Category Archives: Economics

Theoretical Commune Management Becomes Pain in the Ass

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I’ve been talking about the commune for a long time now, and it’s starting to take shape. I have found like-minded people I want to be around kind of. I’ve even got a charter of sorts. As reported on a fellow commune member’s Facebook profile, it looks like this:

Commune Schematics
Do be sure to note that I have been messaging Jay Verburg of #GhostMine fame because my very dear friend Debbie hooked me up and he has graciously agreed to an interview. Also, you should read Debbie’s blog.

The problem is that the more I talk about it (meaning I have a lot of people who also want to escape to a land of mellow), the more people want to burst into the party. Some of these I gladly embrace [Do you have a still? yes or no – circle one] and some are not. The whole point of having a commune is hand-selecting companions which means, in my case, keeping out the drama.

I was in the midst of another Facebook thread about the recent slate of Skype marriage proposals I’ve been getting when the commune thread came up.  Someone who I am personally rooting for but don’t want to live in community with invited herself to the commune. As long as there is climate control and luxurious bedding she is in.

Awkward pause.

If you are wondering why the pause was awkward, reread the charter above where I make it pretty clear that high maintenance results in automatic disqualification. I consider someone else putting temperature control restrictions on my commune to be a key indicator of high maintenance. Build your own damn commune. I’m not responsible for your climate control or bedding.

This is a pretend-now-but-god-how-much-fun-would-that-be-to-actually-pull-it-off-somewhere-with-a-garden-and-cool-people plan right now. But I am feeling protective of this sacred space-in-my-head.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 11.05.48 AMOn my commune, we are going to have Ed in a hammock out front acting as gatekeeper and monitoring intruders. That’s what we have for guys right now. It’s not that we’re lesbians. It’s just that we’ve hit our quota of bullshit. Next to Ed will be a stack of cookies. He prefers cake, but I make cookies and until we draft for a maker of cakes, he’ll have to do with cookies. His cookie stack will be rivaled in height only by the stack of books beside it. Ed is an avid reader.

comestible alphabetWe’ve got a bevy of freaking smart, intelligent, funny, snarky, stunning female humans, some of whom have an affinity for hammocks and edible comestibles. One of the few times I have tried them (comestibles), I felt the particular inclination to make a number of pictorial representations of what the alphabet should look like, drawn with my eyes closed. That was amusing. There will probably be more alphabet art at the commune. Obviously flip flops and yoga pants.

campfire“This is a place of yurts, campfires, and hammocks,” I said by way of dissuading this wanna be commune member, “I don’t think you would be comfortable here, but you may certainly visit,” I offered. I meant all of that.

I don’t dislike her. I just don’t want to live with her, and I resent someone barging into my safespaceinmyhead. I was feeling all good about my commune, and now I am trying to figure out how to not hurt someone’s feelings. I have a theoretical non-drama-driven community to protect here, People! I am trying to be tactful.

When she argued the point, it probably wasn’t the best idea to tell her that I was basing her being high maintenance on her propensity toward hotel and restaurant snobbery, a point which she is currently arguing with me.

I’ve done some time in HR, and this would not be a good culture fit. I debated involving the witness of other friends who have reported this snobbery and then caught myself and thought, “I am acting like a seventh grader.” I don’t want to hurt her, rather I want to discourage her without her being rejected. How has this energy pierced the veil of my solidly positive commune mojo? I mean, Jesus, we picked up our cookie-eating gate-keeper this week! This is good stuff!

I guess it isn’t a good idea to broadcast something on Facebook that I’m not really quite so kidding about as I thought I was. The lesson might be that all good clubhouses need to be secret and sacred spaces protected. Or maybe Scorpio shouldn’t be the community manager. Or maybe Scorpio should be the community manager. I’ll ponder it in my hammock.

Communal Living, Earth Homes, and Kickstarter Fundraising

Let’s all get jobs and then quit them so that we can do this:

Video of Unadilla Community Farm Kickstarter Campaign.

And while we are in the planning stages, let’s globetrot on the hunt for natural homes.

Helluva Friday

If the lawnmower had just started I wouldn’t be having this Paula Cole moment.

