Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Season of Becoming::RN, Midwife, Doula, and Women's Herbal Educator

photo credit:  Hayden Hendrick

Seasons, isn't that the fashionable way to describe the various circumstances, colors, and climates we experience throughout a lifetime?  If so, over the past year and a half, the leaves of my life have without a doubt turned from green to red.  After 13 years at home full-time, homeschooling our kids, a variety of reasons and situations led us to consider if it was time to make some changes.  No matter how obvious it seemed that we may need to alter some areas of our life, the idea of change still felt terrifying to me.  I fought it initially. Thinking through what's best and healthy for an entire family, each person with individual needs, felt daunting.  This is the life of a woman, isn't it?  The constant, vast realization that each of our decisions deeply affects the lives of the people we love most.  It seems our personal health is wrapped up in the health of the people we cherish.  This is what makes women's health incredibly complex.  No woman exists as an island. Her well-being is oftentimes inseparable from the well-being of others.

photo credit:  Hayden Hendrick

Thankfully, as we began discussing what it might look like for our kids to transition into "regular" school and for me to work outside of the home, we had time to think through what would be a good fit for all of us. I'm grateful the decision didn't have to feel rushed, and we had time to begin working towards our long-term goals without feeling overly panicked. I know this was a gift, and I'm grateful.  I've had time to think about what I want to be doing in a couple years, and decide what work seems valuable enough to pour part of my life into.  We all knew this time of transition would involve a great deal of work and study on my part.  Aaron and the boys have been incredibly supportive of this intense season of learning and "becoming."


As many of you know, I decided to go to nursing school.  I knew for sure, if I was going to start working again, that I wanted to concentrate on some aspect of women's health.  When I decided to get a nursing degree, I also had a strong hunch that I'd end up becoming a midwife.  A nursing degree seemed like the smartest, first step.  I also felt it would buy me some time to really explore my options, receive input from others, and get a better grasp on the actual healthcare needs for women in our community. I also needed time to consider our own family dynamics and to strengthen my ideals about healthcare, in general.  I've enjoyed nursing school a lot.  I'm grateful for the education and skills I'm learning, and unless something strange happens, I'll be an RN by the summer of 2015.


While I've been in nursing school, I've been working towards officially becoming certified as a doula.  I'll be finished in April, and as time permits, I'll begin taking on a few clients, especially focusing on women who are desiring an unmedicated birth in a hospital setting.  While I believe all women deserve support during labor (no matter where or how they choose to give birth) my hope is that my nursing background, time spent in the hospital, and knowledge of the natural birth process will be a good fit for women who specifically want a natural birth in a medical environment.


I also started working as a birth assistant for Toni Kimple, a local midwife in town, who owns a birth center.  She has 28 years of experience and is truly an asset in our community.  It has been interesting to live and work in both worlds - spending some days working in the hospital and others assisting with out-of-hospital births.  Getting to do both at the same time helped solidify some unknowns for me.  I've developed a great deal of respect for the medical community and yet, what I hope, is a realistic awareness of its shortcomings as far as women's health is concerned.  It's taken me a couple years, but I've finally come to the conclusion that the hospital and the highly-medical model of healthcare doesn't feel like a good, full-time fit for me.  Not only do I feel more at home in a birth center with women considered low-risk pregnancies, I also see a lot of value in pursuing a more holistic model of care.  Even though I'm still in nursing school, I went ahead and enrolled in the program offered by The Association of Texas Midwives to begin working towards a license in midwifery.  Thankfully, Toni, with Jubilee Birth Center, has offered to be my preceptor.  I'm grateful she has agreed to take me under her wing and for her years of experience as a midwife. There's also another midwife in Jubilee Birth Center's practice, and I look forward to learning from Andrea and working with her as well.


As I've thought through my ideals about women's health, becoming a nurse and a midwife have definitely felt like steps in the right direction, but a piece has been missing for me.  What do I do with the awareness and appreciation I've had for the growing body of research related to the role nutrition, and plants in particular, play in our health and well-being? What do I do with this passion I've had for organic gardening and incorporating more plants into our family's diet? How do I connect nutrition and the power of plants to nursing, midwifery, and support for laboring women?

