Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Do You Miss Having Your Own Home?

The short answer here is, "Sometimes." We've all given up some stuff to live together for this season. Some personal preferences suffer - little stuff, like me letting someone else use my cutlery and cookware (gasp!). If I haven't told you already, I really enjoy cooking and I enjoy having nice tools for cooking. But my stuff is in the kitchen, so we all use it to cook whatever we want. I see this in a positive light - that it helps me to hold loosely to those things that could otherwise become major hang-ups.

Unless the Lord has other plans, this sharing a house thing is just for a season. We're just trying to learn what we can while we're here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

50 Cent

Did you hear that 50 Cent is suing Taco Bell for using his name? I guess they say something about "fifty cent" in a commercial or something. Does anyone else this this is HILARIOUS???

Maybe I'll change my name to Antioxidant...then whenever there's some healthy drink or fruit on the TV, I can sue them! "Hey, they can't use my name! I'm Antioxidant, and I've got a name to uphold. After all, what's going to happen to my son, Flavinoid?"

So did 50 Cent name his kids like Nickel and Dime? Sixpence? That would be the girl name.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I am away from home this week, attending a weeklong conference for work. I've been here since Monday morning, and although I've been talking to Jeff on the phone at every opportunity, I am still experiencing a fair amount of alone time just by the nature of the schedule and my accomodations. For an extrovert like me, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge because I tend to get anxious if I'm alone for extended amounts of time...and an opportunity because, if I can make myself relax, I can really listen. I can really listen to my life, and my innards.

I guess I'm a mystic hobbyist.

It's fun and useful because I don't do it all the time, and only voluntarily.

I have some treasured friends who seem to live in their mind, and they emerge on occasion to play in the external world before retreating in (I'm sure) exhaustion...so I'm pretty much the opposite.

So here's what I heard last night:

How much time do I waste on ineffective speech? Gossip. Coarse talk. Cynical speculations. Fresh water and salt water don't come from the same source. How much more powerful would I be if I only spoke those words the Lord blesses?

I actually couldn't sleep last night because of this thought, and sent myself a text message (I know I'm a nerd. I would have had to get out of bed for pen and paper.) so it would quit rattling around in my head.

I haven't totally processed it. Just thought I would throw it up here as a jumping off point. I've got a syllabus to write...


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is Jeff ever home alone with one of the other roommates?

I shared a little in a previous post about how Jeff and I have changed our interactions while our roommates are around. Essentially, we have less private time and the changes have grown out of that. One thing that has come up a couple times is whether or not Jeff is ever home alone with another of the roomates.

My initial reaction to this question was, "Duh...YES. We live there. It happens." We do not coordinate our schedules so that he and I always leave and return at the exact same time. Could you imagine?! I guess I thought it was pretty absurd. But upon further reflection I saw the concern, caution, and maybe even apprehension in that question. And if I were totally honest, I did some serious thinking about my husband living with single women before we moved in.

The conclusion I came to was basically the conclusion that I hoped Jeff would come to for me, if we ever live with some single dudes. I trust him, his commitment to our marriage, and his ability be appropriate with our roommates. The other side of that equation, of course, is the roommates (are the roommates?), and their ability to be appropriate as well. And I trust them, too. On a personal note, jealousy has been much more of an issue for me with Jeff than it ever was in any of my other relationships. It started when we got engaged, and I think it was just, "Oh man, this one is for real. The stakes here are really high." I am still very protective of my relationship with him and I have no problem telling him when I think some chick is inappropriate or too familiar or if I just think she's crazy. And although it's never come to it, I would have absolutely no problem telling some crazy, inappropriate, and/or flirty chick what to do with herself when she's around my man. After all, the stakes are high here and I'm not messing around with immaturity. Grow up and act like a woman.

Okay. I'm getting a little fired up. I need to take a few deep breaths...alright, I'm calm again. Some guidelines for you from our experience:

1. Don't feel bad about being married. Although our roommates have always been gracious, let's face it - some single people are bitter. Let them be. God gave you this spouse and he/she is your priority now. If you live with someone, or are close friends with someone who can't handle that, it's their problem to fix, not yours. (I should also say, I was 28 when we got married and I know what it feels like to be aging with no real prospects. It was scary sometimes. At the same time, by the grace of God I never resented others for finding happiness in marriage.)

2. Don't be lovey-dovey around your single roommates. Have some decorum and help them feel comfortable with the two of you as a unit.

