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Hug Your Babies

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 7, 2013
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This morning, Mark left early for work, and Autumn is on a trip for school. When Colton stumbled sleepily from his room, I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher. I said good morning over my shoulder to him as he crossed the hallway to the bathroom. In just a moment, he flopped on the couch as I continued my work in the kitchen. We chatted a bit, but then he became engrossed in a television show about sharks.

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As the morning progressed, he poured himself a bowl of cereal. I switched laundry loads and folded the dry clothes. I showered and dressed, and he pulled on a pair of shorts and a shirt. We left the house and drove to pick up two of his friends for some bowling alley action.

While the boys gave up their shoes in exchange for the fancy bowling alley substitutes, I placed my hand on Colton’s head and realized it was the first time I had touched him all day. I fought the urge to wrap him in a hug because he wouldn’t have appreciated it in front of his friends.

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Three weeks ago, a car wreck left a young girl from the county where I teach in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Kirstin graduated high school in June, but I still remember her in eighth grade. She, as well as her siblings who have passed through my classroom, were always a pleasure to teach. Each is a polite, kind-hearted, and enthusiastic teen. Kirstin’s tragic car accident has pulled the community closer as everyone rallies together to help the family with visits, prayer vigils, gifts, and financial support.

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Last night at the high school football game, I was pleased to see some members of Kirstin’s family. I hugged her older sister and received an update on the next steps planned for Kirstin’s recovery. I’m certain they recite the same information dozens, maybe even a hundred, times a day. The plan is for Kirstin to move to a recovery center in Richmond to continue receiving the best medical care possible.

Today as my hand ruffled Colton’s hair and I controlled my motherly urge, Kirstin’s mom flooded my thoughts. I can’t even comprehend the depth of her desire to wrap her arms around her baby girl and feel the hug reciprocated. I pray the day she feels Kirstin’s arms around her neck comes soon.

Needless to say, as soon as the friends were deposited back at their homes, Colton received a tight embrace from dear ol’ mom. This morning I let chores and busyness cause me to ignore the chance to show my love. I pray I won’t allow that to happen again.

Hug your babies. Tight. Even if it embarrasses them, do it often.

And for those of you who would like to show your support for Kirstin, visit the Prayers for Kirstin Facebook page. Leave a message to let the family know they are all in your prayers.

It’s Worth Every Minute

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On June 19th, I turned west and put my foot on the gas pedal. Ten days later, I returned home having spent over 40 hours behind the wheel of the car, the last 14 of which were spent with the engine light glaring angrily in my eyes and my car sputtering in protest at certain moments.  And it was worth every minute.

Do you have family or friends you rarely see? Sure, in today’s world, we can be in touch with everyone on a daily basis. With email, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, blogs, and a million apps to help us stay connected, there’s no need to miss any news. But is it the same? Have you seen the emotions shining in their eyes? Have you wrapped them in your arms and hugged them tight? I have friends who only live an hour or less from me, but I still only see them a couple times a year. I have family scattered all across the country. The busyness of life fills our calendars and makes it difficult to spend time with our loved ones, but for ten days, I did. And it was worth every minute.

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As an 8th grade teacher, I know boys change a lot after they leave middle school. It had only been two years since I’d seen my nephews, but they have grown into handsome young men from the cute boys they were. My sister, Lauren, lives in Reno and we’re in Virginia, so it’s hard to align our schedules for visits. Colton was in awe of Ian and Tate, wanted to be with them every possible second, and tears poured when they left.

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Living so far from my family makes it difficult (impossible?) to go to family weddings most of the time. God must have taken pity on me for not attending one in decades because my cousin Gabriel married his long-time sweetheart Katie while we were in Missouri. My “little cousin” Gabriel is now a college graduate, an engineer, and a husband. His siblings have all grown up as well. The little kids I remember now have precious kids of their own. What a blessing for me to see each of them and meet the rest of my family.

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I rarely engage in nostalgia, but I couldn’t help searching for – and finding – the home my grandparents lived in when my mom was a child. This contrasted sharply to seeing with my own eyes the “progress” which obliterated my other grandparents’ home. I knew it was gone but seeing it firsthand stung like a slap.

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My mom and Fred always spoil us rotten when we visit. Every day is an adventure. We visited the City Museum, toured the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, went up in the Arch, went to the local pool (actually a waterpark!), and listened to a concert in Faust Park. But most of all, we spent time with family. I only get to see my parents once or twice a year, which is never enough. We also visited with many other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though everyone has a different version of the same story (business and busyness, kids’ activities, aches and pains, births and deaths, summer plans), it’s such a joy to share the details. Yes, I can get most of that information online or over the phone, but it doesn’t compare to face time without a device in between.

