Still lugging stuff to the new location; that’s the report. Moving is such fun! On the other hand I drop a good ten pounds per move so it’s not all bad. I still have some sheetrock work to do and some electric in my office-to-be but we are making good progress and should be out of here and in the new place by the end of the month.

The “possible” event I mentioned in my last post–the one in Amery–now is firm for Friday, June 7th at 7 p.m. at the Classic Theatre. It’s a fund raiser for Amery’s Arts Alliance to help them purchase the theatre and fix the leaking roof. I will be joined by some fine writers: Peter “Wok & Roll” Wong, renowned chef and columnist; Lois Joy Hoffman, author, adventurer, photographer, and circumnavigator; LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery’s first poet laureate and executive director of Amery’s Northern Lakes Center for the Arts; Dan Girtz, educator and writer of history; and Randy Dean, pastor and author.

Movin’ on

Our Osceola place is sold and we are on our way to rural Luck, WI. Actually, our Osceola townhouse sold twice. The first sale lasted 24 hours. The buyer decided she couldn’t afford owning a home and preferred to continue renting. So we had a showing the next day and the place sold. Both buyers paid our asking price.

And so Marina and I have been hefting stuff out to what was our Bone Lake cabin. We did the 7 foot overstuffed sofa ourselves and I was amazed at what a woman in her 80’s still can lift. Aside from hauling and boxing stuff, I’ve been doing electrical wiring and sheet rocking in what will be my new office space. It’s a race with time: we close here on May 28th and our favorite movers come the 20th. I’m still trying to find a storage garage to keep stuff we will be selling–no luck so far; everything is full. What an amazing society: so much stuff we have that we have no place to put it.

My latest “mangled” fairy tale, “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”, got plenty of laughs at the Amery writers’ group so I think I’ll read it at the Festival Theatre fundraiser. There is a tentative authors reading evening set in Amery at the restored theatre there. It will be the week before the Festival Theatre reading (that’s June 14th) on June 7th. Some of the Osceola writers group may be interested in reading at the Amery evening.

Gotta go now and start dismantling this office. Oh, joy!

it’s “official”!

We’ve set the date now for story reading at St.Croix Festival Theatre. I’ve asked LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery’s first poet laureate, to join me again for an evening of story and poetry readings with ticket proceeds going to help Festival Theatre.

The date? Friday, June 14th. The time? Probably 7:30 p.m. The tariff? Last year tickets were $10. C’mon out and enjoy an evening of good stories, good poetry and know that you are supporting a worthy theatre group at the same time!

I’m happy to have this reading set, especially since for the past two days I’ve been under the weather–something uncommon for me; I rarely crash. You know how it is: things that are important to get done just don’t get done and, somehow, life manages to on and what needs to happen does happen “in the fulness of time”, as the Bible says.

possible Festival Theatre fund raiser repeat

I’m in early discussions with the people at St.Croix Festival Theatre about donating another evening of story reading with all proceeds going to Festival. LaMoine MacLaughlin and I did this last year and there were calls then for a repeat this year. It’s easy money for the theatre; all we need is a dead night for the theatre, some lights, ticket takers and Peter, who’ll scrounge up a chair, side table and a lamp to suggest a comfortable reading room.

If this happens, I’ll limit the reading this year to just two stories. Last year I did three and I felt it went too long.

A New Chapter

As of Valentine’s Day, the day of the official end to 50 years of ministry in our area by Good Samaritan Society-St.Croix Valley that was brought about by the purchase of the nursing home by Plainview Health Partners, I was out of a job. Chaplains were cut from the employee roster.

I didn’t hear that from the new owner, who has not connected with me yet, but by phone from my colleague, fellow chaplain Chuck Arndt. He had a face-to-face with the new owner.

Fortunately, the Lord has been preparing Marina and me for this possibility. I serve Wolf Creek United Methodist Church quarter time and have fairly frequent fill-in opportunities at other churches. I still do a quarterly series of national ads for a client of more than 30 years standing. On top of those things, our downtown Osceola office building is supposed to close for its sale on March 1st and the bedroom and additional downstairs room we’ve added to our Bone Lake cabin is close to being finished. In the event that finances force a consolidation and a move, we have a place to go that we enjoy already.

So the plot thickens. What I would like to see is a gigantic uptick in sales for my short stories, both the Kindle versions and the paperbacks. I am grateful for the two days of unstructured time I now have and I’m praying that I will use that time wisely. One thing that may happen is that I may be able to produce more fiction; much creative energy lately seems to have gone into sermons, rather than into stories.

So we shall see. I, for one, will be staying tuned!

The Second Gathering is in print!

I’ve just published my second paperback, “The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories”. It’s available through Amazon.com for $10 and includes the two most recent Kindle books, “Four More Break Time Stories” and “Yes, More Break Time Stories!”

In the meantime I’ve done two more short stories, “I Loved That Bike!” and At Midnight’s Stroke”. I’m mid-way through another “mangled” fairy tale, “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”, so just you wait!

