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For senior homebuyers, golden years offer freedom and choice - Chicago Daily Herald

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Chicago Daily Herald

For senior homebuyers, golden years offer freedom and choice
Chicago Daily Herald
But navigating the market and the bevy of available choices -- including home sharing, cohousing, niche communities, multigenerational housing and village models -- can be overwhelming. "There are many, many options," said Jennifer Prell, founder of ...

Catching Lightning in a Bottle

Laird's Blog -

My primary imprinting in sports metaphors came from my father. In fact, it was one of the few things that we consistently enjoyed doing together throughout our tempestuous relationship—watching sports and talking about sports. 

[As readers of this blog will know, I love metaphors, and this entry will be my semi-annual indulgence in the fathomless richness and depth of sports metaphor. I have a few dedicated readers who tell me they can't understand a single thing I'm saying when I do this. If you are among them, hit delete now.]

Catching lightning in a bottle refers to some improbable achievement (the biblical equivalent is getting a camel through the eye of a needle). Like Joe DiMaggio hitting safely in 56 straight games in 1941, or Wilt the Stilt burning the New York Knicks for 100 points in 1962.

It comes to mind because, for the second time in three years, my beloved San Francisco Giants swept the dog-ass Dodgers three games at home, without allowing them to score a single run. While it's borderline amazing that I saw this happen once in my lifetime, it absolutely boggles the mind to grok that I've seen it happen twice. (See They Could Be Giants for more on the first time.) In fact, it's the second time this month that their pitching staff has served up nothing but goose eggs for three straight games. As Harry Carey would have put it, "Holy cow!"

(As an aside, the finale featured the third dream pairing this season of last year's World Series MVP, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, going against last year's National League MVP, Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw, and the Giants have won all three contests. How sweet it is.)

What does this all mean? Hard to say. The reality is that the Giants lost their popular third baseman, Pablo "Kung-fu Panda" Sandoval (he of the roly poly physique, nimble hands, and freewheeling swing) to free agency and the Boston Red Sox in the off season and haven't been able to manifest a serious bat to replace him in their light-hitting lineup. Plus, it's an odd year and the Giants' good fortune has (so far) only aligned for post-season success in even years (having won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014). So, as auspicious as back-to-back-to-back shutouts are, who knows where this will lead. Even after the sweep, the Giants were still a game-and-a-half back of the Dodgers in the National League West, so plenty of work remains and we're only at the quarter pole.

To illustrate how quirky the vicissitudes of baseball are, picture this: immediately after the sublime performance by the Giants' pitching staff that held Los Angeles to oh for Baghdad by the Bay, the team traveled to Colorado and prevailed 11-8 and 10-8 in back-to-back slugfests in the bandbox that is Coors Field, where shutouts are as hard to come by as potato seed. It's a strange game.

I wish my father were around to share this with, but at least I have my son. Like my father before him, Ceilee is a dyed-in-the-wool Cardinal fan (who are doing well in the NL Central, thank you), but we can unite in our love for baseball, as well as our distaste for the dog-ass Dodgers.

Conflicting Views about Conflict

Laird's Blog -

Over the course of my 28 years as a process consultant, I've had plenty of time to observe and develop my thinking about what conflict represents in a group context, and how to respond to it constructively in the dynamic moment. In fact, I'm called on to bring that skill into play in about about half the jobs I get as a process consultant. So I've had a lot of time in the saddle riding that particular bucking bronco.

Recently I had an exchange about conflict with an experienced communitarian who maintained that it was possible for conflicted parties to simply agree to stop brooding over unresolved past hurts, put it behind them, and start from scratch. I was gobsmacked that anyone could think that would work. In my 41 years of community living, I'd never seen that happen (In fact, I was thinking it was for more likely that protagonists would continue to scratch each others' eyes out).

