Family: It’s a Big Word

“Family” is the concept that looms largest in my personal horizon. I only realized it in terms of articulating it to myself in 2016. So, this is fairly new: to compose a complete view of why this idea of “family” is so central to my entire life.

I began to understand how it impacts so many of us, although in varying ways and  degrees.

Why Me, and Not You?

This is the place where I began to really think, rather than simply struggle.

First, I’m a sixty- something and have lived most of my allotted years. When it comes to family, I went big- I had ten children… and endured long – stayed married for 43 years as a stay-at-home-mom.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I have struggled in one way or another all that time. I never seemed to have really settled within myself. One perennial struggle was to have a cohesive family unit- when what I actually was part of was more like a “herding cats” scenario.

The Light of Dawn

This past year, as I found myself within that familiar cycle of trying to coordinate family get-togethers while everyone else was less than enthusiastic about making plans, I asked myself “Why?”

Why is it so vital to me that we gather together and build relationship, and the others (father and children) seem so indifferent, even resistant? It used to be couched in a “what is wrong with me?”/ “what is wrong with them?” emotional whirlpool, but a different perspective dawned on me.

What is different between us?

That I find the need central, while for them it is peripheral to the rest of their concerns. What explains this conflict of  priorities?

  • Because I am a woman, and a mom? No, that doesn’t explain it. I know of others who aren’t like this.
  • Because I made my life choices in that direction? No, desire for family was the impetus, not the outcome.
  • Because I came from a broken home? Yes, that begins to explain it.

Not only did I come from a broken home, but I had no real place in my family of origin. I was a rejected black sheep. The reason is not important, but the effect was the key influence of my life. It colored everything.

My husband came from an intact family, as did my children. I believe they see that part of their life, being in a family unit, as a matter of course. It is settled for them.

My great struggle is seeing that such things aren’t settled by default, but must be grown and cultivated. I don’t apologize or dismiss the power of that insight. I do have one great flaw, however… what does such a family look like? How does it form, especially when given such poor soil?

I value family so greatly, because mine was lacking. I wanted to create family in my life.

I Don’t Have Answers, But I Get Inklings

In these big concept struggles of life, I move further from having the answers (as in “one size fits all”), but I get bigger inklings. And those help me. They create more peace and contentment, and make me much easier to get along with as they disconnect my need to fix the world from daily interactions with the people important to me.

10 Great Inklings

  1. We all have needs for acceptance and love, and it isn’t all about me.
  2. Keep trying to connect, and try to make the majority of connections loving, supportive, pleasant.
  3. Leave the past behind. Get to know the person that they are, now.
  4. Your needs, insights, and contributions are important, so are theirs. Blend, make recipes, value all the ingredients. Know when to leave certain things out of the mix.
  5. Be there. Be present. Be hospitable. Invite. Engage. Allow. Make clear boundaries.
  6. Choose to keep trying as long as fruit is possible. Know when to cut down the tree. This comes from Jesus’s parable of the fig tree. To pour yourself out into areas of life that don’t produce means that less is given to those that will. Be productive.
  7. Glean wisdom, but don’t compare.
  8. Stop the negativity habits; Encourage positive interactions, speech, attitude, gratefulness, and all things edifying.
  9. While oversight may be in your hands, control is not.
  10. You cannot change others, but you can change yourself. That may be the catalyst for circumstances or for others, but it is growth in your own life. It will result in true satisfaction.

My Contribution: A Sense that Family is Important

This lack that became driving force, struggle that became recognition, became what I contribute to the world. I gave it through defiance and by going to war against the norms of my generation. As a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), with homeschooling, home birthing, attempts at homesteading, and having a big family on one (sometimes below-average) income.

I don’t contribute the means or the goal, but the concept. That is, that a family has intrinsic value for everyone, in some way. This idea of family value is not dictated by method, numbers, or even culture.

If the value is dictated by anything, it would be a true understanding of love.

Regrets and the Future

To dwell on regrets is not useful or conducive to change. It only mires one in the past with a distorted filter. We have today, and that forms our future life… with family relationships or otherwise.

