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'Transformation Nation' Finalists

It's down to 10 essays in the "Transformation Nation" contest being held by The Early Show partner Kohl's department store.

Contestants were asked to submit essays about their personal transformations, and the 10 best have been selected.

All 10 finalists will be flown to Santa Monica, Calif. for a different type of transformation: a $1,000 Kohl's fashion and beauty makeover. They'll also get invitations to a special celebrity fashion event.

From the 10 finalists, one grand prize winner will be chosen for a trip to two to Paris, and a $10,000 Kohl's shopping spree.

You can log on to through Oct. 10 to see all the finalists, read their essays, and help decide whose transformation will take them all the way to Paris!

THE FINALISTS, as introduced by The Early Show:

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006

Kelly, of Tuckhannock, Pa., was literally transformed when she discovered she was pregnant. She weighed in at 237pounds. That's when she promised herself that she could be — and would be — thin. Three years and two babies later, Kelly is 104 pounds lighter. The former size 26 mom is now a healthy size six!

Kelly wrote:"I like to share how the changes in my life helped me come so far."

Rose, of Windsor Heights, Iowa, also had a physical transformation, of a very different kind. Her leg was amputated after cancer struck when she was only 19. Her parents were told she had a year to live. Now, 35 years later, the dermatology nurse took acting lessons, starred in a movie, has sung with a band in the United States and Europe, and scuba-dives!

Rose wrote, "I've learned the only way to lose, is not to try."

Monday, Oct. 2, 2006

Doris of Marietta, Ga., says her 70th birthday in 2005 was her most important transformation. Her 50-year marriage brought two children and six grandchildren, and today, her joy is watching the events of their lives unfold.

Doris writes: "It is each one of their accomplishments that impacts my life the most ... not my own."

Transformation for Maryann of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., came from volunteering in her daughter's art class. While Maryann was a graphic artist and painter, she never thought of herself as a teacher until the school principal asked her to become one. Today, she teaches classes from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Maryann writes: "I feel humble that what I do means so much to a child."

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006:

While studying for a master's degree in gerontology at Baylor University, Natalie, of Hewett, Texas, had to role-play an Alzheimer's patient, and she was forever transformed. She knew her fate was entwined with these patients, who had done nothing to deserve theirs. Natalie writes, "I knew that serving the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer's, was one of my callings in life."

For Kimberley, of Tuckahoe, N.Y., the road to motherhood was long and far away. The joy of adopting two brothers from Russia was overshadowed by medical and psychological problems. But what Kimberley learned about her children's illnesses transformed her as well. As they healed and adapted to a loving family, Kimberley became a professional interventionist for young families who need extra help. "Finding the way to help my sons," she writes, "has given me the tools to help others."

Friday, Sept. 29, 2006

Julie, from Edmond, Wash., wrote about a typical Saturday that became unlike any other.

The mother of three tended to her six- and nine-year-olds, thinking about the fun her twelve-year-old was having at camp. Her transformation came in a phone call: She remembers only certain words: "accident," "underwater," "dead," "CPR."

She was told her son had drowned and, in a daze, made her way to the hospital. She got there to find her son had been revived, with no apparent brain damage. It amazed even the doctors at his side.

Julie says, "Life is too short. Embrace what you have, and believe in miracles."

Transformation for Jeanette, from San Diego, Calif., came all the way from another country.

When Jeanette was growing up, her father hosted an exchange student who stayed in touch with her family. Many years later, Jeanette would visit her now-adult friend, in Belgium. The ease of daily life in Europe transformed the frantic life Jeanette led back home in California. The "go-to" wife and mother decided to try life in the slow lane. Learning to enjoy one task at a time, she says, has made her do all of them better, and gives her more extra time at the end of the day.

Jeanette writes, "A focused mind can accomplish more than a stressed-out, multi-tasking one, and I don't worry as much as I used to."

Thursday, Sept. 28

Jacquelyn, of Saint Cloud, Minn., was transformed at age 17 by a car accident that forced her into a wheelchair. But that didn't stop her from going to college, getting married, and having a child.

Today, this single mother of a 12-year-old boy is writing a thesis for her master's degree, and is a public speaker on social issues, including the rights of other disabled Americans.

Jacquelyn says, "Life is about learning, and we can learn from just about everything if we want to."

Lisa's transformation was different. Aging gracefully was the biggest worry of the Lufkin, Texas woman when she became pregnant with her first child, in her 40s.

But that was before her house burned down, the very day she brought her precious newborn home from the hospital.

Everyone got out alive.

As her family rebuilds, aging now means renewal, and a lifetime of motherhood.

Lisa writes, "I'm looking forward to what lies ahead, even if more wrinkles are inevitable."

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