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No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15″ was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

Unmeasurable antidotes

I have a complaint about science as the current principal truth model.  For science to function you have to have repeatable experiments and you have to be able to measure things.  For many things which i think are important (revolutions and romances jump to mind) both repeatability and measurability are impossible.  There are no good metrics and they are often chronologically unique.  This does not make science in itself bad, but it certainly causes distortions, where we focus on less important things because we can “get more truth” over there.

Lack of love we can measure

Lack of love we can measure

Similarly, the mainstream promoted values of self reliance and independence have negative side effects.  The commercial interpretation of self reliance and independence is that you need to uniquely own everything you need to survive and thrive.  This leads to tremendous idle capacity.  Which leads to the accelerated degradation of the planet.

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Some years back the globalization fans were fond of calling it a TINA proposition. There is No Alternative.  This is a catchy name for a profound failure of imagination. Globalization is the current flavor of industrial capitalism which feeds our insatiable need for stuff.  When i talk with mainstream audiences, the idea of affluent people consuming less to save the planet for future generations it goes over pretty poorly. Even the most radical of audiences think that voluntary austerity is an anti-gravity proposition.  But then i pull out my trick question.

“What if i told you that you could work less and have access to more wealth and resources (and save the world as a secondary side benefit)?  This often gets people’s attention.  Especially busy people, who are already pressed for time, think this might be a lovely solution and they want to know more.

Where can i find more time?

Where can i find more time?

 

The principal thing which stops people from living this more luxurious lifestyle is trust.  Because we are generally unwilling to trust other people with your stuff, everyone has to have their own everything.  And almost all of it sits idle almost all the time.  If alternatively we can trust each other, then we can share.  This is not a trivial proposition.  There is logistical leg work, like avoiding brittle sharing agreements, including scheduling and routine or catastrophic repairs.

And this is where community comes in.  More important than any of the products of our cottage industries make, communities are trust building engines.  We are not perfect, certainly and some are much better than others.  But at their core communities share things, both socio-cultural and material.  These cultures help us share and build trust.

We don’t have units to measure trust.  There is little critique of “self reliance” and it’s associated idle resources.  But there is an alternative.  If you are interested in this low hanging fruit of a better world, i would encourage you to strongly consider coming to this years communities conference. August 29th thru Sept 1, 2014 at Twin Oaks in Virginia.

Internet Exceptionalism

When I started doing recruiting work for Twin Oaks Community (in 1998), there was a relatively recent survey of visitors to the community.  One of the questions which was of interest to me was “How did you first hear about Twin Oaks?”  The number one answer was “word of mouth/from a friend”  This has changed over the last decade.  Now the most popular answer by far is “the internet”

The most common exception to green attitudes

The most common exception to green attitudes

I don’t think this is because people are talking about Twin Oaks less, rather I think it is because people have changed the way they seek information in the world.  When I was young (before the internet existed) I used to be on a first name basis with the reference librarians in my town.  These super helpful folks would provide the free service of figuring out the answer to almost any reasonably formulated question.  They still do this, but google does it faster.

How do you spell ubiquitous?

How do you spell ubiquitous?

More importantly, when you are designing community, if you want people who are under 30 years of age, you can be very rustic and sustainable in almost all the services you provide, but unless you want to eliminate 99.9% of the group, you need to have internet access.

On the off chance you have not heard, globally the internet is a resource pig.  With over 500K data centers worldwide, each consuming about 10 megawatts of power at a US cost of $300K per month each.  This piece alone works out to 2% of global electricity consumption.  A more comprehensive estimate is fully 10% of global electricity use, with end user devices being the biggest piece.  There are 1.6 billion PCs and notebooks connected to the internet today plus over 6 billion mobile devices, almost one per person – though they are certainly not distributed this way.  In other words, the internet consumes more electricity than all of the over 2 billion people in Africa and India together or about 2/3rs of what the US uses each year.  One single service.

Unlike nuclear exceptionalism, i can make the case for internet exceptionalism.  The classical case is that the internet moves electrons of information in place of moving the physical atoms books or pictures.  jpegs are far cheaper than photographs, PDF’s lower impact than pages of a book.    But then there is the technological optimist case, which has a bunch of pieces.

