Italian Soft Biscuits

This month’s recipe comes from MSAA Staffer, Kaitlyn G.

My grandmother’s recipe for Italian Soft Biscuits always reminds me of the holiday season. They are the perfect treat for those who want to make something simple, but still get in the holiday spirit! Jazz them up with red, green, or blue sprinkles and you’ll have the perfect dessert for any holiday party. Enjoy!

Ingredients for biscuits:

  • ¼ lb. of butter
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon of anise
  • 3 cups of flour

Ingredients for icing:

  • 1 ¼ cups of powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Instructions for biscuits:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time into the batter. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and anise. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add this to the batter. Grease and flour three cookie sheets – the batter will create about 9 rows of dough. Put three rows onto each cookie sheet. Put in the oven for 15-20 mins. Allow the biscuits to cool.

Instructions for icing:

Combine powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and lemon juice into a bowl, and mix with spatula until icing consistency is similar to milk. Once the biscuits are cool, drizzle icing over top of the rows and then cut the rows to the size you would like. Throw some colorful sprinkles on the top to complete the dessert!

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Finding Holiday Spirit

I don’t think anyone would argue the fact that 2017 has been a pretty difficult year, to say the least. National tragedies, devastating natural disasters, political and social mayhem, and endless controversy have plagued the year and we’re not yet at its end. So it’s completely understandable if you ask yourself the question, how do I get into the holiday spirit surrounded by this mayhem? Where does one find the incentive “to be jolly” in a season that’s bookended by discord on one side, and potential hope and mystery on the other that comes with the arrival of the New Year? The answer to this can actually be found in those who surround you and the spirit that others project this time of year, you only need look for the light that cuts through the darkness.

If you want to find holiday spirit, look to children this time of year, as they carry so much light and happiness and excitement for what the holiday will bring, that it’s hard not to share in this joy with them. If religion is something of interest or that you already practice, hope can oftentimes be found through faith, especially during this season. Sometimes people just want to believe in something that’s greater than them and elicits peace. Seeing how people volunteer and donate to various causes year round but especially at the holidays also spurs feelings of joy and creates that sought after holiday spirit. It’s not always easy – life can be messy and chaotic and awful at times, but it’s looking and searching for those small signs of hope and peace that keep people moving forward and keeps holiday spirit alive. Without darkness we wouldn’t know light and how powerful it can be, so be sure to embrace it when it shines through, and let your spirit be bright.

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Imagine Your Happy Place

The holiday season is in full swing, and as the year comes to a close, the hectic pace can be stressful.  Running any kind of errand during the last few weeks of the year becomes an adventure as you see more people out and about trying to purchase gifts, visit family and friends, host family and friends, and purchase supplies for all of the holiday meals and get-togethers.  Everyone has their own method for dealing with the holiday season pressures and stressors, and one strategy that might be helpful at this time of year is guided imagery.

Guided imagery is a deep state of relaxation achieved by specific breathing techniques and mental images that reduce stress and feelings of anxiety – think of it as a structured day dream.  This process can help with different types of physical and emotional stress by helping the body relax as you are guided along by a recording. Some benefits of guided imagery can include:

  • Improved mood by calming, relaxing, inspiring, and motivating
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Lower blood pressure

Most guided imagery is practiced using a recording of someone coaching you on your breathing and a mental image designed to reduce your stress levels. By envisioning an ideal place of relaxation (like a cabin in the woods, or a beach) in this almost meditative state, your body starts to physically relax and react as if you are actually in that place.

The more you practice guided imagery, the easier it can become to find your happy place and relax in a stressful environment, giving you a sense of control over your stress and your body’s reaction to it!

Interested in learning more about guided imagery?  Check out our cover story from the Winter/Spring 2008 edition of The Motivator, Imagine the Possibilities: An Introduction to Guided Imagery and Its Potential Benefits for Individuals with MS.

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Important 2018 Insurance Deadlines

As the 2017 calendar year starts coming to a close, we would like to remind everyone about two important enrollment deadlines that are approaching for 2018 health insurance coverage:

Medicare
Medicare Open Enrollment ends on December 7th for coverage that begins on January 1, 2018.