3. Take all the private time you need to make sure you stay connected primarily to each other, and to everyone else after that. Jeff and I are both huge extroverts, so we naturally want to be where the party is at all times. We have to be intentional about time just with each other. And we are always so happy that we do.

4. Keep your relationship private. Don't gripe, don't discuss disagreements, and don't say something about your spouse that you wouldn't say in front of your spouse.

5. Stand by your man, or woman. While Tammy Wynette's song with this title is a little troubling with its allusion to excusing extramarital affairs, when I overlook that part of the song, I see an exhortation to be loyal and be a cheerleader. And everyone needs a cheerleader sometimes. Be a cheerleader in private, and if you really want to make him/her feel special, be a cheerleader when other people can hear you.

By God's grace, it has been really easy for us to live with these ladies and that is due in large part to their ability to respect our boundaries and just generally be "okay" with us as a couple. It's a fabulous blessing to have such wonderful folks in our lives.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flat-Iron Steak and Twice-Baked Potatoes

It's Friday and I don't feel like getting very deep, which the next question on our list will require. I'll tackle that in a few days, but for now, here's a pretty simple meal that we enjoy for it's affordability, ease, and deliciousness.

What you need:

1 Flat Iron Steak (usu. 2-3 lbs; serves about 4 people)
1 big baking potato for every 2 diners (3 potatoes for 6 diners, etc.)
sour cream
cheddar cheese
cooked and crumbled bacon (about one slice per diner)
green onion
Ranch dressing
Whatever else you like on a potato
Salt and Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Scrub potatoes under running water with a clean washrag or vegetable brush. Dry thoroughly. Prick all over with a fork, then brush each potato with some veg oil (think sunscreen). Season the skin with salt, then put potatoes directly on the rack of your preheated oven. No foil, no cookie sheet, nothing. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the potatoes give easily when you squeeze them.

When the potatoes have about 30 minutes to go, preheat your George Foreman grill. If you don't have one of these, preheat a non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Remove the steak(s) from the fridge to a plastic cutting board. Brush with veg oil, and season liberally with salt and black pepper. Allow the steak(s) to marinate while you finish the potatoes.

Remove the cooked potatoes from the oven to a clean cookie sheet. Using a pot holder, grasp each potato firmly and cut in half length-wise, being careful not to tear the skin. Scoop the potato flesh with a tablespoon into a large mixing bowl, and be careful not to puncture the skin. Then add butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese, chopped green onion, and a fair amount of salt and pepper. Mix with a hand-mixer, then spoon this back into the potato skins and top with more grated cheese. Pop these in the oven while you cook the steak(s).

Cook the steaks on your preheated grill or skillet for 6-8 minutes per side. This will be about medium rare, and you don't want to go much past this as flat-iron steak tends to get tough when it's overcooked. Remove the steak to a cutting board, and allow to rest for five minutes before slicing.

Remove the potatoes from the oven.

Slice the steaks thinly across the grain and arrange on a serving platter. Serve with the potatoes and your favorite steak sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How do you handle the money side of things?

I have lived in a handful of roommate situations. And I have probably handled rent, utilities, groceries, household supplies, etc., slightly different in each situation. From these experiences I have concluded that there is no better way to do this. It is just important to figure out a method that everyone in the house understands and agrees upon beforehand.

Regarding rent and utilities, we basically split these up per person. Also the bills are not all in one person's name; while we all love each other, I think it does help us feel "safer" in a sense to know that we share the financial burden together in this way. (Our landlords would only put one name on the lease, which is understandable.)

When the time comes each month, the designated person will collect all the bills, do the math, and then post it for everyone else to see. Since the lease is in our name, and rent is the biggest check, everyone else pays us the difference of their combined expenses and their designated bill. If that doesn't make sense, and you want me to send you an example, just let me know. However, I am not by any stretch of the imagination detail-oriented, and I feel great peace to leave this mess to others.

Early on we figured that it would be easier to share some of our food. Five adults sharing one kitchen (one stove, one fridge, etc.) can make for crowded meal times, and we think, not the best use of our resources. Basically we share almost all suppers (whoever is cooking will let everyone else know if it's shared food or not...but 95% of the time, it is), and some breakfasts. Everyone will take a sandwich or leftovers or eat out for lunch. This begs the question, how do you shop? Well, we made a list. Just call me Jacob (I love LOST!).

