воскресенье, 30 января 2011 г.

If Only I Had Time

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive

BY: Jennifer Flaten
I've got dreams in hidden places and extra smiles for when I'm blue.
~Author Unknown

Sometimes, what at first seems like a negative event actually turns into an opportunity to try something you've always wanted to do. I had the perfect job. Well, the perfect job for me; it was part-time and flexible. My boss let me fit work around my kids' school schedule. It was great. I got out of the house, interacted with adults and as an added bonus, I made enough money to help with bills and give my family a little "fun" money.

Everything was great and then the economic downturn hit. Like every other company, my company started to feel the pinch. They specialized in large corporate meetings; once the economy went south, the first thing clients did was eliminate their large corporate meetings.

At first, the company insisted we would weather the downturn just fine. A few months later, a couple of employees were let go, but the company assured us remaining employees that they did not intend to let anyone else go.

No one believed them. I was especially worried, and it was only a matter of time before management decided that they no longer needed a part-time "office gal" in their satellite office. Each day, I went to work ready to hear the words "You're fired."

After a month of uncertainty, the day finally came. I walked into work to find my boss and the district boss huddled together. The minute they invited me into the conference room I knew this was it.

While they both were very nice and it wasn't a total surprise, I was shocked by my sense of loss. I'd worked in some type of job since I was sixteen years old. I went back to work after each child. It was part of my identity -- what would I do now?

I cried on the way home, and I spent a few days moping. Then about a week later, I began to see the positives in the situation. Sure, I enjoyed working and goodness knows we could use the extra money, but this was an opportunity for me to relax a little bit.

Like most women, I spent the better part of my life juggling work and home. Now, I could finally enjoy myself a little bit. Who doesn't have a list of things to do "if I only had time"? I certainly did.

I could spend more time with my recently retired mom -- we could do some cool day trips or just enjoy a long, laugh-filled lunch, something we hadn't done in a long time.

Speaking of the kids, this was a great opportunity to volunteer for more field trips and classroom activities. My kids were young enough to want me involved in school so why not take advantage of my suddenly clear schedule? I didn't have to juggle work and field trips. I could say "yes" on a moment's notice, which I was never able to do before.

Plus, there was something else, a little niggling question -- what would happen if I actually dedicated myself to writing full-time?

For the past couple of months, I was doing a bit of writing on the side, squeezing it in between everything else. I wondered if given the opportunity, I could make writing into a full-time career?

I admit I was nervous. Who was I to think I could be a full-time writer? Sure, I published a few pieces in the local paper, but would this translate into a real job?

I continued to toy with the idea, filled with self-doubt, but then I remembered a piece of advice I read on a writers' forum.

"You have to fake it, until you make it."

On the surface, it is pretty strange advice. It sounds hokey, perhaps even a wee bit suspicious until you really think about it -- you have to believe in yourself and present yourself as confident, capable and successful until you really are all of those things.

I wasn't going to become a full-time freelance writer by sitting there thinking about it. I had to go do it.

In order to succeed, I had to try and I had to fail. The trying is a piece of cake; it is the failing that is the hardest part. I had to view every rejection as an opportunity to improve myself. I won't lie to you -- maintaining that attitude is easier said than done.

Receiving a rejection is hard. Writing is a very personal endeavor; you are presenting a piece of yourself to the reader. To a writer, hearing the words "Your piece isn't right for us" is akin to hearing, "We don't like you."

I try to maintain the attitude that a rejection means I tried. You only get what you put into it. I am officially a full-time writer; my work is published -- not as often as I would like, but I have built up a client base and I do make money from my writing.

Some days I want to give up, but I don't. I keep trying. I am also a lot happier and I still find plenty of time to do the items on my "if I only had time" list.


суббота, 29 января 2011 г.

Grieving and Recovery

By Lisa Tehan

And if we ever leave a legacy it's that we loved each other well.
~Indigo Girls

I was one of those happy people. David and I started dating during the second semester of our freshman year of college. Our love was that flawless kind of young love where life never gets in the way. We had years ahead of us to hold hands between classes, kiss under the bell tower at our university, and lie around in bed for hours talking about our future. After three weeks I knew I would marry him.

We went through college having a relationship that I could barely believe could be true. We never fought; David was too calm and gentle. I would have done anything for him and he would have done anything for me, but neither of us ever took advantage of that. He was my best friend, my rock, and the source of endless hours of laughter and happiness.

After three years together, David started to feel sick at the beginning of the semester. He would be out of breath after running a short distance, and he was always tired. After going to the health center, they told him he had bronchitis and sent him home. After all, what 21-year-old college guy isn't tired and out of shape? I remember lying in bed with him and noticing faint bruises on his arms. His heartbeat seemed too fast, so during that week I slept with my hand over his heart just to make sure he was okay. He said he was fine, but I had a pit in my stomach and knew that something was wrong. Really wrong. The next day he called me at work and said, "Honey, it's me, I don't want you to worry but I went back to the health center and they are sending me over to the hospital to get some tests done. Everything is going to be fine." I really thought it would be. After all, we loved each other way too much for it to end up any other way. The next day David was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In true David fashion, always caring about me more than anything, he turned to me and said, "Sorry I got leukemia...."

He had eight rounds of chemo and a stem cell transplant. We spent our last semester of college in the hospital watching movies and cuddling in his hospital bed. The nurses used to come in and tell us to please stop laughing so loudly because we were disturbing the other patients. Life was bad, but our love was good. When he came home from his transplant he was in remission and we were so happy. We moved in together and started talking about getting married after I finished graduate school. Life was on its way to being as normal as it can be for two people in their early twenties who have just looked death in the face. After seven months of clean scans and good blood tests, his doctor noticed that his thymus (a gland in the chest that I'd never heard of) was enlarged and that they needed to take it out. He said this was from the chemo. I'm not sure why, but when David told me about this seemingly harmless news, I sobbed. As happy as we were during those in-between months, I think deep down I was terrified and waiting for the other shoe to drop. David went in for his surgery, and after seeing the mass in his chest, his doctor told us that his leukemia was back.Five more months of chemo and another bone marrow transplant, this time from an unrelated donor. David made it through the transplant and came home to our apartment. We both lay on our bed and cried with joy that he had survived and our lives could begin (again). Nine days later, on Halloween, he was admitted to the hospital again because a virus in his bladder was making him really sick and he needed some IV nutrition to regain strength. After three days in the hospital he seemed to be getting worse. Three days later, on my twenty-fourth birthday, he woke himself up long enough to write me an e-mail about how much he loved me and how I was a strong woman who could do anything. I sat on the edge of his bed that day and held his hand as he struggled to open his eyes long enough to tell me happy birthday. On November 7th in the middle of the night, I held my David's hand as he took his last breath.

