Camille and Melissa and Grace

IMG_4421I met these wonderful women when I interviewed Camille for the Marengo Union Times.  She harnessed her harrowing experiences as young teen to create her own anti-bullying campaign, “Cam’s Care to Be Different.”  While doing that interview, I got a chance to talk to the other remarkable women in the family.

IMG_4425Melissa is 48 years old and a Stay at Home Mom from the time her first daughter, Grace, was born. She “runs around and does things for the kids.”  She also enjoys gardening, especially flowers.  Melissa is the first-born in a family of eight!  She has 4 brothers and 3 sisters.  She’s a cradle Catholic who no longer goes to church as often as she thinks she should. Her family was very involved in the church when she was growing up, but then her mom started going to a Lutheran church. She found it less strict and perhaps a little more flexible.

Melissa has three children of her own: two girls and one boy.  She thinks the scariest thing about raising girls, and maybe the most important, is teaching them to be strong. It’s important for them to know how to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. “Girls can be vicious and particularly vicious in groups.”  Melissa wants her daughters to listen to their inner voice, not others’ opinions.

She was not particularly close with her own mom so she learned to be closer to her own kids, and tell them that she loves them. Every single day.  When she was a little girl, Melissa wanted to be an only child. All of her siblings are fairly close together in age. She wanted more attention from her mom.  If she were an only child, she wouldn’t have to share.  Plus, there would be money for the things she wanted. Now that she’s grown, she wouldn’t change it.  No one is closer to you than your siblings.

IMG_4424Camille is 15 almost 16.  She love reading and writing.  She writes all the time.  She even wrote the superintendent a three, single-spaced pages letter. But that’s not all she does.  Camille likes shopping and she loves her puppy, Frenchie. Oh and she loves Math.  She’s good at numbers and logical things. She agrees with me, Math is just another language; a language of logic.  Her  favorite color?  Purple because it’s right there between pink and blue.  Her favorite number is 21 because that’s her birthday number.

When Camille is a grown woman she wants to be independent and successful. Well, in my opinion, she already is that. Geesh, I can’t imagine speaking to a student body of 1400 in strange school about the toll bullying had on my life.  That takes guts Camille, and poise.  Camille thinks she’s more like her mom than her Dad because she is loving and caring, putting everyone before herself.  Not that her father doesn’t care, but he’s more hardworking, and he like things logical and definitive.

IMG_4426Grace  is 18 years old and starts school at the University of Mississippi.  She plans to study Business or Criminal Law.  She was a Cheerleader since she was a wee girl.  She’s a flyer, so she gets thrown around a lot.   She sad and happy that she’s leaving cheerleading behind her freshman year in college.  She didn’t make the team.  There’s always next year.  Besides, there’s so much to do at college. Grace plans to  join a sorority.

Grace’s favorite color is pink, just because she likes it and her favorite number is 2.  She  picked that number early:  Dad’s birthday is 22, and Mom’s is 2.  Maybe that’s why.  When Grace is a grown a woman she “want to be successful and happy.” Grace says she used to be more like her mom, but now she’smore like her dad because she is organized and can’t be late.

Grace was the first person to ask Camille to help end some minor bullying and back-stabbing among her high school cheerleader friends.  That’s how Camille’s confidence began to grow and that’s when she began to understand that she really can make a difference.

To learn more about Camille’s Dare to be different campaign, here’s a few sites you can visit:

The Black Tortoise

Cam’s Dare to Be Different Camille’s Facebook Page

Little Girls Then & When: Michelle, Katie, Mandie, and Emilie

20140124_185941Michelle,40, taught Special Education for 10 years, but all she really wanted to do is just be a mom. She grew up with 2 older brothers.   When Michelle was a little girl, she “played a ton outside.”  She  thinks it was easier, back then, to do that. She didn’t have sidewalks where she lived on a dead-end street, with a pond in back;  but she and her friends could ride their bikes.  She played with her friends in the neighborhood and at school.  She loved playing with dolls. (Michelle is a little camera-shy, so I cropped her from a larger picture of her and her Daisy Troop.)

