Tag Archives: creativity

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain (1991)

W.M. and I – Puebla, Mexico – March 2004

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain (1991) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written February 2, 2023)

Ah, Michigan State and all of my Alternative Spring Break (ASB) memories in Mexico.  Some of my best ASB memories involve W.M., and one in particular, November Rain by Guns N’ Roses.  It takes me back to nothing less than the most romantic evening of my life.

I met him at the airport as we headed to Merida, Mexico for a week of working hard doing volunteer work and playing even harder.  I was listening to Here Comes the Sun, ready to relax in the Yucatecan sun in the middle of a busy, crazy spring semester, and here was this guy – our site leader for the week – chatting me up.  He flashed me this great smile and asked me what I was listening to at the moment.  We bonded over George Harrison.

Lunch break with friends – Merida, Mexico – March 2001
The week W.M. and I met.

It didn’t take us long to become friends.  By the end of our first day of volunteer work, we were hanging out eating pizza and drinking Mexican beer, getting lost in deep, meaningful conversations.  I had lost my grandfather almost exactly a year before – at age 20, the first real loss of someone so close to me – and I was happy to find someone who understood.  That was the thing – W.M. and I should have had everything in common.

A year ahead of me, he studied marketing and Spanish to my supply chain management and Spanish.  No wonder we had found one another.  Later, the only time I actually met up with him on campus in East Lansing – or the United States for that matter, and for lunch no less – he told me all about his semester in Quito, Ecuador.  I don’t remember if I had already decided on a semester in Ecuador, but after hearing about W.M.’s experiences there, it was a forgone conclusion.

I’d love to say that this story is a college romance that ended well, but that simply wasn’t the case.  Instead, it is a story of friendship spanning years, countries, cultures, and continents that didn’t end so well.  It is also a story of unrequited love on my part.  I fell. Hard.

The thing is that I was never going to change my plans for anyone, muchless a man who hadn’t shown the least bit interest in anything more than friendship.  We left it as friends and that was it.  We were both driven with much to do.  That is, until Spain.

Fast forward nearly two years, and I was in the middle of my semester abroad in Caceres, Spain.  I’d resigned to myself that W.M., unfortunately, wanted to remain friends, nothing more.  Then I received the email.  The week before Valentine’s Day, I receive an email from him stating that he had landed an internship in Madrid – an easy train ride away – did I want to meet up?  Did I!

In the end, we spent a fun weekend in Madrid hanging out.  He booked me a hostel near wherever he was living.  We spent Saturday hanging out, eventually ending up at the Hard Rock Cafe and a beautiful park nearby.  We talked for hours.  Too good to be true, right?  Right.  When he walked me back to the hostel and didn’t even so much as kiss me goodnight, I wept.

In 2004, I returned to Mexico and ASB as a site leader myself.  Now a senior, I juggled interviewing for full-time positions in Texas with classwork along with all of my extracurricular responsibilities, including ASB.  As a result, I had to fly into Mexico City on my own and take a bus to Puebla to meet up with the rest of the group.  I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but W.M. got ahold of me once again.  Would I like to meet up for dinner in Puebla one evening?  He happened to be working in Mexico City at the time.

Beyond confused, I, of course, said yes.  I had no idea what to expect.  Why would this man take a bus at least two hours each way just to spend the evening with me?  He knew no one else in the group and the plan was just for the two of us to meet up.  We were friends, but seriously, what else was going on here?

I met him in the zocalo, or town square, and we quickly found an outdoor table at a local restaurant.  In my mind, the only thing better than Mexican food is authentic Mexican food.  The cuisine in Puebla tops them all.  Pollo en salsa mole anyone?

After watching the sunset over an incredible authentic Mexican dinner, a little red wine, and the ever present great conversation, W.M. and I somehow found our way into the Mexican equivalent of a dive bar.  Now, I am not much of a drinker, but I love the atmosphere in dive bars from time to time.  This one happened to be perfect.

I never really did see any sign advertising the place, but I could not have had more fun.  W.M. and I ended up holding court with a group of Mexican young men roughly our age.  We, two gringos who spoke Spanish who happened to end up in this cool unadvertised bar, stood out.  In fact, they thought we were married.  So, in this ambiance, we all start singing along to November Rain – very poorly.  It is still among the most romantic nights of my life – and he never even so much as kissed me.  Yet, there was at least enough chemistry between us for people to think we were married.

That was the last time I ever saw W.M.  In 2008, I looked him up on Facebook, and unfortunately, it ended up in a political argument that ended our friendship.  I still have no idea how he could have attended the same business school as me, and yet not understand the impact government can have on business, good or bad – small business in particular.  Time had not treated him well.  In fact, Diego Rivera comes to mind.  I recently watched Frida and it all came flooding back, much to my amusement.  The passion between Frida and Diego gets me every time.

Over the years, I’ve tried and tried to capture our friendship in writing, and I’ve never been able to do it well.  I once even brought an effort for critique, and the reaction of the men in my writing group still cracks me up.  Every last man in our group believed him to be gay.  All I have to say is this:  If he is indeed gay, he didn’t know it himself at the time.  The last I knew, he had a Mexican girlfriend and lived in California.

