I’m singing the healthcare.gov blues

Has anyone else tried to sign up for the new mandatory health insurance in the last month?
I don’t recommend it. Not that I’ve had much choice since my COBRA coverage ran out in December.
My odyssey began the first week in December when I tried to sign up for insurance online and couldn’t do it.
Next step, an insurance agent. She guided me through the setup and then told me I needed to send in a 2013 tax return and wait to be approved.
I’m still waiting, healthcare.gov, and I’m getting impatient.
Meanwhile, you keep sending me more computer-generated letters telling me I haven’t sent you enough information. But you won’t tell me the one piece of information I could give you that would let me get all this settled.
So back to my insurance agent I went after suffering through a frustrating toll-free call in which the person “helping” me confessed she’d never seen my file and wouldn’t be seeing my file. And, no, she couldn’t transfer me to anyone who had seen my file.
I apologize, government employee, for venting my spleen because there was some semi-shouting involved by the time I hung up after 45 minutes of non-help.
So my insurance agent and I did a conference call and we got the same run around.
I went back two weeks later to my insurance agent who called again and it was the same story. Nobody could see my file.
Today, over the lunch hour. someone from the health market place called and asked if it would be a good time to talk.
“It’s great,” I cried, thinking I would finally settle this pesky problem.
Turns out, this caller was just like the computer-generated letters. She’d never seen my file but was calling me to tell me I should send more information. She didn’t know what information, just that I should send more. At least this time she told me to have my insurance agent ask for a “supervisor” who would surely be able to see my file.
What a bunch of bunk. I’d like to meet the four or five people who have successfully navigated this horrible bureaucracy. I have an insurance card — I just don’t know what I’m going to be paying for the privilege of using it.
Healthcare.gov, I think you should take the word “care” out of your title because I haven’t found anyone yet who cares enough to get this settled.

Idiots abound

I feel sorry for Donald Trump Jr.

I don’t like him, but I feel sorry for him.

After all, a national newspaper called him an idiot and his actions seem to have justified that moniker.

The real reason I feel sorry for him, though, is that he is the son of a man who probably never showed him any affection. What dad, when his son is attacked, comes up with the lame praise that his son is a “quality person.”


For all the tweet rants he has posted, shouldn’t Trump have been a little more ardent in support of his bumbling son?

I’m guessing Don Jr. is feeling mighty cold in the shade of his sister and brother-in-law because daddy definitely likes them best. It would serve them right if Don Jr. implicated all of them in this filthy web of lies they’ve been handing the public.

What bothers me the most — probably because I’m a reporter — is that Trump and his merry band of prevaricators have tried to hide their wrongdoings by labeling us as “fake media.”

He may not be smart, but at least Don Jr. released the emails without  having the FBI subpoena them.

So maybe he is an idiot, but let’s wait and see what family members end up impeached or in jail. And then let the real name calling begin.


Ready, set, craft


I’m feeling crafty and that hasn’t happened in a while.

Actually, when the mood strikes, I am a prolific crafter. I’m never happier than when I am covered in glue and paint. That doesn’t mean I’m good at it. It just means I like to do it.

I was never especially gifted in art classes, but if a can-do attitude counts, I was top of my class.

Crafting really took hold after I moved to La Crosse and decided I needed to start making Christmas gifts for my large family if the holiday wasn’t going to bankrupt me.

Ever helpful, my sister Therese helped me find patterns for oven mitts, snowman door hangers and stuffed animals.

What a nightmare.

I labored over my many gifts, buying cute calico, sewing late into the night, and imagining how everyone would love my gifts.

My godson took one look at the stuffed animal I made him, threw it across the room, and yelled, “I hate it.”

When my sister-in-law unwrapped the set of connected oven mitts, she didn’t know what they were. So she laughed, put them on and said, “Oh, look, mittens.”

My parents expressed appreciation for the giant snowman door hanger I made them and I was really proud of that gift. It wasn’t until years later when I saw it hanging on their back door that I realized how terrible it was. I made it out of yellow-and-white striped material, as if it was made from snow after a dog had lifted its leg on a snowbank.

“Please, throw that away,” I pleaded with my mom.

“No. You made it for us,” she said.

“And that would be sweet if I had made it when I was 12,” I told her, “but I was 25.”

I think she finally donated it.

