Testing One’s Mettle

“What are you afraid of?” author Bob Mayer asked at a writing conference, “because that’s what’s holding you back as writers.”

At the time, it was social media–mastering new technology, committing to cranking out a weekly post. But I started a blog, and am glad I did.  Since my first blogpost I’ve made new friends, discovered photographic storytelling, which I love, and crossed a whopper off this writer’s to-do list.

Marriage was another commitment that terrified me, but I faced that fear too.

It took seven years before Thom and I felt brave enough to assume the awesome responsibility of parenthood.  It’s the most joyful, most difficult, most rewarding, and most important undertaking we’d ever signed on for, or ever will.

Whether we choose them ourselves or take what fate throws our way, the most daunting experiences are often the most edifying.

The most challenging ones tend to be the most rewarding.

With the toughest climbs come the best views.

After the kids were old enough to change their own diapers, we thought could rest on our laurels, but there was an unexpected twist to the parent/child relationship.

We raised kids who challenge themselves.  Bea watched her big brother do his math homework, and designed her own “Really Hard Math Problem.”

As they tested their own mettle, and created their own challenges…

…we were forced out of our comfort zones just to keep up.

Thom and I would never have chosen to go to the Amazon jungle if the kids hadn’t been keen to go.

It was hard to watch my kids twist and turn like little spiders on a web as they climbed 200 feet up into the canopy to zipline.  And for the first (and probably last) time in my life, I went ziplining too.  You never know when someone might need a bandaid or some bug repellant.

Only for my kid would I board a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, another thing I swore I’d never do. But it’s good to feel a fire in your belly and rise above your fears.

We are not extreme travelers.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: most of the adventures I have are in my own mind.  But for the sake of my kids, I’ve put on my big girl panties and donned a hard hat once or twice.

Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind.

 I appreciate people who can lure me out of my comfort zone.

Sometimes it’s good to commit to a path with unexpected twists and bends.

I’m sure I’m a better person for it. And if nothing else, Life Outside The Comfort Zone provides great material for a writer.

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Metal.



  1. Wonderful gallery of images. Hugs, Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara,
      Thank you so much for the visit, and for your very kind words.

  2. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    Wonderful gallery of images. Very nice. Hugs, Barbara

    1. Hi Barbara,
      Thank you so much for the reblog!
      Hugs to you too!

  3. raptekar says:

    Love ’em all, all of the pictures and illustrations and memories, but especially the drawing of Mt. St. Helens eruption. Fighting fear, rising to the occasion, surpassing possibilities and smiling through it all.

    1. Howdy, cousin,
      Thanks so much for the kind words–it’s always good to hear from you!

  4. Ah, my dear, that was lovely. I loved hearing you say it took you and Thom seven years to summon the courage to take on the responsibility of kids (I won’t get into that, that’s a topic for discussion elsewhere), but it struck me, perhaps it’s keeping up with the growing child’s innate courage and curiosity that gives parents the requisite mettle?

    1. Dear Meredith,
      Thank you so much for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking response. Yes, I was a touring storyteller and knew that it would impact my career, and also, it was really scary. But I always knew I wanted kids, and the clock was running. I am sure you are right about keeping up with the kids, and trying to live up to being the person that our kids think we are as they get older. And even if it didn’t make us better people, it is a fair exchange for when they are younger, and we have chance and the pleasure of of seeing the world again anew through their innocent eyes.

  5. Carol says:

    I’m so glad that you started blogging and that I found you. I think those off-the-beaten-path trips are some of the best kind. As well as most challenging.

    1. Dear Carol,

      I have loved getting to know you through both our blogs. I have enjoyed having my morning coffee with you many a morning over the last couple of years (Wow! Has it been that long?), and taking a walk through the yard with you and the girls to see what the birdies are up to and which blossoms are out. I appreciate your fine writing, your unique voice, and I also know a good heart and a brave one when I see it. You have inspired me with your grace and courage. Should I ever need to carry as heavy a load as you have, I hope to do so as graciously. And now I am very happy to tag along on adventures, both domestic and exotic, with you and the ladies, and enjoy the stories and photographs from your well-earned well-deserved time of renewal.


