Category Archives: Faith over Fear

Food Allergy Awareness Week- May 12-18, 2019

This week is food allergy awareness week. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about food allergies and anaphylaxis, and help remove the isolation that can be associated with having an allergy.

Food allergies like many diagnosis in life have the ability to isolate, ONLY if we let it…

The first step in eliminating ignorance is to EDUCATE! So here it goes…

  • 1 in every 13 children in America has a food allergy. That is two in every classroom!
  • Food allergies can be life threatening and need to be taken seriously.
  • Strict avoidance of the allergen is the ONLY way to prevent a reaction.
  • 35% of children with allergies have been bullied due to their allergy. That. Is. Not. Okay. Bullying is NEVER okay!
  • People can be allergic to ANYTHING! However, 90% of children are allergic to the top 8 allergens:
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts (all nuts other than peanuts)
  5. Fish
  6. Shellfish
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans
  9. Sesame (which still does not yet have to be labels on food packaging)
  • The top 8 allergens must be labeled on packaging.
  • However, more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions.

The symptoms can range from mild to moderate ones like hives and stomach pain to severe ones like anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Reactions are NOT all the same. Symptoms can change from reaction to reaction. Just because someone didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction the first time, doesn’t mean they can’t the next. Also, just because you were not born with an allergy, does not mean you can not develop one.

* These facts are not to provoke fear, but instead to spark awareness and instill understanding. Once we have the facts, we combat the fear that tries to associate itself with it all … with faith.

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/111/isa.43.1.niv


What is important for us all to know?

  • Reactions DO NOT just happen when someone ingests the allergen itself.

    • They can happen due to cross contact (the presence of unintended allergens), inhaling it, and from saliva (sharing utensils, instruments, chapstick, drinks, kissing).

    • My son’s last reaction at the age of 2.5 was this type of reaction. He had tried a new oat milk and while the company did not have the container labeled for it, the production lines were not thoroughly cleaned from his other allergens. Thus, it caused a reaction that was less severe and very different from his initial one, but still needed epinephrine and a trip to the ER.

    • Cross contact issues and food allergies in general take diligence. Just because the product dues not have the cross contact information labeled doesn’t mean we don’t need to call the companies or do more researching and double checking on line. Also, even products that we have used for years, we still must double check their labels as companies sometimes change the makeup and ingredients in their products. It is not a burden; it is a way of life that ensures safety.

  • Many of these people must carry EpiPens (Epinephrine) with them everywhere they go. It’s beneficial for everyone to know how to use an EpiPen. So reach out to someone who is trained in it and ask to learn. It does not take long to learn, but it also does not take long to react and need assistance. So spend the time now. It is greatly appreciated.

What can we all do? – nationwide initiatives to get involved with

Join the Teal Pumpkin Project

  • Halloween can be a difficult time for those with allergies.
  • This project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies.

How can you participate?

  • Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters (see FARE website for suggestions)
  • Place a teal pumpkin (the color of food allergy awareness) in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available
  • Spread the word! Tell your families, friends and neighbors about this initiative.

Snack Safely

  1. Check out the Snack Safely website.
  2. This is a site that has safe snacks and foods for those with allergies.  
  3. Schools use this. We all should use this. 
  4. When you are planning an event or party, check it out to ensure everyone is safe and included. It’s not always easy or convenient to “think outside of the box.” But, that’s often where the difference is made. What may seem small to one person is huge to another.  “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop

Turn It Teal

  • Teal is the color that represents food allergy awareness.
  • This initiative started in 2014 and now their mission has expanded into going throughout the country, lighting up buildings, bridges, and attractions in teal everywhere.
  • You don’t need to light up a building to spread awareness. You can do this at your school, work or church, by setting a day in May to “turn it teal” and encourage everyone to wear teal! We are doing this at my work this Friday!
  • For more information: Turn it Teal

What can we do? – ways to help everyday

Be Mindful

  1. Wash your hands after eating.
  2. Wipe down surfaces after eating an allergen.
  3. Don’t share food or utensils.

Empathy/Ask

  1. Get the specifics. Find out which foods your friends, family members, classmates, co workers, church members, etc. are allergic to and what the symptoms of a reaction are.
  2. Simply be aware and have an open mind to it. Empathy goes a long way.
  3. If hosting an event, ask what products and foods are safe.
  4. Take it seriously. It is not a joking matter.

