What a long, beautiful, interesting, and at times harrowing journey it has been!
I find this journey we call life fascinating, inspiring and at times simply perplexing. My earliest memories are of being a child questioning and searching for that which somehow connects all of life. I was born in Lancaster county Pennsylvania into a working class family. My grandfather had worked in the mines as had my father for a time before working on a loading dock and becoming a truck driver. My mother had dropped out of school after the 9th grade to help support her single mother and three younger siblings. She would eventually marry my father and start her own family at age 18.
Spiritually my father was an atheist during my childhood (he now identifies as agnostic if you make him pick). I credit growing up in a non-religious home with allowing me to explore and form my own spiritual beliefs without the dogma that I had witnessed in the conservative community around me. My mother was quiet about religion in our home but now identifies as a Christian. We have wonderful conversations about the intersection of religious beliefs and the importance of aligning our actions and our values. I currently identify as a non-theist, a spiritual/religious-humanist and sometimes just as a yogini. (My theology page explores this further).
I began in business at a young age, opening a 16-seat natural foods cafe by the time I was 21 years old. I had discovered macrobiotics a few years prior and was intrigued by the power of food choices to heal the human body as well as the planet. In less then two years however, I felt called to deepen my spiritual practices. I sold my little cafe and moved into a yoga ashram in Sumneytown Pennsylvania – the original sight of what has since became Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA.
After four years of full-time residency and after learning the art of large scale cooking, I moved out of the ashram, got married and began a family. My first daughter was born in 1993 and the second in 1996. Although I did event catering during the girls’ younger years, I was primarily a full-time mom, homeschooling them, and appreciating the simpler things of life on a budget. In 2002, I felt the urge to enter the work world again and serve people healing food. I opened a 60 seat organic restaurant and herb/tea shop, the Love Dog Cafe in Lenox, MA. We named it in honor of one of my favorite Rumi poems, “Love Dogs”.
The restaurant gave me my first in-depth leadership experience as I managed the kitchen and dining room staff while also designing menus, handling finances and working the service line most days.
Luckily we were a success, and I was subsequently offered the Executive Chef and Food Service Director position at Kripalu in 2005. We sold the restaurant and I transitioned back to the non-profit arena. I was thrilled to once again be working at Kripalu where I could be part of a large team sharing the power of spiritual community.
My time at Kripalu was amazing and dynamic.
Over my years there I was able to create a well-loved cuisine, institute a 5 department management team overseeing 65 staff including 20 full-time volunteer positions, implement extensive renovations in my department, write cookbooks and teach programs. I was also a member of Kripalu’s executive team overseeing culture, strategic planning and day to day operationsAfter
In 2013, I felt I had accomplished what I had set out to do at Kripalu. My heart was tugging on me to make a change. I got remarried after having been divorced for several years and began to deepen my spiritual practice studies. I found several new teachers, studied the mind-meditation connection in more depth, discovered qi gong and, after decades of practice, became a certified yoga instructor. That fall, I took a position as the Dining Experiences Director at an Alzheimer’s center. Although still in the food sector, I was excited by the pastoral aspects of this new position. Six weeks into my employment I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As someone who had dedicated her life to conscious, healthy eating and spiritual practice this news felt particularly bewildering.
After arranging for care with an oncologist and surgeon in the US, I made my way to India to engage in a month-long healing regimen with Ayurvedic physicians. It was during this time that I heard a very clear calling. The words were simple. “It’s time.” I instinctively knew that it was time to turn my focus toward service in a way my heart had always longed for, this time outside the kitchen.
Within 9 months, I began my educational journey that would lead me to Unitarian Universalist ministry. I enrolled in a chaplaincy program and then quickly transitioned to a full master of divinity program. I served in a 9 month ministerial internship at the Winchester Unitarian Society beginning in the fall of 2016 followed by two summer minister posts there in 2017 and 2018. My love for qi gong practice expanded and I became a certified instructor.
In May of 2018 I graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry and received UU ministerial fellowship on September 29th, 2018. I began a chaplaincy residency at Albany Medical Center in September of 2018.
Looking back the journey has been glorious and I can see how each experience and each step along the way has prepared me for this beautiful calling. I am grateful I have found this Unitarian Universalist faith and look forward to serving a congregation as a pilgrim on the path of love.
“Love Dogs” by Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks
One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer for that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage,
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express
is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.