Thursday, September 15, 2005

Angel on My Shoulder

This article was written for AERAS's Newsletter. You can visit AERAS online at:

Angel on My Shoulder
Janice M. Phelps
Tonight, an angel sat upon my shoulder. She was not as "light as a feather," but as light as many feathers, as light as the soft touch of a caring friend. Her feathers brushed against my cheek; her smooth beak nuzzled in my hair...

She doesn’t seem to mind that I’m tired from a long day’s work and sweaty from unusual September humidity. She doesn’t seem to mind that my makeup faded hours ago, I am watching CNN and drinking diet coke while reading the newspaper and gently rubbing her new pin feathers through my thumb and forefinger. She lets me do this; carefully remove the stiff sheath, releasing the small clean feathers that lie flat on her head like a sleek do.

Tonight was the first night she stayed up later than "the others." Tonight was the first night she stayed alone with me, on my shoulder, receiving kisses and loving words, bopping to the voices of Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn, eyeing our two small dogs with less apprehension than she did six months ago. Yes, it’s been six months since Sugar came to stay. Since I said to AERAS, "I promise..." and Sugar said "Whoonk!"

I didn’t really need another bird. (Okay, is that the most frequently written sentence uttered by bird lovers everywhere?) My clutch included Bailey, a 4-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, Gracie, a 6-year-old Maximillian Pionus, Pip, a 1-year-old Fisher’s lovebird, Tyler, a 4-year-old Pekingnese, and Jackie, a 2-year-old Chihuahua, and a rather nice aquarium. But, the house is big, I work at home, Goffin’s are relatively easy to care for and I thought a same-species friend would be good for Bailey.

AERAS’s site listed Snuggles, a 20-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo who had spent her life sitting on top of a bird cage and was given up for adoption because her owner didn’t have enough time for her. Time for her? I thought. How much time does it take to let a bird sit on top of her cage all day? I tried not to be judgmental and felt that there must be more to the story. If there was, the fault was not with Snuggles; she has not been one gram of trouble.

I changed Snuggle’s name to Sugar because she is the purest white; I have a weakness for sugar and had months earlier been forced to drastically cut back on its consumption. Forty-five pounds less now, adopting Sugar was a good replacement for eating candy.

Since I live alone and work at home I knew I would be able to give Sugar the stable and loving environment a rescued bird needs. I thought the other birds would be good for her to, and she has certainly been good for them. Bailey, at first cautiously timid, now accepts Sugar climbing up on top of Bailey’s big cage each morning, sharing her toys and food with Sugar and even, recently, calling to her from one part of the house to the other: "Ougar!" Sugar, never a talker, has tried to imitate Bailey’s calls, including "Mama!" Mostly though she is a quiet bird; her morning and dusk-time calls last for no more than five minutes, if that, and are not disturbing at all.

Goffin’s are a great species for anyone wanting a medium-sized parrot. They have the cuddle-factor of most cockatoos, but have less dust, smaller beaks, and less lung power. Their faces are very expressive. Bailey’s expressions include: consternation (furrowing of her forehead and a flatting of her crown), curiosity (lifting of her crown), brattiness (squawking for her own way), love (stroking my face with her beak in an up and down motion), bravery (she loves to swing holding onto the end of a dog leash with her beak), friendliness (once she sees a person is accepted into the home), independence (plays well with toys), and domesticity. I don’t know if this is true of all Goffin’s but Bailey loves the dishwasher, washing machine, making pies or cookies, making pancakes, toast, and watching the microwave...also sitting on the faucet and sipping water.

But, back to Sugar... She has been with me for six months now and until recently showed no signs of becoming more comfortable with stepping up or sitting with me. Then, I put a towel over my arm and she stepped right up! Tonight, she didn’t want to go to bed ("go in your house" is the bedtime signal), so after covering the other birds’ cages (just to prevent any jealousy or curiosity as they were to go to sleep), I picked her up and took her downstairs to my chair, and we had our time together.
"This is nice Sugar... we should do this more often," I crooned into her unseen ear. "Let me help with those tiny feathers; they must be itchy. I can help with that... Let’s do this again; this can be your time with Mommy. What a pretty girl. What a good girl you are..."

