Category Archives: Stories

My Golden Twilight

The “golden years” of adulthood are generally defined as the span of time between retirement and the beginning of age-imposed physical, emotional, and cognitive limitations, which would roughly fall between the ages of 65 and 80+, according to the experts.

Fall Gold – October 2017

I turned 70 this year so by that definition I should be in my ‘golden years’, that glorious age when one retires to realize some dreams, relax with the grandkids, travel, and live the life of leisure…no worries…no pains.

But the image of a cloudless blue sky above the stunning red, brown, yellow leaves melded into a kaleieoscope of fall glory, a radiant golden panorama all around, is not my current reality.

I see “twilight” instead.

“Twilight” is the name given to the period between dawn and sunrise, or between sunset and dusk, when light is still visible in the sky due to sunlight scattering off the atmosphere. The Online Etymology Dictionary goes on to explain that the word twilight comes two Old English words, twi meaning two, and the noun light. 

Twilight Dawn on the St. Croix. September 2015.

 It doesn’t mean two kinds of light or light occurring twice. Rather, it appears to refer to ‘half’ light. The Sanskrit word for ‘twilight’ samdhya means literally ‘a holding together, junction,’ [and] Middle High German ezwischerliecht literally ‘tweenlight.’

Both of these — the idea of holding together or of being between two things – are an ideal description for this in-between time of morning and evening when the sun isn’t in the sky but its light still brightens things enough for us to see, even if only just barely.

Another writer, Jayme Heimbuch, put it this way:  diffused light adds a purple and pink tinge to everything, making it a magical and temporal moment at the beginning and end of each day.

Kind of like being in two opposite places at once; or the tension we speak of in our faith journeys when we know something as certain in the future but right now face dismal realities that blur our vision instead. Our Pastor Christian calls it the “already, not yet” time.

It was in December of last year that I was really feeling old and useless. Maybe it was because I had not been able to get out of my house for several weeks or maybe it was because others were going for a walk in the new fallen snow and I couldn’t join them; for whatever reason, I felt like one of the grumpy old men in the movie of the same name.

When I turned 60 I threw a big party for myself. This once-in-a-lifetime gala was a Garden Dinner Party for 40 in my backyard gardens which at the time were in their prime.

I think every person should throw at least one party for themselves during their lifetime just to celebrate the WHO and the I AM of self, but that’s another topic.  Anyhow, I had my Princess Torte from  Woullets  and my Happy Lamps and my Champagne toasts.

It was grand.  You could call it  ‘golden’.

Then I got Parkinson’s and the twilight time gradually descended upon me: the in-between time of morning and evening when the sun isn’t in the sky but its light still brightens things enough for us to see, even if only just barely.

The already, but the not yet, too.

twilight -nightsky

The diffused light of this reality adds a purple and pink tinge to everything, making it a magical and very temporary moment at the beginning and end of each day.  Of each life?

I felt old and useless in December but then the purple-pink magic happened again.

God spoke to me and this is what he said:

Isaiah 46:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

It surprised and encouraged me. My God said there will be another chapter after 70 and He assured me that it will be lofty and grand.

Barbara LaTondresse  –  11 October 2018

_________________

Some photos and thoughts and wordings taken from:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+46%3A4&version=NKJV

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/why-is-twilight-called-twilight

https://www.etymonline.com/word/twilight

https://www.neenahlibrary.org/node/284

 

 

 

 

 

MORE THAN ONCE UPON A TIME

Pen-and-Paper-300x289MORE THAN ONCE UPON A TIME

At Home in Hopkins – Three True LaTondresse Stories

IMG_2811How we found our Hobby Acres Homes 

  • September of 1978 to September 1993—112 East Farmdale Road (15 years)
  • 1993-1997 Akademgorodok, Russia (4 years)
  • October 1997 to September 2018— 309 West Wayside Road (21 years)

We have been married 42 years and we have lived here 36 of them!

July of 1978 to September 1993—112 East Farmdale RoadIMG_2806

 Andre and I were married in July of 1977 and living at Cedars of Edina where we began our first home search in the spring is 1978 looking primarily in the Edina area. Later that summer when we shared this news with our friends who had just bought a house in Hopkins, they immediately encouraged us to look in Hopkins instead. So the next Sunday, one ad in the Star Tribune that really stood out read: HOPKINS HOBBY ACRES…112 East Farmdale Road…So we left Edina & found Hopkins. We saw the “Hobby Acres” sign, & made the turn from 5th Avenue(which was also known as Hwy.169 at the time!) to Wayside Road to Farmdale Road for the first time that Sunday and felt like we’d entered the Promised Land. Above us were the majestic elm canopies over the street and around us were lovely homes nestled in this park-like gem of a neighborhood. It was love at first sight. We were home.

