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As the clouds grow thicker . . .

Sunday morning sky

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

Have you ever witnessed a crazier pre-election circus?  Has the world ever before seemed to be crowding in so quickly, closer and closer?

Have communications ever been more constant and all-encompassing—inescapable unless one stuffs his or her electronic devices in the back of a remote drawer and goes for a long, solitary walk?  Or even better—the very best of all—unless one plunges head first into the depths of God’s ever-faithful, ever beneficial Word!  God’s Word is the only place to go for rest, for comprehension, perspective, and power.  God’s Word not only mined daily, but stored as priceless treasure for instant, ongoing accessibility and application.

While the clouds grow thicker so does our call, as Christians, not only to share the Gospel of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—but to mirror His indwelling Life, so that the fruit of His Holy Spirit can be seen by all, everywhere we go!  In simple terms, we are called today just God’s people were instructed centuries ago:  to live the Christian life, as mandated in Galatians 5:22-23.

Not to rant and rave*  over all the things that are amiss (although, when watching the news I sometimes forget!)  Not to rend our clothes, Old Testament style.  Not to scream at those who are “out of line”.  And certainly not (even worse!) to scream at those who are in line.

The fruit of the Spirit is the genuine outworking of Christ’s life in us, the “hope” (sure-fire fact!) of glory.  Whatever we are doing as the fruit is displayed, and wherever we may be, will differ with each individual whom God calls.  As we focus on our Lord, He directs our whatever/wherever.  Our “Full time Christian Service” may be public (as in church, missions, or workplace) or private (as in home and/or friendship circles).  Both are equally valid and vital.  But fruit there must be, if our witness is to be effective.

I have blogged near-volumes on this topic, and God-willing I may continue to write more.  The issue is ever-green because (probably like every other believer, and definitely as Paul recorded in his letter to the Romans) I struggle with reflecting God’s fruit—even given prayer and immersion in His Word.  Patience (longsuffering) is a bit of a challenge for me; and as we all realize about the fruit of God’s Spirit—we cannot select.  We need to present the whole basket.

God knows His own.  If I bungle my witness, His own people will still be saved for Eternity; they haven’t lost a thing.  And when I refuse to relax and let Jesus display His fruit through me, I am nonetheless still saved for Eternity.  But I will have missed the here-and-now blessing that would have come had I been in sync with our Lord in that instance.

Margaret L. Been — March 21, 2016

*The most famous sermon in U.S. history is without a doubt, Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  God used this masterpiece (not only of Scripture truth but of literary construction) to pave the way for the movement of His Holy Spirit in an unprecedented revival on our continent. 

Did Jonathan Edwards shout, and rave?  No way.  His delivery was unremarkable, and it has been recorded that he actually read his sermons. 

It was God’s truth in this sermon, not the human vehicle, which set the course of American Christianity from the 1700s on.  In fact, had Edwards ranted and raved, his words may never have taken such a profound course.  The man might have attracted more attention than the message.  God chose a quiet-mannered man for the most spectacular movement of the Holy Spirit in our nation.

Although “Sinners” is the most famous of Edwards’ individual messages, it has been his sermons of joy-filled wonder at the magnificence and beauty of God that theologians (and everyday readers like me) have cherished, found edifying, and re-read again and again for rich spiritual food.  MLB

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lovers at a ball

Here we are (or I should say “were“)—Joe and I, obviously smitten with each other—at one of my High School formal dances in 1950.  Back then ordinary dresses were called “frocks”, and formals were called “gowns”.  Our life was romantic in the mid 20th Century, and our romance will always flourish.  After 61 plus years of marriage and countless joys and challenges, we are still smitten with each other.  And although currently my closet is void of actual formal gowns, it abounds in frocks which I love to wear.

Dressing with a flair for romance does not have to mean spending a lot of bucks (although it can).  Nor does it even begin to include the “Hollywood Glammy” look, worn by today’s female “stars” with their body parts falling out of the garments.  (In the 1940s and 50s, Hollywood gowns were truly glamorous.  Whatever happened to good taste?)

To me, romantic dressing is simply a matter of what (the colors, styles, and accessories I enjoy) as well as how (with the confidence that I am doing the best I can with what God has given me).  My mother’s classic advice will always ring in my ears:  “Fix yourself up every day (regarding personal hygiene, arrangement of hair, facial cosmetics, a lovely perfume or cologne, and the wearing of apparel) as best as you can.  Then just forget about yourself and have a good time!”  Wise Mom!

Of course there have been times over the years of child raising, when the recipe for looking my best hit the fan.  There were times of mucking out a sheep shed where I was less than cosmetically interesting.  But hey Mom, I was still having a good time!

