Monthly Chai 7: November 2014

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Oh, November. It always creeps up so fast. Somehow, September and October just fly by, with their gorgeous colors and crisp air…and then it’s November, which feels like the Month That Lasts Forever. I must be honest, my friends, this past month has been a challenging one…and while I love Thanksgiving, November is not on my List of Favorite Months. School itself is fine, and work (work! have I even had time to write about that yet?!) is also fine, I just can’t avoid the November Doldrums that come around when the sun slips behind the grey.

So in the spirit of openness and vulnerability, I’ll invite you in to my new office to catch up on the past month, yours and mine. I’ll crank up the heat and put my indoor Uggs on. Tea kettle bubbling, I’ll pour us each a Good Earth Sweet and Spicy tea, brewing it extra dark. I’ll pull up my Miles Davis Pandora station and let you get settled in the new comfy chair.

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After asking you about your month and hearing all the latest news from your corner, I’ll share that it’s hard sometimes, knowing how honest to be about the ups and downs of life. Each person’s journey is so different. I don’t want to make anyone feel like there’s a right or wrong way to go through midwifery school. I will say, though, everyone warned me that being in midwifery school can be challenging not just for us as students, but also for our partners.

Between being super busy with assignments and clinical, never having time to cook dinner or do laundry, and always talking about vaginas at every opportunity, being the partner of a midwifery student is not for the faint of heart. I like to think that B and I figured some things out while I was in nursing school (ie, take-out is a perfectly reasonable dinner option and not just during finals week)…but the truth is, it’s hard work for both of us to make sure that we’re making enough time for each other. Midwifery school demands a lot of energy, and not always just academic. It can be hard to summon the energy to be fully present to the other aspects of our lives and relationships.

I share this not to scare people, but because I think strong relationships, of all kinds, are vital to surviving midwifery school. In that vein, I’m always reminding myself that nurturing those relationships is just as important as the papers and labs and loads of reading…the trick is learning how to balance work and home with awareness and sensitivity. Let’s just say some weeks are better than others. Just when I think I have some kind of routine down, the quarter ends and then we’re back to the beginning again.

Taking another sip of chai and casting a dubious look out the rain-covered window, I’d ask you how you find motivation on the days when it feels easier just to snuggle down under the covers. My regular care routine includes a sun lamp (essential in Oregon!), lots of Vitamin D and adrenal support herbs. I’m also much more gentle with myself in terms of the number of social engagements I commit to attending. November is my month for holing up with a book and some tea most nights per week. Or, let’s be real: just going to bed really early.

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I’d also share how grateful I am to have this new office of mine. After nine years of sharing office space with B, I decided it was time for a room of my own. B works from home and is on the computer/phone all the time, which makes studying at home a challenge. So, with the bit of extra income from my new job, I’m renting a little 8×8 room near work. Most of November has been spent slowly making it my own space. I didn’t realize how much I needed this space until I had it…but now I can’t imagine my life without it. I know it’s such a luxury, especially as a student…but it has been such a gift during this dark, cold weeks. Having such a warm cozy space outside my house makes it a little easier to drum up motivation to get going on the days I’d rather hide under the blankets. 

Pausing to refill with some fresh hot water, I’d share that despite moving a bit more slowly these days, I’ve still got some exciting projects on the burners…between planning our annual Roe v. Wade anniversary event on campus with local medical and law students, stepping into a board position with Nursing Students for Choice, and settling into my own with my job (more soon, I promise!), life is feeling full. It will be interesting to see how this all flows next term when I add prenatal clinic to my schedule (can’t. wait!!!).

Before we wrap up, I’ll share the start of my winter break fun list…and invite you to share what’s on yours!

  1. Christmas Snowshoeing at Mt. Adams
  2. Knitting!!!
  3. Making lots of soups and dishes with potatoes…
  4. Reading, of course! This, and this, and this…to start.

Wishing you a nourishing November, that flows at just the right speed for you. See you in December, post-finals!

 

Monthly Chai: 1

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I’ve been wanting to join Stephanie over at Feminist Midwife in her Monthly Chai posts for a while. I love the idea of pulling up a virtual chair and a real cuppa chai and settling in for a chat about life, the universe and everything. So, in the spirit of developing more community and connection across the Digital Divide, welcome to my inaugural Monthly Chai post!

