Irish Potato Candy – Recipe of the Month

This month’s recipe comes from MSAA Staffer, Emily O.

Growing up, I spent most of my time after school at my grandparents’ house until one of my parents would be done with work.  One of my favorite traditions from this time of year was helping my grandmother make her own homemade Irish Potato Candy as a St. Patrick’s Day treat.  My mother loved Irish Potato Candy and, though we made the candy every year, my grandmother and I loved making it as a surprise for my mother.  Years later, I still make the candy as a way of honoring both my mother and grandmother.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. regular cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 16 oz. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter.
  2. Add in the vanilla.
  3. Add in confectioners’ sugar a bit at a time until the mixture forms a ball.
  4. Stir in the coconut flakes with a (sturdy!) spoon.
  5. Spread ground cinnamon in a shallow dish or on a plate. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on how coated you like your potatoes.
  6. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.
  7. Grab a small piece of the cream cheese and coconut mixture and roll in your hands to form a small ball (I usually make mine about the size of a quarter) and roll the ball in the ground cinnamon until the ball is coated.
  8. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and let them chill for about an hour or so, until they are firmer.

*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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Aquatic Exercise and Finding the Right Facility

Exercise is a great way to help maintain strength and endurance in order to better take care of your physical well-being. There are countless varieties of exercise trends and routines, but traditional exercise isn’t always the best fit for everyone, especially individuals with MS, due to the increased physical demand and rising body temperature.  Research conducted over the years has suggested that aquatic exercise is an effective way for individuals with MS to improve their flexibility, fatigue levels, and (most importantly) their quality of life and psychological well-being.

Take, for example, the way aquatic exercise has affected Mandy Iris.  “I can swim as angry as I want.  I can be as sad as I want, but it all just seems to melt away every time I jump out of the pool.  I feel better. It’s invigorating, it makes you feel alive,” says Mandy. Spending time in the pool and swimming a few laps, or just walking around in the pool can not only help strengthen your muscles, but allows you the time and space to clear your mind.

If you are looking to try aquatic exercise for yourself, and you’ve discussed this with you doctor or physical therapist, here are a few of tips for finding the right facility for you:

  1. Location – Find a facility within a reasonable driving distance or that you can get to using public transportation.
  2. Safety and Accessibility – Make sure that you are able to easily move about the facility and pool deck. Also, be sure that you will be able to get in and out of the pool with ease.
  3. Classes – If it interests you, see if the facility offers any aquatic exercise classes you can attend.
  4. Schedule – Find a facility or a program that works with your schedule, including work, child care, and personal preferences.

You can find more tips, resources, and inspiration to get started on MSAA’s Swim for MS Online Aquatic Center at: aquatics.mymsaa.org/aquatic-exercise/

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Wellness: It’s More Than Just Physical

This month on the MS Conversations blog we’ll be talking about different aspects of wellness and its importance and impact on various parts of one’s life. With it being MS Awareness Month, it’s good to be aware of and shine light on your own well-being and state of wellness, because this can encapsulate many diverse pieces. One aspect of wellness I wanted to discuss is occupational wellness. Now usually when we hear the term ‘wellness’ we think of our bodies and the physical side of this concept, and while this is a significant part, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle.

In talking about occupational wellness I realize that everyone’s situation is unique and the workforce may or may not be a current part of one’s day to day. This is not to say that the elements of occupational wellness can’t be relevant and applied to different situations or encounters experienced by all. Some of the factors related to this piece of wellness are important to consider for any facet of life, again because it circles back to your overall state of wellness. Some basic principles of occupational wellness include satisfaction, motivation, leisure, balance, inspiration and accomplishment. No matter if you’re currently a part of the workforce or engaged in other types of activities and routines, these components are an integral part of daily life to try to acquire to help achieve wellness.

Within the workforce it’s important to try to find work that you enjoy doing—that you’re passionate about and that keeps you interested and continuously learning. Being able to work well independently and with colleagues, and communicate often are essential pieces to this, in addition to being inspired by the work you do and wanting to constantly challenge yourself in it. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but if you find something, whether it be in work, or another kind of activity or endeavor, make sure it’s something that means something to you. When you engage in a pursuit that has purpose for you and that you can get behind, that makes all the difference.

So again, occupational wellness is just one piece of the puzzle, but it has multiple factors that are easily transferable to other aspects of life and overall well-being. Whatever it is you do – stay engaged, focused, and most of all, inspired.

