Category Archives: family

Cars We Love

A1989 Pontiac Grand Prix similar to my first car.
The only thing missing here is the luggage rack on the trunk.

Funny how certain cars from your past just stay with you.  Where do I even begin with my first car, my 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix, a perfect cheery red?  My love affair with that car began right off the lot.  My parents purchased the car brand new in Gladwin, MI in 1989.  It was the first proper car my mom had since my parents married in 1977.  After my parents married, they sold my mom’s car to help purchase buses, and the full-sized vans that replaced it doubled as a canoe livery vehicles in the summer.  She definitely earned that brand new car!  I think I was just as excited as she was – almost.  If anything, I inherited my love of cars from Mom.  I even went to the dealership with my parents, an exciting new experience at age 8.

By 1995, a friend of my parents, who owned the GM dealership in town, happened to drive over the latest Grand Prix model – again, bright red.  The Grand Prix had just been redesigned, and few people in Arenac County, if any, had it at that point.  Soon, Mom had another new car and the old one, later mine, went into the pole barn, waiting for me to turn 16 and earn my license.

During the fall of 1996, I spent hours detailing it, getting ready for when I earned my license in December.  I carefully drove it through the campground, practicing backing up and avoiding things like fire rings and electrical posts, carefully storing it back in the pole barn, waiting not so patiently.  My mom had taken great care of it, and now, it was up to me.

A few features of that Grand Prix still stand out.  1989, frankly, was the end of an era when it came to cars.  My Grand Prix was probably one of the last models that didn’t include air bags and CD players.  Instead, it had a futuristic 80s electronic dash and a retro tape deck.  Later, we had a five CD changer installed in the trunk.  I could not have asked for a more perfect first car.

After much heartache, stress, and tears – another story entirely – my dad took me to the Secretary of State on my birthday to get my license.  He even let me pick out a new license plate for my car.  I ended up with a centennial plate commemorating the 100th anniversary of the automobile industry.  Somehow, some of my best memories with Dad always seem to involve vehicles, whether cars, SUVs, minibusses, or big ole school buses.

Car and license in hand, I now drove myself and my younger sister Erica to school and around town.  The biggest issue, of course, became control of the radio for the entire 10 minute drive to school.  We didn’t fight much, but we did argue over music and sharing a bathroom on the daily.  That first winter driving, Erica and I experienced our first accident.  A fender bender that could have happened to anyone, we both freaked out as only young teenage girls can.  Fortunately, no one was hurt and the damage was easily repaired.

I kept that Grand Prix well into college.  In 2001, I drove it to and from my internship with IBM out in Rochester, Minnesota.  Alone, I will never forget driving home along US 2 across the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan in late August with incredible views of Lake Michigan along the way.  It is still one of my favorite road trips.  That trip finally helped me to become completely comfortable behind the wheel.

The following year, after a year studying abroad in Ecuador and Spain, I spent six months living and working in Austin, Texas.  I had landed the co-op with Applied Materials at the same time I landed the gig with IBM.  As I already knew that I would be studying abroad the following academic year, I convinced Applied Materials to bring me aboard the following summer, June 2002.  By this point, it was time to replace the Grand Prix.

The original plan was to sell my car in Texas, fly home in December for my birthday and Christmas, purchase a new vehicle, and return to Michigan State for winter semester 2003.  Well, best laid plans rarely work out.  On July 24th, 2001, on my way to work at Applied, a moving truck turned in front of me.  I had had the green light, and he hadn’t seen me.  I slammed on the brakes so hard that I broke my big toe and the metatarsal on my right foot.  I ended up in a splint and, later, a walking cast, up to my knee.

The entire front end of the Grand Prix slid under the truck, stopping just in time.  If I had had a passenger in the front seat, he or she probably would not have made it.  All I could think of was how many times I had had my brother or sister with me, usually shotgun.  I walked away relatively unscathed.  My only other injury, other than a badly scraped left knee from the dash, was a deep cut behind my ear from the window molding.  Somehow, the safety glass held.

Thank God that car didn’t have air bags.  First generation air bags later gained a reputation for killing shorter drivers.  At 5’0, I may have ended up a statistic.  That Grand Prix that I’d loved for so long had saved my life.  It was the end of an era.

