The Little House that Did. 

I’ve long said that your home is where your people are. I’ve moved enough times to know this to be true. That’s not to say I haven’t had some sentimental attachments to a house. I have. I have driven past homes that I’ve lived in and felt the little heart pulls. It’s not really for the bricks and mortar of the place – though I can remember the worn carpet places on the steps of my childhood home – it’s the memories the house represents.

I remember the green counters in Kevin and my’s first home we built together – a cute townhome in Germantown, MD. It was there we brought our first child home from Kazakhstan. It was there I became a mom at age 37. It was there where my life went from being so me oriented to being family oriented. Other people mattered. I began to grow up there.

It’s the memories these brick and mortar places hold. We can take the memories with us in our minds, hearts and photo books but there’s something so sweet when we drive by the old places.

I have some sad memories from some of my old childhood homes too but they represent places that shaped me in some way. So good memories flow with some not great ones. For me I see the swift passage of time when I see old photos of these homes or I drive by them.

For some reason lately that realization of the fast path that life takes has been weighing on me. So it’s not surprising that I have become overwhelmed by sentiment at the sale of my dear inlaws home.

My inlaws have owned that home for nearly 60 years. The little Aspen Hill neighborhood known as Harmony Hills has turned over and and over and over family after family-Kevin’s parents were among the few original owners left in the neighborhood- now one sees many little children running about as young families have moved in. It’s a working class neighborhood now. It’s close enough to the city to be in demand and their house sold quickly. I wasn’t surprised. .

But I was surprised at how sad I am about it.

The sale had to happen. My mother- in- law is in assisted living and we lost my father- in-law a little over a year ago. But their home – not house- their home is one place I have only good memories of. The many dinners with everyone crowded in the living room chatting after a good meal. Lots and lots of laughs. My kids playing with old metal cars or Legos in the basement. The “picnics” in the back yard, Easter egg hunts , gift exchanges and lots of love. It all existed in this house.


It’s hard to believe this little house raised six boys. My husband tells stories of knee football games on the lower level. Sometimes an adult voice would yell down to be quiet. There were sibling arguments too. Much expected with six boys.

That house held many diaper changes and bottles , then much sports gear, many class photos, then graduation pictures, then wedding photos, then grandkids and great grandkids. Those people in those photos have all stepped foot in that home. Thousands of meals were prepared by one of the most kind woman I have ever met. I can see how my mother-in-law might have had the patience to raise six boys. She was a mom to all who came through that home. She’s been a blessing to me and words cannot express how thankful I am for her. She got me through some hard days. She may not even know it. Sometimes  my phone would ring when I would be at my wits end with work or tired from being with my little kids all day and she would be on the line just checking in- and it was just what I needed at that moment. She never intruded, she never judged. She became my friend.

Once I asked if she ever got mad. I’ve never really seen her mad in the 20 years I’ve known her. Kevin -my husband-told me that a few times when he was young his mom got up from the dinner table while they were eating -said nothing – and went quietly into the bedroom and shut the door. I nod my head in understanding. She was overwhelmed with men. I picture the small flask being pulled out from under the mattress! Six boys. One husband. She had to have her moments. No wonder she made so much banana bread.  Baking was her solace. Her banana bread is talked about in many circles. It was that good.

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Six boys raised by good people. Extremely good people. My father-in-law was maybe the fairest person I’ve ever met. He never told anyone what they should do. If you asked him his opinion on something he would tell you what he might do in a given situation but he never pushed anything on anyone else. He believed his sons needed to make their own way and learn from their mistakes. He was also generous. If someone needed a little help he would freely give what he could. This wasn’t a wealthy man but he was rich. He had so much more than money. He had wisdom and love.

Dad was quiet but I’m told that when friends of his sons came over they feared him! Apparently he had a look that made any kid snap to in an instant. Once he told a friend of the boys to move his car out of the driveway and the kid not only moved the car- he left entirely! He was gentle yet firm. I knew only the gentle man and gentleman.

