60 … and Counting

JULY 24, 2015 ~ MY 60th BIRTHDAY

They say life’s not worth a damn – that you haven’t fully arrived – until you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am!”  I’m thrilled to have thrown my life open … and arrived.  I am a woman, daughter, sister, mother, pioneer, auntie, minister, friend, grandmother, and more.  I am full of fierce contradictions … save one character trait:  my consistent intention to live life fully, true to my own Spirit.

If you’ve logged onto my website and this is the first post you read, you might be wondering!  I hope you’ll scroll back to my July 1st post, and start from there. Turning 60 is a milestone that worked me to the bone.  I needed to examine my past in an effort to achieve clarity … looking for an opening for moving forward.  And in making this exploration public, I hope to inspire you to look at your life through the long lens of time.  You might be surprised at the threads that weave your story together.

Writing this series of blogs has been beneficial beyond what I originally intended.  I understand myself in a new light.  I‘m able to see that my life has been an adventure.  That courage has always been richly rewarded.  That having purpose drives me; fulfilling purpose satisfies me.  That I have made the best of every situation in my life.  That I have claimed myself and my life as valuable.

Digging into the most influential experiences of my life has taken far more energy than I anticipated.  It’s kept me up at night, forced me to reexamine some unpleasant events, caused floods of tears – mostly in awe and gratitude – and laid the gifts of my life at my feet to be counted.  There are many.

Today – my 60th birthday – I feel solid, strong, blessed, and at peace with life to this day.  It’s a good foundation for moving forward.

I have many folks to thank for arriving at 60 intact:

  • Family who continue to inspire growth
  • Every partner who loved me and let me practice love
  • My crazy, loving, passionate sisters & brothers at The Chaplaincy Institute
  • Teachers & mentors who showed me great patience
  • Doctors who saved my life on several occasions
  • Amazing friends who know me well and love me anyway
  • Every person to whom I have ministered … you have given me so much
  • And most of all … my son.  You are the greatest gift of my life.  I love you.

For as much as I packed into these blogs, there’s an awful lot that got left out:

Breast cancer forced me to own every thought, word, and choice; eliminating the possibility of assigning responsibility for anything to anyone other than myself.  My story was recently the subject of a documentary and is published in the Breast Cancer Wellness anthology of thrivers.  I’M NOT DONE YET living out the lessons I learned from cancer.

 

Living with the Zulu influenced me in ways that I’m still unraveling.  I subsequently wrote Ruby’s World and now serve as the American Ambassador for the Rural Women’s Movement of South Africa, representing them at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations.

I’M NOT DONE YET with this endeavor.  I’m currently working with the RWM to raise funds for a self-sustaining farm and learning center for Zulu women who wish to improve their lives.

I’ve been recording my dreams since I was 14.  Over the last 45 years I’ve gradually come to trust the wisdom in my dreams more deeply than the conventional wisdom of waking life.

My dreams were the integral factor in healing my cancer, traveling to KwaZulu-Natal, and writing Ruby’s World. I have clients worldwide whom I serve by helping them identify the wisdom in their dreams that provides insight and inspiration for navigating the challenges of their lives.  I’M NOT DONE YET touting the power of dreams.  I’m currently writing a third book, Dreams from the Edge of Life.

 

 

Thank you for sharing these past 24 days with me.  I hope my stories have at least been interesting; at best been food for thought.  I look forward to sharing more in the coming months and years.  Stay tuned.

When my son was young and first exposed to the concept of death, he was scared.  I comforted him by telling him I’d live to be 100 … my benchmark for life ever since.

I love my life.  I have a lot to squeeze into the next 40 years!  I’m excited … because I’M NOT DONE YET.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINDING GROUND

NOVEMBER 2014

All my life I have been looking for a place to belong.  To relax into myself.  A home.  Roots.  Last fall, without any efforting – a sure sign of Grace at work again – I bought a home on the west mesa of the Rio Grande River.  I had all but given up on this happening for me.  After all, it’s traditional to buy a home when you’re young … not when you’re approaching 60.  But then, again, when has my life ever been traditional.

I admit I’d always thought of Albuquerque as a good rest stop on my way to wherever I was headed … not a place to build a nest.

Seriously, it wasn’t until I wrote The Cowboys of Greybull and Do As The Natives Do, that it all made perfect sense.  The earthy environment that has held my heart for 50 years, now holds my life.  I live in my very own wide open space with dirt, sage, brilliant sunsets, wild horses, and an authentic need for boots!

