Come the fall

The Association had a wonderful song in which Jim Yester sang, “Come the fall, come the fall.”

I know I’m dating myself since some of those band members may actually be dead by now. And Yester wasn’t even singing about autumn but more of a tumble into sadness when he sang those words.

But still, I thought of that song today as Mother Nature flirted with the upper 50s all afternoon and I was able to hang linens on the line for one last time before winter closes down the clothes line.

I don’t dry my clothes with a machine mostly because I really like letting the sun and the wind do the job for me. My clothes last longer, the bed linens smell better, and it’s a reminder of all the hours I spent pegging clothes to the line as a kid. (Probably not enough time — my mom did most of that herself.)

The best part of hanging the wash on the line is putting fresh sheets on the bed, as I just did tonight. I had the bed looking right and tight and tidy and was feeling at peace with the world when I turned around and saw the top sheet sitting in the laundry basket.

Maybe some of you philistines could lay yourself down to sleep without a top sheet to tuck under your chin, but I surely cannot. I am the kid who was making my own bed with military corners by the time I was 5. My mom remembers only two things about me as a child — I trained myself at age one and a half (yes, I was an angel), and I was such a good bed maker that I could slip in and out of bed without ever leaving a trace that I had spent the night there.

The funny thing is, though, I hate making the bed. So when I discovered that top sheet missing, I screamed. Not a oh-no-there’s-a-bat-in-the-house-and-I-surely-will-die scream. More the I-can’t-believe-I-did-that scream.

So I ripped apart my freshly made bed and added the missing sheet. Now I’m much too hyper to go to bed which is why I’m writing this at 11 o’clock at night.

I’m hoping I’ll be tired enough to slip beneath that top sheet and lay motionless throughout the night so I can slip back out in the morning, leaving not a trace that I spent the night there.

But probably I’ll have nightmares all night about making and remaking the bed and it will be a wreck come morning..


pioneer woman

I think I’ve been watching too much “Pioneer Woman” on the Food Channel.

I haven’t made anything she’s demonstrated yet, mainly because she uses such vast quantities of beef, butter and cheese that I’m expecting everyone on the ranch to keel over from a heart attack any day now.  I know she’s feeding her husband, four kids, and Cowboy Josh, but it seems like she must spend about $100 on ingredients for every meal. Life must be good on the ranch to afford those kinds of heaping helpings of everything.

Still, she does instill the pioneer spirit so I found myself rummaging around in the basement today for an old pillow made of ticking. I wanted to use itto  make a purse, which means I had to empty it of feathers.

Funny thing about feathers, they just go where they want to go. No matter how careful you are, they go everywhere. I vacuumed and swept and washed and I still walked out of the house with feathers sticking to me.

Anyway, I managed to make the purse to replace a jean purse I’d been breaking in for seven or eight years.  I finally broke it in so well that coins were falling out of the holes in the denim. That’s the thing about a purse, when you get one you like, you don’t want to give it up. I’ve made two other purses, bought a few purses, and I keep going back to my old jean purse and patching it up..

So using that beloved but tattered purse as my pattern, I went back to the sewing machine to see if I could duplicate its perfect size and shape.

I’ll have to wear it over my shoulder for a few weeks to figure out if we’re a match. But at least it didn’t cost me hundreds of dollars. In fact, it cost me nothing but a frustrating morning chasing down runaway feathers.

Well, OK, the feather chase is ongoing. I just hope the purse lasts as least a long as the feathers linger.


I don’t think pioneer women had these kinds of problems.


Here a patch, there a patch

It was one of my autumn rituals as the home and garden reporter for the La Crosse Tribune to write a get-ready-for-winter story where I would share all sorts of tips for prepping the yard and house for winter.

Now that I have time, I’m taking my own advice. I mixed up some cement patch this morning, trotted outside with a whisk broom, and cleaned up a tiny area on the foundation that required patching.

I now realize I should have been running those stories in September, when the weather was still cooperating. I performed my patch job under a sunshiny sky with a temp of 34 degrees. And even that felt nicer than yesterday when an Arctic wind cut short my bike ride.

I’m finding out that hanging around the house full time has raised my expectations about my own standard of living. Things like cracks in the foundation, loose bricks and piles of dirt are beginning to bug me. And dust bothers me more than it used to. By that, I mean that dust never used to bother me at all. Now, when I spy a little pile of dust in a corner, I question how it got there as I move quickly to remove it.

Heck, I used to live peacefully with dust. I don’t have asthma or allergies so I was not a vigilante about it.

Now, it’s as if I’ve been promoted to four-star general with the sole duty of dust eradication.

I’m sure I’ll get over my Mr. Clean mentality. Faced with a winter of chasing dust bunnies, I will probably come to a peaceful co-existence. But for now, I’m on a home improvement rampage and it almost feels like I’m winning.



Warming up

I am so ashamed.

