Michelle's Musings

Fri
13
Mar
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Ethics Complaint

Several people have asked me why we did not report the name of the city employee involved in a recent ethics complaint. I have also gotten the question of why we did not release information from the complaint. Since I have fielded so many calls and emails about the coverage in the Middleton Review, I decided to address it here. 

First, I want to say that we have known about the complaint since it was filed on Dec. 20, 2019. In addition, we have had a copy of the complaint since that time, and we knew the name of the employee accused of the violation. Why didn’t we write about those things, you ask? It’s quite simple; an attorney advised against it.

Because this is considered an employee disciplinary measure, the attorney told me that we could be sued for publicly naming the employee. In addition, the document was leaked to me and the person who leaked it refused to be used as a source in a story.

Sat
07
Mar
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Sick? Stay Home

Every time someone near me coughs, I give them the side eye and slowly back away because of the possibility that they have Coronavirus.

I should put a disclaimer on that statement–I back away from anyone who is coughing and hacking because I don’t know where you have been, who you have seen or what you might be carrying with you. It’s not just Coronavirus that I am trying to avoid, but all sicknesses.

I sell vintage jewelry on eBay as a hobby, mostly to fund my own jewelry addiction, so I frequent a lot of antique stores, thrift stores and secondhand shops. Last week the woman behind the counter at one of the shops  was about to cough a lung up as I reluctantly handed her my debt card to ring up my purchases. I watched as she coughed for what seemed like 10 minutes into her hand while my card was in the machine. She pulled it out, smiled at me and asked, “Do you need a receipt?”

“No,” I thought, “But I need some soap and water.”

Mon
03
Feb
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Bifocals

I feel like I have been pretty much rolling with the changes of getting older. Of course, sometimes I lament about the lines that continue to deepen on my face, or maybe I express my discontent in my neck resembling a turkey snood. A gray hair here and there is not so bad and easy enough to remove. For the most part I have accepted, even embraced, those things, but this latest rite of passage into old age is most disturbing–bifocals.

Fri
24
Jan
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Fais Do-Do

I went to a two day fais do-do (pronounced fay doh-doh) last weekend. What is a fais do-do, you ask? It means party in Cajun, and I have to say, the Cajuns really know how to throw a fais do-do. 

The party was in honor of my husband’s class reunion, along with a couple of other years, which they had dubbed the “Mega Reunion.” The school he went to is called Midland High School and it serves several small communities deep in the Louisiana bayou. 

The party began on Friday night with a trip to the basketball Homecoming game. One of his schoolmates has a party bus and a small group of folks gathered to take the bus a short distance to the school. 

In my younger years I would work on a party bus as a bartender from time to time when my boss would rent a big tour bus to take on casino trips. It was luxurious and new with cushy seats, air conditioning and a fold down counter that we would use to make drinks.

Fri
03
Jan
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New Year's

The holiday season has always been one of my favorite times of year for three reasons–generosity, happiness and revelry. What’s not to like about two months of eating, drinking, family, presents and kindness. It starts with a feast on Thanksgiving and culminates with a giant party to say goodbye to the old, and hello to the new. It is the season of beginnings and endings.

I remember the first time I begged to stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop. I was nine at the time and convinced my grandma to let me invite my two best friends, Dawn and Bertha to come and celebrate the new year. 

It is the first New Year’s Eve party I would throw. I made sure that we were stocked up on snacks–cheese and crackers, popcorn, chocolate chip cookies that I made earlier in the day, and of course a can of red Hi-C that I poured into a decanter to serve in some tiny wine glasses I had found at a garage sale with my Aunt Shirley. 

Thu
26
Dec
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Voter Suppression

Voter suppression can take on many forms.

Last week in a story about Max Prestigiacomo running for Madison City Council, voter suppression came up because of Wisconsin voter ID laws, which make it difficult for students to cast votes. That is because many students retain the ID or driver’s license in their hometown when they go to school out of state, and Wisconsin requires that you have a Wisconsin ID.

The district Max is running in is mostly students at UW-Madison. This has contributed to lower student voter turnout in the past. And one of the things that he said he would like to see is voting rights for anyone in the City of Madison over 18.

Just days after I wrote the story about Max, a judge in Port Washington also did his best to suppress voting. The circuit court judge, Paul Malloy ordered that more than 230,000 voters be removed from the state’s registered voter list, according a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Fri
13
Dec
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Wish Book

We would lie on the green, high-low, shag carpet and pore over the JC Penney Christmas Wish Book, my cousin, Angie, and I, not a care in the world, scheming what to ask for from Santa. I can still remember the prickly feel of the synthetic fibers on my elbows as we propped ourselves in front of the cozy, wood-burning stove. 

We had a system down, I, being older, came up with the plan to more efficiently express our need for items in the inch-and-a-half thick book. The smell of ink from its freshly printed pages emanating from the catalog. 

Thu
31
Oct
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Giant Pumpkins

Recently I watched a video of a man in Tennessee, who tried to bring home the honor or largest pumpkin in his state. At 910 pounds, the gargantuan squash fell short of the title, topping 1,700 lbs. 

But when life hands you giant pumpkins, there is but one thing to do–make a pumpkin boat. So that’s what he did, and the clip shows him paddling down a waterway, a hole carved in the top, like some kind of fantastical kayak. 

Giant pumpkin growing is an actual thing, and if you have never seen this spectacle, I suggest you put it on your bucket list. I first became aware of competitions for the largest pumpkin back in 2003 when I began working at a paper called the Anamosa Journal-Eureka.

The town held an event called Pumpkinfest and the Ryan Norlin Pumpkin Weigh-off. Ryan was a boy who raised giant pumpkins with his uncle. He was killed in a tragic boating accident, and his family and town members began the weigh-off to honor his memory. 

Sat
19
Oct
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Homelessness

I was very much looking forward to a long awaited trip to Memphis from with my longtime friend Wendy. She lives in New Orleans and we decided to meet in Memphis for a long weekend to see Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, who is on his farewell tour, aptly named “Roll Me Away.” 

I have been to Memphis several times, but it had been about 20 years since I had stayed downtown. Walking around downtown was a strange juxtaposition of desolation and gentrification. Main Street is a tourist hot spot with upscale restaurants and shops, and it goes right past Court Square, where many homeless people sleep at night. 

I have touched on homelessness in the past in this column, but what I have not revealed is the reason I am an advocate for helping the homeless (aside from just plain humanitarianism). I was once homeless and living in my car. 

Thu
10
Oct
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Palm Oil

I am a label reader. I cook mostly from scratch, but sometimes I want something prepackaged, particularly snack food. 

I started reading labels because I didn’t want preservatives, dyes and artificial flavors in my food. Then, I also wanted to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and now, palm oil. 

The label reading began because I personally didn’t want to ingest processed and potentially harmful chemicals. The palm oil, however, is strictly about the environment and the destruction of habitat. Orangutans, which were declared the closest relative to humans about a decade ago, are the most hard hit by the harvest of palm oil. 

This is something that came to my attention a few years ago, and prompted me to stop buying most peanut butter, including those proclaiming to be “natural.” I also had to give up Girl Scout cookies much to my great dismay and sadness. No more Thin Mints for me. 

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