Summer Road Trip Series: Part V All Things Grand – A Sunset for the Ages

By: Marianna Boyce

After driving 2,000 miles in forty-eight hours, we were on target to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world before nightfall. I’m a fool for amazing sunsets, so having a unique opportunity to witness one at the Grand Canyon in Arizona was a gift from God Himself. Rest assured, this particular visit was unlike any other.

Before unpacking my personal experiences, I’ll share a few interesting tidbits of information about this internationally famous landmark.

The Grand Canyon was formed millions of years ago. It stretches for 277 miles and is eighteen miles wide. Millions of people from all around the world choose to visit this popular destination each year.

The natural force of plate tectonics and subduction lifted the Colorado Plateau high, and to this day, it remains relatively flat. This uplift was a key element to the formation of a majestic sight, allowing erosion to take over when the Colorado River cut back down into the canyon creating this natural beauty.

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Gazing into the gorge from lookout points high above, you can see this mighty river—only if you squint. If you didn’t know it was there, you may not even notice it. Some believe there’s no way this itty-bitty river—as compared to the enormity of the canyon—could’ve carved this astonishing sight.

Fossils of fish and sea creatures have been discovered at the top of this famous canyon. This sounds reasonable, especially since the uppermost layer of rock was actually formed at the bottom of the ocean.

Some on the other hand, have said the massive waters of God’s Great Flood in Noah’s day created this gigantic chasm in the earth. Sure, Noah didn’t witness this grand event. God saw fit to place his ark at the top of Mount Ararat in modern day Turkey. Nonetheless, water did cover the entire earth several thousand years ago. Could it be the fossils of fish and sea creatures in the top layer of the canyon are from this historical flood once the waters began to subside?

No matter your belief, the Grand Canyon should be on everyone’s bucket list.

A Double Rainbow to Kiss the Clouds
My Personal Experience

As we approached Grand Canyon National Park, it started drizzling rain. Since the Bible says to pray about everything, Gerry, Cody, and I did just that. We were all confident God could halt the rain, but He must’ve needed to test our faith because the nearer we drew, the heavier the drops became.

As we approached the front gate to purchase our parking pass, we concluded God had a wonderful sense of humor because a heavy downpour had officially ensued, but as quickly as it began, this gully-washer also abruptly stopped. We didn’t see or feel one drop of rain once we entered the park. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Well, maybe a little…

We slowly drove through the heavily wooded area absorbing the wonder of it all. There were lots of rabbits, squirrel, deer, and elk close by, but no canyon to speak of. Gerry and I were here in 2015 so we already knew, but Cody was curious where this natural wonder was hiding. This great canyon doesn’t visibly appear until you walk around the first bend of the walking path after parking the car. It isn’t there until suddenly, it is.

grand canyonThe initial sight of it is truly awe-inspiring.

It was an hour before sunset so our timing was impeccable; however, we were still contending with a blanket of clouds looming from the thunderstorm that ignited about eighty miles back around Flagstaff. We all surmised a sunset scene might possibly be out of the question, and that would be okay, but we’d no more uttered those words than something miraculous occurred.

The ominous curtain of clouds rolled back as if the portals of heaven opened about the time the sun began to dip behind the canyon walls. The sculpted land masses proudly stood as if they themselves commanded those clouds to clear, but we all know who it was. Only God could have orchestrated such an event.

The late-day sun peeking through after the rainstorm created a brilliant double rainbow that kissed the menacing clouds in the distance. The sunbeams were shimmering on the rim of the canyon walls just before disappearing for another cool night.

When the evening revealed this magical moment, a complete silence fell over the crowd. Time stood still, and in reverence, we all did the same. The splendor God exhibited by revealing such a sunset for thousands of people visiting from all around the world couldn’t have been more perfect.

We witnessed one of the most majestic sights anyone could ever see. I could almost hear the angels singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

I certainly didn’t want to miss this moment by looking through a lens on my iPhone, so this sacred picture is unapologetically saved in my mind’s eye.

As we exited the park at nightfall, the temperature dropped dramatically. Once we were safely in the car, it started raining relentlessly—again. We doubled back to Flagstaff to hopefully find a room for the night. That was the plan anyway.