The days and months that followed are still blurry to me. The first time I went back to our apartment after he died I lay on his side of the bed and sobbed as I looked at his tennis shoes on the floor, one lying on its side where he had last taken them off. Five hundred people came to the life celebration that we had instead of a funeral. I looked around in amazement at all the lives he touched. I would lie in bed and wonder if it was possible to actually die of grief. I wouldn't have cared if I did.

It has been a year and a half since David passed away. I still have days where all I can do is cry about David and the life we could have had but I have been able to find joy in life again. I got a new job that I love, moved into my own apartment (did you know when you live alone you have to kill bugs yourself?!), and even started dating again. Recently for the first time, I looked up at the sky while I was driving to work and actually noticed how gorgeous the sunrise was. I know David would want me to have a beautiful and happy life so I am trying my best to live in a way that honors the kind of person he was. I wanted my love for him to be enough to save him, but really, his love for me is what saves me every day.


My Husband Is on a Diet

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

BY: Saralee Perel

I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
~Rita Rudner

"I hate myself," my husband, Bob, said, trying on a new pair of shorts. "I ate those curly fries last night." He turned this way and that in front of the mirror. "Do these make me look hippy?"

"No Bob. Nothing makes you look hippy. You're thin, okay? You've been thin all your rotten life. Do you understand what I am saying?"

He didn't get my tone. The tone that means I intensely resent his ability to lose weight by switching from thick-sliced bacon to the regular kind.

"Besides," I said. "What's wrong with eating curly fries once in a while?"

"Helloooo?" He looked at me incredulously. "Potatoes? Water retention?" He threw his hands up in the air. "Don't get me started."

Then he got on the scale. "Oy, I'm still plateauing."

He scanned his body in the mirror. "I have my mother's thighs." Then he pinched his tiny waist. "If you can pinch an inch, it's time to cinch." He tightened his belt one notch. "This way I'll stay motivated."

Living with a dieter is a pain.

Living with a successful dieter is hell.

Now you know I want my husband to be healthy. I just wouldn't mind if it entailed, at the very least, a teeny minor struggle to do it.

He just had a physical. I was happy he was getting his cholesterol tested because he eats so much crap I figured he needed a wake-up call. His cholesterol number came back a terrific 156. You can blame it on genetics. You can blame it on whether or not you were breast-fed. You can blame it on solar storms or some 666 devil thing. I don't care what you blame it on. I blame it on Bob.

Last night, he screamed from the bathtub. "I've got it!"

I called out from the den. "Geez, Bob. I'd hate to think what you mean by that."

"It's my metabolism." He was reading a women's magazine and eating his after-dinner jelly sandwich. "With all this starvation and yo-yo dieting, it's come to a halt."

I could hear him getting out of the tub and slamming the magazine on the floor. He shouted, "If you're not reed-thin like these models, then you're made to feel like a glutton."

"You are a glutton."

Do I sound resentful? You bet I am. His favorite dining companion? Oscar Mayer. My husband thinks peanut butter is a seasoning.

A major part of this problem is that Bob, like many males, wouldn't gain weight on an IV of Wesson Oil. I just love being married to someone who programmed Papa Gino's before 911 on our speed dial.

If you're feeling sorry for Bob, I don't blame you. But try to picture what it's like living with someone who thinks burritos are a food group.

Attempting to be sympathetic with me, which is never a smart idea, he said, "I know it's not fair that I can eat whatever I want."

"Fair? Sure it is." I was starting a slow burn. "You struggle too. You want extra-cheese pizza all the time, but you deny yourself by only having it on days of the week that end with the letters d-a-y."

As of today, I will try to be nice about it. Maybe you could try too. If you see him, please say something encouraging like, "The extra weight makes you look younger." That ought to make his day, or mine!


пятница, 28 января 2011 г.

To Meet A Prince

Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution

BY: Theresa Sanders
But there's nothing half so sweet in life as love's young dream.
~Thomas Moore

If the need to tell our stories is what connects us, imagination is what renders those stories unique. Imagination fuels resolutions and shapes dreams. So it was for me at twelve years old when I first heard a newscast about Charles, Prince of Wales.

I was staying the week with my grandparents, as I did several times every summer. I quite simply adored my grandparents, and for months looked forward to our weeks together. I always loved suppertime best, not only because Gram let me plan the meal from her repertoire of delicious home cooking, but also because Granddad came home, smelling faintly of whatever mechanical things he did at the pump supply store where he worked. Every night while we ate, the three of us watched the evening news on the tiny black-and-white television in the corner of their kitchen, and that's where I learned of Charles. My imagination went into overdrive as I thought about how magical his life must be. I resolved then and there to someday meet a prince.

After supper, I could always be found on the swing in my grandparents' yard while Granddad went about his outside chores. The swing was my prime place for daydreaming, and on that night, my imagination didn't let me down. "Just how would this prince-meeting come about?" I asked myself. The story went something like this: first, I would fashion a new wardrobe -- shimmery white ballgowns and satin slippers, dresses in every rainbow shade. Second, I would leave my Midwestern hometown. Princes didn't live in such unimportant places. I would cross the country, cross the Atlantic....

"Hey, there," Granddad said as he joined me on the swing, which had to slow down to accommodate his long legs. He took out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his brow. He had been weeding the garden, and the sultry night air hugged us like one of Gram's prized quilts. "What'cha thinking?" he asked me.

I didn't dare tell him about my exciting unfolding story. No, instead, we talked of... fireflies. A silly conversation, considering what princes must discuss, but I had to humor my granddad. Before long, as we sat watching the little bugs blink on and off in front of our eyes, our firefly talk prompted stories of his childhood, which invariably led to stories of his trips to Germany or stories of when he used to work at the railroad company.

