Making peace with my personality ~ Workin' for the man

This is a long post. It's one of my who am I?" navel-gazing posts.

I don't expect most blog readers to read every word of such a post.

Why publish it then? Because I have the need to use writing to organize my thoughts. And when I publish something I work hard at the writing, and therefore the organizing, and I usually resolve an issue and move forward with greater clarity. It's just the way I work.

So, as you see, a post like this is rather self-serving and you may skip ahead straight to the takeaways if you like.

However, if you want to know how much FIMBY contributed to our family income last year (as a percentage), why I felt so bruised at the end of the winter, how I figured out a great mystery of my personality, and how I've found my working sweet spot (for now), read on...

A wee bit of work history

Those of you familiar with our story know that two years ago, the summer we moved back to Canada, was the first time I was legally allowed to start earning an income, after more than a decade of strictly unpaid mommy and homemaking work.

It's a long story of why I couldn't get paid for work previous to this, but one word sums it up: immigration. When we gave up immigrating to the US and cut our losses (and there were big ones) to return to Canada, it felt like a whole world of possibilities opened up to me.

At the time of our move, in May 2011, I had been blogging for years already and had built up a readership and a few connections. And in the months following our move I could actually do something with those online assets. I got more serious about my writing and I was asked to contribute to my first freelance project.

The following year I published a little e-book and then another, both of which were development of themes and ideas I have written about at FIMBY. I did more freelance work and in the fall I went to a blogging conference and came back totally fired up and inspired about my purpose here.

I started a FIMBY newsletter and we opened our online store, where we could sell products and services to support healthy, creative, and adventurous family living. (It's worth mentioning that Damien helped me significantly with all these projects, they're we projects, more than I projects.)

Looking back on it, 2012 was a fairly momentous year for my work. I published stuff and people bought it. I coached homeschool families. I networked with other bloggers.

And it wasn't all about me either. I provided real help, encouragement, and practical solutions to other families and individuals. This was very satisfying work.

My financial contribution to our family's income from this work wasn't insignificant either. All told, our online work (not related to Damien's programming for clients) from 2012 accounted for 25% of our income, most of that coming from FIMBY related sources - books sales, ebook bundles sales, coaching and affiliates. There were months that earnings from products I wrote were the answer to the "dear God help us to make that rent payment" prayers.

To be clear, me working did not increase our income. Me working meant Damien was supporting those efforts both with his technical abilities (to publish my ebooks for example) and taking care of certain home duties to free up more of my time. Our income took a significant hit when we left steady employment two years ago and we're still in a building stage of this next phase of our adult working life.

I started 2013 with high hopes and expectations. Growth! This was my year to soar online. There were ideas in the works, content being written, and ecourses planned. I had a little chart, it was all planned (smile).

But 2013 played out differently than planned. Winter was difficult. I wasn't able to move forward on the ideas I planned. And I started to question a lot of things, mostly myself and my abilities (or liabilities as I often looked at them.)

A lot of the online marketing schemes and sales strategies, that work very well for other bloggers, started to feel uncomfortable for me. Most of them never sat well with me to begin with.

I lost my confidence.

I have always struggled with finding my confidence in the creative online income earning world and as a blogger I have struggled with insecurities reminiscent of junior-high. Junior high, that place in-between the worlds of childhood and high school, when you don't know where you fit.

That's exactly how I've felt about my presence on-line, I don't know where I fit.

Earlier this summer I realized (after a long season of angst) that I've worked too hard trying to fit in to "income-earning, mommy blog culture" or "homeschool writer culture" or whatever, and I'd lost confidence in my own strengths and passions.

I've been looking for a worn path to success that I could follow, forgetting each of us has to hack our way through the brush to blaze our own trail.

This past winter, as my ideas could not take flight and I was simply unable to "make things happen", my confidence in my ability to work online nosedived.

Maybe if I was feeling on-top-of-my-game in other life areas this might not have happened. But as it was, and is, my confidence has been rocked on several life levels, leaving me vulnerable.

Vulnerability in and of itself is not bad. My aim is to live wholeheartedly and I made a conscious decision two years ago to write with my wholeheart also. This means being vulnerable.

I believe that vulnerability is good and helps us make real connections with people. But in the presence of fear, vulnerability can become insecurity, and insecurities can be debilitating - physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

Living in a French culture, my first go with raising a young adult (letting go), homeschooling on the fringe (with no community support), financial instability and moving lots, these are just a few things that, in the presence of fear, have shifted my vulnerability into the red zone of insecurity.

These insecurities have overshadowed my confidence, strength and vitality.

From the light-filled space of summer I can see this was part of what darkened my winter.

And so it was that I came into this summer, bruised and a bit battered. Stuck at "not good enough", shoulders a bit slumped, and wondering "what now?" I knew I needed a change of direction, a change of some kind (not to mention needing a whole lot of sun, water, farm vegetables, and berry picking to fill my well) to turn this ship of negative thinking and destructive insecurities around.

I wanted to be "me" again; mom, homeschooler, hiker, a woman who doesn't care a whole lot what other people think and if they'll "like" her and buy her books and increase her page views, etc.

