Penniman). I do know that these are pine floors.

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Fireplace

Here's the floorplan for The Florence. The house in Old Hickory is "flipped" so that it's a mirror image of this house (shown above). When built, this house had several walls, which are now gone.

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The rear of the home shows that it was also a perfect match to this model.

The rear of the home is also largely original, and shows that it was also a perfect match to this Florence catalog image.

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Kitchen went bye

The kitchen was one of my favorite features of this house (as built). That right there is my dream kitchen. Absolutely, my dream. Oh, to find a house with that kitchen. It also went bye-bye in the remodel.

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catalog

The Florence, as shown in an old catalog showcasing the DuPont models.

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Florence

And here's a Florence with its original front door in Williamsburg, Virginia. This was originally located at Penniman, and moved after the war (along with 200+ houses). Williamsburg has a handful of Penniman houses.

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It's a beautiful house and in very good condition. I haven't had the heart to watch the entire episode, but I'm pretty confident that the home's exterior was undamaged by the "remodeling."

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NOT a kit Old Hick

The Florence is not a kit home, but it did come from DuPont.

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And amazingly it circles back to the story of Penniman

And amazingly, this whole thing circles back to the story of Penniman, a village outside of Williamsburg with more than 15,000 inhabitants at its peak (in late 1918). Photo is courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

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Whisnant in front of Florence

The Whisnant family stands in front of a Florence on the streets of Penniman (1918). Image is courtesy of the Whisnant family, and is reproduced with their permission.

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HGVT really needs to do a little research before spreading this information. However, if they don’t, I’ll keep writing blogs about them which is also pretty entertaining.

To read more about the Penniman houses that landed in Norfolk, click here.

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Another “Sears House” Featured on HGTV?

July 17th, 2017 Sears Homes 13 comments

An update! It’s not a “Sears kit house,” but a Penniman house. Kind of. :D

And “Sears House” is in quotes, because we all know, 99% of the time (or maybe 100%), these horrible TV shows get it wrong. And they are horrible.

One of the first rules of old house ownership is “Thou Shalt Not Destroy Good Old Work,” and yet that is the first thing that these programs encourage.

They rip out all manner of quality workmanship in kitchens and baths, so that they can put in poor-quality plasticine (but trendy) dreck and dregs, which lack classic or traditional beauty, and will be tired and dated before this decade ends, and it’s all in the name of convincing American homeowners that “good enough” is abhorrent and ghastly, and that you shouldn’t worry about “keeping up with the Joneses” but rather, you should be focused on keeping up with the Kardashians.

For the last several months, I’ve been searching for a home and in that process, I’ve looked at several foreclosures in the $175,000+ range. I’ve yet to see a house in original condition in foreclosure. The homes I’ve viewed are either half-way “remodeled” (and how I hate that word), or they have shiny new kitchens and baths. If you have several thousand dollars that you can set fire to, try something truly avant-garde - PUT THAT MONEY IN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

This remodeling craze is insanity and it’s also ecological idiocy.

More than 35% of all the detritus at landfills is construction debris. Every time you rip out a full kitchen of knotty pine cabinets or destroy a pink bathroom, you’re adding to this country’s burgeoning problem of solid waste. Our landfills are filling up at a tremendous clip. As homeowners, we are caretakers. We have a responsibility to preserve the unique features of an old house. If you want shiny and fancy and new, buy a house that is shiny and fancy and new.

But I digress…

Let’s go back to HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized) and their latest discussion on Sears Houses.

According to a friend, Season 11, Episode 7 of “House Hunters” featured a Sears House in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m unable to find even screen shot of the house featured on this show, so if anyone can capture images for me, I’d be very grateful.

And in the meantime, please tell your vinyl-loving friends, if they want a new house, they should buy a new house, and leave our old houses unmolested and undamaged.

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Before there was HGTV, Bob Vila misidentified a house in California as a Sears Home. On "Home Again" he identified this house as a "Sears Craftsman Bungalow" and a "Sears Crescent." Since this house was in the Los Angeles area, you think he would have considered Pacific Ready Cut Homes first, but he didn't. Years ago, I did track down and speak with the home's owner, and sent  him a picture out of the PRCH catalog, showing him the proper model name. He was very pleased.

Before there was HGTV, Bob Vila misidentified a house in California as a Sears Home (about 1999-2000). On "Home Again" he identified this house as a "Sears Craftsman Bungalow" and a "Sears Crescent." Since this house was in the Los Angeles area, you think he would have considered Pacific Ready Cut Homes first, but he didn't. Years ago, I did track down and speak with the home's owner, and sent him a picture out of the PRCH catalog, showing him the proper model name. He was very pleased.

