9 Fresh Ideas for Spring

Although its taking a long time coming in my neck of the woods, spring is definitely on the way! And what better time of year than spring to try something new? So in honour of the changing season, here are my 9 suggestions for embracing the season of renewal:

1. Try Some New Recipes  – my friend Sue actually inspired this article when she posted an idea on Facebook about handing cookbooks to her kids and telling them to each pick 2 new dinner recipes for the coming week. Brilliant! What a great way to change things up. Dust off your cookbooks and foodie magazines and hunt for a couple of yummy new dishes to experiment with (or check out the archives on my blog for some Lori Wilson classics ; ) Time to toss those same-old-same-old winter menus!

2. Switch up Your Pit Stick – as an all-natural deodorant devotee, I’ve found that it’s best to keep a few good brands in the vanity that I can keep rotating to maintain their effectiveness. They seem to work like gangbusters for a month or so and then I need to swap them out for a bit. Although I always keep Purely Great and Weleda on hand, my new fav is Penny Lane Organics Lavender Deodorant Stick – it’s chemical-free and works well even during my sweatiest workouts.

deodorant-lavender-pennylaneorganics

3. Read SOAT – I have been a huge  fan of author Elizabeth Gilbert since she first published Eat, Pray, Love in 2007. I just adore the way her words jump off the page like she’s a close friend who is speaking directly to me (check out her blog and follow her on Facebook to see what I mean).  That’s why I couldn’t wait to dive into her latest fictional work “The Signature of All Things“. Now I’m going to be honest and admit that I started and stopped this book at least 5 times before I dug in and got hooked but you need to keep in mind that it’s an epic novel so don’t give up – trust me it’s well worth the read.

soat

4. Make A Small Change To Your Living Space– it doesn’t have to be anything big – perhaps you just grab a frame and hang up that picture you’ve been meaning to hang, shift the furniture around in the living room or paint one wall bright red. My hubby and I bought a new quilt for our bed for $60 while we were in the away on vacation in March and it makes me so happy every time I walk into my bedroom. Sometimes even a small shift can bring a fresh perspective.

5. Buy Something New for Your Wardrobe– To celebrate a good friend’s birthday, I went on a little shopping trip with a few pals a couple of weeks ago. We hit up one of my favourite local stores I purchased a bright pink short-sleeved shirt that I plan to wear the heck out of this spring. Grab a new scarf, a dangly pair of earrings or a funky new pair of jeans and see if you can add a bit of colour and energy to your wardrobe.

6. Start a Meditation Practice – Thanks to a great tip from my dad, I’ve recently rejuvenated my own meditation practice via a fantastic free app called Headspace on my mobile device. Meditation guru Andy Puddicombe guides you through 10 minutes a day of quiet contemplation and offers insights into the importance of this routine. I’ve also signed up for Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s free 21-day meditation session called “Finding Your Flow that will be starting in mid-April (I did their other free course back in the fall and loved it).

headspace

7. Tend To Your Pearly Whites – Tea, coffee, red wine, chocolate, lemon juice….all things that I love and all things that can wreak havoc on my teeth. In an effort to keep them nice and white without undergoing a chemical bleaching, I am a big fan of daily Oil Pulling using pure coconut oil. I also read an article by author Kimberly Snyder about rubbing orange peels on the teeth a couple of times per week to amp up tooth whiteness and another post from one of my favorite bloggers – Wellness Mama–  about swishing activated charcoal in the mouth to remove stains. Yes these ideas might sound wacky but all of these options are natural, economical and definitely worth a try!

