Checking in

We've been off-trail now for six weeks. One of those weeks we went to visit my parents in Nova Scotia.

In our five weeks at home I've been orchestrating our household routines, re-establishing old rhythms and establishing new ones.

As the kids take on more cooking and food prep duties I'm down to being responsible for two snacks, two lunches and two suppers a week. As kitchen manager I oversee the show, write the shopping lists, and make sure the cupboards are stocked, the almond milk is made and the beans are cooked but my work in this domain is waning. And as it wanes my inspiration and enthusiasm for cooking has increased. Can I hear an Amen!?

With the help of a local doctor friend I've started a run/walk routine and my foot is doing well. I can exercise without pain and as far as I know I'm healed but I'm still taking it slow. The nearby beach in on my daily route.

I'm reading tons. I have more books on the go and have worked into my schedule more time for reading than I've had in years. Books, my first love, have replaced the Internet as my source of escape and inspiration. Memoirs, mysteries, fantasies, non-fiction. I adore these piles on the nightstand and a full Overdrive bookshelf on my iPad.

I'm working on my shawl, with a goal to complete it by the end of winter. Winters are long in Quebec, I think I might just pull it off.

My guitar is out, I downloaded a tuner app, and I've started making music again, singing for all I'm worth. I've found new-to-me francophone folk musicians on Spotify, have listened to more ABBA in three weeks than I have in the last 15 years combined, and in the rest of my listening hours I have soaked myself in Steve Bell.

We started going to church. I've been making an effort to re-connect with local and not-so-local friends.

The kids have returned to their studies. Celine has a job. Out of necessity we hit the ground running with homeschool and I've had to build our curriculum as we go. I prefer to plan then execute but there was no time for that so I'm constructing the pieces as we go.

I'm studying French again, in earnest. So are the kids. We are fostering two adorable kittens which we found (rather, they found us) on the road to the beach.

Early-to-bed, early-to-rise, I find immense comfort in the punctuation of my days. The anchoring of The Morning Office and Evening Compline, the sound of surf on my afternoon walk. Morning coffee, post-lunch reading, afternoon tea. Routines that give definition, structure, and regular breaks to my industry.

I could write a blog post, or more about each of these things. I could talk about how to get kids in the kitchen. I could talk about how I loath to push myself out the door each day to exercise but I do it anyway and I love the way I feel when I get back, my hate-love relationship with regular exercise.

I could write reviews about the books I'm reading and new authors I love. (See the sidebar on my blog where I keep an updated list of recent reads.)

I could talk about the importance of pieces of my past in my present, why we stopped going to church many years ago and why we are returning.

I could talk about how our introverted, homeschool teenager has a job, location-independent, just like her dad. I could write about our goals-based curriculum, a schedule for project-based learning, and the kid's owning their own education.

I could write about Canadian history homeschool studies, self-directed second language learning (and the programs, apps and resources we're using), knitting as a meditation, playing guitar, and the recipes I'm loving these days.

I could also write about the excruciatingly frustrating moments and days I have on this path to post-hike recovery. How I seem to have little bandwidth in my life right now for failures and glitches but life is full of those anyway. (Someone didn't get my memo.)

I could write about our trail debt and our austerity budget to get ourselves out of that, which means no funds for homeschooling, among other things. I could write about how, after years of pushing the boundaries and walking the edge, right now I need to live in the safe middle of a very well defined box, with firm boundaries on time, resources, and ideas.

Each morning for a couple hours, or maybe just one, I write. Haltingly. Sometimes with tears streaming down my face and a rumble of anxiety in my belly.

I don't write about recipes, or homeschooling, or books - even though those seem like bright shiny objects. Tidy posts.

Right now I need to write about what happened to me this summer, to try and make sense of my trail depression and post-hike anxiety (which is thankfully subsiding). I'm going back even further to understand subtle and not-so-subtle shifts that have happened in my heart and psyche since leaving Maine in 2011.

This is hard work. Some days it hurts like digging out a splinter and other days it feels like rays of sunshine into dusty, dark corners. This is the focus of my writing time, which is the same as my blogging time. I need to write my way to understanding and discovery. I need to write my way to healing.

This is how I process with writing. I write, talk, write, read, write and maybe cycle through the whole thing again, and eventually I publish. But this kind of writing does not lend itself to a fast turn around on the blog. I do plan to publish, I have always published what my heart feels compelled to write and this is no different. It's just taking a lot of time.

I want to publish fun and beautiful things here. Some bloggers are very explicit in their purpose to use their blog to focus on gratitude, beauty, goodness. I want to share the joy of homeschooling life and homemaking and creativity and yes, even adventure, but a more important writing task calls to me.

