Author Archives: lindseyrussell1980

Best Laid Plans – Career

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I’ve spent a lot of time lately reevaluating where I am and what I want out of life.  What I want hasn’t changed much, but I have come to some conclusions.  I fully realize how close I am to having and creating the life I want.  I am so incredibly close.

Career –

So much revolves around my career.  I still intend to be a teacher, business owner, and writer – just not all at once.

My focus at the moment is teaching.  I am looking for a full-time teaching position for next year.  I don’t care much if it is Spanish, social studies, or business.  I already know how I’d set up my classroom and how I would organize, generally, my classes.  That is half the battle, right?

I also plan to look into teaching online.  While I don’t want to teach online my entire career, it might be a good way to get started.  There are so many possibilities at the moment.  I will land somewhere.

As for the canoe  livery, I am hoping Dad finally retires – or at least loosens up a bit.  I love the canoe livery – and it will always be a part of who I am.  I like where we are going.  I don’t know how much more we can change and grow until Dad retires.

I don’t want to lose sight of our primary business – rentals – and yet, I want to add to the experience.  Ultimately, we are in a pretty good place.  I am grateful that my brother Garrett (i.e. my future business partner) and I have similar ideas as to how we plan to expand the business.

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Then we come to writing.  My writing goals are long-term and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  The other day I had a phone conversation with a family friend I’ve known most, if not all, my life.  It involved the donation of a river trip.  She then told me how much she enjoys reading my blog.  Next, she asked if I planned to write for publication.

The question itself caught me slightly off-guard.  Yes, I do intend to pursue publication at some point, but not in the immediate future.  It isn’t that I am completely putting my writing on hold – in fact, I’ve been writing every day, just not for public consumption – I am not making a career out of it at this point.

I need time and space to hone my skills and let my vision evolve.  Over the years, it already has.  There are many smaller projects to work on in the meantime.  I have no shortage of inspiration – and that is a wonderful thing.  I love the fact that I can use Good Drive for my planning and have access wherever I go.

This post, borne out of the idea that it might be helpful to explore what I’d like my life to look like over the next few years, is a good example of how my brain works when I write.  One idea expands into something much larger.  Instead of one simple blog post, I now have a series of posts on my hands.

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The Lost Generation

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No, I am not talking about the generation that came of age during World War I, although we share many characteristics with that generation.  I am talking about my own generation, those of use who came of age in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001.  Specifically, I am talking about the Xennial microgeneration born roughly between 1977 and 1983 (1980 here).  In my opinion, we are indeed a lost generation.

There are efforts to do away with this microgeneration altogether.  It is needed.  I don’t fully identify with Gen Xers or Millennials.  I have characteristics of both and want to be associated with neither.  Many people in my age bracket agree.

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So much of it has to do with technology and economics.  Most Gen Xers didn’t experience much if anything that the internet and cell phones had to offer until adulthood.  They largely had an analog childhood.  Millennials don’t remember life without either.  Xennials, on the other hand, grew up right along with the changes.  Millennials, by and large, had a digital experience growing up.

Economically, Gen Xers didn’t have it easy coming on the heels of Baby Boomers.  Eventually most were able to take their place at the table, even if they rebelled at first.  Millennials were still young enough during the tech boom and bust cycle, as well as the recession that followed September 11th, that they were able to use those experiences, often felt by parents, to make different economic and career choices.  We Xennials were caught in the crossfire just as we were preparing for and beginning our careers.  Just as we were trying to recover and establish ourselves, the Great Recession of 2008 hit.  Many of us have never fully recovered.  My story is a great example of this.  Unfortunately, I have always known that I am far from alone.

Nothing prepared Xennials for any of it.  We grew up in a time of great economic expansion during the 1980s and 1990s.  Of course we did!  Baby Boomers were just coming into their careers and purchasing power.  They were raising young families:  the kids that would eventually make up Gen X, Xennials, and even some older Millennials.  In the end, it would not last – and our parents, mainly Baby Boomers, often didn’t have the experience to help us.