  6. This may just be one of my favorite posts ever! Wonderful all around Naomi. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much!

  7. quarksire says:

    wow what a trip 🙂 kewl one 🙂

    1. Thanks for the visit. Nice to meet you. Had a wander through your blog, and enjoyed it. That Model T is really something!

  8. I especially love your wedding photo – you both look so beautiful. And of course the Amazon photos brought back some great memories. Oh and your daughter’s math project – too cute. This was a very fun post. I love the way you always include the whole family. Your kids much be amazing.

    1. Hi Alison,
      Thanks so much. Your photos of the Amazon are stunning. What kind of camera do you use?
      I think my favorite photo is Bea and her Very Hard Math Problem too. It is so easy to include that family–they are still in a position to be able to travel, and we plan our trips around their schedules. Sometimes that involves juggling that amounts to acrobatics, but it is worth it. This summer we will see Poland, to help Bea research a novel she is working on, but we’re all interested, as none of us have never been there before.

      1. Oooo Poland sounds great! We’ve not been there either. Eastern Europe is definitely on our list.
        Thanks so much re photos. My camera is a Panasonic FZ150. It’s a bridge camera. I wouldn’t get a DSLR because of the weight, but now there are these nifty little mirrorless cameras so that’s my next upgrade. Will never buy a Panasonic camera again – lousy after sales service.

      2. Thank you for the info, Alison. I am having fun anticipating a new destination. Since Eli has been in Latin American Studies, we have gone down there to visit, and I’m looking forward to returning to Europe. Best wishes on your travels–am enjoying your blog a few posts at a time, as I am SO far behind!

  9. y. prior says:

    this was such great post – flowed so well and the text along with the photos really gave me a feel for so much. just so nice….

    and the math problem your daughter made cracked me up! I have a similar picture of my son holding up a notebook – but he was a bit younger (4 ) and he filled a page with cursive – his style of cursive that is – but every line was filled and it was cool.

    and lastly wanted to note this “most of the adventures I have are in my own mind. But for the sake of my kids…” ahhhhh = well said!

    1. Thank you! That’s such a sweet story about your son. They are in such a big hurry to grow up, and it happens far too quickly.
      I appreciate your visit, and your generous response, and especially your sharing some of your story.

  10. Roy McCarthy says:

    OMG I can’t look at that pic of your daughter up the cliff face 😮 I’m happy to admit I’m a coward and was content to look after the bags and coats when we were in Orlando. The only boundaries I’ve started to push are in my writing when I’ve researched certain subjects I knew nothing about, and explored areas outside my personal experiences.

    1. Dear Roy,
      I love your comments. I always know you will say something to make me think, or smile. I love the idea of pushing boundaries through your writing! And I love that writing allows us to explore and experience places and things we might never otherwise get to. Why do kids need to see Star Wars a dozen times? Because it gives them a safe place from which to experience danger and fear, and to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally for the challenges of life.
      Thank you so much for the visit, and for taking the time to share a comment.
      Best wishes,

  11. Excellent storytelling woven through the showing (I feel like I’m a school teacher marking your work!) Great that your kids are so adventurous and wanting to challenge themselves (even if it’s a worry for you at times!), and you’ve experienced some wonderful things. It is good to push yourself out of your comfort zone at times, there are several things I’ve done that have definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone (e.g. skydiving, stand-up comedy), and even though they’ve terrified me, and I have no desire to do them again, I’m still really pleased to have had the experience of doing them.