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I’m back home in Virginia now. My car will be admitted to the hospital tomorrow morning. Autumn goes back to work tonight, and Colton and I are going to run a few errands and relax a bit now that the piles of laundry have diminished. As I reflect on my trip, I am reminded of a few things:

1) Sometimes I’m stronger than I believe.

2) People change, but not that much.

3) 5–Hour Energy really works.

4) God has blessed me with an amazing family, and my greatest regret is living so far from them all.

5) Time spent for love is worth every minute.

Do you have loved ones you haven’t seen for a long time? Who do you need to go visit? I can promise you, however long it takes to get there and whatever obstacles you must overcome, it will be worth the effort!

Got Gratitude?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on January 29, 2013
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Our puppy, Rico, hasn’t been content lately when we’ve left him home alone. Like many children these days, he’s bored. To overcome his boredom, he has turned to vandalism. Some items he shreds and leaves for us to clean up. Others he actually eats.

shredded book

So far he has consumed or ripped up newspapers, magazines, books, a pair of prescription reading glasses, a plastic toy fan, the television remote, the handle of a hairbrush, two plants, and most recently a game of wooden blocks. He ignores the ten or more chew bones and doggie toys on the floor. They obviously aren’t as enticing as anything he can reach on the tables and countertops.

When we arrived home from church Sunday, the wooden blocks were splintered across the living room carpet. Rico managed to pop the top of the tin container and proceeded to gnash a few of the game pieces into oblivion. Mark declared that as the last straw.

Rico's new crib.

Rico’s new crib.

Off to Walmart we went to purchase another crate. Yes, we had a crate when Rico first became a part of the family, but he quickly outgrew it. By that time he was a well-behaved pup, so we didn’t replace it with a larger abode. All was well until Christmas vacation.

For two weeks, Rico enjoyed our presence almost every day. If we left the house, it was rarely for the whole day, only for a short time. We played, petted, scratched, walked, jumped, retrieved, and cuddled. Spoiled puppy, you ask? Definitely, but we all love him so much, and he is constantly bringing us a toy, leaning against one of us, or crawling in our laps.

A group hug.

A group hug.

Unfortunately, those two weeks taught Rico what it’s like to be smothered with love; therefore, when we returned to school, it also taught him what it’s like to be lonely and bored. I have spent the last few weeks trying to make him feel as loved while I am home in the mornings and evenings as when we were home all day. I even frequently leave the bathroom during blow drying to throw his ball down the hallway. He retrieves it while I blow dry for another minute, he returns, and I flip the switch off so I can do it all over again. Dry, toss, repeat. So far, it hasn’t helped. He’s still demolishing new things every time he’s left alone. It’s so frustrating, especially because he was so well-behaved before the holidays.

A friendly snowball fight.

A friendly snowball fight.

I can’t help thinking he’s acting a little unreasonably. Isn’t he grateful for all the attention he gets while we’re home? We all try to overwhelm him with love, but he just expects more.

I suppose I can’t get too high on my horse about this because I rarely give enough thanks for all I have. My blessings are so far beyond what I deserve. And I think that’s true for most people I’ve encountered. Very few I’ve met are genuinely grateful for everything in their lives. And just like Rico, the more we get, the more we think we need. We get bored and discontent with our present surroundings and expect others to fulfill our wants.

IMG_0138But it’s an amazing life. Sometimes it might take misfortune to make the good seem sweet, but life always seems willing to offer that as a reminder. And once you inhale life’s sweetness, there are so many ways to express gratitude – by what you do, say, create, feel. The list is endless. So don’t ignore all the toys scattered around you on the carpet. Don’t be bored when forced to create your own joy. Embrace all the blessings in life and be thankful!

It’s My Party

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on December 12, 2012
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I’m hosting a good ol’ fashioned pity party, and I’m the guest of honor.

On Saturday, Colton had play practice in the morning, his Cub Scout troop walked in the Christmas parade and collected canned goods for the local food bank in the afternoon, and Autumn attended the Holly Ball at school that evening. On Sunday, Colton played Linus in “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” at church.

cub scouts in parade

My calendar is brimming with activity. Not only are the weekends packed with holiday plays, parties, and other events, almost every evening there’s something planned. Yesterday, Mark called me at work and said, “Get out your calendar. We need to see when we can go shopping together.” We actually found one evening when both of us are free. And thankfully, it’s before Christmas Eve.

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The busyness has reached insane proportions, and I love all the activity. Right now I need it because I find myself celebrating my melancholy whenever I’m still. I haven’t read a book in over a week, I’m not writing like usual, I’m unenthused in my classroom, and I don’t want to clean (not that it’s ever a complete joy), cook, bake, or grade papers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not moping around all the time. Certain moments coax me from my sullen fog. When I focus on the reason for this blessed season, my heart swells. When I watch Colton play Linus in the Christmas play at church, my smile cuts my face in two while sentimental tears overflow. When Autumn dresses up for the Holly Ball dance at school, I couldn’t be more proud of what a beautiful, young lady she’s become.

