Home Again, Home Again

blogXdenverI recently spent a couple of weeks in Denver, pet-sitting for my daughter and her beloved swain while they took a honeymoon/ roadtrip to Oregon. I got tons of writing done, like half a book’s worth, and I also walked several miles a day. The trip reminded me of something a writing buddy told me a few months ago: “There are other places to be happy, Grace, besides the place you’ve been happy for the past twenty-five years.”

blogXalbuquequeMy friend had upped stakes and moved from Maryland to Albuquerque, in part for business reasons, but also because she’d always loved the Southwest. For her, the wide open spaces, low humidity, fresh start, and new sights, were a big boost to her creativity and well being. She’s happier than a pig in a dumpster, and a yet, a couple years before the move, her goal in life was to “hang onto the house” in Maryland.

blogXtorreyXpinesWhen my dad was fifty-five, he retired from teaching and moved from Pennsylvania to San Diego, where he had adjunct professor status and research privileges. He was tired of miserable winters, broiling summers, a big/aging house (seven kids), mowing grass, cleaning gutters, and raking leaves.

I love my little property, and have been so happy surrounded by big trees, farms, peace and quiet. My late pets are buried across the stream, I’ve written forty books at my kitchen table, and I raised my daughter in this house.

blogXheatXwaveBut you know what? Maryland has bugs on top of bugs inside of bugs, and I do not like bugs. Maryland can have several feet of snow on the ground at once, and stretches of 100 degree days that are as muggy as purgatory in July. Where I live, the main employers are the school system, the hospital, and… the prison complex. There’s no four-year institution of higher education anywhere in the county, and adult illiteracy is stuck near 20 percent. The only place the homeless in our county seat have to go on a bitter winter day is the main library despite the jurisdiction having more churches per capita than 99 percent of US counties.

Denver, by contrast, does not have bugs on top of bugs, humidity that results in mold overnight, or a lack of cultural diversity. Denver figured out that by dollars and cents, it costs the city far more (about $38,000 a year) to leave the chronically homeless on the street than to find them long-term housing and case management. The proJack-275x413blem is far from solved, but there’s progress.

I’m not moving to Denver any time soon, but the change of scenery got me thinking. Home is home, but it’s not paradise. It was a great place to raise a kid and write the first forty books. Now that I’m not confined by membership in a state bar association, maybe it’s time to look for the next great place to call home.

What is wonderful about where you live? What could you honestly do without? Would you still live there if you could live anywhere in the world? Why or why not? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Jack–The Jaded Gentlemen, Book IV.

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49 comments on “Home Again, Home Again

  1. I love the Midwest. Born and bred and where I have live for most, but not all, of my life. We lived in California (LA suburb) for a few years of my childhood. We lived in Nashville, TN for the most miserable 16 months of our marriage when Hubby did a fellowship of Vandy. But other than several turns in other Midwestern places, we have live in and near Chicago.

    The Midwest is Home but it is not perfect. Hot and humid and if you blink, you will miss spring. I love autumn here but it can be soooooo hot or sooo cold. And then there is Winter. We had a mild one this year but the two previous ones had been sub-zero or blizzard-like so everyone said we were due for a mild one…guess we were!

    I am happy here. We live in a suburb and are a 50 minute train ride–great public transportation!–from Chicago. We live a very diverse area and have *dug in* to the community.

    One of the bad things is our state government–we haven’t had a budget in almost a year while the governor and legislature play a game of *Chicken*. There are highway signs on OUR highways advertising OTHER STATES, it’s so bad!

    All in all, culture and diversity and education are within reach. Schools are Blue Ribbon award winning and Hubby’s practice is here. We love our house, eventho it can be a money pit. A milder winter all the time would be nice, but other than that, this is HOME!

    • That assessment sounds so balanced and realistic, and yet, affectionate too. I see all kinds of FB posts about the politics in Illinois and specifically Chicago. That would bother me, because eventually, I need the state to do its job–remove snow, pave roads, send out EMTs, enforce the law.

      But a practice, even a law practice, is an investment, and you can’t just walk away from it. Home, sweet but not perfect, home!

  2. Your post prodded me into some serious reflection. Ohio has been home for my entire life. My one remaining sibling and most of my remaining family live here. (Same for my husband) Yet, more and more, I see the family less and less, and many have moved away. Have recently learned that it’s a pretty sure bet I’ll be unemployed by year end, so the job would no longer tie me down. Yet, where would I go? I don’t like winter here, but if I’m not driving downtown, I don’t mind being tucked inside. I love spring and autumn here, and if some summer days are too hot and humid, I’ll stay in and keep cool. I don’t like the heat and humidity of the south, the tornadoes (and bugs, ugh!) of the south and east, the earthquakes of the west. I wouldn’t like being buried in feet of snow further
    north. Sounds like maybe here I’ll stay.

