I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Or a lot, actually. It’s been a month since my first-ever author reading, and I’m still so grateful to everyone who came — and even those who weren’t able to make it, but sent words of encouragement.

And flowers — holy flowers, Batman!

I tried to stream the event live on Facebook, but unfortunately we had some technical difficulties. But my awesome friend recorded it for me (again, very thankful)! So if you’re a fan of awkwardness and Minnesota accents, head over to my Facebook page to check out a clip.

I’ll also leave you with my favorite picture from the event: a lovely photo of my sister and niece…and an epic photo bomb by my super supportive critique partner!

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Author Readings and Conquering Fears

I’m so excited for my very first author reading, part of the “A Writer Reads” series at Northern State University!elissadickey_poster_april-2018Along with the 4 p.m. public reading, I also get to speak with students in the NSU fiction writing class about my publishing journey and getting a literary agent.

NSU is also where I work full-time, as a writer in the communications and marketing department. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, and for all the encouragement and support I’ve received from my co-workers.

I was even featured on the university’s social media, which was so awesome.

But as excited as I am, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. Okay, maybe I’m a lot nervous. (I am a writer, after all…self-doubt comes with the territory.) This is way out of my comfort zone. Thankfully, I had a nice talk with the amazing professor who is coordinating the reading series, whose encouragement and advice helped immensely.

Her best piece of wisdom: Don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

So I will try to do just that. And I will try to continue to take on events and projects that are outside of my comfort zone. Because to achieve your goals and get where you want to be — in writing and in life — you can’t let fear stop you.

Talking to My Kids About My Illness: A Post for the MS Connection Blog

Mom and kiddos on train for blogI’m excited to say that I’m now an official blogger for the National MS Society! I’m looking forward to sharing my journey in the hopes I can connect with and help others who are also dealing with multiple sclerosis.

My latest post for the MS Society blog, MS Connection, went up last week. It deals with how I learned to talk to my young children about my illness. It wasn’t an easy one to write, but I hope it helps other parents find ways to talk to their kids.

Thanks for reading, and please know that if you are on a similar journey, you’re never alone!

Bring It On, 2018

No, I’m not talking about the movie (although it’s a good one). I’m talking about my determination at the start of a new year.

For many reasons, 2017 was tough. But I’m choosing to focus on the good things that happened, from getting my 5-year-old’s severe eczema under control in time for kindergarten to finishing my second book.

Now, I am looking to this new year with hope and faith that it’ll be better than the last. I did come up with some resolutions:

1. Go out on sub with my upmarket suspense.
2. Finish my next WIP.
3. Submit more essays.
4. Run a 5K with my husband.
5. Take my kids to Mount Rushmore.
6. Start painting again.
7. Get more sleep.
8. Do more yoga.
9. Be the good I want to see in the world (and want my kids to see).

Now that I’ve written them down they seem pretty ambitious. I have a tendency to overcommit myself, then get overwhelmed. (I think I’m not alone in this.) So while that last resolution is non-negotiableit’s a rule to live by, really, and I hope to be braver about my beliefsperhaps I can summarize my goals for this year as follows:

1. Do my best.
2. Don’t give up.

Wishing you all the best this yearmay 2018 be the year all your dreams come true.

Making Holidays Happy for Allergy Kiddos

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but for allergy families, it can also be one of the most stressful times.

Holiday travel is stressful enough, but the potential dangers of eating foods at new locations adds an extra level of anxiety. No two allergy families go through the same experience, but I wanted to share some tips and allergy-friendly dessert recipes that have worked for us. Some might seem obvious, but I hope you find something useful:

Pack a cooler: Bringing our son’s food everywhere we go is just a given. We do have some “safe” locations (grandparents, aunts, BFFs) where we know they understand his needs and work with us on foods safe for him. But in general we follow the rule that no food is safe at a new location, so we always have his foods along.

Check labels: If you do decide to let your child try new foods, always ask about ingredients and check labels. Even if your kiddo has eaten the food before, ingredients can change — as can a company’s equipment cleaning process. Also, try to find out how and where a food was prepared to avoid cross-contamination.

Don’t forget the EpiPen: This is a given of course, but it never hurts to double-check. Bring more than one if possible, don’t leave them in the car in a hot or cold location, and teach others to use it. Keep other allergy meds on hand (such as Benadryl), and know the location of the nearest ER and pharmacy.

Educate key people: When you’re at a large gathering, pull aside family members who are responsible and comfortable with being a vocal advocate and ask them to help keep an extra eye on your little one. Recruit responsible older children as well — when kids are playing/eating in a group, they can watch out for little ones who might try to share their food.

Educate your child as well: It’s tough when they’re little — my son is now 5 and still doesn’t fully understand the severity of his peanut allergy. But, he is more able to be his own advocate now than when he was younger. He knows he’s not supposed to take food from other people, and we’ve taught him to say: “No thanks, I have food allergies. Please ask my mom or dad.”

Seek out resources: There are a ton of resources available online — check out FARE for helpful information such as holiday tips and an emergency care plan.

