Finding Home

Hens and chicks of different colors.

Hello from sunny Vermont. My laptop is truly in my lap right now, and since the dog is woofing from the screen door, soon he’ll be in my lap as well. I’m sitting in one-half of my double adirondack chairs, my tea to my right, steaming with pleasure. I plan to sit out here for a good long time, getting soothed by the sun, creating strong sentences.

I’ve got my fleece on. It’s not until the outside temperature reaches my inside temperature (98.6 F) that I’m most comfortable in my skin. Once I spent some time in Tucson, and I walked from our hotel to the University of Tucson college campus in dry 100 degree heat. Twenty minutes of being warm enough. That’s mostly what I remember from that trip.

Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to succulents. My library friends and I visited Cady’s Falls Nursery yesterday, spending an hour or so meandering the garden paths, and there were tables with long rows of hens and chicks of different colors and textures. Someone had taken an old muffin tin, bore holes underneath, and filled each cup with various types. I thought of all the sad irons at my parents’ and even in our own garage, ready for repurposing. We all took lots of pictures so we’d remember the different kinds of containers on display. I came home so animated and energized by what I’d experienced there with all the flowers–alive like I hadn’t been since before all this rough sailing crashed down on us. I used to love planting flowers and tilling the soil. There’s no time for that now.

Yesterday afternoon we went to look at an apartment. We both loved it, though it was a rule out for Serena because of the new off-gassing smells. But it was a rule in for me. This two bedroom, easy lay out, very manageable home felt so right, and I’m filling out an application. Perhaps the timing will work out so we can find Serena a place and then move into this new place ourselves, while we wait for a buyer for our own home. It doesn’t sound practical or smart or financially prudent to carry two to three places, but sometimes the best thing for everybody means taking chances and easing burdens. I’m all for easing burdens, especially mine.

I’m writing more on Quill Point this weekend, hoping to write ten pages or so. I think I’ll have Eva start a succulent garden. And maybe some container gardens. She’s got some treasures in that shed she and her dad built. What odd containers do you plant your flowers in?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.






Sometimes you just have to spend it.

Hello from rainy Vermont. It’s been so rainy for so long I couldn’t stand it, so I busted out of here,  went to the Forget Me Not Shop in Johnson, and bought fifty-six dollars worth of rain depression clothes. Two summer dresses, two winter sweaters, one summer work shirt, a turtleneck, and a pair of jean shorts. The clothes were new but cast off, a step up from the Good Will clothes I usually find for myself. I vetted each piece as “forever clothes,” and went home to cut tags and show my purchases to the girls. That lasted all of two hours. Then the darn rain came back.

So I looked around the house. Our upstairs bathroom needed a good scrub. Nah. There were stacks of papers on my office table. Nah. Quill Point waited. Nah. If I couldn’t get outside and sit on my chairs for yet another day, I needed something with pizazz to get through. So I sat on the sofa with my wet dog and turned the television on to my new favorite “fold the laundry” home show, Good Bones, and watched it without any laundry. Yep, I actually watched television without folding laundry. (Note how exciting my life is.)

Then I remembered what I could do. Something fun but necessary. You ready for it? The Vacation List! The list of groceries for a week’s worth of coastal meals. The list explaining about our dog’s routines. The list of kitchen items to bring. My personal list of what to pack. The reminder to bring Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, and decks of cards. And the list of important phone numbers for the road and at home for the dog/house sitter.

I reached for the remote and turned the television off. I found an old one-subject notebook filled with wide-ruled blank paper. I grabbed a cup of fresh tea. And began. And then, something bright caught my eye. Sunlight from the window. For a brief moment, the sun came out. And then, it disappeared. As quick as that. I sighed and turned back to my list. Another rainy weekend in Vermont.

What do you do to keep sane after a long stretch of rainy days? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.





I’ve projects to do


Fresh, organic greens.

Good morning from sunny Vermont–some of you New Englanders may not recognize that word “sunny” anymore, but it still exists and even happens occasionally on days like today! This past Wednesday night I spoke about my books and writing process at the Lanpher Library here in town, and somehow almost two hours flew by as I answered questions, gave some advice on writing, and heard other people’s stories.

