Continuing with the story of the trip as we know it.

At the end of August, as planned, I finished off the book I've been writing, and sent it to the publisher.  My contact there has been graciously warm and complimentary in receiving it, and says that their meeting to consider incoming manuscripts is full for September, but they will look at it in October.  So, by the end of October I will be able to tell you if they will be publishing it or not.

Before it went to the publisher, it went to the Badger and to Julie Faraway to read.  The Badger speed-read it, and gave it the thumbs-up; Julie is reading it slowly and carefully, bookmarking it for comment later.  They are an excellent reading team.

I felt relieved when the Badger said the book had come out good.  'Wonderful', he said, and 'Brilliant'.

I was relieved because - like everything I write, I guess - it has little to commend it in the way of plot or action, no dazzling intellect or subtle cunning twists to amaze and confound the reader; it's just a story of the heart.  That's all I do.  I tell the story of life as I have seen it to be.

I hope the publisher will get what I am saying, and consent to add it to my series, The Hawk & the Dove - it will be the seventh book of that series, if they do.  It's about how life can be sweetened (or soured) by the way we talk to one another.

Sometimes publishers have seen where I am coming from, and made it possible for me to tell my stories of the heart, the way I have seen life to be.  Not always.  My book Spiritual Care of Dying and Bereaved People was published by SPCK who understood, and edited helpfully and respectfully, and with them that book had a long, long run, finding its way into most of the UK's hospices and into ordination training programs.  I was so grateful to SPCK.

Then in due course it went out of print and, because people still came looking for it, it seemed right to make an expanded and revised version of it, with three new sections added - one about taking funerals, one about bereavement from other causes than death, and one being the story of my husband Bernard's dying.

The original book had been very personal, coming as it did out of my work (at the time I wrote it) as a hospice chaplain.  The sections I added were even more personal, they were stories of my heart about life as I had seen and experienced it to be.

The re-write was commissioned by another English publisher, but when it was completed, something went wrong.  There had been an error in the contract that both the publisher and I had overlooked.  The commissioned book was to be 35,000 words, a significantly expanded revision of the original with the three new sections.  But the original had 45,000 words.

I had written what I understood we had agreed.  The publisher had been imagining a short 'how-to' book guiding people through stages of grief - a book to hold in your hand.  The manuscript they got was about 70,000 words.

At this point we parted company.  The publisher talked about the book in terms of 'product'.  I talked about it in terms of 'story'.  What I had written, which was the agonising putting on paper of the slow tearing apart of my life and heart and the insights I had found in that, turned out to be too long for the product the editor had in mind.  It didn't fit with the other 'how-to' books in the category.  It would have too many pages, so cost more to produce, and unbalance the budget a little.  She had a suggestion for me.  Couldn't I take the story of Bernard dying, divide it up into gobbets (that was the word she used) and distribute them as illustrative material here and there in the text of the original.

Er . . . no.

That book has found a different publisher now, who also requires some re-writing to turn the story of my heart into suitable product, but who at least have not made the mistake of suggesting that I hawk up the story of my husband dying in gobbets.

I sometimes wonder about products, and target markets, and 'building a platform', and all the ways my wise agent tries to coax me into entering the Human Race.  But in the end I can find nothing inside me to write but the story of my heart, and life as I have seen it to be so far.

What brought all this to mind was a story my daughter Fi told us about over supper last night.  I'll give you a link in a minute.  If you follow the link, it takes you to Tim MacCartney's page where you have to select 'The River Man Story' from the list of stories on the left at the top there.  The River Man Story is the tale that set me thinking about stories of the heart.  Here's the link.

From Beth's blog

From time to time I like to catch up with what y'all have been up to, and I take a little cruise through the 'Blogs I Love Visiting' listed down in the side-bar there.

Today I really enjoyed reading this post about going beyond our usual grazing pastures to enrich our faith in unfrequented territories.  It's from the new blog 12 Steps To Church; at the present time (maybe because it's so new?) I am having trouble fixing the link in the sidebar list, but I'll try again in a day or two.

And I took a while to reflect on what Julie had said about real, inner beauty here.

