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Monthly Archives: June 2016

A “Peer” Run Community | Kasilof, Alaska

First of all, I’d like to commend all the other bloggers out there who post on the regular. How do you people find the time?

Anyway, on Tuesday I flew to Kenai with my boss and a few co-workers to check out Ionia; a peer-run “treatment” community located near Kasilof. Our experience there was… different, to say the least.

Common problems and hopes for a common solution brought five families together in 1987. They purchased five acres of spruce forest on the Kenai Peninsula in South-Central Alaska and Ionia had its beginning. The founders came from different geographic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as different kinds of internal hardships and behavioral dysfunction. Through a process of trial and error, the families realized that individuals, families and communities are truly interdependent; that in order to sustainably change one thing, they had to change almost everything; and, that it is impossible to create change without embodying it. This kind of thinking has led to Ionia’s endurance.

DSC_0996DSC_1003 DSC_1002Have you ever seen Wanderlust? With Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd?  Where Paul loses his job in New York and winds up at a hippie commune after he and Jennifer attempt to get to his brother’s house in Georgia? Ironically, Aaron and I watched this movie for the first time the day after I visited Ionia.  If you’ve ever seen the movie, you know what my experience was like. Not as extreme, but the parallels are uncanny!

The community is completely run by “peers” who struggle with some sort of substance abuse or mental health issue. There is no hierarchical structure, all food is grown within the commune, and all homes are built by its members.

Ever had a splinter in your butt?

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There aren’t really “rules” at Ionia, more like unspoken, required “ways of thinking”. For example, all members of the community feel that food is the foundation and gateway to positive health (I totally agree!). In an effort to honor this, they have chosen to live a macrobiotic (vegan) lifestyle (some kind of Taoist principle that has to do with balance). However, if a member decides he’s tired of eating seaweed for dinner and wants potato chips instead, he is welcome to go to the store, pick up a bag of potato chips, and eat them in the privacy of his own home, away from the rest of the community.

DSC_0978Formal substance abuse and mental health treatment techniques are not used. None of the community members are professionals so they rely on the rest of their community to “treat” the individual. Their philosophy is: The community treats the family treats the individual. Their Morning Meetings are used as healthy outlets for conflict and dispute.

“Morning meetings are a top priority of the Ionian day.  Regularly, the entire community sets aside at least two hours from the busyness of life to talk with each other. There is no subject too mundane, too personal or too philosophic for consideration.  An atmosphere of relaxed attention is brought to the evolving discussion.  Participating in meetings is considered a profound contribution to the whole community.  All ages speak up, and each subject is given whatever amount of time it needs.

By the end of  our tour I felt like I had taken a step back in time where the hair was long, the weed was strong, and the boobies and love were free. Plus, there were like a dozen kids running around and we couldn’t tell who belonged to who.

DSC_0968DSC_0961DSC_0964Their garden is pretty cute, though. Am I right? We planned on eating lunch there until my boss found out they use their own feces for compost. I helped them out a little by going to the bathroom in this…

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Niagara Falls | Our Favorite Getaway

993023_10151779346691414_1974609289_n995834_10151779346671414_118670627_nAaron and I are East Coast people. He will not agree with me and swear he was born to live in Alaska. But, I know we were both born to live on the East Coast where everyone wears black, has an attitude, and walks like they’ve got somewhere to be (like me). I fit in there. It’s diverse there. And most importantly, our families live there.

Aaron grew up near Rochester, New York and I grew up near Columbus, Ohio. During our long-distance dating days we learned to frequent the trip (it takes me 5 hours to drive and Aaron 6.5 hours to drive) between NY and OH… IO! to spend time with one another’s families. We still do this, every time we get the chance to visit home, because I can’t leave the East without seeing my family and he can’t leave the East without seeing his.

But as great as it is to spend quality time with our loved ones, we’ve been known to make a secret pit stop in between our frequented (is that a word?) 6 hour journey. An incredible little pit stop to the beautiful Niagara Falls.

This is why you should make a pit stop too:

  1. It’s perfect for a day trip. The falls are easy to get to and even easier to walk around; a nice treat for us non-hikers. And if you’re thinking of walking the famous International Rainbow Bridge, it’s only  1/4 mile long.
  2. 5354_10151779346686414_1648908975_n1017389_10151779346681414_2042490728_nIf you’re into gambling (which I am not) the surrounding area has some good casinos. I hate gambling with a passion, so of course that means… Aaron loves to gamble! And he’s good at it. And I don’t mean good in a “cool, I made $20” kind of way, I mean good in a “cool, I made $3,000” kind of way! Don’t ask me how he does it because I refuse to play, watch, or be in the same vicinity as him while he plays, but he’s definitely one of those tournament/black card/secret lunch buffet kind of guys who winds up with a free hotel room and 20% off a spa package.
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  3. It’s not overly crowded. Niagara Falls is a popular place, but it’s nothing like Disney World. When Aaron and I went in April of last year, we were always at least a block away from the nearest person. Quiet, peaceful, and serene. For an even less crowded experience, check out the falls from the NY side. You don’t get the panoramic view like you would in Ontario, but getting up close and personal with the water is equally serene.
  4. It’s beautiful. Obviously, right? But if you can’t make it to Victoria Falls in South Africa, Niagara Falls could be the next best thing.
  5. Fireworks are shot off in the Summer. I haven’t personally seen this, but Aaron wanted me to add it to the list because apparently it’s spectacular! If you’re interested in scheduling your trip around a show, you can check out the schedule here.

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