About Misha

13112839_10209743542329853_228421241380029854_o

Michelle Kennedy Hogan is an author, editor, explorer, lover of the Oxford comma, and mom of eight.

After traveling down the coast from Alaska to California in a 1975 International School Bus, she and her family now live on a coffee and cacao farm in Hawai’i. Michelle has written 16 books including the 2005 bestselling and award-winning: “Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America,” published by Viking. She has also edited many books, manuscripts, and articles for other writers.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times; The Christian Science Monitor; Salon.com; Redbook; Family Circle; Brain, Child; FamilyFun Magazine; and in many other publications. She has also been featured on National Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, and other radio stations.

Michelle is happy to speak about publishing and writing, organic farming, full-time rv’ing, tiny home living, homesteading, unschooling or gentle parenting at your next event. Email her at misha dot hogan at gmail dot com.

Why “Just Average” is the New Awesome

wan

My fancy big book that made me think I was special – for a while.

From the time I was very small, I was led to believe that I was special. I was an only child, so really, my every whim was indulged. Every toy I wanted at Christmas magically appeared and anything I wanted to try I was, pretty much, able to do. As I got older, I learned to love the “gold star.” I entered every school contest, almost every club, and played every sport (to be fair, my school was very small and only offered three sports – one for each season).

I grew up believing I could do or be anything I wanted. And pretty much, I have. I’ll be honest, though, it hasn’t always been enough. As my adult life evolved simultaneously as a parent (I had my first child at 19), so did the world. There was no Internet when my first couple of kids were born and so everything I knew about parenting I read in books or saw on TV. I started to evolve as a person and develop my own passions too, which included writing, homesteading, and dog mushing in addition to my parenting.

And I wanted to be the best at those things. I wanted other people to acknowledge I was the best. I wanted my gold star. 

I was striving and happy with the striving and now, at the ripe old age of 44, I feel like I’ve accomplished pretty much everything I set out to accomplish. I feel very satisfied with my work and my life and am happy. I love writing my blogs and books and although I don’t mush dogs anymore, I still have children to parent and books to read and a garden to plant and you get the idea. I’m not a millionaire, but I get by and I’m good with that. I have no expectations of a fancy retirement in Palm Springs as I already have a pretty good life here in Hawaii. I’ve consider Costa Rica, but that might have to wait until kids are on their own.

But here’s the thing. I’m not supposed to be happy. Wait. What? That’s right. Everything I read or see on the Internet or on TV tells me I’m not supposed to be happy with this. There’s that article on the 27 Ways to Become a Millionaire RIGHT NOW. Or the show on How to Invest in Real Estate So You Can Become SUPER RICH. Or how about the article, How Can You Be Happy as a Writer Unless OPRAH Has Read Your Book and Put Her Sticker On It?

Sometimes I feel like if I’m not jumping off cliffs with a GoPro on my head or slashing through the mighty jungle showing off my continuous awesomeness, I’m just not trying hard enough. Here’s the thing, some days, I bake bread, or take the kids to the zoo, or go to the beach. None of it, except for an occasional pic of a cute kid or a beautiful sunset is particularly noteworthy. But I like it.

Once upon a time, I wrote a pretty good book that did pretty well. It was in all the right papers, and I had all the right interviews, I almost made it on Oprah (3x, but whatever). And I got to travel. I spoke at huge events and people lined up so I could sign their books. It was intoxicating and strange. I felt important sometimes. But really knew that I wasn’t. I felt special – until I got back on the plane. Then it was just me again. Riding home to see my kids. My kids that I missed the whole time I was gone and wished could have come with me to see the cool things I saw in Seattle, or Chattanooga, or Chicago, or Walla Walla (Washington, in case you were wondering), or wherever the heck I was. I didn’t feel guilty, really, but I did feel alone and not quite myself.

The buzz on the book died as all things like that do and the book I wrote after wasn’t quite as popular so I went back to my regular life of driving to soccer practice, writing articles and blogs posts, sitting on bleachers during basketball games and pursuing other things.

But how can I be happy doing those things? Aren’t I supposed to be great? I mean, aren’t we all supposed to be GREAT?

What’s the point of living if we don’t make a ton of money, are in the newspapers, go to a fancy party, or get invited to speak at a TED talk? Well, if you read the news or your Facebook feed, probably, nothing. There is no point, apparently, to do anything at all unless it somehow makes you money or you can show it on TV.

