Category Archives: family

Organization and Patience

Flat lay with glasses, keyboard and cactus candle on colorful ba

I’ve always been obsessed over organization. If I’ve learned one thing about myself through the years, it is this: I work best when I am completely organized. When one small thing is out of place, I find myself easily distracted. A simple task that should take only a few minutes looms large and threatens to upset everything. Silly, I know.

As a teacher, even as a substitute teacher, I try to be as organized as possible. There is nothing worse than walking into a classroom in disarray as a substitute teacher. Endlessly searching for the sub plans constitutes a nightmare in my book. Even worse, walking into no sub plans at all.  Fortunately, that happened to me only once.

As a student, my favorite teachers tended to be those who were more organized, or at least attempted to be organized. Knowing what is expected of you as a student goes a long way toward meeting high expectations. I loved being able to easily know precisely what I needed to accomplish to do well in a class. It didn’t matter at what level. Teachers that allowed for creative freedom – and time to exercise that freedom in class – were among my favorites as well.

So, where did I go wrong?

Right now, I feel anything but organized. Maybe it is just the chaos of creativity and everything happening at once. I never seem to be able to get far enough ahead to make a difference. I know this spring and summer will bring massive changes in my life – and for the better. But what about tying up all those loose ends and meeting deadlines? How do I make it work?

I am slowly trying to make it all work. Unfortunately, I inherited impatience from all sides. In some ways, my procrastination at times is downright rebellion. Growing up, my parents were always working, whether teaching (Mom), running a business, or raising kids. My parents may have been understanding in most cases, but neither one could be described as patient. After spending time with Mom, I realize it is something I will have to work on for the rest of my life. Ultimately, it is my impatience that makes me so disorganized at times. I need to get things done NOW. Putting things away can wait. I am trying – and that is about all I can say at the moment.

Ben Franklin Quote

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You – Part 2

texas-postcard.jpg

My Grandpa Russell sent this postcard from Moore Field near Mission, Texas to Julia Suszko (Grandma) in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1943. They later married in Mission, Texas – May 1943. Finding this postcard among family pictures answered a lot of questions about Grandma’s life between graduating from Sterling High School in June 1942 and marrying Grandpa by May 1943. I am so close to answering my questions!

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You – Part 1
Somehow, I always sensed family ties to Texas, but until fairly recently, I didn’t realize how strong that connection remains. Growing up, I knew that Grandma Reid lived in Texas with Grandpa Russell during World War II. In fact, they married in Mission, near McAllen and the border. After training at Moore Field (near Mission), Grandpa Russell served in the Army Air Corp in Fort Worth. Grandma worked as an ice box riveter, eventually telling me stories about her experiences at Plant 4. I couldn’t get enough of the stories or the era. Unfortunately, I couldn’t simply ask.

Grandma and Grandpa

My Russell grandparents in front of their rec home in Fort Worth, Texas ~ 1943

Or at least I didn’t feel I could. Grandma and I always had a great relationship, but some things didn’t require words. During their time in Fort Worth, 1943-1945, Grandpa Russell, and later, my dad’s older brother Eddie, made up Grandma’s family. My dad and aunt wouldn’t be in the picture for years yet.

Sadly, both Grandpa Russell and Eddie passed away long before I could meet either. I felt bringing up and asking questions about Grandma’s life in Texas would be unnecessarily cruel. Yet, she did tell me a few stories, and I consider myself lucky. Grandma remained a part of Grandpa Russell’s family long after she remarried. It is through her that I gained a sense of what Grandpa Russell and Eddie were like and learned about the Russell family.

During the year I lived in Houston, I finally visited Fort Worth. I drove by the factory where Grandma worked. At a mile long, it continues to impress. What struck me most was the courage it must have taken for two young adults to leave rural Arenac County, Michigan and their family farms for the unknown of wartime Texas. While it is true that Grandma lived in Hamtramck, Michigan with family prior to moving to Texas, neither she nor Grandpa Russell had family in Fort Worth or even Texas. They, of course, were far from alone. Sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation, at home and abroad, will never fail to inspire me.

Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Consolidated B-24 Liberator – Consolidated Aircraft manufactured the B-24 in Plant 4 in Fort Worth, among other locations. This is likely the type of plane my grandmother worked on.