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On a recent episode of Property Brothers, they destroyed this delightful old bathtub and bathroom to put in some new ugly crap.

On a recent episode of "Property Brothers," they destroyed this delightful old bathtub and bathroom for no other reason than to "remodel" the space. That gorgeous basketweave tile floor is also in the landfill now.

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Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.

Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.

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Shown above is an expensive kitchen remodel in a 1961 brick ranch in Portsmouth, Virginia, and it's in foreclosure. The original kitchen is sitting in a landfill somewhere, as are the plaster walls and studs that defined the kitchen, dining room and living room.  The bathroom (from the same house shown above) has also been gutted and destroyed. Built in 1960, the original bathroom would have had tile wainscoting, set in 2-3 inches of thickset mortar, with complementing tile flooring. Those materials - which would have survived a nuclear holocaust - have been replaced with MDF cabinetry and engineered wood floors. In place of the tile wainscoting, someone has put up sheetrock with knock-down plaster finish. If these inferior-grade materials survive for 10 years, it will be a Christmas miracle.

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This

This is how America did bathrooms in the 1960s. This bathroom shown above (located at 1889 Rosemary Lane) is now more than 50 years old, and yet looks wonderful. And yes, that's the original toilet in the background. Today's replacement materials - in many cases - are not going to survive more than 20 years, at best.

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According to a friend, Season 11, Episode 7 of “House Hunters” featured a Sears House in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m unable to find so much as a screen shot of this show, so if anyone can capture images for me, I’d be very grateful.

To contact me, please leave a comment below.

Look at a real Sears Crescent by clicking here.

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Housing Rosemary, Part II

July 11th, 2017 Sears Homes 8 comments

In re-starting a new life at the age of 58, one of my greatest challenges is (now) decision-making. Even small decisions are very difficult, and I’m finding that larger decisions are almost paralyzing.

My nearest and dearest friends tell me that I’ve made much progress in the last few months, and I’m so grateful for every encouraging word, but when it comes to hard choices, I don’t do very well.

Last night, I looked at a house that was so appealing for so many reasons. It’s brand-new on the market and will probably sell quickly, so I need to decide soon. And yet, after seeing the house, the old familiar chest pains returned, as did the sleepless night and morning panic attack.

The house has so many good features, such as a NON-OPEN floor plan. It has rooms and walls - a big plus. It has a functional kitchen with white appliances - another big plus. I loathe stainless steel. The roof is less than five years old, so it should last the rest of my life. That’s good.

Inside, the 29-year-old home has popcorn ceilings in every room (ick), an unusually small master bedroom (drat), no sunporch (yikes) and very few windows (see pictures). I’m a solar-powered soul, and I live on light.

The mechanical systems (plumbing, electrical) are first class, but the HVAC is 15+ years old and inefficient.

The best part - the lot. It’s just the right size, delightfully landscaped and the rear is fully fenced. And - it has a massive 1,008-square-foot garage in the back corner. With an epoxy floor. And oversized doors. And a second-floor. That garage makes me swoon, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s my inner-hoarder coming out. Maybe it’s 10 months of being stuffed inside a small rental, with all my worldly possessions in storage.

And perhaps the other “best part” is the neighborhood. It’s a lovely neighborhood and all the lots are at least 125-feet wide. It’s not in the wilderness, and yet everyone has their space.

The last bad thing - it was built in 1988, during  a housing boom in this area. It was not custom built, and I see some evidences of it being economically constructed.

But do I need a house that will last 100 years? No. I need a house that will last 20 years. After that, I’m leaving for assisted living or heaven (undecided as of yet).

So that’s the story. I welcome opinions, as I try to navigate this difficult decision.

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The best part is the lot. Its .7 acres - big enough for privacy but not overwhelming. And its all fenced and ready for me and Teddy to move right in.

The best feature of this house is the lot. It's .7 acres - big enough for privacy but not overwhelming, and well landscaped. And it's all fenced and ready for me and Teddy to move right in, and start the next chapter of our life.

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House

There's a 1-1/2 car attached garage, but there's a 1000+ square-foot garage in the back yard. The house has excellent curb appeal, and the lawn has been beautifully maintained.

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As you can see from the rear, it just doesnt have many windows.

As you can see from the rear, it just doesn't have many windows. There are only two windows on the side of the house, and only one on the second-floor rear. And yet, it does have a new roof...and that's how these internal conversations go - back and forth.

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You can read one of my most popular blogs here.

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Defining a Dream…

July 8th, 2017 Sears Homes 8 comments

Several kind souls have asked - what are you looking for in a house?

