Tag Archives: business

The Busyness of Business

Grandma and ME (2)

Grandma Reid and me – Michigan State University – 2000

Nothing compares to spring in Omer. In the middle of all the mud, daily extreme temperature swings, the rain and snow, not to mention the annual Sucker run, my family and I start gearing up for the busy summer ahead. The canoe livery will always be a part of my life, and as my parents prepare to retire, I can say I am finally starting to make it my own. Our Facebook pages, website, and our new online reservation system all represent years of hard work on my part. Slowly my brother and I are taking on more and more responsibility.

This year, for many personal reasons, I am looking forward to this summer. For the first time in a long time, I have a clearer vision of what I need to do. Writing will take its place alongside all my canoe livery responsibilities. In the meantime, I am working as a long-term substitute teacher until the end of the school year. Last week I transitioned from subbing in a different classroom every day to taking on the responsibility of finishing out the school year in a 4th grade classroom. Just as I eased into a routine with my writing, I need to readjust. In June, I will have to do it again. Please stay with me as I try to figure out a good schedule here.

On a personal level, it has taken me years to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be happy unless education (teaching), business (the canoe livery), and writing were a part of my life. I need all three. When I received my teacher certification testing results for the business, management, and technology subject area, I felt anger. It clearly showed I should have never doubted myself when it comes to my business education. Of the three tests I took for my teaching certificate, I scored highest on the business exam. All areas of the test.

Yet, I did doubt myself when my business career hit a brick wall in 2005. So many things happened at a result that I took a good long look at what I truly wanted to do with my life. Thanks to that reevaluation of my career, I eventually earned my teaching certificate and my general writing certificate. Now, after all these years, I work every day making it all fit together. I simply ask that you stay with me. I will figure this out.

More than anything, I am proud of the family business my grandparents and parents built over the years. This summer represents 60 years in business. I grew up working not only with my parents, but my grandparents as well – especially Grandma Reid (Dad’s mom, pictured above). She, and my parents, taught me so much about business, customer service, and hard work growing up. Several years ago now, I asked Grandma what Grandpa Russell (Dad’s father, who started the canoe livery and passed away decades ago) would think of the canoe livery today. She didn’t quite know what to say. Now I wonder what she would think of the changes we’ve made.

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Place

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There is no escaping it.  This topic keeps rearing its ugly head.  Last night, we discussed it in book club.  Are people meant to be in a certain place?  You can find my take on the topic here. That question keeps haunting me.  What if somehow I missed my chance to be wherever it is I am supposed to be?

Am I supposed to live in Omer the rest of my life?  I wish there were a simple answer.  The reality is that there isn’t.  I love my family, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the canoe livery, and I enjoy spending my summers working there.  Yet, do I have what I need?  Frankly, the answer is no.  There are few people my age around, and those who are around are in a different stage of life.  With one notable exception, all are married and/or have families of their own.  It would be nice to at least have the possibility of dating in my future.

What are my alternatives?  None of them are good.  Either I deal with the issues before me and continue on this path, or I start over someplace new.  If I stay, a part of me will always be someplace else.  If I go, I would miss my family and the canoe livery.  At least in Omer I am needed and loved.

The truth is I am going nowhere.  The canoe livery and the Rifle River itself are too much a part of who I am.  I want to watch my niece and nephews grow up firsthand, and I want to be there for my parents as they get older.  None of that means that there aren’t sacrifices and complications that come with that decision.  None of it changes the love/hate relationship I have with Omer and Arenac County in general.

What saddens me is the reality of where I live.  Over the last two decades, so many people left not only Arenac County, but Michigan as well.  Many were left with no choice thanks to a one-state recession followed by the Great Recession.  I graduated in 1999, and due to the fact that so many classmates moved out of state, I doubt we will ever have a true class reunion.  Most Michigan State business students I graduated with in 2004 headed to Arizona or Texas, including me.  No one seems to care.  Few planned on helping their children create a life for themselves here during that time frame and the years that followed.

While we may be on the path to recovery, we are not there yet.  What bothers me is a general aura of denial that stubbornly resists any change.  Yes, I agree we need change, but we also need to keep what is working – and there are things that are working.  Unfortunately, we do not support those things.  So many people seem to want to change nothing or change everything at once.  Neither approach will work, but no one seems to address this.

What about businesses?  What are we doing to attract new ones?  Absolutely nothing I can see.  No, instead we keep piling on more unnecessary regulations that do nothing except add costs. Instead of making it easier for those just starting out to get started in a career, we make it next to impossible.  Today, we still tell high school seniors that a four year college degree should be the norm when we are setting them up for tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even start their career.  It is wrong and needs to stop.  We need to attract more businesses and encourage trades. What about entrepreneurship?  Again, we do little to support those who wish to start their own business.  New businesses and new growth are exactly what we need, but they cannot survive if not supported.

I am angry.  I want to believe in my hometown and live here, but many times, it feels next to impossible.  If it weren’t for my family, I would have never looked back.  I am tired of feeling torn, and I am fed up with everything else about the area pushing me away.

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Slowing Down

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December 2018 ~ A December of “Yes!”

“Don’t wish your life away.”  Among dozens of quotes I remember from my grandmother, that one sticks with me and forces me to keep going.  Lately, I’ve realized I’ve been rushing around so much, trying to do everything all at once to the point I am not as effective as I could be.

I know what I want out of life:  why don’t I have it already?  I’ve put in the hours and made the sacrifices.  It isn’t enough.  I am so busy keeping it all from falling to pieces that I’m going too quickly to the next big thing:  A squirrel trying to beat a blue jay at its own game at the bird feeder during a February deep freeze.  It’s time to slow down and get it right.

So, what does it all mean?  It means I am old enough to realize that some things take time to get right.  There are times when shortcuts hinder you.