I was thrilled when I realized I could learn under Aviva Romm, a Yale-trained medical doctor who is also a midwife and licensed herbalist specializing in women's health.  The program she teaches "uniquely integrates traditional herbal wisdom, clinical experience, and critically reviewed botanical and scientific evidence for the prevention and treatment of common women's health concerns."  When I finish the program, I'll be a Certified Women's Herbal Educator.  I enrolled in the program yesterday.

Although I was nervous at first, this season of learning has been exciting, and surprisingly, a lot more natural than I thought it would be.  While it sure would have been easier to find one program or one campus that could teach me to be a nurse, midwife, herbalist, and doula, such a wonderful place or program doesn't exist. It's been work, but I feel great peace now that I've found the unique elements of education that I personally have felt I needed in order to provide the kind of care I'm envisioning for women.  I'm hoping to bring all of these pieces together into something helpful and holistic for women in our community.

For those of you who are wondering, "How are you doing this all at one time," the answer is - I'm not, thankfully.  Although I've enrolled in the midwifery program, I won't start the book work until early May.  I don't have any classes for nursing school for three and a half months.  During the break, I'll focus on midwifery and the herbalist course I'm taking.  I'll take my RN licensing test early in the summer of 2015, and hopefully finish up the midwifery and herbalist programs within the following year or so.

I loved the season of full-time mothering and homeschooling (most days) and am grateful for that extra time with my kids. It was right for our family, and in the midst of it, I could not have imagined anything else fitting us so well.  Surprisingly, this season has felt just as right and good.  These men - big and little - in my home have been supportive, and we've had people in our life who are helping us make sure our kids feel cared for and supported as well through all of these changes.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, when I look back, those green leaves sure look beautiful to me, but so do these red ones I find myself surrounded by these days.

Cheers to a season of learning!  My heart is full as I think of the women and babies I'll help serve one day - all of us learning to be brave together, growing in our trust that God put great care into creating our bodies, and He's given us gifts from this earth to nourish them and keep us well.        

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fair Trade Market 2013

Jenn, Juliette, and I are hosting another Fair Trade Market this year at the Frame Gallery in Downtown Bryan.  Last year was our first market, and it was a lot of fun and a big success.  We were thrilled by how supportive our community was and how eager they were to support responsible consumerism.  Juliette just had a baby, and I'm barely keeping my head above water during this 18 hour semester of nursing school, but this market - these companies - what each purchase represents means so much to us that we decided to push through, beg for help from our friends, and keep this market a yearly tradition in our town.  If you live here locally, come out and see us, okay?  (Here's the Facebook link to the market - we're posting pictures over the next few days of some of the products.)

I've noticed two beautiful trends over the past few years in the circles where I find myself traveling - a move towards a more simplistic, purposeful life and a desire to empower the poor by replacing charity-type models with sustainable approaches.  I'm not sure how or if those trends are always connected, but when it comes to shopping, those two powerful ideas and passions can collide and become something powerful and vibrant.  

For too long we've been sucked into the marketing - the lies that tell us more means better.  More means happy. It's like we're waking up and realizing that more stuff usually translates into more stress and less time spent enjoying the people and moments in our life that mean the most.  We're sick of all the big. We find ourselves wondering if it was a good idea to let our mom and pop, local stores die off to the likes of the Goliath-sized super centers filled with imported, low-quality goods and underpaid/under-insured employees. Maybe we're not ready for a full-on boycott, but big business - we're on to you.  You're smelling awfully funny to us these days.

When it comes to the world, the discrepancy between those who have and those who don't, we've been told another lie - money and handouts fix poverty.  The problem is, five dollars might buy someone lunch - but it won't buy them lunch tomorrow and it certainly won't buy them dignity and self-worth.  

We're excited to feature companies at this year's market that will help each of us connect our passions and beliefs about the world with products we are purchasing for Christmas this year.  We will each have the opportunity to live out our convictions with every dollar spent.  On display at the market, you'll find a wide variety of quality, hand-made gifts but what will also be on display are big ideas like responsible consumerism, sustainable solutions for poverty, stewardship of the earth, and change that lasts and transforms entire families and communities.  Each product at the fair represents men and women who have been taught a trade and are working hard to feed and educate their children and break the chains of generational poverty.       

