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.
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.
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 …
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!
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.
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.
Why do I write? I write because I must write. I have a story within me that must be told. There may be other ways to tell that story, but writing fits me – and more importantly, it fits the story I need to tell. I’ve dabbled in many forms of writing over the years, everything from daily throw away articles to blogging to academic papers. I view it all as preparation for writing a larger story.
More than anything, writing allows me to organize all the seemingly random thoughts rambling around my head. I love reading what I wrote years ago as it normally takes me back to a certain time and place. It is a way for me to see just how much I’ve grown over the years, both personally and as a writer.
As a teacher, it saddens me when students tell me they hate to read and write. In my mind, my love of writing grew out of my love of reading. I loved to read as a child – and I still love to read. Reading and writing are so intertwined in my life that it is difficult for me to tell where one begins and the other ends. For example, something I plan to write will inspire me to read a certain book. Other times, a book I pick up because it looks good will inspire me to write. One of my all-time favorite books, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, sums up the symbiotic relationship perfectly. In fact, it changed how I read as a writer in every sense of those words. As long as I have books, paper, and pen, I will never be bored.
Writing, to me, also means a sense of community. I’ve taken writing classes at the local community college, spent years as a member of Mid-Michigan Writers, Inc., and attended workshops and seminars for writers. I have yet to meet one writer who didn’t have something to offer others, whether it be a new critique technique, a new source of writing prompts, or information on various programs for writers. As with teachers, writers are happy to share. We can all learn from one another.
The wonderful thing about writing is that it can be personal or shared, solitary or social, and organized or spontaneous. There is room for all types, and there is no one set of rules that apply to everyone. I love that young and old have access to reading and writing. Unlike many sports, there is no expiration date. There is no real barrier to entry other than basic literacy. I like to think that my writing will just get better with age, like a fine wine. It inspires me that many writers did not find their way until late in life. Above all, there is no stopping a great story.
Let’s face it: Good storytelling isn’t going anywhere, whether that means books, movies, television, or something else entirely. As long as there is hunger for a good story, there will be writers. I am proud to be a part of that tradition.
I admit that I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I love writing and it brings me a lot of joy. At the same time, I hate it when I get so busy with other things in my life that I let writing go by the wayside. It isn’t that I don’t have time. I don’t make the necessary time. That must change. Not a month from now, not a week from now, but today. As I now have nothing but time, maybe I need to work it into my schedule in a way that is sustainable when the world rights itself again.
It’s strange. Growing up, I always wanted to live through historic events. I loved history and wanted to be a part of it. What I didn’t realize when I was younger is that we all live through history. The reasons I love genealogy and history so much are the countless stories of ordinaries peoples’ lives during extraordinary circumstances. If that doesn’t describe these times, nothing will. If nothing else, I hope those of us who love to write, whether for an audience or just ourselves, take this opportunity to detail our lives in this moment.
I can’t wait for the day when I argue with my mom whether the corona virus epidemic hit in 2020 or 2021. We will get through this, and I can’t wait for the party when we do! I do hope it brings us together and closer to God. I also hope that our society somehow learns patience. We need to slow down and appreciate what we do have. Every one of us.
Today I am happy to share an e-mail interview with Mari L. McCarthy. It is all about the power of journaling! Check it out below:
Why did you decide to start journaling in the first place?
It was for physical therapy purposes only. I had an MS episode where I lost most use of the right side of my body, and I needed to teach myself how to write with my left hand ASAP.
When did you notice a connection between journaling and how you felt physically, spiritually, and mentally?
Right away. I got started with Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, and the three stream-of-consciousness pages first thing every morning took me on a magical mystery tour. I started hearing rhymes and started writing poetry for the first time in my life. And, I started remembering things from my childhood 60 years ago and experiencing it as if it was happening right now. I was able to process the events through the pages, became aware of how many erroneous thoughts and feelings I was carrying around in my body, and created new thoughts that reduced all kinds of mental, physical and spiritual stress.
Who do you think could benefit most from journaling daily?
Everyone. We all have had challenging childhoods where we just sucked in everything, including a lot of erroneous thoughts and feelings (I call them issues in our tissues). Journaling provides us the opportunity to understand the origins of our crazy thinking and shows us how to reframe our thought process.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting on their journaling journey?
Journaling is about facing our fears, learning how to manage our negativity and inner critics, and reclaiming our power. That is monumental behavior change. Take it easy. Journaling is about thinking with your heart and soul. Our overanalytical head has been in change for so long she’s afraid of losing control. My recommendation is to ask your journal a question and then free-write fast until you feel – my favorite 4 letter F word – like stopping.
What do you think is the biggest roadblock for those who want to make journaling a daily habit and fail to do so?
