Posts Tagged ‘community’

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.

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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.

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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!




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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Driving home from the movies last night, my friend and I were admiring the Christmas lights that have sprung up in my town like daffodils in the spring.  Festive, cheerful, sentimental (bringing back such fond memories of childhood) they are a harbinger of the coming winter holidays – for many of us, Christmas.

I’ve noticed how many religious traditions have holidays at this time of year that celebrate brining in the light.  Which, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, makes a lot of sense as we move inexorably towards Winter Solstice, this longest night of the year.

We bring in the light.  We reassure  ourselves that really, don’t worry about it, the Sun will return! (and interestingly, Christians talk about the birth of the S-O-N, as we all re-welcome the rebirth of the S-U-N).

For me, having Christmas trees is a similar remembrance – the fecundity of the earth is not GONE, it’s just sleeping.

I so enjoy these aspects of “the holidays” and enjoy the music (well, at first – after the one hundredth time I hear “The First Noel” it DOES grate…).  The sense of festivity, of conviviality, of warmth – all those beckon me in, invitingly.

What I don’t enjoy is the way our desire to love and please one another – to connect, to see and be seen – has been perverted into a frenzy of often mindless materialism.  I am particularly put off by “Black Friday” and the attendant hysteria around getting deals.

When my friend Becky died after a 111 day bout of cancer, at the age of 46, I very viscerally got that the race between time and money is truly a no-contest race – time trumps money every time.  Because, despite gloomy economists and a sagging economy, I will tell you  that you CAN get more money.  Time?  not so much.

That’s why time is one of my two favorite gifts to both give and receive (for the other see the third bullet point below).  What do I want?  Quality time with people I love.  The chance to laugh and love and talk and sing.  Just that.  Maybe a drawing from the wee children in my life, or a poem.  In fact – you can write me a poem too – that would be delightful.

Oh, I’m not a curmudgeon (at least not on this score).  I am a believer in buying “stuff” for little kids (though I don’t do it at Christmas when they gorge themselves on stuff, preferring to send surprise gifts throughout the year).

Here’s my list of things to consider in celebrating this season:

  • Create memorable holiday traditions with your family and friends and focus on the experience.  My family decorated our tree on Christmas Eve when I was a kid and we always had walnuts and tangerines while doing so – just putting those out at this time of the year brings me a flood of happy memories.
  • Consider doing donations as gifts.  My wonderful friends and neighbors, Pete and Julie, do that with their adult siblings – all band together and do a group donation to a favorite charity.
  • Some charities make it easy to be specific – I love Heifer, International where you can pick a specific animal. My dad grew up on a farm – we have given him a cow for Father’s Day or his birthday – honoring him, but changing the lives of other people.
  • If you’re not a fan of what you consider to be “handouts” then invest in someone’s dreams on behalf of your loved one with an interest paying loan to Kiva (“Change a life for $25”) or Kickstarter (“Fund and follow creativity”).
  • Consider an outing to a cultural place together – and then go out for hot chocolate afterwards to discuss your adventure.  Museums, plays – if you are in or near a big city the possibilities are endless – but I bet you have such choices wherever you live.
  • Or, celebrate winter (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere) by being IN it – go ice skating, sledding, take a walk in the woods, sit outside by a firepit – be with those you love in the bracing outdoors (and then that hot chocolate or hot toddy will be especially welcomed!)
  • Cook together.  Instead of stressing on the performance art of pulling off a feast – or the expense of catering one – invite your friends to make a cozy winter brunch or simple dinner – the laughter and happy talk as you  prepare the food will infuse it with even more love.
  • Do something crafty together.  Similarly, decorating can feel like an Olympic competition – but it doesn’t have to.  How about having a “let’s make our holiday decor party” with your women friends (I’m just not picturing guys enjoying this – but if they do, invite ’em!)
  • For many of us, this is still a spiritual or religious holiday.  Whatever tradition you celebrate – Diwali a little while ago, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa – “remember the reason for the season” and find ways to deepen your spiritual connection to God as you understand God.
  • Finally, find a way to be generous to those in need.  One of the happiest Christmas’s I have spent was one in my twenties when I baked cookies for the firemen in the firehouse down the street and then went and volunteered to help at a dinner that the local Catholic Church put on for the homeless and those in need on Christmas Day.  While I was serving turkey and mashed potatoes, a lady, probably in her 40s, with Down’s syndrome came up to me squealing “Look! I got a watch! I got a Mickey Mouse watch!” – her exultation with her gift totally made my day and all these years later still makes me smile.

My plans, still unfolding, contain many elements of what I’ve listed above.  How about you?  In what ways do you find deep meaning in this season?  Have you found a way to keep it both simple and meaningful?  As always, I’d really like to know!

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Like the rest of America (and the world) I am mourning the horrific shootings Friday in Aurora, Colorado.  And while there are many factors that likely contributed to this nightmare, two things stood out for me:

  • It occurred at the premiere of a violent movie. 
  • It occurred in a country in which assault weapons are “legal”

What shocks me is that so much of the country acts as if these two facts are totally unrelated to this tragedy and the many before it (and the many that will continue unless we change our ways).

To my mind, if you go to violent movies, watch violent television, read violent books or play violent computer games you are contributing to the epidemic of violence in America.  Worse yet, if you allow impressionable children to do any of these things you may be raising a kid like James Holmes. 

