Monday, December 31, 2012

Rock-polisher Resolutions for the New Year

I always make New Year's resolutions, even if some of them I don't get around to until September or even later.

Perhaps this is due to my innate optimism, which keeps bubbling up inside me despite all the concrete evidence that I should be pessimistic about the state of the world and myself.

Someone who lives in cohousing, though is pretty much guaranteed to be an optimist and a person with a rather irrational but firm belief in self-improvement - another aspect of the rock-polisher effect.

So, here goes, my New Year's resolutions for myself and my life at Pacific Gardens.

1.  I will try to be more patient. (Last year, I did manage to achieve this with my relatives; the big test this year is whether I will be able to do this with my Pacific Gardens family.)

2.  I will do more of what makes me happy. ( Singing does this, and this year I am going to join a third choir, one that sings for people in hospices.)

3.  I will try not to interrupt and spend more time listening to what others say instead of thinking about what brilliant comments I can make as soon as that other person stops talking!

4.  I will try to relax more and visit with friends and family more often. (This is an annual resolution that I am getting better at, but not enough.)

5.  I will try to let go of and stop obsessing about what I cannot change. (Argggghhhh!)

6.  I will try to be more accepting of the changes to my body and my physical limitations as I age. (This is definitely difficult for someone who believes in self-improvement - sometimes slowing the decline is the best you can do!)

7.  I will spend more time outdoors and less time hunched over a computer. (Oh no...does that mean I have to give up Facebook?)

8.  I will get to bed earlier.  (So much to read, so little time!)

9.  I will learn how to do something new. (Could this be the year I try my hand at gardening?!)

10.  I will stop doing activities out of a sense of duty and start doing them out of a sense of joy.

These 10 are a good start for someone dedicated to self-improvement. And since it's still fairly early in the evening - at least for me - I may even fulfil resolution #8 tonight.

Not a bad beginning to 2013 for this rock-polisher!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Elderberries party hearty!

Last week Roz held a fabulous party for us older folk - or elderberries as she calls us - at Pacific Gardens.  She said the reason was she wanted to clean out  her fridge, but I know better - she just likes to party!

True, there was a slightly more serious reason.  Some of us are on the cusp of elderberryness, and wanted to glean some wisdom from those in our community who have had more practice.

The food was wonderful.  My favourite was the roasted root vegetables and the delicious rhubarb custard crumble - yum!  Roz also followed the Pacific Gardens recycling mantra when she made some hot mulled wine with leftover vino from another party.

The best part was the conversation.  We went around the table and told tales of our Christmases past, and they were both heart-warming and funny - mostly funny.

Susana told us how she nearly blew up her family's kitchen in an attempt to cook her father's favourite English dessert in a pressure cooker. The star-shaped pattern left by the exploded contents remained on the kitchen ceiling for years.

Michele recalled how the sisters at her convent got rather tipsy munching quantities of bourbon balls, while Clare described one holiday celebration where the main entertainment was making a nativity scene out of day-glo playdough - and then baking it in the oven!

Others remembered their childhood excitement waiting for the arrival of mandarin oranges that came by ship from Japan, or enjoying a Christmas dinner of succulent duck with red cabbage and apricot stuffing.

It was a great evening.  We left slightly older, perhaps a little bit wiser, and definitely much merrier.  Thank you Roz!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gift of Community

Just before we moved here, my husband’s boss back in Alberta told him that his sister-in-law had recently moved to a city South of where we are now and that she was depressed and lonely as she didn’t know anyone there.

We felt confident that our experience would be different as we wouldn’t have to work so hard to develop a social network out here, but would instead, be moving right into one. And I am ecstatic to say that we presumed correctly.

Anytime to you live so closely to other people there are challenges. There are weeks that make you wish you had more space from your neighbours and friends. But, I now see that Community is very much a reflection of me. When I am depressed and feel isolated, I withdraw and isolate myself. And when I am happy and outgoing, people seem to be that way too.

Sure, there are times when I put myself out there and feel little acceptance or encouragement. But there are times when I  organize something and it leaves me feeling a lot happier and the whole community feels friendlier.

My Ping Pong tourney was quite successful. We amassed a fair amount of  participants and reawakened a love for the activity in many of the residents here. I tried to go out and play a bit today and the table was always occupied!

And there are times when I am sick and someone comes by with some soup. Or when someone has a bumper crop of tomatoes and comes to share some with me. Or a friend brought by a bunch of bananas because she had gotten a good deal on them.

I have been working on a little secret project for our Christmas Pot Luck meal. Being pleased with it, I went down the hall to share it with my co-conspirator. She wasn’t home (or didn’t hear me knock) so I went a few doors down for a visit with a  friend instead. We both talked about how wonderful this place is. About how the atrium helps us feel like we are getting “out.” Even without having to put shoes on. And the comfort in knowing your neighbours.

And I appreciate the workout room that keeps that giant home gym out of my living space. And that my husband’s tools are in the wood shop. So, if he wants to build something, he has a nice, cozy, contained place to do it.

