Thursday, March 28, 2019

I Who Have Nothing

There is a wonderful old Tom Jones song called I Who Have Nothing.
I am sure someone else sang it before him, but it was he who made me
adore the song.  I saw him in concert about 13 years ago and absolutely
loved it. He was a little before my time, but my mom and dad always
did a great job of exposing my sister and I to a wonderful array of
eclectic music.  I went with a friend last minute who had an extra ticket.
It was a wonderful decision to quickly say yes. A small simple band
and he in a beautiful black tuxedo. I was impressed by his showman-
ship and how he commanded the entire stage and kept the entire
audience engaged.  And then he stood under a single spotlight, and
belted out I Who Have Nothing.

I, I who have nothing
I, I who have no one
Adore you and want you so
I'm just a no one, with nothing to give you but oh
I love you

You, you buy her diamonds
Bright, sparkling diamonds
But believe me, dear, when I say
That she can give you the world
But she'll never love you the way
I love you

You can take her any place she wants
To fancy clubs and restaurants
But I can only watch you with
My nose pressed up against the window pane

I, I who have nothing
I, I who have no one
Must watch you, go dancing by
Wrapped in the arms of somebody else
Darling it is I
Who loves you

This love song is about watching his loved one with another man. While
I have never experienced this in real life, the lyrics are heartbreaking
and so very moving.

When you know you love someone and they are the one for you, all of
your hopes and dreams and desires usually involve them. You want to
live life daily with them, explore everything new together and love them
completely. If, for whatever the reason you are not able to be with them,
it can make a person crumble when they see their loved one with
another. Especially if you know you would be the one to make them the

My husband and I have been married for just about 24 years.  We were
married the day before I turned 20. We were children, knowing nothing
of the world, but we knew we were in love.  I couldn’t imagine my life
without him. And I still can not. We have been absolutely blessed with
eternal love for each other. No, not every day is perfect. And we have
been through our fair share of trials and challenges, but he and I make
it work. We don’t give up. We don’t walk away. We work through it.  
Because that is what love does. Love encourages. Love perseveres.

I approached this marriage with the same mentality as Tom Jones. I, I
who have nothing.  Adore you and want you so. I’m just a no one with
nothing to give you. But I love you. I had nothing to give my husband.  
I loved him with all of my being. And that was the one gift I possessed.

Love isn’t usually love. It is usually a desire to not be alone. Or simply
lust that eventually turns to dust.  It isn’t always love. But when it is. It is
something to be adored, cultivated, treasured, and shared. What is the
old saying? Love isn’t love until you give it away.

I was singing I Who Have Nothing out loud yesterday afternoon and my
12 year old daughter heard me.  She waited in silence, standing on the
other side of the kitchen for me to see that she was watching me.  
When I turned and she caught my eye, she scrunched up her face at me.

“Mom, who sings that song? Is it Sam Smith?”

“No babe. That is Fire on Fire from the Watership Down.  This is I Who
Have Nothing by Tom Jones.” I told her.

“Tom Jones? There is book called Tom Jones. I haven’t read it. It is an
old book and didn’t understand it.”  

“Not the same thing. But I love that you know about the book Tom Jones.
Do you want to hear Tom Jones sing this song? It is pretty amazing.”

“No, not really. Maybe another time.” And she was off to her next activity.

This afternoon, I called to her after she got settled in when she got home
from school.

“Lily, come here. I have a song for you to listen to.”  I may have smiled
too much, I don’t know. But she wasn’t haven’t it.  I began playing the
song on YouTube and she looks at me with a bit of snark preparing to
let loose. She shakes her shoulders, pretends she is interested and
only lasted through the first verse. She didn’t even make it to the chorus.

So there I sat by myself enjoying the whole 2 minute 46 seconds of an
excellent song. I just view it as her loss.

Come to think of it, I also tried to play the song for my husband once.  
He wasn’t haven’t it either. I even tried to explain the song to him. “If
you have to explain it, there might be a problem.”

So if I ever ask you to listen to a song, be kind. Be loving. And please
just pretend you like the song as much as I do. Candice Glover, my second favorite performance of this song.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

What Do You Do?

