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Keeping Skills Fresh: A New To Do List Beck Day 41

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In the workbook, Beck refers to keeping skills fresh: in the text itself, she recommends making a new to do list.

Here's the key sabotaging thought: "It's too much trouble to keep on doing this".

And the more helpful response: "Dieting and exercise DO REQUIRE a significant amount of time and energy".

But -- not as much time and energy as my nay-saying excuse-seeking self wants to assert!!

And: not as much time and energy as lugging around excess weight.

So I spend10 minutes a day pre-planning food and exercise -- and schedule 30 minutes cardio + ST at least 3 times a week (total gym run, with shower, door to door maybe 1 hour 30 minutes).

When I gain weight, how much time and energy does it take? Oh, yeah, that's right: I lug it around 24/7. When I buy a new bag of chow for Charlie (50 pounds) and carry it out to my car, I sometimes remind myself: until I peeled off the 80 pounds in 2001, I was lugging around way more than a bag of dog chow every where I went. I lugged it up and down stairs. I pumped blood through it. And I had to stretch my (size 18-20) clothes around it, with not a single skirt or pair of pants which was truly comfortable through the waist band! It was great to lose that weight.

But in the last 10 years, since I lost the weight the first time, I've lost 100 MORE pounds -- which would be 10 pounds regained, and 10 pounds lost. At least 10 times. Yo-yoing.

Learning cognitive strategies to make my "diet work" and eliminate the yo-yo (with all of the associated health threats of yo-yoing ) is absolutely worth it to me. Yes, it is. And I now believe that this is going to happen.

So: what are the key cognitive skills Beck has taught me?

1. Arrange my environment to reduce food triggers: hide the chips, the peanut butter and the cheddar cheese. The surplus of these foods in the cupboard/fridge since I started "hiding" them from myself has dramatically illustrated for me who (ME!!) was eating this stuff.

2. PRE-PLAN the food and the exercise: and thanks, SP, for providing trackers that work so well to support pre-planning. Still don't want to do this, still crave freedom and spontaneity ("now what would I like to eat right now") but pre-planning is very effective and supports the "NO CHOICE" at the heart of Beck. If it's not on the plan (food) I'm not eating it: if it is on the plan (exercise) then I'm doing it.

3. Sit down to eat; eat everything slowly and enjoy every bite. I was eating way too much food standing up -- food that was either "undocumented" or "underdocumented". And I've stopped, almost entirely. Eating slowly gives satiety a chance to kick in -- and now I've demonstrated for myself that fullness happens if I give it enough time, about 20 minutes.

4. Tolerate hunger. Hunger is not an emergency. Hunger actually helps me anticipate and enjoy my next meal more.

5. Identify and cope with sabotaging thoughts, including the self-indulgence which "permits" overeating because "life is so tough". My goodness, Beck does require a real mental workout. But, I can use my brains to make my life work. And I'm not embarrassed to admit, losing weight and keeping it off has given me more of a sense of accomplishment than quite a number of other accomplishments picked up along the way here and there . . .

There is more -- of course there is -- but these are my "top five".

These will be on my to do list for the foreseeable future.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NANCY- 3/13/2011 11:07AM

    Great blog.
Doing Beck's program I prefer to think of it as cognitive strategies to make my "life work" I know what I was doing before did not work. These strategies are giving me the life I want.

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FREELADY 3/12/2011 11:54PM

    Number 5 hit where I am today. Thank you.

Your courageous confrontation of reality in all these areas really blazes the trail for many of us who are thrashing through the bog of denial and avoidance. You are fighting the good fight for honesty and responsibility. I can do this, too!

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/12/2011 8:00PM

    Are you still"hiding" that food? If I buy, I have already decided that even with the best of intentions someone in the house is going to eat it and it's not the best thing for anyone. So, I have to start from the moment I make that shopping list to decide not to buy or I will eat it. Temptation is not good for me. I am way too human.
Once again Ellen your blog is very illuminating and gives much food for thought. Thank you.

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SLENDERELLA61 3/12/2011 4:07PM

    Once again, your blog is very responsive to Beck and helpful to me. I have become more and more aware that hunger is not an emergency. And, surprise, dealing with hunger does not cause me to binge. I really can withstand hunger. I had not thought about the fact that hunger helps me prepare for my next meal and enjoy it more. Either I missed it in Beck or you added another concept totally appropriate and helpful. You are right.

In reading your blog, it hits me that my pre-planning is slipping. I need to get back on it. I do really love the lack of struggle that the NO CHOICE approach affords. Thanks for the reminder.