A few years later, I discovered stained glass in adult education classes so I decided to  make stained glass ornaments. They were so big and heavy that I’m not sure anyone put them on their trees. The sailboat I tried hanging on my tree was so heavy it threatened to capsize the tree. I ended up hanging it in a window.

My family was surely relieved when I discovered cross stitch, the one craft where I truly excelled. But even that finally dwindled away after I saw the walls of my parents’ house couldn’t hold one more original stitchery by me.

And, yet, I’m feeling an urge to craft coming over me.

Alas, the sewing machine is broken so no more dirty striped snowmen. But that leaves decoupage, clay sculpture and stenciling. Look out, family. Looks like another homemade Christmas is just six months away.


Laundry blues



I’ve become addlepated in my old age.

Suddenly, I have become obsessed with an Azure Blue Samsung washing machine and nothing blander will do.

I used to be the most practical of consumers. I would trot into Sears and before the sales person could launch into his spiel, I would say, “I want the cheapest washing machine you have. I don’t need anything fancy. I just want to get my clothes clean.” (That’s probably why my last load of wash is sporting some rust stains.)

The last time I walked into Wettstein’s, I told the sales person, “I just want a fridge that gets food cold. I don’t need double doors or an icemaker or a bottom freezer. I just want to keep food cold.”

Same thing with the stove. I just told the sales person, “Find me the cheapest appliance that gets things hot.”

But now I’ve got a fancy new laundry alcove in my office. When I look up from typing this, I can see the freshly framed but washer-less space and I am dreaming in Azure Blue.

Originally, I was hunting for a red washer. I’d seen them in commercials plenty of times, I’d just never seen them in a store.

I still haven’t.

But then one day I stumbled across this Azure Blue Samsung at Best Buy. I must confess I did not look at the specs. I simply took down the measurements and called my sister Therese to tell her I had found a blue washing machine and it would fit nicely in my laundry alcove.

I have stopped in to visit that washer a number of times, most recently about three weeks ago. So when I got the paint slapped on the alcove, I cleaned up and went to Best Buy to lay my money down and tote home my dreamy Azure Blue.

But the washer was gone.

The salesman I talked to said Samsung had just pulled it and his guess was that there might have been complaints about the add-wash feature. So they pulled the machine and I can’t get it anymore.

The good news is that they are coming out with a new model — still in Azure — in a few weeks. It won’t have the add-wash feature, which is fine. I wasn’t really focused on all the doodads the washer had to offer — just the color.

Yes, I could get a nice charcoal gray for $50 less than Azure. Or a white one for even cheaper.

But this is the new, improved, addlepated Geri and the heart wants what the heart wants.

I still clip coupons. I still go to $5 matinee movies where I get free popcorn, and I still like two-for-one bargains.

But when I look up from this keyboard, I’m going to be looking at a washing machine as deep blue as the Azure Aegean Sea.

Yep, addlepated.

Take a Deep Breath

No politics, no turmoil, no disgruntled rant.

Tonight, I am grateful for fresh air.

Usually I drag the trash receptacles to the curb during the daylight hours. But today I forgot until almost 10 p.m.

I don’t like doing it in the dark because it could be cold, it could be rainy, it could be dangerous from things upon which to stumble. (I stumble easily.)

It was none of those things.

Instead, it was the most perfect night. The air was fresh and sweet and temperate. The night was clear and stars studded the sky and looked so close I could almost touch them.

I was happy to be dragging cans to the curb. I stopped, took a deep breath, gazed up at the stars, and was happy just to be alive.

For a moment, it was just a moment to be. A moment to appreciate.  A moment that belonged to no political party, no special interest, no colluding, corrupting influence.

Just me, the fresh air, and the stars.

I’d like to grab a few more deep breaths of nights like this if Spring will only allow and I can make myself pay attention.









In my imagination, I am an escape artist.

Some of my earliest memories are of hoarding my pennies and stale bread in the event that I would go on the run. At age 6 or 7, my desire for escape would be inspired by some perceived ill treatment at home.

I was probably misjudged. Whenever any of us got in a fight, I was somehow to blame. Yes, I was a scrapper, but, c’mon, I didn’t do battle for no reason.

So there would be week-old bread rotting beneath my bed and I would endlessly count up the money I had saved from my Sunday nickel. (Yes, the evil dad who often inspired my urge for flight also gave all his kids a nickel every Sunday specifically to be spent on candy.)

