Category Archives: childhood

Love and Loss

Love and Death

Lately, I can’t stop thinking about my life in September 2009 and all the changes it brought with it.  I can safely say it remains among the worst times in my life.  That month, I lost two people close to me, both of whom I knew most of my life, and my ex lost his job at a time when I found it impossible to find one.  The aftermath of that particular month still haunts me with unanswered questions and things left unsaid.

It started with Joyce.  She passed away on September 2nd.  It left me in shock as it was her husband who faced serious health issues at the time.  The thing is Joyce and I always had a special bond.  She babysat me from nine months of age until I was old enough to stay alone.  We always referred to her as the “babysitter,” but she became so much more to me, my sister, and my brother.  The truth is more complex.  She and her husband were essentially another set of grandparents whom happened to live next door.  When it came to grandparents – biological and otherwise – my siblings and I won the lottery.

As an adult, I tried to talk to her about subjects such as infertility and faith, but I never found the right words.  I found her increasing pessimism as she aged hard to take at times, even though she had every right to feel the way she did.  I knew that she would have wisdom to share, but I could never bring myself to ask her the hard questions.  Now, a bit older and wiser, I would love to have those conversations with her.

Shortly before or after Joyce passed away – that time frame is still fuzzy in my mind, even though I am fairly certain it all happened within days – my ex lost his job.  He just came home one morning when he should have been work, completely devastated.  It turned out that the company he worked for at the time slashed their workforce by 20%.  Only a few months prior to the layoffs, I had hoped to work there as well.  They never filled the position I so eagerly sought.

In fact, nothing I did during the years 2006-2009 seemed to matter much.  There were openings in my field.  Unfortunately, those positions would remain forever unfilled or I would be competing against someone with 20 or even 30 years of experience – for an entry-level job.  There simply were not enough jobs.  Period.

As cruel as it sounds, I wish I would have known then that things weren’t meant to work out for us.  My ex and I spent years trying to make it all work.  It never did.  As soon as things appeared to be getting better, something would happen to force us to start back at square one.  Out of all the years we were together – 2004-2014 – we both held jobs only one year.  One year out of ten.  The rest of the time, one of us remained unemployed, even though both of us held college degrees (three between us) and had plenty of work experience, not to mention looked continuously  for jobs in our fields.  Still, both of us were far too stubborn to give up.  After all we had been through together, it took two years of our relationship essentially unraveling before we finally had had enough, although the end wasn’t nearly that nice or simple.  I haven’t looked back.

Just when I began to adjust, one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away.  To this day, I think of him all the time.  I came home from work only for Brian to tell me that Derrick passed away.  It is the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing shock without physically being in shock.  Derrick and I went back so far I can honestly say I have no idea when we met – elementary school or possibly earlier; I don’t know.  What matters is the fact that I don’t remember life without Derrick prior to September 25, 2009.  We experienced so much together from elementary school to college.  I tried to capture our memories here.

First, nothing prepares you to lose a good friend who happens to still be in their 20s.  Nothing.  I didn’t know how serious his issues were.  Now, of course, I’d like to think that I would have been able to help in some small way.  Second, when you are unable to attend a close friend’s funeral, it does affect you – family or not.  I still remember trying to keep it together because I had to work the day of his funeral.  Later, I still found it difficult to be around his great aunt E.  Memories came flooding back as soon as I would see her.  I became so uncomfortable that I didn’t see her nearly as often as I should.  Now that she is gone too, I regret it.  Finally, I still see Derrick and I sniping at each other 50 years in the future, somehow managing to end up in the same nursing home.  Frankly, I feel cheated knowing it is simply not possible.

Ten years later, I am not the same woman.  I’ve experienced more loss in those years – and a lot of happiness.  I know myself better and worked hard towards new dreams and goals.  Still, when I think of those awful days of September 2009, I’d like to think that Joyce and Derrick both somehow know where I ended up.  I can only imagine the conversation Derrick and I would have had in the aftermath of my awful breakup with Brian.  He had been so happy that I’d finally found someone.  I can also imagine how happy Joyce would be to know that I am now a teacher and how deeply her faith affected me.  To Derrick and Joyce, I still love you both.

The Price of Love

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Little Bo

Nickname

I love nicknames.  They play a big role in my family life, and frankly, it is how we show we love one another.  Some of my best and earliest memories involve various nicknames Grandpa Buttrick gave me as a child.  In fact, I distinctly remember him actually calling me by my given name when I was about 10 years old.  It stood out because he never called me Lindsey.  In fact, he called me everything but (see list below).  I thought I was in trouble!  Fortunately, I wasn’t.

Well, somewhere along the line Mom picked up the nickname habit from her dad.  The latest nickname she gave me is “Little Bo.”  I love it.  My dad’s name is Bob (aka Bo), and I earned every bit of that nickname.  I am very much my father’s daughter.  When I feel strongly about something, people know.  So, in honor of my newest nickname, I decided to compile a list of nicknames I’ve been given over the years – and the people who gave them to me and the stories behind them.

Lindo – Perhaps my most common nickname, mostly used by Mom’s family and probably given to me by Grandpa Buttrick.  Bonus:  It means beautiful in Spanish, even if the masculine form.

Ed – Given to me by Grandpa Buttrick when I was a baby.  I have no idea.  Ed happened to be the name of his best friend.

Ankle Biter #3 – I am the third grandchild on the Buttrick side.  My cousin Abby bit my dad’s ankle when she was a toddler, and none of us lived it down.  Again, given by Grandpa Buttrick.

