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Teddy’s “Evening Constitutional”!

August 28th, 2018 Sears Homes 3 comments

A few people have asked me why I bought a golf cart. The truth is, it’s something I’ve always wanted, and more importantly, it’s something that Teddy wants and needs.

Her arthritis is slowing her down quite a bit these days. On our walkies, she’s good for about a 1/4 mile and then she wants to go home. There have been times when she simply sits down in the grass, and then I have to wait with her, or call a friend to come get us.

It seemed like a golf cart might be just the thing. And it is.

Now she rides in style around our neighborhood, snuggled up next to me with her nose in the air, taking in all the unique smells on our drive - from the 500-acre nursery to the horse farm down the road and out to the 200-acre cotton field just around the corner. We drive out to the marina at the western edge of the neighborhood and sometimes we just watch the sun set over the Nansemond River.

In a few short nights, it seems as though it’s become her favorite part of the day. As soon as I reach for the keys, she gets quite excited as if to say, “oh boy, let’s GO!”

This little red electric cart is a way for Teddy to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of her world, even when her little legs won’t carry her as far as they once did.

Tonight, Teddy and I were driving around on a pleasant summer evening, she leaned against me and nuzzled me as if to say, “Thanks, Mom.”

In the last two years, we’ve been through hell and we’re both ready for a little ease and quiet.

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FTR

Teddy on Tuesday evening, ready for her evening ride.

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To read about Sears Homes, click here.

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Penniman: A Fun and Fascinating Talk in Richmond on July 18th!

July 12th, 2018 Sears Homes 7 comments

The fun starts at 5:30, but if you come early, you can meet the author (that’d be moi).

The talk (a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 vintage photos) is at the Library of Virginia (in Richmond), at 800 East Broad Street.

Free parking can be found underneath the library.

Penniman is truly an awe-inspiring story about a World War One munitions plant in Virginia that has been forgotten and almost lost to history. At its peak, more than 15,000 people occupied the village of Penniman.

DuPont’s 37th munitions plant was staffed by mostly women, who worked assiduously to load TNT into 155mm and 75mm shells.

Please come out and learn more about this lost chapter of Virginia’s history!

To read more about Penniman, click here.

Learn about one of the war workers here.

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His initials are "SC" and he started work on Spetember 10, 1918, but who is this young man?

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This fob (issued by DuPont) was worn on the worker's lapel, and it also helped quickly identify him as a munitions worker when he was out and about in Williamsburg. Young men who were not at the front were known as "slackers" and it was a pejorative.

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After Penniman closed, the houses were put on barges and moved to nearby communities. More than 60 ended up in Norfolk, Virginia. We're still missing more than 100 Penniman houses. Is there one in your neighborhood?

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Penniman was vital to the war effort, and yet its story has been lost to time.

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Rose will sell (and sign) books after the talk.

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To read more about Penniman, click here.

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An Aladdin “Colonial” in Lynchburg!

July 11th, 2018 Sears Homes 8 comments

Years ago, I did a survey of kit homes in Lynchburg but apparently, I missed a couple.

Earlier this week, I was in Lynchburg for other reasons, and on my way to an appointment, I made a wrong turn and stumbled upon two beautiful Aladdin kit homes, literally across the street from each other.

The houses are on Brevard Street, and prior to yesterday’s “excursion,” I’d never been through that neighborhood.

While Sears Kit Homes are more well known, Aladdin was actually a bigger company. Sears started selling kit homes in 1908, but Aladdin began two years prior. Sears was out of it in 1940, but Aladdin remained in the kit-home business until 1981. As a newly married woman, I remember studying the pages of the 1978 Aladdin catalog, dreaming of building my own home with my handy husband.

These kits came by boxcar (usually) in 12,000-piece kits, and the instruction books were more than 70 pages long. Sears promised that a “man of average abilities” could have the house completed within 90 days.

To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

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1916

The Aladdin Colonial, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Located on Brevard Street, this house has been through a lot of insensitive remodeling, but it's still standing. I don wonder who thought it'd be a good idea to remove the porches.

