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Archive for the ‘Slow lane living in a fast lane culture!’ Category

The Long Deep Quiet


Frozen time unhinged . . .

pulsing, throbbing life unseen . . .

waiting to burst forth.

I’ve often wondered if those who live in a tropical or near-tropical part of the world experience the four seasons with as much joy, anticipation, and metaphorical musings as we do here in the North, where each one of the seasons is uniquely distinct!  I would certainly miss the round of annual changes that have been a part of life forever—even during a handful of years in my beloved Colorado, which does also have definite changes although (happily!) it can be 70 degrees there at Christmas.

It is fun to grouse about winter, but the truth is I LOVE it—especially now that we are in our dotage, and don’t have to go out on the roads unless we really want to.  Even a clinic appointment may be postponed if icy roads prevail.

I do know that occasional change can be delightful in winter.  Back in the days when I flew at the drop of a WHIM, to visit our out-of-state children, I enjoyed an occasional week with our son, Karl, in Denver CO which was sometimes warmer than Wisconsin, and other times capable of producing a sudden 18 inches of snow.

And I recall one January when I visited our oldest daughter, Laura, in the environs of Bellingham, WA.  I was treated with typical NW Rainforest weather.  A constant quiet, warmish rain made music on the metal roof of Laura’s home—like the melodious, soothing repetition of a George Winston piano composition.  I got so excited about the sound of the rain on the roof, that Laura’s six year old daughter, Nancy, asked—very pointedly—“Grandma!  Doesn’t it ever rain in Wisconsin?”

Conversely, Laura has traditionally loved to come home to Wisconsin in January—especially when we lived in the deep, quiet Wisconsin Northwoods.  There it is normally anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees below zero in January, the kind of weather when nose hairs freeze and crackle.  The kind of weather where the sun, slowing climbing back Northward, is brilliantly blinding as it reflects on snow and ice.

Laura and I would sit each bitter cold, sunny morning, watching for the local bald eagle to cruise over our frozen flowage lake—while to the discerning eye, various soft tints of color occasionally played across the ice as the sun moved overhead.

Now, 285 miles South of that high winter home, we are just as contented.  Winter is the deep quiet time of our four seasons year.  For the home-loving soul who thrives on “making”, winter days are creative—whether “creative” means home-made bread hot from the oven, a painting, a morning of piano practice, a garment growing on the knitting needles, or most any other kind of “making”.  In Wisconsin we have our deep snow winters, and our winters with hardly any snow.  But winter is winter.

How thrilling to know that, as we relish this quiet time of crafting, music making, or whatever, the sun grows stronger and higher in our hemisphere every day.  Each year I print out sunrise/sunset/length of day charts for December of the past year and January, February, and March of the current year.

The U.S. Navy produces these online charts.  For the more scientific mind, charts including the length of twilight at each end of the day are available.  But I am contented just to read the times of the sun’s appearing and disappearing—and the growing moments of daylight.  Even as I type this blog entry, we have gained 5 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice.  This thrills me to my bone marrow!

Growing daylight is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, as expressed in the beloved hymn:  “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm (lyrics) and William Runyan (music).  The verse, “Summer and winter, springtime and harvest—Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above—Join with all nature in manifold witness—To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love” resounds with truth and life through the visuals of our four seasons climate.

And winter, with its long deep quiet, is as much a witness to God’s faithfulness as spring and high summer with their green explosions, and autumn with its mellow bounty.  In the winter we know that life continues quietly underground, gathering strength in the ever-increasing daylight while pulsing, throbbing, and waiting to burst forth!

Margaret L. Been — January 4th, 2019

 

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I am encouraged to read the condolences and amazing memories concerning our 41st President, the late H. W. Bush.  This man was respected around the world.  Even Vladimir Putin contributed.  Both Presidents Bush have been special to me.

On the news broadcasts, I hear public figures who knew President H. W. recount their big memories.  Well I never personally knew the man, but I have a personal-type little memory of him—one which totally endears him to my heart.

