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Posts Tagged ‘Home’

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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Magen David

You know you are maturing when people start saying, “You have sure seen a lot of changes in your lifetime!”  I’ve not experienced as much change as my Dad did; he lived from 1896 to 1998, and throughout his lifetime he maintained a fervent interest in new inventions and rapidly expanding technology.  He would have LOVED this current cyber-age—especially the phone/cameras as photography was one of his many passions.

Of all the changes I can recall, perhaps the one I find most astounding is the research and discoveries wrapped up in three letters:  DNA.  What follows in this entry may be so boring to so many readers, that I seriously doubt it will get many “hits”.  Nonetheless, since it is of interest to me, I will continue:

I grew up in a genealogy-conscious family.*  My Mom and my maternal Grandma Kate did extensive research on their Scottish Covenant heritage.  They were descended from Campbells of Argyll and Luckeys from the Scottish Borders—sent by the English Crown to colonize Northern Ireland and make it Protestant.  Those Scots-Irish came to the new world in the late 1600s.

My paternal grandfather’s ancestors came from Switzerland in the early 1700s, and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in that German speaking community known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”.  My paternal grandmother Rose’s people escaped religious discrimination in Alsace-Lorraine, and migrated to Michigan in the mid 1800s.

So I grew up with basically 4-5 nationalities to claim pertaining to the surnames we have on record:  Scottish Celts,  probably some real Celtic Irish, German Swiss, and ancestors from Alsace-Lorraine—-with a combination of German and French given the surnames we have on record.

Then there was an undocumented report—that we also had a Jewish heritage, via my Grandma Rose.  Over the years I have cherished this “rumor”, as the Jewish people and (since 1948) the Israeli nation are among my greatest loves.

Even though Joe records our TV news broadcasts each day so that we don’t have to sit through commercials, I couldn’t miss the Ancestry.com ads that raced through our fast-forwarding act.  I ultimately succumbed, ordered the “spit tube”, and mailed a token of my origins to Utah.**  The results nearly blew me away, and have given me a new and refreshing outlook on who I am!

Some insight into the mystery:  Every person’s DNA is unique, and no other human on earth will have the same EXCEPT in the case of identical twins.  If two people are hatched out of the same egg, then as I understand it their DNA will match.  (Proof of how a Master Designer fashioned each egg to be special!)

There are subtle differences between DNA and genealogy.  Genealogy tells us where our people came from.  DNA tells us what is in each person, regardless of what they may or may not know about their ancestors’ countries of origin. 

(Please, if you are a scientist reading this blog, set me—along with other readers—straight if I am incorrect!  My majors were English literature and the French language.  Period.)

Back to my spit test.  The results amazed me on several points.  The expected Scottish Celt simply is not present.  In its place is 13% Viking!***  Now we all know that the Vikings invaded Scotland during the 8th and 9th centuries.  But it wasn’t all rape and pillage.  Some of those feisty blondes and redheads stayed in Scotland to do a number on my Argyll Campbells.  My Mom and Grandma Kate may have had lots of Scottish Celt DNA.  I have none. 

But I have a very good percentage of Irish Celt:  nearly 1/4th of my total DNA.  So the Protestant Northern Scots-Irish paired up with Green Irish either over there or in America.  Having read volumes of documentary on the beleaguered history of the Green Irish, I am delighted to stand with them—albeit as a fundamentalist/Evangelical Protestant.

There is a small amount of English in my DNA as well; I had thought there might be more, due to the plethora of English names which married into the Campbells and Luckeys.  One never knows!

In the DNA report, my paternal German Swiss, German, and French are lumped into one category:  Western European.  In my case this comprises a whopping 39%.  That was predictable.

Now the surprises, the unknowns that have proved my $99.00 Spit Kit investment really exciting and worthwhile:  13% Greek or Italian (where in the world did THAT come from—I LOVE it!) and (are you ready for this, dear reader?) 1% European Jewish.****

How encouraging!  That 1% is not a huge number, but to me it is significant.  The way I understand DNA, even with a small percentage of Jewish I could have had a Jewish great-grandmother, and my father may have had a large amount of Jewish DNA.

Where in the world is this going?  Right back to the photo at the top of the page.  I ordered my Magen David treasure via AMAZON PRIME, before I realized I could actually claim this heritage.  I love God’s chosen people, the Jews.  That’s reason enough to joyfully display the Blue and White on our garage entrance—along with our Stars and Stripes!  And now I have that 1% provenance of shared kinship!

My Superman Joe mounted the Magen David for me, on Resurrection Day weekend!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

*Interest in genealogy is a big Wisconsin thing.  We natives tend to say, “I’m Irish” or “I’m Whatever”—as if we had just landed on American soil, specifically on our beloved Wisconsin turf.

**A note on the spit test.  If you are inclined to pursue this adventure, remember not to eat, drink, chew, or inhale anything for at least an hour before spitting into the tube.  I didn’t read my directions carefully, and did the test along with my ubiquitous cup of strong coffee which polluted the sample.  (It might have tested out 100% caffeine.)  Anyway, Ancestry.com kindly sent me a new tube, free of additional charge. 

***In our household, that percentage of Viking is a bit of a hoot.  My husband is extremely (and rightfully!) proud of his Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish roots.  The fact that I share these roots is an eye-roller!  

