My Olympic Gold


Barbara’s Olympic Gold

I am a winner.

The etched face on my
gold medal

A most thoughtful and loving artisan forged the painstakingly stitched border and the engraved-by-hand text with a red cord carefully attached so that the recipient can wear it as a necklace.

The materials suggest ‘cheap and easy’ but neither is true; this prize comes from a land and a time when even a loaf of bread could be hard to find. Most likely the thread, string, and needle came from a small vendor somewhere in town. And the rare treasure of aluminum foil used to face the medal probably came in a suitcase from the good old U. S. of A.

The Winter of 1993 in our town of Akademgorodok, Russia was particularly harsh.  Temperatures dropped as low as -35°C / -31°F often accompanied by stiff Siberian wind and daily mounds of snow.

winner2-2rdvkr-clipartOur apartment was always toasty, even hot at times, because the Powers-that-Be decreed it so, but though I wore the best Eddie Bauer down coat/hood combo outside, ice cube chill pierced thru layers to freeze my bones as this unseasoned, soft American wife/mother who could barely walk around a block let alone a mile or two braved the elements to fetch the daily loads of groceries or other household needs.

We take for granted here in America the ease with which we can find, transport, store, cook, fix, and furnish the Goods of Life.

The infrastructures that make light work of meals, cleaning, and repairs, simply did not exist in Akademgorodok in 1993.

Imagine no car. No cell phone. No local Target. No Amazon with free doorstep two-day delivery. No take-out from Pizza Luce. And no English.

In fact, this American family did haul such treasures as stick pepperoni and oregano as well as a few precious pounds of Starbuck’s coffee on the eighteen-hour flight from America to Akademgorodok.

Grocery lists were impossible. Shopping was much more like spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune than using an iPhone to find scanned items on fully stocked Target aisles.

One particularly lucky day I found canned tomato sauce at one store but had to remember not to load up at the first stop. I could only buy six.


Buy It In The Frozen Food Section

Several hardy Siberian lady vendors set-up tables and chairs outside that store selling everything from bananas to frozen fish. We called it our ‘frozen food
market’. Because I had been warned that the fish glowed in the dark from lake radiation spills, I passed on the fish, but bought the bananas.

Next stop, third store, the back door, two blocks the other direction. A dear Russian friend met me there and in clandestine fashion facilitated a trade of two American dollars for gigantic bags of pasta.

Last stop– a fourth store for fresh, warm bread. It took all my willpower not to sit down and eat the whole loaf right there.

super momThe unwieldy load by then weighs the proverbial ton of bricks, a distinct signal to trudge home even though the stuffed pack holds maybe one-third of the needed supplies; nevertheless, skating thru icy, snowy forest paths, and up three flights of stairs, “our hero” drops the goods. More exhausted than any Olympian, she still enjoys watching her family expectantly unpack the ‘mother load’. (Pun intended.)

Even when someone notices there’s no meat in the pack, and points out dejectedly that there’s been no meat since last week, the family soon rallies around what Mother did bring home, keenly aware that a trip to the local meat market, where the heads and feet of animal are lined up by their appropriate carcasses and where the ground beef is not wrapped in neat little cellophane packages, will only happen on a day when the grocery route does not involve trekking to four far-flung stores. So Mother prepares fresh bread and pasta cheese smothered in garlic tomato sauce sans meat and, wonder of wonders, no one complains.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 Amplified Bible says:

6 But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so [it is clear that] we cannot take anything out of it, either. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

Reminds me of an oft-sung piece about ‘winners’ by Stuart Hamblin I learned in Sunday school when I was a child. It was a favorite long before the Flintstones. characters, Pebbles and BamBamm , made it #8 on the record charts in 1955.

Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)

 My mother told me something that everyone should know
It’s all about the devil and I learned to hate him so
She said he causes trouble when you let him in the room
He will never ever leave you if your heart is filled with gloom.”