Like with anything in life, listening wholeheartedly and empathetically goes a long way. So while our messy counter top may not have everything others have on it, we all deserve to feel included, safe and loved.

For more information, visit: FARE website

 

 


“Peace requires everyone to be in the circle – wholeness, inclusion.” – Isabel Allende

 “When everyone is included, everyone wins.” – Jesse Jackson

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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Scripture Strength

One of my favorite scriptures that hangs above my daughter’s crib since before she was born is Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” 

 

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Every night before bed, we have prayed this scripture over Madison since birth. Interestingly enough, it fits her little, but big personality perfectly.

Isn’t it what we all hope for our daughters!? For our youth!? For our future?!

To be strong and respectable in a world that often tries to strip that from us…

To laugh through life not allowing worldly fears to steal that from us in an attempt to hold us back from who we are meant to become…

To stand confident in how we are beautiful just the way we are no matter what makeup and filters lie to us about …

And those imperfections that make is human, are perfectly designed to make us just that, beautifully and wonderfully made…

At only two, Madison is already so strong-willed and decisive, which makes some moments quite challenging. And she is quite fearless and independent too (The sprained foot, giant knot on her forehead and slight bruise under her eye, all within a month and a half of each other, were proof of that.) So as we continue to guide her and maybe even lead her down the stairs for now, we are confident that she will continue to be just that: strong, confident and of course, kind. For those qualities define true beauty and what we want for her.

Interestingly enough in reciting this over Madi, I didn’t realize at the time the overwhelming and uplifting effect all of this was also having over me. It’s amazing to see how much change can happen over 2.5 years. How much I’ve changed! And I’m not talking about those few added pounds that came and made a home in my hips over that time. Instead, I’m talking about learning the beauty of them. I’m talking about the beauty and strength that comes from having a daughter.

But that strength doesn’t just come from having kids, it truly comes from having a purpose. It comes from praying and asking God to reveal and confirm that purpose. It comes when we are walking in that purpose, His purpose for our lives.

So on the days when I am feeling worn down and like I need a break and more time, it is nice to know I still have the strength to get me through. And it’s even more empowering to know, she has it too.

 

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*It’s also on my phone case too, thanks to my thoughtful husband.

 

Shake Up Your Morning

It was in September that I saw my OBGYN about intense ovulation and menstrual pain. It had been several months of this so I wanted answers. I started to assume it was the endometriosis my mom may have so “kindly” passed down to me.

After an ultrasound, I received a phone call from another doctor telling me that I had a cyst on my ovary the size of a baseball!

A BASEBALL! I freaked out… ain’t gonna lie… especially when they then instructed me that I should have blood work done to double check…cancer levels… That was it! I quickly lost it!

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Then, the doctor went right into talking about having to monitor it for a few months and then discussed going on the pill or even surgery.  That was not a good night for me or my husband to say the least. (It was also the night I found out he would be traveling to Paris for business without me….double whammy!!)

After I gathered myself again, I turned to prayer, believing everything would be okay.  Instead, of my typical reaction of panic, panic and more panic.   I consciously chose to train my brain to believe that: I. WOULD. BE. TOTALLY. OKAY. AND. HEALTHY.

A week later, the blood work came back with the wonderful news that my inflammation number was in the normal range.   So now it was just waiting game until I would be rechecked in a couple months. Therefore, I reached out to a holistic doctor about what I could do. She gave some supplements to help decrease estrogen levels and also suggested lots of cruciferous vegetables and as many greens as possible. Sadly, she also recommended that I cut out alcohol and dairy for 30 days. Noooo not the wine!

So, I loaded up on broccoli and cauliflower in my lunches and dinners.  Riced cauliflower was my best friend in my stir frys, salads, and even soups. I already wasn’t eating dairy during the week, only on the weekends with pizza.  With liquor, I stopped the random glass of wine during the week, only a glass or two on the weekends.  But as far as the other greens…. how many greens could I actually eat? That is when I decided to play around with morning shakes, finding my favorite green one.

I called it my morning “Shake Up” or as my daughter calls it, a green “milk shake.”

And here it is… with some variations. I like to vary it up too.  My husband turned me into a creature of habit, or maybe I always was one.  Regardless, variety is important so I try my hardest to vary it up.

