You say you aren’t racist – now prove it

I hate to admit my failures but I promised to be honest in this blog.  And failures lead to future success if you find the lessons in them.

When I was new to college I really wanted to be a radio DJ. Back then we had to get an FCC license and the test included setting up a huge reel to reel tape to play recorded broadcasts. I only practiced it once so I was doing great at all the parts of the tests – pushing this button, turning down that dial, announcing the call letters, then came the tape. I put it on wrong and then tried another way and tugged at the tape. I could see I was failing and I just started crying. Not a little cry but all out wail.

I went back to my dorm room and cried more. Luckily I remembered Rene Poussaint’s speech from my graduation. She told us during her address  how she interviewed the KKK leader and other daring accomplishments.  She also told us that we were going to fail. Then we would pick ourselves up and try again.  So I stopped crying but vowed I would never be a radio DJ.

The next day, the sophomore who had trained me came up to me and said he heard what happened. I started to cry again. He knew of my failure. He said we would practice more and it would be okay. So I woke up early the next day to join his morning show and we did practice and practice. In fact, when I went to take the test again I had to pass because I was set to start my own show the next day. I’ve been in radio ever since and love it.

So, here is my recent failure. Again, it’s my fault. I didn’t put enough time and effort into it.  

I work for an amazing school district.  Not only are they focused on Culturally Responsive Teaching but they have two certificate programs in it.  It’s not good enough to be anti – racist, you have to prove it. You have to prove that you are making a difference to your students. Are they attending schools? Are their grades improving? Etc.

I was new to the system but jumped right into the certification program. I had no idea how much work and data it entailed. Once I figured it out I froze. I realized I didn’t collect the data. I hope I was a good influence and helped some students improve their grades especially in this crazy year. 

I love how the district works – prove it!  I didn’t. I didn’t get the certification. I tried. I also panicked and did everything at the last minute and ran out of time.  I am glad I tried and from now on I will collect the data. I will see that my thoughts match the outcomes. I will challenge myself.

I also saw how defensive people can be.  Some teachers didn’t want to examine how their curriculum choices or pace or connection (or lack) with students changes the outcomes. They rest their laurels on knowing about CRT and anti-racism. I also personally saw someone (not a teacher but someone in Intentional Community circles) become defensive when I presented data that many women found him sexist – that he interrupted women more than men, that he listened more to the men, etc. I even had actual data of a meeting where he interrupted the women and not the men.  He blew it off saying he finds women stronger and smarter than men.

Aha. Now I see why we have to prove it.  What does the data say? Not our beliefs but what we actually do.

I’m sad I didn’t get the certificate but I hope to try again next year and this time I will collect data from the get go. Certificate or not, I am going to keep proving it – how does what I do affect my students? Maybe we should all try.  Not just with students but with everyone. You say you aren’t racist, now prove it.

Here is an article I found while writing this. If you don’t have NYT and can’t open it,  the title says “Two Black Students Won School Honors. Then Came the Calls for a Recount.

After two white families claimed a grade calculation error, a Mississippi school added their children as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian, reviving questions about race and equity.”

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Beach Life Tips

I love to travel. I haven’t been to other countries (much) since having children but I have gone through 3 cars driving miles all over the country. With COVID, I did some travel – like to get my son from college and to move (unexpected but worth it because I now live at the beach)

Now I am tired of driving from the move but I noticed that people are here. My travel feet that like to meet new people – it happens all the time. I was on the beach and a woman came up and just started talking. At first I worried she wanted something like for me to pay her for a pic since she had a camera. But she just was on vacation mode and wanted to talk. I happened to walk back home the same time she and her party were going to the car so I met the whole family of travelers.

When I visited my mother by the beach I was a bit annoyed by the sand and wondered how anyone could live like this – sour grapes for sure. I got over sand in a week. It doesn’t bother me on my feet, in my car, or in the house. I even heard a tip – wait till the bath tub is dry and vacuum it up.

