Leaping with Faith

Edith north of Boston – but packing to be south of Philadelphia on retreat for a week starting tomorrow.

JD with greens he grew

The title of this post does not mean I’m going jumping with my seventeen year old Quaker character. Rather, I was thinking about taking leaps of faith, as we call it. My younger son JD is back (on a one-way ticket) from a couple of years working and teaching at Plenitud Puerto Rico, a fabulous permaculture educational farm, and he’s investigating starting a branch of same in New England. It’s a big leap of faith, and I have no doubt he’s going to pull it off.


With camera-shy Tim Ottman, Minami Rinkan, Japan, 1976

I’ve taken a few major leaps of faith in my own life. When I was just twenty-three, I bought a one-way ticket to Japan. I’d been pining for my boyfriend, who was stationed in the US Navy outside Tokyo. So off I went. We lived in a simple little house off base, I found a job teaching English conversation to Japanese businessmen, and I lined up private Japanese lessons. It was a great two years of learning and travel, and I came back to start a linguistics PhD program in Indiana.


Another big risky jump I took was leaving a very good job in high tech to stay home with my newborn and toddler sons, start a small farm, and teach prepared childbirth classes, a family decision I made with my husband. Babies

Farmer Edith and part of the garlic crop, Five Star Organic Farm, 1993

are young for such a short period of time in the overall scheme of our lives, and I didn’t want to miss it. Organic farming had been a passion of mine for a while, so I got to explore that, too. Those five years have now given me two mystery series worth of material – farming and midwifery – too!


The most recent leap off a cliff was quitting another very good job in hi tech. After almost twenty years as a software technical writer (what I retrained as after I left farming), three years ago I cut my five-year plan short by four years and plunged into full-time fiction writing. Financially it would have been prudent for me to keep the good salary, the 401k matching, and the benefits for a few more years. I didn’t have a husband with a cushy salary to fill in the gaps (my beau is talented and hardworking, but he’s self-employed) and I still don’t have what some say is the requisite amount in the bank required before retirement (but who does, really?). On the other hand, I’d landed the Local Foods Mysteries contract, and I was writing the books around the edges of a full-time job with an hour commute each way and no allowance to work from home. I was exhausted and frustrated.

When a dear friend died in her fifties a year after a brain cancer diagnosis, I said, “That’s it. I’m following my dream.” I gave notice, signed up for Affordable Care Act health services, and here I am, writing three series under contract with major publishers.

Your mileage will vary, of course, and past performance does guarantee future…oh, heck. I’d take those three leaps again, any time.

Readers, how about you? Have you taken a major risk in your life? Plunged into a new full-time gig without an adequate safety net?

30 Thoughts

  1. Great leaps, Edith! I’ve periodically been criticized for living similarly. It started when I was a kid. My parents set the standard. It wasn’t good for me as a child, because it victimized me. But as an adult I was prepared for change and adjustment along with grabbing an appealing opportunity. For me this involved learning how to let go. Tragic as a child. Beneficial as an adult.

    I have many examples, but I’ll boil it down to the strangest. I was sitting at the kitchen table in California when Steve handed me a thick envelope from Harvard saying, “Why would Harvard Divinity School send you a fundraiser pack? I set it aside. Then I realized the envelope was too nice. It was too pretty. Too quality. Too engraved. I opened it and there was a letter with some stunning words including, “We would be pleased if you would apply to one of our graduate programs.”

    They included a small application. Too small, I thought. I called the number on the letter. Her side of the conversation: Yes, we sent the letter to you on purpose. Yes, I am sure. Yes, that is the application. Yes, the whole thing, plus an essay. No you’re not stupid. Neither are we. I would have thought it strange if you hadn’t called to check. You’re the 11th this morning. And each of you said it must be a mistake. It isn’t.

    I’d been planning to go to UC santa Barbara in the fall as a doctoral student in the study of Native American religious traditions. But, I filled out the attractively small application to HDS, and went there instead. I had great campus jobs while a student, including one that became permanent and that I recently retired from. So not Santa Barbara! But it was the best ever major risk in my risk-taking, quick decision, why-not experience.

    1. Fabulous, Reine. I can understand why leaps of faith wouldn’t suit a child, and maybe I was brave enough to take mine because my childhood was unremarkably happy and undisturbed. Glad yours worked out for you!

  2. Great post, Edith. My first leap of faith was to leave home and go to university with no family support. Those 5 years were great and led to my full time job with the Canadian federal government

    After 20+ years doing climate change research, I had to make a career change, and leave my family and friends and moved from Toronto to Ottawa in 2014. Again, so many people questioned my sanity in leaving my hometown and my personal network. But in terms of achieving a better work-life balance and overall quality of life, moving to Ottawa has been a godsend.

    But having said that, I decided to accelerate my 5-year plan, and retired from the government this April with a partial pension. I don’t have a spouse or partner to help fill in the financial gaps but I don’t care about that. I have certainly enjoyed my first summer “off” in over 25 years! Ironically, the one thing I have been doing less now that I am retired is reading mysteries. I am falling behind on my Goodreads goal to read 180 mysteries in 2016 (I am at 93 books so far). I think I had to get more audio books so that I can multitask (hiking, cycling)!

