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Archive for the ‘A sloppy culture?’ Category

My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

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Brynn's art day 4

Featured here is our great-granddaughter, Brynn Daane, creating beautiful green art on one of our fun Art Days at the dining room table.  Green!  A wonderful color for art, foliage, gardens, cooked and buttered veggies, the Irish, frogs (I mean pond creatures—not French people), and Green Bay Packer uniforms.  Just as I do, Brynn loves to paint a green scene; in fact, she named her finished work “The Green Jungle”—and it’s a remarkable piece of abstract art!  BUT . . . isn’t there always a “but”?  “Green” can also mean “SICK”!

Many decades (actually I think it was eons) ago, in my “Live on the Edge Youth” I went by myself to our Wisconsin State Fair Park which was a short bus ride from our home in Wauwatosa.  Why did I do this?  I loved carnival rides, and there you have it.

After brushing up on the tame stuff, I went for the LOOP-O-PLANE.  (I think that’s sometimes called a HAMMER.)  On a tall vertical pole two units of swinging cages go back and forth, passing each other en route—higher/higher/higher until every passenger gets the delightful opportunity of hanging upside-down.  And, if that were not enough, each cage (containing two persons) has the joy of a suspended, upside-down pause in the altitude—at which juncture nearly everyone screams but some simply throw up.

After the LOOP-O-PLANE adventure, I made for that homebound bus as quickly as I could!  Perhaps the bus was green; I can’t recall.  But when I walked in our kitchen door, my mother looked aghast.  She said, “Margaret!  You are GREEN!  I don’t even want to recall what happened next!

So where are we going with this gruesome meander?  Right up to the current moment, when suddenly it seems that everything has to be GREEN!  By way of disclaimer, “Amen” to a sensible, balanced diet.  “Yes” to avoiding junky fast foods.  “Oui, oui” (now I am speaking of the French frogs) to recycling plastic bottles and tying the newspapers in bundles.  Those things are a DUH!  The DUH of the century—not even worth talking about, any more than I would go on about painting my toenails or blowing my nose.

Although I may someday be told that I “should”, I will not give a tiddelly hoot about whether or not my teeth might fall out from commercial toothpaste.  Nor will I fester in a frenzy of angst over the possibility that my skin will decay due to using some economically priced body lotion purchased at Walmart.  And, believe it or not, I still have a long, swishy, fairly respectable mane after 10 decades of commercial shampoos.

GREEN has gone too far.  Constantly I hear people say we should all get back to exclusively using only those good things God put on the earth.  Have these proponents of GREEN forgotten that the earth fell with Adam?  Well it did, and consequently there are lots of things in and on the earth that are not good—things like poison ivy and bad apples which make one really turn GREEN.

The GREENIES are rarely consistent!  Poppies grow in the earth; yet oxymoronically enough many GREEN addicts are obsessed with the idea that anyone (even happy, arthritic octogenarians) seriously needing a poppy-derivative prescription drug will end up selling pills on the street!

Some of the “Anti-Prescription Drug” ilk think it would be far better to drink booze and smoke pot!  Never mind that booze and cannabis will undoubtely kill incentive and ruin relationships—while by relieving debilitating pain, a well-monitored prescription serves to enhance one’s activity level and quality of life!

I am very sick (LOOP-O-PLANE level sick!) of hearing the word “GREEN”, and seeing it splashed all over the place wherever I go!  I am sick of hearing talk about what we should or should not put on our skin, or into our stomachs!  Like fake sugar.  Artificial sugar was developed/discovered/whatever, in the mid-nineteenth century, but it took awhile to catch on.  My dear father used fake sugar from the inception of its popularity—maybe back in the 1960s (?)  Dad remained healthy for three more decades till the end of his life, fake sugar notwithstanding.  But then, he only lived to be 102—so what do I know?

My friend, Karen, and I agree that what really sticks in our craw is how so many young folks are sanctimoniously (self-righteously!) preaching those very things that we grew up automatically doing.  But we didn’t make a big deal of it.  We ate a balanced (home cooked, at that) diet.  Yes we drank sugary sodas.  Yes we ate a plethora of sweets.  Our mothers baked them, and we gobbled them up after school before going out to play in 15 degree weather—and build snow forts until the dinner bell rang.

Then we piled indoors, draped our snow-packed wool wraps over the steam radiators—and thankfully sat down to eat a reasonable serving of war-rationed meat or casserole, plenty of veggies (home-preserved), a bowl of home-canned fruit, and Mom’s homemade bread or dinner rolls followed by cake, pie, or cookies.  It’s not too amazing that many of us are living happily ever after, and still knowing precisely how to take care of ourselves.  DUH!

Regarding the logical process of recycling, during the Great Depression it was common for women to unravel old sweaters, and re-knit whatever yarn was still usable into mittens or scarves.  We saved every string, every paper bag, every box, every glass bottle and jar, and every old piece of clothing for some form of a new life.  DUH again!

