Monday, December 25, 2017

Emotional Anniversary

I realized what an emotional anniversary was the summer I turned 12.  I lived in Forest Lake and my sister and I would often bike the short 1.3 miles to the Tom Thumb gas station in Lino Lakes.  The town of Lino was so small, it only had that one 4 corner stop and then additional stop signs at the end of of each road that met up with the main drag called Lake Drive. One beautiful summer day, my sister and I neared the four corner stop intersection.  I felt strange, a little light headed and filled with fear. The four corner stop was approximately 200 feet away. I was almost there. There. The four corner stop. I quickly braked, came to an abrupt stop and put my feet on the gravel. I burst into tears. I gulped for air. I felt like I had been punched in the chest.  I saw my sister stopped at the four corner stop and turn to look at me. I stepped off my bike, pulled it into the weeds by the side of the road and was able to realize what all of this sudden fear was about.

Two summers prior, my sister and I had been gifted amazing 10 speed bikes from our parents.  I loved my bright yellow banana seat bike, but was thrilled to have a new shiny bright red 10 speed.  My father loved riding and we knew he had lofty ideas of my sister and I eventually joining him on his summer Tri-state 300. I was still getting used to the bike that summer and struggled getting used to the hand brake rather than the step back brake on my old yellow bike.  I approached the 4 corner stop on the way to the Circle Pines Library (quite a trek for a 10 year old) and knew I would need to brake and be careful as there would be many cars and large trucks also approaching the intersection.

I panicked the closer I came to the sign.  Squeezing, squeezing the brakes as hard as I could to stop and my bike keep proceeding forward.  I wasn't squeezing the hand brake, I was squeezing the handle bars. I slammed full force into the stop sign and fell to the ground.  My dad catapulted himself towards me to assess how hurt I really was.  Gravel embedded in my shins, knees, and in the palms of my hands, blood poured down both legs. Nothing was broken. My tears fell and I couldn't catch my breath. I was in so much pain. I swiped tears with my dirty blood stained hands and wiped blood into my right eye.  I was overwhelmed with pain and disbelief. My dad cleaned me up with handkerchief and water from his drinking bottle. He pulled as much of the loose gravel from my bloodied body as he could and tried to reason with me about why this even happened.

My dad explained that I had been squeezing the handle bars and not the hand brakes. He showed me how to do it again, but I could barely see what he was doing from my dirt smudged eyes. I waited a bit an worked on controlling my breathing and he handed me another handkerchief to clean my face. I was still dealing with dripping blood from my legs and my hands were on fire. Once I caught my breath, I told him I was heading home. He asked me to continue with him and my sister to the library. I just couldn't do it. I explained that I was going home. I could see the disappointment in his face, but at the point it didn't matter to me.

When I got home, my mom came out to the front yard to meet me. My dad must have called her from the gas station to tell her what happened. (This was way before the days of cell phones.)
My mom brought me a nice tall glass of water and we went over to the garden hose and she washed me up as good as she could.  My mom was so calm and caring. But said something that surprised me. She told me the best thing that I could do was to get right back on that bike again. What? She had to be crazy. Ride a bike again?! I was never getting on a bike again. So much blood and so many bandages gave me every right in the world to never mount that shiny new red ten speed again. She hugged me and loved on me, and told me to think about it.

I didn't sleep well that night. All I could think about was that both my mom and dad were right. I needed to get back on that bike again and soon.  I also couldn't sleep because even the light sheet hurt my wounded body.  In the morning, I moved slow, I moved at a snails pace. I needed to take my time. I showered again and continued to remove more loose gravel from my knees. I ate breakfast and got dressed. And then it was time. I told my sister I wanted to ride to the gas station and asked if she wanted to come with me. She looked at me dumbfounded, but quickly replied yes.

The ride to the gas station and through the 4 corner stop was uneventful and life giving. It was the most restorative experience that I may have ever had so far in my very young life of 10 years.  I may have given up the day before. But not the next. I got back on the bike and proved to myself that I could do it.

The summer I was 12, these memories came flooding back to me. Not in bits and pieces, but as fast as I crashed into that stop sign.  All that emotion, all the pain, and all the self doubt bombarded me. But then so did the feelings of strength, of self determination and of perseverance. I was literally knocked down and got up again.

I calmed myself, wiped my tears and regulated my breathing. These memories were empowering. They showed me where I had been and where I was now. I was strong. I was able and I can keep going.

This emotional anniversary happened to be the first of many.  Some so amazing, some completely heart breaking. Each serving a purpose, each making me into who I am today. When a memory seeps into my mind, when a date on the calendar brings tears to my eyes, when a heart to heart hug floods my skin and bones with fond remembrance,  I no longer ignore or hide them. I now embrace, experience, savor and often enjoy those Emotional Anniversaries. Because each one will always serve a purpose.

Zach and Sondra

Our son Zach is 14 years old and attends 9th grade at Chanhassen High School. He is enrolled in the Autism In Motion program. The other programs in the Special Education Department are designed for kids with other special needs such as Down Syndrome, Significant Learning Delays and Severe Physical Impairments.

Zach loves school. He loves adaptive phy-ed where he enjoys basketball, tennis and occasionally floor hockey. He also enjoys walking on the indoor track on the mezzanine level of the gym and riding a three wheeled adaptive bike.  He enjoys digital photo class where he is given a scavenger list and must find specific things in his school to take pictures of each day.

During quieter times, Zach enjoys work boxes and his job skills class. Zach enjoys his classmates but tends to gravitate towards quieter friends who will not have sudden loud outbursts or upsets.  Zach wears his headphones most of the time at school to block out said sudden loud noises.

Zach's best friend at school is Sondra. Such an amazing sweet girl with a smile on her beautiful face from ear to ear. Sondra has Quadriplegic Spastic Cerebral Palsy, is wheel chair bound, isn't able to speak much, but is able to communicate her wishes and emotions clearly.  Zach and Sondra moved from the junior high last year to the high school this year together.

Sondra and her mom Ashley met us a couple of times at the library this past summer. The kids enjoy being silly together and Zach will get down on the floor to kneel at Sondra's eye level and say, "I bet you've never seen an orange rhino before!!!"  And the two will laugh and laugh as Zach says it to her over an over again. Ashley and I as their moms, have no idea where this amazing affection for each other has come from. But we are so very thankful for this authentic mutually beneficial relationship.

Zach will not seek out the companionship of other kids. He will sit near them, be kind to them, but never try to play with them or interact with them unless they are prompted. But with Sondra, he will seek her out, find her and wheel her to a place where they can sit together. He will push her wheel chair around the track and bring her indoors if he is cold, as she may also be cold. Often without saying a word, he watches over her, protects her and entertains her.

Zach enjoys reading, but only for short periods of time and only about things he is interested in. Holiday books are a big deal for Zach. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Fall and Halloween. He can't get enough. We check the same books out of the library multiple times every year.  Reading book after book after book. Occasionally taking a break to talk about orange rhinos. I love this picture and will treasure it always.  They both look so genuinely happy.  To be with a friend and have a great book in hand. I can't think of anything better.

No, Zach will probably not graduate to chapter books or ever read a novel. But then why would he want to?  The simple sentence beautifully illustrated books which can entertain the kids for hours brings them both so much joy.  And I adore that these kids can and will find a way of communicating with each other by just being next to each other and reading with each other.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Why I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions

I often overhear people discussing what their goals are for the New Year. Resolutions come in so many different forms.  Read more, drink less, exercise 5 days a week.  Spend more time with friends and family, spend less money on frivolous items, eat healthy foods.  The overall theme that can be found in each resolution is More of Something or Less of Something and usually involves some sort of Self Improvement.

I have been asked twice this week what is my New Year's Resolution.  My honest answer? I have never made a Resolution and probably will not this year.  When questioned further, I explained that I am not afraid that I won't be able to commit to the Resolution or that I would fail, rather I have made the conscious decision to avoid them.

