Tuesday, December 29, 2009
What I don't always remember (or at least not in that same giddy aren't I lucky kind of a way) is that Bob loves me too.
I don't remember the exact context but the other night we were all debating dessert and I volunteered that Chris (who was in the other room momentarily) would scoop my ice cream when he got back. I totally could have dished up my own vanilla and I realized it was presumptuous so I said something about how I should get it myself. Someone responded that Chris likes to show me his love by serving me which is true (and I was perfectly content to hold the baby and let Chris get it when he came back--who am I to stop the man from showering me with affection?) I didn't even notice what Bob was doing until he handed me a bowl of frozen deliciousness with a big grin on his face but it's been days now and I'm still ticked pink by his sweet gesture and explanation that he was going to love on me before Chris could. How adorable is that?
It's funny how we learn each other's languages of love: I'm guessing Bob learned to love on people from through acts of service by watching his Dad (possibly the single best example I can think of of "service")--and I'm not sure if I picked a man who speaks love in the same language because of Bob. Or if I'm learning to appreciate Bob now more because of Chris? Regardless I'm lucky to have two men who spoil me by taking care of me. And I hope you both know I see it.
So guys: Thank you for munchies and drink fetching. For unloading and loading the dishwasher. For grocery shopping and making sure there are always sodas in the house (and M&Ms on the table! YUM). For handling details and helping life around here run smoother. You are both much appreciated. (I just hope I'm not getting too much more than I give?)
Monday, December 28, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Though the work of pruning belongings will continue at least into the spring, has progressed markedly. I think there is nothing in the kitchen or living room that we have not consciously chosen to keep, and I've made great progress in that direction with clothes, shoes and such. Family pictures and old letters are another story altogether. Maybe next year. Seriously, it does seem more possible than it has in decades to have a real handle on what I keep.
Liam has his own room now, lovingly painted by his Mom in Pacific northwest colors to match the mural of La Push that adorns one wall. He slept a good portion of last night alone in the bed in his room, a surprise to all of us. Bob and I are resettled in the middle bedroom with the pull down wall bed, and like having more space when the bed is up. Bob finally has drawers and a half closet of his own for the first time since we started the cohousing. We have a beautiful green wall that will feature our Navajo tree of life rug and shelves for treasures.I think the bedroom situation is resolving now into one that really works for all of us. Still boxes to go through - still a box in the middle of my bedroom floor in fact - but better, much better.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
And yet I just don't feel compelled to write. It's easy, it's natural. If I was doing something less natural for me (like say trying to join the raw foods movement--the "RAW-volution") it would be easier for me to come up with new things to say but the truth is at this point it's much more about DOING than reflecting and it's mostly about trying to figure out where to put furniture, what color to paint, etc... and I figure ya'll aren't that interested in that stuff (we'll first I'll try the desk by the window with the crib over by that door, and if I don't like that I'll switch, or maybe that bookshelf that's in the garage over there...?).
I'm loving getting a chance to MAKE a home again but it's more something I'm doing with my hands than anything I can write about here... I'll work on it.
(And now my family is home and I must get back to life).
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The house has gone through so many changes, as I have myself - messy stages and beautifications, stagnation and renewal. Now the physical house is emerging in new form as the homse for our co-housing family. Ruth and Chris have reclaimed the garage, which was cluttered, disorganized, dirty, over full with inherited tools, old boxes, camping gear, stored broken furniture, and things I didn't even know the names of. I scrubbed the garage floor tonight whileRuth painted the ceiling bright white for the new incarnation as phjoto studio. It seems right that Ruth chopped down the old hedge that grew very tall in front
of the house, taller and taller as the years passed. Now there is a sense of openness when I walk out the front door - new possibilities await.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Thanksgiving, and living isn't seamless here. Three nuclear families, three generations, multiple needs and preferences, lead to complexity. One of the most valuable lessons, as well as one with which I still struggle, is that I can't and it's not my responsibility to make everybody happy all the time. People can work out their own differences and I making myself crazy trying to smooth waters only makes me crazy.
Wee've had our share of minor fall illnesses andare still in appliance hell. Ruth fixed the old dishwasher three times, at least , before we gave up and bought a wonderful new one after Tahnksgiving. now the dryer's sluggish and we still are getting estimates on major plumbing which will require digging under sidewalk and driveway, but NOT under the house as we feared was possible.
However, everything that really needs to work, works. The Hannukah decorations are up. A jigsaw puzzle is in progress on the kitchen table. The garage is way more organized than it's been in twenty years. Liam knows exactly who Bob and I are and toddles joyfully into our room whenever he wants to - arms open, smile on his face. Joanna visits when K.K. has a late rehearsal, sometimes with Andrea, and the two little cousins smile and play. Tonight Andrea fed Liam a piece of garlic bread, much to their mutual delight. It may snow tomorrow, Liam's first snow, sparkling on our co-housing adventure.
