Love Expands

Today 150-200 people gathered to celebrate the life of Ginny May Flint. Ginny “changed addresses” on March 1 at 6:10 pm. It was one of the most amazing celebrations I’ve ever attended. And that speaks volumes for the kind of woman Ginny was. Her daughter, Shannon, told us she orchestrated the whole celebration. “Have bright colors and feed the people who come. If they took the time to come, feed them well.”

Ginny May Flint
March 11, 1939-March 1, 2018

Ginny was a part of the Angel Group I joined about three years, so I haven’t known her long. But what a blessing she has been for me and for so many others. There were people in attendance whose lives she touched fifty-some years ago. A fifth-grade classmate shared that when he moved to Dayton, he didn’t know a sole. Ginny sat next him in homeroom. She said, “I’m Ginny. Who are you?” They became best of friends, and they and their spouses have enjoyed many fun times together.

There was a lot of laughter and tears shed during the celebration. Ginny knew how to have fun and touch people’s lives. She will be greatly missed.

Another of her classmates said when they were teenagers, she approached him one day and said, “I have a friend I’d like you to meet. Would you be interested?” She handed him a phone number and a couple of days later he phoned. Then he introduced us to his wife of almost fifty-six years.

The most amazing stories I heard, however, came from her daughter, Shannon and Shannon’s birth mother, Jan. Shannon was adopted and eventually wanted to meet her birth mother. After she received the information that her birth mother was willing to meet her, Shannon double checked with her parents to make sure they were okay with her making the call.

Ginny’s attitude was that love is not in a limited supply. The more you give the more it expands. So she was quite happy for Shannon to make contact with her birth mother. When Shannon revealed that Jan lived very close to them, Ginny realized that she knew Jan slightly, and was sure that Shannon had even seen her walking her dog nearby. Ginny said, “She’s really neat. Call her right now.”

So Shannon made contact and arrangements were made for all of them to get together the next weekend. Shannon told Jan, “Don’t be surprised if Mom comes knocking on your door before then.”

And that is exactly what Ginny did. She wanted to assure Jan that she and her husband were excited about this and that Jan and her family were now a part of the Flint family. And it was Jean who was with Ginny when she took her last breath.

At the end of the celebration, Jan’s two sisters, brother, and sister-in-law introduced themselves to us and we had a lovely chat hearing more of their story and how they were all embraced by the Flint family.

Toward the end of February, the Angel Group was informed that Hospice was estimating that Ginny had one to two weeks to live. Of course, some of us wanted to visit. Her husband sent the message that Ginny would welcome our visit. She said, “The more the merrier.”

I was stunned to see her sitting in a recliner greeting us wearing that wonderful warm smile that lit up her face with delight. She stretched out her arms for hugs and kisses saying, “Everything’s fine … when you have no regrets, everything’s fine.” She told funny stories about herself and laughed heartily. She shrugged off her need to continue wearing a colostomy bag and matter-of-factly named an advantage to it. It was hard to believe that she would be gone in a little over two weeks.

She is certainly an example to all of us about how to live. Love largely and widely because love expands. How fortunate I am to have been the recipient of her generous spirit and warm embraces. As I challenge myself to live in the spirit of expanding love, I carry her spirit with me as she lives on in the hearts and memories of so many.


Do We Feel It?

Note: You haven’t heard from me for awhile. I’ve been taking an essay writing class and that has kept me busy. Here is one of my best, written the week of the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting:

Life is precious. Or is it?

Each life counts. Each life is significant. So we say.

One day this week I caught Steve Inskeep’s opinion piece on NPR as I drove home from a doctor’s appointment. The school shooting in Florida caused him to think about people who have to develop a relationship with death … nurses, soldiers, police officers, fire fighters, war correspondents. His voice sounded incredulous as he expressed disbelief that teachers and students are now among them. He noted that after Sandy Hook, many officials proclaimed, “It will never happen again.”

Inskeep observed that we are all becoming accustomed to the carnage. “We have to bear it because politicians and presidents have agreed on no effective solution to mass shootings.”

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America. 

Inskeep went on: If we cease to feel the effects, we risk our mental health, our moral health, our souls.

He ended with these haunting words, “Do we still feel it?”