Whatever happened to hobbies? Whatever happened to knitting just for the sake of putting a warm hat on a friend’s head instead of selling it on Etsy? Although I can’t talk about the Etsy thing because I started selling the cacao powder I make on my farm so I could afford chocolate-making equipment. Why bother to learn how to surf if I’m never gonna go “pro” and get Quiksilver to sponsor me?

So what if I am practically an expert on herbal remedies? Do I have to add another book to the queue about it? Probably not. Do I have to promote myself in every magazine, blog, and social media venture as an expert? No. You know what I do with this vast amount of information that takes up space in my head? I grow herbs and then cure my family and myself of all sorts of ailments. Sometimes, if someone asks, I let them know what works for me. Other than that? Nothing really.

Why? Because anyone can learn almost anything. Libraries are a wonderful tool and just because we learn and master an art does not mean we have to make a living at it. Or promote it. Or have it occupy our entire lives. It’s not necessary to only do one thing for your whole life just as it’s not necessary to be the absolute best at it. You can be the best at it in your own house. Or, if it’s your job, be the best at it in your town. Or not. Being average is what makes the extraordinary possible.

Isn’t that a line from the movie The Incredibles? “If everyone is super, then no one will be.” Absolutely true. Maybe some people are meant to be super. Maybe some of us aren’t. Does that mean our lives are not worth living? Of course not. You are the superest mom your kid will ever have. Or the best teacher to the kids in your school. Or an awesome nurse. Or whatever. I make really good cookies. That’s a skill I am confident in. I love having that skill. The idea, however, of proving that to the world by standing next to an oven all day every day does not turn me on one bit. If it turns you on – go for it.

So why is this important? Because it allows you the freedom to be you. I also like to run. But I’m not fast and sometimes I don’t want to go out in the pouring rain and do it. So I don’t. I don’t want to be a pro runner. Oh sure, I’m amazed by Ironman athletes and ultrarunners. The logistics of doing that, for me, though, is just more overwhelming than not. I don’t need a medal to prove that I can run five miles. My phone has an app for that. Others want that to be their thing – cool. If you like running with other people, then awesome. I don’t. I have 8 children. Five still live at home. I run to be alone.

I might not ever be on TV and my book may never make the bestseller list. I’m OK with that. My life is pretty much how I want it to be. Sure, if someone wanted me to speak at another conference or performance, I would probably do it and have a lot of fun. But I wouldn’t expect it to make me BIGGER than I am. I am who I am: a middle-aged, pretty average, mother of eight with a guilt complex the size of Texas.

I like to rescue animals, feed the chickens, pet the goats, read a book on my couch, binge watch Netflix, take my kids to the beach and travel. Guess what? A lot of other people do too. There is no way the Discovery Channel is going to beat down my door to make a show about that and I’m glad, because that would be weird and I wouldn’t watch that show. But there’s a reason that things are average. It’s because we all want to do them. Or, at least, some of them. Maybe you’d rather surf than read. That’s cool, too.

Average is the new special. Embrace it.

How to Make Chocolate from Cacao Beans

15156919_1108751695906206_5573034174740908354_o

 

Yes, I made these. From beans that I processed from these:

20161031_125940

 

We have the good fortune to live on a small farm in Hawaii. On our farm are many cacao and coffee trees. Unfortunately, due to years of neglect, the coffee isn’t fairing so well, and we will likely have to cut a lot of it down. I hope to put a herd of dairy goats out that way soon. When we first moved here, I wasn’t sure how you could get chocolate from these pods. A little research and a lot of trial and error yielded our first cocoa powder (which was amazing) and now we have learned how to make actual chocolates and chocolate bars. We even sell them occasionally!

So, how do you start?

Read the rest at Hawaiian Mama.com

How to Move to Hawaii

Beautiful Mauna Lani Hotel beach.

Beautiful Mauna Lani Hotel beach.

You can do it!

As a life long lover of winter, my friends and family were quite surprised when we moved to Hawaii. Other friends, couldn’t believe we could do it. Most people who ask me about it wonder, “how do you just move to Hawaii?” “Isn’t it expensive?” or “Isn’t it hard to do?”

Believe it or not…not really. The hardest part is generally figuring out where to go once you get here. In our case, after figuring out the cheapest flights here (out of San Jose, CA; one way; on New Year’s Day), it was a matter of making hotel reservations and then finding piece of land we both liked and could afford.

