Discover How to Double the Impact of Your Meditation with Nature

The world has gotten so overwhelming lately. Staying balanced has taken a focused plan and a commitment to work the plan. Over the last seven months, my list of activities to keep balanced has gone through multiple revisions. I added and subtracted activities as I figured out which ones helped keep me positive. Many activities have been able to maintain their position on the list. One of the activities has been my favorite and most effective go-to activity. Let’s look at the activities.

One of those that has stayed on the list is meditation. I love meditation. There are so many different ways to meditate, and each method addresses another aspect of my life.

But, I can tell you, it was just a few years ago when my life was in a tailspin. The stress and anxiety were so bad. I couldn’t keep a thought in my head. The idea of trying to meditate was unrealistic because I couldn’t quiet down.

I had to figure out what I could do to help find my way out of the overwhelming stress and anxiety levels. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I was caregiving 24×7 for my mother, taking care of my sister as her cancer slowly consumed her, running a business, and in a legal battle on my mother’s affairs. I was overwhelmed, and every time I thought it couldn’t get any worse, another shoe would drop.

I added a new task to my positive list. I required that I find the silver lining. I would say to myself, “What is the silver lining in this experience?” I found a study on stress when I was trying to survive the cyclone of emotions. The study stated stress management skills would equip me for future stressors. In the future, these skills would allow me to handle stress effectively while maintaining my health.

When things took a turn for the worse, and I was sure I could not bear much more, I would say, “What is the silver lining in this experience?” Sometimes it would be as simple as not losing my mom in the store. That task of forcing myself to look for the silver lining in a bleak world helped keep me positive.

Yet, sometimes, that was not enough. I am forever grateful for my practice and education in Chinese Medicine. Through Chinese Medicine, I was able to find the activity which worked the best at helping me break the cycle of stress. A walk in nature.

In Chinese Medicine, there is a theory called the Five Element theory. The classical writers in the medicine talked about the Five Elements, and how nature was the most constructive teacher. I loved that the old texts said you didn’t have to find a guru to understand the Elements. You just had to sit in nature.

In the Five Element Theory, the different emotions are identified and associated with separate parts of nature. I remember when I was caregiving for my mother. I would be sitting in the car with my mother. She would gaze up at the sky and be in awe at how beautiful the clouds were. I could hear how lost she felt.

I had become her caregiver and unfortunate jailer. My mom had just lost her companion of 20 years. She had put in a strong fight to keep him alive. The two of them were so independent and wild.

With his passing, her life completely changed, and she had to move in with her children, a task she never had wanted to do. Grief had become her constant companion. In the Five Element Theory, grief is associated with open skies, almost as if space would allow you to let your grief fly away like a dove.

With each passing day, my mother would slip further and further away. Age and life were changing her. The person I grew up with was no longer there. My sister was slipping away, too. Breast cancer had become her constant companion, and she was on a trial drug that would be her last.

The hardest and richest thing I did was walk alongside my loved ones as they faced the end of their lives. I felt overwhelmed with the duty and responsibility they gave me. Anxiety had crept on top of the grief, and I wasn’t sleeping.

Five Element theory came to my rescue again. My husband and I packed up my mom and headed to the ocean for a long weekend. The wide-open sky helped dissolve my grief while the heavy expanse of water helped calm my agitation and restlessness. My husband watched my mom as I slipped out into the soft beach grass that enveloped the rolling dunes. It was the first time I had been able to sit down and unwind in months. I was finally able to meditate.

I had run across the work by Dr. Valerie Hunt, a Professor Emeritus of the Department of Physiological Sciences at UCLA. She spent her career studying Auras and Chakras. She went to China to study acupuncture and better understand why Chinese Medical healers were successful. You can find her work on the web today. It was her pictures on Auras that captured my attention. I remember her images of a person sitting in nature. Out of all her shots, those pictures in nature had the biggest aura.

When I had gone out to the ocean that weekend, that was the first time I had chosen nature based on the Five Element theory. I had found as my anxiety continued to escalate, I needed big water to help cool down that fire within. The process of helping my mother and sister walk their final path was crippling me with unexpressed grief. I needed as much open sky as possible to be able to breathe. I sat in the tall reeds, and within a half-hour, I had found myself again.

