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Monica In A Tree
Me in a tree.

About the Author

Hello, I’m Monica.  The following is a list of facts describing the person I generally identify as ‘me.’  They are not me.  There is no me.  But if there was, she would be something like this.

I was raised on wide, tree-lined streets, in the suburbs just southwest of Omaha, Nebraska, where a cornfield was never more than two blocks away.  My parents and their parents (and most of their parents) were all raised in a part of the state known as the Sandhills, where the wind in the grass never ends.  My brother and I spent many summers there.

We both got our first jobs the summer we were fifteen.  Mine was fast food, then telemarketing, then customer service, then administrative assistant at a residential construction company, then a mortgage escrow analyst at one of Omaha’s larger regional banks. When I finished public high school, I went to college.  After an abortive start at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I settled into to community college in the architectural drafting program.  I worked eight to five, went to class four nights a week, bought a house, mowed the yard, and basically tried to live a ‘normal’ life.

That didn’t work out so well, so four years later, and decades more mature, I returned to the University to study architecture full time.  About the same time, I discovered Buddhism.  After two years, I sold the house, transferred to the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and moved into a little condo in near the State Capitol. I first worked on my bachelor and then double master degrees in architecture and community planning.  I joined the student government, the student newspaper, and generally made myself a trouble maker advocating for student issues to the administration.  All the while, I continued to work part-time at one, two, or sometimes three jobs.

Somewhere in the midst of that, I started going out to Shambhala Mountain Center in northern Colorado once or twice a year to learn how to meditate and commune with other Buddhists.  I never quite felt that Shambhala was my path, however.  When the economy tanked and the chance of a new graduate finding a job in architecture became about as likely as winning the Indianapolis 500 on a Vespa, I had all the excuse I needed to follow this incessant whisper.  I moved to Los Angeles and, at the age of thirty, embarked on a complete redesign.  Now, I am beginning my second semester at University of the West in the Master of Divinity program to become a Buddhist chaplain.  I am currently unemployed for the first time in fifteen years.

About the Blog

This blog is a continuation of my earlier work, Buddhist in Nebraska, henceforth referred to as BIN. I began BIN in June 2006 after returning from one of my many trips to Shambhala only to find myself feeling an acute lack of homegrown Buddhists.  That blog was primarily a journal and a personal form of practice and therapy.  This work is, I hope, a maturation of my writing style into something more useful to a broader audience.  Also, as I now have the opportunity to study Buddhism full time, I may occasionally be able to share something more worthwhile on the subject of Dharma than my own confused mutterings and inner monologues.  While these have been invaluable in helping me figure things out, I am under little illusion that they were valuable to others.  As my spiritual practice matures and becomes more other-centric, my writing has the opportunity to do likewise.

Thus Dharma Cowgirl.  It was a nickname I was given during one of my many visits to Shambhala Mountain Center on a account of the straw cowboy hat I typically wore during summer.  To me it has become both a metaphor and symbol.  As a metaphor it refers to a dual ancestry from both a line of hard-working, pragmatic Nebraska cowboys and girls and from the Buddha himself.  Ancient East meets Old West.  It also symbolizes a key principle within the Dharma: that while none of us can travel the path alone, no one else can do it for us.  The Dharma cowgirl is one who knows this and is still willing to walk that path anyway.  She must see for herself, never quite knowing what’s over the next mountain, but always willing to find it.

But certainly don’t take my word for it, not if you’ve any bit of cowgirl or cowboy in you.

Blog Sections

On Dharma – These are weekly articles about the buddhadharma that are somewhat more academic in nature.  For the most part, they will be adapted from my coursework and refer to current subjects of study.

Horse Sense – This is the opinion section and will contain a weekly column relating to current affairs, news, or movements in the buddhablogosphere.  It will generally take the form of the opinion columns I wrote for the Daily Nebraskan, but with a more Buddhist orientation.  I’m an opinionated person and I like to argue so I expect lots of (civil) comments.

Riding Lessons – Here readers may find advice and lessons for how to survive college from someone who has somehow managed it for over a decade.  Be prepared for sarcasm.  This section will be updated bi-monthly.

Campfire Stories – Precisely what it sounds like, stories from my life or those related to me by others.  If you ever wanted to know what Nebraska was like (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) here is where you may discover it.  This is also a bi-monthly section.

Drunk Talk – This is a catchall for irrepressible mutterings.  Despite it’s name, most are probably composed while stone sober.  It will be added to randomly, as the mood strikes.

Bygone Times – A place where the past walks again, when old ideas need updating.  Or I’m just too damned busy or tired to think up something new.  This is also subject to random updating.

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