I was amazed how these events transpired, but God wasn’t finished. By the end of this night, He would reveal Himself to us in a very different way. Our safety and protection depended on it…

 

The Kindness of Strangers

By Shannon Boatwright

At this point in my life many things have occurred that remind me of the great importance of never passing judgement. The saying, never judge a book by its cover, is one of the truest statements ever. I think the more a person matures, the more accepting they can be of others and the less ignorance gets in the way of reason. It’s a beautiful thing to be in a place in which you’re not so quick to judge and instead open to genuine kindness, care and generosity.

I’ve had the blessing of being able to stay with my parents while my husband and I save up and search for a house that will best suit our family’s needs. Though it is indeed a blessing, it does come with some hardships. One hardship being that whenever it rains, because their home is on the lake and the sewer system needs updating, we have to do laundry elsewhere, otherwise the toilets won’t flush. The quickest, most efficient thing to do is to take our laundry to the laundromat.

My first time taking about 4 loads of laundry to the laundromat was quite the adventure. It was pouring rain outside and I had no idea how the whole process worked, much less how much it would cost. As I struggled to get my loads of stuff into the door, there was a kind man there who held the door open for me each time I floundered in. As I struggled to figure out how to work the old change machine, in which all the directions had worn off because it was so old, there were two incredibly friendly ladies there who guided me through the process and even gave me change. Fortunately I’m not afraid to ask questions and there was always someone willing to help guide me through how to operate the machines.

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Once I finally got settled and the laundry started, I looked around at all the different people in the laundromat and thought about what brought each individual there. Everyone has different circumstances, but we all had the same need – clean laundry! I had been afraid that I wouldn’t have enough change for the dryers. A lady nearby was finishing up folding her laundry and apparently had overheard me talking on the phone about my possible lack of quarters. She came up to me and placed a roll of quarters in my hand, saying, “I heard you mention you might not have enough money to dry your clothes, please take this. I don’t want you to have to go home with wet laundry.” By the time she’d come up to me, I had indeed figured out that I had enough money to dry everything. I thanked her profusely and insisted she keep her money. I left that laundromat with a full heart and a genuine, renewed sense of admiration for the kindness of strangers.

Now I look forward to the people I will meet whenever I have to go to the laundromat and I look forward to the opportunity to give back, pay it forward and be a light of nonjudgmental kindness to others. There is a great life lesson in being a light in other’s lives – a simple smile and a helping hand can go a long way in making someone’s day, not to mention your own. 🙂

Back To School Allergy Awareness Tips

By Rachel Sircy

education-662458_1280It’s that time of year again, when kids and teachers across the state are heading back to school. For an increasing number of parents, the school year is a time when they worry about their child’s health and safety. Our schools are attempting to become safer places by installing metal detectors and having police officers on campus, but what about those kids for whom the danger is ever-present and lurking in the lunchroom?

For those of us with food intolerances, sensitivities and allergies, staying healthy and safe is a constant battle. But there are things that we can do to keep our kids (and let’s not forget those teachers and school staff who may have allergies also!) from coming into contact with the wrong foods. If your child or someone you know has a food allergy which may be flared up at school, DON’T BE PASSIVE! There are steps you can take to help protect your child and everyone at their school.

  1. Contact the school and let them know ahead of time who your child is and what kind of food allergy they have. Be prepared to provide a doctor’s note. Let the school know how sensitive your child is to their allergen and then offer advice on how to control the situation at school. Don’t forget to provide the school with your child’s emergency medications, if they take any.
  2. While you on the phone with the school, see if they would be willing to promote food allergy awareness through programs like Be a PAL. There are tons of resources to help kids understand what food allergies are and how to help and protect their friends, from pamphlets and worksheets to coloring pages for the littlest learners. They are great classroom resources! Visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/be-a-pal
  3. If you and your child don’t have a food allergy, but find out that someone in his or her class does, then try to be mindful when providing snacks for your child and especially when providing treats for the class. Take a few minutes to learn about the allergy and how you can avoid it. Peanuts and nut allergies are extremely common and there are very simple methods for avoiding exposing nut allergy sufferers to their allergens. There are plenty of alternatives to nut butters on the market, including soy butter and sunflower seed butter (Tastewise, I prefer the sunflower seed butter. Enjoy Life Foods has a ton of products, including individually wrapped snack bars made from sunflower seed butter, which I can personally say are quite tasty. I would guarantee your kid won’t know the difference.)
  4. Remember, school time isn’t the only time that we need to be mindful of allergy sufferers. Any school function could be a place of exposure. So be sure to pack allergy-friendly snacks and treats for any of your child’s after-school programs, including sports practices and games, dance lessons and recitals, etc.

