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"What If-ing"
essay by Arkansas author takes 1st prize.
"I need a little boost," Don Kuhl, Founder of The Change Companies, posted the personal request to his (March 12) Mindful Midweek blog. Unusual for the man who established the national publishing, consulting, training and media company a quarter-of-a-century ago, Kuhl's weekly banter usually gives others a lift.

But then back in November of 2013, Kuhl felt a strange pressure in his chest. True to the "Interactive Journaling" self-empowerment practices his company teaches, he wrote about the experience:

"I was at the Love Field Wyndham Hotel in Dallas, and next thing I know, I'm in great pain, sprawled on the floor next to the reception desk... thinking 'How embarrassing... This isn't good'."

An ambulance ride delivered Kuhl to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center where the emergency room cardiac team wheeled him to the operating room as he dropped out of consciousness.

Diagnosed with a full blockage of his left anterior descending (LAD, interventricular) artery, a type of heart attack commonly referred to as 'the widow-maker', a laparoscopic wire was surgically inserted from his groin to his heart and a stent was pushed into place, opening the artery.

"A few days later, I was flying back home, the owner of a repaired heart." Kuhl said that he felt humbled and thankful for the
fantastic medical care he'd received, and responsible to do his part to pay the kindness forward.

But a heart attack unleashes intense waves of emotion and according to leading experts, roughly 40% of survivors feel scared, nervous and bleak and may slip into depression even though they are grateful to be alive.

Proactively fending-off the blahs, Kuhl reached out to his readers by "proposing an impromptu writing exercise" and offering prizes of $500, $250 and $100 for the three best "short and wise stories" describing a time when things weren't going well and "you were down for a period but found a way to get back on the horse."

Working with leading experts to develop evidence-based tools to assist individuals in making positive life changes, The Change Companies' "Interactive Journaling" workbooks and facilitator training programs are widely used by prevention, treatment, addiction, impaired driving, criminal justice, education, healthcare and rehabilitation specialists to facilitate and empower personal achievement among the at-risk
individuals they serve by building consistency and confidence.

"I think there are a lot of us who could use a short, honest story about resilience, determination and true grit," Kuhl's invitation elaborated. "Your submission may inspire thousands of people to mount up again."

What If-ing
by Christine Beems

One thing has always gotten me back in the saddle. It started 20 years ago when my beloved husband, father of our four children, had open heart surgery and became disabled. Our eldest child was eight and I was traumatized, but it was up to me to hold our family together... so I did.

Life was very hard for the next 10 years when suddenly things got worse. Out of the blue, my spouse abandoned us. This totally knocked me for a loop.

A divorce ensued and life felt meaningless. Heavy with emptiness. Suffocating.

Lashed with grief, despair and doubt, numb from wondering 'what did I do wrong?', I sometimes wished for death but clung to life for the sake of my children... which I knew meant that I had to be a good example for them and grousing around, wallowing in misery, certainly was not..

So together we played a game. Called 'What If-ing" it goes like this:

1. Imagine that today is 'the day after' every problem in the whole world has been solved.

2. Pretend that everything you've ever hoped for and dreamed of is now a reality.

3. Ask yourself: "What do I want to do next...?" and then listen -- to yourself and each other -- as you share what comes from your heart.

Besides learning a lot about my kids, just playing the game was a magic elixir for me.

And still today, even playing alone, gives me clarity and peace.

"I became aware of The Change Companies several years ago, doing
research into the rehabilitative programs being used in the federal prison system," said Christine Beems, first place winner of the impromptu essay contest. "Deeply impressed by the quality of the materials they publish and their professionalism, and have followed the company with admiration ever since."

Under the leadership of Sherry Newsom, Owner, The Change Companies has
grown from a small regional publishing shop to a major corporation serving private- and public-sector clients in all 50 states including many state DUI/DWI programs, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Salvation Army.

One small example of the comprehensive materials provided, The Change Companies produces the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) eTraining courses for staff, participant Interactive Journals and web versions of The ASAM Criteria in Criminal Justice book.

To date, over 20 million individuals have explored and engaged life-changes through 4,000+ federal, state and local mental-health, behavior modification and cognitive development programs which rely on
The Change Companies for quality-proven transitioning tools, resources, and training.

"Don's Mindful Midweek musings always give me warm-fuzzy smiles and pause to reflect on the quality of my life," Beems, a retired journalist who has lived in Shirley, Arkansas, since 1989, continued. "So when he reached out for support I just felt I had to chime in."

Hundreds of readers responded to Kuhl's call for courageous personal stories and Beems said that she was "elated and thrilled, cherishing the tremendous compliment" that Kuhl gave her essay -- about how she got through a difficult period in her life by playing a game called
"What If-ing" with her kids -- top honors.

Kuhl said that the selection of the top three from all of the "remarkable and inspiring" stories was difficult because each one was
a winner. "I will be forever grateful for your boost," he concluded.

All three winning essays are published on the company's Mindful Midweek blog

For more, visit
The Change Companies

~ celebrating professionalism in service ~


That you may be filled with strength and power, rooted and grounded in love that surpasses all knowledge: Be kind to one another; live with compassion, producing every kind of goodness; stand firm and hold your ground in truth, righteousness and peace; be courageous; embrace faith which is perfect trust in justice. ~Ephesians 3-6 (condensed)