Archive for April, 2010

Our daughter, Martina, has been here for a week, from Nigeria where she has been teaching for the last 4 years.  She’s been applying for teacher’s position in our area and around the USA.  In June she plans to come back to the states.

The great news is that Martina is bringing her husband-to-be, a young Nigerian, back with her.  Martina and Sanmi (the “n” is silent) plan to be married here—and all of our family will participate in planning and providing for the celebration.

At Christmas, Martina did the Kenya safari thing.  She said, “I can’t leave Africa without seeing a lion.”  Well, she saw lions and a whole lot more,  I have a disc full of African wildlife, which I’m eager to share.

The above photo could almost be of my husband and me.  We are not built like the models pictured, but their pose makes me think of us.

Below, you will see a lion!  I have a thing about lions, and have as far back as I can remember.  Maybe it was because of Leo, the MGM lion.  I used to experience a thrill of terror as his big head appeared, turning and growling 3 times (I think there were 3 growls).

One of my all-time favorite films is BORN FREE.  There is something in many of us, that absolutely needs to stay in touch with wildness!  I do not have a pet kitty at this time—although most of my life I’ve had cats, and I certainly hope to again.  Cat people are never far from wildness, since a pet pussycat is simply a replica of its larger relatives. 

Joe has always said that if we were as small as mice, our cats would eat us!  🙂

©2010, Margaret L. Been

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As evidenced in the above 1960 photo of our son Eric and me, I thoroughly savored my early years of mothering—work-filled days and occasional sleepless nights notwithstanding.  Our family was intact and centered at home.  Life was good. 

But drastic changes followed those years.  As our children grew. each child became his or her own person.  That is perfectly natural and desirable, and it teaches a parent to learn flexibility.  Life was still good, because LIFE IS GOOD.  But mothering became more complex as time passed.

The most challenging aspect of my life as a woman began in the late 1970s, when I became the “filling” in what has been aptly described as a SANDWICH—composed of elderly parents, my husband (who was always supportive and helpful), adult daughters, teen age sons, our 6th child, and grandchildren!  I loved my family members, and tried to give my best to each.

As is the case with many women I’ve known, the accelerated responsibilities came at a period when my physical body was losing energy FAST!  And that period of time included those years of family adversity, as referenced in my last posting. 

Sustained by God’s Grace and the realization that He never gives us more than He will enable us to handle, I managed.  Now I share my experience, in the hope of encouraging other women who may be the happy but exhausted filling in a SANDWICH today!

Fatigued, I often failed to perceive correctly.  In the early SANDWICH years there were times when I felt overwhelmed, and times when I was!  At first I felt that I could never meet all of the expectations of those I loved.  What I failed to understand was that many of these “expectations” were frequently my own ideas of what I should be and could do. 

Often I imagined that family members were needing or desiring more from me than I could produce, when actually they were notI kept berating myself for not being able to do and give more than humanly possible, and I lived in fear of not being able to give enough.  Perfectionist that I was, I was critical of myself

My release from false conceptions and an over-burdened sense of responsibility came at mid-life when I bogged down, healthwise.  A major surgery in 1983 involved months of healing, and caused me to realize that I could never be all things to all people.  I realized that if I didn’t stop trying to be Everybody’s Everything, I would end up being Nobody’s Anything!

From 1983 on, I no longer imagined that anyone expected more of me than I could produce.  The responsibilities were still there and I thrived in the midst of them.  People need responsibilities!  Those busy years were enjoyable and rewarding to the max!

Then as now, the grandchildren were the “frosting” on the sandwich—providing endless fun for Joe and me.  We were rejuvenated inside and out by our grandchildren, and we still are—with great-grandchildren added!

How thankful I am that I learned to weigh my priorities in light of reality, measure my days, and apply my heart to wisdom.  Blessings upon blessings have followed in the wake of my realization that only God is perfect.  In Him I am complete.  And best of all, no matter what happens He is in charge!  God and God alone is all things to all people, Everybody’s Everything!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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So much has been written about women and their multiple roles, that I hesitate to approach the subject.  Only because I have enjoyed being a woman (and girl!) all of my life, do I feel qualified to hold forth on the myriad aspects of WOMAN!

