Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Murray the Good Dog Loves Distance Learning



Zach is back to school 4 days a week and he participates in distance learning at home each Wednesday. Today, was his first day of DL that he has with his new dog at home. Murray knew right away that being near Zach at the dining room table would be the best place to camp out today. So when Zach sat down at 8 a.m., Murray laid right down next to him. 

Occasionally, he would rise and place his head on Zach's lap for a morning pet and lots of good boy affirmation. When Zach's first class began at 9 a.m., Zach was so excited to participate in sharing time because he knew he could talk about his new dog and show the class. 

When it was Zach's turn, his smile could have lit up the room. He spoke a bit about the things he knew were required of him and he was immediately interrupted by multiple people who desperately wanted a peak at Zach's new dog. 
Zach gingerly maneuvered his laptop towards the sleeping dog on the floor. Everyone was so excited to see the dog that Zach had raved about for the last two days. They asked questions about what breed he was, how old he is and if he is a rescue. 

To be honest, I loved every minute of it. Zach was so excited and he wasn't nervous, even when Murray woke and stuck his head in between his elbow and lap.

Zach is getting used to Murray and learning about petting with both hands, commands such as Stay and Sit, and that it is okay if he runs and plays.  What seems chaotic to Zach is normal for a dog while playing.  When he barks, Zach reminds himself that Murray is just talking. It is wonderful to see Zach learn and grow each day with his pup by his side.  Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. 

We still have a lot to work on with Murray the good boy. He pulls on the leash, he jumps at people's faces for kisses and he plays rough. Yesterday we worked on sit, lay down and drop the ball. This morning, I am so thankful for this amazing dog that has brought us all so much joy. That we waited until we found the right dog and we weren't hasty in finding one out too soon.  Because Murray is the dog for us.  

Murray the good dog is the dog for Zach.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Submission Request- Guest Editor for the April 2021 Flash Fiction Section of Setu

Call for Submissions for Setu April 2021 Flash Fiction Section I am the Guest Editor for Setu for the month of April 2021. Please submit your Flash Fiction submissions of 500 words or less. Flash fiction stories should be in English, and not include excessive language, sex, or any derogatory racial terms. The selected pieces will be featured in the April Edition of Setu and posted to the website after the first of May. No fee to submit and no pay is offered at this time. Anyone can submit and I love reading stories from new writers who have yet to be published. All submissions are due by April 15, 2021. Please also include a bio (150 words or less) prior to listing the story in the body of your email. Please do not send any attachments. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Email your submission to kelli.gavin@gmail.com. I look forward to reading your Flash Fiction stories! Thank you! Kelli J Gavin

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Eight Years Seems Like a Lifetime

Eight years seems like a lifetime. But it also seems like you were just here. Your passing becomes a bit easier each day, but it doesn't enable me to miss you any less. I still desire to talk with you, to sing with you and share a meal with you. I want to go to garage sales and thrift stores together and walk on the paved paths with the kids. There are new movies and books I know you would adore. But mostly, I just want to hold your hand. To see you smile. To spend time in the same room with you.  

Sometimes when the pain of your absence is so heavy, I have caught myself creating a story or tale that makes it just a bit easier. You are away. Maybe on a trip. To a cabin up north or even another cruise. Someplace you loved. A place that made you smile. Maybe Hawaii one last time. By pretending you are away, it helps me imagine you happy and content and creating new memories.

I will never not miss you. Even when I am old  and gray. I will still long for you to be here. But when I am old and gray, we would have more in common. By then, I may be a grandma just like you. And I know that is what you loved the most.  Being a grandma is what made you shine. Being a grandma is where you found your groove. You were the perfect example of how to love your children by loving your grandchildren well. I hope some day to carry on that role.

How thankful I am that you are no longer in pain. To be absent from the body is to be present with our King. And remembering this, makes me jealous that you are able to dwell in your eternal home. I long for heaven. I love you, mom. Always.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

My Soul Finds Rest

My heart hurts a bit today. Well, actually a lot. I have been working through something that is weighing heavy on me. It is something that I don't feel the need to share with others, but have spent so much time in prayer over it. When I was young, I used to wonder if God ever got irritated or sick of hearing that my prayers were often about the same things. As my relationship with the Lord grew, not only did I realize that He never gets sick of me or irritated with me, but bends low to hear my prayers. He cares enough to lean in and listen.

