It’s Still Celiac Awareness Month!

By Rachel Sircy

For readers who missed my last post, May is Celiac Awareness Month. It’s the time of year when celiacs around the globe try to spread the word about what celiac disease is and what we can do about it. This post, I’m going to continue my celiac story. I think that one of the best ways that I can help spread the word about celiac disease is to make it personal. So, instead of a lecture, I’m going to tell you a story. (P.S. If you missed the first part of this story, check out my post from earlier this month).

The story of my life as a celiac is both complicated and simple. The simple version of it is that I was sick for most of my life with celiac disease. The complicated part was living with a disease I’d never heard of and that none of my doctors had even considered as a possibility. As a child, I was first diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency at age two when my hair started to fall out. Even taking daily vitamins, I struggled with borderline anemia. By the time I was in my senior year of high school, extreme fatigue, memory problems, and joint pain plagued me and got worse and worse. My grades, which had always been good, began to plummet, and though I’d always been a little bit spacey, I started to become dangerous. I had trouble staying awake for long periods of time and began to fall asleep in class. When driving I know I was worse than most drunk drivers. I frequently ran red lights, not even realizing what I’d done until it was too late. Oftentimes I would misjudge curves in the road, and I accidentally ramped more than one sidewalk. I would also make these misjudgments while walking and would slam into almost every door frame that I passed through, sometimes hard enough to actually stop me in my tracks. My friends in my last year of high school (and some teachers) began to tease and then seriously ask me about getting tested for ADD. I had trouble holding a steady conversation for more than a few minutes. By the time I got to school each day, I couldn’t remember what I’d eaten for breakfast. One girl nicknamed me Blondie – not because I was truly blonde, but because she felt it captured the Out-to-Lunchness of my personality.

I had all of the problems listed above, but I never had any serious gastric symptoms until I was around 19 years old and had left the country to study abroad for my sophomore year of college. During that school year, I began having horrible stomach pain after every meal. It was as if hundreds of gas bubbles were trapped in my stomach, and it seemed that these painful gas bubbles were churning up fiery stomach acid that gave me heartburn I could feel in my ears. All this made me nauseated and yet, I couldn’t throw up if I wanted to. I don’t know why, but in my case, instead of vomiting and diarrhea, my gastrointestinal tract seemed to simply shut down. In short, by the time I finally broke down and went to the gastroenterologist at age 21, I thought I might have an ulcer or be dying of stomach cancer.

I had an IgA blood test done at age 21 on my first visit to the gastroenterologist. I was truly blessed to find a doctor familiar with celiac disease. When he first came into the room to see me, he asked a few questions, poked my stomach a little and said, “I’m pretty sure I know what’s wrong with you.” He hit the nail on the head. My endoscopy was scheduled for a few days after my 22nd birthday and it was the best gift I’d ever gotten. My doctor saw me again after the results came in; he read the report in front of me and when he looked up at me he said, “Yeah, I thought so, You look like a celiac.”  He explained to me that my intestinal lining, which should look like a shag carpet, looked like a tile floor. My case, he said, was fairly advanced for someone my age. I was told to go on a gluten free diet. I had no idea what this meant. I’d never heard of gluten before that doctor’s visit, and it seemed to me that everyone in that office had lost their marbles. How on earth could whole wheat bread – the staff of life – be bad for anyone? I wasn’t a health nut, but I’d been raised to believe in the virtue of brown bread and whole grain spaghetti. A nurse came in and opened a huge book called “The Gluten Free Bible” and told me I needed to throw away my toaster. I felt like I’d been kidnapped by people from an alternate dimension where people wore their clothes backwards and no one in her right mind would think of eating whole grains. I was completely and utterly overwhelmed by my diagnosis.

That’s where I’ll end my story for now. I’m going to write one more entry detailing my foray into the world of gluten free eating to finish up my Celiac Awareness Month posts.

