Thanksgiving

This weekend I spent a few hours combing through hundreds of recipes from my late grandmother. She was an excellent cook. Sifting through her recipes brought back memories of being in her kitchen and watching her cook. She taught me how to fold ingredients together to make a light fluffy cake, how to make a sauce, and pan gravy. She taught me so much, things I still benefit from.

My grandmother was such a wonderful, loving person, her cooking was just the icing on the cake. Every time I make one of her recipes, I know I am in some small way carrying on her memory. So, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I made her pumpkin pie. It calls for real-whole pumpkins – she was that kind of cook.

I was reading her recipe and reminded again of my grandmother’s gentle humble nature. The recipe is literally a list of ingredients with measurements. No directions, no how-to, just a list. In her humility she genuinely believed her cooking was so ordinary that anyone could do it. There was no need for step-by-step directions…why everyone knows how to make a pie and pie crust from scratch. She was so unassuming, she just thought if someone wanted her recipe, they just wanted to know what she used.

It is such a contrast to today’s society when everything is pre-made, boxed, and effort free. It is a hard transition to come from a place of buying pre-made items and adding water or just heat and serve to actually having to cook…with the ingredients in their natural state.

Although that transition can be difficult – it is possible, and I must admit the training I received in my early years has served me well. A good recipe, a few modifications to adjust for allergies or intolerances, opens up a world of freedom. Once a skill is learned it can be applied over and over again.

The really neat thing, the thing that humbles me the most, the little treasures my grandmother invested in me, I am now investing in the younger generation. I now have a little helper in the kitchen who I am showing how to make a pie crust and make pumpkin puree from scratch. In addition to the lessons I learned and am now passing on, I am also teaching about food allergies. Lessons in action about cross-contact, substitutions, etc, are now a part of what I am passing down.

This year, this season, I am thankful for those who invested in me. It takes time and effort to pour yourself into someone else simply for their benefit. I am blessed to have had many people in my life who loved me sacrificially and poured themselves into my life. Those moments have made it possible for me to flourish despite and through my food allergies.

Advertisements

FARE’s new president

As you may or may not know, FARE has elected a new president. Dr Baker has served as interim president since the previous president resigned in August. I invite you to read Dr Baker’s interview on the FARE blog.

FARE’s Blog – Dr Baker Interview

Your pizza will be here in 30 to 45 minutes

Although, at times, and sometimes more than I would like to admit, I get tired of cooking. Yes, I miss the days of picking up the phone and ordering a pizza or running through a drive-through on the way home because it is Monday, or I stayed late, or because… I don’t feel like cooking.

Is it just me, or do you gloat a little when you whip out a awesome meal in under thirty minutes? Yeah, take that pizza delivery-man!

Well I do. So often I hear remarks like I don’t have time to cook… I hate to dirty all those pots and pans…  As for me, I am quicker than a drive-through, make better food, and usually only dirty one pan.

Having food allergies forces and eventually encourages you to grow. I used to cook, now I create. I used to feel tied to my kitchen, but now I see the challenge in how to better prepare for my week. I do not spend every night cooking…um…creating, so I plan for leftovers. I have also learned to keep some tried and true items always in stock. Dragging yourself through a grocery store when you look like death-warmed-over to get stuff to make soup (yes from scratch because the easy pre-made stuff is a no-no), is no fun. So, my go-to stuff is always in stock in my pantry and fridge.

Every time I go the store I make it a point to pick-up one spice I know is running low. This keeps me from getting into a pinch. It also gives me freedom to change my mind. Yeah, so what if I bought that chicken breast thinking I would make chicken tacos, I don’t feel like chicken tacos tonight and I have the items on hand to make chicken Marsala instead. Woo!

Often, I think that I do not really miss the fast food or eating out. I miss being able to change my mind… at the last minute. So, I have learned to be versatile in my creating meals. It’s like Food Network’s Chopped, but real life and not gross weird stuff. There are so many dishes you can create if you keep your pantry well stocked with spices, cooking wines, and vinegars. Try picking up an item or two next time you are at the store. No need to break the bank. Just one or two items and over time, you will have a well-stocked pantry and the freedom to change your mind too… even at the last minute.

It’s the little things, that if they become a habit, make flourishing with food allergies possible.

Sticks and Stones…

Every food allergy blogger struggles with which topic to tackle. Shall I pick a “Let’s all rally” or a “Finding contentment” topic. Should I pick something heart wrenching that may get a lot of shares? I lack the flare for that. No, instead, I am going to tackle words, specifically the words we speak to ourselves.

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.  – Oh really?!

I remember coming home with my list of “can’t have” foods. I stood in front of pantry with bitter determination, thinking, “how bad could this possibly be?” Several grocery bags later and an empty pantry, refrigerator, and icebox…I realized that this was bad. Reading labels had opened up a whole new world…those pesky allergens were in EVERYTHING!

What was I going to eat? What was I supposed to do when I craved the things I was allergic too? I had to literally change my mind about good, “healthy food.” These things I could no longer have were not inherently bad or evil, but my body’s response to them was. How was I going to change my entire diet…overnight?

I confess, like many adults struggling with food allergies, I did not handle it well. My “adjustment” was radical. I ate very little in the first few weeks. All of my go-to recipes were no longer safe. Eating out was definitely not an option. In all of this, I struggled not to just have a little of the now forbidden foods.

That is when I began telling myself, “I can’t have that, it will kill me.” Is this a true statement? Well, yes. But in my effort to keep myself safe from my own desires and cravings, cross-contact, and a host of other terrifying scenarios, I began building an unscalable wall around me, in my own mind.