And in light of the uncertainties in my heart I wanted to do something I shine at, and something that feels like the right fit. I wanted to invest myself in something that meets a need for both myself and our family.

It was time to re-visit my personality and re-connect with me.

Me, me, me. Honestly, this isn't all about me. Ok, this post is, but my life with my family is not. Family life is about us and how we support each other in being exactly who we are and move forward together in our dreams and goals.

The most joyful and soul-satisfying way to "do family life" is by bringing the best I have to the table. So it was time to re-visit who I am and what I love to do.

Who I'm not and Who I am

I am not a big idea person, envisioning large scale projects and schemes.

  • I am a detail person, good at managing, directing, and organizing. I especially shine in my capacity as home manager and home education director because I care deeply about the cause - raising and nurturing a family. Managing our home in support of this cause gives me great pleasure. (Managing is different than doing the specific tasks themselves. I can do the tasks but I love being the overseer.)

I am not entrepreneurial, and I don't think in terms of sales and marketing. I am not a business woman and I've never wanted to be. (I've tried these on for fit this past year and realized they don't fit.)

  • I am good at connecting with people. Meeting new people is especially quite enjoyable for me. I am good at serving people by responding to their needs. This is why I love a question and answer format for coaching and teaching. What is your question? Where is your need? How can I respond to that?

(Some people can combine the two of these. They are responsive to needs in their entrepreneurial business, indeed successful businesses are built on the premise of responding to a market need. I'd rather respond to the needs and provide a service without thinking how to make it into a business.)

I do not like the business of blogging. I don't like selling.

  • I do love writing as a way to organize my thoughts and to meet people's needs, including my own, for encouragement and inspiration. I want relationship with my readers. I want beauty. I want story and I want a place to be myself.

I am not motivated by money. This doesn't mean I'm motivated by the desire to simply do good or particularly soft-hearted though (smile).

  • I am motivated by significance. I like being the top-dog, or at the very least the right-hand woman. I've always been a leader and have never wanted to be just cog in a wheel.

I do not like being supervised by other people.

  • I do like working for my family, at home and on my own terms. All these years of being in charge at home and doing my own thing has "sold" me on self-directed work.

I have a lot of skills and strengths. Some things I'm naturally good at because of how I'm wired and other things I'm good at (and enjoy doing) because I've grown experience in those areas.

I was tired of thinking that I'm not cut out for online work because I'm not entrepreneurial, I don't like marketing, I don't identify as a business woman, and I don't want to write and sell a book.

So I did some snooping around again on occupation descriptions for ESTJ's, my personality type.

An ESTJ at work

The ideal work environment for an ESTJ is highly structured, with a clear set of expectations and an organized authority structure. The ideal job for an ESTJ allows them to use their organizational skills within a set of standardized procedures to efficiently produce a tangible product.

ESTJs prefer occupations that require an organized, logical, and practical bent that incorporates an effective use of time and resources. They pay attention to the organization's hierarchy and use policies and procedures to help them to move the tasks along. They like making decisions and dealing with concrete, specific facts.

They enjoy being the person in charge and often make good supervisors.

ESTJs quickly develop a reputation in the workplace as people who can be trusted to deliver, on time and as requested. They are unfailingly reliable and gain satisfaction from bringing a project to completion.

Some occupations seem to be more attractive to ESTJs: government worker, insurance agent and underwriter, judge, manager, military personnel, nursing administrator, police officer, sales representative, supervisor, trade and technical teacher, and other occupations that allow ESTJs to see tasks accomplished.

As much as I identify with being an ESTJ, I've done multiple assessments and the answers are consistently in-line with this personality type, the work descriptions have stumped me for sometime.

ESTJ's are society's enforcers and guardians, we loyally uphold (through structures, procedures and policies) the ideals of a society. Except that I don't - believe in, value, or otherwise uphold many of our society's values.

So what's going on here? Why don't I fit the ESTJ mold? And what kind of work am I meant to do in light of that?

I pondered on this for sometime (feeling again something must be wrong with me, I'm not even very good at being my own personality!!) and then it hit me.

I have replaced the values of society-at-large with the values of family and freedom (and the other side of the coin, responsibility) in my hierarchy of beliefs. Perhaps if society, as in our governments and institutions, held up these values I would buy-in more. Our North American governments may at one time have been the champion of family, freedom and responsibility, but no more. And I just can't give my allegiance there, i.e.: no flag pledging for me.

So I realized I'm not an enforcer of society in general the way ESTJ's tend to be categorized, but I'm am loyal and committed to the hierarchy of my own beliefs. And yes they are a hierarchy or beliefs, we ESTJs like those (smile).

Family is the "organization" I believe in.

My closely held values (and ones I will go to great lengths to protect and live) include freedom living and homeschooling.

It's all starting to make sense to me now.

Once I buy into an organization I am the person you want on your team to see the ideas come to completion. I will devise and manage systems to get things done, I will manage the money (get ready to tighten your belt friend), and I will enforce the rules. By the way, rules don't always mean negative consequences, "break the rule, you pay". The rules in our home include freedom to explore and play. These are the rules I uphold, along with clean-up the kitchen when you're done.

