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I had one of those life-altering decisions to make.

It was so big, I could feel its weight, could feel the burden grow heavier as I lugged it around each day.

I did the executive thing, and consulted widely.  I’m grateful to long-time friends for listening … and listening.

But I’m most grateful for my long-enduring family, who watched me soar to professional success, and then …

A loving family accepts you, no matter what.  We’re fortunate that, through all life’s trials, our growing family extends unconditional love to each member, and to all those we adopt along the way.

My sister’s homemade stew sealed the deal.

I’m a vegetarian; she’s a great cook.  I try to be a gracious guest, and don’t impose my vegetarianism (or any other -ism) on hosts when I’m traveling.

So, when my sister apologized for chopping beef and vegetables for homemade stew, when I was visiting over Grey Cup weekend, I couldn’t explain how the fragrance of it took me back to our grandmothers’ kitchens — the Finnish grandma and the one whose family emigrated from Scotland.

I could only show my gratitude, by ladling stew into one bowl after another, figuring the extra protein would be good in my over-stressed state.

Homemade stew in winter is not only a stress reliever, but a total relaxant.

I relaxed my way through three bowls of beef stew, sensing some of the burden lifting.

I stopped asking about the pros and cons of my decision-in-waiting.  (This was made easier by the volume control on a TV set for all-football, all-the-time.  I’m not much of a fan, but everyone else in the room was.  You had to be a Lions fan to appreciate the moment.)

The next morning, waking at 4 for an early departure, I knew that the decision I had made already — despite all the consulting — was the right one.

I woke with a smile on my face, for the first time in months.  A big, loopy grin in the dark — wonderfully appropriate since “Cheshire” is one of my sister’s favorites.

When I returned home, I slept more soundly, and woke to more relaxed smiles. I felt lighter, relieved that the decision was made.

I knew I had made the right choice when I settled into meditation yesterday in a patch of sunlight that had blessed our apartment.

Deep breathing was effortless; I drifted into meditation easily, certain of my decision.

I felt a renewed calm that is always elusive, yet always welcome.  I could feel the calm blossom, in my chest, into acceptance and pure joy.  My heart was lifted with hope.

Today, this vegetarian is grinning, and grateful for beef stew.