Category Archives: future

Happiness

Happiness 1

I am not quite sure what shifted in my life over the past few months, but I can feel it.  I am happier than I have been in years.  It makes no sense on the surface.  This summer, quite frankly, I was miserable beyond words, and now, I am far from it.

Nothing major changed.  I am still single (more on that later), I am only slightly closer to starting the family I so desperately want, and my dad still hasn’t fully retired from the canoe livery.  My teaching career is not yet off the ground, and I am not yet a published author.  It just doesn’t matter that much anymore.  I am working toward the items I listed above, with one notable exception:  a relationship.

In fact, finally letting go of the idea that I should be in a relationship may be responsible for my new-found happiness – and my renewed focus.  After finally fully addressing my feelings for one man in particular and letting him know exactly how I feel (it wasn’t going to work), I just didn’t care anymore.

It isn’t that I am completely giving up on the idea of ever being in a relationship.  No, it is more than that.  Maybe I am finally learning that there is nothing stopping me from what I want out of life.  I know what it is like to be in an awful relationship, how destructive it can be, and how it can slowly erode over time without one even realizing it until it is far too late.  I also know what it is like to continually wonder if you should let your true feelings be known.  In this case, this person’s friendship meant so much to me that I did not want to jeopardize it.  That is what I feared most:  that he would no longer be a part of my life.

For the first time in 15 years – actually, most of my adult life – I am not in a relationship nor do I necessarily want to be in one.  There is no one in my life I would like to date, and I am fine with it.  Finally.

So far, my little “yes” experiment has been a success.  You can read more about it here.  There is so much to do and so little time.

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The Stories We Tell

Frontier

“Then I understood that in my own life I represented a whole period of American history.  That the frontier was gone, and agricultural settlements had taken its place when I married a farmer.  It seemed to me that my childhood had been much richer and more interesting than that of children today, even with all the modern inventions and improvements.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder, as referenced in Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser

Storytelling just seems to be on my mind lately.  Recently, while substitute teaching a high school English class, students were asked to respond to a journal prompt asking them to name the best storyteller in their life and what made that person such a great storyteller.  As students wrote, I responded in my own way.  I thought about what I would write.

Hands down, my dad is the best storyteller I know.  Maybe it is the fact that he is a hunter and storytelling is such a rich part of the hunting tradition or maybe he just likes to gab.  It could be a little of both.  As a young girl, I loved listening to my dad’s stories, no matter what the subject.  Throughout my childhood, he told me local legends, none of which I quite believed.  In fact, my dad has a reputation for making a story more exciting or scary for his children.  When he told me the local legend of the witchy wolves (you can read what I wrote about them here), I truly thought he made it up in an effort to scare me and my sister.  Our family happened to be walking in the Omer plains, the supposed home of the witchy wolves, when he told me this story, which added to the ambiance.  One of many, dad always seemed to have some story to share.

What makes him such a good storyteller?  I am not sure, but I do know that he likes to include elements of truth, humor, and fear in his stories.  His best stories include all three.  Some of his hunting stories, which always contain more of a human element than anything, stick with me after all these years. More than anything, he knows how to keep interest and seems to always have a story for any occasion.

If there is one thing that I hope to inherit from my parents, it is their storytelling abilities.  While children’s love of good storytelling doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, there is a disconnect.  They way we tell stories changed.  If we are looking to encourage kids to engage more with the world around them instead of the digital world, maybe we should encourage them to tell their own stories and develop their own storytelling abilities and style.

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I am a part of the micro-generation between Gen Xers and Millennials, born between 1977 and 1983, now called Xennials.  Those of us in that microgeneration watched our world transition from analog to digital.  This is one of the main reasons we are considered our own microgeneration.  While Gen Xers largely experienced a largely analog childhood, Millennials are the first true digital natives.  As a Xennial, I experienced the transition firsthand.  This is precisely why I can relate to the Laura Ingalls Wilder quote above.  I may not have experienced the frontier, but I did experience a fundamental change in culture and way of life.  I can only hope to tell my story of that transition.  All I can do is keep trying.

Xennial

Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl

I recently read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis per my sister’s recommendation.  Actually, it all started with the meme above.  I then found out that my sister loved the book.  Of course, it immediately moved to the top of my to be read pile.  I love the fact that I belong to a family that shares and recommends books!

Here are a few gems from the book and my thoughts. There are many more I could share here, but I will leave you to discover them yourself.  I highly recommend the Kindle version of the book as it allows the reader to highlight important passages without defacing a physical book.

Sometimes choosing to walk away, even if it means breaking your own heart, can be the greatest act of self-love you have access to. – Page 53.

This just seems to sum up the process I put myself through this summer.  The sad part is that I should have definitively learned this lesson years ago.  I wish everyone, women and men, knew this before heading off to college – or shortly thereafter.  It ultimately would have saved me so much time and heartache.

I knew I was letting my fear control me, that the worry about giving my heart away again only to have it stomped on kept me from taking a next step.  In the midst of such heartache, it’s hard not to worry.  I cried so many tears, thinking, Lord, why would you put this desire on my heart if it wasn’t ever going to come true?  And, God, if we try again, you’re not actually sending my heart out to be slaughtered, right? – Page 108.

