Sunday, July 30, 2017

Get Rid of Most of It

I am often asked what I, as a Professional Organizer do in my own home to keep it organized. What do I say? Purge everything. If you get rid of most everything, not only is it easier to organize what you do have, but it also takes so much less energy, effort and time. Energy, effort and time. I lack energy at the end of long day. I definitely don't want to put in much effort when I don't have much energy. And my time will always be limited. But when I block out time, I can accomplish small tasks.

Make a list of 5 things/projects you would like to accomplish this week. For me:
1. Clean off kitchen counter and prepare school binder for fall
2. Clear out as many items of unwanted clothing from my closet as possible
3. Purge books, DVDs and cds
4. Clear out pantry and wash each shelf
5. Clear out cabinet under TV and the cabinet under book shelf

Five things. Five projects I want to accomplish this week. By getting rid of more and more from my home each week, I am able to keep what I do have more organized.

I will set the timer each day for a half hour to an hour at a time. I will get done as much as I can in that time. If I have energy  and time to continue, I will set it for additional half hour increments.

Try this method this week.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Judge - A Short Story of Friendship Redemption

"I have come to realize that it isn't the subject matter I have problems with, it is the delivery, the facial expressions, the body language, the words chosen, the often condescending tone of voice, and the pious continuation of the conversation after someone has attempted to change the subject. This is ultimately why I struggle. I now understand why I seek out certain friends over others. For the longest time, I couldn't identify what the issue was. And then I realized it wasn't just listening to the words being spoken, I was observing, studying, and overtly judging people based on their entire being. I had to set my judgemental thoughts aside, evaluate the friendships that challenged me so much and just love people. I am a faulty flawed individual myself. My entire life, thoughts, feelings, and conversations also could be totally unnerving to others. Grace. It is all about grace. However, it is also about making sure I speak up when I don't agree, not nod in agreement and hope they stop talking. It made me aware of own tendencies to drone on and be far too sarcastic without knowing or understanding my intended audience."  Judge - short story of friendship redemption.

Be Honest. Be Kind

Can we all as a society stop mom shaming? Can we stop pointing fingers and whispering and gossiping? Every time someone posts a picture of their child, singing in the car... Where is their seat belt? Or eating a treat like an ice cream cone... You should concentrate on fruits and vegetables and never reward a child with a food treat. Or when your child's skin looks a little pink and sun kissed... Are you sure you are using the right sun screen? You should apply all natural sunscreen many times a day and possibly look into buying your child a sun shirt. I am done. My feelings have been hurt and I think many other moms are feeling hurt also. Feeling judged, ridiculed, defeated. Let's go back to a day where we encourage each other rather than tear down. Let's do back to a day where we love each other unconditionally rather than pass judgement. Let's go back to a day where we speak only kind words to each and we do not gossip behind each others backs. And let's just face it. We need  to admit that none of us truly have our act together. We spend way to much time trying to make it look like we do. Let's be honest and be kind to each other. It isn't that hard. And I will probably give both of my children ice cream cones tonight right before bed...

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Tale of Two Shop Owners

I struggled this morning with a shop owner and had a great experience with another shop owner. The first was a small boutique. Zach (now 16 and so very tall at 6'2"),  Lily (my spirited 12 year old daughter) and I walked into a store and Zach made a beeline through the store to make sure he understood the dimensions and layout, and possibly looked for a bathroom.

The lady behind the counter was helping a customer and shouts at me, not kidding, "Um, I don't know what he is doing or where he is going... But... ."

I looked up from the cute jewelry to see Zach returning to me from the back of the store. I replied, "He has autism and is just checking out your store."

I looked at Lily and told her to follow me. Zach then became very happy to see the large mirrors in the changing rooms. Beautiful clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry, home decor and gifts were left untouched as the woman then approached me and said, "I am sorry that was just weird." I asked Zach to go wait outside the front door. I smiled at the woman, I took Lily by the hand and we then walked slowly to the front door without saying a word to her. I turned as I reached the door and said thank you and walked out. I could have been rude, but biting my tongue was the best thing to do.

Lily and I then had a great conversation about never returning rudeness with rudeness. She asked a lot of questions about why that lady acted so weird because of Zach. I told her how people's words and actions  are often due to ignorance and lack of understanding. She got it. She totally understood that I could have let that woman have it and made a scene in front of her four other customers. But I didn't. All she needed was my direct eye contact, a smile, the fact that I left without spending a penny and possibly the knowledge that I will never return. It was my Julia Robert's moment from Pretty Woman. "Big Mistake. Huge." - but without saying a word.

My amazing son is tall and handsome.  He is able to speak and have his needs met.  He is inquisitive and enjoys becoming familiar with the lay of the land in each new location.  He wears large black noise blocking headphones which help protect him from sensory overload when he feels assaulted by loud noises. His mannerisms are often viewed as atypical and it is quite apparent that special needs come into play when he is out in public. I struggle as a parent when adults are not kind, or act as if my son't physical presence is a nuisance.  I often wonder where many adults were on the day when God handed out compassion, because I have witnessed far too many people who do not possess that trait when interacting with my son.

Then, this afternoon after a couple errands, Zach and I stopped in at Paragon Bakery. They have been there for over a year and I didn't know. Very reasonable prices, cute dinning room, super friendly wait staff. The owner was very interested in understanding my Gluten Free needs, showed me everything, discussed pricing, call ahead orders, and ingredients. She also made sure I knew the specials and had bread for my family for dinner tomorrow night.

It was an amazing interaction. Zach would have to agree. He ordered a still warm chocolate chip cookie as big as his head that was $1.35. I ordered a GF cupcake with frosting $2.35 (amazing!) Zach yelled thank you to her and she said you are welcome. She asked his name, what his favorite treats are, how old he is, if he will want to come back again and if he wanted to sit in the comfy chairs in the dining room. He loved the attention.

She then looked directly at my son and said, "Zach it was a pleasure meeting you today.  I am so glad you like the cookies. Next time you come back, bring your mom." My heart swelled with joy.

She observed my neurodivergent man sized child, included him in conversation and made sure his needs were met. She met him where he is at. She didn't startle when he went to enter the kitchen, but smiled at him and welcomed him in. She showed him around and let him freely roam and only came near to protect him as he approached the hot ovens. He smiled at her and pretended to breathe in deeply, taking in all of the delicious smells.

Two stores. Two completely different experiences. I have a feeling the bakery will now receive a lot of my business.

Long Dark Curly Hair

Dear New Librarian,
I haven't seen you here before. I thought I knew all the librarians. You must be new. We spend a lot of time here. Every Saturday actually from 10 til 1130 am or so. Zach enjoys it so much. He plays on computers, looks at the movie and enjoys showing me new books. Lily loves finding big thick books that are filled with tales of wonder and occasionally tales of woe.

We were not able to go to the library last Saturday. The window guy came to replace the windows.

Today, when Zach arrived home from summer school, he requested a trip to the library. I of course obliged since we had three past due items to return.

I noticed you behind the counter right away as there was a line at the service desk and you looked quite busy assisting others. I got Zach set up at a computer and watched as Lily slowly paraded through the stacks in search of new book arrivals. Zach stood from his computer nook and headed to the movies. Taking the same route as he always does past the service counter, the water fountain and restrooms.
As Zach returned to his nook, he slowly approached you as you turned your head in the opposite direction. I saw his hand raise   then hesitate and then gently stroke the length of your beautiful hair. I saw the look on your face. You were a little startled and turned your head quickly in Zach's direction. You smiled immediately upon seeing him.