Reportedly when in office President H. W. Bush was served broccoli, and said:  “I am the President of the United States and I should not have to eat broccoli.”

The courage to speak out is all too rare!  How wonderful to have a President touch a long time raw nerve in my life and inspire me to speak out against the groundswell of trendy (to me kind of STUPID) clap trap about hyper-nutrition.  Are veggies necessary?  Guess so, anyway that is why I have succumbed to the green things for all these decades, although it is often more fun to swallow my vitamin pill!

Enjoyable?  Well when someone raves on and on about the wonder of vegetables, I (while realizing I am not supposed to judge) am very tempted to doubt the veracity of the raver.

There are 2 vegies that I do like, no—LOVE!  Corn and sweet potatoes.  You can quickly spot the common denominator here:  SUGAR.  Sugar not only makes the medicine go down, it transforms my world.  My brilliant mother soon discovered that, back in the 1930s.  In the era of Pop-Eye, all mothers agreed that their kids needed SPINACH!  Always clued into the best for her children, Mom tried to get the cooked green gooey, yucky mess down my throat, to no avail.  I gagged.  I barfed.  I probably yelled!

But Mom had a trick up her sleeve:  bananas.  She mashed ripe bananas into the goo, and voilã, I ate it all—even though maple syrup or fudge sauce would have been even more welcome.

To this day, I love to shock the “trendy” people out there, by divulging that I tolerate most vegetables, merely tolerate, while sweet potatoes floating in maple syrup are high on my list of yums.  Actually, I do not mind RAW spinach—a very thin layer topped with mounds of meat (any kind but white chicken;  what is all this white chicken stuff about?), fattening Wisconsin cheeses and crumbled Feta, loads of sugared raspberries, cherry tomatoes (yikes, a veggie—but also a fruit), sugared or honeyed pecans, and Western Dressing® (the sweetest of the French).

It freaks me out to hear anyone (often youngish types) pontificate about nutrition as if they were the first to ever hear about it.  Anyone over 60 knows that we were raised with nutrition—a given, with food group charts in most every woman’s magazine, doctor’s office, and school.

We had our protein (meat was rationed during WW2—but Moms were creative with casseroles), dairy, fruit, whole grains, and yes veggies (green ones!) daily, plus SUGAR.  Homemade yeasty caramel rolls, fresh from the oven after school, and enjoyed before we went out to build snow forts until dinner time.  A sugary bedtime snack—cookies, or if we were really hungry, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the jelly running down our arms.

All summer long, we drank real COCA COLA®—the sticky sweet kind that was also used to clean greasy engines.  We loved it, had no idea that there was anything wrong with it—and maybe it helped to clean out our insides!  All summer long we consumed ice cream bars, hot fudge sundaes, or root beer floats between those perfect, nutrition-chart meals.  And we were blessed with healthy bodies.  No McDonald’s, no eternal bags of potato chips, but lots of SUGAR!*

Thank you for reading!  And thanks for President H. W. Bush for protesting broccoli!  I am guessing he may have grown up with some wonderful desserts, and real COCA COLA®, as well.

Meanwhile, good people are still recognized—for big and little things.

Margaret L. Been  —  December 3rd, 2018

*Note:  The trendy nutrition crowd is also death on fake sugar, the alternative to the “much-maligned” real sugar.  In other words, some would eschew anything sweet altogether!  Yikes!  Mary Poppins would have taken issue with that, and so do I.

My father used fake sugar in his coffee for the rest of his life, once the stuff was available.  At the same time, he continued with the real thing— never passing up a dessert* (sometimes 2 helpings!) and scarfing down a frequent supply of pure maple sugar leaf candy.  (My passion, as well.) 

