Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The People of Carver County with Steve Patterson

The People of Carver County-By: Kelli J Gavin- Edition 4

Steve Patterson moved from New Mexico to Chaska 4 1/2 years ago. He worked in the 5 Eyewitness News Department as a reporter and fill in Anchor and then after 8 month joined Twin Cities Live show as Co Anchor.

What is something that you would enjoy covering on TCL that you haven't? "I’ve got to be honest.  We cover so many fun things in and around the Cities that it’s tough for me to imagine something in the Metro that we haven’t done yet.  Heck, we even got to cover the Super Bowl!  How about they send us to the Oscars!"

"My sister has lived in Carver County for years!  In fact, I spent a summer in Minnesota about 20 years ago (visiting my sister), and lived in Chaska back then.  So when we made the move from New Mexico to Minnesota, Carver County just felt like home.  Plus, my sister and her kids live just a few blocks away from us.  That’s pretty fantastic."

What is your favorite family summer activity here in Carver County? I "My favorite family summer activity is walking in our neighborhood. The neighborhoods in Chaska are so great, so welcoming, so family-oriented.  So when, as a family, we get outside and walk around the neighborhood, it makes us feel a sort of connection to the greater community in our neighborhood, and by extension, Chaska and Carver County."

Saturday, July 28, 2018


Since I was a small child, I have been fascinated with hands. Whenever I met someone new, I looked at their hands. I judged teachers worthy of their ability to teach based on the appearance of their hands. I felt a Sunday School teacher with beautiful hands was better equipped to teach The Word because any Bible would look beautiful in her hands.  I thought my dad's tough working hands were a sight to behold.  He worked so hard every day, and then worked every night to clean up the mess the day had left behind on his hands.  I loved watching shelves being stocked at the grocery store by capable strong hands. I watched my grandma gently place each glass ornament on the Christmas tree. I loved witnessing my other grandma cut into a roast to serve her family like her life depended on it.  I found myself continually distracted because I have spent so much time concentrating on everyone else's hands.

In 8th grade, I went to a dance at school. Joined by a couple of friends, I felt bold.  That was the night I was going to ask the boy I liked to dance. I must of been fire engine red by the time I made it to the other side of the lunch room. (Yes, the dance was held in the lunchroom.) To my astonishment, he said yes, he would dance with me.  He walked away from me and I realized I was expected to follow.  That was my first up close and personal experience with a boy.  I remember how he used his hand to brush his hair out of his eyes even though it wasn't even long enough to reach his eye brows. I remember how his squinted when he smiled.  I remember the feel of his large hand pulling me closer into an embrace. I remember how he flexed his shoulder involuntarily when my finger tips brushed his collarbone when I re-positioned his arms.  As the song ended, I was thrilled that we had danced an entire song together. He said, "Thanks for the dance." He turned on a dime and went back to his group of friends. 

Thanks for the dance? Our time was up?  I was so confused, but so new to all of this.  I went back to my friends and we quickly excused ourselves to the restroom.  What was it like? Did he say anything? What did you say? Are you going to dance again? The questions came at me so quickly.  I couldn't even answer one of them.  I was still stuck on the movement of his arm, the feel of his hand on the small of my back and the subconscious flex of his shoulder.  I thought about those things the next few days a million times.  

Monday arrived and I couldn't wait to get to school. I had such a crush him.  I really wanted to see him, to talk to him.  I made up so much in my mind that there really was nothing more there except that one dance. Those 4 minutes and I wanted more. I tried to say hi to him in the halls a few times. I even wrote him a letter.  He never answered me, or even made an effort to say hello.  But I watched him. I saw him at lunch. I saw him in between classes. I saw him in gym.  I observed how his legs were much shorter than mine, but his torso made up the majority of his height.  He was slightly overweight, but was excellent at sports and played football very well.  I loved how he laughed with his friends as they traveled in a pack from class to class.  He always carried his books in his left hand, and tucked his right thumb in his belt loop and his hand in his pocket.  He rolled his jeans perfectly.  Almost as if he had talent and personal style. I was under he impression that his hands were amazing if they could do all that with so little effort. I got jealous the day I saw him in the hall talking to another girl.  He squinted his eyes and laughed at something she said. I adored how he squinted his eyes.

We never talked after that night at the dance. I was so socially awkward still and had yet to develop my voice.  He must have been shy or just not that into me.  But what I did take from that chance encounter at the dance, was an appreciation of how people move.  How one person's body changes form and even reacts differently in each social situation.  How someone will change their physical mannerisms, personality characteristics and even their behavior based on whom they are with at the time. 

I became a keen observer of people.  I also became a very good listener. Not just listening to what people were saying, but all the things that were left unspoken.  I watched people cover their mouths or not look others in the eye when speaking to them.  I saw teachers adjust their clothing over and over again as if they weren't quite comfortable in their own skin. I saw the janitor mop the same spot on the floor over and over again stuck in thought. I watched a female student pretend pout and blow kisses for attention when she was beckoned yet again to the office for another disciplinary speech. I found that people used their bodies to communicate far more often than actually telling others what they were thinking or feeling. 

