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Archive for the ‘Large Families’ Category

Here's what it's all about sans GB

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for as such is the kingdom of Heaven.’ ” Matthew 19:14 (NKJV)

Today in church we had our annual Thanksgiving worship service where testimonies are shared.  This is always a time of praise and joy, but also a heart-rending time for our congregation—as stories are told of God’s grace at work in seemingly impossible circumstances.  Relationships are healed, in some cases illnesses are miraculously cured, and Jesus’s life is affirmed in many unique ways.

At today’s service, a young couple got up to share on the microphone.  In hand the couple brought a sweet (obviously girl) toddler, dressed in a pretty dark velvet dress with pink trimmings and a matching headband.  The couple gave testimony of how they had decided to raise the large family which they wanted through adoption, only to find out how incredibly costly it is to adopt just one child, let alone many!  (How tragic is that!!!)

So finally, God had steered the husband and wife to the path of foster care—which in some instances can lead to adoption.  Knowing that God was in charge and directing them the couple proceeded, and within a few months this precious little girl had been entrusted to their loving care.

While the husband and wife were sharing in church I experienced a déjà vu of long ago pain as my mind raced back to 1973 when I was forty years old, a fairly new Christian believer, and a contented wife and mother of five.  Our children were growing up fast.  Because I loved and enjoyed being a mother so much, I wanted to go on with the career which had brought me joy and fulfillment since I’d had my first baby at just under 21 years of age.  Thus, quite naturally, Joe and I began to think about doing foster care.

So we signed up with Milwaukee County Welfare Dept. to receive foster children.  In those days the wheels moved fairly quickly, and within a few weeks we were given three beautiful blonde sisters, ages three, six, and eight, to care for.  Like many foster children, these sisters came from an atmosphere of chaotic dysfunction.  What is more, unspeakable things had happened to them that should never happen to anyone—anywhere.

The girls brought their chaos into our home and we had some dicey weeks with them, weeks marked with severe temper tantrums and manifestations of fear.  But the love and the order in our home did wonders.  After a couple of months it seemed like the girls were our girls.  We sincerely hoped we’d be able to keep them forever, and perhaps we would have—BUT, Milwaukee County discovered that the girls’ father and step-mother had paying jobs which could support the children, so the county insisted on returning them to the father’s home.

Never mind that we told the Milwaukee County Welfare Dept. we did not want their money—Joe and I would gladly support and raise these children without any outside help.  No matter that the step-mother had been heavily addicted to controlled substances, and had an iffy background.  No matter that the step-mother had (in the home with the girls’ father) two unruly sons who started fires and thought of other ways to terrify the three sisters (as one of them used to confide in me:  “Them’s naughty boys!!”).

Never mind that Joe and I and our five children loved the girls, and had so woven them into the fabric of our home that we would miss them terribly.  Within a few days, suddenly the three sisters were gone.  A week later, the six year old called on the telephone and said to me, “Maggie I wish I could come to your house!”

We were a bit whacked from these events and thought we would need a long break from foster care, when a couple of weeks later the phone rang and a distraught sounding social worker asked, “Can you take two little boys?”  The following dialogue has its humorous side.  So here it is.

Me:  “How old?”

Social Worker:  “One and two.”

Me:  “When would they come?”

Social Worker:  “NOW!  They are sitting on my desk!”

In retrospect, I really suspected perhaps that social worker had told me a windy about them sitting on her desk.  Those little boys did come to live with us, and to our knowledge they never BOTH SAT ANYWHERE at the same time!  They were always in motion.  (This was long before children were incarcerated in car seats in transit.  You can imagine what a pleasure ride was like in those days!)

Again, we lost our hearts—but this time we were worn to smithereens, physically as well as emotionally, in the process.  Finally, we decided to remove the option of foster care from our family scene.  Meanwhile, many questions have surfaced, in the past as well as today.  What ever became of those children?  Where are they today?  What kind of people (mid-lifers no less!) are they?  Do they know the Lord Jesus?

