The cliche
home is where the heart is
does not begin to really explain what the word home means.

My mother used to say that anyone with money can buy a fancy house or buy expensive furniture, but  not everyone can make a home.  I always think of that when I go to some homes that seem to be so lacking in a feeling of home even as they are filled with all the "trappings" of home.  There might be just the right selection of furniture, family photos smile down from the walls, and it is obvious to the observer or guest to the "home" that great care was taken to make a pleasant impression when one walks through the door, yet I come away cold not sensing that I have not been in a home, a real home where one can actually live, be oneself, be peaceful and content.  Sometimes these homes seem full of striving for something more grand in appearance, or perhaps things seems just a bit too stilted for my own comfort zone of what I need to feel when I am home.

What makes a home? 

Should one search for the perfect house, or should one find home in the house where one lives?  
Does the house create the home?  
We all long for home, but sometimes home is elusive.
We aren't quite sure what turns a house into a home.
Is the cliche correct?  
If so, how does a place become a place where a heart lives?

When Jim and I married, I moved into his home.  That was one of the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life.  I knew very early in the marriage that I would never be able to be at home in the house he had lived in prior to our marriage no matter how much I tried.  His home was a lovely home, and it had been carefully decorated and well cared for, but it was not my home.  It was not the home he and I had created together.  

Thankfully, a few years after our marriage, we were able to find a home that would become our home.  I looked and looked for the perfect house for us to buy before we bought it.  I wanted it to be a grandparent  house where we would build memories for our grandchildren.  It needed to be big enough so we could have multiple families spend the night.  I even told Jim we could have weddings for daughters in the backyard if we found the right house.  

I knew I had found the right house the minute I stepped on this front porch. As I walked through the door, I was already saying to myself, "This is it."
 Porch Love
Jim & Sally celebrating Jim's surprise 60th birthday party on our front porch
We bought the house and turned it into our home.  We even hosted two beautiful weddings for two of our daughters in the back yard.  It was a wonderful experience turning this house into a home.  We remodeled by tearing out old bathrooms and putting in new ones.  We put in new windows.  We tore down old paneling.  We updated it from a dark 70's style house into a more bright and modern decor.  We put in a new sprinkling system, built a new patio, added a second patio, added a shed, and built flower beds where I could dig in the dirt to my heart's content.  We had many Thanksgiving, Christmas,  and Easter celebrations with the family here.  Cousins had sleepovers.  The kids jumped on the trampoline.  We watched our children and grandchildren grow up in this home.  We had much joy and the deepest of sorrows while we lived in this house.  It was to be our retirement home.  We fixed it just like we wanted it so we could sit on our front porch and grow old together in the home we built together.  It was our dearly loved home.  

Then, one day, the home we loved did not seem to fit us anymore.  Jim had a heart attack.  I fell down our basement stairs and had a head injury.  The kids all lived far away from us.  Our doctors were mostly in the town forty miles north of us.  The yard seemed to be too big to care for, and I could not keep up with the weeds, the dead-heading.  The laundry room was two flights of stairs from the bedrooms.  The bedrooms were all upstairs.  Like it or not, we were not getting any younger.  We began to talk about buying a patio home that would require less upkeep.  We wanted one level living.  Once we really were retired, we realized our vision of the home we would live in for retirement had changed.  

We decided to sell our home and make a drastic (for us) move to a town where Jim had never lived that was actually my hometown.  This town was where our doctors were.  Two of Jim's daughters lived there.  We were closer to my daughter and Jim's other daughter.  We were closer to the airport for the children living out of state.  

All of this process was begun three years ago this summer.  Jim surprised me by being so upbeat about moving away from a town where he had lived since he was a young child.  Once the decision was made to sell the house, I became the one unable to let go of my home.  Even today, my heart still lives in that house.  I see photos of the many gatherings in the house and my heart always breaks just a little for the place.

