It took me a few years to find the consistency in my writing. To identify the thread or theme that held true as the tapestry of my written work continued to evolve and change.

As much I love the principles and (certain) practices of homemaking, as much as I love homeschooling my children (truly this has been a journey of love and discovery for me, it is one of my passions and callings), as much I love exploring my personality and personal growth, as much as I love being outdoors, traveling and adventuring, etc. the consistency is not in those subjects.

Indeed, I have not been able to build a blog brand in any one of those areas, though they are big parts of my life experience and knowledge.

What I've learned through 12 years of blogging is that the consistency in my writing is not in a topic or genre per se, but in the place my writing grows out of, the zone from which I am inspired to write.

The place where my boundaries are expanding, which I've also described as the edge of my growth curve, is where I write. This zone is both the fertile ground that inspires my writing but is also an inexorable progression, like the leading edge of a hot lava flow, that continues to propel me forward.

This is somewhat problematic for building consistent blog content. Unless the the moving edge of experience is the consistency.

When something related to homeschooling is my dominant growth edge, you'll see that in my writing. And as I cross boundaries in my homeschool journey - the beginning of elementary, elementary to middle, middle to high school - I tend to be inspired to write from those discovery zones. Lots is being stirred up there. I see the same trend in my writing as I've progressed through growth zones in homemaking and adventurous family living.

For the past two years the edge of my growth zone has been deep personal discovery, healing, and a spiritual re-awakening.

The edges of homeschooling, the edges of adventure, the edges of self and faith, the consistent thread through these changes and experiences is that what I write comes from that growth zone.

And now I find myself at another edge.

I am not where I was one year ago, two years ago. I've lived in the same apartment for 20 months (our longest term of residence in the last six years) but I am not the same person I was when I moved here, the summer of 2015, haunted and hounded by anxiety and insecurity.

These two beasts are a recurring theme in my life and my writing but I feel that in the last two years I have turned around and faced them, full-on (in fear and trembling, it's anxiety after all), but I have faced them.

I have named them. I have called them out of the shadows in my relationships. I have identified "the good side" to these tendencies (light and dark, we're all both) and I have grieved the pain and misdirection they have brought into my life.

I have learned so very many things about myself as I've faced these demons. And I've written through some of what I've learned here on the blog. This season of deep self-awareness and a quest for healing has been the edge of my growth.

I haven't arrived. I'm not finished in that healing or in my understanding of self and Spirit. In many ways, I've just begun. I'm so thankful for what I've learned at this early-midlife point about myself and others; for the insight, knowledge, love, and compassion I now carry with me. But I have so much more to learn, so much more to grow. Always.

I feel a shift in the wind, a fresh breeze is blowing. This wind started as a gentle breeze sometime this past year. Not blowing all that much or all that often, but when it did, it was completely invigorating to me. (And just a wee bit baffling. Where is this coming from? Where is this going?)

The further I walked in my journey of personal growth and discovery, listening for my life to speak, the more this wind blew. And now I find myself, set to sail in a slightly different direction, under a new wind.

I thoroughly believe the intimate is the universal. Which is why I love memoirs so much. And why I have courage to write my own story and why I've shared everything I possibly can (with time and privacy constraints) about my journey in the last few years. But to write introspection and personal growth stories is not the "ends" for me. It's been the means for this last part of my journey, but it's not the ends. It's not my long term aim in being a writer. (I will always write introspection and personal growth stories but I want those to be one part of the picture, not the entirety.)

The wind that has been blowing is a dream and an ambition about the writing I want to do, the writer I want to be.

My ambition is to give expression and bring to the light in writing the meeting place of stories of the heart and ideas of the mind. I want to equip myself for this mission by continuing to live wholeheartedly (see Brene Brown's work for a definition of this), training my mind in good books and sound thinking, being actively engaged in ordinary and extraordinary life-changing experiences, and by wrestling with and writing through the intellectual ideas and heart-growth that those experiences teach me.

I want to be a great thinker and communicator because I have immersed myself in Great Ideas and have honed the art and craft of visual and written communication. I want to know so many more things than I currently know. I want my words to be read, shared, savored and be impactful in people's lives because they ring true, speaking to the universal human experience; because they are well written; and because what I write is what I strive to live; an Engaged Life of conscious, kind, examined, truth-seeking, disciplined, and loving actions, regardless of my circumstance or situation.