People give up on family. Too soon and too often, when it is the messy stuff of living that creates the full spectrum of being.

I believe this is why God has worded relationship with Himself in terms of family. Likewise, as human beings, there are many ways we relate to each other; but the closer we are the more we see it in familial connections.

Someone is a sister or mother to us, a father or brother, and a “significant other” is husband or wife. We can’t divorce ourselves from our need to belong. It remains, struggling and gasping for expression.

I want that expression to be a healthy one that promotes growth in each individual. I outlined what that means to me.

…So far…





My life has changed.

While our children were little my husband rarely to never took vacations, and we couldn’t afford to travel anywhere, anyway. I centered my life around the home and gardening… then put lots of time into blogging. All those occupations were in sync with my intensive demands of homelife (raising ten children while homeschooling), allowing for creative expression while not requiring lots of money or absence from overseeing the needs of my family.

Now I find I am always on a trip somewhere.

It changed slowly with rare trips to places I never dreamed of seeing… I went to Hungary and Denmark, then to Brazil to attend my son and daughter in love’s wedding. With the advent of grandchildren, there have been increased trips to Georgia, mainly, but Florida and Phoenix were on the list as well.

In the past year we did something -twice- that had been on my husbands wishlist since I met him: a road trip across the nation, visiting the West. He still has the Badlands on his bucket list, but we checked off the others: Highway 1 and Mendocino, Bryce Canyon in Utah, America’s Loneliest Highway Rte 50 through Nevada.

I know some people blog while they travel, but I am an “in the moment experience” type of person. I don’t even like the distraction of taking photographs. I have moderated that and forced myself to take photos for the sake of memories and just because I want to capture some of the beauty that I see, but mostly I drink in the scenery, and let the atmosphere saturate my mind and heart.

The past few years have seen a great increase in travel for me… which may not be comparable to many others, but it is a huge change for me.

I find I like it.

I come back to loads of laundry to do, a marathon of weeding and neglected gardens, but it has been worth the exchange. Time spent by the ocean, seeing vast redwood forests, immense mountains of the Rocky ranges… these are mind opening, soul nourishing events.

So I don’t apologize that this season of my life leaves less room for the type of blogging I once did. My online life evolves and there is no pattern for the shape it will take. But, like all the rest of my life, I have shifted away from letting demands rule my life, and have created space for the simple act of living. Letting the flow of what creates an organic and vibrant participation of relationship and experience to take the forefront, to become my priority.

People figure more predominately in this way of life, and tasks become secondary. I don’t pretend to imply that it leads to being a successful blogger or to create worldly wealth. I do, however, feel richer, and may I say it? Happier. Or maybe happy is not the right word choice, I think the term “joie de vivre” is a more accurate term. The joy of life infuses this pathway.

My garden takes on a wild look, my blogs are temporarily neglected, but I have more to offer when following this roadtrip of life.

A few pictures seem in order here.

Colorado mountain stream by the highway
Dwarfed by the landscape.
lake tahoe
We fell in love with Lake Tahoe
Mountainside Photo Op

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!)

Priorities for Next Year

Every year I make priorities with varied levels of success in implementing them. This year reconnecting with family, increasing garden efforts (including growing food again), seriousness about decluttering were all at the top of the list. I have made some successful progress in all of them, but in looking ahead at what I want to prioritize for the next year one will move to the top: decluttering. Next year, I have decided that a real effort in hospitality is going to take a new place in how I want to live my life. Decluttering is intrinsic to accomplishing that.

I once had numerous events and casual get-togethers here, but remodeling my old house and then the overwhelming efforts of helping my grandmother, mom, and dad intervened. It is now rare for me to have people come to share a meal at my house. Then coming across the Reluctant Entertainer, and reading what she had to say made me realize that I want this to be a part of my life again. It will take preparation and planning. So, if I start now, I can realize this in my life in 2011- I know it!

