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Archive for the ‘Mothers and Daughters’ Category

Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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Piano Musings, Recollections, and Resolution . . . .

music 2

In a good week I have four or five of them:  piano days.  I never sit down to play without thinking of childhood.  How pleased my mother would be with this daughter who, when young, preferred to putter in the shallow creek at the base of our property (crunching on ice floes in winter and catching pollywogs in the summer) to the discipline of piano and violin.  Yet practice I did, many hours per week.  Mom gave me no alternatives.  I had to do a couple of hours of music before messing about in the river.  Mother was passionate about music.  She was a classical pianist, and sat me down at a piano long before I can remember.  At age eight I began my 10 year stint of violin lessons.  I thank Mom for her music passion.  Throughout adulthood, music (especially vocal and piano) has been one of my passions as well.

Mother was unique—so different from some Moms, and how I praise the Lord for that!  Now and then I was allowed in the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies.  After every meal I helped with the clean up; Mother washed the dishes and I dried them and put them away.  (That was special bonding time.)  But I NEVER cooked a meal.  I picked up a few tips from kitchen observation, but I was not taught to cook.  Mom’s famous words were:  “Soon enough you will grow up and have to cook, and since you can read you’ll be able to manage!  Anyone can cook!” 

I was taught to work.  I had to clean the bathrooms and do the ironing (both of which I absolutely love to this day).  But Mom was the cook.  We frequently had company for dinner and my job—my wonderful job!—was to get out the silver, china, and stemware, and set a beautiful table.  The centerpiece was my domain; I had free reign to arrange flowers, candles, and whatever else I could dream up.  Even when there were only the four of us at the table—my parents, my sister, and me—I dressed the table and took enormous pride in the job.  I still do!  My mother wanted me to invest time in reading, knitting, stitching, and doing other creative things along with the music—rather than cooking.

Obviously, as a wife and mother of six children, I did end up doing a lot of cooking and baking over the years!  My mother was wise.  She schooled me in the even more vital, life energizing creative things that bring grace, beauty, and elegance to those chores we have to do in the midst of life’s inevitable challenges.

I’m eternally grateful for both of my parents, and the older I get the more I think of them.  My father traveled frequently because the company he worked for (Lauson Motors in New Holstein Wisconsin/the company eventually became Tecumseh) was knee deep in wartime production.  But when Dad was home, he was my Dad!  He frequently came home with the gift of a book for me, and he always wanted to read whatever I had been writing.  The greatest boost I can recall was when, at age 11, I showed Dad an essay I’d written for a school assignment.  Dad read the text carefully, and said:  “You really think thoughts!”

I could go on forever and bore you readers to distraction about my delightful life, but I won’t.  I hope to stop short of causing abject ennuni!  Meanwhile, much as I have always thought New Year’s resolutions to be rather silly, I have set a goal for the coming year:

To constantly evoke a rather maudlin, corny old Bing Crosby tune the lyrics of which went:  “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . . “.  Not that I subscribe to “the power of positive thinking”.  Mankind is fallen, and without intervention of the life of Jesus Christ we are lost.  The power of positive thinking is hogwash.  I cannot eliminate ISIS by thinking.  We cannot change our nation, by just thinking; we must pray and WORK—and then only God’s Spirit will make a difference!  Just “thinking” will never deal with the horrendous world issues which our clueless, muddleheaded, and/or downright evil President refuses to acknowledge.

Only God can change the world, and eventually He will—as He has promised through ages of Old Testament prophecy confirmed by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, as well as in the New Testament Epistles!  Meanwhile, as I pray and live as the Lord leads, I can—as old Bing crooned—“Accentuate the positive”.

Here is an example:  rather than continuing to spout off about Obama’s idiotic State of the Union address, or grousing about the Packers’ failure to complete their great start against the Seahawks last Sunday I can (and am!) robustly cheering Speaker John Boehner for his classic End Run around our President, by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to address The House of Representatives on the threats of Iran and Islamic terrorism.  Clearly, the Seahawks—even Obama’s speech—fade into the back of my mind, next to Boehner’s Play of the Week—maybe the play of the year!