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in, face with a grin

Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

When you are unhappy the devil wears a grin
But aw, he starts to running when the rain comes pouring in
I know he’ll be unhappy ’cause I’ll never wear a frown
Maybe if we keep on smiling he’ll get tired of hanging round.

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in, patient with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

If I forget to say my prayers the devil jumps with plea
But all he feels so awful when he sees me on my knees
So if you’re full of trouble and you never seem to win
Just open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Smilers never lose and frowners never win
So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in.

Stuart Hamblen. “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In.” Los Angeles. CA: Hamblen Music Company, 1953. Print.

The Amplified Bible. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 2015. Print.

Images courtesy of:

  1. Andre LaTondresse. “Barbara’s Medal” and “Frozen Food Section”. From Russian Photo Collection. Akademgorodok, Russia. 1993.

Creamed Corn and Me

Welcome to Elgin, IAMy hometown town of 600 in Northeast Iowa had much to be proud of what with its bank, library, furniture store, funeral home, grocery store, hardware store, lumber yard, two gas stations, three car dealers, a doctor, a vet, and a lawyer but the crowning glory was the Elgin Canning Factory which put Elgin on the map to Everywhere because one of the products was Delmonte’s Creamed Corn.

Delmonte Creamed CornEvery summer Elgin grew by about 100 Mexican migrant workers who set up shop in the temporary housing provided for them down by the creek near the canning factory. The migrants picked the asparagus fields by hand and also shelled sweet corn and did other really hard labor stuff nobody else wanted to do but more workers were needed to do all jobs necessary. Folks from town often did double-duty during the summer adding another job handling everything from sorting corn, to mixing ingredients, to manning the canning process, to labeling boxes and other shipping stuff.

cans in boxKids home from college or those new high school grads headed to college in the fall were tapped for the grueling job of taking the cans out of huge iron kettles and filling cardboard boxes with 24 cans time after time after time. The iron kettles were strung along a quarter mile waterway. They were filled with hundreds of boiling hot cans of creamed corn which then took a slow ride down the cold water canal to cool them from the canning area thru the entire stretch of the water bath until the waterway turned a corner in that canal and slowed them down as they entered the warehouse to await unpacking after which the empty carts were pushed around another corner as the motorized trolley sped them back up the adjacent quarter mile loop to get more cans.

Elgin Sweet Corn Canning FactoryThe warehouse room was almost a city block long.   The water canal framed the east wall. Long narrow benches came next, positioned parallel to the canal about a yard from it. Next came pallets: half with empty cardboard boxes and the other half with rapidly growing piles of boxes filled with the still lukewarm cans of creamed corn. The rest of the room consisted of piles of palleted boxes of creamed corn waiting to be loaded into semi-trailer trucks for delivery to Delmonte plants for labeling and distribution.

So as my rite of passage into college life, this first job of mine was not only intended to provide gobs of money for school but also to make me keenly aware of the reason I was going there. I got my father’s message loud and clear that a life of hard labor awaits if you don’t set your sights on a college diploma.

My hands became a bruised, battered, taped patchwork worthy of a prize-fighter. My back ached constantly from being hunched over the iron kettles and low benches as we packed cans two-by-two for hours. I got so tired of standing that I would count the minutes out loud with my partner until the next fifteen minute break.

We tied colorful bandanas around our heads to keep the sweat out of our eyes and kind of wore them like badges of honor to prove that we were tough Iowa kids able to take the humidity and heat in stride. Oh yes, I got the message.

The town fire siren went off each day at 6AM, 12 Noon, and 6PM to signal when to begin work, when to have lunch, and when to end work, so there was no ambiguity over that stuff. I rode my bike to work, home for lunch, back to work, and home for dinner. But my work day didn’t end then.

ear of cornMost of us at the Factory went back for a night shift (because the work was, after all, seasonal) and labored until midnight when the factory whistle blew to set us free. By that time I was almost too exhausted to pedal home but somehow I did, often just falling into bed and to sleep before I cleaned up.