Greenpeace shamed Apple into cleaning up their act - Amazon, not yet

Greenpeace shamed Apple and Facebook into cleaning up their act – Amazon, not yet

One piece is the internet can help people find each other and if we believe that human nature is more positive than negative, this increases the chances of successful positive initiatives.    Another aspect is rapid correction of public information.  Even in researching this article i learned a bunch of things, including that there are folks intentionally exaggerating the amount of electricity used by the internet, these claims get debunked and corrected faster.  A critical piece is the ability to share resources more effectively, from couchsurfing and craigslist ride shares all the way up to new markets which could not exist before.  My personal hope is that second generation social networks displace Facebook and other first generation social networks in offering real distributed libraries and peer to peer bartered services.

Finally, there is the emerging group mind aspect.  Where we use the internet to collectively solve problems (including ones created by the internet and advanced technology).  Some of this is happening, but sadly this is not the focus of internet activity.

[It should be pointed out that there has been a misinformation campaign about how much electricity the internet uses.  Time Magazine feel for this scam including the wacko math which had iPhones consuming more power than refrigerators, by attributing all the power needed to run the infrastructure and data to the phone.  Our friends at the Breakthrough Institute, who are a front group for the nuclear industry, and produced the lie fest called Pandora's Promise, created this lopsided gem that Time Magazine used.  So the 10% number i site above comes from Stanford's Jonathan Koomey, who is pushing a 100% renewables agenda and is attacking the misinformation campaign.  So i am assuming his numbers about internet energy consumption are good ones.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumpster Dialog

“What are you doing?” She asked in her hot pink jogging outfit, removing her headphones.

She did not look much like this, but you get the idea.

She did not look much like this, but you get the idea.

What we were doing was obvious. We were climbing into the dumpster outside her graduate student housing at UVa and removing things of value. Several unopened containers of Naked Juice are at my feet and a blood red vacuum cleaner.

“We are retrieving things from the dumpster.” I said in a friendly tone.

UVa uses huge dumpsters

UVa uses huge dumpsters

“Why?” She asked. I thought this was clear as well, but given that she was willing to engage us, I thought she deserved a more complete answer.

“It is a resource redistribution system. People who have less [I motion towards Ocelot, a new Acorn intern, who is brushing off a salvaged consumer electronics device] rescue things from the dumpster which have been thrown out by people who are better off.”

“We have seen a lot of people doing it today.” She has stopped about 20 feet away from us.

Dress appropriately for dumpster diving

Dress appropriately for dumpster diving

I consider saying something about how this income disparity thing is a real problem. But I can’t figure out how to say it without making it sound like I am insulting or blaming her. I can see the other crew has finished with their dumpster and is heading towards the van.

“Lots of people moving out. So many nice things are being left behind. We have to go now, have a great day.” i offer as i jog with Ocelot down the hill to our comrades.

UVa forces students out of university housing nearly immediately after their final exams. Most students do not budget their time well towards the end of the semester and careful packing is often the casualty. We grab the vacuum cleaner and other treasure and head down the hill.

Despite our friendly chat, I assume she called campus security after we left. I did not want to chat with them as well, so we beat a hasty retreat.

Chuck it for charity

Chuck it for Charity – Poster

UVa should be credited with reducing the amount of perfectly good things which are thrown out. They started the “Chuck It for Charity” program which makes it much easier for students to put things of value into the hands of Goodwill and the Salvation Army, instead of into the land fill.

And as this and many other dumpsters attest. There is still a place for people who are willing to get dirty to extend the life of these many material goods which were destined for too early a grave.

Perhaps more than one person should try to do

Paxus’s Plans

Spring 2014

I am an Oaker again.  I thought it would be a good time to check in and tell the community what I am doing and planning and hoping for.

Short version:

My work scene at Twin Oaks is largely unchanged.  I do some homeschooling and an occasional Unicorns shift.  I drive the tofu truck and do L Bus.  I continue in a reduced way to Hx marketing.  I do recruiting work mostly with visitors and paid college speaking gigs thru TOAST.  Outside Work is mostly self managing, but I put occasional time into it.  I work on the Communities Conference and do a bit of movement support, mostly around the local nuclear power plant.