But I never ran because everywhere I went, people would say to me, “Aren’t you one of Len Parlin’s kids?”

So I knew there would be no escape for me. And I didn’t want to experience that homecoming.

But in my imagination, I was always planning the great escape.

That’s why I was pumped to watch the debut of “Hunted” on CBS. The minute I heard about it, I told my sister Therese what my first step would be.

“I’d make sure my assets were liquid. I’d have as much cash on hand as possible.”

“I knew you would say that,” she said, because she knows what a planner I am.

But after that, what would I do? I couldn’t call Therese or my Mom, the most dialed numbers on my phone. My brother John would probably be helpful because he’s a bit of a rebel and owns a motorcycle. In my family, that’s practically a Hell’s Angels.

So I wouldn’t have much of a plan, but I would surely do better than the idiots caught on the debut episode. These incredibly recognizable people — he’s 6’8″ and she’s a model — used an ATM at a bus station and went to Atlanta where their family lives. They were caught getting off the bus.

Have they never read a suspense novel? There are cameras everywhere. The feds can get you at the ATM. They’ll trace your phones and talk to your next of kin.

And, finally, someone will probably point and say, “Aren’t you one of Len Parlin’s kids?”



Going, going, gone

I went to an auction today. Nothing new in that.

But I only stayed 10 minutes. That is new.

In the winter, auctions are scarcer than hen’s teeth. (I feel the need to use an old-time farm colloquialism here to show what an auction old-timer I am, though I’ve never heard a farmer, an auctioneer, or anyone else say that.)

I arrived an hour late, which is one way I control my bidding arm. I can’t buy what I’m not there to see auctioned.

I rambled the  Legion hall and perused the tables of someone else’s belongings and then stationed myself behind a table of “choice” boxes that was about to go up for bid. That’s when my auction pal Jack said hi and handed me an old column of mine that he’d found the day before when he was cleaning up for a new furnace installation.

Though there was no date on the column, I know it ran in July 1989 because the column was about the auction at the house I bought and I closed on the house in July that year. Jack had hung onto the column because I mentioned him as “trying to accumulate every camera ever made.”

Just then, the auctioneer asked for bids to clear the table. The choosing on the choice table had left five or six boxes and the one I liked was still there, so I was in at a dollar, even though I had promised myself to stop clearing the table. (It’s kind of  a loose New Years resolution I make every year and then break at the first auction I attend.)

Just as the auctioneer pronounced me the winner, another bidder objected that she thought she’d won the bid, so he opened it back up, asking if she would go $2 for the whole table of less-than-valuables.She would, I declined to bid $3, and I considered that a lucky escape as I was parked two blocks away and hadn’t looked forward to hauling all those boxes.

Then I took one last turn around the room and walked back out to the car. I had not bought a thing and the memory Jack had given me cost me nothing.

That’s a pretty good day at the auction.

Raise a joyful voice

I like the modern version of midnight mass.

At Newman, we celebrated ours at 7:30 p.m. But I arrived early because I knew there would be carols and I love a good carol or two or three.

I got there early enough that the choir was still rehearsing. And after  an attempt or two at “The Holly and the Ivy” the director said, “That was kind of a train wreck.”

And I flashed back immediately to sixth grade and Sister Wilhemina. She was the choir teacher at Queen of Angels and she had no patience for those of us not born with the music in us.

“Someone is singing flat!” she announced with a great deal of ire one day in the music room. “Let’s try it again.”

In sixth grade, I didn’t know what singing flat meant. I just knew I was probably the one doing it. So I just mouthed the words the next time through and, sure enough, she declared, “That’s much better.”

That sealed the deal for me. No choir for me in high school. No choral groups in college. No singing groups at church. I am content to raise a joyful — if not always tuneful — voice to the Lord from the pews.

Nowadays, I know when I’m singing flat so I don’t need Sister Wilhemina to point it out. Still, every time a choir director expresses disgust at what she or he is hearing, I look around to see if they are pointing at me.

Not this time, I assure myself. I didn’t have the words to “The Holly and the Ivy” so I couldn’t join in even if I wanted to. But if you noticed someone off on “Angels We Have Heard on High,” that might have been me.

Sorry, Sister Wilhemina.


Ho Ho Hope

I just finished watching Oprah’s interview with Michelle Obama and for the first time since the election, I am filled with hope.

