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Archive for the ‘Hibernation’ Category

Our patio is no longer our “living room”, unless we bundle snugly and clutch a mug of hot coffee.  The dried leaves are poignant reminders of the sunny green months, now stashed away in memory, like potatoes and carrots in a root cellar—waiting to be unearthed for winter nourishment.

This glimpse of garden glory was captured the day before a killer frost ended the reign of the mums.  Now they have drooped, and they are looking earthward—anticipating their long sleep.

The garage is ready for winter.  Vestiges of warmer days are stored here with the accoutrements of fishing and gardening, outdoor decorations, and our wonderful, weathered vintage croquet set.  The Christmas wreath and funny little fake tree—both gleaned at rummage sales for a few cents—will be pressed into service soon. 

On some of the most bitter winter days, Joe and I sit in the sun in the shelter of our south-facing garage and luxuriate in the sight of summer stashed and waiting for a new season of rejoicing outdoors.

I have never been to Africa, but since I’ll soon have a Nigerian son-in-law the great continent of Africa is close to my heart.  A glimpse of sunrise over our Southern Wisconsin park reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of the Serengeti.  Of course a giraffe or two would have to replace that line of trees in the background of the photo.  And in Wisconsin we do not have any lions lurking behind a bush.  I can’t say I regret that!  The domestic cats I know delight my heart, and satisfy my need for feline wildness in my life!

Here are some reasons our sixteen great-grandchildren should enjoy winter.  I recently completed the last one—the wee baby hat on the bottom right.  This little pink chapeau has been presented to the parents-to-be, and quite possibly Baby Mia will wear it home from the hospital in early December.  The remaining hats will be Christmas gifts.

Hot tea has replaced my beloved iced beverage for a few months.  My consolation lies in the hot tea paraphernalia, which in this instance includes most of my ethnic roots:  a Swiss tea kettle, English teapot/cup/and saucer, and Scottish Breakfast Tea ready to sip.  (The cream in the tea is Wisconsin raised.) 

The gorgeous green in the new kettle could reflect my Irish heritage, but alas—that heritage was Orange not Green, although my political sympathies have always been with the Green!  And I don’t see any Alsatian artifacts in the picture.  But I’m sure I could find a bit of German chocolate to go with the tea.

Now we drink our tea beside the (electric) fireplace, rather than outdoors.  Overseen by my collage art, the fireplace mantel collection of dysfunctional clocks and watches reminds me that time is relative.  Each piece tells but one time, correct only twice in twenty-four hours. 

There’s a lot of mellow living to be had when we realize that the aesthetic beauty of a clock far exceeds its worth in practical terms.  Each season in our Wisconsin homeland beckons us to suspend time, savor the moment, and contemplate that which is eternal!

“For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”  Psalm 90:4

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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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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Three weeks ago today, Joe and I drove to a nearby city anticipating a hearty breakfast at a favorite Greek owned restaurant.  After letting me off at the restaurant door Joe suffered a serious accident, which has impacted our lives in making each moment we have on earth more infinitely precious even than before! 

Life was always precious to us, but the treasure of our time together has reached a new, heretofore undreamed of level!

Joe suffered no broken bones or internal organ damage from the accident, and no other persons were involved.  The remaining challenges consist of a 3rd degree burn on his left leg (which will eventually require surgery) and a considerably damaged shoulder which may respond to physical therapy.  The burn is painless, because nerves were destroyed, and the shoulder grows less painful every day.  Also, Joe had a coronary artery incident last week and that has been treated as well. 

Joe and I have received grace upon grace, and blessing upon blessing in a short span of 3 weeks’ time.  We have been moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of our family members who have dropped everything to cart us to appointments and help with our daily household needs.  Since I am only a few weeks out of lumbar fusion surgery, help at home has been a lifeline.  Our daughter, Debbie, who lives a mile or so from us has been a constant cheerful worker!

We are amazed at the caring, personal quality of the doctors and nurses who are tending Joe during his crisis.  He is receiving the best of care, just as I have received for my surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, the quiet, “darkling days” are upon us.   The demise of daylight savings has descended with a thud, reminding me of a curtain falling on a stage—signifying the end of a drama, in this case the drama of 2010. 

Summer born, I’m a creature of light.  The onset of darkness makes me cling to that small bit of remaining light—as well as to the fact that in just 6 weeks the winter sun will be moving back to the north and our beloved daylight will slowly, inexorably return.

Joe and I are resting.  Our little patio garden is resting as well.  In a low alcove, protected from all but the east wind, the herbs continue to flourish—several frosts notwithstanding.  The garden will provide fresh sage for a turkey dinner.  Garden mint for my tea will sustain me, bringing me closer to that moment when the sun resumes its northern climb.  

I gaze out at the patio, where I lounged most every afternoon during our long hot summer.  The poignant sweetness of summer lingers in my heart, with an undercurrent of sadness.  But the promise of spring in my garden brings a spirit of joy, and a prayer of gratitude. 

Joe’s accident reminds us that, in our personal lives, we never know what lies around the next bend.  Our envisioned breakfast out can turn into a day of sorrow at the nearest Emergency Room.  Dreams can become nightmares in just a few seconds.  Humanly speaking, this very moment is all we can be certain of on earth!

But eternal truth prevails as expressed in a favorite hymn based on Lamentations 3:22-23:  “Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God my father . . . Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above . . . .”* 

Healing requires time and patience.  Winter requires time and patience, at least here in Wisconsin.  But our Lord is faithful!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*From Great is Thy Faithfulness, by T. O. Chisholm and William M. Runyan

(For a recently penned ode to the darkling days, please see the “Paintings and Poems” page on this site.)

