There’s Always Room for Expansion

There’s always room for expansion. I’ve learned a few things since mid-March. One of them is, there’s always room for expansion.

Now you may be thinking I’m referring to expansion into the pj pants we’re wearing all day long. Nope. Well, maybe. But that’s not the point. It’s just an example. Other examples include: Making room for months worth of toilet paper, paper towels, and Clarisonic face brush refills; finding stores that will deliver necessities like car batteries; increasing personal space; donating more to those in need. Expansion in many areas has become a necessity.

And there are even greater opportunities to expand. Never before has so much scientific information been readily available and paraded before us. Now is a great time to learn about the process of clinical trials and how to participate in them.

Research is happening all of the time. The results of most of that research was previously published in journals and/or on websites where very few people saw it. Translational research has sought to change that by bringing research quickly into the practice of medicine to improve outcomes.

Now, Twitter threads bring links to studies immediately into public view. For the general public it would probably be better if studies were peer reviewed before that happens, but the accessibility and increased speed with which information is disseminated is a fantastic move forward. And the pandemic has meant that studies do not linger in obscurity prior to publication.

You don’t have to be fully fluent in statistics or chemistry to read the abstract of a scientific study. And if you start your lessons on Twitter, you’ll have experts breaking down the implications of new research. Of course, you’ll have to choose your experts carefully to get credible information, but most have their credentials in full view.

For those of you who have been frustrated through the years by a lack of accurate serological testing for Celiac Disease, there’s an opportunity to see multiple articles regarding specificity and sensitivity and how they affect test results in coronavirus antibody tests. Specificity and sensitivity are key to the weight information from a serological test should be given when diagnosing a disease.

Whether or not you choose to get lost in the science is up to you. But expanding knowledge is always a good thing. It will help you sort through the misinformation that abounds. And it will keep your brain active and engaged.

At this moment when your circle of friends and family may be contracting, expanding your mind can provide stimulation, inspiration, and knowledge. I always have room for those, don’t you?

https://www.sciencemag.org/

https://www.thelancet.com/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/pages/coronavirus-alert

https://www.gastroendonews.com/In-the-News/Article/01-20/Potentially-Revolutionary-Drug-for-Celiac-Disease-Shows-Promise-in-Phase-2-Study/56971

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Foil Pouch Grilling for Memorial Day

Consider foil pouch grilling for Memorial Day. As we all look for ways to interact with friends and neighbors, some thoughtful preparation can make everyone feel safer and more comfortable. If you’re not in a quarantine bubble and are grilling with friends this Memorial Day, you may want to consider individual meals rather than shared plates. Foil pouches are a great way to package food so that it’s only touched by one individual after it’s cooked.

With experts recommending that gatherings stay outside as much as possible, foil pouches are an easy delivery system whether you’re cooking on the grill or baking inside for delivery to the porch or yard. If you invite picky eaters or want to offer your guests flavor choices, pouches can be tailored to individual tastes. This is a great option for those with food intolerance or allergies as well.

When creating individual pouches, the key is making sure you have a way to identify who each pouch belongs to. I like to draw a grid on a sheet of paper that matches the arrangement on my grill or pan. Once the food is done, I put the corresponding name on each pouch with freezer tape. If you’re less messy than I am, you can also use a marker.

Your protein choice may be limited to whatever is available this year. Flexibility will be key to keeping the experience positive. If you’re not sure what flavors to combine, a resource like The Flavor Bible can come in handy.

For the kids, pouches filled with frozen tater tots and meatballs, hot dogs, or burgers are great options. You can top with cheese or dairy-free cheese and provide condiments in individual packets.

Mac & cheese is a kid favorite as well. You’ll want to cook the mac & cheese before creating a pouch. If you have a gluten-free or dairy-free child to consider, look for small portions of microwaveable mac & cheese to keep it simple. Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs go great with mac & cheese. If you have pizza sauce handy, create pizza flavored packs with mac & cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni.

Deconstructed kebabs are easily adapted to individual tastes. Beef kebabs with bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms will appeal to the more traditional grillers. You can also consider Greek flavors combining chicken, red bell pepper, red onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese; or go another direction with chicken satay and coconut rice. Choose Thai beef with quinoa, or barbecue chicken with pineapple. The combinations are really limitless and easily adapted to the items available in your area.

Shepherd’s pie can be baked in foil pouches. You can also combine mashed potatoes, fresh spinach and browned breakfast sausage for a variation on this theme. Whatever the flavors, cooking in foil keeps the meat moist and the food warm until you’re ready to serve.