At the end of the proverbial day you could say I learned my lesson well. I went to college. Got my B.A. Got my M.A. and almost my got doctorate.

creamed-corn-vertical-640And, to this day, if I open a can of creamed corn I know why I went to college.

NOTE: My apologies if this memoir isn’t totally historically accurate. As I get older my memories muddle a bit and so if the resultant story doesn’t perfectly match your recollection, by all means feel free to write your own.

Images courtesy of:


For Lent – Meditation II – Kiss Winter Good-bye!

For Lent – Meditation II – Kiss Winter Good-bye!
I’ve been inside too long. I open the back door for the first time since last October and step outside. The snow melts. The tulips pop and the grass emerges green. Once again vibrant Spring greets me and I pause to soak it all in.

Gleefully I rip out the tree toppers from my planter boxes and throw them in the garbage.

When I was a child I knew spring was near when the time came in late February for Great-grandfather Fred (we called him ‘Daddy Fred’) to bring us an empty cottage cheese carton repurposed as a pot containing a planted hyacinth bulb.

hyacinthAll you saw at first was the dirt filled carton and an Elgin Furniture Store pencil stuck in the dirt so that when the hyacinth grew it would have something to lean against. I watched that dirt for days until one day a little tip of the plant peeked up through the soil. The hyacinth flower smelled so good! I still associate the musty smell of moist earth mixed with the aromatic fragrance of hyacinth with the start of spring.

The poet in Solomon’s Song says:

For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come.

adventbannermaryNext week we observe Holy Week at our little Anglican church. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Easter Vigil, as well as Easter Day on Sunday. We pause to remember and reflect and wonder as the drama surrounding the Passion of Christ unfolds once again, Good Friday ironically does indeed prove to be ‘good’, and we affirm our Resurrection Hope in Christ. Like Peter, we affirm: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Reminds me of the powerful ‘winter/spring’ metaphor in C.S. Lewis’ Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Witch’s slave the Dwarf holds Edmund hostage and keeps yanking on the rope that binds him. But Lewis writes:

flowers_crocuses-01This didn’t prevent Edmund from seeing. Only five minutes later he noticed a dozen crocuses growing around the foot of an old treegold and purple and white.

In the land that at one time had been always Winter and never Christmas, a spring thaw emerges. The melting snow in Narnia’s springtime suggests personal transformation and the redemption of the whole human race is at hand.

The Apostle John in Revelation envisions our Redemption  this way:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.

Hope Springs Eternalbannerbride1

Edmund’s crocuses will emerge
as snow melts in Narnia.
Winter to Spring.
Dark to Light.
Death to Life.
And I, too, will Rise.

Hallelujah! I will Rise!

© Barbara LaTondresse – 18 March 2016 – all rights reserved.

I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin


Text References from:

Lewis, Clive Staples. “The Chronicles Of Narnia : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.” Internet Archive. Internet Archive, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.

John 6:68-69, Song of Solomon 2:11-12 and Revelation 21:4 from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Images courtesy of:×1200-16963.html

Altar images created by Linda Hammer and reshared courtesy of Church of the Cross, 201 9th Avenue North, Hopkins, MN 55343 in  the following source:  LaTondresse, Barbara. “Light a Candle for Hope.” Web log post. Church of the Cross, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2o16. Copyright © 2016 Church of the Cross.




For Lent – Meditation I – An Inkling, Too

cedar expectant2

If a picture is worth a thousand words then this one is priceless. Our son’s French bulldog, Cedar, expectantly waiting for a cookie perfectly illustrates the Psalmist’s thought in Psalms 123:2 when he says: “As the eyes of servants  look to the hand of their master,as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us.“

And in Psalm 62:4 David says, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him alone.”

If you are one of Clive’s Pilgrims, like I am, then the waiting demands that we, like Cedar, look up for our expectations and hope.

