Thursday, July 9, 2020
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 sling shot a flash light 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 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 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 sling shot? 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 quite 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
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Sunday, June 28, 2020
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
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.
I love the fact that there are so many podcasts and documentaries available about true crime, both solved and unsolved. I also love that a few close friends enjoy them as much as I do. We are able to talk about what we have learned, ask each other questions and fill in the possible missing pieces when we aren’t quite sure what happened in the end.
About 6 months ago, I discovered that my 13 year old daughter also loves true crime and unsolved mysteries. I knew she enjoyed spy stories and mysteries, but walked into her room one afternoon and she was listening to a crime podcast. Shocked, I may have panicked a bit. I questioned her about what she was listening to, what she had listened to in the past, where she found new things to listen to and then asked if she herself had any questions.
"Mom, I love these. Please don't make me stop listening to them." Lily went on to talk about what ones she liked the most and the recent interviews she had listened to. I couldn't blame her for being drawn to this subject. By nature, she is inquisitive and a problem solver. She doesn't just want to know the story, she wants to know the why behind the story. What happened, who was involved, what did the investigation look like and what was the motivation behind the crime. She began to retell stories to me as if she had just listened to them. She recalled all of the important details including location and time frame and even volunteered what lingering questions remained unanswered for her.
I have reminded her that if she is ever bothered by the subject matter, it is important to know when to take a step back. She hasn't ever told me that she needed to do that. She just keeps sharing amazing stories about what she is listening to and what she is learning. She does now occasionally ask me the meaning of words and locations of certain towns in far away lands
While driving in the car today, she started asking questions about Fort Hood and if I had heard about the girl named Vanessa in the military that went missing in April that still hasn't been found. The tears quickly welled in my eyes and breathing became difficult. She thought she was in trouble and couldn't figure out why I got so upset so quickly. Josh told her everything is okay, but that I needed a minute and I would explain.
I lost a friend 25 years ago.She was kidnapped from Goodfellow Air Force Base and raped and murdered. I have thought of her many times over the years and have prayed for her family. My heart still hurts more than I thought. The tears came so quickly at just the thought of her that I alarmed both my kids.
While true crime and unsolved mysteries, documentaries and podcasts can be very interesting entertaining, they can also bring up memories and heartache when it hits too close to home.
My friend had an amazing smile, an infectious laughter and made new friends everywhere she went. She dated another friend of mine and we enjoyed fun evenings with combined youth groups from other churches. She was funny and talented, self deprecating and one that was noticed in every situation. So many people had the luxury of being her friend, which made her absence even more apparent.
I remember shortly after she was killed, I developed a strange rash on the upper portion of my body. All down my neck and chest and even down my arms to my elbows. I woke one morning to see it had spread to my chin and panicked. I was getting married in a few months and all of the damaged skin would be visible in my wedding dress. I went to the doctor to plead my case and thought something was majorly wrong with me.
The doctor firmly believed my rash was stress induced and instructed me to use an ointment if it began to itch and said it should clear itself up. I had mentioned I was getting married in a few months and he thought that along with getting married and starting a new job, that I must be under a lot of stress. My wedding was completely planned, everything was coming along perfectly and I adored my new job at the bank. I started thinking about what other stress I could possibly be experiencing that could physically manifest itself as such a severe widespread rash.
I traced the stress back to the death of my friend. When she died, I started thinking about the safety of women in general. About men, the sheer size of men who seem to tower over women, sometimes take advantage of women and the fact that men seek women out and kill them. I was filled with fear. I worried about opening the bank in the morning with only one other woman. I worried about walking two blocks home from work. I worried about being followed when I was walking in Excelsior down by Lake Minnetonka. I worried that what happened to my friend could also easily happen to me.
The worry and fear that I was experiencing was real. But it was also causing my skin to break down and scar. I knew I needed to talk about this and sat down with my soon to be husband. Josh listened, he hugged me, he reassured me, and he begged me to talk to him more about what was bothering me. He insisted that I needed to stop being so guarded and to begin sharing all that I was thinking about. All that I was fearful of and worrying about.
