Monday, August 10, 2020

That's the House

 That’s the House
For Writers Unite!

By: Kelli J Gavin


A couple summers ago on the 4th of July, I drove my kids to the house I grew up in in Forest Lake, Minnesota. I was on an amazing emotional high after a fun day well spent in the town I seldom visit. The parade was a wonder to behold. Floats, Dairy Princesses and Firemen throwing obscene amounts of candy. Classic cars, Marching Bands and an unusual amount of clowns. I enjoyed seeing friends from high school, spending time with our extended family and a BBQ at my sister’s house in Stacy. Being that my childhood home was just off the freeway on the way home to Carver, I knew making a quick stop would be a fun way to end our day’s adventures. 


My mom passed away in 2013, but lost the house to Bank Foreclosure a few years earlier when she went into an assisted living facility. We drove down the gravel dirt road to the corner of 135th Ave and Humber Street. The white house with brown trim looked smaller yet inviting.The trees looked like giants and towered over our home.  Nestled on just under 2 acres with woods surrounding, it was an ideal place to grow up. Plenty of places to hide, plenty of places to explore. 


“Mom, which one is it?” My then 11 year old daughter Lily questioned. My heart broke a little. Lily had been to mom’s house a number of times when she was younger, but her sweet little memories must have started to fade. 


“That’s the house. Right there.” I replied as I turned to smile at her. 


“Mom, did we come here a lot? Did I play here with Grandma?”  She asked as tears began to poke the corners of my eyes.  


“Lil, you didn’t come here a lot to play with Grandma. Mostly Grandma came to our house. Grandma’s house was old and needed a lot of work done. The carpets needed to be replaced and I didn’t feel comfortable letting you play on them.”  Why did I say that? What made me think that this was the information I needed to share with Lily? A child who clearly missed her grandmother.


I then regaled her with stories of all the fun things we did do with Grandma Jo. Swimming and walking and reading stories and shopping and eating at great restaurants. Farmers markets and garage sales and movies and laughing together. Making chocolates and enjoying apple cider and baking bread.  Baking cookies and snapping beans and making sun tea.  


Lily replied, “ I remember all of that. I miss Grandma.  Did you do all of those things with Grandma when you lived here?”   


I paused for a brief moment, “Lily, I did all those things with Grandma when I was little.  I loved spending time with Grandma. She was amazing. I miss her too. A lot. I miss her every day.  But today, I am showing you the house I grew up in so I can continue sharing with you all of the amazing things about Grandma. I loved living here. That’s the house I will always remember Grandma living in. The house I love. The house I will treasure. “


Lily was quiet for a bit. “ Mom, can we come here again?” I smiled as a single tear escaped.  “Yes, Lily. We sure can. Remember. That’s the house Grandma lived in and loved. Take a mental picture so you will always remember it.”  


She winced one eye closed and clucked her tongue like the flash of a camera.  “Got it mom. It’s all up here.” Lily explained as she pointed to her head.  


My heart changed a bit that day.  I now share more stories with my kids and encourage them to talk more freely about the Grandma they miss. About the Grandma they love.  Lily asked yesterday when we will drive to Grandma’s house again. She said she wanted to go for a walk in the woods. My heart soared as I looked at the calendar and wrote down a date to visit in early October when the leaves are changing color. “ We can go before then if you like to Mom.”  We just might Lily. We just might. 

  


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Big Talker

I wrote a piece for an online magazine a few weeks back called "Big Talker." It is a true story about people who have come and gone from my life who had also had a great tendency to embellish the truth. People who would combine bits of truth with a whole lot of wishful hoping and make it the story they shared. And once they shared their fanciful new story, it become real to them. The lines between fact and fiction became skewed. 

Quite a few years ago, Josh and I met a man who was a big talker. He often repeated stories until they became God's honest truth, at least to him. I repeated a couple to my mother and she smiled in that certain way she did and just nodded. She knew what I was saying couldn't all possibly be true before I even did.

My mom said, "Kelli, come on now. While that all sounds amazing, think about it. It doesn't sound like half of what this man told you could be true. How is it possible that he is always in the right place at the right time? To meet all those people and have all those deals and projects in the works. Kace, he sounds like a Big Talker."

My mom went on to elaborate on what she meant and I listened closely. She described people from her own life who always had to have a bigger and better story to tell. And God forbid if they saw your eyes light up or if you smiled while they were mid story, the story tended to become even more grand. 

My mom was right. This man whom Josh and I cared for as a good friend wasn't telling us the truth.  But my mom also said something fascinating. 

"You have to decide if the friendship means more to you than the truth. Never be confrontational, but ask questions, ask for them to tell you more, check facts and kindly correct them when you do hear them telling you another version of the story you have already heard."

I then talked to Josh about what my mom had said, and sure enough, he totally agreed. Josh said that when our mutual friend really got talking in a group, he would often excuse himself so he wouldn't appear to be part of his listening crowd. 

"Kelli, he wants attention and I think he is lonely."

How was it possible that Josh and my mom seemed to always be right? Our friend was lonely and a big dreamer. He liked the attention he received from his grandiose storytelling. His stories seemed to become bigger and better and more unbelievable the more he observed people were listening or if he received a lot physical or verbal affirmation while sharing.

I changed how I related to our friend. I no longer nodded in agreement or said "M hmm" to affirm what he was saying. I would excuse myself the way Josh did. I would ask clarifying questions and carefully bring to his attention when I observed a discrepancy or inconsistency. 

It didn't work. Josh and I believed that our friend was socially clueless, unable to pick up on verbal and non verbal clues and wasn't about to be changed. But it also wasn't our job to be the ones to force truthful change upon him. 

I learned a few very important things about not being a big talker.  I try to only communicate deals or project with Josh and friends and family once they are in writing. When I have actually signed the contract or have received a publication date for my next book or magazine. I also don't repeat other people's news. Their story is their story for a reason, and I want them to tell it. But the biggest take away for me is to speak words of truth. Not what I want to see happen or what I wish hadn't. But words that are real and tangible and mean something. Information that matters, never added to or taken away from something. No could have, would have, should have. Only, this is truth and I can't wait to share the details with you. 