... a clear set of expectations... organized authority structure... organizational skills... standardized procedures... tangible products... logical and practical... decisive and loyal... trustworthy and reliable...

That is me ten ways to Sunday.

Just because I don't want to be an insurance agent doesn't mean I can't use my personality to find meaningful and fulfilling work, work that doesn't drain me with all the "I'm not cut out to do this" insecurity.

I don't like being supervised by other people but I want to work with someone, to partner our strengths and abilities. And as long as I completely buy into the organization or mission, I want this person to tell me what needs to be done (clear expectations & clear authority structure) and then I do it. I want someone else to manage "the big vision part" so I can focus on what I'm good at doing.

So I decided to go to work for someone. I decided to go to work for an organization I believe in. I decided to go to work for us.

I realized that when you're married to a visionary you don't need to carry the big-ideas torch. When you're married to someone who loves the technical nature of stats and the numbers-game of marketing you can love organizing your thoughts with writing. And when you're married to someone who wants a really competent, responsive, loyal, and capable helper you can be that right-hand woman.

I'm working for the man. My man.

We're still working out the details of that but the main project I'm working on right now is our AT thru-hike and supporting the entrepreneurial and business vision Damien has for Toe Salad. I don't need to have the vision, he does. That is a huge relief for me.

Specifically, I'm working on small-scale writing projects (I love closure of small projects) in support of the larger goal. The big picture overwhelms me. But that's not my job and neither is it my gift. My work is simply to do the next task and check it off my list. That, I can do.

I came into this summer floundering about my work and the "what now?" question after losing my confidence this winter. On our trip in June I talked to my friends about this, I shared with each of them the rudderless-ness I felt, the questioning I felt about what I should be doing, besides my obvious work of homemaker and homeschooler.

We got home from our trip and the tension this uncertainty was causing in our marriage reached its breaking point (the tension, not the marriage). In a watershed conversation Damien basically said:

I have a vision for a business, you don't need to worry about that part. We have a large project looming on the horizon, you don't need to go looking for other online work. Are you going to join me in this?

And it hit me so hard that I had been holding out on my husband. I didn't need to go looking for meaningful work online, cruising the mommy/writer blogs looking for success stories and paths to follow. I didn't need to sign up for a business course to be a better businesswoman, something I don't want to be anyway. I didn't need to keep questioning what next? or why can't I be better at this? The opportunity was right in front of me. The need was there.

The organization I believe in needed my assistance and wanted me to join, as a key player.

I don't know why I had been resisting, emotionally more than anything, in joining Damien, full scale in his efforts and dreams. I wasn't resisting intellectually but it seemed I was holding back my wholehearted efforts because we have different ways of doing things (surprise, surprise) and sometimes my response to this is to dig in my heals and say "you can't tell me what do to" (not in words so much, but in attitude).

In that discussion, Damien (nearly at the end of his rope with all my wishy-washy-ness of that last few months, so not like me) asked, "Are you going to be on my team, or not? Because if not, I need to know now so I can adjust my expectations and strategy."

I said yes, again. Just like I did seventeen years ago when we were married. And that discussion was a turning point for me in how I view my online work for this current life season.

My online work

My online work is not about growing FIMBY, or turning old blog posts into ebooks. It's not about finishing a course I started to write. And it's not about struggling to find my place. I am so ready to be done with that.

My online work is about supporting our family's vision and goals. It's about working with my husband to build Toe Salad and get us to the AT. It's about feeling confident in his grand visions (I'm not a visionary so I like it when someone else has vision) and using all my ESTJ-ness to bring the best of those, the ones that we both believe in, to fruition.

And I'm doing whatever I feel like doing here at FIMBY, mostly writing with abandon and without worry, and connecting with readers and filling my extroverted well with chats and coaching calls.

FIMBY is here to serve, to share our story, and to scratch my insatiable itch to organize my thoughts in writing (to organize in general) and to share beauty.

Remarkably, in doing whatever I feel like doing, FIMBY income-earning activity has increased, without me masterminding it. Masterminding is not my strength to begin with. And of course any growth FIMBY experiences and the connections I make here support our family goals and grand vision. There is no loss. It's all win-win.

The Takeaways:

  • Trying to be someone you're not sucks. It's like being a square peg consistently shoving yourself into a round hole. Your edges get bruised. And when you do that you start to question your abilities, even things you used to feel competent, skilled and fabulous at doing. You cry easily. You feel like a lousy mom. You don't feel as energized. Can you see any of these things in your own life?
  • Vulnerability in the presence of fear breeds insecurity. The answer is not to shut down being vulnerable. The answer is to shut down the fear. I have no easy answers for how to do this except that those people who don't give into fear practice at it. Meditation, trust, prayer, love, mindfulness - these are muscles we exercise to combat fear.
  • We all need seasons that fill our wells and give us time to evaluate things to see situations for what they are. This summer has been my season for that.
  • None of us are good at everything and most of us need to partner with people. Two are better than one.
  • Personality type job descriptions need to catch up to the 21st century. Online work occupations are seriously underrepresented.
Do you feel satisfied in your work in terms of using your gifts and talents? (And work does not mean paid employment). Are there parts your personality you struggle with in the context of your work?
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  • Laura Smith

    Laura Smith on Sept. 2, 2013, 3:12 p.m.

