Monthly Archives: February 2012


Coming from a childhood that was financially challenged, I learned early on how important hard work was. I have been a career minded for thirty years now, and always managed to blend that well into being a mom, a wife, and a step mom. Three years ago I left a company that I had ownership in to pursue an offer in management of a new location for a local firm. I was able to design my office and bring any agents I deemed acceptable. In a down economy our office was doing remarkably well. My team of agents were some of the greatest out there, as human beings, as well as successful business minds. It was my second family, and one that I spent a tremendous amount of time with – coaching, assisting and motivating, to be the best that we could be. Unfortunately, as good as we were, the other offices not doing so well, by November to my dismay, I was let go. This was an all time low for me, as I had never before been “fired” and didn’t know the first thing about unemployment or where to start. Not only did this come at one of the hardest points in my life, as I had a dad fighting cancer and a mom with other serious health issues, but I had just bought a house to take my mom with me so that I could care for her.

My husband and I have 7 children between us and their needs grow by the day. Here I was with a new home and no job, a sick dad and an ill mom, and the holidays were right around the corner. I was facing so many struggles that I felt like a ton of bricks were placed on my back. Here I was this superwoman, or so I always thought, not feeling like myself at all.  I was dealing with not only a financial burden, but health issues and a sense of mourning for my agents that I grew so close to.

I allowed myself some time to heal, but the healing wasn’t coming as fast as I had hoped.  It was a force to get myself up and dressed. In fact, I had worked for so long that I barely owned any clothes not meant for work. I had one pair of jeans and a few sweaters that could suffice for my sad unemployed self, and surely there was no money for an unemployment wardrobe.

Thanksgiving Day was our turn without our children because it was their other parents turn, and that had me sinking lower. The next day was Black Friday, and even the best of sales couldn’t have pulled me out of the house, no money equals no shopping. So I decided to get out of my slump and try to decorate for Christmas. I went to the basement for the stockings and realized they had been damaged in the move. I went to the couch and sat to sob one more time and feel sorry for myself when suddenly there was a loud knock at the door.

My husband and son went to the door but saw someone run. He turned the light on and there sat a round gift box. The gift box read “Bless Our Home” and a little note attached said “To Laura from Santa’s Elf”. My husband brought the box inside, as my son had tried but he couldn’t lift it.  He called. I lifted the cover and inside there was a note that read:

I hope this helps a little to make Christmas better for the children. 


Santa’s Elf.

As I uncovered the tissue paper you could see the box was full, to the very top, with coins. Someone had saved every quarter, dime, nickel and penny for a very, very long time.

Suddenly, this overwhelming feeling came over me. Of course, I cried.. but these tears were different. They were tears of love, of hope, of promise. I don’t know how much is in there yet, as I haven’t been able to bring myself to do anything but look at it.  It was more than just coins in that box, it was the ability to see clearly that angels are around us, that people truly do care, and that there are some who have it so much worse.  It was my inspiration to crawl out of my sorrow and get back in the game. I took my license and joined a new firm. I was a power Broker, and I will be again. I’m also a great mom, a good wife, and a loyal and true person, and somewhere along the way those qualities are still held in high regard. It gave my family the realization that doing for others is sometimes better than anything you can ever do for yourself. It wasn’t just coins, it was closure. It was as if someone far greater than I came and held my hand and pulled me up to where I needed to be. We decided as a family  to put that money towards our Christmas Tree and holiday family dinner, and with some of it we will pay it forward and give a gift to someone when they least expect it. And even if I never find out who my elf is, I know this person knows that I am good, in fact better than ever, and it is because of them. Thank you for my “Pennies from Heaven.”


Laura is the proud mom of 7 children who writes with humor and reality in her blog called When she is not writing she is also a Licensed Real Estate Broker, Mom, Housekeeper and Wife, all positions in which she loves dearly.  Writing and creating is her passion. Laura is a contributing editor of Stepmom Magazine on line and has had her writings published in Newsday on occasion. Writing lets a person share with the world, what is often living on the inside of their heart.

Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

We welcome your review of this story in the Comment box below. Your name and credentials will be included with any review we post on Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s highly respected Book Review Blog under the TALES2INSPIRE banner.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 



My Tales2Inspire website was offline for several days before I became aware of its absence, then another three days before the problem was resolved. I know this confused quite a number of you and inconvenienced many more. I am SO sorry. To compensate for all this trouble, I have extended the deadline date to March 14, 2012 and hope this helps.

Today I would like to introduce LAURA PRINCE-VOMVOS, who submitted a wonderful “tale” to the tales2inspire contest , this one about an unidentified stranger’s generosity that made a powerful impact on her life. Enjoy STEPPING IN TODAY . . . WITH PENNIES FROM HEAVEN.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 


If you are experiencing a few moments of “writer’s block”, try this MAIDEN NAME GAME brain teaser to get you up and running.

Use the 1st letter of your Maiden name to answer each of following questions. Use only with real places, names, etc. – nothing made up. For example, my maiden name starts with “W” and you can see how I answered each question, below.

1. Maiden name – W. . . .

2. An animal –  Water buffalo

3. A boy’s name – William

4. A girl’s name – Wendy

5. An occupation – Window washer

6. Color – White

7. Something to wear – Wind breaker

8. A beverage – Water

9. A food – Watermelon

10. Something found in the bathroom – Washcloth

11. A place – Wellington

12. A reason to be late – Watch broken

13. Something you shout – “Whoa there!”

No, please DON’T send your answers back to me or to 10 other people (who once were your friends!!) Just play the game to brush aside those mental cobwebs and have a little fun.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 

LIVE GENTLY – by Cara Achterberg

We were living a fairy tale life, at least the kind of fairy tale life that includes healthy kids, a messy house, and a happy marriage, when a suspicious bald spot about the size of a quarter appeared on the top of my four-year-old’s head.

The spot grew bigger and bigger along with our fears. We took him to a dermatologist who told us he had Alopecia Areata, a relatively common autoimmune condition. She gave us a topical cream and said his hair would grow back within six months. Only it didn’t.

 Over the course of a month the rest of Ian’s hair fell out, and six months later his eyebrows and eyelashes vanished. I spent the better part of the next year living with my emotions exposed. People made me cry, and God made me angry. Why was this happening to my child?  As a parent you worry about a lot of things, but whether or not your child will have hair is not one of them. Before alopecia, Ian had a full head of red, curly hair – the kind old ladies like to touch in the grocery store and of which young women always say, “I wish that came in a bottle”.


 After extensive research and visits with doctors at both Hopkins and Hershey medical centers, all we learned was that not much is known about this disease. Alopecia Areata affects about 4-5 million Americans (and similar percentages of people in other countries). It does not discriminate for age, race, ethnic background, economic situation, or gender – anybody can get it. No one else in our family histories has ever had it. The most common cases involve only small amounts of hair loss (about the size of a quarter) which normally grows back, but a fraction of those develop Alopecia Areata Universalis which is loss of all the body’s hair. So you could say that my son is very special (and you’d be right). There are some theories, but no one knows for sure what causes Alopecia. It’s been around since biblical times, but the research is pretty thin. Basically, no one knows what causes it and no one can cure it. Faced with that knowledge, I did what any good mother would do. I set out to fix him myself. If I couldn’t cure him, I would make his body so healthy it could right itself.

