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.

winter breakfast

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!

winter drying rack

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.

mukluks on rack

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.

at the ski lodge

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.

winter cabin

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.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

« At the edge ~ Do you have what it takes?
On becoming a relationship-focused professional blogger »
  • Kim G.

    Kim G. on Feb. 25, 2014, 3:33 p.m.

    Good morning!  This is yet another beautiful post.  It so easily and naturally explains who you are and who you have become to so many people.  I have never met you (and rarely comment because it can be difficult) but look forward to your posts.  Every morning on my commute to work I look to see if there is a new post.  I am surprised that people would think that you don't read their comments as you reply to so many.  In my opinion, you should keep on keeping on ... it's always a pleasure to "see" you.


  • Jess

    Jess on Feb. 25, 2014, 3:38 p.m.

    "  . . . Real life, hug you in person, eat at your table kind of relationships". Such a great description for how friendships should be. 

    I"ve wanted to be consistant in blogging for years, for many of the reasons you've stated above. I desire to write what I know, about my family, mostly. I always start and then stop. I've went from thinking that if I had a blog it had to have a lot of followers and therefore I'd have to write and post things that would attract followers. I didn't like the idea of marketing myself or my ideas and lifestyle. It felt so inauthentic to me that I could not continue. Then I wondered what was the point in writing if no one would read it or that the precious time (having young children, sleep means more to me than blogging :D) I was putting into it wasn't being repaid it's worth. 

     Blogging is baffling. Many people who have not much to say, and definitely less of something new to say, seem to have many followers; others who bare themselves and in doing so speak truth to and fulfill longings of validation or inspiration in their fewer, but grateful, readers.

    I'm thankful for your approach. 


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 25, 2014, 4:01 p.m.

      Jess, I just love blogging - the creativity of it, the connections and sharing what I love and so there's always a point to it for me, even when monetarily or numbers wise the return on investment seems sketchy :)


  • Carol

    Carol on Feb. 25, 2014, 4:30 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  Did it take you a while to figure out how to respond to comments or has that always come naturally?  I find myself wanting to reply to comments on my blog, but not really knowing what to say.  


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 25, 2014, 4:32 p.m.

      Carol, I'm a chatty person who generally likes to talk. Replying to comments comes quite naturally to me, especially if someone asks a question (just like you did).


  • Andréann

    Andréann on Feb. 25, 2014, 5:47 p.m.

    I looked back to see if you replied on my comment on the giveaway post, I had checked the "notify" button but go no notifications!!

    Anyway- The place we all love here in Québec city is the Aquarium. Well it's quite popular with my little ones! But I'm sure your big kids would love it too. www.sepaq.com/aquarium. You'd have to go about 5 times to do all the activities they suggest. We love the polar bears!

    I'm totally up for eating at my table kind of relashionships! I lack of like-minded friends, I thought being in the Capitale would make it easier somehow, but not really.



    • Andréann

      Andréann on Feb. 25, 2014, 5:58 p.m.

      now, to be more on subject with this current post- I started blogging in english as it was what would give me more audience- or so I thought... But it felt wrong, so when I moved I switched in French so my mom could read my blog. I personnaly blog to show off what I make, what my kids make, sort of daily journal for my friends and family that lives 3h aways. I blog about what I love, and it seems that the rare times I get comments is when Iove the same things I do. Like a pair of handmade upcycled mittens or when I write about how unschooling works in our family!

      What I love about your blog, and mostly the blogs I read... Is the authenticity. The imperfection. The guenuine wants to live the way you do for your family, not because it's the "thing" in blogland right now!


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 25, 2014, 6:02 p.m.

      Andréann - so sorry about that, see what I mean by commenting problems..(smile) perhaps it went into your spam because I've done testing myself and the notification worked for me. Thanks for the recommend. Laurent loves marine stuff.

      As for friendship, perhaps the peninsula is a better fit. We are often gathering with friends. People here, the ones we know at least, like to spend time together and eat together.

      I don't think its so much about big city vs. country as much as it is about the culture of a place and the effort we're willing to make, or not, to extend and receive hospitality and friendship.  


  • FLMom7

    FLMom7 on Feb. 25, 2014, 8:37 p.m.


    I just want to say how much I Love, Love, Love your blog.  I've been reading for a few years and your blog and your family and your writing style are unique.  I'm a homeschool mom (of 7) in sunny Florida, living vicariously through your winter activities and looking forward to following your adventures on the AT hike (a subject I know nothing about, but am learning through your blog).  I also often refer back to your vegan recipes and writings for inspiration.  I am sure you will probably cover this subject on your blog eventually, but I am curious as to what your family will be eating on your hike?  


