Monthly Archives: December 2015

Happy New Year’s Eve!

NY 2016

Even though I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, I can’t help but look back and look ahead on New Year’s Eve.  In general, 2015 was a much better year than 2014.  I didn’t lose anyone close to me.  No major breakups.  There were even a few highlights, including taking a much needed vacation with my Mom, spending more time with my family (Mom in particular), and meeting so many great people in my teacher education program.  In 2015, I formally began my teacher education classes and completed my writing certificate.  I also completed my requirements for my honors program certificate.  2015 brought many endings as well as new beginnings.

I am convinced that 2016 will be even better.  My brother Garrett and I will finally purchase the family business from our parents.  In May, my brother and his girlfriend are expecting their second child, a boy, who will be named after my grandfathers.  This fall I will be student teaching.  In December, I will finally earn my teaching certificate.  No matter what else happens in 2016, and I am sure it will have its ups and downs, at least there are some wonderful things in the works.  Happy New Year!  I wish everyone the best for 2016.

NY 2016 2



I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I rather concentrate on creating good, sustainable habits. Those take time and patience. If I state that I will do this or I will do that, it is simply asking for failure. In 2016, I will simply concentrate on the word home. Even though I’ve lived in the same house since the end of 2012, I have yet to make it my home. It is my grandparents’ home and the house my Dad grew up in. I’ve lived there alone since the beginning of 2013, and yet, it is still very much my grandparents’ house. It is time to make it my own. I started the process last spring, but became so busy that I haven’t done much of anything since.

As a busy college student, I’ve concentrated on my classes above anything else. The last thing I wanted to do was look at all of the projects awaiting me at home. Instead, I packed up my backpack and headed to the university library where I could concentrate on my work, ignoring all that needs to be done at home. Well, this is my last semester as an undergraduate student – minus student teaching. It is time to start concentrating on the next phase of my life. It is time I created a space for myself.

During my years in Bay City, I didn’t do much to create a home for Brian and myself. I always kept thinking that we’d get married and buy a house. As the years went by and that happy scenario seemed less and less likely, I became depressed and no longer cared much. Why waste time and energy on a rental house anyway? When I finally moved in 2012, it felt wonderful to actually go through all of my possessions. I gave away items I no longer needed or used. Bags and bags of clothes that no longer fit were donated. I felt free. This is exactly what I need right now. When I complete my teaching certificate next December, I want to do so with a completely clean slate. I want to be able to fully move on to the next stage of my life.

So, why concentrate on home? Every family needs a home, right? It stands to reason that if I want to create the family I’ve longed for my entire life, we need a place to call our own. But, it involves so much more than just a house. It needs to function for me and the family I want to create. It is the first step in a long process. A family of my own is the first thing I can ever remember wanting out of life. After all of the heartache, many setbacks (just about anything you can imagine), and waiting, there is nothing standing in the way anymore. I am enough. I just figured it out way later than I would have liked. I am just glad that it is not too late.


Oprah Video – You ARE Enough

AC Hoekwater – My One Little Word for 2016

Creative Non-Fiction: Real Life, Only Better


This past semester, I spent the last three weeks of my creative writing class studying creative non-fiction.  I looked forward to this part of the course from the beginning.  Even though I didn’t necessarily know the term per se prior to my class, the idea and technique long fascinated me.  It is one of many reasons why I am so intrigued with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work.  As an adult, I learned that many scenes and even characters in the Little House on the Prairie series were compiled from various people and events from Wilder’s childhood.  For example, Nellie Oleson is actually a compilation of three of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classmates.  Combining traits to create a more threatening character and condensing the chronology of events just makes for a better story.  This is largely what we do with the stories we tell ourselves anyway.


I view creative non-fiction as simply getting those stories, the stories we tell ourselves about our past and our world, in writing.  Both of my parents are wonderful storytellers and have this process down, but they rarely commit their stories to writing.  Without adding fictional elements, a straight non-fiction approach to family and personal stories would not have the same impact.  It is an art to get it just right.  The true story cannot be lost in the fiction; at the same time, there are people, places, and events that may need to be stressed or rearranged to make a compelling story.