It goes without saying that I shared our Lord’s love with the foster children every day, in every way I could.  Yes,  I hope to meet these now-adult people again, in Glory!  I believe that, somehow, I will recognize them.

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

Note:  The above-pictured players re-enacting a familiar scene are two of our daughters, Laura and Debra, and one of our sons, Eric, plus an obliging doll—circa 1963.  Excuse the gender confusion of the doll.  We were not really confused.  We simply couldn’t come up with a boy doll at the moment.  :)

 

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Frog daysDahlia

I don’t want to let go.  Our summer has been so ineffably sweet, I will hang on to it forever. 

Beautiful weather.  No need to run the AC—except that we occasionally put it on for Baby Dylan when we have to leave him for a few hours in the closed-up home.  Okay there were a couple of times when at home, that we broke the humidity by turning on the AC for very short spells, but always with the doors and windows wide open to the out-of-doors.  And due to the ubiquitous AC in most every indoor place, our favorite summer restaurant has become a local pub with outdoor seating. 

Leisurely early morning strolls around our park.  Visits with friends.  Plenty of summer knitting, which always brings woolly recollections of being 8 years old and learning to knit on the porch of our family cottage at Lake Winnebago.  Bookish naps on our shady afternoon patio.  And best of all, mellow days with the three generations which have resulted from our marriage of 61 years!

Too too sweet

More pool

Leo again again again again again

Mia Mia 2

musician

Recently Joe and I had the (probably once in a lifetime) experience of having our portraits painted by a friend, Janet Roberts, who is a professional artist.  We didn’t have to sit it out, as Janet works from photographs.  You can check out our portraits (“Joe in Winter Hat” and “Margaret in Summer Hat”) on Janet’s website.  Just GOOGLE “Janet Roberts, Brookfield Wisconsin Artist” and click on “Gallery” from the home page menu,  Voilà!

Our portraits have inspired a lot of mulling and musing.  With all the wonderful photos I have today—hundreds in albums and hundreds more in my computer files—a painted portrait is something unique.  I reflect on how for centuries paintings and sculptures were the only way a person’s image could be captured and preserved.  I think of the court painters such as Holbein, sent out by Henry VIII so he could visualize a future wife.  (I’d sure hate to have been one of those!)  And commodious stairwells lined with ancestors in great houses down through history.  Photography is an amazingly wonderful art, yet there is something ALIVE about paint in the hands of an accomplished artist such as our friend, Janet.

Mellow days, and a summer to remember.  A summer of quiet contentment and simply joys.  A summer of plenty in a world that grows more crazy, more sin ridden and tragically brutal every single day.  A summer in which I feel compelled to share at every possible opportunity, the one and only LIVING HOPE—that hope which is more real than this keyboard on which I type. 

In the midst of a world where an American journalist is decapitated against the background of an American president deeply engrossed in golfing and fund-raising, Our Lord Jesus Christ will return!  As He came to earth 2000 plus years ago to die for our sin and rise victorious over evil, He will return—to gather His own to Himself, and finally to reign for 1000 years in Jerusalem:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Margaret L. Been, September 2014 

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one

Let’s play that old game, per our kindergarten “work sheets” where there were a bunch of pictures and one of them didn’t belong.  Just study the above and subsequent photos and see if you can detect the “Stranger in Paradise”.

two

three

four

five

six

seven

If you guessed that the last photo is the odd one, you are right.  In the other photos, Vintage Rules—and in the one just above, well I guess you could say the bluish tin and silver plated spoons in a pattern glass spooner are sort of vintage-y, but the dominating Keurig Brewer accompanied by an assortment of one-serving beverages is definitely state of the art:  “kind of now, kind of wow”.

Normally “kind of now, kind of wow” need not apply for a place my kitchen where I do somersaults and spit wooden nickels trying to hide electric cords—while housing the necessary modern cooking accoutrements in rusty, chipped, worn out treasures.  Any left over space is committed to the display of “kind of then, kind of when” items—possibly useless to you, but intrinsically precious to me simply because of their anachronistic, aesthetic attributes.  (A mouthful; don’t bother trying to say it.)

