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Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Make a Memory

A few days ago I posted a poem titled Make a Memory and promised I would tell the story behind it. My sister-in-law, Tiz, asked me not to be too long about getting it up, especially after I told her that she and my brother, Mike are part of the story and Mike was a prime player in “the memory.”

Mike and Tiz live in Australia and last September, they visited us in Wisconsin for the very first time. I hadn’t seen my brother in far too many years and had never even met Tiz so this was a big occasion. A wonderful time was had by all but one incident stands out to me above all the others. It was a simple thing really but rich and very complex in meaning to me on several different levels.

We had gathered on the porch in the late afternoon just talking about this and that, enjoying each other’s company and my Gr-son Gabe was sort of lurking around the edges of the adults, listening to our conversation (I think we were discussing politics or something) and he had come up and leaned against me. I could see that he was trying to get closer but there was nowhere for him to sit so I invited him to sit on my lap.

Now Gabe had formed somewhat of a huge boy crush on my brother Mike and I had noticed he was trying to impress him so I wasn’t surprised when he informed me rather scornfully “I don’t sit on peoples’ laps anymore, Gramma.” To which I replied that I guessed he WAS getting a little too grown up for that but I sure wished I had known the last time he sat on my lap that it was going to be the last time. He asked me why and I said because I would have made a memory about it since I loved it so much when he sat on my lap when he was little.

At that point Mike chimed in with a comment about how important living in the present and being mindful of what is precious to you when you are with your loved ones is because you never know when the last time is going to be. We had a short discussion about that. That was probably the best–most meaningful–conversation Mike and I had that whole weekend. There was a whole lot that was left unspoken but was said nonetheless, in my opinion.

The conversation moved on and awhile later Gabe came up and nonchalantly sat on my lap. I didn’t say anything, just gave him a little hug but I knew what he was doing. After a few moments, he leaned in close and whispered in my ear “This is the last time, Gramma. Make a memory.” 

When they got home, Tiz sent me some pictures of their visit. One of them is the picture of Gabe and Daryn playing with some kangaroo boxer toys and there is Gabe, sitting on my lap. Occasionally I would look at that picture and think about sweet Gabe saying “This is the last time; make a memory” and think about writing a poem. Eventually that poem pretty much just wrote itself early one morning. I changed very little after the first draft. Mostly just line breaks and punctuation and one word.

So, Thanks Mike and Tiz.  You both helped make a special memory.

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.   
~Doug Larson

map of KoreaYesterday’s meeting with Jeong Sun/Alice was interesting and fun. I think we will fit well together but that is for her to decide at this point. My impression of her was that she is very intelligent, not really shy but somewhat reserved by American standards, soft-spoken, thoughtful, kind, and a very beautiful young woman.

It was not at all hard to get a conversation with her started which was good. She asked me questions too. In the past, I have had a hard time getting a conversation started with WESLI students. I chalked that up to a variety of reasons but primarily I think it probably was the fact that we were not a particularly good match because we could not find any mutual interests. I think I went through meeting four students before I met Mari, the Japanese woman who essentially became part of my family while she was here. I don’t think that will be a problem in this case.

She has a pretty good command of the English language, in my opinion. Pronunciation was off in a few cases—for instance she was trying to tell me her impression of the food at a local Korean restaurant and I didn’t understand what she meant until I realized she was trying to say the word salty as in the food was too salty.  She has good inflection and tone which is nice because sometimes people who have learned English in a foreign country sound really wooden when they speak. I didn’t notice any glaring mistakes at all.  But that’s exactly why she wants an English conversation partner—to correct minor errors in grammar and pronunciation.

I got a chance to ask all of my questions and then some so here are the answers:

 

Why did she choose the English name Alice? Does it have any special significance for her?

 

A friend chose this name for her. She wanted to use Roadie (I don’t know if I am spelling that right) because she thought it sounded funny. <grin> The girl has a sense of humor!

