Category Archives: childhood

Dear D. – Revisited

Sometimes writing is so timeless that it needs to be shared again.  Recent events have brought back a flood of memories, and I thought that I would share some of my favorite old blog posts.  You can find the original here.

D

Dear D. –

After all these years I still miss you horribly.  I just got a new cell phone the other day, and I realized I couldn’t bring myself to delete your number, your e-mail, nothing.  It will always be there.  There are so many times I’ve wanted to just pick up the phone to talk to you for a minute or two.  Like my little brother, you could always manage to put a smile on my face.  You’d laugh your butt off at the hot mess I’ve gotten myself into, as usual.  And yes, Diet Coke still runs through my veins.

I will never forget you and always love you.

Linds.

PS – I haven’t been able to bring myself to go to East Lansing over the last few years.  So many memories!  You were always there when I needed you most.

Body and Other Four Letter Words Revisited

girl-2

Body 2

Body and Other Four Letter Words

Due to a variety of circumstances over the last few weeks, this subject continues to be in my thoughts.  It is so disturbing to me how it is permissible in our society to treat others so differently based on something so arbitrary as height and weight.  Why is this acceptable?  I am so sick and tired of people not realizing that there are many complicated factors that play into eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and obesity.  There isn’t a quick fix.  Food can be an addiction just as powerful as drugs, sex, alcohol, or gambling.  Bullying just makes things infinitely worse.

I’ve discussed it before, but I was relentlessly bullied about my weight and height early in elementary school – grades K-3 – particularly in gym class and at recess.  At age 5, classmates commented daily on how short, fat, and ugly I was.  The funny thing is that while I may have been a stocky child, I was not fat at the time.  At some point, I started to believe them.  How was I ever supposed to feel good about my body?

Later in elementary school, I learned that I would never have children naturally.  I refuse to say children of my own.  When I do adopt, my child (or children) will most certainly be mine.  At age 10, it devastated me.  To make matters worse, one boy in my class found out about my diagnosis of Turner Syndrome and what it meant.  He proceeded to call me a deeply disturbing name as a result, making it clear to me that he knew what I perceived at the time to be private.

It changed me.  I vividly remember balling as soon as I came home, refusing for a time to even tell my parents what had happened it upset me so badly.  Today, looking back at what he called me, it is almost funny – at least from an adult perspective.  After that incident, I owned the fact that I had Turner Syndrome.  While I didn’t go around telling everyone, I did explain when asked what it meant.  I didn’t hide from it anymore, even though I had only recently learned of the diagnosis myself.  Unfortunately, it reinforced the shame I felt towards my body.

As an adult, I find it difficult to deal with my body image issues while dealing with the emotions that come with infertility as well.  I can’t deny it:  I don’t know when I will ever be at peace with my body when, in my mind, it has fundamentally failed me in what should be a basic function.  Somehow, I will have to come to terms with it.  I just don’t know how.

In the meantime, I am done.  I am done trying to please anyone other than myself.  I continue to refuse to play the games society demands of women young and old.  There are way too many young girls today who feel as if they are not enough, that their worth is determined by their weight (and/or height).  That is why I am sharing something so deeply personal.  I want anyone struggling with body image to know that he or she is not alone.  Weight and diet are not as simple as we make them out to be.

It breaks my heart to see my Facebook feed full of beautiful women struggling with body image and eating disorders and mothers at a loss on how to help their child rebuild self-esteem through bullying.  I see it daily.  Frankly, this topic scares me the most about parenthood.Body 1

The Rifle

Russell Canoe.png

Rifle River 4

Stoddard’s Landing July 2017 – Busy Saturdays!     Photo Credit:  Garrett Russell

I admit it, I take the river for granted.  It is such an ingrained part of my life – and even who I am – it is easy to overlook its power, not to mention the role it continues to play in my life.  My parents own Russell Canoe Livery and Campgrounds and have since June 1977, a few months prior to their wedding.  They purchased the business from my paternal grandmother who continued the business after my grandfather passed away.  The canoe livery is as much of my family history as it is my personal history.  Without the river, it simply wouldn’t exist.

