Tag Archives: creativity

BANNED BOOKS:  Looking for Alaska by John Green

I adore John Green, both as an author and as host of “Crash Course History” videos.  For those who don’t know, he is the best selling author of young adult hits such as The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska.  Even though I read The Fault in Our Stars well into middle age, it left a deep impression on me.  I discuss the influence in Dear D., Continued – Revisited, quoting the book.

Unfortunately, all is not well with John Green.  Last week I came across the article below discussing how Looking for Alaska is being challenged in his hometown of Orange County, Florida  You can read the article below.

John Green’s First Novel May Be Banned At His Old School

Frankly, this isn’t about John Green or Looking for Alaska; it is all about banning books.  I don’t care what anyone’s personal political views may be, banning books should have no place in the United States of America.  I love that libraries have Banned Book Week and have expanded on the idea.  Some of the best books I have ever read have been challenged over the years.  Personally, I believe that any good library should have something to offend everyone.  Outright banning of books is disgusting to me.

As a teacher, I do have to clarify something though.  Banning books in a library or even a school library is completely different from deciding which books are taught in the classroom.  While I believe that all students should have access to as wide variety of books as possible, parents should be able to have options if they have concerns regarding books their child is reading in the classroom.  However, one parent’s objections should not be forced on to everyone else.  Ideally, a resolution should be agreed upon by the teacher, parent(s), and administration.  Why do we have to make it so complicated?

That is about it:  My little political rant for the week.  I just hope that people come to their senses and realize that it is OK if not everyone views things the same way.  That is the beauty of living in a complex society.  We as a society need to relearn that we don’t have to agree on everything.

All Things Michigan

Lake Superior shoreline – Photo Credit: photosforclass.com

Here are a few Michigan-centric websites I’ve come across over the last week.

Check them out!

Mysterious Michigan

Lots of great paranormal stories set in Michigan.  Just in time for Halloween!  You can find my piece on The Witchy Wolves of the Omer Plains there as well.

The site started out back in 2006 as Michigan’s Otherside.

Amberrose Hammond – 

Amberrose Hammond is the woman behind Mysterious Michigan.  This personal site outlines her work, books, and much more.

Lake Fury

Ric Mixter and Dan Hall’s website discussing all things shipwreck on the Great Lakes.  I had the opportunity to hear Ric Mixter’s talk on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald last week.  Absolutely fascinating.

Shipwreck Podcasts

Ric Mixter’s free and premium podcasts covering shipwrecks all over the Great Lakes (and beyond), the infamous and the not-so-famous.  You can also find a list of Ric Mixter’s upcoming appearances/topics.

Lake Superior beach gravel – Photo Credit: photosforclass.com

Marshall Fredericks Museum @ Saginaw Valley State University

“The Man on the Cross” mold on display at the Marshall Fredericks Museum at Saginaw Valley State University. The original sculpture resides at the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Marshall Fredericks Museum at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) is one of my favorite museums.  Considering its size, it is jam packed.  Over the years, I’ve visited the museum a handful of times, and I always leave inspired.  There is so much to see, and frankly, it is impressive to see the results of such a long and varied career in sculpture.  At one time, Grandma B. and I talked about the museum, and she said that she always wanted to visit.  Unfortunately, she never took the opportunity.  I can’t help but think of her every time I am there.

One of my favorite Marshall Fredericks sculptures is “The Man on the Cross,” which resides at the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan.  I’ve seen it in person (the full-size mold resides in the art gallery at SVSU, see below), and it is something that one needs to experience in person.  I plan to go back at some point.  It is gorgeous and moving.

As I left class today (I’m currently finishing my English endorsement at SVSU), I decided to head over the museum.  It did not disappoint.  Following is a quick overview of different sections of the museum.

Main Gallery

The main gallery includes the original molds for many of Marshall Fredericks’ larger works, including “The Man on the Cross” (see photo below), interspersed with smaller models in various mediums.  All are on permanent display and make up the core of the museum.

The molds for the “Sinners and Saints” sculpture. The original resides in the Sinners and Saints lounge at the nearby Midland Center for the Arts.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell
Marshall Fredericks also sculptured many animals throughout his career. This frog is one of my favorites.
I believe the original ended up in a children’s garden.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Studio

The museum has taken great care to replicate parts of Marshall Fredericks’ studio.  It is impressive, and frankly, there is something about this part of the museum that fascinates me.  You get to understand how he created such large sculptures and the work involved, including tools and studies.  It actually inspired me to write a post on Scrivener and the idea of a writer’s studio, which can be found here.

