Monday, August 10, 2020

That's the House

 That’s the House
For Writers Unite!

By: Kelli J Gavin


A couple summers ago on the 4th of July, I drove my kids to the house I grew up in in Forest Lake, Minnesota. I was on an amazing emotional high after a fun day well spent in the town I seldom visit. The parade was a wonder to behold. Floats, Dairy Princesses and Firemen throwing obscene amounts of candy. Classic cars, Marching Bands and an unusual amount of clowns. I enjoyed seeing friends from high school, spending time with our extended family and a BBQ at my sister’s house in Stacy. Being that my childhood home was just off the freeway on the way home to Carver, I knew making a quick stop would be a fun way to end our day’s adventures. 


My mom passed away in 2013, but lost the house to Bank Foreclosure a few years earlier when she went into an assisted living facility. We drove down the gravel dirt road to the corner of 135th Ave and Humber Street. The white house with brown trim looked smaller yet inviting.The trees looked like giants and towered over our home.  Nestled on just under 2 acres with woods surrounding, it was an ideal place to grow up. Plenty of places to hide, plenty of places to explore. 


“Mom, which one is it?” My then 11 year old daughter Lily questioned. My heart broke a little. Lily had been to mom’s house a number of times when she was younger, but her sweet little memories must have started to fade. 


“That’s the house. Right there.” I replied as I turned to smile at her. 


“Mom, did we come here a lot? Did I play here with Grandma?”  She asked as tears began to poke the corners of my eyes.  


“Lil, you didn’t come here a lot to play with Grandma. Mostly Grandma came to our house. Grandma’s house was old and needed a lot of work done. The carpets needed to be replaced and I didn’t feel comfortable letting you play on them.”  Why did I say that? What made me think that this was the information I needed to share with Lily? A child who clearly missed her grandmother.


I then regaled her with stories of all the fun things we did do with Grandma Jo. Swimming and walking and reading stories and shopping and eating at great restaurants. Farmers markets and garage sales and movies and laughing together. Making chocolates and enjoying apple cider and baking bread.  Baking cookies and snapping beans and making sun tea.  


Lily replied, “ I remember all of that. I miss Grandma.  Did you do all of those things with Grandma when you lived here?”   


I paused for a brief moment, “Lily, I did all those things with Grandma when I was little.  I loved spending time with Grandma. She was amazing. I miss her too. A lot. I miss her every day.  But today, I am showing you the house I grew up in so I can continue sharing with you all of the amazing things about Grandma. I loved living here. That’s the house I will always remember Grandma living in. The house I love. The house I will treasure. “


Lily was quiet for a bit. “ Mom, can we come here again?” I smiled as a single tear escaped.  “Yes, Lily. We sure can. Remember. That’s the house Grandma lived in and loved. Take a mental picture so you will always remember it.”  


She winced one eye closed and clucked her tongue like the flash of a camera.  “Got it mom. It’s all up here.” Lily explained as she pointed to her head.  


My heart changed a bit that day.  I now share more stories with my kids and encourage them to talk more freely about the Grandma they miss. About the Grandma they love.  Lily asked yesterday when we will drive to Grandma’s house again. She said she wanted to go for a walk in the woods. My heart soared as I looked at the calendar and wrote down a date to visit in early October when the leaves are changing color. “ We can go before then if you like to Mom.”  We just might Lily. We just might. 

  


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Big Talker

I wrote a piece for an online magazine a few weeks back called "Big Talker." It is a true story about people who have come and gone from my life who had also had a great tendency to embellish the truth. People who would combine bits of truth with a whole lot of wishful hoping and make it the story they shared. And once they shared their fanciful new story, it become real to them. The lines between fact and fiction became skewed. 

Quite a few years ago, Josh and I met a man who was a big talker. He often repeated stories until they became God's honest truth, at least to him. I repeated a couple to my mother and she smiled in that certain way she did and just nodded. She knew what I was saying couldn't all possibly be true before I even did.

My mom said, "Kelli, come on now. While that all sounds amazing, think about it. It doesn't sound like half of what this man told you could be true. How is it possible that he is always in the right place at the right time? To meet all those people and have all those deals and projects in the works. Kace, he sounds like a Big Talker."

My mom went on to elaborate on what she meant and I listened closely. She described people from her own life who always had to have a bigger and better story to tell. And God forbid if they saw your eyes light up or if you smiled while they were mid story, the story tended to become even more grand. 

My mom was right. This man whom Josh and I cared for as a good friend wasn't telling us the truth.  But my mom also said something fascinating. 