As I inhale the spicy sweet aroma of my chai, I’d excitedly share that I had the chance to meet another midwife blogger this weekend, for the chai photographed above. Robin, who beautifully blogs over at The Mindful Midwife, happened to be in town, so we met up. We were both feeling a bit bummed that we couldn’t be in Denver for the ACNM Annual Meeting, but it was lovely to have an impromptu “satellite” meeting. I got to hear about her first week in her new job, and she shared some great advice about how to develop those hands-on skills that are so essential to midwifery care (getting my hands on every round object possible to start teaching my hands how to measure dilation, for example). I left feeling a bit more inspired and confident that I’m on the right path and grateful for the support and encouragement that seems to flow from every corner of this wonderful community of midwives.

While savoring the warmth of my chai (spring in Portland means I go back and forth between wanting hot chai or iced chai–today’s a warm chai day), I’d sigh a little bit about the hoop-jumping of school right now…but then I’d reassure you that really, overall, this term has been a good one. In terms of my clinical skills, I finally feel like I’m honing in on being able to do a full assessment and chart it before 9am…as long as I’m only responsible for one patient!

Sipping slowly, I’d sheepishly admit that I haven’t been the greatest at self-care this past month or so…especially in the realm of physical activity. It’s easy to get into that funk…”oh, I haven’t been for a run in a week. Ugh. Why start now?” Well, let me be the first to say it, friends, I feel pretty cruddy and can definitely tell that I’m not sleeping as well because of it. I am grateful that my clinical this term is close enough I can walk, which creates a lovely 30 minutes three days a week of walking…but let’s be clear–that is not the same as an aerobic workout!

I always know that things are moving fast when it’s been two weeks plus since the last blog post. Times like these are a good time for me to remember the sage advice of my patho and pharm professor, who would assure us that we would still learn all we needed to learn by doing it in smaller chunks: “You can’t eat the whole watermelon,” she’d say. “One slice at a time…and if you feel like it’s still too difficult, you can slice it even smaller.” Just don’t look at the rest of the watermelon waiting to be sliced on the counter.

So, yes to starting small. One slice. 30 minutes of jogging, with no attention to distance or speed.

As I approach the now cooling chai, I’d reflect a bit on the wonderful questions that Stephanie poses in her Monthly Chai:

What definition of may most resonates with you this month? For what are you expressing gratitude lately? How is your emotional health when you think about the short and long term of this life? What is coming up for you next? What fiction and reality and teaching and learning are reflecting on your work? What do you hope we could talk about next month, that you could put into writing now, and perhaps make it intentional going forward?

I’d reply that I’m fully embracing both the expectation and desire of may…as in, “I may be more excited about my upcoming summer practicum on L&D/MBU than the current GI stuff I’m studying right now.” Or, I may decide to not worry about the NCLEX until after I take a three week study-vacation to Mexico in September…because I refuse to buy into the group angst about this one exam…and because I technically have until December to pass!

I’d share that I’m constantly expressing gratitude to my husband B, for his patience with the way that my school life sometimes overruns our relationship…and his honesty when enough is enough and we need to regroup.

Getting down that part of the cup where all the concentrated spices have settled, I’d laughingly point to the stack of books on my night-stand, most of which have sat unopened since April. However, I’d wave my hands in excitement if you’ve been reading Emperor of Maladies, by Siddartha Mukherjee. The chapters are short enough that I can usually squeeze in one before bed and it’s such a well-written analysis of the intersections of medicine, politics, research and money in the “War Against Cancer.” And I’d point out that both Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah beckon enticingly, purchased over spring break in a momentary hopeful gesture..as in “Maybe I’ll have time for a fiction read this term!”

Finishing the last drops, I’d also excitedly share that I’m about to get involved with the planning of a reproductive health elective course offered each year on campus…which, to me, represents being just one step closer to being able to focus on repro health full-time. One slice at a time.

What are the “slices” of your watermelon that you’re focusing on now? What are the things you’re looking forward to this week, month, and summer? I know one thing that I will be exploring this summer is really focusing on building my practice as a clinician…starting to integrate the discrete skills into a holistic way of being with those I serve. I look forward to talking more about that process with anyone else who wants to share a chai next month!