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And just on the other side of the street is this Aladdin Pomona (complete with a 1980s trash can in the front yard). The house is in wonderful condition, but I was heartsick to see that the original windows - with diamond muntins - were tossed out at some point. What a pity.

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The Pomona, as seen in the 1919 Aladdin Homes catalog. Those windows are what make the house.

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Crying

Here's an Aladdin Colonial in Kinston, NC.

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Roanoke

Roanoke Rapids, NC is filled with Aladdin Homes, from the simple to the grand. This Colonial retains that distinctive half-round front porch.

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Another view of the Aladdin Colonial.

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Learn more about Aladdin here.

Learn more about what I’ve survived here.

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Spotted in the Wilderness: A Perfect Elsmore

July 9th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 comments

Whilst driving along State Route 501, between Lynchburg and Glasgow, I spotted this Elsmore in Big Island, Virginia. (And why was a town high atop a mountain named “Big Island”?)

Nonetheless, this Elsmore is a beauty, and it looks like it stepped right off the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Two years ago, I swore that I was done with Sears Houses, but these days, as my healing progresses, the special ones do catch my eye and warm my heart.

To read about another delightful Elsmore, click here.

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The Elsmore, as seen in the 1919 catalog.

The Elsmore, as seen in the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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Note the colors of this pretty thing.

Note the colors of this pretty thing.

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What a beauty - and its a perfect match to the catalog image - down to the colors!

What a beauty - and it's a perfect match to the catalog image - down to the colors!

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This house sits on Lee-Jackson Highway in Big Island, Virginia. Capturing a photo of this beautiful old house was quite a thrill. This road has no shoulders; just deep ruts on either side that are fairly terrifying, and it's a major trucking route. I was unable to stop so I slowed down on this incredibly twisty road and snapped several photos out of the passenger window. Then I turned around and did the same thing out out of the driver's side. It was not something I'm going to do again. And for the record, Route 501 (Lee-Jackson Highway) is one of those roads where even the driver gets car sick. However...what a house!

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The image shown here

The image shown here is still zoomed in quite a bit. The house sits high on a knoll.

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Lynchburg and the surrounding areas are so very beautiful, but these mountain roads are a little intense for me right now.

Lynchburg and the surrounding areas are so very beautiful, but these mountain roads are a little intense for me right now. Pre-2016, there was nothing I'd love more than zipping along a canyon road in a snazzy red car. Now, I find myself getting fairly queasy - when *I* am driving! Maybe in a couple years, I'll be able to drive these mountain roads with relative ease.

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JJ

A beautiful house in a beautiful place, and it overlooks the James River.

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Route 501 runs beside the James River. While some folks may love these roads, theyre not fun these days for me, and getting a picture of a house on one of these roads - Oy vey!

Route 501 runs beside the James River. While some folks may love these roads, they're not fun these days for me, and getting a picture of a house on one of these roads - Oy vey!

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To read about another delightful Elsmore, click here.

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Multitudinous Blessings

July 5th, 2018 Sears Homes 12 comments

It’s amazing how something as pedestrian as an old-house website can turn out to be such a catalyst for multitudinous blessings.

Through this website (and its accompanying page on Facebook), I have met so many people. With few exceptions, old house people are the finest people around.

Two years ago, after the Bad Thing, I decided to shut down this website - as soon as I had the emotional wherewithal to do so. I put my Sears House ephemera in cardboard boxes and told my friend to give all of it to the local college library. I was done. I never wanted to see another Sears House again. Ever.

Fortunately, my friend didn’t listen to me, and stashed the boxes in a storage unit.

More than a year later, I asked him what became of all my catalogs. I couldn’t find them in my rental house, and I had no memory of telling him to dispose of the collection. He said, “You told me to get rid of them.”

With more than a little trepidation, I asked, “Did you?”

He said, “No, I kept them. They’re in storage.”

In short order, he retrieved them from a nearby storage unit, and my ephemera and I were re-united.

That’s something for which I’m also very grateful.

Rediscovering those almost lost catalogs stirred something in me, and gently pulled me back toward my first love: Old houses.

