FNCE 2017

I had the privilege to attend the 2017 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) this past October, held by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This well attended conference was celebrating it’s 100th year and had over 12,000 attendees. I fully admit my initial allure to dive into this mass of dietitians was for continued education credits (of which our profession needs to accumulate on a five year rotation). However, upon reflection of the experience my takeaways were far greater than logistical numbers to hold my credentials.

What I learned at FNCE 2017: Food is powerful.

Food creates and enhances happiness, despair, sickness and physique. It is simple -food is fuel- and complicated –insert any number of questions or comments here- all at the same time. It can not be avoided; it touches all lives to suffer or thrive, for without it we would not survive.

chicago from Sears tower

Case in Point:

I attended a session on nutrigenomics, where we heard about individual phenotypes response to caffeine, salt, and sugar, as well as what current research is still being done on potential individual nutrition needs based on genetics.

I sat in on a talk regarding the new theories of daily need for vitamin B12, based on severe symptoms experienced by vegetarians, and which lab values to assess to determine true deficiency.

There was a detailed talks on hypothyroidism and body composition (spoiler alert this condition has little positive to say about related weight and lean mass outcomes).

What about allergies and intolerances? They have increased, mostly in kids, by 18% in the last ten years. That is just those with allergies, systemic responders, not those with self report of negative food-related symptoms disrupting their lives. There are a plethora of self diagnosed food conditions; is this a product of the modern food system and environment or a psychological cry for power over food choice?

I marveled at the development of vertical farming inside large containers in Brooklyn. This is a concept spreading across the country and attracting young farmers who want to marry agricultural science and technology to control the growing environment to feed their neighborhoods.

I heard about the predicted future technologies that will allow you to blink against a contact computer chip to see the nutritional and economic data of a particular food item. Versus the hard facts of today, how 900 million people die of hunger every year; that’s one every four seconds.

Genetic engineering has advanced our abilities to grow more food and be more sustainable per region, we are headed in the right direction to conserve water, land and health of the environment, but not fast enough, as our population is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050. Then the issue is how do we not only feed those people, but nourish them as well, all while being kind to the earth.

Oh yes and then there is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). As professionals in nutrition we must be careful with our relationships with other health care providers. As the healthcare community as a whole strives to bring the best services to patients for prevention and treatment we must be aware of antitrust laws, anti kickback statutes and state licensure and billing laws, on top of our defined scopes of practice.

Then still more sessions I attended focused on the consumer. The average person in the United States wants to eat less fat, sugar and salt but they still don’t know how to do this, as more and more products and more and more media bombards them with controversial food information.

Following this I sat in on an almost two hour talk on the latest “diet” trend of intermittent fasting and all the potential positive outcomes of such a practice. This talk ended with the conclusion that there is not enough research to say with certainty that it is an evidenced based practice for health improvement; not surprisingly, more research is needed. No truth and more confusion for the masses.


More research is needed in every facet of food and nutrition, as theories in our field are young and vulnerable. Yet in the background I’m thinking sure, but more research means more time and what will happen over that time? What will become of the next thirty years as we continue to live longer, yet still have few answers to improve quality of life through our most basic need of food?

And to that, again I say, Food is Powerful. I listened my way through this conference sitting in on only a handful of over 100 available sessions, which collectively covered more areas of food and nutrition than any one person can hope to comprehend.


If all of that was an overwhelming whirlwind don’t worry, the takeaway I have for you is more simple. As provided by FNCE 2017 keynote speaker Kimbal Musk: #realfood. That’s (hashtag) Real Food. At the very least use it to nourish yourself. Find what that means for you and be well.

If you want to do more I encourage you to seek out the research and read it with a critical eye; get in in touch with food and nutrition professionals to ask questions and have discussions; learn about and get involved in your local food and/or health care system.

Determine what piece of the powerful food puzzle you are passionate about and make a stance towards using the power of food for good.

Thanks for tuning in to my conference debrief! Please feel free to reach out to me for details, comments and questions.

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Foods to Boost Your Immune System

….and prevent a cold virus from catching you this winter season.

The fall and winter months provide an ideal climate for cold viruses to thrive and wiggle their way into our body systems. So once the leaves start changing colors and the frost covers the ground it becomes all that more important to take preventative measures to stay well.

Contributing wellness factors include getting moderate activity for fresh air and blood flow, adequate sleep for body recovery and rejuvenation, and self-care for avoiding emotional distress.

Oh yes, and food. Nutritious, immune boosting food!

Certain nutrients help the immune system directly or indirectly by: prevention of cell damage from unstable molecules (antioxidants protect against free radicals), preventing the growth of or killing off microbes (which include bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) and decreasing inflammation in cells and tissues.