I also should edit this to add that a video from was also influential. In part of a segment about the Gypsy culture of Andalusia, Spain… the sheer joy of their meal preparation and the vocalized importance of the social gathering around a meal ( ditto France, Italy, and other such cultures), caused me to realize that this is part of how we ought to live our lives. The fast food, eat-on-the-run way of getting our nutrition is a starved, insipid way to treat one of the major matters of both fueling and experiencing life.

see what I mean:
Flavor of Flamenco

The Best of Me

Do you ever think of what “the best of you” looks like? What really looks like you, and not some layering over or reflecting of another’s view of you? I was listening to a morning show interview of Brooke Shields, model and actress, and she was asked about her sense of fashion. She answered that she was dressed by others from such an early age (in a child career) that she didn’t have a sense of personal style until much later in her life and that now it revolved around what was “the best of her”. Reflecting her core self.

Of course when we talk style and fashion, precious little is “the best of me”, and we are always checking in with experts, mavens, and reactions of those around us. Kind of the opposite of “core self”, but the idea remains that at some point we recognize that there is a self that is unique from roles and reactions. What we do with that self is important.

stuff you are
stuff you are
There is a strange paradox in knowing what the best, core self consists of- while it isn’t defined by what others think it is, it is most revealed by the impact it makes on others. We often get that turned around. That is why we so often accept a view of ourselves as defined by others. Our true self, the person that we were made to be, will affect others because people best respond to what they discern as “real” and “honest”; it is that contact that will make the greatest impression. We, and everyone around us, will only end up confused if operating as if the words and views of others are to be taken as the true picture of who we are and what we may best accomplish. Just the psychological dynamic of “projecting”, alone, is an indication of how this is true.

“Projecting” is when we ascribe our own feelings, traits, and thoughts to someone other than ourselves. This happens so much that if we get the message that we are a certain type of person, we may well attract more of those same messages from others. Just because we have accepted that view of ourselves.

The one great lesson I am learning right now, at the end of life as I near my sixtieth decade, is that only the God who made and saved me can truthfully define me. He can describe my traits, outline my purpose, correct my faults… even to wiping them away with what actually is and was always meant to be “the best of me”.

Something that I meditate on as I try to grasp this way of thinking is “as He is , so are we in this world”

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. – 1 John 4:17

We have Christ’s nature in us, but how will that be recognizable if we don’t understand this about ourselves, and reflect it in our actions?

So much of what we do derives from the way in which we see ourselves. Whether we think we are smart or stupid, failures or successes, kind or cruel, strong or weak, emotional or intellectual, much of how we behave is acting out this inner picture.

That may well be a good part of why “positive thinking” or “visualization” works so well for many people. It is not a parlor trick, instead it is more of a self actualization or self-prophecy which we fulfill. Understanding your self, in your own unique expression of how you work, think, and relate best in this world allows God to show you both His and your own importance. Like the right tool for the job, or a fitting word in a situation, or anything where the nature is in harmony with the effort. We are not “things” but we do have substance, a disposition, and pre-dispositions. We come into this world with a specific set of DNA, inside a specific set of conditions, with which to work. That is why we make such efforts all our lives to understand how we fit (or try to understand how we don’t)…. we want to express the best, true self.

I think that is what God wants for us, and that our greatest advocate will always be Christ, Who understands us and what we go through. The best gift is to finally become comfortable in our own skin- not just plain comfortable. I believe that will lead me to the day when I can say, without delusion, that I have no regret. Finding my core self, at last.

It’s All God Stuff

People love, and need, to compartmentalize their time, interests, and efforts. It is how we make sense of things. But sometimes the compartments disguise reality, or the true nature of things. Take the way we schedule ourselves. I’m the worst when it comes to this… there is homeschool, housework,yard, computer, church…. stuff. Sometimes one gets the lionshare of whatever resource I can throw at it, only to be pushed out of the way by nagging (sometimes screaming) demands to take care of something else. Somewhere in there I try to fit priorities on the God, others, and me levels. I have to confess I don’t believe I’ve done a very good job at parceling out myself with all these compartments and priorities.