October 1997 to September 2018—309 West Wayside Road1

When it came time to think about returning to America to live, there was no question about “where” because our roots were in Hobby Acres in Hopkins, MN. That reality did not happen by accident. Some seasoned missionary friends gave us the good advice to do our best to maintain ties with friends/family here even though located half a world away. We took their advice to heart and as a result Hobby Acre in Hopkins was the logical choice for our next USA home. But we had a few hurdles to jump.

For one thing, Hobby Acres was (and still is) a hot commodity. It’s a place where the house sells before the sign goes up (like it did when we sold 112 East Farmdale) so we knew we’d need to pray for a miracle and get creative in our search. We did both. We started asking our Hobby Acres friends to keep a lookout and the summer before we returned, when we were in the neighborhood, Andre started knocking on the doors of houses we particularly liked. As a result of that, we did have one possibility on Farmdale Road West to think about.

But that wasn’t the only one.   The night before we left the neighborhood in 1996 to return to Russia we were driving west on Wayside and all of a sudden I pointed at 309 West Wayside Road and said, ”Stop and ask this house cuz I’d always liked it.” We’d gone to a Pink Flamingo there once. I remember standing in the entryway and saying to myself, “I could live here.”

We didn’t know the current owners, but Andre knocked anyhow and a young lady answered with her husband standing right behind her as Andre said, “Hi, we used to live in this neighborhood on Farmdale and love it. We are living overseas this year but moving back next year and we really like this house and we’re wondering if you’re thinking about moving?” The lady looked at her husband and looked at André and said, “ No we haven’t but it sounds interesting!” So our miracle happened and our God made a way where there seemed to be no way —something out of nothing—and as a result in October of 1997, 309 West Wayside Road became our second Hobby Acres home.

September 6, 2018 to Present—Our Loft. 750 Marketplace #414Our Loft

We first seriously entertained the idea of moving from our beloved Wayside home this past January in the dead of winter. Winter has its charms, esp. for blue-blood Minnesotans, but, nevertheless, we began to ask the question of how much longer we’d be able to maintain this wonderful property with all the gardens, pond, and seasonal duties.  Our son, who lives with his family in a nearby Hopkins, suggested the Marketplace Lofts downtown because we’d still be very close to his neighborhood and to other Hopkins treasures.  I did some research which showed that most all of the recent properties there had sold off-market so we knew we’d have to have help from someone well-connected, who lived there. God brought to mind a former neighbor and friend who lived there for the last couple of years, so we called her up and invited her for lunch.

Andre and I prayed the God who’d worked spectacular miracles to give us every former house we’ve lived in would do the same kind of remarkable, spectacular ‘something out of nothing’ miracle to make the next move apparent and to show us His clear leading. He brought to my mind verses in Isaiah 46:

Listen to me,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’”

So we invited our friend over for lunch and asked her if she could help us and she said she would.  That was on March 2. Shortly after that she showed us the first of two Marketplace units which were available and empty. We saw the second unit on Good Friday, March 30. It was close to what we wanted but there were multiple offers on it. We weren’t prepared to offer, so some one else got it.

We knew then that we needed to get our act together ahead of time to be able to make an offer pronto should another unit come up —so both logistically and financially we started to get ready esp. by starting our ‘archeological dig’ at 309 W Wayside.

Then the remarkable, spectacular ‘something out of nothing’ miracle to make the next move apparent and to show us His clear leading happened!

On April 9, a realtor friend, his wife, and our loft-owner friend, met with us at our house. We invited them over to go thru our house and give us ideas of things to do to get the house ‘top dollar’ ready to sell as soon as possible.

Three of us were seated in the living room and the realtor friend was going over a few suggestions while we waited for our loft-owner friend to arrive. She soon did, and after taking off her coat and sitting down, took charge.

“This meeting isn’t just about getting your house ready to sell. I’m thinking of selling my unit and I want to sell it to you guys…! My boyfriend and I have decided to ‘cohabitate’, and we need more space than my loft has because he wants to have an art studio.”