One woman reviewed books for a living. One was hooked up with the publishing world. Another had started to write a book about her mother’s life stories. And one man explained why my books pleased him–they were soothing compared to the harsh sounds of television news.

As the night passed, I grew more animated and my hands flew around–a sure sign of engagement. I told them how awkward I felt about marketing my books. How these days I had to carve and rip out time to make headway on Quill Point. How dealing with Lyme Disease had changed me forever, and how some day I’d write a book of fiction about our experiences, but they were still too raw to broach now.

I enjoyed the night. I don’t get out much, and I felt like I’d been given a serving of fresh, organic greens. The next guest speaker is a local veterinarian who swam the English Channel. I’m going.

Today I’m grateful for our town library, sun, and my daughter’s 21st birthday. What are you grateful for? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.






Five minutes of surf immersion.

Good morning from sunny Vermont. We are heading east today, putting into place our first leg of a series of possibilities. Once Serena is ready to roll, we are all getting into Tim’s Honda Accord and driving to Freeport, Maine. Who is there? Tim’s brother and his sister-in-law, ready to receive Serena as a member of the household. But before she moves there permanently, we are doing a four-day experiment to ensure that it’s a good fit. Did I mention that Scout is coming along? It’s his first ever road trip. Kibble–check! Water dish and water–check! Leash–check! Serena’s checklist is somewhat more complicated.

I’ll see the ocean today. I’m hoping for five solid minutes of staring out at the water while my feet rest on the sand. This recharge will tide me over until we go on our vacation next month, for a week of surf immersion, silly games, and meaningful conversation. Perhaps I’ll even be able to focus on a book. But today’s not about surf immersion. Today’s about handing over our daughter to her loving aunt and uncle into a newer, healthier home. To see if it works. To see if she can get better there.

I’m bringing five of each of my books, for Nick and Amanda to sell in their shop. If you go to South Freeport, please take the time to stop in. Their antiques are great, a size and price for everyone.nick store.jpg

Time for me find my purse and add in a few dog bones. I’ll fill you in next Saturday on what happens with “the test.” Have you done “tests” in your life?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.



Can you hear the flutes?

Hello from cloudy Vermont. The sun peaked out this morning. It’s gone now. Lamoille County has been covered by a thick, cloudy blanket since last fall. People here (including me) are starting to mutter to themselves and wave their hands wildly as they walk down the street. We are all stir-crazy from lack of Vitamin D and the warm sun on our faces. Prognosis? Another week of rain. Diagnosis? Time to get out of Dodge.

My teacher friend in Kenya tells me that when expats come to settle nearby, they start off cranky. But after three or four months in the sun, they perk up and walk and run and move like they haven’t in years. I want some of that. For now though, I’m rooted in Vermont, still uncertain about moving, still waiting for information on possibilities. I have nothing new to tell you, except that I’m still hoeing out.

It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow.  Around this time of year, I automatically give myself a report card grade in regard to my mothering abilities. The result? A grade of good enough. Not stellar, not pathetic, just good enough. Tonight my husband’s preparing a special meal to celebrate me, and tomorrow I’ll celebrate my own mother. I’ve told my mom over and over–in song, in letters, in person–how much she means to me. When my girls were young, they’d give me colored paper cards with macaroni glued on it and the words “I love you!” carefully written out. They’re older now, but their cards are just as creative. I do miss the macaroni…

Sometimes this mothering business is excruciating, like when you see your children suffer and there’s nothing you can do, or when they walk into a mistake they could have avoided if they would have just listened the first time (or the second or third). Sometimes it’s sublime, like when you see your child hold the door for an elder or offer her seat in a crowded bus. Mostly it’s formulaic–you try to meet their needs and at least some of their wants, for which they may or may not be grateful. But here’s the thing. We mothers are the best cheerleaders for each other. We mothers are the best at feeling grateful for what other mothers do. So I want you to know that I’m grateful for all you moms and women who step in as moms. I cheer for all you do and are. There’s a band right now marching out there in your honor. Can you hear the flutes?

Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.










In the heart of my people.

