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Always Believe

Conquering the Stairs

Have you ever let fear conquer you? Well today, you're going to read about an amazing dog who helped me overcome mine.

Caspian was a new addition to my household. He had shown up in the front yard of my 100 year old Virginia farmhouse one early morning. He was skin and bones, covered with ticks, fleas and sores, and had been shot - his skinny body riddled with buckshot. I took one look at this pathetic animal and told him he was home.

It took weeks of vet treatments, baths, and many bowls of food, but he finally began to look like a dog that was going to make it. His bones began to disappear. His coat took on a shine and he became my constant shadow to show his appreciation for me saving his life. He was always with me - except when I went upstairs to my office.

My home had a wide expanse of wooden stairs that led to the 2nd floor. Caspian was terrified of them. It didn't matter what I did to build his confidence or what wonderful tidbit of food I tempted him with; he refused to climb those stairs. He would just cower at the bottom stair and shake all over whenever I got him near them. Yet when I went up to my office, he was overcome with despair at being separated from me and laid at the bottom whimpering and whining.

I had no idea what had created this fear and I had even less of an idea of how to conquer it. After two weeks of daily attempts, I finally gave up. If he didn't want to climb the stairs - so be it. But my only defense from his pitiful whining was to turn the music up any time I needed to be in my office. When I would leave my office and come downstairs, Caspian would erupt with frantic joy to be reunited once again.

About a month into this pattern, I was awakened one morning by a noise. I lay in bed trying to identify what it was.

Click, click, click. Silence. Click, click, click. Silence.

It kept on for close to fifteen minutes before my curiosity finally overwhelmed my desire to stay under the warm covers. I threw aside my quilt, grabbed a robe and went out to investigate. When I identified the source of the noise, I just stood there with my mouth wide open.

I watched as Caspian carefully climbed the stairs. Click, click, click. He got to the top, turned around, and then started back down. Click, click, click.

When he got to the bottom, he turned and gazed at me as if to say, "It's really no big deal. I can do this!"

And then he did it again, and again, and again at least 25 more times - after already having done it for 15 minutes before I finally came to investigate.

I watched his confidence grow with each ascent and descent of the "dreaded stairs." His tongue hung out in joy and at the end his tail was wagging in triumph over his fears. He knew he would never again have to be separated from me because of the stairs.

I already loved him, but that day I gained an incredible respect for his courage and resilience. I was also challenged about what I was willing to do to overcome my fears. Was I willing to stare my fears in the face and then take the steps to overcome that fear? Was I willing to feel the fear and then do it anyway? Was I willing to attack my fears for as long as it took to overcome them? I made a lot of decisions that day that have given me a much richer life - and I have Caspian to thank for it!

So now I pose the same questions to you: Are you willing to stare your fears in the face and then take the steps to overcome them? Are you willing to feel the fear and then do it anyway? Are you willing to attack your fears for as long as it takes to overcome them?

Every time you are faced with a fear, try to remember a courageous dog that was able to conquer his fears with love and determination - and then follow his lead. All of us are afraid of something in our lives. There is no shame in being afraid. The key to victory, however, is to face your fear head on and do whatever it takes to overcome it. You can let your fears stop you from achieving all you want in life or you can follow Caspian's lead and conquer the stairs!

Ginny Dye

Ginny Dye is the Founder and CEO of The Ultimate Life Company - created to empower you to live your ultimate life!

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“Like the body, the soul must also be nourished daily.”

The Daffodil Principle

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come and see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. Going and coming took most of a day - and I honestly did not have a free day until the following week.

"I will come next Tuesday," I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call. Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove the length of Route 91, continued on I-215, and finally turned onto Route 18 and began to drive up the mountain highway. The tops of the mountains were sheathed in clouds, and I had gone only a few miles when the road was completely covered with a wet, gray blanket of fog. I slowed to a crawl, my heart pounding. The road becomes narrow and winding toward the top of the mountain.

As I executed the hazardous turns at a snail's pace, I was praying to reach the turnoff at Blue Jay that would signify I had arrived. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren I said, "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these darling children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears - and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her.

"I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car. The mechanic just called, and they've finished repairing the engine," she answered.

"How far will we have to drive?" I asked cautiously.

"Just a few blocks,"Carolyn said cheerfully.

