WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT ON THIS BLOG?
A NEW POST EACH DAY. EACH DAY WITH ITS OWN THEME.
A post a day? Ambitious? Yep. Achievable? Absolutely. Every day I will challenge myself to create an incredible, fresh resource for young people with allergies and for the people who care for them. I challenge you to become an active voice in the Land of Can community.
Below are the latest posts FOR THE WEEK
I wrote this book for kids w/ food allergies, and the experts say it can change their lives.
Land of Not
When 9-year-old Collin moves with his family to the Land of Not, he is shocked to discover that everyone in his school is sad because they define themselves by what they can't do. Soon, he develops a plan to show his new friends, including a food-allergic student, that true happiness comes from embracing who they are, not who they're not. The message of the book, as one veteran educator said, will "Inspire, empower and transform every child to understand their possibilities rather than define themselves by their limitations."
Did you miss a post? Want to get caught up? Below are my archives for each section. Enjoy!
SUNDAY • CANSPIRATIONAL VIDEOS
Every Sunday, I’ll release a short, CANspirational video for kids and teens. Over the past year, psychologists helped me to develop tools that young people can use to get to CAN. Each week from my college apartment, I’ll focus on one of the Can traits and, in a few minutes, unveil a motivational talk that will appeal to all young people, not just those with allergies.
MONDAY • I AM JJ
Each Monday, I’ll tell parents what’s really on my mind. I’ve lived with life-threatening food allergies for 20 years, and I have a lot to share. I’m not holding back, either. I have some strong opinions about what we need to do to help our children. I have strong opinions about what's right... and what's wrong in this industry. My blog. My rules. Watch out.
"What if Dylan never picked up his guitar? What if Hemingway never picked up a pencil or Picasso a brush or Einstein a piece of chalk? What if Neil deGrasse Tyson’ never looked through a telescope or LeBron James never dribbled a basketball or Buddy the Cake Boss never learned how to crack an egg?"
If your children can prepare for a changing world by solving their food allergy challenges time and time again throughout childhood, they’ll be experts at rolling with the punches when life starts throwing them other obstacles as young adults.
100 Characters to Celebrate 100 Blog Posts
So let’s all in the allergy community reaffirm our commitment to help each other, to continue to use our life experiences to make a difference. Our ultimate goal for every family dealing with food allergies is to give them the tools to safely navigate their worlds so that when the time comes they will thrive!
So here is my call to all young people with allergies who have something to say...
As we continue to raise awareness this month about the importance of understanding food allergies, we also must continue to raise awareness about the importance of properly raising children with food allergies.
You meet someone at the coffee shop or on the subway or in line at the grocery store and they ask you, “What’s the one thing I need to understand about food allergies?” What would you say?
Where is that student who someday might find a cure for food allergies? Maybe the person is sitting right here in this library with me. Or in a library in the school next door or in the next state or across the nation or a world away.
Here’s to the Changemakers, the people who give of their time, their talents and their treasures to make a difference.
If my voice conveys anger, fear, contempt, mistrust, doubt and despair, all is lost.
I always knew my parents had to work hard to make me feel safe. But I never realized how hard they had to work to make me feel normal.
Are we teaching our children with food allergies how to persevere over the long term?
An ingredient statement for CAN.
When you have a food allergy, understanding resilience is even more important because of the additional life hiccups that get in the way, sometimes daily.
Children allergic to wheat or soy or shellfish or peanuts or tree nuts or eggs or fish or milk CAN successfully do whatever they desire their CAN to be.
I am JJ: Your child is more than a food allergy.
I've lived a lifetime with a food allergy. This week, I add my voice to the nationwide dialogue.
TUESDAY • SITUATION ALLERGY
When you have a food allergy, knowing how to handle a situation BEFORE it occurs is key. Experts say that children (and their parents) who know how to handle common food situations have less stress and are more confident in their daily interactions. Each Tuesday, I'll present a realistic, allergy-related scenario. Read them yourselves. Then review them with your children.
"Dig in," Uncle Joe says proudly. "I worked all day on this. I hope you like it."
Maybe their hands were clean. Maybe they just came from a peanut & mozzarella cheese juggling contest. Your son is "starving" and his "favorite chips" are calling his name. What does he do?
You specifically asked the principal not to put Bobby Charles and your son in the same homeroom next year. And while the principal told you that district policy prohibits parents from requesting homerooms, you thought the principal would still do the right thing. You were wrong.
"Who's hungry?" her friend says reaching into the snack cabinet and grabbing a few bags of snacks. "My mom said these are safe for you, Michelle."