One of my favorite Texas stories is the story Grandma told of meeting her manager at Plant 4 for the first time. He went on about how wonderful it was to have someone with experience riveting in Detroit. In reality, his speech left Grandma terrified. She did have experience riveting in Detroit – true – but it completely differed from what she was now being expected to do. Who knew there were so many different types of riveting? Fortunately, she learned quickly.

After the war, my grandparents eventually moved back to Michigan and the Russell farm. Still, those experiences stayed with Grandma. In June 2002, as I prepared to leave for Austin, I said goodbye to Grandma at the canoe livery. Always the joker, one of the last things she said before I left was: “They’ll call you a damn Yankee, you know.” I brushed it off. In 1943, maybe. 2002? Never.

Well, Grandma proved to be correct. The first words words I heard in Texas were: “Damn Yankee, huh?” After landing in Austin, I loaded up my rental car with all I needed for the next six months. Predictably, in the era before GPS and Google Maps, I became lost on my way to my new apartment complex. I pulled into a supermarket and asked for directions. Of course, as soon as I opened my mouth, the nice man I asked responded jokingly “Damn Yankee, huh?” We laughed as he gave me directions. Yes, my time in Texas started off well.

When I think of family history and Texas, I tend to think of Dad’s family. His parents married there. Uncle Eddie, born in 1945 in Fort Worth, truly was a Texan. Well, there is history in Texas on Mom’s side as well. It is murkier, and I wish I knew it better.

Mom’s maternal grandparents, Bion A. Hoffman and Beatrice Smith, divorced during the 1930s. While my great-grandmother regrouped and went back to school to become a teacher, Grandma B. and her sisters lived with their grandparents in Lincoln, Nebraska. While I am not exactly sure when, Bion, or as my mom knew him, Grandpa Pat, eventually moved to Houston. In fact, he died in Houston in the late 1980s. While I can’t confirm this, I believe he ranched. If it is true, it makes perfect sense. Bion came from a long line of ranchers and farmers who moved west and eventually settled in Nebraska. Hopefully one day I will be able to confirm that my great-grandfather ranched near Houston.

While I didn’t fall in love with Houston – or even like it much – one good thing did come out of it all. Even though my sister and my brother-in-law met at Michigan State, they fell in love in Houston. Spring break 2005, my sister decided to visit and bring a “friend.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that there was more to the story. My nephews can honestly say that their parents fell in love in Texas. My family may be firmly rooted in Michigan, but there are also deep Texas ties.

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You – Part 1

Texas

The Clash

Girl

I’ve been meaning to write a post about infertility since this past fall – September, in fact.  On a perfect September Monday evening the stars aligned, and I had the greatest time catching up with an old friend over dinner.  This particular friend and I are almost exactly the same age, and frankly, we are old enough to have been through some serious garbage.  Even though she is married and has a wonderful young daughter, she still knows exactly what it is like to struggle with infertility. Over dinner, the conversation naturally turned to foster care, adoption, and infertility.  I will never forget what she made me realize that evening.

First, know that I’ve known that there is virtually no way I’ll ever become pregnant since I was 10 years old.  I am not going to be one of those women who adopts and then miraculously wakes up pregnant one day. In fact, that is another topic I will discuss shortly.  What I failed to realize, and what my friend made clear so eloquently, is that having a biological child doesn’t automatically “heal” infertility or change everything.  It made me realize just how many women I know who don’t quite have the families they envisioned. My friend’s daughter is an only child, and that was not the plan. Another good friend has two beautiful little girls and wanted a third child.  I could go on.

I once read that no one ever quite gets over infertility.  It is a process – and there is no end. One day he or she may be fine, and the next, it all comes flooding back.  In fact, you can read my response and the original article here.  So true.  So very true.

Somewhere along the line, I think society makes this expectation that infertility is somehow “fixed” once a person adopts or becomes a foster parent.  “You can always adopt.” I am not exactly sure where that comes from, but it is completely inaccurate. Women who struggle with infertility and have a biological child (or even children) don’t even register.  Yet, they struggle just as much as the rest of us for whom biological children won’t happen.

There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t wonder where I went wrong or what I could have done differently.  Maybe if I had been more clear with my ex, he would have been more open to adoption – or I would have moved on much earlier.  For the record, I told him before we ever really dated (we were friends first), so none of it should have ever come as a surprise.  Maybe if I had done x, y, or z, i would have adopted by now. Frankly, I need to stop beating myself up. But I also need to acknowledge that not a day goes by that these thoughts run through my head.  They are at the heart of what keeps me going and keeps me fighting for the family that I want so badly.

