Archive for January, 2010

If so, try a mini trip to Madeline Island on Lake Superior–via my new blogsite:  http://northernview.wordpress.com/   .

Margaret L. Been

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For the first time in 56 plus years of marriage, we’ve submitted a “normal” claim to our homeowner’s insurance company, for repairs in our frozen and water damaged guest house up north.  We’ve had the same insurance company for 5 decades, and although we’ve only made 2 previous claims we are well known to that company.  Here is why:

Back in the 1980s, we had an unseasonably warm Christmas Day in Wisconsin–and our visiting grandchildren raced outside to play after opening their presents.  The children begged their grandpa to let Jimmy out of his pen, to play with them.

Jimmy was a Wisconsin State Champion Corriedale ram, whom we had rented for a few weeks to cover our ewes.  He was a large, powerful animal and he loved people–especially children.  It was fun to see Jimmy follow the kids around, like a giant dog.

Our daughter, Debbie, and I were the only ones left indoors when we heard a shattering crash and felt a tremor which rocked our bi-level home.  Terrified, we wondered if the house would collapse–and we expected to hear screams of pain.  Instead we heard a chorus of shouts and giggles.

While playing in the backyard with the children, Jimmy had spotted his reflection in our lower level patio glass door–and he thought it was another ram.  Jimmy charged at his reflection with all his magnificent heft, and splintered the heavy duty door into thousands of fragments.

Since no people were hurt, I was immediately concerned about Jimmy.  Was he okay?  I didn’t want him to suffer, and moreover he was a valuable animal entrusted to our care.  But Jimmy was just fine.  God knew what he was doing when he created rams’ skulls!  The men cleaned up the glass and fashioned a temporary door out of plywood.  We decided that we were celebrating the funniest Christmas ever.

Even funnier was the visit from our insurance agent–a new recruit to the firm.  His eyes grew larger and larger as I related the incident of Jimmy and the patio door–until suddenly the agent went into hysterics. 

This agent had heard about our family the very first day he went to work for that company.  We were a legend there, because our only other claim had been 34 years previous when one of our sons–18 months old at the time–had accidentally shot his pee into a wall outlet.  The urine, containing ammonia, had triggered a small fire in the wall.  The fire department was involved, and no serious damage occurred–just a few holes in a mattress, caused by sparks flying from the outlet.  The insurance company replaced the mattress.

We were told that the pee incident was the funniest report this company had ever had–and the company made a legend of it.  Every person who came to work there heard about the little boy who had started a fire in an outlet.  And now, 34 years later, this same family was presenting a claim because a ram had destroyed a patio door.

Of course we got the new door.  Jimmy went back to his owners after providing us with some nice lambs–and plenty of entertainment!  🙂

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

The above true story won 1st place in SHEEP Magazine’s
“Funniest Sheep Story Contest”, and was published in that magazine.

The illustration is courtesy of Dover Copyright Free Clip Art.

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“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, 

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, 

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” 

William Shakespeare, MACBETH

What heals more beautifully than sleep?  And what is better than winter, for sleeping?  Lately I have been sleeping like there is no tomorrow.  It’s 7 above zero today with a minus 17 windchill.  This is mild compared to where we came from:  Northern Wisconsin with its weeks of 2o to 35 below zero!  Yet it’s cold.  Wind is wind, and it seems especially cutting in our new neighborhood, just 25 miles from Lake Michigan.

Sleep!  Sleep!  Sometimes I wake up for a few minutes at night, and then return to a deep sleep.  It feels like I’m being pulled into a bottomless ocean by an irresistable undertow.  I sometimes think I am “sleeping off” my whole life–the extremely productive years of raising 6 children and working as a book-keeper/secretary for our company, the many moves with packing and unpacking, the two delightful decades of raising chickens and sheep along with countless other critters, and our halcyon years up north. 

I’m sleeping off the nights with sick children and all the family crisis times right up to our most recent trauma of having a daughter in ICU following her cardiac arrest.  This daughter is doing beautifully now, praise God, and she’s scheduled to return to her home today.  The crisis has passed, at least for now, and I can SLEEP!

