Posts in Category: Student

Pomp & Circumstance – Introducing Chauncey

Chauncey has a dream. It is the first day of his final year in high school. He is filled with anticipation and can bearly wait to begin the last chapter of his high school career. But when he arrives, the halls are empty. There is no one there. His footsteps echo loudly and long, and his breath is magnified. He begins to panic. Where are all the people? He peers into a multitude of classrooms attempting to understand the absence of his classmates and teachers. But nothing makes sense. And, then, he wakes.

Chauncey and I met for the first time shortly before the Covid-19 Pandemic. When I asked him if he would consider being a part of A Time To Heal, he quickly accepted. A few days later, on one of the hottest days of summer, we connected at his high school for a candid conversation. Chauncey shared his thoughts and feelings about his sudden departure from school, living in quarantine, and the cancellation of so many events that mark the rite of passage of a graduating senior.

Chauncey is a smart kid, enjoys a challenge, and can figure out most things quickly and independently. Therefore, City High Middle School was the perfect fit for him. The school participates in the IB or International Baccalaureate program. Students must complete all high school classes by the end of tenth grade. The remaining years are dedicated to long term collaborative projects, a secondary language, and coursework related to the theory of knowledge. The program sets a very high standard of excellence and encourages students to believe that the sky is the limit. In addition to his demanding coursework, Chauncey was active in theatre and a member of the Ottawa Hills Swim and Dive Team.

Chauncey is an extrovert in every sense of the word. He is outgoing, likable, and energized by being around others. To be quarantined or “trapped” with his family was not good for him. He was initially angry and responded with self-destructive behavior such as playing online games for hours and hours or just doing nothing. As time passed, his anger subsided, along with the rest of his emotions. Chauncy shut down and was unable to find the motivation to complete the simplest tasks. He even missed critical deadlines related to his college enrollment.

After a few months, Chauncey realized that something needed to change. A friend suggested that he might feel better if he began working out daily. Luckily, it worked! The daily routine gave him something to look forward to, a sense of purpose, and a routine. He began to engage more with others playing online games, youth group zoom meetings, and talking with members of his swing dance group. Just days before we met, he and a few members of the dance group met at a park to visit and dance. The experience lifted his heart and brought him great joy. It was his first outing in over four months. Chauncey and his friends, buoyed by the experience, made plans to meet again. Unfortunately, the number of Covid-19 cases began to escalate, and the group decided to cancel their next get-together.

Chauncey was robbed. The pandemic stole from him his final months with teachers, friends, and classmates. Class trips, senior skip day, prom, his graduation ceremony, parties, and other events appeared on his calendar but never happened. Though Chauncey received his degrees, there was no Pomp and Circumstance. No celebration.

Chauncey’s biggest disappointment, however, was that he was not able to write the exams that would have given him a shot at earning his International Baccalaureate Degree. The certification is accepted by many colleges and can launch a first-year college student to Sophomore status. Chauncey had looked forward to the sense of accomplishment he would have felt, degree or not, by completing the intensive exam process. After sharing this with me, Chauncey shrugged his shoulders, looked away, and stayed in a far distant place for a moment. When he snapped out of it, he attempted to make light the situation. Giving me a big Chauncey grin, he said: “It’s a really ugly piece of paper like card stock, and it has a funny looking sticker on the bottom. Who needs that? I still graduated from City High Middle, and it is a tough school. I can be proud of that.”

Chauncey is very excited about attending Grand Rapids Community College this fall. However, he is not looking forward to sitting through courses that are near identical to the advanced classes he took in high school. As mentioned above, Chauncey was denied the ability to complete the exams that would have earned him an IB degree. No exams mean no test scores. And, without test scores or the IB degree, college credits can not be given.

After he receives his associate’s degree from GRCC, Chauncey hopes to transfer to Western Michigan University to study theatre. Chauncey admits that the theatre is not the typical career choice for students graduating from a school with a robust academic track. However, music and theatre are his greatest passion. Chauncey envisions himself one day performing on Broadway. 

Chauncey’s backup plan? He will become a lawyer. The transition seems logical. Both require communication skills, the ability to be quick on your feet, and a bit of acting.

Chauncey, no matter what you do or become, you will do it in your style, with ambition, intelligence, and humor. It was an honor and privilege to hear and share your story. Congratulations Chauncey! Your high school graduation is just the beginning. “Oh, the places you will go!”

Pomp & Circumstance:

“Oh, the places you will go!” Dr. Seuss.

A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community as it relates to the recent supreme court ruling, and more.

Are you interested in participating? Message me.

A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display during September. Please check their website before attending to verify hours of operation.

Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from, City Center Arts in Muskegon,, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, or directly from the artist. 

Photography Website:


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2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited. 

In Loving Memory of Gwen Jansma

How Can Anyone Ever Tell You You Were Anything Less Than Beautiful

This evening I learned that a dear old friend passed away. Though I had not been in touch with her in many years, I thought of her often. I heard her words of wisdom, her laughter, saw her magnanimous smile accentuated by the deep lines and creases that come with age.  But most of all her sparkling blue eyes that were alive with love, compassion, and a bit of mischief. Gwen was a beacon of light in a world that can so often be frighteningly dark. Gwen entered my life during a profoundly desperate time. She lifted me up, guided me, gave me hope, and helped me believe in myself, and my future.

