Friday, July 3, 2009

A Place To Call Home

From a very early age, nine to be exact, I knew I was not cut out to be a small town girl. My sisters and I traveled to New York City to visit my Aunt-- my Mom's sister, when we were kids. From the moment I arrived, I fell in love with the hustle and bustle, the bright lights, endless action, and all those people.

My Aunt, at the time, was a big TV Soap star and fashion model often seen on magazine covers and in television commercials. She "escaped" our small town and I figured I could too.

To a nine year old, and I'm guessing by all the other people that asked for her autograph in public, her life was very exciting and glamorous. She lived in a big Park Avenue apartment that had a white leather sofa. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. There was no way I could ever imagine a white sofa in our family's home-- Not with 5 kids, a dog and two cats! But I knew I wanted one when I grew up.

Auntie's building had a doorman. Since I had never seen anyone else in the building-- coming or going-- ever, I assumed he was "her doorman" whose sole job was to open the door for us. That was another thing I wanted to have too-- A door opener!

So for years, all I did was try to figure out how the heck to get out of our small Midwest town and to The Big Apple. I focused my attention on the silly things kid do-- How I would decorate my apartment, what my doorman's name would be, how I'd get great seats at all the Broadway shows and what I'd order in fancy restaurants. Oh yeah, I was a big thinking 9 year old, if I do say so myself. But as you can see, my thinking was not particularily realistic.

Fast forward to age 21. My loser boyfriend at the time was moving East, so away I went-- Blindly, like an idiot, but I was going to New York City! Well, sort of. It was actually a small, tacky apartment in New Jersey, but by train, NYC was close enough. The relationship was short lived-- Thank gawd-- and I soon found myself on my glamorous Auntie's doorstep, suitcase in hand.

Auntie had long since retired from "the business" and moved north of Manhattan. Again, an easy train ride to "The City". I worked a couple of boring, mindless jobs to pay rent in a studio apartment close to my Aunt, but I was working my way up the sales ladder and wonders never cease-- before too long, I was working for a Manhattan publishing company. Life was grand!

There was no way I could afford to live in Manhattan, but oh how I loved to arrive at Grand Central Station every morning and walk the 13 blocks up Park Avenue to my office building. I was so happy and so proud to have accomplished the dreams of my nine year old self. I'd found my "home" and was loving it.

But, I absolutely missed my family "back home" in Ohio-- I had massive phone bills to prove it and I made the 8 hour each-way drive to visit several times a year. It's amazing to think now that I once had the energy to work all day Friday, make the 90 minute commute home, then hop in my car for the 8 hour drive to Ohio. Then I'd get back in the car after a late lunch Sunday afternoon to drive 8 hours back to New York, sleep for a few hours and wake refreshed for work at 6AM on Monday. If that's not proof, "youth is wasted on the young" nothing is. I'd pay big bucks to have that kind of energy today.

But paradise was short lived. After working just 3 years in New York City, I was transferred to San Francisco to open a new office for the publisher. San Francisco-- You know the one 3,000 miles away for my beloved Manhattan. That was the hardest move I have ever made in my life.  Not only was it the wrong coast, it was also a different time zone from my family and an impossible 48 hour door-to-door weekend trip back to my home town. I spent two very long, very sad, years in San Francisco.

My San Francisco job required me to travel 70% of the time. Not a great way to meet new friends or, at age 26 -- guys! For two years I worked, ate and rarely slept. I did not go on one single date, but I did see every inch of San Francisco and the surrounding area in my limited spare time. What a beautiful place.... to visit!

At 28, change came again and I moved to Los Angeles to a new publishing company. Now we're talking, I thought. I committed to a three year assignment with the promise I'd be transferred back to NYC when the gig was up. I was sure LA, with it's sandy beaches and beautiful weather, was just what I needed after a couple years in cold, foggy San Francisco. It's possible, but since I worked so stinking much, I barely saw the light of day or the beaches. But it didn't matter-- it was all a means to the end-- And the end was back in Manhattan.

