Monday, December 24, 2018

Finding Christ in Christmas

So much sadness seems to be evident around Christmas time.  The recent loss of a loved one.  The memory of a loved one enjoying Christmas.  Family and treasured friends separated by time and space. Relationships that are no longer are fostered. Marriages that have fallen apart. Children that are grown and forget to call home once in awhile.  Grown children who have walked away and have never turned back.  So much heart hurt.  And Christmas seems to make it hurt even more.

Personally, our Christmas is full of family, but a bit on the quiet side.  Christmas Eve celebrated with my husband's family and Christmas Day with my family. We are very fortunate that most of our family all lives in the Twin Cities local area.  We are able to enjoy a Christmas meal with each other, catch up with loved ones and indulge in treats aplenty. We will celebrate as a family of 4 on Christmas morning and open stockings and a few presents.

I find myself missing my mom so very much. She passed away almost 6 years ago at the very young age of 67.  I miss her love of Christmas. Her ability glorify the Lord in all she said and did.  I miss her love of making banana bread and Christmas chocolates. I miss her love of reading Christmas books to my kids.  I miss her hugs and hand holds. I miss her words of encouragement, and her ability to know when to be quiet and just listen.  I miss that this was her favorite time of year and she always took the time to tell everyone she met why it was so amazing.

A baby was born in Bethlehem.  A baby that grew to be a King.  A King that died on the Cross for our sins.  A man that rose again and promises to return.  The Glory of Christmas is found in the birth of one small baby.  Christmas isn't about presents and Santa. It isn't about perfect wrapping and Christmas cards and letters. And it surely isn't about anything material.  But it is about celebrating the birth of the most amazing baby.  The King of Glory.  The King of Kings.  Our Savior and King.

My mom taught me this. My mom taught everyone who would listen this very important lesson.  Christmas begins and ends with Christ. When my focus is on Christ, my heart hurts a little less.  Enjoy your family and your friends. Always treasure these times together as they are so precious and few. I will continue to share stories of my mom with kids and family. I will share about the horrible Christmas meal she made one year that left us all in fits of laughing tears. Or the time she hid our presents so well, she forgot where she put them. However, what I will share most is her love of the Savior, The King of Glory. Because Christ is always the only important focus of this holiday we celebrate. 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Unsolicited Feedback

I wrote a poem this month using Jay Long's December writing prompts.  It is simply entitled Red. All through high school and college I wore bright red lipstick.  From the moment I left my home until the moment I returned, a fresh layer of red adorned my lips. When Jay's writing prompt came along, how could I not write about my favorite color lip tint?

I wrote the poem and then submitted it to a couple places. It was accepted right away. I then had something happen that normally does not.  I received unsolicited feedback from an editor and a fellow writer.  It wasn't aware that it was an open forum and I never asked for any feedback, so I found it peculiar. 

Without sharing the poem as it hasn't been published yet, I thought I would share the feedback.

Bit of a punch (or pucker) line at the end, I'd say. That aside, I think you could go somewhere with this. I'd try writing it in a serious vein, without the repetition of "lips so red."

What? Go somewhere? What I wrote was a completed poem. And serious vein?  The humor was intended!  And don't repeat the catch line, lips so red? Am I crazy, I thought that was it the best part of the poem? This is from an editor who I believe has some affiliation with the site looking for writers and pieces to publish. To be honest, I haven't a clue who he is and have never heard of him before.

Then today, I received an email that said the following from a writer I have never spoken to and haven't read anything she has written.

Yes, the repetition screams for this to be a lyric more than a poem, in this case.
But, there is something here, the anticipation, the almost but not quite sustained feeling.

I was so confused.  The editor who accepted it for print said the following:  Loved the catch phrase- Lips so red.  This is a perfect short piece that tells a complete story.  Love the humorous last line.

(Keep in mind, I am fully aware that nothing either the editor nor the fellow writer said was necessarily wrong or even offensive.  The fact is, it was unsolicited and almost the complete opposite of what the publishing editor told me.) 

So what have I learned with this oddball occurrence? 

As a writer, there will always be unsolicited feedback.  Some, outstanding and absolutely useful.  Most, should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Everyone has an opinion.  And that is what it is. Their opinion. It doesn't make it true or right. It is just what one person believes. 

What one person loves, another person hates.  And that is okay.  Not everyone is going to like everything that I write. 

Know my audience. Not everything I write will be everyone's cup of tea.  Some things, possibly such as this poem, shouldn't be made available on open forums until published. 

I don't have to make any changes whatsoever, especially when what I have written is personal and means something to me.  I wrote this memory poem about my husband. And he wouldn't change a thing. 

When the harsh yet totally constructive criticism comes my way, I need to put on my tough outer skin and take it. I need to hear it, digest it, and apply it.  And hopefully when it is really great criticism, it will change the way I approach the writing process going forward. 

The most important lesson I have learned is this:  I need to investigate submissions more thoroughly.  Submissions should just go to an editor and not be made available to a whole darn lot of people with a whole darn lot of time on their hands. I am speaking of the people that are independently wealthy, or comfortably unemployed living in mom's basement who have a decent WiFi connection and feel that their input is needed to make the world function as a whole. That their input is what will change the world.  Because the truth is, there are trolls everywhere. Under every news post in the comments, under every article posted online. Someone with an opinion who loves to be a naysayer will always post something to the contrary. There will always be someone who has majored in Drama Creation and has nothing better to do than continually check back in the comments section and make sure that the pot has been completely stirred. 

Whew.  That was a lot to get out of my system.  Remember, real life doesn't work like this.  If someone wears an outfit that we don't like, most decent human beings don't say a word. We bite our tongue and carry on with the day. Because, brace yourself, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of life. One bad outfit, who cares. If you are truly friends with someone, you will still love them the next day and a poor outfit choice will be a distant memory. 