The key piece of data in the last paragraph is that the parties were still brooding, and that it was leaking into current interactions. I accept that it's possible for a conflict to not resolve well when it occurs, yet both parties can independently work through it to the point of accepting partial responsibility for what went awry, and truly put it behind them. But I've never see that approach work when both parties were continuing to feed the monkey, keeping the negative stories alive. (Brooding works fine for hatching chickens, but not so well in people hoping to put conflict in the rear view mirror.)

How could this happen? It's not unusual for two parties who are deadlocked to view the other party as wholly at fault, and the stalemate exists mainly because both are too stubborn to admit their role in where things went south. In the worst cases, both sides may think that their actions were fully justified as a matter of high principle, and you can wait until hell freezes over before anyone makes a first move. 

This is, in my experience, where outside help can often make a big difference. Both sides feel misunderstood and object strenuously to the assignment (by the other) of bad intent. Each is eager that their view of events be recognized by the other as a precondition to listening to the views of the other side, and the protagonists never get out of the starting gate.

The advantage that outside facilitators (or mediators) have is that they don't have a dog in the fight, and are thus well positioned to listen to everyone. (In the end, it won't matter who went first; only that both felt heard.) Further, if Person A is conflicted with Person B and there's low trust between them there's a tendency for Person A to be suspicious of Person B's motivation in asking about their experience (do they really want to know, or are they just looking for me to expose myself for further attack?).

After decades of witnessing and participating in conflicted group dynamics, I believe that the largest hurdle to overcome is admitting that you're stuck and being open to accepting offers of assistance. I believe that resistance is due to a number of factors, any combination of which may be in play:

a) Lack of clarity about whether you're stuck
When in the soup, it can be hard telling whether you're entrenched or just embattled—where a modest amount of additional effort might lead to a breakthrough. Hint: if you notice that one or both parties are starting to cycle through the same statements or stories, it's probably time to put the shovel down and quit trying to dig yourself out of the hole.

b) Pride
Many people (or groups) hold the view that either they don't get hooked by conflict (very much), or that they they're perfectly capable of working through it on their own. In that environment, admitting that you need help can be a serious blow to one's ego, and there's a tendency to suppress it.
c) Embarrassment
For a number of us, admitting you need outside help can be like airing dirty laundry—something you'd rather do only in the privacy of your own backyard. Showing outsiders where you've stumbled might not match up well with your mission statement. (Remember that part where you told the world that you'd be a model of sustainable social dynamics and creative problem solving?)

d) Lack of history with conflict going well
Most of us have had precious few personal experiences of conflict work going well. Cooperative theory notwithstanding, it's not easy to gear up for the possibility of volcanic venting or no-holds-barred teeth gnashing if your belly is doing flip-flops.

The good news is that there a number of ways to approach conflict that can help you out of the ditch—but none of them are very effective if can't admit that you're off the road when you up to your knees in ditch water.

More tears shed over the loss of a movie theater than a food cart pod - Portland Business Journal (blog)

Cohousing News from Google -

Portland Business Journal (blog)

More tears shed over the loss of a movie theater than a food cart pod
Portland Business Journal (blog)
News last week that a popular food cart was being displaced for a unique cohousing condo project on Southeast Belmont Street had some readers of the Portland Business Journal lamenting the loss. Even more, however, shed tears over the fact that the ...

Google News

Iowa City cohousing community presents revised proposal - The Gazette: Eastern Iowa Breaking News and Headlines

Cohousing News from Google -

Iowa City cohousing community presents revised proposal
The Gazette: Eastern Iowa Breaking News and Headlines
IOWA CITY — The board of managers for Iowa City Cohousing will present a new zoning plan to city officials today in an effort to overcome several obstacles to the alternative housing project. Prairie Hill, Iowa City's first potential cohousing ...

Facilitation That's Neutral Enough

Laird's Blog -

Today's blog comes from the mailbag. A reader wrote:

I've been struggling quite a bit living in the housing cooperative that I've been a part of for the last five years. While the group means a lot to me—I have been shaped by and have shaped it in big ways over the years—I've been experiencing a cornucopia of feelings that sum up in, "I just can't live here anymore." It's not good for my mental health. That said, I'm a process and co-op junkie. I want to fix everything and save the world through co-ops and awesome meetings, and I think I'm one of the better facilitators in the group. Because my community is struggling through a cultural shift and turnover of members and important officer positions, I feel I need to be there to help.