Some of my earliest and best childhood memories involve the canoe livery.  I spent countless hours swimming in the river, running around the campground, and generally spending my summers with my family as they worked.  I hope my niece and nephews – and eventually my own child(ren) – will grow up the same way.  Heck, not every kid can say that they have their own busing system!  As my childhood home is located behind our Crystal Creek Campground store, my sister and I could simply catch the bus to our main location in Omer after watching Saturday morning cartoons.  All we had to do was run down the hill at either 9:15 AM, 10:45 AM, or 12:15 PM, bathing suits in tow.  Later in the day, we would turn the buses into our private forts.

Rifle River 3

Our main location in Omer – Trust us, walk the campsites first!

One of my earliest memories of the canoe livery is of my grandmother teaching me to play the card game war in our old walk-up store.  I also remember her teaching me how to find the big dipper in the night sky at around that same age.  As a teenager, I spent countless summer weekends working with Grandma Reid, Mom, and Dad.  Grandma taught me so much about business and customer service.  Dad taught me, and continues to teach me, what it means to own a business and the value of hard work.  Mom, of course, continues to keep it all running smoothly – now more than ever.

As for the river itself, it has provided our family with a wonderful quality of life for decades.  I think of countless river trips over the years.  One of my absolute favorites took place on August 1st last summer (also known as July 32nd if you are a teacher).  I spent four hours tubing with one of my best friends.  There may have been wine involved.  We spent four hours catching up and enjoying the perfect Michigan summer afternoon/early evening.  The weather was so perfect, we almost called my brother to pick us up downstream.  We wanted to do the hour and a half trip as well.

Rifle River 1

My favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground – “Across the road, bottom of the hill.”

It is easy to forget the power of the river on a beautiful Michigan summer day.  The Rifle is spring fed and has a swift current (about 5 MPH) during the best of times, but it can become downright dangerous if the water is too high.  In fact, we won’t rent equipment if it is too high.  Add in ice and it becomes unbelievably destructive.  Fortunately, in the years my parents have owned the business, we have only experienced severe flooding and ice damage a handful of times.  In 1984, my parents’ mobile home was flooded shortly before we were to move into our new house.  In 1991, we had 4 ft. of water in our store in Omer and ice damage at Crystal Creek.  Due to ice jamming up at Pinnacle Bridge, which cuts right through Crystal Creek, we have experienced ice damage to trees and outhouses at Crystal Creek a few times as well.  Nothing could have prepared us for this year.

cc

The “back yard” of my childhood home: Crystal Creek Campground.

In late February of this year, those along the Rifle River experienced flooding not seen since the 1950s due to ice buildup.  Sadly, some people living in Pinnacle Park, which is located just up river from our Crystal Creek Campground, lost their homes.  Our Crystal Creek Campground continues to look as though it was hit by a tornado.  Dad and my brother Garrett are just now beginning to clean up.  It is awful.  Once it is finished, I will share pictures.  The electrical system in that part of the campground will need to be replaced.  On a lighter note, my parents’ home, the Crystal Creek store and shower house, and other out buildings are located on much higher ground and not affected.

Fortunately, our main location faired better.  However, it did not remain unscathed.  Our store in Omer took on two feet of water and mud, as did our pole barns.  Luckily, our electrical system held.  Overall, we were lucky.  Other canoe liveries in the area experienced damage to vehicles, cabins, and more.  Some even lost canoes and kayaks down river.  Throughout this process, we have learned a few things and will be changing some processes when it comes time to close this fall.

My brother and I may never experience anything like this during our tenure as owners, but we will be better prepared.  For so many varied reasons – many of which I can’t get into here – none of us will ever forget 2018.  Here’s to a great summer and a beautiful (even if late) spring!  I am looking forward to being back at my summer office.

River2

 

Dreams

I don’t talk about my mom nearly enough.  If you would have asked me five years ago if we were close, I would have told you no, we aren’t particularly close.  I’m not exactly sure when that changed, but it did change, for the better.  As an undergrad at Michigan State University, I used to marvel at the girls who called their moms every day.  It confused me.  On one hand, I wanted that type of relationship with my mom; on the other, I loved my independence too much.  However, if I didn’t call every Sunday, I would be tracked down.

Now that I am older, I am grateful for that independence, although I can’t imagine it today.  I do talk to my mom almost every day now.  My parents were more concerned when I was commuting and taking classes at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) a few years ago than they ever were during my years at Michigan State.  I find it funny and fascinating.  I think I understand it though.  My parents still had my sister and brother at home.  They were still dealing with sports activities and whatever trouble my brother decided to get into that particular week.  Still, I would never go as far as to say that I had a difficult relationship with my parents, even when we didn’t talk all that often.  They just let me get on with having fun in college – and I did.

