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For My 59th Birthday…I’d Be Grateful For Your Prayers

June 18th, 2018 Sears Homes 1 comment

My birthday is July 4th. For my birthday, I’d be grateful to have your prayers for healing and progress and peace.

Two years have come and gone since The Bad Thing. In the last 12 months, I have purchased a slightly used house (built 1976), 11 new stuffed horses (in varying colors), a new car (named after a horse), a new horse blanket (which I sleep under) and a new refrigerator. I retain possession of an old dog.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that I am not at liberty to discuss in a public forum, but suffice it to say, the hits just keep on coming. I have yet to go 30 days without visiting an attorney to iron out some gnarly legal matter. That’s wearying.

It’s time for this thing to bottom out and for things to start trending upward.

I thought about doing a blog of things NOT TO SAY to someone suffering in the throes of a trauma, but then I decided against it. However, if I wrote that missive, number one would have been this:

DO NOT send me a text, an email or a Facebook message and tell me that “only I can decide if I am ready to be over this.”

That’s not helpful. In fact, it hurts. It places more guilt on the victim. And “suicide survivors” (as we’re known) have plenty of guilt.

How I wish this complicated mess could be reduced to a decision. Last week, as I had lunch with a friend, a door slammed behind me in the restaurant. It was so startling and so loud that I had to jump up and go outside to finish my meal. And then I got an upset stomach. How do you “decide” to not react to noises like that?

For several years, I did work as a volunteer chaplain at a secured facility for the criminally insane. In preparatory training courses and real-life experience, I learned a lot about not reacting to noises, words, people and crowds. I learned a great deal about guarding my mental environment and controlling my thoughts.

For 20 years, I systematically worked to memorize hundreds of designs of kit homes, and then did architectural surveys for dozens of communities.

For 30 years, I’ve worked in various capacities as a writer and that’s also an exacting mental discipline.

For my entire life, I’ve studied the Scriptures and dozens of exegeses and commentaries on the Bible, and memorized large numbers of Bible verses.

If my intellect could save me, if this could be reduced to a “decision” - I’d be healed, but this isn’t about “decisions” or “intellect.” It’s about a soul that’s been broken and a heart that’s been shattered.

As I tell my nearest and dearest friends, I am pedaling as fast as I can.

The walls of my home are slathered in affirmations and inspirational quotes. I go to sleep at night, listening to uplifting messages. I write a gratitude list each morning upon awakening. I exercise daily and eat good meals. Frankly, I am wearing myself out, clamoring to get out of this hellish pit and it’s going pretty slowly. I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to become more like the leaf in the stream, and just go where the currents carry me.

I’ve been trying to fight this in my head - in fact - I’ve been striving to “DECIDE” to get over this, and it’s not going well.

Several days ago, I had a complete meltdown in public when I attempted a new “first.” I called my friend in tears, and he said the most comforting thing of all: “Maybe you’re just not ready for that step yet. Maybe you need a little more time to heal.”

That singular comment did so much to remove the pressure. Maybe I can forgive myself for being such a slow healer.

Another friend told me, “Your husband put a bullet in his head. Your husband wasn’t faithful and he wasn’t the man you thought he was. Those are things that can really mess up a person for a long time. You’re doing great. You’re surviving. You’re traveling, and even if you are ‘pretending’ to be normal, at least you’re out here trying. I’m proud of you. You have every excuse to give up but you haven’t.”

Those are the comments that help promote healing.

Love me where I am. Don’t criticize me for not doing better.

When the dark days come, I sit quietly and think about the people that are praying for me, and I visualize those prayers as being luminescent beams of light reaching into my very soul, and knitting my shattered heart back into a new shape.

I like to think of the prayers as laser-beams of love, and I am asking for your continued love and prayers.

Gratefully,

Rosemary

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

June 14th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Last week, I traveled almost 1,000 miles (round trip) to Newberry, South Carolina to learn more about Sadie Bowers, and visit her gravesite. It was also an opportunity to visit James, a dear friend who lives less than 100 miles away from Newberry.

James and I had a wonderful time, and it was one of the happiest times I have experienced in the last two years. And that is a big deal.

