Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saving Natural Parenting

It’s crunch time. Our values are on the line. And it’s up to you, yes YOU, to take action. To stand up for what you believe in. To realize that YOU make a difference. To be part of a bigger picture. To save something you believe in.

Natural parenting is in crisis. The outspoken voices of holistic living and parenting are being edged out by challenging times. And it’s because of us. We take things for granted. We forget that we need to support the organizations, businesses, and people who lead the charge. The people who let passion run their lives and give of themselves to empower us and help us grow. We blame it on the economy. Times are tough. We have to make ends meet. We have to cut corners. We’re too busy. Someone else will help. What's in it for me?

And then the voices are gone. Our trusted champions are silenced. Our resources evaporate. And we are lost. And we wonder if we could have done anything. We miss our support networks, our publications, our online resource, and the things that inspire us to be holistic parents. And we think “what a shame.” But we didn’t do anything to help. We didn’t stop it. And our community starts to fracture.

Now’s the time. Many of us have had heavy hearts watching Mothering Magazine close its doors. That one simple publication was a lifeline for so many of us who choose to parent differently. We were inspired and moved by the stories. We learned about natural childbirth options, babywearing, and making our own baby food. We questioned vaccinations and circumcision. We became empowered with positive parenting and we found others who shared our views. And then it was gone.

And just today, the Natural Child Project issued an urgent email that they need help. An organization founded on a vision of “a world in which all children are treated with dignity, respect, understanding, and compassion. In such a world, every child can grow into adulthood with a generous capacity for love and trust” needs our help. The economy is making their mission hard to fulfill. They need support and donations to bring you articles, resources, and information to keep going.

And here at Holistic Moms, our shoestring budget is tightening. We watch our sisters struggle and look to you, our friends and members, to keep our community alive. You can make a difference. Your membership is what keeps us all going. Your donations, your support. Whether you enjoy the many benefits of membership or simply the confidence of knowing we are out there, it matters that you give your support. Your donations make our non-profit organization possible.

We work to serve you, to connect our voices, to build our community. Without your support, we risk being silenced as well. Can we all afford that? If we stand by with our excuses – we are too busy, times are tough, someone else will help – we will be left with only that: our excuses. Whether as individuals in need of support, who can join as members, or companies trying to serve this community, whose sponsorship makes our community possible, we can come together to protect our voices. Save natural parenting. Don’t wait. Or the silence will come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Discovering Resources for Natural Living

Nine years ago, when my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, I was drowning in motherhood overwhelm. I was a first-time mama, and a holistic one at that, trying to navigate the challenging road of parenthood while also living as naturally and sustainably as I could. When we were told to go gluten, dairy, soy, and corn free, my head started spinning. How, where, when would I ever find a way to eat this way?

Radically changing your lifestyle is never easy but when faced with no choice, you find your way. And, nine years later, I’m happy to say that living with food allergies has gotten a whole lot easier thanks to the enormous growth in the natural foods industry. And, as a holistic mom, finding non-toxic products for my family and home has also become easier as the market continues to grow. It’s still easy to get overwhelmed, but there are options.

In order to explore these options a bit more, I headed out to California this month with HMN’s Social Networking Coordinator to see what the Natural Products Expo West was all about. This enormous trade show is packed with thousands of vendors for all things organic, natural, and green (to varying degrees). What is amazing to me is how many fabulous products now exist for families dealing with food allergies like mine. I could get lost in aisles and aisles of gluten-free and dairy-free options. Overwhelming still, but also exciting! Here’s a little of the excitement we found:

One of our family’s favorites, Pamela’s Products, makes handy baking mixes that are great for gluten-free birthday parties and GF cheesecakes that are a delicious treat. And if you need a way to entertain and still make gluten-free foods, check out Pamela’s website for great recipes to inspire all you gluten-free chefs! My older son is a fan of Udi’s Gluten-Free breads – perfect for sandwiches and french toast. And now, much to my surprise, there’s gluten free mac and cheese and bunny crackers (who needs goldfish?) from Annie’s! We even found organic, gluten-free nail polish from Keeki that is safe during pregnancy and for girls and teens who might be nail biters!

If you are looking for dairy-free products to swap out some of your current favorites, you are also in luck! Coconut milk was big at the Expo and two companies were real standouts in this area: So Delicious for their dairy-free creamers, egg nog, and ice cream and Coconut Bliss for their divine ice cream and new flavors (we really liked the Chocolate Walnut Brownie).

As a confessed chocoholic, I was amazed at all the organic, fair trade options we found at the expo. We made sure to visit Flora Health more than once for their amazing Bija Omega Truffles with omega oils built right in them, and Alter Eco’s Dark Quinoa Chocolate, a crispy chocolate bar that’s gluten free, organic, and fair trade!

While walking through Expo West, we also had an opportunity to meet with some of HMN’s amazing sponsors who help support our growing non-profit community. We found that Boiron has a new Medicine Finder available on their website and coming to stores near you, care of Aisle 7 who makes handy kiosks for retail locations. This will make it so much easier for busy moms to find a natural remedy for whatever condition they need and help them explore homeopathy. We also visited with Motherlove and its founder Kathryn Higgins, whose passion for natural living is inspiring! Their green salve is the perfect solution for bee stings, bug bites, and poison ivy (and HMN members can save on Motherlove purchases using our Online Member Savings Book) – a great time to get ready for outdoor fun!

We always love to see our friends at Organic Valley. Local Organic Valley farmers attend our annual Natural Living Conference each year and also come to expos such as this. Knowing the people behind the brand makes a huge difference for moms in being comfortable with the choices we make. They also had some tasty new organic coffee creamers - a delicious way to start your day!

