Archive for March, 2011

Roommate Fail

Today, I am ashamed to admit, I committed the ultimate cooperative roomie fail.

After arriving home this morning around 3 am from spring break adventures that left me more exhausted then relaxed, waking up for class resulted in a less than chipper Moe.

I proceeded to a) hide in my room to avoid everyone else and b) when I finally had to show my face I did my best to avoid eye contact/ inane morning chatter with TheManOftheHouse despite his best efforts and intentions.

Ugh. Guilty conscience… but I think he didn’t really mind because my fake smiling skills totally faked him out. Luckily some things always make me smile.

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The Philosophy pt.1

AKA There’s A Problem Here

Definitely some pro-Cooperative Propaganda but that’s basically the theme of this post

I think that it’s about time that I address some of the philosophy behind co-op housing. Without the philosophy, this is just a blog about what I cook for dinner and the rules we follow in my house.

But I want you to think to yourself “WOAH Self! Co-ops are the bees freaky knees”. I want you to know about co-op housing so you can spread the word. I want you to spread the word so that we can have some agency and a say (beyond settling) in where we live.

So let’s dive right in.

At the University of Maryland (like many other universities) there is a severe drought of on campus housing. Most of us can only live on campus for our first two years (sometimes more sometimes less of course). According to the university, upper classmen who, god forbid, want to live close to the university (and away from their parents) have a plethora of amazing housing options to choose from and the housing crunch is being addressed. But as I see it, students only have two choices:

1.  You move into Commons, the View, the new Varsity, the new Block-Out-The-Sun-But-Surrounding-A-Liqor-Store buildings popping up all over route one, etc. etc.

Or

2.  You rent a house off campus.

The big problem with living in one of the huge apartment building on/off campus with university/ private ownership is that you have to have the money! To live in most of these places it can cost you an average of about $800 a month (this is even choosing the least expensive suite option available). So for a 12 month lease, you will need roughly $9,600. Now unless your mom and dad are willing to shell out the cash or you are willing to go into debut through loans (you know besides the loans you actually take out for your education), who can afford this?

As far as renting homes off campus goes, you can still run into the same problem of not being able to afford a most likely crappy house that you decide to share with some besties/ acquaintances (or strangers found through craigslist?). But I would say the bigger concern is spending money on a shitty house and having a landlord who doesn’t care.

Who hasn’t heard a horror  story about a landlord who wouldn’t respond to black mold issues, broken fridges, CAVED IN CEILINGS?!? (If you haven’t heard any of these stories, you have no friends) There’s also the added pressure of actually having to find the people you want to share your house with instead of being randomly assigned like in some apartments/ dorms and knowing where to turn in case things go wrong.

With both of these options, this is also the issue of community. Who has ever lived in a suite and NEVER seen one of their suite-mates post move in day? Who has ever been that suite-mate? Who has ever lived in a house with a decent kitchen but eaten all their meals (Chipotle) in their room (alone)?*

(*these are not autobiographical stories of sadness, though I do love Chipotle)

Now that you are good and depressed, remember there is hope! And (drum roll please) the hope is called Cooperative housing.

What exactly is a housing cooperative you ask?

This is how I describe it:

Cooperative Housing is a community oriented living style bases on the not for profit model. Every person who lives in the cooperative owns an equal share of the house and has an equal say in what goes on in their living space. Since this model is not for profit (unlike the rental properties or apartment complexes) rent is not exorbitant, offering a more affordable option for students who are struggling financially.

Within the cooperative model there are guiding values and principles. These include self help, concern for community, democracy, autonomy and independent, equity, and solidarity. I personally really respect and was drawn to the ideas of ownership, community building, and shared labor.

I think that ownership is the key to solving the issue of affordable housing in College Park and addresses the problems student renters can face with landlords and companies that are less then stellar. In order for ownership to be realized in the cooperative model, co-op houses are branches of a greater organization. In student cooperative there is a central organization for the entire campus system that unites all the houses. In my case, the co-op house is called the Mad Ox and our house is one of three in the organization, CHUM (Cooperative Housing University of Maryland). Through loans and help from organizations such as NASCO development services, hopefully sometime soon (maybe even winter of next year?!?!) CHUM will build up the resources to purchase our first property!

CHUM is still a relatively new organization, having just gone through its first “faux-op” phase this year (we currently rent all three of the houses). HOWEVER, co-ops are not a new idea! Coming soon: The Philosophy pt. 2 aka the long legacy of co-op living!

Moe? What Time Will Dinner Be Ready? Spicy Garden Chili

Spicy Garden Chili

A delish. and easy-peasy vegan chili packed with veggies and spices!

What You Need:

  • Oil
  • Garlic: 3 cloves, chopped
  • Onion: 1, Diced
  • Carrot: 1, finely chopped
  • Green Pepper: 1, chopped
  • Zucchini: 1, chopped
  • Squash: 1, chopped
  • Tomato Past: 1 can
  • Diced Tomatoes: 1 can
  • Black Beans: 1 can
  • Kidney Beans: 2 cans
  • Spices to taste! I used: Black Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper, Cajun seasonings, Chili Powder, Extra Cayenne, and some Mango Chipotle BBQ glaze

The Cooking:

  1. Chop Garlic, Onion, Carrot, Green Pepper, Zucchini, and Squash
  2. In a large pot set heat to medium adding Oil and Garlic
  3. After a minute or two, add Onion and Carrot, stirring frequently until tender
  4. Add Zucchini, Squash, Peppers, and desired Spices. Turn heat on high and cook veggies until desired consistency stirring often.
  5. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, and beans. Turn heat to medium-low.
  6. Cook chili for about 30 minutes, string occasionally, until chili reaches desired constancy (thick vs. soupy).