    • If the job goes away, you’ll at least have time to explore some other places. I’m on the East Coast in part because I and my six siblings were raised here. My parents retired to the West Coast, and one by one, the rest of the family went west of the Mississippi. I’m the last holdout here, and if I want to see family, I have to travel great distances.

      That gets me thinking: If seeing family is going to be a full day of travel, and most of that in an airplane, why not live in Nova Scotia? Why not Scotland? Why not Vermont? I’m not sure any of those places are feasible (not too many places looking to take in un-wealthy American immigrants these days), but it’s broadened my ponderings.

  3. I currently live in Florida but only because it’s my father’s home state and he and my mom are in their 80s. I like the heat but not the bugs and other stuff but will not leave as long as they are alive. I have two sisters and their families here but that won’t be enough to stay if I have the opportunity to move. I lived in California (LA and SF areas) for 25 years and love the state in many ways but don’t feel I’ll ever be able to afford to live there again. (My partner’s a native Californian but even he realizes the issues with living there now.) Friends have lived in Portland OR for a while and my brother just moved from SF to Spokane WA and I’m seriously considering both of those states. I’d probably prefer Victoria or Vancouver Canada best of all but don’t know if they’d accept a senior immigrant.
    Being an Air Force brat, I have never been really tied to where my feet currently land but know there are pluses and minuses to every place. I will say that most people say other people are the best reason to live some place so I probably wouldn’t move where I didn’t know anyone to start. And that’s my best advice to you.

    • We’re different in some regards. I had no real friends growing up, and attached mightily to place–to the only home I lived in from birth to age eighteen. When my parents sold that place, I stayed in the same town for another three years to finish college. I’m still less than a four hour drive from my home town.

      But as you point out, it’s the people that make the community. Hmmm.

    • Mine is scattered across six different states, and that’s if I count full siblings only. It’s been that way for decades, which means our children grew up not knowing each other. Sad, but fairly American.

  4. I’m not surprised that your friend found happiness in New Mexico! I lived there for 3 years and enjoyed every second of it. Such a beautiful place.

    My husband and I were just talking about this last night. We’ve been nomads for most of our marriage, living in Idaho, Chicago, Albuquerque, and Ohio. We’ve been settled in Ohio for several years now, but my husband is starting to feel restless and wants to live closer to his family (who are all out west). I, on the other hand, am loving the stability of life now and don’t want to uproot my children. But, I can definitely see why he is feeling dissatisfied with Ohio–the humidity can be unbearable, the relentless cloudy skies and lack of sunshine can wreak havoc on our emotions, and the school system is lacking in far too many ways (to put it mildly). Also, my husband is a child psychologist in an area where too many children are missing out on basic necessities in life…this, understandably, takes a toll on him. Sigh…we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

    The good thing about moving so often in the past is that I know that there are beautiful things and kind people all over the country!

    • Good point. You can live in a beautiful house in a lovely neighborhood (my dad does), but that isn’t necessarily home. I once drove across the country to visit the folks. I’m there a day or two, and somebody knocks on the door. It’s a neighbor–one who in ten years living across the street has never bothered to introduce himself–asking my parents if they know where that beat up old pick up truck came from, because it’s an eyesore.

      That kind of neighborhood is NOT for me.

  5. I live in central Texas just north of Austin. I love the mild winters and the gorgeous wildflowers in the spring, fall, and summers (when we have enough rain). I wish I could attach a photo of our field and all the wildflowers – Mexican Hats, Indian Blankets, Black Eyed Susans, Verbena, Texas Sage and more. My area usually has only moderate humidity which is a bonus.

    I could do without the high 90s and 100+ degree temperatures in the summers. I can’t do anything outside for any length of time without getting a migraine in that heat.

    Ideally, I’d live here through spring but then move somewhere cooler in the summer – like the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana.

    • That same thought occurred to me just this morning: What am doing, living somewhere that going outside is miserable as much as half the time? It’s either seven degrees and howling, or 97 and nothing moves. Hmm. There are interesting new housing models popping, like AirBnB on steroids. You live in a nice house with several other people on a semi-short term basis (months rather than days or weeks), sign a lease, but when you’ve seen enough of the locality, you move on.