Michelle remembers her first day of school as a day when she got prettied up.  She loved to wear dresses a lot.  Maybe that’s why she was Daddy’s little girl.  Just when she needed her father most, he passed away.  Michelle was just 12 years old. As a result, when many girls are pushing away from their mother, Michelle became very close to hers.

Michelle’s mother taught her the importance of being there for her children.  Married for 13 years, she lives a simple life with her husband and three daughters as her focal point.  That said, Michelle also recognizes the importance of “me-time.”  She plays softball in the summer and has a group of women friends that just go out and have a blast.

For Michelle, the scariest thing about raising daughters is all the stories she’s heard about teenage years. She was a pretty calm child herself. Her advice to mothers is “love your kids, pick your battles. Be patient and above all have fun. Make memories.” It’s so worth the time investment.


Emilie and Mandie, best of friends.

Katie is 7, and going in the 2nd grade this year.  Her favorite color is yellow because it’s pretty and because it’s the color of the sun. Her favorite number is 100, just because.   Katie’s favorite thing at school is recess because it’s fun and she likes to play with her friends.  She’s still thinking about what she she’ll be like when she’s a grown-up woman. (That’s okay, Katie, that can be an ever-changing target at any age.)


Mandie in and with her favorite color.

Mandie is 6 years old and in the 1st grade.  She loves purple and princesses. Her favorite subject is Art and painting. Mandie loves being with other people. She plays park district t-ball.This year she was a shooting star in a local production of Aladdin Junior.

Here's Emilie with a dress she designed for her doll.

Here’s Emilie with a dress she designed for her doll.


Emilie will be 8 years old in 2 weeks.  She starts second grade soon.   (Wait a minute.  Are you and Katie the same age?  Yes, indeed.  They are twins.) Emilie’s favorite colors are pink and red and purple because pink is girly, red is the color of hearts, purple because it’s the end of rainbow.  Emilie says, “I like ends of stuff: End of stories and movies.”   Her favorite number is 8, because that’s how old she’ll be on her next birthday. She loves Math and Art, and doesn’t want to decide between the two. Oh wait, make that Art, Art Art. She wants to be a Dress Designer kind artist. Emilie will need her love of math for that.  She wants the world to know she’s a really good artist. When Emilie is a grown woman she will do what I want to do. “I will eat pudding whenever I want to.”

If you or someone you know has daughters and wish to be part of my “Little Girls Then and When,”  please let me know.  I always look forward to making new friends.  My e-mail is

Jumping off the Dock

Back Camera

When I was a little girl, I loved to swim, almost as much as I liked to dance.  Every summer, Mom signed me up for swimming lessons at Myers Lake.  All through grade-school I took swimming lessons.  I learned to swim the first year, still, it was loads of fun to go back each year. I’ll never been to Myers Lake.  I’ll never forget swimming lessons.

Nobody swam at a pool around my house:  there were no public pools around me, and for sure nobody had a pool big enough to swim in at their house.  For Pete’s sake, everybody knew that kind of stuff was just for movie stars and millionaires.  Around me, pools were just for the Little Kids.  Mom bought one of those, but it was a pain in the neck:  grass got kicked into it, the our dog Nikki, drank out of it, Frankie went #1  in it, I think our lamb, Jack, went #2 in it, and finally it sprang a leak and failed to hold any water at all.  Like I said, Mom bought one.  Once.

To get to swimming lessons, Mom drove me to school, where I got on a school bus with a whole bunch of kids.  My friends Daylene and Connie walked to school, so swimming lessons was the only time they rode a bus.  It was different from school.  For one thing, everybody had on shorts and jeans over our swimsuits.  No dresses, not one.  Nobody knew where to sit, cuz of lots of different kids and no high-schoolers, so everybody just got mixed up and in different seats than on the way to school.  On the way to school, it was like assigned seats with nobody telling us which seat to take; we just knew.  I liked to sit on the bump; the wheel was under there, so if the bus driver went over a bump, Continue reading

I Love Aunt Arlene


IMG_4297Dad and his brothers taught me a lot about how siblings love each other. They had one sister, Barbara, who was just like Grandma only she smiled all the time and said funny things. Besides Aunt Barbara, each of Dad’s brother brought an aunt along. Aunt Barbara was the only aunt that was a “real” Crandell, only she had a different last name.  Every other aunt put away their first last name, which came from their father, and took up the last name of the man she loved more than anything. All of my aunts taught me a whole lot about family.


