Family History

I don’t often talk about genealogy here, but that will soon change.  I am fascinated by family history.  My love of genealogy is intertwined with my love of reading, writing, history, and of course, my love of family.  For me, genealogy brings it all together.  Below is one of my favorite articles published in our Huron Shores Genealogical Society Genogram, December 2016.  You can find the entire issue here.

Great

My great-grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick.

Revealing the Truth

Great’s Story

Whether we recognize it or not, we all have blind spots when it comes to our family history.  As genealogists, it is sometimes easy to overlook the obvious.  I experienced such an issue not long ago.  The resolution will stay with me for some time.  I thought I knew more about my great-grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick (my mother’s paternal grandmother), than I actually did.

Growing up just outside of my mother’s hometown of Standish, MI, my mother made sure that she took my sister and I to visit her grandmother, whom we nicknamed Great, weekly.  We would often visit after school as she lived only a few blocks from Standish Elementary.  Those visits stay with me.  They inspired my interests in genealogy and history.  Over time, Great told me stories of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and how she met my great-grandfather, Hatley Buttrick.  I also learned that her memories of growing up in Standish were not happy ones due to the loss of her mother in 1917.

For whatever reason, I assumed that Leona received training as a teacher in western Michigan where she was originally from and later settled.  Her teaching stories involved a one-room schoolhouse in western Michigan.  She later married my great-grandfather Hatley and lived in Marshall, MI for most of her adult life, only returning to Standish in 1980 to be closer to her children and grandchildren.  I could not have been more wrong. I did not consider that may have continued her education in Standish after graduating from Standish High School in 1921.

When I first voiced my interest in researching my great-grandmother’s education, fellow HSGS member Lugene Suszko Daniels suggested I look in the then newly printed book Arenac County Normal, 1904-1957, written and compiled by the Arenac County Historical Society (2013).  At first I doubted I would find anything.  While I knew that Normal Schools provided teacher education in the earlier part of the 20th century, I largely associated the Arenac County Normal School with the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, not the early 1920s.

Not only did I find information on Leona Forward’s further education at the county normal school, I also found information on her senior year of high school.  I also rediscovered a piece of family history I had forgotten.  It turns out that she attended school, including county normal, with her step-sister Barbara Wilson.  Ultimately, I purchased my own copy of the book.  Not only does it contain pertinent family history, it also contains a treasure trove of local information, including ties to several people I know.  Coincidentally, I came across this information as I decided to go back to school to earn my teaching certificate.  I am proud to continue to teaching tradition in my family, and I am glad that I was able to fill in the details of my great-grandmother’s educational history.  Never pass up the opportunity to search all local resources, even if you think that they may not apply.  You never know what you may find.

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Leona on the 1919 Standish High School girls’ basketball team.

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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Happiness

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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.

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Traditional Books Vs. Kindle Books

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I admit I should read more traditional books.  I have several that are begging to be read.  The problem is Kindle books are all too convenient.  As a substitute teacher, I always have my cell phone on me, equipped with my Kindle books app.  Why throw a book in my bag as well when I have perfectly good books to read on my phone?  It is almost a no-brainer.  The ease of use of Kindle books on my Android phone is responsible for an increase in my reading.  I always have a book with me.  I love reading during conference hours and lunch.  As I also use my cell as an alarm clock, I also tend to read Kindle books before falling asleep.  It is all right there.

Despite all that, I understand why some people loathe the rise of e-books.  I get it.  As convenient as e-books are, nothing compares to the smell of traditional books.  Nothing.  Personally, I have a fondness for hardcovers.  There is nothing comparable to searching a bookstore or library for the perfect book to take home.  In my opinion, a home would not be a home without shelves of books of all types.  I particularly value books by local authors, most of which can only be purchased in paperback.  I would severely limit myself and diminish my love of reading if I only read and/or purchased e-books.  In short, I can’t imagine a life without traditional books of all stripes:  hardcovers, paperbacks, and board books.