Baby Boomers are an odd group.  I say that with love and affection because my parents, aunts, uncles, and countless friends are all Boomers.  That doesn’t mean that they aren’t a quirky bunch, especially when it comes to money.  For example, even though most Boomers found some measure of economic and career success, they are thrifty almost to a fault.  They think nothing of spending thousands of dollars on vacations, renovations, and more, but quibble over the price of off-brand ketchup.

When it comes down to it, they can’t help it.  They were by and large raised by the Greatest Generation, which experienced most if not all the Great Depression and then the sacrifices of World War II.  It may seem ridiculous to us Xennials, but those penny-pinching habits of our grandparents became a part of our parents’ DNA, no matter the economic circumstances they experienced themselves.

I often think about how my own parents started their adult lives, and I can’t help but think of how different the times were.  I wonder if my generation could replicate it.  That’s largely the problem.  We haven’t been afforded the opportunity to truly take our place at the economic and career tables.  Our careers and economic lives remain on hold, although that is slowly changing.

Instead, retirement for our parents keeps getting pushed back.  We faced absurd college tuition costs while being told that a traditional four-year degree (at least) is the only way forward when it isn’t the answer for everyone.  The housing and stock markets crashed just as many of us were about to get our careers going and buy our first homes.  Instead, we put off marriage and starting families of our own.  In some cases, our lives are still on hold.

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Younger Millennials and the generation after all had the opportunity to adjust to new circumstances and realities.  We Xennials did not.  We seemed to be perpetually at the wrong place at the absolute worst time.  That is why we continue to struggle.  The rules appeared to change just as we adjusted to the last set.  I hope we aren’t completely overshadowed by our parents and Millennials, much in the same way the Silent Generation was largely eclipsed by the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.

While I still consider us a “lost” generation, I don’t think we need to wander forever.  But oh, how I wish we still had the guidance and wisdom of the Greatest Generation!  There were so many lessons yet to be learned.

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Projects

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It is funny how projects just seem to pop up out of nowhere.  I will be writing various blog posts/articles for a couple of different sites.  One will be a series of post outlining what students, parents, and alums should know about study abroad.  They second will be on various topics relating to education and writing.  How perfect, right?

As for the study abroad articles, it is already leading me to a much larger project.  I took some time to outline various study abroad topics.  I don’t have a series of blog posts, I have a book.

At one time, I planned to start a blog relating to study abroad and student travel experiences.  Frankly, I am glad I didn’t get it off the ground.  I truly believe I have enough for a book – a collection of essays relating to all things study abroad and alternative spring break (ASB, now Alternative Spartan Breaks).  I need to get going on this!  It may serve as a template for other projects – including my dad’s hunting stories and my canoe livery adventures.

It is wonderful how one thing seems to lead to another.  I can’t wait to see where all of this will lead me.  I wish I could spend more time writing, but I must live my life too.  There is a constant tension between the two.

As I stated here, it is wonderful to feel validated when you least expect it.  The other day, I came across this article highlighting certain characteristics of writers.  All but one or two apply to me!  I can only hope to grow through all these new experiences.

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Why I Write

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Why do I write?  There are many reasons, but the best one I can think of is for my own peace of mind.  Over the last month or so, I have finally started writing daily – just for myself.  It grounds me in a way I can’t fully explain.

In addition to journaling daily, I also started using 750 words again.  There are rumors that Margaret Atwood mentioned 750 words in her masterclass on creative writing.  Personally, I love it.  I joined 750 words approximately two years ago, and I am finally starting to use it daily.  I use it to spill everything out onto the page, nothing more.  I let my mind wander and go from topic to topic.

Getting the garbage out of the way helps.  It doesn’t matter if I write in my traditional journal before or after I write my 750 words entry for the day.  I am much more focused.  When I sit down to write a blog post, I am not nearly as distracted by random thoughts.

