Truly Seeing

The holidays are over and a new year is about to begin. The stress is over, or should be soon.  Relax for a minute with me.  This is merely a collection of photos from the past year with the occasional thought of what I intend to do more of in the coming one.

Friends are where it’s at-


Take time for golf, even if it’s in the median strip.  Drive your favorite car there, just so it looks like you own the joint. (I don’t golf, but there are so many carpe diem lessons here!)


There is beauty around you, even if you have to crop the photo or change your angle to see it.  Morning light is always more flattering.







TomSandcastlesHome is not a place; it’s where those you love are.

Enjoy new places, new things, and don’t worry about your clothes.  Some of the best moments of your life happen when you were willing to just do it and be there. The moment will pass far too quickly.


Take the photo, even when the camera seems to intrude.  You’ll be glad later.Butterfly2 Babies are beautiful, in whatever form they come.  All the hope and promise – ColtTree


Invest heavily, with whatever you have to give. Raelynn


Look for God’s glory in the smallest things.  Sometimes it takes a camera to truly see what you were looking at.  And too often, even then, it’s only in hindsight you see the blessings of where you’ve been.


May today be the beginning of a new life with your eyes attuned to the glories that surround all of us.


As always, my photos are copyrighted.  Please do not share them without my express permission.


Christmas, 2014

Successful 1st jump from a C-130!

Successful 1st jump from a C-130!

All in all, it’s been a successful year.  We spent last New Year’s in a communal flop on the couch, sharing a bout with the flu.  Three weeks later, we drove to Missouri for Dave’s graduation from National Guard Basic Training.  I didn’t like that I couldn’t bring him home, but he had to leave immediately for Airborne jump school.  Jon drove to Georgia for that graduation in April, which he said was pretty cool, and they roadtripped home.  Good times.

The next day, we all took off (in one car) for California. First stop was at Bob’s parents’ home, to wish his dad a happy 80th birthday. Bob had flown out alone several weeks before for the actual event, and spent some good time with his parents and sisters and their families at that time. The rest of us had to wait until our Easter trip.  The kids really enjoyed seeing their grandparents again and being in their home.  We weren’t able to stay as long as we wanted; Jon and Bob only had 8 days off work and we had 3337 miles and 2 parties to cover.  My mom and her brother share their birthday, and all my siblings were born the same month.  The goal was to get everybody into her backyard while Mom thought we’d forgotten.  Complete success!

Back row, L-R: Michael, Jon, David; Middle row: Tom, Grammy, Faith, cousin Alondra;; Front: Rachel


Uncle John, Rob, me, Barry

We spent a day at San Simeon beach where my kids could experience Pacific waves.  (My kids?  Never been in waves?  Really???)  Jon and Dave are swiftwater rescue swimmers, so they donned their wetsuits and dove in to figure out the currents.  The rest of us played with the waves and built sandcastles, or hiked the hillsides with Uncle Barry. Rachel said the best part was having her two uncles in the same room, so she can now tell them apart!!  It was good to have everybody together.


At San Simeon

Jon at play

Jon at play

Jon’s (22) work at Acadian Ambulance allowed him to replace his old Mountaineer with an ’09 Dodge Ram. He achieved his EMT-Basic and now works on a critical care unit.  It means overnight, 12-hour shifts, but he feels it will help him toward his goal of becoming a search & rescue helicopter pilot. He still volunteers at the fire dept, and achieved state recognition of his Firefighter III & IV.

Jon and Dave on the brush truck

Jon and Dave on the brush truck

Dave (20) returned from his winter escapade to a slow start in the season of A/C repair, but it picked up enough that, last month, he replaced the Jeep he’d bought in Cali at Easter with his own ’08 Dodge Ram.  He’s mastering the manual transmission.  He just needed reliability for the monthly National Guard drills, which equate to about 150-ish hours in 2 weeks of hot attics, PT tests and 1200 ft jumps before he gets a day off.  He volunteers with the fire dept when he has time, achieving Firefighter III this summer. He and Jon team lead the sound crew at church.

Faith (18) went to Salem, MA for a summer history vacation and time with the liberal relatives.  She visited  Concord, Lexington, Boston (the participatory Tea Party re-enactment was good!) and NYC, and toured the Empire State Bldg, the Met, Grand Central Station and Central Park, along with the new World Trade Center. Lake Winnipesauckee was her favorite.  She learned a lot about America’s beginnings and modern culture to add to her natural love of ancient world history.