Zach, 14, so very tall at almost 6'2" with a smile on his face and big yellow noise blocking headphones covering his ears, smiled in return. I went to take a step forward to intervene and apologize for the unsolicited hair petting.

Zach said one word to you, "Nice," and walked back to me at his computer. You replied, "Why, thank you." You didn't panic, you didn't stammer, you didn't stare. You continued on with you work. When you caught me watching you you smiled at me and I did in return.

I want to thank you, new librarian with the long, dark curly hair. Thank you for being kind. Thank you for seeing my son meant you no harm and that he was truly admiring your beautiful soft locks. Thank you for being so intuitive that you knew immediately that Zach's atypical behavior wasn't threatening or odd. Thank you for knowing that a one word compliment coming from a very tall Autistic teen might be the best conversation you have today. Thank you for being kind and smiling and carrying on with your day like nothing occurred. Because your reaction speaks volumes to Zach. Your reaction was a possible encouragement to Zach to continuing complimenting others and to enter into conversations that might not be comfortable for him. You reaction was the best reaction possible. Kind, sweet and you used simple words. Words of thanks.

So New Librarian at the Chaska Library, this parent thanks you earnestly. And we hope to see you this upcoming Saturday from 10 to 1130. Oh and Thursday at 11 when  the therapy dogs are here.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Speak Words

Home Organization Tips From a Professional Organizer

 I have been a  Professional Organizer for the past 14+ years.  I was a banker and made a career change after starting a family.  I was able to turn my knack for organization, my financial training and my ability to effectively teach others what to do into a career as an Organizer. My specialty is Court Ordered and Shrink Ordered Hoarding and working with the Aging Demographic. I have found every client is unique, wonderfully challenged and desires a breakthrough when it comes to reclaiming their home and their life.My goal is to find out what the real challenge is, address it, provide the tools to move forward and enable clients to do it on their own.  My ability to address chaos, excess and severe turmoil in homes- calms, reassures and enable clients to focus on what is important: enjoying the space they call home and spending real time together as a family.

I often address the same things with each client that I work with:

1) There is so much stuff and I don’t know where to start!! - Yes you have a lot of stuff but why? Is there a shopping issue, a tendency to hoard certain items, the desire to save everything? We often dive deeper. Why are you shopping? Who are these items for?  Is this a true hoarding situation or the inability to make a decision? Why is everything being saved?   A death in the family, a divorce, loss, hurt, fear,childhood pain, avoidance. So many emotions and feelings factor into identifying the root of the problem, and it is important to talk about it with others, or seek professional help if need be.

2)  I don’t have time to fix the situation in my home.- There is only 24 hours in the day. Your home didn’t get this chaotic overnight, it isn’t going to be fixed overnight. Make your home a priority.  Be realistic. Block out time. Make sure you have eaten first, have water available and you are ready to get started. Take a half hour and address the mail, bills and the piles on the kitchen counter.   Spend that time with laundry and changing out seasonal clothing.  Try tackling everything on the desk first, then what is in the desk and lastly, what is around the desk in the office.(This is called the On, In, Around Discipline)

3) Show me how to get rid of this crap. I just can’t do it. -First, you can do this and you will. I often suggest three bags, or three boxes labeled garbage, donate, and sell.  And a specific area of the room for the items to keep and relocate. Once you have picked your room , use the Inch by Inch approach. The idea of an entire room can be overwhelming. Take care of what is in that small space in front of you and move on. When completed, then take out the garbage, bring the donate and sell items to your car or garage, and relocate your keep items. Stick with it and a room will be done in no time.

4) I don’t have the money to buy everything to get organized.--  Tons of money isn’t needed to get organized . You need Less. Less of everything. Stop trying to organize the clutter, the excess, the unneeded items. Purge first. Purge multiple times if necessary. Having less enables you to enjoy your living space. Evaluate the items you are holding onto and continue purging. I often suggest active purging on a quarterly basis, monthly if need be.  

“New” storage systems aren’t needed when functional is desired. Consider Cragislist, Goodwill or garage sales.  Label every bin with the contents. Try repurposing items in your home. Use the kids toy storage from when they small to hold toiletries in your closet or cabinet. Use a downgraded dresser to store presents, seasonal decor and wrapping paper and supplies in your storage room.  Use those hard to reach cabinets over the fridge to store large service items. Use a functional bench by your door or a footstool. Everything you own doesn’t need to be on display.

5) I can’t do this alone.--You are right!  That is why it is important to ask for help. Arrange childcare and enlist an extra set of hands for an Organizational Swap.  Ask a friend who also needs help to spend one Saturday morning at your house, and you spend the next Saturday morning at their home. Block out the time on the calendar and stick to it.   Plan ahead on which projects to tackle rather than a whole room.  Work quickly by avoiding difficult items such as memorabilia, clothing, or items that belong to others.

Organizing your home is a process. It takes patience, planning and persistence.  You can do this. Just start today. No more excuses.

My Parents Used To Say...Life Lessons Learned Just From Listening To My Parents

My Parents Used to Say….
Life Lessons Learned Just From Listening To My Parents
By: Kelli J Gavin

Eat your vegetables so that you can grow big and strong.  Sit up straight or you will be hunched over by the time you are 40. Make your bed every day, it will make you feel better.  You are never too cool to wear boots and a winter jacket.  Dry your hair before you leave the house, or you will catch your death.  My parents said a lot of things to me growing up. Some useful and some half truths mixed with myth. Some so comical and far fetched, I still laugh thinking about them. But some of the things they said were meaningful, heartfelt, and so very, very important.

Part 1 of 5 “You are born in and will be raised in Minnesota.  Figure out a way to love it.”  

As a young child growing up in Forest Lake, Minnesota my parents were at a loss when it came to raising me.  I loved being outdoors in the summertime. I enjoyed harvesting vegetables from the garden, running in the fields, biking on the dirt roads and exploring the woods that surrounded our home.  I found humor in stealing as many raspberries as I could fit in my mouth and feeding stray cats because they always seemed to make it to our house. My sister and I would play for hours in fallen tree forts and play with the dog in the back yard. We would build makeshift homes in the woods, gather pretend supplies and enjoy water fights and hide and seek at dusk.

Winter was another story.  I hated the cold. I hated the wet. I hated the ice. I hated winter. Go play outside? Why would I ever want to do that? My socks would get wet. I didn’t have sufficient snow pants so often snow would go up the back of my too thin jacket and I would fall apart.  The time it took to warm up in our very rustic basement basement next to our not up to code fireplace would sometimes take all night. What was the point? Boredom often set in. Apparently, now as an adult I have learned that Boredom often leads to Naughty Behavior. Naughty Behavior leads to Punishment. Punishment leads to Upset. Upset leads to parents doubting the punishment in the first place.