Our list is actually pretty mundane compared to Jacob's. When we moved in, we had a little meeting and wrote down all staple items for the household. This includes groceries as well as other stuff like paper towels, cleaning products, laundry detergent, etc. Basically, stuff that we all use and, therefore, we knew it would be easier to have one or two instead of five different types of laundry detergent. We even discussed preferred brands, bargains, etc. Then Jeff did his math magic (he is one of the resident detail gurus), and figured an amount that each of us should contribute to the "community fund" each month. Right now that is $35 per person. So if we are out of milk and bread, anyone can grab a few bucks from the envelope and purchase these things. We return all receipts to this envelope, and then Candy balances it out at the end of the month.

If we purchase a grocery item with our own money that we do not want to share, we simply put our name on it.

If we are expecting guests for supper (other than the close friends who drop by often), we will let everyone know via a household calendar that hangs in the kitchen. I don't think anyone has ever verbalized this, but we all pretty much understand that if you're having someone over for supper, you will definitely share space and probably share food with the rest of the household. I guess in this respect, privacy is infringed upon -- but then again, none of us really wanted to live alone anyway. It's all a big trade-off.

My bro-in-law, Brent, has asked a very important philosophical question. I know this question rose from deep within him, from his primal connection to and empathy for the only other male in the house:

How many bathrooms do you have??

Well, Brent, here's your answer. We have 2.5 bathrooms. Jeff and I live in the master bedroom which has a full bathroom, there's another bathroom upstairs, and then a half bath downstairs. We know we wanted at least two...I think maybe it would be possible to live with just one, but not for us. We're not that crazy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

So...how are you guys getting along?

I love this question. It is usually accompanied by this priceless facial expression - a mixture of curiosity, humor, concern, and just the tiniest dash of dread at what I'm about to say. It's as if they are half-way expecting me to say, "We love it! We're never moving out! We're gonna start a colony!" and half-way expecting, "Yeah, we pretty much hate each other by now. I weilded a knife during an argument the other day." They don't know what to expect, I guess because this is a very unexpected living arrangement.

The short answer is we're getting along just fine. We have had tense moments and disagreements and arguments and awkwardness, in some small measure. We have also had laughter and familiarity and inside jokes and sharing, in heaping amounts. It's real life, you know, and we are taking the good with the bad. I guess it's that authenticity everyone talks so much about. I would hope, anyway. None of us were very sure of what to expect when we moved in, either, just like people aren't sure of what I'll say when they ask about what's going on. I think we all had a fair amount of trepidation along with our willingness, if we are honest. It makes me think of this Groucho Marx quote I saw the other day...

"I would never join a group that would accept someone like me as a member."

It made me smile when I read it, but there's also some truth hidden in the humor, isn't there? You see, I need to tell you something about myself. I am a Judger. Plain and simple. I am a decision-maker, and I don't enjoy suspense a great deal thank-you-very-much. The up side of this trait is that I'm good at making quick decisions, and not looking back once I have. The down side is that sometimes I apply this quickness to decide to people. And a person isn't a very static subject, like deciding what to have for dinner. Spaghetti will always be spaghetti, but people have this amazing capacity to change from day to day.

So what I've learned mostly from living in the Cove (our address), what has become my mantra really, is, "Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance." I'm not there (wherever "there" is), but it has helped.

Another thing I think we have done pretty well is that we talk when we have problems. I know...good thing you're not paying for this, right? :) But given the family-of-origin issues for most of us in the house, that IS pretty significant. If something is awkward, we say, "Wow, that was awkward. What just happened there?" If I am offended, or I suspect I may be the offender, I approach the other person within a reasonable amount of time to work it out. By the grace of God, this has always ended in a positive way.

So. We're doing fine, thanks for asking. And I want to leave you with a recipe. All of us Cove dwellers LOVE Mexican food, but it seems that whenever we make it, we have these random leftovers, and Kim and I formulated this recipe to deal with some of that (with some help from a "Good Eats" episode I saw a couple years ago).

Mexican Lasagna

12 six inch corn tortillas (flour would work, too, but corn tortillas are cheaper)
2 cups or so of enchilada sauce, taco sauce, salsa, or ro-tel
1 lb. cooked and cubed chicken, or taco meat, or shredded pork, or plain ground beef (just not raw)
1 can black beans, pinto beans, or kidney beans
A lot of shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, whatever)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-qt. casserole dish with Pam. Dump the sauce, beans and meat into a skillet and heat over medium heat just until bubbly. To make sure the lasagna is moist enough, it should be pretty saucy, so add more ro-tel, etc. (even a can of plain diced tomatoes would work here) if needed. Layer your lasagna in this order until you run out of ingredients: 3 corn tortillas (to as closely resemble a single layer as possible), meat mixture (a couple of scooper-fuls per layer), and cheese. Your top layer should be cheese.