    1. Hi Vanessa,
      Thank you so much for your visit, and your warm response. I do worry about the kids, but that’s just something every parent has to learn to live with. They are living full lives, and I wouldn’t have it otherwise. I think I have also taught them to be careful and use good judgement. I think your comfort zone is definitely larger than mine. I would NEVER jump out of an airplane with only a sheet of silk to catch the wind and keep me from free-falling thousands of feet! I am so glad you lived to tell the tale!

  12. Tish Farrell says:

    So many wise words here, Naomi. Yes, dammit, what is one scared of? 🙂

    1. Thank you,Tish. In some ways I am getting a little more willing to try new things as I get older. The chicks are pretty much launched, and I am careful.
      I know a few people whose lives get smaller and smaller as they age, never opening the blinds so the neighbors won’t see in. If the garbage disposal backed up once, then they never use it again. Never go outside for fear of catching a germ. I don’t want to live in fear.

  13. scillagrace says:

    My daughter named one of her writing blocks as “Imposter Syndrome”, but being slightly deaf on the phone, I thought she said, “Imposters in Rome”. “Yes, I mean, how can you tell which robed guy is really the Pope?” she went on… 😉 tee-hee. Love your adventurous attitude about life. Challenges are not only worth it, but FUN!

    1. Dear Scilla,
      I love it! “Imposters in Rome!” I’m sure you are still having fun with that one. Thanks for the visit, and sharing your story.

  14. Be still my heart. This is an uplifting post, Naomi. I love your family dynamic and couldn’t help it when I read, “After the kids were old enough to change their own diapers,” Love, love, LOVE this post. You always make me smile. Gorgeous family photos, especially the first one, the beginning. 🙂

    1. Dear Tess,
      Thank you so much for making me smile too. It’s always good to hear from you. I am eagerly awaiting the net installment of your adventure in China!

      1. The interaction in your family and love of travel t.o.g.e.t.h.e.r. as much as you have fascinates me.

        Thank you for your kind words, Naomi. I’m enjoying this share.

      2. Dear Tess,
        That’s so sweet. I try not to blog too much about the family–this started out as a writing blog–but the family is what my heart and mind keep going back to.
        I appreciate your generous comment!

  15. bulldog says:

    Pure brilliance… to venture beyond where we ever thought we’d go is the most rewarding thing in life… I was too scared to leave my own country till the kids said you’re going to the USA… what for? was my reaction, but now I’ve done it that comfort zone has widened by just so much… love your blog…

    1. Hi Rob,
      So often it turns out that way. My mom used to say she was sorry she and my dad waited until the kids were older to take us traveling, because it turned out to be so much easier than she thought. When we first ventured into Eastern Europe we were nervous, because up until that time, we could always figure out any romance language, at least to read, if not to speak. But it was fine.
      I am so glad that you too have kids who can pull you out of your comfort zone! Where in the US did you go? And where to next?
      Thanks so much for your visit, and for your very kind words. I feel the same way about your blog!

      1. bulldog says:

        We spent time in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and much of the country side in that area…
        I have two trips coming up this year, both on my bucket list to which my son is taking me… the one is the Etosha a game reserve I’ve always wanted to visit in Nambia and the second is Mpaathutiwa.. Mabuasehube a casp site in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park but this camp is in Botswana, the camp is normally visited at night by a pride of lion that can sleep right next to your tent… this is something I often did with my Dad many years ago and want so badly to experience again… the Lion are wild and just come to the camp site to drink from the showers,,, this camp is far from any civilisation, no shops or offices just you your tent and the wilds of Botswana… can’t wait for that one… back to being a pioneer again…

      2. Hi Rob,
        Now THAT is a pretty wild adventure! Africa scares me much more than the Amazon, but it is such a unique place that I would like to see it one day.
        You saw some different places in the US. Most people see New York and Los Angeles and think that is what the US is like. The Northwest and Florida, and California and the Southwest are very different, especially for natural beauty and different ecosystems, but New York and Washington are very good choices for learning about the history and city culture. I hope you come back!

