Home. Homey. Home-ish.

Thank you, Collette.

Home is on my mind.

This week marks 10 years of living in our house, which has become over time, experience, buckets of sweat equity if not actual financial equity (thank you, recession) a home. When we took possession of the property in April 2000, we were giddy soon-to-be-married lovers. Everything we did was a romantic moment. Our first meal in this house was Middle Eastern takeout.  We sat cross-legged on the scuffed hardwoods, scooping tabbouleh and hummus onto our plates. Between bites of stuffed grape leaves, we chatted and laughed and listened to our voices bounce around the bare walls.  We discussed changing the paint color, improvement projects, where my then 6-year-old daughter would sleep, where our *gasp* future children would have their bedrooms. This modest brick bungalow was the blank slate of our future.

After a wedding ceremony, a pregnancy and miscarriage, an adoption process that resulted in another girl child in our home, endless home projects, parties, illnesses, spilled paint and shattered dreams, a parade of Christmas trees, birthday party sleepovers,  financial heights and economic lows, power outages, infestations, and the first green sprouts of renewed hope, we are still here. Our marks add to the collective history of this little house built in 1941. While I may resent the moldy basement, the dingy siding, the windows that don’t open, I also have a deep gratitude for these sturdy walls, floors and the roof. The bones of this place have held up. They’ve  given us shelter from the heat, the cold, and the economic storms. During the darkest hours of our despair, I’ve  felt comfort in this house as it held me in its quiet embrace.

I’ve been thinking about  my hometown.

No, Detroit is not a travel destination. No one drools with envy when I announce I am from Detroit. However, I have the pleasure of knowing as friends and as acquaintances a number of people from all over the world who are happy to make Detroit their home.  These people  left behind their cosmopolitan cities, their colorful cultures, their mountain views and beachfront vistas to come here to this (insert latest media catch phrase). They like the cultural diversity, the music scene, the abundance of water, hunting for and discovering the hidden gems amid the ruins, and the niceness of the people. Despite our crime statistics and widely reported corruption, people here are nice. Really.

Do not believe everything you read and hear about Detroit. Read this transplant’s blog post to gain a fresh perspective on national and international reporting on Detroit.

I’ve been thinking about  local bloggers.

I was thrilled to open The Detroit Free Press today to find two of my favorite Detroit-area bloggers featured in a larger story about, well, blogging. I’ve met Melissa of Rock and Drool. She is a beautiful and dynamic woman who doesn’t hide behind a persona or false words. She dishes it out straight. I love that about her. I’ve not met the other Melissa who writes Suburban Bliss, but I’ve been reading her blog for years.  I found her by accident when I Googled “MOMS Clubs in my neighborhood.” It appears she saved me from the special hell of organized play groups.  At the time, I was a former career woman sitting alone in my house wondering how I was going to get through another day. How was I going to find other stay-at-home mothers who were like me? Suburban Bliss helped me realize I was not alone. Not only did I start blogging shortly after that, but I also formed my own play group.

I’ve been thinking about my home on the Web.

I have neither the numbers nor the controversy surrounding my site to gain any attention, so the media will not be knocking on my door anytime soon. Whew! Whatever it is I do, another fellow Detroit blogger, Collette of My Babcia’s Babushka, gave me a pat on the back and declared my blog all home-like, or homely, or home-ish or something like that. Thank you, Collette, for the props.

Home is on my mind.

I've become 'that neighbor'

By Let Ideas Compete via Creative Commons

When we moved to our neighborhood 10 years ago, many of the Old Guard were still around, including the  couple across the street. They  were God-fearing, country-loving, gun-toting Americans. They liked just about everyone, provided that they were white, heterosexual and didn’t talk with any kind of funny accent.

One real estate transaction at a time our inner-ring suburb has given over to a New Order  —  gay couples, artists and musicians, alternative lifestyle families, and what some would call the fringe element of society. Oh, there are normal families, too, but no one pays attention to them.

My first meeting with one of our Old Guard neighbors was when the woman of the house across the street hauled herself onto my porch, leaned on the doorbell  and then craned her neck through the doorway to get a look-see inside while asking: “So, that guy that lived in your house, was he a queer or what?”

I told her that it was nice to meet her, what was her name by the way? I said I was sorry I must have overlooked the paperwork at the closing that addressed the former owner’s sexual identity.

“How much you pay for this place? You might as well tell me, I’m gonna look  it up in the paper anyway.”

Clearly, we were off to a good start.

Over the next few years, the only time I heard from her (other than when she needed me to sign for a package or collect her mail) was when she had some juicy observation about the goings-on in my house.

“Those contractors you hired? They ain’t getting paid by the hour are they? ‘Cause they sit around a lot when you’re not home.” She whispered to me as we passed each other in the bread aisle at the local grocery store.

“Does your husband work? Seems like he’s home most days.” She said under her breath after a hasty grab-and- thanks for taking in her mail.

One day I told her I didn’t like the anti-gay slurs she was using around my daughter, who was in elementary school at the time. I’ll never know if calling her out on the trash talk or her declining health stopped her from ever speaking to me again, but that was the end of our odd little relationship. She died last year. The house now stands empty.

Since the big house has a large deck, a pool and a pool house, it attracts a lot of house hunters. But it also seems to spit them out as fast as it draws them in. I was curious about this. One morning last fall, I saw a woman I’d just met a few weeks earlier  leaving the house after a walk-through. I called out her name and invited her over for coffee. Not only did she give me the details on the house (in need of major renovation) and the family (unwilling to negotiate a sale price), but she also unwittingly opened a Pandora’s Box.

My new friend has no idea her house hunting adventure released my inner spy. My new hobby is to watch each walk-through and open house I happen to catch. I look to see who’s interested. I make note of details. I time their visits. (The average time is five minutes before the house hunters flee.) I say it’s because I’d like a young family to move in.

The other day, as I stood in the shadows of our living room, I delivered a play-by-play to my husband:

“They’ve been in there for more than five minutes. They are either dead or they like it.”

“Oh my god. She touched, no, she stroked, the mailbox. I wonder if that’s a good sign? ”

“I think they are sisters. No, wait, I think they are partners.”

Naturally my husband is worried. We’ve been here 10 years. Are we now the Old Guard? Maybe my late neighbor’s spirit flew out of her body and lodged in mine while I was asleep.

Is it so bad that I keep binoculars in the kitchen? That my ears perk up at the sound of car doors slamming?

He issued a warning the other day when he fond me crouched behind the curtains, peering out at a young couple entering the house.

“If you start wearing muumuus and ordering from QVC, I may have to divorce you.”