8. Drink Up Some Fresh Juice – According to nutritionist Meghan Telpner: “Juicing is the easiest way to get essential nutrients in- detoxifying your liver and other organs, increasing energy and your mood and helping to make other foods more digestible….For those trying to include more raw fruits and veggies into their diets, juice is the answer. For anyone looking to shed some junk from the trunk, clear up the skin, have shinier hair, and way more energy and vitality…guess what? You got it. Juice. is. the. answer.” If you own a juicer, it’s time to pull it out of the cupboard and get juicing. If you don’t, you can hit up a juice bar for a shot of wheat grass and a green juice chaser. And if by chance you live in the Burlington, Ontario area – my good friend Lisa has started a business providing beautiful and nourishing fresh juice- home delivery and full cleanses are also available.  Contact her via her at lisa@flowfit.ca for menus and more information. (photo below courtesy of Lisa Faley – www.flowfit.ca)

juice

9. Get Outside– Yes it’s cold (at least in Southern Ontario) but nothing makes me feel more clear-headed than a good brisk walk. Whatever your exercise of choice (walk, run, bike, skip, dance) – try to get outside every day even for a jaunt around the block and some deep breaths of fresh air. Guaranteed to give you a new outlook on life.

I hope these suggestions put some spring in your step! I for one am ready to bid goodbye to a long, cold and harsh winter. Yay spring!

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Chaga Mushroom Tea Latte

I’m going to be completely honest and admit that there are many mornings you will find me at my favourite coffee joint in the drive-thru line up patiently waiting for my soy latte. I have a well rehearsed repertoire of excuses in my head to justify my “need” for a fancy take-out drink:

– I was up all night with a sick child and I desperately need a coffee today
– I worked out really hard this morning and I deserve a reward
– I’m going to start eating right and working out next week so I’d better get my treats in today
– I stayed up late working so I need a coffee to make it through the day
– It’s a holiday (insert any occasion here – including Ground Hog Day!) and I need to celebrate with a coffee
– I’m meeting a friend and I can’t be rude and not join her when she is drinking her coffee
– It’s Monday and I need to pick myself up for the week
– It’s Friday and I need to gear up for the weekend

Trust me, I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. Needless to say I really enjoy a nice tall latte filled with steamy soy milk and sugary add-ins to start off my day. But being something of a health nut- I am also well aware of the negative effects of indulging in this particular treat (not to mention that it costs $6 a pop!)

Although the pros and cons of coffee have been hotly debated I know for myself that I feel much healthier and my gut, skin and pocketbook are much happier when I stick to all-natural homemade concoctions. And yes I can see you rolling your eyes through my computer screen – but some of my concoctions really do taste great!

Because I’m a full-on food nerd, I was totally thrilled to find this bag of Canadian Chaga Mushroom pieces on a recent trip to my local health food store. This potent and unique superfood is “a slow-growing mushroom that develops on living birch trees, obtaining nutrients from its host and making them available to us.” Chaga is considered the most nutritionally dense tree growth in the world and is revered in ancient Chinese medicine as being the “king of plants“. Studies have shown Chaga to be the single most concentrated source of antioxidants known to man and it has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and cancer fighting properties. Wow!

The cool thing about these mushroom chunks is that you boil 1/3 of a cup of them in a liter of water and just let them steep like tea. Afterwards you strain out the chunks and you will be left with a mild-tasting dark brown liquid that you can add to soups, smoothies, tea, coffee or just drink it straight up. And since the mushroom is so potent – you can actually reuse the chunks several times!

chaga

This morning I added 1 heated cup of the Chaga tea to 1 cup of boiling water and blended it together with 1 tbsp. raw sesame seeds, 1 tbsp. hemp seeds, 1 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. Dandy Blend, 1 tbsp. cacao powder, a small chunk of cacao butter and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract. Voila! Yummy coffee drink that has a ton of health benefits! (I also added a cupful of the tea to our morning smoothie)

So for today, I am skipping the fancy take-out coffee and sipping my Chaga Tea Latte. One day at a time right? As for tomorrow – if you happen to see me in the drive-thru line just give me knowing nod and a wave…..because trust me, I’ll have my excuse ready ; )

My Favourite Holistic Cold & Flu Remedies

As the fall weather starts to turn cooler, I always get a little anxious about cold and flu season. Luckily my family doesn’t get sick too often but when we do I feel so much better knowing I am prepared with an arsenal of natural remedies that can help us heal quickly. Here is my personal list of go-to illness busters that strengthen the immune system and offer comfort when someone is feeling under the weather:

