Tag Archives: identity

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.

Happiness 2

Saying Yes

great things

Over the last few years, many plans I made did not come to pass.  For example, last year I didn’t attend the annual Mid-Michigan Writers’ retreat.  I made a point to do so this year.  Last year, when a good friend moved to nearby Gladwin, I suggested we meet up and spend some time in her new town.  A year later, we finally did just that.  I need to do … more.  More of what makes me happy, more of what matters.  A little over a week ago, I made last minute plans to spend the weekend with my mom, aunt,  and my sister and her family to attend a memorial service for one of my great uncles.  I ended up getting to see members of my family that I haven’t seen in years.  I made wonderful memories with my sister, aunt, mom, and nephews. What if I had missed that?  It made me realize that I need to make time for the people that matter in my life.

Every year, I seem to get into the Christmas spirit later and later.  If I am honest, I tend to get depressed right before Christmas.  It always seems to be a combination of things, including the fact that my birthday is the week before.  No matter how hard I try, I tend to fall into a funk.  It is overwhelming, it is emotional, and it tends to highlight just how vastly different my life is from everyone else’s in my family.  The thing is, somehow, I tend to snap out it once the festivities get going around December 23rd.  I am convinced the antidote is simply more:  plan more time with family, start new traditions, get an earlier start on decorations, maybe bake (I can’t believe I just wrote that).  Do it all.

None of this, of course, is an original idea.  Heck, there is an entire book called Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (yes, that Shonda Rhimes) that describes what can happen to your life by embracing this idea.  I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon.  I am already taking the idea to heart.  We will see where it goes!  There are many possibilities and many events on the horizon.  Stay tuned!

Saying No

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

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

Russell Canoe.png

Rifle River 4

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

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

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

Rifle River 3

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

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

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

Rifle River 1

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

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

cc

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

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

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

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

River2

 

Regrets

BB quote 1

This post is not about politics.  Instead, it is about what is important in life.  In the wake of Barbara Bush’s death, I keep coming across this quote.  It sticks with me, and I can’t help but realize this is how I have tried to live my life thus far.  I hope one day it will pay off.

This quote is the reason why I moved back to Michigan after falling in love with Austin, Texas and even beginning my career in Houston.  It is why I moved back to Omer, Michigan to help take care of my grandmother.  It is also the reason why I can’t imagine living far from family, even if it would greatly benefit my career (and social life) to do so.

That is only the beginning.  This quote also contains the reason why a ten-year relationship dissolved.  It helps to explain decades of worry regarding how I will ever create a family of my own, as well as my struggle to do just that.  In short, it is why I get up every morning.  It is my why.  If someone ever wanted to understand the craziness that is my life at times, all he or she would have to do is think of the implications of this quote.  I choose to try and avoid such regrets.  I still have them, but I imagine not quite so many as others.

When I think of the elder Bushes, I think of their marriage of 73 years.  Frankly, I can’t imagine being that in love.  Unfortunately, I have no frame of reference.  I also can’t imagine facing that large of a loss in life.  It saddens me.  My maternal grandparents were married 56 years.  At this point, my parents have already been married 40 years.  At 37, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever meet the right man.  If I don’t, I won’t be the only one missing out.

On a lighter note …

BB quote 2

Book Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

I can’t recommend The Alice Network by Kate Quinn enough, particularly if interested in historical fiction and World Wars I and II.  American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant and trying to find out what happened to her cousin Rose.  Set in 1947 and the aftermath of World War II, Charlie leaves her mother behind and travels to London to find Eve Gardiner, her only lead in her search for Rose.  She is lost, driven by emotion, and angry that she is unable to access her own money.  What happens next sets Charlie on an adventure throughout the French countryside.

Throughout the novel, we get Eve’s history during World War I and her involvement with the Alice Network, which is almost another novel.  I normally don’t read afterwards in novels, but I did this time.  I am glad I did.  It turns out that much of Eve’s story does involve real actions taken by the Alice Network during World War I.  Eve’s story intertwines with Charlie’s in unique and interesting ways, ultimately answering Charlie’s questions about Rose and helping Eve to make long awaited peace with her past.

There is romance in both stories to some extent, but it tends to move the plot along and isn’t romance for the sake of romance.  The part I enjoyed most is Charlie’s determination to live her life on her terms and her terms alone.  Throughout the novel, she is bombarded with familial and societal expectations.  Ultimately, she leaves them behind and creates her own future.  The reader is taken along for one fun ride.

In Eve’s story, much of the action is hard to take.  It is difficult to realize just how much she and her fellow Alice Network members risked every minute they lived under German occupation.  It is ultimately satisfying for the reader when she finally makes peace with her past.  I only wish that a few of the male characters were more fully developed, but it is a minor issue considering it is not their story.  I hate to admit this, but it would make a wonderful movie.