At Acorn I do some room assigning work, shadow manage the picking room and paid outside workers (including Oakers) we have during the busy season (which is ending around now).  I also do recruiting work for Acorn and the FEC.  I blog pretty regularly and am working on the seed businesses on going fight against Monsanto.  I facilitate community meeting and do mediations.

With GPaul principally and some other communards (mostly at Acorn so far) I am working on the Point A project which is attempting to start new income sharing communities in DC and NYC at least.  For the last few months I have been spending about a week a month in east Coast cities promoting this project and organizing events.

I am also applying to be a planner at Twin Oaks again.  I will put out a separate paper about this shortly.  [The existing planners decided not to advance my candidacy for planner after 7 members said they had concerns about me as a planner again.]

For many people this will be plenty of information about me and you can be done with this mailbox letter.  And for others, there is greater curiosity and interest in the details.  For the curious, read on.

 

Detailed version:

Things I am doing at Twin Oaks:

Heroes and Superheroes: These are two homeschooling fantasy role playing games.  Heroes in on Wednesdays and is Kaya, Willow, Evan and Rowan (with Jonah and Gwen dropping in if they are on the farm).  Superheroes is on Mondays and is Sami, Izzie and Zadek.  The format of the game is the players are on adventures where they are regularly rolling dice to determine outcomes.  When they roll low, unfortunate outcomes occur, if they roll a 1 on a 20 sided die, very unfortunate and occasionally lethal things happen.  They can get another role if they can answer a question correctly.  So the game is a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and Trivial Pursuits – except the questions are mostly significa and at different levels for different players.  If you are interested in working on good multiple choice or short answer questions for these games, please talk with me.

Unicorns: I do the Monday Unicorns shift with Kristen every other week, but with the amount I am gone it ends up averaging every 3 weeks.

Unicorns group shot

Potomac Tofu Delivery: i drive our fine tofu to Potomac Whole Foods in western MD every other Monday.  Importantly, I am starting to back haul stuff for both Acorn and Twin Oaks so we can shift away from UNFI.

Friday L Bus:  I combine the Acorn and Twin Oaks Friday Louisa Bus/Tripper runs on most Fridays.  This occasionally means I do not make it back from the trip until past noon and thus things are not delivered at ZK early in lunch.  It also means about a third of the time I drive Acorn vehicles instead of Twin Oaks vehicles for the town trip.  I am building a relationship with the Louisa Resource Center, which is among other things the local food bank.  Last time I picked up 200 rolls of toilet paper, 8 large cases of acorn squash, 10 crates of nectarines (which were a bit marginal) and 10 of the foldable plastic crates.  All for free.   I will be coordinating with Carly to make sure I don’t bring in too much of the wrong stuff.

Hammocks Marketing:  Hawina and I are doing a somewhat low key hammocks marketing effort.  I am calling some of our regular wholesale customers and maintaining minimal contact with our sales reps.  I visit our largest east coast customers before the trade show that we dont go to anymore.  We are working on several “special projects” together, we have a new hanging chair stand that we displaying at fairs and online and drop shipping from the manufacturer.  We might be bundled with this new innovative hammock stand, with an initial order of 500 silkspun rope hammocks.  I continue to be the principal contact with Dave from Buyers Choice who has been a very big and headachy customer in the past.  We tried some retail strategies last year which were not super effective.  We will probably try something else new for retail this year.  If you are interested in helping with hammocks sales, please contact Hawina or myself.

paxus sleeping on cushion swing

Product testing is the key to our success

 

Recruitment:  Valerie and I co-manage recruiting and outreach.  Separately, Valerie handles all visitor correspondence.  Recruitment during times of high population shifts it’s focus from seeking new members for Twin Oaks specifically to recruiting for the movement in general.  Recent recruiting activities include our trip to the North American Student Cooperative Organization where we facilitated several workshops.  And TOAST gigs at McDonogh prep school, Goucher (where ex-member Raj teaches, he is Mala’s brother) and the conservative mostly Christian East Carolina University.  [TOAST is the Twin Oaks Academic Speaking Tour where we are paid, typically $200 per day, to present about the communities at schools.]

