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Archive for the ‘Fun with Grandchildren’ Category

First snow 11-13 again

Many of us carry an eternal kid around with us, deep inside.  I know I do.  That’s the only possible explanation for my sense of euphoria today, when I saw what was drifting down out of the sky and landing in my precious little patio garden.

Come January, I begin to dislike the stuff.  By February it gets really old, and being a Wisconsin native I know that it may not end soon.  By March?  Well March is rectified by the returning sun—so glorious as it pours into our east facing patio door.  But the snow may seem interminable by then, and sometimes in March I want to scream!

So why the excitement every year, my 80th being no exception?  Today I walked out to take photos, and the brisk, damp air instantly took me back to 1943 when I couldn’t get enough of snowy days and those waning daylight hours after school when we kids stayed outdoors building forts and snow creatures.

No matter how tedious the early weeks of each new year may seem, no matter how my heart yearns (sometimes cries) for warm sunlight and green shoots popping up in the garden, no difference how challenged my body may actually be—sometimes to the extent where the days are radically altered, and I all but grind to a proverbial halt.

Despite all of that, I will forever go into an ecstatic spin over early snowfalls at the end of each year.  An Eternal Kid!

Having little people in one’s life provides ongoing nourishment for an Eternal Kid.  My pleasant, secure childhood lives on through a plethora of young people who get excited to see what falls out of the sky.  Being surrounded by rambunctious, smiling children is my best insurance against growing old.  I refuse to grow old!  I praise God for the gift of being an Eternal Kid!

(Even if the snow gets a little old come January!)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  Here is one more (new-this-year) reason for being excited about the snow.  Our youngest grandchild, Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, is experiencing her very first snow today!

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Since our little one has a very long name, we call her “Tuks” (rhymes with “Books”).  That’s a short form of her Nigerian name, Adetokunba.  And as you can see, Tuks is currently into blowing bubbles.

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Dylie & Mom

A week after surgery I still wear that pained expression, but Baby Dylan looks great.  Normally terrified of the Paparazzi, Dylan was captured off guard because he didn’t realize that a camera could lurk inside a cell phone.  His “Mommy” is not that advanced, as blogging is the outside extent of my techie-ness.  To me, a phone is a phone and a camera is a camera.  I’m certain this will be the last time we’ll be able to fool Dylan into saying “Cheese”!

Since inserting pictures is easier for me at this point than keyboarding a lot of text, here are some recent ones taken just before my surgery.  The pictures are worth thousands of words—of which I’ll add just a few for clarification:

Joe and a Flat

Any of you parents, grandparents, and great grandparents have undoubtedly had at least one “Flat” in your life.  Above you can see our third—”Flat Ethan”, a facsimile of Three Dimensional Ethan who lives far away in San Diego.  Flat Ethan was not prepared for the quiet life Joe and I enjoy in Nashotah, Wisconsin (who ever heard of THAT?)—but he coped beautifully whether buying produce, eating at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant, or simply perusing books while Joe, Dylan, and I slept.  (Since Three Dimensional Ethan loves books, it follows that Flat Ethan does likewise.)

Tuks & Grammy

Baby Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun at three weeks old.  (Now she’s nearly six weeks.)  Due to a stand off with MRSA and surgery, this was one of the last times I was able to hold Tuks—(rhymes with books).  But better days are coming, soon!

Been Guys and Grammy's Art

Left to right:  Joe, and our Denver grandsons Joel and Nathaniel Been with two of my paintings (framed in yellow) currently on exhibit at the Delafield Arts Center.

left handed art

With all my present restrictions, a few activities are allowed and encouraged:  knitting (only finger motion is required of my right hand when knitting), limited piano practice (again, fingers only in the treble clef), some keyboarding, and left handed art.  The art delights my heart as more each year I’m realizing that abstraction (with a slight element of representation) is my forté—the “Whom I Really Am” in this recently discovered passion.