So we buckled up the children and went out to my car. "I'll drive," Carolyn offered. "I'm used to this." We got into the car, and she began driving.

In a few minutes I was aware that we were back on the Rim-of-the-World Road heading over the top of the mountain. "Where are we going?" I exclaimed, distressed to be back on the mountain road in the fog. "This isn't the way to the garage!"

"We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of the daffodils."

"Carolyn, I said sternly, trying to sound as if I was still the mother and in charge of the situation, "please turn around. There is nothing in the world that I want to see enough to drive on this road in this weather."

"It's all right, Mother," She replied with a knowing grin. "I know what I'm doing. I promise, you will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

And so my sweet, darling daughter who had never given me a minute of difficulty in her whole life was suddenly in charge - and she was kidnapping me! I couldn't believe it. Like it or not, I was on the way to see some ridiculous daffodils - driving through the thick, gray silence of the mist-wrapped mountaintop at what I thought was risk to life and limb.

I muttered all the way. After about twenty minutes we turned onto a small gravel road that branched down into an oak-filled hollow on the side of the mountain. The fog had lifted a little, but the sky was lowering, gray and heavy with clouds.

We parked in a small parking lot adjoining a little stone church. From our vantage point at the top of the mountain we could see beyond us, in the mist, the crests of the San Bernardino range like the dark, humped backs of a herd of elephants. Far below us the fog-shrouded valleys, hills, and flatlands stretched away to the desert.

On the far side of the church I saw a pine-needle-covered path, with towering evergreens and manzanita bushes and an inconspicuous, lettered sign "Daffodil Garden."

We each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path as it wound through the trees. The mountain sloped away from the side of the path in irregular dips, folds, and valleys, like a deeply creased skirt.

Live oaks, mountain laurel, shrubs, and bushes clustered in the folds, and in the gray, drizzling air, the green foliage looked dark and monochromatic. I shivered. Then we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight, unexpectedly and completely splendid. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into every crevice and over every rise. Even in the mist-filled air, the mountainside was radiant, clothed in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.

Each different-colored variety (I learned later that there were more than thirty-five varieties of daffodils in the vast display) was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.

In the center of this incredible and dazzling display of gold, a great cascade of purple grape hyacinth flowed down like a waterfall of blossoms framed in its own rock-lined basin, weaving through the brilliant daffodils. A charming path wound throughout the garden. There were several resting stations, paved with stone and furnished with Victorian wooden benches and great tubs of coral and carmine tulips. As though this were not magnificent enough, Mother Nature had to add her own grace note - above the daffodils, a bevy of western bluebirds flitted and darted, flashing their brilliance. These charming little birds are the color of sapphires with breasts of magenta red. As they dance in the air, their colors are truly like jewels above the blowing, glowing daffodils. The effect was spectacular.

It did not matter that the sun was not shining. The brilliance of the daffodils was like the glow of the brightest sunlit day. Words, wonderful as they are, simply cannot describe the incredible beauty of that flower-bedecked mountain top.

Five acres of flowers! (This too I discovered later when some of my questions were answered.) "But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn. I was overflowing with gratitude that she brought me - even against my will. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"Who?" I asked again, almost speechless with wonder, "And how, and why, and when?"

"It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory.

We walked up to the house, my mind buzzing with questions. On the patio we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking" was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

There it was. The Daffodil Principle.

For me that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than thirty-five years before, had begun - one bulb at a time - to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top. One bulb at a time.

There was no other way to do it. One bulb at a time. No shortcuts - simply loving the slow process of planting. Loving the work as it unfolded.

Loving an achievement that grew so slowly and that bloomed for only three weeks of each year. Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world.

This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. She had created something of ineffable magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principle of celebration: learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time - often just one baby-step at a time - learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.

When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"Carolyn," I said that morning on the top of the mountain as we left the haven of daffodils, our minds and hearts still bathed and bemused by the splendors we had seen, "it's as though that remarkable woman has needle-pointed the earth! Decorated it. Just think of it, she planted every single bulb for more than thirty years. One bulb at a time! And that's the only way this garden could be created. Every individual bulb had to be planted. There was no way of short-circuiting that process. Five acres of blooms. That magnificent cascade of hyacinth! All, just one bulb at a time."