Of paint and prose

“Paint” refers to priming the new sheetrock at our cabin addition. I think I did manage to get more paint on the ceiling than on me, but some may disagree with that assessment.  I did a funeral in Webster, Wisconsin last Saturday and then read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter Two in Amery at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. The reading is part of the Northern Lakes Chamber Orchestra’s annual Christmas concert and sing-along and is something I’ve done with them for at least a dozen years and probably more like sixteen years. I’ve become an institution! (Actually, I think I’m too young yet to be an institution but I’m moving on the age when one can qualify.) Coming up is participation in the candlelight service for Christmas at the Taylors Falls United Methodist Church, an occasion that customarily is jam-packed and very affecting for everyone participating. Wolf Creek has its own Christmas Eve service, along with a Sunday presentation that bodes  to be plenty of fun. I get to be the voice of Herod in that extravaganza. (Cue the wicked sounding chuckle.)

I’ve also done two new stories, one of which will be read in January at the Northern Lakes Center when authors read their stuff from the Center’s publication “Soundings”. The newest one will be inflicted on the writers’ group there in early January. The “Soundings” story will get its recording this week for broadcast on WPCA-FM along with “Green Card” from the third collection, “Yet More Break Time Stories”.

Balsam Lake Public Library reading

Hey, the soup was good and so was the company. We didn’t have a huge turnout but as I tell people, “Sometimes we go for quality!” The reading went well and the group was attentive, laughing in all the right places and nodding when appropriate.

Since I wrote last, things have been overwhelmingly busy. I have managed just two stories since July 1st when I began preaching regularly each Sunday at Wolf Creek UMC. That’s less than my usual story production the past several years. This Saturday is the Open House for the new civic building in Osceola. I’ll be there as president of the Osceola Seniors. The details of getting the Center going and of trying to move the group from a monthly potluck meeting group to a group that operates/schedules/uses daily a designated space, well that has taken up some of my time. In addition, we have construction going at our Bone Lake cabin and I’m always feeling I should be there more often to check on how things are going. Additional hours at the nursing home also have pushed at me and there have been family issues, such as a daughter-in-law losing her mother suddenly that have taken some time, attention and prayer. I’m also running a Bible Study at Wolf Creek on Wednesday nights; that takes prep time.

No complaining here and I’m thankful that God has made me strong. Life’s realities, however, dictate that I can keep this pace only so long. I have 1 1/2 years left of my Seniors term and that will end. Maybe someone young will move into our townhouse and I can offload my treasurer/secretary duties. Or I may be “riffed” by the new nursing home owners. Or Wolf Creek UMC may die, despite our best efforts. Or God may simply say, “Enough!” and I’d better obey. Meanwhile, I’m staying tuned.

At Midnight’s Stroke

I read my latest short story, “At Midnight’s Stroke” Monday night to the writers’ group at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts in Amery. This is the first piece of fiction I’ve been able to write since I began pastoring again regularly on July 1st of this year. The creativity seems to have been channeled elsewhere, rather than into fiction. Per usual, there were comments, some of which I’ll heed and others that just don’t fit my sense of where the story needs to go. This may well be the first story of Kindle book #6.

My son John helped pull the dock from the lake yesterday. The sun shone but there was enough of a breeze to stir up whitecaps on the lake and the water was damned cold. I do this little chore in my bathing suit. John and I had to retreat twice to the truck to thaw out. Marina had a delicious chicken dinner awaiting when we finished. The job took us the usual half-an-hour or so and it’s great of John to drive all the way from Golden Valley in order to spend a brief time freezing himself. I pulled the pontoon myself last week, but it turns out really to be a two-man job. I got help from some guys from Brenizer Motor Sports up in Frederic who were pulling boats and docks at Wilkins. My thanks to them!


I do have one other story semi-formed in my head. We will see if it develops into something. Meanwhile, I’m awaiting a “patience seizure” to try to format paperback #2 so it looks decent–better at least than the results with the first book, which has some technical problems that embarrass me.

sold out!

Good Samaritan Society-St.Croix Valley nursing home in St.Croix Falls has been sold to Plainview Health Partners. This has blind-sided everyone at our facility, including residents, their families and our staff. No one saw this coming and some of my colleagues have expressed great anger and feel we have been lied to for the last couple of years. The official transfer date is December 1st, 2018.

For me, it’s a business decision on the part of the buyers, who are taking on just the nursing home operation. The home care, The Lodge assisted living facility in Taylors Falls, and the management of the two HUD apartment complexes in St.Croix Falls will stay with the Good Samaritan Society. It seems apparent that the Society will be keeping the entities that are making money.

Nursing homes may be in a trough for awhile until the baby boomers age sufficiently to need skilled nursing care. That’s about 8 years from now, according to some estimates. Meanwhile, we have tough competition from the nursing home/assisted living in Luck and the home in Osceola, as well as an assisted living unit in Osceola with another one planned and about to be constructed there. There’s also assisted living in Centuria. The question, then, is, how do the new owners intend to turn a profit? There’s not much to cut in our nursing home without endangering our residents.

Another issue for the buyers is the faith issue. Many or our residents are with us because Good Sam is a community of faith. That goes for many of our staff, too. Our buyers need to look at WHO they are buying, not just What they are buying. A lost employee goes directly to the bottom line. It would be a good business decision to allow our present faith climate to continue as is.

I trust the Lord to take care of me and I pray for our staff, residents and their families as we navigate this change.