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. . . .

Bearing Up

Since our last visit, I’ve been involved with changing the terrain down on the beach we share with several other homeowners. Two guys, Roger and Mike, have shouldered most of the responsibility while I’ve provided what little muscle I still have for shoveling dirt, hauling downed trees, and hefting docks, including mine. And amid all this excitement, a bear, one they say probably is young and unafraid of people, has been upsetting garbage bins at lakeside cabins and wandering onto porches and decks up here on street level. So the DNR has a bear trap rigged down near where trash bins used to be before the bin owners wised up and moved them away. The trap looks like a series of barrels welded together with a steel gate at one end. The DNR gives our bear 10 days to be trapped; after that, the trap goes to another location with a nuisance bear.

I finished the first draft of my early years, written for my children and grandchildren, and now I find more and more stuff to add. It’s a depiction of what life was like for a boy in the Mount Hollywood area during the 1940’s, 1950’s and early 1960’s. In my case, my theater reviews are interspersed in the narrative.

Last night’s WPCA-FM story reading was Curtain!, a tale of an aging actor and his former mentee. It’s a story of a man who lives his life in comparison to more famous performers, whom he uses as teaching examples for the young woman who struggles to get her career started. While he chafes at his comfortable local celebrity status, he knows he has it easy being a “big frog in a small pond”. His mentee, whose career went nowhere despite his tutoring, resurfaces to raise a major question. I always appreciate WPCA sharing my story readings; it’s a privilege few writers enjoy.

About The Wait

“The waiting is longer than the wait itself,” said the narrator of Conversations In Absentia, last night’s story read on WPCA-FM. It’s a good story, if I don’t say so myself. Absentia was the first short story I wrote after I retired and no longer wrote articles for publications like the St.Paul Pioneer Press. And today, after waiting for Spring to arrive before Summer heat hits us, Marina and I took the pontoon out on the lake for the first time. This year I put in the dock and platform myself. This, after yielding to age last year and hiring it done. And having lost our lawsuit appeal down at the beach and the resulting loss of about 1/3 of the property we had previously, several of the owners joined together and we removed the berm, flattened the land, and planted grass. This will make it easier for people to put in their docks, as well as opening up the view of the lake.

Wolf Creek United Methodist Church celebrated its 135th birthday on Memorial Day. We tossed a free lunch for anyone attending the Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery next door and in the process hosted the Historical Society’s celebration of the 100th birthday of a neighbor and Veteran. Since our last conversation, though, the Wolf Creek congregation lost one of our key people, a younger woman who died too soon. Deb had handled our technical stuff, getting us on You Tube each week and helping us use the new internet connection we never had in the past. Her brother, Mike, has stepped up and continues what Deb was doing. The result: Ascension Sunday and I’m doing the Benediction at the end of the service when a fight breaks out in the back. It had me at a loss for words for several moments. Let’s hear it for great Christianity! Since we are on You Tube, it’s on record for people everywhere to see–forever, I guess.

I have my next story rolling around in my head and will start getting it down when I feel I can take a break in telling the story of my early years. At this point I have more than 50 pages done and I’m just finishing high school, with some college thrown in. It’s a first draft but I think I’ll print it out for my kids in case something happens to me and it ends up being trapped in my computer. Jill, Luck’s Librarian, has talked with me about doing story reading in the near future. I’ve suggested doing it as a fund raiser, so if Friends of the Library can drum up an audience it will provide the Library more money than any check I might write them. We shall see how it unfolds. St.Croix Festival Theater and I have had three conversations now about a third fund raising reading and a date for that has yet to be set. In the past, we’ve done those on nights the theater would be dark. No money comes in when the stage is dark. In the past, reading with LaMoine MacLaughlin, we’ve had audiences of about 3/4 capacity+.

Spring Is Springing, But Slowly

Yes, there are buds on some trees and a few bushes. And, yes, some birds I’ve not seen in ages have returned. And, yes, the ice on Bone Lake withdrew just a couple of days ago. And yes, Amen! the grass is turning green, except for where Marina’s retired female Seeing Eye dog deposited her pee. Soon I’ll have the mower going. But, there’s a fire in the woodstove–still–because it’s cool in the lower level where I have my office and also because the temperature is due to drop down to 34 above tonight. I’ll get out the rain gauge when it will stay above freezing at night.

