Is there any place in the world more important to our well-being than our own homes?
I’ve never actually considered this exact question before. Often, our homes are something we take for granted (if we are blessed enough to have a home to call our own). Perhaps we’ve lived in the same house or apartment for years. We clean our homes, maintain them to keep them safe and livable, and paint a wall or replace the flooring once in a while. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I should make a conscious effort more often to feel gratitude for my own home.
We’ve been in the same house for over twenty-five years. I know some things could benefit from updates: the kitchen countertops are functional but are starting to show some wear and tear (kind of like me!). One particular door handle keeps breaking, despite my husband’s ongoing efforts to fix it. The wall going down the stairs could use a fresh coat of paint. But most days, I don’t even notice those small issues. We’re too busy living life to pay much attention.
A home is so much more than the physical shell. It should be our safe haven from the outside world. It’s where we eat, sleep, share time with loved ones, and build precious memories. It doesn’t matter if the dwelling is large or small, modest or fancy. What matters is who we share it with and how we feel when we are there.
I know I speak to the topic of home in my blog quite often. I just went back to check, and this will be my second blog post titled “Gift of Home.” I’ve now written eighty-four blog posts in all (which I can hardly believe), and blog post #2 in November of 2017 was also specific to home and what it means to each of us. When I wrote that blog post, our kids were starting to leave the nest.
Now our son and his wife, married less than one year, are working hard to remodel the main living area in their new house. Extensive work is required to accomplish their vision. It’s been fun to watch as they’ve learned new skills so they can do some of the work themselves. Friends and family are helping, and they’ve hired some work out that is beyond their skill set. It’s amazing how many life lessons can be found in a home remodel project!
Our two girls are also making preparations for their new “homes.” One is heading west for graduate school and will be in an apartment with three roommates. Space constraints mean she can’t take much with her, but I know she’ll make her new space feel like home. The other is prepping for dorm life and sharing a room for the first time.
Our home will definitely feel different a month from now. Same house, different vibe.
We may outgrow our homes at different stages of life. Or maybe we’ll end up with more space than we need. Relationships sometimes dissolve, leading to changes to housing needs as well. Or perhaps something as simple as aging knees and too many stairs warrants a change.
Our homes may become damaged, displacing us. Sadly, many daily news cycles include stories of natural disasters, fires, earthquakes, or floods, all raising havoc on people’s lives and homes.
Jobs or other circumstances may force us to move, giving up one home and sending us looking for another. Homes can inspire us. Maybe we long to move our family to a different neighborhood with better schools or safer communities. A desire to improve our personal situations can give us useful motivation to work harder, stretch ourselves, and hopefully contribute positively to our overall communities.
Keeping a roof over our heads is never easy, but the ramifications of doing so can have positive, far-reaching effects.
Homes can even provide inspiration of a different kind. When I was growing up, I’d visit my great aunt’s house. My aunt, Mary Nierling, was a unique woman. I often talk about how she is the inspiration behind my fiction series. My memories of her house are also incorporated into my stories. Her actual attic is the one behind the attic in Celia’s house. When I was a kid, her house was painted pink, which also happened to be my favorite color. I guess she was the reason I wanted a pink house. Aunt Mary has been gone now since 1992, and new owners of her old house changed the color, but a recent trip to my hometown had us doing a slow drive-by so I could snap a picture of it. I wish I could find an old photo of the house when it was pink, but so far, no luck with that.
The meaning of home has also been on my mind lately because this is an integral theme in my new novel, Rebuilding Home. This third book in my Whispering Pines Celia’s Gifts series revolves around both homes and relationships. The book will officially launch later this month. I thought it would be fun to share the blurb from the back of the book:
A story of one man’s struggle to rethink his vision of the perfect family, true friendship, and what home really means.
When Ethan’s wife walks out in search of something more, his first priority is to protect his three teenagers from further heartache. He should have been a better husband. Now it’s time to be a better dad. Ethan grew up in a loving, supporting family, and his kids deserve the same. Besides, he doesn’t have to go it alone. Rex, Ethan’s best friend, is more than willing to step in and help keep chaos at bay.
Ethan thinks he’s doing a decent job juggling the responsibilities of business owner, landlord, and recommitted father. Can he also squeeze in a little romance? He hadn’t intended to start dating again . . . though an unlikely friend seems interested, and Ethan can’t help but feel intrigued.
