Over the last few week or so I’ve finally started writing again. What was I waiting for? I’m not quite sure, but I do know this: I missed it. It isn’t that I haven’t written at all since the pandemic, it is just that I’ve been selective and focused on other things.
So, why do I keep coming back to writing? There are so many reasons …
It is my creative outlet.
Some people make beautiful music, others play sports, and yet others draw or paint. I am not good at any of those things. Writing is something I can do fairly well. I know how to improve. It is a nice mix of being able to accomplish something and yet striving to make it the best it can be. If I tried to play a musical instrument, I would want to give up before I could get anywhere.
It allows me to practice the art of storytelling.
Both of my parents are wonderful storytellers. There is nothing I love more than a good story (hence my love of reading). In my opinion, there is something comfortable about writing down a story before perfecting the art of telling it to others. Writing allows me to get it right before I share it with others.
I can curate many of my favorite things – and share that them with others.
Blogging can be so much fun. I actually started “blogging” before it was known as blogging. I used to use an online notebook/diary to keep track of my favorite websites, poems, photos, memes, and more. I have enough content now that I can go back and reread things I wrote years ago. Some of which I have long since forgotten. It is always fun and gives me ideas for future projects.
It is a challenge.
The writing process is never quite finished. At some point, it is time to let go. Frankly, like a good challenge. As with so many things, I know just enough to be dangerous!
It goes hand in hand with another favorite pastime – reading.
I’ve always loved books. In fact, I’ve written extensively about my first love – books! I outline some of my favorite childhood books here. My love of writing, as with so many others, grew out of my love of reading. I can’t imagine trying to separate the two. In fact, I’ve thought about starting a book podcast, just for fun! I’ve read so many great books this year. I have yet to discuss any of them here. The reasons why I write – and my love of writing – is a topic I revisit from time to time. You can read earlier posts here, here, and here.
The List (2009) is an older album, but the story behind it is compelling. I admit, I’m not much of a country music fan. That said, I love Johnny Cash’s music. He is one of the few musicians/groups that belong in their own category, others include Elvis, the Beatles, and a handful of others. Frankly, I don’t listen to Johnny Cash’s music much. My ex adored his music almost as much as I adore the Beatles – almost. At this point, I’d just rather not. Now that that is all out of the way, you are probably wondering why I am bringing Johnny Cash into this discussion at all. I’m here to talk about his daughter’s album, not his. Well, The List (2009) wouldn’t exist without him. It is that story that fascinates me.
Supposedly when Rosanne turned 18, her father gave her a list of what he thought were the 100 most influential country and American songs to help expand her knowledge of music. Can you imagine? It would be as if I grew up the daughter of a world famous American author and he or she gave me a list of what he or she perceived to be the most important works in American literature. Unimaginable. Rosanne Cash, much to her credit, actually kept the list and turned it into a wonderful album, even if she only included 12 songs.
The interview is interesting enough. It is the reason why I checked out the album at all. The album itself, with all of its country roots, isn’t exclusively classified as country. It belongs to the folk and world genres as well. There are so many elements of folk music all throughout the album. It is timeless, which is precisely why you should check it out.
My cousin Ellen Vrana has a wonderfully rich, intellectual, yet somehow unstuffy, blog called The Examined Life. It is wonderful, and if I am honest, intimidating as a fellow writer. She happens to live in London with her family and discusses just about anything one can imagine.
You may want to start with her about page and A View of Fathers. Her intelligence and depth come shining through. You won’t be disappointed.
Every so often there comes along a rock documentary that I can recommend to just about everyone. That is the case with The Day the Music Died, which is currently streaming on, and exclusive to, Paramount +. If you care about Don McLean’s American Pie at all, or the stories behind it, it is a must-watch. I adore everything about the song, and clearly, after watching the documentary, I am in great company.
I grew up loving the song, which is a story in and of itself. Very few songs from the time period steal from so many genres. Stop and think about it for a minute: Exactly which genre does it belong to? It isn’t exactly a folk song, it isn’t entirely a rock song, nor is it a pure pop song. American Pie is all that and more. It has been covered by country artists and even Madonna, whose version I’ve had mixed feelings about ever since she released it during the summer of 1999 (it was definitely in heavy rotation the summer before I headed to Michigan State). In the documentary, Garth Brooks discusses in depth the influence the song had on him and his career. Yet, I feel it is SO much more. It is timeless.
Several years ago now, during one of my subbing experiences in a high school Spanish class, I was instructed to show the movie La Bamba, which was, quite frankly, an unforgettable experience in all the best ways. First, if you know the movie at all, you will easily recognize why showing it to high school students required some careful editing (fastforwarding). Fortunately, that went well. What pleasantly surprised me is how much those students loved the story behind La Bamba and the music. As we had a few minutes left after the end of the movie – thanks to the inappropriate parts I had to skip – I had a moment to explain the term the day the music died and Don McLean’s song. Most students knew the song American Pie, of course, but I don’t think that most realized that it referenced an actual event. I loved watching them make the connection!