A large factor in abstract expressionism is the discarding of presumptions, assumptions, and that human desire for “control”.  What remains?  A serendipitous freedom from agendas or any kind of “other generated” expectations.  This freedom is possible only in the arts!  We certainly wouldn’t want it anywhere else—that would be anarchy!!!

Late June Garden 2013

Finally, our Heaven on earth.  :)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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When our son, Karl, was five years old he imparted to me a bit of wisdom that will serve me all my days on earth.  We were out walking, and we saw a baby robin hopping on the grass.  Karl commented, “If I ‘ketched’ a little bird, I would not put it in a cage.  I’d hold it for awhile, and then let it go.”

Life is an ongoing exercise in holding for awhile, then letting go.  Currently I am letting go of a beloved young family:  our grandson, Joshua, his wife, Kelly, and their precious children—Ethan, Cole, and Ella.  These Valentines (that is their last name!) are moving to California, where Josh has accepted a new job. 

Josh and his family have been our neighbors for the last two plus years, here in the northern reaches of our county.  They are the kind of people who show up and sit quietly by your side when you have been rushed to Emergency.   We’ve stashed away a treasure trove of memories with these young people—pizza outings, birthday celebrations, strolls in the park, and lots of ice cream occasions.  I have shed tears over losing this family, and I’ll undoubtedly shed more tears.  Yet I smile to think of Kelly enjoying San Diego.  Kelly and I are alike; we love warm weather!

I often reflect on how radical it was back in the 1800s when Easterners went West, facing incredible hardships and dangers.  Even more life changing was the uprooting of millions of immigrant families who came to our land from other continents, for a fresh start and the hope of a better life—or, as in the case of most of my ancestors, for religious freedom.  We can concentrate on thinking with all we have, yet we cannot begin to comprehend what those early settlers experienced—let alone the courage they displayed.

So California is not that far away, and it is not inaccessible!  A few hours by air.  Yet it sounds like the other end of the world to me, now that flying is no longer one of my favorite things!  I would relish a long trip on the Amtrak, but sitting on a train is not Joe’s idea of fun.  We’ll see what we can dream up.  Meanwhile our loved ones will be back to visit, with so much family in Wisconsin.

 ↑ Ethan (in front), Joshua holding Cole, Kelly holding Ella 

Letting go!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Now that turkey leftovers are resting in the freezer, we begin our Christmas celebrations.  With a large family, there is no such thing as “too soon”.  Actually, I normally trim our tree early in November of each year.  When Daylight Saving ends, and that sudden thud of darkness descends, the glowing lights and holiday preparations are welcome!  By mid-January, when we stash our ornaments and tree for another year, the sun will have resumed its faithful return trip North.  Meanwhile, Christmas lights are a panacea for diminishing daylight—and so are the holiday gatherings with loved ones. 

We had our first Christmas celebration last Friday with our Grandson Joshua and his family.  Josh and Kelly have three beautiful young ones—Ethan, Cole, and Baby Ella who just turned 1.  In fact, we celebrated Ella’s birthday along with our early Christmas.  Of course we’ll all be together again over the coming weeks, but Joe and I love to gather with each family individually as well. 

Below, you’ll see a delighted Great-Grandma and three of her treasures (wearing the hats which I knitted for them):  left to right—Cole, Ella, and Ethan.  So many reasons to REJOICE! 

Most of all, I rejoice in the Lord Jesus—The Reason for the Season!  :)

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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In two days I will turn 78, and yes Joe and I are still stepping out in faith and buying green bananas.  (Think about that one!) 

Yesterday our daughter, Debbie, had a gala birthday party for this occasion, starting indoors with gifts and cake and ending beside Debbie and Rick’s pool.  Corraling the TRIBE OF BEEN into a corner of a room for a family photo is quite an undertaking, but I did it!  I snapped the above picture.  If my math is correct, 15 family members are missing in the photo—due to work or distance.  After I shot the photo, Joe insisted that someone take another so that I could be in a picture.  So our grandson, Adam, stepped out to do the honors and I sat beside Joe.  ↓

Joe and I like “kissy” photos.  As Joe says, “This all started with a kiss!”

