Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal

Welcome to Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal, a blog written by the newspaper's staff at A2 Journal, a new, weekly, community newspaper covering Ann Arbor. This blog is a place for members of the newspaper's staff to write their thoughts, observations, opinions and other informative pieces they put together while covering the rich history, interesting people, institutions and traditions that make Ann Arbor such a unique community.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feb. 28 - Lisa's Musings (from the dog show day 2) and Every Day Life

Dog Show Day Two

That elusive piece of the group remains just that.

Two more Best of Breeds and little Driver remains undefeated, but we can't seem to get a group placement.

At least not yet.

It occurred to me that non-dog show people might not understand why this is important and how it works.

Every dog that wins a Best of Breed then goes on to compete in what's known as a group. In Driver's case, at a UKC show, it's called the Gun Group and includes all the breeds that go out in the field and hunt. In AKC, it's called the sporting group.

At a UKC show, for instance, it's a huge number of dogs and you win points toward a championship for winning your class, best male or female and Best of Breed, you also win points for getting a group placement.

In both AKC shows and UKC shows, Driver's group is one of the most competitive and the largest. We get lots of looks and good comments from the judges, but Tollers are a relatively rare breed and judges just aren't as confident in giving them a piece of the group because they don't judge them as often as say a Labrador or a golden retriever.

So he has to be spot on and really sell himself to a judge. But he's a puppy, and sometimes he picks the wrong times to move or sit or look at someone outside the ring doing something fun.

Take today for instance, there was a handler in the ring with a squeakie toy. Most sporting dog handlers know better than to squeak a squeakie toy in the ring.

Squeakie toys are like crack to Tollers. The only thing more additive are tennis balls and ducks.

So when the handler who happened to be behind me squeaked the toy, I was lucky to hang onto Driver who really, really wanted to grab that toy. In fact, the setter in front of me whipped around trying to find where the squeak was coming from.

Bless little Driver's heart, he focused on me -- but both the setter's handler and I wished serious ill will on this person.

Serious ill will.

You don't take a squeakie toy in a ring with a group of toy crazy dogs. These are retrievers -- that's what they do.

It's what they LIVE for ... so the fact that my puppy didn't melt into quivering oblivion is a victory unto itself.

And, I don't think this person did it to ruin anyone else's chances, he did it to try and get his dog excited -- but someone needs to clue him in on the etiquette of the group ring.

Driver is dangerously close to getting his UKC championship but because there aren't a lot of Tollers showing in UKC, we need a couple of group placements to finish off the requirements for that CH title.

From what I was told, with all of his wins, he's got enough points, but he needs a group placement or two to become a champion.

We'll try again in two weeks when we head to Kalamazoo for another UKC show.

And we'll play with squeakie toys at the show; probably a few tennis balls, too, but I can promise you, we won't be doing it in the ring.

And, if any of the other handler's got a hold of the person who did today, I'm sure he won't be doing it in the ring, either.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb. 27 - Lisa's Musings (from a dog show) and Every Day Life

As the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., today I woke up thinking there's nothing like starting a DAY OFF at o'dark-thirty.

On a work day, it would take a heck of a story to get me out of bed at this hour.

I don't do mornings -- except occasionally -- for a dog show.

Making it worse was I woke up with an upset tummy -- a condition that stayed with me ALL day. But I didn't let that deter me.

My friend, Nancy, arrived at 6:30 a.m. right on schedule and we were off.

We left Driver's older brother, Ryan, and her dog, Banjo, here to enjoy a relaxing day doing whatever dogs do when we're not here watching them.

Slip-sliding away down North Territorial, going 35 mph at top speed, we were headed to the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club for Driver's second time at a United Kennel Club Dog Show, aka a UKC conformation show.

Dog show people are frustrated movers. We bring everything but the kitchen sink to dog shows. Chairs, coolers full of cold drinks and food, large bags fulled with snack food, a grooming box, a crate for the dog, a jug of water, show clothes, extra shoes ... the list goes on.

So, the trick is to get there early -- so you get a good spot inside the building and a parking spot that's reasonably close to a door.

Because I got up before the sun, we were successful with both of those quests.

And then the waiting begins.

Which seems to go on forever.

Or a good couple of hours, anyway.

And this is why all that stuff we bring, including a book, comes in handy.

Except, I forgot something really important this time -- a brush for the dog.

Now, you have to understand, Tollers are a long-haired breed and this was a canine beauty contest. All hair is supposed to be brushed.

Would a pageant contestant ever forget a brush?

You really want to untangle and smooth out a long-haired canine's coat before you head into the conformation ring.

If this were a bigger show, the fact that I forgot THE MOST IMPORTANT item of the day wouldn't be a big deal. I could buy another one from one of the vendors.

This wasn't that kind of show. There weren't any vendors.

So, we made due with a comb. Not the best item for getting through a long coat, but Driver didn't know any better. He just liked all the attention he was getting.

Brush? Comb? He's all about the food in this stand-and-eat-food competition.

And he had a great time today, showing twice, and taking Best of Breed both times.

He didn't place in the group either time, but he showed his little puppy heart out.

Driver just turned a year old this month and he still needs to grow up a little bit, but not too fast. We're enjoying this journey together.

And his time will come because there's lots of dog shows in his future.

Including tomorrow.

So when we got home, he played with his dog friends and I suppose, told them all about his day.

I, on the other hand, found the brush and immediately packed it in the grooming box in the van.

Tomorrow's another early morning ... but not AS early a morning.

I'll be getting up an hour later this time.

Still, it's a slightly silly way to spend a perfectly good Sunday.

But that's OK, Monday's a work day, so I can sleep in.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Feb. 26 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

It's a bird eat bird world out there.

At least it was this afternoon when what I think was a Red-Tailed Hawk came to visit and landed in the large maple tree outside my dining room window.

I'd filled the bird feeders during the snow earlier this week, and all the birds in the neighborhood were having some lunch when the hawk decided to drop in.

He (or she) not sure which, perched on one of the larger branches -- one that had an unobstructed view of all three feeders.

And waited.

Not sure how long he was there before my friend Becca and I noticed him -- but certainly long enough to have a head covered in snow.

Silently, and only twitching a feather or two every so often, the hawk surveyed all the potential snacks beneath his claws.

