Are you kids having fun?

Every once in a while the kids are asked “the fun” question. And they’re never sure quite how to answer.

Are you kids having fun?

Yes. No. Sometimes.

Not right now. Ask me around the campfire after a hot supper and chocolate for dessert.

Are you having fun is not a question hiking adults ask other hiking adults, so I find this a curious question to ask a child/teen long distance hiker.

Anyone who is out here for more than five days knows this isn’t always fun. Not even close.

I had some email correspondence with another mother whose family did a three year sailing trip when their kids were younger. She mentioned something to me about family adventuring, something we have found to be true on the trail also. The high’s are high and the low’s are low.

We’ve all (except Damien) have had a turn with tears. But this is no different from our experience in the course of two weeks of normal life. We’re not on a vacation, where we seek relaxing pleasure experiences every day. We’re on a long distance hike, and we’re all adjusting to that.

These past two weeks have been filled with moments that were beautiful, rewarding, boring, happy, warm, disappointing, dry, melancholy, tiring, cold, exciting, rainy, challenging, sunny, and relaxing. Fun doesn’t begin to describe the experience and could never do it justice. Nor does it tell the whole truth.

Amazing life adventures are so much than fun. They are high’s and low’s, mountain tops and valleys - literally - woven together to create a rich, life changing, relationship building experience.

Sixteen days in, our hike has been amazing. It has been challenging and rewarding likewise.

Are we having fun? Why yes we are. Fireside with new friends, sunsets, sunrises, trail magic, excursions off trail, a zero day at the NOC, funny conversations, and new discoveries are all fun.

Hiking when we are tired, wet, cold, sore, (fill-in-the-blank) is not so much fun. And we experience the not-so-fun moments every day. Sometimes hour by hour.

But in those moments, all the moments fun and dreary, we’re growing, we’re learning, we’re having deeply enriching (life-changing) experiences.

Fun is not a word I’d use to describe our hike. Amazing is more like it.

Everything and nothing

For months, years, I have wondered what these first few days would be like. And it is everything and nothing like I imagined it to be. It is so much better.

These first few days of hiking have been more of a relief than anything. A relief that we’re finally here. A relief that the work of hiking is so much easier than all the work to get here.

The hardest part for us truly is getting out the door.

When Damien first threw out the idea of thru-hiking the AT, many moons ago (she writes while listening to the gurgle of Lance Creek in the Blood Mountain Wilderness, under a crescent moon and starlight evening) it was the physical nature of hiking that I just couldn’t grasp.

The heavy (lightweight) load, the sweating (I used to shudder at the thought), menstruating in the woods. All that stuff. I thought that would be the hard part. But getting here was so much harder than all of that.

It was birth, all over again, three long months of being in the birth canal, after months of gestation. It was a squeeze and many days I felt trapped, stuck in the path we were on, with no place to move but forward, in the hopes that it would be worth it. It was.

Damien and I have some relationship building to do after such a stressful period. We want to just be with our kids, together, and in the outdoors, without deadlines and crunches. We’re in the perfect place to do that.

There is no place I’d rather be.

The work of hiking is hard, absolutely. Even at 27 lbs, which is on the lighter end, the pack feels so much heavier than I imagined it would be after seven hours. I don’t remember the last time I’ve sweat this much (and it’s only spring). When I start in the morning my legs scream at me, “sit down, don’t move another step”.

But it’s still easier than getting out the door. It’s still more enjoyable than most of the work we did to get here.

That’s the part I wasn’t expecting and find so surprising. This is not as hard as I thought it would be. But getting here was so much more work than I had imagined.

Now that I’m here, really here on the trail, close to one week and over 50 miles done, I’m ready to close the chapter on our journey here, and learn from its lessons, which I’m still processing. And the main lesson may be just this: launching an amazing adventure takes an amazing amount of work (and support from helpers).

So does long distance backpacking but having come through the last year to get here I do believe I’m up for the challenge.

Our subscription series is live

Episode 2 of our video series has just been released and I am especially excited to tell you our subscription series is now live.

Want to know what the kids think about this adventure? They spill the beans in this episode.

Brienne considers the possibility of natural trail make-up and Laurent anticipates the "big lesson" we'll learn on the trail. In this video I introduce the family (if you follow my blog you kind of know us already), and the kids share their insights going into this adventure.

Our video editors are amazing and even the credits (especially the credits!) are fun to watch.

If you were a project Kickstarter you already have access to these two videos and all episodes still to be released, as our hike progresses.

For everyone else, to get access to the videos going forward you'll want to subscribe. You can do that here.

You can buy individual episodes also, if you prefer.

The first two episodes and the subscription option are all available here. Who is this video series for?
  • Homeschoolers. This is family homeschool project, featuring real homeschool kids having an amazing adventure and working with their parents to produce a video series. Kids feature big in this project. And homeschooling is what allows us the freedom to explore and adventure together.
  • Families seeking outdoor inspiration. Everyone knows, or at least I hope they do, that spending lots of time outdoors and being physically active is a healthier way to live. This series will inspire you to pursue physical activity outdoors. And it will specifically help your family figure out the how-tos of hiking and backpacking.
  • People wanting to live intentional and adventurous lives. Yes, this is a series about backpacking, but it's so much more than that. It's about thinking outside the box (together), pushing beyond the boundaries of how families are expected to live. Be ready to challenge your assumptions because we're leaving normal behind.
  • Simple living enthusiasts. We are living six months in woods, carrying everything we need on our backs, and sleeping in tents. Talk about the ultimate family downsizing. What do people - mothers, fathers, teens, children really need to live well and enjoy life? Follow the series to find out.
  • People who like good stories. At the heart of this project is a story about a family going through challenges and incredible experiences together. Whether you are interested in hiking or not, you will want to be a part of this adventure.

This series is for YOU.

I do so hope you'll follow along.

And now back to my packing.

Almost there

If you are reading this in your e-mail you can switch out the subject line to: "The latest post from FIMBY (almost) on the Appalachian Trail"

It's here. The middle of March.

Everyone says this, but it's true, I can't believe how fast this time has flown.

Winter has been long, snowy and cold, but honestly for the past few weeks, I haven't even noticed. We are seriously working all the time, when we're not cooking, eating, sleeping or sometimes (though not often) just chillin'.

We are days away from leaving for the trail and the blog is about to go quiet for a couple weeks.

I thought it would quiet for a long while but my tech-savvy husband has brought me up to speed on using apps for photo editing and writing.

What this means is that I'll be able to post from the trail. Unreal. (In town stops of course. I'm not accessing internet while hiking. I am so ready to be done with computers for a while.)

I am preparing the blog for this new writing and publishing rhythm.

One of the things I've restructured is my newsletter. (Those of you reading this in e-mail format, used to my old Saturday morning newsletter format, will be nodding your heads).

The newsletter is switching to a "classic" e-mail feed of the blog.

What this means is that every time a post is published newsletter/e-mail subscribers will get that post in their inbox.

It's simple. It's clean. I hope you like it.

I've had a lot of people want to get individual FIMBY posts in their e-mail. Well, now you can! As for the weekend edition, it is coming to an end. It may return when we get off the trail, or it may not. Which can pretty much be said for every other aspect of my life also. Who knows what changes the trail will wrought?