I’m not talking about the kind of mundane waiting we do at red lights, or in check-out lines, or in doctor’s offices. I’m talking about waiting for the Dawn after the Crucifixion—the Daybreak when the shadows flee and the darkness will be made light.

The Apostle John puts it this way in Revelations 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Here is my most recent poem in which I share my thoughts about Waiting. I hope you will find something in it that speaks to you in your time of Waiting.

An Inkling, Too       

adventbannermaryShaft light shards
pierce thru blackness
borne of dim memory
as daybreak —
orange, red, crimson
bleeds thru grey canvas,
creeps up the horizon;
a complex kaleidoscope:
dispelling yet casting shadows —
emerging dawn
within my foggy mind.

Glimpses of radiant glory,
shooting stars,
mixed with
griefs observed ,
losses internalized.

The shadows linger
even as the sun also rises.

Hints of what might have been
precisely measured
mingle what is
into what is to be.

bannerbride1Foretastes of heaven’s future ecstasy,
shot straight thru
with the silver bullet
of today’s pain.

So, archeologist-like,
I ponder the emerging sun-blaze
as it turns darkness into light
and begin to sift through the sandy dirt
     forms of the bittersweet days of my life
     hoping the Strainers will capture
esoteric meanings among fragments
     of the world beyond my rubble of
     broken bone, wood, glass, metal, leather,
     and clothes bearing dried blood and tears.

Using tweezers to grasp at unfamiliar, microscopic
bits of my moments and my days,
angling them right, left, upside, downside
I leave no blade of grass unturned.

Desperate to read between the lines:
to align the crooked jigsaw puzzle pieces
until they link the incongruous,
unanswerable forms together
with unexpected precision.

Soon I become tired and sick of trying.

Lifting my gaze once more heaven-ward
breathing in the crystal bright morning air
I watch the bits and pieces of my life tangles
rise into a multi-faceted tapestry jewel,
a kaleidoscope of redeemed sandy dirt forms,
reflecting Son-Dawn image rays everywhere.

An Inkling, Too.

by Barbara LaTondresse
©February 2016.  All Rights Reserved.



Image created by Linda Hamer and reshared courtesy of Church of the Cross, 201 9th Avenue North, Hopkins, MN 55343 in  the following source:  LaTondresse, Barbara. “Light a Candle for Hope.” Web log post. Church of the Cross, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2o16. Copyright © 2016 Church of the Cross

Psalm 123:2, Psalm 62:5, and Revelations 21:4 quoted from the King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain.

Silent Night’s Torch-lit Song

Tiny torches light
a million diamond flames
as blackness descends
 and a weary world
dozes off to sleep.

In the night
an Angel sings
 for Christ is born. 

The eternal lullaby begins.

And now
in my heart
I have a torch-lit song.

© Barbara LaTondresse
12 November 1976
All Rights Reserved



Image courtesy of:


Merry New Year in Narnia


I used to live in Narnia, Clive Staples Lewis’ magical, mysterious, sometimes frighteningly wonderful land somewhere between the lamppost and the castle of Cair Paravel.

Always winter.
Never Christmas.

My former home, Akademgorodok, Russia, carved out of huge, dense evergreen forests. Numerous well-worn paths wind their way thru these forests intersecting and dividing to form a pedestrian walking network. As we trekked these by-ways to and from everywhere soft blankets of new-fallen snow dusted the lanes and forests daily. The downy flakes reflected diamonds and stars, especially in the moonlight at night. Narnia indeed.

For 80 years prior to our coming, Christmas in Russia was forbidden. There were none of what E.B. White calls “Christmas wrappings” cluttering the true meaning of the holiday either because even though January 6 is Russian Orthodox Christmas on the calendar, the celebration was not allowed.

