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Archive for the ‘Fun with Grandchildren’ Category

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Who hasn’t experienced the pain of saying “Good-Bye” to someone dear—either a separation due to a move, common in our global age, or worst of all the last good-bye we will ever say on earth?

Every loss of a family member has been wrenching for me.  Much of the wrenching occurs inside my soul, invisible to all but the most sensitive people in my life.  Perhaps that is the DNA which I thought would be Scottish, but turned out to be Scandinavian.  My mother kept her grief close to her heart as well, and she was of Scottish-Irish descent.  And we all know how the Vikings invaded those countries in the 9th and 10th centuries.  Anyhow, as “talky” as I can be on social occasions I’m at a loss when trying to express profound emotion verbally.  Spoken words just can’t cut it!

The children pictured above have been close and precious to Joe and me since they were born.  Their Dad, Jason, is a grandson who grew up giving us countless beautiful memories—many of them whimsical and hilarious, and some of them poignant.  Jason, his wife Sandy (whom I count as a friend), and the children (James, Lyla, and Deacon) are moving, from their home nearby in Southern Wisconsin, to Michigan.

Most everyone knows that Wisconsin and Michigan are separated by a “pond”—one of the Great Lakes, namely Lake Michigan.  We will not be a continent or even the entire USA apart.  There will be visits.  But we are a family where, metaphorically speaking, members are attached at the hip with Gorilla Glue.  Life will be different for all of us.

Far more profound is the grief of permanent loss.  I have a family history of longevity, so my grandparents and parents were aged when they died.  (My father lived to 102)  But one family member, George William Longenecker died “young”, at age 69.

For the public life of this man, you can access the following link—one of many pertaining to his life’s work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison:  https://wpt.org/Wisconsin-Gardener/Segments/longenecker-gardens.  Professor Longenecker was a landscape architect and naturalist beginning in the period when he served at UW-Madison with Aldo Leopold.

But to me, this very special man was simply “Uncle Bill”.  His death due to a rare illness, possibly caused by pesticides or other chemicals related to his work with plants and plantings, hit me where I live—as I love most anything that lives, grows from the ground, prowls our wild forests, or flies in our skies.  Uncle Bill was a kindred soul, as were most (probably all!) of my family of origin.  It was just that Uncle Bill left us too soon!

At the time of that loss, I did something out of the ordinary.  I found some poster paints that we had on hand for family craft projects, and spent hours deep into the night painting (or rather trying to paint) birds.

I lost myself and part of my anguish into those birds—realizing that of all Uncle Bill’s areas of expertise, birds were high on the list.  He was known for creating gardens attractive to varieties of birds, an example being acres in the Madison Arboretum bearing his name:  “Longenecker Gardens”.

Painting birds, or anything for that matter, was an unusual thing for me to do because I simply did not paint very often in 1967.  Art was something I absolutely loved viewing, reading the history of, and dreaming about.  But never, never would I seriously paint, I believed.  No talent!

Meanwhile, the fact of losing myself and my grief in color, on paper, planted a seed inspired by Uncle Bill.  The joy of color spilling out, however amateurishly, resonated and kept hounding me until the seed finally sprouted in 2006 and I said, “Who cares about talent?  I’m just going to have fun.”  And I’ve been painting ever since.*

Where am I going, with this ramble?  Thinking of three children who are moving to Michigan, three children who have enjoyed visiting us in our home, three children who have gladdened our hearts beyond expression, I am going straight to the end of our dining room table which currently serves as one of my in-house art studios.

There is a start here.  And I’ll include some birds!

Margaret Longenecker Been — May 1st, 2018

*I can’t resist adding a bit of encouragement, actually opinionated essaying, so please forgive me.  My soapbox message to all and everyone younger than I am is:  “Don’t grow old without a passion.  Don’t grow old without something you LOVE to do and can physically do even when you are ill or beset with body pain.  Don’t go another moment without the solace of a do-able passion to recharge your soul’s battery even when circumstances seem like they are falling apart.”