1. Probiotics – I only recently learned that the foundation of immunity is in our belly. In fact, 80 percent of our immune system is located in our digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health. Good quality probiotics are made up of healthy bacteria that balance harmful bacteria in the body. Each of us has more than 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts and research is now showing that the “good” bacteria from probiotics helps not only to stimulate digestive health, but may  stimulate a healthy immune system. I follow the advice of my naturopath and use either the HMF or Culturelle brands that each contain many strands of live bacteria.

hmf

2. Oregano Oil– I first learned about the power of oregano oil years ago from a client of my husband’s – and I thought she was nutty when she first told me about it. But I have since learned that oregano is a virtual powerhouse when it comes to it’s antiviral and antifungal properties and has been proven to kill unwanted bacteria, fungus, yeast, parasites and viruses. Living Libations makes a potent and pure food grade oil that I always have on hand. When I feel a cold or a sore throat coming on- I immediately put a drop or 2 under my tongue and swallow it a few times a day. But brace yourself – it is very strong and will burn for a minute or so after you ingest it. My older children are able to handle the oil under their tongues but I generally wouldn’t recommend this remedy for children.

oregano

3. Castor Oil– Don’t worry- I’m not going to go old school and suggest that anyone do a shot of castor oil to clean out their system. But the oil from this amazing plant has wonderful healing properties when massaged onto the skin. According to nutritionist Meghan Telpner The ricinoleic acid in castor oil prevents the growth of bacteria, yeast, and viruses. When I have joint pain anywhere, I rub it on the joints, if I have swollen glands, I massage it into neck/gland area, if I am feeling a little backed up- on to my belly it goes (massaged in a clockwise direction- the same direction stuff moves through the large intestine). With a cold or congestion, I’ll mix in a little comfrey and eucalyptus and massage it into my chest.” You can also direct the healing power of castor oil directly onto your stomach by making a “castor oil pack”. You simply soak an old cloth in the oil and place that directly onto your belly. Cover that with a plastic bag and lay a hot water bottle over top and relax for 20 minutes or longer. The castor oil will soak through your skin and is said to “improve the body’s ability to assimilate nutrients, eliminate toxins, and stimulate circulation.” (source: Meghan Telpner)

castor flower

4. Flu Tea– I got the recipe for this tea from a Flu Fighter seminar I attended a few years ago that was offered by a local naturopath. As soon as someone in my family gets a bug, I immediately whip up a batch of this healing tea and serve it up a few times a day. The combination of natural healing herbs and superfoods will kick any cold to the curb! But you’ll want to add lots of honey to each cup to make it drinkable. Into a medium saucepan add 6 cups of water, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp of cumin powder, a 3-inch chunk of fresh ginger cut into pieces, and 1 lemon cut into slices. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and save the tea in the fridge in a mason jar. Heat and drink as needed.

flu tea

5. Magic Socks– you are going to think I am off my rocker when I tell you about this remedy but my naturopath swears by it and everyone in my house has benefitted from this treatment over the past couple of years. You can follow this link to get clear directions on what to do but basically you warm your feet in hot water, dry them thoroughly and then put on a pair of socks that have been soaked in cold water and rinsed out. You cover those with a dry pair of wool socks and immediately get into bed. Think I’m nuts yet?! Well according to Jamey Wallace, ND, Clinic Medical Director at Bastyr Center for Natural Health: “The treatment is known as a “heating compress,” meaning that it’s up to the body to heat the cold, wet socks. The body reacts to the cold socks by increasing blood circulation, which also stimulates the immune system. You have to ‘rev up’ the immune system, so it’s ready for battle against the affliction or condition. This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head and throat. It also has a sedating action, and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment. The treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections.”

wool socks

6. Immune Illume – I mentioned the wonderful food-grade oregano oil from Living Libations above- but I also always have a bottle of their Immune Illume handy during the fall and winter. I simply cannot say enough good things about all of the pure and potent oils I have purchased from this company but the Immune Illume is my absolute favourite. According to Nadine at LL “This fortifying fuse of potent antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agents groom a resistant immune; hyssop, thymes, ravensara, rosemary, eucalyptus + oregano releases breathing. Inhale, bathe, massage into chest + sinuses or diffuse. Ingest a drop or two in: olive oil, teas or honey.”

immuneillume

I hope these ideas help naturally ease some of the pain of cold and flu season. Remember that these are my own personal remedies so remember to do whatever works best for you and your family.