Amnesty International's Global Write-Athon http://www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/action_took.php?ICID=I1011A2w.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/ and
Save Darfur's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence http://action.savedarfur.org/campaign/16days
If you are not already signed up for these, we encourage you to look at these and join us. Send us other actions you recommend.
For me, talking to Sara and Peter in our visit to Iowa about social change and Peru increased my awareness and determination to try to do more about social change in the small ways I can.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The other tough area snuck up on me entirely. I knew Ruth made a beautiful home, really is a skilled aesthetic decorator, and that she has definite tastes and that the way the house looks and the space is used REALLY matters to her. We talked about this early and talked about the need to declutter and I told her I wanted her to take the lead in decorating decisions. In the beginning that was great as she cleared up cluttered areas and got the kitchen cabinets closing properly for the first time ever. She has been very inclusive in color decisions and I love her results. I expected to get rid of lots of stuff, and welcomed that. But I didn't realize how deep her desire for change would go. There are bookshelves I designed and had built into the house that she rightly believes don't fit our needs now, and I find myself defensive, not wanting something I'm proud of to be changed, removed. I have trouble accepting that anything isn't forever. Also, some of the antiques I love (would I love them if I didn't know their stories and hadn't been conditioned to like furniture with history?) don't really fit Ruth's aesthetic and I wince every time I see her not love pieces I adore. Last week I felt edgey and defensive about the decorating and about needing to part with more furniture. That feeling has passed for now, but I know it will crop up again.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I have a child! (giggle)
Earlier today, I dressed him in his dragon outfit and took him to my annual gaming convention. He stole the show...dozens of people coming up to say 'hi', inviting us to watch their games so he will stick around. Liam knows how to work a crowd, snuggling up to my neck and pretending to be shy. That always elicits a round of 'oh! isn't that cute!' from his fans. And on Friday, my friend (and father of a 3 month old girl) Steve and I compared baby photos--hard to tell who was prouder. (me, of course!---though I am a bit biased)
Yeah...being a dad is cool.
Collaboration. Working together. Less work for each. Work more fulfilling because it’s one for all. Raising Liam. Cooking, cleaning, gardening together.
Cooperation. Pulling together on common goals as we seek to make the world a better place.
Conservation. Less energy consumption. Less water consumption. Less consumption of stuff as we share possessions.
Conversations. Any time, talk about politics, books, communication. Genocide, global warming, relationships. More people providing more ideas, more views.
Community. Fostering a sense of togetherness, a sense of family expanded.
Connection. More involvement in more people’s lives.
Co-inspiration. Mutually challenging and supporting each other in spiritual growth.
For me, co-housing is wonderful with the right people, but would not work so well with less compatible persons. Some ingredients needed for me include respect for others’ needs, willingness to compromise, desire for personal growth, engagement in conversations and relationships, and willingness to work. With Ruth and Chris, this is way, way more than met!
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
But this week mom spoiled me and did my laundry--ALL of it, from overflowing hamper to folded and put away (all three zillion loads!) It seems like a small thing but it wasn't. I'm amazed at how difficult it was for me to LET her do it all by her self. But I did. And I'm grateful I did. It was a transformative experience for me.
This is the kind of thing that never ceases to amaze me about being married--that there is someone else in the world who can (and will) on occasion completely free me from dealing with something that I feel like is properly "MY JOB." Every time Chris does our taxes with no help from me (THANK YOU SWEETIE!) or runs a particularly dreadful errand I feel blessed and lucky and very very taken care of.
And it's different than just getting help--I think I'm generally pretty good at accepting help (I have such helpful people in my life I'm pretty spoiled in that way actually) but I guess I didn't realize how important it is to me that I "do my share" when getting help. Letting mom COMPLETELY take on the responsibility was uncomfortable and eye opening and wonderful (I actually understand the "taking a huge weight off my shoulders" metaphor--I don't think I really did before--I've always thought it meant sharing the weight. But this was really different--taking the weight and freeing me to do other things. Wow)
I feel like a bit of an idiot writing this post because I'm sure everyone else knows the magic of letting someone else do for you but if this blog is supposed to record my experience than this seems important.
Why co house? Because that way there are more people to step in, share the weight, and when you need it, free you completely. And because the next day--when you are still basking in the warm glow of being helped in a way that rocks you to the core the person who, in that moment is your hero, says "I feel like I'm getting so much more than I'm giving in this arrangement--I hope you don't think you're doing too much"
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
It seems your parents have gone nuts.