One of the most surprising ideas that came out of three weeks of studying creative non-fiction is the sheer variety of writing that can fall under the creative non-fiction umbrella.  It can include works addressing personal memories; essays on people, places, and ideas that inspire or fascinate the writer; or exploration of a real event through creative writing.  That is just the beginning.  A writer can take a real event from his or her personal history and explore it through the eyes of someone else.  I’ve also taken a piece of fiction I wrote earlier and expanded on it, explaining what really happened and what inspired the story in the first place.

I now have a home – a label as a writer.  I could never fully say that I write fiction or non-fiction.  Neither label fit.  I now have a name for what I’ve long known:  In order to write about real life well, writing must contain all or most of the elements of fiction.  It is as simple and as complicated as that.  I am ready to explore it all.


Creating A Daily Writing Routine

I am finally at a point with my writing where I need to establish a daily writing routine and invest in some software to keep everything organized and running smoothly.  Over the last few years, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Scrivener that I am finally going to take the plunge.  I plan to use it to organize most of my writing intended for future publication.  I have several pieces already that could easily stand alone or become an integral part of much larger projects.  Unfortunately, much of my work is scattered all over my computer.  It is time to organize it all.  It is my hope that Scrivener will help me do just that.

In my quest to make writing a part of my daily routine, I am also testing, which is a program that will block social media or any internet access for a designated period of time.  It is designed to help writers concentrate on writing itself.  We’ll see just how helpful it will be.  While my first instinct is to say it is silly there is a need for an application that will temporarily disable internet access, I also recognize just how distracting social media – Facebook in particular – can be.  There is a time and place to use social media as a writer.  I’m hoping that can help me firmly establish those boundaries.

The final piece of software I plan to use in my attempt to organize my writing and create a routine is RedNotebook.  It is a simple journal interface that includes several templates for various types of journals.  I originally downloaded the program thinking I would use it as an electronic personal journal.  It can be used as so much more.  I can see how useful it may be in tracking my writing efforts and simply entering ideas.  The possibilities are endless.  I admit:  When I first viewed the program, I was a bit disappointed.  It is fairly plain.  However, it has so many features and is customizable.  You can truly create what you would like in an electronic journal.

What my routine will ultimately look like may take some time.  The best part is that thanks to several creative writing courses I’ve completed over the last few semesters, I have hundreds of writing ideas waiting for me.  If I finally run out, I have even more writing prompts.  No more excuses!

I also thought I would include a couple of lists of highly rated writing software and resources.

Literature and Latte – Links for Writers

This is an extensive list of resources for writers.  It is divided into several different categories, including by operating system.  Check out Literature and Latte for Scrivener as well.

Best Free Software for Writing – 10 Programs to Unleash Your Creativity (

This list includes 10 free programs for writers.  Check here before you decide to pay for writing software.  Often the free alternative is just as good as the expensive option (and sometimes even better).

The 10 Best Creative Writing Programs for 2016

If you are looking for paid creative writing software beyond Scrivener, this list is your best bet.  It provides the consumer with details comparing and contrasting different aspects of a creative writing software package.  Know before you buy.

Happy writing in 2016!

hemingway quote


Christmas Traditions

Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa's House

Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa’s House – 1985

I love tradition.  As a child, it meant everything.  As important as tradition is, why is it so much more important this time of year?  Why are Christmas traditions so sacred?  Growing up, most years of my childhood, if you gave me a time from say 4 PM on December 23rd to 5 PM on December 25th, I could easily give you an idea of what I would be doing with my family.  Last year, Christmas 2014, was the first Christmas Eve of my life not spent at my Grandma and Grandpa Buttrick’s house (that includes my first Christmas Eve at six days old).  Grandma B. passed away in 2014, and as much as we all dreaded Christmas without her, we started a few new traditions, including a Christmas Eve get together at my parents’ house with aunts and cousins and attending Christmas Eve service at the church where my parents were married.  I love the fact that my nephews and niece are young enough that they will grow up with these new traditions.