Here are a few key foods, and their highlighted nutrients, to include in your diet to help prevent those annoying cold symptoms.

  1. Garlic and onions. Contain the phytonutrient allicin, among other compounds= antimicrobial.**
  2. Peppers, all varieties! Contain vitamin C and capsasin= antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.IMG_20150511_184332740IMG_20150308_172540942_HDR
  3. Salmon. Contains vitamin E and omega-3 oils= antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
  4. Lentils and pumpkin seeds. Contain minerals zinc, selenium and iron= help with activity of antioxidant enzymes.
  5. Green tea. Contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)= antimicrobial and antioxidant.

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Plus any produce that is naturally blue, purple or green; these colors represent thousands of phytonutrients that work in sync with your body to prevent and fight sickness and disease. 

Meal and snack ideas to cover all the bases:

  • Lemon and ginger green tea with cayenne and dab of local honey.
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds and handful of blueberries.
  • Lentil soup with onion and garlic, flaxseed crackers on the side.
  • Salmon fajitas with sautéed peppers and onions, avocado and salsa.

**Have you ever eaten a raw clove of garlic? It is spicy and potent! Raw or lightly cooked garlic is shown to have more antimicrobial benefit than roasted or fully cooked garlic. The more pungent your breath the better!

More information can be gained online with the OSU Linus Pauling Institute.

Rainstorm in your Sinuses

We have to admit that mother nature has been upping her game recently; hurricanes, tropical storms, fires and earthquakes… even without these natural disasters, every season of the earth’s rotation brings new weather patterns.

Have you ever stopped to think about how the weather may be affecting your health?

Clamming 2014

“You better check yo self before you wreck yo self. Cos I’m bad for your health, I come real stealth…” –Ice Cube

Ice Cube has got it right. When it comes to our health we must stay aware of all aspects of our environment, internal and external, and this includes what the sky looks like out your window every morning.

Not that we as individuals have much control what nature will bring us, but the more in-tune we are to our own bodies as they fit into the world around us, the better clarity we will have as to our well being. Knowledge equals power to make the best informed choices for us.

Here are a few awareness tid-bits on how changes in our surrounding climate may stealthily sneak up on us:


Sudden temperature changes, humidity changes, smog and smoke in the air:

  1. Can cause allergy-like symptoms= sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, nosebleeds, ear infections, fatigue; also associated with asthma and sinusitis (inflamed sinuses).
  2. How to prevent, help, or not make these unwanted affects worse during these times= avoid alcohol, spicy foods, polluted air, cleaning chemicals, and scented products; rinse sinuses with saline solution as desired.
  3. NOTE: there weather-related symptoms have nothing to do with the immune system, however they mimic actual allergy or cold symptoms so be mindful of which you may be experiencing!

Cold weather or sudden drops in temperature:

  1. Can be hard on the heart, as the body works to regulate your body temperature.
    • Avoid vigorous activity in the cold, especially if you have heart disease.
    • Keep indoor temperatures at 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit (World Health Organization).
  2. Can cause joint stiffness and pain.
    • Avoid weight –bearing activities during these times, or seek a warmer environment if pain persists.

Sudden weather changes; thunderstorms, rain storms, windstorms and the like:

  1. Can cause headaches and migraines due to barometric pressure changes.
  2. If you make the connection between the weather and your headaches, do your best to avoid up and down swings in weather by finding a consistent climate to live, work or play.

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There is also a condition called Seasonal Effective Disorder that is worth noting. This condition includes experiencing poor mood or negativity, irritability, extreme fatigue, change in appetite, or just pure sadness, when the seasons change. There is controversy over why this occurs; some studies show drops in the production of hormone serotonin when days get shorter and darkness comes sooner, however it can also occur throughout the summer months as well. The best remedy is to spend time outside each day in the daylight, no matter the season, as the light and fresh air has been shown to boost serotonin levels, energy and happiness. It may also be worth having your vitamin D level checked, as it may drop off in the winter months and deficiency has been linked to some symptoms of seasonal effective disorder.

There may be other effects of the natural environment on your individual wellbeing, no matter if they have been scientifically researched or not. Pay attention to how YOUR health responds to climate patterns and do what you feel is best to ensure the consequences are for the better, no weather… I mean worse.

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Sources:

WebMD, “The Weather: Wreaking Havoc on Health”, by Elizabeth Heubeck; online at http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/the-weather-wreaking-havoc-on-health#1

National Institute of Mental health, Seasonal Affective Disorder; online at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D; online at http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-d/evidence/HRB-20060400

 

Fig Rich

I will be honest, I did not know much about figs until this blog.