About two months ago I was in the local department store, the pet aisle, and saw an acrylic bird toy: a spinning mirror that affixed to the cage (approx. $3.00). I brought it home intending it for Bailey. But, Sugar came across her cage top and over to investigate. Since she was so curious, I clasped it on her cage top and soon discovered that she played with it every day. It was her favorite toy. Soon, she was playing with the wood sticks I’d bought at a bird fair and had had sitting around for about two years. At Wal-mart I found small wooden trucks in their craft department (88 cents). She loved her truck and chewed the wheels off with glee. Yeah, Sugar!
Sugar adopted us in March. It’s now September. She spends her days sitting on top of a huge cage looking out the window at the leaves on two giant trees, watching them go from bare, to buds, to leaves and now to orange. She can hear the children in the neighborhood come home from school. She can see my car when it drives away and when it returns. She can hear the mailman clang the mailbox and the newspaper boy plop the newspaper. She hears the phone ring in my office and knows that if she has a need for me, I am only right at the bottom of the steps.

She’s learned that a tiny Chihuahua is really only interested in any peanuts she might drop and the Pekingnese has a bond with avians that is uncanny and deep. They seem to communicate without words, and know just how to interpret the nuances of their respective body movements, no matter how small. During my lunch break, I go into the birds’ room, turn their TV from WOSU to CNN, lie down on the twin bed in there and Bailey, Gracie, Pip and Tyler make their way onto the bed, onto me, and we forget about deadlines, bills, the cost of gas, the war in Iraq, the sad situation in the Gulf states, and other birds without forever homes. We think of all we have, and how the best things don’t cost too much at all. The best thing is having birds who spend their days with their cage doors open, but they don’t want to fly away. They are happy, they are loved, they are home.

Sugar watches from her perch and sees the others interacting with me at lunchtime; I think this has given her the confidence to enjoy spending time sitting with me on her own. It makes me feel so good to know that she needed a home and I was able to provide it; that she is not in danger of mistreatment or neglect; that she found her forever home with me.

Being a guardian to birds is a serious commitment; it’s a long commitment; but I think it makes one a better human. A dog will love most anyone. A bird’s love is a prize that must be earned. Because birds are not as easy for humans to understand, it takes a person being willing to learn, observe, talk with others, try new things, persevere at times, and look for small signs of success. A bird requires that we be our best selves; and that is a blessing. It’s a blessing to be needed, wanted, and loved. To know that your presence is required; and with these rescued birds, it is required. They cannot just fly into a tree and survive. Someone, at some point, decided to hold them captive and to tame them. They cannot go back to the wild. Someone, at some point, let them down, and now they have no one to follow through and care for them until they fly to heaven.

It feels good to restore their faith in humans and to let them know they now have a place to call home, dependable food, and toys to play with.

Like most people, I have a busy life. I run two businesses, a graphic design and editing studio and a publishing company, and have an employee, two grown sons (one of whom is disabled), and hobbies that I don’t always have time for. But I’ve counted how much time the birds take each day, and actually the time they need undivided attention comes out to about an hour a day (and about half of that is for cleaning and food prep). Most of the time we spend together I am doing other things as well (watching TV, straightening up the house, doing my exercises, talking on the phone, working at my computer, reading the newspaper). The birds get up at 7 a.m. and go to bed by 7 p.m. They have their own room and their cages get covered at night. A regular schedule seems to be important to them and to me.

Sugar has been a great addition to our family and I am so glad that AERAS rescued her and made it possible for me to have another angel on my shoulder. She truly has an angelic spirit and caring for her has given me the opportunity to be her angel as well.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Paper Covers

Paper Covers

Publishing statistics

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch ran a good article 8/16/05 on "New Chapter in Publishing: Internet bookselling opens door for the little guy." Here are a few snippets:

There are 83,000 publishers in the U.S.
Of those, 70,000 have 10 or fewer titles.
In 2004, 11,500 publishers opened their businesses.
This was a 70% increase over 1995.

195,000 (approx.) new books were published in the U.S. in 2004.
This figure is 114,000 more books than in 1995.

Interesting is that fact that while 114,000 more books were published in the U.S. in 2004 than in 1995, the actual number of books sold annually has remained "relatively flat" in the last decade.

Approx. 2.29 billion books were sold last year.

The Dispatch mentioned Al Greco's book "The Book Publishing Industry" which sounds like a good book to read, for anyone interested in the future of publishing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Choices Facing Authors...