For the comfort of your family and friends, provide drinks in individual cans or bottles rather than pouring from shared bottles and pitchers. Choose prepackaged individual snacks containing nuts, fruit, cheese, trail mix, or chips to accompany your foil pouches. Offer individually packaged condiments, salt, and pepper. You may also want to provide masks, and hand sanitizer (if you can find it) or hand wipes.

There are many different levels of comfort regarding social interactions at this moment. If someone chooses to decline your invitation, wear gloves, bring their own food, or not eat at all, please remember it is not necessarily about you or your food. It is most likely about their understanding of risk and the level of risk they are willing to assume.

We are learning. Recommendations change. Studies will be replaced by larger and better studies. No one will know what facts are supported by the most meticulous science for a great while. And getting it exactly right at this moment may not be as important to someone as feeling safe. (Being safe may be the penultimate goal, but is somewhat elusive without complete isolation.)

Tolerance is a precious gift. I wish it for you and I wish it from you. For me, at multiple moments in March and April, tolerance has been as hard to find as toilet paper. This feels personally sad and culturally worrisome. We can do better.

We have been offered a great opportunity to learn in the form of unavoidable change. We can choose to resist or to grow. Surrendering to change is required for both resiliency and growth. While you relax and enjoy foil pouch grilling for Memorial Day, please remember that now is the time to choose thoughtfully and carefully.

Pandemic Tool of the Day

Each day for the past week, I’ve designated a #pandemic tool of the day. This started as a silly hashtag I’d send in texts whenever I accomplished something that felt significant during this pandemic: managing to order toilet paper or getting safety advice from a doctor working on the front lines. I quickly realized how grateful I am when I have the tools I need.

I already knew that the right equipment makes developing recipes easier and more pleasant. Now, I’m paying attention to other tools I might otherwise take for granted.

tools

Sunday’s tool of the day: #20_ft_jumper_cables. Thank goodness I had them on hand. My car was parked behind my truck and the battery was dead. There was no way to maneuver the vehicles to face each other. he extra cable length allowed me to start the car easily anyway so I could go…well, nowhere.

That tells you how little I’ve been driving. Luckily, I can work at home so the lack of driving doesn’t mean I have lots of extra time on my hands. It just means I am choosing to stay home to stay safe.

Monday’s tool of the day: #toilet_seat. I have no idea why I bought two toilet seats the last time I bought one, but I was very grateful to have that extra on hand when a seat broke on Monday.

Keeping that purchase may have seemed foolhardy in a Marie Kondo world. It did not bring me joy…until I needed it. Then it changed my world in the best of ways! And I didn’t have to risk the virus to get one.

Tuesday’s tool: #walmart_grocery_app. As you may recall, I was an early adopter of ordering groceries online. In January, I switched from pickup to delivery. At the time, I didn’t know that less than two months later my family would get orders from a cardiologist to stay home to protect my granddaughter.

The early adoption meant all I needed to change was to go no contact. Before that was offered as an official option, I made the change. Once DoorDash assigned a driver for a delivery, I sent a text to that driver telling them to sign for me and leave the groceries by the door. Eventually, the app caught up.

Wednesday’s tool: #paw_patrol_shovel. You won’t even have to ask a kid to help in the garden when you have a PAW Patrol shovel! Just hope they haven’t been watching old reruns of Hogan’s Heroes.

My cousins and I dug a huge hole in my grandmother’s yard one day after watching that show. We were planning a whole tunnel system, and we didn’t bother to ask permission. By the time we were discovered, the hole was four feet wide and three feet deep.

We knew by the fierceness with which my grandmother stomped her foot once we had gone too far. It’s the maddest I can ever remember seeing her.

Thursday’s tool: #pulse_ox. Seems as though silent hypoxia plagues many Covid-19 patients long before they feel shortness of breath. Measuring oxygen saturation levels early and seeking medical treatment sooner can mean a better outcome.

Em’s oxygen levels have to be monitored periodically so we’re quite familiar with the use of a pulse oximeter. It doesn’t require any special skill and may help some patients avoid the need for a ventilator. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-testing-pneumonia.html

Friday’s tool: #technology. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to see two of my grandchildren as they change and grow. I couldn’t order groceries online. My entertainment and news sources would be less plentiful. And I wouldn’t be able to do much of my job from home.

Rounding out the week, Saturday’s tool: #masks. I wear masks when I do certain projects around the house. My glasses tend to fog or shift so that I’m looking through the bifocal. I sometimes feel claustrophobic. I have to admit, I don’t love them.

