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Archive for July, 2010

Time of wild asters, Queen Anne’s lace, and roadsides abounding in blue and blowing chicory.  Time for the premiere of that shining Autumn star :  goldenrod.

Time to pause and reflect on the beauty of gardens gone to seed, gardens tangled with herbs and perennials imbibing the sun in gradually diminishing daylight.  Time to realize that we were primarily created as human “beings” *, not human “doings”.  Time to inhale the aroma of cucumbers steeped in brine and tomatoes ripening in our hands.  Time to savor every frosty glass of tea and melting mouthful of ice cream. 

August is a time for all of the above.  I have 12 “favorite” months, each favorite for a different reason.  August may be my Queen of Favorites.  It’s the month when I was delivered from my mother’s womb, into a mini-world which—for nearly 77 years—I have found to be personally friendly and kind. 

But even more than the fact of a birthday, August embodies so much that I passionately love:  including a leisurely quality of life, the relaxed and summer-worn earth around me, a non-conformist/creative landscape and lifestyle in my home, and those poignant Gypsy stirrings which rustle in the blood on breezy days portending Autumn.

August is a tattered cloth, frayed at the hem and gaping at the seams.  August is a sterling silver cup tarnished green and purple with age.  August is the timeless magnificence of weathered wood, chipped paint, and rusty iron.  August is a rhapsody of life well-lived, a musical masterpiece accompanied by the rustle of field corn swaying in the wind and crickets sounding the demise of a season on sweltering nights.

* Understanding that we are human beings was a lifeline to me for many decades when my life was packed with responsibilities, multi-tasking, and many pressing things to do.  Over forty years of raising 6 children (and doing the bookkeeping and office work in our family business for several years as well) I found it essential to savor brief moments of solitude, while focusing on an intrinsic quality of life. 

As busy and often exhausted as I was during those forty years, even when there were only a few solitary moments in a week, I had to realize that I was a human being!  Experiencing the sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, and textures of every season is integral to the soul discipline of “being”!

Margaret Longenecker Been, ©2010

P. S.  For more celebration of the ragged and regal month of August, you can check my latest poem on “Paintings and Poems”—on this site.

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These years which Joe and I are currently enjoying to the max are often called “the sunset years”.  That’s an appropriate title, I think.  Is there anything more beautiful than a sunset (unless it would be dawn which we also experience and savor every day)?

I’ve been getting some inner nudges to write a book of reflections on retirement and the lifestyle which my husband and I so dearly love!  These urgings have been outwardly confirmed, as recently several friends have brought up the subject of retirement—along with whatever may be involved.

What better place to start than on Northern Reflections, where I can share a bit of what I’ve learned about the contented retirement lifestyle which Joe and I have experienced since 1995.  Because I’m a wife, I’ll write from a woman’s perspective in listing things that a wife can do (and should not do!) to ease the transition into her husband’s retirement and the “sunset years”.

1)  Do understand!  For the woman whose heart has always been at home, life doesn’t change all that much when her husband retires.  We still have our life’s work—our home, and the enjoyable tasks pertaining to being a keeper at home.  We still nurture people, cook, iron, decorate, create beauty, garden, and all those other things we’ve always done.

But a man who has enjoyed his life’s work may feel somewhat “at sea”, when suddenly his years of responsibility are over.  Even though he loves “home”, his workplace has been home for him as well.

2)  Do not try to plan your husband’s retirement activities.  We can listen and make quiet suggestions if called for, but it is not our job to dream up things our husband “should do” or “could do”.  We are different people, and we need to respect one another’s individuality.  My husband is an intelligent person, and he deserves my consideration in letting him plan his own leisure activities.

Initially upon Joe’s retirement, I made the mistake of putting myself in his shoes and projecting what I might do if I were a retired man.  I had seen senior citizens volunteering at museums, so I said to Joe, “Maybe you could be a docent.”

Joe’s answer sent me into paroxyms of giggles, and still does when I think of it.  He said, “What the _ _ _ _ is a docent?”

When I explained, he added firmly, “No thank you.  I don’t want to be a docent!”

