Today we invite you to pop on your hiking boots and load up your backpack as we introduce a wonderful local Mama. Â Jeanine Silversmith is a writer, Mom of two kids and huge fan of nature, who aims to get more local families up and out into the great outdoors. Â Jeanine lives in Wakefield, RI with her clan.
Kidoinfo: Tell us about your business.
Jeanine Silversmith: I run RI Families in Nature (RIFIN), a family hiking club with the main goals of getting people of all ages to spend more time outdoors, explore RI’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature. I send out a monthly e-newsletter, lead a monthly hike, offer numerous resources on my website, and conduct educational workshops for community groups and teachers. I work part-time for the RI Environmental Education Association (RIEEA), helping to advance environmental literacy in K-12 classrooms throughout the state. In addition, I am currently writing a book.
What inspired you to start your business?
JS: I’ve always been passionate about spending time in nature, especially hiking. I’m less tense, more in tune with my body, and motivated to take better care of it. In particular, I love a good hike. Before children came along, I was an avid hiker — not an expert or anything — but it was a regular part of my life. Finding time and motivation to hit the trails was difficult once I had children. Then, in September 2008, I saw author and child-advocate Richard Louv speak about his bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods. In this ground-breaking work, Louv connects the lack of nature in our children’s lives to obesity, attention disorders, depression, and a whole lot more. Louv offered the idea of a “family nature club” as one way to schedule in the unstructured time in nature. The name “RI Families in Nature” popped into my head and I went from there.
How did you start your business?
JS: After seeing Richard Louv speak, I drove home, bought the domain name www.rifamiliesinnature.org and spent the next couple of months researching places to hike in RI and learning how to build a website and send out email campaigns. My first hike was five years ago this month. It was scheduled a couple of hours after a snow storm ended. I was pretty sure I should cancel or at the very least, nobody would show up. My husband said simply, “We have to go.” And we did. And it was a beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable hike for my family of four. The next month, I posted my hike on Kidoinfo.com and over 40 people showed up!
How do you balance work and family?
JS: I don’t know who said it, but I love the quote “There is no balance, there is only scheduling.” Everything, and I mean everything, is in my calendar. When presented with work related opportunities, I ask myself if it will first and foremost benefit my family. Leading hikes gets my children and me outside in the woods, so I’m happy to put in the time and energy to make that happen. With RIEEA, I feel like I am making a real difference in every RI child’s education and that keeps me going. In addition, my children are not involved in a tremendous number of activities — at least not at any given time — so I’m able to spend less time in the car, in a dance studio, and on a soccer field and more time at home.
Please describe a typical day.
JS: Waking up before the sun to exercise is a must. If I can get in a run or a trip to the gym before my kids wake up, then I feel like no matter what else happens I can handle it! After getting my kids on the bus, I make myself a cup of tea, prioritize my to-do list while my computer is booting up, and start working. I take breaks throughout the day to do small housekeeping tasks like prep dinner or run an errand. I work very hard to be done with my work and turn my computer off before my children return from school so that I can focus on their needs. If absolutely necessary, I will return to the computer when they are in bed. However, my husband owns his own orthodontic practice and puts in long days so we try to carve out an hour or so each evening just to be with each other.
Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?
JS: Laundry is the bane of my existence so I do whatever I can to stay on top of it. Usually I start a load while my kids are eating breakfast, transfer it to the dryer when I get back from the bus stop, and fold it during a conference call or while my kids are doing their homework. I also try to schedule meetings and appointments on the same day and in the same part of the state. I find spending a day or two traveling around and interacting with others makes the time I spend at home, alone, plugging away at my computer much more productive.
If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
JS: I think it would be to take a good, long pause each and every time anyone asks me to take on a volunteer task and critically consider if it is something I am passionate about and have the time and energy for. After my second child, I spread myself out way too thin. I think it was because I was sure I didn’t want to be home full time but didn’t know what the next step in my career should be.
Where do you find inspiration?
JS: Outside. I am always amazed by how everything falls into place after I hike, go for a run, play in the snow, or just take a walk with a friend.
What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?
JS: Hands down my cell phone. I am relatively new to the smartphone world and I was surprised at how it freed me from my computer. And the calendar app is my saving grace.
What is your favorite children’s book or music CD?
JS: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss still gives me goose bumps every time I read it. Unless….
What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?
JS: We love to stay in our pajamas as long as possible, blast some good tunes, and bake something. And of course, we’ve also been known to hike or play in the rain.
What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?
JS: I just finished my first David Sedaris book, Naked, and found his wit and quirkiness fabulous. I also re-read Tolkien’s The Hobbit (for like the sixth or seventh time) mostly because there was so much in the film version that was contrary to my recollection of the book and I wanted to revisit it before the third and final movie comes out next winter.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
JS: Oh, I hate to admit this, but my husband and I love watching Tosh. Because it often makes us laugh hysterically. Sometimes it’s just plain gross or offensive, but mostly it’s a welcome departure from the seriousness of life. Laughing is such a wonderful therapy.
If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
JS: Sleep! Although I try to go to bed early, I feel like I can never get enough sleep.
How has the experience and on the job training of being a mom/dad prepared or changed you in business?
JS: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I am pretty intense and goal oriented. Motherhood has taught me to expect the unexpected and to embrace it. When my children were very young, there were so many times that my long list of planned errands, tasks, and/or activities were blown right out of the water because of an ear infection or a poorly fastened diaper or even just the realization that whatever it was, wasn’t working. I’ve learned not to get too far ahead of myself.
What is next for you and your business?
JS: I’m hoping to complete the first draft of my book and take on new challenges with RIEEA this spring and summer. For RIFIN, I am looking forward to the next five years and checking out some new hikes!
Further information about RI Families in Nature as well as upcoming hikes can be found at www.rifamiliesinnature.org
Photo Credits: Jeanine Silversmith