Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Add to My MSN



Recently I wrote about death and the process of dying. Since that post, I had the honor of attending one of those folk’s — a friend and former boss of mine’s — memorials. Each time I attend a celebration of life, funeral, or memorial, I am reminded of how we touch each others lives.

When my friend Glenn’s widow was planning her husband’s event, she was trying to determine how many would attend, so she’d have some idea of how many to plan for, how much food and how many beverages to buy. Friends suggested she should plan for a couple of hundred. In reality, many more than that attended. Ultimately, I won’t remember many showed up, but I will never forget what was said by many who came.

“One time when we were at dinner,” one person said, “he asked the waitress to let him pay for the check for the strangers dining at the table next to us, anonymously." Another offered, “He saved a boat of stranded fisherman, and made sure that no one would repeat the story, because he didn't want credit." Later, as I reflected on all the stories told at the event, I was deeply moved by how this man truly touched and enriched other humans’ lives, both those he knew and those he didn’t.

A twenty years after I’d worked for him and had gone to work for a competitor, my team needed help understanding Glenn’s business practices and why they worked. I took my team on a tour of Glenn’s company, and he offered suggestions. My team was bewildered. When they asked why he would be so generous, he answered, “friendship and collaboration.” Glenn was clear that for our county to be strong and financially healthy, manufacturing must be done here. His thinking was that there is plenty of business to share and “many hands make light work.”

This is the second boss that I have lost in my life. Both had great impact on me and taught me an enormous amount about the manufacturing business. At the funeral of the first boss who passed, I remember being struck by the same profound spirit of generosity. There were people at that funeral who had been down and out on their "luck," and he had continuously helped them out with the same caveat of confidentiality. Both these men had tremendous hearts and were happy to share as long as no credit was given.

My stepfather taught me from a very young age that giving from the heart without onlookers or notoriety is the most rewarding way to give. After his death, I have often thought about the kindness that he showed to others when no one was looking. I am thankful for this profound lesson and modeling.

In thinking about my end, the thing I will consider is not how many or who will attend a celebration, or if there should be one at all, but how many lives I may have touched and have touched mine.  

What can you give? How will you be remembered? How do you remember those who have died?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


baskets of veggies

Sometimes I get asked the same question over and over again - "How did you get started with a more natural lifestyle?" And honestly, we're not completely there yet. I still have guilty pleasures like Oreo cookies, ramen noodles, and chocolate just to name a few (stop judging). The road to trying to live healthier hasn't been a bummer at all. In fact, I have really enjoyed it. It has caused me to do things I've never done before. It allows me to make home made things for my family, which I know they thoroughly enjoy. But most of all, it has caused me to realize that I can take control of my family's health, and ultimately, for almost all (non-life threatening) mishaps or sickness, I can tend to my family without ever having to step foot into a doctors office.

While I am for holistic medicine, please understand that I completely realize there may come a time when we have to make a visit to the doctor's office or ER. Though, I hope it isn't anytime soon.

Nonetheless, it's always the same look and questions, followed by the elephant in the room, "how do you afford it?"

Believe it or not, not everyone you know shells out an arm and a leg for a more natural lifestyle. We pay what we can and leave the rest for the following week or month. We do the things we can and we settle for that. Because in the long run, a few healthy changes are better than none!

Here are five quick and easy changes that you can make to promote healthy living in your home. Keep in mind that you might have some kick back and grumbling from others who might be living in your household, but eventually, they will come around...maybe!

Start Cooking from Scratch

I was amazed by how much healthier we ate when I cooked a meal from scratch rather than a freezer container. Sometimes this meant breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other times, it just meant dinner. I grumbled and complained at first, but eventually I came to really enjoy what I made, especially when we quickly realized that it tasted so much better than the other stuff. Now that I cook more often, many times I'm disappointed with restaurant food, and I've noticed my husband is as well. There have been numerous times when he'll say, "this is disappointing, you could make this better at home." We've grown to realize what "fake" tastes like, and it's amazing and disappointing all at once. There are certainly still our guilty pleasures which we know aren't the healthiest decisions for us, but darn it, we like them!

