Opt Out of the Drama

It seems like there are constantly new sensationalist blog posts, videos and articles going viral online and igniting very real frenzies of fear, anger and disunity.  This happens in politics, medicine and virtually any field of thought in which heated controversy tends to find it’s way and stamp out all reason and good will in favor of hysteria.   

Most recently an embarrassingly unsubstantiated news article made it’s rounds, purporting that essential oils caused some negative reactions in children, the most significant of which (dilated pupils) has never been recorded as a side effect of the use or misuse of any essential oil.  The evidence in support of the article’s claim was shamefully lacking.  It was a textbook example of the reckless journalistic mistake of equating correlation to causation, but you would never know it for the times the link to the article was shared on social media or for the emotional uproar left in the wake of the story.  There were certainly people who approached the information objectively but many simply reacted – instantly becoming afraid, angry, confused, and often never so much as questioning the evidence,  lack of evidence or discussing whether or not the assertions made were even true.   In fact the opposite occurred – many of those same individuals reposted the link, further spreading the groundless story and the madness.   Some who seemed to share the article more sober-mindedly were perhaps attempting to use it as an opportunity to teach that essential oils should be used with wisdom, an honorable goal;  however, fear is a monstrous teacher and inciting anger tends to fuel resentment and compel the receiver of the message to run to whatever conclusions can found at the opposite extreme.

Information is good and disagreement isn’t bad;  it can even be beneficial.    Respectful, openminded discussion gives us all a chance to share – to hear and to be heard, to learn and to grow regardless of whether or not we agree on a particular matter in the end.   And we can share resources, discuss and even disagree with honor and grace.  We can promote these principles in our social media and in-person communities and we can discourage the mania, disrespect and strife that make them unsafe and that actually cause people to become closed off and defensive rather than open to the ideas being shared.  We can learn to recognize and reject “information” that can be more accurately defined as tabloid journalism, fear mongering or propaganda.

I am very emotional by nature myself, so keeping my composure and sticking to facts when discussing something that I feel strongly about is something that I have to make a continual and conscious effort to do – and apologize for my not-so-infrequent failures to do!  I hope never to convey that I am “above” all of this.  I care so very much about this topic and reference it so frequently partly because it is something that I wrestle with myself everyday.

I encourage you to distance yourself as much as is reasonably possible from ANYTHING – resources (like articles and blog posts), groups, people, organizations, etc. that regularly promotes sensationalism, hostility and other ugly and toxic suppressors of intellect.  Don’t “share” on social media the evidence-sparse, hype-heavy stories and support the ratings that irresponsible journalists and bloggers so desperately crave.  Don’t participate in conversations at work where others speak hostilely or condescendingly of those with whom they disagree.  There are some mean-spirited Face Book groups out there that do a great deal more harm than good spewing hatred and negativity about what they don’t believe rather than rationally presenting arguments and peacefully sharing what they do believe – consider removing yourself from those groups!  Connect with those who value people more than making a point, being “right” or stirring the pot. 

No matter what our opinions or how we differ it is kindness and reasonableness, not irrationality and disdain, that nourish atmospheres of teaching, learning, growth and true community. 


opt out of the drama 9

The Spice of Life – Bird’s Eye Chili



Our’s is a house of foodies.

From the youngest to the senior resident (my husband, 12 days older than me), we all love to eat.  And we crave big, bold flavors. Food flavors are known to permeate amniotic fluid and breastmilk, so from their earliest days my children have known and loved spicy food.  In fact, I’ve caught my middle child adding red pepper sauce to his scrambled eggs since toddlerhood.


I grew up about an hour outside of New Orleans, Louisiana and we added ground Cayenne Pepper or chili flakes to food the way that the rest of the country uses black pepper.  Bird’s Eye Chili has since replaced Cayenne as my favorite source of heat and flavor and I dust it subtly (it’s pretty intense) atop just about everything from eggs cooked over medium to bone broth and Chicken Parmesan.   It’s a staple-spice in our home, along with smoked sea salt and Real Salt®.  We also keep whole peppercorns and coarse Himalayan Sea Salt in grinders and use them everyday.  


But back to Bird’s Eye.  We buy it, along with other herbs and spices, by the pound from Mountain Rose Herbs.   According to their website Bird’s Eye Chili, Capsicum frutescens L.contains a number of notable chemical constituents, many which are used in Allopathic (conventional) medicine.  They also note that red chilis have been used as both food and medicine for over 9,000 years by Native Americans.