In 9th grade, I had a friend who loved to sing and dance. She wasn't particularly good at either, however her desire and determination to perform always made her shine. She was funny, self-deprecating and friends with everyone I knew. We spent quite a bit of time together at school and other activities and I truly enjoyed her company. As she started to grow and mature, her body changed and more fully developed. As she became more aware of her maturing body, her desire to dance and sing and perform for anyone who wanted to watch, dwindled.  She still had fun with her inner circle of friends, but I felt that she became very selective as to whom would actually see how fantastic she really was.  With her closet of close friends, she often held hands, linked arms and encouraged others to carry on with her.  I wonder if she felt that the physical encouragement would enable her to not find herself abandoned in her shenanigans.  She needed partners in crime, and she linked hands to pull us all along and participate. 

One afternoon as class was about to end, she stood and began gathering her books.  The teacher gently asked what she was doing as this was atypical behavior.  My friend said, "I need to leave."  That was it.  I didn't understand if something was wrong or what was happening.  A few kids snickered at her abrupt answer. She gathered her pen and her purse off the back of her desk chair, and majestically approached the teacher. A brief, hushed conversation took place. My friend then held her head so very very high and pranced to the door.  She turned, and grandly bowed from head to toe as she exited and gently closed the door behind her.  A few more students laughed. Two boys stood and began clapping.  Whatever that flourish of physical humor was, she had all 30 of us in the classroom captivated. We couldn't take our eyes off of her.  My teacher laughed and said, "Leave her alone, and stop making fun. She just needs to use the restroom.  Maybe next time you all need to use the restroom, you will think twice before being boring and just raising your hand from back of the classroom."  We all laughed.  The way she stood with such confidence, how she moved her long legs as she approached the door. How she had her chin jutting towards the heavens.  I was so taken with this funny, original display of her playful personality, I made note of how she carried herself and presented herself on daily basis. I took note and applied how I could make these changes.  To be more confident. To understand what my body was capable of. To always hold my head high, even if I was just heading to the restroom. 

In High School, I casually hung out with a young man whom I adored.  I am sure that there was absolutely nothing casual about how I acted when I was in his presence.  I wondered often when my social awkwardness would turn into quirky confidence.  (I am not sure to this day if it has yet even happened.)  I found myself studying his hands.  The way he flexed his fingers after gripping the steering wheel for too long.  The way his right hand always reached for me to pull me into his arms.  The way he high fived his friends from the basketball team when greeting them.  The way his long fingers bent to hold a fork when he ate the canned fruit in the lunchroom.  The way his hand held mine.  I wished often that I had any artistic ability whatsoever. I wanted to draw his hands.  I wanted to capture the curve, the look, the feel, every nuance that I saw in his hands. I was never able to draw. Not even a stick person.  His beautiful, and somehow graceful hands were embedded in my memory.

My mother had the softest hands of anyone I have ever known. When I was small, she would stroke the bridge of my nose to help settle me in for the night. And often would do the same to assist in quieting my tears.  As an adult when sitting together on the couch or at church, she would reach out to hold my hand.  Or I would even find myself absentmindedly stroking the top of her velvety hand.  My mother often connected with people through physical touch. She understood that comfort came from the love that she had for other people. She hugged freely, embraced often, held hands for longer than necessary.  I miss my mom. I miss her amazing soft hands.

When I was dating my husband, back when we were in college, I remember watching his hands move.  How he shifted the manual gears in his car.  How he twirled a pen when he was concentrating.  How he held sandwiches tightly as if he knew it was preparing to fall to pieces.  I loved how he always reached for my hand when we were driving those long country roads back to campus after we had been out to see a movie or to dinner. I loved watching him embrace his little brother and play with him. I adored watching him deal cards to his grandma and grandpa and myself when we visited for dinner and few hands of gin.  His hands are so strong and were what I came to affectionately call, man hands.  They were strong and slightly callused from working hard on the job that was paying for his college tuition. They were the hands that I loved. The hands I would always hold.

Now, even at 15 and 11, I hold my children's hands.  When guiding them across busy streets, when calming after an upset.  When guiding and pulling them into an embrace. I am the lucky one. Still at these ages, they don't resist much.  They love to hold my hand as much as I love to hold theirs.  I already have felt a pang of sorrow for the day that they will no longer seek out the refuge of my hands. My hands will always want to comfort, guide, encourage and love my children.  I must always insist, my loving hands aren't going anywhere and will continue to serve as balm for the weary soul as long as necessary. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Josh's 20 Week Update And A Challenging Diagnosis Confirmation

Today was a hard day. To be honest every day is hard. Josh had his final audiology appointment this morning and then met with the Neurotologist. He had two additional appointments last Thursday and Friday also at the U of M doing additional dizzy and balance testing and neurological assessments. Josh's neurological function is fully intact and only one abnormality was found with his eyes tracking. (brain is still resetting while trying to learn to function during equilibrium loss.)  It was confirmed today, that Josh has Bilateral Vestibular Dysfunction. It was stated that he has a complete failure of Vestibular Function. They believe Josh never had Vestibular Function on the left side (deaf in left ear his entire life). Then, when his right side was attacked in March with Vestibular Neuritis, (virus that causes swelling in the ear canal that puts pressure on the Vestibular Nerve) he had a complete equilibrium loss. Unfortunately, because it is bilateral and so severe, there is a possibility that Josh will never fully recover from this. He has been doing Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy for I believe 9 weeks, and will continue doing so with additional modifications and therapy through the U of M.  He will learn how to modify his physical movements, (arms, legs, neck, head, body) so that the extreme dizziness can be kept at bay. They will try to get Josh to a point where he can someday drive a car and work again. As of right now, the outlook isn't very good for Josh to return to his physically active job at Lund's & Byerly's where he has been for 24 years. Either modifications will need to be made or a new job needs to be found.