She was pleased that I was able to pronounce Jeong Sun properly. YAY me! I left the issue of whether to call her Alice or use her Korean name to another time.

She likes my name, Barbara, because the brushes she used to buy for painting in Korea were the brand name Barbara. She showed me how to write both of our names using the Korean alphabet and explained a little bit about the Korean alphabet to me.

 

Why did she come to the US and Wisconsin, in particular, to study English?

 

She wanted to travel and study so decided to learn English first. She came to Wisconsin because she heard that Wisconsin speakers have the best pronunciation with the least accent in the USA! She also heard that Madison was safest amongst the major cities with ESL schools. Finally, WESLI gave her a 10% discount on their tuition fees to entice her to come here.

 

How long has she been here? When will she go back to Korea?

 

She has been in the USA six months and this is the first time she has lived away from home. She’s not really homesick but she has had to learn how to take care of herself for the first time because her Mom did everything at home such as the cooking, cleaning and laundry. She thinks American children are much more independent than Korean children and was shocked when I told her that my daughter had gone to Germany when she was barely 18 and lived there for almost three years.

She is learning to cook Korean foods since her experience with the Korean restaurant was dis-satisfactory. I asked her about Kim chi and expressed an interest in trying it. She said that making Kim chi was something that required the skills of an older more experienced woman and she did not know how to make it. I told her that I had seen it in the stores here and would like to try it with her and she seemed pleased by that. She told me that Kim chi was like yogurt and had a lot of health benefits.

She has no plans to return to Korea and hopes to stay in the USA and pursue a new career. She was an Art Teacher in Korea but wants to go to some kind of technical school to learn new skills she can use here.

 

What does she like most and least about Madison?

 

She likes: Shopping at West Towne! State Street! The diversity of people she comes into contact with.

She said there wasn’t anything she really dislikes but said that it is very different from her home.

 

Does she have brothers and sisters? Are they older or younger than she is?

 

She has an older sister and a younger brother. Her father owns a small to medium sized factory that produces things like screws. He grew up in the country but relocated to Inchon as a young man. (I think that is what she said–I couldn’t quite understand this part because I don’t know how to pronounce Korean place names but she told me there was a big airport there and Inchon has an International Airport.  I asked her if it was near Seoul and she said yes.  Her eyes widened at that question but I’m not sure why.)  Her mother is a housewife.

 

Does she enjoy Korean Television Dramas and comedies?

 

Yes, but she thinks that they exaggerate emotions (I figured as much.  Those dramas really manipulate your emotions!) and she sometimes does not like the way they focus on “hot button” social issues because she thinks they make things seem worse than they really are. She thinks this is true for the news media as well and talked about how all the Korean news sites online seemed concerned about was traffic statistics on their site so they only told the bad news.  I told her that was true for America too and told her the old axiom of Newspapers “If it bleeds, it leads.” and tried to explain what that meant.  She seemed to get it just fine.

All in all I think we both enjoyed ourselves and we planned to meet again next Thursday at the same time and place.

 

 

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn  

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Tell St Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just gotta have another cigarette

~Willie Nelson Smoke!Smoke!Smoke!

They say that the first step in overcoming addicition is admitting that you are addicted and powerless over the substance of choice. Fine, I’m addicted to nicotine. Satisfied?

The problem is that I have no trouble at all admitting that I am addicted and the cigarettes control me more than I control them. The problem is that I’m not really unhappy with this situation. I like my cigarettes. I don’t want to quit smoking.

 Oh yeah, I KNOW I should. I’ve read and experienced all kinds of evidence for that. But I don’t wanna. And you can’t make me, so buzz off, please and thank you.

 

cigarettes, cigarillos

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn  

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The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Aristotle

Last week, a group of about 10 of us from The Capitol Center Apartments went on a little excursion (about 3 1/2 blocks) to visit one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department labs. TASS Matthew Piepenbrok and his students Kristine Karlen, Bao Thao, and Sean Everett gave us an exciting demonstration of glass blowing and patiently answered our questions. It was a lot of fun and very educational.  

