Happy Thanksgiving from MSAA

thanksgiving-ecard-cWishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at MSAA!

To send a Thanksgiving eCard to your friends and family, go to support.mymsaa.org/holidayecards.

Please note: MSAA will be closed on Thursday, November 24th and Friday, November 25th.  We will be back in the office on Monday, November 28th.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Working Together with the Spasticity Alliance

By Kyle Pinion, MSAA’s Director of Advocacy and Public Policy and Southeast Regional Director

Have you ever woken up one day and found that your legs have painfully, and involuntarily, tightened? Or perhaps you were sitting in your favorite chair one afternoon while watching the football game and in the middle of a great play realized that your arm muscles clenched in a way that was incredibly uncomfortable. Those who are living with the progressive forms of multiple sclerosis are likely to understand this symptom all too well: spasticity is a tightness of the muscles, typically occurring in the legs, groin, and buttocks, though not exclusive to just these regions. While treatable in ways that can potentially reduce its effects, this symptom of the disease can be very debilitating and contribute to disability.

What you may not be aware of is that those living with MS are not alone in experiencing this troubling manifestation of their disease state. Many other condition-based populations see the effects of spasticity first-hand, such as those who have suffered a stroke, people living with cerebral palsy, and even those who have dealt with traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries. As such, advocacy organizations that represent each of these conditions recognize that greater amounts of information and resources are needed to help people living with spasticity grasp a better understanding of its effects and how to best seek treatment. To that end, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, United Spinal Association, United Cerebral Palsy, National Stroke Association, and the Brain Injury Association came together in June and initiated the planning process for what would turn into the Spasticity Alliance.

SpasticityAs MSAA’s representative for our regular Alliance meetings, it’s been fascinating to learn about the larger scope of spasticity’s effect on other disease states beyond our own organization’s purview. I’m so thankful to be able to share not only resources that have proven to be mutually beneficial, but also stories of people who experience this troubling symptom on a day-to-day basis.

When the Spasticity Alliance website launched in July, the outpouring of support from both the patient and professional communities was utterly overwhelming, as many deeply appreciated this pooling of efforts by advocacy organizations to provide resources and educational material for those living with this challenging and painful manifestation of these individual conditions – a manifestation that is all too little discussed. As we close out 2016, we’re looking forward to the further growth of the Alliance website, with very exciting plans on the horizon to make it an even more engaging and informative experience for our clients when they visit.

In the meantime, if you or someone you know has experienced spasticity, please visit the Alliance’s site at spasticityalliance.org. If you have any further questions regarding issues related to this symptom, please feel free to reach out to our Client Services department at (800) 532-7667, ext. 154 or via email at MSquestions@mymsaa.org.

Additionally, if anyone living with MS, or their family members or friends, would like to share their story for the Alliance’s site, please do not hesitate to reach out to MSAA and we’d be happy to discuss this with you further. Your stories really can make a difference through encouragement, fellowship, and education.

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New Recipe of the Month – Gram West’s Pumpkin Pie

MS Conversations Recipe of the MonthToday’s recipe is from our dear friend, Lynn, in South Jersey…Lynn writes:

At Thanksgiving, more than any other time of year, I’m reminded of my Grandmother (“Gram”) who passed away from a neurological condition in 2010. Growing up in South Jersey, I only got to see Gram twice a year: once when she and my grandfather came to visit us in NJ, and then again when we visited them for Thanksgiving. I always remember spending time with just her in the kitchen, making pumpkin pies to enjoy after our Thanksgiving meal. It was “our thing,” and we always loved watching our family fight over who got the biggest slice of pie. This time spent with my Gram is something that I will always treasure, and to this day, I honor this memory by making pumpkin pies for any winter family holiday, using the following recipe which she handed down to me.