Health Insurance Marketplace
Private insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace has a December 15th deadline in order to receive coverage that begins on January 1, 2018. If you do not enroll in a marketplace plan by December 15th, you cannot enroll in a plan for the rest of 2018 unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.

Ensuring that you have health insurance coverage to manage the many medical expenses that can accompany MS is crucial. You can visit these sites in order to enroll or re-enroll in a health insurance plan that meets your needs.

To help you better understand the complexities of health insurance coverage, you can also visit our website section My Health Insurance Guide or call the MSAA Helpline at (800) 532-7667, ext. 154. This is an important time, so please be sure to enroll in a health insurance plan that is right for you!

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Holiday Assistance

With the holiday season in full swing some individuals may find themselves busy making plans and preparations for this festive time of year. For others this season may represent a time when some extra help is needed to make the holiday special. Financial challenges can make expectations of the holidays a struggle, but it’s important to know that there are resources available that may help support your holiday activities, and therefore lift some of the stress that can accompany these festivities. The following community resources may be able to offer help through the holidays. Be sure to check with the organizations directly about their application requirements and deadlines as many have specific time frames to apply for help.

  • Salvation Army offices offer seasonal services and holiday assistance programs to help families in need with holiday dinners, toys, and clothing. Search for your local office to inquire about direct programs and services and application deadlines.
  • The United Way can offer information and referrals for holiday assistance programs in your community.
  • The Toys for Tots Program provides new, unwrapped toys during the holidays to children in need through community outreach and support efforts.
  • Catholic Charities Services and other local religious organizations may offer seasonal assistance as well, though these programs can vary based on location. Contact the groups in your area directly to inquire of services available.
  • Contact the county department of family/social services in your area, as their office may have additional holiday assistance and resources available.
  • You can also check with local schools in the community that may know of holiday assistance programs for families.
  • Community food banks may also be able to offer holiday assistance programs in your area during the season.

Again, many community assistance programs have specific application deadlines and requirements in order to receive holiday assistance by a certain time. Be sure to reach out to the resources to see what’s available in your area and how to apply.

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Candied Sweet Potatoes/Yams

This is a simple and quick way to enjoy a Thanksgiving classic! Canned yams or sweet potatoes may be used.  Bruce’s Brand of canned yams is easy to find this time of year at your local grocery store.  It is a crowd pleaser and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 (29 ounce) can sweet potatoes or yams
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place sweet potatoes/yams in a medium baking dish. Place butter pieces evenly over the top of sweet potatoes/yams. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Layer with miniature marshmallows.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes and marshmallows have melted.

 

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving from my table to yours!

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Home and Lifestyle Modifications – New Edition of The Motivator

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is proud to introduce the latest edition of The Motivator, available now in both print and digital versions! This edition’s cover story, “Home and Lifestyle Modifications for Safety and Accessibility,” covers various strategies for better living at home – from strategically placed grab bars for safety, to building ramps and widening doorways for increased accessibility. Learn about easy DIY changes you can make, as well as tips on how to choose the right handyman to make any larger changes to your home.

Also included in this edition:

  • Organization updates from MSAA President and CEO, Gina Ross Murdoch
  • MSAA’s Chief Medical Consultant, Dr. Jack Burks, answers reader’s questions
  • MS research news updates, and much more!

Read an excerpt from our cover story here:


I remember skipping down the stairs and leaping over the baby gate at the bottom with my hands full of laundry. Then I’d run down another flight of steps to the basement to fill the washer before sprinting back up with the wet sheets. With one arm full of wet sheets and the other grasping my son, I’d jump down the back steps and hang the sheets on the clothesline. And that was all before breakfast.

I never dreamed that a few years later, I’d be stranded on my front landing, unable to get down the two steps without holding onto my husband. I certainly never imagined that I’d get stuck in my bathtub, unable to stand up without my husband to pull me out.