Also, most adults at this point in life have developed an ability to maintain an inner dialogue that no one else is aware of.  You observe something, you think something, you don't say a word. And you don't go back to add your two cents for the next three days so that everyone within ear shot is fully aware of what you "think and feel". 

With all of this being said, I now know I will never submit to that editor again as it seems everyone and their cousin Billy would have access to my submissions. Maybe I have yet to develop that tough skin I mentioned. But then, if I am a little bit more selective, continuing to wear my heart my sleeve might be the perfect placement for me.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Finished With Work for 2018!

I finished my last decorating job of the Christmas season today.  It was three straight hours of a mad dash from one room to another trying to accomplish everything as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  The client wasn't home, so I turned up the A Star Is Born soundtrack on my phone and decorated that house until every last bit of it was finished.

My client is de-cluttering this year and is working at boxing up donations.  Last week, we worked side by side, and she was able to create a large donation box of Christmas decorations.  She was overwhelmed, so I told to her just stand on the opposite side of the table. I would unwrap everything and hand her each piece, and she would decide to keep or donate the item. It worked very well, and she was pleased with our progress. 

Decorating happened quite late for this client this year. Normally, I have everything pulled down from her attic right as December 1st rolls around.  This year she and I were focused on so many other projects we never got to it. I got her Christmas lights out in front of her house just last week. 

Because I worked alone today, I enjoyed the space that I had and the fact that I could spread out, make a mess and manage my own time so that everything was cleaned up by noon when I needed to leave. She told me she would be home by 11:30 a.m., and I always anticipate her return when I am decorating. I love the look of relief and happiness on her face when she returns and her home completely decorated for Christmas. 

I stayed right until noon and then raced about 6 blocks away to her friends house as I told her I could only help her until 1 p.m. So much to do today, I had to make sure I kept an eye on the clock. No less than 10 minutes after I arrived at my second client's home, her home phone rang. It was the first client requesting a moment to speak to me.  She oohed and aahed about how beautiful her home was and how happy she was to come home and have it all done.  She was so very pleased and now felt that she was ready for Christmas.

She went on to explain that she loved the placement of the angels and the decor which I carefully placed on the book shelves in the corner.  And the fact that I dusted the huge picture window sill in case she was ready to put up any pieces of her Christmas village.  She said it was like I was in her head and knew what she was thinking. She has a large village and had mentioned she would probably also like to get rid of few pieces of it, so I didn't put it up, but left that one last project for her to address.  I have worked for her for approx 13+ years, so I absolutely know what she likes and doesn't like when it comes to decorating her home for Christmas.

She then went on to tell me about her joy at seeing the Nativity on her beautiful desk in front room of her house. Gorgeous. Probably my favorite piece of hers.  She said the fact that it was so simply placed, without any additional embellishments was exactly what she wanted. She went on to explain that when she first saw it she paused and tears pricked the corners of her eyes.  She had been running and racing and not savoring this Christmas season.  Remembering the birth of Savior was the only thing that mattered, and the first sight of of her treasured Nativity enabled her to refocus and set herself back on the right course this Christmas.

I now will not go back to work until after the New Year.  I still have a lot to do for Christmas, but mostly wrapping presents and cleaning my home to host for Christmas Day.  But I will pause myself tonight and study my Nativity on my mantle above the fireplace in the Great Room.  I am eternally thankful for the birth of baby who grew up to be a man, who died for our sins and and will return again.  Because that is only thing I wish to celebrate this Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Painting of Margaret

Every other Wednesday, I work with Miss Margaret from 12 to 3 p.m.. She is a lovely woman of 86 years.  I have worked with her for many years and I enjoy her company.  Of Norwegian descent, she is a woman of few words.  She doesn't like long conversations, makes fun of me when I use words such as wonderful, fabulous and perfect, and doesn't enjoy long goodbyes.  She makes me laugh each and every time we are together. 

On precious occasions, Margaret will share with me stories of her childhood, her teen years and stories from as recent as 40 years ago. She is a walking, talking history lesson. All of her stories have a purpose.  She speaks of World War II, small town life, individuals who didn't come home from the war, relationships with her parents and siblings, She talks about The Korean War, Vietnam and even of the Gulf War. She loves America, the Military and those that have given up their life to serve and defend our country. 

Many years ago, I was pulling out Christmas Decorations from Margaret's attic. She asked if I could put them in the spare bedroom. Before that day, I never had had a reason to go into that bedroom before.  I walked in and struggled to turn on the ceiling light. A huge close to 100 year old gorgeous dresser slightly blocked the switch. I finally pushed the button and the light came on.  The room was small, contained a sewing table, a hide-a-bed couch and two dressers. There was also a book shelf and an empty folding table ready to hold the Christmas decorations.  I turned around to head back to the boxes of ornaments and stopped when I saw a painting on the wall.  

Clearly it was a picture of a young and beautiful Margaret. I paused and studied the beautiful portrait.  When Margaret rounded the corner into the back hall, she saw me standing there looking at the piece hanging on the wall.  "From an admirer.  I should have pursued him more."  That was all she said.  

Now, I know not to press Margaret. I know to only ask questions when she is isn't busy or working on something.  I smiled at her and carried on with our work.  I later asked her a few more questions.  No new information was volunteered.  

I have occasionally and casually commented on the painting over the years.  This past Wednesday, it was time. I wanted to know the whole story.  She volunteered more than ever before. She loved him, yet didn't think it would ever work. He didn't love Jesus the way she did.  She didn't see a future with him.  So it fizzled.  What a beautiful painting came out of a relationship that was never meant to be. 

Margaret never married and didn't have any children. She enjoys the company of her great nieces and nephews. Her days are filled with many friends, bible studies, special events such as the Opera and Minnesota Orchestra and group outings. She participates in many activities.  I have always admired how very active she is.  