I knew they were delicious! I knew they had decent fiber and fairly high natural sugars… but that’s about it. So when I was given the opportunity to explore with fresh figs, I happily took advantage.

In short, a family gathering of which a family member has a fig trees means I was sent home with almost 20 fresh, very ripe, green and purple figs. Like many of my food adventures, the best way I have found to learn a new food is to dive in! Making lemonade from lemons as the saying goes… (although figs are much sweeter to start).


IMG_5105Searching for information on fresh figs led me to many new discoveries. Coulis, for example, is not a culinary term I was previously familiar with. Now I know, by definition courtesy of Wikipedia, a coulis is a form of thick sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables or fruits. A vegetable coulis is commonly used on meat and vegetable dishes, and it can also be used as a base for soups or other sauces.” See below for my fig coulis recipe!


Also, I now have the pleasure to share with you these fun facts on figs:

  • Figs are OLD, originating back to 5,000 BC, in Asia.
  • There are at least 18 different varieties of figs.
  • Over the many years of their existence figs have been used for a variety of purposes including: fertility, an aid in digestion, to quit smoking, as a humectant for freshness, to treat diseases of skin pigmentation, and I believe fig leaves where the first clothing used by mankind, according to the bible.
  • Figs grown on a tree. These trees flourish in sunny, dry regions and can be anywhere from 10 to 50 feet tall when planted in the ground (smaller if kept in a pot).
  • Anyone can keep a fig tree if tended to with adequate sun, warmth and nitrogen rich soil; large indoor/outdoor pots will suffice. Often when fig trees are contained they will appear more like a bush than a tree, with wide, outward growing branches.
  • As mentioned above, as a fruit, figs have a high fiber and natural sugar content, but they also have decent levels of minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Per the nature of most fruits, figs have no fat or cholesterol.
If you decide you would like to grow figs, I suggest consulting more in-depth information than my brief sinopsis here, such as found at the California Rare Fruit Growers website, link below.

The recipes I modified after some “research” online, and of which are outlined below, include: fig coulis (as mentioned above), fig coulis bruschetta, fig jam, and fig and cherry cake. For aesthetic pleasure a fresh garden salad with figs, grilled figs and yogurt with figs.

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Fig Coulis

  • 6 ripe, fresh figs, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used aged spicy mango balsamic)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used lemon olive oil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Store in airtight jars; keeps in the refrigerator for a few months, or freeze for longer storage. Use as a sauce on meats, poultry or fish, or as a dip or spread with cheese, crackers, or veggies.

I have used mine as a salad dressing, to bake with, as well as to make bruschetta with fresh cherry tomatoes, watermelon and parsley, pictured below.

Fig Jam

  • 3 ripe, fresh figs, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract (or 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice)
  • ⅛ cup water

Put first three ingredients into small saucepan on medium heat and bring to a low boil, turn down heat, add water, stir and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes before pouring into airtight jars. Jam will store in the refrigerator for several months, or freeze for longer storage.

Fig and Cherry Cake

  • 4 ripe, fresh figs; 3 cut into chunks for the fillings, 1 sliced for the top
  • 1 cup cherries, fresh and pitied, sliced in half; ⅔ for the filling, ⅓ for the top.
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅔ cup honey
  • ¾ stick butter, melted
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached flour (whole or white pastry)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Cream the honey and butter with mixer in medium bowl. Add the eggs and blend again. Add remaining ingredients except the sliced fig and cherries reserved for the top, blend until smooth. Greece the bottom of a springform pan and dust with flour. Pour batter into pan and spread evening. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining figs and cherries, pressing them lightly into the batter. Turn oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place pan on the bottom rack of oven and let cook for 35 minutes. Move pan to top rack of oven and cook another 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted towards the edge of the cake. Let cool for 20 minutes before removing springform and enjoying!

We ate ours with lemon gelato and it was AMAZING!

 

After trying all of these recipes, slicing and dicing many plump, juicy figs, I have to say that my favorite way to eat them is straight up- raw and sweet!

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Resources:

US Davis Fruit & Nut Research & Information, onine at http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/dsadditions/Fig_Fact_Sheet/

California Rare Fruit Growers, online at https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html

Valley Fig Growers, Fresno, California, online at http://www.valleyfig.com/about-us

California Figs, online at https://www.californiafigs.com/index.php?pageid=11

Will Hike for Food

So you have some outdoor adventures coming up this summer?! …

Have you thought about what you will do for food??

Too often this question is left unanswered, until you’re packing to leave. The default is a drop in at the grocery store on your way out of town for a handful of protein bars, trail mix, Gatorade and maybe a bag of chips for the ride. Sub-par nutrition for the activity you about to embark on.

