J – Joy

jumping joy

Photo adapted from youth-570881_1920 Jill111 @ pixabay.com


Okay, pop quiz time! What do all of the children in the photos below have in common?

happy kids

Photos from pixabay.com

I suppose you could come up with any number of commonalities, but there are really just two I’m thinking about today:

  1. Outside
  2. Joy

I’ve spent the past two weeks writing about reasons for people to get outside, but it’s the joy on these kids’ faces that says much more than any of my words ever could. Being outdoors is natural for kids; they thrive there. I’ve seen it in my own family; when my kids are stuck inside during bad weather, they’re irritable and aimless. One afternoon outside, and that all changes.

I know there are always exceptions–kids who hate being outside and families who aren’t able to get outside due to geography, weather, violence, or illness. However, I can’t help but think about this quote from Stacey Loscalzos in the article “Why Playing Outdoors Makes Children Smarter“:

Outdoor play is fun. Children who are happy are successful learners. Children are naturally happy when they are moving, playing and creating outside. This joy opens them up for experimenting, learning and growing.

What brings you joy? What brings your family joy? 

H – Humility

Adirondacks 26 reasons to take your family outside

You know that saying “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” Today, I want to talk about the forest… and the trees… and the flowers… and the animals… and EVERYTHING else we might encounter in the great big world.

In fact, it’s that entire GREAT BIG world I want to talk about.

Have you ever taken a moment to consider how tiny and insignificant we are in the scope of the whole world? Even our most significant personal moments are minor when considered on a global scale. I’m reminded as I write these words of my favorite painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Breughel the Elder:

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Look closely at the painting. Can you find Icarus? It’s sort of like those “Where’s Waldo” books that were around when I was a kid. If you look closely, you’ll see that poor Icarus is drowning in Brughel’s painting (we only see his legs). The worst thing has happened to him; he’s fallen out of the sky and into the water. Even so, the world continues around him: The farmer keeps plowing his field, and the ship sails on toward its destination. No one even stops to ask if he’s okay.

The great big world continues onward with or without us.

Sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? So where am I going with this? Why am I focused on this sad reality of our insignificance in the world?

Simply put: HUMILITY. Recognizing how insignificant and weak we are in the world allows us to ask others for help when we need it. Rather than having the attitude that we can do anything on our own, humility reminds us that we are just one element in this great big world.

Speaking of that great big world, we want our kids to grow up to be self-confident. To that end (rightly or wrongly), we award everyone trophies to help build up their belief in themselves. Self-confidence is only one pillar of a strong foundation, though. Self-confidence without humility results in hubris, the excessive pride that leads to disaster in just about every Greek tragedy (and a lot of our own personal tragedies, too, if we’re being honest). Instead, let’s try a different formula:

Self-Confidence + Humility = Balance

Humility isn’t boastful. It isn’t “in your face.” It isn’t meek or timid either, though. It’s the quiet strength that will see us through even those moments when we’re having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.

Lessons Nature Teaches About HUMILITY

  • You won’t always be the winner: You build the perfect sandcastle—only to have the tide wash it away. You organize the most beautiful campsite anyone’s ever seen—only to have a wind storm blow your decor into the lake. These things happen when you’re outdoors. They remind us that it’s not all about us.
  • Good leaders don’t need praise: There are plenty of opportunities to act as a leader in outdoor settings. You could lead a group on a hike or organize a flag football game at the park. In the end, it doesn’t matter how good you were as a leader; what matters is that everyone has a good time. Good leaders understand and accept this.
  • Service is its own reward: Picking up trash along the highway, planting a community garden, or raking the neighbor’s leaves are all tasks that take time. This is time we could be spending doing other things we enjoy. However, there is inherent reward in helping others.
  • The natural world has value: It’s easy to lose sight of the value of nature—see the trees and neglect the forest. Just take a walk around the block, though, and count the bird species you see or try to identify trees by their leaves. Each of these living things provides value—to the earth and ultimately to humans ourselves.
  • Admitting when you’re wrong is not a sign of weakness: I wrote a post recently about failure. One of the lessons we learn from outdoor adventures is that failure is a good thing. Likewise, admitting when we’re wrong or when we don’t have the answers or when we’re scared is good for us. When you’re out geocaching and get the coordinates wrong, admitting your mistake is a sign of maturity.
  • Getting out of our comfort zone is important for personal growth: The first time my now-husband took me rock climbing, I cried before I even got into the harness. Yup, embarrassing tears of fear and frustration rolled down my face. I was WAY out of my comfort zone. Sure, I would have liked to stay on my couch and read a book. When I got over myself and faced my fear, however, I found a new hobby I love.