One of the unexpected bonuses of travling to Newberry is that I met Ernest Shealy, an architectural historian and curator of the Newberry County Historical Museum. He was a most gracious host, and drove me throughout Newberry, so that I might find and identify a few kit homes.

I only recognized two kit homes, both from Aladdin.

As to Sadie Bowers, she was one of the women workers at Penniman, Virginia. In fact, she worked in the Booster Plant, considered the most hazardous work at the munitions plant. Oh, how I’d love to learn more about this woman and her work at Penniman.

If you have any information to share about Sadie, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sadie, click here.

Want to know how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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I didnt find any Sears kit homes in Newberry, but I did see two houses from Aladdin. Like Sears, Aladdin also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog.

I didn't find any Sears kit homes in Newberry, but I did see two houses from Aladdin. Like Sears, Aladdin also sold kit homes through their mail-order catalog.

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The Aladdin Plaza was one of the most popular houses that Aladdin offered in their early 1900s catalog.

The Aladdin Plaza was one of the most popular houses that Aladdin offered in their early 1900s catalog. Note the flared column bases and unique railing. Also note the 12/1 windows on the front porch.

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And heres a delightful Aladdin Plaza in Newberry, South Carolina.

And here's a delightful Aladdin Plaza in Newberry, South Carolina. The partially enclosed front porch does not diminish it's unique beauty. And best of all, it retains its original windows.

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This

This angle shows off a little bit of that original railing. You can also see those original Aladdin windows better. Do these owners know that it's an Aladdin kit home, that arrived at the Newberry Train Depot in a boxcar with 12,000 pieces? Probably not. Should we tell them? ;)

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The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. Its one of my favorites, too.

The Aladdin Pomona was another very popular house. It's one of my favorites, too. It's a classic bungalow, and has several unique features, including the diamond muntins, flared porch columns, and open eave brackets. It's a beauty.

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This Pomona in Newberry is in perfect condition, and looks much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s.

This Pomona in Newberry is in perfect condition, and looks much like it did when built in the late 1910s or early 1920s. And as with the Plaza, this also retains its original windows.

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What a beauty!

What a beauty!

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Its not a kit house, but heres the house where Sadie Bowers (Penniman worker) lived with her Mama. Sadie was almost 88 years old when she passed on. After the war, she returned to her native city (Newberry), and lived there the rest of her long life.

It's not a kit house, but here's the house where Sadie Bowers (Penniman worker) lived with her Mama. Sadie was almost 88 years old when she passed on. After the war, she returned to her native city (Newberry), and lived there the rest of her long life.

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When I told Ernest that I wanted to find the grave stone for Sadie Bowers, he knew right where to look! He literally drove RIGHT to it! I was so impressed.

When I told Ernest that I wanted to find the grave stone for Sadie ("Sarah") Bowers, he knew right where to look! He literally drove RIGHT to it! I was so impressed.

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He drove

That's the beauty part of having the town's historian drive you around town. Ernest knew everything that there is to know about Newberry and its history. I was really bedazzled by his encyclopedic knowledge. And he was so generous with this time.

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I also got a fine tour of the Newberry Museum.

I also got a fine tour of the Newberry Museum. This display discussed traditional funeral practices of the 19th Century. It was well done and very interesting.

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And of course, this caught my eye.

And of course, this caught my eye. The upside of Facebook is that I've connected with many wonderful and generous women who have also lost their husband to suicide. The downside is, when I post things on my personal Facebook page, too many folks have said things like, "You need to be on an anti-depressant" or "You need to forgive him and move on" or "You should be making better progress." One hundred years ago, people were given permission to mourn the sudden and tragic death of their spouse. I'm at the two-year mark, and I can tell you, I will never "be over" this. God willing, in another few months, my life will become increasingly mundane and peaceful, with sprinkles of joy here and there. Or so I hope and pray.

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This modest museum is definitely worth the trip. Also on display was this amazing contraption for curling womens hair. It was in use at the Newberry beauty salon, and according to the legend, a woman with a steel plate in her skull sat down for a permanent, and when the electrified curlers made contact with her wet scalp, she was instantly electrocuted. I would love to know if that story is possible, plausible or true.