There is also the freecycle which has been really great for parents who use it as a means for “swapping” clothes. Just as it snowed here I realized I couldn’t find Anna’s mittens. And later that afternoon? I checked the freecycle and found blue mittens just her size. It saved me having to go and buy her some.

The yard is fantastic here. And people love to garden here in the summer. The kids love the covered atrium when it is rainy, snowy or just plain cold. And the conversation lounge is great for a cozy movie night or a conversation and some wine with a friend.

It’s amazing how much love comes back when you start putting it out there.
Community…I heart you.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Solstice Community Style.

It was fabulous to see the community gather for Solstice. Being so far away from family, it means a lot to me to have people to share this time with.

Some gathered to do some caroling. Some gathered to chat and some gathered to battle for the title of PG Ultimate Table Tennis Champion.

After a little misadventure, our ping-pong table was crippled and lopsided. But Kaj was kind enough to work tirelessly to get this dead beetle back on its feet just in time for the tourney. And since this was the table's first Community tournament, we had to have a ribbon cutting. And who better to cut the ribbon than Kaj?

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Many people showed up to take a stab at the title!  Everyone, even the children, had a chance to play.

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Our local Tennis pro played six or seven matches undefeated and won the whole tourney.


Kara made a labyrinth for us all.

She made it out of branches and candles and it was dimly illuminated. A wonderful way to recognize the Solstice.  It was in the dark which made it hard to take a photo of it.

This shot shows the mood a bit better.

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And this shot shows the labyrinth a bit better.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Letter to Santa

I was all set to write another entry in my blog on Friday when I heard what had happened to the children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I was too shocked and saddened to write anything.  The events in that stricken community reminded me of what had happened at Dunblane Primary 16 years ago when I was living in Scotland.

Then, as now, a gunman had entered the school, killing 16 five-and-six year-olds and their teacher, for reasons not yet known.  Then, as now, we saw footage of grieving families and haggard police on the nightly news.

It was a heart-breaking, painful time in the little town's history, one those who lived through it will never forget. But there was a positive outcome of that tragic event.

Two women in Dunblane started the Snowdrop Campaign - so-called because only snowdrops were growing at the time of that March massacre - to ban handguns.

Within six weeks they had gathered 750,000 signatures on a petition, and within a year-and-a-half, had achieved their aim. Last year the UK, population 60 million,  had eight deaths from handguns; the US, with 300 million people, had 10,000.

This morning I read in the newspaper that today, December 17th, is the last day to get letters to Santa in time for Christmas. All day I have been thinking of what I would write if Santa could grant me my wish.

What I want is a world where children can grow up in a world of peace and joy, like the Christmas carols say, and not be threatened or harmed by those who have hate in their hearts.

I want a world where children can learn and play in their communities safely and securely, knowing that they are loved and protected.

I want for every child what we have here at Pacific Gardens.


Friday, December 7, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O #$%^&* Christmas Tree

As you can tell from the photos Myriam posted last week, we have some very talented Christmas tree decorators at Pacific Gardens, both adults and children.

This is a good thing, especially for people like me. Each year I strive to make my little tree look good, and each year it ends up looking like it was decorated after I drank too much rum eggnog.

Last year I thought I almost had it perfected.  I had two functioning strands of Christmas lights that I spent hours carefully winding around the branches of my somewhat scraggly artificial tree.

Alas, this year, one of them was kaput, and so I had to unwind and untangle it, which I did, using some very un-Christmasy language.  If Santa were listening, there would definitely be no presents for me!

Of course, after removing those lights, all the branches were askew, the ornaments hung lopsidedly, and the remaining lights were on one side. My little tree looked forlorn and unkempt.

And then I went into the dining hall for our weekly potluck.   Two beautiful, tall Christmas trees, with bright angels on top, and strands of lights looped around them in perfect symmetry.

And with at least a hundred ornaments on them, in gold, red, green and silver, more angels, a teddy bear, a heart, ornaments made of felt and paper by the children - what a wonderful sight!

And here's a lesson in community for me.  Maybe I'd be better off next year joining in the Christmas decorating fun at Pacific Gardens than trying to do my own tree.

That way I'll be sure to get presents from Santa!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good friends. Good tea. Good life.

In life there are always going to be those special people that just get you and you get them. Like a magic that makes hours seem like minutes.  Where conversation is honest and honours the other person. People who don't judge but accept. Who give and share without the expectation of receiving in return.

Today I got to spend an evening with one of those people. I was able to share some tea, some Josh Groban and some hand-crafting with a friend in the Community Dinning Hall. All the while enjoying beautiful Christmas carols and snacking on little gingerbread men cookies and grapes.

And as it can be in Community, we had five people stop in for small chats throughout our visit.

These are things I am grateful for. Good friends. Good tea. Good life.


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Monday, December 3, 2012

A little sparkle...

So, It was that time for PG to get a little festive.