After such an incident of punishment, my dad sat me down. My dad has these amazingly kind bright blue eyes. Now, even in his early seventies, his eyes still shine brightly. With a deep intake and exhale of more air than was necessary, my dad began carefully. “Kelli. I love you.  You are an amazing child. I want to talk to you.  Have you noticed that you often get into more trouble in the winter months?  I think I know why.  In the summer, you are outdoors constantly. Your mom and I have to beg you and Angie to come in each night.  In the winter, though it is a different story.  You hate being outside. You say no each time we encourage you to even go out for even a half hour. Then you confine yourself to staying indoors all day.  Your mom and I feel that you have started to think that your boredom is an excuse to do anything you want without asking. You are touching things that are not yours, making messes, destroying projects in the works, taking food from the root cellar and opening them just for fun.  You know these things are wrong, but you continue to do them.”

He paused for a moment and then continued. “ Kelli, you were born in Minnesota and you will be raised in Minnesota. You need to figure out a way to love it.”  I stared at him. I guess I wasn’t really sure what he meant. “Tomorrow after breakfast we will begin.” What was it that was about to begin? I guess I was still upset about being punished earlier in the day, and I chose to stay silent.  The next day was Saturday.  My mom had laid clothes out for me and had pancakes and eggs waiting by the time I woke up. I sat down at the table and watched my dad sip his coffee.  We ate in silence.  But then as we both finished eating, my dad asked, “Are you ready for an adventure?”  

We suited up in all of our winter gear and my dad even gave me an extra pair of his heavy wool mittens.  We exited the house in silence and I followed him as he entered the woods about a block from our house. “Today, we will explore. First, I want to you find three things.  A bird. A fallen tree. Animal tracks.”  Oh. Okay. I could do this.  When I found the cardinal, we spoke in quiet voices about how much Grandma Re loved cardinals.  He told me to notice the quick turns of his head, the way he pecked at the air. We discovered many fallen trees that day. Even pondered why the good ones couldn’t fall closer to our home so we could make a fort. And as we progressed on our walk through the woods, we found animal tracks aplenty. Rabbits, deer, possible coyote. My dad encouraged me to touch each of the spots where the animals had left their mark. He asked me about school, about what figures I saw in the clouds, about friendships and voice lessons.

My dad told me that my Saturdays would no longer be my own.  I would now be in his employ. He told me I would need to get ready for the day, eat and then do any chores my mom requested of me. Then I would be helping him . I was dumbfounded.  What did he want me to do? His requests were odd at first. 10 small pines cones, 10 medium pine cones, 10 large pine cones.  Something beautiful.  Tree bark in three different colors. A sign of spring. For each accomplished task, I was paid 50 cents.

My boredom, my naughty behavior, the punishments ceased. I was given a job.  I was on a mission.  I was employed. I was earning money.  Spring quickly approached,  the snow began to melt as the crocuses and daffodils made an appearance. The temperatures got warmer and my excitement for summer reached an all time high. The last Saturday of the school year was upon us. My dad caught me early that morning. I met him in the garage after chores.  I saw a large metal trash bin with the lid on. Every item that I gathered per his request that winter was in there.  It then dawned on me.  My dad was teaching me to love my surroundings. Even when it was cold, even when there was ice. Even when my feet got wet and I shivered. He taught me to love the beauty of creation that surrounded me.  He taught me that boredom was no longer an option.

That summer, I turned 10, and that winter, my dad only revisited the troubles I had experienced the prior winter.  He explained, “This winter, I will not receive any reports from your mother about poor behavior. I taught you last winter how to keep yourself busy and enjoy your surroundings. This winter, you will teach the kids in the neighborhood.  Two Saturdays a month, you will create and activity or a scavenger hunt.  Locating items, exploring, drawing pictures, timed or untimed. It doesn’t matter. It is up to you.  But you are now in charge of winter adventures for all the kids off Humber Street.”
Clever man my dad was, he disciplined me, guided me, encouraged me, taught me and then pushed me to do the same for other children.  For some reason, all the kids in the neighborhood began to behave that winter. They spent more time out of the house. They learned to love Minnesota in the winter and all that it had to offer.

Part 2 of 5 “Always sleep when you get a chance.”

My dad worked the majority of my childhood for 3M Corp installing and maintaining Corporate Alarm Systems and as a Home Improvement Contractor.  He was very good at both jobs, great with people, knowledgeable and hardworking. He was an asset to 3M and an excellent businessman once he became self employed.  My dad often worked what I thought were strange, long hours.  He would leave as I was going to bed, work all night installing alarms and return home as I prepared to leave for school.  He would take two Excedrin, eat a large bowl of oatmeal or farina and crash into bed.  

He would sometimes still be sleeping when Angie, my sister and I returned home from school.  My mom would often meet us at the door with her finger pressed against her lips, “Your dad is sleeping, keep quiet. I have a snack for you and Little House on the Prairie will be on in 10 minutes.”  Our evenings were filled with lots of whispering. Dinner dishes were saved until dad woke up when cuddles and bedtime stories were aplenty.  My dad always looked tired. Always.  Even after a good 8 hours of sleep. He struggled with the nights and days and back again and just tried to be as present as possible when he was awake.  

Angie and I often found we wore out our welcome with our mom.  She tried her best, but she was trying to do it all. She often worked part time, was always home to get us off the bus, and also was very involved in helping at my sisters dance studio (so that lessons would be free).  She would observe my sister or i moping about. “Angie, I know you are bored.  I got you some cardboard from work today to make more rooms in your basement Barbie Village.” “Kelli, let’s play dolls. I made a new scarf and booties for your Cabbage Patch Doll.”  But often, our mom knew our moping was because we missed our dad.  He was exciting and funny and silly and enjoyed everything that kids enjoyed.  Even though he was there. I missed him.

I struggled with this. One afternoon when Angie and I returned from school,  we increased our speed when we saw our dad was awake and waiting on the front porch. Hugs and kisses and animated stories of our day were shared freely.

Dad had us sit down, and when we finally settled and told him everything there was to share, dad broke in. “Oh daughters of mine, I wanted to talk to you this afternoon.  I know that I haven’t been home or even awake much lately because of my work schedule.  I am working very hard right now so that we can save money for the winter.  Work is hard to come by for me in the winter months, and having a cushion is important. To pay for food and gas for the car , the house and clothing. And I know that I don’t get the chance to spend much time with you on bike rides and just playing anymore.  But something I have discovered is that you should always sleep if you are given the chance. Now that I focus on trying to get a good solid 7-8 hours of sleep each day, I enjoy my job more and I am more productive. I also have more energy when I am not working and can enjoy our times together as a family. So even though I miss you guys all the time and maybe you miss me too, I still want to tell you guys that for the rest of your life, always sleep with you get a chance. Your mind, your body, your family, your employer, will be happy you did.”

As an adult, my dad’s words can still be heard, but also understood. When I worked a split shift at the bank for two years, 530am to 8pm, I had three plus hours off in the mid afternoon. I always laid down to rest and often would sleep two hours.  When my son was tiny and had been up six to eight times the night before, I would take a nap when he did in the afternoon before leaving for work.  Now that my kids are older,  I work when they are at school. But on Mondays, I get home 45 minutes early before my sons bus, to insure that I have time to rest.  I wake up when he arrives home, get up and conquer the rest of the day. No, I don’t always sleep when I lay down, but I often feel rested, physically and mentally and ready to take on whatever comes my way.  And it also makes me wonder why children fight sleep. Why?  If you are given the chance to sleep, don’t you always feel better when you get up?  Don’t you want to feel rested, well, always?!