Another quick suggestion- cook with tons of onions and garlic. They are both nature’s antibiotics and have potent virus busting properties. Sometimes I’ll even chop up a clove of garlic and swallow the bits with some water when I’m feeling a bug coming on. Powerful…and smelly stuff!

What are your go-to home remedies?

Green Smoothie 2.0

Thank you so much to my friend Alison who loaned me her copy of Kimberly Snyder’s book “The Beauty Detox Foods“. I read it cover to cover in one day and I learned so much wonderful new information from this amazingly knowledgeable woman. Kimberly is a Clinical Nutritionist, chef to countless Hollywood stars, an author, a respected media expert and a stunningly beautiful woman (in only a slightly annoying way ; )

In the book, she shares her own struggles with weight and diet issues, recurring skin problems and health concerns prior to uncovering a healthier way of life- which came about as a result of her global travels spanning over 50 countries in 3 years. What she discovered was that by really immersing herself in the native foods and practices of places like Japan, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Mongolia, ” my hair became shiny and thick, my skin became radiant and in all the years since then, I’ve never once had to back to dieting. Not once.” This led to her pursuing a career as a nutritionist, a devoted following of A-list celebrities and 2 best-selling books.

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I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning about how certain foods contribute to your overall health, well-being and beauty. It is also an interesting guide on how our digestive system works and how vital this process is in maintaining vibrant health and a radiant outer glow. For instance, did you know that you shouldn’t drink water with meals? I didn’t! According to Kimberly “drink water at least half an hour before your meals or an hour following meals. During mealtimes, drink as little as possible. Too much liquid with meals dilutes your digestive juices and can slow digestion considerably.”

The basic principles of the Beauty Detox can be summed up by 3 guidelines:

1. Eat more veggies and fewer animal products.

2. Drink the Glowing Green Smoothie (or juice) every day.

3. Give up dairy.

Source: The Beauty Detox Foods

That may sound challenging (or downright freaky if you are a cheese lover) but Kimberly offers up a wealth of information, suggestions and recipes in the book that make her program seem totally achievable. I had so many “aha” moments while reading this book and I scribbled so many notes in my journal that I decided to go ahead and buy my own copy so that I could reread it, make the recipes and mark it up the pages without worrying about ruining my friend’s book. I also ordered her other book “The Beauty Detox Solution” and I’ve subscribed to her online newsletter to get all of her latest tips and tricks.

The one must-do requirement for her beauty detox is to drink her Glowing Green Smoothie every day. I have been making it all week and I have to say that it is very filling and quite tasty. I also realized that I can pack WAY more greens into my smoothie than I’ve done in the past and still make it drinkable (mind you – the kids really don’t like the cilantro so I had to drink that batch all on my own.) I also like her method for making this smoothie in stages to blend down the greens first and make more room for additional ingredients. Give her recipe a try and see if it takes your energy level, your health and your beauty to the next level!

Glowing Green Smoothiecourtesy of The Beauty Detox Foods- Kimberly Snyder
Yield: about 60 ounces

ggs 1

2 cups water
7 cups chopped spinach
6 cups romaine lettuce (about 1 small head)
2 stalks celery
1 apple, cored
1 pear, cored
1 banana
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional)
ice cubes (optional – I have been adding some frozen fruit instead to make the smoothie nice and cold)

Add water, spinach and romaine to the blender. Mix until smooth. Next add the herbs (if using), celery, apple and pear. Blend again. Add the banana and lemon juice and blend. Finish with the ice (or frozen fruit) and blend until very smooth.
Enjoy!

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*Note from Kimberly: I encourage you to mix and match your greens and fruit. Vary this recipe with kale, chard, arugula, etc. Just avoid melons, as they are a specific type of fruit that digests better on their own.