People often think cooking from scratch is more expensive than buying frozen or eating out. In some cases, it can be. But when bought in bulk (flour, sugar, herd and meat shares) it is often less expensive. Most of our meat is venison, which we kill ourselves. The remainder of our meat either comes from our backyard or from herd shares with other homesteaders. With that said, I understand that raising your own meat might not be possible for you right now. However, going in halves with someone else on a cow, or buying a whole hog from another farmer will typically last a family of 3-4 for 5-6 months. If it's a large cow, it will last much longer and will be much less expensive and healthier than buying meat from a store. Many times, even a specialty store or farm store can be much more expensive than buying meat directly from a farmer and having the animal processed yourself.

Start Using Essential Oils and Herbal Remedies More Often

Start little. Don't take it on all at once. Start with everyday nicks, bumps, headaches, and the common cold. And remember that you've spent a lifetime putting bad things into your body. Switching to all natural remedies and Essential Oils (EOs) might not necessarily work miracles right away. Prevention, however, is key when going completely herbal. While EOs and herbal remedies can heal just as well as antibiotics in some cases, their biggest miracle happens when you begin using them as prevention to illness and disease.

In any case, please do not douse yourself or your family members in EOs everyday, it's not healthy when using for prevention. I always tend to try herbal remedies before automatically going for the EOs. EOs are so potent and should be used sparingly unless actively treating an ailment.

We could talk for days about which EO brand to use, but ultimately, it's whatever your budget can afford and what is the purest. I tend to stay away from large multi-level-marketing companies just because there is too much hype around them. I have, however, used many of them and loved them. I do prefer the Nature's Oil EOs though, from Bulk Apothecary. It allows me to buy more for less, and the oils are equally as pure and therapeutic grade as MLM companies. Read more about why I use this brand here.

Make Your Own Toothpaste and Deodorant

I absolutely love my homemade toothpaste. I'll admit, when I first tried it, it took a bit of getting used to. But now, I couldn't imagine using regular toothpaste. In fact, I've tried, and my gums literally burned for about 3 hours after using it. That, my friends, is not healthy at all. The base for my homemade toothpaste is coconut oil, which has many benefits within itself. Coconut oil is believed to pull toxins from your teeth, gums and mouth in general. It also naturally cleanses bad bacteria in your mouth.

Did you know that most deodorants (for both men and women) contain harmful chemicals and aluminum? Many of them have been proven to promote memory loss, Alzheimer's. and cancer. If you know anything about simple science, then you know that these claims can be very much true. And I can attest to the theory of "clogged pores that hold toxins". One of the biggest issues I have had when using regular deodorant is that I have this awful brown skin under my arms. One of the major deodorant companies even made a new deodorant that was supposed to "get rid" of the brown skin that supposedly comes from shaving your arm pits. It worked, or did it? It certainly lightened my skin, but the brown never completely went away.

Fast forwarding to my very own homemade deodorant. The first three days of using it were horrendous because my body was literally ridding itself of the toxins that had been trapped beneath the layers of gunk that had built up in my pours. And guess what. After stopping the use of commercial deodorant, I no longer had brown marks under my arms. Amazing! I would eventually come to find that your arm pits shouldn't naturally "stink", and that the smell comes from toxins in your body. I started to take notice, and it was absolutely true. When I ate real, healthy home cooked meals, my underarms never stank (without deodorant). Whenever I ate something overly processed, or drank soda, I literally couldn't stand myself.

Since I am home all day (I work from home) I actually don't really ever use any kind of deodorant, and I don't stink...imagine that! However, when we go out, I tend to put a very thin layer of non-aluminum based all natural or homemade deodorant. You can read more about my homemade deodorant on my blog.

Add Organic Apple-Cider Vinegar (ACV) to Your Diet

Awhile back I read a book titled Folk Medicine, by Dr. D.C. Jarvis, M.D. I literally sat there with my mouth open most nights while reading it. I had often heard that Organic ACV (with the 'mother') was a healthy way to keep your body processing properly. But I never realized all of the other benefits and success stories. Many people I know take a small shot glass of ACV each day. A friend of mine recently started taking it when he found out he had an issue with his colon. He told the doctor to hold off for a few weeks before proceeding with anything, and he began drinking ACV each day (just a small cupful). When he returned back for his checkup and treatment options, the Dr was astounded to find that my friend was completely healed and there was absolutely nothing wrong with his colon. Incredible, huh? This isn't just a "story", this is truly a success story from a dear friend!

