30 Years Ago…

By Shannon Boatwright

“In one year, 1990 will be 30 years ago.”

Let that thought settle…

If you’re my age, a child of the 70s (or older), really thinking about this fact will make you speechless. I still think of my Mama as being in her 30s, and I’m still in my 20s, and my sisters are still preteens. When I think 30 years ago, I think of it being the late 60s, maybe 1970.

I mean, come on! How does life go by so fast?!

In 1990, I was a freshman in high school. I teach middle school now, and these adolescents I teach think that the 90s were the ancient days way before they were ever born. Mention the 70s to those kids and they look at you like you’re crazy – to them the 1970s are prehistoric.

When I saw this quote:

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it certainly hit me hard, and it hit me during a time when aging had started to really hit me and my comrades of the 70s. My bestie and I had been texting commiserating about how suddenly hormones and age are creating weight gain and a whole host of problems for us, and it’s more frustrating than words could ever express. In the real world for hard working, incredibly busy people, it’s a huge endeavor to be healthy and fit. Huge.

At times, it’s mind blowing, totally disturbing, and flat out ridiculous the things that happen to your body as you get older: things that you never had to worry about when you were younger. You have kids, yet you still feel like a kid in your own mind, but your body is taking you on a roller coaster ride of ailments. It’s just NOT FAIR. And yes, I say that as I stomp my feet like a toddler.

My parents and I were having a discussion with my kids the other night about the first time we ever used the internet. I was a junior in college the first time I ever sent an email! Can you believe I survived the main bulk of my education career without the internet?! I mean, to today’s generation, that is unfathomable. All the information they could ever desire to gain is right at their fingertips. I went to the library.

UGH….ARGH… and…

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Ok, let me be perfectly clear, there are parts of getting older that I truly love:

The wisdom that comes with experience, the positive realizations that come with knowing better, the joy of personal growth, accepting yourself, the recognition of who you are and who you want to be, the beauty of becoming, time allowing you to find yourself and what truly makes you happy, and an appreciation for the people and things around you.

BUT, on the flip side, let me be perfectly clear:

Physically getting older SUCKS.  It’s scary. It’s ridiculous. It’s brutal.

No one ever thinks of themselves as being “old.” In our hearts and minds, we’re still youngins living it up and learning about the world.

Take a deep breath with me.

We can do this. Let’s choose to stay on top of life and not let it or its heavy all too quick turning of time weigh us down. We’ll relish the memories. We’ll laugh at the current youngins in their childlike glory & cluelessness.  We’ll embrace this life that we’re blessed to be living. And let’s choose to do it all with a declaration of acceptance, love, and joie de vivre – never letting go of our own childlike wonder. Instead of letting the idea of “30 years ago” scare the hell out of us, let’s smile at the craziness of life and let the memories fill our hearts.

Through the utter brutality of aging as the younger generations flaunt their innocence, idiocy, and tender youth, let’s stand tall, fight back, and make the most of this journey. As I like to say, let’s carpe diem ya’ll. We must seize the day and make our lives extraordinary, no matter how daggome old we get!

 

Sweet Valentine

candy-3936989_1920By Rachel Sircy

Well, just like Halloween, Valentine’s Day presents a special challenge to the gluten-free eater. For those of you out there with children with celiac or who may have classmates or friends with food allergies, this can be an especially challenging time of year. Valentine’s Day can be fun, but being left out of the celebration can be heartbreaking for school children. There are metric tons of candy on virtually every store shelf in the country but figuring out which ones are actually safe for celiacs to eat is so difficult that it’s almost depressing.

Many major brands (like Hershey’s and Nestle, etc.) have certain candies and chocolate bars which are only gluten free in certain seasons and in certain shapes and sizes. For instance, Hershey’s milk chocolate bars are gluten free ONLY in the 1.55 oz size – all other sizes, shapes and varieties of the Hershey’s plain milk chocolate are NOT gluten free. The same applies with Nestle’s Butterfingers. The regular and fun size bars proudly proclaim that they’re gluten free, but all other sizes, shapes, and varieties are not gluten free. Hershey’s and Nestle aren’t alone. Jelly Belly Jellybeans are all technically gluten free, HOWEVER, they are sometimes packaged by different companies, and the Jelly Belly corporation cannot vouch for these other companies. They tell you that you must look closely at each individual package of Jelly Bellys and call the packaging facility on the back to find out if this particular package is gluten free or not. Honestly, I feel like I need a flow chart, a food scale, a calculator, and possibly a Ph.D. to keep up with some of these candy companies.

