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The Best Present for a Kid

If you have a Dutch parent, you qualify for the rights of a Dutch citizen.  Every 5 years Willow and Hawina and i go to the Dutch Embassy in Death City and get Willow’s passport renewed.  Willow is a US citizen, with a US passport, but the Dutch are completely happy to issue an EU one, if the parents apply.  This is a no brainer.

The Dutch passport is actually a Schengen Treaty enabled EU passport.  You can travel between all the blue areas on the map below by just flashing an EU passport.

The largest federation in the world

The largest national federation in the world

There are multiple reasons for having a couple of passports, beyond the above listed convenience. The one most people are familiar with is traveling between hostile or warring countries.  Donning a Cuba passport stamp in a US passport can result in a visit from the FBI.  Should you wish to travel regularly between the Arab world and Israel, a second passport (even from the same country, which you can get by claiming you lost one) is advised.

Who says where you can go?

Who says where you can go?

But the real reason i want Willow to have a second passport is that if his life is at all like mine, there will be a moment when it is extremely useful.  This moment will be when he is traveling and some agent of the state thinks that they control him, because they have taken his passport.  Annoyingly confidently they will be leading him off to some undesired destination.  Having a second passport gives you the chance to look for an opportunity to depart from the foreign state agent and make a break for it.

Part of our home schooling is learning for when you can successfully make a break for it.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]


Some years back political cartoonist Stephanie McMillian did a visitor period at Twin Oaks and I had fantasies of one of the communities new industries being radical humor.  She is a clever, quirky, cartoonist with an impossible message to deliver and just the right tool to do it.  Her latest salvo in this on-going public education and activation campaign is on target and at exactly the right price.

Your kids deserve this book

Your kids deserve this book

I discovered Stephanie’s work while I was staying at an amazing squat in Barcelona called Can Masdeu.  The squats library had a copy of the book she illustrated, As the Word Burns: 50 simple things you can do to stay in denial.  Which is a quick read, if it does not cause your brain to explode.

Uncomfortable reading for liberals

Uncomfortable reading for liberals

Her  impossible message is that all of the individual efforts to make things better (recycling, getting off grid, even sharing with your friends) don’t make any difference if you don’t take on the structural problems of capitalism. This is the acid test for radicalism.  Either you believe that you need to step out of your comfort zone and fight for systemic change against quite impressive monsters or you think personal positive actions are enough.  [If you think things are just fine as they are, you have somehow stumbled onto this blog by mistake.]

Just who do you believe?

Just who do you believe?

Stephanie is hardly a one trick pony.  Using satire and the powerfully accessible format of cartoons, she lures you into a critique of the status quo which is inescapably tight in it’s reasoning while still amusing.

And she writes on my issues also

And she writes on my issues also

Like most good propagandists, Stephanie is prolific.  With an impressive list of books and serialized cartoons.  Above are a couple from her Code Green series which focuses on the ecological issues and how corporate media twist perceptions.  Below is an image from her upbeat activist daily affirmations cartoon series.

Mcmillan evidence over dogma

And because I am confident that you have read to here, because the cartoons keep drawing you farther down this post.  Here is the link so that you can get Stephanie’s latest coloring book for kids, priced at what ever you can afford – I paid $25.  Or if you are looking for the longer, more adult version of the story (without coloring), you can order the full length hold-in-your-hands physical book here.  Or for those who are fully digital these days, you can get the adult version of the eBook here, again at the price you choose.

I want my son Willow to understand this stuff, and the only thing more important than that, is that we adults act on this knowledge now.

One of the pictures from Capitalism Must Die Coloring Book - this one is already colored in

One of the pictures from Capitalism Must Die Coloring Book – this one is already colored in




Fitting the Profile

For quite some years perhaps 50% of the time I would fly by myself, I would be sent through secondary inspection by airport security. I had long hair, often less than stylish clothes and with some regularity was donning a protest shirt or button. I fit the profile, though they assure us there is no profile.

I can relate to grandma

I can relate to grandma

My mother was awarded an honorary doctorate and she asked me to come up to see her graduate. I had cut my hair already for another event where I had to fain respectability. I wore nicer clothes, because it makes my mother happy and when I got to the airport I now apparently fit a different profile. With my greying hair and business outfit, I did not go thru regular security but some other line, basically by myself, where I did not have to take my shoes off, nor remove my laptop from my bag. Nor did they seem to care that I accidentally had more than three ounces of fluid in my tiny bag.

No waiting, minimal inspection

No waiting, minimal inspection

While all the other passengers were being herded around and jumping through TSA hoops, I breezed through. Apparently now having graduated (at least temporarily) to the class of travelers which don’t need to be inspected.

Frankly, I am more comfortable with the profile that has viewed me as a possible threat than the likes of the white collar criminals who have this, and almost all the other systems, stacked in their favor.  For over all the years of secondary inspection I was never inconvenienced by more than a few minutes, never had an invasive cavity search, never was interrogated by intimidating TSA officers.  For that treatment is saved for people who fit another profile that they claim they don’t have.

racial profiling

Only Stupid People Dont Change Their Minds

On Friday’s i do the Louisa town trip for both Acorn and Twin Oaks.    This is basically a centralized shopping task, where any member of guest who wants something purchased in town fills out a pre-formatted form and slips it into the appropriate drawer in the main office at Twin Oaks (or writes it on the right clipboard at Acorn) and the town tripper goes and satisfies all the requests.  If you get your request in before 9 AM, there is a 95% chance you have it where you want it by 1 PM the same day.  This is a powerful and convenient system.  You don’t have to handle money, you don’t have to do the accounting, you are not even expected to thank the tripper.