I ended up with another Grand Prix, of course – a 2002.  Yet, nothing I’ve owned since could ever top my first car, not even purchasing a brand new car on my own.  So many childhood, teenage, and even young adult memories – way too many to share here – wrapped up in one vehicle.  I’ve even dreamed about it.  I dreamed that, somehow, it was still stored in my parents’ pole barn, waiting for me to drive it again.

Another view.

Home Again

Fun sign on Grove Road, just before Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

These last few weeks have been eventful, and frankly, fun.  While my parents were in Ireland, I house sat for them.  First, I love my parents’ house.  It is comfortable and, next to my own house, is a space where I can just be myself.  Housesitting for my parents during the early part of the fall means checking our Crystal Creek Campground as well.  Crystal Creek is adjacent to my parents’ house.  In fact, the house – my home from ages 3 to 18 – sits behind our store.  It is hard to separate the two.

My favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

There is something about the empty campground, with the promise of fall in the air, that gets me every time.  It is gorgeous and my favorite time of year.  I can’t help but think of all the time I spent playing in the campground as a child after the campers left for the season.  The land itself is forever a part of me.

Another view of my favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

During the great shutdown of 2020, I lived with my parents.  It didn’t make sense for me to live alone at a time when no one knew how long it would last.  Those days were largely a challenge for a variety of reasons, but the campground helped.  Even though we had no idea when would be able to open up for Summer 2020, my parents and I spent time getting the campground ready.  It was something tangible we could do.  Mom and I picked up sticks and garbage daily while my dad and brother took care of most of the brush.  It gave me a new appreciation for the land and the river, especially after we had the 500 year flood in May 2020 and rebuilt to open in mid-June.

Crystal Creek Landing
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

But, home is so much more than just my parents’ or my home.  Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return to Michigan State’s unrivaled campus – the home of some of my best memories.  My brother, sister, sister-in-law, and I made sure my nephews and niece had a great first experience at Spartan Stadium.  While wonderful in many ways, unfortunately my niblings didn’t get to see the Spartans win.  Still, just being on campus brought back so many memories – the kind of memories that can only be relived when you’re home.

The view from Spartan Staduium, Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Cottage

10 year old me, huge pink glasses and all, hanging out with Dad on the front porch of the “old” Buttrick cottage on Sage Lake. 1990

Lately, the cottage has been on my mind.  In Michigan, many families have a “cottage” or “cabin” Up North, however you define it.  Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but Michigan actually has more, only outnumbered by Alaska.  As a true Michigander, I am drawn to water in all of its forms.  The cottage in my mom’s family, going back at least five generations, still plays an important role in our family.

Actually, there are two.  The “old cottage,” which belonged to my great grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick, otherwise known to her great grandchildren as Great (I wrote about her life in Family History), had character to spare.  Dating back to the 1930s or 1940s, the “old cottage” looms large in my childhood memories.  It was the site of numerous weekend get-togethers with extended family, particularly my Buttrick grandparents, cousins, and aunts (and their husbands).  Great spent most of her summers at the “old” cottage on Sage Lake, which made these early memories extra special.

Once Great passed away in 1993, it was decided that we needed a cottage closer to the lake, a new place to make new memories.  Thankfully, this cottage is still in constant use during the summer and still the site of countless family summer gatherings.  Still, there is something special about the “old” cottage, warts and all.  It is still there, largely unchanged, to be enjoyed by a new family.

If anything, I would have to say it was Great herself that made the cottage special.  She was always there, smiling and laughing.  She seemed to just take it all in, surrounded by her granddaughters, great granddaughters, son, and daughter-in-law, among others.  She always had a tin filled with Hydrox cookies for her great grandchildren and would look the other way while we snuck them.

It was a treat to spend the night at the cottage with Great.  I believe that my mom, sister, and I stayed overnight with Great at the cottage a handful of times.  I loved waking up near the lake, having toast with real honey from the comb and an individual box of cereal for breakfast.  The “old” cottage may have been located on a large bluff overlooking Sage Lake, making swimming and boating a workout, but the view was second to none.

As Great’s birthday was in late August, I vividly remember driving up to the cottage to take Great out to dinner.  Mom, Erica, and I pilled in Great’s huge seafoam green Caddy to take her out for frog legs, her favorite.  We all adored Great, but the relationship that my mom had with her grandmother was truly special.  It must have been for my mom to pack up her two little girls and drive over half an hour each way to take her grandmother out to dinner for her birthday.  I am so grateful for all the time I got to spend with Great. As I was 13 when she passed away, I knew her well  Not everyone gets the opportunity to know a great grandparent in such a wonderful, detailed way.

