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Archive for January, 2011

Yesterday I savored some mellow moments in the little town of Delafield, just 5 minutes from our home.  My first stop was a yarn store where I bought baby fine cashmere/merino blend yarn for seaming my knitted sweaters. 

From the yarn store, I went up the block to an antique shop in an old Victorian era home.  I’ve been visiting this shop since the 1970s, when the (then young) husband and wife who own the shop had just moved in.  In the beginning, they sold out of the dining room on the main floor of their home.  That was exciting, because as well as being able to browse in a gorgeous period dining room, one got a glimpse of the adjoining living areas—all packed with family treasures.

Now the shop is in 2 cozy basement rooms, also packed with treasures and ambience.  What a treat to know these people.  Like me, they grew up with antiques, and their appreciation goes far beyond the mundane level of market value.  Enjoying antiques is all about cultural history, family roots, a love for beautiful craftsmanship, and the art of filling space with objects of interest—things that really mean something! 

A home antique shop is nearly an anachronism in our current age of shopping malls.  When I was a child, many of the antique shops were in homes—with the exception of galleries and outlets in cities.  When my parents and I “road-tripped” we wandered through the small towns, as freeways and by-passes were unheard of back then.  Residential neighborhoods contained homes with a sign in a window, advertising “ANTIQUES”.

I’ll never forget the wonder of entering these private sanctuaries overflowing with porcelain, glassware, old kitchen gadgets, and boxes of sheet music and books.  I was taught not to touch.  Nothing could tempt me to violate that rule, as I didn’t want to jeopardize my special privilege in being allowed to walk around in the shops.  With my hands clenched behind my back, I relished a feast for my eyes.  Bits of information were given out here and there by the shop owners, and I absorbed all I could of that enchanting world of antiques and collectibles.

Pictured above, is my small collection of shell art jewelry boxes.  I purchased the center one yesterday, at the home shop in Delafield.  The others were acquired via EBAY—a fun place to shop, but not nearly as satisfiying as browsing in a store!

The vintage evening bag, hanging above the shell boxes in the photo, was a gift from one of my nieces in Colorado Springs—my nephew Andy’s wife, Sandy. 

The elegant handkerchief under the center shell box was carried by my Grandma Rose on her wedding day in 1892.

The toothpick holder on the little shelf was my VERY FIRST COLLECTIBLE.  It was given to me when I was 6 years old, by an antique shop proprietor who was impressed by my quiet, “hands-OFF” behavior in her store.

The toothpick holder has tiny forget-me-nots painted on it.  It has gone with me nearly everywhere all these years, with the exception of the time I lived in university dormitories—definitely not places for treasures. 

The forget-me-nots remind me of never-to-be-forgotten mellow moments!

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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Recently I heard a woman of retirement age say that she was selling her large Victorian era home, and hoping to move into a smaller place.  Someone had told her of condos in our neighborhood—with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and “loft” over the garage.  The woman replied, “Oh good!  If I bought a place with a loft I could take up painting!”

Perhaps the woman was kidding.  But I shuddered at her comment—sincerely hoping that she hadn’t spent her lifetime denying herself of a dream simply because she didn’t have a loft in which to paint!  Certainly a huge Victorian era home could have supplied a spare corner where she could have pursued her dream. 

The compact four room condo in which Joe and I live is not too small for me to have a corner in which to paint and create collages.  I have appropriated one end of our bedroom by an expansive window.  If we didn’t have a large bedroom, I’d find a corner somewhere else—in the living room, kitchen, or our seldom used front hall.  The old adage, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” applies!

I made the foolish mistake of putting off painting until I turned 73.  I used the excuse of “no talent”.  Finally I realized that talent is not (and never has been) necessary in order to have fun.

Actually, I’ve always disliked excuses made for anything.  As a mother of six children and partner in our family construction company, I had many decades that some would have deemed “busy”.  But I hated the word “busy”.  The “busier” I was, the more creative activities I pursued—my music, writing, knitting, spinning, weaving, gardening, soap making, raising critters, etc. 

Frequently young mothers (or women with outside careers) say they would like to knit, take piano lessons, learn to quilt, or whatever—but they are “too busy”.  I can hardly resist getting on my soapbox when I hear the dreaded “too busy” words.  “Too busy” is hogwash!  These young women might be too busy to leap into five or six restorative hobbies, but a few minutes a week can always be spared for at least one desired activity! 

A hobby is far more than fun and games.  Creative pastimes are God’s tangible, material manifestations of His innovative life.  Perhaps they seem like just fun, or even “fluff” to begin with.  But when life really sinks in, when the storm clouds fall like lead bricks, when adversity strikes big time (and it probably will!) our hobbies help us to get up in the morning, and motivate us to keep on despite the most discouraging of circumstances. 

We need to cultivate the hobby habit before life gets terribly difficult, so we are ready for the disasters that lie ahead!

Some individuals say that people are “their hobby”.  These energetic types seem to need to be constantly talking, and all their spare time is spent with people—either in social activities or good works.  But for one’s own personal deep-level soul survival, much more than people contact is needed.  We cannot even begin to benefit others, if we’ve neglected our own soul need for solitude, silence, and creative expression.

We desperately need our intrinsically quiet private time, in prayer and Scripture, to keep our hearts and minds balanced and refreshed at all times.  Then we need that outward manifestation of God’s imprint on our lives.  We can live serenely in all circumstances when we do some little thing for ourselves—not because it needs doing, but simply because we love to do it.