Those of us who may only have celiac disease and not food allergies are still aware of how hard it can be to feel comfortable and safe in a world filled with stuff we shouldn’t eat. So, let’s be even more careful to stand up for our allergy-suffering friends!  Happy back to school!

Prayers for our Nation

By Tina Cameron

My heart is yet broken again. Prayers, hugs, and love again being sent to people that I have never met. Facebook status being changed again for “Prayers for _____”. I have said it before in a blog–ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! That was in response to Law Enforcement Officers being beaten, shot, stabbed and murdered on a daily basis. Today is about the horrific shootings this weekend in two different cities–El Paso and Dayton.

I live in the land of the free, home of the brave. We do not live in a country that is in a war. This is The United States of America. People should not need to live in fear to go run errands at Walmart, the mall, or to go out with friends to a nightclub/bar to have a fun time. I have no words after these tragedies this weekend. Just tears, fear, and anger. Tears for the innocent people murdered in cold blood. For the 8 week old baby whose 25 year-old mom who was murdered as she shielded her newborn. This poor innocent child will never know his mom other then through words and pictures from his surviving family members. Numerous people were killed Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 at a Walmart shopping center in El Paso. They were doing what a lot of us do on Saturday mornings–running errands, grocery shopping, back to school shopping for their kiddos. When the unimaginable and unfathomable happened again in America–another mass shooting. So many people murdered, so many more injured and remain hospitalized. The young person responsible for this appears to be smiling on the still photo the police released as he walked into Walmart to unleash his mayhem. I read he left a manifesto. I do not want to read anything about this monster. The public needs to focus on the victims and their families, law enforcement, first responders, and the hospital medical teams who worked to save these people. Then I wake up to hear the news of another mass shooting in Dayton. Many died, many injured. Thank God, the shooter was stopped before killing more people.

I am one person, who cares for everyone, and I feel helpless because I do not know what to do to help these people. Prayers, hugs, and love are not enough to save the American people from these monsters that are living near us. I cannot fathom how someone could have that much hate and anger in them. Daily or weekly mass shootings do not belong anywhere in our beautiful country.

Fear has now become a part of mine and others’ lives. I now own a small handgun for protection at my home, however many places like Walmart do not allow guns in their store, so what are we to do to protect ourselves? Children should not witness their parents being slaughtered as well as parents watching their innocent 2 year-old be shot.

Anger, anger, and more anger. This is what I have felt since Saturday. I do not personally know anyone who has been shot in the mass shootings, however I have friends who know people shot and killed in the mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas. Just this weekend, it was announced that a student was arrested for making terrorist threats and videos about shooting up the school. This is a private Catholic school where my nephew just graduated from, my niece attends school at and my brother coaches at. This is the closest I have come to a potential incident happening affecting someone I love. Thank God that law enforcement was made aware and the student has been arrested before he could carry out any shootings.

As much as these mass shootings continue to happen, I have to believe in my heart that there are more good people then evil in the world. We need to come together as a Nation and shout from the rooftops ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! We need to spread kindness, not hate. We are all the same!! So, as I sit here typing this, my thoughts remain with the victims and the families of these senseless shootings. Please know that America’s heart breaks with you. Continued prayers for them, law enforcement, first responders and medical staff.

