Thursday, January 7, 2010

Our Journey - Part 1

... towards a more intentional ife

How did our family get to where we are today? We are a family of eight – Mom, Dad and six children that range from almost 2 years to almost 16 years of age.
It is a long story and it has been a long journey, one that we continue to travel. Because, isn’t that what life is ~ a journey, there really is no taa daa!, no, well, here we are! Or we did it, now we can just stop…. No, life is a journey and a truly joyful one at that.

The post that I read today at Earth Mama made me realize that I need to be more open here – to share more about where our family used to be and where we are today.
My husband and I met at college and were married 5 years later. Within two years we had our first son and then another 23 months later. Within this time we bought our first home, a fixer upper in a modest neighborhood in a small town in western Massachusetts and a new car (a brand new ford escort – remember those?).

Oh, we were so worldly back then. Talking about refinancing our home to fix it up (which we did and rolled our already way to numerous credit cards into it as well). I bought conventional food at the large grocery stores, new clothes, play pens, jumpers, and all the works for the new babies. My husband was a superintendent at the golf course in town. That is what he had gone to college to do. He made a decent salary – not sure I remember exactly but maybe $35,000 and this was back in 1994/5. I was just oh, so sure that we needed a little more income so stayed on with the company I had previously worked for in a part time capacity and even left my precious babies with a not so comfortable feeling for me, home daycare provider. This only lasted two weeks as I came to my senses.

But during this time, we started racking up the credit cards that we had paid off with our home equity once again because we surely need this and that and of course this – stuff!!
And Chinese food at least once a week with a fast food visit thrown in there as well (usually eating at the food court in the mall). (Wow, I can hardly believe I am writing this as I don’t think I have even walked into a mall for two years or more.)
We decided we truly needed a better, bigger home just another two years later and the housing market was up – so why not??

And that is just what we did. In the meantime we also bought a new mini-van – with a near $500/month payment. Sure, we could afford the payments, right? My husband had received a pay raise each year and would surely continue to do so.
Something inside me though has always felt that the mainstream way of living was the only way and that there must be another way. I had the stirrings even in college. I wasn’t hanging out with the crunchy crowds, but I did like to hang out in the natural food store and read some of the publications I would pick up there.

And I did have my first three babies with a midwife (and the next three as well). I had always felt that there was no need for a doctor, that having a baby was a natural part of living not a medical condition. I had been reading Mothering magazine nearly since our first child was born and slowly, oh so slowly I began to listen to that little voice inside me that the way of the world was not the way for me.

However, now that we had our third son in the summer of 1998, our new to us larger home with a larger payment and a brand new mini van and all of our credit card payments not to mention our student loan payments, my husband starting seeking new golf course superintendent jobs at more prestigious golf courses. Why? He just thought that was what you do – keep moving up in the professional world – more recognition, more money and we would soon learn many more headaches and time away from family.

He did land that job which brought us to eastern Massachusetts, where I grew up and this brought us closer to my family. His salary was now $75,000 in the fall of 1998 and we were in a rental home in a suburb. While we had woods behind us and the town is small, the people were so different and from the beginning I knew I didn’t fit in. I was changing (or more correctly, letting my true self come through).

Well, as we spent more money on more things and lost sight of what was important, God knew what he was doing – my husband was let go just one year after being hired. It was time for us to get real. On that following Monday we learned that I was pregnant. Mike had a bit of money from the golf course and then unemployment so we could survive for a time.

I immediately wanted to follow our dreams (I realize now as I am writing this that these dreams must have been part of me for many years, maybe since I was a child.) My idea was for us to up and move to our most favorite place in the world at that time. Why not? We had nothing to lose. Woodstock, Vermont here we come. We went up to visit, found a house to rent and found that there were jobs. (of course making a small salary compared to his old job, but there were plenty of jobs in this vibrant tourist area) I called and scheduled the moving truck and then my husband said he couldn’t do it.

We ended up moving back to western Massachusetts where he took the position of a golf course mechanic at the original golf course he started at as the assistant out of college. I think he was making maybe $15.00 an hour. We found a not very nice apartment and lived this way for a short time until we found a house to rent in a rural setting that we could not afford. However, while we lived in this rental with a beautiful setting in the woods I read Countryside Magazine, staring knitting gnomes and selling them online, and planted my first wee garden. Also, I learned about not vaccinating, eating organic, and that not everyone lived the way we had been. There were people living authentic lives doing what they chose to do and were free of excessive bills . I read and I read and I learned and I learned.

Our bills, however, piled up again! We headed back to eastern Massachusetts and lived in an apartment while my husband commuted to just south of Boston to work for a large lawn care and tree company. He made $19.00 there. Money was still tight but we worked on paying off our debts now. I realized that this was the first step to being able to live a purposeful life. At this time I was pregnant with our fifth baby, 2003. I was ready to cut costs dramatically. At this time, I started shopping consignment shops. I realized that not only was this good for the pocketbook, but it was really good for our earth. I knew more than ever that I wanted away from this suburban lifestyle where I definitely did not fit in.