In an effort to nail that down myself, I’ve looked at many houses listed for sale and also houses that have sold (which also helps give an insight on value).

In my opinion, Zillow is the easiest online real estate website, and I’ve spent many an hour, reviewing the possibilities.

Initially, following Wayne’s death, I decided it was time to fulfill my long-awaited dream of a “house in the country,” and attempted to find a suitable home on a couple acres out in Suffolk, Zuni, Windsor or some place west of Hampton Roads. Subsequently, I’ve come to realize that I need something a little more manageable.

Earlier this week, that became even more clear, after I was completely bedridden with a virus of some kind.

I was born and raised in Portsmouth, and it’s an area that I know very well. For a dozen years, I lived in St. Louis, and for the next 10 years, I lived in Norfolk. Several kind folks have suggested Norfolk, but for many reasons, I’ll never live there again.

I’m open to Portsmouth, and also to Northern Suffolk (contiguous to Portsmouth).

There are days when discouragement sets in, but that’s when I return to this house in Portsmouth (pictures below), in a neighborhood known as Green Acres. (Yes, that really is the name of the neighborhood.) And this house - this one house - absolutely sends me. It fills me with an unspeakable glee and joy. I’ve spent many an hour studying these photos.

Unfortunately, it sold eight months ago. I’ve even thought about knocking on the homeowner’s door, and asking if they have any interest in selling. Problem is, all the unique and vintage features that are so charming are probably long gone now. I hope I’m wrong, but…

So at least - after this long journey - it’s become clear to me what I truly want in a home:  Beauty, elegance, refinement, character, peace, and best of all, at least a splash of something vintage.

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This house has it all. The lot is .6 acres, which is just right and big enough for a koi pond!

This house has it all. The lot is .6 acres, which is just right and big enough for a koi pond (or a raccoon feeding station, as my buddy Dale calls it). This house is so classic for so many reasons. And it's in Green Acres!

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In addition to the courtyard in the front, theres another small garden wall in the rear.

In addition to the courtyard in the front, there's another small garden wall in the rear.

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Whats not to love about this back yard?

A better view of the courtyard in the home's rear.

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These massive windows define this Mid-Century Modern home, where the outside spaces are brought into the home.

These massive windows define this "Mid-Century Modern" home, where the outside spaces are brought into the home. Very Californian and very wonderful.

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Loo

I swear, if I ended up with a house this delightful, I'd cherish it every day and make it a testament to the Mid-Century Modern movement. I'd even buy a 1950s car for the driveway - if I could find a good deal. :)

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And heres where my heart just melts into a puddle.

And here's where my heart just melts into a puddle.

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There's so much that's wonderful about this kitchen, I'm not sure where to start. So I put little hearts on the good stuff. First, the metal cabinets appear to be in wonderful condition, with their enamel finish still shining so pretty. Next, that red formica with the stainless steel trim. Heaven on earth - right there. And that Frigidaire "Flair" Stove. I might just swoon. And then there's the refrigerator - also original. In a former life, I owned an appliance shop in Portsmouth and am pretty good at repairing old appliances. I'd dedicate my life to keeping these old appliances in working order.

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So thats my dream house - sitting on .6 acres in Green Acres in Churchland in Portsmouth. Could there be another one of these lurking somewhere in Portsmouth? Lets hope.

So that's my dream house - sitting on .6 acres in Green Acres in Churchland in Portsmouth. Could there be another one of these lurking somewhere in Portsmouth? Let's hope.

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To see more pictures of a dream kitchen, click here.

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Flipping Insane…

July 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 2 comments

Back in the day, “Flipper” was a television show, featuring a bottle-nose dolphin. Flipper was, in fact, a lot like Lassie with fins. I remember crowding around the television with the fam to watch Flipper on Saturday nights. (As I tell my daughter, ours was the last family on the block to get a color television.)

But now, this once lovely name - “Flipper” - has such ugly connotations. In 21st century America, “flippers” are investors (blech) who take fine old houses and rip out walls and replace original windows and create cathedral ceilings in homes that were never intended to have cathedral ceilings. Ick.

Today I was on Zillow looking at the new listings and I discovered a new listing in Portsmouth. Sadly, it’s another 1960s house that’s been gutted in the name of homogenizing every American house until it looks like something on HGTV (Houses Getting Totally Vandalized).

Zipping through the photos, I noticed a very odd “chandelier” which made me laugh out loud. Words defy me, so I’ll show the actual image.

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Wow

Yup, that light fixture looks a lot like a squirrel-cage blower, doesn't it? I wonder if this blower was harvested from the furnace? That blower, er, uh, "chandelier" sure looks dusty.

