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Archive for the ‘Reflective Musings’ Category

Pleasant places, pleasant times

gorgeous Wisconsin

Today we traveled just a few miles from our small lake-country community, out to the surrounding countryside—the rivers, farms, and woodlands which say “Wisconsin”.  Pictured above is the Rock River, once a part of the Sauk Indians’ Wisconsin and Illinois territory embedded in history by the leadership of Black Hawk.  From the photo you can see that we’ve had plenty of rain; that white thing apparently floating beyond the high grass slightly above center is a picnic bench.

Joe (flanked by Dylan) cast a line in this river park, which is simply a spur off a county road—one of countless natural retreats for travelers in our state.

gorgeous outing

When Dylan wasn’t fishing, he strolled with me along the water’s edge.  Suddenly, he decided to go wading—something he has never done before.  I was amazed, because it’s always a struggle to get Dylan into the bathtub.  But then, haven’t little boys always preferred wading in rivers to getting lathered up in a tub?  So it’s no wonder that Dylan went in up to his belly, which isn’t all that high off the ground.  Perhaps the presence of hundreds of teensy tadpoles darting in the water provided a lure to adventure, even when it meant my corgi had to get wet.

From the river site Joe, Dylan, and I meandered along country lanes west of the Kettle Moraine State Forest where we lived for 21 years—the longest I have ever lived in any one place for my entire life.  We visited a friend on a farm near Fort Atkinson (more historic Sauk country), and Dylan ran free of his leash—something he hasn’t done since we moved nearly 5 years ago, from our wild northern acres.  On that farm Joe and I stroked horses noses and fondled a small herd of mini-Nubian goats—all of whom Dylan approached with friendly enthusiasm.  (Dylan LOVES all living creatures, barring dogs.  He wants to KILL dogs!)

Laden with rhubarb and some of the best fresh spinach we’ve ever had, we returned home via a favorite country ice-cream shop—”Pickets” possibly named after a 1990s TV series, PICKET FENCES, hypothetically set in  Rome, Wisconsin.*

The actual village of Rome (on the Bark River) seems like something Time forgot, except for the occasional local person walking around with a cell phone.

As you readers can probably gather, our octogenarian decade is at this moment an extremely pleasant time.  We live surrounded by pleasant places, and Home is the most pleasant of all.  Currently we have another family living with us—not inside our 4 room condo, but just outside and above our living room/patio door.

gorgeous best yet birds

The nest contains 5 baby barn swallows.  A week ago we saw nothing but mouths lining the edge of the nest; and when they were open the mouths looked like mini-Muppets.  Now the babies are leaning out of the nest, and they are hilarious.  The middle bird is huge compared to his or her “sibs”, and also the most aggressive.  Some have learned to back over the edge to do their bird jobs; consequently we’ll soon have a piece of work to clean-up.

What we are seeing is Entitlement in action; I call it “OCCUPY NASHOTAH”.  For several days the parents have been zooming and fluttering around between feedings.  It seems that Mom and Dad realize it’s time for their nestlings to get out on their own and DO THEIR OWN WORK!  I hope to be out there when it happens!  :)

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Pleasant places, pleasant times.  Every single day, I thank our Lord for them.  I’ve lived long enough (and through enough!) to know that “pleasant” can change in an instant—to “crisis”, “emergency”, and even “tragedy”.

Because I know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sin and rose to give us Eternal Life, and because I know that I’m in His care forever, I have no fear of the future.  As I rest in Him, He will provide the Grace to bear whatever lies ahead!  Meanwhile I’m thankful beyond expression, for God’s gift of Life—and for the pleasant places and pleasant times He’s given Joe and me today!

©Margaret L. Been, July 2014

*Never having watched PICKET FENCES, I’m not sure of the naming of the country store—or whether or not it was featured in the series.  Perhaps the store was always “Pickets”, and the show was named after it.  Who knows?  Further GOOGLE research may shed light.  :)

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Coming Home (2)

“And I said, ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove!  For then I would fly away, and be at rest.  Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.’ ”  Psalm 55:6-7

David was intimidated and beleaguered by his enemies when he wrote this plaintive Psalm.  Yet those of us who love solitude, and seek it with a passion, can echo the words:  “For then I would fly away and be at rest.” 

Numerous are the critics of the Kaufman family who set off with a baby and a toddler on a 30-something foot sailing vessel, with the goal of crossing the Pacific.  But for the response of the U. S. Navy in San Diego and other rescuers, this family might be added to the endless list of tragic current events.  Yet I love the name of their craft, REBEL HEART, and something innate draws me to this family.  Although life-threatening adventure has never been my forté, a passion for solitude is an integral factor in my DNA.  I identify with the need to “wander off”—even when country roads, inland waters, and forest trails are more in line with my instincts than the Pacific Ocean.