– Lynn, in South Jersey

Gram West’s Pumpkin Pie
(Makes 2 pies.10 minutes to prepare, 70 minutes to cook.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 unbaked pie crusts (I use Pillsbury Pie Crusts)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can (29oz) pumpkin OR 3 3/4 cup freshly cooked and mashed pumpkin
  • 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 12oz can evaporated milk
  • 12oz regular milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Lay pie crusts in pie plates, and flute the edges if desired. Put each pie plate onto a small cookie sheet (this makes for easier insertion and retrieval from the oven when you bake them). Cover the edges of the crust with a pie crust shield. If you don’t have one, you can use aluminum foil. This will help keep the crust edges from burning.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and pumpkin.
  4. Blend in the brown sugar, flour, salt, and all of the spices. Mix well.
  5. Add the evaporated milk, then fill the can with regular milk and add that. Mix well (be careful, it splatters easily).
  6. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crusts.
  7. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes.
  8. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 40-45 minutes, until a knife inserted near the center comes clean. (Depending on your oven, you may need to bake longer.)
  9. Cool the pies. Once cool, store in refrigerator.

*We hope you enjoy our Recipe of the Month selections on MS Conversations. Just remember: these entries may not necessarily be a part of an MS-specific diet; these are simply recipes compiled from MSAA staff and friends either from their own family recipe collection or based on recipes we think you might enjoy. As always, make sure to consult your doctor about any food or nutrition questions as they relate to your MS.

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Last Chance for Thanksgiving eCard Vote

2016-thanksgiving-ecardsHave you voted yet for your favorite MSAA Thanksgiving eCard?

There’s still time to cast your vote for your favorite holiday greeting! Voting closes on Friday, November 18th at 3:00 pm (Eastern) so make sure you get your vote in at support.mymsaa.org/voteforcard!

Didn’t get a chance to vote?  No problem!  We’ll be announcing the winner the week of Thanksgiving on Facebook and via email.

Be the first to know which Thanksgiving eCard was triumphant by following us on Facebook or signing up for email.

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Stress Management Tips

The holiday season is fast approaching.  This time of year brings lots of great things like family traditions, fun activities, and opportunities to celebrate with friends.  Unfortunately, holidays can also be stressful and unpredictable. Dealing with fatigue and managing your MS symptoms can add to your stress if you aren’t careful.

So, here are four tips to help you manage the stresses of the season so you can have happy holidays!

Plan ahead

Planning your holiday schedule of activities in advance can help to reduce anxiety and limit fatigue.  Planning ahead will also help you identify the things you really want or need to do and weed out anything unnecessary or unpleasant.

Relax

It is important during the holidays to take time for YOU.  Even just a few minutes to relax and recharge can reduce stress levels and help you cope with all of the chaos.

Eat healthy

We all know that holidays bring sweet and savory treats, late nights and unusual schedules.  Be sure to stick to a healthy eating plan and reward yourself by having a  few treats during the holidays.

Support

If you are feeling lonely or stressed, make sure you have a close friend, family member or someone you trust that you can call on.  Maybe attend a local support group or call the MS Friends helpline to talk about how you are feeling.  Multiple Sclerosis Friends: 1-866-673-7436

The holidays don’t have to be stressful.  Take a step back and organize your schedule for the holidays, and make sure to take time for yourself.  By doing so, you can enjoy time with family and friends.

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Recipe of the Month-Broccoli and Stuffing Casserole

MS Conversations Recipe of the Month

So, it looks like we’re now in full swing of the fall season everyone! And with the holidays quickly approaching it’s that time of year for some tasty food concoctions. Below is a recipe that is sure to fill a hearty appetite and make them ask for seconds. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh broccoli florets
2 eggs, beaten
1 onion, chopped (optional)
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup (or you can use cream of broccoli/cream of celery soup)
½ cup mayonnaise
10 ounces dry bread stuffing mix
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 dish.
  2. Cook broccoli in a large pot of salted boiling water until just slightly tender. Drain.
  3. In a large bowl, combine eggs, onion, mushroom soup and mayonnaise.
  4. Place a layer of broccoli in the prepared baking dish. Pour mayonnaise sauce over broccoli. Spread stuffing mix over the sauce. Drizzle butter or margarine over all and top with shredded cheese.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 12 people.

Happy Eating!