That night, I lay in the heat of my grandparents' upstairs bedroom, listening to the drone of the window fan mixed with the song of balladeer crickets. The house smelled like summer and spent sunshine, and the scent from supper of Gram's vinegary lettuce.

Finally... I could get back to my story.

So where was I? Oh, yes, crossing the Atlantic. Maybe the prince would actually be the one to do that. He was a helicopter pilot, you know, and it might just be that he'd like to see the world from this side of the ocean. Okay, but that still didn't explain how I met him, I thought, yawning as my eyelids closed. Gosh, that lettuce had sure tasted good...

The next night, I couldn't wait to scurry out to the swing. My imagination was still spinning, my tale taking on a life of its own, though admittedly tripped up a bit over that little how-I-met-the-prince part. Well, I'd come back to that, I decided, choosing instead to work out the part where I'm introduced to all of England. Of course it would be on the evening news. Mr. Cronkite would surely be impressed. As an admired architect, I was in the process of rebuilding Windsor Castle, where the prince and I... no, no... scratch that. I've just come back from Africa, um, Antarctica... where, while on a polar bear expedition... sigh. As a world-famous doctor, I'm in England to perform surgery....

The sound of thunder startled me from my fantasy. I gazed up to darkening storm clouds, waved to Granddad as he made his umpteenth pass across the lawn with his lawnmower. He was preoccupied that night, his goals centered on getting the grass cut before the rain moved in, the strawberries picked before the mosquitoes got hungry. When he finished the yard, I ran to help him in the strawberry patch, swatting mosquitoes as raindrops began to fall. "Your gram's gonna be mad that you're good and soaking wet," he said, a feisty twinkle in his eye.

I laughed, delighting in the rain, all thoughts of the prince forgotten.

Gram studied us with mock sternness when we entered the kitchen. "Look at you both," she scolded. "You're good and soaking wet."

Granddad just winked at me.

That week rolled on, fading into the next summer and the next, until one summer's night I'm sharing dinner with my husband as we watch the evening news. We've built a good life for ourselves; we've been married more than thirty years, having fallen in love when we worked together at a movie theater. My husband is a wonderful man, though he sometimes gets preoccupied with things like cutting the grass before the rain moves in or weeding the flower garden before the mosquitoes bite. He has a passion for baseball and leaves his socks in strange places. He also has a passion for our children, for our family and friends, for me.

Suddenly, my attention is drawn to the TV and a story about Prince Charles on a trip to Scotland with his sons. I smile, feeling a touch of embarrassment. Funny, that old resolution: It burns in my memory like those long-ago fireflies that brightened my nights and then flew away. Funny how ballgowns gave way to ballgames, satin slippers to jeans and tennis shoes. Oh, and that little how-I-met-the-prince part? I met him at a movie theater and we fell in love....


четверг, 27 января 2011 г.

A Miracle in Greece

Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Miracles

BY: Mary Treacy O'Keefe
"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name."
~Psalm 91:13-15

My friend Steve lived on the East Coast but traveled regularly to Minnesota for business. During one trip, he was dining at his favorite Greek restaurant there when he noticed a waitress staring curiously at him. He engaged her in conversation and learned she was from a small town in northern Greece.

"That's exactly where my twin brother Tom is!" he exclaimed. "He's a Fulbright scholar studying Greek Orthodox icons there."

"I know. I recognized you as Tom's brother as soon as you walked in." She had just returned from an extended visit to her hometown in Greece, where she had met Tom at a local bookstore.

Steve believed things happen for a reason and a few weeks later he learned the reason for his coincidental meeting with the Greek waitress. He was back home on the East Coast when he received word that Tom was severely injured in Greece.

Tom had been walking down a rugged, seldom-used path, near a Byzantine monastery on Mt. Athos. It was the day of the feast of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary in the Greek Orthodox religion. Suddenly, the path, formed by a long-gone waterfall, crumbled and he plunged about a hundred and fifty feet, halfway down a cliff face of the mountain. Tom was knocked unconscious and when he came to he saw blood everywhere. Bones stuck out of his left arm. One of his legs was caught in a thorny bush and the other leg hung over the edge of the cliff.

Groggily he tried to determine what was preventing him from falling further. He became aware that he was being cradled on the crimson-colored shoulder of a woman, her arm wrapped around his midsection. He recognized the colors from his study of icons; the Virgin Mary was portrayed wearing crimson. Tom closed his eyes. When he reopened them he was surrounded by a brilliant white light that vanished after a moment.

Severely injured and in mortal danger, he was unable to move. He could see the tops of trees below him and began considering his options. After some time he began to despair. He was tempted to throw himself off the edge of the cliff and put an end to his suffering. No one would ever find him in that remote place.

A booming voice inside his gut responded adamantly to that temptation. "Oh no you don't! Who do you think you are that you can decide your own fate?"

Inspired, an incredible, uncontrollable survival instinct kicked in and he found the strength to crawl back onto the ledge, away from the cliff.

Tom survived the next three days on toothpaste, moss, and a handful of chickpeas and raisins. For water he pressed the damp soil between his fingers, and then licked his hands to quench his severe thirst. The raisins expanded from the morning dew and provided a tiny amount of additional liquid. He conserved his energy by yelling only when he heard a boat arriving at or departing from the coastline far below. During the darkness of night, his mind filled with the faces of everyone he had ever loved. He visualized those people handing him food and drink; he imagined himself thanking them for helping him survive.

Finally, on the third day, Tom's cries for help were heard. In dramatic and dangerous fashion, Greek villagers, monks, and an experienced rescue team arrived and carried him to safety.

The tending physicians diagnosed a broken collarbone and cervical vertebrae, a partially dislocated shoulder, bruised ribs and a severely injured left arm. They said it was a miracle that, despite his arm being shattered in thirty-two places, there was no infection, nerve damage or cut arteries.

When Steve heard of his brother's accident and the severity of his injuries, he was concerned about the limited medical care Tom might receive in that remote part of Greece. He recalled the Greek waitress he had recently met and she referred him to a wonderful local Greek doctor who helped nurse his brother back to health.

Though his recuperation was difficult, Tom knew it was a miracle that Mother Mary had been his first rescuer that day.

But that was not to be the last miracle.

