No Cute Title

Tonight’s WPCA-FM story reading was a “mangled” fairy tale, Sinner Ella. I must confess: I found myself chuckling at Ella’s various transgressions, even though a few people might be offended by my lampooning of some church practices. Every fourth story in my e-book collections is a “mangled” fairy tale: Jack and the Bean Sprouts, Hansel and Gertie, The Many Trials, Little Red Hoodie, Snow Job and the Four Dwarfs–you get the idea. I’ve been asked where the ideas for these stories come from and the only answer I can offer is that I used to turn fairy tales on their heads when I told stories to my children when they were small. I mean, have you heard about the three little pigs that didn’t brush their teeth? (Find the teaching lesson in there, will you?)

For those of you asking, my brother Guy remains in what is mostly a coma in Los Angeles after a horrific automobile accident. There has been little progress in terms of improvement. I’d love to show him pictures of the house we grew up in and the changes that were made to the place–some good, some not so good. The house just sold for almost $1.5 million. It was a modest smaller house in an upscale Hollywood neighborhood, a smart buy for my parents, a young couple looking to move up in the world after WWII. My “baby”brother Greg sent me the link to the Zillow listing.

The Wolf Creek United Methodist Church that I pastor hosted its annual traditional Memorial Day lunch for the many people observing the day and its ceremonies at the cemetery next door to the church. Per usual, there were plenty of volunteers to handle the many hungry. This is a small congregation with wonderful people.

I’ve been working to sell our fifth wheel trailer. The unit carries with it many good memories, but the truck to tow it is gone and we are unlikely to travel elsewhere to enjoy the trees, lake and beauty we have right here at home. We have been getting lots of inquiries but it will take a special person to correct the few things that need to be done to make the trailer pristine again.  My grandson, Hans, helped me put in our dock two weeks ago. He’s 16 and eager. I enjoyed both the physical help and the camaraderie. We have had rain, including three inches in just a few hours, so everything is green, daffodils are done, as are the trilliums, tulips and lilies are up, the lilacs are just about done, and the long stretch of iris on the south border is just beginning to flower. The mosquitos have been in bloom, too. I’ve read that recent dry seasons have meant that the mosquitos have been able to hibernate, so to speak, and have emerged with the wet weather and late Spring this year.

I’ve been typing up Marina’s story of Gretel, her first Seeing Eye Dog. It’s told from Gretel’s point of view and in her voice. I think it’s quite good. We will leave it to Andy, Gretel’s successor, to tell the story of Gretel’s tick-borne illness.

My books have been selling lately, mostly in the retail shops and through Barnes & Noble Booksellers. When I’ve offered free books on Amazon Kindle, they’ve been snapped up quickly. (Those offers usually have just a five day window.) Some people will do anything to save $3.99. I’ll let you know about in person readings that are supposed to happen yet this summer, including one last-minute reading in Osceola for the Osceola Seniors. That’s tomorrow–maybe.

Maybe, Just Maybe, Spring is Springing?

With sun and temps in the high 50’s today, I was able to get outside and tend to some things that needed attention after a tough Winter. I’m thinking of taking tarps off outdoor furniture, filling the deep gouges dug by the LP gas truck when it foundered in my driveway, fixing the “dingers” in our several wind chimes, bailing water from the tub surrounding the solar system batteries, measuring for the wooden frame I need to build to shore up the small shed whose roof was flattened by the weight of this season’s heavy snow–and the list went on.

Tonight’s WPCA-FM story reading was A Cabbie’s Sunday Morning Soap Opera, a tale in which a cab driver’s imagination runs wild when an enigmatic statement made while he picked up his fare rolls around in his head and there is no radio reception to distract his thoughts. I think the story is better read than heard because it’s really three stories in one and the reader may want to go back a page or two to make sure he/she is tracking the plot. Also, one of the stories the cab driver imagines treads close to being an adult story; grown-ups may not want children’ ears to take it in. The story is found in my e-book collection, Yes, More Break Time Stories and in the paperback, The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories. The paperback is available through and Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

Su Leslie, the Librarian at St.Crox Falls Public Library, tells me I will be scheduled to read there sometime in May or June, probably on a Thursday night. I have a soft spot in my heart for the St.Croix Falls Library: Sarah Adams, the then-Librarian, had me read there in 2018. It was the first of my library readings. Others that followed included Luck, Balsam Lake, Milltown, and White Bear Lake, Minnesota, as well as readings for groups, several readings at what was The Northern Lakes Center for the Arts, a fund raiser for resurrecting the old movie theater in Amery to turn it into a live entertainment venue, a reading at Osceola’s Art Barn, and two fund raiser readings (with LaMoine MacLaughlin) for St.Croix Festival Theater. I usually read a serious story and finish to laughter with one of the “mangled” fairy tales.

