Home is Where the Heart is

I’ve heard so many people repeat the old adage, “Home is where the heart is.”  Home is also where my Oreo cookies and Doritos are, along with my collection of dust bunnies and dirty laundry.  But what exactly do people mean when they say, “Home is where the heart is?”

I feel a sense of home in places where I’ve never actually lived.  To me, West Virginia is home because of all the fond memories I have of spending summers there with my family.  My grandparents just felt like home. Going off the main road and into the holler, I was home. As strange as it might sound, I also feel a sense of kinship and nostalgia for places I’ve never even visited, like Ireland.  Perhaps more moving (for me at least), I feel a strong sense of calm and peace when my kids are both home for dinner or a holiday celebration. They are home to me. I feel that at that time, my home is heaven on earth; I feel that the world could collapse outside the four walls of my physical house and the three of us would be just fine.

The other day I was out with my daughter, and she started feeling sick.  She wanted to go home.  Now home wasn’t going to be a magical place where she would immediately start feeling better, and she knew that.   She just needed to be in her own space, her own place, and the one spot in the world where she felt comfortable.  It isn’t the brick and mortar home that she needed, it was the feeling that she needed.  At that point, she needed to be on her couch, surrounded by cats, and the things she knows and loves.  This house, or rather, the feeling that it evokes, is our home. My daughter doesn’t much care for our current house.  Neither do I, if I’m being honest. We don’t like the location and we feel we have never truly belonged here.  Even though we are moving in the somewhat near future, this is still our spot on the map, our space, our home.

I remember on 9/11, my now-ex-husband and I were out and about (trying to find a computer repair shop, actually) … I think most adults remember where they were that day.  As the tragedy unfolded, all I wanted was to be home. It just so happened that home was my parents.  Never mind that I was married with kids and a house of my own, I needed to be with my family.  My husband never understood that, and in fact, he even got angry with me for wanting us to be with my folks and not just “depending” on him.  His sense of home never included extended family (mine or his); he always viewed extended family as “outsiders.” On the long list of reasons we are no longer married, this one is certainly in the top five.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. “Home,” not 9/11. What makes a home a home?  Home is where …

  • The pajamas are: If you can roll out of bed without brushing your hair and lay on that couch with the lump in the one cushion and the mystery stain on the armrest without giving a darn, you are home.  Or Wal-Mart, but most likely, home.
  • The laughter is: Your walls hold the keys to your happiness.  Every good thing that has happened is memorialized in the kitchen, the living room, or the bedroom.  You share the gift of laughter freely in the rooms of your home.
  • The tears are: Where were you when the phone rang with some piece of unbelievable, heartbreaking news?  When you hung up the phone, you collapsed on your couch or bed and just cried.  Your home heard your tears and surrounded you with comfort in the face of unbelievable heartache.
  • Your family is: No matter how old you get, you’re never too old to need your family.  Home follows you from house to house.  It’s transient.  Home is where your parents are, your friends are, or your kids are, and yes, where your cats (and all critters!) are.  Home is where you are surrounded by love.
  • Your snacks are: No matter where you roam, there is only one place with the stockpile of snacks that you truly love.  No need to look around to see who is watching you either, just gorge yourself on those jelly beans.
  • Your stuff is: The finest five-star resort has got nothing on your own bed, couch, or desk.  I suppose the view and the fact that people wait on you might be a bit better at a luxury resort … but there is a level of comfort in your own home that cannot be matched by any high-dollar hotel in the world.  No matter how fun your vacation is, when it’s over, you just want to be back home, surrounded by your duct-taped kitchen faucet and the toilet that doesn’t run right unless you jiggle the handle.
  • Your door is opened, or closed: You can be as welcoming as you’d like, or turn off your lights and hide like it’s Halloween and you just gave out your last Snickers bar.  It’s the freedom to be who you like, when you like, that makes home

I’m not sure that “Home is where the heart is” means the same to everyone.  To some, it is the feeling of the actual house, welcoming and warm through its doors.  To others, it’s family and friends, or pets, and a favorite old movie you’ve seen hundreds of times.  It’s a feeling of nostalgia, of calm, of peace, and of knowing that no matter how rotten you feel physically or mentally, there is a space where you can be free to feel however you are feeling.

To me, it’s a combination of all these things that make me feel like I am home now, and I will be home wherever I wander next.

