Friday, July 30, 2010

The Language of Home

What language does your home speak?

I'm not talking about the people in your house. . .I'm talking about the house itself.

My sister and I were recently remembering one of my mom's friends.  When we were kids,  we'd visit this lady, and it wasn't a fun time.  Her home was a show place:  the carpets were pristine, the walls perfectly painted, the furniture like new.  It was very uncomfortable.

On the other hand, I recall the first time I went to my future in-law's house.  It too was a lovely home, but it was so welcoming that you couldn't help but feel comfortable there.  My mother-in-law had amazing taste, and her home could have graced the pages of any decorating magazine.  But whenever I visited, I only felt the love.

I know people who hesitate to invite friends over because they're not happy with their house.  They'd like it to be bigger, newer or brighter.  I understand that.  We've lived in more than one fixer-upper house, and there were times when projects weren't completed before a party or a room wasn't perfect for visitors.  It was a struggle for me.  I was house-insecure!  It took me years to relax and realize that if I was relaxed and comfortable as a hostess, my guests would enjoy themselves, too.

When we moved down here to Orlando, we had the opportunity to choose a home that would be perfect for our family--a new home for the first time in our married lives.  We tried to be very thoughtful and realistic about our needs.  We considered homes that I knew might look good for entertaining.  But in the end, we chose a house that would work for our family:  a large kitchen with room for lots of cooks and a table for our family meals, smaller bedrooms but a large family room, so that we can all hang out and watch movies together, a school room and lots of bathrooms!

I could spend time and money putting together a house that would look like a show room.  I could have sofas that my guests might be afraid to sit on and walls that are off-limits to little fingers.  But that wouldn't be fun or inviting.  Yes, I'm sitting a sofa that belonged to my mom and dad, and it's well-loved.  But I don't cringe when the kids leap over its back, or when it's accented with assorted cats and dog draped artfully around it.  Our house is our home, and it feels like it.

So what does your house say?  Does it say come on in and have a seat?  Does it make your guests want to linger?  Does your house say home?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Heart

When I was a newlywed, my husband and I lived in a one bedroom apartment on the west side of Richmond, Virginia.  It was perfect for us:  the bedroom was comfortably sized, the living room fairly large and our new table and hutch looked lovely in the dining room.  The only drawback was the kitchen.

It was tiny.  I have a closet now in which I could fit two of that kitchen.  The gas stove had two burners, and the oven had a pilot light that went out if I slammed the door too hard.  I don't remember the refrigerator, so I guess it must have been pretty normal.  There was a sink and a small counter, maybe a few cabinets.  

None of that is too terrible except that as I said, we were newly weds.  We had just had a beautiful wedding preceded by a shower wherein our families and friends had been most generous.  I had boxes of wonderful kitchen supplies and a kitchen that could barely accommodate a knife block.   

But I remember too that some of my first halting steps in my cooking journey took place in that little kitchen.  I made my first red gravy (also known as spaghetti sauce) as well as my first scrambled eggs.  (Seriously.  I don't eat eggs, so there was never any need to make them until one weekend I was called upon to make one for my father in law.  He's still alive so I guess it was a successful experiment.)

I've had quite a few kitchens since that one.  (Nine, if my count is correct.)  And right now I am blessed to have a lovely and large kitchen, with amazing amounts of counter space.  All of my beloved gadgets and tools have a home.  And it's a good thing we've got a fairly large kitchen, as I have lots of cooks in my family!  My favorite time of the day is right before dinner, when everyone is coming home and dinner is almost ready.  People are sitting at the table or the counter.  Some kids are setting the table while others are helping to prepare the meal.  Everyone is sharing about their day, telling funny stories.  

And the meal itself is only an extension of that feeling.  We sit around the table and conversation is rarely if ever dull.  (Consider that we have two college students and a seminary students in addition to two homeschooled kids and their homeschooling mama.  New ideas fly fast and furious!)

This is the heart of the home, because this is where we're fed, body and soul.   It's the homiest part of the home front.

I just came home from being away for a few days of writing, all by myself.  I found all three children (Dev was working) in the kitchen.  One was making lunch, another was prepping to make a cake, the third was looking for something to eat.  We settled down around the table, and within a few moments I was caught up on the happenings in my little household.  Such is the magic of the kitchen and the table.