This modest museum is definitely worth the trip. Also on display was this amazing contraption for curling women's hair. It was in use at the Newberry beauty salon, and according to the legend, a woman with a steel plate in her skull sat down for a permanent, and when the electrified curlers made contact with her wet scalp, she was instantly electrocuted. I would love to know if that story is possible, plausible or true.

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The name plate on the device is certainly interesting.

The name plate on the device is interesting. The graphic says it all.

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James lives in a beautiful place. Its almost too beautiful to be real.

James lives in a beautiful place. It's almost too beautiful to be real.

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If you have any information to share about Sadie, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about Sadie, click here.

Want to know how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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And Her Name is C-Biscuit…

June 2nd, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

In the last few months, I have really struggled to sort out my thoughts and figure out what makes me happy. More than a year ago, I decided that I was going to live on a five-acre horse farm and keep a couple horses.

And then I spent some time with a 50-something-year-old woman who had three horses. I soon realized that this was a part-time job, and it was an expensive part-time job. Reluctantly, I decided to buy a few stuffed horses and call it a day.

More recently, I decided that I would like to have a little Prius C, which is “the baby Prius.” I’ve named her “C-Biscuit.”

She’s tiny, adorable, amazingly comfortable and also practical. Best of all, she sips gas, obtaining 55-65 mpg.

A few times, I have surpassed 70 mpg. C-Biscuit is a hybrid, powered by both an ICE (internal combustion engine) and battery power. The engine has a mere 66 horsepower, and the electric side provides an additional 33 horsies, for a total of 99 horsepower. It does 0-60 in 12 seconds.

It’s efficient. It’s not fast.

The Prius C is known as the “Aqua” in Japan, and has consistently been one of the best selling cars in that country. In the United States, sales have not been as strong. Rumors abound that 2018 will be the last year for the Prius C in America, but with gas prices creeping back up, maybe Toyota will revisit that decision.

Sometimes, it’s hard to really know why something makes us happy. Perhaps it’s enough to find that silly little thing - even a slightly used red hatchback - and just grab onto it and enjoy the smiles per gallon.

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C-Biscuit (my Prius C) was purchased used in North Carolina, where they dont require front plates.

C-Biscuit (my Prius C) was purchased used in North Carolina, where they don't require front plates. I thought I heard a little "yelp" when I drilled holes into C-Biscuit's front bumper (for the Virginia license plates).

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Its adorable both coming and going.

It's adorable both coming and going. My mother's last car (purchased shortly before her death) was a little red station wagon, very similar to this car. There was something about this car that really touched my heart. Every time I look at this car, I smile. It reminds me of my first car, too. And that's a very happy memory.

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A million years ago, in a galaxy far away...

A million years ago, in a galaxy far away...My first car was a 1974 Super Beetle with a 1600cc engine. It was red on the inside and black on the outside, the inverse of C-Biscuit. The Super Beetle ("Ludwig") had a bigger engine than the Prius C. And yes, that's me. I was 17-year-old, 5'9" and weighed 124 pounds and worried constantly about my weight!

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Prius

This Prius C does 0-60 in 12 seconds.

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And it gets super gas mileage!

And it gets super gas mileage!

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In fact, I was so besotted with C-Biscuit that I bought a diminiutive version.

In fact, I was so besotted with "C-Biscuit" that I bought a diminutive version for my desk.

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And heres a picture of a Sears Modern Home (#124) in Wisconsin, just so I can say that I wrote about Sears Homes today.

And here's a picture of a Sears Modern Home (#124) in Wisconsin, just so I can say that I wrote about Sears Homes today. Either I have stayed up way too late this evening, or there's something seriously wrong with this picture. LOL. I have a feeling I made a booboo of some sort here. Look toward the bottom of the picture. Rut roe.

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Interested in Penniman? Click here!

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Penniman.

May 27th, 2018 Sears Homes 5 comments

Yesterday, a dear friend called to remind me that I had a lecture in the afternoon at a Williamsburg library. Fortunately, I remembered to attend THIS lecture!