If you would like to receive my "from the trail" posts in your inbox see the sidebar and fill in your name and e-mail.

I hope to publish once a week on the trail.

I can do the writing itself in camp. I'm amazed I can actually do this, theoretically, while hiking. We'll see how it all plays out.

I'll be doing everything from my iPad mini. I've been practicing my work flow for the past couple weeks to work out all the kinks. The posts will be short and will simply give you a taste of life on the trail.

To get the full picture of life on the trail, and our months of preparation for life on the trail, you'll want to subscribe to our video series. Right now videos are only available as individual purchases but by within days the subscription option will be ready. Subscription is the best deal.

People who purchase the video series will be able to comment on videos, interact with us while we're on the trail and even influence some of the episodes (we'll be answering subscriber questions etc.)

I won't be as active on FIMBY as I just won't have the time in town stops to respond to blog comments etc.

My life is shifting and the story of our family will be about life on the trial, written on the trail. I am so excited. I just want to be there. Now.

Want to advertise here?

It's funny. I have not been actively seeking advertisers at FIMBY for over one year. I've shifted my blog income-earning strategies elsewhere.

But in the last few weeks more people have approached me about advertising at FIMBY and I love the work the work they are doing, and am happy to share it here, so I'm not going to say no!

I thought I'd mention it here. I have a couple spaces still available. But here's the deal: I'm asking for a 6 month commitment. You'll pay a flat fee every month and that will be auto deducted from paypal. I can't be messing around with that stuff while we're hiking.

If you're interested contact me for rates and info.

(And yes, there is still this much snow in our woods! Our friend in Georgia tells us the daffodils are blooming. Springtime hiking here we come!)

What won't publish

I knew this day was coming. It's been on the calendar for two years. I really thought I'd get these ideas published, or at least some of them:

  • Our family mission, and writing a mission statement resources. (We actually have a family mission now, it only took me about 8 years to write it!)
  • The one thing (it's a four letter word) that has held me back from full-force, open-hearted, and abundant living over the past couple years. And what's changed in my life to break free from that, so that I don't feel held back the way I used to.
  • My bucket-list. I finally have the courage to write on.
  • My thoughts on:
    • the cycle of transformation
    • being an encourager
    • following in other's footsteps (be careful where you place your feet)
    • blowing the roof off our expectations, and more.
  • Digital organization.
  • Creative living and working cycles.
  • An update on our plant-based diet.
  • Making friends and creating community wherever you are.
  • Mis-fit vs. misfit.
  • The truth about teenagers and our goals for the teenage years - fun, adventure, social engagement, and challenging experiences.

And of course I always have ideas percolating about homeschool (and education-in-general) philosophy and practice.

Here's a few posts I have in draft mode:

  • Finishing the elementary curriculum series I started three years ago. (Brienne has one more official year of elementary school, so I'm not too far behind).
  • Being a resource person vs. a stay-at-home teacher.
  • How we keep high school records and preparing for college/university.
  • A review of The Teenage Liberation Handbook and other out-of-the-box homeschool high school resources.
  • Why I don't believe in making learning fun (yes you read that right).
  • A dyslexia update.
  • Writing to communicate, as a means of learning how to write.
  • Thoughts on foreign language learning (it's hard and it must be learner-motivated).
  • Our experience homeschooling without a library.
  • Scheduling for joy and freedom.
  • Why I don't believe in a well-rounded education.
  • Learning on a need to know basis.
  • What our kids learn when we study.
  • Inspire, not require. What does that really look like? Does it work?
  • Family project day (if you subscribe to our video series you'll get some of this).
  • Springboard science.
  • Redeeming twaddle. Viewing the video games, graphic novels, and other things you might consider "twaddle" in a different light.

But as you are all well aware (or maybe you're new - welcome!) our family is set to start hiking the Appalachian Trail in mere days. I won't be publishing any of these ideas soon.

Maybe later, or maybe not.

I've noticed something in years of blog writing. My most salient ideas keeping bubbling to the surface and find expression, somehow. Those ideas that won't let me rest till they are published find ways to get out. And the ones that never do see the light of day I trust weren't meant to.

Hiking the trail is going to change me. It will change my priorities and I do believe it's going to change the course of my life, in a good way.

It goes without saying then that this experience will change my writing, as it changes me. I don't know what I will look like on the other side so there's no way to know what FIMBY will look like either.

There's a very good reason I was taking selfies in the drugstore. Ok, maybe not a good reason but the selfies, but a good reason for using the camera in the drugstore. I was taking video footage and while I was bored, waiting for Damien, I took selfies because I liked the way my pony tail popped out the top of my head. My pony tail that is no more. You'll have to watch the videos to get the goods on that story.

Sit a spell

I sit an awful lot these days. Sit and work on my computer. It is a huge amount of mental effort to get out the door to exercise. Some days there is barely time to cook and eat, never mind exercise.

The to-do is so long and taking just 30 minutes to get outdoors takes every ounce of will power. Once I’m outside the hardest part is over.

The list of things that must be done (we move in one week, I haven’t started packing) seems to never go away, but at least it doesn’t overwhelm the way it did two months ago.

One day at a time is as fast as any of us can go.

I haven’t sat and listened to the river for ages. It’s generally too cold to sit but the days are warming and lightening, incredibly so with the time change.

Last summer many of my afternoon walks were “interrupted” by sitting at the river. I miss those days when the to-do list was only 6 deep for the day.

The irony is not lost on me that a very physical journey like our hike has required an incredible amount of time sitting and typing away on my computer to get everything ready.

The video project, our family and business finances, hike itinerary and correspondence - all of it requires so much (sitting) work.

Our daily active time has dwindled down to thirty minutes, when we can manage it. A far cry from the hours per day of active time we aim for “in our normal life”. Ah, normal life, how I miss thee.

In a few short weeks we’ll be establishing a new normal. Hiking will be our work. Sitting for a spell will once again be a restorative break not our modus operandi. Entire days will be spent outdoors, not mere minutes.

I cannot wait.

How to Make Art Together

Guest post by Amy Hood of Amy Hood Arts.

Making art with my kids means I get to make art, too. I’m not being selfless here. I’m not arranging things solely to benefit my kids, although they do benefit.

I need to mess about with paint and such just as much as they do, and while it’s easier for me to find time to do this on my own now that they’re older, it was impossible when I still had a toddler in the house. When I finally figured out that we could just all make art together, yes even the then-two-year-old, it was soul-saving.

Never mind that sometimes I only got ten minutes of drawing in. I got my hands into the charcoal, and it felt restorative.

Here is the thing about making art alongside children: they remind you that it’s play. It’s exploration.

If you have very young children in the room, you’ll notice it doesn’t even occur to them that they’re “not artistic.” A toddler doesn’t see paint as intimidating; she sees it as another interesting item in her world.

My kids and I sit down together to explore open-ended, process-based art.

What on earth does that mean?

It means we have no set end product in mind; our creations will all look different. And it means we are often learning or experimenting with a new process, technique, or material.

If you think about that - no set finished product, coupled with experimentation and learning - you might see that nobody has to be an expert.