While working through my own internal conflicts a friend said to me yesterday: "You can't put on your skills hat when you're trying to deal with all your emotions hats." While I initially wanted to correct that to, "It's hard to put on the skills hat and emotions hats at the same time," I suspect I might just be pushing myself too hard or neglecting self care.

I was hoping you might be able to help me out by talking about navigating those times when our co-op badassery is overlapping with our psychological and emotional needs. Can a person honestly try to be the leader/facilitator of an issue that is so very close to home and possibly directly triggering to them?

I want to answer this differently for someone engaging as a leader and someone engaging as a facilitator. While there is overlap, they are not the same thing.

How Leaders Relate to Cooperative Group Issues
Leadership comes in many flavors, some of which include advocacy (for what you think is in the group's best interest) and transparency (demonstrating that you—just like everyone else—are a human being with feelings that you are willing to express and own).

That said, good leaders are able to both articulate their views and their reactions (if they have any) and then make room for the views and reactions of others. To be sure, this calls for a considerable degree of self-awareness, and may call for the leader, on their own, to find their center again if reactivity has knocked them off it (which is no small skill).

Beyond that (safeguarding the full and open expression of all relevant viewpoints on a topic—especially if those views diverge from theirs), leaders are also expected to help the group find solutions that balance all the input.

In short, leaders are expected to simultaneously care about the direction of the conversation (what the group decides) and the quality of the conversation (how the group decides). At any given time, one of those two concerns may claim more of the leader's attention than the other, yet both may be in play.

How Facilitators Relate to Cooperative Group Issues
While no doubt you can "honestly try" anything, I dis-recommend attempting to facilitate any issue where you identify as a major stakeholder or know you are likely to be triggered by what comes up in the examination. That's because it's important for the facilitator to be acting from a content-neutral and participant-neutral place, the better to be everyone's ally in speaking their truth. In addition, the facilitator needs to be present and connecting to people when they are in distress in a meeting, and it's damn hard to reach out to others when you are in distress.

The facilitator's role is all about how the group does its work, and they need to be as egoless as possible in service to that objective. That does not mean being passive, but it does mean being scrupulous about being even-handed and careful not to exceed their authority when being firm.

In the ideal, the facilitator is disinterested in the outcome of an issue, and their work is wholly focused on efficiency, inclusivity, completeness, and connection—all of which may be compromised if an issue is "very close to home and possibly triggering."

If Superman Doesn't Live in Your House
Now let's take this another step. What is neutral enough when assigning a facilitator to a particular agenda? After all, it rarely happens that a candidate is completely neutral. Essentially, the test is in the performance. Do meeting participants feel that the facilitator is manipulating the conversation in a certain direction, steering things toward a viewpoint favored by the facilitator (and perhaps undisclosed)? Do participants experience the facilitator misreading the group by virtue of being in reaction?

Fortunately, some modest amount of preference or reactivity related to an issue can often be acknowledged and set aside, allowing the person to be a fair and effective facilitator. So it's a judgment call when bias is acceptable and when it isn't.

Now let's add an additional complexity. What if you recognize that you're not neutral on an issue yet don't think there's anyone else sufficiently skilled or neutral that's a better choice than you? 

Here are three options for how you might proceed:

a) Get an outside facilitator, perhaps someone from a neighboring cooperative (where they do a meeting for you and then one of your facilitators does a meeting for them).

b) Facilitate with a buddy who is not a stakeholder on the issue and is poised to take over the reins if they sense you're drifting towrad advocacy or going into reaction.

c) Volunteer to facilitate, owning your bias up-front, asking if the group is willing to try it. If they decline the offer, step back gracefully. If they accept, you've at least alerted them to the slant and will help you watch for signs of slippage (because you're coming across as biased against people with views that differ from yours) or misreading the situation (because you're distracted by your reaction).