I realize that there are countless ways to learn HUMILITY, and those lessons don’t have to come from being outdoors. However, spending time in the great big outdoor world reminds us how insignificant our own concerns are and gives us the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

A – Adaptability

rain 26 reasons to take your family outside adaptability

Adapted from rain-455120_1920_ChristopherPluta @ Pixabay.com

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you:

  • You realize at hour four of a six hour drive to your campsite that you’ve left all of the drinks in the refrigerator at home.
  • The sunny afternoon walk with your kids is ruined when biting flies descend in swarms.
  • The trip to the playground comes to a screeching halt when one of your kids falls off the monkey bars and ends up with a bloody nose.
  • Your geocaching adventure turns hostile when you can’t find a single cache.

Unless you’ve had unbelievably good luck, these scenarios are ones you can relate to—and you’ve probably got some outdoor disaster stories that rival the ones on the list (which all happened to my family, by the way). As much as I love the outdoors, it’s unpredictable. However, it’s that unpredictability that can teach an important lesson about ADAPTABILITY.

According to the video produced by Character Trades, “ADAPTABILITY is eagerly embracing a change in plans without complaint. The opposite of ADAPTABILITY is INFLEXIBILITY, holding tightly to something that prevents me from embracing an alternative.”

Okay, but how important is it that our kids learn to be adaptable? After all, we spend most of their young lives teaching them routine, with rules, curfews, and boundaries firmly in place. Why should they need to be adaptable? Here are just two answers to that question:

  • In an article titled “How to Demonstrate Adaptability on the Job,” Neil Kokemuller highlights four traits of adaptable people that make them suitable for the 21st century workplace:
    • Adaptable people are able to come up with alternative solutions to problems.
    • Adaptable people accept surprises more easily, making the working environment more productive.
    • Adaptable people easily accept new roles, important in rapidly changing workplaces.
    • Adaptable people show calm and confidence, which helps them make quick decisions.
  • In a Journal of Educational Psychology study of 969 Australian high school students, researchers found that “Young people who are more adaptable were more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, be more satisfied with life, have higher self-esteem, and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life.”

I acknowledge that some kids are just less flexible than others. Some children will balk at the idea of change in any form (and many adults feel the same way, hopefully without the screaming tantrums). It’s true that a child’s personality definitely plays a role, but outside adventures are a great way to teach the benefits of adaptability.

Here are five tips to encourage ADAPTABILITY in kids in an outdoor setting:

  1. Discuss adaptability in nature: The natural world is filled with examples of adaptability. Just as chameleons change color when threatened and trees grow deeper roots when water tables are low, the natural world shows us many ways to change, adapt, learn, and grow. The process is rarely a fast one, but nature has much to teach us.
  2. Model adaptability: I wrote a post about unrealistic expectations recently. In the process, it occurred to me that by reacting badly when my plans for our family’s outdoor adventures went awry, I was teaching my sons to follow suit. Rather than modeling adaptability, I was showing resistance and inflexibility. As parents, caregivers, and role models, it is our place to teach kids to accept change—not to fight against it.
  3. Acknowledge emotions associated with change: For many, change is frightening. We’re more likely to put up with the miserable we know than try something new. Outdoors settings represent an added component to these emotions, heightening fears of failure or worry about “doing it wrong.” However, these outdoor experiences also allow for more flexibility without dire consequences (yes, there are exceptions; I’ll save those for another post on another day): Can’t go on a picnic because it’s raining? Plan a puddle-jumping contest instead. Blow a bike tire in the middle of the family ride? Have a contest while walking back to see who can identify the most birds flying overhead.
  4. Think about opportunities afforded by unexpected changes: The idea of a “Plan B” is really a cliche since we discuss it so often, but having a Plan B, an alternative activity, in mind can keep problems in perspective. If something goes wrong, what could you do instead? Often the alternative ends up being as good—if not better—than the original plan.
  5. Praise flexibility. If we want to emphasize good behavior—in ourselves or in our children—a quick word of praise goes a long way. “Nice job rolling with the changes!” I’ve said to my sons—or “I’m so glad you decided to try out this trail instead of the one we’d intended.”

