Questions for potential members

Questions for a potential member

You can’t really screen or stop people from buying or renting a house in cohousing due to fair housing laws (which are necessary) but if you could ask a few things and get to know someone and how they may or may not do in the community, Diana Leaf Christain  (in her books) found some questions for us.  Intentional communities who share property or have a different set of rules than cohousing, they can screen and have potential members go through steps up to about a year before they become a full fledged member.

Here are some of those questions:

  1. What makes you want to live here?
  2. What experience do you have in group living?
  3. What is your relationship like with your family?
  4. What have you accomplished in your life that you feel proud of?
  5. What are your pet peeves, things around the house that might really annoy you?
  6. What do you think other people might find irritating or hard to live with about you?
  7. Where are you on the neat and clean vs. cluttered scale?
  8. If you are feeling frustrated or upset with someone how do you decide whether or not to bring it up with them
  9. Are you willing to make efforts to resolve interpersonal conflicts?
  10. Can you tell us some about your mental health history?
  11. What do you want us to know about you?
  12. How have you supported yourself financially?
  13. Can you describe some of your long-term relationships?
  14. What was your experience in high school or college?
  15. Do you have a significant love and/or family relationship now? How long have you been together? Do you plan to live together in the community?
  16. Will you be able to meet our labor and financial requirements? how?

Diana says that the past can show us patterns in a person’s life but people do change and you can ask them how they have.  She gives examples of people who seem to have red flags but are honest and work with the community on how to deal with the issues and have become great members.  She also says not to make the screening process so strict that you wouldn’t have made it in if you had to go through it as a founder.

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Does anyone like the Trump kids?

For four years people acted strange around a known narcissist. Now his “friends” are writing tell all books.  I understand these books more now that I feel like I saw people throw what they know is right into the trash just to please a narcissist. Maybe there will be tell-all books and blogs about what happened in the cohousing where I lived.

The latest book about Trump is called I’ll Take Your Questions Now by Stephanie Grisham.  She promises to divulge secrets about the Trump marriage but one I have read so far is that Melanie and Donald would argue over the role of his adult kids in the White House. Donal would say  to Melania, “You don’t like my kids.” 

It made me wonder, does anyone like his kids?  I’m not talking about the youngest who, I hope, continues to lead a life of privacy as he matures into a man.  Not even his second youngest who I think is still in college. I mean the ones we all heard about since his campaign started. The adult children from his first marriage, and their various spouses.  

They were not popular with Democrats but many Republicans weren’t fans either. Steve Bannon even gave them a nickname – at least of Ivana and Jered.  Grisham admits in her book that it was a four year struggle to figure out their place in the White House. Many felt they weren’t elected.

So, I still wonder, “Does anyone like Trump’s kids?”

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problem solved ever in cohousing?

I found this on another blog but I love the image! I felt like i was the only one looking for solutions and everyone else in that cohousing were searching for a hole to stick their head in. They wanted everything to be perfect Stepford Wives community that even mentioning a concern was too scary.

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End of Dog Days of Summer

End of dog days of summer

Summer is not for dogs at the beach. They are not allowed until after Labor Day and then banned again after Memorial Day. Okay, they can appear after 6pm. But, now is the time for dogs again.

It’s usually not a problem but once I was laying down on my blanket minding my own business when the couple’s dog on the blanket near me ran over onto me. It happened quickly but dog paws are sharp and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. And sandy. The way they didn’t even apologize or try to rein their dog in. It reminded me of cohousing and some who don’t care about what the community agreed upon about dogs. At the beach moment,  I thought, “Geez, left that environment” but shrugged it off to tourists being on vacation in every way possible.

One woman at the beach was the opposite. Very considerate how others would feel about her dog. She asked me, as she held her pit-bull close to her, if I’m afraid of dogs.  Usually I’d say no but I felt like saying yes, yes if that big, known as aggressive dog comes running towards me I will be scared. I may even pee in m pants. But, she assured me it’s a nice dog and I figured since she asked anyways.  I got to meet her, the dog, and learn more about pit bulls which every owner willingly tells you how the facts are wrong out there.

One other clue that the fall is really the dog days is that I was sitting out at the beach last week with a friend who was visiting from out of town. I was playing with the sand when I found something brown and hard and quickly threw it far away. It was dark out so I didn’t get a good look but I’m afraid it could have been a hardened dog product that an irresponsible owner let fossilize on the beach.  I try to put it out of my mind and sanitized away any memory.  Just another reminder that beach life is great, but like everything, not perfect.

