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Previous Work Archive


When I left the corporate world to begin my Act II career as a writer, In the Scheme of Things was a bridge. Two years later, I signed with an agent, who still represents my non-fiction work.

In the Scheme of Things was first published as a column in Montana Woman, a print magazine, where it appeared monthly for sixteen years. During that time, my “reflections on this journey called life,” found their way into anthologies, e-newsletters, blogs, and local papers in Maine, Iowa, Virginia, and Canada.

These archive pages represent a small portion of those writings. I am regularly asked if In the Scheme of Things will once again be part of my newsletter. I have yet to decide, but if you have a point of view, let me know.

Nan Russell

Nov 17, 2021

A Bit of Joy and Thanks

"We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try ...

Nan Russell

Jul 15, 2019

Learning to Dance

I begged my parents for dance lessons. Sometimes when I walked with my mother the five blocks to the neighborhood grocery, I'd catch glimpses of ...

Nan Russell

Apr 23, 2019

Time to Notice

"People find life entirely too time-consuming." This aphorism from 20th century poet, Stanislaw J. Lec, captures how many of us feel at times. ...

Nan Russell

Jan 15, 2019

How Old?

I laughed when I read about a Dutch entrepreneur attempting to legally change his age in order to enhance his career and dating opportunities. He ...

Nan Russell

Oct 18, 2018

The Problem with Change

It was annoying. First, a system upgrade on the platform which houses my two vintage shops was not completed in the announced timeframe. That meant I ...

Nan Russell

Jul 5, 2018

Presumption of Innocence

I felt the malice immediately, arriving without warning via my website, with no return email. Her poisoned-laced words were intended to sting, and ...

Nan Russell

Apr 10, 2018

The Gift of a Pause

I'm not sure when it started, but for me it was the early 1990s. I was living and working on the east coast and remember the day I saw it invade ... 

Nan Russell

Jan 5, 2018

Make It a New Year

New Year new you articles, ads, and promotions are ubiquitous, pushing everything from gym memberships and healthy meal-kit delivery, to ...

Nan Russell

Sep 7, 2017

My Favorite T-Shirt

"Nan-a!" her voice held displeasure. "You wore that last week; why do you wear that t-shirt so much?" "It's my favorite," I told my 7-year-old ...

Nan Russell

Jun 16, 2017

Sleeping with Squirrels

The first time it was loud scratching that pulled me from a deep sleep. Before I could nudge my husband awake and turn on the lamp, the terrified ...

Nan Russell

Mar 3, 2017

We Can Help

It was one of those unwanted travel days. Stuck overnight in an interim city after a canceled flight from arctic weather, we were in second-day ...

Nan Russell

Oct 10, 2016

The House With Weeds

As I write from an upstairs home office, I can see the weeds, each day appearing more robust than the day before. A variety of them abound -- thick ...

Nan Russell

Jul 11, 2016

Who Do You See?

With an unusual ability to change the color of its skin, the chameleon is a lizard-family celebrity. Brown. Green. Blue. Yellow. Red. Black. White. ...

Nan Russell

Apr 6, 2016

Roots of Kindness

With dark clouds promising afternoon rain, I sat on the edge of a remote dirt road, miles from the historic Holmenkollen ski jump visited that ...

Nan Russell

Jan 7, 2016

Fresh Starts

I like January. As wonderful as the holiday season is, there's something about returning to "normal" that January invites. I like its flocked trees ...

Nan Russell

Oct 9, 2015

Those Annoying Ghosts, Goblins, and Witches

3:08 a.m. A tree branch scraping against the roof startled me awake. A half hour later, I was repeating mentally "Be ... Still" with ...

Nan Russell

Jul 9, 2015

Liking Cozy

I like cozy. I like cozy mysteries, cozy places, cozy food, cozy days or nights, and cozy people. It struck me the other day how much I like cozy ...

Nan Russell

Apr 10, 2015

A Microwave Day

For days or weeks at a time, the microwave works perfectly. Then, for no apparent reason - poof - its buttons don't push, its timer stalls, and the ...

Nan Russell

Jan 13, 2015

A Different Kind of Gift

There are all kinds of birthdays. Some fade into memory-fog like any other day; others stand out. Some bring milestones with age related changes, ...

Nan Russell

Oct 6, 2014

Similar But Different

Goblins. Ghosts. Witches. Vampires. Superheroes. Princesses. Pirates ... and more. Purchased costumes or handmade in self-chosen or parental-guided ...

Nan Russell

Jul 8, 2014

All Those Choices

"Really?!" Those near me in the grocery aisle could hardly miss the irritation in my voice. All Iwanted on that Saturday of errands, on my last stop ...