Meanwhile, enter Christmas Day and our afternoon of family gift sharing.  Knowing my decorating propensities, one of our sweet sons and his beautiful wife took a huge chance when they purchased the Keurig for Joe and me.  Realizing that I might not even be able to squeeze the gift into our compact, efficient condo kitchen—let alone be willing to live with the trendiness of a Keurig Brewer—our son volunteered as I opened their gift:  “If you can’t use it, just give it to one of the grandchildren.”

Hmmmmmmm!  I was pretty certain that the thing would:  1) not fit physically and 2) not fit mentally/emotionally/ stylistically or however you want to say it.  But it was a GIFT!  Yes, we would have to clear off a slot, relegate some vintage stuff to our storage closet, and give the Keurig a try before passing it on.

Haaaa!  Within minutes (as soon as I figured out the operational steps from the manual) we were HOOKED!  This baby is not going anywhere!  I could bore you to distraction, singing the praises of our fabulous cups—a cuppa Jo, a cuppa tea, a cuppa cocoa depending on the mood of the moment.  And a moment is all it takes to have that steaming cup in hand!

By now, the giver of this treasure may be a bit weary of me calling him and raving over the phone about our new kitchen “friend”.  But I’ll say it one more time.  “Thank you, Eric and Cheri!”

Margaret L. Been, January 2014

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Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  (I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!  :) )

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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BB - Precious Bridget and Grandpa

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!  Here is Grandpa Joe holding our 14th grandchild, Adetokunbo Bridget Josephine Adesokun.  Our wee one was 5 hours old when we first met her on 6/4, and she was sleeping off her jet lag while visitors played Pass the Baby.  But since yesterday at 24 plus hours old, Adetokunbo Bridget has been eating almost non-stop—or as her mom, our daughter Martina, says:  “using me for a pacifier”. 

What a treasure!  For Joe and me, and undoubtedly all who have met our treasure, it has been love at first sight!

Names are tremendously significant in our son-in-law Sanmi’s Ebira Tribe Nigerian culture.  The names are chosen primarily for their meaning, and every person will call a child by which ever of the names he or she prefers.  The child grows up knowing that the different names are an important part of her; they signify facets of her personhood.  Beautiful!

In a couple of weeks, we’ll share in a Naming Ceremony at our condo community clubhouse where family members and friends will gather to add to the list of our baby’s names, and pray over her.  After the ceremony, we’ll gather beside the pool at our daughter Debbie’s home.   

Sanmi’s brothers will join us in celebration, from Toronto and Cleveland.  How I wish their mom could be with us.  She is in Nigeria, and her sons hope to bring her to North America soon.  (Bridget, are you reading?  WE LOVE YOU!!!)

So now I have added words.  But the essence is in the photos:  New Life in Spring!!!  Precious new life!

BB - Bridget is 5 hours old

BB - Mother and Babe

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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North

My above-pictured collage, simply titled “North”, tells a story—an account of eight years when my husband and I lived, year around, north of Highway 8 in the Wisconsin Northwoods.  Included in the collage are photos of our lake and the Big Elk River around the bend, snippets of my cropped art, bits of aluminum foil, Japanese lace paper, some cheesecloth, lots of acrylic paint, and a favorite quote from a beloved American author:  Henry David Thoreau:  “I had three chairs in my house . . . one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.”  Walden

People who know me may laugh when I share this favorite quotation.  They know that:  1) I have far more than three chairs in our home, as well as far more than three of most anything else.  I’m a collector of everything! and 2) My idea of “society” is a lot more than three people.  We have a gargantuan family.  All are welcome to come and sit on our multiple chairs—although many are still in the stage of running around rather than just sitting.  (My “up north” friend Sandy commented after viewing a photo of our family, “That’s not a family; that’s a tribe!”)

