BASIC VERSION: For seventeen years, from 1992-2009, I was founding executive director of Miriam's House, a residence in Washington, DC for homeless women and their children living with AIDS. I had to leave the work I loved due to chronic migraine, but later earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Nonfiction from Goucher College's low-residency program. I've published a memoir (HERE), as well as many essays in literary journals (HERE).
In recent years, migraine research has led to the development of the first medications specifically targeted to migraine causes. Because the worst of my pain has gone from 4-6 days per month to 4-6 days per year, I've been able to study for a new career. I have recently finished classes and turned in my final assignment for Georgetown University's Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate program. Coaching ten pro bono clients has showed me how much I love coaching, and that I'm able to do it and still manage daily pain. I am very grateful.
MEMBERSHIPS: Institute of Coaching, Worldwide Women's Association, International Women's Writers Guild, Author's Guild
DETAILED VERSION: Since November 1990, when I moved to Washington, DC for a volunteer position at a house for homeless, pregnant women, my mission has been about serving others--especially those typically disenfranchised and ignored by society.
After 18 months in the volunteer position, I began developing Miriam's House--a residence for DC's homeless women living with AIDS, some with children. Development took three years. In December 1995, my husband and I moved into our apartment on the second floor, planning to live and work among the residents. We did so for fourteen years. I tell the story of our lives at Miriam's House in my 2017 memoir, "Nowhere Else I Want to Be."
By 2009, the migraines that began when I was a teenager had become chronic. I had to leave my beloved work at Miriam's House. It broke my heart.
The migraines kept me from working, but when I found that there was a low-residency MFA writing degree offered at Goucher College, I applied. I graduated in 2014 with most of my memoir completed.
Meanwhile, the migraines continued full force. I tried many medications and made important life-style changes (including meditation, deep-muscle relaxation, and dietary changes) that eased--though didn't end--my constant pain. I still grieved the loss of my ability to serve others in a world that cries out for that which is kind, and nurturing, and compassionate. But writing, as a creative outlet and emotional catharsis, helped me through.
In the past few years, migraine researchers have developed new and effective preventative migraine medications, one of which is working well for me. I still have chronic migraine, but only occasionally get the crashers that used to lay me low for days at a time. I am immeasurably grateful.
In 2021, I began imagining returning to a life of service, honoring that mission-driven part of me that had been grieving for twelve years. The migraines are still enough of a problem that I can't manage a full-time job, or one that requires me to get to an office or workplace every day. But I learned about health and wellness coaching, and how well coaching fits with video services such as Zoom. Being able to work from my home means being able to manage pain while coaching. I can make my own hours and give myself enough time-off for self-care.
As of March 2023, I've completed courses for the Health and Wellness Coaching Certification program at Georgetown University. There are a few assignments to turn in, and I will (hopefully!) be a certified coach by the end of April 2023.
My business plan is to offer full-fee coaching to those who can afford it. Their fees will help subsidize affordable coaching for those typically unable to pay a full fee -- care aides, nurses' aides, housekeepers, case managers, and others in front-line service.
I can't be on the front lines any longer, but I can support and coach people who are. That's my mission.