Tag Archives: memories

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You – Part 2

texas-postcard.jpg

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

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

Grandma and Grandpa

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

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

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

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

Consolidated B-24 Liberator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You – Part 1

Texas

Giving Back: Michigan State Edition

Beaumont Tower MSU.png

Ever since I left MSU’s beautiful campus a few days after my graduation on April 30th, 2004, I’ve longed to give back to my fellow Spartans.  My years at Michigan State were among the best of my life, and that is due to the wonderful opportunities I had as an undergrad.  Not only did I heavily participate in study abroad and alternative spring break programs, I later worked as a peer advisor in the Office of Study Abroad, now Office of Education Abroad.

Through the umbrella Multicultural Business Programs (MBP) organization, I became an active member of Multicultural Business Students (MBS), eventually serving as publicity chair on the executive board, and the Women in Business Association.  In fact, my connections to MBP goes back even further to the summer after my junior year of high school.  That summer, I attended the Broad Business Student Camp (BBSC) (created and run by MBP), and I fell in love.  I fell in love with Michigan State’s campus and what I envisioned my college life could be.

BBSC wasn’t the only factor in my decision to attend MSU, but it left a powerful impression.  A few years later, I served as a camp counselor for BBSC thanks to arrangements made with my employer at the time, IBM.  When I arrived on campus in August 1999, eagerly pushing my parents’ out the door, I already had a home on one of the largest college campuses in the United States: MBP.  This is just a snippet of some of the opportunities I took advantage of while at MSU.  It is now time to give back.

Even though I wanted to give back, I am not in a position to give monetarily at the moment, nor do I think that would be the best way to do so.  Fortunately, I happened to stumble across a couple of great opportunities.

The Alumni Wisdom Project

Article Describing Eli Broad College of Business Alumni Wisdom Project – By Lindsey Andrews

In fall 2017, as an alum of the Eli Broad College of Business, I received an email outlining the Alumni Wisdom Project.  In short, the project, a component of a communications course on campus, pairs current MSU business students with Broad alumni.  It is meant to be a one-time face-to-face or Skype informational interview focusing on career and experiences at MSU.  Students then complete the assignment for class and share what they have written with alumni.  I loved my first experience, so I signed up for another.  It is exactly the type of experience I was looking for that would allow me to somehow give back to current MSU students.

Spartans Helping Spartans

I only learned of Spartans Helping Spartans a few months ago when I responded to David Isbell’s LinkedIn comment asking if there were MSU alums who were interested in reconnecting with the university.  Dave Isbell works in alumni relations at MSU.  I met him online several years ago when I first moved back to Michigan.

After my initial interest in reconnecting with MSU, Dave and I spoke on the phone.  He described the idea behind his website Spartans Helping Spartans – alumni sharing their experiences with current MSU students in an informal podcast format.  I was hooked.  In our conversation, he told me that he remembered a little about my background, and I filled him in on what I am currently doing.  Next thing I know, he interviewed me for the podcast and my first podcast was born.  Check it out below.

Lindsey Russell – Educator.  Entrepreneur.  Aspiring Writer.

There is much more to come.  I am currently writing a series of blog posts highlighting study abroad for Spartans Helping Spartans.  I will share them once they are on the website.  In addition, I have had such positive feedback from this podcast, I am toying with the idea of creating a podcast myself.  Stay tuned.  All because I said yes.

MSU Botanical Garden.jpg

Beal Botanical Garden – Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

MSU Spartan Girl

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You – Part 1

Texas Flag

Ah, Texas.  Where do I even begin?  First, there is my own history in both Austin and Houston.  To make a long story short, I adored Austin and hated Houston.  Go figure.  My Texan friends tried to warn me.  Either way, I spent just under a year and a half in the lone star state, and everything that happened during those times (Austin and Houston) still shape who I am today.

First, there was Austin.  In 2002, I worked at Applied Materials as a co-op from June to December.  I hated it at first, but soon, it became all I wanted after graduation from MSU:  good job, good friends, and good music – maybe love.  It really was as simple as that.  As much as I enjoyed all the wonderful times I had there, the near catastrophes are what really stick in my mind.

