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How can we rebuild the extended family?

 
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I have been reading two threads this week, that feel like the same one to me. Where is permaculture for the elderly? and (in the cider press area, requires a certain number of apples to post there) Too much chaos. One is about how to take care of the elderly, one is a young mother overwhelmed by the nonstop daily stress of kids. I'm in the middle, age-wise, I'm in my 50's, and wish I had help for things that just wear me out. I had to push a riding mower that I had to repair to a place I could work on it, which was uphill of where it had died. I bribed a couple of neighbor boys with chocolate to push it for me (I buy candy just for them.)  When they are busy with school or sports, I have no one to call for help, and I don't feel I can ask them for help often.

Human cultures evolved within the extended family, and except for very urban living, that has been the pattern that works well for most people. Those of us who are trying to go back to rural life, without family that thinks this is a good idea, have no blood ties to people in a similar lifestyle. How can we build the extended family, for ALL of us, our parents, the young families, when there are no blood ties, in a society that has fragmented?

 
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This is such a hard question. I left my own family (too much baggage to get into there) and to bring up my kids I was SO lucky to have two good friends, older women, who stepped up as Aunties and brought us all into their families. Without them we would have been totally isolated and I would have been a much worse mother.
I always say my experience with churches is that I greatly dislike them but really miss the instant commmunity--  but that's another social structure that seems to be vulnerable.
I would like to get into a broader community, but I feel like I don't have a lot in common with many people, and as I get older I would just rather be by myself (true confessions from a grumpy old lady....). We are talking about a move to a different city and I truly wonder how we are going to meet other people and not be completely isolated. I hope I can use social media to find other people with similar interests, but I wonder if it's really possible.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Tereza Okava wrote:
I always say my experience with churches is that I greatly dislike them but really miss the instant community--  but that's another social structure that seems to be vulnerable.
I would like to get into a broader community, but I feel like I don't have a lot in common with many people, and as I get older I would just rather be by myself (true confessions from a grumpy old lady....). We are talking about a move to a different city and I truly wonder how we are going to meet other people and not be completely isolated. I hope I can use social media to find other people with similar interests, but I wonder if it's really possible.



Exactly! The only social media I use is permies, we are not a church goers, and we moved to another state, and are still very isolated. My mom has been going to exercise classes, mostly meets women her age (80ish) I have found few like minds out here, I'm WAY too busy dealing with the property and trying to get the house built, to figure out how to find community, and too tired from all I do to put effort into it. If I even had a clue where to look.
 
Tereza Okava
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ah, and rural is even worse, isn't it. There is what, a county fair? You can't even arrange something by posting a thing at the feed co-op anymore in a lot of places, as everyone is ordering online (as I was sad to see when visiting my mom in rural PA last year). And that doesn't address the work of interacting with rural producers who maybe think you are wacko (or even the devil himself) for not following the party line of Big Ag/Big Pesticide/etc etc.

If it weren't for the Slow Food movement here and how it is connected into the organic community (add to that the fact that I live in the suburbs of one of the country's largest cities, not out in the sticks by any measure) I am not sure I'd know anyone at all. Still, that's probably how I'll start out again when we move.
 
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To answer the question directly, we did it by having foster kids, and through adoption.

I am closer to my adopted brothers and sisters more than I am my real brother and sister, although I still love them as well.
 
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When I read the intro to this thread, I knew exactly which two other threads would be referenced.
......
I think that many people build their own family unit. 26 years ago, after moving from Ontario to British Columbia, we rented a nice little cottage from Ted and Barb, an older couple. Within a year, they became Grandpa and Grandma. Ted had always wanted grandchildren, and suddenly there were two. When my youngest was in kindergarten, he showed up at least three times a week , for the reading session where parents and relatives are welcome. He was a teacher for 42 years, before retiring. But within a year he was back at the Primary School. They created a special award for the most involved community member.

We only lived at Ted's place for 2 years, but he was the most regular visitor, at our own house, that was only a few kilometres away.

My children had 2 grandfathers back in Ontario. Eventually my former father-in-law, who was Pakistani, moved to British Columbia , near the end of his life. He decided that Ted and Barb needed to have some name that reflected their status within our family. The names Bapogee  and Mathagee were selected. This is the title of respected male and female elders who may not necessarily be related. It's what Indians called Gandhi and his wife. So that is what my children and their mother called Ted and Barb, for the rest of their lives.

We weren't blood relatives, but we became family.
 