As he is standing in the long checkout line, he inadvertently looks at the ingredient statement. That's when he sees the phrase: This product is manufactured on equipment that processes products containing peanuts...
“It’s a joke!!!” your friend comments to you. “Don’t be so sensitive.”
Situation Food Allergy: "I want to donate two $5,000 checks to help. Which two organizations should I send them to and why?"
"It's at the Pizza & Games Galore complex Mom. Why would they invite the kid who can't eat pizza?" he says as he stomps to his room. "I'd just ruin everybody's fun."
Throughout your food-allergy journey, you will inevitably meet various people who "deal" with food allergies. Would you trust the waitress? Or would you still ask to see a manager?
A child with a food allergy will inevitably begin asking the "why me?" question. What do you say?
'I really don't need to worry about eating anything at the party. It's only for a few hours.'
Nana has been making a special "allergy-safe" dish for Madison. Should Nana know the truth that Madison doesn't like it?
Do you confront a family member who jokes about your child's food allergy?
You told Aunt Sally not to make anything for Easter dinner. She did, and it's unsafe. What do you do?
What do you when your food-allergic daughter tells you something happened at school but she doesn't want you to say anything to anyone?
Situation Allergy: What would you do if you saw a cashier eating an unsafe snack seconds before scanning your items?
No need for the manager. The waiter is a food allergy "EXPERT" — Gulp.
WEDNESDAY • PIC 'N PLAY
I love a photo that makes you think. Every Wednesday, I’ll post a pic & watch us play. Sometimes the photo will challenge you or inspire you or make you think or make you laugh or make you vent with like-minded friends like all of us!
When you have a food allergy, it's always nice to have friends and family looking out for you and caring enough to send you a quick text.
Young people living with food allergies have enough adversity facing them. So let's continue to work together as a caring community to empower our youth to achieve excellence. Everyone has a role.
Once and for all: Put that hand sanitizer down! It doesn't remove allergens.
Thank you for standing with me to advocate for others with food allergies and for helping to amplify my voice!
Let’s get counting!
Can you identify what you’re good at?
My extended family insists on making safe birthday cakes!
Without licking your fingers, what are some easy ways to open plastic vegetable bags in grocery stores? This could literally be the dumbest question I ever posted, but I really don't think my dad is the only one who struggles with this. Anyway, I'd love to pass a tip or two along.
It's not that I'm allergic to tomatoes. I just don't trust the people who've used that ketchup bottle before me, especially little kids.
I know where carrots come from. And celery. And onions. But meatballs? What's in a meatball and why isn't it listed on this food label?
They had steak. I had a rice cake.
What are you doing to help your children identify their strengths?
I hereby declare: Any future race I run, I will wear @RedSneakersforOakley!
Truce: We can coexist! During a recent filming of a pilot for a food show, the director asked: "What would you two say to each other?"
Pic 'n Play: It's that feeling you get when a once unsafe food becomes safe.
When you have a food allergy, most candy bars are silica gel packets. "THROW AWAY! DO NOT EAT!"
Take the Grocery Cart Challenge. There are 42,200 items in the average grocery store. How many can you eat?
THURSDAY • ALLERGY 101
I wish I didn't have my allergy, but since I do, I'm going to learn from it. Thursday, I’ll sit at a table with my allergy — Mr. A, I call him — and explore what having a life-threatening allergy in my life has taught me. Dare I say I'm a better person because of this stinkin' allergy? When the opportunity exists, reinforce these lessons with your own children.
"That must have made you tired," my allergy says. "Everywhere you went, I was on your shoulders. I loved it though. I had the best view around."
"New York City is probably one of the most allergy-friendly cities in the world," I say. "I've been here 11 days. I've eaten at 13 restaurants! Welcome to New York City!"
"I got news for you," I continue. "Everyone has something that they're dealing with. No is perfect. Sure, my food allergy may make me different. But being different is what makes me normal."
"There were times when I was younger when I didn’t have a healthy balance," I say. "But that’s OK because once my parents realized it, they made a conscious effort to tackle it head on. And that's how the Land of Can was born."
Yes, I yelled at my allergy today. It was rough and it was honest and it was raw. But I felt it. I said it. And I don’t feel guilty.
When you have a food allergy, you need spaces and places where you can let your mind go so you can recharge.
Let the grilling begin.
“Once people begin to understand just how terrible you are, they will despise you,” I say to Mr. A., my food allergy. “And once enough people despise you, they will work to destroy you."
"When I was growing up, I thought I was the only one who had an allergy this bad."