Which brings me to an important aspect of romantic living:  the zest for living.  For me, God’s Grace through faith in the Lord Jesus has augmented that joie de vivre which has been a common thread running through my family of origin and my parents’ and grandparents’ families as well.  Somewhere back in the Scottish Highlands and the Swiss Alps there must have been some Campbells and Longeneckers who were having a good time.  Maybe they were partially “high on life” because of their hilly or mountainous locales, but here I am—not tremendously higher than sea level, and still “having a good time”.

A zest for living the romantic life translates to daily happiness for me.  Barring horrific circumstances (and the world is full of those!) happiness is a choice.  My  desire to live each day romantically, with a mind to providing a setting which nourishes my soul and that of others around me, is indeed a choice.  But I cannot recall ever wanting to choose differently.

Creating beautiful and useful objects is a huge factor in my romantic lifestyle.  I often wake up feeling less than physically fabulous.  HOWEVER  knowing that I have a garment in process on the knitting needles or a watercolor drying on the work table—or soap curing in the kitchen—serves better than cannon shot to get me out of bed, and almost as effectively as caffeine to sort me out—gimpy body notwithstanding.

Romance can be audible:  from outdoor sounds—wind, rain, birds, insects, coyotes, etc. to the music of man’s God-given creativity.  On a rainy afternoon I love to immerse my head and heart in arias and overtures from Verdi’s passionate operas.  I frequently play romantic old tunes—“As Time Goes By”, “Deep Purple”, etc.—on my piano as well as favorite classics and the haunting ballads from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and other 20th Century musicals.

Joe and I recently attended a fine production of LES MISERABLES at a local dinner theatre.  Fantine’s solo, “I Dreamed a Dream” is among the most poignant vocal narratives I’ve ever experienced—a recital of a clandestine, heartbreaking love affair.  The incredibly tender melody keeps rolling in my head.  I play a simplified piano arrangement of it, while adding interpretive arpeggios and random chords.  Most unforgettable music—whether jubilant, poignant, or just plain sad—will always contain something of the romance factor:  expressing my love for God, for my country or a person—or some statement of the human condition, replete with a life-affirming quality of beauty.

Thus I celebrate romance.  The word “romance” has meant many things to me over many years:  the love which my husband and I have shared since 1950, a love for beauty to inspire the eyes and ears while stirring the soul—and an appreciation for the many aspects of life which add roundness, firmness, tenderness, strength of mind, zest for living, and depth of awareness.

These aspects of romance and thereby human LIFE, are enhanced and perfected by the knowledge that all good gifts—material and sensory as well as spiritual and eternal—come from the one and only Triune God.  Praise Him!

Margaret L. Been, November 2014

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Bonhoeffer

I found the above gem (pictured on top of the greatest book of all!) in our up north home where we recently vacationed for ten days.  Our northern home is the only place where I never take books, because so many of our books remained up there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin four plus years ago.  We brought some sixty-eight boxes of books down with us when we moved, and they are now mingling on our shelves alongside dozens more which we’ve purchased since 2009.  Electronic devices and gadgets will never replace books in my life!

Many of our books have a history of wherever I bought them—a bookstore, antique mall, online sources, library sales, or the quintessential Mother Lode Rummage Sale.  We have a lot of books bequeathed by family members.  With gift books, I can normally recall the donor.  But VOICES IN THE NIGHT is enigmatic because I cannot recall ever seeing it, until I found it lying on a living room table in our Northern Hill House.  Maybe an angel popped in and dropped the book off when no one was looking.

I scooped up that book, began reading it, brought it back home to Nashotah, and I have been re-reading and musing over it ever since.  German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived from 1906 to 1945.  Bonhoeffer vigorously opposed National Socialism and the anti-Semitism which insidiously brainwashed German culture via universities, writers, state sanctioned churches, and theorists—along with deliberate agitation among workers, community leaders, and finally the unconscionable politics and policies of Hitler’s Third Reich.

According to a sermon by Pastor John Luhmann posted on http://sovereignhopechurch.com/ :  “Bonhoeffer’s driving purpose was to be faithfully engaged with God and the world.  This sense of responsibility led him to play a prominent role in . . . . the conspiracy and assassination attempts against Hitler, involvements which would significantly shape his life as a disciple of Jesus Christ . . . .”

While sympathetic with the assassination plot, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned on the grounds of “subversions of armed forces”; he had discouraged young men from joining the military.  His two year incarceration culminated in his execution on April 9th, 1945—within earshot of advancing American troops who, just a few days later, liberated the very village where Dietrich Bonhoeffer died.