Oh my! – We recovered quickly enough to accept that offer.

Next—what had to happen is that the boyfriend who had a place in Uptown had to sell it. HE DID.

And then the two of them had to find an acceptable place to buy–in this part of town. THEY DID.

Next we met with our loft owner friend to agree on her selling price, sign a purchase agreement, and put our house on the market pronto.
WE DID.

“Something out of nothing.”  Many details needed doing fast.  God answered our prayers so Andre had just the right helpers at key times to lighten the load since my ability is limited.

Life has a funny way of coming back around full circle.

Andre and Barbara are moving into the downtown Hopkins condo unit of their former 112 East Farmdale neighbor.

Her place is perfect for us:  2BR, 2BA, 2 fireplaces, den, large balcony, walk in closet, gourmet kitchen, pantry, washer, dryer, 2 garage stalls and handicap accessible!  Of all the units possible in her building this is the one that will be ideal for us and it’s a miracle that it’s the one we’re buying.

More than ‘once upon a time’.

Home in Hopkins.

Selah.

“What is real? “ asked the Rabbit one day.

What is real?

It’s the broken leg and the cast.
It’s the wound and the band-aid.
It’s the rose and the thorns.
It’s the dead hog and the Thielen bacon.

It’s the wailing over the baby boys lost in Herod’s massacre
and it’s the wonder of the birth of the Holy infant Jesus.

It’s Christmas and Lent and Easter.

Night and Day.
Death and Life.
Grave and Glory.

We had a hard night.

It’s my new normal to wake at around 2AM, and rouse my dear André to help me do the bathroom routine which includes getting out of bed, shuffling slowly and painfully to the bathroom, doing chores, taking pills, laboriously limping back to the bed, getting in bed, the process which looks a lot like picking up the dead weight of a heavy sack of flour and heaving it four feet up and sideways where it thuds into a position allowing sleep.

But when you add moving positions twice, one more bathroom trip and adjusting pillows and covers for the tenth time, it is only a tiring, tedious, agonizing interruption too a good night’s sleep.

I was diagnosed with PK on Christmas Eve 2013. My life is now a whirl of pills, PT, falls, adjustments, compromises, broken promises and shattered dreams. It includes canes, walkers, and a wheelchair on occasion. It means great difficulty walking, doing stairs, and sitting down in a chair. It can mean not thinking or talking clearly.

It also means doing Valentine’s dinner at a Wayzata restaurant at 4 PM to
assure a peaceful, crowd-less time with my love who still buy me roses and gives me a card that reads: “for my beautiful wife…”

What is Real? Like The Skin Horse says to the Velveteen Rabbit, It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. It can hurt. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”

I remember the day light years past when I was experiencing the new pains of PK and in denial and anger over the train wreck of life changes I could foresee coming and a friend asked me, “Are you alright?” I answered rather cynically, “That depends on which part of me you’re talking about.” In my fractured world the broken leg wasn’t even in a cast yet. It was total pain with no hope of healing.

Much is still the same now but more is different. Kind of like playing an old recital piece you’ve gone over time and again until the current version is much better due to time spent practicing but with still hints of the former propensities.

What is real now is an uncanny metamorphosis. Like the blind man at Bethsaida who came to Jesus for healing and at first was made only half-well (Mark 8:22-25)—

Sometimes I see men as trees walking.
Sometimes I see only the trees.
But always though the fog and mist
I see a Sunrise coming
That will not be denied.
I feel hope not despair, joy not sorrow, peace not pain.
Right now, today, my reality includes a warm cup of tea, toast,
Sunshine in my window, roses on my table.

Though my opposite realities collide
They also coexist and create astute beauty

Including this real piece of writing from my PK heart.

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, amazing grace.”