Of course a relationship with our living Lord Jesus, and ongoing immersion in His Word and prayer are essential at all times.  And God has given us boundless options for creativity, life therapy, and joy—tangible options, things to do with hands, heart, and mind.  Reasons to pop out of bed enthusiastically in the morning, even when it hurts too much to pop out fast!

God has momentarily placed us on a material planet.  He has given us tangible resources to refresh our souls and beautify our brief time on earth as we know it today.  Praise Him! 🙂

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Who can deny that some of life’s most memorable events are spontaneous—those unplanned occasions which we would not have dreamed up in a million years?  Such was a recent serendipitous party in our home, with our granddaughter Leah and her four children.

They dropped in at 3:45 p. m. on the way home after Leah had gathered up the older children at school, to pick up (now 10 year old) Olivia’s birthday gift.  There was no question in my mind, that the visit would be short.  Leah puts in long hours with her family, with helping out at the children’s school—plus riding shotgun on her very endearing but rambunctious 3 year old, Carter.  Still ahead in a long day for this sweet family was a 25 minute ride home, dinner for the children and Daddy Jeff who would soon be at home waiting, and then all the evening rituals—homework, baths, bedtime stories, etc.  (After all these years, I still remember when!)

Olivia’s birthday gift was a St. Vinnee’s mint condition treasure:  a cookbook with 175 recipes for cookies made with cake mixes.  How fun for a 10 year old girl!  And, as it turned out, fun for an 83 year old great-grandpa—my Joe!

Joe was almost as enthusiastic about the cook book as Olivia was.  Right there on the spot he announced, “We are going to make peanut butter cookies NOW!  Although not a gambling woman, I would safely put money on the hunch that Leah’s reaction and mine were in sync.  Yikes!  Late in the day.  Tired.  And, in the beautiful words of poet Robert Frost, “. . . miles to go before I sleep.”

But both Leah and I realized that a spur of the moment cookie party would provide a signature memory for the children—and adults as well.  So into the kitchen went Joe, Olivia, and younger sister, Brynn (in red) who likes to be in the center of any action.

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Over the years, Joe has focused on being a wonderful Husband, Dad, Grandpa, and now Great-Grandpa.  He has cared for us diligently and lovingly.  While he has worked hard at bread-earning, I naturally have tended the affairs of the kitchen.  Joe is very adept at some kitchen jobs.  He makes coffee, measures the carbs in his breakfast cereal (he is diabetic so carbs matter), makes wonderful peanut butter and jam sandwiches, mixes a fantastic soy milk chai for me every night, micro-waves soup or left-over dinners, and sometimes creates yummy Swedish meatballs.

But baking?  The mad search for utensils amid requests of “Where’s this, where’s that?” was too humorous.  We no longer have a gargantuan Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter; all cakes are mixed with a 5-speed hand blender which hides in a  round-about cupboard between assignments.  All dry ingredients live in decorative tins scattered hither and thither; I automatically memorize the contents by the designs on the tins—but since Joe normally has no need for stowed dry ingredients, he has not learned the code.

Thus Joe looked to the dining room table for the small amount of sugar needed in the recipe.  I just happened to wander into the kitchen a split second before he dumped Sweet and Low into the mix—thinking it was real sugar.  I have Sweet and Low in a sugar bowl on our table, for our daughter Judy’s coffee.  How was Joe supposed to know it wasn’t the real thing?

Understandably Joe had not thought of the fact that cookies take a bit of time to prepare, given the rolling of balls—and in the peanut butter cookie instance, criss-crossing with a fork.  Upon my mentioning that the old, battle-seasoned cookie sheets would need a covering of oil, I again forayed into the kitchen just as a pan of cookies was oven-ready—and the raw cookies were swimming in olive oil.

Joe is amazingly proficient at cleaning up as he goes; for this reason I never shudder when he does KP.  In college he earned his meals as a “Pot and Pan” boy, and to this day he loves the challenge of washing up.

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While history was being made in the kitchen, Leah and the boys—Lucas and Carter—played a game at the living room coffee table.