I remember Dad as being a happy, healthy man!  But what do I know?  Dad only lived to be 102.  MLB

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Hopping around on one leg is teaching me so much.  Actually it is the LORD Who is teaching me, opening up for me the huge world of people who have overcome physical (and mental) challenges and have lived amazingly creative lives.

I am streaming the world’s greatest music, nearly 24/7, from my I-phone or I-pad through a beautiful pair of speakers—one of which is right beside my ear on the little sofa where I spend all of my nights and much of the days.  Last night I added some fine Christmas music to my library of albums via this wonderful technology—and played the Christmas albums already on my devices.

Among the existing albums is a Christmas one by Andrea Bocelli, the Italian tenor.  (Bocelli’s rendition of THE LORD’S PRAYER on this album defies description.  You need to hear it for yourself.)  While “shopping” for additional albums, my fingers stumbled on many more by Andrea Bocelli—some of them opera.

Because I love Italian opera, I added some of these to “My Music” via Amazon, and I am astounded!  He is not Pavarotti, but Bocelli is perfect in his own right.  Curiosity prevailed, and I GOOGLED “Andrea Bocelli” to learn more about this man.  What I found on Wikipedia leveled me to tears, and will continue to inspire me forever.

Bocelli was born to a family in Italy.  His parents had been advised by doctors to abort the pregnancy as it was apparent there would be something amiss with this child.  His parents refused abortion, and Andrea was born in 1958.  Almost immediately problems with vision were recognized, and a diagnosis of congenital glaucoma followed.

Music was a great passion and comfort to Bocelli, from early on.  At age 6, he began playing musical instruments.  Wikipedia states that “By age 7 he was able to recognize the famous voices of the time and tried to emulate the great singers.”

At age 12, Andrea Bocelli became totally blind.  He was playing goalkeeper during a football* match, and was hit in an eye, resulting in a brain hemorrhage.  Yet Bocelli persisted in the study of music, performing, entering contests etc.  He studied law at the University of Pisa where he performed at piano bars in the evening to earn money.  After finishing law school, Bocelli spent a year as a court appointed lawyer—but soon after, his music career took over.  He was encouraged and promoted by the great Luciano Pavarotti.

His opera training gave Andrea Bocelli a depth and resonance which adds dimension to his pop genre music.  In addition to singing, Bocelli composes.  For fun I checked his website which lists the tenor’s pending engagements; they are in many countries—and he is beloved around the world.

All because an Italian couple refused to abort their child.  All because that child was born with the God-given GIFT OF MUSIC—and because that child had the will, perseverance, and self-discipline to develop his GIFT, for the immeasurable blessing of music lovers everywhere.

I have been tremendously blessed by learning more about Andrea Bocelli, and adding more of his albums to my APPLE devices.  There is so much to learn, if we only take the time.

Margaret L. Been  —  November 25th, 2018

*I ran this information through my husband, Joe, who is extremely knowledgeable in an area about which I know hardly anything:  SPORTS.  Joe commented that in Italy “football” probably means soccer. 

 

 

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There are definite benefits when being physically “on hold” while a broken femur heals.  Time to immerse oneself in hours of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Chopin, Mozart, and the contemporary poetic piano renderings of George Winston.

Time to savor every beautiful moment, and the people who fill my days.  Time to refresh my soul, and hopefully never forget the message continually being programmed into mind and heart:  SLOW DOWN!

My mother was a treasure trove of wise sayings, many of which you undoubtedly know:  “Haste makes waste”; Look before you leap”, etc. 

And one of our young grandsons, inspired by fables that were read to him, went around pontificating “Slow and ‘teddy’ wins the race”—“teddy” being his version of “steady”.  (This grandson is now CEO of a restaurant chain,  “Slow and ‘teddy’ ” evidently served him well!)

Just for fun I GOOGLED “Wise sayings about slowing down” and came up with a treasure trove of my own.  Here are a few:

“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”  Abraham Lincoln

“For fast action relief, try slowing down.”  Lily Tomlin

“Wisely and slow.  They stumble that walk fast.”  Shakespeare, ROMEO AND JULIET

“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”  John Wayne

Scripture contains the most and the best of wisdom concerning lifestyle, summed up in Ephesians 5:15:  “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise . . . .”