Our conversations were frequent and sometimes long. Once I started talking, everything seemed to just feel easier, lighter. And all that fear and worry seemed to dissipate. It took time, but I felt better.
The loss of someone can be very revealing. The loss of someone special unveiled the fact that I didn't know how to deal with fear and worry and that my guarded self was what was making me sick. I learned so many valuable lessons during the months leading up to our wedding. But the most important lesson I learned was about being honest and sharing rather than bottling everything up until it actually hurts.
Now these 25 years later, I will have the opportunity to share with my daughter about what happened and what I learned. Later today, when we are not driving for 9 hours to Joplin, MO, when we are resting in a hotel room after a nice swim, I will sit Lily down and I will talk with her. I will answer her questions and I tell her I love her. I will tell her I am glad that I am able to share these important things with her. Because sometimes, the hard lessons are the most essential to learn.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
By: Kelli J Gavin
for Writers Unite!
All Roads Lead to Rome. I remember hearing that statement when I was a child. I didn't have a clue what it meant then, but then learned more about the Roman Empire in High School and found out that the Roman Roads were built accordingly and that truly, all of the roads led to Rome. The French poet, Alain de Lille, had coined the phrase in the Middle Ages in 1175 and it has been used ever since.
My mother once said, "Well, you will always have a home. All roads lead home."
I understood that she was telling me that I was always welcome home, no matter if I had felt the need to travel down every other road before heading home. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the expression was actually- All Roads Lead to Rome. I knew what she meant, and she was just communicating her love for me. I led my life for quite a few years doing anything I could to avoid being home. My mother was on guard and aware of this. Hence her desire to enable me to know that once I felt the need to settle down in my search for the unknown, I would always have a place to return.
I once developed what you would call tunnel vision. My focus, my thoughts, my desires were all completely centered on one thing. My waking thoughts soon were completely overtaken, and the what ifs seemed to swim at night when my head hit the pillow. My attention span was severely diminished and I was on overdrive and completely overwhelmed with something I thought I wanted. Something I was convinced I needed.
It didn't matter that what I thought I wanted, really wasn't for me. Once, my brain was trained on it, I wanted what I wanted. I would do anything I needed to to claim it as mine. I kept justifying my words and actions, stating that I had a goal and that I was always told to persevere to obtain my goals. Somewhere along the way, I had placed myself at the center of the universe and forgot that my words mattered and my actions were affecting others.
Multiple relationships began to suffer, I was exhausted because I wasn't sleeping and my home looked as if a tornado had entered and swept through frequently. I am thankful for a dear friend that helped me stop in my tracks.
"Your tunnel vision has disabled you from seeing the carnage. Everything that has been left by the wayside, is because of you and your choices. I love you, but stop being so self- centered and start focusing on anything but you."
Knowing how much my friend loved me and had stood by me over the years, I knew those words were shared in love, in hope of invoking real change. And they did. My tunnel vision had destroyed almost everything in my life. They were right, my self-centered focus had left carnage and I needed to start immediately repairing what could be fixed.
How do you fix everything that has been destroyed? One small step at a time. One intentional, challenging, sometimes even heartbreaking conversation and then another. Fixing the carnage requires saying I'm sorry. It always requires asking for forgiveness. Carnage repairs made me understand that because of my behavior, I also needed to be okay with not being forgiven, and that some relationships would never be restored.
The mistakes I made because of tunnel vision were what showed me that all roads really do lead home. My mom was right. Home isn't necessarily comfortable. Home isn't always where I wished I was able to dwell. But Home is Home for a reason. Not the house, not the structure. But the people. The family and loved ones. The memories and the excitement of what is yet to come. Every single road that leads Home, is the road I hope to find.
When I lose my way, when something distracts me, or even when the bumps and ruts along the way seem to be too much. I am thankful for the fact that all roads lead home. Fully aware of my tendency for tunnel vision to take over in all aspects of my life, I am now on guard like the Roman soldiers. Aware, cautious and ready to stand my ground until the road home seems possible.