Faith and Stas

Faith and Stas

In the fall, she teamed with a Ukrainian guy in Youth & Government to compete in Model UN. Faith is the only homeschooler (other than Michael) in the 400-student district, so the different perspectives they present as a team is a powerful, unexpected force in the discussions.

Michael at YG

Michael at YG

Michael (16) also competes with Y&G, in Trial Court this year.  His team of all first-timers went undefeated at the district meet, a streak they hope to continue at the state meet in January. He joined Trail Life when it began last January and has already earned several badges. The high point of his year was trekking to the top of Mt. Marcy, CO with his troop. He also began working as a handyman for a family in our church, which allows him to play with the big boys in his free time.

13,000 ft elevation with storm clouds looming



Tom (12) also works with Michael on weekends and joined Trail Life on his birthday.  He has earned his first rank and is looking forward to whatever large trip is planned for this summer.   He went for an overnight campout (in the rain) on Mustang Island and another weekend hike at Enchanted Rock.  At our church retreat, he rode the zipline.

Rachel (8) is becoming quite the cook, always at the side of whoever’s in the kitchen, measuring, sifting, stirring or washing.  Her best times are when going out to lunch or on errands with Jon or Dave in a truck.  She was blessed this year when a new family joined our church and brought with them a best friend.  She and Maria are almost inseparable, and have developed a great little group of friends.  Her high point was when Jon and his friend Zach took her and Maria canoeing and spiders appeared in the boat.  I’m sure the boys had fun with two screaming little girls in a canoe!

Rachel, in pink, with her friends

Friends Helen and Maria with Rachel

Bob spent a lot more time with the family this year and also rode the zipline with the boys at the church retreat.  He still works at Vargo and volunteers with the fire dept’s swiftwater rescue team.

Swiftwater rescue recertification

Swiftwater Advanced Recertification

I am studying Naturopathy in preparation for the quickly approaching years when I will no longer be necessary for daily homeschool lessons.  I volunteer with Youth & Government as a counselor at their competitions and have enjoyed the addition to our home of a friend’s toddler several days a week. We haven’t mixed toddlers and school for a few years now; it’s more challenging than I’d remembered.  She brings a bright light to our week.

Faith in class

Faith in class

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family, and best wishes for a healthy, prosperous 2015!   – The Elving Family

Focus and the Peace Pipe

Someone I respect posted a blog today.  I have a lot higher priorities than blogging right now, but I couldn’t NOT respond to what he said here.  So today was an investment.  Even though I’ve never met him, he’s a child of God, and worth every minute of my time. He could be my child.  My other priorities will have to happen later. Mama’s about to have a tellin’ –

I remember my first drug deal.  It was a shady street on the other side of town, probably nice enough in daylight and not much different from the street where I was born, but it wasn’t too friendly from this angle.  I was left outside in a car with a couple of very trashy girls while the guys who’d professed to our fathers they’d take care of us with their lives had disappeared inside – which house, I wasn’t sure.  For a long time.  I finally got out of the smoke-filled car so I could breathe, and went for a walk.  In the days before cell phones, it was sometimes difficult to call Dad for a rescue.  Just as I decided to go knock on a door, the guys came out, laughing and ready to go have a fun time.  All the time I’d spent primping and preening for my date – I now stunk like an ashtray, my head was splitting from toxicities audible and airborne, and now I had to listen to a lame excuse as to why it was ok for me to have been temporarily abandoned for something much more interesting.

It was just this side of the transaction I’d never seen.  My brother had a small nursery in his room upstairs that was the envy of all the neighbor teens.  He had a small income on top of his job.  I helped him, on occasion, to clean the seeds.  After he vacationed in Hawaii, I learned to tell the difference between the acrid smell of the crappy local stuff and the full bodied, richer Kona Gold and Maui Wowie.  I guess I had a nose for nuances even then.  We laughed when somebody sold an oregano joint to a stupid kid who wanted to grow up faster.  We cried a few years later when someone laced a roll for the same, now stupid teen, and he ended up in the mental hospital permanently.  Some of the older kids said he had it coming; he was always an idiot.  I felt badly; he was a really nice kid.

All my friends did it, so it couldn’t have been that bad.  Every so often you heard a story of a bad trip and seeing spiders on all the walls of your home or somesuch.  That was a gauntlet of sanity I never wanted to experience.  I stayed away from it all.  They laughed at me.  It wasn’t until a decade had passed that several of them mentioned I was the only smart one in the group.  I’d drawn my line and never crossed it.

I never wanted to be in a place where I was not firmly in control of my own faculties.

