Lamplight Chat: Sitting Down With Nina Nelson

Lamplight Chats are informal little interviews, giving you a delicious glimpse into the paths of women who chased their dreams and found them. I like to think of these feature pieces as sitting at the timeworn kitchen table, chatting quietly over mugs of something lovely. A spotlight in such a gentle place would be far too harsh. Oh, but a lamplight, casting a soft glow from its iron lantern…. That seems just right. Pull up a chair and join us, won’t you? 

I am honored to feature Nina Nelson of in this month’s Lamplight Chat. 

I first came across Nina’s blog when researching how to convert a bus into a dwelling place (you can go to her website to read about her adventures of living in a converted school bus. Her writing style and adventurous spirit instantly captivated me and I’ve been a supporter of her work ever since.

But more than my interest in her stories about converted school bus life, I was drawn in by how she found a way to discover herself and live her dream. In one cozy corner of her website, she sweetly confesses her secret desire to be the medicine woman of her village. Witnessing her in that raw and vulnerable space of speaking her dream aloud, I found myself rooting for her. Hoping she found her way, and admiring her courage for trying. Indeed, she did find her way. 

Today, Nina lives her dream, empowering women to create more wellness and greater happiness in their families. Here is the treasured transcript of our Lamplight Chat….

Q. Can you tell us about what inspired you to create Shalom Mama?

A. I was really, really bored. My life consisted of going to a job I hated, cleaning my house non-stop (I had 2 or 3 small children at the time - I can't remember exactly how many) and feeling like there should just be ... more. I was in desperate need of a creative outlet. One day, at said job, my boss gave me a newspaper story about a blogger who had created a living by sharing her writing with the world. I was intrigued. I was also confused. I thought this was something you got hired to do and I couldn't find blogging jobs anywhere. I gave up on the idea until, a few months later, I figured out that you're actually supposed to start the blog yourself. So I began chronicling my natural living journey (it was new to me at the time), thoughts on motherhood and the like. As time went on, I learned more about building a business and dove into personal development. The blog evolved from there into a place where I help other families create happier, healthier homes.

Q. As your path has unfolded, you found your dream in empowering others as a healer. Can you talk about that?

A. Yes! I've wanted to be a healer of some kind since I was a little girl. First an OB nurse, so I could work with babies. Then I wanted to be an obstetrician. At one point, I wanted to be a massage therapist because I've always been able to put my hands on someone and feel where they're hurting and work out the pain with my hands. But I also didn't want to massage hairy strangers. 

I eventually got on the certified nurse midwife path (I'm seriously crazy about babies - and miniature horses) and was a shoe-in for a nursing program at the hospital I worked for. Then I found out I was pregnant with my third child and my second was only a few months old. It was WAY unexpected, but I'm so glad that happened because it was during that pregnancy that I learned about traditional midwives and gave birth to my daughter (and my next son) at home with the assistance of a skilled midwife. 

After some time, I enrolled in midwifery training so I could assist women in their home births. A year in, though, it just didn't feel right anymore. It was then that I saw that I was doing what I wanted to do already through my blog - teaching others how to become healers in their own home with food, herbs, essential oils and the like. I just wanted some more hands-on work.

Now, I'm doing more online classes (like this one and this one) so I can reach more people. I'm also doing some energy work locally. In the future I hope to travel and teach in-person workshops on natural living. It's been quite the journey!

Q. You speak about how at one point you thought the only way to help heal people was through traditional, formal routes. What happened that changed your mind?

A. I love learning and when I'm passionate about something, read anything I can to further my knowledge on the subject. When my husband and I decided to get out of debt, I read everything I could on how to cut expenses and pay off debt faster. It was then that I discovered the concept of natural living and began learning more about natural homemaking and natural medicine, particularly herbs. (You'd think I would have caught on quicker since my dad's an organic herb farmer, but I'm stubborn and pick things up in my own time.)

I was particularly interested in natural medicine and I began sharing what I was learning via my blog. Because I would read about different herbs and think, "Oh! Those would be great in this kind of recipe", I also shared recipes I created. It didn't take long before I got feedback from readers about how I was helping them and then people asked if they could buy the remedies I made. It was then that I saw that I was helping people simply by sharing what I learned and inspiring them to try it themselves. Because I explained it simply, it felt doable and they felt empowered to become their own family healer. I realized then that there are many ways to help people heal, not just the typical clinical setting.

Q. As you built your blog and came to clarity around your dream business, did your inner critic show up? If so, what helped you keep going in those times?

A. Oh my goodness, yes. And she is loud! There were so many times I was ready to call it quits and shut everything down. But. I am really stubborn and it takes a lot to make me quit something I set my mind to (which has also gotten me in trouble!). What helped was having a vision of what I desired to create and knowing with certainty that I could do it. I read stories of others who persevered (particularly moms) to gain inspiration. I would also look back on milestones and positive emails from readers to remind myself that I had come a long way and what I was doing was making a difference in people's lives. 

One of my favorite quotes, that I spurs me on every time I want to quit is this: "You can always quit. Just do it on a good day." 

Q. I love reading about the bus! As a small space enthusiast myself, I know small space living can really teach you a lot about life and self. What’s your favorite takeaway from the experience of bus dwelling?

A. Thanks! That was quite an adventure. My favorite take away was that contentment is a choice - it's not based on circumstances. We lived in a tiny space with four kids. Our toilet stopped working for a while. We lived in it during the coldest winter central Oregon had seen in over 30 years and even woke up one morning to find it was 14 degrees (inside!) because the wind had blown out the pilot light in our heater. And I saw that I could be miserable about each circumstance or choose to be content and grateful for what I had.

Q. Is there a piece of advice or inspiration that you would share with other women who are on the path of living with more intention or making a living through their dream microbusiness?

A. Just. Keep. Going. And go all in. I love my business, which has evolved SO much over the years and I'm sure it will do so even more in the future. But that never would have happened had I thrown in the towel early on. Building a business takes the decision to make it happen no matter what - being willing to do whatever it takes. And then taking the necessary steps forward, as scary as they may feel. But it all starts with that choice to make it happen.

The same is true for living with more intention or really any dream you have.

I see Nina to the virtual cabin door, and I smile as I blow out the lamplight, still pondering her wise words. Yes, the decision to make it happen is such an important thing. A weight lifts when you decide to live your dream. You don’t have to know how or all the particulars, but making the decision sets all of it in motion. Somewhere deep in your heart of hearts, you’re waiting to come home to self. As Nina says, her dream is in her blood. Yours is too. 


2 Minute Take-Away (Journal Prompt): Nina pointed put the importance of not throwing in the towel when things are rough. Write a letter from your future (happy and successful) self, telling you why you should keep going and not throw in the towel. This wisdom is within you, just listen deeply and you will hear.