During his recovery, Tom came across a series of twenty-two paintings he had drawn months before the accident. He had titled them "Out of Darkness." The paintings showed in progression a silhouetted person falling off the edge of something, then sprawling on a platform. The person went from a dark to light form as the scenes unfolded. When Tom had painted them, his intention was to portray life as a pre-game warm up, an interim step toward the end result, which is death and then eternal life. In reviewing these paintings after the accident, he was stunned by the striking similarity to his accident. Perhaps God had been trying to get his attention and he had not been listening. At the time of the drawings, Tom was in a spiritual abyss, depressed and feeling alienated from God.

During his recuperation, he experienced an explosion of personal and spiritual growth. Filled with faith, hope and charity, he aligned himself with those who suffer around the world. He knows he is never alone. God is always with him.

Tom does not view his accident as something "bad." He now believes everything happens for a reason. As he says, "We just need to be ready to listen and act on the messages we receive."


среда, 26 января 2011 г.

Times in a Day

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers

BY: Karen R. Kilby
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
~Ephesians 4:26

The shrill cry of the alarm woke me from an uneasy sleep. Despite the softer greeting of the morning songbirds and the promise of sunshine glimmering through the curtains, I was reluctant to get out of bed.

"Duty calls," I muttered, knowing it was time to wake the kids for school. Making my way to the kitchen to start breakfast, I realized my disgruntled mood was the result of still being upset with my ten-year-old son, Michael, from the day before. When was he going to learn to obey me? And why did he make the same mistakes over and over? Nothing seemed to sink in! Glancing at the clock, I knew I'd better start making the rounds to be sure everyone was up.

As I opened the door to Michael's room, his tousled, curly head peeked from beneath the covers. With his oh-so-familiar grin, Michael said, "I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to do it." Always before, his sweet smile had melted my heart. This time, I was determined to teach him a lesson he would not forget.

"Michael, you always say you're sorry. This time, I am not going to forgive you."

As I shut the door, satisfied that I'd followed through on my conviction, I caught a glimpse of his crestfallen face and the disbelief in his eyes.

Walking away, I could not erase the image of Michael's face. "How can you not forgive him?" the Lord whispered in my ear. "Don't you remember what I have said about forgiveness? 'If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, "I repent," forgive him'" (Luke 17:3-4). God's voice continued, "When you honor my word and obey me, you set the example for Michael."

"But Lord," I argued, "forgiving is not easy, especially when someone keeps on offending."

I stood there struggling with mixed emotions, but then admitted, "I don't like the way this anger is making me feel. Please take it away."

As I felt the feelings of hostility toward Michael slip away, I slowly turned around and headed back to his room. I knew I had to tell him that I forgave him and restore that familiar smile. I also knew I had to ask Michael to forgive me.


вторник, 25 января 2011 г.

Kitties to the Rescue

Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Cat

BY: Jennifer Zambri-Dickerson

Cats are mysterious kind of folk -- there is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.
~Sir Walter Scott

I am allergic to cats. Sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes are just a few of the annoyances I deal with as a result of the allergy. However, I have loved cats all my life and a runny nose is not going to stop me from keeping them around. Every morning, I pop a wide variety of pills, both prescription and herbal remedies, to help keep my sinuses clear. When I first met my husband, who is also allergic to cats, I explained to him that he too would learn to pop the pills every morning or, sadly, our relationship could go no further. Quickly understanding the seriousness of the situation, he complied and we have been together ever since.

The only rule my cats, Fuzz and Tony, have in the house because of the allergy is that they are not allowed in the bedroom. That is the "cat-free" zone. This way, I always sleep in peace without having to worry about inhaling cat hair in the middle of the night and being jarred awake when the sneezing fit commences. They have never been happy about the rule, but they have at least built a routine around it. Once we go to bed, Fuzz and Tony head for the downstairs couch and call it a night as well. And when we wake up in the morning, they are right outside the door to greet us, anxiously waiting to be petted.

Several years ago, before I met my husband, an unusual break in this routine jolted me out of bed in the middle of the night. At around two o'clock in the morning, I was awoken by the sounds of howling and scratching at the bedroom door. Half asleep, I wondered if perhaps a small forest creature had made its way into the house and was now trying to gnaw its way through my bedroom door. As I wiped the sleep from my eyes, it became apparent to me that it was Fuzz and Tony making all of that horrible noise and pawing at the door. The howling noises I heard were long, drawn out, panicked meows, almost like a baby crying for help.

My first instinct was to try to ignore the racket and go back to sleep. However, when I thought about it for a minute, I knew that something had to be very wrong for my cats to be acting this way. They had never woken me up before and they certainly had never made such frightening sounds before either. So, I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled towards the bedroom door.

Once I opened the door and Fuzz and Tony leapt upwards, pawing at my legs, that was when it hit me. The smell of gas was overpowering -- it burned the inside of my nose and made my eyes water. I immediately rushed around the house, opening every window and all of the doors. Then I grabbed the cats, ran outside and tossed them in the backseat of my car to get them away from the fumes.

Once I was able to get the gas shut off, I joined my two little heroes in the car and gave them both big hugs. If not for Fuzz and Tony's persistence, I can only imagine what might have happened that night. Perhaps it was just a survival instinct for them to wake me so I could get them out of the house or maybe it was loyalty that led them to my door. Either way, they probably saved my life that night. I will always cherish the relationship I have with my cats, sneezing and all.


An Open Heart

 Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

BY: Gregory A. Kompes

 No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.

"Can you take Max?" the neighbor asked weeping. "You said you liked dogs, wanted a dog. We have to move and the new place doesn't allow them."

"But you've only had him a week," I said. Max sat attentively, taking in the scene.

The neighbor cried and nodded, stroking the puppy's head. "We've been transferred; no dogs allowed in the new place." Max looked at me expectantly. I agreed.

And so he moved in. Pillows were destroyed, shoes were eaten. I laughed at his antics.

He was housebroken within days. But he wasn't a Max. He never came when called and there were three other dogs named Max on my lower Manhattan block. I got a baby book and read names to my new companion. "Aaron? Able? Armand? Wallace? William?" No response. "Spot? Fido?" Did he chuckle? Amused, I read the names of the authors from the books on my shelf. "Irving?" Nothing. "Buck?" Nothing. "King?" Nothing. "Aristotle?" His head turned with expectant eyes. I said it again, "Aristotle." He came to me. "Aristotle!" He nudged his wet nose toward my face, licking my nose.