 This led our whole family to begin living an organic life. And while five years later Ian still has no hair (he says he wouldn’t want any because then he’d have to wash it and brush it and he might get nose hair “which would be gross”), our whole family is much healthier both physically and emotionally. If it weren’t for Ian’s Alopecia, we might have never discovered how good life feels without chemicals and additives. I might never have learned that when you eat real food from grass fed animals, vegetables grown the way nature intended, and food created by your own hands, you think more clearly, feel lighter, have more energy, and fewer mood swings. My oldest son suffered from frequent asthma attacks until we got rid of all the chemical cleaners in our house. My husband’s cholesterol was headed through the roof until we ditched the processed food and started adding flax seed, whole grains, and grass-fed dairy products to his diet. If Ian hadn’t lost his hair, I might never have known the joy of chicken-keeping (and there is joy in it, as well as delicious fresh eggs, natural pest control, and rich fertilizer).

 Perhaps the biggest lesson came from having suffered through the pain of adjusting to living with a mysterious disease over which you have no control and no explanation. That’s when I learned that everyone has a story. Everyone has something that they must overcome. No one gets off scott free in this life. It’s very tempting to look at someone’s life and think that they’ve got it good, there’s no reason for them to be grumpy or difficult, until you’ve spent a year living with your pain exposed and your emotions fresh. Then you realize you don’t have any clue what’s going on in other people’s lives and hearts. Alopecia Areata helped me to re-prioritize my life. Early in this adventure my mother-in-law said to me, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to him, be grateful.” At the time I wanted to smack her, but now I completely believe that with all my heart. Everyone has a handicap, a weakness. No one’s perfect, and if Ian’s weakness is that he simply doesn’t have any hair then Hallelujah.

 Now when someone looks at me funny or is rude or disrespectful or even downright mean, I let it go. I remember that I don’t know what’s going on inside them. I don’t know what kind of pain they are facing. I don’t know why they are irritable or fearful or sad. So I can forgive their moodiness, their ill temper, their criticism. Instead of being hurt or angry, I simply wonder how tangled their life is and let it go. I can’t tell you the freedom this had given my own life.

 When Ian was first diagnosed and we went out in public, people always assumed he was a chemo patient. They were compassionate and kind and gentle with him. I remember watching a complete stranger carefully spotting Ian as he climbed through the tunnels at Port Discovery, making sure he was safe. A security guard at Hershey Park gave Ian a giant chocolate bar and the ladies behind the fudge counter at the farm market always offered him a free piece of fudge. Once a waiter comped our entire check at Pizza Hut. In the beginning all I could do was nod thanks because every one of these encounters reduced me to tears. Now that I can talk about Ian’s condition more comfortably, I still don’t correct the kind strangers’ assumptions. Another parent of a child with Alopecia said, “Don’t correct them. They feel good because they did something good for someone. Let them have that.” So for the most part I don’t say anything. I also don’t say anything because my son doesn’t realize why these people are so kind to him. He just thinks people are nice.

 Imagine how kind our world would be if everyone treated everyone else as if they were terminally ill, injured, or in pain. No one would yell at anyone. No one would curse the slow driver in front of them or snap at the grumpy cashier or be rude to their waiter. We would go out of our way to help others and be generous with our money, our time, and our words. Having a child with Alopecia has been a great blessing. It’s taken me some time to reach that conclusion. But I know our lives are better and Ian’s life is better because of this disease.

Live gently among your neighbors – give them the benefit of the doubt and your kindness, nothing more and nothing less.

CAP, the Children’s Alopecia Project (CAP), was founded to help children who are living with hair loss due to all forms of alopecia. Through their efforts, CAP Kids grow in confidence and become stronger teens and productive adults. Learn more.


Cara Achterberg lives on a small farm in Southern York County, Pennsylvania with her husband, three children, several horses, and too many chickens to count. When she’s not in her gardens or taxiing her children all over the countryside, she is a freelance writer, local columnist, and leads workshops about the organic life based on her blog, She is currently seeking a publisher for her novel in the hopes that she will make enough money to hire a cleaning person.AGet more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

We welcome your review of this story in the Comment box below. Your name and credentials will be included with any review we post on Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s highly respected Book Review Blog under the TALES2INSPIRE banner.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty


A friend sent me this message, reminding me to value my friends, keep in touch with them, laugh with them, and pray both for them and with them during those tough moments.

