Just when I thought it was time to put away the winter coats and my turtleneck shirts, WHAM! comes winter roaring back again along with tornado watches, crazy wind, and rain, rain, rain, and more rain (the hail missed our farm). Our garlic is fine but the cold weather, some snow, combined with ALL the rain we have had makes it too miserable and not good for the soil to be out tromping around doing spring farm work. (Does Phoebe have sandy paws? No she has muddy paws, and belly, and tail, and nose, and is as happy as can be!)
So I am buckling down on finishing up 'stuff' on my desk and computer, knowing that soon, very soon, I will likely not be back to desk-work or paper-work (or vacuuming or dusting or unpacking) or even much computer-work for nearly 6 months. While I had been saying how much we will appreciate April, now I am saying how much we will all really, really appreciate May!
I don't accept many speaking engagements anymore, but I did recently visit Richmond, Virginia, where I was honored to be invited to deliver the opening session at The Virginia Dietetic Association. The theme of their meeting was "Steer Your Course", so I talked about my eclectic career, my various positions as a Registered Dietitian where I have been considered a pioneer expanding the professional boundaries, in which I have 'steered my course' from one end of the health care spectrum (kidney dialysis and then intensive care units focused on the extreme end of disease and treatments), to a middle ground (focused on nutritional aspects for optimizing cancer survivorship), to the far other end (organic farming focused on the other extreme of disease prevention and health creation).
I gave these RDs and students (I had the students show their hands and was thrilled! to see a big block of them in attendance) numerous, numerous examples of additional RDs who are currently working outside the box ('bok choi') so to speak, outside a 'typical' career path where they have also 'steered their own course' based on their own values. I showed them real-life examples of RDs who are also all currently pioneers also working at the far end of the health care spectrum focused on disease prevention and health creation, either right in the soil like I am or by facilitating various and multiple aspects of sustainable food and agricultural systems.
Several students came up to me afterward to thank me for everything I had to say. Since they are the future of our profession and the future of our country, I thanked them for coming, for listening, and for thinking widely about their career options. I urged them to jump in, to not to be afraid to be different, to Go Big! with their career, to be leaders now (don't wait until ________, fill in the blank), and to call me if they needed courage. Lastly I invited them to keep in touch with me to share their career plans or even to brainstorm with me if desired. It would give me great pleasure to include slides highlighting them as new RDs contributing in their own unique way to a fair food system if I do any future speaking.
In the meantime, I am also trying to finish reading a book recommended by a young woman I recently met, The Icarus Deception: How high will you fly? by Seth Godin (actually my new friend recommended the author, and this book, one of many he has written, was available at our library). IF I had read even part of this book prior to speaking at the Virginia Dietetic Association, I would have added it to my resource list, urging all dietitians to read it and think deeply about what is keeping each of us from thinking outside the box, expanding the boundaries of our careers, what is keeping each of us from being leaders?
Read this book for courage.
This book has finally given me validation that my work, particularly my work advocating for cancer survivors via my book, my website, my blogs, and my speaking has been my 'art' for nearly the past two decades. I already had come to that understanding without the language or the realization that other people also thought like this, that one's work can be and even should be viewed as an expression of art. I remember being bewildered several years ago when a copy of my book offered to a local silent auction was rejected because it was not considered 'art'. Huh?
Godin pushes out the edges of defining art and artists by saying "Being an artist isn't a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It's an attitude we can all adopt. It's a hunger to seize new ground by choosing to do something unpredictable and brave (deep breath here), making connections, and working without a map. If you do those things, you are an artist, and you are making art, no matter what is says on your business card." (slightly paraphrased by me)
I repeatedly find myself saying a quiet 'wow' as I am reading this book, wow for validation of what I have been doing, yes - we all need or at least appreciate validation, but also for a deeper understanding of how my work, yes - my art, has continued to develop and evolve. In addition, this book also highlights the vital nature and importance of connections to the creation of art, to our new 'connection economy', and to our sense of purpose.
It's a short book and an 'easy read', except that it's not. It's challenging, it's affirming, but it's mostly challenging. I have begun reading bits of it to my husband (always a sign of a good book!). The author has posed questions that we are thinking about together as we go forward with our joint 'art', i.e., our farm, our work.
It's also a hopeful book, which is important to me, as I read far too many depressing books about our many broken systems, even ones that try to end on a hopeful note.
This may be my last blog post for a while although I will be having several dietetic students on the farm over the next several months for the School to Farm Program sponsored by The Hunger & Environmental Dietetic Practice Group so perhaps I'll have them develop a blog post or two during their time with us. Thus I invite those of you who wish to stay connected to "Like" our farm's Facebook page so that you will automatically receive the short updates that my husband or I post there. For those of you who are not Facebook members, the very same short updates can be seen at the bottom of our farm's website www.dyerfamilyorganicfarm.com.
It's now been 18 years this month since my second breast cancer surgery, and it's been 16 years this month since my story as a Registered Dietitian/cancer survivor was written about in The Detroit Free Press, which was the article that first pushed me out of the trenches into the wide, wide world. So even though both wild weather and winter are still 'flying high' here during April in the upper Midwest this year, I am grateful beyond measure to also still be 'flying high' as a multiple-time cancer survivor with the opportunities before me to 'make a ruckus' (another of Godin's mandates!), to do something 'interesting' (yet another of his mandates), plus to be making art that is ultimately helping to create healthy communities.
Have a great spring and summer everyone! I'll check in when I'm able to carve out the time (I don't ever stop thinking about this blog and its readers). In the meantime, we have to get ready for our newest venture "Dick's Chicks!". We have 30 baby chicks arriving on May 16, and no, we are not ready for that steep learning curve yet. :) Interesting for sure, and perhaps even a neighborhood ruckus to boot since 50% of them are likely to be baby roosters!
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row, (and peep, peep, peep, too!)
Diana Dyer, MS, RD