While most of the bigger, and perhaps smarter birds, headed for the hills -- or maybe other trees -- a few smaller, and perhaps dumber birds, hung around.

Slowly turning a head from side to side, the tension mounted. At least from our vantage point.

I found myself telling all the birds to fly, fly away.

They didn't listen.

The next thing we knew, the hawk swooped toward the ground and grabbed one of the smaller birds, which in turn, nabbed my puppy's attention.

He, in fact, was the one who alerted us to the fact that there was one less bird at the feeders.

After a short while, the hawk was back.

Guess it doesn't take long to devour a small bird when you're a large hawk.

We watched and watched, waiting for a second bird to meet the same fate.

Becca said she thought the hawk wasn't as hungry so that's why he sat there for so long without picking his next feathered victim.

There were lots and lots of choices available -- large and small.

But we decided he was waiting for a larger prize -- like a chipmunk or a squirrel.

When none materialized, he flew off as silently as he arrived.

It's about 15 minutes later and all the birds, and the chipmunks and squirrels, are back jockeying for feeder position.

Wonder where the hawk is now.

(As an aside, Driver and I are headed back into the show ring this weekend, so it will probably be late night before I have a chance to blog this weekend. As such, there won't be a Lisa and Betty project this weekend, either.)

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Results of Recent Web Polls

An update on how our readers responded to our Web poll questions.

What's the first thing you read in your newspaper?
Front Page: 50 percent
Obituaries: 20 percent
Police Briefs: 18 percent
Sports: 11 percent
(44 votes cast)

How often do you travel for vacation?

Twice a year or more: 35 percent
Once a year: 28 percent
Once every few years: 21 percent
Once every couple of years: 16 percent
(80 votes cast)

How often do you eat out a week?
Less than once a week: 36 percent
Three or more times a week: 29 percent
Twice a week: 22 percent
Once a week: 13 percent
(132 votes cast)

What's the key to getting rich?
Hard work: 37 percent
Luck: 22 percent
Ingenuity: 21 percent:
Education: 20 percent
(76 votes cast)

What's your biggest worry in the new year?
Michigan's employment outlook: 38 percent
The nation's economic turnaround: 26 percent
Funding of local schools: 22 percent
The outcome of this November's elections: 13 percent
(76 votes cast)

How should schools address budget constraints?
Reduce staff salaries: 32 percent
Pay to play: 28 percent
Offer more online classes: 22 percent
Cut extracurricular activities: 18 percent
(108 votes cast)


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb. 25 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

As a reporter, I'm sent a lot of press releases each day.

Especially from U-M. Although some of them are very interesting, there's only so much room in the paper, so most of them don't make it.

As I was ready to hit the delete button on two of them a few minutes ago, but the dollar figures grabbed my attention.

One was a $14.8 million award and the other was a $10 million award.

Alone or added together, that's a LOT of zeros.

The headline on the first one reads: U-M's ISR receives $14.8 million ARRA award.

To translate: ISR in U-M's Institute for Social Research and ARRA is the Federal Government's stimulus dollars. This releases goes on to say that the institute has received a total of $48.3 million in stimulus dollars to date.

Which means there may be more money to come?

There's a nice quote from Congressman John Dingell, who recently announced he plans to seek re-election on the U-M campus, and there's another one from U.S. Senator Carl Levin.

Apparently, the money will be used to add 50,000 square feet to ISR's Thompson Street building, which according to the press release, is "the world's largest academic social science research and survey organization."

And, the release goes on to say, "ISR brings together a growing number of researchers who are using biometric and biological markers in their surveys, and integrating these data with more conventional social and behavioral data present new challenges and new demands for a physical infrastructure that supports this exciting new research direction."


The second one has a headline of "NSF awards $10 million for American National Election Studies."

NSF stands for National Science Foundation and this money, too, is headed to the Institute for Social Research, but it will share this money with Stanford University's Institute for Research in the Social Sciences.

This money will be used to fund "the American National Election Studies to study voter participation and decision-making in the 2012 US presidential election, and in the mid-term elections of 2010."

Wow. That's a LOT of money spent on election studies, don't you think?

I'll give you my opinion on these two elections right now for free.

There will be less voters in the mid-term elections than during the presidential elections and neither will reach more than 50 percent of the total number of registered voters.

Anyone care to wager on those numbers with me?

I'm not picking on the institute because I know they do a lot of cool and interesting studies.

Maybe you'll agree -- I'm thoroughly amazed at how the Federal Government spends our tax dollars.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feb. 24 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I love The Olympics -- especially the Winter Games.

It's all that cold and snow and ice and these people who love to go out and play in it. I just think it's cool. No pun intended.

And, this year the Americans have been kicking some serious snowtail, winning more medals than anyone predicted.

It doesn't matter whether those medals came with or without numbers assigned to them by human judges.

All of these men and women are champions and although I cheer the loudest for the athletes representing the USA, I want each and every one of them to log their personal best when they compete.

Only the top three in each event will win a medal, but each competitor can aspire to surpass anything they've done in the past.

I want every competitor to shine in their Olympic moment. Or moments. On greatest athletic stage on Earth.

But above all, no matter where they finish, they must be good sports.

And some of them haven't been.

Poor sportsmanship goes against everything The Olympics stands for. And I don't care which medal or medals they did or didn't get, sportsmanship, above all else, is the most basic principle of competition.

During my lifetime, I've had the honor of calling several Olympic athletes my friends. Some were alternate Olympians for different sports; others had been selected to compete when we boycotted The Games, while still others were able to not only compete, but also to medal.

For those who were able to compete, regardless of how they finished, they will tell you that competing in the Olympics was one of the best moments of their lives.

The Olympics are something they'll never forget because being chosen by their country as an Olympian is an honorable title, which carries with it respect and responsibility. Not just for the athlete and his or her sport, but also for the athlete's entire country.

Win or lose, Olympic athletes and their conduct before, during and after The Games reflects on an entire country.

It's one of the things athletes pledge to uphold when they take the Olympic Oath.

In the future, I think the Olympic Committee should take away medals from athletes who are poor sports because in my book, anyway, they aren't true Olympians.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feb. 23 - Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life

I'm pleased to report my German ancestry ranks among the Top 10 Michigan ancestries according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There was a cool graphic in Sunday's Detroit Free Press that broke down ancestries of Michiganders and it went something like this.

