Initial meeting of cohousing for Northern Illinois was focused and productive – we have begun!

A small core group got together to discuss creating cohousing in northern Illinois.  We shared what we meant by cohousing, what we are looking for, why we’re drawing to living more in community.  We talked about the importance of sustainability in housing and community design.  We shared our interest in multi-generational living, the importance of the arts and our shared passions for healthy food.

We agreed that we are all eager to get going on this – to move it forward.  As part of our next steps planning we registered a domain name – Prairiemooncohousing.com!  The entire community that forms over time will decide on our ultimate name, but the initial group was good with Prairie Moon.


  • Write blog entry about the meeting – Diane (this is it – done!)
  • Create Facebook page for Prairie Moon Cohousing – Diane
  • (first step for this is to look at the McHenry County Food Cooperative FB page as a template – Diane)
  • Create website for Prairie Moon Cohousing – Deb
  • Finalize monthly meeting date (we had said “around the 15th of each month, but that’s hard to schedule – I will propose the 3rd Sunday of each month) – all
  • Talk about it with people we know – as we build more materials (flyers, etc) we can publicize more broadly, but to begin with, we want to let people know informally – including via this blog – all

Sue and I were excitedly discussing the meeting afterwards and she pointed out how fortuitous it was that we began our project in earnest at the full moon – full moons talk about things coming to fruition!

We are all very excited at the prospect of forming cohousing in Northern Illinois!  Want to read more about what we mean?  Here’s a post from my blog.  Here’s the cohousing.org website.  And from that site, here is a definition of cohousing.  As a quick sum-up – it’s a community of people who wish to live more cooperatively – each in their own dwelling, but with a ‘common house’ – central gathering place – for group activities liked weekly shared meals, celebrations, craft areas, etc.

Interested?  Let me know here in the comment stream and we’ll continue to keep you posted.  Next meeting is Sunday, March 16 from 2-5 PM, location TBD.

I’ve mentioned here and here that my friends and I are interested in cohousing in Northern Illinois.   My best friend Sue will be up here from February 13 – 17 to help me celebrate my Big Girl birthday.  I’d love it if we could connect with anyone interested in discussing creating cohousing in Northern Illinois.

At an initial meeting we could:

  • Talk about WHY we are interested in cohousing
  • WHEN – Discuss timeframes that we each have in mind
  • Mull over WHO we would like to live in community with
  • Clarify WHAT we mean when we say ‘cohousing’
  • and begin to sort out WHERE we mean when we say ‘northern Illinois’
  • Finally, talk about HOW to proceed

I am thinking Sunday, February 16 from 2-5.  As a starting point I’ll suggest Cook St. Coffee in Barrington since that is near me – but if we have people coming from all over we can certainly find a place that is more equidistant.

Please let me know in the comments if you are interested in attending.  To create cohousing there will have to be many planning meetings – this is simply a start to the conversation.

As I mentioned here, this year I’ll focus on transitions as one of my major themes.  One of my closest friends, Barb Poole, suggested I read “Transitions:  Making Sense of Life’s Changes” by William Bridges.  Barb Poole is an accomplished life and career coach and has not only worked with people in transition, but has had plenty of her own.  And she knows me very well – so I knew it would be a great book for me at this liminal time.

I’ll be referring back to this book often this year, I suspect as it is so rich.  It lays out a map of how transitions work.    As I traverse back and forth over the landscape of endings (the starting point of all transitions, he says), through the no man’s land of the empty of fallow time between, and finally a new beginning I will be quoting this guide to the territory.

One of the most helpful aspects of this book for me was that it normalized what I am feeling these days – which is, mostly, lost.  As someone who has been a hard-charging achiever since, oh, the age of 3 or so, this period of listlessness and lack of direction, while not a first, is, again very uncomfortable.  Bridges reminds me that this is part of the process.

He lays out various predictable points of transitions – from childhood to adulthood via the transitional zone of adolescence, a similar maturation cycle at midlife and as we enter elderhood.  One’s children leaving home.  The death of our parents. And many non age-related transitions familiar to many of us – leaving or losing an important job, the end of a marriage.