Read the rest at Hawaiian Mama

Me, My Dad, and Yard Sale Saturday

dadpic

A typical summer Saturday morning during the first 15 years of my life always began the same way. No matter where we lived or what kind of car we drove. My father would brew coffee and then tell me to “get a move on.” Now, most kids would complain and whine and moan — and I did — but I was not being told to do chores. No. I was being told to get in the car at the ungodly hour of 6 am so we could go yard saling.

Yard sales are where my father lives and breathes. If you go into his garage, which is really a neat version of a “Hoarders” home, you will find boxes and stacks of all of his yard sale finds. Walk into my parent’s home, and you will enter a very tidy suburban home. Everything perfectly clean and in its proper place. However, once you enter the basement or the garage, you enter, the “junk” zone. Alternatively, this could be called the “collectible” zone. My father still has Wheaties boxes that you are not allowed to open or eat the cereal out of because Cal Ripken Jr. is on the front.

My father’s desire for collectibles and things that “might be worth something someday,” is legendary…in our family, at least. To his credit, my father does have an eye for such things. At yard sales, he’s purchased original Elvis Presley 45’s (those are the little records with the big holes in the middle) and original Beatles’ EP’s (Bigger record, smaller hole).

Some men go hunting for deer or bunnies or elk or moose on Saturday mornings. My father hunted for bargains. We would drive the neighborhoods all morning, following signs. Sometimes, my job was to hold onto the classified section of the newspaper, where my father had, the night before highlighted potential yard sales. I was to give the addresses and look on the map for when we were getting close. If there was an advertised sale that looked particularly good, we would head there first, but never missed the chance to follow a yard sale sign into oblivion

And that’s what it felt like sometimes. We would see a sign and dart off the road, turning abruptly wherever the sign was pointed. I never dared look at the cars that were likely following us and now dangerously close to crashing due to our speedy departure from the lane. Rarely, a yard sale was clearly marked with arrows and we would follow along, turning right, then left, then right again until we pulled up at a perfect yard sale.

Usually, someone would put a sign up and then they would assume, I suppose, that because they knew where they lived everyone else would get it too. Some days we would follow a sign or two and keep driving and ten minutes later would be in some farmer’s field wondering if this was where the yard sale was.

Most of the time, however, the flimsy pieces of paper posted on phone poles only vaguely resembled actual signage. For those sales, Dad would slow down and I would have to squint out the window hoping to get a piece of the address before we carried on.

“What was the address?” Dad would ask.

“Umm…I think it was 75-something Rosa Dr. Or Bosa or Rosaria…” I would stammer.

“So we’re looking for a road that starts with R or B?” He would ask.

“Both,” I would say. And we would continue on trying to find the sale. Sometimes we would. Or sometimes we would stumble upon another sale that made not finding the “advertised” sale worthwhile.

“What does that sign say?” Dad would ask, slowing down along a phone pole while the person behind us changed lanes in an obvious huff. I was too little to know that Dad was pissing people off right and left with this Saturday morning driving.

“That’s a sign from last week,” I would reply. I know all the signs. I’ve seen them all and if people leave them up for an extra week — I remember. If people hold a yard sale again, I remember. And if people are holding a “perpetual” yard sale, we don’t visit. Perpetual yard sales are death. They are overpriced and usually held by people who are too lazy to pack up their stuff and go to a flea market on Sunday.

So what makes the perfect yard sale? Perfect yard sales are held by people who are really just looking to get rid of a bunch of stuff and hope to make a couple of bucks while they do it. Maybe the money is going to the kids so they can have spending money on their next vacation. Or maybe they are hoping to donate the money or are saving for a new water heater. What they are not doing is looking to make a profit off their used crap.

Two things you never want at a yard sale are people who try to “used car salesman” you — telling you the virtues of the crap they are trying to get rid of: “That will look great on you,” or “I bought that brand new and only used it once,” or

“That thing works amazing.” Oh yeah? So why don’t you want it anymore? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

The other thing you never want at a yard sale is people who think their stuff is worth more just because they owned it. You know the type. The put out their high dollar, brand name crap and think that they can charge almost retail for it. Sorry lady — your kids’ ratty old sneakers are not going to fetch $20 just because you paid $70 for them. They are still stinky and were on your kid’s feet. You’re old Christmas tree stand is only worth a dollar, maybe, and your old toaster is $2, if it works. Do I care if it’s a Cuisinart? Probably not, since I’m apparently shopping at a yard sale for a frakking toaster!