Wolf Creek United Methodist Church has a regular organist! Deb Lind Schmitz, a retired Presbyterian minister, who twice pastored United Methodist congregations, is also a skilled musician and is eager to keep her skills sharp by helping us in worship. She is an answer to prayer and a blessing to me. It’s nice to have someone working with you who understands the pastoral role as well. When Deb is unable to join us, we have been blessed by Cheryl Hustad stepping in. Cheryl is the president of the Osceola Seniors and my successor in that office. Like Deb, she is another supposedly “retired” person since she works consistently as a pharmacist. Shawn Gudmunsen also played for us. He is St.Croix Falls High School’s choral director and teacher, lives close by the church, and is one of the world’s generous, ebullient people. I see all of this as an answer to prayer in the light of the scarcity of people able and willing to play for church services. There are very few of them and every church seems to be looking. I thank the Lord.

We had the pleasure of having daughter Alice with us for a few hours last weekend. She had a show out in Delano, Minnesota and camped overnight with us after attending her 35th Unity High School class reunion. It was one of those brief-but-good visits: in the morning, I headed off to church, her sister, Hannah, came over to spend some moments with her sister, and then Alice zipped off to the airport to return to Ohio, home, husband and children.

My brother, Guy, remains hospitalized on life support in Los Angeles. This has gone on since September 6th. I speak with his caretakers every so often; improvement has been slow. We are in prayer, also, for my sister-in-law, Bunny Vreeland, who is fighting back against collapsed and collapsing lungs, the result of cancer. For situations like these two, I believe the story isn’t finished yet. An old Bishop told me long ago, “Always give God the last chance.”

A Shoutout

I thought I’d give some attention to local outlets that are handling my books. The first one on board was the Polk County Information Center, which since its inception hosts an annual 25,000 visitors who check in to see how to spend their time and money in Polk County. Colleen and her staff do a very nice job; just listen in sometime as they greet and help people who come through the doors.

Jackie is who’s left of the volunteers who manned the stand-alone gift shop at St.Croix Regional Medical Center, now re-named St.Croix Health. The gift shop has been moved to the pharmacies at each of the Clinics and the Medical Center in St.Croix Falls. The original thought was that people experiencing a hospital stay and their friends/families might get a lift out of reading Some Mangled Fairy Tales. That’s still a good idea.

Jane Mackie owns the Coming Home shop in downtown Osceola. She has created a bright, eye-candy store with a variety of women’ clothing items, some craft pieces–and my fairy tale books. It’s one of those places that delights your senses the moment you enter the door. I’ve experienced Jane as an encourager, which befits a former teacher.

New to retailing my books is Pure and Simple. Located on Highway 8 just east of the roundabout to Amery, Pure and Simple features good food and an eclectic array of things to whet the pocketbook. Wild rice? Got it! Organic flours and special products? Got them! Humorous signs and local crafts? Got them! Mark’s fairy tales? Got ’em now!

All four of my paperback books are available through The Second Gathering  of The Break Time stories, Some Mangled Fairy Tales, and Six Short Stories are available through and Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

Blew Right By Me

I usually try to catch the WPCA-FM broadcast of my stories on the first Tuesday night of each month, but tonight it blew by me. It’s Marina’s birthday and we had fun happening. In fact, the past several days have had plenty of fun, what with family gatherings, musical jamming, and lots of laughter. Saturday, we enjoyed time with daughter Hannah’s family over in Dresser, which is about 40 minutes from our place. Sunday saw daughter Britta and her husband Mark here, along with a surprise: granddaughter Kaija and her fiancé Forrest Major. Forrest will be a great addition to our family: he’s bright and a very good musician to boot, so we had plenty of guitar music and a bit of drumming and clapping going on. Monday was recuperation day, shopping, car repair, and a good time spent by me with two guys in Osceola’s Senior Center’s chat group. Today it was phone calls from daughter Alice and son John, along with emails from grandchildren and more calls from friends. Aaron did up a very fine dinner with pork loin, asparagus and potatoes, in addition to whipping up good pancakes for breakfast. And, hey, no snow shoveling today!!!