The good news is that there are so many advances in this area of distress that I think celiacs should take heart. There is currently a bill getting ready to make it’s way through the federal government compelling the National Institutes of Health to pursue a cure and research into the autoimmune and genetic factors of celiac disease. If you or someone you know have celiac disease, it’s worth your while to get on the Celiac Disease Foundation’s mailing list. They do send a lot of emails, particularly this time of year, but they do keep you up to date on the latest research and general goings-on in the ever-widening world of gluten intolerance.  Additionally, they give you real ideas on how to make a contribution. Recently, because of their notifications, I was able to send an email to Lindsey Graham asking for his support for a bill that has recently gone before the Senate requiring drug and supplement manufacturers to label gluten in their products.

Infographic_Celiac Disease at a Glance

Medicine is an often overlooked source of hidden gluten.  Prescription and over-the-counter medications can contain gluten, and sometimes celiacs who observe strict diets can fail to get better because they are still consuming gluten through their medications. FYI, these are some places you should look for gluten if you are intolerant: medicine (pills and liquids), lip balm, toothpaste and mouthwash – in short, anything you put in or near your mouth needs to be screened for gluten.

Happy gluten free living to all my allergic and intolerant peeps out there!

 

Riverbanks Petting Zoo

By Tina Michelle Cameron

As many of you know if you read my posts or are friends with me on Facebook, I am a weekly volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo in the Farm area, Zebra/Ostrich and the Education Center. I have been there almost two years and it is the highlight of my week on Tuesday mornings. It is physically demanding, especially in this heat, but I absolutely love it. I am tired, sore and smelly when I come home, but it is a good kind of tired, soreness and well, not so good smell.

IMG_1550  If any of you have been to the zoo since January, you may have noticed that the ponies are gone. They are now living on farms and having a great retirement. I have a great friend, Darlene, whose daughters’ horse is at the same stable and so I get regular pictures and updates on them. What is now in the place of the pony rides is a brand-new petting zoo that just recently opened about two weeks ago. We have several chickens in a coop, three baby piggies and as of right now, 19 baby goats that are absolutely precious and growing like weeds. There will be 11 more baby goats coming soon.

 

We have a few different types of goats; They are a Nigerian Dwarf, American Lamancha, Saanen and then one Nubian, whose name is Mike. He is my favorite new baby.  He absolutely loves people, being petted and getting attention. He is the only one that is going to be big like the other 3 goats at the Farm. 

If you are a zoo member, you get admission to it, but you can buy treats to give the goats, brush and pet them and watch them be fed by our wonderful zookeepers. The entire petting zoo is ADA compliant and I got to meet a wonderful little boy and his mom yesterday who was not able to run around like the other children, so I picked up Mike, so this sweet child could pet him. It was his first experience in petting a baby goat and it made my day.

Please come out and check out our new petting zoo. The kids are sure to love it and the parents as well. Enjoy the pictures. Mike is the one with the long floppy ears.

 

One Year after Diagnosis

By Lisa Baker

Hi everyone.  Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the weather.  As I sit down to write my blog post I realize it has now been one year since we got Mom’s diagnosis of dementia.  None of us could have even imagined all that we have gone through.  Sometimes it seems as if it could be a bad dream.  But it isn’t.

Dementia can be so very complex and so very different for each person.  So please know that I am in no way an expert on the subject. I can only tell you things we have experienced and things we have learned along the way.

If you think about everything we have experienced in one year, lots of patients and their families go through this sometimes for years before their loved one passes away.

Can you imagine living for years with dementia?  Many families can’t afford help to care for their loved one.  So they do the best they can everyday, twenty four hours with no or very little help.  Let that thought sink in for a while.

This is a very hard disease.  Hard on the loved one that has it and hard on the family members that take care of them.  It is different for each and every person.  What works for one may not work for another.  The worst part of all is when you realize that you are losing your loved one bit by bit every single day.  Until you have lost them completely; yet they are physically still alive.  At this point they don’t remember your name or that you are a part of their family.  It’s very heartbreaking.  You begin grieving when you first get the diagnosis and continue to grieve even until they die and after.

photoYou keep thinking that it’s got to get easier yet it really doesn’t.  Even now I still find myself suddenly in tears over the smallest things because they remind me of Mom.

