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Mysterious Wonder

Sometimes God seems far away and tastes as dry as piece of toast made with day-old bread.  At other times , he is the radiant sunshine on a dark and stormy nigh1.

 I felt Andre suddenly shaking me awake, his voice unusually somber and fear-laden, telling me that WCCO weather had shown a graphic picture of a  tornado headed towards Hopkins. It was at that time 15 minutes away; just enough time for us to go to the basement garage immediately.

Funnel Cloud Spotted in Hopkins As Tornado Warning Ends
The storm is moving swiftly northeast.
By James Warden, Patch Staff, September 2019Just beginning to rouse from my slumber, I looked at my bedside clock thru bleary eyes which confirmed that it was indeed 10:30 PM.

 So I told Andre I needed several minutes to collect my thoughts which were a jumble of storm and packing images mixed incongruously with thoughts like “but I’m still cozy under my blanket with my cat curled at my feet.”

At that time I also heard him calling Chris with the news, telling him to get his family (that would be his peacefully sleeping wife and the  two toddlers) to their basement, pronto!

I had not seen Andre this concerned except the time the kids were lost in the Russian forest “primeval” so long ago and he called all the men to form search parties.   I knew he wasn’t joking.

Since this tornado was about to happen 10:45 PM, I decided to talk to God about it;  after all, He’s  in charge of the events of my life.

I felt fear when I looked at the lightning and wind outside. I also remembered that being in a wheelchair would present unusual challenges, as would being on the 4th floor, so  I prayed that God would stop the Hopkins-bound tornado.  Just like that. That there would be no tornado in Hopkins.  I was lying in my Hopkins bed unable to walk and I didn’t think it was my time to go to a basement or to die.

When I calmly told Andre  that I was not going because God would take care of me, I was sure.  Andre tried to talk me out of it, but it didn’t work.

Just as I was dozing off again,I heard the WCCO weatherman tell us all that the Hopkins tornado had suddenly left the radar. Poof. Gone.

Sometimes My Father says “no” and I don’t understand. But every once in a while, he says a resounding “yes”.  Those are the times I am to be still and know that He is God.   So I am.

 

 

 

by Barbara LaTondresse  –  5 October 2019

________________________

Images courtesy  of:

https://patch.com/minnesota/stmichael/line-of-severe-storms-bearing-down-on-st-michael-albertville

https://tenor.com/view/packingstruggles-disney-mickey-https://theiowarepublican.com/wake-up-conservatives

a https://www.colourbox.com/image/candle-in-a-hand-image-3955837

https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS730US730&tbm=isch&q=backpack&chips=q:backpack,g_1:cartoon:7jn_s58l9Sc%3D&usg=AI4_-kTSu7SPQ4r7T3TEAxUqrNVPau-SdQ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjX1sfmwoblAhXtQ98KHZH0AuIQ4lYITSgR&biw=1440&bih=740&dpr=1#imgrc=pskYGsfisIrIuM:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwi-yfGT4IflAhVxhq0KHcN5B2YQjRx6BAgBEAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.agodman.com%2Fblog%2Fthe-god-who-called-us-is-the-great-i-am-the-god-of-our-fathers%2F&psig=AOvVaw0E_hQdvYSwlvYag5BQGVru&ust=1570455211668700

https://www.zazzle.com/cartoon+tornado+cards+stamps

Lost Jewels Found

A long time ago in a country far away our children got lost.

Our family was attending a staff conference, in a small retreat center outside of St. Petersburg, Russia bordered on one side by a primeval forest and on the other by the Baltic sea. The region was relatively remote although we had arrived using a nearby train and there were several villages scattered nearby.

Our group had gathered for dinner and was just getting settled down when I noticed that Andre was uncharacteristically quiet. He was also a somber shade of gray. Just as I leaned over to a ask him if he was “OK”, he jumped to his feet and mounted a nearby chair.

“Chris, Claire, and Emily are missing. They haven’t come back from hiking this afternoon. It’s getting dark.  We need to organize search parties immediately and go find them before night falls.”An uneasy urgency, especially since they were all under age ten, set the tone as the men divided up. Emily’s father, Blake, and Andre went to the nearest police station to report the kids as being lost where police began to place phone calls to neighboring village police stations to inquire about the kids, the search parties went out, and the rest of us went to a nearby room upstairs to pray.

It’s almost funny, I thought, how I made my two children wear fanny belts containing copies of their passports, visas, some Russian money, and the address
of wherever we were staying just in case.  They hated this but I could only hope that they had the right stuff with them and hadn’t removed it while playing.We had heard scary stories about the courageous attempt’s folks made in years past to wade thru the boggy, soggy, dense forest to find their way to freedom thru Finland’s border crossing nearby. Some people died there.  It reminded me of how Longfellow’s mysterious “forest primeval” must have looked with “the murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, stand like Druids of old.”