You are almost done with the intense Beck days!! Here's hoping we never leave them totally behind us.

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ERIKO1908 3/12/2011 3:43PM

    I'm with you on the taking the time to recognize satiety. My son and I went to Famous Dave's last night...I ordered the Georgia Chopped Pork w/ Firecracker Green Beans & Wilbur Beans - the corn-on-the-cob & cornbread muffin were included. I also ordered a glass of red wine. I sipped my wine slowly prior to the food showing. Once it arrived, I looked it over & slowly started nibbling on the green beans. When they were gone I tackled the corn...slowly...next up a couple of bites of the pork & then the baked beans. At that point I looked at my plate and realized I was full & I still had half a glass of wine to sip. I packaged up the rest of the meat and the corn muffin...still haven't touched it now that it made it home. It is amazing to know that just months ago this same plate of food would have been polished off the whole meal without even starting to think about what I was "feeling" hunger-wise. I love Spark and all the tools it has given to me!!

Keep up all your hard work...yo-yoing will become minimal!!

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CMB2048 3/12/2011 12:15PM

    Of your favorite 5, I think the first one is the most important for me and probably a lot of other people. I just read The End of Overeating for the second time and that book really points out how the "triggers" and food "cues" cause us to overeat. Just seeing food, smelling it, works on our brain circuitry to make us eat it. If it is out of sight, you have a much better chance of not eating it. You might want to read that book. It also points out how the food industry consciously designs and creates foods to make us want to eat more. Really an awful story that our food industry would purposely work to make us want to eat more. AND it points out that our American culture sets us up for overeating. He says that in France, no one would even thing of bringing their coffee or donuts into a morning meeting, no bagels with cream cheese either, BECAUSE it is considered impolite in that country to eat at a meeting. In general they woudln't dream of doing it. Interesting book with a lot of information about how our brains are changing in response to all this food we have around us. The chapter on children is really interesting. The researchers said that even a decade ago, children stopped eating when they were full and if they overate at one meal they naturally ate less at other meals to compensate for it. NOW, they said, children in their studies just eat and eat and eat until they have to tell them to stop. They said they've never seen anything like it before. Oh well, I'm babbling but suffice it to say that the old saying "out of sight, out of mind" is true and good for people watching their weight!

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Life is Rich: Beck Day 40

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beck's important advice on Day 40 is to enrich your life now. Not to wait until you're slim, not to assume you're not worthy of the good times until you've lost the weight. But to make your life worth living in the present.

I'm reminded of lawyer Susan Estrich's wise counsel in her remarkable book on weight loss, "Making the Case for Yourself", which is to begin by dumping the granny panties. Buy yourself some pretty underthings right away -- you deserve satin and lace. It's uplifting! (Yup: literally quite often as well as figuratively, all puns intended!!)

On a more serious note, consider JANEWATKINS's recent and thought provoking blog, "Dying is part of living", in which she poignantly speaks to the attitude of her sister-in-law during her end stage of cancer treatment; here is the link:


This blog reminds me -- and it's number one on my Advantage Response Card list -- that my primary motivation for weight loss maintenance is reducing the chances of recurrence of breast cancer given my history -- the type of estrogen rich tumour which thrives in fat-tissue environment.

What's on Beck's list of "enrichment activities" for right now? When I review the list, I'm reassured that yes, I'm squeezing all the juice possible out of my life right here and right now.

Travelling: Done plenty, will do more.

Buying new, more fashionable clothes: Guilty as charged, need no encouragement here (and thrift store works very nicely too).

Taking up a hobby: Gardening, my renewed interest in cross country skiing which has made this past winter my best in decades.

Signing up for a class: Just enrolled in a mediation course which will begin next month.

Improving your work situation: Mine may be stressful but it's very good, with supportive colleagues -- and we're in a process of continuous improvement procedurally and substantively.

Looking for a new job: I love the new jobs which roll in the door with each new client-- no two cases are ever the same.

Dating: DH is fulfilling that role very nicely, thank you!

Joining a group, club or team: I'm active at my Y and my golf club, and really enjoy my collaborative team members professionally.

Going to the beach: Yes, regularly in the summer, and love living so close to great beaches.

Making social plans with new people: Regularly, including a business lunch today, a planned get-together with a "cancer support" team which has been helping a colleague very soon.

Volunteering: Doing that.

So check, check and check.

How about just noticing the abundant pleasures of the natural world all around us? Not on Beck's list: but there are birds, flowers, sunsets, dogs, little kids and so much more. The world brims over with mentions. Mentions of joy.

