He’s an idealistic professor of anthropology. She’s a pragmatic former English teacher turned stay-at-home mom. But together, Adam and Charleen Dunstan are the Practical Dreamers, bloggers who tackle faith, family, social commentary, wellness/recovery, and entertainment.
In part, the couple call themselves the Practical Dreamers to reflect their personalities.
“I was thinking ‘homely curmudgeon and his brilliant, sexy wife’ but Charleen nixed that one,” quips Adam.
Ever the English teacher, Charleen gets deep about the meaning behind their name: “It encapsulates two sides of a person or relationship but allows room for both traits even if they seem polarizing . . . we help each other cut the tethers of our practical sides and let our dreams float higher.”
But the clever moniker goes beyond just the pair.
“To me, ‘practical dreamers’ is anyone who has a deep passion for big ideas, and then brings it down to the specifics where it can really have an impact on people’s lives,” says Adam.
Married five years, the Dunstans, members of Denton Texas Stake’s 1st Ward and parents of two, started as hobby bloggers in search of a side hustle.
“I think like a lot of writers we had things we felt like we had to get out of our brains and into the world—things that we were very passionate about,” says Adam. “It’s why we’re both teachers, and it’s why we’re both writers.”
Both Dunstans had wanted to write for a while.
“I had always wanted to blog, and tried unsuccessfully more than once—like a lot of things in my life, it didn’t really get off the ground until Charleen became involved,” says Adam.
Though the pair generated ideas as they planned their Gospel Doctrine lessons, their blog covers not just faith, but wellness and culture. Between the two of them, the Dunstans realized they had many perspectives to offer: professional perspectives, but also more personal viewpoints.
Charleen draws upon her experience as a survivor of abuse, a mother struggling with depression and anxiety, a participant in the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program—and life as a boy mom, too.
“I lean on my personal experiences,” she says. “I base my pieces on the grains of what I’ve experienced then I research to flesh out the overall post.”
Adam digs deep into his geek side. “Obsessed with comics since about six,” Adam loves to write about entertainment, but almost everything in his life gets channeled through his inner anthropologist.
“On a more serious level, as an anthropologist, culture is my livelihood and my obsession and something I think about every single day,” Adam says. “So whenever possible I have that inclination to dig into the original language of the scriptures or the way the scriptures might speak to our social problems today . . . I think that the anthropological side of my life enriches how I approach the scriptures and I hope I bring that to the blog.”
The Practical Dreams site boasts an impressive array of topics. From spiritual-themed posts titled “Y U Mad, Angel Gabriel?“ to how-tos, like “12 Steps to Loving Yourself,” there’s something for everyone.
“Other than faith, we also write film reviews, books reviews, self-care, parenting, gender norms, and so on,” says Adam. However, the recent focus of their blog has become Come, Follow Me material.
“Heavenly Father had very different plans for us as the majority of our website traffic comes from faith-related topics and Come, Follow Me study guides and resources,” says Charleen. Accordingly, the pair decided to develop Come, Follow Me resources almost exclusively as their audience responded favorably to their materials.
“We had no clue whatsoever, in the beginning, that people would respond so favorably to these Sunday School-focused blog posts which has really changed our blog focus so much. We fit in a few non-Come, Follow Me posts occasionally now, but our weekly goal now is primarily focused on Sunday School,” she says, noting that the couple feel “called” to do this work.
They offer study helps—in particular, 20 open-ended discussion questions “in line with the doctrine,” Adam says.
“We’re now part of this rich, beautiful Come, Follow Me blogging community . . . I think we offer some things that I am proud of which, [things] we perhaps do a little differently. For example, in our study helps we try to tie in language insights and cultural context, because they matter, but also connections to general authority talks, to other scriptures, to present-day cultural topics in the Church,” says Adam, championing the “holistic approach” he and Charleen take with their study references.
“There might be some humor and even critique pointed at Church culture, but done in a way that’s still harmonizing with and being firmly faithful to the gospel,” he adds.
The Dunstans continue to try new things and grow from their experiences.
“There are some things we’ve tried though and just haven’t worked out—like the YouTube videos,” jokes Adam. “We had like 5 views, and 2 were our mothers. 1 was somebody trying to find ‘Happy’ by Pharrell.”
In the future, Charleen looks toward publication planning on “at a minimum, an electronic book—and if dreams really do happen, [we hope to] get published.”
“We would like to expand our following a bit so the traffic is more organic. I’d also personally like to get into more commentary blending anthropology with scripture study, as well as scripture study with present-day social issues,” adds Adam.
And their readers are waiting. Their growing audience is primarily from the United States, though the two are getting hits from places they didn’t expect, too.
“We never imagined that people in Iraq, the Faroe Islands, or Kiribati would be reading our little blog, but they do!” says Charleen. “Our page views are over 100,000 now and we are so, so happy to be helping people in some small way.”
In addition to blogging, Charleen has started an art studio related to the blog called Dreamer Designs. She sells custom watercolors on Etsy at DreamerDesignsGifts.
The two, both of whom have professional and/or parenting day jobs, work on their creative pursuits at night.
“It’s very rewarding, but also very exhausting and entirely a labor of love,” notes Adam.
“After the kids are in bed, we’ll work separately—me, painting or reading, and Adam, working or reading. We’re real party animals!” Charleen laughs.
Through it all, the Dunstans lean on a foundation of faith.
“Keeping faith . . . is a matter of time and sincerity. It’s also being creative, weaving together my academic studies with my gospel learning with my trials with my self-reflection to approach God with more honesty and humility,” says Adam.
“Through this project, I’ve learned that the doctrine of Christ is still the foundation to faith and a testimony,” says Charleen. “I think the purpose of Come, Follow Me is what it says it is: to deepen testimonies of Christ. Full stop. Anything else is just yummy gravy.”
For more of the Dunstans’ “yummy gravy” and Come, Follow Me resources, you can find them at thepracticaldreamers.org, on Twitter @pracdreamers and @thepracticaldreamers on Instagram and Facebook.