Much as I like to think I’m the relaxed, meditative type, my family tells me I am also a “doer”—and it seems they are right.  I love to work, and I love order.  When a job needs doing, the thought of procrastinating is anathema. 

This is all very lovely, until the day when “doing” is not an option.  Then the relaxed, meditative aspect has to kick in as a matter of survival.  To maintain balance—even when “normal”, I have a wise saying that never fails to promote perspective:  “The only finished work on earth is what Jesus did.”  

Meanwhile, “Slow and ‘teddy’ wins the race.”

Margaret L. Been — November 23, 2018

Note:  The above turtle is a long-ago grade school art project rendered by our son Karl, when he was seven years old.  The “pinched turtle” is surrounded by other mementoes, spanning decades of the children in my life.

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Wisconsin natives have no illusions about the weather outside, and we should certainly not be surprised by inner weather changes as well!  The above digitally altered photo of our river in our years ago up north home shows the next thoroughly predictable November weather development–due to land tomorrow, just outside our patio door in Southern Wisconsin.

My inner weather change is due to a complication following last summer’s hip replacement:  a femur in that leg which was silly enough to tear itself away from the prothesis, creating all sorts of unpleasantness.  The subsequent second surgery wasn’t all that much fun, but hey–with 4 weeks left of a 6 weeks no walking sentence (expect for hopping on the good foot, via a walker) I am having FUN.

In our living room we have a roomy sofa, and a compact one.  For this one leg duration, Joe and I are sleeping on the living room sofas–large and small.  Joe has always loved sofa sleeping and often has retreated to it when his restless legs tire of thrashing on our bed.

For me, while recuperating, the small sofa presents a special world.  Next to the sofa are 2 small tables and space beneath, all of which contain my current life:  Bible and notebook, books in progress, art books, mixed media art supplies and papers, letter writing needs, knitting projects, a space for the ubiquitous coffee and diet ginger ale, cosmetics and primping paraphernalia, a mirror–of course I am no longer (never was!) fairest of them all, but only the wicked witch would care about that and I don’t want to be anything like her.

Also sofa-side, my I-phone (source of frequent enjoyment including Amazon Priming) and my I-pad for news, French lessons, and–along with a lot more–the PBS Passport App with its world of science, history, amazing documentaries, and fantastic fiction (where I am currently engrossed in a review of the convoluted plots and subplots at DOWNTON ABBEY).

If that were not enough, I have on my I-pad 2 wonderful British art magazines with monthly additions and the capacity to read several years of back issues.  The artist in me is continually fed by these publications and my art books.

Along with these percs, both I-pad and phone connect me to the greatest music of Western Civilization, streamed through 2 fine speakers in our living room.  At the moment, Van Cliburn’s recordings of Rachmaninoff and Grieg top the list of my very most beloved.  There is something about PIANO, and in my estimation Van Cliburn’s was (and remains) the most passionate and earth shaking of all!

And, as of today, my laptop.  Oddly, I have never thought of this appliance as a portable friend.  But it has dawned on me (DUH!) that the word “laptop” means something.  Now I am putting it to use.  It has taken its place as a part of my sofa home rehab center.

If there is anything of depth to share with you in all these mundane details it is this:  I refuse to feel sorry for myself.  It would be sin to do so,  I am delighted with the people in my life (a family of 53 immediate members counting generations–no cousins, etc.) and the fact that I am as comfortable as possible in our lovely warm home, with plenty of excitement at hand.

And now a typical Wisconsin November weather promise.  Snow tomorrow.  In general, we are a hardy lot here–descended from brave pioneers.  Life is all about different kinds of weather–indoors and out.

Margaret L. Been — November 8th, 2018

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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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