I took those lessons forward with me today. My nature selection is a little different today. The stress and anxiety are coming from another place. I feel more ungrounded today and unbalanced. These emotions pull me into the forests to get swallowed in the depths of the trees. The larger the trees, the more relaxed and grounded I feel.

Nature is so much wiser than me. Today, when I walk under the enormous Dougfir or Cedar trees of the Pacific Northwest, it feels like I’m walking with the sages of ancient China. As I spend more and more time searching for my face before birth, I love that the gurus of the past pointed me in a direction to help find my fate.

October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – the Source of Disease

Some of you know, breast cancer has a special place in my heart. Both my mother and sister were breast cancer survivors. My sister lost her fight with breast cancer in 2018, and a month later, my mother passed due to complications from a brain bleed. 

Before I go much farther, I want to point you to two breast cancer organizations I support. The first is in memory of my sister, “Friends of Lisa.” This organization helps get my sister’s daughter through college! Thank-you to the amazing community that was part of my sister.

The second is “Casting for Recovery” This organization focuses on providing outdoor, fly fishing excursions with other survivors wholly funded by donations from people like you and me! Most of you are aware; finances can become a critical issue when battling any cancer. This is an excellent opportunity for survivors to feel special and relax. 

So, for all of you who are helping with your hard-earned dollars, thank-you!

I thought I would share a little about disease theory in Chinese medicine related to breast cancer. I have a two-part series on my Youtube channel, introducing you to one of your “Sacred Keys.” Sacred Keys are things in your universe that allow you the opportunity to pull back the curtain and see what makes you tick. The series goes into the Sacred Key in more depth and gives you exercises to start helping you unlock that door. 

Why I even bring that up, is because disease theory in Chinese Medicine outlines where the disease originated and a generalized outline of what may have started the disease. Yet, for every individual, this generalized outline is just that, a generalized outline. 

It’s like saying, “Oh, you’re looking for Mount Rushmore? Yeah, that’s located in the United States.” That is what a generalized theory is. It would be more helpful to say, “That is located in South Dakota in the United States.” Even more helpful would be to say, “It’s in the Black Hills region of South Dakota outside of a town called Keystone.”

You get the picture.

One of the more common causes of breast cancer in Chinese Medicine is pathology in the liver and gall bladder channel. The gall bladder channel travels along the breast’s side, and the liver channel travels beneath the breast.  

Both these channels and their relationship with the triple warmer seem to develop with my breast cancer patients. Repressed emotions take a large piece of their soul. Anger, frustration, resentment, depression can all play a role in their disease.

The emotions may be combined with poor eating choices. To be real, it’s challenging to have good eating choices today due to the highly processed nature of all our foods. Yet, poor food choices can leave you nutrient deficient. The liver is dependant on calcium to detox the body, and one of the more common nutrients that becomes deficient is calcium. Poor food choices can also help fill you up with preservatives and other toxins. 

But going back to the emotions, the emotions of anger, frustration, resentment, depression need a source. That’s why I say the diagnosis in Chinese Medicine is very broad. The source becomes very specific to you.

Reading the words of anger, frustration, resentment, depression, you can probably point to a potential cause. Depression could be tied into a self-worth concern or an inability to succeed. Frustration could be due to feeling powerless. Resentment could be feeling you are facing things other people don’t have to face. Anger could be due to feelings of being abused or unjust losses. Everyone’s source has a particular flavor that is all about them.

This flavor begins to tarnish your life. And I say “tarnish” because it does take the shine off your world. You can see or feel this tarnish in your aura. It comes out almost like a brown. 

There is an effort in Daoism to let the world flow past you without causing any disruptions in your flow. For me, that is really hard to do because I’m attached to many things in the world. The problem with emotions is they mark an attachment in the world. It’s not that Daoism says this attachment is wrong. What Daoism says is attachment stunts your internal growth. You can’t grow beyond your attachment.

With Covid-19, I’ve been watching my office bookings and managing insurance, very heart channel things. I was talking to a client this morning. We were talking about some of the research on Covid-19. They made an interesting observation. 

“It’s almost like the world is trying to reduce the population.” When I thought about that and the amount of effort I was putting into ensuring client bookings and insurance payments, the office suddenly looked like nonsense. If I was to die tomorrow, all this meant nothing. I finally found that point of internal Daoism with my practice.  