Part 3 of 5  “Wipe your tears and keep trying. You will thank yourself tomorrow.”
I had a bike crash when I was ten years old.  I had received my first adult ten speed bike and was elated.  I was sorry to see my too small bright yellow bike with the banana seat go, but was excited to show off my new shiny red bike. The first day I rode my bike, I approached the first stop sign, I squeezed the handle bars instead of the brakes. I wasn’t used to them yet. My banana seat bike had step back brakes and this hand brake thing was new and different. Handlebar squeezing, low and behold, doesn’t stop a bike.  I crashed into the stop sign and fell to the ground.  

My legs, my knees, my hands and arm were a bloody mess. My dad helped move me to safety. The tears flowed freely. My dad grabbed a handkerchief from his pack and proceeded to put water on it. I screamed as he washed my wounds and picked gravel from my right knee.(where to this day, I still have a scar) I got it together enough to mount my bike and head back home on my own as we were only just over a mile from home and at the beginning of our ride. My dad and sister loved on me a bit and tried to make me smile as I waved goodbye.

That was the longest 1.3 miles I ever rode on my that shiny red ten speed.  I got home and saw my mom on the front porch armed with a first aid kit, paper towels and a wash basin.  How did she know I was hurt and needed help? She smiled. “  Your dad called me from the gas station. Come here sweet girl and let me have a look. Your dad said that you argued with him about the brakes. Don’t argue, just listen to him, you will learn and this won’t happen again. “  She lovingly wiped my tears , further cleaned my wounds and bandaged me up right proper.  “Kelli. I want you take a break. But then I want you to wipe your tears and keep trying. You will thank yourself tomorrow. “

What? You couldn’t pay me to get back on that bike. I was just going to fall again. I was in pain. A half hour later, my mom found me on the front porch with my dog Peanuts. She smiled, ushered the dog into the house and went to stand by my bike in the driveway.  She looked at me and didn’t say a word.  She was going to make sure no matter what, that I got back on that bike. I stood slowly trying to seem brave and went to get back on my bike. I stumbled as I swung my leg over and almost fell again.  My ten year old dagger eyes were firmly stabbing my mom. I got on and reluctantly swerved down the drive to the main road. I didn’t dare turn, as she would probably be smiling, and that would have made me angry because she was always right.  I peddled to the main road and took a left. I then rode out to the highway and back. I did that over and over. Testing the brakes, first slowly, then quickly and setting my right foot down on the gravel each time.  

The next day after church, my dad approached and said, “Will you be joining us today for a ride?”  Brave. I was brave.  I said yes.  And believe it or not, that ride with bandaged legs and knees was the most satisfying 8 mile ride of my life.  I am so very glad I tried again.

Part 4 of 5  “Just love him. Love him like your life depended on it.”
At two months old, my son Zach started to cry. Not really cry, more so just scream.  Scream 6-8 hours a day.  In addition to the screaming he was up no less than 6 times per night. Projectile vomiting 2-4 times a day and constant diaper changes disabled me from leaving the house even on the best of days.  I was exhausted, unhappy, and felt like I was failing as a parent, as a mom.  I was trying to make our family “work” on about three hours of sleep a night.  It wasn’t working. Nothing was working.  My husband was amazing and did everything he could to help me, but nothing seemed to change with Zach.  

I often called upon my mom when things got really bad.  I had slept about 12 hours in 4 days and I became a weepy mess.  Josh, my husband, called my mom and asked if she could come and stay for a few days.  To take care of Zach, maybe do some laundry and the dishes and cook a meal or two. But mostly, I know he called her to take care of me.

My mom arrived with so many bags, I thought she was moving in. Photo albums, baby books, notebooks, journals.  I strongly believed she may have packed everything she owned.  She walked in, stashed her belongings in the corner and took Zach right out of my arms.  She wanted to know when he last slept, when he was last changed and how much formula to put in his bottle.  She explained that she didn’t want to see me for at least two to three hours.  She would have dinner going by that time. She wanted me to rest. To put earplugs in and rest.She wanted me to take a long hot bath. She wanted me to read a book. She just wanted me to have some time to myself.  I thanked her, hugged her and kissed Zach and walked upstairs to my room crying.  This was hard. I was tired. Oh so tired. I think I may have fallen asleep as fast as my head hit the pillow. I slept. I slept for three straight hours. I woke up confused, not sure what day it was, and panicked for a minute, not really sure where Zach was.

When I walked down stairs after taking a quick shower, the smell of dinner was so amazing. I was starving. I questioned if I had even eaten yet that day.  I rounded the corner and saw that the entire main floor was clean and there were three folded baskets of laundry in front of the fireplace. The dishes done and there in my mom’s arms was a content sleeping baby.  “ He ate, he slept, he peed a lot and he even told me a story. The story of his tired mom who can’t do it anymore.  He told me to tell you he loves you and to never forget that. He told me to tell you that it will get easier. That these days are hard and long, but that you are great mom and things will get better.” Tears rolled down my cheeks. My mom stood and put Zach in the bassinette. I hugged my mom, and thanked her.

My mom had laid out two photo albums on the counter. She warmed a plate of food for me and encouraged me to take a look. The beauty I found in those pages. Babies. My grandmothers, my mom and my dad, my sister and I, aunts and cousins. So many wonderful stories and memories. The notebook? My mom kept a journal after I was born.  Entry after entry I read. “I am tired. I haven’t slept in two days. Was I meant to be a mom? How am I going to be a good mom to these two girls when I can’t even seem to take care of myself? “ My mom had all of the same doubts when I was a baby. She smiled when I met her eyes. “Kelli, you can do this.  It is always hard at first. Just love him. Love him like your life depended on it.”

I remember these amazing times with my mom from almost 14 years ago like they were yesterday. My mom passed away 3 ½ years ago, and I miss her so very much.  Zach, now at six feet tall and near 14 years of age is amazing.  Diagnosed with Autism at a young age, I felt even more challenged at being his mom. But what do I do when I feel overwhelmed, unqualified as a parent and discouraged?  I just love him. I love him like my life depended on it.

Part 5 of 5 “Life isn’t fair. You will not always get what you want. Sometimes that is a good thing.”

I began singing when I was 9 years old. First at church,  then small local and regional competitions. I moved onto state, then joined traveling singing groups and enjoyed all it that entailed. I was known as the vocalist amongst my friends at school. I enjoyed the attention and the accolades. I found my calling in high school with musical theater productions of Because Their Hearts Were Pure, Carnival, and the role as The Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music.

Not really sure what I really wanted to do with my life, I did know that I wanted to sing and see how far that took me.  I went to Crown College in St. Bonifacius and was very excited to recreate myself as I began my adult life. Upon arriving at school and after getting settled in the dorms, I was excited about auditions for Chamber Choir and possibly the traveling music group I had always had my eye on. Auditions went quite well I thought.  I was well prepared with three songs and sang all the scales which showed off my powerful soprano voice.

With great disappointment, I wasn’t admitted into Chamber Choir, but to Women’s Chorale. And I didn’t make it into the traveling group either. But wait. I was the accomplished, well trained vocalist. There had to be a mistake.  I went back and checked the posting a second time, just in case I had read it wrong.  Nope. Women’s Chorale. I walked calmly back to my dorm on first floor main and lost it. I couldn’t stop crying or catch my breath.  I felt sick. How was I going to tell my mom and my friends. I had talked a big game and shared all of my lofty ambitions before I left for school.  I got myself in check by dinner and went to grab a quick bite, determined to return to my room and call my mom.

