Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reverb#14 for July: Summertime Blues


The Prompt: Summer Time Blues | It's mid-summer and we've got the summer time blues.  Tell us how you're feeling at this mid-summer check in point.  Do you have the summer time blues?  How do snap out of it?  Or if you're still loving summer, what's been going great?

No blues for me at this point!

Don't get me wrong:summer is my least favorite time of year and mostly always has been, even as a kid. What I loved about summer then were the largely unstructured days where, once chores were done, I could read for hours, lying on my bed, or on a blanket outdoors, or in a lawn chair on our shady brick patio.

Summer was when my school teacher mother was home with us except for taking classes at a nearby university, but that got us passes to the much larger and more fun university pool. We lived close enough to walk or ride bikes there.

I hated the hot, sticky days though, hated to sweat and feel prickly from heat rash. Never athletic, I grew up in an age when there were no sports opportunities for girls, but we spent many hours on bleachers watching my brother play baseball. I spent time in the cool stacks of the library, choosing topics that interested me and pulling books off the shelves and sitting right on the cool floor to sample them. I read late into the night because it was often too hot and sticky to sleep, so I would wet down my pajamas and lay on top of the sheets while air pulled in by our whole house window fan whirled across my damp body while I read .

Summer meant occasional trips to the corner store for Popsicles or Eskimo Pies, savored on the way home. It meant cold watermelon and burgers on the grill and lemonade. I liked those things...but always was grateful for the cooler weather that came in September.

This summer we have spent time in cool mountains and piney woods and are leaving again soon for three weeks in Washington state where I expect fog, chilly mornings and cool evenings, and enough sun to keep us cheerful. We will escape most of August's parched days, watching the oaks turn blue green for lack of water and the deer turn gaunt and scruffy from lack of food and the unrelenting heat.

By the time we get back we should be just weeks away from the first rain, and that changes everything.

I will spend time during those last weeks reading in a cool room, as I did as a child, recovering from a procedure that will hopefully fix my atrial fibrillation. And I am already grateful for doctors who have practiced this procedure, for the opportunity to travel away from the heat, for the time and ability to go where we choose when the summertime blues threaten to overwhelm us.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reverb#14 for June: Staycation? Nope....

The prompt: Staycationing | It's summertime and the livin' is easy.  Tell us about where you are RIGHT NOW.  Tell us about your summer time at home.  Does "home" mean heading out of town for the season?  Does it mean an extended staycation?  What does summer at home mean to you?

We recently returned from two weeks spent in Chiloquin, Ore., near Crater Lake National Park. Two lovely cool weeks in our little Sallie Forth travel trailer, in a marvelous large site in Collier Memorial State Park. We used the electric blanket most nights. We used the furnace most mornings and evenings. At home, temperatures were in the 100s, dipping for a few days into the low 90s, but we left here in 106 degree heat.

And then we spent just an overnight in the San Francisco area -- I had an appointment with the cardiologist who will do my afib ablation later this summer -- and it too was gloriously cool, and we spent the afternoon exploring the areas where we met and used to live, watching waves crashing into the shore at the Pacifica Pier, eating seafood paella at a beachfront restaurant, smelling the salt air and the wild dill that perfumes  the coastline there.

And we are getting ready to go again: to the Seattle area to visit daughter and grandchildren, to have some quiet downtime by the ocean and also to explore some areas we've briefly visited but want to see more of.

Last summer, tired of the heat, we vowed to spend more time away from it this summer -- and we are. With 114 on our front porch today, it is too hot to enjoy anything except a good book and a tall glass of water with lemon. 




Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reverb#14 for May -- cleaning house

Spring cleaning | How are you cleaning out your life and cleaning out your writing in preparation for a new season?  Reflect.  Photograph.  Think.

Huh. I don't really do 'spring' cleaning, I do 'when the clutter fairy strikes me' cleaning. I sort through my closet twice a year when I bring seasonal stuff into the main closet, and always have bags of things I no longer wear or like -- funny how that works. Sometimes it takes me a few years to discard something that I theoretically like but somehow don't wear. Ditto with shoes -- perfectly good shoes, but I don't wear them....and eventually they get passed on to someone or put in a donation bag.