And through writing blogs on a host of topics (including grief and pain), I was surprised (and delighted) to find that I felt nurtured and buoyed by the kind words of long-time readers. I still re-read those supportive comments again and again and again.

As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When visitors to this site leave comments, openly sharing their own stories of tragedy and loss, I feel so very comforted. I feel less alone in my tragedy and pain. I feel less alone in the world. It’s as though those people - people struggling under the heavy weight of their own pain and suffering - have opened up the circle around their heart and invited me in. It’s a sacred sharing, and I treasure every insight, every kind word, and every loving thought.

I will always remember how that made me feel, so thank you for that.

And if you’ve been a faithful reader of this blog but have never left a comment, I hope you’ll do so now. And if you’re one of my faithful commenters, I hope you’ll leave a comment today!

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Learn how to identify Sears Homes by clicking here.

Read about one of my favorite Sears Homes in Hampton Roads here.

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My blog passed a milestone recently with 2.5 million visitors.

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Yesterday, I celebrated my 59th birthday with a group of faithful, loving and supportive friends. It truly was one of the loveliest events in my lifetime. Despite having such a wonderful day, I suffered from horrible nightmares last night (July 5th). By 6:00 am this morning, I was dressed and on my bike, pedaling as fast as I could to stave off the anxiety. I'm happy to say that it worked. On the ride home, I saw this image and captured it with my fancy phone. This is less than one mile from my home in a suburban area in Suffolk.

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Learn how to identify Sears Homes by clicking here.

Read about one of my favorite Sears Homes in Hampton Roads here.

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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ten Things You Should Never Say to a “Suicide Widow” (or Any Trauma Survivor)

July 1st, 2018 Sears Homes 8 comments

It’s been two years since The Bad Thing.

From my own life experience, I’d like to offer a list of things NOT to say to a suicide widow. As the title indicates, this might also apply to other trauma survivors.

First, some guiding principles.

Too often, “normies” try to fit a horrible trauma into a tidy box that dovetails with their world view. This is the one thing that should never be done, because while it makes the chatty visitor feel better, it will eviscerate the survivor.

When people talk to a survivor, they’re often trying to comfort themselves. Some folks like to reason out - mentally or verbally - why this horror could never happen to them. They want to put a framework around trauma, and thus isolate it in their own minds, and then they can take some solace believing (hoping) that they’re safe.

Secondly - do not attempt to compare your story to someone else’s: No two stories are the same and no two people are the same. There are many reasons for suicide, and it’s estimated that some degree of mental illness is involved in “about 90% of suicides” (according to online sources). Comparisons are always a bad idea, and ever more-so when it comes to complicated grief.

Below are real world examples of things I’ve been told, and in some cases, they caused a significant set-back in the healing process.

1) Only you can decide if you’re going to get over this.

This is probably one of the worst things you can say to someone who’s experienced trauma. I have yet to meet a trauma survivor who wouldn’t endure almost any treatment and/or any process if it would offer a respite from the hell in which they live. Telling me that “only I can decide” is a harsh comment that only inflicts additional suffering. It’s also dismissive of the intense mental anguish and emotional pain that accompanies suicide of a spouse or child.

2) You need to be grateful for what you have.

Advising me to be grateful makes all manner of negative assumptions about my spiritual journey. The emotional pain of suicide can be so crippling that normal thought processes go out the window. When word first came of my husband’s death, I tried to use my phone to make a call. I looked at the telephone and thought, “Why did I buy a device that I don’t know how to use?” I’d lost the ability to make a phone call. It was as though a nuclear bomb had detonated inside of my brain.

3) It’s been six months (or two years). Shouldn’t you be over this by now?

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. I’m never going to be “over” this. I can only hope that Carly Simon was right, and that there is “more room in a broken heart” because mine was shattered into a billion pieces. One day my heart will heal, but I’ll never be over this.

4) Rosemary, we all miss him. This isn’t just about you.

Yes, I’ve heard this from his co-workers and others. And yet these are the same people I saw at Wayne’s funeral, clinging to their own spouse a little tighter when they strolled past the closed casket. You lost your cousin, your boss, your lunch buddy. I lost my person; I lost the person that I handpicked out of seven billion people. I lost my anticipated future. I also lost my home and my social standing and my entire life.

