Monthly Archives: July 2014

Finding Joy

Christmas specials in July annoy me. In my small corner of the world, the gray skies and the chill in the air hang around for a duration of at least six months. There are only a couple of months out of the year when it gets “hot”, with the definition of “hot” being above 85 degrees with an elevated level of humidity. These are my favorite times. This is my summer. So, when I’m flipping the channels and for the entire month of July one station is showing Christmas specials, I tend to feel that someone is encroaching on my turf. Isn’t it bad enough that the stores are going to start putting up decorations in two months? Yes, I can (and do) choose to not watch these specials but even seeing the show names on my channel guide gives me anything but joy.

Now, I’m not a Scrooge. I believe in joy but I find my joy in different things (especially during the summer). Joy can be a noun meaning a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Joy can also be a verb synonymous with the word “rejoice”. People cry tears of joy. You can find joy in the little things of life. Some people even find joy in July Christmas specials. In short, joy is everywhere. So a week ago, when joy presented itself in a surprising and unexpected fashion, it truly was something that I couldn’t wait to share with everyone.

Cam’s trip to gluten-free camp is coming up this weekend (four days and counting from when I type this). Things such as a rolling duffle bag, portable fan, sunscreen and bug spray have now taken residence on the floor of my dining room in preparation for his journey to North Carolina. For the past month, you could see his excitement building as his time to stay at Camp Kanata drew closer. But behind the exuberance, there was something else. I attributed it to a bit of fear and rightfully so. He’s going to be nine hours from home and is, initially,  not going to know anyone there. He’ll have no “real-time” contact with his family or his friends. He has every right to feel a little nervous. That wasn’t it though. Through conversation and based, unfortunately, on past experiences, we found out that Cam was worried about eating. It’s become ingrained in his mind that “eating out” carries much more risk of cross-contamination and elevates his chances of being “glutened”. And with this trip, he is facing six days of eating outside of the comfort zone of his home. Three meals a day. 17 meals in all.  He is going to be taking part in day-long activities which will cause his body to demand sustenance. And it worries him. We have taught him how to be so cautious when it comes to his celiac disease and now that caution was filling the space where anticipation should be.

As a parent, seeing this and knowing of this is heartbreaking. But we also knew that, as his parents, it was our role to provide him with confidence any way that we could. It was our mission to remove his doubt. So, we did just that. And again, all it took was an e-mail (isn’t it funny how so many of these stories come from a simple form of communication). I had been in contact with the wonderful people at Camp Kanata when I arranged for his camp journey three months ago. I decided to send them another e-mail, asking about the menu for the gluten-free week and what Cam was to expect. The plan was to remove some mystery from the week to allow him to again think about the fun experiences that he was going to have. The results were so much more. Three days later, Cam received a letter through the good, old-fashioned United States Postal Service. We opened it together and inside was a menu showing the entire week’s worth of items that he would be eating at camp. Every meal, every day. Under each meal, it was specifically designated which portion would be substituted using gluten-free items and ingredients. And the menu couldn’t be more perfect for a 13 year old boy. It was as if we asked him what his favorite foods were and we wrote his responses down In the form of a menu. North Carolina BBQ, hamburgers, McBreakfast (sausage patties and English muffins), pizza, tacos, doughnuts, hot dogs, chicken tenders. If he liked it, it was on there. And then we got to Friday evening; a full Thanksgiving style meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry and pumpkin pie. It was when he read this, and a few seconds after his mind had put everything together, that an expression of pure, unrelenting joy came to his face. The guard that so many teenagers put up to hide their true emotions was dropped and a childlike happiness, that isn’t “cool” to express any more, returned for a command performance. HIs weight had been lifted. He could again see the fun in what was to come. HIs every day worry just took a back seat for the week.

They say that joy is many things. It is love and it is family. It is found in strength and it is something that you can choose. For me, joy is best defined as contagious and, on that day, it spread through all of us. Presenting itself in forms as simple as that menu and as awesome as that beaming smile on my child’s face, joy settled in to our home for the night and the rest of life’s worries were set aside and temporarily forgotten.

