Editorial: ’Tis the season of giving, all year long
By Julie Darling
The worst Christmas of my life was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ten years ago, the week before Christmas, my friends with whom I had spent the last handful of holidays informed me that only real family was invited that year.
Then my mother, after an argument, told me not to come home as well. I was pretty devastated; I cried for a minute, dusted myself off and decided to make a plan.
Then a friend told me about a guy who was serving lunch on the streets on Christmas Day. I’d never done that and made the call. He had 11 turkeys and nowhere to go and no one to cook them.
I said, “Well guess what? I’m a chef and have a catering company [Just Call Us Catering]” … and so it began. This rag-tag group served a Christmas meal outside of Horton Plaza that day.
The sting of the Christmas abandonment lasted for about six months. I was in a really bad place, depressed and feeling very much alone. I had always heard that in giving back, you get back, but those were just words back then. I started volunteering to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t have time to think about the sadness. I just kept doing it. It was fun and I was meeting nice people.
One day I realized my life had completely changed. I wasn’t sad or depressed anymore. Life wasn’t a struggle. Money wasn’t an issue (mind you I was volunteering). I had a new group of friends from all walks of life. The more I volunteered, the richer and fuller my life became.
About a year into my volunteering, Just Call Us Volunteers (JCUV) was born, out of that horrible Christmas that didn’t turn out so horrible after all. When I started JCUV, it was all about feeding people. I cook and express my love through food. Honestly there’s a free meal for everyone in San Diego if they want it.
My “mission” morphed into using food as the vehicle to expose this invisible segment of society to our volunteers.
Today, we are a 501(c)3 all-volunteer organization. We proudly have no payroll and almost all of our donations, which come from local companies and individuals, go back to feeding the underserved San Diego community. A small portion we use to pay rent on our kitchen and office space.
We may be small but we are mighty and very proud to be asked to serve alongside the big agencies in San Diego.
We serve 200 to 300 people twice a month on Sundays, rotating between Rachel’s Women’s Shelter, The San Diego Center for Children, Neil Good Day Center, The Winter Shelter and Veteran’s Village San Diego.
In addition, we coordinate the lunch service and volunteers at Homeless Connect (a homeless resource fair for approximately 1,000 held at Community Concourse each year) and make breakfast for the Women’s Resource Fair for approximately 600 homeless women. We also serve the last meal at Stand Down for 1,400 homeless vets.
Our holiday meals include Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, Valentines Day, St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day and Fathers Day. We serve about 500 meals on holidays and 200 to 300 on our regular Sundays.
We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without our loyal industry partners. Specialty Produce has been donating all our produce for seven years. Sprouts Farmers Markets donate all our proteins throughout the year. The Manchester Hyatt donates all the turkeys for our Thanksgiving dinner. Cupcakes Squared is our sweetest friend for desserts. UPS corporate has generously donated to the cause for the past two years.
We also have a loyal following of restaurants and chefs who donate their time so that our meals are assuredly delicious and healthy. To name a few, Tommy Gnomes of Catalina Offshore Products; Hanis Cavin, Carnitas Snack Shack; Alex Carballo, Urbn Brewing; Craig Jimenez, Supernatural Sandwiches; Karen Blair, Hamiltons Tavern/ Small Bar; Daniel Barron X LA Valencia; Dawn Parks, The Wild Thyme Company; Marguerite Grifka, California’s Table; Leah Dibernardo, E.A. T. Marketplace; Ryan Studebaker, MIHO Gastrotruck; Brandon Brooks, Sessions Public; Lhasa Landry, Heart & Trotter; and Logan Mitchell, Cellar Door.
Everyone is doing it. Looking back today, I realize how awesome my life has become, all because of volunteering and giving back.
As we approach the Christmas holiday and you all get in that giving Christmas spirit, you may find that our volunteer list is full; it is one of the two days of the year we have a 100-person wait list.
Don’t fret, however, there are plenty of other days throughout the year to volunteer and believe me, we need you. Don’t be a two-day volunteer.
— Julie Darling is the chef and owner of Just Call Us Catering, a boutique catering company in San Diego. She also owns and operates Just Call Us Kitchen Rental, an incubator-kitchen facility that provides entrepreneurs with a choice of 2 health-department-approved production spaces where they can launch their food-related businesses. She also runs the nonprofit, Just Call Us Volunteers.
Editorial: Make these holidays count
By Anette Asher
The holidays are great for family gatherings and these gatherings are more important than you know for our aging elders.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss can get passed off as, “Oh, he’s just a little forgetful,” to “She great! Her heart is good and she gardens constantly” or worse, “We had no idea there was a problem.”
This time of year may be your best chance to see changes in your elder relatives.
Here is a story from one of our Glenner Memory Care Center family members, called, “remembering last Christmas.”
All the family converged at my sister’s house in San Diego for the holidays. My 80-year-old parents drove in from the desert.
We were having a great weekend with doing puzzles and playing games. That was when we realized Dad might have dementia. Within an hour of sitting down to play Yahtzee, we realized my Dad couldn’t quite add the dice or remember the next step. So he excused himself to go watch TV. I checked on him and it seemed like he wasn’t watching TV just looking at it. Oh well, he’s probably tired. Twenty minutes later, I lost the Yahtzee game and we all lost Dad. He couldn’t be found anywhere. We searched the house, ran down the streets, knocked on neighbors’ doors. No sign of him.
With eight people in the house how could you lose a family member? What happened? Or better yet, what didn’t happen? None of us were prepared to see the signs of memory loss and the dangers that go with it. Dad was found four blocks away talking with some kids on their bikes. Thank goodness one of the kids was trying to fix the chain on his bike and grandpa offered to help. If they hadn’t stopped to chat, the outcome could have been worse.