About a week and a half after Mom passed, it was her birthday.  Now a month and a half later and it’s Mother’s Day.  So we are left trying to figure out how to celebrate, yet missing Mom so very much.

If you think your loved one my have dementia go with them to their Doctor appointments.  Talk with their Doctor about any small issues that you are noticing.  Remember there is no cure but there are some medications that do seem to help.  Try not to correct your loved one, it only confuses them more.  Try to go along with their conversation or gently redirect them.  Remember that just as challenged as you feel they are also feeling confused.

I wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day! Celebrate with your families and make plenty of memories.  Even take lots of pictures.

A Mother’s Intuition

By Marianna Boyce

It’s Mother’s Day weekend and my mind is full.  For those who have either lost their mom, or a bereaved mother that has lost a child, I cannot fathom how difficult it must be.  I pray fond memories comfort your hearts, especially this weekend.

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With so many ideas, I wasn’t sure which direction to take.  Instinctively, I began writing about my amazing mom and quickly concluded this blog could not contain all the stories of her loving kindness in just one post.  She is absolutely the best!

Another fun idea was to share my motherhood blunders.  I didn’t write much before realizing I had enough material to write a novel.  As a contributor to Every Woman Blog, there are countless opportunities to share these stories in future posts.

MomAfter writing and deleting several rough drafts, a reminiscent and relative story kept finding its way to the forefront of my mind.  It’s about the day my intuitive mom revealed to me a little secret…

Soon after I married, I invited my mom and daddy over for supper on an unusually cool evening in September.  Mom taught me to cook when I lived at home, but I wasn’t up for cooking a huge meal with all the trimmings.  I made homemade vegetable soup instead.  Everyone raved how delicious it was, and they also enjoyed homemade brownies I made by reading the instructions on the back of a box (wink wink.)  Their praises made this young new bride beam with pride.

After dessert and coffee, I felt nauseous.  Breaking out in a sweat, I thought I’d up-chuck right there on my living room floor, but let not your hearts be troubled:  I thankfully made it to the bathroom just in time.  The best mom in the universe followed me down the hall to help her baby girl.  She placed a cold cloth on the back of my neck, and another one to wipe my forehead as I was hugging the porcelain throne.  I was mortified!  How horrible would it be for everyone to get food poisoning from something I lovingly cooked for them.  Luckily, no one else was sick.

I felt much better after my unfortunate episode, so mom and I tidied the kitchen.  She tried making me sit down to relax, but I stubbornly refused.  She looked at me and said, “Honey, I think you’re pregnant.  There’s something different about you, and I believe you’re going to be a new mommy.”

What was different?  How did she know?

After scheduling a doctor’s appointment, I invited my intuitive mom to accompany me for support.  It turns out she was right and knew it before anyone else.  She was truly ecstatic, and I was scared to death!  Her baby was having a baby.

BabyI was married on July 18, 1987, and my due date was April 18, 1988, exactly nine months to the day.  I am 100% positive that Cody was conceived on my honeymoon night.  There’s a comical story to share in another post how I know that for sure…

We never need a special day to honor our mothers.  We just need special mothers to honor everyday.  I’m blessed to have two.  To my mom, Mary Lee Caldwell, and mother-in-law, Eleanor Boyce, I love you both dearly.  To my amazing bonus daughter Tiffany, remember being a mom is the most difficult, yet most rewarding job a woman can ever have.  You’re a terrific mom!  Happy Mother’s Day ladies.

