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.
Googling 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
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)
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
Housemate Pan Aobo presents the lunch he prepared for my birthday and his end-of-semester
Last week I turned 66. That’s the first year of collecting social security. According to some researchers it falls within the youth of old age. It’s a time when friends and relatives seem to be dying at a faster and faster rate. Still, I don’t feel old. On my birthday I found myself doing a curious mix of looking back and looking forward.
Looking back, I was caught up in a stream of gratitude both wide and deep for all the people who’ve given me life and shaped me. It stretched back as far as my grandparents and ran forward through parents, siblings, the best husband I could ever have, our kids, grandkids and friends and mentors. It ran all the way forward to Aobo, one of the newer residents of our house who made me a special birthday lunch. Even the really hard times looked different as I reflected on them. They were just part of the journey, parts that have taught me things that have now worked for my good and sometimes the good of other people. Continue reading
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
I’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
One of my big fears about moving to BHFH was that it would be harder for us to have people visit, hang out, feel at home. If Bill and I had a mission statement for our marriage, providing hospitality would be front and center. I hoped that people we love would feel comfortable hanging out here, but I didn’t know. I hoped that our housemates would be comfortable with our family and friends, but, again. I didn’t know. Not everyone appreciates having a rambunctious 21 month old or people they don’t know invading their space.
Mostly it’s worked out well. Clearly our son-in-law and granddaughter feel comfortable enough in our home to fall asleep in the library shared by all 21 residents. Leila loves to ride the elevator, play hide and seek around the dining room and explore all the different staircases. She has a place she prefers to sit at the dining room table and when we do a round of names (when we have guests at dinner) she usually pipes up with “LEILA!” Our house mates have been patient with her noise and our clear adoration of her. One of the big pluses for her is having a whole new set of aunts and uncles whose names she is gradually learning, sort of. Clarissa is known as Issa and Ryan is Iyan. Continue reading
After 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.
Rev. Jerry Singer at the 50th anniversary of his ordination, June 2, 2013, Nativity Church, Detroit
This has been a sad few days. As we were leaving church Sunday morning, Bill checked his email and discovered that yet another friend had died. Jerry Singer was the pastor of our best ever church community. He was also a good friend.
Over the last several years I’ve lost my mother, my only two aunts, three cousins, three important mentors (now four) and several friends. While I understand that death is part of life and on one level am not afraid of it, I still finding it shocking. How can it be that this person who was so full of life is no longer there? Where did they go?
And maybe more important, what of them is left? What is their legacy? How might I help keep it alive and pass it on?
Living at BHFH, we’re focused on what it takes to build a strong and enjoyable community. I wish my fellow housies had had a chance to witness Jerry’s community building in action. He knew everyone in the parish by name. Whenever someone new showed up at Sunday Mass he greeted them before the service, asked their name and before Mass started introduced them to the community. Unlike many pastors, he shared power easily, often being guided by the congregation rather than imposing his own opinions. Continue reading
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 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?
One of my favorite happy places is only a short walk from where we live. The Boston Public Garden lifts me up no matter what state I’m in. I’m amazed at the number of leaves that are still left and the way the light plays with them and the bare branches.
Someone once said that nature is God’s first revelation of God’s self. I believe it.