My writing time looks like yielding to that call and then resisting. Walking boldly for a few steps then retreating. And in the resisting and retreating I am so tempted to publish "aren't these kittens adorable" or something like that. Maybe I will. But in reality publishing even a simple post takes hours and I don't have those hours to give.

I have always used my blog as a place to not just share ideas and a family story, but as a publishing platform to process and work through things.

In my pre-hike life there were steady and small eruptions, usually corresponding with times of transition and seasonal shifts, of navel-gazing and introspective writing, that would bubble up from the subterranean lava that constantly flows beneath the surface.

Now as I write my way through the last ten months I feel like I'm trying to harness a volcano. I'm not going to write one post and resolve this. I do believe the lava will cool, it will give new shape and structure to my life and eventually, fertile soil. Maybe it's already happening.

But writing my way through this is time-consuming and emotionally difficult. There is no turnaround time I can rely on for publishing to the blog.

Ideally, I would love to post little snippets of our life, whether those are homeschooling, creativity, homemaking, or adventure related, while I keep working on the heart writing. I love that when I look through the archives I see this blog as a record of our family life (according to mother) and I have a strong desire to maintain that somehow, while I'm doing this personal work.

I honestly just don't know how to do that. Each post I publish here takes hours of work. I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud of that. It never used to take hours and hours to write, edit and publish a post. Reading the old archives, I can tell. (She writes with a smile.)

This is not an answer post, or a planning post, or a "you can expect such and such for me" post.

This is me, just checking in.

« Couchsurfing with a family
Anyone want a kitten? »
  • Lisa Zahn

    Lisa Zahn on Nov. 5, 2014, 2 p.m.

    I want you to write about ALL of those things you mention, because I am (selfishly) interested in all of them. But mostly, I want you to write the heart stuff, because that is the most powerful thing you can do. And maybe, just maybe we readers will get to see it published in a book someday, or something like that (?). Writing from the heart is the most beautiful thing. Keep doing what you're doing. I'm delighted that it is healing for you.


  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on Nov. 5, 2014, 3:43 p.m.

    I love your writing whatever and whenever you choose to write it. I want to read those homeschooling, creativity, and adventure posts, but I enjoy and relate to the heartfelt, honest, and without-answer posts, too. I would imagine most people don't take the time or the effort to work through feelings the way you do, it seems like a really healthy thing, and reading good books is always a good thing. :)

    Truth and Beauty was my first Ann Patchett book I read. I've actually just started reading Lucy's "Autobiography of a Face" (Lucy, Ann's friend). If you can't get it where you are, I'll send it to you when I'm done. 

    Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 5, 2014, 6:05 p.m.

      Good news Sarah! Last fall we became members of the New Brunswick library system, which is the next province over. The closest town is 1 hour away but we make the effort to go there for our library visits - and we now have access to many, many books. 

      I can probably find Autobiography of a Face but I'm kind of scared to read it after Truth and Beauty. Truth and Beauty just depressed me so much, kind of vulnerable right now to that. 

      Bel Canto was my first Ann Pratchett, which I loved. 


      • Sarah M

        Sarah M on Nov. 5, 2014, 6:23 p.m.

        Oh, that is so great. I'm glad you guys aren't lacking in English books. I think I would find that incredibly isolating if I didn't have access to that in another culture. T&B was really depressing, and I took a break from depressing stories as well afterwards. I did read Bel Canto and thought it was a great book (really, it had everything--interesting plot, drama, romance, great writing, etc!) but I really find I'm drawn to true stories more than fiction.  I'm still on the first chapter of Lucy's book, so not far at all. If, in the future, you'd like to read it, just let me know and I'd be happy to send it if you can't find it locally. 



  • kyndale

    kyndale on Nov. 5, 2014, 4:32 p.m.

    I miss the virtual book club. Glad you're checking in!  It sounds like you're filling your days with worthwhile, healing things.  I feel the same way about exercise.  But, I get out there, even if it's just 30 minutes of running/walking, I feel more energized and less stressed.  It just helps out a lot.  xoxo


  • Kathleen

    Kathleen on Nov. 5, 2014, 5:30 p.m.

    I'm so glad to have your voice back in my life again. It is a true blessing for me. All of your posts seem to be written from the heart and I find it so refreshing and genuine. Thank you. 


  • Alison

    Alison on Nov. 5, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

    I'm glad to read the whole variety of what you've put into this post. There sound to be many good things in this new season, and as a regular reader, I'm pleased for you that this structured time is working for you. Please know that I, and many others, will keep reading, whether the posts come regularly or infrequently. What matters is your honesty, and there are few others out there blogging who are prepared to be as honest. We appreciate it. Many blessings.