On July 24th, 2002, I survived a major car accident:  a moving truck turned in front me of while I had a green light.  While I walked away from the accident with a broken big toe and metatarsal (that is how hard I braked), along with a few minor scrapes and bruises, any passenger probably would have been killed.  Considering that I used to haul my brother around in my 1989 Grand Prix all the time, that shook me.  What if he had been with me?

The accident itself took place out on 290 just before Applied Materials.  I’d been on my way to work, and I later found out that my boss witnessed my crash.  Somehow, I had many people looking out for me that day.  One witness to the accident happened to be a nurse, and she stayed with me until the ambulance arrived.  While I have almost no memory of anything until the hospital – probably due to shock – the Texas State Trooper who came to interview me about the crash couldn’t have been nicer.  Then again, the accident clearly wasn’t my fault.

My mom, of course, was on the next flight out.  When she arrived, she helped me manage buying a new car and finding a lawyer.  We did both in style, and somehow, I negotiated my three-story walk-up sublet apartment in a splint up to my thigh.  Mom, forced to drive in a completely unfamiliar city in an era before ubiquitous turn by turn navigation, marveled at how I already knew the streets and layout of Austin in such a short period of time.  I still have fond memories of the few days Mom and I spent together in Austin.

Then, approximately a month or so after my accident, still in a walking cast and attending physical therapy, I found out that I could only sublet my apartment until the end of August, not the six months I had been promised and needed.  I needed a new place to live yesterday.  I panicked for a hot minute – and then rose to the occasion.  Fortunately for me, Applied Materials had an internal classified section on their intranet.  I started there.  In the end, I found a wonderful roommate – a single mom who had worked at Applied for nearly a decade at that point – who owned a beautiful home minutes from work.  I am still in touch with Karen today.

I could write almost endlessly about the time I spent with friends, including attending the first Austin City Limits Festival (now an institution), meeting Cheryl, the party we threw for Andy, and so, so much more.  As I’ve said before, leaving Austin on a rainy, icy December morning, my heart shattered.  Not so much with Houston.

So many friends tried to warn me about Houston.  I wouldn’t be happy there.  It started off well enough.  My senior year at Michigan State, I intended to end up in Texas in any way possible.  I made it to second round interviews with Applied Materials.  Ultimately, they only took half of the engineers and supply chain people they interviewed.  It did not help that my manager left before he could even evaluate me.  In the end, I had no one on the inside fighting for me.  I also ended up going through second round interviews at Dell.  Less than a week after graduation, I ended up at FMC Energy Systems in Houston purchasing parts for wellheads.  Frankly, it was a great first job – until it wasn’t.  When I initially interviewed, I interviewed with five people in our department.  By the time I left less than a year later, only two were still there – one on long-term medical leave.  I won’t go on and on about Houston.  There isn’t that much to tell:  Wrong job, wrong city, wrong time, and wrong man.  I think that about sums it up.  We headed back to Michigan exhausted and broken.

I intended to write a post discussing my family’s history in Texas, which will now be part two; instead, it became a post describing my personal history in Texas.  Looking back, I truly became an adult in Texas.  I had some wonderful times, along with my share of disappointments.  As much as I loved Austin, there is a reason none of it worked out.  If Houston hadn’t ended in disaster and I hadn’t ended up back in Michigan, I wouldn’t have known my Grandpa Buttrick nearly as well.  I belong in Michigan, even if a little piece of my heart will always be in Texas.

I didn’t know it at the time, but by running off to Texas, I was participating in a well-established family tradition going back generations.

Stay tuned for part two …

Texas

Place and Space

oz 2.jpg

The idea of place keeps coming up.  I never realized it before, but I have ordered my life around a certain geography, a certain space.  In my case, that would be my hometown of Omer, Michigan – Michigan’s smallest city.*  It expands to include my grandmother’s house (my current home), the canoe livery, my parents’ home (my home from ages 3-18), and the nearby city of Standish.  If I expanded my personal concept of place further, I would include Bay City, the nearest city of any size – the city where I spent a good share of my 20s – and Saginaw, home to both Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College, where I was recently a student.  There are several others not mentioned here, but currently, those I did name create much of my world.

