Tag Archives: Empathy

Watch it Spin

Could even our biggest challenges like food allergies and anxiety spin into something positive? Could our greatest hurdles turn into the type of strength and perseverance that can be used for future races, experience and life?

Untitled design (72).png

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Like Colossians 3:2 states, perspective is a major key to one’s happiness. Life was never promised to be easy, but also can see in scripture the promise of “beauty for ashes.” This was the promise for God’s people to be delivered from their plight. Though it was promised way back when, it can still give us hope and encouragement during the most difficult times and situations we experience now. Therefore, we must remember to embrace and accept the challenge as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to change, to be ultimately blessed for the troubles and pains. Like John Wooden’s quote, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out,” take the bad and find the good. We must teach ourselves to find the positive spin.

Since May is food allergy awareness month, let’s use our experience with food allergies as an example. So, let’s go back to that first reaction, an experience no one should have to experience

Saturday, December 13 was a typical snowy evening.   As I was setting up my son’s dinner, I was excited because it would be his first taste of yogurt. After two small spoonfuls, the verdict was in: he seemed to love it!

However, within a minute it all changed.

He started to fuss and rub at his face. Turning red, his lips and mouth swelled up as huge blotches formed all over his face, neck and chest. Although just an infant, fear was written all across his face.  After calling 911, an ambulance arrived after what felt like a lifetime.  In the ambulance, his state continued to get worse. I held an oxygen mask over his now slightly-blue lips.   As he started to zone out, I prayed that he did not lose his breath. Every time he cried, I felt a second of relief for he was breathing.

Asking the EMT repeatedly about his state, I now know that she too was worried.  Her silence spoke louder than any words could have. They did not have an EpiPen with them in the ambulance and called to meet up with another team on the way to the hospital. However, due to the snow, that did not happen. As the doors to the ambulance opened, they sprinted in holding my son as I ran behind them, helpless.

The hospital staff administered epinephrine, Benadryl, and a steroid then reassured me that everything would be okay.   It was 40 minutes after ingesting that tiny amount of yogurt and I now know that we were beyond lucky.  Not everyone gets those 40 minutes.

A moment of relief soon turned into the reality of what had happened. It mixed with guilt, throwing me into the most difficult place I had seen. That night, I slept on the floor next to his crib waking up every hour to check for breathing.  Yet, even in his sleep, TJ smiled on…

We soon learned that TJ was allergic to and needed to avoid milk, eggs, wheat, oats, barley, rye, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, sesame, soy, peas, and tomatoes. At first, I spent those early months trying to defend myself to others as a good person who did not eat too many or too little peanuts or eggs during my pregnancy.  Or, explaining why I chose to continue breastfeeding despite these allergies.   I was explaining myself to everyone to try to prove that I did not cause this and I was not an awful mom.  However, I had no one to prove myself to. It was not my fault. I did not need to sit with the guilt either. It was unhealthy and I needed to shift my focus to best help myself so that I could best help TJ.

What I did not know at the time was that I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder afterwards as well. It was a time of great fear and challenges. Not only did he have these food allergies, he had also developed viral-induced asthma and seemed to be sick all the time, needing breathing treatments daily. Events with family and friends became difficult for so many reasons so I just avoided them. It appeared to be one hurdle after another during that time. Then, mix in a miscarriage, the loss of my close friend’s baby, postpartum anxiety and some medical issues plus a lifetime of anxiety… those mountains seemed way too high to climb.

That’s where the spin comes in… I seemed to be spinning out of control but that did not mean I could not learn to spin it the other way. My perspective had to change before my situation did.

Therefore against the intense anxiety, guilt, exhaustion and pain, I turned to reading scripture, praying and writing. I had always been good at seeing the good in other people but it was a challenge to do this for myself, my own experiences, my own life. I had to teach myself to find the positive or else I would never break the cycle… I had to reverse the spin.

Despite the fact that food allergies, anxiety and health issues are all incredible challenges, there is also a lot of good all around, waiting to be discovered or even seen through these rocky journeys.

Spinning forward and ahead…

1) Allergies have taught us to eat much healthier. It has opened our eyes and thus our mouths to a much more nutritious, organic and wholesome cuisine. It shined light on many misconceptions regarding health, food sources and fat, by allowing us to find great resources like Robin O’Brien. I still remember how I was pumping breast milk during my break at work when I got the message from an amazing nurse Kathy who sent me a video on her. I have not stopped following her since. Through the years, we have also found many companies and brands to trust. We have learned a lot.

2) Companies aren’t the only sources of great information. We have also met and/or spoken to so many other allergy families. We have shared ideas, joys and challenges. A support system is key and food allergies have allowed for that. They are all around. Sign up, join or boldly start your own.

3) We have been given a platform to teach to the ignorance and shine empathy on so many. In being able to educate others even our own family members and friends, relationships have taken on a whole new perspective and level.

