Creating Rituals – Welcoming New Members

August 14th, 2009 by

In a recent post I talked about the aprons we use as part of our welcoming ceremony for new members. And I haven’t put it into the context of our overall welcoming ceremony.
As with our community, our welcoming ceremony is informal and homey. And it still has a little structure. The idea was to make the ceremony a re-bonding experience for everyone and a simple, but heart-felt welcome. At their inception, rituals can feel a bit home-spun, but they build quickly and don’t need to be elaborate.

We begin with a community member reading our Declaration of Interdependence, written by an early member, Adin. I believe we still sigh and smile softly whenever it is read. Ken recently posted it to the whole group as a reminder that ‘we are all in this together’. Powerful words in these times. Then the community member who is the Buddy to the specific member we are celebrating, offers a few words about their relationship and their impressions about that special individual, couple, or family. The Buddy then offers a token gift to the new member. It can be an example of their relationship, something personal, or associated with our community. We’ve had small artistic renderings in a variety of mediums, spheres, notebooks, scrolls, scarves, all fun. The Buddy then offers the apron, that he or she usually has created, to our newest member. If it is a family, multiple aprons are donned. Sometimes, the joining member waits until this moment to make a ceremony of writing a check as part of joining the community. Usually our new members say a few words and the photo op occurs. Then we go through the ritual of formally adding the new member to our legal entity (boring) by signing a form, and we all sign a copy of our Declaration of Interdependence to give as a memento to the new member.

The beauty of this ceremony is that it has a little structure but is very fluid. The set elements are still relaxed and personal. They fit us well.

Musings: Establishing a Healthy, Sustainable Lifestyle for an Aging Generation

August 5th, 2009 by

Last year Americans drove 5 billion miles caring for seniors in their homes (Meals on Wheels, Whistle Stop Nurses, and so on). In our small, semi-rural county in the Sierra foothills, Telecare made 60,000 trips in massive, lumbering, polluting vans-buses – usually carrying only one senior at a time – schlepping a couple thousand seniors total over hill and dale to doctor’s appointments, to pick up medicine, or to see friends. In our cohousing community of 21 seniors, I have never seen a single Telecare bus in the driveway. In cohousing it happens organically by caring neighbors: “Can I catch a ride with you?”; “Are you headed to the drug store?”, etc. And this alternative is much more fun and inexpensive for all involved, and much less damaging to the environment. Wolf Creek Lodge, a new senior cohousing community about to start construction, has 30 units to be built on 1 acre within walking distance of downtown Grass Valley, population 12,000. Top of mind, one future household will be moving from a 20 acre lot, 9 miles from town, another from 15 acres, also 9 miles out of town, and another from 13 acres, 7 miles from town. These are young seniors planning not only to live more sustainably, but more fulfilling as well.

Bill Thomas, M.D. and prominent author on issues affecting seniors, describes our currently predominant scenario of caring for seniors as the “$3 trillion dollar dilemma.” The cost of care for the 78 million new senior/baby boomers “coming of age” in the next 20 years will be $3 trillion dollars more per year than it is now (and that is in a nation with a $13 trillion dollar GDP — to put it into perspective). It goes without saying, that the current pattern is not sustainable from an environmental, cultural or financial point of view.

President Obama has announced that for us to arrest global warming, we will have to reduce carbon emissions by 2% per year until 2050. It seems doable, but last year, carbon emissions increased by 1.4% — we are headed in the wrong direction. Given this situation, we’ve got to do something. We need to think collectively about how to set seniors up for success and to help them achieve their full potential into their last 20-30 years and how to set the environment up for success at the same time. Cohousing is for seniors who want to be a part of the solution.

We can help seniors fulfill their desires for a more rewarding living arrangement that better supports their well being, physically, socially and emotionally. And the good news is that I haven’t witnessed anyone having more fun since the college dorms, than seniors living in cohousing — and I’ve never seen anyone live more sustainably (for example, my electric bill last year was minus $83.84). Senior Cohousing: A Community Approach to Independent Living, second edition published by New Society Publishers ( — and the type of communities it describes and helps to create — allows seniors to live lightly on the planet and to enhance their quality of life at the same time.

My presentation schedule is here:
Please send to your friends, family, and other folks who you believe would appreciate a more supportive and sustainable lifestyle.

Thanks very much,
Chuck Durrett, AIA



A Family Story and a Blessing Way

June 24th, 2009 by

Raising a Family in Cohousing, Part 1

Cohousing is often touted as ideal for families. As a mom in a developing community, I thought it would be good to capture how cohousing shapes our family and how family shapes this community.

Let’s begin at the beginning. My name is Tiffany and I moved to Portland, Oregon, at the start of 2006. I lived in Seattle and my husband-to-be lived in Portland. Since my family lives in Oregon and my husband loves Portland like a friend, I made the move here.

The first thing we did was to find a nice place to rent to give us time to think about how and where we wanted to live. Alex, my hubby, had been following a listserv about cohousing in Portland and he told me what he knew about it. Intrigued, I agreed to go to some of the meetings that different forming groups announced on the listserv. I went to a cohousing social on my own and met the folks starting Daybreak Cohousing (then Sunrise Cohousing). I told Alex that he had to meet them too.

I trust my instincts about people. My feelings about the Daybreak folks were immediately positive. I could see the dream they shared but, more importantly for me, I could see the plan they described and felt that they knew how to put that plan in action. We asked to join them.

Alex and I jumped into our new cohousing adventure. Soon we developed friendships with our cohousing group. We not only worked together on the project but we ate together, went to plays, white water rafting, camping and picnicing together. Time passed and Alex and I talked about our future family. We are a bit older (in our 40s) and planned to adopt a child. But wonderful surprises happen and in December 2007, we found out we were pregnant. I was so happy and so scared. So we waited until we got through the first trimester and then shared the news with our cohousing community. The happiness shared with us was amazing.

