What is Labneh?! (Besides Amazing!)

I was at Whole Foods the other day, which is unusual for me because I never go there despite it being less than 2 miles from my house.  My grocery shopping is typically done exclusively at Trader Joe’s, Ralphs, Vons, and Costco for bulk items like high quality olive oil and quinoa.  However, on this day I was waiting for my boyfriend to grab something from one of the neighboring stores and I was in the mood for sour cream, so into Whole Foods I went!

Standing in front of the dairy cooler, I was impressed with the selection of lactose-free/reduced products as well as the products with probiotics in them.  Since doing my 21-day Elimination Challenge, I have been much more conscientious about what I put into my body and how my body reacts to different ingredients.  Unfortunately, dairy is one of those food groups that doesn’t always support my optimal health.  My mission, therefore, is to only eat high-quality, probiotic-filled and lactose-free/reduced (if possible) foods.  I’m not going to completely cut everything out of my life if it doesn’t make the lactose cut, I’m just only going to eat it in small amounts and only occasionally.

So…I’m standing there in the chilly aisle, peering into the dairy cooler and I find a great-looking organic sour cream with a mix of probiotics that is from a local California dairy and I think-great! Mission accomplished.

But then…oh, but then…I saw it.  Sitting mere inches from the gut-friendly sour cream was this beautiful white and blue container of Labneh.  I thought to myself…what the heck is this? I picked it up for a closer look at the label.  It said Kefir on it…that definitely rang a bell.

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I had never heard of Labneh/Kefir cheese until very recently.  It was one of the things I learned about in my Health Coaching program through IIN.  I remembered that it is a fermented dairy product that is high in probiotics.  A quick search on my phone showed me that it is actually quite low in lactose as well, and that it may be suitable for lactose-intolerant people.  So, I took a container home with me.  What happened next was magic.

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This food product is not only healthy, it is packed with flavor! If you like Greek yogurt and sour cream, you have found the happy marriage of the two.  There is a distinct tart/sourness to the Labneh, yet the flavor is not super rich.  Rather it is light and inviting, compelling you to take another bite.  Then, there is the texture…

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Labneh has this amazing, smooth, creamy texture that is like a dream.  It’s basically a strained Greek yogurt so a lot of the moisture has been removed, creating this luscious sensation as you savor it.  It’s got almost a velvety feel to it that complements the other textures of the food.

I am happy to say that I have been eating way more of this microbiome, lactose-reduced food than the sour cream…in fact, I’ve been completely neglecting it!

Labneh is officially my favorite dairy product and I am going to need to replenish it soon.  I highly recommend to anyone who is avoiding lactose-heavy dairy products but enjoys the texture and flavor of Greek yogurt/sour cream, or anyone who is interested in trying something new.  Bonus-it supports a healthy immune system by supporting the gut flora (bacteria), which is where about 80% of our immune system lives! 🙂

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Birthday Wishes to the World

Today is my birthday!!

I am so excited and grateful to be alive on this beautiful planet and to be blessed with all the people, experiences and lessons that I have come to know.

My birthday wish today is to make a profound impact on people all over the world in some way and, somehow, to make their lives better.

This year I am already obsessed with improving myself and the way I live and interact with the world around me. I am creating a job that I am obsessed at being the best at and I am on a trajectory that I know is going to be amazing. And I am finally enjoying the journey of every day, the subtleties and nuances of hours minutes and moments. I feel like life is no longer a future event that I am always struggling and leaning forward to reach. Life is what I’m doing. Life is what I am.

I don’ know how things seemed to magically have clicked in my brain, but I’m ok with not knowing. I’m content to exist in a grateful state of awe and I accept this gift with an open heart and an open mind.

