What In The World Am I Doing?

That question could take all sorts of tones.

I feel more in control, while at the same time less controlling; which I think is the natural turn of that correlation. controlling people are that way often because they feel so insecure about how little control they have in their lives. It seems to be a way of achieving sense and order inside a very chaotic existence.

But the more sense one makes of life, the less need to orchestrate everything, and manipulate. Oh yes, I like it!

To be my usual didactic self…

  • I am putting together my plans of resuming the age-old efforts at decluttering.
  • Tightening up my blogging plans and efforts, which hallelujah, means more posts
  • Paying more attention to the world of stocks, hoping to make up for the fact that I have not had a paying job for the majority of life as a SAHM
  • Finishing up my homeschooling career this coming year
  • Changing my life. Focus on exercise, eating better, drawing- then painting, reviving spiritual life.

This starts to sound like a list of New Years resolutions, doesn’t it? Perhaps it is the influence of Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, which fall in September, thereabouts. We think we change times and seasons in the modern age… but we don’t really. The times of sowing and harvest, of moons and observations somehow remain and exert their influence even when we blithely ignore them.

Better to celebrate, to flow within the natural course of life, then always reinvent. Just as a general statement, mind you?

Intermissions

I’ve taken long intermissions on this blog. This isn’t uncommon with the blogging world, and often it signals the eventual Sleeping Beauty death of many blogs. For me, the long intermissions are more of a type of contemplation. This blog was never primarily about popular topics, although that sometimes became the gist of posts when my eye turned that way, instead the TrueGrit blog remains a repository of my private thoughts and opinions posted in a public forum.

I don’t always want to expose my broken heart. I don’t always want to exhibit disappointments or explain causes for anger. There is often a feeling of responsibility to give something of value and, therefore, optimism or resolution. You have to be in a certain state of mind to write that way, to prevent falling into some sort of false and hypocritical form of writing. Personally, speaking, that is.

And the truth is that once one distances from a blog that is personal in nature, more and more of the posts become exercise of the imagination. I mean that I imagine the post I will write, but then let too much time pass and it never actually materializes. Like much of my life, at times.

I have moved away from the tolerance of living that way. Dreams are all well and good in their place, but then one awakes with an actual hunger in the pit of an actual stomach. I think that is where I am in life right now. If I can incorporate a blog (and there are now many tools to help a writer with that) with living a busy real life… since that is where more of my efforts are propelling me, then it will grow. Otherwise the idea of folding it into a past chapter of life will finally be decided.

I don’t want to end this chapter quite yet. I just want to change it into a better form, more in keeping with today’s realities.

Life has many intermissions. Some we call vacations, some we call sabbaticals, some we call other names, and they are bridges between our active choices, but never a timeout from life… since life marches on and recruits each intermission into its history. Very often, as I have on this blog, we simply stay in a state of indecision which is not an intermission at all, but a passive type of decision- allowing something other than our active choice take the helm.

All I know right now is that I don’t want to live within the intermission, but to direct, act, and produce as creatively as possible a cohesive whole. Is life a journey, a stage, a destination, a plan, a What? Perhaps a continuum that somehow encompasses bits of all those concepts.

On Parenting

Not having blogged here seriously for a long time, I am not going to apologize for that now. You may find some of the reasons if you read between the lines- or maybe not.

warning: this may turn into a long post. it will certainly go deeper than I have on this blog for a long time. you may not want to read what I have to say. don’t say I didn’t warn you

How did I find myself inspired to write here today? On this topic? I visited the blog of a long time blogger who has become a new mother. She said this:

Looking after a newborn baby is really, really hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and it’s relentless. People keep telling me that it gets better or easier. I hope so. I’m pooped. ~Meg Pickard

When I read that, I remembered back …way back to my first introduction to motherhood, and yes, that is very much a description of how I felt at the time. I don’t know if there was a generation more unprepared for parenting than mine- at least among those who were like me.

Why do I think that?

  • We had jumped from ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ to ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘All In The Family’
  • Smart Girls prepared for careers, not families; and Supermom wasn’t going to show up until much later.
  • We had come from smaller families, and didn’t help raise siblings, and our moms and dads were all getting divorced. At least in my circles. Elsewhere in America, too, if the statistics tell the story.