Aristotle learned tricks quickly. He patiently taught me a few tricks, too. He balanced, hindquarters solid, paws in the air, bone balanced on nose. He waited for the command, flipped the bone in the air and caught it. He barked on command. He shook the hands of newcomers whether asked or not.

Aristotle was an excellent judge and jury. Those he liked treated me well. I learned quickly to avoid those he avoided.

Tennis balls were his passion. He'd chase and retrieve them until collapsing from exhaustion. He'd show off with tricks in front of crowds, conning younger, more athletic types to throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball in the parks around New York City.

Then one night a whimper came from the corner. Aristotle was sprawled on the floor, trying desperately to get up when I called. I quickly found the number of the vet. The after-hour operator forwarded my call to the all-night clinic. "Get here fast," the voice said.

I wrapped Aristotle's small shaking body in a towel and headed out for a cab. We arrived at the animal hospital and were met at the door. A man and woman in medical garb whisked Aristotle from my arms, motioning me to follow into the stainless steel room. The air was cool and smelled of antiseptic. Blood was drawn; tubes inserted; questions asked; and frowns made.

No, I hadn't seen him eat anything strange. No, we hadn't been to the country. Yes, he was current on all his shots. No, it couldn't be a reaction to a shot because the last one was several weeks ago. No, I hadn't had him since he was born. No, I didn't know where he was born. I got him from a neighbor who'd left town.

The days passed. I visited before and after work and cried, petting his soft golden head as those enlarged brown eyes desperately looked at me. He kept trying to stand, to follow me out, but his attempts were futile.

I'd made it to adulthood without having my heart broken by another, but here, with him, I could feel the pain of heartbreak.

The doctors, some of the best in Manhattan, didn't know what was wrong. They ran more tests, tried different drugs, attempted experimental treatments. I feared the medical bills. I had trouble covering my own rent every month; how would I pay for all of this? "We make choices," I told myself. "It will all work out."

Six days had passed, but Aristotle was no better. When I went in after work that night, the vet asked if I wanted to take him home. "I think we've done all we can do," the doctor said.

He didn't look me in the eyes, but instead, looked into Aristotle's eyes. "He'll get better care with you over the weekend," the vet said.

"Will he...?" I choked back my tears. "If he's going to die, I don't want to take him home. Is he going to die?"

"I don't know," the vet said, but convinced me to take him.

I approached the desk to pay the bill and the young man behind the counter smiled warmly and said, "No charge."

"What? You've run all these tests. He's been here a week."

"We wanted to know what's wrong. We've never seen an animal sick like this. We know you can't afford all we've done; no one could. Just take him home and love him over the weekend."

Love? I'd never felt myself to be in love before. That's why I'd spent my life alone. I didn't know what love felt like. All this pain and worry? All this sorrow and grief? Is this what love feels like? We'd only been together a few weeks; doesn't love take longer? Can you really love an animal?

I pushed the furniture out of the way and we spent the weekend together on the living room floor. I stroked him and he nudged me. His big eyes looked deep into me. I hand-fed him food with the crushed antibiotics; he licked my hands clean.

I openly begged him not to die, not yet, not when I'd finally felt so deeply for another. I'd finally opened my heart to another soul; it couldn't be taken from me.

I awoke to a whimper. It was like that sound that started this ordeal. My heart filled with dread. Aristotle was standing by the door, begging to go outside. I quickly attached his leash, opened the door and he bound outside, barely making it to the street in time. He looked up at me and there was absolute relief in his eyes; was he mirroring me? It was a miracle, there's no other way to describe it.

When we walked into the vet's on Monday morning it was someone else's turn to cry. The doctors and technicians stopped what they were doing to see the miracle puppy prancing around the waiting room, showing off for everyone, as if nothing had happened. They took more blood and ran more tests for comparison. They never did find the source of the problem.

I knew what it was: Me.

Others may not understand, but I believe this was a test. This test proved I could love another. It proved my worthiness to possess this remarkable companion.

Love, I realized, is the simple willingness to share my life with others and to trust that we'll be there for one another no matter what happens. Aristotle helped me comprehend that love is an open heart, open to sorrow and to joy.


суббота, 22 января 2011 г.

The Brilliance of Blond

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

BY: Nikki Yuskowski
If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag.
~Author Unknown

I felt the sweat drip down my neck as I sat in the black salon chair. It was hot out, but the air conditioning should have prevented the small bead from seeping out of my pores. It dripped down my back and pooled somewhere above my pants. Suddenly, I began questioning the decision I was about to make. Was I a blonde or was I a brunette?

I had decided having blond hair was more of a burden than a blessing my freshman year in college while sitting in the math center, waiting for one of its many tutors to sit down next to me and begin lecturing me on what most math majors see as black and white. Listening to the math tutors speak always reminded me that math is everything I'm not. I will never be math. In math, answers are right and wrong, and in my bleak situation, they were wrong more often than not. Put simply -- math is a brunette, and I am a blonde.

My calculus class had not been agreeing with me for a large portion of my second semester. During every lecture I was tempted to get up and scream, "Boring!" I have taken more interest in twiddling my thumbs than I ever did learning the ins and outs of level one calculus. I planned to switch to an English major but I still had to pass.

A skinny young man with glasses slipping down his nose took a seat to my left. I have forgotten his name, but his demeanor has stuck with me. He put one foot on the table and leaned back in his chair, his far-too-short khakis hanging above his ankles, and his brown hair glistening for all the wrong reasons. Mr. Math Tutor was in dire need of a shower. He spoke as though he was God's one and only gift to earth, and I found myself rolling my eyes as he listed his credentials for my edification.

As we delved into the world of derivatives and anti-derivatives, it became apparent to both my tutor and me that if the world depended on my mathematical knowledge for survival, we were going to need to find another planet to live on. He looked over at me with frustration, his forehead wrinkled and his eyebrows raised. He then asked me what my major was. I lied and told him English. Even the thought of uttering the word "math" evoked the same feelings one has when dry heaving.