This is what I wish for everyone on this planet including you, dear reader: to feel a connection with life and with the people and environment around you; to be fully alive and enjoy the fleeting present moments and use your past lessons to successfully navigate through challenges towards a beautiful future of your dreams that you design and pursue every day. To live with purpose, hope, and faith in yourself, your Creator, and the good in all of us. And above all, that you give yourself permission to experience love to its fullest, in how you treat yourself, our home planet Earth, and all living things. We are all connected, from our first birthday to our last and beyond.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Ever had one of those times when you were just be-bopping along in conversation and, all of a sudden, something unnecessary and-quite frankly-horribly put comes shooting out of your mouth like a word-turd cannon?

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I orchestrated one of those experiences the week before Christmas.  I was having a phone conversation with someone who I both like and respect and all was going well.  Out of nowhere, a series of words sparked a chain reaction that struck the chord of memory-one memory in particular that was not what I would call savory.  Said memory ignited a trigger that instantly released afore-mentioned word-turds into the atmosphere, plunging the mood and conversation into cold, uncertain silence.

After trying to make light of the faux pax with a joke and later sending a post-call apology text, I eventually found myself wallowing in an abysmal spot somewhere between self-flagellation and self-pity (must be the Protestant in me).

“I’m *supposedly* an adult-how have I not mastered verbal communication yet?” Questions such as this nagged at my psyche like a teething puppy with tiny teeth not sharp enough to draw blood, but definitely sufficient for a nagging-good gnawing.

I must confess I spent a good little bit of time wallowing before I remembered that it’s ok to make mistakes and that I need to handle myself with care.  I gave myself permission to mess up and learn and changed my attitude to be more loving and kind instead of frustrated.  This was extremely helpful as separating myself from the emotional aspect of the situation allowed the more cognitive, rational part of my brain to engage and weigh in on what had happened.

I began to look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective, like I was helping a friend understand what they had gone through as an impartial bystander.

What I realized is that, the trigger that had set the whole process in motion-the string of words-was not the problem.  They weren’t offensive, mean or meant to illicit any type of painful reaction.  The problem was that they reminded me of a situation that had occurred many months before, in which I had experienced a negative, somewhat painful emotion based on the other person’s actions.  Digging a little deeper, I realized that the outdated scenario was still lodged in my subconscious like a tiny stone in one’s shoe: easily ignored until it comes in contact with an old not-quite-healed wound.

Why does this still bother me? I asked myself.  I had made the conscious decision to let it go, and had generally moved on from it.  The answer came: I experienced something that was hurtful or upsetting and I did not express this at the time it happened.  In essence, by not sharing the tiny rock, I was unable to throw it away and instead stuck it down in my shoe for safekeeping.

Though unintended, I had made the decision to create a weak spot within myself that was susceptible to provocation, which ultimately let to its inevitable expression, albeit at a less appropriate time.

The lesson?

Speak my truth and express my feelings at the time when something happens.

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I have no doubt that this person would have heard me out if I had just said something like, “You know, it really made me feel X when you did Y after I had told you Z.”

It all seems so simple…now!

I’m grateful for this situation because it helped me understand something about myself-that somehow I have learned an unhealthy/unhelpful communication habit of not speaking my truth immediately-and I learned a solution for overcoming the pain that such a habit can bring by simply having the courage to speak up when something is bothering me.

I know that this must seem very elementary to many people and I applaud them for being honest.  I want to be more like that in difficult situations.  I am wiling to bet that there is someone out there who still struggles with communication at times.

If you’re out there, I am happy to say that you are not alone and I believe there is hope for us!

Financial Term Du Jour: Passive Income

Ahhhh, how I love this concept!

I mean, seriously, what could possibly be better than making money while you sleep so that you can serve people by doing things that you truly love instead of working a j.o.b. doing something you’re kind of meh about for taxable income that doesn’t always seem to go as far as you’d like?

This is what makes passive income one of my favorite financial terms and the first one to be explored in my blog!