We have no model of what our finished artwork “should” look like, and we are learning together. In a very sneaky way, so sneaky that I didn’t even realize it at first, this approach takes all the pressure off the adult. I don’t have to be a perfect, polished artist. If you don’t feel you are at all artistic, truly, this is an excellent approach. You don’t have to be.

But, I would argue, you should really sit down and make art alongside your kids anyway, even if you think it’s just something for them, not for you. I would suggest you give it a try, with no end goal in mind.

Get out some materials and play with them. Use what you have on hand - pencils for sketching, or scraps of paper for collage, nothing requiring a trip to a store - and experiment.

If you have children, I’m guessing there are many places they’ve taken you that you never thought you’d go. All my children, as toddlers, slowed me down, and that was a gift. I coached a soccer team of preschoolers; that was certainly a surprise. I’ve never even played soccer.

Making art with kids is the same. If you don’t consider it your thing, you might surprise yourself, and you just may discover a satisfying outlet for yourself as well.

And if you do have that urge, even if you have time to pursue it on your own time, something magical happens when parents and kids are fellow art adventurers.

Ideas zing. Creativity expands. Conversation wanders. It’s time spent together. And even when I’m in our art area working on my own after my youngest is in bed, often one of my older children will come in and sit with me, to read in my company or to watch and ask questions.

I like how comfortable we all are together there, how the art area is a busy, messy, used part of our home, and how the rest of the house is populated with art-making materials as well.

We’re not just creating art, we’re creating a shared life. We make art together, and we are all the better for it.

Renee here: A couple years ago I wrote a little ebook about nurturing creativity in our lives as busy moms. One of the things I believe in, strongly, is creating with our children.

And as a blogger with artistic children I field a lot of "how do you get children interested in art, what supplies, what materials did you use?" type questions.

For these reasons I am so happy to bring you today's guest post and resource.

Amy Hood is an artist, writer, and homeschooling mama living in coastal Rhode Island. She’s passionate about inspiring confidence and creativity in artists of all ages, and she believes we are all artists.

To that end, she has created Art Together, the e-zine of artistic inspiration for children and adults. Each issue is packed with activities, resources, supply lists, and more to explore fun, open-ended art-making alongside children.

The spring 2014 issue of Art Together is Printmaking. I've read it, it's inspiring and hands-on informational for making art together. I love the artist spotlight.

I think these magazines would provide all the inspiration and direction you'd need for planning an art component to your homeschool curriculum, or would be a great supplement to anything you're already using.

To get a copy for yourself use the code: FIMBY and get 20% off the $5.00 cover price. Resources: 

A quick trip to the city

Laurent turned 13 last week and we combined the celebration of that milestone with our bi-annual city trip.

When you live in the sticks as we do (the sticks with good coffee shops, good neighbours, and the mountains) you need to make regular pilgrimages to larger centres to access goods and services that are just not available “in the woods” - comic book stores, “the mall”, and the Apple Store.

With our hike now mere weeks away we used Laurent’s birthday as a good reason to drive the 7+ hours (one way) to Quebec City. We crammed the trip full of fun and necessaries. The aquarium, a stay at the hostel in the heart of the 400 year old city, and the crown jewel - an English comic book store - were the fun highlights.

A trip to MEC for the last gear purchases and a visit to Place Sainte Foy/Laurier mall complex for an iPad and clothes (not totally successful, we still need trail underwear for the boy, and running shorts for Celine and I) were the shopping parts of the trip.

Shopping is not Laurent’s idea of a good time, neither is it mine. But sometimes it just has to be done. And if you have a new book along, well that does help.

If you go

The hostel downtown Quebec is a great place to stay. They treat families well there. Our kids love the social aspect of a hostel, probably because their parents do. In the course of our overnight stay, which involved cooking our own supper and buying the breakfast they served in the common kitchen area, we met two other families.

The hostel is easy walking distance from all the old city must-dos and must-sees. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time for that.

If you do go I recommend hitting a large grocery store on the way into the city (the IGA’s are nice) and arriving at the hostel with the food you’ll need for your stay. I didn’t have the foresight to do that. There is a grocery store nearby but it’s small, as are all downtown stores.

For real

I’ve been thinking about the first time the Appalachian Trail first really entered my consciousness. Damien was following a thru-hiker (maybe reading his online trail journal?) who was hiking to raise awareness and money for a non-profit mission. Damien suggested we host this guy, a stranger, in our home while we was hiking through Maine.

I readily agreed. We love meeting new and interesting people. And in that way I was first introduced, in real-life, to thru-hikers and long distance hiking.

Fast forward six years to a cold March. I can’t believe I’m about to embark on my own long distance trek avec ma famille. The same questions I asked the 3 thru-hikers who ended up staying in our home, that warm August night, I am now asked by people.

What will you eat? Where do you sleep? How do you deal with your period? (Ok, so not many people come out and ask me that one, but you better believe I asked the woman who stayed with us that night. By the way, the answer ain’t all that pretty.)

I did an interview this week and one of the things I rambled on about (I’m a rambling talker) was how small changes and small decisions lead to big ones.

When I stop to think about it, and I don’t have much time for thinking these days, I can’t believe I’m here.

Days away from the trail. The dreams set in motion many years ago actually being lived, now. And the amount of work to make those ideas reality. Unreal.

My life is real. The days are real. Real busy. But in just a couple weeks my job each day will be to walk. That is still unreal, but will be real enough very soon.

Interest-led learning (& living) career planning

We don't ask our kids "what do you want to be when you grow up?" We don't ask them questions that we ourselves can't answer.

We ask them what are you inspired to do today?

Actually, for the most part we don't have to ask, it's obvious. And then we bring in resources and tools to help them build skills and knowledge around those inspirations and interests

We ask, how can you help other people with those skills? Where is this knowledge, this expertise needed in society?

We can't know what the jobs of the future will look like. People's basic needs stay the same but society is constantly evolving and changing and so we don't fixate on a job title or career path; we focus on building skills, knowledge, and experience in an environment of flexibility and adaptability. 

As our kids get into their late middle school and high school years we talk about ways of meeting needs and earning money using those skills, knowledge, and experience. 

We don't just talk about it, we actually find ways for them to earn money while gaining the skills and knowledge. Because they've have lots of time to practice (and play) they are actually pretty good at some of the things they enjoy doing. Good enough to sell the stuff they make and to get paid for their services. 

We talk about different post-secondary schooling options that support the acquisition of these skills and knowledge. Right now our high schooler has no post-secondary plans percolating.

At fourteen, she already has income earning skills and knowledge. She can support her teenage financial needs by doing programming-related technical projects as well as design and graphic work for us. She's been learning these skills for years now and shows a strong interest and aptitude for both. If she decides to pursue either in post-secondary studies she's well on her way. Or she may become an academic who studies medieval Japan. Who's to say?

She studies subjects that interest her and learns skills doing real work. Real projects. Real life learning. 


On becoming a relationship-focused professional blogger

In the fall of 2012 I set my sights on being a "professional" blogger. This is something I've never shared on the blog.

Here's what I did share.

I want to be a better blogger and I want to earn money from my online endeavors. I went to Allume, in part, to learn more how to do that. And I went to hang out with women who understand why I love blogging so much.