Topping the list was German with 2.27 million people, or 22.7 percent of people.

No. 2 was Irish with 1.21 million people or 12.1 percent.

No. 3 was English with 1.04 million or 10.4 percent.

No. 4 was Polish with .91 million people or 9.1 percent.

No. 5 was Dutch with .50 million people or 5.0 percent.

No. 6 was French, also with .50 million people or 5.0 percent.

Not sure why Dutch and French weren't tied for 5th, but I didn't put together this top 10 list.

No. 7 was Italian with .48 million or 4.8 percent.

No. 8 was American with .43 million or 4.3 percent. Humm.

No. 9 was Scottish with .24 million people or 2.4 percent.

No. 10 was Swedish at .17 million people or 1.7 percent.

So, in which group do you fit?

Oh, and one out of three Michigan residents reported multiple ancestries.

I'm not going to do the exact math here, but either everyone didn't mark this box on the 2008 census or the census is missing a boatload of Michigan residents.

I don't know what the current numbers are, but I thought this state had more than 10 million people.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong.

Math was never my strong suit.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Jan. 22 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

Not to belabor the birthday thing, but I got a pretty great belated gift from Mother Nature today.

Although it officially started snowing out here on my birthday; it didn't really get its mojo on until this morning.

Then it rocked and rolled.

And my dogs romped and rolled.

And I shoveled.

But this time around, I got smart and since it was really good packing snow, I made snowballs and tossed them. Then watched both dogs bound through a lot of inches of it, like, well, Tollers, retrieving snow.

During the last storm, I took out three yellow tennis balls and in about 15 minutes all three were buried under it, not to be found until the snow melted.

Which it did, so I was really hoping for a storm on the 21st -- one more good one before spring arrives.

What can I say, when you have a birthday in February, you hope for a snowy day, so you can really call it your own and enjoy it.

I admit it, I LOVE the snow, just like my dogs.

Especially when I don't have to drive anywhere in it. Like today.

In fact, it's a little after three and although my mail arrived, my driveway's plowed and the walkway is shoveled, I'm really glad I don't have to navigate my road tonight to cover a meeting.

So, thanks Mother Nature, you might have been a day late, but certainly not a dollar short.

Or something like that.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feb. 21 -- Lisa's Musings From (Her Birthday) and Every Day Life

If you start a DAILY blog, even on your 52nd birthday, you don't want to let your readers down -- so you blog.

There have been lots of Facebook friends' birthday wishes, calls from friends and family and all that's been pretty cool but ... the best part about my birthday? It's one day a year that's mine to do whatever it is I feel like doing.

And, not feel guilty about it.

So, I've groomed plants and dogs and carpets.

And I've done a LOT of puttering. You know, doing stuff that pops into your head, and just doing it. Right then. Not putting it on a To Do List.

Take the linen closet, for instance. I opened it to grab clean sheets and pillowcases and, for the umpteenth time, the stuff hanging off the shelves fell to the floor.

But today, I didn't just shove it back in and quickly close the door.

I actually pulled everything out, tossed the linens I hate, kinda organized it, and found a few old hand towels and washcloths under all the other crap, which will go to the dog shows with me next weekend as "slobber clothes."

(My dog show readers will understand that term.)

I finally tossed 10-year-old throw rugs that had long ago lost their backing so they moved every time I step on them. So, before I fall because of them, they're gone.

I'm getting older, and don't bounce as well.

And, as is always the case when you start puttering -- one thing leads to another thing, which leads to another thing.

I did battle with dog hair and cobwebs. And WON.

I tossed out stuff that had been hanging around forever. Although I've tried to use it up and not be wasteful, there's a good reason why I've been unsuccessful in this goal. I hate the stuff.

So, instead of cluttering the shelves gathering (dog hair) and dust, and hiding other stuff that I might actually use -- it's gone.

The only down side of all this puttering is I'm running out of trash bags and don't feel like going to the store so ... I'm done.

For today, anyway.

I can do that today because it's my birthday and I can do whatever I feel like doing.

So, Happy Birthday to me.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feb. 20 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

Instead of cooking from local ingredients today, (I had a bunch of stories to cover and not enough time to come back here and cook) I ate local products instead.

There was a piece of twisted cheese bread from Mill Pond Bread and a cupcake (OK, two cupcakes) from The Cupcake Station.

But, I did do a lot of walking around downtown Ann Arbor (and a lot of standing on a frozen pond at the U of M Golf Course covering a polar plunge) to burn off a few calories I consumed.

After three assignments, I came home to a local ham that had been cooking since this morning. And, sweet corn -- yes, you read correctly -- real, fresh-frozen sweet corn from Schultz Farm of Ypsilanti.

So let me back up a bit.

While at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market this morning, I interviewed Rena Basch of Locavorious, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that once a month during November-February brings shareholders their fresh-frozen local produce. Included in February's share were strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, cauliflower and pumpkin and edamame.

The cool thing was they had a few extras, so when I saw I could purchase corn, peaches and blueberries -- I couldn't resist.

Although a bit pricey -- between $7 and $8 per package -- I was so excited to see real fruit and veggies that didn't come from some foreign country, price wasn't a consideration.

The corn was scrumptious. Cut right off the cob. It was sweet and juicy -- a little taste of summer ... IN FEBRUARY.

So, if you don't think there are terrific treasures to be discovered at the Ann Arbor Farmer's market during the winter -- you're missing out.

Need your knives or scissors sharpened? Gary Toler's your guy.

And, each Saturday, as it gets closer and closer to spring, more and more vendors emerge from hibernation.

Even though there aren't as many vendors in the winter -- those who endure the elements are a terrifically friendly bunch.

Besides, they offer fun things for sale -- not just produce, but jewelry, furniture, and art -- stuff you wouldn't think would be available in the winter.

People in this area are so lucky to have this market open year-round. And although I want all the vendors to sell out each Saturday, I'm kinda glad the crowds are lighter than in the spring, summer and fall.

In the winter, the vendors are all too happy to chat a little longer with patrons -- it's more relaxed and intimate as buyers and sellers brave the elements together.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of farmer's markets, but I really enjoy them in the winter.

And, I've gotten to know some of the vendors who arrive Saturday after Saturday in the cold weather.

It's a win-win situation. I'm supporting my local farmers and artists and bakers and small business owners and in return, enjoying all of the items that I purchase.