*We hope you enjoy our Recipe of the Month selections on MS Conversations. Just remember: these entries may not necessarily be a part of an MS-specific diet; these are simply recipes compiled from MSAA staff and friends either from their own family recipe collection or based on recipes we think you might enjoy. As always, make sure to consult your doctor about any food or nutrition questions as they relate to your MS.

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S-T-R-E-S-S, what does that spell…?

As if the whole year round doesn’t bring enough stress, with the holidays approaching and busy end of year happenings, stress can rear its ugly head two-fold during this time. Stress can have negative effects on anyone’s health, but especially for those living with a chronic illness like MS; this beast can cause additional challenges on other symptoms. That’s why it’s so important and crucial to try and reduce stress when you have any control over a situation and it’s possible to have influence over it. Now this isn’t always the case, because as we all know, life tends to be a tad unpredictable at times so control isn’t always a possibility. However, when you do encounter those moments to change things yourself, make it worthwhile and significant to your benefit. So how can you try to manage stress?

SStay flexible. When things occur that you can’t predict or plan for, the stress we place on ourselves as a result can have real consequences. So try to stay open to change; sometimes it may bring good results.

TTalk to others about the stress you’re feeling. Opening up about what’s going on may reduce the inner stress you’re experiencing if you keep things bottled up inside.

RRest and relax when you’re able to. Your body is stronger at combating stress and illness when it receives the rest and care it requires.

EEnjoy simple pleasures and special moments when you can. Life goes by so fast, so make sure to take in the joyous times and happy occasions to hold onto if and when stress surfaces again, it can aid in the fight.

SSocially connect to others who may have had similar stressful experiences and challenges—it can help to learn some different ways to cope and to also know you’re not alone in this.

SSlow down. There’s no need to try and act like a superhero constantly. We are only human. Take time for yourself, do what you can and are able to, and don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. You’re already doing your best!

What are some ways you try to reduce stress?                        

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Yes…It Counts

I think we can all agree that this Election season has seemed much longer than most. While tomorrow may bring an end to the commercials, debates, and political satire on late night TV (for at least 3 years), it is imperative to remember how important this actually is. Voting has been around officially in the US since 1789 when a then-small number of eligible individuals voted in our first President, George Washington, and his right hand men. Since then we’ve sworn in 43 people to serve in the capacity of President and tomorrow we’ll elect number 44.

While it may feel like it at times, we aren’t helpless in what happens; and while not everyone may be satisfied with the outcome tomorrow, being part of the conversation is up to each and every one of us. Voting is our shot, an opportunity for us all to have a say in who governs our cities, counties, states, and country. While everyone has their own reason for voting for their choice, individuals living with disabilities or chronic illnesses have a vested interest in what comes next and whom our elected officials are. These officials will be responsible for upholding our benefit system, enacting our budgets for public transportation, and charged with making decisions on expanding or ending needed services. They’ll be some of the loudest voices for where research dollars go and be in the room where it happens, as conversations determine the fate of programs and plans that impact our healthcare system.

vote3“Where” or “Who” can you ask questions of, you might ask? On Election Day many disability rights organizations are available by phone to help answer voter questions regarding issues that impact disability services. You can contact your local disability rights advocacy group to learn more about how you may be impacted by the pending election. Also, here are a few tips in regards to getting out to vote:

  • Make Sure You’ve Registered! Many states have specific times when you must register to vote in advance. If you missed the deadline this year, make sure to register in advance for future elections.
  • Confirm your poll location! Call ahead to your city or county government office and ask for information on accessible transportation, opening/closing times, available parking, or any other needed updates on your polling place.
  • Get the phone number! Find the contact number for your State Office of Protection and Advocacy, and bring it with you when you vote. If you run into any barriers such as lack of accessible transportation to the polling site, physical accessibility of the building itself, problem in accessing the voting equipment, or understanding your rights, this is who you can contact. This is also the office that can advise you of your rights in general under the ADA.