One thing I appreciate about passive income is its simplicity.  Passive.  Income.  Money you make without expending energy for it.  Boom.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, you will need to spend time and energy investing in things that can create passive income streams for you, like-wait for it-Real Estate!! Other forms include royalties from books, movie scripts, music, etc.  Could be income from a blog or from an online store.  Once you set up the product, the money gets generated while you sleep and move on to doing something else you enjoy.

There are also cryptocurrency mining companies that pay investors back on a weekly basis that provide passive income as well.  I have been looking into these and having taken the plunge yet but I am considering investing a small amount to see how it goes.  Maybe I’ll do it just to write about the experience…

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I highly recommend you read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki to gain more insight about terms like this, as there is a lot more to it than just simply buying a property.

“Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale.”

-Zig Ziglar

I think it’s good to remember that money can’t buy you everything-but it can buy many things, including options and the freedom to choose what you do with your time.

Time is the purest and most valuable currency.

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Time, in my opinion, is the purest and most valuable currency and I am working every day to free mine up to do more of the things I love and serve more and more people with my gifts.  This is what brings me tons of joy, and I want the same for everyone.

I hope that all who read this will be inspired to look into how passive income may help make life’s dreams come true and take steps to make it happen.

As Captain Planet would say, “the power is yours!”

Freedom Fuel-Free Budgeting Tool

I am a long-time fan of budgeting.  Practicing the art and science of budgeting is very useful in helping you get real with your financial habits and provide you a baseline from which to measure and modify your spending and saving/investing energy.  This is something that my mother instilled in me, along with the belief that all debt is bad and should be avoided at all costs.  I am eternally grateful to her for imparting her wisdom as it has allowed me to live debt-free to this day.

Now that I have explored the world of financial education by feeding my brain with such delightful reads as Rich Dad Poor Dad and Retire Young Retire Rich, I no longer look at debt the same way.  While I still avoid acquiring “bad debt” (debt accrued on credit cards or by taking out auto or home loans), I am an OPM convert.  OPM stands for Other People’s Money, and if becoming financially free is your goal, as it is mine, then OPM is what you want to leverage to build your real estate investments upon.

So! This is barely scratching the surface of investing that I highly recommend everyone look into.  More on investing later!

Today I want to share my new and improved budgeting tool that I created to help keep my spending in line so that I can invest more of my income in investments that pay me. 

I am reminded of a dialysis nursing preceptor who told me: “if you are working then you want your equipment to be working also.”

I am upgrading this sentiment to: “if you are working you want your money to be working also…so that eventually you can stop working and your money will work for you!”

So far I have been using this tool for the better part of December and it has really helped to keep me in line with my spending, in spite of the holiday shopping season.

I designed this spreadsheet on Google Sheets-for free!! And I am really excited to share it because I think that others may find this a helpful tool as well.

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I’ve created formulas that do all the calculations for you, all you need to do is input the amounts coming in/going out.  One thing I’d like to share is how to create a sum equation within a cell.  This is useful when you make more than one purchase in one category per day.

Let’s say that you buy groceries at 3 different places on one day.  You spend $25 at your local farmer’s market, $13.56 at Trader Joe’s and $20 at a local fish market.

Within the cell (B2 in the photo below) you will click your mouse and type:

  1. =
  2. SUM(
  3. Then enter the amounts followed by “+” sign
  4. End the equation with )
  5. Hit enter
Place your equation of “=SUM(x+x+x)”
Once you hit enter the total amount will be displayed in the cell.

If you want to see the full equation you can click inside the cell and the formula will be displayed in the “fx” box (see 2nd photo above).

Try it out by following the link to the Google Sheet here.******

******Note: Please do not edit the sheet itself, if you do, your information will be visible to anyone in the world who accesses the link!! Instead, make a COPY of the spreadsheet and save it to your Google docs account  by going to File and select Make a Copy. 

You can also download it onto your computer in Excel format to edit, PDF format to save for your records, etc.  I personally like to keep the spreadsheet in my Google account so that I can access it from any computer/my phone any time I want to add anything to it.

