Tag Archives: memories

Hitting the Road

I’ve always loved traveling, no matter how short or long the trip.  This wanderlust has taken me on so many wonderful adventures over the years, and fortunately for me, so many of my best childhood memories were made hitting the road with Grandma Reid.  The woman just loved to go.  She rarely spent time at home, at least until age caught up with her.  In fact, she spent over forty years selling women’s clothing from a variety of catalog companies.  So many of her customers were housewives who lived out in Michigan’s Thumb.  She’d drive to her customers, bags and bags of clothing samples in tow.  She quit selling in the early/mid-1990s only due to the fact that she could no longer find a quality company to represent.  The last company she carried sold more home goods than clothing.  Unfortunately, the quality was nothing compared to the companies she worked for during the 1950s-1980s.  Even as a teenager, I loved to go clothes shopping with Grandma.  She had a way of helping you find the right fight and could be brutally honest if need be.  I learned to love the road and basics of business, at least in part, at my grandmother’s knee.  

During my preschool years, Grandma would pick me up from time to time.  At the time, I was used to her late ‘70s/early ‘80s blue Chystler station wagon, the same one that I tried to make Grandpa Reid promise to take care of as it was now his.  If you knew Grandpa Owen, it was a futile effort, even if asked by his adorable granddaughter.  I can still envision the station wagon parked underneath the old apple tree at the canoe livery – or as we always called it, the park – Grandpa napping in the backseat in the heat of a Michigan summer.

Then one day, I couldn’t find Grandma’s station wagon in the preschool parking lot.  Grandma’s new vehicle was one for the books.  She purchased one of the first Chrysler minivans, and what a vehicle it was!  I have no idea how many miles she put on the thing, but I do know that she replaced the engine at one point.  She finally totaled it in the early 90s in an accident on her way to one of my sister’s softball games.  That iconic tan minivan, when it was finally put to rest, represented the passing of an era.

What makes certain vehicles from our childhood so damn memorable?  I wrote a piece about my first car, which my mom drove for a large chunk of my childhood.  I could write something similar about my dad’s ‘77 Freewheelin’ Ford Bronco, his green Jeep Grand Cherokee that my sister inherited as her first vehicle, or even the lemon fullsize blue Ford van with the squealing fan belt that hung around the canoe livery forever – the one we drove to Florida to Walt Disney World.  It isn’t the vehicles so much as the journeys and times they represent.

Last spring, touring the Henry Ford Museum for the first time with my middle school students, I was taken back by a veritable wave of nostalgia seeing one of first Chrysler minivans (in this case, a Plymouth Voyager – almost identical to the first Dodge Caravans) at the end of a long line of evolving family vehicles.  It stopped me for a moment.  All it needed was a tan paint job/interior and Dodge badging to be Grandma’s minivan of my childhood.

More than anything, that minivan represents, at least to me, countless trips to the movies, Lutz’s Funland in Au Gres, putt-putt golf in Tawas, ice cream runs, and the Bear Track.  I think of the infamous trip to Kings Island in Ohio where Mom and Grandma tried to remain calm as we were caught in an awful storm.  We were parked, Grandma had her foot on the brake, and the van was still shaking.  How many trips to weddings, family reunions, and showers did I take with her in that van?  Last, but not least, we took Grandma’s van to the airport on our infamous trip to Aruba with Dad, Erica, Emily Lammy, Grandma, and Dean Gillette (Mom was too pregnant with Garrett to fly) for New Year 1991.  On the way home, something was wrong with the van, and we could only travel in 15 minute spurts.  I thought we’d never get home, but eventually, we arrived.

Grandma knew how to make any trip fun.  It wouldn’t be a summer adventure if we didn’t stop for ice cream.  On one such occasion, we’d stopped for ice cream after hitting a local amusement park for putt-putt and go-karts.  Per usual, Grandma had a van full.  In addition to my sister and I, cousins Michael and Linda were there as well, and I may even be forgetting someone.  As we are enjoying ice cream on the way home, suddenly my sister’s ice cream falls off of its cone squarely into Michael’s hand.  We had to pull over we were laughing so hard, especially Grandma.  Now well into our 30s and 40s, the ice cream incident is still mentioned from time to time.  Something about it was so incredibly funny, or as Grandma would say, comical.

Now, I’m the one who is rarely home.  I’m the one “running the roads” as my dad would say.  I hope to make the same kind of road memories with my niece and nephews as they grow up, but that is more my mom’s territory, for now.  I normally tag along in her car, playing navigator if need be.  Maybe one day they will reminisce about all the Buick Enclaves in our family at the moment (3 and counting) or Uncle Garrett’s Avalanche.  

At this point, I doubt my love of the road will ever die.  Thank you, Grandma.

Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band

When not singing Beatles or solo tunes, Ringo is behind the drums.

All-Starr-Band-in-Paris Ringo-Starr drums” by Jean Fortunet is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

This past Friday night, I had the opportunity to see Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band in concert in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  As far as I am concerned, when it comes to music, there are the Beatles and then there is everyone else.  The music I grew up with and loved, all of the 90s “alternative” and the 60s-80s pop rock, simply would not exist without the Beatles – at least not in the same way.  In other words, even though seeing Ringo in person wasn’t on my bucket list, it should have been.  It definitely should have been.

