Archive for September, 2008

Grandsons Joel (left) and Nathaniel (right) are visiting for 10 days, from Centennial, Colorado.  What a treat!  Normally they come in the summer, but an autumn visit worked out for them this year.  They are home schoolers, so we are keeping up with some of their work while having loads of fun.

Every year when the boys come we make a trip to a local junk yard where Joe, the boys, and I scour the premises for fun and funky stuff.  Nathaniel and Joel like to make creations like those seen on the TV show, JUNK YARD WARS.  I covet old banged-up, rusty metal to stick in my gardens.  The plants don’t always thrive, but the junk invariably does!  The older it gets, the better!  Junk is perennial!

This is the 5th year that we’ve made a pilgrimage to the junk yard.  I save the boys’ gleanings, along with the memories.  Thanks to Nathaniel and Joel, Joe and I have a resident world of junk on our spacious homesite.  The junk will remain here as long as we do.  It’s a special part of our lives.  Some items are piled alongside and under my Gypsy playhouse travel trailer, and others are stashed inside the trailer.  All year long, between the boys’ visits, I gaze at their junk and think of them.

A space to spread out–to collect anything that warms the heart, triggers the imagination, and brings a smile to one’s face!  Isn’t that what children of all ages need?  However silly, however quirky, however out-of-date, however seemingly useless, the world of junk is a world of joy!

Some people grouse about getting older, and wish they could retrieve their childhood.  I don’t have that angst.  I simply never bothered to grow up.  I’m certainly not going to start now, at age 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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The horseman pictured above was my paternal grandfather, George Washington Longenecker.  Antique car fanciers can probably pinpoint the years surrounding this photo better than I can, from studying the auto in the background.

Grandpa Longenecker never owned a car, and as far as I know he never drove one.  I doubt that he ever wanted to drive a car!  His “companion” in the picture illustrates the only mode of transportation familiar to him and dear to his heart.

For many years, Grandpa pastored the Congregational Church in Neillsville, Wisconsin–a village set in hills along the Black River just two hours from where we live now.  Grandpa loved his family and the world of nature around his home set on a river bluff.  He loved his horses, and his violins–which he collected, repaired, and played in his spare time.  Most of all, he loved the Lord Jesus.  That love was expressed in every facet of Grandpa’s life and ministry.

Grandpa left us a legacy of countless entertaining memories and a little volume titled “Sunset Poems”.  His poems are of the Edgar Guest variety–metered, sometimes didactic (preachers are allowed to be didactic!), and folksy.  Grandpa Longenecker was a down-to-earth man with an inspiring heart-focus on Heaven.

I knew Grandpa Longenecker and his wife, my precious Grandma Rose, best in their elderly years–when they lived nearby in the home of my Dad’s sister, my Aunt Gladys.  There I visited frequently and sat–fascinated–while Grandpa fiddled through pages of his hymnbook with his favorite violin. 

Sometimes Grandpa sang along with his fiddle.  But more often he would pause, mid-hymn, and give me a brief message about the glory of the Lord.  I was not a Christian at the time, and being 17 years old I had plenty of temporal things on my mind.  But I recall being amazed by the shine on Grandpa’s face as he fiddled, sang, and shared. 

It was another 20 years before I came to understand what the Gospel hymns, Grandpa’s preaching, and the shine on his face were all about.  Now I rejoice in the fact that each day brings me closer to the time when I’ll be able to give him a huge hug–and thank him for his influence in my life.

Meanwhile, Grandpa Longenecker is as close to me in my present season of life as he was before his death in 1951–when I was 18 years old.  He’s a “Man for All Seasons”. 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Sky has fallen. 

Drenched in dreams we voyage riverwise,

parting Pegasus in silver shards,

capturing Polaris in our paddles’ gleam.

The bullfrog orchestra has bowed and quit the stage,

and geese have gathered–winged away

leaving us a silent, starry stream.

Through fallen sky we whisper our canoe

in sleep of summertime’s demise,

while river otter flanks our craft, Aquila in his eyes.

 Margaret Longenecker Been

Reprinted from A TIME UNDER HEAVEN–seasonal reflections and poems, by Margaret Longenecker Been, Elk River Books, 2005.

All Rights Reserved.

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Let’s Celebrate!

James, pictured in the finery he wore to his uncle’s wedding a year ago, turns 2 years old tomorrow.  He’s one of our great-grandsons, and he will be here later today with his parents, Jason and Sandy.  They are bringing the afore-mentioned Colorado grandsons, Nathaniel and Joel, up with them from Milwaukee where they have been visiting this week. 