Only the Holy Bible can address life issues and the human experience better than our beloved old bard whom I’ve quoted above.  How rich is the English language, and how grateful I am to have been raised and schooled in it!  Although many Americans have deconstructed, minimalized, and derailed the language in shocking ways, I cling to British English–the language of the King James Bible and Shakespeare. 

Who can describe what I’m doing at least 14 hours out of 24 more succinctly than that master of British English, William Shakespeare?  Truly, sleep “knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

Note:  Here is a photo of one of our up north neighbors.  Now these folks really know how to sleep! 

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Joe and I have been driving past this homestead for over a decade.  It’s located at the corner of Highway H and Martin Drive in Price County, Wisconsin–just a few miles from our up north home.

For years we enjoyed signs of love and restoration around the property.  Frequently, in summer, we saw a man and a pickup truck there.  We drove by and observed that new windows and a door were installed–somewhat obscuring the obvious inner deterioration of the house.  The realization of a dream was in process.

While doing a bit of fixing, the man planted a garden in back of the dream in process.  What a cheering sight!  One summer he raised chickens and pigs there.  My cup of delight overflowed to see baby piggies running around. 

Here is a dream’s bright promise, I thought.  I figured that the man with the pick up truck would someday move himself, and perhaps a family, to his dream house on the corner of Highway H and Martin Drive.

Then suddenly, a couple of years ago, the man and the pickup truck disappeared–along with the makeshift livestock sheds, fencing, and remnants of a garden.  A “For Sale” sign went up on one side of the property.  I snapped this poignant photo and scanned it into my computer’s picture file, with the heading:  “Broken Dream”.

But now I need to take new photos of the house on H and Martin Drive.  On our last trip north (just last week) we discovered that the “For Sale” sign is gone.  More new doors and windows have been added to the house, along with silver insulative sheathing all around the outside–bearing that famous identification of source:  ACE HARDWARE.

Once again, the little abandoned house has become a dream in process.  How inspiring to know that broken dreams can be repaired somehow, by someone!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Here is a photo of sunrise over our Northern Wisconsin bay.  The glow on the trees is reflected, as the trees border the bay on the west and catch the glory of the sun rising in the east.  This week Joe and I spent a couple of days at our home on this bay, where the sun spews diamonds on snow-covered ice.

Our guest house (uphill from our home on the bay) recently experienced heat loss, frozen pipes, and water damage–but never mind that.  Workers are drying the house out, and repairing the damage.  Our insurance will cover all but a fraction of the cost. 

Meanwhile, the constants prevail.  While up north we saw a bald eagle, high in a tree–scanning the countryside for his lunch.  And of course we enjoyed the plethora of deer.  (Each year I get concerned at hunting season.  Will hunters take out all the deer?  Of course that’s a hoot.  According to the 2006 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimate, there are 1.5 to 1.7 million deer in Wisconsin.  The hunters merely protect our forests from being totally devoured by the whitetails.)

Constants!  Where would we be without them–those aspects of life that never change, but rather go on inspiring us no matter what our circumstances?  We have sights and sounds to mark each season, and every day–concrete facts created by God to remind us of His faithfulness, material joys to cheer us during our time on earth:  invariables like sunrise and sunset changing on schedule–progressing and digressing throughout the years, decades, and ages.

Today, January 23rd, we have 9 hours and 35 minutes of daylight here at our Southern Wisconsin, Nashotah home.  That’s a gain of 36 minutes from the lowest ebb at winter solstice.  Even a few miles make a difference in the timing.  The city of Hartford, Wisconsin, just 15 miles northwest of our door, has 9 hours and 34 minutes of daylight today.  But after the spring equinox in March, the northern locations will pass us up; they’ll receive more minutes per day than we have here in the southern part of our state. 

I love figuring the daylight.  The afternoon (sunset) time must be changed to Army time.  (The morning increment–falling between midnight and noon–automatically reads the same as Army time, so it doesn’t need to be changed.)  If the number of sunset minutes is less than the sunrise minutes, one simply bumps back the afternoon Army time 1 hour while adding 60 minutes to the minute factor.  Voila.  Subtraction works, and it’s such fun–especially in these post New Year’s weeks when every minute counts!