Display helping to recreate Marshall Fredericks’ studio. Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell
Another view of the studio. Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

The Sculpture Garden

It is just a beautiful outdoor space with all kinds of bronze sculptures inspired by Marshall Fredericks’ work.  You can find other images of the sculpture garden here.

The “Night and Day” fountain that is the center piece of the sculpture garden.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell
Mowgli and Baloo in the sculpture garden.
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

A visit to the museum is certainly worth it.  In addition to the sections described above, there are also a couple of smaller galleries in the museum that hold rotating exhibitions.  You can find more information on the museum’s website.

Across the Universe (2007)

Liverpool Docks
Liverpool Docks” by wwarby is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I’ve wanted to write about Across the Universe (2007) ever since I first watched it several months ago.  It is one of those movies that grabs you, not letting you go.  Just when you think you have it figured out, you start back at the beginning.  I’m afraid I won’t do it justice.

Let’s start with the facts.  First, it was a given that I would enjoy Across the Universe (2007) for the music and subject matter alone.  A musical using new renditions of Beatles’ songs that encompasses many of the major themes of the 1960s?  What isn’t there to like?  Never mind the actual film.  It was either going to be wonderful or something never to speak of again.

Next, the music itself is exceptional.  When it comes to Beatles’ music, I am normally skeptical when it comes to covers (with the exception of Joe Cocker, of course).  In this case, Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy), Jim Sturgess (Jude), and Dana Fuchs (Sadie) forced me to look at some of the Beatles catalog in a new way.  Not an easy feat.  There are several examples of this, but some of the ones that come to mind immediately are “It Won’t Be Long” (Evan Rachel Wood), “I’ve Just Seen A Face” (Jim Sturgess), and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” (Dana Fuchs).  That is just for starters. The use of “Let It Be” (Carol Woods & Timothy T. Mitchum) as a hymn fits the scene(s) perfectly.

My feelings on the song “Across the Universe” have evolved as result.  While I’ve always liked “Across the Universe,” I would be hard pressed to even rank it among my top 25 or possibly 50 Beatles’ songs.  No joke.  The movie made me reevaluate.  While I enjoy the movie version of “Across the Universe,” the cover by the band Evanescence is now one of favorite songs.  It is haunting in the best possible way, not easily replicated.

Fortunately for us, the music is only the beginning.  All the principals not only can act and sing, but dance as well.  The choreography in Across the Universe (2007) is second to none and, along with superb costume and set design, make the movie.  It enhances the music in a way that is unforgettable.  The bowling scene that takes place during “I’ve Just Seen A Face” is so much fun and over the top.  While the first part of the movie is just that – fun and over the top – the choreography and music work together to tell a much darker story as the movie progresses.

While I won’t give away the plot, it is the plot itself that keeps me guessing, keeps me coming back to the movie.  When I finished watching Across the Universe (2007) for the first time, my first thought was:

What the heck just happened?  What did I just watch?

Frankly, its plot, or lack thereof, is both its strength and weakness.  While it isn’t as though it doesn’t have a plot at all, there are large swaths of the movie that leave you asking so many questions.  Much can explained away by implied drug use.  Now might be a good time to mention that Across the Universe (2007) earned every bit of its PG-13 rating.  Personally, I believe it should be more in the R category considering the violence, implied drug use, and sexual references/implications.

Implied drug use can explain away much of the plot issues in the movie, but it doesn’t explain everything.  For example, there are certain characters (namely Prudence, Sadie, and Jo-Jo) that I want to know more about.  They are that interesting, considering what we know of them.  However, I have yet to figure out the purpose of Prudence’s character.  She seems to just show up.

While it is easy to see all of these things as “flaws” with the plot, I have to wonder if it wasn’t intentional.  I’m not quite sure how the movie could have captured as much of the history of the ‘60s as it did without leaving so much to the viewer’s imagination.
As a Beatles fan, that is what is so fun about this movie.  There are so many references for fans.  My personal favorite is the Brigitte Bardot poster.  Supposedly all the Beatles had a huge crush on her.  Then, there are the characters themselves.  Jude, played by Jim Sturgess, looks an awful lot like a young Paul McCartney.  His character is even from Liverpool.  With some characters, it is obvious:  Jo-Jo is somehow a stand-in for Jimi Hendrix.  Others, it isn’t so clear.  For example, I want to peg Sadie as Janis Joplin, and yet, it doesn’t feel quite right.  In the end, the music, the choreography, the confusing plot, and the Easter eggs geared towards Beatles fans will keep me coming back.  If you like the Beatles at all, it is a must-see.  If I ever have the opportunity to see it on the big screen, I am there.  I’m not sure how I missed Across the Universe (2007) when it was first released.

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.

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