I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, but have lived in Florida 15 years. Growing up, I never knew I had it so deliciously good.
My grandparents and extended family grew most of our vegetables, so it is no wonder that at dinnertime no veggies were ever left sitting on the plate!
Although I have travelled all around 3 continents and over 30 countries, the realization that not everyone’s grandpa grew their food came kinda late in life. I was 21 and having Thanksgiving dinner away from home for the first time.
When the host set microwaved broccoli on the table as the vegetable, a wave of horror swept over me. Where are Grandpa’s butter beans and corn and black eyed peas? Where are Me-ma’s sweet pickles and homemade rolls?
And it hit me like soggy wet broccoli in the face. Not everyone’s grandpa grows their food.
(See my Grandpa in his garden he loved so much!)
My 2nd realization came when I began teaching. The first week of school I was horrified at what the children ate for lunch. So processed, so packaged, so off the grocery shelf. Yuck! That was when I put it all together. People no longer know how to grow their own.
Children don’t spend summer mornings in the garden with their grandpa taking care of string beans or afternoons drawing and shelling butter beans on the stoop with their great grandmother.
I realized how fortunate I was and I have to pass this joyful knowledge on to the children in my life. I quickly applied for a small grant and began gardening and journaling with my students in a way that used art as the thread to weave the garden across every aspect of our classroom learning.
Fast forward 10 years and after countless gardening questions from parents and colleagues, I knew I had to grow this work further. So I left the classroom to write and illustrate Wings, Worms, and Wonderand learn more about why gardening and arts based nature connection in childhood is so crucial for happy healthy lives.
And here we are today! I love that everyday I get to help adults create experiences that connect themselves and the children in their lives to nature through gardening and the arts, while also sparking their own senses of wonder toward their natural world.
That’s how this garden grew! Still want to know more?
Check this list of 10 fun facts!
1. My favorite staple veggie to grow is kale because it is so easy, delicious, and healthy, but my fave all time veggie to grow is black-eye peas because they are so nostalgic for me.
2. I have been vegan for 18 years, and vegetarian for 22, for both health and ethical reasons, even though I come from a family of hunters. Surprisingly, though I don’t participate, I am okay with hunting when practiced responsibly.
3. I love art equally as much as gardening and wanted to be an artist since I was tiny. My favorite artists right now are Jeni Yang, Etam Cru, MOMO, and Emily Winfield Martin. (Not counting my partner Sean Mahan!)
4. I love the tropics and really really hot humid weather. Give me 90 degrees and 95% humidity any day! But, I also love the snow. I reverse snowbird by spending summers in the tropics surfing and winters snowboarding in the Blue Ridge.
5. I am a certified Integral Yoga instructor. I apply yogic philosophy to everything I do and think it is a great tool for connecting to nature. Recently I have started teaching workshops on using Yoga for connecting to nature.
6. I love to travel. I went abroad and flew on a plane alone both at age 10, traveled abroad alone at age 16, and I haven’t stopped since! I have been to 25 countries, 4 continents, and counting…
7. I love punk rock. Not just the old reckless 80s style you think of, but the modern feminist, folk punk, amazing community of artistic activists you’ve probably never heard of working for gender equality, environmental sustainability, and true freedom through DIY peaceful living. Sound interesting? Check out music by Spoonboy, The Smittens, Trophy Wife, & my all time fave Morrissey!
8. I have 13 nieces and nephews & hundreds of former students, but no children of my own. I borrow one anytime I like!
9. I have been unmarried to my partner Sean for 19 years, and we are as happy as 2 peas in a pod! We have travelled the world together discovering tropical fruits, painting murals, and working on organic farms. I can’t wait to see what adventures the next 19 years bring!
10. This veggie loving gardener has a huge sweet tooth!!!! I would eat vegan sweets over anything at any time of day hands down. Let’s swap cookie recipes!! My faves are Mexican hot chocolate cookies and chocolate chip with crystalized ginger!