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It is often said that "Friends are the family that you choose for yourself." Like Tereza, my actual family had baggage like a luggage carousel! (round and round it goes... and it always seems to be everyone else's bags)
I am, however, blessed to have a good network of friends. Two long-time and very dear friends of the type that would rearrange their plans to help if called on.

Finding friends with similar goals and interests is one thing. Attending gatherings or events/classes, or hosting them, would be one way to network.

Another way sort of ties into the podcast 430 - Otis, and the PEP stuff. Which is a way of showing your own capability and worth, or what value you might bring to a friendship/deal as a skill set.
There's also what might be brought in terms of material usefulness, like owning a truck. Everyone seems to want to have a friend with a truck now and then... moving time, a load of building supplies... if you've ever owned a truck you know!
The "I-owe-you's" that are the common form of payment, can come in handy, when you need an extra set of hands, or a taller ladder, a babysitter, or an errand run...


 
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Ahhhh, yes. I've so many conflicting thoughts and feelings, on this!

Some family are just much easier to love, from a distance! This is just one of the reasons we were thrilled to move to another state (I won't even get into all the reasons it was a Godsend, to leave the specific state we left!) We told our 5 kids they were all welcome to join us, and frankly, we hope they do, but we aren't betting on it. Two of them are over 30, with no kids, and nothing like a prospect of any, anytime soon. The other 3 are young enough (16 - 23) that we hope they wait a while longer, before having kids, but not necessarily before deciding to move closer to us! My sibs are spread all over most of the east side of the Mississippi, and hubs' only brother is one of those we were happy to leave behind.

We are both in our 50s, both partially disabled, which put us both overweight (We are working on that and have both lost substantial weight) and slowly building up a little farm - alone. It's kinda scary! We have no familial support system, here. We're new enough to the area, that truly relying on new friends feels like imposing on them, even though they've all been wonderful, and some have offered. While our faith is strong, our church ties here, are non-existent. That's on us, though. We haven't attended, at all, and frankly, might not, ever. Our HOG (Harley Owners Group) family are some great people, but we've barely been active with them, and those friendships haven't really built beyond the acquaintance level, yet. There are no kids, in our neighborhood. None. One very elderly (95ish) woman, on the corner of our dead-end gravel road has young grandchildren, who visit, in the summer. The non-tourist season median age, in our geographic area is 67! ***WE*** are the 'kids' in our neighborhood!

So, before all this even came to light, we'd begun cultivating rapport with people in the area, just by being ourselves (gregarious, open, joking) with all the people we were doing business with, and other people we met in the process. For example, one of the first businesses we sought, before even making an offer on this house, was the coffee shop, lol. We loved the place, and started talking to the employees and proprietor, as well as some of the very open, welcoming regulars. We met a kind, funny, 70ish gentleman there, who turns out to be something of a local celebrity, largely due to his status as a 3rd generation blacksmith. He is very happy to share his knowledge teaching classes both at his home and in schools, opening booths at local festivals and fairs, and spending loads of time at the coffee shop, talking to people who come in. This man turns out to be one of our neighbors, and has become a mentor to my beginner-blacksmith hubby. Our realtor and his wife are great people, whom we consider friends now, but they're also a business team, with teenagers in private school, and live about 20miles away. We are also active members of our local III% Originals group, and have much in common with some of them, and gather socially, too. We now have many local acquaintances, and several people we know we could call on, in an emergency - but, no one close, who can help with the farm-building & maintenance type heavy lifting.

We cherish our seclusion! But, we often worry over how we will manage, when/if we both happen to catch a bad case of some debilitating creeping crud going around, or if one of us gets injured - or worse. The folks we bought this place from were only a few years older than us, and built the place themselves. They were self employed, and doing great - until he had a stroke. They had to sell, because she couldn't take care of the place on her own, anymore - especially since she was also now his primary caregiver, and they had no local family. She'd been trying to manage on her own, for over a year. We didn't know it, at the time, but that's why she snapped up our first ridiculously low bid, like her life depended on it - because, it did. We're terrified we will end up the same way.

But, no one is going to be living with us, if we can avoid it. We've no interest in being a multigenerational household. Just. No. But, it would be nice to have some of our family closer. I'd be happy to be someone's 'auntie'. I'll happily be the crazy auntie! But, I also love my solitude... But, I'm afraid of having to do it all, alone... but...

 
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I've learned that in order to get support, I must give support.  So I practice gifting my time, labor, and extra resources if possible, to neighbors and friends who need these things.  I'm deliberately using the word "gifting" because if I think of it as "sharing" there is too much of an expectation of return, which leads to disappointment if that doesn't happen.  Often, though, support is returned without expectation.