Why do we pretend that the violent images we put into our brains – or worse the developing brains of children and adolescents – have no effect?

For the same reason we believe that the junk food and poisons (including carcinogens like sugar) we put into our body are “treats”, not the cause of most illness.

As Al Gore would say, these are “inconvenient” truths.

Inconvenient in that facing them would make us as individuals, and America as a country, have to change our ways.

Let’s not forget what the Second Amendment REALLY says:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Well-regulated.  Milita.

NOT assault weapons and 6,000 rounds of ammunition for a lone individual.

What did we think would happen when we broadened this definition? (And hey, thanks, Supreme Court, thanks a lot…)

Similarly, you can read news stories on the epidemic of obesity and the “health care crisis”.  People give young children non-stop sugar, sugary drinks and fast food.  Which is exactly what they feed themselves.  Really, what do they think will happen?

I asked my friend Kay when she was working as a nurse in a hospital what percentage of patients were there due to either accidents or genetic disease and what percentage were there due to lifestyle.  She said at least 75% lifestyle.  My reading on the topic says that that is the low end.  It’s more likely 85% or more. 

But we pretend that taking our kids to see Batman or taking them to McDonalds are “treats” and not the genesis of thinking violence is okay and lifelong health problems.

In my mind, the most important question to ask in situations like Aurora, Colorado or the national obesity/disease epidemic is “Who benefits?”

Who benefits by lax gun laws in America?  The NRA and the politicians they support.  Not you and me.

Who benefits by the obesity/disease epidemic (they are one and the same):  Big Food; Big Pharma; Insurance companies and the medical industry.  Not you and me.

I’m sad about Aurora.  But I’m also mad as hell. And I’m mad that Americans let themselves be duped by rich lobbyists and industries over and over again.  It’s time to wake up and take back your lives. Protect your children.  Or — expect more cause and effect.  Because, if you ask me, it’s NOT unintended consequences.  It’s basic cause and effect.  Violence in equals violence out.  Junk food in equals disease and death.

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I’m a pacifist.  My favorite bumpersticker, which  I now proudly sport on my Forester, says “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”.  From my point of view the US has been involved in exactly one war worth entering in the last 75 years – World War II.

Still, I think it is important to honor those who have died in service to their country and community on Memorial Day.  I think we should expand it to honoring fallen police officers, firefighters – anyone who died trying to protect others.

Just because I don’t agree (STRONGLY don’t agree) with the wars of the past 60+ years doesn’t negate that others may not feel the same.  I don’t feel that the soldiers who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, et al died to save or instill democracy.  From my view they died over oil.

But that doesn’t matter. 

Serving interests outside of oneself is worthy.  Dying in the pursuit of that service – whatever it may be – is the ultimate sacrifice and should be honored.

So I can honor the fallen on Memorial Day and honor our country’s veterans on Veterans Day without agreeing with the political decisions that caused them to go to war.  I can honor the intent that these men and women had.  Honor their brand of patriotism (even when it’s not my brand).  And be thankful that there are brave men and women who are willing to protect our country, when and if it actually needs to be protected.

It took me awhile to separate those viewpoints. 

So this Memorial Day, amidst the motorcycle riding, barbecues and hiking with friends, I WILL pause to pray for those who have lost their lives in service of this country (or their hometown – including police officers and firefighters).  I will pray for their families.  And I will be grateful.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.  Don’t forget what it is actually about!

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Pocket Neighborhoods

Have you heard of ‘pocket neighborhoods’?  Until last week, neither had I.  After stumbling upon an article about them in the AARP newsletter, I did a little research.

Wikipedia says:

“A pocket neighborhood is a grouping of smaller residences, often around a courtyard or common garden, designed to promote a close knit sense of community and neighborliness with an increased level of contact. Considerations involved in planning and zoning pocket neighborhoods include reducing or segregating parking and roadways, the use of shared communal areas that promote social activities, and homes with smaller square footage built in close proximity to one another (high density). Environmental considerations often play a role in the planning of pocket neighborhoods, and those advocating them promote their design as an alternative to the sprawl, isolation, expense, and commuter and automobile focus of many larger homes in suburban developments.”

Ross Chapin, the architect responsible for this concept does speaking engagements on the Cohousing circuit (conferences, et al) and has written a beautiful book:   Neighborhoods:  Creating Small-Scale Community in a Big-Scale World.  The forward of his book, which I just received in the mail, is done by noted “Not So Big House” architect Sarah Susanka.  If you like architecture and home design, you’ll love this book.

My very brief perusal of the article and book intrigue me.  It’s a concept I’ll further explore.

My very limited understanding now is that pocket neighborhoods encourage co-housing like community, but aren’t specifically called out as such.  Ownership would likely be private with no structural common space (albeit a common space outdoor area seems to be built into the design – ownership  thereof is unclear).  It seems that is more ‘subdivision-like’ in that the builder builds it and then people buy in, rather than having a group of people with common ideals forming together to build cohousing.

The other differentiating feature I see initially is scale.  Pocket neighborhoods, by design are small.  Cohousing can be small, but more typically is 20+ households, not 8-12.

I’ll be reading up more on this, including my newly acquired book and will let you know what I find.  If nothing else, this man designs beautiful, functional houses – good grist for the mill as my friends and I broaden our retirement living planning.

Have you heard of pocket neighborhoods?  Visited any?  What’s your take?

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