When I grew up in the 30s and 40s, solitude was easily accessible.  We had a quiet household, and I could always hide under a chair or, by the time I was 8 years old, in a tree.  Our only “devices” were:  a telephone, a radio (in a cabinet with a phonograph record player), a doorbell, and a clock which did nothing more than tell the time.  The understanding that every individual on earth needed space and time “to wander off” was a given in our home, and we respected each other’s privacy.

Today I wonder how many younger people (with the exception of a few individualistic types like the Kaufmans) even begin to comprehend what solitude actually is, let alone want to pursue it.  An astonishing amount of everyday life is social, groupy, organized, and pre-planned—frequently controlled by the detached stroke of a finger on a device.

I see people striding the park path outside our front door, with eyes and ears (or both) literally glued to whatever device at hand.  Do they hear the mourning dove in the bush, or the sand hill cranes yodeling overhead in the clouds?  Do they see the fat, pregnant buds on the chestnut tree a few feet from the path?  When May wafts in, will the device-laden striders even bother to inhale and exclaim over the perfume of the French lilacs which abound in our neighborhood?  Will the device-embellished ears be able (or even want!) to hear the fountain in our local pond, or the redwings nesting in the reeds beside our local lake?

Our park path is lovely, bordered by a nature preserve on the east side.  It deserves strollers, as well as striders—some of whom may be hustling along for the sake of good health.  Strollers like me also walk for health—soul health, which I happen to think is even more vital (and certainly more eternally valuable) than the beneficial aspect of body maintenance.  Yet the majority of park users stride rather than stroll.

I often wonder what the present generation of activity-driven, device-dependent, socially-oriented individuals will do when they add a few years and the inevitable stresses of life to their résumés of non-stop everything—everything but substance for soul and spirit, that is.  I visualize that an indescribable dryness will set in—a thirst which no material goods, or frenzy for social contacts and career advancements, will ever quench in a million years.

DRY, DRY, DRY!  The absence of everything but perhaps a desire to “wander off”—without even beginning to fathom how that may be done!  No turned upside down chair to hide under.  No metaphorical tree.  No hypothetical REBEL HEART sailboat.  A park path perhaps, but not even the foggiest knowledge of how to stroll rather than stride on the path, with all ones senses attuned to the beautiful nature along the way.

Off course the only lasting cure for dryness, driven-ness, and people-produced burn-out is to drink deeply from the well-spring of LIVING WATER in Christ Jesus—to accept His sacrifice for our sin at Calvary and rejoice in His Risen Life which indwells those of us who trust in Him.  He provides a depth of inner solitude wherever we are.  That solitude is fed by removing ourselves whenever we can—from the crowd, from our electronic devices and our daily agendas.

And that solitude is fed by whatever kind of retreat appeals to whomever we are—be the escape a turned over chair, a tree, a forest trail, a park path, or a sailing vessel.

I’m thankful for the Kaufman family—for the fact that they have returned safely.  I pray that their sick little one will continue to heal with no complications.  And I’m thankful for the Kaufmans’ reminder of something important:  a passion for solitude.  Although my preferences run to forest trails, the rivers and lakes of Wisconsin, and the path around our neighborhood park, I thoroughly track with concept behind the REBEL HEART!  :)

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

NOTE:  Awhile back, a Christian friend described me to a group we were in together, with these words:  “Look at her.  She has REBEL written all over her.”

We all laughed, realizing that my personal rebellions have nothing to do with any kind of anarchy.  I will never challenge or rebel against my life-enhancing Judeo-Christian values.  But yes, I do have a rebel heart.  Perhaps I’ll share more of that with you in an future entry. 

Or maybe I don’t need to share.  Perhaps, in the 5 and 1/2 years I’ve been blogging you’ve discerned exactly what I mean by my rebel heart!  :)

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Always Time for Tea

“Always Time for Tea” is the title of the above rendering.  Tea Time in March is charged with anticipation, excited about change, and zesty with the invigoration of fiercely raging wind and ever-stretching sunlit hours.

Today’s wind is not kind; it’s raw and bitter to the taste, like afternoon Earl Grey Tea when it’s been allowed to over-steep.  Today’s sun is glorious—redolent of fragrant places where ripe and mellow leaves were harvested for an “Irish Breakfast” most anywhere in the world.

Along with the joy of anticipation, my St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast musings (in Nashotah, Wisconsin, USA) are shadowed by things that are lost:  a Malaysian jet carrying over 200 passengers, and perhaps millions of people in our culture who haven’t even the faintest comprehension of the importance of solitude—or whose once-valued serenity has gone missing.

