Archive for August, 2010

Grandparents are among the most important people on earth!  I honor mine (born during the Civil War!) for whom they were and what they stood for.  They left me with a legacy of strong character and abundantly pleasant memories—a legacy which every child needs!

My Seattle friend, Lydia Harris, has written a warm-hearted, practical Bible study titled Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting.  Lydia writes from hands-on experience with her own grandchildren.  She is a woman with an overflowing heart—as well as a welcoming home and productive kitchen which would delight any grandchild’s heart.  Along with her husband, Milt, Lydia is a creative and committed Christian grandparent.  Her Bible study is bound to be a blessing for many!

I have known Lydia Harris since 1995, when she began contributing her inspirational pieces to Tea and Sunshine—a periodical which I was editing and publishing at the time.  Along with family insights, Lydia writes articles on the subject of tea and tea parties.  More than just a gracious ritual, serving tea is one of Lydia’s many ministries of loving concern for others—and her tea party ideas (and recipes!) are innovative and unique.

Lydia and I have corresponded via email and the U. S. Postal Service ever since 1995.  On two occasions, Joe and I enjoyed getting together with Lydia and Milt—both times at a tea room in Western Washington state.

As busy as Lydia is with her family, tea parties, and her professional writing career, she always has time to pause and pray with anyone in need.  Her life is characterized by concern for others.  Lydia Harris is a very special lady!

You can get acquainted with Lydia, and order her Bible study if you so desire, at her new website:  http://www.preparingmyheart.net  .  You’ll be glad to meet my friend, Lydia!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

P. S.  The above photo features my husband, Joe, and our grandson Joel—taken a few years ago.  🙂

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Are you one of those individuals who reflects upon and attaches significance to nearly every event, sight, sound, and experience in your life?  If so, then you and I are kindred spirits!

Roses are significant to me for many reasons gift-wrapped in memories:  my mother’s garden, high school proms, a rosebud on the church altar for new born babies, and numerous gala occasions—especially our 50th wedding anniversary. 

Most recently, roses represent many dimensions of the huge transition which Joe and I have made in the last year.  A year ago last June, we bought our Southern Wisconsin home without any prior planning.  The sudden purchase was motivated by our realization that we needed to be in this area for different reasons—the main ones being health facilities and proximity to family.

On that June day in 2009, as I walked around the condo which would soon become our home, I wondered:  “How will I be able to stand living in a community after nearly 30 years of country living in beautiful, wild places?”

An answer to my question was found in the little patio garden outside our future condo living room.  Three plants—-a bleeding heart, a clump of chives, and a couple of very straggly rose bushes—were in evidence there, pushing up through that “beauty bark” which landscapers delight in stuffing between plants.

The elderly man who had owned and lived in the condo had died, and we were buying it from his family.  I clipped a couple of roses from the forlorn, abandoned garden, and placed them on the dashboard of our van. We went back up north in late June, to prepare for our September 1st move.  The arduous, seemingly endless challenge of packing our life into some 280 boxes is well documented on last summer’s blog entries.  Yet weary as I was during those weeks, I was encouraged all summer by the sight of the roses drying on the sunny dashboard. 

The crumbly relics of what wanted to be a garden went everywhere with us.  It seemed like the dried roses were saying, “You are going to love your new home.  There you will have a garden of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  And there you will plant flowers and herbs as well!”

When we finally moved into our condo home, I placed the dried roses in a tiny Fenton hobnail cranberry glass vase.  There they sit, on our buffet, reminding me of the summer of 2009. 

Meanwhile, my current rose bush saga is known to you if you’ve read recent Northern Reflections.  You know about the encounter with slugs.  After planting dishes of beer around my gardens, and especially under the demolished rose bushes in our patio garden, I harvested at least 20 disgusting, bloated, beer-soaked and literally dead drunk slug bodies—and worked them into the ground as compost.  I trimmed the bare-except-for-thorns rose bushes to the ground, and poured a gallon of water spiked with plant food over their “grave sites”.

After about a month, we observed God’s great miracle of new life from death.  The rose bushes were springing up, thickly foliated with rich green leaves.  Buds appeared, and now we have ROSES again—pictured below—healthier by far than last year’s motly assortment. 

Some of these treasures are pictured above.  I did not put them in water.  They are sitting in the satin glass tumbler, waiting to dry out and join their forefunners on our buffet.  Each summer I hope to add to my collection of dried patio garden beauties. while reflecting on the many layers of life lessons implicit in the parable of roses!

(The dried circle of roses on the blue bottle in the top photo is yet another rose memory.  It’s my wrist corsage of white roses which I wore on August 7th, at our granddaughter Nicole’s wedding. )

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

P. S.  For a glimpse of our “English Garden” in August, see http://northernview.wordpress.com/  .  You won’t be able to spot the roses because they are hunkered in among towering perennials and a lot of herbs  But the roses are thriving there as pictured above in all their glory.