That is the day we woke up to more than just Christmas. We learned the signs and vulnerabilities of dementia. It’s nothing to ignore, it’s everything to find help and learn of the journey ahead and the resources available to avoid any tragic event.
Here’s another family member’s story.
I work from home while parenting two college kids. Since I live within 20 minutes from Grandpa, I offered to check in on him during the weekdays. He served in World War II and the Korean War. He’s a strong and independent man who’s widowed now and just needs a little extra help getting to grocery store and doctor appointments.
My aunt says he seems a little forgetful. No problem, who isn’t? I’m always losing my keys and cell phone.
Then one day Grandpa took his car to get gas. Ten hours later, he still wasn’t back home. After this heart stopping experience, I knew to take his memory loss very seriously.
No matter how ornery and in denial our elder is, there is a way to manage, coach and guide the whole family through this unchartered journey.
It’s a process and it’s a family issue, and there’s a lot of free and affordable help right here locally with the Glenner Memory Care Centers, Southern Caregiver Resources Center and ElderHelp. Just don’t wait for a crisis. Grandpa is safe and happy going to the Glenner Centers three days a week for his classes where he helps out his fellow veterans.
What is the lesson in both of these stories?
Use the upcoming holiday time to gather the family and pay attention to your elders. Know the signs and be prepared to address it. Avoidance and denial only makes things worse; especially for your loved one’s safety and wellbeing, since there are healthy interventions and safe actions you can take today that will improve their wellbeing as well as the family’s.
That is why family gatherings during the holidays are more important than you know. Make your time with your elders count this year.
The Glenner Memory Care Centers is a 33-year-old nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. We provide adult day programs for individuals struggling with memory loss, like Alzheimer’s. We work with the family members to address care planning and health issues, activities, and guidance in this new journey of dementia. We offer 17 support group meetings each month. They’re free and so is the day care for the time to attend the meetings. You are not alone. Come spend the day with us!
—Anette Asher is the CEO of Glenner Memory Care Centers, with three locations including Chula Vista, Encinitas and Hillcrest. For services and resources call today 619-543-4700 or visit Glenner.org.
Editorial: Eliminating holiday stress before it arrives
By Katherine Austin
Banish the battle of baking, entertaining, gift-giving, and getting-it-all-done with San Diego’s secret stress-relieving (and anti-aging) workout regimen.
Have you started baking? Buying? Wrapping?
The holiday season is upon us, with all its expected stresses, but that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the pressures. You can get ahead of the stress curve by building in little pockets of steadiness with breathing techniques, yoga postures and meditations, requiring no more than a few minutes throughout the day.
The holidays can bring out old family patterns, bitter quarrels and resentments over who does too much (and who doesn’t do enough). Research from the American Psychological Association shows that balancing your holiday obligations with personal time devoted to quick restorative practices can eliminate anxiety and depression.
Try these simple self-care techniques and see how protect your sanity.
- Aromatherapy: Buy a diffuser and organic oils from local natural food stores or online and or buy essential oils such as lavender, which has calming effects.
- Take a bath: Add Epsom salts and lavender essential oil to your bath and relax. At the end of the day, late at night after you’ve put the turkey in the oven, or whenever you can find yourself a little alone time — make the most of it!
- Play a song: Whenever and wherever you can, play healing music in the background — from your iPhone, on your Sonos system, or on the radio. Think home, car, office — everywhere you find yourself! Music can shift the energy from stressed and anxious to it’s-all-good. My favorite: spiritual music and music for meditation (easy to find online at iTunes or spiritvoyage.com).
- Shut down: Completely. Two hours before bed time, turn off all electronics — and don’t give in to the temptation to turn them back on! A recent New York Times article about Arianna Huffington and Kobe Bryant extolled the virtues of turning everything off and escaping the always-on world we live in.
- Go to bed: Early. No later than 10 p.m. if you can do it. The energizing hours are in the early morning and you won’t greet them if you’re up all night.
- Breathe: In yoga, we focus on the breath to get us through hard poses. We need to do so in life, too. Try left nostril breathing or meditation for stress relief (see instructions below).
- Strike a pose: Do a few quick yoga poses — legs up the wall with a lavender eye pillow for calming your nervous system; modified downward dog in the kitchen by leaning on the counter; an overhead side stretch one arm at a time. (See spinal flex instructions below.)
A Mayo Clinic study reveals that any form of exercise — anything from a 7-mile run to three minutes of calming yoga poses or deep breathing — can relieve stress. Endorphins are generated by a walk in nature, an impromptu hike, or a few minutes in meditation. Any physical activity helps you release the stress and worries of all your obligations, clearing your mind and resetting it with optimism rather than panic. Don’t fall into the trap of not having enough time for yourself this holiday season.
Spinal flex: Sit in a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor, hands on thighs or shins. Inhale, draw chest forward, exhale, round the spine. Do this with eyes closed for three minutes.
Left nostril breathing: The benefits of left nostril breathing are numerous, including sharper, clearer focus of the mind, and a deep, full relaxation or sleep. Yogi Bhajan taught that if a person breathes through the left nostril for 31 minutes a day for 90 days, they will naturally change their metabolism in favor of relaxation and weight loss. Try doing three minutes a day to start.
Meditation for stress relief and clearing past emotions (this balances hemispheres of the brain): Fingertips touch, palms apart in front of heart, gaze down tip of nose, inhale five seconds, hold for five seconds, exhale five seconds and repeat for three to 11 minutes.