Valentine Musings

Exactly 1,792 years ago, in the Central Italian town of Terni, a little boy was born who would grow up to be the subject of over 150 million greeting cards a year, second only to those sent at Christmas. His name was Valentinus of Terni. As an adult he was quite good at converting the Romans to Christianity. This didn’t sit too well with the Roman Emperor Claudius. When the 43 year-old Valentinus politely refused the Emperor’s suggestion to stop converting Romans, Claudius had him beheaded on February 14th, 269.  Ahhh. Good times.

And that’s why on February 14th of every year we celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving flowers, candy, jewelry, and greeting cards to those we love.  Yeah, I’m sorry. I just don’t see the connection.  It actually wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people started celebrating Valentine’s Day.  Now, here we are, centuries later, with the notion of gifting our loved ones with chocolates and over-sized bears a part of our cultural fabric, except for that brief, yet fun, period when insults were all the rage.

It starts in kindergarten. First, making a little construction-paper and doily covered mailbox to hold all our valentines – that was my favorite part, I’ll have to admit. Then exchanging little cards with each other, the teacher making sure that everyone got one. In grade school, we’d make construction-paper red and white hearts for our parents and a select few of our more crush-worthy classmates. In junior high (this was in the years before “middle school” became a thing), we became much more selective, and secretive, when acknowledging Valentine’s Day with classmates.  With high school (at least, my high school) came the single roses or carnations sold by the PTA for $2 a piece…flowers that would be delivered to the classrooms at some point in the day for all our fellow students to behold and admire.

As adults, we moved on to more serious gift giving. Last year, Americans spent $19.7 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts. I’m pretty sure that the majority of that money was spent on gifts to soothe ruffled feathers, hold on to troubled relationships, or for relationship “prospecting.” But hey, whatever moves the economy along and provides for 50% off candy the day after, I’m all for it. At least, the 50% off candy part.

As for me, I’m spending Valentine’s Day as a single person this year. Believe or not, I find it quite liberating.  Single adults have been emancipated from what I call “The Great Valentine’s Day Duty Dash.” You’ve all probably witnessed this great phenomenon. It is a double tidal wave of frantic people flooding CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and 7-11 stores across the country, desperately looking for something (preferably not too expensive) that they can give a significant other to celebrate a holiday that somehow was able to sneak up on them.

The first wave arrives on the evening of February 13th. They look like a horde of locusts stripping a Kansas wheat field. Candy, cards, cheap perfume, wine, flowers, teddy bears, candles, Gillette Venus shaving kits.

The second wave arrives around 5:00 PM on February 14th. Rush hour. The stores have desperately tried to restock the shelves, but not much is left.  People begin to realize that if they don’t come home with a Valentine’s Day gift, they might as well just not go home. When they discover that the last of the Snickers bars and My Little Pony Lip Gloss are gone, they fall to the floor and begin flipping about like tuna on the deck of a fishing boat.

As a single person, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. The angst of buying the “right gift,” or any gift, is gone. The decisions about the appropriateness or cost of a gift are non-issues. After spending more years than I would like to admit stressing out over being faulted on my gift choices – as well as my reaction to gifts given to me, I’m glad to have a break in the routine. When I was younger, I didn’t think it would ever be possible, but my experiences have dimmed the shine of cupids and hearts and hastily thrown together reservations at that candlelit Italian restaurant. And that’s okay too. That life was not all it was cracked up to be, trust me, and no amount of Valentine’s Day pageantry would’ve fixed it. I’ve since found that what I want in a relationship is something deeper, something real, something that doesn’t need to be glossed over with decorative red and pink trappings to keep it afloat.  Now, I have different romantic goals.

When my soulmate and I do connect on Valentine’s Day? It won’t be with heart-shaped boxes of candy and cards and cute stuffed animals or a reservation at that exclusive, yet somehow still overly crowded, restaurant with a fixed holiday menu. It will be with whiskey and action movies and dancing in the living room. And ice cream. Or cheesecake. I’m good either way.

Inside is the New Outside

The Queen ne’er-do-well scans her realm for interlopers and contemplates the vast kingdom that is hers. From inside. Where it’s warm. Because it’s cold as hell Alaska out there. Or maybe even Antarctica. And who wants that?

boy, those squirrels look cold. stupid squirrels.


where’s my snack, servant?

A Radical Idea

Now I’m not about to pontificate like some hippy guru coming down from her cabin in the Vermont mountains, but please, take a look at the picture below. That’s our universe. It’s where we live. See how small we are?  See how absolutely minuscule our existence is in the grand scheme of things? We’re pretty much a drop in the bucket and that’s being generous.

