Saturday, November 28, 2020

Welcomed

I have welcomed these four days off from work over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and had been working too much during the day and staying up even later at night to complete additional work for other clients. Needing a break, Thanksgiving has provided just that. 

I planned ahead and started cooking Thanksgiving dinner the day before so that our meal, even though it was just for the four of us, wasn't going to keep me in the kitchen all day. We had a lovely meal at around 1 p.m. and we had the dishwasher loaded and the kitchen cleaned up by 2:15 p.m. Josh and Zach carried all of the Christmas decorations bins upstairs from the storage room and we as a family assembled and decorated the tree. I had 12 bins ready to be returned to the storage room that evening, with only 5 left to sort and unpack. 3 to fill with normal house decor that I put away once I put all of the Christmas items out and two that still need to be sorted and purged. Yes, I have 17 bins of just Christmas stuff. What can I say? We love Christmas! 

I loved looking at all of my table and serving items, towels for both the kitchen and bathroom and going through many decorations that have been passed down through our families. Disappointed that a crystal platter had shattered in its box, but then I realized I still have two more that I love. I placed three plastic platters in with the two remaining crystal ones, and found all of my Christmas goblets and place settings were ready to be consolidated. Quickly, I got rid of a few plates and small bowls that I do not use and got rid of a few mugs that just don't hold a cup of coffee the size that I need to be able to function on a daily basis. 

I placed all of the platters, service items and towel bins in the stacks to be sent back downstairs. I actually found myself to be a bit sad. The tears came quickly and there was no hiding them. Christmas won't look the way we are used to this year. Christmas will probably look the same way that Thanksgiving did. Just the four of us. There won't be any need to pull the service for 20 out, the goblets and other stemware. There won't be a need for 5 platters and 10 bowls. Because it will just be the four of us. 

Covid weighs heavy on my heart. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss being able to host large get togethers and feed lots of people at once. I miss celebrating with the people that I love. And it took downsizing and repacking all the Christmas glassware for me to realize it. 

Yes, I like the quiet. Yes, I like being home. Yes, I like not having to run everywhere on holidays when I am already a bit worn out already. But I will still miss hosting in my home. Covid is here for the long haul, this I know. It will take quite some time for a new normal to be established. And that new normal may not include large numbers of people for some time. But in the meantime, I will be more intentional. I will text frequently. I will knock on neighbors' doors and leave plates of cookies and pumpkin and banana bread. I will make more cards than I normally do. Not just Christmas cards, but Thinking of You cards. I Miss Your Beautiful Face cards. I Can't Wait to See You cards.

Many of those cards will also include dinner invitations that will let the recipient know that when we can be together again, I can't wait to set the table with platters and goblets and fold the napkins just like my mom taught me so many years ago. They will be invitations back into my home where we can share a meal, enjoy a beverage and revel in the storytelling we have all missed. 

Until that time occurs, I have made the decision to use all the napkins and towels in the kitchen and the bathroom. I will light all of the great smelling seasonal candles. I will set the table and enjoy the winter berry centerpiece. I will use the beautiful hosting items that have mostly been gifted to me, even if no one other than the four of us are here to enjoy them. Because they are too beautiful and hold too many precious memories of meals shared with the people we love to be boxed and stored for the season. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Long Overdue


Long Overdue
Kelli J Gavin

My friend returned from overseas last week. She has been gone for over three months. I missed her and continued to pray for her family of 8 as their absence was felt.  I was disappointed when I didn't see her at church yesterday morning. I saw her husband and some of her kids, but entered into a conversation with another friend and was convinced I missed her.  

Today after work, I was racing and entered a very busy Costco with the intent of grabbing my dozen items and heading out the door as soon as possible. Costco was swamped and slow moving.  As I rounded the corner after selecting my greens, squash and a pumpkin pie, I saw her third son by the baked goods. I said hello and asked who he was with. 

He shouted, "My mom!"

And just at the moment, I felt my missed friend's hands on my arm and within a split second, I was enveloped into an amazing heart to heart embrace. You know those kind of hugs. Where your arms hold tight and breathing becomes just a little bit easier. The kind of hug where you weren't really sure what you needed up until that minute, but you find it was that hug was needed all along. 

Oh, how I enjoyed catching up. Sharing our hearts and how we were praying for each other.  To see someone's face to face, mask and all, to hear the words come from their mouth rather than read them from a text or email.  More hugs were exchanged as prayers were said in the middle of Costco today.

In these times of Covid-19, do not forsake relationships. Foster friendships. Love each other and pray for each other. Knowing that some relationships with family and even friends can be strained during this time, find ways to practice forgiveness if need be so that you can continue loving, being encouraging and always kind. And as it was proven today, always stop in Costco, forget your to-do lists and warm your heart with a long overdue hug. 