As I got older,  I began learning about herbs in order to heal childhood maladies without going broke at the pharmacy.  Remember, I’d already drawn my line with the drug dealers.  I came across Lobelia, or Indian tobacco.  The kids knew if they got really sick, it wouldn’t be long before I rubbed it on their feet and made them smell like an old Indian chief.  I fear it for all the dire warnings that accompany its description, but I’m drawn to its power and adaptogenic properties.  I still use it when I need it.

But we don’t play with the peace pipe recreationally.

Ps.104:14 says that we have been given “herbs for the service of man.”  The legal status of pot has given it a position – it’s become the logo for rebellious teens all across the country for several generations instead of just another herb for holistic health.

William Dufty, in his book Sugar Blues, compared drugs to alcohol and sugar and concluded with one statement:  “Junkies die of junk.”

We are all dying of our sins – this is the human condition.  If you repeatedly give your body unnecessary substances, physically or spiritually, eventually you’ll be unhealthy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s socially acceptable or not.  Red Bull, fast food, or weed isn’t the substance of the argument.

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.”  (1 Cor. 3:17)

I didn’t draw my line on smoking, drugs and illegality back in the day because of the moral high ground.  Far from it – I was afraid I’d be the one to die, first time out.  A medicinal herbalist will call for help if someone has a reaction, because he/she has no fear of the light.  Lawbreakers don’t want light shed on their activities, because 9-1-1 responders don’t care about whether what you’re doing should be legal.  You both know it’s not.

A little side note here: my dentist found that I am VERY sensitive to substances.  He remarked that I would’ve been the one in a million to OD on my first try.

But most people never have a problem and eventually dismiss those years as “adolescence”.   My brother went on to teach doctors about drugs and their interactions internationally.  Experts are amazed at his command of the subject.  Others, though, lulled by their successful foray into rebellion with no repercussions, continued to rebel in other areas as well, and stayed wasted.

Wasted lives.

Are Christians perfect?  Hardly.  Many of them think they are because they don’t smoke pot or frequent bars..  But really, we’re all humans, tainted by sin and a propensity to flirt with darkness.  The devil is cunning and will twist God’s goodness to entice us away from righteousness.  Knowing this, do we dare go off our own way -to the other side of the laws He has explicitly given us-  effectively leaving Him in the smoky backseat until we come back with a lame excuse of “it shouldn’t be illegal anyway”?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)  I have a hard time envisioning passing a bong around a room full of wasted dudes and sharing Cheetos as a way to bring glory to God.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

It’s not the herb or a particular thing that’s the problem.  It’s your heart regarding it.

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away

It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray 
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

–      Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade”


For another interesting article on this topic, see here.


Family Christmas Letter, 2012

Swim LessonsThis year, I wanted to get the kids involved in activities outside the home.  So in February, we joined the YMCA.  Tommy and Rachel initially took swim lessons and are now in a Homeschool Fitness class, which teaches a new sport each month and also refines their pool skills.  Tommy’s already qualified for swim team!  Their schedule has pretty much determined the rest of our calendar, because of the early hours and regularity.  Most of us try to work out several times a week, either with weights in the gym or lap swimming during the kids’ classes.

Michael presents his billThe older ones have become involved in the Youth & Government program through the YMCA.  Michael is a youth legislator, writing and presenting bills.  He did NOT want to do this, but quickly discovered that public speaking isn’t all that hard and was actually fun, especially if you get to dress up.  His bill was featured in the first newsletter and he is enjoying the feel, if not the workload, of being a nearly high school student.  Dave and Faith signed up for media, being everywhere and writing up everything that happens around them (hence, the highlight on Michael for their first subject!).  Faith won a distinguished delegate award for her role as editor in chief of the newsletter at their first meet, and all three of them were recognized on the YMCA’s Facebook page as being notable representatives of our team.  At the state meet in January, they will convene in the Austin Capitol building where Dave hopes to merit a spot on the camera crew televising the event locally.

Jon at work Jon began work full time at Walmart in electronics as they moved into a new superstore, quickly distinguishing himself as capable of accomplishing whatever needed done.  He’s really developed his people skills in just a few months.  As his schedule permits, he still runs the sound system for church on Sundays and volunteers his free time at the fire department.  Just this week, he assisted with a county-wide reprogramming of all emergency radios to meet FEMA standards of compatibility.  He is working toward EMT certification (still – don’t ask!) while he figures out where he ultimately wants to go and how to finance college to get there.

