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Archive for the ‘Knitting through a crisis’ Category

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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These two little guys are:  1) our son Karl, the one with the bare top, and 2) his boyhood friend, John.  The photo was taken in 1968.  I have an overflow of memories from those years, many fun (and some touching!) stories of all of our children.  One recollection that has surfaced frequently in recent years involves Karl when he was just a bit younger than depicted above.

He and another friend were busy in the neighbor’s back yard, piling up some rocks left over from a building project—when a rock slipped and sliced into Karl’s right hand.  The wound bled profusely, and required a dash to our local medical clinic.  Our daughter Debbie, then eight years old, was home recuperating from a flu bug, and she held Karl on her lap in the back seat.  (Obviously this was before children’s car seats were mandated.  Our children simply floated around in the back seats of vehicles, with their guardian angels on duty!)

I can still picture the scene I viewed in the rear view mirror as I drove:  Debbie in her pink and white quilted bathrobe, calmly holding Karl with his towel-wrapped hand pointing bolt upright in the air upon my request—in hopes of stopping the flow of blood.  Karl was just as calm as his sister.  We had kind of an unwritten policy when raising our children:  Don’t panic, don’t get into a flap!  Just do what needs to be done, as quietly and efficiently as possible!

Throughout the cleaning, stitching up, and dressing of the wound at the clinic, Karl never cried—in fact he scarcely changed the bland expression on his face.  Finally, when the job was done, the doctor said, “Okay, Karl.  You can go home now, but stay away from the rocks!”

At that, Karl suddenly burst into a deluge of tears and protested, “But I have to build things!” 

Today, at nearly fifty years old, Karl is still “building things”—writing computer programs for his life’s work, and singing in a chorus for a leisure-time hobby.

Karl’s rock story resonates with me, as I have always been a person who “has to (ardently wants to!) build things”—a home and family for my life’s work, and more leisure-time hobbies over the years than I have time to list at the moment.  Now that my body is aging and “glitching”, as many bodies do after decades of use, building something (a knitted garment, a hymn on the piano, a blog, a painting or collage, a bit of garden, a batch of soap, etc.) is more important and vital to my well being than every before. 

I’m realizing that creative interests are far more than entertainment, or a way to invest our leisure.  For me the creative occupations are a lifeline, a reason to keep on—a welcome and necessary diversion from whatever may be hurting physically or circumstantially!

Recently a friend, who has been blessedly healthy and pain free all of her life, discovered that she does indeed have a health issue which will need to be treated with surgery.  She asked me for input—knowing that I have “been there, done that”. 

In trying to encourage my friend, I mentioned the excellence of her medical resources and the fact that she would be kept as relaxed and comfortable as humanly possible during her hospital experience.  I stressed the benefits of her being able to rest and recuperate at home, while her diligent family cares for her—along with her involvement in post-op therapy.  

Finally I told caught myself telling my friend, “But for me the best therapy of all is making something.”  

I realize that my lifestyle of “making” is not for everyone, and I pray that I didn’t come off sounding preachy to my friend!  But that’s the chance we take, those of us who “have to build things“!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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NOTE:  I’ve finally updated my “Paintings and Poems” page on this site.

Nearly every week I read over the back pages of my blogs, where the stats are listed.  On these pages I learn which entries were most frequently read, the search terms used to arrive at my blogs, the number of viewers each day and week, etc.  The stats have been encouraging, and Northern Reflections is far ahead of my other blogs in numbers of readers. 

Consistently, the most widely read entries on Northern Reflections are those which focus on home—especially the creative home arts:  decorating, entertaining, gardens, hobbies and crafts, collecting, junking, antiquing, etc.  I find the popularity of the home arts to be heartwarming, since my heart is and always has been at home!  Evidently many others share my enthusiasm for creating a lovely, nurturing environment for those we love.

A passion for beauty and the hunger to create with one’s hands are universal traits, found in people around the world.  Gardens are universal—from Japan to England and most places in between—not just for food production but for flowers and ornamental trees and shrubs.  Crafting is universal, not only for making useful things but for creating objects of beauty as well—les objets d’art.  A case in point is the fact of stunning decoration found on common untensils made in primitive cultures.

A love for color and design is universal.  God delivered a magnificent WOW when He created Heaven and earth and all that is within.  The drive to replicate color and design in our surroundings (and on our bodies!) is integral to our humanity.  Made in the image of a Creative Maker, we humans are happiest when we can make or do something beautiful—even some little thing like sticking snapdragons and daisies in a jar with water to brighten our day, playing a favorite melody on an instrument, or baking a cake for someone we love.