The moment I heard her voice, I wept. I explained what happened. She was quiet for a bit and let me cry. Let me work it out and share my heart break.  “Kelli, life isn’t fair. You will not always get what you want. And sometimes that is a good thing.”  Why was it that my mom, all 5’4’’ of her, could drop these truth bombs all the way from Anoka County to me in Carver County?

“Did you ever think that possibly there was something bigger and better in store for you? That by you not getting what you always want, that you will learn from this, grow from this and come out more driven and determined in the end? You have been blessed beyond measure in this life. You have always gotten what you have wanted. Now you will learn what it is like for the rest of us.”  We call those Jo Cook-isms.

And of course she was right. My mom was always right.  I was able to receive an amazing amount of encouragement and training from Dr. Klempay in Women’s Chorale and grew immensely as a vocalist under the tutelage of two private voice teachers.  I had fantastic opportunities through referrals to sing at huge fundraisers, weddings of epic proportions and corporate sponsored events. I am not sure if I would have even said yes to any of those requests if my time was consumed by Chamber Choir or the other music group. I also had the benefit of learning at 18 that you don’t always get what you want, rather than struggling through that truth at 25.  My mom telling me that not getting what I wanted was a good thing, was a foreign concept back then, but is now an everyday truth.   When I didn’t get that bank job, I found a better one at an insurance agency as a consultant.  When I didn’t get the medical test results that I wanted, I made changes that affected my over well being and I have improved significantly.  When I was told to not carry any more children, I became content and discovered that I had a heart full of love for the two kids I was already blessed with .  And when I got rejection letter #156 from the Blinder’s Journal, I started writing for the local paper.  Indeed. That is one of those good things.

These life lessons were not always easy lessons to learn.  But they were lessons learned just by listening to my parents.

6 Things Special Needs Parents Are Thinking But Will Not Tell You

6 Things Special Needs Parents Are Thinking But Will Not Tell You
By: Kelli J Gavin

The other day, I found myself biting my tongue.  I smiled at my two friends and listened intently, but knew that if I said anything, I would either hurt their feelings or sound snarky. As the mom of a special needs son, I find myself in situations with others that really make me flex my “tongue-biting” muscles. I hear what is spoken, and observe that there are words left unsaid. I also know that there are many things that I am thinking, but will not tell you.

1) When my son is having a hard time in a public setting, please refrain from telling stories about your child when they also had a hard time. Sometimes it takes every ounce of my being to focus on my son, his behaviors, his triggers, his potential to flee,  and the need to help restore calm.  I fully understand that you are trying to make me feel better by relating to me and by letting me know that all kids sometimes struggle. Ask me how you can help.  Watch my daughter, take my purse, hold my coffee and walk ahead. Your great attitude helps motivate me towards finding behavioral solutions.

2)  I can not thank you enough for your friendship.   I know it is hard work to be friends with me. Thank you for being understanding and enabling me to always host at my house. My sons behavior at home is much more predictable and manageable. Thank you for rejoicing and brainstorming with me, for listening to me and for just letting me cry sometimes.Thank you for being you. I treasure having you in my life. Thank you for your hugs and your smiles that inspire and encourage me.

3)  No, I will never tire of my 13 year old son talking about Blues’ Clues , drawing Dora’s adventure maps or singing Wiggles songs.  I know it is repetitive, I know you can only take so much. But please encourage him, smile at him, love on him.  This is his way of having what he believes is a conversation with you.  He wants you to enjoy the things that he loves.  I may never have to struggle with things such as teen dating, social media use or teenage rebellion. But I do struggle with getting my son to eat real food, helping him understand his large almost six foot frame and establishing positive social interactions.  If you will excuse me, it is time to watch Elmo’s World.

4) Keep inviting me. Ask me to your home parties. Ask me to ladies night out. Ask me to no kids coffee mornings. I know I often say no or can’t find a sitter.  But please, keep asking me.  I love being included. I enjoy our friendship and the fact that you are so kind and know that I will be there if I can. I love that you don’t judge me in the process. Thank you for understanding that I can’t always answer the phone and that texting is probably the best way to reach me.

5) My tears are often not tears of sadness.  I am a crier. My tears are tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of release. I am a mom, caretaker and the organizer just like you! I often work so hard at making each day a success, that I am exhausted by the details.  I am tired. I have even found that I will cry at the satisfaction of day well lived. My tears are not tears to be wiped away. But tears to be acknowledged and experienced and enjoyed.

6)  Please continue to share with me about your child's accomplishments. I love hearing about academic achievements and success in sports. I love you and your children.  And I take joy in their amazing lives as they grow and mature into terrific human beings. No, I don’t have these same stories to share with you. But I want to be involved in your life. I want to know about your joys, your heartache, your struggles and your success. I want to live life with you and enjoy each moment.  Share your life with me.

As I strive to have open, honest and authentic friendships, I need to start talking about these things rather than just thinking about them. I want to welcome questions and kind gestures, rather than thinking about motivations and hidden significance.  I want to be an involved and caring friend. Not just the parent of a neurodivergent child. I want to be that special needs parent that encourages, inspires and shares openly.  Today, I will take my first step in making that change.


I have been blessed by a family that cares, a family that loves, a family that is close and enjoys each others company.  Having only a small family unit of four, I never thought it was actually small.  I always had aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents on both sides of my family who loved fiercely and were fully invested in my life. I also know how extremely rare this is. It wasn’t until my parents divorce in 1987 that our extended family dynamics changed. An entire side of our family just kind of stepped away. An aunt and uncle, two cousins and my grandma became acquaintances, rather than treasured family.

When my dad left, times got tough. Food stamps, Food Share, excessive gardening, public assistance, handouts, hand- me-downs, fake cheese, powdered milk, expired canned foods became my existence. Most 12 years old are unaware of what it takes to function, to keep food on the table, to keep growing teen girls in clothing. Most 12 year olds don’t know that having $210 a month in public assistance for a family of three is the difference between having a roof over your head and asking relatives if they could take you in.

Angie, my sister, and I started babysitting at a very young age to earn the money that we needed for personal items, clothing and to be able to participate in school extracurricular activities. We struggled. Daily. I remember when my shoes hurt my feet so bad but I didn’t have the heart to ask for new ones. I was also wearing the canvas shoes from thrifty mart for gym class and the toes had long worn through. My gym teacher brought me a new that she was planning on donating.  When my jeans developed holes in the knees and between the legs from wear, I tried to repair them with safety pins and patches to make them last a bit longer. I hit every free box at every garage sale to find large tee shirts to sleep in.

When our washing machine broke and we started using the public laundry after church each Sunday, Angie and I tried not to complain. We found that if we brought homework, a good book or the one walkman we owned, the 2 ½ hours passed quickly. I got a new, unbearably thin winter jacket from Pymida after my grandpa’s trench coat fell to pieces. I missed the bus too many times because I was attempting to stay indoors as long as possible rather than face the cold. I placed plywood and four by fours under my mattress when the box springs sprung. Angie and I got excited when we found used underwear at garage sales that appeared to be next to new.