Then I read about Beth's delicious tomatoes, and shared her family walk at the streamside on the post that had this utterly fabdoodle pic:

Don't you just love them? And do you notice, beard/no-beard - they have the same smile!  That is so cool!  Thanks, Beth! 

Our Time Will Come

Role models are so important in our lives.  I have posted before about my being a grandmother, and what role models I had (or didn’t have) to fulfill the responsibilities of my new title.  Now I have a different role - taking care of the needs of my 88-year-old mother, now living with us.
What role model to I have for this position?  Who can inspire me and provide me with the perfect attitude to do this - a mix of patience, love, gentleness, forgiveness, sacrifice, and optimism? Oddly enough, it was my mother herself.  I thought back to how she interacted with her elderly family members, how she handled decisions, how she coped as a caregiver.   Yes, there are my cues.  There in her life is the text for the handbook, “All I Ever Learned about Caring for Old People I Learned From My Mother.”
In the first place, when she and Dad moved into their new small house after 11 years of marriage in the early 1950s, they weren’t alone.  My dad’s mother (Ma-maw to us) moved in with them, and she lived there until she died.  First I came along, and then my sister Joy two years later, and much of our mom’s life consisted of raising her two girls, and dealing with her increasingly debilitated mother-in-law, who eventually just lived in her dark bedroom, having her meals brought to her, arguing about taking her medicine, and needing her potty seat emptied, and all the other demands of infirmity.  It was simple back then; family just took care of you when you needed it.  My mom was a full-time homemaker, so she was home all day and could do it.
After Ma-Maw died, Mom and Dad’s lives were filled with taking care of my maternal grandparents - my grandmother, who had been diagnosed with anorexia and was living in the state mental hospital a couple of hours away, and my grandfather (Paw-Paw), who was in good health but needed help to go to the grocery, visit his wife, etc.  So there were my parents, their weekends already scheduled in, almost all day on Sundays at church, then on Saturdays, chauffeuring my grandfather around town, taking him to lunch, and then every other Saturday, driving to the hospital to visit my grandmother.  It was hard on both my parents to have the responsibilities of their growing daughters and their elderly family members.  I saw my parents worry, I saw them sad, I saw them frustrated, but I never, ever heard a complaint from either my dad, who would have loved to have kept Saturdays for his hobbies or to catch up on reading, or my mom, who would have loved to have relaxed at home with her husband and kids. 
I have to add Aunt Bessie to the mix, of course.  She was my mom’s maternal aunt, a widowed, childless, chain-smoking country woman with a brusque personality and heart of gold.  She had lived in Missouri, but after her husband died, moved to Memphis to be near her only family, which consisted of my mother in Memphis and my uncle in Arkansas.  She was Mom’s responsibility now.   It was Mom who had to help her find assisted housing, it was Mom who was called when Aunt Bessie was discovered giving a bunch of money to a scam artist resident of her apartment complex, and it was Mom who made sure she was picked up and brought to our house for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
First my paternal grandmother died, then my maternal grandmother died, then my dad died, then Paw-Paw died, then finally Aunt Bessie died.  After Dad died, Paw-Paw and Aunt Bessie were totally dependent on newly-widowed Mother to be there for them until they themselves passed.  
All her life Mother has been a caretaker.  She has done this with kindness and compassion and patience and, I’m sure, many sleepless and anxious nights.  She never complained, never questioned why.  She just did it. 
And now it’s her turn to be taken care of.  My sister and I have now each had Mom living in our respective homes, giving her showers, ordering and picking up prescriptions, taking her to the doctor, making sure she eats well, and the worst part - sitting through Lawrence Welk every week - and the whole thing has necessitated great changes in our lifestyle, privacy, marriages, time, and countless other adjustments.  It is not easy sometimes.  Thank goodness Mom, even though physically handicapped now, still has her mind and can do some daily self-care on her own.  I can’t even begin to imagine trying to care for her if she had dementia or if I still had young children in the house.  But I feel blessed that I have had the best caregiver role model I could have.  In all the frustration and busyness of my life now, I am also acutely aware that our kids are looking at Ed and me and absorbing how we are handling all this, for we will undoubtedly be in Mom’s position one day, and they will be caring for us.  I pray that we demonstrate humor, patience, and, yes, sacrifice, in a way to allow them to say, “We know how to be caretakers of those who need us because we watched our parents do it.”  You know the joke - “Be kind to your kids because they’ll choose your nursing home”?  
It all reminds me of an old story:
A highly skilled carpenter who had grown old was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire.
The employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter agreed to this proposal but made sure that this will be his last project. Being in a mood to retire, the carpenter was not paying much attention to building this house. His heart was not in his work. He resorted to poor workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
When the job was done, the carpenter called his employer and showed him the house. The employer handed over some papers and the front door key to the carpenter and said "This is your house, my gift to you."
The carpenter was in a shock! What a shame! If he had only known that he was building his own house, he would have made it better than any other house that he ever built!
Everything we do, we do unto ourselves before it goes out to the world.  Be sure to put love into each of your actions!
We show others how we want to be treated.  Someone is always watching and learning.  You make the world better with your kindness and gentleness, and hopefully those who are watching will extend to you the same courtesy when you need it.  That’s what families are for.  We are all role models.  We will eventually have to live in the houses we build - for God’s sake, let’s make them sturdy. 

