Connections

When I meet someone else who has Celiac Disease, I feel an instant connection.  I instantly feel less alone and feel free to talk about my life with my autoimmune disease.

It’s similar when I meet someone else with an autoimmune disease of any type.  You can talk about struggles and get to know what other people struggle with, help educate others about their disease and spread the word for awareness.

One such person is the daughter of my best friend, Shawna.  Her name is Courtney and Courtney has cystic fibrosis or CF.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system…But in people with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes the secretions to become thick and sticky. Instead of acting as a lubricant, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.”  In short, this disease makes it hard to breathe, breathing is necessary for life so this is a disease that can be life threatening, if not handled correctly.

Ever since I’ve known Courtney, she has tackled this disease head on.  She’s always had a smile on her face and had been an advocate for those that have CF and has been vocal about what the disease is and is always educating people.  Yes, she’s been in the hospital a few times in the past year and a half for “tune ups”, to get her lung function back where it needs to be.  She plays guitar and sings and doesn’t let this disease stop her from doing things she loves.

Courtney turns 16 tomorrow.  This is key because there are several people with CF that don’t make it into their 20’s.  Even less into their 30’s and, well, you get the picture.  Yes, treatments and, now, experimental drugs are helping life expectancy but with CF, the simplest things can trigger shortness of breath.  As a teenager, Courtney loves going to haunted houses.  This year I went with her and Shawna and the fog machines started affecting her ability to breathe.  Things that I wouldn’t think about if it wasn’t for Courtney.  And, as an advocate, she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself in cases like the haunted house or to make sure that a restaurant doesn’t allow smoking, and many other instances that I wouldn’t think about.

Speaking of experimental drugs, Courtney was one of the fortunate ones to be able to take this drug that is meant to keep her lung function where it’s at, giving her a longer life with the lungs she has and, hopefully, to not have to have a lung transplant for a long time or ever.

Why am I writing about another disease?  Because Courtney and I not only have autoimmune diseases (and both agree that they suck) but we also share a birthmonth.  Poor Shawna, having to deal with both of us and our birthday talk all December.

Two things as I end:  1)  The more we understand about other autoimmune diseases (Shawna and Courtney, please forgive me if I got info wrong!), the more we can help others and they can help us educate and advocate for Celiac Disease.  2)  I want to wish Courtney a very happy Sweet 16th birthday!  Here’s to many more, dear!

 

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Recipe:  Pumpkin Cupcakes

I admitted in an earlier blog that I’m not a big pumpkin fan but I am up to try new things.  A few weeks ago I saw a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes (by Gluten Free Mama) and, since I’m a sucker for baking, thought I’d try them out!  Fall means baking in my world so break out the mixer!

Pumpkin Cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter                                                                                                                                                                          1/2 cup brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                1/2 cup sugar                                                                                                                                                                            1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)                                                                                                                                2 tsp. vanilla                                                                                                                                                                               2 eggs                                                                                                                                                                                        1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I use Jules)                                                                                                                                   1 tsp. xanthan gum (if your flour doesn’t have it mixed in)                                                                                                          1 tsp. baking powder                                                                                                                                                               1/2 tsp. baking soda                                                                                                                                                                  1 tsp. cinnamon                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 tsp. ginger                                                                                                                                                                        1/2  tsp. nutmeg                                                                                                                                                                         1 cup chocolate chips or walnuts, if desired (I used chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl mix together the flour, xanthan gum (if needed), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  In a mixing bowl cream butter with brown sugar, sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add pumpkin and mix well.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add egg one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  With mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in flour mixture until combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds until well combined.  If desired, add in chocolate chips, walnuts or other desired filling.

Using a two inch scoop, fill cupcake liners with batter.  Bake for 26-28 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when touched.  Place on cooling sheet and cool completely.  Frost with frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup shortening                                                                                                                                                                    4 oz cream cheese                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 tsp. vanilla                                                                                                                                                                           1 1/2 cups powdered sugar                                                                                                                                                     1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream the shortening and cream cheese until soft.  Add vanilla, mix well.  Add cinnamon and slowly add powdered sugar.  Mix on high speed until smooth.  If needed add 1-2 tsp. milk to achieve desired texture.