(Nathaniel and Joel appeared in the entry, “Will the Real America Please Stand?” where they are pictured on the sands of Lake Superior in 2006.) 

As you can imagine, James will have a whopping birthday party here in the Northwoods with part of his big family.  I’m sure there will be, or have been, other celebrations for him with the gang around his home in Southern Wisconsin.

One of our daughters, Debbie, cross-stitched a sampler for us which reads:  “Grandchildren are the Treasures of a Long Life.”  On the sampler there are 14 ovals where grandchlldren’s names may be penned in.  As of now 13 of the ovals are full, and we are inserting great-grandchildren’s names near those of their parents.  This sampler hangs in our guest house, up our back hill and through the woods from our home on the water.

Treasures of a long life!  And what treasures–children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren!  When Joe and I were married 55 plus years ago, we knew it would be good.  But “good” is an inadequate word which doesn’t even begin to cover the joys, pleasures, and rewards of 55 years of marriage. 

Wonderful, fantastic, incredibly beautiful would be better descriptions of the years Joe and I are experiencing here on earth, where even those inevitable sorrows are melted and molded into an ongoing celebration of life.

Every day we have a reason to celebrate! 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Alas and alack!  After all that “whoop de doo” and “fiddle dee dee” on the blog the other day about “Time for Healing”, taking it easy, and that sort of thing, what have I gone and done?  Here’s what:

Yesterday when we returned from my day surgery, I felt like the Wisconsin winner in the Mrs. Euphoria Contest.  I had been told I could put as much weight on the surgery leg as I could stand–and boy could I stand!  Not only stand, but truck around on my new toy–a walker with wheels in the front and tennis balls in the back.

Today I was still waxing eloquent about how great I felt, and how my skill on walker wheels could possibly qualify me for the Indy 500, when WHOOOSH.  Or as the Germans say, “Kaput”.  (I think it’s the Germans who say that.)

Suddenly my “get up and go” was gone.  Everything was gone:  that lovely general anesthetic which prevented me from being at my own torn-meniscus-repair-and-debrided-ACL party, those extra local meds thrown in for good measure, EVERYTHING!  I rose on the pain scale from a braggadocious “3” to an infamous “8”. 

Meanwhile our brilliant corgi, Dylan, had it all figured out yesterday–the minute I got back into the car, post-op.  He underwent a sea-change from a rambunctious 5-year-old perennial puppy who is always jumping on my knees–to a calm, sedate, considerate companion of a woman who, after 75 years, should have some sense.  All of today Dylan has reclined at my side with concerned looks that seem to say, “Mom, I know it’s all your fault, but I love you lots!”

Finally, I called the Clinic to report my shameful digression.  There the nurse convinced me that I wouldn’t turn into a lotus eater were I to try 2 pain pills instead of 1 at a crack for a couple of days.  And that maybe I should try “taking it easy”. 

Here is good news.  My post-op adventure has given me one more thing to write about.  Those of us who are passionate about communicating will seize on the strangest things.

And more good news!  On Thursday, our grandsons Nathaniel and Joel (ages 11 and 8) are scheduled to arrive for a ten day visit from Colorado.  The boys are homeschoolers, so they can visit beautiful Wisconsin in the glory of autumn.

These 2 grandsons are more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys.  Our guests will have us drowning in the best therapy of all time:  laughter. 

Send in the clowns! 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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A Big Splash

The young lady pictured above with my husband, Joe, is one of our granddaughters, Nicole.  In a sense you may have Nicole to thank (or blame!) for the fact that you are reading this blog.  Here’s the story:

Back in 1989, Joe bought our first computer and I was furious.  Why in the world did we need that “THING”?  To begin with, it was ugly–as ugly as a television or maybe even uglier!  I like pretty things in my home!

And the computer was a threat to me.  I was terrified that someone would expect me to use it, and certain I’d never be able to figure out how.  I was contented with my Smith Corona typewriter–inky ribbon cartridge, carbon copies, boo-boo paper and all.

Sometime in there, three-year-old Nicole came for a visit.  Her Dad, our son Eric, sat Nicole down in front of the controversial pc.  He showed her how to boot up and click on a game called ERNIE’S BIG SPLASH.  The object of the game was to run Ernie’s Rubber Ducky through a maze, into a bathtub where Ernie sat waiting, immersed in suds.