We've created a bit of an extended family this way with neighbors on our road.
 
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I have tried making friends into family without much success. I'm very close with my kids. My oldest daughter and grandson live on our property. My youngest will be joining us in December when she finishes her degree. My third child is planning to move up to the area when possible. He misses us too much, and he wants to be around all the time to see his nephew grow up. So that just leaves one of my kids in the Bay, and we are busy trying to convince him to move up here as well. My parents don't want to move up here, but they visit every month. The rest of my family, I just don't care that much.

I'm also a grumpy old lady (not really that old), not a big fan of people, but I am taking a land stewardship course from the extension office and am trying to make friends there. And I'm going to a monthly woman's book club, support thing. I don't have a partner and frankly doubt I ever will, I haven't the patience for it. But sometimes it would be nice to have people in my life (other than online) that care about the things I do.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I think some of us are just loners or hermits by nature.  I'm not a people person, not good at small talk, socially awkward.
 
Pearl Sutton
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One of the problems I have with making extended family, as opposed to just friends, is the cross generational aspect of it. Using Carla Burke as an example (I hope you don't mind, Carla!) I have met her in real life, and we are a lot alike, and have a lot of fun. But we are peers, not cross generational. I hired some high school girls over the summer to work for me, and they are cross generational to the point we have a hard time communicating, very little in common at all. They aren't people I'd choose as hang out with friends, the people I'd choose are in the same boat I am, older, health issues, too many balls in the air etc. So part of what I see missing in "make friends" (which is hard for me at best) is people I relate to are my peers, whereas "extended family" is cross generational.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I've learned that in order to get support, I must give support.  So I practice gifting my time, labor, and extra resources if possible, to neighbors and friends who need these things.  I'm deliberately using the word "gifting" because if I think of it as "sharing" there is too much of an expectation of return, which leads to disappointment if that doesn't happen.  Often, though, support is returned without expectation.

We've created a bit of an extended family this way with neighbors on our road.



Sometimes it starts as a transaction, "You help me for an hour, I help you for an hour." or even an exchange of money, and begins to evolve.
"You have to give, in order to receive." Reciprocity certainly helps build a relationship, where one is not always on the receiving end.

Those two friends I mentioned earlier and I are all simultaneously convinced that we owe the other BIG TIME for the last time . None of us are really keeping track it seems.
 
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I went door to door to all my neighbors years ago. Now when we get a new neighbor I go greet them. Of course this backfired with one neighbor and I got molested. I'm now banned from greeting new neighbors. Not that it stops me, I just go into it with an air of caution now I didn't have before. So my neighbors and I have each others phone #'s, which we do use and some of us have Facebook where we have a group for our section of land and the peeps that live on it. We aren't super close as a neighborhood but I know I could call on any of them for help and they could do the same.

We also go to a church 5 mins from our house. I suggest a country church, even if you don't believe. It's a whole lot of people close to you who want to make friends. We've met great people through Church and we share different knowledge and tools and help when needed.

So all in all, takes effort, but it's doable.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Pearl - as far as cross-generational, I have had the best luck with friends' kids and/or kids' friends. I had two friends with whom our relationship has imploded, both around prescription drug addiction, but I remain friends with both of their daughters, who may come to stay on our property. The other is my kids' friends, over the years, I took in a fair number of them. Their parents had kicked them out, or were abusive, or both. I have connections with these kids, and I like that. They are not the same kind of friendship that I have with peers, but I've rarely been friends with people my age.

The bigger issue around here, is that everyone is married. I don't really want to be friends with married couples. Even when I was coupled, we only ever really liked one member of a couple, and it's so tedious to have to put up with the other.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I've learned that in order to get support, I must give support.  So I practice gifting my time, labor, and extra resources if possible, to neighbors and friends who need these things.  I'm deliberately using the word "gifting" because if I think of it as "sharing" there is too much of an expectation of return, which leads to disappointment if that doesn't happen.  Often, though, support is returned without expectation.

We've created a bit of an extended family this way with neighbors on our road.



It's funny how that works.  When we "give it away now" without the expectation, it always seems to come back to us tenfold.  I think the key is our expectations.



On another note
I recently got back in touch with a lifelong friend (brother from another mother) due to a pill addiction. I was shocked at the fact that he could do this to his wife and children, not to mention himself.   In the 15 years of separation, I mentally struggled to understand this.  It wasn't until about 2 years ago that I realized that I didn't really know myself and had to figure that out before I could possibly try to understand another.  He said to me the other day, it's like our friendship never missed a beat.
It's not linear.
 
