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As Autumn Prepares to Leave

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 30, 2013
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Last night after almost 6 hours in the car and a full day at an educational conference, I sank into the couch with my laptop determined to delete the emails accumulated in my inbox. As I clicked to remove ads that I would normally consider and blogs I read on a regular basis, I scanned all the messages to make sure I didn’t eliminate any family, church, or school news.

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As my eyes traveled down the sender list, one subject caught my attention. “As Autumn Slips Through My Fingers” is the latest blog article written by Margaret Langridge, a writer and photographer I enjoy following. But as I read this particular title, sadness gripped my heart.

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Margaret’s article is about autumn slipping away to be replaced by winter’s gloves and slick sidewalks. She anticipates a special occasion, her anniversary, and reflects upon the time she lacks for her writing. It’s a thought-provoking, gratifying article.

Unfortunately, the phrase “Autumn slips through my fingers” means something totally different to me. My 17-year-old, senior in high school, beauty and brains daughter, Autumn, will be leaving me soon. She is entrenched in the college and scholarship application process and is excited for her future.

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I’m also thrilled for her, but I find myself counting the weeks I have left until she leaves. If we move her into her college dorm mid-August, the magic number now stands at 41. That’s not a very big number, especially when so much of her time is spent at her job. I love Chick-fil-a and working there has been good for Autumn. She has grown in confidence, and the level of responsibility required to take college courses her senior year and work 20 or more hours a week has forced her to improve her time management skills, which will certainly come in handy at college. In spite of the positive effects, I am starting to feel resentment build every week when she sends me her schedule and I count the evenings she won’t be home with the family.

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Frequently while completing chores around the house, I wonder what it will be like without her at home. What I’ve always referred to as “Daddy moments”, instantaneous tears when my dad crosses my mind, have started concerning her as well. Putting clothes in the washing machine can open the dam of tears in an “Autumn moment” that I can’t control. My liquid emotions flow, and I am left with red eyes and a runny nose as a result of doing laundry. Yes, it’s crazy.

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Autumn hopes to attend George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Have you ever heard the phrase “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”? I’m sure the whole time we were touring the campus, God was chuckling. We thought we were there to discover Autumn’s second choice because she had been determined for years to attend a different school. After the visit, we were both in shock. GMU seemed to be the perfect fit. To make sure, she scheduled appointments with a professor in her desired field of study from each of the schools. The interviews solidified her change of heart. GMU rose to the top of her list.

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Now we wait. The early application is complete, and Autumn should find out by mid-December if she is accepted into the GMU Honors College. I’m praying if that’s where God wants her, that’s where she’ll end up.

Oh, and I’m also praying God helps me control my tears.

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God’s New Angel

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 15, 2013
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On Sunday, God decided it was time for Bill Gardner to become his newest angel. Bill’s 96 years of life were spent in the service of others – the military, the church, his community, and especially his family. I am blessed to have been a part of his family since my dad made the wise decision to marry Suzy, Bill’s daughter.

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For fifty years, Bill Gardner sang in the church choir. I’m certain those years of practice have prepared him well to sing God’s praises in heaven. If God has committees, Bill is probably already serving on one (or two or three). His obituary inspires me to spend more time serving others, and I want to share it here to hopefully encourage others to do the same.

Rest in peace, Papa Bill. Enjoy some of the books in God’s library. Share ideas with military heroes of the past. Kiss your wife again. And most of all, give my daddy a hug from me.

Obituary:
William A. Gardner, 96, of 102 Holloway Court, widower of Katherine “Kitty” McNeill Gardner, died Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Hospice House.

Born in Hartsville, he was a son of the late Sidney Kelly and Loucelle Gwin Gardner. He was a graduate of Hartsville High School and received his B.S. degree in Agronomy from Clemson University in 1941. Bill served in the US Army during World War II, retiring in November 1947 with the rank of Major after being wounded in action 1944.

Bill was president of Supreme Propane Gas Co., Inc. (1947-1979) and president of Alexandria, Inc. (1969-1996). He served as president of the SC LP Gas Association (1955-56), Chairman of the Board (1971-79) and became a Life Member in 1979. He also served as the State Director of the National LP Gas Association in 1957.