Editor in Chief FaithOver the summer, Faith had a great time visiting all major SoCal points of interest with Grandma and Grandpa Elving before flying to help Grandma and Grandpa Bryant move to Uncle Barry’s property near the Central Coast.  I met her in Phoenix and enjoyed a brief visit with Amy, Kolby and Mia over moving boxes and sandwiches.  Dave flew into Cali in time to unload the truck with us on the other end.  He and Faith stayed with Barry’s family to help Mom settle in and I started back home, stopping briefly at my mentor/best friend’s home in Santa Cruz.  I was greatly inspired to see the achievements of homeschoolers grown up and what they still had ahead of them.  By fall when my wayward teens returned, Dave had a more surfer-influenced style and an appreciation of clean cars; Faith came home with a Starbucks habit and a personal strength she never realized was inside.

Dave, ready for actionA long-awaited answer to prayer was braces for both Faith and Dave.  We probably won’t see their smiles again for two years.  Dave’s so busy with his senior year he wasn’t smiling anyway.  In addition to working out, Y&G, and core courses at home, he enrolled in Fire Academy, which will enable him to challenge the state exam this summer and hopefully get hired on at a paid department.

Bob and I took a much-needed vacation just after Thanksgiving to Ohio for his company’s Christmas party.  We had a great time all around, including visiting Beth and Paul and attending Bible study with them.  We left all the kids home “alone” with a tank full of gas in my new-to-me Expedition and some cash for expenses.  It was awesome to check on them Friday night and find that Jon had taken them all to the nighttime Christmas parade in downtown Lockhart and arranged for the younger boys to ride on fire trucks in the procession. Rachel waved from the curb with her favorite family friend.  Saturday they hung Christmas lights on the house and watched a Hogan’s Heroes marathon.  Sunday morning, they drove up to church early to set up sound as usual, and enable Michael to meet with his Boy Scout leader to sign off the requirements for his next level, the Tenderfoot.  By the time we arrived home later that evening, my truck and Jon’s were sparkling clean, dogs were fed, cat was medicated and all children ready for bed on time. Awesome.  I love my kids and the opportunity I’ve had be on the front lines of their lives, every day. God has done more in our lives through me teaching them than I ever could have predicted when we first set out.

Family PicWe celebrated our 23rd anniversary as a family this year by sightseeing around the Alamo. It’s getting harder and harder to get everyone together for a photo. I could just merge me in, if I had any clue how to work Photoshop.  But technology is Jon’s gig; I just take the photos.Me

Merry Christmas to all our dear friends and family!

The Wheelbarrow Concept

I have a book on my shelf titled, “The Cure is in the Kitchen”. It’s a rather off-the-deep-end book nutritionally, but I just really like the title. It helps me to stay focused on what’s truly important in my family’s health. In spite of so much research into finding the magic key to different diseases, the statistics alone point to our diet. The genetic component of most diseases appears to have more to do with the family recipe box than DNA.

Every day, I see how obesity and diabetes rates have risen beyond all probability. Autism has gone from being one child in a thousand to one in sixty-six, while bipolar disorder and ADD have become household words – just in the last 20 years. These bits of news frighten me, but they haven’t affected me. Allergy and food sensitivity, issues which also have skyrocketing statistics, broadsided me early. My oldest son was only two when he went deaf and doctors couldn’t resolve the fluid constantly plugging his ears and throat.

Since their treatments weren’t working, finding the cause became hugely important. It helped to find out what he was reacting to, even though I already sensed much of what the tests showed. He was allergic to more than 50 common food items, and was sensitive to many neighborhood trees. How was I supposed to deal with that?

I began watching how he felt and acted each day as clues to what, exactly, was affecting him, along with when and how. I journaled everything he ingested, along with his emotions and activities. Merely reading labels wasn’t enough; I found that I could only trust whole foods I’d prepared myself. I had an especially hard time cutting back our sugar intake, but was encouraged to find the reason. According to, sugar is highly addictive and lab rats will choose it over cocaine, even if they are already addicted to the drug. Sugar causes a myriad of neural symptoms, many of which are subtle. Kicking it will be hard, but the paybacks are big.

As I learned to make more foods from better ingredients, I also taught the children to make their own cookies and desserts. This had a two-fold purpose: limiting their intake to what they were willing to make and eliminating any hidden ingredients. They also learned some very useful life skills along the way. Yet the trademark allergic symptoms of plugged ears and nasal congestion continued to plague us, and little brother was showing some symptoms that might possibly be autism.

The turnaround point came when I learned about the “wheelbarrow concept”. On any building site, workers haul loads of rocks, dirt, and bricks. Each load is heavy, but the workers manage it. While it’s tempting to want to just make one heavy load of everything, that load overwhelms the tools available. Essentially, what the wheelbarrow concept explains is that no worker can haul rocks, bricks, and dirt together in his wheelbarrow without it tipping over or breaking.