Carla Burke
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Pearl Sutton wrote:One of the problems I have with making extended family, as opposed to just friends, is the cross generational aspect of it. Using Carla Burke as an example (I hope you don't mind, Carla!)



Not at all!
 
Dale Hodgins
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My friend Russ was a major chatter box , and he could get on people's nerves, but he was also the most generous person I've ever met with his time, often with complete strangers. If a car needed a boost, or was stuck in the snow , Russ would be there. He could recruit strangers off the sidewalk, to help push a car out of a driveway. Whenever he wasn't doing work of his own, he was helping somebody with something.

Russ had a very large circle of friends and acquaintances. Not only did Russ not have a scorecard, he didn't even consider the things he did to be work. He was just a very gregarious, aggressively friendly sometimes , guy who found it very easy to meet and befriend people. Four years after his death, there's still a Facebook page that gets added to occasionally. Everybody has something positive to say about Russ.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:One of the problems I have with making extended family, as opposed to just friends, is the cross generational aspect of it. Using Carla Burke as an example (I hope you don't mind, Carla!) I have met her in real life, and we are a lot alike, and have a lot of fun. But we are peers, not cross generational. I hired some high school girls over the summer to work for me, and they are cross generational to the point we have a hard time communicating, very little in common at all. They aren't people I'd choose as hang out with friends, the people I'd choose are in the same boat I am, older, health issues, too many balls in the air etc. So part of what I see missing in "make friends" (which is hard for me at best) is people I relate to are my peers, whereas "extended family" is cross generational.




I think this is really key. My last couple locations, I have had better luck making friends, and making them in a broader age range. Now I've got friends a few years younger than me through to older than my parents..

But, it seems extra hard to make friends a decade or more younger than I am.

I guess for me the most practical option on cross-generational chosen family, is making friends within a decade or two of age, and hoping some of their kids end up part of your network down the line.

I'll let y'all know how this turns out in 20 years...


Oh! Or Dale's option. Instant multi-generational family. I do not think this would work well for me yet, as I'd need to marry a 16y/o to come up with 2 decades separation... but other than that, in a lot of ways it seems pretty practical!
 
Dillon Nichols
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Stacy Witscher wrote:

The bigger issue around here, is that everyone is married. I don't really want to be friends with married couples. Even when I was coupled, we only ever really liked one member of a couple, and it's so tedious to have to put up with the other.



This is such a tricky thing to navigate. Some couples seem sewn together and you just can't manage to see one without the other.

I really strive not to be those people, when in a relationship.. and it seems to me that those couples who also exist separately, last better on average.

I am friends with one couple where I do consider both to be my friend, and it's still sometimes awkward.. it's a lot easier to listen to someone bitch about a spouse, if you don't also consider the spouse your friend!

 
Dale Hodgins
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Oh! Or Dale's option. Instant multi-generational family. I do not think this would work well for me yet, as I'd need to marry a 16y/o to come up with 2 decades separation... but other than that, in a lot of ways it seems pretty practical!
......
Funny marital age gap has a come up where I'm mentioned. My wife is 35 years my junior. She's still slightly more mature than me, which I am reminded of often. I have a brother in law and two sisters in law. I'm the closest thing they've had to a father. Died when they were very young. My wife is younger than my children, but we don't notice it much now.

It didn't take long for me to become head of the family. Nova keeps them in line. She monitors how money is spent and sometimes issues threats on my behalf. Her older sister is almost done schooling that will allow her to work as a teacher. Nova checks up on her progress to make sure that we aren't wasting money on restaurant meals or hairdos. She is "Acting Mother" handling normal motherly things like feeding everybody,  making them get up, and checking on academic progress. She even issues spankings, by not buying or cooking favorite foods for offenders.

So my family situation is unique. My daughter visited for a few days. She is 5 years older than Nova and much bigger. I told her to obey her stepmother, and everybody had a good laugh.

My daughter is traveling for 6 months.  Nova said that I could have done that,  but now I have 5 piglets, pointing to her siblings and mother who were all lying on the floor by the fan.

The siblings will be supported by me, until they are finished school. All are old enough to be done, but they began working at around 7 and missed years of education.

It will never be a typical family, and none of us are concerned about that.
 
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There is something to be said about investing in friends 20 or 30 years ago, as those long-standing, deep friendships have a way of sustaining you in the later years of life.