The documentary itself covers so much. It dives deep into exactly how Don McLean wrote the song and came up with the lyrics, as well as his childhood. Of course, one of the best aspects of the song and lyrics is trying to figure out all of those cryptic references – ie the king with his thorny crown, jack flash, etc. According to McLean, the only one that is truly “correct” is the double reference ”Lenin/Lennon read a book on Marx.” Yet, I am not entirely convinced. That is what makes the lyrics great. Just as with the best poetry, there are layers upon layers. Definitely a must-watch.
By the way Michiganders, watch for an interesting reference to Grand Rapids.
I refuse to settle. I refuse to give up on my dreams. It is that simple and that complex. What I want out of life has been on my mind so much lately, especially when it comes to family. The beautiful part of it all is that I will be fine no matter what happens. Inspired by former classmates who have shared their intense personal struggles, I would love to do something similar here.
That said, I want to make a few things clear. I’m not going to dwell on the past. I have no intention of airing dirty laundry – or anything that involves anyone other than me. It will be my story that I will share here. As I have stated earlier in other deeply personal posts, my intention here is to help others not feel so alone. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now that that is out of the way, here is what I envision for Rambling of a Misguided Blonde moving forward. I want to largely focus on three things I adore: 1. Writing and the writing process; 2. Reading, including emerging adult novels, young adult, and even children’s literature – and much more; and 3. Music, particularly how lyrics have inspired me as a writer and memories tied to certain song/artists, as well as concerts/live performances. I will also bring in art from time to time, along with whatever happens to be on my mind.
There are a few things you will not find here. I won’t be discussing education or the educational system. I could fill several different blogs on that topic. I have strong opinions, I see so much room for improvement, and I want to keep things here positive. As a result, I will skip discussing issues in education. I also plan to stay out of politics for the same reasons. I want this to be a place to fully explore things I love deeply, art that has truly carried me through just about anything and everything – good and bad. I need this. We all need to do more of what we love. I have so much to share!
It is no secret that fall is my favorite season. The hustle and craziness that is the canoe livery during the summer comes to a swift end once school starts. There is nothing quite like it. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter what I am doing, there are always new routines come September. While I will eventually be returning to the classroom as a substitute teacher (within the next few weeks), I am taking this year to tie up several loose ends, namely my teacher certification in English (secondary). I have two classes yet to complete – the first of which started on Tuesday. I admit it: I LOVE being a student, even if taking classes at the undergrad level makes me feel old. It is sobering to realize that I am old enough to be my classmates’ mother. Although, as my mom pointed out, I would have been a young mother. As for my plans, there are also some surprises in store, so stay tuned!
This year, I want to take the time to put things in place for the canoe livery next summer. I’m in the perfect spot to do so. I have the knowledge, time, and interest. I just hope that it all pays off. Frankly, I am proud of what I have accomplished in the ten years I’ve been back at the canoe livery. I’ve created Facebook pages for both of our locations, which are thriving; redid our website, and then outsourced it once I realized my limitations; and implemented Canoebook. We’ve grown, evolved, and faced huge, unforeseen challenges as a family. I’ve also worked on our supply chain. I will always look at things from a supply chain perspective (much more on that later). Hopefully, after some tweaks, Canoebook will be even better. Yet another project to complete before May. Let’s face it: I am the IT department of Russell Canoe Livery (with a little help, of course). Thankfully, I enjoy it.
As I thought about what I wanted to write today, as I reread some of my previous blogposts, I kept coming back to the same themes: 1. Writing about the writing process, 2. My love of new beginnings, and 3. Carpe Diem (seize the day – cue Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society). I can’t help myself. The writing process fascinates me, and I am constantly learning, even when I wasn’t active here. This point in my life truly is a new beginning – or it at least feels like one. As for Carpe Diem, well … I lost a dear friend this summer to pancreatic cancer and recently a former classmate and her family lost everything in a house fire (including her husband, another classmate). I’ve watched over the last couple of years as my dad wrote and then published a book on his life. Speaking of my dad, he continues to set a great example in terms of going after what one wants out of life, even if we don’t agree on everything. I just need to follow it. It is time to get to work.
Thank you for reading, for staying with me. Welcome back!
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.
By mid-June, things were starting to come together at the canoe livery … but would our customers return? Boy, did they! We had a wedding at our main location in Omer towards the end of June. After the wedding, with one more weekend in June left, we became increasingly busy, experiencing volume rivaling what we normally experience mid-to-late July or even early August. True to form, we remained busy right up until the mid-August.
