Roots: I was born in Orange, California, but moved to Dallas in 1969 and then to Austin in 1984. I’ve been here ever since and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
With my grown children: Sarah, Kim, Rachel, me, Justin & Rebecca
Family Life: My first husband and I were both in the medical field and saw that older children were not getting adopted after the preschool age. They would age out of foster care or group homes with no place to call home after 18. Specialists at the time said older children were rarely being placed. We wanted a big family, so we decided to have our “bio babes” first and then adopt older children.
We had Justin, and then Rachel came 17 months later. Then, a year later we added Kimberly (9 years old), then a year later, Rebecca (8 yrs), and finally a year later Sarah (17 years old). Whew! What a ride! They all came from different families with different stories. What an adventure!
Grandchildren (it’s hard to get them all together at the same time): Trey, Valencia, Brooklyn, Derrick, Kannon, Kyciel and Chasity
I am an artist, but being a parent probably required my most creative spontaneity! Folks asked us how we figured out how to raise this family — well, we kind of made it up as we went along. We had gentle firm rules, and as much fun as possible. We had regular rule breaking to ease the structure. For example we had “bad manners night” one dinner a week (the only rules were no throwing food or eating off of each other’s plates), they had to dress up for church only once a month, they could have a whole box of any cereal (usually with chocolate in the title, ugh) they wanted for their birthday. We also enjoyed pranks, theater plays, a giant dress up/costume room, 10 different pets, and tons of crafts. I thought I was going to make the biggest impact in their lives, but I am so very changed myself.
After 30 years my husband and I parted and remain friends today, still very involved with our children’s lives. I am in a new chapter of my life. My children have grown, have children of their own (11 fabulous grandchildren and counting). We all love getting together as much as possible.
Ed and I at a Chicago concert
I met a wonderful man named Ed Miller who was not frazzled by my huge family, brought two sons of his own and joined me in a new marriage adventure. We have been married now for 7 years. He is also a nurse and works with the elderly.
Work Life: I am currently a psychiatric nurse, a charge nurse at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital over the adult ICU, and I have been there for 8 years. I began as a nurse in 1978, but after having children, I joined the pastoral staff of a local church as the director of congregational care and counseling. I received my masters in counseling, obtained my LPC and had a private practice for 10 years. I missed the team spirit I had in the church setting, so I returned to nursing as a psych nurse. I love it — and again I need my creative energy to problem solve and creatively care for our patients. In 2013 I was named Seton Behavior Health’s Nurse of the Year. In 2014 I was chosen as a TNA (Texas Nurses Association) Fab Five Nurse, the first psych nurse to obtain this award.
Suzanne McConkey & I drinking cowboy coffee, as we get lunch ready for everyone at Community First! Village
A little unknown fact, in 1974 I wanted to be an animal vet but they did not allow women in the A&M vet school, so I went into nursing! Oh how times have changed!
Pastor…counselor…nurse… all different but dealing with people just the same, only from different perspectives. I love going the extra mile, to help other people grow, to be encouraging. I believe that we all heal and grow best when we do it together!
My favorite quote: I have seasons of quotes that linger and settle on me for a while, then new ones settle. These two I have been sitting with me lately:
“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry, to get my work done, and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy,
I woke and I saw that life is all service,
I served and I saw that service is joy.”
With Christine Novak (another missional resident at CF!V) & Heidi Sloan (head of the gardens at CF!V) after I got my tattoo based on Psalm 121
I’m Most Inspired by… I once bought a book just because of its title “Playing a Poor Hand Well.” It talked about people who have had adversity or trials yet remained resilient, positive and thrive. I am inspired by those people. They choose to take what was intended to take them out, and they weave it into their story of joy.
Something people may not know about me… I love to play hand drums and hope to be part of a drum circle at Community First! Village, where we now live.
My guilty pleasure… Spending a whole day in the studio painting, playing music, making new colors and trying new techniques .
My “perfect day” would be… Oh my that would be a full day… walk my dog Jack while visiting with friends/neighbors as I go, watch my children play together, work together on a project with people, paint/draw a little, then I’d go dancing with Ed at Don’s Depot downtown, sit on the porch and enjoy the breeze.
Abundant Living Among the Chronically Homeless
Ed and I at Community First! Village, where we are missional residents
A large percentage of my patients have fragile housing situations. Every week, I discharge them out the door to the streets. Often they have little or no access to consistent resources to maintain their health. This troubles me greatly.
Serving lunch under the big tent at Community First! Village, everyone knows me by my big hat & plaid shirts
Two years ago, my husband and I were invited to visit the small Mobile Loaves and Fishes model of the Community First! Village. Community First! Village is a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. Community First! Village Includes:
- An innovative mix of affordable housing options
- Places for worship, study, and fellowship
- Memorial garden and columbarium
- A community garden featuring fruit- and nut-bearing trees and vegetables
- A chicken operation, bee hives producing fresh honey, and aquaponics
- A workshop with tool bank and art gallery for micro-enterprise opportunities
- A medical facility for physical and mental health screenings and support services including hospice and respite care
- Walking trails
- An outdoor theater and bed & breakfast for mission visits
- CAP Metro bus stop
As I walked around the canvas cottages, micro homes, RVs, chicken coop, tilapia pond and gardens, I heard the plan of creating a true working community with micro enterprises, clinic, movie theatre, and more. I kept hearing in my head “I could so live here and be a part of this.” My husband and I talked and prayed for several months. There was a strong sense that God was inviting us to jump into a roller coaster for the ride of our lives. Why would I do anything else!
The garden crew on the bridge at Community First! Village
We then jumped into volunteering on Saturdays out at the gardens… we have been there ever since!
We moved to Community First! Village during Thanksgiving week of this year, into a 300 square-foot RV that we had redone. We’ve learned that so much of our “stuff” is not essential for a rich life. I share much of my day with so many new folks. We walk dogs together, cook/feed volunteers together, harvest crops, sit around a roaring fire on cold nights, share meals — just do life together. So many stories , so many incredibly resilient people that choose to not let the horrible trials of life get them down.
With CF!V chef Dennis Williams & some of the hundreds of fabulous volunteers
My kids love coming out and being here with us — the grandchildren harvesting food and feeding chickens.
Life has come full circle, my hopes are unfolding… laughing, tears, getting work done, loving others and finding daily courage to be loved in return. I am rich!
iGnite’s Real Women, Real Stories is a series highlighting the inspiring lives and experiences of women in our community. We hope their stories motivate and inspire you to live your life to the fullest.
Know someone who would be a great candidate for a Real Women, Real Stories feature? Email nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org
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