My books are selling, but slowly, per usual. Anyone hankering to get rich by writing your way to it needs to modify expectations. As I’ve said, it’s one thing to write; it’s another thing to write and get published; and yet another thing to write, get published and get paid for it.

Wolf Creek UMC is limping along with occasional musicians at the keyboard. I wrote the Easter bulletin with the options of spoken words or hymns, depending on whether or not we have a musician. At this writing, we do not have a musician. I did 9 years with CD’s for music as a chaplain at Good Samaritan Care Center and found them restrictive and generally “blah”. One congregant proposes that we sing hymns we all know a capella. Another possibility is that I work to recall all the verses of praise choruses I led close to 40 years ago and employ them with my guitar. That approach would change the entire character and form of the Sunday service the WCR congregation knows. We may very have a mix of all of the above. Stay tuned. (Pun intended.)

Son Aaron has been in from Portugal and he did yeoman work shoveling heavy wet snow last week. That helped plenty after I’d injured myself, probably by piling snow into the 8+foot piles off our deck. I am grateful. He is lobbying hard for us to move; I’m too old for physical stuff, he says. (Me: “Oh,yeah?”)

I’m sorta tuned  into the election results tonight for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race. I’ve got to say that Wisconsin’s politics are shameful, especially in terms of the gerrymandering we experience. We are a state pretty well divided, politically, and we should be able to demonstrate the outcomes from that in our electoral results. Right now, the votes of many people are rendered void by the voting structure of the State. Honest people on both sides of the issue know that’s not how self-governance should operate.

We are into April now and the wood stove still works to take off the chill downstairs. I don’t mind the work involved with a wood stove. I can use the exercise and the old saying is true: wood warms you twice: once, when you chop and split it and again when you haul it and burn it. So let’s raise a toast to being warm and toasty!

Life Is A Series Of Changes

Tonight’s WPCA-FM story broadcast was The Eye Of The Beholder, a tale of several artists with talent and the hidden artistic purpose of one of them. Of course, I know the story’s outcome but it seemed to me that the mystery could be figured out without much trouble. Give the story a read and see if you reach the same conclusion as the story’s end. (You’ll find the story in the paperback book, The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories and online in the story collection Four More Break Time Stories (available on The paperback book is available through and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

My latest paperback story collection, Six Short Stories, is available now through and Barnes & Noble Booksellers. If you think a geezer can’t get excited about things, you just don’t know your geezers! I’m excited about this latest book. The stories include a hometown hero with some problems, a biker with even greater problems, and a tale of the proverbial Hollywood casting couch. Then, there’s a story about a priest who hungers for real justice, a sculptor pushed into success by a strong ally, and the mangled fairy tale is Snow Job and the Four Dwarfs.

At Wolf Creek United Methodist Church we are losing our long-time organist, who’s off to a larger congregation with a more sensible service time–and probably a lot more money than we pay. Musicians for church are near-impossible to find these days; everybody’s looking. I have arranged coverage for three of our coming Sundays but April has five Sundays and three of them are yet to be filled. We shall see. I’m hoping the congregation is praying as fervently as I am that we can field the right person.

As I’ve written, we have had lots of snow and too much ice this Winter, so–somehow–in dealing with that, I figure, I managed to injure myself. X-rays show no broken ribs or cracked hip, but prone on my back in bed and stretching high is agonizingly painful. The closest I can compare the pain is to a broken finger I experienced while low crawling in Army Basic Training. The doctors figure I yanked muscles and prescribe heat packs and Ibuprofin.

