Michelle's Musings

Mon
25
Jan
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Honoring Dr. King

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we honor King, and likely hindered the normal amount of volunteer hours people put in on Monday. Often the remembrance of his birthday, which was actually Jan. 15, is marked by volunteering within the community. 

Volunteerism is something that was important to King, and also something that was instilled in me early on. Helping others is something that anyone can do, and often only involves your time.

I was surprised to learn from a recent Middleton survey that volunteerism is low. Maybe it’s partly due to the pandemic because people are less inclined to leave their homes, or maybe people don’t know how to connect with volunteer organizations. 

Thu
14
Jan
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Looking for Hope

In January 2009, I was working at the Anamosa Journal-Eureka, a newspaper nestled in the rolling hills of Jones County, Iowa. It’s the county seat and a hotbed for political activity as the vast majority of presidential candidates visit the town at least once while campaigning.

My coworkers and I had all gathered around a single computer screen to watch the presidential inauguration of America’s first Black president, Barack Obama. Most of us had met, or at very least seen him on at least one occasion. He was charismatic, articulate, intelligent and laid back. He easily won over the people of Jones County in 2008 with his message of hope, his promises to repair infrastructure, end the war in Iraq and improve education. 

Thu
24
Dec
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Unmasked

I want to apologize to all of you that had the displeasure of seeing my unmasked face on Saturday at the Santa Parade in Middleton. 

As anyone who reads this column knows, I am a big proponent of mask wearing. I am not someone who weighs the risk of being outside versus inside, and absolutely refuse to do anything that requires removing a mask anywhere in public. I have been preaching it (and living it) since March. I wear a mask everywhere, even when I am outside hiking on the trails across from my house. Even though many people in the park are unmasked, I don’t trust that people stay home when they are sick, especially if it is a mild illness. 

Thu
17
Dec
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Postal Limbo

Not one, not two, but six packages that I sent more than a week ago seem to be lost in postal limbo. Some of these packages just contain a variety of candy that I spent an entire Saturday crafting. Each year I send tins full of treats to my relatives and, in I have no idea how many years, they have never been lost. 

In addition to the treats, which are not that big of deal, it’s the other presents, which included some holiday gifts and also my brother’s birthday present that I am displeased about. These are the items that will have to be replaced and will not make it in time for either his birthday or maybe even Jesus’. 

Sat
28
Nov
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Hugs

Many years ago, before I became an editor and subsequently jaded by “humanity,” I was a super hugger. I hugged everyone and everything all the time. It’s my family’s fault, they are all huggers and kissers and cheek pinchers. Gradually, though, I became more of a handshaker because people in a professional setting become troubled when you walk up and hug them at introduction.

I still hug strangers, often, or at least I did. I almost always, at very least, offer my hand to strangers and of course people I know through work. That has all changed in 2020.

Back in March people stopped touching each other. I remember being at the International Mustard Competition at the National Mustard Museum in early March and at that time people were bumping elbows rather than shaking hands. Then that came to a halt as well, replaced by a brief wave or nod from behind the disguise of a mask.

Fri
13
Nov
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Common Ground

I am not going to call for unity in the wake of this debacle of a presidential election. It seems too trite, simplistic and cliché to implement in a country that is divided in half.

That is not to say, however, that I don’t think we need to work together to find common ground because I think we fundamentally all want the same things as Americans. We want food, shelter, health care, education, religious freedom, living wages, a means of retirement and peace, just for starters. But it isn’t just Americans that want those things, people the world over wish for the same.

Thu
01
Oct
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RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was a champion for human rights, those of women, minorities and the LBGT community. She was one of a small handful of women accepted at Harvard Law School in the early 1960s before transferring to Columbia Law School, something that was unheard of at the time.

I was 26 years old when she was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), and remember it was a big deal because she was only the second female Supreme Court Justice and the first female Jewish justice. At that time, she was considered a moderate, and had previously been appointed to an appeals court in the District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter. As the SCOTUS shifted to the right, she became a more liberal voice on the court and would often dissent.

Thu
24
Sep
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Flying

Against my better judgement I flew to Denver from Madison last week. Normally I would not have considered taking flight during a global pandemic, but duty called and I had to head to Colorado to help my husband get our house ready to rent. 

We had initially planned to Air BnB the property because it sits near the Royal Gorge, which is a tourist spot near Cañon City. We had just finished getting it ready back in March, and I flew out on March 11 and came back on March 18. I wrote about that experience in a previous column, and how on my return flight (after the lockdown began) Denver International Airport (DIA) was deserted. At that time I was one of just two passengers wearing a mask. 

Sat
05
Sep
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Moonstruck

It was 1974 when the moon was last full on Halloween. I was just seven years old, and I remember it well.

You see, I have always had a strong connection to the moon. I can’t explain it, but I have always been drawn to the moon, to the tide, to the cycle of waning and waxing each month, sometimes twice in a month in the case of a blue moon.

Anyway, I remember the full moon that night because I was completely enamored of it. I could not stop looking at it. I remember my aunt had taken me trick or treating in the tiny town of Somerset Center, MI, where my great-grandmother lived. We had stopped at her house when we got to town to show off my Wonder Woman costume, another of my obsessions at the time. 

When we walked out of Grandma Clark’s house, I could see it big and low on the horizon, in all its glowing and mesmerizing glory. I could not stop looking at the bright orb in the sky, so close it seemed you could reach out and touch it. 

Sun
16
Aug
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Weep Not for the Memories

I sat silent in the chair Monday night after reading a message from one of our friends in Cedar Rapids that the home Matt and I owned had been destroyed. 

“Destroyed?” I replied. 

“Yes, the big tree fell on it,” she said.

The tree she was referring to was a 100-plus-year-old white pine and the biggest tree in our old neighborhood. It was felled by the massive storm, called a derecho, basically an inland hurricane, that appeared to make its way downtown and through the city proper. Tens of thousands of people were without power in both Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, but Cedar Rapids took a lot of wind damage. 

The Internet was reported as spotty, but a handful of friends posted pics on social media, including downtown. Many of the buildings were missing part of their façade, roof or both. No photos of our old house, though. There were cars overturned and huge grain silos crumpled like a piece of aluminum foil.

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