I met Gwen purely by accident in my mid thirties. During a time when most of my friends had found successful careers, marriages, and had started families, I was still struggling. Nothing I tried was working. I had given up my dream of working as a park ranger, had failed miserably at two love relationships, and was working in the Detroit area at a low paying dead end job. To top it off, I had sustained a painful and debilitating upper body injury that left me unable to work for over a year. All the money I had saved had been spent on medical bills, and I could no longer afford to keep my apartment. Thankfully, my friend Mimi allowed me to stay with her until I could get my feet back on the ground.

Recovering from my injury was a slow and painful process. The only thing that eased the pain was massage and acupuncture. One day while I was getting a massage my therapist suggested that I get counseling for grief and loss. Having little money and little faith in therapy I quickly rejected her suggestion. However, she convinced me that I should join a group that met one weekend every other month. It would cost $50 and a dish to pass.  Feeling I had little left to lose, I signed up for an upcoming workshop.

A few weeks later, armed with black bean and corn salad, I nervously entered the first of many meetings to come. At first glance I found the group of thirty strangers to be quite an odd lot, and not particularly friendly. There were men and woman of all ages and vocations. Some dressed in hippy garb, others in jeans and t-shirts, and yet others in their Sunday best. They came from many different religious backgrounds and had varied spiritual beliefs and practices. What I found on second glance was a group of folks that no matter their background had stumbled upon some adversity that had challenged them to look deeply within themselves.  With Gwen’s guidance, they were able to explore and gain greater insight and strength. And finally, I found a loving, kind, compassionate group that accepted, and loved me. 

Gwen took this odd group, disassembled our differences, and exposed our sameness. With each tale of hardship the group listened to one another, wept, and prayed for one another.  In doing so, we were all on some level healed. We also, sang, meditated, created ceremonies, pledged in the Native American Tradition to Air, Water, Earth, or Fire. We created prayer sticks and explored the emotions relevant to each of the four elements. We opened our minds, bodies, and spirits to gain greater insights to ourselves and each other. Gwen guided us graciously through each process.  Sometimes with gentle encouraging words of wisdom, and at other times, quick to call one on their misconceptions (otherwise known hog wash or b.s.).

I went to the workshops for several years. During that time I not only grew stronger mentally and physically, but also met the woman that made my career in dentistry possible. I literally went from the depths of despair to having most of my dreams come true, and from believing there was no hope to knowing that there is always hope. I have never had the words to thank Gwen for all she gave me. Thank you just seems too small and insignificant. But as I look heavenward all I can say is this: Gwen from the deepest and most sincere part of my heart and soul, thank you.

Gwen was 88 when she passed away. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, poet, and artist. She was also a teacher, mentor, and healer to countless numbers of people. During her workshops Gwen would occasionally speak of her transition. She was unafraid, as she did not believe in a true death, only a changing of one form to another. She spoke of this transition with joy and looked forward to continuing her journey on the other side. She would not want us to be sad, but to remember and to carry on, to live in love, with integrity, and to help one another when possible.


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© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ode to Mrs. Pollack

When I was in 5th grade my teacher, Mrs. Pollack, gave the class a creative writing assignment.  As a reward, the best would be displayed in a cabinet in the hall.  I do not really remember much about what I wrote.  Although, I do recall that I compared monarch butterfly orange to that of a pumpkin.  That comparison pleased Mrs. Pollack very much, and I was awarded first place.  As promised, my writing was placed in the glass cabinet for all who passed by to see.  However, she rewrote it in calligraphy on an orange butterfly-shaped piece of construction paper. The re-write was necessary because my handwriting was and still is atrocious.  Though Mrs. Pollack tried harder than anyone to improve my penmanship, her efforts in that area were for naught.

I was proud to have what I had written in view of all the students and teachers at my school!  Mrs. Pollack even invited my mom for a private viewing of the display.  But even more than this special honor, what I remember most, is when Mrs. Pollack removed the butterfly scrawled paper from the cabinet.  She gave the class some busy work, and then, asked me to help her take down the display.  I followed her down the empty hallway.  The echo of her heels clicking on the too shiny floor was the only thing that broke the eerie silence.  She opened the cabinet, removed the butterfly, and gently placed it into my ten-year-old hands. She then leaned in close, and whispered in my ear, and said, “Someday, you are going to be a writer”.    What I felt in that moment I cannot really say, but it felt true.

As the years passed I have heard Mrs. Pollack’s whisper again and again.  “Someday, you are going to be a writer.”  In my twenties, I dreamed of having my own column in the newspaper called “Chronicles From the Robinsnest”.  In my thirties, I attempted to write a book.  After 40 pages, life became too busy and I gave up on the project thinking someday I would get back to it.  In my forties, I wrote technical documents for seminars I was conducting for work.  And now in my fifties, I decided to begin a blog.

The mystery for me is this:  Am I a writer because I have a natural ability to link words together in a way that others might enjoy or learn from, or is it because a teacher placed a notion in my head when I was ten years old?  My belief is that I most likely would have found my words at some point, but would I have had the courage or confidence to put them out there for all to see?  The answer is impossible to know.  What I know is that Mrs. Pollack’s whispered words planted a seed.  The seed rooted deeply within me and has been germinating ever since.  As I write these words I feel the small sprouts of leaves bursting from within.  I feel the unstoppable momentum of something being born and I can hardly wait to see what grows!

Mrs. Pollack, I am a writer.  I am the author of technical documents and blog entries, and maybe someday, I will even finish the book I started so long ago.  Thank you for planting that seed, for believing in me, and inspiring me.  I am blessed.

Song of the Blog: Elusive Butterfly By Bob Lind


Me / 10 years old

Me / 10 years old


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© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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