Whenever I've been away (this time on a 10-day mission to Prague and Israel) I dread coming home. Wait! That didn't come out quite right. Of course, I can't wait to see my children. It's everything else that is so overwhelming.

After 10 days of no cooking, it's hard to be thrown immediately back into the kitchen. This time it was an even greater challenge since on the last Friday in November we usually have turkey "with all the fixins" for dinner. And I didn't want to disappoint the hungry multitudes.

Then there is the dust. Looking around this smog-filled city (it's not perfect, but hey, it's home), it's hard to remember that Los Angeles is the desert. And desert means dust -- everywhere, all the time. A 10-day build-up...well, it's better left undescribed but not untackled.

There are also the bills to be paid, phone calls to be returned, emails to answer. To some frustrated callers, I tried explaining that I had been out of the country. But in today's world of instant communication, apparently that is no longer an excuse. I tried explaining that I was busy day and night with the participants from the mission. But that also fell on deaf ears. So I gave up and started apologizing.

There is laundry to do (Sarah Shapiro once wrote that laundry is like our evil inclination. Just when you think you have it mastered, it piles up again!), dishes to wash and schedules to coordinate.

And I have to throw out the three-week-old dead Shabbos flowers that have added a certain "je ne sais quoi" to our dining room table.

I almost forgot about the ants (despite the earlier description, I do keep a clean house -- really). We woke up at 4 a.m., jet lagged and in desperate need of coffee. When my enterprising husband turned on the coffee maker, hundreds (make that thousands) of ants came scurrying out onto the counter. Somehow a colony had taken up residence inside the coffeepot during our trip and literally invaded every element of it (necessitating adding a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond for a new coffeemaker to the already overextended to-do list). It was a real phenomenon. Especially in the early morning.

But with all the work, all the stress, all the effort, and all the jet lag, I am glad to be home. I am grateful to be having Shabbos with my family in our home, at our table. With all the errands, with all the carpools and doctor's appointments and parent-teacher conferences etc. etc. (you know the drill), with the fights and frustrations, there really is no place like home. And with all the horrific and frightening news in the world right now, I am so grateful to be hugging my kids and sharing Shabbos with them. Although the horrifying impact was emotional and not physical, it is a time to turn home and I'm glad that my trip was over, that I could be together with my family. Of course, with real perspective and the massacre in India in mind, everything else seems trivial. And being overwhelmed is not even a small price to pay.