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'Zero net energy' projects three county communities land half million in state ... - GazetteNET

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'Zero net energy' projects three county communities land half million in state ...
GazetteNET
The net zero energy homes will be divided into three types: 23 single-family homes, 15 duplexes and a 30-unit cohousing community. The grant is earmarked for the duplexes. The company also landed a $20,000 grant to help build zero net energy homes on ...

Group Works: Power Shift

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. Intention
2. Context
3. Relationship
4. Flow
5. Creativity
6. Perspective
7. Modeling
8. Inquiry & Synthesis
9. Faith

In the Relationship segment there are 10 cards. The eighth pattern in this segment is labeled Power Shift. Here is the image and thumbnail text from that card: 
Critical awareness and transparency around existing power differences can, if held well, allow the group to adapt authority structures to best reflect their values or serve their aims. Sharing power isn't always easy, but the rewards for groups who do so can be profound.

Many cooperative groups hunger for flat hierarchy and an even distribution of power. While that's an understandable sentiment, power—the ability to get others to do something or to agree to something—is always unevenly distributed.

In my view, when it comes to power the goal of cooperative needs to be:
o  Understanding how power is distributed in the group (including how that distribution shifts by topic and circumstance).

o  Distinguishing between power that is used well (for the benefit of all) and power that is used poorly (for the benefit of some at the expense of others).

o  Developing the capacity to examine the perception that power has been used poorly, without instigating a fire fight or inciting a witch hunt.

o  Enhancing the leadership capacity of members—so that an increasing percentage of the membership has the ability to use power well.

I question whether "sharing power" is the right phrasing, because a person with power (the ability to influence others) cannot give it to others; they have to earn it. To be sure, the group can authorize someone (or a committee) to make decisions on behalf of the whole, but if that assignment is not based on trust in the person's (or team's) ability to do a good job, it's a questionable prospect. 

That said, the group can intentionally support members learning to exercise power well—which, if the lessons are absorbed, will result in an increasing number of suitable people among whom to distribute responsibilities. 

There is a trap that some cooperative groups fall prey to in pursuit of "adapting authority structures to best reflect their values." If the group translates that into strict rotational leadership there can be trouble. Let's take, for example, a group that has 24 members and meets twice a month. In the interest of purposefully distributing the power of running plenaries, the group may adopt the practice of rotating facilitation such that everyone is expected to do it once annually.

On the one hand this is eminently fair and serves the goal, yet it places the plenary at risk. For one thing, not everyone is equally skilled at facilitation, nor does everyone aspire to be good at it. Thus, on those occasions when you have people uncomfortable and/or unaccomplished in the role, you're taking a chance that the quality of the meeting can survive amateur-hour leadership. Is that smart?

For another thing, one of the hallmarks of cooperative groups is disinterested facilitation, where the facilitator is not a significant stakeholder on the topics being addressed.

if facilitation assignments are made ahead of the agenda being drafted—maybe members facilitate in alphabetical order and everyone knows their turn months ahead, which protects against someone being on vacation at the wrong time—this becomes facilitation roulette. It's inevitable that this approach will occasionally result in a inadvertent conflict of interest, at which point bye bye neutrality. Now what?

Sure, you can scramble to produce a substitute facilitator but that undercuts the Power Shift You can see the problem.

Better, I think, is to encourage all members to develop facilitation skills, but to twist no arms (and traumatize no psyches) by making this mandatory. Further, I think cooperative groups would be wise to invest resources in training members in facilitation, and then giving them assignments in relationship to their skill (and appropriate for their neutrality). 

Think of this as a template for shifting power with discernment.

Cohousing, abitare insieme a Brescia: se ne parla il 5 novembre all'Urban Center - Bsnews.it

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Cohousing, abitare insieme a Brescia: se ne parla il 5 novembre all'Urban Center
Bsnews.it
Mercoledì 5 novembre alle 17 si terrà, all'Urban Center di via San Martino della Battaglia 18, l'incontro pubblico “Abitare insieme a Brescia. Cohousing, una proposta per abitare”, organizzato dall'associazione “La Città Essenziale” e dall'Urban Center ...

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Dia de los Muertos 2014

Laird's Blog -

This past weekend was the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos. In the spirit of that, I continue a tradition I started last year, devoting my first blog of November to remembering those in my life who died in the previous 12 months. This year I am remembering three.