Of course, we included many of the old traditions as well.  We still celebrate the Night-Before, the Night-Before (the evening of December 23rd) at my aunt and uncle’s house in Standish.  My brother, sister, and I, along with families, still spend Christmas Eve at our parents’ house.  We still have cinnamon French toast and sausage for Christmas breakfast and a wonderful turkey dinner later in the day.  It still takes us half the day to open presents, partly due to the fact that there are quite a few of us and partly due to the fact that we like to lounge around (yes, even my young nephews!).  It is still always a toss-up as to whether or not we’ll get to watch old home movies Christmas night.

So, as I get ready for the next few days of love and laughter, Merry Christmas!  I hope yours is as full of faith, family, and fun as mine will be.

Waiting for Santa - 1984

Waiting for Santa – 1984

Don’t Wish Your Life Away


Lately I keep thinking of one of my Grandma R’s favorite sayings:  Don’t wish your life away!  As a teenager, I hated it.  At the time, I loved to pretend that I didn’t fully understand its meaning – or, more accurately, that it didn’t apply to me.  As with any other teenager, I couldn’t wait to grow up.  What was I thinking?

Even now, I can’t resist.  I’m naturally impatient (thanks, Mom!).  I am always ready to move on to the next big thing.  Right now, I can’t help but think of what the next stage of my life will bring.  I just want to be a teacher already.  I want to concentrate on my career, not my own education.  I want to concentrate on creating a home instead of writing papers.  I want, I want, I want.

Why can I just enjoy what is happening now?  Why does it always have to be “I’ll do this when …” or “if __________, everything else will fall into place”?  I need to just enjoy the process – the actual hard work.  Soon I will miss the longs days I put in completing projects and papers for my classes, especially those that required me to use my creativity.  When Grandma is no longer with us, I will miss those trips to visit her.  One day, I will miss spending Sundays with my Mom too.  Why is that so hard to keep in mind?

How do I stop the urge to get ahead of myself?  I do it time and time again.  It is half the reason why I can be such a procrastinator at times.  When I am truly excited about something, I get so far ahead of myself that I can go no further.  I then have to wait until I can take the next step.  By that time, I’ve moved on to something else, and I find myself cutting it close when it comes to finishing what I started.  Each time, I swear it will never happen again.

My impatience gets the better of me.  Over the last decade I’ve watched as family and friends married and had children.  I kept asking myself when will it finally be my turn.  I don’t anymore.  Does it still hurt?  Yes, but … I’m no longer waiting on someone else to make me happy.  If my ex-boyfriend and I had married back when we intended to get married, nearly a decade ago, I can’t imagine how miserable I would be.  I probably wouldn’t be pursuing a new career.  We’d still be arguing about adoption.  I admit it:  Not getting married – and even breaking up with my ex – is probably one of the best things that ever happened to me.  This leads me to another one of my Grandma’s favorite sayings:  Be careful what you wish for.


What’s Next?

no one

Even though I didn’t get as much time as I would like to write this fall, I did grow as a writer and I did learn.  The creative writing course I took this fall left me with a notebook full of writing material.  The entire process brought back so many memories – bad and good.  It also made me take a fresh look at old memories, particularly memories related to some of the best times of my life, my life in Austin.  My quest now is to get into the writing habit, which is one of the main reasons why I decided to blog again.

There were so many days, particularly in September and October, when all I wanted to do is spend the day writing, exploring all of the writing prompts I completed in class.  The more I wrote, the more ideas came flooding in.  The problem became getting them all down on paper in time, before they vanished.  Throughout the semester, we spent five weeks on poetry, five weeks on fiction, and three weeks on creative non-fiction.  Our final project involved compiling a portfolio of pieces from each genre.  As I decided to complete an honors project as well, I took a short story I struggled with for quite some time and decided to write the backstory, what really happened.  The rest of the story, along with a little tweaking of the fiction, came together to create something unique.  I am also happy with some of the poetry I created.  Until this past semester, I never really felt as though I understood poetry.  At least now I get the basics.