Thank you, Michelle. Much love to you this evening. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Fix It

Zach, our 17 year old son with Autism hurt his neck yesterday morning. He has been miserable for two days. Ice and heat, ibuprofen and lots of love and reassurance has been what is getting Zach through this weekend. He seems to be counting down the minutes until Monday when he knows that Josh will take him to the Chiropractor. 

"Mom has to go to work. Dad will take me to see Dr. Reisgraf. He will make me feel better. He will fix it."  Zach has repeated this phrase over and over as if to calm himself and remind him that it is going to be okay. 

Zach rarely speaks about what pain he is experiencing. A few years back, Zach had surgery on both feet to correct a deformity that was present since birth. He was very vocal about his pain and it was so atypical for him, we knew how much it hurt. Painful big toes filled with blood and puss, he was miserable and would limp frequently.  We put off the surgery for so long because we didn't know how we were going to keep him laying down for three days with his feet elevated and in walking boots after that for another week. Both feet were reshaped and the surgery was absolute perfection. Zach did an amazing job with recovery and we felt bad that we waited so long.  

Zach will have a nose bleed in the night and wake up and take care of it himself. He once split his back open on an open dresser drawer and tried to mend the wound himself with Elmer's glue and bandages.  With PICA, he often scratches small wounds until they become big wounds and then additional wound care with tons of ointments and bandages are needed to help prevent infection from setting in.  He ripped his knee open in a fall up a curb and decided to remove the scab while en route to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. He used to lower half of his tee shirt and never said a word to me that he was struggling in the back seat of our vehicle. 

So when Zach can barely turn his head, holds his neck in hand when rising from sitting and groans with anything that requires learning over, we know his pain is excessive.  He also requests lots of hand holds, cuddles closely on the couch and reminds me that tomorrow is Monday. 

I am so pleased that he knows Dr. Reisgraf, trusts him and knows that his hands bring relief even to the worst pain. He has witnessed every member in our family receive care from this doctor and he knows that relief isn't necessarily immediate, but it will eventually happen.  

I think of all the times that I have been in pain, of all the times that I could barely move and relied on the kindness of my husband and children to help me with the simplest of tasks. Recovering from surgeries quite a few times in the last 3 1/2 years, sometimes, I even needed help to get out of bed. I have needed help with dressing and showering, putting my hair in a ponytail, preparing food, help with housework and packing backpacks. And each and every time I have needed help, no one in my family has every shied away from a request.  They are eager to help and kind when they understand someone else's pain. 

And when we are serving Zach during this time that he is experiencing pain, I think of what a privilege it is that he knows he can ask for help. That he can trust that we will help him. Fetching ice packs from the freezer, warming heat packs in the microwave, applying muscle rub to numb the pain if only for a short while. I am thankful that he knows that Josh and I serve him freely expecting nothing in return. We love him and so we consider it an honor, not an obligation, to help him in his time of need. 

These days are long and challenging.  Just keep loving your families. Love them and serve them.  Serve them so well that your example of kindness is then passed on to someone else. Be an example for your children of what it looks like to help others without being asked. That modeled behavior is passed down to them unknowingly and often replicated when they get a chance.  


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Into The Woods Is Where It Can Be Found

Into The Woods Is Where It Can Be Found
By: Kelli J Gavin 
For Writers Unite!


As a small child, my mother once told me that she had a secret to share with my sister and I. I loved the idea of a secret being shared and immediately she captivated our attention. She pulled my sister and I near to her on the bottom stair of our small back porch. 


  "First, I need to disclose that I have never been able to find what I am about to tell you. When your dad and I moved into this home in 1972, Shirley who lives in the backwoods stopped over to greet us. She told me that she was never so lucky to verify it either, but she was also told that there may still be a fairy home in these woods. She and I walked these woods together and I firmly believe from the stories that she shared that it is true. Can you believe it? A fairy!"


  Our eyes as big as saucers, she had our full attention. A real fair house could be in the woods behind our home but she and Shirley had never been able to find it? Even my young mind knew how outlandish the story sounded. Fairies were only found in books and in movies. I, at 6 or 7 at the time, knew better. I knew about Santa and the Easter Bunny and even The Tooth Fairy. My mother was a woman of her word. Why was she telling me a story about a fairy home if fairies weren't real? 


  "Mom, I think you are telling us a story. You are just teasing us." I spouted.


  "Kelli, what I say is true. I have shared the story with you about the fact that it is said a fairy home can be found in the woods behind our home. It is up to you whether or not you believe it to be true. It is also up to you to decide whether or not you are going to search for it."


