Feels Like Home

This post got me thinking about the idea of home — and the idea that while I’ve lived a great many places, very few have felt like my own. We moved around a few times when I was growing up, so the concept of home became very (ok, incredibly) important to me. Home wasn’t just where I slept; it had to feel like home in addition to being a structure that I happened to live in.

One of the pitfalls of being a millennial who lives and works in an expensive city is that home ownership isn’t in the cards for me. Instead, I’m a serial renter: a few years here, a few years there. All told, I’ve lived in four different places in the DC area over the last ten years.

Apartments tend not to feel like home for most people, and generally speaking, that has been true for me too — with one huge exception. My apartment in Denver, which I rented while I was in grad school, was glorious.

When I moved back to Colorado (where I grew up) for school, I was basically on the brink of exploding with excitement. I was excited about my grad program, and I was doubly excited to be living in Denver. I began to look for apartments near campus, though, and my excitement started to wane a bit.

I didn’t need a big space; I wanted a studio apartment, but I couldn’t find anything smaller than a one-bedroom.

I wanted a controlled-access building, since this was going to be my first-ever solo apartment, but I couldn’t find one to save my life.

I didn’t need anything fancy, but every place within my price range had shag carpet that hadn’t been cleaned since the Nixon Administration.

My mom and I drove around for two days, finding nothing but places that didn’t fit my parameters. Just when I was thinking I might need to bite the bullet and compromise, I saw a Craigslist ad for a studio condo near my school. The price was right, so I decided to get more information.

An hour later, the landlord, Tony, gave me a tour of what would wind up being my home for the next two years: a gorgeous, newly renovated studio in a controlled-access building, replete with decorative finishes that I never would’ve thought were possible in a place I could afford on a grad school budget. I was sold. He even reduced the monthly rate if I was willing to sign a two-year lease. Done and done, my friends.

And oh, did I love that place. It had soft pink halogen lights spanning the ceiling and highlighting a brushed steel panel against one wall. The kitchen and bathroom fabulous. There were sliding glass doors that led to a wide, spacious balcony where I spent many hours doing yoga, working on presentations, or reading under the shade of the tree growing next to the building. It felt like my home from the moment I walked in.

The feeling of home wasn’t the only thing that made this apartment so awesome. It was there that, after living with other people for all of my 25 years, I finally had a place of my own. I lived there under my own rules, and I got to let my idiosyncracies run the show.

Did I want to watch Law & Order for 5 hours on a Saturday morning during spring break? Yes, I did. Did I turn up Madonna and Britney while cleaning or doing the dishes? Indeed. Did I want to cook random meals for no other reason than the fact that they sounded good? You betcha. Did I want to take a break from writing papers by either somersaulting across the room or having an impromptu dance party? Heck yeah. And I didn’t need to ask anyone for permission to do any of those things.

When I finished grad school two years later, I decided to move out to North Carolina to be with the guy I was dating while I waited for my job in DC to come through. (Side note: this turned out to be a disasterous decision.) I was verklempt while packing up my apartment, even though I knew it was time for me to go. The space was tiny, yes, but I had loved it dearly.

On the day I moved out, my parents arrived with a moving van to help gather up my stuff. As they drove up, dark and ominous clouds rolled in — and these were dark and ominous even by the standards of Colorado summer thunderstorms. We tried to beat the rain, but as soon as we walked towards the door with the first load of stuff to go into the truck, a flash of white light was immediately followed by a thunderclap so loud that it shook the building. And with that, the skies opened up into a a downpour so torrential we could barely see across the street.

I try not to read meaning into random events, but it absolutely felt like a sign. It was as if my ancestors, who were among Denver’s first inhabitants, were telling me not to go. “Stay here,” they seemed to say, “In this city you love and this apartment that feels like it was made for you.”

Two months later, I was back in Colorado (like I said, the North Carolina thing wound up being a complete disaster) and staying with my parents. I went to Denver every week or so to see friends, and every time I went, I’d go on autopilot and find myself parking in front of my old apartment building.

I once got as far as the building’s front door, perplexed by why my keys weren’t unlocking it, before I realized I didn’t live there anymore.

Even now, almost seven years after I moved out, I still think of that apartment, how much I loved it, and how lucky I was to have had it basically fall into my lap at exactly the right time.