I remember as a child I saw adults exercising, but not really enjoying it.  I saw women drag themselves to countless social gatherings and never even want to go. Why would an adult force themselves to do something that they didn't want to do and do it if it wasn't going to bring them joy? That seemed silly to me.

Absolutely, it is important to set goals, assess goals and reevaluate what is important to us as individuals. But why do we wait until the New Year? Why in the month of June, would we say I want to do a better job of intentionally reaching out to friends, but then decide to wait until January to make any changes?  Are we putting it off and naming the goal as a New Year's Resolution just so we don't have do anything about it right now? Delaying something that requires time, effort and planning so that we actually don't need to spend any time, effort or plan right at this very moment?

Ancient Babylonians and Romans made Resolutions at the start of a New Year which was usually celebrated with an 11 day festival in March, around the time the crops were planted and after the Nile flooded. The Babylonians and Romans probably had the same problems keeping resolutions as people do now. Only 8% of Americans keep their New Year's Resolution. Why?  Mostly because they like the idea of having a Resolution but also don't really want to have anyone hold them accountable for the follow through.

With the ever present rise of Social Media, American's feel an even more immediate need to state publicly what they would like to change, improve or do differently.  But does anyone else really care? I have never once decided to ask someone, So how is your 5 days a week at the gym resolution going? Usually because they already posted their Fitbit Steps for the day and checked in at the gym on Facebook. And if I asked about a goal, and they were failing miserably, they would probably feel bad and want to crawl under a rock.

Some say it is about seeking out friends and holding each other accountable. But let's be honest. Chances are you will begin to begrudge that friend when they make you get off the couch and go to the gym after you have settled in for the night.

So this year, rather than make a resolution, choose to make a life change.  Choose to inspire and impact those around you. Help someone else this year. Great. Keep your gym goal. Keep going. Remember your gym goal is for you, not for others.  Your muscles will not make me want to start lifting. But if you want to make a difference, and start helping the local community in need, strategize and organize now! Find out more about organizations that need help. Volunteer your time and your talent to help where help is needed. Talk to your friends. Share your passion with them about your vision and specifically ask them to help. You may be surprised at how many people are just waiting for an invitation. Collect food, collect clothing, collect school supplies. Talk with your neighbors about ways that they can tangibly help.

Call a local school or contact your child's school and find out if there are areas that they desperately need help in. Re-shelfing books, serving lunches, organizing work packets and projects, decorating for holidays or special events, meals for teachers and staff. Contact your local church or even your own. Wash those pews, offer to clean the pastor's home, volunteer your painting and remodeling skills. The list of ways that you can help in the local schools and at local churches is endless.

My daughter enjoys filling the Little Pantry in downtown Chaska with groceries and personal care items.  My son helps by baking for local families who have experienced hard times and could use a little extra love and encouragement for a season. Kids can make a difference and they do every day.  It just takes some helpful suggestions and often times modeled behavior to influence them for a lifetime.

All of this say, let this year be the year you change your idea about Resolutions. Rather than focusing on self, focus on others. Find a way to make a difference and make a positive change in your life and in the lives of others. And look at that. I suppose with the New Year pending, now is as good of a time as any. I mean the Nile hasn't flooded, and we will be experiencing our Arctic Minnesota winter soon rather than planting crops. But today is a good day for change.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas tree lights

There is an eternal argument that occurs at the Gavin house. Colored lights or white lights on the tree. The kids and Josh like the colored lights and I want my department store tree with white lights. Josh bought a pre lit tree this year with both colored (super bright) and white lights. 8 settings on a remote. I do quite like the tree and the rare occasion that I get to display the white lights. Zach is silent about it and just changes the tree back to the colored lights.
Lily is constantly trying to convince me that the colored lights are better. This morning went something like this.
Lily : Mom, is that your new shirt? I like it. Look at the purples. Oh my gosh. It is almost like you match the tree. Like you were trying. See why those lights are better?!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zach and His Christmas Drawings

Josh and I are absolutely amazed. First, it was Zach's affinity for all things letters and numbers. Then it was the perfection of what we call The Zach Font. Then he figured out a way to research every 3 step Blue's Clues clues and 3 step directions from Dora by Googling each individual show and then placing them all in order based on original release date. And today, we observed that Zach's Christmas drawings were near perfection. From the twist of ribbon in the candy cane, the swirls on the bottom of the sleigh or dimension of Santa's eyes. Zach's artistic talents continue to increase! ❤️  (Zach loves taking drawing classes on Kids Art Hub, types in anything he is interested in and then learns how to draw whatever he wants!) Amazing!

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Yesterday was a tough one for Zach. He was flustered and belligerent most of day. The simplest of tasks weighed heavy on him and he hit himself twice. Those are the moments that hard for me as mom. We work very hard to fill each day with as much joy as possible for this kid. We want him to know that we are his safe haven. That we can comfort him when things seem overwhelming and stressful. But some days we fail. Yesterday being one of them. Today, Zach's mood has changed, he was thrilled to sing worship songs at church and hug friends whom he loves. Perfecting his silly faces and taking pictures he loves that I could put them all on one page to view. Modern technology never ceases to amaze him. He keeps saying wow, that's me. That's mom. That's my Christmas candy cane. I think today will be a good, joy filled day for Zach.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

How Zach Wins The Game


The kids and I spend many a Saturday mornings in the months of November and December scoping out all of the local Holiday and Christmas Boutique's and Sales. From vendors, to crafts, to exquisite art and homemade treats. There are often many smiling faces, a goody or two for the kids, and an occasional cup of coffee for myself. Lily and I enjoy looking at handmade jewelry, discovering which vendor has the best deal and figuring out what items are to be purchased that day. I often stress the importance of supporting local small businesses as  I own two of my own.

Today at Cy's in Chaska, we found the party room full to the brim. Candles, jewelry, lamps, book marks, mircowaveable bowl holders, scarves, wreathes and Christmas decor, hats and purses and even the dish cloth lady. We found the lady that sells the chocolate pretzels and I bought one for each of the kids. I bought a few dishcloths, a shark scarf for Zach to help cover his mouth at the bus stop, a pair of earrings and a bracelet to give as gifts. I finalized my sale, got my change and my purchases were bagged. I turned to Lily and asked where Zach was.

Zach often goes missing for short amount of times. He bores easily and often wanders in search of bigger and better things. There isn't a boy I know that likes candles and tinsel wreathes.  I turned quickly with Lily in tow. As I rounded to the entrance of the party room, I saw a long leg stretched out on the floor and then Zach's body. My mom heart panicked for a brief moment as I thought he was hurt or had fallen. Oh no, Zach was absolutely fine. He had his head positioned right in front of the hole on a pool table where the cue ball falls. He was placing the ball on the green felt then sliding it into a corner pocket and quickly throwing himself on the ground so he could watch the ball slide down the eternal drop of the table.

I watched for minute, fascinated with my sweet 14 year old boy.  Zach's mind is amazing. He cares more about the how rather than the why. He was convinced that that game was all about dropping just one ball into the pocket and watching it fall to the opening. His made up game gave him such satisfaction. He turned and saw me smiling and watching. "Ha! Mom, look at that ball! I love it!"