How did this play out for women like me? We were sorely under-prepared for taking care of babies. We were socked with that relentless exhaustion and tried to play catch up with learning how to change diapers, adjust to feeding schedules, and generally learn parenting and household skills on the fly.

Humans are survivors- and women like me and our babies survived. From our survival lessons came the supermom syndrome. Which, for me, translated into a frenzy of trying to make everything “work”. And if you were like me you could make everything look pretty good…. on the outside. A house of cards, if you will.

This is getting ominous sounding, don’t you think? Well, in some ways it was, but in others- there were good times, there were some things I would do again, but the overall tone of life? No. Perfection makes a hard taskmaster, and I would trade that for making “Nurture” the keynote of our family. As it was, the keynote was more of “Accomplishment” as framed by my environment.

The reason I would change that focus and tone might be found in the name of a category I have on this blog, one that I haven’t yet found heart enough to fill up, but perhaps this post will be filed there,”Broken Heart Devotionals”.

Because another hard truth not told to new parents is the fact that not only can you fall deeply in love with your babies, but that they can grow up and break your heart. Not all of them, not inevitably, but it is one of the possibilities. And a parent needs to recognize that. It could change our focus and remove some of the deception that seems to infect every generation in some way or another.

I’m not going to get all sappy here, and I am certainly not going to imply that this is the inevitable outcome. Perhaps for some it isn’t in the cards, not even as a possible condition, I don’t know. I do know that when such heartbreak hits, it can come as a complete surprise… the same arrival of surprise that the exhaustion brought to an unprepared, naive mother in those first few months. With the same impact to your psyche, and your sense of what life should be.

Do not mistake facing reality for regret. There is no regret in the wonderful people that came into my world. I am happy for each individual child being a part of my world and the world at large. There is only sadness that I didn’t understand that nurture and tenderness, taking time for small moments, and living the love I felt for those people was more important than anything.

Anything.

And if I were to sum up my advice, thoughts, and stories on parenting in one thing it would be be that last paragraph and its emphatic underline.

But I have more to say. Just don’t let go of that one nugget of truth, which is the only real piece of advice I wish to pass on.

Sifting Through The Sand Of Motherhood

Sand, because motherhood will both polish you and wear you down. It will get in your shoes, but it is also lots of fun to play with. In the right conditions it will focus you on the truly important things of life, even if a little late.

To go back to that mother’s observations which I began with:

It’s also really boring much of the time. No-one tells you this. In fact, I think it’s probably frowned on to say it. But if you’re used to being surrounded by agile minds conducting fascinating thought-experiments and verbally jousting at work every day, looking after a baby gets pretty tedious rather quickly, especially when they’re too young to play or engage much with their surroundings. There’s something about the relentless monotony of routine (is it feeding time again? So soon? I could have sworn we just fed a few minutes ago…), and the fact that your brain has been sucked out of your ears by exhaustion, and the need to be constantly entertaining or on the move. It’s knackering.

I see some things have not changed much from my generation. I think we gave that attitude to the next generation as something of a legacy. Perhaps it was the gleam in the eye of our divorced mothers, and we inherited it ourselves? It said, “Smart girls are bored by the dailiness of the life of Motherhood”. Not that this was the essential point of Pickard’s post- it wasn’t. I simply plucked it out as saying what I, and many like me, felt- to the letter. Or thought we felt because we were supposed to feel that way as modern, hip, thinking women. and whether you think a certain way, or think you ought to and subscribe to it- it boils down to the same thing.Many of us Baby Boomer mothers struggled with it in one way or another.

I think it is ‘Supermom’ residue, personally. which is the opposite of “Earth Mother” persona. E.M.’s have to live in this society,too, so I don’t think they get off scot-free. They are, however, more apt to take time for their mothering, as part of their identity.

It’s Not All About Mothers

Mothers are not all there is to the forming of a child’s life, and psyche. But I do think, that like fathers in their way, mothers of my generation went sort of AWOL. And we got mixed up about what makes a good mother. We got too much into the debate over working and not enough into the conversation of what loving a child looks like.