It is no secret that we both have had a hard time adjusting to our new home.  Jim had a hard time adjusting to living in a new town, but he made it an adventure.  He even ventured out and started a new career by working at the Apple store.  I stepped right back into the church home where I made so many friends years ago before I married Jim.  I loved being close to my cousins again.  I loved being home in my hometown.  We both loved the location of our home and still marvel how fortunate we are to live where we do.

I have had the harder time making this house my home.  I have found one can't make the old dearly loved home fit into the new home.  I'm slowly adjusting to making this house the space that brings comfort to me.  I miss the study I had in the old house.  I miss the family room.  I miss that front porch.  I miss my shed.  I miss the flowers.  I miss the roses the most.  I've not had an easy time adjusting to living in a patio home community.  I have issues with the HOA rules.  The wildlife eat my flowers and plantings and frustrate me.  Let's just say, I've had a tough time letting go of the home I loved no matter how much I love this new place, and I do love it.

Every once in a while, I call Mary Jo, my long suffering realtor.  Sometimes she meets Jim and me for lunch.  Sometimes, she meets me for coffee, and we have the best talks.  She is one of the great things that came with this house: a new friendship.  I've called her and asked if she can show me a house that I've seen advertised.  Her first question is always, "What does Jim say?"  "He tells me he will miss me if I move."  

Last week Jim and I drove way out east of town to buy flowers for the yard.  I decided to try again with beating the wildlife by growing a few things in my small flower gardens.  On our way to the nursery, Jim started exploring and took a detour.  Before we knew it, we were looking at new homes. They were patio homes that had all the features we suddenly wished we had in our home.  Of course, we hadn't known we'd wanted them until we saw them in the new homes.  Jim said, "Call Mary Jo tomorrow and see what she can get for our house."  I told him that I was telling her that it was Jim's idea to call.  He was the one that started this house hunt that we had not intended to make.

Then, we got real.  We hated where the houses were located.  We didn't really need all that room.  We knew we would never survive another move.  We knew our kids would think we had really lost it if we even mentioned we were moving.  We knew our hearts were firmly planted where we now live. We came and went for a walk.  "I can't ever leave this area," I said to Jim.  

 We love this place.  We love our location.  We love our home.  Yes, it is not perfect.  Yes, I get frustrated with not being able to grow much because of the wildlife.  The bottom line is:  we would never be able to leave this place.  We have the most awesome places to walk.  We live in a quiet valley at the foothills of the mountains.  We have wonderful neighbors.  It is peaceful and quiet here.  We don't have to mow or water the lawn.  We live in a perfect retirement home.

Today, after church and nice brunch downtown, we went to our favorite ice cream shop not far from our home.  Then we went for a walk where we again marveled at our views.  We asked ourselves how we could ever even think of leaving this place.  

Tonight I sat on our back deck and read while Jim went to a meeting at work.  The cool breezes coming down from the mountains soothed my heart and mind.  As I glanced up from my book, I saw the clouds in the sky were turning a light pink with touches of gray here and there.  The sky, a light baby blue, provided the perfect softened effect for the background of my view.  I heard birds in the distance as the wind softly rustled the aspen leaves on the trees that framed the deck where I was sitting.  I felt as if I had taken a short mountain vacation without ever leaving my home.  The city is fewer than ten minutes away, yet I live in a place that feels like a mountain retreat.

I am blessed beyond measure.
I live in this place with the man I love.

My heart lives here.
I am home.


Welcome to our new home!

Our New Home
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Friday, October 19, 2012

Twelve days ago, we posed on our new front porch.  We were happy and excited to be finally moving to our new home.

Wow, were we ever naive.
We hadn't moved yet.
Everything seemed orderly in our lives.
We had finally sold the home we had loved so well for so long.
We had purchased the home we had fallen in love with in my hometown of Colorado Springs.
We celebrated by spending a wonderful, last evening in Pueblo at The Rusted Poppy Inn, a wonderful bed and breakfast.
I'll have to tell you all about that great place later.
I took lots of pictures.
The place is awesome.