The big question now is:  Where do I want to go next?  The next obvious step is to create a daily writing routine.  It may be difficult, but there is no mystery there.  I know what needs to be done.  The real question is what do I want to write:  Fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, screenplay, or something else?  I am torn between working on pieces of a long-term project I have had in the back of my mind for years and working on shorter pieces to send out for potential publication.  Do I focus on my blog or do I polish several pieces that have potential for great short stories?  I also took a screenwriting class this past semester.  As a result, I have the first twenty pages of a script I love.  Do I take the time to finish it?  If I finish it, what then?  Then there are all the memories I associate with particular songs.  Thanks to my experience writing for an online magazine called JamsBio several years ago, I still want to write a series of short pieces discussing some of my favorite songs and the memories I associate with them.  Where does that fit in?  Should it be a series here on my blog or should it stand alone, whether in its own blog or another format?  There are so many questions at the moment.  I need to take some time over the next couple of weeks to come up with a plan.

I am grateful.  There are so many worse issues than too many options.  I call the shots.  I make the decisions.  It is both a blessing and a curse.  It is simply a question of how I choose to spend my time and talents.  We will see what 2016 brings.

Christmas Memories: Santa is Real

Several years ago now I decided to write about one of my favorite Christmas memories that also happens to be a favorite birthday memory.  I thought it would share it again this evening.

santa_claus 1

The real Santa once came to my birthday party.  About 7 PM he rang the doorbell.  I couldn’t imagine who it could be.  Lee and Elizabeth, Emily and Abby, Danielle and Jennifer, Lois, Lori, Mark, and even my little sister were all there.  In fact, we’d been running around fueled up on pop, pizza, and German chocolate cake, not to mention candy, for the last half hour at least.  As the birthday girl, I wanted to answer the door personally.  I slowly opened the front door only to see Santa in all of red and white glory, big black belt and all.  I couldn’t believe it!  Somehow I must have been a very good girl to receive a personal visit from Santa on my birthday, his busiest time of year, the week before Christmas.

As he settled down to hold court in our formal living room, I looked out the window into our back yard.  Dozens of beautiful whitetail deer!  Deer in my big back yard were not an uncommon sight.  My Dad left the deer a big pile of sugar beets just outside the kitchen window.  We often found little impressions of their nose prints on the French doors in the living room.  But something was different that night.  I had never seen so many deer in my back yard!  They were beautiful playing in the mid-December starlight, their breath hanging in the air.  Magic.

Where were the reindeer?  And Rudolph?  They had to be there.  Why else would all the whitetails come out to play?  It didn’t matter.  I didn’t need any more convincing.  The real Santa somehow knew exactly where Lindsey Jenelle Russell, newly age 7, lived.  At the moment he had her little sister Erica, almost 4, seated on his lap in their very living room.  It was time to get down to business.

It was finally my turn to sit on Santa’s lap.  As Mom and Dad looked on, I whispered in Santa’s ear what I wanted most that Christmas.  I couldn’t help myself.  That year I wanted another Cabbage Patch Kid doll.  I couldn’t get enough of them.  They were cute, they were the perfect size for a dolly, and they even came with their own adoption papers, not to mention great names like Marlena, Isabella, and Crispin.  How could I resist?

After whispering my Christmas wish to Santa I gave him a big hug, a simple way to thank him for coming to my birthday party.  I’m not sure if I remembered my manners and actually said “thank you.”  I hope Santa considered a hug good manners.  How do you say thank you when someone makes your birthday party so special you remember it decades later?  No, “thank you” wasn’t enough.

That Christmas I did get a Cabbage Patch doll.  Maybe Santa is real after all.  Before Santa held court at my birthday party, I’d had my doubts.  Of course, I couldn’t let Erica know.  She was still a Little Kid.  The same Little Kid, of course, who spotted the Tooth Fairy right outside our bedroom window.  My Mom, Dad, and I, much to our amusement, spent a leisurely weekend breakfast listening to Erica describe in detail her beautiful dress, crown, and wand.  I was happy to know that my little sister could dream too.  Big Kids knew that you could never ever catch a glimpse of the Tooth Fairy.  Ever.

