The following excerpt was taken from The Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love as told by author Jill Conner Browne. “A stranger arrives at a shack in the middle of nowhere, occupied by a group of carefree young men. He was singularly unattractive, very little hair covering his hideous sore-wrapped skin, just generally ratty and nasty looking. But, as is often said of the unbeautiful of the world, he had a great personality. He came to be known as Funk Dog because he was, in fact, a dog and he was really funky. He came around regularly and the boys would feed and talk to him but no one could quite bring themselves to actually touch him. And so they started this thing of petting Funk Dog with a small stick. He would come and sit at a respectful distance, I guess knowing himself to be unclean, and eagerly await being petted and scratched with the stick. That image just always made me cry and now I think I know why. I think Funk Dog being petted with his stick is a perfect metaphor for what can happen to any of us if we do not pay attention. In any area of our lives things can go from great, to not-so-hot, to down right unspeakable. And it can happen so gradually we keep downshifting our expectations to correspond to our current situation. We settle for less and less and tell ourselves it’s not so bad, until finally one day we wake up and we are, in effect, hairless and scabby just hoping to get petted with a stick for a little while. You can forget what it used to feel like to feel good about life; feeling rotten or just a low-grade funk seems normal and therefore acceptable. I just don’t believe God intended for any of his creatures to be petted with sticks! If some area of your life sucks, do something else! Life is too short and too long to spend it being miserable. Life may indeed be short but it is, for a fact, wide. It is high time we started settling for more. The truth is that real life sometimes doesn’t turn out to be exactly what we planned or dreamed. This disparity occurs with alarming frequency; but hey, you’ve got to do whatever is necessary to live, to take care of yourself and your family. There are some pretty awful jobs out there and real people are having to do them every day. I once heard about this lovely young woman who, I swear to you, worked as a full-time chicken plucker. The girl stands by a conveyor belt and pulls feathers off of chickens all day long. When asked of her ‘You must have the most boring job in the whole world!’, she lit up like a lightning bug and seriously responded ‘Oh no, you get a brand new chicken every 30 seconds‘. She has what is, undoubtedly, the most over-developed sense of optimism or she is the most joyfully creative soul that ever was. If a chicken plucker is truly full-filled in her work, I certainly applaud that. If, however, she has merely settled for less and is dissatisfied; if anyone is spending life toiling away at work you despise, I’d have to say authoritatively that God doesn’t make chicken pluckers – people make chicken pluckers and if you don’t want to be one then, by God, don’t! But maybe your job isn’t all that terrible, your marriage is not really hideous; it’s just sort of… beige, flat, dull, lifeless. These are not good adjectives when they refer to your hair, they are infinitely worse if they apply to your life! If you’re stuck sweating on a sand bar in the river of life, you’ve got to find a way back into those swift effervescent currents of joy that are your birth right. If you need to feel sexy, go buy yourself a pair of high-heeled shoes or some trashy lingerie. If you need to laugh, I recommend that you order yourself a pair of fake teeth, as I did, called Dr. Bukk’s Teeth. They look utterly real and are the worst looking things you’ve ever saw in your life (unless you spend a lot of time at a Waffle House). You can’t fully imagine, without having seen them, the dramatic effect these teeth have on one’s appearance and on one’s disposition. You can wear your Bukk Teeth, high-heeled shoes and trashy lingerie to the store if you want to, or just prance around in them at home and enjoy being a goose all by yourself. Or you can just not do jack shit, sometimes that’s enough. You don’t have to move, or change jobs, or leave you husband, or unnaturally alter your state of consciousness. We’re not after an altered state; we’re after our true state… unbridled joy. The adventurer Norman Vaughan who has completed a dozen of so of those punishing dog sled races called Iditarods, and in his 90s is still doing them, said: ‘The only death you die is the one you die every day by not living’. And George Eliot wrote: ‘It is never to late to be what you might have been’.” And to the above I would personally like to add… My dear friends… don’t find yourself becoming a ‘Funk Dog’. When you choose to lead a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy life, the Universe will take care of you in unbelievable ways. Some would say that I live a “charmed life“; to which I would say… that’s only because I choose to put the charm in it. But all I’m really doing is spending quality time with my friends and loved ones and trying my best to live life fully. If you don’t have any friends - go out and find some! Remember, friends will come and friends will go; but don’t fret, God is making more of them everyday. Spice up your life a little bit: go to a local restaurant and order something you can’t pronounce (charcuterie is my favorite thing and I still have trouble pronouncing it)… if you don’t like it, spit it out! Taking a walk around your neighborhood can be an adventure: critique your neighbor’s landscaping skills and rate each house on a scale of ’Ooo-La-La’ to ‘What the hell were they thinking’. When shopping with your girlfriends, mothers or daughters, go try on some silly hats and sunglasses. Fun can be found around every corner if you so choose, it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. And, if you find yourself hanging out with someone who doesn’t want to put the “fun” in it with you - choose somebody else. Trust me, there are plenty of folks out there that would just love a mindless day of fun and laughter. I hope if you are not living your life to the fullest, you make the choice to change that this very minute before your minutes are up and it is too late. If you have already made the choice to live your life to the fullest… Bravo, keep up the good work!