If we're going to shop this holiday season, why not make our money count for something bigger - something greater? Why not give a gift that gives twice?

We hope to see you at the market this year!  If you know of other people at your job, churches, or schools who would want to know about the market, will you help us spread the word?

{{Fair Trade Resources - Power of Education}}

Great everyday resource:  Better World Shopping Guide

{{Businesses Making the World a Better Place}}
some of these companies are featured at our market this year

My Shopping with Purpose board on Pinterest.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ron Finley :: Inspiring

This video has a few bad words in it - so maybe not so great for kids to watch.

I've seen several friends post this video on Facebook, and Aaron recently listened to an NPR interview with Ron Finley.  I'm not the best about stopping to watch a video, but Aaron convinced me to sit down this morning and watch this one.  I'm so glad I did.  Is it weird that I was so moved, tears fell several times before Ron Finley's Ted Talk ended?  He's like a modern-day, urban Wendell Berry.

I may never be able to explain or articulate why this act of gardening is what I know - without a doubt - our family is supposed to be deeply involved in right now.  I just know.  There's no shaking it.  The garden is where we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to be investing in right now.  It's the only place where the pieces seem to come together for me - all the big ideas - the problems - the solutions - they begin to feel less complicated and heavy when I'm in our giant "yarden", determined to heal my corner of the earth.  There is something about the soil - bettering it - that brings me hope for bigger things - for holistic, sustainable redemption in my community and how that redemption could somehow reach outside our borders.

So grateful for Ron Finley - and all the prophetic voices in our world trying to desperately wake us up.


If you live here locally, there's a great class coming up for beginner gardeners hosted by the Brazos Valley Master Gardeners.  

Also - those adorable Botany Brothers are hosting a plant sale Saturdays, August 3 and August 10.  If you're planning a fall/winter garden, go check out what they are doing and what they will have available.  I'm pretty proud of these little entrepreneurs!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Fourth of July :: Round Top Parade :: Royers

Aaron only made fun of me a little bit for getting to the parade over an hour early - just to guarantee our kids some prime seating.  The Round Top parade aint no mullet.  Uh uh.  The party is never in the back.  You've got to be in the front if you want popsicles and Blue Bell ice cream sandwiches.

This tiny Texas town goes all out for Fourth of July.  It feels like we jumped right into a movie set.  If Sandra Bullock drove by on a float - I'd barely be surprised.

Professionals.  I think they train for this during the months prior to the parade. 

Halfway through the parade, they are out of their mind - parade drunk.  Covered in beads.  High on sugar.

Mad that someone ate the Dots right out of the candy bucket. (it was me)

We got to hang out with cousins - that's the best part, ya know?

Then lunch at Royers.  They never disappoint.  If you're ever driving through Round Top, you should stop by and eat at this perfectly quirky American gem.  The food.  The people.  The pie.  You'll wish there was a Royers in your town.

Royers lemon berry pie.  It was a crowd pleaser.
Did you know you can order a pie from Royers and they will mail it to you?

We listened to Lyle Lovett on the drive to Round Top and on the drive back.  Lyle singing while we drove through Texas farmland?  That may be all anyone ever needs on Independence Day.

No matter where you celebrated, I hope you had a beautiful fourth, friends.  We're off to see some explosions in the sky.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Cantaloupe Trellis

Our little, big garden is coming along.  Aaron finished the second cantaloupe trellis tonight with bamboo the boys harvested from the woods near our house.  Sigh.  It's so pretty.

It's a little sad, but I'm as wowed by their wicked-fast bamboo climbing skills as I am with their ability to rattle off the states and capitals.

The Botany Brothers are selling organic cantaloupe seedlings they harvested from one of the most yummy cantaloupes I've ever eaten.  I jacked some of their plants and stuck them in the ground tonight in the two cantaloupe beds.

(The rest of the grass is going away next weekend - good-bye grass - hello walkways!)

Local friends, are you sure you don't want to grow cantaloupes with us?  The boys still have some seedlings left (and will have more in a couple weeks that they harvested from an organic, heirloom variety). We could all jump in and figure this out together.

Want to know something cool?  The last few days have found us standing in our yard having long, meaningful conversations with several of our neighbors.  Some of them, I'd never even met before.  If this is the only gift this garden gives - it's already been worth the sweat and sore muscles.