      If that ever catches on in Scotland…

  6. The sunsets are wonderful. The days almost the same length of light and darkness the whole year through. There are many lovely, Spiritual, places on this Big Island of Hawaii that I currently call home.
    Yet the cost of “everything”is high. Electricity is 3 times the national average. Food seems to be about 15-20% higher than the Seattle area where I most recently moved from (and it’s already pretty high there). The days are warm and I never have neck pain from an increased chill in the air….but Summers can be brutally hot, especially when there are no trade winds, which is moderately often on this island.
    I wish I could see friends and family more readily.
    The cost of living affects everyone in different ways. Here, it means that people you know, love and cherish, may abruptly pack up and move to the mainland because it’s too difficult to make ends meet. (We have just received the dubious honor of being the most expensive place in the U.S. to live…not an honor that I’m excited about….) I was injured eight years ago and went from a good income to disability and bankruptcy. The time may come that I have to follow suit of some who have left here because of finances.
    Yet, I love it here. My soul feels at home. If I could live anywhere else right now, my only other choice would be another Hawaiian island, the Garden Island known as Kauai….(hey, they have better trade winds, what can I say? 😉 )
    Or in Heaven with all my beloved pets, and many family members, whom I miss so dearly.
    But, for now, the beautiful island of Hawaii itself, with active volcanoes and all, is where I call home.

    • I’ve wondered why Hawaii isn’t the rooftop solar capital of the country, but then again, all the solar equipment probably has to be shipped there, so… cost of living again. Same with tidal or geothermal power. BUT Iceland became 100 energy independent, in part thanks to its volcanoes and tides (and maybe in part because it’s only 1100 miles from the UK). Maybe Hawaii will be next.

      My dad saw Hawaii in the Navy. Only place he ever saw the moon shine so bright, it made a moonbow. Wow!

      • It’s funny…The first time we saw that, we dubbed it a moonbow too. It seems many of us have individually, and independently, named it the same thing….interesting in a language with so many other choices of words which could have been used. I’ll try to get a good picture of one and will send it to you.

  7. I’m one of those people that will pretty much grow wherever I’m planted, but I’ve lived most of my life here in Missouri. In my younger days I lived in Alabama, Germany and California, and I was happy in those places too. BTW, they all had bugs. Every place has its good and bad points.

    At my age (almost 72) I think I’m pretty well settled in. Wouldn’t want to move because most of my people are here. That’s a good thing!

    • I like Missouri! When I’m driving west to east, I’m always so glad to get back to GREENERY, and the location is not too far from anywhere (by my standards). If you have to be planted somewhere, I think Missouri was a good choice. (Also has a horse college, what’s not to like!)

  8. I live in the deep South–warm, humid weather for much of the year. BUT–I get to plant annuals and use my car’s moon roof in January, the grandkids get to swim in neighborhood pools April through September, and (when it’s not flooding) we generally get a good mix of sunshine and rain. As for living somewhere else, well, the kids and grandkids are nearby and our church community is very important. We’ll stay put. But it sure is nice to visit elsewhere!

    • My sister lived in Georgia for decades. Could not wait to leave, but then, she moved to San Diego. San Diego makes a lot of places pale by comparison. I’ve missed my daughter terribly over the past ten years, but I’m glad I didn’t bounce around in her wake. Young people need breathing room, so do old people.

  9. I’ve been growing roots in my small town for 20 years and love much about it: the walkability of town life, lots of friends, great small businesses, good cultural life between town and college, great local food.

    I do not love the humidity, cloudy days, bugs, drugs, politics, and sometimes even small-minded attitudes. I have periodically thought about moving elsewhere but haven’t yet found a good alternative.

    With both my folks gone now, who knows what the future may hold? I have some time to figure it out.

    • You raise a good point. My mom died in February. Dad’s receiving hospice now. I’m operating from a sense of “Now’s the time,’ when it comes to changing domiciles. There comes a point where living on your own isn’t safe, and moving is too overwhelming. Hope I’m not there for many years, but while I can reconsider my location, I want to make a good choice.

  10. I love the beach. It’s within walking distance and I have worn out several pairs of sneakers walking the corgis and puzzling out problems. We bought our home in the neighborhood I grew up in. So, I have a lot of memories here. Things have changed in the past 28 years. My brother married and lives 30 minutes away, my Dad passed and Mom sold the house and moved in with my brother.

    We live a nice neighborhood, near restaurants and shops. Inthe winter, We have lots of snow and a large driveway. So at times, the snow seems overwhelming. But, I enjoy the sea breeze and sitting on my front porch. At times, the house and the yard seem to take so much time. My daughter grew up here, three of my best corgi pals are buried in the day lily garden…..so here we stay. It’s a toss up…..stay or downsize?