Mothers, teachers, hairdressers, the doctor's, the library: fear of so many and so much. The end of the day.

There.  That's better.  Nice big writing.  

I think my appearance is improved without my glasses on, but it's so hard to tell.  I realise nowadays I have this kind of blind look in photos without my specs.  That would be because I can't see anything much.

It's the end of the day (that's why it's dark in the picture - because it is actually dark).

I finished the book I have been writing, today.  It's gone off for its first editorial, to the kindly (but beady-eyed) Badger.  Next it goes to Julie Faraway for perusal.  Then it goes off to the publisher on its Journey of Hope and Pitiful Optimism.

I think it's come up good, but I'm so tired and wrecked after the tossing seas of Grim Concentration Against All The Odds that it's quite hard to say.  I'll see what the Badger and Julie Faraway tell me when they've Inspected.

But peering dimly to see what was left inside after the book is all done, I felt a bit surprised to see fear.  Fear of what?  Oddly, fear of my mother coming upstairs.

Let me explain.

I have this problem with having haircuts.  Afterwards, the hairdo always looks fine, very pretty - but it looks like a hairdo still, not like a person.  It never feels like me.  And very little time elapses before I think "I don't want this", and chop off a bit here and a bit there with the sewing scissors, until it looks more normal, more hacked about and less professional; more actually me.  And that's what I did today.

Now, when I was about . . . ooh, maybe five or six . . . I decided to cut my hair.  After I cut it, I was scared.  My mother would come upstairs and see.  So I stuck it back on again with sellotape.  Funnily enough, she noticed anyway.  She was neither thrilled nor filled with admiration.

My life has lurched unsteadily from day one through this landscape of threatening looming disapproval, the OMG What Have I Done of so many inadvisable Bids For Independence and ill-judged Acts Of Self-Expression.  Though by nature timid and reclusive somehow Trouble has followed me with its Terrible Nose on the scent of my vanishing fear.  It knows.  It finds me.

I joined a library, but I forgot to take my book back and then my card went mouldy, and I never dared go back again after that.  This would be about . . . ooh . . . nineteen years ago?

I'd go to the doctor for pre-natal check-ups, and he'd look down his nose at me and say: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, Mrs Wilcock."  He also thought I was Very Tall.  I'm not really. Only five foot seven.  If you don't count the flamey bits and the wings.  When my first child was born, the consultant did his Grand Tour of Frank Shaw Ward saying "That's What I Call A Baby" etcetera: until he came to me.  "What did you have?" he asked.  I was polite.  I didn't say, "A baby, duh!  Dork."  I said, "A girl."
"Ah!" he said, with but the faintest hint of a sneer: "Another one to argue and fight with the doctors."  That was where he went wrong, really.  I just said: "Yes."

And teachers . . . oh, glory . . .  "You have passed the point of no return"; "Penelope's attitude has been a little more pleasant this term" - and it was all downhill from there, really . . .  

The trouble with the hair is if I ever go back.  Trembling with horror and disdain, the artiste combs into the air a skein of my scratchy wool.  "Who cut this?" the ominous questions begin:  "This looks as though it has been cut with a razor!!" (Yes.  The Badger's.)