"You have to decide if the friendship means more to you than the truth. Never be confrontational, but ask questions, ask for them to tell you more, check facts and kindly correct them when you do hear them telling you another version of the story you have already heard."

I then talked to Josh about what my mom had said, and sure enough, he totally agreed. Josh said that when our mutual friend really got talking in a group, he would often excuse himself so he wouldn't appear to be part of his listening crowd. 

"Kelli, he wants attention and I think he is lonely."

How was it possible that Josh and my mom seemed to always be right? Our friend was lonely and a big dreamer. He liked the attention he received from his grandiose storytelling. His stories seemed to become bigger and better and more unbelievable the more he observed people were listening or if he received a lot physical or verbal affirmation while sharing.

I changed how I related to our friend. I no longer nodded in agreement or said "M hmm" to affirm what he was saying. I would excuse myself the way Josh did. I would ask clarifying questions and carefully bring to his attention when I observed a discrepancy or inconsistency. 

It didn't work. Josh and I believed that our friend was socially clueless, unable to pick up on verbal and non verbal clues and wasn't about to be changed. But it also wasn't our job to be the ones to force truthful change upon him. 

I learned a few very important things about not being a big talker.  I try to only communicate deals or project with Josh and friends and family once they are in writing. When I have actually signed the contract or have received a publication date for my next book or magazine. I also don't repeat other people's news. Their story is their story for a reason, and I want them to tell it. But the biggest take away for me is to speak words of truth. Not what I want to see happen or what I wish hadn't. But words that are real and tangible and mean something. Information that matters, never added to or taken away from something. No could have, would have, should have. Only, this is truth and I can't wait to share the details with you. 

I don't relate to people the way I should. I am poor listener and get exited in interesting conversations and can't seem to wait my turn to speak and often interrupt. I am aware of this and  try to be more properly engaged. But I am absolutely more conscious of not being a big talker.  I like groups and attention and when people find my stories interesting. However, sharing truth is what make stories that much more interesting. And that what I will always focus on. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep- Hopefully

I have been working a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean every day.  I have multiple jobs, some out of the house, some I can do from home.  But even with stay at home orders in Minnesota and Covid-19 societal shutdowns, I have worked this entire time. While watching people experience job loss (my husband included), wage decreases, even side job income streams drying up, the need to seek public assistance, and the worries of how rent and mortgages and car payments and insurance will be paid, I am so thankful that my work has remained steady.

I work about three days a week as a Professional Organizer.  I help with all finances, bookkeeping, purchases including groceries and everything online, home organization, and overall life management. I work with the aging demographic and when Covid-19 came on fast and furious, my job was to keep my clients at home and healthy.  4 months in, all of my clients are still healthy, and I continue to help them in their homes each and every week. 

I am also an author, dabble in small business marketing, I am a content writer and an editor. I have been thrilled with the amount of requests that have come in for new contracts.  Small companies have a huge need to come out thriving on the other side of the shut down. I also work with other writers who need help with line editing and overall flow feedback.  I love that each job is unique and that it is never boring. I am also thankful that all of these jobs enable me to be at home and work on my own time frame. 

Because a lot of work that I do from home can be challenging, I have found that I need to do it with minimal distractions.  I can't work with music or the TV on, and if my kids are home, I feel I am even more distracted.  I usually need to then wait until nighttime when they go to bed.  Which means I end up working until quite late at night a couple of nights a week. I don't mind as I am a bit of a night owl anyway, but I do find that I lose track of time and end up glancing at the clock and finding it is past midnight.  My sleep suffers as I don't sleep well and then have to be up by 6:30 each morning. 

One of things that I have had to implement for my own well being is an email and phone call shut down time. Each day at 8 p.m., I stop answering work phone calls. And each day at 9 p.m., I stop reading and answering work emails. I may respond that I have received an email or voicemail, but will respond the following day by a certain time, but that is it. Otherwise, I was finding that phone calls were coming in after 10 p.m. and clients were expecting me not only to respond, but to tend to the problem at hand. 

As I mentioned, I don't sleep well. I have problems falling asleep, I wake up many times each night and I also wake up quite early. I average about 5 1/2 hours a night and consider myself lucky to get 6 or more hours.  There are novel nights when I actually sleep 7 or more hours and I wake up confused, not really sure where I am and even question if I am still in high school and if I have missed the bus. 

I also protect my sleep by turning off the ringer on my cell phone and silencing all notifications.  I place my phone on the charger on my bedside table and call it a day.  I even dim the light on the screen of my phone as it lights up all night long when each notification comes in. I am not dealing with waking up to the eerie light of cell phone when I am already confused, not sure what year it is and panicked once again that I am still in high school and have forgotten my locker combination.