Enter my future husband. I resisted our budding relationship every step of the way. His business was firmly planted in Los Angeles, as was his family, and he wasn't going anywhere, anytime soon- and certainly NOT to New York City.

Los Angeles is a lovely place to live sometimes. But for me, it's never really felt like "home". Of course my darling husband is here and my dear friends, but LA is so spread out, so disjointed and so jammed with people, mostly sitting in their cars on the freeway, that there is no real sense of community. You can't just "run out" and meet friends for dinner because traffic is terrible. And there's nothing in "walking distance" either.

Long story short, I never went back to New York City and I probably never will. Warm winter weather in Los Angeles is a very strong opinion changer, especially when watching blizzard reports from the Midwest and East coast, on the nightly news.

But at some point in time, I don't want to live here in Los Angeles. Earthquakes, fires, floods, mudslides, and occasional riots, along with all the traffic, are not something I look forward to in my old age.

Snow, ice and everything that implies, is not appealing anymore either. For many years I've said I have my nursing home all picked out-- But it's in Ohio and I'm pretty sure Ohio will still have brutal winters when I'm an old woman.

Warm weather locations outside the West coast earthquake zones are appealing, but brutally hot summers and the need for a "second" home is not on my dance card nor in my budget.

So the older I get, the harder it gets, to find a place to call "home". Sure it's "where your heart is" but that doesn't necessarily make it a comfortable place to live. Of course I want to be close to family and friends, but if it's so hard to drive to them that I only see them a few times a year, what's the point?

Will earthquakes rattle me into my 90s? Will I be reduced to Facebooking in my old age to stay connected? Or will I surrender to the cold and snow and move back East? I have a long way to go before I need to address this, and, in all honestly, my husband is not interested in talking about it at all. But it doesn't stop me from wondering, what old age will be like and will I feel at home?

Where is your "home"?
Welcome to The Fifty Factor -- Joanna


  1. Great story - I love the way you write. Glad you like LA. What's not to like!

  2. Snarky Sister...home is Baltimore. But, I live now in Western PA near Pittsburgh. Have for the past five years. Do I like it? No.

    Do I have a beautiful home? Yes. Nice neighbors. Yes. Not far from home but just far enough to make it less than convenient for the family to drop by for a visit, dinner, or just because.

    I'm not certain what it is about having moved some place new and finding less than home...after five years, I've just decided that it's all right that I miss "home."

    I understand that home is where the heart is, and if that's the case it's here with My Beloved.
    But, the part of me that is from Maryland and loved being a home town girl in Baltimore will always think of that as , "Home."

    I suppose, if you loved where you grew up, that's always home, no matter how far you travel from it. Just ask Dorothy of the ruby shoes...she'll concur.


  3. I really enjoyed reading the story of your different moves.
    I'm a homebody and live 25 minutes from where I grew up. I like living in the country and would have a hard time living away from family, so this is home and it's where I'll be when I'm retired!

  4. We've lived a lot of places too, but I do love Utah.

  5. I'll tell you in an email if you really want to know where I live. It IS home. I love it but I don't like the snow.... I'm not sure that I'll ever live anywhere else. I am content, for now.
    I hope that you find what or where you are looking for. For now, I think your home is where your sewer condom is....

    I like you more everytime I read one of your awesome posts. I could picture you at nine years old being perfectly happy with your Auntie in New York!

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend, Joanna!

    Hugs and love,

  6. Hi!
    I'm glad to visit a great blog. Smart posts and beautiful photos. I like to contact people, all over the world, by his blogs.Would you follow me,because I'm afraid to lost your blog?I'm waiting your visit. Thank's

  7. I wish I had some answers for you. I feel the same way you do. Where is home?

    Living my entire life in Utah until 3 years ago, Utah should feel like home. But I am so desperate to find a home of my own with my kids and my spouse. I want this to be home here. Maybe someday it will feel that way.
    I plan to stay here until it does.