The locust tree took over my yard and threw up shoots.  I broke one mower trying to bludgeon them to death. Friend Richard came and ground the stump into submission so now I can mow. This is great timing because the grass is about eight inches long and it’s spring. It’s also alternating hot and jungle rain, so it’s growing about three addition inches per day.

Another dear friend dropped off a mower, but I’m a girl goddammit and I can’t start the fucker. My sons held the handle together while I tried to pull it. After about three minutes and some of the most effective profanity heard in parenting, Matt finally laughed at me and said, “You really do need a guy.” (Turns out you have to push a little button to get it started.)

The kitchen sink leaks to the point that I have three buckets dispersed beneath it, scattered amidst the forest of mushrooms. I turn on the cold water only when I need it which means we get drinking water from the bathtub spout. The hot water scalds anyone who pushes it past the middle of the sink – or all the time now since the cold water is turned off generally. If I don’t empty the bucket daily, it oozes over onto the cupboard. Pretty sure I could push the pointy end of a toothbrush through the bottom of the cupboard – it’s so squishy.

To be accurate, it’s not three buckets. My plumbing solution is one small bucket, one small plastic bowl, and a towel because just yesterday when I was doing dishes I realized the water was leaking out of the cupboard door. “Well, that’s not good,” I said to myself. “I wonder what new excitement is happening underneath there?” I asked myself. “Oh, how interesting,” I said as I opened the door to see that not only are both lines dripping but the connector between the right and left sides of the sink just plain old detached. And water was basically just overflowing straight into the bucket. If I wash dishes quickly and hold the pipe up with my right foot, then it works pretty well.

My life is like camping but with a comfortable bed, flush toilets, wifi, and some really high crab grass.

Ants in the bathroom. And I’m pretty sure that the kids’ friends at school take off their smelly socks after recess and give them to my children who wake up in the middle of the night and litter them about the house. Because NO ONE can possibly have THIS MANY smelly socks in their house with three children who are only here every other week. It’s simple math.

On the plus side the rats seem to be finished shitting all over my garage and eating my TVP. I feel fairly confident about the TVP part because there is none left to eat. Bastards.

Drove the boys to school today. We were a little early but I was still stressed out because of 1) dirty socks and 2) Matt asked me to get him milk. “You are going to get eaten in the wild,” I told him by way of encouragement. “Get your own damn milk.” As I drove, I was considering what a stellar mother I am in all ways. A bus ahead of us decided it wanted to change lanes at a really shitty spot, slowing down traffic for a block and a half behind it, so even though I had time, it made me cranky.

Once the bus moved over, I saw why it was changing lanes. Just in front of it on the street was a woman stuffing a bunch of dirty clothes into a laundry basket. She’d been crossing the street – a really busy street just off of I-5 – with an overflowing green plastic laundry basket of clothes. Maybe her clothes were clean, maybe dirty. Maybe it was all she had – maybe she was going to the Laundromat. Maybe going home from one. But I felt like that lady. And it scared me and I wanted to cry.

I resented that I had to take my kids to school and couldn’t turn around to pick her up and drive her somewhere. Maybe we could both inhabit one body and share resources. At least I have a car and a washer.

When you are poor, there just isn’t enough.

I need to finish school and get a job. I don’t like it here right now. Someone come mow my damn lawn.

What Do You Do?

I don’t have a penis, but if I did and if it was important to me to know it’s dimensions compared to other area penises, I would use this question as a diagnostic tool. Nothing says ‘My identity is based on how I perform, and particularly in comparison to you’ quite as much as this question. Let’s listen in:

“What do you do?”

“I am an artisan,”

“Then allow me to fetch your slippers as I am a humble peasant with, and this may seem odd, access to your closet.”

Nothing good there. Comparison. No room for connection.

Also, lack of interest. Asking ‘What do you do?’ easily dooms a conversation to mindless lines of inquiry like ‘And what IS the primary line of insurance you write’ or ‘How do you choose which flooring vendors to use?’ What human on Earth wants to ask OR answer those questions? Are you even reading still? Exactly.

Answering the question is no easier. Is the person asking how I make money, what is important to me, or who I am? I over-think things. It’s what I do. I don’t make money, and I could talk for days on the other two. Shall we get a refill?

What I dislike is that ‘What do you do?’ leaves too much to position on REALLY STUPID things. Chicks / Guys dig me more. My watch requires insurance. My driver kicks your bus pass’s ass!