Although I recognize the fact that the places mentioned above – and more – have helped to shape who I am today, none are nearly as important as the people, family and friends, who inhabit those spaces.  They, too, exist in a certain space in one’s life.  When a loved one passes away, those spaces can loom large.  Instead of filling those spaces, our lives expand to make new room for others as they come into their lives.

If I were asked to list my memories of the places I listed above, I wouldn’t know where to start.  I would be quickly overwhelmed.  Not only would those memories be tied to those spaces, they would certainly be tied to family and friends as well.  For example, each day as I ready myself for the day ahead, I think of Grandma when I look in the mirror.  As a child and teenager, I spent many hours waiting for her to “put on her face” before heading out on our next adventure.  I love and remember those little routines and moments that make up and take up so much of our lives.

I am blessed to have the ability to carve out a space for myself in various places so strongly associated with my childhood.  As a writer who ultimately plans to write creative non-fiction centered around her early life, including childhood, there is no place I’d rather be.  That isn’t to say that I don’t dream.

oz 1

I often fantasize about packing up and starting over on the west side of Michigan, near Grand Rapids, or in my wilder days, Austin, Texas.  The Grand Rapids area makes sense.  My sister and her family live in a small town called Hopkins, which happens to be situated between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.  My sister, her husband, and their two boys enjoy the best of all worlds.  They live in a small town and can take advantage of all it has to offer.  The benefits of suburban and even urban areas are still near.  Add in the facts that I have a lot of family on that side of the state and western Michigan is growing like crazy, I must give it serious consideration.

Then there is Austin.  I don’t know if I have ever fallen more deeply in love with a specific place.  Even though I only lived in Austin for six months back in 2002, those experiences left a huge hole in my heart.  In Austin, there were plenty of tech jobs to pursue at the time.  When not working, I had endless opportunities to check out live music venues and crazy art installations with friends.

Oh, and did I have great friends!  For the first time in my life, I felt as though my life had come together.  It took everything within me to drive home to Michigan to finish my degrees at Michigan State.  I had no choice.  I can still see the heavy fog and sleet – and feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I left on that drab December day.

Even though I daydream about moving to Austin every now and then, it won’t happen.  I am too tied to Michigan – by birth, and by the people and places I love.  As much as I adore Texas – all of it – that is another story entirely.  The reality is that I am not going anywhere.  I am as much a part of my family, Omer, and the Rifle River as they are a part of me.  It is now time to claim the space for myself.

* Yes, I realize that technically Lake Angelus has a smaller population, but it is in Oakland county, near Detroit.  It is close to and surrounded by Metro Detroit.  There is no comparison.

home is.jpg

Memories: The Impact 89 FM @ 30


I may have only ever broadcast on The Fix, but my short stint as a DJ during my senior year at Michigan State left a lasting impression.  My only regret:  I didn’t get involved earlier (as in as soon as I hit MSU’s campus as a freshman).  I came across this video created for The Impact’s 30th anniversary, and it brought back all kinds of wonderful memories.

The Fix is the online training radio station for The Impact 89 FM:  MSU’s student radio station.

As soon as I watched the video, I thought of how much fun I had playing Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes, My Chemical Romance, the White Stripes – among so many others.  I thought of all the late nights and early mornings I put in just for pure fun.  Count me among the many misfits that just loved music.  They give us a shout out in the video.  How did I forget how much I love alternative?  This list sums up some of my favorites from high school and college.

 

Thank You!

ThankYou.jpg

I simply want to thank all my readers who have stuck by me all these years.  I’ve blogged off and on since 2005.  Blogging saw me through so much, including the last half of my 20s and, so far, most of my 30s.  The best is still to come.  I blog simply because I love to write.  That’s it.  Actually, there is more to it.  I would love to host or participate in a thriving writing community of bloggers.

Over the years, I have come across some wonderful blogs.  As I found them, I shared them here.  I recently went through my links, and frankly, it is frustrating.  Several blogs haven’t been updated over the last few years – and yet, the wonderful content is still there.  As long as it is accessible, I left the link.  Most of the blogs and websites listed here are continually offering fresh content.

