The Reluctant Heart

July 1, 2014

Just Write.

The first week our French exchange student, Valentin, arrived there was a flurry of activity. Trips to nearby Boulder for lunch and shopping, rousing World Cup matches, afternoons at the swimming pool, tennis matches and blackjack nights. At the end of the first week, my husband said to the girls, “Well girls, what do you think? It’s kind of exciting and fun having an extra person in the house, wouldn’t you say?”

Miss D. immediately and enthusiastically agreed. “It’s kind of like having a second brother! And we’re doing so much stuff!”

Miss M. was not so effusive. She just shrugged her shoulders and didn’t say a word. Clear message: not impressed.

Later, my husband and I laughed at this, because it’s so trademark M.

M. doesn’t like change. She doesn’t like noise. She doesn’t like being dragged out of the house for long and she doesn’t like trying new restaurants and she really, really doesn’t like weekend excursions in the car.*

When it comes to new people in her life, M. is (to quote my mama), “slow to warm up.”  Strangers are viewed with suspicion, if not outright disdain. Miss M. is careful with her heart and guards it with steely vigilance, lest someone tread on it roughly. Miss M.’s heart has narrow chambers–there’s not space in there for many people.  Earning a space in that heart is no easy feat, let me tell you. That girl will put you through more tests than Hercules before she clears a space in her heart for you.

When she does, however, it’s for forever and it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. But getting in there? Not for the faint of heart.

We’ve now had Valentin with us for over two weeks, and admittedly, we feel a bit like we have to put on a dog and pony show for him. Box seats at the baseball game, whitewater rafting in the mountains, elaborate cookouts. He’s only here for a month, and we want to show him the best–both of our state and of ourselves.

My husband and Miss D., who love adventure and challenge and possess big, open, beautifully sloppy hearts are thriving. Miss M. and I, who cower at noise and bright light and possess hearts of the reluctant and stingy variety…well. We’re trying, but we’re tired. Making space for people in your heart and in your life is exhausting business. Embracing change, at least where we’re concerned, feels a little like trying to fit yourself into a shirt three sizes too big. You flop around for a while, feeling a bit like a ghost.

This weekend, after a trip to the mountains for whitewater rafting (which M. and I sat out on, as she is too young), we stopped for lunch on our way home. I took M. to the bathroom and as we were lathering our hands with soap, she said softly, “Mom? How much longer is he going to be here?”

“Two more weeks, baby.” I said.

She blinked hard a few times, took a breath and exhaled slowly. She carefully dried her hands and turned back to me.

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s go home.”


*I am fully in Miss M.’s camp re: car trips. They are the devil’s work. And if you’ve been following along on FB, you’ll know that I endured an extra 5 hours in the car this weekend due to my own stupidity. Kill me now.

ps: I feel the need to state that our little Frenchman is quickly making inroads into my black heart. Miss M. is a tougher nut to crack, however,

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Justine July 1, 2014 at 8:11 am

It’s fun, but it can also be draining to have another person in the house for a long time, as I found out over the weekend. Showing the city and making room in regularly scheduled programs of our lives for others take a lot out of me, so even if I love whoever is staying with us, I’m always, always relieved to have my house back.

p.s. You mentioned Miss M’s name here, in one of the paragraphs. Did you mean to?


Abby July 1, 2014 at 8:13 am

I don’t mean to freak you out with the comparison, but I can so relate to Miss M. I have my routines, my people, my places, my things and it takes me quite a while to warm up to the change, even if the change is positive. The thing is, when I do warm up, it’s usually genuine and carefully selected. I’m glad things are going so well for you guys, but also that life will resume as before but forever changed by your new experiences.


Dana Talusani July 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm


I knew you would understand.


S in AK July 1, 2014 at 9:04 am

I am some evil mix of introverted and extroverted. I love doing things with people and having them around–until I don’t. And when I’m done, I’m done. Your M. has a lot more iron in her veins than I!


Dana Talusani July 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm


That girl is hard like diamonds.


Foodiewife July 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

I dunno about that. I think you do have a heart, and bless you for going out of your way to show your international guest such a great time. Hopefully, one day, his family will reciprocate when you visit them in France. I love your Miss M stories. Did you get your iPhone back? So sorry about that. I love two different wallets, in less than two weeks. My adult ADD kicked in. I do love the way you write. Seriously.


Dana Talusani July 1, 2014 at 7:28 pm


Thank you for your kind words. I got my phone back in (of course) the weirdest way possible but it is back. I swear, we never do anything “normal.”

ps: that steak tutorial you did? Genius. I would love to share it, if you give me permission? There are too many badly grilled steaks out there.


elizabeth July 1, 2014 at 9:40 am

It’s funny–I think the reason why I enjoy entertaining is that I can dabble in the dog-and-pony show but I still have a semblance of control/comfort because at least I have my own bed and my own stuff around and the idea of modifying a routine is considerably less daunting when you also don’t have to factor in a few hours of car travel in along with it. I only seem to get that sort of anxiety when I’m visiting someone’s house, though, probably because there’s a silly part of me who is envious that they are hosting and get that comfort level and control rather than me.

