Reading Tonight

Hola! Tonight I’m reading “Holding The Fort”, a story from the paperback “The Second Gathering of the Break Time Stories”, which includes it from the ebook titled “Four More Break Time Stories”. The story takes place in Fort Thomas, Arizona and was written long before Black Lives Matter and Every Life Matters became common phraseology. Last Tuesday night WPCA-FM broadcast my reading of “Number Eleven Oakwood Lane”, a story also included in the two books mentioned above. Listening to the broadcast, even if I were not the author, I’d still say that Oakwood is a ┬ádamn good story. I think “Holding” is, too, and tonight should verify that. What with the Virus, we’ll see if we have much of an audience at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. On the other hand, our news releases said there is plenty of room for social distancing.

Also, I have some copies of the newest paperback, “Some Mangled Fairy Tales”. I’m pleased; technically, it is the best of the three paperbacks, in terms of mistakes caught, formatting and appearance. I’ve sent out some copies to be reviewed and I’m hoping that the reviews match the giggles and guffaws those stories have received wherever I’ve read them. Today, with all that is going on and the stress people are feeling, we can use some laughter and I’m hoping that those stories can offer some relief and a bit of light-heartedness.

Ta Da!

So now the “mangled” fairy tales are published, both in paperback and on kindle! The Kindle book goes for $2.99; you can get the the paperback for $10 from Amazon. I’m planning to send the book to be reviewed by several reviewers, as I’m pretty confident about it because of the consistent laughter and constant giggles whenever I’ve read those stories in public. The title for both the paperback and the kindle book is “Some Mangled Fairy Tales”. The stories: Little Red Hoodie, Jack and the Bean Sprouts, The Many Trials, Hansel and Gertie, Sinner Ella, and Snow Job and the Four Dwarfs.

Hot & Heavy!

The end of June and the entre of July have been hot and steamy. I’ve been a bit steamy, too: the struggle with trying to get the six “mangled” fairy tales into their own paperback has not been going smoothly. The book’s margins just won’t obey! When I have another spasm of patience I’ll go at it again.

Meanwhile, Parkview and I have finished our course together. For me, it has been a very fine experience, even with having to do services for most of our tenure via Zoom. Parkview is a fine congregation with many people of faith and great potential, even with the changes wrought in our society. I pray good things for them. And at Wolf Creek we are trying to figure out how to expand our tent with virtual reach-outs. The church building is down in the hollow of Wolf Creek and cellular phone service is skimpy–but we are working on it.

Saturday, August 8th, I will be reading two stories at the Northern Lakes Center for the Arts. The event time is 7:30 p.m.

Lotsa stuff going on!

Since our last get-together, there has been plenty to talk about. Wolf Creek United Methodist Church had planned an earlier-than-recommended re-opening, but ultimately I was uncomfortable with that schedule and decided to postpone re-opening until (probably) June 14th. That’s still a week earlier than the Wisconsin Conference recommends. We did have a plan that we will follow with good safety provisions. Six of the people who have been with us on Zoom are unlikely to return in person early and I suspect we all will be wearing masks for some time to come. As of today, Polk County has jumped to 22 recorded virus cases with still a single death. Any Memorial Day spike should show itself soon.

Some of you know that when we bought our place here on Bone Lake we bought–unknowingly–into a lawsuit over property rights down at the shared beach. That case has cost each of us plenty in legal fees and now has gone to an appeal. There has been plenty of stress over this for me and not just financial: we have had to draw an end to our participation in legal matters, while some neighbors have decided to continue. Up until now, we have supported the effort, both in person and financially, and I hope those who continue the fight will recognize that.

On top of these items, I see a family member apparently committed to follow her mother’s example of self-suicide by lifestyle choices. It makes me angry. Intellectually, I know that, as Marina’s office poster said, “People don’t change because they see the light; they change when they feel the heat.” This is a prayer focus for me.

