Pawprints on my heart

By Jeanne Reynolds

It’s taken me more than a month to be able to write this. It’s just been too hard to talk about or even think much about. In late July, we lost our beloved cat, Walker.

When I say “lost,” that’s not entirely accurate, because we know exactly where he is: galloping across kitty heaven, hanging out on God’s screened porch, purring loud as a motor boat as an angel’s hand reaches out to pet him.Walker on porch

Like any loved one, he was only on loan to us. But it’s still been so hard to give him back.

I know anyone who’s lost a fur baby has felt this pain. The staff at the animal emergency room – who see it all the time – were especially caring and thoughtful. They sent us a card with sweet notes that bring back my tears even as I read them six weeks later:

“Cats may be small in size but their spirits are large.”

 “Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

 “They leave our homes but never our hearts.”

“Some angels have fur instead of wings.”

They also enclosed a printed page with a wonderful message. Maybe it will someday also help you, a friend or a family member with tender paw prints on their hearts.

Our Friend, Our Family

WalkerFolks are born so they can learn how to live a good life. This takes a long time. Pets already know how to do this, so they don’t have to stay as long.

These are some of the things our pets have taught us:

  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply and speak kindly.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Run, romp and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch your heart.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Walker on couchAlso on that card was written this note: “Our furry friends never leave us. They run ahead and wait.”

I’m looking forward to our next faux-wrestling match and hearing that motor boat purr again one day, Walker. I know you’ll be waiting.

Old Friends

By: Ashley Whisonant


I recently read a quote about friendship on Pinterest that spoke to me.
“In the end, you always go back to the people that were there in the beginning.”

Wow. It was right on target for the weekend reunion I had with a close childhood friend.

I have many people I would call a friend. Different friends have come in and out of my life, during the times I needed them most. God works mysteriously that like. He knows exactly who we need and when we need them. The special thing about old friends, they are know where you are and where you came from.

My oldest friend to date, Shelby, has been around since third grade. Ya’ll – that’s over 20 years of friendship. We have known each other from the very beginning. Bad boyfriends, laughs, cries, silliness, and stories fill our memories. Luckily, we have recently reconnected.

Spending a night visiting with her in Charleston has made my week such a bright spot. The laughing and dancing we did Saturday night was as though no time as passed. I would go back to our friendship over all the others. The ease and comfort is like none other.  The quote rings so true for me.

Good for the Soul

By: Ashley Whisonant

Friendship can take many forms. I find it so interesting how friends are almost categorized based on the time of your life. For example, I have childhood friends, college friends, work friends, school friends, and kid friends. Wherever the friendship originates from, it is important to make time for friendship.

Letting go and allowing yourself to relax with likeminded friends is so refreshing. Laughing until you have trouble breathing and encouraging each other through hard times, sometimes these moments get us through the darkest of times.

I have been lucky to have friends to lean on during specific times in my life – from new jobs, having babies, and getting married, different friends have been there to celebrate or commiserate with me. It is good for my soul.

Whoever your friend or friends are in this season of your life, give those thanks and appreciation. Friendship is truly a gift.

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!

Off the Hook

By: Lara Winburn

This past weekend I was the planner for a beautiful wedding. There was a stunning bride, a dapper groom, flowing wine, and so much happiness it made bright sun beam around the happy couple.  I started thinking about marriage and all of the many blessings  it has brought me. My husband is a patient, kind, helpful, and funny man. I am still moony-eyed over him.  In this married life, there are many “favors” I ask of him. “Can you do me a favor?” is a question asked by me so much it may have been the first full sentence our daughter said. (I think it is a nice way to ask when you have A LOT of requests, don’t you?) He will gladly tote my luggage, take out the trash, and Let Husbands Off the Hookdrive so I can nap on a road trip. I am so happy we share our lives, but reflecting on marriage also reminded me that maybe we don’t have to share everything.

Maybe sometimes I should be sharing with someone else. I have learned some things should be shared or requested of best friends, work-out buddies and handy men instead of husbands. Even in the happiest of marriages, I think sometimes husbands should be off the hook.

I recently bought a new dress. I am not a big shopper, so this is a feat and a blog for another day. Anyway, I love this new dress. It is nothing fancy but it fits and it has pockets. (Doesn’t everyone love a pocket?) I should mention it is a shift dress, no real shape.  I put it on and proudly asked, “How do you like my new dress?” His honest response was “Where is the belt?” BONG! As fashion consultant, husband is off the hook.  Ask a friend, ask a stylist, ask a stranger on the street but if you are wearing an item of clothing that you really love, just don’t ask him.