  Angela, my older sister smiled as my mom stood up and opened the backdoor to enter our home. 


  "It isn't real. Just a fun story." Angela then stood quickly and ran off to play. 


  Sitting for a few more moments, I really contemplated what our mom had shared. I knew that my sister didn't believe it was true, but what if it was? Our dad was usually the joker, not our mom. So why would she share a story that wasn't true? 


  I decided right there and then I wouldn't say another word about it to my sister or to my mom, but I would keep my eyes peeled just in case I could find the fairy home. 


  I searched deep in the woods that summer. I checked under downed trees, and I attempted to move large bows that had fallen to the ground from the canopy above. I occasionally even brought a blanket so that I could sit on the forest floor and see things down below where only my feet would tread. I didn't see a fairy house, but I was thankful for the blanket. I avoided a mean patch of poison ivy and a few hungry giant ants. 


  Searching for the fairy house became something I would do almost daily, whenever I had free time and could explore. Really never giving up the idea, I may have even kept my eyes open even into my teens years. My rational mind knew that it wasn't possible, but it would make for the most fantastic story to tell others if for some reason I really did find it. 


  When I turned 16, my mom gave me the most beautifully illustrated book all about fairies. Originally written in the early 1900's, it was all about a young girl who was convinced that fairies existed and she documented her findings. 


  "Kelli, I know you are far too old to believe in fairies and the fairy home that I told you about when you were little, but I thought you would appreciate this book that I also enjoyed when I was young. I also wonder if it won't inspire you to write a few more stories about the fairies that we have been told live behind our home."


  Learning that afternoon that my mom had shared the story with me to inspire me while writing and to fire up my imagination, I appreciated her efforts even more. My mom shared something special with me that she also adored. A story, a book and the desire to never stop searching for the truth.


  I never did find a fairy home, but I continued to write stories, search for truth when need be and to always share the joy and fascination of what could possibly exist in the woods behind our home with my children now. My 14 year old daughter and 17 year old son no longer believe in such things, but my heart beams when my daughter will pull my mother's beloved fairy book from the shelf. She will sit on the end of the couch with the light shining in from the afternoon sun and marvel at the illustrations. She will smile at me when I catch her eye. The best stories are the stories that are passed from generation to the next. And I am sure my daughter will someday share the book with her children and the story of the fairy home behind their grandma's childhood home. 


Friday, October 16, 2020

Best Story Possible

 I felt utterly discouraged. I wrote a well written 5,000 word short story, it hooked the reader from the start and was different from anything I had written prior. I had never written a story of such length in a day before, and loved that the idea came to me so quickly. I edited it the next day and sent it in. Completed the entire project within 48 hours. 

  And a few days later, a decline email was sent. A thank you, but no thanks. I began to second guess myself. Was most of my writing crap and I had somewhere along the line developed an inflated sense of self and believed that I could write, when really the opposite was true? Why was I continuing to put my work out there and to see it turned down, time and time again?

  I quickly realized that the doubt and questioning phase had begun. Doubt is something that I am not a stranger to. I have experienced it before. When I quit a job I loved and started a new company. When I began consulting on a part-time basis and no longer had any clout with any financial organization. Or when I began writing. So many times I had experienced doubt. From the time when I was young, until that very moment. But why?

  I began to realize that doubt seemed to creep in, to become comfortable and expected whenever a change was made or when I didn't get what I desired. When I had to work very hard at something to accomplish a goal or do something I felt completely ill-suited for. Doubt freely roamed when I would be told No

  I also realized that the No is what disabled me from moving forward. The No wounded me and made me feel less than, not good enough.

 Since when had I let the words of others influence me to the point of feeling immobilized? 

 When did I start believing that I shouldn't try again?

  But mostly, why did I think that I should always get what I want?

  A life of privilege influences our thoughts about ourselves and about the life that is yet to come. At least it has been the case in my life. Fast and furious affirmative responses often conditioned me to believe that everything I wrote was golden. 

  I am working on my third book right now. Originally 95k words, it was a collection of non-fiction short stories. After three self edits and correcting as much as I could, I had a friend read it. I asked for feedback. I wanted to know what they thought as a reader, not as a friend. 

  I was asked if when I started writing the book, did I believe that the longer it was, the better? I was asked if I had always wanted it to be so long? The biggest issue was length. It was too long. The reader stated that there were so many short stories that needed to be removed because it seemed that they did nothing. As if they were added only to increase the length of the book. I was offended but only until I read through my book a fourth time. That fourth time, all of the fluff, the excess, the unnecessary stood out to me. It was very apparent that the reader was right and I needed to start working again. 