SHAKE IT UP RECIPE #1

  1. ice cubes (a couple handfuls)
  2. 2 Tablespoons almond butter
  3. 1 cup almond milk or Silk’s Protein Milk (almond, cashew, pea)
  4. 2 dates (You can add up to 4.  I keep it light for sugar purposes)
  5. 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  6. 1 Tablespoon flax seeds
  7. 1 Tablespoon – a good sourced Cacao powder (optional)
  8. A teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)
  9. a cup of spinach or kale (I usually stick to spinach although lately I’m on a kale kick)
  10. 1-2 stalks of celery or even cucumber
  11. Maca powder (optional)
  12. Organic protein powder (optional)

Directions:  Combine and blend well. We use a Vitamix to blend. (It was by far one of my best purchases as far as kitchen items.)

Two months later, when I was retested, the cyst was almost completely undetectable.  Thank you God! Thank you for shakin’ it up and making my faith grow even more.  Thank you for those morning shakes that kick start my days right, even as we rush out of the house with the Vitamix still dirty in the sink.

 

The Name Change

The Art of a Messy House

In the midst of the mess, there is unprecedented beauty and nothing less. – Jen
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            When you ask someone to define beauty, most people will ponder for a bit before beginning to describe an emotion, individual, or quality that takes our breath away.  Not many people, would ineptly reply, “beauty is my messy house.”
That is where many of us are mistaken though.   Hear me out …
For myself, there was much of my life that I believed beauty radiated on the outside from what was beneath my layers.  But then again, that was also detrimental for most of my life. Because not only did I struggle with the reflection the mirror shined back at me, but I also agonized over the fact that the qualities that I wanted, I lacked.   Therefore, I labeled myself as beauty’s antagonist for more years than I would like to admit.  My own worst enemy …
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However, as the years continued to tick on and now fly on by, I realized how mistaken I was in every sense of the word.  I spent most of my life writing about these types of questions because my spoken words have had a way of failing me.  In other words, writing has always been much easier source of communicating for me. Although now, I’m getting better at both.
As an individual who battled with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, and depression at different points of my life, writing saved my life.   Let me rephrase that, God saved my life time and time again. In fact by giving me gifts of grace including my ability to write, I have gained a voice.
For like most, I have walked through more valleys in this lifetime so far to know that beauty is often where you least expect it.  For the beauty that lasts…the beauty that defines us … is the beauty that often our eyes fail to see at first. It is the radiance that often blinds us, coaxing or even forcing us to turn our heads before we can truly see beneath and passed it…
It.Is.Beautiful.
It is the vision without the lens.
It is what takes us deeper than aesthetic senses.
It is in the worst of days.
It is in the mistakes that try to devour our inner drive.
It is in the birth stories no one told you, or the ones that they should have never told you. (Until labor, those stories had me believing my son would come flying out…ha)
It is in the newborn book that never met your infant and wasted your tiny amount of mommy brain, taking a year to read.
It is in the maternity leave that left you in tears during it and then again when it ended.
It is in the discovery that your child is anaphylactic to dairy and allergic to everything else.
It is when doctors refer to your child as a sick child.
It is in the pregnancy that you never expected and barely survived.
It is in the kegel you were too depressed to even remember to try or even care about until you were housing dairy-free ice cream in bed. It is in thirty-five years plus of anxiety that no one could even begin to understand.
It is in the realization that your child may have OCD worse than you and it is up to you to break the cycle.
It is in all those moments that you realize that your beautifully cleaned and kept house you spent years building and maintaining really is maintaining you.
For it is not beautiful at all.
Instead, what you tried to avoid your entire life is in fact the truer essence of beauty. Beauty is not running away from or hiding our mess; instead it is embracing it.
For beauty is in the art of a messy house…
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and trust me… I am still working on perfecting ours…
but this is my journey to achieve just that:
The Art of a Messy House 
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The Comeback

The Comeback – January 2019
And we’re back!
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Stepping back…
When I stopped blogging over three years ago, I ended in a panic.
Here I was writing posts about remaining strong in faith in order to overcome fear; and there I was living what felt like a lie. Don’t get me wrong, I was genuine in my goal to not allow the anxieties of motherhood, food allergies, my miscarriage and life control me. My heart wanted so badly to help others through experiences similar to ours. However, I felt like a hypocrite because I myself was battling a war, invisible to most except those very close to me. I needed to help and heal myself in order to best guide my family. I needed healing in every sense of the word. I needed a break from researching, from reading articles, from adding more worry onto our already allergen and chemical aware plates and homes. I needed to find myself and allow myself the time to heal. I needed to admit that I was not okay, that I deserved more, and that there was more. I needed to do it for my husband, my son, my soon-to-be-daughter, my family and friends and most importantly, myself.
Reflecting back …
Having battled anxiety most of my life, I truly believed it was inevitable. The perfect setup. Since the age of five, anxiety was my middle name. (In fact, since I didn’t have an actual middle name given to me at birth, I used to joke to myself that this was indeed meant for me.) Anxiety was just my way,; it was part of my being and always would be … or so I thought. Luckily, I was very mistaken …
Then add into the mix:
-My 7.5 month old son had an anaphylactic reaction to his first taste of yogurt in the middle of a December snow storm where there were NO Epi-pens in the ambulance…
 