I came home from Allume, with a commitment in my head and heart, to nurture the community of people that already exist around this blog - this wee little corner of the web that, for various reasons, attracts a small following of readers.

I came home from Allume with a desire to serve you. To meet your needs in a way that only FIMBY can. I came home from Allume with a renewed commitment to honest, open and beautiful writing and photography.

I came home wanting to grow as a writer, not so that someday I will be "published", but so that today I can give my best to FIMBY readers.

What I didn't say, in so many words, is that I wanted to "go pro" in serving, connecting and building relationship here at FIMBY.

I didn't spill the beans about wanting to be a professional blogger because:

  • Blogging, unlike, being an engineer, plumber, store clerk, doctor, or teacher, is a hard occupation to define. It's new, it's incredibly varied in terms of what you do and how you earn money doing it, and nailing down a definition has been hard for me.
  • I was scared to voice that dream out loud.
  • I don't identify with many of the models I've seen to making this dream a reality. And so the path forward was not clear.

What does it mean to be a professional blogger?

Let's talk about earning money first.

In the whole wide world there are two ways to earn money.

You produce and/or sell a good or service. Or you work for someone who does.

All paid work comes down to this. Teachers work, or sell, their teaching services to the government who collect taxes to pay for that service. The same is true for all government jobs.

Lawyers sell a service to their clients. You could argue that their assistants sell their services to the lawyer who employs them, but usually we just say "they work for them".

Blogging is no different. You earn money doing it by producing and selling goods or services, or working for someone who does. I see affiliate marketing and advertising in the "working for someone who does" category. You promote a business/product/service/person, they pay you for doing that. You are working for them, kind of.

It's not so important where the lines are drawn. The important thing is this: creating and selling products and services is how people earn money.

I love blogging. I can easily, if time isn't an issue, spend many hours a day doing blog related stuff without compensation. But blogging also allows me to explore and develop other work, contributing to other people's projects, and having a platform launch our own projects.

I trusted that somewhere in that mix I would find my sweet spot. I just wasn't sure what that would look like.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Blogging allows me to do something I love - writing and sharing beauty - while working with people in creative and relationship-focused ways.

This is the kind of income earning work I want to do. But finding a sustainable rhythm and blazing a path that feels right for me hasn't been straight forward.

I'm not a business-minded person, at all. It's taken me three years to be comfortable with the phrase "we're self-employed".

And I'm not particularly entrepreneur-y either. I don't lay awake at night with money making ideas, or project ideas, floating in my head. Entrepreneur does not show up anywhere in my ESTJ career profiles, (neither does professional blogger).

It wasn't until last summer, when I fully committed myself to working with my husband on our trail and video project that I found my online working groove. That I found a way to make professional blogging possible.

I was so tired of beating myself up for not measuring up (to my own unrealistic expectations) in the creative mom-preneur online world. I was tired of feeling insecure.

I'm not wired to be a one-woman or front-woman entrepreneur/writer/blogger. But family entrepreneurship I can do. It even fits my loyal, service minded, traditional, work-for-the-team-but-be-a-key-player personality profile.

How do I earn money as a blogger? What does professional blogging look like for me?

Earning money as a blogger has involved a lot of trial and error. Experimenting with different ideas and seeing how they fit for size. Small streams of income for me have been:

  • Amazon and other affiliate sales at FIMBY.
  • Small freelance writing projects.
  • Selling ebooks, teaching, and coaching. I could push these streams more and could develop more products and services around homeschool help but I have decided to invest my time in other projects right now.

Moving forward however professional blogging looks like partnering with my husband in larger online media projects which utilize my writing, photography, and other skills and depend on strong relationships to launch and support those projects.

This is the direction we want to grow our business and our work as online entrepreneurs.

It was such a relief and huge burden lifted from me to step into a working relationship with Damien where we each bring our best and compensate for each other's weaknesses.

Relationship is my business model.

I believe it can be the foundation on which I "go pro". I see this happening on two distinct levels.

Firstly, relationship with my husband is my business modus operandi.

Damien and I have different approaches to our online work and almost two completely different skill sets. I'm not interested in the "business" part of blogging, he is.

By working with Damien I can fulfill my desire to be a professional blogger without always fighting against the things I don't like about "professional" blogging, namely the numbers game.

Instead I can focus on what I love to do - connecting with people, teaching (and plain old talking), writing, sharing beauty, and encouraging.

Even with that clarity of purpose and desire though, I was hung up on something. This work - connecting, encouraging, sharing - though very rewarding for me did not seem financially rewarding for our family.

Yes, I love doing it and that is worth something, but good feelings don't buy the groceries, do they? And good feelings don't exactly put you in the professional blogger category.

But that's where I was wrong.

The relationships I've built over years of wholehearted (and engaged with readers) blogging were a significant factor in the financial success of our Kickstarter campaign.

My work - blogging, connecting, answering e-mails, commenting, sharing as much as I'm able to give while also being a homeschooler and homemaker - was the foundation for the success of our campaign. As were the relationships and connections Damien has built over the years. Not to mention everything else that made that campaign successful, Damien's technical skills, the help of friends (relationships), etc.

Watching the way things have unfolded in our work over the past few months, seeing some stuff come together that we have been building for years, has given me a new perspective on professional blogging.

I can be a professional blogger rooted in beauty, relationship, creativity, adventure, health and family.

We, as a couple, can hold relationship - with each other, God, our kids, nature, our blog communities, our clients - at the center of our work and still succeed at growing a business and supporting our family.

It's not about numbers. It's actually about people.

In my last post I wrote this:

Blogging for all these years should have yielded more than this, shouldn't it have?

More readers, better stats, more advertising revenue, whatever. And it could have (theoretically), if that had been the goal.

A couple times a year I write a post like this one, processing why I blog.

In reading those old post I see I did have goals, I did aim somewhere, and (surprise, surprise) I've actually hit my mark.

I think I've known this intuitively for a while, sometimes it takes black and white proof to convince me though. In part, because things didn't evolve in the way I expected.

I'm not a portrait photographer. I'm not a book author, though I have a few ebooks for sale. My readership isn't large enough for small business advertising to be a significant income source. And I don't sell soap. I haven't yet released the ecourse I have vision for. These are all ways I thought I might hit my mark.

Although I can't earn money right now, someday I will. And I'm hoping (don't laugh I have a fragile ego) I'll be able to sell/trade/barter my creative skills in exchange for things our family needs and wants.

Dare I even say it? That someone will value my writing and photography (and who knows what else) enough to exchange something for it.

There I said it. I want to go somewhere with photography and writing.

November 2008

Since writing those dreams five years ago I've had seasons filled with with tons of self-doubt about whether I could actually be who I am in reaching these goals.

Since partnering with my husband and working to support our project and our goals, I have found my footing.

We need each other to do the work we want to do. He needs my skills as much as I need his.

I'm finally walking with more confidence and less insecurity.

And good thing too. I'll need all the sure-footedness I can get for this next path.

This next journey is a project both professional and personal. Wholehearted, creative, inspiring, adventurous, and relationship-focused, which is exactly the work I want to do as a professional blogger.