And even if mothers do things right, it doesn’t insulate them, their families, or their children from the vicissitudes of our society, which has lost its mooring. Really, it has. No one can even define the semantics of our roles or actions in any substantial way today.

But thankfully, one thing stands against all the assaults and assails of whatever is wrong with us as individuals and as a society, and that is that “Love Never Fails“.

It really doesn’t. If you really love your child or your spouse, or any relationship with true care and concern for them as a human being, as someone that matters, then you will go a long way toward nurturing that soul. And they will thrive from it.

Don’t get sidetracked about what that love looks like. Don’t get fooled by some made-up experts rules. Do things that puts the wellbeing of that person on the top of your list.

Being a Christian, I don’t think there is any defining lesson on what that looks like more than you might find in I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter of First Corinthians. I don’t think we can make up what love is like any more than we can make up what nutrition our child needs. There are certain hard wired realities in humans and in life.

We could be more wise about disseminating real facts on that. Just like real facts on neo-nate development. Certain things happen and develop at certain stages, humans need certain things to thrive. Lets be very real about what those things consist of and how to properly deliver them to each other and to our families.

Love has elements of attachment, elements of freedom, and elements of hands-on actions. There are many recipes for a healthy relationship, and part of life’s challenge is to use the elements in a way that produces a whole human being.

For those who found themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, there is a new day to work at creating a life of Home cooked, life giving, wholeness making Love. It will be seasoned with humility, because it is hard to start over, to let go of preconceptions, and to admit we make mistakes.

But I’m very hopeful we can do this.


All right. I guess that is all I have to say about being a parent, and what I hoped to communicate. Til later, friends…

Do You Like Quotations?

There are those who make the case for quotations. I simply enjoy them, since I like a well turned phrase, and if it holds a nugget of wisdom or inspiration- so much the better.

I suppose some find quotes of nominal interest, but for those who collect, or simply enjoy, the occasional fine quote. I am giving your a few gems today.

“I walk many times in the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I pluck up the goodlisome herbs of sentences by pruning, eat them by reading, digest them by musing, and lay them up at length in the high seat of memory by gathering them together, so that so, having tasted their sweetness, I may less perceive the bitterness of life.” ~Queen Elizaebth I

I found many times this quote of Queen Elizabeth the First was often given while severing off the beginning part (to suit modern tastes no doubt); but if the whole is taken, it makes much more sense and has much more to offer.

“The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages may be preserved by quotation.” ~Disreali

“To know how to wait is the great secret of success.” ~De Maistre

“Pride, the most dangerous of all faults, proceeds from want of sense, or want of thought.” ~ Wentworth Dillon

“Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.” ~Shakespeare

Eyes and Health

As a person with long standing and increasingly poor eye health I was very interested in this news about the massive rise in Asian myopia, the suspected cause, and suggested prevention. Consider how much outdoor time your children get during the day…

Professor Morgan argues that many children in South East Asia spend long hours studying at school and doing their homework. This in itself puts pressure on the eyes, but exposure to between two and three hours of daylight acts as a counterbalance and helps maintain healthy eyes.

The scientists believe that a chemical called dopamine could be playing a significant part. Exposure to light increases the levels of dopamine in the eye and this seems to prevent elongation of the eyeball.

BBC Science Report

Additionally, more than one study has found, this helpful eye health fact:

An analysis of eight previous studies by University of Cambridge researchers found that for each additional hour spent outside per week, the risk of myopia reduced by 2%.

Exposure to natural light and time spent looking at distant objects could be key factors

More info on eye health

With the added benefit of proper amounts of vitamin D (we usually are woefully deficient) and the implications of that deficiency in such maladies as diabetes make it even more important to make sure we, and our children, get more time outside in the sunshine.

eLaine’s Locker

I thought I would announce the fact that I opened a Zazzle store for my daughter’s artwork. We call it ‘eLaine’s Locker‘. The idea is to get her started in getting a bit of exposure for her anime drawings, and eventually a little spending money for when she goes to school next fall.

It is fun to help your kids develop their talents and fledge into something that helps them learn about business. Right now I’m doing all the setup while she works on her drawings, and starts making design decisions. She has renewed her interest in drawing, which had given way to writing. Both are worthy occupations of time.