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


A PBS report on the nightly news this week finds that the gap between white and black home ownership in the USA is wider now than it was in 1960. In some cities, black and Latino home buyers have a harder time getting mortgages. The newscast featured a story of a financially responsible black woman with a good job who missed paying one electric bill on time. Two banks used this as an excuse to turn her down … even when her mother, retired with a generous pension, agreed to co-sign. They used her mother’s student loan debt as their reason.

Suspecting their refusal had something to do with the color of her skin, this potential home buyer asked her half-white, half-Japanese girlfriend to buy the house with her. Her friend didn’t make enough money to pay her bills, had to borrow money from her sister to pay for health insurance, and could not give the required two years proof of a stable work history. Despite the terrible state of her finances, one of the previously denying banks approved the loan.

Do we feel it?

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door! 


From the comfort of my home, I watch television and most every night witness the plight of refugees struggling to say alive while they exist in a living hell. More comfortable nations, including our own, turn them away.

Tired and poor mothers yearning to breathe free came to our shores and gave birth to children, some of whom are disabled. In Ohio, two mothers of disabled children have been torn away from their children and sent back to the teeming shores from whence they came … shores that neither welcomes or wants them.

Do we feel it?

I’m sure as you read this, you can think of examples of your own. Fill in the blanks.

Do we feel it?

An example from my personal life: Disabled people are not seen as contributors to our economy and so they are disposable. If you don’t believe it, try to obtain services. In 2010 as a result of the economic crisis in our country brought on be deregulation and excessive risk-taking by banks, a federally-mandated program in Ohio responsible for advocating for and protecting the disabled transitioned from a state agency to a non-profit. In 2012, while seeking services to help my disabled daughter continue to live independently, I was told by an attorney working for this program, “Two years ago resources existed to help. Today there are none … unless she is homeless.” The attorney recommended I allow my daughter to become homeless.

Do we feel it?

Typically, applications for social security disability are denied at least three times. I personally know of three families with a child suffering from myotonic muscular dystrophy, a debilitating progressive neuromuscular disease, who have been denied disability numerous times.

Do we feel it?

According to the Houston Behavior Health Hospital, the three main causes of stress today — money, work, and poor health — are interrelated. A poor economy puts the highest pressure on those earning less than $50,000 (although people in all income brackets are feeling the strain). High unemployment rates, rising costs of food, gas, and other necessities, and the need to work long hours are all detrimental to inner peace, which can cause negative physical symptoms like a greater susceptibility to illness, a lack of energy, problems with sleep, headaches, poor judgment, weight gain, depression, anxiety, and an inability to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends.

The poor are accused of being lazy and unambitious.

Do we feel it?

According to Page 4 of a June 2015 report by the International Monetary Fund: “Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. In advanced economies, the gap between the rich and poor is at the highest level in decades.”

Does the system keep us too stressed out to feel it? Are we losing our ability to feel it?

Does each life count?

Your life? My life?

Do we feel it?

Is each life significant?

Teachers? Students? Parents? People of Color? Immigrants? Refugees? The Disabled? Nurses? Soldiers? Police Officers? Fire Fighters? War Correspondents? The Unemployed? The Underemployed? The Marginalized?

Are we losing our souls? Is our nation losing its soul?

Do we feel it?

Angels Among Us ~~ Marvel

I recently learned that my friend, Marvel, was an introvert and shy when she grew up. That was a surprise to me because in the twenty-some years that I’ve known her, I’ve depended on her assertive voice when I couldn’t summon mine.

I remember one occasion when I was frozen in fear for my daughter and she knew just what I needed to do. I couldn’t do it, and so she did it for me. Having her there advocating for me and for Nicole meant so much to me. She was the kind of friend who valued me even though I had many shortcomings.

I needed a lot of help to develop the backbone needed to persevere through the many challenges I faced with my children. Marvel’s assertiveness laced with tender loving care is one of the factors that contributed to the growth I portray in A Long Awakening to Grace.

And that is why Marvel was one of two friends I called in the wee hours of the morning to share the miracle I experienced and wrote about in my memoir chapter titled, “Fire Walk.” Like Barbara, Marvel was in a distant city facing a similar situation … similar in some ways and so very different in others. And like Barbara, Marvel doesn’t appear in my memoir until page 256, but she walked with me through much of the journey I relay and for that, I will always be grateful.


Why I Was Late for Church on Sunday

Imagine my excitement when on my way to church last Sunday I became engrossed in an interview on the radio that confirmed the wisdom of a concept I learned forty years ago that has helped me make sense of personal relationships and world events.