5) If anything happened to my husband, I’d just lay down and die. He’s my whole world.

Following Wayne’s suicide, I suffered crippling chest pain that went on for months. Even now, a minor setback brings back that terrible pain. More than once, I laid down somewhere (often in my car so no one could find me) and waited for my heart to stop. It never did. I don’t know why. Too many times to count, I would pray at night that I would pass quietly in my sleep.

“Laying down and dying” is not an option. Apparently, the human body is very tough.

This comment also presumes that if I DON’T lay down and die, the bond I had with my husband wasn’t that strong. If I could die from a broken heart, I would have died 1001 times. Or more.

6) You don’t understand depression. It’s a pit so deep and so dark that there’s no way to make sense of anything.

There’s so much wrong with this statement. First, about 10% of suicides do not involve mental illness. Don’t presume to know why my husband killed himself because you DON’T know what you’re talking about. Secondly, how is it that I’m expected to buck up, shut up and carry on after my husband does this, and yet he gets a pass for causing this much emotional carnage? Quite a dichotomy.

7)  I know how  you feel. My grandmother died last month and it was such a shock.

Any comment that beings with “I know how you feel” is wrong. This is probably the #1 comment I’ve heard again and again. Suicide is “a death like no other.” It leaves a gashing wound, and to compare it to a disease process or even an accident is so very wrong.

8.) You need to get help.

This comment is frequently left at this website, and perhaps it’s because I have an online presence. Folks don’t ask if I’m getting help - they just say that I need help. It’s almost comical. Were it not for the help of trained professionals, prayer warriors, kind-hearted folks, generous strangers, angels in human form and dear friends, the author known as Rosemary would be no more.

9) Stop worrying about what other people are saying about you.

This is not realistic. Studies show that suicide survivors (as we’re known) have the highest chance of healing and restoration when we’re surrounded by supportive friends and family. I’ve heard multiple stories about suicide widows who are overtly or covertly blamed for their husband’s death (as I have been). It’s common for suicide widows to be shunned (or worse) by family and (former) friends, and/or openly criticized for not saving/rescuing the dead spouse. Some suicide widows have found that they need to leave the community because the criticism and gossip is so severe.

10) Have you seen this article on suicide prevention?

Every time I see/read/hear about suicide prevention, it’s a kidney punch that reminds me: Maybe there was something more I could have done. But Smart Rosemary™ knows this for certain: No one could have stopped Wayne Ringer. No one.

11) Maybe you should write a book about all of this.

It’s only wanna-be writers who say this. Writing requires total immersion. I want to get as far away as possible from this intense emotional pain. I am not going to be writing a book about “My 27 Months In Hell.”

12) You need to stay busy.

Well into my first year, I gave this one a try. I went to every function, party, soiree and gathering that I could find. It worked for about a month, and then I found that I was more miserable than ever. Out in the world, I was expected to wear The Mask and pretend that I was happy and well, and that act was exhausting and depleting. And I heard people grumble and whine about inane topics, and that’s something I now have zero tolerance for. Maybe it’s good widow advice; it’s lousy suicide widow advice.

13) Karma will settle everything in the end. Just  you watch.

For starters, most people don’t really understand this complicated Buddhist concept. Secondly, if Karma does settle scores, then what in the world did I ever do to deserve a punishment so severe as this? The answer: Karma is a human concept, and not a comforting one if you’ve had a severe trauma.

14) You really need to forgive your husband.

No, I really need to forgive myself.

Any phrase that starts with, “you really need to” is doomed to invoke a lot of misery.

15) I have PTSD from when my daughter screamed at me (or some other non-life-threatening event).

There are folks who tell me that they want to help me, when in fact, what they really want, is to have me listen to their story.  Taking Grandma off the ventilator at the hospital should not be compared to learning that your husband died a violent, ugly death at his own hand. I don’t doubt that it was awful telling the kids that Fido has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, but don’t compare it to my anguish. PTSD is not about suffering from anxiety; it’s a mental derangement so severe that it impacts the individual’s ability to function to society. Two weeks ago at Panera I was having lunch with a friend, when someone slammed a heavy exterior door next to my table. It startled me so badly that I jumped up and screamed (at the guy who was already gone), “WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

I immediately left the restaurant.