"What are you going to do with English? It seems kind of pointless," he said, as he cracked his knuckles obnoxiously. I looked at him with disbelief. This bold statement was escaping the mouth of the person who had just told me he was one class short of graduating, but was not going to take that class or get his math degree. While I may not have been great with numbers, I was more than capable of multiplying UNH's annual tuition by four.

I was beginning to get annoyed as he continued to prod me with questions about my uncertain future. He made mention of the current economy in reference to something he had seen on the news, and proceeded to say, "But you wouldn't know anything about that. You don't look like the type who watches the news."

Until that point in my life, I wasn't aware there was a specific look to those who watched the news, but I knew exactly what he was referring to when he said it: I have blond hair, therefore I'm stupid. There I was, slouched over in my chair, nearly in tears, all because of the color of my hair. I shot him a look that most of my friends describe as horrific. It's the only facial expression that I cannot reproduce on command, and though I have never seen it myself, I'm sure it conveys the appropriate feelings.

My tutor then explained to me that he was currently reading The Heart of Darkness, something, I'm sure, he figured a feeble-minded blonde like me had never heard of. I explained, "I read that when I was a sophomore -- and it blew," before leaving the tutoring center and dialing my mother.

In tears, I explained to her my frustration with being reduced to nothing because of my hair color. "Everybody here thinks I'm dumb," I said to her.

"You're not dumb, Nikki," she reassured me, like I didn't already know.

The truth is even my parents thought I was a little "flighty," simply because I didn't have my life planned out, and occasionally "dreamed out of reach." When looking at their faces as I told them I wanted to be a math teacher, one would have thought I'd won a Nobel Prize. Clearly my one and only plan had not worked out, and finally years of people assuming my intelligence level was somehow correlated with the gene that made me a blonde had finally come to a head. I was sick of people talking to me like I was hard of hearing or avoiding intelligent conversation with me for the sole reason that I looked as though I could not understand it. I had reached a point in my life where I was sick and tired of trying to change a stereotype, and I thought it was time for me to be a brunette.

"So you're going darker?" my hairdresser said to me as she ran her fingers through my hair.

"Yes," I said. "I'm in need of a change."

She went over to mix up the new color, and as she walked away, Mr. Math Tutor's long face popped into my head. I began to think of his sudden appearance as a sign. I could see his pockmarked face and pursed lips, and atop his head was a mass of brown hair. This young man had underestimated me; he had prejudged me as a bimbo. He was a dumb brunette! It was in that instant that I turned around and called out to my hairdresser that I had decided on a simple trim and the color would not be necessary. That moment, I decided being a part of the endangered species called "Natural Blondes" was brilliant in itself. Mr. Math Tutor saw the world in black and white. Mr. Math Tutor was math. I am not math. I am blond.


Beautiful Day

from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers

By Karen Krokroskia as told to Angela N. Abbott

"My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."
~Daniel 6:22

I looked out the window to see a fluffy blanket of snow covering our neighborhood and icicles crowning each house. Despite the freezing temperatures, the bright sun lit up the winter sky. With my morning coffee in hand, I thanked God for protecting my family. I continued my daily meditation, knowing that it was going to be a beautiful day.

My ten-year-old son, Sean, was quite excited about the morning as well. He sat eagerly in front of the television set waiting to see the name of his school listed at the bottom of the screen, hoping for a snow day. When his school finally appeared, his excitement matched that of scoring the winning touchdown during the Super Bowl. There aren't too many things more exciting to a kid than a snow day. The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing, and Sean was making plans with his friends to play in the snow.

I had to laugh when I watched the boys walk out of the house in their winter gear. With two sweatshirts and a turtleneck, long underwear, pants, layers of socks and snow boots all under a heavy coat, Sean waddled away from the house like a seal.
What I didn't know was that the boys would soon be in danger. Despite their better judgment, they ended up at the pond. They decided to see if it was frozen enough for them to ride their bikes across, so Sean started walking on it to check it out. Slowly but surely, he inched out until he was rather far. Without warning, he fell completely through the ice.

Freezing cold and weighed down by all of his winter clothes, he attempted to tread water and keep his head afloat. But he could not get out alone, and his friends were unable to help him. Sean had only one thing left to do: he prayed. Suddenly, he felt a hand guide him as he was pushed up and out of the icy water and back to safety. The Lord was watching over him and sent His angels to rescue him.

Several weeks later, I learned the story of Sean's "close call" from his Sunday school teacher. Like most kids, even though this story has a happy ending, he was sure he would be in big trouble at home for playing at the pond. I wondered how many other times the Lord has stepped in to rescue our children that we haven't found out about.

As I begin my mornings with the Lord, I have a newfound gratitude for the very real way in which God protects his children. With my trust in the Lord, I know that every day is truly going to be a beautiful day.


четверг, 20 января 2011 г.

Blizzards and Sweater Vests

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Growing Up

BY: Esther Sooter
So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.

The Eagles, "Already Gone"

While in middle school, students seem to have one goal: to be popular. More than anything, most of the students fervently hope to not be accused of going against the grain. These young teenagers would much rather conform and be accepted by the "in" crowd than focus on finding their own identity, style or path. Like most thirteen-year-olds, I succumbed to this need to fit in. One afternoon, however, I had a conversation with my father that made me think twice about following the rest of the lemmings over the proverbial cliff.

My dad and I were sitting in the dining area of the local Dairy Queen eating Blizzards on a dreary winter afternoon. We had run the gambit of usual conversation topics: school, orchestra, my plans for the weekend. Then, and I'm not quite sure how the discussion began, we started talking about popularity. I told him that I wanted to be popular, or at least accepted favorably by those who were. He looked at me and asked me why I felt that way. I shrugged my shoulders and looked back into my drink. I had never stopped to think about why I felt the need to fit in . . . I simply did. I had been told by my friends that I should want to be popular, and since I had always trusted them, I was inclined to believe them.

My father proceeded to tell me a story from his college days. His mother, my grandmother Lorraine, had made him several sweater vests to wear at school. These sweater vests were practical and comfortable, but hardly "in style." Nevertheless, they became a staple of my father's wardrobe. He didn't care that he wasn't sporting the latest fashion. In fact, he didn't care what everyone thought of him, either. I was shocked. What was even more surprising was that after a few weeks, other students at my dad's school began wearing sweater vests. By deviating from the norm, my father had started a trend. What he wore became fashionable because the other students saw the confidence with which he dressed.