Some simplified examples of that concept:

Values of the dominant worldview (fear-based separation):

  • I’m the authority. I know best. Listen to me and do what I say.
  • I compete with you because power, performance, and winning are what matters.
  • Follow my rules or all hell will break loose.
  • You are only important if you are supporting me and doing it my way.
  • If something goes wrong, it’s your fault.

Values of a relational worldview (trust-based connection):

  • We each have gifts to offer and a perspective that may be helpful. Working together, we can find a better way.
  • I collaborate with you in the service of finding a workable solution.
  • People matter most. Rules can be changed to meet people’s needs and preserve connection.
  • To reach the most compassionate outcome, all voices are needed.
  • When I’m wrong, I admit it and participate in finding a better approach for all concerned.

WYSO Weekend host, Jess Mador, interviewed Doug Oplinger, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and forty-six-year veteran in the business. He related how the way reporters have been handling the opioid epidemic hasn’t solved the problem.

“We’ve been writing gruesome stories for years … 4000 have died in Ohio, 1000 in Southwest Ohio. Where’s the public outcry?”

Oplinger said he and other investigative reporters grew frustrated that people weren’t engaging in the conversation. So they joined forces and tried an experiment that evolved into a new approach and a project called “Your Voice Ohio: Journalism Driven by Ohioans, for Ohioans.”

You could hear the passion in Oplinger’s voice as he described what he finds exciting about this different approach … something he is devoting himself to in retirement.

As my excitement merged with his, my brain went off course. I missed my turn toward church, drove about a mile out of the way before I realized what I had done, made a U-turn, and retraced my steps.

I was thrilled to hear how changing their worldview and values led these journalists to change their behavior. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in their new approach to what had inspired me forty years ago.

Oplinger said, “News organizations are setting aside their competitive instincts…they are sharing resources, reporters, and stories to provide better information more often.” Instead of aligning themselves with politicians, they invite ordinary people to watch journalists doing their jobs and then cosponsor community meetings where reporters listen to the people. They explore together what is needed in order to find personal and community solutions.

As they sat with the people and listened, the news organizations were surprised to find that they needed a very different approach. In their redesigned coverage, they are changing the conversation to lift up the voices of the people. Instead of an emphasis on gruesome stories, the emphasis is on solutions and highlighting the stories of people who have successfully overcome their dependence on opioids.

I felt so proud of this Ohio initiative and hope news organizations nationally will learn from it. In my experience and that of many of my friends, we are weary of being bombarded with “gruesome” news about everything that is going wrong in the world.

We are concerned, we want to be informed, and we want to make a difference, but this bombardment leads to a sense of powerlessness that is not helpful. Having worked as a family therapist in the addictions field for over twenty years, I know that feeling of powerlessness in the face of this epidemic. And as a concerned citizen, I know that feeling of powerlessness in the face of the situation in our country and world today.

My friends and I are overjoyed with this emphasis on success stories and finding solutions that work.

It was worth missing the organ prelude on Sunday to learn about this innovative and creative initiative by Ohio journalists who are committed to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem! They are an inspiration and deserve a standing ovation!

If the opioid crisis has touched your life and/or is on your list of concerns, I encourage you to get involved in this creative, solution-oriented initiative.

Angels Among Us ~~ Barbara

Do you have a friend so trustworthy that you can safely share anything with them? Fortunately for me, Barbara showed up in my life in 1968 and filled the bill.

Barbara in 1990

When I met her, Barbara and her daughter worked in the church nursery caring for children so parents could attend worship. About three years later, she approached and said, “I would like to be friends with you.” We built a friendship that has lasted for forty-seven years.

Barbara appears in my memoir in 1999, late in the book.

“I couldn’t wait to tell Marvel and Barbara about the miracle.” Page 256 of A Long Awakening to Grace

It was somewhere around 2:30 a.m. and she was in Portland, Oregon facing similar circumstances to those I faced. I couldn’t wait until a decent hour to connect with her. She was grateful I called and wanted to hear every detail.

Even though she appears late in my book, Barbara was my constant companion throughout much of the story. She was the best kind of friend a person filled with shame about the circumstances in her life could hope for … a true angel. With her I didn’t need to hide. I could reveal all. Perhaps that is because she carried shame, too, so she understood.

A story that didn’t make it into the memoir illustrates the nature of Barbara’s friendship. She was open and willing to grow with me, a quality I highly value.