Did I mention the corn?

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Feb. 19 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I'm celebrating the sunshine today.

"Let the sun shine. Let the sun shine in ... the sun shine in ..."

If you're as long in the tooth as I am, you know the words to this song.

And today's sunshine is, well, you-get-what-you-see kinda sunshine.

It's honest-to-goodness, warming sunshine ... not that deceptive, sneaky kind of sunshine that lulls you into leaving the house without looking at the temperature and instantly becoming a human-icicle

Yes, this is the real deal.

The kind that makes you tilt your face up toward the sky, take a deep breath and drink it in for a few minutes.

The kind that makes you walk a little slower en route to wherever you're going because you want to enjoy it for as long as possible.

Today's sunshine is so bright that when you come back inside, it takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust.

And it's even OK that this sunshine uncovers every clump of dog fur, every cobweb and dust bunny that has been hiding in the gray gloom of winter somewhere in your house.

Yes, I'm celebrating the sunshine today.

Even the birds are chirping their praise.

The dogs want to spend more time outside.

And so do I.

Gee, I wonder how the red hair will look in the sunshine?

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feb. 18 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I went red today.

I know, I know, we were all supposed to wear red last week sometime.

But it's not that kind of red. It's a more semi-permanent red.

Or at least for the next 4-6 weeks kind of red.

I walked into my stylist's house today to get rid of the gray and when she asked if I wanted to do anything special, I said I wanted my hair to match my puppy's coat.

And, I produced a photo.

Did I mention he's a light red color?

So, we discussed it -- because I didn't want to look red, red or purple red or fire engine red, I wanted to look Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever red.

Or something close to that.

I have brown hair, so I wanted more of a red overlay, and an hour later, I kinda sorta matched his coat.

Now I wonder if anyone will notice when I show him next weekend.

So I went red today, and I'll be sure to let you know if, indeed, red heads have more fun.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feb. 17 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

Today, I figured out why I'll never be an artist -- or at least not a ceramic artist.

I've been interviewing a lot of creative types since June for a small feature I've written every week since the start of the A2 Journal.

This little weekly feature shines a spotlight on a local artist.

Call it my contribution to promoting the arts.

And, one of the basic questions I always ask is "Why did you chose (fill in the blank with fabric or clay or metal or paint or ink) for your art?"

I've gotten a lot of fun answers; artists can be very creative when it comes to explaining why they do what they do.

Today, however, an artist told me that clay and all of the different sorts of art she makes from it "speak to her."


Did I hear that correctly?

Apparently so, because when I repeated her answer she expounded upon it.

In an extremely eloquent way, I might add.

And, it actually made sense to me, which I must say, isn't always the case when I try to get inside an artist's head to explain to my readers about an artist and his or her creations.

I'm a writer. I think in black and white.

Even so, people sometimes call me very creative because I can swirl words around in my head and type them out to tell a story.

And yes, some stories write themselves; others I pull out of my, er, butt.

But none of them have ever spoken to me; at least not in the have-a-conversation with-me kind of way.

Heck, I don't even know how to turn on the sound on my laptop.

I guess that makes me a quiet writer and I won't be giving up my day job to be an artist any time soon.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feb. 16 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I'm going to apologize in this post from the get-go -- because it's going to disappoint people in the future.

Not today or tomorrow, although it's entirely possible this might happen, too; but this decision will definitely disappoint some people in the future.

No, I'm not planning to stop writing this blog or for the Heritage papers, but I am going to cut back on the number of hours I spend doing it each week.

I have to, because I'm the only one who CAN put a stop to this madness.

Although it's a decision that's taken me a long time to make; it's one I need to make.

For me.

For my health and for my mental sanity.

But more importantly, I need to do this to improve the quality of the stories that I write for A2 Journal and for all of the Heritage papers.

I can not longer be the reporter who can't say No.

Or, the reporter who can't say No and not feel guilty about it.

I won't disclose how many hours I spend a week working on stories, but I will say that I choose to spend as many hours as I do reporting each week because I love what I do.

Not because anyone tells me to.

But because I can't help myself, and because I don't want to let down my readers when they ask me to cover something.

Since June,(and if you recall, on the day my dad died,) I've pushed myself week after week, weekend after weekend, day after day to do more, more, more, more.

To make the A2 Journal the best newspaper I can make it be.

And, that won't change.

But, what will change is the number of hours I work each week to accomplish this goal.

I'm soon to be 52 years old, and I've been doing this for 30 wonderful years -- but it's time to back down the hours I work and ramp up the hours I spend doing things just for me.

I need to put some balance back into my life.

All work and no play and all that.

I've earned this time to do those things I want to do -- those things I've been putting off because I'm so busy working.

It's my birthday gift to me, and I intend to enjoy it.

No matter how tempted I am to go back to my old ways.

I know this will disappoint some people -- the ones who enjoy having me show up to cover all the stories I do each week.

It might mean that when I do arrive at an event or go out to report a story, it won't appear until the following week because I just ran out of time to write it.

And, it might mean that I just have to say No to covering something -- no matter how much I'd like to be there.

So, I'm saying I'm sorry in advance.

I promise to do what I can, and hope that you'll understand when I can't.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Feb. 15 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

For dog show fans, today marks the first day of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden.

For most of us, it will be a night at home with our pooches watching the top show dogs in the country compete for the Grand Daddy of titles -- Best in Show at this 134th edition of the Super Bowl of dog shows.

Tonight, the Hound, Toy, Non-sporting and Herding group winners will be chosen.

Tuesday, Sporting, Working, Terrier and Best in Show take place.

I'll have to wait to see who wins because I'll be out covering stories both nights. This happens a lot, but thanks to my new DVR, I'll still get to see it.

I don't get to see a lot of things on TV "live," like the opening ceremony for the Olympics, which I taped and watched two days later.

But, I digress.

About the dogs competing tonight, there was a very interesting story in the New York Times today about the best show dogs and what it costs to be one of those top dogs in a breed that are invited to compete at Westminster.

According to a story by David Segal, a former Best in Show winner spent about $700,000 for a three-year campaign to get Rufus, a colored bull terrier, into the record books.

Holy bank roll, Batman.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on dog show expenses, advertising, professionals to show these dogs ... I cannot even imagine spending this much money on dog shows.

Dog shows ...