He stood, pulling his tall almost 6' 2" frame up with him and headed for the entrance of the building.  And just like that, he was finished.  As we walked out the back door and descended the old wooden stairs, Zach exclaims, "Did you see that?! I won the game!"  Yes you did Zach. Yes you did. Between running errands and getting Lily's glasses tightened and straightened and heading back to the library to read to the therapy dogs, I am so very glad that we made time for Zach to win the game.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Chocolate Syrup

At any given time, you will find my purse, mittens and possibly chocolate syrup sitting on the front seat of my van. Many of you know that Zach doesn't possess a food off switch. If it is something he enjoys, he will continue to eat it until it is gone. Blue flax seed chips, veggies straws, rice cakes, vanilla wafers, gold fish, dried cranberries, voortmans cookies, apple juice boxes, saltine crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, popcorn, the list goes on and on. All these items are locked in my van at all times to prevent one sit down where Zach consumes it all. In the winter months we are also thankful for exterior refrigeration, so we lock cheese sticks, go gurts and the chocolate syrup in the van. The serving suggestion says that there are 18 servings in that bottle. Zach sees that and says, "Challenge Accepted and I will show you that I can do it in three." #nolie #cantmakethisstuffup

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I Don't Even Care Anymore

Lily came home from school all a flutter. So much to tell me.
Lily: Mom, I am one of 7 kids still in the running for the spelling bee.
Me: Cool. Out of how many?
Lily: 7. I told you.
Me: No, Lily. Out of how many.
Lily: Oh, 21.
Me: What grades are those 21 in?
Lily: My class.
Me: So there's technically more than 21 kids involved? The 21 were just in your class?
Lily: I don't know mom. I am just really having a hard time telling you this story, and now I don't even care anymore.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Parking Lot Snafu

3 errands before work. Apparently the idea of stopping at Michael's to get two things was a ridiculous idea. I got hit by a car pulling out of parking spot. I hollered and slapped the back of the car. For real. She was going slow, but the bumper hit my knee. I wasn't hurt at all, gathered myself and kept walking. Couldn't even turn around because I wouldn't have been able to tame my tongue. I kid you not, she rolls down her window and says, "Sorry, but you shouldn't walk behind moving cars."

I turned around and looked at her. My head tilted to the side, eyes squinted behind my sun glasses in disbelief of what I was hearing. I replied, "Remember your Christmas errands that are so important won't be as important if you take out a pedestrian in a parking lot. I hear killing someone weighs down on person heavily this time of year." Stunned silence. I walked into the store. She followed me in. No lie. She parked her car and followed me in. She then began with," I tried to apologize and you are fine. No harm no foul."

The woman from the register promptly bolts over to us and asks if there is a problem. I told her the woman needed to be removed from the store. She about lost her mind. I continued to walk into the store because I needed to get my stuff and go to work. The employee repeatedly asks the woman to stop yelling and kindly leave the store. I call over my shoulder, Merry Christmas! Because it is Christmas and that this is what nice pedestrians who walk behind moving cars do when drivers yell at them and won't leave them alone. 🙄 #cantmakethisstuffup

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Inside Voice

I think of the number of times I have asked my children to use their inside voice. Time and time again they have proven to me that they either have no idea of what an inside voice actually is, or they will never be one possess such a treasure.  My inside voice ranks pretty high up there. Not only can my voice be extremely quite, (while reprimanding my children and instilling the fear of God) I have also mastered the art of lip sinking and whispering.  My husband is deaf in his left ear, so often when the kids and I are repeating ourselves, our voices tend to be elevated. I blame this modeled practice as the culprit for my children shouting whenever they get the chance.

I have now said bizarre things such as, "Only raise your voice if you are hurt or in danger. " Or, "That loud voice should be used only in your room."  Once again, I have made a grave mistake with both comments.  My children and I clearly have different definitions of "hurt or in danger".  Also, going into your room to yell at me or your sibling isn't exactly what I meant.

I have also discovered that some families, with just one small little one in tow can struggle with volume control just as much as a family with 5 kids.  It all has to do with the family dynamics.  There are also families filled with loud talkers. Where every last one of them talks louder than the next and obviously missed the day God was handing out the volume buttons. The mom, dad, and every single child can talk so loud it is deafening. I will go home, medicate, cover my eyes and retreat to dark room with strict instructions to not be disturbed after experiencing such a family.

One of things that I have also observed is that some younger siblings will talk much louder than their older siblings.  I often believe this is because they want to be heard. They believe what they have to say is important and don't feel that they will be heard unless they increase the volume of their voice.  But then again, there are those that always have to fight to be heard, and feel that yelling, as ineffective as it can be, will not only enable them to heard, but justify what they have to say.

And then there are the parents that do not possess an inside voice. The burdened, overworked mom who needs a break and feels outnumbered and at her wits end. She raises her voice more so out of frustration and also in hopes of her children will do what she has asked of them. (I am so very, very guilty of this.) Or the tired dad who works hard to support his family, comes home to emotional and tired hot mess children and desires to set some guidelines for behavior and discipline. Kids shut down when we as parents raise our voices.

Not once, do I see raising your voice to be heard as an effective means... of being heard!  Let's take a minute here and break it down.  Being heard is also about listening and extending the same courtesy to others.  To have a two way conversation, it involves controlling the volume of our voice, asking questions, listening to answers, replying to questions asked and providing additional information. But is also involves kindness and humility. It involves letting someone talk, and sometimes talk too much but still being kind. It sometimes involves listening to things you don't care much about and waiting your turn before changing the subject matter. But mostly, it requires not having to be right all the time and being okay with the idea that your voice doesn't always have to be heard. Just be good to each other.  Just love each other.

Above all else, please stop acting as if you are always inside of a helicopter surrounded by running chainsaws. #icanteven

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Small Town Christmas Wearing Headphones

We live in Carver, Minnesota.  Chaska is actually the county seat of Carver County.  Odd and confusing as it may be, I, too, had to get used to it when we moved here from Chanhassen 15 years ago. I grew up in the then small town of Forest Lake, now a huge town with every store and restaurant you could imagine. I ended up in Carver County 24 years ago when I went to Crown College in St. Bonifacius. Except for small stint in Excelsior (Hennepin County), Carver County has been my home for my entire adult life. I love small town living. I love running into friends and family at Target or the other local shops. I love knowing the name of the butcher. (I call him Butcher Tom, and now just pray that that is actually his name.) And being greeted by name when I go into one of the many quaint store fronts that draw people out into our neck of the woods. 

During the Christmas Season we enjoy Christmas Light shows set to music, large trees decorated in the the local park, giant trees by Curling Center that greet us as we enjoy a slow stroll on the Boardwalk at Fireman's Park, craft sales for the Girl Scouts, the Moravian Auburn Home Christmas Boutique, Carriage Rides, hot cocoa and carolers. And this is all this weekend in Chaska!  SO many fun things to do.

The kids and I often leave the house early on Saturday mornings so that we can participate in as many activities as possible. This morning we picked up our Christmas cards that were printed in less than 20 minutes at Walgreen's, went to two boutiques, dropped off consignment items at the store, returned Redbox movies and now we are lounging at the local library.  Every Saturday, our morning involves the library in Chaska.

Zach adores it, he can look at movies and books, and Lily quickly signs him on to computer 15. She settles onto computer 13 and always chooses a few good books before we leave.  I drink coffee, read, write, complete my bible study, answer emails and often search for every elusive popular books. Our Saturday mornings involve a whole lot of technology and whole lot of fun.  We usually stay for about an hour or an hour and half and then head home for lunch. 

Zach, (14) has Autism. He thrives on structure and knowing what comes next. He doesn't like when we vary from specific plans established for the day. So Lily (11) and I remain flexible and stick to our planned out days as much as possible to keep the peace with Zach and to enable all of us to have a joy filled day. Zach struggles with babies crying and loud children. He can't handle it.  He wears headphones to block immediate sound and they provide a bit of pressure to enable him to cope in situations that he perceives as stressful. Many times Zach feels so comfortable wearing his headphones, he forgets to take them off when we get back in the car or are just by ourselves. I remind Zach to remove them, so that he can take in more of the conversations and happenings around him. 

Zach loves Christmas. Lights and trees and ornaments. Wreaths and decorated homes, goodies and Christmas Carols.  While at one of the boutiques this morning, Zach quickly removed his headphones and ran to me. "Mom! Mom! The song!  It is Christmas! Walking in a Winter Wonderland!!!"  Zach exclaimed in a loud booming voice. 

Zach is a handsome, very tall 6' 2" man sized child. He is often noticed by others because of how much joy he finds in the mundane. He was soooo excited about the music that was being played. He began to quickly scan the room trying to locate where the music was coming from.  He located the speaker, barreled to it and began to sing and dance.  He turned to smile at me as he sang.  Many of the women surrounding us turned and smiled at Zach and then smiled at me. One woman stopped me and touched my arm, "If only all children loved Christmas as much as he does!"