This is a lot to take in. It is a lot to process, a lot to plan out and a lot to explain.  Simple answers to common questions.  Yes, please lower your voice when talking with Josh. Loud noises, voices and bright lights set him off.  Yes, he is constantly doing his exercises. No, he isn't up all night, he sleeps quite well.  No, there aren't any meds that he can take to make this better or go away. Thank you, but referrals to other docs are not needed. We have seen the best of the best doctors and specialists.  All 14 of them.   Please do not ask him if the abutment for his vibrational hearing aide caused this or if it should be removed. Specialists know for certain that abutments do not cause Vestibular Dysfunction and complete Vestibular Failure. Yes, he loves text messages and emails.  Phone calls can be challenging. But please continue to text him and let him know that you are praying for him and love him.  Please just give him a bit of time to respond as some days are much worse than others.

What does our family need right now? Continued prayer and love and encouragement. That is what we need the most.  Other things that are super helpful?  Someone to mow our grass or weed wack. Also, if someone can occasionally vacuum out our pool. (I thank you to all the men that come and fix screen doors and locks on the deck door, and mow and weed wack and fill holes in our yard and kill weeds. These are things that I would never get to or even know where to begin!)  Also, if you are ever at Costco, (I am able to get there about 2x a month)  APPLES and honey nut cherrios!  My family , especially Zach, eats a lot of apples and other fruit.  We are constantly running out.  Zach eats about 3 day, and the most common conversation that we have is ... Where are the apples? Didn't I just buy apples?

I thank you for your continued support and prayers. Much love to you all from The Gavin's.

Monday, July 23, 2018

You Are Not The Judge Of Me

Judge. Judgment. Judgey Mc Judgerson.  I have faced enough judgment to last a lifetime.  Hence the reason why I am very quick to catch myself when I do it to others and knock it off.  I have this sass that seems to rest at the tip of my tongue. The kind of sass that usually resides in slumber until awakened like a beast and then attacks. What I find is that the sass only comes to life when I feel that I am being judged. Or even my children are being judged.

A close friend of mine once told me that she found it amazing that I can insult someone while smiling and they walk away maybe somewhat confused yet not fully aware that that they have been insulted. I smiled and told her I wasn't insulting anyone. I was delivering truth.  And when I really look at it more closely, I am using my words to hurt them.

Judged.  That is how I feel. For being the Amazon child and towering over the boys at 5'10'' by the time I was 12.  For seeking out the one young man I had my eye on, even though everyone knew it wasn't a good idea. For seeking out an adult man who wasn't mine for the taking. For going to a Christian College. For dropping out of College when I ran out of money. For marrying at the ripe old age of 19.  For working 60 hours a week.  For putting my foot down and standing up for myself.  For waiting until I was 21 to get my drivers license. For not being able to have kids. For having kids late.  For not making my kids share their toys an not making them play with kids they didn't want to be friends with. For letting clients go that caused me great strife. For serving wine with dinner. For parenting my son differently than I parent my daughter. For not enabling my daughter to be involved in 20 after school activities. For discouraging sleepovers. For loving deeper than I should.  For having a job that might demand more than I can physically handle. For committing to too many writing contracts that keep me up into the wee hours. For saying yes first and figuring out later how I can actually do what I have committed to. For not serving wine with dinner. For wanting more of what I shouldn't have. For loading the dishwasher wrong. For not being bothered by messy kitchen floors and finger prints on the walls. For encouraging my kids to do things on their own.  Needless to say, I have been judged, judged thoroughly, and judged more times than I can count.

And let me tell you something? I do not care. I just don't care.  People are rude. People are judgmental. They are often jealous or judge just to make themselves feel better.  They feel the need to place judgement to make themselves feel better about the situation that they find themselves in.  They judge because they are often lonely and they don't have anything better to do. If I worried about every time I was judged and let it affect me, I wouldn't be able to walk out the door each day. I would be curled up in a ball weeping.  This thick skin isn't a wall I have built, it is self preservation. I choose daily to pick my battles.  And dealing with the misplaced judgement of others isn't a battle I will ever choose to fight.

And that tongue. I have learned to harness its power.  I have prayed long and hard for the Lord to tame it and harness it.  I have realized that I use it to retaliate when I feel under attack.  When I am face to face with an individual and feel they are judging me for whatever reason, I no longer fight back with equally rude words. I now state what I observe and ask questions. Just by turning their rudeness into a conversation topic, they realize their opinions and cutting words serve no purpose.  "I hear what you are saying.  Why do think that it is important to share with me that you do not like how I parent my children? Are you trying to help me or are you criticizing me and judging what I do?"  "I understand that you think I am spending too much time writing. Did you know that I write first, because I love doing it, and second to supplement my family's income? Do you also know that many families have multiple different income streams that help make ends meet?" Or, "Thank you for sharing your opinions.  I appreciate your point of view.  I do not feel your ideas apply in this situation but I am glad it has worked for you."

Yes.  Sometimes I offend others. I will probably continue doing so.  But I will not judge someone for doing something differently than I do. I will not think that I know the best way to do everything. And I will let someone know when my feelings have been hurt. But judge them? No. Most of time, people are not even aware that they are judging. Almost as if they fallen into a repetitive judgmental rut.  It is all they know so it is what they do.  This happens with children. Children live what they learn. If mom or dad harshly judges others, the child often continues with this negative behavior.