WPCA-FM’s broadcasts of my stories happen on the first Tuesday night of each month. For several years now the broadcast time has been 7:00 p.m. but beginning in April the time will move to 7:30 p.m. As I’ve said, I am grateful to Bob Zenk and LuAnn at WPCA for sharing my stories on the air; it is a privilege few authors enjoy. (And if the truth be known, some of those stories are read aloud quite well.)

Updating my brother Guy’s condition: he has oxygen during the daytime (that means his lungs are working) and life support at night. He is confused but does understand instructions from his nurses. He can get out a few words with a speaking device but cannot hold a real conversation. That’s not great progress since our last update but as my elder son Aaron says, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

Book Number Four!

I’m holding in left hand the proof copy of my latest paperback book, Six Short Stories. I’ve had some tweaking to do, mostly having to do with type size and spacing between stories, but I think I’ve licked those challenges. It’s mid-afternoon now and doing the adjustments has taken several hours, which for a luddite like me is probably very normal. I have to say that having this latest story collection is exciting and I’m prepared to affirm that even geezers can get excited about things. The books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble (although B&N has the wrong cover picture over my title–working to get them to correct that). My Some Mangled Fairy Tales and The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories are available at the same outlets (with the proper pictures) as well as locally at St.Croix Health’s pharmacy/gift stores, the Polk County Information Center, and Osceola’s Coming Home Shop. People can mug me on the street for a copy; I usually carry some with me.

Just prior to Valentine’s Day, LaMoine MacLaughlin and I read love poems to a small audience at the Northern Lakes School for the Arts in Amery. Reading Shakespeare again brought back fond memories for me of doing Shakespeare as a teenager (took first place in a competition between high schools as part of a quartet doing a scene from The Tempest). Of that group, David Giler went on to become a very successful screen writer; Joel Rosenberg became a university professor and Jewish poet; and I don’t know what happened to Shelly Rubin. You know some of what happened to me.

Since my last post, my brother, Guy, is able to breathe with oxygen during the day–that means his lungs are working–but is on the ventilator at night. He can communicate a bit with a voice box but his stepson says he is still confused. That does seem like progress.

I don’t get much real “down time” but last week I took a day off from Sunday preaching at Wolf Creek United Methodist Church and I was able to sit and enjoy the last few pages of Lois Joy Hofmann’s trilogy about the circumnavigation she and her husband, Gunter, completed a few years ago. Her books are lavish with fine photography and the intricacies of what it takes to undertake long sea journeys and to spend time ashore in primitive and sophisticated places. Lois’ three books have won top awards in travel categories out in San Diego, where they flee to from our Winter weather.

After last week’s break from “work”, this Sunday I’m doing two churches, Wolf Creek and filling in over in Taylors Falls United Methodist Church. Both churches are doing ashes this coming Sunday for Ash Wednesday. As it turned out, we got walloped by heavy snow, high winds, and low temperatures the past few days so most activities, including most churches, were called off. As I look out my office window, the falling snow is slowing down here so I should be able to get outside with the snow shovel and the snow blower and clear a path–at least–to the plowed road.

We Have An Odd Thaw

What a delight to take a walk today around mid-day without wearing a hat! The sun is shining, the sky is brilliantly blue and there is no wind, so it’s a delightful day. We have few neighbors, so it is very quiet and the animal tracks are vivid in the small amount of fresh snow from yesterday. Andy, Marina’s Seeing Eye Dog, ignores the animal tracks and does the work he is supposed to do. What a great animal helper he is!

Last night’s WPCA-FM story broadcast was Shall We Dance, the saga of a flamenco dance troupe performing in Los Angeles. You’ll find that story in the ebook collection Yes, More Break Time Stories and in the paperback The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories. I heard the story reading several months ago (I never know which story the station will broadcast) and at that time I thought the Spanish words made it read more easily than heard; but I’ve changed my mind. The Spanish words are interpreted and the story flows well, capturing, as one review said, the essence of duende, the gypsy pain and depth of feeling found in flamenco song, music and dance. I am grateful for my exposure while young to a wide variety of flamenco and Spanish dance and guitar artists, as well as the opportunity to explore the genre myself.

My brother, Guy, remains on life support in Los Angeles, where he has been moved from an intensive care hospital in Westminster to the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. It is difficult to know what to pray for, so praying in tongues (a prayer language) is best.