Aunt Arlene with Grandma

My aunts never meant to teach me anything. They were busy talking to each other and telling their kids what to do. And talking about their husbands, and recipes, and how to keep their hair from frizzing up.  Of course Aunt Barbara taught us stuff accidentally on-purpose, like not to fight with each other. She was a teacher during the day, so even when she wasn’t with students, she just taught stuff without even trying. Plus, she wrote down crazy things her kids fought about like whether the spot where the bed got wet was round or square. Aunt Barbara was funny as all get out, but still, that silly-fighting stuck with me. Every time I got in a fight with one of my sisters, I thought about whether it was one of those bed-wetting fights.

Aunt Arlene was the quietest of all the Aunts. She was super-pretty. Not in a glamorous sort of way, like Marilyn Monroe. She was more like Continue reading

A Gory Mummy Warning Comes True

A Gory Mummy Warning Comes True


Being from a family of nine kids, I can relate to Anthony’s princely feeling. Maybe all that attention is exactly why I thought it was a fun to have my tonsils out twice and on my birthday to boot!

Originally posted on mother of nine9:

Even modern mums sometimes resort to gory warnings:easton

“Come down this instant; you are going to fall and break your neck!”

“Careful with that knife; you don’t want to cut your finger off.”

“Don’t come crying to me if you fall and break your leg.

“Pay attention; you’ll poke out your eye.”

That last warning about the eyes? .

Suddenly the dramatic over statement became a reality one Sunday evening.

All the kids had simply flopped down on the Chesterfield, chairs, pillows and rug after supper. This was Walt Disney Night if you were young or Sports Night if you were a teenage boy.

The problem was that we had only one T.V. for eleven people. Half asleep, lounging on the couch, with a grin on his face, my oldest son, Matthew, had just switched the channel back to basketball yet again. In utter frustration, three-year old Lucy, who was standing up, flung a…

View original 521 more words

Castro’s Dominoes

When I was a little girl, everybody was afraid of atomic bombs because of  Khrushchev pounding the table with his shoe.  Plus he put Castro in Cuba with Communism.  I prayed every night that Castro would stay on his side of the Bay of Pigs, and not bring his dominoes over to Florida and turn everybody into Communist, and get rid of all the Catholics.  For some reason communist dominoes were dangerous.  Not like American dominoes.  American dominoes were safe as apple pie.

Fallout_shelter_photoOur neighbor across the street built a bomb shelter.  My school had a bomb shelter too, and sometimes we had bomb drills.  My mom and dad thought there were more immediate things to worry about, like getting the garden weeded so we could put food on the table, and letting kids like me know not to poke her fingers into the tiny hole in her Keds and make it bigger, cuz money doesn’t grow on trees, and you only get one pair of shoes for the summer, and you should know better.

Nancy and Doug and Noreen lived across the road from me.  Nancy was Deanna’s age, Doug was Bonita’s, and Noreen was Vickie’s age.  Nobody was my age; that was okay, ’cause everybody let me play with them anyway, even though I was kinda in the gap between ages.  Nancy’s dad put a paint mark on the inside of the garage door that marked each kid’s height:  green for Nancy, blue for Doug, and red for Noreen.  Once a year, Nancy’s dad put a new mark above the old mark, so he could see how much each kid grew.  I guess he got tired of that, ’cause Noreen only had one mark, and it was way down there as small as my little sister Julie, even after Noreen was a big kid.   Dad said he was going to put a mark on our garage too, just one, ’cause somebody would always be that size at one time or another.  On the other hand, if he put a mark for each kid, every year, he coulda had the whole garage painted.
Continue reading

Anxiety. What is it Good For?