I still catch myself.  When a judgmental comment makes it way to my lips and can tell the condition of my heart is failing, I reel it back in. I reel it in. All of it. Stop myself in my tracks. Those words I am ready to share do not encourage, affirm, build up, inspire or speak love. Those judgmental words have no place in conversation. And they should never assault my lips as they are being passed on to someone else. Judgment will never be a gift that someone wishes to receive.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

August & I

The month of August has always been one of my favorite months.  Born and raised in Minnesota, the month of August usually comes in blazing hot and leaves exactly the same way it came.  Temperatures often reaching the triple digits even in times of evening slumber, the heat and humidity are often oppressive and unbearable.  I am thankful each and every day for refrigerators that have ice makers that provide copious amounts of ice on demand. And for air conditioning and ceiling fans in the living room and each bedroom. I am thankful for cool basements that provide an additional cold haven when needed. And I am unabashedly reliant on our small above ground pool that provides comfort and a much needed cool down each afternoon and again in the evening.

My mother Jo Ann, Jo for short, was born on the 4th of August in 1945. She loved the summer months even at a very young age.  I once saw a picture of her, no more than 3 or 4 and she was wearing her winter gear. From head to toe, she was completely covered so that I could only see her eyes and the bridge of her nose.  Her arms stuck awkwardly straight out in front of her. I believed if she wanted to move them, she probably would not be able to.  If I was able to see her entire face, even at the age of 3 or 4, she would have been gritting her teeth or grimacing.  She clearly wasn't enjoying a Minnesota winter.  The other pictures of her are nothing short of amazing.  Frolicking in the yard with her brother and sister. Walking down St. Paul city streets with her mother and sister, all three dressed in matching summer sun dresses.  Gloved hands holding each other, a pleasant and content look across each face.

My mother was 30 when I was born.  Being that she was a little older and already had my sister 19 months prior, she was ready for a summer of fun when I was born. I too should have been born in August. But June must have appealed to me a bit more.  I came bursting into this world 6 weeks early. Not quite yet ready to live out of my mother's womb, it took me another 10 days before I was able to head home. My mom quickly became acclimated to being a mother of two and decided to take full advantage of the rest of the summer.  She set the small plastic kid pool up in the front yard, placed a lawn chair next to it so she could hold me and soak her feet in the cool water. My sister Angela enjoyed swimming all afternoon as we slumbered in the heat of the afternoon sun.

My mother was one of those women that was always meant to be a mom.  Kind and caring, a natural care giver and so very encouraging.  My sister and I were soon very aware of just how special our mom really was.  Women sought out mom for advice and direction.  When trials overwhelmed neighbors, they could often be found in my mother's loving arms being hugged and prayed for.  When children were abandoned by careless parents, my mother cared for them as if they were her own.  When the Pastor at church needed assistance, he would always put my mom in charge knowing that everything was then placed in her very capable hands.  When Angie and I entered Elementary School, she was always active. Helping teachers, coordinating fund raisers, and assisting anywhere she could.  She helped with band and choir and the dance and theater programs that my sister and I were involved in.  She always made the best banana bread and would wrap it in a brown bag and plastic wrap and deliver it with a card and a prayer to any new mom, anyone recovering from surgery or illness or to anyone who needed to know that they were loved, treasured and important. My mom was an amazing example of how to serve and love others well.

When we were still quite young,  August was the month we would travel up north, usually to escape the heat, even for a few days, but mostly for mom and to celebrate her special day.  My dad did very good job of showing my mom how thankful he was for her by celebrating her special birthday in August.  A cabin on the north shore for a long weekend. A rented time share at Breezy Point in the woods.  Wherever we went, my mother seemed to always create fun.  Collecting rocks by the river or finding drift wood by the side of Lake Superior. Laughing until she cried at the noise of the squirrels in between the walls of the cabin we were staying in. Making new friends every place she went. And often these new friends were friends for a lifetime.

Angela and I missed our mom's birthday one August when we were sent to Lake Beauty Bible Camp for the week.  We were so excited about our time away at camp but soon realized we would be gone on August 4th.  My mom continually assured us it would be fine and that we could all celebrate when we returned.  And that we did. While at camp, the craft director helped Angela and I create gifts to bring home to our mom.  I am sure it involved something like painted macaroni and yarn, but it was a gift made with love nonetheless. My mother oohed and aahed when we gave her the gifts we worked on at camp. "This is fantastic! What great gifts. Thank you! I love my girls so much!"

As adults, Angela and I continued to make a big to do about out mom's birthday. Lunches and dinners out. Late night movies at home. Walks at the park reserve. Swimming and dinner at the casino.  All things she loved. And we participated in all of these things to honor her special day. To celebrate her life as a mother and grandmother.  To show her she was loved.

My mom passed away about 5 1/2 years ago.  A rare form of liver cancer took her life at the young age of 67.  She had so much life left in her and so many things that she wanted to do and accomplish.  But do know what she did accomplish?  She loved her two daughters and 4 grandchildren.  She taught her daughters about how to love others and how to serve others never expecting anything in return.  She spent long hours with each of her grandchildren.  Holding them, rocking them, reading to them, playing with them. She cheered for each accomplishment and encouraged after each failure.  She lived each day to the fullest and never regretted anything.  She loved others like her life depended on it.