Pick a genre:
adult fiction; adult nonfiction; children’s fiction and children’s nonfiction (see list that follows)

Length of manuscript
  • Short stories: 30 double-spaced manuscript pages
  • Novellas: 30 to 150 double-spaced manuscript pages
  • Novels: 250 to 450 double-spaced manuscript pages
  • Nonfiction: varies


The Book Industry Study Group publishes what is known as a BISAC list of categories that are standard within the book industry. You can obtain this list (BISAC Subject Headings) from

After writing the book, hiring an editor. This is recommended whether you are self-publishing or seeking an agent or publisher. There are many independent editors (for my qualifications and references, please visit If you sell the rights to your book to a publisher, the manuscript will also be edited in-house. Regardless, you should work with an editor before submitting your book to an agent or publisher.

After the manuscript is in tip-top shape the following must be addressed:

  • What will be the name of your publishing company?
  • You will need to apply for an ISBN log so that you can sell your books through retailers.
  • How will your books be sold? By you; by a wholesaler; by a distributor?
  • You must develop a marketing plan to each of your markets: readers; wholesalers; bookstores; etc.
  • What price will your book be?
  • What discount will you offer?
  • How will you physically handle the ordering and shipping process?
  • What software will you use for bookkeeping and what will the terms be?
  • Will you accept returns?
  • Will you sell internationally, nationally, regionally, statewide or locally?
  • Who will you hire to design your book?
  • How will the book be printed? Web, sheetfed, digital
  • How many books will you print?
    5,000; 3000; 1500;
    under 500 (known as a short run or PQN, print quantity needed)
    print on demand (known as POD)
  • How will you tell your market about your book?
  • What pub date will you establish for your book?
  • Will you be publishing books by other authors?
  • How will you address the issue of self-publication?

    The market for your manuscript will be, at this point, agents and/or publishers. Are you going to seek and agent or a publisher?
    You will need to research who the most likely agents or publishers are for your book.
    Will you send out multiple submissions?
    You will need to assemble your materials for submission. This involves two stages:
  • Stage 1: A query letter; a synopsis; and, for non-fiction, your qualifications to write the book
  • Stage 2: after receiving the go-ahead.... a cover letter and the first chapter and two additional chapters, and the information found in the Author’s Marketing Input Sheet in Wham! Bam! Publishing: The Strategic Marketing Plan for Authors and Publishers.
    Note: For nonfiction, your manuscript does not need to be completed. For fiction, your manuscript must be completed.

What is manuscript form?

  • Double–space your work.
  • It should be typed in 12-pt type, Times Roman typeface with one-inch margins on each side.
  • There must be a header on each page, with the title and your name in the top lef-hand corner and consecutive and continuous page numbering in the top right-hand corner.
  • Do not bind or staple your proposal. It is okay to put a rubber band around it.
  • Do not "typeset" it in MS Word.
  • Do not design a cover.
  • Do not send illustrations.
    A basic list of genres
  • romance (gothic, traditional, Native American, Western, historical, time travel, futuristic, fantasy, vampire and paranormal)
  • mysteries and crime novels
  • thrillers and suspense novels
  • horror
  • science fiction and fantasy
  • historical novels
  • literary (or mainstream) novels
    "The literary novel thrives on the reputation and consummate skill of the writer, on book reviews and blurbs from other more famous writers and on word of mouth." Peter Rubie

  • narrative nonfiction (character-driven nonfiction having a structure that echoes fiction)
    "A book of nonfiction must contain much information and should not be used as a soapbox for you to spout your pet grievance. Carefully and honestly recount in a strongly written narrative infused with much emotional content what it was like to go through the experience. People must trust you as an informed guide to the topic you’re writing about before they’ll bother to read what you have to say. That’s why most successful nonfiction is written by either journalists or experts of one sort or another." Peter Rubie
  • biography
  • memoirs
    "commercially successful memoirs are about traumatic events in a writer’s life that a writer of exquisite skill can transform into a universal experience we can all share." Peter Rubie
  • How-to Books
  • Reference Books
  • Cookbooks
  • Travel Books
  • Pop Culture
  • Humor
  • Children’s Books
  • Young Adult

Almost a year's worth of progress

A year ago I rec'd the message heard by many forty-somethings who've sat too long in front of computers, staring at lines of text while their more adventurous peers were "spinning" and kickboxing... the exact wording is forgotten, but the internal translation follows: "you're getting older; you're getting fat; your sugar's elevated; time for some change." Fortunately, the message reached me at the time every year I start thinking about my goals for the coming year; so the most important goal became crystal clear: just figuring out how to discipline myself enough to transform my body into a vessel/carrier/physical manifestation of my spirit/THING that will carry me into the next three and a half decades, which is how long I will need to live to catch up to my fit-and-fabulous mother, who has redefined the eightieth decade for everyone who knows her.