A confession: I’m not great at this idea of adaptability. In scenario A at the beginning of this post, the one with all the drinks left at home (for a week-long trip no less!), I fumed in the truck after the discovery. Admittedly, this was a minor issue that was easily remedied with a stop at a convenience store. My sons actually loved the fact they got to choose their own drinks, making that part of the trip better for them than what I’d planned. It was their flexibility that I leveraged later in the trip when it was too cold to do a planned activity and they were upset. “Remember how getting to pick your own drinks was better than what we’d planned?” I asked them. “Let’s think of something else we could do that would make today better.”

The natural world is a great model of adaptability and an excellent teacher, too—if we let it.

What outdoor activity disasters have happened to you and your family? Were you able to be adaptable and save the day?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

I Pledge to Help Women & Girls Achieve Their Ambitions – IWD 2016

International Women's Day

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day set aside to recognize women’s contributions to the social, economic, cultural and political health of our world. The theme this year is gender parity. The IWD website notes

The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.

While I’m realistic in knowing that I can’t make any sort of major steps toward achieving gender parity, I’m taking up one of the IWD pledges in my own little corner of the world:

Pledge for parity

One way women can continue to push the boundaries is through improved self-confidence. There are few things better for building a person’s sense of self than getting outside and active. According to a March 6 article, from the Couer d’Alene Press, “…There is some research that suggests outdoor play leads to overall well being, which ultimately leads to higher self esteem and confidence.”And right now, according to Jill Sanford at The Clymb, is a great time to be an active outdoor woman:

…Most mil­len­ni­als were raised by women who had the oppor­tu­nity to be active. We grew up with pro­fes­sional female ath­letes as role mod­els. We played sports and went hik­ing with our dads and broth­ers. Life wasn’t always like this for girls, but slowly, the norm has shifted and women are allowed, even encour­aged, to be active par­tic­i­pants in all things athletic.

Organizations have popped up all over the country to give women and girls a chance to get active and play outside. Here are just a few:

  • Women Outdoors: A network where women can meet other women who share their outdoor interests and values. We provide a place for women who, through the outdoors, build bridges among members of diverse outdoor skills, ages, lifestyles and cultures.
  • Outdoor Women’s Alliance: The nonprofit media and adventure collective that encourages, educates, and engages females through adventure sports worldwide.
  • CLIPPED Outdoors:  community organization with a passion for engaging women in active outdoor pursuits. Through community building, programming, networking and partnerships, we enable women to advance and excel as leaders and mentors in their active outdoor goals.
  • Girls on the Run: A 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

If you’re still on the fence, many states, including Illinois and Ohio, have programs designed to introduce women to outdoors activities.

Okay, I fully acknowledge that getting outside will not in and of itself reduce gender parity. However, I know from experience that the problem-solving skills, resilience, determination, persistence, and adaptability I’ve learned from participating in outdoor activities have prepared me well for the challenges I face on the job and in my social world. If I’m pledging to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, I think getting outside is a great first step.

How will you help women and girls achieve their goals in 2016? Will you take the IWD #PledgeforParity with me? 

**A special thanks for Sayanti aka Shine at the blog Close to you for the reminder of IWD’s approach!



Why #OutdoorFamilies Matter

I haven’t been able to get this tweet out of my head since I read it this morning:


This is why I get off the couch when it’s cold and snowy.

This is why I’m outside in the yard even though the house is a mess.

This is why I pack up the camper over and over all summer long–even though I have a perfectly nice home (that probably needs cleaning).

It’s all about the memories. 

In an article titled “Sharing Memories as Gifts: Treasures to Last a Lifetime” published by Outdoor Families Magazine, Suzanne Solsona gets at this issue of memories when she asks,

Without thinking too much about it: What is your most vivid, cherished memory of childhood? Your teenage years? As an adult?

She argues that those memories are related to what we did–not what we had. I’d go one step further and say that many of my own most vivid memories were about what I did outside. Like the tweet above suggests, when I think of my favorite memories, they aren’t of television or movies (even though I’m a major fan of both). They aren’t about things I did inside at all. Instead, I remember…

  • Reading a book by the campfire with my parents on Foote Pond.
  • Sleeping on the Lake Huron beach as a teenager (admittedly not all that comfortable).
  • Hiking with my son to the top of his namesake mountain–only to realize he’d fallen asleep on the way.
  • Seeing amazement on my sons’ faces when they first saw Mt. Rushmore.
  • Getting swept up in my kids’ glee as they flew down snow-covered hill on their sleds.

These are the things I remember–and the things I hope my sons remember, too. These memories are the reason my family is an #OutdoorFamily.


What are your reasons for getting outdoors? Are you an #outdoorfamily–or aspiring to be?