As we prayed it was as if God said to me “Put out your hand.” So, I did. He placed my children as jewels in my hand, and I covered them to protect them, but I immediately sensed God telling me that was not what He wanted me to do. He wanted me to open my hand instead and give them back to Him, so I slowly opened my hand and said, “They’re yours! Take them if that’s best.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After what seemed like hours, He replied,” No, you keep them for a while’’ and He closed my hand over them once again. From that moment I knew they would be well. Shortly after that, we heard voices from first floor, affirming words: WE FOUND THEM!  THEY’RE OK!

Our children had been a-drift in a Russian bog/forest surrounded by wild dogs that because of answered prayers didn’t attack.

Then by another miracle they came upon a road and followed it in the dark for about ten miles to a nearby village and its Russian police station where the phone rang while the kids were there.

The call was from the local police near our conference center who just happened to call the village station while our kids were present.  The kids weren’t given a cordial welcome being told to “speak in Russian or not speak at all.” But, much to the surprise of everyone, they spoke in Russian.

So by God’s amazing grace, timely miracles, and answered prayers
the lost gems were found.

By Barbara LaTondresse
 6 August 2019

______________________________

photos courtesy of:

Milford Track: Nothofagus Forest in upper Arthur Valley

http://joel-miller.net/lost-in-a-forest-1

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/230517/thiruvananthapuram-unclean-neighbourhood-has-stray-dogs-multiply.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=jewels+in+hand&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS730US730&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiup9j-xe7jAhVEYKwKHX-uCFYQ_AUIESgB&biw=1399&bih=574#imgrc=eMMgX7-Z1h8wGM:

https://www.tripsavvy.com/worst-case-guide-to-russian-travel-1622531

Fishing in the Ob Sea

We are not strangers to cross-cultural tides, having weathered the ins and outs of Russian life with its ‘Far Side’ propensities:  everything from watching a Russian balance a refrigerator on his bike as he carried his prize home, to downing sour horse milk as lunch guests of an old, crusty Siberian in his yurt, to shivering while buying ice cream cones from old women selling outside in the frigid Siberian winters in what was affectionately called our market’s “frozen foods section,” but seeing our first Mermaid in the Ob Sea tops them all.

The event unfolded on a sweltering August day near Akademgorodok in the summer of 1992. Twelve of us very green Americans on our first short term mission trip to Russia found ourselves far from familiar anything’s that day as one by one each person inched up a rickety skinny makeshift ladder to mount a rather large, old boat. Our hosts were our Russian interpreter friends, and we were bound for a most unique R&R adventure.unfolded on a sweltering August day near Akademgorodok in the summer of 1992.

Once we were settled on-board, the skipper hoisted the anchor and we made our way out into the open sea. We were moving at a fairly good clip. The fresh breeze and fine mist spray renewed my sweaty brow.

It cooled us all down a bit. But not enough for my uninhibited, boisterous, gorgeous, interpreter friend, who at that very moment said, “I think I will get a little naked now.”  

 As she removed her clothes piece by piece and threw them into a messy pile in the corner of the boat, she smiled, obviously enjoying the shocked attention.   And then, in an instant, our Siberian beauty twirled, hopped up over the railing, and dove majestically into the sea.

The Russians among us mostly  laughed and the Americans among us mostly stood speechless, stunned by the sudden display and unsure as to what to do next.

After what seemed like the silent pause of the century, one American member of our team found his voice. “Sheeesh,” he said, almost reverently ”I didn’t know whether to spit or whistle!

We all laughed; a few more brave souls joined our Mermaid in the water, and the rest of us found the rods and reels and went fishing.

BLT
15 March 2018,
27 June 2019 (revised)

Images courtesy of:

https://www.123rf.com/photo_68574475_stock-vector-fishing-rod-and-fish-icon-in-cartoon-style-isolated-on-white-background-fishing-symbol-stock-vector-.html

http://clipartmag.com/mermaid-clipart-black-and-whitehttp://clipartmag.com/mermaid-clipart-black-and-white

https://www.google.com/search?q=steamship+clipart&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS730US730&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=F0GOLqbc1-_pXM%253A%252Cpt70fthT6ZFiYM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kTeFrTOvvq-Z96Vhc__NCi94oJGZQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiQwtGyvYrjAhVXa80KHWpAAcMQ9QEwAXoECAAQBg#imgrc=F0GOLqbc1-_pXM

 

 

 

Moving Thoughts.

