Thursday, February 12, 2009


We've lived in this house for fifteen years. Our last two homes had not been mansions, by any means, but they'd been grander and in neighborhoods where housing associations dictated how often we mowed our lawn and the date we were allowed to put up our outdoor Christmas decorations.

Those houses had also caused us to feel strapped the day after payday. It was an uncomfortable existence. When we moved to the Texas Panhandle, Jerry suggested we purchase smarter this time around. "You've always dreamed of being a writer. Let's buy a one income home. Then if you want to pursue that dream, you can."

I agreed, but I started to doubt my decision during the house search. Back then, there wasn't much on the market and every house we entered held disappointments. Then we walked into a modest sixties ranch. Cookies were cooling on a tray in the kitchen, bicycles were stored on the screen porch, numerous flower beds had been carved along the fence. Someone loved living here.

We learned the owners had lived in the house for thirty years. They'd raised four kids within these walls. They'd owned numerous pets that had lived and died here. Months later, Kay, the previous owner told me her kids said they could never sell this house. There were too many dead bodies buried in the backyard.

It was not love at first sight that caused us to say, yes. The decision was more of a surrendering. We'd simply seen everything and though we couldn't quite put our finger on it, this house touched something inside us.

Though the large kitchen and backyard were impressive, the house had many shortcomings. The day we moved in, those deficiencies seemed magnified. I slipped the key in the doorknob at four o'clock in the afternoon. My daughter and I walked into the backyard and heard the nearby sounds of highway traffic. Since we'd originally toured the house in mid-morning, the nearby highway only registered at a faint hum. That first afternoon of ownership, I thought a semi truck might race through our backyard.

Now that the house was empty, I could plainly see the ugly aluminum framed windows. They were narrow rectangles that let in little light. The house seemed dreary.

Our bedroom was so tiny that making the bed was truly a chore. I'm sure dieting would have solved the problem of having to squeeze in the narrow space, between the walls and bed. But it was easier to gripe to my husband. During my first shower, the old plumbing christened me with cold water. Shameful as it is to recall now, I threw a tantrum after that brisk experience.

And I wanted to shoot the stove.

For six months I peeled off wallpaper and painted each room. We removed the heavy drapes and exchanged the old sliding glass door leading to the screen porch with a French one. At that time, we couldn't afford to replace every window, but we enlarged three. A bit more sunshine pouring into the living and family rooms made a difference. (Mainly in my disposition.)

Then June arrived. My decorating budget ran out. I picked up a pen and a yellow pad and headed toward the screen porch. Gradually, words on the page became more important and the flaws of my house concerned me less. So much so, a few years ago I realized in amusement that in ten years, I'd never changed the picture hanging over the fireplace mantle. What happened to the woman who rotated her pictures every season?

As my own books started to fill a shelf in our family room, we made house improvements. A few at a time, every window was replaced. Eventually, we enlarged the bedroom and built a walk-in closet. We bought a new stove. (Well, now it's not so new, but I still love it!)

Except for the fixtures, the plumbing in the shower is the same. But I've learned the trick. Turn all the way to the right, a minute or two, then a quarter turn to the left. There I find the desired temperature.

I don't want you to think this house had no attributes when we bought it. I've always enjoyed the charming courtyard entry, the screen porch, the large sunny kitchen. But something deeper happened along the way. And I would never have predicted it the day my husband and I signed the mortgage contract. I had not meant to fall in love with this house.

Yet with all its flaws, it afforded me a way to pursue my passion. And it offered more. Memories have been made in these rooms. We've had a first-snow-of-the-year picnic in front of the fireplace. The kitchen played host to French onion soup lunches for friends. The living room became our reading room and the place for my daughter's sleepovers. Though small, the family room comfortably held eight people for a private movie premiere. It's even difficult to hear the traffic from the backyard these days. I'm too busy listening to the birds chirping on the feeder and our neighbor's grandkids jumping on the trampoline.

Somehow in these fifteen years, I became a writer, and while I wasn't looking, this house had become my home.


  1. I love the picture of the Polish coffee mug! It made me smile. Did you buy it at Mrs. Kim's?

  2. Linda, I did get that mug at Mrs. Kim's! It's my favorite mug and I regret only getting one. I love the shape of it and it brings back wonderful memories from that time in Poland. Thanks for visiting my new blog!

  3. I know where you can get more . . .

    She ships. :-)

  4. Hey Kimberly! Your blog is lovely. :-) And I didn't even notice the mug until Linda above mentioned it. I was too busy admiring your house and the beautiful post.

    That coffee does sound good, though. :-)

    I live in the panhandle, too, and I'd venture to guess in the same town, or very close.

    Just so you don't think I'm a stalker, I'm in a crit group with Linda Castillo and Jenny (Jennifer) Archer. Jenny talks about you (always wonderful comments) from time to time, so when I saw your email today announcing your blog, I wanted to pop in and check it out. Well done, and welcome to the blogasphere!