The issue becomes what do I do if I want to annotate a book.  There are certain books that I plan to read more than once (although rare), or I want to discuss certain topics brought up in the book.  As I adore quotes, there are times I may want to quote from a book, especially if I am writing a book review.  Personally, I dislike writing or highlighting books, even textbooks I own (although I did when necessary).  In Kindle books, it is extremely easy to note and annotate to my heart’s content without defacing a book.  The only drawback is this:  I tend to forget if I happen to have a library Kindle book.  When my library loan is up, I no longer have access to my notes and/or annotations.

By the way, borrowing Kindle books from your local library is usually easy and a lot of fun.  No trip to the library necessary, although I recommend one anyway.  Borrowing e-books via your local library is a great way to stock up on reading material prior to a trip or for any occasion.  Most library systems allow patrons to check out five e-books at one time.  I love spending time browsing my local library’s website to see what e-books are available.  I now have an extensive to-be-read pile on my account.  The best part of borrowing e-books from your local library:  no need to remember due dates.  The titles are simply no longer accessible after two weeks.  They may or may not be able to be able to be renewed, depending on popularity.  It is, once again, all too easy.

Ultimately, I love where readers are right now.  We have the best of both worlds:  e-books and traditional books.  Neither one is going anywhere anytime soon.  I love being able to choose.  If I truly love – and I do mean love – a title, I am free to purchase both.  Choice is a wonderful thing.

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Of Reading and Writing: An Overview

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My ability to lose sight of my love of reading and writing never ceases to amaze me.  At times, the strength of the connection between the two comes back at me two-fold, and I fall in love all over again.  For example, years ago I read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.  It forever changed the way I read and how I view the time I spend reading.  If I were to make a list of books that profoundly shaped who I am today, it would certainly be at the top of the list.  Currently, I am in the middle of rereading it.  When I read it years ago, I borrowed it from the library and carefully noted its recommended reading list.  Today I purchased the Kindle version for easy annotation (Kindle books versus traditional books is another blog post altogether – one I plan to write soon).  I am picking it apart in hopes of learning why it resonated with me so deeply.  That, in fact, is the entire point of the book.  We learn to write by dissecting what we read.

Recently – as always – I came across the perfect books at the perfect time.  I just finished The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley.  Of course, there is a story behind my love of these books.  Incidentally, I had the opportunity to hear Donalyn Miller speak at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) a few years ago while completing my teaching certificate.  Knowing that she was to speak on encouraging students to read, I eagerly headed to SVSU on a cold, snowy Saturday morning hoping to learn more.  I hoped to learn how to reach students who do not like to read.  The entire concept of not loving – nevermind liking – to read is completely foreign to me.  That day I left inspired to create an extensive classroom library in spite of the fact that I will not be teaching English Language Arts (ELA) classes, along with her latest book, and little else.  She encouraged us all to reach those students who do not see the connection between reading and pleasure.  Her ideas were (and are still) practical; however, I still was not convinced that I could make a difference as a non-ELA secondary teacher.

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Fast-forward several years and my sister happens to mention the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  It immediately rings a bell, we discuss it, and I have to read it as soon as possible, along with the sequel.  There is so much to discuss in both of Donalyn Miller’s books.  The ideas she presents should be the focus of reading education, but that would require a fundamental shift in how reading is taught at all levels which is a shame.  Both books deserve their own blog posts, as well as a post tying the two together.  Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and Susan Kelley inspired me to reread Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.  It is an example of what Donalyn Miller coins “wild reading” in action and demonstrates how “wild readers” stay inspired, continue reading, and challenge themselves.  I am now convinced that I do indeed have a role to play.

Stay tuned for a series of posts discussing the many angles of all three books, as well as my own take on the importance of reading and writing in my life.  It is taking center stage now for a variety of reasons.  I am still patiently trying to create a writing and reading routine that works for me.  I will not let this go.  It is too important, and I have too much to say.

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November is Coming …

Snape

For those who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month.  While I may not be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I know many are preparing for November.  I thought I would share a little inspiration.  Many participating in NaNoWriMo use September and October to plan their writing in November.

You can read my thoughts on Snape here.  He will always be one of my favorite literary characters of all-time.  I do not say that lightly.

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.