I have no complaint with anyone choosing to be frugal (in fact, I applaud that choice) but I simply cannot stand the supercilious attitude which pompously assumes “We are the only ones who ever thought of recycling, and we are going to save the world from all the stupid people who refuse to go around yelling, ‘GREEN!’ ”

Would these same arrogantly Green pontificators be able to march stalwartly through a Depression and two Great Wars like my parents did, or would they choke on their meager portion of lettuce while crying because they could no longer afford to update their electronic “devices”?

Give me a break!!!  Can’t we go back to that rational mentality where “GREEN” means a child’s painting, perennials popping up in spring, a dish of green beans (and they don’t have to be raw!!!), an Irish logos, a Packer uniform, or a terrifying trip on the LOOP-O-PLANE?  I am about to scream:  “RED LIGHT!  NO MORE GREEN!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

P. S.  The problem in America and around the world is not what we put into, or on, our bodies.  It is what we put into, and on, our minds!!!

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Can't believe the minimalist decor--2

Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle was out-dated when he woke up after only 20 years.  Imagine snoozing away for 50, and suddenly waking up in our present age of electronic technology!  I seem to be fairly current with technology, although I REFUSE to allow myself one of those pokey/punchy little phones or I-Pads.  My laptop is ENOUGH

But sometimes I do wonder where I’ve been for 50 years.  Because I remember that time so well, it seems like the above photo was taken yesterday.  But actually it dates back to (are you ready for this?) 1960.  That’s 50 plus years ago!  The children are (left to right) Eric and Judy Been—now “mid-lifers”.   They are seated with their mother—me.  I’m (thankfully) still their mother.  But the natural, God-given dark brunette hair has long since been replaced by a series of chemical hues from blonde to black with many shades of red in between—and now it’s plain old natural white (with a bit of platinum rinse enhancement from JOHN FRIEDA®). 

The earrings were clip-ons, the kind that ended up pinching like there was no tomorrow so that I would take them off and sometimes lose them.  Judy’s saddle shoes were classics I’d love to see return.  But my 4 inch heels?  No way would I wear such life-threatening catastrophes today—although some young ladies whom I dearly love do wear them very effectively, while chasing after their little people just like I did “back then”!  And The Saturday Evening Post?  That goes all the way back to Ben Franklin.

Someone might look at this “vintage” photo and say, “YIKES!  That mother is wearing a SKIRT!”  Well guess what?  She still does.  The 4 inch heels have been replaced with lots of support, but skirts will always be the main features in my closet, and on my torso.  As chic and trendy as today’s jeans and slacks may be, they simple don’t have it for comfort.  In fact, except for gardening and fishing I find pants to be useless and miserable—there’s no room for moving around in them.  And pants don’t hide a thing, where as skirts can easily conceal that extra dessert.   

Although the people I know who wear slacks and jeans do so with such flare and pizzazz that they are definitely “dressed” up in them and they look very neat, I have been wondering if casualness has gone too far in our general culture.  Whether pants or dresses are worn, there is such a thing as neatness and such a thing as scuzzy sloppiness—or at least there was 50 years ago! 

Recently I sat at the SUBWAY shop in Walmart, sipping my raspberry iced tea while waiting for Joe to finish shopping, and for some strange reason it suddenly dawned on me that sloppiness has become the norm of our day.  That’s why I’m wondering where I’ve been for the last 50 years.  Certainly this didn’t “just happen” last Tuesday or whenever it was that I sat in the SUBWAY shop.  I just happened to be suddenly, blatantly aware of something that has been gradually heating up for decades.  And suddenly I, the frog in the cooking pot, have realized a “cook off”. 

Well yes, I guess I have realized it for some time now—but I wasn’t pondering the change as much as I have been doing of late, and that makes me a boiled frog!  Does that make any sense?  Oh, well!

Some questions swim around in my head, concerning not what women are wearing—either pants or skirts—but how these items are being worn.  Where is self-respect, in a culture given over to sloppy attire?  Where is simply caring about oneself?  Yet more importantly, where is respect for others who have to live with (or encounter at Walmart) the sloppiness?  What is the mental attitude behind confirmed sloppiness? 

Where is a sense of order in our culture?  Does the fact that so many have turned from belief in our God of order have anything to do with the disorder we see everywhere, from litter on public ground to disheveled personal attire?  No, we are not to judge another’s inside from the outside—and yet, wouldn’t order (or the lack of it) on the inside often be reflected in one’s outward appearance?  (Not always, but often?)  Does maintaining a neat and orderly appearance (or the failure to do so) have anything to do with economics?   Is the lack of order really a failure?  Or is it a point blank refusal?

Rather than answer these questions (although I think I do know the answers!)  I’ll briefly share “the way things were” (at least in society as I knew it) 50 years ago.  And 60 and 70 years ago.  We did the best with what we had, took care of what we had, and didn’t worry over what we didn’t have.  We were raised to believe that a neat, presentable attire was like gracious table manners—a matter of respect for other people, and a kind of stewardship of ourselves.  We were raised to realize that our behavior mattered, whether or not anyone was looking. 

Wherever I may have been for 50 years, that’s the way things were.  It may sound simplistic but that’s the way things still are, in my world!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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