Meanwhile, aside from Thoreau’s eastern philosophical views, I love most everything that he wrote.  His chair quote, to me, symbolizes an inner peace and unswerving stability.  A true Yankee at heart, Thoreau was never swayed by customs, crowds, human opinion, or even his own precarious health issues.  I have his complete diary spanning 24 years and two huge volumes.  Right up to his last entry, when Thoreau was dying of tuberculosis, his focus remained on the wonders of creation and the intricate details therein.

The wonders of creation predominate around our home in Northern Wisconsin, along with solitude and an undescribable stillness.  Black bears abound. Despite the fact that they tore up a few bird feeders and pulled a screen off our front deck, I loved the bears (but my husband did not!).  Perhaps the most unique thrill of all was seeing timber wolves on the ice in front of our pier.  The wolves brought unforgettable excitement to a minus 25° morning.  (That’s 25 degrees below zero, folks!)  But nature’s wonders notwithstanding, my most precious memories of up north have to do with the friends we made—friends forever.  As always, I was thankful to have more than 3 chairs in my home!  :)

Now we are back in the Southern part of our state, where much needed medical care is within 13 minutes from our door.  And family!  In recent years, 16 great-grandchildren have appeared on the scene and we live close to 9 of them.  We are watching the little people grow up.  We attend their school concerts and some of the birthday celebrations.  I attend church with children, grandchildren, and 7 of our great-grandchildren.  When out-of-state family members visit, we are all together in one county—so tribal gatherings are easily managed.  Joe and I enjoy our condo home, my little gardens, the good neighbors on our lane, the park and woodlands beyond our door, and quick access to great restaurants and bistros.  A new grandbaby is due in June—within rocking and cuddling distance. 

Yet now and then on hot summer nights—when I lounge outdoors on the patio while viewing the hazy moon and scanty stars over our nearby metro area—I recall those northern night skies, plastered with millions of stars.  I often think of my friends up there, and I’m thankful that we stay in touch. 

We never really lose the beloved people or places in our lives.  There’ll always be a part of my heart labeled, “North of Highway 8″.

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Last week I enjoyed an occasion that has been a frequent event in my life for over 50 years:  lunch with a gathering of special friends.  We’ve known each other since school days in the 1940s and early 1950s, and began getting together as a group when we were young moms.

There were thirteen of us to begin with, a “baker’s dozen”.  (We even published a little cook book in that name!)  Now our numbers have dwindled, but eight of us are still present.  “The girls” supposedly meet monthly, although not every one can always be on hand.  For years we met in our homes, for a gracious three-fork spread.  Now we’re apt to include a restaurant meal here and there.

I’m frequently asked, “How can the same people be friends for all those years?  The answer is what I call “Friendship’s Glue”—and that term actually signifies the lack of gossip.  There isn’t a single backbiter in the group.  We respect each other, we don’t meddle in each other’s business, and we don’t gossip

God’s Word comes down hard on backbiting, also called “whispering”—the King James Version term for gossiping and stirring up dissention, which is one of the six things God hates as listed in Proverbs 6:16-19.  All too often we see the devastation of dissension and the decaying fruit of “whispering”, which separates friends.  And families!

It’s no secret that families are floundering in our contemporary society.  Evidence of unfaithfulness, lack of commitment, and self-centered agendas are everywhere.  Yet hidden among the glaring issues in troubled families, is a less publicized poison—a deadly potion that causes an undercurrent of strife and heartache in what often appears on the surface to be “the very best of families”. 

How many families positively shine on the outside, with a shared value of “togetherness” and mutual support, yet are riddled on the inside with scars and dissensions perpetrated by whisperers?  A group may include a number of backbiters, so that it’s impossible to guess where it all began. 

But it only takes one whisperer, one back-biting telephone call (or, as a friend commented, one entry on FACEBOOK) to set a destructive process in motion—resulting in the walking wounded, those individuals who have been misunderstood or torn to shreds by an unkind and unruly mouth.

How precious, how wonderful to have friends and family members mutually bonded by Friendship’s Glue!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012 

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