"Kelli, no one I know will want this painting of me when I pass away.  Maybe I should give it to you. You sure talk about it enough."  I laughed so hard at her attempt at humor.  She smirked and giggled a bit too.  So all those attempts over the years to gather more information were thwarted.  Private treasured memories that Margaret holds dear.  And those memories will always reside with Margaret. 

She has shared with me so many great stories of the beautiful pieces she owns and who owned them before her. Some were gifts, some passed down.  But I think this beautiful painting of a young Margaret is probably also her favorite possession. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Slow Down

Everyone hustles and bustles around me this time of year.  I watch as if from a distance. So many people, always so much to do.  Rather than increase my speed to keep up with the masses, I tend to slow down. I wouldn't have it any other way.  People race to stores for the best deals, stay up late into the night researching the best deals and ordering online.  They commit to way too many dinner parties, cookie exchanges and Christmas events.  Kids events such as concerts and plays seem to occur about every other night. The mayhem often affects peoples overall mood and sometimes behavior. People tend to be emotional, overtired and overwhelmed.  Rather than enjoying this season that should be filled with Love and Hope and Peace, they race forward at warp speed to accomplish it all and somehow be the first one to enter and to conquer the New Year.

This is not me.  It can not be me.  Rushing and Racing and Raging. No, it isn't for me.

I found in recent years, this time of year is exactly what I wish it would always be like.  Extra time with family and friends. Baking with children each time they ask if we can do it again.  Reading the book of Luke with my kids in December.  Reaching out to those that I meant to touch base with all year long but never quite got around to it. I enjoy the dinners and laughter and games that are played sometimes late into the evening. Scrumptious food and excellent conversation.  The giggles of children playing together.  The Christmas lights and decorated homes. The Menorah's lit on beautiful mantles. Christmas trees adorned with ornaments passed down from each generation.  Poinsettias so rich and red and the smell of evergreen trees wafting through the air. Nativities focusing on the birth of Jesus, and not presents piled to the ceiling for children who already have more than they could ever want.

This is the time of year that I slow down. I reflect on the joy's, the challenges of the past year and how thankful I am for a Savior who sees me through each day.  I am thankful for who He is, what He did dying on the Cross for my sins and the Salvation that is promised to me. I share my joy of the birth of a baby who was sent to this earth for each one of us.  His name is Jesus, and without Him, there is no Christmas for me.

Slow down this Christmas season. Take it all in. Reflect and practice being thankful. If you find that stress is creeping in to each day, explore what causes it and adjust your expectations.  Decline a few invitations. Skip writing a Christmas letter. Order pre-printed cards. Take that time that you have reclaimed and practice gratitude.  Be grateful for Christmas.  Be grateful for family and friends. For great food and soul quenching conversation. Be grateful that you have a New Year right around the corner. A New Year presents a wonderful opportunity to start over from scratch. To do the things you wish you had done, and stop doing those things which serve no purpose or do not bring joy.  Prepare to embrace this New Year.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

December Writing Challenge with Jay Long

Hi Blog Readers! Many of you have shared with me your love of writing.  Some of you are poets, some are short story writers.  All of us have a story to tell.  Join me, even a few days late,  in Jay Long's December Writing Challenge.  The word prompts are above. Write about what you love. Write about what you know.  Write something that means something. Write something that you want to share with someone else.

Let me know if you are participating. Whether it is writing from the prompts for each day, or picking a few, I would love to hear from you.

Here is one of my my dabbles from day 4. 

Starlight Confession

I loved you
I always have
I always will
More than I care
To admit to you
I loved you when
You didn’t love me
When you couldn’t love me
When you shouldn’t love me
But I loved you
From the beginning
Until now
Probably forevermore
Whether I like it or not
My love was given
My love was offered
Yours for the taking
Always accepted
I love you
I always have
I always will
My starlight confession

Is I will always love you

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Bag of Walnuts

I have been struggling with physical pain for about 12 weeks. I have been to many doctors and not one of them has had the ability to fully address my pain.  I have seen three doctors, have had a ton of testing, I have seen a rehab specialist and have received another  referral as of today to see a new doctor and possibly go down a completely different road with more testing and additional diagnosis's.  Some days are better than others. Some days I don't want to leave the house. Today is just so so.  I am awakened quite a bit in the night and struggle to ever feel fully rested.  Needless to say, I am emotional mess even on the good days. Cried talking to the nurse on the phone today giving her all of my medical info to start a new file at yet another doctor's office.

I am unable to take pain meds as they screw up my GI track and make me feel even worse. After extensive surgery last year, I found in the first 8 days, I had to get off the pain meds and switched to muscle relaxers. Can't even take those right now.  Trying to figure out the root cause of some of the pain as it is often deep and migrates from one place to another. I have had five docs refuse meds or other alternatives. Five.  When they realize I am not seeking meds, but an accurate diagnosis and then pain management to get me on to the road to recovery, they are at a loss.  Almost as if I am the first patient that has said, STOP! No more meds!  -They study me closely and tell me that they think pain meds might help, understand why I am adverse to them, and then tell me they think I should see a new doctor.

Pain is hard enough to deal with. But what I struggling with the most is discouragement. I feel I have been medically abandoned. I do not have a medical point person, someone in charge of my medical case. I am constantly calling and begging for the help pushing referrals through when someone drops the ball. I don't know who to call and ask more questions. I don't know what I am supposed to do next most days.  I need my pain managed and someone to take the lead. I need a medical professional to say, --Me, that person is me.  I may not be able to help you Kelli, but I am going to find someone who can. --

I cried quite a bit this morning.  Puffy face, red eyes, exhausted.  It took it all out of me.  I am down trodden and fell that this is never ending.  I told Josh that I think it is pathetic when I catch myself saying things, like -what if I am not able to travel yet? when a event is three months away. Or I have to plan out a day so that I have everything with me that I will need for an extended period of time, only to realize in all my planning, I need more medical supplies or meds. All I know is that I am trying my best to accomplish what I need to each day when it comes to work, writing and editing commitments and parenting.