To summarize, my goal is to continually and faithfully focus on and publish good news.  But specifically, what do all these musings have to do with a piano day?  Simply this:  On my piano days I begin by struggling over the few Chopin nocturnes I can even dream of playing, adding some easier classics such as George Winston’s arrangement of Pachelbel’s beloved Kanon, lightening up with a Scott Joplin rag or two, and ending with my treasured book of Gospel hymns including Amazing Grace. 

AMAZING GRACE!  Forty four years ago almost to this very day, I was catapulted in the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It was a bitter cold day in January of 1971 when I entered the Kingdom.  The sun pounding down on the pristine banks of snow was so bright, so exquisite, so unspeakably and amazingly beautiful that I still experience a flush of joy when I think of it.  And every time I play Amazing Grace, the wonder, brilliance, and joy of that day is new—all over again!

Salvation and eternal life in Christ.  That is the “positive” to accentuate, the Good News which tops all else—yes, even John Boehner’s Fabulous End Run around our misguided, muddleheaded, and possibly (quite probably!) evil President!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—January 22, 2015

Note:  Here is an aside:  my pick from the cast of GOP contenders for nomination is Dr. Ben Carson.  Someone new, someone non-political, someone with real straight arrow values—although others in the list, including our own Governor Scott Walker, project straight values as well.

In his book, ONE NATION, Dr. Carson begins by demonstrating how “political correctness” has undermined our nation, as it is literally killing freedom of speech and promoting dishonesty at many levels.  I can accentuate the fact that I positively agree 

Dr. Carson is outspokenly Biblical in his views on the sins of abortion and homosexuality.  He is not afraid to quote Scriptural references, and point to God’s Word as the ultimate authority.  Coming from a distinguished man of science, this is especially refreshing!

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BB - Precious Bridget and Grandpa

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!  Here is Grandpa Joe holding our 14th grandchild, Adetokunbo Bridget Josephine Adesokun.  Our wee one was 5 hours old when we first met her on 6/4, and she was sleeping off her jet lag while visitors played Pass the Baby.  But since yesterday at 24 plus hours old, Adetokunbo Bridget has been eating almost non-stop—or as her mom, our daughter Martina, says:  “using me for a pacifier”. 

What a treasure!  For Joe and me, and undoubtedly all who have met our treasure, it has been love at first sight!

Names are tremendously significant in our son-in-law Sanmi’s Ebira Tribe Nigerian culture.  The names are chosen primarily for their meaning, and every person will call a child by which ever of the names he or she prefers.  The child grows up knowing that the different names are an important part of her; they signify facets of her personhood.  Beautiful!

In a couple of weeks, we’ll share in a Naming Ceremony at our condo community clubhouse where family members and friends will gather to add to the list of our baby’s names, and pray over her.  After the ceremony, we’ll gather beside the pool at our daughter Debbie’s home.   

Sanmi’s brothers will join us in celebration, from Toronto and Cleveland.  How I wish their mom could be with us.  She is in Nigeria, and her sons hope to bring her to North America soon.  (Bridget, are you reading?  WE LOVE YOU!!!)

So now I have added words.  But the essence is in the photos:  New Life in Spring!!!  Precious new life!

BB - Bridget is 5 hours old

BB - Mother and Babe

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Photo:  circa 1937.  How I love the vintage furniture, doors, and carpet!  But most of all, I love the lady pictured there beside the chunky little kid whom I once was.  My mother was a Victorian, born in 1896 and she lived to age 93.  I cherish memories of her, and think of her every day of my life.  As I “mature”, I frequently add new recollections to my treasure câche of nostalgia. 

Lately I’ve been recalling how she had me memorize Psalms 1 and 23, starting when I was about the above pictured age.  Every night at bedtime, I recited these Psalms to her.  What an imprint.  When you consider those Psalms you realize that they beautifully summarize great truths of Scripture.  Psalm 1 speaks of man’s condition—both with and without the Lord in one’s life, and Psalm 23 (the most beloved of all!) speaks of the Lord’s tender care for each of His sheep.

