by Renée Tillotson & Sarah Hodges
Kathe Gibbs has ushered 2000 newborns into their mothers’ waiting arms in the comfort, safety and sanctity of their homes. Now as one of the residents on Mouna Farm, Kathe provides her midwifery skills all over the island of ‘Oahu. “I go to where the mother is with my ‘concierge midwifery’ practice. I offer care throughout their childbearing year, sometimes working with families before conception. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege,” says Kathe, who is a Preceptor for The North American Registry of Midwives (NARM, which has been granted licensing oversight in the new Hawaii law).
Kathe experienced two great visions in her professional life, one of which fully manifested, the other of which is currently in process.
Back in 1974, after achieving her BS in Psychology and Early Childhood Education at UC Santa Cruz. She was doing graduate studies and teaching yoga when a paradigm shifting event revealed a different life path. She found herself unexpectedly serving as the sole attendant at a friend’s home birth. The baby’s father was out of reach, hiking in the back country when the mother-to-be went into labor. Unphased, and experienced in seeing home births herself, the first-time mother calmly guided Kathe through every step of the labor, from making a fire in the hearth, rubbing her back, boiling water, all the way to catching the baby!
Attending the birth of that baby was an “Aha” moment for Kathe. It left her charged with the joyous realization that – despite the impressions from culture, media and people’s stories – childbirth can be so natural, so much “the way things should be and always have been”. Kathe felt thunderstruck. She knew to the roots of her soul that she would spend her life caring for mothers and birthing families safely into the world.
As she had learned that 90% of all births are normal, she saw herself using ancient birthing practices in today’s world backed up by modern medicine if the situation calls for it. With that clear-as-crystal insight, Kathe began her years of women’s health care and midwifery, starting a Women’s Health Center in Tehran (1975-77). Formal midwifery and clinical training began in 1979 at the Seattle Midwifery school. Her education and instruction (listed below) included a B.S. in Nursing. She was in the first group of midwives to be licensed in both Washington state (1981) and California (1995).
In practice on her own, as well as in partnerships and in many clinical settings, Kathe has attended births in California, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C, Texas, New Mexico, Iran, the West Indies, as well as here on the islands of Hawaii, where many of her clients are military families.
As a NARM Preceptor, and officially certified by the Midwifery College of Utah and the National College of Midwifery, Kathe has served as an educator, overseeing the academic and clinical training of new midwives. By 2001, Kathe had a thriving midwifery practice in Santa Cruz, California, attending to births in the safety and comfort of the mothers’ homes.
In late 2010, Kathe experienced the second vision of her life to come, triggered by the question: “How would your life be different if you had a place to go?” She saw “A Place for Women”. It would be a women’s clinical training site, a birthing center where women of all backgrounds could come together as early as pre-conception, and receive continued education, advocacy and support through the three trimesters of their pregnancies, as well as postpartum. In the hands of skilled midwives, as well as other medical professionals, these mothers would give safe, strongly supported and joyous births.
She had brought her children to Hawaii every summer for decades. After seeing the Hawaiian film Ola, which featured both Mouna Farm and other innovative health programs, she felt irresistibly drawn to the islands. When she reviewed the Hawaii 2020 Health Goals, she recognized a HUGE need for women to have better access and affordability to comprehensive maternal and infant care. In 2015 she closed her California practice and moved to Hawaii to fulfill her second vision. After some time in Hawaii Kai, she happily landed on Mouna Farm, a place of inspiration and healthy living for all.
Dreams, like all births, begin as a seed, tucked into a small, fertile place to be nurtured into being. Kathe is carefully tending her model and idea of “A Place for Women”, a wellness center and birthing home. Kathe commits herself to giving back to the community, which appreciates her safe, supportive, and restorative service to women and their babies. She knows that the goal of improving society’s care for women, like pregnancy, requires patience. Her dream is alive and well, and promises to be very successful, uplifting women in so many ways.
Kathe’s Educational Background
1977 Informed Homebirth Childbirth Educator training, MA
1979 – 1981 Seattle Home Maternity Service, Preceptorship, WA
1979 – 1981 Seattle Midwifery School, WA
1980 High Point Community Women’s Clinic, Women’s Health Preceptorship WA
1981 St. Jude’s hospital, Preceptorship West Indies
1983 – 1985 Regents College, BSN program NY
2004 – 2006 Naturopathic Graduate Studies, Clayton College of Natural Health
Full Circle – Midwifery
650.269.0853 / http://www.fullcirclemidwifery-hawaii.com
Wondering what our Good Deeds Squad is up to?