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Although we still spend a lot of time outdoors, especially throughout the beautiful Autumn, cooler weather draws us inside as well.  Joe and love I being at home.  There’s room for everything we enjoy doing, right here in the cozy corners of our little condo which resembles an English country cottage. 

I’ve switched from iced tea to hot tea.  An English teapot and cups and saucers are ever ready on our living room coffee table (where coffee is served as well).  I love to hostess tea gatherings, fiber sessions, poetry readings, and afternoons of book or art talk.  Joe and I thrive on lunch or dinner company as well, and our fall and winter soup* suppers are special.

Now that the heat and humidity are behind me, one of my spinning wheels is constantly before me—and I’m producing more gorgeous woollen yarn for wearable art.  How lovely to spin away a rainy afternoon beside the fireplace**, while drinking Earl Grey loose tea steeped in an English teapot!

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Dorothy:  “There’s no place like home.” 

So join me, for a mini-stroll through our “Heaven on earth”. 

My mother would be proud of me.  I practice nearly every day!

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My gallery of wearable fiber art is always available for viewing.

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Our pretty kitchen!  Lots of wonderful things happen here!

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Our great-grandchildren’s play corner features this gorgeous doll house which Joe built from a kit years ago.  Completing the doll house with all the individual “cedar shakes” took him longer than it had taken him to add a room onto our home.

The boys and girls love the doll house.  When they visit, it is theirs to arrange, rearrange, redecorate, or whatever.  Not shown in the photo is the rest of the play corner, with a farm and loads of animals which find their way into the doll house.  (My toy dog collection resides there all the time.)

Also in the play corner the little ones enjoy Lincoln Logs, play dishes, many Teddy bears, and loads of wonderful books!  Bring on the children.

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If you are ever in the neighborhood, please stop in for tea!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*For years when we lived up north, we dined at a restaurant which featured sweet and sour cabbage soup.  It was a thin dinner soup, and I purposed to concoct my own thick sweet and sour cabbage soup.  (I make the kind of soups you can almost prop a spoon in.)

By Googling “sweet and sour cabbage soup” I found the constants—the sweet and sour typical proportions for a medium sized crock pot full of soup.  But many recipes contain cider vinegar.  I wasn’t happy with inhaling vinegar fumes while eating soup.  Finally I latched on to lemon juice—the most wonderful “sour” of all.  Here is my sweet and sour cabbage soup:

In a crock pot, cook overnight (14 to 18 hours on low power) a boneless pork tenderloin or boneless beef pot roast in a cup of 100% apple juice, 1 or 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of chicken base, 1 tablespoon of beef base, plenty of white pepper (it has to be white pepper for that wonderful afterglow in the mouth!), salt, and a few shakes of MAGGI®.

The next day, tear the meat apart with forks until shredded.  Remove two thirds of the meat and freeze for a later meal of meat and rice, sloppy Joes, or whatever. 

Keep the remaining 1/3rd of the meat in the crock pot.  Add 3 capfuls of REAL LEMON®, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, more white pepper and salt, a bit more MAGGI®, about one third or one half of a shredded and chopped cabbage, some chopped up carrots, a bit of tomato (not too much—just enough for color and interest), and 3 or 4 tiny chopped up green onion heads.  Add 1 or 2 handfuls of noodles, or 2 or 3 cut up baby reds.  Cook on low power all day—at least 8 hours.

This soup, with homemade or RHODES® bread, jam or honey, and fresh fruit, is about as close to Heaven on earth (foodwise) as you can get! 

But I say the same thing about pea soup, bean soup, minestrone soup, and that amazing post-Thanksgiving turkey soup (made from the boiling the turkey bones, left-over meat and skin, etc.) which we enjoy all winter!  🙂 

**Our “fireplace” consists of 4 behind-the-scene light bulbs over simulated logs.  It glows and “flames” like a fireplace, and also has a heat setting for nippy early Autumn mornings.  These gems come in many sizes, and are available at Menard’s.  The one shown above has an attractive surround, with a mantle for my collection of interesting and funky clocks.

We have a smaller Menard’s “fireplace” in our dining area.  How mellow is that!

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“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, 

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, 

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” 

William Shakespeare, MACBETH

What heals more beautifully than sleep?  And what is better than winter, for sleeping?  Lately I have been sleeping like there is no tomorrow.  It’s 7 above zero today with a minus 17 windchill.  This is mild compared to where we came from:  Northern Wisconsin with its weeks of 2o to 35 below zero!  Yet it’s cold.  Wind is wind, and it seems especially cutting in our new neighborhood, just 25 miles from Lake Michigan.

Sleep!  Sleep!  Sometimes I wake up for a few minutes at night, and then return to a deep sleep.  It feels like I’m being pulled into a bottomless ocean by an irresistable undertow.  I sometimes think I am “sleeping off” my whole life–the extremely productive years of raising 6 children and working as a book-keeper/secretary for our company, the many moves with packing and unpacking, the two delightful decades of raising chickens and sheep along with countless other critters, and our halcyon years up north. 

I’m sleeping off the nights with sick children and all the family crisis times right up to our most recent trauma of having a daughter in ICU following her cardiac arrest.  This daughter is doing beautifully now, praise God, and she’s scheduled to return to her home today.  The crisis has passed, at least for now, and I can SLEEP!

Only the Holy Bible can address life issues and the human experience better than our beloved old bard whom I’ve quoted above.  How rich is the English language, and how grateful I am to have been raised and schooled in it!  Although many Americans have deconstructed, minimalized, and derailed the language in shocking ways, I cling to British English–the language of the King James Bible and Shakespeare. 

Who can describe what I’m doing at least 14 hours out of 24 more succinctly than that master of British English, William Shakespeare?  Truly, sleep “knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

Note:  Here is a photo of one of our up north neighbors.  Now these folks really know how to sleep! 

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