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This Last House

A Retirement Memoir

Janis P. Stout

Publication Year: 2010

Janis Stout tackles the memoir with a new and inventive approach—she organizes her memories around the houses she’s lived in. ““I picture my life as a long row of houses.” Houses are metaphors for the structures of our lives, and Stout’s houses twine their way along with reflections on work and retirement, marriage, and quietness for engaging in the important last work of life.

Published by: TCU Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. vii

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p. ix

Thank you, Charles Rowell, for telling me, when I retired, that I ought to write a book about it. Thank you, Deborah Williams, for reading that talky first draft and saying, “It needs more story.” Thank you, Trey Hammond, for reading a revised version of the first draft and finding things in it to praise; ...

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Introduction: Finding Prickly Ridge

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pp. xi-xvi

One January day in 1997 my husband and I clambered up and over a steep slope at the side of a dirt road in New Mexico and stood for the first time on the land where we would build our house for retirement. ...

Part One: Remembrance of Houses Past

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Chapter One: The Rock House on Richardson Street

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pp. 3-20

Orange-brown rock walls. Steep gables. Sometimes green, sometimes brown wood trim. This is the house of my Fort Worth childhood, where I first opened my eyes on the world. This was the start of the trail that would finally lead to the mountains of New Mexico and our retirement home. ...

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Chapter Two: All Those Way Stations

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pp. 21-44

When I married Glenn—that’s what I’ll call him —I entered a life of perpetual moving. Partly, this was because of his enormous restlessness, but also it was just the way things were then.We were a mobile generation. But we were also a house-minded one. Trading up was the paradigm of the day. Our minds weren’t on ...

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Chapter Three: Something Completely Different

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pp. 45-62

The boys reacted to the news in very different and somewhat puzzling ways. Alan apparently hadn’t seen this coming at all. Home for the summer after his first year of college, he went in and out to his two part-time jobs with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. Doug, for all his limitations, had been more perceptive ...

Part Two: Moving into Retirement

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Chapter Four: Deciding to Retire

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pp. 65-88

It was Loren who started us thinking about retirement. One day in the most casual way, he just dropped the word—the R word—into our conversation, asking innocently enough, “When we retire, what do you think we’ll . . .” Or maybe it was, “I was thinking that after we retire, maybe we’ll want to . . .” Something like that, ...

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Chapter Five: Planning Our House

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pp. 89-104

Planning a house isn’t just a matter of drawing walls and the location of doors and windows on a piece of paper or a computer screen. These basics are important, of course, as are floor coverings and paint colors and all the other things that go into making a house, and any botched choice along the way ...

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Chapter Six: Leaving

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pp. 105-114

Retiring means leaving. Most obviously, leaving your job, but also leaving the people you see every day. You also leave a pattern of life that has structured your time and energies for a long time, maybe a whole adult lifetime. You leave that pattern without knowing whether you can find another one to replace it. ...

Part Three: On Cerro Espinoso

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Chapter Seven: Building It

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pp. 117-142

From central Texas to central New Mexico isn’t just a lot of miles, it’s a lot of difference. From a work life to a retired life is more difference still. Both retiring and moving to a new place to build a house are major life changes—all the more so when they both come at once. ...

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Chapter Eight: Being There

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pp. 143-180

Our house on the ridge was a fine place to learn to be retired. Once we got settled, our days fell into a comfortable rhythm. I wrote and quilted and read. Loren wrote and built a shed and read. We met at lunch and talked and then went back to what we were doing. The hours seemed as spacious as the high desert country around us. ...

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Chapter Nine: People Are More Important

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pp. 181-194

In 1912, the now revered, but then only aspiring, American novelist Willa Cather made her first visit to the Southwest. Her brother was stationed in Prescott, Arizona, with the Santa Fe Railway, and she went for a long visit with him, hoping to rest up from a hectic six years as editor at McClure’s Magazine and to find a new ...

Part Four: Back in Texas

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Chapter Ten: Building It Again

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pp. 197-214

Now we were not only going to build again, we were going to build the same house again. I suppose that is something very few people ever get to do. You hear people say they wish they could live their life over again and try to get it right—an option not available to any of us, and it’s probably just as well. But Loren and I did ...

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Chapter Eleven: At Home in the Limestone Hill Country

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pp. 215-232

John Graves, in Goodbye to a River, calls this “hardscrabble country.” He ought to know; he lives here. And he’s right, that’s what it is. The soil is thin and rocky, the grass sparse, the brush mostly cedar. Not good country for farming. The earliest white settlers who stopped their wagons here during a sequence of wet years ...

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Chapter Twelve: A Place to End

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pp. 233-240

Only five years retired, and it seems a perfectly natural way to live. My days have fallen into a comfortable rhythm. Yet I know it is not a rhythm that will continue. The time will come—unless something unforeseen whisks me away first—when I will move into yet another phase of life, technically a continuation of the ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780875654447
E-ISBN-10: 0875654444
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875654089
Print-ISBN-10: 0875654088

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 40
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 794700287
MUSE Marc Record: Download for This Last House

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Subject Headings

  • College teachers -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Home -- Psychological aspects.
  • Stout, Janis P.
  • Stout, Janis P. -- Homes and haunts.
  • Dwellings -- Psychological aspects.
  • New Mexico -- Biography.
  • Texas -- Biography.
  • Retirees -- New Mexico -- Biography.
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