The living room home to many gatherings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each person who has been in that home had a different memory and perspective of life there. What I know is that my life changed there. I became part of big family. Something I always dreamed of. And that family welcomed and accepted and loved me for who I am warts and all. I watched my children who came to us through adoption be loved and accepted without question. I saw them thrive in that love.

We laughed and we cried there.

That little house holds so many memories. And new memories will be built there by a new family.

Family visiting the house before closing.

If it’s walls could talk the stories it would tell. The one thing that that little house did was hold six boys that were raised to be wonderful men. Gentle men and gentlemen. Men that today make sure their almost 92 year old mom gets the best care possible.

Love full circle.

That’s what that little house did.

I will miss that little house.

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Unexpected places

The other day when my son had a soccer practice in our local park (Watkins Park in Mount Airy , MD.) my husband – Kevin- and I decided to walk around the park on their walking trail. It is a fun walk not too hard but some hills. They have a nice dog park and its fun to walk by and see all the different dogs romping around.  We had just about completed our loop around the park when we saw another opening to a trail. I had almost forgotten about the Rails to Trails project that our town is in the process of creating. This first leg of the trail in Mount Airy is completed and it took an old railroad line and made it into a hiking trail. We decided to head off down the trail to check it out. I only had my phone with me (shame on me for not being more prepared) but I think you will get an idea of what the trail is like. I loved the rocky cliffs and the old tracks. It ends up right in our quaint downtown and I think the plan is to expand it as money allows. It is really worth the hike and it is flat and cool and serene. It is a short trail but I can’t wait to see it when it has reached its full potential. Hope you enjoy the photos…

Thanks for reading….

Read more about the nationwide Rails to Trails effort here.
                                      

Falling in Love with Charm City

This past weekend Kevin, my husband, and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Yeah – wow where did that time go right? So for the first time since our first anniversary we went away for the night. No kids! How devine!

When planning the trip I pondered over where to go. I didn’t want to travel too far from home because my kids – all teens- have only been left to their own devices overnight one other time and that was last December when we headed down to see a blues band in Bethesda MD.  Should we head to DC? Maybe Annapolis – or Saint Mikes on the Eastern shore? One place kept popping into my head over and over again. Baltimore, MD….some of you may be a little familiar with B’More as old and industrial (and in the past some may have said dirty) and wonder why we might want to head there. Those that are more familiar with the Baltimore of today might find themselves a little jealous that we got to spend a couple days tooling around the area. It is a really great town!

Baltimore was once the second largest port of entry for immigrants in the United States. In the 1700’s it was a port of entry for the Maryland tobacco trade. The port is still used today for a multitude of imports and exports. Early on it was an industrial town but over the years has be revitalized. Today it is not only have a thriving tourist trade it is also home to some major corporations like Pandora and Under Armor. Baltimore is a very fun place to visit. It has the famous inner harbor that was created in the 19070’s to bring more tourists into the area – but it also houses many great neighborhoods rich in history that are fun to visit.

I loved the inner harbor but I knew there was more to explore. My brother had attended Loyola College in Baltimore and raved about the culture and of course the bar scene that could be found in the city. Nicknamed Charm City as a marketing strategy in the mid 1970’s, the city has become just that. Many neighborhoods have undergone revitalization and many areas of the city are considered trendy places to visit and to live. I wanted to explore the city outside Harborplace (which is great) and Camden Yards (the home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball- and awesome park with unreal food). So I booked a room at the brand new Hyatt Place right near Little Italy and Fells Point.

