I’m a Fighter Not a Lover

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“I’m a fighter not a lover.” Well, that isn’t the case – I’m both, which I will get to in a minute – but there is a story behind this twisted saying that I wanted to share. It’s been on my mind lately. When Grandma Reid passed away in January 2017, an old childhood friend stopped by the funeral home to pay her respects. The two of us grew up together, and she worked with me and Grandma at the canoe livery for a summer or two. As we talked about Grandma, Melanie told me a story about her I’d never heard before. According to Mel, Grandma once said “I’m a fighter not a lover.” It struck Mel as so funny and out of character that she remembered it all those years later and thought to tell me. Knowing Grandma, a slip of the tongue became a memorable line.

What strikes me so funny and makes the entire thing so memorable is that I can easily see it going either way. It wouldn’t surprise me If Grandma intended to say she’s a fighter just to get a rise out of someone. She could tease mercilessly. Anyone who knew her knows she loved everyone. I am heavily biased, of course, but I cannot remember one instance in which she picked a fight. Instead, she loved on kids of all ages. Whether it putt-putt golf, a movie, or a trip to the mall arcade, she included everyone.

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But Grandma did fight too. She stuck up for herself when needed and forged her way as a business woman at a time when most women stayed at home. I consider that fighting. Some of her best advice included stick up for yourself. I think that is why this comes to mind now.

In fact, if I think about it for a minute, I can take it one step further: All of us – every one of us – needs to fight for the life we want to live. We need to fight for happiness and what we want out of life. I continue to struggle doing just that, but I am fighting. As much as I would love to give up, I won’t. I am made of sterner stuff – and I am far too stubborn.

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Columbine: Before and After

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Just over twenty years ago, school changed forever – April 20th, 1999 to be exact. Prior to that date, school shootings simply did not happen – or at least not with the frequency they do now. I am old enough to remember life before Columbine. In fact, the spring of 1999 marked the last semester of my senior year of high school. In that pre-Columbine world, we did not have active shooter or lockdown drills. School doors were not always locked. In fact, even during my early high school years at the rural Michigan high school I attended, boys and girls who loved to hunt and had their own vehicles could lock their rifles in their trucks during deer season. It is not an exaggeration to say that I grew up and attended school in a different world.

This became frighteningly clear to me when I began substitute teaching several years ago. In fact, one experience put it all in perspective. As a substitute teacher, I’ve experienced countless fire, tornado, and lockdown drills. One, however, left me speechless. Subbing for a middle school music teacher in a suburban school district, the lockdown drill itself proved uneventful. However, the conversation I overheard between two young female students as we resumed class left me gutted. The conversation itself appeared casual enough. They were recalling some funny incident that took place during a lockdown drill years ago in 1st grade and laughing about it all over again as only 6th grade girls can. That simple fact – that the students before me, now middle schoolers, never knew school life before lockdown drills – stays with me. They know nothing else.

When I was in 1st grade, my biggest worries were getting picked last in gym class and deciding what to play during recess. Books, learning to read well, drawing and writing, and play all made up my world in 1st grade. Lockdown drills and the thought that someone would want to harm me and my classmates at school never crossed my mind or the mind of anyone else for that matter. When did everything change so drastically? Personally, I believe things began to change April 20th, 1999.

Not all the changes are negative. I do think there is a heightened awareness of the effects bullying can have on anyone. I also believe students today have many more opportunities at all levels than they did twenty or thirty years ago – as it should be.

And then there is kindness. When I first started subbing at my alma mater, Standish-Sterling Central High School, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I continue to be pleasantly surprised. Daily I witness a genuine kindness among students that I found largely lacking during my school years. There appears to be a greater awareness of personal differences of all types. Does that mean bullying doesn’t exist? No. In fact, social media adds a whole new factor into the equation – and it isn’t pretty. Despite that fact, I find students today more accepting and more willing to entertain new ideas. That may not be the case everywhere, but I see it enough in a variety of school settings that I have hope for this generation.

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Libraries

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Palaces for the People – 99% Invisible

If you love libraries and haven’t checked out this podcast yet, you need to do so.  Personally, I believe libraries are more important than ever.

I’m not quite sure when I first fell in love with libraries, but it did happen at an early age. In kindergarten and first grade, I remember Mrs. Mosley, the Sterling Elementary librarian with a wonderful British accent and the personality of everyone’s favorite grandmother, reading books such as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day aloud.  What’s not to like?

As I grew older, I devoured mysteries, especially the Nancy Drew series.  In second and third grade, I scoured the shelves for ghost stories and the latest Choose Your Own Adventure book.  Time spent browsing the library shelves are among my favorite memories of my years at Sterling Elementary.

My love of libraries and reading grew as I grew.  In junior high and high school, I started my day off in the library readying myself for the day or reading.  Later in high school, that same school library served as workplace as I tutored younger students after school.  Now as a teacher, I still believe that school libraries are a crucial part of the fabric of any school.