But one thing that is finally getting through to me is that it is all “God stuff”. That everything in my life does matter to God, and that I … and everything about me… belongs to God. Because I made that decision some thirty or more years ago. I decided to trade the shamble of my life and personality for the life of God’s choosing. Even though I still managed to make a shamble of much of that! Yet, it isn’t too late to turn the day, and every day over to God for His call on all this stuff of life, first. First, before I take over and filter it and layer it, to ask the Father God what He has in mind for me, today. To stop arguing with Him, stop defining who I am, stop wrestling with what I want and how I am going to get it. And find out what the Father wants today.

That is how Jesus lived.

It both places the trivial in perspective, and lifts up the overlooked important details. In this, size does not matter. Sometimes our big, important goals are trivial in the eternal view, and sometimes our overlooked details are things that make all the difference. so how are we to know? How to discern the important from the waste of time? Let God have all the stuff, it belongs to Him anyway… and let His spirit, His words, and His principles apply to the day, and the schedules… and the goals.

Why should I be so harried about whether something gets done or whether I receive notice, or an number of things that fuel my efforts? Instead my focus on my relationship with the Father God, with the image of Christ in others, and in each task giving glory to God is going to insure proper attention to relationship which is always most important for humankind. And it will give the attempt at excellence to be given to those things of most value.

This type of thought process always returns my memory to a little tome I read so long ago, ‘Practicing the Presence of God‘ by Brother Lawrence. we can find God throughout all of our day, if we will practice looking for Him and recognizing Him.

It is a simple thing really, to recognize that it is all God stuff.

Back in the Closet With You!

Oh I know what you are thinking, but I’m talking about that person that came out of their closet for a brief trip to the confessional. Everyone has a closet. Some are nice and neatly organized, everything labeled and sorted, and others…. their closets threaten to bury them when opened. So whether you take care of the stuff in your closet on a regular basis or let it get shut away until it becomes a threat to your health… get in there and make some choices about what kind of stuff you are keeping.

I’ve been a collector and clutter queen. I prefer to refer to those traits as “preservationist”, but no matter what I call it, there are some broken things that will never get fixed, and that I don’t have the skills to restore. I hate to throw those things out, but there is only so much space in my closet. Some people get buried by their indecision and their desire to “save” everything. I am sadly deciding that I am coming to the brink of that brook… perhaps not all have Caesar’s future changing mark, but perhaps that is what I fear the most… throwing out something that I will deeply regret in the future, that cannot be undone. And my closet becomes my Rubicon.

Eventually, everything must be faced, if not by us… then by our descendants. Now that is a thought that ought to create a pause, a “Selah”.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~no, this was not a post about literal closets~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s Not About Tequila

At least not for me, it isn’t.
So, I was reading about the worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle because the Third Tribe sent me there. (I joined them this year because of just what the tequila post was really about). It isn’t just because I would like to somehow turn my garden site into an itty business, but because I want my blogging to have meaning, and purpose. And I want to feel I am making headway with my writing and let it at least break even in paying for itself instead of borrowing from the family budget ( somewhat like the government “borrows” from the Social Security funds.)

So, yes, honestly… I would like the affiliate relationships with Amazon and Google, etc, to help me with the hosting for my garden site, the premium templates, and all the other things that were once free on the net, but have become more necessary to pay for in creating a better quality output.

I once did everything free, both on my side of it and other’s side of it. It isn’t that I don’t still, but the realities are that everyone has to make a living. Oh forget this detour- I really wanted to talk about avoidance.

What This Was Really About
The Worm Post began describing the trough I often find myself in, not just in blogging, but in life.

It goes like this:

sometimes people love what you’ve got, love you, and shower you with roses and orders and blog comments and 83% organic dark chocolate.

And sometimes? Sometimes, not so much.

Sometimes it’s dead quiet out there and you feel a tad exposed. You troll Twitter and everyone’s tweets are so peppy, all about how great their businesses are doing, you start to feel a tad bad. The story line, “What was I thinking?” starts sucking you in.

I get sucked into that dark pit more than I like to say. I get sucked into it as a Christian. Sometimes because of the type of Christian I am. I wonder how much of us is what we make ourselves, not because we are so powerful at it, but because of how helpless we are to really see facts. We labor under false assumptions and vague presumptions we pick up along the way of life. Not blaming anybody, it just seems that we humans are very prone to this.