Like countless other women I moved from the role of daughter, to college student and young adult making my own decisions, and then on to the significant step of becoming a wife.  Because I married the most wonderful man on earth, I’ve never looked back with regret.  What a blessing my husband has been and continues to be.

Motherhood came easily for me.  I had traveled some as a young person, and I had worked hard at home as well as at school and volunteer jobs.  I had studied diligently, and matured so that I was ready to settle into being myself in the midst of new responsibilities.  

Even as a very young wife and mother, I realized that human relationships were not enough to complete a life.  I knew I should never bank my “happiness potential” on other people, as they—like me—were not perfect.  It would never work, to lean on other people for my ultimate fulfillment as a person.  Thus, I went on being me.  I discovered that homemaking provided the perfect setting for continual growth as a person. 

Music and writing had always been a huge part of my life—and I realized I had to continue being involved in music and writing to stay whole.  As time passed, I acquired additional creative hobbies and some community outlets.  The “busier” I became as a wife and mother, the more I needed to spend at least a few hours each week on personal areas of interest.   

Perhaps that’s why the feminist surge of the 1960s seemed so strange and utterly stupid to me.  Who on earth could possibly have more freedom to live creatively and individually than a stay-at-home wife who was blessed with a fine, sensitive husband—and a mother with children to love and nurture? 

As time progressed, I did need to do extra work—as a bookkeeper and secretary for the construction company which my husband and I formed in 1967.  Although my duties required long hours at a desk, my heart was always at home.  Fortunately my body could be at home, as well, most of the time.  Our office was mainly in our home during those fledgling years of the business.  I soon learned to pen an occasional poem in those small breaks from typing bids and balancing pages in the ledger.

Later my realization that I must continue to be myself, within the perimeters of home and job responsibilities, became a lifeline.  Our family experienced years of heartbreaking circumstances and trauma.  Apart from God’s Grace, our family could have been permanently devastated in the onslaught which occurred back then.  During all that time, God used His gifts of creativity to pilot me through various phases and years of a living nightmare.  God kept me focused on “whatsoever things are good”. 

Here is the proverbial bottom line.  Since human relationships sometimes falter, and adversity often claims our attention and energy, there has to be something more:  first and foremost, a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and then an outworking of His serenity and beauty through those God-ordained creative, upbeat facets of life which will be there for us “no matter what”!*

Meanwhile, when grandchildren arrived, I entered a whole new aspect of life—one that I have enjoyed to the max, and continue to enjoy as our grandchildren grow up and become interesting adults.  What a privilege and joy to be involved with grandchildren.  My cup is continually running over!

Grandmothering implies things to be learned as well as fun to be had!  Unless circumstances demand an exception, and grandparents are called to raise a grandchild, we grandmothers must never usurp the role of the mother.  Mother is Mother, and Grandma is Grandma—or whatever else we might be named. 

We learn to bite the tongue, whenever unsolicited advice wants to fall freely from our mouths.  A talking woman is often a pain in the you-know-what, and a grandmother who advises unnecessarily is especially hard to stomach. 

Only when faced with issues of absolute ethics, morality, human decency and respect, spiritual truth, or proper nurturing and health do we grandmothers have the right to tell a daughter or daughter-in-law what to do regarding their children—and then we must speak up!    

Finally, I’m now exploring a whole new-to-me aspect of WOMAN:  great-grandmothering.  This is a tricky one, as my child-nurturing instincts are with me for life.  As a great-grandmother, it’s easy for me to want to be a grandmother.  But I’m learning!  My daughters are the grandmothers now—and they are doing a fabulous job of it. 

I’m trying to do the Miss Marple thing:  just sitting around with my knitting.  Fortunately, there are no “in house” crimes to be solved so I’m not a “Miss Marple” in that respect.  And there are many times when a Miss Marple can be useful.  I can cook nice meals, and I love to read to the great-grandchildren.  Maybe someday I’ll teach them to knit!  Miss Marple would do that!  🙂 

As we mature, our womanly need to nurture is filled more and more by pets!  Although I have loved all of our dogs and cats over the years, our Baby Dylan receives here-to-fore-undreamed-of attention because he is my “late in life” doggie!  He is almost a person in his own right! 