The 50-mile drive on I-64W was uneventful, which is a little miracle unto itself. I left two hours early, just to be safe.

Moments before the start of my Penniman lecture, I was sitting just outside of the meeting room and ruminating. Not good. I realized that lecturing had become quite hard these days. Before The Bad Thing™ I absolutely loved lecturing.

Minutes before the lecture began, I developed a severe case of the shakes and was light-headed. I was a hot mess. It seemed as though I had two choices before me:

1) Walk out of the building and simply accept that my lecturing days were over, or,

2) Take a couple Valium so that I could calm down enough to perform.

As I sat there debating my options, I saw an old friend walk toward the meeting room. I called out his name, and he came over and sat down with me. I told him I was thinking about going home, and he said all the right things. He was an angel that appeared at just the right moment.

I survived the lecture and there was a good crowd. Many attendees said very nice things. I’m grateful for every word. One woman purchased five books. That was wonderful.

After the lecture, my “angel friend” and his wife invited me to join them (and another couple) for dinner. It turned out to be a perfect evening.

As to my future as a lecturer, I’m still deciding. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the Penniman book go mainstream, as my #1 goal from the beginning was (and is) to share the story of the incredible sacrifice and bravery of these Penniman workers.

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

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Everything about this story - of a forgotten Virginia village - is uttelry captivating.

Everything about this story - of a forgotten Virginia village - is utterly captivating. How I wish that I was more adept at getting their story out into the world.

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I remain hopeful that as time goes on, more will be known about these women and their sacrifice.

I remain hopeful that as time goes on, even more will be known about these women and their sacrifice.

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

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Penniman Par-TAY! It’s DONE!

May 24th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

Updated! Good lecture. Good times.  :D

Ghost Towns.

Virginia History.

Phenomenal Personal Sacrifice.

Women workers.

And a devastating epidemic that wiped out so many workers that the local cemeteries ran out of space.

Penniman has all of these elements and more, and it’s a great story that needs to be told.

On Saturday, May 26, 2018, I’m giving a talk on Penniman at the James City County Library, at 2:00 pm.

YOU MISSED IT! ;)

If you’re able, please attend and learn more about this forgotten chapter of Virginia’s history!

To learn more about Penniman, click here.

Bricks from the Penniman smokestack were salvaged to build a school for African-American children.

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My information on Penniman is always expanding and changing! Last week, I obtained this Penniman fob on Ebay.

The information on Penniman is always expanding and changing! Last week, I obtained this Penniman fob on Ebay. This fob would have been worn by the workers at the DuPont plant, six miles outside of Williamsburg. Who is this young man? How I wish that I knew.

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The rear of the fob shows more detail.

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Come learn about Penniman!

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To learn more about Penniman, click here.

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Who Doesn’t Love a Story About Ghost Towns?

May 11th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

On May 26th, I’ll be giving a talk on Penniman (with lots of new pictures).

For a variety of reasons, I’m not sure how much longer I will be living in this area, so if you’d like to hear me give a talk on Penniman, please attend this talk in Williamsburg.

And if you’re shopping for the perfect Father’s Day gift - here it is!

Want to learn more about Penniman? Click here.

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Please attend!

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And if you’re shopping for the perfect Father’s Day gift - here it is!

Want to learn more about Penniman? Click here.

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Help In The Garden?

April 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 10 comments

It seems as though winter is finally over, and Teddy and I have been spending time in the yard. She and I have been trying to figure out what type of plants we have here.

If you can help identify these two items, we’d both be very grateful.

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Teddy just came back from the groomer, so she is looking quite clean and well coiffed.

Teddy just came back from the groomer, so she is looking quite clean and well coiffed.

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When I bought the house in October, this "thing" was a bundle of twigs on the ground, and we put up a trellis for it. I thought it was wisteria, but now that the wisteria has blossomed in other places in the yard, I see that it is NOT wisteria. I would be grateful for any insights.

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Is this a flowering plant? Is it an ornamental plant?

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Because I am really concerned that I just spent $200 to put a trellis up for poison ivy (or its ilk).

Or did I just spend $200 to put a trellis up for poison ivy?

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Now flowers yet, but what is it?