According to this story, Americans spend about $330 million each year to show their dogs.

Makes my dozen or so shows a year and maybe $1,000 in entry fees and travel expenses seem like chicken feed.

Truth be told, I enjoy competing with my dogs; but I can't imagine spending every weekend at a dog show, although I know people who do. They spend their weekends, holidays, day's off and vacation days competing with their dogs.

It's an obsession for them.

As much as I enjoy competing, I've got better things to do with my free time.

I love my dogs and I enjoy showing them, but I think the most fun is training them and developing that bond with my four-footed companions.

Showing them is a way to find out if I've communicated my wishes to my dogs in a way that they can perform these behaviors according to the standards and rules of whatever competition for which they've been trained.

I recently started showing my puppy in conformation -- the same sort of competition, or beauty contest if you will, that those dogs on TV will do for the next two days at Madison Square Garden.

It's fun, but certainly not my favorite thing to do with my dogs. I like the performance events -- agility, obedience, field work, or swimming the dogs in a nearby lake, watching them bounce through snow in their fenced in dog yard or go for a walks.

This AKC conformation, or what I call -- stand-and-eat-food stuff -- is a title I've not put on a dog before. So Driver's my guinea pig.

And there are tricks of the trade in this type of competition, just like the other flavors, that I need to learn.

Somehow, they just don't seem as fun to train as teaching my dogs to jump jumps or run up and down A-frames or across dog walks or through tunnels.

And I think if my dogs got a vote in what they'd rather do, they'd agree with me.

But watching the professionals show dogs is a learning experience and these men and women will be on the greatest dog stage of them all during the next two days.

Just as I couldn't compete on their level in the conformation ring; few of them would compete at my level on the agility field.

Then again, I'm the one paying for a chance to compete with my dogs.

These professionals are being paid to compete with other people's dogs.

So hopefully, my puppy will watch Westminster without me and learn something by watching the competition.

And if not, we'll learn how to do it together and have lots of fun along the way.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feb. 14 - Lisa's Musings (on Valentine's Day) and Every Day Life

Valentine's Day.

I've got my flowers and my chocolate; the Daytona 500 and The Olympics on TV.

What could be more perfect for a single (and not seeing anyone) someone on the one day a year when everyone's thinking in terms of couples, hearts and love?

Usually, I try to ignore Valentine's Day, but this year, I decided to embrace it and make it my own.

With flowers and chocolate and sports on TV.

None of which have any strings attached.

I have yellow and red tulips and the third wave of flower stalks on my amaryllis is in full bloom.

I had yummy leftovers from my Lisa and Betty project and the other half of the single serving chocolate mousse I bought the other day.

Even my cousin, AJ Allmendinger, brought a smile to my face when he led The Daytona 500 for a few laps. He led the Daytona 500, the grand daddy of NASCAR races ... how cool is that?

Valentine's Day also means it's exactly one week before I'll turn 52 and I've been doing a lot of thinking about this even-year birthday.

Like Jan. 1, adding another year to one's life is a time of celebration, reflection and excitement about what's ahead.

When you can add watching the Winter Olympics to the mix, it makes this time of year even more special.

I mean, come on, these winter Olympic athletes are just amazing -- a little nuts, perhaps -- but such fun to watch.

When else can you watch athletes from around the world come together and fly off the end of ski jumps? Or skate really, really fast around in circles. Or zoom down hills on skis trying to get as close to flags as possible.

The Olympics are a special time when everyone can feel pride in their country -- win or lose -- and, I suppose, wonder what motivates these athletes to participate in sports that take place in the cold and snow.

So while most people are hoping this month ends soon -- because it means spring's a little closer -- I'm not one of them.

Personally, I like snow and cold and I always wish for it on my birthday so I can go out and play in it.

I want to relish all the days of February, the year's shortest month -- including the 14th.

So on this Valentine's Day, I'm definitely feeling the love.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feb. 13 - Lisa's Musings (from the kitchen) and Every Day Life

It's Saturday and that means it's Lisa and Betty Day.

So, after a Friday trip to Busch's and a trip to the Ann Arbor's Farmer's Market this morning, it was time to try, try again.

If you remember, last Saturday's two dishes were just TERRIBLE.

Because I also had another assignment today, we decided to just make one dish today -- a Hash Brown Potato and Egg Bake (p.235) from Betty Crocker's 10th edition cookbook.

And, I'm REALLY happy to report that other than the salt, pepper and ground mustard, EVERY ingredient was either from local farmers or produced in Michigan.

Maybe this is why it tasted so delicious?

There were hand-crunched corn flakes on the top, shredded potatoes throughout, (which I must say I was a BIT concerned about since they weren't cooked) to the bacon, eggs, two types of cheese, milk ... the list goes on.

Speaking of food, it's after 8 p.m. and I've got two hungry dogs that didn't get any of this tasty baked concoction (except for some crumbs that hit the floor) that would REALLY like some dinner.

Just so you don't think I'm mean not sharing with them -- it had onions in it, something that dogs shouldn't eat.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Feb. 12 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I almost forgot to blog today.

After doing so every day since December.

This morning, I thought about what I'd write today, and I guess in my head, I'd written it.

Or maybe I just got caught up in Lisa's (musings) of (or from) -- it changes sometimes -- every day life.

I'm not sure.

But my day went something like this.

I finished reading 'book-number-I-don't-know-what' this morning titled "Alone in the Kitchen With An Eggplant," which I plan to review for the paper. It was a very fun group of essays about what they cook when they eat alone.

All kinds of e-mails and attempts to return a bunch of phones calls later, it was off to lunch with a former editor from the Ann Arbor News.

The meal reminded me (yet again) how lucky I am to still be in the newspaper business after 30 years.

An early grocery shopping trip for my Betty and Lisa meal Saturday, during which I bought myself two bunches of colorful tulips and a hyacinth, to add some color and one of my favorite scents to my house.

I do this every year around Valentine's Day because Feb. 14 falls exactly a week before my birthday. So, this time of year is a great excuse to treat myself to a few small things that make me happy.

Out to cover a story before eating a little late dinner and check e-mail one more time and I happily turned off the laptop for the night.

Settling into my LaZBoy to watch a little mindless TV, I simultaneous started a new book.

Yup, one I also bought myself as a combo Valentine's Day/Birthday gift.

