Welcome back, students

I woke up too early today, as usual, but decided that as soon as it was light out I would go biking. The students had started pouring into town Friday and I always connect college students with my own days biking to class.

But, as usual, I fell back to sleep and woke again around 7:30 a.m. So even though the sky  looked like a giant, gray ball of lint, I got dressed and hopped on the bike.

My, it’s cold I thought, as I forced myself to pedal.

A few blocks later, I thought, gee, it’s sprinkling and that’s unpleasant.

At block seven the sprinkling turned to a downpour and I reminded myself that I was a retiree, not a college student, and I could just turn around and pedal home.

Which is what I did.

So much for nostalgia, but I never did like getting soggy. And I didn’t see any actual students on my short bike ride so there was no one to notice my short tribute ride.

So welcome back, students. Be good neighbors and citizens. Try not to over indulge in alcohol and other unwise substances. If we smile and say hi first, why not return the greetings. It’s another fresh start to the school year and let’s make this a good one.

And don’t laugh and point your finger if you see me biking by. Yes, I’m slow, but I’m out there pedaling. Just not doing it in the rain anymore.



Call the Fashion Police

On a recent visit to La Crosse, my sister Therese wandered into my bedroom closet and expressed dismay at the dearth of clothing she found there — 15 hanging items to be exact.

“I have so much stuff stacked in here,” I told her, “that I can’t really get at the hanging rack. I just wear the clothes I throw on the chair.”

That is true, though most of the stuff on my bedroom chair is not closet worthy. That’s because my uniform in retirement consists almost entirely of jeans and t-shirts.

Oh, I vary it up a little. I have gray t-shirts, black t-shirts, green t-shirts and even brown t-shirts. I even have a few long-sleeved t-shirts.

There was never a time in my life where I would have qualified as a fashionista. At best, I tried to wear colors that looked good on me and would check my clothes for food stains before donning them for work.

Nowadays, food stains are not such a concern. Those are joined by paint stains, grass stains and all manner of things I pick up in the garage and yard. I’m somewhat of a stain magnet as I tend to wipe my dirty, sticky, greasy hands on whatever t-shirt I am wearing.

For me, dressing up is putting on a clean t-shirt — when I can find one.

But shamed by Therese’s dismay at my dismal closet contents, I rooted around on the t-shirt chair and discovered two clean t-shirts I rarely wear. I put them on hangers and stuck them on the hanging bar in the closet.

Now I have 17 items of clothing hanging in the closet that I will likely not wear in the coming months.

Heck,  it’s almost time to change out those 17 summer items for my winter version of clothing I will hang in the closet, but not wear.


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.