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.

a reading and a baptism

Saturday night saw me reading “Shall We Dance?”, a tale of the inside story of a flamenco dance troupe that was published in the current issue of “Soundings”, a literary magazine put out twice a year by the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. The story will appear in my forthcoming story collection, tentatively titled “What, More Break Time Stories?” that should be out on Kindle the end of August. The audience was small, which is not unusual for writers reading their works, whether it is in libraries or even arts centers like Saturday’s Northern Lakes Center for the Arts, but the reading went well and of course there were questions on how much research I had to do in order to write that story. I read with Jane Yunker, Julie Smith, LaMoine MacLaughlin, and Brian Beadle.

Sunday we baptized Theodore Daniel Borresen at Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. He did “man up” and didn’t cry, for which I am most grateful. In fact, he is a happy baby and delights in his older sister and brother, who also were baptized at Wolf Creek. They church building has no air conditioning (yet) and it was hot and humid, but Grandma Fisk brought plenty of food, cake and beverages to enjoy after the service and once I got out of my vestments, the place became more comfortable. The Borresens live in Las Vegas, where Theodore’s dad is stationed now, so we won’t see them regularly; but we hope to see them when they come visiting family in this area. Theodore’s mom and dad were in my first confirmation class when I pastored Wolf Creek and St.Croix Falls United Methodist Churches. We had visitors who are not connected with the baptismal party–people who have a cabin on Deer Lake and who usually go to services at either St.Croix Falls UMC or Taylors Falls but who seem to like what I have to offer and how I offer it. For that, all of us at Wolf Creek are grateful. We will pray in the new people who should be part of us and if I’m the initial draw, so be it; the congregation will have to win visitors to become regulars.

a thought about my radio reading tonight

Tonight I listened to the second of my pre-recorded broadcasts of stories on WPCA-FM. My diction is sloppy; I need to work on it. Words get “slid” into. This, in addition to the fact I sound like a geezer. It’s a far cry from the day when, in my late teens, I hosted Tuesday Night on KUSC-FM and my diction was precise. Better next month!

A new beginning

Today marked my return as its pastor a decade after I retired from the Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. It was a hot, humid morning, even at 8:15 a.m. but I wore an alb for Holy Communion. I did concede something and came without a tie. We had a good turnout and it was a good homecoming. They had a cake for coffee hour that read “Welcome back Mark and Marina”. Andy, Marina’s Seeing Eye dog, decided to chime in with whines as I preached and I’m not sure what he was thinking or trying to convey. We had problems with the portable mike so I was “tethered” for most of the service–something I don’t like.

Wolf Creek UMC is small and our challenges are several. First, we need to create structure that has not existed, such as a post office box, phone and email contacts, and other things where an office has not existed solely for this congregation. Second, we need to decide on what we want our future to be and then decide on the steps that we need to take to get us there. We need to be “praying in” the people who should be part of our congregation.  Third, we need to become more of what our Lord expects us to be. All of this can be done!

This coming week Marina and I mark the 50th anniversary of our first date. We went to lunch–a long lunch that got Marina into trouble at the office–at Gates of Spain, a Santa Monica restaurant atop a tall apartment building. The view from there was powerful: you could see all the way from Palos Verdes up the coast to Malibu and beyond. The way to the restaurant was via an elevator, a glass-walled one that slid up and down the beach-side wall of the building. Marina was pushing back against me and I, who hate heights and am paralyzed by them, was jammed against the back wall of the elevator. My hero! We were married the end of August and I can’t believe where life has flown. But it was the best decision I’ve ever made! Easy? No. Good for both of us? Yes!

two in one

Today saw me at Holy Trinity United Methodist Church. It’s just outside Balsam Lake but has a Centuria address. The congregation added a new sanctuary almost two years ago and it is a nice space. Today was my first time in it. Once we got the sound system figured out, it was clear sailing. I knew many people there–more up in Frederic later–and I was well received. They had a good turnout and the congregation was very responsive. They also have a choir, something not every church can boast about. My message went very well, better I think than at St.Luke’s in Frederic.

The later service was at St.Luke’s, Frederic. Today’s turnout was small but the congregation is smaller than it used to be. No kids (there was one child and a teenager at Holy Trinity). Kordi Kurkowski used her guitar and voice to lead the music since their pianist was ill. I seem to do better with a full house. In addition, most of the people sat in the back so there was a big gulf between the lectern/pulpit and the people. I used Kordi’s mike to get down among them and that helped. After the service I enjoyed conversation with some old friends.

After the service, because I was in Frederic and it would not be much out of my way, I swung by the cabin to pick up my phone charger. I’d charged the phone while driving but it helps to have a charger in the office and at home, too. Marina is concerned about my forgetting things like that but I don’t believe I’m “losing it” yet.

a funeral

Diane Stelton’s family called me to see if I could pray with her as she was dying. Diane is a former member of the St.Croix Falls United Methodist Church where I pastored from 1997-2008. I can’t go as clergy, but I can go as a friend. That the family sees me as clergy can’t be helped. I’d planned to stop in on Thursday but managed to work in a visit on Tuesday late in the afternoon. She died that evening.