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And now, for the palate cleanse: The GOOD Flipper.

And now, for the palate cleanse: The GOOD Flipper.

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To read about Sears Homes, click here.

Interested in the history of a Virginia Ghost Town? Click here.

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Housing Rosemary

July 5th, 2017 Sears Homes 15 comments

In the last few months, I’ve looked at more than two dozen houses for sale. Part of this process has been sorting out what I really want and what I really don’t want in a house. In the beginning, I was looking for a couple acres out in the boondocks. Now that my brain has calmed down a bit, and the horror of April 2016 has faded a little, I’ve come to realize that I need two acres like I need a hole in the head. (Oops, did I say that out loud? I guess I’m clearly in the anger phase.)

I sat down recently and made a list of the spiritual qualities I yearn to find in a house, such as beauty, peace, harmony, simplicity, elegance, quietude, restfulness, utility, renewal, and joy. That list has helped so very much.

And I’ve come to realize that if I live in isolation (as I would on 2-3 acres), my mental health would deteriorate. As a life-long introvert, this is an epiphany. Yesterday, I had a small party at my home to celebrate my 58th birthday (and the fact that I’m still alive). The very presence of my nearest and dearest friends gave me an emotional and spiritual lift that has remained 20 hours later.

Still, it is discouraging that The House™ hasn’t appeared yet. I’m weary of living in a rental, and yet striving to be patient.

In the meantime, the good news is, I made it to 58, and that, in and of itself, is a bit of a miracle.

To see my latest “dream house” - click here.

To read about kit homes, click here.

And to understand more about this decision, click here.

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One of the loveliest gifts I received yesterday came from Clyde Nordan (

One of the loveliest gifts I received yesterday came from Clyde Nordan, a professional photographer and kind friend. He snapped my photo when I attended a Memorial Day event in downtown Portsmouth, and then managed to place me in Rome!

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One of the must haves in my new home is adequate space for a koi pond. Im sorry I dont remember where I snagged this photo, but it was from a ponding forum, and it was a fellows own backyard.

One of the "must haves" in my new home is adequate space for a koi pond. I'm sorry I don't remember where I snagged this photo, but it was from a ponding forum, and it was a fellow's own backyard. One day (soon), I'm going to have a koi pond much like this. If you have a koi pond in your back yard and live within 100 miles of Hampton Roads, and have a spare guest room, please contact Rose immediately. :)

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Another item on the must have list is a sunporch. If it doesnt have a suporch, it must have a place where a sunporch can be added.

Another item on the "must have" list is a sunporch, preferably without plumbing fixtures. This lovely older home was in Suffolk. Admittedly, it wouldn't be hard to remove this toilet and patch the hole, but the house had other issues that were deal killers. That, and this "misplaced toilet" thing reminds of a bad dream.

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To read about kit homes, click here.

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If You Believe in the Power of Prayer…

July 1st, 2017 Sears Homes 9 comments

I sure could use them now.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’m back in a valley and struggling to rise to my feet again. Part of the challenge is that the shock is wearing off, and so many memories are returning. Some are good memories but many are bad memories of conversations with Wayne. Conversations that I didn’t understand at the time, but I understand them now.

My prayer-warrior friend Tracie tells me that sometimes, we need to focus our prayers. And right now, I need “the peace of God that passes all understanding.”

I also need to find a home in a beautiful place. My worldly possessions are scattered hither and yon in storage units. I’m living - camped out really - in a rental unit that was supposed to be temporary. Unfortunately, I’ve been here almost a year now.

Why am I stuck? I don’t know. Should I keep hoping for the best or “embrace the suck”?

I always believed in the power of visualization and setting goals. I believed that God answers prayers in a way that brings the maximum blessing. I believed that the universe was a friendly place.

All three of those beliefs have been shattered into a billion pieces.

I don’t know what to believe.

Never in a million years did I think my husband would commit suicide. Never in a million years did I think I’d be a renter at the age of 58, with my favorite things stuffed in storage units. Never in a million years did I think that my much-loved husband would do some of the things that he did, designed to create maximum confusion and despair after his death.

Never in a million years.

My daughter said that *that* should be our new mantra - “Never in a million years.”

So here I sit on the first day of July, pouring my heart out on a blog, trying to find my way out of limbo and into The New Normal™.

I’ve prayed until I’m blue in the knees, so I ask my friends for your prayers.

With much gratitude,

Rosemary and Teddy.

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This image speaks to me, and I'm not sure why. There's desolation but there's also hope. For some time, I've felt trapped in a sort of limbo, and I need to find the way out. The image is from "What Dreams May Come."

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To read about Rose’s new book, click here.

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