Now, 5 1/2 years later, I find August approaching quickly.  August 4th is a day that I will always pause and honor my mom.  I will always remember her, share her life and the stories I remember with my children and anyone that will listen. August is now the month that I will continue to celebrate my mom's life. I will make banana bread. I will send cards of encouragement. I will hug others and never be the first to let go.  I will share books and movies that I love with others who I think will enjoy them too. I might even cut coupons out of the Sunday paper and save them in a envelope for other people to use.  I will stop at every child's lemonade and cookie stand, buy more than I need and encourage them to keep up the hard work.  I will pull my kids close and remind them how much grandma loved them.  August.  I will always love the month of August.

Friday, July 20, 2018

More Than Anything-Josh's 19 Week Update

A brief update about Josh.  Josh has been struggling with an extreme equilibrium imbalance for 19 weeks. Unable to drive a car, unable to work, Josh spends his days working on Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy. He moves from couch to dining room chair to floor to bed and back again. He rests when he needs to and tries to keep his brain engaged by putting a few Legos together when he can.  In the past two weeks, Josh has lost a crown and had to sit through having it cemented back in. It was quite challenging for him but he did it.  Then the following weekend, he developed even more pressure in his head and was diagnosed with a sinus infection, put on heavy duty antibiotics and is struggling with the harshness on his stomach.  He also sat through challenging renal scans to check his kidney blood flow.  This was very hard and uncomfortable as he had to hold his breath and doing so makes him feel as if he is going to pass out.

Yesterday and today he spent the mornings at the U of M meeting with specialists for testing additional Vestibular and Neurological functions.  These tests were endless, horribly uncomfortable with noise, sound and motion and made Josh feel terrible.  Josh received some very unexpected and difficult news today.  After completing two days of extensive testing, it has been discovered that Josh has extensive Vestibular Weakness and Impairment on both sides. We originally were told only one. There is no known cause at this time. It could have been present all along on the left side and Josh may not have been completely aware of it because he has always been deaf in that ear. His body has always compensated for that hearing loss. When Vestibular Neuritis settled in the right side, it threw his entire Vestibular system off track. There is additional Vestibular Therapy that Josh can do and will do, but there is no guarantee that Josh will ever get back to where he once was.  (From what we understand, if only one Vestibular Nerve was damaged or impaired he would have better chances of recuperating. Because the impairment is bilateral and his condition continues to deteriorate, recovery is even more challenging.

Next Tuesday, Josh will undergo additional Audiological Testing at the U of M and then see the Neurologist who is the best of best. She will review all original and additional findings, discuss options, methods of possible treatments and help us get a better idea of what life looks like for Josh going forward. The goal is to get him to the point where he can eventually drive a car and possibly return to work. But the immediate goal is to find him some relief from the constant dizziness, the overwhelming reaction he has to light and sound, and to get the anxiety under control. (92% of VN patients struggle with extreme anxiety due to not being able to function at even the basic of levels on a daily basis.)

Thank you to each of you that have continued uplifting Josh and our family in your prayers. Thank you for the help that has been helping around the house and in the yard. Thank you for toting my daughter around town and for enabling me to take a step away once in awhile. Thank you to those who have helped drive Josh to and from appointments so that I can take care of the kids and get kids to and from school.  Thank you for meals and thank you for praying with us. Thank you for helping us as we know we have asked for a lot.  These days are long and difficult and we feel loved by the community that continues to encourage us and serve us. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


I have written about authors and poets that I love and really enjoy reading their work. Not only do I feel that I learn something when I read, I often feel that a great piece or a great story changes me. Usually for the better. Often moves me to tears, sometimes with sadness, but usually they are tears of joy.

I read a couple books a few weeks back, that wrecked me.  Made me cry. Couldn't move on.  Hurt my heart.  It took me a few days to pick myself up and take the first step forward.  My bleeding heart left me crying one day as I exited a grocery store.  I even gulped for breath one afternoon sitting on the deck trying to catch up on emails.  Well written books aren't just interesting, they capture you, mind and soul. They make you feel more than you often wish to feel.  They make you reminisce about days gone by. They make you want to make changes when it comes to how you approach the life that is yet to come.  But most of all, they affect you so deeply, that sometimes picking up a new book isn't possible for a spell.

The phrase, I melt in front of you was impressed on my mind after reading another book by Rudy Francisco.  I melt.  Melt. To make or become more tender or loving. Soften. Disarm. Touch. Affect. Move.   This word applies to so many situations in life.  The sound of a song that brings back memories.  The questions of an innocent child.  Love declared when it isn't expected.  Seeing God's perfect creation anew each morning.  The understanding of something that has been prayed about is now happening or changing. I melt much more often than I care to admit. But melt, I do.

One of my earliest memories as a child was when I was 3 or 4. We had a beautiful large dog named Joey.  My dad loved this dog.  Joey was adventurous and loved that he was given free roam as we lived in the country in Forest Lake, MN. He was a big dog, but so very gentle with my sister and I.  In the country, we often struggled with invasions of raccoons investigating our garbage cans,  deer eating everything in our garden, and hungry fox and coyotes roaming in search of their next meal. I remember when the howling from the coyotes would be so loud and surrounding us even during daylight hours. Those were the days that our parents would pull my sister Angie and I indoors or keep us close if we were out in the yard. Joey met up with a pack of coyotes, probably believing they were his friends as they looked so much like him.  They were not his friends.  They tore our amazing dog apart.  My dad went searching for him that evening when he didn't come when he was called.  My dad found Joey in the woods directly behind out house, cowering under a fallen tree. He calmed him and carried him back home and directly into the back of his work truck.  Dad hollered for my mom to quickly bring him an old blanket so that he could bring Joey to the vet.  My father barely spoke a word.

