Monday, November 16, 2009

The hard parts

I write about the delights of co-housing and those are mostly what I experience. But of course nothing is all easy and this story isn't going to feel real if we don't get the hard parts into it. For me there are really just two hard aspects so far. The first I expected. I worry about co-housing with one daughter overshadowing my closeness with the other daughter and her family. I fear getting to know Liam so much better than Andrea just because of proximity and access. In fact, this problem was so in my consciousness that I asked Joanna her feelings about Ruth and Chris moving in even before I talked to Bob about it. So far so good with this. I've helped Joanna with her move the last three Mondays and spent some other times with her - went out to a fun dinner with her and Ruth without babies. It was great. There is a tension in me to create balance in all family relationships and the co-housing provides an imbalance, and I think it takes maturity on all our parts to manage that.

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

Childproofing, Priorities, Love

I'm worn out this Friday night. The work week was a struggle, because so many clients are really struggling themselves. Coming home to the house has felt good. Liam is all over on his own two feet and Ruth is half a step ahead of him childproofing. Or she was only half a step ahead until today. Now I think she has gotten the house safe for our rambunctious boy. And beautiful. Tonight I've been sitting in my room being mindless on the computer and Ruth and K.K. have been reordering the layout of hte garage. I love that we are working together, all three generations, though I haven't done much tonight. Monday I helped K.K. clear out her room at her old house and I've promised to help her wiht the difficult process of deciding what she does not need to take into her new room. Tonight she's helping Ruth. While Ruth and K.K. work and I write and unwind, Chris has taken Liam on a long stroller walk in the mild fall night. It may be too cold for that by this time next week. I like being actively, day in and day out, part of a family at this time in my life. It was fine before. I wasn't lonely Everything more or less worked. This is just better.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What a weekend....

My first birthday as a father. Strange...I had always wanted to start having children before I turned thirty. I want to be able to keep up with my son and his children, after all. I didn't quite get there. But now Liam is here...amazingly here. And my life feels more complete than it ever has (and that is saying something!). I want to always remember the feeling of his little hand on my knee while I was talking to my friends at dinner tonight--looking down at his beaming face as his smile gets even bigger as we play our game...

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.

Happy Birthday Chris

In a typical family I wouldn't know you the way I do. Even a year ago, when we met several times a month for a meal, went to synagogue together, shared some vacations, I didn't know you nearly the way co-housing allows me to know you. I didn't know you could build a compost enclosure from scratch in the heat, or even that you don't hate the heat. I didn't know you like to sit outside on the patio and read when you cna't sleep or that you rgularly pound out chicken to flatness before serving it with one of your many delicious sauces. I knew you loved Ruth deeply, but I didn't know the daily tenderness with which you look out for her in little and big ways. I knew I liked you, respected you, trusted you, but I didn't know how much, how safe and cared for I feel when you are around. I knew you would be a great Daddy, but I didn't know how enthusiastically you would toss Liam up ointo the air or how tenderly and in what detail you would notice his words, steps, tastes, preferences. Co-housing allows easier deep connection, lets me see so much of you without either of us doing anything extra. I love the gift of this, love our living arrangement, love you. Happy birthday.

Why Co-Housing

Why co-housing? Collaboration, cooperation, conservation, conversations, community, connection, co-inspiration.

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

Laughter in the house tonight

K.K. spends Friday nights in the house, usually at least.She has Friday night and Saturday morning dance classes and it's just better for everybody for her to sleep closer to the studio - saves driving time and allows more sleep, and gets us to the Farmer's Market early when we drop her off - a good deal all around. Tonight when Ruth and Liam and I came home from synagogue it felt especially tender to come in to her sweetness. She is reading her way rapidly and obsessively through the Twilight books , and it was so cool to share that excitement with her, Ruth and me both. Learning to read was hard for K.K. and though she mastered it a few years back we weren't clear whether she would ever be a READER, living for hte moment to get back into a story. Clearly, she has become a READER, and I love that. But there is something else I love, more pertinent to the purpose of this blog and hard to put into words. The more of us who spend more time in this house (it could be any house) in an everyday, ordinary kind of way, just living together not visiting or doing anything special, the more connected we feel. I think one of the advantages of co-housing for me is more naturally occurring interactions with people I love, more organic interactions. This is especially true with Liam. He knows me as part of his every day life, knows me enough to happily hold my finger in synagogue. I know just how he likes to play dropsy and that his favorite dropsy toy is his new, darling, multicolored doll E.B.There is the kind of familiarity that makes it feel special to be part of a family. The challenge is to have as much of that as possible with family not living in the house or staying often overnight. I want the house to be a hub for all of us, so the Friday night involvement of K.K. is especially neat. Joanna has been in and out some this week and I had time with her doing errands and helping her pack to move -very rich time. I want to involve the little boys and Andrea and Tracy more, and I think that will come with time and choices. There is such a special intimacy that comes from sharing the dailiness. I want as many of us as possible to have as much of it as we want.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lucky me!

I've been buried under a seemingly insurmountable pile of work papers and catching up this past week. I HATE feeling behind and my mood and my housekeeping have been suffering (which starts a nasty spiral--I don't do the laundry because I am too busy, then I feel antsy because the laundry is piling up, which makes me less efficient, which makes me more behind, which makes it less likely that I'll have the time to get to the mess that is slowly closing in and making me crazy.... and on and on and on)

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"