So when I tell you all of this, I know what I look like. A friend hugged me last weekend and said she was excited for the day when my smile returns. That smile is still there, it just isn't there as often.  I know I look tired. I know my cheeks are puffy. I know that I look like I need a vacation. All of this is true.  But mostly I need a nap.  And a whole lot of prayer. Thank you for praying for me, for being kind to me and for accommodating me when I need and ask for help.

And no one has ever been so bold as Roger Sterling to say that my face looks like a bag of walnuts, but today, it sounds totally accurate.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Schmidt JAR

I was perusing the local sale sites on Facebook this afternoon. I spit out my tea when I saw this picture.  JAR.  They are initial stocking holders/hangers.  Someone obviously has three members of their family that have the initials J A R.  We do not have those three initials in our family. We have the J, but not an A or an R to be found.  However,  I have never felt the need to buy something more after seeing it online.  I think it is quite possibly the one thing my home is missing.

Josh and I have been watching a show on Fox called New Girl since it aired.  A goofball farce of show exploring all the the bizarre interactions and conversations between a hodgepodge group of roommates. Sometimes hysterical and tear inducing laughter, other times, heartwarming drama occurs.  But something that is bound to occur on each and every show is Schmidt.  Max Greenfield plays a character called Schmidt.  He is intelligent yet completely relationally unaware. He never seems to be able to do anything or say anything the way that he should.  And mostly Schmidt just says stupid stuff that doesn't make any sense. As in ever.

When I was growing up, my mother hated what she called Foul Language.  Foul language included words such as Crap , Ass, and occasionally Darn It. My sister and I found it hysterical that she was so sensitive to language and really pushed the limits just to see when she would get mad. She would joke that we always needed to pay her quarter if we used any foul language.  She never really enforced her rule, until one day I saw a glass Ball jar sitting on top the shelf above the oven in the kitchen. She was done. She wasn't having it.  At times it was so comical, she would stare us down and then shoot her eyes at the jar.  No words necessary. We had said something inappropriate and a quarter was now due.   The benefit of a "Swear Jar" was that I became very aware of my word choices. 

I never became a person that swears.  I believe the words of our mouth are an outpouring of the true condition of our heart. When I hear someone swear every other word, I judge. It is something I am aware of.  I believe they lack the vocabulary skills to communicate effectively without using harsh consonant words, and I also believe them to be angry.  Why are people so angry?  They seem to be smiling yet swear words are the only words that leave their lips.  It just doesn't make any sense to me.

Years ago when I was a banker, I wasn't much older than the teens that worked after school on the teller line.  I overheard one young man whom I thought highly of swearing like a drunken sailor when speaking to a young lady behind the line.  No customers were present, but that wasn't an excuse. "Ryan! First, never speak like that when a lady is present. Second, what you doing? You will never impress a woman with a mouth like that. Get it together!"  My curt correction weighed heavy on him. He came to me the next day and apologized.  I told him I found it odd, because he never spoke that way in front of me.  Apparently, I was an adulting adult in his eyes even though I wasn't that much older.  "Ryan, speak to every person, man and woman alike, with care and adoration. Speak to them the way you would address your mother."  He heard every word I said and took it to heart. I never heard the drunken sailor persona overtake Ryan again.

Josh and I may never have a need for swear words, but we are kind of nerds. We says stupid things at inappropriate times. Sometimes intentionally to be funny, other times stupid just pours from our lips before we can get a hold of the reigns.  And for that reason alone,  the Schmidt JAR exists.  There isn't even a real jar. It is a well known expression.  When my mouth runs out of control, volunteers too much or shares inappropriate info,  Josh just yells, "JAR!"
When Josh makes a joke about how he teased a coworker, I sputter, "JAR!"  We laugh. It is our inside joke.  It is something that makes us smile.  And it is so much better than swearing.

Schmidt. JAR!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Donation Requests

Hi friends! The kids and I are ready to start our collection drive! This is a list of what is needed:
Winter Jackets
Hats and Scarves
Mittens and Gloves
(All in good working order without stains, broken zippers, or holes. The items need to be wearable immediately.)
Canned goods
Boxed food
Boxed cereal
Peanut Butter
Ramen Noodle
(We are not able to accept perishable items or items that need to be refrigerated or frozen.)
I will have a bin on my porch starting Saturday morning marked Clothing & Food Donations. Please message me for my address. I will also be at the Chaska Library Saturday morning from 10:45 a.m. til 11:30 a.m. And at first service Grace Church Chaska Campus on Sunday morning for drop offs.
Food donations will be kept in Carver and Chaska for underserved residents. Winter Wear will be donated to The Community Clothing Closet at Grace Church Eden Prairie.
This is the perfect way to give back to the local community in need.
Thank you in advance for your generous donations!
Yesterday, I put out this call for donations on Facebook. The kids and I participate in a collection/donation drive at least twice a year. My goal is to not only help those in need, but to also teach my kids about serving others.  Whether it is food or clothing, it is so easy to help. Clean out your pantry, clean out your closets and dressers, pick up a few items while at the store.  Not only are donations needed, they are so greatly appreciated by those that receive them. 
I am at the Chaska Library this morning. Yes, it is Saturday, and the kids and I are here every Saturday.  The kids and I ran a couple errands and went to the Girl Scout Christmas Boutique and the Auburn Homes Christmas Sale. We finished our shopping quickly and headed to the library.
I got the kids settled and found a couple of the items that I wanted to check out. I sat down to answer a few emails. I look up and I see the smiling face of Courtney Johnson, Mayor Elect of the City of Carver.  She has two bags in hand.  One with yams the other filled with scarves and winter wear.  What a fantastic first donation!  It was so encouraging to receive the first donation that will help those right here in our local community. 
 Thank you Courtney!
This is going to be a great month of serving others. When we help others, we often forget about what ails us. We forget about pain and heartache, we forget about our personal worries that sometimes plague us. We forget about what isn't okay in our corner of the world and focus on what is right when we help others. Don't let this month pass you by without donating your money, your time and your talents. Be creative.  And do it with a thankful heart. Thankful for what you do have. Thankful that you are in a position to help others. 
Thank you to each and every person that has reached out to me with questions about how to donate.  Together, our efforts will make a huge difference. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

That One Owl

There is always one. One in every crowd. In every friend group.  In every circle.  One person, man or woman, that has experienced more, done more and even seen more than everyone else.  Sometimes I realize that person is me.