I have left school, praise be to God on high.  I have left the library.  I guard my health like the Crown Jewels and stay as far away from the doctor's surgery as life will permit.  My mother's kindly, guiding light of disapproval reminds me I am still alive and this still must be me.  And I've blown it with the hairdresser now haven't I?  I will never dare go back.  Have to just let it grow again, I guess.

Oh!  That's better still!  You were there all the time! I can see you now!

What's it worth to you?

The picture above is of my dad, Ensley Tiffin, in 1931 (about 16 years old) working on his stamp collection.  Philately was a hobby he continued to enjoy throughout his whole life.  I never could get interested in it, unfortunately, although I did benefit from his collection when he would let me use an appropriate stamp to supplement a school report (e.g., if I were writing a report on a historical figure, he let me attach one of his stamps honoring that person, which would always impress the teacher).  After a long day's work and after a good supper, Daddy liked few things better than to clear off the dining room table, set out his albums, hinges, and other accoutrements of his hobby, and pore over his stamps.

I remember one day his saying to Mother, "If I die first, don't just toss all this stuff; there might be some valuable stamps in here."  And so it was that after Mother's accident when we were cleaning out her house, my sister and I took Daddy's stamp collection to a local hobby store to get it appraised.   We had no idea if it was worth a lot of money or worth nothing, but we wanted to honor the man who had worked so hard on it all his life, whose eyes lit up at the thought of some free time to enjoy it before life's responsibilities claimed his limited hours, as they always did.

As we lifted the heavy albums from the trunk of the car and took them into the store, we reminisced about how precious these were to Daddy, how we can still picture him totally absorbed in using his tweezers to place the stamps in their appropriate places, how he would occasionally pick a stamp up and talk about it.  We were proud that we were finally following Daddy's wishes of getting a formal appraisal of his collection.  The appraisal visit was disappointing, though - not because the collection was worthless (which it basically was), but because the owner seemed bored, randomly glancing through the books, talking most of the time to another customer while doing it, and never seemed to appreciate the story behind the collection or what it meant to Daddy (who, my sister remembers, had bought a lot of his supplies from that very store through the years).  The owner basically told us that the collection only had sentimental value, and that if we didn't want it, we could try to sell it at a yard sale.  It was a cursory dismissal of one man's lifetime achievement, a hobby in which he invested countless hours and a good deal of money, and which was filled with memories in the minds of his two daughters.  The appraiser did not give enough respect to what we had brought him.  We weren't out for money; we were there to honor our Daddy's story.

So my question is - is the collection worthless or is it really priceless?

I was reminded of that day as I watched the stock market this week tumble, recoup, tumble, up and down and sideways after the debt ceiling fiasco.  It is amazing to me that one day a stock is worth a lot money, and the next day it isn't.  One day you can sell a "collectible" for hundreds of dollars because it is "popular" right now, and the next day you can't even donate it to a charity.  Your house is worth a certain amount and in the next minute, it has lost half its value.  Yet, it's the same stock, the same figurine, the same house.  What gives?

How do we determine what things are truly worth?  Value is so fleeting and unpredictable.  They say something is only worth what someone would pay for it; therefore, the whims of society, fashion, collectors, investors, determine the worth of anything.

But as with the stamp collection, that is just not true.  "Sentimental value" sounds so trite, but sometimes that's the most important value there is.   Have you ever watched Antiques Roadshow and seen the reaction of someone who has been told that his family heirloom is worth a fortune?  You hardly ever hear anyone yell, "Whoohoo!  I'm going to the auction house tomorrow so I can buy that boat I've always wanted!"  Most of the time, they give a big grin, eyes wide in surprise, because their "sentimentally valuable" family heirloom has just been validated in a way by society.  What they knew in their hearts was precious has been verified to have great financial worth.  No matter, they say - it will still remain in the family and passed proudly down from one generation to the next with its accompanying story.