My 4 1/2 months pastoring Parkview United Methodist Church in Turtle Lake has been frustrating because it really can’t be done with justice at 1/4 time but also the lockdown has limited me to phone calls and our Zoom get-togethers. As my pastor colleagues will attest, pastoring under lockdown conditions has resulted in more work, rather than less, and I’ve found that to be true working with two congregations, even 1/4 time each. (Quarter time is what you’re paid for.) I have come to know some fine people at Parkview, people of strong faith who are willing to share it and show it through their works. I would have loved to have pastored Parkview in the years prior to my retirement. Their new pastor, Adam Woods, looks like a very good appointment; I pray that things go very, very well for him and his family and the Parkview congregation.

As you will note elsewhere, WPCA-FM will begin re-runs of my story readings in July. We have recorded 25 stories thus far and I am grateful to the station (Bob and LuAnn Zank, especially) for giving me an opportunity few writers ever get. The fact that the station streams online means that anyone anywhere with the internet can listen. What fun!

Zoom In

The churches have been meeting via Zoom. Being the superb “techie” that I am, many services have had a ragged start because I seem to have trouble getting things going. I can’t remember how I got us going the last time, so sometimes I’m lucky and other times we are a few minutes into our allotted time before I can admit anyone at all. I’ll like things better when all I’ll need is someplace to stand in order to sock it to the faithful. I miss the sound of good singing; on Zoom, everyone is out of sync.

On other fronts, my office project is just about finished, with some sheet rocking to do around one of the windows and a closet to build. I’ve been laying bricks for a patio outside the lower level door and after about 400 bricks hauled here, loaded and unloaded by yours truly, I’m about half finished. I’d like to get that project done because there are trees to cut up and split for Winter’s firewood. The dock got in last weekend. This is the first year I’ve not done it myself but I figured it’s OK to make a concession to age. Marina reminds me: “Remember, Mark, you’re not 75 anymore!” The pontoon needs the tilt motor replaced and should be delivered sometime soon–unless the motor comes from China.

Last night WPCA broadcast my reading of “The Driveway”, which is the second story in my first collection, “Four Break Time Stories”. It sounded good, with some suspense building and even the authentic capturing of pregnancy and its fears. Next month I’m guessing the station will broadcast–and stream– “Conversations In Absentia”, a tale dealing with whether suicide is heroic or cowardly and how four guys wrestle with that question. The boat in the story? Yes, it’s modeled on the “Dilly IV”, a cabin cruiser I had half a century ago that I didn’t know I couldn’t afford.

The lockdown has not disrupted our routine much, save for not getting Marina to Osceola twice a week to swim. That change has meant I’ve had more time here to do what needs doing. I’m happier with the progress. Oh, today’s excitement was a call from one of our banks querying about a check that is fraudulent. I wrote it last August to the Hollywood High School Alumni Association. It was made out for $25 for dues. May 1st someone cashed it for $2,500. I admit, the signature is better looking than mine, but the bank caught it and tomorrow I trek over to the Polk County Sheriff to give them the information from the bank. I hope they catch the gal (it’s made out to a female) who did the con. In any event, the check would have bounced, as I rarely have that much money unspent. Meanwhile, Marina and I wear our masks when out in public, sanitize our hands and wash them a lot, and I try not to pick my nose.

All Things New

Both Wolf Creek United Methodist Church and Parkview United Methodist Church have been conducting our Sunday services via Zoom. It does connect many of us, but we miss those people who are not online and can’t access their church family that way. I miss the music, too. But this, too, shall pass and I think all of us look forward to being able to see each other in person again. Personally, I intend to do more focus on a single item in the day’s scriptures, rather than the gloss over all the Bible selections that are read. I sense it’s a little “much” for people when I slide from one point of emphasis to another to another; not much sticks.