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Stories to Inspire

Since 2013, Shana Stern has actively participated in MSAA’s Art Showcase campaign, where people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) submit images of their talented artwork for display on our website gallery, promotional materials, and social media platforms. Shana’s bold and vibrant paintings reflect not just her artistry, but also her willingness to rise above the ongoing challenges of multiple sclerosis. Diagnosed with MS in 1999, Shana battles a variety of symptoms including extreme fatigue, pain, drop foot, and visual difficulties. In addition, Shana also has a loss of feeling in her right arm and fingers, which limits her ability to hold or grasp any small object – including a paint brush.

Frustrated by constantly dropping the brush and her inability to control the path of the paint, Shana was forced to once again work around the impact of MS and find a solution. While sitting on the floor, Shana discovered that she could balance the canvas on her knees and paint with her fingers and knuckles. By adapting to this new and unique style, Shana has regained control of her artistic abilities and found an even deeper connection to her love of painting. “Getting lost in the music I paint to and helping the colors dance across the canvas with my fingers has become my mental, spiritual, and emotional therapy,” said Shana. “We may get knocked down a bit and have to work a little harder, but we are capable of great things such as bringing beauty and art into the world! Yes, I have MS, but I am an artist.”

Not surprisingly, Shana’s son Walker Reynolds, 12, also shares a love for art and the ability to reach beyond the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Inspired by his mother’s spirit and determination, Walker also wanted to get involved with MSAA and help make a difference. While on the MSAA website, Walker discovered our Swim for MS fundraising campaign, where volunteers can create their own swim activity, set a challenge goal, and collect pledges from family and friends to help support the organization’s programs and services.

As a self-described “fish,” Walker’s love of swimming and the ability to raise funds while having fun in the pool made for a perfect match. Despite being 11 years old at the time and having no prior fundraising experience, Walker dove right in and registered for Swim for MS. Starting in June 2016, Walker dedicated his summer to swimming one minute for each dollar donated, with the ambitious goal of raising $1,600. On his fundraising page, Walker stated: “My goal is to raise $1,600, which is $100 for each year my mom has struggled with MS. Daily she battles fatigue, numbness, pain and vision loss (which stinks when I need homework help!). Because her symptoms are ‘invisible’ I want to educate others and also inspire others like she inspires me!”

With Shana and Walker’s permission, MSAA began promoting their remarkable story to the local media and within the MSAA community. By summer’s end, with the support of their family, friends, and other contributors, Walker not only reached, but exceeded his goal and raised more than $1,800 to help support the MS community. As one can imagine, MSAA is extremely proud to recognize the amazing love and inspiration of Shana Stern and Walker Reynolds by honoring them at this year’s Improving Lives Benefit.

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Ask the Expert

Featuring Carrie Bruce, PhD, CCC-SLP
Sr Research Scientist, School of Interactive Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
Member of MSAA’s Healthcare Advisory Council


Question:
Due to my MS, I have trouble speaking and writing at times. Is there anything out there to help me?

Answer: When communication skills are impacted by MS or related treatments, a person’s quality of life can be significantly impacted. Even minor changes in a person’s speech or written communication can make it difficult to function at work, stay in touch with family or friends, and manage conversations with people in the community. There are various strategies and products that can help with writing and speaking.  A quick check of catalog and online companies shows thousands of writing aids, keyboards, voice and speech aids, and other products for improving communication.  Several online resources offer unbiased listings of these types of assistive technology, including assistivetech.net and abledata.com. Additionally organizations such as ataporg.org operate lending libraries or equipment closets for these products. In most cases, these specialized products meet the particular need for which they were designed and make it easier for a person to communicate.

Another option is to leverage devices such as tablets and smartphones that have useful built-in features and the capability to run applications (apps) that make it easier to write, type, speak, listen, and read information. For a person who has a hard time writing, speech input can be used to compose emails or texts, dictate documents, make shopping or to-do lists, and search for information. Word prediction and completion can also be helpful in offering suggested words that a person can choose from instead of typing the whole word. If a person has difficulty speaking, email and text messaging can be alternatives to phone calls or face-to-face conversations. Some people also find it helpful to use Skype, Facetime, or other video/audio calling apps because the visual connection makes it possible for callers to see each other’s faces and share other viewable information (e.g., an object that is the topic of discussion). Additionally, tablets and smartphones are able to run apps that produce spoken messages based on what a person types or selects from pre-stored choices.

New features are constantly being developed for smartphones, tablets, and other devices that are potentially helpful in overcoming communication difficulties. Don’t worry about staying on top of the latest trends, just focus on finding a solution that works well for you. For more information and additional resources, please contact an MSAA Client Specialist at (800) 5320-7667, ext. 154.

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MSAA’s 2017 Improving Lives Benefit

The folks here at MSAA are getting ready for this year’s Improving Lives Benefit, where supporters from across the country join us for the night to celebrate the accomplishments of MSAA champions in the MS community.