It all makes us want to take the time to figure out what is truly worthy in our lives - not the most expensive thing we own, maybe nothing we can sell or would even want to sell, maybe something nobody else would care about but us.  That stamp collection is priceless because of the story that comes with it, the memories it holds in our hearts, a poignant physical reminder of the man who cherished it, and the fact that we cherish that man.  Physical things are just symbols of what we truly value.  And those values don't change on the whim of the American economy.  Thank goodness!  In the end, they can take away a lot of our material things in this world, they can reduce the value of our house, they can withhold more from my paycheck, but memories?  As the old song goes, "No, they can't take that away from me."

Fractionally calmer...

. . . at this end of the day.

Back up to speed.  Interferences zapped for the moment.

Conscious of loving prayer making the difference, as it always does.

Will start back on work in hand when I wake up in the morning.

Word of another book contract today, from my agent - but that will have to wait until September to think about.

Now going to make a cup of tea and watch The Fox and the Child.  Here's the trailer.

New Socio-Medical Condition

Author Rage.


Didn't know I could look like that, did you?

I will be most grateful if, in any quiet time you may have today, you can lift me into the Light - that these Infernal Interruptions may be put on hold long enough for me to get this novel done.

God will be grateful too. It gives Him palpitations when I look at Him like that (not really - He's laughing).

Staying open

Ed once told me that his late grandmother taught him an valuable lesson and she didn't even realize it.  He observed that when she was younger, she held her faith and beliefs in her fists, tightly grasped with no way for them to be altered or released in any way.  As she got older, he noticed that she had opened her hands, figuratively speaking, becoming willing to accept new ideas, new ways of thinking, and surprises that life had to offer.

We have been told over and over the great truth that it is better to give.  But what we fail to realize is the importance of being able to receive as well.  Some folks find receiving demeaning and beneath them, because in their mind, it is humiliating to be needy in any way.  Ed used to work for a food bank, and ran across several volunteers who were eager to give but balked at receiving.  I was once a member of a church in Memphis (white) that wanted to pair up with a black church of the same denomination for social interaction and mutual enrichment.  Our church leaders brought forth the name of a black church that was equal to our church in finances and membership, but some people in our congregation were unhappy with that pairing.  They didn't want an equal church to be partnered with; they wanted a poor church, and it was obvious that it was not because of a desire to help as it was a desire to be placed in the the superior side of the relationship.  Sometimes it is hard to give and easy to receive; as surprising as it may seem, at other times, it is easy to give and hard to receive.  Anyone who has ever been addicted or financially devastated or depressed or in other ways has exhausted all resources realizes it is so hard to admit, "I could use some help."  It is so much more satisfying to be on the other end - the one who benevolently looks down and smiles, bestowing riches and blessings and feeling all warm and snuggly about it.

Yet, with a closed fist, we can't receive.  With a closed mind, we can't be open to all life has to offer.

I have mentioned before that, as a medical transcriptionist, I was privileged to be in a beta testing last year for some exceptional software called Instant Text.  The version was beyond expectation, and I use it every day for wonderful productivity and accuracy.  Even after the finished product had been put on the market, the company continued to make improvements and offer new powerful features.  Each one I would eagerly embrace and use in various ways.  Then along came one called a Pick List.  I won't go into detail here, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what good it was for.  I assumed other MTs might need it, but I certainly didn't.  I was doing fine without Pick List; I was productive before Pick List ever came along, and I would undoubtedly be fine without it.

What I soon learned astounded me.  After I asked for examples and some clarification of how Pick List would help me, it became an essential in my daily work and now I use it hundreds of times a day!  I thought I knew it all, but I had to open my mind to allow myself to receive - the new feature itself as well as help from other users and suggestions from the software developer.  Now I can't imagine transcribing without Pick List.

Not everyone is like Ed's grandmother.  As we age, a lot of us become rigid in our ideas and refuse to accept even the possibility that we aren't as smart or clever or omniscient as we imagine ourselves to be.  We think we know everything, can't possibly learn anything else, can't possibly need help from anyone, and have put a big fat period at the end of our philosophy of life.  We stay closed to serendipity.  We stay shut to possibilities and we remain locked to ever changing anything.  I get so frustrated with Americans describing politicians who change their minds as "wishy-washy" or "flip-flopping."  Sometimes it is true that elected officials will just change positions with every opinion poll that comes along.  But others may grow, evolve, examine their beliefs and mindsets, and actually change their position on issues because they understand it a different way today than they did yesterday.  It is not an evil thing to change one's mind, as long as one fully admits to doing so and doesn't try to pretend otherwise.