Unfortunately, our society and even some well-meaning people do not help.  I am tired of being told that “it will happen” one day when he or she knows nothing about my medical history. Nosey, but usually well-meaning, people seem to ask the most intimate of questions. As I have said before, not being asked when I will get married and/or have kids is one of the absolute best things about being single.  I am tired and frustrated by assumptions that seem to be everywhere. All of us need to be more careful. Unless we know the details, we have no idea what a person is truly going through at the moment.

And then there is religion.  For years, my cynical nature made me skeptical of anything having to do with organized religion.  By the way, I am completely comfortable separating organized religion from my personal belief in God and Jesus Christ.  I am not angry with God; I know He has a plan. I am angry with how insensitively we treat anyone in the church who isn’t a part of a traditional family unit.  My views toward organized religion may have changed somewhat, but the church can and should do better. It doesn’t have to be related to infertility, although that is what I will discuss here.

Again, well-meaning Christians may tell those struggling with infertility that he or she is praying or that “miracles happen all the time.”  Both are absolutely well-intentioned; however, what if she doesn’t get her miracle? What about cases of infertility that cannot be remedied by current medical science?  What about the woman who is alone and plans to adopt on her own? What about the woman who is still struggling after she and her husband do have their miracle baby? What about men who struggle with infertility?  I could go on. Instead, we just need to try not to jump to conclusions. Yet, it is so easy to do.

I finally decided to discuss infertility yet again thanks to a jaw-dropping blog post that discusses the clash between infertility and foster care.  With the exception of the author’s discussion of her daughter Lil Red, I could have written this article, especially regarding pregnancy.  I expect that once I do adopt, I will feel much the same way she does towards her daughter.  Her post touched me in a way that I can’t fully explain. You can read it here.  I am so glad that I live in a time where women can truly express how they feel towards topics such as infertility, loss, pregnancy, etc.  I can’t imagine not being able to express all of this.

I am not other.  I am not sick.  I am definitely not less-than.

Waiting for Baby Bird – Infertility and Foster Care:  The Clash of Both Worlds

A Different Perspective:  Is This Why We Don’t Talk About Infertility?

Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde:  The Lessons of Infertility

Made

Best Laid Plans – Family

Life

I’ve put off writing about my personal life for many reasons, but the main one is the simple fact that I must come to terms with my reality versus what I’ve wanted my entire life.  It is not easy, and sooner or later, choices must be made.

I never expected to be single and childless nearing 40.  Anyone telling me that I should be happy to be so thoroughly unattached doesn’t know me at all.  It never should have been this hard.

As a child, after I learned about Turner Syndrome and infertility, any conversation about infertility included phrases like “don’t worry, the technology will catch up to you” – my well-meaning mother referring to IVF – or some vague mention of adoption.

I’ve long known that adoption was what I wanted for myself.  I couldn’t imagine putting myself through round after round of IVF only to have it not work.  Physically, I might have been OK, but emotionally, I don’t know how I could knowingly do that to myself time and time again.

In a sense, Mom was right.  IVF is more accessible and successful than ever.  It still doesn’t change the fact that failure is the most common outcome.  It doesn’t change the fact that I would need donor eggs.  Most important of all, it doesn’t change the fact that there are so many children who need love and a home – now.

Then why am I so hesitant when it comes to adoption?  That is a trickier question.  I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that I will be doing this alone.  Somehow, I never thought I’d end up being single.  Even though I barely dated in high school, I thought I’d meet the right man in college.  In fact, I counted on it.

Oh, I could write a book on how I met all the wrong boys at Michigan State and across the world – or I should say, a handful of well-intentioned boys who never saw me as anything but a little sister.  One actually said that to my face.  I intentionally use the term boys here; I have yet to date a man.

Why am I always good enough for friendship and that’s it?  During my time at MSU, I lost a lot of weight, and the resulting male attention still leaves me unspeakably angry.  I was still the same smart, well-intentioned girl who can be fun and funny once you get to know her.  Only my weight changed.  One day I wasn’t worth knowing; the next, I didn’t know what to do.  While I wasn’t exactly drowning in male attention, I noticed.  It became all too clear.

Why should I have to change some arbitrary characteristic to be happy?  That is an awful message to send to anyone – but as a society, we do it all day, every day.