Love and Fear….and a Baby Ben Update!

My good friend Leslie is a life coach and I have had the pleasure of doing some work with her. One of the most profound lessons I have learned from her was that at the most fundamental level in any given moment and in any situation I can respond with only 2 things – fear or love. That’s it. Underneath all of our wild and crazy emotions, thoughts, decisions and reactions…..just those 2 simple choices.

oprah quote

I can make my decisions as a parent based on fear (oh my gosh my 12-year old son is texting his girlfriend – I have to read all of his texts and ban that freakin’ ipod!) or based on love (I trust my son and respect his privacy and we can maintain a mutually respectful relationship if I give him some independence and he shows me he can handle it). I can make changes in my life based on fear (I have got to sign up for more exercise classes and work harder because I’m not skinny enough and I’m going to have to squeeze myself into a bathing suit soon) or based on love (this body gave me 3 beautiful children and I am going to embrace my curves and exercise doing things I enjoy to improve my overall health and wellbeing). And I can move forward in the world focusing on the fear (war, crime, poverty, hatred) or the love (philanthropy, compassion, charity, family, laughter).

I know, I know it’s easier said then done. And I’m certainly not going through life with rose-colored glasses on (or a bikini for that matter) thinking that bad things will never happen. But here’s the thing – there is a ton of negativity and fear-mongering coming at us all the time. And we have a choice to make: do we believe that life is scary and frightening or loving and supportive? Will we constantly focus on the stuff that scares the hell out of us or redirect ourselves to face the positive things that are also right in front of us waiting to be acknowledged?

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Bottom line– you cannot love and fear at the same time. These two states of being cannot exist in the same space. You have to let go of one or the other. So for me, that means I purposely set my intention to come at things from a loving perspective as often as possible. I offer up green smoothies in the morning as an energizing and healthy way to start the day vs a dreaded mandatory drink to keep my family from getting sick. I keep open lines of communication with my children and I am willing to admit my mistakes vs always telling them what to do and acting invulnerable. I workout to feel strong, flexible and powerful vs frantically chasing a warped ideal of the perfect skinny body. I offer my time and energy to help and volunteer when I can vs sitting at home and bemoaning the state of the world. And at the end of the day, even though I thoroughly muck things up on a regular basis, I just keep reminding myself to come back to a loving place.

AND speaking of LOVE – I have some of the most wonderful and amazing news to share. Back in February, I posted an article on my friends Bill and Susie and their baby boy Ben who was born at just 24 weeks gestation and 1 pound. Well guess who finally came home this past Monday?! Weighing in just over 7 pounds, after 125 days in the NICU, Benjamin Finley is enjoying life from the comfort of his own crib surrounded by his parents and big brother Liam. I am sure there were many, many fearful moments for this family, but every communication they sent out over the past 4+ months was focused on the love they felt for this beautiful little fighter and the love and support they received from doctors, nurses, family and friends. Congratulations on the next step forward in your journey Coy family- you are an inspiration. Welcome home baby Ben!

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3 Powerful Life Lessons from Yoga Class

I  am over halfway through my 30-day yoga challenge and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Oh sure, some days I am so sore that I feel like I need a hoist to haul my butt out of bed and I’ve had my fair share of missteps along the way (crow pose gone wrong = landing solidly on my head) but for the most part it’s been an enlightening journey.

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This past week, one of the lovely yoga teachers at my studio stayed after class to chat with me for a bit and she imparted 3 wise lessons that I think can be applied not only to yoga but to life as well. I was so impacted by her words that I shared them with my husband and children and I thought I’d share them with you too:

1. I Am Flexible– I’ve taken a few classes from this particular teacher and she had heard me say “I’m not a naturally flexible person” a couple of times. She told me that she is a big believer in the power of the mind and the laws of attraction and if I put the message out to the universe that I’m not flexible – I will continue to struggle with my flexibility. Instead, she gently encouraged me to reframe my image of myself as someone who is leaning into my natural flexibility and growing and becoming more limber and pliable every day.

