Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A little holiday cheer for y'all

Santa Claus, like all pilots, gets regular visits from the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FAA examiner arrived last week for the pre-Christmas flight check. In preparation, Santa had the elves wash the sled and bathe all the reindeer. Santa got his logbook out and made sure all his paperwork was in order.

He knew they would examine all his equipment and truly put Santa's flying skills to the test. The examiner walked slowly around the sled. He checked the reindeer harnesses, the landing gear, and even Rudolph's nose. He painstakingly reviewed Santa's weight and balance calculations for sled's enormous payload.

Finally, they were ready for the check ride. Santa got in and fastened his seat belt and shoulder harness and checked the compass. Then the examiner hopped in carrying, to Santa's surprise, a shotgun.

"What's that for!?" asked Santa incredulously. The examiner winked and said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this ahead of time," as he leaned over to whisper in Santa's ear, "but you're gonna lose an engine on takeoff."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Learn to survive — and thrive — no matter what comes your way

I've seen people do all kinds of things to relieve anxiety. Some have a glass of wine at dinner. Others shop or eat. But these are troubling times — with hurricanes, tsunamis, war, and acts of terrorism — and if drinking, eating, or hitting the mall is your way offending off anxiety over the state of the world, you should know that the bill will eventually come due. And I don't mean just the credit card statement. Such coping methods do nothing to build your inner strength and resiliency. Fortunately, there are ways to nurture true inner peace when outer peace isn't an option.

A few months ago, a woman I'll call Nancy attended one of my seminars. Nancy had been through hard times: Three years earlier her house had burned down; then her husband's National Guard unit shipped out to Iraq, and when he returned he was angry, depressed, and traumatized. The couple got therapy yet grew further apart until, finally, her husband asked for a divorce. Nancy realized she had a choice: She could drown in self-pity or move forward. After seeing how the trauma of war had torn up her husband, she wanted to make a difference with her life. So, at 35, she enrolled in nursing school.

I think even Nancy was surprised by her resilience. But her leap into a life of greater meaning came from a simple change in outlook. She shifted her focus from her own problems to the difficulties of others. And that one change brought her clarity and peace.

Cats and Alcohol

Cats and Alcohol (Photo)
Cats and Alcohol (Photo)
Cats and Alcohol (Photo)

8 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Last Competition

If competitions are what you make of them--and if your Last big national competition is right around the corner, make sure that you don't let any moments, big or small, flip right past you. Chances are that you're feeling a million mixed emotions right now. After all, your teammates probably haven't just become your closest friends, they've also become like a second family. Whether you plan to cheer in college, become a staff instructor, coach at an all-star gym or hang up your poms for good after this year, vow to make your last big competition unforgettable.

Here are eight surefire ways to make the most out of the season's last competition, plus 10 extra ideas for your teammates and coaches.

1. Get Connected
Remember the Girl Scout song that goes, "Make new friends but keep the old?" One of the best ways to make your last competition count is by mingling with other teams and getting to know their cheerleaders on your own. Bring a notebook to jot down the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of your competitors. Talk to competition staffers if you want to become a camp instructor, and spend time with your coach one-on-one while you're away. After all, who better to get that much-needed college cheer advice from than someone who cheered herself?.

2. Pass It Along
Give the returning cheerleaders something to remember you by next season: Create a spirited poem, inspirational quote page or make a decorative framed picture and give it to your teammates at the Last practice before Nationals. It'll inspire them next year and may even become a squad tradition.

3. Scrapbook It
Take lots of pictures throughout your trip and scrapbook them afterwards. Make sure you collect the little things along the way too, such as plane tickets, restaurant business cards, confetti, hair bows, etc.

4. Be a Savvy Traveler
Make the bus, plane or car as fun as possible by bringing along games, quizzes, magazines and music. While you're at it, why not show off your senior style, too? "We make special bag tags for the seniors' luggage," says Ashley Parish and Alora Price of Oak Harbor HS in Oak Harbor, WA.

Also, consider wearing the same cheer shirts on the plane or sporting cute cheer bows in your hair.

5. Fun in the Sun
Headed to Disney? Competing right near the beach? If there's time and your coach gives you the OK, hit up local attractions like amusement parks, the hotel pool, cool restaurants or beachy spots to get the most out of your trip. Quick tip: You might be able to score discount passes through the competition company or get a cheaper rate because you're a student, so don't be afraid to ask!

6. Pump Up the Jams
You probably sing the songs in your competition routine every day, so why not take them with you as a memento? "Make a CD with all of the songs your squad has used in competition routines," says Katie LeBlanc of the Sparks All-Stars in Stoughton, MA. For a funny bonus CD, speed up or slow down the tempo, or write cute quotes from your teammates on the inside case cover.

7. Host a Sleepover or Nationals Party
If your parents give you the thumbs up and you've got enough space, consider hosting a Nationals sleepover, pizza party or ice cream social at your home. "Throw a slumber party for everyone close to Nationals," says Chelsea Nosworthy of Paul Laurence Dunbar HS in Lexinginton, KY. If space is limited, find out if your coach can rent out a hotel room on behalf of the seniors. "Sometimes we go to hotels, rent out a room and have a swimming party [instead]."

8. Toughen Up
If this is your last Nationals, then you've got even more cause for motivation--how about finally landing that standing tuck or full? "I'm taking private [lessons] to get my round-off back handspring for competition this year," says Heather Maher of the Spirit Celebration All-Stars in Piano, TX. "I want to set a good example for the rest of my team and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride for everything I achieved this year."

Competition Blowout!
If you're not a senior, give your graduating seniors an ultra-special send-off. A cheerleader's last competition is a super big deal, so here are just a few ways your teammates and coaches can show the seniors how much they'll be missed.

By Colleen Leonard

Night Train to Frankfurt

By Marisa Silver

They were going to boil Dorothy’s blood. Take it out, heat it, put it back in. The cancer would be gone. Well, that wasn’t exactly it. The treatment had a more formal-sounding name, thermosomethingorother, a word that was both trustworthy (because you recognized the prefix) and lofty, so that you didn’t really question it, knew you were too thick to really understand whatever explanation might be given you. “They’re going to boil my blood” is what it came down to, and this was what Dorothy had told her daughter, Helen, when she called her from New York. There were statistics, affidavits. There was a four-color brochure from the clinic in Frankfurt, Germany, printed in three languages. As they waited for the train in the Munich station, Helen studied the pamphlet’s fonts and graphics. A frequent dupe of advertising herself–how many depilatories and night creams had she bought over the years, and at what expense?–Helen understood the significance behind the choice of peaceful, healing blue over charged, emotional red, the softening elegance of the italicized quotes from Adèle de Chavigny, a woman from Strasbourg who had not only survived having her blood boiled but had gone on to live a life of graceful transcendence. There were no concrete images of the clinic itself, no pictures of whatever this boiling machine might look like. Helen imagined huge vats like those in a brewery–wide, clear tubes with viscous, viral blood moving sluggishly in one direction, while bright, animated, healthy blood rushed eagerly back toward the patient. On the roof of the brewery, she imagined enormous chimneys expelling the sweet-sour-smelling residue of defeated disease into the air. Poof, poof, the smokestacks would go, and all the German townsfolk (yes, in her fantasy they were wearing lederhosen and small peaked caps) would look up, proud to know that, in their town, death had been conquered.

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