I will often lay down in the afternoon if given the chance, but rarely fall asleep for more than 10 minutes or so. During that time, I usually work on stretching out my back and relaxing. If I do fall asleep, I startle myself awake. I have always limited my caffeine intake, only drink coffee in the morning, stop drinking tea by mid afternoon and try to limit my water intake in the evening hours in general. Because I do intermittent fasting, (14 off, 10 on) I stop eating by 6 p.m. which can be beneficial when it comes to sleep. As you can see, have addressed, work, distractions, caffeine and food. I desire rest and have addressed the areas that I think can contribute to a poor night's sleep. 

I have spent many hours in prayer over sleep and rest. This isn't an exaggeration and I will continue doing so.  I pray for restorative sleep, for me to be able to hold every thought captive and that I wake up feeling rejuvenated.  Sometimes, even when 4 or 5 hours of sleep were all that I have been rewarded, I wake up feeling fine and have a great day, but then I am dragging my dinner time.  I pray for stamina and energy. And I pray for peace even if my prayers are not answered. Mostly I pray for peace. 

While some people may believe that I place too much importance on sleep, I beg to differ.  If we sleep well, we accomplish more, enjoy each day more and find that we are focused and have even more moments of mental clarity. When we seem to be lacking in the sleep department, we have a tendency to accomplish less, not enjoy each day that has been given to us, struggle with focus and have no clue what the words mental clarity even mean.  That is my I must pray about it.  Lord, help me sleep. Lord, help me be alright tomorrow if I do not. Lord, give me peace tonight, help be hold every thought captive as I fall asleep and enable me to be content with the outcome as I rest in You. 

Going to the cabin for a few short days, I know that not much sleep will be had. I don't sleep well there and wake frequently. My prayer today is that I am patient with my children and husband even in the absence of sleep. 

When I was a child, my father repeatedly said, "When given the chance to sleep, always sleep." 

My dad was a hard worker and his job physically took everything out of him. He worked odd hours, slept odd hours and napped whenever possible.  He knew what he spoke of.  I didn't realize the value of a nap until after I had kids. I also know how important it is to call it a day, shut off the TV and phones and just go to bed. When given the chance to sleep, always sleep. 

A few of my friends are going through some very challenging situations right now, and everything seems to be amplified with Covid. Sleep is precious commodity when it evades each and every night. Reading, watching a show, developing a routine, nothing seems to work. These are the times when we try to convince ourselves that sleeplessness is only for a season. 
-And unfortunately, sometimes that season is for life. 

Tonight, after swimming, boating and kayaking and sitting on the dock and watching the sun set, when I am all tired out and physically and mentally worn out, I will pray again that sleep comes easily to me. And if it doesn't, I will enjoy the sound of he loons on the lake.  I will listen to the perfect white noise of the fans that keep us cool and I will pray. I will pray for peace, I will pray for rest and I will pray for an amazing day tomorrow even if the sleep doesn't cross my path.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Bride



The Bride

By: Kelli J Gavin 

For Writers Unite!


When Clarence was 15, he and his father drove on the back roads to get to a portion of land their ancestors had lived on for generations. He was excited because he had trained for this venture, yet was intimated at what task he was asked to accomplish. Clarence's father believed that boys needed to prove themselves men. That they needed to show their father and the Mighty Lord above, that they could handle the elements and navigate the land that their ancestors had always called home. 


Clarence would need to need to travel the five miles of rough terrain overnight and when he saw The Bride, he would know that home was just around the bend. Clarence planned for the temperature to drop to close to 30 soon after sunset and that the wild animals would be hungry. With only a compass, a slingshot, a flashlight and his warm woolen clothing, Clarence would discover if he could make it home and no longer be considered a boy. But a man. 


Clarence's father stopped on the side of the barren road and turned off the old pickup. As he turned to his son and lifted his hat, he reached for his second pack of cigarettes for the day. 


"Clarence. Let the moon and The Bride be your guide." He nodded and tipped his hat. Clarence knew that he was to exit the pick up and begin his walk about.


Clarence had loved exploring The Bride as a child with his father. Every turn, every hidden crevice, each long lock of what appeared to be curly hair that laid neatly down the back of her gown.  Clarence's entire life seemed to have occurred all within ten miles of The Bride. 


Believing he was ready for the task at hand, he watched his father slowly pull away and held one  hand above his head and waved farewell. Clarence didn't know that that would be last his saw of his father.