As a teenager, it was common for my dad, brother, and sister to watch TV together in the living room.  My mom and I would watch something else in my parents’ bedroom.  I would lounge on my parents’ bed while mom would get her clothes ready for the next day, etc.  One of our favorites happened to be Ally McBeal.  At times, we would have some great conversations too.

During one weekend home during my sophomore year at MSU, such a scenario took place when I needed my mom’s advice most.  At the time, I felt as though I had to choose between semester long Spanish programs in Spain or Ecuador.  How was I supposed to choose between the two?  I didn’t want to have to make that decision.  I wanted to do both.  I asked my mom what she thought.  All she asked is that I be home for Christmas.  It worked.  I found a way to make it work without delaying graduation.  I never forgot my parents’ support of that decision.  I also learned to be flexible and find a way to do what I wanted to do – on my terms.

Shortly before my mom retired in 2010, I learned she dreamed of writing children’s books in retirement.  Considering her career as an elementary school teacher, it isn’t surprising.  What surprised me most is:  1.  I never knew that my mom wanted to write at all.  I thought it was my dream alone, and one I didn’t share with many people at the time.  2.  I didn’t learn this from my mom, I learned it through a mutual friend.  Shocked, surprised, and happy, we began working on her children’s books together.  She wanted my input and help polishing them.

Here’s the problem:  I am way too close to my mom’s books.  I love them.  I know exactly where she is going with them, and I love the fact her books are based on part of a writing curriculum she used in her kindergarten classroom.  We both need to get writing again and finish getting those books ready to submit.  Every time we work on them, I fall in love with her books all over again.

I love the process that we have working together.  It is fun working with her and bouncing ideas off one another.  We can usually come to some sort of agreement or even come to the same conclusions.  I hope we can eventually get to the point where we are comfortable submitting them for publication.  It is time.

The funny thing is that I can just hear my mom reading her books to groups of kids.  As a child, there was nothing better than her versions of Sesame Street books.  She is great at making all of the different voices necessary to make a children’s book come alive.  Grover and the Count are still favorites with her grandchildren.  I can’t wait to hear her reading her own books in front of a crowd eager for more.

Bring Pretty Back

If you haven’t checked out Bring Pretty Back yet, you need to do so now.  Kristen is such a positive person, and her message of encouragement for all women is what we all need.  You can find episodes of Pretty Coffee with Kristen here.

The reason I wanted to talk about Bring Pretty Back today is because I can relate.  I know exactly what it feels like to feel ugly and to lose self-confidence.  I’ve struggled with self-confidence my entire life.  I have never felt beautiful or felt that society has ever accepted the way that I look.  When Kristen talks about feeling pretty, I understand what she is trying to say, but I can’t help wondering when I ever felt beautiful.  I would love to provide an example, but I truly can’t think of one.

My entire life I’ve found it difficult to find clothes that fit correctly thanks to my short stature and my Turners body.  There is a reason why women with Turner Syndrome joke about starting their own clothing lines.  The fact that women with bodies like mine are not normally represented anywhere in popular culture just adds to the feeling that my body is and always will be “wrong.”

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life, but even when I was within 15 lbs. of what I “should” weigh, I still felt fat and ugly.  Looking back at that time, I was pretty, or at least cute.  Even then, I couldn’t enjoy it because all I could still see were my imperfections.  With those imperfections, according to popular culture and my childhood peers, I was unworthy of notice.

 

Book Review: Marlena: A Novel by Julie Buntin

I enjoyed reading Marlena.  While it contains components of a YA (young adult) novel, I would classify it as emerging adult.  Fair warning:  Lots of drugs and sex involved.  The good news is that the drugs, and to a lesser extent, sex, drive the plot.  They are necessary to the plot, and fortunately, do not glamorize the consequences of either.  By the way, when I mention drugs here, I am including alcohol.

I didn’t read Marlena with a set purpose in mind.  It wasn’t a book club pick or anything.  In fact, I discovered it by browsing a selection of online books available through my library’s website.  It just sounded good.  It is ultimately a tale of two best friends growing up in a dull northern Michigan town.  It took a while for me to get into the book.  The protagonist, Cat, isn’t the easiest person to get to know.  Also, in the beginning, I didn’t get the fixation on drugs.  She clearly understands right from wrong, but she is fixated on her new best friend Marlena and making the worst possible choices for her life.  By approximately a quarter of the way through the book, I was hooked and found it difficult to put down.