First went the sugar: goodbye morning stops at the Donut House; goodbye sweet teas and sugar-laden coffees; goodbye Miss Meringue; Circus Peanuts; seven-layer cookies; key lime cheesecake; spearmint lozenges. These friends became enemies. (imagine cute drawing of little-shop-of-horror-like candies glowering in a kitchen cabinet)

I pulled out my crochet hooks, bought more yarn than any woman who owns her own thriving business should have and started to crochet. Every evening I picked up that hook, put a parrot on my shoulder and made scarves (everyone in my family got them for Christmas), purses, and the start of what I think is a pretty good idea for a large-scale installation project commemorating big-world tragedies (as yet unfinished; not the tragedies, they keep going on for some reason).

By January I had lost almost 20 lbs.

In March, I received a call from Cathy Moxley of Fitness Insight ( Cathy was ready to hire a designer and editor for her upcoming book "The Busy Mom's Ultimate Fitness Guide" and we struck a sweet deal. Some of my services would be traded for some of her services and, voila, I had my very own fitness/health coach! Let the games begin.

Cathy is a certified "Wellness Coach" and her organization, encouragement, and practical approach fit my shrinking hips perfectly. We set goals (weekly, monthly, 3-month) and began.

I wrote down everything I ate. Still do.

Hello to snap peas, big salads with all the good stuff like at Olive Garden, Splenda, protein bars, lean meat, skim milk, and a new appreciation of apples. Before I knew it the first 12 weeks was up and the weight was down... down 15 more lbs!

In the meantime, I found someone kind enough to tolerate my amateur attempts at "spending time in the beautiful wooded Hocking Hills" and who introduced me to compasses, backpacks, comfortable tents that fold and compact themselves into tiny, lightweight packages and the incredible amount of water one needs to consume when hiking in 90-degree weather -- I traded my crochet hooks for comfortable hiking shoes and off we went.

In the meantime, the second 12-week session with Cathy began. I discovered how much my Pekingnese loves to walk and how hard our Chihuahua will push herself to keep up. I found out how lovely it is to sit atop the rocks at Mt. Pleasant, look down upon the little town of Lancaster, and read a book that I choose purely for pleasure, not because someone has paid me to read it.

I lost five more pounds.

I discovered that one can really get a lot of exercise in if one's butt moves from the couch a mere foot lower to the floor, onto a matt, and just keeps moving through "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Two and a Half-Men." I discovered that a cockatoo really likes to perch on your chest while you do crunches and blow her feathers each time you compress your stomach muscles.

I read "The Stone Diaries" (finally), "Good in Bed," and a book by a blind woman who is an artist. I went painting with the Ohio Plein Air Society (OPAS), treated myself to teeth-whitening (more than you wanted to know, right?) and spoke before three groups: The Writer's Bloc at Thurber House; a not-for-profit childrens group at Henry Manor; and at the Fairfield County Library. I overcame my fear of giving speeches. I bought new clothes. Lots. I let my hair grow out. I bought pretty shoes.

I learned that a man who knows everything about being outside also knows a ton about cooking and I found out how good things can taste without sugar, salt, and a lot of other stuff that does me no good. I learned grocery shopping can be interesting and enjoyable instead of a test of willpower.

I lost five more pounds.

Now, 45 lbs less, a year later, the journey continues. I have new goals; I am finding out what works. I am so very very thankful. Thankful to those who by their words, their knowledge, and their patience, pointed me in the right direction and stayed by me to make sure I didn't fall off the path in exhaustion.

I feel the healthiest I've every felt in my life, and that's saying quite a lot really. My mind and my body have shifted and become used to the new "familiar."

Yesterday I returned to my doctor for The Annual Check-up. I sprinted up the six flights of steps to her office. Blood sugar, totally normal. Blood pressure from 140/100 to 120/80.