    I am not sure where I would like to live….that will need some thought.

    Glad you had a nice break and were able to write and write and write!!

    • The writing was wonderful, Sue, and made me realize what I can do when I’m motivated, but also what I can’t do. After a certain point, I just had to goof off. I had more scenes worked out in my head, but I could not make myself stare at the screen.

      You know what I mean–time for a change of scenery!

  11. Great insight, dear Grace. Now that I’m feeling that the place where I live has reached its purpose that was to have me living in it, your comment hits home for me. I live in Spain and I feel I like living in Spain. However, the city where I live now has started to feel not home but duty. It takes energy from me instead of giving me energy. It doesn’t make me feel as having opportunities arising but as being in a clogged space here.

    When big cicles complete in our lives a reinvention of sorts is in the making and I now am in this inner-outer place. The most valuable thing that I look for in a place is how are its energies. If the place makes me feel good, uplifted… or the opposite. Then come the physical and material aspects.

    Now that I have lived several big cicles with their beginnings and endings they have lead me to live in diferent areas of the city but till this moment the same city. Now I have the inner feeling that I will stay here but in a different area with a more promising surroindings, such as more civilized and educated neighbours which are the little city inside the big city.

    Best wishes.


  12. I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. I went to school in Texas. I have lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 1987. It is not an exciting place. Folks got to church and mow their lawns. My job is not very exciting. But I have the best girlfriends in the entire world. So I travel when I can,but I doubt I will move, good friends in my opinion are priceless.

    • They sure are. True community is worth a lot, and it’s not something I have a strong sense of here in Maryland. My law practice was specialized–a small jurisdiction only needs one foster care lawyer–and my neighborhood is sparsely populated. I’ve liked that, but it made finding friends a challenge.

      Finding LOCAL friends, that is.

  13. “Wherever you go, there you are.” At least, I am.

    And, what makes me happy is to feel useful, profitably employed, appreciated…

    The list of things that make me comfortable, however, is very long!

  14. Good things – Flowers and shorts in early March. Cahaba Lillies in May. Football games!
    Bad Things – Humidity that feels like trying to breathe through a sweater,bugs and Tornado Alley! Sweet Home Alabama!

    • For me, who is not fond of bugs and heat, I don’t think moving south would work. I have a friend in LA whose life seems to revolve around floods, tornadoes, wild pigs, and government scandals. Good fodder for books!

  15. Wonderful? Well, I have a job here, and being able to support my family beats not being able to support my family. I have sound economic reasons to stay here until I retire. (< 7 years now)

    Do without? I'm okay with what I have, although at this point I wish I had stayed in my smaller house.

    Would I stay here if I could pick anywhere else in the world. Heck, no. Too much ignorance, too little opportunity, and too much public corruption. I live in the state that has elected Roy Moore twice as Chief Justice. Enough said.

    • That’s an issue for me, Pam. There are many beautiful places to live in this county, with affordable cost of living, and great communities, but some political situations are beyond my tolerance. Maryland does OK in that regard, though it’s considered the most gerrymandered blue state on the map (with a Republican governor….?). There’s a bi-partisan committee trying to fix it, but nothing will happen quickly. That aside, the politics here are relatively scandal-free. Where I live, there’s about 20 percent adult illiteracy, though, and we just don’t seem to make progress with that.

  16. I have lived in and around the state of Minnesota my entire life. While I love my home state with our 10,000 lakes,I don’t love the bugs! We already have swarms of mosquitos.
    We are considering moving to a warmer climate for thr colder winter months.

  17. The old adding Home is where the heart is stand out. I myself would not be able to leave my humble abode!!

    • I used to feel more attached to this place, in part because I raised my daughter here. She’s been away for ten years though, and the maintenance is reaching Money Pit proportions. My heart might be able to relocate…. to the right place.

  18. New York, New York. There isn’t enough parking, the food costs too much, and summer is SMELLY. But there is such power and size and energy to it, and such unpredictability–you can walk down a street you thought you knew, and what’s that restaurant? that new mural? that impromptu concert going on? What language is that? What is that woman WEARING?

    Also, When I came here from the Midwest it was like I moved into a history book. After 26 years I still stop to read plaques about famous people and events, right here, maybe hundreds of years ago. Underground streams and hidden subway tunnels. Remnants of old houses and cemeteries. Broadway, that famous street, was an animal and hunting trail thousands of years ago. Like you, I might want to find another (quieter, greener) place to love someday, but I would always miss the sheer magnitude of New York.

    • Nothing else like it on the whole planet… and one of those might be enough.