In other words: I feel for you and Miss M.


Dana Talusani July 1, 2014 at 7:30 pm


We must be sisters from another mister. I love people…if they are in my house, eating my cooking, Nothing beats a dinner party on your own turf.


LQ July 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

Could part of this be knowing that his time with you is short? The closer you get, the more painful it will be to say goodbye.


Dana Talusani July 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm


I didn’t think of that. Huh. Need to think more on it. As of now, I think that she considers him an interloper and a threat, but you bring up a really good point. Thank you.


C. Troubadour July 1, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I’m so not an excursion kind of girl. Having extra people in my space is something I do once a weekend in a month at best. I get inexplicably worn out by being so ON all the time. Bright lights and noise and I are like oil and water.

But D. would go out every weekend if he could, to explore, to play, to scour the wild’s corners and, in his way of thinking, LIVE. I live too; I just do it in my head and home much more happily.

I get the feeling of wanting those comforts undisturbed but having to go along with someone else’s idea of leisure time. But perhaps for some of the outings, you and Miss M. can beg off just to recharge while everyone else goes? A little downtime can pay huge dividends.


Dana Talusani July 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm


Love what you said about oil and water (bright lights/noise). Miss M. and I need a spa getaway. Wanna come?


C. Troubadour July 2, 2014 at 10:50 am

I’m in! Is Miss M. a spa kind of girl? That would be the perfect recharge non-activity :). I say pedicures for all at the very least.


Biz July 1, 2014 at 1:05 pm

We had an exchange student from Germany for 3 weeks. We, however, have a very modest house, with a modest budget, so days spent at our house were making pizza from scratch, making dishes that would remind Maxi at home, etc. All was well the first week, until they went to parties on the “rich” side of town. Suddenly our house wasn’t good enough for her – and to add insult to injury, one of the other families actually FLEW their kids with their exchange student from Chicago to D.C., just so the student could see the White House!

I tried exchanging emails with her after she went home, but to no avail. I am sure Valentin is appreciative of all you’ve done for him though!


Dana Talusani July 2, 2014 at 8:31 am


What a disheartening experience for you! That young lady missed out on a great opportunity.


Arnebya July 1, 2014 at 1:46 pm

The novelty of newness wears off fast for me, as does interest in change. I’m more open to it as I age but it’s fully understandable that Miss M ain’t got time for temporary companionship. That sounds awful. Nope. Not deleting it. It is my truth.

I’ve always wanted to offer our home for an exchange student. But the whole doing stuff just kind of takes away from my interest.


Dana Talusani July 2, 2014 at 8:32 am


You crack me up. There is, indeed, a lot of “doing stuff.”


Jamie July 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Total miss d and mr kitchwitch over here. But oh how badly I want to be in the hearts of the miss m’s of the world!


Gappa Guy July 1, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Been following all your adventures. Loved the images and the storyline associated with them. Me thinks that you and D are not as “steely” as you suggest and that ya’lls hearts are more easily melted then perceived. It just takes the right touch.
You have not mentioned, that I saw, about the little one’s trip to our fair state, while you were on “Holiday in the Med”.


Alison July 2, 2014 at 4:45 am

I am a 38 year old version of Miss M. xoxo


Tiffany July 2, 2014 at 5:32 am

Miss M knows who she is…I love it.


Sherri July 2, 2014 at 6:39 am

It sounds like a fun couple of weeks. I’m wondering if Miss M is actually like me and willing herself not to get too close because she does like him – will miss him – doesn’t like good-byes. Some people have such a hard time letting people make a mark on their lives because they don’t ever want to get too close.


michelle July 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I am SO Miss M

But taller.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri July 2, 2014 at 10:47 pm

No change. No noise. I am in Miss M’s camp.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes July 3, 2014 at 2:01 am

A reluctant heart. I get it. I fully and totally get it.
But I did not start out like this though. Various happenings made me that way. ‘Reserved’ is what my coworkers call it or ‘not easy to read’.
Once you are in, you are there to stay and you’ll get plenty of rope. But if you fuck up you are out. Forever.


Linda Pressman July 6, 2014 at 2:30 am

I sometimes feel that way about people who come over for an evening, so yes, of course for a month. And that’s even if I adore the people and love to spend time with them. Sometimes it’s just time to do nothing, to cook not at all, to goof off. This is where his friends would come in handy if he was an American teen boy!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: