Posted by: deadmousediaries | November 28, 2012

News from the Path Valley Hotel, Episode #1 – In Search of My Sledgehammer


Dear Friends of the Path Valley Hotel – thanks for following my crazy stories about the adventures here at the PVH. I’d like to think we’ve barely popped the top on the barrel of monkeys still waiting to spring here. At last posting, we were already into Episode #56 — with holes left for a few of those infamous missing episodes to keep things interesting. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember this saga started very unceremoniously without an Episode #1. You were thrown right into my adventure without warning, with no guidebook or compass. Me, too.

   It’s been five months since I first welcomed you into my little hotel but today’s post is the tell-all, tabloid version of why I keep the light on for all of us.This is why I am here now, carving out a living space from what had dissolved into a giant closet over the past 17 years. If any of this resonates at all with any of you, I’d love it if you let me know. MK

In Search of My Sledgehammer

   When I finally realized she would never stop following me, I knew I needed my sledgehammer. Like Evelyn in Fried Green Tomatoes, I caught a glimpse of my life and realized I needed some light and some air. I craved it. If I was ever going to surface again, I needed to smash a few walls to uncover where I had left my self.

   I had been walking past a freezer in the grocery story when I first saw her, a defeated old woman looking back every time I caught a reflection of the me who should have been cruising alongside my shopping cart. I’m so glad my Drama Queen stepped up when I stopped and cried because she wrote me a huge permission slip right on the spot (and at least she was wearing great shoes and a little make up).

It had been seven months since my dad had died, six months since my mother had been hospitalized, five months since my daughter had rolled her Jeep and four months since my husband had survived quadruple by-pass. Only three days had passed since I had closed the door on my parents’ farm for the final time and dropped the keys and their lifetimes into the hands of strangers. Why, the Queen asked, did I think my authentic self could have survived it?

I began disappearing slowly at first, with little piranha nibbles. Tiny bites of me went missing and the holes that were left were unrecognized like someone who is losing weight but continues to see the same accustomed image in the mirror. The ache felt familiar. I thought it was from grieving or from carrying too much too far for too long but something more was crushing me. Even my journal pen had gone dry. How could I have forgotten? My grocery store image suddenly revealed all I needed to know. That was the day I called the electrician. And the plumber, And the roofer. And the phone company.

I have always craved time on my own. For 30 years, I had a career that kept me on the road part of nearly every day. I loved those hours of sweet insulation with no obligation to entertain or to endure another’s company. The more gas I burned, the more the miles refueled my soul and my brain. I arrived home each day relaxed and energized, happy to give my family all of me that they needed. But the past year had been too much.

My parents’ declining health had begun in time to give us all some preview into the year ahead. My husband had known for five years that his first heart procedure had only bought him some time and my daughter? Well, who ever knows about a girl and her Jeep? The person who should have known what was wrong and didn’t was me. I was slapped awake in Aisle 14 to realize I had to create my own exit strategy from the crazy-making.

I tell my husband all that time that I always love him but like him every day? Some days, not so much. I had my mother settled in a retirement home; my grown kids both had jobs — and one had a new old Jeep. The final question was: Had I been keeping me on my radar? Fail.

I knew how to wield my sledgehammer even if I needed someone else to swing it so I swooped into my savings and began rehab on our old family cabin. While the contractors plumbed and electrified, I demolished cobwebs like a woman on fire, braving saucer-sized spiders and the occasional back porch snake. On other days, I worked only with old friends–Adele and Vivaldi, the Beach Boys and Linkin Park — who pumped in vital fluids from my rescue CDs. After every little victory, cupboards cleared, drains that drained, I searched the mirror and watched my pixels reconfigure as Real Me slowly came back into focus. Finding me had become my job and I have always been very good at my work.

The first overnight stays at the cabin took place without running water. I had been there a week ahead of the appliances but what I needed most was always there: space, air and possibilities. What I had been craving all those months was in my hand and it was abundant, free and glorious. My daughter told her friends I was moving out but I realized I was simply moving on, one pair of underwear at a time.

   I have loved dating my husband these last few months while he patiently holds down the fort at home. In the meantime, my kids and Mom spend some nights with me in a kind of syncopated rhythm that magically works for us. One thing I know for sure is that I am curing my craving and recovering my mojo by climbing back into my tree house. If I get tired of loading the wood stove, I may move home this winter. Or maybe not.



  1. I enjoyed your post immensely! The story stirred heart felt empathy which I can relate too. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Susan. I hope this particular post gets re-read and shared. Maybe I can help someone else realize we must claim time for ourselves because no one else grants us that until we are too broken to have anything left to give.

  2. Oh dear lady, with tears in my eyes I finished your story. I’m sure many of us a can relate to your journey. And, when we all meet that old lady in aisle 14………..oh what an eye opener (I really didn’t like what she looked like). Whether it is a cabin, a back porch, or a back yard……………may all us remember who we are, what we have to offer and what nourishes our mojo. May your refilling cup overflow!!! Wishing you all things good and big hugs.

    • Thank you, Karin. I know this year has been filled with challenges for YOU. I love the fact that you recognize that even a backyard can provide the getaway that we all need to claim for ourselves — on more occasions that we actually do it.

  3. I loved this post because it is so REAL! I think there are MANY women who have lost themselves in the midst of family, friends, jobs, crises, and just life. Those quiet moments are so essential to bringing ourselves back from where we were. I treasure my days of solitude and am so glad that you found a place where you can spend time nurturing YOU!

    • Thank you for “getting it.” I wrote this one several months ago but chose not to post it because I knew it might cause a stir. I’ve had a lot of women friends visit here in the past five months and every single one of them has recognized the power of sanctuary.

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