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But in the quiet moments, my mind immediately thinks of Christmas day without my mom and Fred. This will be the first Christmas in quite a few years I haven’t been with them. I know they are also feeling sad. They can’t make it from St. Louis to Virginia, and we aren’t able to go there. It just won’t work this year.

Usually, I accept disappointment without wallowing in it, but I’m having a hard time right now. I think God knows that because frequently when I’m starting to drift into my sour mood, He’ll put someone in my path to make me smile.

A student who asks how my day is going. A puppy that crawls into my lap on the couch. A smile from a stranger. A post on Facebook that forces me to realize I’m too blessed to be depressed.

No, it won’t be a Christmas like the ones from recent years, but it will still be a celebration of one of the greatest days in history, that of Jesus’ birth.

So if you see me with a frown on my face or a faraway look in my eyes, don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve been doing enough of that for myself. Instead, ask me what my kids want for Christmas or how big the puppy has grown or what events are planned for the youth group at church. Those things will snap me out of my mood and help me to enjoy this glorious holiday season.

And thank you, God, for all the reminders.

Praying for Spouses

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 26, 2012
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I frequently pray about my kids’ spouses. Autumn is 16 and Colton is 8, so I hope this won’t be something that happens too soon, but it’s never too early to pray for their future.

Obviously, Autumn will probably be the first to marry. I know God has already chosen her spouse, so I pray she will open her heart to “the one” He sends her way.

Now, I don’t want to tell God His job, but here are a few of the traits and characteristics that are on my wish list for her future husband…

He will make her laugh out loud. Every day.

He will applaud her efforts, even if the results aren’t quite what were expected.

He will love experiences with her more than he will love acquiring things.

He will plan time together, not rely on her to do so every time.

He will never run errands without asking if she needs anything.

He will support and encourage her dreams and goals.

He will provide security and stability without using it as a tool of control.

He will never sit and drink coffee while she does tedious chores.

He will buy her what she wants, not what he thinks she needs.

He will understand her need for female friends and support their time together.

He will indulge her with her favorite activities.

He will listen, even if what she’s saying doesn’t directly affect his life.

He will ask her opinion and truly take it into account.

He will remember when she mentions something would be entertaining and make it happen.

He will consider how his actions and words affect her.

He will have a heart to serve others, not expect others to serve him.

He will treat her like a princess because he truly believes she is one.

He will love Jesus more than he loves her or himself.

Liquid Emotions are Genetic

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 12, 2012
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Do you have liquid emotions? I most certainly do. Overwhelming sadness? I cry. Mad and indignant? The tears flow. Frustrated beyond belief? The dam opens. Laughing hysterically? Yep, even then.

There’s absolutely nothing I can do to prevent the tears. They have caused me embarrassment, frustration, and even horror, but still they flow. I’m not sure why I’m made this way, but I do know I inherited this trait honestly from my mom. During my childhood, I can recall seeing her crying in response to television commercials. I thought she was a mess, but now I’m a mess too.

Years ago, I watched Steel Magnolias and was able to relate to the comment made my Dolly Parton’s character. Truvy said, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Well, I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but it is probably one of my most frequent.

Currently, I’m reading Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin with my students. This is the fourth year I’ve read it in class after reading it once for pleasure and once to make sure it was appropriate for my students. Altogether, I’ve probably read it at least a dozen times. It’s one of my all-time favorite novels, and I recommend it highly. One of the characters, Uncle Willee, cries freely. His emotions are definitely liquid, and for one abused little boy, Unc’s tears are the first time he’s ever seen a grown man cry. That boy has trouble accepting Unc’s tears as a positive thing when his own make him feel like a weakling.

Yesterday, Colton stayed with friends while I went ice skating with the high school students from the youth group. At one point, he misbehaved by being unkind to his friend, and he cried when reprimanded. To some people this seems absurd, but to those of us with liquid emotions, it is very familiar.

At the dinner table as he and I discussed what had happened and what his consequences would be, his eyes flooded again. When I asked why he was crying, his chin quivered. “Because I hurt my friend.”

Cynics would say he’s merely upset because of the consequences. I would also be skeptical except I’ve seen the same young boy tear up and try to hide his emotions many times. When watching a movie that touches his heart, usually because an animal gets badly hurt or is treated cruelly, he just can’t help himself.

I’m sure it’s difficult for him to reconcile his tears with his need to feel like a “man”. I want him to be brave and strong, but I also admire his kind-hearted response to life. I’m not sure how to foster one of those traits without compromising the other.