However, in that time of growth, I also learned that God wants me to pray according to His will and not my own. My prayers need to reflect the fact that God will always know what is best for me. God is able to bring Himself glory by working in and through me. I am able to bring God glory by serving Him, serving others and aligning my heart with what He loves and what His heart aches for. But also, I need to understand that what I want, and what I pray for, will not always be granted or given to me. And I should love that! Because what I want and what I pray for, isn't always good for me or what God wants for me. 

Gifts or prayers granted by God are because they are deemed necessary and given because of God's grace and mercy. I don't deserve it, but God loves me so much that He answers my prayers. He hears, and answers. 

And sometimes the answer is No or even Not Yet. I still struggle in the firm no or in the waiting. My will, wants, my own desires internally scream to get their way, yet God firmly answers prayer, quiets my restless heart and continues to tell me to Follow Him. He never leaves me nor forsakes me. He is constant and true and never changing. He is kind and gracious in His forgiveness. And when I continue to pray for what hurts or what I want and it He doesn't deem it fit or necessary, His gentle hand guides me in the direction He wishes for me to go. Not always easy or what I want, I have learned by His faithfulness to abide in Him and rest in Him as He works out everything my good and His glory. 

Will this heart hurt last forever? No. Will I continue to pray for the Lord to take it from me? Yes. But I also will pray that the Lord would satisfy the desire of my heart with something better. Not a distraction or something temporary. But something good, and pure and necessary. My soul satisfaction comes from God and God alone. He is my Rock, and my Salvation. A fortress strong, and I will not be shaken. 


My Soul Finds Rest- By: Stuart Townsend

My soul finds rest in God alone,
My Rock and my salvation;
A fortress strong against my foes,
And I will not be shaken.
Though lips may bless and hearts may curse,
And lies like arrows pierce me,
I'll fix my heart on righteousness,
I'll look to Him who hears me.

O praise Him, hallelujah,
My Delight and my reward;
Everlasting, never failing,
My Redeemer, my God.

Find rest, my soul, in God alone
Amid the world's temptations;
When evil seeks to take a hold
I'll cling to my salvation.
Though riches come and riches go,
Don't set your heart upon them;
The fields of hope in which I sow
Are harvested in heaven.

I'll set my gaze on God alone
And trust in Him completely;
With every day pour out my soul
And He will prove His mercy.
Though life is but a fleeting breath,
A sigh too brief to measure,
My King has crushed the curse of death
And I am His forever.



Saturday, January 9, 2021

Indecipherable


When I sit down to write, whether it be an article for a newspaper, magazine or website or even a short story or poem for an anthology, I really never know what is going to find its way onto the page. Sometimes, I even surprise myself. Most times, it is crap and I end up deleting the whole thing. Other times, it strikes me as halfway decent and I know after making harsh cuts and editing that it will be a worthwhile piece that has merit and I should be proud if other people read it. 

I have also noticed that as of late, a lot of what I write, ends up being just for myself or maybe one other person. A memory of something I have been trying to process. A poem written about a day I wish I could experience again for the first time. A letter written to a friend that is meant to bring comfort and encouragement. And even an apology that should have been sent a long time ago if I hadn't been so stubborn. Finding that it happens in waves, a lot of this compulsive writing tends to pour out of me. Fast and furious and at all hours of the day. The notes app on my phone advised me that it was near full. I used three notebooks in the last three months. When notes are made in the dead of night, I write down what I think I want to say. And then by morning, my chicken scratches end up being lone words or short phrases with an indecipherable word here and there. 


The Day Luke Died

I realized days later that I was talking about Luke Perry. This story is still formulating itself in my mind as the first draft was a weird emotional tale of a man I never had the pleasure of meeting. 


M.L.

Initials without any additional information can be a dangerous thing. It took me a week to flesh this story out. Then realized that I wasn't going to ever even post it on my blog.  I shared the story with my friend Ali and she to this day has consistently teased me about it.  Proof that this story should never be shared with the masses. 