Because of a recent medical emergency, our family has been reminded that life is “iffy”.  We thank God for our daughter’s healing which grows more and more encouraging as the days pass.  We realize that we can never know what’s around the next bend.  Yet there are the constants.  I love these words of a favorite hymn–Great Is They Faithfulness*:

“Summer and winter, springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.”

Earth creature that I am, I celebrate the constants and thank our Lord for them.  He is the creator of the seasons, and the progression/digression of sunrise-sunset.  Our Lord is the ultimate Constant!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

*Great Is Thy Faithfulness–T. O. Chisholm-William H. Runyan

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Our praises never cease!  Our daughter Judy is out of ICU, and settled into a spacious single room on the cardiac floor at Waukesha Memorial.  She began eating soft foods today, and sipping coffee.  Even hospital coffee is better than nothing, although Judy prefers STARBUCK’S.

Judy knows all of us by name (and there are a lot of us!), even her young grandnieces whom she doesn’t see all that often.  Today she whispered the lyrics of some of her favorite country tunes on her IPOD.  I brought Judy a book of devotions with lovely art illustrations, and she was pleased–as reading is one of the great joys of her life.  (The saying,”The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” applies here.)

God has done a huge thing for our family.  Judy loves to witness to His grace–and now she has a whole new arena for sharing His love.  The cardiologist in the ICU commented, “We just don’t see anything like this very often!”  And there we were–from 10 to 20 family members and friends at a time–gathered prayerfully, united in a common desire for God to bring our Judy back!

God is GOOD!  Yet it has occurred to me that even if the last few days had not turned out so beautifully, even if we had lost our loved one, God would still be GOOD!  We would be grieving, big time, but He would be welcoming His own and comforting those left behind.

Two of my very closest friends have lost an adult son and daughter in recent months.  I’ve prayed that my friends will know–and I long for them to know–that God is GOOD even in the midst of their loss.  His wisdom is perfect, and His plan is always right.  This is easy for me to say when I’m on a pinnacle of rejoicing.  But there will be valley days ahead.  Sorrow and loss are a part of the human scenario.  Even as our family has so many reasons to thank God, I pray I’ll always remember that God is GOOD!  No matter what, God is GOOD!

Meanwhile, I’m taking a few days’ hiatus from blogging.  Something has happened at our guest house up north–something actually laughable in view of the trauma of recent days.  Our furnace went out there, pipes burst, the house got down to 4 degrees, a wall buckled in, and water froze under the carpets.  How we discovered all of this is another story–too lengthy to bother relating.  Let’s just say our discovery was a testimony to the goodness and personal concern of “up north” people.

So now that Judy is stabilized, and since her husband and daughter are at her side nearly every moment, Joe and I are going up north for a few days to survey the work being done by a crew that specializes in thawing and drying frozen and flooded houses.  We’ll stay in our own dear little home up there, our home on the bog. 

I thought of taking my computer (it’s a laptop), but NO!  I’ll take Dosteovsky’s THE IDIOT, as I’m glued to that novel and welcome hours and hours to stay glued.  Like my beloved Charles Dickens, Dosteovsky is a genius at exposing the evils of the human heart, compounded by man in society.  I will also take watercolors, brushes, 140 pound watercolor paper, and my writing journal.

Joe and I plan to visit with our neighbors, dine at our favorite restaurants, watch for deer and the lynx we saw in our yard there last November, look for steaming brush piles indicating a bear’s winter den, check out the latest wonderful old stuff at the antique shop owned by my friend Terry, and RELAX!  And of course Baby Dylan will go with us, back to the wild 14 plus acres which he loved for the first 5 years of his life.

I know that God can change our plans, if they don’t fit into His program.  No matter what, God is GOOD!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Splotches of sunlight

warm my January room

with golden promise. 


People to love . . .

my branches are glowing

even in winter.


Lonely patio

piled in mounds of snow

dreaming of summer.


Winter days

unravel silently, inexorably . . .

endless white ribbon.