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It’s really important in light of all of the confusion to teach your celiac (or allergic) children to resist temptation. Easier said than done, right? Temptation often gets the better of adults, let alone kids. The best way to ensure that your child stays safe while unsafe candy and wheat-based cupcakes are free-flowing is to make sure that they have their own safe-to-eat treats. I wrote in the summer about the Be a PAL program. PAL stands for Protect A Life. This program teaches children how to be a safe friend for others with food allergies by helping to make sure that these other children stay safe from dangerous foods and also from food-allergy bullying. Even if your child doesn’t have food allergies, you can help protect and reach out to other children who do have potentially dangerous allergies by being intentional when purchasing candy and treats for school parties.

I’ve said all that to say this: I am going to provide a list of companies who strive to make products that are safe for everyone:

  • Enjoy Life Foods: Hands down, this is the absolute best company for food allergy sufferers. ALL of the products made by this company are allergy friendly. They are free from all of the 8 major allergens (including gluten of course), and they are delicious. I have been a loyal customer since the early days of my diagnosis. They are expanding their repertoire lately, and they have Valentine’s candy packs which would be perfect for parties at your child’s school. They also have baking mixes,
    snack bars, cookies, you name it.

https://enjoylifefoods.com/our-foods/valentine-chocolate-minis/

  • Yum Earth: The gummy candies and lollipops from this company are organic, free from nuts, chemical dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and are vegan. They also come in fun heart-shapes for Valentine’s Day.

https://shop.yumearth.com/Organic-Valentines-Day-Gummy-Hearts/p/YUM-018334&c=YumEarth@Valentines

  • Glutino: One of my primary go-to gluten free brands. I love their pre-packaged cookies AND their cake mixes AND their crackers AND their chocolate covered pretzels…the list could go on for a while. If you’re thinking of making gluten free cupcakes for your kid’s school, I would suggest you use the mix from this brand. The downside of Glutino products is that they are not necessarily free of the 8 major allergens. HOWEVER, their website does state that the ingredients label on the package that you’re purchasing should have all possible allergy contaminants listed in the ingredients section.

http://www.glutino.com/products/

  • Schar: Okay, so as far as gluten free convenience food goes, I’ve saved the company with the tastiest stuff for last. I have actually eaten myself sick on both their Chocolate Dipped Cookies and their Honeygrams. Actually, their Honeygrams are so delicious that whenever we have a family cookout with s’mores, even the non-gluten-sensitive people ask for them. If you get put in charge of bringing the graham crackers to your kid’s school, try this brand. You can find them at Walmart, and even though they’re a bit pricier than regular graham crackers, they’re totally worth it. They also have a very intensely specific FAQ section on their website. FYI: this company focuses on celiac disease, not necessarily other allergens.

https://www.schaer.com/

Well, I hope this list of gluten-free (and some allergen free) candy, etc. helps out with your child’s Valentine’s Day! Happy February!

Where Did The Time Go?

By Lisa Baker

Has anyone really looked at the calendar today?  Where did January go?  Here we are one month into 2019.  Time goes by so fast.  I talked to Dad this morning on the phone; it was hard to understand all that he said.  From what I could piece together, he is tired of sitting around and no one coming to visit him.  I tried to explain to him that both my husband and I have been sick.  He told me he has never had a cold, and that shouldn’t stop us from coming to see him.  He wants to see Mom and go to his house.  He thinks he can stay by himself.  He wants to walk in the yard and in the road so he can go wherever he wants.

He thinks that no one watches him at the facility.  It doesn’t matter how many times you try to tell him that staff watches him, he can no longer comprehend that he cannot be alone and that he is being watched.  He cannot communicate because he can’t verbalize what he wants to say.  He repeats words over and over thinking that he is completing his thoughts.  Dad will never again be able to be alone.

Right now, Mom seems to be doing OK.  She has been a little dizzy and has had some pain lately, but she seems to be settling in at her new facility.