  16. Wonderful comments. Great photo story. You inspired everyone to think about their own adventure journey!

    1. Hi Cybele,
      Thanks so much for the visit, and your very generous response!

  17. Madhu says:

    Another beautiful Naomi post! Loved every line and image 🙂

    1. Thank you, Madhu!

  18. “the most daunting experiences are often the most edifying.” I think you really hit the nail on the head, Naomi. Getting out of one’s comfort zone isn’t easy, but most times, the rewards are amazing. Fabulous pics. Love your wedding photo, and the Mt. St, Helens sketch is priceless. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sylvia. What a very kind response to this post. We have run out of the really comfortable, easy destinations in Western Europe (and also we need to keep the trips interesting enough for the kids to want to come too!), so we are going to have to challenge ourselves more or start repeating. I love to return to a special place, but there are too many that we have never been to for that. I continue to find inspiration from your many trips around the world!

  19. diannegray says:

    What a fantastic post, Naomi! I love hearing of the challenges and why you took them. It’s so interesting to look back and see that every step we have have taken (regardless of the twists and turns) has lead us to this point. Wonderful 😀

    1. Dear Dianne,
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts. If anyone wants to read about true challenges, they should go visit your blog. These seem more like milestones, bumps in the road that we must cross simply to get on with our lives.
      Best wishes,

  20. Good for you, Naomi! What’s your next big adventure?

    1. Hi Ruth,
      Thanks for the visit! We are going to explore Poland–my daughter got a grant to write a novel set there, and this will be combining a visit to someplace we have never been with research for her novel. While we are there, we will skip over to Pomerania to visit the villages where one line of my mother’s ancestors came from.
      I’d love to hear your plans for the next trip!

  21. Naomi says:

    This is such a great reminder not to let fear dictate our lives. There are so many things to fear; if we acted on them all, we would not really be living. I know I was terrified to start my blog, but I wanted so badly to write about what I was reading. What made me feel better was the thought that probably no one would want to read it anyway, but I was wrong about that, and I am so glad that I was. 🙂 I am glad to have found yours, too, in the process!

    1. Dear Naomi,
      I am so glad you were able to face your fear and commit to starting your blog. You do such a great job introducing us to really good books–just reading your blog is almost as good as reading the book. I also enjoy being introduced to interesting and intelligent people (like you!) through blogging.

      1. Naomi says:

        It’s so sweet of you to say all those nice things. I’m quite sure I am blushing.

  22. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    Naomi am full of admiration for you – had to put on my big girl pants just to read your adventures. Photales beautifully strung together in full mettle

    1. Hi Laura,
      You are too kind! I really am a timid traveler, but I am trying to stretch myself. Thanks for making me smile.

  23. socialbridge says:

    WOW, a most inspirational post. What’ll you be up to next???

    1. Thank you, Jean. Poland is going to seem rather tame after the jungle, but it will be a new destination for us all. My daughter received a grant to write a novel this summer, and it is set in Poland, so we will be combining a family trip with research. My favorite trips to England were the ones that I took to research my novel, The Keeper of the Crystal Spring. Somehow having that sense of purpose makes the trip even more intriguing as pieces of knowledge and local color and customs and chance meetings find their way into your writing.
      So good to hear from you!

  24. Tina Schell says:

    What a terrific post Naomi! Thanks for the peek into your personal life! I feel the same way about my husband, who always inspires me to rise to new challenges. I’ve caught his incredible curiosity about the rest of the world, and about experiencing new challenges. By now he’d probably say the same thing about me :-). Loved your message this week!

    1. Thanks, Tina, for the visit and for sharing your story. I am so happy that you and your husband each found someone who inspires and admires his/her partner!

  25. I always love how you put photos and prose together and this one nails it perfectly– yes our kids (and spouses) can push us out of our comfort zone. You’re braver than me– not sure I’d get in a hot air balloon. Our daughter wants to take her father sky diving, she already knows I won’t go. Bravo to you!