I can tell you that I was stoked to be getting away for a few days in early spring with just my husband and I . When you can actually leave your kids alone and know they can generally care for themselves (I left them with a crockpot full of Mac and Cheese and cupboards of lot of junky food) it is freeing as…well it’s just freeing! Being away without your kids reminds me of being away before we had kids except that its not quite the same because once you have kids they are like part of you so you never really totally forget them when you leave them. There are the texts checking on things  and when its too quiet (no texts) you begin to worry a little. But for the most part it was Kevin and I – not texting our kids- doing what the heck we wanted. No one (teens) rushing us or complaining that they were bored or hungry or bored or bored.

So here is a bit of our 18 hours in Charm City…

Below is our view from our room at the Hyatt Place – a new hotel- and I would recommend it. When we checked in our room wasn’t ready – no prob- but as it turns out a cheerleading competition at the convention center had the place filled with kids gearing up to compete – I sort of wondered how noisy it would be there. Turns out we had booked a queen room but they only had a king room (I didn’t book a king room bc they didn’t have a king room when I was booking). Did I want a King room? It was on the top floor great view-? Um Yes! And it turns out it was a great room and the views were awesome. And our room was tucked back in the hallway and the rooms are super quiet – I did not hear any cheerleaders!

A room with a view

Looking over at Little Italy

 

I was like a peeping tom looking inside all these passages!

When we got settled into our room we headed out to see Fells Point. All my years as a bar-hopping party girl had never brought me to this area. I even spent a semester at Towson State University which is right at the edge of the city but never went to Fells Point. My brother had frequented this area and if he reads my blog he might recognize some of the places in the pictures. One cool thing about Fells Point was the cobblestone streets. I wondered how many partiers had fallen or turned an ankle on those streets. They are very cool though.  Turns out in Fells Point there are lots of neat places to see. And great streets perfect for picture taking.

 

Notice those cobble stone streets…  

I was fascinated by these gated passages. Some had pretty gardens hiding inside and others were bland or messy.

The waterfront is never a disappointment. You can grab a water taxi to get from different neighborhoods. The city also has a free bus line (the Charm City Circulator) that goes between different areas of interest. Notice all the ships in the harbor.        

The bar and restaurant area of Fells point is kitschy and fun. I was so happy to see that youngsters of all ages frequent these establishments. You don’t feel out of place at any age. We saw a number of bachelor and bachlorette parties – I can see why you might pick this area because one need not get into a car and drive from place to place – you can walk to many of the place in Fells Point – or take a water taxi or the bus.  Or….

…you can peddle by your own power and your friends power…

This is one of the many marinas in the city..

A cargo ship with the Domino sugar factory in the background.

Maryland is for Crabs (our old Maryland slogan from years ago). You have to have the token blue crab statue – Maryland is home to the very tasty blue crab.

  A boardwalk area along a water front in Fells Point.

It was a great day to hang outside and many of the local restaurants were packed full with people enjoying the warm day.

A schooner sitting outside the Schooner Inn in Fells Point….

  We walked and walked along the neighborhood streets and were treated to the cutest homes…How could I not photograph these adorable row houses?

THIS is no ordinary church! It is an old church that houses a personal training studio and yoga studio. If I lived in Fells Point I would come here to workout! How serene would it be to workout in an old church? The building’s architecture was lovely…(we couldn’t get inside- bummer!)      

We walked by some newer condo homes and I loved how the light hit the camera in this shot.   We ate dinner at an open air restaurant called Barcocina– and dined on tacos and more tacos. They were a bit spicy for me but it was a nice place to stop and rest for a while.  (I did not get a picture of it- duh Anne?)

This is the view from or room as the sun was setting. There was an O’s game going on and if you look at the real orange in the photo you can just see the stadium lights. We came home for a quick rest and planned on heading out into Little Italy for dessert…you would think we would end up at a wonderful Italian Bakery –no…I had read about another place and heard the food was awesome…and they had bowling so…

Sunset over Baltmore

…..we ended up at Mustang Alleys…What a great place! We didn’t bowl but we had an unreal dessert- okay 2 desserts that we could not finish. Worth every calorie! They even turned on the Nationals game for us! I am going back there.      

OMG….!! It was so good!