 

 

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You Say You Want a Revolution

TV in the morning is terrible. For a sports junkie like Cam, SportsCenter has the same one hour show on a continuous loop until about noon. Revolution If he’s really bored, he can turn to one of the other 12 ESPN networks and watch former players, coaches and other talking heads break down for three hours a potential basketball trade that hasn’t even happened yet. Safe to say, this programming doesn’t hold the 13 year old’s attention for very long. Other channels aren’t much better. From reality show reruns to people in suits yelling at each other about what is wrong with the world, it’s no wonder that the Daytime Emmy’s this year was moved to an on-line only, viewing experience.

Every so often, I’ll turn on 20 minutes of the Today show. Honestly, I’m probably only turning it on to see what the local weather is going to be but I’ve done this enough to learn the format of the show. First, it’s four hours. The only thing on television longer than this is the annual showing of the Ten Commandments (clocking in at 5 hours with the commercials) and the Super Bowl pre-game show (endless). The mood and the seriousness of the Today show changes as the hours pass by. The first hour is the breaking news (usually something tragic) followed by the pundits who like to hear themselves talk. About mid-way through, the show starts to turn towards more pop culture focused stories and the latest shopping deals and try at home recipes. I guess the last hour is a gossip fest with ladies who are drinking way too early (happy to say, my viewership has never made it that far).

A few weeks back, the “middle portion” of the Today show had Bobby Flay on, demonstrating his cooking skills while making a meal that no one could possibly replicate at home. This was also right around the time that Panera Bread released a statement that they were banning GMO’s and other additives to their foods. When Bobby was asked about his thoughts on the Panera decision, he proclaimed that it was “the start of a food revolution”. I agree with Bobby in that I think Panera’s decision to move towards a “clean eating” experience and create foods with no additives is a step in the right direction and something that other large chains should emulate. But is it the start of a revolution or is it just another step forward for a revolution that has already been happening?

I Google’d “Food Revolution” and received multiple articles and sites concerning Chef Jamie Oliver’s outreach program and TV show of the same name. Jamie’s “Revolution” is about changing America’s health by changing the way that we eat and recognizing obesity as an epidemic. The televised “Food Revolution” began in 2010 so that precedes the Panera-Revolution-era by four years. This version of the Food Revolution has been around long enough that it already has a “day”, with Food Revolution Day having taken place on May 16th, 2014. That wasn’t the beginning though. Going through my search results, I found that in 1987, a gentleman named John Robbins published a book named “Diet for a New America”, which some have claimed was the start of the food revolution, a full 23 years before it hit the television networks. So, if my calculations are correct, the Food Revolution era has been in effect for the past 27 years.

But, these are just the “recognized” foundations of the movement. From my conversations with celiac and gluten-free individuals, the targeted evolution of “safe” foods has been the driving force behind the revolution of the industry. We have attended a couple of sessions at our local branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), an organization that is dedicated to support those with gluten sensitivities through consumer and industry services and programs that positively promote healthy lives. At these sessions, individuals share their stories and provide a support system for those people new to the lifestyle and feeling isolated by their symptoms and now limited food choices. Those individuals who have been gluten intolerant for over three decades talk about the changes in the quality of foods available and the increase in the number of choices that they now have, a result of their advocacy for the cause. GIG has local branch offices and support groups in 33 states and is growing internationally. It’s the individuals that attend these groups, the volunteers that share their stories, exchange recipes and provide information to anyone who wants it, that are the driving force behind the real revolution. It’s organizations such as the Gluten Intolerance Group, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year (sorry John Robbins, they got you by 13 years) who are the un-celebrated leaders in the quest for better, healthier foods. It’s about time the celebrated leaders started getting on board.

The Exclusive Interview!

MysteryOK. The title was just to get your attention. Regardless, this post is done in an interview format and the person to which I’m asking these questions is very important to this blog. Exclusivity is what makes the title somewhat false. You see, the person I am interviewing for this post is gaining tremendous experience in answering questions about his condition and sharing what his Celiac life has become. He has been featured in other blog writer posts, did an interview with an international allergy magazine and has, believe it or not, appeared in a gluten free calendar. All by the age of 13. Of course, I’m talking about Cam.