I really hope you find this useful.  To your financial freedom!!

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment!

Attitude of Gratitude: Yes, Thank You!

With the holiday season in full swing, I have been getting excited about sharing some tips on fueling your life with even more positivity, more blessings and more joy.  The secret? Gratitude!​

Gratitude seems to have an undeniably positive, albeit difficult to explain, effect on they who practice it.  While the study of gratitude is in its infancy, there already exists a body of research with mostly positive evidence in support of the tie between practicing gratitude and an overall sense of well-being (Sansone & Sansone, 2010).  Results of a study by leading scientific researcher on gratitude Robert Emmons and co-author Michael McCullough (2003) found that gratitude listing participants reported more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, felt more connected with others and had greater optimism for the coming week than did participants in the control group.​

Positive psychology research studies have shown that there is a strong, consistent association between gratitude and greater happiness (Harvard University, 2011).​

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Researchers at Berekely have found that gratitude:​

  • Unshackles us from toxic emotions​
  • Helps even if you don’t share it​
  • Benefits take time (study showed difference after 4 weeks’ practice writing gratitude letters)​
  • Has lasting effects on the brain (Wong & Brown, 2017)​

Practicing gratitude can lead to positive health benefits and greater satisfaction in life so why not take the opportunity today to start? ​

Writing thank you cards or thanking sending a wish of thanks to someone mentally is a great practice!

Harvard University (2011) gives some fantastic suggestions on how to make gratitude practice a simple part of your life:​

-Write a thank-you note

-Thank someone mentally​

-Keep a gratitude journal​

-Pray​

-Meditate​

-Count your blessing​s


Ohm-my, meditation is divine!

I am particularly a fan of gratitude journaling.  It is a great activity for right when you wake up and/or right before bed.  What better way to start and end your day than with sending out vibrations of gratitude that are bound to attract more of the same to you?​


References:

Emmons, R.A. & McCullough, M.E. (2003).  Counting blessings vs. burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389​.

Harvard University (2011).  In praise of gratitude. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Wong, J. & Brown, J. (2017).  How gratitude changes you and your brain.  Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

 

Enjoy Holiday Feasting with “Crowding Out”

How do we enjoy the holidays without overeating and gaining weight?​

If you’ve worked in healthcare as long as I have, you come to see first-hand the dangers of consuming sugary food products for too long.​  Diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, the list goes on…

Sugar=Poison?

Sugar is not a friend of our bodies.  So what does it have to do with gaining weight around the holidays?​

Insulin is in charge of feeding or building fat cells (Kahn & Flier, 2000).  Sugar triggers insulin production and insulin stimulates fat cells to take in energy and grow (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).  This means all the cakes, pies, cookies, sweet alcoholic mixed beverages-even mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce are all causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, leading to weight gain.​  Yikes!

The good news: you can partake in cheer and eat as much as you want!​

The caveat: you’re going to want to “crowd out” the unhealthy foods with the healthier ones (Rosenthal, 2018).​

Crowding out means the more healthy food you eat, the less unhealthy food you will consume-I can attest this really works! Crowding out is a way to enjoy an ongoing non-diet lifestyle by increasing the intake of healthy foods and decreasing non-healthy foods (Rosenthal, 2018).​

Where to start? Look for low-sugar or sugar-free recipes for holiday dishes online.   There is a plethora of them out there.  Substitute delicious fruits in place of sweet snacks.  Have something healthy, like a handful of almonds or a fresh green smoothie made with coconut milk, spinach and banana before going to a holiday party so you won’t feel as hungry. Hunger will tempt you to eat the unhealthy stuff.​

Remember to drink plenty of water, it guides us to know if we are truly hungry or just thirsty.  And get in as much physical activity as you can.  I find a simple routine like a 20-minute cardio session every morning has an incredible effect on my energy, mood and productivity.  Getting enough sleep, relaxation, and self-care time aids in keeping stress levels down, which can keep cortisol levels from increasing- causing us to crave sugar.​

 20 minutes a day for increased energy, improved mood, and better overall health-works for me!