What I am certain of, whether good or bad, is he gets his liquid emotions from me.

Something’s Wrong With This Picture

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 2, 2012
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Do you ever take a step back and wonder about a situation in your life?

I have today off school because of a yearly festival in the county where I teach. Autumn and Colton have Monday and Tuesday off school for a teacher workday and Election Day.

Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with this picture.

I am not the poster child for how to become a teacher. After graduating from college ten years after I graduated from high school, I spent nine years in one career before deciding I wanted to teach.

At that time I was 38, pregnant with our second child, and figured if I could give birth at that age, I could change careers as well.

I had an English degree, but not one in education. Because I had been out of school for so many years, I decided to take the Praxis exam to see what it was like. I knew I’d fail but thought it would give me a good idea of what I was facing for my new goal. So at eight months pregnant, I waddled into the testing center and took the exam.

I passed. I could hardly believe it.

That led me to make another decision. Did I really need to have my education credits to begin teaching? I knew some teachers were hired on provisional licenses. I might as well try, right?

I only applied in the county where I live, Mathews, and the next county over, Middlesex. Middlesex hired me, and I’ve always been so grateful for their confidence in me. Over the next couple of years, I taught, took classes to get my permanent license, and have never regretted my decision to change careers.

As far as teaching in a different school division than where my kids attend school, I have always enjoyed being able to be a parent in one and a teacher in the other. It could cause conflicts to be both. I certainly know a lot of teachers who successfully wear both hats in the same school division, but I’ve liked having them split.

It’s only on occasions like today and next week when I question it. With Mark’s job and now with Autumn driving and working, the logistics of where Colton will go each day after school causes some extra stress and even some begging at times. But I have wonderful family and friends who are always willing to help. And I have administration at my school who understands sometimes family comes first.

Today, I wish my kids were home with me, but I have the chance to go to Colton’s fall party at his school, which I rarely get to do. I didn’t tell him I was going to show up, so I hope he’ll be surprised.

There are always blessings in any situation. I simply have to be willing to look.

How Many Times Do I Have to Say…

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 20, 2012
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As you may know, we have a new puppy in our house. Over the month or so we’ve had Rico, he’s grown into a much bigger puppy. His newfound ability to drag himself up onto the furniture delights him, and he can demolish a large rawhide in a day or so. Sweet natured with droopy questioning eyes, he has stolen our hearts. We adore him, but…

He has to be told “no”. A lot.

He doesn’t always come when we call.

He steals socks from the laundry pile.

He still has an occasional accident in the house.

He bites when he gets excited and wants to play.

I told my mom on the phone that I’m sure he’s like any other youngster. He’ll need to be reminded approximately 8,000 times before he understands the rules. I’m guessing we’ve made it to number 2,136. So very close…

How many moms and dads have said the phrase, “How many times do I have to tell you to (fill in the blank)?”  It seems to easily slide through my lips both at home with the kids and at school with my students. Why can’t they listen so I don’t have to keep repeating myself?

As usual, when I start wondering why others don’t act the way I want, God taps me on the shoulder and says, “Do you think you’re better than them?

No, I don’t. Kids and puppies aren’t the only ones who need to hear how to act over and over again. God frequently has to remind me to be patient, unselfish, and understanding. And even when I listen, it sure is easy to slide back in the opposite direction.

Thankfully, God is patient with me and gently reminds me again. And again.

Are You Focusing on the Rearview Mirror?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on July 27, 2012
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My stomach clenches and quickly reaches up to strangle my breathing. My eyes shift from the speedometer to the rearview mirror. How fast was I going? Did he clock me? Is he coming? Are those flashing lights I see?

The next few miles pass in slow motion, fear preventing me from going even one m.p.h. over the limit. I focus on what’s behind me, the mistake I made, instead of observing what I’m currently driving through or anticipating what lies ahead.

Have you ever felt this way? Trying to move forward but focusing on what’s behind?

Sometimes I wonder how much life I’ve missed because I’ve been examining the rearview mirror in my mind, obsessing over all that I’ve done wrong. When I do this, I diminish my productivity and squelch my dreams. I listen to that little voice telling me I’ve failed before. How could I possibly succeed in the future?

The devil loves it when I do this because it makes me an ineffective servant in God’s kingdom.

Mistakes are part of experience. Exploring them thoroughly and using what I learn from that exploration to change my behavior is a good thing. But being consumed by them hinders my usefulness and ability to live up to the purpose God gave me.

I have to adjust my view so I look through the windshield to see what opportunities are available. If I don’t, my gifts will be wasted and my life will lack value. When I look in the rearview mirror, my attention should only be on my kids sitting in the backseat, beautiful examples of my present and future blessings.

Do you obsess over mistakes from your past? How have you learned from and let go of those mistakes?


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