Journaling, I only write approximately a page a day.  It isn’t 750 words, but I usually have something to say that is focused on my inner life or events going on that grab my attention.  I finally found a type and size of journal that works for me.

There is a difference writing on a laptop versus writing pen on paper.  I do both daily, no matter what type of writing.  For example, I may write a blog post during lunch or conference hour.  I then type, edit, and then post it when I get home.  Allowing myself some flexibility really helped.  I don’t beat myself up if I don’t write in 750 words or my journal every day.  I am beginning to feel “off” if don’t write at least something each day.

Margaret Atwood

It comes down to finding what worked for me.  I am in the middle of reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  I love it – and I don’t want to rush it.  So far, I tend to agree with her.  There is a need to process whatever is on one’s mind before writing something for public consumption.  It doesn’t have to be done that way, but it tends to make the entire process easier.  Writing Down the Bones is a collection of essays on writing, and my favorite so far discusses the tools of the trade.  She talks about how we get all too caught up in fancy journals (so guilty, just ask my ex!) and being afraid of writing garbage in something so beautiful.  She makes the case for using cheap one-subject notebooks and just filling them.

This gave me the idea of decorating a binder and filling it with loose-leaf notebook paper.  It works like a charm!  If I completely screw up, I just start over.  I have something with a good aesthetic, but I am not worried about permanently wrecking a notebook.  For me, it is the best of all worlds, and this simple change made me much more productive.  Natalie stresses this principal throughout Writing Down the Bones:  Find what works for you.  I couldn’t agree more.  With my notebook, journal, laptop, Chromebook, and Android phone, I am set.  That isn’t to mention Google Docs, Google Drive, and 750 words.  I never have an excuse not to write or read.  More on Writing Down the Bones to come.

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“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

Robert Service
Sometimes a novel ends up giving me the worst case of wanderlust. That is precisely what happened with The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. The Alaskan wilderness itself comes across loud and clear as a distinctive character. I particularly enjoyed descriptions of how Alaska changed from the 1970s to the 1980s. These descriptions were normally accomplished through Leni’s observations. It is this Alaska in all of its forms that I plan to visit one day.
It just so happens that I read the novel in the midst of a severe winter weather crisis that affected most of Michigan. Something about being housebound for a few days added to my enjoyment of The Great Alone. I kept telling myself “at least it isn’t as bad as winter in Alaska. At least I have power and indoor plumbing.” It made me feel better about my circumstances and helped me to empathize with the characters to some extent.
The characters throughout are wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Leni’s view of the world, her love of Matthew, and the protectiveness she exhibits towards her mother Cora. Ernst, Leni’s father, is, of course, a complex character designed to make us uncomfortable and question what we know about family dynamics. He largely drives the plot, and he is the reason why the Allbright moved to the Alaskan wilderness from Seattle in the first place.

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Secondary characters that I particularly enjoyed were Large Marge, Mr. Walker, Geneva Walker, and Matthew. Even though Geneva Walker does not play a large role in the novel, her presence is felt until the end. Matthew’s tenacity, dedication, and love for the women in his life is exemplary. Mr. Walker seems to try to hold it all together under the worst circumstances. He even expands his business in the process. I admire his entrepreneurial spirit.
Then there is Large Marge. She makes it her business to know all that goes on in Kaneq. What may seem to be simple nosiness elsewhere may just save a life in wild Alaska. Her steady presence tends to help make everything right, even in the face of the worst situations. She knows how to handle just about anything. In many ways, I want to be like Large Marge when I grow up.
I largely focused on the characterization in this novel simply because I don’t want to give away much. The novel is definitely action driven. I will leave it at that. If you are looking for a solid adventure novel, this is it. In my opinion, it has the right balance of description and action. In the end, I truly cared about the characters – or at least most of them. I would recommend The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.

Warning: The discussion questions include spoilers!
As a side note, I read this for the Standish-Sterling Book Club. This is very much the type of book I would hope I’d discover on my own eventually. You can find discussion questions for The Great Alone here.

