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Archive for the ‘Home Sweet Home’ Category

This is a CONDO?

When we moved from our up north home on fourteen acres nine years ago, into a four room condo in SE Wisconsin, family members and friends were raising eyebrows, rolling eyes, and just generally not quite believing it.  A CONDO?  Four rooms?  Joe and Margaret Been?

To back up a bit, I have a decades-old reputation for being an incurable (but very neat and well-organized) pack rat.  And my husband, Joe, via osmosis, has become a pack rat as well.  We would simply have to change and we probably would be miserable.  Ha ha.  That’s what they thought!

Well we didn’t change a bit.  We left a few things behind, but began adding new rummage and antique store stuff to our new digs within weeks after arrival in September, 2009.  We not only kept our space-consuming hobbies; we have added more.

Joe has a garage workbench area, and also works in his den.  He makes wooden models and flies drones.  My card table art work has morphed into sometimes 3 different work areas in our four rooms and many paintings which I’ve done since ’09, stashed everywhere.  A few years ago,  I began painting silk scarves.  Two spinning wheels occupy our living room and they are constantly whirring like there is no tomorrow.  My hand-made yarn dangles everywhere.

One friend was shocked to learn that I am still making soap—a couple hundred bars per year of drop-dead-beautiful complexion soap.  But all it takes is a stove top for melting fat, and a few standard kitchen supplies plus a small stash of molds, cosmetic grade color pigments, small bottles of fragrance oils, some sodium hydroxide, a few bottles of rendered fat which do not need refrigeration, a small scale, and some distilled water.

All of this equipment is stored in the kitchen.  My computer (Joe and I each have our own computers in our own private office areas) accesses the online sodium hydroxide calculator where I enter each oil by the number of ounces used, and the calculator computes the amount of sodium hydroxide and water needed for the recipe.  Not exactly pioneer stuff.  Sure glad for that!  Much of the soap stuff is stored in our dishwasher.  I dislike dishwashers!  With gorgeous antique dishes which are fun to wash, we never use a dishwasher for anything but storage—and it is GREAT for that!

Books continue to breed and multiply here, thanks to the hoards we moved with us, and dozens more thanks to Amazon, other online sources, ST. VINNIE’S and GOODWILL, and rummage sales.  Joe built a bunch of bookshelves, plus we have books stacked on the floor all over the place.  And plants!  And the piano.  Essential in our home!  And we will always have a play area with books and toys for our great-grandchildren, now numbering nineteen.

So you see, our family members were relieved, and friends (although shocked) are comforted to know that we are blissfully happy here in our four room condo.  No basement, but a garage crammed with odds and ends from our rummage and old furniture obsessions—and a delightful Granny’s Attic type storage closet which is under the upstairs neighbor’s stairs to his condo.  Heaven on earth, in Nashotah, Wisconsin!  🙂

Just scroll down for a tour.

Yes, it’s a CONDO!  Along with everything else that goes on here, we entertain A LOT!  Family and friends, right in the midst of art making, soap making, music making, reading, drone flying, etc.  Even sleeping!  A couple of weeks ago, I entertained nine ladies (including moi)—mostly friends from WAUWATOSA HIGH SCHOOL, class of 1951.  We chatted and ate our refreshments around the living room coffee table.  So delightful.

Often the dining room table is 1/2 full of art making, leaving only space for three diners.  So we simply dote on our dinner guests in the living room.  There are places for nine to comfortably sit with odds and ends of tables for plates and silverware.  Thankfully, both Joe and I came from interest-filled open homes where people came for coffee, tea, and/or dinner frequently, and loads of animated chatter.  Joe and I cherish this heritage, and believe it’s the only way to live!

I rarely bother to dust or clean other than a runaround with a vac and a swish of a woolly duster—and certainly never for company.  Just for fun when I feel like it.  Everything gets carefully spruced a few times per year whether it needs it or not.  Occasional cleaning projects are fun with Irish music blaring. 

Of course the exception is routine kitchen and bathroom maintenance which we do constantly just for the two of us because we are civilized and we like clean bathrooms and kitchens.


A home is a blessing to use, share (as much and as often as energy will permit), share and share again and again, and ENJOY!  And that we do—all four rooms plus two loos, one for Joe and one for me.

