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.

getting together

Our son Aaron is in town from Portugal so daughter Alice flew in from Cincinnati to visit with him and daughter Hannah joined us for a meal last night here at home. I’ve not laughed so hard in months! Marina made her usual great stew and we had a grand time together.

Alice flitted home this morning, Hannah is up to her usual over-committedness and Aaron is doing client work. I’m trying to clear the deck in the office so I can begin work on stuff needed for Charge Conference, which is the annual meeting that will be coming up for Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. Tonight I’ll listen to myself reading another story on WPCA-FM, which streams it online for people like myself who are out of broadcast range. I’ll listen and I’m sure it will re-confirm that I sound like a geezer. Nevertheless, being able to have a story broadcast each month until I run out my stories to read is a privilege most authors never get!

White Bear Lake reading

I’d say I had them rolling on the floor laughing–and they did laugh a lot when I read the two “mangled” fairy tales–but the floor action happened prior to the start of our reading. The White Bear Lake Public Library has a very nice community room with rolling chairs that are easy to set up (because they roll, of course!) Unfortunately, when one fellow went to sit in a chair, it rolled away from him and he landed on the floor. Nothing damaged, except perhaps his sense of decency.

Anyhow, I read “The Great Experiment” from the Kindle collection “Yes, More Break Time Stories!”, “Little Red Hoodie” from the paperback, “The First Gathering of The Break Time Stories”, and by request another “mangled” fairy tale, “Sinner Ella”, from the fifth Kindle book, “Yes, More Break Time Stories!” Three stories in exactly an hour, right on the button.

It was a good gathering, a decent turnout for a rainy night when football was on the TV and it was good to read to some old friends, a few of whom I’ve known for 50 years. I always appreciate anyone who takes the trouble to show up. My thanks to Therese Sonnek and the White Bear Lake Library staff, as well as the Ramsey County Library Board for bringing me into their facility to read.

The rest of this week finds me with a piano lesson, the River Road Ramble at the Wolf Creek church, winterizing the fifth wheel and mowing grass at the cabin, writing another series of 13 ads for a client of 30+ years and somewhere in all that making time for our elder son, Aaron, who flies in from Portugal and who is supposed to have a music gig in North Carolina. With the flooding from Hurricane Florence, I’m guessing that event will be cancelled.

a superior time

Marina and I just returned from several days on Lake Superior. We set out to visit friends in Duluth and operated out of the Two Harbors campground. We took our fifth wheel and both Seeing Eye dogs (Andy, the working dog and Gretel, the retired dog). Per usual, there just wasn’t quite enough time to cram in all we’d planned, but we had a fine lunch with Judy Breuer, a podcaster and friend to both my short stories and the visually handicapped, at a new place in downtown Duluth, Lyric, located in the lower level of the Holiday Inn Center on Superior Street. The lunch was very good and so was the catching-up. Our old rig worked fine, with the exception of the refrigerator when we started the trip but that got to working as we went. I’d tried to get it going on gas but a flash of flame and billowing smoke quickly ended that idea. I stuck with electric after that.


There was road construction on Wisconsin Highway 35 around Moose Junction; other than that we found little heavy traffic. We left the rain behind at our cabin on Bone Lake. Returning last night, we saw that Dennis had the first floor framed up and was ready to start the bedroom level of our addition. Nice going! And, per usual, we got home to Osceola and found we’d left behind several items that should have come with us. I’ll retrieve them tomorrow after church service.


It was good to get the fifth wheel on the road again. It’s just the right size for our needs. My only concern is the tow vehicle and when it will need replacing.

Tomorrow night is my story reading at the library in White Bear Lake. I’m hoping for a good turnout.

some more

It has been a week, a very busy one, since my last post. Sunday saw the donation of a large painting by Thomas Graham of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel depiction of God’s finger touching Adam as part of God’s creation actions. Graham’s family donated the large painting to Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. He plans to be buried in the cemetery next door to the church.

The congregation also had a cake for Marina and me to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Later in the day we headed to Mango’s, Osceola’s new restaurant where I’d made lunch reservations. When we arrived, it was closed. It turns out they’ve decided to be closed on Sundays. With all the tourists in town on weekends, that may not be the best idea. Anyhow, Marina has been there and loved their fish tacos. The place does seem to be off to a rough start. We then walked down a block to Watershed, which was packed and was  serving only breakfast and out of many items. Also, they closed at 2 and by the time we were there it was 1:40. How far up the line should we go? Dallas House? Our Place? Further? Tangled In Blue was closed, so we settled for Tippy Canoes, where we had the best experience I’ve had there–a very good lunch. Later in the afternoon daughter Britta and husband Mark showed up with a batch of vegetables from their very serious garden. What a treat! Overall, it was a nice and easy day and a low-key but good celebration of a good decision Marina and I both made.

Construction is moving along at the cabin with foundation blocks laid now and piles of dirt everywhere. Framing should be coming soon!

construction begun!

Marina and I have begun the process of adding a second main floor bedroom to our Bone Lake cabin. We figure it will give us options for the future when I can’t run as hard as I can right now. Given the human lifespan, that will happen eventually. One possibility: we rent our town home and move to the cabin, which now will be a two bedroom house. Another possibility: we sell the cabin and remain in Osceola in our town home. It’s easier to sell a two bedroom home than one with a single bedroom–and paltry closet space. Dennis Hall is doing the construction. He owns Milltown Hardware and did good work for me 32 years ago, 27 years ago and about 25 years ago. Together, we can figure out all that will come up. Marina and I drove to Eagan today to an outlet business that our son John did website work for some time ago. We got new windows for a good price. It poured rain on the way into town but nothing on the way back, which was good because the windows were riding in the open truck bed with no moisture protection. (One window is a bump-out, a garden window actually, and it rode upright.) Tomorrow I’ll take the windows to the cabin and unload them into a protected area and maybe even get to mowing the grass if it’s not too wet.

I’ve been doing invitations for my White Bear Lake Library reading and I hope that will bring a good turnout for the event. Writer’s readings don’t tend to draw a crowd, but I’ve been fortunate thus far with more people showing up than the librarians anticipated. I’d like that to continue and to grow. I’d also like to have the next paperback in hand for that September 17th reading, so I’d best get about the work of moving Kindle collections 4 and 5 to print format. That has been a real pain in the past with results I’m not completely happy about, but this time I hope the eventual product will be perfect!

Oh, BTW, this Sunday marks our 50th Anniversary. It’s blown right by our kids, but that’s OK; we’ll celebrate it quietly with an informal lunch–just the two of us. That’s fine with me!

The latest is out today!

My latest short story collection, “Yes, More Break Time Stories” is out on Kindle today. It’s available for $2.99 and marks the fifth story collection I’ve put out there for readers to enjoy. The next little project? Pulling together collections four and five to create a second paperback, “The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories”. I hope to have copies available for readers by the time I read at the White Bear Lake Public Library in September.


Meanwhile, I’m preaching weekly at Wolf Creek United Methodist Church (8:15 a.m. service) and occasionally elsewhere. (This coming Sunday, for example, I’ll preach at both Wolf Creek and Taylors Falls United Methodist Churches.)  Marina and I have begun adding a bedroom wing to our Bone Lake cabin. We anticipate that this will give us some future options for the time when I can’t run as hard as I’m running these days. We had daughter Britta, her husband Mark and their “child” Jet out on the pontoon last Saturday and had an enjoyable time cruising the lake.