But oh, it can be so hard to be open!  An open hand is so much more vulnerable than a clenched fist, the latter which can make a pretty good weapon.  An open hand is ready to receive - blessings, ideas, assistance, forgiveness, love, and all other good things that we may not even realize we're missing until we see and feel them in our lives.  Sometimes the most surprising exclamation to find yourself saying is, "Wow!  I didn't even know I needed that - but I did!"  The possibilities are around every corner.  Just keep your eyes peeled, and your hands open.  You never know what could fall into them at any moment.

How to do love.

I love this man.  Every time I look at this photo, my heart does a little flip.

He and I had a brief email correspondence this morning (he works away in Oxford during the week, and comes home at weekends).

I had a haircut on Tuesday.  I haven't had my hair trimmed for two years, so it had got to the Split Ends & All Dried Out From Half-Way Down stage. A length chopped off seemed practical.  And I'd sent a photo to the Badger of his New Wife, for his approval.

Now you should bear in mind that the Badger loves long hair, and when I said I'd be having it cut, a little squawk of distress escaped him.  But the email I sent with the photo of the New Wife received a reply saying "Wow! She's gorgeous xxx", and he rushed off to show it to the editorial secretary, who (wisely) enthused.

He emailed to tell me the editorial secretary added her seal of approval, and I replied saying I was grateful for that, as the day had not been going well - it's raining and change in weather has brought the usual odd result of drivers behaving erratically, rendering road travel more exciting than one might wish; and I'm not quite happy with how my book is going and can't see what I need to do to make it go right; and this morning I weighed myself when I did my exercises only to discover I'd added a pound.  And I was missing him: a lot.  Sigh.

Very shortly I got an email back assuring me that Wii knows nothing, he's sure I can't have put on weight, but he will check me all over very carefully when he comes home, just to make sure.

My Badger is full of kindness.  He is one of the most cheerful, encouraging, supportive people I have ever met.  It's a wonderful thing, being married to someone who knows how to do love.  I consider myself blessed.

Oh - and in case you were curious:

An Abundant Life ~ Chapter II ~ A Leap of Faith

Today's lovely photos were taken by my Taylor (Perfectly Sensible Nonsense), who, armed with my camera the other day, captured some gorgeous moments in time. :)

It has been much longer than I intended since my first Abundant post (Part 1), but life often messes with me like that. ;)  I’ve known what this next chapter would be about for some time now, but wasn’t sure when the timing would be right. This morning I heard ‘now’, and with confidence I’ll let my Spirit speak. It always has much to say and its timing is impeccable. J

My first chapter in An Abundant Life focused on thoughts and their inherent energy. How I direct them, and my choice to support rather than resist all the moments of my unfolding life. If you tried any of the suggestions that I wrote about, you are probably already experiencing abundance trickling into your life. Maybe it feels like life is just a little bit easier, a little bit lighter, a lot bit happier. Maybe you don't take things as seriously, or get as angry or frustrated. It often doesn't take long to turn that energy around and working for you, for your dreams.

Since my thoughts create my world, when I think high energy, positive thoughts, my life adjusts accordingly and cooperates with joy. Conversely, the same is also true when I succumb to low and negative thoughts. I’ve also come to an important realization in regards to those thoughts. It seems that with love and dedication they gain momentum, the energy has been put into motion. The more often I think or visualize something, the stronger that idea gets. I imagine it as a snowball, perched at the tippy top of a mountain. Small, obscure and fragile at first. But give it a gentle push and it grows ~ quickly and of its own accord. By the time it reaches the bottom(you) it’s a veritable avalanche, a snowball of abundance. I’ve decided it pays to have a dream and ruminate on it often. I’ve always been a daydreamer, I love to weave fairy tales in my head. While not only enjoyable, I’ve come to believe that it also moves along the process of manifestation, shortening the time between the thoughts and the actual appearance of the object of your desire.