How about participating in Spark People? Also not on Beck's list -- but it's a key source of resources, friendships, support and fun in my life. For which I thank you all continually. And most sincerely. .

Should you enrich your life now? Find things other than eating which are fun to do? Which you cannot do while simultaneously eating? Which are more fun to do if you haven't engaged in a lot of excess eating?

Yes yes yes.

Thanks, Judith S., for helping me notice: My life is rich. I am continuously seeking out opportunities to keep it that way. And to enrich it further.

Gonna keep on doing that. More consciously. More deliberately.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CMB2048 3/12/2011 11:06AM

    I love her list of how to enrich your life. I need to re-examine those things for myself.

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FREELADY 3/11/2011 11:06PM

    GREAT blog!

About not waiting until I've lost the weight, not thinking that THEN I'll be "worth it" . . . Last year after this item I decided to go ahead and get the new hairstyle I'd put off "until I'm thin." It gave me such a boost. It really made me feel, "Hey, I'm worth it!"

Thanks for sharing!

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/11/2011 10:00PM

Awesome reflection Ellen and so uplifting. Thank you.

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SLENDERELLA61 3/11/2011 7:20PM

    Your life is rich! Celebrate! Celebrate! Thanks for another great blog, Ellen. I love what you said about the abundant pleasures of the natural world. You are right. Although my absolute favorite thing is to share those natural abundant pleasures with my daughter and granddaughters! My life is rich, too. We are blessed!! -Marsha

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CRYSTALJEM 3/11/2011 11:05AM

    Awesome! Thanks for the reminder of just how wonderful this very simple moment is. May you find the joy each moment holds. Namaste.

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SUCHAHOOT 3/11/2011 9:53AM

    What a wonderful blog! You have inspired me to look as my life, what I am doing now and what I would like to do differently. You seem to be on a wonderfl track. Thank you!

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TRAVELGRRL 3/11/2011 9:26AM

    What an inspiring blog! You are so right; there is so much we can doand notice right this minute to improve our moods and lives. You've turned your bout with cancer into a positive that's fundamentally improved your life on every level. That's amazing and exciting. "Squeezing all the juice possible out of my life" -- what a wonderful thing to be able to say!

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NANCY- 3/11/2011 9:17AM

    Life is so exciting, if we just open our eyes. What a wonderful way to live life!

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Keeping Up With Exercise: Beck Day 39

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not a problem.

I'm at 249 minutes of cardio this week already conservatively estimated from cross country skiing and gym sessions on the elliptical (plus two vigorous ST workouts).

I'm a life-long exerciser, going well back to my teen years. I've changed up the times I exercise to accommodate changing life circumstances. And when medical issues have intervened, I've got right back to working out again as soon as health permitted.

I don't particularly expect to want to go and exercise -- in advance -- ever. Getting out of bed at 5 am to go to the gym -- is not appealing. But I do know that exercise always makes me feel better after I've done it: the old "after acquired motivation" -- actually quite similar to the after acquired motivation for weight loss.

Exercise is important for mood, fitness, toning. But it frankly doesn't help me much with weight loss or weight loss maintenance. I have to work way too hard to burn even a few calories. This morning, 400 calories on the elliptical took 34 minutes at level 8 because my RPMs were only about 51: and I realized afterwards that I've caught my DH"s flu (achy, sore throat, low energy).

So be it. The predicted rain is turning my cross country ski dreams to slush. And I'm not likely to get to the gym tomorrow or maybe even on the weekend, if the flu runs its predictable course as well. But in the long run, I know: exercise is not my issue.

It's all about food.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JOHAL52 3/11/2011 2:05AM

    Head to bed!! Chicken soup, a good book. You will burn plenty of calories being sick--time to rest dear friend!!!

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SLENDERELLA61 3/10/2011 7:25PM

    Great that you are dedicated to exercise!! It is so good for you. Your years of good habits has made you far healthier than you would have been without it. It's good that you recognize that food is your issue. But give yourself a great deal of credit for those wonderful exercise habits!!

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/10/2011 5:38PM

    Hope you feel better soon.

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CHANLSURFR 3/10/2011 12:17PM

    Level 8? Man, I'm still working on Level 1 and trying to get past my excuses to go farther. Maybe I need to take lessons from you on going up the levels.

