Saturday, September 3, 2011

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Once again, I've been bad about updating. But other than being surprisingly busy, I have a legitimate excuse this time. (Seriously, you guys.) My laptop is down for the count. Permanently. I've been using J's computer for brief moments, but he needs it for school. Thus, my computer usage has been mostly relegated to the few moments I can spare at work. Last time I wrote I told you all about the new dog and I promised posts on my trip home and my friend's visit. I'm going to roll those two together and title this post, "Home is Where the Heart Is" because I had a wonderful time at home, and I got to share my new home with my good friend E (and she made life here just that much better for the few days she was visiting).

I went home towards the end of July, and let me tell you, I sorely needed a reality check. Living in Miami is my current reality, but I'm used to a slower paced life, where I don't fear for my safety every time I get in a car, and where people hold open the door for you instead of cursing you out for some inane reason. I've never been told-off so much in my life. It's can be really grating to be here, and I was desperate to get back to Wisconsin to recharge my batteries. That three hour plane ride could not go fast enough. And as soon as I got off the plane, I was happy to see that I was back with my "people." You know, chubby, pale people who enjoy cheese without torturing themselves? Those people. I cried immediately upon seeing my dad and littlest brother. I was just so happy to be back. I went straight to my grandma's house to surprise her. There we got Cousins Subs, ate Popsicles, and picked raspberries like the old days: me, my dad, and my brothers. Of course it is not the old days and I still miss my grandfather, who would have been outside, picking berries with us, but it brought back wonderful memories. I took some of my grandma's rhubarb home (so hard to find it in Miami) and promised my family a rhubarb-raspberry pie. This is my only baking specialty and they seemed to like it, even though I forgot to tent the pie crust with tin foil and the edges got a wee bit burnt. That night I got to have dinner with one of my closest college friends. I'll call her Abe. (Because that's what I call her sometimes.) It was so nice to catch up and laugh. Abe is hilarious and J and I have shared many memorable moments throughout the years with her. I miss having good friends in Miami and I especially miss the good girl friends I had in Madison. Abe might come to visit next year. I cannot wait. I know hilarity will ensue.

The next day my mom hosted a party for her mom's 75th birthday. It was so nice to see my extended family. And eat lots of food. LOTS of food. (I have an aunt who calls me "Peaches" that makes amazing party food. I crave the stuff. Crab spread. Taco dip. Fruit Pizza. Veggie Pizza. Ohmygosh. Just thinking of it makes me hungry.) I hadn't seen many of my family members since Christmas, so it was an especially meaningful reunion. The next day my parents, my littlest brother, and I escaped to our family cabin in the beautiful region of Southwestern Wisconsin. It's the "driftless" region. Glaciers didn't make it there and it is a sight to be seen in autumn. Sometimes I daydream about spending a summer up there to read, write, devote to art, and commune with nature. Or maybe September and October when it's not so hot? (We don't have running water, so if it was summer and I was sweaty I'd be stinky and unfit to come back to civilization.) I tend to do a lot of reading out there. And sleeping. I fixed up the fire pit that I had made years and years ago. I wish I could have gone for a hike, but it had just rained and the ravine can be a bit treacherous. I will have to go hunting for geode rocks next time. We roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. Then my parents treated me to a play at American Players Theatre. We have a tradition of going to see a Shakespearean play once a summer and I'm glad that I was able to see one this year. Back in Milwaukee I had to run errands at my local bank, get my teeth cleaned (this is seriously one of my favorite things to do, as I love my dentist), and ship stuff to Miami. I also got a double scoop of my favorite red raspberry custard at Kopp's with my family and my Aunt R and we ran into my second cousin, which was a wonderful surprise. The day I was supposed to leave, I ended up missing my flight by two minutes (the plane still hadn't taxied away from the terminal). Long story short, I left the next morning. But let this be a lesson to all of those flying out of MKE... the airport security, God bless them, move like slugs there. Get there early!!

I SO did not want to go back to Miami. Of course I missed my husband, but I was having fun with my family and I was enjoying Wisconsin. I will tell you that it was hotter in WI than it was in Miami that weekend, and that stunk. I am feeling more and more "okay" with living in Miami, but it just doesn't hold the same comfort of HOME for me. And "home" to me is not just the house I grew up in. "Home" is a combination of family, friends, food, smells, memories, and places. My "home" could extend from the beach of Lake Michigan through Milwaukee, snake down the highway to Madison, take time to stop for a drink at the Weary Traveler, extend through the isthmus, and continue on to the rolling hills of the Kickapoo River Valley. I feel at home when I talk to my friends on the phone and visualize the stories they tell me, laughing and interjecting with "Oh heck no" all the way through the conversation. But I also knew that it was time to be "home" with J. He is truly the person who understands my idiosyncrasies better than anyone else. He knows me as the late-teen and adult whereas my parents knew me best as the child. (I will say that I am most carefree and childlike in the safety of my childhood home, in the company of my parents. That is a wonderful gift they gave me.) But, like I said, it was time to go back to J, who holds my heart, to pick up my adult life, and to return to Miami, my current home. Besides, a couple of days after my return home, my friend E came to visit!!

