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.