The next morning we were supposed to begin our move.
I will spare you the details.
Let's just say we had the move from the hot place.
Our movers were less than competent.
It took them three days to complete the task.
At 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, the third day of this move, I was so fried mentally, emotionally and physically, I left our new home, and my credit card to pay the movers,  in the hands of my competent oldest daughter by marriage, Jim's daughter Thia, and went to the hotel to go to bed.
She, her husband, and her son stayed at the new house waiting for the last load of stuff to come from Pueblo.  Jim spent the night in Pueblo and didn't get to our new home until 5:00 p.m. the next day.
Thia held the mover's feet to the fire until all boxes were appropriately placed in the house and the job was completed sufficiently.
I owe her big time!

That same evening, when we were in the throes of the move, my youngest daughter by marriage, Jim's daughter Trinette, and her husband Nathan and I went out to sit on our new deck for a moment.
The evening air was warm.
There was a slight breeze in the aspen trees surrounding our deck.
I looked out on the beautiful meadow behind us.
I looked west to the mountains so close it seemed I could touch them.
I felt as if I were at a resort in Vail or some other wonderful place in Colorado.
I could not believe I was on the deck of my new home.
In that moment, I knew this place would be a place of
and a place that would truly be
our home.

The next day, October 22, was my husband's birthday.
I didn't have time to give him a card.
I didn't even have time to wish him happy birthday on Facebook.
He was Pueblo supervising the cleaning of our house we had sold and vacated.
I was in Colorado Springs trying to make sense out of the placement of boxes all over the house.
We had guests coming at 6:00 to celebrate his birthday.
Yes, I'm crazy like that.
I have a party with guests on the first night I move into a house!
Finally, at 5:00 my dear husband, the birthday boy, arrived home with Boston who had been kenneled for five days while we made the move.
I captured his birthday portrait on our back deck next to the door that goes to our bedroom.

At 6:00 our guests arrived.
Thanks to Thia and Brad, my husband had cake and ice cream for his birthday party.
His day and our first evening in our home was celebrated by two of his daughters and their husbands, some of his grandchildren, my cousin, and our realtor.
It is good to live by family again.

Happy Birthday, dear Jim.
He celebrated by moving into our new home.

Since that time, we have tried not to be overwhelmed.
Although, I must confess, at times, many times, I've felt like just sitting down and crying.
I still have boxes everywhere.
The kitchen is finally unpacked and everything is in place.
I have the bathroom set up and organized.
The closet is getting there.
Thanks to my sister, my dining room is unpacked and china is sitting all over the table.
Thanks to a dear friend of Jim's, Rob, pictures are hung and other tasks we could not do are done.
My sister Carol has been a lifesaver.
We've had a lot of fun playing house, arranging furniture and moving things around.
Thanks, Carol.

Tonight, I am sitting in our guest room.  It is in shambles.
My desk is not functional. It is still covered with boxes.
The family room looks like something from an episode from the hoarders.
So does the garage.
So does the storage room.
So does the other guest room.

I don't know when I will dig out.
I am trying to take it one box at a time.
I am trying not to obsess over my need for order.

We are both a bit homesick.
Jim was terribly homesick on Sunday.
Today, I am.
"Do you feel like this is home yet?"  I asked Jim after dinner.
"No, not yet.  How about you?" was his reply.
"No.  Not yet."

Home where is it?
At times, I step outside and I feel the air, look at the mountains, and am filled with great peace because
I am home.
I drive the familiar streets of my hometown.
I am home.
I am happy.

I also am in a state of unsettledness.
I'm not home yet.
I miss my old home.

The sermon I heard on Sunday summed it up.
I sat next to my sister and listened to the words of the pastor and listened to the familiar voice of my sister singing.
It made me realize we all have a longing for home.
This place will never be my home.
I hope to make this temporary earthly home a place of peace, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle we faced for so many years.
It is good to be in a place where old memories of loss do not linger.
It is good to be starting over.
I have new energy and new interest in making this house a home we will enjoy.
We are located in a bucolic setting.
I am amazed at the beauty that surrounds me.
I have been greatly blessed with this new place of residence.
I also know that my longing for home will not be satisfied on this earth.
These places where we live are only temporary.
They hold great meaning,
but they are not our final destination.