To complete the scenario of yesterday’s memorable celebration, here is a shot of THE DRESS—decorated for me by my artist/niece, Nancy, who lives in Colorado Springs.  Nancy, are you blogging today?  I heard rumors that you will also see photos of your masterpiece on Facebook.  Thanks again for a smashing garment, a certain conversation starter, and a magnificent work of art!  :)

Meanwhile, we love those bananas!

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Our daughter, Laura, made this whiligig at a workshop near her home in Washington State.  The beauty is a composite of treasures culled from rummage and estate sales in her area.

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Those of us who enjoy junking are NEVER BORED—and we’ll probably never be tempted to go off the deep end financially with our passion for collecting, because the stuff we prefer doesn’t normally cost that much. 

The items we love best are those which many folks disregard, discard, and even look down their noses at.  These people don’t get it.  They’re missing a huge chunk of abundant living to be found in foraging garage sales, scrap yards, and curbsides!

Now that rummage season is in full swing, our joy cups run over on a regular basis—often at way less than $20.00 per outing.  We come home renewed, refreshed, and super charged with creative ideas as to where we will place, or how we will use, our newly acquired treasure.  One thing is certain:  where junkers are concerned, there are no two homes alike.  Our decor is highly individual.  It can be simulated, but never cloned!

In celebration of junk, junk, wonderful junk, here are some outdoor shots of our comfy little condo where Joe and I live contentedly with loads of junk:

↑  The small blue granite pitcher peeking out of the Hosta is mounted on an upside down lamp base from one of those derelict “Made in China” lamps which, after 2 years of use, tend to become electrically unsafe.  The base (hidden in the photo) was too pretty to discard, so I cut off its cord and glued my vintage blue pitcher on its bottom.  Behind the pitcher is a broken, circa 1930 plate.  I never discard broken china or pottery, as it can always find a pleasant home among my garden or house plants.

And observe the old watering can, complete with its “rose” on the spout.  These are pricey now, as most everyone wants an old watering can.  Fortunately, I found mine years ago.  :)

 ↑   A saxophone playing frog leans against the bird feeder, with our mutant Bleeding Heart providing a background.  Froggie was actually a new purchase, a gift from our daughter Laura. 

Note the Virginia Creeper creeping up the trellis—one of my all time favorite vines, also called Woodbine or Englemann Ivy.  It’s indestructable in our northern climate.  More damaged pottery rests on a handmade-by-Joe bench on the right as you view the photo.

↑  A closer look reveals the frog’s companions:  a bunny and a skull from the Southwest, reminiscent of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

↑  The hangy thingy next to the hummer feeder was assembled by a local artist who has a business called FUNKY FINDS.

You can see the tops of a couple of old screens.  Screens and shutters with chipped, peeling paint are always welcome at our home—indoors or out.  One can never get enough of those!

↑  Here is our patio, right off the living room so that we savor a year ’round indoor/outdoor atmosphere.  The patio is the setting for many lazy spring, summer, and autumn days spent sipping iced tea, reading, snoozing, and cloud gazing.  The patio faces east, so that we can sun bathe in the morning and rest in the afternoon shade. 

This picture was taken in a downpour.  The card table gets covered with a lovely vintage cloth on sunny days.  It also serves as a place for my art equipment and afternoons of sketching and painting.

The smashing antique croquet set was a rummage sale treasure which cost $5.00.  It has all its mallets, balls, and arches—with an old rag tied to each arch.  We can take the croquet set up the berm to the park, just a few yards away, for killer games.