The Universtiy of Wisconsin-Madison at the behest of Harvey Littleton was the first college to establish a glass blowing lab in the United States in the ’60s. Above is a view of the furnaces in the present-day lab.  There are four of them and they all have whimsical names because it is easier to tell someone to use Lucy than it is to say the second one from the left.  Lucy and Joe were the ones in use while we were there.


TASS Matthew Piepenbrok (pictured left) is studying to be a professor of art and if his presentation to our group is any indication, he’s going to be an excellent one. He’s a very engaging and personable young man with a great sense of humor and seems to have a profound love of teaching others about his craft.  Examples of his art work can be found at ARTQ.net

In this picture he is showing us the molten glass he has just poured into a cold mold from one of the furnaces. What a card! Wouldn’t it be fun to have a professor like this?


Here he is showing us the hollow stainless steel rod that the liquid glass will be “loaded” onto in preparation for blowing. It was very warm in this lab due to four furnaces that were keeping the molten glass at a temperature of around 2,400 to 2,000*.

The long sleeve on Matthew’s right arm is to protect him from burns as he loads up his glassblowing rod.  According to Matthew and his students glassblowing is a very risky business and not a day goes by when one of them doesn’t get burned as Bao Thao kindly demonstrated for us later in the session! They were very nonchalant about it, treating it as an ordinary part of their day in the lab although you could tell it hurt.

Above Matthew and Kristine Karlen are loading a glob of molten glass onto the rod. In the picture at the right, Matthew is showing us a closer view of the glass after a small amount of air has been blown into it. At right, he is using a pad made from many layers of newspaper to begin shaping the glass. Later on he showed us how the heat from the glass had burned through several layers. 

The whole time the glass is being worked the artist or glassmith must keep the rod turning in order for centrifugal force to keep the glass on the rod or gravity will take effect and the piece will slump and become disfigured.  That’s not so hard at this stage but as they continued to add glass, the piece became heavier and heavier.  We were given a sphere of cooled glass to examine and it is quite heavy. I’d guess between 10 and 15 pounds.

Little by little more molten glass is added to the piece and more air is blown in then more shaping is done to smooth the piece and achieve the desired size and contours. All the while the rod must be kept spinning to keep the glass attached to the rod. The work is painstaking and physically challenging.

The top picture  shows Matthew blowing more air into his  globe of glass. Bao Thao steps in to assist him and Matthew demonstrates other shaping tools glassmiths use to get the effects they want to produce.

Sean Everett steps in to become Matthew’s assistant and things begin to get very dramatic! 

Protruberances were added to the sphere by dropping globs of glass from a rod. To keep the glass at the right temperature, a propane torch was used. Melted glass started dripping onto the cement floor!

At this point they began to let gravity take effect and elongate the round sphere in preparation for the cold mold that had cooled by now to be attached to the piece. It took 3 people to manage that task! Clearly glass art of any complexity is a collaborative effort.

Bao Thao brushes excess sand from the attached cold mold while Kristine Karlen stands by with the propane torch in case heat is needed to keep the glass at the right temperature. The glass can break or crack at any moment if the right temperature is not maintained and in fact, did during this demonstration but fortunately not badly enough to ruin the whole thing so they would have to start all over.

The cold mold has now been attached to a solid stainless steel rod and Matthew, Sean, and Kristine detach the former sphere from the hollow rod. They will begin pulling and twisting the piece into a an elongated horn shape after adding some colored pigment.

Bao and Sean hold the tip of the horn while the piece is being turned and pulled to shape it.

Kristine applies some heat to the tip to refine the shape just before it goes into the cooling tank.  She looks wicked cool with that propane torch!