This information was a lot for a thirteen-year-old girl to process, especially one who had been carefully taught about what was "cool" and what was most certainly not cool. I found it hard to believe that going against the grain could have benefits for me, so I continued to wear the same clothes, listen to the same music and go to the same places that my peers did. Surely my father was mistaken. This is also, of course, the stage in which children think they know infinitely more than their parents. I had not yet seen the light, and I continued on my quest for popularity. However, our conversation that bleak winter day replayed over and over in my mind.

As the days passed and I mulled it over, I realized that my father's words might have some validity after all. I began to evaluate my wardrobe to find which items I had bought because they were cool and which items I'd bought because I truly liked them. I also looked back at my actions, attempting to determine how many of them I performed to please the crowd and how many of them I performed because I actually enjoyed them. I found myself caring less and less what people thought about me. It was wonderfully liberating.

I have come a long way since middle school. It no longer bothers me that those who still feel compelled to follow the herd do not accept me as one of their own. I do not strive to dress in the latest fashions; if anything, I attempt to create my own. The conversation I had with my father about wearing sweater vests and feeling the need to fit in sparked in me the desire to deviate from the beaten path and form one of my own. I have learned a valuable lesson in the process: Swimming against the current can only make me stronger.


Encounter on a Train

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Older and Wiser

BY: Kevin H. Siepel

It's a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.

~Franklin P. Jones

When I first saw her in the station at St. Margrethen, she was boarding the railroad car in which I sat, shoving an enormous brown leather suitcase up the high step with her knee.

She was wearing earth colors: pants of brown corduroy, knitted vest patterned in orange and brown, Kelly green shirt with up-rolled sleeves. Dark eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, young, mysterious. After heaving her burden onto the overhead rack, she collapsed into a seat across the aisle from me, perspiring sedately. Then the silver, air-conditioned train quietly sealed itself to continue its five-hour run westward across Switzerland.

Alpine streams bubbled with icy meltwater, and the fields were ablaze with poppies, for the month was May. I attempted first to doze, then to strike up a conversation with the person next to me. No success there. I tried to doze a second time and couldn't, and then I noticed her again. She had produced a posy of wilted wildflowers from somewhere and was now holding it on her lap, her thoughts apparently upon whoever had given it to her. She had a strong but tranquil face. She was looking at the flowers and lightly smiling. I moved across the aisle and sat down facing her.

"Wie heissen die Blumen?" I asked. I knew that the salad bowl of German words at my disposal would not get me far. Perhaps speaking to her at all was a mistake. At any rate, her only answer to my question about the flowers was a smile. Ah, I thought, not German. Italian, of course. She's dark.

I leaned forward to craft a more careful question about "i fiori," knowing that if the conversational terrain should dip in that direction I'd have to beat an even quicker retreat. She still didn't answer me. The thought that she was mute crossed my mind, but I dismissed it. Since this was Switzerland, I had a final choice: French. The reply, however, was as before: a Mona Lisa smile. I began to wonder. I'd seen a stationful of Yugoslavs in Buchs that morning, back toward the Austrian border. Could she be one of them? The prospect of hearing her speak at last in Serbo-Croatian was discouraging. Better to go slowly now.

I leaned back, relaxed, and returned the smile as enigmatically as I could. I tried to look mysterious -- a foredoomed task, considering my garb of crushable fisherman's hat, red long-john shirt, pin-striped mustard slacks, and leather running shoes. It didn't work. Just as I was about to pack it in, Mona Lisa spoke. "Habla español?" she asked. Why hadn't I thought of it? She's Spanish! A tourist, maybe, but more likely a "Gastarbeiter." There were loads of Spaniards working in Switzerland.

With all circuits snapping to life, I strove to call up my meager store of Spanish while rummaging frantically through my bag for the right Grosset's phrase book. I commenced to address this person, whose national origins were beginning to take form. She turned out indeed to be a Spaniard, on her way home to see her family. She was single, employed in a home for the aged in Altstätten, and incredibly, her suitcase was stuffed with Swiss chocolate.

Our conversation, unfortunately, was hampered by more than language difficulties, since I had been ill for twenty-four hours and was still required to take periodic and sudden absences. She proved to be understanding. She turned out, however, to be a poor judge of national costume or accents, taking me first for an Englishman and later for a German. I was apparently the first specimen she'd encountered from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

What we spoke of, exactly, I can't remember, but the day flew past, and I do recall we were in marvelous accord on a number of important issues. I dreaded our arrival in Geneva, where we would part, but by day's end we were there. We strolled for a while through the city's pretty streets, dallied over cappuccino in a sidewalk cafe, inspected shop windows in the day's failing light, laughed together, and filled conversational voids with banalities until my train came. Hers was due later, at midnight. I said goodbye with great reluctance. She appeared to share my feeling, but her people were beckoning from across the Pyrenees, and my schedule called me to Italy before returning home. We exchanged addresses. I then boarded the train and left.

Today my life doesn't have the broad margin it had then. Like many other people, I raise children, commute, remodel and mow the lawn. But I sometimes think of those days when life could become so quickly and intensely bittersweet, when great possibilities could yawn in an instant.

In fact, one way I'm able to retain perspective on the here and now is by recalling the details of that particular spring day, with its chance meeting and sad goodbye. Occasionally I've recounted the event to others, too, but there I enjoy taking some liberties with the facts, making the girl somewhat more desperate and myself a bit more dashing or distant. In one of my versions the girl unabashedly pursues me. My wife especially enjoys hearing me carry on in this vein.

Even though she likes the story, my wife does find its variations astonishing. She insists that on the train she was not desperate, that I was not distant or dashing, and that she left Switzerland the following year to marry me despite the way I was dressed that day.

Here and Now

Chicken Soup for the Soul: On Being a Parent

BY: Barbara Schiller
Don't look back unless you intend to go that way.
~Marc Holm

If there's one word that describes the life of a single parent, it's hectic. Even though my kids are older now, it doesn't take much for me to remember the feeling of having too much to do and far too little time to do it. I thought I'd never have a moment of rest again. But here I sit in a quiet house, wondering how time could have possibly passed by so quickly.

