In designing The Mixtapes, several things inspired me. First up, JamsBio, which I’ve discussed a little here. Back in 2006/2007, I had the opportunity to write a series of articles for JamsBio, an online magazine celebrating the love of music, outlining my favorite songs/artists and what music meant to me. I only wrote ten articles and JamsBio didn’t last, but it was the most fun I have ever had working, not to mention the easiest money I’ve ever made. While I still wish I had thought to save those original articles, with The Mixtapes, I have the opportunity to start anew and build it correctly this time.
JamsBio isn’t the only inspiration. As a teenager, I religiously watched Ali McBealwith my mom. The show began each episode with Vonda Shephard playing a song that highlighted something on Ali’s mind. It popularized the idea of a soundtrack to one’s life, and frankly, that idea never really left me. Consider this that soundtrack.
Then there is Paul McCartney. It is no secret that I am a huge Beatles, Wings, and Paul McCartney fan. Do I love everything the man has ever done? Not exactly. Yet, he (and all of the Beatles) will always be in a category of their own. Anyway, Paul McCartney published The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present in 2022. While I have yet to read it (I know, I know …), the idea is incredible to me. Essentially, Paul McCartney wrote a memoir that consists of the stories behind 154 of the songs he wrote. It covers songs from all parts of his career – Beatles, Wings, solo, etc. I can’t imagine a better gift to fans. Even better, there is a Spotify playlist that covers all of the songs in The Lyrics in the order they appear in the book (alphabetically by song title). When I finally do read it, I will be able to listen along as well.
So there you have it, the inspiration behind The Mixtapes. Enjoy and feel free to share your own memories.
Almost any early Madonna song immediately takes me back to my early childhood, thanks to several older female cousins who adored her. I fell in love right along with them and every other girl on the planet. The Queen of Pop rightfully deserves several entries here, and it is only right that I start with Material Girl.
It is easy to dismiss Material Girl as an ode to greed, a quintessentially ‘80s throwaway pop song. Personally, I think that is a bit harsh, and frankly unfair, even if I believe Madonna’s music hasn’t aged particularly well.
Yet, I keep coming back to the video. Yes, there are diamonds and countless references to Marilyn Monroe. There is also something timeless that introduced an entire younger generation to the glamor of old school Hollywood. In the music video, there are even sequences at the beginning and end of the song that make the video just a bit less outrageously materialistic. As a young girl obsessed with Disney princesses and Barbie, Madonna seemed to have it all: style, grace, and she could sing too.
As I grew older, remaining a Madonna fan became harder and harder to defend. I distinctly remember being embarrassed for her when she was photographed everywhere in a cone bra and released the book Sex. I was all of 11.
As Madonna appears to be struggling with aging gracefully (that is another topic entirely), I can only hope that we as a society don’t write off her music entirely as time goes on. For me at least, her earliest work – what made her a star, the Queen of Pop – will always be a cherished part of my childhood. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the video!
Over the last several months, I’ve given plenty of thought of where I’d like to take Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. For years, I’ve wanted to incorporate my love of music into my writing. The issue is that quoting song lyrics, even with proper attribution, can be seen as copyright infringement. Yet, I want to share some of my favorite songs and the memories they represent.
Early childhood and dolls aside, my favorite Christmas and birthday gifts all related to music – everything from my earliest Fisher Price record player and tape player to various albums/tapes/CDs, to my last Sony Discman. They were all used and abused. In fact, there were times I had to repurchase CDs due to overuse and sand. I replaced several Sony Discman due to the same issue.
Enter the mixtape. See, I am just old enough to remember how fun it was to listen to the radio long after my parents went to bed in order to record my favorite songs. I’m thinking of creating a category here that will serve as a mix tape of sorts. On a separate Mixtape page, I will outline and categorize my favorite songs and albums. Each link to to song or album title will include a passage about that particular song/album, along with links to lyrics and official music videos. I am beyond excited about this, and I am looking forward to seeing this project take off. It will take time.
In addition, my reading life has really taken off. I’ve read so many wonderful books lately. I’ve been thinking about how to best share it all with you. I plan to start sharing book reviews again as well. Stay tuned! Right now, I am working on how best to do this. I’ve researched the tools. Now it is a matter of figuring out what works out best for me – and you, the readers.