I suppose I should worry about myself and pursue parenthood on my own.  That is exactly what I intend to do.  Yet, there is such a huge piece of my life missing.  I never wanted it to be this way.  Hopefully, I’ll be pleasantly surprised and finally meet the right man.  Unfortunately, that takes an incredible leap of faith living in Arenac County.

What it comes down to is that I am tired.  I am tired of being rejected before someone gets to truly know me.  I am tired of being lied to repeatedly.  I am tired of being alone.  I am tired of watching everyone else find their person, knowing that it probably won’t happen for me.

Above all, I am tired of feeling not enough.  I am enough.  It is time I started acting like it.

The biggest obstacle I face, aside from all that comes with foster care and/or adoption (by the way, anyone who thinks it is easy knows nothing about either), is trust.  Being on the receiving end of lying and cheating will do that to a person, particularly when that is your only experience in a relationship.

How can I bring myself to ever trust again?  Yet, I must.  I refuse to let one bad relationship, no matter how long or awful, have the last word on love.

By the way, if you are concerned about me after reading this, don’t be.  I will be fine no matter what happens.  I am just incredibly frustrated and see no easy fix.  People may question why I share something so intensely personal.  It is for this simple reason:  I do not want anyone in a similar situation to feel alone.  He or she is not alone.

boots

“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.

Great Alone 2
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.

oz 1

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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Book Review: “The Stage is on Fire” by Katie Steedly

The Stage is on Fire Book Cover

It isn’t often that a book comes along and grabs you by the jugular.  Katie Steedly’s The Stage is on Fire did just that.  At the same time, I’ve struggled to write this review in the weeks since I finished the book.  I related to and adored the first two-thirds of the book.  The last third left me angry and upset, which I will get to later.  While I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend the book, there are certain people I feel need to read the book, namely girls and women with Turner Syndrome.  Actually, I would recommend it to anyone struggling to find their place in the world.  That said, it is not for everyone.

Let me start with what’s working.  Almost immediately, Katie’s voice struck me as authentic and powerful.  She writes spirituality well, and never gives up on her quest to find her place in the world and create her own definition of home.  In the book, Katie details several moves across the country, her experiences in academia – good and bad, and her experience participating in the study of women and girls with Turner Syndrome at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC.  Turner Syndrome aside, I couldn’t help but relate to Katie throughout the book.

I am still in awe when I think of just how much Katie and I have in common.  We both taught at some point.  We are both writers.  Both of us have moved across country to pursue new opportunities and a new life.  In addition, both of us struggled with the idea of home and family at various times.  I could go on and on.  In the end, this is why I felt so disappointed in the ending.  It seemed to unnecessarily divide people.

There are several things that stood out and continue to stand out in the book.

  1. Her first teaching experience did not end well – hence the title of the book. Oh, I can relate.  In Katie’s case, she took the opportunity to further her education, eventually landing at the University of Texas in Austin.  She did what everyone needs to do when facing failure:  Get back up and try again.  She does this many, many times throughout the book, always seeking something more.
  2. She captures the journey to find our place in the world, peace, and meaning in life beautifully. I may not agree with her completely when it comes to religion, but I can fully relate to her need to explore what religion and spirituality mean to her.
  3. It took incredible courage for her to participate in the National Institute of Health study. It is much more intense and in depth than I ever dreamed.  Her description of what she felt emotionally while having an ultrasound knowing she will likely never experience pregnancy will stay with me.  I only wish I had written it.  Even though I experienced many of those same emotions as a child when I had an ultrasound, I wasn’t mature enough to fully express them at the time.  Now, as an adult, the fact that those feelings have been so beautifully put into words is a true gift.
  4. Did I mention courage? During her time in Austin, Katie decided to walk/jog a marathon.  A marathon.  Prior to this, there is not much mention of any athletics in the book on her part.  She is much more interested in drama, writing, and education.  Yet, she did it.  She accomplished the goal she set for herself, even if it was out of her element.

Oh, and dating.  It is worth mentioning.  Katie is far more adventurous in the dating  world than I will ever be.  At the time, she had yet to meet the right man.  I get the impression that that may have changed.  Her determination to not give up on love is inspirational – and something I desperately needed to read.

