My Reasons Why

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 …

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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 Lost Generation

Sometimes I nail it …

Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

Lost.jpg

No, I am not talking about the generation that came of age during World War I, although we share many characteristics with that generation.  I am talking about my own generation, those of use who came of age in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001.  Specifically, I am talking about the Xennial microgeneration born roughly between 1977 and 1983 (1980 here).  In my opinion, we are indeed a lost generation.

There are efforts to do away with this microgeneration altogether.  It is needed.  I don’t fully identify with Gen Xers or Millennials.  I have characteristics of both and want to be associated with neither.  Many people in my age bracket agree.

Zennial

So much of it has to do with technology and economics.  Most Gen Xers didn’t experience much if anything that the internet and cell phones had to offer until adulthood.  They largely had an analog childhood.  Millennials…

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Rosanne Cash – The List

Fresh Air’s summer music interviews: Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash

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.

Summer’s End

As I have said before, I have a love/hate relationship with Labor Day.  I am always happy to put the canoe livery to rest until next year, and yet, summer always seems to go by way too quickly.   I only made it out on the river once this summer (our annual company trip) … so far.  While there is a part of me that wishes we always had summer weather here in Michigan, I know better.  As a lifelong Michigander, I definitely need the change of seasons.  Both times I lived in Texas, I missed it.  In my soul.  It never felt natural to hang out on patios in December, needing only light jackets.  Where was the crisp fall weather, the smell of burning leaves, visits to apply orchards?  It just didn’t seem right.

I came home today to see all of the canoe livery buses and mini buses parked in my backyard, safe from any flooding.  The store is condensed and ready for us to close in a month or so.  All of the picnic tables are stacked, put away until spring arrives yet again.  Just a few weeks ago, we were packed at both locations and had several hundred people go down the river on Saturday morning.  Now, we have the place all to ourselves once again.  It always catches me by surprise how quickly we go from beyond busy to ready to close up for the year.

I can’t imagine the canoe livery not being a part of my life.  I thought about it earlier this summer, and I realized that it truly was my first home.  Until I was three years old, my parents, my sister Erica, and I lived in a mobile home at our main location in Omer.  It was located where our large pole barn is now.  I’ve literally watched my parents build their business my entire life.  My brother and sister saw much of it as well; however, I am just enough older to have witnessed a bit more than either one of them. It is interesting, and frankly, I’m not sure it could have been done today – at least not in the same way.  I remember my dad making annual spring trips to Minnesota to purchase more canoes, the original three buses purchased after my parents married in 1977 (they made the best forts when not in use!), and the tiny walkup store we had prior to our current store in Omer.

So many of my childhood memories are tied up with the canoe livery.  One of my first memories is of playing the card game war with Grandma Reid in the old store.  Another early memory is of Grandma and Mom playing two-handed Euchre, snacking on MadeRite cheese popcorn, waiting for people to come off the river.  I would spend hours playing in the river and by the dock, not getting out of the water until I was completely waterlogged, trying to ignore my goosebumps.  I distinctly remember being excited when the calendar changed to March and April – and yet being SO disappointed that it wasn’t nearly warm enough to go swimming in the river.  I can’t think of a better way to grow up.

I love the fact my niece and nephew are growing up right near the canoe livery.  They visit me at the store several times a week.  I can’t begin to describe the nostalgia I feel watching them play.  They are fish, and there are many times I have had to warm them up after they have spent a little too much time in the river.  I have to remind them to put on shoes in the store constantly – reliving the time I found a bee with my bare foot at age 6.  One day this past summer, my niece decided that she wanted to take a shower in the showerhouse at the campground, nevermind that she could take a shower in her home (a two minute walk at most).  What cracked me up most is the fact that I remember doing the exact same thing at her age.  It was a production.  The forts, the pooling of money to purchase items in the store, leaving bikes in all the wrong places – sigh.  So fun.  I’m glad I’m in a position to spoil them a little bit.  I hope that they enjoy every minute.

Until next year!

Ellen Vrana @ The Examined Life

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.

The Day the Music Died

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.

THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED” by akahawkeyefan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Dreaming On

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!

Welcome September

Closing Out Summer 2022

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!

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 …