Barbara LaTondresse
15 February 2018

Amazing Grace,My chains are gone
lyrics Michael W Smith


*Note: from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary — The Difference Between ASTUTE, SHREWD, and SAGACIOUS Astute is similar in meaning to shrewd and sagacious, but there are subtle differences in connotation among them. All three suggest sharp thinking and sound judgment, but shrewd stresses practical, hardheaded cleverness and judgment (“a shrewd judge of character”), whereas sagacious implies wisdom and foresight combined with good judgment (“sagacious investors”). Astute, which derives from the Latin noun astus, meaning “craft,” suggests cleverness, mental sharpness, and diplomatic skill (“an astute player of party politics”). https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/astute

**words from “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone 2007)” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/See_the_Morning#Amazing_Grace_(My_Chains_Are_Gone) by John Newton (stanzas), “Chris” Tomlin and Louie Giglio (refrain)

*** Williams, Margery. The Velveteen Rabbit. Doubleday & Company, Inc.,1922.

pictures courtesy of:

https://riversidedt.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=10

https://coffinberry.deviantart.com/art/The-Velveteen-Rabbit-48697162

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=velveteen+rabbit&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS730US730&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSosG4lqnZAhVJ7IMKHUdiBQoQ_AUICigB&biw=1063&bih=680#imgrc=rD8OyJzC02jsXM:

Never, Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up!

It’s third-and-10 at the Minnesota 39-yard line with 10 seconds on the clock and the Vikings down 24-23.

All the Vikings really need to do is get the ball down the field far enough for a reasonable field-goal attempt, say inside the Saints 35-yard line, for a long one. That means get it to a receiver, get out of bounds to stop the clock, and send out Kai Forbath and the kicking team.

Sounds like a slam-dunk but not so with our Viking boys.

The Vikings have a sad history with game-winning field-goal attempts. My heart sank to familiar lows earlier in this game when Forbath missed an essential, easy one and left my mind to ponder the foreshadowing of yet another significant Vikings “snatch defeat out of victory” loss. It was almost enough to make me stop watching, but I didn’t. Resolute fan to the bitter end, I chomp my popcorn and sit on my hands in nervous frustration.

Winston Churchill would have been proud.

The clouds gather in the back of my mind as I also replay the recent back and forth of the lead. We seemed so good in the first half and then came the inevitable let down early in the second half as the Saints came alive and went ahead 24-23.

Oh my. Can’t we win a big one just once?   I find myself talking mostly to the cat, but I must admit I sent up a few prayers to Father.

So on third-and-10 Keenum launches a missile of a pass and I hold my breath as Diggs hauls it in, hesitates, unbelievably regains his
balance, and takes off for the end zone. 

In that split second Diggs and I both raise our hands and cross the goal line. We stand there stunned; beyond jubilant. Touchdown!

The suddenly, pleasantly surprised, victorious hometown fans see sorrow turned to joy and go wild. Instantly and dizzily awake from a mournful stupor, some laugh, cry, fall up, fall down, kiss, hug, and run in circles: no restraint in this celebration. It dries all tears; the former things are past away. Weeping endures for the night but shouts of joy come in the morning.

I don’t suppose that Stefon Diggs first after-thought was of how this most magnificent Minnesota miracle illustrates a profound spiritual reality, but I take delight in seeing TV repeats of that moment over and over, not just because it encourages us weary, forlorn Vikings fans, but, also, because it oddly enough encourages me in my faith walk.

My first after-thought was that the Minnesota Miracle is a grand reminder to me to review and thank my Almighty Father for the miracles He’s done in my life, and that this glorious Viking moment was meant to showcase three aspects of the way in which God interacts with each of His children including me (“ the birth of a vision, death of a vision, fulfillment of a vision”***).

Is it any wonder that the name of this play is ‘seventh heaven’?

Barbara LaTondresse

19 January 2018

 


Images courtesy of

https://thetomatos.com/free-clipart-37959/

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nfl-playoffs-minnesota-vikings-snatch-jawdropping-win-over-new-orlean-saints-20180115-h0ie8x.html

Psalms 30:5 and Revelations 21:4 from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

*For a detailed explanation of this famous Winston Churchill quote go to -http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2003/january/14163.html

**For a detailed explanation of the Biblical principle of birth, death, and fullment of a vision go to – https/::iblp.org:questions:how-does-god-work-through-birth-death-and-fulfillment-vision

*** For a detailed explanation of this Viking moment go to —–https://www.sbnation.com/2018/1/16/16892910/vikings-saints-minnesota-miracle-how-stefon-diggs-casekeenum

Reunion

Where did he go?

Three hours had passed since my dear husband, Andre,  left the house to keep an appointment with our family doctor. The appointment actually was for me but I was having a difficult moment and couldn’t walk so he went without me to get the doc’s signature on paperwork to facilitate a refund of my Delta air ticket thru trip insurance.

I was reaching for my phone to call him when, out of the blue, our son came in the front door. “Mom. Dad asked me to tell you in person that he  was taken by ambulance to the Methodist Hospital ER with a kidney stone attack. He’s there to take a cat scan and get morphine for the pain.”