Cantaloupe Links I'm Diggin'  

Lots of great information from A&M about growing cantaloupe.

FAQ about growing cantaloupe from Agrilife.

The day I get to put a bra on my cantaloupes is gonna be a good day for me.

Ooh.  Pretty.

Is it just me, or are these rad?

Did you know the melons most of us call cantaloupe are actually musk melons?  Who knew, huh?

Live here locally and want some organic cantaloupe seedlings?  Check out the Botany Brothers.  They deliver!

Have you ever grown cantaloupes?  I've never attempted cantaloupes, but I'm sure an expert at eating them.  If you've got any tips, please send them my way!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Farming our Yard

I'm not sure why this dream grabbed hold of me, but it has.  It makes very little sense what I'm doing or why I even want to do this - but here I am.  Doing.  Throwing all my hope into the ground, desperately needing it to grow into something bigger and more than I can see right now or possibly understand.  It seems unrealistic to want so much from a garden, but I do.  My dreams for it are wild and unfair.  

Sure, I want this garden to give us life and food to eat.  The amount of money we spend on organic produce is mind-boggling and certainly not sustainable for the long haul. So, gardening with the purpose of providing my family with chemical-free food (and reducing the amount we're spending each month on organic produce) sounds like a reasonable goal (until I remember that my thumb is only the lightest shade of lime green).   Gardening in hopes of eventually getting food in return seems logical.

What doesn't seem fair is how much I want this garden to teach me lessons I don't even know I need. I'm not sure exactly what I'm missing, but I have this nagging suspicion I'm definitely missing something.  Big pieces - lost.  I can't help but believe that this disconnect from the earth, from faithfully tending it is causing some pretty significant disconnects in the ways our family probably relates to people around us, how we prioritize our lives, and even process our faith.  I don't think it's outright crazy to expect that a large chunk of God's character and nature can be found and better understood in the tending of the earth.  And friends, let me tell ya - if there's anyone who needs to better understand God's character and nature right now - it's this girl.   

All my hopes for this big ol' garden are too vast and complicated to put into words.  All I know is, I need this garden right now.  My family needs it.  We do.  

So we designed a large garden and Aaron did math that involved square yards.  This is where I would have thrown my hands in the air and declared gardening too hard if it weren't for him.  A dump truck from American Stone and Turf arrived in our driveway yesterday carrying 10 yards of the stinkiest organic dirt you've ever smelled.  We should all be really thankful the technology for scratch and sniff photos does not exist. Now I know where dump trucks get their name.   

As if this project couldn't feel strange enough - the garden isn't in our backyard.  Our backyard is wooded and almost entirely shaded.  So, the garden is actually on the side of our house where our neighbors and everyone else can see it. I feel like I just threw my crazy out into the yard for my whole neighborhood to behold. With the help of Pinterest and lots of trips to the Antique Rose Emporium for inspiration, I hope we've picked a design that is beautiful enough to keep the people living near us from hating our guts (especially since we're adding chickens and two lop-eared bunnies in the next month). 

About five minutes after the dirt drop-off, the boys and all the neighborhood kids buried themselves in the manure pile.  Why?  I'll never know.  Thankfully this is where having so many boys and extra kids at our house every day paid off.  Even though it was 105 outside (not exaggerating) they all worked alongside us like little champs. What seemed like an impossible job went far more quickly than we could have ever predicted or imagined.

We got rid of our grass using - what I like to call - the suffocation method. Thick, thick layers of newspaper go down first.  Then you drench the newspaper with water.  Then cover it with a really thick pile of high quality soil.

It looks like we finally got fed up with our kids and buried them in the yard.

There is still so much to do before we're finished, but after the longest, sweatiest day, phase one is complete. The beds are in!

We're all excited and a little nervous.  Okay, a lot nervous.  Can we do this?  We don't know.  What I do know is I've never counted anything as a total failure in the gardens we've attempted before this one.  We've learned meaningful lessons every time we've entered into any sort of relationship with a garden of any size.  Even when those relationships were only casual and half-hearted - they taught us rich, unexpected lessons.

Grow on, giant garden.  You scare us, but there is no doubt about it - you hold an awful lot of our love, dreams, and hope.