Monthly Archives: November 2014

Three Hundred Twenty Six: Group

“The most memorable people in life will be the friends who loved you when you weren’t very loveable.”  – Unknown

Sunday, November 23rd

Tonight our family joined some of our other neighbors for a shared meal. Our table was alight with stories of our days, of our kids doing naughty things, and cautionary tales. It was a great conversation. And then I started to crack jokes – you know the type – the quips that fall flat or the jokes with the punchline delivered too soon. There would be a moment of silence and then someone else would carry on with another story.

I felt accepted by the group in some small way through this social stumbling, and who doesn’t like to feel accepted?

Most of the time I have such short exchanges with the greater group of neighbors, but tonight we stayed a few minutes later and enjoyed the great synergy. Although there are times when I struggle to see the benefit of living closely and surrendering a level of privacy with my neighbors, I am understanding more each day how incredible it is to be in a relationship with the people living within the couple dozen households. It is a unique sort of family and if I can get this right then I can get better at getting along with any sort of group I find myself in.

What different groups do you associate with during your day? What are you learning about yourself by communicating with them?

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Three Hundred Twenty Five: Coffee Date

“All you need is love…and more coffee.”  – Unknown 

Saturday, November 22nd

My neighbor asked me if I’d like to join her on a coffee date today. She is someone I see regularly, but at a distance. We live on opposite ends of our cohousing community and although there is clearly a rapport between us, there isn’t necessarily the chance to meet and talk regularly in our daily lives. Her intent to get away to neutral ground was brilliant.

I’ve learned that these small adventures can add up to a meaningful friendship, so I’m so glad we went.

What is the best way for you to get to meet someone new?

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Three Hundred Twenty Four: Elders

“Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom.”  – Alice Walker

Friday, November 21st

It was one thing for my husband and I to consider how we would be raising our children…and quite another to learn how our elders would.

We have had financial support from our parents when the times get tough, and it is incredibly humbling to know that your children won’t feel how tight things got when the bills rolled in because your loved ones were looking out for you. We have had extended visits for post-partum support and too-many-to-mention afternoons with Grandpa and Grandma so my husband and I could have a date. There are usually little gifts in Grandmas purse, but there are always hugs and smiles for my kids. There is no way I could begin to even quantify their worth in our lives.

So we jumped at the chance to invite my husband’s mother to an Elder’s Luncheon at my daughter’s school. She kept her morning schedule clear so she could attend, and we also invited my daughter’s Auntie. It was a very new experience for her to eat her lunch with her elder women, pointing out friends and teachers and leading us all to her classroom where she gave us the royal tour. She held her brother’s hand as we walked to the gymnasium to see a performance, and checked back to see that her “girls” were still there.

My mothers’ paths of teaching and guiding my children has not been without conflict or a difference of opinion, but we respect each other enough to work through that. And I am proud that they’ve both learned from observing my husband and I parent. They’ve got our backs, and they’ve got our kids’ backs…and we’ve got theirs. I’m glad to have learned from them that this is just what families do for one another.

What lessons have you learned from your elders?

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Three Hundred Thirty: Thanks

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.” – Frank Herbert

Thursday, November 27th

I have built an informal rule for myself that I shall write this blog chronologically from the first day of the year to the last…but today it feels right to stir a little chaos in order to give thanks on Thanksgiving Day itself. So in no particular order, I am thankful for…

  • Having family. Having a wonderfully-flawed nuclear family to grow up with and learn to accept for who they are yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Having an extended family of half-brothers who have knocked off the halfness in our relationship. Marrying into a quirky and loving family who have taken me in as their own and love me for me.
  • Having a beautiful friend who might very well be the only person who actually reads this blog accept that the long-winded thank you note for the 40th birthday care package is late-in-the-mail because it has been late-to-be-written…and know that she doesn’t hold this against me.
  • A roof over my head. And it happens to be a beautiful roof built with love by my neighbors’ hands that feels good to live and grow up in.
  • Reaching an age where I trust myself to feel through things with grace. It isn’t an awkward wobble through situations now that I’ve had some life experience under my belt.
  • My girlfriends. I feel like I’ve just broken through some pretty huge social barriers in the last couple years when it comes to bonding with people, and have drawn in some pretty radical new women into my circles. It gives me faith in humanity to befriend such interesting, vibrant, and sweet people. Equally satisfying is it to have women in my life that have known me since I moved to my city 12 years ago and who have nurtured my growth in ways I never imagined needing, that saw me through my wildly educational 20s and pulled me through the workday or the semester at uni, who loved me through all my failed adolescent attempts at nailing the perfect hairstyle/perfect pegged pants/the perfect hockey-haired crush, and even the one friend who built a paper machier volcano with me two days before it was due – who drew penguins on my going away card when I moved from Canada to California, who I’ve known since before I could read, and who knows me like the back of her hand. You are brave souls to be my sisters in life – thank you.
  • My soul mate. Sure, there could be many possible soul mates for me out in this world, but after trying a few on for size, it was He that fit best. Someone that I’ve been incredibly attracted to since day one, and for whom I still have a passion for. He who stirs my creativity. Who catches my little off-hand cultural references and was enchanted when I sang “We’re gonna have a tv party tonight…” at a record store when we agreed to stay home and watch crime dramas which we would eventually detox from because they’re too damn scary. He who didn’t jump into marriage, but waited until the right time. And who jumped in fully once we were married to start a family and build a home together. He who will kick my butt out of bed in six hours when we need to get ready for our kidless trip out of town together to celebrate the anniversary of those nuptials. Loving that man is the best education I’ve had in love, faith, and compromise.
  • Life. Every waking breath. Another chance to try harder. To make things better. To be more present, aware, and engaged with one another.

