The Wind of Her Vision (or: That Time I Helped Someone Do Something Out of the Ordinary)

My children used to play mommy – getting their dolls ready for bed, giving them piggy back rides, even pretending to nurse them.  When I went back to working in April of 2012 they would pretend to be on their toy phones and wave me away, saying, “Shh, I’m talking to a client!”  Now they give each other speeches about food allergies.  When I was driving them to my daughter’s parent teacher conference last week my son asked when we were going to get to the hotel (“No, not that kind of conference,” I clarified.).  For 9 months, “the conference” was certainly something that impacted their lives.  I have felt selfish as any parent does when they aren’t focusing directly on the needs of their children, home, or family, but I have also been buoyed by the conviction that this was important.

When Jenny Sprague called me out of the blue earlier this year, it was about an idea.  She wanted to bring the “food allergy mom army” together in one place.  She wanted to look around the room and know that she had brought everyone there.  And she wanted that room to be in Las Vegas.  That’s where I came in, she explained.  Could I help secure a location?

My first thought was that I already didn’t have time to spare.  I was consumed with a particularly nasty few cases and rationalized that once the biggest one was done and gone then I could probably make a few phone calls and see what meeting space would cost.  I had just learned that a several months long ordeal about a pipe under our street was finally coming to a positive resolution but I was in no condition to be of any help to anyone.

And yet.

This was Jenny, who had always, always, been available to support me even though we’d never met and only knew one another through twitter and our blogs.  Jenny, who has been face to face with the dragon’s jaw more times than I could imagine bearing, let along surviving to still have hope and passion.

“Passion entails working strenuously toward challenges.  Maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus to progress.  It is the unwavering commitment to our patients, to our children, and to our readers.  It includes thousands of hours away from family to achieve an objective that is bigger than ourselves.  Being passionate involves teamwork.  Recognizing that in order to do great things, you must surround yourself with talent, with people, with partners. . .who catch the wind of your vision when you cast it.” – Dr. Eric Edwards, November 2, 2013

As I stood in the “Sonoma room” at the South Point Hotel and Casino for the opening night of the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference I could barely believe what was happening.  I had helped, I had contributed. . .Dr. Edwards of Sanofi was up in front of the banner Selena had designed, that had sat in my living room waiting to be transported to the hotel, that Jenny had put up behind the stage.  The adrenaline was really pumping for me at that point as I wondered what people were thinking, what they expected from the next few days.

That morning I had been on stage at the FARE walk with the rest of the walk committee and my friends and my mother in law were watching the kids a couple feet away.  Later they would tell me my daughter had said her mommy was doing important work for kids with food allergies and I was relieved that she understood but also not sure if it was right for me to make choices to be away from my own children at an event that I was doing ostensibly for them.  To make their world a little more compassionate.  So when Dr. Edwards mentioned being away from our families, the why and the how of it, I thought of how observant my daughter had been just that morning.

Jenny excitedly told me that our friend Elizabeth had spoken movingly about keeping what the conference created going even after we all headed home.  I had missed the end of the closing panel because I was turning over the registration desk keys and trying to box things up to take home.  I can’t wait to catch the video of it when our videographer sends it along but in the meantime I know that Jenny wasn’t the only one captivated by Elizabeth’s idea.  That we didn’t need to ask where to go from here because by coming to the conference and taking part we had laid the groundwork for continued support and advocacy.   

I couldn’t bear to look at the conference rooms one last time after our banner had been rolled up and carted away.  It seemed strange that a room that felt comfortable and filled with friends was returning to a form I didn’t recognize.  The next day I experienced a similar feeling again when I dropped Jenny off at the airport.  She was playing Erica Dermer’s wickedly funny YouTube clip about the conference on her phone and we keep saying to each other that what we’d talked and planned for months had succeeded beyond what we’d hoped.  I turned from the 15 to the 215 and onto the airport connector.  It felt a little like Cinderella was leaving the ball.  Which makes the Honda in this situation the pumpkin and me a mouse (or was the coachman the horse?).  But I digress and will just say it was bittersweet.