I’ve always loved traveling, no matter how short or long the trip. This wanderlust has taken me on so many wonderful adventures over the years, and fortunately for me, so many of my best childhood memories were made hitting the road with Grandma Reid. The woman just loved to go. She rarely spent time at home, at least until age caught up with her. In fact, she spent over forty years selling women’s clothing from a variety of catalog companies. So many of her customers were housewives who lived out in Michigan’s Thumb. She’d drive to her customers, bags and bags of clothing samples in tow. She quit selling in the early/mid-1990s only due to the fact that she could no longer find a quality company to represent. The last company she carried sold more home goods than clothing. Unfortunately, the quality was nothing compared to the companies she worked for during the 1950s-1980s. Even as a teenager, I loved to go clothes shopping with Grandma. She had a way of helping you find the right fit and could be brutally honest if need be. I learned to love the road and basics of business, at least in part, at my grandmother’s knee.
During my preschool years, Grandma would pick me up from time to time. At the time, I was used to her late ‘70s/early ‘80s blue Chysler station wagon, the same one that I tried to make Grandpa Reid promise to take care of as it was now his. If you knew Grandpa Owen, it was a futile effort, even if asked by his adorable granddaughter. I can still envision the station wagon parked underneath the old apple tree at the canoe livery – or as we always called it, the park – Grandpa napping in the backseat in the heat of a Michigan summer.
Then one day, I couldn’t find Grandma’s station wagon in the preschool parking lot. Grandma’s new vehicle was one for the books. She purchased one of the first Chrysler minivans, and what a vehicle it was! I have no idea how many miles she put on the thing, but I do know that she replaced the engine at one point. She finally totaled it in the early 90s in an accident on her way to one of my sister’s softball games. That iconic tan minivan, when it was finally put to rest, represented the passing of an era.
What makes certain vehicles from our childhood so damn memorable? I wrote a piece about my first car, which my mom drove for a large chunk of my childhood. I could write something similar about my dad’s ‘77 Freewheelin’ Ford Bronco, his green Jeep Grand Cherokee that my sister inherited as her first vehicle, or even the lemon fullsize blue Ford van with the squealing fan belt that hung around the canoe livery forever – the one we drove to Florida to Walt Disney World. It isn’t the vehicles so much as the journeys and times they represent.
Last spring, touring the Henry Ford Museum for the first time with my middle school students, I was taken back by a veritable wave of nostalgia seeing one of first Chrysler minivans (in this case, a Plymouth Voyager – almost identical to the first Dodge Caravans) at the end of a long line of evolving family vehicles. It stopped me for a moment. All it needed was a tan paint job/interior and Dodge badging to be Grandma’s minivan of my childhood.
More than anything, that minivan represents, at least to me, countless trips to the movies, Lutz’s Funland in Au Gres, putt-putt golf in Tawas, ice cream runs, and the Bear Track. I think of the infamous trip to Kings Island in Ohio where Mom and Grandma tried to remain calm as we were caught in an awful storm. We were parked, Grandma had her foot on the brake, and the van was still shaking. How many trips to weddings, family reunions, and showers did I take with her in that van? Last, but not least, we took Grandma’s van to the airport on our infamous trip to Aruba with Dad, Erica, Emily Lammy, Grandma, and Dean Gillette (Mom was too pregnant with Garrett to fly) for New Year 1991. On the way home, something was wrong with the van, and we could only travel in 15 minute spurts. I thought we’d never get home, but eventually, we arrived.
Grandma knew how to make any trip fun. It wouldn’t be a summer adventure if we didn’t stop for ice cream. On one such occasion, we’d stopped for ice cream after hitting a local amusement park for putt-putt and go-karts. Per usual, Grandma had a van full. In addition to my sister and I, cousins Michael and Linda were there as well, and I may even be forgetting someone. As we are enjoying ice cream on the way home, suddenly my sister’s ice cream falls off of its cone squarely into Michael’s hand. We had to pull over we were laughing so hard, especially Grandma. Now well into our 30s and 40s, the ice cream incident is still mentioned from time to time. Something about it was so incredibly funny, or as Grandma would say, comical.
Now, I’m the one who is rarely home. I’m the one “running the roads” as my dad would say. I hope to make the same kind of road memories with my niece and nephews as they grow up, but that is more my mom’s territory, for now. I normally tag along in her car, playing navigator if need be. Maybe one day they will reminisce about all the Buick Enclaves in our family at the moment (3 and counting) or Uncle Garrett’s Avalanche.
At this point, I doubt my love of the road will ever die. Thank you, Grandma.
This past Friday night, I had the opportunity to see Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band in concert in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to music, there are the Beatles and then there is everyone else. The music I grew up with and loved, all of the 90s “alternative” and the 60s-80s pop rock, simply would not exist without the Beatles – at least not in the same way. In other words, even though seeing Ringo in person wasn’t on my bucket list, it should have been. It definitely should have been.
