lifebeyondexaggeration

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

Back on the Trail August 26, 2016

Filed under: What Doesn't Kill You — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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Yesterday I hiked a trail; today I’m going to climb a mountain!

For those of you who have stopped by before – and thanks for coming back by the way – it won’t seem that weird at all. But right now I’m in Acadia, Maine. And last time I was here four years ago, I could barely walk.

I had just dislocated my knee dancing in a show and moving wasn’t really a thing I was very good at. I could walk for one mile max on flat surfaces only. Even that little bit of movement made my knee hurt like hell and swell like an evil monster. I had to stare at mountains and watch the little dots that were other hikers climbing with no hope of being able to join them. Acadia is beautiful, and my lovely husband helped me make the most of it. But it made my heart hurt. (more…)

 

The Twiggy Tornado August 16, 2016

I’ve slept some very strange places in my day. I slept on the floor of a tour bus for a few months, airports the world over, lean-tos, and even a VW van at a youth hostel. But the worst, or maybe best if you’re searching the annals of your life for new blog material, is the time I built my own shelter out of sticks.

It was an overnight camping trip from my summer camp in Maine that I signed up for specially. In camp we stayed in nice cabins with toilets and showers and all the fancy things in life. But this overnight trip was going to be roughing it. Real hiking, building your own shelter to sleep in, and cooking over a campfire. Out of the whole camp only two girls signed up, but I was super stoked to prove that I was just as outdoorsy as any of those boys.

We left camp in a rickety, fifteen-passenger van that was probably not safe for children to be in and drove out to the wilderness. We found a place to pull off the road and hiked around a bit. I don’t think we were really supposed to be where we were. There we no markers for trails or a sign saying we could camp there. I think we were illegally squatting on someone’s land and the camp hadn’t cared enough to ask the counselors where they were taking us before we left camp.

Once we found our less-than-legal home for the night, the head counselor started teaching us how to build our emergency shelters. You had to use a big stick to make the top, lay smaller sticks against it to make the sides, and finally pack it in with leaves for insulation. A decent concept in an area where there are no deadly bugs or snakes that might have wanted those snuggly warm leaves for their own evening shelter.

We all built shelters and went to make our dinner over the fire. The counselors told us wonderful stories of survival before setting up the tents they were going to sleep in for the night. That’s right. They were going to sleep in tents. And they had graciously brought one extra in case any of us couldn’t hack it for the night.

Of course, all the boys immediately started going on and on about how that would be the girls’ tent ‘cause the two of us wouldn’t be able to make it through the night in our shelters.

That’s when it started to rain. (more…)

 

High Tea Hype July 27, 2015

Filed under: Tales of Humanity's Imperfections — meganorussell @ 8:30 pm
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I grew up in an inn where my mother ran costumed Victorian tea parties. So naturally whenever we went on vacation my mother would take us for a busman’s holiday, and we’d all go out for high tea.  This was something that I got used to at a very young age. We went to tea shops, grand hotels, out of the way inns. If there was a tea in town, my mother found it.

Fast forward to the first time my then fiancée/now husband came on vacation with us to Cape Cod. We were driving around, and my mother spotted a little tea room. We hadn’t had lunch, so we decided to give it a go. I told my husband that we were going to go for tea, and his little face just sank. Like a little puppy who had just figured out that his bowl was empty.

I looked at my mother, and we both realized at the same moment that when we said go to tea, he thought we meant “let’s sit down and drink a cup of tea.” And having my mother’s sense of humor, we silently agreed not to tell my husband that food was in fact a large portion of afternoon tea. He whispered to me as we went into the tea shop, “But I’m really hungry.”

I whispered back, “We’ll get something to eat in a few hours.” (more…)

 

A Rope in Case June 6, 2015

Filed under: Hi-Ho the Glamorous Life — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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You always hear jokes about rope obsessed people. Like the brothers arguing about needing rope in Boondock Saints. There’s even a book entitled A Rope in Case.

I was raised in scouting, and I know my way around a rope. I was almost kicked out of stage craft class in college for telling the professor he was teaching the bowline wrong. It was only the fact that he was wrong and that I got the entire class to tie a proper bowline in five minutes that saved my ass.

I know how to lash (tie strange structures out of rope and wood), tie up a burglar with eighteen inches of rope (if you can get them to hold still that long), and lots of other fun things.

But living life as a transient worker, you gain a new appreciation of rope.

When cast housing gives you and your husband two twin beds, you can tie the mattresses together to make a king size bed that won’t require weekly visits to the chiropractor. (more…)

 

The Legend of the Apollo February 18, 2015

I love sailing. I even went to sailing camp growing up. And while a few stories from those experiences are a bit too deep and dramatic for my taste, there is the excellent tale of the Apollo.

The Apollo was a wonderful, ten-person sailboat. Just the spend a day on the lake kind, not the rich people I have a kitchen kind. But since the Apollo was so big and expensive, only the most experienced and responsible sailors at camp were allowed to take it out. Somehow, miraculously, I wolfed myself in that category.

I had it all planned out. I handpicked whom I thought I would be able to tolerate for a few hours with, and we headed down to the shiny, beautiful Apollo, our hearts set on an afternoon of fun.

It was all going beautifully. I was having fun pretending I was sailing a pirate ship. My friends were having fun going really fast. And then suddenly we weren’t going really fast. (more…)

 

Weathering the Storm August 23, 2014

Filed under: Starting Off Strange — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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There are times in life when you feel like you are stuck outside in the storm. That the wind and rain are battering you, and there is no escape. No safe haven, no warm bed to hide in. Just you and the storm, battling to see who can last the longest.

In some ways, I mean that as a metaphor for having my first novel up for preorder. But really I mean it literally. Being out in a storm and having nowhere to hide. When I was a young teenager, I went to a very fancy summer camp in Maine. There was no way my parents could afford to send my sister and me, so my father acted as the woodshop teacher in exchange for our camp tuition. There were all kinds of adventures and a million stories from that summer. But the one that seems most fitting right now is about the only tornado I ever heard of in my time in Maine. (more…)

 

Camping for Cats August 11, 2014

Filed under: Animal Antics — meganorussell @ 8:30 pm
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A really long time ago, my family had a porch cat. Her name was Precious, and I loved her. She gave birth to her first litter of kittens, and it didn’t go well. She had another litter and then was hit by a car a few days later. From that litter, all six kittens survived to adulthood. But we had to bottle feed them before we could get them to canned food. I have myriad (you’re welcome husband) stories about those kittens, but this is about their time on Cape Cod. (more…)