You have been surrounded for the last few weeks with moving boxes, piles taller than you'll ever be, fix-it projects, painting, and massive chaos. You've been forced to sleep in a new room, brush your teeth at a new sink, and spend far less time in your car seat (and far more time at the Home Repair store!) I know it's all very strange to you now but I truly believe that soon it will be well worth it.
See, Daddy and I have decided to co-house with your Grandma ("O-ma").For the last several years your dad and I have been moving further and further toward conventional "success". We've allowed ourselves pride over our material acquisitions, increased education, and honorable employment. We've delighted in our pool and our privacy and our suburban luxury. It's been a wonderful golden decade.
But underneath the suburbanites we've become lingers the more-hippie-than-hip people we've always been. And somewhere along the way we realized that the life we were working so hard chasing wasn't really the life we want. We don't care about job titles or money for the sake of money or even about "looking successful."
But we DO care about being able to walk to a library, having the time to hug and tuck you at night and help you with your homework in the evenings. We do care about teaching you the value of family and about having more time to get our hands dirty building/making/planting things. We wanted to be able to eat from our yard and spend less time burning fuel getting from one big box store to another. We wanted you to grow up on a bus route, in the middle of a neighborhood with no home-owners association, where the trees are taller than the houses, and the museums aren't a half hour away. We wanted to stop focusing so much on finances and careers and doing the "responsible" thing... and worry more about family, and home, and doing the "right" thing.
We realized that we'd overvalued our independence and sacrificed the ability to be the loving, helpful, available, people we want to be.
We realized that we'd worked to hard to acquire things and not enough to create them.
We realized that we were wasting resources that we didn't need to waste.
We realized that life would be richer if we were doing more with and for our family.
We realized that just because our life was the "typical" dream didn't mean it was ours...
We realized, in short, that our life didn't match our values....
And then we decided to do something about it.
By moving in with your Oma we are able to pool our resources and make our values and our life-style more in agreement. By combining two houses we
- cut down on waste/pollution. (by not air conditioning/heating/watering two houses)
- free up money that had been wasted on duplicating services so that we can contribute it to making the world a better place (instead of just making our living rooms lighted places!)
- free up time so we can volunteer more, plant a garden, work on fixing mom's house up, hang out with you/each other/etc, read, think, be
- are able to save more for your college, etc
- combine expertise and abilities (we can all do more with help than we could alone)
increase your connection with your Grandparents
- get a new adventure and learn
It's a crazy plan, we know. And it's possible it won't work (in which case we just buy a new place). But it's also possible that it WILL work. (And it would be crazier not to give it a chance.)
We want to model putting your habits where your values are. We want you, also, to see us try even if it means failing. We are in a great place right now. We aren't running home because we are broke or in any trouble. And we aren't giving up our lives to go take care of elderly parents. Nobody needs bailing out... we are all just daring to dream of a life a little brighter, better, and more sustainable.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Honestly, there is not a bumper-sticker type answer for me. Chiefly, it feels right to me. I want to go a little more in-depth, though. So, in no particular order, here is a list of reasons why I wanted to reconfigure our lives.
1. It fits my values. I want a close family. I want to be environmentally aware. I want to live in the city where I can walk to things or take public transportation. I want to share these ideals with my son. Ruth and I have talked about joining a commune before--specifically one up in the Pacific Northwest that sounds pretty neat. But making changes close to home is eminently more doable.
2. The challenge. I like the idea of being able to fix up a home. I like the decluttering aspect, the letting go of materialism. I like the effort of walking the walk and not just talking the talk. (and, yes, I'm speaking in cliched terms. Sue me). Ruth and I have moved about several times in the last 5 years, and we enjoy the making a new home aspect.
3. I'm looking for family. Some readers may know about my estrangement from my parents. Fortunately, I married into an amazing one and I want to strengthen those bonds.
4. It is good for Liam. I want him to be close to his grandparents--I loved mine, but wasn't as close as I wanted to be, because they were all in Pennsylvania. Here, he has the opportunity to have a great connection with them. I do believe in the 'it takes a village' proverb.
5. It already felt like home. Before we moved in, we already spent a lot of time during our weekends back from Jourdanton. We love being here.
6. Hmm...not sure how to go further....except to say that being here has felt amazingly natural. Our family has supported each other so well, and it has been very easy to integrate our lives so far. I'm sure there will be challenges and some difficulties ahead. But this experience has already been richely rewarding.
(wow...I sound like I should be a recruiter...but I do actually believe in everything I wrote. What's going on here is really changing my life for the better. I feel more capable, more....complete than I have in a while.)