I sister and I cried and worried about our sweet Joey. Covered in blood with so many open wounds, we prayed that the vet would be able to help him.  My mom felt horrible.  We waited. And waited. Our dad returned late that evening after my mom had tried so many times to put us to bed.  The next morning when I woke, I raced to find my dad.  My mom said he was in the basement with Joey. Joey. He was alive. I reached for the door handle and and my mom quickly grabbed my arm. She told Angie and I that we couldn't go downstairs. That Joey was very sick, and might not make it.  She said our dad was going to try to save him by keeping him medicated and continuing to clean his now stitched together wounds.  The vet stitched him together. My child mind wasn't able to understand that stitches alone wouldn't fix Joey.

The next week was heartbreaking.  We were allowed once to go down and see and Joey with both our mom and dad by our side.  We were told that Joey wasn't going to be okay and that we should go downstairs and love on Joey a bit.  We did as we were told.  He looked so sad laying there on the makeshift bed my dad had made for him on the cement floor of our basement. My dad had torn sheets and blankets up to make bandages to tie around his torso and around his mangled paws. The smell was horrible as infection had set in, but I wasn't about the mention it to my mom or dad. My dad was kneeling down next to Joey, and turned and looked at my mom. My dad had tears in eyes.  "Joey, you are good dog. We love you. I am sorry, I couldn't protect you from the coyotes.  You have been the best dog ever. Thank you for being my friend and for being the dog I always wanted."  Tears freely ran down his cheeks.  My dad swiped them away, and Angie and continued to cry and hold Joey's one paw.

Those difficult days are not only one of the first clear memories that I have, but that morning was definitively the first time I melted. As I saw my dad cry, as he told our beloved dog how much we loved him and as he thanked our dog for his companionship.  My love for my family grew. I knew then at there, even at the tender age of 3 or 4, that this was important. That this dog made a difference to our family. That memories of this amazing furry friend would never be forgotten.

When I was around 9, I remember our neighbors fighting. Not just fighting, they were screaming at each other.  My mom said that sometimes men and women fight, that they just feel things deeply and that sometimes their voices get really loud.  I commented that our neighbors voices must be the loudest of them all.  My sister and I liked to check out their pigeon coops and occasionally pet their dog. We were both playing in the yard and my sister had commented that she hadn't seen the neighbor lady in awhile.  I also realized that I hadn't either.  I saw Doug a few minutes later exit his back door and head to the pigeon coops to feed them dinner.  I hollered a greeting of hello to him. He waived, his expression blank, and silently enter the coop.  Angie and I followed, not really picking up on the fact that maybe he didn't want to talk that evening.

Angie and I knocked on the coop door as we had been taught how to do, (never to enter if pigeons were loose or able to fly out the open door) and Doug told us we could then enter.  A casual exchange of pleasantries followed and then silence.  Angie and I didn't have anything else to say and neither did Doug.  After an uncomfortable amount of time passed, Doug raised his head from where he was refilling feed, "You guys, um,  I need to tell you something.  My wife left the other day.  She won't be coming back.  I guess you should tell your mom and dad too."  I didn't know how to respond.  I think my sister muttered an "I'm sorry".  Doug turned away from us. "I will miss her. I will miss her a lot."

Even being so young, I understood that in my heart he really did mean it.  They may have fought constantly, but Doug would miss his wife.  I realized he was sad about her absence. Before that, I had only ever seen death separate a couple. I had never witnessed the choice to leave a relationship.  My heart melted right there and then right inside the door of the pigeon coop.  Husbands and wives didn't always stay together.  Sometimes they chose to leave. Sometimes they needed to leave.  Angie and I returned home to share the news that we didn't quite even understand ourselves.  I told my mom Doug looked sad and maybe she should make him some banana bread and bring it over to him.  She smiled at me, pushed my hair behind my ears and said she would do just that.

My heart continues to melt more than I wish it would.  When loved ones hurt deeply, when sickness invades a body, when relationships fail, when my heart wants what I can not have have, when joy and sorrow abound. But what a joy it is to feel and experience each new situation. Tears are nothing new and nothing to fear.  Heartache is inevitable. Suffering hits hard and often.  But to feel deeply, ah.  To make or become more tender or loving. To soften. To be disarmed. To touch and be touched. To affect. To be moved. Yes.  This is the perfect definition of what I know I will continue to experience.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Every Day

Every Day. I mean it. Every day.  I try to find fun or make fun every single day.  Sometimes fun finds me. Sometimes I have to go in search of it. But fun will be had if I have any say in the matter.

This summer has been a rocky road for our family.  My husband Josh, has been unwell for 16 weeks and isn't able to work, drive a car or participate in almost any activities. Noise and light bother him greatly, so he needs to stay in the quiet setting of our home as much as possible. We pray each day that he will have an easier day than the last, but that usually doesn't happen. The kids miss their dad as much as he misses participating in activities with them.

Mornings like today, we walked the Boardwalk at Fireman's Park in Chaska. We love this walkway.  The fish, the geese, the turtles sunning themselves on the logs. We love it. The breeze was beautiful and made the straight on hot sun bearable. We then headed to Shakopee to hit a garage sale or two and then we found the garage sale festival on a large church lawn.  It was fantastic.  We found a bunch of items we actually needed and then a bunch of fun things for the kids and for our home.  I may have only spent about 10 or so dollars but found some fantastic things I can check off my list, and the kids enjoyed the dogs and babies and searching for a few treasures.

