Chrysler recently came out with a new commercial about one of their cars. I don’t really care about new cars on the market so I can’t tell you which model they were advertising, but the spirit of the commercial made an impression on me. The very first words you hear are calmly yet strongly spoken,
We’re born makers.
If I could sum up this phase of our life we are entering, I don’t think I could say it in a more clear, succinct way. God is The Creator, and by making us in his image, he made us with imagination, creativity, and vision. These gifts are expressed in many different ways. Everyone has a different gift. Some make music, some make tools, some make children, some technology, homes, and every other thing on earth, but the point is that we recognize these gifts in ourselves and use them with all the gusto we have. Parable of the talents, anyone? If you trust in someone else to tell you what your gifts are or should be, or if you trust that it’s more important to get any job available in order to pay for the two car garage, brand new cars, and daycare, you’ll likely pass right by the opportunities given to you to find satisfaction in doing what you were born to do. And we’re setting out to make sure that doesn’t happen to us. Our blog is largely about where we’re at. Our life is changing, and this blog is changing along with it. Homesteading is good. I really enjoy it. It gives me the satisfaction of providing for my family and knowing that if the s*** hits the fan we’ll be alright. But it’s also important to us that we don’t spend our lives doing something that doesn’t fit our design. Homesteading to us has been an opportunity to learn skills, appreciation, values, and to create a backup plan. We’ve done that and more! I do plan to continue homesteading, and dream of one day having a large garden and some livestock, but the time for that to happen is not right now. Sometimes the original plan must be adjusted to make the most out of our lives. We have to do a little internal check once in a while to make sure that what we’re doing brings us joy, brings us closer together with the ones we love, and brings us the satisfaction of knowing we are following the path God has designed for us. We only get to live once, and I want to do my very best with the life I have. Today, that means using the time we have to make the most out of our small businesses. Despite the fact that we’re living in a very difficult time for small businesses, Papa and I are excited by the idea that we could create something out of our passions. We could create sustainable businesses and sources of income simply by taking ideas we care about and running with them. Whether or not we succeed in the sense of becoming financially independent, we both believe that giving it our all (which includes setting some other projects aside) is a better use of ourselves than spending our lives waiting for something magical to happen. God has given us our gifts for a reason. To bless others? To bless ourselves? Hopefully both! But no matter the end result, and no matter the obstacles, we have to try. We’re certainly not going to get anywhere by giving a half-hearted effort. I should know, because we’ve tried that too. The reckoning process I went through this summer allowed me to see that now is the time to stop hemming and hawing over the best way to spend my time. If I keep trying to do just a little of everything, nothing is going to get very far. So I decided to commit myself to developing a slightly greater number of clients as a doula, continuing my education as a maternity care person, and supporting Papa in Bags On Sticks in whatever way I can. I’m really excited about this! The feeling that Papa and I are both behind establishing myself not just as “the small-time homesteader” or “crafty homeschool mom” (which I am proud of!), but also as community doula is encouraging – I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. And the idea that Papa could be on the verge of creating a trend, profitable enough to sustain our family and build our home fills me with hope! The passion is apparently bubbling over, because the kids have caught the entrepreneurial bug as well. Buddy has been making and selling bows and arrows, Girlie has been making and selling artwork and paper airplanes, and even Pal has been trying to develop a marketable idea. They are enjoying making things and dreaming up creative ideas on how they can sell them. Buddy is even playing with the idea of saving his money to build a house someday. I don’t expect him to follow through on that quite yet, but it is so wonderful to see each of our kids developing their gifts to benefit themselves and others however they are able. Everyone loves a good story, so I’d like to share with you the history of our businesses, to help express why this transition is so exciting to our family, and give you a platform from which to begin the journey to financial self-reliance with us. (we’re getting a few flower buds, but we probably won’t see too many flower this year) Papa’s story began when he was a young boy, building robots, remote controls, and taking apart toys to build them into something new. He has always been fascinated by how things work, and what alternative uses materials can serve. Papa loves to create things, and his projects vary a lot. For example, the projects he has developed for personal enjoyment or for selling have included 3D art work, musical instruments, woodworking tools, a key scratch guard for a car door, chicken coops, and numerous electronic devices. Those things may not have a lot in common, but they all show how he loves to make things with this hands. This year he developed the idea of the modern hobo bag to be used as an everyday-carry handbag. What began as a sketch