This morning I completed our annual statistical reports for Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. Once again, the authorities have presented us with a new system to learn and changes in computer stuff usually leave me frustrated. This time, once I got into the system (which took almost an hour of fussing around and getting advice from our excellent District and Conference Assistants) things went fairly quickly.

I have six stories lined up for my next paperback that will be called Six Short Stories. The next step: ship (upload) them to Amazon for production. I have the cover design from my last ebook collection, from which some stories will be included in the paperback. I had the occasion at church sign a copy of Some Mangled Fairy Tales, bought by the reader through Barnes & Noble. I have a call in this morning to B&N to find out how I get paid when people order my books through them. Yes, it is nice to be paid! I’ve always said that it’s nice to write, even nicer to be published, and even much nicer to write, be published, and then get paid for it. When that book is on its way, I’ll wait for the next inspiration. Those usually come between 3 and 5 a.m., dialogue and all.

Let It Snow-And Forget About Trying To Stop It

Yesterday, it took several hours to get home in whiteout conditions. Frankly, it was the worst travel challenge I’ve had in my 54 years in the Midwest. The windshield wipers just couldn’t keep up and I couldn’t see the road. Things got easier just after we hit Milltown, when the snow slowed down some. Plows had gone through the other direction and I was able to keep the drivers side wheels in part of what had been plowed so at least I could track some of where the road should be, but when headlights came from the opposite direction, the game changed and I could only pray to avoid heading into the ditch. I don’t mind challenges, but this one was a bit much. So today will be spent doing lots of snow shoveling.

Last night’s WPCA-FM story broadcast was a new story, “We Gotta Help Bomber!”, which tells of a high school football hero trapped” in town by his reputation and how, when he hits retirement age, his friends feel they need to help him when his years of piddling jobs leave him with a too-small retirement income. It’s a small town story of people struggling when larger outside forces leave them at a disadvantage. I’ve read the story a couple of times now and listeners have found it to be powerful. I plan to add it to the latest ebook stories and make it part of the next paperback, which probably will be titled Some Short Stories or Five Short Stories. And did I tell you that I’ve discovered that Barnes & Noble is selling the Some Mangled Fairy Tales book? An outfit in Ghana also is selling it for about $6 more than you can buy it through Amazon or B&N. For now, you order the book through Barnes & Noble online, but I am hoping to get paperback copies to the stores in Maplewood and other stores in the Twin Cities and perhaps Duluth.

Christmas Eve with Wolf Creek was a very nice evening candlelight service. We began at 4 p.m. and, of course it was dark by the time our service ended, so the candlelight ending was just right. We had a good attendance, with many people I’ve never seen before. How they found out about us I was unable to discover. Wolf Creek people put up a gorgeous Christmas tree and all the additional Christmas decorations make things look very festive. Wolf Creek has added some very good scripture readers and that enhances our worship services. Attendance has been up, too.

My brother, Guy, still is on life support out in California after a horrific auto accident back on September 6th.


So shovel some more snow!

In past posts I’ve mentioned a story that has been stalled for some time. I’ve had the beginning and the ending but my characters have had to tell me what happens in the middle. Maybe it’s inspiration from shoveling about 8 inches of new snow last week but the next thing happening in this story is the protagonist will be plowing snow and doing it for free, which his morning coffee buddies think is pretty stupid on his part. We shall see how I dig myself out of this development.

Meanwhile, it’s Tuesday night, the first such Tuesday of the month, and the regularly scheduled story reading on WPCA-FM has been missed again. This happens a couple of times a year: someone forgets to “drop in” the story time. I never know which story they will broadcast and while I rationalize that I can’t complain because I’m not paying for the airtime, I can’t describe how disappointed I feel. I hear often enough that people think my stories are good–some people say they are very good–but I wish there were some way to give them wider distribution. The COVID saga put the kibosh on public readings for two years and only now are those opportunities resurfacing, with a reading scheduled for December 17th in Amery, Wisconsin and more discussions with St.Croix Festival Theater about doing a third fundraising reading for them. When there is some momentum, it’s easier to program more readings.