My family doctor of six years told me she was moving to Kentucky. I would have to see a new doctor. Some day.... for now, I've got to help plan the next big hike, take my dog for a walk, learn a new exercise from Cathy's book, and buy a new dress to wear to my mother's birthday dinner in December.... I wonder what I will learn in the next 12 months? What will you?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Flowers Forty Years Ago

Spring is sprung and . . . the height of decadence . . . I wandered happily in the local Lowe's touching plants, deciphering labels (full sun, part sun,), consulting the "safe for parrots" list for indoor plants . . . comparing all-purpose bloom booster to rose food.

Here's what I remember, kneeling down in the cool northeastern Ohio (Canfield to be exact) grass next to my "Aunt" Wanda. She was really my cousin, hence the quotations, but I was about five and she was about 45 so to me she was my aunt. I can clearly remember one day, kneeling next to her, putting those bulbs in the ground. Then we went for a walk down the street with my favorite toy, a stuffed monkey I'd named Joe. Wanda holding one of Joe's plastic hands and me the other. I'm sure there was lemonade and cookies along the way.

Aunt Wanda passed away several years ago, but I glanced at her photo today -- it hangs in my living room, she's smiling, with my son's arm around her on one holiday or another -- and I thought of her. And I thought of that spring day forty-odd years ago.

Hooray for extended family members, cool Ohio grass (I lived in Florida long enough to appreciate that), spring that is a separate month (Florida again) and the fresh air, the boy next door cutting the grass, the bees buzzing around the flowering shrubs the burst of yellow color I saw yesterday in a gorgeous forsythia bush growing alongside a creek, seeming to laugh at me as I sped by, tax returns on my mind.

Yeah for lemonade, ice tea, all the family birthdays in May and June. Mother's Day, the end of my youngest son's first year of college.

Pansies sit now on my back deck waiting for their honored place. I put up the new flag I won in a raffle; it's cloth and sewn and not that cheap kind I had last year that ended up looking like a relic from World War II.

I'm sorry Terry Shiavo died. I'm sorry the Pope died. I'm sorry for the missing girls in Florida and California, the young Ohio soldier missing in Iraq. I'm sorry, but I can't be sad anymore. Sadness has to end. Spring has to come. Nature knows this. I know it too. It's a bit cruel but human nature, I suppose.

Yes, I have spring fever. I caught it from Aunt Wanda years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Things I Found Not To Be True

Way back, decades ago ... how can that be? I was facing a panel of "Real Life Working Artists" also known as my professors, waiting for their verdict on my Senior Project. The project consisted of a one-person art show in the university. Unfortunately, I'd failed my first one. The renderings were accurate enough, but they were too illustrative for my avant garde, non-representational loving mentors who, I realize now, did me a favor. They thought so at the time, because when I returned months later with my second show, I passed hands down, grabbed my BFA and, having honed that starving artists, dark-eyed appearance down pat, promptly started . . . planning a wedding.

"We know you are getting married," they'd said. "Don't you get busy and forget about your art. Don't you forget to paint, or you'll lose your talent," they warned.

I nodded, "Of course, I won't stop painting."

But I did.

I fell into someone else's life, and before I knew it all I wanted to be able to do was keep the house clean enough and raise children unscathed by a difficult marriage.

Slowly though, like tiny plants under the snow in winter, ideas, images, colors, sounds, rumbled around quietly in the depths of my personality. A book idea here . . . a sculptured figure there . . . a life drawing class . . . a painting trip to North Carolina . . . a box of pastels . . . a watercolor of nothing but water. I started to keep notebooks: "Drawings," "Dolls," "Writings." I registered copyrights and started to learn piano.

Weaving in and out of the day-to-day life of a mother, I pulled along a ribbon of creativity and it lightly swished past my face and through the memories of my children. I held onto it after my divorce, and wiped my tears with it more than once.

I didn't forget and I didn't lose my talent. They were wrong. Everything I experienced as a young wife and mother fell into the pockets of my invisible painting smock and waited there, patiently, for me to gain the wisdom to view them anew. When I did, creation turned out to be so much easier than it had been in my twenties. I only had to please myself, and I became free to try anything. I also was free to fail. Free not to be "the best." Free to enjoy the process. Free of the fear that I would never be an Artist.

Today, I was in the grocery store. "Put that down, now!" exclaimed the young mother behind me in line, in that tired mother voice that is so often heard in grocery stores. My first impulse was to be critical. Does she know how angry she sounds? I thought. Then I turned around. She had a baby in the front of the cart and a young boy of about three was trying his best not to touch the brightly colored impulse items hanging at his eye level. My heart softened.