I don't relate to people the way I should. I am poor listener and get exited in interesting conversations and can't seem to wait my turn to speak and often interrupt. I am aware of this and  try to be more properly engaged. But I am absolutely more conscious of not being a big talker.  I like groups and attention and when people find my stories interesting. However, sharing truth is what make stories that much more interesting. And that what I will always focus on. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep- Hopefully

I have been working a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean every day.  I have multiple jobs, some out of the house, some I can do from home.  But even with stay at home orders in Minnesota and Covid-19 societal shutdowns, I have worked this entire time. While watching people experience job loss (my husband included), wage decreases, even side job income streams drying up, the need to seek public assistance, and the worries of how rent and mortgages and car payments and insurance will be paid, I am so thankful that my work has remained steady.

I work about three days a week as a Professional Organizer.  I help with all finances, bookkeeping, purchases including groceries and everything online, home organization, and overall life management. I work with the aging demographic and when Covid-19 came on fast and furious, my job was to keep my clients at home and healthy.  4 months in, all of my clients are still healthy, and I continue to help them in their homes each and every week. 

I am also an author, dabble in small business marketing, I am a content writer and an editor. I have been thrilled with the amount of requests that have come in for new contracts.  Small companies have a huge need to come out thriving on the other side of the shut down. I also work with other writers who need help with line editing and overall flow feedback.  I love that each job is unique and that it is never boring. I am also thankful that all of these jobs enable me to be at home and work on my own time frame. 

Because a lot of work that I do from home can be challenging, I have found that I need to do it with minimal distractions.  I can't work with music or the TV on, and if my kids are home, I feel I am even more distracted.  I usually need to then wait until nighttime when they go to bed.  Which means I end up working until quite late at night a couple of nights a week. I don't mind as I am a bit of a night owl anyway, but I do find that I lose track of time and end up glancing at the clock and finding it is past midnight.  My sleep suffers as I don't sleep well and then have to be up by 6:30 each morning. 

One of things that I have had to implement for my own well being is an email and phone call shut down time. Each day at 8 p.m., I stop answering work phone calls. And each day at 9 p.m., I stop reading and answering work emails. I may respond that I have received an email or voicemail, but will respond the following day by a certain time, but that is it. Otherwise, I was finding that phone calls were coming in after 10 p.m. and clients were expecting me not only to respond, but to tend to the problem at hand. 

As I mentioned, I don't sleep well. I have problems falling asleep, I wake up many times each night and I also wake up quite early. I average about 5 1/2 hours a night and consider myself lucky to get 6 or more hours.  There are novel nights when I actually sleep 7 or more hours and I wake up confused, not really sure where I am and even question if I am still in high school and if I have missed the bus. 

I also protect my sleep by turning off the ringer on my cell phone and silencing all notifications.  I place my phone on the charger on my bedside table and call it a day.  I even dim the light on the screen of my phone as it lights up all night long when each notification comes in. I am not dealing with waking up to the eerie light of cell phone when I am already confused, not sure what year it is and panicked once again that I am still in high school and have forgotten my locker combination.

I will often lay down in the afternoon if given the chance, but rarely fall asleep for more than 10 minutes or so. During that time, I usually work on stretching out my back and relaxing. If I do fall asleep, I startle myself awake. I have always limited my caffeine intake, only drink coffee in the morning, stop drinking tea by mid afternoon and try to limit my water intake in the evening hours in general. Because I do intermittent fasting, (14 off, 10 on) I stop eating by 6 p.m. which can be beneficial when it comes to sleep. As you can see, have addressed, work, distractions, caffeine and food. I desire rest and have addressed the areas that I think can contribute to a poor night's sleep. 

I have spent many hours in prayer over sleep and rest. This isn't an exaggeration and I will continue doing so.  I pray for restorative sleep, for me to be able to hold every thought captive and that I wake up feeling rejuvenated.  Sometimes, even when 4 or 5 hours of sleep were all that I have been rewarded, I wake up feeling fine and have a great day, but then I am dragging my dinner time.  I pray for stamina and energy. And I pray for peace even if my prayers are not answered. Mostly I pray for peace. 

While some people may believe that I place too much importance on sleep, I beg to differ.  If we sleep well, we accomplish more, enjoy each day more and find that we are focused and have even more moments of mental clarity. When we seem to be lacking in the sleep department, we have a tendency to accomplish less, not enjoy each day that has been given to us, struggle with focus and have no clue what the words mental clarity even mean.  That is my I must pray about it.  Lord, help me sleep. Lord, help me be alright tomorrow if I do not. Lord, give me peace tonight, help be hold every thought captive as I fall asleep and enable me to be content with the outcome as I rest in You. 

Going to the cabin for a few short days, I know that not much sleep will be had. I don't sleep well there and wake frequently. My prayer today is that I am patient with my children and husband even in the absence of sleep. 

When I was a child, my father repeatedly said, "When given the chance to sleep, always sleep." 

My dad was a hard worker and his job physically took everything out of him. He worked odd hours, slept odd hours and napped whenever possible.  He knew what he spoke of.  I didn't realize the value of a nap until after I had kids. I also know how important it is to call it a day, shut off the TV and phones and just go to bed. When given the chance to sleep, always sleep. 

A few of my friends are going through some very challenging situations right now, and everything seems to be amplified with Covid. Sleep is precious commodity when it evades each and every night. Reading, watching a show, developing a routine, nothing seems to work. These are the times when we try to convince ourselves that sleeplessness is only for a season. 
-And unfortunately, sometimes that season is for life. 

Tonight, after swimming, boating and kayaking and sitting on the dock and watching the sun set, when I am all tired out and physically and mentally worn out, I will pray again that sleep comes easily to me. And if it doesn't, I will enjoy the sound of he loons on the lake.  I will listen to the perfect white noise of the fans that keep us cool and I will pray. I will pray for peace, I will pray for rest and I will pray for an amazing day tomorrow even if the sleep doesn't cross my path.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Bride



The Bride

By: Kelli J Gavin 

For Writers Unite!