While walking a few blocks this morning returning to the car from the Christmas boutique, Lily and I were chatting as Zach was about 20 feet in front of us. His long legs and huge strides will never allow for Lily and I to keep his pace. I saw Zach stop in tracks and whip his headphones off again.  He stared up at the large tree next to the sidewalk and pointed up at it. "Mom! Listen! The birds are talking!"  Lily and I approached and we could hear the birds. Two of them having what appeared to be a conversation. Tweeting, more like squawking back and forth, the birds got louder as we drew near.

"Mom, I love the birds!" Zach explained.  I, too, have a genuine love of birds. Zach wasn't ready to move on as of yet, he only had eyes for those loud birds.  I started thinking about all the times I have become frustrated with Zach's headphones. All the times I have tried to pull him into our world and have requested that he would remove them.  Zach can still hear when he is wearing his headphones. He can still hear what is important. What is important to him. He heard the Christmas music that he adores. While others shopped, he took the time to listen to music, sing and dance to it. While Lily and I chatted about what we wanted to accomplish today, Zach heard to the birds high up in the tree, stopped rushing back to the car and took the time to listen to an exchange that only the birds understood.

Zach wore his headphones last weekend when went on the horse drawn carriage rides in Carver.  He wore his headphones when we picked up our Christmas Cards this morning. He will probably wear his headphones at the tree lighting ceremony in Chaska tomorrow. The headphones bring him comfort. They bring him calm.  Zach is still able to take in all the sights and sounds of our small town Christmas, but only in the way that he is able. And that will be alright with me.  Because he isn't interested in small talk. He isn't interested in the hustle and bustle that this time of year seems to revolve around.  He is interested in the lights and silence is all around him. He is interested in the music of Christmas celebrating a Saviors birth. And he is interested in the birds excitedly conversing in the trees overhead. And those things, seem so very important to me.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Tu Me Manques

Throughout my life, I have found myself missing people, missing places, and sometimes even missing things.  Sometimes a physical absence from someone you care about occurs because of a move. Other times, a loved one has passed away. I have found myself missing a place or location where fun times were had.  A vacation location, a favorite now closed restaurant, the shade of a tree no longer on land that is open to the public.  I miss you is a phrase that often leaves my lips if not thought of and not verbalized.  In French, it is Tu Me Manques, or You Are Missing From Me. That expression appears to be more of an accurate description.  A piece or a portion has gone missing from me.

My mother passed away 4 1/2 years ago.  Daily, hourly even, I miss her. I ache for her. I wish I could speak to her on the phone.  I want to meet her for lunch, see Christmas lights with her, enjoy a game of scrabble and enjoy some cocoa. I loved singing with her and laughing with her. I loved watching her play with my kids and reading to them.  I loved cooking with her and making chocolates at Christmas with her. And knowing that she was always available to help when a tough week approached.  A rare form of cancer took her from us in a short 2 1/2 months. Tu Me Manques.

My friend Laura, her husband Chris and children Emma and Copper, moved to Georgia 1 1/2 years ago. A necessary move due to a job change separated us and I miss her daily.  All the text messages, phone calls and face time sessions in the world do not fill the physical void of her absence. I have enjoyed three trips to see her in the past year and will see her again after the New Year. But to go from seeing each other all of the time, going to church together, enjoying bible study together and doing life together, to seeing each other every few months, makes me realize it all the more. Tu Me Manques.

My parents divorced when I was 12. When I was 14, my father moved from Minnesota to Washington. He made a life for himself, remarried and loves his life in the mountains. He has had a lot of physical problems and surgeries. He doesn't travel much and it is difficult for my family to plan the logistics of travel and housing with Zach. (Our special needs 14 year old son) I have seen my dad maybe 6 times in the last 25+ years.  I miss him always.  Phone calls are occasional as my days are so full with work and kids and all my side hustles.  I need a parent. Even at 42. I need a parent. Tu Me Manques.

I miss the white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Narvarre, Florida. I miss the warm water, the way the time doesn't matter, how life just slows down and makes room for enjoyment. Lazy days in the ocean, relaxing evenings poolside. Tu Me Manques.

I also find myself missing characteristics of a person or aspects of a relationship. The way he held the door and my hand. The way she and I laughed until we cried. The way they looked at me and earnestly listened as I poured out my heart. I miss his laughter. I miss her generosity towards my children. The way we played together hours on end. I miss that. I miss it a lot. Tu Me Manques.

I lost 4 handkerchief's in a move from Chanhassen to Carver 15 years ago. Normally, this would be something that didn't matter. It matters so much to me because they belonged to my Grandma Collova. I may have never used them, but I treasured them. I would run my fingers along the lace lined one and think of my childhood spent with Grandma. I often still pray they will show up somewhere, full well knowing I made a mistake somewhere along the way and they probably found their way into the donation bag.  Tu Me Manques.

Maybe I have become more sensitive in my old age, maybe just more aware of how people, places and treasured things make me feel. That is why Tu Me Manques sounds more accurate to me than an I Miss You.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bright Lipstick. Smirk Til It Hurts. Coffee. It All Matters.

Lily is sitting at the kitchen counter. Eating breakfast before school. She tells me she met her friend William's mom this week when she came in to help at school.

Lily: "She is beautiful. She has gorgeous braids up in a bun on top of her head and wears gorgeous red lipstick. You would really like her. I think you should be friends. You both love bright colored lipstick and smile out of the corner of your mouth."

Me: "Lily that is called a smirk. So you are telling me we should be friends because we both love bright lipstick and we smirk? I think we should have more in common if we are going to be friends."

Lily : "Well you both have amazing kids that go to school together and I think she likes coffee."

Me: "Well there you go. Get me her number. We will have coffee."

I firmly believe I am going to have a new friend by the end of the day. Possibly wearing bright lipstick and carrying a large 24 oz. coffee tumbler.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Creating New Holiday Traditions

"I am tired mom. Do we have to go?"
"Honey, do we have to do that this Christmas?"
"I am just not in the mood."

I hear these things and more from my family. Do you also? My family often likes to change things up.  Never really wanting to do the same thing, they will often complain and grudgingly comply.  But I want holidays to be fun for the entire family.

I present to you an exhaustive list of ideas that will help you create new Holiday Traditions.  (It really isn't exhaustive, but I am really tired from asking my kids for ideas of what they think is fun and what they wanted to see added to the list.)

1) Attend a small town tree lighting ceremony.
2) Horse Drawn Carriage Rides.
3) Offer to decorate for an infirm or elderly neighbor.
4) Find a local family in need and buy them Christmas gifts.
5) Invite the neighbor kids over to make holiday crafts.
6) Try ice skating as an adult. (still challenging)
7) Try a new winter sport. (skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, etc)
8) Offer to wrap a friends gifts or address their cards.  How can you help make their to do list a little easier?
9) Volunteer at the local food shelf stocking shelves and helping customers.
10) Fill the local Little Pantry or Little Library with food or books.
11) Coordinate Christmas Caroling in your neighborhood.
12) Invite friends over for a night of Sharing Holiday Traditions. (You might learn something new!)
13) Make tree decorations and bring them to residents at the local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
14) Coordinate a food or coat drive to help the under served in our local community.
15) Contact a local church or house of worship that you do not attend and ask how you can be of assistance.
16) Contact your local school and pay off past due lunch accounts.
17) Invite friends over for popcorn and Holiday movies.
18) Shovel a store front side walk or snow blow a neighbors driveway.
19) Ask what baked good each member of your family likes the most and plan to bake each one during the month of December.
20)  Work through an entire Advent Calendar/Daily Readings with your family.

Some of these are outings, activities and fun events.  Some are giving of your time and talents. Some involve money. The neat thing about Holiday Traditions is that there isn't any wrong ideas. Talk with your family and friends and find out what interests them. But do it together. Enjoy each others company and create memories as you explore this winter wonderland we call home,  give back to your local community,  and serve those in need. Holiday Adventure Awaits!