The thought of it filled my mind. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the implications of what I had seen. "It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My wise daughter put the car into gear and summed up the message of the day in her direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said with the same knowing smile she had worn for most of the morning. Oh, profound wisdom!

It is pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson a celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use tomorrow?"

Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

Forever blooming: Amazing daffodil garden is closed, but her serigraphs are alive in a new book

Is Happiness Around The Corner?

For lots of people, happiness is just around the corner. They just need to get their degree, a particular job, a promotion, or a raise. Maybe they're waiting to get married or have a child. Perhaps they will be happy when they retire.

Alfred D' Souza said, "For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." John Lennon put it another way, "Life is what happens while you are making other plans."

The point is our lives are happening now. If we are to get the satisfaction and fulfillment we want, we have to learn to draw pleasure and joy from everything that happens to us and around us because these experiences are the very essence of our life. The more conscious we are that life consists of the journey, not the destination, the more likely we are to get the most out of it.

So, if there are things you want to do, begin to fit them in now or accept the fact that you can be happy whether or not you do them.

Happiness isn't just around the corner. It's now or it's never. The good news is you have everything you need to be happy. Philosophers, poets, and scientists all agree it can't be attained through money, prestige, or power. Happiness is not a fact, it's a mindset. All you need is optimism and gratitude.

Michael Josephson

Michael Josephson is the founder and president of Josephson Institute and its Character Counts project.

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“Like the body, the soul must also be nourished daily.”

Don't Let Life Get In The Way Of Your Life

The memories are so very clear. We had just put the final touches; the last giant cubes of marble and concrete were setting in. It didn't matter that they were really big rocks and chunks of dirt and mud on the walls. What a magnificent structure! No Indians, no Cavalry, no Kings Men and no Attila the Hun could storm these walls. My friends and I had built this magnificent fort to withstand any assault from our imaginary enemies. It never occurred to us that this fortress, this pillar of strength could crumble at any moment. It had taken us days to build but they were wonderful days. The sun was blistering hot. July days in southern Ohio would get that way. The Great Miami River sparkled in the distance as we slaved and struggled to build this edifice to engineering. Of course we didn't know that's what we were building but that's what my memory of those days has etched in my dreams. We had built something that nobody else had ever built and we'd defend it to the last man; or 8 year old boy. Life was so exciting back then and this fort represented all that was good. And then the rains came. Two days of torrential rain and the river kept rising and the insurmountable, the un-breachable fort was gone, carried away in the deluge. Dreams were destroyed that week in 1953 but they would appear again. We just didn't realize it at the time. It didn't cross our minds that we were actually learning one of the basics of an adventuresome life. Nothing lasts forever.

It's interesting how memories and dreams sustain us as we grow older. Life often becomes what we want it to be based on those dreams of long ago. Sadly, we too often forget to live those dreams and we forget that anything is possible in a dream.

I've always been a bit of a dreamer so those memories of long ago have stayed with me as if they happened yesterday. That doesn't mean it hasn't rained on my forts just a few times. Those memories have helped me rebuild many forts and continue to do so today. Forts though get bigger, stronger and harder to rebuild as we get older but they don't disappear. They just take more work. I've learned over these many years that those rebuilt forts have led to the greatest lessons I've ever experienced. These are the lessons that make life worthwhile, more challenging and satisfying than almost all of the other lessons combined. I like to describe them as just one of many rebirths.

My youngest daughter had just gotten married a few weeks prior to me visiting the doctor in May of 1998. This wasn't a comfortable visit but it was one where I pretty much knew what the outcome would be. As a runner and avid weight lifter I knew right away the signs of a hernia; thus my visit to the doctor. Little did I know that this visit would change my life and it would never be the same.

Over the next couple of weeks I was told that my kidneys were down to about 25% functioning and I soon required emergency surgery on my hernia. I was forced to delay the original hernia surgery due to the kidney issue. The prognosis I was given set the stage for life altering events that would take me in a direction I had never dreamed. The lessons I would learn would change me in ways that were unimaginable before that day. I would never be the same. My fort was being destroyed by torrents of bad news. My internal fortress was washed away, seemingly to never be found again.