I’m frequently reminded of the creative drive in myself and in others.  I never go anywhere that involves sitting and waiting without bringing my knitting.  Joe and I have many clinic appointments each week, and the knitting bag goes along.  Constantly, I meet men, women, and children who are drawn to my side by the siren’s call of clicking knitting needles.  I hear wistful, nostalgic overtones in the conversations which ensue.  People say, “My grandmother did that; I wish I could learn!”

I always answer, “But you can learn!”  Then I mention yarn shops that I know of, little havens of relaxation and instruction, plus helpful websites where one can learn to knit.  I’m currently knitting a winter hat for each of our 15 great-grandchildren, for next Christmas.  I’m now on hat number 13, and I carry a few of the hats in my bag for people to see and feel.  Occasionally a fellow knitter will sit down beside me, and then I can glean from another lover of needles and a good yarn!

There are so many options for creativity, most of which can be explored within the boundaries of kitchen, living room, home studio, basement, garage, or yard.  Once a person gets over the roadblock of worrying about being “good enough” at a hobby or skill, the sky is the limit—very literally for me , as I keep striving to paint the sky!  Of course my renderings are not great art, but they are colorful and satisfying to me.  Unless we are training to be a professional, we should never focus on being “good enough”—but rather on having fun, discovering, and forging a new path in our passion to create. 

I realize that generalities are leaky, but here is one that has proven true again and again:  a person who loves to make things is most often a serene person regardless of circumstances.  Individuals who find joy in creating tend to prevail during the hardest of trials.  The contemplative process of producing a batch of cookies, quilting a table runner, or making most anything affords us thinking time in which our minds are cleared.  Hand work provides an atmosphere for prayer.  We come away from the creative process stronger and more able to deal with the issues in our lives. 

Obviously peace of mind and contentment are gifts from our Lord, freely given when we know Him and prayerfully read His Word.  But God has created us to be earth creatures at this point in time.  He has given us an abundant earth where we can reflect His creative life.  For our good and His glory God has given us a passion for making things.  These are the things that sustain!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Above you will see the front view of a tunic, hot off my knitting needles.  I simply have to have color!  

A few browns, greys, and blacks reside in my closet and dresser drawers.  These are quiet, restful colors— lovely in nature, and elegant on some individuals.  I wear the muted tones on occasion in the fall—but always with an accent (a scarf, shawl, hat, etc.) of red, maroon, gold, bittersweet, rust, aqua blue, teal blue, cobalt blue, lavender, purple, lime green, lemon yellow, or rosy pink in any shade or tint.

By this time of the year brown, grey, and black have lost their appeal for me.  I probably will not wear them again until next autumn.

Color is far more than a simple cosmetic or decorative element.  It reaches deep into one’s soul, and makes a difference in a person’s outlook on life.  Color is a tangible expression of God’s over-the-top creative beauty, excitement, and wonder.  Color is one of God’s most loving and generous gifts.

If you deny that statement then quite possibly you have never visited the Grand Canyon, walked in an autumn woods in New England or the Midwest, thrilled to autumn’s aspen gold in the Colorado Mountains, exclaimed over precious green shoots emerging from a spring thaw, or experienced the euphoria of wandering in a flowering garden. 

One needn’t even exit one’s home, to realize the impact of color:  a window view of a sunrise or sunset is testimony to the Master Artist who paints the skies and all the world, for His glory—and our pleasure! 

Thus we lovers of beauty tend to deck our bodies, in celebration of the gift of color.  With our hands, we fashion colorful items.  Just “useful” is never good enough.  Our creations must please the eyes, as well.

For the past four months which some might have deemed “bleak”, I knitted away hours and days as a visitor in Joe’s hospital room.  I spilled my yarns out over the futon, my “home away from home” couch bed in his room—where I read, sketched, and knitted by day, and slept by night while Joe was a patient there.

Time and again nurses and aides (and even doctors!) who came in Joe’s room, would pause and look at the yarns and the piece of work on my needles.  They invariably smiled at the colors.  Just a few balls of yarn can change the atmosphere of most any setting, including a critically ill patient’s room in a hospital!

Last week, on a overcast grey day, I wore the above tunic to a clinic appointment.  One of the check-in desk secretaries kept staring at me.  Every time I glanced in her direction, I was aware of her gaze.  Finally, the woman broke out in a huge grin.  She said, “You are making me so happy with your colors!”