I don’t believe in the power-over dynamic as a way to engage with other people. To my way of thinking, if we have been brought together, it is because we have something to share with each other. It probably doesn’t have to do with how we pay rent or who can support the bigger debt load. Our challenge is to find out what we have for each other in the places that really matter: connection, interest, encouragement.

This afternoon I was at a mingle mingle for a dear friend of mine who is retiring. She is funny, smart, loyal, and team-oriented. She sells insurance to fund her habit of mentoring disadvantaged girls and helping young business women get established (and Habitat for Humanity and Rotary…) because she and her husband are passionate about building other people. Asking this woman ‘What do you do?’ would not uncover that.

I was standing at a tall table, awkwardly, with a group of women I’d never met. I was contemporaneously chairing a committee meeting in my head at which we were discussing the merits of learning how to do casual conversations as a means of not scaring people away. I had made the point that chit chat bores the ever-living crap out of me — thankfully, not out loud — when a woman I had briefly talked to in line approached the table. She provided a painless distraction for everyone looking for a casual chance to flee.

She had mentioned she was related to my friend. I was thinking, ‘I am sure I will like you because you are close with someone I respect a great deal, so let’s find something in common.’  We tried valiantly with the chit chat, but it was simply painful, so I broke down and asked, ‘How do you most like to create?’

She lit up!

‘My husband and I were just talking about that,’ she said. And she excitedly explained an idea she has been dreaming about. She glowed. Speaking, writing, healing. Her heart is ready and her Soul is calling, and just like that, in the middle of an awkward mingle mingle, by asking a real question to a person who also doesn’t like chit chat, I found another a new friend!


I have conversations with the people I don’t scare away 😀

^^ That’s good, right?




I Met Sandy Today

Having just come from getting fingerprinted so I can teach in the local schools, I was sitting in my car emailing a response to my friend about a Creativity Circle she is orchestrating. Hell yeah — I’ll hit that! Part of my self-defined Creativity Quest and Dragon Whispering syllabus includes a weekly meditation workbook by Lynn V. Andrews called The Love and Power Journal. Guess what it’s about? Making room for Love and walking in Personal Power.

Week Five’s assignment is to be mindful of mirrors: those upside-the-head-with-a-wet-fish slappers that we dismiss in our-whacked out, dis-integrated Western lifestyle. Think heart-grabbers, emotional triggers, places where we get stuck, and surprise meetings. These things facilitate our spiritual and emotional health if we can discern them when they show up and extract from them their lessons. It is worthwhile to attend to these ‘mirrors’.

I’m still in the car, clumsily emailing from my phone: yes, sign me up for the Creativity Circle! when my eye discerns activity. I look up.

An oversized, dingy-pink fleece zip up jacket and grey stretch-waistband pants carry a nondescript woman down the alley, cardboard fruit crate in tow. They weave their way over to a motley batch of soon-to-be-discarded buckets and bags of potting soil loitering at the side of my garage. As the responsibility of a procrastinator, the buckets and bags may be there for some time, so I generously hop out of the car to offer her the chance to take them off my hands. I’m a giver. (It is that kind of neighborhood. Had a guy  take a gas stove off my porch and thanked him sincerely for asking.)

“Hey, feel free to take any of that stuff if you could use it.”

The nondescript woman begins to speak. She has no teeth. “My husband died a week ago of a heart attack. I don’t have a home, and I am looking for food.”

Sensing a shift in agenda, I offer the arms-length suggestions that come naturally. “Have you tried any of the shelters?” [I’m already thinking about what I have in my car that can help this woman. Without getting too involved. Ah, a bag of clothes about to be donated (truth be told, they’ve been in the trunk about as long as the bucket/bag gang squatting next to my garage). I just bought a big water and some Mango Green Tea from Trader Joe’s. Internal dialogue racing: ‘The Green Tea: really? Can’t we keep that?” I hope she doesn’t ask for a sleeping bag. Mine’s a good one.]

“Yes, they won’t take a woman by herself unless she has a husband or a child. I went to the places where they serve meals and they just say ‘kitchen closed’.” I would be more skeptical if I hadn’t called for resources to help in the event that my ex went postal when I left. (He didn’t of course, but I felt better knowing what was at my disposal, and… not much.)