The thing about going to the cottage during my childhood was that it was a process.  Yes, there may have been times when I actually traveled to the cottage with my parents, but that is not what I remember as well.  What I will remember most is all the fun I had piling into my grandparents’ huge 1980s station wagon with my older cousins.  At one point, Grandpa B. owned one of those coveted wood paneled station wagons that had a rear facing seat.  Of course, as kids, we all piled in the “way” back.  My sister Erica, our cousin Abby, and I spent the entire 20 minute trip making up songs, playing silly finger-snap games, and hoping that we would be the “first one to see the lake.” Getting there was half the fun.

Actually, in those days, my parents presence at the cottage didn’t register much.  No.  The cottage was all about playing with cousins.  We would climb the tree in the front yard, create dance routines on the parking pylons and the torpedo towable, and swim.  There were trips to the pop shop and pontoon boat rides too.  Grandpa could never understand why I would always pick out baseball cards (normally Topps ‘87s) instead of candy at the pop shop.  I think it amused him.

Swimming and boating at the “old” cottage required a little planning.  The obstacle to lake access was a large, steep set of stairs.  If you were going down to the lake, you stayed there for a while.  If anyone was heading up to the cottage and planned to return to the lake, she automatically played waitress.  It wasn’t kind to head up without asking if anyone needed anything.  It is the one thing that I do not miss about the “old” cottage. If we weren’t down at the lake, we were hanging out on the large covered porch in the front yard, facing Second Ave., the lake behind.  This was the site of all of our games.

Of course, no description of cottage life would be complete without a description of the food.  For dinner, there was chicken, burgers, and hotdogs on the grill with plenty of sides and salads, you name it.  What really stands out, though, is so simple:  Grandma B.’s fruit platters.  Even us kids devoured mounds of fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and blue berries.  As soon Grandma brought out the fruit tray, it was time to take a break from all the fun.

Then there was the cottage itself.  It was small and pine paneled with lots of windows overlooking the deck with the lake below, decorated in a mix of mid century cottage style.  Even though there were only two bedrooms, it never felt cramped to me as a child.  It largely smelled of fresh air and the lake, with Great’s Airspun powder lingering in the bathroom.  Overall, it is a place where I made countless memories that I will always carry with me.

I am grateful that my brother Garrett takes his kids to the cottage often.  For him, it is all about catching air on Sage on a wakeboard.  Both of his kids, both under 10, adore wakeboarding and tubing behind the speedboat.  Yet, I feel for Garrett.  He has little to no memory of the cottage atmosphere I just described – the one seared in my memory, the one that started it all.  While he definitely knew Great, she passed away when he was only two years old.  It saddens me because the image of how fiercely my toddler brother adored our great grandmother is among one of sweetest things I have ever witnessed in my life.  I’m just glad the cottage still lives on.  The cottage is still a place where cousins make memories.

To My Grandparents, Thank you!

My grandparents are never far from my mind (or heart), but over the last several days, they’ve been on my mind even more.  As my parents were preparing for a trip to Ireland, my dad asked me a little about the Irish ancestry on the Russell side of his family.  It is fascinating!  I didn’t realize that his grandfather (my great grandfather), Elijah (EC) Russell, was the son of Irish immigrants.  As Grandpa Russell passed away long before I was born, I happen to know the history of the Suszko and Buttrick/Hoffman sides of my family better.  Realizing that my ancestors on the Russell side made sacrifices for their descendants by leaving their homeland in search of a better life is humbling.

Grandpa Russell’s parents – Mary Jennie and Elijah (EC) Russell

Today also happens to be Grandparents Day.  My grandparents may no longer be with us, but I simply would not be the same person without their influence.  As a child, I somehow won the grandparent lottery.  Both my Buttrick and Reid grandparents lived close by and played a huge role in my life.  I spent my summers spending time and working with Grandma and Grandpa Reid.  They both taught me so much about life in general.  I’ve written extensively about their influence.

