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MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIf you drive around central Texas at all, you may notice a woman wildly waving her arms in the car. That could be me.

I am also a woman who responds to stress with anger. Since I live in a busy household of six active people, it’s not hard to find things to get stressed about—and easy to find targets for my anger. So my family and I can all be grateful that I joined the launch team for The Cure for the Perfect Life. Under the talented direction of authors Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp, I have made a significant about-face to both stress and anger.

Just in time, too, as we’ve had an unusual amount of financial stress around here. With one child headed back to college, one headed to the open road (new driver insurance!) and a third headed to the orthodontist (braces!!), we are anticipating one of the most expensive years we have had in a long time. We’ve really had to tighten some belts and step out in faith.

Recently Brent and I were recounting over dinner all the times God had been faithful to take care of us in the money department. Good to remember. It must have also been part of His providence that I had just finished reading Chapter 12, This Probably Isn’t the End of the World, that very night.

The next morning I was humming a cheerful tune as I silenced a couple of “People-Pleasing bullies” (Chapter 2) while attempting to accommodate the expectations and busy schedules of five other people. Bravo, Pam!

However, my careful arrangement hit a sour note when a neighbor returned our two prodigal dogs to the backyard—and one of them was limping. I ended up rushing from our scheduled appointment with the dentist to take my injured dog to an unexpected stop at the vet’s.

At Stop #1 I learned my 16-year-old needed his wisdom teeth out. Soon. Cha-ching! At Stop #2, we discovered Eddie had a broken ankle and needed orthopedic dog surgery. Double cha-ching!

Breathe, Pam. Pray. It’s not the End of the World.

I didn’t handle it perfectly at all—I exited the dentist’s office with a huffy, “I really didn’t need to hear this today!” I exiled my daughter from the vet’s exam room when I couldn’t take her barking at her brother a moment longer. Once home, I collapsed on my bed and refused to take another step, as exhausted as if I’d just marched in a five-hour parade. But I did take some pretty big “baby steps” that day:

  • As I hurried from one appointment to the next, I made sure to control my breathing, open my eyes, and smile, if not laugh (page 134). I felt like a grinning idiot—but I felt so much better!
  • I asked for help (Chapter 19). I asked the dental staff to help get us out the door in time to make it to the vet. I asked the vet to explain things to me as quickly as possible so that I could stop dreading the problem and start dealing with it. I asked my two closest BFF’s to listen and pray.
  • I refused to take responsibility for everyone else’s feelings (Chapter 15). Instead I gave my family room to maneuver through their emotions, their way. One child became self-centered and insensitive; another was hyper-sensitive. One kid tried to regain control by bossing others around—and the “big kid” lost control with a few choice swearwords. While in the past I would have tried to judge and fix everyone else, this time I could understand and accept—at least, a little better!
  • I prayed (page 138): for the dog, for my kids, for me—and especially for my husband. There was no gracious way to prepare Brent for such unexpected and upsetting news, yet he had to be told—and soon.
  • Throughout the day, I sought every opportunity to tone down my discordant emotions. I admit, some were a little indulgent—but pizza and chocolate have medicinal qualities, right?

Finally, I gave myself the time and space I needed to navigate my big emotions (page 138). Driving home later that night, I found all the space I needed once I turned on the CD player and heard Stars and Stripes Forever.

At the push of a button, an entire marching band filled my little car—and I was quick to join the parade. Soon I was banging drums (aka, the steering wheel) and waving my hands energetically as I conducted for an audience of one. Trust me, it’s almost impossible to feel bad when you’re leading a Sousa march—and nothing beats it for drowning out the P-bullies!

So the next time you see some woman waving her arms in the car, she could just be another brave rebel who’s discovered The Cure for the Perfect Life.