The family asked me to do Diane’s funeral, but it turned out that Shannon, Diane’s daughter, is an active member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Almelund, Minnesota and the funeral was to be held there. Rev.Marla Amborn was most gracious and invited me to participate, although in reality I was being shoved into her service. I ended up doing the sermon, which for me really was more of a sharing that ended with John 14 aimed directly at the widower and his children and grandchildren.

Immanuel Lutheran is a majestic space in the middle of just about nowhere. All it needs is air conditioning, perhaps for some old person to say, “That’s enough! I’ll loan you the money for a/c; pay me back as you are able.” Save for the lack of a/c, the building is beautiful and an honoring to God. Driving there you just watch out for deer.

The service went well and people told me that my message spoke to them, as well as celebrating Diane’s life. I thank God for the opportunity and for the help that made up for a decade of being out of touch with Diane and her family.

busy days

So I was at Taylors Falls on Sunday and, per usual, well received by that generous congregation. Then, home to prepare the message for Tuesday’s devotions service at Good Sam and to unwind a bit and wind up for the coming week. Monday saw a bunch of business tasks in the a.m. and then Good Sam in the afternoon. Monday night had me in Amery for the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts writers group. I read “Shall We Dance?” which will be featured in the coming publication of “Soundings” magazine.

Today was Good Sam in the morning, followed by a lunch meeting of our town home association and all the decisions associated with that. Then, back to Good Sam for a meeting, then picking up food for the animals, then a visit with the family of a dying former parishioner and then home to do some catching up before a 6 p.m. meeting of the Osceola Village Board on behalf of the Osceola Seniors Club, of which I’m now president. Busy day! Tomorrow I get a break, Thursday sees some dementia training at Good Sam, after which I’ll try for a break at our cabin, and Saturday is two possible graduation parties and my reading Shakespear’s sonnets at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. I’m supposed to be retired?

Truth is, I’ve not written on a story idea in weeks and I’m starting to try to focus on past incidents for inspiration for the next story. What I have now is enough for book #5 on Kindle. Books #4 and #5 will combine to be the next paperback, “The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories”.

a whirlwind week

So now it’s Thursday night and I just fished ironing some shirts. The long sleeved ones go to the closet in the garage for cooler weather. Monday saw me at the nursing home and Tuesday we traveled to Eau Claire, where Marina spoke to a good crowd on “The Effects of Trauma Growing Up In Berlin During World War II”. She had a large attendance; they gave her the large auditorium with a sound crew up in the sound booth. Per usual, she captivated the audience and took 15 minutes of questions in addition. I fielded the questions and repeated them so everyone could hear, including Marina, at whose cochlear implant ear I stood. Gretel and Andy, the Seeing Eye Dogs, were very good, even with four hours of driving and large crowds and shuttle buses. I think it did a number on Andy’s stomach, though, since he had diarrhea early in the morning that I duly stepped in when I went to my “stretching place” (a Persian rug) and in my office. I think I spent an hour cleaning up.

We got home in time for me to tune into WPCA-FM to hear my pre-recorded reading of “The Great Experiment”. The station has me scheduled to read a story every first Tuesday of the month until I run out of stories to share. What a privilege! On top of it, a bunch of my kids stopped everything to listen, too. The station streams online so anyone with a computer and modem can pick it up. ( and the website will take you from there.)

The cleaning up after Andy was Wednesday morning. I made it to my piano lesson–something I wanted to do after I retired was to take piano lessons–a bit late and then I headed to the Osceola Seniors Club meeting, where I was formally elected as their group’s president. It’s a two year stint and I believe in term limits, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve been promised strong back-up and I’m counting on that. The Club is looking forward to moving into its new space in the now-under-construction civic center and that should help us gather new members and undertake more programming and activities.

Oh, did I tell you that we bought a pontoon boat? It’s a 25 foot Premier and has been almost directly across the lake from us since it was new. It’s in good shape and I should be able to find time to pick it up in two weeks and get it launched and to our dock. I rolled in the 70 feet of dock myself; it’s something I still can do. (Taking it out is another matter: there is a ridge pushed up by the ice and John, my son, has had to help me the past three seasons.) I was at the cabin today and adjust the ramp to the dock, brought down a ladder to facilitate getting to the dock from the water (instead of having to wade to the shore to get on the dock) and then I mowed the beach and our 2 acres. That meant I never got to some other tasks like taking out some baby trees growing in the wrong places, ensuring no leaks in the fifth wheel roof,  and gathering things like anchors and dock lines from the Glasspar Sedan that will go on the pontoon.

Tonight I timed the reading of “Shall We Dance?” (20 minutes) that I’ll read next week for WPCA.  think I’ll also record “Sinner Ella”, the latest mangled fairy tale.