Evidently it’s not cool to like your mom, it’s not cool to respect your step dad (or, for that matter, to admit that your step dad is way more “real” than most of your friends’ dads) and most importantly it is, I’m told, CRAZY to give up a life of privacy and independence and capital-S “success” for a life of cohabitation, co-mingling, and a little dose of chaos.
According to popular consensus the only reason a 28 year old woman would ever even dream of moving back home is because she can’t hack it in the real world—or because she’s broke, or her mom is broke (or broke her hip). And don’t even get me started on the things they have to say about my POOR HUSBAND who HAS to live with his MOTHER-In-Law! GASP! It is, apparently, un-thinkable that my husband and I (both being of sound mind and body) would honestly CHOOSE to combine our lives and households with my parents’.
Try as I might to explain it--people struggle with the idea of this being voluntary.
Some people get hung up on the supposedly inevitable mother-daughter power struggles that lurk in our futures, others fixate on the toll this arrangement is supposed to take on our marriages (or our sex lives). I even had one woman seriously ask me if this is a safe arrangement since my mother and my husband might possibly end up under the same roof alone together! (I’m sorry but if I can't trust my husband not to hit on my mom—or my mom to keep her hands off my husband then I have much bigger worries than how to fit two families worth of belongings into one three bedroom house!)
These days people like to preach the Gospel of Independence to me. They sing the praises of privacy and independence and space and success and “growing up” and living on their own…. And I understand their points: I’m not crazy. Two months ago I had a two story house in the suburbs. My backyard had a gorgeous custom designed pool with limestone decking and extensive landscaping. The backyard opened to a park and was a few blocks from the local elementary school. Our house was well appointed on the inside and adorable from the outside. We were perfectly situated on a cul-de-sac full of children and sandwiched between the world’s best neighbors. I won’t lie—I loved having a whole house to decorate and the freedom to skinny dip with my sweetie when I wanted. There are perks to living that life and I won’t try to deny them.
But here’s the flip side: Two months ago I had a mortgage and a half hour commute to anywhere. I loved my house but I spent less time in it than I would have liked because I was working to pay for it (and things were about to get worse because we needed to figure out daycare). Two months ago we were air-conditioning (and water-ing and gassing and insuring and tax-paying on) two houses instead of sending that money to Amnesty International or spending it shopping the local farmers’ markets or saving for my son’s college). Two months ago my husband was stuck in a soul-sucking job spending his days teaching other people’s kids instead of getting to know his own. Two months ago we were fretting about finding a day care and juggling two jobs and finding a way to make the time and the money and the guilt all work out in a way we could live with. Two months ago we weren’t getting as much time with my parents as we would have liked and it had been years since we’d worked with Habitat or spent any real time volunteering.
In short—two months ago we weren’t the parents we wanted to be, we weren’t the children we wanted to be and we weren’t the world citizens we wanted to be. We weren’t financially stuck—we were solvent and even saving some. But we were so busy being “successful” and self-sufficient that we were slacking where it really counts.
My parents raised me not to sit on my laurels when positive change is possible….
So why did I decide to combine houses?
Because it’s the right thing for me, it’s the right thing for my family, and it’s a piece of my right thing for the world.
That's the first question people ask when I tell them I chose to combine households with my daughter, her husband and their baby son.
And here are some of the reasons why.
Living with three generations under one roof is familiar to me. My mother's parents were Czech immigrants in a small Texas town and the household they created included orphaned cousins, aging parents, brothers and sisters and, luckily for me, at times, one grand daughter. Some of my best memories formed in that house, with the conversation in the kitchen or the garden and the singing on the back porch summer nights.
The life style I was living (alone during the week during the school year while my husband teaches in another city, working hard in my business, eating out several times a week, letting household repairs go) didn't sit right with me. I had way too much stuff, especially after having accumulated estate items from my parents and aunt, and didn't have a handle on how to pare my belongings down. My once abundant garden plot stood empty and bedraggled. I planted hopefully the last two springs but gave up on during summer because I just couldn't face all the work alone. I stood in my ktchen evenings cooking for one and wished for a family to feed.
My values call me to work to repair the world, which I see as very broken and too focused on independence and competition. Combining resources (time, money, energy, ideas) should free us all up to work harder at making a difference in our community and beyond it - more time for volunteer work and activism of all kinds, for relationships, for spiritual practice.
Ruth and Chris and Bob and I share similar values about the life we want to live and we get along easily together. I trust those three people, both their intentions and their follow through, and enjoy being with them, learning from them, talking and eating and cooking and working with them
The idea of living in the same house with my baby grandson (Liam, the cutest blue eyed newly walking baby in the world) was a delight.
Life is short. Life is precious. People die when you least expect it. Every moment is a moment we have to share, so being together under one roof allows more moments to be cherished together.