I am guilty. Guilty of starting conversations with people I have just met by asking them, "What Do You Do?" Why do we ask this as one of the first questions when meeting someone new?  Exactly what kind of information do we hope to gather when someone answers this question?

-I am an electrical engineer.

-I am a logistics coordinator.
  -- I don't even know what that means.

-I am a brand specialist.
  --What brand?

Our follow up is usually superficial.  Hmm.  Great.  Wow.  Most of the time we don't know what to say.  I have tried to erase the What Do You Do? question from my vocabulary.  I try to establish common ground and make people feel comfortable.  If they attend the same church, I will ask, How long have you been at Grace?  Then I will ask about where they reside and if they have children in Sunday School if they are not present at the time.  If I am introduced by a friend, the natural first question is, How do you know each other? The answer will lead to many other questions. Their children may attend the same school, they may work together, they may be neighbors.  Another way I like begin conversations is when I think I may know someone, I will boldly introduce myself and say, My name is Kelli Gavin. Have we met before? You look familiar. - More times than not, we have never met.  But a personal introduction often initiates a conversation.

When people ask me what I do,  I often change it up. Sometimes I say I am a Professional Organizer. Sometimes I say I am a Writer. Sometimes I tell them I am both.  Both answers are true, but sometimes disclosing I am Professional Organizer to certain people creates for interesting conversation.  However, when I tell people that I am a writer, there are some huge misconceptions that I have come up against.  People ask me how many books have I written.  Two. Both are unpublished as of yet, but I usually don't volunteer that information. Many people believe that because I write for newspapers, online forums, magazines, journals and anthologies that I am not a "real writer". I am asked if I write novels, and the answer is no. I write non fiction short stories and poetry.  I get a lot of glassy eyed stares when it comes to the topic of non fiction short stories and poetry.  I explain I write about my life, conversations and observations.  People will snort and ask if I will write about them. I usually do. But the biggest issue I come up against when I tell people that I am a writer is that the general public believes that if you are not a NY Times Best Selling Author, that it is just a hobby.

Rather than asking questions that I know people don't really want the answer, I have changed the dialogue. Now when people ask me what I do, I make a joke.

-Do you mean during the day?
-I am not able to talk about that yet.
-Usually I sing in the shower each day.
-I seek out dogs that may be looking for a friend.
-I play more Scrabble than the typical person.

These answers often make people laugh a bit and help them lighten up.  It also helps them not focus on the work aspect of life, but helps them tell me more about themselves as a person when I ask them questions.

I want to know about your family. I want to know about your kids.  I want to know about your marriage. To hear stories about caring for your aging parents.  And what it was like to be widowed at a young age. I want to know what your kids do for fun. I want to know how you would spend a day if there were no demands for your attention.  I want to know what your favorite books and music and movies are. I want to know what your latest home project is. I want to know about those new grand babies in your family. I want to know about you are studying in The Word and how God is working in your life. I want you to talk about what hurts. I want to know what makes your heart soar in delight.  I want you to share with me about your childhood and how you became the amazing person you are today.  I want you to tell me about you.

I want to connect with you.

So if you are a circus acrobat or clown, ride show ponies, or specialize in translating before now untranslated languages, I do of course want to know about that.  But to connect with you on a personal level, where I leave knowing more about your heart, that is what I really look forward to.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

I Could Watch All Day

This evening, after we finished dinner and dishes, I quickly took my place on the left side of the couch to finish up my emails and a huge editing project.  I was thrilled when I hit save on the finished project. I have been working on it for over a month and half adding, deleting and perfecting 17 amazing stories by 17 equally amazing authors. I couldn't be more pleased with how well everything came together.

As I set the laptop down and looked up, I saw the two men in my life who capture my heart. There in front of me at the dining room table, sat my husband and our 16 year old son who has Autism.  A serious 7 hands of Uno were being played. 7 hands you ask? Yes, seven hands were promised so that Zach could earn a bag of microwave popcorn.