Totally relaxed and nodding off -- all warm and cuddled under a blanket -- that's when it hit me.

I forgot to blog today.

Ah, but I didn't as you just read.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feb. 11 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

Did you ever play the license plate game on a long trip when you were a kid?

Today, en route to Ann Arbor, I wish I'd been playing because I saw plates from Montana and Alaska. Do you know how hard it is to find those plates?

Especially if you're playing while driving up and down the East Coast -- which, as a kid, I spent a lot of time doing while my mom drove.

Spying a Montana plate reminded me of a couple years ago, when a friend and I passed the time playing this game while en route to a National Specialty dog show in Wisconsin.

We both agreed that it's easier to play this game in the Midwest (she played on the East Coast as well) because of all the semi's on the east-west highways.

That's of course, if trucks are an allowed vehicle while playing.

If you REALLY want to make it hard to get all of those states -- and the Canadian Provinces -- only allow cars and passenger trucks.

When you allow semi plates on the list, you can find a lot of unusual states -- like New Mexico and Texas and Washington State.

My friend and I also took a few detours through truck stops.

Hotels are also great plate finding spots and since were were staying in one, we added a few missing states when we arrived at our destination.

Not sure if this might be considered "cheating," but we made the rules ahead of time so it wasn't like we changed them along the way.

And despite all the admitted "extras" we allowed in our quest, one of the few plates we did not find was Montana.

It figures I'd find it today, several years later and less than 15 miles from home.

Maybe next time we should detour through Ann Arbor before we head out on our next great road trip this September.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feb. 10 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

I took advantage of the snow today in an unexpected way.

Sure, I shoveled the walk and took pity on the birds.

As promised, I romped in the white stuff with the dogs, and we lost three tennis balls somewhere under the snow.

It wasn't good packing snow, but we made the most of it.

Then, the unexpected happened. The Fed Ex delivery man braved my unplowed driveway and arrived at my door with a surprise gift.

I couldn't wait to get to it.

So, after writing a couple stories, and making a bunch of phone calls and sending out a bunch of e-mails ... you know, grown-up work stuff ... I got to PLAY.

Thanks to Colorbok, Inc. of Ann Arbor, which sent me Printoons.

I'd never heard of Printoons, and I'm not sure who sent them because there was no note.

Maybe I have a secret admirer or the company knew I'm a book reviewer.

I haven't a clue because there was no note in the box.

But there were these very cool finger painting books for those 5 years and up -- so I qualify.

Printoons allow you to illustrate your own story book.

Although I was sent a princess, a pirate and a dinosaur book, I went right for the sports one. And, as you can see, I finger painted a person carrying the Olympic torch before I watch it arrive in the stadium Friday night on TV.

But I could finger paint a soccer player or tennis player, figure skater or goalie.

A skier or basketball player, swimmer, football or baseball player.

The possibilities, 24 pages worth, allow you to make little people using your own fingerprints.

It's SOOO cool.

So if anyone knows how I received this very cool gift, tell them thank you.

It was the perfect thing to do ... on a snow day.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feb. 9 - Lisa's Musings From (Ann Arbor) and Every Day Life

If it's going to snow, let it snow. Enough of this 1- or 2-inch annoying stuff.

When I got up this morning and I spied those small "I mean business" snowflakes, I got excited.

Even though I knew I'd have to go out and drive in it. I could tell, finally, we're going to get snow of some significance.

Driving into Ann Arbor this morning at about 9 a.m., with the light dusting, it was actually more slippery than when the snow started to take hold.

As in, when I drove home about 1 p.m.

This was the real stuff.

And I know, some people are groaning about it, but, come on folks, this is Michigan. It's winter. We want and deserve one good snowstorm.

Besides, I haven't had to shovel yet and it's already February.

OK, I should have shoveled when we had snow a few weeks ago, but my back decided to go bonkers and I was in a pain-killing pharmaceutical delirium, so I pretty much missed the whole thing.

I want to enjoy this one.

Enjoy using the snow shovel for the first time this year.

Enjoy watching my dogs romp and play in snow that's deeper than the tops of their paws.

So tomorrow morning, I'll put on the snow boots and venture out in it with them.

Hopefully, the snow will pack and I can make snow balls to throw for my retrievers, and when they are tired of playing in the snow, we'll come inside and warm up by a fire in the fireplace.

So I can get to work, of course.

So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Feb. 8 -- Lisa's Musings (on color) and Every Day Life

If you really want to look bad, I highly recommend taking photos of yourself before 8:30 a.m. on a Monday morning.

And, of course, take them from a really bad angle so your neck looks like it belongs on an the long-horned cow from last night's Budweiser commercial, which was MY favorite, by the day.

As you can see.

But the point of these horrible photos is the color of the pullover shirt I'm wearing. It's yellow. Well, kind of a green yellow. Or maybe a mustard color, but not really.

And it changes colors before my very eyes.

I bought it from a catalog and it's NOT the color I expected, but it's bright and everyone who knows me, knows I love bright colors.

The problem is, this color doesn't belong in nature. It doesn't go with ANYTHING in my closet and I have lots of bright colors hanging in my closet.

I've had it since December, and I've tried to wear it a number of times but the color mystifies (and horrifies) me.

If I put it with white underneath, it still doesn't go with anything, unless, of course I wore white pants and that's not going to happen.

If I wear it with black, it looks like well, I wore black and added this shirt to be bright and cheerful. It still doesn't work.

Ditto brown or navy blue or green or any base color I've tried.

Nothing works.

Not even these photos which fail to show this yellow in its true shade.

Until today.

As I scanned the closet trying to decide what to wear this morning, there was this shirt. It called to me ... again.

I tried to ignore it, I have assignments to cover today.

But it kept calling.

So I looked AGAIN for something to wear with it.

And there, hiding on the top shelf of the closet was this bright wool scarf.

It has greens and purples and reds and oranges and yellows.

And when I pulled it down off the shelf, I knew.

See Tim Gunn, I DID made it work!

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feb. 7 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

It's Super Bowl Sunday, I think it's No. 44, and I'm not ashamed to say I don't care who wins tonight.

This, coming from someone who's covered two Super Bowls in my former life as a sportswriter.

Truth be told, I didn't much care who won those games, either, because I wasn't being paid to be a fan, I was being paid to cover stuff surrounding "The Game."