    1. Congratulations on the change, Grace! Yes, audio books are the way to go. My two Maddie Day books are available in audio…just saying. ;^)

      1. Good to know some of your books are available in audio. I actually have the paperback version of Grilled for Murder on my TBR pile this month! 🙂

  3. Reality check: MOST of us are acting with minimal safety nets (and don’t think threats to tighten Social Security and SNAP [AKA Food Stamps] don’t give us nightmares). So we borrow books from the local library (or blessedly sometimes snag an ARC) and enjoy the successes of our favorite cozy heroines. It is a leap of faith for us just to keep volunteering or working at a minimally paid job that supplies a too needed service that those who control the purse strings don’t recognize as essential as THEY would never need it (or so they think).

  4. I can relate to your leaps of faith! My husband and I quit our jobs without any savings to start run our software company we started full time. It was time to either take the leap of faith to run it full time or close it. We made the decision to move it to Bloomington, Indiana where we would be closer to family and the wealth of college students we could hire for staff from Indiana University. This would help us grow the company by having the staff to support the customer base.

    Twenty years after running ithe company successfully, we sold it. While my husband still does some IT consulting, we have been able to retire and begin enjoying life traveling and pursuing other things we have wanted to do. For me that was and is photography. We are going on a Photography Walk / Class in Ireland next July. It’s another place we can mark off our bucket list of places we wanted to visit after retiring. We were not the type of people that took vacations while running our business. Our only time away was during Thanksgiving break for all those years. That means we have twenty years of vacations to make up for. We joke that every year when our anniversary roles around we should get double the years credit because we have worked and lived together 24/7 all these years and we are still married!

    Without our taking that leap of faith in Dallas in 1990 – we would still be stuck in the 9-5 rut and not as happy as we are now. And I am glad you took that leap of faith as well. I love reading your books!

    1. Hi Susan

      Your story is so similar to my own! Except I didn’t work with my husband, but with my “work spouse.” My husband had a “work spouse,” too. And he has also taken up photography.

      1. It’s amazing how we all connect in little ways in our life stories. 🙂

  5. A lot of the 90-degree turns in my life weren’t my choice, but I just keep keeping on. But committing to writing full-time is definitely a leap of faith–a statement that you believe in yourself. (So is buying a house in another country, which is definitely uncharted territory!).

    Where are you headed south of Philadelphia?

    1. It’s a nunnery in Aston – I’m going with Kim, Ramona, and KB on retreat for most of the week. Can. Not. Wait. ;^)
      Committing to full-time fiction, for sure. As you well know! Am waiting for my authorial funds to swell before buying my own country house…

  6. Too many leaps to list but I’ve been lucky to land feet up even after the bad leaps. In fact more often than not the bad leaps lead to the best ones. I’ve been lucky to have wonderful family and friends to support me through it all.

  7. Edith, I loved this post. My first leap of faith was in 1970 when I joined the Navy WAVES at the age of 22. Something that I had always wanted to do. I got tired of people telling me that nice girls didn’t go into the military!! I firmly believe that it is the things in life that we don’t do that are the things we regret the most. I can’t tell you the number of women who would come up to me when I was in uniform and say that they had wanted to join but were too afraid or that their families wouldn’t have been pleased. One of the best things I ever did.

    That leap of faith took me all over the world and eventually to four years in England, where I took my next leap of faith–marrying an Englishman I met there. TODAY we are celebrating 41 happy years of marriage.

    Edith, like you, I was a software technical writer. It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had, so I can well understand you taking a leap of faith to write full time. Without your having a second income, I also understand why you work so hard at your writing. Perhaps if I had to live on my earnings I might be more committed to my work. You are such an inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much, Grace. And congratulations on that long happy marriage! Yes, I do treat my writing as my job. And it’s starting to pay off, happily enough.

  8. Such brave leaps! My leap was more like rerouting after a detour. I had wanted to teach since kindergarten, but was warned the year before graduation that (early ’70s) more districts were RIFing (Reduction in Force) than hiring. I spent eight years at Prudential, as the manager’s secretary and then as their first female sales agent, but despite friends’ “Oh, you don’t want to do that,” I really did want to teach, and finally did, and loved it! I admire storytelling friends who leaped from steady jobs into full time storytelling, but after attempting the much-touted “reinventing” oneself in retirement, I’ve realized I’m content with a little storytelling and a “broad margin to my life” as a human be-ing not doing, with the time to read as I used to during summer vacations of my youth, and time to cook the veggies from my organic CSA shares. (Doctor and optometrist both endorse the liberal consumption of greens). Thanks, author friends, for feeding my book addiction. <3

  9. Can’t really say I’ve taken any leaps like you are talking about. I come from a long line of no risk taker genes. And I hate change.

  10. When my daughter was young and I became dissatisfied with her babysitter, I quit my full-time job in Manhattan to stay home with her. We weren’t sure if it would work out financially, but it did. In fact, I pretty much became a stay-at-home mom until she grew up. I’m glad I made that decision. I went back to work for a few years later on, but quit again several years ago to be a homemaker.

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