Category Archives: love

Modern Mrs. Darcy

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It was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon the Modern Mrs. Darcy website.  It contains everything a booklover could want in a website:  reviews, endless reading lists including summaries, podcasts, commentary, and so much more.  My only surprise is that it took me so long to discover this treasure.  Oh, did I mention that there is an online book club as well?  Frankly, I expect the best from a website named after the wife of one of my favorite literary characters of all time:  Fitzwilliam Darcy.  If you are in the mood to dive into all things books, check it out.  Now.  You can thank me later.

By the way, this piece, written about the author’s experience on September 11th was my introduction to the site.  It is insightful and fascinating.  Much more to come from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

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Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

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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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Summer

Rifle River – Omer, Michigan

As the last few days have brought with them the first signs of the fall to come, I can’t say that I am sorry.  I am eager for this summer to be over.  I can practically hear my grandmother yelling at me from the grave not to wish my life away, but I can’t help it.  Nothing about this summer – or this year – has been easy.  Somewhere along the way, I mistakenly believed that I would have some of the major pieces of my life in place by my mid-thirties.  I don’t.  I am still trying to find my place in the world.

If anything good did come out of this summer, it is the fact that I finally got a resolution to something I let go unresolved for way too long.  In the process of finally telling this man how I’ve felt about him (for years), I realized why it never worked with any of the men in my life.  None – and I mean none – have been the right one.  I finally came to the realization that I somehow managed to reach this age without ever having truly experienced true love.  It is the awful, unvarnished truth – and it doesn’t erase the ten years I wasted in a doomed, loveless relationship.

As rough as most of this summer has been (most of which I haven’t even addressed here), the last few weeks included some fun.  Two of the highlights involve a good friend.  She moved downstate this winter, and we haven’t really had a chance to catch up since.  We finally met up for dinner and caught up on months’ worth of news.  As this friend experienced infertility as well, the topic naturally came up during a discussion about my decision to become a foster parent.  The resulting conversation made me realize all over again that having a child in your arms doesn’t make infertility issues go away.  In fact, the entire thing is worth its own blogpost.

Then there is the river.  Everything seems to be put in perspective when you are on the river tubing, at least for a while.  This same friend and I spent an afternoon/early evening tubing and continuing our catching up from the previous week.  For one of the first times all summer, I felt that things will work out eventually.

Now for the picture …  This picture brought back so many wonderful childhood memories that I had to share.  It is simply my niece and nephew playing at the landing by the river.  I spent hours at that exact location as a child making moats, pretending that river was an ocean, letting the minnows nibble my toes.  The week my brother and his family spent camping at the campground brought back so many long-forgotten childhood memories.  I can’t wait to create similar memories with my own family.

MSU and Memories

Alumni Bricks

Dear D., Continued – Revisited

Dear D. – Revisited

I’ve struggled for nearly two months to write this post.  It is time.  Back in mid-June, I spent the afternoon in East Lansing with my friend Lauri.  While it was not our only intent, we sought the memorial brick my cousin Lugene’s family placed on campus in her memory.  If it weren’t for Lugene, Lauri and I probably would have never met.  Spending time with Lauri searching for Lugene’s memorial brick seemed fitting.  After all, as dedicated genealogists, Lauri and Lugene spent countless days researching in Michigan cemeteries.  Here we were searching for Lugene.

When we did finally locate her memorial brick, it completely caught me off-guard.  It is located near the gardens where I found myself on a first date with a guy I dated briefly while at MSU – a very fun first date.  I had completely forgotten.  While MSU is far too big for me to legitimately say that I have a memory in every part of campus, I certainly have my share.  They all seemed to come flooding back to the point where I couldn’t keep up.

What it comes down to is this:  I need to visit my alma mater more often.  I avoided MSU after my friend Derrick died back in 2009, and Lugene’s death made it even worse.  Lugene took pride in her MSU alum status, and it was a part of her personality.  As much fun as I had visiting, I also felt out of sorts.  I hope one day I will be able to visit without feeling such a sense of loss.

I’ve finally concluded that it isn’t just the loss of Derrick and Lugene that I was feeling that day.  I also mourned the loss of the college girl I once was.  While I wouldn’t quite say that I was fearless as a freshman, I came close.  I thought nothing of pursuing whatever my heart desired while at MSU.  What happened?  Maybe I can find her once again.