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Three Hundred Twenty Three: Exasperated Excitement

“You’re my favorite reason to lose sleep.”  – Unknown

Thursday, November 20th

I have friends who have a family much like my own. Two parents, an older daughter, and a younger son. Today their daughter turned 10, and I was surprised by how much I saw the father fawn and gush over her birthday.

He told me that he’d woken up the night before (just after midnight when she was born) and played through her birth in his mind. He’d sent an email out announcing her birthday, brought pies to a big dinner to share with everyone, and told everyone on the sidewalk that it was her special day.

Why wouldn’t I expect that he would froth over with excitement over her birthday? Simply because I assume he just doesn’t have the energy to. Most of the time this particular man is explaining why his family is running on empty. He has an active six-year-old son, an adventurous wife with a lucrative career, and a daughter with Down’s Syndrome and ADHD.

This family is very open and frank about their challenges, more so than I am comfortable sharing and their lives are filled with a certain degree of chaos because of school-doctor-specialist appointments to enhance their daughter’s life while also trying to create a healthy space for their son to grow up in too. As I write about this topic one week late on Thanksgiving Day – November 27th – stuffing pumpkin pie in my mouth in between lines written, I think about how quiet and empty my house feels with the kids staying overnight at their grandparents’ house. All the little things that the kids do to annoy me throughout the day are the things I’m missing right now in their absence. The way my kids cry as we carry them inside to the house from the car after a long day of visiting with family. The way I can’t even get my son out of his jeans and into pajamas when he’s that tired. My daughter’s breath when she hasn’t brushed the night before. The love for your child trumps all those little things, especially when you have the objectivity and space from them to see it.

Can you rise above it all to see what really matters?

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Three Hundred Twenty Two: Yoga

“Yoga is the unifying art of transforming dharma into action, be it through inspired thought, properly nurturing our children, a painting, a kindness or an act of peace that forever moves humanity forward.”     – Micheline Berry

Wednesday, November 19th

My daughter studies yoga in a delightful after school class. The girls come out of the hour-long stretch-fest with gappy-tooth smiles and giggles, needing help getting their shoes on. My daughter love-love-loves her teacher, and that is gold to me.

My girl has always been more akin to adults than she has with children. She’s a thoughtful and insightful child, and when she and I sat down with the class catalogue she was sad that the teacher who had taught her environmental club last year was no longer teaching at the school. She lit up at the thought of yoga, and I lit up at her lighting up! It’s lovely to stumble across shared interests with your children without pushing it on them.

Every Wednesday this autumn, I have picked her up one hour after the end of school. How amazing that she has been a boat, a goddess, a cat and a cow in that single hour.

Is exercise transformative for you?

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Three Hundred Twenty One: My Best Friend’s Daughter

“Here’s to good women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”  – Unknown

Tuesday, November 18th

There’s something incredibly awesome having a friend. Even more, having a friend who also has a daughter.

My friend and I really didn’t become close until after our daughters started kindergarten together. Imagine, your child is nervous about starting this new life experience and the solace she has is holding the hand of the little girl she met at the school’s summer playdates. Through field trips and birthday parties and play dates, this little girl is there with your daughter because you are friends with her Mom. There’s so much goodness wrapped up in that.

As the girls age, I see how they are different. How they might not walk into First Grade holding hands. How they move differently and communicate differently. The great equalizer is none else than the Frozen Soundtrack. I asked them to sing “Let It Go” six more times on a long commute when they asked if we were there yet for the millionth time.