On other fronts, I wore a mask yesterday to the grocery store, post office and hardware stores. Fortunately, I can read everything but small print without my glasses–I keep them on my face so I know where they are, rather than having cheaters on a chain or in a case somewhere that I have to find–so that in the truck I can figure out what I just spent in the store. WPCA-FM had me on yesterday morning as part of its fund drive and I enjoyed a rollicking conversation with Bob Zank, the station manager, that I hope brought in more listeners last night to my story reading. Last night’s story was “Curtain!”, a tale based largely on experiences in my youth in Hollywood. The station broadcasts and streams online my story readings the first Tuesday of every month at 7:00 p.. (CST).

I have managed to finish the walls of my office, with the heavy sheet rocking giving me a hernia I’m going to wait to have taken care of until things settle down at the local hospital. I’m in the process of building shelves in a large closet and I’m also about to begin building a large clothes closet in the far corner of the office. The post office trip involved sending off the latest 13 national ad series for a client I’ve had for more than 30 years. Meanwhile, Spring is on the way and there are things outside to do. Neither Marina nor I are sitting around waiting to die.

virus gone viral?

This Sunday I’ll try something new: a mini-service via Zoom, with scripture readings, prayer in response to sharing joys and concerns, and a brief mediation. This, because services at Wolf Creek and Parkview United Methodist Churches have been suspended for a couple of weeks, with decisions being made the week prior to Palm Sunday about how to proceed in the face of the coronavirus. I used Zoom for the first time the other night with Alice and her family down there in Ohio and I just hope it works well on Sunday. Zoom is a bit like a conference call: you log in and share video and audio, so I should be able to hear joys and concerns from others.

WPCA-FM has asked if I want to come to the station during Holy Week some morning so that listeners who hear my short stories broadcast that might want to meet me can meet me. I think I’ll find the time to do that. Actually, I’ve sold some books lately, both in person and online. I like the feeling of that!

Son John and his family arrived home last night from a stint at Isla Mujeres in Mexico. He commented on how strange it was to drive deserted streets. No word of hassles re-entering the country but I’m sure I’ll hear more when I have a chance to catch up with him. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying fun correspondence Marina shares with me of her exchanges with moppet granddaughter Samantha, who’s down in Ohio. Son Aaron says he’s in lockdown over in Portugal, even as he lives isolated on his mountain. No big change for homeschooling Mom, Hannah, who’s used to having her kids at home and even has college daughter Klara home again until semester’s end. Alice says that she now has great admiration for her sisters who home schooled; this, after just a day having her kids home from school and doing school work.

My “home work” has involved finishing the sheet rocking project in my office. The south wall is almost done and when that happens it’s on to constructing a large closet in the southwest corner of the room and installing shelves in the existing closet. Then, it’s enclosing part of the stairwell, installing some electrical outlets, re-doing awkward closet doors in the entry hall and then putting in a wooden floor in the dining area. The tiling for the entryway probably won’t happen this summer; I want to PLAY more!

Movin’ right along

Tuesday night’s WPCA-FM broadcast was “Lost Wax” and I found, listening to it, it’s a tear-jerker. Listening to my stories and reading them aloud uncovers several layers of meaning I was not fully aware of when I wrote the stories. I find that hugely interesting. On Wednesday, I read “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs” to the Osceola Senior Citizens Club and to several outsiders who saw the ad in the Osceola Sun or the article in the Inter County Leader. Lotsa laughs, which is the reason for the story in the first place. It’s fun to read with that ongoing reaction from listeners.

My stint at Parkview United Methodist Church in Turtle Lake is going well. Thus far, Wolf Creek has not been shorted, in terms of attention, but I can see that an extended period of time would put Wolf Creek, a smaller congregation, at a disadvantage. Parkview is larger and has many moving parts, with lots of activities and good participation. I find their “can-do!” attitude is more than helpful. Like any congregation, there is inertia because some things have always been done a certain way, but with me they have been pretty flexible. After last Sunday’s service, Marina’s Seeing Eye Dog, Andy, threw up in the back of the sanctuary. Instantly, two older women were on their hands and knees cleaning up the mess; I couldn’t even get close to help. That’s almost as good as foot washing! I’ve wondered since if throwing up was Andy’s evaluation of the sermon. I’ve asked him; he won’t tell me.