Grandma and Grandpa Buttrick’s house was always open to us grand kids and our friends.  They lived close to Standish Elementary, and we often visited after school.  As an adult, trips to Standish were not complete if I didn’t visit Grandma and Grandpa.  Even today, when I am running errands in Standish, I think of how nice it would be to be able to stop in for a quick visit.  I still miss the book club for two that I had with Grandma B.  I also think of all of those August trips to hunting camp in Kenton, piling in Grandpa’s station wagon or Suburban with our cousins.

There is so much more I could say.  I didn’t even discuss our “adopted” grandparents, our neighbors Joyce and Carl.  That is all together another subject for another day.  By the way, I didn’t post a picture of Grandma Buttrick for a specific reason.  She was a private person, and even though she is no longer here, she would hate having her picture here.

Even though I never knew him, Grandpa Russell’s legacy lives on in the canoe livery.  Grandma and Dad may have kept the canoe livery running after he passed away, but it was Grandpa Russell who started it all over 60 years ago.  In fact, all of my grandfathers were entrepreneurs in their own way – a fact I love.

So, to all of my grandparents, thank you!  Thank you for your love, guidance, memories, and so much more.

Love,

Lindo

Sugarfoot

Little Bo

Christmas 2004 – Left to Right – My sister Erica, me, and Grandpa Buttrick.

This is one of my favorite pictures, taken at our annual adult Christmas dinner at the Quality Inn in West Branch, MI.
Left to Right:  Owen Reid (my dad’s “step” dad whom we all adored); Grandma Reid; me age 17; and my brother Garrett, age 7.
Grandpa Russell; Twining, MI.

Summer’s End

As I have said before, I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day.  I am always happy to put the canoe livery to rest until next year, and yet, summer always seems to go by way too quickly.   I only made it out on the river once this summer (our annual company trip) … so far.  While there is a part of me that wishes we always had summer weather here in Michigan, I know better.  As a lifelong Michigander, I definitely need the change of seasons.  Both times I lived in Texas, I missed it.  In my soul.  It never felt natural to hang out on patios in December, needing only light jackets.  Where was the crisp fall weather, the smell of burning leaves, visits to apply orchards?  It just didn’t seem right.

I came home today to see all of the canoe livery buses and mini buses parked in my backyard, safe from any flooding.  The store is condensed and ready for us to close in a month or so.  All of the picnic tables are stacked, put away until spring arrives yet again.  Just a few weeks ago, we were packed at both locations and had several hundred people go down the river on Saturday morning.  Now, we have the place all to ourselves once again.  It always catches me by surprise how quickly we go from beyond busy to ready to close up for the year.

I can’t imagine the canoe livery not being a part of my life.  I thought about it earlier this summer, and I realized that it truly was my first home.  Until I was three years old, my parents, my sister Erica, and I lived in a mobile home at our main location in Omer.  It was located where our large pole barn is now.  I’ve literally watched my parents build their business my entire life.  My brother and sister saw much of it as well; however, I am just enough older to have witnessed a bit more than either one of them. It is interesting, and frankly, I’m not sure it could have been done today – at least not in the same way.  I remember my dad making annual spring trips to Minnesota to purchase more canoes, the original three buses purchased after my parents married in 1977 (they made the best forts when not in use!), and the tiny walkup store we had prior to our current store in Omer.

So many of my childhood memories are tied up with the canoe livery.  One of my first memories is of playing the card game war with Grandma Reid in the old store.  Another early memory is of Grandma and Mom playing two-handed Euchre, snacking on MadeRite cheese popcorn, waiting for people to come off the river.  I would spend hours playing in the river and by the dock, not getting out of the water until I was completely waterlogged, trying to ignore my goosebumps.  I distinctly remember being excited when the calendar changed to March and April – and yet being SO disappointed that it wasn’t nearly warm enough to go swimming in the river.  I can’t think of a better way to grow up.

I love the fact my niece and nephew are growing up right near the canoe livery.  They visit me at the store several times a week.  I can’t begin to describe the nostalgia I feel watching them play.  They are fish, and there are many times I have had to warm them up after they have spent a little too much time in the river.  I have to remind them to put on shoes in the store constantly – reliving the time I found a bee with my bare foot at age 6.  One day this past summer, my niece decided that she wanted to take a shower in the showerhouse at the campground, nevermind that she could take a shower in her home (a two minute walk at most).  What cracked me up most is the fact that I remember doing the exact same thing at her age.  It was a production.  The forts, the pooling of money to purchase items in the store, leaving bikes in all the wrong places – sigh.  So fun.  I’m glad I’m in a position to spoil them a little bit.  I hope that they enjoy every minute.

