I spent some of yesterday hanging art on our walls (finally!) including the framed tattoo concept drawings my father did for our wedding tattoos, and my sister-in-law Renee’s two landscapes — one painted in honor of her marriage to my brother (9/9) and one in honor of our marriage (9/14). We’ve hung them in a triptych on the bedroom wall (pictured above); they face this housewarming gift from my parents, who obviously know their daughter and daughter-in-law well: Continue reading
It’s been a month you guys!
We can still see the rug on our bedroom floor, and the only thing under the bed are dust bunnies and the occasional cat.
I don’t have anything super-noteworthy to say, I just wanted to mark the day. It really is hard to believe we’ve been living a month in our new place. Some eclectic observations:
- I don’t miss our old neighborhood as much as I thought I would. Is that disloyal? I’m not sure yet. Part of the reason is that we still live in the same city and maybe 80% of our time is spent in the same spaces as before the move. Hanna and I both miss walking passed the brookline booksmith more days than not, and being near Trader Joe’s, and 4A Coffee on Harvard Ave. but other than that … I’m so actively happy to be where we are in so many ways, I don’t have room to miss the old. I wonder if I ever will? Maybe I’m done with that chapter and ready to move on.
- Maple trees have a distinctive presence and sound to them; I grew up in a house surrounded by old maples and hadn’t realized until moving to JP that I missed them. Now when its windy or rains and I hear the trees outside I can relax. Sleeping has been a wonderful thing because the sounds are right again.
- Having a porch expands the size of our apartment beyond its already wonderfully expansive 860 square feet.
- A ceiling fan (in our living room) is amazing as a tool for cooling the space on hot days.
- Kitchen counters! Kitchen counters! Kitchen counters!
- For some reason, Hanna and I decided to start using the dishwasher when we moved here, despite the fact we never used the “adult box” that was in our old apartment. I am really surprised at how much it lowers the stress level of our evenings and makes cooking together a pleasurable activity. Sometimes, labor-saving devices are worth the hype.
- We now live in a neighborhood with a much higher Latino/a population than Allston, and that’s something else that feels like home (Michigan) to me in a way I hadn’t noticed missing until we were passing neighbors on our way home with a much broader range of ethnic diversity than on our previous commute. Even the music from the car stereos that pass our front windows feels more familiar. (And yum! the Cuban restaurant up the road makes the best horchata!).
- Gentrification. It’s a thing, and I’ve been thinking about it. I have days where I’m like, “What’s so elitist and destructive about wanting to live within walking distance of where you work?” That is, after all, the way most workers have gotten to work for centuries. But I’m also aware that as early-career professionals, Hanna and I fit a profile — one of people who are actively courted and catered to. While our neighbors here are often invisible at best and actively erased at worst. According to the Boston Globe, only about 15% of market-rate housing in JP is “affordable” … for families making $80k per year. There’s a lot of upward pressure on this already impossible market. We’re working to do what we can not to contribute to that, while embracing JP as a (hopefully long-term) home for us as well.
- Did I mention how wonderful a back porch is to enjoy?
- And neighbors that invite you to their barbecues instead of engaging in intimate partner violence on a near-nightly basis?
We continue to feel so lucky in finding this apartment, particularly on sunny Sundays in June, when our back balcony is a breezy, cozy sanctuary; a liminality between in and out, private home and neighborhood society.
We enjoyed brunch together last weekend, along with a little light reading.
Repotted some happy plants…
… and got creative drying the week’s laundry in the fine weather.
The porch is a new experience for the cats, who are practicing giving their mother attacks of the nerves by exploring the top of the (second floor! far from the ground!) railing without a net. We feel they should could equipped with safety tethers.
Geraldine seems largely content to chill in the shade or sun and survey her surroundings.
The clean laundry is obviously the best place for a black cat to settle in for a nap.
Meanwhile, our next door neighbors M and J have gotten a head start over us in the gardening department, with lots of promising seedlings that spent the weekend drinking up the sun and water they were afforded.
Hope y’all are finding ways of being in this early-summer moment. Happy June.
|Annotated street map, Hyde Square, Jamaica Plain (Boston, Mass.)
Photo by author.
I started this blog post last week and somehow it failed to save automatically, erasing several full paragraphs of text. Damn you Google, the way you lull us into complacency with your automatic back-ups! Still, I’ve continued to think about the themes of this post in the intervening week and will write a different post now than I would have last Sunday. And I think I’m mostly okay with that.