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flowers

Shown above is a clipping from a fruit tree in the front yard. I suspect it's an apple tree, but I really don't know. I do think it's a fruit tree of some kind. Any insights?

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Close-up of the blossoms.

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The leaves have little furry edges.

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Teddy and I appreciate your help.

Teddy and I appreciate your help.

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Prayers For a Quick Turning…

April 2nd, 2018 Sears Homes 15 comments

To start, a quote from O. S. Guinness:

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The story of Christian reformation, revival, and renaissance underscores that the darkest hour is often just before the dawn, so we should always be people of hope and prayer, not gloom and defeatism. God the Holy Spirit can turn the situation around in five minutes.

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As I sneak up on the two-year anniversary of my husband’s suicide, I seem to be struggling to survive. I am in great need of a “five minute” turn.

There are days that I think that I’m going to be okay, and other days when my sufferings are great.

In the last two years, everything has changed. The first six months after his death, I was in shock, and stumbled around - from pillar to post - trying to find a moment or two of solace. The second six monts, I was still in shock but (thanks to friends), found a rental home.

Last October, I purchased a small brick ranch in Suffolk, Virginia. Last month, I purchased a new car to replace my aging Camry. In the last few weeks, I’ve started looking through all those boxes that were hastily packed two years ago, only to find that I gave away or discarded about 50% of my earthly possessions.

My memory has returned, but most of those memories of life with him are upsetting, unnerving or devastating. There are no good memories left. They’re all tainted.

If you’re reading this, I would be grateful for your prayers for guidance and wisdom and health and wholeness.

In short, a turning of this situation.

Thank you.

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Pink Bathrooms: Extinction Looms

March 24th, 2018 Sears Homes 11 comments

Remember the very first commandment of old house renovation? Thou shalt not destroy good old work.

That’s it.

More than 35% of the garbage at America’s landfills is construction-related waste. That’s a phenomenal amount of debris. What’s worse is this: The replacement materials promoted at contemporary big box stores (in most cases) has a serviceable life of less than 10 years. So that new light gray bathroom with white accents will probably need replacing, and THOSE construction materials will also end up at the city dump.

We have got to stop destroying “good old work” in older homes in the name of keeping up with the Joneses (and the Kardashians).

You know what makes my blood boil? Ads like this.

NOTE: All the houses shown below are in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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Theres a special extra-toasty place in preservation hell for this bank.

There's a special extra-toasty place in preservation hell for this bank. A very special place. A friend sent me this advertisement. It popped up on her Facebook page. Oh, how I loathe this promotion. It feeds into the insanity promoted by HGTV that "old and lovely" is never good enough. And yet odds are that this same bank will spearhead efforts to promote recycling. Not much sense in saving 21 pounds of plastic and yet promoting the destruction of thousands of pounds of "good old work."

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Classic good looks.

This light-pink bathroom features classic good looks and will provide decades of service. The tile floor (cartwheel pattern) is already more than 60 years old, and is set in about 6 inches of concrete. With minimal care, this floor will endure another several decades. The same is true for the tile walls.

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The pink tile in this Portsmouth home (Virginia) dates to the mid-1950s, and yet - due to good care and maintenance - it is in like-new condition. The materials used in these mid-century bathrooms will last another 50 years. And yet their modern replacements - fiberglass and plastic junk from big-box stores - will not endure.

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When I was a kid growing up in Waterview (a 1920s/30s middle-class neighborhood), I don't remember seeing anyone "remodel" their bathrooms, and yet by the 1960s/70s, these kitchens and baths were quite old. The pink bathroom featured here has its original sink and toilet. As with the others, it will endure for many more years.

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The same bathroom (shown above) from a different angle. It has a tiled shower and separate tub. It's also beautiful, with the white and pink tile.

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Some pink bathrooms are more subdued than others, but these mid-century tile jobs are typically set in several inches of concrete. When experts recommend retreating to a bathroom during a tornado, this is the type of "safe space" they have in mind. The thick-set mortar bed plus copper pipes plus additional wooden framing makes this one sturdy space.

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My favorite pink bathroom is a deep rose with blue accents.