My next younger brother, Guy, has been in a “state of unconsciousness”, which is not technically a coma, since September 6th. This is the result of a horrific auto accident in California. Now, however, he is showing signs of reawakening and can respond to questions and even talk a little with the aid of a voice box. Many prayers have been offered for Guy, who remains in an ICU specialty hospital.

Didn’t we just do Christmas? The season is full upon us and Wolf Creek United Methodist Church has its gorgeous Christmas tree installed while we progress through the Advent season by lighting an Advent candle each week. We will have a Christmas Eve service and next week the Council will decide if we will have a Christmas Day service the next morning. I preach most of the time without notes, so I don’t have a file of old sermons that I can pull out and update. That means that each week I grapple with the Lectionary readings to try to pull out something of value for the people who take the time to show up to listen to what I have to share. I try to go beyond the easy approaches and the trite, always with a “so what?” people can take home. We are on You Tube (Wolf Creek United Methodist Church services) and have a following that seems to range from four people to fourteen and more. I don’t know who they are. However, the church has not been receiving angry letters from those watching; they haven’t been sending cash either. (When I was in college I remember TV’s Soupy Sales getting suspended for telling little kids to go over to where Dad is snoozing on the couch, find his wallet, take out the money and send it along to good old Soupy. I don’t think I’ll copy that idea.)

The wood stove needs another log just now, so this will end. If you read this before Christmas and New Years, thanks for doing so and I wish you the very best that Christmas can bring and a very, very fine 2023!

Who ARE These People?

Who are these people? That’s the question asked by the passe actor in tonight’s WPCA-FM broadcast of my short story, Eleven Oakridge Lane. He was talking about the latest crop of actors who’d arrived without the backing of the old studio system. Over the years he had done it all: action films, romantic comedies, multiple wives, lavish get-togethers at his mansion, bevy upon bevy of starlets riding in his yellow Jaguar XKE and lounging by his tennis court while his photographer friend from childhood watched it all. It’s a story with a nice “build” and an ironic ending. You can find it online or in The Second Gathering Of The Break Time Stories paperback.

Meanwhile, there are some family happenings of note since I posted last. First, my younger brother, Guy, has been in what they are calling a “state of unconsciousness”, which is not a coma, since October 6th, the result of a horrific car crash in California. In the last few days he has shown signs of possibly waking up. If he can wake up, it will be because bleeding has stopped at the base of his brain stem. Meanwhile, he is in a special ICU hospital in the Costa Mesa area. In early October our kids had a sibling get-together at our place here on Bone Lake. It was a greatly enjoyable and noisy time together. Aaron had come from Portugal and Alice flew up from Ohio for the occasion. October 14th Marina and I had to let Gretel, Marina’s first Seeing Eye Dog, move into the next chapter of her life. She’d had a stroke, which took her sight and some bladder control. The vet told us that Gretel also had a mass on her spleen and her heartbeat was very erratic. At age 14 1/2, it was time; keeping her with us for a few more days or weeks would have been selfishness on our part. The vet had Andy, Marina’s second Seeing Eye Dog, come into the room so he might understand where Gretel had gone and what happened to her. Marina has had a hard time with this; Gretel had been her eyes and constant companion since 2010. Gretel was highly intelligent, very intuitive, and had a lovely personality. I miss her, too. Her ashes are in the back area of our property not far from the pond she liked to visit.

Wolf Creek United Methodist Church has been picking up more people at its Sunday services. We also have viewers of our services on You Tube, where every time I mess up something it’s there for the world to see–forever. I just don’t know who those followers are or where they are located. The congregation fed oodles of people who stopped by during the annual River Road Ramble. The congregation’s next community event coming up is the annual Chili Supper, held for hunters and anyone else the opening night of Wisconsin’s deer season. That happens the first Saturday night of Thanksgiving week, known around here as “Holy Week”. Blaze orange is the uniform for the week and we pray each year for safe hunting. Right now our weather has been warm–into the low 70’s is forecast for tomorrow and not freezing at night. That stretches my firewood supply. I may be able to get out and cut and split some more firewood tomorrow.

If you are a praying person, I and my family would appreciate your prayers for my brother, Guy. Thanks so much–and bless you for that!