Friday, August 28, 2020

The Night Boseman Died


Chadwick Boseman, the amazing actor who played Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown and The Black Panther, died today at the age of 43 after a 4 year battle with colon cancer.  Chadwick was diagnosed a stage III in 2016 a continued to fight these last four years. He passed at home with his wife and loved ones surrounding him. 

Why does my heart break tonight for a man's family that I have never met? Why do I grieve the loss of a Hollywood actor? There are a few simple reasons. One, I know what it is like to lose someone at a young age from a vicious cancer.  Two, I know what it is like to be that family that is left behind grieving the loss of a loved one. And three, I was diagnosed at the age of 24 with a pre-cancerous colon condition and had surgery.  

Gastrointestinal and Colon Health, testing and early detection is something that I talk about frequently with friends and family, and often anyone who listen.  I was fortunate and had symptoms which scared me and those symptoms drove me to see a doctor.  Most colon cancer patients do not have symptoms and it is often discovered by a fluke or looking for or testing for something else.  Many colon cancer fighters are diagnosed already at stage III or even IV.

As I mentioned,  I am one of the lucky ones who had symptoms, had surgery within two weeks of detection and was able to stave off any progression of cells that were present. But knowing that it would produce medical issues the remainder of my life, I have sought out specialists that continue to perform necessary surgeries and reconstructions of my broken body. These same doctors order copious tests and well patient visits to ensure that if some tissues, or cells change, that it will be detected early. 

But tonight, I had to sign off social media. No one needed to hear about my advocacy and personal story. Quite a few people were feeling the need to comment on Boseman's death, and were rude, speaking ill of the dead, and changed a man's death into a political agenda.  Blasting Hollywood. Blasting BLM. Blasting anything and everything associated with the "democratic party" that would make it appear as if "their savior had passed." What? I was lost also with that one.  This man died. This man who had a promising future died. This man who loved his wife and family died. And he died from cancer. And for that he deserves a pause. 

Each of us has known someone with cancer, and many of us have lost someone because of cancer.  Cancer isn't political. Cancer doesn't normally attack people based on skin color. Cancer doesn't discriminate. But apparently tonight, some people are slightly skewed in their thinking and believe that this man's death doesn't count. Because he was famous? Because he was black? Because it wasn't Covid-19?

Whatever reason for his death, he mattered. His death matters because he was a person. Just like you and just like me. His death matters, because it brings additional awareness to testing, even frequent testing, and early detection. 

So tonight, sign off social media. Sign off the internet completely. Shut the news down. Rest.  And be kind. And once again, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. 








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. 

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