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.


In route between my little town and the next biggest town – keeping in mind, over here, these size estimations are all relative – is a billboard advertising a casino located one state over. The message on this billboard changes monthly and often depends on who the headlining entertainer is or what the latest “jackpot” includes, such as $3 million and an SUV, or some such thing.  Anyway, this month’s message is “My casino is my family…” and it had a woman surrounded by happy, smiling, hugging people – presumably casino employees.

On our first drive by this new sign, without missing a beat, my daughter, ever the smart-ass intelligent woman stated “If your casino is your family, then you have a problem. Cause that sounds like an addiction. That’s not a billboard for a casino, that’s a cry for help right there.” Then, having voiced this sage observation, she went back to looking at her phone without another word.

Although her perfect, deadpan delivery doesn’t translate well to the written word, I’m telling you, this girl has a serious shot at a successful stand-up career.

While we wait for my daughter’s future to manifest, I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from the queen of deadpan herself, Margaret Smith.


Memory Lapses

I am creative.  I am powerful.  I am woman, hear me roar.  I am also just a tad forgetful.  Like “forget what I had for breakfast while the fork is still in my hand” forgetful.  I need to document my thoughts while I am out and about or they will be forever forgotten in the vast jungle of my mind.

What do you do if your mind is a sieve?  If you’re anything like me, you send notes via text to yourself to remember ideas, appointments, and events.  If it’s not written down, I can forget a thought quicker than anyone else I know.  I was going to suggest an Olympic Sport called Speed Forgetting, but I forgot to mail the letter.

Yesterday evening, I was looking through my text messages for something and came across this message I sent myself over a week ago.  Check this out:

“The eyes are the windows to the soul. Sometimes they reflect a vision of hell.”

Wow.  What a deep thought.  What a great lead in to an unforgettable blog post.

Too bad I cannot recall for the life of me what I was thinking when I wrote it.  Or where I was, or what I was doing.

This cryptic line seems to be the beginning of a wonderful biopic journal of my life’s journey.  It is a cool line for the first sentence of a horror story.  It could have been what I thought when I woke up one morning and saw bags and dark circles under my eyes after spending a sleepless night trying to remember my Great-Grandmother’s middle name.

I have absolutely no idea why I sent that to myself. At all. Was it because of an instance of animal cruelty that I’ve seen? People suck, I’ve said that often…because they do, and it’s very possible that an incident of animal cruelty prompted that comment to myself. It’s equally possible that the stories about school shootings or perhaps a news story of a child abuse victim or domestic abuse victim set me off.  Or, the amazing line could have come to me as I was watching a poor retailer slog through a transaction with a customer who was acting like a complete asshole, or a woman who realized she was wearing white after Labor Day.

The world may never know.

The way my swiss cheese brain works is a mystery, even to myself.  There are just so many versions of hell, and everyone you meet everywhere has their own personal hell.  For some, hell might be driving to work.  Someone else’s hell may be dealing with their cable company (and I suspect the cable guy has a few versions of hell as well).  The upper class may think it is hell dealing with the butler, and the butler sure as heck knows it’s hell dealing with his snobby boss.  The lower class sees the hell of poverty and sadness every day, and the middle class thinks it is hell to have to pay taxes to help the poor through that particular hell. A child thinks hell is when school is not cancelled for a snow day; the teachers probably agree with that version of hell and the parents may, too. Hell is not being able to use that amazing word in Words with Friends that you really want to use, or my personal favorite, forgetting why I walked into a room.

So many meanings of hell.  So many possible reasons for my amazingly creative phrase.  Such a shame to have such severe short term…and long term, apparently…memory loss that I cannot recall the moment this profound statement was imagined.

Think about it.  “The eyes are the windows to the soul. Sometimes they reflect a vision of hell.”  I want you to consider this phrase carefully.  I want you to ponder it deeply.  Repeat it over and over.

And then, can you please tell me what the hell I was thinking!?