And I didn't have any money on the winner.

I wrote about the parties and the player's wives and hoopla surrounding "The Game." Yeah, I did a few color stories about "The Game," but I was one of the secondary reporters, not the main one, so I got to cover "the other stuff," which was fine by me.

It was cool covering the Super Bowl, but it's a media circus, or at least it used to be -- in the old days, when there were lots of newspapers and media outlets sending lots of reporters and photographers and cameramen to cover "The Game."

What I remember most was the parade on the streets below my hotel room for the San Francisco 49ers and the energy of the fans who were so excited that their team had won, beating the Dolphins that year, by the way.

I also remember how mad I was when I got back from said parade to find that someone had swiped a large cross-stitch piece that I'd JUST finished before heading down to cover that parade.

It had a winter scene on it, with all sorts of birds and snow and tree branches and I'd spent months and months working on it. Somehow the $100 they refunded from my hotel bill didn't cover all the time I'd spent working on it.

But I digress.

It's Super Bowl Sunday and I'm sure there are U of M players on both teams so, it doesn't much matter to me who wins.

However, the same can't be said for next weekend when the Winter Olympics begins.

Next weekend, I become a super sports fan -- rooting for every athlete wearing the red, white and blue of the U-S-A.

Next Sunday is also the Daytona 500, but that's a topic for a future blog.

So here's to Super Bowl Sunday, and all those fun, extremely expensive commercials -- something I didn't get to watch when I was actually covering "The Game."

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Feb. 6 - Lisa's Musings From (the kitchen) and Every Day Life

I'm not sure if it was operator error or what, but the two dishes we made today in the third and fourth of the Lisa and Betty project were kinda disappointing.

The main dish was a cheesy barbecue beef casserole (page 147) using local beef and cheese.

It looked gorgeous when it came out of the oven and it smelled just as good.

I guess looks (and smells)can be deceiving.

I thought the combo of all the ingredients would be tasty. Ground beef, ziti, onion, BBQ sauce, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses along with local milk and fresh parsley ... how bad could it be?

It was kinda bland, so perhaps I should blame the BBQ sauce.

Or the cooks. But we sure had a lot of fun concocting it.

And while it cooked, we moved to dessert ... my first attempt at making butterscotch pudding. (page 210)

Or pudding of any kind.

I stirred and I stirred and Nancy stirred and she stirred.

We used local egg yolks and butter and milk. It bubbled and we transferred half of the hot mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks and we timed the boiling and it got thick.

Into the little cups it went and into the frig covered as directed.

I tasted the mixture in the pot before I washed it and thought it was pretty good.

But after it was cooled and we tried it for real, the consistency was slightly off.

It was kinda grainy.

Pudding is supposed to be smooth -- at least pudding other than the rice variety.

This wasn't, which kinda ruined the taste for me.

So today's dishes were, well, not so good, but I don't blame the recipes -- I blame the cooks, who have lots to learn and many dishes to go in this Lisa and Betty (Crocker) project.

Next Saturday's menu is still up in the air, but I can promise it will be something new to me, made with as many local ingredients as possible.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Feb. 5 - Lisa's Musings (on a first birthday and) From Every Day Life

Today is my puppy's first birthday.

I put it up on Facebook and got several comments, he got a birthday phone call from a human friend and his breeder wished him a happy day, too.

So, what did my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever puppy, Driver, aka Redwyn's Hard Drive, do on his birthday? Pretty much the same thing he does every day.

He barked at squirrels in the birdfeeder.

He romped and leaped (tolled) in the fenced-in dog yard. Bouncing like Tigger through what's left of the snow, tossing a toy in the air and catching it.

He harassed his older brother, enticing him to play tag.

He watched at the window when I left to cover stories today, and was there, feet on the windowsill, when I returned.

He yarped at the door when I took too long gathering my purse and notebook and camera (and mail) before heading inside.

He watched me eat a salad, ever hopeful that I'd either drop some on the floor or that I'd give him some.(Both happened, but that's nothing birthday related.)

And when I'm done with this post, he'll get his gift. I big raw meaty lamb bone from a local sheep breeder I bought at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market a few weeks ago.

I got two bones, actually, because even though it's Driver's birthday, big brother Ryan doesn't know that, and he'd feel left out if he didn't get anything.

Or, he'd probably take it away from Driver, because that's what big dog brother's do. Especially when it comes to food.

Ryan's third birthday is in April, so there will be more special bones then, too.

And neither dog will be the wiser as to the reason for the bones.

To a dog, a birthday is just another day.

But raw meaty bones are a cause for celebration.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Feb. 4 - Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

My dogs decided that today was a perfect morning to get me up early.

I’m hoping it was because they didn’t want me to miss the glorious sunrise this morning.

Did you happen to see it – or were your pets and plans kind enough to let you sleep through it?

When my pupper danced on my head at 7-something this morning, I was greeted with a face full of Toller fur and a wet dog tongue slurping my face … and when I was able to open my eyes -- a view of the sky that included brilliant oranges and pinks and purples.

Amazing vibrant and bright colors danced across the sky like a flat rainbow rising above the tree line.

I don’t know, maybe this is the way it is every morning … I’m not usually up early
enough to witness it … but it sure was beautiful.

And during the winter, there don’t seem to be enough sunny days to chirp about so I guess I’m glad that I was up early to enjoy all of its hours.

Or not.

Have you ever noticed that also during these sunny winter days that every clump of dog hair and cobweb, every dusty surface and smudge on the window cries out for attention like a neon sign?

Unlike waking up with a dog tromping all over you, I can ignore the dog dust bunnies and nose window prints on the windows; at least until the next sunny day.

But about this getting up before 8 a.m. thing?

The dogs and I – or at least the younger of the two and I – will have a little discussion tonight about the regularity of this behavior.

Once in a while – when there’s a really cool sunrise, I suppose it’s OK; other times, I’ll remind him who fills his dog bowl with an expensive raw diet.

Did I mention that the birds were happily chirping at that hour as well?

When I headed to the end of the driveway to pick up my two newspapers this morning, the sun was fully up but a smudged version of the colors remained.

I guess I can’t get too mad about being up that early to experience it.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Feb. 3 - Lisa's Musings from (the farm) and Every Day Life

I live in a really neat place.

It's not like I wasn't aware of this already, but today, it became glaringly apparent.