I can’t help but think of him every time I watch Casablanca, particularly the line “We’ll always have Paris.”  Indeed.  We’ll always have Merida, Madrid, and Puebla.

The Lightning Seeds – Change (1994)

The Lightning Seeds – Change (1994) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 22, 2023)

Some songs just immediately take you back to a certain time and place.  Sometimes, you have to dig to learn the actual name of the song, artist, or band, especially when it is included in a soundtrack.  Such as the case with Change by the Lightning Seeds.

First, a little history.  My little sister Erica spent much of her early adolescence obsessed with the movie Clueless (1995).  She wanted to be Cher.  I have a feeling she can still recite large sections of dialog from the movie.  Yes, she adored everything about Clueless.

I vaguely remember seeing it in the theater with her, and I loved it too, but it wouldn’t inspire me as Evita (1996) would a year later.  Still, there was much to love in Clueless if you were a young teenage girl in the midwest –  or anywhere for that matter.  In addition to Cher and friends, there was Josh (the incomparable Paul Rudd) and Cher’s incredible closet.  I bought the soundtrack.

The entire soundtrack fit the movie perfectly – early alternative rock smack dab in the middle of the 90s.  Change always stuck out in the soundtrack, but when I sought out the song with the lyric “stuck on drive” for a piece I planned to write on learning how to drive (I have yet to write that post, and frankly, it is quite the story), I didn’t come across it right away.  I finally discovered the right song, Change, and its incredible video.  Seriously.  Check out the official video and lyrics.  It is definitely worth it.

I’ve never come across a song that summed up the high school experience in the 90s quite as well.  It resonates with me in a way that makes me wish I had discovered The Lightning Seeds back catalog decades ago.  It is a perfect introduction to the pop/rock perfection that was 90s “alternative.”

The Temptations – My Girl (1965)

The Temptations – My Girl (1965) (Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 17, 2023)

Ah, My Girl!  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know or love the song.  I think it comes with being a girl who grew up in Michigan.  As much as I love the song, it is the movie My Girl (1991) that holds the most memories.  Per usual, Grandma Reid took my sister Erica and me to see it in the theater.

At that point in 1991, I was 10 years old and could relate to Vada.  I happen to be roughly the same age as the protagonists (Vada and Thomas J.), and frankly, I could see myself becoming fast friends with Vada.  She loved to write, had a great sense of fashion, and seemed like a lot of fun.  I could imagine us dishing about our crushes as only preteen girls can.  I felt for her when Thomas J. died.

After the movie, we headed over to KMart where my sister and I purchased a Temptations/Four Tops CD to share.  The fact that we “shared” a CD highlights just how young we were.  For the record, my sister and I have never had the exact same taste in music.  I can think of only one other CD that we both purchased later on in our teen years.  It wasn’t so much that our musical taste varied that much, it is just that we were very different teenage girls.  Some of our best arguments were over what music to play in the car on that all-important 10 minute drive to school.

My Girl is timeless.  It represents my love of Motown and will always remind me of the movie and a simpler time in my life.

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 14, 2023)

The King of Pop.  It is difficult to explain to younger generations just how big Michael Jackson was in the early 1980s.  He was everywhere.  The Beatles, of course, were bigger in the 1960s, but I fail to think of anyone (or any band) bigger than Michael Jackson in the years since – with, of course, the exception of Madonna, who was just as big as the Queen of Pop during the same time period.

Similar to Madonna, Michael Jackson’s hits immediately take me back to my earliest childhood memories.  My love of MJ’s music, once again, has much to do with the influence of my older cousins.  I distinctly remember my mom giving my cousin Nicole a Michael Jackson doll for her birthday.  As a preschooler, I was envious!  There is even an adorable picture of Nicole and I sitting on Grandma’s lap, Nicole proudly hugging her new Thriller album.

Unlike the cloud that hangs over Madonna’s legacy, there is little question that Michael Jackson’s music holds up.  I noticed it the summer of 2009 right after his death.  All of a sudden it was cool to rediscover MJ’s hits, his questionable legacy suddenly forgotten.  I can’t help but wonder if the same will happen with Madonna upon her death.
Then there is Thriller itself.  The album, the song, and music video itself – in reality, almost a short film – are still fun to revisit.  As a child who loved the macabre and everything to do with Halloween, I adored the video.  Learning as an adult that VIncent Price lent his incredible voice to the video:  Priceless.  In my opinion, Thriller is one of the best music videos ever made.

The Mixtapes – The History

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 McBeal with 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.

Madonna – Material Girl (1984)

Madonna – Material Girl (1984) (Official Video) (Lyrics)

(Written January 12, 2023)

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!

2023: The Year Ahead – Music and Books

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.

Here’s to a productive – and FUN! – 2023!

This is quite possibly the most 1999 thing I’ve ever come across.
It immediately takes me back to the summer of 1999. You can listen to it here.

Hitting the Road

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.

Home Again

Fun sign on Grove Road, just before Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

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.

My favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

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.

Another view of my favorite part of Crystal Creek Campground
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

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.

Crystal Creek Landing
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

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.

The view from Spartan Staduium, Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Photo Credit: Lindsey Russell

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.