I lead the children's activities. We glittered up pine cones and made small snowflakes for the children's tree. Then Gloria made about a hundred cookies and the kids decorated them. They stayed out with the veggies, popcorn, tea and hot chocolate for the showings of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Grinch. And then the kids took the left overs door to door to hand them out to our neighbours.

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This is the adult tree with paper snowflakes.

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And this is the kids' tree:

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 In true PG style the baking, hot chocolate, decorating, cleaning etc. was all a team effort.

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That being said, after all of that chaos, I am feeling a bit burnt out. Maybe it would be nice to split up the decorating and the crafts and make two special and fun days instead of fitting it all into one.

But kicking back and watching a funny movie was just the thing I needed. Thank you!


Friday, November 30, 2012

The rock-polisher effect, part III

I've been taking some practice sessions in Nonviolent Communication with  residents of Pacific Gardens the last few weeks, another example of the rock-polisher effect of cohousing.

The goal of NVC, as it's known, is to make life wonderful for yourself and for others.  Yeah, right, you're saying - if I believe this is possible, I must believe pigs can fly.

And I have to admit, that was my attitude when I first heard people at Pacific Gardens discussing it. Nonviolent communications seemed just too airy-fairy, plus downright impossible to achieve.

After all, everybody wants to win, and hardly anyone ever concedes that their point-of-view isn't the absolutely correct one - or to be more honest, I hardly ever do.

But if so many of my Pacific Gardens friends felt this was valuable, and since the winner-takes all approach didn't always seem to work that well, maybe it was time for me to take a closer look.

I went to an introductory workshop, and was hooked.  I had to dig deep into myself to discover the core values and needs that were the bedrock of my connections with other people.

And this has led to all kinds of discoveries about myself, and the people I relate to in my everyday life. Instead of leaping into the fray, I am learning how to stop and think about what causes me to react.

Who knows? I may eventually acquire some patience if I keep at it. This barnacled old rock keeps getting polished here at Pacific Gardens!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Community and Non-Community in Vancouver

I was in Vancouver (or the Big Mango, as I like to call it) for a Cohousing Fair held Monday night to an over-flow crowd in the Heritage Hall on Main Street.

Cohousing groups, both developed and forming, came from the lower mainland and Vancouver Island to set out their stalls and hear architect and cohousing guru Chuck Durrett give a presentation.

Each group had a table with displays, brochures, pictures, and enthusiastic cohousers eager to talk about their own communities and cohousing in general. The response was fantastic!

The organizers, members of the newest cohousing group in Vancouver, Cedar Cottage Cohousing, had to open the doors early because people were lined up outside in the cold, waiting to get in.

A crowd of 250 or more, including several families with children, listened attentively as Chuck explained the principles of community living and while each group made a short presentation about their own cohousing community.

It was an amazing event to be part of, and it certainly left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling about what we have accomplished here at Pacific Gardens. It lifted up my heart when I heard the emcee say, "What we're trying to do here is change the world!"

And then I left the hall and went out into the world of Vancouver.  What a contrast! People talking on their cell-phones, but not to each other.  People standing grim-faced on the bus.

People glaring at a mother with a cranky baby on the bus, or avoiding the glazed eyes of people begging on the street (and there were lots of those, sadly). People so focused on getting where they wanted to go that they practically knocked you over.

And everywhere, cars, and noise, and somebody selling something in a thousand-and-one stores and on a thousand-and-one signs.  I was so glad to get back to the relative peace-and-quiet of Nanaimo!

And I was especially glad to be back at Pacific Gardens, where our community nurtures and supports us, and a smile or hello is more important than a text on a cell-phone.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Atrium Bustle

Reading Kathryn's post made me think I should repost one of my posts from my personal blog.

There is a reason why my kids look at the exterior of this building and tell me that they are SOOOO glad that they live here. 

It's because they have so many friends. And knowing that this is a safe place to play means that I can let them have those growing opportunities of trying and failing while knowing that they will know (or someone will know) where to find me if something happens.

And the community, especially the yard, plays such a big role in their growth as social beings. But, as the leaves turn yellow, the air gets chilly and the rain starts to flood our playground, our atrium comes alive.

It is no longer just a simple walkway to the outside. No, it becomes transformed into a blank canvas where our kids can use their imaginations to amuse themselves for hours.

There are pillow forts, pillow cars and more:

And train sets:

And pokemon battles:

And playing house and dressing up:

And making giant forts:

And board games and so much more.

And the kids flow from home to home, and spill into the atrium. Gone are the days of keeping my kids cooped up because of the weather.

I don't know if everyone appreciates the kids running through the halls, gleefully screaming while being chased by one child in a Darth Maul mask during a game of tag. But it sure makes me happy to see their bodies being active while they make important friendships.

I am very grateful for this place. And I know my kids are too.


Pacific Gardens is Kidville!

Children at Pacific Gardens are especially blessed.

It's not just because we have a great outdoors play area where they can run, jump, dig, climb trees, play on the teeter-totter, ride their bicycles and tricycles and wagons and swing on the swings.