My favorite pink bathroom is a deep rose with blue accents. I tried to purchase this house (in Waterview) late last year, but it got tangled up in a bidding war, and the price went from $210,000 to almost $270,000 within hours. It was probably this bathroom that drove up the price.

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We have got to stop destroying “good old work.” My current home has a green bathroom. Green is my least favorite color, but I have decided to live with it for a time and see how I feel about in 5 years or so. It may grow on me. I do know this: Society needs to learn that “keeping up with the Joneses” is a path to madness, waste and financial foolishness.

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Save the pink bathrooms!

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NOTE: All the houses shown above are in Portsmouth, Virginia.

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What’s My Happy Color?

March 15th, 2018 Sears Homes 15 comments

Six months ago, a new chapter of my life began when I moved into this house in Suffolk, Virginia. In the 12 months prior to that, I’d often tell people, “I want a house that’s quirky and fun, something that’s solid and well-built, but unique. When people walk into the front door, I want them to think - this LOOKS like something Rosemary would buy!”

And I found it.

As someone who studies old houses, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a floorplan like this. I’m not even sure I can identify what style of house this is.

And on a related note, ever since I replaced the old storm door, I’ve been dreaming about a new color for the exterior shutters. Perhaps brown is the best color to complement the earth-toned bricks, but if you can think of a new color, please let me know.

Thanks in advance for any and all comments.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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One of this homes most appealing features was that it had been beautifully maintained by its first (and only) owners. And yet, the storm door was a little tired and quite drafty. After it was replaced with the new full-view door but that has inspired me to re-think the shutter color.

One of this home's most appealing features was that it had been beautifully maintained by its first (and only) owners. And yet, the storm door was a little tired and a bit drafty. After it was replaced with the new full-view door (right side) , that inspired me to re-think the shutter color.

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If anyone has any guesses as to the year of manufacture for this door, Id love to know. The house was built in 1976, but surely the door isnt 40 years old - or is it?

If anyone has any guesses as to the year of manufacture for this door, I'd love to know. The house was built in 1976, but surely the door isn't 40 years old - or is it?

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The new storm door was under $200 at Lowes and does a fine job of highlighting that beautiful 1950s-ish looking front door.

The new storm door was under $200 at Lowes and does a fine job of highlighting that beautiful 1950s-ish looking front door. And Teddy the Dog loves it too.

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That front door looks more like something youd find on a 1950s ranch, and its one of my favorite features on this 40-year-old custom-built brick ranch.

That front door looks more like something you'd find on a 1950s ranch, and it's one of my favorite features on this 40-year-old custom-built house.

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As I mentioned above, Ive never seen a floorplan such as Ive seen in this house.

As I mentioned above, I've never seen a floorplan such as I've seen in this house. On the other side of that full-view storm door is this massive chimney, rising up from the floor to the ceiling. It provides privacy, so that you can't peak in the front door and see the living room.

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The living room (and the wood stove insert) is on the other side.

The living room (and fireplace with wood stove insert) is on the other side of that large brick chimney. You can see a bit of the front door behind that fireplace (with the old storm door). The space on the right is the stairwell that leads to the basement garage.

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Its a mighty narrow stairwell that leads to the basement/garage, and its built with concrete block walls. I have not been able to figure out why a staircase would need to be built like a bomb shelter.

It's a mighty narrow stairwell that leads to the basement/garage, and it's built with concrete block walls. I have not been able to figure out why a staircase would need to be built like a bomb shelter.

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Within that front foyer are two steps which lead to the living space. I spend my life thinking about houses and I cant even come up with a name for this particular style.

Within that front foyer are two steps which lead to the living space. I spend my life thinking about houses and I can't even come up with a name for this particular style. I suppose it's a brick ranch, but this sunken foyer is quite unique!

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Back to the question at hand - what color shutters do I want?

Back to the question at hand - what color shutters do I want? Or is brown simply the best choice? The roof is also brown. However, the brown storm door is gone!

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Shutter

Things were a lot more green when I bought the house in early October 2017. I'm looking forward to seeing that pretty green color again!

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Thanks in advance for any and all comments.

Want to learn how to identify kit homes? Click here.

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