Over time, I found solutions to some of the obstacles I was experiencing. Some remedies were not difficult. For instance, I learned that showering was easier than taking a sit-down bath. When the time came that I needed to sit while bathing, I purchased a shower chair at a medical supply store. When the single railing on our inside staircase became too difficult for me to navigate, purchasing a second railing at a home-improvement store was a simple fix.


Continue reading the cover story at support.mymsaa.org/motivator to learn more about home and lifestyle modifications you can use to make your home more accessible.

 

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Talk About Something You’re Grateful for…

Gratitude is a beautiful concept. Feelings of appreciation can really fill the heart and help to create a more positive outlook on things. When I was in graduate school I had a counseling seminar course and one day my professor asked us to go around the room and talk about something we were grateful for. Now the idea of this was great, however, it happened to be a very difficult time period for me. I had just lost my grandmother and it was my first class coming back, so the exercise was not very appreciated in that moment. I think I said I was grateful I made it to class and that was it. It’s beyond challenging to try to think of things to be grateful for in dark moments, but since then I’ve tried to learn how to look at the things that are still immersed in the light. Gratitude does not always have to be an extravagant or grandiose notion in order to feel it, actually most of the time it’s felt in the simplest of moments. We just have to allow ourselves to embrace it.

A stranger holding a door open. Someone else making dinner. A note of thanks for something you did. Having a day off. It doesn’t matter the action or words but the feelings behind it. Being thankful for things, big and small, can help to improve well-being and attitude. They study gratitude in the research area of positive psychology nowadays and have found that it helps to increase happiness and optimism. Many individuals use gratitude journals each day/week to note specific things they’re thankful for, which can really help to change one’s perspective and views. The world can sometimes be a very dark place with very unfortunate moments, but if you choose to see the light that still lives just as strong as this darkness, that generates hope, and hope is what keeps us all moving forward.

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Meet the Board

MSAA strives to be a leading resource for the MS community by improving lives today through vital services and support – and we could not accomplish this without the help of our volunteer board members.  MSAA’s Board of Directors is comprised of accomplished professionals from across the country who volunteer their time to further MSAA’s mission.  With our new series, Meet the Board, we hope to introduce you to our wonderful volunteer board members!

MSAA is proud to highlight two volunteer board members this month – Jennifer L. Schwartz, Esq. and Barry Singer, MD!

Jennifer L. Schwartz
Chair of the Programs and Services Board Committee

Professional Background: Jennifer L. Schwartz, Esq. of Philadelphia is the Vice President of Legal Affairs & General Counsel for Lourdes Health System (LHS) and St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC). She was initially hired by LHS as its first in-house attorney, and after just three years as the Assistant Vice President, Legal Affairs, was elevated to LHS’ chief legal officer as a direct result of her foresight, strategy initiatives and legal expertise.

Barry Singer
Executive Committee Member, Chair of the Development Committee, and member of MSAA’s Healthcare Advisory Council

Professional Background: Barry Singer, MD of St. Louis is an expert MS neurologist and has been the Director of The MS Center for Innovations in Care at Missouri Baptist Medical Center since 2008. He is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine since 1999 and maintains privileges at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He has been an investigator in greater than 25 multiple sclerosis trials (Phases I to III) focused on new therapeutic options. He continues to publish peer-reviewed articles, present posters and lecture globally on multiple sclerosis.


What inspired you to join MSAA’s Board of Directors?

Schwartz: “I had been looking for a non-profit Board to join and give back to the community when, coincidentally, a current MSAA Board member contacted me and asked if I would consider joining the MSAA Board. I was blown away because just a week earlier my Dad’s twin sister had passed away from complications associated with progressive MS. She was never able to benefit from medications and relied heavily on help from others – a specialty of MSAA. One of my best friends from college also has MS. I felt that it was meant to be and that by taking on a Board position and giving it my full dedication I would be honoring my Aunt and accomplishing my ultimate goal of giving back to others through the MS community.”