Here's what happened to make me realize how lucky I am to have found a home in a great location.

To recap, I live in rural Sylvan Township, which is in close proximity to Chelsea, not far from lots and lots of farms, yet close enough to Ann Arbor to do stuff there, too.

As I headed out for a story at a farm in Manchester today, I thought I knew where I was going. Only, of course, I didn’t, and got lost.

This happens a lot, actually.

But I refuse to spend the money for GPS. This blog is written by someone who after 10 years of opening and closing the garage door by hand, just bought an opener that does it for me.

It’s still a novelty and was a big step.

For me, at least; because in my book, the more electric gadgets one has, the more chances there are that they’ll break. I know, I sound like my father, but at just about the time these new gizmos become part of my daily routine, they quit working.

Like the stupid cell phone today.

I was lost in an area where my cell phone didn’t have service, and it turns out, even if it had, it wouldn't have helped me much, anyway. Farmer John was on the Internet so his phone didn’t work.

I'd written down directions to Farmer John's house, but failed to write down his exact street address or his phone number. I had it on another piece of paper and meant to bring it with me, but I forgot.

So without telecommunications, I got back on M-52 and stopped at the first place that had a gas station. And sold seed.

I took a chance that perhaps the nice people would know Father John.

No known address.

No last name.

No phone number.

So I asked, and after a few minutes of suggesting last names of farmers, none of which sounded familiar, someone asked to look at my directions.

There were three turns written down and somehow, I’d missed the second one, but it served as a clue to the nice people who immediately figured out not only who Farmer John was but also exactly where he lived.

Only in a small town could something like this happen.

I was an hour late arriving, but Farmer John and his wife still had time for me, fed me just-out-of-the-oven cupcakes. And freshly brewed cup of coffee.

So as I said, I live in a very cool place, where everyone knows, or can figure out how to know, everyone else.

It’s comforting somehow.

And comes in really, really handy when you get lost in small towns as many times as I do.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feb. 2, Lisa's Musings (About Groundhog Day) and Every Day Life

Call me what you will, but I like Groundhog Day.

Not so much for the outcome of Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction; but because where else could a silly looking critter like a groundhog get his (or her) own day?

And, it’s not a Hallmark Holiday. Or, at least I don’t think so.

And, where else but in Pennsylvania would there be The Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club?

Ya just gotta love it.

Besides, I have my own resident groundhogs. They live under the shed that houses all of my agility equipment.

And, despite what people say about their destructive nature, I think they’re kinda cute.

I don’t feed them or anything. It’s up to them to figure out how to survive. But every now and then I see them cavorting across the back of my property and I smile.

They don’t so much run, rather lumber. Kinda. Sorta.

It’s an odd gait, actually. And the little guys and gals are too cute for words.

And I do see them along the side of the road a lot out here, too. Usually in live, living breathing form.

Groundhogs, I think, must be smarter than other critters of their ilk – at least when it comes to playing tag with motorized vehicles.

Although I did see one take on a bicyclist in Lodi Township. The bicyclist never had a chance.

Score one for groundhogs everywhere.

I rarely see a squished groundhog on the road. Maybe because there aren’t as many of them around as say possum or raccoon or rabbit squirrel or chipmunk.

But when you have a day named after you, perhaps there’s a genetic royalty link involved in your heritage.

So, for all of you that missed seeing the film clips of the big ceremony at Gobbler’s Knob, six more weeks of winter, here we come.

I wonder if my groundhogs know this.

My groundhogs seem to be smart enough to continue hibernating at least until it gets a little warmer.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Feb. 1 -- Lisa's Musings From Every Day Life

Feb. 1 isn’t going so well.

It’s been like one of those days where you get dressed, head out and use a public bathroom, then realize that you’ve put your underwear on inside out and there’s nothing you can do about it until you get home.

So until you get back home, you fret that maybe you’ll get in an accident and the hospital people will see you with your underwear on inside out and laugh at you.

When I got up to cover a story in Ann Arbor this morning, I turned on the computer and my DSL wasn’t working.

It’s deadline day for A2 Journal and I’d planned to have this story with photos for Thursday’s paper.

But my DSL isn’t working, which pretty much puts me out of business until it does.

So, after trying everything I could think of, I broke down and called ATT.

“Conrad” from India or some other outsourced foreign country, who only works from a script for ATT, was very polite, but equally very unsuccessful, in getting my DSL to work.

I’ve unplugged, plugged in, changed plugs, turned off and turned back on every gizmo and gadget involved with both computers and the DSL connection and nothing has worked.

Truth be told, the DSL has been acting up for a few weeks now – ever since ATT has been screwing with the wires at the boxes near my house. Every time they make improvements for everyone else, my service gets worse.

But eventually, it started working again.

Regardless, it’s really annoying, and I must admit, I got very frustrated with “Conrad,” as he walked me through his script redoing all the same things I’ve done 50 times before resorting to calling ATT for customer support.

But, I tried to be as Zen as possible and not swear at him. I just exhaled deeply numerous times.

So, now I’m waiting for a nice technician to arrive. Which means a few of my stories aren’t getting filed and I have to sit here until perhaps 8 p.m. (did I mention I have a city council meeting tonight?) until the technician arrives.

He’ll probably undo all the things that “Conrad” had me do and got me so mixed up that the blender is probably plugged into the DSL line slot at this point.

But, Conrad reminded me numerous times, when the technician arrives, it’s very important that I write down the technician’s phone number.

So, explain this to me -- if the guy is here, in my house, working on the DSL line, why do I have to write down this guy’s phone number?

I haven’t a clue, but I assured “Conrad” every time he reminded me, that I would.

Heck, I tried everything else he suggested, so what’s one more dead end?

It’s now 11:33, I have no idea how many hundred e-mails have piled up (one from my editor, already, because she told me so) in the four accounts I have, and I’m already worrying that this blog post might not make it up on before midnight.

It would be the first time since I started this project that I’ve missed a post.

And, quite frankly, although I sometimes look for excuses not to cover Ann Arbor City Council meetings, I hope to be up and running long before I have to leave to go cover the one tonight.

So, if you’re reading this and it’s still Feb. 1, I was able to slip away and find a WiFi connection because a friend stopped by, which allowed me to leave the house to file it.

Or, the nice technician got here and fixed the problem.

And I have his phone number.

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