Steve Imhof • died Jan 8 (in his late 60s)
Steve was many things, but I met him in the unusual capacity of a male midwife. As it happened, my son, Ceilee, was his first solo birth. He generally worked with his wife, Joy, who was the more experienced midwife, but they had two clients who went into labor at the same time and had to split up to attend both. Steve got Annie and me, figuring (accurately) that we'd be less phased by a male attendant. 

Ceilee was born in the middle of our bedroom floor on a cold and sunny winter morning Jan 27, 1981, and Steve was a quiet, steady voice guiding us on this joyous occasion.

Though I lost track of Steve shortly after the birth, he surprisingly resurfaced in my life 27 years later when he drove up from Panama City FL to meet me in Atlanta (where I was visiting East Lake Commons to conduct Weekend I of a two-year facilitation training in the Southeast). After separating from Joy he had gotten curious about cooperative living and tracked me down to learn more about how he might build community in the panhandle of Florida.

After chatting with me in Atlanta he got intrigued by the facilitation training and spontaneously decided to stay for the weekend. Drawn into what we were teaching he signed up for the whole course and I got to see him eight times over the next two years. The final weekend was in June 2010, and I never saw him again.

Through occasional email contact, I knew that Steve was applying what he learned in the facilitation training to dynamics in his local fire department and that he was working on trying to coalesce some form of cooperative living in Panama City.


Mostly I remember Steve as someone who stayed curious his whole life, and was willing to question old choices in light of new evidence. We should all be so open to what's around us.
Marjorie Swann • died March 14 (at 93)
Marjorie was many things and lived a full life.

I first met her as the mother of Carol, a dynamic woman in Berkeley who is a dance and voice performer, a Hakomi therapist, and a social change activist. I was engaged in the dance of intimacy with Carol 1998-2000. Though it did not work for us to be partners, we have remained friends and I visited Marj (who lived in Berkeley as well) on a number of occasions while seeing Carol.

I also knew Marj as the ex-partner of Bob (Carol's father), who was a well-known economist and peace activist. Bob collaborated with Ralph Borsodi to start the forerunner of the Institute for Community Economics (that developed the community land trust model as a way to take the air out of the speculative balloon that inflates land prices). Toward the end of his life he championed the writings of E F Schumacher (Small Is Beautiful) operating out of the Schumacher Center for Alternative Economics in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Bob died in 2003.

Marj was a Quaker peace activist, very involved with the American Friends Service Committee, and a member of the War Resistors Leagues. She co-founded the Committee for Nonviolent Action in 1960—a group that continues strong today—and even found time to provide shelter for battered women.

I knew Marj only toward the end of her long life, when her waning physical strength limited how much she got out and about in pursuit of her various causes. Yet the fire burned strongly within her and her spirit was indomitable. There has always been something uplifting for me about being around seniors like Marj, who are engaged and open-minded in defiance of age—who do not go gently into that good night.

Stephen Gaskin • died July 1 (at 79)
Though Stephen was well-known as the charismatic leader who founded The Farm (Summertown TN) in 1971, I knew him only slightly. We chatted occasionally when I visited his community, yet I was never sure he remembered me from one visit to the next. 

Our most satisfying connection (for me) was when I was participating in The Farm Communities Conference Memorial Day Weekend in 2012, and was able to present to him—during intermission of an in-house rock band performance on the community stage—the Kozeny Communitarian Award for that year. It was last time I saw him.

While Stephen was a poster child for Flower Power and the legalization of marijuana, what stands out the most for me are two of his lesser known achievements:

a) Steadfast dedication to good local relations, navigating the considerable challenge of peaceably integrating Hippies arriving by the busload into conservative rural Tennessee.

b) Accepting amicably his being deposed as leader of the community when its centralized economy collapsed in 1983 and the population shrank from 1500 to 200. Stephen lived in the community for 30 more years but never again served in a leadership capacity. Very few can handle a transition like that, much less with grace.

Cohousing Torino: un progetto per rispondere agli sfratti delle famiglie numerose - UrbanPost

Cohousing News from Google -


UrbanPost

Cohousing Torino: un progetto per rispondere agli sfratti delle famiglie numerose
UrbanPost
Si parla ancora di cohousing: l'ultima iniziativa di coabitazione arriva da Torino, dove ogni anno sono 4.000 le famiglie ad essere sfrattate per morosità, secondo i dati forniti dal Ministero e riportati dalla rivista online Redattore Sociale ...