* Another Off the Beaten Path Story from Lois

Why do I have a variety of friends who are all so different in character? How can I get along with them all? I think that each one helps to bring out a “different” part of me.

With one of them I am polite. With another, I joke and laugh a lot. I sit down and talk about serious matters with yet another, while listening to or sharing life’s problems. And with a fourth dear friend, I seek advice.

My friends are all like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When completed, they form a treasure box. A treasury of friends! They are my friends who understand me better than I understand myself, who support me through good days and bad days. We all hope and pray together and for one another.

Research shows that people in strong social circles have less risk of depression and terminal strokes. Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health. Dr. Oz calls them Vitamin Fs (for Friends) and counts the benefits of friends as essential to our well-being.

If you enjoy Vitamin Fs constantly you can be up to 30 years younger than your real age. The warmth of friendship stops stress and even in your most intense moments it decreases the chance of a cardiac arrest or stroke by 50%.

I’m so happy that I have a stock of Vitamin F!

Thank you for being one of my Vitamins!

Beauty Within

                   Beauty Without . . .

                                 What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 

* I write on many different topics across the Internet. I call them
my OFF THE BEATEN PATH articles because they extend beyond the
typical concept of beauty. Some explore my thoughts on inner beauty,
some tell inspirational stories of people whose deeds have brought
more beauty to the lives of virtual strangers, and some will be
little more than vignettes of personal experiences that have helped
me find peace and harmony in my life.

IN THE ZONE by Gabrielle Sitkowski

As the day of stressful classes come to an end, I reach into my strawberry-colored bag to retrieve my sturdy and intimidating flats. Like prison bars, the metal spikes stand tall and firm on the bottom of my sneaker. They are anxious to grip the ground beneath them. These spikes are ready for action to crush, tear and smother. Do not underestimate their power. Even though they are little in size they possess great strength.

Gabrielle and Teammate Pose at KPXC Field Where She Runs Races

I walk across the park, slowly approaching the starting line. I look ahead and notice how the cherry and apple trees are lined up like soldiers ready for battle. I notice the sun is at an angle, creating areas of darkness in the forest. In these areas, the squirrels scurry across the fallen leaves. To my side, the shore of the ocean peeks out through a small opening between the trees. I hear the roaring of the waves. The air is crisp. I take a deep breath to relax before my race. I smell fresh air with a hint of burning wood. This moment in time is where I become one with nature. I rely on nature to guide me through its path, to make it out to the finish line. This moment is one of relaxation, peace and tranquility. I treasure this moment; it is precious. It is the last time I will be calm for the next twenty five minutes.

The whistle has been blown, commanding every racer to take their position on the starting line. Becoming prepared for this race is a mind game. The nerves throughout my body are fluttering; I can feel my heart beating throughout my body. The tension is so high I want to break down and cry. I try to resist the intimidation of the other racers. This task is difficult, for their faces are aggressive and fierce. I repeat to myself “I can do this” over and over, instilling this fact into my brain.  I take one last deep breath, “This is it” I mumble to myself, “On your mark, ready set……”

I am in the zone. My surroundings are blurry-I cannot focus on anything around me. The screams of people cheering on the sidelines all mush into one monotone sound. Nothing matters. The only thing that is important is crossing the finish line with that feeling of accomplishment. As I run down the hill, my brain jars with the unsteadiness of ground beneath me. I feel my head bop up and down. I feel all of the stress from my life leave my mind, it evaporates into the fresh autumn air. As I pound harder into the ground, more and more sweat drips from my entire body. I am being cleansed. Cleansed of all of the tension that life brings. Cleansed of the corruption I have witnessed in the world. The only thing that is left is my true being; myself and all of the world. I have an entire world to explore and an entire lifetime filled with discoveries.