It's because they never have to go on a play-date. It's total kidville - they just tumble out the door, and there's always someone ready to do magic tricks, or learn break-dancing, play table-tennis, have a tea-party, or pretend to be a Ninja Turtle (who would have thought they're still in style?).

I always know when school's out, because there's a crowd of weans (as the Scots would say) roaring through the atrium playing games or running in and out of each other's homes as they plot their next adventures.

Now some people my age would really object to that, but I don't.  To me, it's the sound of happiness, the sound of children playing as they should play, free to explore, to come up with their own ideas for games, and to have the extended physical activity they require to grow up strong and healthy.

When I see the way the children here are free to roam, safe in a community where we all look out for each other, it reminds me of my childhood more than a half-century ago, when I would leave the house at nine in the morning and come back for supper - and nobody worried.

The children at Pacific Gardens are experiencing the best of both worlds - the freedom of unstructured play, within the protection of a cohousing neighbourhood where they know they are welcomed and loved.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Sunshine in grey skies

Due to a determined virus, I have been out of order this week.

On Thursday (the pinnacle of this sickness), I  finally took a day off of work to sleep and rest and try to keep my head from exploding. I posted on a Facebook that afternoon that I was looking for a cure for death. I figured it might start with some ginger, lemon, honey and garlic. :)

It was a bit dramatic, I know. But even hopped up on painkillers (the only way my skull didn't hurt so much that I couldn't rest my head), I was still suffering. A lot.

Well today, after reading my status update from yesterday, one of my wonderful neighbours came over with chicken soup, a supplement for headaches, herbal cough drops, and syrups to help with my congestion.

It was such a touching gesture.

And earlier today, another neighbour quietly collected the leftovers from yesterday's pot luck and made a giant pot of pork and bean soup. Then she sent an email informing everyone that there was free soup in the kitchen.

I was having a horrendous day at work. My head was still in considerable pain and I was dealing with the aftermath of the launch of the new payroll system which affects thousands of users in my support region. The calls and emails were flowing and my brain was achy, my eye sight fuzzy and my troubleshooting capacity severely diminished.

The receipt of this email was such welcomed news. Especially after tasting it. It was delicious and really turned my day around. All you really want when you feel crumby is something warm that you didn't make for yourself!

Thanks so much Susana and Sharon.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Wild and crazy memos at PGCC

We get lots of e-mail at Pacific Gardens - lots and lots of e-mail. Some of it is informative, some of it is interesting, and occasionally, some of it is boring. 

But definitely not this one we got from Roz the other day on how to keep our strata office tidy!


Officel Etiquetta

Dear YO

This Community Information Area [CIA] is for all. Use when you need and 

leave soonish not noonish.............

Accounting Legal Committee has the job of keeping your space organized, 

furnished and clean. Check with Roz and Kathryn first before changing 

here, thanks eversomuch....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Pleeheeheessssa

-felt pens need their calendars or they are good for nothing, & that’s write!

-recycling and rubbish bins want your garbage...they get hungry too.

-books love their shelves, and want to sit upright on them to be show offs.

- give the phone back to its mama to avoid a screaming scene.

- Prop the door open so the office can breathe aaaaaaaaahhhhhh

- Turn off the lights before we breathe down your neck!!!

- No Lolligagging on computer so streams of others can have their fix 

too... use quick like a bunny if you see others hovering and 

share.....AND.... LOG OFF so we can all LOG ON...!!!!!!!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day at Pacific Gardens

We often hear the phrase, "lest we forget" on Remembrance Day.  Here at Pacific Gardens, we do not forget, and we remember and honour those who have served.

It is a day filled with many memories, some sad, even frightening, some happy, even joyous, for our older residents who lived through the war.

For David, one of our elders who was a child during the bombing of Britain, it brings back the sounds of screams as the bombs fell near his home in Plymouth. They haunt him still.

For Eileen, her memories are both sad and happy.  She recalls the suffering of the service men she nursed, but also the wonderful night when she met the man of her dreams, an airman from Canada.

They fell in love, and she came to Canada as a war bride, her life forever changed.  Every year she puts on her RAF uniform and attends the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Nanaimo cenotaph.

She also helps Mia put together a special display commemorating Canada's military in the front hall outside our dining room, with poppies, historical books, photos, memorabilia, posters, and the poem, "In Flanders Fields".

For those of us who are younger, it helps us to understand the true nature of war, and the sacrifices made by so many.  We are blessed indeed to have lived in times of peace.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Living in Community is...

…having someone stop by unexpectedly with tinctures and steeped remedies when your little one has a belly ache.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Beautiful harmony

We had a bon fire tonight. It was such a lovely evening.

We chatted and shared hot dogs, homemade cookies, conversation and laughter.
The kids played in the pitch dark with laughter and joy.

A new member sang beautiful songs in his native tongue (Chinese I believe). It was a beautiful, soothing voice that made we wish I had brought my drum.

Then, an eight year old member taught us all a new song. And we repeated the verses and sang together. It was such a fitting song. One fit to become a PG bon fire favorite.

I was even able to find the lyrics online:

Fire, sacred fire
Burning through the night

Come to me in the dreamtime
Bring me visions of light.

