Monthly Archives: March 2017

Gypsies – Part 1

Grandma and me – Michigan State University – 2001

I am not sure when I realized that I love to travel, but I am fairly certain that my love of travel is due, at least in part, to Grandma Reid’s influence.  We were always going somewhere, whether it was a shower, wedding, family reunion, or to call on one of her customers.  She used to pick me up from preschool from time to time, and I would go with her to visit her customers.  She sold women’s clothing for over 40 years.  In fact, Grandma’s career outlived several different women’s clothing companies.  She had a loyal customer base mainly consisting of farm wives and housewives who liked having her come to their homes to show samples and catalogs.  On one such trip, one of her customers gave me a kitten.  I couldn’t keep it at home due to the fact that Mom is allergic.  Instead, the kitten became an outdoor cat at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  It was during these early childhood years that I became one of her favorite travel companions.


As I became a teenager, I spent my summers working directly with Grandma on a near daily basis at my parents’ canoe livery and campground. Even though Grandma sold the canoe livery to my parents back in 1977, she and Grandpa spent their summers at the canoe livery with us. She is the one who taught me customer service and what it means to run a business. We also had fun. After she passed away, Dad stated in his tribute to her that she was a “big kid at heart.” This could not be more true. I think of all the times we would go for ice cream (she adored ice cream), all the trips to Lutz’s Funland (a local small amusement park long since closed), the putt-putt golfing adventures, the latest movies, and more. She was a big influence in our lives because she wanted to be – and my parents allowed her to be.

After I could drive, and Grandma is the one who taught me how to drive, I would spend long evenings working with Grandma at the canoe livery.  Occasionally, I would spend the night at her home, especially if we had something planned the next day.  In earlier years, I loved spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house due to the fact that Grandma always liked to stay up late.  I have fond childhood memories of watching Johnny Carson with her.  That would never fly at home for several reasons, but I cherish those memories.  Grandpa, like my parents, would go to bed much earlier.  In fact, when I was older and we wouldn’t come home until later in the evening, Grandpa would leave notes for us – his gypsies.  He always addressed us as his gypsies.  I have never forgotten that.  Grandpa Reid, Dad’s step-dad, did not like to travel.  In fact, he was content to stay home and cut wood during the winter or maintain his garden during the summer.  I think that he got a kick out of Grandma and I always being on the go.  I miss them both and think about them daily.

The Day I Became a Teacher

At this point, I’ve logged hundreds of hours in the classroom due to fieldwork, student teaching, and substitute teaching. As a sub, there isn’t much I haven’t done K-12. Yes, I’ve even subbed kindergarten, although I now avoid if I can. It isn’t that I don’t like young students. I do, and some of the best days I’ve spent subbing have been in 1st grade. I can understand why my great-aunt loved teaching 1st grade so much. The problem is that many kindergartners don’t quite get school yet. The whole idea of a substitute teacher throws them off, and it can become a nightmare if you don’t do things in exactly the same way as their regular classroom teacher. One would think that by now I would feel like a teacher, especially after completing student teaching. Well, I didn’t fully realize that I didn’t until Friday, March 10th, 2017 – the day I became a teacher.

There is some background I can’t get into, but it is enough to know that on that particular Friday, I headed to Oscoda High School to support a student performing with the Pinconning High School Band. They were competing against several other local high school bands. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of some of my former students (from my experience student teaching at Pinconning Middle School/High School). As most of the classes I had during student teaching involved 8th graders, I hadn’t expected to see many of my former students that day. I was wrong. I saw several of my former students, and one look on their faces made me realize how much they appreciated the fact that I came to watch them perform. One student even caught up with me in the parking lot as I was leaving. He just wanted to thank me for coming out to support them. The funny thing is that I hadn’t even thought about that when I had decided to go. I am glad that I had the opportunity to support them though. They certainly deserve it.

What I call the public part of teaching always takes me by surprise. It really shouldn’t. My mom taught all throughout my childhood, and due to the fact that she knew so many people in our small town (not only did she spend most of her teaching career at the same elementary school, she had grown up in the same town as well), it always took us much longer to do the grocery shopping after school. I dreaded having to run errands with her as she always ended up talking with someone when all I wanted to do is go home. It didn’t take long for the same thing to happen to me. It took me by surprise then, and it takes me by surprise now. For whatever reason, that experience at Oscoda High School will stay with me. When I finished my student teaching, many of my students were sad to see me go. I reassured them that I would be back as a substitute teacher, and yet, this semester it hasn’t worked out (yet) for me to sub at Pinconning Middle School/High School. At least I had the opportunity to see a few of them that day. I will always consider March 10th, 2017 the day I truly became a teacher. It reminded me of why I decided to become a teacher after all these years:  The students.