Simplify This Holiday Season

The holidays are approaching quickly.  Thanksgiving just flew by as usual. And now I have to do Christmas?  My mind races, I make lists, my lists then need lists, I can't remember everything that I told myself to make sure to remember so that I can add it to my list. So many things to do and plan for, so many presents to buy, so much baking to complete. The eternal to do list just might take me til next June to complete. STOP!  (I often yell stop to my myself when I panic, much to my children's chagrin because they think I am yelling at them.) STOP!  Does this sound familiar to you? This year, let's approach the holidays differently.  Here are 5 practical tips to help you simplify this Holiday Season:

1) If Christmas Letters and Cards stress you out, consider a photo card with a collage of family photos from throughout the year. Rather than toiling over a letter and what to say, keep the greeting simple and to the point. Then, all you have to do address and mail.  Avoid thinking of personal messages for each card. Believe me, if you extend a little Grace to others, no one will even notice. They personally desire to do the same thing.

2) Too many holiday invites? It is actually okay to say no. I kid you not. Just say no. Pick and choose what is important to you and your family.  Your cousin's friends mailman will forgive you as you decline his yearly invite.

3)  Consolidate and pair down your decorations.  Sure, all those decorations are beautiful, but if you have 16 bins filled with ornaments, tinsel, berries, greenery, 61 snowmen and angels-- that is a whole darn lot of stuff to organize, unpack, decorate, repack.  It makes me tired just thinking about it. (Ahem...I am down to 10 bins) You don't "need" a tree in every room. You don't need 172 strands of outdoor lights. You don't need the stress of extreme decorating every year.  You are not a Griswold, and will never be!  Have a main tree, maybe the kids can enjoy one also, but this year, take it down a notch.

4)  Rather than inviting 24 couples for a progressive holiday dinner, evaluate your circles of friends. Who do you "do life" with? Who do you talk to daily?  Who are the people that you will be seen in your pj's with?  Those are the friends to plan a fun evening with.  Create a new tradition that your friends will look forward to in the years to come. Consider maybe 5 couples max, and have a wine, appetizer and dessert night. Each couple brings a bottle or two, an app or a dessert.  You my friend, as host/hostess, will just need to provide the location and additional beverages.

5) Your family and friends do not appreciate the 19 trinket presents you have bought them  More is not more. More is usually just more stress, more money. Start thinking about quality over quantity.  Save yourself time and effort. Order on line and direct ship with a gift note. Order entire family gifts at once from the same company and request it to be delivered in as few boxes as possible. Change your approach to gift giving for kids. Try the 3 gift approach. Something to read, something to wear, and something desired. Create a simplistic approach for gift giving when a child is young, and they will know what to expect as they get older.

These are just five quick, practical tips to help you simplify.  It is all about creating new habits.  If you continue to work on simplifying your holiday's now and then also in the years to come, the worry, the anxiety, the lengthy to do lists will not seem as important anymore.  Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends and neighbors this holiday season.  Because there isn't a prize for who has the longest to do list. I checked. There isn't.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Stupid Face

It has been brought to my attention that my compliments sound strange, bizarre and occasionally not like compliments at all. Many sentences begin with Girl, Babe, For Real, etc. I have been known to say things like shut your beautiful mouth. But my favorite by far is I Love Your Stupid Face. I don't know why I say some of the things that I say, but wow. When I say this, people know I mean it.  I love your stupid face is almost like a term of endearment.

My mother used to say things like,  "Kelli, I love you oodules and boodles." Or, "Girl, can you help me in the garden for a minuto." (with an o) My favorite was, "Kace, let's go to Targe Boutique." (skipping the t, maybe made Target sound fancy)  Obviously, I got my love for odd words from my mom then.

I often wonder how long it takes someone to figure out that my odd words come from a place of adoration.  As in, how much time passes after meeting me and becoming my friend, do I start using the above mentioned words and phrases. But then today, the woman who handed me quarter for my cart , I said, "Oh thank you dear heart."  I sounded like I was 80, fully aware of that now. Or the gal that held the door at the next store, "Thank you sweetness."  These words flow from my lips now I think a little too fast.  I don't think words like dear heart or sweetness would actually offend strangers. But I don't want to make someone uncomfortable. Is this how people in south use words like honey and sugar when addressing someone?

Maybe my level of sarcasm has hit an all time high. And that is why I am even wondering about all of this nonsense. I can't say that words like these will ever disappear from my vocabulary. Mostly, because if "I love you " wasn't followed up with "and your stupid face", how will people know that I am being totally serious?

Warning! I AM A WRITER! Please Behave Better.

I stopped writing about what I thought I should say years ago. I started writing about what needed to be said.  I found myself dancing around subject matters, around situations and even around certain people, and I avoided writing about them. Sometimes, it was matters of the heart, or the poor decision making skills of others, and even mean, cruel behavior directed at me.  But if all of these things happened to me, why wasn't I talking about it? Why wasn't I writing about it? I discovered, I was trying to protect others but dishonoring myself at the same time. Almost as if I was filled with emotions about certain life events, and these emotions were bottled because I never thought I had the right to share them.  Once I figured this out, I started talking about and writing about the circumstances that lead up each building block of who I am today.  Every positive, negative, hurtful, joyous, profound and life changing event, I was now going to explore them.

My mother and husband were the only people that ever said...Maybe you shouldn't write about that.  They were warning me and also trying to protect me. My mother knew that by writing about certain things, I would probably hurt someones feelings. (If I told the truth). My husband knew that I would offend friends and family for possessing and talking about an unpopular opinion. (Political and Faith Based) Rather than lie or even avoid at all costs, I started writing, and editing and editing some more. Pulling offensive, even hurtful or inflammatory phrases and finding ways to explain my personal experience rather than incriminating someone else based on their absurd actions or lack of communication skills.

I often run ideas or stories I am working on by my husband. He observed me toiling as a deadline was looming, he said, "Stop trying to figure out how to say it the right way and just say it. He knows you are a writer. If he wanted you to write amazing stories about him and his character, maybe he wouldn't have said what he said and treated you that way."  My husband was so right. I needed to just write about what happened.

When Coffee Shop Blue's was published a year and half ago, the editor never edited my story. The response email read, " How is it possible that you sounded wounded and triumphant all at the same time?" My response, "He was horrible to me, and will never be my friend again. He hurt me and rattled me to the core, but he didn't win. I will probably be hurt again, and again. But then those are two more stories I will have to write about."

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Thanksgiving this year came in like a whirlwind and departed in the same manner. Cleaning my home, preparing food, locating all my favorite China, serving dishes and silver that has been passed down from generation to generation. Decorating with leaves and pumpkins and cornucopia. Rearranging wreaths and cotton swags in the front entry to warmly welcome guests as they arrive. Final touches to food and making sure the table is set just the way my mother would have.

25 family and friends gathered in our home to celebrate being thankful.  For said family and friends.  For jobs and provision. For a Savior who continually pursues us.  We treasured our day together as we all fully understood that these times are precious and few. 11 children ran from the basement to the dinning room and to the second floor squealing with glee as cousins chased and joined in the fun. A gorgeous, unseasonably warm day, soccer and football were played in the backyard and in the lacrosse fields behind our home.  Children and adults alike slowly returned indoors in need of more water and wine and coffee and egg nog.

Leftovers were stored and packed up for family and friends to enjoy again. Embraces and kisses and love and prayers  were given and received, treasured and held dear. Excitement among cousins When they discovered that they would see each other again in two weeks and again at Christmas.

My husband's family is large and amazing and loving. And these memories of a day spent concentrating on Thankfulness are so important. Never fleeting, always present.

The days can be long and challenging. Raising a special needs son and a spirited daughter. Physical pain that sometimes threatens to overtake me. Sorrow and pain still felt daily as my mother passed away too soon. An aching heart missing my best friend. But today, more than ever, I find there is always, always, always something to be thankful for. For smiles and laughter, wine and good food, for help with the dishes, hugs from a friend, thank you's from my husband  and my children delighting over a day well spent.