    I also wanted to let you know that I work at Crockett middle school as the library clerk and we have several of your books. One of the faves of the kids is MY LOUISIANNA SKY. My personal favorite is KEEPER OF THE NIGHT. I've always liked journal style format, and you captured an eighth grader's mindset perfectly. (I would know, heh.)

    You are a wonderful writer, and thanks so much for sharing how your home played a part in that genisis.

  5. Thanks, Anita, for your kind words. It's nice to meet you. What a small world!

    What are you writing?

  6. Kimberly,
    Thanks for inviting me to the debut of your blog through Facebook! I'm a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade reading teacher. I just arrived home from my 7th graders' Author's Reception. Ann Parr, author of "Gordon Parks: No Excuses", worked with my students over several weeks as they composed stories of their own to be published. Tonight, when they arrived at school and entered the room with their families, they saw their published books for the first time. Watching their faces, and the faces of their family members, light up as they picked up the hardback copies from the table and began to read their stories was the most rewarding experience of my year.

    My students and I enjoy your books immensely. Thank you for sharing about your home and your writing. I look forward to reading more!

  7. What a treat to be able to work with students over a few weeks. I usually only have a couple of hours although a couple of times I've worked for a week.

    I know your students must have been excited about tonight and the whole process of working a writer.

    Thanks for your kind words about my work. And thank you for stopping by. Sweet dreams!

  8. Hey Kimberly~

    Thanks for asking about my writing journey. :-) I write fantasies tinged with a blush of romance.

    My voice has a literary slant that lends itself to the historical and mystical really well (somewhere between the lyrical word play of Charlotte Bronte and the preternatural styling of Alice Hoffmanwell) so that's where my passion is.

    I just acquired an agent about six months ago, and for the last three months we've been sending out my MS (I have three books written but it's this fourth one that won an agent). It’s a ghost story with a unique love triangle—set in Victorian England. If you want to see my website, you can click on my name above. I linked it up for you.

    Oh, and I added your blog's link to my blog side bar; Jenny's and Linda's are there, too. I like to help out my fellow bloggers. ;-P

    Keep up the wonderful writing and I'll be checking back in!

  9. Hi, Kimberly,

    Thanks for inviting me to the launch of your blog. I have to admit that I have felt--still do!--feel similarly about blogs. Mostly, I feel as if I don't have the time to write a blog (not only is my what's new website page NOT updated, it's totally trashed!) So I'm interested to know more about how a blog connects a writer to her community and to her work.
    Thanks!--and Kudos to Dale McLain for the lovely banner design!

    Anita Riggio

  10. I love this house post, Kim. Thanks for writing it and for reposting it now for me to see, when I didn't the first time.

    I feel exactly the same way about writing and living. Jim and I are in a small condo and as a result, able to see ahead financially to a time when I will be able to give up my formal employment and just write. What a gift to the soul a small, modest home can be.

    Nancy Werlin

  11. anita--Congratulations on getting an agent. As you already, that's no small task. I love Alice Hoffman, too. Good luck on your writing and I will visit your website this weekend.

    Anita R-This whole journey of blogging has been fascinating. I do believe it has helped me grow as a writer or I wouldn't be doing it. Thanks for visiting. I agree with you. Dale did a great job on the banner.

    Nancy-Congratulations, again, on your recent marriage. I love how you stated, "what a gift to the soul, a small house can be." So simple, so beautiful, so true. Thanks for visiting. I hope you will come back.

  12. Great post! Finding the hidden blessings is what makes life wonderful. Your house seems just perfectly loved, and since it enabled you to be the writer you are, I'm sure glad you decided to move into it (as I reckon most of your readers are too)!

    I'd also like to introduce you to a good friend of mine and her blog. Her name is Mary Eileen Russell. She writes under the penname Elena Maria Vidal. She is an author (or do y'all prefer "writer"?) as well as an historian, and her blog which I just adore is called "Tea at Trianon." The title is because she has written a number of historical novels about Marie Antoinette and her family. If you're interested, here's the url:

  13. Thanks, again, Gette. I'll have to check out your friend's blog. I love the name.

  14. I love good blogs! I will put you on my Google Reader of the blogs I love to keep up with.

    My experience with our house was a bit of the same. I would love to move now but I have memories locked in her now of my kids growing up here. A love/hate relationship is here. I have a hard time letting go of things in my past because I fear I am tossing my memory away too. Memories of my kids.

    We bought our house from an elderly woman – probably was blinded by the love of the woman and did not see some of the shortcomings of the neighborhood. She remained a dear neighbor to us until her mind slipped away and her son made her leave with him to California. I loved her like my own grandmother – my girls and mourned when she left and later when we heard she had died at a nursing home.

    We still have a recipe that she had tapped to a cabinet door in the kitchen... a small reminder of Ms. Mitchel will always be there with us.

    Good luck with your blog. I have one at
    You may like it.

  15. Waynette,

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your mixed emotions about your home. It's interesting how we both picked up on the former resident's love for their house. Almost like being visited by ghosts.

    I plan to read your blog this evening when I leave my manuscript for the day. Thanks,again. I hope you will return.