Fun was had, Zach won almost every hand and conversation took place.  Josh asked amazing questions about school, Saturday morning activities, things coming up on the calendar that Zach is excited about, and then he laid out what tomorrow will look like.  Talking about the calendar often brings Zach such calm in his often chaotic days.  This evening he was flustered when there was an entertainment stand debacle caused by him in the basement. It took both of my strong men to fix the problem.  All he wanted was to eat some popcorn and spend some time in the quite of his own space in the living room in the basement. But first Uno.

I admire my husband often, but I also really know and acknowledge when he is killing it as a dad.  He played 7 hands of Uno, invested time with Zach and retrieved the desired popcorn.  I love watching them interact and laugh and be goofy together. It warms my heart as a mom and as a wife. Knowing that Josh does the same thing with our daughter Lily. They watch Dude Perfect videos together. They assemble and break apart and reassemble Lego set after Lego set.  They cuddle and watch movies together that Josh doesn't care to watch. But he knows it matters to Lily, so he does it as an act of love.

I am so thankful this evening for the 7 hands of Uno that were played right in front of me.  I could watch all day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Stop the Fake

Here is the thing. It stings. It stings more than I care to admit.  When I write something really touching, or post something ridiculously clever, and it goes unnoticed. Unacknowledged. Un-liked.  But it isn't the likes I seek. It is for the reader, sometimes a specific reader to find what I want to say to them. When I write, usually short stories and poems, they are for small publishing firms, writer’s journals, websites and anthologies.  When I blog, it is quite personal, heartfelt and it means something to me. I want it to mean something to others in my life, too. I often write about people in my life and people from my past. I usually don't even go as far to name them. I wonder if people are able to find themselves in my written words? If they see themselves and smile. If they discover themselves on page 152 and gasp for breath as they realize that same memory is one that they hold dear.

When I share on social media poems and stories that I have recently written and they have been published, it isn't for me to toot my own horn....Another one today! Woohoo! Third one this week! No. It is advertising, creating a digital profile for future editors, Anthology compilers, and it creates a contact with more writing outlets.  Best two commissioned contracts that I have ever signed were from simple retweets and sharing a post. The people that I want to reach are able to easily access my public posts and read a wide variety of pieces that I have written.

But then there are the stories that I have written for the people that I care about.  My story Hands was recently published with a couple of different sites/anthologies. (I retain publishing rights as author to almost everything that I have written, hence, multiple publishing houses can publish my work.) I wrote that story about 5 people. But the story was meant for one single person. I don't know if they have read it. I will not ask. But I hope when they do, they smile. I hope whatever hurts, is quieted, possibly mended and that the days begin to get easier. My recent story When A Woman's Heart Hurts, was also quickly picked up. I wrote that story about one main interaction with a young encouraging woman in a restroom.  But I wrote it to encourage all woman. To let women know that they are not alone, there is always someone cheering for them, that reaching out might be difficult, but essential and that the heart hurt doesn't always remain. The "About" and the "For" are usually two different people or groups. But they are both so important in the overall storytelling. The words, the actions, the love, the encouragement, and sometimes even the rejection and pain all serve as fuel for my fingers. When I write, they are stories I feel compelled to share.

I saw writer post...Don't like my work.  Talk to me about it. Share my work. -I love that.  Not in it for the likes. But in it for the connection.  The conversations. The idea that others may also find value and validation in someone's written words.

As a reader, when I read other writer's work, I can't help but engage in conversation. What I thought. What I liked. What moved me. Sometimes I even ask questions about what I don't understand. I ask questions about what inspired them. I want to naturally know more.

My friend Jay Long and John Patrick Robbins are perfect examples. They both have published numerous books and they are impressive and thought provoking.  Each conversation I enter, I learn more about the art of writing and editing. Rudy Francisco is a Button Poet. I have read his book Helium 4 times and find something new every time. Jen Mann turns out book after book and makes me laugh daily. I appreciate her approach and outlook at daily life. She understands it is ridiculous, takes it with a grain of salt and encourages others to do the same. My new friend Debjani (India) is a fellow Mercurial writer.  Her beautiful detailed writing about the sites and sounds of her gorgeous country make we want to stay up late and read until my mind understands all of it. Every last word. My new friend Chloe-Helen Williams (C. H. Williams - UK) sent a few pieces by email. I devoured them. Amazingly talented and I expect to see some big things from her in the coming years. Remember her name. You will be glad you did. I love their work, I engage with them and talk with them about their work and I share their work.  The highest form of flattery to me as a writer is when someone remembers something that I have written because it was shared with them.