A Toast to Toasts

I love to be validated. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

Things I would love to find out I am right about include:  tofu not only tastes bad, but it is bad for you, being a couch potato adds ten years to your life, and drinking regularly is good for you.  While the jury is still out on tofu, a study published here gives me reason to dream again.

Yes folks, it is true.  Drinking two drinks per day will allow you to live to 90+ years.  Read that again, my friends.  Drinking two drinks per day is “more likely to extend life past 90 than exercise.” All this time, I’ve been doing it right.  Take THAT, health fanatics!  While you’ve all been out doing healthy things like “walking,” “working out,” and “getting up from the couch on occasion,” I’ve been sipping wine, with the remote by my side, on the sofa and adding years – years, people! – to my life.

I wonder how many other things we will find out are good or bad for us that we never imagined.  My dream list would include:

Housecleaning is dangerous for your health:  Think about it.  You are inhaling dust, subjecting your body to strange chemicals, and moving.  The moving alone, per the study above, is obviously not that good for you after all.  And talk about physical harm?  I have tripped over the vacuum cleaner cord many times in my quest for a clean house; dear God, I could have died!

Fast food is good for you:  GMO vegetables and fruit…why bother?  With a good old fashioned #3 from your favorite fast food menu, you know exactly what you are getting.  Well, sort of.  It may or may not be meat that may or may not have been from a farm animal, but you get the gist. I’m not even sure about those fries. Don’t be lazy, though; get out of the car and walk up to the counter to add some moderate exercise to your fast food routine (I’m told this also helps in getting one’s order correct).

Laundry is a bad idea:  From water waste to chemicals, laundry surely is bad for both you and the environment.  Disposable clothes made from biodegradable material is the answer here.  No need to fold, put away, hand wash, put away, separate, put away, or put away your laundry ever again.  Also, you never need to put away your laundry ever again. Just so you know, I keep track of this stuff, so no-one better steal my ideas.

Paying bills is bad for you:  This, of course, is a big one. The anguish of money pouring out of your account.  The possibility of stolen identity with each online bill paid.  Surely, paying bills has to be a danger to your mental health.  Let’s band together and just stop paying those pesky things; our lives will be longer, happier and stress free.  Hey, who turned out the lights!?

Chocolate is an undiscovered food group on that omnipresent pyramid:  I think the Aztecs and Mayans had this one right. One day, scientists will figure out that chocolate is its own food group.  They will study it and assign it a place on the food pyramid.  Health coaches and nutritionists will recommend five to six servings a day.  It will also be discovered that chocolate has the side effect of weight loss.

Rest assured, I will be scouring the news in search of more vindication of my border-line slovenly lifestyle.  Until I find more proof that my way of life is healthy, I will be knocking back a few glasses of Pinot Gris Health Juice and watching reruns on the couch.


It’s a Mad, Mad World

A Nifty Look at Firsts in the Self-Service Industry

This may be an older topic, but I’d like to visit it for a moment.  For the first time ever (yes, ever), the people of Oregon are pumping their very own gasoline into their very own cars, and it is Armageddon out there (read here). The concept is hardly new – as the rest of us know all too well, and it doesn’t affect everyone within the state; the angst is, however, very real.

Some people are claiming that only qualified people can pump gasoline (I guess those that have that rare Masters’ Degree in Pumpology), others are claiming it will end jobs in the illustrious gas pumping job markets, and others are somehow incorporating this into the global warming argument.

In the spirit of this, I’d like to point out a few other “self-service areas” that we, as modern technological wizards, have overcome.

  1. The Slurpee Machine

How his hands must have trembled in fear, rattling his plastic Slurpee cup, as Maurice Von Slurper stepped before the intimidating machine in his local 7-11.  Could he?  Couldn’t he?  What if he spilled?  Did he dare take on the challenge of mixing two flavors into the same cup?  Would it overflow?  What if he under-filled it, and ended up still having to pay full price? I cannot imagine the thoughts flowing through this man’s mind as he pulled that lever for the very first time.