It's important to protect the heart of the home just as it is to protect our own hearts.  I like to try to keep ours as clean and clutter free as possible (I said try!).  I try to be there without my computer at mealtimes.  As much as possible, we keep it a cell phone free zone.  

I don't miss my little Richmond kitchen, but I won't forget what I learned there.  

Come on into my kitchen any time.  We'll have some coffee or tea, and there's probably some of Haley's cake or Catie's cookies.  Be comfortable.  I'd love to share my heart with you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Community

When I was a little girl, we lived in fairly large development in Modesto, California.  (If that name rings a bell, it might be because of Lacey Peterson or Chandra Levy, but when I lived there, it was still a sleepy little cow town.)  I remember that it was rather daunting for my mother to move there from our small home town in New Jersey as well as from the farm in Pennsylvania where we'd lived for a few years directly before the move.

Shortly after we'd moved into the new neighborhood, there was a power outage.  (I don't know why, but they seemed to be fairly regular.  We didn't have electrical storms, so it wasn't that. . .maybe out there in the wild west they were still working the kinks out of electric wires.)

Anyway, the power went out in the late afternoon.  I think my dad must have been on shift work at the time, because it was just my mother and I at home.  She was a little rattled, and then there was a knock at the door.

It was one of our new neighbors, and when we ventured outside, we realized that just about everyone who lived the houses around us was there.  Someone explained that they did this every time the power went out.  We children played on the sidewalks while our parents stood in the streets, chatting and catching up.

That was my first real experience with community.  Over our next five years in California, three thousand miles away from our extended family, those neighbors became our support system.  I can still tell you that Barbara Baker lived across the street with her husband Bill and  three daughters, Debbie, Lisa and Jean.  The Regesters lived next door.  These were people who came over and helped when my mom was sick, celebrated birthdays and mourned losses with us.

Years later, my own husband and I moved to our very first permanent duty station with the Army.  We lived off post until I was pregnant with our first child, and then we moved onto Wheeler Air Force Base. I was pregnant and going to college, and I barely knew any of our neighbors, all of whom were other officers in the Army or Air Force.

The summer after Devyn was born, my husband was sent to Australia for a six week deployment.  I was left alone with a six month old baby.  All of our neighbors had moved over a two month period, and I didn't know anyone who had replaced them in the houses around us.

All that changed late one afternoon when my sweet kitten slipped out of the house and climbed a tree in the playground behind our house.  I was beside myself.  I stood outside with the baby in a backpack, looking up into the tree, calling to Tigger and alternately threatening and cajoling her.  I had been out there for about twenty minutes when a little girl wandered over.  She asked me what I was doing, and I explained about the cat.

Within a few minutes, all of my neighbors had joined me at the tree.  Someone offered to take the baby so I could bring out some cat treats.  One of the husbands grabbed a ladder and propped it up against the tree to try to get the cat down.

I don't remember what ultimately got the cat down, but I do know that after that day, I didn't just have neighbors--I had a new community.  Three of us had babies around the same age, we discovered, and we formed an impromptu play group.  We were there for each other.

You might think community is hard to find these days.  Most of us don't know our neighbors very well.  But it's there for us.  For me, much of my community is found on line, with women I don't see very often if at all.  These ladies who live around the country and the world offer me support and love, and I do the same with them.  Four of my best friends are women I met online through a homeschool curriculum support group.  My online writing group is loyal and supportive.  I love all these girls!

Where's your community?  Who's your support group?

Welcome to the Home Front

Welcome!  Come on in, pull up a chair and sit down for a while or as my Nana from Virginia used to say, "Sit down for a spell."

This is the home front.  It has nothing to do with battles or politics; any wars we might talk about are squabbles between siblings, and the politics here involve the best chicken or chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The home front is some place to go when you just want to sit and visit.  Pour yourself a cup of cyber coffee or tea or whatever makes you happy.  Grab one of those cookies--they're fresh out of the oven.

Think you've stepped into a time warp?  Nope.  Despite what you might see on the television news or read about in magazines or newspaper, the home front is alive and well.

Here we can chat about what makes a home.  We can share joys, troubles and worries.

So put your feet up and let's have a real visit!