I have dreams around these ambitions but those dreams are too big to share, too vulnerable. Maybe someday I'll share them but maybe they will always stay private and simply be a guiding light on the journey. A light I may never reach but a light that, nonetheless, gets me further along the path. That's the real gift of a dream anyway. It gets you going in a direction.

I want to write from the place where ideas and engaged living overlap in my life. Where ideas are lived out and the living gives rise to the ideas. But this requires growth in a few areas, chief among them, a more rigorous intellectual discipline, so I can critically examine an Idea, vetting thoughts and experiences with a more robust lens. And I need to have courage as I lean into the opportunities for growth, many of which are hardships, failures, disappointments, set-backs, and misfortunes. This is the soil from which I want to excavate knowledge, truth, beauty and wisdom (I consider writing as my tool), as I engage myself in wholehearted living and loving.

This is where the wind is blowing, this is where I'm growing.

Photos in this post are from our Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2014. If you want to read more about this journey and see more pictures, I am journalling that adventure at Outsideways. Also, our 24 episode video series of that journey is now available for free on You Tube. A new episode is released each week.

This post is the first in a six part series about vocation, marriage, and work.

Here are the follow-up posts;

  • Build up to the Breaking The path we were on started breaking down for us on the trail and completely imploded late fall 2014. I call it The Breaking.
  • Following as a sure thing It was the perfect storm of circumstance, choices we made, personality traits, deeply ingrained beliefs, and unconscious motivations.
  • Glossary of terms I've been working at these definitions because I like clarity and well-defined ideas but also to help me understand where I fit in the world of income-earning jobs, careers, and vocations.
  • Searching for vision in my vocation I didn't have a clear vision but maybe vision is overrated, and it was more important to just "do stuff", or maybe I would find one through bumbling around.
  • Doing the next Big Thing The path for me, in this particular season, is to walk in the confidence of who I am and whose I am, even though I don't have a Big Vision for my post-homeschooling vocation.

In this series I pull in quite a few quotes and I just wanted to say something about those before I begin.

I quote a lot from The Wisdom of The Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. This book has been a foundational tool for me in making sense of myself and the last few years of my life: why I did what I did, why it didn't yield the results I had hoped for, and most importantly, the path to healing.

As I got to the end of writing this series I rediscovered Marge sitting on the shelf. Marge is the name written on the cover of the black journal I started using a few years ago as a Commonplace Book, a place to write quotes from books I was reading (and more recently from podcasts I listen to), and my thoughts in response to the author's writing. I found the journal as a freebie somewhere, I don't remember now, and I assume it once belonged to a woman named Marge. The journal was blank, never used. I like that my book of quotes and responses to my reading has a name. I currently do a lot of digital quote captures and note-taking, but I have yet to find a system that really works for me. I'm open to suggestions.

Finding Marge was serendipitous as she contained words I'd written, very applicable to this series, during some of the storms of the past few years and to find them again was finding forgotten treasure.

Right now I'm reading Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. This the fourth time I've borrowed it from the library and I hope to finish it this time around. I don't know why it's taken me so long to finish the book. Theoretically, it's an easy read at 100 pages, but I'm taking my time with the ideas.

I keep coming back to this book because I have a small obsession with understanding the definition of work and vocation and finding clarity around this in my own life.

It's been a solid eight years now (maybe ten, it's hard to nail down exactly when it started) that I've been trying to define and understand (in no particular order): work, vocation, calling, dreams, goals, career, income-earning, values, and mission. I don't want to just name a mission, a career, dreams or vocation for my life. I want to have a clear understanding of how I define that term to begin with. What is a vocation? What is mine? What is a calling? What is mine? What is work? What is mine?

During this time I've been drawn to books and blogs that provide vision and language for our modern wrestling with these ideas. So many catchphrases: "meaningful work", "intentional living", "dream big", etc. have swirled through the zeitgeist of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. And my desire for clarity is as much a response to our times as it is to some internal drive.

I want to distill these ideas down to concepts I understand and can apply to my life. This isn't merely academic, this is intensely practical for me, and personal.

How I define these concepts may be different than other people's definitions, and of course how I live them will be a unique, individual expression, so they are personal. But my understanding and application of work, vocation, mission, etc. inform what my marriage looks like and vice versa. My marriage to Damien influences every aspect of my life, every aspect of my being. Our beliefs and behaviors, as a couple, around work, career, and income-earning are foundational principles in our marriage, working in tandem with our values and actions on raising and educating our kids. It's like one of those balls made of rubber bands, it's all wrapped up together.

