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.

I Know What That Means- By: Kelli J Gavin for Writers Unite!

I Know What That Means By: Kelli J Gavin After my family moved to Minneapolis three years ago, my parents refused to visit us in our ne...