Ownership, and choice.
Last weekend, Hanna and I had a conversation about buying furniture. Our household is currently composed of some odds and ends, a few really awesome, we’ve picked up through the street-side equivalent of dumpster diving and IKEA purchases, again some quite excellent. Hanna moved here following an escape from an abusive relationship and a string of insecure housing situations, neither of which lent themselves to long-lasting furniture investment; I moved here from the Midwest with everything I needed for grad school packed into the back of an “economy” car rented from Enterprise. We’ve been constructing our household from the ground up.
The discussion we had was about buying some non-IKEA furniture, specifically a coffee table and a couple of bedside tables (perhaps matching!) for lamps and the inevitable stack of books-to-be-read we both accumulate. It would be nice, we feel, to have bedside tables with little drawers so Teazle won’t spend the hour between 2-3am every night trying to wake us up by swiping our spectacles onto the floor.
We’ve been thinking about L.L. Bean this time around, specifically their “Mission” or “Rustic” lines, which for us means maybe a piece or two per year depending on the size of the vet bills and how much we care about traveling to England in the next decade.
Then last weekend I got thinking, if we’re going to spend $500 on a coffee table or $250/piece on a pair of end tables, maybe we could do better than give that money to Bean’s. They’ve a good reputation as an employer, and are regional, sure. Their pieces are made here in the U.S. But what if we went a step further down this path and actually hired a local woodcrafter to do the job?
“I dunno, I guess I’m just not used to having the money to make that kind of choice,” Hanna observed. “It makes me anxious. I mean, it’s always the way I wanted to spend money, but Evil Ex always fought me on it. And then when I moved down to Boston I was worried about feeding myself and paying rent.”
See, despite the fact that we’re still renting (and yes, as we prepared to move everyone kept asking us if we were buying; there’s a whole separate post in me about the unexpected pressure I feel as a married person in my thirties to buy into the real estate market — it’s seriously more pressure than we’re feeling about the babies thing, maybe because we’ve made that decision in the negative already) this feels like our first home as a married couple. Our first purpose-“bought” space. We made our grad student digs work for eight years — eight years? the management company rep kept repeating when I handed him the keys, eight years? whoa. that’s gotta be a record. — and while we made the move because we needed a bigger space, it was also a move that consolidated our commitment to Boston. Despite the fact we’re tenants, not owners, of this lovely new home, we already have a sense of ownership.
Because we’ve chosen to live here — this city, this neighborhood, this building, this space. So even though we’re still writing that check every month to the landlord, not the bank, we’re putting down roots. Hanna bought a sage plant. We’ve introduced ourselves to our next-door neighbors. We do our part wheeling the trash to the curb on Monday mornings.
We talk about hiring a local artisan to build our furniture, even if it means we’ll have to wait for a year to get those matching end tables with the drawers where we can keep our eyeglasses safe from questing paws.
|Jamaica Pond, May 2014
Photo by author.
Because we can afford to wait a year. We’re thinking in those terms, now, more than we used to.
And it’s definitely a good place to be.
|We almost have enough bookshelves…|
We’re still unpacking here in J.P. but the living room is taking approximate shape. And I think my biggest observation from this first week in a new location in the same city is how much one’s understanding of a big city like Boston is filtered through the situational perspective of daily activity. I mean, “duh.” But we’ve shifted three miles south of our old home in Allston and suddenly our daily routine moves from one set of neighborhoods and local businesses to another.
|Eventually, the living room will have an office space!|
My initial impression is, weirdly enough, that Boston feels a lot more like a big city living in J.P. than it did living in Allston, on the edge of Brookline. Living in Allston, most of our daily routine happened in The Fenway/Longwood/Brookline neighborhoods, and Brookline definitely feels like a self-contained village enveloped by the greater metropolitan area of Boston. Jamaica Plain, too, feels like a very distinct neighborhood — but within the city of Boston. It feels very conscious of its status as part of Boston, and I feel woven into the fabric of big city life in new ways. No longer does my evening commute cut passed Fenway Park and up Beacon Street through Coolidge Corner … now I cycle by Symphony Hall through Roxbury to Jackson Square along the reclaimed Southwest Corridor Park.
|“Kitty TV” has a new view…|
Here are some of our discoveries from week one:
- Ghazal makes (and delivers!) tasty Indian fare
- The Southwest Corridor Park offers me a safer, more peaceful bicycle commute
- Koo Koo Cafe is not a new discovery, but is now on our walk to work!