We need to make music, poetry, and/or art.  We need to plant gardens, and/or nurture house plants.  We need to apply our hands to something, not necessarily useful but hopefully beautiful—or at least whimsical and entertaining.  Making music, writing poems, gardening, and crafting are living proof that we are made in the image of a creative God.  Hobbies may be simply fun at first, but ultimately they are soul sustaining in the larger scene as our life challenges increase with every passing year.

Don’t wait for the loft, before pursuing your heart’s desire.  Just a few feet in a corner of most any room will do.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

 

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For weeks our home has been surrounded by silence—the silence of deep winter.  Only the whoosh of wind outside our windows, the whisper of sleet and snow, and the strident caw of hungry crows have broken the lifeless hush which set in around late November and continued through the darkest December days—into the new year.

But suddenly, last week, the silence broke.  Outside our bedroom window, we have an ornamental tree which has graced us with pink blossoms in spring, lush verdure and families of robins in summer, and lovely orange berries in fall and winter. 

Last week, the ornamental tree graced us with a flock of chickadees feasting on the berries, filling the gap of winter with their happy commotion of “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”.

I weep for joy when the birds and their songs come back.  Each day I go into semi-raptures over the cardinals in our front yard tree.  In just a matter of weeks, we will be “cheer-cheer-cheered” when the cardinals burst into territorial proclamations.

In about five weeks we will be able to make the hour trip south to Whitewater, Wisconsin, where we have traditionally seen the first returning redwings of the season.  Their “oka-reeeee” sends me into a state I cannot even begin to describe.

About the same time, the skies will fill with returning Canadas.  I will gaze upward, and wonder which ones are headed for our beloved northern home, to nest and raise their goslings along the Big Elk River around the bend from us.

And chortling robins.  And chattering sparrows.  And the joyous ringing of sand hill cranes overhead, sounding like hollow bamboo wind chimes on a gusty spring day.

Grace in the trees.  Grace in the skies!  Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord!

© 2011, Margaret L. Been

P. S.  For a bit of funky fun, see “Frontal Lobes and Happy Genes!” on another one of my blogs:  http://northernview.wordpress.com/

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For several weeks I have wondered if I would ever blog again! 

Swamped with medical issues and the realization that Joe and I will be managing some of these concerns “forever”—plus the fallout of Joe’s accident and my two major surgeries, all in less than three month’s time—have decimated my energy level.

Throughout these past weeks there have been times when having to communicate with people (other than family members) has threatened to plow me under. 

Although I have consistently delighted in (and been rejuvenated by) telling callers and visitors about how God’s grace has carried me triumphantly through each day of our crisis, some people don’t want to hear that.  Instead they want a report of medical details—most of which I’m sick to the gills of having to explain over and over ad nauseum

Or folks want to tell me that I am “wonderful”,  because I don’t just collapse in a heap.  What Hogwash!  Those of us who were raised in the bygone era of “true grit” simply do what we have to do, and if we were to collapse in a heap it would certainly be no one but God’s business. 

There is nothing “wonderful” about me, except for the grace of the indwelling Lord Jesus who sustains me!

Any leftover stamina after praying, caregiving, and trying to rest my own healing body has gone into reading, knitting, painting, collaging, spinning wool on my spinning wheels, real (snail) letter writing, and piano practice.  These are the things that feed my soul in all kinds of weather and circumstances.   These are God’s tangible gifts for survival!

Creative activities balance out the detritus of communication and the devastating fatigue resulting from conversation!

Meanwhile, despite all predictions of never blogging again, here I am!  Why?  What cut through the fog of that hackneyed but real syndrome called “writer’s block”?  What motivated me to boot up my computer and share in words?   Answer:  My kitchen sink!

Aproned, dress-wearing June Cleever type that I am, I love my kitchen. I especially love my kitchen sink.  We have a dishwasher in our home, which I have never used as a dishwasher.  Rather, it is an extended museum nook in our home full of antiques and collectibles.  The dishwasher contains vintage kitchen tools and sparkling clean glass jars to be used for diminutive flower arrangements.  Sometimes I leave the dishwasher lid down and open so visitors can glance into my mini museum.

I savor washing dishes by hand so much that it is a cherished ritual.  This morning, as I lingered in the suds over breakfast dishes, I recalled my growing up years at the kitchen sink.  I remembered the precious mother/daughter chats while my mom washed and I dried.  We were always leisurely after the evening meal.  In fact, I can’t recall that anyone ever hurried much over anything back then.  Homemaking was a gracious art and dishwashing symbolized the ambience of a home well cared for. 

I inherited my mother’s passion for beautiful dishes.  Rather than dry the dishes now, I do the sanitary thing of letting them air dry in the drainer by the sink.  The plates, etc., that Joe and I use at meals stay in the drainer non-stop, broadcasting beauty to anyone who happens to see them.  I vary my dishes with the time of year—so that most of my patterns are periodically on display.

In a sense, you might say that my kitchen sink has brought me back to life after a time of going quiet and deep, purely for the sake of soul maintenance

Thanks to the gentle chore of washing dishes, and the memories evoked in the process, I once again desire to share in words—not the results of my latest x-ray, not the vicissitudes of managing chronic illness or the challenges of caregiving, but rather the ambience of everyday life!

The mellow things of life are always worth sharing!

©Margaret L. Been

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