Getting to know the people behind these companies is so valuable. You can see and hear their passion for what they do. We met the founders of Zukay Live Foods a non-dairy pro-biotic food company; the lively family behind Matt’s Munchies (with amazing all-natural, organic chocolate banana fruit leather), and the women behind People Towels, an organic reusable alternative to paper towels! Finally, we met the women of Eco-Me - natural cleaning products that you would make at home if you had time – with simple ingredients like vinegar and essential oils.

Last, but certainly not least, we were pleasantly surprised to run into HMN Advisory Board member Peggy O’Mara, Founder of Mothering Magazine while walking through the show. We were honored to have an opportunity to see Peggy and thank her for all the wonderful years of hard work on Mothering, a legacy from which Holistic Moms was born. She is an inspiration to many of us.

Although the path to living naturally isn’t always easy, more and more companies are heeding the call of moms like us! The market is growing and if we continue to use our buying power to tell manufacturers what we expect and what we need, many of these companies are happy to create it! It’s still easy to get overwhelmed and hard to make healthy changes, but it is reassuring to know that there is a growing demand for healthy products and a number of honest, passionate people building companies to fulfill these needs!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Holistic Does Not Mean Perfect

Parenthood is a minefield. There are a million choices to make and no matter which one you choose there is always a critic. And we, the parents, are the worst critics of all. Not just of ourselves, but of each other. We give sideways glances to the mom at the next table feeding her kids french fries; frown at the dad who forgot his reusable bag at the grocery store; and look on in horror as a parent loses it with their child. Because we’re perfect. We’re the green mom who never, ever forgets to recycle or reuse. We’re the attached parent who never yells at our kids. We’re the perfect holistic mom who never allows a morsel of junk food to get past our kids’ teeth. Yeah, right.

Since when was being attached, green, or holistic about being perfect? It’s not, we’re not, and I have yet to meet such a person in real life. And yet we’re building minefields and are quick to criticize, blame, and chastise anyone who does not live up to our personal ideals. Ironically, there’s nothing holistic about it. There’s nothing whole about judging one choice, one behavior, or even a circumstance based upon what you see, especially when you know nothing about the whole picture of that individual’s life. Do you know that the Dad forgetting his reusable bag has two sick kids at home and raced out to pick up some remedies, leaving his eco-consciousness aside for a minute? Could it be that the mom serving up fries has had a long, exhausting week of parenting her children and juggling her career, and this is a rare treat? Is it possible that the mom yelling at her kids is just a reflection of us, at one of our not-so-perfect moments? Yes, yes, and yes.

So if you think that you’re not holistic enough for the Holistic Moms Network, think again. And if you think that the mission and purpose of our organization is to make people wrong for their choices, to demand perfection from our members, and to expect everyone in our community to adhere to the same choices, you just don’t understand who we are.

The Holistic Moms Network was created to support parents who are on a journey to living healthier and greener. We honor and recognize that parenting – and life – is a journey. That journey can take many paths and is walked by a variety of different people, each with their own values, perspectives, and beliefs. We walk together because we share a common goal of living naturally and we support each other by respecting the journey, respecting the path, and honoring the uniqueness of each travelers’ circumstances. We do not refuse people the opportunity to take this journey because of a single – or many – choices that may not further them along. Rather, we encourage them, support them, and help shed light on the alternatives that are out there. Members do not have to pass a litmus test or fill out a lengthy questionnaire to join us. They are not excluded because they are not perfect, or because they are not trying to be. We welcome them, include them, and honor them. We are not trying to build minefields. We are illuminating the paths between them. You may still hit a minefield, but your HMN community will support you through it all. We’re not perfect. And we don’t want to be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shopping Consciously

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I believe there is a collective plot to make shoppers unconscious. To drive us mindlessly into stores and malls, enticing us through advertising and price cuts, to purchase things we don’t really need, want, or even like. We put aside our values as consumers and march like zombies into the latest discount offer drawn by the promise of a great deal. I’m an impulse buyer myself. I get sucked in by ads and deals, even though I know it’s just a sales pitch. But I am working harder each and every day to shop more consciously and to be more aware.

As an advocate for holistic living, I try to shop my values. I seek out sustainable materials and products, things that have been recycled or re-purposed, items that are non-toxic and fair trade. Figuring out how to prioritize these values isn’t always easy. Do I purchase local or organic, recycled or non-toxic, fair trade or green? These labels are not always mutually exclusive, thankfully, but sometimes we have to make choices. And what those choices are will depend upon what our individual priorities are. And what we know.

Walking into any given store, it’s not always easy to determine if your personal values are represented in the product you are purchasing or in the company behind the product. Clever labeling and marketing communications can make even toxic products appear healthy and natural to the unknowing consumer. Fortunately, there are a growing number of tools (and, dare I say, apps) to make this job a little easier! Concerned about global warming? Then bring Climate Counts along on your next shopping trip. Through their online database (or smart phone app), you can choose to purchase from companies that are starting to make changes to reduce global warming – or who are well on their way to being green. Or you might use the Good Guide’s database which rates not only the health/safety of products, but also their impact on the environment and the social score of the company behind the product – in other words, a rating of their corporate ethics, community engagement, and working conditions for employees, among other factors. Good Guide also has a super-handy smart phone app that enables you to use bar code scanners to view product ratings.

Concerned about the safety of your sunscreen or the toxicity of your shampoo? The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database is packed with data for you to review. Organic Spa Magazine also offers a smart phone app (and printed guide) for skin care products that help you identify the leading products in the natural and organic market.

With so many tools and choices, there’s no reason to become a shopping zombie. The power of our purchases as consumers is very strong. Shop consciously, shop wisely, and demand better products for yourself and for your family!