Unfortunately medical issues have for the last couple of years prompted me to think about my life and make changes in what no longer works or serves my best interests. Like caffeine: I like my morning cup of coffee black and strong, but with recurring atrial fibrillation, I have finally decided that it doesn't help minimize those episodes, so now I'm getting used to decaf or herbal tea in the morning and the occasional decaf coffee.

Another huge change I made starting late last fall was to relinquish my responsibilities as my daughter's disability payee. For a variety of reasons that had caused me tremendous stress and angst, and also was not good for our relationship. She now has a company payee and I am completely out of that loop. When we speak or get together now, conversation does not center on money.

To keep my head squarely in a decent place during all this medical challenge stuff, I've gone back to the energy exercises I used more than a year ago in preparation for ankle surgery: grounding every day and focusing on bringing in good energy. Oprah and Deepok Chopra offered a free 21-day meditation series during this time which I did pretty faithfully, and it also helped a lot, especially with the mantras. I've downloaded several meditation podcasts to my iPod and have used them to help me relax and sleep at night, but also intend to build that into my daily routine as I did with the Oprah ones.

As I come across things that are no longer useful to me, or that someone else might benefit from having, I have given them away or set them aside. But this is not seasonal...this is ongoing, and will be, I suspect, for a long time to come. We both are determined to tackle the attic next winter when it is cool again and discard old files and things we stored there for lack of a better place to put them.

I have lived in this house longer than I lived anywhere. My parents lived in the same house in Missouri for 40 years, but I was there only for eight before I left for college, and then lived there in the summers until I married four years later. Mother was really good at clearing out clutter and collaborated with her friends to hold a huge garage sale yearly. It's time to get better at letting things go, especially things I will not miss at all.

The writing I do anymore is right here on this blog. I don't know that there will ever be the book I thought there would be. I don't know that the memoirs I thought I might write will ever get written, at least in some sequential format. Part of that is because of the enormous marketing effort an author must make during the publishing process, either through traditional publishers or by self-publishing. That seems too much like WORK to me, and I don't know that I am dedicated enough to do it, and question if publishing is really as important to me as I once thought it was. So for now, what I'm writing is posted here. And right now, the blog readership is pretty low -- but neither am I promoting it on websites or even in my signature lines, just because this writing is really for me, and if someone likes it and finds it helpful, that's great too.

Things can change. That much I know is true. For now, I'll work on the physical decluttering, for along with that comes the mental clearing too.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

April Moon: Day 15 -- One


One

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

One can be a single entity or concept, a solitary figure, not paired with anything else. But it also can imply that many (thoughts, people, ideas, entities) are combined into ONE unit, usually for some purpose in business or political action or education or government.

Everything begins with One as well; it is the basis. One individual reaches to another for something, which multiplies the One. At the end, there is still only One.

We are all ONE in our human-ness. We are born One, we die One. Many individuals live as One unit households. Essentially we are uniquely One.

Combine even for a brief time with others to accomplish a task, attend a class, rally for a cause, even live in a town, and all those individual Ones  become a multiple One.

This is society. This is how we live, nearly all of us.

What it means is that we do not have to be a solitary One unless we so choose to isolate. And while there are times we all need to do just that, we are still social beings and yearn to connect with other Ones, to find the common spark, the energy of connection. In so doing, our Ones become ONE.

All spiritual roads lead to One Universal Truth, although there are many names for that One, and many paths to follow.

 One is do-able, especially on days where more than that is overwhelming.  One Day At A Time.








Sunday, May 04, 2014

April Moon 14; Day 14 Comfort


Comfort

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you? 


Comfort: anything that makes you feel better about your immediate circumstances, be they physical, emotional, mental. Comfort is what mamas do to their children when they're crying or have an owie, even when the child is also an adult. Unless your mama was a real piece of work, we long for our mothers when we are sad, hurt, sick, alone. Even when mama really can't do much, just hearing the soft 'there, there,' has a calming effect -- and while friends and loved ones can help, nothing substitutes for your mama.

These days I have to imagine my mama's words, her arms around me, and yes, I can vividly remember the last time: it was not long before she died, and she was so fragile and tiny, sitting in her lift  recliner in the nursing home. I sat on the floor in front of her and put my head in her lap and my arms reaching around her hips, and she stroked my hair and just loved on me. I don't remember what ... or even if ... I had said, but I knew I needed that. We both knew her time was coming to a close.