"They are the same age difference as my boys are," I said, smiling. She replied in a much kinder voice as well, and stated her son was usually well behaved.

"It's hard not to touch these things, they are irresistable." I told her that my children were now in their twenties, and how fast it went. I also said I remembered what it was like to be so tired and have so many demands as a mother of young kids.

I paid for my groceries, wished her a good day and moved along. Home. Home to my business where I draw, paint, design, write, edit and make a living doing what I love. And, being a mother. How great is that?

The professors were wrong. The talent doesn't leave. The creativity doesn't leave. There is time in life for each phase of life and there are ways to keep creativity alive during the fallow years. I wish they had told me that instead. I would have had more hope in the future.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year 2005

I took some time off during the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday period to concentrate on family, painting, and business. And now, here it is, a brand new year. I love New Year's Day! The year stretches in front of me like a wonderful, mysterious present waiting to unfold.

My New Year's Day activities, just now, did fall into the slightly absurd. I seldom "surf the net" because spending so much time at a desk and computer as is required to put together books, tends to make me want to stretch my legs and arms and look into the distance when I can, rather than spend even more time online. But, this gray Ohio day, well-rested, sons now returned to their homes, all signs of leftover holiday food gone...the Christmas tree giving one last hurrah as it gives a sideways glance at the empty ornament box on the dining room floor... I decided to look up statistics on the Internet. Yes, my friends, this is what curious minds do when they have too much time on their hands...

Having overdosed on CNN/Fox News Asian Tsunami coverage this week (I learned on 9/11 how many times I can watch videotaped tragedy without breaking down into a useless mess)... I started thinking about my recent fear of flying (in the literal sense, no sexual allusions, or illusions, intended, honestly), and I also started thinking about how one can comprehend approximately 150,000 people dying in Asia the day after Christmas. How to get a real handle on that number....

When I was a college student, one of the art instructors had us do an assignment where we were required to depict 1000 of something, anything. The concept of 1000. At that time I thought it was a big number.

This holiday season I took up crochet, again. Carpel-tunnel syndrome healed, I grabbed a hook, some yarn and proceeded to make scarf after scarf for friends and family. One stitch at a time; thousands of stiches...

How many is 150,000? How does that compare? What is the real risk of death by plane crash?

These questions were also precipitated by the retirement of Tom Brokaw. Just watch while I connect Tsunami, crocheting, my college art class, and the retirement of Brokaw...

When Brokaw's retirement was announced there was a TV special recapping his career highlights. It read like a brief history of world events during my lifetime: Civil Rights movement, women's movement, deaths at Kent State, Vietnam, Challenger Accident, space shuttle accident, 9/11, AIDS, Gulf War, IRaq War, Lockerbie jet crash, etc. etc... So, I decided to look up the statistics on "big things that have scared the hell out of me."

Here's what I found:
AIDS related deaths, worldwide (1982 - 2000) 21,800,000
Annual deaths due to HUNGER: 8,000,000
Annual deaths attributed to smoking (2000): 5,000,000
Deaths in Rwanda from 1994 - 1995: 937,000
Deaths in the Civil War: 620,000
Annual cancer deaths in the US: 556,500
Deaths attributed to Idi Amin in Uganda: 300,000
Estimated Asian Tsunami deaths: 150,000
Annual deaths due to car accidents (1999): 41,6111
Annual drunk-driving related deaths (2002) 17,419
Annual US deaths by murder (2000): 15,517
Deaths due to the troubles in Northern Ireland (1969 - 1994) 3,225
Deaths on 9/11/2001: 2,996
Deaths by plane crash (1/82-3/01): 2,301
Annual deaths by women from childbirth (2001): 399
Pan Am Flight 103, Lockerbie: 270
Deaths in Oklahoma City bombing: 168

I've found there is no correlation between number of deaths and amount of fear and distress I feel when considering my personal risk. There are way more deaths per year from auto accidents than all deaths since 1982 from plane crashes. So, why am I more afraid to fly to Florida than to drive to Columbus? And what does it say about human beings that 8 MILLION people die every year from hunger...? And 5 MILLION from smoking related causes?

Perhaps my New Year's Resolution will be to more accurately count my blessings, face my fears, and compassionately remember those folks who might seem like "just a number" but really are so much more...