Posted in bad behavior and bullies of any age, beach life, pets in cohousing | 2 Comments

Dream Homes Dissolve

I was talking to a woman last night and I felt her pain. She had the dream life, the dream house, the dream marriage. In months it all dissolved. Unfortunately, right as the quarantine began so she moved to a new town but has been pretty isolated.

She designed the inside and outside of the house. I saw pictures. Gorgeous!  She lived there about two years but in that last one realized that her marriage was ending.

Houses are like everything in this world – you can’t take it with you.  I was so excited about the community of cohousing and didn’t care a lick about the design of the house.  Now I”m the opposite. I love looking at houses on Zillow and watching design shows. And I really like the idea of being a landlord and home investor.  How things change!  

Divorce does that too. Forces change upon you. My new pal is sad to lose the home but designed the interior of a new home and likes finding out who she is after having an identity wrapped around her husband most of her life.  Loss is not the end. A new beginning.

I still am grieving losing what I thought was my dream house but I was too entangled with the people who let me down.  Now I enjoy renting it out and hope to make a profit selling it some day. I didn’t know I was shark until I was pushed off the plank.

Divorce is the ultimate one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Of course, dream houses are not trash but they go on to bring joy to someone else.  My pal sold her house to a family that love it.  My renters are so happy to live in a brand new house for the first time in their lives and so far, have become super heroes in the community for their ability to fix landscaping tools.  (Grounds is a popular committee there).

I myself live in my new dream house because of a divorce. It makes me sad that it comes from someone else’s pain (or two someone else’s) but I feel a little better knowing it was their home away from home at the beach.  It wasn’t their primary place.  Who knows – it could have been a purchase to try to mend the relationship but the bandaid didn’t work. That’s what I wonder about my neighbors who are divorcing too – they just moved in too.

Relationships are tough. Many break up.  With that, dreams go down the drain and keys get turned over to someone else to build their life in that dream house.

Posted in beach life, moving in and out of cohousing, selling house, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

cohousing/intentional communities may not be a perfect place to raise children

I love reading old Communities magazines.  It comes with a membership of Foundations of Intentional Communities.  It seems like the old adage – the more things change, the more stay the same. Same issues then as now with communities.

In 1975 they did a review of what they had learned about intentional communities so far.  This is one thing they wrote:

“Ideally intentional communities should be marvelous settings for children: the biological mother would not be so exclusively and often overwhelmingly responsible for the child-rearing process, for there would be a number of adults capable for giving love, paying attention, and helping the children learning many diverse ways. What we have seen in communities with children, however, appears to be a tendency for community creating and maintaining to take precedence over child-rearing. Obviously it takes a great deal of time and energy to create a community and to make it somewhat self-sustaining, and the voices of children are often heard last. Unless the community makes a concerted effort to focus on child-rearing, or unless it has already become cohesive and economically secure, there seems to be the possibility that its children will suffer some neglect”

Obviously this wasn’t about cohousing. That hadn’t existed yet and they only ask 10 hours a month or something along those lines for community work hours.  Yet, kids can be included or not in a community depending on their attitudes.  When my eldest was a toddler I looked up communes online. I had always dreamed of joining one and thought it’d be a great place to raise a child cooperatively. When I got in touch with one community they said they don’t really think about the kids. Kids are an after thought.  I was shocked.

There were other posts from people wanting to form a community based on attachment parenting. They directed me to places like that.

Now after living in cohousing I could see how that happens. Many communities want to be multi-generational, but the discussions around it and the feel of the community can vary from place to place. It seems like it’d be ideal for children but there can be some pitfalls.  Super varying parenting styles so much so that your concerns are not shared with the other parents and kids can seriously hurt each other. Low supervision so much so that kids destroy property and invade privacy of all ages of residents (again, depending how the parents or community responds it could be problematic or not).  I have heard that “every intentional community” has sexual abuse and that is unacceptable to me but I see how it could be true.  The secrecy of not wanting to share your concerns with others because you want to respect other adult’s privacy. Accusing some of being “paranoid” if they do worry about an adult’s interaction with kids. And denial that kids under 18 can sexually hurt other kids.  Hard discussions no one wants to have but the more communities that do, the better for their health and the children’s safety.  