Until next year!

Ellen Vrana @ The Examined Life

My cousin Ellen Vrana has a wonderfully rich, intellectual, yet somehow unstuffy, blog called The Examined Life.  It is wonderful, and if I am honest, intimidating as a fellow writer.  She happens to live in London with her family and discusses just about anything one can imagine.

You may want to start with her about page and A View of Fathers.  Her intelligence and depth come shining through.  You won’t be disappointed.

A Fresh Start … Part 2

Read A Fresh Start … Part 1

By mid-June, things were starting to come together at the canoe livery …  but would our customers return?  Boy, did they!  We had a wedding at our main location in Omer towards the end of June.  After the wedding, with one more weekend in June left, we became increasingly busy, experiencing volume rivaling what we normally experience mid-to-late July or even early August.  True to form, we remained busy right up until the mid-August.

Normally, this would be welcomed and wouldn’t have been an issue.  However, this year, thanks to COVID, we didn’t have adequate time to properly prepare.  During a “normal” year, we have much of June to prepare for the crowds.  Things ramp up during June until it becomes crazy from the 4th of July until mid-August.  Well, we lost that time to hire and train.  We had a week, maybe two, before we started to become that busy.  Add in the pressure of new safety precautions, difficulty in getting merchandise, and rebuilding from the flood, and one gets a sense of why it became so stressful.  I feel as though I have been running a marathon since May.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I am eternally grateful that our business not only survived but grew during COVID.  I refrain from saving thrive because it would not be sustainable long-term.  Simply too many hours and too much work in such a short period of time.  Still, it haunts me that so many small businesses didn’t survive or are in danger of closing permanently.  All I could think of this spring is the decades of work the canoe livery represents – my family history and my personal history.  It would not exist if not for the hard work, dedication, foresight, and planning of my parents, my grandparents, and now my brother and I, along with countless others over the years.  So much in my life simply would not have been possible without the canoe livery.  In it, I see my future.  Whether I like it or not, the canoe livery and the Rifle River is a part of me.  The very idea of it no longer existing is unimaginable.

If nothing else, I do hope that I have turned the corner and truly have a fresh start this fall.  It feels that way.  I could use some routine and consistency in my life – along with a healthy dose of “normal” – whatever that is now.  It is time to figure out exactly what it is that I want.  I know that I have returned to that theme dozens of times here over the years.  Yet, I still don’t know.

Who is to say that I will be content to spend the rest of my life alone?  If I met the right man – and I repeat here, the right man – I can see myself in a relationship again.  Yet, I have a difficult time seeing how I would meet him.  Same goes for children.  I would love to be a mother.  I know I would nail it.  Yet just the mere thought of the foster and/or adoption processes is enough to make me want to break out in hives.  I know what can go wrong all too well.  Maybe it will be time to “jump” sooner rather than later.  I do know that I do not want to regret what I didn’t do in my life.  Until then …

A Fresh Start … Part 1

My favorite color is October …

I’ve always loved fall, but somehow, this time of year just means more this year.  I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster (more on that in a minute, and not all entirely COVID related) since mid-March.  I want OFF!  NOW.  I never dreamed that I would help run a business and teach middle school during a pandemic, but here I am.  Something I never wanted to add to my bucket list.

As I am smack-dab in the middle of returning to in-person classes for the first time since mid-March, it is SO nice to have some normalcy, particularly after a summer and spring that was anything but “normal.”  I missed my students deeply, and I enjoy just observing kids being kids.

So, about this spring and summer …  Well, of course, it all started mid-March – that ill-fated Friday the 13th to be exact.  As the shutdown deepened, I began to worry about opening the canoe livery for the season.  Worry about the survivability of the family business #1.  Frankly, it didn’t look good.  Just as we, along with pretty much everyone else on the Rifle River, made the decision to open for self-contained camping only during Memorial Weekend, the other shoe dropped.

May 18th-20th, we received close to 7 inches of rain.  Dams in nearby Gladwin and Midland counties failed.  Fortunately, we did have a little warning thanks to another livery on the river.  My parents, brother, and I were able to save much of our technology and merchandise in our store in Omer.  Good thing we had that warning.  We ended up with 3 feet of water in the store.  That wasn’t even the worst part.