With this food approach, at the minimum you are gone half a day hiking moderate terrain in moderate conditions and it’s no big deal; other times you are gone for one or more days of high exertion in variable weather and find yourself dehydrated, fatigued, and in the long run malnourished or sick in the days to follow.


My advice is to BE PREPARED for all outdoor adventure occasions with nourishing food to maximize your experience and come back home refreshed from the experience.

camp food

Here are some tips on where to start. Also check out my past article Camping Fare for more ideas.

Day adventures


Outdoor activity is best fueled with low fiber, high nutrient and energy dense food with adequate water content. Preparing your own food is the best way to accomplish this.

Example meals/snacks

  • boiled eggs
  • ants on a log (celery and peanut butter with raisins)
  • nut butter and banana sandwich, maybe with some honey?!
  • cheese sandwich
  • smoked salmon wrap
  • homemade energy bites or granola bars
  • dried fruit
  • nut mix

Camping adventures


Camping for multiple days of daily activity, with a cold food storage available to you.

Prep ahead

  • Cut veggies and fruit
  • Cut cheese or meats into slices
  • Put bulk items into smaller containers: nuts/seeds, crackers, granola, jerky, cheese, hummus, condiments, etc.

Make ahead, with option to freeze in advance (and double as ice packs in the cooler!) These heat up great as one pot meals on stove top or over fire.

  • Examples:
    • Chili, stews, soups
    • Pasta and sauce
    • Pancakes/waffles
    • Burritos
    • Rice and beans
    • Sausage and potatoes (add veggies for stir-fry in camp)
    • Tuna/salmon/egg salad or dip
    • Lasagna
    • Enchiladas
    • Casseroles

 

Fluids!


Bring plenty; carry more than you think you will need when you are out and about, or know there is an alternative source available to you.

Know before you go:

  1. Is there somewhere to fill up drinkable water? At your camp? On the trail?
  2. Should you carry a water filter or iodine tablets when away from camp?
  3. How will you carry water during activity?

Best rule is to drink water every 20 minutes, with food every hour

Fluid sources besides water:

  • Cooked meals
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Coffee or tea
  • (dry bars and trim mixes will require more fluid intake)

Get out there and enjoy the outdoors!

Learn the Language of Labels

This article is brought to you by the High Desert Food and Farm Directory 2017 Check out the full directory here! 

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On average, supermarkets are filled with 42,000 different products – and what can feel like almost that many labels.  Each of us has our own priorities for what we feel is important.  It can be confusing to figure out what’s true and verified, or what’s unregulated or a gimmick. Understanding the basics of  labels can help you decide what works best for you and fits your values.

While some labels are legally defined, others are not. To help you navigate, the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance put together tips and information about some of the more common labels so you know what you’re buying.

First Tip: Differentiating between the label and the actual farming practice or animal’s welfare is important. For example, chicken that is labeled “organic” does not necessarily mean that the hens were raised in a humane manner.

  • A label is a claim – or a value statement – made on a product which may or may not be certified or verified by the government or another agency
  • A regulation is a rule or definition that is maintained by an authority
  • Certification means the product is verified to meet regulations set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), or go beyond government standards

More tips to help you shop smart:

  1. Look for a recognized symbol
  2. Look for a definition of the word
  3. Ask your farmer

Labels


Local

HDFFA defines local as the tri-county region of Central Oregon.  Ask around and you’ll probably find that everyone has a different definition.

Free Roaming/Pasture Fed/Meadow Raised

These labels refer to the environments in which animals are raised and must either be connected to a certified symbol or have a definition on the product to verify the claim.

Grass-Fed/Grain-Finished/Vegetarian Fed

Labels referring to an animal’s diet clarifies what they  have been fed throughout their lives, and requires that they have only eaten the diet claimed on the label.

Natural

This term has USDA guidelines, but no regulation, and suggests that a product does not contain artificial ingredients or colors and is only minimally processed.  Individual companies can, and do, make up their own definitions for their products.

Cage-Free Chicken

This is not a regulated label since conventionally grown meat birds are typically not grown in cages, but rather large open structures.

USDA-Regulated Labels


Cage-Free Eggs

Hens must be housed in a way gives them unlimited access to food and water, and freedom to roam during the laying cycle.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t in cages at some point during their lives, or that they have access to the outdoors. Look for egg cartons with the US Grademark seal to verify USDA certification.

Shell Egg Grade ATriShield

Free-Range Poultry

This label is for poultry only and means that the birds must have access the outdoors.  However, this may only be a “pop-hole” with no full-body access.  There is no definition for non-poultry animals.