Bonnie & AdelaWhen I was a little girl, I never felt anxious.  Sometimes I got excited.  Sometimes I got sad.  Lots of times I got angry.  Sometimes I even got scared.   My feeling came and went like the wind blowing the lace curtains in the living room.  I was never anxious.

I never got anxious about new things coming:  The first day of school, substitute teacher, or the last day of school.  I never worried about getting lost or getting home.  Every new thing was an adventure.  Even when I did get lost, like when everyone left me to wander in the Museum of Science and Industry, or when I got on the wrong bus, and went over a big girl’s house who I knew from church and said she knew my mom and where I lived and would get me home.  I never even worried about getting lost at the beach and putting my head underwater and hearing kids splashing and laughing like they were far away, when I knew all the while that they were right there above me.  Substitute teachers were a gas; sometimes they knew stuff and sometimes they needed some teaching.  Sometimes they got grouchy or stern.  That’s when Dad’s trick of giving a big grin and saying “Good Morning how are you,” worked like a charm.

I never got anxious about sad things like people or pets dying, or car accidents, or people moving far away where I’d never see them again.  Those things came out of the blue without any warning.  Sad surprises made me cry.   I was a pretty good problem solver, even when I was a little girl; that’s why Dad and Mom put me in charge so much.  But even I knew some things have no solution.  There was nothing I could do about those things, except be sad.  The saddest was when Cleta’s big sister Betty-Jo died because somebody fell asleep while driving and hit her head-on.  Old people dying, like Mom and Dad’s truck driver friend who was 45 and had a heart attack, was less sad.  They were old and had a good life, and were probably ready to go to heaven and stop working all the live-long day. Sometimes people moved away, but mostly I got to see them again some time when I least expected it.  Powie, that was like saving up box tops for a free prize and then forgetting I ordered it.  Abracadabra, it arrived like a present I forgot to think about.

I never got scared until Grandpa told me about the tornado that hit Flint.  He said first everything got still as death, then the sky turned green and the wind sounded like a train coming.  After that, the window fan on a hot summer night woke me up, making me think about a tornado coming.  I was sorta mad at Grandpa for painting a picture, clear as a bell, with his words, along with his eyes looking far off in the distance, like he could see his memory coming to life.  Lots of times people thought I should be scared when I never even thought about it.  Maybe other kids got scared about getting their tonsils out.  I never had Mom sit with me for hours at a time, only me, no other kids.  Plus other moms and doctors said nice stuff to me like, “oh, you’re so brave,” or “you poor thing, getting your tonsils out on your birthday.”  That was the berries.  I did get sorta mad about the promise of all the ice cream I could eat, ‘cuz after my tonsils came out, my throat was too sore for anything.

These days I wonder  about anxiety.  So many people suffer from anxiety:  my daughter does, my sons do, my daughter-in-law does, my husband does, some of my grandchildren do.  I never do.  Sure I get worried, but anxiety is different.  Anxiety freezes people I love; it makes their heart race and their hands shake.  It makes them unsure of what action to take next.  Anxiety sounds awful. Oh, for sure my mind races like a jack-rabbit DSC03608sometimes, imagining all sorts of horrible outcome to situations.  Sometimes, my imagination races to dreadful scenarios.  Like the time I was reading while commuting and everyone got off the “el” train because it reached the end of the line.  All the lights went out, and the train groaned and the wheels squealed against the tracks as it lumbered past abandoned cars.  My mind raced to rats and broken glass, and how would I get home, and where would we stop, and would there be dangers I didn’t even know to think about.  I said to myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?  Pay attention, watch where the train is going, compared to where you should be.  When it stops, pry the door open, get out and make your way back.  I saw more wild critters in the fields where you grew up than could be in this trainyard.”  I took a deep breath.  I prepared for the worst.  While I did all my problem solving, the train lumbered in a big circle.  The doors opened and people got on, right at the stop where I wanted to get off.  I was exactly where I needed to be.