I know you might be thinking ‘Does it really matter if I vote?’ YES, Yes It Does. You don’t want to be the person asking ‘What’d I miss?’ or wonder later on what impact your vote could have had. Exercise your right to vote on November 8th. The world and history has its eyes on us, let’s make sure we all do our part to elect our next administration.

Bonus Points if you know how many references to Hamilton are included in this blog. But more seriously, get out and vote tomorrow November 8th…Your Vote Counts!
vote-counts-e1439007094573

 

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30… Well Make it 29 Days of Happy

I think it’s safe to say it’s officially fall, the weather has turned cooler (for the most part) the leaves are changing colors and Holidays are just around the corner. I know, I know we can’t rush these things but if some of our stores had it their way we’d be decorating for Christmas on Labor Day…but I digress. This month as we get ready for some of the busiest times of the year we are focusing in on stress and stressors. BUT before we get there I’d like to present an idea, a movement of sorts for this November…. A Month of Happy. I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and at the end thought “A year is a long time to work on this. But if we take it 30 days at a time we should be good” (yes I know it could possibly be the same thing but stay with me).

5374200948_539b10fb1c_z-550x366“Happy,” as we all know, is a subjective term. What makes me happy may not make you happy, or anyone else for that matter. I think that is what makes something like this so important. Because it’s personal to you individually, and you make it exactly what you want. Now there are lots of blogs, planners, charts and How-To guides that will seek to teach you just how to be happy, but ultimately that’s what works for those people, and great for them. What works for you? For the next 30 (technically today is the 2nd so the next 29, but who’s counting) days decide to do one thing that makes you happy (let’s draw the line at one thing that won’t get you into hot water). Go outside and enjoy the leaves, stay in bed all day watching your favorite movies, Pinterest away to your hearts desire and then actually try some of those things. Read a book you’ve had on your shelf, stop in and sign up for that Thai Chi class you wanted to try, eat something you used to love as a kid or none of these things at all. Come up with a calendar and determine that everyday this month you will do something that makes YOU happy. Not for your kids, spouse, boss, family, friends instagram or twitter followers, but just for you. Give yourself permission to enjoy this month before the holidays set in and your plate gets full both literally and metaphorically. Enjoy the time you put into this and you might find that being happy is less about combating the negative or the stressors in our lives and more about making the conscious decision to do something for ourselves. Happy November 🙂

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Hazelnut English Toffee Bars

happy-halloweenHappy Halloween!  While handing out candy to the kids in your neighborhood, enjoy this treat for yourself!  This easy-to-make recipe is courtesy of MSAA’s President & CEO, Gina Murdoch.

Makes approximately 24 bars

Preheat oven to 350°

Crust:

2 cups flour
1 cup softened butter (not melted)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tbs. vanilla

Toffee Sauce:

1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Frangelica (optional)
¾ cup butter
2 tbs. vanilla

Toppings:

1 ¼ cup butterscotch chips
½ Skor toffee chips
1 ¼ cup chopped and roasted hazelnuts

Directions:

  • Spray 13” x 9” pan with Pam. Make sure pan has high sides
  • Chop hazelnuts and put in oven while preheating
  • Mix all ingredients until dough is formed
  • Use Saran Wrap to press dough into pan evenly and smooth is out
  • Take out hazelnuts
  • Cook dough for 23 minutes (dough will still be light in color)
  • Combine all toppings ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil
  • Set oven to 400
  • Pour toffee sauce over dough
  • Put toppings on in this order. Sprinkle over evenly
    1. Butterscotch chips
    2. Toffee chips
    3. Hazelnuts
  • Press toppings lightly into crust with spatula
  • Put pan back in over for 5 minutes at 400 degrees
  • Remove and let fully cool
  • Refrigerate when cool
  • Cut into bars

 

“We hope you enjoy our Recipe of the Month selections on MS Conversations. Just remember: these entries may not necessarily be a part of an MS-specific diet; these are simply recipes compiled from MSAA staff either from their own family recipe collection or based on recipes we think our audience would enjoy. As always, make sure to consult your doctor about any food or nutrition questions as they relate to your MS.”

 

 

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