Cat, at least the older, wiser version in the novel, nails what it is like to grow up, to love and lose.  There are so many powerful lines I found myself highlighting them in my Kindle copy, forgetting that it is a library book.  Below are a few of what I consider to be the most powerful lines in the novel.

Close enough to being a writer, isn’t it, working at a library? – Page 45

As an aspiring writer, I loved this quote.  Ultimately, Cat is a writer, but it took her a while to find her voice.  Her empathy for other young women is clearly demonstrated later in the novel in her approach to difficult young library patrons.

For so many women, the process of becoming requires two.  It’s not hard to make out the marks the other one left. – Page 96

This passage really made me think.  I thought of the friends, male and female, in both high school and college, who helped to shape the woman I became.  It made me think of what I wrote about W.M here in particular.  There is something to be said for reconnecting with old friends after years apart and seemingly nothing (and everything) has changed.

I think it’s pretty common for teenagers to fantasize about dying young.  We knew that time would force us into sacrifices – we wanted to flame out before making the choices that would determine who we became.  When you were an adult, all the promise of your life was foreclosed upon, every day just a series of compromises mitigated by little pleasures that distracted you from your former wildness, from your truth. – Pages 129-130

This struck a nerve with me as well.  First, I vividly remember being terrified of dying young as a teenager.  Both of my parents lost close relatives as teenagers, and those stories stayed with me.  Second, the fact that “time would force us into sacrifices” continues to be at the forefront of my mind.  I have always tried to find a way to leave as many doors open as possible.  There is just too much I want to do in life.

I was always aware, in some buried place, that girls my age had just entered their peak prettiness, and that once my pretty years were spent my value would begin leaking away.  I saw it on TV and in magazines, in the faces of my teachers and women in the grocery store, women who were no longer looked at … – Page 143

I so desperately want this not to be true, but it is true.  I loathe this fact about our culture.  Hopefully I will live long enough to see it change, permanently.

Before that year I was nothing but a soft, formless girl, waiting for someone to come along and tell me who to be. – Page 250

Thinking back to what I was like at ages 15-16, I like to think I was somehow stronger than Cat.  Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case; I could closely identify with Cat in the novel.  It makes the novel much darker.  There is a fine line between the successful teenage Cat and the degenerate.

I would recommend the book, especially if you love to write or like reading about love and loss (or even friendship in general).  Is the story sad?  Yes, but it is also full of hope.  It does seem that Cat is at least trying to deal with her loss, with varying degrees of success.

I know I have talked about this before, but I am convinced the right books find me at exactly the right time.  While I certainly wouldn’t call Marlena great literature, it addresses certain topics I would like to cover in my own writing.  I will be rereading this novel.

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.

Electronic Clutter and Nostalgia

Russell Canoe Livery Employee Party 1998

Russell Canoe Livery Employee Party 1998

This picture highlights so many of my best memories from my childhood summers.  Front and center, barefoot and with a huge smile on my face, I look all of 12, even though I was probably 17 at the time.  There are several people in this picture who had a huge impact on my childhood.  Sadly, some are no longer with us.  Others have unforgivably grown up.  This is only one of several items that I came across today.  Papers from an honors course I took at Michigan State back in 2003 here.  Outlines for story ideas based on my study abroad experiences there.  It made me stop and wonder where I went so wrong.  I have my theories.

What happened to the optimistic girl from 1998?  Where is the girl from 2003 who is about to graduate from Michigan State and take on the world?  Are they still in me somewhere?  I sure hope so.  They would be so disappointed.

mexico-2003

Merida, Mexico 2003

Leading By Example

admiration

http://nothingbutbonfires.com/2011/06/sixty-years-memories

As my brother, sister, and I work on a project for our Mom’s 60th birthday (see link above for more information on what we are doing), I can’t help but think about role models.  It is clear from the letters we’ve received so far that my Mom left a lasting impression on at least a few of her students.  Those letters, preparing for student teaching in the fall, all combined with working with my parents and brother on a daily basis at the canoe livery make it clear that I am once and for all right where I need to be.