I went to an outdoor party the other day and felt like I was on a TV show of renovation. They showed me what they did with the house. Amazing. I still can’t decide if I’d live in a big house or not. For now, downsizing and affordable is fine. Anyways, they gave me some tips. When visitors come (which they did last summer and now I am getting emails about others for this summer) to NOT buy food. They will either be picky (esp. with kids), want their own thing, or eat out. I liked that. Learning to live at the beach. So far it’s not a tough lesson, unlike cohousing which had beautiful expectations and for me, terrible consequences.

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shiny happy people

On my drive back from town today an elderly lady was smiling and waving at everyone driving by. I waved and laughed. I wondered if she was crazy.  Then I wondered why I wondered she was crazy. What is wrong with smiling? And waving? It made me happy and wave back. That’s making the world a better place.

Why are we suspicious of smiling happy people?  Remember when the pandemic started and how we tried to cheer each other up? Neighborhood concerts? Clapping? Banging pots and pans to thank essential workers.  That was a wonderful example of the best of the human spirit.

So, I think she just wanted to pass joy to all the tourists driving back and forth to the beach.  I just read a blog post from a new person I met from blogging here. They talked about the power of smiling. That even when life is rough, you can take action. Even the smallest step. Smile.

Maybe that woman knows something. Smile and the world smiles with you.  We call crazy whatever is scary, new, different but maybe it’s the most sane thing.

That’s the type of world I want. Smiling and Waving. I promise to wave back.

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Americans on the Move

When I first moved into my house in cohousing I proudly announced it on my social media accounts.  One friend offended me. He said “oh, you Americans, you always move” Or something like that. I was like – I”m not a typical American.  I`m moving to cohousing which is so counter culture to our consumer culture.  I was fuming.  But he ended up being right, I moved right out. It’s easy to just come and go. He’s from Italy and when I first met him he asked me how long it takes to buy a car in the US. I replied one day. He said it takes weeks there – he was helping a friend buy a used car.  So, maybe houses are the same.

That particular community wasn’t what I wanted in my life so I moved out. Super easy. Now a few other families are moving too. Already bought other houses and hope to rent out or sell their cohousing houses. So, if it doesn’t work, you can move. But it is an expensive lesson. That’s why I try to shout from the rooftops – rent first. Once you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of that community, then you can make the commitment and buy.  We are Amercians on the move.

As I went to write this I now see more sides of the story. I found the old posts and will share them now.

BRUNO:Vivi con la classica filosofia americana di cambiare spesso casa: ottimo! Ti faccio tanti

Auguri )

(translation: You live with the classic American philosophy of changing home often: great! Congrats

ME: (I didn’t even try to write in Italian, it translates for me over there and I only learned to talk it) So, they never move houses in Italy? I lived in the other house for 15 years – that’s long for America, I suppose. This house is smaller since my boys are growing up and moving out – well, one has. Plus, this is un-american and living with a small community where we work with democracy and have a common house and common areas together and actually intentionally know our neighbors.. It is called Co-housing and it is from Denmark. Tell (our mutual Danish friend) to come live here and to be my neighbor! And there is always room for Italians to see how us typical and untypical Americans live. You can visit on your way to the Grand Canyon! (his bucket list trip)

BRUNO:  avevo sentito parlare di co-alloggi. Ma funzioneranno?.. Sono simili agli esperimenti di comune degli anni sessanta?..

(Translation:I had heard about co-housing. But will they work?.. They are similar to the common experiments of the sixties?)

So, now I laugh. He was so right. Will it work? It’s like the communes. And he knows first hand. His town was overrun by hippies in the 60s and 70s from Northern Europe who started communes. Many left but some stayed behind long after the experiment failed. When I lived there some were shocked how far some had strayed and even built interior plumbing. They would still get together for parties.  It worked out great for us travelers since they welcomed us with open arms though I wasn’t a fan of the outdoor poop pit instead of the yuppy indoor toilets.