Tomorrow I hand over the gavel to the next president of the Osceola Senior Citizens Club. I think I’ve served two terms plus part of another and it has been a honor and a privilege. It’s a great group of good people and the organization and its quarters have great potential. Signs are up inside–finally! Signs are due to go up on the outside of the building so the Senior Center will be identified. It has not been easy to “show the flag” by being present often when I live 45 minutes from town; the president should be someone who lives close by and who can be in and out of the Center often.

Tonight’s WPCA-FM radio broadcast was Number Eleven Oakwood Lane, a story about an aging actor who’s seen better days and part of whose issues is that life came easy to him because of his looks and athletic ability. The story also raises the same issue for women, especially beautiful young women whose pushy mothers bring them to Hollywood in the hopes that they can be “discovered”.  When things come too easily in life, how does a person develop character? In the February-March issue of the AARP Magazine, Halle Berry has some insightful things to say about that very thing. I find I admire women who have overcome beauty with brains, courage and perseverance. Growing up in Hollywood, I saw plenty of that as a young person and, obviously, it stuck with me.

If I wrote this previously, please forgive me; I can’t see what has gone before until I shut all this down, but I’ve been writing an account of my growing up after being encouraged to do that by my wife and eldest daughter, Britta. There’s plenty my kids just don’t know. I’ve said that when it came to theater and voice work, I was good and that I have the reviews to prove it, so now the reviews are being reproduced in print and anyone can make his/her own judgment. I can say that I learned a great deal by working with some of the best and most honored people in the business. For a kid with no studio contract and no TV series, I got quite a bit of attention in a highly competitive market, as Hollywood always has been known to be. These days, however, I hear myself reading on the radio and I deplore the poor diction I hear. It’s almost as bad as when I review the weekly YouTube recording of our Wolf Creek Sunday services. Still some work to do, I guess! (Small voice: what do you mean, “guess”? Get on it, man!)

I spent several hours last night fussing with my printer/scanner/copier that was not working. I’d wanted to scan an interview with John Mellencamp and send it to my daughter, Alice, because she toured with him and opened for him for many months. The scanner didn’t work and both the HP Tech and I were plenty frustrated. (I’ve been there before with this machine.) Anyhow, I ended up copying the page and sending it to Alice by snail mail. Now, tonight, the scanner works, so it’s either someone’s prayers or the Tech’s dreams after he quit for the night or just because the thing decided to be cooperative; who knows? I’m wanting it to keep working as intended.

And on that note, I’m ending this. May you all be well!

Into Each Life

It’s raining as I write this, but in early April we’ve had worse weather, at least in the 50+ years I’ve been in Minnesota and Wisconsin. No buds are evident yet on our trees and the woodstove still gets a workout. WPCA-FM has been broadcasting my story readings the first Tuesday night of each month, but it’s a “drop-in” so the “drop” gets missed every once in awhile. Tonight was one of those “once in awhiles”. I can’t complain; I’m not paying for the airtime and I am very grateful for the privilege of having my stories heard. It’s a privilege few authors enjoy.

As I’m about to end my stint as president of the Osceola Senior Citizens Club, what we had hoped would not happen has happened: our Senior Citizen space now has a sign on it advertising it as the Polaris Community Room. Eventually, there will be a larger sign above the door that reads “Senior Citizens” and I suppose a dual-purpose room is what is intended, but the building policy is that Seniors get priority over the use of that space. I figure if we fill the room(s) with activity, in peoples’ minds it will be the Senior Center that people are coming to know and use. During my tenure I’d hoped to have nipped that encroachment on our space. Obviously, I was unsuccessful.

Family has prevailed on me to start writing down my growing up experiences, especially the theater and performance years. I’d avoided it because it seemed to me to be just a recitation of famous names, but now, several thousand words into the writing, I find it’s more than that. It is true, though, that you can Google almost every person with whom I co-starred and performed with. They were Academy Award nominees, Emmy Award winners, Grammy Award winners, Tony Award winners and others who made their living in the performing arts. I learned from some of the best and I was good enough to more than  hold my own. I have the reviews to prove it. This was in southern California and Hollywood, where the competition back then was as ferocious as it is now.

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. Our pianist is away that day, so I’ll be leading our service with the guitar. I’ve been working up some callouses on my fingers; it has been a long time since I’ve used my trusty old guitar in public. I’ve had it since 1957, when I bought it for $10 from a kid who’d had it at the beach and cracked it. My mother found a violin repairman in downtown L.A. and he fixed it so well that you could barely see the former crack. Since then I’ve had it repaired twice more, once a “butcher job” and more recently a very well done job. Of course I’d like to tell our You Tube audience that our massive choir and full orchestra will be missing, but I figure that it’s not polite to lie about things, especially when in church.