  1. The ATM

Maude Moola stared at the ATM on the wall in abject fear.  It not only sucked her card away from view, but it was asking VERY personal questions.  She drew a deep breath and reached out a shaking finger to push “Enter.”  There were whirring sounds from deep within the machinery, and she jumped back in terror.  Then, suddenly, cash spit out at her through a narrow opening, and her card reappeared magically before her eyes.  In a later in-depth interview with her local paper, Maude was quoted as saying, “I truly hope they give that tiny little man in that machine a break now and then. I feel for him, I really do.”

  1. Redbox

Cindy Ma was a risk taker, it’s true, and she boldly punched that touch-screen to explore the cinematic options as they unfolded before her.  She snatched the movie from the slot and held it triumphantly over her head as the spectators cheered.  It is rumored her first words after dominating the Redbox and opening the clear plastic case to her movie were, “Blue Ray?  What in the world is a Blue Ray?”

  1. The Library

Not only can you now check out books via self-serve in some libraries, you can return them that way as well.  Henry McHermit was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that he now only had to wear pants one time per library visit; the book return was done with a machine built into the outer wall of the library. He didn’t even have to exit his car. Joy of joys! Unfortunately for McHermit, he decided to celebrate by going through a drive through Burger King where the cashier was, in fact, a person and who sat up much higher than our pantless McHermit realized.  Charges are pending.  McHermit assures us that he is planning on wearing pants to the hearing. Everyone involved breathed a sigh of relief.

  1. Self-Check-Out Lanes

Poor Barry Scanner was stuck in the endless loop of “unexpected item in bagging area” and “item removed from bagging area, please replace the item” for nearly twenty minutes as the first user of the self-check-out lane at the Piggly Wiggly.  In that twenty minutes, Mr. Scanner developed intense feelings for the register.  “Her voice,” Mr. Scanner explained, “just droned on and on, repeating the same two phrases over and over in a nagging way.  It reminded me so much of my ex-wife.”  His heart was broken, however, when he found that the love of his life was also working at Wal Mart, Home Depot, and three other grocery stores at the same time.  “I had to break up with her,” he sobbed.  “So many people scanning items, over and over…and who knows how many items were scanned before mine?”  The self-service register was unavailable for comment, but a source close to her says that the machine kept repeating “Item not found” when informed of Mr. Scanner’s intention to break up with her.

So, Oregonians, take heart.  You will overcome your current situation, I swear.  Get out and pump that gas with confidence and swagger; just not with a lit cigarette. Or a cell phone.

People Are Alike All Over

And now for something completely different. And no, this has nothing to do with Monty Python. I swear. Though maybe I’ll get to them another time.

There’s an old saying: “People are alike all over.” To me, that means that despite all of our apparent differences, if you boil people down to their true essence, you’ll find that most of us are pretty much the same despite color, creed, nationality, or wealth.

I’ve thought about this saying and think it can be expanded to include not just the foundation of Mankind, but religions as well. Because to me, it seems that religions are alike all over, too. At least for the most part. It may seem like the different spiritual paths out there are entirely separate entities, but are they really? I may be overly simplistic in my thought processes (or perhaps in the alternative, I over-analyze things), but I believe that when you trace back many religions to their roots (much like moving down a family tree) you in fact will find all sorts of similarities at their base.

Look at the myths that exist in each religion to explain their belief system. A lot of them are really, really similar. It’s almost as if centuries ago a lot of religions were actually based on one single religion and as people started migrating to different parts of the world, their stories shifted to suit their new surroundings. Or perhaps it’s like that game of telephone we old folks played back in kindergarten. The story changed ever so slightly as it got retold down the line.

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but sadly I can’t. If I could, I’d be reaping the rewards of all the books I would’ve written on it, living a much better life right now on a beach or in a cottage somewhere in France with a much prettier view. What I just described, in a nutshell, is a branch of study called “comparative religion/mythology.” The idea being that religions, by and large, are fairly complementary at their core.

So, let’s start with the basics: creation myths. That’s my favorite. How did we get here? There’s no getting around that question. Everyone wants to know that, so every religion has an answer ready to go.