When Clarence was 15, he and his father drove on the back roads to get to a portion of land their ancestors had lived on for generations. He was excited because he had trained for this venture, yet was intimated at what task he was asked to accomplish. Clarence's father believed that boys needed to prove themselves men. That they needed to show their father and the Mighty Lord above, that they could handle the elements and navigate the land that their ancestors had always called home. 


Clarence would need to need to travel the five miles of rough terrain overnight and when he saw The Bride, he would know that home was just around the bend. Clarence planned for the temperature to drop to close to 30 soon after sunset and that the wild animals would be hungry. With only a compass, a slingshot, a flashlight and his warm woolen clothing, Clarence would discover if he could make it home and no longer be considered a boy. But a man. 


Clarence's father stopped on the side of the barren road and turned off the old pickup. As he turned to his son and lifted his hat, he reached for his second pack of cigarettes for the day. 


"Clarence. Let the moon and The Bride be your guide." He nodded and tipped his hat. Clarence knew that he was to exit the pick up and begin his walk about.


Clarence had loved exploring The Bride as a child with his father. Every turn, every hidden crevice, each long lock of what appeared to be curly hair that laid neatly down the back of her gown.  Clarence's entire life seemed to have occurred all within ten miles of The Bride. 


Believing he was ready for the task at hand, he watched his father slowly pull away and held one  hand above his head and waved farewell. Clarence didn't know that that would be last his saw of his father.


The night was bone chilling as the wind picked up. The coyotes and vultures seemed to flock and sing a song of vengeance before he even rounded the first hill. He knew resting wouldn't be an option when he became tired later in the night, unless he built a fire. And a fire would attract more of those animals that viewed Clarence as their next meal. Knowing slow and steady would win the race, Clarence secured his supplies and set out on his course. With the compass in his right hand attached to his wrist, he felt confident in his navigational skills to arrive at The Bride and then home by morning.  


A turkey vulture swooped in and tried to take a peck at him. Clarence swung his pack and screamed as loud as he could to scare him away.  He had been fighting with those mean birds since the first time he put on boots at the age of 2. He hated those birds. Their beady eyes, jowls that seemed to be covered in pocked skin and their ability to startle even the calmest of men. They were no friend of his. 


A rattler or two crossed his path before the sun completely set and he knew he would have to be more alert with each of his steps when all he had was a flashlight to light his way.  Chewing on a beef stick in the second hour of his walk, he reached into his pack for gloves as he wanted to protect his hands climbing through the rough terrain ahead. 


Space out my food. Limit my water intake. Keep watching the moon. Check behind me every 2 minutes. Check my compass often. Clarence continued to remind himself of everything he thought was of the utmost importance. 


Clarence fell at about the three mile mark. He twisted his left ankle on a rock and stumbled and went down hard on his right shoulder. The boulder he hit was unforgiving. He sat by the boulder longer than necessary because he felt a little dazed and confused. When he finally had his wits about him, he shone his flashlight in all directions. Three coyotes surrounded him. As he stood and proceeded to yell loudly and raise his hands over his head, the coyotes were smaller than they first appeared and scattered quickly. The pain was worse when he was weight bearing.  Clarence grimaced and knew that this was not the end. He needed to continue. 


Walk it off. Walk it off.  You can do this. You have had worse pain.  Remember that time you got hit in the right butt cheek by Micheal's slingshot? That was the worst pain ever. Ha. Remember how you beat him up the next time you saw him? Yeah.  He was always a jerk. 


Clarence continued to talk to himself as he walked and then stopped when he realized he was talking to himself. He wouldn't want The Bride to hear him and think he had gone crazy. 


Glancing at his watch and realizing that it was almost 5 a.m., he knew the sun would soon be rising. He was close. The Bride was close.  Twenty more minutes. Just 20 more minutes.  


As the sun began to come up on the horizon, The Bride in all her splendor came into full view.  Why was it that each and every time he saw her, a smile spread across his face?  Would this ancient beauty always bring such joy to him and the generations yet to come? 


Clarence sat for 20 minutes and just reveled at God's creation. The Bride was his reward.  He had accomplished his goal. 5 miles in the dark, overnight on rocky terrain. Make it home by 6 a.m. and Clarence would no longer be a boy.


As he turned one last time to his right, and  the rocky driveway came into view, he also saw the sun shining over his home that he shared with his dad.  His home that he had so many fond memories in.  The home where he last saw his mother. She had passed three years prior from breast cancer. She went quickly and didn't suffer much. In his grief, he took such solace in that fact. 


Remembering his mom and his dad and the times they had together, Clarence neared his house. He saw his father sitting in his pick up truck. Was he preparing to leave and check on the animals before Clarence even arrived home? 


As Clarence saw his father's slumped shoulders and slack jaw, he knew that his father had spent the night his pick up.That he never made it into the house to rest his weary body from a long day's work. That his father had died in his absence, behind the wheel of his pick up truck. 


Clarence was 16 years old and now a man. He had accomplished his goal, but did not have a mother or father to celebrate with.  He didn't feel much like celebrating much ever again. 


Clarence lived a quiet life on the land that his ancestors had always loved and lived on.  He knew that his father and his mother would have been proud of the man he became.  Clarence also knew that when his son was about to become a man, that he would change the way they did things in their family and he would accompany his son on the overnight exploration and navigation to discover The Bride by morning.  


They would do it together. Father and Son.  They would meet The Bride together. 




Monday, July 6, 2020

Amazing Artwork By Bethany Scriberras - @bethanyscribblesxo on Facebook and Instagram

Bethany Scriberras is a 24 year old English artist who specializes in drawing portraits and animals. She uses Prisma Color pencils to produce personalized framed pieces you can cherish forever. As a perfectionist, she will always endeavor to create something beautiful for you. xo

Contact Bethany for all your portrait needs. Her commissions are excellently priced and worth every penny.  Perfect for a gift or to preserve a beautiful memory of a loved one. 