Our family had moved from Middletown to Dayton in late 1981, so Barbara and I met halfway for dinner regularly. We both held grievances against our husbands and part of our dinnertime conversation involved raking them over the coals.

Then, as I recount in the memoir chapter titled “Finding a Better Way,” in 1984 I entered a Living in Process training program where I learned about family roles and codependence and began working a twelve-step program of recovery for family members of alcoholics/addicts.

At one of our 1985 dinner meetings, Barbara began as usual going over her grievances. I squirmed for a bit and then said, “Barbara, I can’t do this anymore. I’ve learned that I’m a codependent and I’m going to twelve-step meetings to recover from it.”

She said, “Tell me more.”

After I explained to her what I had learned about myself and codependence, she said, “I’m a codependent, too. I’m going to start going to meetings, too.” Two years later she entered the Living in Process training.

Barbara learned not to harbor grievances. As passionate as she was in communicating the importance of our friendship, she could be equally as vehement about calling me on the carpet when I unintentionally did something that hurt her or when she thought I was wrong. I’m sure her husband can relate. Thankfully, her expressions of love far outweighed her confrontations. In fact, no one has shown their love for me as much as Barbara has.

Despite my discomfort at being confronted, I valued Barbara’s honesty and knowing where I stood with her. She cherished our friendship too much to cut me off or keep her distance. I could, but won’t in this post, write a whole essay about how much that means to me in a relationship. It is a major component of my ability to trust someone wholeheartedly, and I find it a rare attribute.

Linda & Barbara in 2013

An extraordinary woman, Barbara obtained her bachelor’s degree after rearing two children. A major corporation in Middletown hired her to be their communications director. Unemployment was high in our country in 1982 and she developed a program in her corporation to help those who were laid off. Her program received national attention and she was invited to the White House to accept an award for it from President Reagan.

Later she obtained a master’s in Creation Spirituality and developed a practice as a Reiki practitioner. I could go on and on about her remarkable accomplishments.

Barbara and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon about three years ago. Their move and her illness have robbed us of much of what we enjoyed for many years. I miss her everyday.

She would have been so happy for me with the publication of A Long Awakening to Grace and it is a huge loss for me not to be able to celebrate this milestone with her. There will always be a special place in my heart for Barbara.

Barbara and Linda in 2015 at Columbia River Gorge

Lost and Found

“Once I was lost and now I’m found.” ~from the Hymn, Amazing Grace


A common phenomenon for writers finishing a book is to experience a letdown. While being interviewed after publishing his latest espionage novel, John le Carré admitted to being depressed and that he always experiences this between projects.

My writer friend Susan J. Tweit who generously gave me a blurb for my memoir just sent her recent memoir, Bless the Birds, to her agent. When congratulated, she admitted, “I’m feeling both relieved and excited, as you can imagine, and also feeling a bit of the postpartum blues to not be carrying the story around inside me anymore.”

After the initial flurry of excitement about completing what a high school classmate referred to as “the achievement of my lifetime,” — writing and publishing A Long Awakening to Grace, I felt lost. I am familiar with that feeling. I’ve experienced it many times throughout my life when I’m in a period of transition. But this time it felt a bit different. I pondered the difference.

I wasn’t asking “What’s next?” as I had done during other transitions. Inept as I was at it and totally out of my element, I charged ahead doing what was logically next … marketing my book. Between dealing with the “pecking order” among writers (self-published authors frozen at the bottom) and in the social media world of changing algorithms, I grew increasingly overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, cranky and disgruntled…not the energy I wanted to bring to the process.


I took a break from marketing last week and went to four movies. This quote attributed to P. T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman jumped out at me.

“I was trying to be someone I am not.”

  • I am not nor do I aspire to be “A New York Times Bestselling Author”
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to make a living as a writer
  • I did not write and publish this book to make money though if I do, the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation will benefit from it. I did not write and publish to be a big name in the literary field. I wrote it to be of help to others.
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to be a marketing whiz

And yet, I am fortunate to know and interact with New York Times Bestselling authors, authors who make a very good income writing,  authors who receive acclaim widely, and authors who are willing to master the world of technology to promote themselves. And I admire them and I compared myself to them and tried to follow their example.

And that is not who I am!