Bill served the Ninety Six community in numerous ways, including being a member and past president of the Ninety Six Lions Club and was named their “Man of the Year” in 1961. He was also a member and past commander of the American Legion Post 103 and served as president of the Ninety Six Chamber of Commerce in 1959, was named their Man of the Year in 1979, received Commendation in 1980 and served as chairman of the Historic Heritage Commission 1980-81. He was a member of the Ninety Six Town Council from 1955-58 and served as Mayor of Ninety Six in 1959-60. He served as a commissioner with the Ninety Six Commission of Public Works from 1990-93, served on the Greenwood County Planning & Zoning Commission from 1974-80, served as chairman of the Self Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, chairman of the Greenwood County Council on Aging, chairman of the Greenwood County Easter Seals Society, served on the United Way of Greenwood County and on the Greenwood County Beautification Commission. He served on the Elmwood Cemetery Association Board from 1982-2003.

As a member of St. Paul United Methodist Church, he served on and chaired the Administrative Board, chaired the Building Committee, sang in the choir for 50 years, taught the Jeffcoat Men’s Sunday School Class, was church treasurer and a delegate to the SC Annual Conference. He also served the SC United Methodist Conference as Greenwood District Lay Leader, chaired the Greenwood District Council on Ministries, served on the SC Annual Conference Nominating Committee, the SC Annual Conference Council on Ministries and served as chair of the Greenwood District Superintendency.

Bill was awarded The Order of the Palmetto in September 1996 and his Bronze Star in August of 2007.

Surviving are his daughters, Katherine “Kit” Gardner Adkins and her husband, Thomas Terry Adkins, Jr., of Greenwood and Susan “Suzy” Gardner Farrar of Ninety Six; a grandson, Thomas “Tom” Terry Adkins, III of Spartanburg and a granddaughter, Willa Katherine “Willa Kate” Farrar of Ninety Six.

He was preceded in death by his wife and a son-in-law, James Gerald “Jerry” Farrar.

Pallbearers will be Bobby Wells, Richard Shealy, Paul Johnson, Paul Walker, Butch Attaway and David Henderson.

Honorary escort will be members of the Jeffcoat Men’s Sunday School Class.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Paul United Methodist Church, PO Box 66, Ninety Six, SC 29666.

I Haven’t Written Anything Lately

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on October 7, 2013
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I have not posted on my blog for one month. The words haven’t been flowing, or maybe I’m swallowing them along with all the emotions I’m attempting to hide. My emotions have been so raw lately, blood might ooze onto the page with every keystroke. An illness in the family, surgeries, hospitalization, and more surgery to come, and yet my life keeps moving on, day by day, while I don’t write.

My family is far away. The majority of my family members live in Missouri; I’m in Virginia. Being many states away makes it difficult when I know I could help if I lived closer. Helplessness, sadness, and guilt become braided together tightly enough to create a noose, strangling me and making me unproductive.

I have been alternating between bouts of intense prayer, times of fighting the liquid emotions that flow freely at inopportune times, and periods of numbness. Happy moments seem faded, but welcome, like an old pair of tennis shoes that had been drying in the sun.

News from Missouri has become more positive of late. Thank you, God. Hope continues to grow, and my numbness is starting to wane. So for today, a few words flow from my fingertips without too many emotions welling over.

No, I haven’t written anything lately. But prayer is powerful.

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.

Mother’s Day

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 9, 2013
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Here are some of the many amazing women I’ll be celebrating this weekend…

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My mom is, of course, who will be on my mind and in my heart the most this weekend. I’m looking forward to late June when I will be able to spend some long overdue time with her. Last year, I wrote about what an incredible woman she is (This Sunday, Mum’s the Word), and every word still holds true today.

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These lovely ladies with me (love the hair a few decades ago) are my grands. Grandma Louise, Fred’s mom; Nonnie, mom’s mom; and Grandmother, Daddy’s mom.

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Suzy (on the left) enjoyed a little more than a decade with my Daddy before he died. You can read more about this inspiring lady in my post Why Divorce Can be a Blessing. She’s pictured here with her sister, Kit, and her adopted daughter, Willa Kate.

Suzy and Kit’s mom, Kitty, who passed away last summer, was also a wonderful woman, a true Southern belle. I know  Mother’s Day will be hard for them this year, their first without their mom. I pray they spend Sunday dwelling on their good memories.

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My mother-in-law, Pauline Barrick, is such a blessing. She always takes time to help out when our schedules are chaotic (which is all the time!) by picking up kids, babysitting, running errands, feeding us, etc.

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All of Fred’s girls…Mom and all my sisters – Annie, me, Lucy, Liz, and Lauren.

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Mark’s sister Julie and sister-in-law Karen.

With my mom as the one of seven kids and my dad as one of four, I have been blessed with an abundance of love from many aunts as well who have been influential women in my life.

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My mom with all her sibs including the three sisters – Linda, Sandy, and Deb.

