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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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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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I frequently meet for lunch with friends from high school; now we are talking about friendships of 60 plus years!  Old friends are comforting and comfortable.  One never needs explain oneself to old friends.  They know who you are.  They know who your parents were.  They recall your youthful endeavors and dreams.  If you’ve kept in touch with old friends as I have, they’ve tracked with you over the years.  They still know who you are today!

New friends are delightful as well.  Often they come from different locales and family backgrounds. New friends share our interests while widening our perspective and understanding of other places and traditions.

My wise mother once said, “Throughout the years you will have a variety of friends.  Each one will be unique in a special way.”

How true!  I have a friend who shares my love for gardens, rummaging, and English cottage decor—and another friend with whom I could literally spend a long day into the evening, discussing books and films:  not only the plots or subjects of books and films but the characterization, character development, character changes, psychological overtones and undercurrents, humor and pathos, irony and subtle innuendoes, historical significance, literary allusions, and metaphorical content.

I have friends who share my love for God’s Word, friends who are fellow fans of dogs and cats, friends who identify with my passion for nature and the out-of-doors, kindred poet-friends who savor gathering for a morning of reading aloud, friends who entertain me with tales of their travels, knitting friends, spinning friends, music-loving friends, friends who relish meeting for a day of making art, friends who share my passion for Israel and Ireland, friends with whom I can laugh, and friends with whom I can cry. 

A friend is one who knows your heart, and encourages you in those creative pursuits which mean the most to you.  A friend is never sarcastic.  A friend desires what is best for you, and responds accordingly in actions and speech.   

Daily I pray that I can always be a friend!  🙂

©2011, Margaret L. Been

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My friend Karen and I visit a lot on the phone.  Such a nice old-fashioned means of communication!  In fact, the only communication venues that can compare with a congenial phone chat are:  a face to face visit and a real letter via USPS.  Karen and I enjoy these as well. 

Karen and I catch up on our family events, and we chat about gracious, homey things such as our gardens* and our home decor.  Both of us relish an occasional afternoon spent in antique malls on rainy days, and on the local rummage sale circuits when the weather is fair.  We collect all and everything that catches the eye, warms the heart, and can be obtained at a bargain price—and we love to share the news of our latest finds.

Yesterday Karen and I were talking about how we love to be at home—baking, scrubbing, dusting, rearranging, and creating vignettes of beauty around the home.  We never tire of our homes, and neither of us looks at homemaking as a chore, but rather a supreme privilege. 

Being a keeper at home—along with nurturing a family—is the most creative occupation on earth.  Our loved ones flourish in an environment that is relaxing, delightful, fun, and (in my case) funky.  People love to visit a home where the lady of the house is fulfilled and happy.  Words need not be spoken, as the atmosphere says it all!  Home is an artist’s canvas.  When the artist is contented the home exudes beauty, originality, and joy! 

Nearly forty years ago our son Eric—14 years old at that time—made a classic statement which makes me smile to this day.  Eric said (with the characteristic fondness that mellow sons have for their mothers), “Mom, you are such a homey simpleton!”

I realized that the statement, from Eric’s perspective, was a tremendous compliment.  He knew that I was in euphoria at home:  arranging vignettes of beauty, reading old books, watering houseplants, raising cats and dogs, baking bread, and stirring up huge pots of chili for Eric and our other children to share with their friends.

After I finished laughing about Eric’s loving apprisal all those years ago, I explained to him that a “simpleton” was the classic town idiot of folklore and fairy tales.  I still chuckle today when I think of it!  But maybe it’s no joke!  The “world” does view those of us who love to be at home as “simpletons”.

Homey simpleton indeed!  The best job description on earth!  How could anyone want to be anything else?  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*Karen is a master gardener whose gardens, in the city of Waukesha, are unlike any I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Walking through her paths is like a trip to England. 

If all goes as planned, photos of Karen’s gardens will be featured on Northern Reflections in a few weeks.  Things are just beginning to get revved up around here, gardenwise.

And finally, below you will see some of the main reasons why HOME is so wonderful!  This photo was taken at a family member’s home—but these treasures visit us a lot.  We are all at HOME at each other’s homes!  🙂

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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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my-beautiful-mother

When I was very young, she showed me how to feed day-old orphaned kittens from a medicine dropper.  She taught me to walk quietly, watching for wildflowers and listening for birds.

Mother valued integrity over comfort, and never betrayed the confidences of her family members or friends.  She ignored pettiness, and refused to react to crass people skilled in the “art” of dispensing insults.

Her chin was high but not arrogant, chiseled but not cold.  Her pleasantly mild outward appearance caused unthinking observers to believe she was pliable and soft. 