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
~Segal’s Law

Have a listen to The Steve Miller Band “Fly Like an Eagle”  One of the best songs of the 70s!

If you live in the USA have you set your clocks forward? Today is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. (Or is it the end? I can’t ever remember.) Try not to think about that too hard. It’s a ridiculous concept on the face of it in my opinion. All it really does is force employers to start the work day one hour later to allow their employees to  have more daylight left after work for recreation in the summer.

I have seven (!) clocks in my house and they are all set to a different time. Is that absurd or what?  The only one I really trust is the one on my PC. It gets its information from the official Atomic Clock maintained by the USA government.

There are two in the kitchen, one of them is on the coffee pot and is too small to read unless I am standing directly in front of it. I usually screw the time up on it when I wipe down the coffee pot to get fingerprints off the stainless  (yeah right) steel. I may or may not reset it depending on my mood or whether or not I want the coffee ready to drink the moment I wake up in the morning. Usually I don’t.

The one on the wall in the kitchen (see above)  insists on being consistently 10 minutes late and only 10 minutes late no matter how often I set it to the correct time. I’ve even tried setting it 10 minutes ahead so when it loses time it will be exactly right. Nope, it lost time until it was 10 minutes late and then it was satisfied. I gave up up fighting that fight years ago. One has to choose their battles and I refuse to fight with a machine that refuses to cooperate and is so obstinate. Be late, see if I care. If I really need to know exactly what time it is I will look on my PC. For timing baked goods it’s close enough. So there.

That clock won’t get set ahead until my son comes over and once again he will tell me it is exactly one hour and 10 minutes slow.  Then he will tell me I should buy a new clock for God’s sake.  I’ll tell him I’m attached to my stupid clock because it is exactly the same shade of blue as in the photograph that hangs below it.  It’s a yearly ritual.

My answering machine is in the living room and it has a clock. If I’d set it, it would tell me the date and time someone left a message. Personally I don’t care what time someone left a message or even what day. I rarely get  messages that are that important. In fact, I only remember to check for messages when the machine starts picking up after two rings instead of four. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to deal with phone calls period and I let the machine pick up and listen to see if I want to talk to that person but usually the phone that sits on my desk is handy so I pick up.

The phone on my desk that I got for Xmas would tell me the time if I bothered to set it too. I just tried to figure out how to do that without looking at the instruction book. It wasn’t intuitive so I gave up. I’m too lazy to dig out the instructions and besides, I don’t care.  It does all kinds of other fancy stuff too but I don’t care.  All I really want it to do is let me talk to the people I call and those who call me.  The rest of that stuff is really just a PITA. 

I also have a cell phone that has a clock on it. It was already set to the correct time when I got it.  That was downright nice of LG Electronics since I probably would have said screw it if I had had to set it. That one is kind of handy since I cannot wear a watch. For some unknown reason I kill watches. Wind up watches or digital battery operated watches, it doesn’t matter. Within weeks of getting them they die. Plus I’m allergic to metals so they give me a rash. I haven’t owned a wrist watch for 20 years. For awhile I carried a pocket watch in my purse or my jeans pocket. Then I sent it through the washer and dryer. Dead. <meh>

The alarm clock beside my bed is one minute behind the one on my PC. Close enough. One minute is not going to make or break any schedule I have and I rarely use the alarm clock to get up. My life is so pathetically boring that I almost never have anywhere to go that early in the morning but it’s handy to know what time I wake up so I can decide if I should actually stay out of bed after I visit the bathroom or crawl back under the covers and go back to sleep.  It has big red numbers that I can read without my glasses.  I reset it because I don’t want to get confused and decide I have plenty of time when I’m getting ready to go somewhere.  I use that clock a lot even though it’s a minute slow.

I used to have a VCR that had a clock. Handy if I wanted to record a program, I suppose but I never ever did and I never set that clock correctly either.  I just pushed enough buttons to make it stop blinking.  That blinking was annoying as hell.

