Michelle's Musings

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A Farewell to Newspapers

I would like to let you all know that I have decided to take another job and will no longer serve as the editor of this publication beginning Nov. 1. Matt Geiger will continue to serve as managing editor, and you can still use the same email, timestribuneeditor@newspubinc.com to submit your items. 

I will also be leaving the newspaper business entirely to work as the communications manager at The League of Women Voters of Dane County.

This has been a very hard decision for me to make, but there is much uncertainty in newspapers these days, and as I get older, I no longer want to be on call 24/7.

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It was around 9 a.m. on a hot and humid late August night in 2005 when my husband answered the landline to find my frantic friend, Kyle, on the other end.

Kyle’s cat had opened the door to the dining room buffet and determined the best spot to give birth to a litter of kittens was in said cabinet on top of a stack of board games. He wanted to know what he should do.

I advised that he should go ahead and clear everything out of the cabinet and replace it with old bedding or towels because she had clearly decided where she was having her new family. Cats, in my experience, are very hard to remove from a spot they have decided to have babies. They typically move them on their own later, but once they are in labor it is nearly impossible to change their minds.

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Not So Funny Bone

The health care system in this country is a joke, and as if I needed further confirmation of this, it did not disappoint during my most recent encounter.

I am typing this column with one hand because I have injured my left elbow. I was doing chores around the house and spilled water on the garage floor but proceeded to the laundry room with the intent of cleaning it up when I came back. When I came out of the laundry room, I slipped on the water and went down directly on my elbow, followed by my hip. The 1971 floor, you see, becomes the most slippery surface in the known universe. It was like slipping on black ice with no time whatsoever to react.

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Dinner Conversation

A few years ago, my husband, Matt, and I were sitting around the dinner table with a group of travelers in a small boat on which we were cruising around the Galapagos Islands. The group represented Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France and Brazil in addition to us.

As we sipped wine and finished dessert, the group started talking about the things for which their country is known. The Germans said, “Beer!” We all toasted beer. The Swiss woman said, “Chocolate!” We all raised our glasses. The Italians said, “Pasta.” Again, we rose our glasses high. The French woman said, “Wine!” It got an extra clank of the stemware. The couple from Brazil said, “Beaches.” We brought the glasses together again, just as the Swiss girl looked at us and blurted out, “American, guns and whisky!” There was no resonating sound of glasses being brought together of shouts of “cheers” or “prost,” just a long, awkward silence before I spoke up and said, “You’re right.”

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Newspaper Stuff

Hi everyone. I think this week is a good time for some house cleaning. So, let’s talk about some of the things going on at the Times-Tribune

First, I have gotten several comments about my new headshot for this column head. Particularly the pose with the side eye. That is one of my standard “looks” according to those who know me. 

A few weeks ago, I went to Des Moines to attend my niece’s graduation. While I was there, I decided it a good idea to replace my ancient headshot, and asked my longtime friend and amazing photographer, Mindy Myers, to take them. 

Once Mindy sent the photos, I went on Facebook and posted three pictures, asking which one my friends preferred. The consensus was that the side eye shot was the one that best expressed my personality. I agreed and decided that although it may not be appropriate for other professional needs, it was suitable for my column head. 

The next thing I want to talk about is our high school interns.

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I love strawberries, but only when they are in season, sweet, delicious and preferably local.

One thing I do not like, however, is picking them. Because of this, I am willing to pay extra for those already picked. Every year I see you pick ads for strawberries right around now, but I just want someone else to pick them for me. I know that sort of sounds elitist but let me tell you a little story. 

Several decades ago, when I was just entering my teen years, I needed a job. My seasonal job working at a local greenhouse, Glei’s, had just come to an end and because we were poor, I needed to fund things like clothes, make up, entertainment–you get the idea–for myself.

My friend and I were perusing the local newspaper, the Hillsdale Daily News, when what should catch my eye, but a classified ad soliciting strawberry pickers. You were paid by the pound, and although I can’t remember the exact amount, it seemed reasonable to us.

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A Time Before Roe v. Wade

My mother was 15 when she got pregnant with me in 1966. 

Abortion was illegal.

As you might imagine, it was not cool to get pregnant at 15 in 1966 (it still isn’t), but that was the reality around my birth. 

My aunts–my mom’s sisters–have filled in some of the detail of what was going on in my grandparent’s house at the time of this revelation. It wasn’t pretty by any account. 

In spite of it being illegal, abortion was one of the options on the table and as my mom later explained, you could go to Indiana and get one (we were from Michigan) for a price.

Instead, my family decided that the best thing to do was adopt me out. My mother would go to a home for unwed mothers in Jackson, MI called the Florence Crittenden Home. My mother was there while she was pregnant and was to hand me over to the adoption agency at the hospital without even meeting me. 

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District Maps

Had I been on the non-partisan committee appointed by Gov. Tony Evers’ tasked to redraw legislative district maps within the state, I would be disillusioned by the disgusting display of partisanship by both the current legislature and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I would think eight months of working on drawing fair legislative maps had been for naught. (County and US Congressional maps were not affected.)

In spite of the fact that I was not on that committee, I still feel those things. As if I have witnessed some twisted dog and pony show. Why bother to put a committee in place, gather public input and draw the maps in the first place if you are simply going to allow the Republicans in the state legislature submit their own? Why waste the time of volunteers, taxpayers and the court only to come back with nearly identical gerrymandered districts that were in place before?

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Hunting Sandhill Cranes

I recently read an article about the Wisconsin Legislature presenting a bill to allow hunting sandhill cranes. The article referred to the majestic birds as “the ribeye of the sky.”

Having worked in restaurants in the 1990s when ostrich meat became a popular low fat, low cholesterol alternative to steak, I totally understood what they were getting at–sandhill cranes taste like red meat. This does not, however, mean they should be eaten.

I have no qualms with hunting. If you are killing something to eat, fine, but having a pair of sandhill cranes visiting my bird feeder daily, I can’t imagine looking at the large birds and thinking, “That looks tasty. Mmmm, ribeye of the sky.”

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Black History Month

I am a firm believer that Black history is everyone’s history and should be taught year-round as part of regular school curriculum. But because of the racism and oppression of Black people that has been persistent and prevalent in our country since its founding, that has not happened. Instead, we take the month of February to highlight Black leaders and achievements. I hope someday this will change, but at this time we are celebrating Black History Month. 

I have compiled a list of some of the Black historical figures in the US, trying to feature those that are lesser known than the few we have learned about in school. I encourage you to research these innovators, leaders and inventors as well as others Black Americans who have greatly contributed to our society. 

Bessie Coleman: Aviation pioneer

Phillis Wheatly: Poet

Althea Gibson: Tennis star

Madam CJ Walker: First Black millionaire, inventor of beauty products


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