Cohousing promises not to be a commune but some of the same interpersonal problems exist. Living so close to others is hard.  Yes there is more privacy and freedom but you are very connected.

I hated proving Bruno right but off I went – moving again. And it didn’t work for me.  At least my house is now giving someone else joy like we enjoyed staying in the remains of those European communes.  Free lodging allowed us to stay a long time and make lifelong friends like Bruno.

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Dog Days of Summer

Summer is here – not officially, but the life guards are back so that’s summer to me.

Dogs always cause problems in cohousing. Okay, pets, not just dogs. But dogs have teeth.  I heard on TV some celebrity say that all dogs can bite if they have teeth. And I think someone in our community said that as we debated the pet policy.  That was a day written in the history books. The first time we made a major decision at a plenary.  No house was built yet but we had agreed on dogs being under voice control which actually went against the leash policy of the county.

I heard of a community where a dog bit a child.  The way they dealt with it was to depart the dog to an actual farm (not death) but far away from their community. The dog had ruined their chance – you bit, you are a danger, you are out. They choose safety for the community’s children. I thought, wow, what a great community. Putting people first.

In my community I heard someone say the dogs have rights too. I was like, no, they don’t. Some were already annoyed with dogs begging at food events. Too many people weren’t following our policy of voice control – meaning no free range dogs.

Then my worst fear happened – a dog bite to a child. Still pissed it was my child.  The thing I wondered is if everyone knew about it. To protect others, they need to know this dog is a biter.  We didn’t even discuss deportation of the dog. Now, if a dog really does chomp down on a child and even adults sometimes, local animal control usually chooses to put the dog down.  I just didn’t want anyone else to get hurt and I loved the dog – a big herding dog like I used to have.

I read over some old emails and I saw a common theme – how do you balance privacy and what the community needs to know to protect themselves. Some things were easy to broadcast – hey, there’s poison ivy on that old tree. We even had a member do a power point at a plenary to show us the types of poison ivy and other plant dangers out there.  But no one takes plants personally.  If it’s your dog, or kid, that is hurting others, then it gets more complicated.

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Happiest Kid in the Room

When my oldest son was a baby we lived in a place with a lot of social issues.  I took a picture one time of him and some other children at a party. He was about 9 months old and he had the biggest smile. The other children didn’t smile at all. It could be because they didn’t know me very well. I also wondered if it was from their young lives already – alcoholic parents, one parent hauled away by the cops, a loud verbal fight where the house was trashed in the morning, etc. Those are the stories I heard of their lives.

I’m not perfect in any way or shape, but I had a steady job and income. I didn’t drink. I didn’t grow up poor and with few choices. I was using a new concept at the time called Attachment Parenting where I held him all the time, when I was home, and breastfed.  My child beamed happiness and I wondered why.  Of course, it horrified me to think the other children could be suffering.

Now sometimes I feel like that. I’m happy and relaxed. I go to events with others who live in intentional communities and of course it could be the topic – conflict, but everyone seems upset.  Talking about one person or a community problem.  I’m like – I remember those days. Fretting over what to do. Or crying over how others made me feel.  Wondering why it is so hard to live together in an intentional community. My best friend says that may be the problem – the intentional part. Forcing to live with strangers instead of naturally gravitating to the same place.

So now I’ve got the big smile.  I don’t have that problem anymore.  I have neighbors all over but strong boundaries so we aren’t inter meshed.

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Triggered by triggers

Not since I moved into cohousing and met people from all over the world interested in or living in intentional communities have I heard the word triggered so much.  To be honest, it’s annoying.

First off it is hard to keep track of everyone’s triggers. Not that I would intentionally try to harm someone, but I accidentally triggered a person, not remembering it had happened to them in the past. I was only thinking of what was needed now in the present and it was the only solution I could see possible and I’m not sure there was a way around that fact.