This year, our honorees are:

  • Shana Stern (MSAA Art Showcase Artist) – Diagnosed with MS in 1999, Shana has adapted her style of painting and creating art, as new symptoms and challenges presented themselves.  She has been an active participant in our Art Showcase since 2013.
  • Walker Reynolds (Swim for MS Volunteer) – Inspired by his mother Shana Stern’s determination and creative spirit, Walker wanted to give back to the MS community and did so by raising more than $1,800 for MSAA as a Swim for MS Volunteer participant.
  • William Saunders (MSAA Board of Directors’ Treasurer & Founder of Meeteetse Advisors) – Having served as the MSAA Board of Directors’ Treasurer for 8 years, William has been instrumental in helping the organization improve more lives in the MS community by supporting MSAA’s mission.

MSAA’s Improving Lives Benefit will be held on Thursday, March 30, 2017 in Philadelphia, PA at The Downtown Club.  If you are interested in attending, learn more at support.mymsaa.org/benefit.

While not everyone is able to make it to Philadelphia to help us honor these MSAA champions, anyone can participate in our national online auction.  Information on auction packages, which include a variety of starting bids, is available here.

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President’s Day at MSAA

Please note that MSAA’s offices will be closed on Monday, February 20, 2017 in observance of President’s Day.

The offices will reopen on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 8:30 am.

 

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Vanilla Wafer Banana Pudding

When I was a little girl, my mom use to make this simple and easy dessert for me and I can still close my eyes and envision what it looked like in the mason jars on the refrigerator shelf.  The great thing about this recipe is that it is no bake. You simply whip together a few ingredients and let them chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat. Be sure to cover it when in refrigerator to avoid the wafers from getting soggy.  Here’s my recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 large package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 14 oz
  • 1 container of cool whip, 16 oz
  • 4 bananas cut into pieces
  • Vanilla Wafers

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, mix milk and instant pudding mix. Add condensed milk and blend well. Fold in half of the cool whip and alternate pudding, bananas, and vanilla wafers.  Serve in a large pie plate or individual containers.  Top with remaining cool whip and add bananas and vanilla wafers on top.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

“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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Find Answers, Get Support, and Ask Questions on My MSAA Community

Remember the days when the best way to communicate with people far away was pen pals and old-fashioned snail mail? Technology certainly has come a long way since then! Now, there are hundreds of ways to connect with others via the computer or your mobile device – and MSAA wants to help! My MSAA Community, powered by our friends at HealthUnlocked, is a peer-to-peer online support forum that connects members of the MS community on a daily basis. As a member of this friendly, supportive, and safe online forum, you can ask questions, contribute to ongoing conversations, or start your own conversation about your personal MS journey. Here are three examples of posts that were recently shared:

Some words of encouragement for those who may need them:

A member asking for advice from someone who has experienced similar symptoms:

*Please note that if you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, it is imperative that you speak with a licensed medical professional in order to receive accurate medical care and explore the right treatment options for you.*

Someone sharing some positive thoughts on a good day:

Of course, there are many other types of posts that are shared daily on the community – artwork from artists with MS, pictures of pets and animals that help ease anxiety, and more! If you would like to get started and become a member of My MSAA Community, please visit http://www.healthunlocked.com/mymsaa

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I’ll Be There for You…

Relationships are pretty often thought of strictly in the context of romantic attachments. Especially this time of year as we emphasize love and romance, couples, and all that comes along with it. But there are other relationships we sometimes forget to emphasize. Friends, family, co-workers, support group members, or neighbors. All of these, too, are relationships. It’s difficult in a world where things move a mile a minute and there is so much vying for our attention to remember to think of these other relationships and place some emphasis on them as well. Not just when the stores turn to red and pink and the costs of flowers rise to somewhat ridiculous levels.

While romantic relationships are important and make up a good portion of our understanding of relationships, support and encouragement for many often comes from those they are not romantically linked to. Friends who are there for us when we need a shoulder to cry on or a hand up when we are weak. Support group members who share their own story and listen to ours as we all try to live our lives as best we can and make the most out of all we have. Neighbors or co-workers who help us pass the time during work or who we bond with over community concerns and celebrations. These relationships, just as important as romantic ones, help shape both who we are as well as those around us and are strong bonds during trying and uncertain times. This month in addition to celebrating and relishing any romantic relationship we may be in and acknowledging the importance of this in our lives, let us take some time to also thank and celebrate the other relationships in our lives with people we love… just not in that way. Remind your friends and family what they mean to you or show appreciation and gratitude to your co-workers or support group members. It may not be the stuff of Hallmark movies but I’m sure they’ll really appreciate it that you took the time.

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