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The Murky Line Between Discipline and Violence

Laird's Blog -

How do you define violence? Is striking children in the name of discipline violence?

These were questions that the Fellowship for Intentional Community Board wrestled with at its recent semi-annual organizational meetings, held Oct 23-26 at Dancing Rabbit.

FIC has been around for 27 years and is best known for its comprehensive Communities Directory, which was first published as a book in 1990 and continues today both in print and as a searchable online database. We only have three boundaries around being included in the Directory:

a) That you tell the truth (no misrepresentation).
b) That you don't advocate violent practices.
c) That you don't interfere with members freely disassociating from the community if they no longer wish to be a part of it.

While we receive few complaints about listed groups—about 2-4 annually—mostly these amount to someone not liking what a group is doing and urging us to drop their listing based on their personal distaste. If it's nothing more than that we don't act. Our job is not to tell people what they should like; it's to give them options and let them choose for themselves.

However, if the complainant believes that the group has crossed one of our three boundaries above and is willing to stand by their position in a direct communication with the community, then we're willing to open a dialog with the community. Sometimes this amounts to clearing up a  misunderstanding, occasionally this leads to a modified listing, and every now and then it leads to our pulling a listing down.

We received a complaint this summer from someone who claimed a listed community had a policy of abusing children in the name of Biblically-inspired discipline, and he was perfectly willing to discuss this with the community.

Realizing that this was not going to be simple to resolve, I brought the issue to the Board. 

We had two issues to consider: 1) is the group misrepresenting its practices in its listing; and 2) is it advocating violent practices?

1. What's Happening and Is There Misrepresentation?
The complainant stated that community children are regularly disciplined by adults using reeds or sticks sufficient to raise welts and cause pain, though not enough to break the skin. Investigation shows that there are a number of ex-members who have testified publicly that this occurs. In television interviews, reporters asking for verification of the community's discipline practices are consistently rebuffed. On the one hand current members do not deny the practice, yet neither do they confirm it.

However, further research uncovered a website supported by the community in which the community admits to this practice. That resolved the question of what's happening and that it's a community practice, yet still left open whether there's been misrepresentation because this controversial practice is not mentioned in their listing. It would probably satisfy FIC's standard for honesty if the community explicitly included in their listing that the community condones disciplining children with a reed or switch that inflicts pain.

2. What constitutes violent practices?
When we first articulated our policy about violence, we distinguished between an act committed in the heat of the moment (while it may be no less traumatizing, acts of passion are easier to forgive than a policy of violence—such as regularly siccing attack dogs on unwanted visitors, or threatening people with guns).

Years later, we further refined our position by determining that hate speech is considered violence and grounds for being excluded from our listings. We had not, however, previously come to any conclusions about spanking children.

While a number of FIC Board members found the community's discipline practices personally abhorrent, the community claims that their practice is inspired by Old Testament Bible passages and discipline is done in the name of love. To what extent, if any, is it acceptable that a practice that is otherwise unacceptable be allowed because it's rooted in spiritual interpretation?

We needed to thread the needle around our commitments to: a) nonviolence; b) freedom of spiritual practices; and c) diversity of parenting philosophies. What a pickle!

What's more, one Board member wondered if this approach to discipline—however repugnant it is when considered in isolation—might actually be an effective deterrent to worse practices, helping to keep parents and other adults more disciplined about how they administer discipline. Who knows?

As FIC's main administrator (and the first monkey in the barrel when fielding critical feedback about listings), I needed a position that I could clearly delineate. If we took the view that striking children in the name of discipline was violent, how slippery was that slope? What about communities that take no position about disciplining children, leaving that wholly up to parents (which is what most communities do, so long as practices are acceptable within the eyes of the law)? Were we saying that any community that condoned spanking would be excluded on the basis of violating our boundary around violence? That could be quite a few.

After a thorough discussion we had narrowed our options down to:

Option 1
Deleting the community on the basis of their advocating violent practices. Some Board members felt this was a straight forward extension of our commitment to nonviolence. As they found the community's discipline practices unacceptable, its listing was unacceptable. If there are other groups that condone striking children in the name of discipline—even implicitly, knowing that it occurs on a regular basis and not acting to stop it—then we should take down their listings as well.

