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I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult, and obsessive.  I think it takdes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good. ~Barbara Streisand

I turned SIXTY this past September.  That’s a big 6 and an 0.  Six DECADES of life.  And I still feel like I’m 17 with the whole world at my feet and eternity to explore it in.  As my birthday approached I became increasingly reflective, contemplating the past and what I have accomplished and musing about how much time I had left to accomplish anything,; whether I could accomplish anything that mattered,  and what I wanted that to be.  What kind of legacy did I want to leave behind?  How could I be the best me I could be?

These musings were very private and personal so they didn’t get written about.  At least not for public consumption. They consumed a great deal of time and energy and as a consequence this Blog and many other things were neglected.  It was a downright obsessive compulsive period that lasted much longer than I would have thought  but in many ways I am glad I took those long months off and engaged in more than a little self indulgent navel gazing.  It was good for me because I realized that I had been shambling  through life like a tumbleweed blown hither, thither, and yon at the whim of whatever breeze blew the hardest.  I need to focus.  I need to narrow down what I will give my precious little available head space  and physical energy to and set some goals.

I don’t usually make formal New Years Resolutions because when I do  I usually set such lofty goals for myself that I can’t possibly live up to them.  But then that leads to vague, unfocused rambling semi-goals  that are seldom really productive.  Every year I do choose a few  new to me things to learn.  Usually something difficult and something not so difficult and something easy. I really enjoy learning to do new things and I have learned a lot of things over my lifetime.  I’m proud of this ability and I’m proud of the many varied interests I have.  I think it keeps me young and my mind alert.  (I may be kidding myself about that part.)  Most of all it means that I am very rarely bored.

However, where I get into trouble is my expectations for myself.  For instance last year I vowed to learn to play bridge and I did learn the basics but bridge is a complicated game and there was so MUCH to learn that I became overwhelmed so I quit.  I wanted to be able to jump into a game with people who had been playing Bridge for years and be competitive.  I was not content to BE a beginner.  And that is my hubris.  I expect too much of myself.  I’m too competitive.

The same thing happened when I decided to learn to crochet before my daughter was born.  I didn’t just want to learn to crochet, I wanted to crochet her coming home from the  hospital outfit and when I was a couple of months along I chose a lovely and not too complicated  pattern. I managed to accomplish learning how to crochet and I did manage to make my daughter’s coming home outfit before she was born but I didn’t learn some things that were essential for crocheting a truly lovely garment.  And my disappointment in my effort led me to quit putting in any more effort to learn.   I couldn’t do it perfectly so I didn’t want to do it at all.  I realize now that it really was too hard to learn more than the basics  all by myself.  What’s more, I wasn’t willing to do the dull practice of crocheting simple scarves and hats that didn’t require complicated turns and counting stitches to get to the point that I could point with pride at what I had made. If I cannot produce a garment that looks as if it had been made by someone with 20 years of experience crocheting then I lose interest.  I want to be an expert in 3 easy lessons.

Of course that doesn’t  happen.  My expectations for myself were and always have been too high.  If I can’t be an instant expert, leftover tapes from my childhood begin to play in my head and I  abandon whatever didn’t come easy immediately.  So this year, late in life, I have decided to learn how to lower my expectations and learn something difficult one baby step at a time and not let my failure to be perfect at doing it right away get in my way. After all, over the years whenever I wanted a new scarf or a hat, I have picked up the yarn and needles and crocheted one and now people see my work and offer to pay me to crochet for them.  I have finally become an expert in scarves and hats. I’ve decided after all this time to learn to be a beginner. Not so difficult things usually comes pretty easy for me so I felt that the key to correcting this flaw in my character was to break something down into its simplest components, to begin at the beginning  and become an expert in one small piece at a time before I allowed myself to move on the the next small piece.

So these are my New Year’s resolutions.

1.  Find a teacher to teach me how to do something difficult the right way and quit expecting myself to be able to learn new things without help.

2. Accept that I cannot become an expert in something until I have finished the business of being a beginner.

3. Put my ability to be obsessive to good use and learn to deal with the boredom of the repetitive details of being a beginner until I have ceased to be a beginner at step one before I move on to step two.

4. Do allow my compulsive nature to jump ahead to what I consider  the “fun stuff”  ruin the process of learning.  Learn to accept “failure” and frustration as part of the process of learning.

5. Relax and enjoy being  the best me I can be.

These are the new things I want to learn this year:

Making good light fluffy cream Scones

The Korean alphabet

Understanding and using Linux terminal  command lines

Oh, and one more resolution:  BLOG about my experiences

.

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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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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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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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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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