It may have taken three-year-old Nicole five minutes to get the hang of maneuvering Ducky through the maze.  Possibly she conducted him to some blind alleys or blank walls, and had to send him back to his starting position.  But probably not very often.  Once Ducky arrived safely to the tub, Nicole could start over with a fresh maze.  She was so fascinated by her newly-discovered skill that she had to be gently prodded away from Ernie in order to eat her supper.

Meanwhile, I experienced some kind of life change.  How could this be?  How could that horrible THING, with its unwanted presence in our home, be so easy and natural for a three-year-old to use?  The status of the computer shifted in my mind, from a hated untouchable to the challenge of the century–like a huge, red flag to a bull.

I began to watch Nicole as she booted up and played ERNIE’S BIG SPLASH.  Then one day, when I was alone in the house, I did it.  I went through the motions I’d seen Nicole do, and suddenly I was sending Rubber Ducky hither and thither on the screen–en route to Ernie in his bath.

It’s been almost twenty years from ERNIE’S BIG SPLASH to this blog.  But what an ongoing adventure!  My Smith-Corona is stashed away, gathering dust.  Thank you, Nicole–and of course, Ernie!

P. S.  In the photo, Nicole is wearing a scarf that her Grandma Margaret made for her. 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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In two days I’m scheduled for an arthroscopic repair of a torn meniscus in the left knee.  What an amazing thing:  three little holes, tools something like a jeweler might use, and–assuming all goes well–the knee will be fixed, or at least better than it is at the moment.

Modern medicine is one of God’s great miracles.  That’s an area where I have no 19th century nostalgia.  I would not care for leeches in my bed, or having a leg sawed off while whisky was being poured down my throat.  However, some ideas from the past need to be preserved–especially the concept that rest and time are needed for healing.

Obviously walking as soon as possible after surgery is important in many cases.  I plan to grope around with a walker for a week or more.  But I’m committed to changing my pace, easing up on daily activities, and allowing time to heal.

Too often rest is no longer given due respect.  A child may be terribly ill with a high fever from a bacteria one day, and back in the classroom (or on the soccer field) with penicillin in tow the next.  For both children and adults the agendas of work, education, and/or social recreation frequently take precedence over getting off life’s merry-go-round long enough to feel better inside and out.  When we do take time out, we grow in the process. 

I was blessed to be an “at-home mom” for our six children.  What a pleasure it was for me and (I hope!) the children to keep them at home when they were sick–not just for the duration of the fever, but for a couple extra days of recuperation.  More than our children’s physical well-being was at stake.  I was determined that our sons and daughters would not be peer-driven, but rather individuals apart from the crowd.  I believed they needed time out to develop an inner life, and to experience that euphoria of feeling better after an illness while continuing to take life easy a few more days.

For all this talk, I confess to being a person who likes to move around and do as many things as possible.  I can be a “Martha” in the kitchen.  I’m hyper about sorting the laundry by color and texture, into five loads.  The kitchen will be accessible, but the laundry is downstairs.  Joe will insist on doing the laundry in order to keep me on the main floor next week. 

And family members are coming to visit after my surgery!  We’ll not lack for company, assistance, and entertainment.  It will be a time of healing! 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved


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I’ve lost track of how many spinning wheels I have.  There are two which I use constantly, in our home, and at least three others which are kept in my back garage studio for anyone who might want to learn to spin.  Recently, I loaned still another wheel to a young 4-H girl who, like me, is emotionally planted in the 19th century.

On these wheels I produce beautiful wool yarn for knitting into sweaters, hats, and scarves.  I love my wheels.  They are graceful, useful, and soothing to use.  The spinning wheel is one of the few mechanical devices that I truly understand.  I can actually explain wheel dynamics while demonstrating spinning at fairs and festivals.  This is especially rewarding, as the people who ask technical questions are generally men. 

To be able to tell a man how something works never fails to puff me up and make me feel like something else!  But only for a moment.  Then I remember that I haven’t a clue about what happens under the hood of a car.

Which reminds me:  I haven’t a clue about what is making this blog work, or my computer for that matter.  At least, under the car hood one can see the parts.  I can’t see widgets, whatever they might be.  Although I’m enjoying blogging, it’s a bit scary doing something I can’t begin to comprehend.