Because I enjoy sharing stories, I find that I am also the one that has more stories to tell.  I find the oddities of life so very spell bounding.  A trip to Walgreen's and a conversation overheard can turn into an amazing tale that I feel compelled to share with others.  In doing so, people will tell me that I have such an interesting life.  My life is not more interesting than anyone else's.  I just talk more. I share more. I review what I have seen, what I have heard and conversations I have entered over and over in my head. I evaluate word choices, body language, facial expressions and behavior. I remember more about what I see than what I hear.  So my eyes tend to be my memory keeper.  I will sometimes have complete conversations with other people and walk away not remembering one word that was spoken. But I will remember the color of someone's eyes. I will remember the color of their hair when they tuck it unconsciously behind their ear.  I will remember the distant look in their eye when a person brings up how much these miss a dearly departed loved one.  I will remember the unconscious way they touched my arm numerous times as we parted ways.  But what words have been exchanged? I haven't a clue.

Then there are also the conversations that I can't forget.

"Kelli, I never wanted to have children. I only did it to make my husband happy. He always wanted kids.  And look here I am 4 kids later..."

"My mother-in-law never wanted me to marry her son. Her baby.  I think she loves him more than she loves her husband."

"I wonder when things will get any easier. I am guessing this is as good as it gets.  I think I will just quit my job and tell my husband I was fired. I don't think I can work there another day."

"I hate my son so much. He is the biggest jerk.  He make me want to hit him most days."

"I seem like the happiest person in the world. Or at least that is what everyone thinks.  I don't think I will be happy ever again. "

"I never loved her.  I liked having her around because she always took care of everything. But love? No. I don't think I have ever been in love.  Maybe it is too late for me."

My mother joked with me when I was growing up, that the reason why people talked to me so much was because I greeted everyone with a warm smile.  Now keep in mind, it was my mother who talked to everyone she knew and also everyone she didn't know. But just because people talked to her doesn't mean that shared anything of importance with her.  They talked about the weather, children and other things they obviously had in common with each other. People talk to me about challenging things, heartbreaking life changing events.  They pour out their life to me and it appears they have been waiting to do so for quite some time.  So much information escapes from them a such a quick rate, it appears as if a dam has broken.  And when this happens, I am often fascinated, sometimes intimated. 

With all this story telling going on, you would think that I was encouraging it.  As my mom said, sometimes, only a warm smile is extended, and then the story telling commences. Some of the things that have been shared with me, have never then been shared with another.  The stories that I retell are usually ones where I feel like I have been changed somehow just by hearing them. I feel as if they have made me think about my own life, revise the way I do something or make me want to change the way I relate to someone. This is example of how personal story telling can directly influence someone else.

Then there are the times when a someone shares a story with me and I feel the need to flee. Too much information, so much pain. Tears shed, even sobs have begin to overtake the storyteller. I become uncomfortable at these types of displays and want nothing other than to walk away.  It is too much for me take in.  Not because I am a stranger to emotion, but because, lest I remind you, they are  strangers.

So when someone starts a story and my eyes get as big as dinner plates, it isn't that I can't believe what I am hearing. It is because I have seen some stuff, heard even more.  And those unsolicited  stories that have been shared with me have prepared me for just about anything else that I have yet to hear.  Almost.  Once in awhile, I am caught off guard.  And I am sure it will happen again.  My friend told me I should stop smiling altogether.  To ward off any uncomfortable story telling ventures.  I can't.  My smile will find a way to show itself no matter what. So bring it on. Give it your best shot. Shock me.  Make me want to flee. Just keep the stories coming.

Thursday, November 22, 2018



The fall wreath has been hung
Pumpkins on display
Gorgeous leaves strewn
Intertwined with red berries
Gourds here and there
The cornucopia overflows
The table is ready
Place settings perfected
Come to the table
Enjoy the feast
Prepared by each hand
Partake in the bounty
Savor the conversations
Embrace each loved one
Linger awhile
So thankful for all
The love and encouragement
For provision and plenty
For the blessings bestowed
To family and friends
Let this day remind us
To always be thankful
For each new day
That is given to us
But not always promised
Today I am grateful
Today I am thankful
May I continue to experience
This each and every day

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Married Texting

My husband and I have enjoyed a number of shows together over the years. When you have been married for 23+ years, you discover that there are shows you watch together. And there are shows you watch by yourself. We used to watch Friends, Mad About You and ER and even 30 Rock on Thursday nights. It was like a date night at home. Now we enjoy watching Madame Secretary, 9-1-1, and New Amsterdam together.  We have also enjoyed watching The American's and Stranger Things.  Shows I catch on my own are shows like Grey's Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, Poldark and The Durrell's of Corfu. But it is always fun when we have down time in the evening after the kids go to bed, to settle in and enjoy a show together.  Shorter than movie so it isn't such a huge time commitment. Still enjoying date night at home.

Two other shows that my husband and I enjoyed together were The Office and Parks and Rec. They were so underrated and so very funny. Dry humor, sometimes so over the top, the shows would leave us in stitches and laughing together even days later.  It was like an inside joke because only we knew why we were laughing. 