When I look back on my meager beginnings, I am reminded of a few very important truths. Our mom was faithful, she never gave up and she was never ashamed of what we didn’t have. You do what you have to do. That includes selling everything that is nonessential. Furniture, clothing, books, jewelry, movies and music, home decor, and occasionally even the items that you hold dear. Sometimes that $10 is the money you need for gas for the week. The people that left food on our doorstep, money in the mail box and paid for Angie and I to go to summer Bible Camp will always hold a place in my heart.  I may not know who they were, but they helped others in a time  of need, and I am forever grateful.  Potatoes and vegetables can be amazing for every meal and all you need are mushrooms and onions to make them even better. Food is food.

I have also learned that my upbringing has influenced me greatly. I am THRIFTY. Garage sales, thrift stores, online sale sites, word of mouth buy/sell and Craigslist.  I am often cranky when I have to pay more than two dollars for a kids pair of jeans.  I will make lists of what is needed so that I don’t buy extras of what we already have. I sell things in lots such as children’s clothing, books, or shoes.  People feel they are getting “more” in numbers.  Coupons are amazing. Grocery store printed coupons,  manufacturers coupons, apps such as Cartwheel, Ibotta etc., help save so much money.  Make friends with thrift store operators. Ask them if you are looking something specific and see if they will set it aside.  If someone goes out thier way to assist you,  reward them, bring them coffee, fresh veggies from your garden, fresh baked bread or cookies. Learn the amazing art of bartering.  What do you have, what can you do , what can you produce that someone else needs? If you need car repairs, do they need childcare? If you need clothing, do they need meals? Or shopping, yard cleanup, driving children to and from school or sports? There are so many ways to make it mutually beneficial when you in return need something.  

Also, donate, volunteer, step in the gap.  Donate gently used items to those in need.  (And remember not to donate your junk. If you or your kids won’t wear it, if it has holes, stains, broken zippers, refrain.) Grace Church Community Clothing Closet in Eden Prairie and Blessed Bee in Chaska are two great locations that will happily accept your in season clothing donations.  Donate your furniture that is in good condition to the PROP Shop in Eden Prairie. Donate your magazines and books to your local schools or library. Donate your working car to CAP to assist new employees to get to and from work. Donate food, personal care items and laundry detergent to local food shelves. Volunteer often.  Help your elderly neighbor clean up their yard. Consider coordinating a group to serve at Feed My Starving Children in Chanhassen.  Contact Love Inc., Blessed Bee, Local Food Shelves,  Local Schools, the Library, and Local Churches to see where you can be of assistance. Contact the City and ask if any public clean up projects need volunteers. Step in the gap.  If you see someone struggling, do something, encourage someone, just help them. Buy food for a family in need.  Give children a ride home from sporting events or after school activities.  Take care of a single mom’s kids so she can work a half shift. If you have the means, consider paying a month of rent for a displaced local family. Drop a roll of quarters at the laundromat. If you are registering your child for an activity, ask if you can also pay for a child in need. Ask your child’s teacher how you can help the school prosper.

Life is busy. Life is challenging. But when you can help others, we often find what we have, is what need. Less is more.

Additional Resources

Honoring Those That Have Been Lost

Honoring Those That Have Been Lost
By Kelli J Gavin

I have always loved Christmas. The sights, sounds and tastes. I love Christmas trees, and snowmen, white lights and red bulbs and touring neighborhoods to behold the amazing spectacle of outdoor light shows. But most of all, I love spending time with family. Sharing an amazing meal, catching up with Aunts and Uncles, Cousins and family members who have moved out of state. This Christmas and New Year’s didn’t disappoint. Almost as if on cue, my heart was rejuvenated and my joy was restored after time well spent this Holiday Season.

A week before Christmas, I found our 10 year old daughter Lily sitting at base of our tree in the living room. She was smiling and gently touching one ornament and then another.  I paused before approaching her. Her hair is growing longer and darker like mine. She has grown so tall and I find her looking more like me every day. “Lily, what are you doing? “ I asked and smiled as I sat down next to her.  “Mom, I miss Grandma Jo. She gave me these ornaments. I miss making chocolate pretzels with her and baking bread. But you know what I miss the most? Reading with her, cuddling with her. I miss visiting with her and telling her about school. Mom, I miss her so much.”  With tears pouring down my cheeks, I pulled her close and vowed to not let go until she did.

Jo Cook, my mother, passed away at the young age of 67. In December of 2012, she was diagnosed with rare form of cancer. Treatment and surgery were not an option due to its advanced nature. My Mom, with grace and dignity, loved and prayed for and encouraged her family and friends until she passed February 27, 2013.  My mother was amazing, overwhelming, kind and compassionate, and out of control when it came to loving others. She constantly gave of herself even when she had little to give, never expecting anything in return.  She sang hymns and prayed fiercely. She talked to anyone that would listen, knew someone everywhere she went and sought out new friends daily.

My sister Angela and I felt her absence in the depths of our hearts. We both more than once picked up the phone to call her. To share with mom the joys and challenges of the day. It was always the 3 of us. So when Mom passed, Angela and I learned how to depend and rely on each other.  What I overlooked in my grief was how my mother’s absence affected my children. They lost their grandma. The beautiful, very short, very talkative, commanding presence, wasn’t there anymore.

“Lily, I know how hard it is. I miss her so much. She was amazing. Chances are, we will never meet someone like her ever again. But I love how she loved you and how you loved her. You and your brother had such a special relationship with Grandma Jo. She may no longer be here with us, but all those special memories that we hold in our hearts, we can keep close always. What should we do this Christmas to honor Grandma Jo, and to remember her?’

Lily wiped a stray tear and beamed, “ Mom, can we make Christmas cards?  Oh! And chocolate pretzels and banana bread?!  Mom, we could go and visit people at the nursing home in Chaska. We can talk to them and bring them goodies. You remember how Grandma Jo liked doing that so much? Could we do that?”

I sat in awe of my sweetest girl. “Yes Lily. We can do all of that.”  So this Christmas break, Lily and Zach (14) and I made cards and treats and listened to Christmas music. We talked about great memories of Grandma Jo.  I told them things that I remembered from when I was a child. We laughed and played games together and sang Christmas Carols in the car. We went and visited residents at the local nursing home and brought treats and cards.  We honored my mother’s memory by doing all of the things that she loved.  We will continue to honor her and carry on this tradition so that someday, Lily will share with her children the amazing Grandmother that she so fondly remembers.

When Lily handed over the last gift bag filled with goodies and a handmade card, she whispered, “I am bringing you this gift and I am honoring the memory of my Grandma Jo. I miss her.”  Not a dry eye was to be found that morning before Christmas.

Honor the loved ones that you have lost. Speak of them fondly, and often. Honor their memory by sharing and participating in activities that they enjoyed. Your children, and your children’s children will be forever grateful.  

Longer and Tighter Than Necessary

Longer and Tighter Than Necessary
By: Kelli J Gavin

I miss her. My grandma Charlotte.  So much. I felt like I was just getting to know her and then she was gone. After a life well lived, she was no longer a part of my life. My grandma used to tell me she was old and ready to meet Jesus even when I was I was little girl. She seemed ancient to me, but couldn’t have been more than maybe 70? I don’t know. I was never a good judge of age.

Grandma used to decorate so beautifully at Christmas. Her mantle was a feast for the eyes. And she didn’t even mind when I touched. She would tell me the stories of each piece. Who gave them to her, where she purchased them from or whom she was blessed enough to inherit them from.  She smiled during each storytelling affair and often became a bit misty eyed. She would quickly wipe away a stray tear with her kerchief and say, “Oh look, my eyes are leaking again.”