I found a great resource for that. They discuss how to have these hard discussions, what to do if you don’t like how an adult is interacting with your child, and what to do if a child acts out sexually. It’s called Stop it Now.  Check it out. They even do trainings for communities and have counselors on call for email or phone questions.

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Wild Child Book Review

Wild child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture is an anthology of memoirs by women who grew up in the 60s and 70s with hippie parents. Some lived in communes, others traveled the country, but they all have a story to tell.  What follows are the quotes that stood out to me after my time living in cohousing as a parent:

Forward by Moon Zappa who says, “at my house there was no supervision, so there was no reason to sneak. At my house there were no rules, so there was nothing to rebel against, I hated it.  It always left me with an awful floating feeling that most, if not all, of those lovelies experienced of too much space of too many choices.”

Another author wrote about the different people coming and going at the commune:  “These people were either incapable of or uninterested in ongoing friendships.  It seemed to me that the more people understood things, the less capable they were of functioning in the world, barely getting by on parental dole or dealing.  ..attachment to these people, however appealing, only meant hurt when they vanished. And invariably, they did.“   p143-4 Diana B Sigman

Trigger warning: child sexual abuse is discussed  in the next quote

 “My function on Earth, said society, said the hippies, said my mother was to be fuckable. Extremely fuckable. Did I want sex? Who cares? Open your legs and let me in or I’ll call you a square, mainstream, conservative. God forbid.  My brother and I saw our mother say yes to everyone so we learned to say yes to everyone, even strangers. I was molested by a talent agent. When my brother was twelve, he was molested by his best friend’s father….no boundaries, no guidance, no protection. Nothing was sacred. And yet, as a kid, everyone envied me and my mother. She let me do anything I wanted… Neither parent provided protection. I think my mom naively believed that all you do need is love, , that love will heal all wounds,  that there is no such thing as inherent evil. She couldn’t imagine such evil, so couldn’t guard against it.” P57-8 by Elizabeth She

There are many stories by different women. These were just the quotes I found interesting. My main question in reading the book is how do communities affect children?  It varies, of course.  I wondered how hard it must be for the children to form a  relationship with an adult who then leaves. Depending how close they were, it could be like divorce. If people do move in and out a lot, it can feel insecure like the author said above.  I wish I could stay most cohousing are pretty stable but the more I look into it, that’s not necessarily true.  Founders leave. Ted Talk people leave.  It’s not the end of the world, since neighbors move a lot in the US anyhow, but kids do feel loss – even if they just take a beloved pet away with them.

This book also reiterated what I saw with my own eyes which was my worst fear of community living– that if some parents are lenient with their children (almost to the point of neglect) the kid culture can go horribly wrong. And, sexual predators are attracted to communities because of the inherent trust and these parents that don’t always keep an eye on what is happening.  Many communities are open to at least talking about it and trying to prevent it. I wish there were more.

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Divorce Divides

Divorce is never fun. Many neighborhoods have seen half or the whole household move away due to divorce. I’m in shock and sad to find out the couple I have come to know very well this year is splitting up.  Okay, it wasn’t the biggest surprise. I happily enjoyed the knocks on my door for technical help on Facebook and did see that she was talking to other men all over the world so it’s not that surprising that they were no longer happy together.  She did have the choice to be with a partner in New Zealand so I guess I”m lucky that she chose someone in the US instead so I can visit some day.  Plus, it’s a state with lots of cohousing communities I could visit!

I’m also sad that the dog will be leaving too.  Worse, not to either one of them. To a rescue. I love the little dog. I wish I could take her in but my son doesn’t think our dog would appreciate that and since his chore is pet duty, I need to honor that. I”ll miss the little dog too!

Most people are happy in communities and don’t leave if it’s healthy. However, breakups do happen.  I also know of a woman who was the social life center at the place I rented before moving here. She’s moving out for the opposite reason. She was single but met a man and now they are building a house together.  She’s only going down the street so she’ll still be the life of the party and part of her party crowd here at the beach.

I would love a community where everyone stays and we all form deeper relationships but even in cohousing, nothing is guaranteed. People do move for one reason or another. I guess it’s like any love story – it’s better to have lost in love than never to have loved at all. We give our heart out and form relationships and they run their course and we all grow from it.