The concert itself left me pleasantly surprised. There was “Yellow Submarine,” “Photograoph,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “WIth A Little Help from My Friends,” of course. Ringo didn’t even announce “With A Little Help from My Friends.” He quipped that “if you don’t know this next one, you’re at the wrong concert!” What a great way to end a concert. All to be expected.
Instead, it was the strength of his All-Star Band that blew me away. As a child of the 80s and 90s that grew up with 70s and 80s hits, hearing “Africa” and “Rosanna” by Toto, “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Group, “Who Can It Be Now“ and “Down Under” by Men at Work, among so many others, was just as much fun. The sound quality and overall musicianship was far and away the best I have ever seen in a concert. Then I realized that I was watching men in their 70s and 80s playing, not to prove anything, but to just have fun, truly in love with the music. They were playing songs that have been around for decades, that they’ve been playing for decades.
The experience became so much more than the concert, though. After the concert, we walked around a bit looking for the Legends diner. As we wandered around, suddenly the back doors of entertainment hall opened and the tribal police escorted out the band immediately in front of us. Everyone froze for a second and then gave them a resounding round of applause. Even after they were gone, I waited a bit, hoping that Ringo would be following them. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Just as we were going to start our search for the diner once again, I did a double-take. A Ringo look-alike – as in this man looked exactly like Ringo – was holding court and taking photographs with all who wished them. Unfortunately, the line was too long, and I am nothing if not impatient.
While the experience wasn’t perfect – namely our seats weren’t quite what we were expecting – it is a weekend that I will never forget. Saturday, I woke up to the news that Ringo canceled several appearances in his tour due to COVID. I can only wish Ringo the best as he recovers.
Lately, I can’t stop thinking about my life in September 2009 and all the changes it brought with it. I can safely say it remains among the worst times in my life. That month, I lost two people close to me, both of whom I knew most of my life, and my ex lost his job at a time when I found it impossible to find one. The aftermath of that particular month still haunts me with unanswered questions and things left unsaid.
It started with Joyce. She passed away on September 2nd. It left me in shock as it was her husband who faced serious health issues at the time. The thing is Joyce and I always had a special bond. She babysat me from nine months of age until I was old enough to stay alone. We always referred to her as the “babysitter,” but she…
Funny how certain cars from your past just stay with you. Where do I even begin with my first car, my 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix, a perfect cheery red? My love affair with that car began right off the lot. My parents purchased the car brand new in Gladwin, MI in 1989. It was the first proper car my mom had since my parents married in 1977. After my parents married, they sold my mom’s car to help purchase buses, and the full-sized vans that replaced it doubled as a canoe livery vehicles in the summer. She definitely earned that brand new car! I think I was just as excited as she was – almost. If anything, I inherited my love of cars from Mom. I even went to the dealership with my parents, an exciting new experience at age 8.
By 1995, a friend of my parents, who owned the GM dealership in town, happened to drive over the latest Grand Prix model – again, bright red. The Grand Prix had just been redesigned, and few people in Arenac County, if any, had it at that point. Soon, Mom had another new car and the old one, later mine, went into the pole barn, waiting for me to turn 16 and earn my license.
During the fall of 1996, I spent hours detailing it, getting ready for when I earned my license in December. I carefully drove it through the campground, practicing backing up and avoiding things like fire rings and electrical posts, carefully storing it back in the pole barn, waiting not so patiently. My mom had taken great care of it, and now, it was up to me.
A few features of that Grand Prix still stand out. 1989, frankly, was the end of an era when it came to cars. My Grand Prix was probably one of the last models that didn’t include air bags and CD players. Instead, it had a futuristic 80s electronic dash and a retro tape deck. Later, we had a five CD changer installed in the trunk. I could not have asked for a more perfect first car.
After much heartache, stress, and tears – another story entirely – my dad took me to the Secretary of State on my birthday to get my license. He even let me pick out a new license plate for my car. I ended up with a centennial plate commemorating the 100th anniversary of the automobile industry. Somehow, some of my best memories with Dad always seem to involve vehicles, whether cars, SUVs, minibusses, or big ole school buses.
Car and license in hand, I now drove myself and my younger sister Erica to school and around town. The biggest issue, of course, became control of the radio for the entire 10 minute drive to school. We didn’t fight much, but we did argue over music and sharing a bathroom on the daily. That first winter driving, Erica and I experienced our first accident. A fender bender that could have happened to anyone, we both freaked out as only young teenage girls can. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the damage was easily repaired.