We live in a world of instant gratification and countless self esteem boosting social media websites. We have created this world, surrounded ourselves with fake friends, fake affirmation and whole lot of fake lives.

Rarely do we see the whole picture. Those perfect children? It took that mom six tries to get the perfect shot and whole lot of bribing Skittles. All that success at sports and dance and every activity they have ever attempted?  Their family may be suffering. They rarely are all at the table at once, and those kids are feeling the pressure to succeed. Constantly. Those constant kissy face pics that are posted? She needs the reminder that their marriage will recover from infidelity. We don't see the whole picture. Only the perfect glimpses.

Let's stop the fake. Let's stop pretending. Let's be real with each other. And sometimes that means messy buns and chipped nail polish. Sometimes that is peanut butter smiles and smiling children. And sometimes, that is admitting what a mess the day has been and calling in the reinforcements. The people that care about you and your family. The people you do life with.  Talk about that hard stuff. You need to.

I talk about the hard stuff. Sometimes too much.  Sometimes I am in pain. Sometimes I feel so inept at parenting and I need encouragement and advice.  My husbands health suffered greatly last year and I am struggling being less than two months post op myself.  But what I write about, what I post, is truth. It isn't always glamorous, someone is usually making a face at the camera, and sometimes I write in tears.  I have learned to be honest. I have learned to talk about the silly things. Like packing up kid clothes when my daughter now wears women's sizes and feeling sad about it.  Or telling friends that they can help us by bringing us honey nut Cheerios and apples and fruit. (Thank you again to each of you who answered that bizarre call for help!) And when I need to ask for prayer because my husband isn't able to function, people respond immediately. They get on their knees and pray for relief. They pray for rest. They pray for healing. These real posts, lead to real connection. They lead to relationships with people in real life. Something I will always be grateful for.

So the next time you post something touching or clever, and no one "likes" it, do not despair. People have seen that pic. They have read the article.  They may also bring it up later in conversation. They will thank you for sharing the jelly smiles, dirty shirts, crusty hair pictures. They will thank you for helping them know they are not alone.  They will hug you and love on you, not necessarily because you need it, but you are deemed safe, and they need the human connection. Be real. Be you. Be kind. Be loving. Then it won't matter if anyone reads your posts.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Well Lit

Well Lit
By: Kelli J Gavin

Sarah and Maddie had been walking for quite some time. Sarah was about 20 feet ahead when she turned and noticed Maddie wasn’t keeping up with her anymore.

“Maddie! Let’s get a move on! I want to get home for dinner and soon the sun will start to set.”  Sarah originally was pleased when her best friend agreed to tag along for an outdoor adventure. Maddie had in recent months become a bit distant and aloof.  She no longer enjoyed going to the movies together. She didn’t care when new music was released. She barely engaged in conversation with Sarah anymore and she all together ignored all of their mutual friends.  Sarah at first tried as hard as she could to figure out what may have caused these sudden changes in Maddie. But try as she might, Sarah was at a loss. Maddie was quiet, sullen and just chose to do her own thing.

“Girl, I am trying.  I can’t keep up with you. Your stupid long legs make you take steps like a giraffe.  I thought this was supposed to be a leisurely walk. Not a race to see who could get there first.” Maddie didn’t even make eye contact with Sarah as she continued her complaints. “What is so special about these stupid wildflowers you are searching for?”

“They only bloom for about two weeks every summer. I should have started checking on them about 2 weeks ago, but my summer job has taken over most of my daylight hours. They are so beautiful. I love placing them in vases throughout the house.  I would hate to miss them this year.” Sarah explained.

“How long do they last once you have picked them?”  Maddie asked wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead.

“Usually about a 5 or 6 days and then they wilt a bit and the edges turn brown.”  Sarah’s expression changed as the memory of last year’s wilting flowers came to mind.