By being mindful of what goes into our bodies and crowding out the unhealthy foods, we can enjoy a healthy weight, not only during the holidays but the whole year round!​  Happy holidays and healthy feasting!

References:

Kahn, B.B. & Flier, J.S. (2000).  Obesity and insulin resistance. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 106(4), 473-481.​​

Rosenthal, J. (2018).  Integrative nutrition: A whole-life approach.  New York, NY: Integrative Nutrition, Inc.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010).  NIH study shows how insulin stimulates fat cells to take in glucose.  Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-how-insulin-stimulates-fat-cells-take-glucose

Avocado Toast

A recent Saturday found me at one of my favorite La Jolla haunts-Pannikin! Truly one of SoCal’s coffee shop gems, it is a cozy spot to hang out, study, have some excellent coffee and food, or simply bask in the glory of San Diego’s weather.

On this gorgeous day, I accompanied my boyfriend to Pannikin for the purpose of enjoying some of their delicious coffee while doing some homework.  Although, I must say that calling what I do “work” is a bit of stretch. I am stoked to be in an awesome holistic health coaching program through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) learning about things that I love, like whole foods, self-care and being an all-around healthier, happier person-yay!

The sun was beaming from the clear blue sky above as we took our places at the porch bar facing the sunny patio and the sidewalks.  I placed my unopened book in front of me and had a seat on the bar stool. Sipping my steaming mug of coffee, I happily watched as friends, lovers and family members engaged in fun activities in the space below.  Of particular note, a young father was having breakfast at a small table with his two young daughters and a baby in a buggy. The two girls were munching their food as they watched with rapt attention the production that their father was giving.  Clearly an avid story-teller, the man had leaned down to be closer to their eye level and spoke animatedly to each girl in turn, making demonstrative hand gestures and facial expressions. The girls watched him intently and the looks on their faces oscillated between wonderment and joyful surprise.  The baby seemed content to repose in the buggy and watch passersby or up into the sky, oblivious to the tale that was unfolding mere feet away.

I observed with delight the healthy passionfruit vine that was growing up the side column of the patio and above the bar, noting the solitary small green fruit that was hanging from the vine directly in front of my right foot.  Looking up, I witnessed the impressively constant influx of customers from the bustling sidewalk. Though the small gate, in-between the rows of patio tables and up the stairs into the tiny building they went, placidly taking their place at the end of the line, which stretched from the counter to the cozily lit fireplace, patiently waiting their turn.

 

One of the best things about people watching at a cafe is seeing what kind of goodies people choose.  Here a cinnamon bun, there a very seedy-grainy looking muffin, now a bowl of fruit, then a massive breakfast burrito.  Delicious and inspiring!

 

On this occasion, the most inspiring culinary moment for me was when a couple of girls sat down at a picnic table near the far left corner of the patio.  Set down on the table between them was a lovely plate of avocado toast.

 

The seed was planted…

 

When I got home later that day, the first thing I did when I walked in the front door was to head to the kitchen and forage for the ingredients to make the perfect avocado toast!

Ingredients:

 

1-2 slices of bread

1 small-medium avocado

1 organic tomato

1 red onion

½ tsp live oil

¼ pink Himalayan sea salt

Juice of ¼ an organic lime (optional)

Steps:

  1. Place bread in toaster oven
  2. Rinse and dry produce
  3. Slice avocado in half and slice avocado into chunks (still in skin)
  4. Thinly slice a few slices of tomato and onion
  5. Place toast on a plate and, using a blunt knife, spread avocado on toast
  6. Sprinkle sea salt, lime juice and drizzle olive oil on avocado
  7. Place onion and tomato slices on top

  

Enjoy!

 

Love Our Oceans

I just watched an episode of Blue Planet II and it was utterly incredible! The amazing colors and close up footage of the creatures that inhabit the deep were a wonder to behold.

