Monday, November 22, 2010

SoCal for Thanksgiving

As much as I hate leaving the Village just as we are settling in, it's time to head back to the LBC to breath in great gulps of brown air and spend time with the Family. We'll eat too much, play board games, eat more, watch movies, make sandwiches and ask mom the same question: "Where is the lid for this Tupperware?" 

MaryAnn tries to make a match at 2:00 a.m.
 We'll also head up to the family cabin, Chez Clisby, the weekend after. Last year, we were treated to gobs of snow and we're hoping for the same this year. I mean, who doesn't love sledding, cocktails and a crackling fire? Not to mention a little something extra in one's suitcase? Like a sweet nephew, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Village Life

No matter how many boxes get unpacked, there are always more staring at you, demanding attention. And the trouble with living on three levels is that you can make the main level look perfectly organized in the high hopes that no one ever goes up or down - then, all would be revealed.

Now, I've had a ton of questions - emails, IMs, FB notes and yes, even phone calls - curious about the co-housing life. Therefore, I'll provide as many details here as I can. I'm going to adamantly avoid naming the place here (though I can send you to the website if you contact me privately) and also, photos of individuals without their permission. I am anxious to share but equally concerned about upsetting those with privacy concerns; it's not how you make new friends. 

Our front porch.
Bottom line? I love it here. So does Kirk. Last Friday, we attended a small 'Welcome Kirk & Heather' party from our fellow building dwellers. (The homes are broken up into building pods, about six dwellings in each.) Lots of food and wine, with each person giving a brief synopsis of their lives and how they came to co-housing. Lovely, lovely people. 

We've started attending the community meals, which are held twice a week and always optional. If you are vegetarian or have concerns about allergies, you just mark a specific box on the sign-up sheet. Each meal costs you about $4 and you are billed at the end of the month, along with your co-housing fees, which begin at $140 per household.

The main room of the Community House, where we have our meals and the occasional poker game with the mailman.

So far, the meals have been yummy. Last week was pizza, salad and ice cream. Mine had about seven layers of veggies and it was more than enough. Each person is encouraged to join a cooking team, which we have done. Kirk's team, Team #4, will cook this Sunday, and my team, Team #3, will be on deck December 8.  Tonight, I think White Chicken Chili is on the menu.

A quilt depicting the Village hangs in the Community House's Music Room.

Another great thing about this life is the immediate access one has to a large group of helpful neighbors via the Yahoo Group. Minutes ago, I sent out a plea for a cat sitter over Thanksgiving. It took maybe 90 seconds to receive a positive reply. DONE. (Still getting volunteers, actually.) Need a key for the wood shop? Ask the group. DONE. Curious about newspaper delivery? DONE. For an online dweller like me, it's heavenly.

Community chores to be done - a list for all of us.

Weather Tangent: We got our first snow in the village this week! It was so nice to wake up to an adorable Village covered in snow. It went from this:

To this:

The western view from our bedroom window.
And in true Denver fashion, was completely melted the next day. WAH.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A New Reality

Unless you are still living with your parents, then you know how much moving sucks. Every time, I swear I'm going to pay other people to do it for me and then I get cheap and end up lugging all my crap myself. Exhausting, painful, dusty.

So, on my last day on Milwaukee Street, I hung out with my super cool neighbors, Graham and Andrew, whom I'll miss terribly:

And Bodi Cat, who would saunter into my place and take naps on my bed:

And, of course, the aforementioned Eliot (Graham's little girl), who is pictured here, playing with Bodi Cat:

Just for kicks, I also accidentally packed my car keys into one of hundreds of brown boxes so had to call AAA, who kindly sent out not one - but two - locksmiths to rescue me. The following day, my key was found. FAIL.

After the professional move-out cleaners had left (they had proclaimed it "dirtier than normal" which, I've decided, would make an excellent epitaph for me), I carried down the final final final box and BAM! Down I went in the crunchy fall leaves and sprained my right ankle, which I have done many times before. I ended up with a bright purple bruise around the back of my foot - quite bizarre. 

Kirk and I then sped over to our new digs and quickly got me set up on the porch with a bowl of candy and a whiskey cocktail. We did not want to miss all the community kids parading their costumes. With my swollen foot propped up, Kirk decided to tap into my endless accessories and 'dressed' me up for Halloween. I was helpless to his fashion whims and ended up with a cowboy hat and leather fringe jacket.

My buddy, Noodle. His barn is only 10 minutes away now - yay!

Trouble was, not a single kid could figure out what my 'costume' was because - I finally figured out later - we live in COLORADO. My 'costume' is not a costume here, it's just a regular outfit. Shit, I saw a guy with spurs on the other day at the gas station and I own pair myself now.

So, with the sucky reality of moving behind me and endless brown boxes staring me in the face, I'm finally getting settled in my new place, a co-housing community in North Denver. My partner in this wild experiment in living, Kirk, is hyper-efficient, easygoing and rather cheerful so I'll have to step my game a bit - a good challenge for me.

Co-housing is an organized community that shares in some meals, chores and other activities of life. It's like a cleaned up commune without the drugs or group sex. (Although I might suggest it at the next meeting.) Kirk and I had long discussed the appeal of living this way and had our names on several waiting lists in Colorado.

But together we manifested a true fluke of an opportunity and ended up sliding into this decade-old community, renting a 4-bedroom, 3.5 bath home for one year minimum. Located in a hip, funky part of Denver that was once home to a zoo and the old Elitch Gardens, an amusement park now relocated downtown, it's a very deliberate, thoughtful place. There are about 75 inhabitants (including 32 kids) and everyone has their own living space. All the homes are painted in bright primary colors - red, blue, green and yellow. (Ours is blue.)

Citizens include single folks, traditional families, retirees, solo parents and couples living in sin, like us! There are always kids running around and various dogs and cats too. I love it. All the houses face inward, like circled wagons. We had our first visitor on Saturday. Laura, who I know from my San Francisco days, walked the five blocks from her place to mine and gasped at the overwhelming cuteness. "It's like living in a Disney Village!" she said. It's true.

The community's vision statement:

"Our vision is to live creatively in supportive and sustainable relationships with each other, the neighborhood, and the environment." 
Yesterday was our first Work Day, which they have every two months. Henriette, a sweet, older lady that is the current president, told me this morning that it was the best turnout they've had in years. Heading into the Community House, one sees a giant list of tasks to be done that day. Kirk immediately pounced on the "Organize the wood shop" and had a glorious time putting everything where it should be, running to the local hardware store for parts and so on.

Since we are enjoying freakishly warm weather for November (alas, snow is expected this week), I was determined to stay outside. So, I helped Howard clean up his yard, played with Ginger the dog, helped a shirtless, tattoed guy named Joe clean up leaves in the archery area and attacked the composting area with Brett, who was grateful for the help.

Already, the neighbors have organized a 'Welcome' party for us and a little girl named Thea gave me a candle. It's starting to feel like home. 

Lots more info and photos to come.