Outside Work:  This area largely runs itself, and while I am technically the manager, most of the Outside Work areas need no assistance or oversight from me.  Though i do hope to craft some new policy around OW in the coming year.

Communities Conference:    We have started work on the communities conference, specifically I worked with Sky on recruiting donors for the IndieGoGo crowd sourcing campaign for the kitchen upgrade.  I will again be calling communities and encouraging them to come and working on content with Sky and Valerie as we develop the program for the event.

Work with Willow:  The entire Star family (Hawina, Willow, Sky and myself) do a Tuesday K2.  Willow and I are doing a weekly Tupelo Surf.

tpp-protest-sitting-with-noses

Movement Support:  I continue to work on blocking the third reactor at North Anna.  I might go to the Dominion Resources shareholders meeting again this year and chat again with the President Tom Ferral about how poor an investment this is.  [I did not go this year to the shareholders meeting.]  I do some organizing work (in Richmond and DC) around Dominions fleecing taxpayers and ratepayers for this ill conceived project.

Contrary to recent beliefs, I do not do EC Runs.

Transparency Groups:  I am in closed group at Twin Oaks and an open group at Acorn.  This practice is both engaging and important to me.  We just completed a fingerbook on it, contact me if you want one.  If you want to try this stuff i can connect you to the Acorn group.  There are no labor credits involved in any of these transparency groups.


zippers-on-back-body-art

Plannership:  I have signed the card for being a planner again.  I will be writing an O&I paper about this assuming i dont get tremendous negative input.  My hope is to balance the current strong group of planners.  I am especially interested in room issues, the 134 W Old Mountain Road property, tabulating and presenting long term survey results (which I failed to do in my last plannership), new residence planning and sustainability infrastructure.  I am aware that I am often away, and will only be able to do this job part time, but all three other planners are almost always on the farm, so if feels like we are well covered.  [i was not selected.]

Things I am doing at Acorn:

Room Assigning:  Rejoice and I share room assigning responsibilities at Acorn.  I do not have a bedroom at Acorn, even when I am a member.  [i now do have a room, which i got from Falcon.]

Extraordinary Worker Management:  The seed business hires locals (mostly folks from communities Little Flower and Twin Oaks and some ex-members) to help pick, pack and ship seeds during the busy season.  The busy season is now over and almost all of these people have been let go til at least December.

Shadow Picking Room Manager:  Acorn does not have managers (and actually this works surprisingly well) instead people take responsibility for different areas and are in dynamic negotiations with the rest of the seed business worker owners.  I train seed pickers, report and update out of stock items to Ken, work with Irena on configuring shelves and picking room layout.  And frankly I was much busier with this last winter during busy season than this one, in part because so many people stepped up to help with picking it was quite easy to keep under control and current.  This will likely be one of my larger jobs when I toggle back to membership at Acorn in December.

Recruiting and Outreach:  At Acorn I also do tours, answer questions for people interested in the community and write about the community for alternative and mainstream medias.  I also talk about Acorn at schools and at the Point A workshops we are organizing.  I am working on a visitor fingerbook for Acorn, similar to the “Not Utopia Yet” one I originally wrote for Twin Oaks.

Seed Robot Operator: This is an an aspiration and i have yet to be trained.

SESE Social Media/Blog:   There is a newly formed social media group at Acorn which is working to try to promote the seed business online thru this vehicle.  i am one of the members of this group.  Part of this is working with others on blogs for the SESE website which are relevant for gardeners who purchase our seeds.

Delivery Boy:  Seeds in both directions, Milk, workers, surplus dumpster and food bank food, tofu repacks, party shuttle – you name it i am moving people and stuff between these two communes (with stops at Sapling as needed).

Monsanto Opposition Campaigning:  SESE continues to pursue lawsuits and a public education campaign against Monsanto’s use of GMOs.  I have only done a small amount of this work so far, mostly through our alliance with OSGATA, which is an organic seed growers trade association that has brought multiple lawsuits against the chemical giant, which despite their army of lawyers has had some positive effects already.  If you are interested in working against GMOs, feel encouraged to contact me.

monstanto poinons food

Things I am doing for the Point A Project

With 4 income sharing communities now in Louisa County and only one secular one in all of NYC, it seems like it is time for us to export this model to urban areas.  Several folks from Acorn (including Amy, Belladonna, Otter, Dragon, Aster (formerly Jared), Port (formerly John ex TO viz) and GPaul) are working on this project.