Years later I learned Santa’s true identity.  He goes by the name Edwards, and believe it or not, his actual birthday is Christmas day.  He still “plays” Santa from time to time.  As an adult I’ve come to suspect that Mr. Edwards is one of those rare people who truly get the real meaning of Christmas.  He knows it isn’t about toys, gadgets, and money.  It can’t be purchased at the mall.  It is simply creating wonderful memories for children of all ages and spending time with family and friends.  Knowing the truth makes my memories that much sweeter.

Lindsey and Erica

Lindsey and Erica

santa 2

Starting Over

German Chocolate Cake!

German Chocolate Cake!

Today is my 35th birthday.  Over the past several weeks I’ve worked on creating a new blog in the hopes of restarting it today:  December 18th.  Birthdays and holidays have a way of making me reflect on how my life has changed.  When I first moved back to my hometown at the beginning of November 2012, I simply knew that my life needed to change.  I didn’t yet realize how profoundly it would change so quickly.

Over the last few years, blogging took a backseat to dealing with the reality of creating a new life for myself.  After we almost lost my grandma during the winter of 2013, she ended up in a skilled nursing facility nearby.  Unfortunately, she needed much more care than I could give her at that point.  For the first time since 2004, I found myself once again living on my own.

In retrospect, my relationship with Brian should have ended when I moved from Bay City to Omer – or even several years earlier.  Yet, I don’t think either of us were quite ready then.  To this day, we are both too stubborn to admit defeat easily.  In May 2014, we finally faced the inevitable.  While I won’t go into details, it ended in such a way that it was impossible for me to remain friends with him.  I am still working on forgiveness.  The worst part of it all is that I continue to miss his family.  I love his family.  In May it will be two years, and I have yet to date again.  As much as I wish it would at times, a relationship spanning ten years doesn’t just disappear.  You don’t just get that time back.

In 2014, just prior to breaking up with Brian, I lost my Grandma B.  As much as I miss her and love her, I know that she is in a much better place and hopefully with the love of her life, Grandpa.  Out of all of my wonderful grandparents, just my Grandma R. is left.  I still visit her several times a week at the skilled nursing facility where she lives.  It is never easy when in the back of your mind, you still carry around the vision of how things used to be and you are faced with the reality of eventually losing one of the most important people in your life.

One of the biggest changes in my life has to do with my career.  At the end of 2013, at age 33, I made the decision to go back to school to earn my teaching certificate.  Once I complete the program in December 2016, I will be certified to teach middle school and/or high school Spanish and social studies.  The opportunity to go back to school continues to mean the world to me.  In addition to earning my teaching certificate, I decided to earn my writing certificate at a local community college as well.  I just completed my last writing class, and I’ve never enjoyed classes more.

At the end of 2012, my parents decided that they were open to the possibility of my brother and me purchasing their seasonal business, Russell Canoe Livery.  I am happy to say that I’ve spent the last three summers working at the canoe livery and reacquainting myself with a business I’ve loved for as long as I can remember.  It has now reclaimed its rightful place in my life.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Looking ahead, 2016 holds so much promise.  In May, my brother and his girlfriend are expecting their second child, a boy who will be name after my grandfathers.  My Dad is finally going to retire and make things official.  After all of these years, I will become a business owner.  Fall 2016 will bring student teaching and an end to my second college career.  I can finally see the end in sight!  It is time that I start to focus on creating the family that I’ve wanted since I was a child.  If that means that I have to adopt as a single woman, so be it.  There is so much that needs to be done before I become a mom.  I’m just glad that nothing is standing in my way after all of these years.

So, what can you expect here?  I’m not quite sure yet, although I doubt most of my new posts will be as personal as this one.  I also plan to focus more on actual writing instead of discussing other websites and blogs, although I may highlight them from time to time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Me and Grandma