But a devastating fire changes everything. Lives and livelihoods are at risk. Suspicions and doubts threaten to undermine all that Ethan holds dear. Will he be forced to acknowledge that sometimes those closest to us succumb to their inner demons when they suffer unthinkable loss? When trust is shattered, can old friendships guide us home again?
Rebuilding Home, the third book in Kimberly Diede’s heartwarming Celia’s Gifts series, follows Ethan’s emotional journey from fractured illusions, through tangled paths of hope and despair, to the renewed possibility of happiness.
What started at Whispering Pines continues. Get swept up once again in the ongoing story of how one woman’s family continues to honor her legacy by seizing opportunities to reinvent lives.
It can be hard to stay focused on pursuing our dreams when things are crazy at home, but I’m happy to say I continue to make progress on my writing endeavors. If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out my books, I invite you to start with Whispering Pines (see my Book tab on my website). And if you’ve already read Whispering Pines and Tangled Beginnings, grab your copy of Rebuilding Home on July 28th, it’s official launch date (or you can pre-order a copy now)!
I’ll close by sharing a “goose-bump moment” I had on Friday morning. I was up early, working on things related to my book launch before heading off to my day job when our neighbor across the street sent my husband a picture that he’d taken that morning of a beautiful rainbow over the top of our house. I’ll take that as a positive sign of the importance of home, not only now but for years to come!
Home truly is where the heart is. Kim
We almost canceled our family vacation this year.
It was going to be a bigger trip than we usually take, but with one college and three high school graduations to celebrate, we’d decided it would be worth the extra expense (and hassles that come with international travel). The kids are growing up fast, and soon, it may be nearly impossible to schedule a vacation with extended family due to the many work and school schedules.
A month or so before we were scheduled to travel to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the media was suddenly filled with scary stories of unexplained deaths in that area of the world. Their reports were instilling apprehension and fear. Any time I mentioned our trip to someone, I’d brace for the inevitable comments about the well-publicized situation. It seemed everyone had heard the stories.
Never underestimate the power of the media to alter behavior. Many people have cancelled trips to the Dominican Republic in the past month.
Were we acting irresponsibly, taking six young adults, ages sixteen to twenty-two, to a foreign country where a dangerous mystery seemed to be expanding?
I worried. I lost sleep over it. The other adults in our party did as well. Then we decided to take a closer look at the media reports.
First of all, I don’t in any way want to minimize the tragedy of lives lost. People have died, and my heart goes out to their families and friends.
But we did try to understand whether or not the instances were increasing in number over prior years. Upon further research, that didn’t appear to be the case. Millions of people visit that area every year. Unfortunately, there are some inherent risks associated with traveling, and sometimes underlying health conditions can be exasperated when away from home.
Finally, with only a week before our scheduled departure date, we all decided we’d be extra careful and vigilant, but we weren’t going to cancel. It isn’t often we have the opportunity to experience a trip like this, and we wouldn’t be scared off by the hype.
We left on July 6th, following one last-minute panic when I discovered I’d spelled my daughter’s first name wrong on the travel itinerary (Imagine my panic when I realized this the morning of the 4th but no one was open to help me fix the error because of the holiday! I must have looked at those documents ten times before, but didn’t notice it until right before the trip – and you can’t have misspelled names on international travel documents that don’t match passports!)
I am happy to report the error was fixed before we left, the trip was amazing, and we made memories we’ll never forget. We had absolutely no problems.
This trip serves as a powerful reminder to me that we cannot let fear rule our lives. It would have been a shame to miss out on this opportunity to spend quality time with family. I sometimes forget that life isn’t meant to be lived in a cocoon of only what we know to stay safe from all risks.
First of all, scary things can happen even if we never leave our own communities. And second, it’s a big beautiful world out there, full of amazing people, and we miss out if we don’t go out and explore it sometimes.
Leaving can also make you appreciate home. While the resort and beaches were beautiful, other areas of the island we drove through showed evidence of poverty and lack of sanitation. The days were hot and humid, and many people work outside in those severe conditions, doing back-breaking work. Seeing how other people live, without many of the everyday conveniences we take for granted, makes me appreciate living and working where I do.
Walking along the ocean, feeling the salty breeze on my face, also reminds me of the massive power of those vast bodies of water. I live in the middle of North America and seldom visit oceans. What secrets do they hold? What swims beneath the surface and lives in the depths? In a mere twenty minutes of snorkeling, the variety and sheer numbers of fish swimming beside and below me were astonishing. We can only imagine what else is out there, miles and miles out at sea.
