Tag Archives: childhood

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.

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!

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.

Reading Quote

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.

Belle Books.jpg

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