Thus was my introduction to one of the most life altering moments in my fifty plus years and the beginning of a journey that continues even today. It's strange how these forts we build in our lives can crumble overnight. We think we can withstand anything and then the unexpected storm happens and the walls come tumbling down. What we do at that point creates the defining moments in our lives. Who we are and what we are made of screams out at us to make a statement and be heard. Whether we do or not attests to our makeup and sets the stage for making those dreams come true or letting them wash away with the turmoil.

For me it wasn't traumatic or even frightening. It was more like a slap across the face when I wasn't quite ready. Have you ever had a slap like that? A slap that hits you square in the face when you least expect it. It usually happens when we aren't looking with the painfully delivered message that life was changing forever. I had kidney disease and I actually lost my breath. My fort had failed to keep out the enemy. My walls crumbled and the invaders were close at hand. I was facing hand to hand combat and I didn't even have a weapon; or did I?

That was June of 1998 and I had just come through a pretty stressful few months. I lost my mother, mother-in-law and brother-in-law all between the first week in October 1997 and Christmas. My youngest daughter had just gotten married in May 1998 and I had just completed one of the most lucrative consulting assignments I'd had since starting my business in 1992.

To say my life was turned upside down was an understatement. I almost didn't know what to deal with first, my grief over losing my loved ones, my joy over my daughter's marriage, my elation that my business had finally taken off or the crash of a life altering illness. It was a lot to deal with but as I look back, I realize that this 8 month period of time would define my life from that point forward. I now know why we say, everything happens for a reason. I now truly understand my purpose in life. Kidney disease pushed me over the hump and forced me to see more clearly what I needed to do and that it was not as difficult or confusing as I had always made it. What I finally found was the direction I'd searched for most of my life and that direction was forward. All the trials and tribulations, all the struggles and setbacks, all the losses and seeming failures in life as well as the victories and happy times were simply a part of life. My fort could be rebuilt just like that one many years earlier. Why hadn't I seen it before?

We all have our forts destroyed at some time in our lives. Many of those forts aren't all that big or strong and some, like mine don't fall so easily; but when they do, we need a plan to rebuild. We need to think clearly and rationally and believe in our hearts that it was just a structure. It had a foundation and walls and rooms that were pieces of a life well lived but it didn't have to have a roof. It didn't have to have a ceiling that stopped us. When we realize this, we're on our way to success. So how do we rebuild those forts? We keep our wits and think things through.

  • We slow down and analyze the problem. Overreaction can be the death of any good plan.
  • We act. We do something. Procrastination never accomplishes anything.
  • We logically move forward, one step at a time.
  • We believe that this is the beginning of a new chapter in life and it may very well be the best one.

I read one time where it's never too late to become what we might have been. Don't let your life get in the way of your life. It's just not all that complicated.

Jim Dineen

Jim Dineen is an author, speaker and writer who has experienced dialysis and transplant and all of its ensuing complications in a not so complicated way. His first book, "Life's Just Not That Complicated" very concisely looks at life's challenges and asks, if it's really as difficult as we make it. He can be contacted through his web site at or

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“Like the body, the soul must also be nourished daily.”

Have Faith and Move Forward

I remember about a year or so ago I decided to reread Norman Vincent Peale's, The Power of Positive Thinking. I was going through a hard time. I had just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and I was very scared!

I didn't really know what stage the cancer was. I was in the middle of having surgery to have the tumor removed and had not yet found out how far the cancer had progressed and if it was in an early "curable stage." The good news is it was, and my treatment was nothing compared with what some woman go through. I was still so scared and the emotional toll it placed on my mind and feelings was probably the hardest thing for me to deal within my life.

Anyway, just before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had decided to expand my business. I own an art gallery in a very wealthy area of California, but found that the downtown area had become less busy in the last few years. I wanted to have a satellite store in another part of town that was heavily populated with shoppers.

I had found the "perfect" spot. It was positioned between two "perfect" stores and was in a small shopping center in town that had just been renovated and was bustling with shoppers! The space had been rented and remodeled, but then the tenants backed out of the lease and it was ready for me to rent it! The rent was inexpensive and it was "MY" spot!

I had made an appointment to meet the landlord and sign the contract the next day; then I received a call from my Doctor saying that I had in fact, had Breast Cancer and we needed to operate as soon as possible. I was not able at that point to sign the contract and had to let my "perfect spot" go. It was rented shortly after that.

Within the last two years every time I had gone by that shopping center I would grunt to myself, "That space should have been mine. If I hadn't gotten cancer, I would be in that space and all would be well." I started feeling sorry for myself.