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I want you to sit down and think about this: you can’t speak clearly, and you can’t remember which words to use to express your thoughts.  You feel so isolated and alone because you are having huge communication issues.  Can you begin to understand how a dementia patient feels? How about the family that is trying so hard to keep their loved one at home? At this point, it doesn’t matter if they are in a facility or at home.  If they are at home, you or someone must be with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have no help, you start to feel like you are losing your mind too.

Now imagine you are married.  Your spouse works outside the home.  You have to care for your children, keep up with your house work, prepare meals, wash clothes, and help your kids with homework. Now add a loved one with dementia to the mix.  Imagine they are at a point where they don’t want to bathe or eat. If you thought you had your hands full before, you were dreaming.  You are very quickly wearing yourself out.  You need help. Is it any wonder that caregivers for a loved one with dementia stand a very high chance of getting it themselves?

So what are you going to do?

Give up yourself completely? Find extra help who you will have to pay? Start looking at long term care facilities? The answers to all these questions and many more vary from person to person and family to family.

I do not have all the answers, right or wrong.  I can only do what’s best at the moment for myself and my parents.  What can I tell you then?  Well for me, I almost immediately made an appointment with my doctor.  I had no idea just how bad things could be, but I knew I would need help for me.  I knew I needed to be very honest with my doctor about my physical health as well as my mental health.

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I knew that the stress of everything could be very high, but I also knew that I needed help.  I needed someone who I could share all the burdens and business of having both parents with a dementia diagnosis.  While I do have both of my brothers, I knew I needed someone else with some medical experience to help me with things.  My sister-in-law was a perfect choice.  She has medical experience which makes it so much easier when we have to split up with one of us with Mom and one of us with Dad.  We set up a group text between my sister-in-law, both my brothers, and myself, so we could communicate effectively to each other about both parents. Early on, I mentioned that my parents had their wills already done and their POA financial and medical already picked.  All their legal paperwork was in order.

Even with that, you need a human support system. I don’t see how anyone can do this without help.

What other things can you do? Look at the questions below.  Sit down with your loved one NOW and go through these.  Write their answers down or better yet, video record them and their answers.  You may think it’s not important now, but later you will wish you had done this.  Sometimes you don’t realize just how much is gone until you start thinking about the things you can never go back and ask your loved one because they are too far in the dementia process to be able to remember.

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This disease takes so much away from us all even before your loved one dies.

fb_img_1541818060307Sorry folks, I’ve been pretty deep in thought about the process and how we’ve already lost so much of Mom and Dad even before they pass.  You start realizing you can’t just ask them the things you used to because they don’t remember.

Strive each and every day to make as many memories as you can.  Take lots of pictures.  Journal about your loved ones as well as yourself.  You never know if the day will come, so you will be so thankful that you did.

 

Digging out of the Doldrums

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

Work projects I thought I had plenty of time to tackle are suddenly looming over me. I still haven’t painted the laundry room or cleaned out my closet. The pile of charity donations sits where I started it months ago. My office colleagues are quibbling and pulling me into the middle. A nagging hip injury caused me to miss a race for an important cause. My favorite football team lost. And I’m two days late turning in this blog post.

Yeah, I know, first world problems.

Still, all of us go through times when the stress of everyday life seems overwhelming. The list of things to get done grows faster than we can cross them off and molehill-size annoyances take on mountainous proportions.

As the joys – and chores, errands and demands – of the holiday season approach, this seems like a good time to remind myself of simple ways to keep perspective. Maybe some of these will work for you, too.

Take a deep breath. I recently started taking a weekly yoga class (see nagging hip injury above) and apparently, it’s all about breathing. It helps bring oxygen to your muscles and clears your mind. And it’s a concept I can use any time I feel things piling up around me. No stretchy pants required.

Get outside. I don’t know if it’s the aforementioned oxygen or just being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, but going for a run or walk, playing a round of golf or even picking up pine cones and sticks in the yard (talk about your never-ending task) never fails to help me change my focus.