I’m a gentle soul and a good Christian, but that loud bang triggered something deep in my brain that caused a visceral reaction.

16) You need to see the good side: It could have been worse. What if he’d killed you too?

I hear this one a lot. I can’t even find the words to explain why you should never say this to someone who’s dealing with trauma.

17)  God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.

This is not only cruel and thoughtless but an inherently flawed argument. As Rabbi Harold Kushner responds so perfectly: If that was the case, then I wish I was a weaker person, and then maybe God wouldn’t have placed this burden in my life. (Kushner wrote, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”) Kushner also reminds his readers that if it is God that decides how many weights to place on our spiritual shoulders, then sometimes, he gets the math wrong. Kushner says that he’s seen many people crack under extreme stress and emotional strain, but those stories don’t get wide-spread publication.

18) If you read this book, you’ll find your answers.

Please don’t send me a link to a book or lengthy article. First, I’d much rather have a six-word personal note than a link to anything, be it an article or a book. Secondly, I’m still having trouble concentrating. I tried to read a scholarly article last week, and had to give up. I couldn’t grasp the meaning in the words. I could read the words, but I couldn’t put them together to form a meaning. It was embarrassing but I had to ask a friend to read it and tell me what it said. This is not uncommon in trauma survivors.

19) And please do NOT regale me with a long story about how your spouse almost died last year, but God is good, and the whole church prayed all through the night, and he pulled through, but my oh my, what a scare that was!

And don’t be surprised when I respond by telling you that I am unwell and then dart for the exit. Yes, this happened to me at a social function. The person involved knew my “back story” and yet (apparently) had no idea how much pain this story inflicted. By my calculations, I was praying for my husband when the Bad Thing happened. I’ve made my peace with that, but it took two years.

I do believe in the goodness of God.  I embrace Rabbi Kushner’s view, that God helps us heal after bad things happen, and that’s the place where we can learn about the goodness of God (and His children).

20) Do NOT make harsh inquiries or statements about my poor memory.

As a therapist told me two years ago, trauma can make you forget your middle name. Several times, people have asked me, “Don’t you remember that we talked about this?” It’s pretty humiliating to admit that you don’t remember something, but perfectly normal. Be patient with trauma victims because they’re struggling to keep it all together and the things that are of lesser importance may get lost in the shuffle.

Thank goodness, my memory is coming back (another evidence of healing), but there are still gaps. Before The Bad Thing, I’d built a career on my “amazing memory” and “encyclopedic knowledge” of old houses. Who am I, if I’m not The Sears House Lady? These days, I rely less on that “amazing memory” and more on books and other resources.

21) Do not EVER make a statement that casts blame on the survivor.

Two years after The Bad Thing, my phone dinged with a text from a friend of Wayne’s. “That’s a surprise,” I thought at first. And then I read the text. It said: “Did Wayne kill himself because he thought you were having an affair?” That comment - which came out of the blue - caused a setback so severe that I had to make an emergency appointment with a doctor. It wasn’t true, and I think the sender knew it wasn’t true, but it was still devastating. It put me right back into the mode of, “Could I have stopped this?”

After his death, I came to suspect that Wayne had been reading my private journals, and within those journals, I talked about the fact that a woman friend had not been true to her husband, and that I couldn’t imagine such a thing, as I was so “out-of-my-mind in love with Wayne.” He knew I would never cheat on him. That’s a non-sequitur.

And what if a man kills himself after his partner is untrue? Should she feel blame then? Absolutely not. People divorce. People break up. There are 101 intelligent alternatives that are better than suicide.

There’s this, too: Anyone who survives the suicide of their intimate partner is already hanging onto the edge of an emotional cliff by their fingernails. Don’t walk up to that cliff and start stomping on their hand.

The fact that one of Wayne’s friends sent me this text is a clear example of how suicide is “a death like no other,” and the survivor - the victim - already being crushed under a load of guilt, becomes the subject of scorn and blame.