Circle round, spiral down
To this heart open wide

Healing light, burning bright
Dry these tears I cry.

- Myriam

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Slow is the new smart

Greg and I were reading, when he looked up from his copy of Senior Living magazine and said, "Have you heard of Sedgefield?"

"No," I replied.

"Oh" he said, "it's in South Africa, so I thought you might know it."

What tweaked my interest as Greg read on was that Sedgefield had declared itself a Slow Town, the first town in Africa to do so.

I'd heard of Slow Food, but I'd never heard of Slow Towns.

In the Senior Living article, Life in the Slow Lane, Mandy Trickett said:

Locals say that the tortoise sets the pace in Sedgefield and they mean this quite literally -- those "tortoise crossing" road signs are strictly obeyed.
Tortoise crossings, huh?  That really intrigued me.  I wanted to find out more, so I did a Google search for Slow Town.  

It turns out that the Cittaslow [Slow Town] movement began in Italy, and was inspired by the Slow Food concept.

According to Wikipedia,

Cittaslow's goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace, especially in a city's use of spaces and the flow of life and traffic through them.

Sedgefield resident,Sylvia Ferguson, has a lovely website about her town, including a page devoted to its Cittaslow status. It's worth a read.

As soon as I read this stuff about Slow Towns, I was struck by the similarity with the cohousing movement.

It seems to me that cohousing also could be called Slow Housing -- and I mean that as a compliment.

It fits perfectly with the larger Slow Movement.

As I've continued to Google, I've discovered that there are other Slow Initiatives, such as Slow Gardening, Slow Money, Slow Parenting, and so on.

Many residents of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community are gardening, parenting, spending money, traveling, and doing other activities the Slow Way -- whether or not they realize that they're representatives of the Slow Movement.

According to Wikipedia, the Slow Philosophy is summarized as follows:

The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today.

It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. [emphasis mine]

In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

Yes, many aspects of the cohousing lifestyle -- like the consensus decision making process -- are slow. And, yes, the slowness often does call on us to be patient. But the return on investment is immeasurable.

There are so many rewards, I don't really know where to begin. I think for me one of the greatest delights is watching all the Slow Children who live at Pacific Gardens.

A bunch of us Pacific Gardeners being treated to Tyler's and Soma's music while we visited around a fire after our Thanksgiving potluck.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Diversity Strengthens Community

This community has so much diversity.

In our midst are passionate activists and people and there are also those who don't get involved in controversies. There are philosophers and people who are go-getters. We have people who fix things and people who fix people. We have seniors and babies. There are people who nurture and people who say what needs saying. 

We have atheists, spiritualists, Christians and everything in between. One of our residents is the first female to be ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest!

We all have different backgrounds, gifts, skills and ideas and we are all a tremendous gift to each other.

For example:

I dropped off a little dress I had made for my daughter back when she was a baby for our community baby this afternoon. And as I got to talking to her mommy, I found out that she was taking a latin fitness class and that she didn't understand the steps very well. She asked if I knew the Meringue. I said that I didn't but that I knew Salsa and that the Cha Cha was very similar to Salsa. And since she was doing a blend of Meringue, Cha Cha and something else, she asked me to teach her the basic steps.

Another of my neighbours used to make homemade, natural soap at a commercial level. And I have always wanted to learn how to do it. So we are going to make soap this weekend! One day, I will teach him how to make fondant.

A neighbour, while she was making a lovely parkin for our Halloween party (a way of sharing a treasured part of her childhood with us) had one of her kitchen cabinet doors fall off again. She sent an email asking for help. My husband, who has a background in custom cabinetry, was able to put it back up for her. 

And my husband, whose bike pedal keeps falling, was offered help from another of our residents who works at the co-op bike shop.

Our community is full of these examples.

We are stronger together and stronger because we are all different!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We're a Bolshie Bunch!

When I lived in Scotland, someone once told me that I was rather "Bolshie".  Bolshie is short for Bolshevik, and it means anyone who is opinionated, contrarian, and inclined to protest - and loudly.

It wasn't meant as a compliment, but I decided to take it as one. One of the  great things I've found about living at Pacific Gardens is that there are a lot of other Bolshies here, too.

Hold a demonstration, and we'll turn out in droves (or in a baker's dozen, as we did at the Defend Our Coast event last week).  Wave a petition in front of us, and you'll soon have plenty of signatures.

Have a cause, and we'll gladly let you have your organizing meetings in our dining hall, and we'll join you around the table and bring some good rabble-rousing ideas.

So it wasn't too surprising when the Council of Canadians held its annual conference in Nanaimo the weekend of October 26-28 that we billetted four of the delegates and attended conference events.

How could we resist something with the title, "Making Waves - Sinking the Harper Agenda", whose stated goal was to fight  against Harper’s austerity agenda and mining and pipeline projects that threaten our environment in B.C.?

We joined the 900 other people who came to hear speakers Chief Douglas White, Maude Barlow, Linda McQuaig, and Bill McKibben at the public forum which opened the conference.