    Great stuff, Renee! So happy you have found some clarity and peace. I find doing creative projects with my husband is the most satisfying work I can do, as well. (I am an INTJ.) I don't earn an income from what I do, but we see ourselves as a team. As long as everyone is fulfilled, it's a win for the whole family!


  • Lisa Zahn

    Lisa Zahn on Sept. 2, 2013, 6:03 p.m.

    I read every word and loved it, Renee! Thank you so much for, again, opening yourself up to your readers. That is truly whole-hearted living (have you read Brene Brown on this, by the way?). And you know what happens when I read it? I feel a connection to you and it inspires me to keep walking my own path.

    I do relate to so much of what you say. And all the stuff that you are and aren't are quite true for me as well, as an INFP. But then the ESTJ stuff isn't really me--so it's funny how I can relate to your values but not necessarily your personality type. I also am the proud CEO of my home and love working for myself, and freedom and family are tip top values. I'm extremely loyal to my family, and now that I'm starting my own business as a life coach it's important to me that it honors those values too.

    I love your loyalty to your husband. I feel that so much for mine too. We make great partnerships, don't we?


  • Alison

    Alison on Sept. 2, 2013, 6:47 p.m.

    I'm so glad that you're feeling in a better place over it all. Soul searching is worth it when we get to a place of realisation - and as always, you are very honest in following that through, and agreeing to the process.

    I'm also married to the visionary, and working with him in business (at least a bit). And I get to be in charge of home, family, and a bunch of stuff that goes with that. It's a question of who leads: I lead on home, he leads on business, but we're each involved in both, and contributing to both.

    The takeaways are good - but I also love the way you write the longer posts, and help us see your journey to that point. It gives us courage for our own journeys. Thank you.


  • jacinda

    jacinda on Sept. 2, 2013, 8:09 p.m.

    I am in the midst of reading "Magical Journey" by Katrina Kenison (and loving it by the way). She is writing about the 'fertile void' - sounds like that's where you were over Winter - perhaps not that comfortable but necessary and ultimately fruitful :-) Your posts so often reflect my mind wanderings and inspire me to continue making my own path in the world. Thanks for that.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 2, 2013, 9:13 p.m.

      I'm reading Katrina's book right now also. And I identify with much of it, though I'm not a 50s something empty-nester. I think a few years of saying yes to change in my life (big change) has fast tracked a few of the lessons in my own life, that she talks about happening later for her (though I have yet to deal with devastating loss the way she has). 

      I have to say I hate really dislike the fertile void. It doesn't feel fertile, it feels desolate. I think good things came out of the winter but I'm not wanting to go back to that place anytime soon. 


  • Meg Bennett

    Meg Bennett on Sept. 2, 2013, 8:56 p.m.

    Allthough ,I am totally opposite Myers Briggs,INFP, it was just what I needed to hear! I am greatful.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 2, 2013, 9:05 p.m.

      glad to be of service! sometimes posts like this seem indulgent but if even a totally opposite personality type can take something away then that's great!


  • Amber

    Amber on Sept. 2, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

    I'll admit that I read the whole thing - thanks for sharing all that you wrote.  Your take-aways are great, and I'm really looking forward to what you'll be adding to Toe Salad and your other family ventures.

    I've never looked at the career information for my personality type, though I've long known I'm an INTJ.  It was quite illuminating!  I've long thought there's another piece that I'm supposed to be doing in my life - beyond the homemaking and homeschooling - but I haven't found any clarity about it.  I take it to prayer and all I hear is "wait, wait, it will come."  So that's what I'm doing, sometimes more patiently and sometimes not so much.  :-)  I feel like I'm in the learning period still, gathering knowledge and experience for some next piece that will come at some point.  

    I admire your ability to write like this and post it in a public place.  I think I still have too much fear to open myself in writing, too much insecurity.  A phrase I've pondered for a few years is "authentic communication".  I'm still not entirely sure what it means to me, or how I would go about implementing it in my own life and writing.  However, I think it is something you understand (at least far more than I do!), and I enjoy reading what you have to say.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 2, 2013, 9:27 p.m.

      Amber, I hear you. Lots of years of waiting on my end and then more uncertainty and I don't know that I'll ever have clarity on a big scale but I'm not a big scale person to begin with. I like small, manageable projects (smile).

      For me the biggest growth area of authentic communication is learning to listen and enter someone's experience without judgement. It's become easier, the more I do it (though not without buttterflies) to share my own story. Now the next piece for me of authentic communication is listening without judgement. Without the "what would I do" filter. This is something I'm gleaning also from Katrina's book (as referenced in an earlier comment). This is how I need to grow in love. 

      My contributions to Toe Salad and the AT are largely behind the scenes stuff right now I'm doing tons of writing and using my skills where they are needed. In the process I am become intimately involved with the whole process and really claiming these projects as my own also, completely shared with my visionary man. Scary and freeing. 


  • Leah

    Leah on Sept. 2, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

    Your writing is a gift and a treasure. I am so inspired and comforted by these words because I've gone through so many of these same doubts. Thank you for bringing this important journey and process into the light!


