Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

 

 

Advertisements

Louis Vuitton Bag Camping

When Henry David Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…,” he probably didn’t have a traditional yearly weekend camping event with friends in mind but oddly enough the English teacher in me can make the leap. I won’t detail the hows and whys of that right now.

Suffice it to say that one of my favorite summer traditions, our annual camping weekend in Wisconsin with dear friends, always makes me smile. In this blog post, entitled ‘Louis Vuitton Bag Camping’, I will try to capture the essence of my happy thoughtfulness into word pictures so you can see this elegant, extravagant, beautiful, quirky event in all its unique glory.

Little Claire, age two, sits at rapt attention on the top of a picnic table, mesmerized, watching fashionista, Cheryl, put on her makeup. Claire totally enjoyed her first camping beauty lesson that fine morning. Over time she observed and absorbed other valuables from these vibrant special friends who know how to live life with gusto and grace.

Our camping adventures began modestly with a weekend group of friends gathered at a KOA near Cannon Falls. We were a motley crew. Friends sporting off-brands: a ragtag assemblage of Goodwill variety camping stuff blended together with garage sale finds, secondhand tents, and worn campers.

No Airstream trailers here.

Our children were small. Claire still fit in one of those Walker thingies with wheels that kept her out of the mud mostly and provided a tray for Cheerios and s’mores and whatever else she could pick up off of the muddy ground.

Our adventures were modest, too, like shopping the rather primitive KOA
Campground store. Surprising Donna made a spectacular find while we were there: multi-colored Tiki string lights which that evening illuminated more than the Adams’ camper with a warm, almost fanciful, campfire glow. I have a suspicion this was when Donna’s ‘strings of lights’ vision was born and ‘ let there be light’ became her mantra thereafter.

In fact, Donna later found a cheap craft kit somewhere that she lovingly and painstakingly assembled until the unique plastic multicolored string of funky, chunky lamps was born and fashioned to hang on their camper awning just outside the door. For over 30 years now that string of lights reigns on Steve and Donna’s camper kind of like a symbol of our longevity.

In those early days the kids were willing to create our evening entertainment providing us with original, wonderful, crazy skits to enjoy. Also it was at one of these early campouts that Uncle Roy invented ‘Slinky Stinks’. Each evening with flashlights in hand the kids would go hunting and find ‘Slinky Stinks’ and have stories to tell with Uncle Roy’s help.

Also in the early days we got rained on and didn’t like being wet, or having our toddlers playing with mud, so one of our people, Doug, who is gifted with ‘practical genius’, crafted the Mother of all Tarps. Not only was the size massive, it required a massive group of friends to engineer the positioning and then execute the placing of the Tarp to ensure dry and happy campers.

In fact, one year when everyone else was leaving the campground slimy, soggy, and exhausted from fighting the rain, our amusement was to line our camp chairs up in a row snug, smug, and dry under our Tarp to smile as we waved the other wimpy campers ‘goodbye’.

This Mother of all Tarps became an excellent frame for Donna’s ever-growing strings-of-lights display.   Donna began to collect strings of lights to the point that she had to catalogue her boxes of lights; she had so many. Of course, the fact that she is a librarian and English teacher in real life helps immensely when it comes to organizing boxes of string lights, and we are not talking ‘little white lights’.  We are talking pink flamingos, beer bottles, fish, Teddy bears, sail boats, champagne glasses, hot dogs, dinosaurs. The variety is endless and that’s not all.

Our much loved ‘ambience director’ Cheryl, selects the theme of the campout for that week end and brings the props necessary to transform our picnic tables into designer displays of that theme. Centerpieces, tablecloths, napkins, and some times even clothes tie to the theme. In the picture at left, for example, “Dîner en Blanc” was the theme for our Saturday night dinner in 2012.

Also, each member, or family, as the case may be, is responsible to bring the camp shirt with the unique logo designed by Petra and the ‘fish bottle’ with the dollar store quality candelabra stuck in its neck. How the fish bottles were procured is legendary story in its own right.

In fact,  the picture below right has all the mementos of a great time: Cheryl’s magnificent centerpiece, lighted tulips, fish bottle candles, cd player, Donna’s colored theme lights, & even my “graduation retirement” bell that we used to call the events.

Our ‘music director’, Steve, selects and brings the music to go with the theme. Cheryl shares that theme with Donna, who then dreams up a story and selects the lights she wants to display that go with the story. Sometimes the story relates directly to the theme or it could instead relate of an important event in the past year for someone in the group. When Donna tells the story she’s usually standing on a camp chair, if she hasn’t had too many happy hour happies, and the rest of us are to guess the theme of her story; kind of like Charades with a twist.

Over the years our little camping group has acquired either by truth or embellishment a legendary status. No only do we have the Mother of all Tarps, we have the Mother of all Light Displays, an Ambience Director, and a Music Director, we have among us one whom we with fond affection have christened ‘General Jeanne’ who guides us all in our Pre-Campout Planning Meeting to agree upon the Mother of all Event Timeline/Duties Grid which gives details as to the location, event times, menus, individual duties, assignments, and cell phone numbers.

So our weekend is filled with just the right amount of predictability and spontaneity to make it fun for all. Saturday evening dinner is predictably grilled BYO steak, with all the trimmings, including baked potatoes wrapped in foil by Anne. Mary and Sue make the salad. Andre, Steve, Roy rotate the duty of being the ‘Gentlemen: Start-your-grills’ guy, the VIP point person for setting and enforcing grill duties. Roy got the VIP job of turning on the coffee because he is an ‘early riser’.  So the smells of fresh coffee mingled with the bacon frying and Ginny’s breakfast potatoes cooking greet us as we await our community breakfast on Saturday morning.