Bonhoeffer’s prison poems plus excerpts from letters to his fiancée, Maria, and his friend, Eberharde Bethge, reflect his deepest thoughts and feelings concerning his own life, his family and church, the value of freedom, and the possibility (finally turned probability) of his pending death.  All of the Bonhoeffer’s writings in this slim volume are powerful.  But the poem Nächtliche Stimmen (Voices in the Night) is classic in its poignant sense of despair over circumstances coupled with Bonhoeffer’s analysis of his role in an assassination plot.  In the poem, he asserts that he knows he is guilty before God, but he refuses to acknowledge guilt before man.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ends the poem with these words:  “. . . until our day dawns, we shall hold our ground.”

Other poems reveal the solidarity of Bonhoeffer’s faith in the Savior, along with his passion for and commitment to the Holy Bible.  As he realizes that death is fast approaching, he knows that through death he will finally be free!

VOICES IN THE NIGHT . . . The Prison Poems of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is translated by a British pastor, Edwin Robertson, who has invested decades in a study of Bonhoeffer’s life.  With each poem, the translator presents insights into the work—and historical documentary is also included in the book.  I cannot say enough about this treasure.  In fact, I really cannot say anything more because the book and the man who wrote the poems say it all!

While Hitler was not opposed to a watered-down version of once professing Christian churches, those members of German churches who did not compromise with the Nazi regime were called The Confessing Church.  These (including Roman Catholics and Protestants) remained firm in their doctrinal confession of faith; countless individuals were executed either in Nazi prisons—or in the gas chambers along with God’s chosen, the Jews.

I would be insulting the intelligence of anyone reading this blog, if I were to present a detailed account of the parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s and the United States of America in 2014.  The comparison is a colossal DUH to anyone whose brain is engaged!

Encroaching National Socialism, bleeding heart and out-of-touch academia, perverted morals, situation ethics, tolerance of Islam, rising anti-Semitism, and the erosion of our U.S. Constitution:  you connect the dots!  I believe the major dot-connector is the present, rampantly apostate, totally watered-down, once-Christian Church in America—and the ever-growing stigma against those of us who are fundamental Bible believers.

Our twenty-one year old grandson, Tyler, a student at Columbia International University (formerly Columbia Bible College) recently encouraged me greatly with the reminder that, down through history, persecution has always strengthened the Church of Jesus Christ.

May God send the cleansing, purifying wind of His Holy Spirit across our land to unite Christians in a return to the Word—and a joyous anticipation of the freedom we will have when we meet the Lord Jesus Christ face to face!  May we continue to “hold our ground”, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did in the perilous days of the Third Reich.

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

NOTE:  Along with the above-reviewed book, I recommend a powerful drama, THE BEAMS ARE CREAKING, by Douglas Anderson.  The play capsulizes the political issues of the day as viewed through Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends, while Dietrich was in the Nazi prison.  We saw this play over twenty years ago, presented by a small theatre group in Milwaukee.  The play ends with a soul-stirring performance of Martin Luther’s magnificent hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.


 

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Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Home of the Foxy Gentleman

I’m a year ’round lover of life, but the months from now through September tip the scale for me.  The above photo (titled “Home of the Foxy Gentleman” after the guy seated amongst the foxgloves, who fooled that stupid Jemina Puddleduck into letting him supervise her nest) shows one of many reasons why I love the seasons at hand.  Some other reasons are:  a deep tan on my body, soft breezes soughing, long days, short nights, and ice cream.  Of course ice cream can be had in all seasons, but it’s a lot more fun when it’s consumed outdoors!  (My opinion.)

Another BIG REASON for the tipped scale from now through Autumn is that Joe and I are now (a bit tardily this year) entering the RUMMAGE SEASON.  I think I hear clucking, snorting, and sneering from the crowd who believes that “downsizing” (HOW I DETEST THAT WORD!!!) is some kind of a spiritual exercise designated to win extra points.  Some can “downsize” graciously, and for valid reasons—while others say the word while rolling their eyes and aiming sanctimonius glances at Yours Truly!  Those “downsizers” are certain that I’m not in line for any points at all!  And I’m certain these misguided folks are missing out on the fun!!!  🙂

Having recently moved from a house (actually 2 houses) up north to a four-room condo Down Under (under Highway 10, not the Equator) Joe and I have found even more incentive to go rummaging.  We have MORE TIME without grass to mow, snow to blow, and garbage to escort to the town dump.  Bring on the YARD SALE signs and we are off and running.