My current aspect of WOMAN—the aspect of maturity—is tremendously enjoyable.  Joe and I have time, freedom, and sufficient energy to savor our moments together.  We have our family, friends, and hobbies within the context of our home.  And as always, I love being a girl!   

*Years ago one of our daughters (newly married at the time) told me something I’ll never forget.  Our daughter said, “Mom, I’ll always be thankful to you for showing me that a wife and mother can still be a person.” 

What more can I say?!!  Feedback like that makes me close my eyes and lift my heart in praise to our Lord who has made all things beautiful!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  In keeping with the above topic, here is info on a soon-to-be-released book by my Seattle friend, Lydia Harris:

Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting, by Lydia E. Harris, AMG Publishers, is scheduled for release in June 2010. You can pre-order now at amazon.com or Christianbook.com.
This six-week Bible study is suitable for grandparents at any stage of the journey and can be used by individuals, couples, or groups. It can be extended to twelve weeks or longer.

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One of my favorite “reads” is Ingrid Schlueter’s Hope Blog—listed in my blog role.  Some entries are whimiscal, many are touching, and all are filled with wisdom gleaned from living and loving.

Recently, Ingrid listed some of her favorite scents and the memories they evoke.  What fun!  The comments were enjoyable too, as readers contributed some of their most loved fragrances, and of course I added my proverbial few cents (scents!) worth to the comments. 

While reflecting on the nostalgia of fragrance, I thought of Julie Andrews alias Maria—running around slamming windows shut in the thunder storm while singing about her “Favorite Things”, those little things that make each day rich and memorable. 

I have a lifetime of countless Favorite Things.  Some of them date me, and perhaps only a few readers can recall them.  Indeed, it seems that most folks who might be old enough to remember whatever I recall are probably not computer friendly.  Yet I’m going to take a chance, and play “Do you remember?”

1)  Do you remember the leg makeup worn during World War II when ladies’ stockings (then silk!) were not available due to wartime shortages?  I was too young for dress up stockings in the early 1940s, but my older sister assiduously painted her legs with leg makeup, and even painted an amazingly straight line down the back for a “seam”. 

Julie, maybe you are reading this.  Did you know that your mom did that?  🙂 

2)  Do you remember living in a town where cats and dogs roamed randomly—with impunity?  No one thought anything of pets at large.  Cross breed canines were the norm and a puppy’s paternal parentage was frequently unknown.  Many homes sported FREE KITTEN signs, and our family tended to acquire a lot of free kittens. 

3)  Do you remember band concerts at the community park?  Some places in our county still have them on occasion. 

4)  Do you remember playing on your screened porch on a rainy summer day—tipping the wicker furniture upside down and draping sheets on top, to create houses?

5)  Do you remember those yummy, crunchy potato baskets which Mom filled with chicken salad and served at fancy luncheons—along with petits fours for dessert?

6)  Do you remember napkin rings and cloth napkins?  Vintage folks that we are in our home, we still use them.  I love to iron pretty linens!

7)  Do you remember delicate glass ice tea straws with a tiny spoon at the bottom for stirring the sugar in the tea?  I have never run into these at antique or resale shops, probably because they were so fragile and breakable that they’re all gone.

8)  Do you remember a murder mystery game called MR. REE?  Kind of like our present day CLUE, as I recall.

9)  Do you remember the original Nancy Drew with the yellow roadster, and the maid (Hannah Gruen) who produced fantastic desserts?

10)  Do you remember when a boy’s really naughty prank was to tip over an outhouse? 

11)  Do you remember hanging out at a soda fountain and drinking fountain cherry cokes, or ice cream sodas?  These hangouts were still around during the TV series HAPPY DAYS era—but I doubt that there are many left today.  Life is not so simple as it used to be, and I don’t think teenagers have as much fun!