My homesteading dream was evolving into more of a possibility. I would leave magazines out for my husband to read and read out loud to him if I had to. I knew that he had to believe like I did, that one could live simply without a large income, grow our own food, work with our hands, and all with reverence for the earth. I also knew that my dream would never come true unless my husband grew his faith in God. Through faith comes gratitude and the ability to be content. With faith I was able to let go of worldly ideals. With faith I knew that God would provide. We had come to believe that God would provide if we left our family size up to Him. It is amazing that with each pregnancy, as I look back, was in such perfect timing. (another post about this at another time).

That is it for today. I must do the day’s baking and homeschooling.
Warm wishes,


  1. Thank you, thank you for sharing this inspiring story! I'm already looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Oh my goodness. You have no idea how this story has touched my heart. We used to drive through Woodstock VT en route to visit my inlaws many years ago... we STILL talk about it as being one of the most beautiful places on earth. I would love to be homesteading and raising a house full of littles myself... as many as arrived :) But we stopped at four because the logistics of moving with a large family are tough ones. Still though, we really do strive to live simply and in 5 years, when my husband is due for retirement we plan to live our own homesteading dream.... a long awaited one. Thank you for a little inspirational boost.... I needed it this morning :) Many blessings!

  3. Wow! Thankyou for sharing! It is amazing in retrospect how far we come in life. Good work!

  4. That was beautiful, Tonya! Thanks for sharing part of your story. I'm glad you found the way to be your true self. :)

  5. Thank you for sharing this story of your journey so far. We are expecting our sixth baby this summer and also seek to continually let go of more of the world. You have inspired me today and I am glad to have found your blog.

  6. Thank you so much for the first part of your story. You are an ispiration and thanks for helping me stay true and real. Blessings and enjoy the day my friend!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story. I found your blog recently and have become a regular reader - I am in central Vermont and trying to gently move our family in the homesteading direction, with some resistence from my gently is the key. But I do hope to be able to continue down this path as our journey continues, and it's nice to read about how you've been able to make this happen for your family! I'll look forward to more installments! -Amanda

  8. Hi Tonia, and thank you so much for stopping by my blog ! I forgot to wish you a very happy new year too ! :)
    You are so welcome for the little doodles I've been making (added one today !). I hope your little ones will enjoy.
    Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us, this way I'm getting to know you better faster :)
    Have a great end of the week ! :) Regards

  9. Isn't it awesome to look back and see God's hand in our life, even when we felt so low, when we couldn't see the birds for the trees?
    Absolutely beautiful tesitmoney He has given you!
    I use to leave sticky notes with Bible verses about the house for TrapperDude and say they were reminders for me and the kids!! I confessed after he got saved and he said he knew they were really for him!

  10. Oh my goodness...what an amazing post! I can relate to so many things that you shared here. My husband and I met in college, married 5 years later, had our first baby 2 years later and the 2nd one 2 years later. Babies 2 and 3 were born at home. We, too, had a Ford Escort and began buying a house, then another bigger house, etc. We, too, are living more simply and are enjoying our lives much more. There is a feeling of content when you live in a place that is calm and beautiful, when you spend more time with your children, and when you make more and spend less. I look forward to reading more about your homesteading journey!

  11. Wow, is it OK to say that I never would have thought that this was your story, and that is what makes it so incredible? I mean truly Tonya, that is a serious journey to self-discovery. The inspiration in this post is incredible, but I think that the possibilities to step away and change your life any way you want is what you have really managed to convey. This one is being printed out and put on my bathroom mirror. Have a great day my friend

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  13. What an amazing example of how God provides!

    Your story is like many of ours. We are young and we begin to believe that we need to be like every body else - a bigger house, expensive clothes, debt upon debt. This is how people live, you ar told.

    But then you learn that there is a better way and when you truly accept that change - wonderful things begin to happen.

    Thank you Tonya for sharing your journey...and yes, it is a journey and yes, it is a joyful one!

    Many blessings to you and your lovely family,


  14. thanks for sharing. Looking forward to hearing the rest.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this!! I have known for a long time, that the answer to all this is to jump...a leap of faith, per say. All of the humble jumble of our society sometimes makes it foggy to see at first. I especially appreciate the part about that inner knowing as a child. I too feel like as I child I knew things should be different, but as you grow up you try to follow the footsteps of others, especially one's parents. I can resonate with a lot of what you said and I really enjoyed the post. Thank you.


  16. Oh Tonya,

    Your blog has been inspiring to me in so many ways over this last year. More than once, I have sent your post to my husband's email box. We have been on a similar journey, though not as far along as you and now, knowing where you have come from makes our dream seem even more possible. Thank you for sharing your story!

    God bless,


  17. This is a beautiful and inspiring post. I can't wait for the next part!!


  18. We are realizing that our dream home, 2 car payments and sons college loan isn't that answer! We also live in Eastern Mass and hope to move within the next 2 years to somewhere warm and happy! If we can find that place?

    Can't wait to read more!
    Many Blessings!