I don’t mean to say this to be depressing. Quite the opposite, truth be told. It’s supposed to be a reminder that before we get livid over political differences, religious beliefs, or even just the people who cut in front of us in traffic, we should remember that we’re really sort of insignificant in this vast web of gases and atoms.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in what’s going on in our world today, especially politically speaking (goodness knows, we have to be now, more than ever), or that we should give up on our faith to placate someone else… what I am saying however, is that when it comes to arguing with strangers online or with Uncle John at the next family dinner — neither of whom will be listening anyway, because they’re so entrenched in their own mindset — maybe rethink your participation in an argument that will only serve to create stress and anxiety for you and will likely end up being more of a name-calling contest than a civil debate anyway.

Instead of getting enraged, how about we just focus on being nice to each other? That’s it — just be nice. Pretty simple, right?  I just think that as we rotate around our gargantuan sun that in itself is part of an unimaginably vast galaxy within an inconceivable array of other galaxies (with the potential of other dimensions that could be just as large), let’s just try to make the ride a little more pleasant for each other.

And let’s not include just humans in that concept – include animals, too.  Be nice to other living creatures.  I mean, really, how hard is that?  When you sit down and think about it, it just seems like the most logical thing to do.

However, I know it will never happen on a large scale because we’re human after all, and something as simple as “being nice” would just never work for our species as a whole. It’s beyond us, which is sad, really. But imagine what we could accomplish if we could pull off this amazing yet simplistic feat!  The issues that could be settled and the problems that could be resolved are boundless.

So maybe we start small.  Maybe smile at that neighbor who is always grumpy or hold the elevator for that person who is obviously late.  Perhaps throw some food to the stray you usually shoo away.  Or give some change to the homeless person you always try to ignore as you make your way to work.  Maybe realize that your kids can have a bad day too so you ignore the half-made bed that would normally spawn a lecture, and instead pull out a family board game.  It should all be so easy, really.

And the craziest part of this hare-brained idea is that the world, which is already so overwhelmed with stress and worry, would actually become a better place, allowing for less and less stuff to be stressed and worried about.  I know….ironic, right?

Friend Therapy

My dog Petra, I may have mentioned before, loves to burrow under blankets, or anything really. It’s her thing. Petra is not the bravest soul in the universe — with good reason, her life before coming to us was not the best. To make a long story short, burrowing under a blanket, preferably her own, makes her feel safe and comforted, and it has the added effect of being completely adorable. My house is full of blankets. They’re on the couch, the chairs, in the corner by the bookshelf, in a box (just as an aside, it was NOT my idea to keep this Amazon box indefinitely, but the animals — cats and dogs alike, have taken a liking to it, so I figured, what the hell), and in the dogs’ beds. Whew. That’s a lot of dog blankets.

Not being particularly smart, or perhaps not realizing, even after all this time, the depths of Petra’s need to burrow, I washed ALL of the blankets at once this past week. The drama that ensued…the whining, the whimpering, the crying…as this dog searched the house for a blanket was a sight to behold. I almost sat down and cried myself. I felt guilty. I felt stupid for not thinking to leave out one blanket. I felt bad for making Petra sad and uncomfortable. And then, I felt stupid for feeling all of the above.

In comes Rufus to the rescue. Rufus the Invincible.  He didn’t like that Petra was nervous and whimpering. He didn’t like that at all. I don’t know if he understood why. He couldn’t care less for blankets, but he does have favorite toys — and knows where they are at all times, so maybe he did understand her discomfort. At any rate, he swooped in and saved the day. As an aside, I must state here that Rufus and Petra love each other, they play and hang out and are always concerned about each other, but they like their own space. Rufus especially. They don’t lay together or sleep together…they never share the same bed (they’re much too prim and proper). But one afternoon this past week, when Mom was dumb enough to wash all of the blankets at once (a day that will go down in infamy, let me tell you), Rufus let Petra join him in his favorite bed, and there she stayed, comforted by his presence.

And I learned a good lesson: that in the future, one blanket would always get washed separately…so this horrible day will never be repeated.

dogs in bed together2

Rufus was giving me the side-eye because he was not happy with my laundry choices or my decision to immortalize the event on film (okay, it was really just my phone, but you get the idea)

Can I Have This Dance?

You know, growing up I just always thought that slow dances would somehow play more of an active role in my adult life. In fact, if you ever watch Hallmark Channel movies, they too feed into the whole slow dance myth…in virtually every movie, couples end up slow dancing at some point in time. The realities of adulthood are so disappointing. Or maybe I’m just hanging out with the wrong people.