Below, you will find the backside of the above tunic, and another front view of it—with my funky knitted and crocheted scarf—followed by photos of our bay at our Northern Wisconsin home, in God’s magnificent artistry.  Color!  What a GIFT!

 

Our up north bay in autumn ↑

the bay in winter twilight ↑

and at sunset.  ↑

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S.  Don’t forget the birds!  Since September I have been saving hair which I comb out of my brushes and store in a plastic bag.  I do this every year.  In late April I will scatter the hair on tree branches near our windows, so the birds can use it in their nests.

My friend, Elaine, has a beauty salon in her home.  She lives on a beautiful parklike acre, and saves all her customers’ hair cuttings to place in tree branches.  Needless to say, Elaine’s birds have nests of many colors!  🙂 

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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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“We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  George Bernard Shaw

What a profound truth!  I know people who think and act “old”, simply because they stopped playing long ago.  And, conversely, I know individuals in their 90s who are still “young”, because of an interest in life and a passion for hobbies and creative play.  My own father lived to be 102, and enjoyed life nearly until the end when his eyes gave out and he could no longer read!  

Creative play is one of our greatest gifts, as we were made in the image of a creative God.  People who have never learned to play are bored, and they are apt to be boring!

I’m thankful to have had parents who realized the intrinsic value of play!  I’m thankful for years of gluing, cutting, coloring, digging in mud (nearly to China!), and grubbing for tadpoles in the river which bordered my childhood home. 

I’m thankful for a mom who let me keep the tadpoles in a fish bowl in our kitchen (until the critters lost their tails and sprouted legs; then they went back to the river). 

I’m grateful for the live Easter bunny I received one year, and for always having a dog to cherish.  I’m thankful for litters of kittens who entertained our family with their antics, back in the halcyon days when cats were allowed to roam at large and actually act like cats! 

I’m thankful for my mother’s huge box of elegant velvet and taffeta evening gowns from the early 20th century, for her plumey hats and beaded reticules—and for countless rainy afternoons of spreading these garments all over the room and dressing up in them.  (My friends and I were allowed to play “Dress-ups” in my parents’ bedroom, because my mother had a full length mirror before which we could parade, primp, and be absolutely silly!)

I pray that—whatever happens in the future—I’ll never grow too old to create at least some little thing with my hands.  I pray I’ll always have a spirit of pizzazz and panache for living, no matter what!  And I pray that, to the best of my ability, I’ll never stop playing!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

Note:  I recently posted the above entry on my Northernview blog, and am putting it here as well.  As I face a major surgery next week, play seems more important than ever to me!  My plans for knitting, collaging, and painting projects will carry me a long way to recovery!

When we have things we love to do—creative activities that stretch the mind, imagination, and hands—we can always manage to focus outward rather than inward!  🙂

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August invariably brings a cool, rainy spell among the dry and windy days.  August rain jogs my memory and I relive an annual childhood event:  a trip to the Appleton Woolen Mill which was situated on the Fox River, about a 45 minute drive from our summer cottage on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

Since my mother and sister were knitters, it was a happy given that I would be a knitter as well.  I learned to knit on khaki yarn, supplied to patriotic knitters during World War II by the U. S. Government.  From this yarn, we made afghan squares for the U. S. Army.  My first squares contained numerous gaps created by dropped stitches, and holes where I had put the work down and picked it up again to knit in the wrong direction.

Gaps and holes notwithstanding, I learned to knit and cannot imagine life without yarn—especially wool yarn.  My love for wool is anchored in our annual trip to the historic Appleton Woolen Mill where we stocked up on a year’s supply of yarn for sweaters, scarves, socks, and mittens—plus yardage of beautiful plaid wool for skirts.  (My mother was an accomplished seamstress as well as a knitter!)

I will never forget the scent and sounds of the mill.  What is more wonderful than the fragrance of wool—be it in a skein of yarn, a bolt of fabric, fresh fleece in one’s hand, or in its most original state:  on the body of a sheep?  And the music of the mill echoes in my mind:  the blonking and jerking of spinning machinery, the clunking and banging of huge industrial looms.  To use a metaphor appropriate to the textile industry, I loved “the whole nine yards”!

I can still see those big cones of yarn.  I can still visualize the magnificent bolts of fabric lined up on a high shelf.  And I recall those rainy days on our cottage porch—following the trip to the woolen mill—when my mother, sister, and I sat contentedly clicking our needles and savoring the colors and textures of our newly purchased yarns.

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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