Archive for the ‘Post a Day 2012’ Category

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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God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.  ~James M. Barrie


This is the last time, whispered sweetly,
leaning in, close to my ear
so that only I would hear.
This is the last time, make a memory.
And so I did: wrapped
up in September’s sunshine, kept
safe, a treasure, this simple act,

an expression of love so strong
my heart longs
to hold you back
even as you walk away from me
towards tomorrows I will not see.



There is a story behind this poem—aren’t there always? I considered telling it in this post but I think I will let this poem stand alone for a few days before I write about what prompted the poem in order to let it become what it will for whoever takes the time to read it. I like to make some of my poems a bit ambiguous as to their subject and just try to capture the emotions that surround the situation. Do you think I have managed that with this one? Who do you think whispered this in my ear? What was “the last time?”  Why are they walking away?

The picture I used to illustrate this poem is one I took of the sun shining on the leaves in the courtyard of my building in September of 2008 when we had stellar fall colors. I titled it September’s Sunshine and thought it would be a good companion for this poem.  It even illustrates this weeks photo challenge “Through” since the sun is shining through the leaves.

Thanks for reading…

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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

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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I’ve been under the weather—literally—lately. With the advent of this early spring comes changing weather fronts moving rapidly across my state as the spring rains come and go with the barometric pressure rising and falling on an almost daily basis, especially at night. For whatever reason, that means my chronic illness flares and my pain level rises to the point I cannot sleep well. In addition, spring brings seasonal allergies that exacerbate my asthma. In short, I’m a mess.


I finally caved and called the Doctor to ask for a renewal of the one-step up from my regular pain medication that I take when things get bad but getting back to my baseline isn’t coming as easily as it usually does. I waited too long to cry uncle… Hence very little writing is getting done.


So I decided I would make a very short post about the pick-me-up beverage I “invented” yesterday which was inspired by some Chai Masala (Indian Spiced Tea) I had last week. I added some Chinese Five Spices mix made by Tone to some strong iced coffee, sweetened it with half a teaspoon of Stevia, and poured in some 2% milk. Holy Cow! That was some seriously good stuff! Even better than the Chai Masala.  I had another glass today and it made my tongue smile and improved my mood considerably.


Try it!  I think you’ll like it!  And it’s lowfat!


Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn 


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Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
Sitting Bull

Spring has officially sprung. How do we know this? Because these little blue flowers (can anyone ID these little flowers?) popped up all over the yard and the daffodils bloomed at my Gr-son’s house in Edgerton, Sunday. I was hoping the Magnolia Tree would bloom while I was visiting but alas it was not to be. The high Sunday was 81*! In March! In Wisconsin!

Today is the first official day of spring. After an incredibly warm and dry not to mention positively pleasant winter, we have been having the warmest transition into spring I can remember in my nearly 60 years of living. Spring has not only sprung here in Wisconsin, it is breaking all kinds of records. The forecast high today was 81*, smashing the old record of 76* set in 1911. According to The Wisconsin State Journal, the high on the last official day of winter was “only” 73* but that’s because it rained. Prior to that we had five consecutive record breaking days.

One has to wonder what summer is going to be like if spring is beginning like this.

Spring in Edgerton, WI:

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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One reason I don’t suffer Writer’s Block is that I don’t wait on the muse, I summon it at need.
Piers Anthony

I haven’t been meeting the post a day challenge very well. <hanging my head in shame> So…one of my excuses is that I’ve been having a hard time finding quality time to write which is ridiculous on the face of it. I don’t have a full time job because of a disability. My days are mostly my own to do with as I please. I volunteer at the Madison Senior Center every day but that takes up an hour to an hour and a half at most. Finding time is obviously not the problem.

Every day when I turn on my PC I open up my word processing program to a blank page or something that is already in the works with good intentions of filling it up with words but somehow my day just seems to get frittered away with this and that and everything else. At the end of the day there’s very little on that page and some days, most days, there is nothing at all. What’s up with that?

I know that I am capable of producing from 5-6 pages a day—not that I want to devote that much of my time to writing these days but I’ve done it before and have written two books. So what’s the problem here? Why can’t I write? Yesterday I paid attention to what I was doing with my day and reflected on the times when I was actively writing. I realized that I’m not making the writing a priority. I let myself get distracted by too many other things that claim my attention and help me dither away the day.

So I made a vow. Starting today I will not do anything but write (and the dishes for when I need some thinking time) for the first two hours of the day after I’ve made coffee, brushed my teeth, brushed the sleep snarls out of my hair and washed my face. Good intentions…

When I turned on the computer and open up my “homepage” on FireFox, four tabs popped up. The Wisconsin State Journal, my web based Email start page which is National and International news, WordPress Freshly Pressed, and FaceBook. All four of them are HUGE time sucks. This morning I glanced at the headlines on WSJ and right away I saw an article on State Medicaid Reform that I wanted to read; I have 9 new emails; there were three new alerts on FaceBook; and of course, WordPress has a whole new crop of interesting blogs just begging to be read. There is simply no end to the things that fill up my time on the internet. No wonder I “can’t find time” to write.

Old habits die hard. I caught myself clicking on the article about Medicaid that I really “need” to read in the WSJ but stopped, forced myself to open up the online dictionary and thesaurus I use as well as my personal blog on WordPress and to firmly close all four of the other tabs that will entice me away from the writing. It was painful. At this hour of the morning (4:30 am) my brain and my fingers are barely functioning and I’m too used to waking them up with fascinating but useless trivia along with copious amounts of coffee and cigarettes.

Well that WSJ article on Medicaid probably isn’t useless trivia. I use Medicaid. I want to stay informed about what the Republicans are up to when it comes to “reforming” (read dismantling) the social programs in this state but whatever… If I had allowed myself to read that article I would have been off on a chase of other articles pertaining to Wisconsin state politics, dithering away the day.  

And then there are the household chores. Not that it’s all that hard to entice me away from housework but I do make my bed and do the dishes and try to get to a few of the myriad of other chores that simply must be done for me to feel at home in my own apartment every day. I just took a short break to think and went out to the kitchen the dishes. On the way I noticed I had made the bed but hadn’t tucked my pillows into their shams and the laundry cart is sitting over there full of laundry that I intend to do this morning. The dog who is not as early a riser as I am (thank goodness) will need to be walked soon. The kitchen floor needs vacuuming and mopped. And by the way, when I was washing my face and brushing my teeth, I noticed that the bathroom sink is in desperate need of cleaning.

It’s all too easy to get pulled away to do those things when my brain has decided to go on strike and the writing comes hard. Staying on task has been a major problem for me lately as well. I am easily distracted by whatever crosses my path at the moment. Not so hard this morning because I am trying to stay aware of what lures me away from the writing but without that attention to the present I might have wandered away from the keyboard to fill a bucket with hot water and pine sol and not come back for an hour or so if at all.

But hey, here it is 5:20 am and I almost have two pages written about my tendency to procrastinate when it comes to writing and I’m left wondering: Is this just another form of procrastination?


Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn  





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