My husband was in excruciating pain in the Methodist ER. The words echoed in my muddled brain.

I was thankful that my dear son told me in person and was here to help and at the same time I was in shock.  He promised he’d check back as soon as he knew anything, gave me a kiss, and left.

The house got very quiet, like the eerie calm that precedes an intense thunderstorm. I called Methodist Hospital, said I was trying to locate my husband, and asked the lady if they had admitted person by the name of ‘André LaTondresse’.

I could tell by her tone she thought it odd that I didn’t know these things but she, nevertheless, looked up his name and she found him listed in the ER, Room 9. I suppose she was trying to say that’s where I could find him if I came right over.

Pain mingles with foreboding once again as this day brings new trials on top of the old, the preceding ones in a pattern resembling the layers of an archeological dig.

Suddenly, in the midst of this most recent of quiet times when I’m asking, ‘Where are you, God?’, the front door bursts open and a tired, haggard, and somewhat ashen Andre plops into the nearly chair, looks at me, sighs, and says, “I’m home!”

Barbara LaTondresse
11 October 2017

 

 

A Dark and Stormy Night

It takes a rare breed to live in this Far Side of life where expectations clash often with the harshest of realities. I know.

Take last night for example. It was a seemingly ordinary end to the day: the hubs and me watching WCCO 10 O’clock News in bed. But just as the ‘CCO man began telling us our weather, Andre rose quite suddenly and as he hobbled out of the bedroom I thought I heard him say, “I’m bleeding and I can’t get it to stop! I’m going to call Chris to take me to the ER now!”

 I made my way up and out of bed and at that point noticed the unmistakable trail of blood on the floor out the bedroom door, through the hall, and into the bathroom where Andre was trying to stop the deep red gusher spouting from his leg with a Band-Aid. I said, “Stay here.   You’re dripping blood everywhere.”

Christopher arrived speedily, and as Andre made his way to the car in a drenching rain, thunder lightening everywhere, Charlie Brown’s “dark and stormy night” setting came to life, and I started to chuckle.

It’s 11 o’clock at night. Most of my neighbors are settled in for sleep, but not me.  My husband just left for the ER. I’m not sure when, or if, he’ll be back tonight, and I’m left to find the Swiffer and wet towels to mop up blood. And as the storm intensifies  I’m also gathering a flashlight in the event the lights go out.  

If it pours when it rains, I will be ready.

*****

Note: This story has a happy ending. Christopher’s wife, Ashley, is a nurse practitioner. Chris and Ashley and our little grandson live only a mile or two away. So as the boys headed toward the ER, Ashley suggested they stop at Walgreens instead and pick up the stuff she would need to fix Andre and head to their house instead. Brilliant idea! Dr. Ashley got the situation under control and in a flash, much to my surprise, the boys came home smiling. Apparently Andre scratched open a varicose vein and it exploded creating last night’s chaos, but all’s well that ends well and I’m so glad.


Images courtesy of:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-kcNSU1VBG6M/TWzs0R_h1RI/AAAAAAAABuA/aX-XY4x27Yg/s1600/mosquito.gif  

https://68.media.tumblr.com/81c3dc04ee1df449fd919c690ba1b476/tumblr_inline_ol2ph4ZLEk1tn98y1_540.jpg

http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/1f/81/39/1f8139ba24ec4f6d21a10a45eef5a754.jpg

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.

4th-of-July-Bandana-Flag
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:

http://www.lostdsm.org/other-iowa-towns

http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Canned-Food-Factories-Sweet-Corn-Kernels_60235429602.html

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/creamed_corn

http://www.google.com/search?q=bandanas&espv=2&biw=1141&bih=706&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiAsNqt4OvMAhVp0oMKHYYJAMgQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=jSPEm3yUvnOKXM%3A

http://www.elginiowa.org

 

Merry New Year in Narnia

Narnia___The_Lamppost_by_Scedwards

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:

http://www.art.com/gallery/id–a32/norman-rockwell-posters.htm

http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/2010/12/santa-stolen-have-you-no-shame-mr-grinch/

 

My Lenten Confection

cookie-monsterGrocery shopping has its charms. Aisles brimming with culinary treasures awaken my inner chef to the possibilities. Sample ladies entice me to devour tasty morsels of chicken Kiev or artisan cheese. The flower market calls me especially in Minnesota’s late winter hibernation to smell and touch the hyacinths and dream of spring.