Remember: the prime directive here is not that the facilitator be superman (or superwoman), where they do it all themselves and never make a mistake; it's that you have a good meeting.

Group Works: Balance Structure and Flexibility

Laird's Blog -

This entry continues a series in which I'm exploring concepts encapsulated in a set of 91 cards called Group Works, developed by Tree Bressen, Dave Pollard, and Sue Woehrlin. The deck represents "A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings."

In each blog, I'll examine a single card and what that elicits in me as a professional who works in the field of cooperative group dynamics. My intention in this series is to share what each pattern means to me. I am not suggesting a different ordering or different patterns—I will simply reflect on what the Group Works folks have put together.

The cards have been organized into nine groupings, and I'll tackle them in the order presented in the manual that accompanies the deck:

1. Intention2. Context3. Relationship4. Flow5. Creativity6. Perspective7. Modeling8. Inquiry & Synthesis9. Faith

In the Flow segment there are 15 cards. The second pattern in this category is labeled Balance Structure and Flexibility. Here is the image and thumbnail text from that card: 

Structures, such as a clear agenda, time limits, or raising hands before speaking, can create safety, focus, and a form for the group's energy to pour into. Yet to sustain the life of a group, this must be balanced with a great openness to change, dancing between the two as needed.

I find this to be one of the more profound patterns, because it calls upon groups to be self aware at a deep level. Many cooperative groups start out with the bright hope of equality and everyone having an equal voice, but it's more complicated than that.

This pattern hinges on understanding how there's always tension between structure and flexibility. What is liberating to high-structure folks (because they know where they stand and what's expected of them) is a straight jacket to low-structure people (who want to emphasize what's best under the circumstances and avoid pounding square pegs into rounds holes).

The image above combines the flexibility and flow of a river with the structure of stepping stones. That said, the image unfortunately suggests that structure is crosswise with flow (as opposed to operating in concert with it) and that the structure is what defines the way ahead, with the river as an obstacle. Perhaps a better image would be a portage where structure is relied upon to safely bypass turbulence—where the flow is dangerous, or at least unnavigable—with the clear understanding that you'll get back in the water and the end of the portage.

In mature groups of 12+ members there will be sensitivity to the reality that both high-structure and low-structure people will be present, and you need to find the balance point. The low-structure folks will need to be brought along to embrace some structure, both because it's hard on the high-structure folks to be working constantly without a net, and because experience makes clear the cost of ambiguity. The key here is that the structure is put in place by the people expected to operate within it—that is, you're doing it to yourself, rather than having it done to you.

In turn, the high-structure people need to settle for a workable outline, where the t's are not all crossed and the i's not all dotted. This allows for individual discretion about how best to apply the spirit of agreements. As the text says above, it's a dance.

Now let's drill down on other portions of the text: 

Structures, such as a clear agenda, time limits, or raising hands before speaking
I squirm a bit with these examples, which are all relatively lightweight. That is, you can be excellent at all three and it won't guarantee passage to heaven (by which I mean a great meeting). In the context of plenaries, deeper structures would be how you tackle issues, discipline about the relationship between the plenary and committees, how you work with emotional distress, and sophistication about mixing up formats to help make meetings more accessible.
Time limits
This is a subset of the prior point. While I'm all in favor of developing a meeting culture that respects time and expects participants to speak concisely and on topic, I worry about being a slave to time assignments. Too often I've seen groups chop off a conversation prematurely simply because they were at the end of the allotted time—not because they were at a natural pause point. Better, I think, is for the facilitator to keep a close watch on the time overall, but not belabor whether a particular topic or phase of the conversation is running long. Providing only that the group is being productive, inclusive, and efficient, at the end of the day it will not matter whether a particular consideration took 30 minutes or 40 minutes; it will only matter whether the group felt good about the product (in relation to the time spent to get it) and that the meeting ended on time.