And, just like every Saturday morning, we then headed to the Chaska library.  The library often feels like our second home. Lily is working diligently on her summer curriculum which includes completing one book report a week and handing it into the library as she participates in the summer reading program. She loves looking for new books and discovering what is new each week at the library. She visits with the librarians and settles down in the far back recesses to start a new adventure in one of the new books she selected.  Zach loves watching videos he knows and loves in foreign languages on youtube.  He sorts through all the dvd's in search of three of his favorites, and they stay close at hand and keep him company during his computer discovery time.  He then will walk back to the front and sift through the stacks of Spanish Language children's books hoping to find a new treasure such as Dora or something to do with Holiday's or Changing Season's.

No matter what my kids choose to do at the library, they always leave saying they had fun.  They always leave agreeing, that a good morning was had by all.  I am not creating fun for my kids. I am providing the opportunity for fun to be discovered. The tools are there, the fun is the available for the taking.

Later today, we will swim, and lay on the deck. We will watch cute dogs on the walking paths and wait for the flutter of hummingbird wings to grace us with their presence. The kids will retreat to color and play Legos and discover lost treasures in their rooms while we wait for the afternoon sun to calm down just a bit. We will reconvene for dinner and decide when to leave for a nice brisk stroll through the neighborhood. When my kids rest their weary heads and settle in with a few good books, we will talk about the fun that we had. We will talk about where we went and what we saw. We will talk about the fun that can be found in each new day.

I have never been one to plan grand adventures for my kids nor have I felt the need to constantly entertain them or keep them busy. My goal is to give them the tools and then help to foster their imagination. I want to help them find fun, and joy and happiness in the simple, in the mundane.  I want them to end each day believing it was a day well lived. I want them to end each day excited about the possibilities of what a new day has to offer.

When I was a child, we didn't have much. We had food on our table, clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in. We had family that we loved. And to us, that was enough. That was plenty.  We felt rich because we didn't know any different.  We thought that how we lived was how all kids lived. Playing outside, riding bikes, adventures in open fields and in the dark woods.  It never dawned on me to ask my parents to take me anywhere unless we wanted to swim. And then of course my mom always said yes as she enjoyed swimming as much as we did.  Simple days were spent together, outdoors and enjoying all of God's creation.

I want my kids to admire the shape and color of leaves. I want them to go in search of pine cones and discarded nuts and polished beautiful rocks. I want to see my daughter tuck in her dolls for a long nap under the large shade tree in our front yard and use it as an excuse to slumber in hot afternoon sun.  I want to see my son bellow at the birds and declare his love for every dog that passes our house or that walks past us while we are on a walk. I want my kids to identify what they like to do, what they believe is fun and what brings them joy daily. And then I want them to do that. To go there. To experience it often. And always want more.  To declare each new day as an adventure to be had.  Not to waste a moment.

Today, our fun was had by noon. How exciting we have the rest of the day to create more.

Friday, July 6, 2018

What I See While We Wait- Josh's 16 Week Update

I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms. Sometimes they are full, mostly very empty. The very empty ones provide time for me to read, respond to emails and text messages and rest. Josh has been struggling for 16 weeks. I wish that I could report to you that he is feeling better. He is not. He still is unable to work or drive and spends most days moving from the couch to the dining room for VRT exercises then back to bed to settle his weary head.  

This week we went to the doctor 3 times. Mostly for labs, ultrasounds and scans, and then today to see a kidney specialist.  Last week, a very thorough doctor discovered an additional medical problem.  High liver and kidney enzymes and wanted to make sure that nothing in addition to VN was plaguing Josh.  His liver seems to be functioning well now, but his kidney's are still on fritz. The kidney doctor believes that this will resolve itself over time, yet one additional scan has been ordered for the 17th, when they will look at blood flow to and from the kidney's. He wonders if possibly only one kidney is functioning at this time.  The scan from the other day revealed only an old injury to his spleen that is completely healed and has calcified, so it doesn't reveal any new information. 

His next three appointments are scheduled at the U of M for the 19th and 20th (additional testing) and then with the head of neurology on the 24th.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support. For helping us fix things in and around our home. For feeding us and for entertaining our children. As soon as we have any additional information about Josh's condition, I will be sure to share it. 

Today I watched a lovely little girl who just turned one play in the clinic lobby with her dad. Her name was Valerie.  She smiled at me and waved as they walked by. I told her that her flower sundress was beautiful and that she is such a good little girl at the doctors office.  She took out her nuk and blew me kiss. Made my day. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes because of sweet Valerie.

I never find myself bored in the waiting rooms.  The book I was reading today talked about listening to words people use and really focusing on what they actually mean.  Spoken word is different than the written word, but one can evaluate both.   I heard a noise above me and my eyes darted up.  The ceiling at 212 Medical Center is a sight to behold.  Odd ball lighting, lots of speakers and sprinklers, and the occasional recessed light that all appear to be placed without rhyme or reason.  But in the chaos, there is beauty to be found there. Maybe it is just geometric nonsense.