Who I am is:

  • Someone who writes as a spiritual practice … to understand myself better and to connect with the best version of who I was created to be. Writing my memoir gave me a whole new perspective on my life and was transforming. I share my writing when I think what I have to say would be helpful or enlightening to others.
  • Someone who loves to connect with other kindred spirits by reading spiritual literature, inspirational memoirs, historical fiction … along with books that inform me about cultural challenges we face.  Check out my Goodread’s Book Page and you will see.
  • Someone who likes to participate in groups who share my interest in spirituality, who are committed to growing, and who are interested in being informed and active in dealing with cultural challenges.
  • Someone who is energized by connecting with people. An interesting challenge for an introvert who loves to write … a solitary activity. Sharing with interested readers and receiving their comments in this blog is enormously satisfying for me.


  • Receiving a hug from Pastor Larry who appears in my book and being told that my book was wonderful and he was moved by it.
  • Receiving a long embrace from Larry’s wife, Clara, and receiving expressions of empathy from both her and Larry.
  • Receiving a post on my timeline from a Reader’s Facebook group. One of their members, Debbie, a woman from Minnesota who I’ve never met, read my memoir, called it amazing, and said she loved it. I reached out to thank her and we had a few back and forth interactions. Then she gave me an Amazon review. Made my day!
  • Seeing another woman from that Facebook group decide to read my book because Debbie loved and recommended it. Thanking her, asking her to let me know what she thinks after she reads it, and receiving a response from her that she will do that.
  • Receiving a telephone call and reconnecting with an Imago colleague to tell me she is reading my book and wants to work with me to arrange a book signing in her city. We are having lunch together this week and I’m so excited to connect with her again.
  • Receiving a Facebook message from a high school classmate who read my book, had no idea what I had gone through, called me a strong and resilient woman. She wrote this while receiving chemotherapy. Later that week she wrote an Amazon review and said she was proud of me. Brought tears to my eyes.
  • A woman who I admire but don’t know well at church sharing with me that she had finished reading my memoir. She was silent for a moment. Then she said, “You know suffering, don’t you?” She went on to share her experience reading it and the most powerful part of the book for her. She wanted to know if I had given any talks about it. I haven’t, but I’d like to … once I discern the message that would be most helpful to others.
  • A friend from church telling me that she spent time on my website this week and found a lot of good stuff there. Makes me feel like the hard work I’ve been doing updating it is worthwhile.
  • Receiving fabulous e-mails from members of the Works-in-Progress group through the Story Circle Network.

Two of those e-mails were in response to my rant to them about my frustrations with marketing and social media and my decision to do only what is enjoyable and gratifying.

This group member who makes her living writing said, “There was a time when you were discouraged about the writing, and you persevered nonetheless. I think the hardest part of being an author/publisher is that you wear all the hats. But you’re right to do what you enjoy or at least can tolerate. What I read in your posts is that the human connection is what fuels you the most. … Those person-to-person connections may be the most effective form of marketing for you, and they’re clearly the most rewarding.” I felt really seen and understood.

And this prolific and award-winning author said, “Linda, rejoice in your ability to sell books one-to-one. Booksellers will tell you more books are sold that way and by word of mouth than all the advertising in the world.” That helps me feel better about my choice.

These e-mails came through this weekend and addressed the challenges all authors face. In comparing myself with this group of women writers, I unintentionally distanced myself from them. I didn’t feel worthy of belonging. It is nice to be back in connection:

One group member, a New York Times Bestselling Author said, “…it’s simply nonproductive to make comparisons between genres/audience communities. The writing universe (and now, the publishing universe) is broad enough to include all of us. We don’t have to live (or die) by others’ preferences and judgments. We can just set them aside, do our best work, and move forward on the paths we choose.”

And another is committed to literary citizenship — supporting her sister authors and, in my experience, does it extremely well. She has an Amazon Author Central Page that is quite impressive in my opinion but looked down upon by some who are “snooty” (not her word or mine but made by a writer who could be and thankfully isn’t).

This group member did a rant of her own when she said, “Sometimes when you hang with writers you forget about the non-writers who are simply dazzled by our output, not busy saying ‘Well that’s good but not quite enough yet.’ … I work to be as transparent as I can about my growth and progress as a writer. I want to celebrate every step of the journey. I am so glad to be able to do this here (in the WIP group) but also want to do it publicly both as joy and as encouragement. … What I am striving for is to do work that comes from my heart and that I can give to the world with the intention of reaching others. I can’t tell you the number of times my heart has been soothed or uplifted by ‘light fiction’ or, and this one grates at me when it is used in a diminishing way, ‘women’s fiction.’ I love a beautiful piece of “literary” work AND I love ‘light fiction’ and ‘women’s fiction’ and all the other genres that get sniffed at. Don’t even get me started on the folks dissing memoir as me-moir!  Those me-moirs have been life changing and life affirming for me, sometimes a hand out that’s pulled me out of the muck and given me hope.