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 25, 2014, 8:44 p.m.

      Hi FLMom7, I won't be writing about that too much on the blog, most of my hike story, the details and the depth at least, will be on our video series. The blog will post snippets but to know exactly what we're eating and how we're hiking as healthy as we can (with a gluten sensitivity) you'll want to follow the series. 


  • Ashley Floyd

    Ashley Floyd on Feb. 25, 2014, 9:51 p.m.


    I'm so glad you are blogging. I definitely feel like I found a friend in you.  I've told you before, you are such an inspiration and encourager for me and my family, as a result. I can't tell you the times you blog about something that speaks directly to what I'm thinking about, wondering about, struggling with, etc.  I'm honored to have been a part of your homeschool coaching sessions and to email with you personally.  I know my husband is glad I found you, for there are so many days when he comes home and I can't wait to share with him something you've responded to on a comment I made or a post you wrote. He appreciates that I find solace, encouragement, faith-based advice and a friend through your blog.  I love introducing my kids to you and your family through your AT adventure. In fact, we watched your first episode yesterday, and my kids kept saying, "That's your friend, Mommy, right?" I love it.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 26, 2014, 12:03 a.m.

      Hugs and smiles. We hope someday we'll have a round the table frienship also. We have lots of plans to travel and go places, it's entrirely possible. And you know you're welcome at our home! Ski vacation???


  • Amber

    Amber on Feb. 26, 2014, 12:13 a.m.

    Yes, relationship!  That has so much to do with why I love blogs and why I choose to read (or not read!) certain blogs.  It makes such a difference when the blogger makes an appearance in his/her own comment box.  I'm glad you do it, Renee, it makes your blog just that much better. :-)

    I also wanted to say thank you for your video series - and great job on your first one!  I just finished watching it with my kids and we all really enjoyed it (the kids especially liked the clothes montage, which I'm sure is not surprise to you!)  It was wonderful to be able to say, "remember that family we talked about who is going to going to hike the Appalachian Trail?  Remember how we decided to support their video project?  They've released their first video, and now we can watch it together!"  I think the Kickstarter project was a great idea, and I think it helps strengthen the community around this hike and your project.


    • renee

      renee on Feb. 26, 2014, 12:23 a.m.

      Amber, we are so excited about this project. And I'm thrilled you feel the same way. We feel we're building community around the project. It's not just something we're selling, its  a community we're creating as we go and the subscribers get to be a part ot that. 

      Also a lot of the credit goes to our video editors, who are another homeschooling family with 4 kids a little younger than ours. This is a project for them also and we love working with another homeschool family in this. Your support in backing our project goes to another homeschool family, I love that. They are the editors we are paying, with the kickstarter funds, to help us produce this. Community building all over the place. You'll "meet" them in future episodes. Their daughter is brienne's dear friend ;)


      • Amber

        Amber on Feb. 27, 2014, 5:33 a.m.

        I'll be looking forward to "meeting" the video editing family!  I love the connections there, that is wonderful.  


  • Kathleen

    Kathleen on Feb. 26, 2014, 4:05 a.m.

    I am grateful for your blog and your thought-provoking and authentic writing. Even though we live in very different places and lead very different lives, you and your family truly inspire me and urge me to ask questions and reflect on the choices my husband and I are making for our family. I also loved watching the first video yesterday. It was fun to hear your kids voices and see everyone's personalities shine through and hear how each of you is contributing to this project. I don't always talk with my husband about what I'm reading about on blogs I follow but I was super excited to tell him about supporting your Kickstarter campaign and how much I am looking forward to following along on your AT journey. Wishing you well in these last weeks before you depart on such a grand adventure! 


  • Julie

    Julie on Feb. 26, 2014, 2:01 p.m.

    I should probably be commenting on the blog post...but what mostly caught my eye are the boots.  Would you be willing to share any details on them?  Where doe one go about acquiring them? are they water proof etc.  Your beautiful serene pictures draw me in, but I really resonate with what you write.




    • renee

      renee on Feb. 28, 2014, 5:18 p.m.

      Julie, those are one of kind mukuks that aren't available for purchase, although I'm sure you can find mukluks for purchase somewhere. Damien gave me those boots 20 years ago. I wrote a bit about them here. They are not waterproof, though I could maybe treat them to be that way. 

      I wear them in the snow around our house, which works well since there is not salt or sand in our snow. City snow would wreck them. 

      Someday I should write more about these boots. They are my favorite and most treasured piece of clothing. When not in use during winter, they are stored at the bottom of my chest, next to my wedding dress :)


  • Amy

    Amy on Feb. 26, 2014, 5:24 p.m.

