Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, RN has an MS in Nutrition Science and her BS in Nursing. She has taught at Western CT State University in Danbury, CT focusing on holistic health including western based herbalism for thirteen years. She recently became certified as a Holistic Stress Management Instructor with Paramount Institute. She has taught Nutrition Science at college level. She is the author of At the Garden’s Gate, her journey in growing sustainable backyard meadow, following a Medicine Wheel of truths while working with nature.
*Can you walk us through how you first got started in your career path? Did you always know that you wanted to serve others and help today’s youth?
I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse since I was 3 or 4 years old. However as I got older the doors for becoming a doctor did not open. In fact, my parents were told to discourage me from becoming a doctor by our family physician. He was very disheartened by the changes he saw happening in medicine. He felt being a nurse would be okay. Back then we did not know of Doctors of Osteopathy or Naturopathy. My desire for a career in medicine never wavered though and I headed off to nursing school at UConn. A baccalaureate prepared nurse was a sign of the times. And, as it turned out many hospital based programs were beginning to be phased out.
We had a nursing club in High School. We helped a child who lived nearby recover from a car accident where she suffered brain trauma. She was placed on a strict routine of exercises to repattern her brain. We went after school to relieve her parents.
My favorite sphere of practice was visiting nursing where I specialized in cancer nursing.
Later on I transitioned from active clinical practice to working in the health food industry. I worked with customers in a variety of ways including their children. It was very rewarding. Eventually I received a Master’s degree in biochemistry/nutrition science and studied herbalism. I went on to design and implement 3 for credit classes on holistic health for Western CT State University in Danbury where I taught for 13 years. I enjoy teaching and especially enjoyed working with students from a variety of backgrounds.
Stepping off the western medical model became a turning point. Western medicine failed my younger son in terms of healing and prevention. I used my anger and frustration to explore alternative modalities and practitioners. I stepped away from western medicine and realized that alternative methods work and how they work and learned to be open to holistic ideas of healing. Western medicine at that time was very unsupportive of alternative practices. I was on my own. I had to find the courage to stand up for my child and my beliefs, not always easy. At the same time I sought out Native American elders and became passionate about learning about their philosophy, about dreams and wild edibles. My backyard meadow, the story in my book At the Garden’s Gate shares some of these experiences.
I feel that most folks who choose the medical profession want to relieve pain and suffering in some way. It is our way of being in service.
*I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
Success is not always defined by exterior accolades but rather how one feels about oneself. I have simply followed my dreams, saw many become real. Synthesizing information and creating bridges from western medicine to holistic medicine has been very rewarding. Seeing students come in at the beginning of a class with questions, uncertainties and then leave with a feeling their learning has expanded has been very rewarding.
Also, I have two successful grown sons who are good men, health conscious and for me that is a sign of my success. Has life been easy? No way. But believing in oneself, having a support system, using meditation, yoga, and disciplined focus has all helped.
*For teens today: I advise them to prepare a tool box – what practices, disciplines help them through some of life’s challenges. I had these discussions with my students and I enjoyed their questions. We looked at yoga, tai chi and the martial arts for example. We practiced mantras and different styles of meditations, going into the stillness. I met many older teens and young adults stressed out by the demands of college, family and work not to mention how our society has changed. We laughed and shared stories. There were often amazed at the effect meditation had on their lives. It was if they were thirsty for some way to turn down the noise of the outside world. Some changed their diets. Some really liked the research into herbal medicine. They began to shake off the fear of trying something new. My personal experiences of doing what I shared made a difference too.
We all have struggles. Life will have ups and downs. Look at who is truthful in their lives? Who are the elders they admire? Where is their spirituality? Help someone. Whenever life got me down, I looked for a way to lend a helping hand, smile when out and about. It always helped.
Lastly, believe in yourself. We all have gifts to share. We all have something stirring within us to be more, share more. Enjoy the process and the discovery. Laugh more. Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. Life is too short to be among negative thinking.
*What else do you want to tell us about what you do and what you want to eventually be doing?
Today I am focused on writing, speaking and consulting.
For example, in Jan 2015, I moved back to CT to the Tolland/Vernon area. I am a Master Gardener and approached the folks who run the Tolland Youth Garden at Crandall Park in Tolland. I offered two suggestions and they were thrilled with both. We chose one, a circle garden for this year’s project. I designed the circle area and wrote the proposal which was accepted by the town. The circle you see above is called the Turtle Circle.
So many folks young and old helped. It is set up to true north. An analemmatic sundial sits in the center. Not only will the circle help the children with their orientation skills but it can get them involved in a deep understanding of sitting in council circle. We placed flowers in the colors of the four directions. We are waiting for platforms to be constructed that will house 12 plant fact sheets that will be placed around the circle. While the circle sits in the designated youth garden it abuts the paved walking trail. Folks stop, often chat and ask questions and some even volunteer.
The children will be creating the designs for each stump this winter. We will plant them in the spring.
A circle teaches on many levels. I brought my talking stick and explained the teaching behind this tool and what is symbolizes. Respect, respect given to the listener and the respect given as a listener are highlighted. We have the right to have our voice heard and with that right comes the responsibility to listen to another’s point of view.
My goal is to plant seeds of truth among these young folks. Who knows where or what will be carried forward?
Lastly, we ended our time by sitting together in this circle. We offered a prayer of gratitude, a prayer of thanks for all we have been given from the earth. This is not about religion. It’s about understanding the generous bounty of the earth and saying thank you. My Native American elders and friends would be proud to see these teachings carried forward. The circle garden is one of my dreams made manifest. This project has been so supported by young and old alike. Whether we consciously know about the specific uses of a wheel such as the one pictured above or not the message reaches us. In a circle we are all equal, we have the right to be heard and the responsibility to listen.
My journey today is about creating bridges of understanding whether understanding the holistic intelligence in nature or the holistic intelligence within ourselves. These discussions can take place with teenagers or adults.
My book, At the Garden’s Gate, sets up a tone for that dialogue. I have started my next book. I hope to see a children’s series published as well. Lots to do and love it. My website: judithdreyer.com has the list of public speaking engagements and classes.
*How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
Folks can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: judithdreyer.com. I write a blog and they can follow that as well. Instructions are on the site.
Classes, speaking engagements, book signing events are posted there as well.
Please note: The Tolland Youth Garden is a project of Garden Path Garden Club of Tolland. The youth garden operates on donations and volunteers. Folks can contact me if they would like to make a donation.
Thanks for your time Judith and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.
* PURCHASE “THE STORM” http://tinyurl.com/glxzjaf