Option 2
Allowing the listing to continue if modified by the community to explicitly disclose information about their child discipline practices, accompanied by a statement from FIC that we are allowing this listing in the name of diversity and spiritual freedom, even though many of our Board believe this practice to be a form of child abuse. The argument here is that this might do a better job of balancing all the factors in play and it may be a more effective social change strategy because it attempts to educate about the issue, instead of turn our backs to it.

In the end, there was no consensus among the Board about where to draw the line, and it falls to me to do more investigating. By opening up a conversation with the community it may become clearer which way to proceed.

It was one of those moments where I hated the issue and loved the process, and an excellent example of using Board time appropriately—figuring out the best course of action in those awkward moments when our core values don't play nice with each other.

Issues in Inter-organizational Collaboration

Laird's Blog -

Suppose you have multiple organizations interested in collaborating with one another. They each have similar—though not identical—missions and many common areas of interest, such as events, fundraising, outreach, education, research, and public relations. Let's further suppose that there's considerable geographic dispersal of the players, which complicates the desire for face-to-face meetings. How would you set it up to succeed?

One model is to put out the call for each of the partners to identify reps from their organization for each area of interest, encourage the reps to get together with their counterparts and see what happens. There is a simplicity and purity about this approach, but it tends to be fairly chaotic, and hit or miss about who answers the call, and how things move forward.

It works better, I think, if there's an identified coordinator—a person (or persons) whose job it is to call the meeting at which the reps gather, who sees to it that everyone knows about the meeting and how to access it (we're talking web-based meetings or conference calls), makes sure there's a draft agenda, that everyone gets to speak, that minutes are being taken, and that the conversation is forward moving.

Note that none of these coordinator duties needs to be coupled with a personal agenda. That is, they can all be performed neutrally. While I get it that in Western culture we're conditioned to think of the person in charge of coordinating and running meetings to be someone with power to control (or at least steer) outcomes—think of Congressional or Senate committee chairs to grasp my point—one of the most salient features of cooperative culture is the purposeful separation of facilitation from stakeholder.

So a key point in collaborative dynamics is whether you have a coordinator at all, and, if you do, how that person (or person) gets selected. If you offer to fill that role without being asked first, there can be suspicion about your motivation. Is it to control, to enhance productivity, or both? Having no coordinator addresses the power concerns (that the coordinator, or the organization with whom they're associated, will have an advantage in the direction taken by the collaboration), yet at the expense of efficiency (without portfolio, reps will be hesitant to step into the void to perform coordinating tasks—for fear of stepping on toes or being labeled power mongers).

In an anarchistic ideal, every rep would be fully actualized: willing and able to perform coordinator duties as the situation calls for them. But I've never seen that model work well. People can be reps—and good ones—without having the bandwidth to perform coordinating tasks. Perhaps none of the reps in a given interest area will have the time or inclination to coordinate. Or maybe the reps who volunteer to handle certain coordinating tasks are not seen as capable. Now what?
 
Of course, the reps could discuss that and determine collectively how to self-organize and fill coordination roles, which includes the possibility of reaching outside their current configuration. Can you count on that happening? Probably not. Yet rather than predicting that it won't, I'm suggesting that if you recognize the need for baseline coordination, then, as a partner organization you may want a proposal on the table at the outset, establishing that each focus group will address a set of standard questions about how they will conduct business—note that I am not saying that different interest groups need have the same answers, or that the collaborative groups need to operate the same way that parent groups do:

o  Who will take the lead on scheduling meetings?

o  Who will serve as a point of contact for the group (the person to whom inquiries are directed)?

o  Who is authorized to be a spokesperson for the group?

o  Will the group operate with a list serve, and, if so, who will manage it?

o  How will reps be notified when meetings have been scheduled and the protocol for accessing them?

o  If the group is frustrated by a rep's performance (missing meetings, not coming prepared, acting stridently, etc.) what is the protocol for addressing those frustrations, including the possibility of informing the rep's parent body what's happening and possibly requesting that the rep be replaced?

o  What will be the standards for minutes, how will it be determined who will take them, how will they be disseminated, will they be available to folks outside the group, how can they be modified, and how will they be archived?

o  Will meetings be facilitated, and, if so, how will it be determined who will facilitate?

o  How will meeting agendas be drafted?

o  To what extent are reps authorized to make decisions binding on their constituent organizations?

o  If the group develops proposals, what can the group implement on its own and when do reps need to consult with their organizations? If proposals need to be shopped among the partners, who will manage this process?

o  When can the group proceed in the absence of participation from a partner group (what happens when reps miss meetings)?

o  What are the reporting standards for informing partners what the group is discussing?

o  What is the protocol for inviting additional partners to join the group?

o  How will the group make decisions?
 
