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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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I’m excited because today I am meeting a Korean student from WESLI to see if we will be a fit as English conversation partners. Her Korean name is Jeong Sun (first and middle) but when she replied to my contact Email, me she told me her English name is Alice. She’s 27 years old.

I wonder if she chose an English name to make it easy for us Wisconsinites to talk to her or if she really prefers to use that name. If it is the former, I hope we can just drop it soon and use her Korean name because it is very pretty and I THINK I can pronounce it OK. I found the meaning of the name online. Jeong  means “virtuous and chaste.”  Sun means “goodness”

We’re meeting at the Fair Trade Coffee House on State Street which is a short walk from my house. I can’t remember the last time I went out for coffee so this will be a treat.

I’ve written up a list of questions I hope will be good conversation starters for this initial meeting. I’m curious about:

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

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

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

What does she like most and least about Madison?

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

Does she enjoy Korean Television Dramas and comedies? (This one is important because I am absolutely hooked on them and would like very much to find someone to watch them with me who understands the language and can explain the nuances that I think are there but don’t understand. They are subtitled so she doesn’t have to translate them for me. I just want her to explain the cultural things that are happening.)

My interest in Korean Dramas is what prompted me to contact WESLI and become a volunteer English conversation partner. I think they are wonderful morality tales and probably a reflection, albeit imperfect, of Korean culture just like American television is an imperfect reflection of American culture. On the other hand, the Korean television dramas are far better than anything I have seen lately on free American television. I don’t have cable so I may be missing some really good stuff on American TV but I doubt it if what is being talked about in the forums online is any indication.

So that’s my big event of the day. The week actually. Oh, and my daughter and son are both coming to see me this evening. We’re having a BLT salad and I am going to make them some of my spiced coffee. Sunday we’re having a family get together with everyone for my nephew, Greg’s birthday. He requested fried chicken and everyone in the family is super excited because we usually only fry chicken on the 4th of July because we’re all calorie and saturated fat conscious the rest of the year.

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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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I do have to earn a living, so I’m conscious of probable reactions from readers, but the most important one is still the awareness that if I’m not enjoying a story, the reader won’t either.
Thomas Perry

It’s really interesting, always educational, and sometimes amusing to check your blog statistics and note what gets the most hits on a blog. Up until recently, the two posts that got the most traffic on this blog were The Goblins will get Ya’! and Up, Up and Away! Maple Sugar Farm.

Both of them generate some traffic every day, often times the only traffic if I haven’t been posting. The James Whitcomb Riley poem, Little Orphan Annie quoted  in The Goblins will Get Ya! really resonates with people in a certain age group—MY age group. Around Halloween the hits really surge. People have a lot of fond memories of being read that poem as youngsters and have left comments about their 91 year old Moms or Grammas. In one case, a reader even posted a link of his mother reciting the poem. I’m really touched that people have shared their memories and gratified to know that that post has brought such pleasure to so many.

As for the Up Up and Away! post, it gets so many hits because of this picture of this cute little kitten I posted. There are a lot of people who enjoy looking at pictures of cute kittens. I suspect that some of them are little girls and maybe even some little boys. I wonder if they read the story I wrote for my Grandson, Gabe, so long ago and if they do, do they enjoy it? I wish I could watch them reading it.

Recently in the post titled To Be or Knot to Be I told a joke about a string tying itself into a knot and included a line drawing of a knot in the post. It is astonishing how many people have looked at that silly picture! Today there were 79 people who visited this blog. 60 of them were looking at the knot. LOL! Who knew? I hope they also read the joke.

Lesson learned? If you want traffic to your blog, put pictures of common things people are interested in in your posts, people. Blog about famous poems and stories you remember being read to you in your youth or some other popular culture thing that you have fond memories of. Relate, relate, relate!

 

 

 

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I thought the morning sun shining through the “skyscrapers” (they’re only 16 stories) on my street threw some interesting shadows of the trees and other buildings on the building across the street from mine and wondered what it would look like in black and white.  I like it a lot and wanted to share so here is my second entry into this challenge.