But grocery shopping also has its temptations, especially if the shopper happens to be forswearing sugar for Lent.

choc chip cookiesOh, the sweet pain as the decadent aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts thru the aisles and draws me toward the bakery counter where I, alas, commit the crime and purchase not one but two delightfully warm gooey gems and with nary a thought of contrition devour them whole on the spot.

Ah, what have I done?

My noble intentions and stout resolution get lost in a sea of remorse as I ponder the weight of my unwise and impulsive decision. I can hide the evidence on the outside but inside I sense an uneasy mix of guilt and failure. I can rationalize that it was only a small offense in the grand scheme of possible crimes, but I am still left with a glaring example of my own imperfection. I have sinned.

The Apostle Paul speaks to this reality in the book of Romans. He says, “My own behavior baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do but doing what I really loathe. … I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. That is, I don’t accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don’t really want to do I find I am always doing….In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

There’s Hope. Glorious Hope.

The hymn writer Horatio G. Spafford said it best:

my-sins-nailed-to-the-crossMy sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!’

A shlight.showing-open-dooraft of Light emerges thru an open door into the pitch-black room of my guilty soul piercing the darkness, illuminating and transforming all inside by its own radiant Power.

A Way Out. Yes, indeed. Thank God.

My Lenten confection redeemed.

_______________________

Phillips, J. B. “Romans 8:14-20.” The New Testament in Modern English. New York: Harper Collins, 1962. Print.

It Is Well With My Soul lyrics by Horatio G Spafford – 1873 –  found in http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/It_Is_Well_with_My_Soul/

Images courtesy of:

http://www.thehealthblueprint.com/55-fat-loss-secrets/

http://www.handletheheat.com/ultimate-chocolate-chip-cookies/

http://lightloveandpower.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/light.showing-open-door.jpg/

https://heathersjoy.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/itiswell/

 

 

 

 

Light a Candle for Hope!

During the Advent season many of us wrestle with mixed emotions—the warm fuzzies that accompany Christmas decorating, cookie baking, parties, gift giving. Yet, surprisingly, there’s haunting melancholy in the mix. This season reminds us painfully of areas in our own lives in which we are waiting or longing for some kind of healing.

A Light in the darkness. A candle for hope.

In the last three years I’ve received unwelcome gifts accompanying Parkinson’s disease. Last winter I came near death with the downward spiral of untreated symptoms and found myself at the Mayo Clinic on Christmas Eve bannerbride1day. It was on that day, December 24, 2013, that I received the definite Parkinson’s diagnosis and with the ensuing treatments prescribed and in place I began to improve. My new friends include two pills every four hours 24/7/365 to keep the tremors and spasticity at bay, a cane, walker, and, on occasion, a wheelchair.

In this process our church healing services have provided the sacred space for my healing to begin. At first I didn’t know what to expect.

Maybe I would take up my proverbial bed and walk right then and there.  Maybe, like Paul, I would pray three times for the thorn to go away and God would say “No”.  Maybe I would have to die first, like Lazarus, be dead three days, and then rise.

All I knew was that I was broken. I still looked pretty good on the outside, but in my Pleasantville of denial nothing was pleasant inside. I was not coping with the flood of frightening changes. Even though I was under the care of some of the world’s best doctors, I knew they were powerless to perform miracles. I was in pain physically and spiritually and I was drowning on the brink beyond hope.

So at the first service I attended, when the leader, Cheryl, asked Jesus’ question—-“Do you want to be healed?” it almost made me angry.

At first instinct, I thought, of course, I do. Who wouldn’t? Especially me!

At second thought, the question gave me pause to ponder the depth of the implications. I began to see the light of glorious change dawning in the dim distant horizon of my troubled mind but I knew it would cost me.

It wouadventbannermaryld cost me my pride. My denial. My self-bartering. It would demand taking a good look in the mirror and facing my harsh realities head on. It would also demand asking and receiving and listening.

Nevertheless, that night I decided to get out of the boat.

I stepped into the deep water and, wonder of wonders, I started to walk.

As long as I look at Jesus, I’m OK.

He steadies me in the waves and storms and gives me Light in my Darkness.

Light a candle for Hope!


*Images courtesy of Church of the Cross, Hopkins, Minnesota.