When I call my angels to me to help me through a rough situation, I think one of them must be my mother. They don't have faces or distinguishable features or voices, really, but there is a presence that is very real, and it is comforting and strengthening. I feel softness -- feathers, perhaps? -- near me, but calm strength mostly.

Certain foods can be comfort too -- tuna noodle casserole or biscuits and honey are completely comfort food to me. Mashed potatoes (which I almost never fix) is another, and tapioca pudding. Some days just the smell of coffee and bacon and toast in the kitchen evokes those childhood days when I would wake to those smells and find my daddy cooking breakfast in the kitchen while Mother was getting ready for the day.

Taking naps wrapped in a favorite afghan is a comforting feeling, especially on Sunday afternoons, the window shades pulled and the room darkened, and add in two sleepy cats and a loving spouse, and it doesn't get much better.

We all need something to comfort us sometimes, no matter our age. And we should not feel self-conscious about asking for what we need, doing for ourselves what will help us. This is a long journey, if we are blessed, and we do need to pay attention to what our mind and body is telling us that we need.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 12-13 -- Flow and Curious

Flow

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Everything is going exactly as it should be going, one thing into another into another, all building on what has come before and what is going on, and effortlessly. That's flow. That's not how my life usually goes, however.

While I have definitely been there, in flow, more often it feels jerky, starts and stops and backups and restarts. I have to think about where to go next, how to proceed. And I spend a fair amount of time figuring out how I really feel about what is happening in whatever moment I'm in. And sometimes I just let go, and then things just happen. Huh.

I read a quote the other day, attributed to a Zen proverb, that said "Let go or be dragged." I can let go, but then I so often grab it back and try to control things again, and yes, I've been dragged along....often. That certainly impedes flow.

When I think of flow, I envision the perfect Sun Salutation: hands to the sky, then down to the floor, then into a downward dog, to plank, to cobra, back to downward dog, then hands up. I can do that, but it is slow and awkward right now, moving my out-of-shape muscles and achey joints in anything approaching a flow. So I try it anyway, as much as I can, and try to feel it inside me.

To obtain flow within -- which certainly contributes to flow outside me .... I have been working on capturing energy, cultivating meditation, that quiet, focused state which calms and clarifies. It helps in every way to make my days better, brighter, less 'sticky.' It is a practice, which means I must work at it consistently in order to get better at it. Some days are good.

Curious

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?


Oh, I wanna know stuff. I have always been curious and maybe a bit snoopy. Okay, maybe more than a bit. As a child, I listened a lot and learned things, or at least bits of things, about my parents, my brother, my friends, people at church, teachers, classmates. I watched them too, not in a creepy way, but because I was curious about why they acted as they did. When I babysat, I'd observe houses: how people chose to decorate, how much attention they paid to cleaning and being tidy, what was in their refrigerators or pantries, their bathroom. What did the kids do? What were the bedtime rituals? I was never inappropriate, mind you -- I was a reliable sitter who liked kids and cleaned up messes -- but I did observe.

My daughters will say I ask too many questions, too many of them too personal. They're probably right. I want to know the story, the whole story, not just the bits they want to feed me. Even if it is ugly and uncomfortable, I have always wanted to know the whole truth, and I am a reasonably good internet sleuth and can find out all kinds of tidbits that may not tell the whole story, but that provide some good clues.

Maybe it's because I'm a reader and a writer. The more I know, the better I can write a good story. The more I know, the more I understand about the situation, and the more it reveals about the characters.

It's not just personal stuff, though. I spent a lot of my youth browsing through public libraries, drifting through the stacks and pulling off books that interested me, sometimes sitting right there on the floor surrounded by a stack of books, reading. If a subject caught my attention, I wanted to know everything I could find about it. If an author appealed to me, I'd read my way through his/her published works. (Often still do...)

The iPad is my library now and it lives by my living room chair. Sure, I use it for email and Facebook, but in the course of watching a show or movie, I will often search for information on the featured actors ("What have we seen him in?!) or how many episodes there are left, or the setting, or the plot....I'm curious. I want to know, and I love the instant gratification the Internet gives me these days.