 

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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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
~e. e. Cummings

God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you’re taking away from God; you don’t need him anymore.
~Richard P Feynman

I’ve been trying to write an essay about my irritation with how the word atheism is defined and applied to non-believers such as myself by believers—mostly Xtian believers–and found myself becoming too “scholarly” and “preachy.” Most likely because this is an emotional issue for me. I tend to go into my head rather than write from the heart when my emotions are strong. It’s a protective coping mechanism and it works fine for what it was adopted to do but it sure leads to lousy, boring writing.

Soooo when I read the WordPress daily challenge for March 1 about constraint, I realized that that was a perfect explanation for what was going on with that essay and my dissatisfaction with it. I felt constrained to be nice and avoid offending the 80-90% of the populous who are theists—believers in at least one of the various gods and goddesses currently being worshiped.

 But why? Why worry about what kind of spin some theists want to impose on what I write? Well, being an atheist in America is definitely placing yourself squarely in the ranks of a very small minority. Coming out boldly as an atheist and proud of it opens you up for all kinds of disapproval and criticism. There are plenty of people willing to assure me that my fate is eternal damnation and torture. A lot of them enjoy thinking about the prospect. Many of them seem to take my disbelief as a personal insult.

 The theists that might be reading this blog include my extended family of origin some of whom I have recently reconnected with after many years of self-imposed exile. I’m not sure how they will react if they happen to read this post and since my FaceBook account and WordPress account are inter-connected, there’s a good chance they might.

 I grew up in a family steeped in evangelical fundamentalism, attending a church where the literal interpretation of the Bible was not only encouraged, it was demanded. They believe the Bible should be read as the literal truth. When it says Jonah lived in the belly of a fish for three days, they believe that Jonah really lived in the belly of a fish for three days. They don’t believe that would happen today but they believe their god made it happen back then and if it wanted to it could make something similar happen today.

 I have wandered far astray from that milieu and have very little in common with these relatives except blood ties, a shared history and memories that are more than 30 years old. Don’t get me wrong, that is really no one’s fault but my own. No one chased me out. I doubt they even knew I was going until I had been gone for so long it occurred to someone to wonder what was up. I chose this path deliberately and frankly, I’m not sorry I did. It saved my life and it had absolutely nothing to do with me “losing my faith” and becoming an atheist.But still, I know–well really assume–that my lack of faith in the god they believe in will probably shock them

I’m not looking for a fight with them but I’m afraid they will be offended by and possibly even hurt by some of what I want to say. Part of me wants to apologize to them in advance but then I get pissed about that because they feel perfectly free to post their prayer requests and Bible verses wherever they choose, secure in the knowledge that they won’t suffer the kinds of ire I am often subjected to for my lack of belief. There’s another form of those constraints again. My fear of having to defend myself and my beliefs in the face of criticism

Please don’t misunderstand, none of my relatives have explicitly made an issue out of anything I have said or done recently in regards to this issue and I’ve made it pretty clear on FaceBook that I am a born again atheist and recovering fundamentalist. In fact, only one of them has commented and she graciously gave me permission to exercise my freedom to have my own opinion which amused me to no end since she is my son’s age.

It’s amazing how quickly one can fall back into the dysfunctional patterns and habits you worked so hard to overcome. I haven’t even seen these relatives face to face and here I am, the parentified child wanting to take care of them and their feelings. Wanting to apologize for being me. And none of them have even asked for that or anything else for that matter. Sigh…

This post is supposed to be about using constraints to free yourself up to write. I’m flipping it on its head, declaring freedom from the constraints that keep me from writing freely and giving myself permission to have my own opinion and beliefs. Tomorrow I will exercise my freedom of expression and blog about what it means to be an atheist without worrying about what anyone else thinks or says or does. I will let them be responsible for their own reactions and not fall into the trap of feeling responsible for them. I will write from the heart and with passion because I AM passionate about this subject. I will write as if no one who will be reading what I write will disagree with me once I have made my case.

 

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn 

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