Retirement ~ Time to Smell The Roses

My usual morning routine is one that sometimes takes two hours to complete after I first get up in the morning.  By the time I get up, my husband has made my coffee and read one newspaper.  As I descend the stairs, I hear Boston run to get a toy so he can greet me with his happy morning dance as he begs me to admire his toy and pet him.  I then kiss my dear sweet husband, pour my coffee, and settle down in my favorite red chair to watch the Today Show and read three newspapers, The Pueblo Chieftain, The Gazette Telegraph, and The Denver Post.  I always read for an hour while I sip my coffee before I finally make my breakfast.  My hubby is probably already to take the dog for his morning walk by the time I eat.  On summer mornings, we do our morning newspaper reading and chatting on the back deck.  I love retirement.  There is no rush to get out the door.

Yesterday, on Thursday, feeling especially good mentally and physically, soon after pouring my cup of coffee, I heard Lionel Richie singing on the Today Show.  I couldn't stop myself.  I was dancing around the kitchen and family room, coffee cup in hand to "Oh what a feeling, we're dancing on the ceiling."  "This is a great way to start the day," I thought.  I even posted on Facebook that I was starting my Friday off right by dancing to Lionel Richie while I drank my first cup of coffee.  Then, I took my medicines and saw the pill container said it was Thursday.  Then, my daughter-in-law posted on Facebook, "Wait, isn't it Thursday."  Yes, it was Thursday, but I am retired.  It is hard to know what day it is.  It felt like a Friday to me.

Today, Friday, the 17th,  the man and I both slept in.  The dog didn't wake up my hubby, so we were able to sleep until we were both awake.  In fact, I think I woke up first.  That is a rarity.  "Oh well, it is a Saturday, so we can justify sleeping in," I thought upon awakening.  But, when I read the paper, I realized it was not Saturday, it was Friday.  I've been confused on what day it is for two days.  Every day in retirement feels like Friday or Saturday.

I usually fix big breakfasts on the weekend.  Of course, today was not the weekend, but I thought it was.  We had gotten up late, so it really felt like Saturday.  Before breakfast I slipped out to the garden to see what was ripe.  I picked some cherry tomatoes, snipped some chives, got some Pueblo peppers out of the freezer and made us a frittata.  I've never made a frittata before.  It was quite yummy.  We also had fresh raspberries and blueberries in Greek yogurt.  This was really a Saturday or Sunday breakfast.

After breakfast, I again slipped outside.  It was so nice and cool outside.  I sat on the deck and thought of how much I love this house.  While we were both working at demanding jobs, I dreamed of just enjoying my house and yard after I retired.  Today, as I sat out on the back deck, I looked over to one of my favorite sights, my back rose garden, the one I planted the year I retired.  I call it my Peace Garden.

This summer has been a hot one.  I thought these roses would never come out of it in late June and throughout July when they looked done for, but I kept up with the feeding routine, I made sure they were watered, and I deadheaded every few days, although all through July I had few blooms, and the few blooms I had dried up on the stems.  Now, the weather is cooling and we've had some rain.  The roses are having what I call a second blooming.  Isn't that what retirement is all about?  A second blooming.  The second blooming is almost the best.  The colors are richer, deeper, and the blossoms are fuller when roses bloom in late summer and early fall.  It is true, "Gardening is a form of autobiography," I think as I look at the roses.

My eye catches one rose bud on the Peace Rose.  It is so stately.  I venture down the steps into the garden to take a closer look at this particular rose.  I capture it with my iPhone camera.