And Your Little Dog Too…… – The Science Dog
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cohousing ted talk and building community anywhere

She talks about cohousing but other ways to build community where you are. She “outgrew” her community. I hope to interview her for the podcast soon.


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cohousing scam

I’ve been scammed. I re-read the book – the book that started the whole cohousing movement in the USA.  Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett wrote Creating Cohousing: building sustainable communities and I have the updated version.  They found cohousing in Denmark and developed many in North America.  

Reading through again I realized that building the houses and common house does not make a true cohousing. The secret sauce and the community building is the point.  There are certain elements and steps that help create that.  Where I bought into, has a long way to go. I hope they get there, but re-reading the book, I see that what I moved into is not what most people experience in cohousing. Or not what we are told will happen.

Here are some quotes from the book:

“Trudeslund shows that while there is noting exotic about these consciously created, high functioning neighborhoods, the support that they can supply at the neighborhood level and at the level cannot be reproduced today in a  haphazard fashion, it has to be forged, crafted really, and then maintained.  They continue to operate on the basic premise, “if it doesn’t works socially, why bother?” So they still have dinner at each other’s houses once a month in small groups. The notion is that, if you have dinner in someone’s house, you will listen to them better. Similarly, the cooking committee matches up people who don’t know each other or who often don’t agree with each other. They have found that once folks have cooked together (or done anything practical together) they give each other the benefit of the doubt when it comes to discussing the merits of a new sandbox for the kids.”

They also have a common house – “residents put in well over 450 people hours in the common house each week.  They have put over half a million dinners on the table since they  moved in” about 30 years before this book was published. (p57–8)

Drejerbanken has a yearly evaluation week.  “The discussion ranges from practical organization to social activities, from the children’s concerns to next year’s projects. This provides the opportunity to go beyond routine business to explore what might make Drejerbankene better, and helps avoid “sweeping issues under the rug”.  The evaluation process begins with two discussion evenings, when the community breaks into four groups of six to seven adults each. The smaller meetings allow people to express themselves more effectively without intimidation. One woman explained, you learn a great deal about yourself in these meetings. When someone asks how you feel about this or that, then you have to ask yourself, “well how do I feel”…   these days such meetings are much more rare – once every third or fourth year. Some argue that the group has grown to a place, where, as any functioning culture or subculture, it is obvious what expectations are, who is strong and who is weak, who has capacity for empathetic communication and who will never have it, and how to compensate for this….One resident told us, “the key is to not let one of your neighbors ruin your day. Once you have figured this out, you learn to appreciate the benefits of community and not worry about the annoyance” p101

The book says that most communities have only two households move out in the first five or ten years.  Wow! So if that’s normal, ask a lot of questions if there are a lot of move outs.  And keep asking. Some may gloss over. Others might not want to see the real reason. My community has had three renters move out (none lasted a year). I moved out before a year and hope my renters stay (so far they like it but they are still figuring it out which is smart – I told  them to put a toe in the water, don’t jump in head first like I did).  Two home owners moved on and sold their houses (one was a pure reason for leaving coho – just not for them – that would have been our one if we were a functioning cohousing and not a nice condo as the book says).  Three more households are getting ready to move on and sell or rent their houses too. So, it’s about a third.  I’m hoping the new people who move in can change the culture and listen to the wisdom of those who have healthy communities.

Lastly, they address the question everyone asks – what if a jerk moves in and they say the exact thing I heard at the first presentation I went to about cohousing – what if you are the jerk!  I’ve been thinking about that  and it doesn’t compute. Now I see the rest of what they say – “Generally speaking, you’re not going to make your neighbors mad on Thursday if you’re going to ask them to babysit for you on Friday” in other words, you learn that it is in your best interest, short-term and long-term, to not be a jerk”.

Aha. The people in my community – first, we were all new. Just started so we wee learning those lessons. I just wish everyone had compassion towards all of us for that – we are all new and mistakes and missteps should be forgiven and given second chances. Second, the ones who do jerky moves tend to not ask for help. They don’t want babysitting, or yard help, or whatnot. I saw one household outright resist some community projects and collaboration. So, yes, jerks can move in.  If the community is strong, it shouldn’t cause too many ripples.  I still have hope especially for those working hard to make their place a real cohousing community.  This book is usually the first step to all cohousing projects, with good reason.

Posted in bad behavior and bullies of any age, control and decision making in cohousing, learning and growing, living in community, marketing in cohousing, moving in and out of cohousing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment