Tag Archives: childhood

Underground Readers

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In Donalynn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, she describes various types of readers in her own terms.  Instead of struggling or reluctant readers, she uses the terms “developing readers” and “dormant readers.”  She also describes a third type of reader:  the “underground reader.”  While I still plan to dissect The Book Whisperer here, that is not what I am doing today.  No:  I want to talk about my experience growing up as an “underground” reader.

As defined in The Book Whisperer, “underground” readers are students who love to read, but due to circumstances beyond their control, they keep their reading lives separate from school.  They may love to read, but they usually do not have the time or opportunity to read what they would like in school.  Underground readers may even go out of their way to get in as much free reading time as possible during school.  They are the students who do not want free reading time during class to end.

While I do remember having some free time read all throughout my k-12 years, it would have never been enough.  As a child, I remember sneaking time to read and hurried through my work to have more free reading time.  I even remember taking a book out to recess once or twice.  I loved to read as a child.  I still love to read.

Unfortunately, my love of reading didn’t have all that much to do with school.  To be fair, there were times when my reading life was influenced by school.  For example, some of my favorite elementary school and childhood memories involve a teacher or librarian reading to my class.  For this reason, I included Roald Dahl and Laura Ingalls Wilder on a list of childhood favorites.  You can read the original list and explanation here.  I probably would have read Laura Ingalls Wilder on my own as a child – eventually – but nothing compared to Mrs. Butz reading Little House in the Big Woods to my second grade class.  As for Roald Dahl, he happened to be a favorite of several of my teachers, and I can’t imagine elementary school without his books.

As influential as those authors were to my early reading life, I read so much more on my own.  I had the freedom to read widely.  I took full advantage of having a mother and an aunt who were elementary school teachers – and a grandmother who also loved to read and discuss books.  I recognize that I am in the minority, and I probably would have developed a love for reading no matter what.

That just isn’t good enough.  I have to agree with Donalynn Miller.  The conventional way reading is taught today underserves “underground” readers.  Teachers don’t let them explore their love of reading and give them the skills and permission they need to make their own reading choices.  This was true twenty to thirty years ago during my childhood, but it is even more true today.  For example, I can’t imagine being told by a teacher or librarian that I couldn’t check out or read a book because it wasn’t at my “level.”  I also can’t imagine taking AR after AR test just to fulfill a silly requirement – and NOT because I truly wanted to read the book.  Instead, Donalynn Miller provides a great format for serving ALL readers, including those who already love to read.

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Of Witchy Wolves and Writing

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One of my oldest pieces of writing that survives online is my take on the witchy wolves of the Omer plains.  You can find it here over at Michigan’s Other Side.  I wrote it specifically for the website back in 2006-2007.

My dilemma is now this.  I have grown leaps and bounds as a writer since then.  There are many things I would like to correct in the original.  At the same time, people seem to find and enjoy the original – particularly locals.  The witchy wolf legend is going nowhere.  This is exactly why I wrote the piece in the first place.  Currently. It seems to come up every six months or so.  Why fix it?

Even though my every instinct as a writer is to polish the piece and have the website publish that instead, there really is no reason to do so.  I need to learn to leave it be.

Lately, I’ve finally started writing stories from my childhood that need to be told.  They started as blog posts that I planned to share here, but now I am not so sure.  They are evolving into what I’ve always planned to write.  They may have to wait.

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.

Dear D., Continued – Revisited

Here is another.

It was unbearable.  The whole thing.  Every second worse  than the last.  I just kept thinking about calling him, wondering what would happen, if anyone would answer.  In the last weeks, we’d been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing.  The pleasure of remembering had been taken away from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with.  It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

The Fault In Our Stars – By John Green (Page 262)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Photo credit: theunquietlibrary)

Dear  D.,

I’ve been meaning to write you all this past week for the obvious reason:  August 15 would’ve been your 31st birthday.  It pisses me off I can’t directly tease you about becoming a dirty old man despite the fact I am older than you.  I still feel cheated out of years of memories of us.  I suppose I had such a clear vision of us still arguing over memories in our 70s and 80s, just like your Great Aunts E. and G. and my Grandma, I still can’t quite believe it just wasn’t meant to be.

The passage above describes well what I feel nearly three years after you passed away.  I’m afraid those quirky memories we made in childhood, high school, and then college will die if I happen to forget.  I just don’t want that to happen.  I don’t want to forget.  I’m glad I read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green before I tried to write anything.  Now this letter has a purpose.

That is what is so aggravating.  Every time I think of you, what I want to say to you, or memories of us, it just seems to go nowhere.  Without you here, who is left to really care, besides me?  No one.  Once I come to that conclusion for the hundredth time, I realize how futile writing a letter to you is.  And yet, I can’t help it.  I have to do something.  There were way too many things left unsaid.

By the way, don’t get the impression that I’m the only one who remembers you.  I can only imagine the hole left in your family.  Just the other day I came across a post Carla posted on your Facebook wall.  I know she misses you just as much as I do, as does Jelly.  Some time ago I saw Jelly when I ordered something at Tony’s, and we just didn’t even know what to say to each other.  It was the first time I saw her since you passed away.  We talked about anything and everything else, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t first and foremost on our minds.

So here it goes.  Here are a few memories of us:

High School –

Freshman Year.  You ended up getting hours of detention for picking on me in Freshman English.  It became so bad Miss V. quipped that you and I would probably end up married someday, we were that practiced at nagging each other.  Every time I think of FriendsRomeo and Juliet, or Great Expectations, I think of Freshman English and you.  I can almost feel you tapping me on the shoulder and hear you make some smartass remark about people trying to look like Courtney Cox.  By the way, I know you knew you had it all wrong.  The haircut was called the Rachel for a reason.  You just liked to play dumb to get attention.  I still find it amusing that you ended up with detention and I didn’t.

Prom.  I will never forget you on Prom Night, senior year.  You ended up taking my cousin K. (Rusty) as your date, and she became Prom Queen.  I’d never seen you so incredibly happy.  You had to tell everyone that you were the date of the Prom Queen and were genuinely happy for her.  I know it is stupid, and I never admitted this, but until I saw you that happy, I was envious of K.  If you’d asked me to the prom, I doubt I would’ve said yes.  But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t imagine it.  It could’ve made up for years of us being ostracized by our class.  We could’ve spent all night making snide remarks, joking around, and just proving everyone wrong.  In the end, I don’t think either one of us had the guts.

Kayaking and Guy.  I’ll never forget your Aunt L. and Guy visiting from Texas one summer.  Somehow I was pressured into taking Guy kayaking.  I don’t think I ever paddled so fast in my entire life.  The entire trip was strange.  I just felt like I had to show him up, he was that cocky.  You were very right about him.  I can understand why you two weren’t exactly friends.  I’m trying in vain to remember whether or not you went with us.  Maybe you just came to the Livery and didn’t go kayaking?  It doesn’t matter.  We did talk about Guy and came to the conclusion that he was a little too wrapped up in Friday Night Lights.

State.  I distinctly remember the day we received our housing assignments for our first year at Michigan State.  My jaw dropped when I realized not only were we going to attend the same university, we were assigned to the same dorm complex, Snyder-Phillips.  Quite frankly, I wasn’t happy.  I just wanted to start fresh as MSU, and there you would be, a reminder of school years I would rather forget.  In the end, I’m so grateful for that simple twist of fate.  Quite simply, college would not have been the same without you.

Michigan State –

A National Championship and the Flintstones.  I love the fact that we somehow found each other among throngs of people in Cedar Village after MSU won the 2000 National Championship.  I think about that April night a lot.  How could I not?  That picture of us outside Cedar Village – you smoking a cigar and your arm around me, me smiling like my life depended on it – is among my favorites.

2nd Floor, Snyder Hall.  You used to love hanging out on my floor in Snyder Hall.  I’ll never forget the crazy 3 AM political conversations we had, Kim included.  I just can’t wait until we have the first female President of the United States.  I’ll smile, think about how you just lost a bet, and carry on, thinking about how very wrong you were the entire time.  Sexism doesn’t pay.

Where were you?  I’ll never forget getting a call from your Mom freshman year at State.  She couldn’t get a hold of you and simply wanted to know if I knew where you were.  I didn’t at that moment, and the entire thing broke my heart.  I wish I could’ve helped her – and you.

Capstone.  We’d lost track of each other during those years I studied abroad.  Nevertheless, you found your way back into my life.  You just wanted me to look over your résumé and rekindle our friendship.  It worked.  You once again became a fixture in my life.

Crunchy’s and a Broken Heart.  D, I have no idea what your true feelings for me were, but you must have truly cared for me on some level, whether you wanted to acknowledge it or not.  During the spring of 2004, as my life was endlessly shifting under me before I could even regain my footing, you somehow knew how heartbroken hearted I was.  You knew that I simply needed a night out with an old friend who understood just how upset I was.  I wanted that job in Austin desperately, not to mention the mess that was my personal life at that point.  Many things happened that evening, of course , and even the next day.  I’m not going to talk about them here, but I need to say this:  Thank you!  You knew just what I needed, even if I didn’t.

Brian.  That same spring, 2004, I began my relationship with an old friend, Brian.  Your teasing still makes me laugh.  Some of it was so spot on, especially those jokes about how I could never have any fun while living in Arenac County.  You basically stated that any night of debauchery in Arenac County would become common knowledge before I even made my way home.  So very true.  I got the sense that you were happy that I finally had a man in my life, my first true romantic relationship.  Those were some wonderful days for Brian and I, and I think you could sense just how happy I was at that moment.  If only I could live in those moments forever.

Aftermath.

A phone call or two.  It still upsets me that we weren’t closer in those first few years after I graduated from Michigan State.  I thought we would have time.  Unfortunately that is what we didn’t have.  There were several times I wanted to call you up and just lay everything on the line.  I wanted to know what your feelings for me were.  That was one thing I could never figure out.  I wanted to know why you had so many issues with your Mom and brother, especially your Mom.  I wanted to know what was really going on with you.  Unfortunately we never had those conversations.  I didn’t realize just how wrong things were until you were gone.  It was too late.

Great Auntie G.’s Funeral.  Of all my memories of you, your Great Aunt G.’s funeral stands out.  It was the last time I ever saw you.  It started immediately.  We just gravitated toward one another.  I suppose that’s no surprise as we were the only people under 50 in the room.  Then, of course, my Grandma asked us to go get her a package of hearing aid batteries.  We may have been at a funeral, but it sure didn’t take us long to start laughing our butts off once we were out the door.  You either laugh or cry, right?  You have to admit:  It was the perfect excuse for us to catch up.  After picking up the hearing aid batteries, you and I just drove around  and reminisced.  We covered a lot of ground from Standish to Omer.  I’m so glad we had that opportunity.  In a way, it was almost as if you were saying goodbye.  The last time I saw you, you and your Dad were leaving the funeral home and walking toward the Granton.  It angered me at the time, but I suppose everyone deals with death in their own way.  I just never figured out how to deal with yours.

You have no way of knowing this, of course, but I never made it to your funeral.  I ended up having to work.  I suppose it is just as well as I would’ve been an absolute wreck.  A few weeks after your funeral, I tried to find your grave.  There were things left unsaid (most of which I am writing here today) and I wanted to get it all off my chest.  There is so much in our hometown and in East Lansing that will always remind me of you.

And yet, there is one thing that still bugs me.  What was our relationship?  Whatever it was between us was much deeper than simple friendship, and yet we never had a romantic relationship, not even close.  The closest thing I can come up with is that we were family without actually being related.  We knew how to get on each other’s nerves, we knew how to make each other laugh and cry, and above all, I think we both cared.  Was it really as simple as that?  I like to think so.  I love you and miss you.

Linds

PS – Oh, and one last thing.  Your Mom.  I never told you this, but your Mom happened to be my Grandpa’s favorite nurse.  I know that you didn’t have a good relationship with her and it never was any of my business, but I am grateful to her.  She took great care of my Grandpa when he was dying.  I wish I could simply tell her thank you.  I wish I could talk to her about you.

Dear D. | Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

Snyder-Phillips Hall was built in 1947. The bu...

Snyder-Phillips Hall was built in 1947. The building was recently expanded to make room for a new residential college. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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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

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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

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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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