I can see why this book has sold over 500,000 copies.  It provides a map for the journey (invaluable!), specific guidelines for the tasks one CAN do to traverse the terrain, and reassurance that the periods in which one is relatively powerless and lost ARE part of the process.

And he contextualizes the process in an important way at the very beginning of the book (page 3):

“To feel as though everything is ‘up in the air,’ as one so often does during times of personal transition, is endurable if it means something – if it is part of a movement towards a desired end.  But if it is not related to some larger and beneficial pattern, it simply becomes distressing.”

The transition I am in now – from ‘householder years’ to ‘wandering sage years’ – from ‘midlife to ‘baby elderhood’ DOES give me a sense of meaning.

Last year I asked my dad what the best year(s) of his life had been to date.  He first replied “well, whatever year you are still alive, I suppose.” But then he got serious and said “actually, the decade you are in now and the one following it {60s and 70s}.  You still have a lot of energy and independence to do things, but life doesn’t rattle you as much – those are good years.”

That’s the meaning I seek – how to make these years – the rest of my years – the best part of my life.

What is the transition YOU are in?  Does it have a sense of meaning to you?  Are you at the ending/the lost part/or the new beginning?  As always, I really want to know!  Post a comment and join the conversation!



Last year at New Year’s I said I would blog 2-4 times per week.  It wasn’t a “New Year’s resolution” per se – just a “this feels right, let’s do it” start to a new year.

Then my Dad died very unexpectedly (anaphylactic shock).  The reverberations continue.  And as I posted in Diane 3.0 – Wandering Sage – Where’s the Ceremony I’m at a liminal state of life.  I AM ‘test driving’ “retirement” – my last day in my corporate gig was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  As I mentioned in the earlier post this feels a lot like first grade or adolescence – I don’t know how to do this, where are my playmates, etc.

One of the things I know I want to do is to get back into my exploration of cohousing in Northern Illinois as mentioned in this post.  I’ve been heartened that several of you have responded to my initial posts and have felt regretful that I’ve not ‘sprung into action’ earlier.  Grief is a strange land to walk through and losing someone as important as my dad was to me took a lot out of me.  But it’s time to re-embrace life!

With winters such as we are having now in Chicagoland, I have to say I question my sanity in considering this land of my roots as the land of my elder years – what’s with this -10 today?!  But roots run deep.  And the fact that there is no cohousing in northern Illinois seems to present an opportunity to forge a trail.

So this post is just to say hello again – to thank you for your patience.  My thought right now is that this year’s blogs will focus on two primary themes – this “Life 3.0” stage and cohousing.  Oh, I am peripatetic, so there likely will be all sorts of things to say, but the conversations I seek are around the issues of moving into the next phase of life and of living in community.

Thank you for your patience – and let the conversation begin!

Please chime in with YOUR experiences of moving into a new life phase (doesn’t have to be ‘baby elderhood’) and or your interest in building community (doesn’t have to be cohousing per se).  As always, I really want to know!




Last night I tried to outrun Father’s Day.  It didn’t work.

I have always been a “Daddy’s girl.”  My father was not just Daddy – he was my hero, my role model, my North Star.  When he died very unexpectedly (anaphylactic shock) in January my brother’s response was “The King is dead.”  It felt that way.  Our childhood had plenty of drama and tumult with our mom’s health issues (of all types) – but Dad was always there, always steady, solid, reliable.

I still can’t believe he’s gone.

So when the calendar turned to June, the grief I’ve been slogging through got pretty thick and murky.  I have been waiting for this month, especially this day, Father’s Day, to pass.

I don’t watch TV so I haven’t been assaulted with ads there, but the radio has been nonstop with “Buy, buy, buy!” messages about this day. So last night, with time on my hands and a heavy heart I decided to outrun it.  Had I felt better physically I would have outrun Father’s Day on my motorcycle, but after 3 days of being sick enough to lose 3 lbs that didn’t feel like a safe or sensible option.  So I hopped in my car, drove up to Country Club Road – my refuge – and then took off on side roads, just pointing Molly Moonroof (my car) north.  North – you know, as in North Star.  So that was the first Dad sighting as it were.  Hmm.