Moving on to An Abundant Life ~ Part II... For the next step of the Abundant journey, I’d like to talk about Leaps of Faith. This can often be such a hard concept for the fear challenged mind. A Leap of Faith is a jump from the highest cliff, with wild abandon, hair flying, body falling, the ground approaching with alarming speed, and yet through it all a sense of “It’ll be okay. I'll be okay." Initially there might be a sense of fear on my part, and oftentimes those leaps of faith need to be gently worked towards over time. Perhaps only a few days,  but sometimes much longer. There may also be a moment of panic involved, such as “What have I done??” as I start that free fall of trust. However, living a life of one leap after another very quickly dissipated any fear as I observed that, yes indeed, it all works out. Always. With chilling perfection.

I believe that Leaps of Faith are very important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, after taking a succession of jumps I began to feel an awesome sense of safety and protection. Some leaps are large and challenging, others small and effortless, but each landing is cushioned, and I began to trust in something bigger, braver and more knowing than this human costume that I wear. A loving something that never let me down, no matter how far the fall. It secured my footing in the world, making this experience more open,  more welcoming and tons more fun that I ever dreamed possible.

Leaps of Faith are often hugely critical when it comes to opening up the next path of my journey. It seems those leaps are often the keys that open the doors to the next part of my adventure. Until that leap is taken I may feel fearful, stuck, apprehensive, trapped, sad, angry… but with one brave launch... avenues open, and choices exist.

With my mom’s permission I’ll use her as an example. J Several years ago my mother was working at a job that no longer brought her joy or satisfaction.  In fact, she was at the far opposite end of the joy spectrum, lounging in sadness and despair. Her mornings were full of dread at approaching yet another day, and even her time at home was no longer enjoyed or cherished,  instead mostly filled will terrible apprehension.  We would walk and talk until after some time I had nothing much left to say. To me, the outsider, it was painfully obvious (isn’t that often the case? ;) There really seemed no other choice to me, but she needed to come to it in her own time. What she required was a giant Leap of Faith. But she was so lost in her fearful thoughts of lack (in regards to money) that she was as effectively stuck as if she were in quicksand up to her neck, still struggling and sinking deeper. But what about that paycheck? How will I pay the bills? Or eat? Or... or... or????

I know that I come from a much different place than most, but my response was “What about the money?” Was a life full of suffering, anxiety, depression and fear a fair trade for a measly little paycheck? I'd rather live in a cardboard box then languish in despair and desperation, but of course, that's just me. ;)  My mother looked terrible, felt worse and was lost in the world of ego. I knew, without a doubt that quitting this job, simply walking away, would lead to her next answer. She would be provided for, but her answers were still locked behind the door that only a Leap of Faith would open.

In reality, did she even need to worry? No. She has tons of family who would help her out in a heartbeat. But it’s much bigger than that. Depending on family is still a worldly thing, and leaps of faith are beyond this world of flesh and form. It’s a believing without seeing. It’s trusting from your heart’s knowing. It’s beautiful, soothing faith.

Over many, many months, which morphed into at least a year (maybe more!), I watched the desperation grow in Mom. It finally grew so large that it began to suffocate her and she knew if she didn’t break free great harm would come to her mind and body from the unrelenting stress. No longer was the fear and attachment to money enough to keep her locked in her personal version of hell. To my great relief she finally made that decision to leave. And with that one choice her life began again. The smothering weight was lifted and over time she began to embrace the freedom and enjoy her life again. She began to smile and laugh. She began to live and breath with ease.

Can you guess what happened? Yes, indeed, a door opened. A door that was not visible until she said “I trust it will be okay if I follow my heart”. What happened was this ~ the sitter scheduled to watch my new infant niece fell through. Who to watch this little girl? Enter my mom. J Quitting her job was the key to unlocking the next stage of her life. She didn’t go hungry. Her bills were paid. She didn’t lose her home. A soft and beautiful landing of faith (and a newborn babe to snuggle. J )

Leaps of Faith usually mean not knowing how it’ll all end up. It means knowing your heart aches because you’re not where you’re supposed to be, but where are you supposed to be?, and then trusting that your answer is out there and that you'll find it. It doesn’t require the rational, thinking mind. In fact, this is where we often get mired in that quicksand. Faith defies logic. Instead tap into your feelings, let them answer the question for you. Do you feel joy, excitement, peace, contentment, anticipation? Fabulous, when I feel those emotions, I know I’m heading in the right direction for me. J On the other hand, sadness, fear, despair, depression, a sense of being lost ~ these all point to the need for some faith. A choice must be made. Stay in my safe place, miserable but familiar? Or open my world to bigger, better, more magical happenings?