Nan Russell

Apr 14, 2014

The State of Limbo

When we built our house it was intended as an investment property. But our crystal ball didn't foresee unexpected family bumps, and we needed to move ...

Nan Russell

Jan 14, 2014

No Perfect Life

"None of us get a perfect life," she said at the end of describing years of despair after being widowed as a young military wife with two children ...

Nan Russell

Sep 25, 2019

In Pursuit of Dreams

"That's my dream," I overheard her telling a friend in the dressing room next to mine. "But it will never happen," she added quietly, "I might as ...

Nan Russell

Jun 6, 2019

They're Back

Ours wasn't a big house, but at night my bedroom at the end of the hall seemed a great distance. Plus the windowed door at the foot of my bed ...

Nan Russell

Mar 12, 2019

About Those Resolutions

Some of us started 2019 with a fresh-start mindset. We made New Year's resolutions with well-intentioned, often passionate, decisions to change or ...

Nan Russell

Dec 14, 2018

Losing Christmas

Before Halloween I listed a holiday pin in my online vintage jewelry shop. It's a whimsical moose on rollerblades, clearly hurrying while balancing a ...

Nan Russell

Sep 13, 2018

Who Are You Becoming?

Her name is Mallory. At least it is for now. She's the amateur sleuth in my new cozy mystery -- or technically I should say my first cozy ...

Nan Russell

Jun 7, 2018

Mandatory Fun

It was the first day of spring break for our elementary school-aged granddaughters, occurring on the Friday before their week off. We'd invited them ...

Nan Russell

Mar 12, 2018

For or Against?

In my local paper there's a column of reader comments. People leave input, "no more than 30 seconds" on a call-in line. Each day a few of these short ...

Nan Russell

Dec 6, 2017

The Gift of Time

That year, Christmas was just another task on my to-do list. No magical feelings of the season took hold; no yuletide cheer; no gleeful joy; no ...

Nan Russell

Aug 9, 2017

The Poison Garden

A misty rain persisted while I wandered, nearly alone, on the grounds surrounding Blarney Castle, in County Cork, Ireland. Not far away was a tower ...

Nan Russell

May 23, 2017

Refrigerator Wisdom

The "wisdom" on my refrigerator has changed through the years. As a young mother, Dorothy Law Nolte's poem "Children Learn What They Live" was there. Later ...

Nan Russell

Feb 7, 2017

Under Construction

While living in Montana's Flathead Valley, there were years when significant construction happened in our development. Some days the hammering echoed ...

Nan Russell

Sep 13, 2016

Conquering Oz

"We'll help you through it," my 9-year-old granddaughter offered, followed by her 7-year-old sister's "Don't worry, Nana, I'll hold your hand." And ...

Nan Russell

Jun 8, 2016

Leaving Montana

I was born in Whitefish, Montana, leaving without choice at age three when my father couldn't find work after the Hungry Horse Dam Project finished. ...

Nan Russell

Mar 10, 2016

Thought Reality

As a teenager, I made most of my money babysitting. At least I did until I started refusing after dark jobs, limiting myself to daylight offers. Why? My ...

Nan Russell

Dec 6, 2015

A Christmas Look

With Christmas still two months away, my youngest granddaughter, a first-grader, was helping me decide which products to promote on my online vintage ...

Nan Russell

Sep 7, 2015

Closet Memories

It wasn't my husband's minimized space allocation that elicited my attention; nor the overfilled shelves, stuffed hanging rods, or disappearing floor ...

Nan Russell

Jun 3, 2015

Planting Seeds of Possibility

As the school year ends, I'm reminded of the teachers, in various roles, who positively impacted my life far beyond our encounters. These thoughts ...

Nan Russell

Mar 12, 2015

Things Change

A hundred years ago, most physicians in this country didn't have college degrees, most houses didn't have bathtubs, and no woman could vote. Fifty ...

Nan Russell

Dec 15, 2014

All I Want for Christmas

"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth; my two tooth front teeth; my two front teeth." Remember that song? Those words keep popping into my ...

Nan Russell

Sep 7, 2014

No Cell Service

I was standing in the lobby watching for my husband out the doorway, when I noticed her. She might have been 12 or 13; her sister slightly younger, ...

Nan Russell

Jun 3, 2014

Will Anyone Know?

A few months ago, several "Rosies" were honored at the White House for their home front efforts during World War II. One of them was 91 year old ...

Nan Russell

Mar 11, 2014

The Things We Try

This is my 133rd "In the Scheme of Things" article for Montana Woman magazine, and it got me thinking about why I continue to write these ...