Dad must be rolling over in his grave.

Yes, I’ve turned on the furnace.

For decades, I have had a deadline of Nov. 1 as the earliest I will turn on my furnace. But retirement must have weakened me. I am at home all day now and when the thermostat started drifting down into the 50s, I just couldn’t put on enough clothes to stay warm. And on Saturday, I spent most of the day on the sofa wrapped in a quilt watching TV.

The final death knell to fall came at 7:15 a.m. today when I scooted across the frigid floor to check the thermostat — 53 degrees. And the predicted high today is 51,

Since I always buckle at 50 degrees anyway and this week’s forecast has highs in the 40s, I reached my cold creaky fingers to the thermostat and punched “heat.”

I had been watching Trisha Yearwood whip up her daddy’s homemade biscuits on the FoodNetwork so to celebrate the demise of my pioneer spirit, I popped a pan of my own biscuits into the oven. It’s kind of a secret recipe. But twist my arm and I’ll give it up — Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

The temperature in the house  has already climbed to 59 degrees as I type this and the oven timer just dinged. So to all of you who are still holding out, I salute you with a cinnamon roll or three and a tall glass of milk.


I’m retired

Lately, my response to everything is, “I’m retired.”

If I’m asked to lift something heavy, stay up late, or work too hard, I simply say, “I’m retired.

It’s amazing how well this works and how quickly you can train others to think of you as retired.

A few weeks ago, when I was sitting in a chair watching my sister Therese arrange merchandise for her flea market sale, our sister Kathy looked at me resting and then looked at Therese and asked if there was anything she could do to help.

Therese said no and that she didn’t expect anything of me, either.

“You know, Geri’s retired.”

I’ve trained Therese, now I have to train the rest of the world.

In my mind,  the rest of the world should just know. Store clerks should see me walking down the aisle and think, “She’s retired. What can I do to make her life better?”

On weekdays, the rest of you who work should get in your cars, drive to your work place, and stay out of my way for eight hours. After all, I’m retired and shouldn’t have to compete with traffic and other people while I walk, bike or grocery shop.

Above all, technology should understand that I’m retired. Well, technology needs a  good talking to because it’s not cooperating.

After closing up shop at my vintage sale Saturday after three long, rainy days, and making sure Therese’s van was fully loaded and road safe, I trudged into the house to relax with some HGTV. But  the previous night’s storm had knocked out my cable which caused me to make the dreaded call to the cable company. After several minutes of fruitless trouble shooting, she asked me if the TV was on the right station. One click of the button and problem solved.

I then recalled that’s what happened the last time there was a storm so why isn’t that the first question the cable employee asks a frazzled homeowner? I’m retired so I can’t be expected to think of things like that.

That, however, was the easy task. Next, came internet connection. She transferred me to their internet trouble shooter and we immediately had trouble because he didn’t speak English — at least, not the English I speak. For some reason, tech guys have a language all their own and they refuse to acknowledge they might be talking to someone who doesn’t understand geek speak.

I finally snapped when he asked me to carry my laptop over to the router and modem and connect it directly to the modem.

“That’s ridiculous,” I snapped. “I’m not going to stand around next to the TV to use my computer. That won’t work.”

“This is just for troubleshooting,” he calmly explained.

The bad news is that he proclaimed I needed a new router.  The good news is that I think he knew I was retired because he never snapped back at me.

So off to the electronics store I trotted where I snagged a guy wearing a Samsung shirt and demanded he find me the easiest to install router ever created.

“I installed this for my mom. It’s really easy.”

“Well, you installed it, not your  mom.  Think of me as your mom,” I growled, in a tone his own mother has probably never used with him.

“My  mom said it looked so easy she could probably do it,” he assured me.

“If you’re lying to me, I’m coming back here and I’ll find you,” I said, with the kind of smile that warned he should leave work immediately and not return until my router was hooked up.

As I suspected, it wasn’t easy so I had to call the store and ask for a tech person who immediately started rattling off gibberish which I didn’t understand.

“Slow down,” I yelled into the phone. “I’m retired. I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

He continued jabbering as if I’d never even spoken,  talking about how some installs are easy and some are difficult and it’s not his fault I didn’t buy tech support.

“When I spend $44 for a piece of equipment that I’m told is easy to install,” I should be able to plug it in and have it work without having to pay someone to install it,” I yelled back.

He didn’t hear me because he was again jabbering about cords.

I finally yelled,  “Be quiet and let me ask one specific question.”

He let me ask the question. He couldn’t answer it. He started talking about whose fault it was — not his — and again not listening, so I told him I was disappointed in him, the store, and technology in general.

Then I slammed down the phone, banged around on the computer some more, and accidentally installed it by myself.

By the time that happened, I was tired I didn’t want to use the Internet anymore.

Hey, I’m retired.  I’ll resume the fight with technology tomorrow.