And when we settle back into our regular schedule and Christmas preparations begin, I will remind myself to enjoy, savor and embrace an attitude of thankfulness,  now and always. Because there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.

And Happy Thanksgiving To You!

Me: Happy Thanksgiving Zach!
Zach: You're welcome mom!
Me: Thank you, but that isn't what you say when someone says that. You say Happy Thanksgiving in return.
Zach : You're welcome in return!
Me: No Zach, when I say to you Happy Thanksgiving, you say Happy Thanksgiving back to me.
Zach: Back to me.
Me: Not quite but I like it that you are trying. You will have lots of time to practice today.
Zach: Mom! 🙄 I don't want to practice.
Me: Whatever. I love you.

Five minutes later Zach is watching the parade on TV and news anchor says:
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Zach: And Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Leggings Are Pants

Sitting at Caribou, Jennifer was meeting me there soon. This was quite the place this morning. Extremely large group of elderly men visiting and sipping coffee. Never in my life have I been greeted with such a boisterous  chorus of Good Morning Miss! I then overheard a conversation between two men declaring their love for the groups Boston and Chicago and singing their songs over and over again. And they were super busy and we made the mistake by taking the last table by the bathrooms. Revolving door of  self conscious people entering and exiting. The best part was realizing that my brand new leggings that I am wearing for the first time today are completely see through. Jennifer asked me what I was doing after coffee. I told her nothing. Because apparently I need to go home and change my pants. 🙄#fortheloveofallthingsholy #leggingsarepants #cantmakethisstuffup

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


I often identify as an extrovert with introvert tendencies. I love people, relationships, and large groups. But I also love quiet nights at home, reading books, writing until I can't write any longer, quite solitary outdoor walks and silence. I am quite comfortable being in a public setting such as a movie theater or restaurant by myself. I often enjoy days when I realize I don't need to leave the house at all.

When asked how I would describe myself, I would say I am talkative, caring, an observer, silly, the organizer, a gentle peacemaker, encouraging and confident. When others describe me, they often use many of the same words.

When I was in High School at Forest Lake Senior High, I had a Psychology teacher whom many made fun off. He was quirky and awkward, shared his JFK conspiracy theories freely and often yelled when students didn't pay attention in class. I found this man fascinating. He had so much life experience, was very knowledgeable and I became interested in observing him. What made him tick? Did it ever affect him when students made fun of him, or when he realized he hadn't formed any relationships with fellow staff members? How was this man attempting life on his own and succeeding by following his own path?

I had a list of questions late one morning about our project that was due and approached his teaching podium. He earnestly listened to me as I laid out my issues and questions. He affirmed me, thanked me for making a list and started answering my questions. I didn't want to miss anything so I started taking notes in my notebook. When he finished talking and answering questions, I felt confident in what he told me and that I could finish the project without any issues.

"Kelli, might I add. You are a marvel. You are concise, accurate and thought provoking. You listen and internalize information like no one I have ever seen. You have amazing eye contact. No one has ever looked at me for that amount of time. Ever.

My teenage self became uncomfortable. He continued, "Always ask questions, always take notes, always choose to communicate effectively. By doing so, you will turn into a very interesting adult." I smiled, thanked him and returned to my desk, slightly embarrassed as I realized most of the class had witnessed this exchange.

I reflected on our conversation, and I made it more about him than me. I actually felt sad for him. This elderly world wise educator had never had anyone look at him like that? Not his own parents when he was a child, not his wife during their many years of marriage? I thought about how pleased he was, how invested he was in our conversation. He found my quest for knowledge edifying. He appreciated that I cared about what he had to say, listened intently, intentionally made eye contact with him and acknowledged him with non verbal communication throughout our conversation.

I then realized that these were also the things that I look for when having a conversation with others.

From that day forward, I affirmed others, held others gaze, listened intently and desired mutually gratifying conversations with others.

25 years later, I am still the one who holds a gaze a bit longer than necessary. The one that smiles to myself as I remember fondly a person or conversation. The one that loves learning about others and their lives. I like to think it is all because of an elderly Psychology teacher who took a extra moment to marvel in me.

Monday, November 6, 2017

I'm Just Not the Same

I write. A lot. I write so much that I often have to spend time cleaning up computers and pruning notebooks. Volumes and volumes of notebooks I complete each year. Sometimes, it is a poem, other times a short story. Many times it is random thoughts meant for me to piece together bit by bit at a later time.

Sometimes it is just a Facebook status. I can write an entire article for newspapers in one sitting. Just last week, I wrote a 1300 word short story for a magazine and proofed it in 2  hours. Why do I sit and stare at a screen in hopes that something  will come to me?

I am a story teller. I tell true stories about my day, my family, my quirky life. Usually humorous, (My daughter believing the words ignoring and imploring were the same word until age 11), often inspiring, (when Zach spoke 16 spontaneous words in a row for the first time) I want what I write to mean something. I want to make others laugh, experience joy, not feel so alone, make their own life experience not as burdensome. I want people to feel hope, experience change, decide to do things differently and to be an encouragement. Yes, even with a Facebook post.

What happens most often? I end up deleting what I have written, because I am just not the same person I was 6 minutes ago. Also, there is an error in the attached picture, so I better just scratch this whole thing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

That's Not Right

That’s Not Right
By:Kelli J Gavin

When I was a child, I believed what I was told. I took things at face value. I was very literal.  I also didn’t understand the meaning of many things I heard adults say, but went along with it anyhow, because they were the adult and they knew, well everything.

Gardening was always a very big part of my youth. We ate or canned everything we grew. I once remember panicking at a new friend’s house.  While playing in the backyard, I didn’t see their garden, so I asked where it was. She informed me that they didn’t have one. No garden? Oh no, what were they going to do for food this winter? Were they poor? I was going to have to tell my mom so we could come up with a plan to bring them food that winter so they wouldn’t go hungry. Turns out, we were actually the poor ones, and canned out of necessity.

We were visiting family in Little Canada, and I heard the weird music of an ice cream truck, but I didn’t know what it was. My dad said, “Oh. That is an ice cream truck. They only play the music to let everyone know they are out of ice cream.”  We lived in country and I didn’t know that this wasn’t true until I was probably 12. No lie.

As an adult, I love when I am convinced of one thing only to be corrected by a friend, usually accompanied by fits of laughter. I have come to find out that what I think is true, is always wrong. Something I have been told, or just made up in my own mind, but rarely true. I thought all babies wore cloth diapers until I was 18. I also thought that pregnant mother’s would always give birth before midnight. Also figured out that wasn’t true in my twenties.

Once I started talking about these strange kinds of things with friends, I quickly found out that everyone has had these misunderstandings. And that many times, they are told, That’s Not Right.

Danielle of Carver was told as a child that the mountains were dirt covered dinosaurs and would study them for hours until she could identify the dinosaur. Thanks Danielle’s step dad.

Laura of Hamilton, Georgia believed that she needed to avoid those orange cheese crackers with peanut butter because they would cause her to urinate. Thanks Laura’s Aunt.

Ali of Pheonix, AZ admitted that when her parents used to tell her to eat her food because there were children starving in this world, she would often tell them to send her food to them. She couldn’t figure out why she would get in trouble for saying such things. Thanks Bob and Georgia for keeping Ali in check.

Kevin of Victoria honestly believed that money grew on trees because he constantly heard it from his parents. Thanks Kevin’s parents.  

Amy from Eden Prairie, believed that famous song from Flash Dance contained lyrics such as “ Take your pants off” rather than “Take your passion and make it happen”. Thank you Amy’s friends for correcting her with a chorus of giggles.  

Samantha from Chaska believed that people only died on their birthday.  She had never lost anyone and had no knowledge of death. After a friend’s grandpa died on his birthday, she believed that to be true of everyone.  Thank you , well, life experience for teaching Samantha that this is just not true.