 —To sustain the life of a group, this must be balanced with a great openness to change.  
I'm concerned that this advice may be misconstrued to favor the less structured, where readers are admonished to be open to experimenting with process agreements regardless of how well the old ones are working. Or to be open to the wonder of a solution chosen once being changed on the next occasion that similar conditions arise. Rather, I prefer the interpretation that both high-structure and low-structure people need to be open to change: the high-structure in the sense that precedent may not count for much (because no two sets of circumstances are ever exactly the same); low-structure in the sense that operating underneath general agreements about behavior may be anathema to their anarchistic and/or creative bent. In short, it requires that all members grok that decisions about the relative degree of structure must reflect a balance of what's best for the group—which is not necessarily the same thing as adding up everyone's personal preference and then plotting the arithmetic mean.

This balancing act is not so much a science as an art form, where you'll know you're in the right territory when everyone feels the stretch, yet everyone can still breathe.

The Lucky Penny: A small home in one tiny co-housing community (Video) - Treehugger

Cohousing News from Google -


The Lucky Penny: A small home in one tiny co-housing community (Video)
Whether it's a modernist gem or a gypsy-styled vardo, it's a delight to see tiny homes that deviate away from the "typical" tiny house floor plan and ditch the gable roof. Measuring 100.3 square feet, this is a ultra-tiny home, created and inhabited by ...

Love That Survives Divorce

Laird's Blog -

The last three months I've written quite a bit about the end of my marriage with Ma'ikwe, reporting on my journey through anguish, sadness, grief, and even some hopefulness. Today, I'm turning a page and starting a new chapter, where I chronicle developments as Ma'ikwe and I work our way carefully and tenderly toward reknitting precious aspects of our relationship, while respecting her decision to no longer be partners. In contemporary parlance, you might think of it as friends without benefits… yet close friends.

On Sunday I sent Ma'ikwe a Mother's Day email, and it led to the following sweet and healing sequence the last 48 hours (I've edited out the extraneous references to the weather and such):

Laird #1:

I hope you have a wonderful day.

It must be fun having Jibran back: the official reason that today’s your day.

You should be proud of how well Jibran has turned out and how well you did giving him considerable latitude to find his own way in relation to education. I’m glad the mother in you gets these precious days with him now, all to yourself, before his California adventure this summer. [Jibran has a summer job in Mill Valley.]

Ma'ikwe #1:

Thanks. It means a lot to have you celebrate this part of me, as the main witness to my mothering for the past decade.

Yesterday turned out to be a hard day for me. Being at Sandhill was bittersweet. [It was Sandhill's 41st birthday cum May Day party.] After a couple shots of whiskey, I found myself wandering around, doing a kind of melancholy tour of the nearly two decades we've known each other. Some of my best memories of us are contained at Sandhill. I was feeling both the loss of you in my life and the loss of Sandhill in yours, and they were both weighing heavily. Some combo of straight of pain of loss and self-recrimination and joyful memories that were nonetheless coated in a kind of haze of sadness. I came home early in part because I was running the risk of just getting caught in it. I clearly am working my way through my own layers of mourning us.

Laird #2:

Thanks for sharing from your heart. That’s the part I love the best, even if I didn’t always handle it well.

I wrote my blog yesterday afternoon in a state of melancholy, thinking about not being at the party, and as I stared out the window (on the train) I was trying to figure out how I’d handle it if I were in Rutledge. I’m not sure I could have handled it at all, and might have not gone. I suspect you were braver and more together than I am capable of right now.

While sadness does not dominate my life (and never has) it’s definitely close to the surface right now, and I’ve made a commitment to not fight it. Harder, I suppose, is knowing whether I’m wallowing in it.

The cold gray fog outside my window exactly mirrors my mood right now.

Ma'ikwe #2:

You're welcome. That's true of both of us, you know. Not handling it well. As I'm into this new connection [with a potential new partner] I've been thinking a whole lot about what I did well and not well with you. We both have responsibility for it not working. And I'm sad about that.