That's when I decided to reread The Power of Positive Thinking. I remember reading in the book about a man that had lost his promotion to another man that the company had brought to fill the position. He was so angry and felt that it was so unjust for the company and God to not let him have this promotion. He had worked harder and longer than the other man in the company and felt he was the "perfect" man for the job. He was devastated.

He and his wife struggled to let go of that promotion and focus on moving forward and accept that this was not the time or the job for him at this point in his career. Two years later the president of this company stepped down from his position and this man became the president of that company! What an inspirational story I thought to myself. Yes, they tell me all the time, "Sometimes when things pass you by it's because there is something better waiting for you in the wings. You need to have faith and move forward." So that's what I did. I had faith and I moved forward.

It's been a little over two years since my cancer diagnosis and I feel like I'm back to normal again. I have moved forward and a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, a friend of mine called me to tell me that there was a space opening up beside him in a very good building that has only art galleries in it. It is a building known for having very good high end galleries and collectors from all over the country and the world come to visit this building and the galleries that are in it. Well, I'm sure you know that this was my "perfect" spot! Yes in deed. I got a bigger space, in a better place, for less money!!!! I can't tell you how the story of the man in the Norman Vincent Peale book came rushing back to my mind. Yes, it is true! It is! Faith and the ability to let go and move on is what was needed. I did that, I trusted and I gave myself and God time to work things out.

Next month the gallery opens and though it is a small gallery space, it is a "perfect" space; it is the space that was given to me by God.

Karen Imperial

Feel free to email your thoughts to Karen on her story to: and take the time to view her gallery website at:

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“Like the body, the soul must also be nourished daily.”

What Do You Fear?

I watched a child in the mall yesterday as she was kicking and screaming. Her parents were trying their best to calm her down.

I also watched the people passing by them. Some shook their heads and saw the child as a spoiled, "give me what I want now," child. Others paused and offered a few kind words to both the child and parents.

"You're such a beautiful little girl. Such a beautiful girl shouldn't cry," one lady said.

"Don't be so sad. We all have bad days," added another.

"I think she's a spoiled brat," I heard one whisper to a friend.

None of themwere right. The child was neither spoiled nor having a bad day. She was afraid.

The parents told me afterwards that someone carrying a coat scared her. She's afraid of dogs. The coat looked like a big dog.

They went on to explain that it is a challenge for them to go places. Friends have dogs, neighbors nearby walk their dogs down the street.

So, you can imagine what it's like to try to get through a day without sending your child into a panic.

I can remember, as a child walking up the steps at night I would get the feeling that someone or some thing was going to grab my feet. So, I ran most of the time.

I'll admit that occasionally as an adult I do the same thing.

Fear - what you fear the most in life, owns you, controls you, limits you.

I struggle with the fear of heights, but I fight it. My wife sent me off in a glider on my 60th birthday. I was fine. I was better than fine, I was great!

If I could have one foolish child-like wish come true it would be to have the ability to fly like a bird.

The truth is fear can be debilitating. Fear cripples many, limits abilities to enjoy even the simplest things in life and in some cases stops people from having medical procedures that could prevent major health issues.

Fear also crushes dreams.

Sometimes our own fears are imposed on others around us affecting their views and impacting their ability to live life fully...all in the name of love, concern and good parenting.

Someone once used the acronym F.E.A.R as False Evidence Appearing Real.

I'm not sure that applies to all fear. One might have had a bad experience with a dog and now that fear is real, relevant in their lives.

But, I think the kind of fear I believe we can deal with is the fear that reinforces doubt.

In particular poor self image issues either self imposed or wrongfully fed to you by others in your life or the world in general.

Fear and doubt are enemies of faith. They are the enemy thatyou permit to control your decisions, even when you declare your faith in God.

You give them power over you. The enemy doesn't want you to be happy, successful, or faithful. The enemy wants you to fail and stay there. Why?

Because successful, happy, healthy people give credit for their happiness to God even when they face their fears they declare their belief in the God who fears nothing.

"Fear prevents, faith prevails!"

Bob Perks

Bob Perks is an inspirational author and speaker. Bob's new book I Wish You Enough has been published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. A collection of stories based on his Eight Wishes expressed below. Available through your favorite bookstore or online. Visit

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“Like the body, the soul must also be nourished daily.”