A couple weeks ago, Marcia Iraha generously donated 150 yards of fabric to Still & Moving Center, having originally come to hula with Anne Shirai, one of our devoted hula students from Japan. Marcia gave it to our official Ambassador of Aloha, Doris Morisaki.
Hmmm… How to make best use of a box of fabric in these Covid 19 days? One yard of fabric yields around 12 – 15 masks as a layer of protection against infection. However, Doris doesn’t consider herself much of a seamstress…. So, she made some coconut wireless inquiries and soon came up with a solution.
Keani Alcoran, a former hula student at the Still & Moving Center, runs logistics while her mom and aunty sew masks. Doris connected this team of family mask-makers with Marcia to receive a portion of her fabric gift. Keani’s family then donated the masks to first responders.
Doris also discovered that our very own yoga teacher, Lee-Ann Kong, formerly a fashion designer, has also joined the ranks of volunteer mask sewers in Hawaii, creating masks for first responders and medical workers. Doris provided the rest of Marcia’s fabric donation to Lee-Ann for her generous production. Lee-Ann’s most recent delivery of dozens of masks went to Pali Momi.
Doris’ resourceful connection of Marcia’s bountiful donation with two industrious mask sewing teams on Oahu thereby multiplied the acts of generosity. Good deeds galore!
Even though where we go and who we see in person right now may be limited, there are many out there in the community who are finding ways to still connect, share their talents and skills, and do good deeds. We want to celebrate these people!
This article could have been the lead story for our letter. I’m so proud of our team.
In the lightening speed that everything changed for all of us here on island, we heard about “flattening the curve” and we shut our doors after the last class Monday night, March 16. I’m delighted to say we re-opened classes on Sunday, March 22nd, after only 5 days of closure, to a very receptive student body! Let’s recognize the magnificent efforts of the Still & Moving staff and faculty in making that happen, lead by our Operations Manager Neela Vadivel.
I had to make the harrowing decision, just after our 9th birthday – which we didn’t dare celebrate – to shut the doors and walk away for who knows how long. Yet our team’s surge of resolve in the face of a huge challenge has left me breathless with admiration.
The Still & Moving Almanac quote for our online opening day turned out to be: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance,” by Alan Watts in the week of Dancing Through Life.
Oh my gosh, do our staff, faculty and students know how to dance!
As a group, we knew virtually nothing about online classes, except for a small, low-tech Nia Mentorship group that I’ve been running once a week for the last 5 years. We needed to know the latest, greatest online platform for teaching, and we needed to know it yesterday.
Neela strode forward to spearhead our efforts. She and I quickly determined that Zoom provided the best service once our yoga teacher Joelle Ng gave us a demo. Neela then set to work organizing a few key staff members to learn the technology, setting up private lessons for all the faculty to teach online.
Yes, we wanted to keep giving our top-quality movement classes. We were also determined to keep our teacher-student and student-student interconnections strong through LIVE, INTERACTIVE online classed, in which everyone could share before and after class. That’s a different animal than recorded classes. Live, interactive online classes require constant supervision by our staff to help our students get into the broadcast, help the teachers manage the technology required, and keep all the timing like clockwork. Unmanaged, the system would leave lots of room for snafus that would feel unprofessional.
Neela describes her experience: “Transferring nearly 100% of our classes to an entirely online platform can only be described as an exercise in frustration and vulnerability – exhilarating at times and downright infuriating at others.
“We dove into the unknown, headfirst, with none of us having even the slightest experience managing IT, while concurrently training ourselves, each other, our teachers and our students.”
Neela accepted the brunt of all the transition work, taking the studio phone home to monitor 24 hours a day until we finally managed to divvy up the workload. She made sure that no one stepped onto the Zoom stage unprepared to deliver their class or unsupported by plenty of staff behind the scenes.
Our teachers bravely agreed to teach online, to be a link of normalcy to our ‘ohana at a time when everything is topsy-turvy. They’ve been so heroic, completely adapting their classes to teach to a group we can only see as tiny squares on a computer screen, changing our right-left cueing because now our students are moving in our mirror image, learning to feed both our music and our voices directly into the computer with technology we’ve never used before. We’ve been willing to take the chance of falling flat on our faces – like having all the sound equipment fail for the first 15 minutes of a class – and keep smiling and dancing all the way to the end.