I say “AMEN!” to that!! I am so fortunate to be a part of this stellar group of women writers and to be accepted and supported by them.

And I’m so fortunate to have had such a spirit bolstering week … even though I took a couple of days off.

And I’m so fortunate to have come home to and be back in connection with “myself.” I have much for which to be grateful!


A couple of years ago, Jude, one of my local writer friends, invited me to her solstice gathering. She had been holding these for many years. I was honored to be asked, and as an introvert, a little nervous about meeting and interacting with new people. I set an intention to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and reach out. On my half hour drive home, I patted myself on the back for my new behavior and for the connections I made.

At the winter solstice, Jude asks us to share our word for the year. My word for 2016 was “JOY.” For 2017, I chose the word “OPPORTUNITY.” My word for 2018 is “THRIVE.” Then she gives us a reminder to position in a prominent place in our home as a prompt to be on the lookout for evidence of our word materializing.

The major OPPORTUNITY that manifested for me in 2017 was being gifted by April with her expertise to publish A Long Awakening to Grace.

I choose THRIVE for 2018 because I have never been satisfied with calling myself a survivor. I want to do more in life than survive. I want to THRIVE. And now that I’ve accomplished what a high school classmate referred to as “the greatest achievement of my life,” what’s next? It will be hard to top 2017.

In November and over the holidays, while we have been experiencing frigid weather and I wasn’t feeling well enough to go out, I made use of this time with a major cleaning out the old. My office is reorganized and I have a pile of papers and records I no longer need (I tend to be a pack rat) waiting for the recycle bin. I already feel lighter and love how much more accessible my new office arrangement is.

It occurred to me that letting go of this old stuff is a part of making way for the new … the new that promises to fulfill my intention to THRIVE. I still have more I want to do, but I am well on my way. And seeing these actions as my commitment to THRIVING in 2018 increases my enthusiasm and curiosity. It will be interesting to see how THRIVE materializes despite whatever rejections and disappointments as a writer and author may come my way. (Rejections and disappointments come with the territory and we THRIVE when we keep plugging away and noticing the gifts we receive despite them.)

To celebrate these surprises and gifts, I’m going to record everyone of them as a celebration in my THRIVE journal.

If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your word for 2018 and how you are preparing to live into it?

The Plot Sisters — Part II

In April 2014, I wrote about The Plot Sisters, a vibrant group of five Dayton area writers who I first met in Katrina Kittle’s Character Development class.

Traci Ison, Cindy Cremeans, Christina Consolina, Jennifer Harper Messaros, Ruthanne Templeton Kain (not pictured)

They celebrated with me after I successfully pitched to a New York agent. I was thanked for a “well-crafted pitch, the agent noted that my story has a compelling narrative arc, and she asked me to send her a proposal … after I built my platform (a large enough number of followers for a New York agent to actually represent me.)

Christina pointed out that Dayton has a lot of good writers and we support each other. She said, “We can be part of your platform.” Her words were music to my ears. And she didn’t disappoint. She agreed to be one of my beta readers and gave me valuable feedback that strengthened my memoir.

Even though I didn’t build a large enough platform to interest a New York agent in representing me and my publishing path went in a different direction, that hasn’t stopped the Plot Sisters from supporting me. They invited me to be their guest at their December 21 meeting. And do they ever know how to treat their guests.

Jennifer Harper Messaros, Jude Walsh, Cindy Cremeans, Ruthann Templeton Kain, Christina Consolino, Traci Ison (via FaceTime), and me

Some changes have occurred for The Plot Sisters. Traci moved to Oklahoma, but continues to attend their meetings via FaceTime. And Jude Walsh has joined their ranks. Because writing is a solitary activity and can be discouraging as what we have poured our heart and soul into receives rejections, having a support system is vital. I’m grateful for my connection with these wonderful women.

After sharing with me a little about the state of their writing, we launched into a spirited discussion about A Long Awakening to Grace, my writing style and the narrative arc. They noted the humility with which I told my story and how that draws the reader in. They wanted to hear all about my decision to self-publish and we discussed the pros and cons of that publishing path. They inquired as to what I’ll be writing next and had some great suggestions.