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“Circus World Museum is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, because Baraboo was home to the Ringling Brothers.  It was from Baraboo in 1884 that the Ringling Brothers began their first tour as a circus.  Over six seasons, the circus expanded from a wagon show to a railroad show with 225 employees, touring cities across the United States each summer.

Baraboo remained the circus’s headquarters and wintering grounds until 1918, when the Ringling Brothers Circus combined with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which the Ringling Brothers had bought out in 1908.  The combined entity, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was very successful, and is the largest surviving circus company in the United States.

In 1954, John M. Kelley, a former attorney for the Ringling Brothers, incorporated Circus World Museum with the intent of forming a museum of the Ringling Brothers Circus and circus history in general . . . . After an initial period of organization and fundraising, the museum acquired a large site in Baraboo that included the former wintering grounds of the Ringling Brothers Circus.  This site was deeded to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (now called the Wisconsin Historical Society) to be used as the museum’s location, and Circus World Museum opened to the public on July 1, 1959 . . . . The museum sits on some of the land owned by the Ringlings, and includes eight of the ten remaining Ringling buildings on the grounds. Circus World Museum holds one of the largest collections of circus materials in the world, including circus wagons, posters, photography, and artifacts used by shows from all over the United States. The museum also has smaller collections of Wild West shows and carnival materials.”  WIKIPEDIA


Many people connect Wisconsin with tractors, breweries, paper mills, wild woods, rivers, and lakes (more than Minnesota has, although some of our lakes have not been officially surveyed and mapped).  But how many individuals know that Wisconsin is the birthplace of America’s circus?

Yesterday Joe and I took our Colorado grandsons to the Circus World Museum at Baraboo, and what a nostalgia trip that was!  The museum is authentic, with daily circus performances and magic shows held under a tent with only gigantic electric fans to ease the high temperature and brutal humidity of an old-fashioned Southern Wisconsin summer.  

Today’s huge, glitzy circuses held in big city arenas may offer excellent entertainment, but they lack the ambience—the sounds, smells, and sweat of the real thing preserved in the Baraboo museum complex.  Only at Baraboo and in the numerous small town fairs and mini circuses across our land, can one sit five feet from a ring full of performing elephants flanked by attendants with gigantic shovels—ever ready for you know what! 

The skills and discipline represented in the world of circus never fail to amaze me.  Circus is a culture of its own.  Technologies may advance, but the commitment to a lifestyle—often a strong family lifestyle—is ageless.  Beyond the performances, the remaining outdoor tent circuses reflect an essence both poignant and comforting.  How reassuring to listen to a calliope, and enjoy entertainment which hasn’t changed all that much in over 100 years!

As always when sharing with grandchildren, I hope they will see beyond the sights and sounds into the heart of the experience.  At the Circus World Museum I silently prayed that our grandsons would glean the essence of the circus world, which to me is so evident:  a world which revolved on gigantic wheels and axle grease rather than micro-chips—a world of perspiration, animal odors, and even flies!

A world where entertainment was live and “hands-on”, a very real world and yet one that provided an escape from the often-harsh details of daily existence!  An ageless world!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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August invariably brings a cool, rainy spell among the dry and windy days.  August rain jogs my memory and I relive an annual childhood event:  a trip to the Appleton Woolen Mill which was situated on the Fox River, about a 45 minute drive from our summer cottage on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

Since my mother and sister were knitters, it was a happy given that I would be a knitter as well.  I learned to knit on khaki yarn, supplied to patriotic knitters during World War II by the U. S. Government.  From this yarn, we made afghan squares for the U. S. Army.  My first squares contained numerous gaps created by dropped stitches, and holes where I had put the work down and picked it up again to knit in the wrong direction.

Gaps and holes notwithstanding, I learned to knit and cannot imagine life without yarn—especially wool yarn.  My love for wool is anchored in our annual trip to the historic Appleton Woolen Mill where we stocked up on a year’s supply of yarn for sweaters, scarves, socks, and mittens—plus yardage of beautiful plaid wool for skirts.  (My mother was an accomplished seamstress as well as a knitter!)

I will never forget the scent and sounds of the mill.  What is more wonderful than the fragrance of wool—be it in a skein of yarn, a bolt of fabric, fresh fleece in one’s hand, or in its most original state:  on the body of a sheep?  And the music of the mill echoes in my mind:  the blonking and jerking of spinning machinery, the clunking and banging of huge industrial looms.  To use a metaphor appropriate to the textile industry, I loved “the whole nine yards”!

I can still see those big cones of yarn.  I can still visualize the magnificent bolts of fabric lined up on a high shelf.  And I recall those rainy days on our cottage porch—following the trip to the woolen mill—when my mother, sister, and I sat contentedly clicking our needles and savoring the colors and textures of our newly purchased yarns.

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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