Making friends with chores: Never too old to learn

Neither Bill nor I grew up in households where we shouldered especially demanding chores. Bill cut the lawn and took out the trash, but his mother once confided that she did me no favor by laundering, ironing and putting away his clothes for him.  In my family we were just expected to help out with whatever was needed. That might mean working in the garden, setting and clearing the table, or odd jobs.  And the easiest way was considered the best. This looseness around chores led to some interesting consequences early in our marriage. We often had a messy house. The first time I washed Bill’s shirts I put any that weren’t permanent press in a laundry bag to iron later. Several years and a couple of moves later we finally threw out the untouched laundry bag.

We carried our family of origin patterns over into our child-rearing. We tended to clean what we needed to when it seemed to need it rather than on a regular basis. Our kids helped out with things, but didn’t have regular chores. We more or less got the job done, but in a fairly undisciplined and sometimes untimely fashion. At some point when we could afford it we paid people to do the heavier duty cleaning of our house.

So, living in a house where we all have regular chores that need to be done at specific times has been a new and interesting experience. We IMG_2639have a chore for five weeks at a time and then switch. This cycle I sweep the kitchen courtyard on Wednesdays and the St. Francis courtyard on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Because this is falling leaf season, I also put out the yard waste I’ve swept up for curbside pickup on Thursday evening. Continue reading

What makes a home

Coming back from our last trip, I realized how much Beacon Hill Friends House had become home. I began wondering what it is that makes a place a home. I imagine it’s different for everybody.

For me, the physical attributes for a place to be home are minimal: good light, a comfortable place to sit, books (of course!), a few cherished things and easy access to outdoors. It helps if the place is relatively neat, but that doesn’t always happen with us.

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The physical environment is the least of it for me. Primarily it’s about the people. First, I’d have to say, home is where Bill is. We’ve been married twice as long as we lived before marriage. Home is where we sheltered children and aging parents. But, we sheltered them more with ourselves than with a specific physical environment.

Home is a place where it’s ok to be who and how you are. Not long after returning from a trip I was sitting in the kitchen writing while one housemate made dinner and various people wandered through. I could have gotten more done in the quiet of the library. But, I woke up really crabby that day – jet-lagged and discouraged by the clutter in our room. Continue reading

100 Days: What’s working, what’s not, what’s changing

Several months into our year in this room, it’s time for a check-in. There’s no probationary period for new residents at Beacon Hill Friends House (no cracks, please, about how lucky that is for us).  But the time seems right to ask how it’s going.

There’s nothing like returning from a trip to provide a snapshot of how you’re feeling about the place you’re returning to. And our return from Vienna earlier this week prompted at least a couple of feelings about life at BHFH.

Walking into the kitchen, I found Kevin and his girlfriend, Christina, cooking up a storm. Several housies were hanging out around the table with the Sunday papers spread out before them. I got hugged and welcomed in ways that made me feel like belting out the theme song from Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name.”

washerHeading for our room, I passed through the laundry room and was confronted with a clever but disturbing creation decorating the washer. The alert that this critical appliance was “eating quarters” instead of washing clothes was not the best news for someone with a week’s worth of dirty laundry.

Appliances broke when we lived on our own, of course. The good news about broken appliances at BHFH: Arranging the repair is someone else’s responsibility. The bad news? Arranging the repair is someone else’s responsibility. Continue reading

How travel opens windows on the ways we live

Living in a 16 by 18 foot room is easier if you have the means to travel.

Susan Ager reminded me of that with a comment to a Facebook update I posted last week about connecting in Vienna with a friend from Boston.

Susan’s right, of course, and not just about the fun and freedom attached to hightailin’ it out of the country now and then.

It’s also about getting a glimpse of how differently people relate to their stuff, their space and the people around them.

One of my first eye-openers on this front came more than 30 years ago. Continue reading

Are we losing our habitat?

The other day I walked to the Museum of Science to see a movie about coral reefs. I’ve been intrigued with reefs ever since reading an article in the science section of the New York Times a little over six years ago about the death of many coral reefs and the efforts to restore them. The article brought tears to my eyes. Coral reefs, sometimes called the rain forests of the sea, are diverse communities that shelter a vast array of species. If any one of those species is at risk, if the diversity gets lost, it puts the whole community at risk. If the coral, the habitat of the community, dies off it threatens the species who live there. Many scientists quoted in the article were pessimistic about our ability to reverse the dramatic loss of reefs in recent times.

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Wikimedia Commons photo by Mikhail Rogov

The movie, a visual delight, was more hopeful, but also suggested that reefs could disappear in our lifetime. The opening scenes confirmed an intuition I had about human communities and coral reefs.  The scenes flashed back and forth between cities packed with people and traffic moving in all directions and reefs with schools of fish streaming in all directions. Point made: Community is our human habitat, our coral. Continue reading