“Seems like a waste of time if they are just going to die right away.”  Maddie, as always, was continuing on her negative streak.

“Do you hear yourself?  I am sick of this Maddie.  For the last few months, you have been a mess.  You argue with anyone who disagrees with you. You turn down almost all invitations. You complain and complain and complain until I kinda want to punch you.  The last time I asked you what was wrong and what was going on, you glared and me and told me to stop asking. You glared at me. I am your best friend. What is the problem?”  Sarah sputtered as she finally spoke about her grievances directed at Maddie.

Silence.  Actual silence.  Sarah stopped in her tracks and waited for Maddie to stop next to her.  Maddie looked up into Sarah’s eyes. Tears began forming and Maddie gulped for air.

“Sarah.  My dad is sick.  Like really sick.  He has cancer, and surgery and chemo aren’t an option.  The doctor has given him another couple of months. That’s it. Done. Just like that.”  Maddie cried.

Sarah couldn’t believe what Maddie was explaining to her.  All those times Sarah tried to stop over and Maddie wouldn’t let her in the front door.  All those times Sarah said that her parents wanted to have Maddie’s parents over for dinner and Maddie said they were busy.  All this crazy mean talk and complaining that seemed to be boiling over all the time. Maddie’s dad was dying. Sarah’s eyes filled with tears. She reached for Maddie to embrace her not knowing if Maddie would even let her.  Maddie’s shoulders fell. And she began to sob. Her entire body collapsed into Sarah’s loving arms.

“Oh Maddie. I am so sorry. And I am sorry that you didn’t tell me. I could have been praying for you. Supporting you. Loving you during this time.  All I wanted to do was punch you because you were being so hateful and mean and standoffish.” Sarah wiped her own tears as she massaged Maddie’s heaving shoulders.

“It was almost as if I couldn’t.  If I told you, if I said it out loud, that would make it real. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell you about it. It hurts so much.”  Maddie sat down on a fallen log to catch her breath and wipe her tears.

“I understand and I am sorry.  My sweet friend, I love you. Thank you for telling me.  I want to help you in any way that I can. You tell me how, and I will do it.”

“Take me to see these flowers.  Today is a fine day for beauty.”  Maddie smiled as well as she could to enable Sarah to know that she meant it.

“Flowers here we come.”  Sarah pulled on Maddie’s hand and brought her to her feet. She hugged Maddie tightly and pulled a tissue from her pocket. Sarah helped Maddie fix her eyes and then tucked Maddie’s willing arm into hers.

The girls increased their speed. No longer shuffling behind, Maddie kept in step with Sarah.  Maddie and Sarah. Just like it had always been. Friends since the first day of kindergarten. Friends until the end. The path narrowed a bit and the sun shone through the tall tree tops. The breeze increased which helped the girls cool down a bit from their brisk walk in the woods.

“There! There they are!” Sarah announced as she bolted forward into the opening in the woods.  Pink and purple, yellow and blue and red. So many colors of wild flowers! An absolutely beautiful sight.  Pure and simple. Natural beauty in God’s creation.

Maddie smiled at Sarah.  A smile of thanks. She laid down in the middle of the opening. Surrounded by wildflowers, the gentle breeze and sound of birds speaking to each other.  “Sarah. Thank you for bringing me to see your special flowers. This time with you has been so wonderful. Thank you for helping me smile today.”

Sarah was kneeling and gently cutting flowers and placing them in a pile.  “I will cut a few extra for you. You will want a vase also I think.” Sarah smiled at her treasured friend.

The path home was well lit by the sun that would be setting soon. The girls walked arm in arm back to their neighborhood. When they exited the woods and turned to admire the sunset,  both of girls did nothing other than hug each other. Not a word was exchanged. Sarah handed Maddie an armful of flowers to bring home to her father.

That evening, Maddie and her father sat on the couch admiring the vase of flowers on the mantle above the fireplace.  “Dad, Sarah cut those for me today. Aren’t they beautiful?”

Maddie’s dad smiled at her, “Beautiful, just like my baby girl.”

I Was There To Hold His Hand

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