Rifle River Rat #1 – I am the oldest Russell child – and we are river rats.  Again, Grandpa Buttrick.

Lonzo – Only Dad can call me Lonzo.  Period.

Buckshot – Grandpa Reid gave me this nickname when I was an infant.

Gypsy – Grandpa Reid always called Grandma and I his gypsies.  I am still always on the go.

Sugarfoot – Grandma Reid somehow came up with this one.  Since she passed away in 2017, Mom decided to bring it back.

Rosie – Given to me by Grandma Reid due to my complexion.

Itchy – My brother Garrett gave me this nickname years ago.  I have no idea why.  I have taken to calling him Scratchy ala The Simpsons.

Little Bo – Given to me by Mom because I can channel my dad all too well at times.

Yes, I am loved!

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Motherhood

Patsy Cline Quote

Mother’s Day will never not be emotional for me.  I am continuously torn between celebrating the wonderful women in my life who made me who I am today – not just Mom, but both my grandmas and Joyce, my childhood neighbor, babysitter, and essentially adopted grandmother – and struggling with my own path to motherhood.  All those women helped shape me morally, spiritually, and intellectually.

Mom, of course, continues to do so.  I still crave her advice.  I am so grateful for her friendship; her example, not only as a mother, but as a teacher, business woman, Christian; and her unconditional love.  All of it.  Somewhere along the path to adulthood, she also became my best friend.

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Mom, Dad, and I ~ 1983

In the past, I dreaded Mother’s Day.  Working retail in my 20s, strangers wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” broke my heart and left me feeling empty.  They all meant well.  That’s the problem:  One never knows who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy, strained relationships, loss, etc.  For the longest time, I felt the same way at church on Mother’s Day, until I no longer did.  A simple acknowledgement that some struggle with a whole variety of issues relating to motherhood made all the difference.  Watching others grieve and acknowledge the loss of their own mothers made me realize that I am far from alone.

If I am completely honest with myself, recent events have made me question whether I do want to adopt, my only path to motherhood.  In fact, it is part of the reason why I have been so silent here lately.  Fortunately, my parents support me no matter what I decide, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to my grandmas and Joyce right now.  I could use their advice and wisdom now more than ever.  All three would have something to say – all different – and force me to think of something I had overlooked.

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Grandma Reid and I ~ 1985

If I do decide not to adopt, the hardest part will be having to change my perception of myself.  I do not remember just how young I was at the time, but the first thing I remember wanting out of life is to be a mother.  Fortunately, that is the beautiful thing about all of this.  If I decide not to adopt, in many ways, I am still a mother.  I have a great relationship with my nephews and niece.  Spending time with my niece the other evening, she randomly told me that she wanted to come spend the night at my house.  It didn’t work out that evening, but a sleepover is in the works once school is out.  I want to be that aunt.  My niblings are finally reaching the ages where I can be that aunt.

As a teacher, I influence children every day.  I truly care for all my students, even if I am just their substitute teacher for a day or two.  It doesn’t matter.  So many students do not have much support at home.  As a teacher, I can put my maternal instincts to good use.  I can be the teacher that cheers them on at school.  I know for a fact that I have already made a difference.  I just need to step it up as I truly start my teaching career.

I may yet decide to adopt, but I need to give myself time and space to make that decision.  I finally concluded that it isn’t the end of the world if I do not.  When and if I do decide to adopt, I can say with certainty that I have thought of all possibilities and outcomes.  If it is meant to be, I know that my son or daughter is out there waiting for me.

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Mom and I ~ 1981

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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The Writing Life

Me and My Dad – Camp Russell 1981

Sometimes the perfect word of encouragement comes out of nowhere.  For years now, I have equated my dad’s love of hunting, fishing, and all things outdoors with my love of reading, writing, and all things academic.  My dad built his life and lifestyle around his hobbies, and I hope one day to do the same.  Even though I long ago made this connection, I never explained it to my dad.  I never fully shared it with him.  He has no idea that I am as passionate about reading and writing as he is about hunting and fishing – at least I didn’t think so.  Well, I found out from my mom that my dad thinks I am meant to be a writer.  My jaw dropped.  I must let him know how much this means to me.  It is exactly what I needed to hear.

The thing is that I wouldn’t consider my dad and I particularly close.  Sure, we love each other.  We even go out of our way to tell each other that we love each other often.  It is just that we don’t have much in common.  In fact, I spend a lot more time with my mom simply because of how much we do have in common.

It is funny how time changes things.  As a child, Dad took me everywhere.  I was his sidekick.  Some of my best and earliest memories involve my dad – everything from watching him play basketball and softball to working at the canoe livery to hanging out at deer camp.

As an adult, we bonded over taking care of his mom and running the canoe livery.  My brother Garrett and I will be picking up where our parents left off:  We will be the new owners of Russell Canoe Livery once Dad decides to retire.  Yet, Dad and I don’t spend much time together.  Hopefully that will change.

One writing project I plan to attack sooner rather than later is my dad’s hunting stories.  I need to pick up where his cousin Lugene left off.  For many years I knew that she planned to write that book.  In fact, she even recorded several of his stories.  Sadly, she passed away before she could finish the project.  In the years since she passed away, it slowly dawned on me that it is now up to me to write the book.  My dad is a wonderful storyteller, but he is not a writer.  Hopefully this project will bring us closer together.  I am one lucky woman to have such support from my parents.

The three of us – Michigan State University 2000

Thanksgiving Weekend – 2002

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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