Then I drove by the Scandinavian cemetary (Dad was half Norwegian). When the heck did they put THAT in there – hadn’t noticed that on my rounds before.  Sign for a barnstorming event (Dad was a World War II pilot).  Well, hello, Daddy.

Open farm fields, corn starting to grow, old tractors.  How did I think driving through rural McHenry county was going to be an escape from the guy who grew up in rural Doon, Iowa on a farm?  Even the scent of cow poop, pungent in the early evening, reminded me of our grandparents farm – and Dad.

Decided to make one stop on my outrunning Father’s Day trip.  There’s a little General Store in Greenwood, Illinois that looks like a store from the early 1900s except it has modern food in it.  In fact, it looks a lot like R&L Foods in Doon, Iowa, now that I think of it. I had discovered this store whilst out for a motorcycle run last year, and just recently stopped there while out riding with my good friend Candace.  Last year I bought an Izze soda pop there, but on Thursday, with Candace I discovered they had my favorite candy bar – Bun maple candy bar.

You see, when I was a kid in Ft. Wayne, Indiana Monsignor Manoski, the pastor of our church and thus connected to my school, St. Joseph’s, was friends with the guy who owned the Bun candy bar company.  Every year when we came back from Easter weekend we would have Bun candy bar on our desk. But one year, when we were out at recess on the playground, a small plane flew over the schoolyard and dropped candy all over the playground!  Bun candy bars falling from the sky!

That sense of a benevolent male, watching over me – that never felt like God to me (whom I picture more as a warm, loving chubby grandma) – but it sure felt – and feels – like my Daddy.

I guess it wasn’t my beloved Daddy – or even Father’s Day – that I was trying to outrun, but rather this deep well of grief accompanying his loss.  And my best friend said it best when i called last night for consolation.  She said “Many of us grieve not having fathers while our fathers are still alive.  Father’s Day was problematical for me – how best to honor and celebrate this man who was my father and yet so NOT a father?  But you.  You really DID have the best father in the world, so his loss is huge.  But you can celebrate how wonderful he was and how lucky you are.”

And that is what I will do.

So on this Father’s Day, for all of you who are missing YOUR dads too, I offer this lyric from Bob Dylan:

“I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
San Francisco, Ashtabula
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.” ~ Bob Dylan

Dad with his 4 kids

Today I was on the Cohousing site and I noticed that the one cohousing group that’s been trying to form in Illinois has now officially disbanded, leaving Illinois as one of only 14 states without an officially noticed cohousing site.  And – worse yet (for me, at least) we are one of only 3 ‘blue states’ to be cohousing-less (the other laggards are Nevada – which really is more ‘purple’ if you ask me, and Rhode Island – which we can give a pass to for being tiny).

Seriously, Illinois?

So if you’re interested in the possibility of changing that dynamic, stick around!

As I noted in my last post on cohousing, my small group is considering starting a cohousing community in northern Illinois (for the record, we’re also talking about Madison, WI and Asheville, NC).  We’ll be doing a website (and I’ll move posts about cohousing there once it’s up and running) and a Facebook page, but for now this is our initial ‘mouthpiece.’

So what I really want to know is simple:

  • Do you have any interest in this topic at all?
  • If so, what questions do you have or what topics germane to cohousing would you like to know more about?
  • Do you have any interest at all in actually moving into a cohousing community in the next 3-5 years?

And if you have ZERO interest in cohousing, tell me about that too.  Now – over to you!  Click on comments and add to the conversation!


It's old - and still shows 1 in Illinois (since disbanded) - but you get the picture

It’s old – and still shows 1 in Illinois (since disbanded) – but you get the picture

Sundays are Spirituality day here at Taking it to the Streets

Yin and yang.  Black and white.  Right and wrong.  Right and left.

Yesterday I was at a 12-step meeting discussing step six (“Were entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character”) and people were talking about ‘shortcomings’ as though they stood alone (simply stubbornness) rather than as one part of the continuum on a characteristic.

On the continuum of stubbornness at the “bad” end, I see “getting it done” or “Stick-to-it-iv-ness” at the “good end”.  I think “Good” and “Bad” are not helpful adjectives here – I prefer “Useful” and “Less useful.”