-We learned of his 20 more possible allergies at his follow-up appointment…
 
-His skin reactions, his daily breathing treatments, and his viral-induced asthma every time he got sick from age 1-2.5 after he had pneumonia…
 
-Then my best friend from high school experienced the loss of her son (a heart-breaking stillbirth at 35/36 weeks)…
 
-Then my own miscarriage…
The anxiety just continued to build on and on, like a mountain I had no business climbing, yet there was no other way to get down. I was stuck. I was functioning but depressed. I was functioning but anxious. All. The. Time. Looking back, was I even functioning? Was I even present? Was I even living?
Nothing brought me joy. It was a terrible cycle: I would fake it first, then I would get so frustrated with myself for being disingenuous that I would beat myself up even more. A vicious cycle. The whole time my heart had the right intentions. It knew what it wanted and needed. It wanted to inspire others, but inspiration starts within, and fear had tried to wipe me empty. I was a cry for help through broken smile.
Then, I got pregnant with my daughter. It was a difficult pregnancy in the sense that I was nauseous, exhausted and sleep deprived for most of it, nothing like with my son who had spoiled me. She kicked my butt and belly literally! Many told me that it made sense since “girls steal your beauty.” What I didn’t realize yet, it was quite different: she was starting to inspire me…
…to redefine my beauty.
She arrived on her due date naturally just like my son had. What are the chances?!?! (Wish my lottery skills were just as good.) Her birth was a blessing and still the questions stood, why was I not content? Why was I unhappy? I felt so beyond guilty. How could I be this terrible of a person? Of a mother?
I was not beaming with happiness and joy, but she was beautiful and everything I dreamed of. From the time we found I was pregnant, I knew she would have a fighter’s heart like her Mama much like Kip Moore’s song “ Hey Pretty Lady” reminded me. And she had beautiful hazel eyes that resembled her daddy’s baby blues bringing back to Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.” I dreamed this dream years before. I dreamed this dream for years. I needed to remember just that, as she smiled back at me … “a fighter’s heart like her Mama”...
The fight back to reality…
Those months that followed my daughter’s birth I found a breast lump, had other OBGYN scares, became engorged for an entire month when she had already been nursing for eight months, … the list was endless and really all added up to one diagnosis in the end: post traumatic stress from my son’s anaphylactic reaction then mixed with a hormonal imbalance leading to … postpartum anxiety.
I couldn’t see it then. I was too caught up in feeling and even scarier, believing, that I was dying. I really thought I was dying. I did not want pity, sympathy nor attention; I wanted someone to save my life. I was in a crisis. I was terrified that I was going to abandon my children. That I wasn’t going to be who they needed. And I beat myself up for it every day and every night. Panic attacks became a normal nighttime routine. I felt so alone all the time but the most isolated times were when those around me, helpless in their own way, asked me to snap out of it. I knew they meant well. But how? If only a snap of the fingers could do such a thing.
Finally, when my daughter was 9 months old I stopped nursing, still exclusively pumping for another 1.5 months. This allowed her to take the bottle that she had refused for the first 9 months of her life when she much rather take the boob. I am Taurus and while I don’t follow signs very often, I do know and admit to how stubborn I am. I was very headstrong about wanting to make it to a year or more, like I did with my son. However, reality hurts when it hits you especially as you are trying to climb your way out of rock bottom. My kids needed me in a different way, much more than just my milk could provide.
Stubborn ways would not save me, but letting go would. So I did just that …
Getting my groove back …
The power of the mind is incredible. I vowed to change my thinking: I would overcome this. I needed a therapist to connect with, to deepen my faith and learn to rely on that faith. I knew deep down that this would be used for good, I just couldn’t see how yet but I knew …
Walk by faith, not sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
After therapy for a few months and then even doing some sessions of EMDR light therapy, I had some eye opening experiences, a lot of healing, and even more forgiveness. As the ELA teacher in me would say, I also had some aha moments and lessons learned:
  1. Postpartum anxiety is real! How can it not be? Have you ever watched the news or googled searched something or even scrolled your Facebook news-feed to find only positive posts. I think not! I’ve learned Google was the devil for a Mama like me who spent much of her time being undated by negative judgments and news. What we all really need is someone to lift us up. So do just that, surround yourself with positive words. Click on a Bible app or put some positive affirmations on a notes page of your phone. Google search uplifting quotes so that when you go to search up something not-so-positive, you see the inspiration instead. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and cheer you on, not those who judge. It may mean eliminating or limiting social media or even some people. It’s difficult, but possible and worth it.