There is an ease to my daily life – a new experience for me.  Having a place to settle has allowed me to withdraw my intense need-to-keep-searching energy from the world.  Along with this shift, I feel rumbles of intense change deep in my interior.  It’s too soon to know yet how I will settle into life from here forward, but I am certainly looking forward to the adventure.

When I moved into my house the vegetation in the yard was dormant.  It’s been a thrill to watch my garden bloom.  I have roses, irises, purple sage, mint, morning glories, rosemary, sunflowers, hollyhocks, daisies, lavender, gladiolas, desert willows, trumpet vines, flowering plums … and lots more.  The hummingbirds are so satisfied they don’t even need feeders!

I enjoy early morning coffee on my patio, watching hot air balloons float by against the backdrop of Sandia Mountain.  Just across the road, in Placitas, wild horses roam the foothills.  Occasionally, I am fortunate enough to watch them thunder across open land, their manes floating in the breeze.

And Gabe loves his new playground.  We take long walks on the mesa where he chases bunnies to his heart’s content.  No, he hasn’t caught one yet!  I love watching him be the wild dog his Creator intended him to be.

 

Of course, these are simple, tangible pleasures of finding my ground.  There are deeper rewards that my soul delights in … gifts that I feel and can’t yet name; gifts that I trust are being delivered, and can’t yet feel.  I am reminded of a verse from Ecclesiastes:  “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

 

I’M NOT DONE YET building my nest, settling into my ground.  I wait with baited breath for the seasons to reveal the entire gift.

 

 

 

 

 

MEETING GRACE

MAY 2013

It was the day before Mother’s Day.  I was driving north from Albuquerque to Taos for a friend’s graduation party.  Mom was in the hospital – again – in California, and we had eased into a pattern of talking on the phone early in the morning before my siblings arrived at the hospital to spend the day with her.

Mom was approaching the end of her life and there were issues I desperately wanted to resolve with her.  We’d had a rough road together in this lifetime and I was struggling to make peace with the very real possibility that she would die without us healing the pain that lingered between us.

Our conversation that morning was an empty kind of casual for about 25 miles.  Then, there was a shift.  A subtle change in the energy.  An opening.  Knowing I shouldn’t have the conversation at 80 mph, I pulled off the freeway into the parking lot of the Camel Rock Casino just north of Santa Fe.

Mom and I had openings before … but this one was different.  This time we both stepped through and were met on the other side by Grace.  For the next two hours we had the conversation I’d been waiting for all my adult life.  Grace healed every injury we had imposed on each other and the pain of 57 years evaporated.  We even made plans for how we would communicate and recognize each other from across the veil.

I never made it to my friend’s party.  I sat in my car for hours, trembling with relief for the miracle that Grace delivered.  When I could finally move, I drove to the other side of the freeway and sat on the wall at the base of Camel Rock.  There, in a torrent of grateful tears, I called a friend to bear witness to the healing.

The following week I received a card from Mom – the last card she would ever send me.  Tucked inside, wrapped in tissue paper inside a Ziploc baggie, was a diamond necklace and a note that read: “May you never forget the life that pressed you into becoming a diamond.”

We never talked about that day again.  We didn’t need to. Our healing was complete and we were both freed.  We had seven glorious months to just enjoy each other before she passed that December.

I’m NOT DONE YET enjoying Mom … we have plans to meet up on the other side of the veil one day!

 

 

 

 

 

ORDINATION

MARCH 2007

Remember St. Winifred’s church?  The skinny little seven-year-old girl who knew she belonged to God?

It was a long and arduous journey from there to ordination day … a journey I wouldn’t trade for all the world. Nothing compares to telling God, “Okay.  Use me.”

I don’t know why God chose me.  I’m certainly not any more special than the next person.  I haven’t had an ideal life.  I question everything.  I can have quite a potty mouth.  I have been extraordinarily stubborn, blind, and just plain foolish. 

Sometimes I think God chose me because I was an interesting challenge: I was so wounded.  My childhood was painful.  I’ve been hungry and homeless.  I’ve been rescued and have given refuge to others.

I’ve vacationed in castles and tents.  I’ve been offered brilliant and stupid advice – and taken both.  I’ve been outrageous and invisible.  I’ve been paralyzed in terror and boldly courageous.  I’ve been deeply in love, and lonely – occasionally at the same time.  I’ve been up.  I’ve been down.