Rest More Often

Did she really just say that? Did she really just tell me to sleep? Yes, indeed, I did! Of course, don't be lazy. In the same respect, get on your feet anddo somethingduring the day and throughout the entire day. But keep in mind, our bodies were created to rise and sleep with the sun. Imagine a world without clocks, as our ancestors didn't have them. They rose early in the morning, as the dawn slowly came to meet the horizon. They worked during the day, and yes, sometimes they even took naps around lunch time. They continued working until the sun started setting. Then they came home, ate dinner, and guess what happened next...they rested. It doesn't mean they went to bed right away, but they did rest, and yes, many times they went to bed.

Now, I cannot imagine going to bed at 6 p.m. in the Winter time. But I will say that when I force myself to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. rather than 10 p.m., I am much more rested in the morning when I awake. And when I wake up at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m., I'm much more prone to fall asleep quicker in the evenings, and am much less restless. Our bodies are the closest thing we own to all natural nature. Most of the time, it knows what it's doing. If you're tired, rest. If you're not tired, don't rest. Some of us need more sleep than others, some of us need less. But in the end, your body will literally start flying on auto-pilot if you don't start resting the proper amount of time that you should. In which case, you begin to open yourself up to colds, viruses, and bacteria, because your body is much too tired to fight them off.

All in all, making just a few simple and easy changes in your life can (and most likely will) eventually lead up to bigger changes in your lifestyle. The things listed above are simple everyday things that you do. They are not expensive and take little to no time to change. Your biggest change will be cooking from scratch more often, if you don't already. But while it may take a bit more time, you will thank yourself, a hundred times over, in the long run!

Amy Fewell is a work-at-home mom, homesteader, blogger and writer. Her and her family live on a mini-homestead in Virginia where they raise Icelandic Chickens, standard Rex rabbits, ducks, and more!  For more information about their homestead, visit them online at The Fewell Homestead.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Valerian Root for Sleep Improvement 

Have trouble falling and staying asleep? Suffer from insomnia or another sleep disorder? No one enjoys lying awake at night trying, to no avail, to drift into sleep. While over-the-counter sleep medications or prescription drugs might be tempting to combat a sleepless night, they don’t always work and can put you at risk for several negative side effects, such as cognitive impairment.[1] These can be especially dangerous for youth. Instead, look to all-natural herbal solutions, such as valerian root, for sleep disorder and insomnia treatment.

What Is Valerian Root?

Valerian is an herb that has yellowish-brown roots, dark green leaves, and white and pink flowers. The root of this plant has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Primarily, valerian is known for it’s sedative qualities, which can help to increase sleepiness, as well as to decrease nervousness and restlessness. In many European countries, valerian root extract is a commonly used, approved over-the-counter medicine for the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and disturbed sleep.[2]

Valerian has a variety of active compounds that give it these sedative qualities. These include valerenic acid, amino acids, and more. Although the mechanism is not entirely known, researchers do know that valerian root extracts increase the activity of GABA, one of the body’s main neurotransmitters that reduces excitability of the nervous system. By doing so, valerian has a calming effect in the body.[2]

Does Valerian Improve Sleep Quality?

Studies have found significant improvements in sleep quality, the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and the depth of sleep in studies using valerian root.[3,4] One review found that valerian may decrease the time it takes to fall asleep by 14 to 17 minutes.[1] Another study found that 530 mg daily of valerian root significantly improved insomnia symptoms in postmenopausal women aged 50 to 60 years old.[5]

Valerian root can mimic the effects of some anti-anxiety and sleep medications, but it is without side effects and is considered very safe. One of the main advantages of valerian is that it does not produce a “hangover” effect, meaning that no side effects are felt upon waking.[1] It is also useful for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and restlessness, as well.[2]

A Combination of Herbs Is Often Most Effective

Valerian alone may produce substantial benefits and can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep, but many studies show that using valerian in combination with other sedative herbs is extremely effective. Try valerian with hops extract (Humulus lupulus), which has been shown to increase time spent sleeping as well as time spent in deeper sleep.[6] Lemon balm and valerian is another effective combination, which can be used in children to help reduce restlessness and promote healthy sleep.[7]

How to Use Valerian Root for Sleep Improvement

Valerian can be purchased as a dietary supplement. The recommended dose ranges from 30 to 600 mg daily about 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. You might also try valerian root tea, which can be found in natural groceries. Drink a cup of tea before bed to promote sleep.