These cupcakes smelled and tasted amazing.  They were very moist, flavorful and the chocolate chips added that “sweet treat” feel.  The cinnamon cream cheese frosting finished the cupcakes off perfectly.  I had my best friend, Shawna, taste them.  Shawna LOVES pumpkin and has a “30 days of pumpkin” challenge where she eats something with pumpkin every day for 30 days.  I call her the “Pumpkin Queen”.  She thought they were delish and gave them her stamp of approval!  My co workers also loved them and they stayed moist for a few days, which is unlike most gluten free baked goods.  My parents also gave their stamp of approval…three groups approved!

The other thing I loved about this recipe is that it is so easy to whip together.  If you need something quick, this is the recipe!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

As always, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for recipes like this or on Twitter!

Review: Ace’s Pumpkin Cider

I have a confession:  I am not a big pumpkin eater.  My best friend, Shawna, loves this time of year because EVERYTHING is pumpkin.  EVERYTHING.  It’s crazy what they put pumpkin in.  I am American though so around Thanksgiving I do have a piece of pumpkin pie, because I probably should.

Anyway, I went to a liquor store to buy a bottle of wine and found myself in the hard cider section.  They really are next to each other so it wasn’t much of a stretch.  I was a little surprised at the variety of hard ciders available.  Many different types of apple hard cider, a berry cider, ciders with hops, and on and on.  The one that caught my eye was the pumpkin cider.

I’ve never tried Ace’s Premium Craft Ciders although I’ve heard it’s good.  The packaging was clearly marked “Gluten Free” and is also certified Gluten Free.  Since I had looked at a few hard ciders that weren’t marked, this made my day.  I decided to take a chance to buy the pumpkin hard cider.  I told Shawna that she would have to try it with me because, in my mind, if I didn’t like it I knew she probably would.

I finally had my chance to try it.  I was expecting a super pumpkin-y taste but was very pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.  It has a good cider base but you could taste the hint of pumpkin pie:  nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.  Not overwhelming at all, very refreshing.  It was also very smooth and I could see sitting outside on a fall day next to a fire and having one of these to welcome the fall chill in.

I have to say that I will be buying more of this this fall since it is a seasonal item.  Thank, Ace, it’s a winner!

Pumpkin Cider

Warrior Dash 2015

This past weekend was one of the weekends that I always look forward to every year. It’s the weekend of the Warrior Dash which is held up at Copper Mountain here in Colorado. It is a 5K race mixed with an obstacle course and on the side of the mountain that is pretty rugged terrain.
I love this weekend for multiple reasons. First, it’s a challenge. Every year the race route has been about the same but they change it up with the obstacles. It is still hard no matter what! The second reason I love this weekend, is that I get to spend it with some dear friends of mine. Three of us have done this race for the past four years and then we brought others on along the way. It is a time for us to hang out, to work hard on the race and then relax and enjoy the company.

They also have pretty good gluten free good there. We ate at the Incline, a bar and grille at the resort. When I told the server I was Celiac, he was very knowledgeable and told me what I could and couldn’t have.  He even provided info like the fact that the fries were fried in with breaded items and explained what sides I could have.  They had gluten free buns so I jumped in and got a burger.  We then went to the Storm King Lounge for sushi. They had one roll that was gluten free, quite a disappointment as I was sure they had more gluten free rolls last year.  They did have an appetizer and dessert that were gluten free. It was good but I’m used to more variety.

All in all, it was an amazing time and I can’t wait until next year!!

  
  

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

February is a fun month.  Last week was an amazing week.  I am a part of the Grand Junction Lions Club and we hold one fundraiser a year.  It is not only the biggest fundraiser among the community groups in Grand Junction, it is the biggest one time fundraiser in Lions Club International.  We are kinda a big deal.