But until someone figures out how to turn back the clock, for those who never developed those deep bonds, it's impossible to undo the time that's now past.

A couple of thoughts that haven't been expressed thus far.

1.  Forgiveness.  I know of no human decision that has more far-reaching interpersonal returns than the act of forgiving and reconciling.  We are people desperate for grace.  Most of us have experience with someone in our family of origin who is alienated or even excommunicated.  There are real reasons why we hang on to grudges and nurse our resentments.  But at the end of the day, resentment is a poison we drink ourselves in order to try to punish someone else.  Grace and forgiveness is the only cure.  Learning to be a forgiving person is necessary to maintain what community we have, and to rebuild broken bonds of family and friendship.

2.  Vulnerability.  We like to be strong, don't we?  I don't want to be dependent upon others.  I hate being in debt and find it tremendously hard to ask for help -- even from my wife, who is the love of my life.  But trust bonds are built on a foundation of mutual respect and reciprocity, which means that I need to be vulnerable.  If I'm always the strong one, I'm actually undermining the long term community and extended family that I so long for.

3.  Food.  The most level place in most human relationships is the table.  If you wish to extend your family, extend your table.  What ever happened to the good old pot luck?  Cooking together, eating together, preserving food together, baking together . . . thats what families do.  There's a reason why the metaphor of breaking bread together is culturally universal, even in places where they don't eat bread.  (Breaking rice together?  Doesn't have the same ring, does it?).

That's all I got.
 
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Family can sometimes be problematic. I don't think it's actually the extended family that we need to be concerned with rebuilding, but rather something more akin to a freeform tribalism that stresses the importance of healthy human interaction.

I started thinking about it in terms of a religion, because that's a format many can identify with, but it's really more like the secular civil and social equivalent; it needn't displace belief of any sort, but grounds community in the sort of communal meetings that can be seen in some churches, say, after the mass or equivalent service has ended but before the "dismissal," where community events might be announced.

What of local townhalls? If they exist already, it's just a matter of meeting people and populating those meetings. I know of many small towns in rural Ontario, real blink-and-you'll-miss-it types as well as towns large enough that americans would call them cities (30,000-50,000 people), that have service organisations that fill that role to some extent; in the tiny ones, there might only be a Legion, or a Lion's Club, or a Council of the Knights of Columbus, and that's where community has figured out where to gather in order to discuss helping the community in whatever way they can.

Now I am what some people term inventive, or imaginative, or convoluted beyond reasoning and bloody barking mad at times, but what I think we need is to use what exists where it exists, bending it to our wills, and where it doesn't exist, we need to start up village meetings, or town hall meetings, that happen on the regular and exist to help the community help its members. They could even, under some circumstances, be set up as co-ops, or as charities, depending on specific activities.

What I think we need to do is foster a place for exchange of ideas, and for communication.

We need the people hell-bent on spraying, but who are otherwise real salt-of-the-earth people, to feel accepted and heard by the community that wants to convince them that there's a better way than spraying, so that instead of livelihoods being damaged and relationships strained and broken, and savings blown on legal fees, we have conversations to head off all that.

We need, I think, regional, grassroots identities that we control, to combat overarching political, social, and demographic labels and identity-politics. We need local conversations that address local concerns and link them logically to larger trends and movements.

I think we need ways to better coordinate our thoughts and actions, so as to not only avoid getting in each others' way, but to each move slightly to accomodate the other, where applicable, so as to afford all of us greater opportunity.

I don't think we rebuild the extended family. We move on to more sophisticated constructs and models, hopefully those that handle issues of discrimination based on age and gender better.

-CK
 
Carla Burke
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Marco Banks wrote:There is something to be said about investing in friends 20 or 30 years ago, as those long-standing, deep friendships have a way of sustaining you in the later years of life.

But until someone figures out how to turn back the clock, for those who never developed those deep bonds, it's impossible to undo the time that's now past.

A couple of thoughts that haven't been expressed thus far.

1.  Forgiveness.  I know of no human decision that has more far-reaching interpersonal returns than the act of forgiving and reconciling.  We are people desperate for grace.  Most of us have experience with someone in our family of origin who is alienated or even excommunicated.  There are real reasons why we hang on to grudges and nurse our resentments.  But at the end of the day, resentment is a poison we drink ourselves in order to try to punish someone else.  Grace and forgiveness is the only cure.  Learning to be a forgiving person is necessary to maintain what community we have, and to rebuild broken bonds of family and friendship.