  • Sarah m

    Sarah m on Sept. 2, 2013, 10:40 p.m.

    I wouldn't miss a single word of your wisdom. I fee like a "Cheers!" is in order. You call it navel-gazing but I really think we (individuals and our culture) could really benefit from this type of deep thinking--especially in terms of communication, purpose, and motivation. 

    I look forward to reading more of your articles on Toe Salad! I loved the book review post. Thank you for your continual courage to put yourself out there and your refusal of anything less than freedom in the journey!

    Sarah M 



  • Z is for Zen

    Z is for Zen on Sept. 3, 2013, 12:55 a.m.

    What a beautiful post Renee. I too read (almost) every word and really, really enjoyed it. I could relate to so many things you said and found so much comfort in seeing you just allow your blog to be what it is for you. I too use my blog " to scratch my insatiable itch to organize my thoughts in writing (to organize in general)" and sometimes I feel guilty or "less than" for using my blog this way. So I really appreciated you sharing your clarity around the purpose of the blog for you and your courage to not try to force it to be something something more or less.


  • Adrienne

    Adrienne on Sept. 3, 2013, 4:12 a.m.

    I can feel the relief wafting off my screen! Congratulations on figuring out the direction you're meant to be heading in, run with it, and enjoy it to the max. Your posts are usually moving and inspiring in some way, though I'm rarely moved to comment for some reason. I've experienced the joy and relief of this type of epiphany before and wanted to celebrate how good this must feel for you! 

    I'm stuck in my own version of what the past winter was like for you and it is just dragging on. There are some things on the horizon that I am hoping and praying will make a difference, but right now I'm in a holding pattern. Thank you for being so honest about your life and your journey. I too want to live differently and don't share many values in common with society at large and it is AMAZING to "watch" your family figure out how to live life on your terms. Just knowing that someone out there is doing what I am trying to figure out how to do (in a broad sense; the particulars are/will be different for my family) is inspiring and supportive.

    Hrm, a question: How much do you think personality has to do with it? My Myers-Briggs type is opposite of yours (INFP) but I recognize a lot of my current and former experiences in this post, especially not liking to be supervised. I am a visionary, big-picture kind of person, but your experience still resonates with me. Do you think there's an explanation or commonality beyond personality type?

    My partner will be really excited to follow along on your AT trek; last summer he half-seriously said he would thru-hike with our infant and I would have to ship pumped milk to them! Maybe that interest will evolve into a real-life adventure for us someday. Best of luck to all of you, and thank you again for sharing!


  • Marianne

    Marianne on Sept. 3, 2013, 3:33 p.m.

    I enjoyed reading the entire post.   Your "navel gazing"  often opens up new avenues of thinking about my own, very different, situations and therefore are enlightening for me.    Perhaps this is why I have read your blog for several years.

    About the AT subject :  I have long had a very secret (even from my husband) dream of thru-hiking the AT.  A pipe dream if you will.   So my surprise was profound when recently my 9 yr. old son told me he wanted to thru-hike the AT!     His only knowledge of the trail was hiking a few miles of it in Great Smoky Mtn. Nat. Park last summer.    So I told him about your family and now he wants me to homeschool him when he gets to HS so that we can take the time to hike.   Too funny.                            Am currently reading Hiking Through It which I found in the Christian book section of our grocery store (strange but true).    You might like to look into it.


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 3, 2013, 4:07 p.m.

      Marianne, that's so sweet that your son wants you to hschool him so he can hike the AT. Maybe you want to join us for a section next year?

      You might also enjoy A Child's Walk in the Wilderness about an 8yr old and his dad who thru-hiked in 2010. It didn't make my book list because I hadn't read enough at the time of publishing to write a decent review. I will be updated the booklist at Toe Salad with my review when I'm done it. 

      It took me a while to get into it the book but I'm quite enjoying it now. You will probably glean some insights on thru-hiking with a child from it. It's not a how-to thru hike with your kid book, though. More memoir, which I like. But on that how-to note - we will be doing that with our hike. Helping other families who want to thru-hike with gear lists, experiences, etc. Part of my work (smile). If your son is a teen you should have no problem as he'd be able to carry all his own gear. I'm on his team - you guys should do it!




      • Marianne

        Marianne on Sept. 5, 2013, 1:46 p.m.

        We would LOVE to join you for a section of the AT next year!    We are in Florida, which seems far from everthing, but we could figure it out.  

        Our son, Michael, is only nine so we have some time to work on him getting used to his own pack.  Your book recommendation sounds perfect for us.   Michael, like all kids, loves to read about others his own age doing wonderful things.   Currently we are really into Jean Craighead George's books about Sam Gribley (My Side of the Mountain, etc.).

        We are actually beginning to discuss homeschooling Michael in the future so I really enjoy your posts on that subject - oh let's be honest - I enjoy ALL the posts.   I may be contacting you in the future for some coaching.  :)

        One last thing - we had the joy of visiting your lovely Maine this Summer.   A first visit for us.  We stayed one week in Acadia National Park.   Very, very different topography than our home and some of the most beautiful land I've ever seen.