And finally…don’t worry what other people think: If you’re worried about seeming overprotective, don’t be. You know what’s best for your child. Do what you need to do to keep him or her safe — and also to keep yourself as anxiety-free as possible during the holiday season. Good luck!

ALLERGY-FRIENDLY DESSERT RECIPES

Okay, I’m sorry – I didn’t want this to be one of those posts where you have to scroll forever to find the recipes, but I got a little carried away with tips! Below are my family’s favorite allergy-friendly desserts — because everyone deserves a treat this time of year, am I right? My disclaimer: These recipes aren’t revolutionary. We’ve found that when it comes to baking safe foods, it’s all about the substitutions. With a couple of key ingredients — Earth Balance buttery spread and Enjoy Life chocolate chips — we’ve been able to safely adapt some of our favorites:

PUPPY CHOW (dairy, nut, and gluten free)

1 box of Rice Chex

2 1/4 cups Enjoy Life chocolate chips

1 cup Earth Balance buttery spread

3 cups powdered sugar

Pour Rice Chex into a large bowl. Melt the chocolate chips and Earth Balance, pour over cereal and mix until well-coated. Pour powdered sugar over mixture and mix until well-covered. Enjoy! (*Note: We used to use a soy nut butter product, but unfortunately the company had a recall earlier this year. Instead of looking for an alternative, we doubled the previous Earth Balance amount, and my son loved it!)

WILLY WONKA BARS (dairy, nut, and gluten free)

These loaded brownies (yes, the name comes from the book because I got the recipe from my fourth-grade teacher after we read it in class) taste AMAZING. (*Note: When choosing a gluten-free flour mix, check for one that says it can be used 1:1 in recipes — one of our favorites is Pillsbury’s baking mix.)

Substitute 3/4 cup Nestle cocoa powder and 4 Tbsp olive oil for 4 squares baking chocolate

1 cup Earth Balance spread

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup gluten-free flour

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 packages Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Powdered sugar (to sprinkle on top)

Melt cocoa powder, oil, and Earth Balance together. Add sugar. Cool mixture. Add eggs, beating one at a time. Add vanilla, flour, and salt; mix until well-blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan (I use Earth Balance or olive oil). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Do not test. Top may look bubbly. Sprinkle very well with powdered sugar.

PECANLESS PIE (dairy, nut, and gluten free)

Okay, I will admit that I am still perfecting this one…my gluten-free pie crusts still tend to come out crumbly, and it’s hard to not have the inside a bit runny. But it firms up nicely once it’s refrigerated. Plus, it tastes great and is one of my all-time favorite desserts!

To make pie crust:

Mix two cups gluten-free flour/baking mix with 3/4 cup Earth Balance spread, 1/2 cup ice cold water, and 1 tsp. salt. Form into ball, roll out, and lay in pie pan. (*Note: With regular flour, this recipe would make enough for two crusts. But I’ve found that halving it makes it really difficult to roll out without it breaking apart, so I use the whole thing — it’s a little thicker, but it works a lot better for me.)

For filling:

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup Earth Balance, melted

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt, and vanilla; mix well. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust. Cover top with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until center is set. Cool, then refrigerate. (*Note: You could leave the foil off at first, but be careful — without the pecans, the top of the filling can get a chewy-hard layer on top if it’s baked too long without foil.)

I hope these tips and recipes help make your holidays brighter! If you are an allergy family with advice or recipes to share, I’d love any new tips or ideas. Feel free to share in the comments!

An Allergy Mama’s Prayer

IMG_201Where did the summer go? My baby is starting kindergarten this week! He has severe food allergies, asthma, and eczema, so a new environment can be scary. I wrote this prayer to help ease my fears. If your kiddo is starting a new journey as well, maybe this prayer will help ease your fears, too.

May you always be safe.

May the other kids be kind to you as you walk onto this schoolyard for the first time—and you to them.

May the adults be vigilant, making sure your EpiPen is with you at all times. May everyone understand—or if they don’t understand, may they ask questions, listen, seek out information.

May you be able to answer those questions. To speak up for yourself when needed. To say no to a food that could harm you. May Daddy and I have taught you—empowered you—enough to be your own advocate, to recognize potential dangers in your surroundings.

May I always be there, ready, if you need help—to explain your needs, provide special snacks, talk through potential problems.

But may I let go. Not completely, not yet. But enough. Enough to let you soar, explore, learn, and thrive on this new adventure. Because you deserve to, just as every child does. You deserve to be treated like everyone else—may you always know that.

But may you also know that you are our special child, no matter how big you get. We blinked and you have suddenly reached this milestone. Our baby is in kindergarten. We will blink again and you will be grown.

As your journey continues and new challenges and adventures arise, may you be prepared to face them—may we prepare you to face them.

May you always, always be safe.

And above all, may you know that you are loved beyond measure. Always.

MS Connection Blog Post

I’m absolutely honored to be featured on the National MS Society’s MS Connection Blog! You can read my post, Not Alone – the first of two posts about my journey with multiple sclerosis.

Neither post was easy to write, but I hope sharing my story can help others affected by MS. Check out the rest of the blog and the MS Society’s website to learn more about this disease. Thank you for your support in the fight to end MS!