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!