Discouragement

There are few things I find more depressing than a teacher discouraging a student. It doesn’t matter what level, students should never feel that a teacher doesn’t believe in him or her. Unfortunately, teachers like this exist at every level. I found myself thinking about this recently when I came across one such teacher, now retired, in my daily life. I never had her as a teacher, but she always seemed to go out of her way to be negative. I occasionally see this women in my business life, and she well knows that I went back to school to become a teacher. It never fails: She always brings it up and always acts as though I will never find a full-time teaching job. Excuse me? Neither one of us knows what will happen. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

The worst is overhearing negative teachers talk. One woman bluntly stated that she would pay for her children’s college educations in full, as long as they did not become teachers. I didn’t say anything, but that statement didn’t sit well with me. If that teacher happened to have my child as a student, there might be cause for concern (frankly, I am being nice here).

Even as a high school student, I went out of my way to avoid such teachers if I could help it. I knew of one teacher who had years earlier discouraged my aunt from pursuing her chosen profession. He didn’t particularly like my family. Fortunately, my aunt didn’t listen to him and went on to have a successful career in her chosen field. Well, for whatever reason, he must not have made the connection that I am related. I had to have him for one class, and it was OK. However, I did have a choice as to what I could take as a senior. Even though most of my peers took an additional class with him, I chose a different class. I am so glad I did. The last thing I have ever needed in my life is someone to tell me that I can’t do something. I am already my own worst critic, and I know that I am not the only one.

How many students have been discouraged from trying something new due to an overly critical teacher or parent? What a sobering thought. I am convinced that everyone has innate talents; some people just haven’t discovered theirs yet. Imagine if we were all a little more supportive and a little less critical of those around us. What a wonderful thought. So many of our biggest, toughest problems might actually be solved. Maybe people wouldn’t turn to drugs and alcohol quite so easily if they felt what they did mattered, that they could contribute to society.

This actually gets to the heart of what I believe to be wrong with society. We are too hung up on perfection. We don’t value ingenuity. We don’t honor work ethic the way we should. We don’t honor true diversity of talent. Well, I guess I’ll leave it there.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Several months ago now, my book club decided to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There was only one problem: I had never read the original series. When the books originally debuted, I was already in high school and then college. I’d already fallen in love with what I considered to be more important literary fiction. I simply didn’t have time for what I considered to be a mere series of children’s books. The thing is that I’ve never been a reader of fantasy or science-fiction, although that is changing. I often wonder if it might have been different without the elements of magic and fantasy; maybe I would have come to the series much earlier.

In the end, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child became my catalyst to finally read the Harry Potter series. I am still in the process of reading the entire series, but two things have become increasingly clear:

1. My idea to have a protagonist of a children’s book series grow and develop throughout the series is a valid one. This entire subject deserves its own blog post soon.

2. There is simply no way I could not read the entire series, not if I want to write a series of children’s books, whether they are eventually published or not.

Even though I had only read the first two books in the series prior to reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it was enough to get a sense of the series and the characters. What I loved about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is what it says about parenthood. In the play, and it is written as a play, both Harry and Draco Malfoy struggle as fathers. Both seem eager to help their sons avoid the pitfalls of their own childhoods. The problem is that Harry’s son Albus is not the famous Harry Potter, nor is Draco’s son Scorpius exactly like him. As a result, neither father can ultimately protect his son from evil. Even though I am not yet a parent, it made me realize that one cannot base parenting solely on their own experience. Biological or not, your child is not exactly like you. He or she may be nothing like you. It is interesting to me that one of my first introductions to the world of Harry Potter took place when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were adults – and parents. I love the fact that they are supposed to be roughly my age, and if one follows the timeline during which J.K Rowling wrote the books, it works.

Frankly, if I am completely honest with myself, I cannot wait to read the Harry Potter series with my child(ren) one day, along with so many other books. Will I force it? Of course not, but I will at least try. I’ll be happy if my child(ren) finds a genre he or she (or they) love(s). I do think it is true that people who don’t like to read just haven’t found the right books yet.

What If?

Fear

All of the things I fear the most have been on my mind lately. What gets me the most is the realization that in most cases, at least some version of what I would consider the worst life has to offer has already happened in my life. I have lost so many wonderful people close to me. I’ve been forced to start over so many times I’ve lost count. I thought that I would marry only to have that relationship end after 10 years in the most painful way imaginable. I’ve dealt with infertility for decades now. I’ve faced so much rejection in all areas of my that it shouldn’t faze me when it comes to writing. Oh, but it does.

Actually, that’s my point: Why do I continue to let fear dictate what I do when I’ve faced most, if not all, of my worst fears head on? A friend of mine made me realize that I am perfectly content to work on things up to a point as long as it is well within my comfort zone (going back to school, for example), but I then hesitate to take the next step when things become too real, when the stakes are the highest. I am at a point in my life where I need to act:

1. Life is way too short.

2. I am as prepared as I will ever be.

It is frightening and liberating at the same time. I am out of excuses.

Would it be so terrible if for once we didn’t give into our deepest fears, especially when it represents the difference between pursuing our dreams or settling for the status quo? It makes me wonder what life would be like if women actually supported one another and stopped tearing down one another constantly. It still happens all too often. What if honesty ruled?