DINNER IS READY!

 

p.s. If you really want to spoil your roomies, knock out some vegan corn bread to go with!

Cooperative Dealbreaker: You Don’t Cooperate

* This is an imitation post in the form of the awesome blog Dealbreaker! Check it out!

Woah! It was awesome meeting you! We have so many awesome friends in common! What?!?! You’re vegan too?!?!? I’m so pumped to be living together!… oh… you don’t want to cook? ever? and cleaning is “not on your list of priorities”? You’re allergic to all fruits so we can’t have any in the house???

You think family style meals are “so middle school” and don’t want share the avocados we bought as a house with any one else so you eat them all in one sitting or hide them in the back of random cabinets. You haven’t attended one CHUM general body meeting or house meeting because you are much too busy watching old episodes of Dr. Who on YouTube for hours at a time. No wonder you’re failing most of your classes.

You refuse to wear pants around the house because, like Miley, you can’t be tamed. But the last time Tricycle dared to wear her spandex bike shorts around the house you made barfing noises until she cried. You decided that it was hypocritical and not environmentally sound to shower or shave any more.

Dude. We are all suffering.

We are the chillest kids you will ever live with. But you have struck the fear of god in our atheist hearts. You don’t need co-op housing. You need to move back in with your mom. It’s over. Consider your naked-dirty-allergic to fruits ass kicked out.

 

The Work! AKA what it takes to make it happen

(aka why work is not a dirty word)

Q: What’s the difference between that (cooperative living) and just living with a bunch of friends?

A: THE WORK!

I mean truth be told there are a lot of differences between living in a co-op and living with your friends, but the work is one of the most pronounced differences. When my housemates and I all finally moved ourselves into the house in August we had a lot of big conversations. One of the biggest was about what our expectations were for each other and how we would divvy everything up.

Our systems have evolved over time as we adapt to changing needs and figuring out what works best for us. In my house the “work” basically consists of what we need to do so that a) we don’t want to kill each other and b) so that our house can be a place in which we all thrive.

(Where there is Thriving, there is Loving)

The Work:

  • Dinners

Surprise, surprise, the work relating to food comes first. As any reader of the blog thus far knows, eating is a MAYJAH concern of ours. In my house, we all take turns cooking dinner, so there is always an abundance of food for dinner and delish leftovers for lunches.  It is also expected that everyone eats together at the dinning room table and we do the classic how was your day/ what did you learn in school today ranting and raving.

  • Chores

Chores seem like a downer but they are definitely a necessity.  In my house we went old school and made a chore wheel with all the different common areas of the house. Since there are 5 of us we split the wheel into Kitchen, Upstairs Bathroom, Living/Dinning Room, Downstairs Bathroom/ Kitchen Floor, and Upstairs Hallway/ Entranceway. We also take turns being the person who takes out the all the trash/recycling and unloading the dishwasher/ drying rack.

(Other housemate non-nickname names have been erased)

At first we stuck with the wheel for figuring out the chores but our system evolved to include chores checklists taped around our house. We also decided to have a “MOM” (Manager of Members? Many Operations Manager? Something like that) position. The Mom makes sure everyone has done their assigned chore, reminds them if they forget things, etc. and rotates every week with the wheel.

After we had a particularly bad few weeks last semester when everyone was slacking on their chores we also decided to implement some punishments.

The evolution of the punishments was actually really interesting because I think it was StringBeans idea because she is all about consequences, but Tricycle took it to the next level and suggested we should take a run around the house naked while someone filmed it. Despite Tricycles protests that we give her suggestion at least a try, we decided that the punishment for doing your chore late would be buying a six pack for everyone in the house and setting up a time when everyone could drink and watch you scrub between the tiles of our kitchen floor with a toothbrush for the length of the song “Eye of the Tiger”.

This past Sunday our punishment system changed again. As a response to Tricycles desire for both beer and sweets, and maybe in part due to AM missing her chore for like the past 3 weeks we decided that the first time you miss your chore you just have to do “Eye of the Tiger”, but the next time you miss your chore you have to do that AND cook up some kind of dessert for the house. (Strike 3 is still pending)

  • House Meetings

Another expectation for our house is that everyone has to show up to our house meetings. We have a house meeting every week, usually on Sunday nights. At the meetings we pick what day everyone is going to cook and clean for dinners and, maybe more importantly, talk about the issues going on in the house. It is really important for our house cohesion and sanity to have a structured and timely space in which to talk about grievances and make plans for activities that will be coming up during the week. For example, at our last house meeting AM was a bit pissed because at our last house party people stayed and may or may not have been screaming past 4 in the morning. And the man of the house brought up the possibility of hosting another party at our house Friday or Saturday depending on our various schedules.

For me, all of the work is definitely worth it. I can deal with cleaning the bathrooms (def the worst on the chore wheel) once every 5 weeks and cooking once a week if it means our house will always be pretty tidy and I always have delicious dinners to come home to after a long day.