In retrospect, I realize that it was downright insulting of me, to hover over the man I love and make an unsolicited proposal about how he might spend his time.  It would be demeaning for either of us to worry about what the other is going to do while we do whatever we each like to do!  

Joe is free to watch sports on TV, play Wii, read, shop, build something in our garage, go fishing, have lunch with a buddy, or anything else he might want to do, without his having to put up with an interrogation from me—or without me hovering anxiously over him, saying “But what are you going to do while I shop or knit or whatever?” 

Even a hint of anxious patronizing and hovering is enough to make any intelligent, self-respecting person (man or woman) want to scream!  My man came out out of the womb 79 years ago.  He needs me to be his lover, wife, and best friend—not his mother!

Joe and I always share bits about our hobbies and interests with each other.  I have never cared for competitive sports (with the exception of horse racing which I love!) and Joe doesn’t dig poetry—yet we respect each other’s differences.  The fact that we each have interests makes us interesting people!

3)  Do make sure your husband has his own space in the home—some area that is his alone!  Each of us has always had a private corner of the world in our home.  For the last 3 decades, Joe has had his own den room.  Now, in our 4 room condo, he has a combination office/den in what was probably designed as a spare bedroom. 

In his retreat room, Joe has a large TV for sports, a comfy couch, enough leg room for playing Wii tennis, his desk with his own computer/printer/fax machine/scanner, a huge rocking chair, an exercise bike, 2 dressers, a commodious closet, and room for our business files. 

I’m careful not to invade Joe’s area unnecessarily.  I don’t attempt to clean, organize, or decorate in his room unless he asks for assistance.  (No lace or pot pourri, although Joe likes those things in the rest of our home!)  Occasionally we enjoy a movie together in his room, since he has the large screen for viewing.

I have a lovely end of our shared master bedroom—by the big window—for my computer/printer/scanner, a small DVD player for my art tutorials, and tables for art projects. 

We all need our personal “space”, but especially a husband who has enjoyed his own office for much of his working life.  (A woman has always had the home in which to live, breathe, and have her being!)  

4)  Do be romantic, and do be best friends!  What a wonderful time of life, for romance and gracious friendship, without the distractions and responsibilities of jobs and outside agendas!  Joe and I cherish every moment we have together.  (That’s why I always get a cot and stay at his side when he goes to the hospital!)

We relish our walks and country rides.  We enjoy lunching at bistros and restaurants, as well as at home.  We are lovers!  Even just drinking coffee while watching the birds at the feeder is a gracious, romantic pastime for us.  We thrive on visiting with family members, going on outings with our children, and spending an occasional afternoon with friends.

Joe and I read constantly, and discuss our books.  We savor moments of kindred silence as well.  I strive to maintain an atmosphere of order and ambience in the home, and home is our very favorite place to be!

5)  Say “I love you!” a lot!  We say these words to each other many times every day, and we mean it!

6)  Live each day knowing it could be your last day on earth!

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Just basics, I realize!  What more needs to be said?  Only this, which is the most important point of all:  every blessing, every gracious moment, every pleasant and smooth way of dealing with a transition comes from the Lord Jesus Christ!  Without His life in me, and without a lifestyle of prayer and study of God’s Word, I’d be lost!  Literally lost!  :)

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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Everyone loves a success story!  And judging from past comments on this blog, many of you enjoy reading about our Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dylan.  Now we have great news concerning our little guy!  He is truly a reformed character, relishing his new lifestyle.

Because his first five plus years were spent with us on fourteen wild acres up north, where he saw more wild animals than humans, Dylan had an adjustment to make when we moved in the middle of a community.  At first he would run and hide in his bed when visitors came.  Walks in the park were tenuous, strenuous, and challenging as Dylan went wild with barking and tugging whenever he saw another dog—or anything with wheels, be it a bike or a baby stroller.

Dylan would sit by our patio door and “guard” the path around the park, going crazy over the slightest activity out there.  Especially odious to him were the landscape workers with their noisy mowers, choppers, blowers, etc.  We wondered if our baby would ever settle down to condo living.