I kept that Grand Prix well into college. In 2001, I drove it to and from my internship with IBM out in Rochester, Minnesota. Alone, I will never forget driving home along US 2 across the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan in late August with incredible views of Lake Michigan along the way. It is still one of my favorite road trips. That trip finally helped me to become completely comfortable behind the wheel.
The following year, after a year studying abroad in Ecuador and Spain, I spent six months living and working in Austin, Texas. I had landed the co-op with Applied Materials at the same time I landed the gig with IBM. As I already knew that I would be studying abroad the following academic year, I convinced Applied Materials to bring me aboard the following summer, June 2002. By this point, it was time to replace the Grand Prix.
The original plan was to sell my car in Texas, fly home in December for my birthday and Christmas, purchase a new vehicle, and return to Michigan State for winter semester 2003. Well, best laid plans rarely work out. On July 24th, 2001, on my way to work at Applied, a moving truck turned in front of me. I had had the green light, and he hadn’t seen me. I slammed on the brakes so hard that I broke my big toe and the metatarsal on my right foot. I ended up in a splint and, later, a walking cast, up to my knee.
The entire front end of the Grand Prix slid under the truck, stopping just in time. If I had had a passenger in the front seat, he or she probably would not have made it. All I could think of was how many times I had had my brother or sister with me, usually shotgun. I walked away relatively unscathed. My only other injury, other than a badly scraped left knee from the dash, was a deep cut behind my ear from the window molding. Somehow, the safety glass held.
Thank God that car didn’t have air bags. First generation air bags later gained a reputation for killing shorter drivers. At 5’0, I may have ended up a statistic. That Grand Prix that I’d loved for so long had saved my life. It was the end of an era.
I ended up with another Grand Prix, of course – a 2002. Yet, nothing I’ve owned since could ever top my first car, not even purchasing a brand new car on my own. So many childhood, teenage, and even young adult memories – way too many to share here – wrapped up in one vehicle. I’ve even dreamed about it. I dreamed that, somehow, it was still stored in my parents’ pole barn, waiting for me to drive it again.
I’ve struggled for nearly two months to write this post. It is time. Back in mid-June, I spent the afternoon in East Lansing with my friend Lauri. While it was not our only intent, we sought the memorial brick my cousin Lugene’s family placed on campus in her memory. If it weren’t for Lugene, Lauri and I probably would have never met. Spending time with Lauri searching for Lugene’s memorial brick seemed fitting. After all, as dedicated genealogists, Lauri and Lugene spent countless days researching in Michigan cemeteries. Here we were searching for Lugene.
When we did finally locate her memorial brick, it completely caught me off-guard. It is located near the gardens where I found myself on a first date with a guy I dated briefly while at MSU – a very fun first date. I had completely forgotten. While MSU…
These last few weeks have been eventful, and frankly, fun. While my parents were in Ireland, I house sat for them. First, I love my parents’ house. It is comfortable and, next to my own house, is a space where I can just be myself. Housesitting for my parents during the early part of the fall means checking our Crystal Creek Campground as well. Crystal Creek is adjacent to my parents’ house. In fact, the house – my home from ages 3 to 18 – sits behind our store. It is hard to separate the two.
There is something about the empty campground, with the promise of fall in the air, that gets me every time. It is gorgeous and my favorite time of year. I can’t help but think of all the time I spent playing in the campground as a child after the campers left for the season. The land itself is forever a part of me.
During the great shutdown of 2020, I lived with my parents. It didn’t make sense for me to live alone at a time when no one knew how long it would last. Those days were largely a challenge for a variety of reasons, but the campground helped. Even though we had no idea when would be able to open up for Summer 2020, my parents and I spent time getting the campground ready. It was something tangible we could do. Mom and I picked up sticks and garbage daily while my dad and brother took care of most of the brush. It gave me a new appreciation for the land and the river, especially after we had the 500 year flood in May 2020 and rebuilt to open in mid-June.
But, home is so much more than just my parents’ or my home. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to return to Michigan State’s unrivaled campus – the home of some of my best memories. My brother, sister, sister-in-law, and I made sure my nephews and niece had a great first experience at Spartan Stadium. While wonderful in many ways, unfortunately my niblings didn’t get to see the Spartans win. Still, just being on campus brought back so many memories – the kind of memories that can only be relived when you’re home.
Lately, the cottage has been on my mind. In Michigan, many families have a “cottage” or “cabin” Up North, however you define it. Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but Michigan actually has more, only outnumbered by Alaska. As a true Michigander, I am drawn to water in all of its forms. The cottage in my mom’s family, going back at least five generations, still plays an important role in our family.