12)  Do you remember spending an afternoon at WOOLWORTH’S or KRESGE’S, playing the breakable phonograph records on a record player (equipped with a needle) in a booth?  People were allowed to play as many as they liked, and then return the records to their jackets and bins if they didn’t want to buy them. 

Those were the years of the “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, a young Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and the romantic “Hit Parade” ballads.

13)  Do you remember the BURMA SHAVE signs along the highway?

14)  And speaking of road travel, do you remember making poddy stops along the roadside behind trees?  One could not find pit stops and “rest areas” at every bend of the road back then, and we had to improvise. 

My mother was a total lady, always poised and dressed up, but she knew very well how to teach a kid to go behind trees.  The fresh air “restrooms” were probably much more sanitary than many gas station bathrooms today!  🙂 

I could go on forever, so I guess I’ll just quit?  But I welcome your nostalgic input.  It’s such fun to remember!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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As you can see from the above photo, taken a couple of years ago in our up north guest house, our grandsons Joel and Nathaniel are fascinated by my beloved craft of spinning. 

The fact that I knit sweaters, hats, shawls, and scarves from my hand spun yarns (spun from sheep wool, llama hair, mohair from angora goats, dog hair, and/or silk) lends a practical purpose to this ancient but currently popular art.  The easy-to-comprehend mechanics of a spinning wheel add to the marvelous mystique of spinning:  engendered in those of us who were raised on the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm.

The wheel pictured above is one of my 5 spinning wheels.  It’s a replica of the Irish Castle Wheel, and it is the one I use most often as it’s easy to move from room to room—or out to the patio where I sit and spin on warm days.  The wheel’s main location is our living room next to the Saxony wheel which I also use frequently and love.  Both wheels (pictured below along with my yarns and some of the garments) have the same mechanism with exchangeable bobbins.  They are Jensen wheels—made in Lake Delton, Wisconsin—and they are “top of the line” in performance as well as exquisite beauty.

As I keyboard on my laptop, I can honestly say that I love old things best:  old appliances, old tools, old dishes, old artifacts of most any kind.  That may sound oxymoronic as I blog, gather information, and do most of my shopping online (with the exception of groceries).  Sometimes I even write letters on the laptop, although email is my least favorite computer function.  There is nothing, no nothing in the world like a real letter on pretty stationery.  The ever-escalating cost of postage will never dim my fondness for the U. S. Postal Service!

New things can be useful, even delightful—as in the case of favorite kitchen appliances like my BREADMAN, electric percolator, and blender for those refreshing smoothies.  I’m on friendly terms with a refrigerator, and an electric oven and range.  I have no desire to cook on wood, even though I’ve nostalgic recollections of my Grandma Rose doing exactly that.

We have a dishwasher, which we do not use—as dishes are too lovely to stash in a machine, and I get much pleasure out of washing them and seeing them lined up in the drying rack on a kitchen counter.  When we had little children and babies, I thought differently and did use a dishwasher.  Now the dishwasher is one of our resident “museums”.  It houses old kitchen gadgets, cookie cutters, etc. which were once used by departed family members—or culled from garage sales and antique shops.

Flush toilets and running water are luxuries I’ll never take for granted.  I love them and would not want to go back to using an outhouse, and pumping and hauling water.  It’s fun to recall the fact that we had only an outhouse (and slop pails for nighttime use) at our summer cottage in the 1940s—and that we hauled water for drinking, cooking, and washing.  But having “been there, done that”, I certainly don’t wish to return.

No!  Other than periodically eschewing a few things like email, I don’t want to go back.  But I do want to preserve, and whenever possible use and enjoy vestiges of the past through home arts such as spinning on my spinning wheels.

Why is preservation so important?  I believe that an appreciation of the past is a vital dimension of life in the present!  Quite basically, we have roots.  Just as a plant is nourished by its God-given roots, we are nourished by ours.  Roots are part of our down-to-earth quality of life, and they are instrumental in that profound pleasure which we derive from simple, everyday things.  Without an appreciation of our roots, we would be plastic people—sterile, robotic, generic, and boring! 