My friend E is the one who helped me do the huge move immediately after my wedding. In the course of a few days she came to Milwaukee, did my rehearsal and dinner with me, stayed the night, helped me with the last minute details for the wedding, stayed for the wedding, drove back to Madison, came back the next evening, and at five am the next morning we moved me, my car, and my stuff to Miami. It was a 22 hour drive. We stayed for a night in Chattanooga, and on the ride down the next day, we got really mad at the state of Florida for putting a turnpike through the boooooring Everglades. And THEN she stayed with me for a week to help me unpack, organize, and explore. Oh, I forgot, she also helped me move OUT of my apartment in Madison less than two weeks before that. To say she did me a favor is a HUGE understatement. I have told her I owe her moving out, moving in, a cross-country trip, and a wedding. :) I had not seen her since that move. 11 months is a long time to go without seeing a friend.

I was so excited to pick her up from the airport, and for her to meet Ruby. In four short days we hit up three different beaches, went shopping, went to the botanical gardens, experienced the greatness that is Mz.Cheezious, and dealt with a minor crisis. Even though we only got two hours of sleep the night before she had to leave, and even though we were a bit worried, it was E who I would want with me for any hairy situation. She's like a calm, collected parent who knows her way around a smart phone and GPS. The only thing E cannot do is drive stick, but neither can I. She knows how to bake, pack knives for moving, jam a car full of stuff, MAKE jam, find a good deal, knows when you are down and you need a message/card the most, and much, much more. Driving around the better part of Southern Florida with her brought back memories of us, in Madison, accidentally driving through a mental institute, finding any excuse to go to Octopus Car Wash, and grabbing copious amounts of Starbucks, Panera, and/or Noodles and Co. It felt like home.

Shortly after her visit, things got super crazy at work. Like lines of 10+ people for most of the day, three phone lines ringing off the hook, countless e-mails, countless complaints, countless angry "customers." It was a nightmare. To put it in perspective, between Thursday afternoon and a Tuesday morning my phone missed 1016 calls. No, that does not count how many I actually picked up. And one night I stayed at work until past 6 with my co-workers to return 46 voice messages. For the record, we were getting voice mail throughout the day as well and trying our best to return those phone calls. I was exhausted, and cranky, and ready for another vacation. I wanted, so badly, to be laughing at the silliest stuff with my parents. Or to be in the ocean, chatting with E, watching J swim around like a tall, skinny fish.

Things have slightly calmed down. I'm still busy at work. I'm still depressingly poor. (J paid for my flight to WI and will most likely have to pay for my new computer- whenever that happens.) I'm still looking disheveled and slightly sweaty. (Although, E surprised me with a haircut and color, so now my hair is darker and shorter. A slightly more chic way to do the sweaty Midwesterner in Miami.) But things will soon be looking up. J was awarded a grant for this year from NASA (my smarty pants), and soon it will ease some of the financial tension. I have been taking crafting classes at the local botanical garden. We have been doing puppy classes for Ruby (well, really they are for us, let's not lie). And I have once again kicked up the "career" search. I've been asking myself questions about what I want out of life and what I want in a career. Right now I have a job. It's not something I see myself doing for the long term. The other day I was talking to my mom on the phone about living in Miami. I've been thinking back to some people I went to high school with because my littlest brother just started. I may not always like living in Miami, I told her, but at least I'm living in a large, metropolitan area that gets name-checked in rap songs, mentioned in books, and "hosts" some television shows. (They are obviously filmed mostly in LA. I'm no dummy.) As I think back to some of the kids that were not so nice to me, I realize that many are living with their parents. They've been living an extended version of high school for years. I have friends who have lived in France, Wales, NYC, moved to MN, CA, and are in various stages of life. I'm happy to be on the adventure I am and ultimately that means I am happy to be where I am. I look forward to experiencing new places with J. I like my apartment and the little space we've created for ourselves. Home is where the heart is: in the memories, the houses from my childhood, the experiences, the food. I know I can and will find "home" anywhere and with those I love.

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