  I cut over 20k words. So much excess.Once the edits had been made, I felt stripped. Exposed. The bare bones of the true short stories of my life were the only story I was meant to tell from the beginning. 

  What did this teach me? It taught me to be tough, to heed great advice and to make changes even when I didn't believe that changes were necessary. That a No, this doesn't work, but have you considered this?- was exactly what I needed to take the next step forward. 

  I have continued to write and edit every day since. And I will continue doing so. I should be actively listening to the constructive criticism of those that know me, my heart and my desire to write well. Also, I have come to accept that I won't always hear Yes. That I shouldn't want every response to ever be a Yes. When a No inevitably comes, I need to remember situations such as this and understand that a No provides the desire to read, re-read, and edit some more. It helps me to continue writing until each story is actually complete. The best story possible is the one I always want to present. 


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Stupid Slippery

 About a month ago, I was thrilled to find a set of brand new king size satin sheets in the original packaging at the Goodwill for only $4.99. All the other sheet sets came from stores and cost up to $29.99 a set. Being the thrifty girl that I am, I accepted that the color was burgundy and not a nice beige or gray that I would have normally searched for. I giggled when I remembered the queen size sheet sets that I registered for when got married. They were burgundy and hunter green. These colors were all the rage back in 1995, and I even decorated my first apartment bathroom in these colors. 

I have never owned a pair of satin sheets. When I was a child, I remember my parents had a cheap pair of satinish sheets when I was a kid.  We didn't have central air, and sleeping could be tough in the summer months when it was so very hot at night. My mom loved the soft feel of the sheets. My dad was never really crazy about them and insisted he was "just fine" with cotton. 

I usually love Egyptian Cotton or those amazing Mellani sheets that Angela Lanter raved about on her vlog.  I did however consider the price tag and thought- If I hate them, who cares? They are only 5 bucks. 

I tried. I really did. I washed them and they smelt so good and were so soft. I laid down on them after making the bed and couldn't believe how lovely it felt.  And then I slept on them.  I was so cold in the night.  I got up to use the restroom and couldn't figure out where all my blankets were. They were on the floor.  I laid them all flat back on the bed along with the flat sheet. I woke about an hour later, again freezing. Where were my blankets? Yep. Floor.  

I kept trying to convince myself that I had to like these sheets. I mean, I spent money on them, they were so soft and I should like them.  I day six, I sat down on the side of the bed to put my socks on. Not only did the top sheet and the two thin blankets slip to the floor, so did I. I sat, barefoot and sockless on the floor completely confused about the error of my ways.  Those stupid sheets had tossed me.  I was sitting in a heap on the floor because I refused to admit my sheets were too slippery. 

I put on my socks, rose, and hastily removed the stupid soft sheets. I located a new clean set of  gray paisley Mellani sheets from linen closet and promptly put them on the bed. After laying the blankets and pillows back on the bed, I found that I was audibly scoffing at the burgundy discarded slippery suckers lying on the floor in a heap just like I had been 7 minutes prior.  Served them right for tossing me. 

So, you bet, after washing them, I placed those King Sized Burgundy Satin Stupid Slippery Sheets in a Target bag with intentions of selling them. But let's be honest, I will need to be very upftont about the extreme slipperiness if I ever want to sell them. Donation bin is more like it. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Quarantined With a Bunch of Critics

It is now September, and 2020 has been anything but expected. A pandemic swept our world, stay at home orders and mask mandates, school and business closures, lack of necessities, extreme social justice issues, rioting and looting. All of it seems so overwhelming, yet I realize what a privileged and comfortable existence I have lived thus far. 

In our own little quarantined world, I told my husband as he left for Costco one day this past May, that if he found any meat whatsoever, to buy one of everything, knowing it may not be available anytime soon. Severe hoarding of toilet paper and cleaning supplies had begun and we were beginning to see the decrease of available meat and dairy products as farms and factories decreased their production and sometimes even closed their doors. I said I didn't care if it was something we normally ate or if I even knew how to prepare it.  We would learn to like it and I will learn how to cook anything. I am thankful he was able to fill both of our freezers and we were able to order out when our food levels ran low. 

I have to admit, I loved having extra time at home during the stay at home orders. Not only did my husband and I complete quite a few projects that we had been meaning to get to, we also purged 41 bags and boxes of donations that were then brought in when the donation sites reopened. I also enjoyed making new foods and trying new recipes. My husband bought an air fryer, and in combination with my instant pot, I have experimented quite a bit. Some big winners, a few horrible failures. But more often than not, smiles and clean plates. 