Singer: “For over 15 years, I have collaborated with the MSAA on important patient educational programs nationally. My goals align with the MSAA’s deep commitment to trying to help people living with multiple sclerosis receive the resources they need to live as well as possible. For example, MSAA funds MRI scans for patients that could not afford the test which has often led to important medical decisions. Joining the Board allows me to make a positive difference on the lives of those living with MS.”

What are your goals as an MSAA Board Member?

Schwartz: “I want to contribute new ideas to the future strategic goals of MSAA. I hope to be an excellent representative for MSAA and to assist the organization in enhancing its impact across the world. It is also my goal to motivate other people and organizations to contribute to MSAA. These are my obligations to the clients served MSAA and to the amazing and dedicated staff of MSAA.”

Singer: “As a multiple sclerosis specialist on the Board, I provide a unique voice due to my insight into the desires and needs of those living with MS. I have been able to advocate for programs that will have greatest impact. In addition, I frequently provide recommendations on the MSAA’s position on rapidly changing healthcare news. As a board member, I’ve been involved with the MSAA’s national and international leadership on communication between patients and their healthcare providers. As a Board Executive Committee member and head of the Development Committee, my goal is also to develop the relationships that ultimately fund these critical resources for those living with MS.”


Editor’s Note: MSAA is extremely proud and honored to enlist the support of Ms. Schwartz, Dr. Singer, and all of our dedicated Board Members who volunteer their time, expertise, compassion, and leadership to help us achieve our mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community. We are very grateful for their service and look forward to their continued support as we strive to serve more people in more places than ever before. Thank you once again Jennifer and Barry!

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Advocacy and the MS Community

By Kyle Pinion

When one thinks about advocacy especially in this very heated political climate, there are certainly some tough connotations that have be dealt with, particularly in regards to the concept of lobbying. But in truth, the concept of advocacy does not have a political slant, and in the world of non-profits it is simply the act of representing the needs of people who do not have a voice within the halls of the US Capitol. MSAA, as a member of the broader MS Coalition, is proud to be an advocate for people with MS, and in turn an advocate for the greater disability and chronic disease community. Year in and year out, working with our partnering organizations within the MS Coalition, we sit down with members of Congress and their healthcare staffers to discuss issues of importance to the MS population. Some of these topics may include MS research funding, or enhancing the federal government’s commitment to understanding the true incidence and prevalence of MS within the United States, or matters related to easier access to durable medical equipment (DME). These are just broad examples, but they give you a sense of how wide-ranging some of these national efforts are.

But MSAA’s advocacy work doesn’t stop there. We also are actively engaged in issues at the state level. Utilizing local thought leaders, medical professionals, those living with the disease and other coalition partners, we advocate for the needs of the MS population in all fifty states where barriers and inequity may exist. For example, if an issue arises where an insurance provider may not allow for open access for all MS therapies, that is an area in which we would commonly take action. Another instance may be the availability of rehabilitative physical therapy for people with Primary-Progressive or Secondary-Progressive MS. if it impacts the MS community and can be addressed at the federal, state, or local level, MSAA is proud to take action and work with our partners to seek solutions for these issues with both elected and private entities.

In addition to our work “behind the scenes”, our organization also seeks to educate individuals living with MS and their family members about how to best advocate for themselves and the community they are a part of. Self-advocacy is one of the most powerful tools available to the MS patient, and it’s our goal to inform our clients about the strength of the individual voice when speaking on issues of importance. Your elected officials want to hear from you, and while they value my and my colleagues’ time when we visit their offices, the truth is you are their constituent and your experience as a constituent within the district they represent means even more. No matter what you’re able to do – be it an email, a phone call, or even the all-important in-person visit – that sort of self-advocacy not only benefits you, but it also allows you to represent all of the people with MS that cannot be in that room. And therein lies some really incredible power. In that way, your voice really can turn the tide.

Don’t be afraid to get started, and let us know how we can help. It’s what we’re here for.

*Kyle Pinion is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, as well as the Southeast Regional Director for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. Before coming to MSAA, Kyle was the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the National MS Society – Georgia Chapter where he acted as the chief lobbyist for the chapter in the Georgia State Legislature, and their staff representative with the US Congress.

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