Visit Natural Health Advisory Institute for more tips on how to relieve insomnia and get a better night’s rest.


[1] Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis
[2] Psychophytomedicine: an overview of clinical efficacy and phytopharmacology for treatment of depression, anxiety and insomnia
[3] Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials
[4] Valeriana wallichii root extract improves sleep quality and modulates brain monoamine level in rats
[5] Effect of valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial
[6] Sleep disorders: a single dose administration of valerian/hops fluid extract (dormeasan) is found to be effective in improving sleep
[7] A combination of valerian and lemon balm is effective in the treatment of restlessness and dyssomnia in children

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Deep nourishing herbal infusions

As is the arc of many folk herbalists, one of the first revelatory herbal preparations I was introduced to was the nourishing herbal infusion. These herbal drinks are made with “weeds” such as nettle, red clover, oatstraw, red raspberry leaf, chickweed, alfalfa, dandelion, and horsetail that grow freely in meadows, woodlands, and fields and are thus readily available to us all. When harvested from land and soils not depleted by intensive agriculture, these plants are rich in many of the vitamins and minerals we require on a daily basis to build health, support immunity, and maintain our energy levels. I embraced the rich nutrition and daily ritual of consuming herbal infusions and found myself craving them. Whether it was the salty “green” taste of nettle, the light, quenching taste of oat straw, the astringent, black-tea familiarity of raspberry leaf, or the sweetness of red clover, I was drawn to each, and I knew I was craving more than just tastes. There is deep nutrition in weedy herbal infusions that can fill a glaring gap in our modern, processed diets. As herbalist Paul Bergner [1] points, out, “an ounce of many dried herbs contains far higher mineral content than even three ounces of fruits, vegetables, or other plant foods — sometimes more than ten times the amount.” As a passionate herbalist and vegetarian who endeavors to pay close attention to the nutrients in my diet, I found myself wondering: can nourishing herbal infusions replace a daily multivitamin?

Herbal infusions vs multivitamin

How to Prepare a Nourishing Herbal Infusion

First, a bit on nourishing herbal infusions. These are prepared a bit differently than an herbal tisane (the name for the preparation we typically refer to as herbal tea). Herbal tisanes use a teaspoon or tablespoon of dried herbs per cup of boiling water, whereas nourishing herbal infusions use roughly 4 tablespoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water (or a cup of dried herb per quart of water). Nourishing herbal infusions are steeped for considerably longer, too — at least 4 hours to fully extract the vitamins and minerals. I typically prepare an infusion with one cup of herb and boiling water in a quart jar in the evening, leave it to steep overnight, and enjoy 1 to 4 cups of it throughout the next day; this routine establishes it as a daily ritual, much like brushing my teeth or making time for exercise.

Nutritional and Therapeutic Benefits of Nourishing Herbs

herbal infusions - weeds

Burdock Root

Very high in chromium, iron, magnesium, silicon, and thiamine; high in cobalt, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, tin, vitamin A, and zinc [2]

Burdock also contains inulin, a prebiotic that feeds gut bacteria, and is a mild bitter; it helps improve appetite, maximize digestion, and stabilize blood sugar. It also acts as an alterative to detoxify the blood and normalize metabolic function. This action helps alleviate symptoms of internal metabolic disharmony, such as eczema, dandruff, and psoriasis [3] as well as gout, kidney stones, and rheumatism. Learn more about using and harvesting burdock root.