How many of us are there left in this crazy culture, who still understand (and prioritize!) the serenity of spending time alone/alone/alone.  I don’t mean always being physically alone/alone/alone.  I speak of mentally/spiritually/emotionally investing time alone and nurturing that soul solitude and serenity which can only come from a depth of completion—the integral completion which we can receive from God’s Grace through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one’s life as revealed in Scripture.

How many individuals still treasure time alone:  perhaps really alone for a few hours or minutes—strolling in a sheltered woods, basking in a sunny window, lounging on the patio in the summer—with the ubiquitous iced tea (Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast) in hand?  Alone in one’s mind, unfettered by the worries and potential issues that surround anyone who is breathing and thinking?

Alone.  Apart. Soothed by the realization that the heartbreaking issues of the day are a bleep in Eternity.  Solitude, serenity, ALONENESS!  Busy schedules have been common to much of mankind since the beginning of time.  But today life can become even more complex, if we so allow.  In an age of electronic communications and the proliferation of Facebook friends, how many remember the concept of being alone?  And how many even care, or have the foggiest idea of what they are missing?

I love my laptop for shopping, acquiring information, and blogging.  These are refreshing pastimes.  How wonderful to shop without driving to a store where you may or may not find exactly what you want—be it a special garment (most of my clothing is purchased online), a sable paint brush, a new-to-you line of watercolors or gouche in exciting colors, or the base and fragrance oils for your soap-making avocation.  How rewarding to be able to access an endless library of answers in your ongoing quest for learning.  And how fulfilling to communicate via a blog with people from literally every corner of the earth.

But certain other aspects of the electronic world would quickly threaten to undermine my serenity, if I would fail to preserve a balance—and those specific aspects are email and Facebook.  Email has become a kind of necessity in the minds of many, and for business purposes and the sharing of prayer requests it is indeed valuable.  Facebook serves one and only one purpose for me:  that of viewing and sometimes downloading charming photos of the people in my life.  But balance and frequent avoidance of both of these computer areas are necessary to my discipline of preserving serenity and an atmosphere of solitude in the midst of an overflowing life filled with precious people and their needs.  Thus I will often go for at least a week without checking either Facebook or my email.  Anyone who really needs me will find me via telephone or snail mail—or best of all, with a knock on my door.

Today I pray that someone among the 26 participating rescue nations will discover the missing jet.  Every day I pray that I’ll remember to savor as many serenity-inspiring sights and sounds as I can find, with which to greet each day:  and certainly always before accessing email or Facebook.

A pot of tea helps, whether celebrated alone or shared with a kindred soul.  There’s always time for tea!

Margaret L. Been, March 2014

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My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 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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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!

DSC01732

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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tall corn

↑ Taken a month or so ago, before the corn turned its beautiful tawny shade—this photo shows how bountiful Wisconsin has been in the summer of 2013!

Our littlest beauty!

↑ Our best summer bounty:  Adetokumba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, just 4 months old!

Our arbor

↑ I didn’t do any gardening after shoulder surgery, July 2nd.  But the garden “gardened” itself.  Our new arbor is a constant joy—a meeting place for sparrows, chickadees, goldfinches, and other feathered friends plus 2 chipmunks.  The hardy roses were here when we moved in 4 years ago.

The garden thrived 2013

↑ More patio garden.  The garlic chives, many perennials packed into the small space, and herbs/herbs/herbs thrived all summer (and many are still thriving) without a bit of help from a human gardener. 

Alicia and her beauties

↑ A family (among all of our children and grandchildren!) that knows how to live:  This one is Granddaughter Alicia with her husband, Dan, and their children left to right—Isaac, River, Cai, and Hannah.  Alicia home schools her young ones, and she puts  loads of creative ideas into motion.  She’s an amazing photographer—and I’m quite certain that Alicia tucked her camera into a tree (or plopped it on a stump) for an automatic “take” of this classic photo. 

And now for my fellow Knit-wits:  ↓

Another Prayer Shawl

↑ A triangular shawl—one of several which I’ve made in recent months.  The buttons are for decoration in this case.  They remind me of which is the “right side”, as the ends of the spliced yarns get tucked into the “wrong side”.  But I frequently make buttonholes for buttons which function, as well.  They keep a garment from sliding off one’s shoulders.

Rayon PC

↑ A rayon potato chip scarf—dressier than my past versions of this cutie, due to the elegant drape of the fine rayon yarn.  The button is a French import, a pewterish-looking rose—not just for decoration:  it works.

Lovely shell

↑ A very versatile shell of not-too-heavy and not-too-warm yarns.  A happy sleeveless concoction in warm weather, over just a cool cami— but it will double as a vest over a blouse in winter.