Marina had a major birthday yesterday and Grandson Erik had the elegant solution for her celebration, since she has trouble handling large groups of people: people would bring/send elements of the birthday dinner separately and at different times, so Mom/Grandma could focus on each person and give each person individual time. It worked very well. My benefit? The food was very good and all I had to do was the dishes.

Easter reminds us that Spring does come and so do new beginnings. God is a God of second, third, fourth chances–and many more–so our lives can have many “Springs”; we never are beyond repair, forgiveness and God’s grace. Repent and be forgiven. It’s easy. The only tough part is seeing that we have things to be repentant about. And not to forgive ourselves is a form of blasphemy. So, here’s to Spring–finally!


How About Some True Justice?

Last night’s story aired on WPCA-FM was a newly recorded tale, True Justice, a whodunit that I’ve also entered in a competition with the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters. We shall see if it charms any of the judges. It’s always fun to listen to the radio station’s story broadcasts, first because I never really know which story will get aired, and second, I’m still trying to improve my diction after years of sloppiness and only by listening to myself can I identify the kinds of words I’m letting slide by my lazy tongue. Last night also featured the President’s State of the Union address. I have a sneaking suspicion that his broadcast drew a larger audience than mine.

A major portion of the President’s address dealt with Ukraine’s Russian invasion. I live with someone who experienced the Russians coming to town. That followed our (U.S.) and British bombings that took place both day and night. Marina, a child, had the job of bring her mother’s silver foxes cape and the iron down to the basement at night when the bombs blew up any chance of sleep.. The Russians entered Berlin and a contingent took over the house where Marina lived. It was a large villa with several apartments. We do not know if her mother was sexually assaulted but she was a musician with a liquor cabinet and apparently kept playing so the Russians kept drinking and singing their favorite songs. If she suffered harm, we never heard about it. The Russians were sure, of course, that people had hidden their jewels and valuables in the furniture cushions, so they sliced them open to find out. Also, they didn’t trust toilets so they did their business in a side room that the house holders had to clean up. Herding everyone to the basement allowed the Russians to shoot their pistols into the ceiling and just about anywhere else their drunken aim might wander.

One person unable to go to the basement was “grandma”, who, ancient and “very sick”,  was upstairs in bed wth blankets piled high and draping down to the floor. Underneath the blanket piled bed was Violeta Rindsig, a very beautiful 16 year old who would have been a desirable commodity for the occupying Russians. Violeta was kept safe and later came to Hollywood, where, as Violet Rindsig, she had a good career in films.

Needless to say, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brings back strong memories for Marina of what it was like and a solid identification with Ukraine’s innocent and vulnerable civilians.

Today, I told the Osceola Senior Citizens that I would not take another term as its president. My job essentially is finished. I was asked to take the office to help the group defend its space, which has been eyed by several entities and vulnerable because of the way the civic building in Osceola was funded. With a small contribution from the Seniors, signs both inside and outside the building will identify the Seniors’ location. We have an increasing number of activities so that the space is being used more often and more visibly. It’s a big change from meeting in the activity rooms of Polk County housing units. Also, I am in year four of not having lived in town; I’m a 45 minute drive away. I believe that leadership should be “showing the flag”, in and out of the building regularly and close enough to make it easy to attend Village Board meetings and other events that involve the Seniors. When Marina was swimming twice a week, I could get to the Center regularly, but that has changed and with the exception of getting a haircut and doing some banking, I’m just not in town anymore. Fortunately, there are a couple of good candidates to take my place and, for me, the run as the group’s president has been both enjoyable and a privilege.

We are in Lent. Because I am a part-time pastor at Wolf Creek United Methodist Church, we will impose ashes this coming Sunday, rather than having a separate service tonight. We are not an uptight bunch.

I just finished Peter Kwong’s second book, Have You Eaten?, which details some of  his fascinating life’s journey, together with a variety of simple but versatile recipes for just about any Chinese dish you might imagine–and some beyond your imagination. It’s a fun book and when Peter is at his best “I’m just a poor immigrant boy and there’s so much to learn”, we see ourselves in an enlightening way. It’s worth a read and, if I may say so, it’s full of food for thought, too.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside–And Inside, Too

This morning our furnace’s gone to rest was obvious the moment my nose burst the covers. I tried the usual trick and when that didn’t work I called Joe, our stalwart heating/a.c. guy in Amery, who, as always, came promptly after admonishing me by phone “Don’t touch anything!” so he could isolate the problem. While awaiting our hero, I got an electric heater going, fired up the wood stove, and got the kitchen (electric) oven cranking. Bravo! Heat in time to leave to chair the monthly meeting of the Osceola Seniors.