  2. You deserve happiness.. I deserve happiness. Everyone deserves happiness. Don’t let the lies of the world make you believe something else. Learn what makes you happy as an individual. Then, do what makes you happy. For me, it’s prayer, writing, poetry, being creative and running. It’s not selfish to know and make time for what brings you joy. Even if it does not involve your kids directly, it indirectly does in a greater way than you think. It’s easy to lose yourself in motherhood, and in life in general. So, recognize and embrace what makes you, you.
  3. Forgiveness is key. Or else you cannot fully move on from the past. I had some major resentment raging in me still and often pointed my fingers at others to temporarily let go of it. Cycles will be cycles if you do not forgive. Just think about it. It doesn’t always mean we have to tell the person we forgive them. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to, while other times it is necessary. Either way it is a conscious decision that heals the heart. It was one of the deepest releases and moments when I did just that. It made room for a whole lot more of love, joy and hope. It made room for peace.
  4. You are not alone. Even in a dark room breastfeeding your baby when everyone else seems to be have cocktails at a party or watching television, and you are worried about your milk production or if your daughter’s rash means food allergies like your son, you are never alone. Isolation can happen after a baby. Do not feel guilty. Reach out and build a support system. Like I suggested above, put positive sources of entertainment on your phone as you nurse like a Bible app, read positive news, journal, or write a poem. Sometimes, I would forget calculating how long she nursed and wouldn’t allow my phone near me. Instead, I would sing songs and just talk to my daughter. There are support systems for everything. Find other food allergy families, if you need support. Postpartum groups for breastfeeding are wonderful for so many reasons beyond nursing. Build that village and remember you are never in it alone. Ask for help… that makes you stronger than you think.
  5. Take care of yourself – even if it means taking the drug the doctors recommend or the yoga class you feel like you do not have time for. For those who know me, they would tell you I really try to take the natural, organic, GMO free route as much as possible. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the medication the doctors had prescribed for the postpartum anxiety. But I didn’t and while it took longer, I healed. Healing is possible for everyone.
Reflection back …
So often we label mental health has a weakness. We label food allergies as a weakness. We label asking for help as a weakness. We label, we label, we label. The problem is we label. I found new depths of strength and courage in those labels though. I found a way to stand confident in the fact that history will not repeat itself. But I had to forgive myself and a bunch of others before I had enough room to let amazing joy fill me up.
The reality is once you can learn acceptance in the now, no longer putting life on hold for the greener grass of tomorrow that may never come, that is when you start to live. That is when joy fills your heart. I never had real joy before now. I faked it and was full of shame because of it. But now I realize, through acceptance of myself, forgiveness of my past and that of others who may have left scars, I’m so much stronger than I’ve ever imagined I’d be.
My son, TJ started off with 21 food allergies and has outgrown all but 3 (dairy, eggs, peanuts) at his age of 4.5 now. My daughter Madison Grace has a kick-ass immune system and can’t have sesame or straight dairy milk. And don’t get me wrong, it sticks when we recently learned of her sesame allergy. It stinks when we attend birthday parties and TJ can’t eat the pizza or the cupcakes. However, we have our yummy alternatives and they are accepting of it. They are happy. Don’t get me wrong fear throws a lot at me still as it does for everyone. We all have our own battles but it’s more important to know the battles have all already been won. (John 16:33)
The difference now is I own my joy and it’s wrapped in my deep faith. Its home is in my heart and if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone. Even in my lowest, I’ve never believed in the word impossible. Nothing is impossible with faith. Stand for something, or fall for everything.
And we smile back…
And now I can truly say I genuinely smile with my son who has been waiting the whole time for me to do just that, to let go, smile on… for we are truly learning to embrace the beauty and art of a messy house!
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