      I lived in DC for a few years after college and aspects of it were wonderful–walking everywhere or taking good, clean, safe public transportation; cultural diversity (love me some Eritrean cuisine!); and the sense of being where big stuff happens.

      The violence, the poverty, the crowding, the self-importance, the NOISE…. a few years of that was enough.

  19. I live in a small suburb of Los Angeles, a town called Gardena. It is not too little and not too big. I like it for its diversity of culture and stability of community. I am thankful for my blessings here.

  20. My husband and I live on a boat. We have moved around a lot but I have never been stressed because I am always home. Lately – its been almost 8 years in LA. Some people think they have to stay where they are because they don’t know anyone but you can always make new friends – it’s exciting and invigorating and gradually you realize your friends move anyway without being concerned about you. Sometimes you have to be somewhere for work – well – you make the best of it. We are in Marina del Rey because that’s where my husband is working. I have some friends who move a lot looking for the perfect place – I don’t think they will find it. I always joke with people that I want to move to Fool’s Gold (thanks Susan Mallery) but it doesn’t exist. You have to pick some things that are important and pick a place where those things exist. I have the beach, mild weather year round and Catalina Island to sail to on the weekends. It’s good.

    • You’re right, that sorting out priorities makes sorting out a location easier. I want reasonable weather, temperate nature, and good internet without huge maintenance issues….in Fool’s Gold, Scotland. Oh, well.

  21. My mother moved from Westernport, MD, to Denver in the early 1960s, and swore she would never go back to the humid summers and damp, cold winters…and she hasn’t. 🙂 Love that my hometown got you thinking. As someone who goes back to Alleghany county, Maryland, to visit family on occasion…I have always enjoyed the idea that you were writing from a place familiar to me…but you could still do that in Denver:)

    • I get around, though I’m overdue for a big old road trip. When I’ve been out west for a while, and I drive east, I’m always impressed at the sheer green biomass on the East Coast. We think of the East as all built up, crowded, and urban… but it’s not. Most of it would go back to the jungle in about five years if we let it.

  22. Home is still Maryland though I’ve lived in Louisiana for longer than I care to admit and Colorado sounds wonderful for all the above mentioned reasons. I wonder if I’m too old to think about leaving but thanks to this post I’m reminded we’re never too old to start over. My 90 year old aunt told me recently that she would have never thought she’d find true love at 80. Possibilities still exist…

  23. I live a couple of hours west of you, in a college town. I have a great (and stable) job and I am reasonably close to aging parents, so here I stay. However, I am actively thinking about where I want to retire. This is a small-minded place that celebrates its own mediocrity. The state cannot accept that dependence on coal for jobs is done. College towns in general don’t have a lot of single grown-ups, so nearby dating is difficult if you don’t date co-workers. West of the Appalachians, we have lots and lots of non-sunny days, although this is less important to me than the other issues. So, when I can cut loose in about 10 years and choose a new place I will. But where? I lived in a beautiful college town during grad school and, even though the state had issues (it produced Jessie Helms . . .), the town and its nearby small cities were wonderful. (I think I could put up with the 100/100 temp/humidity for a couple of summer months. You can stay home if you’re retired!) Or the Pacific Northwest? Or someplace outside the US? (I considered New Zealand during one election year, but discovered they only want reproducing adults unless you have a specific skill set on offer. I understand Canada may be the same.) I like the Denver area, but am concerned about the burden on the water table from the increasing population. I want to live someplace with diversity, good medical care, a reasonable climate, access to the arts, a not-too-excessive cost of living, and a community of like-minded progressive people. I have some time to puzzle this out, but am looking!

  24. So glad you enjoyed a stay here in Denver! I love how the city and state are changing with growth and new people. The light rail will open soon, expanding options for being in the area with less commuter stress.

  25. I went through this several years ago when a downturn in the economy eventually meant that my position was cut, so, at 60,no more job! I had to decide whether to try to stay in the area (Olympic Peninsula, WA) and figure out a way to pay off my house – or sell and start somewhere new. I loved the area I was in – but when I started really thinking about it – I decided to try somewhere new. First I went to Georgia – thinking that I could go north in the summer for a couple of months to escape the heat but quickly discovered that I would need way more than a couple of months to ride out the heat and humidity…and the BUGS…OMG. So, after several months researching, I am now happily living in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I love it! Beautiful, minimal bugs, good weather pretty much all year around if you don’t mind a little rain, and lots of organic produce here (important to me). I am close to both the ocean and the mountains with Portland not that far away. Still, I may have to go south next winter for a little sunshine.