Family roots are vital but so are cultural, lifestyle roots.  I’m not alone in my passion for roots, as evidenced in the popularity of THE ANTIQUES ROADSHOW and the crowds that throng to living history museums.  Life is richer today when we know something about yesterday! 

Our home is blessed to be a mini living history museum, one in a constant state of production with spinning wheels, baskets of wool (still remaining from 20 years of raising my own sheep), a surplus of knitting needles, and a plethora of hand spun yarn and hand fashioned garments!

NOTE:  The 3 shawls on your left as you face this photo are some of many that I wove on my 24″ Baby Wolf Loom–one of 2 looms which are currently still up north due to lack of room for them in our condo.  Having only 2 hands, I manage to keep my fingers moving fast enough as it is with spinning and knitting. 

The “center stage” colorful striped scarf is one I knit over this past winter from yarns which I recently spun and dyed.  Embellished with funky beads and a crocheted border, the scarf is wide enough to double as a stole.

It always freaks me out, when people look at my spinning wheels and call them “looms”.  More education and advocacy are needed in the area of the fiber arts! 

Occasionally, I spin for public events.  People always cluster around the spinning demos, and ask wonderful questions.  How great to be able to promote an appreciation of this time-honored craft!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Can those of you who live anywhere south begin to imagine what happens inside of us northern folks when— after 6 months of bare trees and frozen, snow-covered ground—we experience the annual explosion of green?  Can you comprehend our joy in the sudden appearance of fluffy, peach colored buds preceding the green?  Can you appreciate our euphoria, our sense of freedom as the days grow longer and warmer?  Maybe it’s kind of like being shot out of a cannon—something I’ve never experienced, but assume to be rather thrilling! 

Color, after months of grey and white!  We 4-season people do find beauty and color in winter—in thickets of scarlet dogwood branches and tawny fields of corn stubble, and in those spectacular winter skies of violet blue. 

I celebrate winter’s beauty, even write poems about it.  But by March, my odes to winter begin to resemble “whistling in the dark.”

When the air grows wet and warmish, I actually have what I call “green dreams”.  At night I phase out with the scent and sight of green things racing in my head.  There are many winding, woodsy stretches in our area where branches of hickory, prairie oak, American elm, and maple dip down over the roads—and yards are cloistered in green, poignantly lovely in the viridian of early spring, and darkly mysterious later in summer when the foliage turns to a deep, intense green.  These wooded lanes are the scenes of my green dreams.  I dream them over and over, year after year, on spring nights.

In one of his books, New England naturalist Hal Borland likened the annual explosion to a “quiet revolution” representing incredible power, the power of chlorophyll production which takes place in every leaf and blade of grass. 

Over our long Wisconsin winters I read many books, and I frequently read about human revolutions:  the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Irish Revolution, the Mexican Revolution, etc.  History is fascinating, and I’ll always read it.  But now there is only one revolution on my mind:  the explosion of green. 

I live and breathe the color green—waking and sleeping.  This spring focus on earth, with its burgeoning life, is a homecoming.  Although we are pilgrims en route to another place, earth is momentarily our home.  Today we are citizens of earth—placed in God’s Creation for a time, to savor the beauty and experience the goodness of life so aptly summed up in the annual explosion of green.

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Indeed, it is SPRING!  My heart pulsates to the music of cardinals, redwings, robins, mourning doves, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, and other skyward signs of the season.

There is another sign—or rather a plethora of SIGNS—which soon will pop up in yards all over the little communities in our vicinity.  They may vary in wording—RUMMAGE SALE, GARAGE SALE, ESTATE SALE, YARD SALE, or whatever.  But these signs all mean the same thing:  absolute, abject BLISS!

I think some folks endowed with a sense of humor cackled when Joe and I moved to a condo last fall, after we had lived in fairly roomy houses for over fifty years of our marriage.  “HA,” these individuals reasoned.  “Now she’ll have to stop collecting!”

