Honestly, it’s a bit difficult to know what to share about my life. Like all of you, I have amassed a long list of incredible experiences – things more amazing than I ever could have imagined and things more awful than I ever could have imagined.
And, like all of you, I wear many different hats — on the daily! Educator. Mom. Author. Friend. Content Creator. Wife. Homeowner. Colleague. Consultant. And not necessarily in that order!
So, I will try my best to give you a glimpse into how I ended up where I am today without being too boring or too self-absorbed.
Being an Educator
This is the thread that runs through much of my life and the role that I identify with most closely. I’ll skip over all the restaurant work from my teens and 20s and start with my professor days.
After spending 8 years in graduate school, I earned my Ph.D. with dual specialties in neuroscience and cognitive development. Yes, 8 years is long time to be in graduate school. Yes, I wrote a dissertation – on reading achievement in 4- to 8-year-old kids. And, yes, parts of it were published in peer-reviewed academic journals. But all of that seems like a long time ago now – perhaps because it kinda was!!
My Professor Days
I was fortunate enough to get a full-time position as a Psychology Professor at Warren Wilson College, a small liberal arts institution in Asheville, NC. I spent over a decade there and learned SO much about myself, the life of a working mom, and the culture of academia.
The best part of being a professor? The students. They were smart, funny, and creative. Not all the time, but most of the time. And they were committed to justice for people and the planet. I got to teach them, be energized by them, cry with them, and watch them grow up. Now I see photos of their kids on Facebook. But I had great colleagues, too. It was such a gift to eat lunch in the cafeteria on any given day and have a tableful of specialists on any number of topics — ready to educate, debate, and pontificate.
Alas, the professor job was not sustainable. My husband and I were both working 45+ hours a week. We had 2 young kids that we were actually trying to spend time with. We were trying to stay physically fit. And, we were fixing up the somewhat-junky house we bought because it was in our price range. Welcome to the American Dream. Something had to give.
I took a 30-hr. a week job at Jubilee! Community, a progressive-type Christian church where I ran their Sunday School program and wrote curriculum for kids age 3 through 8th grade. It took several years, but we ended up creating a vibrant program with some of the best kids and families you would ever want to meet AND a multi-year, multi-age, multi-faith curriculum. In 2018, I was ordained as their Minister of Education. It was an incredible, inspiring community, and I am still sad that I lost that job because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
My Own Education
Of course, educating others means remaining somewhat-educated myself! Perhaps my son said it best when he glared at me, as angry as a 6-year-old can be and said, “All you care about is learnin.” There’s a story that goes with that but, suffice it to say, he wasn’t far off.
I grew up pretty much in the middle of Illinois in corn country. Every Halloween we would walk 3 blocks down to the cornfield, cross the street, and then walk 3 blocks back up. Back then, that amounted to a lot of candy!
My father was raised Catholic. My mother moved around a lot as a child and attended either Baptist or Methodist churches. When they got married, they decided to become Lutheran, and I attended a Lutheran Grade School and a Catholic High School. I literally had religion classes 5 days a week from kindergarten through 10th grade. Plus, my family went to church and Sunday School every Sunday. For those familiar with the Lutheran church, the school was Missouri Synod; the church was ELCA. Interestingly, my last religion course was World Religions, taught by a Catholic priest. Little did I know how much that class would end up influencing my life.
I attended Brown University in Providence, RI – which was quite a culture shock. Not like my little midwestern hometown at all! But, once again, I learned SO much — about myself, about White privilege, about New England, and about young adult life.
I majored in Psychology and specialized in the scientific aspects of it – linguistics, biochemistry, and the relatively new and burgeoning field of neuroscience. Sick of school, I promptly took a few years off after graduation to work. Eventually, I went back to grad. school, but you’ve already heard that part.
Starting as the Curriculum Specialist at Jubilee Church resurrected all those religion classes from my childhood days. As I always say, “Even a complete idiot would know her Bible stories given my religious upbringing!” But, when it came to the other religious traditions, my one-semester course in high school was far from adequate.
It was easy enough to learn the facts about other religious traditions. It was even fairly easy to read sacred texts and commentaries on them. But, I began to wonder how people from other religious traditions actually teach their kids about their faith – holydays, rituals, beliefs, etc. I decided it was time to get out of my office – which is when my real education began.
I attended a Family Shabbat service at one of our local synagogues. That led to a Rosh Hashanah service and a Sukkot sing-along. And that led to a Tibetan Buddhist teaching and a Zen meditation session. The rest, as they say, is history. I have now been to numerous holyday events and many other rituals in all sorts of traditions – Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Islam, Wiccan, etc.
My Family Life
I’ve been married for over 25 years, and we have two young-adult children. They have 6 grandparents who do not live near us, so we’ve spent a lot of time over the years visiting various relatives for holidays, family events, and inexpensive vacations — mostly in New York, Florida, and South Carolina. I also traveled a lot growing up, and I wanted to give that to my kids, so we’ve taken family vacations to all sorts of places. In the U.S., we’ve visited San Francisco, Yellowstone, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Cape Cod, Idaho, Colorado, and Michigan. Internationally, we’ve visited Italy, Indonesia, Peru, Iceland, Ecuador, and Japan. I have occasionally written about those adventures for Multicultural Kid Blogs.
My kids grew up attending our area public schools. My daughter currently lives in CA and is an Art major with special interests in sculpture and ceramics. My son is getting ready to finish high school and head off to college. They both attended Jubilee Community church where I worked, but they are discovering their own faith paths. My daughter aligns primarily with Indigenous and Goddess/Wiccan traditions. My son has been an avowed atheist since he was very young, but his spiritual core is really obvious when he’s in Buddhist temples.
I attend a couple of Baha’i events and a couple of Wiccan cross-quarter holydays (Samhain, Brigid/Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad) every year. I fast for parts of Ramadan and try to make it the Eid celebrations. Our local Hindu/Shivaic temple (Sri Somesvara) is amazing, and I visit regularly. I especially love Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesha Chaturthi, Navratri, and Diwali. We also have 3 synagogues. Purim and Sukkot are my favorite Jewish holydays, but I’ve been to several Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Shavuot services. In between holydays, there is always something happening at the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist temples — sesshins, smoke ceremonies, Rohatsu, and teachings. Even in a small town like Asheville, we have an amazing amount of religious diversity. And, the folks at the Sikh Gurdwara in Raleigh are incredibly friendly.
In this business, there is always more to learn. Depending on how you count, there are thousands of different religious traditions. And, within the major traditions, there are numerous sects and denominations. In fact, I have discovered over the years that most people have no idea how much intra-faith variability there is within their own tradition! So, I stay pretty busy and ask a lot of questions. But, as my son said so omnisciently so many years ago, “It’s all about the learnin’!”