I miss the way she washed her silverware by hand after Christmas Dinner. I would sit and watch and think, yes, someday, I will also wash that silver. (Yes, I now put it in the dishwasher.)  I miss watching her place the stemware and china back in the cabinets. Delicate placement, each finding their home until the next celebration.

I can’t remember a time when Holidays weren’t spent with grandma. She would even host a spectacular 4th of July as it was quite possibly her favorite day. She and I shared the birthday month of June, so the 4th seemed a perfect day to celebrate together. She would hug me close on those days. Hug me longer and tighter than necessary, but I didn’t mind.

Those silent lessons. The way to decorate a home for Christmas and make it so warm and welcoming that no one would ever want to leave.  The way to care for your silver and store it so everything would be ready for the next time it honored the table. But mostly, she taught me how to celebrate. How to enjoy family. How to love. How to hug and hold on longer and tighter than necessary.

I miss my grandma at Christmas. I miss her every day. But now, I share these lessons learned with others. And so many other amazing stories and adventures that I shared with my grandma.  And by doing so, I keep her memory alive. I honor her.  I remember her in those lessons learned. 


By: Kelli J Gavin

A year ago, I had to ask a friend of mine what the term Ghosted meant.  He explained that it was when you have been talking with someone online,  getting to know them, have developed a closeness, and you feel like you could share anything.  He said it was the start of a promising relationship. Hours of time spent laughing and sharing life experiences on the phone and finding that this promising relationship often times becomes the most important one in your life. And one day, the phone isn’t answered and text messages go ignored. A few days pass, you call or text again. Nothing. No response.

Claire* and I had been friends for three years and had met through a mutual friend. She was silly, yet serious when need be, generous and outgoing.  She was a married mom of two who loved books, swimming and walks just as I did. She and I spent a lot of time together and enjoyed sitting on the deck eating dinner while the kids swam in the back yard. In the winter, we went to the library and to the thrift stores and bakery for Saturday morning donut treats for the kids. We enjoyed late evening texting and she was an amazing wordsmith. Claire was a great judge of character, possessed a thriving Faith and felt comfortable voicing concern if I was making a poor decision or if she felt I needed to make a change.  I welcomed her advice, her gentle spirit and coaxing when I knew she had my best interest at heart.

I had become quite overwhelmed with the kids, work and just the plain busyness of life, and had unfortunately fallen behind on replying to text messages, invitations to events and returning voicemails.  I sent a quick text every couple of days to say hi, or to apologize and that soon my schedule would slow down. I let her know that I was praying for her and her family and that I missed her company and our fun, easy conversations. I didn’t hear back one day and believed that she was just busy.  On a rare morning off, I stopped by Caribou and grabbed two coffees and bolted over to her house before she might leave for the morning. I knocked. No answer. I rang the bell, no answer. I heard children in the house. I leaned closer to the door. Yes. Children. Laughing and playing and enjoying the day.  Wierd. I knocked again. Nothing. Maybe Claire was in the shower. Most kids were instructed to not answer the door when mom was in the shower, right? I set the coffee down off to the side of her front door and walked back to the car. I grabbed my phone and sent a quick text.  “Sorry I missed you! Stopped by for a visit. Caribou on your front porch. Enjoy and have a great day!”

A few weeks later, I was grocery shopping with the kids at Target. I saw Claire, and I thought she saw me. I made eye contact with her, her eyes darted away quickly and raced out the front door with a full cart. My daughter shouted, “Hi Claire!!!”  With a nervous smile she turned slightly back to face us, but kept her pace and continued to exit the store. I stood staring. My daughter asked why she didn’t stop. I told her that maybe Claire just didn’t hear us. I wiped a tear and went to pay for our groceries.

I attempted to contact Claire a few times over the next few months. My heart was so hurt and my mind was on overdrive.  What did I do? Was I at fault? Did she get upset that I was busy and didn’t care about our friendship anymore? Did this have anything to do with me? Was Claire struggling with her own private pain? Maybe something she wasn’t ready to share? Something she couldn’t even face herself? Was there marital problems or maybe drugs or alcohol were involved? What? Was I placing the blame on her instead of exploring the idea that I was one that had failed?  What happened that she was willing to walk away from our close friendship and not look back? I wanted to know. I wanted to know even if she hated me for something I had done. Even if we couldn’t be friends. What happened? I needed closure. I wanted closure.

I sit here today realizing that Ghosting is something that happens in real life, not just online. It wasn’t something meaningless like un-friending me on Facebook. I had been un-friended in real life. Ghosted. It hurt me. It still hurts me. I often struggle with the idea that maybe I am not the best friend. That I am easily consumed by other things and I don’t allow enough time to work on friendships. I know that I need friendships, and that friendships are something to hold dear. Because one day, that friendship may be nonexistent.

Maybe I will run into Claire again at Target, or at The Crooked Pint or at the Chaska Library. Maybe not.  I feel as if I am more aware of the mutual effort that goes into a friendship. I am also aware that I lead a guarded life now. I grieve for my lost friendship with Claire. The stages of grief apply to so many situations. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression and Acceptance.  I am now at the Acceptance stage.  My heart still experiences the loss, but I now understand that our friendship served a purpose. And I accept that maybe I needed to be Ghosted so I would start investing in my friendships the way that others always had.

*name changed

Always Choose To Help

Always Choose To Help
By: Kelli J Gavin

When I was 16, I remember my sister and I standing mouths agape listening to our mother retell a story of  how she helped a neighbor when my sister was a baby. She explained that Marv and his wife had a baby, and Marv’s wife had a hard time and left the baby in Marv’s care and didn’t return. Marv was in a panic. He didn’t know what to do with a baby. The baby had never taken a bottle and was screaming in his mother’s absence as he was so very, very hungry. My father opened our front door to Marv in tears and he said two simple words, “Help me.”  My father took the screaming baby and turned and handed him to my mother. My mother immediately sat down to fed the abandoned baby.

My sister and I couldn’t believe the story that was being shared with us. My mom said, “If you can help somehow, always choose to help.”

My mom’s words rang true today as my kids and I were heading home from the library. While driving past a park in Carver, I witnessed a small child bounce back and crumple to ground. I observed a large family, all on bikes race to his aid.  I checked behind me and swerved into the parking lot. I saw the father trying to hold the child’s forehead in his hand as blood dripped to the ground. “My name is Kelli, I saw what happened. What do you need from me?” I grabbed wipes and everything I had available for the father to apply pressure and help control the bleeding. I then  brought the father, the oldest child and the wounded child in my van to seek immediate medical care. I felt horrible as I saw the mother and three remaining children in my rearview mirror. I didn’t have room for all of them.

My kids unfortunately had to witness a medical emergency, but they also got to witness something else. This is what choosing to help looks like.

I am sharing this story with you not for the accolades. I am sharing this story with you as encouragement to do the same.  My mother was an example of a helper. I want to be that helper also. We should all help if we can.

