Archive for tag: garden

Let Life Happen Around You

This weekend, I went to the garden to gather up the last of the tomatoes (that's right, still had a few good tomatoes in November) and peppers, and to take up the stakes and wire that supported some of the taller plants in the garden. While I was completing the task, I was thinking of the work that went into the garden this year and the different approach to weeding I utilized.  

I was much more "hands off" with the weeding this year. I kept the weeds knocked down immediately adjacent to the plants and completely out of the herb section. Yet in other areas, I allowed the weeds to grow freely. What I found during this very dry, near-drought year was that by letting go of trying to control the weeds, they provided an abundance of flowers that attracted many bees along with the flowers we planted for the bees. The weeds helped to hold the moisture in the soil rather than it being baked by the sun. 


By allowing the garden to mature in its own way with a light guiding hand, we were blessed with a bumper crop of just about every vegetable, herb, flower, tuber, and seed we could use this year. As a matter of fact, we still have so many beets and carrots, I'm hoping we can harvest and eat them before the park rangers plow the community garden in preparation for winter. We have plenty to eat fresh, yet not enough left to can or pickle. 

I feel that the growth and evolution of the Naturopathic Gathering has blossomed in much the same way.  Each year, each hosting school honors the tradition of the Gathering while adding its own energy to the event. In many ways, the plans, details and intricacies of the event evolve even as it is taking shape. The natural changes of the Gathering over the past year, the weeds, the flowers, the inspirational bees arriving to pollinate great ideas never dreamed of until a specific moment when a few minds come together. 

That being said, I'll share a little story to close. As I was gathering a large storage bin that holds our watering hose, I picked up the bin only to disturb a family of four field mice who were snugly napping in their den hollowed out into the soil underneath the bin. I heard a "squeak," and looked down into the eyes of a little mouse looking up at me as if to say, "Why did you take my house?" Well, I tell ya, I felt terrible as the little field mice all ran in different directions. I know, I know! These are pests, rodents, and they carry disease!

These little field mice were living in an environment muddled up by my presence with my cultivation of the field where they were living, in my opinion. So, I took some action to give them a bit of a house back. I took some large stones that were big enough to cover their den and leave the little tunnels for them. I piled more stones on top of those and filled in with dirt all around the little mound in the hopes that they would return and have a place to keep warm this winter. In this sense, my placement of a foreign object in the process of changing the natural state of the garden gave a home to the little field mice. My removal of the foreign object (the storage container), then forced these little guys to abandon their home and most likely relocate in the time of year when they are in critical need of shelter. Just another reminder that each and every action we take has an impact, whether in our gardens, lives or interactions with others. The touch we put on these actions hopefully leaves a positive impact. I hope tonight the little critters have a home and that my "hands on" placement of the container has not caused them harm.

What is the take-away thought that is related to school this week? Given that all classes require a tight "hands on" approach to research, study, citation and thought, I guess my writing this week is about a "hands off" approach to life, its twists, turns, surprises and events. Life is going to happen. It will be happy, sad, challenging, easy at times, yet we will wake each day and go through our routine while at the same time experiencing something new every day. Drop your hands every now and then and let life happen around you. Immerse yourself in the most mundane and routine parts of your day and enjoy the boring little moments. You just might be surprised by a little bee with a wonderful idea that you've never seen before.

The Home Stretch

This week, I send prayers and healing thoughts to the victims, families and friends of those impacted in Aurora, Colorado. May happy memories of their loved ones remain strong and may healing be swift and complete for those affected by this heinous crime.

This past week has been a lesson in perseverance. The coming three weeks will be a matter of academic survival! The past week has seen success, failure, moments full of a feeling of achievement followed quickly by a humbling bumble.

Many times over the past week, I just wanted take a break, catch a movie, nap by the pond, or in other words, lounge around resting my brain and doing nothing. Thoughts ran through my head such as, "What's the use?! This isn't going to matter in 4 weeks anyway! I study my tail off only to see a score like this?! I may as well just study a little; it's not going to change my score that much anyway." Well, that plan didn't hold an ounce of water.

As I pondered the inevitable case write-up, study for whichever test in one of my classes/labs happened to be the one that was next on the calendar vs. taking a nice break, I thought about my future patients. If I went to see a doctor about a health concern and was seeking advice, counsel and expertise, I would want that person to be fully engaged with our conversation. While I know that the doctor cannot know everything, I would expect him to listen, get a good understanding of why I was coming to consult him, and use every tool in his kit to do his best to get to the bottom of the matter.


While that thought crossed my mind, I took a deep breath, hunkered down and finished up the work that I needed to accomplish, as aggravating as that was at the time. This is the ethic I want to carry forward with me. Understanding that I cannot know everything and I will fail sometimes. In those times, I must understand the learning opportunity presented while we are still in the "safety zone" as students. I must carry the experience forward to have the best understanding that I can muster to be the best doctor I can be for my fellow human beings.