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Uncle Rick with Aunt Pam.

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Uncle David with Aunt Pam.

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Uncle Bobby with Judy, who will be greatly missed this Mother’s Day as she is always.

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Aunt Jackie, Daddy’s sister, loved and missed every day.

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Aunt Sandy, Kevin’s wife, and her beautiful kids.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the strong, inspirational women I know. Thanks for blessing my life the way you do.

A Week of Sadness

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 23, 2013
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This past week has been full of tragedy and sadness for our whole nation and for my community. Of course, everyone is aware of the devastating events in Boston. The explosions at the marathon shocked the world, and everyone mourns the lives lost and the future of a sport which will never be the same.

The Boston disaster hit close to home for the community where I teach. A teacher from the high school ran the marathon, and his wife teaches in the classroom next door to mine. I realize there were people all over the world trying to contact their loved ones, and it was the same for her. Although fear held her in its grip for a while, she soon was able to verify his safety. A collective sigh of relief echoed through the schools in our division as the news spread, and prayers of thanksgiving were sent heavenward.

After the Boston bombing and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, I couldn’t help think What else is going to happen? It always happens in threes, right?

I’m not sure if there was a “three” for the rest of the world, but for the county of Mathews where I live, tragedy struck again on Saturday morning when a high school senior was killed in a car accident. It has been almost a year since that class lost another student to suicide. (see Do They Know You Love Them?)

Obviously, this loss of life affected the students deeply. That evening, prom was scheduled, and the absence of their peer hit the students hard. It’s almost impossible to reconcile flowers, fancy up-dos, tuxedoes, and gowns with the death of a friend. How do you dance with that cloud of sadness hanging so low over the dance floor? How do you laugh and enjoy your date knowing your friend will never date again? How do you look forward to graduation knowing there will be a void in the procession where each of those peers should have been walking?

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Autumn cried Saturday morning when she heard the news, trying to wrap her mind around the “why” of it all. While I know she enjoyed the prom, her heart was burdened with the loss of her friend. Looking at the pictures, her smile, hair, and gown were gorgeous, as were all the pictures I’ve viewed of others going to the event, but I know many struggled with the guilt of “going on with life” when someone they cared for was not.

In response to the sadness that is blanketing our county this afternoon as Deanna’s funeral takes place, I again ask as I did last year, do they know you love them? Do your children know? Is there any question in their minds? Do family members know how much you love them? Do your friends realize how special they are to you? Tell them. Right away.

And in memory of Deanna, please always wear your seat belt.

The Evils of Fundraising?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on March 13, 2013
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My students at school began a fundraiser today. The money earned from the event will greatly benefit the students and our school. With tight budgets and cuts from government funding, we need all the help we can get to provide resources and other supplies.

At my church, many members frown upon fundraising. The church by-laws state that fundraising cannot take place for the daily operation of the church, but some people also disagree with using it for other purposes such as youth group retreats and mission camps.

When I try to view the situation from their perspective, I have trouble formulating valid reasons why fundraising is evil. Do they think it will deduct from the amount someone might tithe to the church? Is the money earned through fundraising somehow tainted? Or does it give Christians a bad reputation to solicit money? I’m not sure their reasons and I tend to shy away from confrontation, so I most likely won’t ask outright. (Yes, I’m a wimp.)

On the flip side, I can come up with reasons why the youth should fundraise for their activities. As a teacher and a youth leader, I see many teens floundering in their lives, searching for a purpose. Here are three ways I believe fundraising can help these teens:

1) Responsibility – In today’s society, many teens exist in a vacation-like gap between childhood and adulthood. For some, no one has ever told them they can make a difference in the world. They don’t feel responsible for a lot of what happens in their lives.

The teens in our youth group love, and I mean love, going to retreats and mission camps. These activities are beneficial to the teens and to so many other people as well, but they are expensive. For many, Mom or Dad writes the check and the teen merely has to show up and enjoy the trip. If teens play a larger part in earning money for these trips, it would be a lesson in responsibility and accountability, and I believe the trip would mean even more to them if they had to earn their way.

2) The Cost of Service – Teens in our youth group have many opportunities to serve others, but some do not yet understand the cost of serving. They might believe giving up time from friends or other activities is all it costs. However, gas is used getting to most places of service, and many teens fail to consider this. If we eat a meal out during a service project, usually Mom or Dad slips them some money to pay for it ahead of time. It would be beneficial for teens to realize the cost of service is more than just time. Raising money to help pay for some of the additional costs would help the teens realize their future life of service will come at a cost, but they will also know the blessings outweigh that cost.