According to the Old Testament, God the Supreme Being created man. Eventually he got around to making a woman too and soon the two of them were prancing around together in a garden east of Eden. Satan, in the guise of a snake, butted in and got Eve to disobey God’s word. Then, she got Adam to do the same.  (Yep, the fall of man was all Eve’s fault! Go figure.) There’s a whole thing involving another of God’s little creations known as Lilith. Yeah, don’t get me started on that one. I’ll get into that story another day.

Anyway, we know this as the story of Adam and Eve, but if you take a look at the creation stories from around the world, it’s hardly a unique tale. In reality, the Babylonians told it first. This was centuries before Judaism and Christianity even existed.

Then there’s the stories told by a multitude of Native American tribes that lived an entire continent away. They all have a similar progression. A “Great Spirit” created everything and men and women came from the Earth. I have to admit, I like these stories better than the ones that say we were created out of God’s snot. (I swear I remember reading that somewhere, but when I went back to look for it, all I came up with was webpage after webpage devoted to our snot — and I don’t think I want to go there. Yuck.)

Getting back to Native American myth, the Great Spirit had an enemy (i.e. Satan) who sought to destroy the Great Spirit’s creation.  Then comes the part of the story where the humans rebel against the desires of the Great Spirit and then there’s a great flood that destroys everyone, except a handful of people the Spirit decides to spare so they can repopulate the Earth and well, we all know how that goes. We just heard it a bit differently.

Which brings me round to the popular flood story.

There’s an old Babylonian flood story in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” that predates the Hebrew Bible story by centuries.  The gods who lived in a city by a river wanted to create a flood. One of the gods warns a human to tear down his house and use it to build a ship so that he will survive. Sound familiar? It’s not the only flood story by a long shot. There are several.

Then there’s the story of Jesus. The ultimate tale of death and resurrection. Except…this story shows up in other religions around the world as well.

For example, Egyptian mythology features the god Osiris, whose death and resurrection resembles that of Jesus. (And, of course, the whole culture of ancient Egypt was about ensuring that those who died would live happily ever after in the Afterlife — or paradise.)

Then there’s the Indo-Iranian Mithra myth whose story so parallels that of Jesus that it’s downright uncanny. Born to a virgin mother (Anahita), he gathered 12 followers, and traveled around performing miracles. His sacred day was Sunday and when he died, he arose from the grave three days later. In the end, he sacrificed himself for world peace and ascended to the Heavens.

Some religions are ancient. Some religions are relatively new. Yet many of them share a common core of mythology. But what do I get from all of this?  My personal conclusion is that perhaps people really have more in common than they think.  And to me, that is a good thing, a very good thing. I wish more people could see that. The world would be a better place.

It’s most definitely interesting though, isn’t it? Compare all these similar stories, or these “parallels” to use the technical term…and it makes you wonder about our beliefs and where they really came from and how we’re all connected.  It does me, anyway, even though I’m not what you would call a religious person.

Facing My Darkest Fear

I came across an article the other day about dining etiquette. Always searching for ways to improve…okay, so fine, always searching for ways to complain about my fellow diners, I perused the article eagerly. Much to my dismay, it was a “how-to” on eating sushi. Did you know, you shouldn’t use a fork? Or chop sticks apparently. Sushi was meant to be eaten with one’s hands. Sashimi on the other hand, IS supposed to be eaten with chopsticks. Forks are just a no-go altogether. Go light on the soy sauce. Ginger is a palate cleanser, not a condiment.

So yes, I did read the article – I’m nothing if not tenacious…when reading. As for putting these dining rules to the test? That will be a resounding no, thank you very much. I have absolutely no desire ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (to save blog space, just add about 100 more evers when you’re reading that) to ever eat raw fish in any form. But hey, it’s not my fault.

Ichthyophobia – “the fear of fish, eating fish, or touching raw fish.” Now, I love fish – to look at, that is. I used to keep Bettas (such beauties!) and I would love nothing more than to have a huge, complex tank set up with all kinds of different, beautiful aquatic creatures. The National Aquarium is one of my favorite places. However, the thought of going the distance by eating raw fish drives me into paroxysms of revulsion.  I guess that makes me a “super ichthyophobe.” In case you couldn’t tell, I just don’t like sushi.