That single mom at Target who needs to change her baby? Hang out with her other kids while she does so. That dad at wits end at the grocery who can’t find the spaghettios, offer to show him where they are. That couple down the street who can’t seem to catch a break, offer a respite and childcare if need be.  That friend who just had a baby? Plan on bringing her family a meal once a week for the next 3 weeks so she doesn’t have to cook. Witness a car accident? When safe, stop to see if everyone is okay and call the police and ambulance if necessary. Just help.  Helping often takes so little time, and often little effort, but the help provided is so welcomed and treasured.

This world is complicated and difficult. We can’t go through our daily lives fending for ourselves. Offering help, support, and encouragement to others is something we need to do more freely. Never believing that the help would not be needed or someone else will offer.  If we see that someone may need help, choose to be the helper. 


By: Kelli J Gavin

I saw something the other morning that asked who was your favorite teacher and why? I pondered that question for a good hour. It isn't that I didn't have a favorite teacher. Some were just more memorable than the rest. It is those weird, heart wrenching, special, even socially awkward memories that are associated with each teacher.
The elderly psychology teacher who thanked me for making an asserted effort to listen, make intentional eye contact and actually answer questions all semester long. He thanked me for engaging him in conversations and asking questions when no one else did. ---Then he said he was actually a little concerned about my eye contact because he didn't believe anyone had ever looked at him like that before.
Or the Chemistry teacher who told me to drop out of second semester because I wouldn't pass. And she wanted to make sure that I knew how amazing she was because she went out of her way to reserve a spot in an Interior Design Class for me for second semester.
But the prize of most memorable teacher went to my high school Biology teacher. I seemed to ruffle his feathers. I was a good student, paid attention, asked questions and stayed involved in group activities and projects.
But it was as if  I never fell into a groove with him. I remember trying to even model questions and interactions the way my friends did in hopes that the teacher/student relationship wouldn't be so strained. In the depths of one of these "modeled interactions" he learned over and whispered, "Stop trying so hard." I didn't talk to him for two weeks.
Then one day, an unfortunate argument occurred between a classmate and I. (I got the part she wanted in the school play) She finally walked away, and I crumbled into a heap of tears. I tried to just disappear into my seat. "Chin up buttercup. You got the part because you deserved it. Never cry over something you have earned." He tapped the table in front of me with his pencil and smiled and walked away.
All the harsh words, awkward interactions, looks of what I believed to be disdain, and then this? This? Buttercup? I deserved it? I earned it? The next day I saw him in the hall as I passed his classroom on my way to dreaded math and he said, "Come here Buttercup." Again. Buttercup. I walked over, thanked him for his encouraging words the day before and told him I felt better. He kind of crinkled up his face and replied, "I didn't say what I said to make you feel better. I said that because it was true. " No one would ever accuse him of being a warm and fuzzy kind of guy.
He and I continued in the weirdness for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, we had an amazing conversation about my goals after graduating. I shared with him my lofty dreams. He was an amazing listener when he wanted to be. And then I thought it was the perfect time to ask him why he had always called me Buttercup.
"Buttercup?" Yes. Buttercup. " I don't call you Buttercup." I stared at him. I had began to think of this as a term of endearment. A nick name per se.
"I did have a cow named Buttercup when I was young. She was the most stubborn and difficult animal I had ever worked with. My dad hated her and I am sure she was up next for the winter. But my dad always said we didn't eat the ones we named. My mom called me Buttercup when I was little. I named that stubborn cow Buttercup so my dad wouldn't consider her food for winter. " Silence. Crickets. Worse than crickets.
I made him nervous, he started to fidget with that stupid  pencil he was always holding. I stood up, hugged him and thanked him for always listening and asking great questions. I told him his words of encouragement meant a lot and that he was one of the teachers that made a difference to me in high school. And as we parted, I turned back and smirked, "Thanks for everything Buttercup."
And that my friends is the the story of Buttercup. Maybe not the whole story. But a story for another time.  The other parts have changed, ever so slightly to fit comfortably in my memory. That is where they will stay for now.

The Walk

Josh, my husband  I were married in 1995. Josh is the manager of the Lunds & Byerly’s Grocery Store in Prior Lake. I am a Professional Organizer and own a small jewelry company. We have two amazing kids, Zach (14) and Lily (10).   Zach has Autism. Zach is able to speak and have his needs met. He enjoys life, is funny, kind and artistic. He loves to swim, golf and spend time with friends. Lily is goofy, outgoing and spunky. She loves music, playing outdoors and riding her scooter. We live a very calm, structured life, without a bunch of activities. Zach thrives on knowing about the activities of the day and that each day is filled with time to just play and enjoy.

As many parents of special needs children know, being prepared, planning out the day and sticking to the plan is the difference between a successful day and a day filled with chaos and tears. As in parent tears. Child tears are usually a given.  Swaying ever so slightly from the anticipated structure of the day can cause meltdowns for Zach, upheaval and the inability to reclaim a joy-filled day.

When Zach struggles with sensory overload, he needs to just take a step away. Away from the upset, the memory of what has gone wrong, or not as planned. He needs to walk. And sometimes walk for long distances. Until his mind stills, until his heart returns to an even pace. He needs to listen to the birds and hopefully meet a dog or two along the way.  Our walks are special. It is usually just Zach and I. Zach’s observations in nature, his keen sense of hearing,  his amazing mind and conversation can often restore even the weariest of souls.

I have learned many simple lessons from my son.  Always walk when you can. Country dirt roads are usually the most fun. Explore, and never be afraid to get a little lost. Sticks and corn husks make cool makeshift dolls. Dogs are better one at a time. Be very quiet when approaching creeks and springs, you can often hear the frogs. Always stop to admire the green grass that matches the green barn.  Remember to sit under the big old pine tree. The pine cones can be used to make funny faces. When all else fails, just walk. Walk until, your heart calms, until your breathing is back to normal. Walk the dirt roads until you feel as if you have walked enough.

Then turn around and return. Return to friends, return to family. Return to the green grass and the green barn.  Smile as you see the bright red barn through the budding trees.  Walk back across the bridge over the creek slowly and enjoy the sound of hollow footsteps. Just take time away.  Time away from the busyness of life. When just the sound of the birds talking and the breeze blowing are the most important things to focus on. Where the clouds are breathtaking and the grasshoppers are giants. Just breathe.

I have found that our lives are much more simple than the lives of friends.  Our days often revolve around outings to thrift stores and garage sales. The joy of a spiral bound notebook. A Blue’s Clue’s bright orange VCR tape. Small Dora toys from the free bin.  Water bottles that hold cold water are amazing for washing hands and faces after messy treats. Music is always appreciated. Thank you for playing it during our garage sale adventures.  Always buy lemonade and fruit snacks from kids.  And always count your change. Most people won’t mind if you take shelter underneath the arms of their huge shade trees.  Run your fingers through the long green grass and enjoy the warm breeze rustling the leaves above.

Most of our outings just involve casual walking.  From the car to a new adventure. To a garage, to a new shop, to a park that beckons us for new experience. But walking is what each day produces. Walking and discovering new sights and sounds sometimes of unknown origin. My own anxious heart is calmed from the busyness of life after walks with my son. Because I took the time to relax and see through the eyes of an amazingly special 13 year old kid.I encourage everyone to walk.  Not mile after mile. Just through the neighborhood.  Maybe around the block. Never focus on the destination. Focus more on the joy of movement, the peace, the quiet, the entertaining and satisfying sights and sounds.  A walk will always be worth taking.

The Walk, By Kelli J Gavin

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