As Kendra Gillis reports from the front desk: “I won’t say it wasn’t a shock to the nervous system as it definitely was. It was a quick decision to close the studio with an even quicker decision to move everything online. But when you have a team who are motivated, things flow much easier. We all learned something new together. Rather than one or two “knowing” and teaching others, we all stepped into this blind but willing to learn as a team. I think that’s fantastic. And I’m really enjoying teaching my own classes online.”
Like Neela, Emily joined Still & Moving Center’s staff after working for years in Cirque du Soleil, where she served as stage manager. Emily says: “My skill base is in crisis management, organization and leadership, so this transition has been very engaging for me. In a time when we’re experiencing a global crisis it’s so easy to feel alone and helpless. But serving our community and seeing how grateful everyone is gives me a sense of purpose.”
One of our newest staffers, Sarah Hodges describes her experience: “The task of getting our whole studio online looked insurmountable to me, especially since none of us were pros in online conferencing. We sat together and every day and did research, talked to other studios who were moving online, and what seemed impossible just started to happen. It was pretty miraculous. And then I went online and saw classes full, with students from all around the world! It felt like a big win for everybody.”
According to our Feldenkrais teacher Eva Geueke, these online classes are fulfilling a prediction from Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais that some day this self-healing technique would be in every living room!
Kendra adds, “As someone who loves being home, loves being introverted, this has been an awesome experience. I’ve been taking more classes than ever before at Still & Moving… without actually being there! I’m excited for what this online format holds for the center in the future.”
And here are a few comments we’re hearing from our grateful students:
– The teacher is smiling at me!
– I’m so happy, being in Vietnam, that I can finally take classes again at Still & Moving!
– My teachers are pros.
– It’s wonderful to move again and to connect with fellow students.
– I sure hope you keep offering online classes even after you open back up.
And no doubt we will. It’s a brave new world out there, and our staff, teachers and students are definitely rising to the challenges of it.
By Sarah Hodges
“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
― Leo Buscaglia
Starting three months ago, 20 young participants of YouthBuild Waimaānalo took on the task of building new small houses for the homeless. They’re working alongside general contractor Gary Silva and his subcontractors, who mentor the kids in the field. Those very structures are now being incorporated into Waimānalo Kau Hale, behind Blanche McMillan’s home. As the youth are putting up the structures, they’re helping to bring a new village to life during this time when solid shelters are so much in need. U’ilani Fonoti, program director for YouthBuild says about this effort, “It has been an amazing experience to see how Waimanalo comes together and works to solve problems. It’s a testimony to the community support, that without funding we’ve been able to get this homeless village up and running.”
Together we are stronger, and that includes looking out for everybody in our communities. YouthBuild Waimānalo launched in 2017, receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild, with the initiative to empower young people who would greatly benefit from the support. YouthBuild Waimanalo helps at-risk youth between ages 16-24 years old to earn a GED, learn important skills that prepare them for the workforce, and gain the confidence through on-site experience to enter Hawai’i’s construction industry or move towards other goals that they may set during the course of the program. The program offers its services to youth who have dropped out of high school, are facing homelessness, adjudication, aging out of foster care, or have disabilities.
The program not only prepares youth with practical construction skills for this crucial industry in Hawai’i, but also arms them with a restored self-worth and sense of personal responsibility. YouthBuild mentors teach construction skills in the hope that one day the upcoming generation will alleviate Hawai’i’s current and worsening housing crisis. The program plants a seed by empowering the young.
Before embarking on house building this year, the kids of YouthBuild helped families on Hawaiian Homestead land with home repair and smaller construction tasks, such as widening door frames. All of their work forges a deepening connection to the community. Through the program these at-risk youth can form powerful relationships with potential employers, developing skills to make life changing contributions to others in need.
I’m enormously heartened to learn about these noble efforts in our community, and to witness people coming together with the shared vision to lift up those who may be struggling, and ourselves along the way.
by Renée Tillotson
Lee-Ann has lived a life that shows the benefits of an extended ‘ohana. Although her parents lived in Hawaii Kai, Lee-Ann spent most of her time with her grandparents and aunt in Kaimuki. “My parents tried their best, but I was their first kid and they were young. They were making the best decisions they could, but that didn’t do it for me. That’s OK. It made me self-reliant.”
“My grandparents were the best people in the world, so supportive and so amazing. They grew up in the WWII era. My grandmother was pulled out of school to work when she was in about 6th grade. She taught me to value education, to take care of my things, and to take care of myself. She had a great sense of humor. They both passed many years ago. I miss them very much but they are very alive in me.