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That’s 21, not 10, but once I started I couldn’t stop. And I could write another dozen.

Now, what is the right thing to do?

Several months ago, I missed a lecture. Just didn’t show up. Problem was, I was the one giving the lecture. I was so filled with self-loathing that I couldn’t function for an entire 24-hour period. I was inconsolable. A kind-hearted friend said, “Your husband killed himself. Stop trying to get back to ‘The Old Rosemary’ and focus on how much progress you’ve made in the last two years.”

That was just what I needed to hear.

Praise is always welcome. Point out the progress; don’t talk about my shortcomings. I rehearse those shortcomings for hours and hours every night as I lay in the dark. Help me remember who I really am. Remind me of my accomplishments. And most of all, tell me that it’s okay to struggle and stumble.

If my mother were alive, if Tom Conran were alive, if those people that loved me unconditionally were still here, they’d tell me, “Rosie, you’re something special. You’re hurting so bad right now, but you’re also resilient. This horror is just a passage. It’s not a place where you’re going to live. It’s temporary. And you’re going to get through this.”

To conclude, The most important thing you can do for someone who’s hurting is this:

Show up. Listen. Don’t offer advice. Just listen.

If you must speak, say something like, “I want you to know that I love you, and I care about you.”

Or it can be reduced to three words: I love you.

If this person is mature (not a kid), and you find yourself offering them advice or suggestions, bite your tongue. You’re there to love. You’re not there to judge. You’re not there to fix. You’re there to show them that they’re not alone in the world.

Do NOT tell a grieving person, “Let me know if you need anything.” Instead, you might say, “I’d like to drop off a meal at your house once a week for a time. Which is better, Tuesday or Thursday night?”

When I moved into a rental house in Churchland, my new neighbor came over to meet me and brought me Rice Krispie treats. Now that was a happy moment!  I was pretty raw then, and told her that I was trying to pull myself together, and that my husband had killed himself. Tears came to her eyes. Her brother had killed himself a couple years prior. She said, “You’re a bit gaunt. Are you eating?”

I told her, “No. I’ve lost 40 pounds.”

She said, “I love to cook and I always make too much. I’ll bring you dinner every other night until you tell me to stop.”

She’s one of those angels walking this earth. I regained the lost weight and my health improved.

In the earliest days, a woman friend took me into her house. She worked late hours and would often come home too tired to stand up, but every night (for three months), she’d enter the guest bedroom (where I slept) and stand at the foot of the bed and pray for me.

Knowing that people I barely knew were praying for me was such a blessing, but when someone took me by the hand and prayed with me, it stirred my soul and I felt like the angels were right there, knitting my heart back together. It was a powerful experience.

Please remember these seven tips:

1) Show up.

2) Sit quietly and let them talk as long as they want to.

3) Tell them that they’re loved.

4) Offer praise and encouragement for any and all progress.

5) Remember, just knowing that someone cares is immensely comforting.

6) Pray FOR the person in pain, but better yet, pray WITH them. These prayers (and the love behind them) saved me.

7) And ask if Tuesday or Thursday night is better for them.

And why did I spend three days writing this? Studies show that suicide widows and those who have lost a very close loved one to suicide are 10-12 times MORE LIKELY to have suicidal ideation (studies vary in this number). If you have a friend who lost a spouse or a child to suicide, you should know that odds are good that they’re already contemplating ending their own life. The first six months are especially risky. Unconditional support and indefatigable love for the survivor will help them navigate those very treacherous rapids. At the very least, stop crucifying the survivors. We’re already drowning under the waves of guilt and grief.

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This is the best article I’ve seen on what happens to “The Widow” after a suicide.

If this blog has helped you, please post the link and share it on Facebook.

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Teddy

Teddy, for the most part, has proven to be a good grief counselor. She never says the wrong thing, and she always forgives me, which is pretty amazing. I could learn a lot from Teddy.

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The Eight-Cow Wife

Photo is copyright Dave Chance and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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

June 18th, 2018 Sears Homes 9 comments

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 6 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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To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

Interested in Penniman? Click here!

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Penniman.

May 27th, 2018 Sears Homes 6 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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