        • renee

          renee on Sept. 5, 2013, 1:56 p.m.

          Marianne, Oh... does my heart good to know you enjoyed Maine. Maine will always feel like home to me. And it would be great to hike together!

          We have loved Jean Craighead George's books and went through quite a few of them a few years back. Perfect for the 8-12 set. 

          Brienne will be 11 next year and will be carrying her own everything on the trail, except extra water and shelter. We've been gradually training her for a few years already (smile). Stay tuned for our gear list coming to Toe Salad (which I'll mention here no doubt).


  • Leslie

    Leslie on Sept. 3, 2013, 7:37 p.m.

    I really enjoy your blog and wanted to say thanks for sharing so many of your thoughts. I would love for my family to grow to be as close are yours appears to be. I struggle with feeling either too controlling or too lenient with my kids and feel our relationship suffers as a result. I would love to hear your thoughts on discipline. . . 



  • Christy

    Christy on Sept. 3, 2013, 7:53 p.m.

    I know where you are coming from.

    I have blogged since 2008 quite regularly and have 28 followers, other Blogs have hundreds.

    And I think what's so terrible about what I write and Blog about, and I don't know, but then I thought I don't Blog for other people, really it's an online journal of my life for myself.

    So I will keep on blogging.

    I appreciate your heart felt thoughts.

    Christy, Lil Bit Brit





  • kyndale

    kyndale on Sept. 4, 2013, 1:29 a.m.

    phew!  I do love reading your posts because I can see you really working through your problems and coming to a conclusion and finding peace.  I feel your big exhale.  Being totally opposite from you in a sense that it's hard for me to really write it out.  I am a person of few words and sometimes that gets me in trouble.  But, I can't force something in myself.  I'm glad you're finding peace.  I think this move has shaken you to your core however, this may have been what you needed. What GOD has planned for you.  My friend Mary (you know Mary Burrows) just moved to Texas and I'm going to miss her terribly.  But, she is so awesome with just going with the flow of things.  I'm not a salesperson even if I totally believe in the product.  I'm the kind of person who wants to give everything aways for free.  Terrible salesperson I am.  But, what I've learned from Mary is that when you're open to something, you don't have to force it. Things just fall into place as they are supposed to.  Believe in yourself Renee.  One last thing.  I am so intimidated by you.  I think you're such a strong woman with gumption.  It's just funny to hear that you doubt yourself.  But, I totally understand it.  xoxo


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 4, 2013, 2:32 a.m.

      Kyndale, you are absolutely correct that our move has shaken me to the core, in ways both expected and unexpected. I think the same will happen with our thru-hike, and I'm a little scared about that (smile). I think the best things in life come to us after a big shake down, even when it's hard. I believe this with all my being and yet I fight and resist it. 

      I can't believe you're intimidated by me (smile). You're my friend and trust me, there's nothing to be intimidated about. I have strong beliefs that I don't compromise on, which might intimidate some people, and I have a certain mount of confidence in some areas but I also feel very weak in a lot of areas and vulnerable. And I intentionally open myself up because I want to live and write wholeheartedly, and really connect with people, and that scares me. I regularly doubt and question myself. In seasons of heightened vulnerability I question myself a lot... And I've also learned that once a month I need to expect to feel extra vulnerable and I have learned how to adjust my writing and publishing schedule because of that. There are certain things I just can't publish right near the end of my cycle, like this post for example. (smile)

      Anyway, love chatting with you... we should do it again sometime. 


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Sept. 4, 2013, 2:17 a.m.

    Wow! Another favorite post for me. Way to work through the angst and work for the man. We have homeschooled for 13 years and have been in business together in this marriage for 27 years. You go up and you go down, but what I have learned is you both don't have to be in charge. You both don't have to have the vision. You just have to have the guts to support each other in your way of living your family life the way you want to. It used to be lonely, but now so many people comment that they wish they could homeschool and run businesses together that with hindsight, I can see we have created a beautiful family life together and we are living OUR dreams and I don't have time to worry that we are outside of the box by ourselves. You go girl!


  • Lee

    Lee on Sept. 4, 2013, 12:59 p.m.

    Another thoughtful, lovely post Renee.  Thank you!  I laugh because I feel we have so much in common, yet I am an INFP, supposedly the complete opposite.  But being caring parents, homeschoolers, alternate-lifestylers, foreign-culture dwellers, hikers, seekers, self-doubters, and doers make us much more alike than not.  Plus I love all your organization tips because hello!  INFPs are not known for their organizational skills.

    I've no doubt that your path will continue to unfold as you keep putting yourself out there.  Your voice is strong and unique, and there are many of us always checking for your next post!


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 4, 2013, 1:09 p.m.

      I know eh? I have a lot in common with my personality polar opposites who hang out at FIMBY. It must be the values that draw us together, like all the ones you listed (smile). 

      The way we engage in our world, think big ideas or focus on details, process and respond to situations, our intuitive intelligences (hello! mine's kinda low), and the way we organize our worlds are no doubt the ways we are different from each other.  But differences are good! Damien and I are very different and it's a strength we have, not a weakness. 