Well, over the winter he got more courageous with visitors, and far better toward the outside distractions.  He got so he could watch a snow blower machine, and even allow the workers to shovel our front walk without going ballistic.  Still Dylan had this habit of barking every time people came to our door—which is quite often!  We think the door barking was simply a kind of greeting—a loud “Hail fellow, well met”!

Then in April, the president of our condo association mentioned that someone had complained about Dylan’s barking.  I was very concerned, wondering what would happen next.  Just at that point, our son Eric and his wife Cheri had bought a barking collar at Walmart, for their YorkiePoo—and they reported good results.  So we got a “Barkie” for Dylan, and it calmed him down in a matter of days.

This collar is perfectly humane.  It kicks in with a bit of a jolt when the dog barks loudly, but ignores quiet throat rumbles.  I detonated the collar in my hand one day, and found it to be no more of a jolt than that thingy that zaps us at OLIVE GARDEN when our table is ready. 

Dylan sits happily when we put Barkie on him, and obviously has no dread or concern over it.  Often we simply forget to put Barkie on.  And now he barks rarely, and very sedately.  His barks are no louder than my sneezes.  We have a reformed doggie!

At this “Golden Pond” stage of life, Joe and I have perfected the art of just sitting!  How we love to sit—in our home, on our patio (pictured above), or in the nearby park pavillion.  Now, with Dylan’s “changed life”, we can enjoy another sitting spot:  a shaded bench beside the lovely pond and fountain in the center of our condo community. 

Today we relaxed there under a honey locust tree, with our Baby Dylan.  He sat like a little gentleman on the grass, never reacting to the landscapers working in the area with their equipment.  People walked by, cars drove past, and Dylan simply smiled.  I felt like the three of us could be in a Renoir!

Soon I hope to have a progress report on Dylan’s reformed attitude toward other dogs.  Several times a week, we take him to a neighborhood dog park.  We sit outside the fence, and Dylan watches the “big guys” playing in the park.  Sometimes a dog will come up to him, and Dylan’s hushed growls are growing far more benevolent.  Sometimes he doesn’t even growl, but rather just sniffs!

And CATS!  That’s a whole additional story!  Dylan LOVES cats.  Go figure!  I LOVE cats too.  If we didn’t have a one-pet rule here, we would certainly add a kitty to our family scene.  But since we are instructed to “Render onto Ceasar that which is Ceaser’s”, we’ll continue complying to the rule.  We are thoroughly contented with Dylan and his changed life!  :)

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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We’ve just had another round at St. Luke’s where Joe had stents inserted into stents which were formally inserted into one of his challenged arteries.  One simply never knows what lies around the next bend. 

Yesterday, after 2 days and nights in the hospital (where I slept on a cot beside Joe’s bed in the cardiac unit) I made the hour drive home at 6:00 a.m. 

Joe was discharged later in the morning.  Our son, Eric, brought Joe home and picked up our Baby Dylan at his “social club” (our vet’s boarding kennel) en route.

The few hours at home alone gave me time to relax from the hospital pace, catch up on laundry, water the garden, and resume my routine which had been abruptly severed when we made our emergency run to St. Luke’s earlier in the week.

When my tasks were completed, I poured an iced tea and rested on the patio.  I thanked God for the medical technology which keeps Joe’s arteries open, for our freshly watered garden, and for all of God’s goodness and grace.  I mused on how the Girl Scout motto of my childhood has served me so well throughout my life:  Be Prepared! 

This is life, I mused:  never knowing what lies ahead; always being prepared with a tote bag containing a change of clothing, toiletries, knitting, and a book; always being prepared in a spirit of prayer, with a grateful heart and an attitude of flexibility!

Now Joe is home again, with his new stents inside the old ones.  One might say Joe has arteries of steel.  Home again!  Life is a series of comings and goings.  When we are in Christ, we carry God’s peace and the serenity of home with us wherever we are called to go. 

Someday, rather than “Home Again” we will be “Home Forever!”

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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