Speaking off heroes, WPCA’s story broadcast last night was The Many Trials, a mangled fairy tale from my first story collection, Four Break Time Stories. The story is an upgrade, if you can call awful puns and plays on words an upgrade, from stories I told my children when they were small. The hero, Horatio, must pass three difficult tests in order to marry the princess. If he can’t pass the tests, he loses his head. It’s a fun story that had me chuckling myself at times as I listened.

Wolf Creek UMC continues to meet, even during our bitterly cold weeks of late. We’ve had the furnace adjusted with a new thermostat so that the place heats up nicely and stays warm while we are there. The number of people showing up is down; perhaps some of those who are not physically present with us are catching our service each week on You Tube (Wolf Creek United Methodist Church services). I have no way of knowing, but we do have some regular subscribers.

The longer you live, it seems, the more funerals you attend and there have been plenty of those to note lately, including those of good friends. The circle grows smaller with time. Words, no matter how wise, just are inadequate. The fact that we live with hope for the future because we have Jesus’ promises makes all the difference.

Friday I record True Justice, the first story I’ve written and completed since they dredged me out of retirement to pastor again three years ago. It seems that the creative energies have been tilted toward what to say on Sundays. However, once I “got” how to extract two of my major characters from the box I’d written them into, everything rolled nicely into place. I’ll be reading that story for WPCA-FM, as part of my short story series that they broadcast each month. The station streams online so anyone with a computer can listen in. (It’s wpcaradio.org.)

The dust is settling now that our out of town kids have returned home. Son Aaron is back home in Portugal after being more than helpful around the place and after showing me some nice flamenco guitar tricks. Daughter Alice squeezed us into her busy schedule so she could join her siblings in a face-to-face get-together, where I’m sure they talked about their parents and probably shook their heads in dismay. Actually, there was some concern because Marina was fighting a nasty infection that put her out of commission for about a week until her doc changed her prescription to a drug that is more risky but also more effective. (Most every drug can have side effects, so we are careful about what we put into ourselves.)

I leave this trusting that the furnace, which is new, will stay on all night on a night when it’s forecast to hit 19 below zero.

More Snow

Tonight’s WPCA-FM radio station reading was “Futuro De Oro” (Golden Future), a tale about an incompatible couple trying to sort out life’s decisions against the background of a Tijuana slum and an upscale Ensenada restaurant and then the beach at Malibu. It’s a “talky” story that produces a variety of reactions from readers, most of which fall along the lines of “how can such a couple find each other attractive in the first place?” Women tend to come down on the side of the woman in the story while men respond to the man. As a writer, it’s interesting to hear the variety of responses.

Son Aaron has been in town and arrived with no problems. He’s skilled at international travel, having visited more than 50 countries in the past few years and having spent time in most of those, not just passing through. Last month I said he was a skilled guitarist. That was an understatement: his flamenco is very, very good. Me? I faked it all those years. I was a bit taken aback when my younger son, John, told me he never knew I’d played in coffee houses. Behind me as I write this is a black and white photo taken by Jack Takemoto as I performed at 13 Below, a coffee house near Macalester College. Maybe John needs to hear about the Sunday night I was singing and playing at the Enlisted Mens’ Club out at Fort Snelling. There was a huge old retired (probably) sergeant, Eli, at the bar. I’d been warbling the folk songs of the day and, finally, Eli raised his head from the bar and said, “Hey, kid. Do you know the shit house blues?” My response: “Eli, I just sang it.” “Ohugh,” he said, as his head sagged down again to the bar.

Right now it’s snowing and more is forecast overnight. I’m due in Osceola tomorrow to chair the Osceola Senior Citizens Club meeting, where the program should include an intro from our new local newspaper editor, Nealy Corcoran, and a presentation by Ron Pedrys, Osceola’s Chief of Police, on the latest scams targeting senior citizens. The Enclave has very good new tires so it’s sure-footed and I anticipate no problems driving. My apprehensions come from having the car outdoors and wondering if it will start at 23 below zero so I can get to Wolf Creek UMC for our service. The car did start and we held our service with the few stalwart faithful.