@bethanyscribblesxo on Facebook and Instagram












Sunday, June 28, 2020

Norman Rockwell Never Got a Fair Shake

I love artwork of all shapes, sizes and mediums. But I have always been drawn to paintings mostly from 1500s‐1700s. A broad amount of styles are covered during this time frame. One painter I have never quite given his due is Norman Rockwell. 

As a child, I saw his paintings where everyone had comically screwed up expressions on their faces and I didn't care for it. So, apparently, I didn't think I liked any of his work. In college, I sat down on a couch at a party in a house I shouldn't have been in. There was a Norman Rockwell book on the coffee table. I picked it up hoping to somehow feel less uncomfortable. I was mesmerized. 

There were not only page after page of paintings I had never seen before, some were absolutely breathtaking.  WWII, Vietnam, The American Life, Social Justice Issues, Racial and Religious Turmoil. Mr. Rockwell's paintings covered every subject matter I could imagine.  The beauty struck me upside the head. Literally. I became tearful when studying a few of them. I knew I needed to find this amazing book and own it for my self. 

I never did find the book that I found on the coffee table that night.  I did look at the library, at garage sales and thrift stores and found a few, but none of them were as colorful or comprehensive.  

Earlier this year, I found a huge Norman Rockwell book at the local Goodwill. I was searching for books on Italy and came across a few beautiful arts books. My heart smiled when I saw the artist's name on the binding.  I was elated. It was not the same book from all those years ago, but one that I liked even more.  It was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company in 1999 and contained a large number of stories and additional information about each painting, commissions and where the painting resides today. 

And, to my delight, it contained all three of my favorite Rockwell paintings. 


The Connoisseur, 1962

By far, my favorite.  The Jackson Pollock on the wall, the floor pattern, the man's cane and hat. But most of all, how close the man is standing to view the Pollock.  I imagine he has stood there for quite some time. Finding something new in each brushstroke.


Southern Justice, Murder in Mississippi 1965

This amazing painting was the first to ever make me cry.  The shadows, the desperation, the scattered large and small rocks, the blood.  


Girl at Mirror, 1954

This beautiful young girl, stuck between being a child and adulthood. Studying her features in the mirror as she closely examines the starlet in the magazine. The soon to be forgotten doll.


I paged through the book which sits on a large silver platter on the footstool in the front living room the other day.  I explored the stories behind a few more paintings, but I saw myself gravitate back to these three.  Spellbinding.

I never gave this amazing artist a fair shake. Artwork grows on me. Something I thought I didn't like, now may have become my favorite. And I want to share it with others. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Today I Choose Joy

I recently started a new group on Facebook called Today I Choose Joy.  During this time of Covid-19 Stay at Home Orders and Social Distancing, I found myself and everyone around me weren't very joy filled.  Grumbling and complaining about current circumstances, many wanting to know if a trade could be made for the people living under the same roof for new quarantine partners in crime, and the desire to flee seemed to be what most were talking about.  

George Floyd was killed, Minneapolis burned, and protesters stepped to the forefront demanding much needed change. Protests continued to spread from city to city and then to other states and even around the world.  Hearts are desperate for dramatic improvements and lives have been destroyed.  The chaos in our world weighs heavily.  Tears have been the only way to communicate along with hugs and just listening as I come alongside my black sisters and brothers.  I am learning to love, to remove any biased thoughts I thought did even exist and hopefully model what love your neighbor really looks like in a hurting world. 

How do we choose Joy when everything seems broken? How do we encourage others when sadness and pain are prevalent? For me, I look for what is beautiful. For what edifies and encourages. I look for laughter and meaning. I want to learn something, teach someone and share with others.  I want to smile and enable others to do the same. 

Whether it is pictures of newly hatched robin's eggs, or the kids in the pool for the first time this season.  Sometimes it is siblings playing together and not fighting for a change. The reunion of desperately missed grandparents with grandchildren.  A video of contagious laughter that makes me cry laugh also. And sometimes it is words of truth, words of love and necessary words to share. Whatever it is, it brings me joy.  

When I am not joy filled, I have to make the concerted effort to choose joy daily. 

I thank each and every member of the group. For sharing laughter and compliments. For asking questions and seeking a further connection. For stepping out of their comfort zone and engaging with internet strangers.  It is an honest pleasure to Choose Joy Daily with you.



When it Hits too Close to Home

I love the fact that there are so many podcasts and documentaries available about true crime, both solved and unsolved.  I also love that a few close friends enjoy them as much as I do. We are able to talk about what we have learned, ask each other questions and fill in the possible missing pieces when we aren’t quite sure what happened in the end.  

About 6 months ago, I discovered that my 13 year old daughter also loves true crime and unsolved mysteries. I knew she enjoyed spy stories and mysteries, but walked into her room one afternoon and she was listening to a crime podcast. Shocked, I may have panicked a bit.  I questioned her about what she was listening to, what she had listened to in the past, where she found new things to listen to and then asked if she herself had any questions.  

"Mom, I love these. Please don't make me stop listening to them." Lily went on to talk about what ones she liked the most and the recent interviews she had listened to.  I couldn't blame her for being drawn to this subject.  By nature, she is inquisitive and a problem solver.  She doesn't just want to know the story, she wants to know the why behind the story.  What happened, who was involved, what did the investigation look like and what was the motivation behind the crime. She began to retell stories to me as if she had just listened to them.  She recalled all of the important details including location and time frame and even volunteered what lingering questions remained unanswered for her. 

I have reminded her that if she is ever bothered by the subject matter, it is important to know when to take a step back.  She hasn't ever told me that she needed to do that.  She just keeps sharing amazing stories about what she is listening to and what she is learning.  She does now occasionally ask me the meaning of words and locations of certain towns in far away lands

While driving in the car today, she started asking questions about Fort Hood and if I had heard about the girl named Vanessa in the military that went missing in April that still hasn't been found. The tears quickly welled in my eyes and breathing became difficult.  She thought she was in trouble and couldn't figure out why I got so upset so quickly. Josh told her everything is okay, but that I needed a minute and I would explain. 

