Thursday, May 21, 2015

What it's like to live with allergies

This October will mark a decade of having lived gluten free for my son and me. This November will be 11 years of being a vegetarian - not by choice, but because of increased sensitivities & allergies to meat. I have had allergies and sensitivities to artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives ALL my life. That's not to mention my allergies to medications, the sun, (yes - the sun) and irritants like pollens & dust.

Some people tell me they could never live with allergies. I laugh, because when there are no alternatives - apparently you live with the impossible. Others try to tell me that I should feel lucky now that it's popular to avoid certain foods. This frustrates me, because there's nothing lucky about constantly having to worry about whether you're going to be sick for daring to do something as risky as... eating food. Still others ask me what it's like to have an allergy, because they can't imagine what it's like.

This post is for that third group.

What is it like to live with allergies? Let's talk about something every girl should be able to relate to.

On the left is my wedding ring. My husband chose it for me while I was still in high school. I think most girls would agree that their wedding ring is the one piece of jewelry they treasure above everything else. The piece they would NEVER take off, for absolutely any reason short of life-or-limb emergency. So why then, is THIS the ring I have worn for the past 17 years on the right? A simple, unadorned platinum band?

You see, shortly after my first anniversary, I developed an allergy to gold. It developed slowly; first it was a tiny rash and some itching, but over the next year it went from a rash, to an enormous welty mess of infected blisters, swelling, and worn-away flesh. I hid it from my husband, because I didn't want to admit that there was a problem. This was my wedding ring after all; my one piece of never-take-it-off jewelry. I knew there was no easy solution, and it was easier to avoid the problem - for awhile. 

Most of the time, allergies are like that. They start out small, and slowly build until you can't possibly do anything but address them and avoid the particular food/prescription/irritant. Sure, you can avoid them for awhile. So what if hambuger gives you a tummyache? And a little rash isn't TOO much of an inconvenience - when it's for an amazing slice of cheesecake! But when that tummyache lasts for six weeks, or the rash starts causing your throat to close, it's time to give up and admit there's a problem. 

In this case, after a full year of hiding my hand from my husband, my rings were cut from my hand on our third anniversary. That's what it feels like to be allergic. It feels like having something cut from you. There's no feeling lucky because at least there are substitutes, and there's no way to tell yourself you could never live with it - there's just the cold, hard reality that you MUST change. And even then, it takes awhile until you start feeling better. With my rings, it was a full nine months before my hand was healed enough for me to wear even a simple band. And just as my ring now is nothing like what I had before, food substitutes are never quite the same either. You can still eat them, and they're "okay" - heck, some are even good. But they're never quite the same... and you KNOW they're not as good.

My rings will someday have a happy ending. My grandmother left her rings to me - because she too, had hers cut from her hand. SOME day, we will reset my grandmother's stone into a ring I can wear. And on that day, I will have a bigger, better ring than I had before. But for most allergies? There is only living without what you once were able to enjoy, knowing that you can never have that again.

What does it feel like to be allergic to something?

Quite frankly, it sucks. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Very Merry Unbirthday

I just HAVE to share our latest adventure!

For my daughter's 13th birthday, we had planned to throw a springtime UN-birthday tea party in the garden - Alice in Wonderland style. She came down sick with the flu, and we had to cancel at the last minute. LAST spring we rescheduled the party, and then my husband lost his job. This spring - the party was happening, no matter what it took.

My daughter begged to help with every element of this party. It was fun to put our heads together, and combine our ideas into one awesome party. Several of her ideas ended up being nothing like I would have imagined, but perfect! For starters, she created this adorable vignette inside our enormous lantern from goodies around our house. It sat as a sweet decoration in the dining room. We also strung my mother's hankie-collection as a garland from the wall between our living & dining areas, and created a "steampunk Alice" chandelier decoration with metal keys, feather birds, and mushroom Christmas ornaments.

The invitations to her four besties and her auntie, were hand cut and hand written to look like mismatched teacups & saucers. We purchased an Alice in Wonderland rubber stamp set, and the stamps were used ALL over the place. The first place was here, on the invitations.

In our front yard, our lilacs were in full bloom. Due to a threat of weather, we ended up setting up our sun-shelter to keep rain from bay, but it ended up staying dry until JUST after we brought everything in.  So our lovely tea table was set up in our "secret garden" surrounded by the lilacs.

We decorated the shelter with bright green tulle, fabric butterflies, and a paper lantern "chandelier". There were two plastic flamingos, a vintage croquet set, and crystal "mushrooms" (glass bowls overturned atop vases) in the front garden adding just a bit of whimsy.

For treats, we had: three types of finger sandwiches, fresh berries, two types of scones with apple butter, cocoa-molasses teacup & teapot cookies, and almond meringues alongside fresh strawberry lemonade, and an assortment of teas.

The meringues were actually a failed attempt at making French macarons, and were a complete hit! We will be making these again, and again, and again... 

For the tea, we found vintage teacups at the thrift stores & via Craigslist, and each girl chose her own teacup - which she was took home with her. The drink-me bottles for lemonade were Frappuccino bottles - scrubbed out, with paper straws & labels on ribbon.

The girls sat and happily chattered in the lilac-scented yard for a few hours before it started to get dark.

Inside the house, we had set up a fascinator-decorating station at the dining room table. It was almost as much fun to put everything on the table, as it was to watch the girls sit and carefully decorate their own tiny hat to bring home.

Two of the girls actually wore their hats to church this morning - and were WELL received! Ladies were complimenting their lovely hats, and the girls were beaming.

 After decorating the hats, my little sister headed home, and the girls curled up in the living room to watch a version of Alice in Wonderland. Nobody was awake by the end of the movie.

To take home, along with the teacups and hats, each girl was given a tiny bag with a tiny notebook, (recovered & stamped with Alice stamps) a googly-eyed daisy gel-pen, an itty bitty flamingo that my sister found, and the sweetest of tiny glass "drink me" bottle necklaces that were inspired by Etsy. 

This was one of the easiest parties we've put together in awhile, but it was a ton of fun. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, and we're all ready for a long nap this afternoon.

I can't wait for our next party... I'm actually throwing one for MYSELF this year!