We do a raffle (six-seven weeks of selling raffle tickets) and then do a parade and carnival to finish it off.  The carnival is old timey:  a quarter a paddle and you can win different things like soda, bacon and eggs, candy, flowers and so much more.  We have been doing this for 86 years and it’s a staple in the community and several generations of people have attended.  Each year there is a theme:  this year was Colorado Wild and we did it up right, on a boat!

Me and Shawna (as Katy Perry)

Me and Shawna (as Katy Perry)

"I'm on a boat" crew

“I’m on a boat” crew

Me as a mermaid

Me as a mermaid

 

Yup, we have a good time and do a lot to raise money for the community.  This year we have pledged to give $125,000 to 10 organizations in Grand Junction.  Not too shabby.

Not only was a carnival but it was 10 years since I arrived in Grand Junction.  I’ve never lived anywhere for 10 years so this is huge.  I felt like I was celebrating with my Lions family (although most of them had no idea, but I pretended it was all about me anyway).  It’s a huge accomplishment in my life.

And then there was the worst of times.  Sunday night my cat, Punky, was incontinent not once, but twice.  She is 18 1/2, has been a diabetic for over six years and I know that this is a red flag.  She had been incontinent about a month ago but wrote it off as sleeping really hard, not a big deal.  I should have paid more attention.  So, I took her to the vet on Monday and Dr. Aimee Johnson put her on an antibiotic immediately.  We got the test results back yesterday (bladder infection) but at her age, this is much more than just that.  The incontinence hasn’t gone away, she seems to have a feline dementia (yes, there is such a thing) and…she’s my fur baby.

I’m facing the truth that I may have to make one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make and that is putting her to sleep.  I have to start looking past my desire to have my fur baby with me and to look at what is best for her.  Whether I should let her live with not knowing who I am (I am starting to look into eyes that sometimes have no idea who I am) or letting her go before she doesn’t even know when or how to eat.  I have to look past my desire to not want to make a hard decision or make a decision that keeps her from pain and suffering.  I have to look past ME.  And this isn’t easy.  I have spent the past two nights crying, hugging her, letting her sleep on my lap and just wondering:  is it time.  I have spent the past two days at work talking to my co worker and boss (who have and are going through the same thing as me) and listening to their advice.  I am fortunate to have a boss that says “when it’s time, take a day”.

And I have a feeling that the day will come soon…and I don’t want to have to make a decision but she is a faithful animal, a kind soul and won’t go…unless I make that decision for her.  That is my gut feeling.

So I had an amazing week last week…and now face an adult decision.  I don’t want to be an adult in this decision.  I want to make a fort, hide and play dolls in it…and forget that hard decisions exist.

As we age…

I just had another birthday.  Somedays I’m astonished at the fact that I’m nearly 40.  I don’t feel forty, luckily don’t look like it either so maybe that’s why I’m surprised.

I was having a conversation with my person, Shawna, last night.  We were talking about how it is nearly Christmas and how the month just flew by.  I asked “remember when you were a kid and Christmas seemed to take so long?”  She nodded in agreement.  I said “Why is it that now things go by so quickly?  Why as we age does time just fly?”

I don’t know what the answer is.  Maybe it’s because we have adopted hectic lifestyles, fill each minute of the day with SOMETHING.  And if we aren’t doing something, there is guilt because we could be doing something (in my case it’s usually housework).

We weren’t made to move and run constantly though.  We were made to have rest days, to have down time.  The unfortunate part is that as technology becomes more and more available to us at all times of the day, we never take a real rest.  We don’t take the time to stop and smell the roses, to take a walk, to take a leisurely drive to look at Christmas lights.  It’s all about squishing as much as we can into each and every day…but how much of it really matters?

I’ve been convicted recently to not have conversations via text.  I know that text, and email, is easy and quick but when something happens in my life, I don’t want to text my friends, I want to talk to them.  Even a phone call is good but face to face is a lost art.  I have a handful of friends that I see and get to tell my news to, the rest find out another way, I guess.

When I die (and each day I’m getting closer, reality says) I don’t want people to say “she was a busy person”, I want them to say “she spent time with us, took time with us” and I hope that conversations are remembered, not a rushed text.  I hope that the laughter and good times are remembered.