PS. If you are a blogger and have questions, observations or experience about what I've shared here, I welcome your input. Also, if you have blogging how-to questions I might be able to answer a few of those. I'm not a blogging expert, at all, but I have experience with a lot of different blogging-related income earning projects.


I blog for relationship

Thank you so much for your feedback on my comments test soap giveaway. Not only did you speak up and say "I want the soap", you took time to share with me your thoughts on blog commenting, why you do, why you don't, etc. And many of you jumped through hoops to give me this feedback. Thank you so much.

The goal of that post of course was to garner the feedback I needed to hopefully remove those hoops, as much as humanly possible, so that commenting is a bit smoother on the blog.

My technical support has been very busy as of late with launching our video project so we haven't had time to make any changes based on your feedback, but will soon address, to the best of our ability, those issues.

The winner of that soap giveaway is Stefani (and bonus bars for Aaron).

And now I want to talk about commenting and relationship-based blogging.

First, about commenting.

A lot of feedback from my comments test post went along these lines, "I don't usually comment, I prefer to read and digest on my own". To which I say - that's wonderful!

You never have to comment here if you don't want to. I will never guilt or goad you into speaking up, except if I need to troubleshoot a problem. (smile)

A few people said, "What do my comments matter? I assume you must not have time to read them all." They matter a lot to me, for reasons I explain below and I read every single comment and respond, often in depth, to many of them.

Getting to know people through blog commenting has led to real life, hug you in person, eat at your table kind of relationships. Don't be scared by this, you can remain anonymous, never commenting and therefore never hugging in person.

You are welcome here on your terms.

I blog for relationship.

Blogging for me was born out a desire to write about my life. They say to write what you know. I know living and loving family life, so that's what I write about.

Of course, I know a bunch of other stuff and from time to time I will write about that - making soap, vegan cooking and eating, and homemaking in general.

There were seasons where I wrote a lot about these things. But my heart does not beat for homemaking how-to's.

My passion and purpose is adventurous, healthy, and creative family living. And my mission is to nourish, encourage, teach, build relationship, create and share beauty around these values, investing first in my family and then others.

After years of insecurity I've mostly gotten over my blogging inferiority complex.

Blogging for all these years should have yielded more than this, shouldn't it have?

More readers, better stats, more advertising revenue, whatever. And it could have (theoretically), if that had been the goal.

I've watched bloggers come on the scene and simply rock it out of the park in terms of "growing their audience and launching their products". (These people often write e-courses on how you can do the same.) And for a while my failure to "maximize my earning potential at FIMBY" bothered me.

Blogging for numbers - readers, clicks, dollars - is emotionally draining and creatively constraining for me. This kind of blogging is not wrong, but it's not my vision.

My vision for blogging is an extension of my life mission. And it was blogging itself that helped me codify that mission. (By looking at the body of my writing, published over the course of years, I could identify the themes, and these helped me identify my mission.)

At the core of why I blog is relationship.

My blogging comes out of my relationship with my family. Who we are as a family, and the life insights I gain through raising and homeschooling my kids, inspires my writing.

My blogging, the art and photography of it especially, comes out of my relationship with nature. It's an expression of my quest for beauty and my connection with God (who is beauty).

And my blogging is fueled by the fact that I can build relationship with people while doing it.

I blog to make connections and build relationship with the people who read this blog, as much as I do to share the photos, order and organize my thoughts and observations.

In a recent e-mail exchange I explained it this way:

When people comment lots or "relatively often" I get to know them. And then when they e-mail me asking a question I'm happy to connect with them deeper (and I have more of a relationship with them than I do a random e-mailer). And then after I've e-mailed back and forth with people I get to know them more and then I reach out, often, and say "wanna chat" about this "in person" via phone/Skype?

I love connecting with people online around the themes of homeschooling, family life, faith, adventuring, health, creativity, etc... And my favorite is being able to meet people in person through these shared interests. I have made very close friends through FIMBY.

Blogging has allowed me to live wherever and still make connections with people who share my values. It has allowed me to build community.

This has been invaluable in my life. I have the courage to move forward into scary and unknown places, literally and figuratively, because I know somewhere out there I can connect with a woman, a wife, a mom, a homeschooler who's done or is doing the same thing.

But if relationship is your focus can you make money blogging? Can you be a relationship-focused "professional" blogger. I'm going to answer that in tomorrow's post.

At the edge ~ Do you have what it takes?

We went skiing yesterday to a mountain called Hog's Back. In French they pronounce it Augz Back. I like that.

We have skied this mountain before but yesterday we wanted to take a new route down. The wind was so wicked at top. If you didn't hold yourself in place it threatened to blow you right over, skis and all.

After the finger numbing experience of removing our skins, Damien led us to the edge.

In the wind-whipped snow it looked like a precipice. Until you went close enough you could not see over the edge (which can be serious in winter conditions, as you don't want to ski out on a cornice). This was not a cornice, it was simply the unknown edge.

I find myself facing the unknown edge on a daily basis. Sometimes it's the side of a mountain, other times it's a new work challenge, or a child's interest in something totally out of my league.

Each time we're faced with this unknown we have a choice. Do we approach the edge with creative imagination for all the wonderful possibilities that lay just over the unknown edge? Do we start brainstorming and scheming? Or do we allow ourselves to be filled with fear and dread? Do we ski forward with courage? Or stay back in cowardice?

I'm not suggesting recklessness but the truth is there are far less cornices than we think there are.

As we have taken interest-led learning and living to the next level I have fielded questions from many fearful folks, families longing to embrace a different model of living.

But what about…? How do I make sure that…? How do I let go of…?

I'm usually the one answering questions. This time I'm going to ask one.

Do you have what it takes to lead an interest-led, values based, and mission driven life?

My answer to that question is yes, you do… if you have these two things.

Imagination. And Courage.

Imagination to dream of the amazing experience that awaits you on the other side. And the courage to ski over the edge to get there.

I am beta testing my trail publishing protocol. Shorter posts; written, edited (including photo editing), and published from my iPad mini. A new chapter for me. This next month will be back and forth. Old posting workflow and style mixed with trail post beta testing.


One Day at a Time

On April 1st (maybe March 31st?) we will start our hike at Springer Mountain in Georgia. It will be spring down south. That's hard to imagine, as we are still living and loving winter.

What does it look like to be this close to our departure? In a word, busy. In five words, one day at a time.

We are still "doing life as usual" - Damien's web development work for clients, a bit of homeschooling (gearing down now), writing and blogging, skiing, cooking and eating. And the usual weekly shopping, errands, and Taekwondo schedule (we're finishing that the end of this month). And we're watching as much Olympics as our satellite can stream and our time allows.

On top of that is our video project work.

After putting a lot of January energy into our Kickstarter campaign, we're now onto the next phase, programming the infrastructure for that web series.

Damien is a technology geek by "trade" and he loves elegant computer programming, solving problems, and designing solutions. The delivery platform of this series is being written from the bottom up by him, and it rocks!

Damien's doing this while still working for our clients (building their web infrastructures) because it is our client work that is currently paying the bills.

(Since we left Maine, and salaried employment nearly three years ago, we have been in a self-employment building phase. It takes time to get on your feet when you go on your own, so that you're not living paycheck to paycheck.