So at the expense of clucks, snorts, and sneers (which fortunately I can’t really hear because I’m blogging on a computer not a phone) here is a picture of today’s bounty culled from a nearby small city—namely Waukesha, Wisconsin:

Rummage 5-24

Oh my!  A clump of birch trees which we’ll never need to water; a charming, mint condition McCoy pottery planter (“the real McCoy”, not one of those knock-offs); 6 ruby red Depression Glass mugs and 7 matching lunch plates with a measuring cup like those my Mother had; 2 pairs of sweet, girly toddler boots which should fit our great-granddaughter Mia next winter; a (tipped on its side) pewter covered bowl and 2 more ruby red mugs in front of the boots; a copper plated teakettle; a gorgeous orchid plant which—like the birch clump—I will never need to water; all flanked by a humungous acrylic painting (very beautiful!) supporting a vintage necklace with fake diamonds and pearls.  (At least I’m assuming the gems are fake.  Wow, if they are not!)

Behind the Yard Sale bounty is always the best part of the season—our live garden.  You are looking at creeping phlox, mertensia, and other treasures among the ubiquitous mint which will always assure me of having something green to look at.  From now through Autumn, that is.

Remember, we can’t take any of this with us!  That’s why we’re enjoying it now!!!  🙂

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Recently our daughter, Laura, shopped for upholstery fabric for her sofa.  Laura wanted a print which would incorporate the soft colors she loves, to accent the muted gold walls in her new home.  At her first stop, Laura was told emphatically that patterned fabrics are unavailable because they are “not in style”.  Only solid colors are “in”.

At the next store Laura was told that patterns were scarce, but the decorator/clerk was helpful and willing to look.  Amazingly, she came up with a print in a traditional design which contained all the colors Laura desired.  Both our daughter and the clerk were delighted! 

Since hearing Laura’s account of shopping for fabric I’ve been musing on the patternless trend in decorating.  Not only does a lack of pattern go against my grain—it seems totally unnatural.  Nature is full of patterns.  If we are observant we cannot look anywhere without seeing a variety of designs.  Even in vast expanses of sky and sea, patterns are evident in moving clouds and undulating waves.  And our personal lives overflow with patterns as well!

Not only do I love patterns, but I love to mix them up and feature them together in the smallest of areas.  How many patterns can you detect in the below photo?

In this room alone, I have counted at least twenty-two patterns—including those in furniture, throw rugs, table runners, decorative shawls, afghans, and pillows.  Not taken into consideration were the patterns in dishes on shelves and art on the walls. 

Quite obviously, eclectic decorating is (and nearly always has been) a dominating pattern in my life!  Back in the 1990s, I received so many comments (pros and cons) about my “style” that I recorded the following message on our telephone answering device:  “You have reached the Beens, and the headquarters of Outrageous Home Decor.” 

Unfortunately many callers failed to comprehend my funky brand of humor, and they registered rank confusion.  They just didn’t get it.  So we replaced that message with one that was thoroughly boring and “socially correct”.*

Returning to current decorating trends, there IS HOPE!  This week I went to TARGET, in search of towels for my bathroom.  We have two bathrooms in our condo:  a big one for Joe and and a sweet little one for me.  A private loo!  How wonderful is that?!!!  Having my own loo means it is ALL MINE, and I can decorate it however I wish.  At TARGET I found incredibly gorgeous towels in Southwestern-ish stripes of many colors. 

I bought several towels and wash cloths, and rejoiced all the way home with this amazing bounty for my bathroom which abounds in cowboy pictures, art reminiscent of New Mexico, photos of family members with horses, my Dad’s spurs, and glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles with a Western or Native American motif.  (Fondly, I call the loo my “Louis L’Amour bathroom”.)

I’ve been waiting for a grandson to come over during his school break, to paint the above described bathroom.  But hanging the new towels set an idea moving in my patterned brain.  Wouldn’t it be fun if . . . ? 

Below, you will see the fun (and funky) outcome of that idea:

When we moved here three plus years ago, the bathroom walls were already sponged with blotches of tan.  I added life to the room by charging the walls with blotches of vibrant color, plus a few of my favorite words. 

Having (just this morning!) added these fresh patterns, I guided my husband into the bathroom while instructing him to keep his eyes shut until we were in the room with the door shut for full effect.  Even in my wildest imagination, I wasn’t prepared for Joe’s response.  He broke into an immense grin and said, “That’s BEAUTIFUL!”

Then Joe added that instead of painting my bathroom we should keep my folk artsy walls this way, with the words and colorful blotches—while using the gallon of paint we’d purchased for my loo, for painting his den instead.  The paint is BRIGHT, BRIGHT RED!  That’s the result of nearly sixty years of happy marriage! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*We could only stand our generic, “socially correct” answering machine message for a very short time.  Finally we changed it to one that remains right up to this minute—and will remain:  “You have reached the LOVERS—Joe and Margaret Been.  Please leave a message, and have a great day!”