Elise in Minnetonka reports her extreme upset as child whenever she saw her parents drinking pop or even water in the car while driving. She had heard that ad campaign on the tv, Don’t Drink and Drive, and didn’t know that it applied to alcoholic beverages. She was also convinced that her mom always sat on her lunch after making it because the sandwich was squished.  Thanks Mom for not drinking in the car and for sitting on lunches all the time.

But the best story I think I heard while chatting with the ‘locals’ was from Kelly of Chaska.  She said that she thought everyone was required to get a military id at the age of 10. And that everyone knew to stop and look for a flag if you heard the national anthem. Kelly also explained that she thought everyone sang the Marine Corps Hymn as a part of their mornings in elementary school. All this wisdom as a Navy Brat was then proved to be false, when moving off the naval base. Thank you real world for busting Kelly’s bubble.

Kids, ask your parents. Parents ask your kids. This just might be a fun new dinner table conversation. We call it That’s Not Right at the Gavin House. And let’s just say, I have a few more stories to share than most.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I Miss You

When I say that I am a truth teller, I mean exactly that. I tell the truth. I tell the truth because the truth is important, it is real, it is true. I don't volunteer information if I don't actually think it or feel it. I won't offer words to fill quiet spaces. When I speak, I am intentional. Sharing usually only the few words that I have to offer.  When I am comfortable with someone, or a group of people, I open up, let down my guard and my story telling abounds.

When I say I love you to someone, they know I mean it. Just like when I say I miss you.  It is something that I truly mean. I miss you. I miss your hugs, your love, your encouragement, your smile, your eye contact, your ability to make me forget my worries, your physical presence, your joy. I miss your laughter, your hands, the tears you shed laughing. I miss the way you futz with your clothing, the way you freely compliment others, the way you always place your hand on the small of my back. I miss the way you always buy the perfect presents, the way you love me, the way you drive a little reckless, the way you cry at sappy movies, the way you love others. Who is the YOU that I miss? The you is actually many people. The you is often someone who may come and go as they please, in and out of my life. Here for a while, then gone for a spell. The ones that I miss, are usually the ones that return to me. Sometimes, separated by physical distance, sometimes by time, I still hope they find their way back.

Each person in my life that I now miss, has amazing qualities, characteristics, quirks and even eccentricities that I miss. Often they are also someone I love. Those qualities, characteristics, quirks and eccentricities I have grown to love. When they do return back to me, often on a weathered path, it is hard to contain my joy when we are able to pick up right where we left off. It is true. Some relationships are meant for only a season. Some are meant for a lifetime.  Those relationships that are meant for life time are covered with a whole lot of grace.  It isn't- Why didn't you call me? Or- You never text or email or write anymore. It is more- Come here my treasured friend. Sit close to me , tell me everything, hug me closer. I have missed you. I love you.

That Grace, that Love, is what can encourage and build us up. What can restore us and invigorate us. However, we must share that love freely, make it known and declare it, sometimes over and over again.  This life is so very short. And I count each moment I am gifted with those that I love and miss as pure joy. Because often, I am the one that has been extended Grace and Love as I return on a weathered path.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


A loving letter to my family,
I have now used the same big thick bath towel four days in a row. Some of you would say Ew. Some say it can't be true. I assure you, not only is it true, it is also possible. Two out of the last 4 days, I have even taken 2 showers on those days. What?! I know. I like showering. I would like you to know that this magic I speak of is something you, too, can experience. If you fold the towel in threes and hang it on one of the 3749 hooks, towels racks or even shower rods provided, you, too, will be able to enjoy a dry, fresh towel that doesn't stink like your winter boots and can be used more than once! I know this sounds like crazy talk. But I am serious. I am here to help and will guide you every step of the way. Why am sharing this amazing knowledge with you? I am on strike from washing two overflowing loads of towels each week starting today. No more, I won't do it. So use your towel, fold your towel, hang your towel, repeat. My work here is done.
No longer the washer of gross towels that have been laying on the floor for three days because no one hung them up. 🙄

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Elmer's Glue

Lily: Do you think there will be a time when we won't have so much to do?

Me: What do you mean?

Lily : You said we had so much to do today to get ready for this week because you work so much.

Me: Lily, I have 6 clients in 4 days. No more than usual. But yes, with a full schedule, we do need to buckle down for 2 to 3 hours on the weekend and get everything done. You know, laundry  cleaning, backpack items for the week. Once we get those things done we can play. That's why we went to the pumpkin patch first today. Then we work for a while and then we can do a nature walk later.

Lily : I am not sure about that nature walk. When we go and get Elmer's glue at Target, craft projects will be calling my name.

Me: Who said we are going to Target? You sure seem to have a lot of plans for kid without a job, without any money and for someone who doesn't drive a car.

We never went to Target, but we did stop at Cooper's for mushrooms and bean sprouts.

She now has Elmer's glue.

So Carver Park Reserve, my guess is you won't be graced by Miss Thing's presence today... 🙄

Monday, October 16, 2017

Painting Pictures of Egypt

Sometimes walks with Zach are filled with laughter. Sometimes we are working on drying his tears and moving on with our day. Sometimes they seem very solitary. He is worried about dogs barking and wears his headphones most of time.  He also has longer legs than I do and walks at a ridiculously fast pace. I can't keep up. So I often walk behind him and admire this amazing kid.

Carrying his water bottle filled with ice in one hand and a beautiful leaf in the other, he sets his pace. He turns to tell me he likes his new Levi's shoes. And laughs when the birds get really loud at the far side of the field. As we round the bend and approach our road he turns and puffs out air. His fast pace has gotten the best of him. And he is winded. Walking up the road, there is a slight incline, Zach turns and says, " Mom, this road is so steep."

I smile from ear to ear. Steep. This is a new word for Zach. One he has never used before. But used accurately and to describe the incline he is feeling challenged by. But still, he continues. I think of all the areas of my life that seem steep. Too steep at times. When I feel winded and tired. Sometimes wanting to turn around and go back. Often I find that I am "Painting pictures of Egypt, and leaving out what it lacks. The future seems so hard and I want to go back" . The lessons I have learned from Zach are plenty. Today, it is that there is no turning around. Even when it is steep, I must continue. "The places that used to fit me, can not hold all that I've learned. Those roads have been closed off to me while my back was turned."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Manna not Qdoba

Pastor Troy referenced the Israelites being HANGRY while wandering in exile for 40 years. (Exodus 16) He said that when God provided manna from heaven, they of course continued to grumble. They didn't like the manna, or bread that God provided so they complained rather than realizing and acknowledging that the manna was a blessing from God and He was meeting their needs. He compared it to wanting Qdoba, but only being given Chipotle. #cantmakethisstuffup #mannafromheaven #alwaysqdoba

Also you should know Zach responded with a roaring "Qdoba?!?" because he thought we were then going there. And then as we left the service he turns and asks, "Why was Pastor Troy being so funny?"

Saturday, October 14, 2017


I don't think it gets any easier. Friendships and relationships that is. I find myself often wary of others due to a false presentation of who someone is. Someone acting or putting on a facade rather than being who they really are.  I often say that with me, what you see is what you get. There is no pretending. If I am smiling,  I am content or even happy. If I am quiet, I am often lost in thought or even struggling through something in my heart. If I am crying, I may be filled with joy or so very sad by something that has occurred. But my emotions and outward appearance are always true to who I am. 

When I was in high school, I discovered that mean girls was a real thing. Teen girls are such a fickle breed. One day your best friend, the next, influenced by a mean girl, they despise you, ignore you and refuse to acknowledge your existence. Or the teacher that appeared to really enjoy thier job at the beginning of year, and that kind disposition that made me think that I could ask and receive help whenever needed revealed that wasn't true,  I was made to feel stupid when I asked for help over and over again when I struggled so much with anything past basic algebra.

There was one young man at school  that I had watched for 3 years from afar. Amazing eye contact, always smiled back and made me feel unbelievable with only a glance. One day late in my senior year, he approached and took my hand in the  hallway. When he spoke, they were words that I didn't expected from him. They were vulgar, somewhat shocking, and he sounded more like a drunken sailor than someone I wanted to spend time with.