There is so much more in the book, but I will leave it for readers to discover.  It is important to note that the book is written as a series of essays.  I believe they are largely in chronological order.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much.  Katie clearly grows throughout the entire book, as does her definition of home.  It may seem to be a small point, but I wish the formatting of the Kindle edition included a full title page between essays.  Instead, they include small titles similar to chapter titles at the very top of the page.  In fact, in writing this review, I had to check my Kindle version to see if each essay included a title at all. Each essay stands alone so beautifully, it is a shame that this feature of the book isn’t more prominently displayed.

Now to discuss what isn’t working.  Frankly, I didn’t enjoy the last third of the book at all.  I almost put it down.  It became far too political for my tastes.  It is one thing to pick up a book on politics, knowing what you are about to read, it is quite another to dive in head first after reading a seemingly different book in the beginning.  I get why she wrote about politics.  It became an important part of her life at that point in time.  I don’t believe it was handled very well.  I left feeling as though she couldn’t even begin to understand anyone who didn’t agree with her politically, which is truly unfortunate.  No one has a monopoly on political truth.  No one.  I wish it had been handled with more care and less judgement.  I get the feeling that Katie would be the last person to think of herself as judgmental, but that is how the political aspect of the book comes across, whether that was her intention or not.

Politics aside, I am happy I read the book.  I am grateful that Katie can connect emotionally with people through her writing.  Her writing is just beginning to teach me how to express what I thought impossible.  For that, I am truly grateful.  I love the fact that I can annotate and highlight my Kindle version of The Stage is on Fire.  I will be coming back to it as I continue to write.  You can find her website and blog here.

travel lost

Grace’s Table

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about Grace’s Table, but it has made a lasting impression.  My sister, Erica Wolbrink, met Lisa Anderson and became involved with Grace’s Table not too long ago.  It is through Erica that I learned all about Grace’s Table’s mission to help provide young moms with space to grow personally – spiritually, professionally, and as mothers.  Ever since I first heard about Grace’s Table’s mission, it stuck with me and captured my imagination – even though I have never experienced Grace’s Table in person.  I could never quite figure out why, until recently.

As I began participating in Grace’s Table’s latest social media campaign, I thought about why I feel so drawn to Grace’s Table’s mission.  It finally hit me.  As a single woman approaching 40 preparing to adopt and become a single mom, I can only begin to imagine what young moms feel at age 15 or even 20.  Parenting is hard enough; it is infinitely harder when trying to figure out your own identity, often in the face of limited resources and support.

I am blessed.  I have a wonderful education, bright career prospects, a home, and reliable transportation.  I am surrounded by friends and family who support and love me unconditionally.  Even though I am not yet a mom, I know where I will send my children to day-care and later school.  I have a fully-developed support systems, resources, and options.  And I am still scared.

I can’t imagine facing parenthood in the middle of adolescence or even in young adulthood.  As a secondary teacher, I fully understand that adolescence and young adulthood is a time of discovering one’s identity.  That self-discovery requires space and support.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what many young mothers lack just when they need it most.  Grace’s Table is seeking to provide that space and support for young mothers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I invite you join me in learning more about Grace’s Table, their mission, and what space for grace is all about.

Grace’s Table – Growth

#spaceforgrace

Dreaming Big

Bold and Brave

I am not sure when I settled, but I did.  Why am I content to shortchange myself?  Anything can happen.  I need to remind myself of that simple truth daily.

It is time I figured out exactly what I want.  The thing is that what I truly want are things out of my control.  How do I balance that with working towards other goals over which I do have some control?  This is the type of question that keeps me awake at night.  I am no longer content to sit on the sidelines and let things happen.  I would love to know precisely when I stopped trying.  As much as I hate to admit this to myself, I never stopped caring.  I did stop trying.

The sad thing is that I’ve always wanted to do it all:  wife, mother, teacher, business owner, and writer.  I am not even a wife or mother yet, and still the other three on my list give me fits.  My sister Erica thinks I am nuts for wanting to teach and help take over our parents’ seasonal business.  She points out that things are much different in education and our business when compared to the days when our mom balanced both.  I agree.  Still, Erica underestimates me.  I can and will have it all – just not all at once.

Frankly, it kills me when people give up on their dreams.  Why should I give up on mine?  I do not care if my plans are hard.  The best things in life are hard.  Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  I wish more people realized how much potential lies within everyone.  We would all either be much happier – or lost in sorrow when we realize what we could have had if only we hadn’t given up.

If you are betting against me, be prepared to lose.  I am far from done.

Rumi Quote

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