But anyone with discernment realized that her keen, penetrating mind commanded a backbone of unflinching steel.  She despised gushy sentimentality, and reserved her displays of affection for people she loved.

Of Celtic descent, Mother loved most things Scottish:  the diligence, thrift, reserved attitude, and bagpipes–but not the whiskey.  She had no use for that. 

She was a classical musician.  Her piano refrains are emblazoned in my soul, where the magnificence of Mozart and poignancy of Chopin will endure forever.  I cherish my legacy of Mother’s antique poetry books.  I think of her as I gather armloads of lilacs and let their heady fragrance brush my face.

Although some of the people she loved didn’t know a finger bowl from a flower pot, Mother valued social graces and lovely deportment as marks of consideration for others.  She schooled me in walking with a book on my head (to improve my posture), chewing with my mouth closed, and setting dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table with the designs facing the person dining.  She taught me to use my forks from the outside in–salad, main course, dessert.  She tried to teach me not to talk too much, too often, or too fast.

Despite my love for running barefoot in summer, despite my scruffy knees scabbed over from numerous roller skating spills, despite the fact that I spent much of my girlhood climbing trees, Mother managed to infuse me with her passion for elegant frocks, dressy hats, and gloves.

Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, Mother’s last years reflected the poise of her lifetime.  Not given to ranting and shrieking as some older people do, she sat smiling serenely beside the nurses’ station day after day.  She was dearly loved at the nursing home where she was known as “Ruthie”.  It was my privilege to do her laundry, hold her hand, and sing for her, as she had done for me for so many years.

As her time of dying approached, our youngest daughter and I spent her last two days at her bedside singing spirituals that she loved:  “Where, Oh Where Are the Hebrew Children?”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, and “I’m Going Home on a Cloud”.

At the age of 93, Mother went to live with a King.  Someday I’ll join them for supper!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  My Mother’s Day tribute appeared on this weblog a year ago, and I am repeating it.  I can’t imagine a better mom than the one God gave me!  MLB

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As evidenced in the above 1960 photo of our son Eric and me, I thoroughly savored my early years of mothering—work-filled days and occasional sleepless nights notwithstanding.  Our family was intact and centered at home.  Life was good. 

But drastic changes followed those years.  As our children grew. each child became his or her own person.  That is perfectly natural and desirable, and it teaches a parent to learn flexibility.  Life was still good, because LIFE IS GOOD.  But mothering became more complex as time passed.

The most challenging aspect of my life as a woman began in the late 1970s, when I became the “filling” in what has been aptly described as a SANDWICH—composed of elderly parents, my husband (who was always supportive and helpful), adult daughters, teen age sons, our 6th child, and grandchildren!  I loved my family members, and tried to give my best to each.

As is the case with many women I’ve known, the accelerated responsibilities came at a period when my physical body was losing energy FAST!  And that period of time included those years of family adversity, as referenced in my last posting. 

Sustained by God’s Grace and the realization that He never gives us more than He will enable us to handle, I managed.  Now I share my experience, in the hope of encouraging other women who may be the happy but exhausted filling in a SANDWICH today!

Fatigued, I often failed to perceive correctly.  In the early SANDWICH years there were times when I felt overwhelmed, and times when I was!  At first I felt that I could never meet all of the expectations of those I loved.  What I failed to understand was that many of these “expectations” were frequently my own ideas of what I should be and could do. 

Often I imagined that family members were needing or desiring more from me than I could produce, when actually they were notI kept berating myself for not being able to do and give more than humanly possible, and I lived in fear of not being able to give enough.  Perfectionist that I was, I was critical of myself

My release from false conceptions and an over-burdened sense of responsibility came at mid-life when I bogged down, healthwise.  A major surgery in 1983 involved months of healing, and caused me to realize that I could never be all things to all people.  I realized that if I didn’t stop trying to be Everybody’s Everything, I would end up being Nobody’s Anything!

From 1983 on, I no longer imagined that anyone expected more of me than I could produce.  The responsibilities were still there and I thrived in the midst of them.  People need responsibilities!  Those busy years were enjoyable and rewarding to the max!

Then as now, the grandchildren were the “frosting” on the sandwich—providing endless fun for Joe and me.  We were rejuvenated inside and out by our grandchildren, and we still are—with great-grandchildren added!

How thankful I am that I learned to weigh my priorities in light of reality, measure my days, and apply my heart to wisdom.  Blessings upon blessings have followed in the wake of my realization that only God is perfect.  In Him I am complete.  And best of all, no matter what happens He is in charge!  God and God alone is all things to all people, Everybody’s Everything!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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