Several of us attended the conference workshops on Saturday, and of course, we marched with the 400 others through Nanaimo's downtown streets to protest against tankers on our coast and pipelines in our pristine wilderness.

So, if you want to rock the boat, Pacific Gardens is the place to be - Bolshies forever!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fall at PG!

Ok. So, island living is pretty awesome.

My favorite season has always been fall. Except that in Alberta it's cold, ends mid October and is covered in snow.

Here on the island, it lasts considerably longer and is much warmer. My family and friends back home are shoveling their snowy driveways while we are still enjoying lovely, albeit wet, fall walks.

And the Chase River, the salmon spawning river that cuts through the end of PG, is gushing. You can hear it from the back yard. We didn't hear its trickle at all earlier this year. But now? Wow!

Here is PG, taken today on my lunch break:


Hallowe'en Decorating

We have an unofficial decorating committee here at PG.

Mia and Roz head it up. Unofficially of course. ;)

And because I have been mostly responsible for the Halloween Party, I had decided that it was my job to help out too. Who am I couldn't tear me away. I am electing myself an unofficial member of the unofficial decorating committee.

We toiled for over two hours yesterday evening and with the help of the kids and other passersby, we made PG into a Spooktacular place to live.

This is the kitchen:

We reused the monsters from J's birthday.

And this is the Dining Hall (where the party will be):

And this is the atrium:

And the kids wanted their room decorated too!  They insisted on having the vampire peering into their room.

Then they would shut the door and all scream bloody murder. It was adorable!

And I have saved the first for last. Here is our entrance:

It was great to reuse pumpkin crafts from the kids. These were from last year.


Friday, October 26, 2012

We Defend Our Coast at Pacific Gardens

By now you will have read the news reports about the Defend Our Coast demonstration on the lawn of the BC legislature Monday. Perhaps you even saw Chad being interviewed - not once, but twice - by CTV about why he was willing to commit civil disobedience.

A baker's dozen of Pacific Gardens residents went down to Victoria on that cold, wet and windy day - but as usual, in our own anarchistic fashion.  Gloria went with her friends; I went with Tara and Jason; Jonathan and John went with Bill; Chad and Susana went the day before to attend the civil disobedience training; Kara and Matt went with their friends; Sharon drove down a day early to visit with a friend; and David was there, too, but I don't know who he went with!

We joined the 3,500 people gathered in front of the empty legislature who showed their political leaders the depth of our commitment to keeping Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines and tankers from our pristine coast,  through several hours of speeches, prayers, dances and songs.

I have to say I had mixed feelings about the event.  As someone who has a tendency to over-analyze and is uncomfortable with group-think, I have never been a fan of demonstrations, even for the best of causes, and this one was no exception.

Why was it that all the speakers shouted, and often used threatening language? (You can see the influence of my Pacific Gardens non-violent communication training here). Why did I see raised fists?  Why did everyone shout "shame" when speakers recited the litany of wrong actions by governments or corporations?

Those responses seemed more reminiscent of those evangelical church services held in a tent rather than a thoughtful expression of protest. I've never liked being told what to say or think, even when I agree with what I'm being told!

I did find it so typically Canadian that the act of civil disobedience was pounding a stake into a lawn - omigawd, they're desecrating the grass! - and that the police were determined to nice everyone to death.

And I loved the creativity of the signs, banners and art work, especially the giant puppet of Mother Earth, who gave those same police a big hug, much to the delight of onlookers, and the fact that for once, First Nations people were front and centre, not an add-on to the event.

Did this achieve anything, other than a feel-good experience for those who have already made up their minds?  I don't know.  I hope against hope that it is the beginning of a new movement that will see thousands and thousands protesting, not just in B.C., but all across Canada.

Whatever does happen, though, I know that the dedicated people at Pacific Gardens will be there at the forefront, and this demonstration skeptic will join them.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chili for CHLY

As many of you already know, I have been volunteering at CHLY 101.7 FM Radio Malaspina, Nanaimo's Campus/Community Radio Station and, every Spring and Fall Fundrive, I solicit up food donations and prepare and serve Vegan, Blazing Squash Chili outside the Radio Station on the last day of Fundrive.

Most of the donations to produce the chili have been often mostly collected from PGCC'ers, we use the Pacific Gardens dishes so as to not use disposable dishes, and PGCC'ers have helped with the prep, the cooking, the transporting and the serving of the chili and I have always attributed most of the credit to Pacific Gardens and the Green Store (owned by Chad at PGCC) for these events because I think it's a great way to promote our community!

You may wonder why I volunteer every spare moment to our local community radio station.  

My life and I have long been dedicated to helping make the world a better, healthier place to live. I grew up on the water and extremely close to nature and it provided me with a truly deep and meaningful experience and connection to nature, our environment and its mind-blowing ecosystems.  

My post-secondary career was literally embarked upon for the pure and simple purpose of trying to figure out what was wrong with our world systems that things should be so messed up, and then identifying methods and strategies for improving the state of affairs for people, the environment, and hence, people alike!