Write it down. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer – and old-school, too – but the physical act of writing things down helps me feel better organized. I wrote back in August about how making a master list of everything you need to do creates some mental space and alleviates some of the pressure. If that doesn’t appeal to you, here’s another idea: Keep a running list of the blessings in your life. Jot one or more on your calendar each day, then go back at the end of the week, month or year and read them. This is something your whole family can do. Start now and share around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Start anywhere. Can’t face cleaning out the whole closet? Start with one shelf, one drawer or the shoe rack. The sense of accomplishment will feel great and may inspire you to tackle another piece of the project. I often use this strategy to overcome writer’s block. I just start keying in phrases, bullets or ideas, then go back and cobble them together into a cohesive whole.

Let it be. Sometimes the best thing to do is … nothing. Taking time to think through a problem before jumping in likely will lead to a better solution. Give yourself permission to procrastinate. It may be good for you. (Note to my editor: This is my excuse, I mean reason, for being late this time. Is it working?)

Pray. This one should be at the top of the list instead of the end. I don’t know why it’s one of the last things I think of. I rarely pray for a particular solution to a problem. Instead, my prayer takes the form of thankfulness for my blessings and for knowing God is always there for me. It’s a reminder that no amount of list-making or closet-cleaning means I’m really in control. And thank goodness for that.

Why Are You in the Picture?

By: Chaunte McClure

 

With the convenience of having cameras built into cell phones, the world has become obsessed with taking photos. We take pictures of our food, plants, bare feet, shoes and my, oh my do we take photos of ourselves. Yes, the selfie has taken over social media timelines and feeds, but the ‘usie’ isn’t far behind. Of course, we have to snap a photo of our family and friends when we’re just hanging out; it’s all in fun and in the name of capturing memories.

I was warming up my pose and smile for a group photo recently when I was asked, “Chaunte, why are you in the picture?” For a couple of seconds, I second-guessed my position in front of the camera, knowing that I was invited to say cheese along with my friend and her friends.

Fast forward a few days, I thought about the question again during my commute to work. Why are you in the picture?

It’s a relevant question that we can ask ourselves regarding (the proverbial picture of) our conversations, settings, relationships, careers and other facets of life.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question before but perhaps formed it differently. Instead, you’ve asked:

What is my purpose? Why did God call me to do this? Why do I have this job when my career goals are totally different? Why did I meet him or her? Why am I going through this? Why was I born? What am I to learn from this situation?

Each of these questions, I believe, is another way of asking: Why am I in the picture?

Truth is, we should exclude ourselves from some “pictures”, but we tend to try to fit in someone else’s shot, even if it means photobombing.

When you find yourself in toxic relationships, the honest, well-thought-out answer to the above question, should urge you to walk away from that which is not good for you.

On the other hand, a reflection of your journey as you recall a time when you’ve asked yourself some form of that question, your response may help you appreciate where you are in life right now and have a better understanding of how God has ordered your steps. That’s my story because now I can see how my past two jobs prepared me for my current job.

At times, we are in the picture for a divine purpose – to provide encouragement, bring peace, make connections, share love, take a stand, be a witness, and the list can go on and on.

Other times, we are in the picture for our selfish reasons. We force ourselves to stay in the picture although God is ready to crop us out and place us in a different setting with our past in the background. Are you ready to change places?

Take some time to think about why you’re in the picture. You might discover that you should be where you are, but you’re not fulfilling your purpose. You might realize that it’s time to do more or it’s time to move on. It’s helpful to understand why you’re in the picture.

Can You Change the Way Your Story is Told?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across an intriguing piece in my Real Simple, October 2017 magazine issue titled “The Power of a Story”.  The article specifically caught my attention because I’ve always thought of my life story as a novel – to be honest, a soap opera at times – but, an intriguing, entertaining story for sure. As a teacher of the fine arts, I teach storytelling, so I know the qualities of a good storyteller. I’ve lived it, performed it, taught it, reviewed and critiqued it. So when I read this article talking about how “we think of our own lives as stories”, I couldn’t help but see the benefit of taking control of the telling of our own life story.

The thought of taking control of authoring our own story, our own plot line, our own character traits, conquering the antagonists of our lives… Well, as an artist and goddess female human with a very vivid imagination, a ‘carpe diem’ view of life, and a passionate viewpoint on the world that encompasses me, being in control of and creating my life’s story is very important to me.

And there are the keywords – control and creation. As an individual, female or male, you have the power to write and tell your story. You create your world. You author your own tale. Whether it’s dramatic, boring, heartwarming, Oscar-winning or clean-cut all American material, you are ultimately the storyteller of your life.

