It’s all good

I’ve been feeling a little sorry for myself lately.
I banged up my foot while working on some brick and stone work in the backyard with my sister Therese and I’ve been limping around ever since. When she went down to the basement to get some wood to finish a project, she came up with a sad look on her face and said, “Water is backing up in the basement.”
In my world, one bad thing is about all I can handle at one time.
Then I watched the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.
There was fighting on the Gaza Strip, wildfires in California, plane crashes and a seemingly endless list of horrifying news.
That’s when I realized how lucky I am.
I’m retired, so I have been watching TV and reading while my foot heals. I have big garbage cans, so I skipped taking them out to the curb this week. And right now, the plumber is here to clean out the drain in the basement so I will soon be able to hobble down there and do a load of laundry. (Yes, Therese, my plumber came on the same day I called for service.)
All the projects my sister left for me to complete will get done eventually, just at a slower pace. And soon I’ll get around to vacuuming and cleaning up the mess we always make when she comes here for a work weekend.
So I am counting my blessings, praying there will be peace in the Middle East in my lifetime, and hoping California gets plenty of rain.
Meanwhile, I’m off to the library to stock up on books.

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Just for the taste of it

Post this as a win against technology.
For weeks, I have been trying to download a coupon sent by Coca-Cola as a reward for saving points from 12 packs I buy.
Nothing worked.
Finally, the “help” center said I would have to contact the email administrator.
Has anyone ever tried to find an email address for gmail? And if you have one, could you please pass it along.
I never found it. But Coke refused to help me anymore until I had contacted gmail and set things right in my inbox.
With both me and my sister Therese hitting the research, we still couldn’t figure it out. But we fiddled with some settings, canceled a default email, and I emailed the Coca-Cola people that I had indeed contacted the administrator and everything was dandy now.
Turns out, I was right.
It took them three days, but today I got a link to download the coupon and it worked.
Did I find the Help Center helpful? No. But at least this is mission accomplished and the evil technology has been vanquished but will certainly regroup and live to fight another day.
As a bonus, Therese figured out how to make folders in gmail, which I had been told was impossible. It’s as if we became IT people overnight.
Well, maybe only she did. But I still type faster than she does.

Things are looking up

Ever since a crew of roofers descended upon my house last week, I’ve been looking up — and around and down. And I’ve been noticing all the things I don’t usually notice.
I’ve noticed there are a couple of houses in the neighborhood that really need new shingles. Now that I sit smugly protected by 30-year shingles, I pity those whose shingles are curling and crumbling. And my newly tuckpointed chimney is a thing of beauty to behold.
A couple houses in the neighborhood are getting new siding. One even had a new walkway installed. Good for you all you home improvers.
There has been all sorts of upheaval on city boulevards. The trees that tipped in the last big storm are gone, but their roots and the surrounding ripped-up sod remain as reminders of what once was there.
On Cass Street, a fir tree has completely died. It’s sporting not a single needle. I noticed this because I had to dig up my weeping pussy willow recently which had mysteriously died along with my two purple sand cherry bushes. So my house is handsomely topped off but the yard looks a bit bare as I search for replacements for the dearly departed.
Meanwhile, I’m relaying brick paths and preparing to lay a stone patio in the backyard.
I laugh when people ask how retirement is going because I’ve never been busier. There aren’t enough days in the week to accomplish all the projects I have lined up. I now wonder how I managed to live my life when 40 hours of the week was devoted elsewhere. How did I find time to grocery shop, mow the lawn and do the laundry?
Well, I’ve got a table to refinish so I’m off to the garage. Be sure to look up at your roof to check to see that it’s got you covered. I don’t want to be the only protected one when the next storm hits.

Still not the retiring sort

It’s taken me a while to get the hang of this retirement gig.
A year ago, when the La Crosse Tribune decided it was time for me to retire, I was not prepared to make the transition. Though forced furloughs, layoffs and belt tightening had led me to believe I wouldn’t make it to age 65, I was still not prepared to be among the ranks of the unemployed at age 58.
A year later, I have adjusted well, but it’s difficult to think of myself as a retiree. It’s great to hang out at auctions, work on yard projects, and finally clean out the basement. But a part of me still yearns for that first moment on the phone when I would say, “Hi, this is Geri Parlin. I’m a reporter for the La Crosse Tribune.”
From the moment I set foot in the Tribune newsroom, I never wanted to be a reporter anywhere else. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more.
Of course, nothing remains the same and life is not static, so my work life changed along with everyone else’s. Facebook and Twitter and bad business decisions have made life as a newspaper reporter — or any reporter — a difficult thing indeed.
Still, there are some things that feel unfinished. I had stories in an ideas folder that have never been written. I had followups I wanted to do on interesting topics.
And I wanted to interview Sandra Lee.
I first started pursuing Lee years ago when I discovered she attend the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. A hometown girl on the Food Network? She was mine.
Turns out, she was definitely not mine.
For a couple of years and through a couple of assistants and road blockers, I sent email after email imploring her to do an interview.
I knew why she didn’t want to chat with me. There was some bad family history with La Crosse. But for the sake of the interview, I would have let that be.
Certainly, I’ve interviewed much bigger names. Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary was a delight and so personable. Graham Nash was a vulgar disappointment. Norm Abram was as cool on the telephone as was on TV.
So why not Sandra Lee.
When I finally gave up pursuit, I wrote a column much like this one saying I was giving up. No more emails, no more phone calls, no more wasting time on someone who didn’t want to talk.
That’s when she reached out to me by email, supposedly horrified that I couldn’t get through to her.
Hope renewed, I was once more in talks with her staffers who assured me they would make this happen.
But it never did. After months and months of her unavailability, I gave up trying.
But she’s still on TV and I just saw her throwing a football with a nephew and mentioning her time spent in Wisconsin.
So I’m munching on sour grapes for lunch and promising myself that from now on I’ll flip the channel after the “Barefoot Contessa” finishes her food tips. I won’t let it slip into the next show, which features Lee.
I can’t make her do an interview, but I can turn her off. And that’s what I’m doing from now on.
This is Geri Parlin. I am not a reporter for the La Crosse Tribune. But I am consumer with a television and I just flipped the channel to HGTV.

S’mores, siblings and so long

Anyone else notice the incessant Dairy Queen commercials for s’mores? It seems like they are on at every commercial break.
So it’s maybe not so surprising that my sister Therese asked me if I would like to have s’mores when I came to visit over the Fourth of July.
“We could build a bonfire and toast marshmallows,” she said, knowing I am not a lover of evenings outdoors with the bugs.
“I haven’t had s’mores in 40 years,” I said. “I’m willing to give it a try.”
Well, the bugs were out in force, the fire was much too hot, but that first gooey bite was worth the effort. With bombs bursting in air all around us, we munched our way back to childhood memories and then doused the fire to go sit in the air conditioned house.
The next day, we were having a going-away gathering for my sister Kathy and her family as they were bound for Texas where her husband had found a job. We all brought our own food to grill, but in the aftermath of much munching and visiting, my sister Peggy said, “I brought the makings for s’mores.”
Well, I’m polite, so out of concern for Peggy’s feelings, I had my second s’more in 40 years.
I’m guessing it will be a good long while before I have another s’more. I don’t build bonfires in my tiny backyard and I can’t remember the last time I bought graham crackers and marshmallows.
Still, just biting into one all these many decades later brought back memories of camping with my family, hikes up bluffs, and long car rides to just about every state park in Minnesota.
I hope Kathy carries some of those Same memories with her to Texas. It might make her feel a little bit closer to all of us when the Lone Star state feels just a little bit lonely.