Running teaches you so much about life. It teaches you how to overcome obstacles. It reminds you that there is light at the end of every dark tunnel. It gives you the opportunity to go beyond your potential, to exceed your limit, to reach a place you never thought was possible. You learn how to deal with pain. You learn that if one suffers on this earth that it will not be forever. I experience pain for those twenty-five minutes, knowing when I cross the finish line, I will feel great joy and pride. Running teaches you how to react to failure. Not everything in life will go your way, and a person needs to be prepared to be put down. The most important thing is to learn how to react to these setbacks in life. If one reacts properly, they will be set on the right path back to success. Unlike any other sport, running involves no contact with opponents. There is no pushing or shoving. Our diverse world needs to recognize this peaceful way of competition. Taking part in a race is the one place where you are isolated from all of the violence in the world. You forget about the murders, rapes, wars and bombing. In running, war ends with a shake of the hand and pat on the back.

Although many people refer to these twenty-five minutes of running “hell”; it is heaven to me. All of my recognitions about life and important decisions have taken place while running. Running sets your priorities straight; it brings tranquility to your mind. It makes you one with nature. It teaches you lessons about life. Most importantly, it makes you stay true to yourself.

Only a runner could relate to this experience. Once a person starts the hobby of running, it easily becomes a passion. I express deep sympathy for a person who has never been in the zone.  They have missed out on a beautiful part of life.


My name is Gabrielle Sitkowski and I am twenty years old. I grew up in Kings Park, New York. I am currently a junior at Marist College pursuing a degree in accounting. My favorite pastime is writing. I have published works in my college’s literary magazine The Mosaic. Last summer I finished writing my first book, which I am trying to get published. Another popular pastime of mine is running. All four years of high school I was on the track and cross country teams. In the future, I plan to attend graduate school at Marist College to receive my MBA for accountants as well as becoming a CPA.

Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

We welcome your review of this story in the Comment box below. Your name and credentials will be included with any review we post on Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s highly respected Book Review Blog under the TALES2INSPIRE banner.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 


A friend recently asked me, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” She wasn’t talking about jumping out of airplanes or climbing Mount Everest, but the subtle things we do or don’t do because we’re afraid, such as letting go of a relationship that doesn’t work any more, speaking up to voice an opinion, changing careers or simply singing Karaoke. With more days behind me than in front of me, (unless of course I beat the odds and live past 100), now seemed as good of a time as any to start living from my heart and push past some fears that were limiting my choices. I was reminded of a quote by Martin Luther King Junior, “Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.” Inspired, I decided to launch into the second half of life with a willingness to master some fears.

 First on my list of fears to conquer was to ride in an Arabian horse show on my daughter’s horse SBA Sensational, otherwise known as Al.  We’re not talking the low-key, local fairgrounds type horse show, but the kind where fancy horses and riders with trainers attend.  Easy enough, I thought. I can do this.  After all, I’d been watching my daughter compete in horse shows throughout her junior and senior high school years and figured I had a pretty good idea of what to do. As a seasoned trail rider, how hard could it be?  The scary part for me would be riding into an arena to be judged on my performance and compared with other accomplished riders – a situation I normally tried to avoid at all costs. Three days before the big event my anxiety mounted and an old whiplash injury flared up. The muscles in my neck and shoulders were so tight I pinched a nerve resulting in a slight tingling sensation down my left arm that continued into my hand and fingers.  The throbbing headache at the base of my scull didn’t appear until the night before the show. Maybe my body was trying to tell me something? Well, vanquishing fear was not for wimps, and I certainly was no wimp!