“You were living somewhere a week ago. What happened to your house?” I’m out of the car now, somewhere between suspicion and Pollyanna, heading to the trunk for that sweater.

“His family came in and kicked me to the curb. And they took my grand-daughter,” she follows me to the trunk. “I haven’t eaten for four days, and I keep praying but God isn’t answering. Maybe He’s testing my faith.”

Okay, well there’s its own book.

When my kids grow up, I hope they aren’t still expecting me to tell them what to eat for dinner, and yet I understand need. I’ve spent $400 on organic gluten free shopping sprees which included agar agar, bean flour, Himalyan sea salt, and organic beets. I’ve also stood in the line at DSHS, hoping to get my kids on state insurance. I don’t judge quite as much. But still need is disconcerting. My own mostly. Other people’s by an order of degrees. And guess what? The bottom feels rickety.

She extends her hand. “I am Sandy, she says.” Her pointer finger has a small open cut on it. I shake around that and make a note to wash with plenty of soap and warm water.

“Hi, Sandy. I’m Kaley. Sounds like you’re in a spot, huh?”

And here is need. Hungry and without teeth, asking for a blanket and a book. “I really like to read.” Though I don’t have a lot of extra resource right now, I have enough to help. Even without dipping into anything that would really impact me to give, I have plenty to give.

We go through my trunk and find a baseball cap, some Christmas-Book lifesavers, a pair of pants to go with the sweater. I say, “This Mango Tea is probably too heavy to carry?”

“You’d be surprised what you can carry.” In a cardboard fruit crate. Fine. This is a worthy cause.

Sandy steps onto my porch as I go inside. Prudent to leave her outside? Feel guilty for not inviting her in? For a bath. For a meal. I get plastic bags in various sizes (ad hoc suitcase, staying dry, bartering), some apples, some of those new individually-sized Jiffy peanut butter packs, cheese sticks, pretzles, crackers. (I’m thinking fats and proteins. It’s cold tonight.) Zach really likes the Rajneeshy colored checkered blanket, but he won’t notice it’s gone. Jane Eyre.

I meet Sandy back on the porch. We cram provisions into her house-in-a-box. She tells me her husband was her soulmate. They got pregnant their first night together and he looked at her and said, “I hope you’re pregnant.” Their ‘perfect son’ Sebastian is heading home from deployment in a week. Only son, so the Service is letting him out. “I’ve got some money saved up, Mom,” he told her. Just keep it together for a week. We’ll get her back,” Sebastian was referring to her grand-daughter and, I presume, his daughter. Sandy tears-up telling me about him and her soon-to-be rescue, and I am reminded that we are all just a breath away from being stripped as humans. Again: it feels rickety at the bottom.

“You know, I woke up under Burnside Bridge this morning and there was a Bible next to me. You might think I’m losing it, but I could feel my guardian angel standing there watching over me,” Sandy recounted. “And I could feel a tear. She said, ‘Don’t worry, Sandy. Today you will meet someone who will show you great kindness… I think it might be you,'” she tells me.

And I had been thinking the same thing. I am to be on the lookout for unusual situations that are gifts to teach me what I need to learn. I’m just not sure what I’ve learned yet. It was satisfying to be able to help someone with very simple things. It felt good to engage with real need and be able to help without getting lost in it — helping others adds to us, maybe… The comment about God testing her hit a nerve, and not sure what that’s all about. I’m still growing into the idea of taking responsibility for my reality, and I don’t like the passive victim of fate that was my story for so long. I don’t like the feeling of waiting for a rescue: it is disempowering. It will take me days to process this mirror more…

Sandy with no teeth because her grandparents made her brush her teeth with salt. Sandy who really misses her recently deceased husband and all the more because her first husband brainwashed her and locked her up for seven years. Sandy who is heading over to stay at a condemned motel on 78th and Hway 99 until her son gets back from overseas to help her out. “Some guy told me to take some of his rat bait if I was going to stay there, but rats are the least of my worries. I think they’re afraid of me.” Hmm. I hadn’t thought about rat bait in my preparation for the apocalypse. Makes sense.

“Sometimes it’s a good thing to have people be afraid of you,” I offered sagely. I’m imagining life on the streets for a woman.

“Bless you, Kaley,” said Sandy, and off she went.

“Bless you, Sandy.”