  8. Joanna, it can't hurt to start thinking about where you would retire to. Hawaii? (-:

    Home for me is where I am right now, but it's a big house for when the kids move on. So I do wonder where we'll end up. I do hope my kids stay close by.

  9. Home is wherever you are comfortable.

    PS I loved LA. I thought I would never love a city more than London, but I do. I found the city. It was the City of New York.


  10. Having moved many times as a child and finding it very difficult to resettle at each school etc. I can tell you that my home is right where I am now. A suburb about twenty minutes from the city. I will be taken out of the front door in a coffin when the final move is made.

    But, is that "home" feeling based on comfort and routine?

  11. When Hubby and I got married, I owned a home in the city, he owned a home in the mountains (nearest grocery store was 30 minutes away), so we comprimised on a home in an actual mountain TOWN---with amenities just a few miles away.

    It's grown on me in the last 12 years. Now when I drive to the city I freak out a bit over the sheer masses of people and inconsiderate drivers racing from point A to point B.

    I like being able to go out on our back deck and see whatever sky show nature has to offer (meteor showers, etc) without it being dimmed by light pollution.

  12. This has been on my mind as well. I loved reading about your life and the moves you´ve made.
    For me, growing up in Canada, then moving back to Paraguay, then getting married in Canada and finally ending up in P. again.....that makes me feel at home in both places. Even though our kids grew up in P., now one of them lives in Canada and one here in P. Where will I live to be near "future" grandkids? I am trying to come to terms with the fact that it is highly unlikely for me to "have it all". I will have to choose a country and try to visit the other as much as possible. I think we have to train ourselves to see the good things, of where we live now. Even though it´s never going to be perfect, it is home and (meaning me now) we should not always look at the "other greener side of the fence"!

  13. I can tell you that for Dan and me, home is NOT any place south of the Mighty Mac (Mackinac Bridge that is). If we had to move back down state, it would break our hearts. We love to travel and hope when our business sells we can hop in our truck, complete with our 5th wheel and our home will be on wheels!

  14. I love this post! You are so right. When it comes down to the heart, it is all about where the heart feels most comfortable. I wish the best for you.

  15. This is beautiful and I can so picture everything you wrote. I think home for me is in a room full of my family, and that evolves. Not so sure it is a place as it is a feeling. But that feeling, by the beach, sounds really great! xoxoxox

  16. At this point, home is wherever my family is. I've lived in a 30 yr old housetrailer and a 3600 sq foot house on a golf course, both were home because husband and kids were there.

  17. So true.

    I call Washington State my home. But I long for the mountains. I live in the desert part of WA. That is no fun when it's the Evergreen State. Don't see that :0

    Happy 4th to you.

  18. Thank you for stopping by my blog! I love that you grew up in a town called Willoughby. I named by blog after the ficticious Willoughby in my favorite Twilight Zone episode because I love the notion that such a perfect place exists.

    Your blog is great! I know I'm going to enjoy following it.

  19. Enjoyed this....We moved away from "home (WI)" about 13 yrs. ago and I have never looked back. Where we are now is all ours. We visit home twice a year and talk on the phone, but we have no desire to return. We worked hard to feel comfortable in our new city and I don't have any desire to return to WI.

  20. Funny, when I moved to Seattle nine years ago, all I could think about was moving back "home" to upstate New York. Now, I consider Seattle my home, hopefully until the end of my days. My family is here (except for my brother, who seems firmly placed in Florida, yuck). But I love Seattle--the cooler weather, less harsh winters than upstate New York, the mountains, and the (mostly) liberal political climate).

    Great post.

    NYC IS an exciting city.

  21. I too believe the whereever the heart may be is where home is. A great post. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for leading me to your blog!! I just signed up to follow you.

  22. Great post. I can understand why you would prefer the East to the West Coast. I remember staying in Manhatten in an apartment with a doorman and my daughter who was very young at the time was in her element.

    The older I get I think home is where your heart is. Your family, where you have a sense of purpose, friends etc.

    I will be on the move soon enough to where more of my family are and a warmer climate. I have lived in many places too and I seem to have made a home whereever I am. I like to be around water though - that to me tell sme I am home.