“Whenever I have a dream about my grandmother, she’s laughing. That’s the best thing, no matter what’s going on. It’s important to be positive because we create our own reality. We can see past things that we perceive as negative. Things always turn out as they should in the end, and we’re always taken to a better place. It’s important to be happy where you are. All you have is YOU. Make your own happiness, and you’ll be happy all the time,” affirms Lee-Ann.
Once you take one of Lee-Ann’s yoga or AiReal yoga classes, you’ll find laughter and happiness to be trademark signatures of her teaching style.
Lee-Ann reports that she was not very active to begin with: “I was a chubby little kid who liked to hang out in my aunt’s kitchen and bake.” It wasn’t until college at Honolulu Community College (HCC) that she started rock climbing and hiking. Once she left college to pursue fashion design and her climbing friends moved away, she felt the need to keep moving.
She attended Zumba classes with a friend, and her favorite part turned out to be the yoga stretches at the end. While she liked the yoga videos she tried, she wanted “someone supervising me to make sure I was doing it right.”
A friend gave Lee-Ann a Groupon for a little yoga studio behind the teacher’s house, where she learned a lot every Wednesday morning. Before moving away to the mainland, her teacher put the idea into her head to eventually take a yoga teacher training.
Lee-Ann has worked full time at Sedona for 20 years, helping people find items that assist them in their lives: gems, talking with energy readers, energetically-charged fragrance oils, feng-shui tips, and just talking. One day a customer of hers at Sedona named April Patterson offered Lee-Ann a free yoga class at Still & Moving where April taught Yoga for the Stiffs.
As Lee-Ann describes her yoga journey here: “I thought April’s class was just great, and then she moved. Then I attended David Sanders’ classes and I loved how he shared so much for us to think about during the postures. Once Claudia subbed for David, I thought SHE was great! When Claudia told us about her yoga teacher training, I knew it was the right thing at the right time for me. It’s always better to know more than less.
“At our teacher training, Claudia was tremendous at teaching the basics of how to do the poses, breaking the moves down and doing each asana with proper alignment. I know people who complain of getting hurt in yoga… Not the way Claudia teaches! And Claudia is always so supportive and open to our questions. I really appreciate her love for what she does.”
We hired Lee-Ann first as a sub and then as a team teacher of a unique, team-taught class called Yin-Yang Yoga. One day she and her co-teacher Ciara Steynberg ventured upstairs to try an aerial dance class with Kezia Holm. That eventually led to Yumi Hi’s AiReal yoga classes, where she found Yumi to be hilarious. Once Carmen Curtis, the founder of AiReal yoga, came to deliver a teacher training at Still & Moving, Lee-Ann was all in!
“Carmen taught us that poses are ONLY safe when done in proper alignment. I learned from her that a lot is going on inside that you may not see from the outside. So I learned to find the moves from the inside out, so to speak.”
“Everyone can benefit from some style of yoga. In the case of AiReal yoga, it’s actually easier than regular yoga to do a number of moves. Using the hammock as a prop actually allows people to get into postures that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. The aerial hammock gives students more accessibility to yoga poses that their joints or their lack of strength or their stiffness might otherwise allow them to do. They have LESS chance of hurting themselves in the hammock than they do on the mat!’
Whether doing yoga on the mat or in the hammock, Lee-Ann reports psychological benefits beyond the physical ones: “Yoga can calm people down, taking their brain off their day. Yoga helps you focus on the present moment so that you can keep your balance and breathe and find your alignment. It gives you a mental vacation.
“I ask people not to take yoga or AiReal yoga so seriously. I add some humor. I encourage students laughing, talking, even swearing if they want to! And people do! I like to interact with everyone to know that each student is OK. I ask people about specific parts of their bodies, getting them to really tune in. And I try to make things funny, especially if we’re doing a pose that’s not particularly comfortable!
Lee-Ann remains grounded in her extended ‘ohana. She has friends at Sedona who come from really rough childhoods, and who also were not close with their parents. “We make it a point to be supportive and loving in a way that we weren’t supported as children.”
With her parents and younger sister now having moved away to the mainland, Lee-Ann stays close to her aunties. In fact, two aunties in their sixties now attend her AiReal yoga classes! Even if they started taking class to support Lee-Ann, they are now earnest students finding that AiReal yoga effectively gets them into shape.
Lee-Ann enthuses: “My aunties are having a great time! They go upside down and find great support in the hammock, doing moves they can’t do on the mat. I am so proud of them!”
And we are proud of Lee-Ann for her can-do, make-my-world-a-happy-place approach to life.