Take time.  Take time to have coffee, make a phone call.  Because in the end no one will remember the email you sent in a hurry or the text you sent to see what big thing happened in your life, the people who you took time for will remember you.

Giving Thanks

In two days it will be Thanksgiving and most people think about what they are thankful for just long enough to get to the turkey and stuffing.  Then the day is filled with football, naps and more eating.

Yes, I will be doing some of that, as well as running a race, but the last couple weeks have made me realize how thankful I really am.

You see, I have had multiple friends that have kids in the hospital, have a spouse or family member or close friend with cancer, or surgeries that were complete surprises.  At this time of the year, when we give thanks and move towards the happy holiday that Christmas is, there is so much hurt and heartbreak.

I think of three different families that I know right now that are dealing with cancer in one of their loved ones.  I know that there are more out there but there are the ones that I personally know.  There is much to be thankful for this holiday but I know that they are thinking farther ahead.  I hope that they take in each moment to treasure them in their hearts.

I think of my good friend Shawna who’s daughter is in the hospital fighting a bacteria in her lungs because she has Cystic Fibrosis and may, or may not, be out of the hospital before Thanksgiving.  Each day is precious to them as well…but Courtney is a fighter!

There are more but I’m writing to say this:  be thankful EVERY day.  There is so much to be happy about, to give thanks about on a daily basis.  Remember what they are, write them down, or at least write them on your heart.  Give thanks to God for what He’s given you, even the hard stuff because it grows you.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, hug your friends and family and eat lots!  🙂

Just keep swimming…

Somehow the spring and summer got away from me.  It was an amazing time with friends, family and spending a LOT of time outdoors.  That meant that I spent LESS time away from my computer and less time writing, obviously, except for my weekly article for the Free Press.  I apologize for being lax in my writing for my audience.  It wasn’t my intent to forget you!

There were two things that stuck out for me that happened over the summer.  First, we had a family reunion over the 4th of July holiday…ok, we had two family reunions.  One planned, the other just happened.  You see, there is a lot of my family (from my mom and dad’s sides) that either hadn’t seen my niece and nephew and some that hadn’t even met my sister in law.  This was an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone.

My mom’s side of the family hadn’t been together since the funeral of my grandpa so it was decided that we would get together for something fun instead of a sad event.  There was so much laughter and memories during those day that went so quickly.  Then, as my mom’s side of the family left, my dad’s side came.  More laughter ensued…more great memories.

The best thing is that, during these few fleeting days, everything we ate was gluten free.  I don’t think a lot of people even gave it a thought as they picked up the scones, muffins and or other tasty treats that my mom had baked.  Most of the baked goods were recipes that had been handed down for several generations and she had modified.  It was, from my point of view, a great showing of what gluten free isn’t:  tasteless, cardboard food.  It was also a showing that we are normal people, we just had a disease that causes us to adjust HOW we eat and WHAT we eat.  An adjustment, not a death sentence, if we follow the rules.

The second thing that I did this summer was the Warrior Dash, which happened to be my third time running this race.  Despite disappointments during the actual race, it was the most fun that I’ve had at the race.  Shawna, my running partner and partner in crime, and I stayed at Copper Mountain this time and we were able to catch the post race festivities with our friends.  The nice thing about Copper is that, as a ski resort, they are sensitive to the needs of the GF community and I was able to eat sushi and many other things while there.  It was another amazing milestone for summer 2014.

I will try to not be so lax in my writing here on out.  Feel free to keep following and have a great day!

Just take a moment

Life has been super hectic lately.  Between working 40 hours a week, starting a part time business with Arbonne, writing for the GJ Free Press, Gluten Free Grand Valley, Lions Club and spending time with family and friends along with other activities I’m sure I’ve forgotten…life has been crazy.  That’s why, when my friend Shawna asked if I would take a day trip to Ouray with her, I said yes.

I have a tendency to, even if there is nothing to do at home, find something to do.  I’m always connected via some form of technology and do have an issue with putting the phone down because what might happen on Facebook if I don’t check it every five minutes?  So, getting out of the house, out of town, was perfect.