But in the shadows is where I found comfort today. A beautiful morning in Carver County, we were able to enjoy the breeze and the sunshine and the temperature is just right at 82 degrees. I sat and waited for Josh as additional appointments and tests were scheduled.  I hummed a few bars of Great is They Faithfulness.  Morning by Morning New Mercies I See. All I have needed, your hand has provided. Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord onto Thee.

God has watched over us, protected us, guided us and continues to lead us during this trial. This is temporary. Only the Lord is Eternal. Knowing this brings comfort and peace. When the days are long and seem to just be the same day in and day out, the Lord has been there the entire time.  Never leaving us. Never forsaking us.  And that is why I will continue to sing.

Psalm 63:7
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Stay In Your Lane

"Stay in your lane."  My friend said to me looking me straight in the eye. "Just stay in your lane."  I felt like I had been kicked in the chest. Those sounded like fighting words. What had I said that offended her so much?

We were all talking and sharing personal stories about our children,  their behavior and school experiences.  Having a 15 year old special needs son and an 11 year old neuro-typical daughter presents a unique situation.  I am able to view issues from multiple views and understand that no two children or scenarios are the same.  What works for one child or one family may be an absolute disaster for another child or family.  What proves to be difficult or near impossible for one child may be the answer to many sleepless nights and unanswered prayers for another child.

Knowing this to be true, I often will contribute short stories about the difference with special needs parenting or how it is important to figure out the root cause behind behavior before panicking about what the parents think is happening. 

"When you volunteer information about your Zach, no one can really understand or see themselves in your shoes. So maybe you should just stick to stories about Lily."

Tears poked at the corners of my eyes. What?  Did my "friend" just tell me that I needed to only talk about my daughter and not about my son because he has special needs? My tongue is sharp, and often needs to be tamed. I am fully aware that it needs taming, and sometimes on a daily basis.  I can be defensive, argumentative and often times a bit sarcastic when left to my devices. I feel the need to justify, explain, over explain and persuade as I make my opinion and voice be heard. I am emotional and wear my heart on my sleeve. When I feel under attack, especially when it involves my children, my claws come out quickly. Or I cry. Usually, I just cry and excuse myself.

I wiped a stray tear. Took a deep breath and exhaled. " The reason I share stories about Zach is often times because many parents are in panic mode and can't handle what they experiencing with their teenagers. I am not going to remain silent in conversation just because I am not experiencing what other parents are going through with their kids.  When I share stories about Zach, it is often from a different perspective, often slightly humorous and a bit of fresh air.  He is a funny kid and his approach to life can be so freeing when compared to the self imposed stress filled lives that many teens live.  I am not trying to say that I am a better parent, I am not trying to one up you, or distract from the matter at hand. I am trying to be apart of the conversation. Apparently I failed."

The last part came with much more gusto and sarcasm than intended. I quickly removed myself from the group and continued to another conversation. My eyes were probably glossed over and I don't remember a word that was said. All I knew is my feelings were hurt. Deeply hurt.  Why was someone I called a friend so vicious and cutting over my sweet Zach?   Driving home, I cried a little, got angry and then prayed that I would be able to just let this whole situation go. When I was finished praying, I started thinking about the why? Why did it seem like I was under attack?  This friend seemed to always love Zach, was it the story I relayed, or was something else happening here?  It was how I was sharing my stories.  I start many things by saying, What worked for us with Zach is... and then continue sharing what worked. I usually don't start the conversation explaining the 132 times we as parents had failed.  All of that failure is what led us to the success we now see.  The way I was telling stories about Zach made it sound like, I , me, Kelli J Gavin, the hot mess of mom that most know me to be, actually had it all together and that somehow I knew the answer to all of the important questions.  This couldn't be farther from the truth. My confidence and ability to tell stories was leading others to think that I thought I was the best dang mom in the world. A mom who had my act together and had perfect kids.  For the Love of All Things Holy. It is the exact opposite.  Come spend a single day in my home. I will show you what is true.

Someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Someone is bound to be snippy.  Someone breaks my favorite coffee mug. Someone won't turn off the news when are told to 4 times.  Someone is whining that there isn't anything to do. That same someone is complaining about how much of their summer curriculum they have left to do.  Someone figured out where the graham crackers are and ate all but the crumbs which were intended for a bed time snack.  Someone needs to change her shirt because the smoothie she packed for lunch at work spilled all over her when she was pouring it into the tumbler. (That was me. That was totally me.)  Someone ate all of the other persons favorite breakfast cereal. Someone discovered that same someone consumed all of the orange juice.  This and more happens by 8 am. And that is considered a good day. 

After my heart heals a bit more, I will change how I share stories about my kids.  I will first establish common ground. I will comment, I am sorry that this is happening, I know how frustrating that can be.  And then if I feel the other person is receptive, I will share the struggle, what I learned from wading through those deep waters and then what the outcome was, positive or negative.  I also have come to realization that it is totally okay to just listen. To sit back and listen and absorb what someone has to say without offering a comparable story in return. Because let's face it. I have a lot of stories to tell, and most have heard them all already.

Yes, it is going to take me awhile to make the changes that need to be made when it comes to sharing family stories.  But knowing that I struggle when it comes to listening, I think I will benefit from doing this.  I often retain only partial important information shared with me from other people, probably because I am in constant prep mode. Preparing for what I will say next. I need to be silent. Silent more often than not.  Listening, digesting other peoples stories and enabling others to be heard.  Because way down deep, that is probably what we all want.  To be heard. 

In my lane is where I will be in case you need me.

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...