My doctors know that I consult Dr. Google about my medical questions too, probably more than they would like. Oh, I bring lists of questions to them, but they are formed from what I have been reading. (The danger there is getting TOO involved in it and stressing about symptoms or complications that are not mine....)

I hope I'm always curious. I've reined in the questions I ask my children these days and try to let the conversation flow as it will, knowing very well that they must follow their own paths through life, and that there are a lot of things I do not need to know about their choices. But I still ask, I still search, I still speculate .... and I still write. When you are curious, you cannot be bored. I am never bored.





 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 9-10-11 -- Yearning, Secret, Reflection


Yearning

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Memories, memories....while I really can't say I yearn for the 'good ol' days' that were, indeed, not usually all that good, there are some things I miss. My parents, for one -- being able to pick up the phone and call them, hear their voices, or visit and feel those loving arms around me. There were times, often at holidays, when being with those I loved so dearly was almost unbearably poignant, even when the very next moment could bring a melt-down or create an uncomfortable tension. There was a lot of stress, though, usually in things not being said, and I do not miss that at all. 

I could say I yearn for simpler times, but really, my life right now is pretty simple, and really good -- with the exception of some pesky health issues that cause some stress and worry.

Sometimes I yearn for the ocean, and then we usually take a trip to rejuvenate our watery Scorpio selves, but that's going to have to wait for a little bit until we get some of this health stuff resolved. I love the sound, the smell, the constancy of the waves, the way I know exactly where I am.

When I feel yearning for something, I try to analyze what is triggering the longing: is it remembering times now gone? Is it a need unfulfilled in my life, and if so, what is that need, and what can I do about it? Is it just frustration with the way the day is going? Then I take a deep breath, and remember all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for, and bless the memory or the feeling.

Secret

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?


I am not a big keeper of secrets. If anything, I am probably a bit too open about my life and feelings, and that's certainly come back to bite me in the past. However, I certainly can keep them tightly locked up, and there are a couple that I've held very close. When something is told to me in confidence, I will honor that -- actually, I've sometimes learned about a 'secret' someone shared with me that turned out to be fairly common knowledge but that never passed my lips!

I don't much like secrets. I think they hamper honest communication and create barriers. I don't even much like secrets like surprise parties, but that's primarily because I hate being blindsided. And I hate being lied to, especially when I can tell that a person is not being forthcoming. I would rather know the truth, no matter how awful, than hear any lie.

Reflection

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you? 


Reflection is sort of like Monday-morning quarterbacking: you think about something that happened or that  you said, and then you think about all the OTHER ways the scene could have played out, or all the (better) things you might have said or done.

While I think there are real truths and lessons to be found in reflecting upon actions and words -- re-examining them from different angles and perspectives, especially with some time gone by -- there is a danger in doing too much of that and in the process diluting the lesson, even to the point of unhealthy obsession.

I confess to doing too much reflection, especially when I have time to ponder, and it usually leads to judgmental thinking, mostly negative. Somehow I usually come up with the shoulda-coulda-wouldas that could have changed an outcome, and often I am critical of my own behavior.

So the key is to find the lesson therein; be gentle with myself and then to let it go, not coming back over and over like a dog with a big, gnarly bone. Reflection is good; obsession is not.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 8 -- Wild


Wild

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

'Not me' is what this word says to me. That'd be in the context of something unrestrained, uncontrolled. Even though I had times when I was definitely out of control, I was still IN control, pretty much, actually. I am a people pleaser, alas, and usually tried to do what was expected of me or what I thought someone wanted me to do. Even during those years when I was making poor choices in some areas, I worked very hard to make up for it in others -- and of course that didn't work well, but I didn't really get it at the time.

What I remember is the stress of trying to hide the poor choices by working very hard at other things, and feeling guilty much of the time, which of course led to more poor choices.

That was a very long time ago. I didn't let go of the stress of people pleasing for a long time, though, even after I cleaned up my act. When I finally began to understand who I really was and accepted that, everything changed for me. 'Wild' is still not really who I am, but I have learned how to relax into myself and be happy.