2.  Vulnerability.  We like to be strong, don't we?  I don't want to be dependent upon others.  I hate being in debt and find it tremendously hard to ask for help -- even from my wife, who is the love of my life.  But trust bonds are built on a foundation of mutual respect and reciprocity, which means that I need to be vulnerable.  If I'm always the strong one, I'm actually undermining the long term community and extended family that I so long for.

3.  Food.  The most level place in most human relationships is the table.  If you wish to extend your family, extend your table.  What ever happened to the good old pot luck?  Cooking together, eating together, preserving food together, baking together . . . thats what families do.  There's a reason why the metaphor of breaking bread together is culturally universal, even in places where they don't eat bread.  (Breaking rice together?  Doesn't have the same ring, does it?).

That's all I got.



Marco, I completely agree, on most of what you've said, here! The only problem with the friends of 20 or 30 years ago, that I've personally experienced, is transience.  I still have very close relationships with my friends from that timeframe. We shared, helped, mourned, and celebrated each other through graduations, weddings, babies, first home purchases, miscarriages, divorces, and deaths. We cleaned each other's homes, through illnesses, accidents, and depression, packed and moved each other, and had annual, huge garage sales just to purge our junk & spend time together - whether we sold anything, or not. We were - and still are family. Unfortunately, life called us all in different directions. One went north, to mid- MN, one east to the SC coast, one west to the CA coast, one to AR (she and her family are geographically closest to me, at 5hrs away!), and then, there was me, bouncing around from one state to the next. For a while, we'd still run to each other, from current perches, to be there - but the expense and time constraints eventually took their toll. We've all kept in touch, and are there for one another, in spirit, and we can still call and laugh, cry, celebrate, mourn, and just chat. But, practical, hands-on, gitterdun work? Not so much.

Forgiveness is paramount, in building and maintaining all relationships, imho. And, yet, sometimes, there is a very real need to 'detox' for the sake of your mental and emotional well-being, too. Since its a specific relationship I'm privy to, I'll use my husband and his brother, as my example. Hubs doesn't hate his brother, but the man has always done everything in his power to tear hubs down. John (hubs) is the younger of the two, contracted a wicked case of scarlet fever, as a toddler, and was left crippled. Unable to walk normally, he hobbled, his large and fine motor skills were horribly debilitated, and he has had to fight for all he was worth, to get back to a point of normalcy, so that the casual observer might not notice his struggles. He does all the things. He's, imho, brilliant, and has overcome so much. I've talked with many of the people he went to school with, who have confirmed - he didn't 'walk' so much as hobble, gradually building up to shuffling, then walking, over the course of their entire childhood. In his teens, he had finally worked himself up to the point of skiing, rollerskating, and even playing on the school basketball team. None of this was assisted or supported by his brother. No. Jim would pick on him, torment him, start shit, then throw John under the bus, so that their dad came to see John as a black sheep. Even now, they both consistently tear him down, every chance they get. John keeps trying to work on the relationship, forgiving them, trying to put the past where it belongs - but, I've witnessed the consistent abuse, over the 12+ years I've been part of the family. John has come into his own, since we've moved away from them. He still reaches out to them, hoping. But, now he's not subject to their regular abuse. For the first time, he's HAPPY. He no longer feels downtrodden, beyond the days when he reaches out, and gets shot down. But, he still makes himself vulnerable to them, in his efforts, because they're family - he just doesn't do it as often, these days.

 
Marco Banks
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I agree Carla.  There are some people that are so toxic that the only healthy response is to remove them from your life and stop the abuse, pain or even disrespect.  Sometimes that's for a season, but other times we need to do it for life.  I'm in the process of doing that with someone who 10 years ago I would have listed as one of my closest friends.  He's become so abusive that I can't stay in that relationship any longer.

But there are many others in our lives where the friction in the relationship is just that --- friction.  It's not a catastrophic break, but it's small stuff . . . annoying stuff.  Maybe they just never seem to meet my expectations, or vice versa.  Little frictions and annoyances can become the sand in the gears of a relationship that eventually break the machine.  So learning to reconcile with these people keeps the doors open for deeper relationships down the road.

You just don't know where friendships will lead.  Some go much much deeper than we ever thought they would.  Other people who we assumed we'd be BFF's don't go much further and never grow to the depth that we hoped for.  My best friend is someone who really used to bug me, and I him.  He was the one who made the first move toward honesty and reconciliation --- "Can we talk?  What's the deal with us?"  Today, 30 years later, he's my closest friend (outside of my dear bride).