I haven't seen quite as much pink on the edges of these roses until now.  The cool weather is allowing the pinks to show their hues.  This rose, the Peace Rose, was planted in 2006 when I retired.  It was the first rose in the garden.  It was selected because it is one of my favorite roses.  Introduced by in the United States in 1945, the year of my birth, it was given to delegates of the first meeting of the United Nations with a note that read,  We hope the 'Peace' rose will influence men's thoughts for everlasting world peace.  

I really do love this rose.  It is the one I usually choose to place in a vase in front of my father's portrait when I have them in bloom.  I do this to honor my father and his time of service in the war, and to remember the time when I was going a bit too caustic and angry about a problem during my divorce many years ago.  As he listened to me rant, my father said nothing as he held up his two fingers in a peace sign.  That simple gesture spoke volumes to me, and I calmed down. My father was not one to go around putting up the peace signal, but he did so that day to send me a message.  I got it, and I haven't forgotten it.  Peace!  It is a beautiful thing.

It is such a great thing to have time to smell the roses and think about the reason I have a garden.  I have a garden because I love to create beauty.  I also love to have a creative outlet, and gardening allows me to do that in a way that is physically, spiritually, and mentally satisfying.  I thought I would spend my retirement years working as a master gardener.  I even took the course and have the certificate, but I don't consider myself a master gardener.  I still think of myself as a "dig in the dirt" kind of gardener.  I design in my head as I work the ground.  This means I have had some major design flaws in my yard.  It means I am always digging something up and moving it somewhere else.  It means I have not always considered nature, space, and placement as well as I should when I garden, but I am learning.  I keep some notes along the way.  I have a file in my garden shed where I keep the original receipts or tags for the roses and perennials I have planted over the years.  I try to have a rule that if I can't say the name or remember the name of plant, I don't plant it.

My gardening has been very hit or miss this year.  The heat has been a factor.  My health has been another factor.  And, we have our house on the market, so I have not made any huge additions to the garden.  I just try to maintain it and enjoy it.

I don't know how I will part with this beauty if we ever actually sell this house and move.  This is Easy Does It.    This beauty was planted in June of 2010 after being purchased to be planted in my Peace Garden in memory of my daughter Julie after her death.

Julie at her class reunion dressed in a shirt covered with orange flowers
This is the perfect rose to honor Julie.  The color reminds me of her.  Julie wore a lot of orange.  She had a vibrant personality and could carry off wearing such a bold color so well.  I love the touch of yellow, and a bit of pink and apricot in this rose.  It is complex in its color scheme just as Julie was complex in her personality.  Perhaps, the rose reminded me of her dressed in a top she used to wear that suited her so well.

Another flower I love to admire in my Peace Garden, is the Queen Elizabeth.  Introduced in 1954, it is sometimes known as the Queen of England rose. Interestingly, this rose did not bloom this year until the week of the Queen's Jubilee.  When it first bloomed this year, it bloomed all week of the Jubilee, and then it stopped blooming because of the heat.  It started blooming again when the Olympics began. I guess it identifies greatly with its British roots.

This rose is easy to grow and rewards me with beautiful sweet smelling bouquets.  I prefer to cut the buds for arrangements because they are so beautiful.  I like them better than the fully blossomed flowers.

I love deadheading my roses.  It is a very relaxing pasttime for me.  Working in my roses gives me time to think, to reflect, to smell the fragrance of the beauty of the plants I treasure.  As I clip the spent blossoms, I always toss them into one my great treasures:  my father bucket.  I love this bucket because it reminds me of my father.  It is a simple galvanized work bucket that still has paint splatters and cement attached to the surface inside and out of the pail he used as he went about working on the home he loved to maintain.  I think of how important it is to stay connected to the simple pleasures and pride that work can bring.  I am grateful to find beauty in a bucket full of spent blossoms.  I am grateful for this time in life when I can just putter in my garden while literally taking time to smell the roses.  It is good to not have to know what day it is, or even what time it is.  Time is suspended as I ponder all the sights and smells of my garden.  I treasure the memories that such times evoke within me.