These are the Big Things in our life and when we got married twenty years ago we had certain assumptions, expectations, dreams and goals around the ideas of work and vocation.

When we married, our goal was to raise and home-educate our kids, to live on one income earned by Damien until the time I was able to enter the work force.

Not all couples want this kind of partnership. Some want a more shared income-earning relationship. However, there are many who have this desire but find it difficult to achieve in our economic times or in their unique situation. And this speaks nothing for the abject poverty in many areas of the world that precludes this option all together.

Our ability to make good on our goal, to achieve the dream of living on one income, was possible in large part because we started from a place of privilege and grace; both of us being raised by parents who modeled the love, sacrifice, and hard work that goes into marriage and raising children, both of us living in a time and place in which we were well fed, well loved, and well educated. We are not wealthy by North American standards but the truth is, we got a good start in life, through no action of our own.

And this good start in life set our feet on a good path for marriage and family life, contributing in huge measure to the success of our goals. Along the way we were spared disabling injuries and other unforeseeable changes that would have necessitated a change of course from our original plan in raising and providing for our family. Shit happens, and in retrospect, I recognize very little of it has happened to us.

We had a plan. We married and created a family. I stayed home to raise the kids. Damien worked to support us. And then life and living took us on paths we couldn't have imagined.

And as much as we like to believe that we independently steer our ship, the work ethics and values of Generation X and the Millennials has greatly influenced our trajectory.

We grew up into adulthood, through our twenties and early thirties, with the boom of the internet and All The Possibilites! The messages of our era and the advances in technology stirred our imaginations in ways we could not have anticipated when we got married (and we didn't even own a computer); and our increasing self-awareness with experience and age shifted our thinking with regards to the work we wanted to do and the lifestyle we wanted for ourselves.

I felt the first stirrings that I might consider working from home, while homeschooling our children, when I discovered the world of mommy bloggers, approximately nine years ago. It was the first work-at-home idea I'd seen that actually appealed to me. Slowly I moved in the direction of working online, via blogging, while at the same time Damien had a strong desire to become self-employed, explore ideas, and build diverse means of income.

We became open to modifications, adaptations, and evolutions of the original plan that my work would be to homeschool the kids and cultivate a home environment that supported our individual and familial wellbeing and Damien's work would be to earn the income that financially provided for this endeavor.

And so we decided to make a leap, to see what we could do with possibilites available to us by virtue of our skill set, experiences, values, and the internet. We moved to a relatively inexpensive and remote place where we could test our income-earning ideas and fulfill our quest to live in a beautiful place. We became self-employed in location-independent work, and were working together to build an online business. (In case you're wondering why we had to move fulfil these goals, read this post.)

By this point I had built a blog, started to identify as a writer, and had ideas for income-earning projects I could launch from that platform.

These were small projects, small ideas, not a grand vision. And I was unsettled that I didn't have a grand vision. The Big Goal. The Big Dream for my work as a writer. We were now living what was once a big goal - to raise our family a certain way; and what was once a big dream - to re-boot our life to align more with our values. It was a time of possibilities but I hadn't yet defined the next big goal for myself.

Damien is a big idea person, he generates many ideas and lots of them seem audacious to me. One of his goals in becoming self-employed was to make some of his ideas reality. He's not afraid of hard work, he just wants to work hard at his own vision, or a vision he identifies with. And we thought "wouldn't it be great if we were both working hard at the same thing?" If our work brought our worlds closer together instead of having separate domains.

When we moved in 2011 we positioned ourselves to both work at home, sharing the domains that had previously been each other's exclusive territory up until that point. And we wanted to build something together. Unfortunately, the "something" was never a well-defined idea in my mind, a working relationship? a business? a product?

We had skills, experience, an online presence; we had interests, dreams and goals and we wanted to integrate this all together. And as we endeavored to "bring it all together" as a means of supporting our family we learned some very important things about ourselves. Which is code for we went through difficulties.

We had successes along the way, I'm very proud of our achievements and projects. And I don't regret the journey or the difficult things we went through because of what we've learned through the process. But we couldn't continue on the path we were because it was hurting our relationship, not helping it, not drawing us closer the way we intended.

The path we were on started breaking down for us on the trail and completely imploded late fall 2014. I call it The Breaking.

To be continued...