Yet, I still can’t get some of my favorites out of my head, even if they are long gone.  Christina’s Shoebox, which dates from 2006, and the Nerdy Apple, which dates from 2015-2017, come to mind.  Both offered a unique take on the world.  Since both blogs no longer exist, I feel cheated out of wonderful content and a fresh take on life.  I may not write as often as I would like – which I am trying to change – but I am still here.  Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde is going nowhere.

Now for what’s ahead.  I have long wanted to do two things:

  1. Create a realistic writing routine.

I am in the midst of working this out behind the scenes.  Hopefully, this will result in most consistent posting here at Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde.  Once I am consistent, I will share my ideas and resources with everyone here.  There are so many wonderful resources for writers!

  1. I miss writing about the role music plays in my life.

Long ago – way back in 2006 – I wrote a series of articles for the now defunct online magazine JamsBioJamsBio paid writers like me to discuss music and the role music continues to play in our lives.  As writers for JamsBio, we were encouraged to write about our memories and how we associate those memories with certain music.  As a woman who grew up watching and adoring Ally McBeal, it appealed to the idea that there is a soundtrack to my life.  There most definitely is.  Ever since I glimpsed what was possible through JamsBio, I struggled to find a way to include music in my writing – without infringing on the rights of songwriters.  It is time for me to start writing about music again.

Music

Here is to many more years!  If you are a blogger and you would like me to profile your blog, please contact me.  I am always looking to make new connections with fellow bloggers.  As a side note, I just freshly updated my reading list, which you can find here.  I am always open to book recommendations.  Finally, if you enjoy Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde, please feel free to like our Facebook page.  You can do that here.Music 2

Family History

I don’t often talk about genealogy here, but that will soon change.  I am fascinated by family history.  My love of genealogy is intertwined with my love of reading, writing, history, and of course, my love of family.  For me, genealogy brings it all together.  Below is one of my favorite articles published in our Huron Shores Genealogical Society Genogram, December 2016.  You can find the entire issue here.

Great

My great-grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick.

Revealing the Truth

Great’s Story

Whether we recognize it or not, we all have blind spots when it comes to our family history.  As genealogists, it is sometimes easy to overlook the obvious.  I experienced such an issue not long ago.  The resolution will stay with me for some time.  I thought I knew more about my great-grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick (my mother’s paternal grandmother), than I actually did.

Growing up just outside of my mother’s hometown of Standish, MI, my mother made sure that she took my sister and I to visit her grandmother, whom we nicknamed Great, weekly.  We would often visit after school as she lived only a few blocks from Standish Elementary.  Those visits stay with me.  They inspired my interests in genealogy and history.  Over time, Great told me stories of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and how she met my great-grandfather, Hatley Buttrick.  I also learned that her memories of growing up in Standish were not happy ones due to the loss of her mother in 1917.

For whatever reason, I assumed that Leona received training as a teacher in western Michigan where she was originally from and later settled.  Her teaching stories involved a one-room schoolhouse in western Michigan.  She later married my great-grandfather Hatley and lived in Marshall, MI for most of her adult life, only returning to Standish in 1980 to be closer to her children and grandchildren.  I could not have been more wrong. I did not consider that may have continued her education in Standish after graduating from Standish High School in 1921.

When I first voiced my interest in researching my great-grandmother’s education, fellow HSGS member Lugene Suszko Daniels suggested I look in the then newly printed book Arenac County Normal, 1904-1957, written and compiled by the Arenac County Historical Society (2013).  At first I doubted I would find anything.  While I knew that Normal Schools provided teacher education in the earlier part of the 20th century, I largely associated the Arenac County Normal School with the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, not the early 1920s.

Not only did I find information on Leona Forward’s further education at the county normal school, I also found information on her senior year of high school.  I also rediscovered a piece of family history I had forgotten.  It turns out that she attended school, including county normal, with her step-sister Barbara Wilson.  Ultimately, I purchased my own copy of the book.  Not only does it contain pertinent family history, it also contains a treasure trove of local information, including ties to several people I know.  Coincidentally, I came across this information as I decided to go back to school to earn my teaching certificate.  I am proud to continue to teaching tradition in my family, and I am glad that I was able to fill in the details of my great-grandmother’s educational history.  Never pass up the opportunity to search all local resources, even if you think that they may not apply.  You never know what you may find.

Great 2

Leona on the 1919 Standish High School girls’ basketball team.