Saturday, May 30, 2020
This past Thursday, I woke up and soon threw my neck and upper back out. A great amount of pain followed. Ice, heat, repeat. I took some ibuprofen, located the CBD oil and prayed the pain would leave me soon. It did not. As the hours wore on, the pain increased. It not only increased, it became immobilizing. I was discouraged and was so upset because I had four days set aside to do as much as I possibly could around my house. I have fallen behind on everything, as my focus has been work and my clients and distance learning for my kids.
I usually check on Zach frequently and I just wasn't up to the task. I couldn't imagine walking upstairs, checking on him, and walking back down, after I had I finally gotten comfortable and was propped up with pillows and an ice pack. So I just didn't go to check. I called upstairs to him a few times, but didn't visually go to see him.
I should have known that something was wrong when he seemed to be spending a long time upstairs and then I realized he was in my room that whole time. When I finally got up and went upstairs, I found this disaster. The only way I can describe this is- This is what Autism looks like.
The night before Josh lost his work keys when he got home from work. He looked everywhere. He opened every drawer, overturned every ottoman, looked under every table and under every bed. He looked in my purse, checked the cracks in his car, and even second guessed himself wondering if could have left the keys at work.
Zach witnessed all of this searching and constant overturning of items. Of sorting, or getting down on the floor and getting back up again. Zach asked what happened and Josh simply stated that he had lost his work keys and was trying to find them.
When I saw the state of my master closet floor, I knew exactly what I was looking at. Zach had continued the searching right where Josh had left off. Zach had knocked almost every item of clothing off of the shelves in our closet and threw them on the floor. Everything that had once been folded in organized on the shelves was in a haphazard mess on the floor and in some places, piled up to my knees.
I panicked and hollered for Zach who had quickly left the room when I entered. When he came back in, my frustration level was high.
"Zach, what did you do?! Why is everything on the floor? You are not allowed in my closet!"
In pain and totally defeated, tears poked at the corners of my eyes. How was I going to clean all of this up when I was in so much pain? The daunting task overwhelmed me and full on tears began to flow.
"I was trying to find dad's keys. I did not find them." Zach calmly said. "Mom, are you crying? Oh, mom is sad."
This is what Autism looks like. Floors filled with discarded clothing. Parents crying and confused. Children unaware that they have done something they shouldn't have. And then the understanding came. Zach had created this mess, because he thought he was actually helping his dad look for his keys. He wasn't asked to help, but in his beautiful heart, he wanted to. He wanted to help his dad that he loves. And clothes on the floor and a mess that I couldn't clean up was the byproduct.
I explained to him, that dad would find his keys, that he isn't allowed in my closet, and that he needs to remember never to touch clothes or stuff in the linen closet which has been a problem in the past. He said okay, and left the bedroom. And in Zach's eyes, that was it.
My heart softened a bit. Zach thought he was helping. Zach wanted to find the keys. I wiped my last few tears. I was able to get down on the floor in the closet. Sitting among all the clothes, too many clothes, I started to slowly fold one shirt, and then another. To create a pile for shorts, and then capri pants. If I kept my elbows low, I was able to feel little pain. I folded clothing and stacked them until the need to lay down overtook me.
Here on Saturday evening, I still do not have a closet that is organized and put back together. I would say that I have maybe 50% of the work completed. I do little bits when I can. And I am okay with that. Reflecting on my upset and my tears, I realized that this just happened to coincide when I was in pain and out of commission. Zach wasn't trying to be destructive and cause a huge mess. The huge mess happened to be the outcome of Zach not understanding how to methodically search for something that was missing. The huge mess happened to be the outcome of Zach trying to help.
Praying tomorrow is an easier day and that the pain begins to subside. But also I hope that I can slow down a bit more when something unpredictable happens. When something doesn't go my way or a road block prevents me from carrying out what I had planned for the day. Especially when it comes to something like this. This is what Autism looks like. And I learn from this sweet kid daily.
at May 30, 2020
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