PS. if you want to go back and read any of the links I've mentioned in this post, I personally feel the that last one is the most compelling (and the photos are pretty stunning also). And will pretty much set the stage for what's coming next.

I've struggled to define vacation my whole adult life.

When I was a kid, vacation was a very straightforward thing. Every late July, from the time I was about nine years old till I finished high school, my parents packed up the car and we went to British Columbia for a week; where we rented an old, one bedroom beachfront cabin in a campground on Kootenay Lake, just outside of Nelson.

Our Honda CRV packed for this trip

My parents took the bedroom with the sagging double bed and my brother and I shared the pull-out couch. The shower was metal, similar to those classic campy painted tin mugs. The space was small and sandy. The small kitchen did not stop my mom from cranking out gourmet meals, since that's just her thing.

It was heaven.

Before we found the cabin and established a holiday ritual of returning every year at the same time to that exact same cabin, we camped in a camper, the kind that sat on top of a pick-up truck. Both borrowed from my grandparents.

The early years in the camper were a mixed bag in terms of destinations, but we always went to British Columbia, usually near water. I remember outdoor pools, rivers and beautiful lakes (all a rarity in my prairie upbringing); campgrounds and hot springs; and the wild west feel of certain areas in the south eastern corner and south central regions of BC.

When I was kid it was very clear what vacation was, though we called it holiday.

Holiday is when we packed up the Ford Tempo and drove to BC to spend a week of bliss (before I knew that word) swimming to your heart's content, eating great food, making trips to Nelson for groceries, calamari and lattes (this was the 80's when an afternoon latte was a holiday drink.)

Holiday also meant going berry picking at least one afternoon, usually on our way to the cabin, when I was so desperate to reach the beach I would execute the equivalent of a teenaged temper tantrum, staging a sullen sit-in in the car rather than pick berries for one measly hour. Which explains some of the struggles I have with my own children at this age. I have it coming to me.

But as a kid holiday was a very clear time of rest and fun. We had to help sweep up and make our beds, but certainly there was very little work involved. And from a child's perspective I thought it was the same for my parents.

Being a responsible adult myself, I see how off-base I was on this account. Though I do feel that my parents choosing the cabin route over camping was to lighten the effort involved. Less packing, easier driving, both of which eased my Dad's job considerably.

I don't recall my mom ever complaining about cooking while we were on holiday, or really complaining at all. Like most people I have a very selective memory but my mom is not a complainer. She seemed to enjoy vacations, even though she cooked and did laundry at the camp laundromat, while the rest of us frolicked or slept on the beach.

I grew up taking regular holidays with my family, it was our tradition. And I internalized certain ideas about what constituted vacation: lots of swimming and lazing around on a beach, with tasty food appearing as needed.

And then I grew up. And I have been pining for this type of vacation ever since.

We were delighted when these baby robins hatched right after our arrival to Montana
we were saddened when a magpie raided the nest a couple days after this photo was taken

Damien and I started camping right off the bat when we got married. We camped as part of our two week honeymoon. I really liked it though I also appreciated that for the majority of our honeymoon we stayed in cabin rentals and bed & breakfasts.

After our honeymoon we didn't take a vacation, of more than one or two days, for many, many years. Fifteen in fact.

After we left Alberta and moved to the States we took trips back to Canada to visit family, where we would stay with my parents or Damien's family. But those weren't vacation, because vacation in my mind is when you mostly relax. And you don't share a bedroom with your kids and keep cooking meals. Those were great times with our family, but they weren't vacations.

Then we started hiking and camping with our own kids. But our camping was not what it was when I was a child. It seemed like a lot more work, in part, of course, because I was now the parent but also because we did a lot of hiking (hello, effort...).

Camping was an affordable way to travel and we often used camping as the means, not the end. Which is not the same as camping as a vacation.

taking the kids to Chico Hot Springs in the Paradise Valley

Damien's time off of work and our big trips were always reserved for going to visit family, usually my parents. And outside of that time we crammed in as much weekend camping and short backpacking trips as possible.

Camping, and then backpacking, became an area of personal growth and stretching. Like I wrote seven years ago:

I'm tired of character building on my "vacations" (I have ceased to call camping a vacation). I just want to be. To sit on a porch swing drinking iced tea or an Adirondack chair at a lakeside cabin, sipping coffee and watching the sunset over a lake. I don't want to be trekking through woods so wet my underwear is dripping.