Driving to Denver on the day of the show I could feel the cortisol coursing through my body and wondered if showing was really such a good idea after all. Thoughts whirled through my head – what if I embarrass myself, what if Al gets the wrong lead, what if I accidentally cut off another rider, or what if I can’t get Al to go into the show ring? I began to think, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” is a ridiculous question and I’m no Martin Luther King Junior. Undeterred by my raging self-doubt, I exited onto Interstate 70 towards the arena. Once inside the building, I found the area where Al was stalled along with the other horses from my barn. A quiet tension filled the air as the grooms busily readied horses to be shown and riders put on makeup, pulled their hair into tight buns held into place with layers of hairspray, and pinned entry numbers onto their riding jackets. I stopped to check on Al who had been transformed into a beautiful creature, his mane neatly braided and eyes and muzzle highlighted with baby oil enhancing his chiseled Arabian face. As I gazed into his eyes and scratched his ears I tried to determine what frame of mind he was in, hoping he was relaxed and not in one of his stubborn, defiant moods.

Now it was my turn to be transformed. I headed to the dressing room where I traded my comfortable frayed jeans and T-shirt for tight tan breeches, a button down blouse, and tailored jacket. My worn clogs were replaced with tall black boots, and along with a velvet helmet and black leather gloves, the outfit was complete. With my hair slicked back and makeup in place, I felt like one of the Texans I’d seen (and made fun of) at the ski resorts dressed in swanky clothing attempting to blend in and disguise their lack of skill. Funny how fate has a way of reversing itself. A voice echoed across the loud speaker announcing that Adult Amateur Hunter Pleasure was the next class up and to please check in at the gate. So the moment of truth had arrived. I mounted Al outside the arena and along with four other riders awaited the cue to enter. We looked like clones of one another, each wearing the same riding uniform other than slight variations in color.  The only marked difference was that Al fidgeted and pranced while the other horses stood quietly in attention with a calm rider on their back. Little did I know that this was an omen of things to come.

Katie, Al and Anne

When the gate opened, I took a deep breath, faced my fear and trotted into the stadium.  So far, so good. We circled around the arena at a trot and I was beginning to settle into a rhythm when I heard my trainer barking orders from the side rail “Bridle him, bridle him, more leg, more outside rein.” I immediately tensed up, pulled on the reins and added pressure with my legs hoping Al would arch his body into a “collected” frame only to have him stop dead in his tracks and then begin backing up. We’re not talking a few steps, but half the length of the arena. Other riders veered around us to avoid a collision as I continued to coax him forward. This was not good. I was beginning panic and all I could hear was a distant voice instructing me, “More leg, kick him with your spurs, sit back.” I was mortified but finally managed to get him moving forward as the announcer called for the hand gallop, a gait we actually did quite well. For the remainder of the class my only goal was to finish without any other major mishaps. After a few more minutes of trotting and walking the class ended. Relieved, Al and I lined up in the center of the arena with the other riders in front of the ring steward. The judge made one final request as he walked past each horse, asking riders to back five steps. Standing in front of me he grinned slyly and said, “Well, I guess we know you can back up!”

Leaving the arena with my 5th place ribbon, I didn’t feel like I’d mastered my fear completely, but I certainly made some progress. My underlying fear of failure, which I certainly did with some flair, was lessened as well. A fellow rider with a wicked sense of humor asked if I planned to move forward next go-around. Fortunately, the following class was for beginner riders and Al out-performed the other sole contender to win first place. As my brother would say, “We were the best of the worst.” I like to think Martin Luther King Junior was sending a little encouragement my way. Perhaps a bit of his courageous spirit dwells in all those willing to face their fears, large or small.


Anne Knorr is a licensed architect in Colorado and has beenthe principal of an architectural firm for over 20 years designing homes. She is also a practicing spiritual director and writer.  Anne has written and lectured about the connection between architecture and spirituality and offers workshops and retreats on the topic. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband where she enjoys hiking the trails near her home. Click here to visit her website.

Beauty Within

                  Beauty Without . . .

                                  What’s Your Passion?

Click to Explore the Many Dimensions of Beauty 

Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

Dollycas's Thoughts Part II


Inspiring true stories for the winners of the Tales2Inspire "Authors Helping Authors"project/contest

Folsom Mill Studio

going with the flow

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Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.


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Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi


Welcome to my Blog!


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Open, free, philosophical


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Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences


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a path worth taking. . .

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