Nettle Leaf

Very high in calcium, chromium, magnesium, and zinc; high in cobalt, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, thiamin, vitamin A, and vitamin C [2]

Nettle’s salty, swampy, slightly seaweed taste hints at its high mineral and chlorophyll content. Nettle nourishes, supports and energizes the whole body and provides iron to counter anemia. Nettle also helps maintain even blood sugar levels [3, 4]. It is alterative and diuretic, detoxifying the body, purifying the blood, and assisting the body in nutrient and protein assimilation, neutralization of acid, and elimination of waste that may otherwise build up and manifest as arthritis, gout, rheumatism, eczema, and skin problems [5]. It helps to flush the urinary system of toxins to relieve cystitis and prostatitis and maintain urinary health. Its anti-inflammatory action helps relieve allergies and hay fever [6]. Read more about harvesting and using nettle.


Very high in chromium, magnesium, silicon, and sodium; high in calcium, niacin, and vitamin A [2]

Oatstraw nourishes, strengthens, and repairs tissues and muscles throughout the body. Its rich nourishment helps build deep immunity [7]. High levels of magnesium, calcium, and silica help build strong bones and combat osteoporosis. The rich vitamin B, calcium, and magnesium content in oats helps soothe and strengthen nerves in the case of nerve weakness or exhaustion [3]. Oatstraw infusion helps mellow the mood, ease anxiety, combat the effects of daily stress, resolve sleeplessness, increase libido, support heart health, and lower cholesterol. Learn more the health benefits of oats.

Red Clover Flowers

Very high in chromium and tin; high in calcium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C [2]

Red clover is a diuretic and alterative with an affinity for the lymphatic system and liver, helping the body to assimilate nutrients and remove metabolic waste products. It is helpful for conditions resulting from the build up of toxins in the body such as eczema, psoriasis, cystic lumps, and lymphatic swelling [8]. Red clover contains high levels of phytosterols called isoflavones, the building blocks for hormones which can dock onto receptors that could otherwise be occupied by the unnatural chemical estrogens we are exposed to in our daily lives. The isoflavones in red clover help balance hormones to alleviate premenstrual and menopausal symptoms. For further reading on red clover, visit Red Clover, Red Clover, Bring Healing on Over.

Red Raspberry Leaf

Very high in iron, manganese, and niacin; high in calcium, magnesium, selenium, tin, vitamin A, and vitamin C [2

Raspberry leaf strengthens the endocrine system and balances hormones, helping to regulate menstrual cycles. Its astringent nature is helpful for relieving diarrhea, while its anti-inflammatory properties soothe mouth ulcers and sore throats. Raspberry leaf is an excellent tonic for pregnant women on two counts: its high vitamin and mineral content is richly nutritive, and the alkaloid fragrine tones and strengthens the uterus in preparation for childbirth.  Note: tannins in raspberry leaf bind to minerals, limiting their absorption by the body.

For further study on these herbs and many others, consider subscribing to The Herbarium to gain full access to the Herbal Academys plant database, including some of the most beautiful and complete monographs to date.

Nourishing Herbal Infusions or a Multi-Vitamin?

After investigating the vitamin and mineral content of these nourishing herbs, which in many cases is considerable, I have an answer to my original question. Nourishing herbal infusions don’t replace a multivitamin persay, instead, they can be a vital component of a well-balanced diet in which you get your RDA of vitamins and minerals from whole foods instead of from a pill. Nourishing herbal infusions won’t extract fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and vitamins B-12 and D are not found in plants, so these must come from other sources (ideally food, or, in the case of vitamin D, from a few minutes in the sunshine) or by eating the fresh plant when palatable (e.g. nettle leaf, chickweed leaf, dandelion, and burdock root).  However, nourishing herbs are great sources of minerals, the rest of the B vitamins, and vitamin C.

nourishing herbs for infusions

At the end of the day, I’m thinking of Michael Pollan’s adage, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Nourishing herbal infusions are yet another way to incorporate plants into our daily diets to obtain vitamins, minerals, and other important plant constituents from wild sources and rebuild our cells in alignment with nature. In an ideal world, nourishing herbal infusions could take the place of daily coffee, sodas, or juices. But in an effort not to alienate every coffee-loving soul on the planet (including myself), I like to focus on adding wholesome nutrition to our diets as opposed to taking away the foods and drinks that we love, even out of habit. It’s a mental shift that allows new eating habits to take hold and helps us sustain a more wholesome way of nourishing ourselves without feeling deprived. Try adding nourishing herbal infusions to your daily sustenance and see how they impact your feelings of health and wholeness!

