yes, i unpacked my computer–i’ve just been busy

8 ‘Ilm 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)Soundtrack in my head:

Thievery Corporation, “The State of the Union”

The problem with helping start a new co-op house is that it gets in the way of blogging. How inconvenient. But I guess it should be good fodder for writing, I think, right? Well, let me try.

We’re close to full, finally. We’ve made a decision on someone for the last open room, and we’ll hopefully find out soon if the person want to move in with us. Meanwhile the house is slowly getting more organized. We finally got a dining room table just in time for the cold weather. Before then, we had all of our house dinners out on the porch. We are having weekly house meetings now and have set up a rotation for cooking and kitchen and bathroom cleaning.

Five of our house members have previous experience living in a co-op, but that doesn’t automatically mean that things get organized quickly-though I imagine it would be faster than if the house was full of people with no previous co-op experience. My previous co-op house benefited from decades of effort at making the house more organized. Here, rules and procedures are only beginning to be established, and I’ve noticed how much easier it is to break a rule created yesterday as opposed to one that was created several years ago-I’m among the guilty parties, too. The other thing I’ve noticed is that it’s easy for me to take for granted little things that were established practice in my old co-op-such as labeling containers of leftovers with the date and a description of what’s inside. I look in the refrigerator and I think, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to put that on the next house meeting agenda. “

Our first floor has a somewhat funny layout. A large number of houses in this neighborhood are noteworthy for the large foyers they have. The previous occupants used this foyer as their dining room. That’s because what used to be the dining room was converted to a bedroom. (Note to future co-op house developers-don’t be so fixated on the number of rental units that you disrupt the house feng shui.) What we’re currently trying to do is convert the foyer to a living room and having what has been a living room be a combination of a dining room and family room. We have two couches in the foyer and I see us fitting in a small coffee table and end table. It’s sort of odd having it so close to the front door, though, but maybe if we arrange things just right it will work. As for the living room we’re converting to a dining/family room, I can see us easily fitting the dining room table in the back half of the room, and that would leave plenty of room for a couple of more couches.

But we also have an enormous attic space that could easily be converted into common space. Not this year, though–there are a few obstacles. First of all, there is no heat up there, and it also gets very hot up there in the summer. Secondly, there is an unbelievable amount of stuff up there that people left behind. Clothes, books, dressers, desks. We made $75 on a yard sale that included only a tiny fraction of the items in the attic. Finally, the roof is scheduled to be replaced soon-most likely when warm weather returns in the spring.

This weekend, we are having our house retreat. For years, I’ve known of an inexpensive and beautiful retreat center located near Dodgeville. It has a lodge-like common house and cabins, trails, a fire circle, and a beautiful view of the hills in an unglaciated part of Wisconsin. Three years ago, I persuaded my old co-op to have a retreat there, and it went over so well that it is now established as part of the culture of that co-op. (They just recently had their first retreat without me last month.) I hope to do the same thing with this co-op.

A retreat for this house is all the more important because we are new and still establishing ourselves. This weekend, we will work to develop a common vision for the house, institute our house job system, and bond as a group. I don’t know for sure, but a name change for the co-op house might also be in the works…


slow train comin’ to albuquerque

10 Mashiyyat 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Steve Goodman, “City of New Orleans”

I’ve been so busy helping get this co-op started that I really haven’t had a chance to write much about it.  

There were two other adults in the house when I moved in a month ago.  Now we’ve filled five rooms.  In a nutshell, here’s what we’ve had to do:  1)  move in and get ourselves situated, 2) clean up the mess left by previous occupants, 3) figure out how to organize our food buying, 4) recruit, greet and interview potential members, 5) acquire furniture—for weeks we ate our dinners on the porch until we finally got a dining room table 6) establish cooking and cleaning rotations, and 7) establish ourselves on the house credit union account and start figure out how to organize the finances.  Among other things

For a while I was taking on the role of house membership coordinator, maintenance liaison, and house bookkeeper and the house’s MCC Board representative all at the same time.  That’s a lot to take on.  But now I have been able to delegate most of it, and for the moment, the only thing I haven’t delegated is the accounts receivable role (essentially, collecting rent from my housemates, figuring out what they owe, and depositing the rent checks).  

I’ve been so busy that I only found time to post an update about the co-op when I boarded a train to Albuquerque on Saturday.

I scheduled this vacation months ago.  I was going to originally go there for Christmas to visit with my father and relatives, but a co-worker with more seniority ended up taking the vacation days I needed i order to travel there over the holidays.  So my father suggested that I come out for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in early October instead and then my sister talked me into it.  I bought the tickets in early July.  

It wasn’t until the beginning of August that I realized I wanted to move into and help re-establish this new co-op, I’m now living in–and I made the move one month ago today.  So the scheduling of this vacation was very fortuitous, because it is giving me a needed break right at the point I really need one.  

It’s funny how train travel forces one to slow down—that’s one of the reasons I prefer to travel by train.  It was a four hour trip to Chicago’s Union Station from Madison, and then I had a four-hour layover there before boarding the train for a 26-hour trip.  

Some people would go stark raving mad at such an arrangement.  But I love it.  It forces me to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  I have my books, my journal, and my laptop, and a beautiful view out the window.  And plenty of good conversation.

I talked to an 87-year old man visiting his grandchildren in Kansas City. He got on at Fort Madison, IA, but lived in Fairfield IA for many years and talked about how a Hindu sect established itself in the area and ending up changing the cultural landscape of that small town.  He didn’t seem bothered or judgmental about it, and it sounded like according to his account that there was minimal conflict.  And in the dining car they seat complete strangers together because there are only so many seats.  So I sat with two ladies from Toronto and an older African-American woman who lived for five years on an air force base in Okinawa.  She had many fascinating stories and she and I shared Japan stories since I’d spent a little time there, too.  Later I sat down to dinner with a man from Trinidad and Tobago who talked a lot about his country..

I woke up to see the arid flat plains outside of Dodge City, Kansas, and I actually found them to be quite beautiful in their own way.  The plains became hillier as we crossed into Colorado, and then hills became mountains.  Our train followed the old Santa Fe Trail through the Raton Pass as we crossed into New Mexico, and with the elevation being over 7,000 feet there, we saw some fall colors.  (Up until this point, the only place I’d seen fall colors this year was in Wisconsin.)  Then we went through some other mountain passes, and then, finally, the Sandia Mountains on the eastern edge of Albuquerque came into view.  

So I’ll be here for a week.  Today, my father, sister, her boyfriend and I will take the Tramway up to Sandia Crest at the top of the Sandias, and later on in the afternoon I will be getting together with a Baha’i friend I’m very much looking forward to seeing.  I’m not sure I’m at what point I might find myself in a “relaxed” state of mind, but hopefully that will come shortly.