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Apollo 11: Where Were You?

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This week is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. It has been awe-inspiring to see video clips replayed of the moonshot during the morning and evening newscasts. On Wednesday, July 16, 1969, at 10: 32 AM (CST) the Apollo 11 space capsule, with its crew of three (Astronauts Aldrin, Collins and Armstrong), was launched atop the huge Saturn V rocket on Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. With 7.5 million pounds of thrust, it was sent into its journey 238,900 miles to the surface of the moon. It would take four days to arrive.

At precisely 8:56 PM on Sunday night, July 20th, Neil Armstrong made the first human footprint on the lunar surface with the exclamation: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind!" And history was made! In total, 6 similar missions to the moon's surface would follow over a 41 month time span between July 1969 and December 1972. This epic and herculean feat has not been matched since that time…

Teaching How to Find Value

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We were on a "grocery run" and had the shopper's advantage because it was Wednesday of both an open air market that was in close proximity to the local "Super U" grocery store. The French love their markets (les marchés) because the goods are fresh and come straight from the source providers. I looked up and saw a small number of school-age children standing at the market vegetable and fruit vendors. Three little girls, that I presumed to be third graders. caught my attention as they clustered before the proprietors holding their pencils and writing down items categorized by name, weight, quantity and pricing.

I was curious and later was able to engage their teacher at the super market about why the children were such diligent shoppers. She indicated that her class was participating in a  school exercise that teaches math, writing, observation, and reasoning. Specifically, they were comparing prices between the outdoor market and the indoor grocery store. The …

Tears at the American Cemetery

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We chose to stay back at our residence in La Haye - Pesnel on the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2019. We did not want to drive north the hour and a half or so to journey on that day into congested traffic jams, struggle through thousands of visitors, or face the challenges of heightened security for a meeting of two world leaders: President Macron of France, and President Trump of America who came to lead in a globally-viewed program of remembrance. So, ten days later, our little family visited (and for some, re-visited) the Normandy American Cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach. By this time, the crowds were manageable, the weather was sunny and dry, and our hearts were open to take in what this cemetery represents - grief, gratitude, and a growing resolve that this should never happen again!

I knew that it was going to be a difficult experience for me to handle the immensity of grief that this beautiful cemetery represents. I cry more easily these days of my advancing years. I…

Pilgrimage to Mont St. Michel

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We recently joined other tourists for a weekday visit to one of France's most important historical sites - l 'Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel. This awe-inspiring treasure of architectural, religious and cultural inspiration sits on a tidal island just off the coast of Avranches in La Manche department of the  northwestern area of Normandy. Last year over 3 million ascended the Abbey's heights and climbed the 365 steep steeps to enjoy the summit view, tour the monastery (the Merveille, meaning "marvel or wonder") with grassy cloister, and eat as well as shop in its quaint village at the base of the mount. This is now the most visited tourist destination in Normandy!

Our English-speaking tour guide reveled in the rich history and related intriguing stories of folklore mixing in anecdotal examples of heroism, devotion, sacrifice and even superstitions to us. During the 10th century, a Benedictine Monastery was established on the mount and the monks became revered for th…

"Empty the Attic!"

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It was a curious looking homemade cardboard sign that welcomed us on flea market morning, "Vide Grenier." I had to get some help in translating it from those of the family who speak French. Monique couldn't decipher it and Phil wasn't sure what it meant either. So, the expert linguist was consulted and Elizabeth said, "It's an expression like - empty the attic!" As we stepped through the threshold and walked into the ground floor living room of this old rock house, we began to assess what this resident had carried down from the attic. There were numerous household pieces, large and small, that beckoned to new owners for re-purposing.

As we know from our experiences back home, homeowners prepare for the seasonal garage sales by getting everything out from the basement, attic, closets and garage that they want to sell. These items are moved to driveway tables and spaces thus allowing others to view them. It would seem that the familiar slogan is true on b…

"Le Petit Crumble!"

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The Madame has made a small version of her signature dessert crumble in a casserole dish that is 19 x 13 cm. She said there were several pieces of fresh fruit - apricots, white peaches, strawberries and blueberries - that were languishing on the counter and that was her inspiration. I have been pestering her these days with a little annoying slogan about how everything in France seems smaller to my American eyes. My breakfast lament goes something like this... "Small cups, small bowls, small spoons, and small people." It is true that many older French are smaller in statue. They are also quite slender of build. I have hardly seen anyone, adult, youth or children, who are obese and that is a good condition for sure. Many Americans by comparison are far too heavy and out of shape.

The apple crumble she prepared earlier in our visit was served in a very large casserole dish. In fact, she made two desserts of the same recipe days ago. The smaller one she gave to some neighboring…

The Remembrance Poppy

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The Remembrance Poppy of my childhood was passed out for a donation at intersections in my hometown during the Memorial Day holiday weekend by men who belonged to service organizations. It was a way to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and was used as a fund raiser for local causes as well. The poppies were always artificial and made from a red, sturdy fabric with a green stamen in the center of the petals.

These handcrafted symbols held up nicely if they were displayed on a suit lapel, affixed to a shirt collar, attached to a ball cap, or partially tucked into a pocket as a memorial badge of sorts. As a kid, we liked to enthusiastically wave them in everyone's faces like they were toys to be enjoyed. These symbols often never lasted the entire weekend and if they did, after the holiday had passed, these artificial poppies went the way of most passing things... they were disposed of!

We have been living in the French countryside during these days of vacation. As it wo…