Homesick

One of the things that really sucks about having a career-driven life is having to live in DC. There are a lot of genuinely awesome people here, and there are also genuinely awesome people who like it here (DC isn’t inhabited entirely by Congressional reps who’ve taken leave of their senses, I promise!) – but sweet fancy Moses, I’m not one of them.

Long before this summer and its health crises (and the attendant fear, sadness, and general misery), I was seriously homesick. I miss the mountains, the sunsets, and the 300 days of sunshine per year. I even miss the smell of Colorado. But most of all, I miss the people. I miss my parents, our extended family, the family friends who’ve known me since I was 3 feet tall, and old friends from when I was growing up. Colorado is where my soul feels centered, safe, and happy.

After things got rough, though, I became acutely, painfully homesick. A few weeks ago when I was on the Metro, I saw a woman carrying a bag from the exact yoga studio in Denver where I used to sweat out my grad school stress with one of my closest friends. I nearly burst into tears, so I distracted myself for a bit (there was another passenger with truly fabulous shoes, so I focused on those for a few minutes). I started to feel better, only to look up again and see a bag, no more than a few inches from my face, with a big COLORADO written on it. At that point, it took everything in me not to weep openly on public transportation.

 

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That’s right friends: I nearly had an ugly cry of Kim Kardashian proportions.

 

A similar moment happened the next day, when I was reading my hometown newspaper online and saw an ad for the library system there. Now, I looooooove the library and spent the better part of my youth at the branch near our house.  That place holds more fond memories than I can even count. In a fit of nostalgia, I went to their website and poked around a bit. Lo and behold, I found the activity calendar for the branch where I grew up – and as it turns out, they have tons of awesome free classes: Reiki 101, how to grow a vegetable garden in your back yard…the list goes on.

At that point I nearly cried again, so I decided to see what sorts of classes/talks are available at the Arlington public library. I was hopeful! I was optimistic! Maybe there’d be similarly cool offerings here!

Well. Let’s just say I live in a place where people have a different set of interests than those of people back home. Here in DC, the library offers Mandarin conversation groups, nanny groups, and stock trading talks. To put it mildly, I’d much rather learn about Reiki and gardening than Mandarin grammar and stock trading.

That’s when it really sunk in: there are so, so many ways in which I don’t fit in here. I’d known this on an intellectual level for quite some time – after all, I spent years going along with the whole “shut down your emotions, be super ambitious, learn to be a bureaucrat, and only wear gray or black pant suits” motif, only to realize that I’m creative, emotive, and independent, and that I absolutely hate pant suits – but suddenly, the fact that I don’t fit DC’s demographic hit me on a whole new level.

It’s funny: when I was younger, I wanted nothing more than stability and permanence in one location. We moved across the country when I was 16, and then my parents moved to the Midwest just after I’d started college – so I started my adult years with a profound sense of dislocation. (They wound up moving back to Colorado when I was 24, which was also when I returned to Colorado for grad school.)

When I was in my 20’s, I figured that the solution to that sense of dislocation was to find a job, settle down, and stay in one place. I figured I could bloom wherever I was planted, provided that I stayed long enough to put down roots.

As it turns out, though, spending a long time in one place isn’t enough for me. I’ve been in DC for almost five years – this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was 16 – and yet the more time passes, it the less it feels like home. And, when things got incredibly stressful and scary over the summer and early fall, I found that I need that sense of being at home more and more.

I miss the mountains.... the feeling of something bigger than me.  My silent guardians.  >Sigh<  #homesick.

It’s kind of an odd lesson to learn amidst everything else that’s going on: that what I really need in order to feel at home is, in fact, completely different from what I always thought. I can’t just make a place my home – being there for a long time just doesn’t work, nor does my trying with all my might.

We’ll hopefully be able to visit Colorado sometime in early 2014, and there’s a good chance that I’ll be tempted to 1) kiss the ground when we arrive, even if it’s the icky airport floor, and 2) chain myself to a tree in my parents’ backyard to keep from having to leave. (Moi? Exaggerate? Mais non!) I’m sure everyone will totally appreciate both of those things.

For now, though, I have a small piece of home sitting on my dresser: some rocks that my parents picked up and my mom brought out for me when she visited earlier this month. By way of explanation, since I was a baby, I’ve been fascinated by rocks. Growing up in Colorado, where there were rocks all over the place, I amassed an impressive collection.

