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But then something happened. One day, she saw a shoplifter on the store's closed-circuit television. Anna called the police, but because she was not afraid to stand up for herself she decided to confront the man alone. She challenged him, and he seemed about to 'fess up and give in, when suddenly he turned and sprinted down the aisle toward the front of the store. Unthinking, Anna dashed after him, caught him and grabbed his shoulder, at which point he twisted in her grip, punched her full in the mouth, and escaped.

She stumbled back to her office, called the police again, and tried to speak. Blood, spittle, and gargled words were all she could manage, so she hung up and pulled out a mirror from her desk drawer to assess the damage. She wasn't in much pain (mouth injuries are funny that way; you don't feel much pain until the oral surgeon starts giving you Novocain injections), but she could see that all four of her front teeth had been smashed up. And there in her office, as she sat waiting for the police to arrive, feeling out the damage with her tongue, she found herself thinking, What on earth am I doing here in this job, in this store, in Iowa? Is this seriously what I want for my life? To be a grocery-chain supervisor 5 miles from where I grew up?

Anna loved her family. Her mother, despite losing both of her own parents when she was only 9 years old, was optimistic and enthusiastic, an endlessly positive influence on Anna's life. Her dad was the farmer, cautious, aware that the wind and weather will change. In his world, you plant your seeds and you wait for them to grow. It's what he thought Anna should do: settle with the seeds she had sown, build her reputation, and secure her future.

So what did she do? Anna listened to her instincts and followed her boyfriend to Washington, D.C., where he was getting his master's degree at George Washington University. When she arrived, she hunted around for work. She still wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life, but that didn't stop her from getting a job. That's one thing Anna always believed in. You always find something to do to move forward, even if you know it isn't what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life.

So she found the best temp job she could, working for the Paper and Plastics Association, and all was fine and dandy. Washington, D.C., was a fun place for a couple of young, upwardly mobile Iowans,when out of the blue her boyfriend landed a job as an associate professor in a small university town in Germany.

Should she go? Well, she thought, why not? I haven't yet found my purpose in life, and since I moved to D.C. for him, why wouldn't I go in whole hog and move to Germany with him? So she did, and, as before when she arrived in a new place, she rustled up some work. This was trickier to pull off than it had been in D.C. because, technically, she wasn't allowed to work. But she ferreted around anyway and soon she was teaching English and aerobics, helping a German friend file for a United States visa, and basically gaining a pretty good foothold, when, after nine months her boyfriend announced that Germany wasn't working out for him. He thought they should move back to America, perhaps Denver, what did she think?

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