  • Aurora Kostezky

    Aurora Kostezky on Sept. 4, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

    Brilliant post Renee!  I love how you capture the dilemma of modern life - how to take all of the experience and knowledge and expectations that we have (in this modern buzzy internet see-everything-at-once world) and distill them into something small and secret and kernel-like - a little seed you can hide away and draw strength from.  Congratulations on your little seed of centredness!! 


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Sept. 6, 2013, 1:25 a.m.

    Great thought provoking post as always.  I know you said you were not interested in writing a book, but if you ever compile your blog post into an actual hard copy I would buy it.  I'm old school and love the feel of a book in my hand.  On another thought my daughter who is home schooled and a senior this year has had such a hard time with future career plans and college choices.  Everytime I include course work toward what she thinks she is interested in she changes her mind.  She and I are wondering what test she could take to show what line of work she might be good at.



    • renee

      renee on Sept. 6, 2013, 2:25 a.m.

      Lisa, I'm not in your position... yet (with regards to helping a senior find her path). Celine is a freshman and I'm getting serious now about building a high school experience that will prepare her for post-homeschool life - which may or may not include college.

      I've gone through a lot of soul searching this summer with regards to Celine's high school years. I hope/plan/am crossing my fingers I will get around to writing and publishing that, because helping her figure out who she is has been a big part of that. 

      I will say that not many of us know what we want to do when we grow up, even when we're 30 & 40! I don't think it's surprising that young people aren't clear either. Our focus has been instead on answering the question - what lights your fire right now? and where can we go with that, right now?

      This is what we're doing with Celine and I will say her high school years will not look like "school-in-box" delivered at home. She has no idea if she wants to go to university/college (though she is perfectly capable and is very book smart in the way that colleges cater to) and she's not inspired at this point by any college-necessary careers so we're not focusing on getting her ready for that (though I am keeping good records of what she does do in case that's the end goal).

      Instead we're focusing on the projects, ideas and work that fires her up right now. "How do you want to spend your days?", we ask her and then that's what her schooling looks like. Of course as parents we are providing structure for this and building a framework around her interests and guiding her through concrete projects with outcomes. This is all part of the learning process. But how she spends her days and what she studies and sinks her teeth into are choices she makes.

      That's it in a nutshell (and probably wasn't exactly what you were asking anyway) and I wish it didn't sound so vague but that's about all I have time to share without going into great detail about the projects she's doing and where that's taking her and the new doors it's opening.

      Also, I am just in the process of ordering these books and just signed up for the StrengthsExplorer (as in, just tonight).

      Better Than College Hacking Your Education Teenage Liberation Handbook

      I don't know about tests to take but I would google and go from there. That's how I do most of my research and also ask questions on homeschool mailing lists and such. I've found a lot of inspiration from the unschool community in what they share about navigating the transition from homeschool to college. That's where I'm hanging out these days (smile).

      For us, the high school years are not about college prep, it's about How do you want to live? What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? - do that and then keep doing it (smile)


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Sept. 6, 2013, 1:48 a.m.

    Renee, it's so good to hear your voice. I love the image of the square peg trying to fit in a round hole and getting bruised... I think it is awesome that you are teaming up with Damien! I totally understand how it might have been for you last winter. I think it is quite amazing that we keep on finding out more about ourselves and our family as the years go by... peeling the layers over and over again, rising to the challenge, finding empathy in the darkness, fighting the same dragons... You are so beautiful in all your authenticity and vulnerability my friend. Thank you.


  • Tiffani

    Tiffani on Sept. 6, 2013, 11:29 a.m.

    Great post Renee'.  I think it all boils down to you being in your place and he being in his.  When we try to flow in someone else's gifts or just other gifts in general, it just doesn't flow.  I think because there's not a how-to book for us homeschool moms, or a norm, that we're constantly trying to find our "fit".  

    Thank you so much for your openness!! It's encouraging, inspiring and I always gleen something from FIMBY!!


  • Rana

    Rana on Sept. 7, 2013, 3:27 a.m.

    I'm an INFJ and my work for my type is social worker, teacher, volunteer work. As a homemaker, homeschool mama I feel like this is what I was supposed to do.  Ever since I was a girl I wanted to be a teacher or do research in a library. Now I get to do both with my kids.  

    I'm also a  look at the big picture type person, I have to take time to think things through. Where as my husband is a jump in let's go and that can make things hard when we are supposed to be working together. It's a delicate balance we have to keep.  I love when you write posts like this. It makes me want to dig deeper into myself and ask the hard questions. 



  • san

    san on Sept. 7, 2013, 9:04 a.m.

    Brilliant as always Renee.  I'm so glad that you've found your "groove" as I did sense that in some of your postings you were struggling with the whole earning an  income from the blog thing.  What you write here is always full of honesty and integrity and that is why I come back time and time again to read what you have to say.


    Love to you

    San xxxx


  • Jason

    Jason on Sept. 7, 2013, 10:20 a.m.

    I have never seen FIMBY, or its creator, as comfotably fitting in with the many other momtrepreneur blogs, so it warms my heart to read this. As a member of the rare species homeamkerdadicus FIMBY is the only homemaker/home school realted blog that I read.