I have been so privileged and humbled that people enjoyed the conference.  I haven’t really been able to write something I felt encompassed the entire experience but as Jenny wrote on her own blog, our appreciation is of the people that attended, the people that spread the word, and that were so welcoming and kind to one another.

Susan Weissman wrote in my copy of “Feeding Eden” that she trusted me to read not only with my eyes but with my heart.  May we all continue to read each others’ words with our hearts.  To reach out and connect.  Even when we are crippled by sadness and self-doubt and want to shut away the world there are those that will love us.

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I could go on and on, which is funny considering the writer’s block I was experiencing, but I want to end with a few (these are not all by any means, I loved meeting everyone!) notes of thanks:

To Colette, who hugged me when I needed it. 

To Elyse, ever smiling, who my kids tried to steal away and make their friend (I don’t blame them!) .

To Selena, who captured the loss of control we all battle.

To Joel, who I respect deeply.

To Elizabeth, for her resilience.

To Libby, for laughter.

To Kim, for frank advice.

To Caroline, for her enthusiasm.

To Keith, who is so ebullient that when Jenny and I expressed our desire to adopt him to his family and without missing a beat they said we’d have to take them too.

To Jo-Ann, who teared up when I told her that she had won a dinner based on her fundraising for the FARE walk because the donations had come from people that had supported her in a very dark year.

To Ritesh, for being awesome.

To Tiffany, who puts herself in the fray with humor and grace.

To the Mehras, who are beyond sweet and compassionate.

To Cybele, for being just as amazing as I’d hoped.

To Lynda, for the support KFA gives us all.

To Steve, for supporting the walk.

To Dana and Duane for believing in this when it was just an idea.

To Alison, for being the whole food allergy mom army rolled into one.

To Debbie and Susanne, for championing safe options for kids with food allergies.

To Jenny, the best business partner a girl could ask for.

To my older sister, who gave of her time freely to set up our business entity and advise us.

To my mother in law and sister in law, for being proud of me cheering me on.

To my husband, for coming through when I most needed it.

To my children, for understanding me better than I understand myself.

I told people over and over at the conference that I made this blog for my children, and it is still very true.  I made it so that I could put the recipes together for them in the future and in that full circle way of things it ended up helping me as well.  My biggest takeaway was that as much as I thought we needed more after-care for families post-diagnosis regarding food, the next phase may well be emotional and therapeutic support based on the common themes in all our stories.

As always, thank you for reading.

Love,

Homa

Food Find: Enjoy Life Chewy Bars (Revisited)

This is about as late as I’ve ever gotten with a product review.  I took photos of the free Chewy Bars I received in the mail from Enjoy Life Foods for review purposes on October 8th and it is already November 14th.  The good news is that during that time the Cocoa Loco bars have made it to Las Vegas store shelves and they are the bee’s knees (modern definition of course).  Which will lead me to point out that there are no photos of said variety of bars.

Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
Exhibit A: The only bar that survived for photographic purposes.

We opened the Sunbutter Crunch bars first and they were just as good as they had been previously.  The Caramel Apple and Mixed (formerly “Very”) Berry varieties had improved (more consistent) texture and a more balanced taste.  The packaging for each bar now leaves less space around the bar but they are actually the same portion they’ve always been.  As a packaging and design nerd I really love all the details in the box redesign as well.

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I tasted the Cocoa Loco bars last because I was worried that the recent recipe change (which I first blogged about in an update to my original review of this line of bars) would alter my favorite flavor.  The newer version is richer and reminiscent of those Little Debbie chocolate brownies I used to eat as a child.  Delicious!