It translates to food this way: while I know my kids don’t handle milk products well, they can eat them in moderation. Sugar is not normally a problem, nor is corn. However, combine them in a bowl of Frosted Flakes – pile three small things into the wheelbarrow together – and they become giddy and boisterous. About an hour later, they crash, more distraught than if their dog had died. The reaction is totally out of proportion to the ingredients and not always obviously related to what they ate several hours previously. Add a cheeseburger and a soda for lunch (more corn syrup and milk products), and the body begins protecting itself by producing mucous in the ears or inflammation in the gut.

Knowing to avoid one item or another was great – but synergy works negatively as well. Several items that aren’t significant stressors on their own combine together to make a big reaction.

This little tidbit of information shouldn’t be all that earth-shattering. Doctors have known for a long time that prescribing too many drugs to old folks will cause more problems than Granny started with. Food is no different. To a person with grass allergies, eating wheat bread during hayfever season could be life threatening. Realizing that it may not be one allergen but a combination of seemingly fine foods helps to define the problem so as to find the solution.

Once I’d figured out which combinations were problematic, I separated them into groups. Corn, milk, and wheat went onto separate days. Each group was eaten no more often than once in every four days. The idea is to give the body time to clear small problems singly and not overload it with troublesome combinations. It also ensured we were eating a varied diet, which began building our immune systems to handle allergens more efficiently. Within four months, the food sensitivities began to subside, as did the autistic suspicions. My weight normalized and seasonal illnesses no longer haunted us. While a rotation diet of whole foods is not a panacea, it sure went a long way toward lowering our medical bills.

And that was the proof Daddy needed that the slight extra on the food budget was a good investment.

Fresh Cookies

The dynamics around the house have changed dramatically with the onset of summer.   The oldest is gone to California and the next oldest is at work all day.  We used to have fresh chocolate chip cookies nearly daily, and chores were picked up when nobody was watching.  Jobs that used to be the sole property of big kids are now the responsibility of someone who just realized he’s big enough.  Pips had to adapt to a significant lack of big brothers to make something fun happen, and is beginning to come up with her own ideas and enlisting help to accomplish them.

Today she decided we really needed cookies. Michael was game to head up the project and off they went. They were so happy in there! Chit-chatting and baking away, my up-and-coming chef and his “sous chef” had everything ably in hand. I never realized when I happily puttered in the kitchen with a baby in a sling and a toddler at my side how much I was teaching them. Every one of my children is quite capable in the kitchen, and they only get more so every day.

So while I discussed proper pastry technique with my daughter in anticipation of a Father’s Day pie, these two were shaping and pressing balls of peanut butter cookie dough and baking them. Now I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter, but there is something very comforting about the smell of freshly baking cookies in the house, no matter what the flavor.

(Day 33/365)

Roundup Day

One of the coolest things about living on the Chisholm Trail is the history.  It’s a part of life. They still have a roundup every year, where horsemen ride several hundred miles over the original route.   Today was the parade, and everybody in the whole county and beyond came out for the shindig.

I got out early to take my son to the fire department staging area. I would’ve been satisfied right there, since I found my photo of the day on the way back.  Lovely.

But the day had only just begun.  We still have a parade to go to –

Downtown Lockhart is lovely – many homes have been here since before the Civil War.

Here it comes!  The parade begins…

Lockhart’s history and residents dominate the culture.  I have a clearer photo of these ladies, but it didn’t capture them as well as this did. They were wonderful.  Their sign was pretty good, too!


But the younger set is very visible, too – they’re just a little different from the previous generations. They (maybe much like me) seem not entirely comfortable with the reality of rural life. Contrast is all around.

Some things I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in a parade before. The grain mill is a very dominant feature of the local landscape; they needed to show off their new rig.

And this interesting contraption was recently invented by some local boys for brush clearing. This is the biggest one I’ve ever seen.

The county’s fire trucks are arriving. Good Lord, they go as far as I can see!

Here’s the one I’ve been waiting for.

No parade would be complete without horses. And they are still my favorite part. I’m always astounded at what amazing horses the local Mexicans trot out.

Shriners, too.

This is very definitely small town America, and I’m always surprised and thrilled to see the high school reunions. The class of ’41 had about a dozen members on its float. The motto on ’91 caught my eye:

I may have lived here too long. Two people from the parade called me out by name, and another two waved down my family. Hmmm. Not sure if that means I’m home, or I’ve overstayed. Either way, we had a nice day and got to see the town in all its glory.

(Day 28/365)