There is significant interest at the Keep in Washington DC, where Feonix, Marshall, Steve, John and Aries (ex TO viz) all live.  There are about 20 people involved in this group which is looking for places which might be able to house more people than the 8 at the Keep.  There are also discussion about the entire range of community issues from pets to income sharing to children.  I would be surprised if this group moved into a larger community house in 2014.  And there is a lot of interest and I think the chances are pretty high that we will start another FEC community in the DC metro area in the next few years.

NYC is harder.  Gentrification issues and real estate developers make any type of housing solution vexing in this town.  We have a group which is interested in the Point A project, but we are much further from living together and to date we have been focusing on doing events (presentations and workshops) about the communities movement and sharing systems to find out who are allies are in the city.  Unlike DC where we are supporting a specific group which is looking to build a single community, in NYC we are doing something which is more like movement building and have already been significant support to other communities which are forming or looking for new members.

I am hoping to continue to do work in this area and hope that the FEC will continue to support it with hours (as they did for the mini-communities conference we had in in March).

96% match

It is a common internet business model.  You offer a free service which is largely useful, but has less functionality than the version which your “premium” customers pay for.  On the music service Pandora you can pay to vanish the ads.  Many free online games have the capacity to buy better tools or weapons or more stylish apparel for your avatar.

OK Cupid uses this model.  You can not, for example, sort for people who polyamorous without paying the service.  Last month I finally caved and gave them $20 for a month subscription so I could filter the way I wanted to.  Smart move.  [My clever friend Mike Ewall thinks that you don't to pay for this.  So you should certainly try without.]

OKC keyboard

When my distance range was set wide enough I found out that I had nearly 99% matches with all the residents of Tupelo North (ex-communards who defected to Northhampton) Angie, Ethan and Clementine.   No surprise here, they are people I already had strong affinity with and connections to.

There were also now high match polyamorous people I had never met or seen online before, including Gypsy.  [Before my friends working on cultural appropriation get upset about my use of this pseudonym, she has Romani blood, speaks Romanian (while not quite Romani language, but related), born in the region and has legitimate claim to this heritage, though she does not take it.]  She left central Europe when she was 8 and has a charming euromutt English accent.

Gypsy's are the second largest minority in Romania

Gypsy’s are the second largest minority in Romania

I read her profile, looked at many of the hundreds of questions we had both answered on OKC.  We flirted online, then moved to email, text messages and phone.  On the way up to this last weekends Point A meeting we got together for a couple hours in the DC suburbs waiting for the rush hour traffic to clear.

She self identifies as a steamroller.  Her unsticking her car

Some friends call her a bulldozer. Here she is unsticking her car

I can’t remember the last time I went on “a date” in most senses of this term.  But neither of us had trouble finding things to talk about.   She is a fierce atheist, polyglot (conversant in 5 languages),  home schooling mom and CEO of her own manufacturing company.  Her former occupations are as diverse as molecular biologist, classicist and stripper.  I arrived worried she would be intimidatingly smart.  But these fears quickly vanished, smart certainly but hardly intimidating – warm, quirky, open.   It was a lovely experience, with someone I never would have found without this service.   I’m rethinking my critique of OKC.

There will certainly be another date.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Making Scandinavia look cheap

“You have to have a masters in play to do child care in Sweden” Kristen informed me of this after she said both “Everything is better in Sweden” and “How could we know if we have never been there”.  Kristen also thinks we have earned our applied Masters in Play from our time at Unicorns.

Kristen is my regular other adult Unicorn.  Unicorns is the home school/child care that Twin Oaks offers for it’s youngest kids.  They range from about 2 to 8 years old.  Typically we have 5 to 7 kids.  It is pretty lovely.

Kristen, Linus and Finely

Kristen, Rosa (with doll), Linus and Finely

 

When you compare maternity and paternity leaves across industrialized countries the US does pretty poorly.  The 12 weeks maternity leave required at a federal level contrasts poorly to the 52 weeks in Denmark or the 420 days in Sweden.  The communes on the other hand make the Scandinavian countries look miserly.    If you wanted to (and your partner agreed) you could do your full quota in child care for over the first two years of your child’s life.