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I really am delighted to be able share my photos in a meaningful way. I just read about a fatal balloon accident, and it’s just as well I didn’t know about it when I went up with Eli. NO ONE will every get me to jump out of an airplane! But it sounds like you have an adventurous daughter who loves spending time with her parents, so that is something to celebrate.

  26. I don’t think that in this world we’re meant to stay in our comfort zones. Those that try too hard to do so, are often knocked out of it by one of life’s unexpected exigencies. In an assignment for a uni module, I was once asked to consider, what is the main purpose of our existence? I wrote “ongoing creativity, interspersed with a touch of chaos”. I think that without both of these things, we stagnate.

    1. “ongoing creativity, interspersed with a touch of chaos”. I just love this, Sarah! I’m sure you are right. Change, even change for the good is sometimes hard, but it’s what keeps us growing.

  27. niasunset says:

    WOW! This is amazing post and story of yours dear Naomi, I loved your photographs, they are so beautiful, especially your wedding photograph, you both look so beautiful… Blessing and Happiness to you and to your family. Thank you dear, love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      We were children! It’s hard to believe so much time has passed! Thanks so much for your visit, and your kind words.
      Love to you and your family!

  28. Indeed, you never know what is just beyond your comfort zone that is awesome until you give it a try 🙂

    1. Thank you! I appreciate your visit, and your response!

  29. megtraveling says:

    The rewards are definitely worth the risk – I wonder what will be next?

    1. Hi Meg,
      Thanks for the visit! It looks like Poland is going to be the next stamp on the new passport. How about you?

  30. Cara Thereon says:

    That first question. It’s got me thinking. What am I afraid of as a writer? What adventures in my life would I discover if I overcame that fear? Great post

    1. Hi Cara,
      Thanks for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts. I think you are a very courageous writer who is not afraid to say what she is feeling.

  31. Love the pic of your wedding.

    1. Thanks so much! Hard to believe that was thirty-one years ago! I appreciate your visit, and your taking the time to share your response.

  32. restlessjo says:

    Story telling in photos is one of my favourite pastimes too, Naomi, and it’s always a pleasure to climb mountains with you and the gang. 🙂

    1. Dear Jo,
      I feel the same way about you. You have a good eye for a picture, and a good feeling for a story. I love going along for the ride.

  33. You are such an adventurer, Naomi. Frankly, I think you are “IN” your comfort zone being “OUT” of it! Your writing and photography inspire and delight. ♥

    1. Dear Paula,
      You are too sweet! Thank you for your really kind comment. And you have really made me think. Maybe the only way I will get out of my comfort zone is to force myself (or let my kids coerce me) to do it, and once I am there, being there and experiencing new things is its own reward.
      Best wishes,

      1. I have climbed rock walls, rappelled, and had numerous other adventures….because of my children and “dares”. I am always happy I did it ….”after” the fact! Keep experiencing it ALL! ♥

  34. Sheryl says:

    It’s wonderful how you combined the story and pictures. I agree–it’s good when we are pushed outside of our comfort zone.

    1. Thanks so much for the visit, Sheryl, and for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  35. I had no idea Detroit was so nice to look at in bits!

    1. Thank you so much for the visit! Detroit is a beautiful city, once very prosperous, with so much culture and history left from its prosperous days, and I hope more to come. I appreciate your taking the time to share a comment!

  36. I recognize that feeling in your first question and how fear relates to other things in life as well. That is one of the biggest things that we balance with in our lives. Great post Naomi.

  37. Dear Annika,
    You’re so right! Finding that balance is crucial, and keeping the fear in check, or at least in perspective. I know someone who won’t leave her house except to go to the doctor for fear of catching a germ or falling down, and someone of the same advanced age, also in a wheelchair, who just hopped on an airplane for a trip across the country to see family, sightsee, and have new experiences.
    Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts.

  38. pattisj says:

    Kids change our lives in ways we never could have imagined. I love the picture of you and Thom.

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