Great Alone

Place and Space

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The idea of place keeps coming up.  I never realized it before, but I have ordered my life around a certain geography, a certain space.  In my case, that would be my hometown of Omer, Michigan – Michigan’s smallest city.*  It expands to include my grandmother’s house (my current home), the canoe livery, my parents’ home (my home from ages 3-18), and the nearby city of Standish.  If I expanded my personal concept of place further, I would include Bay City, the nearest city of any size – the city where I spent a good share of my 20s – and Saginaw, home to both Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College, where I was recently a student.  There are several others not mentioned here, but currently, those I did name create much of my world.

Although I recognize the fact that the places mentioned above – and more – have helped to shape who I am today, none are nearly as important as the people, family and friends, who inhabit those spaces.  They, too, exist in a certain space in one’s life.  When a loved one passes away, those spaces can loom large.  Instead of filling those spaces, our lives expand to make new room for others as they come into their lives.

If I were asked to list my memories of the places I listed above, I wouldn’t know where to start.  I would be quickly overwhelmed.  Not only would those memories be tied to those spaces, they would certainly be tied to family and friends as well.  For example, each day as I ready myself for the day ahead, I think of Grandma when I look in the mirror.  As a child and teenager, I spent many hours waiting for her to “put on her face” before heading out on our next adventure.  I love and remember those little routines and moments that make up and take up so much of our lives.

I am blessed to have the ability to carve out a space for myself in various places so strongly associated with my childhood.  As a writer who ultimately plans to write creative non-fiction centered around her early life, including childhood, there is no place I’d rather be.  That isn’t to say that I don’t dream.

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I often fantasize about packing up and starting over on the west side of Michigan, near Grand Rapids, or in my wilder days, Austin, Texas.  The Grand Rapids area makes sense.  My sister and her family live in a small town called Hopkins, which happens to be situated between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.  My sister, her husband, and their two boys enjoy the best of all worlds.  They live in a small town and can take advantage of all it has to offer.  The benefits of suburban and even urban areas are still near.  Add in the facts that I have a lot of family on that side of the state and western Michigan is growing like crazy, I must give it serious consideration.

Then there is Austin.  I don’t know if I have ever fallen more deeply in love with a specific place.  Even though I only lived in Austin for six months back in 2002, those experiences left a huge hole in my heart.  In Austin, there were plenty of tech jobs to pursue at the time.  When not working, I had endless opportunities to check out live music venues and crazy art installations with friends.

Oh, and did I have great friends!  For the first time in my life, I felt as though my life had come together.  It took everything within me to drive home to Michigan to finish my degrees at Michigan State.  I had no choice.  I can still see the heavy fog and sleet – and feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I left on that drab December day.

Even though I daydream about moving to Austin every now and then, it won’t happen.  I am too tied to Michigan – by birth, and by the people and places I love.  As much as I adore Texas – all of it – that is another story entirely.  The reality is that I am not going anywhere.  I am as much a part of my family, Omer, and the Rifle River as they are a part of me.  It is now time to claim the space for myself.

* Yes, I realize that technically Lake Angelus has a smaller population, but it is in Oakland county, near Detroit.  It is close to and surrounded by Metro Detroit.  There is no comparison.

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Memories: The Impact 89 FM @ 30


I may have only ever broadcast on The Fix, but my short stint as a DJ during my senior year at Michigan State left a lasting impression.  My only regret:  I didn’t get involved earlier (as in as soon as I hit MSU’s campus as a freshman).  I came across this video created for The Impact’s 30th anniversary, and it brought back all kinds of wonderful memories.

The Fix is the online training radio station for The Impact 89 FM:  MSU’s student radio station.

As soon as I watched the video, I thought of how much fun I had playing Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes, My Chemical Romance, the White Stripes – among so many others.  I thought of all the late nights and early mornings I put in just for pure fun.  Count me among the many misfits that just loved music.  They give us a shout out in the video.  How did I forget how much I love alternative?  This list sums up some of my favorites from high school and college.