- As is Green T Coffee, on those days when our path through
- Olmstead Park is too meandering a route to Countway
- The local fabric and yarn shop, JP Knit ‘n Stitch, where we picked up fabric to recover our ageing IKEA chairs
|… and Hanna’s|
In the coming weeks, we’re looking forward to checking out:
- The Thacher Milk Delivery service we saw drive by this morning
- Jamaica Plain Historical Society’s historic walking tours on summer Saturdays
- The Boston Building Resources organization, even though we’re renters not owners
- The Allendale Farm garden center and more local Agricultural Hall for some herb & vegetable starts for our sunny balcony
Hope all of you are well! Those of you whom I owe emails, I haven’t forgotten! The moving exacerbated my tendinitis and exhausted us generally … last night I was mostly asleep by 7 o’clock. Little old lady hours. But I haven’t forgotten you!
So we’ve moved.
I’m headed back to our old place one more time today to pack up the fridge and a few left-over things so the cleaners my parents are paying for can come and do the final scrub down. Then, hopefully, new people will come along soon and find Old Number Twelve a good place to live, as we did for many years.
Meanwhile, I promised pictures — so here they are!
This is a lot of what the last ten days have been about.
The cats liked all the piles of clothes and bedding to sleep on.
I think they were worried we would leave them behind, so kept trying to get us to pack them!
There was a lot of turning around and finding this.
How did we fit all this stuff in one 535-square-foot apartment?!
The BEST THING about the move was when the movers — Patrick, Mike, and Damian — arrived.
They took the things away and packed them so swiftly!
While Hanna waited with the cats at our new place, I was left to “supervise” the departure by drinking my latte and taking pictures of the emptying apartment.
The last box…
… Of serials, naturally. We’re librarians after all!
Books will be our biggest logistical hurdle. Here they are stacked up in the Inner Sanctum (what will eventually be Hanna’s meditation/yoga space (and our guest bedroom! … plus books).
These bookshelves (and three more) are already filled.
This is the new living room space (with a study nook to the right of the frame).
As predicted, Teazle and Gerry LOOOOVE this long hallway for chasing one another (particularly at night). I’m standing in the living room, and the room at the end of the hall is our kitchen. Off the hall to the right are the master bedroom, bathroom, and Inner Sanctum.
The movers put our bed back together, people!! It was the first room we made usable, after the kitchen.
Our kitchen has a table for eating! And gorgeous appliances.
Hanna found this photograph in the back of one of the cupboard drawers. Worrying? Charming? You decide! It now lives on our fridge.
We share our second-floor porch with the next-door neighbors and their cat, Jelly, whom Gerry and Teazle have only met through the window so far. Our plants are very happy outside, and we can dry out laundry out there as well! There are five huge maple trees shading the back lawn (And sheltering our house from the worst of the summer sun.
And not to brag or anything, but THIS is our new walk to work…
More house-proud pictures once we’ve actually had a chance to settle in and Teazle has finished the unpacking and investigatin’.
|Chez Clutterbuck-Cook 2.0|
We’ve reached the “where did all these damn books come from?!” stage of packing/moving. It’s not like we didn’t know we had approximately one thousand books (not to mention serials and DVDs…) in our 535-square-foot apartment. But books shelved actually take up comparatively little space, all neatly lined up along the wall. Books in boxes, on the other hand, seem to pile up alarmingly quickly. We’ve boxed about 50 records center-sized plastic bins so far, and once Hanna unpacks a couple dozen this afternoon in our new home, I’ll be trekking them back across town to fill them with more.
The movers come tomorrow to deal with the furniture (bookcases … and essentials, like, you know, the bed).
Teazle continues spreading her sunny, exploratory nature everywhere. Last night while I was boxing up books from the bedroom closet (yes, we kept books in the bedroom closet), I kept turning around to find Teazle sitting jauntily in the box, whether empty, partially, or almost entirely full. Once it was filled, she climbed on top of it.
And then, when that job was done, there were the cleared shelves to scramble up upon and inspect.
Geraldine, meanwhile, has taken to huddling in our vicinity where she can keep an eye on the proceedings and emit misery vibes.