4) Thinking outside the box – Having food allergies has really allowed us to get creative and go beyond the typical to ensure TJ, Madison and all of those with allergies are included. Why cry over the spilled milk and sheet cakes you can’t buy for birthday parties, when you have so many great alternative milks out there to purchase and so many cakes and recipes to experiment with and love! As we continue to add to our allergy-safe cookbook, we have fun with it.

5) It continues to teach us to appreciate the little things in life a bit more. We celebrate and praise God at the alter every time another food item is added back into our diets. Heck, we have even celebrated peas … shhh don’t tell my kids I’m not really a fan. Still, we are grateful for each blessing.

6) It develops self advocacy in children at a young age. A few weeks ago at a church class, teachers were switched without us knowing and the message about TJ’s allergies was not relayed. However, TJ spoke up for himself when they tried to give him goldfish which have dairy. Strong advocates with brave hearts will continue to make a difference in this world. I know I want to raise that type of child.

7) And the greatest blessing of all is the testimonies we have of God’s work. We were told TJ would have asthma until at least eight if not his whole life. – TJ no longer has asthma. He stopped daily treatments before he was 2.5. He hasn’t needed a breathing treatment since before he was 4. At 5 now, he is allergic to only dairy, eggs, and peanuts. Three allergies is a huge improvement from 21! While he used to be sick a lot, he has barely been sick this entire year and doesn’t even need an asthma care plan for kindergarten. We have a lot to be thankful for.

And when you ask TJ who took away the stomach bug he had in December, the breathing treatments, the other 18 allergies… His testimony is simply perfect. God!

Since beginning this journey, I have already learned to smile differently because:

1)      Special kinds of people wear these shoes.  Wear the label often thrown at you with pride. For you are special.

2)      Make the most of it, don’t let challenges like food allergies define you. Only YOU can define yourself.

3)      Ignorance is not bliss and needs to be educated. Let’s help share awareness with an open mind and heart.

4)      Let your faith be bigger than your fear.  Two thoughts cannot exist at the same time. A fearful one cannot remain when a faith-filled one butts in and takes charge. Trust your instinct but always be prepared and hopeful.

5)      Educating means advocating. Never apologize for it. Your child’s life, your life never requires an apology.

Last, but definitely not least, people with food allergies, old and young, continue to inspire us each and every day. They radiate so much strength, courage, and goodness. Don’t get me wrong, food allergies stink. However, we must keep focusing on the blessings while we keep safe, praying and believing God is continuing to use all of this as a testimony of his amazing love and healing power.

 

Untitled design (71)

So if it means having a house that’s a little messier and some challenges we know we will rise above, we’ll take it. We’ll use it all to continue to do our part to teach the merry-go-round of life to see the good all around and learn to spin the other way.

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

Untitled design (70).png

 

 

 

Teal Pumpkins – More Than Just a Color

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) developed  The Teal Pumpkin Project

“…to help us create a safer, happier Halloween for all! Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project™ raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”

Read all about the Teal Pumpkin Project here.

Quoted from (Source): http://www.foodallergy.org/home


While we are beyond thankful for FARE and this entire campaign, teal pumpkins have an even greater meaning for us…

MORE THAN JUST A COLOR

-Written by: http://smilingawayfoodallergies.com/

Together we stand for so much more,

Eternal brothers and sisters as one,

Advocating for ignorance’s cure,

Living in unity has begun.

Pumpkins are orange or are they teal,

Ultimately it’s not about their color but what they reveal.

Moments that open up eyes and hearts,

Pumpkin’s new hue is only where compassion starts.

Kindness for one another no matter if we directly relate

Inner empathy inspires a greater fate,

No allergies or many- for once – we all can share the same plate.

Project deeper than who has an allergy and who does not,

Reality is bringing hope to what humanity has really got.

Optional participation but yet so many chose to learn,

Joyfully adding to Halloween’s allergy-free concern,

Everlasting gratitude for all who act without expecting return.

Celebrating a community coming together as one,

Teal pumpkins are just the start of a unity I pray has only just begun.


Our teal pumpkin and treats (still in the works...)

Our teal pumpkin and treats (still in the works…)

Even though my son is still too young to fully participate in Halloween, I am beyond thankful to everyone who plans to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.   With so much negative news in the world today, times and campaigns like these bring hope for a society whose foundation can be built upon more compassion than we know.   With that being said, we wear teal proud and smile on to one great Halloween …

tj cartoon

Your Ignorance is Not Bliss

According to Wikipedia,Ignorance is a state of being uninformed (lack of knowledge)  The word ignorance is an adjective describing a person in the state of being unaware and used as an insult to describe individuals who  deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts.”