I live on 11 acres of mostly wild: my landscaping is 'natural,' meaning that there is no grassy manicured lawn, no flower beds, no intentional plantings. I have blue oak trees and natural grasses and wildflowers sometimes, and the deer come practically to my back door. The bird feeders attract hundreds of brilliantly yellow goldfinches and red house finches and opalescent mourning doves and fiery-throated hummingbirds -- all wild, and we sit at our table and listen to the squawks and chirps and whistles as we watch them vie for seed and nectar. We hear coyotes in the evening, not far away. Raccoons and skunks and possums will visit the front porch to raid the cat food if we don't bring it inside quickly enough at dusk. Big jackrabbits hop across the meadows and sometimes we have a flock of wild turkeys lurching their way through. We hear the hunting cry of hawks every day, and the turkey vultures soar with the air currents across the trees, casting big winged shadows on the ground.

That's the kind of wild I love. We get to watch from the safety of our house, get to walk over the property and sit outside  and observe what goes on, feeling the energy of the life around us.

I'm content to be 'in' the wild but not 'of' the wild, to be who I am.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April Moon 14: Day 5-7 -- Focus, Nuance, Texture

Focus

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Like many women, I tend to have several conversation threads running at the same time in my brain: "I can use these leftovers and create _____ for supper," "Let's see, no appointments today, yay, so let's file those long overdue papers," "Need to make time for the latest Oprah-Deepok meditation," "Oops, still laundry to fold," "Wonder what the freebie Kindle is today," and you get the picture. All jumbled up at the same time, but following each one.

FOCUS  is when I follow only one thread at a time. The other conversations, to-do lists, and worries fade away. My attention is riveted only on one thing. Like in meditation: I am focused on my breath, in and out, and if necessary, use a mantra to help me focus only on that. (Sometimes it works for a brief time too! And then I bring my focus back to the breath. And again. And again.)

Sometimes it's called multi-tasking. Actually, it often results in things done poorly, incompletely, or dropping off the radar completely (until you're trying to go to sleep, that is, and then whoosh -- there it is).

Focus helps me do a better job of nearly anything I'm trying to do. It helps me pay attention to conversations with my friends and loved ones because I'm not thinking of what I'm going to say, I'm LiSTENING to what they are saying. It helps me appreciate what is around me every day -- my home, the beautiful countryside, the individuality of our kitties. When I focus, I see more, feel more, and it stimulates great gratitude for what is there.

Less multi-tasking. More focus. Yeah, you, there, in the sweatpants. One. Thing. At. A. Time. Listen. Open. Be Present, right here, right now.

Nuance

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?


OOOOhhh--Nuance is another step in FOCUS, actually, where you pay extra close attention and see a slightly different viewpoint, hear a slightly different tone, see a slightly different perspective, understand something in a slightly different way.

You must be very focused, really immersed in something, to capture the nuances. As you look and listen and examine and feel and see, focus expands not off the subject or thing or person, but wider, sort of like a macro lens on a camera, where you see subtle variations that enhance your perception and appreciation, and expanding your knowledge and understanding. It is the difference between strolling through an art gallery and studying one picture.

When I pay attention, I see nuances. Again, being where I am, present in the moment, will open me to subtleties of life and what I experience.


Texture

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you? 


Years and YEARS ago I wrote an essay for a high school English class on visiting a fabric store and discovering the texture of the different fabrics: corduroy, lace, damask, tulle, flannel, cotton, linen, silk, etc. Even now, I can recall the feeling of these different fabrics on my fingertips and how different each texture is, and even the emotions the texture evokes: the soft warmth and nubbiness of the flannel makes me think of cold winter nights and warm flannel sheets and jammies, for instance. The open, slightly stiff but airy weave of tulle says PARTY to me, even more specifically, WEDDING! 

Food texture also stimulates memory: the silky warmth of creamy tomato soup and a crunchy melty-smooth grilled cheese is pure comfort food and memory for many of us. I love the sogginess of graham crackers well-soaked in milk, a kind of slurry almost, that slid down sore throats easily and makes me remember that treat when I didn't feel so good and the comforting care my mother gave me when I was sick. Crisp, fresh lettuce straight from the garden, still slightly sun-warm, and drizzled with a good olive oil and a bite of fresh Meyer lemon makes my mouth pucker in anticipation.

Everything has texture. It gives our moments depth and creates memory. It makes our experiences richer and more meaningful. And again, it is all about paying attention, being in the moment, focusing on one thing at a time, finding the nuances in the experience.