    Renee . . . As I mentioned in my first 'de-lurking' comment on your soap giveaway post; I came for the soap (internet search about soap and recipes) and stayed for the writing and the connectness I immediately felt with you and your family. 

    I have been inspired by your committment to family and relate to your insecurities about taking risks. What you and your family are doing by truly living on the edge is as much a gift to you as it is to the people who come to FIMBY to read, hope, and wonder about making dreams come true. You outline the process and share so freely your struggles and successes, thus presenting a very real and authentic picture of an amazing family.

    As I write this comment, I am sitting in front of a big picture window looking out over my step-mother's farm. She is visiting family in Florida so the kids and I (16, 11, 9) took our homeschooling show on the road and traveled to this NW Iowa farm to care for the animals and house. The weather is showing off in full force by providing cold temperatures and negative wind chills. In the past, I would have holed up inside and only gone out to complete the necessary chores, then rush back in for coffee and to sit by the fire. Thanks to discovering your blog and stories, I have been inspired to get outside and enjoy this wonderful time of year! Once bundled and layered up correctly (again, thanks to reading some of your winter gear posts) the kids and I are enjoying new activities out in the snow. We have snowshoed, cross country skied, rode the horses bare-backed (it's warmer to sit skin to horse coat) and hiked the river bed just down the road. All of these activities have been awaiting us for years, but I always said it was "too cold" or "too windy" to go out and find something to do. Thank you for sharing your stories so I could share this great wintry outdoors with my kids.

    I consider you a mentor and a friend who knows how to say just the right thing when I am not feeling confident. I will be following your AT thru-hike with joy and anticipation of seeing how a family gets out and lives big.

    I hope you take a moment today and rest in the thought that you are teaching, entertaining, inspiring, and sharing thoughts through your writing that are not only life changing for you and your crew, but also life changing for those of us out there reading along.


  • Marianna

    Marianna on Feb. 26, 2014, 8:46 p.m.

    I love this post! I often question why I blog, but then I remember the connections I've made. Connections that over the course of the last seven years have grown, a few even blossoming into "real" relationships and friendships. Besides, I love having the record of my family's life over the course of that time to look back on.


  • Stephanie Stevens

    Stephanie Stevens on Feb. 27, 2014, 12:33 a.m.

    I absolutely love this, Renee.  I have been wrestling with it myself.  Personal challenges led to an unplanned blogging break and I have asked myself, why?  I hit these snags every time I think I am going to blog for a little pocket money. The fact is, I'd blog for free...but if I can make a penny or two that's fine too.  However, that can't be my motivation.  I've come to understand that I won't be a big blogger at this stage of my life and that's OK.  Maybe I never will be and that's OK too.  I'd rather speak straight to the heart of 3 people and have a true community than speak to a million and be too busy to nurture community.  And I love your blog for the sense of authenticity and the personal touch.  I think that what brings many of us back.


  • Alison

    Alison on Feb. 28, 2014, 8:41 p.m.

    Very much relate to what Stephanie is saying above. I'd love some more readers for what I blog, but the chief enjoyment is the writing itself. Where there's a chance to have a conversation with readers too, even better!

    I really enjoy your writing about living freedom as a family, and hope to find ways to do that more for us too. Glad that you are hearing from a whole bunch of people why we keep turning up for more from you. It's real; it's honest; you're not afraid of challenging us; nor of saying when something is hard or hasn't worked out.

    I like that kind of friendship - that's how it feels when I read it. All the best with all those preparations for the AT meanwhile!


  • Lisa Zahn

    Lisa Zahn on March 1, 2014, 2:37 a.m.

    It's so funny you write this because I often think, oh Renee is so busy and has so many other readers I'm not going to bother her wih emails, comments, etc. but then this past week I was thinking, but she writes me nice emails (and I appreciate them SO much!) that maybe I should do the same. I love how you run your blog, life and business. I know the energy drain of trying to make a thing "profitable". We may still need to do that too, but man, doing it with heart is the best way. And that's usually slower, at least for me it is slow and it comes in fits and starts. And always, always I need to keep relationships as my priority. I am so happy to know you and to make even the small connections that we make. You're one of the shining stars of the blog world for me!


  • Shelly

    Shelly on March 1, 2014, 10:42 p.m.

    I so agree with you here! Even though I'm still trying to grow my viewership, I get so much more excited by the comments than the follows. (Not that I don't get excited about them, too!) I have made so many new "friends" through blogging, and, being someone who honestly doesn't have time to go out with friends, this brings me such joy.


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