The links above lead to posts I wrote concerning Derrick.

Derrick and I – April 2000

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The girl I once was – 2002

What Remains

Dad and Grandma Reid – Alaska 1988

It is no secret that I am a stubborn person.  For those that know my family, I clearly inherited that trait from my dad.  Frankly, I am proud of that fact – and it goes deeper into my family history.  My paternal grandmother, Grandma Reid, was every bit as stubborn as her son.  I have no idea if my dad’s father was stubborn or not – sadly, he passed away long before I could meet him – but I am certain Dad inherited at least some of his stubborn nature from his mother.

After my senior year of high school, I spent the summer working with Dad and Grandma at the canoe livery, just as I had all throughout high school.  That summer, however, continues to stand out.  I normally didn’t argue or disagree with Dad.  I had learned to trust his judgement and accepted that he had reasons for the way he did things over the years.  That summer, I bristled.  I no longer wanted Dad to tell me what to do, even if he was my boss.  I couldn’t get to Michigan State fast enough.  To complicate matters, Grandma wouldn’t budge, set in her ways over the decades.  She didn’t always agree with me or Dad.  In fact, Dad and I had to make her get out of the office and enjoy herself.  That is how much she loved to work.

By August, things came to a head.  The three of us were not listening to one another, and we all thought we were right.  All these years later, I couldn’t even tell you what our disagreements were about.  Really, all that mattered is we loved one another, even if we were getting on each other’s last nerve.  Of course, things vastly improved once summer came to an end and I set off for new adventures at MSU.

While I consider myself close to Mom and her family, our stubborn natures somehow brought Dad, Grandma, and I together.  For me, it goes beyond stubbornness.  It is a drive to succeed.  It is a drive to lead a full life no matter what is thrown our way.  It is survival.

JoJo Moyes: “Me Before You” Trilogy

I’ve read so many wonderful books over the last few months.  They helped me get through this endless Michigan winter.  Recently, over spring break, I finally read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, as well as the other books in the trilogy, After You and Still Me.  I don’t normally read romance, but there is something about these books I truly love.  They will stay with me for quite some time.

It is not my intention to review the books individually here (which I may do later), but simply discuss the series itself, and specifically, its protagonist Louisa.  I will try not to give anything away.  I would recommend all three books to anyone who enjoys an entertaining story.

First, a little background is needed.  I heard the title Me Before You thrown around for years before I actually read the book.  I had no idea up until a week or so before diving in that it was the first book in a trilogy.  Shortly before spring break, I read a review of Still Me.  The reviewer enjoyed the books enough to convince me I needed to read all three books.  More on that review later.

Where do I begin with Louisa?  First, throughout the entire series, she reminded me of Bridget Jones, one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.  Indeed, I view Louisa as a more mature, more capable Bridget.  This comparison led me to view Louisa as older than she is intended to be in the series.  Somehow, I began to view Louisa as in her early thirties and Bridget in her late twenties.  Really, it is the other way around.  There is a difference.

In general, Louisa seems to have a deeper relationship with her family than Bridget has with hers.  I could relate to Louisa’s relationships with her parents and sister, not to mention her grandfather, more easily than Bridget’s.  I am not quite sure why.  It may simply be that those familial relationships of Louisa’s were more fully developed.

Another reviewer (the one mentioned above) felt that while he enjoyed the series, Louisa kept dealing with the same issues and didn’t appear to learn anything.  I take exception to this.  I don’t agree.  While I don’t believe Louisa grew or changed as much throughout the novel as others (the end of the trilogy not withstanding), she eventually gets it right.  In short, there is a learning curve.  Considering the fact Louisa experiences several deeply emotional and dramatic changes in her life, both personal and professional, she needs time to process all that has happened in her life.  Most of those changes are outside of her control, even as she tries so hard to exert it.

That fact and Louisa’s history throughout the trilogy endears her to me.  In fact, on a certain level, I can relate.  Hopefully my life will one day come together as well.  Unfortunately, I am not quite there yet.

While I didn’t enjoy the sequels to Bridget Jones’ Diary, I did enjoy the entire Me Before You trilogy.  I like to think that Bridget and Louisa would become fast friends in London, even if they travel in different circles.  I would recommend the Me Before You trilogy to anyone who loves to read, even readers who normally shy away from romance.  It is one series that rewards readers for staying to the very end.

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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