Real or Stuffed?

Last week, I took my niece and nephew, Devon and Nathan to McDonald’s. Devon brought along her stuffed dog Scooter, dressed in his basketball uniform. Scooter is a rather ragged stuffed dog, with a vast array of clothing who often accompanies us. As we went inside to order, Devon all of a sudden held Scooter by his leg and draped him behind her back, trying to hide him. I asked her what was wrong.

“Look!” she said, pointing to the door. “It has a picture of a dog with a circle and slash through it. That means no dogs allowed here.”

Puzzled, I looked at her and said, “But Scooter’s not a real dog.”

Devon looked at me as if I might be a little bit crazy. “I KNOW Scooter’s not a REAL dog,” she said exasperated. “What I don’t know is if that sign means REAL dogs or STUFFED dogs aren’t allowed here.”

“Ohhhh,” I said, being careful to answer very seriously. “They mean real dogs. Scooter’s ok.”

Relieved, she stepped up in line to order her chicken nuggets, with Scooter in full view of the cashier.

Real or stuffed. I often feel rather stuffed. Stuffed full of expectations. Of myself. Of others. Of life. I try not to have them. But I do. And they’re just not very realistic. My life's road has many curves I don't anticipate. People don’t behave according to the guidelines that exist only in my own mind of how they should act or react. Expectations are, after all, only speculations of what I guess might happen. What I hope might take place. But they aren't based on truth. Or reality. And if I insist on being stuffed with unrealistic expectations, then I allow my heart to become as misshapen as a lumpy pillow. Packed and padded and uneven. Filled with stuff. Hurt feelings. Irritation. Resentment.

My mother made these pillows out of 1940s fabric she found in a barn at an estate sale.

Like so many, when something good happens, I want my friends and family to celebrate with me. Even something small. Maybe nothing on the order of a wedding, birth of a child or completion of an advanced degree. But something I've set my heart on since I was a little girl with a dream. Something important to me. It generated some congratulations. Compliments. Kudos. But it was also ignored. And trivialized just a little bit. 

This bothered me. So I prayed about it. The answer was clear. As soon as I finished praying, I opened the book I was reading. There it was, staring at me in a subtitle on the very page I opened. Extend grace. I'm not so good at this. But I want to be. 

I also know that sometimes I've been the one who didn't react as joyfully as expected. I didn't extend the hearty congratulations, the words of praise. But I want to be more sensitive. More keyed in. To know what's important to others by going a little deeper. Paying more attention. Listening in closer when they give clues to the level of significance they place on their hobbies, work or accomplishments.

But maybe I can help reset my expectations, too. Lower them a little. Maybe I can be clearer when I communicate. Tell them this is a big deal to me. I’m sure they’d understand. And when (not if) the expectations aren’t met, I can extend grace. They’re busy. They forgot. It’s ok.

And since I probably will continue to have expectations, I can also be surprised when they are exceeded. When those I think might not be as interested in my accomplishment turn out to be my biggest cheerleaders, I am delighted. Grateful. Moved beyond words.

Because I want to be real. Not stuffed.
Dressed in his basketball uniform,
Scooter enjoys tea on my courtyard (photographed by Devon).


  1. Trust me. You ARE 100 percent real...

  2. I love the story about Scooter! How precious. Thanks for the great reminder.

    1. Hi Christy,
      Scooter is an endearing dog! I will let his owner know he has a fan! :)

  3. Another excellent article! You have great insight - keep the articles coming!!!

    1. Thank you Sharon, for your faithful readership. I always look forward to your encouragement of my articles!

  4. Love, Love Scooter's story!

    1. Scooter is a remarkable dog. His owner tells me he celebrates a birthday every month -- that makes him quite exceptional -- as far as dogs go! :)


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