The Pages Long Forgotten

Mike stepped into the used bookstore, smelled the age of old pages and smiled.

Here was a wealth of old stories, history waiting to be read, and a host of other joys. On a back shelf, he found what he was looking for, two tiers crammed with the forgotten. They'd served their use to those who once held them dear, but now gathered dust in the darkest corner of the store.

There were Italian, American, French and Greek. They contained secrets from around the world. There were collections of chicken, beef, pastries, bread, and desserts. They waited, hidden in a little explored part of the store, and hoped someone discovered their treasures.

Mike knew what to do. He picked one up, held the spine in his hand and let the book fall open. They always opened to the most used pages, the recipes loved by lost generations. The page in front of him was for a recipe called, "Beef-filled cornbread". The picture showed a delicious layer of meat and cheese, layered with cornbread and covered with a hot sauce. The pages were stained with splatters of tomato sauce. It was obviously a favorite of the previous owners. He'd try this one.

Those used the most are the best.

He found several other books, each with its own marked pages, carried them to the counter and made his purchase.

"I hope you found something you like." The cashier said.

"Oh yes. Very much! I'm sure these are exactly to my taste."

He paid for his purchase, left the store and carried them in a bag on his way to work.

In the locker room, he placed his books on the top shelf and changed into his scrubs. The recipes would wait. He had a duty.

Freshly dressed, he walked his floor. "Hello, Mrs. Smith!" He smiled at the elderly lady sitting in the sun-room reading a book. In her day, she must have been a beautiful woman. She still was, for a woman in her eighties. "How was your day?"

"Horrible!" she growled. He sat beside her, held her hand and looked into her eyes. "My grandson didn't visit me," she continued. "He promised me he'd be here today." She adjusted her shawl and tried to hide the tears about to spill from her wizened eyes.

"Maybe tomorrow." he replied. "You know how busy these young people are." He noted the tear in the corner of her eye and changed subject. "Mrs. Smith, didn't you tell me you lived during the great depression?"

A smile came to her face. "Oh, yes. What a time that was. There was no work, ya know. But we survived."

"How did you get by?"

"Well, we all worked together. Everyone worked together. We helped each other." She frowned. "It's not like today, where people are too busy to worry about anyone but themselves. In those days, we worked together. If you didn't, you starved."

"It must have been a hard time, Mrs. Smith. I don't know how you did it."

"I didn't." she grinned. "We did. We did it together, the neighbors and my family."

He left her smiling and hoped her grandson paid a visit the next day.

He moved down the hall and stepped into Mr. Walker's room. "Hey, Walk! How's things?" He used the name Walk, as all the others in the center called him. It made Walk feel comfortable.

Mr. Walker looked up from a puzzle he leaned over. "Could be better, Mike. This damn puzzle has me stumped. These eyes aren't what they used to be."

"I know, Walk. Just take your time. There's no rush."

"There is too." Walk chuckled. "I need to finish it before I die."

"Not too soon I hope." Mike said.

"Soon enough. Be glad not to have to work on this darn thing anymore anyway. Say! Have I told you about the guy who walks into a bar with a giraffe under his arm?"

Mike chuckled. Walk loved a good joke. "I don't believe you have."

Walk's face broke out in a smile. "You see, this guy walks into a bar with a giraffe under his arm. He has a few beers. The giraffe falls asleep on the floor. The bartender looks down, sees the giraffe and asks, 'What's that lying on the floor?'

"The guy says, 'That's not a lion! That's a giraffe.'"

Walk broke into a laugh that turned into a coughing spell. Mike slapped him on the back. "Come on, Walk. Cough it up."

Walk got himself under control. "Thought I wasn't going to finish this damn puzzle after all."

"You're OK now. I got your back."

I know about covering someone's back." Walk sat straight his seat. "I was in WWII ya know."

"I heard that. Did you have a hard time?" Mike asked.

"Mike, you have no idea. It was the winter of '41, or was it '42. I can't remember now. Snow was up to here." Walk pointed to his thigh. "We were on the front. The enemy was close ."

Thirty minutes later, Mike said, "WOW! That's a story, Walk." He paused. "Walk, I knew you were in the war, but I don't think I ever thanked you. I want to say, 'Thank you.' You made us safe."

