New book published about my life as an innkeeper in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. My husband Jim and I purchased a 38 room inn in 1976. Little did we know what we were getting into, but after transforming the old resort into a fashionable country inn, we experienced so many fascinating moments, I wanted to record them for posterity. Join me as I tell all!
Here is the first chapter for your reading pleasure.
Be sure to order your copy today for the rest of the book. Based on fact - many names changed to protect identities.
On the scale of one to ten - ten being the worst - today is a nine-and-a-half.
A stomach virus has attacked three of the kids at once. The washer and dryer have gone non-stop as I change bed sheets and night clothes. Leo, our cat, has been missing for three days, and the dishwasher broke down last night. I’ve been too frazzled to call a repairman, so dirty dishes are piling up in the sink. It’s the fifth day of rain. As I dump a load of clothing on the floor for the washer, the phone rings.
“Junie, it’s me. How are the kids doing?” Mother’s voice registers her grandmotherly concern.
“Well, Scott and Bryan kept some chicken noodle soup down, but Jill is still throwing up. It’s a nightmare. How are you doing?”
“I feel fine, but I’m getting cabin fever. I was hoping to go on a shopping expedition with you to the King of Prussia Mall, but obviously, that’s out of the question.”
“Yeah, I’m afraid we will have to wait a few days for that.” I confess to being secretly relieved not to have to go shopping. It takes tremendous patience to shop with my mother. We have to check every store before purchasing any item and then, almost without fail, we return it a week later.
After signing off, I loaded the washer again and added detergent to my grocery list.
Scott struts into the kitchen in his Phillie’s baseball pajamas. “Mom, if I’m feeling better, can I go to the cub scout picnic Saturday?”
“Oh, Scott, I completely forgot. I have to make cupcakes!” I scribbled “make cupcakes” on a paper napkin and turn back to my son. “If you’re totally better by Friday, yes, you may go.”
“Hooray! Mom, I’m starving. Can I have a cheeseburger?” My nine-year-old looks at me with his big dark raw-umber eyes.
I reached over and hugged him. “Not a cheeseburger yet, honey, but I can make you a poached egg.”
He nodded and sat at the table to wait, setting up two dozen miniature soldiers in battle formation, while I prepare his eggs. The shooting sounds coming out of his mouth reassure me the worst is over. While he ate, I reached for my cupcake recipe and then remembered I’m out of sugar. Store-made cupcakes will do just fine.
Laurie, our 15-year-old came in the back door from school with a load of books. “I think I’m next, Mom.” Her color resembled a dish of cold oatmeal, and she decided against her normal snack. As she passed me, I checked her forehead. I’m pretty good at guessing temperatures and she definitely had a fever.
I looked in on the other two children. Bryan, who is nearly twelve, and Jill, our six-year-old were playing a game of gin rummy. No one had thrown up for five hours.
It was reassuring to know my husband, Jim, planned to be home early from his insurance job. We might even have a quiet dinner by ourselves after the kids are in bed.
Around eight, I put on Vivaldi and lit candles as we settle down for warmed-over meatloaf with some burgundy wine. Jim seemed quieter than usual. I glanced over at him and wondered if he might be coming down with the virus. Instinctively, I reached across the table to feel his forehead. Nope. Cool.
He grinned at me with that ‘much too cute’ Italian smile. “What’s that all about?”
“Just checking, but you seem normal.”
“As normal as I can ever be, you mean?”
His chuckle reassured me for the moment. Then I proceeded to fill him in on all the gory details of my day. “But how did your day go, honey? I’ve been so busy talking about my problems, I forgot to ask about you.”
“Oh, typical day. Same old stuff. Jack piled more files on my desk. I also had to get photos on this morning. Big accident claim.”
Silence. I look over waiting for more details. He appeared pre-occupied. “I detect there’s more going on in that head of yours. Is anything wrong?”
“I’m fine. It’s just…well, I realized today how long I’ve been in the insurance business. It’s been eleven years and I basically do the same thing every day. I'm really getting bored and don't find the work very challenging.” He hesitated and looked at me with his chestnut-colored eyes for a response.
I nod and pour myself another glass of wine. This conversation is going somewhere, but I’m not sure where. “Go on,” I offer, secretly hoping he won’t.
“Well, while I’m still young enough, I’d like to quit this rat race and do something different and challenging. Actually maybe we could find something to do together.”
I tried to sound calm, but inside I felt anything but. “I know you aren’t happy at your job any more, but please, let’s not talk tonight. My brain is total mush.”
“I guess my timing was poor.”
“I wasn’t going to bring it up tonight, but since you asked–”
“My mistake. Let’s talk about it another time.”
“It’s just hard to deal with the monotony of the job.” Jim put his hand on mine and smiled his sweetest smile – which doesn’t help me a bit. “Thanks for listening, honey.”
Oh, please don’t ‘honey’ me. I need to remain detached.
It was several days before I allowed myself to think of what Jim was asking. Working for a large insurance company might be boring, but it did offer health insurance, a company car, retirement benefits, and a paycheck every two weeks. There’s a lot to be said for security. And what could we do together and get paid for?
My talents are speedy diaper changing, canning tomatoes, wiping runny noses, and stretching a pound of meat to feed six. What do I know about making money? Besides, I enjoy my role as wife and mother. I have gone through a difficult period after a divorce and raising four little ones alone. Now after four years of marriage with Jim, many of our early problems have been ironed out. We have a lovely 18th century farmhouse on seven acres with a great vegetable garden. The kids have friends and attend good schools – even the cats are happy. Yes, our stray has returned, a little skinnier, but as ornery as ever.