When you have been married as long as we have, indeed, we still check in with each other throughout the day. But it is usually short texts questioning when the other will be home from work.  It may be a short blurb about something great that has happened along the way.  And my end of day texts are usually short requests for a few things from the store.  Today wasn't any different. I needed beets and bananas. But then anytime I think of beets, I think of Dwight Schrutte from The Office. Schrutte Farm's. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. It is the three things that Dwight spoke about as being the most important things in his life.  Tonight it seemed really important to me to somehow incorporate an Office reference while requesting groceries.

Josh once texted me about our plans for the evening. He asked what time we needed to be dressed and ready to go. I told him six. I then asked him what he was going to wear. "Well, it will be after six. Obviously a tux. I am not a farmer." Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock.

I hadn't seen Josh in few days, our schedules were a bit hectic.  I sent him a text telling him I missed him and looked forward to seeing him that evening.  He responded back, "I think I remember you smelling like strawberries."  Another fantastic 30 Rock reference.

I panicked one day last summer when I exited the front door and a rodent of epic proportions ran in front of me. I sent Josh a text stating that he needed to stop and buy outdoor traps on his way home. He asked what kind of rodent it was and size traps was I talking about.  I texted, "Well, it is about the size of a MouseRat."  The name of Andy's band from Parks and Rec.

Some people would think we were ridiculous if they read our text messages. They would find them to be highly confusing, filled with emoji's that do not make any sense and think that I never went grocery shopping with the amount of requests that I make of my husband each week.

Some call it married texting.  We call it flirting. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cocaine In The Soda

My mother wasn't very good at keeping house. She didn't enjoy cleaning and never really made an effort at it. Dishes and laundry. Those were the main two things she always made sure she made time for. Dishes to eat off of and clean clothes for her family.  She also wasn't a very good cook. She never tried many new recipes and when she did they were usually a mess.  She was however, an amazing baker. She loved making chocolate chip banana bread and brownies and loved to make homemade bread and friendship bread. She loved snickerdoodles and butterscotch cookies. She made amazing treat bags and always had a gift of food for everyone she would meet. She loved making chocolates for weddings, graduation parties and funerals. She loved blessing people with her talent for baking.

My Grandma Charlotte was a caterer. Weddings, funerals and special events. She also, wasn't a very good cook, but appetizers and finger foods were her forte.  She was also a great hostess. She seemed to always have the table set with her beautiful Italian plates in case a meal needed to be served. She decorated for every holiday and loved to have her family over for Sunday lunch after church. She was always helping someone, loving someone and showing others a better way to do things when they were struggling.

Both my mom and grandma were amazing women who seemed to always get so much done. My mom managed the finances and class schedules for my sister's dance studio for many years.  She oversaw all fundraising ventures for the high school band and for my music school. She organized church youth group fundraisers and seemed to have the natural ability to always recruit all the help needed to make every new venture successful.  My mother often worked part time and even full time during most of my growing up years. She usually worked in an office setting as office manager or as an executive assistant. She was articulate, hardworking, focused, task and detailed oriented and amazing with people. She never struggled to find a new position when it was time to move on. My mom also would find the time to play games with my sister and I. She made sure to save plenty of time for swimming at the lake and family outings in the summer. She also made sure that any activity that my sister or I wanted to be involved in not only happened, but that we always had a ride to and from. How is it possible? I remember believing that she must have cloned herself and that is why she was always able to get so much done.

My grandmother was in charge of counting and depositing the offering from church each Sunday. She was in charge of the kitchen and all of the events held at the church when it came to serving food.  She was helpful with neighbors, parishioners at church and loved taking care of and spending time with her 6 grandchildren.  She checked in with those that were ill or just had a baby and made sure they had everything they needed. She always took time to watch the news and wheel of fortune and play a few hands of gin. She loved down time in the evening and she enjoyed snoozing in the front of the t.v..

These two women were amazing examples. Neither of them were perfectionists. But they always got the job done. When they saw a project to be completed and they knew they were able, they claimed ownership and followed it through to completion. They were perfect examples of always focusing on what is important. People. Relationships. Loving others and caring for them. Family. Children. Fun.  I am so thankful for my grandma and for my mom. They were inspiring and funny. They were generous with their time and loved others as if it was always the most important task at hand. They served others well without being asked and never asked for anything in return.

On days when I seem to be failing and a million projects have gone untouched, I fondly reflect back on my mom and grandma. When I think I have failed, it is usually because of some unobtainable goal that I myself have created.  I am my own worst judge. I am my own worst critic. Not once did anyone ever say to me, you are an amazing housekeeper! Your house is so clean! And I am pretty sure that no one ever said that to my mom or grandma either.  But they have said thank you for helping me. Thank you for seeing my need and taking care of it for me.  My children smile at me when I pause and play games with them and read with them. I am missing smiles when I feel the need to focus on the housework and and packing backpacks for the next day. I miss out of the stories my kids are ready to share when I think laundry has to be completed at that very moment. I miss out on time spent with friends when I focus more on work and what I think needs to be accomplished at that very second.

I don't want to miss out anymore. I don't want to have a perfect house and life that looks like I have my act together, when I am not able to enjoy life as it passes me by. I want to play Scrabble at the dining room table with my husband when he asks. I want to read with Zach four more books before bed. I want to discover new arts and craft projects that Lily is now interested in. And I can do all of this, when I focus on what is important. My family and experiencing each new day with them.

So please excuse the dust bunnies and the carpet that needs a good once over. Please excuse the dishes that need to be put away and clothing baskets of clean clothes that need to be folded and put away.  Please ignore the pile of paper on the corner of the kitchen counter. I may or may not go through it tonight when I sit to watch a movie with my husband.  My kids are 12 and 15. We are still in the process of memory creation.  And I want my kids to remember that I was there. That I was available. That I was present and not racing off to do something that I felt was more important. I want to take a breath and enjoy each new experience with my kids as if it is also new to me.  I want to live each day to fullest and if it was my last.