"Ah, stop it. It was nothing." Walk turned to his puzzle, too embarrassed to continue their talk. He and others knew what they did, but don't want to take credit. It's an unspoken rule between the veterans. They did what they had to.

Mike continued on his rounds, held hands, shared hugs and listened.

Here they were, like the cookbooks, sitting in dark corners, ignored. Mike knew what to do. He held them, let their hearts fall open, and found the pages stained with use.

They are the most valued. They are the pages long forgotten.

Michael T. Smith

Michael has recently been published in two Chicken Soup for the Soul Books (All in the Family and Things I Learned from My Cat), in "Thin Threads - Life Changing Moments" and in Catholic Digest.

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Train Your Thoughts to Help You

I was looking out the window yesterday and wondered when the sun would burn out. In a single moment I immediately recognized my deliberate thinking of doom. I don't even know where it came from. I can be doing well in most areas of my life then suddenly a negative thought will invade my psyche. It almost seems to come without provocation.

When this happens, I intentionally transfer my thoughts to something pleasant and the despairing thoughts slowly fade away. I feel that I must take a consistent inventory of my thoughts as well as my actions on a regular basis because being human means working toward the positive every minute of your life. It is so easy to think of something destructive and fall into a pattern of doom. Sometimes it may take a minute to recover but if we are not careful, a moment could turn into days, weeks, and months before we realize that we have been sabotaged by an unattended negative thought.

Early in my life I did not recognize the correlation between thoughts and well-being. Thoughts fly through the mind at speeds we are unable to fathom. So why would we think disturbing or fearful thoughts could take over if we are in conscious thought?  They cannot.  Most of our thoughts are not deliberate. The majority of time the subconscious mind, out of pure habit, spins all kinds of thoughts in and out of our conscious minds.

Check in with your thoughts from time to time and examine what you are thinking. If you are stuck in traffic, cleaning your house, doing laundry, or trying to relax, monitor the thoughts aimlessly swirling in and out of your mind. Are they all useful? Are some of your thoughts actually doing you a disservice? Do some thoughts need to be replaced with positive affirmations?

Letting your mind wander is not always productive to your overall well-being.

I think negative thoughts in particular crop up from our subconscious and creep into our awareness any time we have a bout with physical or emotional stress. I guess the main thing for me to remember here is that stress is almost always caused by a reaction to something or someone. My anxiety level will begin to rise and before I know it, I run with pain consuming my body. To calm myself, I stop, sit, and listen to my body. My energy now has to be directed to positive energy in order for the threshold of pain to stop. Finding a quiet place in my mind, I surrender to my higher power and ask for relief. A pause of relief simmers in my mind and I know that listening to my body is a direct contact with a power greater than I. Relief, recovery, and love take over.

The sun might burn out one day because it is a star. But my stars are higher than the sun. My vision is beyond what I see. I am not alone. I am happy. I believe in miracles. I am safe.

Brenda T. Brown (Ms. B) has published her first poetry book entitled Every Mother’s Daughter. She continues to write, teach, and help others take steps in the direction of their dreams. Visit her website at:

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Courtesy Is Kindness in Action

As a society we have become almost obsessed with identifying and asserting our rights - to think, say, and do what we want. That's not surprising, given the history of our country and the prominent role the Constitution and Bill of Rights have played in shaping our culture.

We have a right to be unkind, thoughtless, and disrespectful - but it isn't right. Ralph Waldo Emerson pointed out, "Life is short but there is always time for courtesy."

The idea is to act in ways that make the people we are dealing with feel valued. Courtesy is kindness in action.

It starts with good manners - saying please, thank you, and excuse me. But real courtesy involves more thoughtful ways of showing respect. Courtesy is a form of kindness. It matters how we address people and how we greet them, as well as how we eat, talk, and cough in their presence.

Courtesy involves remembering important occasions, buying thoughtful gifts, and sending personal thank-you notes.

Making people feel important is part of courtesy, so it's important to remember that whether or not people remember what we say or do, they do remember how we made them feel.

Make eye contact, truly listen, and show genuine interest in the lives of others by asking them questions and remembering their answers. A good start is to keep in mind H. Jackson Brown's insight: "Everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something."

Always be kinder than necessary because you can never be too kind.

Michael Josephson

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