I’ve “interviewed” Cam before, asking him about favorite foods and getting his feedback on his Celiac experiences, so I was hesitant to do another question/answer style of blog. But then I looked at the date; July 1st. Halfway into the year. Cam was diagnosed with Celiac in September 2013 but we did not begin to blog, tweet, share his story until January 1st. So, here we are six months later. It’s kind of like a half birthday / anniversary for us. Wow, in six months so much has changed. Instead of just our family reading about Cam’s every day life, hundreds of new people follow our story each month. As I mentioned, he’s been asked about his gluten experience in real interviews (not just silly things put together by his Dad). He has been approached by companies to try their sample products and give his opinions about them. He has embraced his condition, educates those who ask and has become a spokesperson for Celiac teens, whether he realizes it or not. Given all of these tremendous achievements, I felt it important that he have a chance to tell you how his summer is going; in his own words.

Celiac Teen Dad (CTD): How’s Your Summer Going?

Cam: It’s going pretty well…a lot better than last summer ’cause last summer I had all my Celiac attacks because I didn’t know I had my disease. It’s also better because I’m able to do more, such as camps and see my friends more often because I’m not having to stay near home as much.

CTD: Are there challenges you face in the summer time that maybe you don’t have to face during the school year? 

Cam: Well, I go out to eat a lot more so there’s the challenge of cross-contamination. Also, when we go places like the movie theaters, there’s always gluten or crumbs on the floor and the seats which I need to be careful about.

CTD: How about when you go to the pool with your friends? Any problems there?

Cam: I just don’t get any concessions. There’s always crumbs on the picnic tables and there’s the possibility of crumbs in the pool.

CTD: You shouldn’t drink pool water any way.

Cam: I know. (Said in a very “teenager” worthy tone)

CTD: Now, you play a lot of baseball and pick-up basketball in the summer. Has your Celiac Disease affected your play?

Cam: I don’t think so. It does affect things like when we go out to eat with the team after a game. I need to keep in mind the cross-contamination possibilities but it’s a lot of fun to hang out with your teammates.

CTD: Do your teammates treat you different since you’re not eating the same things that they are? 

Cam: My friends are very understanding of my situation because they ask questions and I let them know why I can’t do things. I’ll say, “I can’t have these wings because they’re breaded” or “I can’t have that pizza because it uses wheat flour”. If I tell them about it, they’re understanding and it doesn’t really matter. They help me out and know to be careful and not give me any gluten.

CTD: Anything exciting coming up the rest of the summer (only 7 weeks left until he starts school)?

Cam: Well, coming up at the end of July, I’m going to a gluten-free camp in North Carolina at Camp Kanata. They’re doing a special gluten free week with gluten free food. I’m real excited about it because it’s a nice overnight, week long camp where I can go swimming, play basketball and just have a good time and not worry about food.

CTD: Does it take some pressure off of you, knowing that for that whole week you’re not going to have to worry about what you are eating? 

Cam: Yeah, it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders knowing that it will be safe for me to eat there. I won’t completely let my guard down because you always have to be on the watch and there might be things like crumbs from the previous week’s camp that could cause some cross-contamination. But it’s going to be a lot easier knowing that everyone there understands my condition and wants to keep things safe.

CTD: Are you excited at the chance to meet other kids who might have Celiac Disease and/or gluten sensitivities?

Cam: Yeah, I really don’t know a lot of people who have Celiac Disease so I’m excited to meet some kids my age who have Celiac and share stories to see if they went through some of the same things that I did and find out what foods they like. It will be fun.

CTD: Ten months now since your diagnosis. Do you feel like you have adapted to the gluten free lifestyle. 

Cam: I feel I’ve adapted very well. I remember checking out all of the store bought brands and hoping that I could find something that I liked. And now, I know where to look for gluten and I know I have to be careful at restaurants. But my family supports me a lot; my mom cooks everything, my dad expresses my feelings in his blog. In 10 months, I would say that the Celiac lifestyle has become a lot easier.