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In closing, here is one of my most precious photos of our grandsons, Nathaniel and Joelly, with their creation from a junk yard near our up north home.  Nathaniel is the driver of this unique vehicle.  I’m not sure what Joelly is doing with the stick—I think it’s a car window cleaner.  ↓

Upon all the evidence, I rest my case!  Junk is wonderful! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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My friend Karen and I visit a lot on the phone.  Such a nice old-fashioned means of communication!  In fact, the only communication venues that can compare with a congenial phone chat are:  a face to face visit and a real letter via USPS.  Karen and I enjoy these as well. 

Karen and I catch up on our family events, and we chat about gracious, homey things such as our gardens* and our home decor.  Both of us relish an occasional afternoon spent in antique malls on rainy days, and on the local rummage sale circuits when the weather is fair.  We collect all and everything that catches the eye, warms the heart, and can be obtained at a bargain price—and we love to share the news of our latest finds.

Yesterday Karen and I were talking about how we love to be at home—baking, scrubbing, dusting, rearranging, and creating vignettes of beauty around the home.  We never tire of our homes, and neither of us looks at homemaking as a chore, but rather a supreme privilege. 

Being a keeper at home—along with nurturing a family—is the most creative occupation on earth.  Our loved ones flourish in an environment that is relaxing, delightful, fun, and (in my case) funky.  People love to visit a home where the lady of the house is fulfilled and happy.  Words need not be spoken, as the atmosphere says it all!  Home is an artist’s canvas.  When the artist is contented the home exudes beauty, originality, and joy! 

Nearly forty years ago our son Eric—14 years old at that time—made a classic statement which makes me smile to this day.  Eric said (with the characteristic fondness that mellow sons have for their mothers), “Mom, you are such a homey simpleton!”

I realized that the statement, from Eric’s perspective, was a tremendous compliment.  He knew that I was in euphoria at home:  arranging vignettes of beauty, reading old books, watering houseplants, raising cats and dogs, baking bread, and stirring up huge pots of chili for Eric and our other children to share with their friends.

After I finished laughing about Eric’s loving apprisal all those years ago, I explained to him that a “simpleton” was the classic town idiot of folklore and fairy tales.  I still chuckle today when I think of it!  But maybe it’s no joke!  The “world” does view those of us who love to be at home as “simpletons”.

Homey simpleton indeed!  The best job description on earth!  How could anyone want to be anything else?  :)

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*Karen is a master gardener whose gardens, in the city of Waukesha, are unlike any I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Walking through her paths is like a trip to England. 

If all goes as planned, photos of Karen’s gardens will be featured on Northern Reflections in a few weeks.  Things are just beginning to get revved up around here, gardenwise.

And finally, below you will see some of the main reasons why HOME is so wonderful!  This photo was taken at a family member’s home—but these treasures visit us a lot.  We are all at HOME at each other’s homes!  :)

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Looking at pictures has been a popular form of recreation ever since the invention of photography, and before that throughout the centuries of capturing people and scenery via sketching and painting. 

When I was growing up, one still found stereopticons on coffee tables.  For those who do not haunt antique shops, a stereopticon was a wood and wire thingy in which a double image (often of a travel scene) was inserted into a holder.  The viewer held the stereopticon to the light and slid the wire holder until the images came together.  (If I haven’t clarified that concept, just GOOGLE “stereopticon” and you’ll see it for yourself.)

During the 1930s and early 40s we had albums of tiny photos taken with a primitive Brownie camera, and also 8 mm family movies.  Later my dad bought high tech cameras with multi dials, settings, filters, and lenses—the likes of which I could never figure out in a million years!  Then Dad graduated to making 16 mm movies, and finally to slides and a slide projector.  Slides were the “picture shows” of the 1960s.  Many an evening one had to sit and watch someone’s slides of what seemed like every single cathedral in Europe!