****European Jewish, otherwise known as The Ashkenazim, refers to Jewish people dispersed from their homeland in the Middle East and scattered over Europe during centuries of persecution.

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I’ve always celebrated vintage, old, torn, tattered, rusted, and falling apart in home furnishings.  To me, the timeworn look represents high end elegance due to that priceless mystique of memories and stories.  In the case of inherited treasures, we sentimentalists frequently think of the people who formerly enjoyed the object in hand.  And when we decorate with stuff culled from a rummage sale, antique shop, or curbside, we fondly remember the occasion of the outing:  whom we were with that day, what the weather was like, and where we had lunch. 

The timeworn look involves putting stuff in a manner that no one else ever will be able to achieve.  Those of use who love to rummage and decorate our homes will always have different and unique material with which to work.  Many found and inherited treasures go into our definition of home elegance. 

I cannot resist a derelict screen.  Two are pictured above on our patio.  I find these for a few cents at garage sales, or waiting for the garbage truck by the side of the road.  They provide slow-lane ambience in an era of sterile aluminum or plastic window treatment with oppressively shiny surfaces. 

Another passion is derelict chairs, like the above patio rocker, decked out in a garage sale basket loaded with pine cones gleaned from beneath a nearby, generous tree.  Of chipped and scruffy chairs we have many—and they are frequently a curbside blessing, as well. 

I also love rust.  At the end of our patio lounge (where I read and watch clouds all summer) sits a cast iron stove—another rummage sale treasure.  The stove stays out in all seasons, getting rustier and more beautiful with each passing year.  A deer skull with antlers, found in our northern acres, tops the stove.  Visiting friends unearthed the skull while we were hiking on our land.  I thought they should take it home with them, but alas (happiness, for us!) a polished white deer skull and antlers simply “wouldn’t go” with their suburban home decor.

Also, in the above photo, you will see yet another screen, plus some of my vintage coffee pots and favorite rocks.

Indoors our favorite table decor includes fresh flowers, rocks, pinecones, nuts, and shells.  A mirror tray, originally intended for perfume bottles on a dressing table, accents this shell collection along with glassware reminiscent of the sea.  Glass bottles—old and new, clear or clouded by age and stress—are way up on our list of decorative favorites.

If you study the above picture closely, you will see a tear in the upholstery on one of our sofa cushions.  This tear is very precious to us.  Every day, our Dylan gets a doggie cookie after his morning walk.  If we forget to give him the cookie, you can be sure we are quickly and efficiently reminded of our error.  Immediately on receiving his cookie, Dylan goes from place to place—burying his treasure, then digging it up and moving it to another spot. 

The cookie may go to our bed, then to my knitting basket, then to beneath the drapes on the floor, or to our living room sofa—where Dylan sticks it behind a pillow or underneath a cushion, before removing the cookie to still another hiding place.  The scratchie mark denotes Dylan’s great effort, exerted in his primal instinct to bury and preserve his food.  Many days later, the cookie might be unburied and eaten.  Obviously we have doggie cookies hidden all over the place here, continually. 

Although cleanliness and the aesthetics of order are tremendously important to us, Joe and I do not care a hoot about “mint condition” furniture.  Since we love the marks of happy and robust living, we find the look of new furniture perfection to be sterile and sadly bereft of soul.*  The “Dylan scratch” is one of my very favorite decorative features.  If we ever feel a need to replace the sofa for comfort’s sake, that treasured cushion will still have a place of honor somewhere in our home—as Baby Dylan will always have prime time in our hearts!

A well-appointed home is one where family members relax, rejoice, and do those things they love best.  Fiber art is one of those things I love best.  Some condo owners would have used this counter and the space beneath it for a food bar with stools.  I’m fairly sure the designer had that in mind, but what did he (or she) know about living to the hilt?  Not much, in my book!

Our “snack bar” is home to knitting needles, photos, teapots, curing homemade soap, and plants.  The area beneath is part of my fiber arts studio, with my largest spinning wheel tucked in amongst baskets of fluffy unspun wool plus my handspun yarn—overhung by funky garments and more handspun yarn, just a few of the many products from over three decades of a fiber arts’ cottage industry.  Beyond the “snack bar” fiber studio is our kitchen.  But that’s another photo trip, for another day!  🙂

In closing, you will see my bedside stand pictured below.  Every evening, this aging stool holds a soy milk chai on ice which Joe mixes for me at bedtime.  (We get bulk mailings of chai powder—in spice, vanilla, and chocolate flavors—ordered online for just a smidge over 1/2 the price of the BIG TRAIN® brand in stores, with FREE DELIVERY!  Try to beat that!)

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*I frequently find kindred spirited homes in English decorating magazines.  How refreshing to linger over pages of centuries-old dwellings, tastefully furnished with handsome, tattered upholstered sofas and chairs—replete with sleeping dogs!  The Brits featured in these magazine have their priorities straight!  Dogs should always take precedence over the condition of one’s living room sofa, or even one’s bed!

If you look carefully, you’ll see the cookie in Dylan’s mouth!  In this picture, taken two years ago, he hadn’t yet decided where to bury his treasure.  MLB

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