Now a lot of my crazy insane sushi-loving friends give me a hard time about it, reminding me that hundreds of millions of people worldwide eat the stuff. They’ve even forced me to go with them to a sushi restaurant, determined to alter my views – forcibly if necessary (by forcibly, of course, I mean alcohol-induced). Upon relating my son’s green pea fiasco and explaining that he is after all, my son, and got his attitude will-power from my genetic contribution, they opted to forego their plan and I ended up, happily, with fried rice.

After giving it some thought, and following up on the old adage, “Know thine enemy,” I decided to do some research into the food that I hate. I discovered things that made me wonder even more, “Why in the hell do people eat that stuff?”

The first thing I discovered is that the meaning of the word “sushi” doesn’t have anything to do with fish.  Sushi is specially made vinegar rice. It is served in a wide variety of ways. Some common types are:

Nigirizushi (hand-pressed sushi) – A small, thumb-sized piece of sushi than can be topped with vegetables, cooked egg, fruit, and yes, even raw fish. Not sure why they have to ruin it with raw fish, but there you go.

Makizushi (rolled sushi) – These are the “rolls” you find on a menu. A bed of dried seaweed is laid down and then covered with sushi rice.  That can be covered in turn with a variety of vegetables, sauces, and yes, even raw fish (enough with the raw fish, already!). The entire thing is wrapped into a roll and cut into six or eight pieces and served. It can also be rolled into the shape of a cone and be eaten as a hand roll.

That doesn’t sound too daunting…except the fish part. Further exploration of my darkest fear led me to the real villain.  It wasn’t sushi.  I never realized that I could order sushi without raw fish.  My arch-nemesis is in fact, sashimi…raw fish!  That was the Kraken lurking in my subconscious terror.

I found that there were different levels of sashimi “adventure.” At the “basic” level the most popular types of sashimi are:

Maguro (Blue Fin Tuna) – This is the most popular type of fish for sushi and sashimi. Because of the worldwide demand for it, a whole tuna at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market can sell for over $70,000. Some restaurant owners, for the publicity, have paid over $1,000,000 for a whole tuna. I don’t know why.  To me it still reeks of fish Jell-O. And not in a good way.

Toro (Blue Fin Tuna Belly) – This cut is very expensive.  It’s very high in fat and supposedly melts in your mouth like butter.  I’ll take their word for it. I have no desire to eat a fatty tuna belly.

Uni (Sea Urchin Eggs) – Definitely a “no go” for yours truly. Ugh. This gooey stuff looks like something you’d find in a diaper. Seriously.

Ikura (Salmon Eggs) – Basically, caviar.  Been there, done that. Long story short, I was tricked, won’t happen again.

There are many more varieties of “basic” raw fish. But the basic level barely scratches the surface.  Here are some of the more esoteric types of sashimi:

Shirako (Cod Milt) – The male equivalent of caviar!  That’s all I’m saying about this. You figure it out. Google is your friend.

Fugu (Puffer Fish) – This can only be prepared by licensed chefs as the fish’s liver contains high levels of lethal neurotoxins.  In fact, one puffer fish contains enough toxin to kill 30 adult men. If prepared incorrectly for consumption, well, you get the idea. Um, yeah, no thanks. I have absolutely no desire to play Russian roulette with my dinner. Precariously calculating the number of tequila shots I can do where I’m at the point of not caring how I look on the dance floor but just shy of throwing up is the only risk I like to take while dining out.

Shiokara (Fermented Fish Viscera) – Viscera sort of gives this one away. It is said that every part of the pig can be used for food except the oink (blech). The same is true here. The insides of a fish are mashed and salted, then left to ferment. Yummmmmmm

So, yeah. I did my research. It hasn’t gotten me any closer to trying any form of sushi and/or sashimi in any way whatsoever. However, it has given me an arsenal of useful, albeit gross, trivia that I’m anxious to try out on my friends the next time we go to dinner. Anyone hungry?