Joe and I skipped the video cassette stage, and kept on taking photos with a Minolta® automatic 35mm which served us well right up to a few years ago with the onset of digital cameras.  Now we can sit and view the cathedrals of Europe on friends’ ubiquitous laptop computers.  Likewise, I can potentially bore my friends to distraction with my computer full of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Nonetheless, a picture show is a fun and sharing way to spend a social hour!  At the rist of boring you to distraction (I hope not!) here are some of our family classics:

Our son, Karl, at age 13 in 1975.  When Karl was younger, he looked a lot like John Denver.  Now Karl no longer has a John Denver haircut, but guess where he lives:  you’ve got it, Denver.  (Actually, Centennial which is on the south side of Denver.)  Karl still enjoys that natural “rocky mountain high” depicted in the above New Mexico scene.  I think those are the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.

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The two on the right are Karl’s sons, Nathaniel and Joelly, teaching their 1st cousin-once-removed, James, how to be silly.  It seems to come naturally, even for those of us who do not live in or near the Rocky Mountains!

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Going back many years, here is my favorite wild west character.  I don’t know if he’s a cowboy, gunslinger, or U.S. Marshall, but I love him and have been married to him for nearly 58 years!

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About the same time as the cowboy photo was taken, an adventuresome kid was racing (I think it was a 2 horse power engine) around Lake Winnebago—Wisconsin’s biggest inland lake.  Life jackets were something used in the Navy; we never had them when I was growing up.  And look at that!  We wore dresses in boats, at least I did! 

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Fast forwarding to 2004, our Baby Dylan did not have his legal “temps” (and still doesn’t).  But a lot of youngsters have learned to drive on the remote sand roads of the Chequamegan National Forest in the Wisconsin Northwoods. 

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Now it’s 2007 in the picture show.  I was supine on our living room couch—recovering from a roast pork, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie dinner at the Phillips’ Cafe when this Sunday visitor dropped in.  I’ll be forever thankful that I had my camera handy!  :)

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You’ve seen this one before and you may see it again!  Great-grandchildren! 

We have 5 more wonderful great-grandchildren not featured here.  I’ll publish the other five as soon as I get some photos of them from their moms. 

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Ooops!  Here are 2 more “classics” which recently came in from a friend.  These photos date back to 1982, when we were getting hay for my sheep.  Can you believe we did that (22 bales!) to a vehicle?  And drove the 6 or 7 miles home? 

Margaret L. Been

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Although we still spend a lot of time outdoors, especially throughout the beautiful Autumn, cooler weather draws us inside as well.  Joe and love I being at home.  There’s room for everything we enjoy doing, right here in the cozy corners of our little condo which resembles an English country cottage. 

I’ve switched from iced tea to hot tea.  An English teapot and cups and saucers are ever ready on our living room coffee table (where coffee is served as well).  I love to hostess tea gatherings, fiber sessions, poetry readings, and afternoons of book or art talk.  Joe and I thrive on lunch or dinner company as well, and our fall and winter soup* suppers are special.

Now that the heat and humidity are behind me, one of my spinning wheels is constantly before me—and I’m producing more gorgeous woollen yarn for wearable art.  How lovely to spin away a rainy afternoon beside the fireplace**, while drinking Earl Grey loose tea steeped in an English teapot!

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Dorothy:  “There’s no place like home.” 

So join me, for a mini-stroll through our “Heaven on earth”. 

My mother would be proud of me.  I practice nearly every day!

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My gallery of wearable fiber art is always available for viewing.

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Our pretty kitchen!  Lots of wonderful things happen here!

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Our great-grandchildren’s play corner features this gorgeous doll house which Joe built from a kit years ago.  Completing the doll house with all the individual “cedar shakes” took him longer than it had taken him to add a room onto our home.

The boys and girls love the doll house.  When they visit, it is theirs to arrange, rearrange, redecorate, or whatever.  Not shown in the photo is the rest of the play corner, with a farm and loads of animals which find their way into the doll house.  (My toy dog collection resides there all the time.)

Also in the play corner the little ones enjoy Lincoln Logs, play dishes, many Teddy bears, and loads of wonderful books!  Bring on the children.