Shawl-ette Front

 ↑ A shawlette.  I love it!  It’s just the thing for a bit of extra shoulder warmth.  This is the front view.  The back is pictured below. ↓

Shawl-ette Back

This one was completed last evening, and now a similar version has hit the circular needle—in shades of coral and rose.  I’m incorporating “bubbles” by switching from a small to a large needle periodically, increasing stitches periodically for a few rows, and then decreasing—in a sequence of repeats.  Voilà, bubbles!  The border trim is crocheted.  It’s fun to include random pattern stitches, lace patterns, etc., while following the inspiration of the moment! 

Margaret L. Been, 2013

 

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Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  :)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

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80 years old

Summer began around solstice time, with our 60th wedding anniversary celebration.  This was held at our condo clubhouse, so no one’s home got stressed out—but I promise we will not plan a big whoop de doo for our 70th, as our hard working children and grandchildren went many extra miles with planning, serving, and cleaning up after the delightful June 22nd event.

Above, is a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Been—gleaned from our daughter Debbie’s FACEBOOK page and taken a week ago beside Debbie and Rick’s pool.  Although (fortunately) there are not 80 candles on the cake, that is how young I turned on August 8th, 2013.  I think I am freaking out my family and friends by telling them that now I can start being eccentric.  Predictably they are wondering, “Yikes, what’s next?”

In between these two family landmarks, I received my Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement.  The six weeks mark was reached last Tuesday, and now I am able to hang up the sling and walk around with two arms free.  It’s a treat to eat with my right hand again.  (Actually I eat with spoons and forks, but they are held in my hand).  I never did get graceful with the left, and I held my fork like it was a boat oar—very clutzy.

So now I’m watching the early morning mist form over our park, a characteristic of late summer.  How can the days whirr by so fast?  Constantly, I’m overwhelmed when I reflect on the blessings we enjoy every day and will never never take for granted!  My recovery from surgery has been a gift from God worked out through the prayers and benevolence of family members and friends.

I’m thankful for Joe’s daily concern and assistance in so many ways—including weeks of enjoyable eating out together at our favorite restaurants.  We began this two days after my surgery, along with resuming our rummaging adventures.  (There is something so essentially wonderful about doing “normal” things after the trauma of rather radical surgery, with a 6 inch incision scar to prove it!)

I’m thankful for our daughter Laura’s visit from Washington State, starting on my surgery day.  Laura helped me through those tentative first days when every move hurt and just getting washed, dressed, and groomed seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  And for Debbie’s every ready concern—checking in on us, bringing good food, and scrubbing our floors.  (Debbie knows how I love CLEAN!)  I’m thankful for the phone calls, letters, companionship, and encouragement of many over the past weeks.

I’m eternally grateful for the medical expertise which made an effective shoulder prosthesis possible for me.  The Reverse procedure is new within ten years in the USA.  Twelve years ago there would have been no way to fix the considerable pain which is no longer there, thanks to amazing technology.  The Standard replacement simply would not have addressed my issues.  I’m thankful for a surgeon who performs this new procedure, as many orthopedic surgeons have not begun.

I’m thankful for the quiet hospital just minutes from our home—with private rooms for all patients, and plenty of comfortable space for one’s spouse to stay over night.  I’m very grateful for the sweet young man, a Physical Therapist named Daniel, who encouraged me and helped me so much prior to my hospital discharge.  His soft-spoken, gentle kindness—while showing me the only movements I would be allowed for weeks to come—has stuck with me as a stellar example of professional expertise at it’s most personal best.*  There is nothing like quiet kindness to promote healing, and Daniel’s sensitivity has overcome any unpleasant or jarring memories I have had of my hospital experience.  Thanks to him, I’ve been able to “do it right” from start to finish!

I’m thankful for my precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dylan.  He never fails to make me smile.  I am certain that he understands most of everything I say to him, although admittedly I don’t launch into a lot of meaty philosophical discussions with Baby Dylan.

And here are photos (also gleaned from Debbie’s FACEBOOK page) of some other precious individuals (great-grandchildren) who never fail to make me smile:

too too sweet

My cup runneth over!!!

*I obtained all of my medical records of proceedings from the day of my discharge from the hospital on 7/3/13.  For a 90 pound person, I have a very strange body chemistry:  I sleep like a well-fed puppy on caffeinated beverages, while narcotic pain medications (which plow most people under) make me “bright eyed and bushy tailed”—and, I fear, loquacious.  So I was naturally curious as to my conversations and interchanges recorded by the medical personnel on discharge day, after I’d received 24 hours of morphine via IV.

Although I might have knocked Daniel over with my bright eyed and bushy tailed verbal input, he recorded me as “Doing very well”, “Able to verbalize movement precautions”, “Independent” in all listed categories, “No difficulty” in doing what needed to be done, and “Agreeable“.  Using the word “Cooperative”, my surgeon recorded the same observations in his write-up of our 7/3/13 exchange.

I was overjoyed to discover that I behaved myself like the lady I always desire to be!  :)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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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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