#spreadkindness
#loveoneanother
#weareallthesame
#prayersloveandhugs
#prayersformankind
#prayforamerica

Summer Road Trip Series: Part IV “Take It Easy”

By Marianna Boyce

New Mexico’s rising sun warmed my face, but the brisk wind chilled me to the bone. This made our morning coffee that much more satisfying. It was the best cup we had since leaving the Palmetto State of South Carolina thirty-six hours earlier.

pic 1As our journey continued westward, we crossed the Continental Divide. This is the point where water basins drain into the Pacific Ocean from those that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Am I the only one thinking this happened at the Mississippi River? Apparently, I am not smarter than a 5th grader.

pic 2Several hours after crossing this Great Divide, we reached Northeastern Arizona to visit the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook. This park is known for fossils of fallen trees dating to the late Triassic Epoch. Although very friendly, the rangers are quite protective of their treasures—for a good reason. With more petrified wood than anywhere else in the world, they have a watchful eye on park visitors. It is forbidden to move anything from its original location due to in-situ experiments being conducted by geologists, paleontologists, and archaeologists. Their research is deemed void of scientific value if any fossil is disturbed.

pic 3Those who have found a way to smuggle the 225-million-year-old wood from the park didn’t fare well. “The Curse of the Petrified Forest” is a legend that’s prompted many people to mail it back to the ranger station. This gesture supposedly helps clear their conscience and rid themselves of “streaks of bad luck” they’d experienced since stealing it. A room is dedicated to these “cursed thieves” displaying their “bucket loads of confessions” in the Rainbow Forest Museum at the park. (Facts and quotes provided by Legendsofamerica.com)

We drove through the park getting out only at designated lookout points. There were marked trails to explore so of course, our son walked about a quarter mile into this mysterious realm. Cody is in the blue shirt at the top of the trail in one photo. If you look closely in the other, you can barely see him on the trail. Gerry and I preferred gazing from the lookouts.

pic 6As we peered down into the mountainous desert, it was difficult gauging how big or small anything was. From our viewpoint, everything looked distorted because we were situated in a higher elevation. The clouds billowing just above eye-level casts shadows over the Painted Desert creating a mirage. The manner in which these shadows danced across the vast land made the terrain appear as if it were charred by a forest fire. The effect was quite stunning.

The cool morning transitioned to warm rather quickly, so we were happy having clouds move above us. By early lunch, it was scorching hot. The parking lots for all the lookout stations had recently been resurfaced, so the scent of newly poured asphalt filled the air. Standing in one place too long resulted in asphalt sticking to the bottom of your shoe. It happened to me, and proof of it appeared on the floor mat of my car. I prefer thinking of it as bringing home a little piece of Route 66.

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About thirty-seven miles east of Flagstaff, there’s a huge hole in the earth created by a meteor impact 50,000 years ago. Along the lengthy road leading to the crater are massive clay-looking boulders strewn over the terrain. I assume these rocks were blasted to where they now permanently remain after this colossal impact. They appear to be out of place, as they don’t match the natural surroundings.

pic 10The crater itself measures almost a mile in diameter and 560 feet deep. We climbed the steps to stand close to the rim. The photo taken with people standing on the deck gives a little perspective.

The white center is rubble lying above the bedrock with a life-sized astronaut standing next to an American flag. There is no need to zoom in on the photos. This sight cannot be seen with the naked eye. There are free, mounted binoculars on the rail of the deck to see him. Why this is not a National Park is a mystery to me, but it’s well taken care of by the private landowner.

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A few miles down the road from this notable impact site is a famous corner you can stand on in Winslow, Arizona. It’s a fine sight to see. This little dot on the map was made famous by the Eagles, so if you’re not familiar with the song, “Take It Easy,” this information probably makes zero sense to you.

There’s not a lot to see, but they have a red flatbed Ford parked on the side of the road, along with a bronze statue of Glenn Frey holding his acoustic guitar. A small gift shop stands adjacent to the corner, and the largest “Route 66” sign is painted in the middle of the two lane crossroads where this historic highway intersects with Winslow’s main thoroughfare. This stop is meant for people who need to take a break from driving, for those who wish to stand on that famous corner, or of course, for those who merely want to get the t-shirt. (We didn’t get photos this year, so I’m sharing a few from last year’s road trip.)