Festivities centered around New Year’s Day & Eve. So when we came to santaMissingNarnia we could not find tinsel or lights or Christmas displays or Christmas tree lots or a bombardment of ads for Christmas deals. No loudspeakers blaring carols or Nativity scenes or Santa at the mall. That part of life in Narnia was actually a pleasant surprise.

Instead, Akademgorodok’s New Year’s celebration centerpiece, two mammoth snowy sliding hills, emerged in the street near the main shopping district, Targovie Trading Center with the entire street blocked off to traffic as dump trucks hauled massive quantities of snow in and bulldozers then pushed the huge mounds, compacting them into two hills–one bunny hill and one large hill.

Wooden platforms built on the tops of the hills comprised the impressive platforms so the kids could easily step up the hills and slide down using pieces of cardboard, flat plastic, or just their own rear ends as sleds. Some of the older kids go down standing up, kind of like downhill skiing without skis. A tangled mass of gleeful, snow-covered revelers smash into one another as everyone slides down into everyone else creating a crowded traffic jam at the bottom. One by one the blissfully wet sliders stand, run up the steps, and slide down again and again.

Meanwhile a huge evergreen tree emerges nearby with a large metal frame and big pine branches intertwined. A crane hoists more branches and men on tall ladders put them in place. Eight-foot wooden panels painted with winter scenes and Siberian folk characters frame one side of the street. Colorful lights dance across the boulevard all along the way to Targovie and huge speakers hung from light poles and kiosks belt out an incessant stream of tacky, inappropriately loud music including Russian Rock, Elvis, the Beach Boys, and tunes from American movies, like the theme songs from “Love Story” and “Sound of Music”. FarSide incarnate to hear “the hills are alive with the sound of music” in the middle of Siberia sung in English at Christmas.

Kids frolicking in worn out snow pants,
frayed wool mittens and
furry Stormy Kromer hats;
Even the family dog sliding down the hill backwards barking,
Parents and grandparents on the slippery sidelines watching,
Teens at the kiosks buying warm Coke,
Dear friends strolling arm in arm toward Targovie to shop,
An old man hawking “New Year’s” trees
from the back of his green Army truck,
Another selling fresh bread
from a fold-up card table on the street
     (frozen, I’ll bet–both the man and the bread),
Fireworks–random eclectic fireworks–light up the sky.

Norman Rockwell children SleddingNorman Rockwell comes to Siberia.

He doesn’t see Santa but maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing.

Barbara LaTondresse
December 2015


Photo courtesy of:–a32/norman-rockwell-posters.htm


Forever Fall Toward Narnia



What a glorious October, Minnesota.  Fall majesty on dress-parade.

Yesterday Andre and I meandered thru the St. Croix River Valley and thrilled as Mother Nature unveiled a grand Technicolor panorama for all to admire.

We basked in the glory of hills and vales painted with stunningly vibrant reds, goldens, browns, greens mingled with landscapes of ripened corn stalks standing straight in neat rows next to wind-ruffled grassy slopes, and confetti flowered meadows set against the backdrop of the St Croix River glistening in the golden sun with the backdrop of a majestic clear blue sky above.

Time stands still for one gloriously warm minute before she plunges ahead into the blustery frozen whiteness of winter. I hear her say:

brngbush2Better take a picture before it’s gone.

Sit with me one glorious hour and as you sit, think.

Drink in the dazzling beauties of the falling leaves and as you reflect on the glory and grandeur of the majesty of this radiance, as you drink it in, let it remind you to ponder what’s just ahead, around the corner.

Get ready. It’s a cue.

Put away the summer clothes. Get out the snow blower. Put away the summer clothes. Get out the snow blower. Patch the cracks in the window frames.

Winter is coming. Am I ready?



when all October stands

hush, morning
every tree beguiles

the leaf imprint
slow dawns
orange, pink, blue
crimson mercy of my soul


Sunshine floods
make the Day dawn less brief than it would be if you had taken that road
toward the east or south

the road not taken

so you can see
the pink, blue red grace and stay with it sit with it
watch it bless

while it sets its feet
in the soul of your saved mind
and makes it
toward Narnia

 © Barbara LaTondresse – 18 October 1999 – all rights reserved

Like A Tree Planted

I’m basking in the afterglow of our perfect weekend women’s retreat.