I also had a microwave that had a clock. That one was actually handy too because it had a timer function that kept me from burning stuff when I was cooking. I miss that microwave—I forgot and left a spoon in a bowl of leftovers and blew it up. That was a spectacular kitchen mishap!  The microwave I replaced it with was a cheap used one. I wish it would die so I would have an excuse to get one with a clock on it.

When did we as a society become so obsessed with time that every appliance in the house has to have a clock on it? It is such a PITA when thunderstorms cause the electricity to flicker and all those clocks have to be reset.  Of course I don’t do that.  I only reset the clock in the bedroom.  The PC resets itself.  The obstinate clock on the kitchen wall is battery operated.  The rest can go hang fire for all I care. I wonder how many households are like mine with clocks all over the place that have different times on them and only one is actually correct.

 

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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To live in hearts we leave behind, Is not to die.
Thomas Campbell

I didn’t exactly make a New Year’s resolution to start writing in this blog again but I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  I really should; I have so much to say.  <hehehe> So here we are already three weeks into the New Year and a post is born.

My daughter was here last week and somehow we got onto the subject of how people who live here or their relatives dispose of their stuff when they leave to go into a assisted living, nursing home or the funeral parlor.  There are often this building’s version of a garage sale.  A notice is posted on the bulletin board that such and such an apartment is having a moving sale and the apartment is opened up for a couple of days for the browsers and bargain hunters.  Sometimes there is a notice that if you need something, come have a look see and it’s yours for the taking.

That’s how I got some bowls and plates my daughter was admiring (and that’s how this conversation got started).   That’s what I want to happen to my stuff when the time comes.  Not that I’m planning on going anywhere soon but when you get to my age and have the health problems I have, AND you live in a building where more than half the residents are Senior Citizens who are moving on to somewhere else with alarming frequency you think about these things.

So I told Kerryn that she and her brother should take what they want and give the rest of it away.  Of course that got us started on a walk down menory lane as we glanced around my apartment and she pointed out some things that had sentimental value to her.  That reminded me of the most important thing I have that belonged to my Grandmother.  My kids have heard the story about the nearly 100 year old bird of paradise milkweed pod I have carefully drug around with me since 1974 more than once but of course it doesn’t have as much significance for them as it does me because they didn’t really know my Gramma Della Hoyt Fate.  It makes me sad to think that after I go (aka die) that memento and the memories connected to it  will be lost.  She told me I should write the story down so it would survive me.  So here it is.

This is a picture of the milkweed pod my Gramma, Della Fate kept in her bedroom, hanging on her mirror.  It was picked on the property my Grandfather owned on the day he asked her to marry him so let’s do some math here.    Grandmother was 80 years old when she died in 1974 so that means she was born June 13, 1984.  She was 22 years old when she married my Grandfather and if I remember correctly,  they had a fairly long engagement–at least a year.  Probably two.  So this milkweed pod is at least 96 years old. It hangs on a picture of some Victorian Ladies in my bedroom.

That potholder is an example of some of the fancy crochet work my grandmother used to do.  I really regret not keeping one of the high heeled slippers she made in the ’60s and stiffened with some kind of starch so they would stand up. She made a lot of them and gave them away as gifts to the ladies in her Bible Study and Prayer group.  They were really cute but not exactly something this budding hippy was interested in.  She also made a lot of doilies and stuff.  For a long, long time time I had a purple and lavender flowered towel with crocheted lavender borders that she made for me as a young teen.  Those were my favorite colors at the time.  Eventually the towel wore out and the crocheting disintegrated.

But my favorite were her rag rugs.  In the summer she would sit out on what she called the North porch  (it was enclosed and essentially served as an additional room on the house for three seasons) and rip old dresses and remnants of fabric into long strips which she then sewed together on her old treadle machine (which I have) and rolled into huge balls.  (The north porch led to her front door and the South porch led to her back door but I always found that confusing because I think the North porch faced east and the South porch faced North.  <shrug>)  Then in the winter she used a giant crochet hook and turned them into rag rugs.  I used to help her with rolling those strips of fabric into balls.  My favorite memories of my Gramma take place on that porch.  I even had my own rocking chair there.