Sorry to hear you caught the flu. Try a warm towel over your eyes to help open you up. Put hot (not scalding) damp towel over your eyes. When cool, wipe the corners of your eyes with the corners of the towel. Repeat as necessary. Not great for getting rid of the flu, but will help ease the symptoms of the pressure around your head around your eyes. And gargle with warm salt water for a sore throat. These home remedies have usually made colds and flu a little more tolerable until it has run its course.

Hope you feel better soon.

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JHADZHIA 3/10/2011 12:00PM

    So sorry you caught the flu :( The wacky weather catches us again! There is actually the risk of freezing rain here tonight!! Won't that make a skating rink out of our trails, sidewalks and streets..
I have always loved to exercise too and had long recoveries after surgeries, but got right back on the wagon. But it is frustrating doing a lot of working out and getting small results, as what happened with me before I finally did lose all the excess weight. It is the food. You really ARE what you eat..
Hope you feel better soon,

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PHEBESS 3/10/2011 11:53AM

    Yeah, for some of us the activity level is not an issue, it truly is the food. Ah well, at least when we're chubby we're still healthy!

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Dealing With a Plateau: Beck Day 38

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I am sitting at 149.5 -- a "short" plateau -- and cannot seem to make the scales move downwards.

Beck says that expecting the scales "should" go down steadily, week after week, is bound to lead to disappointment. "It is more realistic" to anticipate that I will hit a plateau -- short term or longer lived.

What can I do?

1. Keep doing what I'm doing and see if the scales move down.
2. Reduce daily calorie intake by 200 calories and see if I lose half a pound a week;
3. Increase exercise by 15 to 20 minutes a day.
4. Call this my goal weight and move into maintenance.

What is to be avoided: a reaction that a plateau is "unfair".

OK. I would not be unhappy to stay at this weight: my clothes are fitting well (black leather pencil skirt yesterday, totally comfortable!!).

I know from checking the calorie burn read out on the elliptical that at 150 it takes me a full 2 minutes longer to burn 400 calories at level 8 RPM 60 than it did when I was, say, 10 pounds heavier. And two minutes is a long time.

It's a perverse reality that the more I succeed in losing weight, the less I can eat and the more I have to exercise to maintain the weight loss. Which is, of course, the complete reverse of the usual tendency to believe that once I've lost weight, I can return to my former pattern: peanut butter in generous tablespoonfuls standing up, with a multi-ounce chaser of full fat cheddar cheese.

I get this. Intellectually/cognitively. And will have to work on it, emotionally/physically.

Plateaus are normal. And if I want to take my weight lower -- say to 145 -- I'm going to have to eat less. Not just now, but permanently. And exercise more.

Yesterday's cross country ski after work was another delight -- deep blue shadows and bright red reeds, chickadees and Canada geese calling, the steady kick and glide and whoosh of wax working perfectly!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

TRYINGHARD1948 3/9/2011 4:49PM

    What have you decided - maintenance or going lower? What are the emotional and health benefits of either decision? Sometimes our bodies make the decision for us, what is yours saying to you?

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SLENDERELLA61 3/9/2011 2:50PM

    You have the total grasp on the reality of calories in vs. calories earned. With that knowledge you will make wise decisions, including the choice of a goal weight that you can maintain in that tight maintenance range you want.

I understand totally what you are saying about understanding intellectually, but not emotionally. You know I've been fighting a battle that intellectually I understand completely, but I'm still fighting! Oh, well.

One more thing, I bet if you keep doing exactly what you've been doing these last couple weeks that you will go down another pound or so. Sometimes the scale just gets stuck. I hope that is the option you choose.

Take care. You are continuing to do a great job with Beck!!

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JHADZHIA 3/9/2011 11:30AM

    The fitter you are, the more you have to work at burning the same number of calories. I was not happy with this and didn't think I should need to spend long hours maintaining my weight. I actually increased my eating calorie range and decreased my exercise and still stayed the same weight. I put in the Spark Fitness Tracker that I would do one hour of exercise every day, and then the Nutrition Tracker showed I could eat up to 1960 calories a day, normal.. The weight of course is set so the starting weight is the finishing weight. After all there is a big difference from wanting to lose weight then from maintaining it. I discovered if I scrimped on calories I kept losing, which I can't afford to do with RA as my Dr. would actually prefer me to be heavier so I don't lose bone weight..
But I find it difficult to stay under calories even with healthy choices, as soon as I add that grain and fiber which I had cut back on to stay low. But I am trying for a well rounded diet. There is no way to get the 5 servings of grain and still stay under calories.. I get 2 or 3 a day maximum.
If you can be happy wearing that kind of a skirt, it sounds like you must be close or at happy weight!
Good luck with what ever you decide!