Now as fall begins and kids return to school, whether it is distance or at school learning or even hybrid learning like both of my kids, we are learning to make accommodations in our lives so that life can continue, even in the presence of a pandemic. Masks in both cars and even an extra set for our whole family. Lots of hand washing and antibacterial pumps in both cars. Masks in all public spaces and avoiding busy areas where keeping 6 feet apart from others isn't always possible. But we make these accommodations to remain healthy ourselves and to also help those we come into contact with. My kids still complain, but they usually quiet down right quick when I ask them if they would like to continue just staying home all the time.

While my family was home all spring and summer and now continuing into the fall, I have realized something quite interesting.  I feel as if I have been quarantined with a bunch of critics.  People who have always had ideas and opinions about things, but now feel super comfortable sharing all of this unsolicited information. Whether it is about how they would do something, how I chose to do it differently or even ideas about how this something should be done differently in the future, so much conversation seems to be taking place.  Sooooo much conversation.

I am an extroverted introvert. Meaning, I like going out and having fun and meeting new people and having great conversations. But I also enjoy being by myself, the quiet that entails and solo activities such as walking, swimming, reading and watching movies.  Because of the work that I do as a Professional Organizer, I talk a lot at work. I talk with clients about everything involving organization and how they would like for me do something. I talk to them about what I will do in between the day that I am with them and the next time I work with them. I also listen. A lot. Being a Professional Organizer has made me into the equivalent of hair stylist or bartender.  There are issues. I listen to said issues. 

So when I get home, my brain is tired. And sometimes my heart also. A lot of heavy burdens are shared with me that can weigh me down a bit as the day comes to an end. This can be exhausting. At home, I still need to cook and clean and prepare for the next day. This is a lot. 

Yes, I want to know about what my kids do during the day. Yes, I want to know about how work was for my husband and if he was able to take care of some of the problems with a troubled employee. I however have found that I do not wish to hear my daughter tell me about how she needs me to do her laundry more often because she really wants her camp tee shirt and her three sweatshirts available to her most days.  Or how my son doesn't want to eat what I have prepared for dinner and then goes to fridge and pulls out what he really wishes I would also make. I have little patience when my husband doesn't understand that I can't drop everything to help with something that seems so very urgent when my evening to do list is a mile long. So, again with the excessive talking, I explain that I am one person and can only do so much.

-Hey, next time maybe you could put peaches or strawberries on the cheesecake, and not cherries again. 

-I saw that there was a different type of hand towel on Amazon. Maybe buy those. 

-I am not wearing these. I hate dresses. Stop buying me anything like this. 

-I'm not eating that.

-Maybe next time you can get all the skin off when you cut my apple.

-Did you change the detergent you are using? My face masks smell weird.

-Can you always buy this hand soap for this bathroom and the one upstairs? I love the smell.

-Why don't you try flipping the tater tots more often. Then the one pan won't get so crispy.

-Don't fold my laundry. I wear it all before I even get it out of the basket. 

I purchased the hand towels, he was right. They are great. I made the cheesecake with peaches. I stopped buying her dresses and you bet, he ate what I made. The face masks are clean. And they smell amazing. I can't find that hand soap all the time, but I will keep looking. I have now taught my kids how to make quite a few different items in the microwave, on the stove and in the air fryer. And I will still do the laundry but have now taught everyone how to put it away and to actually put clothes in the dirty clothes baskets so that I know it is dirty and needs to be washed. 

Will there always be opinions and suggestions? Yes. Will they be different from what I want to do or even from what I want to hear? Yes. Will some of it sound critical of how or why I do things? Absolutely. But what can I do to soften the blow? What can I do so that the critic understands I am doing my best and that I am willing to work as a team if they are? I can love them as I explain the why, the how and the when. I can explain my day, what it looks like and what I hope to accomplish.  I can tell them when I need help and not try to do everything myself. I can joyfully delegate, trust that they are doing a good enough job and not be critical myself. And I can encourage my family. Because often when extra conversation and suggestions or even rude behavior occur, it is usually because something isn't understood. And understanding comes from modeled behavior and further explanation.

I may feel overwhelmed, and that some days are just too much. I may feel like I am so behind and will never catch up.  But I need to be a good listener, and a good example. I need to take suggestions and implement them when I can.  I need to love and answer questions even when I don't feel like it. I need to lead by example. 

I hope at some point I will be able to quiet the trivial concerns of the critics that I have been quarantined with. I know they will always need lots of love, lots of hugs and lots of information to make sense of our home life and life in general in their own brains. And if I can be of assistance on that journey, I feel honored. So very tired, but honored. 

Welcomed

I have welcomed these four days off from work over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and had been working too much d...