 

April Moon 14: Day 4 -- Sacred

Sacred

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Sacred has the definition of 'revered due to association with holiness. Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy (perceived by religious individuals as associated with divinity) or sacred (considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers).'

For me, I'm not so much influenced by the opinions or practices of'religious individuals as associated with divinity.' That's probably because once upon a time in another life I worked for the Great Church. I saw 'em up close and personal, warts and all, politics and abuses of office and so on. I loved and honored many who I knew. Our clergy are PEOPLE, folks, and they have faults and idiosyncracies and they make mistakes. Many have a genuine calling to serve; I'd venture to say most of them began with that, but there are some who lost that along the way.

So. What I'm told is 'sacred' by the Great Church or its servants is not necessarily what I'd label 'sacred.'

I find much of nature to be sacred: ah, my beloved Mama Ocean, who heals, who washes away the insignificant, whose constancy is ancient. The mountains, old wisdom and that constancy again (well, maybe not so much the volcanic ones, but even they move and breathe and do as they are supposed to do). Any animal or bird or bug -- the flowers, the grasses, the trees -- how DOES a tree know when to pop its leaves, and isn't it a miracle and SACRED that they do every year, every single spring? How does that hummingbird DO that hover thing? Wow.

Our bodies are sacred temples, mysterious in the infinite ways they are engineered to carry us through life, that we are all so alike and yet so, so different. Babies are sacred little beings when they are born, innocent and unknowing and wise and perfect.

The energy of all things is sacred. We are all connected through that energy, and to practice feeling it, tapping into the ancient and endless well of energy is to touch immortality, or as close as we could come to knowing it. Meditation is a powerful way to do that. Being outside and consciously raising our individual energy to blend with that of the energy of all things around us is sacred.

I have been in places that hold a tangible energy and history, but I'm not sure I'd label them 'sacred' -- awe-worthy, perhaps, knowing the stones and wood and surroundings hold the traces of an energy that once inhabited that place, even recently. Communal energy raised in gratitude and praise and love is very powerful, and I often feel that in places of worship. Is that sacred? Perhaps.

I guess what makes something sacred for me is the purity of purpose and energy that marks a place or words or actions or even that which resides in a person. It simply IS, without agenda, without ego, and it resonates on a deeply personal, interior level. I am always grateful when I experience flashes of the sacred, and awed by the power it encompasses.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April Moon 14, Day 3 -- Home

Home

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Home is my safe place: the people I love and who love me back are there. There is the comfort of familiar things and routines and treasures. As I have gotten older, however, I realize that 'home' doesn't have to be a structure at all, that anytime I am with my beloved husband and kitties, I am home.

The house my parents owned from the year I was in fifth grade until 1998 when they sold it and most of the contents to move into a senior living apartment was home, and, I suppose, will always hold the place in my memory as my childhood home. I knew everything about it: which stairstep creaked when you stepped on it, where the memory boxes were stashed in the upstairs closets, how to close a door quietly so that my folks didn't hear me come in. My room had a tin windowsill outside the dormer, and I always heard the first raindrops. A huge lilac bush bloomed under another window in my room, and lilacs remain my favorite spring flower, evoking security, new growth, calm, and a sense of continuity: they bloomed every year.

As a young married woman, I created several homes in different cities, and made them cozy and welcoming and familiar, with little family treasures displayed on walls and shelves, made them feel safe for us. When I moved into my own little apartment in Pacifica, having left my home in Birmingham to create a new life, I arranged the treasures I'd brought with me to help me feel safe and familiar, and I established new routines for my new home.

When Tony and I moved in together, we mingled treasures and routines, but our safety and comfort was all bound up in each other far more than in that condo where we heard every footstep, every airplane landing at SFO, every siren. We lived there but our home was within our relationship more than within the structure.

And now, in a home we built 12 years ago and still love, we have both a safe, welcoming structure encompassing ourselves and our relationship and our lives. The very best place -- the sense of being truly home --- is at night in our bed, holding hands next to each other, our kitties settled in beside us. That sense travels with us in our little travel trailer too. Anywhere we are together has now become home: the physical parts are dear and familiar and warm, but it is who we are and that we love that has brought us to our home.