If you have the opportunity to travel 50 miles or 5,000 miles, take it. Find a way to pay for it and make the time to do it. Make memories while you’re able. Capture the beautiful scenery and people in photographs to enjoy for years to come.
We had to order new passports for this trip. This means we have ten more years to fill the pages of these little booklets with stamps, bearing evidence of more fun adventures. I wonder where else we’ll find to roam in the years ahead?
Safe travels to you all, and if you have suggestions for fun destinations we could explore, please add them to the comments! Kim
How can a pile of dirty hoodies, yoga pants and little slips of elastic that now pass as underwear be considered a gift?
I often cringe when a mound of smelly laundry suddenly appears next to the washing machine. It is one of those never-ending tasks where you never seem to catch up. It's easy to settle into a state of resignation, even frustration, over this particular household task that never seems to be done.
But all it takes is a tiny shift in mindset to look at those piles in an entirely new light. I experienced this recently when it dawned on me that we were only a couple of months away from the day when a significant portion of those clothes will be packed into the back of a small black Nissan and driven off to a dorm room. Another portion will be strategically loaded into a red Toyota for a much longer trip, half-way across the country.
As I looked around the messy room, a wave of gratitude washed over me. Those piles of clothes represented so much more than another mundane task. They signify the presence of our greatest blessings – our kids. The clothes themselves mean we were able to provide for them. Some they've purchased themselves because they work now, too. We shouldn't take that ability for granted. We have machines to help wash and dry the clothes, and although the washer shakes like crazy and has been torn apart and repaired multiple times, it still works. We live somewhere with electricity and abundant clean water. We're physically able to climb the stairs to the laundry room and toss a load in.
Suddenly the monotony of the task fades away, replaced by the beauty of the blessings the dirty laundry represents.
When I get home from work at the end of a long day, and the kitchen looks like it did when I left the house ten hours earlier (aka no one has thought to start supper), I can become frustrated. I gaze into the fridge, often without one single idea what to make. Now is when I need to take a deep breath and feel appreciation that the refrigerator isn't bare. There might not be the makings for a full course meal in there, but we won't starve. And finding containers of leftovers from the night before is like finding gold. I remind myself that if the kids grumble over the prospect of reheating last night's dinner for a quick meal now, they'll eventually appreciate the beauty of leftovers, once they're off on their own.
When I start to feel anxious because the house is dusty and cluttered, I need to remind myself that it still provides a roof over our heads, protection from the outside world, and a safe place to sleep at night. Too many people have no place to call home. Shame on me for grumbling over cleaning it up once in a while.
Vehicles can be a money suck: they require gas, new tires once in a while, repairs, and insurance. The gas runs out and needs to be refilled. The cars get dirty and need to be washed. If we aren't careful, we can find ourselves sighing again. But vehicles also provide essential modes of transportation that allow us to get to work, run errands, go out for a fun evening, and travel to see family and friends. Around here, where there is little public transportation, one would be hard-pressed to function well without a vehicle.
I could go on and on, but I know you get my point.
Having loved ones to feed and clothe, food in the cupboards, and a roof over our heads means we are blessed beyond measure.
As a fiction writer, I like to explore the complexity of every day, the gifts we find as we go about living life. The reality is many of these gifts go unnoticed and unappreciated when we don't make a conscious effort to look for the blessings. So much of our joy in life is found in the small, day-to-day experiences we live, but sometimes we forget this.
In my newest book, Rebuilding Home, the very first chapter is titled "Gift of Dirty Laundry." Ethan, the main character, is struggling to maintain their household after his wife has walked out. Yes, he has mounds of smelly football gear and stinky teenage boys' clothes piling up in the laundry room, but at least he still has his kids.
Our homes and the people we share home with should never be taken for granted. Yes, it takes work to keep everyone clothed and fed, but over time, the demands on our time will shift. Some years will be busier than others, filled to overflowing with seemingly dull household tasks. But if we work to view those tasks in a new light, there can be joy found in completing them.
If you spend much of your days maintaining a household, you are doing important work. If you spend your day working hard away from home, earning money to use to hire others to help maintain your home, that's important, too. The point is to keep your eyes open to see the blessings in it all.
And in the spirit of full disclosure, everyone pitches in at our house and does much of their own laundry. I'm a busy woman, and we are all capable of washing clothes. So, while the kids might not agree, teaching them to be self-sufficient is a blessing as well.
Joy is the reward for a job well done, and all jobs are important. May your day be filled with blessings, even if some of your hours are spent sorting through dirty laundry. Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!