It’s not that we had some sort of  “National Lampoons” type of trip (ok, there were men in speedos, queso for breakfast and yaks) but it was a great, relaxing day with one of my best friends, relaxation in the hot springs and laughter.  It was just what I needed.

Today, as I sat at work, I was reminded that we need to take those moments, break away from everything that is beckoning to us, all that says “I need to be done” and just throw caution to the wind.  All that needs to be done will still be there when we return…and if we don’t, it won’t matter anyway!

2014: The Year of No Excuses

Where did 2013 go?  It seems like just yesterday we were welcoming in the New Year and now it’s just a few days from being over.

With a new year typically come those pesky resolutions.  Many people will make the resolution and within a month will have forgotten about it.  That’s why I challenge you to make a goal, not a resolution, for the entire year and make 2014 the year of “No Excuses”.

I can’t claim that this idea is mine; it actually came from the company I work for.  They challenged us to not make excuses for things we “couldn’t” do and make them happen.  They weren’t just talking professionally; they were talking mostly about personal goals and this all stemmed from Team Hoyt.

If you’ve never heard of Team Hoyt, Google them, it’s an inspirational story for all.  The story goes like this:  Rick Hoyt was born with his umbilical cord around his neck which resulted in him having cerebral palsy and being a quadriplegic.  When Rick was younger, his friend, who was recently wheelchair bound was having a fundraiser race and Rick told his Dad, Dick, that he wanted to race.  Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair through the race but Dick had never run more than just a few blocks.  They did the race, and another, and another and to this day they have finished Iron Man Competitions (a triathlon where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles) as well as marathons and many other races.  Dick does all of this WITH his son: pushing him in the wheelchair, pulling him in a raft and biking with him.  Oh, and by the way, they have come in ½ an hour short of a marathon record.

No excuses.  Dick just gets out there and does it because his son loves it.  Dick didn’t know how to swim and learned to swim.  He hadn’t rode a bike in years and got back on a bike.  He couldn’t run any distance and got out there and DID it.

I had a “no excuse” moment about three years ago.  I was having a rough time that fall and decided that I wasn’t getting any younger: it was time to run a 5k.  My friend, Cheryl, had been telling me for years that I should run a 5k.  I kept making excuses:  I couldn’t run far, my knees are bad, etc., etc.  But that fall something changed and I knew that it was now or never.  I asked her when the next 5k was and there was one in eight weeks, the Turkey Trot.  Upon the advice of my friend Gabe, I followed the training program of Hal Higdon, which was a good, slow start training program.  I trained.  I followed the program and even on days when running was the last thing I wanted to do, I ran.  Cheryl took me under her wing and took me running hills with her running friends.  She called and texted asking how training was going.  And when money ran short and I couldn’t afford to pay for the race, my parents stepped in and paid for the race.  They even bought me running pants so I would actually look like a runner!

So, when it came to the day of the race, I had no excuses.  I was trained, looked like a runner and Cheryl even came and picked me up.  My parents were there to cheer me on.  Now, all I had to do was run.  Was I fast?  Not really.  Did I finish?  Yes.  Was I proud, excited and sore the next day?  Yes.  I put all of the excuses behind me, had friends and family to push me and take away anything that could be an excuse and just did it.  The best part is that running is addictive and I have brought another friend (Shawna) in to run with me too and I keep running races.  My most recent Turkey Trot was my fastest time ever for a race and I plan on keeping on.  No excuses.

So, make this your year of no excuses.  What is something you’ve always wanted to do but “couldn’t”?  What is something that you “didn’t have time for”?  What is something you’ve been scared to do because it was new?  Take the words “can’t”, “couldn’t”, “don’t have time” and other negatives out of your vocabulary.  Make 2014 a year where you can say “I did all of these new things and I’m a better person for it.”  Happy New Year!

Warrior Dash 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

Children With Hope Race 2011

Children With Hope Race 2011

Sweetheart Race 2011

Sweetheart Race 2011

Warrior Dash 2013

Warrior Dash 2013