Lifestyle. So this is it. This is the moment when I live my values and take my whole family along for the ride, or I cop out.  Do you want to know something? I’m scared. Scared that I’m making a huge mistake. Scared that living tiny is impossible for the four of us, that selling and/or giving away almost a lifetime of possessions means giving away what defines us, who we are, as in, “We are our stuff.”

Because where we may be going, there’s no room for ten bookshelves. There’s no garage, there’s no shed. We may not even be able to fit in dressers. We can’t bring our hutches, my writing table, my grandparents’ chairs, not that, not that, definitely no. No longer will we be geographically located in the heart of my people. No longer will our flowers grow out of the ground.

But yes to one floor living and easy maintenance. Yes to a dishwasher. Yes to less responsibility weighing my shoulders down. Yes to container gardens. And yes, Amen, to allergen free air.

I can’t tell you all the details because I don’t have them. Perhaps by next week I’ll spin the entire story. But for right now, I’ve a favor to ask you. Will you please send good vibes our way, in prayers, in crossing fingers, and any other way you know to help this possibility of ours grow into the right fit at the right time for my family?

When hope and fear tangle with each other, it can leave a mighty ache. Have you ever felt it? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.


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Bits and pieces.

Good morning from cloudy, brisk Vermont. Yesterday I traveled to Quebec with my mom and sisters to visit my three uncles (her brothers) and three of my cousins. Before we arrived, we went to visit my grandparents’ grave site, which also includes two of my aunts and my uncle Charles. My mother feels that this may be her last visit to her homeland, so you can imagine how poignant and tender this stop was. And then on to lots of laughter as my mom and her brothers shared stories and current events. Joyful sounds from the kitchen. I spoke French as much as I could, but it didn’t matter much since we all understood each other. I look forward to going back for the balloon festival and Acadia Day–both events are held in August this year.

They asked me how my book was coming along, and I said slowly but surely. I told them with the right block of time, I’d finish it up by fall. As an aside, I had a creative burst of energy last night in my dreams and woke up this morning with all the loose threads tied together and the end of the book wrapped up. I may be looking at another sequel.

Of course we talked about my dad. How we all missed him and after a month already, his death still didn’t seem real. Then we all piled into my sister’s CRV and headed back to Vermont, our green state waiting for us with lots of sunshine and just the right amount of breeze.

I end with two bits and pieces. Here’s a link to the for sale information about our house. A thank you to Serena who took the great photos. If you are local, will you please take a minute to share it in your Facebook community?

Finally, Louise Penny comes out with a new book in her great Inspector Gamache series. You remember that when I first started this blog two or three years ago now I wrote to her and asked her to read Peace Cottage? Well, she didn’t, and I got a form letter back, but she still writes excellent stories and I want to support her. Consider starting with her first book Still Life.

I hope you all have a good week. After I close, I hope to settle on the living room sofa and do some more writing on Quill Point. It’s a day of rest here at the Kent home, and what better way to rest than to weave more story. How do you rest?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.


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Many pails of water.

Hello from cloudy Vermont. Did I tell you that I inherited all of my dad’s music? Three binders and additional folders filled with the yellowed titles and lyrics of his very own songs. Songs like “You can’t stop my secret love for you,” and “Pretty blue eyes and a blond pony tail.” Even some songs in French, like “Nous vous aimons.”

Some of the songs seem familiar. I’ve heard them before, but can’t quite grasp the tune yet. I remember this one: “I’ll see you in Montreal, C-A-N-A-D-A.” Dad wrote that one for Expo ’67 and my family’s trip to the fair. Oh right. I didn’t go. At five, I wasn’t deemed old enough. I got stuck at home with some aunt or other. I hated that song. Others I never knew existed, and I’m tempted to try my hand at adding my own music. How can you not want to sing “I can stop my feet from walking towards you. I can keep my arms from holding you. I can stop my eyes from looking at you. But I can’t stop myself from loving you.” Can you hear the melody?