The month of October is National Stomp Out Bullying Month and I took the opportunity to reach, teach and hopefully inspire my students. I put my normal drama lessons on hold and showed my classes some poignant, thought-provoking videos with the goal of getting them to think critically and engage in discussion. I told each of my classes that as a good teacher it is my job to get them thinking, and not just about drama and the fine arts, but really thinking about what kind of character they want to play in their life story.  I asked them, how do you want to be known? Which character will you be in the story that is your life? Will you be the bully? Will you be the bystander? Will you allow yourself to be the victim? Will you be the person that stands up for the victim? Ultimately will you be the change that helps to create a more positive story?

Think on this. What is your character in your life story?

As we live through the day-to-day normal nonsense of life, we experience incredible journeys of hope, faith, and love, and we experience battles. The narrative of our lives is sometimes mundane and sometimes that of award-winning film story success. Either way, as soon as you realize that you hold the pen, the sooner you can truly write and live out your story.

The most important thing to remember is that you have control. You have the power to create your adventure, your happy tale that leads to a happy ending. So take that opportunity, make it happen, take ownership in writing your life story – you are the author after all.

😉

Tips for Staying Gluten Free in a Pinch

By: Rachel Sircy

My last post was about how to help those in Houston and Florida who are in need of gluten-free provisions. So, since hurricane season isn’t over yet, l thought I would dedicate this post to tips I have found online for how to stay gluten-free during a crisis. Mostly it means preparing ahead. So, here are 5 things that you can start thinking about or doing right now to make sure that you can be prepared to be gluten-free in a pinch!

  1. If you live in a place where there may be natural disasters (like hurricanes along the coast), it would definitely pay to have a gluten-free food emergency kit with shelf-stable foods such as dried gluten-free cereals, dried and canned meats, fruits and vegetables, and shelf-stable milk and things to drink (you may want more than just water). Remember to also have a supply of your medicines and gluten-free lip balm and toothpaste (you may not be able to purchase these easily after a storm). These kits are very handy especially if you have ever had to be moved to a shelter. Government agencies will feed you, but they don’t usually have gluten-free options available. It would also be a good idea to travel with a kit like this if you are going somewhere where there may be power outages or where you may not be certain to have easy access to gluten-free food.
  2. If you are prone to losing power for days in storms and such-like, consider buying a deep freezer and a propane powered grill. This tip never would have occurred to me, but I read about it on Gluten Free Society’s website. Dr. Osborne (the “Gluten Free Warrior”) said that having these two things saved him and his sons when hurricane Ike hit Houston in 2008. He said that the food in his deep freezer stayed frozen for about a week with no power and with summer temperatures of 90-110 degrees. Be sure not to open the deep freeze unless absolutely necessary and always have a couple of extra propane tanks on hand.
  3. Osborne also recommends having a large supply of nuts in the shell, provided you are not allergic. They are high in good fats and calories – which you may need if gluten-free food is scarce during an emergency – and are apparently shelf stable for 2 years (who knew?). Also, Dr. Osborne points out that if nuts are in their shells, they are less likely to be affected by cross-contamination with gluten, which is a big problem for buying nuts in general.
  4. Of course, gas-powered generators are always a good idea whether or not you are gluten-free, as are: extra cans of gas for the generators, a supply of cash in case you can’t pay for things using electronic methods, books, and board games to keep yourself and your kids entertained without power and a first aid kit.
  5. If you are willing and able to spend a bit more money and save yourself the trouble of getting together different shelf-stable foods to make a gluten-free survival kit, you can purchase individual meals from GoPicnic.com. They have meal options that are tailored for those with special dietary needs. You can choose from gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc.

We all hope that none of us will ever have to face a disaster, but it always helps to be prepared. In my next post, I’ll talk about traveling while gluten-free, what to bring with you, and what to watch out for.

If you have further questions about being gluten-free in a pinch, check out these websites where I got most of my information for today’s post:

https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/staying-gluten-free-during-a-natural-disaster

https://www.verywell.com/gluten-free-disaster-prep-562663

http://gopicnic.com

http://celiacmama.com/2017/09/gluten-free-hurricane-preparedness