What I found from my investigations was that the kind of change that I wanted to see on the planet was implemented only by localized, grass-roots community movements.

I also found that corporately-owned media (which makes up for almost all media outlets in Canada, I can't remember what percent!) and advertising are used for indoctrinating the masses (us sheep) to a peer-pressured-consumer-culture. These corporately-owned media only report to us in a way that benefits their major shareholders providing us with what I like to basically refer to as Kraft News.

Media corporations pay extremely brilliant people lots and lots of money just to develop marketing and advertising strategies that manipulate even our own body's bio-psychological processes, convincing us away from trusting our own, natural, healthy processes and our rejuvenating relationship with the earth and into ignoring, and even distrusting our own innate sense that we are all a part of something fantastic and powerful and we don't need the right sunglasses and cell phone to be included in the party!  

In the final year of my post-secondary education I realized that I wasn't being funneled into a career that was going to make me happy nor fulfill my political objectives - that I wasn't going to actually be allowed to change anything that would lessen the powers of the powers that be - I was headed for a cubicle and a computer screen somewhere and later some anti-depressants and then maybe a classy sportscar later on if I was well behaved and didn't rock the boat!

I handed in my final scholastic paper explaining why I was convinced that it was of more justice for me to be growing food and connecting with my own community and environment than producing rhetoric for my professors and that that was what I was going home to do. I stood in the garden and proclaimed: "This is a one-woman revolution!"  

But, thank-god, it's not, there's everybody else.  All of us. We are all here, in it together and I'm so glad to be with you and not alone!  And I'm grateful to have found such an outlet as CHLY provides for real community messaging and such a service to still be available to the general public - this is of utmost importance in our current political environment!

CHLY gives me hope that we have not lost the battle for peace and love just yet, that we still retain some political clout and the ability to deliver an anti-corporate agenda!

This is too long but I just love CHLY sooo much!


They Aim To Inspire

This is Mia, one of our inspiring recyclers!

"We aim to inspire!"  That's the motto of Mia and Gloria, the two women who look after our recycling at Pacific Gardens, and boy, do they ever.

You may not have known it, but this week past, October 15th to 21st, was Waste Reduction Week in Canada. Now that's not something that would turn most people's cranks. It certainly didn't excite me, and I'm an avid recycler.

Just the title alone conjured up images of a self-righteous green-weenie lecturing me on the excessive use of styrofoam, or 497 ways to use egg cartons in your interior decorating scheme.

But the dynamic duo of Mia and Gloria turned it into a fabulous, fun event, with bright-coloured posters, a movie night with popcorn, and artistic displays showing us what not to put in the recycle bin.

I wasn't able to attend the movie night - which featured a quadruple bill, with a special feature for the kids - but what I heard from those who did go was that it was a wonderful, community-bulding event.

And that's what really heartens me about the contribution that these two dedicated women make to our community.  It's not just that they spend hours and hours on doing this.

It's that they also do it by incorporating our values - making it inclusive, educating without being judgmental, and celebrating our community.

To Gloria and Mia: I raise my empty juice box (well-washed before being tossed  in the recycle bin) in a toast in grateful recognition for all that you do to help us reduce, reuse and recycle at Pacific Gardens!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Patience, process, and paint

I've written before about how living in cohousing encourages you to develop more patience - in my case, just a tiny little bit. We've just been through a process that would test the proverbial patience of Job, so you can just imagine what it's been like for me.

Almost a year ago, we decided we needed to do something to spiff up our rather gloomy and somewhat battered entrance. Numerous moves had left the walls chipped and covered in scrapes and black marks, and the dreary - although fashionable - grey paint was streaked and scuffed.

This did not reflect the cheery ambiance of the Pacific Gardens community, we thought, so plans for brightening up the entrance were discussed at two community meetings, as well as at various sub-committee meetings of residents eager to make it happen.

We had votes on at least three - or was it four? - kinds of wainscotting for the hallways, a vote on three different locations for the community bulletin board, and a vote on three different paint schemes, typified as bold, medium, and demure. (For some strange reason, I chose demure.)

It looked like something was actually going to happen. But, after 11 months, the entrance was still its usual, scruffy self.  Some residents were placing bets as to whether the work would be done in 2013 or 2014.

Finally, one night, a cohouser, frustrated after a difficult day at work, came home and decided it would be good personal therapy to paint one wall downstairs a brilliant lime green. It only took half an hour (which was the point). 

The reaction was immediate. E-mails flew back and forth faster than Harry Potter's messenger owls at Hogwarts - not all of them positive. But that bold action seemed to have an effect.  

Soon the gouges in the walls were patched and sanded. Bits of masking tape were placed in strategic locations. Strange notations such as "Star Thistle", "Chinking", and "Acid Rain" (that doesn't sound good!) appeared. 

Now rumour has it the walls will all be painted before next weekend, just in time for when our out-of-town guests arrive for the annual conference of the Council of Canadians in Nanaimo.