Second, the word triggered seems to be used to gas light.  You are feeling that way because something happened in your past. Okay – maybe yes, maybe no. It is obviously a problem now so how do we deal with it as a community?

In my community, there were cliques. Everyone cared for some and their triggers. Others could be literally thrown away.  That’s why I don’t think the armchair therapists are properly diagnosing people’s pasts.  

I heard a story of one community where one person is anxious about a lot from their past abuses and all. The community is respectful and that’s sweet.  Then one person got to see what it’s like to be in the other’s shoes. Suddenly there was a debate over keeping bees and wondering if it’ll attract bears. They were adamant against the bears. Getting very emotional. Then they realized they were remembering a bear encounter from their childhood.

Again, the point is the discussion on bees or not whether someone already danced with a bear or not doesn’t matter. What is important is listening, caring, and taking everyone’s concerns into consideration.  If a community has empathy and is based on caring for other humans, someone being triggered won’t be used as a weapon.

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Phoenix Rising

They say the phoenix rebirths itself from its own ashes. We are like that. Life is like that.  One person’s nightmare is a dream for someone else. Things get better for everyone with time.

Exactly a year ago huge problems started burning at the cohousing. One fire was put out and then a brush fire wiped it all out for me by the end of June.  However, the house is a new home for a new family who absolutely love it. They fell in love with the beautiful home and have painted and added landscaping and been excited about it from the get go. At first I was sad. I moved into cohousing for the community and didn’t really care about the house and it’s structure and all that. Yet I made adjustments to make it my forever home. Then in the end, I hated the community and loved the house and wished I could move it on wheels to a new location. Now I”m okay with saying good bye to the house (my touches have been painted over anyhow) and we made the new house into our new home. And I’m overjoyed a new family is loving the house.  From my pain came their joy.

My new home came from someone else’s problems too. I figured I’d never be able to afford to live by the beach but I was wrong.  There are condos and closer to the ground – the cheaper. Apparently my neighbors higher up pay higher prices.  Views come with a price. I’m fine. On a windy day and when no delivery trucks are in the parking lot of a restaurant near by, I can see some waves. I can see the dunes. And it forces me to exercise to go walk a few blocks to the shore.

My home may also be affordable because the couple wanted a quick sale. They were divorcing and wanted it all split up and over by the end of the year.  I understood. I wanted a quick sale of my cohousing house to get the heck out but that didn’t work out. More people are smarter than me and more cautious before making a commitment to a community.  So instead of losing money, I can rent and wait until I get a fair price.

I feel terrible about the couple’s divorce, but it happens. I divorced my community. I guess I could have stayed and tried and tried and been miserable.  Just like people who stay for the kids or for whatever excuse to stay stuck.  I do feel a little better that this was their second house and not a real home where all the love started and ended. It was a vacation get away that apparently didn’t let them escape their problems.  Yet it does for me. The beach helped me escape my angry mob and find peace.  A bad day at the beach is still the beach.

I am rising from the ashes. And flying over the ocean with the pelicans.

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The Last Holiday

Here is a blog idea I had while I was still living there – it’s still negative.  I was starting to see some patterns.

I noticed how hard it is to give up control to other people. I was on certain committees and not others. Anyone can go to committee meetings at any time and I did go to grounds one time when they were making a decision that would have made a difference to my family. But in general I noticed that, at least in my head, I had ideas on how other committees should do something. That’s one good thing about cohousing – letting go of control.  The flip side is that it can be hard if it effects you in ways you didn’t want.  I guess then it’d go back to the plenary meeting.

We were a new community and trying to be so nice and get along. Which meant some people didn’t know how to say no. I asked one couple if they’d help me on a project that only they could help with. They agreed. They kept saying they’d be there and then on the day of the zoom meeting (this was even before COVID) they just didn’t show.  I never mentioned it and they never did either.  I just made a note to remember that for next time  if I needed a commitment form them.  You get to know all parts of your neighbors as they found out my faults too. Unfortunately for me, my mistakes were unforgivable to them and it seemed hopeless for me to stay.