Well I am having the last “HA”.  We had scarcely unpacked our 280 moving cartons last fall when we discovered that we were smack dab in prime rummage country, and we dug right in—always coming home from a Saturday morning foray with one more thing to stick in a bare spot somewhere. 

Now we are relishing the realization that rummages will resume, any moment now.  There is alway room for more STUFF—somewhere, somehow!  I call it “uncondo-ing the condo”. 

Sometimes I don’t know which I enjoy most—the treasure hunts resulting in adding fresh decor to our home, or the raised eyebrows and eye rolling of those folks who “just don’t get it”.  When people unversed in the joy of junking visit our home, they look perplexed—even distressed.

But most fun of all, are those few individuals who “do get it”.  They may be practically strangers in terms of longevity of friendship, but something snaps when they enter our home.  These kindred spirits move quietly from room to room, wall to wall, and corner to corner—studying every detail with intense interest.  Appreciation and a sense of freedom are written on their faces.  Appreciative visitors experience THE GREAT AHA as they wander through our home as if it were a museum.  They know that, when it comes to interior decorating, “MORE IS MORE”. 

There is a nasty word out there, for those of us who love rummaging and junking.  We are called “hoarders”.  Never mind.  We are a mighty army of individuals who find beauty in things that the trendy folks cast off.  We are a brigade of non-materialistic “materialists” who value things for their sentimental implications, memories evoked, funki-ness, and unsung beauty rather than for their status or price.  You will not find the latest and most fashionable in our homes (or on our bodies, for that matter).  But you will find the most fun in our lives—as expressed in our homes and personalities. 

We are never bored—always alive to whatever we see, hear, smell, touch, or imagine.  We are an esoteric sorority and fraternity bonded by our enjoyment of stuff.  We share a priceless gift of creating beautiful arrangements comprised of whatever the trendy people throw away.

Maybe we collectors are hoarders:  hoarders of dreams, memories, and fun.  Hoarders of pizzazz and panache unearthed in everyday life!  Hoarders of quality of life!  But unlike the quintessential hoarder in fact and fiction, we junkers are hoarders who share!  We love to share our home, our stuff, and our joie de vie with whomever will slow down long enough to appreciate! 

So here’s to my “sisters and brothers” in JUNK:  Karen, Betty, Judy, Alicia, Sandy, Barbara, Julie, Joe, Andy, and countless others.  Here’s to author/photographer Mary Randolph Carter and her wonderful junk books which keep me vicariously and happily junking even in winter. 


Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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The first time I heard the swans in our northern bay, I thought I was hearing Canada geese with COPD.  The swans frequently hang out in the midst of an entourage of Canadas—but swans bark in a louder register, with a rusty twinge that reduces me to a pile of goose bumps whenever I hear it.  Like the keening of coyotes in the night, swan music has its own mystique.

Joe took the above photo through his telescope; hence the darkness around the ring of light.  These are the whistling swans.  They pause in our bay every spring, en route to the far north—and sometimes again for a few days on their southward journey in fall.  

The swans never fail to touch me profoundly, with their wild beauty.  Thanks to Hans Christian Andersen’s UGLY DUCKLING, swans are forever imprinted in my soul.  Here is an ode to a mute swan, which I wrote a few years ago.  Different from the noisy swans in our bay, the mute swan carries unique metaphorical implications for me. 

Mute Swan

Voiceless, relegated to the torments

of a heartless wind, storms assail – – –

rain pelts and turns to ice while you,

you cannot speak or breathe a protest

as wind’s anger wreaks the pain

of cruel ice upon your neck, curved in grace,

or spews a deafening spate

of condemnation in your face.

Bend low.  The waters darken. 

Tomorrow your ravished image will be caught

in corrugations of a winter lake,

and wings renewed will take you skyward,

Sunward, ’til you seize your voice

and scream your triumph over wind

defeated, conquered, stripped forever

of its heartless power to break.

Margaret Longenecker Been—All Rights Reserved

(Mute Swan was published in A TIME UNDER HEAVEN . . . seasonal reflections and poems . . . by Margaret Longenecker Been, 2005)

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