The closer we got to Flagstaff, the taller the trees stood. Strangely, the terrain resembled that of South Carolina. We were mesmerized by the unobstructed dome of blue sky in Texas and New Mexico, but in northwestern Arizona, the enormity of the western skies disappeared behind the brilliant green cover of leaves.

All we could see was the road in front of us. Little did we know what lay ahead…

Celiac Disease and Children: Some Things to Keep in Mind

By Rachel Sircy

pic 1I’ve been thinking lately about my daughter, who is four, and about whether or not she may also have celiac disease. I’m sure that those of you out there who are celiacs wonder about passing on your gluten intolerant genes to your children. So, for those out there wondering if you should get your children tested for celiac, here are some facts from the Celiac Foundation’s website about children and celiac disease:

* Children with a first degree relative who is a celiac have a 1 in 10 chance of developing celiac disease. So, it’s not a certainty that your child will develop celiac disease if you have it, but they have a higher chance than someone who doesn’t have a close relative (parent, sibling) with celiac.

* Some children start showing signs at different times than others. The jury is still out on why this happens, but some children will begin to show signs of celiac in late infancy or toddler-hood and some don’t develop symptoms until much later in childhood, even into the late teens or early adulthood. What this means is that even if your child is older and has been consuming gluten for most of his or her life, they can still develop celiac disease.

* Children of different ages are more likely to exhibit different symptoms, but there is some overlap in the signs children manifest when they have celiac. Keep an eye on your child if they have a lot of bloating, gas, constipation or foul-smelling diarrhea, chronic fatigue, irritability and especially if they are very young and are vomiting frequently and have poor growth or failure to thrive. Some rarer or more unusual symptoms which can appear in childhood are frequent mouth sores (I still get these!) and that itchy, blistery skin rash known as dermatitis herpeteformis.

pic 2So, apparently severe celiac disease is not common among children anymore, so the symptoms listed above may not be strong enough to be alarming. However, if you know that your child has a higher risk of celiac disease, just be on the look out for those symptoms listed above. And make sure you check out the Celiac Foundation’s website, they have a wealth of information for you to draw from. Remember, children heal from celiac disease much better than adults do. It’s better to get your child tested earlier rather than later because the sooner you can get them on a gluten free diet, the sooner they can heal.

Living with a Chronic Illness

By: Tina Cameron

Not many people know that my two sons and I have a chronic illness that has no cure. It all began when my oldest was 9 years old. He was injured in his karate class (kicked accidentally in the head) by another kid. He was close to having a detached retina, had a black eye, busted blood vessels and spent 8 weeks wearing an eye patch. What we didn’t realize for several weeks was that this kick to his head turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He started having a “clicking” sound when he would move his head up and down or left and right. He thought it was a party trick. Little did we know that it was actually very serious. From his pediatrician’s office we were sent straight to Palmetto Health Richland for STAT CT Scans of his neck and spine. I began getting nervous as they kept coming to get him for more scans. At last, I heard my name being called and looked up and it was the radiologist with my son and tons of CT films in hand. She said Dr. Fred Piehl (pediatric orthopedic surgeon) is waiting for you now. I said, “it is 4:50, they are closing”. She replied, he is keeping the office open for you, you need to go now. I called my mom and my ex-husband and they both met us there.

As we all set in his office, I feared the worst. Corey was in the hallway and he spoke to us first and informed us what his condition was and that it could be life-threatening, and that Corey needed to be aware of it. He was diagnosed with Atlanto-Axial Instability of his Cervical 1 and 2 spine. He could turn, cough, sneeze or get in his head and it cause him to break his neck and with that he could break it and be fine, break it and become a quadriplegic instantly, or break it and it kill him instantly. We went home in shock. Everything changed, from how his bed was positioned, to never being able to play contact sports, diving in my parent’s pool, and his karate career was over. He was also home-bound from school for 9 months. He was 9 hours short of getting his black belt. He what is edsalso taught two classes of karate a week. We were sent to a neurosurgeon and neurologist as well geneticist. After our first visit to the neurologist, he said I think you all have this rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Type 3. He told me to look it up and then sent us immediately for lab work on another floor in his office building. Shortly after his labs were drawn and we were waiting to leave, Corey grabbed his head and said, “I don’t feel well”. He proceeded to fall out of the chair, had a Grand-Mal Seizure and quit breathing and his heart stopped. I am a nurse and at that moment, I freaked out and was only the mommy. Thank God there were two other nurses there for lab work that revived him. We were on campus of the Children’s Hospital, so we were admitted from the emergency room for the weekend. He was also having incontinence of urine and numbness/tingling in all his extremities. Seizures also go with the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