So, you quit your job based on your feelings and then find you can’t pay your bills, the fridge is empty and you may lose your home. Some leap of faith, right? Now what? Well, my answer would be another Leap of Faith, of course. ;) Hold tight to that trust. Believe that all will be well and open your eyes, see clearly. What is this situation trying to show you? Are you missing something? Resisting something? Often in order to reach our highest heights we must scramble and flail among the darkest, smelliest, rankest depths. Only you will know your direction, but have faith that the answers will come, often they already have, we’re just too stubborn to see the light or hear the song. J

For me, leaps of faith are crucial to finding my path on this adventure. You already make small ones all the time unless fear has you a prisoner (been there, done that. ;) You trust each time you get behind the wheel that you’ll arrive safely at your destination. You trust with each breath that another will follow. You trust each night when you go to sleep that you’ll wake once again. Somewhere along the way I realized that a part of me already knew I was protected, even if that knowing was sometimes buried under layer upon miserable layer of fear and doubt.

I find I make leaps, big and small, everyday. Just getting out of bed is an act of faith. It was a leap of faith closing my grooming shop, Pampered Pets, years ago, just as it was a leap of faith closing Simply Smitten recently. It’s a leap of faith knowing that each time my body gets “sick” that it is capable of healing itself all on its own. Its’a leap of faith each time I trust another human being. It’s a leap of faith to homeschool the girls. It seems that living is actually one giant leap of faith after another. Huh, who knew? ;)

Living a life involving frequent, trusting Leaps of Faith leads to an abundant life. With each jump I'm saying I don’t know how, bit it will all work out. My positive thoughts assure that the answer will be found. I find that when I release my expectations of a particular outcome the doors that open are often far grander that any I could imagine on my own, and I have quite the imagination!

Go back to school. Quit a job. Leave a lover. Fall in love. Have a baby. Don’t have a baby. Share your heart. Move across the country. Get married. Follow that voice in your heart and make that leap! Believe it will all be okay, and so it shall. J

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda

"Get Fit with Josh" - The infomercial

I got to do a new exercise workout Saturday.  It's great for the whole body, but especially for the back.  When I woke up Sunday, I was sore all over, and my lower back was aching.  That's how I knew how extremely effective the new total body workout called "Joshua" was.

The moves are simple but repetitive.  All it consists of is taking a 1-year-old toddler and picking him up and putting him down several hundred times.  For added conditioning, you can carry him around on one hip (that's an almost 57-year-old hip, thank you very much), while keeping your head turned in that direction to look at him.  In addition, you put your body through the paces of the special exercise called "Watch the toddler drop his [insert item here] from the high chair onto the floor and then pick it up for him so he can do it again."  The next move is chasing after him as he crawls around at the speed of light.  No, honey, that's the dog's water bowl.  That's the ash can for the wood stove.  Ewww, that's the dog's squeaky ball, wet and yucky.  Don't touch!  Thanks for finding those dirty places on the floor; I'm sure your parents will love us.

Oh, and I don't want to forget the ultimate back exercise - bending over, taking his little hands in yours, and helping him "walk."  That's a really good one. I can tell I am 8 years younger than Ed, because Ed's back hurt after one or two rounds of this exercise, whereas mine didn't hurt until the next morning.

Of course, I have a special move for this workout that involves lying down on the floor, bending my knees, putting Joshua on my shins, and raising my feet up and down, up and down while holding his hands.  I was so proud that I am still in shape enough to do this - and even prouder that at the end, I could get up from the floor at all.

Those of you who have baby-sat a toddler or, bless your little soul, are raising one or more, you know what I mean.  If you're a grandparent involved in the above fitness regimen, you really know what I mean.  In that case, it's the Senior Olympics.

Of course, it goes without saying that it is all worth it.  Every second of it!  And truly, as soon as can be arranged, we want him back!  Did I say back?  Ouch! wouldn't happen to have a couple of aspirin on you, would you?