Spring Recipes

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

May has arrived!  Beautiful flowers and refreshing showers are evident of God’s great creations. When Azaleas (or bah-zale-yahs as one of my granddaughters calls them) bloomed in April I took a picture of mine that has grown very large over the thirty-plus years since my sweet husband and I planted them beside the gazebo he built for our wedding. I have never been much of a gardener, and I envy though with green thumbs.  I’ll stick to my white thumbs, as in baking, and admire the handy work of God through the talents and skills of others.

Decorated bakeAnother birthday was celebrated at our family Easter lunch.  This one was for my oldest granddaughter who wanted a Rainbow cake.  She drew several pictures of rainbows to make sure I got the colors of the 6-layer cake in order. My first attempt making Swiss Meringue Buttercream was successful, however, my 2nd, 3rd and 4th attempts were not!  I was so disappointed having just enough of the first batch to frost between the layers and crumb coat the cake. Two pounds of butter later, I opted for a whipped cream frosting of pink and white.  Some sugar butterflies were place on it for a beautiful finish. The traditional lighting of the candles and singing was followed by helping the birthday girl make the first cut of her cake revealing the colored cake layers. We all missed celebrating my sweet husband’s birthday that would have been in early May.  What a photo that would have been with all of his grands, especially the little ones, helping him blow out his candles!  His cake request would have been either Peanut Butter or German Chocolate.

31E9s8nv95LThere has been several overwhelming days/nights as I pray and wait on God’s answers for my future and guidance in making wise decisions. As humans, we naturally try to handle all of our life issues and drive ourselves crazy worrying about how to solve them ourselves. It is hard for us to “Let Go and Let God”.  I’m no exception to this fault.  My life was turned upside down when my sweet husband was sick and then passed away.  So much to try to handle on my on without him here to be my voice of reason, as he was throughout our marriage.  I am reminded of the song “Press On” sung by the christian group, Selah.  The chorus is, “In Jesus name, we press on. In Jesus name, we press on. Dear Lord with the prize, clear before our eyes.  We find the strength to press on.” So this I will do…press on and follow the whispered answers the Lord has sent to me.

The end of the school year is upon us, and hectic as usual.  My students and I have enjoyed a few global cuisine recipes including Crepes, Soft Pretzels, Churros, Empanadas and Cottage Pie (Sheppard Pie made with ground beef).   I have included a few of these hoping you will enjoy them, too.

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Soft Pretzels

Crepes

Cottage Pie

 

Sweetest Little Fellas

By Shannon Boatwright

“Sweetest little fella, Everybody knows, Don’t know what to call her, but she’s mighty like a rose, lookin’ at her Lolli, with eyes so big and brown, makes ya think that heaven, has just come to town.”

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My sweet Lolli, my Mama’s mother, used to sing this song to me. Now, all of us Vaughan Girls, the ladies of my family, sing this same song to our own “little lovettes,” as she’d say.

This past week, over my Spring Break, my own babies and I had the opportunity to visit family in NC. We were able to meet our newest cousin for the first time. He is such a precious addition to our awesome family. It was a sweet moment when we felt the urge and calling to sing this special song to our newest angel baby. My Lolli would always adapt the song for boys and girls and for brown eyes or blue eyes.

I personally have very vivid memories of laying my little head on my Lolli’s chest hearing the ticking of her incredible heart. The heart that had been operated on back when they still broke open your ribs to get to your heart. The heart that had a pig’s valve that ticked so loudly, you could hear it in any quiet room if you stood next to her. It was a normal, comforting sound for me. A sound I grew up with and that represented peace and love to me.

I can still think back… the priceless memories allow me to smell, feel and hear all those sounds that remind me of my childhood. It’s such a lovely, unbelievable thing. I can hear my Lolli’s voice singing this song. I can feel her skin and her hands as they hold and love on me. I can hear the rhythm of her fantastic heart creating the baseline of love as she sings that lovely song to me. I’d have the pleasure of hearing it in sweet moments, in fun moments, and in moments of sadness.