So when she came over for a last-minute play date while her parents were at a Parent Teacher interview, I was tickled pink to see her walk right into the kids’ playroom and join the fun. Puzzles. Dress up. Drawing. They did it all in 90 minutes.

At some point there might be the divide that takes them on different social paths, or they might be lifelong friends who are always dear to each other. But for now it is simply good old-fashioned play.

Do you like to take care of other people’s children?

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Three Hundred Twenty: Winston

“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Closed eyes, heart not beating, but a living love.” – Avis Corea

Monday, November 17th

I’ve been thinking about my friend Winston lately – thinking specifically of how it has been almost as long since he passed away that he was alive. And it presses that pain button, one which was so violently pushed when he fell off a cliff to his death. I cling to the years of sweet and awkward teenage memories I have of him for comfort.

Winston was that sweet guy we all knew in high school. He wasn’t tethered to a quest for popularity. He wore jeans and a t-shirt and drove a lowered Chevy S10 with a stereo so loud that he regularly got tickets for noise violations. He loved to show me how a quarter would bounce on the upholstery when the volume was turned way up. He worked at the local building supply store, trading in his S10 keys for the keys to the forklift. He was trying to kiss me the night I first kissed my first high school boyfriend Jeff. He dated my friend and then cried in his truck as Wilson Phillips sang “Release Me” and he nursed a broken heart. He was my best friend in the way that only an extraordinary adolescent boy can be to an adolescent girl.

We lost touch after I moved away and went to college. He stayed in our hometown and started dating high school girls. I felt like he was becoming a small town cliché while I was learning to spread my wings. I always tried to meet up with him when I came home for the holidays, but the divide was there. We weren’t confidantes anymore.

Years later (and after Winston had passed), I would see his father on the long city transit slog from the nearest big city to our hometown. We’d sit together and he’d tell me about his ongoing legal battles to keep his boat shed from being torn down. I’d talk about my family and my misadventures trying to finish my degree, and it was always bittersweet. I loved this man’s tremendous energy to be present and open to talking about life without his son, but there was always that foul detail between us. The absence. The life unlived.

I did something ridiculous recently and I Googled his name. The Internet was a whispering promise of change at the time of his death, so there really wasn’t a reason for him to be documented on there. Yet there it was – a small mention of 7-year-old Winston, the winner of a kids’ contest at the annual summer festival. This touched me deeply. I was probably at the same park on that day, watching the firemen play a game of soccer with ball’n’hoses and loggers scale telephone poles and there he was winning a ball toss.

How do you commemorate the lives of those you have loved and lost?

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Three Hundred Nineteen: The Greyness

“Every day is like Sunday. Every day is cloudy and grey.”  – Morrissey

Sunday, November 16th

This post could also be entitled “50 Shades of Grey” but the subject matter is not erotic, thrilling, nor is it a page-turning topic. The greyness is a blanket that covers my world from September until May, sometimes June – not the sort of blanket that gives you the warm fuzzies either.

It takes a concerted effort to be an active and participating member of my community during the greyness. The grey monotony goes on and on like one of those old hypnotism LPs. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the “Fog” from the 1980s horror flick of the same name, but instead of carrying the ghosts of dead seamen it brings lethargy, apathy, and an unwillingness to get outside for fresh air. I could wax poetic on grey days forever, but I’m sure that you get the point.

What would be your ideal climate to live in? Do you live there?

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Three Hundred Eighteen: What Consensus Has Taught Me

“A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.”  – Abba Eban

Saturday, November 15th

Large decisions in the community that I live in are made collectively by consensus. It is a pain in the ass, but I feel that it is well worth it.

When I first moved here and was told about the consensus process, I recoiled. My experience with consensus was from my university days working at the campus newspaper. Our meetings often went on for four+ hours as we hammered out the details of tricky agenda items. “Roberts Rules” gave me an ill reaction thus forward.

Really, RR is an effective means of communicating thoroughly about an issue if not concisely. This is where I have learned the importance of effective leadership and having a breadth of experience with RR. Of course using RR to manage a meeting with an ever-changing group of students from year-to-year is going to be wrought with more difficulties than an established group of adults which has used this process for years.

Consensus processes encourages all to share their support just as it is meant to flesh out the inconsistencies, the counter-points and the objections to a proposal. What it does for me is that it highlights how any issue affects a diverse group differently. I always come away with a better understanding of an issue after consensus. And it simply feels good to know that everyone was given the chance to be at the table.

How would you react to decision-making by consensus?

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