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Of course, the same is true – or maybe even more true – of community libraries.  Whenever I need a quiet place to work without the distraction of everything I need to do at home, I head to the library.  College libraries such as the library at Delta College or Saginaw Valley State University are among my favorites.  Smaller community libraries have so much to offer.  For example, Mid-Michigan Writers, Inc. meets in the community room of the West Branch Public LibraryHuron Shores Genealogical Society (HSGS) has its own room at the Robert J. Parks Library in Oscoda.  In fact, HSGS hosts their fall and spring programs at the library too.  Where else could such groups meet publicly?

In rural communities, libraries, and to a certain extent schools, are often the only places where people can come together freely.  Personally, I love reading and writing in independent coffee shops and cafes, but I always order something.  Even book stores eventually expect you to purchase something.  Businesses count on it.  Libraries are one place where everyone is welcome and there is space to just be.

There is a great case to be made that libraries are an important part of our social infrastructure.  The idea didn’t even cross my mind until I discovered this podcast.  You can listen here.

Not long ago, many felt that libraries were becoming obsolete.  I understand the thinking behind that statement; however, just a simple glimpse beneath the surface would prove the exact opposite.  Libraries are needed now more than ever.

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Writing Unleashed

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I’ve discovered so many great books and resources on writing lately.  I would share them with you here, but there are too many.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to share them here separately, such as my post yesterday on Scrivener.  That way, they can all be linked via tags.  Also, I do plan to write a few pieces for other blogs covering similar topics, so stay tuned.  As soon as they are published, I will link them here.

So why am I so fascinated with discovering new books on writing and writing tools? Well, I am continually seeking to become a better writer.  That is why I write.  I do have something to say, and when I finally start working seriously on something for publication, I want to be the best that I can be.

So, here is what I have learned so far:

  1. Famous books on writing are famous for a reason.  They are worth your time.  I have yet to be disappointed.  If you are looking for a place to start, this list should do it.  I am slowly working my way through it.  There is always something to learn.
  2. The online writing tools out there today offer something for every type of writer.  Do your research and choose wisely.  So many great things to try out!  It might take you some time to figure out what works for you, and that’s OK.  If something isn’t working well, see if you can find something better.
  3. It is fun helping others who love to write.  Seriously, I love to help, and it is great motivation for me to keep going.  If someone discovers 750 words, Scrivener, or On Writing by Stephen King thanks to my recommendation, all the better.  There is room for everyone.  My ideas are not your ideas, etc.  That, for me, is the beauty of any art.
  4. Writing groups – and critique groups in particular – are invaluable.  Any feedback I get from Mid-Michigan Writers is great.  Even if I decide not to use it, it alerts me to other ways of viewing my work.  As writers, we are too close to our own work.  No matter how perfect a piece may seem, there is always room for improvement.  Just being around other writers and discussing all things writing is priceless.
  5. There is always something else to learn.  This goes along with the fact that all writing – and I do mean all – can be improved.  Start with your interests and see where it takes you. If you get stuck, start researching, whether subject or genre.  It doesn’t matter much.  See what else is out there.  You will discover something.

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The more I learn about writing, the more I wish ELA (English Language Arts) curriculum spent more time on creative writing.  Plenty of instruction on how to nail those high school and college essays, but little in the way of creative writing instruction.  It is true now, and it was true twenty or even fifty years ago.  If writing were a separate subject in the high school curriculum, that certainly would have been my focus.  Sadly, creative writing courses are only offered at the college level (usually) – and many college students can’t find a way to fit it in due to either lack of time and/or money.  Notice I did not say lack of interest.

I only had the opportunity to pursue a general writing certificate program at the community college level due to the fact that I learned about the program thanks to a writing workshop and the fact that I was already taking classes there for my teaching certificate.  I loved my experience, and in some ways, I wish I could go back and complete some assignments as a more seasoned writer – my portfolio for one class in particular.  I know I’ve grown as a writer; I also realize I have a long way to go.

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Scrivener

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It is no secret that I am my own worst enemy at times. OK, most of the time. Lately, I’ve been spending time thinking of ways to write more efficiently and better organize my work. I keep coming back to Scrivener. I took the time to learn it a few years ago, and I loved it. The issue became I didn’t keep using it. I’m not exactly sure why I quit, but I did. Well, I am getting back into the habit again. It offers a variety of ways to organize all of my work.

In a recent post, I stated that Scrivener is the closest thing writers have to a digital studio. I firmly believe this. It is so versatile it can accommodate any form of writing and any organizational method. You get to create templates and forms to use for the type of writing you do most. There are preset options that include fiction and non-fiction, as well as a handful of specialty options. It may take me some time, but I am going to relearn Scrivener and start using it on a daily basis again. I owe it to myself. It makes back-end organization that much easier.

Is it worth the initial investment of time and money? For me, the answer is unequivocally yes. I took the time to go through the extensive in-program tutorial: a definite must if you want to make the learning curve a little shorter. Besides, there is humor built in. If you choose not to go through the tutorial, you may miss out on a lot of great features. In fact, I believe that is how people become overwhelmed. Scrivener is truly built for writers by writers. That means that it allows you to slice, dice, organize, and label all materials to your hearts content. Just remember that as a writer, no one is forcing you to use all the features at once. Out of all the writing software I’ve come across over the years, Scrivener continues to stand out. I see no need for anything else.