Like most childhood things, though, my rock collection has long since disappeared. However! My parents, knowing how homesick I’ve been, decided that I needed a piece of home to keep with me. While they were out hiking along one of our favorite trails, they picked up pieces of quartz and pink granite – the main things you see in Colorado Springs – and sent them along to their displaced daughter.

 

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So, while I can’t go home anytime soon, I at least have a small piece of Colorado that I can look at each morning. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than nothing.

And, with that, let it be known: someone needs to invent a teleportation device ASAP. If any of y’all happen to have jobs in science and technology, please get on that project. 🙂

If you don’t live in or near the place you call home, do you ever get homesick?

If so, how do you deal with it when homesickness strikes? (I’m open to suggestions!)

If I Was a Rich (Wo)man: Adventures in Domestic Daydreaming

In recent years, I’ve started to come to terms with a part of me that I’ve spent a lot of time and energy burying or otherwise ignoring: I really like being domestic.

Home — in the sense that home is both as a physical place and a feeling of comfort — is incredibly important to me. We moved around a lot when I was little, and we finally settled in Colorado until I was 16. Then, the summer before my junior year in high school, we moved across the country to a small town in Pennsylvania. We only lived there for a few years, though, and I spent the next decade never being anywhere long enough to really put down roots.

I spent a long time feeling uprooted and unmoored, and I found that I consistently longed for a place I could call home.

I remember driving back from dinner one winter night during college and taking a route that happened to go through a neighborhood, only to feel incredibly envious of all the occupants of the houses I drove by. Their homes looked so cozy, so comforting, so soothing. I imagined them being filled with happy, loving families who’d sit together on an over-stuffed couch while sharing popcorn and watching a movie.

And I really, really, really wanted that for myself.

As a consequence of this, my nesting instincts have always resembled those of a pregnant lady on speed. I’m acutely attuned to my environment, and as I’ve realized lately, damned if I don’t really enjoy it.

So, here’s my confession: I love being domestic. I love making a house a home. I love decorating, I love feeling rooted, and I love simply spending time at home.

I’ve spent years denying that I actually enjoy all this, but I’ve recently decided to embrace that side of my personality. My attempts to repress it into an oblivion didn’t work (obviously…as if they ever do, right?), so my new policy has been to just roll with it. Ain’t no shame in that, y’all.

With all that in mind, I’m going to brazenly steal a post format from the lovely Sarah from Nourish and Flourish (side note: her blog is freakin’ awesome, and I hiiiiiiiiiighly recommend that you go check it out). In the spirit of her Totally Unnecessary Wish List post, I decided to do my own totally unnecessary wish list, but to focus it on embracing my love of all things domestic. Soooo…

If I had an outrageous amount of money, I’d build my ultimate dream house. (Side note: all the pictures below come from Pinterest. I once heard someone describe Pinterest as Fantasy Football for women, and I’m pretty sure that’s the most accurate possible description.) It’d be amazing, y’all. I’d rather go for quality over size — I wouldn’t want it to be some gargantuan monstrosity that eats up half a city block — but it’d have some pretty awesome stuff.

To wit:

Because I love cooking (and, since I’d have an outrageous amount of money in this scenario, I presumably would be able to work from home doing something I really love — and would thus have time to cook more elaborate dinners), my kitchen would look like this:

Kitchens Kitchens Kitchens!!!

And, because I’m a sucker for things like built-in bookshelves and quirky architectural details, I’d have cool and unexpected stuff like this breakfast nook:

LOVE the round nook, with interior windows!! Kitchen - living room - nook

Since a woman’s work is never done, I might as well experience some spa-ish, Zen-like calm and tranquility while slaving over the laundry. Woo-sah, y’all:

I would do laundry every day in this laundryroom!

I’m a serious nerd, which means I have more books than I know what to do with. (Thank God for my Kindle, which is the world’s greatest space-saver.) If I were obscenely wealthy, though, I’d make room for all my beloved books with some seriously innovative built-in shelves (replete with cozy spaces for reading):

Hawthorne House

Hall library

Because I’m a girl — and let’s call it like it is, I’m pretty girly in my love of clothes, shoes, and accessories — (read this part in the snobbiest possible way; think Anna Wintour meets the singing candelabra dude from Beauty and the Beast) adequate closet space would be crucial. Behold.