I’m trying to interest another daughter in some of this, too… it would be great if a number of the kids would be able to collaborate together in building these types of businesses.

Ok, that is the dreamer in me talking. As of now, she has not made any sales, but I hope it won’t be long before people discover her Zazzle store and order some of her products. Would you like to see a sample? I hoped you would!

Phone cases, stickers, pillows, and all sorts of stuff:

Marry Your Actions, Motivations, and Goals

More often than not we leave out an important partner in our planning and dreaming. People write books on this fact, and we often buy those books. But we tend to look at the whole as a project list of bits and pieces. Maybe that is where a vision board comes in, to bring together a visual map of all the components, including the all important motivation for the entire goal we started out with at the year’s beginning.

As I piece together the good advice of many successful people, the challenge is to apply it to a resistant part of my life. For the first time in years I began some art projects, even though I had to change the media to computer graphics rather than hard copy paper and pencil. Although I still would like to manage some of those projects in the coming year.

Motivations

Those are the things we pinpointed in our planning and envisioning as primary reasons we wish to go forward in a particular direction with the life and resources ahead of us. It is a common failing to lose sight of a goal, to let the vision fade, and get distracted by so-called “lef”. “So-called” simply because it is not always the necessary that intervenes, but very often the unnecessary that we are slow to recognize as competition to the real life we want to have. Recording our motivation in some way , providing reminders of the motivation will aid in keeping the eye on the main road we decided to take in the year ahead.

Motivation memory will also keep us from getting stuck in ruts or outmoded schedules, or even to help us to be flexible with the demands that arise. Demands can be an important part of refining our plans, which often are focused on ourselves, when our bigger vision will include our relationship with others. If we remember our initial motivation for a goal, and its plans, we are capable of making the decision needed to address the demand and in what timetable is best. Our basic nature will tend to swing towards our internal compass of needing to please others, or wanting to meet our own wants and needs. It is easy to get in the habit of answering one or the other, when a balance is needed. Plugging back into a motivation will help us rebalance when necessary.

Record your motivation for making goals:
I want to be healthier because I want to be more active and hike ( or play tennis or whatever)
I want to be closer to God (more time for prayer,grow spiritually,etc)
I want to garden ( because it has always calmed and centered me, I love the way being outdoors makes me feel, etc)

Those are personal examples of how my goals, plans and motivations marry to create something bigger than the parts, and propel me to be the person I most would like to be in the coming year.

Hoep these notes to myself are of help in creating a successful year of accomplishing resolution from dreams in the life of others,too ( that is one of my motivations for blogging!)

Goals + Motivations = Actions and might just be a marriage made in heaven.

A Planning Tool for Goals and Accomplishing Dreams

I came across an interesting concept, new to me, but not new. It is like making an idea board for your dreams, with the view of making them a reality in the coming year. It is called a vision board. It is a cross between idea maps and collage art which I find a fun idea, even if it doesn’t accomplish the original intent of inspiring motivation throughout the year. You can make your personal art and that is something quite accomplished in itself!

Magazine Photo Collage and Art Therapy are articles with helpful videos that explain the method of creating the boards.

Dream boards seemed to become popular with The Secret. Which is a book and subsequent movie I have neither read nor seen. But I am very interested in it now!

The thing about this kind of art is how easy and accessible it is. I used to regularly do collage in my childhood and pre-teen years. Looks like I may be reverting to childhood this year as I take a journey into creating a few of these boards for my own vision awareness. I already tried one just to begin (always a favorite way to incorporate a new activity into my life:jump right in!)

The Difference Between Goals And Plans

And how knowing that will make a difference for your 2012 resolutions

Everyone hates New Years Resolutions, it seems, or if they don’t outright hate them, they feel discouraged by the prospect of yet another set of resolutions biting the dust around, oh say, March.

I think that comes from confusing the intent behind resolutions, goals, and plans.

How do we turn our dreams into reality without being too cynical or pessimistic to even start. (One sure way to fail, or just get nowhere, is to not even start! And isn’t getting nowhere just another way to set up for failure, anyway?)