While this list is not exhaustive, it's comprehensive enough to give you a good feel for what I'm talking about.

If you reflect on this set of questions, you'll observe that all of them have probably been addressed by each partner organization to establish how they'll function internally. None of this should be virgin territory. I suggest you think of it as extending what you already know to be helpful at home into your work with others. While there can a certain amount of impatience with tackling process considerations when an interest group initially gathers (it tends to be much sexier jumping into ideas for joint projects, which were the inspiration for collaborating in the first place), my experience has been that operating in the fog bank of murky process quickly erodes enthusiasm for the joint effort. If you want your group's work to have legs, you have to provide shoes.

While it may make sense, in the name of efficiency, to ask one partner group to take the lead on handling coordination functions (perhaps by virtue of access to greater resources or staff experience), at the very least all collaborative groups can walk through the checklist of organizational functions I've delineated above to keep things rolling.

Why Cooperative Groups Fail to Accept Offers of Help

Laird's Blog -

I'm currently immersed in four days of FIC organizational meetings, where a key focus has been how to make better connections with others trying to build cooperative culture. Essentially, those of us with deep familiarity in community living believe that we're learning something in the crucible of that experience that has wide application—in neighborhoods, in the workplace, in schools, and in churches—yet we're frustrated with the lack of invitations to share what we know. What's going on?

I think this declination sorts itself into three main reasons:

A. Not Open to the Idea
Some groups believe that the intentional community experience is simply too exotic to be relevant to their situation—and they may be right. Or they may not (more about this in Part B below).

Some groups believe it's more problematic than beneficial to be closely associated with intentional communities (interestingly, this can be true even if the would-be recipient is itself an intentional community!). As such, they'd rather do without. This might be because: 1) they think it's politically unwise (if their constituency finds out they've been cavorting with Hippies there may be a knee-jerk negative reaction); 2) they think it's superfluous (the would-be client believes they can handle their struggles internally, or what intentional communities offer will not address their need); or 3) or maybe they believe that the help is not replicable (we'll never be able to do what you can do, so why bother having a taste of it?).

A more subtle, yet pervasive version of this is where the group is willing to continue to muddle through because they have no concept that it can be better, or it's beyond their imagination to seek help (we may not be perfect, but we're proud of our self-sufficiency).

Some people perceive acceptance of help as an admission of failure. For some it's too embarrassing letting others get a peek at their dirty laundry. 

Thus, there are a number of reasons why groups may not be open to outside help.

B. Misunderstanding the Offer
Some resistance is tied to not wanting to be in a position of being told what to do by an outsider (I'm not saying that would happen; I'm saying there's repugnance at the thought that it might).

It's not unusual for clients to believe that their situation is so complicated or unique that it's too daunting to bring in outside help. (It would take too long to bring them up to speed; why should we pay to educate an outsider?) What they fail to grok is that people experienced in cooperative dynamics are familiar with patterns that may appear as impossibly specialized to the residents (who haven't as much cooperative experience under their belt as the consultant).

Some don't appreciate that groups are groups, and that the lessons gleaned in one cooperative setting are often readily adaptable to another.

Sometimes the folks making the offer do a poor job of casting it in ways that are accessible or attractive to the would-be client.

C. Misunderstanding the Need
It's relatively common for groups to mistakenly think that the problem essentially amounts to some small number of difficult members being jerks, rather than realizing that there's a bit of the jerk in all of us and what's needed is better tools for unpacking triggering dynamics.

If you've never witnessed a group work authentically and compassionately with distress, it may be hard to imagine that the group could use help with it.

Groups that slog through discussions where members disagree, may not understand that skilled facilitation can make a night and day difference in the likelihood of finding workable solutions without anyone selling out, or feeling run over by a truck.
• • •One of the reasons it's worthwhile to sort out these causes is that I believe we might be able to do something about B & C (for example, through better messaging, and more careful tailoring of offers to appeal to clients' needs), while A may be intractable.