I do not remember a time when I did want to be like my Grandpa B. and my Dad when I grew up.  I loved my Mom dearly, but I never wanted to be “just” a teacher (how awful this sounds now).  In the case of my little sister, that is all she ever wanted to be.  In fact, I admired her for her determination and having the sense of self to know what she wanted to do with her life from the time she was born.  I just knew that I needed to create.  I’m not sure when I made the connection between business and creativity, but I did.  I watched as my parents grew their business throughout my childhood.  I watched as Grandpa B. grew his during the same time period.  The funny thing is that as much as I admired both Grandpa and my Dad, they had vastly different visions for their businesses.

Neither my Dad or Grandpa started their respective businesses.  My parents purchased Russell Canoe Livery from my Grandma Reid, my Dad’s mom.  In the case of my Grandpa, he took over his grandfather’s business with his younger brother.  After my Dad lost his father to cancer, he and Grandma Reid kept the business running.  When my parents married in 1977, they purchased the canoe livery too.  I saw the early sacrifices they made to grow their business, and even though no one expressly said so, I always believed that my Dad was more concerned with creating a business around our family’s lifestyle than business itself.  During the summer business came first, but there always seemed to be time to make memories of our own as a family.

Grandpa, on the other hand, truly loved the convenience store business.  During summer time trips to the UP (the Upper Peninsula for those not from Michigan), we would stop at his convenience stores to see how things were going.  He constantly sought to expand his business and enter into new business ventures.  My Dad sought to innovate at the canoe livery as well, and did so successfully; however, he never had an interest to expand into new business opportunities.  As I later managed one of Grandpa’s convenience stores for a short time, I learned so much from both men.

Only fairly recently did I fully appreciate my Mom’s role in the success of the canoe livery.  As I have taken on more of her responsibilities, I have a new respect for all of those summers she worked while other teachers took much needed time off.  She continues to be the glue that makes everything work.  Late in her teaching career the superintendent at the time asked her why she never pursued her Master’s degree (she ended up with the equivalent).  She simply stated that she was too busy spending her summers building a business.  I include that here because it illustrates just how under appreciated my Mom’s contributions to the family business can be at times.  There is no doubt that my Mom had a successful 32 year teaching career.  I argue that her nearly 40 year career as a co-owner of a family business is just as successful.  She worries about how our Crystal Creek Campground will run without her.  As a future owner, I worry as well.  Our Crystal Creek customers love her, and I can’t imagine Crystal Creek without her.

The funny thing is that I am largely following in her footsteps.  Not Dad’s.  Not Grandpa B.’s.  Those men taught me so much about business and impacted my career in thousands of ways, but it is my Mom’s example I will follow.  I plan to teach and spend my summer’s continuing to build Russell Canoe Livery with my brother.  If I am half as successful as my Mom as both teacher and small business owner, I will do well.

home

The "back yard" of my childhood home:  Crystal Creek Campground.

The “back yard” of my childhood home: Crystal Creek Campground.

Dreamer By Day

Quote-Lawrence

This happens to be one of my favorite quotes of all time, and like anything else, there is a story behind it.  I first came across it as part of the final episode of Roseanne.  Even though Roseanne ran throughout much of my childhood, I did not watch it much until it was in reruns.  As so many have noted over the years, the early years of the series are far and away the best.  The final couple of seasons grew increasingly strange and unbelievable, at times almost unwatchable.  I heard rumors and opinions on the series finale, and I finally had to experience it for myself.  I wasn’t prepared for my reaction.

I can fully understand why people didn’t like it and felt that it was a trite way to write off a year or two of bad writing.  As a writer, I saw it as something else.  It turns out that Roseanne explained that horrible last year or two of the series as the fiction of the fictional Roseanne Connor.  It turns out that she wrote the entire series and changed things to suite her liking.  She paired Mark with Becky and Darlene with David, not the other way around as in “real” life.  She portrayed her sister Jackie as a single woman forever searching for the right man, instead of the lesbian that she was.  The biggest surprise of all:  Dan actually died as a result of his heart attack.  No, they never won the lottery.  As questionable television as it may be, it works if you are a writer.

I love Roseanne Connor’s monologue at the end of the series.  She explains that she wrote in order to cope with the reality and loneliness of her life, particularly after Dan died.  She decided to “fix” things.  It happened to be her way of making sense of her chaotic life.  That is something I think all writers can understand.  It still surprises me that such a complex, interesting quote, coupled with a wonderful monologue that explains the need for a creative outlet, ended a beloved 80’s sitcom.  Unfortunately, I believe the complexity is and was lost on many people.

Roseanne