Jane Metzger is the Assistant Director at the Herbal Academy of New England, home of the online Introductory Herbal Course and Intermediate Herbal Course. HANE recently released its affordable membership program, fittingly called The Herbarium, featuring one of the most complete plant monograph databases to date.


[1] Bergner, Paul. (n.d.) The Healing Power of Minerals and Trace Elements.

[2] Pedersen, Mark. (1998). Nutritional Herbology.

[3] Hoffman, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism.

[4] Kianbakht S et al. (2013). Clin Lab. 2013; 59(9-10):1071-6.

[5] Holmes, Peter. (1997). The Energetics of Western Herbs.

[6] Mittman, P (1990). Planta Med; 56:44-47.

[7] Estrada A, et al. (1997). Microbiol Immunol. 1997;41(12):991-8. 

[8] Berger, Judith L. (1998). Herbal Rituals.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Our daughter and some of her friends often laugh at me when I use this hashtag on my Instagrams. Then I think back to my mid-twenties, I reflect on how silly that might sound to me as well.

The reason for my hashtag, when tagging the food we eat and share, the place we live and the people in my life is I want to continuously remind myself of my blessings. In this tough economic time where many of us are one or two checks from personal disaster, I know how blessed we are to have food, shelter, and love surrounding us.

Recently my boss told me about a man who snuck in the back door of a manufacturing facility while no one was looking. He took a shower in one of the bathrooms and then came out and asked to see the person in charge because he was looking for a job. Unfortunately, his actions were not received with the enthusiasm that he had hoped for. I heard another story from a Home Depot employee about how at night the homeless unplug some of the outside vending machines so they can charge their phones. In hearing both of those stories I think about how we must do better for each other. To be unable to shower or charge your phone while being homeless seems like something our country could and should address.

In a country known for our inventiveness and in a world that has opulence as one end of the continuum it seems to me the other end shouldn't have people in such need. These two examples speak to shelter and jobless, but what about all that will go hungry today? I know that a continuum is just that, a continuum, what if we were to narrow the gap? People say it can't be done. The large incentives needed to engage or inspired executives is imperative to attract talent. Or the wealthy need the tax breaks to keep their money in our country and to be the job creators. Or better yet, inheritance is already been earned and taxed so there is no need to tax it again. I say, that these things are true only if we believe them to be. We can stand up, get counted and legislate change if we think that narrowing economic margins is good for the majority.

I overheard a conversation recently where someone was comparing and contrasting the US and a third world country. Having traveled to many countries, some of which have been considered third world, I would ask what part are we taking about? The poor, the disparity between the rich and the poor, their social safety nets, or the way people treat the "least" among us? We can and must do better.

Because of the global view that I choose to see, I know that I have a blessed life where others do not. I know that when I share my abundance, more people get to have a #blessedlife. Wouldn't be great if all people could have the luxury of being able to live a blessed life.

How can you help create a life that lifts others up? Do you have something to share? Do you live a blessed life and how do you show your gratitude?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


"That’s what birth is, its improv." ~ Jamie Rose Lyle

Jamie Rose

Three weeks before the estimated due date of her first child, Jamie Rose Lyle’s water broke and slow contractions began. She wasn’t worried about a thing. ”I knew I didn’t need medical interventions, I needed to give my body time.” she said. She spent the time laboring and listening to music. “Reggae was what I was grooving to.” said Jamie, “that song ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright was playing when my water broke.”

After 24 hours of labor at home, Jamie was one centimeter dilated. She went to the hospital and was given antibiotics and pitocin for the next five hours, then spinal anesthesia. “By the time we had medical intervention, it was welcome.” said Jamie. Finally, 44 hours after her membranes ruptured, and a half an hour of pushing, Jamie pulled out her baby boy.

Fast forward nine months and Jamie has started belly dancing. While she had prior experience with ballet, modern and ballroom dance, she had fallen in love with an improv style of belly dance called Tribal, and has even earned herself a spot in local troupe Gypsy Heart Tribal. When Carol Vance, the troupe’s director called to invite Jamie to dance with them, Jamie let Carol know that she and her husband has just started trying to get pregnant again.  