and experiments in folding handkerchiefs, Bags On Sticks moved to the sewing machine, experimenting with shapes, patterns, and stitches until just the right design was formed. The Keep became the original Bags On Sticks design, but it wasn’t to stay that way! Papa now has six bag designs with men, women, and children in mind. With handles made from recycled wood he shaped by hand and cloth and other materials he picked out himself, Papa has enjoyed expressing his imagination through a brand new medium, having never used a sewing machine before this year! We designed a website, which is in the process of being remodeled to reflect the growing number of products available, and having attended two arts and craft fairs so far, Papa and I are both really excited about where we can take Bags On Sticks next year. (Buddy practicing his Temple Run falls) This winter we’ll be doing lots of research to plan out the best places to take our booth next summer and fall, and hope to be traveling around Maine to introduce this unique style to as many people as we can. This will be a fun way to go adventuring with our children, bringing them to new places where they can meet new people and see new things that they might not get to around our area. We anticipate that it will be an all-around fun summer. My story began when I was a young teen, learning about the midwives of yesteryear and the powerful role they played in every community. I loved babies and wanted to have a few of them myself, but I felt a strong desire growing in me to become one of these midwives. I didn’t know that midwifery and home birth had been making a comeback, but I reconnected with an acquaintance who was a midwife, and she took me under her wing. Between then and now, I grew from an amateur midwifery assistant, to a birth doula, to a self-study midwifery student, and today I support women as a birth doula, giving them the emotional, physical, spousal, informational, and advocacy support that you cannot get from any other type of maternity care provider. I am now assisting my 31st couple. (Girlie practicing her Temple Run falls) I love helping families bring their babies into the world, and it brings me so much joy to see moms and dads grow in confidence in their ability to take on the challenge of birth and parenting as I come alongside them. In fact, seeing how important this type of support is to families, I am seriously considering remaining a birth doula and not pursuing a career in home birth midwifery. Every woman deserves to have the support of a doula, and I want to do everything I can to help families have positive birth experiences. This means that in the near future I will be taking courses that will enhance my role as doula (a.k.a. personal birth assistant ), such massage therapy with a focus on pregnancy and birth, prenatal nutrition counseling, and childbirth preparation. This winter I’ll be starting HypnoBabies’ Hypno Doula course to help couples using HypnoBabies techniques. While many women know about doulas in neighboring big cities, we live in an area where relatively few women know about and hire them. A large part of what I do is simply informing families of how a doula can help them, and I am hired by 2-6 couples a year to assist them at their births. My hope is that this number will increase to 6-10 couples in the near future. Word-of-mouth has been my most helpful tool in finding clients, as my they often tell their friends after I attend their births, but I have begun focusing on reaching out to the public more via facebook, networking with other maternity care providers, and offering independent childbirth preparation classes. (photo credit: Papa’s brother, “H”) So this is where we are at right now with our businesses. The AFN homestead is still here. We’re still gardening this year, we’ll still have chickens. We’ll still be building our house, a root cellar, and all those homesteading projects we plan to get to so our homestead will run efficiently. We’re still homeschooling, still going on family adventures, voting libertarian, and learning about alternative medicine. All of that will be shared on our facebook page as interesting things happen. But you will also likely begin to see photos and read stories that follow our journey as startup businesses; the ups and downs, ins and outs of developing products and services, marketing them, and managing the ever-more complicated aspects of running a business under our corporate government. I have hopes that you will find encouragement for your own dreams as you follow along. (photo credit: Papa’s brother, “H”, featuring his son, known here as Chap) In my last post, where we go from here, I shared my emotional side; the bittersweet side, of saying goodbye for a time to the work I have been doing. To the blog at AFN, to the garden, and to raising chicks. It wasn’t easy for me to make such a big decision given how much time I have invested into them already. Even though I have no intention whatsoever of making this a permanent goodbye, any change of course like that requires serious thought and consideration about how it will impact our life, and so I needed to express my feelings about it. When Papa got done reading that post, he said it made him feel depressed. He said that if he were to base my thoughts about this transition on that post alone, he wouldn’t think I was very happy about it. I knew I needed to end on a more positive note, because even though that emotional processing was a legitimate part of the story, it was absolutely not the end. No big change is easy to make, hence the sadness, but no big change is worth making unless you see joy on the other side. This is the joy part of the story. We’re born makers, and we’re going to live like it. (photo credit: Papa’s brother, “H”)