Another frustrating things were the blockers.  I”m not talking about the big bad blocks at a plenary meeting for a proposal but the gate keepers.  For some projects, we had to go through those who control the website or the blog or whatever.  If they took their sweet time or rejected something, that was that and your work hours went in the trash.  It was disheartening but I think eventually they didn’t like being in charge of so much and they gave up the passwords so people can post themselves.  When I heard a proposal that someone could swipe things off the email list if they found it “reactional” I about burst an artery.  Censorship anyone?  Some of the best, most honest, and best discussions came from some email that others reacted to.

The biggest problem has been lack of transparency and it still goes on. Sure, there are meeting notes to all committees but some take awhile, if ever, to post. I still can’t figure out how the budget is made and how to question it before a big, bad block is necessary.  And the spending has never been shared with everyone so even though we have made a budget a few years now, it is still based on guessing what will be spent. Seems crazy. And some big decisions somehow got made without much input but maybe I missed the special committee on that. Not that I didn’t enjoy the results, but the lack of communication was surprising.

These are some things I noticed in our developing community. As it gets bigger and older, I’m sure things will get better.

It’s Memorial Day so I have good memories of the last holiday there that went well. I don’t think we did anything but there was a birthday party for a member and that was a fun night. The last time all went well for me and my family. June came along and bad stuff happened and then worse stuff. So that party was fun. Of course, the next day, a member told us it was too noisy and then a week later that they were leaving (though not totally connected). They were the first to announce leaving and it sent shock waves. They just realized cohousing wasn’t for them. But cohousing was for me and yet, I ended up moving out before they did.

Life sure twists and turns and gives you lemons. But the other night I was at a party here at my new house and met people who have some of the same goals I do. I saw the synchronicity because I was reading a book about my goal and it said to meet people with the same ones and there they were.  Life gives you lemons, but at that party, I found the lemonade.

Things happen for a reason. That cohousing community wasn’t for me, but something bigger is and this Memorial Day I’m surrounded by beach and fun. I can’t complain about that.

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Uber? Taxi? Lyft? Or Cohousing Neighbor?

One of the arguments I hear for cohousing is the fact that your neighbors can give you a lift.  Yes, that’s true. I drove a few people to their car appointments and vice versa.  One neighbor even brought me to the hospital when my friend tried to kill me. Not really but this is what happened.

It was an essentials oils party. We put it on our skin. We smelled it. We ate it on popcorn. That’s when everything went horribly wrong. I started to cough. I left soon and felt worse and worse.If only I had Benadryl in my purse I wouldn’t have had to go to the hospital but I had never had an allergic reaction before in my life. Shrimp makes me throw up so that’s a different type of reaction.

My neighbor was kind enough to drop me off at the hospital and bring my youngest son out to dinner since he hadn’t eaten.  

Yet I never needed this part of cohsoung. I always had my sister and mother nearby. We drove each other. Then my oldest son grew up and he was available for rides too. One time I went out walking too late and the pitch black streets scared me. He picked me up. I was on a walk because the cohousing community wanted to witch burn me and then I couldn’t call them when I was alone in the dark.  

Now I live in a regular neighborhood. The car repair shop drops me off and picks me up (the one I found takes days each time for some reason anyhow so I suppose they have to).  It’s free.  When my car was towed I had to pay a cab but I had just moved in and didn’t know anyone.

The other day I was walking along the beach when I saw lightning. I can’t walk quickly on sand and I’m terrified of a strike that can travel miles.  I called my new neighbor. They jumped in their car and picked me up, sand on my feet and all.

So, if you need a ride, there are many options. Not just cohousing or intentional communities.

Ric Ocasek met his wife in this video and I met him and saw her in 1985 walking around Spit, Yugoslavia (at the time)
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