Doctor Phil used to ask “How’s that working for you?” and I think that is the key question with our characteristics.  If I am stubbornly sticking to my exercise routine despite changes in schedule it’s working for me pretty well, thanks.  If, on the other hand, I am stubbornly resisting implementing what I know about needed changes to said routine (like – I need to do it!) then it’s not serving me well at all.

From my perspective the focus on “Good”/”Bad” and “Right”/”Wrong” is a bit puerile.  for little children those can be helpful code words to help them make sense of a vast world.  But we limit ourselves when we plunk the world into two camps (typically aligning ourselves with the ‘good guys’ and “they” are “bad”).

In our spiritual development  this tendency is self-defeating.  We can use our “shortcomings” to batter ourselves, which rarely leads to lasting change, and is often, in fact, a dodge to changing behavior.  Because if it’s all black and white and I didn’t get in 30 minutes of weight lifting then I am bad, bad, bad and now, back to computer games.  Where if it’s a continuum and I didn’t get in 30 minutes of weight lifting I can say “what can I realistically do right now when it’s late and I’m tired?  Hmm, maybe 25 crunches, a few squats and ya, alright, I’ll do 10 curls.”  Or not.  But I can look at it as a choice, not a fate.

As an aside, I think this same tendency to childishly lump things into “good” and “bad” buckets is what has this country paralyzed politically right now.

Do you know the contemporary philosopher and philosophy professor Jacob Needleman?  He’s terrific.  In one of his books he talks about an experiment he did in one of his classes, which went so well that he now does it in all such classes.

He got two people on totally opposite sides of a divisive issue – polar opposites.  Then he had first one person, then other present “their side of the story”.  But the catch was that the opposing person had to reflect back the other’s position accurately.  And – upping the ante – the rule was also that one had to do so in a respectful tone with no disrespectful gestures et al.  So the person doesn’t have to embrace or pretend to embrace the ‘enemy’s’ point of view.  But they DO have to verbally demonstrate that they really heard what the other said – and do it in a neutral tone.

It had an interesting effect.  At the end of the debate both parties still largely held their initial view. But both were able to understand the others view, and even embrace elements of the others view. And most importantly, both sides side saw that the other side was sincere and that from their world view their view-point made sense.  Minds may not have been changed (at least not in entirety) but hearts were.

We can do that for ourselves.  Rather than beat up on myself (“Great, Diane, in May you said you would blog daily, meditate daily, workout 3x/week – and look at you, you schlub!!”) I can instead look at the continuum (“Great job on yoga in May, Diane.  And it’s great you’re working out with a personal trainer, but you will get WAY more out of that if you really make it a priority to also work out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”)

And whilst beating up on one’s self is not effective, neither is just giving up or giving in.  If I can see my behavior on a continuum, I also have the opportunity to ‘tweak’ rather than ‘overhaul’ or nothing.

How about you?  Where do you stand?  Black and white?  A continuum.  Is ‘your position on this issue evolving’?  As always, I’d really like to know!

Yin Yang

You’ve read about cohousing on this blog (click on the tag on the right and you’ll see all the cohousing posts).  It’s long been an interest of mine.  I’ll be starting a new blog/website on this topic and further posts will be there, but I also want to share it with this broader community.  Read the vision – and if you are interested in more information and will want to be on that blog and/or Facebook page, indicate that in the comments.

Cohousing Vision


Hi.  I’m Diane Scholten.  For many years my friend Sue McGill and I have talked about living more intentionally with others. We first investigated “Intentional Communities” – think of hippie communes grown up – a community with a shared vision, often incorporating work with living (“The Farm” in Tennessee, Findhorn in Scotland).

Then we heard about “Cohousing”.  Born in Denmark, introduced to the US within the last twenty or so years, cohousing seemed a better fit.  Think of ‘an enlightened neighborhood’.  The Cohousing Organization defines cohousing as:  “Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.  Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.” (http://www.cohousing.org/what_is_cohousing).

Sue, our dear friend Bill, and I are planning to live in cohousing as we sail into our wise elder years.  We are now ready to move forward and find others interested in joining us.  While we are moving into elder years, we very much envision a multi-generational community.