Today is the day we move them from old to new home, letting them get used to the space for a day before we have to contend with the chaos of movers. Hanna’s going to set herself up as unpacker-and-cat-wrangler-in-chief this afternoon while I drive all of the oddly-shaped boxes and bins back and forth from Allston to Jamaica Plain (and the empty bins back for more packing). I anticipate one night of separate sleeping as Hanna co-sleeps with the kitties in our new home and I crash at our soon-to-be-old home to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the movers at 9am tomorrow.
Coffee. It will be our friend.
Photos to come.
PSA: This blog is going to be all personal, all the time for the next month or so as Hanna and I are immersed in the emotional and practical details of relocation. Those of you who don’t care about such details, check back mid-June or so!
I had a conversation with a friend on Twitter who is also moving this month. I said how funny it was to be moving; that I’d really only lived in my parents’ house, then a series of very temporary college-era situations, and then the apartment Hanna and I have shared for the past seven years.
This next home will be something new: a space selected together, as wives, with our adult lives in mind. It’s a space we’ve purposefully chosen to (landlord and life willing) serve us well for the next five to ten years, in a neighborhood we picked for more than its (relative) affordability. For the past seven years we’ve lived on the periphery of a village, Brookline, we never actually belonged to — although our marriage certificate is filed in their city hall! Starting next week, we’ll be living in Jamaica Plain, and thinking about how to put down actual roots there.
In that context, I started to think back on the places I’ve lived in my life thus far. Here they are.
The Childhood Home (1981-2007, with gaps).
My parents bought a home the same year they were married (1976), a late-nineteenth century farmhouse that had once stood on the outskirts of a then-tiny Midwestern town. It housed the first postmaster of Holland (Mich.) and also these two lovely women — a schoolteacher and an artist — whose suggestive double portrait I keep over my desk at work. A two-story, three-bedroom house with a tiny bedroom in what used to be the pantry off the kitchen (when built, house had no indoor plumbing) this was the architecture of my childhood. I was brought home from the hospital to a living room that housed a table saw, watched scary movies through the crack in the lincrusta peeling from the stairwell, and warmed my toes on the forced-air vents in the floorboards. Situated in Holland’s historic district, it was a block and a half from the public library and a foundational location for many aspects of who I am today.
The College Apartment (2000-2001).
Although I was a townie in college, officially circumventing the on-campus housing policy for underclassmen by living with my parents, the third year I was enrolled at Hope I decided to share an apartment with a good friend of mine (also “living with parents”). We were two houses down from the railroad tracks and at night the freight trains felt like they were coming right through the walls. We took turns cooking, mostly recipes from the Moosewood cookbook, and had a dish-washing schedule that sometimes we followed and sometimes we didn’t. On Wednesday nights I bicycled back to my parents house a mile away so my family and I could watch The West Wing together. We each paid $250/month of the five hundred dollar rent (I know!!) and didn’t realize at the time that we would never pay so little for housing ever again.
The Mountaintop Cabin (Fall 2001).
After my first year of independent apartment living, I spent a semester in the Cascade mountains in Southern Oregon, living with four other students in a tiny five-room cabin in a re-purposed logging town turned off-campus community. There were two doubles and a single in the cabin, and I arrived early on move-in weekend to claim a single — a onetime mudroom off the kitchen that basically had room for my twin mattress and the dresser. We heated the place by keeping the woodstove in the living room stoked into the late evening, and banking it at night as we trailed off to bed. Once more we took turns cooking communal meals five nights out of the week, gathering each night except Friday and Saturday to discuss the day’s lecture and reading, our independent research projects, and the social tensions of our hothouse environment. Even when two of the five residents basically moved out to live with partners elsewhere, we continued to gather all five of us at dinnertime to touch base.
The Parsonage Next Door (2002-2003).
I spent about six months at my parents’ after Oregon, which worked out well enough but made clear I needed a little more independent space at this point in my life. It so happened that our next-door neighbors (and good friends) were in want of a live-in nanny during a year when one parent was going to be out of state completing an advanced degree. So I moved into a suite in the corner of the house with a bedroom and bathroom to myself, periods of childcare responsibility, and otherwise a great deal of autonomy. The cats (Butterscotch and Pikachu) used to hide in the walls in the bathroom, reappearing from beneath the bathroom sink at unexpected moments. Apropos of not much else, this was the year I discovered Fingersmith and wondered, once again, if I might be a dyke.
|Seagulls at sunset at Hillhead Halls (2003-2004)|
The Student Flat (2003-2004).