I was bemoaning on twitter that I couldn’t find all varieties locally to Joel Warady, Enjoy Life’s CMO the funniest thing was that when I got to meet him in person at this year’s Las Vegas FARE Walk one of the first things he asked me was whether I had found the Cocoa Loco bars on shelves.  That’s the level of detail you get with the folks at Enjoy Life.  I was humbled by their post about the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference as it captured much of what Jenny and I were setting out to do with encouraging personal connections with sponsors instead of a traditional expo format.  Joel also spoke to E and asked her what her about her allergies and told her that none of those things are in any of their products.  That they wouldn’t be in their products.  Oats are a tough one to avoid in the top 8 free arena so I’ve always appreciated that there are no oats in Enjoy Life products.

At any rate, to state what must be obvious, I love this company.  So many other families feel the same way because they are not afraid to keep changing and adapting both for continued product quality and innovation.  A dear friend of mine was able to take a few hours away from her family to come to the conference and I knew I had to introduce her to Joel.  We had a great chat (he even told us what Costco will be carrying from Enjoy Life soon!) and made sure he knew that Enjoy Life was a lifesaver to so many food allergic families.  I’m sure he’s heard that before but it is true.  We leave the allergist’s office with a diagnosis and turn to other sources to figure out what to do next.  We read labels and call companies.  Enjoy Life “gets it.”

Our options have broadened since E outgrew her wheat, soy, milk, and egg allergies but we still love Enjoy Life’s bars, cookies, chips (chocolate and lentil) and stock up often.  E and her friend K are able to share snacks on playdates because they can both have Enjoy Life treats – how neat it must be to make products that are impacting childhood memories in a positive way.

By way of a teaser, my next Enjoy Life review is going to be of their new dark chocolate morsels and we can’t wait to try them!  I have a few ideas for recipes that can incorporate a darker chocolate especially as holiday baking season approaches.

Thank You: FARE Walk Directors Dana and Duane Gordin

Dana and Duane Gordin addressing the FARE walk crowd on November 2, 2013
Dana and Duane Gordin addressing the FARE walk crowd on November 2, 2013

I am still formulating something to write about the first Food Allergy Bloggers Conference that happened last weekend and thank yous are a huge part of the thoughts rattling around in my mind.  (I am loving everyone’s recaps!)  This thank you is a little time sensitive because Duane Gordin, part of the rock star FARE walk team that includes his wife, Dana Gordin, is running in the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on Saturday, November 17th.  Duane has been training for a 4 hour finish for his 26.2 mile journey through Las Vegas at night and is carrying with him the names of FARE walk supporters for each mile he conquers.

Nevada State Senator Debbie Smith with Duane Gordin at the 2013 Nevada FARE Walk (image courtesy of Carolyn Moassessi)
Nevada State Senator Debbie Smith with Duane Gordin at the 2013 Nevada FARE Walk (image courtesy of Carolyn Moassessi)

Dana and Duane helped me find the South Point as our venue for the conference and introduced me to Chef Keith and so many other wonderful folks.  Dana and Duane – you are appreciated and loved!  As fundraising from the Las Vegas Walk is still open, I wanted to share this message from the Dana Gordin about the race on Saturday:

Here’s Duane’s extra motivation to finish the Rock n Roll Marathon in under 4 hours.  Thanks to the many who gave to help find a cure for Scott, Matthew and the 1 in 13 children with a potentially life threatening food allergy.  He has a list of each Team Gordin donor that he’ll use to motivate him during each mile of his 26.2 mile race.  (Due to anonymity requests, just initials here.  He has the full names on his list.) 

However, he doesn’t have any donor names for miles 1 thru 5.  If you haven’t had a chance to donate, please do so now and get your named added to his motivation list.  Donate at Team Gordin:

MILE INITIALS

1

<none>

2

<none>

3

<none>

4

<none>

5

 <none>

6

M. G.

7

A. B.

8

P. D.

9

S. C.

10

C. M.

11

R. S.

12

J. G.

13

J. W.

14

K. W.

15

R. D.

16

T. S.

17

B. H.

18

B.R.

19

M.K.

20

P. N.

21

D. E.

22

R. L.

23

A. S.

24

C. W.

25

J. M. G.

26

S. P.

Thank you so much for the tremendous support!!!