Nan Russell

Dec 6, 2013

Christmas Stories

Its pages are tattered, its cover held together by masking tape, and its corner missing where our dog took a bite. Despite these shortcomings, it's a ...

Nan Russell

Aug 14, 2019

A Better Person

When we lived on the East Coast a few decades back, we saw the musical, Wicked, on Broadway. So recently, when the traveling show came west, ...

Nan Russell

May 7, 2019

Seeing Mom

I was haunted by the regret I'd feel if I didn't at least try to see my mother. And so, with trepidation and fear of what that deepening pain might ...

Nan Russell

Feb 11, 2019

Being With Others

In this month of hearts and proclamations of love, something that happened a decade ago, captured like a digital photo with its image held in my ...

Nan Russell

Nov 20, 2018

Three Kinds of Gratitude

While basement cleaning isn't on my fun-to-do-during-time-off list, growing necessity prevailed during a recent staycation. Space was needed to ...

Nan Russell

Aug 8, 2018

Not as Expected

Last week, I ordered an item from the world's largest retailer. While it arrived quickly, its contents were not as expected. The plastic that held ...

Nan Russell

May 4, 2018


My husband gave me a card at the beginning of 2018 that's been standing on my dresser ever since. I see its message when I wake up or wander into the ...

Nan Russell

Feb 14, 2018

A Missing Piece

When we arrived, I found three familiar bent heads focused on the remaining pieces spread around the not-yet-finished jigsaw puzzle on the coffee ...

Nan Russell

Oct 9, 2017

Light Traveling

My goal when traveling is to travel light. But less than half the time I achieve that goal. Despite or maybe because of a strong planning tendency ...

Nan Russell

Jul 10, 2017

What Technology Taught Me About Independence

Recently I bought a Samsung 8, replacing my Samsung 4 that I purchased new in 2013. I'm not, as one would say, an early adopter. My husband claims me ...

Nan Russell

Apr 20, 2017

Those Who Came

I was born in Montana, left as a toddler, returning in my fifth decade for a second act career as a writer. It was then I first met and worked with ...

Nan Russell

Dec 6, 2016

Where Is Christmas?

Behind glass and in a weathered frame, an embroidered sampler hangs on my office wall. It's dated 1883. On the left side is a simple Christmas tree ...

Nan Russell

Aug 9, 2016

Life Choices

They said she was the "winning-est coach" ever with 38 winning seasons, and more NCAA college basketball games won than any coach, man or woman. Pat ...

Nan Russell

May 16, 2016

So Much Prettier

"You'd be so much prettier without those freckles," my high school boyfriend commented as we walked hand-in-hand along a California beach. "Why don't ...

Nan Russell

Feb 9, 2016

Reminders Are Everywhere

Tired and a bit jet lagged, I headed for the nearest ladies room after getting off the plane. As I was leaving the restroom a little girl held my ...

Nan Russell

Nov 9, 2015

Crew Only

After a two hour drive from the hotel, my husband and I arrived early morning in a small Wisconsin town on Lake Superior. That's where our excursion ...

Nan Russell

Aug 11, 2015

With Certainty

On the day before our 40th-wedding anniversary at the beginning of August, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a hundred guests there to ...

Nan Russell

May 8, 2015

Work, Life, and Time

"Why are you always working?" My mother's voice echoes now in my head. It was a question she frequently raised over the years about my career, ...

Nan Russell

Feb 5, 2015

Possibility Paths

Off road in a four-wheel drive, maneuvering a 26 mile, one way, deep and narrow canyon "road" in Death Valley National Park while on vacation, my ...

Nan Russell

Nov 17, 2014

Failed Expectations

Tired and emotionally drained after a morning visiting my mother at the skilled nursing facility where she resides, my husband and I stopped back at ...

Nan Russell

Aug 14, 2014

Most People

On a mission to expedite Saturday errands, my husband and I were at a big box store as the doors opened. Ten minutes later we headed toward checkout ...

Nan Russell

May 14, 2014

The Shove

For several snowy Montana months we looked forward to a winter vacation in Hawaii. A particular thrill for me going there is seeing humpback whales ...

Nan Russell

Feb 3, 2014

The Choice

An early morning business trip put me and my husband on a 4:00 a.m. shuttle ride from a Portland, Oregon area hotel to the airport. I'm not a morning ...

Nan Russell

Nov 1, 2013

The Question

Well before 6:30 a.m., our local paper in one hand, and a plate of scrambled eggs fresh from the skillet in the other, I sat down to my morning ...

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