Oregon hadn’t quenched my wanderlust and I used the remainder of my (grandparentally-invested) college fund to spend a year reading cultural history at the University of Aberdeen on the northeast coast of Scotland. I lived in University housing on the edge of a sweep of city park and a stone’s throw from the North Sea in Old Aberdeen. 69A Burnett Hall was my address, sharing a kitchen and washroom facilities with four Scots first-years and, come January, another American. This was an era where, although I had a laptop for writing, we still have to go to the central computer labs for Internet access. For the first (and last) time since I was nine years old, I had no paid employment; between lectures and seminar discussions and research for my history essays I walked the length and breadth of the city, old and new, wrote letters, obtained a public library card, and had more leisure reading time than I have ever had since.
|Kitchen at “The Farmhouse” (2004-2005)|
The Farmhouse (2004-2005).
Returning stateside in July, I was unexpectedly handed a nine-month house-sitting gig when family friends going on sabbatical rang up to ask if I would be interested in staying in their home, rent free, for the academic year. It was my final year of college, where I was completing the last requirements to graduate after a prolonged seven-year stay. I spent the autumn, winter, and spring commuting twelve miles to campus from a rural holding situated next to a county park and across from a llama farm. The three family cats, half feral, came and went largely at will — though in the depths of winter they particularly enjoyed sleeping under the woodstove. Every Friday night I had my college roommate (“The College Apartment”) over for dinner and to stay the night before she left early for a Saturday morning shift at a yarn shop in the nearby village. This was the living room where I wrote my senior thesis on masculinity and pacifism during the Civil War, and where I celebrated the end of an academic era.
The Grandparents’ Spare Room (May 2005).
When our friends returned to reclaim their house, I embarked upon a peripatetic late spring and early summer. I spent a month in the spare bedroom at my grandparents’ house while finishing a final core requirement for my B.A. — a three week science course for non-majors during which the professor taught us how to repair cars, construct a battery, and tried to convince me to major in Engineering. Each morning my grandmother, who passed away this March, would leave a place for me at the breakfast table waiting for when I came down in the mornings. We all three of us — my grandmother, grandfather, and I — were leading relatively independent lives, but cohabited fairly gracefully together.
The Lesbian Land Trust (June 2005).
When my May Term ended, I blew out of Dodge for … Missouri, to deliver the fruits of a collective research project on 1970s feminism to the research participants who planned to publish a book on their own history: a group of lesbians who had settled on a land trust outside of Springfield. I spent the month of June living with one of the founding couples, one of whom I was nominally assisting with an editing project in exchange for room and board. While I was technically there to work for her, I suspect I got more out of being there as a refuge post-college than she got out of me as an editorial assistant. While at the time I was still deeply uncertain about my inclinations and longings, in retrospect the brief retreat among a community of lesbians (and bisexual women partnered with lesbians) was a key experience added to my repertoire of “how to live.
|Hawkhill Women’s Land Trust (2005)|
The Men’s College (September-December 2005).
My first post-undergrad job was a paid internship with the study abroad program I had enrolled in to attend the University of Aberdeen. During the fall semester of 2005 I lived in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and worked for the program director out of an office on the campus of Wabash College, one of the few all-male undergraduate institutions left in the country. For the first two months of my internship they put me up at a local hotel, where I had access to a full slate of cable television channels and watched a lot of “Charmed” and the various CSI spinoffs. For the second half of the fall, I was relocated to an recently-purchased off-campus house furnished college dorm-style. Since I was in the midst of radiation treatment for my thyroid condition, what I mostly remember from that fall was how my raging metabolism made it possible to eat whole gallons of ice cream at a single sitting and still be losing weight precipitously. Don’t try this at home, children.
The Family Friends’ Spare Room (Summer 2007).
The summer before leaving Michigan for Boston, I moved from where I’d been living in my parents house (still, at that point, simply “home”) since college two blocks west to stay good family friends while my brother moved temporarily into the space I’d just vacated. The musical chairs of a family with three children in their college and post-college twenties. Life in a town your whole life and this sort of thing happens: the friends’ home, recently purchased, was actually a house where ten years previously I’d spent a lot of time babysitting two little boys with a mania for trains. The guest bedroom I stayed in was the former site of their Thomas the Tank Engine train table. This time around, I spent less time playing trains and more time reading through all of Laurell K. Hamilton’s back catalog.
|North Hall (Fall 2007)*|
The Grad Student Dorm (2007-2008).