During the shutdown, I made the decision to stay with my mom.  I don’t think either of us wanted to be alone in our own homes for an extended period of time.  My dad was at their cabin in Canada when the shutdown happened, and he didn’t come home immediately.  I was over at my parents’ house when the stay-at-home order dropped.  Then, it just became habit.  What was I supposed to do at home by myself that entire time?  Normally, I am rarely at home.  I am usually at work, running errands – all kinds of things – none of which I could do during the lockdown.

Anyway, my parents and I watched in May as the Rifle River filled our Crystal Creek Campground near my parents’ home.  It nearly reached Pinnacle Bridge, which is amazing in and of itself.  Then it happened.  I read a Facebook post that stated that the Forest Lake Dam broke.  We evacuated my parents’ home.  While the Forest Lake Dam isn’t directly on the Rifle River, it would feed into the nearby river if it did break.  There simply was no way to predict what would happen if the dam broke.  My parents feared losing their home of nearly 40 years, not to mention their business of nearly 45 years.  I can still hear the panic in both of my parents’ voices.  I hope to never experience anything like again it in my life.  Same can be said for most of March through August.

Fortunately, the dam held.  We returned to my parents’ home later that day when we received word that the immediate danger had passed.  While I haven’t made a habit of watching the local news in decades, I did watch that evening as local affiliates reported as the Edenville and Sanford dams collapsed, devastating Gladwin and Midland counties.  I know the area.  I used to manage a convenience store in Sanford.  I traveled M-30 across the Edenville dam many times.  Wixom and Sanford Lakes are no more, and the Tittabawassee River reclaimed its original path.  It so easily could have been my family.  My parents could have easily lost their home – MY childhood home – and their business that day.  So many in Midland and the surrounding area did.

When we were finally able to survey the damage, we were lucky.  The flood mainly damaged our main location in Omer this time.  Keep in mind that we suffered devastating flood/ice damage – along with tornado damage later that summer – at our Crystal Creek Campground in 2018.  In Omer, we lost our propane tank, our ice chest, fencing, and a campsite.  Yes, you read that correctly.  When our campground – a former mill pond – flooded, the water drained in one area, completely eroding one of our campsites.  We had to get excavation work done in order to rebuild.  All of this on top of 3 feet of water in our store, bathrooms, and pole barns.  The cleanup took nearly a month, delaying our opening.  When we were finally able to reopen in mid-June, we didn’t know what to expect.

I will leave off here for now.  There is so much more to the story.  While I will discuss some aspects of what happened after we reopened another day, there is much more that will have to be left unsaid.  So much of what made this summer truly horrendous isn’t even my story to tell.

In my family’s experience with the flood, I watched my parents, my brother, and I come together to make things happen under unprecedented circumstances.  COVID made things much more difficult than they needed to be.  Something as simple as ordering merchandise for the summer became a nightmare.  Yet, it worked.  We somehow made it work.  That is precisely why I wanted to tell this story.

Above all, I hope all of us – every last person affected by COVID, which is the entire planet – finally get some semblance of normal.  We deserve it!

There Are No Words

Statue

If I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that I crave structure.  I need it to be productive.  I am slowly working on getting back into some type of routine as everything has shifted over the last couple of weeks.  Right now, I’m not even sure what it would look like.

I’d love to put tons of time and energy into my Google Classroom now, but Michigan just closed schools for the rest of the school year.  Up until this point, I was unable to assign anything for a grade.  I could share things I would like my students to look at and do, but that was about it.  I did come across some great stuff that I will be using with my students moving forward.  Unfortunately, that is the point.  Until we can figure out what distance learning will look like at our school, I’m not sure how we will handle students without out devices and internet access.  Hopefully, we will know more next week and will be able to move on from there.

I miss and worry about my students.  My heart breaks for my 8th graders who will be heading off to high school next year.  Will they be ready?  We did not get to send them off in the way they need to be sent off – not yet, anyway.  I worry less about 6th and 7th graders.  I can put things in place to help us fill in gaps next year.  It may not be fun, but it might be necessary.  I still miss them though, and they are certainly missing out on so much.  When we left school on Friday, March 13th – a day I will never forget – I was in the middle of planning a field trip to the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts.  My 6th graders were also supposed to go to Lansing on another field trip in early May – a field trip that never happened last year.  8th graders are also missing out on their last dance, usually put on by 7th grade.  Not to mention track and field day, the last events surrounding Lent and Easter, and the wonderful chaos that is the last week of the school year.  Oh, and I could cry when I think of what we had planned for March is reading month, most of which never took place, including Prime Time Live Friday Night (originally slated for that ill-fated Friday the 13th) and a poetry café, among so much else.