Actually, there are two. The “old cottage,” which belonged to my great grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick, otherwise known to her great grandchildren as Great (I wrote about her life in Family History), had character to spare. Dating back to the 1930s or 1940s, the “old cottage” looms large in my childhood memories. It was the site of numerous weekend get-togethers with extended family, particularly my Buttrick grandparents, cousins, and aunts (and their husbands). Great spent most of her summers at the “old” cottage on Sage Lake, which made these early memories extra special.
Once Great passed away in 1993, it was decided that we needed a cottage closer to the lake, a new place to make new memories. Thankfully, this cottage is still in constant use during the summer and still the site of countless family summer gatherings. Still, there is something special about the “old” cottage, warts and all. It is still there, largely unchanged, to be enjoyed by a new family.
If anything, I would have to say it was Great herself that made the cottage special. She was always there, smiling and laughing. She seemed to just take it all in, surrounded by her granddaughters, great granddaughters, son, and daughter-in-law, among others. She always had a tin filled with Hydrox cookies for her great grandchildren and would look the other way while we snuck them.
It was a treat to spend the night at the cottage with Great. I believe that my mom, sister, and I stayed overnight with Great at the cottage a handful of times. I loved waking up near the lake, having toast with real honey from the comb and an individual box of cereal for breakfast. The “old” cottage may have been located on a large bluff overlooking Sage Lake, making swimming and boating a workout, but the view was second to none.
As Great’s birthday was in late August, I vividly remember driving up to the cottage to take Great out to dinner. Mom, Erica, and I pilled in Great’s huge seafoam green Caddy to take her out for frog legs, her favorite. We all adored Great, but the relationship that my mom had with her grandmother was truly special. It must have been for my mom to pack up her two little girls and drive over half an hour each way to take her grandmother out to dinner for her birthday. I am so grateful for all the time I got to spend with Great. As I was 13 when she passed away, I knew her well Not everyone gets the opportunity to know a great grandparent in such a wonderful, detailed way.
The thing about going to the cottage during my childhood was that it was a process. Yes, there may have been times when I actually traveled to the cottage with my parents, but that is not what I remember as well. What I will remember most is all the fun I had piling into my grandparents’ huge 1980s station wagon with my older cousins. At one point, Grandpa B. owned one of those coveted wood paneled station wagons that had a rear facing seat. Of course, as kids, we all piled in the “way” back. My sister Erica, our cousin Abby, and I spent the entire 20 minute trip making up songs, playing silly finger-snap games, and hoping that we would be the “first one to see the lake.” Getting there was half the fun.
Actually, in those days, my parents presence at the cottage didn’t register much. No. The cottage was all about playing with cousins. We would climb the tree in the front yard, create dance routines on the parking pylons and the torpedo towable, and swim. There were trips to the pop shop and pontoon boat rides too. Grandpa could never understand why I would always pick out baseball cards (normally Topps ‘87s) instead of candy at the pop shop. I think it amused him.
Swimming and boating at the “old” cottage required a little planning. The obstacle to lake access was a large, steep set of stairs. If you were going down to the lake, you stayed there for a while. If anyone was heading up to the cottage and planned to return to the lake, she automatically played waitress. It wasn’t kind to head up without asking if anyone needed anything. It is the one thing that I do not miss about the “old” cottage. If we weren’t down at the lake, we were hanging out on the large covered porch in the front yard, facing Second Ave., the lake behind. This was the site of all of our games.
Of course, no description of cottage life would be complete without a description of the food. For dinner, there was chicken, burgers, and hotdogs on the grill with plenty of sides and salads, you name it. What really stands out, though, is so simple: Grandma B.’s fruit platters. Even us kids devoured mounds of fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and blue berries. As soon Grandma brought out the fruit tray, it was time to take a break from all the fun.
Then there was the cottage itself. It was small and pine paneled with lots of windows overlooking the deck with the lake below, decorated in a mix of mid century cottage style. Even though there were only two bedrooms, it never felt cramped to me as a child. It largely smelled of fresh air and the lake, with Great’s Airspun powder lingering in the bathroom. Overall, it is a place where I made countless memories that I will always carry with me.
I am grateful that my brother Garrett takes his kids to the cottage often. For him, it is all about catching air on Sage on a wakeboard. Both of his kids, both under 10, adore wakeboarding and tubing behind the speedboat. Yet, I feel for Garrett. He has little to no memory of the cottage atmosphere I just described – the one seared in my memory, the one that started it all. While he definitely knew Great, she passed away when he was only two years old. It saddens me because the image of how fiercely my toddler brother adored our great grandmother is among one of sweetest things I have ever witnessed in my life. I’m just glad the cottage still lives on. The cottage is still a place where cousins make memories.