3) Expanding the Kingdom – The more money our youth group earns the more lives we can touch. Going to retreat weekends helps recharge the teens. Mission camps allow them to see how people live in other parts of the country. They spend camp time serving others in a variety of ways. The cost of the camp, out-of-state transportation, meals, and travel supplies can be overwhelming for some families. The more money we raise, the more people we can take along to help serve others. The more people we serve, the more who learn about the love of Jesus.

I pray that church members support our efforts to raise money through both donations and fundraising. The money will touch the lives of our youth as well as all the people they serve. And I thank God for the opportunities available to serve. May He open our eyes to see them all.

How Do You Show Appreciation?

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 13, 2013
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Valentine’s Day is tomorrow (in case you missed the memo). I’ve never been one to get too hung up on gifts for Valentine’s Day. I think it’s wonderful to know I’m loved and appreciated, but it seems slightly forced when I receive a gift on the day when society, card stores, and flower shops say I should. Thankfully, Mark and I usually go out to eat and focus more on giving gifts to the kids.

Everyone likes to be appreciated. It’s nice to get praise from someone you respect or admire, and it’s awesome to hear “thank you” for something you’ve done. It’s the old “atta boy” pick-me-up we all treasure. Appreciation for our loved ones, for other people, for our jobs, or for our world can be shown in a variety of ways.

Appreciation is a small gesture of kindness.

Appreciation is a thank you for simply being you.

Appreciation is doing a task even when “it’s not my job.”

Appreciation is a note of encouragement when facing a tough challenge or everyday stress.

Appreciation is a gift for no reason at all.

Appreciation is a touch on the arm when no words will do.

Appreciation is seeing the sunrise and thinking, “Good job, God!”

Appreciation is taking advantage of an opportunity.

Appreciation is serving with a smile.

However…

Appreciation is NOT receiving a gift that has been requested or demanded.

Expectations Revisited

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 4, 2013
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Reblogged from June 2012 –
I needed the reminder this week. Maybe you do too!

Expectations are a part of everyone’s daily life. I expect my children to mind their manners and my students to follow the rules. My family expects me to buy groceries. My boss expects me to show up for work. Life’s roads have fewer potholes when everyone does what’s expected of them each day.

But sometimes expectations ruin a situation. They can be the enemy of happiness and wrench all enjoyment out of an experience.

We’ve been reviewing for end-of-year tests in my classroom. I have a box of candy, toys, and other incentives to reward the students when they do well on a practice test or win a review game. After receiving incentives for a while, the students began to expect them. They’d walk into class and say, “Do we get candy today?” Talk about deflating my balloon. I love giving the kids goodies to keep them focused and motivated, but when they ask for them? Very frustrating.

If something you like to do turns into a duty or expected responsibility, you might not like it as much. I love to bake and cook. I make cakes, cookies, breads, and especially decorated cupcakes. I also enjoy making appetizers and complete meals when I have time. One year my principal hired me to cater our end-of-year staff party. What a shock to find all my pleasure stripped away when great cooking became an expectation. My nerves and anxiety ruined the experience. I discovered a cherished hobby shouldn’t always become a job.

Have you ever planned to take a gift or a meal to someone who is sick or just moved into the neighborhood? I usually I take food because it gives me an excuse to bake, of course. But few things annoy me more than a well-intentioned but controlling person telling me what to do. One time I received an email from a fellow church member who had “scheduled” me to take a meal to someone in our congregation. Had I planned to take that person a meal? Yes. Did I plan to do it on the day I was “scheduled” to do so? It just so happened that yes, I had planned it for that day. Was I happy about being told to do it? No, not in the least.

I readily admit this is my own rebellion against someone else controlling my decisions (that topic requires a whole blog series by itself), but all the joy of preparing a meal as a gift vanishes if someone else tells me to do it. It’s like requiring a mean-spirited toddler to say, “I’m sorry.” When he does so, it lacks sincerity. If I’m forced into kindness, it loses its authenticity.

I think the main reason expectations are the enemy is because they cause us to feel resentment toward others. If you expect to have fun and laugh with someone, that anticipation adds joy to the relationship. But if one person in the relationship expects something such as a phone call at a certain time every day – and gets annoyed if it doesn’t happen – the expectation depletes the relationship. If I can learn to eliminate many of the expectations I place on people and avoid the irritation they cause, life would be more enjoyable.  If I try to live up to God’s will, not that of someone else, disappointment will diminish as I experience the blessings of life every day.

Do you expect too much from someone? Do you resent expectations other people place on you?

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.

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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!

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