  • Nicole Cipriano

    Nicole Cipriano on Nov. 6, 2014, 3:28 a.m.

    Like the other commenters, I love the heartfelt writing you do, that's why I will always read Fimby even if posts are infrequent.   Also I was thinking like Lisa, maybe all this "project" work will go into a book someday - I'd buy it!  :)  Glad you're finding some routine in your days, and healing in your writing.  XOXO




  • Jeanne

    Jeanne on Nov. 6, 2014, 4:05 a.m.

    The landscape photos in this post are lovely, particularly the one of the dark clouds and water. Thank you for sharing them and for sharing yourself. 


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 6, 2014, 4:51 p.m.

      Thanks Jeanne. I love the dark clouds and water one myself. I took that a few minutes from our house. That's the view from the town beach. 


  • Beth West

    Beth West on Nov. 6, 2014, 1:39 p.m.

    I have pretty much given up reading homeschooling blogs as my children have grown older and our lives came to look less like those my homeschooling mom bloggers were writing about.  I have always been happy to read your work Renee because you convey a sense of struggle and reality, sprinkled with hope and determination.  Thank you for sharing all of the different types of writing that you do here.  I'm so glad you are beginning to feel more settled.


  • Coleen

    Coleen on Nov. 6, 2014, 3:18 p.m.


    I have related very much to your posts, ever since the one about "burnout".  You and I seem to be on parallel paths right now.  While the circumstances surrounding our situations are very different, we both are on a journey of assessment, intention, and rebuilding within our families and also within our own body, mind, and Spirit,. Just want you know that your posts of late have been very powerful, inspiring, and extremely helpful.  So thank you.


  • Jess

    Jess on Nov. 6, 2014, 7:01 p.m.

    It's so good to read your "check-in" posts. I too have been reading tons lately, going back to my first love as you said above. I always enjoy your suggestions and reviews. 


  • Tonya

    Tonya on Nov. 6, 2014, 9:20 p.m.

    Dear Renee,

    So good to read your post!  I have so much to learn from you - that clalkboard of daily duties!  Oh my, I have been doing too much of everything for so long... so easy to fall into that.  Well with another little one on the way and my feeling completely horrible, I really need to get everyone on board - something I should have done a long time ago - good for everyone!  I would love to hear more of Celine's job as we have  a couple of techie type teenagers too.

    I am thinking of you and long to talk to you in person!   

    Blessings and love,



  • Grace

    Grace on Nov. 7, 2014, 3:10 a.m.

    I've never commented on any of your blogs before, though I've been reading them since sometime before you went on your hike.  And I enjoy them very, very much!

    I appreciate that you are sharing your feelings.  They are of value to me, as well, for they often strike a chord with thoughts and feelings within myself, and help put them to words. 

    And just a brief introduction to myself - I'm a 37 year old mom with 5 kids that I also homeschool, though our method is also more toward the unschooling end.  I have 2 boys and 3 girls ages 4-14. :-)  We live in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge that runs along the border between Washington and Oregon states in the USA.

    Thanks again for all you share.



  • Leticia

    Leticia on Nov. 9, 2014, 3:40 a.m.

    Hi Renne! It's nice to read about your life again. I guess you're going through some things right now. We all go through them! But we're just not brave enough to share them. I'm glad you do it, and do it really good. Now your readers, or me, feel encorage that we're not the only ones that feel that way. Well, I don't homeschool anymore, but I still like to read your blog. I'm still a Mom :) I'm sure you will be sharing about your beautiful life and how grateful you are about your family and life in the future.So for now I'm just going to read what I wish we had the courage to write about, until you're ready to write about other things.


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Nov. 9, 2014, 4:26 a.m.

    Thanks for checking in! I have stayed with your blog the longest through the years because it is so refreshing that you share the many sides of your life.  As I am becoming a mother of adult children, I am learning that life changes dramatically when you leave the child rearing behind. There is some grieving, naturally, and then there is pain as new growth happens, and then there is joy in the new normal. Thanks for being honest that life is a journey. Not a Pinterest collage of pins. 


  • Laura

    Laura on Nov. 15, 2014, 4 a.m.

    Just found your blog through Tsh's Pinterest page!  As a fellow Canadian homeschooling mom of three, you captured me.  I also blog about nature, homeschooling, real food, etc so we have lots in common!  I'll be following your writing with interest.  Please share as much as you are comfortable with - as many previous commenters have said, I want to read about it all.  I want to read your book, actually!


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