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Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Good to Be Back

Hi All!

It's good to be back. Sorry for the hiatus. Sometimes life just gets in the way. The point is, life keeps chugging along and so do I.  So, my goal this year is to provide more recipes (allergy free of course) though, I am not a very good food photographer so you will have to take my word for it, even if it doesn't look stellar .  While I would love to muse more about my children, as I so often do, I have recently found out that both of them now actually read what I write-oops. It hasn't been pretty. 

Nevertheless, I'm back and working on things for the Fall including an article I wrote for Washington Family Magazine on Back to School and Food Allergies. See you soon. Happy Summer. 


Thursday, May 19, 2016

When TV Journalists Go To Far

When TV Journalists Go To Far

I am simply  appalled by this. Do you think Al Roker and/or Matt Lauer would make fun of diabetes or cancer? When noted journalists make comments like this they set the allergy world back by encouraging the public to think that food allergies aren't serious.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Food Allergy Interview at WTOP

Ari Packer being interviewed at WTOP

Most recently, my son was interviewed by Paula Wolfson, health correspondent at WTOP.  I was a proud mama to watch my 8 year old talk about food allergies in a mature and composed manner. 

Make no mistake about it, if I had to give one piece of  advice to a parent of a food allergy kid, it would be this...make sure your child knows how to advocate for themself!

I cannot tell you how many times a well meaning teacher, coach, counselor, relative, or parent offerred him something that could have potentially been a threat!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff-Not as Easy as it Sounds

The adage Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff really isn’t as simple as it sounds.  Sure, I would love to let the non-sensical things roll off my back while shedding all the angst, contemplation and anxiety that goes along with it.  I agree that the heart on my sleeve deserves a day off, as it has been working overtime lately. Admittedly, I have been guilty of sweating the small stuff, the big stuff, and all the stuff in between.  This past November was my daughter’s bat mitzvah. Those of you in the throes of planning any life cycle event that includes caterers, DJ’s, and photographers know that life cycle events are the epicenter of small stuff. 

Here are some snippets of conversation that give you a cross-section view of life cycle planning small stuff. 

“So, let me understand, for $65 a plate, you don’t include the plate?”
“Is the picture of Jerusalem on our invitation supposed to be upside down?”
“Just because Aunt Sophie gave me $50 for my bat mitzvah, doesn’t mean I have to invite her...oh, I didn’t know she died.”
“No, you can’t wear sweatpants to your sister’s bat mitzvah.”

These are just a few, but you get the picture. From March-October, I was obsessed with small stuff. It devoured my day, haunted my brain, and quite honesty, I resented it, which of course made me feel guilty.  This was supposed to be joyful, a right of passage, a celebration of my daughter’s spiritual connection to her faith, and there I was, drowning in my small stuff, taking everyone down with me in a small stuff vortex.

Life doesn’t stop for a life cycle event,
 it just continues to swirl around you.  While I was sweating mundane details such as table centerpieces and invite lists, our hectic life continued to hum.  My daughter was in full teen swing complete with tests, reports, cross- country track, Hebrew- School and bat mitzvah prep.  It was so much activity condensed into one period, it made my head spin.  Everyday, there was a new random complaint from her, my head hurts, my knee hurts, I’m tired, pizza hurts my stomach, why do I have so much work? What’s the point?” She was running full force; up at 6:00 and running cross-country three days a week, it was enough to exhaust a racehorse and she sounded like a 90 year-old woman.

My husband and I said things, like, “of course you’re tired, it’s middle school,”  “If your knee hurts, then quit track,” “Sweetie, if pizza hurts your stomach, don’t eat it,” “If your tired, get to bed earlier,” “You can choose to be miserable and sweat the small stuff, or you can just get over it and move on.”

All of this is typical advice from a parent to their teen daughter under normal circumstances, but we soon found out that nothing she complained about was normal.  It seems like all of her “small stuff” a.k.a her “whining” about aches and pains was really- BIG stuff.  After a few ER visits, and a five-day stay at Georgetown hospital, our daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks your small intestine and other parts of your digestive system.  She was truly, truly sick. Her insides revealed a body littered with ulcers and lesions from her esophagus all the way down to depths of her bowel.  The inflammation in her body created joint swelling which explained the aches and pains, the headaches and fatigue were from blood loss/ anemia, the pizza aversion- most likely a reaction to the ulcers in her mouth and esophagus. 
Big stuff SUCKS!

Those three weeks were a blur of doctors, hospitals, medications; follow up appts., bloodwork, fear, more guilt, school plans for re-entry, dietary restrictions, ALL BIG MESSY STUFF!

Suddenly, all the bat mitzvah small stuff seemed so incredibly insignificant. I dropped everything.  The papers sat frozen in time on my desk.  The caterer thought I was MIA. I didn’t care. My focus was healing my daughter.

Ironically, I suddenly yearned for my small stuff days because I suppose it represented my previous normal.  Now I had a new normal, a new normal filled with BIG stuff and I didn’t like it very much.