We are our biggest roadblock. We are experienced in self-sabotage and in having an unhealthy relationship with ourselves. Fear has controlled us since forever, and it is scary and a lot of hard work to explore our inner world. Plus, we were raised to think that alone time is so selfish. It is a totally new experience to work through the pain and heal our wounds.
Do you prefer to handwrite or type your journal entries? Which would you recommend to those new to journaling?
Pen to paper every day is the only way to get all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits that are available to you from journaling. Jumping right in and freewriting is a good start. Make sure you breathe and understand that your head (ego, inner critic, other voices…) will go crazy. Writing fast will show them you are in charge.
Why do you think journaling has such a profound effect on our lives and how we perceive ourselves?
I don’t know. I can only tell you that I have monumentally healed, grown and transformed myself thanks to journaling. I live a compassionate (!) unconditional love-in with myself, and it grows every day. In my first book, Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, I have results from scientific studies that are researching and monitoring this magical, mysterious self-healing process.
Aside from journaling, how else do you think writing can help us lead better lives?
Writing is creative self-expression, and we have so much inside of us that we’ve been stuffing down for so long. Writing is giving ourselves permission to be the truly talented (wild and crazy) person we are and share our brilliance with the world.
What do you think we as writers can learn from our journaling patterns (i.e. the topics we keep coming back to time and time again)?
Besides the therapeutic value journaling has, it gives us great ideas for poetry, essays, characters for fiction writing.
Aside from journaling, what advice would you give readers eager to live their best lives?
Carve out “ME” (self-care) time every day where you can just be with yourself. We’re great doers and care takers and fixers and…. What we need to do is put ourselves first and work on reconnecting and staying connected to our true self every day.
Mari, thank you for sharing such great advice and insight with my readers! Best of luck with the rest of your blog tour.
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.
In the past, I’ve written Father’s Day pieces for and about Dad. In fact, I shared one of those old pieces with Mid-Michigan Writers at our last meeting. Through that process, I realized that I have a series of stories about my father, not a simple post of memories. That post contains kernels of several stories. In fact, as I read the piece Monday evening, other stories came to mind. It is now a piece I need to dissect, rework, and reorganize – among many other things. It might make a nice companion piece to Dad’s hunting stories when I finally get around to writing them.
So, today, I am not going to share stories about Dad. No. Instead, I am going to share the greatest lesson he ever taught me. My entire life, he taught me that life is short and that you must go after whatever it is you seek. He always did exactly what he wanted to do. It is time for me to do the same. I am not quite there yet, but I am on my way. Happy Father’s Day Dad!
Dad and Me ~ Thanksgiving 2002 – One of my favorite pictures of the two of us!
I am a firm believer that everyone should have a creative outlet. It may take some time to find what works for you, but it is so worth it in the end. I discovered writing as my creative outlet at an early age, but then life got in the way, as it always does. I hope this time I can make time for what matters.
As I have spent the last several weeks as a substitute teacher in a 4th grade classroom, I’ve enjoyed seeing just how passionate kids are about their hobbies. I have budding writers, musicians, artists, and athletes in the classroom, not to mention scientists. We had the best discussions about the US space shuttle program, astronauts, and basic animal genetics. They are not afraid to ask great questions. After a science lesson on the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity on astronauts, one student asked me why we never returned to the moon after the 1969 moon landing. A quick Google search later, we had our answers, which included the facts that politics largely got in the way and that NASA recently announced possible commercialization of space travel, including a possible return to the moon. See article here.
I am left with just one question: What do we do as educators between 4th grade and senior year of high school to suck the creativity out of students? I like to believe things are changing for the better, but I still see way too much “busy,” mindless work being assigned, especially in middle school. STEM programs are on the right track, but I do believe they need to include art, or STEAM, as well. Still, that doesn’t cut it for everyone. What about students who have no idea how to stick with something long enough to enjoy it? How do we recognize and deal with the fact that many students are resistant to the idea that failure can help us learn and grow? We inadvertently teach students that failure is to be avoided at all cost. For better or worse, it is ingrained in our culture. High stakes standardized testing anyone? We need to teach students how to fail effectively: how to move on and learn from our mistakes. They need to know on a gut level that failure is inevitable. We are meant to learn from it.
I am deeply grateful that I found a creative outlet that works for me. I adored art classes as a child, but I have no ability to draw animals or people. I am no painter either. One of my greatest wishes is to have some musical ability. Sadly, as much as I love music, I have none. In searching for my creative outlet, I overlooked the obvious: I am meant to be a writer. Unfortunately, as a child, I always wanted to be more instead of embracing what I love and can reasonably do without embarrassing myself. In fact, that is one of my greatest wishes for any of my students past, present, or future: Find a creative outlet that makes you happy through good times and bad.