One last thought: friction and annoyance in a relationship is actually a good mirror to see our own hearts.  We are highly resistant to the kind of honesty that opens our hearts and shows us a truly unfiltered assessment of all our shortcomings and places of brokenness.  But no human or relational growth can take place without that foundation of honesty.  So friction moments in relationship have this ability to lay bare our heart issues.  We can't deny them.  Our anger, insecurity, sadness . . . whatever . . . when the heart is exposed, we have to honestly deal with it.  Friction with my wife, for example, is an invitation to examine my heart and see what role I'm playing in the conflict.

Who wants to do that?

But that's the stuff of human flourishing.  That's the stuff of personal growth and long-term healthy relationships.

So even in those broken relationships that you speak of, there is still that opportunity for self-understanding.  Broken relationships clarify my expectations.  Perhaps more significantly, they once again teach me that I can't look to you to put into my life what may be missing.  Once I drop that expectation (that you'll fix me or complete me), then I can learn to love you for who you are, not for who I want you to be (in all my neediness).
 
Carla Burke
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Well said, Marco. Steel sharpens steel, but only if it's a tad abrasive. It's a matter of how - and often why - it's used.
 
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sometimes i think that we have to mimic nature in our social communities as well as our gardens.

if you have read the 'secret life of trees' you've heard of all the health benefits of an old growth forest that even keeps the dead trees roots alive to continue in sharing and communicating. the book makes many comparisons with humans and trees - but the sad part is many of our human communities don't act as humanely as the tree communities are. Sometimes i think i wish elderly homes didn't exist and that death could be embraced sooner and surrounded by people that were close knit. but without a close knit community, an example of that is rare and when existent it comes off cult-ish. Elderly homes don't keep people from dying -  but they almost always keep family from being close knit. My great grandmother was visited by her family every few months for a few hours, but i don't really call that a close relationship. it's also hard to have a close relationship with people so unresponsive.

i don't remember the exact wendell berry quote but it's something like -...death used to be seen as a sort of healing, and now it's a disease with an overly complicated cure. -

even more complicating a difficult time is that the typical lucidness of the elderly is diminished by our sedentary lifestyle with poor diet and the only engaging activities are watching tv or a computerized crossword puzzle.

a co-worker from ecuador of mine says its not like that at home. people eat fresh from their gardens and the older people are more responsive and active.

anyways...i think rebuilding the extended family needs to focus on what it means to be a nuclear family, what it means to have neighbors, neighbors as friends, have older people as neighbors, have older people as friends and mentors, and how everyone from seedlings and those long gone can populate the same physical soil.
 
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I would like to call it 'your tribe' instead of 'extended family'. They don't have to be part of my (biological) family, it's more important they are likeminded people.
In my opinion that's the social part of permaculture and it's the reason why I am an active member in the community working on the local Permaculture neighbourhood-garden, as well as in some other groups of likeminded people. One of those groups (the smallest one) has it as one of its goals, to share things (like tools, but also services and thoughts).
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Tyler Ludens wrote:... So I practice gifting my time, labor, and extra resources if possible, to neighbors and friends who need these things.  I'm deliberately using the word "gifting" because if I think of it as "sharing" there is too much of an expectation of return, which leads to disappointment if that doesn't happen.  Often, though, support is returned without expectation.
...


That's what I meant with 'sharing'. No expectations. So it's 'gifting' (or 'giving')
 
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You're looking for an intentional community, or something along the lines of a Transition Town.  Another place to look for answers to your local question may be in groups that do things like tool libraries and the such like https://www.shareable.net/  It will require people to work with each other either way you go about this, and that goes completely against the values of the dominant global culture.  You can't sell 15 lawnmowers to a family/clan that shares stuff after all.
 
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The challenge of creating a perennial form of family enterprise is somewhat alien to American culture, but it's something that's well established in Japanese culture where there are family businesses that are centuries old. For example, there's a family-owned inn that was established in 1291 and, 46 generations later, is still in operation. Line families you may have heard about would be Toyota, Subaru and Suntory, and there are others that you've probably not heard about but which have assets measured in the billions of dollars.

What enables the line family concept to work is adult adoption. If the next generation of a family business doesn't have a child who's capable of taking over and running the family business, they can adopt in someone who is. And even if they have a child who is a potential heir, the practice of seriously looking for additional talent can keep the heir on their toes and working to fulfill their potential. If you're interested in more information, here's a link to an article about adult adoption in Japan.