I think the stakes are really different for us, honey. I was walking around [at the Sandhill party] with one (major, important, but still one) thread of my life laid bare. For you, being at Sandhill would have been a whole tapestry. My bravery and yours are apples to oranges in this case.

Laird, you've gotten so much better at not wallowing [in reaction]. And this is huge, this break up. It's worth giving space to it emotionally. So I'm glad you aren't fighting it, but I'm not worried about you getting stuck in it. You've moved past that in your life, and I'm really proud of you for having done that work.

Yeah, it's [the cold, gray fog] been suiting mine some days as well.

Laird #3:

I’m sorry about your sadness, yet you've seemed clear in your choice to end our intimate relationship, and I’m holding that you know what’s best for you—that the predominant feelings are release and liberation; that you are no longer held back and can proactively seek a more joyful life. I wish you only the best with [future relationships], or whatever you choose.

Ma'ikwe #3:

Thanks. Your well-wishes mean a lot to me.

Laird #4:

To be sure, I’ve found myself in many swirls the past three months (not all of which have been productive), and tenderness is always close at hand and easily triggered. Throughout it all, however, I have never lost sight of a foundational sequence:

o  I love you
o  I have no regrets about having tried as hard as I knew to make our partnership work (which represented the biggest investment in relationship that I’ve ever made; I’ve never tried harder or opened myself up to as much personal work as I have in pursuit of a great marriage)
o  Even being rejected by you as an intimate partner, I still love you (repudiating that love would be soul shriveling for me and self-destructive)
o  Love is not about possession or control; it’s about connection, celebration, and being there as support in hard times; it’s about your partner thriving in all senses of the word
o  In loving you, I wish you happiness and success in whatever you choose (the ultimate test of which is that I can truly mean that when your choices have nothing to do with me)

So you see, it’s not that hard to hope your budding relationship is joyous and successful.

Ma'ikwe #4:

Thanks, love.

I have a similar list with you.

1) I still love you. It's been there a long, long time and will continue.

2) I still think you are doing some of the most important work in the world I've ever been privileged to be a part of, and our mentor/mentee relationship is enduringly valuable to me. It was always part of the attraction: your brilliance, your dedication, your fearlessness.

3) I also have no regrets about all the work that went into us for all that time. It was really a decade long journey for me, because I knew where it was headed long before I worked up the nerve to tell you that. Our relationship was the most powerful one I've ever had. I had more fun, more learning, and more growth with you than anyone else.

4) It is abundantly clear to me as I'm exploring with [someone new] how much our time together has turned me into a far better human than I was when I went into it. If this next relationship is a success (and I'm hopeful about that) it will be in no small part because our time together matured me immensely. I feel a lot of gratitude for that, and also a lot of hope that you'll have a parallel experience at some point where love is more possible because we did us.

5) And I feel incredibly grateful that you've never been run by jealousy. It's making this much easier. I really get how rare it is for someone to be able to celebrate their ex-partner moving on, and I have no doubts of your sincerity with that. I'm grateful you are mature enough to be able to tease apart your hurt (which I know is real and runs deep) from any resentment about me being happy. You're a remarkable man, Laird.

6) And did I mention that I still love you? Because it is worth repeating. Whatever I can do to support your return to peace and moving on for your own good life, I will try to do. I know there's serious limits on that, because you can't really lean into me to heal from the loss of me, but please tell me if I CAN do anything.

I feel truly blessed to receive the gift of these healing words from my estranged wife.

Good Food Here cart pod closing at end of year to make way for senior ... - OregonLive.com

Cohousing News from Google -


Good Food Here cart pod closing at end of year to make way for senior ...
The building, described on the website as a "senior co-housing community," will offer the majority of its housing for people 55 and older with lots of common space, including a dining room that could seat 30-45 people for meals together, a yoga room.
Exclusive: Condo project to displace popular Belmont food cart lotPortland Business Journal (blog)

all 2 news articles »


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