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PHEBESS 3/9/2011 10:57AM


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BD3269PM 3/9/2011 8:00AM

    You are doing great! Keep up that good work. Have you tried measurements. Even if the scale is not showing an improvement your measurements probably are. Don't get discouraged and stay healthy! emoticon

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Reduce Stress: Beck Day 37

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Once again, Beck gives us a real cognitive workout, synthesizing previous steps in her program.

People overeat because they are stressed: therefore, reducing stress is an essential element of weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

How to do it? Predictably, Beck treats stress as "problem" to be solved. So once again we need to revisit our priorities: we have to make time for dieting and exercise activities. I cannot permit myself to wallow in the pressures of work. And we need to identify the thinking error at issue in any instance of stress(Day 26), then apply the seven questions technique (Day 27) either to reduce the stress or to conclude that the problem is one incapable of resolution which must be accepted.

Beck believes that stress is primarily related to the thinking error of dysfunctional rules: and in particular the "shoulds" applied to ourselves ("I should be absolutely perfect at my job; I should not ever make any errors; I should win every time; I should stay late every evening to work on files and assist clients . . . "). In addition we apply "shoulds" to others: "My clients should be more appreciative; my kids should be more independent and better launched; my work colleagues should be more helpful . . . ". It's easy to see how dysfunctional rules for myself translate into insuperable burdens for others; after all, if I'm perfect everyone else should be too!! Right . . .

Beck suggests that we can reduce stress by replacing "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" (for ourselves and others) with "It's more realistic to expect . . . ". So: it's more realistic to expect that the scales won't always move downwards. It's more realistic to expect that sometimes I will mindlessly put food in my mouth standing up. It's more realistic to expect that clients will be frightened, angry, resentful at the changes imposed upon their lives. It's more realistic to accept that adult children in this difficult economy take longer to find their feet.

I don't have perfect control over myself. I don't have perfect control over others. And others, of course, don't have perfect control over themselves.

Oh, well. Oh, well.

But mere resignation to this loss of control is not the best result either. I need to think and permit myself to experience how much more humane the world is -- for me, and for everyone around me -- when I relax my "rules" without an "all or nothing" mentality. It's not the case that I'm either perfect or need not make any effort at all. It's not the case that others are either saints or sinners. There is a middle path, and it's only by adopting the middle path that I can stay on this journey indefinitely.

So . . . clearly this is about more than weight loss. This is about uncovering the perfectionism that underlies so many persistent weight loss problems. The best IS the enemy of the good (as Voltaire told us, only in French!).

Beck is a cognitive psychologist, and so she does deal with these issues primarily inside the head. She might have also discussed how (because we are bodies) excess weight creates biophysical stresses: just carrying it around (knee/hip joints); increased likelihood of heart/diabetes/cancer issues. She might have considered the social stressors of being heavy: the snide side glances delivered to the heavy person approaching the airplane seat, or chowing down on a burger and fries at a restaurant, or loading her cart in the chips aisle at the grocery store. She might also have discussed how exercise short cuts much of this cognitive rumination: endorphins are magic -- as I discovered yet again yesterday skiing over crisp sparkly snow late in the afternoon after a very stressful day at work.

So: SHOULD Beck have expanded her analysis of stress in these ways? It's realistic to expect that she could not deal with everything in the few short pages allocated to this chapter!! And: I'm so grateful she provided me with the insights she did, provoking me to think more deeply about stress, its relationship to weight control and its relationship to thinking errors.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NANCY- 3/9/2011 1:49PM

    It is amazing the role stress plays in regard to weight. Finding ways to address that stress is what I have been working on.
Love your insight.
Keep Sparking.

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CRYSTALJEM 3/9/2011 7:45AM

    Good for you on working through how stress impacts your eating. It seems for the past week or so I've been feeling very overwhelmed and stressed out. I go from wanting to eat for comfort to having no appetite at all. It's like my "spring anxiety thing".

Cheers! May food be your friend today in the best possible way.

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TRYINGHARD1948 3/8/2011 4:10PM

    What a journey you have been on. Thank you for sharing.

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FREELADY 3/8/2011 3:20PM

    Wow! Whew!

I really, really needed to hear this. You said it in a way I could receive.

What a blessing and practical uplift you have been to me today.

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SLENDERELLA61 3/8/2011 9:07AM

    Applause! Applause!! I got even more out of your summary and analysis than I did from Beck's chapter. Thank you. Thank you very much!! -Marsha

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