Here’s Barbra Streisand singing my favorite song about memories.  I love this song.  I’d like it played at my memorial service.

Memories, light the corners of my mind/ Misty watercolor memories/ of the way we were. Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind/ smiles we give to one another/ for the way we were. Can it be that it was all so simple then/ or has time rewritten every line?
The Way We Were Lyrics  Barbara Streisand

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The first line of this poem was shamelessly stolen from a coffee cup cozy at a famous name brand coffee shop a couple of years ago.  Should I mention their name?  Oh hell, why not give them credit.  StarBucks.  StarBucks on State Street near the University of Wisconsin to be exact.  I used to go there with my fella.  <grin>

I hereby dedicate these poems to Larry and Starbucks.  Larry knows the value of a good cup of coffee.

COFFEE (Fall)

Sometimes the coffee stirs ya’
makes ya’ rise up in the morning
a song on your lips, shouting hallelujah!
When it’s a a bag of fresh roasted beans
and you grind it yourself while
the sun rises favorably over the city;
when the brewing takes over every room
while you’re snuggling in bed with your fella.
Some days the October sky is that blue that thrills ya
and the colors have peaked in falls gaudy bloom
so you fill the house with the bright yellow fullness
of Sunflowers. Everything seems so full of promise!
Those are the days you don’t want to miss..
Sometimes the coffee just stirs ya’
Know what I mean?

Sometimes ya’ just stir the coffee…
You know, those days when you’re feeling glum
and it’s partly to mostly cloudy, hardly any sun.
It don’t matter how fresh the beans
might be or how strong you make your coffee
ain’t nothing gonna stir ya’
because today you’ve just got the blues.
The in-pile on your desk just gets bigger and bigger;
the daily news seems to portend the end
of time and you ain’t got a dime till pay day
and Honey, don’t you know, that’s a week away!
Your guy’s out of town; your best friend forever
ain’t talking to ya’ and you ain’t got a clue
what the hell’s tripping her trigger!
You’re feeling almighty low and downright awful!
Some days it’s all you can do to pick up a spoon
and keep on stirring the coffee.
Know what I mean?

COFFEE (Spring)

Sometimes the coffee stirs ya’
makes ya’ rise up in the morning
a song on your lips, shouting hallelujah!
When it’s a a bag of fresh roasted beans
and you grind it yourself while
the sun rises favorably over the city;
when the brewing takes over the house
while you’re snuggling in bed with your fella.
Some days the dandelions are so yellow they thrill ya
and the lilacs are in full bloom
so you fill every room with the smelly fullness
of their blossoms and everything seems full of promise.
Those are the days you don’t want to miss..
Sometimes the coffee just stirs ya’
Know what I mean?

Sometimes ya’ just stir the coffee…
You know, those days when you’re feeling glum
and it’s partly to mostly cloudy, hardly any sun.
It don’t matter how fresh the beans
might be or how strong you make your coffee
ain’t nothing gonna stir ya’
because today you’ve just got the blues.
The in-pile on your desk just gets bigger and bigger;
the daily news seems to portend the end
of time and you ain’t got a dime till pay day
and Honey, don’t you know, that’s a week away!
Your guy’s out of town; your best friend forever
ain’t talking to ya’ and you ain’t got a clue
what the hell’s tripping her trigger!
You’re feeling almighty low and downright awful!
Some days it’s all you can do to pick up a spoon
and keep on stirring the coffee.
Know what I mean?

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

I’m going to try and write a different version of this poem for every season.  I think this is one of the best pieces I have ever done.  Just my opinion.

I should start putting more of my stuff online.

B

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