  19. Wow, I love it! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too used to live SUCH a different life. So much debt, stress, worry, shopping... plus even my personal & political views have changed dramatically. You & your family are so inspiring!
    Ps. I love Countryside magazine, too. Talk about inspiring! :)

  20. What courage to do what is right for you! My son and I talked about this today; he is 27 and making a very big change in his path. I believe if we are doing what is right, God will provide.

    Thanks for sharing!


  21. Dear Tonya,
    Thank you for sharing your heart. It is inspiring to hear a piece of your families story, and hear how you have truly listened to your heart. You will certainly inspire others to follow suit with your lifestyle and so importantly you are giving your children such rich life lessons, sharing with them to never ignore what their inner voice tells them and that such joy can be found in the everyday. (I could write a book here!) ; )It is so wonderful in sharing your work with your business with the kids they can see that they can be self sustainable and finding joy in their work. It seems that is where our lights shine when we are pouring forth love and joy. I appreciate the life Tasha Tudor chose, she made her life the way she wanted it to be. It seems so often society tells us such a dramatically different story that life should be only one way. Warmest wishes to you Tonya xo

  22. It is wonderful as always to hear more of your family's story. And so nice to hear from others who understand why we choose to live the ways that we do. Wonderful that you are living the deliberate life of your dreams!

  23. I'm captivated! We are currently on this journey as well and so much of what you say about inner longings speak to me! I have 9 children and it is very hard to scale back when there are so many mouths to feed, but we are doing it and hoping to claim that which is real and no longer clinging to superficial in the process!

  24. I think you would be very surprised to find out how many of us out here have very similar stories. This year I am really trying to make small changes to put us in some of the same directions. Just last week I started baking my own bread and sweets. We are working on it. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  25. Wow, Tanya, what a journey! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude for sharing your journey and your faith here. I am so glad you opened up like really makes me stop and think where I can live more deliberately.
    You are indeed blessed.
    Fondly, Angie

  26. Tonya,even though you had shared with me before I loved reading your story and look forward to more:-) You give me courage to perhaps post mine openly.

  27. I really enjoyed reading neat to see how God stirred your hearts and called you into an exciting journey. I'm headed off to read part 2.

  28. Holy Cow Tonya! We have way more in common than I ever knew. I guess it never occured to me that you were on such a similar path as my family. I guess I thought you were always living a simple sustainable life...but you have been on a long journey that led you there also. We are so at the stage of moving to our most favorite town and renting something smaller...this is the next stop in our story! I am off to read part 2! Thank you so much for opening up and sharing!!! You are more of an inspiration to me than you know...I feel so blessed to have met you through this blogging world!

  29. What I love most about your story (which, as so many have commented, us common ground to many of us) is hoping/praying/imagining that it happens on the collective level. If our own lives can change so radically, why not our society?

  30. I am reading this today and just wanted to say "wow." I keep seeing myself in your journey, here and there. I've been nodding my head (and cringing w/ recognition sometimes) this whole post ... off to read more!

    Best wishes,

  31. A delight to read this! Thanks for the "backstory."

  32. How we end up is far more important than the beginning, but it is the beginning that sets us on the path.
    Blessings, and thank you for sharing your inspiring biography - it provides hope!

  33. OK, you'll probably not see this, but ... I am hooked and want to read the next part.

    I love this!

    Also, although I'm a southern gal now, I actually grew up in Western Massachusetts myself.

  34. I just stumbled here today from Farmama. I am very inspired by your story. So familiar to the journey we are on - although we are just on the cusp of stepping out in faith. Thank you for sharing!

  35. is there a part II, or are you still working on it? I would love to read it..

  36. I am so glad you visited my blog today, so that I could meet you. I have such a similar heart in the living naturally part. We began our marriage this wasn't until we moved to the mid-west in search of an even simplier lifestyle on a farm that we ended up in debt. This was 12 yrs into our marriage. Coming back home to California put us in debt. We are just now in a place of returning. Our only debt now being our house payment. I homeschooled our children, organic gardening, homemade food, natural cleaning, no meds/no Doctors, living with needs rather than wants, hand-me-downs, thrift stores, sewing, cotton, trying to live in the world but not of it. We got teased and criticized and judged often. I didn't let it bother me. Now my children are growing two oldest have some what left the nest and they want things they didn't have...worldly things. But I watch them and see they are finding out for themselves that they don't really want those things either. It doesn't make them any happier. It does help them that hubby and I remain rooted and grounded living a simplier life. They come back to it for peace. My daughter has told me several times that she is thankful she was raised the way we raised her. I see her struggle with the pressures/demands of the world. Finding freedom from the ways of the world, entering that promised rest is key. I will come back and read more of your blog when I have more is encouraging.

  37. Thank you so much for this post! Your story is very similar to mine (even down to the number and ages of the kids!). I just ordered something from your lovely Etsy shop. :)

  38. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to part two.

  39. wow Tonya, I guess I thought I'd read this already...apparently I hadn't and boy I can relate to so much of what your family has been through. I guess we are somewhere in there now, still evolving and eager to get back to Vermont where I feel we truly belong.