Last Friday i got this TOR (Twin Oaks Request)

Willow's first TOR

Willow’s first TOR

i believe it is the first one Willow has ever written, it is certainly the first one i have ever gotten.  And my immediate thought was “He might stay.”

i have always assumed that Willow would in his later teens go off and do something that might result in him never returning to the commune.  In the last few years he has talked about becoming a lawyer.  This is after some years of him saying he was never going to go to school.  Parents who worry about their children’s college/employment plans before they are 15 are people who apparently don’t have enough to worry about.  Kids change their minds.

He says he wants to be a lawyer

He says he wants to be a lawyer

But the emotional impact of getting this first TOR was significant.  It was more than just a request for chips.  It was Willow stepping into the complex set of systems which make the clockwork community of Twin Oaks work.

The last two teenagers who grew up at Twin Oaks did not go away to college, unlike the half dozen before them who all did.  Instead they stayed and became adult members of the commune.  [One of the most common questions we get at college speaking gigs about the communes is "What do you do about kids education?"  For the college part, the answer is "We send them to college." The community does not simply write a check for the totality of tuition, fees, room and board.  Instead we go thru the entire financial aid package, do some combination of loans and grants and money from other places.  But what we make sure is that any one of our kids who wants to can go to the school that they get accepted at.]

To go from a kid member to an adult member is a non-trivial jump.  Your quota goes from something like 14 hours a week to 42.  You need to do a three week visitor period, but you dont go thru the regular membership input process, instead, if you make full quota as a visitor after 3 weeks we simply accepted you as a member.

wise parents

Until this TOR i had never really thought seriously about Willow following the lead of our most recent teens. When they became adult members they moved out of the residences where they grew up and where that their folks live, into different buildings in the community, where their parents did not live.   It is worth pointing out that both of these kids continue to have fine relationships with their folks.  And it is some type of vote of confidence that the commune is attractive enough to hold it’s own kids.

i am guessing Willow won’t stay.  He has an adventurous streak and will perhaps go see the world, or become a lawyer, or a lion tamer.  But who knows.  Kids change their minds.


The title of this post comes from an interview with former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.  When asked why he was seeking a second term, having initially emphatically claimed he was only interested in one term as Secretary General he replied in part “Only stupid people don’t change their minds


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.


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.


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).

Donut Poisoning

Willow had been talking about dumpster diving with Feonix for a couple of days leading up to the Tarrytown NY craft fair and he was excited.  There was this slightly odd moment of role reversal in which I had blacked out and sometime after midnight Willow woke me and said “Are you ready to go dumpster diving now?”  And while some part of my exhausted body wanted to decline, instead I was propelled by my desire to be a yes for my son. We jumped in the van and headed to White Plains where a Dunkin Donuts of known riches was to be found.

We pull in realize that we have neglected flashlights and Feonix uses her phones app to light the way.  And we have donuts.  The world is a better place and Willow is pleased.  Later we would get a flashlight app for my phone, but even with the light the Trader Joes dumpster was being staffed way late in the night (actually crazy early in the morning) and the Whole Foods compacter revealed nothing that could be salvaged.  As my son snuck from the security cameras in the parking lot I wondered about this aspect of his home schooling.

It is one of my favorite annual rituals, Feonix and Willow and Corb and Hawina and I doing the Tarrytown fair.  In part because Feonix always has the new cool thing or three for us to experience.  This time it was Bee and PuppyCat.  Which has an inspired scene where Bee is in a temp agency and the cruel recruiter turns away from her to take a phone call.  When he turns back his bowl of sweets is emptied and Bee says “You took too long.  Now your Candy’s gone. That’s what happened. Kapow.” and she disappears thru the door.

Bee does not wait

Bee does not wait

This was one of our regular chants as we took the long drive down the New Jersey Turnpike after the fair.  I took a five hour energy drink, Feonix was running her normal night owl energy and Willow was doing the sugar rush connected with low level donut poisoning.  We all sang loudly and (at least myself) off key to Mackelmore’s Can’t Hold US on the radio at absurd o’clock somewhere outside Philly.

We arrive at the Keep late, but Willow and I are the last to go to bed.  It may well qualify me again for the cover of Negligent Parenting Magazine, but I would not have it another way.

Willow recovering from donut poisoning @ absurd o'clock at the Keep

Willow recovering from donut poisoning at the Keep

[Willow has approved this post]



The easiest virtue

When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous.   i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here).  Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience.  My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.

Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success.  Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older.  Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13.  Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.

My Tupelo Surf Helper and Mop

My Tupelo Serf Helper and Mop

For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community.  Over the last few months he has been doing more of both.  Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do.  Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.

And good things come to those who wait.  And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something.  And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.

My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”

[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]




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