One thing my allergy has taught me over the years is to be skeptical when a headline seems too ambitious. Click bait. Nothing more.
It's not embarrassing to triple check with a server to ensure that your meal was prepared safely.
"There are times I have to be scared of you. Now is not the time."
My food allergy has taught me the importance of having thick skin, patience & persistence.
Part of successfully navigating a food allergy is learning when I have to pay attention and when I don’t.
Allergy 101: My allergy has taught me to trust more than to mistrust. Trust equals peace and calm and order.
Allergy 101: Like a dumbbell strengthening a muscle, my food allergy has made me resilient.
I am a more empathetic person because of my food allergy.
FRIDAY • CAN OPENERS
Many people enable us to live in the Land of Can. Each Friday, I’ll present the "Can Opener" award — It’s my “thank you" acknowledgment to those who advocate for me and for those in the food allergy community. Hopefully, this inspires you to thank, and possibly nominate, a Can Opener in your life, too.
By providing authentic, hopeful & empowering advice, Tamara is helping families with food allergies live a life a Can! She is a true CAN Opener.
Through the eyes of an impressionable boy, especially as that boy enters his teen years, males have the unique opportunity to be able to reinforce that even though you may have a food allergy and must be cautious, you can still be tough & cool & one of the guys.
Who is a CAN Opener in your life? Tell me who they are. Tell me why. I just might feature them in an upcoming Friday post.
As I browsed the store, I kept saying, "I wish this existed when I was younger."
Chefs Sam and Kyle Orskog gave me the greatest culinary week of my life. And they didn't even make a big deal out of it. They are true CAN openers!
The ultimate CAN Opener: Mom
By identifying their strengths and by recognizing the strengths of their peers, Ms. Usner’s students understand the importance of having a CAN-mindset.
Imagine the millions of people who this month will see a familiar building, bridge or monument in a new light and ask, "Why teal?" That's when the learning can happen!
These selfless advocates allow all of us to live in the Land of Can. They are true Can Openers.
When faced with overwhelming opposition, she simply didn't back down. All of us in the food allergy world are better because of O'Brien's persistence, grit and fearless leadership. O'Brien is a CAN Opener!
When I need to enjoy a meal where I don't want to invest too much emotional energy worrying about my food allergy, Sabrina's Cafe and Hip City Veg are my true Can Openers!
How many adults are Can Openers when it's beyond their job descriptions?
CAN OPENERS: Thank you for demonstrating what family truly means.
Let's celebrate brothers and sisters who advocate for their siblings with food allergies.
CHOP's Dr. Spergel is this week's CAN OPENER. His dedication to helping young people with food allergies is extraordinary.
By ensuring I had a safe space to learn, school nurse Sue Ann Hummel helped create a learning environment that allowed me to soar.
My college roommates don't bounce cheese curls off couch cushions. (Say that fast 10 times!) And that's just one reason why I am presenting them with this week's Can Opener Award!
SATURDAY • Allergy TALK WITH MOM AND DAD
My parents raised me with a CAN mindset. Each Saturday I’ll call home, and my parents and I will have an honest podcast discussion about the challenges of raising a child with an allergy. I’ve never really talked to my parents about the challenges they had raising me. I’m eager to find things out. Maybe their experiences might help someone else, too.
This week, I ask my parents if they tried to pick my friends when I was younger based on how they responded to my food allergy.
This week, I ask my parents if they ever argued about my allergy.
This week, I ask my parents if they ever feel guilty about me having my allergy.
This week, I ask my parents if they ever asked themselves, "Why our kid?" when it comes to having a food allergy.
This week, I ask my parents about one of my recent blog posts.
This week, I ask my parents if things are different for them when I'm home from college.
Even though I’m 20, my parents still worry about my food allergy when I travel.
The importance of raising awareness.
Are my parents paranoid or safe?
When you have a child with a food allergy, teaching them how to use the proper tone matters.
When you have a child with a food allergy, adopting a Can mindset is important.
When you have a child with a food allergy, parents have to be proactive to balance safety with normalcy,
I was surprised at my parents' answers to this question.
My parents raised me with a CAN mindset. In this week's Allergy Talk podcast, we discuss when they first accepted my allergy and how it changed parenting me.
My parents raised me with a CAN mindset. In this week's podcast, I ask my parents when they first realized my food allergy wasn't temporary.
Each Saturday, I ask my parents ONE question about raising a child with a food allergy. Today's question: "What were you thinking during the early stages?"
My parents raised me with a CAN mindset. In this Saturday Podcast, we'll have a short, honest talk about the challenges of raising a child with a food allergy.
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