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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

Introduction:

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:

WHO:

  • 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!

WHAT:

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.

 WHERE:

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.

WHEN:

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.

WHY:

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

 HOW:

  • 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

 HOW MUCH?

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!

cohousing


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

 


“If you keep an open bough, the singing bird will come.”

That was a poster I had in my room as a teenager.

Each year, around New Years weekend I make space for the year to come:

  • I transfer birthday, anniversary and other commemorative occasions to my new calendar (my one remaining paper-based calendar – the birthday reminder/pretty art calendar in my home office)
  • I go through the cupboards and the refrigerator and toss things that are past their usability
  • I go through the medicine cabinets and do the same

Then, sometime soon thereafter I go through the rest of the house – clothes, decorations, and, for me the bibliophile, the Big Deal – the Purging of the Books.

A friend had told me that bibliophiles past 50 must institute a rule of ‘one in, one out’ lest they become buried under an avalanche of books.  While not rigorous in that application, my rule is “no new book shelves” – so my books have to fit their current space.

For those readers in the Chicago area, I’ve stumbled upon a great resource the Chicago Books to Women in Prison project.  This group (which also has a Facebook page) collects paperback books (no hard covers allowed) and ships them to women in prison.

I LOVE taking my books there as it seems like a triple win:

  1. Most obviously, I achieve my goal of clearing space for new books to enter my life
  2. The books I am releasing get recycled – they will be read again – and most likely more than once
  3. It’s a tiny mitzvah -a good deed, bringing joy to someone who could really use some

Maybe you don’t live in Chicago.  Maybe you’re not much of a reader.  But I’ll bet there is something in your house that you have too much of it, that might be useful to others.

I feel pretty sure that we don’t own our stuff – it owns us.  So if you want to invite spaciousness, newness, and exciting opportunities into your life, you might try creating an open bough on which those bluebirds of happiness can land.

At a minimum you’ll have less stuff to tend to and thus more free time.

Do you do any routine “purging” of stuff?  When? What? How?  As always, I really want to know – so add your comments to the conversation!

And may the singing birds you attract this year delight you and surprise you with goodness.

If you keep an open bough, the singing bird will come

If you keep an open bough, the singing bird will come


Three weeks ago today 20 little children, their teachers and a long-suffering mother were senselessly gunned down by a seemingly mentally ill young man with assault weapons.

The entire nation watched in horror.  We wrung our hands.  We tsk-tsk-ed.  We said some prayers that day.  We wrote angry rants on Facebook.  Some of us wrote our congresspeople.

Then it was Christmas, a fiscal cliff, a new  year, new stories.  We turned our attention elsewhere.

We must NOT abandon those kids and their families or the families of the brave schoolteachers.

We must NOT just tsk-tsk.

The NRA works every day of the year to ensure guns are plentiful.  What are WE doing?

Did you know that there are over 80 guns for every 100 people in America?

Can you think of one good reason why anyone, anywhere, at any time needs an assault weapon?

Please join me in REGULARLY writing our president, your two senators and your one representative to demand an end to assault weapons, to demand a tightening of gun control measures and to demand better funding and accessibility for mental health programs.

Will this prevent another Newtown, Connecticut?  Perhaps not.  But when the more civilized nations of the world have banned assault weapons or instituted gun control their mass shootings have disappeared.

We can make a difference.  We owe it to those small children to act on their behalf.

I pledge to contact my representatives at least once/month for a minimum of 26 months to demand positive change.  I plan to do it on the 14th of each month.

Will you join me?

Do not abandon those kids

New Years Day


“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’….”
Alfred Tennyson

My friend Peg posted that on FaceBook this morning and I found it an apt aphorism as we begin this new year.

It’s a handy tool, this made up concept of time and of its beginnings and endings.  We think we have a new year. A new month.  A new week.  A new day.  In reality, I think we swim in an eternal now and if quantum physicists are to be believed time truly is made up to help us organize things.

But on New Years day I’d prefer to think that each day IS a new beginning. That we DO get the chance to begin again (and again, and again and again….).