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Well, no one can make cookies without immediately testing them to make sure they are “fit to eat”.  So we are right back to the first photo:

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The coffee table was cleared for a party with cookies and milk.  Delicious!  And thanks to a wonderfully imaginative Great-Grandpa, a good time was had by all.  Joe has always been loaded for fun.  That’s one of the countless reasons why I love him!

Serendipity!

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

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Giving . . .

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“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”   Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV

This is the greatest GIFT, the gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ Who suffered on an unspeakably cruel cross and died to pay our sin debt—then rose victorious to give us eternal life, HIS abundant life now and forever!  I received this priceless gift of God’s Grace forty-four years ago this coming January.  The GREATEST GIFT!

I was blessed to have parents and a closely bonded extended family and friends who loved life, valued life, and lived by Godly principles.  My grandparents were Bible believing Christians, and in later years I was greatly persuaded that my parents also received the greatest gift—The Lord Jesus Christ.

In my early childhood, family Christmases were somewhat shadowed by a tragedy that had occurred before I was born:  my sister, Shirley, had died at age two on Christmas Day.  Yet Christmas was always a time for celebration, hope, and joy.  We loved being together, we loved the music, we loved the Christmas Story.  And we loved giving and receiving gifts.

In light of the fact that we believers are recipients of the Greatest Gift in Heaven and on the earth, because we are walking around everyday with the very life of God in the Person of His Holy Spirit, the most natural thing to do is to give gifts to family members and friends.  Up until I believed in the Lord Jesus, I naturally loved giving gifts; it was the most wonderful and fun thing to do.  But once I became a believer, God’s Spirit enhanced and blessed our family traditions in such a way that I was, and still am,”over the top” with His joy over our family Christmases.

The Christmas worship services, the music (decades of singing in choirs), favorite recipes (which our children looked forward to each year and still serve to this day), the gatherings with laughter and games we played with the children (and still play, as new family games appear on a regular basis), and our tradition of GIVING became so endowed with implicit depth of meaning and God’s love, that it is inconceivable to imagine any other way to live.

As Joe and I raised our six children, extra people at the family dinner table (year round, not just at Christmas) was a given.  Friends were family.  If a child or young adult friend of one of our children hung out in our home, he or she automatically became one of the loved ones; they were included in the food, hilarious games, and the Christmas giving.

What is more fun than giving and receiving?  It’s not about spending a lot of cash.  Although exceptions have been made over the years for some special item or when there is a specific need, it cannot be about spending huge sums.  We have, to date, forty-nine immediate family members, not counting myself.  But even if we were just a handful of folks, it would still be all about loving each person and deciding what would be fun to give—rather than just blowing money.

I love to make gifts.  For years good gifts came out of my oven or off my pantry shelves where bountiful jams and jellies were preserved.  Now we have children, their spouses, and their children who share yummy kitchen creations.  Although I still bake some things, now I am very happy to paint a watercolor, knit a hat for a child (or an adult), design and knit funky, colorful scarves for all ages, and share my homemade soaps in those lovely gift boxes (just inside the door as you enter JoAnn Fabrics, and at other outlets as well).

Throughout the year, my antennae is up when I browse at art fairs, antique malls, and even rummage sales.  By Christmas each year, I’ve managed to acquire a stash for family members and friends who appreciate lovely vintage art glass or a hand crafted piece of stained glass, mosaic, pottery, whatever.

And then there is that fantastic treat, popular as of recent years, the Gift Certificate.  Although that may seem to be a cop-out to some, I think the certs are wonderful.  I tailor them to individuals.  Some of our young families do a lot of home repair and renovation.  Home Depot.  One family member loves Starbucks, but being a diligently frugal young lady she will pass up that luxury on her budget.  I get tremendous pleasure out of giving her a Starbucks cert for her birthday or sometimes Christmas—and picturing her savoring her powerful coffee and perhaps a sweet.  And who doesn’t love Barnes & Noble?  Books and music—something for every preference and taste.