COTC Retreat 2015

Over fifty Church of the Cross women gathered at Dunrovin Retreat Center on the St. Croix near Stillwater amid the emerging golden landscape for a stellar fall weekend blend of relaxation, rest, and renewal.

Our meditations centered around Psalm 1 where the Psalmist uses the image of a thriving tree as a symbol of vibrant spiritual growth.

Planted. Rooting. Reaching.

Taking root downward, Bearing fruit upward.

Over time the tree grows toward magnificent beauty despite rocks, drought, storm, disease.

Tree Nametag

At our retreat we divided into smaller groups to apply these truths in our lives personally. Three of the questions stood out to me and gave me worthy insights:

  • Where am I planted this season? 
  • What rocks are my root system facing? 
  • Are my leaves absorbing the sun and nutrients necessary for the miracle of photosynthesis to happen in my soul?

 On Christmas Eve 2013 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

I was told I had two options: either begin a life-preserving regimen of Parkinson’s meds or die.

I chose life, began the meds, and, thank God, slowly started to improve, but I’m still not what you would call ‘normal’.

I walk and speak with difficulty, have occasional pronounced tremors, left side mobility issues, and suffer lower back pain from the aftershock of a compression fracture.

I am planted in what I call my ‘land of limitations’.

It’s a phrase a friend coined to add to the depth of Psalms 37: 3-4 when his wife went thru a severe debilitating trial:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land (of limitations) and cultivate faithfulness.

I embrace this truth daily as my faith in the Lord sustains me.

tree planted

Our speaker shared a true story which powerfully illustrates this vital truth.   During WWII a German warship shot at another ship and it began to sink. Shortly after the Germans realized the wounded ship carried women and children only.

As their ship sank, the wives and children, enroute to be with their husbands and fathers who were already at a mission site in-country, hurriedly boarded lifeboats and rowed themselves to the warship ship for rescue.

During this difficult task as they rowed, they realized the soldiers had their guns pointed at them.

Fear washed over them as they approached closer and closer to the enemy ship, and surprisingly, one of the mothers started to sing:

Safe am I, Safe am I,
In the hollow of His hand;
Sheltered o’er, sheltered o’er
With His love forever more
No ill can harm me, No foe alarm me,
For He keeps both day and night,
Safe am I, Safe am I,
In the hollow of His hand.

Mildred Leightner Dillon
18 January 1938

Soon her children joined in the singing. Then others in other boats started to sing as a chorus of praise drifted upward in that dire situation giving them all courage in the face of danger and miraculously all boarded the warship.

Rescued and safe.

A chorus of praise to God allowed miracles to happen for them then and it allows miracles to happen for me now.

Rooted, planted, dissolving rocks, and gaining spiritual nourishment to produce the unlikely fruits of joy and peace even in my land of limitations. 

Safe am I. In the hollow of His hand.

Dillon, Mildred Leightner. “Tune: [Safe Am I, Safe Am I].” written 18 January 1938. Accessed in N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2015. <;.

Image courtesy of:

The Man on the Moon and Me

260px-Apollo_11_first_stepThat’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Forty-six years ago today, 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module Eagle and stepped onto the surface of the moon for the first time in human history.

I gazed in awe scrunched near a small black and white TV, pressed ever closer to the grainy screen by a mesmerized cluster of fellow interns at the University of Maryland sorority house we together called home that summer.   With his “one giant leap for mankind” we cheered and paused collectively to reflect.

“Man on the moon!” Walter Cronkite said giddily, later adding, “Oh boy!”

