A new spirit rises from pain of 2001

2002: With a prayer on their lips and hope in their hearts, Baltimoreans spring forth into the new year.

January 02, 2002|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

It was the first day of a new year yesterday and Baltimoreans were determined to get off to a fast start improving their lives - by praying more and eating less, buying running shoes, dumping boyfriends, renovating homes and reinventing themselves.

New Year's is traditionally a time for making resolutions. But this year, people seem more intent than ever on wiping the slate clean on an annus horribilis. Last year brought terrorism and recession, and the dark clouds seemed to permeate people's lives.

Yesterday, they tried to blow away those clouds. They prayed in church and pumped up in health clubs, sought wisdom in malls and knelt in the "self-improvement" aisles at Barnes & Noble bookstore. They dreamed about their future and a better world while browsing kitchen flooring at Home Depot.

Their goal: to make themselves slimmer, fast- er, holier, happier, more attractive and more compassionate. Stay tuned to see if all their wishes come true.

At Barnes & Noble in Towson, Tammy Hessing- er invested in her future by buying a book explaining how to write a romance novel.

A 33-year-old former college journalism major who now spends most of her time caring for her two children in Ruxton, Hessinger decided that this would be the year she finally fulfilled her lifetime ambition of publishing a novel.

In the "self-improvement" section of the bookstore, she held up the tool that would make her dream come true: Romance Writer's Phrase Book by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton.

Flipping through its pages, she pointed to a chapter that showed several more exciting synonyms for the word brown, such as dun colored, tawny, buckskin and cafe au lait.

"This is a great help - I can't just keep writing, `the man had brown hair' over and over again. How about, `tawny hair?' Now that sounds more appealing," said Hessinger.

Another page provided a useful alternative for writing that a "woman looked confident." The suggestion: "Her face was full of strength, shining with a steadfast and serene purpose."

"My resolution is not to create literature or even a best seller, just to shoot for getting published any way I can," she explained.

A few aisles away, Taaron Rowlette, a 21-year-old cell phone salesman from West Baltimore, flipped through a textbook explaining how to become a computer repair technician.

"I'm going to take this book home, really study it and then get a job in the information technology field," said Rowlette. "I'm going to make some money, make some investments and really live the life I should live. I don't want to be working when I'm 45. I want to start my own business and retire early."

More solemn prayers for the future were being whispered a few miles south at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on North Charles Street in Baltimore.

Before the noon Mass, Maureen Dunphy, a 65-year-old retiree from Bel Air, folded her hands and prayed that God would make her a more pious person by helping her to pray more often and read the Bible more regularly.

But she also prayed for her family's fortunes in the new year. "I'm praying for my daughter to get a job in New York, because she just relocated there," said Dunphy. "And I'm praying, if it's God's will, that my son and his wife will have another grandchild. My grandson, who is 5, wants a brother or sister."

As light filtered through the stained-glass windows, Adrienne Coyle Emery, 32, cradled her newborn son, Christopher, and prayed that her brother, John Coyle, will defeat the cancer that threatens his life.

She said that Coyle, a 35-year-old photographer, suffers from melanoma and is scheduled to start chemotherapy soon at Franklin Square Hospital Center.

"That's all I want for the new year, a cure for my brother's cancer," said Emery.

In the vestibule of the cathedral, Fernando Roman, an owner of Ted's Music, an instrument store in Mount Vernon, said he was praying that his business would fare better this year and that the health of his father, who helps run the store but suffers from heart problems, would improve.

And outside on the cathedral's steps, Jeff Coleman, 52, explained that his son, Patrick, 7, had made a resolution to improve his Lego block-building skills. "We all want a better year than the one we had in 2001," the father said.

At the Home Depot in Towson, Jennifer Fuller-Taylor wheeled a shopping cart that held part of her dreams for the future: a roll of carpet padding.

Fuller, a 28-year-old child care center director, said she was recently released from the hospital after delivering by Caesarean section twin boys, her first children. She and her husband have been converting a computer room in their home in Hamilton to serve as the children's nursery, and their plans require new carpeting and padding.

"We need a place for the babies - that was our New Year's resolution," said Fuller.

A few miles away at Towson Town Center, Claudia Maher carried a bag out of Foot Action USA shoe store. The bag contained a pair of Nike cross-training shoes.

Maher, a teacher at South River High School in Annapolis, said she plans to start working out three times a week as part of an improvement plan for her health and life. The overhaul is to include getting rid of the three men she's been dating.

"I resolved to get myself better organized," Maher said. "I am going to try to exercise. ... And I have decided to get rid of the men in my life and get a new man. These are things I really need to do."

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