I'd just find my comfort zone in the great outdoors and then we'd push it a little further.

None of this felt like vacation to me.

In my dream world, when you're on vacation you don't have to cook. You don't have to hike or carry weight on your back. You can sit and read for most of the day, if you want. Or you can swim. Or nap, or read, or go for coffee (or fried calamari), or read. You basically are free to do what you want. In my dream world, vacation is what I did as a child, which by the way did not include TV, never mind computers and internet-access.

By that definition I have never had a vacation in my whole adult life. I think the U2 song says it best (about most of adult life) I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

I've come to define our travels, adventures and family "downtime" by the following terms.

A trip is when you go somewhere. It could be overnight, or for many weeks or months. It could be for all kinds of purposes: work, visiting family, or maybe even to take a "vacation". We have taken many, many trips as a family. Camping trips, backpacking trips, trips to Nova Scotia, trips to Alberta. Trips that involved work and play. Our family downtime and recreation has been defined by this type of travel.

Holidays are the culturally traditional celebrations of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christmas is our most important family holiday and we always take time off work between Christmas and New Years. Sometimes we'll go on a trip during this time or take a trip in October to visit family.

A vacation is hardest for me to define because I'm not sure I've had one as an adult. But its defining features are rest and relaxation.

A fellow parent at the homeschool co-op we belong to takes his family to Cuba every year, sometimes twice a year. He finds these incredible deals and they stay at an all inclusive resort for a week, where, in his words, the biggest decision of the day is "do we swim at the ocean or at the pool?" To me, that sounds like a vacation.

Part of the reason defining vacation is so hard and feeling like I haven't really had a vacation in my adult life is because Damien and I approach and define vacation from differing perspectives. We have different temperaments and enjoy diverse activities, but also the nature of our work is different, therefore relaxing from work is not the same.

Working at a sedentary job Damien appreciates physical challenges when he is not working, he needs that for his well-being. And he's super outdoorsy, so a relaxing time for him is to be physically active in the outdoors; hiking, backpacking, etc.

My work as a mother and homemaker doesn't conform to the typical work hours, obviously. Especially when the kids were little I didn't get to stop any of my usual jobs on trips. It wasn't a break. Everyone still needed to eat, it was just moving my work to a different location. And although Damien has always been responsible for all our camp cooking, giving me a break in that regard, the fact I had to hike all day to earn that "break" made the experience on the whole, less than relaxing.

For the past five years we've been self-employed and have location independent work. Damien's clients are all over the world, he doesn't need to be a in a certain place to work. This allows us to go places, on our own schedule, but it also means work comes with us.

We're not opposed to taking an honest-to-goodness break from income-earning work but the question we ask ourselves is what would we do that both Damien and I would find relaxing and refreshing? As it is, we don't have to answer that question because we don't have the funds to find out. And even if we did have the funds, we wouldn't spend it on a vacation, the kids need dental work.

Damien and I don't live in the world of employers, paid statutory holidays, paid vacation time (or dental benefits).

We chose this life, I'm not complaining, really. It's just our reality. And even after 20 years of marriage we're learning how to define things on our own terms.

I wasn't expecting this trip out west to be vacation. When our friends in Montreal found out we were traveling for 6 weeks I was clear that this wasn't a vacation, it was a trip.

But the delightful surprise and gift is that there have been days of vacation on this journey. And a vacation vibe to much of our time here. This is true for the kids and I, unfortunately less so for Damien, who is working a mostly full schedule.

I've been asking myself, what makes this feel like a vacation? Why do I feel so good here? I am refreshed and relaxed. I'm feeling like I've had a vacation. What can I learn from this experience?

The trip hasn't been without challenges or disappointments. Our original intention when we planned this trip was to go backpacking on the weekends. One of those excursions was to be down to the Grand Teton National Park. A place we both love and a mountain range Damien has experience backpacking.

But Damien injured his knee in June on a boys backpacking trip in the Presidentials (New Hampshire) and backpacking in the Rockies was not meant to be. This was terribly disappointing for him.

Instead we've hiked locally and they have been amazing hikes. You can read my hiking journals of the trip at my profile on Outsideways.

But we haven't just hiked, yesterday we went rafting with TravelingMel and her family. And because it followed a day of vigorous hiking we enjoyed it even that much more. The day felt completely like vacation to me. We sat in the sun. The kids swam. We floated down a river eating and drinking and getting to know interesting people. Afterwards, Mel & Henry fed us supper, and we sat outside drinking beer. Summer vacation.