    Hope you are having a good July 4 weekend.

  23. Married Military
    Lived in Middle East
    Moved to base and base
    Moved home to where family was
    Good place to raise my kids
    Still here

  24. Keep the dreams. Dreams are the spark plugs.

    Reading your post is like reading a novel, like One Fifth Avenue or something. Reminds me of my own dreams. Thank you.

  25. Hi all, Thanks for all your great comments. I'm learning more about you with each post, especially, it seems, this one! And, I met a blogger named after my hometown-- Willoughby! Small world, huh?

    Home is where your heart is, no doubt, I think we all agree on that. But finding the location some of us want our hearts to gather is still a question.

    Ticklish From A Distance said. "...home for me is in a room full of my family..." That made me smile as I've often said my husband and I are the happiest with the family around the dinner table.

    Keep those cards and letters coming. i love hearing from you! Enjoy the 4th! xo

  26. A great read, Joanna. Home to me is climbing up Edinburgh's Calton Hill and looking across Scotland's magnificent capital city!

  27. Damn, you're good....

    My home is a long story :)

  28. What an interesting post, I really enjoyed reading about your moves and places. I will be back to read you again for sure.

  29. Although I live in Ohio (shriek! ice, snow! remember all that? lol) my home in my 'mind' is Sedona. Ahhhh. One day. If I"m lucky (um, and rich, lol)

    We took a rode trip a couple summers ago and went to San Fran. OMG the traffic. People are lunatics on the road in CA. lol. It was just like you said too....cold and foggy IN JUNE! lol. But it was nice. SOOOOO hectic getting into that city though. Took us 45 minutes to go from Pacific to the heart of San Fran. Good times. Good times. :)

  30. Home.

    For me, it is absolutely wherever my husband and children are.

    I used to think that I could make a life anywhere with them, but after several of my colleagues decided to take up transfers to Switzerland or the US (where our other two main offices are), I have seen that you can't just LEAVE a country even WITH those you love and automatically make it your home.

    I know that England is where I belong - even though I would love a little more sun.

  31. I really love the way you have written this post.Great post.

  32. O.M.G.

    Your aunt is a soap star??? I've been watching Guiding Light for over 30 years, and watched As the World Turns for quite a while, too. Please, please, please tell us who she is!

  33. 'I'd pay big bucks to have that kind of energy today' - me too!
    'wondering, What old age will be like and will I feel at home?' - I keep shoving those thoughts to the back of my mind. They are scary thoughts for me, Joanna, old age. I'm more than half way there. Help! Oh dear, about ten years ago I remember saying I don't want to live past 65, for purely vain reasons of course - wrinkles, clothing styles, no more dancing til dawn, it looked so un-sexy, etc. Now, since my young daughter has joined me, I'd like to at least make it to her 30th birthday, and then her older brothers will have to be there for her (and they better be, or there will be floods, fire and earthquakes aplenty, from the grave, hehe).

  34. I loved this post.

    The questions you ask are ones I ask myself often. It's so hard when family is spread all over, isn't it?

  35. I've only been to NYC once and I loved it. I wouldn't want to live there but I wish I had the budget to visit often. As a transplanted midwesterner myself, I understand your dilemma. I'm terribly homesick even after 28 years but this is home too. *sigh*

  36. I love New York and my husband was born and raised there, but I don't think I could live there. I'd sure love to have the money to be able to stay for a month or so during the holidays though. I grew up in a small town 2 hours away from Atlanta and stayed there until I was 35. Because of my husband's job, we moved to Atlanta, Nashville, then back to Atlanta and we're now retired in Florida's panhandle and we love it.

    Great post.


  37. Joanna, come live with me. If you don't mind the occasional category 5 hurricane, all will be well. Hubby can come too if you can pry him out of LA.

    And why didn't Auntie invite you to live in her Park Avenue digs? How sweet would that have been to lounge on the white leather sofa all day?