Beauty

Frida.jpg

I Am What I Am

There is nothing more important to me than sincerity and authenticity. It doesn’t matter if it involves business, customer service, or education, as long as there is something genuine to build upon, it will work eventually. I don’t do fake or shallow. I do not have it within me. There are times when I would love to hide my true feelings, where it would definitely be to my benefit to do so. It is unbelievably difficult for me, and frankly, I am awful at it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, I have been told that I “wear my heart on my sleeve.” Guilty. Unfortunately, that simple observation makes everything entirely too complicated.

The other side of the equation is that so many people write me off, particularly in business, because I am short, appear younger than I am (usually), and female. That combination isn’t great in business when you desperately want to be take seriously. Well, that is their loss. There is so much that most people don’t know about me. I’ve held such a variety of jobs at 36 that it is crazy, but it also makes for some great stories. I grew up working at a canoe livery and campground with over 10 years of experience. I’ve interned at IBM and Applied Materials in the aftermath of the tech bubble, and professionally purchased parts for oil wells for FMC Energy Systems. I’ve also worked at a cemetery (yes, really) and managed a convenience store, working my way up from clerk. I’ve also worked as a substitute teacher, working in classrooms grades K-12 (I have subbed at every grade level). I’ve also written hundreds of online articles for the now defunct Associated Content, earning not an insignificant amount of cash. There is plenty more, but I think I made my point. Frankly, I am not an easy person to define. In a world that loves and rewards expertise, I love to learn new things. Keep in mind, that was only my working life.

I am happiest when I am learning, trying something new. It is the one constant I’ve been left with over the years. It is why I decided to become a teacher. Hopefully a teaching career will allow me to put all of these crazy pieces together, especially when I also have the opportunity to be a co-owner in the canoe livery. There is so much I want to accomplish that it overwhelmed me at times. I didn’t know where to begin or how I was going to make it all work. I have a much better idea on how to make it work now, fortunately. The thing is that I could write an even more detailed overview of my educational experiences, including study abroad and alternative spring break, if I chose to do so. All of it has shaped me. There are times when I think the reason why I didn’t do much in my mid to late 20s was simply due to cramming so much into my late teens and early 20s. I did everything I possibly could at Michigan State, including DJing on a student-run online radio station. The one exception is that I didn’t join a sorority.

I am stating all of this to make a point. The entire time I was at Michigan State, going to school, working, studying abroad, and so much more, all I wanted was a relationship. Sad, isn’t it? I am so glad that I didn’t looking back on it. Would a relationship have survived over a year and a half of studying abroad and working? Ah, no. I had friendships that didn’t survive it, much less anything else. Was it worth it? Yes. Definitely. I finally did get the relationship I wanted at the end of my senior year at MSU. Was it worth it? Yes and no. If I could give any piece advice to my younger self, it would be this: Don’t give up your dreams for anyone.

“Yo Soy Yo” means “I Am Me.”

The Things We Love

Before there was Harry, Ron, and Hermione, there was Kevin, Paul, and Winnie. For whatever reason, and I have my theories, I adored The Wonder Years as a kid. Let’s face it: I wanted to be Winnie Cooper. I wanted to look exactly like her; however, I hoped that I would not be quite so critical and whiny (cue any time she said Kevin’s name). There is just something about the entire series that always stuck with me. Maybe it had something to do with this: Quotes from The Wonder Years. If nothing else, the writing is fantastic. Not that long ago, someone brought up how artificial and inauthentic the late 1960s and 1970s could be. That statement did not sit well with me, and I finally figured out why. One of what I consider to be the most authentic TV shows happened to be set in that exact time period. I understood where he was going with that statement, but it didn’t tell the whole story. Did the late 1960s and 1970s have kitschy moments? Of course it did, loads of them (the clothes alone …), but that wasn’t the everyday experience of most people who lived during that time period. I refuse to believe people are that shallow.

The irony is that if a “modern” version of The Wonder Years was made today, it would be set in the 1990s. From what I remember, most of the story lines wouldn’t have to change much. It would still be possible to deal with middle school/high school crushes, friendship, politics, learning how to drive, and first jobs. Only the historical backdrop, clothes, and music would have to change. As much as I would love to see that happen, it would not be the same. Such a series could only be viewed in the shadow of The Wonder Years.

All of this left me wondering why we love what we love. Why do we love the people we love? Do we really have a choice? I’m not sure. I’m even less certain as to why we fall in love with certain things. Why do we connect with certain music, books, TV shows, and movies, while not caring for others? I have no idea. I do know that I love the movie Casablanca and the ending scene of Bridget Jones’ Diary. I love the characters of Mr. Darcy: Both Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice and Mark Darcy of Bridget Jones’ Diary. The ending of Six Feet Under is one of the best endings of a TV series I’ve ever come across. Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer continues to influence me as a writer and inspired me to read her other works. It completely changed how I read. I refuse to watch anything after the last episode of the third season of Call the Midwife because of how nicely it summed up the series to that point. The adoption scene with Dr. Turner and Shelagh gets to me every time. I could go on. All of these things influence what I read, what I watch, and eventually, what I write. Maybe we don’t find the right material, maybe the right material finds us. As for people, well … one can hope.