The weather has been gorgeous. This is another thing I associate with vacation. Hot summer weather. We're warm here but it's dry and never unbearably hot. And when it gets too hot, there's the river to cool off in.

I'm cooking easy meals. Everyone fends for themselves throughout the day and I make an easy supper. That feels like vacation.

We're drinking sunshine iced tea and cold creamy coffee in the afternoon.

Damien and I are sleeping in the tent. I love sleeping in a tent. It was one of the first things I fell in love with when we started camping and backpacking. The tent is my safe, cozy place. It always has been.

In the tent we can experience the wind or the occasional storm and when I get up at night to go pee the sky is often bright, not with streetlights, but starlight.

I go to bed fairly late, the evening is light and long, and I've been reading good books till till past my usual bedtime. I get up fairly early the next morning because sunlight floods the tent. But if I'm tired in the day I take a nap.

Probably the most significant thing that helps this trip feel like a vacation is that the kids are older and don't need my care. They can feed themselves.

I have work to do here also. I'm helping clean the Airbnb (especially since we share the space), I do the grocery shopping and laundry for our family. I keep paying the bills and managing our rental in Maine. But there are no projects like at home. Nothing here is my ultimate responsibility, so once my defined tasks are done, I can just relax.

Our weekends are family time, Damien joining us for adventures, but the kids and I have been exploring the area on our own during the week. And what an area to explore! We've taken trips to Yellowstone National Park, gone swimming numerous times in the Yellowstone River, and eaten a lot of ice cream.

I have been enjoying my kids. We are living a summer pace. We have re-discovered those lazy days of summer that I thought we had lost in the rush and activity of city living.

There are no appointments or schedules to keep here. No social events I have to drive to.

The kids have it pretty easy but it's not complete vacation for them either. Brienne and Laurent have been helping at a nearby ranch, first with a kids' day-camp and then helping acclimatize piglets. The piglets are being sold and after weaning they needed to get used to human touch so the kids have been down to ranch twice a day (it's a 5 minute walk from the Airbnb) to bottle-feed them. Taking care of piglets was a daily highlight.

Laurent and Brienne are working on math because last winter's busy co-op schedule bumped math out of the homeschool mix so they have some catch up to do. (If they weren't already years behind in math it wouldn't matter but both of them are motivated to bring their math skills closer to grade level this summer, and I'm certainly not stopping them.)

All the kids are helping around Martin and Katie's property doing yardwork. We all pitch in for our accommodations.

Each child is finding their own expression of vacation. Brienne likes to keep busy. Laurent loves adventures and Celine loves to chill. They each have a computer or an ipad and their favorite Netflix shows and YouTube channels and, sharing one room for sleeping, they all excel at the teenager-ly art of "the deep sleep".

I do believe they are having a vacation.

I think I'm having a vacation. I wasn't expecting I would. I didn't want to have unrealistic expectations.

For the past year and a half Damien and I have been actively asking ourselves how do we rebuild common ground after feeling relationally broken and disillusioned after our thru-hike? What is the best of "us"? How do we be strong individuals, knowing ourselves and be a strong couple? What are the activities we both truly enjoy doing together? How do we balance his recreational needs with hers and vice versa? And the fact that we have three independent-minded teenagers in the mix doesn't make finding the answer any easier.

These questions have been hard to answer in Montreal, wrapped up as we are in a busy life that revolves mostly around our kids.

The questions seem easier to answer here, sometimes in talking but also just in the doing.

We both love to sleep in a tent in beautiful places. Damien completely appreciated a day of rest and relaxation, floating on a river, after a day of vigorous hiking. I love hiking, when it isn't a full-time job. (Damien would love to hike as a full-time job. We did that for six months, and I learned I prefer my regular job as homemaker.)

We love the mountains. We both love sharing meals with friends. We loved our impromptu sunset hike at the end of a long work day. We both love Montana.

For now we take a working vacation over no vacation because we so desperately want to go places. But these days won't last forever. Our parental obligation (and privilege) to provide for our children will end.

Finding ourselves in Big Sky Country, doing things we love, together, we are dreaming again. This time we're not dreaming of how to raise our kids or take them on a grand adventure. We're dreaming of what it will look like to travel, work, and build relationships when our children are grown and mostly independent. We're dreaming about the time it will be just us.

An "us" that we get to define.

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