Because this meeting occurred on the eve of winter solstice, they brought goodies to share with each other and included me in the sharing. I was thrilled. But then they surprised me with a gift bag. I pulled out a lovely box of notecards adorned with butterflies. What a lovely gift.

And then Jude said, “There’s a little something else in the bottom of the bag.”

I rummaged through tissue paper and pulled out a velvet jewelry box. My eyes widened as I opened the box to find a beautiful butterfly necklace decorated with Black Hills gold. They couldn’t have known how significant receiving this gift was.

When I was twelve, I spotted a birthstone ring in the window of the local jewelry store. It was mounted in Black Hills gold. I fell in love with it and was thrilled when my grandmothers joined together in gifting me with it on the occasion of my confirmation.

The mounting wore away as the years went on. My dad wanted to place it in a new mounting. I protested. Because I loved the uniqueness of that mounting so much, he refreshed it instead. It continues to be one of  my most important treasures to this day.

And now, thanks to the generosity of The Plot Sisters, I have a matching necklace. It is already one of my favorite treasures … a lovely reminder of the importance of supporting each other as writers and as women. You all are the best and I am blessed by knowing you and being known by you.

My Return Visit to ImagoLand

Eight of us gathered in a circle in Marcia’s living room for a “Giving and Receiving Love” advanced Imago training.  I flinched, surprised at how startled I felt as our trainers, Marcia and Orli, vulnerably revealed their childhood coping mechanisms and the ways these sabotage their efforts to give and receive love. I had not entered ImagoLand for over five years because I retired as an Imago Relationship Therapist in 2012.

It was as though I was a fish who had been out of water for a long time. My initial shock at being plunged back into my natural habitat gave way as I relaxed and began swimming with the current.

In 2002, I learned something about the current in which I swim when I met Marianne Paulus and read her book, Four Paths to Union. Her first chapter titled “An Inner Urge” begins with a quote.

“Our hearts are restless until they come to rest in thee.” ~St. Augustine

Paulus writes about a deep spiritual impulse within all of us … a powerful force at work that motivates our choices and illuminates our differences from others. This inner urge reveals itself in ordinary ways through personality patterns, preferences, interests, and activities. These are easily recognizable when we become familiar with the four broad Pathways we paddle through when we become conscious of our desire for Union with the Divine. She goes on to describe each pathway in detail … the Paths of …

  • Devotion
  • Action
  • Contemplation
  • Self-Mastery

While these Pathways are not mutually exclusive, in each person one urge tends to be stronger than others and determines our predominant way of interacting in the world. I like to think of it as the way The Divine created us and calls us to offer our gifts to the world. It makes sense to me to be faithful to our “true selves.” Life seems to work better that way, though not always smoothly.

World religions grew up around these various urges and cultures arose out of the religious orientations that emerged. Paulus hopes that by knowing this, we will find it easier to respect other people and their choices.

I share her hope because after reading about these four impulses, I realized that my strongest urges reside in the Path of Self-Mastery, one of two paths (the other being the Path of Contemplation) that are least understood and respected by the Western culture in which I live. I declared to myself in astonishment, “No wonder I feel so different. No wonder I don’t fit in.”

It is no surprise that my Self-Mastery inner urge led me to United Theological SeminaryLiving in Process, a twelve-step program, and Imago … all places where I would be challenged to evolve into my “true self.” Paulus says that our inner urge acts as a kind of homing device. In these settings, I could attend to my greatest challenge, changing myself.

Paulus says that our predominant urge is also our greatest opportunity, but because I was more focused on how I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t conscious of that until I wrote my memoir. In the writing, I needed to draw on the strengths found in the Path of Contemplation, a more cerebral path of using language to reflect deeply on the large questions of life. If one is determined to write with the depth and honesty requested of memoirists, and I was, exploring those large questions as they pertain to one’s own life is imperative … and for me exciting and enjoyable.

As I wrote about and reflected upon the meaning of my life, I discovered that my difficult circumstances had provided me with just the opportunity I needed to learn to give and receive love. As insurmountable obstacles presented themselves, I was forced to surrender to a power greater than myself. As I surrendered and received love from the Divine, my “true self” rose to the surface … the part of me who knows how to give love without conditions … even and especially to those who seemed responsible for throwing obstacles in my path. These are clearly important spiritual lessons. And without my predominant urge, I might never have learned them.