That also helped me see how very personal disease is for each individual. The disease manifests not only because of an emotion. The emotion is rooted in something that has high value to you. 

When I was a kid, my little brother accidentally ran his bicycle into my Dad’s friend’s vehicle. It left a scratch and a dent. As payment, my little brother had to give my Dad’s friend something my brother found valuable. My brother had hot wheels and just loved them. He gave away his favorite hot wheel. I can remember my brother’s face when he gave the little toy car away. It was a mixture of longing and regret. The lesson made an impression on me, and I was impressed with my little brother’s integrity, commitment, and understanding of value. 

Yet, every day, disease asks you to make that decision and give up something you find valuable in exchange for you. It sounds really simple when I say it like that, but it isn’t. Disease could leave you questioning survival needs, love, safety needs, abandonment. Being human is complicated, and I’m not that perfect Daoist who has figured out how to detach from all attachments. 

Yet, trying to figure out what that thing is that we find valuable can be the most challenging part of the exercise. It’s the same exploration involved in finding Karma. What is the story you are telling yourself? And don’t count on everyone else being able to see your story. They may see your behaviors and completely misunderstand the cause of the action. The easiest way to know when that is happening is you are sure what they say has nothing to do with you. 

In episode 2 of Finding Balance, Sacred Key, you can find tools to help you find that inner story playing in your head. As a special gift to you if you’re struggling with chemo-induced neuropathy, check out my episode on “Natural Remedies to Stop the Progression of Chemo Induced Neuropathy.” Good-luck on your journey. I’ll catch you on the other side! 

A Mid-life Crisis or a Coming of Age Story

“…For I’ve grown a little leaner

Grown a little colder

Grown a little sadder

Grown a little older…”

–         Jerry Herman

This has been a tough year for me and it’s brought me face to face with many things. It’s brought me face to face with things I thought I was too emotionally stable to experience. I guess I was too over-confident. Every time I get too confident, life takes a twist and flips me on my back. 

I was positive I was too stable to experience something as cliché as a mid-life crisis. I thought mid-life crises happen to other people. They happen in middle age when people are in the autumn of their life. They happen to people who didn’t do their bucket list, didn’t experience as much as possible in life, didn’t, didn’t, didn’t….

My dad past away when I graduated high school. And then nothing happened for a very long time. I was in my early 40’s and one day, one of my high school friends stopped facebooking me. And I wondered about that. I queried up his name and read he had died of a heart attack.

Reading about his passing was unsettling. I was still in the context of “living forever” and here was a friend of mine who died. Reading he passed quickly brought death close to me. How do people my age pass away? We didn’t die…. yet.

After that, people I knew started passing more frequently. It started happening every year. Someone I knew passed every year. Then death started stalking my inner circle. My friends and family got cancer, had heart attacks, had strokes.

I was no longer in the context of “living forever”. With each serious illness, with each passing, the reality of life being finite came closer and closer. I stopped looking at the whole of my life in front of me and started seeing that my life was half over. I became aware of the passage of time in a way I never had before.

I changed and stopped living so freely. I stopped gambling so recklessly on stocks, jobs, sports. I purchased life insurance. Bought safe cars. I stopped eventing horses. I started a business. I settled down and got focused.

I started asking questions about life. I wanted to figure out what I needed to do so I wouldn’t ask the question, “Is this all there is?”

And then time rolled me into this year. First, I lost my sister. A month later, I lost my mother. Another month later, I lost the horse that I bred and was my show partner for the last 18 years. So much loss in such a short amount of time. An enormous hole in my life opened where they use to be.

That hole held some new learnings for me. I learned my internal definition of who I am is based on my relationships. It is not based on my job or my activities. It is based on my relationships with others.

The closeness of those relationships created my world. We came together to experience the world without having to apologize for our actions or compromise on things we loved to do.

When my sister, mom, and horse left, the force they applied in my life vanished. They were like a strong wind guiding my sail across an exciting sea, and without them, the wind suddenly stopped. I found myself in the middle of an empty sea in a stalled ship. Losing one of them would have been disorienting yet manageable. But all three of them?

No one was holding me up. Things that we would do together were no longer important. Without them why would they be important?

I didn’t know who I was anymore and found myself asking, “Is this all there is?” “What is the point?”