So I followed the post through to the “assessment”. That is what I call the analysis + resolution of pinpointing these problems.

Like I said, I don’t have a history with tequila, but when we got to this point *__________ (fill in your favorite avoidance technique here), I knew we were talking about me and where I go ( I tend to do avoidance technique #Surfing the Internet until your butt goes numb and your heart grows stiff)

These avoidance techniques are what I call “Shadow Comforts,” things we turn to for fulfillment, but which don’t really fill us up.

Ouch. sounds like the Preacher talking to the Sinner, here, right? So how come I identify?
The “Nifty Tips” all sound like things that could work on any battle with depression, etc., but I reduce it down to get rest, develop awareness, get perspective.
I will be translating that into my lifestyle context, and leave it to to you take what you want for yourself.

Me and My Walls

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down. … ”
Mending Wall, Robert Frost

I am of the group who finds expression in this poetic definition of negotiating life and its communications. I like less walls… but I find they are necessary at times to others if not to myself and that most people love their walls without thinking to whom they give offense. We construct them so easily and with so little forethought.

Then we wonder why we always have to repair them or … in worst cases… move them or watch them fall. Walls tell a boundary where mutual consideration does not exist. Walls are for shutting out the intruders and keeping insiders secure. Walls are building my castle and arming it well.
And then I think of that Sting song… another poetic expression which identifies the emotions I hold:
“As I returned across the fields Id known
I recognized the walls that I once made
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines Id laid

And if I built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire”

What Happened?

Ok, Ilona. You used to blog about issues; you used to blog about politics and the state of Christianity as you know it; you used to blog with more opinions and rants….what happened to that?

Glad you asked dear reader (what is left of the readers, and perhaps the singular is apt), I’ve been thinking about that myself.

First, what happened to the politics? They are still here somewhere. I am still of the conservative persuasion, generally, but the turn the political landscape took… with hardly anything but the most banal Bush bashing and then the Obama worship countered with adolescent liberal-baiting took shape …. and I simply took the outerbelt. Neither the high road, in which no one was interested in the political spectrum, nor the low road…. I have just skirted politics pretty much altogether for awhile. For one thing, I wanted to see what direction the country would actually light out upon as President Obama began his administration. Talk to me about that later this year.

I talk about the economy here and there, but let’s face it: no one really knows what is going on with that. I occasionally harp on the obvious: take personal fiscal responsibility, decrease personal debt, live within means, be frugal for fun, and try to build community and help each other out to the degree you find possible. Common sense.

What happened to church issues and religion?
Well, that isn’t going away… I’m in this discipleship thing of following Jesus for life. I have had to take some real assessments and reconsiderations of my understanding of things. I tend to be quiet and not resurface with opining on that until I’ve sorted things out and they make sense of some kind. That method is as important as perceived outcome has become more important. Machiavellian politics have no place in the Christian faith.

Truthfully, I have had an awful lot to work out in my personal life the last few years, and sometimes it has taken the wind out of my sails when it comes to this type of blogging. I’ve mixed my personal and publicly viewed online life and that creates inner conflicts in what is said and how it is said. I’m working on finding my voice in the things that I find important now.

Still experimenting with projects… as noted in announcing that I will try a podcast here soon again. I downloaded the newest version of Audacity 1.3 Beta and it took awhile to get it working with Vista. I think I can get it to record…so now we just wait until I can put together my first recording.

So that is the update on where things are at with the blog, TrueGrit. I can’t blame people for dropping me off their blogrolls…not lots has been happening except the template change. And some people don’t care about that at all. We’ll see how things roll after I get back from my out of town trip later this month. I’d love to rewrite some of my older posts, I think the topics were worth thinking about, but my writing should be edited and the thought re-organized. So,essentially, the blog needs to take a new direction and I’ve been trying to decide on how that should come about.

Any thoughts or opinions out there are welcome. Leave me some input,please, if you don’t mind.