Finally we headed back to the hotel for the night..I have been charmed by Charm City. I think it might be love. I was thinking it might be fun to have a little place in the city someday( a pied-à-terre’?). Well one can dream can’t one? Anyway, it really is fun to talk with Kevin about the possibilities.  I am a country girl at heart but there is nothing like stepping out your door and being able to find something cool going on at any hour. No lawn to mow…and there were tons of dogs down there -so there you go! That must have on my list is now checked off.

I am not sure if this photo is scary or neat!

 

When I get away with my husband it makes me realize that when the kids are gone it won’t be boring. We wont just sit and wonder what to do everyday- we wont be bored with each other. Kevin and I love being together. He is truly my best friend. And its just easy to be with him. He gets me- I get him. I didn’t just fall in love with Charm City last weekend. No that was just a bonus. The best prize is that I fell a little bit more in love with my husband of 16 years. What a blessing he is…

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Thanks for reading….

Encroaching

It’s coming.(key ominous music) Even after much argument and protest from the people of quiet Monrovia ,MD it looks like the new Town Center is still coming. Where beautiful farmland once stood soon there will be a sea of stores and homes. It makes me sad. Maryland is a small state and a good amount of it borders cities so growth is inevitable I suppose. But I don’t like it.

Monrovia borders the town where I live but my home is pretty far from this new development. But growth is happening all around us and I realize it’s inevitable. I’ve seen too many farms swallowed up by development. I have lived in Maryland my entire life except for a stint in Boston, Massachusetts in 1985. So Maryland is in my heart. I went to school in western Maryland which is part of Appalachia. The beauty in that part of state is phenomenal and it enjoys beautiful farmland and it is slower to grow in the areas around the cities. At least those areas remain pristine. It used to be mostly farmland here in Central Maryland where I live. As populations grew, and small urban centers have been developed, we see the farmland slowly being pushed away and replaced by concrete.

It makes me sad when I know that kids just 15 -20 miles from here may have never been near a live chicken or don’t get to see horses or cows or sheep on regular basis. One of the prettiest things about where I live is the vast fields of beautiful crops and even in the winter they carry so much character and beauty. I’m sad to see them go. But a flat field doesn’t bring money like a flat field with homes and stores on it. Where one cities suburban edge touches another cities suburban edge-leaving no farmland in between.

I’m not against growth. I’m just for smart growth and sometimes the growth I see isn’t smart. I actually majored in Urban Planning in college and my professors took us on tours of areas in Maryland where they felt growth was smart and to others where they thought it was just sprawl which lacked a smart plan.  I wonder what they think of the changes in Maryland since 1985.

I consider myself spoiled because I wake up each day and can look out my window at open space. I can see my horses grazing. For some people that wouldn’t be exciting – they may find views of skyscrapers beautiful. We all have our ideas of beauty. But I bet many would agree that urban/suburban encroachment can get out of hand. I hate seeing the farmland leave us.

I’m hoping in my future my husband and I are able to live at the beach. And obviously we will give up the space we have here in the country in order to be close to the ocean. But I surely hope that open space won’t be hours away. I hope people in cities and suburbs don’t have to fly to Iowa to see farmland.

For now I will feel blessed that my backyard joins preservation land and I will hope that maybe someday builders and the powers that be realize that just because you can build homes and businesses all over beautiful farmland doesn’t mean you should. Sadly ,I think the almighty dollar speaks more than a field full of dirt and corn. But I can still hope.

Thanks for reading…

Short article about the approval:

http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/economy_and_business/business_topics/building/county-oks-monrovia-town-center/article_95af7f3f-715c-512e-9204-4c1482a03d08.html

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The farm in the backrgound was one of my favorites on Rt 80 in Monrovia. It looks as if they will remain for a while but look in the right side of the photo -can you see the houses being built?

 

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The farm in the pictures above is part of the left side of the map above in the area marked PUD.