I remember one particular week when I thought I'd lose what little remained of my sanity.

"Mom, you went to Noel's stuff last week. You have to go to my pom-squad performance this Friday."

"No way, Serena!" argued Nik. "Mom is going to my gymnastics meet."

With my head spinning, I told all three kids to sit down. I walked to the living room, dreading what was sure to become one of our Schiller showdowns. Why does it always have to be so overwhelming? Why does it always have to be so difficult? I steadied myself for the onslaught. Each child tried to persuade me to attend his or her activity, leaving me feeling pulled in too many directions. Finally, I managed to coordinate our schedules so that I could attend all three events. Everyone seemed satisfied with the results, but I was emotionally exhausted. That was Sunday.

The rest of the week was nonstop activity. Monday, I managed to get myself to one meeting and the kids to another. Tuesday was Nik's gymnastics meet. I arrived in time to see him compete in the vault event, his favorite. Wednesday night meant school for me and a quick dinner for the kids. Thursday night was Noel's ballet practice, and Friday night brought Serena's halftime performance with the pom squad.

As I drove home from work on Friday, I hit heavy traffic. All I could hear was Serena's reminder to me that morning: "Mom, you can't be late! I need your help with my hair!" Pulling into the garage, I raced upstairs to see the panic on her face. We made it on time -- barely.

By Sunday night, I needed another weekend to recover. Lord, I prayed, I'm not ready to start again. When will I ever have time to myself? I am tired of this routine. I'm tired of hurrying. I'm tired of scheduling. Please help me get through the week ahead.

Now the days of rushing are behind me. And the truth is, I miss them terribly. Three months ago, I watched Serena walk across the stage to receive her college diploma. Waves of precious memories (and, yes, the not-so-precious memories, too) flooded my soul -- gymnastics meets, ballet recitals, pom-pom performances. I reflected back to the daily grind of what felt like the tedious and overwhelming pace of our lives. But those days really were precious. They were filled with tender moments and simple pleasures, like sharing my son's pride in his accomplishment, watching my daughter shine on a stage and helping my teenager get her hair just right. Those are the parts of being a parent that make all the chaos worthwhile.

Yes, life with children can be difficult, especially when you're on your own. Yet very soon, sooner than you think, you'll be asking, "Where has the time gone?" And the house will be quiet. Too quiet.


понедельник, 17 января 2011 г.

Winning the Battle of the Bulge

Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution

BY: Cynthia Briggs
A diet is the penalty we pay for exceeding the feed limit.
~Author Unknown

"This New Year's resolution makes me feel like we're enlisting in WWII," Ed remarked as we sat in the car waiting for our noon meeting and our second tour of duty with a structured weight loss program.

"Honey, it's not like we're facing a firing squad," I said, although I couldn't help but be amused by his flair for the dramatic.

"Maybe after a few weight loss meetings we'll get back into the swing of dieting," I said, attempting to look at the bright side of our on-going Battle of the Bulge. Ed didn't reply. He heaved a weary sigh thinking of the challenge that lay ahead for us.

I knew where Ed was coming from. Losing weight is a struggle I've faced since I was a teenager. Counting calories and watching my daily intake had become second nature to me by the time I was in my early twenties.

On the flip side, my husband, Ed, didn't start having a weight problem until he reached his mid-forties. Active and naturally slender, he never had to concern himself with the caloric difference between a pound of peanut butter fudge and a pound of celery sticks. In some ways, I feel worse for him than I do for myself. Along with being familiar with caloric values, I altered my eating habits when I was young, while Ed had to change deep-rooted habits with little knowledge of how to make wise food choices.

When we were still living in Seattle, Ed lost fifty-six pounds and I lost eighteen while attending regular weight loss meetings. Our weight didn't just disappear; we fought with great determination to re-shape our bodies and improve our overall health. What a rewarding feeling to know we had faced the enemy and won! We'd mastered the Battle of the Bulge, and amazingly we'd done it by following a program that didn't include ice cream as one of the major food groups.

We earned our Good Conduct medals during our WWI tour, but not without hard battles. At the first meeting, our fellow comrades let us know that munching on macadamia nuts during the meeting was not acceptable, and moreover, not offering to share was behavior unbecoming to the weight loss club.

A few weeks later, forgetting the earlier skirmish over the macadamia incident, Ed stood up after a particularly rousing weight loss meeting, and asked, "How about we all go for Mexican food after the meeting?" Everyone in the room joined us.

The following week the Drill Sergeant, AKA the red-faced weight loss instructor, took us aside and pointed out the potential physical dangers of mentioning any kind of forbidden food in a room full of club members who aren't related to Twiggy. She was clearly very perturbed with us.

Soon after losing the weight in Seattle, our lives took a turn, and we made a major move to the Southwest. With a new job and a new home in the Land of Enchantment, success was felt on all fronts, except for one very important one... the scales. Time and our weight had marched on, and the scales said we were in a downward spiral to defeat.

We rationalized that the disruption of the move was the reason for our expanding girth.

But the truth is we had grazed our way 1,900 miles south, by treating ourselves at some of the most decadent ice cream shops America had to offer.

So, after months of putting off the inevitable, we had no choice but to re-enlist for WWII. We are much wiser now that we've re-upped for a second tour of duty, and we want to do everything just right.

Our desire to reduce during this second tour has prompted us to seek out and experiment with new and alternative foods. Our kitchen table is a war planning zone for charting the calories we've eaten and those we've yet to consume. Our goals in meeting the enemy head-on include searches for recipes promising low fat, low sugar and low calories.

We've been studying our weight loss books. I've pulled out my low everything recipes and removed from the refrigerator and cupboards the foods that could be toxic to the mission. We've enlisted our dachshund, Leon, to join the program. I've even removed the clothes hangers from the treadmill so it's ready to go into action 24/7.

We feel WWII and the Battle of the Bulge can be won again. The pounds are slowly melting from our bodies, and morale among the troops seems to be sustaining itself. But will our spirits remain high with Ed and me celebrating our successes after the meetings by rushing out to dine on Mexican food?

Losing weight is a treacherous lifelong war; some days we limp into battle and other days we march to victory. However, every day we're thankful for New Year's resolutions that will keep us from being drafted to serve in WWIII.