We finally have a bit of breathing room in our life, meaning there is money in the bank before a new month starts. Hiking the trail will take us back to financial square one in some respects, using every available resource we have, but it will also build our online presence and our adventure experience, which is the direction we want our income-earning work to go.)

In addition to building the infrastructure for the video series, and related to that, we have been in communication with our Kickstarter backers; signing some on as beta-testers of the video delivery, surveying them for "burning questions" (which we will answer in our videos), and getting the information and graphics we need from the sponsor level supporters.

To deliver a video series we have to produce one, don't we? So we are doing that as well.

Like we explain in our videos, we've had a dedicated family project day since last fall where we work on the video series. Project learning and living.

Fridays continue to be project day, but of course the video project spills into every aspect of our lives right now.

This week the kids and I are doing video to answer the question everyone wants to know "what do the kids think about this hike?" Subscribers to our series will find out the answer to that question in the coming months.

And of course we're taking video of our gear preparations and packing. Part of my work is to capture the "story" of our pre-hike preparations.

The kids are working on the videos also, bringing their own talents and creative vision to the project. This is how we planned it. It's a family creative project. Subscribers to the series will get a front row seat to see what I'm talking about.

Every week I'm writing articles and guest posts for other online publications to help promote our project. I write our sponsor pages and can even talk gear.

Most of our gear was purchased before Christmas, in truth we've been getting our gear ready for years. Now we're down to the fine details (all of this will be part of the video series). Most of these "last month" purchases are going to our friends' house in the States where we will do our final packing, re-packing, and weighing.

Damien has been figuring out our technology for the trail. Each of us are taking an iPad. And then there's the cameras, batteries, battery packs. We've had a lot of help from an electrical engineer and one of our web clients in figuring that all out.

This is a huge responsibility that Damien mostly bears since technology solution finding is his forte, and not mine at all.

We spend a lot of our day communicating with people. Our programming clients, hike/trail/project related e-mails, and Kickstarter backers.

And sometimes our Internet doesn't work and so we pack it all up (the iPads and computers) and head to town for the afternoon and evening, timed of course with Taekwondo classes.

We're cooking and eating, that too. We share cooking. I'm kitchen manager and responsible for meal planning and cooking most suppers, a couple of which are eaten in town each week before Taekwondo. Lunch is prepared by Damien and the kids. The kids manage snacks, cooking or preparing something along with lunchtime prep.

The past two weekends we've been doing data entry in our accounting program for our 2013 taxes.

We're self employed and work with clients all over the world who pay us in US and Cdn funds. Our expenses are American and Canadian. There are multiple bank accounts and places to track expenses and income.

We're still figuring out how best to manage all this. And truth be told, I procrastinated a bit on my end of the bargain (tracking expenses) because it couldn't get a good system in place and so now I pay the price.

The good thing about the wake-up call of preparing taxes this month is that the conflict it created in my life motivated me to find a resolution. I think I may now have figured out a system for tracking our expenses that is portable, digital, and doable with my schedule.


Soon, very soon - once taxes are complete the end of this month - we must turn our attention to food planning for the trail. We are not doing extensive food drops and mailing ourselves stuff on the trail. That practice is not sustainable for long term adventuring. i.e.: if we have to prepare all our food in advance of every adventure we plan to do, we won't be going anywhere, it's too much work.

We have a plan for our food but we haven't set the wheels in motion yet. That's one of March's big jobs.

And we have to move - pack up our house and store our earthly goods for the duration of our hike. That's March's big job for me.

The first three months of this year are just one push after another. Deadline after deadline, all to meet the goal of staring this hike on April 1st.

We try to ski every weekend and we get outside every day, skinning up and skiing the hill as often as we can. And yesterday we took the day off and paid for a day of skiing at the hill. It felt like a vacation day.

And somehow there is a wee bit of time to Skype with friends and my mom, and read books. I can't live without reading. (For a list of what I'm reading right now see the sidebar.)

We see friends often. Our health and well being depends on these practices and these relationships.

Sacrificing our health to meet a goal is not something we are even tempted to do. Our regular routines of daily rest and exercise, simple healthy cooking and eating, and one day a week are ingrained in us from years of practice.

If anything, it's these foundations that give us the stamina and energy we need to do this push.

It's almost like the more you have to do, the better you get at managing your time to do it all.

Any one thing on this list would be "a lot" for us in a "normal" year.

We have never managed to finish our taxes by March 1st. We've never had the need.

We have never launched and successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign before.

We have never prepared to hike the AT.

We have never produced a video series.

We have never had to figure out how to simplify our technology needs down to a few pounds.

We have never had to figure out how to take our life to woods for six months.

These three months have taken one of our lifelong learning philosophy to the next level.

We learn to do by doing. Learn to hike by hiking. Learn to parent by parenting. Learn to ski by skiing. Learn to produce a video series by doing it.

It feels like being in university again. Papers and exams. Deadlines and time crunches all the time. I didn't like that part of university then and I don't like the deadlines and must-do's of right now.

But the only way to get where we want to go is by doing this work.

We're doing more this season than I thought possible and yet, there's a line.

"I don't want to always live like this, quite so intense and with deadlines looming on every horizon", I like to remind Damien. (In case he thinks that just because I'm doing it, and managing ok, means I want to keep doing it!)

"We haven't and we won't", he likes to remind me back.

Because there is so much involved in these three months, I am learning like never before (because my head will explode otherwise) to live in the present moment. I don't worry about next week or even tomorrow. I focus only on today.

There are dates and deadlines on the calendar. First video release, taxes, moving weekend, a 13th birthday trip next week to Quebec City! But the focus of our energies and actions is the present day.

If we don't live one day at a time we will be overcome with all that must be done (and all that could go wrong) and lose the focus and energy we need to do the things that are within our power right now.

Ironically, that is what our friend told us was the key to success on the trail. Three time thru-hiker himself, he has some clue about what he's talking about.

You don't hike the trail thinking about all the days you have to hike to get to the end. You only think about today, your goal for the present moment, looking ahead to where you hope to camp at day's end.

One day at a time.

Whisked Winter Cocoa

Last November I shared this recipe on FIMBY Facebook and in my weekend newsletter. Quite a few people have told me they love it and asked me to post the recipe again.

I figured it was a good time to share on the blog.

If skiing, sledding, and skating (or watching the winter Olympics, which is competitions of those three activities) isn't getting you through this month, maybe this cocoa will.

Damien made up this recipe. Our family loves it and someone is making and drinking this every day.

This is a thick hot cocoa. You can thin it with more milk or water, if you like.

In a powerful blender mix:

  • 1 1/4 cups nut or soy milk, my favorite is homemade almond milk
  • 8 dates, we use neglet - smaller, drier and cheaper ones than medjool
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter, also called coconut manna
  • 1 heaping tbsp of cocoa
  • splash of vanilla extract

Pour into pot. Set on high heat, whisk continually till cocoa is frothy and is starting to steam. Make sure to keep whisking so you don't burn it!

Remove from heat, pour and enjoy.

Don't cook the cocoa or it will become pudding, good also but not quite so drinkable.

I love starting my day with this for breakfast.


The best way to love winter is to live it

We live in a northern climate, it's winter for about five months where we live, so we've decided to maximize our enjoyment of winter.