Thus I always go back to something I do understand:  my spinning wheels.  How comforting to rub down the lovely cherry wood with OLD ENGLISH oil, and to grease all the moving parts with 3-in-1.  My husband says grease makes the world go round.  The world of grease and hand/foot operated tools (like the spinning wheel) is far simpler than a world whose parts we can’t even see.  Too bad the computer doesn’t run on grease! 

Meanwhile, there is 21st century hope for this 19th century woman.  In two weeks our son, Karl, will be visiting us.  Karl lives in Centennial, Colorado, and he’s a professional programmer.  Maybe he’ll tell me what a widget is. 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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The expression “less is more” is an aggravation to me.  Obviously there are times when the concept should apply–perhaps in the amount of food consumed at a sitting.  But most often “less is more” is applied to decorating and that’s what sticks in my craw.

According to research resources, “less is more” was a 19th century buzz phrase.  It was used by architect/furniture designer Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the pioneers of streamlined modern design. 

But before that the expression appeared in writing, in Robert Browning’s 1855 poem Andrea del Sarto, featuring a High Renaissance Italian painter by that name.  In the poem, “less is more” is used in connection with the painter’s relationship with his wife who was allegedly unfaithful and just a wee bit flakey.

Today we see the buzz phrase ad nauseum, on the covers of decorating magazines, and even in self-righteous “Christian” books which advocate living in bare, colorless rooms as a path to increased “spirituality”.  The idea that the Christian life should be barren of color and creative fun is a scourge.  And my answer to “less is more” in decorating may be found in the words of another character from a Victorian author, Charles Dickens’ Scrooge:  “Bah! Humbug!” 

What does my decorating philosophy consist of?  MORE IS MORE!  Years upon years of living layered on top of each other.  Fifty-five years ago, we started out rough and rustic in our home decor.  Along with the rough and rustic, we inserted many family heirlooms–specifically photos, china, and glassware.  Then, in 1993, Joe and I toured the backroads of Britain–staying mainly at sheep farms–and the English country look made a dent in me. 

Now to the rough and rustic we have added English country fabrics, English country sheep pictures, and a plethora of English teapots.  Also, we’ve filled most every available wall space with shelves, hutches for dishes, and Edwardian era oak cabinets.

Most recently the 1930s/1940s/1950s have emphatically knocked on my decorating soul.  So I insert bits of retro funk wherever possible.  It all goes together, layer upon layer–stuff upon stuff. 

Add to that:  decades of children’s art work and clay creations; a lifetime of family snapshots; bowls overflowing with pot pourri or pine cones or chestnuts and acorns, sea shells, rocks, and tags from a much loved but long departed dog; walls laden with vintage purses and hats, a branding iron from my father’s former ranch (along with the previously-mentioned heads of mounted game), and 1940s aprons and enameled cookware; chairs and tables layered in lovely textiles from the reign of Queen Victoria to the reign of King Wal-Mart; evidence of ninety million hobbies and crafts; baskets dangling from ceilings; windowsills abounding in bottles of many shapes and sizes; and books, books, books, books, books. 

I have only 2 rules:  I must like it, and I must like it.  Items with color (most any color!) jump out at me and say, “We were made for each other”.  Items are procured for bargain prices at garage sales  Sometimes they are found by the side of the road, waiting for the garbage collection or (in my case) free to a good home.  Or picked up off the ground on a hike in our woods.

Everywhere you look around our digs, you will see COLOR!  Color grabs me by the throat and makes my blood surge.  To use an old-fashioned word, color makes me SWOON!

A professional “decorator” will never be involved in the making of our home!  We do not care for the restaurant lounge look, or the sterility of a doctor’s waiting room or hospital.  We intensely dislike the lifeless decor in a quintessential Corporate America motel.  

Our hearts are at home, where MORE IS MORE! 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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In a recent post, I stated that the John Adams film is good family viewing.  Well, the 1st disk in the series definitely is.  But the 2nd disk is not. 

The documentary in #2 seems accurate.  The portrayal of General Washington is especially fine, I think.  He is shown as the strong, gentle, kind man of integrity we like to think he was. 

But, there is a bedroom scene in #2 that no one needs to watch–even though it consists of husband and wife (John and Abigail).  Married love is beautiful, sacred, romantic, and exciting.  It should not be cheaply depicted in a film. 

And we all know from reading, that Ben Franklin was a rake.  Who needs a visual history lesson on his cavorting around Paris?  That was too much for me, and certainly more than we want our children to view!  It’s more than anyone needs to know about Ben!  I prefer to remember him for the lightning rod.  Margaret L. Been

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