I look at the You Tube recording of Wolf Creek’s Christmas Eve service and it comes off as cozy, family-like, intimate and very personal. That’s what we want; we have no large choir, no paid vocal soloists, no kids for a pageant and not even a baby Jesus (yet). Without all that people-power, we go for the opposite: less of a sermon and more of a sharing, and sometimes congregational sharing of remembered Christmases past. Holy Communion is administered with each person’s name, except for the new boyfriend’s name that was not known by the pastor. (It’s Matt.) For us, low key works.

Need to check some glitch in sending a story. More later? Maybe.

Let It Snow!

So we’ve had our first real shovel-able snow this past week and there are animal tracks in the snow that I can’t identify. I’ve described them to a few friends but they are stumped, too. I’m going to take some pictures of the tracks and send them to the Wisconsin DNR; they like to identify things like that.

Last night’s story reading on WPCA-FM was a story called “Betsy”, a tale about a gun named Betsy and about a protagonist trying to understand the link between narcism and paranoia. It’s one of my longer stories, clocking in at around 32 minutes but I was struck anew about how the sense of danger builds from page to page and, of course, the ending is a surprise–at least that what readers have told me.

I’m writing this just after finishing our third Zoom Bible study session with members of the Wolf Creek United Methodist Church. With the exception of me, the group is all women. They are smart, savvy and willing to engage in a study that keeps injecting new thoughts into our spiritual minds and I appreciate them.

I’ll share a cute thing from last week: I was putting the finishing touches on a new story and one always wants to be accurate in the writing, so since there is a priest in the story I wanted to make sure I knew what Roman Catholics call the priest’s residence. So I called Sally Christiansen, the Administrator at Our Lady Of The Lakes Parish over in Balsam Lake. I said, “I know it’s not a parsonage and it may be a rectory, but what do you call the residence you provide for your priests?” Sally said, “It is a rectory.” Then, after a pause, she said, “Are you thinking about converting?” I love it!

More snow is forecast for tomorrow and my shovel has been used and is ready for more. Tomorrow is a Zoom conference with the Northwest District’s pastors; then I have to prepare a list of prayers and people we pray for on Sunday; I need to bring more logs closer to the house for the wood stove; and then do a little spit-and-polish to be ready for lunch guests here on Friday. Our guests are a couple from a congregation I pastored 13 years ago. I was there for 11 years, which is fairly long for many pastorates, and some people become friends that you can keep up with after you leave. Yes, as a pastor you can’t have “favorites”, but you can keep friends after you leave; you’re just never their pastor again because if the church is still there and they still belong to that church, they have a pastor and it’s not you.

Son Aaron flies in from Portugal next week, or at least that’s the plan and with COVID all plans can be dicey. He’ll be here for a month and his siblings are trying to put together a family gathering while he’s in town. I gather he’ll zip off to California while he’s here to pick up a painting my mother gave him for his college graduation years ago that has been held for him in San Francisco. He’ll also stop in the L.A. area to check in with a major client of his and maybe even see some of our relatives in that area. We are looking forward to his visit. He likes to “jam” so I’ve been working to rehabilitate my guitar playing callouses because I know he’ll want us to play together. It has been good to pick up the old instrument again. It’s a guitar made in Mexico and I’ve had it since I was 14 years old. I bought it for $10 from a kid who’d had it at the beach and cracked the bow. My Mom found an old violin maker in downtown L.A. who did a superb repair job (you couldn’t see a trace of the former break). While the guitar doesn’t have a hole like Willie Nelson’s guitar, it is plenty worn where holes eventually appear and I’ve used it in coffeehouses around the country, in various churches, and to lead worship. However, since retirement, my old friend has seen little use. After playing at a nursing home event, a guy from Dresser named Roger repaired the top that was separating so now it’s good again. We’ll see how the riffs go; Aaron has sent me some clips of his playing and he’s pretty good. But then, he’s one of those people that can take an instrument and make good sounds in a short time. It doesn’t matter whether you bang it, blow into it, strum it, pluck it, or create it electronically, he can be credible quickly. Example: at age 12, with just a few lessons, playing cello he did a duet in the Siren UMC church with the church organist. What a nice and unusual gift! His electronic music has taken him all over the globe. It will be good to see him.

All of the above about Aaron is not to slight anyone else in the family. With her sixth CD out, Alice’s kids are old enough now that she can do a small amount of touring, so she’s had recent shows down in Georgia, North Carolina, her old stomping grounds of Nashville, Michigan, Wisconsin and in the Chicago area. She was able to bring along her daughter Samantha, age 9, to her show last week just north of Milwaukee and said it was fun to have such good companionship. A few months ago I had someone introduce me as the “father of a world famous singer-songwriter”. That may be so, but she’s still Kid Number Three.