Initial Ideas:


  • People who want to live with more meaning, intention.
  • People who care about sustainability and the Earth.
  • People who value connection with others (while also valuing their need for independence).
  • People who value nature.
  • People who value pets.
  • People who value children, adults and elders.
  • People who are active and involved.
  • People who believe in shared decision-making and shared responsibility.
  • People who want to help create community.
  • People who like to have FUN!


We are envisioning creating a cohousing community with 12-30 small or mid-sized houses and a large ‘common house.’  A primary appeal of cohousing is that each household – be it an individual, a couple or a family – can have a smaller space with the common house providing shared space. For instance – the common house would have a large kitchen for opt-in community meals (the community would decide if these would be weekly, nightly, etc.)  The common house could have 2 guest bedrooms – alleviating the need for each household to have space to accommodate guests.  As part of our exploration, those who help create the community will flesh out a vision for the common house and we will post some initial discussion starting ideas soon.

Houses will be arranged to encourage interaction with community members while also maintaining privacy.  We envision a mix of small houses, small houses that could be expanded and mid-sized houses for families.

Open space, gardening areas, play areas for children and pets are all important attributes.


While we have been considering Madison, Wisconsin (Diane’s first choice) and Asheville, NC (Sue’s first choice) we are currently focusing on somewhere around Woodstock, Illinois.  However, this is open to discussion.


As soon as we have enough people to move forward with planning.  We are envisioning spending a year planning/designing and then building.  We’d like to begin the planning process this summer.


Here are some of the reasons why WE are interested in cohousing.  We’d love to hear YOUR whys!

  • Living more lightly on the earth.  Design with sustainability in mind – build ‘green’
  • Sharing resources: Why have 10 Vitamixes when you can have 1?
  • Community!  Sharing LIFE, not just stuff
  • Inter-generational.  We hope to have younger friends, kids as well as we elders  – we all have so much to give one another and so much to learn from one another


  • Form a core group of people who are definitely interested
    • Ready to do this within two or so years
    • Have financial resources to move forward (see How Much)
    • Willing and able to do the ‘roll up  your  shirt sleeves’ planning work
    • Read, take seminars, perhaps engage a cohousing consultant early on
    • Decide on a locale
    • Talk to an architect (Diane has already reached out preliminarily to Design Coalition in Madison, WI who have experience in creating cohousing)
    • Create a budget
    • Create a timeline
    • Find land
    • …. The Initial committee will flesh out a detailed work program


We don’t know yet (obviously) but we are hoping to create a community with various price options.  Bear in mind that in community you are paying for your own house, but also the common house, shared land, etc.

Cohousing can have a wide range of prices.  I am hoping that we can create a community with options – from $175K – $300K.  But this is very much up in the air.

And while I’m initially envisioning a community of small houses, perhaps we’ll have mixed housing – some small houses, some mid-sized houses and a block of condo/townhouses.

One thing we’ll want to know from prospective cohousing neighbors is what YOUR housing budget allows.

 What’s Next?

We’re excited about this new venture – and we hope you’ll consider joining us!


I’m in a liminal place in several ways – my father recently died, making me officially ‘an orphan’ (that is, my mother had pre-deceased him – I’ve been promoted to the head of the class in terms of mortality); I turned 64 in February and now I’m getting all these Medicare-related things in the mail (oooh! scary!); and I’m planning to retire from corporate nonsense by the end of the year.

So ~~~ Where are the ceremonies?

I mean, when you’re little you look forward to kindergarten graduation so you know little-kid-dom has ended and now you’re a schoolchild.

Then you get grade school graduation – and on to high school! Check!  You’re not a schoolchild – you are a TEENAGER!

For many of us that leads to college, and maybe a wedding. Ah! the Householder/Wage Earner years ensue! You get ceremonies! Presents! Accolades!  it’s very clear – the old order has passed, you are now AN ADULT!

Rituals that say:  The old phase of life has ended, welcome to the new one.

We welcome boys to become men with a bar mitzvah; girls to women with a bat mitzvah.  Christian confirmation is somewhat analogous, but it strikes me that Jews more clearly call out this life transition.