Moving to Boston, I made the decision to life for a least a year in their graduate student dorms. At the time, Boston felt like a temporary way-station for graduate school, I didn’t know the city, and I didn’t know anyone to room with. I’d also never actually gone apartment hunting. So I moved into an American dorm for the first time in my life. While utilitarian in the way I’d intended, I hated campus life with a passion; returning to school was indignity enough without mandatory hall meetings and the ventilation system that distributed skunky pot fumes throughout the building in the depths of every night. Luckily, by December Hanna and I had pretty much decided I would take over her roommate’s half of the lease when her roommate graduated in May, so I was able to count down the months to leaving the enclosed monoculture of student housing for good.
(*I spent a lot of early mornings and late evening Gchat-stalking Hanna from that desk)
|Just moved into Allston, May 2008|
The One-Bedroom Split (2008-2014).
Hanna and I spent a year being roommates before finally working out what we should have known by that December discussion about housing: that actually we wanted in each others’ pants. Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed temporary student digs, with “hers” and “hers” living spaces, into a workable one-bedroom apartment for a married couple and two cats. It’s been a long, piecemeal process with numerous trips to IKEA. But each year for six years as we considered whether to renew our lease the answer has been “yes.” Almost literally step by step — as we abandoned the T for our morning commute and turned to walking daily through Brookline, coffees in hand — we took the space and the adjacent neighborhood and made it our own. Even as we were making Boston our own.
|The same room six years later…|
The 1910 Triple-Decker (2014-?).
A week from tomorrow, the movers will be arriving to help us move into a second-floor condo unit in the Hyde Square area of Jamaica Plain, a space that will functionally double our living quarters, provide us with a porch, and eat-in kitchen, a yoga and meditation space for Hanna, and bike storage for me. We’ll be a ten-minute walk from the Emerald Necklace and a ten-minute bike ride from central JP. Our morning commute will be a brisk climb up over Parker Hill, or a meandering stroll through Olmsted Park to Brookline Village (for coffee), and on down the course of the Muddy River to Countway and, a mile beyond, the MHS.
Reports from along the way will be found here, at the feminist librarian!
(Yes, I went with the oxford comma in that blog post title. What can I say? I’m a fan.)
So after a fairly quiet, stable year in the Clutterbuck-Cook household, the year 2014 has decided to whup us in the ass. As regular readers know, the first four months of the year have seen us trapped by the polar vortex, making the decision to move this summer, blindsided by the sudden death of my grandmother, the spraining of Hanna’s ankle, the death of my in-law’s elderly cat … not to mention a particularly busy winter/spring at the MHS, the Countway, and all of our regular life activities.
|Golden retrievers Addie & Josie swimming in Lake Michigan
(photo by Mark Cook)
We’re ready for a vacation!
Thankfully, we have one coming up next weekend in Brattleboro, Vermont — we’re already looking forward to the darkness and the quiet and the tasty foods to be found at the Brattleboro Co-op … not to mention the maple lattes from Mocha Joe’s and the popcorn from the self-service popcorn machine at Sam’s.
Meanwhile, here are some life updates from our recent adventures in what I like to call “adulting.” You know. That thing where you have to get up in the morning and leave the house to complete a series of tasks, some of which you look forward to and some of which you don’t.
- The new apartment search has started in earnest as spaces with July and August availability come on the market. We looked at, and put an application in for, one two-bedroom space last week that turned out not to be as cat-friendly as advertised. The landlord got cold feet on pets altogether and our agent was quite put out by the way he jerked us around. We agreed! The search will continue, and we know the right space is out there for us. When we find it, you’ll hear about it here (well, probably first on Twitter).
- We’ve had two library assistants turn in their resignation this spring, moving on to a new chapter of their professional and persona lives (congrats to you both!). They will be missed! Their recent/impending departures have meant that my work life has been consumed recently by scheduling and hiring tasks. I’m looking forward to our being fully staffed again.
- This year marked the first time Hanna and I got to file a joint tax return (yay for a post-DOMA world!), which I think actually ended up costing us a few hundred dollars more in taxes than we would have paid if the government refused to recognize our marriage — a few hundred dollars I was happy to pay. I just wish I could earmark it all to provide Medicaid coverage for newly-insured folks who are benefiting from Obamacare!