It has been three months since our big stuff diagnosis and I am happy to say she is in remission for now. The ugly truth about chronic illness is that it’s always there waiting to rear it’s head again. For the time being, however, life is stable and full of small stuff again.  Here are some snippets of recent small stuff conversation…

“Yes, I think your future wife would mind if you snuggled with your mom every morning.”
“No, you can’t play outside when it’s 14 degrees.”
“ I don’t think alligator wrestling is a viable career choice.”
“Putting a dish in the sink does NOT merit a prize.”
“I suppose I will have to settle for store credit, even though I will never shop in here again!”

Small stuff permeates our life, whether it’s the repairperson that shows up late; people who don’t call you back, or the three pounds you can’t lose. It’s not fair to put the pressure on our selves all the time to not sweat the small stuff.  It requires work to- not-sweat the small stuff and you are not a failure if you don’t find yourself in a perpetual state of Namaste.

Maybe it’s the wording.  DON’T has so many negative connotations, “Don’t touch that,” Don’t eat that!” “Don’t wear that!”  We live in a world of don’ts with experts who tell us why we shouldn’t.  I don’t know about you, but every time I tell my son “DON’T” he inevitably does.  Look what happened to Lot’s wife in Genesis when God said, “Don’t turn around.”   She’s been the spokesperson for Morton’s Salt for the last 5000 years.  Not a bad gig, but harsh nonetheless.

Sure, we should probably overlook the little things, but as I have painfully learned, the little things turn into big things. It is a never-ending quest to find a balance where we can address the small stuff without losing our sweaty cool, while still being able to acknowledge its relevance.  Admittedly, I am still working on this. Though, I think acceptance of a situation goes a long way in how we deal with small stuff or even big stuff for that matter, and while yoga, meditation, or bathing in deodorant may be alternative options, as far as I’m concerned, a little perspiration goes a long way.











Friday, September 13, 2013

Facebook Forgiveness…Yom Kippur in the Electronic Age

I thought about writing this in my Facebook status box this morning…To all those I have wronged, I’m sorry.  Then, I thought, how disingenuous and trite that sounded.   As a kid, I used to nervously think about Yom Kippur and all its implications. Of course, the YK liturgy usually compounded my anxiety with frightening descriptions of angels trembling, the book of life, who shall live and who shall die.  I wasn’t paralyzed with fear, mind you, but I took the forgiveness aspect of it rather seriously.  I actually asked my family members and friends for forgiveness without the crutch of Facebook, Twitter, email, or Instagram.  Ironically, the more technology we acquire to stay in touch, the less we are able to reach out personally and connect as humans, as we did back in the “stone ages” before all these technological marvels were a reality.

Admittedly, I too have fallen into the ease of connecting via the computer.  I appreciate the fact that I am now in touch or reunited with those I grew up with, or befriended along the timeline of my life. I don’t really need to ask them for forgiveness, because if I did something that long ago, we have either forgotten it, or, they’re simply not on my friend list.

So, why do I feel compelled to put out a blanket “I’m sorry” status for all of the 329 not my closest and personal friends to see?  Why don’t I just get on the phone or send a personal message?  Is it that I like to see my little like button rack up the number of hits I get?  Perhaps I was unaware that I wronged someone and this easily gets me off the hook?   Or, maybe it’s more altruistic in that it technically provides someone with an open opportunity to ask ME for forgiveness. Hmmm. 
It seems that seeking or granting forgiveness is a prickly challenge. It requires forethought, emotional energy, soul searching and diplomatic wordsmithing.  It’s an intensely busy day at the office for our moral consciences and I hate it.  I despise conflict; moreover, I’m twitchy with that murky feeling of unknowingly hurting another person.  Yet, the feelings that expose and humble us are the true grit and guts of Yom Kippur; I hate grit and guts.  Facebook forgiveness seems like a good compromise, certainly much simpler and more time efficient than defying convention and going old school with the archaic                             t-e-l-e-p-h-o-n-e.   
I tried to relate this message to my daughter who is close to Bat Mitzvah and for the last week has been referring to Yom Kippur as “the day of evil.” 

            “Why do you call it that?” I ask.
“I hate that everyone is sad.”  I try to make her understand that it’s not a sad holiday per se, like Tisha B’av, rather, it’s contemplative.  She wasn’t buying it.
 “ I hate (emphasis on the hate) that you get a really bad headache from lack of coffee, and then you’re grumpy.” 

 “I’m not grumpy.” I insist.  She crosses her arms, taps her foot along with that signature twelve-year old bravado smirk.  

“Okay, I may get a little grumpy.”  I admit.  “But I’m not sad.” 

“So what would you call it?” She asks. 

“I would call it…uncomfortable, but not because I can’t have coffee.  It’s uncomfortable because I’m forced to look inside myself.  I need to face the flaws and try to rummage up any remaining dormant strength I have left in my reserves to fix it, whether the issue is with myself or somebody else.”
           “Well, wouldn’t it be easier to do that with a cup of coffee?”  She says wryly.
           “Honey, forgiveness isn’t supposed to be easy.” I responded.
In the end, I decided to drop the Facebook forgiveness thing and leave my status updates to all things mundane and/or quirky.  I guess there was a part of me that felt that forgiveness shouldn’t be demoted to a paltry and mediocre update.  Instead, I am trying very hard to upgrade forgiveness to a deeper, more personal level, which isn’t always easy to do, especially without coffee.