In our mushrooming family, Joe and I have seventeen great-grandchildren ranging from age twelve down to nine months.  Babies typically get little cuddly animals from this Granny—stuffed, not live although I’d love to be given permission to pick out a real kitten or puppy.  That is yet to happen!  The other children?  Books, puzzles, crayons, etc.  It’s easy, almost a “DUH”, to find gifts for young people.  In fact, all ages are easy, when you long to give some little token of your love and thoughtful consideration.

I constantly find wonderful cooking and crafting books (mostly like new) at a nearby St. Vinnie’s.  Again, these gift books are tailored to the recipients and their hobbies and interests.  How rewarding is that!  I have delighted someone’s heart, for all of $2.19 or thereabout.

Underlying it all is the fact that we love because He first loved us.  We give because He has given to us—that Greatest Gift of salvation and eternal life.  Giving is sharing.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s gift of love, we simply can’t not share with those whom we love.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s Word and His gift of grace, we are delighted to graciously receive and enjoy the gifts which our loved ones have thoughtfully selected or made for us.

Christmas!  A stress-free time of joy.  That doesn’t mean that our circumstances are all perfect, at all times.  For many years our celebration centered at our home, and I fed a lot of people.  Granted, sometimes I felt a bit stun-gunned when the season was over, because I had spent physical and emotional energy far beyond any that I possessed.  But God has always given me what I needed, to serve Him by serving people.  And stun-gunned though I was, it was with a sense of purpose and great blessing that I “collapsed” into a quieter routine (as quiet as a routine can be when raising six children).  I knew that God was the center of my giving (as well as my “giving out”) and I rested in Him.  I still do.  It’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way I want to live!

We have had poignant holidays in the wake of bereavement over loss.  We have had tearful Christmases when circumstances were nearly devastating due to a loved one’s rebellious decisions.  Four Christmases ago Joe and I were a wall apart in hospital beds, beginning the arduous recovery from major surgeries both occurring in a space of a few hours a couple of days before Christmas.

But it was still, and always will be, Christmas.  The Grinch can’t steal it and neither can illness, family sorrows, death, economic circumstances, or any of the world’s weighty problems.  Christmas!  If a metaphorical Grinch were to come on Christmas Eve and confiscate our trees and our lights and our presents, it would still be Christmas and we would still be giving—because in all of our giving we are giving ourselves, and giving to our Lord the thanksgiving and glory which He deserves.  If we have nothing to give, we will still give somehow in some way.

Christmas is stress-free and joyous—a time to celebrate the loving and giving that we treasure around the year.  We love because He first loved us.  And we give, because He has given us THE GREATEST GIFT.  It would be unthinkable to do anything else but give when we have received so much!  Merry Christmas!

Margaret Been, December 23rd, 2014

Note:  On the bottom left side of the above photo, you will see a charming manger scene created out of popsicle sticks, bits of cloth, and miscellaneous odds and ends.  This was custom-made for Joe and me a few years ago by four great-grandchildren under the supervision of their Mom—our granddaughter, Alicia. 

If you look closely on the bottom left, you will see little bits of white and purple under or beside the people:  Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus in His manger bed, and a shepherd.  The little bits are sheep, fashioned from pipe cleaners and dabs of white material, by Alicia’s youngest child—less than two years old at the time if I recall correctly.  Now that is a gift to treasure forever!

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Frog daysDahlia

I don’t want to let go.  Our summer has been so ineffably sweet, I will hang on to it forever. 

Beautiful weather.  No need to run the AC—except that we occasionally put it on for Baby Dylan when we have to leave him for a few hours in the closed-up home.  Okay there were a couple of times when at home, that we broke the humidity by turning on the AC for very short spells, but always with the doors and windows wide open to the out-of-doors.  And due to the ubiquitous AC in most every indoor place, our favorite summer restaurant has become a local pub with outdoor seating. 

Leisurely early morning strolls around our park.  Visits with friends.  Plenty of summer knitting, which always brings woolly recollections of being 8 years old and learning to knit on the porch of our family cottage at Lake Winnebago.  Bookish naps on our shady afternoon patio.  And best of all, mellow days with the three generations which have resulted from our marriage of 61 years!