No one does this.  It would be frown upon despite being completely possible.  One reason it would be discouraged is that we don’t want members stopping all their other work for the community and just focusing on their kid.  Also because a critical component of the communities child care program is teaching people who are interested in being parents how to do so on other members kids.  If you take all the child care hours, then others can not contribute to the community this way, except without labor compensation.

Izzie and Finley

Izzie and Finley

The interesting thing about Unicorns is that it is funded out of slack from other under used kid budgets, especially labor budgets.  Every parent gets a diminishing number of labor hours for their kid each year.  These are an entitlement, if you have a kid you get them.  And most parents don’t use all their hours.  This means they can easily be contributed to this home schooling model.

Willow, Jonah and Gwen with me pushing the tire swing at the Playground of Death

Willow, Jonah and Gwen with me pushing the tire swing at the Playground of Death

But i can’t help but think we are getting it right with our kids in a big way.  They are learning a lot and their educational environment is supportive, fun and very low stress.  They are playing a lot, with other kids, with adults and by themselves.  I think this is the right combination.  Parents have unusually high access to their kids here, typically seeing them at almost every meal, being able to have play dates or other connections in the middle of the day relatively effortlessly. Over all the commune kids seem quite healthy and well adjusted.  They seem largely without phobias and remnants of abuse patterns.

It could be better of course, we could have a nicer building to work in, there could be more total kids in the communities child program to provide more peers.  But when you compare it to almost everyone else out there, including Sweden, the communes child care program is pretty impressive.

 

 

 

 

 

Just don’t put them all in the same room

I re-remembered, as she got out of the hot tub at absurd o’clock last night, why i have such a wild crush both personally and politically on Teagan.  It is in part because she is fiercely pro-active.  Disguised as a suburban housewife, she is actually a full partner and founder of the Catalyst Community project, which is raging forward at stunning speed.  “We already have 10 of the 20 units spoken for.”  The project has been going on in earnest for less than 3 months.

Teagan is just a mom, like Emma Goldman was just a Lithuanian immigrant

Teagan is just a mom, like Emma Goldman was just a Lithuanian immigrant.

Teagan and i met nearly a decade ago when she came to do a visitor period at Twin Oaks.  She understood the importance of community, from her earlier experience living in one.  She was also charismatic, clever and quick to jump in and make things happen. I really wanted her to become a member, but quickly realized the chances of this were quite small.

Burner, Activist, Organizer - the action is never far from her.

Burner, Activist, Organizer – the action is never far from her.

Teagan is perhaps the only person to ever fail the Twin Oaks membership process during the interview.  When asked by Shal what she thought of compromise, she replied shortly, “compromise is not part of my vocabulary” and with this sentence her path to our commune vanished.

And it was for the best, the rural communes never could have contained her.  Teagan is one of those high impact personalities that needs all the space of a really big metropolis like NYC to cast her networking and social agenda upon. During the wee hours of the morning as we were sitting in her hot tub in the shadow of Manhattan, she shared several philanthropic leads she had discovered in her work building her own eco-village, which look like they might be excellent sources for Point A.

Tieagan and Arrows place is always full of interesting characters - here with my allies Karin and Sienna

Teagan and Arrow’s place is always full of interesting characters – here with my allies Karin and Sienna.

As the night wore on she shared her story about doing local organizing that successfully stopped a new Walmart.  She also shared a story of how friends approached her only hours before the application deadline to get Hurricane Sandy relief money. How her crafting of the grant application netted her colleagues’ school $35K.  They were thankful and appreciative, but for Teagan there was no question – this is what she does: Help friends out of their last minute jam and make good things happen for good people.

The wild color is not localized to her hair, it runs thru her entire identity

The wild color is not localized to her hair, it runs through her entire identity.

Generally upbeat, fiery, and committed to helping craft a better world, i am always pleased to be in her company.  She only comes in her special intense flavor.  The communities movement desperately needs a dozen more Teagans; just don’t put them all in the same room.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

 

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