This is what I call Louis Vuitton bag camping. Elegant. Extravagant. Beautiful. Quirky.

And when we gather in one big camp chair circle on Saturday night, just after the 4 O’clock Happy Hour and before the 7:00 O’clock Steak Dinner, to do the 5 O’clock News, we all with reverence listen as each person in what is now lst, 2nd, and 3d generation camper group recounts the important happenings for them in the previous year. We catch up with each other’s lives, and we remember, and like Robert Burns of long ago, we are thankful.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup ‘o   kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

©Barbara LaTondresse
4 July 2017


Burns, Robert. “Auld Lang Syne.” Robert Burns Country: Auld Lang Syne:. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 July 2017. <http://www.robertburns.org/works/236.shtml&gt;.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Excerpt from Walden – Henry David Thoreau.” AntiRomantic.com. N.p., 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 04 July 2017. <http://www.antiromantic.com/walden/&gt;.

 

My Olympic Gold

barbaras-medal

Barbara’s Olympic Gold

I am a winner.

The etched face on my
 better-than-Olympic
gold medal
reads:
FOR HEROIC SURVIVAL
IN SIBERIA
1993

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.

frozen-food-section-edit

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:

http://www.clipartkid.com/winner-cliparts/

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

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

For Lent – Meditation II – Kiss Winter Good-bye!
tulip-bud-emerging-pink2
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:

http://www.wallpapersonview.com/wallpapers/flowers_crocuses-1700×1200-16963.html

http://www.platedstories.com/2013_08_01_archive.html

http://www.budscape.net/?p=573

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. http://www.ofthecross.org/light-a-candle-for-hope/. Church of the Cross, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2o16. Copyright © 2016 Church of the Cross.

 

 

 

Forever Fall Toward Narnia

 

overlook2

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?

———————–

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERACOLD CHOICES

when all October stands

hush, morning
every tree beguiles

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

yes

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
forever
fall
toward Narnia

 © Barbara LaTondresse – 18 October 1999 – all rights reserved

The Elephant in the Room

Nobody’s perfect. Even so most of us try to put the best foot forward. Our Facebook accounts glow with smiling portraits of ideal trips, stellar family events, A+ accomplishments in the marketplace, and lovely gardens. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even the mysteries or puzzles—if the mystery is a novel, or the puzzle is a crossword or jigsaw—are welcome. We all rejoice with a resolved plot or with the last pieces in place—no unanswered questions or missing parts.

Unfortunately life isn’t always that neatly packaged, is it? Things in Pleasantville are sometimes, well, not pleasant. Then what?

talk-about-the-white-elephant-in-the-room

Last spring our church Lenten Soup Suppers focused on the theme Refiner’s Fire: An Honest Look into the Hope of Christ found in Suffering.  This topic is not an academic one for me.  I’m experiencing this vista up close and personal.  In the last three years I’ve received unwelcome gifts accompanying Parkinson’s disease. I’ve had significant falls resulting in several broken ribs and a black eye. I am at this moment nursing a compression fracture.  At one point I lost most of the vision in my right eye, and have endured many painful or sleepless nights. I have trouble walking and the use of my left hand is limited. Last winter I came near death with the downward spiral of untreated symptoms and found myself at the Mayo Clinic on Christmas Eve day. It was on that day, December 24, 2013, that I received the Parkinson’s diagnosis and began to improve. My new friends include two pills every four hours 24/7/365, a cane, walker, and, on occasion, a wheelchair.

There is an elephant in the room. Pain and perplexities, broken pieces, unanswered questions, the nagging doubts, and the messy realities collide with my vision of life as it should be in the Pleasantville world and I am still stunned. At first I tried denial. It didn’t do much for my body or soul. So I began to share more openly with my worlds, not just because misery loves company, though it surely does—but also to acknowledge and point to the encouragement and redemption of suffering as I begin to see the resurrection beyond the cross in Christ’s life and, hopefully, in my own as well.

ChurchCross-0780

As I write this today in the midst of this ‘messy reality’ of a mysterious puzzle, I am thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for the myriads of ways friends and family shower me with prayers, meals, unexpected visits, and notes of encouragement. I’m thankful for my dear church family and awesome staff and especially for the intense prayers for healing and grace that are being said on my behalf. I’m thankful for a dear husband who passed his international obligations on to others so that he could be home with me. I’m thankful for our wonderful children and spouses who have sacrificed time and again to help me out.

I’m also hopeful. Daily reminders from God’s Word and hymns I know by heart bless me as the Holy Spirit brings them to mind.  I’m hopeful as I see signs that the current meds are working.  I’m hopeful as I see how these trials are refining me and my family and my friends. I’m also hopeful that as I experience the gifts of Christ’s joy and peace this suffering will yield its own unique redemption stories.

I can by the grace of God co-exist with elephants.

Check out this amazing story —–

It Is Well with My Soul | Horatio G. Spafford 1873

 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
it is well, and it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My 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!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
the sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Welcome to Night Lights and Morning Joys!

This blog is an eclectic, multi-faceted work in progress, a  quilt in the making with varied hues both light and dark, irregular shapes, seemingly random impressBarbara3ions intermingled and placed to form my life story. It is a book in process written on the blank pages by the Master Designer. From this vantage point thru the lens of my faith-walk I will tell my stories, share my poems, and offer my personal reflections looking for joy, wonder, purpose, and hope each day along the along the way. Join me as I reflect and remember, watch and wonder.