#blessed

My husband hates hashtags and he hates #blessed the most.  Not only is it overused, the meaning has been lost because of the constant use on social media platforms as a way of somehow justifying a humble brag. I wrote a short quip about obnoxious hashtags and a first year magazine used the story as a sub-story about the American Housewife and the curse of obscurity. Um. That is not what I was hoping for.


Alarm Connection

When I was young, my dad worked for 3M Alarm Corp. He would do these weird things like connect wires downstairs that would then light up something upstairs. He even figured out a way to rig the loudest alarm I have ever heard in our home. Keep in mind, we lived in the country, often left our doors unlocked and when it was really hot in the summer, we would leave the front door open with just the small latch lock on the screen door. Was the alarm necessary? No. But it was my dad's love of all things science and technology and his ability to create and fix most things on full display. When I left the house, I used to touch the wall where the alarm panel was located in the front entryway. I missed my dad after he left and moved out of state. That was my one connection to him.


Find out the names of the games-

This was a note to ask my sister about the names of the games that we had on the basement shelves when we were young. There was one with all these light and dark brown wooden beads. I don't remember if there was a board or cups that went with the game, but I remember enjoying the game. I also remember a long wooden plank with two metal rods at a slight angle that could be moved side to side.  A large metal ball rolled down the middle of the metal bars and the goal was to drop it in one of the holes below where the points totals were written. I don't remember if this was an actual game or if it was a game our dad made. A lot of my fond childhood memories revolve around playing games as a family.


Find the letters-

I found them. They were in my mom's cedar chest which is located in my bedroom. But the letters weren't where I thought they were and they didn't contain information that I needed. They made me more sad than anything else. I felt bad for my great grandmother after reading them. I did some digging online and am grateful for some history sleuths who quickly joined in my information quest to find the census records for St. Paul. But the letters still break my heart a bit. I am in the process of trying to figure out how to tell the story as it is not a personal story, but a family one that it isn't pretty or fun to share with others. But it is true and real and speaks volumes about the long lineage of triumphant women who knew about dignity, perseverance and the love of children. I will tell this story in its entirety someday.


Read all the books

About 3 weeks before my mom passed away, her speech slowed and she became more deliberate about what she wanted to talk about. She slept most of the time, wasn't really ambulatory and couldn't read or understand what was happening on the TV. One afternoon after work, I drove to see her, and arrived as she was sleeping. Her TV  was on full blast. I hit the mute button, used her bathroom and turned on some music. When I reached to touch her hand she opened her eyes and smiled.


"Ah, Kelli. I hoped to see you today. Take those books on the end table and read them. I really liked them and I think you will too." I held her hand as she drifted off. 


I read the four books. And I know exactly why it was important to her that I read those four books.  Someday I will share the truths that I found on those pages with anyone who cares to read about it. Because those truths weren't just stories or fanciful tales. They were my mom's way telling me what she needed me to know before her passing.


Zipper bags and stamps

My mom had a red zipper bag that was filled with rubber stamps and stamp pads. She rarely used them but enjoyed having them and liked to place one strategically on the back of an envelope or the bottom of a letter.  When she passed, I gave the stamps and ink to Lily. She loved having them. After using all the ink and the inexpensive stamps dried up, we disposed of them, but not until they were also well loved by Lily. Now Lily uses that red zipper bag as a large travel bathroom bag.  Every time I see her take it out from underneath her sink, I smile and think of my mom and her favorite red zipper bag.


I will always continue writing down odd duck statements that have little to no meaning when later discovered in a notebook on top the side table or in one of my many notes apps.  But I also have learned to date them, occasionally draw a picture next to them and even leave more information for future use.  The one that I finished writing tonight was a poem called No Longer Welcome. It surveys the pain of a declined text and a deletion of a phone number. My heart hurt quite a bit when it happened. But after writing about it, not only did my heart feel a bit more mended, I was able to move on from a 30 relationship and know that it will all be fine in the end. Because there will always be something new and important that nudges at me until I write it down.