Closet Design, Pictures, Remodel, Decor and Ideas

Let’s not forget about the bathroom, either. As someone who currently does the hygiene dance (“You’re in the way of the sink, dude, and I need to wash my hands.” “Dude, I need to get to my toothbrush.” “Dude, I can’t reach my towels when the door is open and you’re standing in front of it brushing your teeth!”) with her husband, a big bathroom is key. I figure this should suffice (a walk-in shower? I suppose I could live with that):

Shower behind the sinks...... Its kinda like a cave...... you dont have to worry about cleaning shower door. So neat!!

The only difference would be that mine would be more Middle East-inspired; for example, I’d go with Moroccan-shaped arches instead of the Medieval European style arches. They’d look kind of like this:

Moroccan inspired massage room complete with Jacuzzi tub.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of bathrooms, I love me a good bath. A dedicated bathtub — better yet, a sunken-in bathtub that closely resembles a Turkish hammam — would be amazeballs.

a bathtub that is sunk into the floor! It's like a pool in your bathroom!

I’m also pretty sure Brandon would love a dedicated space for movie watching and sports spectating from afar (aka: watching the Spurs on TBS), so I figure he wouldn’t object to a media room. Who needs a man cave when you can have a theater?

home theatre

Since, in this scenario, I’d be obnoxiously wealthy and money would be no object, I’d also get myself a house in the desert. As you may have gathered from my bajillon posts about how homesick I am, I really miss the West. For lack of ability to live there full-time, I’d get us a vacation home in the desert that we could visit in order to calm the overwhelming pull Westward:

desert home

This house would have a garden of succulents and cacti, which are among my favorite plants:

from Bohemian homes - bohemian gardens

It’d have a pool where I could relax and read to my nerdy little heart’s content:

I could deal with this...

And, perhaps most importantly, it’d have a huge skylight in the bedroom:

Skylight above bed. Too cool!

One of my favorite childhood memories was created on a fall evening a few months after we’d moved to Colorado, when my dad and I sat outside and looked at the stars. As we sat on lawn chairs in the back yard, he pointed out the different constellations that I’d been learning about in school. I’d never seen so many stars in my life, and I was awe-struck. The night was clear, there was no light pollution — a relic of old-timey Colorado that has since gone the way of the velociraptor — and I was able to see the Milky Way. I was amazed, and to this day, I get incredibly excited at the thought of being able to see the Milky Way. In this magical desert house, I’d be able to see this each night:

A look into the center of the Milky Way Galaxy from the Moab Desert- Bret Webster Photography

Now, if only I could win the lottery! 🙂

So tell me, lovely readers: if you could live anywhere, where would you go? What do you think is the most important feature in a house? What would you do if you won the lottery? What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Getting My Nesting On

Good morning, y’all — this morning is dawning cool and cloudy here in DC, which (apologies for the impending mope) kind of matches my mood since my mom returned to Colorado yesterday. After I dropped her off at the airport, I was all:

The good thing was that the security line at the airport was actually ridiculously short, so she and I got to hang out at the DCA Starbucks and chat. The short line was a pleasant surprise, since we were expecting the airport to be a hot mess — and, of course, getting to spend even an extra hour with my mama was a huge bonus.

Granted, we still both got all choked up when we said goodbye outside the security line. I’ve only cried at the airport a few times, but in each of these instances, the TSA agents have given me serious side-eye. They get all suspicious, and amidst my tears, I get all flummoxed and annoyed. I mean, come on — I’m crying because I miss my mom, not because we’re weepy terrorists.

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After leaving the airport, I decided it was high time to indulge in a bit of retail therapy. My tote bag has started falling apart, so I hit up Target (but of course) and found that this lovely tote — which I’ve been eyeballing for months — was on clearance. Epic win!

Merona® Mega Tote Handbag - Multicolor

When I came home, I then indulged in my other great coping mechanism: cleaning. I recognize that being all OCD about cleanliness and organization is, at its core, just something that gives me a sense of control (especially when I’m upset). While for some people this can be a bad thing, for me it really helps ease the sting of whatever is upsetting me.

First, it gives me something to do (as opposed to crumpling into a mopey heap o’ sadness on the couch). Second, a clean home makes me happy — and especially when I’m bummed out, I’m a big fan of things that make me happy.

Perhaps most importantly, it contributes to my overall response to a problem. I’m a big proponent of the theory that while in many cases you can’t control what happens, you can control how you respond to it. I can’t control where we live or how far I am from my family, but I can choose to cope with that situation in a productive way.