Winter nights

more silent than the days . . .

waiting for the coyotes.


Winter weeks . . .

dreaming of peepers and redwings

in the bog.


A lowering sky . . .

snow spewing, wind keening . . .

soul’s lachrymosa.


Twilight stretching out,

shadows lengthening at dusk . . .

January hope.


Margaret Longenecker Been–All Rights Reserved

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“People who need people are the luckiest people in the world . . . . ”  Thus sang Barbra Streisand a few decades ago.

I don’t agree with the luck bit, because I don’t believe in “luck”.  But God has made us for relationship–with Himself and with other people.  Perhaps I’d rephrase the song to read, “People who need people are the most blessed people in the world”–although quite obviously that rendition would not fit into the beat of the melody.  Oh well, I never said I was a song writer!  Just a writer.

Pictured above are my husband Joe and me (the “mature” ones in the middle) flanked by our 6 children–from left to right:  Karl, Debbie, Laura, Judy, Eric, and Martina.  The picture was taken last summer, when we were all together due to Joe’s cardiac emergency.

Now, as you undoubtedly know, we’ve just had another cardiac emergency.  At the moment Judy (pictured in the tie-dye shirt with a big heart) is in ICU–having been brought back from a cardiac arrest. 

Since early last Thursday, I’ve spent many hours in the ICU waiting room with family members and friends–and many more hours will be spent in the hospital as Judy recovers.  We take turns standing at Judy’s bedside for short stints, talking quietly to her and saying “I love you!”  Then between stints, we sit with each other in the waiting room.

During these days of sitting, I’ve reflected on how unique each person is–and how precious!  This unique-ness is highlighted during an emergency, as each of us handles stress in our own way. 

Some individuals grow incredibly quiet in emergencies.  These folks need all of their strength to meet a challenge, and they simply cannot deflect their energies into chatter.  Other people talk constantly during crisis times.  Conversation is a tension reliever for some, just as stillness is for others.

God created us to be whomever we are!  Each of us is different, each of us is valid.  We are, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “islands in a common sea.”  We need our “space” and our solitude.  But we also need each other.  We are “people who need people!”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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The sky is still overcast here, but the sun is shining in our hearts.  Today our daughter Judy is awake and responsive.  She’s breathing on her own, looking at us, and trying to talk.  Her throat is sore from the breathing apparatus which was removed, so speaking will be hard for awhile.

This morning I said to Judy, “Soon we’ll play SCRABBLE, and you’ll beat the tar out of me.”  Judy answered with a smile.  (She does beat the tar out of me at SCRABBLE.)

The cardiologist in the ICU reports that Judy’s response is quite amazing.  Her heart had stopped, and she was literally brought back to life.  Judy’s family members and friends know she has a BIG HEART–for people, and for all living things.  We are rejoicing, because her big heart is beating!

“Life is fragile.  Handle with prayer!”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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For the first time since November, I am watching the dawn–and here is the reason.  Our large living room patio door faces east.  We are situated in an alcove, tucked away from views to the north and south.  From our patio we can look neither north nor south:  only straight ahead–east.

Dawn seems to quit somewhere during November in our northern land.  It’s out there in the darkest weeks, but the dawn is merely a phantom of its former self–greyed by an overcast sky.  If one faces east, even the phantom is obscured.  Through our bedroom window, we see early morning light in all seasons.  But not the actual dawn.  Dawn happens far away in the south, throughout those bleak days around the winter solstice.

Our family is experiencing a winter solstice.  Nearly 48 hours ago, on Thursday morning, our daughter Judy suffered cardiac arrest.  She was resuscitated, and since then has been connected to machines and monitors at the Waukesha Hospital–in a medically induced coma, for the best possible recovery.  Today is crucial.  Judy is scheduled to come out of the coma, and we will know more about what the future holds.

Meanwhile the sun is slowly, faithfully moving back to the northern zenith.  Today is still grey and misty.  But on the first clear day, the woods beyond our patio door will glow a rosy-gold–reflecting the returning dawn.  We are watching the dawn, and waiting . . .

“Though I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.”  Psalm 139:9-10

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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