Once we had the official diagnosis from the geneticist, I became obsessed with finding everything I could about it. My friends who are physicians had not seen cases in over 20 years. It can affect your heart and affects all your connective tissue in your body, it affects your skin. The type we have, type 3 is now called hEDS (hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). There are now 13 different type of EDS. It is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders caused by abnormalities in the structure, production and/or processing of collagen. So, we have faulty collagen. Collagen supplements do not work for us, because it is our DNA that is screwed up. Basically, the boys and I have easy bruising, easy bleeding, incisions after surgery do not stay closed and we are extremely hypermobile and have soft, stretchy skin. We are prone to multiple dislocations daily, pain all over, bruises that come from something as simple as rolling over in bed. EDSers also have multiple medicine and food allergies and Corey and I do. This condition is hereditary, so unfortunately if my children have kids, there is a 50/50 chance their kids will have it as well. The most serious type is vEDS (vascular EDS)-this is where most people do not live past 35 and they usually die unexpectedly from an aortic dissection. My older son has the most serious case of hEDS out of the three of us and I have it moderately and my youngest just has it mildly.

When Corey was growing up, he began having dislocations from changing his shirt or raising his hand in class, to hip dislocating from walking in the school halls. He went through extensive physical therapy for 3 months and to this day must work out daily. We ended up not having the rod placed in his spine and gradually the numbness and incontinence went away. His instability in his C1 C2 spine has closed some which is wonderful. He learned how to put his shoulder or hip back in place on his own to avoid trips to the ER.

My hip has dislocated once, my shoulder 3-4 times from rolling over in bed when sleeping. I am in constant pain all over almost daily. My knees are bad and slip out at times, so I have braces to wear as needed or when I run. Bruises on my body, stay about 8 weeks where on normal people, just a few days. I even get bruises from fire ant bites.

Both boys have had complete knee reconstructions, at age 16 and age 26. We know we will be facing knee and hip replacements as we age. This condition affects our eyes, our teeth, and pretty much our whole body. Most people with hEDS also have Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraines, and more.

Knowing that you have a chronic illness with no cure is a hard pill to swallow. However, I try not to let it run my life. I deal with the pain and take Advil with me everywhere. There are days, I hurt so much all over I cannot get off the couch. Many physicians have not ever heard of EDS and many do not believe the patient and think they are hypochondriacs. Family members also doubt us (not mine), but people that I have met in online support groups. We started calling ourselves Zebras because in Med School, thewhy the zebra students are taught to that when you hear hooves, think horses, not Zebras. In medicine, the term Zebra is given to a rare disease or condition. That is how we became known as medical Zebras. Because of the complex nature of our disorder, we are followed by primary care, rheumatologist, geneticist, cardiologist, physical therapist, gastroenterologist, urologists, neurologists and many more specialists as things arise. Some of the friends I have made in my support group are already on disability at 22 and 32 years of age, so I feel blessed that as of right now, my joints have tightened up, I can deal with the pain and that thank God, we do not have the vascular type. I thank God everyday that my boys otherwise are healthy and that Corey’s doing much better and is in great physical shape.

eds scoreSo, the next time you see a contortionist on America’s Got Talent, more than likely, they have Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. And, if you see someone parked in a handicap space get out and they can walk (just slowly) or is young and, in a wheelchair, —do not judge. Not all disabilities are visible. Because of so many people in the medical field not knowing or even understanding EDS, awareness needs to be widespread globally. Fortunately, May is EDS Awareness month and with numerous online support groups on social media, we are getting the awareness out on what this disorder is. What we need most is for our physicians to believe our symptoms and not dismiss us, or think we are hypochondriacs. There are genetic markers for vEDS, so I am not sure why medical professionals are not believing genetic testing.

eds meme