- Following the filing of taxes, I was able to renew my income-based student loan repayment plan at a slightly lower monthly rate (because they now take Hanna’s loans into account looking at our household financial profile). I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again here: the education funding system is broken, but standing here and now amidst the rubble I sure am glad that government-funded loans with affordable repayment options have made my professional life possible — so yay big government!
- Last Thursday I attended the first of four sessions in a Homebuying 101 course offered free (thanks to HUD funding — yay big government!) by the City of Boston to prospective first-time home-buyers. This is purely exploratory at the moment, since Hanna and I plan to rent for another 3-5 years while we contemplate the pros and cons of buying. But I’m nerdy enough to find it interesting anyway, and the course also certifies us to apply to the city for grants toward a down payment and closing costs if we buy within city limits.
- Having presented my current research at the BC conference on March 29th, I am not returning to encyclopedia articles for the summer — on such topics as Phyllis Schlafly, Suburbia, and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.
- Over the summer, I’m planning to use some vacation and comp time to experiment with what I’m calling Project Fridays — a day away from the library to pursue research and writing. It’s part of a socialistic plot I have to carve out meaningful life activities around wage-work over the next few years.
|The Fens from Charlesgate, Boston
As we lay the groundwork for locating and moving to a new apartment, and possibly a new neighborhood of Boston, later this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for Hanna and I to be putting down roots in this city. We both moved here for graduate school and have stayed for the professional opportunities Boston’s cultural institutions have offered. Moving within the city — out of the apartment Hanna originally selected with her grad school roommate — feels like choosing or re-choosing the city as a place we want to live in, make a life in.
I find myself inhabiting the city with new eyes and new investment. I’m no longer thinking about it as a space I move through as an observer. Rather, I’ve become a participant. Although I’m still learning what it means to me to participate in the life of this city that has become our chosen home.
A short list of things I’ve (we’ve) been doing that feel like part of that learning process:
- Walking, biking, taking public transit. Hanna and I are both committed to using the city “at ground level” if we’re going to be living in it. We map the neighborhoods by foot and measure our progress in coffee shops passed. While I don’t think owning a car precludes one from belonging to the city (clearly many drivers are Bostonians!) not having a car means we’re more reliant on public infrastructure within the core urban area, and that space and time get measured differently. By necessity, we need to shop for groceries, pick up our library books, visit our doctor’s office, meet up with friends, get our hair cut, all within a three-mile radius and ideally between point A (home) and point B (work). This is a fundamentally different way of experiencing the geography of one’s life than when life requires daily driving — I lived the first twenty-seven years of my life in a car-dependent town, so I’ve experienced this shift first-hand.
- Supporting local non-profit organizations. It probably says something fundamental about our socioeconomic backgrounds that as soon as Hanna and I reached a sustainable level of income and could start thinking about charitable donations, the first thing we did was become members of our two local NPR/PBS networks (WGBH and WBUR). It was reflexive: this is what adults do. Yes, National Public Radio is a nationwide network, but each station is local too. We wake up to the local weather forecast and enjoy the broadcasts of America’s Test Kitchen (filmed in studios next door to one of our favorite coffee shops!). We currently give (tiny!) monthly gifts to WGBH, WBUR, and Classical New England, all of which broadcast out of the Boston metropolitan area. We’ve also chosen to provide ongoing support to Black Cat Rescue, our favorite no-kill foster cat program here in Massachusetts and the Greater Boston Food Bank. I’m also starting to get involved on a volunteer basis with our community health center, Fenway Health, which provides nationally-renowned health services to LGBT folks, women, at-risk teenagers, and the elderly of the Fenway neighborhood and greater Boston.
- Relying on local non-profit organizations. There’s a lot of high-level philanthropy around Boston, including at the institution where I work, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the notion of “charitable giving” and the distance it implies between those who selflessly give to those in need. That kind of giving (hopefully with no strings attached) obviously has its place, but I also like the immediacy and intimacy of providing support for those whose services we need now, or in the future: our health center, our public library, the social safety net. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into housing programs here in Boston, both grass-roots advocacy organizations and government-funded programming. In doing so, I’ve have the opportunity to reflect on the importance of using as well as passively supporting social services of various kinds. Even though Hanna and I are (at least temporarily) middle class professionals, it seems important to me to know how my city cares for the marginalized; how we could be cared for if we became marginalized.
- Learning local history. When in doubt, turn to books! I’ve been reading, reading, reading up on the history of the Boston area and learning how its past has shaped our present and will continue to shape our future in the decades to come.