“Fabulous!” was Carol’s response. “Right from the start,” Jamie said, “I found support for dancing while pregnant.”  

With the challenges that often come with first trimester pregnancy, I asked Jamie if she ever wanted to stop dancing during that time. “No, I didn’t want to stop, not at all,” she said, “When I was dancing, I would feel fine.” So, for three and a half hours each Tuesday night, Jamie dances with her tribe and gets relief from her nausea and exhaustion.

Jamie likes that the troupe consists of four generations of women, most who have given birth themselves. She said she loves, “being around all those tummies that have had babies.” She also acknowledges that belly dance has its roots in childbirth and she often thinks of how other mommas, both current and through the ages are joining her in her experience, “right now and in time,” she said, referring to pregnancy, birth and midnight nursing.

Jamie also feels strong and more comfortable because of belly dance. Throughout our conversation she listed the ways her body feels as a result of dance; I really feel like the dancing helps me feel strong, my stomach muscles are holding up my belly, I literally feel like my back is so supported, I can walk more comfortably and everything because of belly dance, my hips aren’t tight, if i could just keep my muscles doing this, it feels really good, its the kind of movement my body needs right now.

And according to Jamie, she can do things with her body that she couldn’t do in her first pregnancy. For example, she can get into the traditional birth squat now, “and I for sure was not doing belly rolls when I was pregnant with (Jackson),” she said. Out of a vocabulary of 300 dance moves, Jamie said there are only two that aren’t comfortable, “just knowing that I can do those positions fully helps my confidence.”

Finally, in contrast to her first labor, where Jamie said she knew she had to try hard to relax, her goal is not to try so hard this time. She anticipates the improv nature of tribal belly dance to be one of the best preparations of childbirth and that it will help her with this. “Before when I danced, it was always choreographed, tribal is improv style which will be a huge help in birth." She said that all her belly dance performances have been while she has been pregnant and she has to decide which moves to do in live time. Just like dance, she said, “I just have to trust my body and not think too much and let myself go. That’s what birth is, its improv.”

Photo by Phoebus foto: A pregnant Jamie Rose Lyle dancing with her tribe.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Our daughter, Carly, is good at being thoughtful when it comes to sending cards and giving gifts. Last year for my birthday, she gave me a subscription to the quarterly publication Kinfolk, a high-end publication that highlights beautiful photography and stories from around the world. If left to my own devices, I most likely would not have stumbled upon this publication.


This spring issue contained an inspiring article about community entrepreneurs. It was just the uplifting reminder that my soul needed. I have had many conversations lately about the importance of community. Recently, in one of my communities, we were talking about how to share resources and be mindful of supporting other local communities with our spending. In another conversation, we were struggling with where people can go to engage in community outside of churches, temples, synagogues and mosques. As our dependence on our screened devices grow, our knowledge and practice of physical community growth seems to diminish. The Kinfolk article was a good reminder that maybe I need to spend less screen time to see and involve myself in strong communities of mutual support.

The article highlighted people and projects such as Bread Furst, where founder Mark Furstenberg hopes his store's presence makes "it seem possible for others to open neighborhood stores." Then came the dynamic Amy Kaherl, the director and co-founders of Detroit SOUP. Her mission is to feed people, grow the soul of a city, and create community conversation by providing a space and venue where "people are meeting and sharing ideas, jobs are being created and people are doing amazing work in the community." Kaherl's good will in action made me want to open a Seattle SOUP tomorrow. Finally, the article highlighted Tina Roth Eisenberg's Creative Mornings. Eisenberg is clear that real connections take place when people meet face to face. In the article she says, "We shouldn't be living in isolated silos of just information architects or just graphic designers. Magic happens when all of our creative trades connect" and "trust breeds magic."

All these leaders are growing and fostering healthy community in creative and diverse ways. The more I read about ways of creating community, the more I remember that we truly need each other—that in our beautiful differences we grow together.

What communities do you belong to? How can your small communities impact the bigger communities around you? Is there an idea in some other place that you can replicate in your community?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.