And those dishes. Those dishes can wait.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Capernaum- Special Needs Youth Group

I just did something I have never done before. I dropped Zach off at the Grace Church Eden Prairie Campus for Capernaum. It is the equivalent of youth group for special needs kids in high school. It has taken me a month of talking to him about it and raving about how much fun he would have for him to finally agree to go.  So tonight from 7 to 8:30 pm, Zach gets to be with other kids who are just like him. Some with Autism, some with Down Syndrome, some with physical issues, all with special needs.  Zach will be surrounded by young adults and adults that are there to serve the special needs community.

A call to serve is an amazing thing.  Not everyone has the skill set or the patience to work with kids who have extra needs.  It requires extra effort, lots of energy and the ability to navigate several needs at once. I as a special needs parent still struggle daily!  I am always so very thankful when I walk into church like tonight and see 10 smiling people, ready to help, ready to answer questions, give direction and to enable my child to have an amazing time. It made me so happy to know that I was leaving Zach in extremely capable, well equipped hands.  This is a new activity and I have chosen to stay in the building tonight so that if it doesn't work out or if Zach panics, I am close by and can intercede.

To those teachers and paras at school, to those door greeters on Sunday mornings, to the man that greets my son with a hand shake, a hug, a warm smile and sermon notes.  To the woman that touches Zach's shoulder each Sunday during greeting time and tells him she has missed him and is so happy to see him.  To the teenagers who give up their Friday nights and so faithfully assist as one on one helpers at Barnabas Respite Nights. To the 10 people waiting to receive us this evening. Thank you. Thank you for caring about Zach. Thank you for serving him and and for serving our entire family. Thank you for being responsive to the call to help.  Thank you for caring for special needs students.  You make my son's days joy filled and something to look forward to. And for that, I am eternally thankful.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Therapy Dogs and Saturday Smiles

One Saturday a month, the therapy dogs are at the local library.  These dogs are a part of the program called Tails for Reading. They encourage children to come and read and visit with the dogs. Encouraging literacy and enabling nervous readers to get comfortable, all of the dog's owners are wonderful as they gently correct, and build each child's confidence. 

Lily and Zach have always participated in the reading program since they were tiny. They love spending time with the dogs.  Lily started volunteering with the Dog Certification Program about a year ago.  She loves it. She and another child participate by being the child interaction and testing the dogs reaction to unexpected  situations. A child running or shouting, a child who is afraid, a child that may be a bit too rough or wild next to the dog.  She loves volunteering and adores all the extra snuggles that she gets with each of the dogs. 

Today Lily got to participate in a whole new way.  While at the library, she was asked to take care of child sign in's and to facilitate to make sure that each child got to spend time with the three different dogs. Not only was Lily up to the task, she excelled. She took her clip board duties seriously and made an extra effort to visit with each of the little kids, especially if they were struggling with patience while waiting for their name to be called.

I just beamed watching Lily have fun in a whole new way. She caught me watching her and I caught this beautiful picture. My amazing daughter with a heart to serve others. Yes, today it involved dogs, but I love that she helped the kids, helped the dog owners, and made sure she had time with each of the dogs herself.

Check with your local library for days and times that this activity may be scheduled. If your library doesn't have this activity, consider making a suggestion.  You will not be sorry. Nothing better than seeing 25+ small children get the chance to love on a few amazing dogs at the library and enjoy reading a book at the same time.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Decor Galore- I Love This Time of Year!

I see it every fall and every Christmas. These beautifully decorated homes on t.v., the internet, in magazines and for sure all over social media.  Some people are so creative and even very talented. They have an eye for what will look good together. Leaves and birch branches, willows and tea lanterns.  Mantles filled with glass pumpkins and Gather or Blessings banners.  Then as fall turns way to snow and all things Christmas, boughs of green and red berries.  Lights and red bows. Wine glasses and ornaments and sparkle and snowmen galore.  I love it all.

Here is my honest moment. I have a ton of amazing decorations, but I also have a ton of opinions of how I like to decorate.  I had a friend make a suggestion about 6 years ago of how I could decorate a portion of home differently for Christmas. I thought bless her heart. Sure it was probably a good idea, but I didn't want to change the way I was decorating anything and I didn't ask for ideas. I immediately internalized the suggestion and thought she didn't like what my home looked like when it was decorated for Christmas. That wasn't her intention. I figured out the reason I took it that way was because her house always looked like Pottery Barn on crack.  Excuse me. It was beautifully decorated and looked as if no one lived in it. Ever.

I began to realize that wasn't me. My family, we are messy and live in our home, we spend more time here than anywhere else. We enjoy having people over and playing games and sharing meals together. We love spending time with extended family and friends and are okay with dishes sometimes being saved until the next morning. I smile at 22 pairs of shoes left in a shambles by my front door rather than fret about what a mess those kids are making in the basement. I want my house to be picked up and clean enough to function, but I also want to have fun and enjoy each new day by enabling adventure to come my way.

Today, on my way home from a challenging doctors appointment, I needed some cheering up.  I stopped at 501 & Company in Chaska. And as usual during this time of year, it didn't disappoint. A perfect blend of all things fall and Thanksgiving and a treasure trove of the glories of Christmas. A feast for the eyes, I think I spent a half hour meandering in and out of the narrow walkways. Discovering alcoves I had yet to venture into, I left no corner unexplored.  I loved what I saw today. Some, clever new creations, some amazing vintage finds and delectable antiques that were absolutely fantastic and eclectic.

I left without buying a thing, but I left with a smile on face and inspired to go home and decorate my home the way I enjoy. Plenty of white lights and angels. Snowmen in the window sill. Antique trees and candle sticks on the hutch in the front entryway.  The big tree on the main floor, and tree in each of the kids' rooms.  Berries and Christmas tie backs for the curtains and Christmas books that have been handed down for generations on the sideboard.  The mantle will display the beautiful Nativity and angels that were hand made and bestowed upon us as a wedding gift. Absolute treasures that I will gift to Lily when she is grown.