The concert itself left me pleasantly surprised.  There was “Yellow Submarine,” “Photograoph,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “WIth A Little Help from My Friends,” of course.  Ringo didn’t even announce “With A Little Help from My Friends.”  He quipped that “if you don’t know this next one, you’re at the wrong concert!”  What a great way to end a concert.  All to be expected.

Instead, it was the strength of his All-Star Band that blew me away.  As a child of the 80s and 90s that grew up with 70s and 80s hits, hearing “Africa” and “Rosanna” by Toto, “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Group, “Who Can It Be Now“ and “Down Under” by Men at Work, among so many others, was just as much fun.  The sound quality and overall musicianship was far and away the best I have ever seen in a concert.  Then I realized that I was watching men in their 70s and 80s playing, not to prove anything, but to just have fun, truly in love with the music.  They were playing songs that have been around for decades, that they’ve been playing for decades.

The experience became so much more than the concert, though.  After the concert, we walked around a bit looking for the Legends diner.  As we wandered around, suddenly the back doors of entertainment hall opened and the tribal police escorted out the band immediately in front of us.  Everyone froze for a second and then gave them a resounding round of applause.  Even after they were gone, I waited a bit, hoping that Ringo would be following them.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Just as we were going to start our search for the diner once again, I did a double-take.  A Ringo look-alike – as in this man looked exactly like Ringo – was holding court and taking photographs with all who wished them.  Unfortunately, the line was too long, and I am nothing if not impatient.

While the experience wasn’t perfect – namely our seats weren’t quite what we were expecting – it is a weekend that I will never forget.  Saturday, I woke up to the news that Ringo canceled several appearances in his tour due to COVID.  I can only wish Ringo the best as he recovers.

2022 Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band Set List

Ringo Starr” by PVBroadz is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Cars We Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another view.

Home Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crystal Creek Landing
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

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

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

The Cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To My Grandparents, Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Lindo

Sugarfoot

Little Bo

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

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

Thank You

Here’s to a great 2022!

Restarting my conversation with all of you here has been on my mind for quite some time.  As with so much in my life, things became bogged down during the pandemic.  It is telling that my last posts described my feelings at the beginning of the shutdown – my experience as a new teacher suddenly thrown into the great unknown and then a two-part series on the pandemic and the canoe livery.  The survival of that constant in my life weighed so heavily on my mind during the darkest days of the shutdown.  It was almost unspeakable.

And now … Well, I feel as though I just witnessed the end of an era on Friday with the death of Betty White.  I watched The Golden Girls during its original run.  Yes, I am that old.  Even though I was a child and tween during that time, there always seemed to be something timeless about that show and the principal actresses as well.  I spent many Saturday evenings watching with my grandparents.  Grandpa Owen adored Sophia, and of course, we all loved the humor.  Out of the remaining three actresses, Betty White’s Rose reminded me the most of Grandma Reid.  However, there is one huge catch:  Grandma was never, ever even close to being that naïve (or dumb)!  Yet, Rose’s willingness to help anyone and everyone fit the bill and her constant positivity reflected my experiences with both of my grandmothers.  I think it is that kindness, reflected in both Betty White’s character Rose Nylund and anecdotes of Betty White’s generosity towards her colleagues and fans, that I am sensing is gone.  It is also a longing for a simpler time.

If I am honest, the feeling that it is the end of an era started before Friday.  This past fall, one of my Grandma Reid’s last remaining friends passed away (although there may be a few left).  It hit particularly hard because Ginny was such a positive person.  I have fond childhood memories of visiting her home during Halloween, at which time she would show me her vast porcelain doll collection and shared stories about working for my grandfather.  As an adult, I saw her often as she volunteered at the Skilled Nursing Facility where Grandma Reid lived out the last few years of her life.  I can only hope that I will be around to volunteer in my 80s and 90s! I remember her as so full of life. Again, the world could use more positivity at this point.

In fact, I am done.  There are so many times I’ve wanted to write that simple sentence, and I now know how to explain it a bit better.  I am done listening to the negative, which, let’s be honest, is everywhere now.  I’m also done spending any time or energy on people who only focus on what could go wrong.  It is time to finally move forward after the last nearly two years of hiding in the shadows and not living to the fullest.  Yes, I truly believe that there have always been ways to do so safely.

We can get back to ourselves, but we might find that we have discover ourselves once again.  As I work on decluttering my life, I will hopefully make even more room for what is truly important.  I still have important to decisions to make, but I am finally once again headed in the right direction.  There is hope for me yet (see article below).

So, thank you. Thank you for staying with me through all the craziness that is my life. Thank you for still reading even if I am nothing but inconsistent. Thank you for letting me share a tiny piece of my life.

It’s Never Too Late:  On Becoming a Writer at 50

A Fresh Start … Part 2

Read A Fresh Start … Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

A Fresh Start … Part 1

My favorite color is October …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Write

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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.

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