We’re moving. The upcoming reality leaves me entertaining an uneasy, unpleasant thought—we must say ‘goodbye’ to this beloved house. I wonder if there is an Anglican liturgical construct for saying goodbye to your home?  It would be easier to follow a set ritual than to invent a unique one just for 309 Wayside Road West.moving-truck

Recently Chris brought up the idea of having a ceremony of some sort.  He and I have done that. The evening before our family left the U.S.A. to live in Russia in1993 when we decided to say ’goodbye’ to our homeland; first, by making a final trip to the donut shop to enjoy our favorites and then by stopping the car to witness a gorgeous Rocky mountain sunset while singing “America the Beautiful” (all the verses) overlooking the Pike’s Peak reflected golden glory.

Just before that our family said ‘farewell ’ to our wonderful Hopkins Farmdale home and some time after that did the same to my childhood home, which had been in our family for some fifty years before I had to sell it and empty it after moving my mother out of it into assisted living setting miles away.

looking in to boxSo, here I am, twenty-some years after that, sorting boxes for another move. This move is unlike the others in that we’re opening and sorting and processing a vast LaTondresse archeological dig, which spans many years and numerous sides of both of our family trees. It takes a lot of time because we actually feel compelled to look at the stuff partly because this time around Andre and I are the gatekeepers for our two grandsons (with a third on the way, due in October!)

We have boxes labeled ‘Claire – Before Russia’ and we have boxes labeled ‘Barbara’s Writings’, and Andre’s father’s college diploma, and my mother’s love letters.  Many of these musty, dusty boxes haven’t seen the light of day for a very long time.boxes

We discovered 100s of bobbers my dad apparently bought at Wal-Mart while mom shopped for other things. Clippings of Aunt Ruth’s hair in envelopes labeled ‘Aunt Ruth Age 84.’  My mother’s high heeled red cowboy boots.  Christopher’s incredible drawings created when he was in first grade with Mrs. Johnson and Andre’s mother’s artwork. My old brass trumpet.  Andre’s first teddy bear.Pen-and-Paper-300x289

Unexpectedly I uncovered an unfinished poem, with words crossed out and arrows between thoughts, scribbled on a small note pad apparently penned during one of my moves. I do not think this one is about our move from Farmdale Road in Hopkins, because I lost that home too quickly to process it, sold before the sign went up, as we hastily threw our belongings in boxes and flew to Akademgorodok, Russia.

I rather think it is about losing my childhood Elgin home since I was alone, had a bit of time to think, with my family half a world away in Russia.  It only seems right to finish it, right now, in the middle of preparation for selling our Wayside Road Hopkins home.

The juxtaposition of this poem’s genesis in Elgin in 1995 and rediscovery in Hopkins in 2018 makes sense and echoes Andre’s heartbreaking words of conclusion in his sad FB post yesterday about destroying his father’s cabinets. He says:

“Just spent time disassembling (demolishing) two chests my dad designed and built at some point in his life. Just a couple of storage chests. May be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”   22 May 2018  cabinet door

I agree, Andre.
This move may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Leaving Home

Put the finishing touches on death.
Those initial thrusts, powerfully driven
Suggest you’ve killed before.
And you know you have.
 
Once the resolve is there
The blows must be quick or
The walls will wail and moan
And you will be repulsed,
Too squeamish to finish the job.
 
The broad brush strokes are easy.
First, pry open those musty attic doors.
Wade thru ancient cardboard boxes
     into the womb-like recesses of the tomb.
Quickly dig up dusty artifacts: time boxed photos,
     Souvenirs, love letters, genealogies, clothes, toys or books. 
     Fishing bobbers? Clippings from Aunt Ruth’s hair?
Pick up the piles of old Christmas cards, check stubs, yellowed bills.
 
No time to sort one by one so into the trash they go to be burned
Along with the memories left not uncovered in them.
 
Next the closets of clothes and sheets and towels.
Goodwill gets them all. 

Something inside me gets thrown away, too.
 
So put those finishing touches of death.
Find the courage to go on with it
Until everything is tomb quiet: still, empty. 

The rooms are silent, deep and dark–
Awkwardly mysterious yet coldly familiar.
So I will leave them that way.
Nothing’s left to soften the echo
      as I shut the front door for the last time.
 
Everything’s gone.
 
by Barbara LaTondresse
23 May 2018


Images courtesy of:

https://www.moveline.com/blog/where-to-get-the-right-boxes-for-a-move

http://search.coolclips.com/m/vector/cart2126/cartoon-businessman/looking-into-box/#

http://smilesofaustin.net/forms/pen-and-paper

https://www.wikihow.com/Replace-Cabinet-Hinges

“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:

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

 

 

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