I took pictures of the few beauties I saw today. Some because they warmed my heart, some because I hope the replicate them in my home this Christmas Season.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Walk Away-Coffee Shop Blues

Words hurt. Sometimes deeply. Actions matter. Sometimes too much.  While we want to pretend we are all okay, sometimes we are crumbling inside because of how someone else has chosen to treat us.

When my daughter was 5 years old, we were enjoying a morning out on the town. We were taking our time going into new storefronts and exploring places we have never been.  We went to get a beverage at the local coffee shop.  The owner and I had been acquainted for a few years and he always greeted me kindly and made a big deal out of my children.  I ordered a coffee and got a lemonade for Lily. When we sat, the shop owner approached and he proceeded to visit and catch up a bit.

As I was preparing to leave he then came back over to say goodbye.  To this day, I do remember how the conversation started, but he made a comment about people being fools to believe in any type of religion at all.  Remember, my young daughter was present.  I asked him what he meant and he said he was an atheist. I joked when I shouldn't have and said that being an atheist is just a lazy agnostic. I angered him.  I then was subject to the verbal lashing of a lifetime.  I was told that I was a fool, I was stupid,  he thought I was smarter than that, and that I was ridiculous and he hoped I wasn't raising my children to believe in nonsense. I was in absolute shock.  I thought this man was my friend.

I didn't feel the need to justify my beliefs but I did feel the need to let him how inappropriate his verbal attack was. I reminded him Lily was watching. He didn't care. He kept insulting me.  I took her hand and proceeded to the front door. He followed me. Not just to the door, but out onto the sidewalk. He was still talking, more so yelling at me.  I felt the tears poking at the corner of my eyes.  I wasn't going to let him see me cry.  I got to the car, and I kid you not, he continued to fire insults at me the entire time I strapped Lily into her car seat. I closed her door and turned to him.  "I feel sorry for you. Do not ever speak to me again."  I got into my car slammed the door and left.

I didn't just leave, I pulled away as quickly as I possibly could. By the time I rounded the curb, tears were streaming from my face.  I  grew up in a family were my parents rarely yelled at me. My husband surely never spoke to me like that.  How could someone whom was my friend be so angry and scream at me and call me names?  I heart felt wounded. I couldn't catch my breath as I cried.  I tried so keep it under control and I couldn't. I gasped for air as I began to sob even more.  Lily was alarmed at the rate of speed that we had left and she started realizing how upset I was.  "Mom, why was he so mean to you?  Why are you crying? Did he make you sad mom?"

I told her I would be okay.  I didn't know for a fact that I would be, but I told her it would happen.  We got home and I called my husband. I am sure I couldn't put together a coherent sentence for the first five minutes.  My husband kept reminding me to breathe.  He said slow down.  Tell me what happened.  I retold the story to best of my ability.  I even told my husband about the remark that I made that I probably should not have. He was silent for bit and I needed to check to see if he was still there.

"Kelli, never fight back with words.  It sounds like he wanted to engage in a confrontation. As if he was looking for a fight. Never give in. Don't let him win.  I am so sorry this happened. And that he followed you out to the car.  Always remember, to walk away. Just so you know, this isn't how friends talk to each other. He isn't your friend.  Is Lily okay?"

I told him Lily was fine, she was worried about me crying, but that I don't think she totally understood what happened.  My dear husband. He is always so very wise. He was right. That wasn't how friends should ever talk to each other.  I need to always walk away.  He had treated me so poorly, and I shouldn't waste time trying to reason with him when he wouldn't have been able to hear what needs to be said.

My heart hurt.  I felt depleted.  I cried a few times throughout the next few days. That Saturday, my husband and I went to St. Paul and were enjoying a work party at O'Gara's.  I was facing the large windows on West 7th Street looking out towards the Xcel Center where we would soon be attending a Semi Pro Swarm Lacrosse game. Right in front of me, I see the man who was no longer a friend of mine walking down the sidewalk.  I nudged Josh.  He looked out the window at where I was pointing.  We looked at each other in disbelief. 

When my husband and I entered the Xcel Center and walked towards our box suite seats, we saw him again approaching from the opposite direction. He met my eye and turned white as a sheet.  Josh continued walking straight for him.  I was about 6 feet behind. He smiled at me and then looked straight at my husband.  He extended his hand to Josh and Josh refused to take it. "My wife told me what happened the other day in front of our daughter.  You will never speak to her again."  He nodded at him in understanding, took my hand and lead me away.  Those were the only words exchanged.  I don't think I have ever seen my husband so visibly upset yet so completely in control in our entire lives together.

My hands were shaking as he pulled me into the suite.  He hugged me.  He hugged me until the shaking subsided.  I kissed my husband and let him just hold me.  My husband help mend my hurting heart that evening by standing up for me.  He enabled me to see a protective side of him that had never been necessary before. He loved on me and supported me until I was able to continue on with our evening.

All these years later, I avoid his place of business.  I suggest other coffee shops when setting plans with friends.  I politely decline invitations when that coffee shop is the intended location.  My heart no longer hurts.  However, I learned some very important truths from this experience.  Friends don't treat each other the way this man treated me.  Friends don't ever call each other names. Husband's protect their wives at all times.  And children forget easily.  Once in awhile now, Lily will ask why we do not frequent that shop.  I tell her I like the others better.  And now with Red Bench Bakery so close in Chaska, we don't have a need to go anywhere else.  Someday I will tell Lily what happened.  I will tell her how I was hurt, how her father spoke truth to me, and how he stood his ground and made sure the other man knew how this was going to play out in future. She will see her father as the hero of this story.  And I will always agree.

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...