Then Mother taught me a little verse, which was added to my bedtime repertoire: 

“My heart is God’s little garden

And the flowers blooming there each day

Are the things He sees me doing

And the words He hears me say.”

Anonymous

I recited these gems to my mother until I went off to college.

Mother was equanimity personified.  She NEVER raised her voice, NO NEVER.*  She didn’t have to.  She “walked quietly and carried a big stick”.  The big stick was used when necessary, which in my case was fairly often as I was a bit of a rip. 

While I grew up, Mother brushed and braided my hair every morning—with the possible exception of Saturdays.  This was a giant step, in keeping me “under control”.  I was a melodramatic kid who fancied myself a wild Gypsy—and I had the dark, snaggly thick mane to go with my cherished self-image.  Mom was committed to keeping me from looking and acting like the turbulent thing I liked to think I was.

Although she would always take a stand against anyone advocating or doing something that was morally or ethically wrong, my mother NEVER said an unnecessarily unkind word about anyone—NO NEVER.  Her patience with other humans was incredible.  Often, if a derogatory remark was made about someone, Mother would say, “But she means well.”  When she decided that someone definitely did not “mean well”, she would simply sigh and remark, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world”.

Only one contradictory sentence ever shadowed Mother’s attitude of forgiveness and goodwill, and it was a very funny one indeed.  Over and over throughout the years, I heard her say, “God gave us our relatives; thank God we can choose our friends.”

I hesitate to employ that one liner myself, because my relatives are precious—they are my best friends.  But Mom did have some overbearing relations.  When reviewing Mother’s life with her pastor before her memorial service, I mentioned the “Thank God we can choose our friends” statement—and he laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair.  He wanted to include that in Mother’s eulogy, but I firmly said “NO”.  A couple of remaining, ancient relatives would be at the memorial service and I didn’t want anyone miffed at the eleventh hour of that venerable Victorian generation!

On past Mother’s Day entries, I listed many wonderful things about my mother—how she was proud of her Scottish and Irish heritage, and how she was a hard worker who trained her children to work as well.  Mom loved her family and friends, and her loyalty was peerless. 

I inherited a lot from this amazing woman—either through the genes or from example.  Mother loved all of life, from the largest creature down to the smallest bird or butterfly.  She loved cats and dogs, classical music, classical poetry, tea parties, antique glassware, and dressing up every day

Before my marriage, Mother said, “Don’t ever let your husband come home at night and find you in the old clothes you’ve been wearing for cleaning and gardening.  Always dress up, and remember to re-fix your hair and face at least once during an evening—especially after dinner!”  This advice is branded in my heart and soul, and it’s an integral part of my life. 

Returning to Mother’s spiritual input in my life, I often recall how—when I was around 6 years old—she told me about the early Christian martyrs in Rome.  She told how they were put into the arena with hungry lions, and how they (the Christians, not the lions) sang hymns as they were being carried off. 

Now isn’t that a strange thing to tell a 6 year old kid?  But I’m grateful that she did!  The essence of the story stuck with me throughout the years.  When I became a Christian believer, at age 37, I began to reflect on that account—and I realized that whatever God was going to allow in my life would be undergirded and enabled by His Grace!  Lions are pretty terrifying, but God has conquered fear!

I think of Mother every day.  Recent Mother’s Days have been accompanied by a kind of inner aching because I don’t have her here.  But I will be seeing her again, FOREVER!  How fantastic is that!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*I grew up in such a “rose garden”, that I never heard anyone yell—except in a film, or at an exciting basketball game.  But there was one exception in the rose garden.  I heard my father shout—vehemently!—when my older sister brought home a young Communist whom she was dating at UW, Madison. 

Dad and the young Communist (who was fomenting revolution) had a deep discussion, and Dad SHOUTED!   This was very exciting to me, as it appealed to my sense of melodrama.  The fracas also imprinted some strong political views in my head!

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