We do this by engaging in winter sports, specifically skiing, and getting out in all four seasons in general. In winter we fight against the pull to stay indoors (it's cold!), the tendency to withdraw and retreat. Because if you do that too much you'll get depressed. Ask me how I know.

This past Sunday we had the pleasure of spending the better part of the day with another outdoors-loving family. We had a huge dump of snow Saturday night and early Sunday morning. After a big snow we greet the day with so much joy - a day for playing in the snow!

Our friends' children are small so instead of a big ski on a snow day we went sledding at the nearby school. They invited us for lunch and cappuccinos at their house. After hours of talking about adventures, travel, and the beauty of the Gaspé we were reluctant to leave.

During the course of our conversation I asked our friends about cabin fever, if they experience it. They don't. The best way to live winter, in their estimation, is to get out in it.

These friends love winter, they don't think it's long enough!

Do you know how wonderful it is to share a pot of lentil soup and baked tofu, after a morning of sledding, with friends who love winter? Friends who love life.

How do you love winter? Why you ski, skate and sled of course. And if you can do it from your door, all the better.

This family has three young children. They have built a life where they have time to zip up the snowsuits. Because like all things that demand our attention, learning to love winter and engage in it will take time.

Our friends have the time, make the time. They are cool people to hang out with. They love to travel and have outdoor adventures, they live life to the full with their young children. They love where they live, and so do we.

Enjoying winter is about attitude and opportunity. Having the right attitude and providing yourself with the most opportunity to enjoy it.

Every morning I stop my work, all the things that must be done, and get outside for some exercise, usually with the kids. (They have to spend time outside everyday, most often they choose to exercise with us during that time.) My minimum is one hour of fairly vigorous activity but if we have time for a 2 hour ski, oh heaven, that's lovely.

The daily exercise outdoors is a non-negotiable part of my winter wellness plan.

Other key components of my winter wellness are daily supplements (2000 IU of D3, and omega-3's) and a happy light.

Many of you have asked how that's working. Wonderfully!

I have not yet experienced the winter blues (my January overwhelm was a case of something different called "OMG we're hiking the AT in 3 months") nor do I have cabin fever, yet.

In fact, I feel really quite fabulous this winter. Perhaps I'm just too busy. Or maybe I know winter will end for me in six weeks when we start the trail. The definitive end to winter probably helps.

The more I live winter the way a child lives winter - with my whole body and all my senses - the more I enjoy it. The more I build outdoor activity into my day, the more I love life, in all seasons. It makes me want to spend more and more time outdoors.

Telemark skiing, specifically skinning up a mountain and skiing down on a regular basis has totally energized my winter. It is such good exercise and so much fun. I told Damien this year I never want to live anywhere I can't ski in winter. 

Quebeckers, or maybe it's just Gaspesians, have a winter joie de vivre I haven't experienced anywhere else. I know very few locals, in fact I can't name a one, that complain about winter.

Maybe they know life is too short to complain about where you live. Maybe I'm just hanging out with the right crowd. Maybe people here know the best way to love winter is just to live it.

This must be why Quebeckers are so well represented, and medaled at the Olympics. Go Canada!

I know it's hard to prioritize outdoor winter exercise, but the same could be said for any new discipline. And when I'm not motivated the together principle helps a lot.

I can't imagine not skiing, or going through my week without the outdoors, because winter outdoors energizes me to do winter indoors.

PS. For another taste of Québec winter and joy-in-all-seasons living I recommend my friend Catherine's blog. She is an amazing photographer, and her photos of times spent around the table captures, I feel, the essence of Québec culture.

PPS. I know a few places for rent in our area, our house is one and a friends' house will be available late summer. Wanna live winter? This is a good place to do it. 


Inspiration and Action ~ The Wrap-Up

This month I've been writing about winter inspiration. A couple weeks ago I did seven re-posts from previous years, the most re-publishing I've ever done on the blog.

In re-publishing those posts and publishing last week's two brand new posts, both on the subject of action and inspiration, I saw themes emerging.

It's fun to pull a bunch of writing together, that's been done over different years, in different situations of my life, to see the common threads and truths.

This post is the recap of these nine posts, a wrap-up of winter inspiration and action.

you can pin this post, there's a handy button on the bottom left


First, some quotes from those posts, which illustrate key points of inspiration and action, of having dreams and then making those happen.

Make time in your life to be inspired. This inspiration will give birth to dreams.

Imagine having time to unplug, time to dream, time to push your limits and boundaries.

All you feel is tired and cranky and maybe like this whole trip is just too much work. But then you hit the trail head. And your push yourself through that first mile and realize "I can do this".

Much of the weekend was spent talking and listening; dreaming and scheming. I came home from last weekend inspired to do something about it. To make changes on the small level that affect change on the big level.

Sure, I don't particularly love the work of getting ready, but you know what, life is work.

Hard work? Yes. But living the life you want is good work, life changing work, family building work. Kind of like backpacking.

I like to regularly remind myself that I am just passing through. Literally. When I die I don't take anything with me. None of us do. I want to live a life that brings me joy in the living, not in the acquiring and owning.

The beauty of winter (life) is all around, I just need to appreciate and celebrate it, not wish it away.

Enjoying winter (life) is a choice.

A strong, healthy family life provides the best structural framework for reaching our potential, for getting out the door, making ideas happen, getting things done, and doing the work.

Family life, when operating at its best, provides the unconditional love and accountability that humans need for personal growth and self actualization.

The process of writing clarifies goals and gives you a fixed point to work towards. This clarity, whether you are conscious of it or not, helps you sift through all the input coming your way. Helping you filter out that which is not helpful to your end cause or goal.

After you've been in nature for an extended period, say a few days or longer, you will start to see how your everyday patterns and quirks - maintaining a standard you thought was necessary - may not be so necessary after all.

And when you let go of controlling all these things, mentally and physically, you gift yourself and your family with more breathing room, more time, and more peace. You gift yourself with freedom.

I want this wrap up of inspiration and action to be very applicable to you, regardless of if you camp, hike, or ski. Regardless of if you live in the city or the woods, whether your "dream" is RVing around North America, homesteading, cycling from Alaska to Argentina, doing non-profit work in the Philippines, or traveling the world with your family.

So here's my takeaways from these nine posts, which are actually takeaways from five years of inspiration to action movement in our family life.

Takeaways Give yourself space to dream.

For us that literally means wide open spaces. The more time we spend outdoors the more we dream. You might not be outdoorsy but I encourage you figure out some way to spend regular time outdoors with your family - walking, biking, beaching. Get into nature.

Evaluate your life.

Identify areas you want to see change and forward movement, and then work towards that. Write down your dreams, goals, values, and mission.

Start exactly where you are.

Today. And move forward. Don't disdain humble beginnings. We all start somewhere.

Surround yourself with inspiration.

Tune into inspiring people, music, blogs, books, and media. Be inspired in relationship and community.

Question the status quo.

Question what society says family life (student life, retired life, "wherever you are" life) must look like. Must it mean a house of a certain size, a job with certain benefits, a certain schedule? Get creative and think outside the box of how you might achieve your dreams.

Do something difficult.