Years ago I made the decision to stop watching CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. I found my mind overwhelmed with fear. I would always drive around a bit before parking my car, envisioning one of the many episodes where a serial killer was hiding behind a bush. Although the possibility of someone attacking me is not impossible, it was certainly not something I needed occupying my thoughts all the time.

So, several years after receiving my “list” a few trips to the hospital and the “list” growing, I had to make another decision. Is having a reaction a possibility? Absolutely. Do I need to be constantly telling myself “That will kill me.” No. The goal is to stay safe and healthy.

While I was staying safe, I was making myself unhealthy. So from freedom to the snares of bondage, I think I have found a balance in my words. I now say, “I can’t have that, but I can have this.” Now, it is less fear based, but more about a choice, “This makes me sick but this does not.”

I know it is popular to refer to our food allergies as “life-threatening” and there are times and places that is needed. But, not in our heads and our hearts.

I know the reality of my food allergies. I know what it means to use an Epi-Pen, several times over. I also know what it is to live in a self-made hell of fear. welling on all the possibilities of what could go wrong,  dealing with the aftermath of reaction when you have been so careful.

I get it. But, instead of surrounding our minds with forty-foot walls fifteen feet deep, topped with barbed-wired and broken glass bottles, maybe we could change it out for a little white picket fence? One you can see over and through.  One that allows us the  freedom to think creatively about living and flourishing with our food allergies?

What words are you speaking to yourself? Are they helpful or hurtful? Do you feel walled-in? Would you like to stay safe and also be healthy? Maybe consider writing down the words you speak to yourself. What could you change them to?

We can’t change the reality of food allergies, but we can certainly change how we view and interact with them.

 

Flourish with Food Allergies is a certified AllerCoach firm based out of Houston, Texas. You can personally connect with Lauren at FAcoachTX@gmail.com.

The Yo-Yo Effect or That Which Shall Remain Unspoken

Dealing, living, with food allergies has the unfortunate consequence of numerous trips to the ER every year for anaphylactic reactions. My last visit was just a few weeks ago. It was more series than previous visits, I was intubated and spent some time in ICU and was eventually discharged after a five day stay in the hospital. The physical toll has been rough. I did not bounce back like I had expected too. In the past, I’d spend a few hours in the ER getting IV drugs, go home and be at worth the next day. This time was different, it totally wiped me out. The medications effected me in ways I was unprepared for.

However, as hard as the physical has been, nothing could could have prepared me for the mental and spiritual aspects. Normally, after a reaction, I’ll struggle with nightmares and some anxiety (the typical ‘did I read that label?’ ‘Is this really safe?’ ‘Am I sure there is no possibility of cross-contact?’). This time is different. I am numb. No nightmares, no tears, no anxiety…nothing. I have been told this is normal after trauma, that it is part of the grieving process. Grieving over the life that could have been, health, the loss of the good.

What no one seems to completely understand is that living with this particular autoimmune disease is like being on a yo-yo. It’s not just a ‘reaction’, as if it is just itching and sneezing, it is a brush with death EVER SINGLE TIME. Every time my throat closes and I reach for my Epi-Pen I tell myself that it will be ok, and as a Christian I know no matter the outcome it will be ok, but the thought of having to go through that again is overwhelming.

So, what to do with this mess? Currently there is no cure and pathetically little in the way of research for a cure. So, live. It is simple to the point of trite, but powerful. Let your adversity shape you and mold you, let it smooth the rough edges and make something beautiful. The hardships and valleys in life are the tools used to shape us, not that we would be stronger and more pragmatic, but gentle and ultimately more dependant on God.

About Me

Well, I do not know where to begin. Most people ask me, “Have you had food allergies your whole life?” Well, yes. My parents did exactly as they were supposed to do; and slowly introduced new foods into my diet with seemingly no issues. However, about the time I was toddler, I began experiencing some intra-oral itching and would say “my mouth itches.” Believing me to be a typical picky-eater, my complaints went unnoticed. Back then, food allergies were relatively unknown. Even my pediatrician (who was wonderful) suspected nothing. It was not until years later, that I swelled up rather significantly after accidentally eating my known allergen that we realized I had a food allergy.

Again, still not properly treated or referred for proper treatment, I continued to just avoid to my known allergen, which “worked” for a while. Eventually, I became so ill (turning blue) I went to the ER for treatment. I was referred to a local allergy and asthma group for follow-up and evaluation. I was diagnosed as having severe asthma, put on high dosages of asthma medications, etc. I did not have childhood asthma. My breathing tests were always phenomenal…so, yeah.

So, after a few years of telling this doctor that I felt the drugs and treatment were making me worse (small mushroom cloud ensued) I then decided, as an adult who is aware of what is going on with my body I will get treatment from someone who willing listen to me, the PATIENT.

Which brings me to the past several years. I have a new allergist, who takes the time to listen. It really is the small things. He reviewed my records, the breathing tests,  did some lab work and confirmed the food allergies and added a few things to the list. Did radically changing my lifestyle to accommodate the food allergies require a lot of me, absolutely. Some days, I am tired of the cooking and the prepping and all the other little (and big) things that go into staying safe. But, I do not feel like I am standing on a the edge a cliff with a vice on my throat waiting to clamp down at any moment.

Back when my allergy was just one thing on my list, it was easier to dismiss, to consider an after-thought. Now, things are so different, in ways I still struggle to put into words. I am not my food allergies, but I would be lying if I did not say that my food allergies have taken a heavy chisel to the soft wood of my life and forever changed this sculpture in a way I could have never foreseen.

Hugs,

L