A perfect yard sale has piles of clothes for 25 cents each. If there are shoes — and really, there shouldn’t be unless they’re winter boots or something — they should be no more than $1. Coats — $10, tops. Let’s face it. All of this stuff is going to be on the curb Monday morning, so let’s not go crazy and try and gouge everyone in town. I’m sorry that you’re great aunt gave you a punch bowl for Christmas, but I’m not paying what you “could” sell it for on eBay if you weren’t too lazy to list it and then haul it down to the post office. Not going to happen.

My dad is the king of negotiators though. You want $5 for that old bowl? My dad will point out the little crack and then make you feel bad for taking $2. Then he’ll go home and find a book that puts that bowl in “fair” condition and it will be worth $50. And he will remember forever how much he paid for it and how much it’s worth.

Walk into his house right now and pick up anything. Anything. Doesn’t matter what. Could be the paper towels on the counter. Could be the soap dish in the bathroom. He will be able to tell you how much he paid for it. You don’t even have to ask how much he paid for it. Just look at it. With your peripheral vision. By accident. Walking through the room.

“Hey dad, cute rug.”

“Flea market: $3.”

“Oh cool,” I reply.

“That vase. 50 cents.”

“Oh, what vase…? Oh the one over there…on the mantel?”

“Yeah. Next to the picture frame. 10 cents.”

“Who is in the picture?”

“No idea, but you don’t want to mess with it — could decrease the value.”

“Oh but…”

“Ask me how much that mantel cost?”

“Oh, I don’t really…”

“Go ahead, ask me.”

“Um. OK. How much?”

“That mantel — $10. Hand carved wood. Yard sale.”

“Wow. Cheap.”

“You bet your ass it is.”

I have sat in my father’s garage, in a lawn chair, surrounded by boxes full of stuff, listening to records on Rock and Roll Friday (that’s a thing in my house), peering around a corner, talking to my mom who is sitting on one of five love seats, also in the garage.

My dad once had a room entirely devoted to baseball cards. Not a box. Not a closet. An entire bedroom in their house. Yup.

On a side note, my father will spend hundreds of dollars having steamed crabs from the Chesapeake Bay flown from Maryland to his house in Massachusetts, but will not spend more than $1 on a chair. I cannot remember ever having had matching chairs in my parents dining room. There were always enough chairs, but they were in various states of repair and recovery. Chairs and bowls. Records and baseball cards. I still look at these things at yard sales and have an urge to buy them.

My father helped me furnish my first apartment entirely from yard sales. To this day, I have trouble buying furniture new. I can’t do it. It’s almost painful to spend that much money on something when I know if I wait a few days someone will be getting rid of one of whatever I’m looking for at a yard sale or on Craigslist.

My father and I still, even now, have a tough relationship. A lot of harsh words have passed between us over the years. But we always had yard sales and I will always have the memory of Saturday morning car rides and the smell of old books in the back seat. Ask me how much that memory is worth. Go ahead. Ask.

Hawaii Con Fun

We spent some time on the Kohala Coast last weekend playing at Hawaii Con! What a fun event. If you are geeky like us and into Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or anime or anything similar – check it out. We really had a fun time and were sad we could only spend one day there. We hope to volunteer next year – or come for the whole thing. Also, the Mauna Lani resort is AMAZING. Definitely worth the trip!

Beautiful Mauna Lani Hotel beach.

Beautiful Mauna Lani Hotel beach.

 

The Trouble with Tribbles

The Trouble with Tribbles

 

Seamus enjoying a Hawaii Five-O hot dog - Portuguese sausage, wrapped in bacon, covered in pineapple salsa and cole slaw. Mega-yum!

Seamus enjoying a Hawaii Five-O hot dog – Portuguese sausage, wrapped in bacon, covered in pineapple salsa and cole slaw. Mega-yum!

 

Commander Riker at HawaiiCon 2016. Such a funny man!

Commander Riker at HawaiiCon 2016. Such a funny man!

 

Cylons attacked Seamus!

Cylons attacked Seamus!

 

Beautiful Mauna Lani Hotel beach.

Beautiful Mauna Lani Hotel beach.

 

img_13471