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I did have to run upstairs to have a cry after a heartbreaking story was shared about a pilot whale calf that died due to plastic/toxins in the water.  Approximately 10 million tons-not pounds, TONS-of plastic waste are dumped into our planet’s oceans every year. That’s like driving 20 million Ford F-150s into the sea except, instead of driving around lifting heavy loads they clog up the ocean’s surface.

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Sea life-like sea turtles and birds-get entangled in the waste and drown.  Like the calf in the show I watched, babies of mammals like whales and dolphins can be poisoned just from drinking their mothers’ milk.

I am not writing about this to be a “Debby downer.” I’m sharing this information in the hopes that by having healthy, open conversations about what is happening to our planet-our home-we can make a shift in our mindset and create new, better habits to reduce the amount of waste we produce and throw away and increase our reuse and recycling of such products.

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Photo by Luka Siemionov on Pexels.com

Not only will this have amazing benefits to the incredible creatures of the oceans, it will ensure that we will be able to eat the bounty that we pull from the waters every year.  Foods like sushi, fish, scallops and muscles could be rendered inedible if poisons continue to accumulate in them. Already there are advisories against eating too much of certain kinds of fish due to mercury build up.  In case you are wondering what happens if a human ingests mercury on an ongoing basis, it can cause fun side effects such as:

-nervousness or anxiety

-irritability or mood changes

-numbness

-memory problems

-depression

-physical tremors

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fun stuff! No?

The good news is-it’s never too late to make a change.  Today-right now! We cannot wait until tomorrow to take better care of ourselves and the planet.

 

Want even better news?

 

It’s super easy!

 

One of the biggest things we can do is use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones at the grocery store.  There are more than one TRILLION of these puppies used every year from shopping!! Imagine if, instead of choosing plastic bags, every individual used a reusable bag to carry their groceries-wouldn’t that be incredible??

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Other things that we can do that are very simple include recycling.  Don’t live in an area that recycles? Look for ways to recycle by using the internet as a resource.

 

We can also reuse our products: a glass salsa jar is perfect for storing leftovers after it has been cleaned.  A plastic egg carton can be an excellent seed sprouting container. And let’s remember to always cut up our aluminum can and bottle holders (think six pack rings) before recycling them so that in case, God forbid, they wind up somewhere in nature they will not get lodged around a living being, plant or animal.

 

It’s so good to love this planet that is our home! I believe that the better care we take care of ourselves and our planet, the better life will be for all!

 

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The Importance of Self-Care: Morning Pages

This past week I have been focusing on the art of self-care.  It came to my attention through my studies to become a holistic health coach and I am very grateful for it.

I had no idea how badly I needed to make self-care a daily practice.  I was giving a lot of energy to projects, my j.o.b., travel, studying and other people and it took me a while to notice that my energy was waning.

Through my curriculum I learned about a wonderful lady named Julia Cameron, author of the book The Artist’s Way.  This book was recommended to me by a friend within the last couple of years, and I purchased the book but still have yet to read it!

Luckily, I watched a lecture given by Cameron in which she describes the practice of writing what she calls Morning Pages.  This is the gift of writing freehand first thing in the morning and filling 3 pages with thoughts, feelings, dreams and anything else that is on one’s mind.

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I have only been doing this for about a week, and I am amazed at the difference it has made in my life.  I am calmer and more grounded and able to live outside of my own head and be more present with my loved ones.  I feel less needy of other people’s attention because I have given myself the loving attention of honestly sharing my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.

There really is something magical about validating yourself through writing.  Not only is it an actively healing and cathartic experience, it allows the exercising of creativity, something that I now remember is incredibly important.

I’m so grateful to Julia Cameron and the Morning Pages activity that has helped me to nourish myself emotionally and mentally and to inspire me to get back in touch with my creative side.

You can learning more about Morning Pages and Julia Cameron’s beautiful gifts here.