In spite of that, they are the most important tool of the week! My friend who is director of pulmonary and critical care at a local hospital advises that the best way to protect yourself is to stay at home and only enter stores where masks are required and people actually wear them. Although his department gets the worst of the worst cases of Covid-19, he feels safer at the hospital than the grocery store!

I’ve been recruiting mask makers for that hospital. They are constantly in need. A friend is sending me some to use when I take a walk. Knowing that I can protect those around me is enough reason to make my peace with an accessory I don’t love.

Who knows what today’s tool will be? Scissors, tongs, power cord, remote, ladder, cultivator, magnetic letters, pitcher, needle nose pliers, fishing pole, earplugs, and hammer are contenders as are thoughtfulness, kindness, courage, laughter, and generosity.

The pandemic tool of the day will reveal itself in time. I’m looking forward to that moment of excitement and gratitude when I realize I have just what I need.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday Musing

Monday musing = It is Monday and I am musing. Sometimes things are simple and mean what they seem to mean. Let’s keep it that way.

In fact, I’ll muse about simplicity for a moment.

mountain view
Height of Land in Bethel, Maine

I prefer simple communication.
I prefer simple, straightforward communication to flowery flattery or free flowing expressions of affection. I’ve had too much experience with ridiculous euphemisms and vague hidden messages. I CAN handle the truth…and I prefer it.

I like simple solutions.
Often I find them by improving the process. The time, energy, thought, and effort put into planning and organization pay off over and over again by preventing convoluted outcomes. Process solutions free of secondary complications can be as layered and responsive as required. And they can keep me from spending all of my time fighting fires.

Simple solutions can also be found in the moment.
When I left the butter out overnight, I realized I automatically use less when it’s easy to spread. Now I keep some salted butter on the counter and some in the refrigerator.

When my brand new roof leaked and I discovered a tiny bit of mold, I learned I could kill it with vinegar. I didn’t need the hassle and expense of a hazmat-suited team armed with chemicals.

In the middle of an argument, I quickly remembered I can eliminate most food disagreements with a toddler by offering limited choices. When I give my grandson DJ a choice of oranges or grapes and hummus or cottage cheese, he happily chooses one from each category and eats them without fussing. (While this is more difficult to accomplish with my two-year-old granddaughter who has Down Syndrome and cannot talk, we are working on a choice between milk or water using sign language. She also needs to learn that she has options and can determine her path.)

Many simple solutions are obvious.
I can walk more by parking further away. I can drink more water by carrying it with me or drinking only water in restaurants. I will have more time to read if I turn off the TV. I will have more money to spend later when I save now.

Great food can be simple.
I ate a harvest vegetable risotto last week that was scrumptious. The flavor came primarily from the sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes amidst the rice. No heavy seasoning or sauce was needed. In fact, making the flavor profile more complex would not have improved my enjoyment. I love dishes like that!

A workout can be simple.
One day I decided walking up and down my stairs would be an easy way to get some aerobic exercise. I figured 10 trips up and down would be fast and easy. There are 24 steps. I set out at a quick pace. Three flights later, I was huffing and puffing. Walking stairs is a simple workout, but it’s not necessarily easy.

Fun can be simple, too.
I don’t really need bright lights, loud music, and lots of people around to have a good time. Give me a gorgeous mountain view, an uncrowded swimming pool, a good book, a spirited discussion, an inspiring performance or exhibit, and the uninhibited giggles of a grandchild and I can have a wonderful time.

Difficult decisions can be made using a simple process.
Narrow your options to those that align with your intentions and values. Review each remaining option asking: Does this option solve a problem, accomplish a defined goal, benefit my finances, make life more pleasant or peaceful? Rarely will each option have an equal number of benefits.

If all options seem equal, review the options again asking: Does this option benefit my family as well as myself; does it put me in a vulnerable or questionable financial position for a period of time; which choice will benefit me more in one, five, or ten years? Again, it will be rare for every option to be equally weighted.

Break down the complicated.
If you still find yourself stuck or paralyzed and simply can’t make a decision, you are most likely caught in some issue other than the decision at hand. Recognizing this frees you up to move away from spinning your wheels trying to make a particular decision and put that energy toward examining the source of underlying paralysis. Once that’s addressed, the decision will become simple.

The simplest actions can mean the most.
Take the time to let your children know you see them. Look your friends, family, colleagues, and enemies in the eye. Actively listen. Say thank you. Stay home when you’re sick. Choose kindness. Apologize. Be dependable and reliable. Say no when you mean no. Give time.

Well, I mused so long it’s now Tuesday. Time to stop musing and go vote!

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