And here is where the magic of developing these relationships struck me. The women of the community wanted to celebrate our pregnancy with a blessing way. I wasn’t sure what this was and I was uncomfortable being the focus of attention. But I was so touched that they wanted to do this for me that I said “yes” and accepted the gift of the celebration. The day of the party was lovely. We gathered at one home and ate, shared stories of being children, of having children and memories of our mothers. Then I did something I hadn’t done before. I shared all of my fears. About the health of the baby, the delivery, my ability to be a mom, the loss of my own Mom three years before. And my friends held all of that fear for me, held me and let me know that they understood. I got a lot stronger after that. Sharing this big life change with people who will be close to us in our life as family helped me build bonds I hadn’t even known that I needed.

Now fast forward a bit: our son, Max, was born in August, 2008. He is terrific. Before every meeting, I tell him that we are going to go see our Daybreak friends. He often kicks his feet upon hearing this—one of his happy movements.

In future blog posts I’ll write about our developing family, what we want for our life as a family in cohousing and what enfolds.
By Tiffany Yelton Bram



Establishing Community Rituals

May 20th, 2009 by

by Terri Huggett

Part of the joy and struggle of creating a new community is creating the threads that hold us together. In our society and in our workplace, we often take for granted the structures and rituals that help us identify with each other. Many entrepreneurs have experienced the process of building a business AND a culture from the ground up. Communities aren’t much different.

Many of the activities that unite a community arise naturally as people interrelate. And consciously creating rituals that reflect the community spirit can help too. At Daybreak Cohousing we came together early and often around the joy of sharing and eating food with each other. Many a community can come to a place where we roll our eyes at the mention, or even the thought, of another potluck. And we are no exception. Yet we still revel in socializing together around food. We have a potluck and social time before each of our twice monthly community meetings. Our Development Team has dinner before each of its weekly meetings, whoever is hosting the meeting cooks and we don’t talk business until the meeting. When our Membership Team rotated houses, we used to offer snacks, and we had to be careful to be grateful for a fab spread without getting into a competition.

When it came to creating our first welcoming ceremony for new members, we wanted to keep it simple but also be meaningful. We wanted some kind of symbol that might bind us all together and we settled on the idea of giving personalized aprons to each incoming member. The homespun decorations on the aprons reflect our artistic or fanciful natures. And something we cherish about the incoming member. The aprons reflect our interest in food and sharing that food together. They are simple and playful. And they join us together in the thought of wearing our aprons to cook and clean-up in our Common House. We often bring our aprons to events as a symbol of our togetherness. It certainly is colorful.

Sharing Suppers

April 26th, 2009 by

By Sterling Newberry

At various times, we at Daybreak Cohousing have felt the strain of so much work to do in developing our future home. We realized early on that we needed to be especially conscious of building in pure social time as a balance to all our work, and to ensure that our extended family relationships grow along with the infrastructure.

Our Sharing Suppers were started to give us planned and very flexible social time together. The sharing suppers are scheduled, twice monthly affairs. We set the dates ahead of time, attempting to place them such that they are not too close to other community activities. And then ask for a volunteer host.
Hosting is a very open concept. You just take responsibility for organizing the Sharing Supper. Your involvement can be as light as offering your home and asking people to bring food potluck-style to doing major portions of the cooking yourself (perhaps inviting people to come over and help cook). Hosts can limit the guest count, if needed, to fit their table. We’ve had many creative food themes, a game night, and a sing-along. And invitations to meet at a restaurant with the host making the reservations! You could organize a picnic if you like. The key thing is for people to share food and fun together, and not be doing the work.
We’ve had good success with these gatherings, whether 5 people attend or 25. As with most other Daybreak activities, we also invite our prospective members to participate. After all, this is a good way for them to get to know us socially (and vice versa) and helps them to make a good decision about whether we are the right community for them.

by Sterling Newberry of Daybreak Cohousing



Building Community. Learning from others while not attempting to duplicate

March 26th, 2009 by

By Terri Huggett, Daybreak Cohousing

As one of the co-founders of Daybreak Cohousing, I spent a lot of time in the early stages researching what communities who had come before us had done to build their communities, both physically and as people. The Get It Built Workshop by Katie McCamant and Rick Mockler of Cohousing Partners gave me a solid overview and foundation in the overall process and I highly recommend it. I found a wealth of generosity and information on Cohousing_L and in talking with folks in our local communities here in Portland, Cascadia Commons, Trillium Hollow and Penninsula Park Commons.

While not wanting to re-create the wheel, I was impressed and overwhelmed by the variety of solutions available to any given situation. There was a lively interchange about keys and children’s access to the Common House on Cohousing_L that opened my eyes to the possibilities. Each community had a unique, often very different approach to this situation. And they all worked well for their particular community. This taught me a valuable lesson early on. Trying to duplicate what works for other communities, may not work for our community. What has proved most helpful for us is to consider the range of solutions other communities have found helpful and use that as a starting point for further brainstorming and then settling on a solution that seems to be a fit for our particular community. We’ve found we often end up with a hybrid from the examples of other communities (maybe with a few of our own twists added in).

For example, most communities have some form of regular orientation sessions throughout their forming phase. We have found that formal orientations in which we are giving a presentation doesn’t fit our style. We found that regular twice-monthly gatherings, at Daybreak we call them Socials, specifically ‘structured’ so existing members and those interested in learning more about us can mingle informally and chat one-on-one or in small groups gives folks a better feel for us as people, helps them get their specific questions addressed and is more fun for us.