Though I currently live on the magical Olympic Peninsula of Washington, it has been a long journey to get here. In the 1980’s, my parents joined forces with my grandmothers to raise my three younger siblings and me in East Plano, at a time when the now bustling Dallas suburb was more cow pasture than shopping mall. My childhood culture was a quirky mix of the Judaism of my mother’s childhood, the Catholicism of both my parents’ adult fervor and the sweat of their efforts to establish a one-of-a-kind non-profit, Christian-based substance abuse treatment center in Richardson, Texas. Growing up, I watched my parents change people’s lives, and thought, I want to leave that kind of positive impact one day.
From an early age, I was both very brainy and a natural leader. I attended St. Mark’s Catholic school through 8th grade and was fastidious, even a perfectionist, in my studies. I served as both class president as well as student council president, and graduated at the top of my small, private school class.
When I was 12, my mother suddenly died of cancer, and my life irrevocably changed. Though I diligently continued with my studies and leadership at Plano East Senior High, I also struggled with depression, isolation and rage at a world that would so dramatically destabilize mine and my siblings’ lives. It was not an easy time.
In 1998, after earning my BA in Psychology from the University of North Texas, and through the enormous help of my college mentors, I won a Fulbright Fellowship to study breast cancer survivorship in London. Committed to better understanding the psychological aspects of the disease that took my mother, I interviewed over forty women treated for breast cancer throughout greater London. The theme of that research became the focus of my doctoral studies, namely, how does spirituality change the cancer experience, and how does cancer change our faith?
In 2000, I enrolled in a Clinical Health Psychology PhD program at Arizona State University to explore the relationship between cancer and personal growth. I worked in multiple medical settings, helping patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, MS and other health conditions learn to cope with and ease the stress of their illness.
With unanswered questions left from my childhood, I also deeply dove into my own path of personal expansion.
I enlisted in therapy, enrolled in a yoga teacher training program, studied mindfulness meditation, toured Italy with a symphonic choir, learned to dance like no one was looking and traveled the land of my ancestors in Israel. I dedicated myself to feminist psychology and activism and even earned a national award from the American Psychological Association for my service in local and global women’s rights.
I wanted to do it all. And, in some ways, I did. But nothing ever really slaked my thirst to feel as connected as I had felt in the first twelve years of my life. I was always trying to prove myself, as if my achievements could earn me the love I felt I had lost.
After graduation, I worked for three years as a VA psychologist, serving veterans in Northern California and then in Austin. Based on my graduate research, I started the first “Spirituality in Recovery” treatment groups for Austin veterans struggling with addictions, a joy I will never forget. I could relate to the hunger of those homeless men eager to find something more sustainably satisfying than drugs.
In 2011, my path as a VA psychologist took a sharp turn. To all of our surprise, the government ran out of funds to renew my position with the Austin VA Mental Health Clinic. For the first time since beginning my 25 year path to become a psychologist, I was again asking myself, what do I want?
It was about that time that I discovered OneTaste, a company based in San Francisco that teaches the partnered sexuality practice Orgasmic Meditation, or OM, for short.
Of all of the paths and practices I had explored, I had never considered my sexuality as a meaningful part of my personal growth. Once I found OM, that changed. Though at first I found the practice confronting, I couldn’t deny that through OM, I was able to inhabit my body more fully than I ever had.
Something significant began to “click” for me in the realm of connection.
Whereas before I had always felt like I needed to earn people’s love and approval through my accomplishments, integrating my sexuality into my adult repertoire for healing settled all of that down. Slowly but unmistakably, I began cultivating the connections in my life I had always wanted. Something that had been malnourished since my childhood finally began to be fed.
I knew that I had to share that with others.
In 2012 I became certified as an Intimacy and Desire coach and co-lead the OneTaste chapters in Austin and then San Francisco, where I immersed in the OM community and culture and a way of deeply and honestly relating like I had never known before.
At the end of 2013, I decided to bring it all home. For the first time in 16 years, I moved back to Dallas to rejoin my family, including my 8 nieces, and bring it all, all of it, together.
In 2014 I opened my North Dallas private practice and have been teaching intimacy workshops and dance classes and coaching individuals and couples ever since. Most gratifying has been witnessing the community of friendships and intimacy that has grown around my classes and especially my signature community communication games called SpeakUP.
At the end of 2017, after four rich, tumultuous and healing years back home, I followed a call to love and community in the Pacific Northwest. I am now located in the rural town of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, where I see luscious hills carpeted with pine trees out my windows. I have established a beautiful private practice office in downtown Port Townsend – close to the famed Rose Theatre – where I coach individuals and couples as well as mentor my students in their leadership journeys.
Every day I continue to challenge myself to wake up a little more to the connection that is possible when I let go of trying to be anyone other than myself.
In the first forty years of my life, my journey created a circle. It has been long, and it has been worth it. I hope I get the chance to share the fruits of my journey’s lessons with you. To help you find your own brilliance and power to create the life, the intimacy and the expression of you that you desire.