Normally, this would be welcomed and wouldn’t have been an issue. However, this year, thanks to COVID, we didn’t have adequate time to properly prepare. During a “normal” year, we have much of June to prepare for the crowds. Things ramp up during June until it becomes crazy from the 4th of July until mid-August. Well, we lost that time to hire and train. We had a week, maybe two, before we started to become that busy. Add in the pressure of new safety precautions, difficulty in getting merchandise, and rebuilding from the flood, and one gets a sense of why it became so stressful. I feel as though I have been running a marathon since May.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am eternally grateful that our business not only survived but grew during COVID. I refrain from saving thrive because it would not be sustainable long-term. Simply too many hours and too much work in such a short period of time. Still, it haunts me that so many small businesses didn’t survive or are in danger of closing permanently. All I could think of this spring is the decades of work the canoe livery represents – my family history and my personal history. It would not exist if not for the hard work, dedication, foresight, and planning of my parents, my grandparents, and now my brother and I, along with countless others over the years. So much in my life simply would not have been possible without the canoe livery. In it, I see my future. Whether I like it or not, the canoe livery and the Rifle River is a part of me. The very idea of it no longer existing is unimaginable.
If nothing else, I do hope that I have turned the corner and truly have a fresh start this fall. It feels that way. I could use some routine and consistency in my life – along with a healthy dose of “normal” – whatever that is now. It is time to figure out exactly what it is that I want. I know that I have returned to that theme dozens of times here over the years. Yet, I still don’t know.
Who is to say that I will be content to spend the rest of my life alone? If I met the right man – and I repeat here, the right man – I can see myself in a relationship again. Yet, I have a difficult time seeing how I would meet him. Same goes for children. I would love to be a mother. I know I would nail it. Yet just the mere thought of the foster and/or adoption processes is enough to make me want to break out in hives. I know what can go wrong all too well. Maybe it will be time to “jump” sooner rather than later. I do know that I do not want to regret what I didn’t do in my life. Until then …
I’ve always loved fall, but somehow, this time of year just means more this year. I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster (more on that in a minute, and not all entirely COVID related) since mid-March. I want OFF! NOW. I never dreamed that I would help run a business and teach middle school during a pandemic, but here I am. Something I never wanted to add to my bucket list.
As I am smack-dab in the middle of returning to in-person classes for the first time since mid-March, it is SO nice to have some normalcy, particularly after a summer and spring that was anything but “normal.” I missed my students deeply, and I enjoy just observing kids being kids.
So, about this spring and summer … Well, of course, it all started mid-March – that ill-fated Friday the 13th to be exact. As the shutdown deepened, I began to worry about opening the canoe livery for the season. Worry about the survivability of the family business #1. Frankly, it didn’t look good. Just as we, along with pretty much everyone else on the Rifle River, made the decision to open for self-contained camping only during Memorial Weekend, the other shoe dropped.
May 18th-20th, we received close to 7 inches of rain. Dams in nearby Gladwin and Midland counties failed. Fortunately, we did have a little warning thanks to another livery on the river. My parents, brother, and I were able to save much of our technology and merchandise in our store in Omer. Good thing we had that warning. We ended up with 3 feet of water in the store. That wasn’t even the worst part.
During the shutdown, I made the decision to stay with my mom. I don’t think either of us wanted to be alone in our own homes for an extended period of time. My dad was at their cabin in Canada when the shutdown happened, and he didn’t come home immediately. I was over at my parents’ house when the stay-at-home order dropped. Then, it just became habit. What was I supposed to do at home by myself that entire time? Normally, I am rarely at home. I am usually at work, running errands – all kinds of things – none of which I could do during the lockdown.
Anyway, my parents and I watched in May as the Rifle River filled our Crystal Creek Campground near my parents’ home. It nearly reached Pinnacle Bridge, which is amazing in and of itself. Then it happened. I read a Facebook post that stated that the Forest Lake Dam broke. We evacuated my parents’ home. While the Forest Lake Dam isn’t directly on the Rifle River, it would feed into the nearby river if it did break. There simply was no way to predict what would happen if the dam broke. My parents feared losing their home of nearly 40 years, not to mention their business of nearly 45 years. I can still hear the panic in both of my parents’ voices. I hope to never experience anything like again it in my life. Same can be said for most of March through August.
Fortunately, the dam held. We returned to my parents’ home later that day when we received word that the immediate danger had passed. While I haven’t made a habit of watching the local news in decades, I did watch that evening as local affiliates reported as the Edenville and Sanford dams collapsed, devastating Gladwin and Midland counties. I know the area. I used to manage a convenience store in Sanford. I traveled M-30 across the Edenville dam many times. Wixom and Sanford Lakes are no more, and the Tittabawassee River reclaimed its original path. It so easily could have been my family. My parents could have easily lost their home – MY childhood home – and their business that day. So many in Midland and the surrounding area did.