Saturday, December 5, 2020

Mom's Luggage


From a very young age, my sister Angela and I were regaled with stories from our mom about her travels. And when I say travels, I mean one European tour working with the Billy Graham Crusades through all of Europe and two trips to Hawaii in the mid to late 60s. My mother never traveled much as an adult, but she enjoyed every moment of it when she did. She spoke of trips to New York and the mountains with her parents when she was young and then of trips to Arizona as an adult to visit and stay with an old boss (some car mogul) with my dad after she was married. She also enjoyed trips to California for the Rose Bowl Parade and to New York for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the high school band when my sister and I were teens. 

We were always challenged when it came to finances. Money was used for mortgage payments, gas, insurance, food and utilities. Money was always in short supply when it came to clothes and any extra spending or even travel. But my mom always went out of her way to make sure that we applied for grants for summer camp and that we participated in every fundraiser possible to make sure that travel was possible when it came to band trips for my sister and missions trips for myself. 

When my mom packed, even if it was for an overnight or two up north, she had it down to a science. She knew exactly what would be needed, what to anticipate and what to pack for the just in case moments that were always evident when it came to kids. Falling in mud and needing an extra set of clothes, or an extra sweatshirt and jeans even when the weather forecaster said it would be 80F degrees. She had this amazing ability to plan, pack and then repack before heading home.  

I always admired her small zippered bags that she still had from when she was a teenager and young adult. But what I enjoyed most, was her beautiful luggage. She had two suitcases and a carry-on bag that she had purchased when she worked at a hospital in downtown St. Paul and was planning on traveling. She told my sister and I that she had to save up to afford the three piece set from the department store, but knew that she was making a wise purchase. She also felt that the unique pattern encouraged future travel. 

Our mom took very good care of her three piece set. Before the days of wheeled suitcases, she said she loved carrying her matching set through an airport, or unloading it from the trunk of a car. She felt like a real adult when she carried them for the first few years. Reflecting, she knew that this luggage could quite possibly last her the rest of her life.  

Unfortunately, a flood of water seeping in the basement of her old rambler home ruined the luggage set and they had to be thrown in the trash. She was sorry to see them go. (My sister may still have the carry- bag. I will have to check with her.) When our mom traveled for the last time 17 years ago with friends from church on a cruise, she treated herself for only the second time in life to a new set of luggage. This time in her favorite color purple. Two wheeled suitcases with push down handles and a carry on bag. She adored her travel gear and showed them to me numerous times. She also continued to regale me with stories of travel memories. 

When my mom passed away, her purple luggage set came to live at my house. No, it wasn't the original set that she loved with the travel signs and passport information printed all over them, but the purple set was what she used on her last trip. Now, my daughter packs one suitcase with her clothes and the other with her art supplies and books. She uses the carry-on as a bathroom/ toiletry bag. And each time, the purple luggage makes an appearance, I remember my dearly missed mother and the stories she told. 

Today, I came across a beautiful suitcase at a thrift store. Tears flooded my eyes before it even registered what I was looking at. The beautiful pattern of the town names, plane tickets and passport stamps was sitting on a lower shelf, almost out of view. I wiped a few stray tears and leaned down very slowly for a closer look. Not quite the same, but so very similar. I considered purchasing the suitcase, but then realized it possessed a bit of a smell like cigarette smoke and knew it couldn't live at my home. I paused, positioned it on the floor at my feet, smiled and pulled out my cell phone to take a picture.  

This beautiful piece made me smile today. Not only did it make me smile, it lightened my mood and made me miss my mom just a little bit less today. This time of year is challenging for me because of how much I miss my mom. She loved Thanksgiving and Christmas, decorating and cooking, hosting and feasting so very much. Even the sight of this unique piece made today a special day to remember. I shared with Lily a few stories of my mom's travels. I told her about the pictures she turned into slides from her travels and how she shared them with the seniors at the nursing home in Forest Lake. I also told Lily about the suitcase that she carried the slides in as she entertained the residents. My mom would greet each of the residents as she unpacked her treasures, and would say, "Tonight, we are traveling to Hawaii! Pack your bags and grab your sun hats and enjoy!"



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. 

Murray the Good Dog Loves Distance Learning

Zach is back to school 4 days a week and he participates in distance learning at home each Wednesday. Today, was his first day of DL that he...