  38. A great post, and you ask some thought-provoking questions.

    Husband and I live in Sweden although we have no family here at all. They are all in the UK.

    Don't really want to spend my old age here as it's too cold and icy... a nice flat in Spain would be great! (Although persuading the husband could be a bit tricky...)

  39. Fascinating story about your life to one who lives in the rugged countryside of Northumberland, bordering Scotland. Enjoying your blog.

    CJ xx

  40. What an adventure you've had so far! I fantasize about living the New York life, but I don't know if my midwestern temperament can take it. Likewise, I have NO desire to live in California. EVER.
    My theory is that home IS where you hang your hat. So here is home now, but likely to change several times before I go home to glory.

  41. My husband and I are lucky to live within a hours drive from where we grew up so we have lots of family close by. We love it here on our little country road and can't imagine ever moving back to town where we lived for the first 13 years of our marriage. We even embrace our cold Nova Scotia winters. I fact, I just picked up two pairs of wonderful L.L. Bean Outback snowshoes at a yard sale on the weekend, so the snow can't come soon enough for me.

    I posted a link to your blog on my latest Blog entry..."Live Your Life...Get Tested!" I hope you don't mind that I borrowed and idea from you.

  42. OMG! I was just in OH for the holiday's and discovered that the house we grew up in -- and that my father built -- is up for sale! My brother and I walked around the house peaking through the windows recalling every nail that went into the wall, and every family dinner in the dining room. If we were to somehow managed to buy the house, we both thought about having it as a place to stay whenever we came "home" to visit. So, I certainly understand your longing to return to the Midwest, with stipulations, or course (like Old Man Winter has to tone it down a bit). But as another person wrote in a previous comment, home is where you're comfortable.

  43. I guess we all want to be where we are not. I always thought home was where the heart is. I love being in Germany with my family, I get to see my hubby more and have a great relationship with daughter but I miss my friends and family and my home. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great Monday.

  44. Thanks Joanna for visiting my blog and leaving a wonderful comment. I hope to see you again.

  45. My hubby and I moved from San Diego CA to Nebraska a little over a year ago. Best move ever. Love it here. Sounds like your husband is not planning on leaving LA not even when you are old. Maybe he would go as far as Palm Springs?

  46. thanks for the interesting story and opinions. I find myself disagreeing on most. I live outside of Chicago but often talk about moving.

    Speaking of disagreement - moving and my wife. So it's OK for now.

    I enjoy visiting Chicago and some of our kids live in the city. Nice to visit but I never would want to live there more than maybe a week.

    I've spent more time in SF and LA than NYC so my opinion is not based on too much. I didn't like NYC.

    Right now I feel that a small town in Montana would be the best place.

    Well I've visited your blog a few times and plan to return so I added a link to it on mine.

    thanks again.

  47. This post is so different from the previous one. I'm wondering what is shaking you up at the moment.
    My kids are moving in wider circles away from me, it's natural. I miss the time with them, but I love where I am. I didn't really pick this spot for any other reason than to have more time to enjoy living life. I think home is really where the heart is, because it takes a lot of heart to make a home. Sounds corny, I know.

  48. My sister had a 2.5 earthquake in virginia today!

  49. We must share the same spirit. I am stuck (with my lovely family) in Ohio with dreams of living in NYC when I grow up.

    Oops. I am grown up. Damn.

    NYC has that palpable energy that is impossible to describe to someone who doesn't "get it".

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  51. It's difficult to find a place where you can live peacefully or be in a community that you like. The challenge there is if you are together with your family is what makes a place a home. Being with the loved ones hearing their laughter and helping each other with the daily needs is somewhere we can call home.

  52. San Francisco is my hometown although I actually grew up south of there in a little town called San Carlos. But as soon as I was of age, I went back to The City. I was there in the late 60s and early 70s, the best of all times. Then I moved to L.A. to pursue a career as an actress and writer. It never felt like home. In '94 I left for the rural life of the Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara and it's here on a 10 acre farm that my heart is firmly planted -- here that I have found "home."


Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it.