  • Jennifer Sinclair

    Jennifer Sinclair on Sept. 9, 2013, 10:35 a.m.

    Hi Renee. I am just starting to follow your blog. Thank you so much for this post. You know, I think it is the most recent and this year? I can only see the months.

    I guess there are two things in your post that watered some thoughts in my mind.

    The first was about having seasonal affective disorder. My friend uses a 'happy light' and says it makes a big difference. So I am sure next winter will be easier for you. I suffer from melancholic depression and use anti-depressants. I know people, generally, are very reluctant to use them, maybe because of social stigma? and not understanding brain chemistry too well. Anyway. They do no harm, and help a lot of people. 

    The second thought that flowered in my mind was how you express, and beautifully come to terms with, your own limitations in this post. That really resonates with me. I live with an illness, and it will always be with me, in some way. I am going through menopause too, and that plays havoc with the whole system. I am really, really limited in what I can aspire to in terms of 'what the world regards as achievement'. And yet it is all what I compare myself too - you know, I live in Japan as an English teacher, and we have these communal baths here. And I often feel bad about the weight I have gained in these perimenopausal years - until I pass an old woman who has toiled all her life in the rice fields (the farmers here are rich, don't waste too much sympathy!). The thing is, her body is bent over double, permanently, from the work she has spent her life doing. And here I am, strong and upright, carrying some extra weight, but well able to bear it. And then I feel a fool for crying out against my limitations.

    Aaah, this is simple stuff I know. Just sharing what your post brought up with me. Thank you for your writing, I am really enjoying reading about you and your life.


  • Anastasia B

    Anastasia B on Sept. 9, 2013, 11:11 a.m.

    Oh my, I just read the whole ENTIRE post, simply because it really resonated with me and where I am. Except I'm a step or two back from where you are, at that point where I'm not sure I can do this and it isn't quite working. It's discouraging, so it's helpful to read your journey!

    See, my husband works outside the home, he is our main source of income. But he hates his job. The only reason he is there is because it pays the bills. Meanwhile I'm home with a 5 and 2 year old. I'm running two businesses (blog and social media management) and just started a third (photography, always has been my passion). He is very supportive of me in my endeavors, but only in his words/emotionally, not in deed/physically. Now I feel like I'm just drowning in trying to run these three businesses, trying to find new clients, working numbers, writing on the blog, managing existing clients, editing photos...... I'm overwhelmed and feel like I've just taken on too much. 

    At the same time, we talked and we both feel like we could make a living from these 3 businesses together. He loves photography too, the technical aspects of it (I love the creative). In theory he is supportive of putting everything we have into this and eventually leaving his job. But there are moments it feels like I'm just treading water because I can't make that leap without him, I can't put enough time into the businesses without his help to grow them enough to be the sole income. He has a hobby that he spends all his free time on, it brings in no income and never will. It irritates me. I'm trying to get this going so he can get out of his horrible job, yet day-to-day I have very little support from him. I don't have anyone to talk to about this. I've learned to accept his time-wasting hobby simply because when I resist, it only gets worse.  I know he wants this, I know he wants the freedom of being home with us and working together for income. But I feel like it will never happen, it's so discouraging. 

    Both of us do not fit society's mold at all either. We value spending time together as a family, we value having our kids grow with us, homeschooling them, we pity the kids we see get off the school bus every afternoon, we have a hard time understanding how it's become normal for everyone to lead separate lives and famlies growing apart by the minute. My husband and I have the same beliefs and I'm thankful we have that foundation, but it's a hard time right now trying to see how we can make this work without him having to slave for someone for the rest of our lives. I've lost my confidence a bit. I love the self-directed work, I hated having a boss in the past. I'm just not sure I can keep doing this all by myself and raise the kids too, not to mention we want another baby lol

    Sorry for the rant, ugh, had to get that off my chest as it was your post that stirred this up! Thank you for your honest writing that can be so easy to relate to :)


  • tay

    tay on Sept. 16, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your writing and your discovery of life through writing. I live in southern California-blonde hair, fake tans, fashion, fancy cars, and all kinds-- it is a far cry from the nature filled days you guys get to experiance.  I found your blog last year and read it nonstop for a couple weeks! I love it.  It has inspired me in so many ways, and part of me would just love to do what you and your fam are doing, I long for it! But for now my husband's work is here, my kids (3 and 5yrs) are in school here and I am trying to find the happy balance of suburban living with enough outdoor nature induced adventure to keep us grounded. I recently even managed to make my own lotion:) So thank you for sticking with writing even if it doesn't produce the income you wish, it touches the lives of those of us who read it. And in the big scheme of things that is a great accomplishment. Thank you. Keep at it.


  • patricia

    patricia on Sept. 17, 2013, 3:14 a.m.

    Renee, I am going through a similar questioning period right now, trying to figure out how I want to spend my time. In fact, I was feeling a little down today about how things are going, and I came to your blog and there was this post, which I'd missed. It felt a little like the post was calling to me. :-) It's so helpful to hear how someone else works out her priorities, and to see you letting go of your blog as a business opportunity, and holding on to it for what it fulfills. It was so good for me to read this today. Thank you!


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