Adapting that practice to western society is a bit tricky, but we believe it's doable. The key, from our perspective, is to have an explicit process by which the adoption happens on an agreed upon timetable and by following agreed upon procedures. We offer a three month get-acquainted Apprenticeship period to see if there's a good match because we find that lots of people who are interested in creating a sustainable community based on permaculture principles are unaware of the level of commitment needed to make it work. It's a time they can chop wood and carry water while they share the hopes and fears that move them.

If there's a mutual agreement to go forward, then there's a two year period in which the new person is recognized as an Assistant Steward who's working on developing their relationship with the land, the animals, the gardens, etc.  And it's a time in which they can build their understanding of the strengths and limitations involved in the line family format. We've found that living with the land and the seasons is a crucial part of figuring out if someone really, truly wants to transition from being a consumer to becoming a creator. Going through the dark gestation of winter, and then experiencing the renewal of life in the spring, seems to work on a deep level as a rebirth into a new way of living.

Once someone has shown that they have the fortitude to make it through two winters--and all that entails--we figure that they're serious. The next step involves formally recognizing them as Stewards with a stake in the community and a meaningful voice in its governance, something which happens at about the two year point.

The closest analogy people might be familiar with would be a law firm in which would-be lawyers start out as Associates. The ones who mesh well with the firm can move on to become Junior Partners, and those who prove themselves capable can eventually become Full Partners if they want to take on that level of commitment. We call those categories Apprentices, Assistant Stewards and Full Stewards, but it's pretty much the same thing.

If someone is interested in the procedural "nuts and bolts" of how such a system can be structured, they've welcome to check out our Bylaws. We've been doing this for more than forty years, and learned a lot about what works and what doesn't; much of that knowledge is embodied in those Bylaws.

So, the good news is that intergenerational permaculture has a long track record of successful examples--they're just not part of the rugged individual ethos that's dominated American culture up to now. The challenging bits generally involve having to learn some new concepts such as shibumi, nemawashi and keiretsu.

~~ Walt
patrick@gorge.net
==============
 
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Walt, Very good! Some in distributism talk about "naturally occurring groups" which could be family or others who unite through commitment. Commitment is the foundation which started to crumble with the shift to individual wage earning. Marriage vows are no longer sacred and there are no commitments in an employment agreement - resumes are simply personal histories of broken relationships. Hannah Arendt states it well: “The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. …  binding oneself through promises, serves to set up in the ocean of uncertainty, which the future is by definition, islands of security without which not even continuity, let alone durability of any kind, would be possible in the relationships between men.”

I think you're right that Japanese culture can teach us a lot. I have read that the rise of the Japanese auto industry was very much fueled by Demming's manufacturing philosophy combined with extensive cottage industry of thousands of family owned and run machine shops, partially an inheritance of a WWII Japanese war-machine decentralizing industry to make difficult targets for American B-29s. I'm told that even today that most machine parts are made in small family run shops. And sadly Japan is on the leading edge of the pathos of individual wage earning. They call it Muen Shakai, literally “no-relationship society,”  "The paradigmatic example was “muen shi” (solitary death), in which people died unnoticed, their bodies undiscovered for days or weeks or longer, and no known family or acquaintances to claim the remains."

The only minor disagreement I have is that our rugged individual ethos/narrative hasn't always dominated American culture. It is an invention of modernity. The point when it reached critical mass was WWII. I call it the iron curtain of history-  where life before it was forgettable and regrettable - and after it everything is all shiny and new and wonderful! We can now die alone amidst the splendor of the human artifice.
 
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Good morning permies,
 I'm Charles Hugh Bryan, a single dad for many years and now that my children are grown and very successful, I get to find out what I'll be when I grow up.
I've told my children that growing old is inevitable, but growing up is optional.
I was blessed to have extended family to help me through the hard times after our divorce and health troubles. They mostly were our Church family, many of the blended families, who were searching as well.
GOD, gives you friends to appoligize for your family, I've been told.
I've moved to a very small town in northern Arizona and building my last new house. I'll give seminars here, rather than teach at Show low college, and intend to use my skills as a former mechanical engineer, to build and teach folks how to live within their means. I believe this is my calling, to give back/ pay it forward now that I've planned my place.
I really appreciate this site and have been studying the rocket mass heaters and now batch stoves.
 Thaks for all the creative input and fascinating subject material. We are all on the same page.
 
All of the world's problems can be solved in a garden - Geoff Lawton. Tiny ad:
Dave Burton's Boot Adventures at Wheaton Labs and Basecamp
https://permies.com/t/119676/permaculture-projects/Dave-Burton-Boot-Adventures-Wheaton
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