Too too sweet

More pool

Leo again again again again again

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Recently Joe and I had the (probably once in a lifetime) experience of having our portraits painted by a friend, Janet Roberts, who is a professional artist.  We didn’t have to sit it out, as Janet works from photographs.  You can check out our portraits (“Joe in Winter Hat” and “Margaret in Summer Hat”) on Janet’s website.  Just GOOGLE “Janet Roberts, Brookfield Wisconsin Artist” and click on “Gallery” from the home page menu,  Voilà!

Our portraits have inspired a lot of mulling and musing.  With all the wonderful photos I have today—hundreds in albums and hundreds more in my computer files—a painted portrait is something unique.  I reflect on how for centuries paintings and sculptures were the only way a person’s image could be captured and preserved.  I think of the court painters such as Holbein, sent out by Henry VIII so he could visualize a future wife.  (I’d sure hate to have been one of those!)  And commodious stairwells lined with ancestors in great houses down through history.  Photography is an amazingly wonderful art, yet there is something ALIVE about paint in the hands of an accomplished artist such as our friend, Janet.

Mellow days, and a summer to remember.  A summer of quiet contentment and simply joys.  A summer of plenty in a world that grows more crazy, more sin ridden and tragically brutal every single day.  A summer in which I feel compelled to share at every possible opportunity, the one and only LIVING HOPE—that hope which is more real than this keyboard on which I type. 

In the midst of a world where an American journalist is decapitated against the background of an American president deeply engrossed in golfing and fund-raising, Our Lord Jesus Christ will return!  As He came to earth 2000 plus years ago to die for our sin and rise victorious over evil, He will return—to gather His own to Himself, and finally to reign for 1000 years in Jerusalem:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Margaret L. Been, September 2014 

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First snow 11-13 again

Many of us carry an eternal kid around with us, deep inside.  I know I do.  That’s the only possible explanation for my sense of euphoria today, when I saw what was drifting down out of the sky and landing in my precious little patio garden.

Come January, I begin to dislike the stuff.  By February it gets really old, and being a Wisconsin native I know that it may not end soon.  By March?  Well March is rectified by the returning sun—so glorious as it pours into our east facing patio door.  But the snow may seem interminable by then, and sometimes in March I want to scream!

So why the excitement every year, my 80th being no exception?  Today I walked out to take photos, and the brisk, damp air instantly took me back to 1943 when I couldn’t get enough of snowy days and those waning daylight hours after school when we kids stayed outdoors building forts and snow creatures.

No matter how tedious the early weeks of each new year may seem, no matter how my heart yearns (sometimes cries) for warm sunlight and green shoots popping up in the garden, no difference how challenged my body may actually be—sometimes to the extent where the days are radically altered, and I all but grind to a proverbial halt.

Despite all of that, I will forever go into an ecstatic spin over early snowfalls at the end of each year.  An Eternal Kid!

Having little people in one’s life provides ongoing nourishment for an Eternal Kid.  My pleasant, secure childhood lives on through a plethora of young people who get excited to see what falls out of the sky.  Being surrounded by rambunctious, smiling children is my best insurance against growing old.  I refuse to grow old!  I praise God for the gift of being an Eternal Kid!

(Even if the snow gets a little old come January!)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  Here is one more (new-this-year) reason for being excited about the snow.  Our youngest grandchild, Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, is experiencing her very first snow today!

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Since our little one has a very long name, we call her “Tuks” (rhymes with “Books”).  That’s a short form of her Nigerian name, Adetokunba.  And as you can see, Tuks is currently into blowing bubbles.

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Dylie & Mom

A week after surgery I still wear that pained expression, but Baby Dylan looks great.  Normally terrified of the Paparazzi, Dylan was captured off guard because he didn’t realize that a camera could lurk inside a cell phone.  His “Mommy” is not that advanced, as blogging is the outside extent of my techie-ness.  To me, a phone is a phone and a camera is a camera.  I’m certain this will be the last time we’ll be able to fool Dylan into saying “Cheese”!