We are in Lent, which means extra church services and studies. I’m limited by being 1/4 time at each church. Parkview really demands and needs full time and I hope to encourage them to strive for that. If Osceola can resurrect itself, so can Parkview, which has more going for it right now than Osceola did when they lacked a pastor.

I have been trying to–and hoped to have finished before adding Parkview–sheetrock my office and have a large closet built in the space. I’m closing in on the sheetrocking part and have it partially painted. In the process of hefting 4×8 sheets of half inch sheetrock up four feet and holding it there until I can screw in some stability, I’ve managed to give myself a hernia, so today was a doctor’s visit with an appointment with a surgeon to follow. I guess that also means that the pavers I’d planned to use for a small patio outside the downstairs door will have to give way to individual bricks, which weigh less.

More anon.

The Calm Before. . . .

While I don’t begin at Turtle Lake United Methodist Church officially until next Saturday, February 15th, I’ll sit in on the church’s Ad Council meeting on Wednesday. Almost a full month is a long time until its next meeting to pull things together in the way we need to do in our short contracted time together. I have the sense that my task with them will be to hold up a mirror to help them see how good they really are and, while they might be discouraged now, they have every reason for hope and optimism for the future. All they will need, then, is the appropriate pastor. We will see if I’m right and if first impressions turn out to be the reality.

On another subject, as noted in “Coming Readings”, I will read at least one story for the Osceola Seniors at Noon on the first Wednesday in March. I’m the president of that organization (and, obviously, they are hard up for a program) but we can use the occasion to pull in new people and perhaps enlist some new members. Accordingly, I’m taking out an ad in the Osceola Sun to advertise the event. I know some writers who intend to attend and I just may be able to sell some books to those interested in the stories themselves.

WPCA-FM’s broadcasts/streaming of my stories continues. Last week it was “The Many Trials”, so the March reading most likely will be “Curtain!”, a story of an actor and his protege. I’m never sure which story will get broadcast each month. When we hit the month of June, the station wants to begin the story cycle anew.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working to finish my office here at the house. I have about half the sheetrock up, taped and painted, so now it’s on to the rest of the walls and then moving the electric from its beefy extension cord to the plugs I’ve installed. And then what? Cutting and splitting firewood, I guess, maybe the piano practice I should have been doing, some guitar playing, perhaps, and probably doing some trim around doors etc. that didn’t get done by the previous owner of this place. Marina wanted to know if I planned to plant an apple tree. I hadn’t considered it and I’m not sure where to put it, but I’m sure that if it’s like my previous experience with apple trees in my yard, the deer will love my planting of an apple tree. Yesterday I bought another large bag of bird food, which gives great pleasure to the many squirrels we host.

A Plate That’s More Full

I did John Larson’s funeral yesterday in Taylors Falls. Larson was an author, an involved Taylors Falls community member, a historian and one of those people that attract other interesting people to them like moths to a flame. I’d gotten to know his late wife, Ingrid, a bit when she was at Good Samaritan for rehabilitation. She was said to be Danish but her gravestone says she was born in Germany. That’s understandable; just after WWII being German was not something to be desired and even dangerous. My German wife landed in a Polish East Chicago neighborhood in the early 1950’s and her clotheslines were cut. John was buried in his WWII Army uniform, a feat not many of us could achieve. (I mean, being able to fit into something we wore 3/4 century ago!)

WPCA had some technical difficulties this week so the story broadcast is re-scheduled for next Tuesday, January 14th. In February, things revert to the usual schedule of the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.

Speaking of February, mid-February I begin a 41/2 month stint as pastor of Turtle Lake United Methodist Church. They are discouraged right now, between pastors and in need of a lift so the Conference hopes I can provide them that lift. I sense great potential at Turtle Lake UMC and hope that I can hold up a mirror of themselves so they can the truth: they can have a very good future, given an effective pastoral appointment.

Our family prayers this week are with my brother, Guy, whose wife, Lucy is struggling with life threatening health issues.