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This really got me thinking about how often I maintain an image of myself that is holding me back from my potential. Do you do it too? We tell ourselves – “I’m fat, I’m bad with money, I’m stressed, I’m out of shape, I’m unworthy, I’m not smart enough” and then those things become true for us. Even our children are already deciding things about themselves based on their perceptions and things they have been told by parents, family members and friends. The amazing thing is that by noticing and then reframing these thoughts (because they are only thoughts after all), we can create a different and more positive reality.

2. Visualize the Move Before You Make it– have you ever tried to do a reverse jump into an aerial yoga silk using just your arms? Not easy! Or attempted an arm bind while in pyramid pose? My hands don’t even touch! But my teacher suggested that I visualize myself making these moves successfully in my mind before I do them and this mind-body connection will speed up my success with the more challenging postures.

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I love this because visualization is such a powerful tool. My oldest son adores soccer and he will often take the time to see himself scoring goals in an upcoming game before he hits the field. I like closing my eyes and visualizing future successes (like landing a huge voice-over gig), making vision boards with pictures of my goals (my kids love making these too) and even using downloaded guided visualizations from iTunes (try this one).

3. Learn From instead of Comparing To– I frequently find myself studying my fellow yogis during class and I am blown away by their strength and flexibility. Immediately I start telling myself “I suck at this move, I’m so inflexible, I wish I could do it more like them, etc, etc.” My teacher reassured me that everyone falls victim to these comparisons but suggested that I catch myself when these thoughts bubble up and to instead take the opportunity to appreciate that person and to learn and improve my own practice by making slight adjustments to my postures as I work towards their level of skill.

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I also often make these comparisons in my everyday life. “She’s a better cook than me, they are so much more organized, she is so much fitter than me” and these thoughts can be crippling. Instead of comparing, I am going to take the time to appreciate that person for their talents and then think about what I could learn from them that I could possibly incorporate into my own life.

One of the most important things I’ve gleaned from my yoga practice is to be more gentle with myself. I am far from the uber-elastic yogi that I aspire to be and that’s ok. I am now working towards my goal by leaning into my highly impressive natural flexibility, visualizing my eventual head stand and learning from my fellow students. Thank you to  all of my teachers and especially to Jennie!

How I Look

I recently had some new headshots taken. I’d last had them done way back in the 90’s and even though in my mind I’m fairly sure I still look 20 – realistically I knew it was long past time for an update. It was a fantastic experience complete with a makeup artist and a well-known photographer in Toronto. I was thoroughly pampered and entertained during my half day session and I loved the easy and thought-provoking conversations that flowed between Helen (photographer), Cathy Ann (makeup artist) and myself. They are both beautiful and interesting women and it was a pleasure to spend time with them. I was nervous about how the pics would turn out but I decided to surrender to the experience and let the experts take charge of the situation.

A week after my session I received a link to all of my photos. I put the toddler down for a nap, poured myself a cup of tea, steeled my courage and opened the link. And it was hard. Really hard. At first glance, I hated every one of the 100+ pictures that stared back at me. “I look  chubby” I immediately thought, “and old and unattractive”. I’m not proud of myself but those were the things that immediately sprang to my mind. I was upset and that led to me being grumpy and out of sorts with my husband and my kids for the rest of the day. And I didn’t tell a soul – I just wasn’t ready to share yet.

A few days later I had the opportunity to talk with my sister in private. I told her about how I was feeling and she listened and sympathized. I agreed to send her a couple of the shots in return for  her honest opinion (and trust me, I know she’ll always give it).

Her response  came back almost immediately-  “Not a word of a lie….my gut reaction was beautiful.” So I decided to look again. And again. And again. And after a quite some time spent looking, I started to sort of like a few of them and to appreciate small things like the maturity and wisdom in my 41 year old face.

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I stumbled upon this video recently and it made me think about my experience with the pictures and how we view ourselves. About how hard  we are on ourselves and how we can unknowingly pass along our insecurities and obsessiveness to our children. This 4 minute video brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that I am much harder on myself than anyone else ever could be. Are you? Have a watch.

(email followers you may have to go to my site at www.lorileighwilson.com to view the video)