Freshman year of college, there was the older gentleman I adored, only to find he was moving his way through the entire female roster. And the boss at a local financial institution whom everyone loved, was amazing and helpful and complimented me on work all the time, then stole every idea of worth and took credit for all my work.

I had struggled with pretty much every friendship, every family relationship every encounter I had ever had,  until I was married. My husband Josh was a true as true could be. Honest as the day is long, and a blank slate. Ask him anything, he would tell you the truth and the whole story.  I was so confused as this was something that I had never experienced before. Josh helped me discover that I am a big fan of people being exactly who they are.

Because of others not always being truthful or upfront, I have found I am an amazing judge of character. I find myself studying body language,  facial expressions and looking for everything that has been left unspoken. The slight squint of an eye, the turn of a head, the pursing of lips. A lingering hand on an arm, an extended glance, uncomfortable eye contact, prolonged hugs. A smirk, a gentle hidden smile, a tear swiped away before anyone notices. A too tight hand shake, a stolen kiss, genuine laughter that leads to fits of giggles. When our words and actions sometimes are not true to form, I find myself reverting to the non verbal, to my physical observations. My own perceptions rarely fail me.

However, it can be exhausting. Constantly studying someone, observing from afar. I have also come to discover that I won't be able to understand everyone and that I just need to let it go. And that people change, over time and because of the influences surrounding them.  Sometimes for the better, and sometimes not. Grace. It is all about Grace. Covering each new relationship with Grace. If someone says something or does something that I don't like, rather than run for the hills, it is all about second chances. And sometimes third and fourth.

Some people, some relationships are meant to be pursued. Some are only meant to last for a bit, and then maybe fall by the wayside. We each need to understand that that is alright.  I want to run hard and fast after people that don't pretend, that don't try to be someone they are not. I want to surround myself with the people that are the same in big groups as they are one on one. Because through these past 42 years, I have discovered a few things. One being that I am a big fan of people being exactly who they are.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I asked my first of three clients today (75ish) if she would like me to move the newspapers from her bed. She replied, "Oh no. Did you see who that is? You can leave it there for awhile." #ryangosling #cantmakethisstuffup

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Please Be Funny

Today, I was asked to speak at a single father's support group in December. I got the details and asked if there were any specific things they would like to me to touch on. The main organizer of the event said, " We were wondering if you wouldn't mind calling your talk 'What To Do With All the Crap". He also asked of I could promise to be funny as their group responds to humor. I asked if he meant something like, "At the single mom's support group I spoke at last week, we never even got around to talking about what to do with all the crap. They just wanted to make sure I forwarded their roster that includes phone numbers to all the men in your group. " I may have even laughed out loud at my own joke. He then told me my services as public speaker were no longer required and he was moving on the next person on the list. #cantmakethisstuffup 🙄

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Enjoy It

St Gabriel's in Hopkins, MN  has a rummage sale the first weekend of October every year. And every year I find something amazing. I have always had a fascination with artwork surrounding music. It started when I was 12, and my grandmother promised me that on my 16 birthday, she would  give me her beloved Sonata which I always believed was Vivian Leigh in a red ball gown playing the piano Forte. Over the years, I have found more than a dozen amazing pieces but haven't added to my collection in quite some time. Today, I found this beauty hidden behind about 30 others. Worried that it was going to break the bank, I almost put it back.

After looking at all the other items I went up to pay and ask the price. I said it wasn't marked but was interested. The woman smiled and said, "Oh my. What a beauty. If it isn't marked, it is 50¢." I about fell over. I may have attempted to clarify 2 or 3 times the ridiculous price, and she said, "Stop worrying, bring it home and enjoy it." That is exactly what I plan to do.

Spider Web Smack

This morning, we had a rough start at the Gavin house. The rough start earned Lily a hand holding escort to the bus stop. In addition to hand holding, my job entailed holding the plastic bag of cereal that included my gf cereal because she "doesn't like the other 4 kinds I bought", she didn't have time to eat it out of bowl because I "didn't put out a school uniform that she liked", and because I "made a mistake letting her sleep in." Attitude and chaos abounded, and the straw that broke the camels back was when I handed her a brush and attempted to adjust an ill placed barrette. So tears were dried, I love yous were exchanged, hugs were a plenty, said barrette was stored in her back pack.  And the child went to school.
Just as I was patting myself on the back for turning that entire morning around for my sweet girl, every low lying tree branch hovering over the sidewalk that contained a spiderweb found its way to my face. Lesson learned, never pat yourself on the back. Don't even think about it. 🕷️🕸️🌳

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Space Camp

As I was packing backpacks last night, Lily asked me, "When you went to Space Camp, did you really go to space?" 🚀 I told her I did. (What? She is 11 tomorrow. That means she has had 11 years of dealing with my sarcasm. She should be able to tell from here on out if I am telling the truth or not.)

Never Leave. Never Fail. Never Abandon.

This morning, one of the last things Lily said as she was leaving for school was, "Thanks for the umbrella and I will remember my water bottles."

Yesterday morning, she informed me as she walked out the door that she knew what do in the case of an active shooter or intruder and knew how to help the little kids who might be crying and scared.

My sweet girl​ will be 11 tomorrow. I wish we lived in a world where children didn't need to understand what an active shooter or an intruder even is. The fact that she has scoped out every classroom, every room, every bathroom and even the locker room for an exit strategy is sobering.

We read through portions of the Sermon the Mount again last night and got to the section about Not Worrying.  I asked her what are examples of things she worries about. I was sure she would talk about current events, guns and violence.

She told me she was more worried about being in trouble at school for something she didn't do. I asked her if what is happening in this world worried her. She said, "God is still God, isn't he? He said he will never leave me or fail me or abandon me. I suppose that means that even if I do get in trouble tomorrow at school, he will be with me the whole time."

The amazing, rational mind of this kid is fascinating to me. She watches the news, she asks intelligent, probing questions.bAnd she fully understands the evil that exists in the world. Yet God is  still God. He will never leave us, fail us, or abandon us.

Hebrews 13:5
Matthew 5,6,7

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas Shooting

Listening to Lily's prayers this morning for the people in Las Vegas, I was stunned. This almost 11 year old girl just gets it. She prayed for the injured and for healing. He prayed for all the military present. For the police, firemen, ems, doctors and nurses at the hospitals. For the people that saw what happened and lost friends and family right before their eyes. She prayed for the families all around the USA waiting to hear from loved ones. She prayed that God would comfort those who are so sad and scared. She also prayed for the hotel employees who are going to be asked to do more and help people and feed people. She prayed that those employees would be kind and encouraging.  I sat in a pool of tears. Lily looked up and asked if I had anything to add. No Lily. I have nothing else to add. You covered it all. 💗

Saturday, September 30, 2017


I blame all of this on the lack of pumpkin spice coffee. I was cooking scalloped potatoes (top) and a ham (bottom) in casserole glass pans. I reached in to take out the potatoes and I heard a cracking noise. I realized what was happening shut my eyes, threw the potatoes on top of the stove and slammed the oven door shut with my knee. It still covered my entire kitchen with glass shards it happened so fast. Some big enough to carve your way out of Angola. The oven was smoking because all of the ham juice was then laying at the bottom of the oven. Shut it off, opened the windows. I had to shake the glass from my hair and clothing. Clean the floors, counters and sink and double check the carpet by the living room entrance.  So, I am thinking dinner is going to be delayed. Don't judge, those potatoes look amazing.

Josh came home from working all day and cleaned up all the glass for me. I used Awesome Orange, Dawn Dish Soap and Bar Keeper's Friend. No wait and wiped everything, grease and all,
 up immediately. And it looks brand new!

My kids thought it was ridiculously entertaining. Scary is  more like it.

I Was There To Hold His Hand

     Our dad is dying. He is in his final days. My sister Angela is doing an amazing job caring for him in her home. She is overseeing care,...