Goals.
Goals are general. We want to achieve something, reach a bar point or acquire something, or get to some life destination point. We set goals with those ideas in mind, and that is usually what we call our resolutions: I want to lose weight, get fit, or be more healthy in 2012. Those are examples of typical goals most of us have.

Or we might say “I want to have a productive business””, or garden, or “I want to make more money”. “I want to spend more time with family”, build my website popularity, change jobs, start school, …those are all goals. We have personal and professional goals and we are really hoping to see a difference in the coming year, or -more likely- make up for how we failed or came short the previous year.

But the reason so many of these goals bite the dust is because they just sit there without plans. Efforts are not plans… we throw efforts at our goals and our enthusiasm lasts for a time dependent on how much will power or focus we have, but rarely does it last throughout an entire year. And that means rarely do we see those goals to completion. Some people give up, others… jump on the hamster wheel for another round of aimless flailing.

Plans
Plans are the tools for making goals realities. They take the form of written notes, timetables, deadlines, schedule of actions, etc. They are specific and tied to either a set of accomplishments or a calender date (or both). Those tools are the feet for the goals actually getting somewhere, and this is where most people miss the boat. They don’t like the finality and specifics of plans. Plans make people feel tied to timetables and decisions, and that takes away some of the warm fuzzy feeling of the grandiose visions of how powerful their will is going to be to get their goal: be thin, be successful, be a better person, be smarter, whatever that goal looked like in their mind as they sat in an easy chair at the end of the (dreamstate) year. Envisioning is a powerful thing, but it is only daydreaming when not tied to real plans.

Plans organize and pace efforts. We all know of those well intended efforts that fill the gyms each January, and empty them by May. We get busy, we get lazy, we get distracted, and our efforts dissolve into days, then weeks, then months of little or no progress.

Ready to land on next year’s “hopes and dreams dump”.

But our plan and schedule of efforts, and plan to get back on track, as well as measurable watermarks of nearing the goal throughout the year create real progress.

Resolutions

What a New Year’s resolution really is: the combination of the visionary goal with the plan of action, backed by measurable efforts.

Those are the resolutions that will guide and focus the coming year and end with satisfaction that we moved forward with things that were important to us.

The brainstorming part of a the resolution process is what we start with each January First. What did we like or not like about our lives and purposes in the previous year? what would we like to see changed? What kind of person do we want to be? What relationships do we wish to cultivate? Character qualities? accomplishments??

As we brainstorm all the dreams and ideas, we then sift them into priorities, the into real plans, then into calender events which we perceive will move us forward to the goal point.

Are you ready to turn your wishes and hopes into resolutions? And your resolutions into reality?

November

Autumn Is Ended
~J. Hazard Hartzell~

DOWN drop the painted leaves;
The world lies stripped and wounded, cold and bare;
Piled are the golden sheaves;
And past is every object sweet and fair.

Now faded are the flowers
And grass on sloping hills and tranquil dales;
And songless are the bowers
Where lovers came and breathed their secret tales.

The fruits are ripe and gone;
The fields have lost their wealth and vernal cheer;
The stars throw smiles upon
The full-armed gleaners of the harvest year.

Winds come with chilling breath;
Rains fall, and brooks from woods begin to rise;
Gloom fills the realm of death;
And birds take flight for warmth of southern skies.

There’s nothing bright nor fair,
Save fields of wheat that wear their cloaks of green;
There’s nothing in the air
But chill, where rays of gold and love have been.

The seed of change was sown
Through months, by viewless hands, in field and town;
And Autumn, near his throne,
Lets fall his crowded horn and brazen crown.

The fire burns on the hearth,
Where tempting fruit and charming books abound;
Love opens springs of mirth,
Where radiant hopes and bubbling joys are found.

The skies hang cold and gray;
Among the hills the winds begin to blow;
Herds strike their homeward way,
And earth grows white and strange with flying snow.


Yesterday, we used the unusually warm and sunny November day to visit the hills of southern Ohio. The trees were largely bereft of their leaves, the stubborn oaks holding their last few browned leaves, washing down in the silent forest, like lazy snowflakes that will soon be coming.

We feasted at Bob Evans restaurant before heading home.
It was a day to savor.