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At a recent social occasion, a young friend shared that she simply can’t stand the word “beige”.  She said it’s so “You know, beige!”  I agreed that “beige” is indeed a boring, generic word when one could qualify with something more colorful like “pale nutmeg”, “1/2 whole wheat,” or “overcooked chicken thigh”.

Anyway, I got to musing about words that I “can’t stand” (I say that instead of “hate” which my parents taught me never to say except when referring to major issues like war, disease, race discrimination, etc).  I came up with two words, and both of them begin with a preposition:  “update” and “downsize”. 

To me “update” is an unimaginative, harshly pedestrian word smacking of anything that would threaten to ratchet me from the 19th and 20th centuries where I felt at home, to the 21st where I live—although that hasn’t yet made a dent in me and I hope it never will!  And I knee-jerk even more, over that intimidating verb—“downsize”! 

Of course some downsizing is essential when it means moving from a large home to a smaller one (we’ve done that three times in thirty-two years—paring a bit here and there without diminishing our penchant for acquiring antiques and junk).  Lack of space is a valid reason to delete some of one’s stuff, to make more space for collecting at the other end!  Also, it makes sense to give our children and grandchildren some family heirlooms and perhaps some silver, china, or crystal—so we can see them enjoying these items before we depart. 

Obviously, when “things” or “clutter” become disorganized in a home—or when they prove burdensome and inordinately time consuming—then it’s good to take drastic action.  Also, we need to run an inventory if things are overly important in our lives.  We are never to idolize stuff! 

While appreciating these disclaimers, I pray Joe and I will never need to change our modus operandi!  I’ll continue to shout from the highest rooftop and scream from the highest mountain, “Bring on the stuff”.  You can downsize me when you lower me into my grave, because by then I’ll have left this earth for the best Home of all!  🙂 

The currently popular fad of downsizing may be partly due to that horrible contemporary lack of commodious attics in which to stash the extra detritus of bygone years.  What a loss to the human race and quality of living—although heating Victorian houses might not appeal to many of us. 

But I think the contemporary downsizing syndrome implies more than the lack of an attic.  Some late 20th century sterility has crept into the American pop mentality.  And by now, nearly thirteen years after the turn of the century (which to me will always mean from 1899 to 1900) our culture has degenerated full-throttle into the crazed concept that everything has to:  1) move fast, 2) be bio-degradable, and 3) be “easy” to maintain.

Those souls who simply cannot live with dust, rust, stains, or tatter, will definitely choose advancing into the 21st century—perhaps in tandem with some who can’t sit still or walk slowly, but rather need to be metaphorically catapulting from coast to coast with a brief lay-over in Minneapolis or Chicago. 

Fortunately, however, there are others who will always resist the latest trend.  We are those intrepid and dauntless anachronisms—suspended in time, while happily preserving the artifacts of other eras.  We anachronisms don’t care two hoots when our stuff gets dusty—although, because I enjoy the process, I actually dust (most) everything twice (or maybe three times) per year whether I need to or not! 

I love rust, the stains of antiquity (barring spilled food and dog messes), and tatters.  I do draw the line at mold, but only because I have a chronic sinus infection and asthma.

So while some may say (often a bit sanctimoniously, as if there were a “spiritual” aspect to downsizing) “I don’t do antiques shops and garage sales anymore”, my husband and I still hit them frequently whatever the season—antiques shops in winter and garage sales in summer.   (Remember, we live in Wisconsin.  That should explain the seasonal element.)

When we lived up north a woman came into our home, looked around, and made a classically caustic comment (get that alliteration—it’s the poet in me).  She said, “How can you do this to your children?”

Well, at least one granddaughter is very glad we are “doing this”!  Once again on this blog I quote our brilliant granddaughter, Alicia, who maintains:  “I know I can’t take anything with me.  That’s why I’m enjoying it all now!”

Above you will see a view in our current home which is much smaller than past digs, yet equally packed with fun and funky stuff—along with whatever heirlooms, china, silver, and crystal we haven’t yet given away. 

When it comes to plain old wonderful junk, and of course home grown art, the population is ever-increasing!  Our gardens and walls will vouch for that!  We are always “upsizing”!  I didn’t say “upscaling”—that would be stressful and no fun at all.  Just upsizing

Our rooms may diminish in numbers, but never in that overflowing variety of ambience loved by that unique breed of folks known as collectors!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012—yet fondly preserving slower years!

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