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With holidays upon us, what are you wishing for?

We are about halfway between the two holidays celebrated in our house – Thanksgiving and Christmas – and I am somewhat torn about what to write about: what I am thankful for or what’s on my list to Santa. The same dilemma arises when it comes to how long before Christmas we decorate the house, but that decision is typically not left for me to decide. And as a point of clarity, at the time many of you are reading this article I will be outside on a ladder putting up lights, so I guess that dilemma was only in my eyes and not Beth’s.

But I have realized that I am the captain of this ship, the writer of this column, so I have the power of decision! I know what I will write about: both!

As I mentioned a couple months back, I am thankful for second chances. That I can continue to work with people and projects that have impacts in this community, and occasionally beyond. One of the best things we hear in Extension is that we “made a difference” in someone’s life.

I am thankful for a loving family that has been by my side through a pretty tumultuous year. The kids even listened when I reminded them that the microwave door can neither open nor shut on its own, that an empty cereal box does no good in the pantry or that all the jokes dad tells at the dinner table should be laughed at.

I am also thankful that I work for two organizations – Colorado State University and La Plata County – that value the importance of inclusivity for both adults and youth in our community. We don’t always get it right, but we want to – we want to offer equal access to our programs and our projects and not see anyone marginalized.

And what I am wishing for?

The kids to be healthy, physically and mentally. I gotta admit, it sure seems to be tougher to be a kid these days. Expectations, perceptions and pressures existed when I was teen, but it just feels magnified in today’s world. And yes, drugs and alcohol existed when I went to high school (shhh – don’t tell my kids), but it is at a whole different level now. Overdose death involving fentanyl (an extremely potent and addictive opioid drug) increased by 279% from 2016 to 2021, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a quarter of those involved counterfeit pills not prescribed by a doctor. A Schedule II narcotic available to kids, both knowingly and unknowingly, should terrify all of us. It should keep us up at night. And it should be a topic of discussion at the dinner table, or in a high school classroom, or in a Snapchat message chain.

And similarly when I wrote a “wish list” column back in 2010, I wish for us to be nicer to each other. The actions and rhetoric we (including our kids) see on the nightly news, or in the comments of social media post, serve no purpose other than division. Be kind.

The one thing I try to remind myself every day – and no, I don’t always get it right – is that we need to breathe love in and breathe love out. It’s the only way.

Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at darrin.parmenter@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6464.