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!


Falling for it

The leaves on my trees take the seasonal word “Fall” as a command, and today they are drifting groundward and swirling as the cool breeze gives them incentive. I’ve started the wood stove; we’ve hit today’s high temperature already and it’s not eleven a.m. The pontoon and dock get hauled in on Monday and I have some things to do with them before the crew comes. Meanwhile, two of our adult children still are here following yesterday’s family reunion (which was a fine and fun occasion) and I have airport runs to make.

A few years ago, when I was serving as a nursing home chaplain, I ran a chat group for the nursing home residents. One day I asked the group which fairy tale was their favorite when growing up. The answer: Jack and the Bean Stalk. Of course, that had to become Jack and the Bean Sprouts as a “mangled” fairy tale and that was the reading this month on WPCA-FM’s broadcast of my story readings. Two of my kids listened to the broadcast and their laughs came at the appropriate times. As you know, that tale can be found in the Some Mangled Fairy Tales paperback and in The First Gathering Of The Break Time Stories paperback. As an ebook, you’ll find it in Four More Break Time Stories.

Officially, as I write this, I’m on a two week “vacation” from duties at Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. Two of our capable members are taking Sunday services, which I think makes our congregation stronger than if I were to invite in a guest preacher. One of the challenges for a pastor is to entice people into a deeper walk with our Lord, and one of the ways that can be done is to have people deal seriously with our scriptures and their messages. Conducting services and preaching will do that. Meanwhile, we still have many prayer concerns, most of which deal with the need for physical and mental healing. Marina and I attended a memorial last weekend for a good friend who died following a stroke at age 90. Her husband, my favorite Renaissance Man, at age 94 continues to reside in his historical home with the aid of his children. Another new friend of the congregation is in his last week at Mayo Clinic, where they are optimistic about being able to knock back his cancer.

My story writing has been stalled these past few weeks. I have a story begun, with the beginning and the end in mind and partially written, but the characters will have to tell me what happens to them in between. We shall see. Meanwhile, the busy-ness of daily life sidelines being able to sit and complete this story. That may be just as well, since, sometimes, a story just needs to “jell” awhile until it comes together.

Fall Has Fallen–Maybe

So, yes, some leaves are turning, kids are back to school, the mornings are darker and the evenings come earlier, and the cabin people tell me they expect to be up here a few more times before they pack up everything for the Winter season. Docks will come in, boats will be pulled, and the mowers will be put to sleep until Spring.

Tonight’s WPCA-FM story reading was The Driveway, a tale about a young woman who tries to overcome the fear of isolation in the country that is enhanced by her icy, tricky to navigate, quarter mile long, and steep driveway that is a potential obstacle to reaching the County road and civilization. On top of it, she’s pregnant, a condition that worries her mother. The story reads well. There is tension as to the outcome and one finds himself/herself rooting for the young woman to succeed. Does she? And if she does, how does she? (Gotta read the story to find out!)  You can find The Driveway  in The First Gathering of the Breaktime Stories and in Four Break Time Stories (a Kindle ebook).

On other fronts, I’ve been asked to fill in for Pastor Adam Woods at Parkview United Methodist Church in Turtle Lake as he takes paternal leave for several Sundays in early 2023. I was privileged to be with that congregation for 4 1/2 months in 2020. We were able to meet in person for several Sundays but then reverted to Zoom services. Wolf Creek has seen an increase in in-person attendance and has received two new members, as well as 5 new “friends” this year so far. That may seem small to you, but considering that Wolf Creek has no town surrounding it–the high point of its population was back in logging days when there were 1,500 residents–we are holding our own and doing even a bit better. This is in a time when people who went to church out of habit got out of the habit during two years of COVID and didn’t return. Every congregation seems to be experiencing the same thing On top of it for Wolf Creek UMC, for several reasons, our 8:15 a.m. service time makes it difficult for some people to be able to come to church.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been insulating the exposed concrete blocks in The Mexican Room. On top of the insulation, I’ve been using tongue-in-groove oak flooring I’ve had in my shed for two years after I was able to “liberate” it from Luck Lumber before that business closed. The job looks great, if I don’t say so myself, and I’m a guy whose carpentry work always looks like I did it, so this is a notch above. Marina and I did get the pontoon out on the lake over the Labor Day weekend. We headed down the coast to visit some of our neighbors when we lived on the other side of the lake. Sadly, Kay, their family matriarch, died last month. She was an unusual person who knew nature: which birds were making that call, what that plant was, who that animal was and why it acted the way it did. She enjoyed chipmunks and called them her “chippies”. She moved into Senior living from the custom house she and her husband had built in Roseville and things went downhill from there. Out of all the people we knew, when Marina had surgery some years ago, Kay was the only person to visit her in the hospital. We miss Kay already.

Son Aaron comes from Portugal the end of this month and he has a ready list of projects he expects me to tackle. He has gotten proficient at flamenco guitar in the past couple of years, so I’d better develop some callouses again quickly because he’ll  want to “jam”. Ole!

One grandson is off to his freshman year at St.Olaf College while another is traveling in Germany and to Prague with his wife as I write this. Britta, Daughter #1 heads to Montana this week to visit a long-time friend. Alice, Kid #3, who is the subject of a Voice of America Beyond Borders interview the Osceola Seniors will view tomorrow, will hit town to visit while her brother is here. Son John and his family finally got tired of getting soaked while tent camping and bought a trailer. I’m assuming this will supplant the boat on the St.Croix River.

Shall We Dance?

Last night’s story broadcast on WPCA-FM was “Shall We Dance?” an inside look at the dynamics of a flamenco dance troupe performing at Los Angeles’ Wilshire Ebell Theater. I think the story reads better than hearing it. Reading the words on paper seems to capture better the “duende”, the deep anguish of the gypsy soul that’s expressed through flamenco music and dance. Reading the written word makes it easier to understand the translated Spanish (found in parentheses in print) that are more difficult to catch when hearing a reader read. As always, though, I am grateful to WPCA-FM for broadcasting my story readings. It’s a privilege few writers enjoy.

I do have another story rolling around in my head but I’m not able to put it onto a page yet. I have the beginning and the ending but I have no inkling of what will happen in the middle. Usually, how I solve that is to begin and my characters will tell me where to go next. Meanwhile, doing something akin to a writer sharpening pencils instead of writing, I have been putting down my early years on paper.  This is at the urging of Britta, my eldest daughter, and Marina, my wife. I found my younger kids had no idea I used to sing in coffee houses back when there were coffee houses and I had more of a voice. There are many things they just don’t know and eventually I won’t be here to answer their and their childrens’ questions.

Wolf Creek United Methodist Church is recovering nicely after we lost Debra Rush to an untimely heart attack. She was the person who got us on You Tube and Facebook and was able to use our electronic resources well. Her brother Mike has stepped in and between Mike, Barb Davidsavor and Tracy Mattson we not only have been able to continue on You Tube, but now our Sunday service is available in a single viewing, rather than being split into two segments. There used to be a falling off of viewership between segment one and segment two and since that happened during my sermon, I figured it was the equivalent of nodding off in church during the sermon. As it is, we serve coffee prior to our service and I’ve wondered if that is some kind of insurance against falling asleep during the sermon. Tomatoes are in season now and by the time some are beyond ripe I may have a better sense of this.

Both the rabbits and our local doe have been bold this season, enjoying our yard to the fullest. I do wish they could help my gardening, though; most of what I do as “gardening” is digging out volunteer plants and trees. Our wild raspberries have been prolific this year but the recent heat dried out most of them and the doe took her share, too. Now, if only I could coax some of the eagles that circle overhead to feast on some of our chipmunks. . . .