Maybe there was a Divine plan in all that wounding, and the enormous task of healing.  It’s rare that I meet someone with whom I can’t empathize.  And having walked through my own fire, I’m a strong guide for helping others walk through theirs.

 

I was denied ordination at my first seminary.  It took seven years to heal my disappointment and humiliation enough to try again.  But as is true for all massive stumbling blocks – at least in my life – it was a blessing in disguise.

After a solid education in Christian theology and metaphysics, I landed at The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, California.  There, I studied both Eastern and Western religions with some of the world’s preeminent spiritual leaders.

I sat at the feet of Rabbis, Priests, Imams, Medicine Men, Wiccan Priestesses, and Dream Philosophers.  I attended Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Sufi, Christian, Sikh, and Baha’i services.  I learned to design rituals for any occasion and received excellent pastoral training.

As an interfaith minister, I am proud to belong to a spiritual community that abandons no one.  I am especially grateful to be able to ask, “What spiritual language do you speak?”  I will meet you in your experience of the Divine and we can journey together however you are most comfortable.  A few years ago I was offered a second ordination with an ecclesiastical body headquartered in Washington, DC.  I feel twice blessed for my first failure.

I have ministered to thousands of people officiating weddings, baptizing babies and adults, preaching, teaching, dream coaching, hospital and hospice chaplaincy, conducting funerals and memorial services, and as a spiritual guide for healing and growth.

It’s a privilege to be allowed into each life.  And I’m NOT DONE YET.  I cannot imagine retiring from ministry.  It is entirely too rich to give up.  It keeps me on my toes and fulfills my deep need for purpose.  I might slow down some day, but not anytime real soon.

 

 

 

 

MOLTEN LAVA IN MY VEINS

December 2002

I was in great shape: a non-smoker, eating healthy, spending weekends in my kayak paddling around Alameda Island in the San Francisco Bay.  Every doctor who leaned over my bed said, “You’re way too young and healthy for this!”  I was in complete agreement.

Still, my heart was refusing to go on.  Connected to cardiac monitors with wires of every color, the alarms sounded several times a day when my heart stopped and we all counted the torturous seconds waiting for the beat to resume.

My son decorated my hospital room with a miniature Christmas tree and brought my favorite rosary – his gift to me from his recent trip to France.  Mom plastered a smile across her face and adopted the perkiest tone of voice she could muster.  My partner made a million deals with God.

And the doctors ran every conceivable test without any conclusive diagnosis.  It was a very long, scary four days in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit.

Finally, everyone agreed open heart surgery was necessary.  I was loaded into an ambulance headed for a specialty hospital in San Francisco.  It would have been an ordinary woman-with-a-heart-emergency story, except for what happened next.

Stalled in traffic on the Bay Bridge, the EKG alarm screeched.  Unlike the other times that week, I didn’t resume a normal heartbeat.

My EMTs – God bless these 2 amazing men – explained what needed to happen:  “We’ll give you an injection to stop your heart. Let it rest for a minute.  Then we’ll give you another injection to jump-start it.  If that doesn’t work, we’ll use the paddles.”

 

 

 

The drug entered my vein like molten lava.  Within seconds my bones were on fire.  An immense weight flattened my chest.  My entire body felt thick; dense.  Paralyzed, I watched the machine lights overhead fade from vibrant colors to shades of gray.  The Light left my world.

We all know what happened: it worked.  I didn’t even need surgery!  A pre-op angiogram revealed the pesky problem and … well … sometimes meds are a wonderful thing.

 

Did you catch the miracle?  I almost missed it.  Maybe because it spanned nearly forty years.  Remember Joey Konoza’s line drive?  The Light?

What if the Light I floated in after Joey’s line drive is the very same Light that left my body – left my world – in the ambulance?  What if we follow our own Light when we die?

What if we have that much Light in us?  What if we are the Light?  What if we live from a place of knowing our own Light?

I’m just saying.  Since I’m NOT DONE YET, this how I’ve decided to live: trusting that I have Light and that it makes a difference.  I hope you’ll do the same.

I don’t have any photos of my time in the hospital, my ambulance ride, or any of my doctors.  These photos are just special moments I’ve had since I recaptured my Light.

 

 

 

 

 

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