On the benefits of a Saturday in community

I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided to update our eight year-old iMac to the Yosemite operating system. Midway through the install, the screen went blank and there appeared to be nobody at all home — and no apparent way to ring the door bell.

imac 2Googling the problem showed many others had suffered the same fate, without any clear path to recovery. I really needed that machine in prepping for the teaching I’m doing this week in Vienna, but didn’t have the time to haul it down Boylston to the Apple store.

And then I spotted Sumner, a former housie, sitting in the kitchen. Sumner is a programmer who continues helping his former housemates in all sorts of ways — honchoing our workdays, tweaking our new high speed wireless and more. So much so that I was reluctant to impose on him for volunteer tech support on a Saturday morning.

“No problem,” he said when I went ahead and asked anyway. With his phone he discovered a possible solution that had eluded me. “But hold down your hopes,” he cautioned as I headed upstairs muttering Hail Marys and hoping, despite his cautions, that the old beast might somehow come back from the dead.  Continue reading

Four funerals and a birthday

Shortly after I posted a note last week about the death of college roommate David DeCoursey, a high school classmate, Francine Gouvin Bernard, posted a comment: “Sorry for your loss, Mitch. It’s starting…”

Actually, Dave’s was the last of four funerals I attended in 2014, but Francine was right about something starting: Just as many of our younger housemates at BHFH find themselves heading out to weddings, Carol and I are showing up at more and more funerals.

Brian Mitchell and family (photo courtesy of Tracy Mitchell)

Brian Mitchell and family (photo courtesy of Tracy Mitchell)

The first was for my cousin, Brian Mitchell, who died July 3 at his home on Cape Cod. At lunch after the service, Brian’s widow, Judy, told us that he went out in a way that, had he been given a choice, he might have chosen: Sitting on the porch with his wife of 53 years, drinking a beer.

Brian was ten years older than me, and I wish I’d made a point of telling him what a life model he’d become for me in two important respects: Charting a path that fits, and having fun along the way. Continue reading

On losing it in front of friends

1993 Photo of Evelyn Mitchell by Anne Peters

1993 Photo of Evelyn Mitchell by Anne Peters

I’ve written previously about Talking Rock, the device we use at house meetings to share what’s going on in our lives. Whoever happens to be sitting closest to the rock (it lives on the fireplace mantel in the library) grabs it and spends a couple of minutes updating the 20 other housemates.

The revelations range from matter of fact to life and death. As much as I’m getting more comfortable with the exercise, I still struggle to get beyond the nuts and bolts of daily life and share at the level of my braver housemates.

A show and tell/talent show at a recent house retreat seemed like a good opportunity to go deeper, especially since lack of musical or related talent had me leaning toward the show and tell option for the session.

So a few minutes before the group gathered in the parlor, I grabbed the photograph of my Mom, Evelyn, from our room. I began framing the story I wanted to tell about this eldest daughter who gave birth to me just a few miles from where we live now on Beacon Hill. Continue reading

Engaging strangers at dinner: Not everyone’s cup of tea

house dinner 2I’ve learned a lot from the Myers-Briggs, especially when administered and explored by my favorite former clinical psychologist. As an ENFP, one of my major take-aways is how differently I recharge my batteries than, say, someone whose profile begins with an I instead of an E. In Myers-Briggs terms, the difference between extroverts and introverts is a bit more nuanced than the popular understanding of the terms. In brief, it’s all about where we draw our energy: from interaction with groups or from more intimate, one-on-one or solitary settings.

Which brings me to the dinner table at Beacon Hill Friends House. When I hear we have guests for dinner, my ears perk up. I hope I end up sitting close enough to them at our long table to find out a bit about them and answer questions about the house. I also realize this is not a reaction shared by all. Continue reading

Thoughts on living large(r)

Screenshot 2014-11-24 13.23.39After 17 months of sharing a single room, Carol and I recently spent a week in our friend’s quite spacious two-bedroom, two bath (plus office) high-rise apartment overlooking downtown St. Petersburg, Fl. Spacious enough, in fact, that I found myself losing track of stuff — and Carol! — until I got used to the extra real estate.

I’ve always liked Judy’s place, located steps from the water in a building where we also lived when we moved to St. Pete 15 years ago. What surprised me about this recent week was how much I enjoyed our time up there on the 24th floor. It taught me something about how I’m feeling about living spaces and places these days.

Continue reading

Just enough chefs in the kitchen

chefs edited

Nora, Jared, Ali, Carol & Clarissa. Plus the mystery chef. Click photo for better view.

The $331-a-month we each pay for food at BHFH (rent is $628 per person) gets us Sunday-Thursday dinners prepared by Myles, our resident chef, plus a fully-stocked kitchen we can raid for other meals and snacks. On most Friday and Saturday evenings that leaves housies fending for themselves. But sometimes, like last night, something more organized happens. It began with a 1:39 p.m. email from Carol, alerting her 20 housemates that she’d be cooking a chicken pot pie and a veggie pie and that Clarissa would be making a salad.

Friday night dinner

Friday dinner at Beacon Hill Friends House

Nora volunteered the bean soup that her folks learned to make when the family lived in Nicaragua (Witness for Peace), and Ali promised apple crisp with help from Jared. The rest of us did stuff like buying the chicken and removing meat from the bones, plus set up and clean up.  Main task for the dozen of us at the table: Enjoying a great dinner. When I asked for a show of hands to line up a photo of the evening’s chefs, the first one in the air was Leila’s. Who knows what she may have thrown in the pot?

 

Time for a re-set: A new year, a new room

Appreciating how big a room looks with none of our stuff!

Appreciating how big a room looks with none of our stuff!

A Year in a Room is all about transitions, and we have a new one to report: Our move from the third floor of Beacon Hill Friends House to the second.

For a variety of reasons, Carol’s doc suggested she figure out a way to sleep in less sweltering temperatures. The BHFH electrical system does not accommodate regular air conditioners — no big deal unless you’ve experienced Boston’s summer heat and humidity. A little Internet research turned up some low-powered A/C possibilities. But the BHFH residency manager, Ben, had a better idea: Move to the second floor, where the ceilings are higher and the temperatures lower. And a room was available.

"Get rid of this thing"

“Get rid of this thing”

Easier said than done, of course. Halfway down the stairs with a big bookcase, one of the movers we hired had a question for us: “Did you have this thing built in the room? Because there’s no way it’s coming down these stairs.” Continue reading