IGNORANCE


With that being said, I do not mean any of this as an insult, instead it is meant in a way that will educate others so that TJ can enjoy a safe, healthy life like he deserves. While food allergies and eczema do not define TJ, it is important that others understand how they currently affect his life.

image

Yes, if you are allergic to milk, it is not just milk you avoid, it’s the millions of foods that contain milk too. It’s cheese, it’s yogurt, it’s goldfish crackers, it’s endless foods….You don’t know how many times people innocently have made related comments to me like the one above. I challenge you to read some labels and you’ll be surprised as to what you find.

image

I get it. I totally get that sometimes people would rather not know of all the dangers to save themselves from the worry…the pain… the possibilities… the reality. I get it because sometimes I have found that not knowing is way easier than facing reality. Heck, I use to think it was super cute that TJ would reach for my pizza on Friday nights and often debated letting him touch or lick it.  At five months, he was so curious and interested; therefore, I felt like he was very ready to start solids. That was my own ignorance. Something always held me back from allowing that though.   That was my mommy’s instinct.

image

However, in the world of food allergies, ignorance is deadly. In the past, I have read, heard, and even thought to myself, “this is a little much” when asked to comply to a related request. In those times no matter how much of an empathetic person I am, I was ignorant. I chose to text on my phone and half listen during meetings about food allergies and EpiPens. That was not okay. Just like it is not okay to “multi-task” during any talk, meeting, or workshop about anyone’s health and safety especially when people’s lives depend on it.

imageS

Since some of my earliest childhood memories, I admit that I do have a tendency to worry and overreact at times. I admit that what many people may have viewed and may still view as overreacting and being dramatic is really my passion and voice shining through. I don’t know how to take on something without putting my heart and soul in it. With protecting my son, ignorance, even for a second, thinks that I’m being dramatic. It’s not drama, it’s about safety, it’s about life.

As parents, I am learning that part of us will always worry. We will worry in moments our children are near and those times that they are far. When we survive their first day of preschool, then we will come to all the other firsts. First day of kindergarten… First day of middle school.. First day of high school… First day they drive … First day of college… First date… There will always be a new first which will bring on a wonderful new stage of this journey; however, with it will come a new reason to worry. I get it and I am ready for it. The part of it that I wish wasn’t working against us is the ignorance.

image

Now, this ignorance that I worry about is more than just the people who roll their eyes behind my back or talk about how I need to relax. It’s more than the people who even though they may not mean to be, are and have labeled me as “the crazy allergy mom,” thus, labeling TJ as the adorable guy with overprotective parents. It’s more than that. To be honest, that’s not that ignorance that really terrifies me.

  • Instead, it is the person who believes that not washing their hands one time before feeding TJ is no big deal…
  • It is the person that believes giving him a kiss on the cheeks after eating lunch before brushing their teeth is not going to do any harm…
  • It is the person who thinks allowing him to use the finger paint for a “quick” art project is okay…
  • And the scariest one … The person who thinks that TJ eating one Cheerio or goldfish that he found hidden on the ground is no big deal especially if he doesn’t have any initial reactions. In that case, because his known allergies are present in that one tiny piece of food and allergic reactions can be delayed and sooooo unpredictable,  according to his Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, someone must administer his Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q and call 911. Reactions don’t have to be immediate but action must be in order to save lives.

image

I pray that although ignorance exists everywhere, that I am helping to educate others by breaking down these walls and opening eyes and hearts instead.

I pray that you battle down that ignorance and allow your mind and heart to really listen, to really understand, to respect. When you are sitting in the next meeting at work learning about safety procedures including signs of an allergic reaction and administering an Epi-pen, ignorance is torn apart a bit more when put your phone down for a minute and truly listen.

When you are informed that your child’s school or classroom is peanut and tree nut free, Ignorance is battled away if you ignore those “another crazy allergy parent.” When you hear anyone or read of people still sending food that may contain nuts in or admitting that they don’t really check labels like their daycare asked them to, ignorance is slapped in the face when even a parent who does not have any children with food allergies speaks up.  Or, when the teacher checks the food labels in the morning and calls for a replacement lunch.

When you start to write off listening to any talk about allergies because you understand how annoying they are since you have always had seasonal allergies, ignorance begins to be erased when you acknowledge it’s more than these seasonal allergies.

Last but definitely not least, as I sit in my school’s Epi-pen training at the start of this school year, it will reach me in a way that it has never before. It will bring me back to TJ’s first taste of yogurt and to his anaphylactic reaction that happened instantly. In that moment, my own ignorance was exposed as I was forced to defeat it in just a moment. In a moment when I did not know what would happen next as we rode in an ambulance to the hospital. In that moment, my life was forever changed. It’s not only my job to advocate and protect TJ, but also to educate and defeat the ignorance that exists about the world of food allergies. I pray that you will think twice before dismissing a letter from school or a meeting at work. Instead, I pray more people will listen with an open mind and heart.

image

The reality is this is more than just TJ’s story, it is the scary truth of food allergies.   Anyone can develop a food allergy at any point of their lives.   Therefore, the first step is to put your ignorance aside and allow yourself to become educated.

index

One of my favorite quotes is the one above.   It talks about the importance of being empathetic and kind always because you never know what the person next to you is truly battling.   While I try to live my life according to that advice, there are some battles like food allergies that are out in the open. With so much information to share about it, a person like TJ should never have to battle against people turning their heads to it.  Please don’t let my son’s battle be your ignorance.

As always, thank you for reading my post.  As we continue to educate others, we smile on…