Berkeley Wellness boasts that red peppers like Bird’s Eye are also rich in flavor, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and minerals like potassium and magnesium. 

Bird's Eye Chili

There’s more information out there and I encourage you to do some research and critically assess that information for yourself.

And in spite of the fact that I have not done any randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled studies on my household, I do think that it’s immune supportive qualities are benefitting us and I actually crave it when I feel a sore throat coming on.  In any case, Bird’s Eye Chili is a flavorful addition to savory dishes (and some sweet) that our family thoroughly enjoys and I highly recommend it!

*Top 3 Photographs by Cristina Howell

*Bottom Photograph by Elena Moiseeva

Healthcare – Another Way

I posted this on Facebook a year ago, when I was in the midst of our second appeal to Cigna (my husband’s insurance provider through work) to compensate for services which I was told in advance that we had coverage for:

“My husband fell off of a ladder and sprained his ankle while painting the house on Labor day. I called Cigna before we settled on a facility for emergency care.  I tend to be fairly thorough in matters regarding finances and I asked 3 times if a specific location would be covered and what the cost would be.  I was assured 3 times that everything would be taken care of with a nominal copay.  Later, fine print revealed that services rendered by the location we’d chosen were not covered as I’d been told.  The recorded call confirmed what I’d been told by the representative I’d taken the time to call and that I’d been given incorrect information.  I explained that I found it unreasonable for a person to be expected to review fine print or to consult a lawyer under the sorts of circumstances that necessitate a trip to an emergency care facility, especially when a representative of the insurance company advises upfront that care will be covered.   And I understand that the phone representative was mistaken and that we all make mistakes; however that advice is what motivated me to choose one facility over another.  And under the circumstances, I think it’s reasonable for Cigna to own that mistake on behalf of their employee, honor what I was told and pay my bill as I was expecting.

We’ve also had bills we’ve submitted to Samaritan Ministries, a Health Sharing Organization that we use as an alternative to insurance for the rest of the family since adding us to my husband’s insurance would have cost around $1,000 per month. Two recent, substantial sets of medical expenses we’ve accrued are considered “unpublishable” as they are related to pre-existing conditions and have been submitted as “Special Prayer Needs” rather than in the usual way that needs are shared in this program. Pictured is the stack of over 40 cards that accompanied a comparably sized stack of checks sent over the last 3 weeks by Samaritan members – Christians who chose to give above and beyond the monthly shares they have committed to, in order that they might ease the burden of our otherwise unpublishable (“uncovered” would be the insurance term) medical bills.


In the first scenario described above I am arguing with a huge, lucrative company looking for loopholes to justify denying an arguably valid claim. In the second situation, strangers-made-family-through-faith are joyfully, generously and voluntarily pouring out love in the form of cards that are balm to the soul and money for our practical needs. The contrast here is hitting me on so many levels and I don’t think I can come out of this epiphany the same.”

Cigna never did pay that bill and I ended up submitting our expenses to Samaritan Ministries.  All of the bills were shared by Samaritan members without so much as a grumble or likely a thought as to what loopholes might legally justify not doing so.  In fact, we received cards and letters again, along with the checks!  Those cards, once again, were filled with love and prayers that humbled and served as vehicles of healing to hearts wearied by the physical injury as well as by the apathy we’d received from the Insurance Industry.  

I absolutely believe that businesses have a right to make money and that in itself is not wrong, in my opinion. I can also see that legally, Cigna had it’s pretext to deny our claim. However I did not and do not feel that our family was regarded as a unit of people with legitimate needs and rights that the company had any pledge to meet or to uphold.  I do not feel that we were treated with integrity or compassion and I feel that the drive for profit was put over our family members as human beings.  I can’t even say that we experienced regular, old fashioned, good customer service.  Cigna satisfied the letter of their complexly written legal documents and yet missed the spirit of caring for the sick and wounded.   Perhaps it’s naive to think that spirit was ever a motivating  concept for the health insurance industry at large.   In any case, our family has found another way in Samaritan Ministries and I don’t think that we’ll ever look back.  



*Photograph by Cristina Howell

Energy – Part 2: Is Natural Medicine “New Age”?

These are some thoughts I have in response to the idea that the energetic aspects of natural medicines like essential oils are “New Age,” anti-Christian, or even demonic.