Raised without Hormones

Hormones are only approved for use in beef-cattle and sheep – they are not allowed with hogs or poultry (including laying hens).  If you see the claim on beef, it is valid if sufficient documentation shows no hormones have been used to raise the animal.  Look for the USDA Process Verified Seal.

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Raised without Antibiotics

Producers must provide sufficient documentation showing that no antibiotics were used in the feed, water or injections when raising the animal.  Look for the USDA Process Verified Seal.

USDA Organic

Farms must meet approved methods to protect natural resources and conserve biodiversity, and are only allowed to use approved substances.

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Certifications


GMO-Free. This label is verified by the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit, and is not government regulated. This label verifies that a product does not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

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If you see these logos on your products, you know that your food has been certified and meets or exceeds USDA standards: the Oregon Tilth® logo tells you the product is organic, and the American Humane® or Processed and Certified Humane® logos ensure that animals are treated humanely in the way they are raised, fed and processed.

Animal Welfare Approved is based in Terrebonne and is a HDFFA Sponsor.  They certify that animals are raised following the highest standards. Only family farms are approved. Standards are unique to each type of animal and are very comprehensive.

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Sources: Consumer Reports, Greener Choices, USDA Labeling Guideline and USDA FSIS Compliance Guidance for Label Approval

What is the Meaning of Life?

Has this question ever be asked to you? Do you have an answer?

During the troublesome times of my youth— you know, tragic things like when homework got in the way of a friend’s party invite or I missed the winning point at a sport tournament— I would express my upset in spins of emotion from rage to depression. Instead of getting angry back at the insensible reactions to my teenage turmoil, in the mist of my verbal objections my father would ask:

“Is this the meaning of life?”

It would stop me in my tracks every time. Never once did I find that whatever ailed me was worth my whole life.

As I grew older (dare I say wiser) I once asked my father what should have been the obvious question: “If this (insert singular petty event) isn’t the meaning of life, what is?”. His response was even more insightful than his original statement: “I don’t know, but when you find out I would like to know as well!”

 


I recently attended a conference, the Art & Science of Health Promotions, in which I was asked to articulate my purpose in life. The question brought tears to my eyes as I recalled the above childhood memories of my father. The context of this discussion at the conference was to explain, articulate and theorize on spiritual wellbeing and how this broader picture of how we each fit into the world triggers our thoughts, emotions, actions and overall health.

Spiritual wellbeing, the untouchable and often unthinkable pillar to holistic wellness! Defined by Brian Luke Seaward as the accumulation of our relationships, values and a meaningful purpose in life. The piece of the wellness puzzle that is easy to loose. Without it, can we truly be whole?

A few days later in this same conference one of our keynote speakers, Victor Strecher, spoke on his extensive research around what having a purpose in life does for our physical, mental and emotional health, and how you can not weed out one from the other. In a nutshell, having a purpose in life IS the meaning of life and the key to health and happiness. Plus, he had studies to prove it.

If you are interested in learning more on this topic and the evidence, I encourage you to read Victor’s book, “Life On Purpose”; I admittedly have not yet read it, as I have just returned from the above mentioned conference, however I have no doubt I, or you, will not be disappointed.

 


Our ability to dream and rationalize, to create and control, to stay our course when the outside world wants to tempt us into regret, stems not from pure willpower, but from purpose.

As intuitive as it sounds, articulating your purpose is not always easy. What is important to you? What are your morals and values? These are big questions. But as you think about them, discuss them with friends and family, and apply skills and knowledge as necessary to enhance them, your path in life will form in front of you. I have no guarantees it will be a straight path, but it will not be a wall of resistance.

As Victor states, it is important to distinguish a purpose in every aspect of your life, and keep a balance in each; too much focus in any one direction can lead to burnout or regression. For instance, what is your purpose in living a meaningful life for you as an individual? For you as a friend and family member? For you as a co-worker? For you in your community at large?

I encourage you to think on this question— what is your meaning(s) of life; keep them near, refer back to them often and live your life by them to your best ability. It is important to note that this is not a box to put yourself in or a label to stamp on your forehead, but a fluid exercise that should not restrain but expand.

Grandma Flower Love


In this stage of my life I have the courage to state my meaning of life, and it goes something like this:

Be a loving daughter, cousin, niece, aunt and wife. Do onto thy neighbor as you would do unto those you love. Take time for adventure and enjoy the outdoors. Support wellbeing in all those I meet. 

I have yet to ask my father what his meaning of life is, but I look forward to the conversation, as he continues to be a huge inspiration and drive for my purpose on this earth.