It drove me to want to seek out the past. I wanted to find them again and the time when we were still all together. And I wanted to go back to where I grew up. I wanted to go back “home”.

I was in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

I think what surprised me the most was a mid-life crisis was created by loss. It could be any significant loss pulling apart a piece of what defines you. The kids going off to college, losing parents, your partner becoming impaired from dementia or stroke or dying, getting a divorce. These losses could have built up over time or happened all at once.

I realized I had been looking at the definition of a mid-life crisis backwards. I was thinking that a mid-life crisis happened and then we became crazy and unpredictable. I didn’t realize the loss came first and when the loss became too much to bear, then our grief sought refuge in a younger you when everything was still possible and the losses hadn’t happened yet. That frantic search for the past was labeled a mid-life crisis.

I was experiencing many of the things that define a mid-life crisis. I started wearing clothes I wore when I was a teenager. Thank-goodness they were still age-appropriate like wool shirts, jeans, and docksiders. I listened to music from high school. I reacquainted myself with my extended family. I picked up hobbies I had when I was younger. I planned trips back “home”. And, I was changing my work experience one more time.   

And here is the thing, a mid-life crisis is about loss. I wasn’t psychologically prepared to face so much loss in such a short time. As I reeled over one loss to another, I wasn’t given time to acknowledge and process the losses.

I guess the last thing I realized about a mid-life crisis is that it isn’t a crisis. A mid-life crisis is a coming of age story. It’s your own coming of age story where you, once again, are given the opportunity to mature. Only this time, you do not have to learn about responsibilities, standing up for yourself, or struggling to find your place.

This time, you get to learn the value of the world around you and how to give back. The world becomes more important than yourself, your jobs, your life, your daily routines. Loss teaches you the value in the world around you each day. 

What have you learned from loss?

7 Easy Eye Remedies You Can Use Right Now to Keep out Infection with Tips on Plants for Your Apothecary

Here are remedies you can find in the house and your backyard to keep your eyes healthy, irritation and infection-free. 

If you’re anywhere on the West Coast right now, you have been swallowed by smoke and ash. In the last couple of weeks, about 4.5 million acres have burned. The acreage burned in California is already 30% greater than the worse year, which was 2018 and almost 2 million acres. About 500,000 acres burned in 72 hours in Oregon. 

These fires are burning at the same time. The amount of smoke in the air is unprecedented and is beyond hazardous. Air quality warnings have been released. It is not safe to be outside even if you are wearing a mask!

The air is tinder box dry with ash gliding to the ground, wafting through the streets and surrounding homes. The smoke is blocking out so much of the sun, a day that was suppose to be 90 degrees and sunny was 66 degrees and dark. I wasn’t going outside and my eyes were getting irritated. The irritation got worse and I woke up with one of my eyes swollen and painful.  

Let’s look around the house and find home-based eyecare remedies you can use to help keep the ash out of your sensitive mucous membranes. If you are turning your garden into your own apothecary, I’m going to add some plants you can grow. With all the ash and no end in sight, you may need to use these remedies multiple times a day.

My first recommendation is to use distilled water and boil the water to kill anything that might be in it. There are so many bacteria and fungus today. City water piping can be ancient. The eye membranes are susceptible to any invaders. Besides, it’s 2020 and who knows? There is probably some weird, new, mutated spirochete waiting to slip into your eye and eat your retina. So, boil your water.

And if you make a wash, only use it one time. Don’t try to save it and use over the next few days because bacteria and other nasty things can start growing within hours of making your wash. One more thing, don’t use the same cotton ball or swab or tea bag on both eyes. It’s effortless to spread an infection from one eye to the other. 

Here are the different ways I use to keep my eye membranes clean and protect my eyes from all the ash falling down.

You can get sterile Q-tips at any drug store. These are great for applying a liquid to the eye membranes. The Q-tips are extra-long and each tip is wrapped in an individual protective package. Make sure the liquid is not too hot. You don’t want to burn your membranes. If you have styes, the Q-tips are especially effective with warm water. Just dip the Q-tip in water and rub across the stye.

You can also use Q-tips to apply other liquids like Colloidal Silver. Colloidal Silver has great antiseptic properties and can help eliminate bacteria in your eyes. Colloidal Silver at up to 20 ppm is easy to purchase online and many people keep Collodial Silver available at home. You can use a Q-tip or cotton ball to wipe your eyes. 