I figure if Michelle can know the things she knows and experience the things she experiences, and still have hope, then I can, too.

That’s the only resolution I’m making for 2017, but I figure it’s the biggest one I’ve ever made.

Surrounded as we are by truck terrorists, ISIS terrorists, and Trump terrorists, it has felt pretty much like the world is closing in on us.

Icy accidents claim lives. Temperatures plummet and folks are still homeless. People judge us by the color of our skin, the religion of our hearts, and the gender with which we identify.

The world seems filled with unhappiness and anger and we’re too quick to accuse and denounce and justify our own positions.

But then there is hope.

Someone on Facebook pleads for help with shoveling and an angel shows up on her sidewalk and does the job.

Many someones agree to ring the bells for the Salvation Army because there are so many in the community who need help.

Someone complains of sadness during the holidays and others chime in to cheer her up.

So I’m sticking with Michelle and I’m holding on hard to hope.

Here’s hoping you have a Merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah (however you spell it), a great Kwanzaa, and joyous whatever else you might be celebrating. I hope you spend the time with people who love you.



I’m making a list

I’m making a list and checking it twice.

Sure, there’s a Christmas list of things I have to get done before the big day arrives. But I also make lists when I travel, when I shop, when I go to the library. Heck, I made a list for Tuesday of all the things I want to accomplish.

List making is my way of getting things done. If I don’t put going to the notary” on a list, I will never go to the notary. (That’s why my durable power of attorney papers are still sitting on my desk after two months of meaning to do something with them. They are now on a list.)

I got in the habit of making lists when I worked at the La Crosse Tribune. No task was too small to put on the list. It was the small stuff, in fact, that needed to be listed the most because it was often the least satisfying. That band concert brief wasn’t going to get written if it wasn’t on my list.

The list evolved to include everything connected with work. When I got to my desk in the morning and cleared my voicemail and email, return calls and emails were put on the list.  Those were pretty easy and gave me something to mark off the list right away. The bonus was that I was always prompt in getting back to people with answers (or excuses).

Nowadays, I have things like laundry, groceries and bike rides on my list. I also add things like visits to the library. It’s not that I will forget to go to the library, because that’s high on my list of fun things to do.  But it is something I know I will do so I’ll be able to cross something off the list, which always gives me a feeling of accomplishment.

Vacuuming stays on the list a lot longer.

Sometimes if I’ve accomplished a task I forgot to put the list, I add it afterward and then cross it off. I like to give myself credit for everything I do.

Right now, I think my list includes baking Christmas cookies and making the bed.

Hmm, if I make the bed, a wrinkle free night’s sleep ahead.

If I bake cookies,  happy chomping will be mine.

I better get baking.


Going batty over mice

The war of the worlds has begun in the Parlin abode.

The mice have arrived with winter’s chill and they are battle ready. They have avoided snap traps, glue traps, and mouse-killing houses.

They are bold and relentless.

I’ve taken to stomping my feet and yelling whenever I approach the kitchen because that’s the only thing that sends them running for cover.

So far, I’ve taken one opponent off the field of play. He was caught in a glue trap and trying to wiggle his way off when I gloved up, grabbed a bag and shoveled him  out to the trash can.

But his troops have learned from his mistakes and have become emboldened by the thought that I cannot vanquish them. When I placed a snap trap near one of their escape routes down the side of the stove, they changed course and started running under the stove.

So I have just returned from Menards with more ammunition. A row of glue traps now sticks out from under the stove. Of course, that may do no good. Though I have bought the toughest glue traps I could find, I saw a mouse scamper across one, leaving no trail, as if there was no glue at all on the trap.

But I know there is plenty of glue because when I gloved up to move the glue trap to a new location, my glove caught on the glue and moved the trap and I fell over thinking I was being attacked by a mouse.

I didn’t say I was brave — just determined.

I hate mice, but I could live with them if they would stay in the basement where poison bait awaits them. But, no, last night one practically ran over my foot and 20 minutes later when I made an ill-advised trip back to the kitchen, he jumped from the sink to the floor and disappeared down the side of the fridge. And, of course, it was the side without a glue trap and he managed to avoid the mouse-killing house he had to dodge around to get to safety.

It’s as if the mouse-killing industry is luring the mice into the house so that I will make more supply runs for their products.

Well, it’s working. I know more about mouse-catching than I’d ever care to know.

Now, if the stuff would just work.