Margaret L. Been —  April 4th, 2018

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. . . and now we are eight.  Eight women who have gathered every second Wednesday at each other’s homes since the late 1950s and early 60s.  Originally bonded by graduation  from Wauwatosa High School (a near west side suburb of Milwaukee) in 1953, we’ve gathered other friends along the way.  Since the 50s and 60s were early mothering years, we began with evening meetings including lots of chat and a sumptuous dessert with our prettiest tableware.  Candles and/or centerpieces were givens and always will be—so long as we can still manage to strike a match (and blow it out!) or delve in our storage closets for interesting adjuncts to the occasion!

As our children grew to school age, we switched to mid day, with lots of chat and a luncheon on the above mentioned tables—varying of course with the seasons, availability of fresh flowers from gardens, and prevailing daylight or early dark.  Now we are getting into the mature years, and we sometimes opt to serve dessert only, or even meet at a restaurant.  But homes are still the best.  Last week the eight of us, plus one delightful guest making us “nine”, met in Joe’s and my condo on a drop-dead gorgeous March day with doors open and sunlight pouring in.

How can we do this, year after year?  Unlike every other gathering to which I’ve belonged, we are not glued together by a specific interest such as Bible Study, knitting, spinning, serious bridge, writing, and antiquing which have composed the grist of my other groupie activities over the years.

In our thirteen-now-eight group, we’re not all on the same page—worldview-wise or according to politics.  Not one bit!  Indeed, it’s tacitly understood that there are conversational places where we simply never go—for if we did, our shared pleasant origins might deteriorate into a food fight, especially if some of us were to begin quoting our favorite, highly-polarized Cable News sources.

Some share an interest in a craft, and others don’t craft at all.  Some of us decorate with antiques, and others with practically nothing in the room except for a couch, table, a few chairs, and a lamp or two.  We all share a love for family, but we rarely talk about our families.  (I probably am the most apt to talk family, because I have so many fun and funny little people to talk about.)

We rarely discuss a problem.  Or medical stuff—the most boring topic of all.  Our bodies are beginning to fall apart, but we try to eschew talking about bodies.  On perkier days, we talk of the natural world outside our doors:  the birds we’ve seen at our feeders; the recent cougar siting in Brookfield, WI—a suburb west of Wauwatosa; the deer and coyotes ubiquitous in our county.  That is real talk.  Some like to travel: always fun to hear about.  Some, like me, stay home and enjoy each day.  I can make jaunty conversation out of that—at least no one has fallen asleep listening to me so far.

Perhaps the closest to a common bond other than families would be pets and gardens.  No matter what side of the political aisle we are on, we agree that cats are hilarious and infinitely interesting.  Plus, most of us agree that dogs are people.  Although I have been cat-less for decades, and (sob-sob) currently dog-less (that cannot last much longer), I never tire of hearing talk about anyone’s cats and dogs.  Better than politics any day.

But even pets can’t explain the phenomena of women gathering every single month over a period of almost six decades!  So what’s up?  I go back to one common denominator:  a gracious mother in an open home.  I believe we were all blessed with such mothers and homes.  We learned the art of disagreeing without throwing food; and we avoid areas of pointless discourse where no one’s mind will budge short of much prayer and a God-given epiphany.  We agree to disagree, and get on with the “math” in terms of our considerable common denominators.

We learned to chew WITH OUR MOUTHS CLOSED, not to lick our knives, and other mannerly amenities of dining.  We learned TO NEVER TALK WITH FOOD IN OUR MOUTHS.  The alternatives are unthinkable.  These mouth bits alone make for six decades of companionable talking and eating.  🙂 

And believe it or not, the mouth manners have been instrumental in naming our group:  We are TALK AND EAT!

Margaret L. Been — March 18, 2018

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Bee

Long time, no blog!  From April till way into Autumn, my heart is outdoors.  But that has never kept me from writing before.  This summer has been different—perhaps one of the loveliest summers ever.  With the exception of an occasional entry on my art blog, journaling, letter writing, and jotting Bible study notes, I decided to take a vacation from writing.

Now our white hydrangeas/turning pink are at full tilt and awash with beautiful bees. So much to love about summer!  Six years ago to this very day (Saturday August 29th, 2009) our son Eric and grandsons Joshua, Adam, Jason, and Jeff (grandson-in-law, but a true grandson indeed!) loaded a large U-Haul, our family business truck, and a some vans with our belongings.  We were moving from our up-north “permanent” home of eight years to Southeastern Wisconsin where we’d originally lived for decades and where much of our family has lived and still does.