I lost a friend 25 years ago.She was kidnapped from Goodfellow Air Force Base and raped and murdered.  I have thought of her many times over the years and have prayed for her family.  My heart still hurts more than I thought.  The tears came so quickly at just the thought of her that I alarmed both my kids.  

While true crime and unsolved mysteries, documentaries and podcasts can be very interesting entertaining, they can also bring up memories and heartache when it hits too close to home.  

My friend had an amazing smile, an infectious laughter and made new friends everywhere she went. She dated another friend of mine and we enjoyed fun evenings with combined youth groups from other churches.  She was funny and talented, self deprecating and one that was noticed in every situation.  So many people had the luxury of being her friend, which made her absence even more apparent.

I remember shortly after she was killed, I developed a strange rash on the upper portion of my body.  All down my neck and chest and even down my arms to my elbows. I woke one morning to see it had spread to my chin and panicked. I was getting married in a few months and all of the damaged skin would be visible in my wedding dress.  I went to the doctor to plead my case and thought something was majorly wrong with me.  

The doctor firmly believed my rash was stress induced and instructed me to use an ointment if it began to itch and said it should clear itself up.  I had mentioned I was getting married in a few months and he thought that along with getting married and starting a new job, that I must be under a lot of stress. My wedding was completely planned, everything was coming along perfectly and I adored my new job at the bank.  I started thinking about what other stress I could possibly be experiencing that could physically manifest itself as such a severe widespread rash.

I traced the stress back to the death of my friend.  When she died, I started thinking about the safety of women in general. About men, the sheer size of men who seem to tower over women, sometimes take advantage of women and the fact that men seek women out and kill them.  I was filled with fear.  I worried about opening the bank in the morning with only one other woman. I worried about walking two blocks home from work. I worried about being followed when I was walking in Excelsior down by Lake Minnetonka. I worried that what happened to my friend could also easily happen to me.  

The worry and fear that I was experiencing was real.  But it was also causing my skin to break down and scar. I knew I needed to talk about this and sat down with my soon to be husband. Josh listened, he hugged me, he reassured me, and he begged me to talk to him more about what was bothering me. He insisted that I needed to stop being so guarded and to begin sharing all that I was thinking about. All that I  was fearful of and worrying about. 

Our conversations were frequent and sometimes long.  Once I started talking, everything seemed to just feel easier, lighter.  And all that fear and worry seemed to dissipate. It took time, but I felt better. 

The loss of someone can be very revealing.  The loss of someone special unveiled the fact that I didn't know how to deal with fear and worry and that my guarded self was what was making me sick.  I learned so many valuable lessons during the months leading up to our wedding. But the most important lesson I learned was about being honest and sharing rather than bottling everything up until it actually hurts.  

Now these 25 years later, I will have the opportunity to share with my daughter about what happened and what I learned.  Later today, when we are not driving for 9 hours to Joplin, MO, when we are resting in a hotel room after a nice swim, I will sit Lily down and I will talk with her. I will answer her questions and I tell her I love her.  I will tell her I am glad that I am able to share these important things with her. Because sometimes, the hard lessons are the most essential to learn.





Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tunnel Vision



Tunnel Vision
By: Kelli J Gavin 
for Writers Unite!

All Roads Lead to Rome. I remember hearing that statement when I was a child. I didn't have a clue what it meant then, but then learned more about the Roman Empire in High School and found out that the Roman Roads were built accordingly and that truly, all of the roads led to Rome. The French poet, Alain de Lille, had coined the phrase in the Middle Ages in 1175 and it has been used ever since.

My mother once said, "Well, you will always have a home. All roads lead home."

I understood that she was telling me that I was always welcome home, no matter if I had felt the need to travel down every other road before heading home.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that the expression was actually- All Roads Lead to Rome. I knew what she meant, and she was just communicating her love for me. I led my life for quite a few years doing anything I could to avoid being home. My mother was on guard and aware of this. Hence her desire to enable me to know that once I felt the need to settle down in my search for the unknown, I would always have a place to return.

I once developed what you would call tunnel vision.  My focus, my thoughts, my desires were all completely centered on one thing.  My waking thoughts soon were completely overtaken, and the what ifs seemed to swim at night when my head hit the pillow. My attention span was severely diminished and I  was on overdrive and completely overwhelmed with something I thought I wanted.  Something I was convinced I needed. 

It didn't matter that what I thought I wanted, really wasn't for me. Once, my brain was trained on it, I wanted what I wanted. I would do anything I needed to to claim it as mine. I kept justifying my words and actions, stating that I had a goal and that I was always told to persevere to obtain my goals.  Somewhere along the way, I had placed myself at the center of the universe and forgot that my words mattered and my actions were affecting others.

Multiple relationships began to suffer, I was exhausted because I wasn't sleeping and my home looked as if a tornado had entered and swept through frequently.  I am thankful for a dear friend that helped me stop in my tracks. 

"Your tunnel vision has disabled you from seeing the carnage.  Everything that has been left by the wayside, is because of you and your choices. I love you, but stop being so self- centered and start focusing on anything but you."

Knowing how much my friend loved me and had stood by me over the years, I knew those words were shared in love, in hope of invoking real change. And they did.  My tunnel vision had destroyed almost everything in my life.  They were right, my self-centered focus had left carnage and I needed to start immediately repairing what could be fixed. 

How do you fix everything that has been destroyed?  One small step at a time. One intentional, challenging, sometimes even heartbreaking conversation and then another.  Fixing the carnage requires saying I'm sorry. It always requires asking for forgiveness.  Carnage repairs made me understand that because of my behavior, I also needed to be okay with not being forgiven, and that some relationships would never be restored. 


The mistakes I made because of tunnel vision were what showed me that all roads really do lead home. My mom was right. Home isn't necessarily comfortable. Home isn't always where I wished I was able to dwell. But Home is Home for a reason.  Not the house, not the structure. But the people. The family and loved ones.  The memories and the excitement of what is yet to come. Every single road that leads Home, is the road I hope to find.