This past fall, I decided to say “yes” to as many things as possible.  Even though I haven’t read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes yet, the concept would not let me go.  I took it to the next level in December in an attempt to stave off seasonal depression and recapture all of what I love about Christmas.  The results were … mixed.

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I loved every minute of each and every thing I did in December.  I cherished every minute with my niece and nephews, my siblings and their significant others, my parents, extended family, and friends.  But, there comes a time when you question your sanity. Are we doing this because we “should” or are we doing this because we truly want to?  It is a legitimate question – and it deserves a full answer.

So, did it work?  Yes, I had a ton of fun.  Yes, I made a tons of memories with my family. But, I also came to the conclusion that less is more at times.  Maybe I don’t need to go to two Christmas teas – although I probably will again next year.  In the end, certain events were skipped.  None of us can do it all.

Ever since January 1st, I’ve thought long and hard about how I want to approach this experiment going forward.  As much as I disliked having so many snow days this year and sitting around being unable to work for a good chunk of January and February, it forced me to slow down.  It forced me to rethink how I want to approach things this spring and moving forward.

Now, of course, I have the opposite problem – and probably will each spring the rest of my working life.  Everything seems to happen at once.  We are in the midst of getting ready for season #60 at the canoe livery, I’m subbing every day, and I will soon start a long-term subbing position that won’t end until early June.  In midst of it all, I am ramping up the job search – a teaching position for next school year – and trying to once and for all get writing.  I can do this.  It is time to get intentional and concentrate on what truly matters.  I need to slow down.

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Best Laid Plans – Career

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I’ve spent a lot of time lately reevaluating where I am and what I want out of life.  What I want hasn’t changed much, but I have come to some conclusions.  I fully realize how close I am to having and creating the life I want.  I am so incredibly close.

Career –

So much revolves around my career.  I still intend to be a teacher, business owner, and writer – just not all at once.

My focus at the moment is teaching.  I am looking for a full-time teaching position for next year.  I don’t care much if it is Spanish, social studies, or business.  I already know how I’d set up my classroom and how I would organize, generally, my classes.  That is half the battle, right?

I also plan to look into teaching online.  While I don’t want to teach online my entire career, it might be a good way to get started.  There are so many possibilities at the moment.  I will land somewhere.

As for the canoe  livery, I am hoping Dad finally retires – or at least loosens up a bit.  I love the canoe livery – and it will always be a part of who I am.  I like where we are going.  I don’t know how much more we can change and grow until Dad retires.

I don’t want to lose sight of our primary business – rentals – and yet, I want to add to the experience.  Ultimately, we are in a pretty good place.  I am grateful that my brother Garrett (i.e. my future business partner) and I have similar ideas as to how we plan to expand the business.

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Then we come to writing.  My writing goals are long-term and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  The other day I had a phone conversation with a family friend I’ve known most, if not all, my life.  It involved the donation of a river trip.  She then told me how much she enjoys reading my blog.  Next, she asked if I planned to write for publication.

The question itself caught me slightly off-guard.  Yes, I do intend to pursue publication at some point, but not in the immediate future.  It isn’t that I am completely putting my writing on hold – in fact, I’ve been writing every day, just not for public consumption – I am not making a career out of it at this point.

I need time and space to hone my skills and let my vision evolve.  Over the years, it already has.  There are many smaller projects to work on in the meantime.  I have no shortage of inspiration – and that is a wonderful thing.  I love the fact that I can use Google Drive for my planning and have access wherever I go.

This post, borne out of the idea that it might be helpful to explore what I’d like my life to look like over the next few years, is a good example of how my brain works when I write.  One idea expands into something much larger.  Instead of one simple blog post, I now have a series of posts on my hands.

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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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The Enemy Within

Enough. I have had enough. This past week, I received some test results that made me question why I ever listened to anyone who could not see my worth as a business woman. It is pathetic because I have struggled most of my life to be taken seriously as a business woman for a variety of reasons, and there it was, in black and white, that I had slowly over the years begun to believe all the garbage thrown my way. My ex used to get in my face about it and accused me of giving up on my business career all too soon. I absolutely hate to admit it, but he was right, in a sense. I had all but given up at that point. He may have had ulterior motives and never understood my need to become a teacher, but he was right. In spite of everything I’d been taught over the years by my parents, my dad in particular, I’d let others’ opinions of me matter when they should not. I just needed to get on with it and do what I need to do.

I feel as though I’ve been fighting an uphill battle since kindergarten. Until then, I didn’t realize that my body was that different from other girls my age – or that my self-worth in school (at least when it came to peers) as a female depended upon society’s arbitrary perception of physical beauty, athletic ability, and precious little else. I eventually made peace with the situation and focused on my education. I foolishly thought that things would change once I entered the workforce after college. The focus may not have been entirely on outward appearances, but it was still there. When combined with perceived notions of power and society at large, I really didn’t have much of a chance. Their loss, not mine.

Fortunately, I am meant to be a teacher. I hope I do have the opportunity to teach business classes. I also hope to teach my students, no matter what subject, that character counts. Practical and theoretical knowledge matters. It isn’t all about outward appearances. I will also teach them to have faith in themselves and not to let others damage their self-worth. It is too important. Everyone struggles with insecurities. Don’t let them define you or stop you from doing anything. Life is simply too short.

The thing is that I knew all of this back in high school, and yet, I allowed myself to be worn down by an awful economy and a lack of professional guidance, among other things. I began to doubt myself when I needed the self-confidence the most. Never again. I am done letting others define me, whether as a teacher, a business woman, a writer, and eventually, a mother. Only I know my whole story. Until you do, don’t judge. I firmly believe that everyone has a story. I just wish more people recognized this and were not so quick to judge.

Leading By Example

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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.

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

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