It’s only now that I’m older, in our moments of admiring and adoring our newest addition to the family, that we actually thought about and had a discussion about the meaning of the song. This was the only part I knew and that I remember being sung. But it’s an angelic thing that suddenly brings a bit of magical understanding to why I always refer to my own children as my angel babies. Looking into their precious, innocent eyes truly does seem like a slice of heaven. When those angel babies look up at you with such purity, it seriously is as if heaven has come to town. How true the song is!

It’s a lovely thing indeed when we take time to treasure the sweetest lil fellas in our lives. Treasure the moments with your angel babies. Allow yourself to feel and be a part of that little slice of heaven!

Celiac Awareness Month 2019

May is Celiac Awareness month, and so for the next few posts, I’ll be sharing facts and figures about Celiac disease and ways that you can spread the word and possibly even raise funds for more Celiac research.

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Let’s start at the beginning. What is Celiac Disease? The Mayo Clinic has done a great deal of research, and so I’m going to use their definition (this can be found on the Mayo Clinic website directly from the overview section of their pages on celiac disease): “Celiac disease […] is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine. Over time, this reaction damages your small intestine’s lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption). The intestinal damage often causes diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anemia and can lead to serious complications.”

Celiac disease is triggered by a combination of genetic factors, environmental factors and by eating gluten. The exact triggers are not known and may be different for every individual. Speaking personally, no one knows exactly when celiac disease was triggered in me, but it was very likely in early childhood. My mother said that at the age of two, my hair began to fall out. All that the pediatrician could tell Mom was that I had a vitamin deficiency, but he didn’t know what caused it. He told my mother to start me on vitamins, which she did. After that, I always teetered on the brink of anemia, though doctors couldn’t explain that either. I was told to take Geritol (vitamins with a high iron content) at age 12. My mother had full-blown anemia and was diagnosed with celiac disease in her fifties, after suffering most of her life with the symptoms of malnutrition. My maternal grandmother said that when Mom was a toddler – about four – that she was so thin and small and sickly that Mom’s great-grandfather tried to nurse her back to health by spoon feeding her. My mother has never been healthy and neither have I. We are both celiacs.

The symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly from person to person and most of the gastrointestinal symptoms that people commonly associate with the disease – bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain – don’t set in until adulthood. I personally never had gastric pain or problems until I was about 19 years old, but up until that time, I suffered with borderline anemia, fatigue, joint pain, etc. In high school, my symptoms got worse: a serious inability to remember things started to set in and my friends and teachers began to ask me if I thought I might have Attention Deficit Disorder. My grades, which had always been good, began to plummet, and I skidded into college on a prayer. I have vivid memories of waking up for school in the morning feeling almost more tired than I was when I went to bed. I felt so tired that it hurt all the time. No amount of sleep or rest ever alleviated that feeling.

I drank insane amounts of caffeine and in my freshman year of college, adult-anxiety-black-and-white-1161268-e1556631409895.jpgwas falling asleep in classes in the middle of the afternoon. It took a Red Bull and a candy bar to get me through a one-hour lecture at 3pm. I remember this because it was my daily strategy. I never gained any weight, though, despite eating badly. I was hungry all the time and my cravings were weird. I craved salt more than anything (a symptom of anemia). My eyes would water at times when my salt cravings were really bad, and I found myself drinking shots of soy sauce, whole jars of the brine that green olives come in and – only once – eating a bouillon cube straight out of the little silver wrapper.

I will get to my diagnosis and subsequent adventures with the gluten-free diet in my next couple of posts, but I wanted to share all of the above with you all to remind everyone (I know, I do a lot of reminding 🙂 ) that celiac disease is a very real and serious condition, and that it can manifest itself in many different ways. If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or if you know someone who has been (you probably at least know someone since it affects about 1 in 133 people) please, please take it seriously! Once you know you’re a celiac, there is NO CHEATING on your gluten free diet. You’re not a fad dieter, you’re the same as a diabetic. Your life depends on what you eat! Spread the word, it’s Celiac Awareness Month!!