I am building a strong tool kit here at NUHS that, used properly, will help me as a doctor to better understand the maladies of my patients. This tool kit will help with researching the problems I need to have a better knowledge about. and consulting with colleagues who may have worked with a condition such as this before. Finally, this tool kit will help with putting together a solid, healing treatment plan to help patients return to a basis for health where that is possible.

All the talk about "sticking to work" aside, I did take a break Saturday night to enjoy a movie and a relaxing dinner. Remember, "Vitamin R" (rest, relaxation, rejuvenation) is one of the "Determinants of Health"!!!  That being said, Sunday morning daybreak at the garden was a nice recharge. This week's pic is of one of the sunflowers. By the way, the garden is coming along nicely!  Looks like we will have a bumper crop this year!

I'm thankful this week for Albert Einstein's words, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." This is a man who was considered one of the smartest folks to set foot upon this planet and he described his success through perseverance. Thanks for the encouragement Al, I'll take it! See you next week!

Week of Ups and Downs

What a week of ups and downs! I went from feeling fairly confident about the results of the Advanced Lab Diagnostics/Endocrinology midterm results to shock when I looked at the results. Holy Cow! I've never studied so hard and felt confident about a subject only to earn a score that was cause for a bit of self-disappointment! Looking at my answers, I thought, "How in the world could I answer that way?!?!"

Upon reviewing the exam with the class, our professor made the point of stating this was a tough exam by design and endocrinology is one of the toughest topics for both students and practicing doctors. There are so many influences on the human body--environmental and emotional stressors, sleep, diet, and exercise--all of which can, over time, take a toll. The exam was geared, both in the question portion, as well as the two cases, to generate thought and come up with the single best answer. The cases were quite general in nature with no specific complaint other than fatigue or inability to sleep. We were required to look at the small factors in each instance to help with the tests we would order, our diagnosis and treatment plan, based upon the Therapeutic Order of Naturopathic Medicine. Ultimately, our professor gave us the advice that sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do when we "ace" an exam. Did I mention that humility is a trait that is well utilized in medical school? Lesson learned; that was a hard "pill" to swallow though! (pun intended, hehe).

Well, immediately after I left Endo Class, I had my first "head-to-toe" physical examination of a patient as a lab practical. This practical examination was held in the teaching area of our clinic. Here's the setup: Eight medical students in eight separate examination rooms with a patient for each student and 45 minutes to complete the exam. No professors are in the room as the physical exam is monitored remotely via camera. We performed a head-to-toe physical intake in a predetermined order on our patient as a culmination of each of the regional examinations we learned to Week 8 of the trimester as well as those learned in previous classes. This was a "show me what you know" sort of practical, followed by a quick write-up of a randomly chosen (by the professor, of course) portion of the exam you performed, along with any findings. 

During the exam, we could go back and complete any exams that we might have forgotten or re-perform exams that we knew we could have done better, as long as we were within our 45-minute window. While some points could be deducted, the process was as much for learning the entire procedure as well as for grading. This is the nice part of the clinical studies portion of our curriculum. We are still graded meticulously, and we continue to be taught even during our lab practicals. So, back to the practical. The teaching portion of the clinic was still pretty warm from a power loss (and subsequent loss of air conditioning) during perhaps the hottest days Chicagoland has seen in years! Some are saying we are in a heat wave, but again, I'm from the South and this is normal weather for me. I'm in a shirt and tie with a patient in a gown for a physical. I'm trying to keep my cool, but remember, I just came out of some disappointing news on a previous exam; I'm now setting up and performing the absolute first 'scrutinized' physical exam of my medical career and starting to sweat buckets. What did I do? Stuffed my pockets full of tissues, offered some to the patient to keep him comfy, and in between different steps of the exam, I completed the "time honored forehead swipe" that one sees performed by docs on just about every TV show from the early days of the tube until Grey's Anatomy! The patient ended up being very happy; I was OK, though a bit dehydrated after completing the physical exam; and I think the professors were OK with my performance. A nice boost after a bit of a dip just a few minutes before.

I suppose this is the "take away lesson" this week. Don't get too dejected if an exam doesn't go perfectly; stay steady and be prepared for the next exam. Despite all the preparation, study, memorizing, theorizing, and compartmentalizing, one can have a bad moment, hour or day. Those tough moments are only in that particular window of time. As I sat here by Janse pond writing this entry, I was fortunate enough to have three friends sit and chat with me on a beautiful afternoon. This was a good time. I'm thankful for both and hopefully learn from each moment, whether good or bad.