When I lose my way, when something distracts me, or even when the bumps and ruts along the way seem to be too much.  I am thankful for the fact that all roads lead home.  Fully aware of my tendency for tunnel vision to take over in all aspects of my life, I am now on guard like the Roman soldiers. Aware, cautious and ready to stand my ground until the road home seems possible.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

This Is What Autism Looks Like


This past Thursday, I woke up and soon threw my neck and upper back out. A great amount of pain followed. Ice, heat, repeat. I took some ibuprofen, located the CBD oil and prayed the pain would leave me soon. It did not. As the hours wore on, the pain increased. It not only increased, it became immobilizing.  I was discouraged and was so upset because I had four days set aside to do as much as I possibly could around my house. I have fallen behind on everything, as my focus has been work and my clients and distance learning for my kids.

I usually check on Zach frequently and I just wasn't up to the task. I couldn't imagine walking upstairs, checking on him, and walking back down, after I had I finally gotten comfortable and was propped up with pillows and an ice pack.  So I just didn't go to check. I called upstairs to him a few times, but didn't visually go to see him.

I should have known that something was wrong when he seemed to be spending a long time upstairs and then I realized he was in my room that whole time.  When I finally got up and went upstairs, I found this disaster.  The only way I can describe this is- This is what Autism looks like.

The night before Josh lost his work keys when he got home from work. He looked everywhere. He opened every drawer, overturned every ottoman, looked under every table and under every bed.  He looked in my purse, checked the cracks in his car, and even second guessed himself wondering if could have left the keys at work.

Zach witnessed all of this searching and constant overturning of items. Of sorting, or getting down on the floor and getting back up again. Zach asked what happened and Josh simply stated that he had lost his work keys and was trying to find them.

When I saw the state of my master closet floor, I knew exactly what I was looking at. Zach had continued the searching right where Josh had left off.  Zach had knocked almost every item of clothing off of the shelves in our closet and threw them on the floor. Everything that had once been folded in organized on the shelves was in a haphazard mess on the floor and in some places, piled up to my knees.

I panicked and hollered for Zach who had quickly left the room when I entered.  When he came back in, my frustration level was high.

"Zach, what did you do?! Why is everything on the floor? You are not allowed in my closet!"
In pain and totally defeated, tears poked at the corners of my eyes. How was I going to clean all of this up when I was in so much pain? The daunting task overwhelmed me and full on tears began to flow.

"I was trying to find dad's keys. I did not find them."  Zach calmly said. "Mom, are you crying? Oh, mom is sad."

This is what Autism looks like.  Floors filled with discarded clothing.  Parents crying and confused. Children unaware that they have done something they shouldn't have.  And then the understanding came.  Zach had created this mess, because he thought he was actually helping his dad look for his keys. He wasn't asked to help, but in his beautiful heart, he wanted to.  He wanted to help his dad that he loves. And clothes on the floor and a mess that I couldn't clean up was the byproduct.

I explained to him, that dad would find his keys, that he isn't allowed in my closet, and that he needs to remember never to touch clothes or stuff in the linen closet which has been a problem in the past. He said okay, and left the bedroom. And in Zach's eyes, that was it.

My heart softened a bit.  Zach thought he was helping. Zach wanted to find the keys. I wiped my last few tears.  I was able to get down on the floor in the closet. Sitting among all the clothes, too many clothes, I started to slowly fold one shirt, and then another. To create a pile for shorts, and then capri pants. If I kept my elbows low, I was able to feel little pain. I folded clothing and stacked them until the need to lay down overtook me.


Here on Saturday evening,  I still do not have a closet that is organized and put back together. I would say that I have maybe 50% of the work completed. I do little bits when I can.  And I am okay with that.  Reflecting on my upset and my tears, I realized that this just happened to coincide when I was in pain and out of commission. Zach wasn't trying to be destructive and cause a huge mess. The huge mess happened to be the outcome of Zach not understanding how to methodically search for something that was missing.  The huge mess happened to be the outcome of Zach trying to help.

Praying tomorrow is an easier day and that the pain begins to subside.  But also I hope that I can slow down a bit more when something unpredictable happens. When something doesn't go my way or a road block prevents me from carrying out what I had planned for the day.  Especially when it comes to something like this.  This is what Autism looks like.  And I learn from this sweet kid daily.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

My Work Here Is Done- What I Write About When I Am Missing My Mom On Mother's Day

My mom once asked me if I thought she had done a pretty good job being a mom to Angie and I. I was a bit shocked that she was even asking, because this wasn't how our mom usually spoke. She was confident without being full of herself, and always knew what she contributed was needed, wanted and desired.  But when she asked me this question, I knew what she needed. She needed the affirmation and confirmation that only a daughter could provide.

I have written many short stories about my mom. Today on Mother's Day, I was actually editing 5 of them that will be included in my next book. The stories speak of strength, kindness and encouragement. They attest to her ability to always help when she could and how she wasn't afraid to tell you what she really thought. They also speak of strained relationships and the restoration that came not a moment too soon. 

My entire life, my mom loved my sister and I.  She was fierce in her love, and didn't ever know when she needed to take a step back.  When we were teens and she struggled to parent us, Angie and I sometimes felt smothered. She was parenting, disciplining, guiding and not giving up on us.  What felt like smothering was actually love.  It was her loving kindness on display.  It just took Angie and I a few years, and a whole lot of growing up to realize it. 

So when my mom asked me if I thought she had done good job being a mom to Angie and I, I may have paused, but I knew the answer. Without a doubt, I knew.

I told her how much I admired her. How she was always so good at helping me with my school work even when she couldn't help me at all.  How she encouraged me to take chances and to believe that could accomplish my goals even when I didn't have a clue what she was talking about.  I told her of how I loved the way she loved people when they didn't show love in return and how she was so intentional in her friendships.  I told her that she was not only an excellent mom who showed me how to love others, but she also modeled what it looked like to chase after the Lord. She showed me that the chasing was most important.  

I remember she smiled at me and breathed in deeply.  "Well then, my work here is done."  