Then again, there are a lot of fun online platforms out there. At least that is one thing we have going for us as writers: our tools. I love the fact that there are so many great writing tools out there for little or even no cost. In fact, there are so many that it takes time to figure out what works best for the way you work. Only now, after years of trial and error, am I beginning to find a process that works best for me. Hopefully, it will get me where I need to go. It is worth it to take the time to figure out how you work best as a writer. There may be several stops and starts, but each time, it becomes easier than the last. Eventually, your process starts to emerge. No matter what your process may be – or your genre – there is a place for Scrivener.

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Place

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There is no escaping it.  This topic keeps rearing its ugly head.  Last night, we discussed it in book club.  Are people meant to be in a certain place?  You can find my take on the topic here. That question keeps haunting me.  What if somehow I missed my chance to be wherever it is I am supposed to be?

Am I supposed to live in Omer the rest of my life?  I wish there were a simple answer.  The reality is that there isn’t.  I love my family, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the canoe livery, and I enjoy spending my summers working there.  Yet, do I have what I need?  Frankly, the answer is no.  There are few people my age around, and those who are around are in a different stage of life.  With one notable exception, all are married and/or have families of their own.  It would be nice to at least have the possibility of dating in my future.

What are my alternatives?  None of them are good.  Either I deal with the issues before me and continue on this path, or I start over someplace new.  If I stay, a part of me will always be someplace else.  If I go, I would miss my family and the canoe livery.  At least in Omer I am needed and loved.

The truth is I am going nowhere.  The canoe livery and the Rifle River itself are too much a part of who I am.  I want to watch my niece and nephews grow up firsthand, and I want to be there for my parents as they get older.  None of that means that there aren’t sacrifices and complications that come with that decision.  None of it changes the love/hate relationship I have with Omer and Arenac County in general.

What saddens me is the reality of where I live.  Over the last two decades, so many people left not only Arenac County, but Michigan as well.  Many were left with no choice thanks to a one-state recession followed by the Great Recession.  I graduated in 1999, and due to the fact that so many classmates moved out of state, I doubt we will ever have a true class reunion.  Most Michigan State business students I graduated with in 2004 headed to Arizona or Texas, including me.  No one seems to care.  Few planned on helping their children create a life for themselves here during that time frame and the years that followed.

While we may be on the path to recovery, we are not there yet.  What bothers me is a general aura of denial that stubbornly resists any change.  Yes, I agree we need change, but we also need to keep what is working – and there are things that are working.  Unfortunately, we do not support those things.  So many people seem to want to change nothing or change everything at once.  Neither approach will work, but no one seems to address this.

What about businesses?  What are we doing to attract new ones?  Absolutely nothing I can see.  No, instead we keep piling on more unnecessary regulations that do nothing except add costs. Instead of making it easier for those just starting out to get started in a career, we make it next to impossible.  Today, we still tell high school seniors that a four year college degree should be the norm when we are setting them up for tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even start their career.  It is wrong and needs to stop.  We need to attract more businesses and encourage trades. What about entrepreneurship?  Again, we do little to support those who wish to start their own business.  New businesses and new growth are exactly what we need, but they cannot survive if not supported.

I am angry.  I want to believe in my hometown and live here, but many times, it feels next to impossible.  If it weren’t for my family, I would have never looked back.  I am tired of feeling torn, and I am fed up with everything else about the area pushing me away.

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Writing All Around

 

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Allende QuoteIf you haven’t checked out the Guest Posts page yet, you are missing out.  I finally got around to finding a home for my other writing.  In the next few weeks, this page will be growing quickly.  As I put it together, I realized that I haven’t done a great job of curating my own work.

When I choose to do a guest post, I choose carefully.  I want my writing to be at home with other work on the page.  You will see that I have work in a variety of places, everything from a local genealogy newsletter to a website highlighting legends and paranormal activity in Michigan.  It is important to find the right home for your work.

One of my favorites is Adela’s Once a Little Girl. So far, I’ve only written one piece for her blog, but I will eventually write others.  Her blog focuses on childhood from the point of view of a little girl.  When I originally submitted my piece on Christmas and Santa, she had to change it slightly because she has young readers.  I love her work.

Other work for the Macbeth Academy blog, the Macbeth Post, is already scheduled, as are other pieces for Spartans Helping Spartans.  If you haven’t checked out either site yet, do so.  There is plenty of great information on both.

Macbeth Academy continues to inspire me.  It is a largely online academy dedicated to student writing.  Until I connected with Director Kayla Solinsky, I did not realize such online academies exist.  Soon I may share my own thoughts and ideas relating to Macbeth Academy itself here.  I will eventually do an informational interview with Kayla.

I love where I am going at the moment.  I’ve come across so many great resources and opportunities for writers lately that I can’t wait to share them with everyone.  If you can dream it, there is a place for it whether online or in print.

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