But that’s not all. Because I worked in Washington, DC that summer as an aide to several major players in the United States Geological Survey(USGS) in downtown Washington, two days later, on July 22, 1969 this totally green college kid from Iowa gazed at those surreal moon landing pictures firsthand. Up close and very personal.

My job at the USGS in downtown Washington brought daily thrills: everything from basking in a personal White House limo ride to the United States Capitol to hand-deliver important documents to plotting on maps all the important landmarks situated on the San Andreas Fault for potential earthquake alert.   But that historic day in July when one of my bosses asked me if I wanted to see the moon pictures, I was speechless. My boss took my stunned silence to mean YES and so off we went to the FBI.

First fingerprinted. Then mug shot and background check quickly done. No surprise to me, I netted a top security clearance badge. What espionage can a teenage college kid do from Iowa?

earth as seen from moonWe returned to the USGS and took the elevator down what felt to me as a hundred flights to the lowest level of the heavily guarded USGS where in a semi-darkened room the glorious photo gems in full color were lying helter-skelter on tables.

I could have touched them. They were that close.

Near as I could tell  only the President and his Cabinet and closest aides had seen these pictures and so I gazed silently, awestruck by the beauty and the wonder and the honor.

I couldn’t breathe.

Moon-landing-earthI could see the earth from the moon in panoramic full color shots.

It’s like seeing the brush marks up close on an original Rembrandt.

Against the blackness of space the earth seems a precious multi-colored jewel set in a sea of darkness, like a magnificent mix of brilliant varied shades of blues, whites, browns, and greens.

I am a small speck living on this jewel in the vast vista of the black universe and, at the same time, I sense privilege and honor to call this jewel of earth my home.  

A time to wonder. A time to pray. A time to remember.

“… rising and gliding out,
I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. “
-Walt Whitman


 Walter Cronkite quote taken from Phil Rosenthal’s article entitled Walter Cronkite’s star will be forever aligned with moon landing in

When I’d Heard the Learned Astronomer by Walt Whitman– taken from

photos courtesy of:

Carpe Diem!

Seize the day, my dear son, Jean Christopher!

C&CatArbysThis picture of you and Claire, ages 3 and 5, shows you sitting in a booth at Arby’s waiting patiently for dad to bring you Sunday lunch. I do remember you wanted more “ham in your hamburger” that day.

I wish I could remember more of our ordinary times as you two grew: what we talked about, how you sounded, and how you looked when you slept that night.

I wish I had not been in a hurry to get to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed.

Like Anna Quindlen so aptly said, “I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.” 

Chris&ClaireCoupThis one of you and Claire, ages 8 and 10, shows you two standing on the rubble in the aftermath of a Moscow coup smiling blissfully as machine-gun toting Russian soldiers warily watch me take your picture. Unlikely tourist shot for sure.

I wish now I could remember more about our extraordinary Russian times: the smells, the sights, the tastes, the people. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I treasure many such precious, breathtaking, historic or not-so-historic moments captured only in photographs of my mind at age sixty-six and as I review them I wax nostalgic and pensive, almost incredulous at the wrinkles on my face and in denial of the steady slow aging of this frail body, keenly aware of the need to preserve these memories whether mundane or extraordinary for posterity.

hourglassAs the hourglass days of my life flow quickly by I see clearly in hindsight extraordinary values in the ebb and flow of these everyday events in the grand scheme of things as they flash before my eyes. I hope to share a few of them with you.

For I now know that you, my dear son, who just yesterday were a babe in my arms, will very shortly hold your own precious child.

We both would do well to heed the advise of this ancient Sanskrit poem.

Look To This Day

Look to this day
for it is life
the very breath of life.

In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths of existence
the joy of growth
the splendor of action
the glory of power.

For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.Silhouette-Sunrise-Nature

‘Treasure’ quote from Quindlen, Anna. Loud and Clear. New York: Random House, 2004. Print.

“Look To This Day by Kalidasa.” Famous Poems. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2015.

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