Knee High by the 4th of July!

Regarding the 4th of July (Independence Day), I'm thankful for the founding fathers' courage to draft and sign the Declaration of Independence. That first step provided the foundation for our great nation and the optimism that I believe still exists enough for people to continue to desire to immigrate to the U.S., plant their roots, and live out their destiny as they choose.


Now, for the "knee high" reference. Around here in Illinois, the saying goes for corn, "knee high by the 4th of July." Check the picture! July 6th and our corn is well over 6 feet tall! Can you find me? Now granted, this is a variety of heirloom corn called Southern Gentleman, appropriate, that is best suited to the hot, humid weather of the southern United States. I'm not sure if my roomie and I have green thumbs or we have simply been fortunate (and lucky) enough that we planted this corn during the hottest summer on record in Northern Illinois! I am grateful that nature has smiled upon our garden though. See if you can find me in the photo!

Planting a Garden

Hi Everybody! Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the Moms, and especially my Mom! 

How do I start my first post? Well, how about a big 'Thank You' to those who posted before me. Without the stories of Rachel, Ashley and especially Miravone to help provide a better perspective on the day-to-day activities of student life while attending NUHS, I feel I would have been far less prepared to begin studies here after being away from academia for some time. In particular, thanks to Miravone for recommending me to follow in her footsteps with the honor of sharing a little about being a naturopathic student at NUHS. 

The Summer 2012 Trimester is chock full for me. I am currently considered a 'full load' 6th trimester student. This means that I am taking all of the classes listed on the schedule for 6th trimester naturopathic students or 25.5 credit hours. Additionally, I enrolled in a Botanicals elective geared toward harvesting and preparing botanical remedies through various means. Exciting times! I am beginning the second half or clinical portion of my medical education here at NUHS after completing the basic sciences--thank goodness!  

The basic sciences at NUHS are challenging and demanding of time, effort and attention. Take one day off and you know you are behind. The great part about the basic science portion of the curriculum at NUHS is that students from all professional programs are in class together for the first two years with just a few exceptions. We are learning in an integrative medical environment from day one at NUHS. After all, even though naturopathic and chiropractic doctors may approach patient care and treatment with some differences, we are still working with the same human body.

Learning how the human body functions is consistent whether a naturopathic, chiropractic or allopathic doctor. We all need to know and understand the biochemical pathways, physiology and structure of the human body in order to apply our treatment methodologies. Suffice to say, that a strong sense of respect for individuals, incredible teamwork and sharing of practice methodology happens as we each form our professional manner and approach to patient care. The combined classes in the first two years are, in my opinion, one of the strongest offerings of attending NUHS. We tend to take a broader look at patient care through association with our colleagues from other disciplines sitting next to us in class all day. I'll talk more about the first two years in a future post. Plenty of stories to share from those days!

We are getting into the fun stuff now! Here we go with the garden theme! Our class is performing a lot of problem solving by using the knowledge we have gained while 'planting the seeds of future docs' with our basic sciences professors. Now our clinical professors are helping us to fortify and nourish that knowledge through clinical cases, discussions, presentations, physical exam exercises, and yes, learning to draw blood in phlebotomy lab! Finally, when we begin our internships, our clinicians will help us to harvest everything we have learned to that point by working with patients who need our care to 'return to the basis for health.' The learning never stops. My suspicion is that learning will kick into 'overdrive' once we graduate and have dropped our training wheels after leaving the clinic, so to speak. 


Speaking of gardens, this weekend was planting weekend for a few of us from NUHS who have garden plots in the Lombard Community Garden.  Many students and some professors have plots in the garden to grow veggies, herbs and flowers. In the picture above, Mike (chiropractic student), Sharilyn (ND student) and I take a small break to discuss planting strategies and the fact that we probably should be doing homework instead of gardening! :) We were kidding around about trying to pose similar to American Gothic, but I'm pretty sure we weren't supposed to have cheesy grins. Can't work all the time though! Rest is a determinant of health, and gardening is great rest for the mind and soul!

Former ND blogger Rachel used to post a Joy List item each week with her blog. In homage to her, I'll be posting a 'Thankfulness, Joy, Happiness' thought, quote or post over the next weeks.

Thankfulness Thought

This week (and all weeks) I'm thankful for my Mom, Bobbie Jo Ammons. She has supported four kids in their endeavors, trials and successes, all while taking care of now three generations of kids from our family. She never seems to tire with each succeeding generation of babies as they grow and mature. Happy Belated Mother's Day to my mom and all moms everywhere! 

Until next week, in the words of Dr. Louise Edwards, "Keep your vitamin R (rest, relaxation and rejuvenation) at a high level, smile a lot, and enjoy every minute!" 

Be well!