The night was bone chilling as the wind picked up. The coyotes and vultures seemed to flock and sing a song of vengeance before he even rounded the first hill. He knew resting wouldn't be an option when he became tired later in the night, unless he built a fire. And a fire would attract more of those animals that viewed Clarence as their next meal. Knowing slow and steady would win the race, Clarence secured his supplies and set out on his course. With the compass in his right hand attached to his wrist, he felt confident in his navigational skills to arrive at The Bride and then home by morning.  


A turkey vulture swooped in and tried to take a peck at him. Clarence swung his pack and screamed as loud as he could to scare him away.  He had been fighting with those mean birds since the first time he put on boots at the age of 2. He hated those birds. Their beady eyes, jowls that seemed to be covered in pocked skin and their ability to startle even the calmest of men. They were no friend of his. 


A rattler or two crossed his path before the sun completely set and he knew he would have to be more alert with each of his steps when all he had was a flashlight to light his way.  Chewing on a beef stick in the second hour of his walk, he reached into his pack for gloves as he wanted to protect his hands climbing through the rough terrain ahead. 


Space out my food. Limit my water intake. Keep watching the moon. Check behind me every 2 minutes. Check my compass often. Clarence continued to remind himself of everything he thought was of the utmost importance. 


Clarence fell at about the three mile mark. He twisted his left ankle on a rock and stumbled and went down hard on his right shoulder. The boulder he hit was unforgiving. He sat by the boulder longer than necessary because he felt a little dazed and confused. When he finally had his wits about him, he shone his flashlight in all directions. Three coyotes surrounded him. As he stood and proceeded to yell loudly and raise his hands over his head, the coyotes were smaller than they first appeared and scattered quickly. The pain was worse when he was weight bearing.  Clarence grimaced and knew that this was not the end. He needed to continue. 


Walk it off. Walk it off.  You can do this. You have had worse pain.  Remember that time you got hit in the right butt cheek by Micheal's slingshot? That was the worst pain ever. Ha. Remember how you beat him up the next time you saw him? Yeah.  He was always a jerk. 


Clarence continued to talk to himself as he walked and then stopped when he realized he was talking to himself. He wouldn't want The Bride to hear him and think he had gone crazy. 


Glancing at his watch and realizing that it was almost 5 a.m., he knew the sun would soon be rising. He was close. The Bride was close.  Twenty more minutes. Just 20 more minutes.  


As the sun began to come up on the horizon, The Bride in all her splendor came into full view.  Why was it that each and every time he saw her, a smile spread across his face?  Would this ancient beauty always bring such joy to him and the generations yet to come? 


Clarence sat for 20 minutes and just reveled at God's creation. The Bride was his reward.  He had accomplished his goal. 5 miles in the dark, overnight on rocky terrain. Make it home by 6 a.m. and Clarence would no longer be a boy.


As he turned one last time to his right, and  the rocky driveway came into view, he also saw the sun shining over his home that he shared with his dad.  His home that he had so many fond memories in.  The home where he last saw his mother. She had passed three years prior from breast cancer. She went quickly and didn't suffer much. In his grief, he took such solace in that fact. 


Remembering his mom and his dad and the times they had together, Clarence neared his house. He saw his father sitting in his pick up truck. Was he preparing to leave and check on the animals before Clarence even arrived home? 


As Clarence saw his father's slumped shoulders and slack jaw, he knew that his father had spent the night his pick up.That he never made it into the house to rest his weary body from a long day's work. That his father had died in his absence, behind the wheel of his pick up truck. 


Clarence was 16 years old and now a man. He had accomplished his goal, but did not have a mother or father to celebrate with.  He didn't feel much like celebrating much ever again. 


Clarence lived a quiet life on the land that his ancestors had always loved and lived on.  He knew that his father and his mother would have been proud of the man he became.  Clarence also knew that when his son was about to become a man, that he would change the way they did things in their family and he would accompany his son on the overnight exploration and navigation to discover The Bride by morning.  


They would do it together. Father and Son.  They would meet The Bride together. 




Monday, July 6, 2020

Amazing Artwork By Bethany Scriberras - @bethanyscribblesxo on Facebook and Instagram

Bethany Scriberras is a 24 year old English artist who specializes in drawing portraits and animals. She uses Prisma Color pencils to produce personalized framed pieces you can cherish forever. As a perfectionist, she will always endeavor to create something beautiful for you. xo

Contact Bethany for all your portrait needs. Her commissions are excellently priced and worth every penny.  Perfect for a gift or to preserve a beautiful memory of a loved one. 