But when we get to midlife we get jokes about sports cars for guys and for the ladies, we have an array of menopausal jokes, products and discussions. But no ceremony.

Then if you’re lucky and make it to my age you’ve got your AARP membership and lots of mail from people wanting to sell you Medicare supplements.  Maybe you get a retirement party if you worked at some company for awhile.  But no ceremony.

I don’t like that.

I have friends who have had croning rituals and that may be where I have to go with this desire.  The earth-based religions speak of the three stages of life as being the maiden, the mother and the crone.  The Hindus talk about the Student, the Householder and the Wandering Sage.  I like the idea of being a Wandering Sage – especially if the wandering includes Italy, Peru and Tibet.

Having been through those other transitions, I have to say this one feels just as huge as going to first grade was for me.

  • What’s going to happen?
  • Who will be my friends?
  • Am I brave enough to do this without my Mommy?
  • Are there good snacks there?

Yep.  Pretty much the same.  Oh, I’m more confident on the snacks part than I was then.  But now I wonder also

  • Where will I live?
  • What will I do with all my time?
  • Am I making a difference?

Well, as Cat Stevens sang back in my day “I’m on the road to find out.”  I hope you’ll come along with me as I work on Diane 3.0:  the Crone/Wandering Sage.

How about you?  Do you feel the stages of your life have received appropriate ceremonies and have clearly marked the transitions?  What would you like to have happened?  As always, I really want to know!

Wandering sage...

Wandering sage…

I haven’t posted since January 8, despite a vow to myself to post at least twice per week.

That’s because on January 9, my very beloved Dad very abruptly died.  I remind myself that he was spared the vicissitudes of old age, infirmity and a slow decline.  He was 89, but was planning to play golf the next day.  While at dinner with my dear stepmom and friends he had an allergic reaction and a few hours later he was dead.

He used to say to me “Diane, that’s why I get up every morning – because you never know what is going to happen.”  How true, how true!

Tomorrow is Easter and Christians celebrate Resurrection.   In fact, many religious traditions have holidays related to rebirth and renewal tied in with this vernal time of year.

Whatever ones beliefs it is comforting, when faced with the seeming starkness of death, to ponder rebirth, renewal.  Resurrection.

A few years ago, driving down my favorite road with both spring in  Chicago and a new love in my life suddenly appearing after a period of bleakness, a poem came to me.  Having then had a battened down heart, newly awakening, I now take comfort, that having had a death in the family, perhaps, like Lazarus in the poem, I’ll feel like kissing the face of the stars – ready, once more to leap into life.

My father was my north star, and, at the same time, the firmament on which I stood.  I must say I have felt inexorably lost in these three months since he so abruptly was spirited away by that trickster, Death.

So I don’t feel the same sense of awakening as I did in 2009, seeing the daffodils starting to wildly bloom on Country Club Road.

Looking out my window, I see my tattered prayer flags, gaunt and thin and dragging after the winter snows and ice and winds.  I’ve cleared the deluge of cones from around the Colorado blue spruce in my front yard and raked some leaves from the flower beds.

In this liminal time, winter indeed is visibly waning – old, tired, nearly gone.  The days grow longer now, and some days are even warm.

But despite what the Wheel of the Year tells us – that Spring Equinox has indeed arrived – I don’t think spring has really settled in.  At least not in Chicago.  At least not in my heart.

I’m truly not seeking sympathy.  Perhaps forbearance for my long absence here.  Death, like birth, is a part of life.  And all deaths leave gaps, holes, empty spaces (though I must say, I’d not quite known how much empty there can be).

I think the thing to remember, as the Christians remind us this time of year, is that the life force lives on.  That renewal and resurrection can be ours, not in the literal sense of the Gospel story, but in beginning anew.  In affirming life.  In saying yes.  In putting out NEW prayer flags, bright, colorful, ready to be imbued with prayers, hopes, wishes, summer sunshine and love.

And as for my Daddy ~ well, I’ll quote my generation’s poet laureate, Bob Dylan:

“I’ll see you in the sky above
in the tall grass
in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.”

He decided to ditch lunch and take us all to Dairy Queen

He decided to ditch lunch and take us all to Dairy Queen instead – the last time I saw my Dad