Boric Acid is an antiseptic powder that dissolves in boiling water and has been used for centuries as an eye treatment. This is the only eye remedy I’ve used that usually clears out eye irritation or infections in one treatment. A simple solution is 1/8 teaspoon of boric acid powder to 1 cup of water. For a stronger solution, 1 teaspoon to 1/2 cup of water. Dip a clean cotton ball into the water, close your eye, and wipe it.

What about chamomile? This is the same chamomile that you use to make teas and is found in your garden as German Chamomile. It can be found in the bulk section of some grocery stores. The easiest way to use chamomile flowers on your eyes is to buy chamomile tea in teabags and make them into a compress. Steep the tea in boiling water for a couple of minutes, pull the teabag out, squeeze out the excess water, make sure the bag is not too hot and rest it on your eyes. You can do this multiple times a day. 

I don’t know if you have ever used the Boiron homeopathic remedies? I love these products. These are the homeopathic sugar pills you can find in most natural food stores. They have a product made from eyebright, a key herb used for eye health. It is called Euphrasia Officinalis. You can take 5 pellets and let them dissolve under your tongue. Try that 3 times a day until your symptoms disappear. 

Calendula, or the marigold flower, is a favorite herb because of its action on the skin and with pain. The Latin name is Calendula Officinalis and these little annuals can grow in your backyard. To make an eyewash, use the petals of one flower steeped in 1 cup of boiling water and apply to the eye with an eyewash cup, a cotton ball as a wipe, or gauze as a compress.  

The last herb is echinacea! Who doesn’t like echinacea? Echinacea is part of the daisy family. You’ve seen them in the nursery as the coneflower plant. This little flower is a tough perennial being heat and drought resistant and indifferent to poor soil. If you don’t have a green thumb, this guy doesn’t care. You can use it the same way as calendula.

There you have it! Seven easy eye remedies you can use right now to keep out eye infections. If you are making your own garden apothecary, I’ve included three flowers you can grow to make your world more beautiful and healthy!

Who says you have to be serious? Learn how to love life early to find joy.

My sister and I were sitting around the living room, chatting about aging and getting old. She had it all planned out. She knew who she was going to be and was excited to get there. “I’m going to be one of those eccentric old ladies when I get old dressing up in a fur coat and sweats to go shopping.” We started laughing. A memory of our aunt surfaced.

O.k., let me tell you about my aunt. My aunt was the definition of eccentric until she got old. Then she became the docile, homebody, trudging around in age-appropriate clothing and driving a clean car. But up until then, she was the crazy, non-conformist aunt. Of course, my sister and I were in our late teens and early 20’s and had the good fortune of staying with her up on Tai Shen Mountain.

How her home got the name “Tai Shen Mountain” is a different story, and maybe I’ll find time to tell you about it sometime.

My aunt had hit that milestone in life where her doctor labeled her as obese. You might know about that milestone. It kind of sneaks upon you, and you are unprepared for it. One day you are in the doctor’s office, and she is taking notes. You know you’ve gained weight, but all your friends are great liars and say you look great.

Your doctor has to check on something and steps out, giving you the necessary time to flip the computer screen and look at her notes. Since it’s about you, and you can get a copy, everything seems fine until you read the notes, “Patient is obese.”

Excuse me?

Well, my aunt had hit that milestone in life where weight made non-elastic pants too restraining. Her wardrobe had graduated to clogs and sweats. Not even nice sweats. The thick, bunch-at-the-ankle sweats you bought at Costco in a variety of colors. Like the colors would make them stylish or something. Top it off with white sweat socks and a pair of Birkenstocks, and she was up and running for the day.

I can remember her yelling out to us as we sat on the back porch doing nothing of importance, “Kimmy, Lisa, do you want to go to Costco?!” It wasn’t until she was much older that she was comfortable doing things by herself. But my sister and I had nothing better to do, and a ride to Costco might be a nice change.

Sitting idly and chatting in the car on that warm fall day in Southern California, we waited for my aunt. It was weird. You could almost feel her presence before looking up from whatever had captured our attention.

I felt a small gasp leave my throat. My aunt stood blocking the sun, casting her face into shadows and highlighting the threads of her tightly curled, dry, frizzy hair, making it appear as if electricity was running through it. There was an air of defiance in her stance.