When we were finally able to survey the damage, we were lucky. The flood mainly damaged our main location in Omer this time. Keep in mind that we suffered devastating flood/ice damage – along with tornado damage later that summer – at our Crystal Creek Campground in 2018. In Omer, we lost our propane tank, our ice chest, fencing, and a campsite. Yes, you read that correctly. When our campground – a former mill pond – flooded, the water drained in one area, completely eroding one of our campsites. We had to get excavation work done in order to rebuild. All of this on top of 3 feet of water in our store, bathrooms, and pole barns. The cleanup took nearly a month, delaying our opening. When we were finally able to reopen in mid-June, we didn’t know what to expect.
I will leave off here for now. There is so much more to the story. While I will discuss some aspects of what happened after we reopened another day, there is much more that will have to be left unsaid. So much of what made this summer truly horrendous isn’t even my story to tell.
In my family’s experience with the flood, I watched my parents, my brother, and I come together to make things happen under unprecedented circumstances. COVID made things much more difficult than they needed to be. Something as simple as ordering merchandise for the summer became a nightmare. Yet, it worked. We somehow made it work. That is precisely why I wanted to tell this story.
Above all, I hope all of us – every last person affected by COVID, which is the entire planet – finally get some semblance of normal. We deserve it!
If I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that I crave structure. I need it to be productive. I am slowly working on getting back into some type of routine as everything has shifted over the last couple of weeks. Right now, I’m not even sure what it would look like.
I’d love to put tons of time and energy into my Google Classroom now, but Michigan just closed schools for the rest of the school year. Up until this point, I was unable to assign anything for a grade. I could share things I would like my students to look at and do, but that was about it. I did come across some great stuff that I will be using with my students moving forward. Unfortunately, that is the point. Until we can figure out what distance learning will look like at our school, I’m not sure how we will handle students without out devices and internet access. Hopefully, we will know more next week and will be able to move on from there.
I miss and worry about my students. My heart breaks for my 8th graders who will be heading off to high school next year. Will they be ready? We did not get to send them off in the way they need to be sent off – not yet, anyway. I worry less about 6th and 7th graders. I can put things in place to help us fill in gaps next year. It may not be fun, but it might be necessary. I still miss them though, and they are certainly missing out on so much. When we left school on Friday, March 13th – a day I will never forget – I was in the middle of planning a field trip to the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts. My 6th graders were also supposed to go to Lansing on another field trip in early May – a field trip that never happened last year. 8th graders are also missing out on their last dance, usually put on by 7th grade. Not to mention track and field day, the last events surrounding Lent and Easter, and the wonderful chaos that is the last week of the school year. Oh, and I could cry when I think of what we had planned for March is reading month, most of which never took place, including Prime Time Live Friday Night (originally slated for that ill-fated Friday the 13th) and a poetry café, among so much else.
Then there are the student council events. I am the student council advisor, and my students pleaded with me to plan an end of year event. A trip to an escape room and laser tag were in the works. We were also supposed to have a carnival for younger students during March is reading month, all sponsored and put on by student council. I’m now trying to figure out how we are going to do elections for next year, which take place every spring. I may be able to come up with something there. The point is that everyone who works in or deals with education day-in, day-out – teachers, administrators, volunteers, staff, parents, and certainly students – lost so much over these last few weeks.
I feel as though that goes double for students in Catholic schools. I am not Catholic, and I do not teach religion, but I know what my students are missing at a time when they could use their faith the most. They need guidance when it comes to faith formation, and that is what they are lacking now. I keep thinking … 20 years from now, how I will I explain these times to my students? There are times when I feel at a loss when I try discussing September 11th with current students who were born longer after 2001.
This is not what I wanted or dreamed for my first full year teaching. It just isn’t. I do hope that next year will bring a “normal” year. During the 2018-2019 school year, those of us in Michigan experienced a record number of “cold”/snow days. Something no one experienced before. Now this. I think everyone could use a return to “normal” at this point.
Then there is the canoe livery. Fortunately for us, we don’t truly begin to get busy until the end of June, early July. August keeps getting busier and busier every year. This time of year, we get things ready for opening on Memorial Weekend. We will see what happens. While we can make some progress, in other ways, it is difficult. For example, I can’t finish ordering our t-shirts and sweatshirts at this point. Would it be wise to do so right now with so much uncertainty? Same goes for other merchandise in our stores.
There are so many summer scenarios that are running through my head. I can’t help but think we’d be especially busy if things start returning to normal by early June. If it is towards the end of June, that might put more pressure on already extremely busy weekends. Should we extend our season? Time will tell.
I do know that I will survive. My family will survive. The canoe livery will survive. We’ve weathered so many storms in the past. I keep telling myself how bleak things looked in 2018 in the wake of massive 100-year flooding due to ice. We made it and came back better than ever. Eventually a path will be made clear, and there will be a new “normal.” We all just need to hold on until then.