Dreams without an action plan are indulgences.

But action without purpose, meaning and direction is simply activity.

Really, we need both.

So much is outside our span of control – most of life, really.  So we can plan our intents, our methodologies. We can set goals and keep our eyes towards them.  But if we are unable to surf the vast tide of chaos – life – we’re likely to be constantly jarred.  Riding the El on old tracks with a full trainload at rush hour – this bumpy business of life.

That balance between focus and spontaneity – between “where I’m going” and “be here now”  – it all gets encapsulated in this holy holi-day.  Maybe you are like me – you at least write down some hopes, plans and dreams for the year to come.  And then – because it is a day out of ordinary time (a holi-day) you relax into the moment.  Laugh with friends.  Maybe go visiting. Watch football.  Eat and drink in ways you wouldn’t on “just a Tuesday”.

I’m reading a book on quantum physics now – “The Intention Experiment” by Lynne McTaggert.  Those physicists seem to be proving scientifically what my mother always said “you become what you think about.”  Our thoughts DO create physical reality.

So what shall we create in 2013, friends?  What are YOUR intentions – for your own dear self?  And for our great big beautiful world?

As always, I really want to know!

Great the New Year with open arms!

Great the New Year with open arms!

Preparation


Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

When I was a child, my parents celebrated Advent.  We may have had those Advent calendars – if so, I don’t recall. What I do recall was the sense of sacredness, of ritual and of building excitement.  We had an Advent wreath on the dinner table and we’d light the appropriate calendar each night until, finally, it was Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve, similarly had much ritual and excitement at my house.  We were children then, so of course a lot of the excitement had to do with “Stuff” – the toys and games we eagerly awaited on Christmas morn.

But my mother instilled another type of excitement – that of spiritual birth.

Regardless of our spiritual path, of whether or not we practice Christianity or any organized religion, I think there is a sense of big change at this time of year as the “wheel of the year” is about to turn into another season.

Our beliefs and the stage of life in which we find ourselves drive a lot of how that expresses.  But I think it’s worthwhile stepping outside of the DOING and asking a few question:

  • For what or whom am I preparing?
  • What is the meaning behind the rituals in which I engage?
  • How can I deepen the meaning, devotion and joy of this season for myself and my family?

It strikes me that regardless of our personal beliefs, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are preparing for a time of more darkness, of more interiority.  To me it seems that any ritual or activity that focuses on some of these elements is key:

  • Earth.  We honor earth, as the season changes (perhaps a Christmas tree, a holiday wreath, a swag of evergreens on your mantel)
  • Warmth.  In the Northern Hemisphere we are heading into a colder time – the hearth, the fire of Advent candles, the turkey roasting in the oven and warming the house – bringing in warmth is key
  • Family.  Whether our family of origin, the family we created or the family we choose – it’s a time of year to celebrate the bonds of love.
  • Children.  As we approach the ‘elderhood’ of the year (as foliage and green ‘die’ for the winter) it is hopeful to remember birth. Thus children are important beacons of hope.  Besides, it is fun to give them gifts and watch their delight.
  • Nourishment.  We live in an abundant age, and so winter starvation doesn’t seem imminent – in fact, for many of us, the surfeit of holiday calories is totally antithetical to the notion of lack. But it has not always been so.  And our feasts remind us that, despite the outer appearances, God and the good earth have continued to provide for us.
  • God.  In however you honor the Creator of All that Is, it’s a good time to reconnect with awe, wonder and gratitude for the Divine.

In my own life, I have focused more on simplicity of late.  I don’t get much into the cultural hoopla and materialism this time of year.  But I do focus on the points above in my own ways:  the wreath by my front door, my often-lit fireplace and candles, sending St. Nicholas chocolate letters to my grandnieces and grandnephews, a festive meal on Christmas Day and increased awareness of God’s goodness and my gratitude for my amazing life.

How about you?  What are you doing that really resonates with your core beliefs?  What part of the holiday season no longer has meaning for you – in fact, stresses you out?  How do YOU want to prepare this year?  As always, I really want to know!

advent wreath