Cover and heat in the oven for about 30 minutes, then remove the lid and heat for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese on top is kind of brown. Garnish with fresh salsa and sour cream. This makes 8 big servings and is really good with those leftover chips and cheese dip.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Since January we have been asked lots of questions about our living situation by friends, family, and random acquaintances. People are generally encouraging about our living situation, and some don't seem to think it's a good idea. I can tell from the types of questions they ask. Nevertheless, I will try to answer as many of these questions as possible, posting each discussion as a separate blog and then returning to this post to link them when they are complete.

As of last night, my roommates know about this new blog and that they should feel free to give their input and/or totally contradict me as I am not the authority on living in our house. As
Kim is very active in the blog community, I expect you will at least read some very insightful commentary from her end. Her front end, that is.

So, um...anyway. Here are the questions:

1. So how are you guys getting along?

2. How do you handle grocery shopping and bills - the money side of things?

3. Does it ever happen that Jeff is home alone with one of the other roommates, and how do you handle this?
  • Actually I wasn't asked this question exactly like this. A very righteous acquaintance, when I told her of our living situation, said, "Wow. I bet it's tough for you and Jeff to coordinate being at the house together all the time, so that he's not alone with one of the other women." I said, "Uh..." Basically that's what I said. I could tell she was grappling with whether these young hippies were crazy or not, and I didn't want to agitate her further. I let it go, but I will give a hopefully more succinct answer here.

4. Don't you miss having your own home?

5. How do you split up household chores?

6. A mother and baby live in the house. What's the dynamic of caring for and disciplining the baby?

7. Why did you decide to live in community in the first place?

I will start going down the list of questions very soon. Feel free to add your own (readers or roommates), and we can discuss whatever. Peace to you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Living In Community: The Newlywed Adventure

Last summer my husband, Jeff, and I had been married a little over a year. Our current living situation was an amazing blessing - housesitting for missionaries during their one year assignment overseas. We paid only utilities, and the house was way nicer than anything we could have afforded then, or now, or probably for about 25 years. But like I said, this blessing only lasted a year, and so we started talking about what was next.

We weren't quite ready to take the plunge and buy a house. Additionally, we had been discussing with some friends various ways to live in community,
then one day Jeff and our friend Candy half-jokingly talked about the option of us renting a place with her and her current roommate, Kim, when we left the big house. Zoom to December, and my sister (who had jumped on the bandwagon) and I were looking at houses. We providentially found the perfect one: a four bedroom, two and a half bath home with a great kitchen, backyard, and neighborhood.

Now it's July, and you would not be shocked to know that we have all learned a lot about each other and living together and living with people in general. The following posts will deal with day-to-day details, logistics, recipes (cooking for lots of people can be tricky!), grocery shopping, relationship dynamics...probably I will write more from the practical perspective than the philosophical (though I do reserve the right), because there seems to be in my estimation lots of discussion out there about the 'why' of communal living, and less about the 'how'.

Now that introductions are out of the way, I would like to share a little about how our marriage has changed. I have learned about how to live with roommates and my husband, and Jeff and I have made a few changes in our relationship to adapt to our new situation:

1. We have become more intentional about daily "us" time. Although we aren't legalistic about it, we try to spend fifteen minutes or so when we get home from work in our bedroom processing our day. This practice developed from necessity after several weeks of talking as we are falling asleep and not communicating very well as a result.

2. We go on dates again. Like many other newlyweds, we had almost no discretionary money, so we would cook supper and rent a movie for a stay-at-home date. But in our new home, just like our daily time alone, we have learned to be intentional to spend longer amounts of time reconnecting. This has been lots of fun, spending time and money just on us. We'll also do needful stuff together, like grocery shopping and other errands, that we didn't do as often when we lived alone.

3. We have changed how we talk to each other. Most married folks (well, and unmarried, for that matter) understand that there are things that you can say to your spouse when you're alone that you cannot say when you are around other people. For example, I am generally receptive to Jeff's advice about clothing and such because, honestly, he has great taste. But it's much different for me in am emotional sense when we're sitting in the living room with someone else and he says, "Why don't you wear the red shirt?" Likewise, I have had to be much more conscious not to correct him or give suggestions, to which he is generally receptive, if we're around roommates.

Although some of these details may seem cumbersome or overly technical, we have approached this living in community thing as an adventure and therefore have had a very positive experience. I hope you will enjoy reading about our adventure as much as we are enjoying being on it!