The banter between our family moving helpers was hilarious.  They did a perfect job with no damage to our furniture or the walls of the home we were leaving—and most importantly, with no damage to my precious piano.  The day was pleasant and memorable.  But please forgive me for using a cliché:  My heart was in my throat.  We were abandoning the place we’d thought we’d live “forever”.

Two months earlier Joe had suffered serious health complications which immediately mandated the change of locale in order to be close to family and easily-accessed excellent medical care.  In late June we’d walked into our present condo home for the first time.  We placed a down payment on the condo after twenty minutes of inspection.  So July and August of 2009 were filled with packing.  Anyone who knows our lifestyle understands that the packing was a piece of work!

Over those weeks I consistently walked Dylan (corgi) on a leash so that he’d make the transition from running freely around fourteen plus acres to being a proper condo dog who wouldn’t be a nuisance to neighbors.  As I walked our wild woodsy trails, I wondered:  How will I be able to get along without all this? 

Yes, we’d be surrounded by beloved family.  I had missed the family between visits.  Down in Southeastern Wisconsin the great-grandchildren were coming pop/pop/pop like popcorn.  Joe and I love and enjoy the little people.  I certainly understood that children are more special than bears and wolves.  But . . . . ?

Nonetheless—after two months of packing, walking, and wondering—that moment of departure six years ago was amazingly pain-free.  Weary as Joe and I were from the process of moving on short notice, we experienced a mutual, growing sense of excitement; it occurred to both of us that we were coming home!

And we came home to boundless blessings.  Family!  Long time friends!  A carefree four room, ground floor condo—just right for our time of life.  Several gardens to tend and love—ours and those of neighbors who don’t want to bother with gardening.  And trains frequently roaring back and forth on the busiest track in the area—from Milwaukee west to the Rockies and north to Canada.  My passion for the sight and sound of trains is no secret to anyone who knows us.

What have I learned in the last six years?  More than I can squeeze into a blog.  But for starters:

  1. People in their “mature” years, do not need a large home.  Compact and cozy are delightful adjectives.  I enjoy cramming lots of stuff into small spaces, and I love the task of efficient organizing.
  2. It is very nice to have garbage collection at our garage door.  Up north we took our garbage to the  dump—a fun experience but not when it was twenty below zero!
  3. It is wonderful to have snow removal.  Joe did that himself up north, with a snow blower.  It took two hours or more, to clear the driveways at the two houses there—the one we lived in and the guest house we had built up the hill.  Now on a blizzardy winter morning we awaken and savor our coffee to the scrape/scrape of plows on our lane and shovels on the walkways.
  4. Here is a vital lesson:  One does not need to own land, to enjoy it.  We have a lovely community park over the berm outside our courtyard, and a woods and prairie preserve with foot trails beyond the park.  These fulfill my hunger for natural beauty.
  5. In the last six years, health challenges have become the norm for Joe and me.  These challenges are Holy Ground.  Always, I experience God’s “peace that passes understanding” .  With the Lord Jesus in my heart and life, every day is Holy Ground.  But health issues—Joe’s emergencies and my chronic concerns—are a showcase of God’s Grace.  Some friends understand this, but others simply do not.  The “others” are those who say things like “Oh you poor thing!”  When I hear that I want to scream, but I try to stay calm.  My answer is, “In Christ we are never a ‘poor thing’. We are “more than conquerors.”  Holy Ground!
  6. No home on earth is “forever”.  Although I love where we are, and I am totally contented and grateful, I anticipate with profound excitement that final “move”—right into the presence of my Lord Jesus!*

Six years in retrospect.  Understandably, I sometimes think of “up north”—especially when strolling outdoors after dark.  Here, twenty-five miles west of Milwaukee, we have a moon and sometimes part of the Big Dipper in the night sky, and rarely much more than that.  I recall many evenings of sitting on our lake-facing porch up north, enthralled by millions of stars:  so many that there was more starlight than black space between.  The stars reflected on the lake so that the entire expanse—Heaven and the water below—was one huge lit-up sky.

But happily now, six years later, we sit in the front row at church, surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  They are my stars!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—August 29, 2015

*Nearly every day I reflect on a family story I first heard when I was a very little girl.  My great-grandfather had been bed-ridden and unresponsive for days—surrounded by family members during his slow process of dying.  Then suddenly one day he sat bolt upright in bed.  His face was glowing as he loudly exclaimed, “Oh Glory, Glory!”

Immediately after that, Great-Grandfather Longenecker moved to his final, glorious HOME!

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