Do something that you think might be nearly impossible. It will inspire you to do the next nearly impossible thing. You will set a precedent in your life of doing difficult things. And what was once difficult will be easy and you'll move on to more challenging tasks.

Allow for mess.

Moving ideas from inspiration to expression is messy (and you may experience what other people call failure, we call it growth), but this is the stuff of life. Let go of perfection. Getting out the door is better than never crossing the threshold.

Living is hard work.

Regardless of how you slice it it's going to be hard. Why not invest those energies into moving forward in your family and personal dreams and goals?

Do it together.

We're wired for relationship for many reasons, one of them is simply that there is strength in numbers. Working together helps you capitalize on individual strengths (you don't need to do it all!) and support each other in weakness.

I believe you can make goals and work towards them. You may currently feel trapped in a situation, but you can make choices, right now, today, that move you in the direction you want to go.

Questions to ask yourself

Where do we want to be? What direction do we want to go in? (Hint: You'll need some dreams to point the way.)

What can we do right now, today, that moves use closer to that?

What are we willing to change in our life to make that happen?

Where can we find inspiration for these dreams? How can we surround ourselves with inspiring dreamers and doers?

What big, scary difficult thing can set our sights on? And how do we move that direction?

Who are we, together? How can we maximize our "team effect"?

There are no guarantees in life. Ever. There are no guarantees of success, health, or happiness when you "go with the flow" or accept the status quo. So why not live the life you dream of living?

In the context of homeschooling

I'd like to suggest that homeschooling is no different.

Let your kids dream. They'll need spaces of open time for this.

Surround them with inspiration.

Evaluate your core beliefs about living and education. This is your educational philosophy.

Do your homeschool methods and resources align with those beliefs? Are your days, the rhythms and patterns, an expression of that philosophy.

Help your kids do hard things. Show them how. Partner with them. Let go of perfection in your homeschool, in your life, and gift your children the freedom of good enough.

And above all else, do it together. Invite your children into a lifestyle of learning, study, and scholarship.

What are your thoughts. How do you take winter dreams (or summer dreams) and make them real? How do you move from inspiration to action in your life? Resources: 

Evenings are for Inspiring

Last week I re-published a bunch of posts from years past around the theme of winter inspiration and action. While in that frame of mind I wrote this newsletter. I liked it, so I'm sharing it here also.

A few years ago I read the book Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver DeMille. If you follow my blog at all you know this book has been instrumental in supporting and articulating our homeschool philosophy and practice.

One nugget of wisdom from this book that is especially applicable this time of year is the principle that evenings are for inspiring.

Five years ago I read that phrase and underlined it in fluorescent blue.

Evenings are for inspiring.

It's a simple idea but its genius is in its simplicity. That phrase helped give structure to an otherwise unplanned, and probably wasted, part of our days. Instead of "crashing, rushing, veg-ing, facebooking", evenings are for inspiring.

Last week on the blog I re-published blog posts from previous winters, around the theme of winter inspiration and dreams (and then making those dreams happen).

Winter is the time of the year to be inspired and to dream.

Making big things happen in our life, making changes so that our lives line up with our values, can be intimidating. It's hard to know where to start.

I could suggest a couple places - going for a hike in the winter woods or taking a winter backpacking trip with your family. But these aren't necessarily applicable nor accessible to everybody, are they?

So here's a place you can start: set aside your evenings to be inspired.

If you have babies, you can inspire yourself with good books (before you crash from exhaustion, right?). As your kids grow this can be a time for family reading and yes, watching, together. (Olympics anyone?)

As children become young adults, Oliver says this:

Youth very naturally long for the passion of being inspired...This is one of the reasons they so often want to be away every evening, to do something fun, to feel alive, passionate, real.

Why not make your home the hub of inspiration in their lives? Why not make it the hub of inspiration in your own life?

Building your evenings around inspiration is a simple and doable change you can make. You don't need special gear, you don't need to live in the woods. In fact, if you live in a city you'll have access to evening concerts and lectures, lucky you! (For the rest of us, there's TED talks.)

Make time in your life to be inspired. This inspiration will give birth to dreams. It will also motivate learning and scholarship, personal growth and forward movement in your life.


A comments test soap giveaway

Last month we experienced a problem with our anti-spam plug-in on the blog. It was rejecting legitimate comments as spam and then letting in a flood of real spam. Damien researched and installed a different plug-in that seems to be doing a good job, except that I keep getting e-mails from readers who say they can't comment.

So I'd like to do a comments test, to see exactly how many people who attempt to comment are not allowed. But I need your help. And because I'm asking for your help I'd like there to be something in it for you.

Time for a giveaway!

I'm giving away three bars of soap. These are from batches I prepared with friends in December.

They are beautiful bars of soap - Holiday Spice, Floral, and Mandarin Orange. Mandarin Orange was my contribution to the soap day and it's my least favorite of them all.

The Floral bar, which isn't a name really but a description of the smell, is one of the most lovely fragranced soaps I've been a part of making. It's my friend's recipe and it features rosewood, lavender, geranium and bergamot essential oils. It's amazing.

Holiday Spice is based on this recipe here, with a few modifications (as always happens with makin' soap).

Wanna get these goodies for yourself? Well, here's how you can help me.

Just leave a comment. It could be soap related, or life related, or simply, "hi I want the soap".

And then, if your comment doesn't work please send me an e-mail through my contact page. Your e-mail doesn't need to be complicated. I can be simple like, "I can't comment on the post but I want the soap", or whatever. If you get any specific error messages if you could please let us know also.

I really appreciate your help with this. By entering your name in the giveaway (and having your comment either accepted or rejected) we may be able to better troubleshoot why some people are still unable to comment, which is very bothersome to me.

Also, I have a question about blog commenting in general, if you don't mind. Commenting at FIMBY seems to be waning in general. I'm trying to figure out if this is a technical problem, comments being rejected as spam, or simply an engagement issue.

Since starting FIMBY Facebook (which I love as a place to microblog, share links, favorite resources, quick ideas, and photos) I've noticed decreased engagement in comments on the blog.

Now, maybe it's just coincidental, or maybe it's a shift in where I connect with people. I actually connect with people through comments, build relationship with them. Which is why I love them so much.

Comments often lead to private e-mails and that sometimes leads to Skype. (I regularly Skype or phone friends I've met through FIMBY, separate from my homeschool coaching.) The best, for this loves-to-meet-new-people extrovert, is when I meet people in person because of relationships formed through online writing.

There's quite a bit of conversation that goes on at FIMBY Facebook. Which is totally great. I held back for years having a blog presence at Facebook because I couldn't see how it would fit into my blogging, writing, and online connecting rhythms. I wish I hadn't waited so long. I love it.

I love chatting with you there and so maybe that's where most of the commenting action has shifted?

Change is inevitable. Changes to blogging. Changes in the way people engage with writing. Changes to social media, etc.

I just want to make sure that if you're trying to engage here you're able to. Because I value your input. And I want to have discussion and get to know you also.

As for the giveaway, you know how these work. Leave a comment, or send an e-mail if your comment doesn't work. In one week's time I'll randomly draw a name from the comments or e-mails and send soap to the winner. Facebook comments don't count :) The idea is to test commenting on the blog!