But that wasn’t the only thing that was disturbing. She was bigger than she should be. She was much bigger. There was this massive blob with a small frizzy globe on top.

My sister and I waited. When she was sure she had captured our attention and punctuated it with a period, she sauntered to the driver’s door. That was when I saw it, what was making her so huge.

It was an old, 3/4 length, mink fur coat. What? It was California and warm. It wasn’t fur-wearing temperature. In fact, it was never fur-wearing temperature in Southern California.

I could feel myself start to sweat, watching her as she pushed herself behind the steering wheel. It was amazing. Pink sweats, sunglasses, Birkenstocks wrapped up in an aging mink coat, and carrying a purse.

There was no getting out of it. We had said we were going, to try and jump ship now would have ignited her indignation. We would have paid for it in creative little ways that even we couldn’t have imagined. Like maybe dinner would be peas and liver. Or, she would consume the only television for days with Rural Farm Delivery (RFD) and livestock auctions.

So, facing forward with windows rolled up and air conditioner blazing, we took off.

“So, what made you decide to wear that coat?”

“It’s my coat, and I can wear it if I want too,” a small smirk traveled across her lips. “Why, don’t you like it?”

Ah, defensiveness, obviously she knows there is something wrong with her decision-making skills. And that’s when it got even better. Suddenly, small tufts of black hair got caught up in the gale-force wind coming out of the air-conditioning vents. My aunt swiped across her face to remove the little hairs capturing her nose. Some managed to get caught in her mouth as she was talking. Flicking her tongue, she tried to spit them out.

The coat was so old and so poorly taken care of, it was shedding.

We stared at her, not saying a thing, and just as suddenly as she appeared, she started laughing. She was all in.

I got to give her credit. She was creative, and life was a band with everyone playing a separate tune.

My sister and I would laugh every time we remembered that crazy Costco adventure with my most gifted aunt. I learned a lot from my aunt. I learned life didn’t have to be defined by anyone else, and everything you do is going to make a memory. Try to make them fun. I learned there was no point in taking yourself too seriously. And under all this, I learned about joy.

I think that adventure made a lasting impression on my sister. That carefree freedom, I don’t care what you think. My sister was going to be that crazy grandmother and torment her daughter and grandchildren in the same way our crazy aunt tortured us.

Here’s the thing, joy isn’t waiting for you at the end of your journey. Joy only happens in the here and now. You can’t dream your way to joy. I think that is important for you to know because you see, my sister and I were having that conversation three months before her passing.

We were pretending those dreams were a possibility when we both knew they were never going to happen. We were pretending what clothes we would wear and where we would go drinking our mixed drinks on the deck overlooking the ocean. And I loved sharing her dreams with her and learning who she was deep inside. Learning what her desires and wishes were and how she had wanted her life to go.

Two weeks before she passed, when her body was failing her, and she could no longer climb the stairs, we sat on her bed feeling the ocean breeze waft between the bedroom curtains talking about what she wanted her funeral to be. Before, she had always said she had never thought about it.

But she had. She had thought about it a lot. “I want my ashes scattered in the ocean.”

“What about the forests of the Northwest?” I remembered our last trip to the ancient Doug Fir forests in Canada. If I wanted to, but she wanted some of her ashes shared with the ocean.

“Why do you want to be shared with the ocean?”

She paused, capturing her breath and thoughts. The tiredness was making it hard for her to focus and breathe. “Because I’ve always felt so constrained in this life, and I can go anywhere in the ocean.”

I thought about our conversation three months earlier and how she wanted to be that eccentric grandmother who threw caution to the wind.

You don’t get to plan for joy. If you want joy in your life, you have to see it right now in everything you do. If you think you’ll be that person someday, you won’t. If you want to be that person, you better start practicing now.

Test it out. Wear outrageous shoes. Put on a headband and braid your hair with multi-colored yarn. See how it fits you. Everything in this life is your creation. Who knows what is really going on out there.

Let’s say you try it out and feel a bit embarrassed or insecure, but still want to do it. Then come in, and let’s open up your chakras and release your old programming. Let’s open up your heart again and find the joy that brought you into this world.

Seven months later, I was able to honor her request and release a part of her into the ocean. I watched her ashes quickly spread to the currents. It was almost as if I could feel her sigh of relief.