My efforts to productively cope involve things like exercise, teaching myself to focus on the good things (I love our apartment, our new neighborhood is great, we have awesome friends here, and my shortened commute is a Godsend), and ensuring that our apartment truly feels like a home. Cleaning is an important part of that homeyness — so for me at least, cleaning and nesting are inextricably linked.

home

And, adding to that, there’s my old pal exercise — which, as you may have gathered by now, is my numero uno way of dealing with life. When the going gets tough, this cowgirl gets to the gym. Which, as it turns out, it’s time for me to do! On tap for today: 30 minutes of elliptical and the bike (while watching the last portion of What to Expect When You’re Expecting — which, BTW, is hilarious), followed by 15 minutes of strength training. Woot!

Have a lovely Tuesday, y’all — and tell me: what are your go-to coping mechanisms when the going gets rough? Do you ever get homesick? Do you ever go on a cleaning binge as a way of dealing with life (please, please tell me I’m not alone on that)?

MIMM: A Premium on Comfort

Good morning, lovely people — I hope everyone had an awesome weekend! Mine was fantastic, although now I’m desperate for more caffeine after a night of supremely weird dreams. (Seriously, brain, WTF? Dreams about my teeth falling out? Gross!)

Weird dreams aside, though, our weekend was awesome: we spent time with some good friends and their adorable daughter, caught up on some of the DVR backlog that accumulated while we were on our Breaking Bad marathon, I made another trip to Target (!!!!), and I gave the apartment a thorough cleaning in anticipation for a special visitor arriving tomorrow…but before I go into the details, I owe a big thank you to Katie from Healthy Diva Eats for hosting Marvelous In My Monday. Muchas gracias, mamacita!

While at Target on Sunday, I got sidetracked by approximately eleventy bajillion displays. (This is par for the course for me, since being in Target means that I have the attention span of a fruit fly.) The most notable among them were cute pajama pants, scented candles, and coffee mugs…but really, it’s Target, so the list goes on (and on and on and on).

I remarked to my friend Christie —  who had the courage to brave the masses at Target with me — that I clearly have a problem, because I’m powerless when presented with cute PJ pants, scented candles, or anything of that ilk.

Her response? “You don’t have a problem. You just place a premium on comfort.”

YES. THIS IS WHY WE’RE FRIENDS, Y’ALL.

I picked up some adorbz and insanely comfortable pajama pantalones as well as a scented candle (because, y’know, comfort) — but in an act of tremendous self-control, I resisted the urge for another coffee mug. To quote the DirecTV commercial that I love, I am epic win.

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So much comfy.

After loading up on my creature comforts, I dove into a deep clean of the apartment (I still have a few things to do tonight, but it’s mostly done). I love it when my home is clean and organized — I vividly recall waking up one morning when I was 8 years old, looking around my generally messy room, and thinking “My life would be a lot easier if I was clean and organized. I’m going to do that from now on.”

And, wouldn’t ya know, that’s exactly what I did. Since that fateful day in 1989, I’ve made my bed every day (and, in fact, am driven mildly insane by an unmade bed) and have been all about keeping my shiz in order. Mildly OCD? Maybe. But, as Gretchen Rubin so accurately noted in The Happiness Project, outer order leads to inner calm. Amen, sister soultrain. Amen.

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I love list. Not lamp. List.

This deep clean was particularly special, though, in light of a certain guest who will arrive tomorrow evening: my mom! (*Insert happy dance here*)

One of the biggest difficulties in living out East is being far away from my parents. Plane tickets between Colorado and DC aren’t cheap, which means we only get to see each other a couple of times a year — so needless to say, I’m incredibly excited to see my mama.

Me and my mom when she visited me in Israel — replete with the Dome of the Rock in the background.

One other glorious note to the weekend: the weather is finally warm enough — and, God willing, it’ll continue to stay that way — to warrant the bi-annual great clothing swap-out: the epic process in which I bring my summer clothes out of storage and find a hiding place for my winter clothes for the next 6 months or so. It’s a heck of a process, but I’m proud to say that I made it work. It took some Tetris-like rearranging in our rather miniscule closet, but I emerged victorious in the end. 🙂

I hope everyone has an awesome Monday! So, tell me:

Have you ever had weird dreams about your teeth? Do unmade beds bother you, or are you chill about it? What’s your biggest Target weakness?