Her life was not a long one, only 67 years. I had the eternal pleasure of having her in my life for 37 of those years.  And I now know that if I can teach my children even half of things that she taught me and modeled for me, my work here will be done. 


Friday, May 1, 2020

Meet Me



Meet Me 
By: Kelli J Gavin 
For Writers Unite!


Fondly I remember
When you and I would meet
Both walking from our homes
To somewhere in between
The woods always provided shelter
From the hot summer sun
And from the wind that howled 
But I knew we would always have fun

Fondly I remember
When you and I would meet
Face to face each morning
That bench providing a seat
The hours quickly passed us by
As we spoke of everything 
And then of nothing at all
Once our lips would meet

Fondly I remember
When you and I would meet
You told me of your dreams
And I told you everything 
About joy and hurt and love gone dim
You only smiled and pulled me near
I still love that you were the one
Who could chase away my fear

Fondly I remember
When you and I would meet
Those days that I treasured
Still seem to be so sweet
You moved away yet here I am
Still waiting for you to take a seat
I will always miss you
And wish that we could meet





Monday, April 27, 2020

MOM'S LIFE Facebook Live Video- 4/27/20 - Organization Information and Resources

Notes and Resources for Mom’s LIFE Facebook
Live Video- 4/27/20
Kelli J Gavin - Home & Life Organization 

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11 Things to Ditch NOW.


*Baby stuff and baby clothes. If you are done having kids. Pass them on to someone who needs them. Don’t hold on them for years and years. Yes, a special outfit or two, but not 6 bins.


*Greeting Cards. Pull out a special few. Super special occasions, or from people who you miss.  I kept three for each kid from mom that have beautiful notes written in them in her beautiful script. 


*DVDs, CDs, VHS Tapes. Come on now.  We do have a bunch of dvds and vhs tapes at my house because my special needs son loves them. But they also are kept in one location.  When it comes to CDs, load them onto your cloud or iTunes or whatever you use and get rid of the stacks and free up the space. 


*Books. Ah. Books. My downfall.  When we can meet face to face again, consider a book swap. Donate to your local library or your neighborhood Little Free Library. Donate kids books to your local schools. Magazines are great for local nursing homes and care facilities and for the library magazine exchange bins. 


*Unused craft supplies. Now I know some of you accidentally just audibly gasped and were tempted to shut this live video off when I said that.  But be real with yourself. You know what you like and what you use.  You will not use it all. Donate donate donate. Sell what you can and part with what remains untouched. 


*Damaged dishes and ridiculous stained Tupperware and mismatched lids.  You don’t have to keep the dish just because it matches your set. Set it free.  And get rid of the excess, the junk- the unused and broken stuff from your cabinet. 


*Jewelry and Accessories.  Okay. I am 44. I lived through the 90s where huge necklaces and bulky earrings and shoulder pads were amazing.  Part with what is not longer in style and with what you no longer wear. Our tastes change. And that is okay. You don’t have to keep the excess just because you spent money on it at one point in time. 


*Forgotten candles. Do you have a shelf full or bin?  Throw them out.  Do it now.  Don’t tell me you plan on burning it down and using the glass canister it came in. Most old candles smell and once again, get real with yourself.  You don’t need 17 of them. 


*Empty journals and office supplies. WHAT? I swear I just heard more gasping and 6 people unfriended me. You have too much. It takes up too much space. You will never need 1894 rubber bands.  I am a writer and I will never use the 352 unused notebooks and journals. 128 boxes of Ticonderoga pencils.  Give them to your local school. Donate. Donate. Donate. 


*Travel toiletries.  You don’t need them and you only use the hand lotion. Donate them to the local shelter or food shelves as they also need hygiene and toiletry items. 


*Mugs.  Come on now. Go to your kitchen.  Count those mugs. Not just the glass ones, but the mugs you bring with you in the car. -You have too many. You know what ones are your favorite.  Keep those, now box up the rest. - Okay. Now box up a few more. 


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Examples of what you can do in 5, 10 or 30 minutes. 
What can you do in 5 minutes?
You can make an appointment.
You can buy a present online.
You can sort and throw away junk mail.
Answer two brief emails.
Respond to 4 text messages. 


What can you do in 10 minutes?
You can make two phone calls as long as you don’t get a Chatty Cathy on the line like me. 
You can dust your bedroom.
You can select 25 books you no longer need.
You can clear off your desktop.
You can review your calendar for the week.


What can you do in 30 minutes?
You can balance your paycheck.
You can pay bills. 
You can meal plan for two weeks.
You can clear out three drawers and get rid of what is old or not worn.


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When you are focusing on organizational projects in your home, it is very important to be aware of time bandits. The notorious habits that rob you of your time and take you away from the matter at hand. 


*Taking on more tasks than you can possibly handle.
*Never delegating.
*Losing sight of your current priorities. 
*Not having the tools or supplies on hand that you will need before you start a task.
*Being interrupted and sidetracked.
*Leaving unfinished tasks for a later unspecified date.
*Watching television or Netflix.
*Compulsively checking your phone or social media platforms.


These things steal your attention and sometimes disable you from being able to complete your important tasks of the day. 


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24 great fast tips about home organization from One Good Thing.


1. Make Your Bed-Straighten out the sheets, fluff those pillows, and smooth out your duvet. It takes about 30 seconds, and it makes a huge difference in how clean and organized your bedroom feels.

2. Pick Up Clothes-Go around the room (or around the house, if you’re feeling ambitious) and pick up all the clothes off the floor. Put them in your hamper if they’re dirty, or hang them up if they’re still pretty clean.

3. Put Laundry Away-Take a few minutes to put your clean, folded laundry in the drawers and closets where it belongs.

4. Put Shoes Away- Take the mountain of shoes in the entryway or laundry room and put them away. 

5. Corral The Remotes-Does anyone else seem to have a million remote controls floating around their living room? Spend a few minutes gathering them all together and placing them in a pretty box, bin, or tray. (And make sure to inform the family that all remotes will be stored there from now on, so they know where to put the remotes when they’re done with them.)