At the very least, it will help us hone in on the opportunities where we think we have the best chance of turning it around—which has got to be a better response than wringing hands, or blaming the damn clients.

More talk about cohousing this weekend in Qualicum Beach - Parksville Qualicum Beach News

Cohousing News from Google -


More talk about cohousing this weekend in Qualicum Beach
Parksville Qualicum Beach News
The Livewell Cohousing group is hosting a talk by author and architect Chuck Durrett again in Qualicum Beach this Sunday, October 26. Livewell president and founder Gary Morrison said Durret has designed over 50 cohousing communities in the U.S., New ...

There and Back Again

Laird's Blog -

Not only is the title to today's blog the alternate (lesser known) title of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 classic fantasy, The Hobbit, but it accurately captures my relapse into lower back pain following my overzealous representation of Sandhill Farm at the Best Missouri Fair at the Shaw Botanical Gardens, Oct 3-5. That is, I went there and now my back hurts again.

I know that was nearly three weeks ago but I still hurt.

Unfortunately the basic problem is getting older, which I suspect is terminal. The tenderness that I'm dancing with traces back to a fortnight of heavy construction on a cistern project for Sandhill that I oversaw (and apparently overdid) in late May. My folly was thinking that I could do anything (or at least anything that I've been able to do in the past), and that ain't necessarily so.

Having been a homesteader since I moved to Sandhill four decades ago, there's always been an emphasis on physical labor, and mostly that's an aspect of my life that I've fully embraced. Gradually, however, my work mix shifted from lifting with my arms, legs, and back to lifting with my pen, voice, and brain. Over time I did less work on the land and more as a nonprofit administrator (first for the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and then for the Fellowship for Intentional Community) and as a group process consultant and trainer.

Last May I got up close and personal to my physical limitations with the questionable choice to jump into concrete work after months of doing nothing more aerobic than carrying my own bags on train trips and pecking away vigorously at a keyboard. My back could tell the difference.

After a couple weeks of rest and recovery from the cistern work, my back wasn't "normal" (which condition I'm not sure I'm ever going to experience again) but I was able to resume normal non-constructive duties—I just needed to be cautious. When I got overambitious with a shovel digging up a suspect water line behind our house in July, my back made it clear the next day that that wasn't such a good idea.

The thing though that put me over the top of the pain threshold, was a four-day sequence at the beginning of October. On Thursday I was over at Sandhill grating, blending, and jarring 10 gallons of peeled horseradish root (yielding 127 half pint jars for sale—about eight gallons). In addition to the tears and irritated mucous membranes, I had to schlep our 90 lb Univex slicer/shredder from the commercial kitchen to our front porch (never try to shred horseradish indoors). It was like lugging a bag of cement. Ugh. At the end of an eight-hour shift I was bone tired and my back was sore.

The next day I returned to Sandhill to load for the fair, which entailed packing several boxes of sorghum (a case of quarts weighs over 40 lbs) and myriad cases of condiments. After a couple hours the pickup was full, and so was my quota of lifting for the day… but I wasn't done.

When I got down to St Louis I had to unload everything in our booth space and my back was protesting. I knew I was in trouble when I went to bed that night, but I still had to reload everything that didn't sell at the end of the fair Sunday evening and I was hurting badly by then. (Is there anything worse than lifting a weight that you know you shouldn't?)

It is now 16 days later and ibuprofen is my best friend.

My recovery has been painfully slow and I'm not used to being so limited in my activities or needing to be so careful when I get out of bed. I was walking to a meeting in the dark two evenings ago and when I stepped into a low spot in the road that I couldn't see, I overstrode slightly and it was like someone was gouging my lower back with razor blades. No fun. While I'm making do, I have to be way more cautious than I'm used to.

There is one silver lining: the sympathy and support I'm getting from Ma'ikwe, who has been struggling with lower back issues herself since '09, as a symptom of chronic Lyme. While it's not so great having both of us needing to be extra careful when lifting buckets, Ma'ikwe has been totally understanding when I ask her to help put on my shoes first thing each morning, before I've limbered up enough to be able to do it myself.

It's the different between sympathy and empathy—she's not just patiently listening to her partner describing pain, she's actually been walking in my moccasins. Painful as that is, we're navigating this together and that helps a lot.

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