Then there are the student council events.  I am the student council advisor, and my students pleaded with me to plan an end of year event.  A trip to an escape room and laser tag were in the works.  We were also supposed to have a carnival for younger students during March is reading month, all sponsored and put on by student council.  I’m now trying to figure out how we are going to do elections for next year, which take place every spring.  I may be able to come up with something there.  The point is that everyone who works in or deals with education day-in, day-out – teachers, administrators, volunteers, staff, parents, and certainly students – lost so much over these last few weeks.

I feel as though that goes double for students in Catholic schools.  I am not Catholic, and I do not teach religion, but I know what my students are missing at a time when they could use their faith the most.  They need guidance when it comes to faith formation, and that is what they are lacking now.  I keep thinking … 20 years from now, how I will I explain these times to my students?  There are times when I feel at a loss when I try discussing September 11th with current students who were born longer after 2001.

This is not what I wanted or dreamed for my first full year teaching.  It just isn’t.  I do hope that next year will bring a “normal” year.  During the 2018-2019 school year, those of us in Michigan experienced a record number of “cold”/snow days.  Something no one experienced before.  Now this.  I think everyone could use a return to “normal” at this point.

Change the World

Then there is the canoe livery.  Fortunately for us, we don’t truly begin to get busy until the end of June, early July.  August keeps getting busier and busier every year.  This time of year, we get things ready for opening on Memorial Weekend.  We will see what happens.  While we can make some progress, in other ways, it is difficult.  For example, I can’t finish ordering our t-shirts and sweatshirts at this point.  Would it be wise to do so right now with so much uncertainty?  Same goes for other merchandise in our stores.

There are so many summer scenarios that are running through my head.  I can’t help but think we’d be especially busy if things start returning to normal by early June.  If it is towards the end of June, that might put more pressure on already extremely busy weekends.  Should we extend our season?  Time will tell.

I do know that I will survive.  My family will survive.  The canoe livery will survive.  We’ve weathered so many storms in the past.  I keep telling myself how bleak things looked in 2018 in the wake of massive 100-year flooding due to ice.  We made it and came back better than ever.  Eventually a path will be made clear, and there will be a new “normal.”  We all just need to hold on until then.

Empty Classroom

Grieving “Normal”

Graduation

The Sadness is Real:  An Open Letter to the Teachers

Ever since schools closed on Friday, March 13th, so many people have posted about spring break trips, proms, graduations, and so much more being cancelled and/or postponed.  I’ve watched others shame those same people truly grieving their loss by stating things such as “at least you’re healthy” and “how can you think of things at a time like this?”  What awful things to say!

While graduations and field trips certainly aren’t the sickness or loss of a loved one – no one is making that comparison – most of us are suffering from loss at this point.  We have lost our “normal” and working like hell to get to a “new normal,” whatever that may be.  As a teacher, I’m in awe at how teachers have come together.  I belong to a Google Classroom group on Facebook, and the activity I’ve witnessed over the last few weeks is unreal.  So many strangers, all teachers or in education, coming to help one another help students across the United States and the world.  In fact, I’ve had my own crash course over the last few weeks.  In fact, that is precisely why I am a teacher, I love to keep learning and then share what I’ve learned with my students.

When all this madness is over, and things return to “normal” – and they will – it is my hope that we are all kinder and gentler with one another.  Hopefully this will bring many people closer to God.  I also hope that it brings everyone, students included, a new appreciation for their everyday lives.  It already has for me.  As stressed out as I was at the end of last trimester, I’d love to be worried about planning all the fun things for March is reading month and the end of the school year again.  So, I am taking some time to grieve my loss of normal – and you should too.  When this is over, we are all going to love on each other and support our neighborhoods, small businesses, and cities, towns, and villages like never before.  Personally, I am hoping for a great party out on the river!

All I can say is that there will be time to reschedule those missed spring break trips, make those memories with your seniors, and generally make up for lost time.  I am looking forward to that day, and I expect to be so busy that I will be tempted to complain.  Until then, I will just keep plugging away.

Never Stop Learning