So we'll be watching that space - and posting pictures, too, of our splendiferous entrance!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thanksgiving turkey, soup, and cupboard doors

Living in cohousing creates an amazing amount of synergy. You may wonder what that word means. My Canadian Oxford dictionary gives a rather stodgy definition of synergy as "the increased effectiveness, achievement, etc. produced by combined action, co-ooperation, etc."

Well, at Pacific Gardens, it's much more interesting, often heart-warming, and occasionally funny.  The most recent example involves the cooking of our Thanksgiving turkey, the making of some delicious soup from its carcass, and the fixing of three broken cupboard doors.

We are most fortunate to have a splendid chef living in our midst, Mykl Love, so naturally, he took on the task of cooking our Thanksgiving turkey last week, using herbs from our garden as seasoning for the yummy dressing.  Needless to say, it was a gourmet feast!

There was a big carcass from the remains of the 22-pound bird, so Mykl put out a call for someone to make soup from it, and Doris Jensen responded, bringing a huge pot of succulent turkey broth full of veggies for us to enjoy at our regular Thursday night potluck.

Now, although Pacific Gardens has the latest in environmentally-friendly design features, the hinges on our kitchen cupboards are not among them. They have the annoying habit of falling apart with only the slightest of use. The day after the potluck Mykl e-mailed us all with a plea to help fix some of his.

"I'm having a heck of a time in our unit with the cupboard doors becoming unhinged from their brackets," he wrote.  "Has anybody else had this problem?  It has happened on three cupboard doors already and I'm concerned because I can't figure out at all how they go back on.  The screwy system makes no sense to me.  Is there anybody who can offer their expertise in this?"

Eileen, our feisty 86-year-old, immediately e-mailed him back and said: "Only three fell off??? --------Welcome to Pacific Gardens!!!! You have now been  initiated into the clan!!!! Just have a chat with John and that will soothe your nerves and frustrations. And it might even fix your doors????" (John is on our Building and Maintenance Committee.)

Of course, I immediately thought of Kaj Jensen, who had figured out an efficient and inexpensive solution to the cupboard door problem, and e-mailed Mykl to consult him. In no time all of those pesky cupboard door hinges were fixed. 

Kaj is the husband of Doris, who made the soup from the carcass of the turkey that Mykl cooked. That's definitely synergy in action, Pacific Gardens style!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

What do I want for Christmas?

I have always known that I shop to fill an emotional need.

Back in Alberta, I lived on an acreage in the middle of nowhere and I felt isolated. I had a few friends in town but they were always too busy to have coffee of whatever. So, when I felt stressed or bored or lonely and I needed something to distract me, I would often turn to shopping.

In the summers in Alberta, we went rafting or swimming in the Pembina River. Or we played croquet or badminton in the yard. But the  walks/hiking weren't great and there wasn't a whole lot else to do. Then, as soon as fall arrives it's often too cold to do anything (it's already snowing there!) and when toting three small kids, a lot of activities were just too frustrating to bother with. For example: If we go sledding, the kids slide down. Then they refuse to walk more than a meter up the hill. Then I have to haul them all up the hill. Needless to say, most sledding trips last about ten minutes and it takes my back a week to recover.

So, our go to fix was to head to the nearest shopping center and waste a day visiting stores and shops, picking up a new movie or board game or a new shirt or a new pair of jeans or even a Wii or Kinect video game.

But here, in cohousing, we have so many other distractions that we are too busy to shop. I get to chat with neighbours and my home is constantly buzzing with my kids and their friends running in and out. There are weekly yoga classes and weekly potlucks. There are Solstice celebrations, Thanksgiving diners, talent shows and unexpected  gifts and visits.

And when we have a day off, we are too tired to shop. And, while the weather has been so fabulous, we have been exploring. We are constantly looking for a new spot to find star fish and crabs and looking at Canada's biggest trees.

Once the rain comes in, we might revert back to the old ways a bit. We'll be depressed by rain and grey skies and need more outlets. We'll need to make sure those Tuesday night Game Nights get reinstated. :)

But, the point is that I feel my emotional needs are more fulfilled here. I am accumulating friends and love and that has reduced my desire to accumulate things.

The answer is to the questions, "What do I want for Christmas?" is:
I don't want anything.

Now,  the really question is, how do I get my husband, who loves to give gifts, to accept that? ;)


Tuesday, October 9, 2012


We are very thankful for this community. And apparently a lot of people are too.
The community was beautified by wonderful fall decorations provided/gathered/assembled by some of the members of the community.

I had taken a picture of the wonderful potluck feast but it was before the turkey was out and what’s a Thanksgiving feast without a turkey.
So many people came to our dinner. It was wonderful, and delicious, and warm.
I made one of my cakes for dinner.
There were so many yummy pies and desserts too. So I actually ended up with leftovers which is sort of unusual.

And once again we wrapped up the evening with a fabulous camp fire. I love the conversation around the campfire and I love going to bed with my face feeling hot from the fire and my hair and clothing smelling like smoke.

There is a lot to be thankful for here!