I’ve found other treasures, perhaps the beginning of Dad’s biography. Listen:

“The baby boy was born on a hot July afternoon when haying was in full swing. He was the twelfth child born to Mary Jane and Adelard. So he really didn’t come as a big surprise to anyone, especially the mom. She was busy with her child while the men folks were busy tending to the hay that had to be brought in the barn that day. The other young children were down at the neighbors because they were told that “Indians” were coming that afternoon. I’m told that the most exciting thing that happened that day besides the birth of a baby was to light and set off a “rocket,” like fireworks, to celebrate the birth of this little baby, but the rocket had a mind of its own and it came down in a stack of hay and it almost set the whole field on fire.  Only after a lot of shouting and many pails of water was it put out.”

Ten precious pages of my Dad’s early life, in strong, neat cursive. I’m reading it slowly to make it last well into summer. My mom, sisters, and brother will be so pleased to find out what I’ve discovered. I always wondered where I got my story telling abilities, and between his story and his songs, now I know. My dad. His musical ability, his way with words, they course through me. That’s something!

What blessings did your dad leave you? Check in next week for another segment of Finding Home.





Through his prized hayfields.

Good afternoon from warm, partly sunny Vermont. In the half book I’ve written, Eva hasn’t talked about her dad much. Why hasn’t she talked about her dad? He’s supposed to be a strong presence in her life, according to Vinehart Farm, but he remains unshaped. Now that my dad has died, I find myself thinking of various things I need to ask him about, as if I still could. Most recently, I wanted to ask how he’d feel if some gas company told him it was planning to run lines through his prized hayfields. He’d have some words for me, I promise you that. Why didn’t I ask him that long before he died? After all, I had the book’s plot figured out. Stupid of me, and now a regret.

Anyway, it makes sense that Eva continues to have questions for her dad, even though he’s been gone a year. It makes sense that she’d have conversations in her head and even out loud just for him. Where did you put that old oil can, dad? Why did you have three small ladders but only one big one? What would you say to Gesco to protect your land?

I’ll start over from the beginning of Quill Point and work in her dad Randy’s essence. That will make the book more genuine, and it will help me through some grieving. The other part of my book that needs work is how to reconcile the sheer power of the gas and oil industry in regard to individual rights. Realistically, Eva doesn’t stand a chance. How do I make her stand a chance and still write credible fiction? I want this book to be hopeful.

And speaking of hopeful, tomorrow is Easter, a hopeful day if ever there was one. I plan to attend 8 AM services and attend a large family brunch at my mom’s. We’ll have tears, moments of silence, and mostly joy. How will you spend Easter?

Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.





My dad’s guitar.

Good morning from snowy Vermont. Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts during this time of my dad’s death. My family and I are well supported as we go through our grieving, and we are sharing stories with each other as we step away one day to the next from the late afternoon of his death.

This is what I have to tell you today. My dad learned to play banjo and guitar when he was eight or nine, and then later on took up the bass violin as he joined his older brothers’ band. Once the band broke up, he focused exclusively on the guitar, playing a Sears special. Then we kids bought him a second-hand Ovation. After ten years playing and singing at his beloved St. Teresa’s church, the church community bought him a Taylor, a beautiful instrument with a sweet, sweet sound. This was the instrument he played when I joined him each Sunday morning in my mother’s kitchen with my ukulele.

After he died, my mama gave his guitar and its stand to me. I have it right here beside me as I type. Not a scratch on it’s golden wood, and the strings are light on my fingers. When my mom gave me his guitar, it came with a qualification. I was to give my Washburn (a big, beautiful guitar with a booming sound) to Serena so she could learn how to play guitar, and then we were to play together. At fifty-four, I pretty much do what my mom tells me to do because I know how wise she is. Serena does too (not for me but for her Memere). So I gave my Washburn to Serena, and she is now learning how to play guitar chords–not on the Washburn–it’s too big for learning on–but on the little, brown Martin my dad gave me when I was a sophomore in high school.

So that’s where we are now, her learning, my playing and coaching, and our baby steps start in playing music together. My dad, in a joyful place, is quite pleased watching us play–I know that in my heart. Meanwhile, he’s back with his brothers playing the bass and probably doing lead vocal. That man loved to sing. He told me often that when he was in the band, he knew at least one hundred songs by heart. Something to aspire to.

What’s your relationship with music? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.


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