6. Start A Clutter Collection System-Take a few minutes to address problem areas or items in your home. Anywhere that mess seems to accumulate can be a good candidate. Then put something in place to help control the mess. For instance, if you have throw blankets that tend to get left out, put a basket somewhere in the living room. You can toss the blankets into the basket each night before you head off to bed.

7. Establish A Donation Area-Set aside an area or container in your house for items that you want to donate. It can be a shelf, a box, or a corner of a closet. It’ll help encourage everyone to help with your decluttering efforts, and it’ll keep the clutter hidden until you’re ready to make the trip to Goodwill.

8. Organize Your Cords-Have an unsightly mess of cords around your desk? Grab some Velcro, zip ties, rubber bands, or Command hooks and sort that mess out. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll feel so much better once it’s done.

9. Store a Collection-Do you have a stash of candles, water bottles, board games, or other items just sitting around somewhere? Find a place to keep them organized, like an over-the-door organizer, a dedicated shelf, or a storage container.

10. Declutter Your Desk-Take a few minutes and get rid of some of the clutter on or around your desk. Put pens and pencils in a pen cup, recycle unneeded paper, and straighten up stacks of books or papers.

11. Hang Up Hooks-Need more places to hang stuff like scarves, purses, or cords? Take some time to hang up a few adhesive hooks! They’re easy to install and will definitely help control the clutter around your house.

12. Clean Out Your Fridge-Take out anything in your fridge that is expired, past its prime, or smelling less than fresh. The main culprits are usually produce and leftovers, so check those first.

13. Toss Out Stale Food-Go through your pantry and toss out anything that’s stale or past its expiration date.

14. Clear Out A Junk Drawer-If you have a junk drawer in your house, take a few minutes to empty it out. Group like items together, and toss out anything you don’t need or recognize. Corral similar items together in small plastic containers or drawer organizers before putting them back in the drawer.

 

15. Clear Out Unused Mugs- We talked about mugs!- If you have a kitchen cupboard that’s full to bursting of mugs, travel mugs, or other drink cups, take a minute to clear some of them out. Start with anything you haven’t used in the last 6 months, then adjust your limit if necessary. Set them aside in a box to donate when you have the time.

16. Organize Food Containers-Organize your collection of food storage containers. Make sure there’s a lid for every container, and set aside borrowed containers to return to their owners. Before placing your containers back in the cupboard or drawer, stack them up by size to make them as space-efficient as possible.

17. Label Your Waste Bins-If you’re always getting your trash bins or recycling bins mixed up, take a few minutes to label them. You can use paper labels or a label maker, then post the labels where they’re plainly visible. Not only will the labels help you, but it will help guests and other family members too.

18. Clear Out Cosmetics-Go through all your cosmetics, toiletries, and other personal care items. Toss out anything you don’t use anymore, and anything that’s past its expiration date.

19. Organize Your Wallet/Purse-Dump out the contents of your wallet or purse. Toss out any garbage, old receipts, and empty chap stick tubes. Put away any random items that have found their way in too. Once you’ve cleared out all the junk, put the important stuff back in an organized fashion. I keep a zippered small bag that contains meds, band aids, ointments and lotions, my iPod mini, and my eye drops. That way I don’t have to dig and the contents of my purse remain semi organized. 

20. Rearrange Your Closet-Rearrange the clothes in your closet using a more organized system. I like to put like with like, so I hang all my skirts together, my sweaters together, etc. But if you like to hang by color or occasion, that’s perfectly fine. Use whatever system makes the most sense to you. Just take the time to make sure all your clothes are hung up and put away. 

21. Organize Your Jewelry-Use trays to keep your jewelry organized, or hang it from an organizer or hanger. Anything that gets it up off your counter or dresser. I have  a client who uses a window frame with chicken wire to hang all her jewelry from the wall. Another uses three overturned seashells to house all of her jewelry.

22. Reduce Paper Clutter-It seems like there are always piles of mail, bills, and other stray papers lying around the house. Piles like these can make any house feel cluttered. Sort through the stacks and keep anything crucial. The rest can be shredded and recycled. Check out the flylady.com for lots of excellent ideas about paper clutter. 

23. Clear Out Coupons-If you have a place that you store coupons and other offers, go through it. Toss out any expired ones, then put the remaining coupons in an organizer of some sort. Stick it in your glove compartment in your car for safe keeping. You’ll be more likely to remember to use the coupons in the future if you keep them there!

24. Recycle Junk Mail-Take all of your old newspapers, junk mail, flyers, etc. and put them in the recycling bin.

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I want to share with you four great books that I have found super helpful and my clients also really like them.  

The first one is Life Management for Busy Women- Living out God’s Plan with Passion and Purpose. It is by Elizabeth George who also wrote A Woman After God’s Own Heart. This great book addresses God’s guidelines for managing the seven major areas of your life, (spiritual, body, finances, friendships, relationships and more.) It also discusses practical disciplines for managing your life more efficiently and effectively. And there are quite a few ideas on how to improve your schedule and your life right away. 
The second book is called Clutter Control- Putting Your Home on a Diet by Jeff Campbell of The Clean Team.  This perfect book addresses all areas of your home and enables the reader to focus on everything that they aren’t enjoying because of the state of their home.  It helps break it down in manageable steps so that your home not only becomes more livable, but it also enables you to manage it, keep the clutter under control and helps you to start to enjoy life again. 


The third book I would like to mention is Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. She has written a lot of books and approaches organization for everyone. Whether you have struggled with organization your entire life and now you are ready to get serious about it. Or you used to be organized and you are trying to reclaim your home. Or even if you are basically organized but you are looking for new ways or systems to help you be more efficient. 


The 4th book is my favorite and it is called The Personal Organizing Workbook - Solutions for a Simpler, Easier Life by Meryl Starr.


And of course, the internet is full of amazing information. I love The Fly Lady as she is funny, down to earth, and provides practical organization help.  



Thank you on behalf of Home & Life Organization.


That's the House

  That’s the House For Writers Unite! By: Kelli J Gavin A couple summers ago on the 4th of July, I drove my kids to the house I grew up in...