@bethanyscribblesxo on Facebook and Instagram












Sunday, June 28, 2020

Norman Rockwell Never Got a Fair Shake

I love artwork of all shapes, sizes and mediums. But I have always been drawn to paintings mostly from 1500s‐1700s. A broad amount of styles are covered during this time frame. One painter I have never quite given his due is Norman Rockwell. 

As a child, I saw his paintings where everyone had comically screwed up expressions on their faces and I didn't care for it. So, apparently, I didn't think I liked any of his work. In college, I sat down on a couch at a party in a house I shouldn't have been in. There was a Norman Rockwell book on the coffee table. I picked it up hoping to somehow feel less uncomfortable. I was mesmerized. 

There were not only page after page of paintings I had never seen before, some were absolutely breathtaking.  WWII, Vietnam, The American Life, Social Justice Issues, Racial and Religious Turmoil. Mr. Rockwell's paintings covered every subject matter I could imagine.  The beauty struck me upside the head. Literally. I became tearful when studying a few of them. I knew I needed to find this amazing book and own it for my self. 

I never did find the book that I found on the coffee table that night.  I did look at the library, at garage sales and thrift stores and found a few, but none of them were as colorful or comprehensive.  

Earlier this year, I found a huge Norman Rockwell book at the local Goodwill. I was searching for books on Italy and came across a few beautiful arts books. My heart smiled when I saw the artist's name on the binding.  I was elated. It was not the same book from all those years ago, but one that I liked even more.  It was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company in 1999 and contained a large number of stories and additional information about each painting, commissions and where the painting resides today. 

And, to my delight, it contained all three of my favorite Rockwell paintings. 


The Connoisseur, 1962

By far, my favorite.  The Jackson Pollock on the wall, the floor pattern, the man's cane and hat. But most of all, how close the man is standing to view the Pollock.  I imagine he has stood there for quite some time. Finding something new in each brushstroke.


Southern Justice, Murder in Mississippi 1965

This amazing painting was the first to ever make me cry.  The shadows, the desperation, the scattered large and small rocks, the blood.  


Girl at Mirror, 1954

This beautiful young girl, stuck between being a child and adulthood. Studying her features in the mirror as she closely examines the starlet in the magazine. The soon to be forgotten doll.


I paged through the book which sits on a large silver platter on the footstool in the front living room the other day.  I explored the stories behind a few more paintings, but I saw myself gravitate back to these three.  Spellbinding.

I never gave this amazing artist a fair shake. Artwork grows on me. Something I thought I didn't like, now may have become my favorite. And I want to share it with others. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Today I Choose Joy

I recently started a new group on Facebook called Today I Choose Joy.  During this time of Covid-19 Stay at Home Orders and Social Distancing, I found myself and everyone around me weren't very joy filled.  Grumbling and complaining about current circumstances, many wanting to know if a trade could be made for the people living under the same roof for new quarantine partners in crime, and the desire to flee seemed to be what most were talking about.  

George Floyd was killed, Minneapolis burned, and protesters stepped to the forefront demanding much needed change. Protests continued to spread from city to city and then to other states and even around the world.  Hearts are desperate for dramatic improvements and lives have been destroyed.  The chaos in our world weighs heavily.  Tears have been the only way to communicate along with hugs and just listening as I come alongside my black sisters and brothers.  I am learning to love, to remove any biased thoughts I thought did even exist and hopefully model what love your neighbor really looks like in a hurting world. 

How do we choose Joy when everything seems broken? How do we encourage others when sadness and pain are prevalent? For me, I look for what is beautiful. For what edifies and encourages. I look for laughter and meaning. I want to learn something, teach someone and share with others.  I want to smile and enable others to do the same. 

Whether it is pictures of newly hatched robin's eggs, or the kids in the pool for the first time this season.  Sometimes it is siblings playing together and not fighting for a change. The reunion of desperately missed grandparents with grandchildren.  A video of contagious laughter that makes me cry laugh also. And sometimes it is words of truth, words of love and necessary words to share. Whatever it is, it brings me joy.  

When I am not joy filled, I have to make the concerted effort to choose joy daily. 

I thank each and every member of the group. For sharing laughter and compliments. For asking questions and seeking a further connection. For stepping out of their comfort zone and engaging with internet strangers.  It is an honest pleasure to Choose Joy Daily with you.



That's the House

  That’s the House For Writers Unite! By: Kelli J Gavin A couple summers ago on the 4th of July, I drove my kids to the house I grew up in...