I have also decided that when it comes to diets, the newest gym, or exercise challenge it is better to let the husband off the hook. My husband is tall and thin and does not need any sort of diet plan. He does not need to know what I ate for every one of the small six meals I had today. He does not need to give any input on whether it looks like I have lost weight or inches. (If you have to ask, it may not be that noticeable.) I will leave my fat burning questions for a workout buddy, a trainer, or friend.

Opinions on hair, husband off the hook.  Last year, the hubs and I were watching a movie. It was a bit of a chic flick because it was my turn to choose. As we watched, I asked “Do you think I could do that to my hair?”

He looked at me and said “What hair?”

I said, “Katherine Heigl’s hair, don’t you think I could do that to my hair?”

With the blankest stare, he said “I have no idea who you are talking about.”

“The actress in the movie, the star of the movie, her hair right there on the screen – that braid sorta thing. Could I do that with my hair?”

More blank stares….and out of my mouth slipped, “Sometimes I wish I still lived with my best friend.” In my defense, my best friend and I did live together for 8 years before we got married so we had watched lots of movies together and she would have totally known that I could and should do that to my hair.

Hair stylist he is not – husband is off the hook. Same best friend, same hair dilemma…After I recently cut a good 6 inches from my hair, I took my second official selfie and sent it to my bestie and my husband. The response from bestie was “So cute!” while the response from hubs “wow.”

My response was, “Good wow, bad wow?”

Radio silence……me: “You better answer now.”

More radio silence… my husband responded with, “Good. Great. Awesome.” Reads with some real feeling , doesn’t it? Once the hair is laying on the salon floor, just let the husband off the hook and send the selfie to you best friend.

I could write an entire blog about my husband, my partner, and the love of my life. But I think he, too, would appreciate that I willingly admit there are some “favors” he should not be asked to do. In fact, he may be astonished to learn when he reads this, that sometimes I actually refrain from asking: “Hey, will you do me a favor?” My kindness as a wife is to let him off the hook…

Finding Friends Along the Way

By: Lara Winburn

Did you know the definition of extrovert is someone who is energized by being around people?  That is me – a selfish extrovert pulling all my energy from all of you kind folks. Just drawing every ounce of energy from someone else until they are totally depleted…I am sure it is totally exhausting to live with me. While I am busy, mooching energy off others, I have made many wonderful and wise and fun and crazy friends along the way.

Precious friends were discovered in a dorm or in a class and later in a job or at a playdate. But I know from experience you have to keep you heart open to finding friends along life’s way, I have found them in some fairly unlike places.

Example A: In 2004, I went to vote in the presidential election. I had not been in Columbia long and had few friends. I noticed the girl in front of me had an awesome belt. I complimented said belt. She thanked me and then went on a rant about the drug store promising her pictures would be ready in an hour and then an hour later they were not ready. The employee maintained that “one hour photo” was more of an estimate than a guarantee. (It might be important to point out in 2004, we were not taking photos with our phones and we were keeping them in albums, not online.) I appreciated her passion for timeliness and quick wit.  We continued to talk as we waited in line, we went in to the booth where we had already determined we would cancel each other’s votes out, and then she invited my roommate and me to lunch. We have been friends ever since.  There she was right there in front of me, literally, just doing her civic duty in a smashing belt. We have very different opinions about politics and college football, but she is one of the most fun, kind and loyal friends I know. And what I would have missed had I not kept my eyes open (even if I was eyeing her belt)?

The girls

Example B: When I was pregnant with baby #1, I was told on several occasions that “Katie and Matt” were due around the same time I was. I knew some Katies and even a few Matts but I did not know these infamous people that EVERYONE kept mentioning. Fast forward 9 very long months, I go to the hospital to be induced. (Baby eviction notice!) I experience the miracle of childbirth and our baby girl is here. The next day there is a knock on my hospital door. (No, it was not one of the many people checking your blood pressure, your pain level or you temperature.)  It was the infamous Matt and Katie. Their daughter was born hours before ours-same day, same doctor. I do not remember much of this first meeting due to the blur of a new baby, epidural, and dim lighting. But when these girls were a month old I emailed Katie to see how things in her newborn world were going. We decided to celebrate the girls’ one-month birthday/our new parent survival together.  (That’s them having a rager above.) We have celebrated every month for the past 41 months. They are the Godparents to my second born and have been our dearest friends as we embark on this parenthood thing. See, new friends right down the hall in a hospital.

So let’s all try to keep our hearts and minds open, and maybe even some time in our calendars open as well, to connect with friends, old and new. This post is for all of the friends I have picked up along the way and I thank them for all of the energy I have stolen.