Since inserting pictures is easier for me at this point than keyboarding a lot of text, here are some recent ones taken just before my surgery.  The pictures are worth thousands of words—of which I’ll add just a few for clarification:

Joe and a Flat

Any of you parents, grandparents, and great grandparents have undoubtedly had at least one “Flat” in your life.  Above you can see our third—“Flat Ethan”, a facsimile of Three Dimensional Ethan who lives far away in San Diego.  Flat Ethan was not prepared for the quiet life Joe and I enjoy in Nashotah, Wisconsin (who ever heard of THAT?)—but he coped beautifully whether buying produce, eating at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant, or simply perusing books while Joe, Dylan, and I slept.  (Since Three Dimensional Ethan loves books, it follows that Flat Ethan does likewise.)

Tuks & Grammy

Baby Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun at three weeks old.  (Now she’s nearly six weeks.)  Due to a stand off with MRSA and surgery, this was one of the last times I was able to hold Tuks—(rhymes with books).  But better days are coming, soon!

Been Guys and Grammy's Art

Left to right:  Joe, and our Denver grandsons Joel and Nathaniel Been with two of my paintings (framed in yellow) currently on exhibit at the Delafield Arts Center.

left handed art

With all my present restrictions, a few activities are allowed and encouraged:  knitting (only finger motion is required of my right hand when knitting), limited piano practice (again, fingers only in the treble clef), some keyboarding, and left handed art.  The art delights my heart as more each year I’m realizing that abstraction (with a slight element of representation) is my forté—the “Whom I Really Am” in this recently discovered passion.

A large factor in abstract expressionism is the discarding of presumptions, assumptions, and that human desire for “control”.  What remains?  A serendipitous freedom from agendas or any kind of “other generated” expectations.  This freedom is possible only in the arts!  We certainly wouldn’t want it anywhere else—that would be anarchy!!!

Late June Garden 2013

Finally, our Heaven on earth.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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When our son, Karl, was five years old he imparted to me a bit of wisdom that will serve me all my days on earth.  We were out walking, and we saw a baby robin hopping on the grass.  Karl commented, “If I ‘ketched’ a little bird, I would not put it in a cage.  I’d hold it for awhile, and then let it go.”

Life is an ongoing exercise in holding for awhile, then letting go.  Currently I am letting go of a beloved young family:  our grandson, Joshua, his wife, Kelly, and their precious children—Ethan, Cole, and Ella.  These Valentines (that is their last name!) are moving to California, where Josh has accepted a new job. 

Josh and his family have been our neighbors for the last two plus years, here in the northern reaches of our county.  They are the kind of people who show up and sit quietly by your side when you have been rushed to Emergency.   We’ve stashed away a treasure trove of memories with these young people—pizza outings, birthday celebrations, strolls in the park, and lots of ice cream occasions.  I have shed tears over losing this family, and I’ll undoubtedly shed more tears.  Yet I smile to think of Kelly enjoying San Diego.  Kelly and I are alike; we love warm weather!

I often reflect on how radical it was back in the 1800s when Easterners went West, facing incredible hardships and dangers.  Even more life changing was the uprooting of millions of immigrant families who came to our land from other continents, for a fresh start and the hope of a better life—or, as in the case of most of my ancestors, for religious freedom.  We can concentrate on thinking with all we have, yet we cannot begin to comprehend what those early settlers experienced—let alone the courage they displayed.

So California is not that far away, and it is not inaccessible!  A few hours by air.  Yet it sounds like the other end of the world to me, now that flying is no longer one of my favorite things!  I would relish a long trip on the Amtrak, but sitting on a train is not Joe’s idea of fun.  We’ll see what we can dream up.  Meanwhile our loved ones will be back to visit, with so much family in Wisconsin.

 ↑ Ethan (in front), Joshua holding Cole, Kelly holding Ella 

Letting go!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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