Those of us who follow the Path of Self-Mastery believe that mastering our own functioning will be our primary contribution to the world. And so it is, that my account of mastering myself forms the backbone of my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. I can’t imagine any greater gift I could offer the world. I can’t imagine any greater gift I could offer to those I love up close and personal than to master the parts of myself that sabotage my ability to give and receive love.

And so, after my initial shock at being plunged back into ImagoLand’s ocean, I relaxed and enjoyed the flow. All of us self-mastery devotees swam in a current matching our personality patterns, preferences, interests, and activities … our natural habitat.

It felt good to be back. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Larry spoke for all of us when he said of our experience, “I got to be a part of what is best about humanity.”

In good “self-mastery form,” I’m grateful for the opportunity to be enlightened about the parts of myself that sabotage my capacity to give and receive love … to be given another opportunity to master myself. I couldn’t have had better trainers than Orli and Marcia. They shared from their hearts as well as their intellects. And swimming with Mike, Margaret, Suzie, Deborah, and Larry in ImagoLand’s ocean waters … well what can I say. It was just so much fun to be back in my natural habitat.

Orli (from Israel), Larry, and Marcia (from Michigan)


Angels Among Us ~~ Alice

Friends who have read my memoir and especially those who have accompanied me on my journey the past eight years of bringing my book into the world have been remarking about how just the right person has come along at every juncture in my life to take me to the next level. That, too, has amazed me. If I ever doubted that the Universe has my back, writing and publishing my memoir has dispelled any lingering uncertainty.

Shirley, the Angel in my November 24 post, and Alice, the Angel I am featuring today, were people from the church who extended love to me at times in my life when I needed to know that I am Divinely loved, that I am a person of worth, and that I am capable of much more than I realize. The Universe had plans for me I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

I’ll bet if you think about it, you can point to a person or persons from your childhood or youth who changed the trajectory of your life. That one person for me is Alice.


Alice moved to my hometown when I was about twelve to serve as the parish worker in our church. She appears in two places in my memoir because her influence in my early life was great.

Because she was new in town and didn’t know many people, she welcomed frequent visits from my friend Saundra and me. We always had fun at Alice’s apartment. My most precious memories, however, are the times when I was alone with Alice. I carried the following secret in my  heart related to Alice. When she read A Long Awakening to Grace, she was shocked to learn about it.

“I remember most how Alice made me feel. When we spent time alone, she treated me as someone important to her. She listened as though interested in what I thought and how I felt. She didn’t seem to consider it ‘weird’ talking about serious topics. She gave me the individual attention I received from no one else. I felt ‘at home’ with Alice and wished she could adopt me so I could live with her.” ~Page 27 of A Long Awakening to Grace

And then, when my high school graduation was nearing, Alice changed my life’s path. She asked me what I planned to do after graduation and recommended I go to college. I didn’t think I was smart enough, no one at home or school had suggested it, so I hadn’t given it any thought. I am forever grateful for her suggestion. And I’m grateful I was wise enough to follow it. Going to college opened opportunities that I would otherwise not have had … including meeting people who could take me to my next level of my development.

It took fifteen years and a second recommendation for me to heed her next suggestion. Alice was the first person to suggest I consider a career in the church.

“‘You should think about being a parish worker like me.’ … I tucked Alice’s recommendation in the back of my mind …” Page 11 of A Long Awakening to Grace

Alice’s suggestion led me to Bowling Green State University and a major in Business Education. I didn’t know myself well back then and chose a major that wasn’t a good fit for me. I took a circuitous path through United Theological Seminary, Living in Process and Imago Relationship Therapy trainings that revealed a counseling ministry as a better fit.

And now, after publishing my memoir to such high praise from readers, I wonder what life might have been like had I pursued creative writing. Even though I was selected by the faculty to be the editor of our high school newspaper, that was a possibility that never occurred to me. I knew no one and had never heard of anyone who had followed such a path.

It is not too late, however. What lights up my life these days is increasing my learning about the craft of writing. Despite my eighteen-year-old attitude that I wasn’t smart, thanks to Alice, I have emerged at seventy-five into a life-long learner. It is what makes my life meaningful.

“Conscious aging is about having meaningful goals for our elderhood that spring from our authentic selves and using the power of intention and inner work to make our vision a reality. It is about having the courage to aim high in an unconscious world.” ~Ron Pevny in Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace & Savor Your Next Chapter.

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