After years of neglecting my art, I’ve resumed painting. I’m taking classes with Ed Lis, a wonderful teacher, and I have even presented a one-woman show on the . Do I really want this change now?
I have seen Jim’s lack of enthusiasm for his job, and inwardly, I know he needs a challenge in his life. Since that night when he brought this whole thing up, I can barely think of anything else.
It is several evenings later - the sun has shone most of the day, the kids aren’t throwing up any more and my dishwasher is working again - so I brought up the subject. Somehow it doesn’t seem all that impossible now to take a step into uncharted waters. I agreed, at least, to consider alternatives.
Jim was delighted at the prospect of being his own boss, and we began a daily discussion of ‘ifs’ and ‘what-ifs.’ Jim mentioned running a day care center. I’m raising the four kids – five, every other weekend – so his suggestion definitely does not strike me as a whole lot of fun. Scratch that one.
We researched the idea of owning and managing a nursing home or retirement center, but we lack start-up money and experience, and it would require far too much of my time: raising our young children remains my life’s prime mission.
“How about artist and promoter?” Jim questioned.
“Totally unrealistic. We’d starve in a month. What about a fabric store?”
Jim grunted. “I can’t even walk into one.”
We considered a nursery – the green kind, but there are too many in our area, and one recently closed. Nothing really hit us, but it was fun to dream.
We reside in a lovely community, west of , called Westtown. Jim’s whole family lives in or near the city, and we enjoy getting together with them for holidays and Sunday dinners. My mother, who divorced after nearly forty years of marriage, is living in an apartment a couple of miles from us and is coping with her situation. She needs to be near us. How would a move, if necessary, affect everyone involved? There are so many considerations. We decide not to discuss the changes which might take place with the other family members until we are closer to a decision. Perhaps we wouldn’t even have to move, so life could go on pretty much as always for the rest of our loved ones.
It’s summertime. Spring and summer are absolutely beautiful in , and this year is no exception. My days are filled with gardening, providing healthful meals for the family, painting, and relaxing on our screened-in porch, which looks out on fields and rolling hills. Laurie helped me prepare beans from the garden for the freezer, and we’ve canned tomatoes – tons of them. Most late afternoons, when Jim comes home from work, he changes his clothes and spends time weeding and trimming. The garden is work, but we all enjoy the results of fresh lettuce, corn on the cob (if we beat the raccoons), and the many other vegetables. Jim has purchased a real tractor for cutting the fields. We enjoy playing ‘homesteaders.’
Our stone l8th century home is my dream-house come true. It has so much character with its four fireplaces, deep sills, and six-paneled doors. Our family room is on the lowest of four levels. It had been a summer kitchen and contains a large walk-in fireplace, still sporting its original crane for hanging the old iron pots. It’s always cool down there and during the heat of a three-digit summer day, we spend most of the afternoon there – the kids playing or reading – while I catch up with the mending or ironing.
We have six gnarly old apple trees left from the eighteenth century orchard growing behind the house. One of those apple trees produces apples so large, that once I baked an eight-inch apple pie from one apple! It made incredibly good apple sauce.
My clotheslines are strung between two of the trees and I enjoy hanging the clothes in the fresh air. It has become my thing. It is my “alone time – my thinking time.” I work on being organized – hanging pairs of socks in order of size and arranging the towels by color – that sort of thing. It prolongs the process, which is part of the reason I do it. It is my commune with nature. It has nothing to do with saving money on the dryer. It’s just something I enjoy doing. Would I have to give this up, too?
Jim and I have finally completed turning the top floor attic into three bedrooms and a full bathroom for the children. We worked every weekend through the winter doing the carpentry. We did hire professionals to do the electrical and the plumbing, but the rest we tackled ourselves. Neither of us had experience in carpentry, so I read aloud from a book about home construction when we arrived at situations beyond our capability. In an old home like ours, each stud had to be cut to fit, since nothing was level. We wanted to preserve the house’s natural beauty, so we worked around existing windows and alcoves, instead of replacing them. Nothing was plumb.
Now with this house project completed, we all enjoy more privacy. Jim and I use the whole second floor for our bedroom, office, sewing and art area. Bryan and Scott share a room, as they always have, on the third floor. It works out most of the time even though their personalities occasionally conflict. The girls, Laurie and Jill, each have their own room. Jim has a daughter by a previous marriage and when Christina visits, she stays with Jill. They are only three months apart in age and are very close. Christina has fair complexion and dark brown hair and eyes, while Jill has reddish brown hair. They are about the same size and frame. As soon as Christina arrives on the week-ends, the two run off with their Barbie dolls or coloring books and entertain each other. Having two brothers, they also like climbing trees and playing hide-and-seek in the fields and woods surrounding the house.
The boys play baseball every afternoon, weather permitting. Home base is situated under a large willow tree and the grass is non-existent; just one of the consequences of raising healthy children.
So now, since we are all settled into our home, the children have scads of friends and I enjoy my life tremendously, it makes the discussion of a move even more difficult.
In spite of all this, Jim is growing more restless all the time. Loving a challenge, I admit I am excited about the possibility of working together at something new. We are still sort of newlyweds, and I love having him home. It surprises me I would even consider a major life change, but I am only in my thirties and nothing seems impossible at this tender age.
We continue to talk and dream. We’re considering many alternatives, but nothing strikes us as very exciting or challenging. So we keep our thoughts on our mental back burners and continue to live our lives normally – almost.
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