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If you are ever in the neighborhood, please stop in for tea!  :)

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*For years when we lived up north, we dined at a restaurant which featured sweet and sour cabbage soup.  It was a thin dinner soup, and I purposed to concoct my own thick sweet and sour cabbage soup.  (I make the kind of soups you can almost prop a spoon in.)

By Googling “sweet and sour cabbage soup” I found the constants—the sweet and sour typical proportions for a medium sized crock pot full of soup.  But many recipes contain cider vinegar.  I wasn’t happy with inhaling vinegar fumes while eating soup.  Finally I latched on to lemon juice—the most wonderful “sour” of all.  Here is my sweet and sour cabbage soup:

In a crock pot, cook overnight (14 to 18 hours on low power) a boneless pork tenderloin or boneless beef pot roast in a cup of 100% apple juice, 1 or 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of chicken base, 1 tablespoon of beef base, plenty of white pepper (it has to be white pepper for that wonderful afterglow in the mouth!), salt, and a few shakes of MAGGI®.

The next day, tear the meat apart with forks until shredded.  Remove two thirds of the meat and freeze for a later meal of meat and rice, sloppy Joes, or whatever. 

Keep the remaining 1/3rd of the meat in the crock pot.  Add 3 capfuls of REAL LEMON®, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, more white pepper and salt, a bit more MAGGI®, about one third or one half of a shredded and chopped cabbage, some chopped up carrots, a bit of tomato (not too much—just enough for color and interest), and 3 or 4 tiny chopped up green onion heads.  Add 1 or 2 handfuls of noodles, or 2 or 3 cut up baby reds.  Cook on low power all day—at least 8 hours.

This soup, with homemade or RHODES® bread, jam or honey, and fresh fruit, is about as close to Heaven on earth (foodwise) as you can get! 

But I say the same thing about pea soup, bean soup, minestrone soup, and that amazing post-Thanksgiving turkey soup (made from the boiling the turkey bones, left-over meat and skin, etc.) which we enjoy all winter!  :) 

**Our “fireplace” consists of 4 behind-the-scene light bulbs over simulated logs.  It glows and “flames” like a fireplace, and also has a heat setting for nippy early Autumn mornings.  These gems come in many sizes, and are available at Menard’s.  The one shown above has an attractive surround, with a mantle for my collection of interesting and funky clocks.

We have a smaller Menard’s “fireplace” in our dining area.  How mellow is that!

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Grandparents are among the most important people on earth!  I honor mine (born during the Civil War!) for whom they were and what they stood for.  They left me with a legacy of strong character and abundantly pleasant memories—a legacy which every child needs!

My Seattle friend, Lydia Harris, has written a warm-hearted, practical Bible study titled Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting.  Lydia writes from hands-on experience with her own grandchildren.  She is a woman with an overflowing heart—as well as a welcoming home and productive kitchen which would delight any grandchild’s heart.  Along with her husband, Milt, Lydia is a creative and committed Christian grandparent.  Her Bible study is bound to be a blessing for many!

I have known Lydia Harris since 1995, when she began contributing her inspirational pieces to Tea and Sunshine—a periodical which I was editing and publishing at the time.  Along with family insights, Lydia writes articles on the subject of tea and tea parties.  More than just a gracious ritual, serving tea is one of Lydia’s many ministries of loving concern for others—and her tea party ideas (and recipes!) are innovative and unique.

Lydia and I have corresponded via email and the U. S. Postal Service ever since 1995.  On two occasions, Joe and I enjoyed getting together with Lydia and Milt—both times at a tea room in Western Washington state.

As busy as Lydia is with her family, tea parties, and her professional writing career, she always has time to pause and pray with anyone in need.  Her life is characterized by concern for others.  Lydia Harris is a very special lady!

You can get acquainted with Lydia, and order her Bible study if you so desire, at her new website:  http://www.preparingmyheart.net  .  You’ll be glad to meet my friend, Lydia!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

P. S.  The above photo features my husband, Joe, and our grandson Joel—taken a few years ago.  :)

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