Oh, have I been there!  More than once.  There are times when I still wonder how I will ever be able to trust again.  It is not easy to pick ourselves up and try again.  Yet, we must.

I want you to see someone who kept showing up again and again, even when it was tearing her apart.  I want you to see someone who kept walking in faith because she understood that God’s plan for her life was magnificent – even if it was never easy.  And even if it wasn’t easy, she was bold and courageous and honest even when the truth was hard to share. – Page 173

I admit, lately I have struggled to have faith that God does indeed have a plan for my life.  I am currently slogging through it all to figure out exactly what that plan is.  If I am meant to have a family of my own, why haven’t I been able to make it work yet?  Why is that the big unnegotiable of my life if, indeed, it is impossible?  I ask myself questions similar to this all the time.  Ultimately, it is not my timing, but God’s.  It will eventually work out.  Until then, I just need to be patient and keep working.  It will never be easy.

As you can see, I loved the book.  It is a great example of a book that came into my life at the exact time I needed to read it.  I happened to read it just as I was struggling with these questions.  While I would recommend the book to every young woman I know, it doesn’t mean I think the book is perfect.

If fact, in one sense, the book left me feeling unsettled.  It is a feeling I get whenever I get too involved in anything related to religion.  What no one seems to address in organized religion – and Rachel seems to unintentionally fall into this – is that not all women will end up married and become mothers.  Singles in the church, particularly those no longer in their twenties, seem to get left behind.  Whether explicit or implicit, the focus always seems to be on marriage and family.

While I think Rachel was right to spend much of her book focused on marriage and motherhood – after all, this book shares her life experiences – she doesn’t address what happens if you do end up alone.  She doesn’t even seem to acknowledge the possibility even though she goes out of the way to address situations not her own.  This may not be true, but it appears she assumes everyone will end up married and a mother.  A simple acknowledgement would have served the book well.  Then again, maybe I am reading way too much into this and too sensitive.  It doesn’t matter.  The book itself is great, and I highly recommend it.

By the way, I love how she addresses adoption in this book.  I am so glad I read this book before I started the adoption process.  Her family’s story related to foster care and adoption is not an easy one, but it does have a wonderful outcome.  In the end, that is all that matters.

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The Rifle

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

To Love Again

Grandma and me – Michigan State University – 2001

Somewhere along the line, I lost my love of life.  When I think back to the young woman I was during my years at Michigan State, I can’t help but wonder what happened.  I was always planning a new adventure, whether another study abroad program, participating in Alternative Spring Break, or internship/co-op opportunities, not to mention various part-time positions (paid and unpaid) I held while on campus, among many other experiences.  No, I am not that young anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go after what I want out of life.

 

Unfortunately, over the last decade or so, I began to doubt myself and question everything.  It no longer matters how or why, what matters now is that I get back to pursuing what I love.  Now, I must figure out precisely what that looks like.  There is so much work to do.

A couple of weeks ago, my aunt, my mom, and I went through several drawers of my grandmother’s memorabilia – family photographs, cards, letters, newspaper clippings, and more.  One thing stood out above everything else:  Grandma lived her life to the fullest, even in the face of tragedy.  How I wish I could talk to her now.  Today is the first anniversary of her death.  Tomorrow would mark her 93rd birthday.  There is so much I wish I could ask her.

When I think of all the legacies left behind, it is her love of life that stays with me the most.  She did exactly what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it.  My dad, her youngest son, did the same.  Both passed that on to me.  I am just as stubborn as well.  Now to figure out what’s next.  I am far from where I was five years ago, but I am not yet where I need to be.

New Year, Old Question

Think for YourselfHere goes nothing. The new school year is upon us. In late June, I accepted a position teaching Spanish and world history at an alternative high school. At this point, as I have completed several professional development sessions and prepared my classroom with my colleagues, I can safely say that I feel right at home. I am eager to meet my students on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

This upcoming school year is the culmination of several years of taking dozens classes at both the local community college and university, seemingly endless testing, and hundreds of hours in countless classrooms both as a student teacher and a substitute teacher. I am as ready as I will ever be. While it would be a flat out lie to say that I am not nervous, I can safely say that I prepared. Better yet, I am excited.

Over the last five years, I found my way out of depression and an awful relationship. I didn’t focus on anything other than completing my education and training to become a teacher. I am now well on my way to becoming “me” again. The questions I face now are as personal as it gets. I am now where I want to be with my career. I just need to stay on my current path. The same cannot be said for my personal life. Frankly, I am unsure of what I want anymore. It is true that I want more than anything to be a mom. That is non-negotiable. I will adopt. Beyond that, I do not know.

The details get me. I find myself wondering if I truly want to do this alone. I know I can do this on my own, but when I am completely honest, I do not want to raise a child alone. It doesn’t mean that I won’t or can’t do it alone. I know I can, and I will. At the same time, I want a man in my life that I can count on. I want someone to share all of this with day in, day out – an actual partner. For several reasons, many of which are way too personal to share here, I don’t see it happening. My instinct is to be as happy as possible alone, focusing on what I want and starting a family alone. I am afraid of shutting the right man out. It feels as though I am caught between doing nothing and risking utter humiliation. Again.

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