I have heard such concerns on and off, particularly from those who are partial to mainstream medicine and also members of the Christian community. I’ve had my own questions and concerns in my journey in natural health. What I often find at the root of these concerns or even accusations though, is not a Christian dilemma, but Americans’ sincere and well intended inabilities to distinguish the difference between what is considered biblical philosophy and language and what is simply Western philosophy and language – particularly such that pertains to Western medicine, which is rooted in the physical and almost exclusively utilizes modalities like drugs and surgery and which generally recognizes and manipulate outward, physical symptoms rather than considering things such as root causes of disease, particularly those causes which stem from emotional or energetic imbalances of various sorts.

There are, however, other philosophies and practices of medicine and life that differ from those which prevail in the West, and to deem all of those automatically as inferior or demonic or anti-biblical is misguided at best and arrogant at worst. Other ways of interpreting life, health, and practicing medicine which recognize the unseen and intangible forces (explained by quantum physical science and which are real and measurable forces and phenomena) are actually older, more effective at addressing many various health issues, still influential in many parts of the world, and are even the sorts of ideas which dominated biblical culture. Jesus himself was, of course, a man of Eastern background and influence.

Western medicine has shown to be extremely helpful in things like acute injuries, but is arguably quite lacking in other areas that involve chronic illness, both emotional and physical. There is also copious evidence of deep corruption in many aspects of the establishment and continued monopoly of this sort of medicine. In other words the “conventional,” mainstream or allopathic way of thinking and practicing medicine is relatively new, is steeped in corruption, and simply is not the only way of accomplishing healing. In fact, it could be well argued that it’s benefits, though significant in the aforementioned sorts of emergency scenarios, are also often exaggerated and it’s risks, minimized.

There are good questions out there which should be wrestled with by those who have concerns. And not everything in natural medicine is consistent with a biblical world view; but that is very much the case for pharmaceutical medicine as well.  I encourage you, Christians, to think and pray for yourselves about all of it.  Each of us is responsible before God for the choices that we make.  In your journey, I urge you to remember that there are many perspectives, and that oftentimes our propensity to equate “Western” or “American” with biblical is, as I mentioned earlier, misguided at best and arrogant at worst.

Here’s an article by Matt Stone that goes into more detail about Christianity and Energy Medicine.

*Photograph by Cristina Howell

Energy – Part 1: An Introduction

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

Genesis 1:3 ESV


The bible says that light, vegetation, and life on earth was called into existence by the sound of God’s voice.

From a scientific perspective, we now understand that the material world is fundamentally comprised of energy vibrating at different frequencies—like sound.  Our organs, the trees, the ground that we stand on—everything that we see is made of something that we cannot see and yet is the fiber from which visible creation is woven.  In fact, if you were to look more and more closely at an atom under a microscope, at a given point it would seem to disappear because that atom is essentially composed of invisible energy and not of tangible matter. 

This is not a “New Age,” anti-christian, or pseudo-scientific concept.  It is the reality of our world.  It’s the way everything was made and the manner in which life and matter is sustained.  Again, a biblical perspective—In Acts 17, Paul explained to the Athenians that God does not reside in temples made by men and is not otherwise limited to the physical parameters that are so familiar to us.  He goes on in verse 28 to say that, “In him we live and move and have our being,” that God is himself the unseen fabric that holds creation together.  Whether you are inclined toward the biblical perspectives, the scientific, or both, these truths existed long before modern man recognized them.  They prevail in spite of those who are not aware of or who refuse to acknowledge them.  And as we are tempted to congratulate ourselves on what we do understand, we are (hopefully) continually humbled by the vastness of what we do not. 

What does all this mean to us in terms of holistic wellness?  It means a lot of things, many that we have only begun to fathom, some that have been embraced by holistic healers for millennia; and doubtlessly it means a great deal that we know virtually nothing about.  For now I will say that both naturally occurring energies such as emotions, and man-manipulated energies, such as those used in wireless technologies, profoundly effect us everyday. 

All scriptures are quoted from the English Standard Version of the bible

*Photograph by Jocelynn Howell

Guest Blog Post for the Tisserand Institute

Promoting kindness and respect in the essential oil community at large has been on my on my heart in a big way for the past several months.As a doula, encouraging people to make their own informed decisions has always been important to me; and that principle is just as relevant in my YL business.

World renown essential oil expert, Robert Tisserand, asked me to write a blog post on these topics for him and it was published recently.

Here it is.