Monday, September 9, 2013

My Big Fat Vegetarian, Carnivorous, Food Allergy/Cholesterol Free and Low Sodium Rosh Hashanah

The fact that Rosh Hashanah was so close to Labor day last week left me in a bit of a panic.  I'm not sure, but I think I heard my leather boots sniffling in the back of my closet, waiting to be called into high-holiday action. Yet, imagine their shock when I picked out something (gasp) sleeveless, not to mention that I went to high holiday services without... panty hose...(Please mom, don't judge me) still relying on my fading summer tan to complete my late summer/early fall ensemble.
Clearly, there was a majority of women who followed suit, though, I did spot one boot wearing maverick.  Sure, it was chilly at 6 a.m., but is that enough to justify wearing boots especially when she walked in the same time as me (albeit late at 10:30) and the thermomemter was registering at  least 80 degrees? No matter.
Holiday meals and guests at my house, are another thing that puts me in a tizzy. Due to food allergies, I make myself responsible for all the food, because it cuts down on anxiety with pot luck dinner as I know that every item on the table is safe. I usually make all the desserts, sides, veggies, etc... Though, being a former vegetarian, I do relegate the turkey to my girlfriend. I know nothing about cooking no turkeys. I stick to meatballs.  In fact, I stick to all meat without bones, skin, or goopy stuff. If it looks like an animal in its original form, I don't cook it. She brings the bird, it works well for us. Other than that, I ask people to bring wine, but no other food.

At my table, there are very different types of eaters. My daughter is vegetarian while my son doesn't eat meat unless it's a hot dog (which is questionable as meat anyway).  He  is also severely allergic to all things nuts and eggs.  One guest needs low-no cholesterol and recently my father in law who had open heart surgery now requires low sodium. Oy. I understand various eating concerns as we live with it on a regular basis and like me, I don't like to pester the host.  Because I understand the issue, I go out of my way to make my guests feel comfortable insuring that there will be food available and that they don't have to bring their own stash.

I pretty much have the veggie thing down as my daughter is thrilled with sides, grains and challah. The egg-free and the cholesterol thing work together simultaneously.  Sure, a stick of non-hydrogentated margarine may contain some cholesterol, but I didn't really use it that much.

So now we get to low sodium....HMMMPHH.  I have to admit, this posed a bit of a dilemma.  To say that I was uneducated on the matter was an understatement because I had no clue as to how much sodium some of the items at my dinner table  actually contained.  Let's take my signature side dish..carrot mousse.  This dish is soooo good. In fact, it was written up in the Washington Food Blog a few years back. 
Feeling rather smug that I could deliciously provide food for my father in law without sacrificing taste, I figured this dish was fine because it didnt require any additional table salt. However, somewhere during my clueless cooking and preparation, it dawned on my that while added salt wasn't an issue, sodium hidden in the individual ingredients might be. Uh oh...this was certainly a game changer. I pulled out my little calculator and began tallying up the points on the sodium scale. 
Turns out, one 8x8 pan of carrot mousse contains...drumroll please....965 milligrams of sodium!!! What? Seriously? When Lot's wife turned around and became a pillar of salt, I think it was 965 milligrams! Forget my trip to the Dead Sea, I can just pour 965 milligrams of salt into my tub and float in the privacy of my own home.  How did I not know this?
Then I started to investigate all the other dishes. Meatballs, roasted veggies, potatoes, bread pudding, mandelbread, honey cake, apple cake, carrot cake..salt, salt, salt. I'm thirsty just talking about it and the virtual blood pressure cuff is cutting off my supply.  Thankfully, the challah was the lowest salt content of all.
Slowly, meticulously I worked my way through each dish and found an alternative, though, I decided that the desserts needed the salt to truly balance out the dish. Even with the salt, and in limited quantity, it wouldn't tip the scale.
I switched the meatballs to turkey, and took out the salt replacing it with other spices. I  made a separate baking pan of roasted veggies and potatoes with Mrs. Dash and quite honestly, I could have made it that way for everyone as they tasted great. Mrs. Dash and I have become quite close these past few days.
Bread pudding... difficult. Whole wheat bread per slice has 180 mg.  A bread pudding requires a loaf...yikes.  I left it as something to eat in moderation. A scoop perhaps.
Mousse..the main offender. I removed the tofu (120 mg) and replaced it with Ener-G egg replacer. Took out the non-hydrogenated margarine (520 mg) and replaced it with 1/3 cup canola oil and 2 TBSP applesauce.  The carrots have natural sodium (325 mg) but it is called carrot mousse, so I didn't replace those. I brought the total count to roughly 325 mg. in an 8x8 pan give or take a few mg's.  Phew.

Holidays and food are supposed to be symbiotic, therefore I find it a mission and definitely a labor of love to be able to provide no matter the restriction. Kids and adults alike with food restrictions often feel like the awkward ones on the bleachers at the school dance, watching everyone else have a good time. 

Nevertheless, if a diet conscious, salt lovin', recovering bake-o-phobe like me can make it happen....anyone can.